An Ode To The Detached Leaves
Ah! The blows of autumnal wind,
Cold and callous, have encroached at last,
They have made the leaves their victims.
Look! they fall like drops of rain,
Bearing no strength of their own.
They move with the gushes of wind,
Without their own consent,
They oscillate on the wings of some invisible agents,
Who possess the secret powers,
To dispose what one proposes.
I recall once they were attached hard,
To the branches and boughs of the shadowy trees;
And sap ran into their veins,
As blood runs into the human network;
And they fluttered resisting each coldhearted gust.
They were resolute to go through each ebb and flow,
Establishing firm relations to the nourishing limbs.
And Mother Nature came stealthily to give them wash,
At the moonlit nights with the drops of dew.
While they fluttered, they produced symphony,
Unknown even to the ancient master musicians;
And they whispered in mysterious sounds,
Only understood by the cuckoos or nightingales:
The singers and agents of the feral world.
Now they rustle with each move of the autumnal gusts,
Or crackle under the feet like too crispy dried petals;
And some float on the stagnant water with green surface.
Ah! 21st century is the dawn of autumnal winds,
The blows and fatal gusts have diverted the civilizations,
And they now move on the tracks of conflicts,
Human beings fall like leaves, waft along the blows,
Detaching themselves from the nourishing boughs
And shadowy branches of faith, love and tolerance.
- quotes about food
- quotes about music
- quotes about tolerance
- quotes about wind
- quotes about time
- quotes about sound
- quotes about strength
- quotes about nature
- quotes about green
Blood Runs Cold
I heard this line one time 'bout tryin' to save the world
But have you ever tried to save yourself
A wide-eyed suicide drive
Remains a fake
As if you'd ever
Ever go and make the same mistake
Strung out as the night comes crawlin'
Your halo of thorns is fallin'
Blood runs cold
I feel it in my bones
But you don't know your time is up
Blood runs cold
Somebody somewhere is screamin' out the words
But do they ever really ease the pain
I guess what I'm trying to say
Is whose life is it anyway because livin'
Living is the best revenge
You can play
This fall from grace
I see your face
From you love was kind
Resolved left scarred and blind
Wasted and naked in the wings
Denying twist of fate
Demanding Heaven's gate
Lying in wait above the wind
Strung out as the night comes crawlin'
Your halo of thorns is fallin'
Blood runs cold
Blood runs cold
- quotes about blood
- quotes about fate
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about life
- quotes about lies
- quotes about divine
- quotes about pain
- quotes about words
Cold Blows The Wind
Cold blows the wind over my true love
Cold blows the drops of rain
I never had but one true love
And in camville he was slain
I'll do as much for my true love as any young girl may
I'll sit and weep down by his grave for twelve month and one day
But when twelve months were come and gone
This young man he arose
What makes you weep down by my grave
I can't take my repose
One kiss, one kiss of your lily white lips -- one kiss is all i crave
One kiss, one kiss of your lily white lips and return back to your grave
My lips they are as cold as my clay
My breath is heavy and strong
If thou was to kiss my lily white lips
Thy days would not be long
Oh don't you remember the garden grove where we used to walk
Pluck the finest flower of them all, twill wither to a stalk
Go fetch me a nun from the dungeon deep
And water from a stone
And white milk from a maiden's breast,
That babe ere never known
Go dig me a grave both long, wide and deep as quickly as you may
I'll lie down in it and take one sleep for twelve month and one day
Cold blows the wind over my true love
Cold blows the drops of rain
I never had but one true love
And in camville he was slain
I'll do as much for my true love as any young girl may
I'll sit and weep down by his grave for twelve month and one day
Blows The Wind
blows the wind
shed at end
of day, end
world fall filled,
all too soon.
