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Stranger

Who are you?
Just a stranger walking by
Who feels so cold
But warm to the eye

A beautiful face
But as pale as can be
Bright blue eyes
Someone like me

Oh who are you?
That has stranded out
One that is different
With no doubt about

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No Doubt About Love

I dont know just what to make of this world
My friends are wonderin too
I got some doubt about the state of this world
n what were gonna do
All I know is you
n the feelin I feel is the truth
Im in love with you
n I dont need to figure it out
Chorus:
All I know now is that
I got no doubt about love
Hesitation is out
Now that I got no doubt about love
Youre never sure about your place in this world
Or what you need to survive
Some people say that
What it takes in this world
Is constant compromise
But your loves so fine
And I must have done somethin so right
To be in love with you
And I aint givin up what I got
Chorus
Can it be
Certainty
Has taken ahold in my life
Imagine my surprise
No doubt big love has arrived
Every day I thank God Im alive
Chorus

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There Should Be No Doubt About It

There should be no doubt about it.
You don't have to pout about it.
Or commute a brooding mood.
To allude with attitude.

You,
Have chosen to bear that load.

There should be no doubt about it.
You don't have to pout about it.
Or commute a brooding mood,
To allude with attitude.

You,
Have chosen to bear that load.
And you,
Have chosen to...
Not-let-go!

There should be no doubt about it.
There's no need to pout about it.
You,
Have chosen to bear that load.
There should be no doubt about it.
You...
Have chosen to,
Not-let-go!

You don't have to pout about it.
Or commute a brooding mood,
To allude with attitude.
You,
Have chosen to bear that load.
And you,
Have chosen to...
Not-let-go!
Refusing.

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You May Never Die But That's A Lie Oct 30th,2012

Your big forthcoming problem will really be your death,
I know; I know, you haven't thought much about that yet,
And the preacher said you will go to heaven; if you are good,
But don't show your disaffection with politicians as you should.

Therefore maybe you don't need death with dignity any time soon,
Because you're a good guy - not some homeless criminal goon,
Not like poor Sue Rodriguez who was indeed very very sick,
There's no need to think about this - it might be some gimmick.

Do you think you might eventually get sick before you die?
Could it be a nice pleasant sickness before you say goodbye?
In Oregon they can have death with dignity before they go,
But not in Canada they say and this; you better get to know.

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Who Do You Want Me To Be For You This Week?

Who do you want me to be for you this week?
Someone conservative and works alot?
Or some thug who disrespects and cusses?
Like that guy who caught your eye down the street.
You know...
The one who has five kids with different women,
Who you say is so sweet.
Who do you
Really want me to be
For you this week?

Who do you want me to be for you this week?
Tonto, Baskins of Robbins or a preacher...
The one you say looks at you,
As he stumbles through his sermon as he is preaching.
And reaching towards you to fondle,
But you say...
Nothing has happened between the sheets.
Who do you
Want me to be,
For you this week?

Nothing I do seems to please you of late.
Except for showing up for another round of cold shoulders.
You want me to be superman, Clark Kent, Clark Gable
AND Denzel!
You want me to get butt naked,
BEFORE you tell me to go to hell!
Well...
'You coming soon, baby? '
Then you expect me to be tender...
To get you heated and wet?
I am no machine, baby!
You knew that when we met...
And I knew you.
It was exactly what you wanted then,
When you tempted me away from my mate and kids!
To do what I did to know what we've done!
Never got to be the fun we thought.

This is what you got when you wanted it to be caught,
AND kept!
And that is where we differ.
With no regretted memories.
But being 'kept' and not slept with
Isn't the right thing to do.
But you didn't know that then.
And nothing between us tells me you know that now.

There can only be one happiness under one roof!
And that's the one we, you and I should have shared.

And that difference
You have not found when comparing me,
And Whoever!
Once you put two and two together...
When it dawns on you...
That I know what it takes to make you moan,
And scream and tremble...
In bed.
Knocking the headboard like a bull!

You're teaching your 'playmates'
What is takes...
To make you moan and scream and tremble,
Out of bed...ours!
And out of your head...vacant!
Was it ever near capacity?
Was it always empty? Ever, was it full?

Going up side yo' head with crowbars, bats, bricks, rocks and lies!
Those are the ones you like to flirt, tease and hypnotize!
Who do you want
Me to be,
For you this week?
An insecure abuser?
Who knows just what to do to confuse with excuses.

In low down cheating good for nothing piece of street gutter meat,
Ways.

Who do you want me to be for you this week?
You don't have many choices left.
Loving you was the best thing I wanted to do at one time!
Now the best thing I can do is to help myself not let you
Drive me out of my mind!
Not now when I know where it is.

And you were beginning to like that...
As your final exclamation,
Once I made it identifiable.
You always made demands with preferences.
'I'm glad I did the crushing...first! '

Who do you want me to be for you this week?
And tweak that with some tears.
Sobbing about how we've been together all these years.
And you can forget to mention,
Those birds in the trees chirping when we met.
You can forget those during your dramatic presentation.
But make it as good as it can get...yet!
Because next week...
Baby, I am leaving your ass for good!

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Patrick White

You're Lonely

You're lonely
and you think it's because
you're not understood
in a small town
where extraordinarily ordinary people
go about the business of living
without expecting glorious results.

You show up catastrophically
on my doorstep
at three in the morning
and ask if I'll let you in like a wound
that has slashed you open like a mouth
and you know I won't turn you away.

You don't know what to do with your beauty
and neither do I
without a prelude to the encounter
and so you ask me how to live.
I turn myself inside out
looking for loose change
in the pockets of a dream
to dropp into the begging bowl of the silence
and sliced by the insight
of a master in medieval Japan
tell you every step of the way
should crush the head of the question.

You think I am immediate and wise
and for the moment it's a useful delusion
as I look into the reasonable facsimiles of light
that are posing as your eyes
and see a painful young woman
trying to sail like a swan through her first eclipse.

I dodge the euphoric arrows
that randomly fly
from your toxological lips
and try not to get sucked into
thinking of you as a wishbone with hips
and outrunning the flashflood of the effusion
turn my attention back to your confusion.
The moon is in my window.
A muse has come
to ask for inspiration.
Water asks the fire how to flow
but what you really want to know
what you truly want to learn
is how to burn.

You're trying to pull the moon
like a hot sword out of a cold stone
to kill your lover over and over and over again
like a wasp on a brain
trying to sting itself into honey.
If you weren't so beautiful,
you'd be funny
but I make the appropriate concessions
and listen to your accusations
like the intimate confessions
of a promiscuous nun
who's never slept with anyone.

I listen quietly and tenderly
to the chafing of the restless snakes
in your angry abyss
gathering myself up like visionary rain
above the cauldron of a distant, cosmic ocean
to fall like a cooling kiss
on the flaring heads of the igneous.

I milk the fangs of the moon
into experimental antidotes
and no fool around match heads and cobras
summon the wind like an ambulance on standby
to immunize me against the toxicity
of your insistence
I'm your private school.
Morgana la Fey at Merlin High,
eager to learn, eager to deepen her darkness.

You want me to teach your eyes to flow
through a labyrinth of underground dreams
you've tunnelled through your pain like a blind mole
waiting for moonlight to wash you out
of all your crazy bloodstreams.

If you can't live with the one you love
the way you long to
appealing to oblivious gods
maybe you can kill them into it.
If you're hurt so deeply
you can no longer feel your heart,
maybe there's an art
that can be mastered
to do it so discretely
the blood that unspools on the blade
prefers the wounded poppy of their death
that stalks them like a bloodclot in a rose
to the lonely craving of their next breath
to feel the edge again
that addicts them like the moon
to another hit on a battered vein.

I can hear what you're thinking,
I can see what you feel through my fingers.
I know you haven't come to heal
or put your hand in the hand of another
that isn't folded like a secret loveletter
of Damascene steel
ghouled by jewels of blood.
I can peel the eclipse from your eyes
like an executioner's hood
and fill the darkness
with the music of diamonds
falling like rain from their crowns of coal.
I can look into your eyes
like the lies you wanted everyone to believe in
and make them come true.
I can teach you to hunt like a magician
in the twenty-first century
and dropping your halo down to your feet
encircle you in the dark clarity
of an inviolable sanctuary
with gates of golden horn
that swing open like the moon
between the wingspan of her crescents.
Or I can turn a word like a stone
and set the angels free
like petrified bone
amazed by the new lucidity
that remarrows it like the clone
of a woman no one can be
until she returns the sword to herself
she lay down like the moon
surrendering to the sea
in a holy war
that cut the throats of the waves
and made widows of the sacred tides
she concealed like the secret insurgency
of her own dark urgency.