She Blows Hot And Cold
Queen - She Blows Hot And Cold
Words and music by Freddie Mercury
She's a sexy lady she can do it then she'd kick you out of bed
Tricky talking baby she can rock and roll and leave you for dead
Blow hot and cold blow hot and cold
She can give you the business give you the business
She blows she blows hot and cold
She's a modern lady she can fight it out man to man
She's a dirty so and so - she can do it do it do it she can
Blow hot and cold blow hot and cold
She can give you the business give you the business
She blows she blows hot and cold
Hey give me the business baby
She can give you the business yeah
She's a dirty so and so
Hey she blows she blows she blows hot and cold
She's a sexy lady she can bring you to a very sticky end
Sexy talking tricky talking baby
She can rock and roll and leave you for dead
Blow hot and cold
She blows hot and cold
She can give you the business give you the business
She blows she blows hot and cold
Hot and cold
Blow hot and cold
Come on and do it
Come on and give me the business
Give me the business baby
She blows she blows hot and cold
Heart beating sweeter
Souls dance the sweetest
Breathings cool and heavier
Energetic bodies become lighter
Ocean deep eyes look brighter
In the swollen veins blood runs faster
Excitement buttons explode together
Swaying with rhythm
Writhing, passion un- fathom
Regular intervals thrilling fantastic
Mysterious melody mystic music.
Outside a myriad of leaves begin to fall (rubiyat sonnet)
Outside a myriad of leaves begin to fall,
in yellow and brown, some are large and some are small
while old age sets in, days fade into oblivion
but it seems that I have not truly experience life at all.
Far too quickly the years wander by,
like nestles birds off they do fly
and life completely changes from what it was before
at times I laugh, play and cry
and then suddenly you do appear
bringing joy and peace where there was fear,
and it seems as if we are parts of a greater whole,
that the sun always rises beyond every tear
while like children we both do trust in a love
that nothing on this earth can remove.
I built the fence on a cold grey hill
With bar and shovel and axe and maul
And quite a measure of toil and will,
For I needed a paddock to clear and till,
So I dug the holes by the bloodwoods tall
And I felled the ones that grew on the line
And cut them into a handy length
That would serve the purpose of my design,
For each a link in the fence's spine,
And each would add to the fence its strength.
Each post I barked, and I sapped and stood
In a line as straight as a rifle shot,
And the sap ran red from the honest wood
Of the native gum that was sound and good
And with age would harden and never rot,
Then the wire, I strung, and I strained it tight,
And each post I fixed to the jagged wire,
So my fence was finished by fall of night
When my gaze was drawn to a distant light
And I turned for the warmth of home and fire.
© Dennis N. O'Brien,2011 - 2012
I. THE GARDEN.
Above the city hung the moon,
Right o'er a plot of ground
Where flowers and orchard-trees were fenced
With lofty walls around:
'Twas Gilbert's gardenthere, to-night
Awhile he walked alone;
And, tired with sedentary toil,
Mused where the moonlight shone.
This garden, in a city-heart,
Lay still as houseless wild,
Though many-windowed mansion fronts
Were round it closely piled;
But thick their walls, and those within
Lived lives by noise unstirred;
Like wafting of an angel's wing,
Time's flight by them was heard.
Some soft piano-notes alone
Were sweet as faintly given,
Where ladies, doubtless, cheered the hearth
With song, that winter-even.
The city's many-mingled sounds
Rose like the hum of ocean;
They rather lulled the heart than roused
Its pulse to faster motion.
Gilbert has paced the single walk
An hour, yet is not weary;
And, though it be a winter night,
He feels nor cold nor dreary.
The prime of life is in his veins,
And sends his blood fast flowing,
And Fancy's fervour warms the thoughts
Now in his bosom glowing.
Those thoughts recur to early love,
Or what he love would name,
Though haply Gilbert's secret deeds
Might other title claim.
Such theme not oft his mind absorbs,
He to the world clings fast,
And too much for the present lives,
To linger o'er the past.
But now the evening's deep repose
Has glided to his soul;
That moonlight falls on Memory,
And shows her fading scroll.
One name appears in every line
The gentle rays shine o'er,
And still he smiles and still repeats
That one nameElinor.
There is no sorrow in his smile,
No kindness in his tone;
The triumph of a selfish heart
Speaks coldly there alone;
He says: ' She loved me more than life;
And truly it was sweet
To see so fair a woman kneel,
In bondage, at my feet.
There was a sort of quiet bliss
To be so deeply loved,
To gaze on trembling eagerness
And sit myself unmoved.
And when it pleased my pride to grant,
At last some rare caress,
To feel the fever of that hand
My fingers deigned to press.
'Twas sweet to see her strive to hide
What every glance revealed;
Endowed, the while, with despot-might
Her destiny to wield.
I knew myself no perfect man,
Nor, as she deemed, divine;
I knew that I was gloriousbut
By her reflected shine;
Her youth, her native energy,
Her powers new-born and fresh,
'Twas these with Godhead sanctified
My sensual frame of flesh.
Yet, like a god did I descend
At last, to meet her love;
And, like a god, I then withdrew
To my own heaven above.
And never more could she invoke
My presence to her sphere;
No prayer, no plaint, no cry of hers
Could win my awful ear.
I knew her blinded constancy
Would ne'er my deeds betray,
And, calm in conscience, whole in heart,
I went my tranquil way.
Yet, sometimes, I still feel a wish,
The fond and flattering pain
Of passion's anguish to create,
In her young breast again.
Bright was the lustre of her eyes,
When they caught fire from mine;
If I had powerthis very hour,
Again I 'd light their shine.
But where she is, or how she lives,
I have no clue to know;
I 've heard she long my absence pined,
And left her home in woe.
But busied, then, in gathering gold,
As I am busied now,
I could not turn from such pursuit,
To weep a broken vow.
Nor could I give to fatal risk
The fame I ever prized;
Even now, I fear, that precious fame
Is too much compromised.'
An inward trouble dims his eye,
Some riddle he would solve;
Some method to unloose a knot,
His anxious thoughts revolve.
He, pensive, leans against a tree,
A leafy evergreen,
The boughs, the moonlight, intercept,
And hide him like a screen;
He startsthe tree shakes with his tremor,
Yet nothing near him pass'd,
He hurries up the garden alley,
In strangely sudden haste.
With shaking hand, he lifts the latchet,
Steps o'er the threshold stone;
The heavy door slips from his fingers,
It shuts, and he is gone.
What touched, transfixed, appalled, his soul ?
A nervous thought, no more;
'Twill sink like stone in placid pool,
And calm close smoothly o'er.
II. THE PARLOUR.
Warm is the parlour atmosphere,
Serene the lamp's soft light;
The vivid embers, red and clear,
Proclaim a frosty night.
Books, varied, on the table lie,
Three children o'er them bend,
And all, with curious, eager eye,
The turning leaf attend.
Picture and tale alternately
Their simple hearts delight,
And interest deep, and tempered glee,
Illume their aspects bright;
The parents, from their fireside place,
Behold that pleasant scene,
And joy is on the mother's face,
Pride, in the father's mien.
As Gilbert sees his blooming wife,
Beholds his children fair,
No thought has he of transient strife,
Or past, though piercing fear.
The voice of happy infancy
Lisps sweetly in his ear,
His wife, with pleased and peaceful eye,
Sits, kindly smiling, near.
The fire glows on her silken dress,
And shows its ample grace,
And warmly tints each hazel tress,
Curled soft around her face.
The beauty that in youth he wooed,
Is beauty still, unfaded,
The brow of ever placid mood
No churlish grief has shaded.
Prosperity, in Gilbert's home,
Abides, the guest of years;
There Want or Discord never come,
And seldom Toil or Tears.
The carpets bear the peaceful print
Of comfort's velvet tread,
And golden gleams from plenty sent,
In every nook are shed.
The very silken spaniel seems
Of quiet ease to tell,
As near its mistress' feet it dreams,
Sunk in a cushion's swell;
And smiles seem native to the eyes
Of those sweet children, three;
They have but looked on tranquil skies,
And know not misery.
Alas ! that misery should come
In such an hour as this;
Why could she not so calm a home
A little longer miss ?