But since you asked
and the flower is already
half-unmasked by the morning
and the truth is only a voice away
from revealing itself,
and the hour scratches at the door
like a cat to be let in,
I will tell you
what the good and foolish never learn:

If you want to burn
like fire on the water
without going out
like a flame unwicked by the wind
that sins against it like a veil
it knots with nets of doubt
to gill the moon like shale,
you have to teach your demons how to sail.

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You Just Haven't Discovered That Yet

'Mommie?
What is substance and quality?
We've been given an assigment,
To describe what it is in an essay.'

Substance is something one wishes to have,
When a missing of a quality has been overpriced.

'I see.
So...
In other words,
You're telling me...
You have no clue either.'

What did your father say about it?

'He said,
Substance is something sacrificed...
When the quality of it has been diminished,
To the getting of it only lasting for two minutes.'

Go tell your father,
He need not worry about the quality of the substance,
Any longer.

'Why is it,
When I ask you two a question...
The answers have nothing to do,
With my assignment.'

They do.
And they will.
You just haven't discovered that yet.

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Have You Ever Seen A Cat That Could Dance?

I don't remember a witch
...but there was a black cat,
who sat down beside me
and told me that -
'This cat has strong legs, and the love of thrills'
'I like to climb things - including hills'
The story smelled fishy, not what it seemed
Truth better than fiction, who would have dreamed?

'A lovely wee cat, a lovely wee kitty
so kind and so playful, but most of all pretty'

Have you ever seen a cat that could dance?
to writhe and wrigge, wiggle and prance?
What a sight to see, for you or for me
my eyes became locked and wouldn't come free.
But that was the plan, from start until end
to hook me with dance to make me a friend.
This cat was not mean, this cat was not cruel
this cat was amazing, pretty and kewl!

Now the plan has succeded,
and we are together.
The pup and the kitty,
forever and ever.

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Heaven Sent Me You

(john e. mccollum/len doolin)
Ive never seen blue eyes filled with so much love
I never thought Id find out what I found in your touch
Someone up there must like me cause im
Lookin at the proof theres no doubt about it
Heaven sent me you
Heaven sent me you to make my life complete
An angel from above to watch over me
What makes it even better
Is you feel the same way too
Theres no doubt about it heaven sent me you
Every moment that we share will live forever in my mind
Every memory that we make
Are sure to outlast time
I know when I hold you close Im holdin
Love thats true
Theres no doubt about it
Heaven sent me you
Heaven sent me you to make my life complete
An angel from above to watch over me
What makes it even better
Is you feel the same way too
Theres no doubt about it heaven sent me you
Theres no doubt about it heaven sent me you

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You Have Been Successful at That

You say you are slow to change.

I say you've been conditioned and programmed,
To seek and adapt to limitation.

You say your beliefs are based on faith!

And yet every move you make,
You do in fear.

You say you are blessed!

With what?
Anxiety and stress?

You can not deal with reality!
That's an assessment.

Because you say it makes you depressed.

Not exactly in those words.
But that's what you project!

You wish to run away when the truth is spoken.
And you do that often,
To quickly disappear.

Dismissing it to say...
You prefer not to listen to 'that' mess.

Whatever you're not comprehending...
Remains blocked and attached to fears you endear.
Within your mind that is troubled.

I can understand 'why' you find me strange and unusual.
I do!
Because unlike you,
I will not satisfy my mind by keeping it confined!

And you have been successful at that!
Like many who have made denial a career.

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Ill Be With You Tonight

Words and music by rick nielsen, bun e. carlos, robin zander, and tom petersson
Tonight, tonight, Ill be with you tonight.
Tonight, tonight, Ill be with you tonight, tonight, tonight.
You got me burnin, burnin with desire,
You got me burnin, burnin like a fire, oh yeah.
You got me thinkin, thinkin what Ill do,
No doubt about it, I want it with you.
Though youre not my first love,
You just might be my last.
My heart is poundin like a drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, yeah.
Tonight will be the first night that Ive been in love with you.
You get me so excited, Im not sure what Im gonna do.
Tomorrow you wont be here, and I dont expect you to.
Tonight is all I really want, I really want from you.
Tonight, tonight, Ill be with you tonight.
Tonight, tonight, Ill be with you tonight.
Tonight, tonight.
Everything about you is more than everything
You make me crazy, Im doin crazy things, oh yeah.
Tonight when I first saw you I knew it had to be,
Whyd you have to be so right for me?
Though youre not my first love, you just might be my last.
My heart is poundin like a drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, drum, yeah.
Tonight will be the first night that Ive been in love with you.
You get me so excited, Im not sure what Im gonna do.
Tomorrow you wont be here, and I dont expect you to.
Tonight is all I really want, I really want from you.
Tonight, from you, from you.
(chorus)
Oo, tonight, be with ya, Ill be with ya, Ill be with ya, Ill be with ya tonight, tonight.
Ill be with ya.
(repeat to coda)

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Friday Afternoon

To William Morris Pierson
[1868-1870]

Of the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
The old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--.
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened 'Exercises'
On 'Friday Afternoon.'

We seem to hear the clicking
Of the pencil and the pen,
And the solemn, ceaseless ticking
Of the timepiece ticking then;
And we note the watchful master,
As he waves the warning rod,
With our own heart beating faster
Than the boy's who threw the wad.

Some little hand uplifted,
And the creaking of a shoe:--
A problem left unsifted
For the teacher's hand to do:
The murmured hum of learning--
And the flutter of a book;
The smell of something burning,
And the school's inquiring look.

The bashful boy in blushes;
And the girl, with glancing eyes,
Who hides her smiles, and hushes
The laugh about to rise,--
Then, with a quick invention,
Assumes a serious face,
To meet the words, 'Attention!
Every scholar in his place!'

The opening song, page 20.--
Ah! dear old 'Golden Wreath,'
You willed your sweets in plenty;
And some who look beneath
The leaves of Time will linger,
And loving tears will start,
As Fancy trails her finger
O'er the index of the heart.

'Good News from Home'--We hear it
Welling tremulous, yet clear
And holy as the spirit
Of the song we used to hear--
'Good news for me' (A throbbing
And an aching melody)--
'Has come across the'--(sobbing,
Yea, and salty) 'dark blue sea!'

Or the paean 'Scotland's burning!'
With its mighty surge and swell
Of chorus, still returning
To its universal yell--
Till we're almost glad to drop to
Something sad and full of pain--
And 'Skip verse three,' and stop, too,
Ere our hearts are broke again.

Then 'the big girls'' compositions,
With their doubt, and hope, and glow
Of heart and face,--conditions
Of 'the big boys'--even so,--
When themes of 'Spring,' and 'Summer'
And of 'Fall,' and 'Winter-time'
Droop our heads and hold us dumber
Than the sleigh-bell's fancied chime.

Elocutionary science--
(Still in changeless infancy!)--
With its 'Cataline's Defiance,'
And 'The Banner of the Free':
Or, lured from Grandma's attic,
A ramshackle 'rocker' there,
Adds a skreek of the dramatic
To the poet's 'Old Arm-Chair.'

Or the 'Speech of Logan' shifts us
From the pathos, to the fire;
And Tell (with Gessler) lifts us
Many noble notches higher.--
Till a youngster, far from sunny,
With sad eyes of watery blue,
Winds up with something 'funny,'
Like 'Cock-a-doodle-do!'

Then a dialogue--selected
For its realistic worth:--
The Cruel Boy detected
With a turtle turned to earth
Back downward; and, in pleading,
The Good Boy--strangely gay
At such a sad proceeding--
Says, 'Turn him over, pray!'

So the exercises taper
Through gradations of delight
To the reading of 'The Paper,'
Which is entertaining--quite!
For it goes ahead and mentions
'If a certain Mr. O.
Has serious intentions
That he ought to tell her so.'

It also 'Asks permission
To intimate to 'John'
The dubious condition
Of the ground he's standing on';
And, dropping the suggestion
To 'mind what he's about,'
It stuns him with the question:
'Does his mother know he's out?'

And among the contributions
To this 'Academic Press'
Are 'Versified Effusions'
By--'Our lady editress'--
Which fact is proudly stated
By the CHIEF of the concern,--
'Though the verse communicated
Bears the pen-name 'Fanny Fern.' '

. . . . . .
When all has been recited,
And the teacher's bell is heard,
And visitors, invited,
Have dropped a kindly word,
A hush of holy feeling
Falls down upon us there,
As though the day were kneeling,
With the twilight for the prayer.

. . . . . .
Midst the wealth of facts and fancies
That our memories may recall,
Thus the old school-day romances
Are the dearest, after all!--
When some sweet thought revises
The half-forgotten tune
That opened 'Exercises,'
On 'Friday Afternoon.'

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Hairy Woes

(This not a poem. One day I thought whether I could write about hair problems and this is what I could come up with. Have a good hair day.)

Oh all the balding men of the world! Neither split your hair nor let your hair down; instead, get up to fight against hair experts and hair industries because, you have nothing to loss except hairs, which you are already losing anyway.