But she is now within the door,
Her steps advancing glide;
Her sullen shade has crossed the floor,
She stands at Gilbert's side.
She lays her hand upon his heart,
It bounds with agony;
His fireside chair shakes with the start
That shook the garden tree.
His wife towards the children looks,
She does not mark his mien;
The children, bending o'er their books,
His terror have not seen.
In his own home, by his own hearth,
He sits in solitude,
And circled round with light and mirth,
Cold horror chills his blood.
His mind would hold with desperate clutch
The scene that round him lies;
Nochanged, as by some wizard's touch,
The present prospect flies.
A tumult vaguea viewless strife
His futile struggles crush;
'Twixt him and his, an unknown life
And unknown feelings rush.
He seesbut scarce can language paint
The tissue Fancy weaves;
For words oft give but echo faint
Of thoughts the mind conceives.
Noise, tumult strange, and darkness dim,
Efface both light and quiet;
No shape is in those shadows grim,
No voice in that wild riot.
Sustained and strong, a wondrous blast
Above and round him blows;
A greenish gloom, dense overcast,
Each moment denser grows.
He nothing knowsnor clearly sees,
Resistance checks his breath,
The high, impetuous, ceaseless breeze
Blows on him. cold as death.
And still the undulating gloom
Mocks sight with formless motion;
Was such sensation Jonah's doom,
Gulphed in the depths of ocean ?
Streaking the air, the nameless vision,
Fast-driven, deep-sounding, flows;
Oh ! whence its source, and what its mission ?
How will its terrors close ?
Long-sweeping, rushing, vast and void,
The Universe it swallows;
And still the dark, devouring tide,
A Typhoon tempest follows.
More slow it rolls; its furious race
Sinks to a solemn gliding;
The stunning roar, the wind's wild chase,
To stillness are subsiding.
And, slowly borne along, a form
The shapeless chaos varies;
Poised in the eddy to the storm,
Before the eye it tarries.
A woman drownedsunk in the deep,
On a long wave reclining;
The circling waters' crystal sweep,
Like glass, her shape enshrining;
Her pale dead face, to Gilbert turned,
Seems as in sleep reposing;
A feeble light, now first discerned,
The features well disclosing.
No effort from the haunted air
The ghastly scene could banish;
That hovering wave, arrested there,
Rolledthrobbedbut did not vanish.
If Gilbert upward turned his gaze,
He saw the ocean-shadow;
If he looked down, the endless seas
Lay green as summer meadow.
And straight before, the pale corpse lay,
Upborne by air or billow,
So near, he could have touched the spray
That churned around its pillow.
The hollow anguish of the face
Had moved a fiend to sorrow;
Not Death's fixed calm could rase the trace
Of suffering's deep-worn furrow.
All moved; a strong returning blast,
The mass of waters raising,
Bore wave and passive carcase past,
While Gilbert yet was gazing.
Deep in her isle-conceiving womb,
It seemed the Ocean thundered,
And soon, by realms of rushing gloom,
Were seer and phantom sundered.
Then swept some timbers from a wreck,
On following surges riding;
Then sea-weed, in the turbid rack
Uptorn, went slowly gliding.
The horrid shade, by slow degrees,
A beam of light defeated,
And then the roar of raving seas,
Fast, far, and faint, retreated.
And all was gonegone like a mist,
Corse, billows, tempest, wreck;
Three children close to Gilbert prest
And clung around his neck.
Good night ! good night ! the prattlers said
And kissed their father's cheek;
'Twas now the hour their quiet bed
And placid rest to seek.
The mother with her offspring goes
To hear their evening prayer;
She nought of Gilbert's vision knows,
And nought of his despair.
Yet, pitying God, abridge the time
Of anguish, now his fate !
Though, haply, great has been his crime,
Thy mercy, too, is great.
Gilbert, at length, uplifts his head,
Bent for some moments low,
And there is neither grief nor dread
Upon his subtle brow.
For well can he his feelings task,
And well his looks command;
His features well his heart can mask,
With smiles and smoothness bland.
Gilbert has reasoned with his mind
He says 'twas all a dream;
He strives his inward sight to blind
Against truth's inward beam.
He pitied not that shadowy thing,
When it was flesh and blood;
Nor now can pity's balmy spring
Refresh his arid mood.
' And if that dream has spoken truth,'
Thus musingly he says;
' If Elinor be dead, in sooth,
Such chance the shock repays:
A net was woven round my feet,
I scarce could further go,
Are Shame had forced a fast retreat,
Dishonour brought me low. '
' Conceal her, then, deep, silent Sea,
Give her a secret grave !
She sleeps in peace, and I am free,
No longer Terror's slave:
And homage still, from all the world,
Shall greet my spotless name,
Since surges break and waves are curled
Above its threatened shame.'
III. THE WELCOME HOME
ABOVE the city hangs the moon,
Some clouds are boding rain,
Gilbert, erewhile on journey gone,
To-night comes home again.
Ten years have passed above his head,
Each year has brought him gain;
His prosperous life has smoothly sped,
Without or tear or stain.
'Tis somewhat latethe city clocks
Twelve deep vibrations toll,
As Gilbert at the portal knocks,
Which is his journey's goal.
The street is still and desolate,
The moon hid by a cloud;
Gilbert, impatient, will not wait,
His second knock peals loud.
The clocks are hushed; there's not a light
In any window nigh,
And not a single planet bright
Looks from the clouded sky;
The air is raw, the rain descends,
A bitter north-wind blows;
His cloak the traveller scarce defends
Will not the door unclose ?
He knocks the third time, and the last;
His summons now they hear,
Within, a footstep, hurrying fast,
Is heard approaching near.
The bolt is drawn, the clanking chain
Falls to the floor of stone;
And Gilbert to his heart will strain
His wife and children soon.
The hand that lifts the latchet, holds
A candle to his sight,
And Gilbert, on the step, beholds
A woman, clad in white.
Lo ! water from her dripping dress
Runs on the streaming floor;
From every dark and clinging tress,
The drops incessant pour.
There's none but her to welcome him;
She holds the candle high,
And, motionless in form and limb,
Stands cold and silent nigh;
There's sand and sea-weed on her robe,
Her hollow eyes are blind;
No pulse in such a frame can throb,
No life is there defined.
Gilbert turned ashy-white, but still
His lips vouchsafed no cry;
He spurred his strength and master-will
To pass the figure by,
But, moving slow, it faced him straight,
It would not flinch nor quail:
Then first did Gilbert's strength abate,
His stony firmness quail.
He sank upon his knees and prayed;
The shape stood rigid there;
He called aloud for human aid,
No human aid was near.
An accent strange did thus repeat
Heaven's stern but just decree:
' The measure thou to her didst mete,
To thee shall measured be !'
Gilbert sprang from his bended knees,
By the pale spectre pushed,
And, wild as one whom demons seize,
Up the hall-staircase rushed;
Entered his chambernear the bed
Sheathed steel and fire-arms hung
Impelled by maniac purpose dread,
He chose those stores among.
Across his throat, a keen-edged knife
With vigorous hand he drew;
The wound was widehis outraged life
Rushed rash and redly through.
And thus died, by a shameful death,
A wise and worldly man,
Who never drew but selfish breath
Since first his life began.
The Troubadour. Canto 1
CALL to mind your loveliest dream,--
When your sleep is lull'd by a mountain stream,
When your pillow is made of the violet,
And over your head the branches are met
Of a lime-tree cover'd with bloom and bees,
When the roses' breath is on the breeze,
When odours and light on your eyelids press
With summer's delicious idleness;
And upon you some shadowy likeness may glance
Of the faery banks of the bright Durance;
Just where at first its current flows
'Mid willows and its own white rose,--
Its clear and early tide, or ere
A shade, save trees, its waters bear.
The sun, like an Indian king, has left
To that fair river a royal gift
Of gold and purple; no longer shines
His broad red disk o'er that forest of pines
Sweeping beneath the burning sky
Like a death-black ocean, whose billows lie
Dreaming dark dreams of storm in their sleep
When the wings of the tempest shall over them sweep.