The scientific study published in, 'International Journal of Fake Studies', has proven beyond doubt that, all kinds of hairs and particularly black hairs, absorb sun light and thus indirectly contribute to the global warming whereas, shining bald pates reflect sun light back into the atmosphere, thus help to make earth’s climate cool. So taking these facts in account, bald persons should be given the tax rebate in form of carbon credits whereas, high taxation should be levied on persons with hair for leaving carbon footprints behind.

It is true my friend, that you are paying the tax as well as losing your hair, but try to imagine a plight of less fortunate ones, who neither earn enough money to pay the tax nor have enough hair to loss.

'Son! Why do you worry about your hair problems; get me mustards seeds from the home, that doesn't have hair problems', thus spake enlightened sage, hearing which young man became calm.

The biggest cause of hair fall, dandruff and other hair related problems is existence of hair.

No person with hair on his head, can solve all your hair problems, neither can the person without hair.

As, not all the armies of the world, can stop the idea whose time has come so, not all the hair experts can stem the progress of baldness, whose time has come.

Only two things are universal, hair problems and human stupidity, but I have doubt about former, thus spake Einstein of hair science.

Not all the trichologists, dermatologists and hair experts together, armed with shampoos, hair oils, hair dyes and herbal ointments can cure all the hair ailments, as long as hairs are there.

As long as hairs are there, there are going to be hair problems, similarly as long as shrinks are there, there are going to be mental problems.

The hair industry expands their business by perpetuating the two myths, first is there are more hair at unwanted place and other is, there are less hair at desired place.

Hair here, hair there, hair everywhere similarly: problem here, problem there, problem everywhere.

He fell in love with her hair and married the whole girl, soon he was without hair.

In early part of his life man losses his hair to earn money then he uses same money to gain hair back.

Don't bask in a glory of the hair, you used to have in past, instead tell me, do you have gorgeous hair now?

There is some truth in a myth that the bald men are fortunate; to begin with, they don't have to spend their fortune on comb, hair products, hair cuts and last but not least girls.

There are more blondes on streets of India than women of the rest of the world put together; thanks to Garnier. Take Care.

White hair is nothing but a flag hoisted by a tired life, signaling armistice with hostile time, which eventually leads to surrender to the death.

Blessed are the monks who shave their hair themselves, a symbol of a vanity of the world, because nature is going to destroy that vanity eventually anyhow.

Oh Sinner! Vain is your attempt to hide your sins, for sins will shine in your life as bald pate shines through the sparse tufts of hair.

It is irony that the monks who do not care for their hair often have beautiful and luxuriant hair.

Trees are nothing but hair of Gaia, the earth; if you destroy, them then earth too would take her revenge by creating conditions, that won't allow the hair to stay on your crown.

More often than not, one owns heir are responsible for one owns hair fall.

If you cannot prevent hair fall, enjoy it.


15/01/2011
Dr Hitesh C Sheth

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Robert Frost

The Mountain

The mountain held the town as in a shadow
I saw so much before I slept there once:
I noticed that I missed stars in the west,
Where its black body cut into the sky.
Near me it seemed: I felt it like a wall
Behind which I was sheltered from a wind.
And yet between the town and it I found,
When I walked forth at dawn to see new things,
Were fields, a river, and beyond, more fields.
The river at the time was fallen away,
And made a widespread brawl on cobble-stones;
But the signs showed what it had done in spring;
Good grass-land gullied out, and in the grass
Ridges of sand, and driftwood stripped of bark.
I crossed the river and swung round the mountain.
And there I met a man who moved so slow
With white-faced oxen in a heavy cart,
It seemed no hand to stop him altogether.
'What town is this?' I asked.
'This? Lunenburg.'
Then I was wrong: the town of my sojourn,
Beyond the bridge, was not that of the mountain,
But only felt at night its shadowy presence.
'Where is your village? Very far from here?'
'There is no village-only scattered farms.
We were but sixty voters last election.
We can't in nature grow to many more:
That thing takes all the room!' He moved his goad.
The mountain stood there to be pointed at.
Pasture ran up the side a little way,
And then there was a wall of trees with trunks:
After that only tops of trees, and cliffs
Imperfectly concealed among the leaves.
A dry ravine emerged from under boughs
Into the pasture.
'That looks like a path.
Is that the way to reach the top from here?-
Not for this morning, but some other time:
I must be getting back to breakfast now.'
'I don't advise your trying from this side.
There is no proper path, but those that have
Been up, I understand, have climbed from Ladd's.
That's five miles back. You can't mistake the place:
They logged it there last winter some way up.
I'd take you, but I'm bound the other way.'
'You've never climbed it?'
'I've been on the sides
Deer-hunting and trout-fishing. There's a brook
That starts up on it somewhere-I've heard say
Right on the top, tip-top-a curious thing.
But what would interest you about the brook,
It's always cold in summer, warm in winter.
One of the great sights going is to see
It steam in winter like an ox's breath,
Until the bushes all along its banks
Are inch-deep with the frosty spines and bristles-
You know the kind. Then let the sun shine on it!'
'There ought to be a view around the world
From such a mountain-if it isn't wooded
Clear to the top.' I saw through leafy screens
Great granite terraces in sun and shadow,
Shelves one could rest a knee on getting up-
With depths behind him sheer a hundred feet;
Or turn and sit on and look out and down,
With little ferns in crevices at his elbow.
'As to that I can't say. But there's the spring,
Right on the summit, almost like a fountain.
That ought to be worth seeing.'
'If it's there.
You never saw it?'
'I guess there's no doubt
About its being there. I never saw it.
It may not be right on the very top:
It wouldn't have to be a long way down
To have some head of water from above,
And a good distance down might not be noticed
By anyone who'd come a long way up.
One time I asked a fellow climbing it
To look and tell me later how it was.'
'What did he say?'
'He said there was a lake
Somewhere in Ireland on a mountain top.'
'But a lake's different. What about the spring?'
'He never got up high enough to see.
That's why I don't advise your trying this side.
He tried this side. I've always meant to go
And look myself, but you know how it is:
It doesn't seem so much to climb a mountain
You've worked around the foot of all your life.
What would I do? Go in my overalls,
With a big stick, the same as when the cows
Haven't come down to the bars at milking time?
Or with a shotgun for a stray black bear?
'Twouldn't seem real to climb for climbing it.'
'I shouldn't climb it if I didn't want to-
Not for the sake of climbing. What's its name?'
'We call it Hor: I don't know if that's right.'
'Can one walk around it? Would it be too far?'
'You can drive round and keep in Lunenburg,
But it's as much as ever you can do,
The boundary lines keep in so close to it.
Hor is the township, and the township's Hor-
And a few houses sprinkled round the foot,
Like boulders broken off the upper cliff,
Rolled out a little farther than the rest.'
'Warm in December, cold in June, you say?'
'I don't suppose the water's changed at all.
You and I know enough to know it's warm
Compared with cold, and cold compared with warm.
But all the fun's in how you say a thing.'
'You've lived here all your life?'
'Ever since Hor
Was no bigger than a--' What, I did not hear.
He drew the oxen toward him with light touches
Of his slim goad on nose and offside flank,
Gave them their marching orders and was moving.

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Patrick White

It Isn't As Far As You Might Think

It isn't as far as you might think
from this spiritual lost and found
coiled like a labyrinth of cul de sacs
or a snake of time spiralling down
the seven degenerative metals of man
through the rib gates in the belly of a dragon
that's flamed out like a red-tailed hawk riding
the last of its cooling thermals down with the sun,
not as far as you might think, according to the moss
that grows all over your north side
from this circuitous blossoming into knots
in the hardwood of a rootless tree
to the threshold of where your heart belongs.

Dig yourself out of that old National Geographic
like an explorer that never got to go
and unfold that free starmap someone included
like a flag of protocol awarded a dead celestial sailor
and start connecting the dots like ports of call
in the eyes on the dice of a long shot against the odds
that nobody believed could be made until you took it.
Where was it ever suggested that the return journey
would be any less dangerous than the first time
you left yourself like a stranger in the doorway
of this house of life, waving farewell in the rain
as you carefully put the chain back on the gate behind you?

The object of the grailquest isn't so much
a matter of finding it as it is learning how
to lose yourself wisely in the search. You can
orient your mindscape to the direction of your shining
like a circumpolar constellation, but to sip
from the Little Dipper isn't going to green
that dead branch of a divining rod in your hand.
The journey isn't lost upon you because
you're out there on the road alone
with nothing but departures behind you
and the only arrival on your horizon
more of the unknown without a return address.

What if the stars you take your bearings from
set out to find the source of their shining
and turned their light back on themselves
like solar flares to see where they were going? Do you think
you could see them from here on this hillside,
to assign them names and myths of origin
they whisper to your eyes at night like fairytales
and lullabies to help you get to sleep
when you lay your head down like moonset
on the cold stone of the world by the roadside?

The moment you go looking for yourself
do you leave the part that's beating the bushes for you at home?
Have you ever checked out who's in the search party?
Go ask the diamond sages. They aren't the masters
of an enlightenment no one can attain. They sit
like stars in the throne rooms of dark matter,
lords of the darkness, confusion and chaos
that have mastered them spontaneously like ore
to the indirections of an undisciplined way of shining
so the dark mirror you wander in looking
for a lifemask you can recognize as a face of your own,
is brighter than the white one of insight
you've had so much trouble adjusting your eyes to
like a telescope to the weather of a habitable planet.

No ray of the light you're looking for
ever started out with a sense of direction.
No star, no beacon, no lantern, no insight,
no firefly, lightning bolt or lighthouse
ever plotted a straight path through the abyss
that wasn't omnidirectionally bent
by the gravitational eyes of space it passed
on its journey to nowhere in particular
though it bumped into a few planets and wildflowers
along the way it was exactly meaningless to take.

No one's ever really lost. They're just
not very adept at reading their own starmaps.
They look for what shines though the eyes of a crow
remembering how white its feathers were
before it found the continent it was sent out
before the dove to look for. And Noah cursed it black
for not coming back. Lost innocence longing for light.
Long wavelengths on the night sea of awareness
looking for land like particles and cornerstones
they can found their spiritual temples upon
like aviaries for the wrens and sparrows
buffeted back by the winds they're flying against
like the ashes of disinterred aspirations in their own face.

Lost in the woods, everyone looks at the constellations
like light in the windows of a distant farmhouse.
But no one ever consults all the darkness beyond
the blazing midways of the zodiac like deer paths
off the ecliptic or wolf packs above the timberlines
of their celestial equators. Aldebaran
is sixty-five lightyears from here as we're
eight light-minutes from the nearest sun.
But how far does a human who is the measure of all things,
have to go before he or she realizes the darkness
was always the truest sense of direction for anyone
trying to shine a light on where the light has gone
without them, so they can see in the dark
how their eyes emerge out of the search for themselves
and the night whispers like a homecoming embrace
in the ear of the prodigal do you finally recognize
who I am? Even when you most deeply eclipsed
the shining of the black mirror of awareness,
blinded by the candle of your own lantern
there's never been a son or daughter of a star
that was ever lost in me since the light began.

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Epistle to an Orphan after William Mackworth Praed A Letter of Advice

They tell me you're promised a mother,
to cuddle, to cosset, to care.
Take care for she may try to smother,
to cover her inner despair.
The experts agree that another
could just as well clinch the affair, -
and beware that you never discover
the father who's no longer there.


(Parody William Mackworth PRAED - A Letter 31 October 1990)


A Letter to PH from a Disappointed Writer

Dear PH, I leave you this letter
after writing from ten until nine
for a site I'd delight to know better,
for a smile that my heart can't decline.
Yet one finds after wearily pacing,
for replies in the cold, for some sign,
that that heart which with hope had been racing
to darkest despair must incline.

Dear PH from twelve to eleven
each night I would knock at your door
in hope that an angel from heaven
could show me the light, - but no more
will I screed in my need if no answer
effective can echo joy's store -
I can't act as a puppet-stringed dancer,
not even for one I adore!

Dear PH the time have I waited
day in and day out by grief torn,
all write up down written, ill-fated
as my consonants vowed my vowels scorn.
The wonder my dunderhead brought you
tonight may steal thunder at morn,
but the blossoms whose beauty besought you
fade as fast as last season's drenched corn.

As on Thursday applauseless, defeated,
so on Friday all clauseless I'm spurned,
is the cycle of love thus completed,
is this all the thanks that I've earned?
It is hard for a fool to be taken -
its a sign that one's soft in the head, -
but the reason that slept must awaken,
and the spirit, restored, won't be lead!

I'd have offered you all in my power,
to cherish, to share, to be kind,
I'd have nurtured emotions to flower
and found wings for soul unresigned.
It is not just the whim of an hour
but a lifetime with no chains to bind,
in a warm, in a warm, tender bower
with blank verse, even worse, left behind!

How can I be present tomorrow,
bear false witness with stanzas prewrit?
once again less 'in anger than sorrow'
I will try to bar love from my wit.
I will try to contain my emotion -
or go through the motions to ease
the emptiness born from devotion
to one who my [he]art pleased to tease.

Good luck with your plans to continue
support for the wor[l]d caught in art!
Good luck for the talent that s[w]ings you!
Good luck for a applause the stats chart!
I'll return into cold hibernation
all alone til your smile shines bright through
the slough of despondent elation,
these Elysean fields cropped by few.

Dear PH, ignore to this last letter
should sentiments biased appear,
yet I shall be ever your debtor -
who taught me to share and feel near.
Intuitions are fine for romantic,
inner feelings that flower in dreams,
but a chasm as deep as Atlantic
drowns my talent, it seems, PH, Dear!

So sometimes recall that I follow
your footsteps as forward they flow,
and the shadow which seems to be hollow
is an echo which helps me to know
how the sun shines for YOU as Appollo
his steeds urges onwards, - and though
forgetful nights daily verse swallow
tomorrow dawn's brightness will glow!

(Parody William Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice 12 April 2005 revised 19 November 2006)

A Letter of Advice to Margaret Thatcher

You tell me you've taken a lover, -
the Serpent - to suckle at breast,
what took you so long to discover
its worth, that you seemed to detest?
Is it fears of the new German eagle,
which now flies in the skies, to and fro?
Is it fear to appear far less regal?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say 'No! '

You so often set foot in the City
among the stockbrokers and Jews,
until now no-one noticed that pity
assisted in making the News.
Lip service you paid as a token
to E.E.C., more stop than go,
would you now betray promises spoken?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say 'No! '

Dixit Maggie:
The arguments strongly defended
won time, though for whom no-one knows,
the endergy fiercely expended
I now do reverse with my prose!
Don't think that I'm not sympathetic
to common wealth causes, but so
urgently must I seem more magnetic, -
Prime Ministers learn to say 'No! '

Exports are the life of the nation,
and spendthrifts throw eggs from the nest,
why would you now import inflation
why risk fresh electoral test?
You constancy prized, never faltered,
what further can grandeur bestow?
My heart is the same, is yours altered?
Prime Minister, Maggie, say No!

Beware or you'll face resignation
from the ranks of conservative friends,
for instransigence breeds indignation,
a sign that your time nears its end.
Will you bend, or back down from your folly.
On your knees beg to Brussels, kow-tow?
Or defend precious pound, British lolly,
or become Lady Diehard, Soho? ...

Dixit Maggie:
Our infantile logic was stupid,
and once we admitted its flaws,
to Snake turned like Eve to a Cupid!
a fig for Conservative bores!
A policy firm and effective
must govern though markets sink low,
while a girl learns a sense of perspective
at times when she simply says 'No! '


(7 October 1990Parody Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice)


A Letter of Advice

From Miss Medora Trevilian at Padua
to Miss Araminta Vavasour, in London

Enfin, monsieur, un homme aimable;
Voila: pourquoi je ne saurais l'aimer. Scribe

You tell me you're promised a lover,
My own Araminta, next week;
Why cannot my fancy discover
The hue of his coat and his cheek?
Alas! if he look like another,
A vicar, a banker, a beau,
Be deaf to your father and mother,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

Miss Lane at her Temple of Fashion,
Taught us both how to sing and to speak,
And we loved one another with passion,
Before we had been there a week:
You gave me a ring for a token;
I wear it wherever I go;
I gave you a chain - is it broken?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

O think of our favourite cottage,
And think of our dear Lallah Rookh!
How we shared with the milkmaids their pottage,
And drank of the stream from the brook:
How fondly our loving lips faltered
'What further can grandeur bestow?
My heart is the same; - is yours altered?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

Remember the thrilling romances
We read on the bank in the glen;
Remember the suitors our fancies
Would picture for both of us then.
They wore the red cross on their shoulder,
They had vanquished and pardoned their foe -
Sweet friend, are you wiser or colder?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

You know, when Lord Rigmarole's carriage
Drove off with your sister Justine,
You wept, dearest girl, at the marriage,
And whispered 'How base she has been! '
You said you were sure it would kill you,
If ever your husband looked so;
And you will apostatize, - will you?
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

When I heard I was going abroad, love,
I thought I was going to die;
We walked arm in arm to the road, love,
We looked arm in arm to the sky;
And I said 'When a foreign postillion
Has hurried me off to the Po,
Forget not Medora Trevilian:

My own Araminta, say 'No! '
We parted! but sympathy's fetters
Reach far over valley and hill;
I muse o'er your exquisite letters,
And feel that your heart is mine still;
And he who would share it with me, love -
The richest of treasure below -

If he's not what Orlando should be, love,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '
If he wears a top-boot in his wooing,
If he comes to you riding a cob,
If he talks of his baking or brewing,
If he puts up his feet on the hob,
If he ever drinks port after dinner,
If his brow, or his breeding is low,
If he calls himself 'Thompson' or 'Skinner',
My own, Araminta, say 'No! '

If he ever sets foot in the City,
Amongst the stockbrokers and Jews,
If he has not a heart full of pity,
If he don't stand six feet in his shoes,
If his lips are not redder than roses,
If his hands are not whiter than snow,
If he has not the model of noses, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

If he speaks of a tax or a duty,
If he does not look grand on his knees,
If he's blind to a landscape of beauty,
Hills, valleys, rocks, waters, and trees,
If he dotes not on desolate towers,
If he likes not to hear the blast blow,
If he knows not the language of flowers, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

He must walk - like a god of old story
Come down from the home of his rest;
He must smile - like the sun in his glory
On the buds he loves ever the best;
And oh! from its ivory portal
Like music his soft speech must flow! -
If he speak, smile, or walk like a mortal,
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

Don't listen to tales of his bounty,
Don't hear what they say of his birth,
Don't look at his seat in the county,
Don't calculate what he is worth;
But give him a theme to write verse on,
And see if he turns out his toe;
If he's only an excellent person, -
My own Araminta, say 'No! '

Winthrop Mackworth PRAED 1802_1839

The Talented Man

Letter From A Lady In London To A Lady At Lausanne

Dear Alice! you'll laugh when you know it, -
Last week, at the Duchess's ball,
I danced with the clever new poet, -
You've heard of him, - Tully St. Paul.
Miss Jonquil was perfectly frantic;
I wish you had seen Lady Anne!
It really was very romantic,
He is such a talented man!

He came up from Brazen Nose College,
Just caught, as they call it, this spring;
And his head, love, is stuffed full of knowledge
Of every conceivable thing.
Of science and logic he chatters,
As fine and as fast as he can;
Though I am no judge of such matters,
I'm sure he's a talented man.

His stories and jests are delightful; -
Not stories or jests, dear, for you;
The jests are exceedingly spiteful,
The stories not always quite true.
Perhaps to be kind and veracious
May do pretty well at Lausanne;
But it never would answer, - good gracious!
Chez nous - in a talented man.

He sneers, - how my Alice would scold him! -
At the bliss of a sigh or a tear;
He laughed - only think! - when I told him
How we cried o'er Trevelyan last year;
I vow I was quite in a passion;
I broke all the sticks of my fan;
But sentiment's quite out of fashion,
It seems, in a talented man.

Lady Bab, who is terribly moral,
Has told me that Tully is vain,
And apt - which is silly - to quarrel,
And fond - which is sad - of champagne.
I listened, and doubted, dear Alice,
For I saw, when my Lady began,
It was only the Dowager's malice; -
She does hate a talented man!

He's hideous, I own it. But fame, love,
Is all that these eyes can adore;
He's lame, - but Lord Byron was lame, love,
And dumpy, - but so is Tom Moore.
Then his voice, - such a voice! my sweet creature,
It's like your Aunt Lucy's toucan:
But oh! what's a tone or a feature,
When once one's a talented man?

My mother, you know, all the season,
Has talked of Sir Geoffrey's estate;
And truly, to do the fool reason,
He has been less horrid of late.
But to-day, when we drive in the carriage,
I'll tell her to lay down her plan; -
If ever I venture on marriage,
It must be a talented man!

P.S. - I have found, on reflection,
One fault in my friend, - entre nous;
Without it, he'd just be perfection; -
Poor fellow, he has not a sou!
And so, when he comes in September
To shoot with my uncle, Sir Dan,
I've promised mamma to remember
He's only a talented man!

Winthrop Mackworth Praed 1802_1839

A Letter

Dear Kitty,
At length the term's ending;
I 'm in for my Schools in a week;
And the time that at present I'm spending
On you should be spent upon Greek:
But I'm fairly well read in my Plato,
I'm thoroughly red in the eyes,
And I've almost forgotten the way to
Be healthy and wealthy and wise.
So 'the best of all ways' - why repeat you
The verse at 2.30 a.m.,
When I 'm stealing an hour to entreat you
Dear Kitty, to come to Commem.?

Oh, come! You shall rustle in satin
Through halls where Examiners trod:
Your laughter shall triumph o'er Latin
In lecture-room, garden, and quad.
They stand in the silent Sheldonian -
Our orators, waiting - for you,
Their style guaranteed Ciceronian,
Their subject - 'the Ladies in Blue.'
The Vice sits arrayed in his scarlet;
He's pale, but they say he dissem-
-bles by calling his Beadle a 'varlet'
Whenever he thinks of Commem.

There are dances, flirtations at Nuneham,
Flower-shows, the procession of Eights:
There's a list stretching _usque ad Lunam_
Of concerts, and lunches, and fetes:
There's the Newdigate all about 'Gordon, '
- So sweet, and they say it will scan.
You shall flirt with a Proctor, a Warden
Shall run for your shawl and your fan.
They are sportive as gods broken loose from
Olympus, and yet very em-
-inent men. There are plenty to choose from,
You'll find, if you come to Commem.

I know your excuses: Red Sorrel
Has stumbled and broken her knees;
Aunt Phoebe thinks waltzing immoral;
And 'Algy, you are such a tease;
It's nonsense, of course, but she _is_ strict';
And little Dick Hodge has the croup;
And there's no one to visit your 'district'
Or make Mother Tettleby's soup.
Let them cease for a se'nnight to plague you;
Oh, leave them to manage _pro tem_.
With their croups and their soups and their ague)
Dear Kitty, and come to Commem.

Don't tell me Papa has lumbago,
That you haven't a frock fit to wear,
That the curate 'has notions, and may go
To lengths if there's nobody there, '
That the Squire has 'said things' to the Vicar,
And the Vicar 'had words' with the Squire,
That the Organist's taken to liquor,
And leaves you to manage the choir:
For Papa must be cured, and the curate
Coerced, and your gown is a gem;
And the moral is - Don't be obdurate,
Dear Kitty, but come to Commem.

'My gown? Though, no doubt, sir, you're clever,
You 'd better leave fashions alone.
Do you think that a frock lasts for ever? '
Dear Kitty, I'll grant you have grown;
But I thought of my 'scene' with McVittie
That night when he trod on your train
At the Bachelor's Ball. ''Twas a pity, '
You said, but I knew 'twas Champagne.
And your gown was enough to compel me
To fall down and worship its hem -
(Are 'hems' wearing? If not, you shall tell me
What is, when you come to Commem.)

Have you thought, since that night, of the Grotto?
Of the words whispered under the palms,
While the minutes flew by and forgot to
Remind us of Aunt and her qualms?
Of the stains of the old _Journalisten_?
Of the rose that I begged from your hair?
When you turned, and I saw something glisten -
Dear Kitty, don't frown; it _was_ there!
But that idiot Delane in the middle
Bounced in with 'Our dance, I - ahem! '
And - the rose you may find in my Liddell
And Scott when you come to Commem.

Then, Kitty, let 'yes' be the answer.
We'll dance at the 'Varsity Ball,
And the morning shall find you a dancer
In Christ Church or Trinity hall.
And perhaps, when the elders are yawning
And rafters grow pale overhead
With the day, there shall come with its dawning
Some thought of that sentence unsaid.
Be it this, be it that - 'I forget, ' or
'Was joking' - whatever the fem-
-inine fib, you'll have made me your debtor
And come, - you _will_ come? to Commem.


Green Bays Parody 1893 Arthur QUILLER-COUCH
Parody - Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice

HER LETTER - Francis Bret Harte to William Mackworth Praed

I'm sitting alone by the fire,
Dressed just as I came from the dance,
In a robe even you would admire, -
It cost a cool thousand in France;
I'm be-diamonded out of all reason,
My hair is done up in a cue:
In short, sir, 'the belle of the season'
Is wasting an hour upon you.

A dozen engagements I've broken;
I left in the midst of a set;
Likewise a proposal, half spoken,
That waits - on the stairs - for me yet.
They say he'll be rich, - when he grows up, -
And then he adores me indeed;
And you, sir, are turning your nose up,
Three thousand miles off, as you read.

'And how do I like my position? '
'And what do I think of New York? '
'And now, in my higher ambition,
With whom do I waltz, flirt, or talk? '
'And isn't it nice to have riches,
And diamonds and silks, and all that? '
'And aren't they a change to the ditches
And tunnels of Poverty Flat? '

Well, yes, - if you saw us out driving
Each day in the Park, four-in-hand,
If you saw poor dear mamma contriving
To look supernaturally grand, -
If you saw papa's picture, as taken
By Brady, and tinted at that, -
You'd never suspect he sold bacon
And flour at Poverty Flat.

And yet, just this moment, when sitting
In the glare of the grand chandelier, -
In the bustle and glitter befitting
The 'finest soiree of the year, ' -
In the mists of a gaze de Chambery,
And the hum of the smallest of talk, -
Somehow, Joe, I thought of the 'Ferry, '
And the dance that we had on 'The Fork; '

Of Harrison's bar, with its muster
Of flags festooned over the wall;
Of the candles that shed their soft lustre
And tallow on head-dress and shawl;
Of the steps that we took to one fiddle,
Of the dress of my queer vis-a-vis;
And how I once went down the middle
With the man that shot Sandy McGee.

Of the moon that was quietly sleeping
On the hill, when the time came to go;
Of the few baby peaks that were peeping
From under their bedclothes of snow;
Of that ride, - that to me was the rarest,
Of - the something you said at the gate.
Ah! Joe, then I wasn't an heiress
To 'the best-paying lead in the State.'

Well, well, it's all past; yet it's funny
To think, as I stood in the glare
Of fashion and beauty and money,
That I should be thinking, right there,
Of some one who breasted high water,
And swam the North Fork, and all that,
Just to dance with old Folinsbee's daughter,
The Lily of Poverty Flat.

But goodness! what nonsense I'm writing!
(Mamma says my taste still is low) ,
Instead of my triumphs reciting, -
I'm spooning on Joseph, - heigh-ho!
And I'm to be 'finished' by travel, -
Whatever's the meaning of that.
Oh, why did papa strike pay gravel
In drifting on Poverty Flat?

Good-night! - here's the end of my paper;
Good-night! - if the longitude please, -
For maybe, while wasting my taper,
Your sun's climbing over the trees.
But know, if you haven't got riches,
And are poor, dearest Joe, and all that,
That my heart's somewhere there in the ditches,
And you've struck it, - on Poverty Flat

Francis Bret Harte 1830_1902


Song of a Plebutante

Oh Mumsy, it's the starters of the Season
And here I am with not a thing to wear;
If I'm lucky I may stumble
On a T-shirt in a jumble
That won't look too outrageous in Sloane Square.

I know we really can't afford a party,
With unions pushing Britain down the drain,
And I'm sorry poor old Daddy
Has to borrow from his caddie
And cycle to the City in the rain.

I've had a teeny tete-a-tete with Tanya;
She couldn't fit me in at her boutique,
So I've joined the ranks of labour
With an office job at Faber,
And they're starting me at forty pounds a week.

Oh, getting up at eight won't be too ghastly,
(Fiona says that filing can be fun) ,
But the times they are a-changing
And the marriage you're arranging
Will have to wait until I'm twenty-one.

Oh, Mumsy, please stop crying, there's a darling,
Oh, Daddy, I can't bear it if you shout;
But if Quentin Crisp can do it
There can't be that much to it,
And nothing's going to stop me coming out!


Roger WODDIS 1917_1993
Parody Winthrop Mackworth PRAED A Letter of Advice

A Letter of Advice, to My Godson


TO MY GODSON.

(Aged six weeks)

Small bundle, enveloped in laces,
For whom I stood sponsor last week,
When you slept, with the pinkest of faces,
And never emitted a squeak;
Though vain is the task of illuming
The Future's inscrutable scroll,
I cannot refrain from assuming
A semi-prophetical _role_,

I predict that in paths Montessorian
Your infantile steps will be led,
And with modes which are Phrygian and Dorian
Your musical appetite fed;
You'll be taught how to dance by a Russian,
'Eurhythmics' you'll learn from a Swiss,
How not to behave like a Prussian-
No teaching is needed for this!

Will you learn Esperanto at Eton?
Or, if Eton by then is suppressed,
Be sent to grow apples or wheat on
A ranche in the ultimate West?
Will you aim at a modern diploma
In civics or commerce or stinks?
Inhale the Wisconsin aroma
Or think as the Humanist thinks?

Will you learn to play tennis from COVEY
Or model your stroke on JAY GOULD?
Will you play the piano like TOVEY
Or by gramophone records be schooled?
Will you golf, or will golfing be banished
To answer the needs of the plough,
And links from the landscape have vanished
To pasture the sheep and the cow?

Your taste in the region of letters
I only can dimly foresee,
But guess that from metrical fetters
The verse you'll affect must be free;
And I shan't be surprised or astounded
If your generation rebels
Against adulation unbounded
Of MASEFIELD and BENNETT and WELLS.

Upholding ancestral tradition
Your uncle has booked you at Lord's,
But I doubt if you'll sate your ambition
Athletic on well-levelled swards;
No, I rather opine that you'll follow
The lead that we owe to the WRIGHTS,
And soar like the eagle or swallow
On far and adventurous flights.

But no matter-in joy and affliction,
In seasons of failure or fame,
I cherish the certain conviction
You'll never dishonour your name;
For the love of the mother that bore you,
The life and the death of your sire
Will shine as a lantern before you,
To guide and exalt and inspire.

Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 152, March 28,1917
Author Unknown Parody William Mackworth Praed

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Essay on Psychiatrists

I. Invocation

It‘s crazy to think one could describe them—
Calling on reason, fantasy, memory, eves and ears—
As though they were all alike any more

Than sweeps, opticians, poets or masseurs.
Moreover, they are for more than one reason
Difficult to speak of seriously and freely,

And I have never (even this is difficult to say
Plainly, without foolishness or irony)
Consulted one for professional help, though it happens

Many or most of my friends have—and that,
Perhaps, is why it seems urgent to try to speak
Sensibly about them, about the psychiatrists.


II. Some Terms

“Shrink” is a misnomer. The religious
Analogy is all wrong, too, and the old,
Half-forgotten jokes about Viennese accents

And beards hardly apply to the good-looking woman
In boots and a knit dress, or the man
Seen buying the Sunday Times in mutton-chop

Whiskers and expensive running shoes.
In a way I suspect that even the terms “doctor”
And “therapist” are misnomers; the patient

Is not necessarily “sick.” And one assumes
That no small part of the psychiatrist’s
Role is just that: to point out misnomers.


III. Proposition

These are the first citizens of contingency.
Far from the doctrinaire past of the old ones,
They think in their prudent meditations

Not about ecstasy (the soul leaving the body)
Nor enthusiasm (the god entering one’s person)
Nor even about sanity (which means

Health, an impossible perfection)
But ponder instead relative truth and the warm
Dusk of amelioration. The cautious

Young augurs with their family-life, good books
And records and foreign cars believe
In amelioration—in that, and in suffering.


IV. A Lakeside Identification

Yes, crazy to suppose one could describe them—
And yet, there was this incident: at the local beach
Clouds of professors and the husbands of professors

Swam, dabbled, or stood to talk with arms folded
Gazing at the lake ... and one of the few townsfolk there,
With no faculty status—a matter-of-fact, competent,

Catholic woman of twenty-seven with five children
And a first-rate body—pointed her finger
At the back of one certain man and asked me,

Is that guy a psychiatrist?” and by god he was! “Yes,”
She said, “He looks like a psychiatrist.”
Grown quiet, I looked at his pink back, and thought.


V. Physical Comparison With Professors And Others

Pink and a bit soft-bodied, with a somewhat jazzy
Middle-class bathing suit and sandy sideburns, to me
He looked from the back like one more professor.

And from the front, too—the boyish, unformed carriage
Which foreigners always note in American men, combined
As in a professor with that liberal, quizzical,

Articulate gaze so unlike the more focused, more
Tolerant expression worn by a man of action (surgeon,
Salesman, athlete). On closer inspection was there,

Perhaps, a self-satisfied benign air, a too studied
Gentleness toward the child whose hand he held loosely?
Absurd to speculate; but then—the woman saw something.


VI. Their Seriousness, With Further Comparisons

In a certain sense, they are not serious.
That is, they are serious—useful, deeply helpful,
Concerned—only in the way that the pilots of huge

Planes, radiologists, and master mechanics can,
At their best, be serious. But however profound
The psychiatrists may be, they are not serious the way

A painter may be serious beyond pictures, or a businessman
May be serious beyond property and cash—or even
The way scholars and surgeons are serious, each rapt

In his work’s final cause, contingent upon nothing:
Beyond work; persons; recoveries. And this is fitting:
Who would want to fly with a pilot who was serious

About getting to the destination safely? Terrifying idea—
That a pilot could over-extend, perhaps try to fly
Too well, or suffer from Pilot’s Block; of course,

It may be that (just as they must not drink liquor
Before a flight) they undergo regular, required check-ups
With a psychiatrist, to prevent such things from happening.


VII. Historical (The Bacchae)

Madness itself, as an idea, leaves us confused—
Incredulous that it exists, or cruelly facetious,
Or stricken with a superstitious awe as if bound

By the lost cults of Trebizond and Pergamum ...
The most profound study of madness is found
In the Bacchae of Euripides, so deeply disturbing

That in Cambridge, Massachusetts the players
Evaded some of the strongest unsettling material
By portraying poor sincere, fuddled, decent Pentheus

As a sort of fascistic bureaucrat—but it is Dionysus
Who holds rallies, instills exaltations of violence,
With his leopards and atavistic troops above law,

Reason and the good sense and reflective dignity
Of Pentheus—Pentheus, humiliated, addled, made to suffer
Atrocity as a minor jest of the smirking God.

When Bacchus’s Chorus (who call him “most gentle”!) observe:
“Ten thousand men have ten thousand hopes; some fail,
Some come to fruit, but the happiest man is he

Who gathers the good of life day by day”—as though
Life itself were enough—does that mean, to leave ambition?
And is it a kind of therapy, or truth? Or both?


VIII. A Question

On the subject of madness the Bacchae seems,
On the whole, more pro than contra. The Chorus
Says of wine, “There is no other medicine for misery”;

When the Queen in her ecstasy—or her enthusiasm?—
Tears her terrified son’s arm from his body, or bears
His head on her spear, she remains happy so long

As she remains crazy; the God himself (who bound fawnskin
To the women’s flesh, armed them with ivy arrows
And his orgies’ livery) debases poor Pentheus first,

Then leads him to mince capering towards female Death
And dismemberment: flushed, grinning, the grave young
King of Thebes pulls at a slipping bra-strap, simpers

Down at his turned ankle. Pentheus: “Should I lift up
Mount Cithæron—Bacchae, mother and all?”
Dionysus: “Do what you want to do. Your mind

Was unstable once, but now you sound more sane,
You are on your way to great things.”
The question is, Which is the psychiatrist: Pentheus, or Dionysus?


IX. Pentheus As Psychiatrist

With his reasonable questions Pentheus tries
To throw light on the old customs of savagery.
Like a brave doctor, he asks about it all,

He hears everything, “Weird, fantastic things”
The Messenger calls them: with their breasts
Swollen, their new babies abandoned, mothers

Among the Bacchantes nestled gazelles
And young wolves in their arms, and suckled them;
You might see a single one of them tear a fat calf

In two, still bellowing with fright, while others
Clawed heifers to pieces; ribs and hooves
Were strewn everywhere; blood-smeared scraps

Hung from the fir trees; furious bulls
Charged and then fell stumbling, pulled down
To be stripped of skin and flesh by screaming women ...

And Pentheus listened. Flames burned in their hair,
Unnoticed; thick honey spurted from their wands;
And the snakes they wore like ribbons licked

Hot blood from their flushed necks: Pentheus
Was the man the people told ... “weird things,” like
A middle-class fantasy of release; and when even

The old men—bent Cadmus and Tiresias—dress up
In fawnskin and ivy, beating their wands on the ground,
Trying to carouse, it is Pentheus—down-to-earth,

Sober—who raises his voice in the name of dignity.
Being a psychiatrist, how could he attend to the Chorus’s warning
Against “those who aspire” and “a tongue without reins”?


X. Dionysus As Psychiatrist

In a more hostile view, the psychiatrists
Are like Bacchus—the knowing smirk of his mask,
His patients, his confident guidance of passion,

And even his little jokes, as when the great palace
Is hit by lightning which blazes and stays,
Bouncing among the crumpled stone walls ...

And through the burning rubble he comes,
With his soft ways picking along lightly
With a calm smile for the trembling Chorus

Who have fallen to the ground, bowing
In the un-Greek, Eastern way—What, Asian women,
He asks, Were you disturbed just now when Bacchus

Jostled the palace? He warns Pentheus to adjust,
To learn the ordinary man’s humble sense of limits,
Violent limits, to the rational world. He cures

Pentheus of the grand delusion that the dark
Urgencies can be governed simply by the mind,
And the mind’s will. He teaches Queen Agave to look

Up from her loom, up at the light, at her tall
Son’s head impaled on the stiff spear clutched
In her own hand soiled with dirt and blood.


XI. Their Philistinism Considered

“Greek Tragedy” of course is the sort of thing
They like and like the idea of ... though not “tragedy”
In the sense of newspapers. When a patient shot one of them,

People phoned in, many upset as though a deep,
Special rule had been abrogated, someone had gone too far.
The poor doctor, as described by the evening Globe,

Turned out to be a decent, conventional man (Doctors
For Peace, B’Nai Brith, numerous articles), almost
Carefully so, like Paul Valéry—or like Rex Morgan, M.D., who,

In the same Globe, attends a concert with a longjawed woman.
First Panel: “We’re a little early for the concert!
There’s an art museum we can stroll through!” “I’d like

That, Dr. Morgan!” Second Panel: “Outside the hospital,
There’s no need for such formality, Karen! Call me
By my first name!” “I’ll feel a little awkward!”

Final Panel: “Meanwhile ...” a black car pulls up
To City Hospital .... By the next day’s Globe, the real
Doctor has died of gunshot wounds, while for smiling, wooden,

Masklike Rex and his companion the concert has passed,
Painlessly, offstage: “This was a beautiful experience, Rex!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it! I have season tickets

And you’re welcome to use them! I don’t have
The opportunity to go to many of the concerts!”
Second Panel: “You must be famished!” And so Rex

And Karen go off to smile over a meal which will pass
Like music offstage, off to the mysterious pathos
Of their exclamation marks, while in the final panel

“Meanwhile, In The Lobby At City Hospital”
A longjawed man paces furiously among
The lamps, magazines, tables and tubular chairs.


XII. Their Philistinism Dismissed

But after all—what “cultural life” and what
Furniture, what set of the face, would seem adequate
For those who supply medicine for misery?

After all, what they do is in a way a kind of art,
And what writers have to say about music, or painters’
Views about poetry, musicians’ taste in pictures, all

Often are similarly hoked-up, dutiful, vulgar. After all,
They are not gods or heroes, nor even priests chosen
Apart from their own powers, but like artists are mere

Experts dependent on their own wisdom, their own arts:
Pilgrims in the world, journeymen, bourgeois savants,
Gallant seekers and persistent sons, doomed

To their cruel furniture and their season tickets
As to skimped meditations and waxen odes.
At first, Rex Morgan seems a perfect Pentheus—

But he smirks, he is imperturbable, he understates;
Understatement is the privilege of a god, we must
Choose, we must find out which way to see them:

Either the bland arrogance of the abrupt mountain god
Or the man of the town doing his best, we must not
Complain both that they are inhuman and too human.


XIII. Their Despair

I am quite sure that I have read somewhere
That the rate of suicide among psychiatrists
Is far higher than for any other profession.

There are many myths to explain such things, things
Which one reads and believes without believing
Any one significance for them—as in this case,

Which again reminds me of writers, who, I have read,
Drink and become alcoholics and die of alcoholism
In far greater numbers than other people.

Symmetry suggests one myth, or significance: the drinking
Of writers coming from too much concentration,
In solitude, upon feelings expressed

For or even about possibly indifferent people, people
Who are absent or perhaps dead, or unborn; the suicide
Of psychiatrists coming from too much attention,

In most intimate contact, concentrated upon the feelings
Of people toward whom one may feel indifferent,
People who are certain, sooner or later, to die ...

Or people about whom they care too much, after all?
The significance of any life, of its misery and its end,
Is not absolute—that is the despair which

Underlies their good sense, recycling their garbage,
Voting, attending town-meetings, synagogues, churches,
Weddings, contingent gatherings of all kinds.


XIV. Their Speech, Compared With Wisdom And Poetry

Terms of all kinds mellow with time, growing
Arbitrary and rich as we call this man “neurotic”
Or that man “a peacock.” The lore of psychiatrists—

“Paranoid,” “Anal” and so on, if they still use
Such terms—also passes into the status of old sayings:
Water thinner than blood or under bridges; bridges

Crossed in the future or burnt in the past. Or the terms
Of myth, the phrases that well up in my mind:
Two blind women and a blind little boy, running—

Easier to cut thin air into planks with a saw
And then drive nails into those planks of air,
Than to evade those three, the blind harriers,

The tireless blind women and the blind boy, pursuing
For long years of my life, for long centuries of time.
Concerning Justice, Fortune and Love I believe

That there may be wisdom, but no science and few terms:
Blind, and blinding, too. Hot in pursuit and flight,
Justice, Fortune and Love demand the arts

Of knowing and naming: and, yes, the psychiatrists, too,
Patiently naming them. But all in pursuit and flight, two
Blind women, tireless, and the blind little boy.


XV. A Footnote Concerning Psychiatry Itself

Having mentioned it, though it is not
My subject here, I will say only that one
Hopes it is good, and hopes that practicing it

The psychiatrists who are my subject here
Will respect the means, however pathetic,
That precede them; that they respect the patient’s

Own previous efforts, strategies, civilizations—
Not only whatever it is that lets a man consciously
Desire girls of sixteen (or less) on the street,

And not embrace them, et cetera, but everything that was
There already: the restraints, and the other lawful
Old culture of wine, women, et cetera.


XVI. Generalizing, Just And Unjust

As far as one can generalize, only a few
Are not Jewish. Many, I have heard, grew up
As an only child. Among many general charges

Brought against them (smugness, obfuscation)
Is a hard, venal quality. In truth, they do differ
From most people in the special, tax-deductible status

Of their services, an enviable privilege which brings
Venality to the eye of the beholder, who feels
With some justice that if to soothe misery

Is a tax-deductible medical cost, then the lute-player,
Waitress, and actor also deserve to offer
Their services as tax-deductible; movies and TV

Should be tax-deductible ... or nothing should;
Such cash matters perhaps lead psychiatrists
And others to buy what ought not to be sold: Seder

Services at hotels; skill at games from paid lessons;
Fast divorce; the winning side in a war seen
On TV like cowboys or football—that is how much

One can generalize: psychiatrists are as alike (and unlike)
As cowboys. In fact, they are stock characters like cowboys:
“Bette Davis, Claude Rains in Now, Voyager (1942),

A sheltered spinster is brought out of her shell
By her psychiatrist” and “Steven Boyd, Jack Hawkins
In The Third Secret (1964), a psychoanalyst’s

Daughter asks a patient to help her find her father’s
Murderer.” Like a cowboy, the only child roams
The lonely ranges and secret mesas of his genre.


XVII. Their Patients

As a rule, the patients I know do not pace
Furiously, nor scream, nor shoot doctors. For them,
To be a patient seems not altogether different

From one’s interest in Ann Landers and her clients:
Her virtue of taking it all on, answering
Any question (artificial insemination by grandpa;

The barracuda of a girl who says that your glasses
Make you look square) and her virtue of saying,
Buster (or Dearie) stop complaining and do

What you want ... and often that seems to be the point:
After the glassware from Design Research, after
A place on the Cape with Marimekko drapes,

The superlative radio and shoes, comes
The contingency tax—serious people, their capacity
For mere hedonism fills up, one seems to need

To perfect more complex ideas of desire,
To overcome altruism in the technical sense,
To learn to say no when you mean no and yes

When you mean yes, a standard of cui bono, a standard
Which, though it seems to be the inverse
Of more Spartan or Christian codes, is no less

Demanding in its call, inward in this case, to duty.
It suggests a kind of league of men and women dedicated
To their separate, inward duties, holding in common

Only the most general standard, or no standard
Other than valuing a sense of the conflict
Among standards, a league recalling in its mutual

Conflict and comfort the well-known fact that psychiatrists,
Too, are the patients of other psychiatrists,
Working dutifully—cui bono—at the inward standards.


XVIII. The Mad

Other patients are ill otherwise, and do
Scream and pace and kill or worse; and that
Should be recalled. Kit Smart, Hitler,

The contemporary poets of lunacy—none of them
Helps me to think of the mad otherwise
Than in clichés too broad, the maenads

And wild-eyed killers of the movies ...
But perhaps lunacy feels something like a cliché,
A desperate or sweet yielding to some broad,

Mechanical simplification, a dispersal
Of the unbearable into its crude fragments,
The distraction of a repeated gesture

Or a compulsively hummed tune. Maybe
It is not utterly different from chewing
At one’s fingernails. For the psychiatrists

It must come to seem ordinary, its causes
And the causes of its relief, after all,
No matter how remote and intricate, are no

Stranger than life itself, which was born or caused
Itself, once, as a kind of odor, a faint wreath
Brewing where the radiant light from billions

Of miles off strikes a faint broth from water
Standing in rock; life born from the egg
Of rock, and the egglike rock of death

Are no more strange than this other life
Which we name after the moon, lunatic
Other-life ... housed, for the lucky ones,

In McLean Hospital with its elegant,
Prep-school atmosphere. When my friend
Went in, we both tried to joke: “Karen,” I said,

You must be crazy to spend money and time
In this place”—she gained weight,
Made a chess-board, had a roommate

Who introduced herself as the Virgin Mary,
Referred to another patient: “Well, she must
Be an interesting person, if she’s in here.”


XIX. Peroration, Defining Happiness

“I know not how it is, but certainly I
Have never been more tired with any reading
Than with dissertations upon happiness,

Which seems not only to elude inquiry,
But to cast unmerciful loads of clay
And sand and husks and stubble

Along the high-road of the inquirer.
Even sound writers talk mostly in a drawling
And dreaming way about it. He,

Who hath given the best definition
Of most things, hath given but an imperfect one,
Here, informing us that a happy life

Is one without impediment to virtue ....
In fact, hardly anything which we receive
For truth is really and entirely so,

Let it appear plain as it may, and let
Its appeal be not only to the understanding,
But to the senses; for our words do not follow

The senses exactly; and it is by words
We receive truth and express it.”
So says Walter Savage Landor in his Imaginary

Conversation between Sir Philip Sidney
And Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, all three,
In a sense, my own psychiatrists, shrinking

The sense of contingency and confusion
Itself to a few terms I can quote, ponder
Or type: the idea of wisdom, itself, shrinks.


XX. Peroration, Concerning Genius

As to my own concerns, it seems odd, given
The ideas many of us have about art,
That so many writers, makers of films,

Artists, all suitors of excellence and their own
Genius, should consult psychiatrists, willing
To risk that the doctor in curing

The sickness should smooth away the cicatrice
Of genius, too. But it is all bosh, the false
Link between genius and sickness,

Except perhaps as they were linked
By the Old Man, addressing his class
On the first day: “I know why you are here.

You are here to laugh. You have heard of a crazy
Old man who believes that Robert Bridges
Was a good poet; who believes that Fulke

Greville was a great poet, greater than Philip
Sidney; who believes that Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Are not all that they are cracked up to be .... Well,

I will tell you something: I will tell you
What this course is about. Sometime in the middle
Of the Eighteenth Century, along with the rise

Of capitalism and scientific method, the logical
Foundations of Western thought decayed and fell apart.
When they fell apart, poets were left

With emotions and experiences, and with no way
To examine them. At this time, poets and men
Of genius began to go mad. Gray went mad. Collins

Went mad. Kit Smart was mad. William Blake surely
Was a madman. Coleridge was a drug addict, with severe
Depression. My friend Hart Crane died mad. My friend

Ezra Pound is mad. But you will not go mad; you will grow up
To become happy, sentimental old college professors,
Because they were men of genius, and you

Are not; and the ideas which were vital
To them are mere amusement to you. I will not
Go mad, because I have understood those ideas ....”

He drank wine and smoked his pipe more than he should;
In the end his doctors in order to prolong life
Were forced to cut away most of his tongue.

That was their business. As far as he was concerned
Suffering was life’s penalty; wisdom armed one
Against madness; speech was temporary; poetry was truth.


XXI. Conclusion

Essaying to distinguish these men and women,
Who try to give medicine for misery,
From the rest of us, I find I have failed

To discover what essential statement could be made
About psychiatrists that would not apply
To all human beings, or what statement

About all human beings would not apply
Equally to psychiatrists. They, too,
Consult psychiatrists. They try tentatively

To understand, to find healing speech. They work
For truth and for money. They are contingent ...
They talk and talk ... they are, in the words

Of a lute-player I met once who despised them,
“Into machines” ... all true of all, so that it seems
That “psychiatrist” is a synonym for “human being,”

Even in their prosperity which is perhaps
Like their contingency merely more vivid than that
Of lutanists, opticians, poets—all into

Truth, into music, into yearning, suffering,
Into elegant machines and luxuries, with caroling
And kisses, with soft rich cloth and polished

Substances, with cash, tennis and fine electronics,
Liberty of lush and reverend places—goods
And money in their contingency and spiritual

Grace evoke the way we are all psychiatrists,
All fumbling at so many millions of miles
Per minute and so many dollars per hour

Through the exploding or collapsing spaces
Between stars, saying what we can.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fourth Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Lady Waldemar is good.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Kobayashi Issa

No doubt about it

No doubt about it,
the mountain cuckoo
is a crybaby.

Translated by Robert Hass

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Do Not Tell Me That There Is Something Poetic About The Rain Today

shoo.

please honey,
do not tell me
that there is something poetic
about the rain today

it is heavy.
cats and dogs.
and hotdogs
and syrup pancakes and
cold coffee,

gosh.

i am engrossed with the law.

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To me you are the most beautiful woman

How can I catch in a single poem
the scenery that I see in your eyes,
the light that radiates in them,
the starry look that they radiate?
To me you are the most beautiful woman
and even if I could fold my arms
a thousand times around you,
words cannot really hold you.
How do a person describe
a heart that is open for the world
and wants to stop the pain
of all of humans?
Still I thank God
that you do love me.

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