--And with its towers cleaving the red
Of the sunset clouds, and its shadow spread
Like a cloak before it, darkening the ranks
Of the light young trees on the river's banks,
And ending there, as the waters shone
Too bright for shadows to rest upon,
A castle stands; whose windows gleam
Like the golden flash of a noon-lit stream
Seen through the lily and water-flags' screen:
Just so shine those panes through the ivy green,
A curtain to shut out sun and air,
Which the work of years has woven there.
--But not in the lighted pomp of the west
Looks the evening its loveliest;
Enter yon turret, and round you gaze
On what the twilight east displays:
One star, pure, clear, as if it shed
The dew on each young flower's head;
And, like a beauty of southern clime,
Her veil thrown back for the first time,
Pale, timid as she feared to own
Her claim upon the midnight throne,
Shows the fair moon her crescent sign.
--Beneath, in many a serpentine,
The river wanders; chesnut trees
Spread their old boughs o'er cottages
Where the low roofs and porticoes
Are cover'd with the Provence rose.
And there are vineyards: none might view
The fruit o'er which the foliage weaves;
And olive groves, pale as the dew
Crusted its silver o'er the leaves.
And there the castle garden lay
With tints in beautiful array:
Its dark green walks, its fountains falling,
Its tame birds to each other calling;
The peacock with its orient rings,
The silver pheasant's gleaming wings;
And on the breeze rich odours sent
Sweet messages, as if they meant
To rouse each sleeping sense to all
The loveliness of evening's fall.--
That lonely turret, is it not
A minstrel's own peculiar spot?
Thus with the light of shadowy grey
To dream the pleasant hours away.
Slight columns were around the hall
With wreathed and fluted pedestal
Of green Italian marble made,
In likeness of the palm-trees' shade;
And o'er the ceiling starry showers
Mingled with many-colour'd flowers,
With crimson roses o'er her weeping,
There lay that royal maiden sleeping--
DANAE , she whom gold could move--
How could it move her heart to love?
Between the pillars the rich fold
Of tapestry fell, inwrought with gold,
And many-colour'd silks which gave,
Strange legends of the fair and brave.
And there the terrace covered o'er
With summer's fair and scented store;
As grateful for the gentle care
That had such pride to keep it fair.
And, gazing, as if heart and eye
Were mingled with that lovley sky,
There stood a youth, slight as not yet
With manhood's strength and firmness set;
But on his cold, pale cheek were caught
The traces of some deeper thought,
A something seen of pride and gloom,
Not like youth's hour of light and bloom:
A brow of pride, a lip of scorn,--
Yet beautiful in scorn and pride--
A conscious pride, as if he own'd
Gems hidden from the world beside;
And scorn, as he cared not to learn
Should others prize those gems or spurn.
He was the last of a proud race
Who left him but his sword and name,
And boyhood past in restless dreams
Of future deeds and future fame.
But there were other dearer dreams
Than the light'ning flash of these war gleams
That fill'd the depths of RAYMOND'S heart;
For his was now the loveliest part
Of the young poet's life, when first,
In solitude and silence nurst,
His genius rises like a spring
Unnoticed in its wandering;
Ere winter cloud or summer ray
Have chill'd, or wasted it away,
When thoughts with their own beauty fill'd
Shed their own richness over all,
As waters from sweet woods distill'd
Breathe perfume out where'er they fall.
I know not whether Love can fling
A deeper witchery from his wing
Than falls sweet Power of Song from thine.
Yet, ah! the wreath that binds thy shrine,
Though seemingly all bloom and light,
Hides thorn and canker, worm and blight.
Planet of wayward destinies
Thy victims are thy votaries!
Alas! for him whose youthful fire
Is vowed and wasted on the lyre,--
Alas! for him who shall essay,
The laurel's long and dreary way!
Mocking will greet, neglect will chill
His spirit's gush, his bosom's thrill;
And, worst of all, that heartless praise
Echoed from what another says.
He dreams a dream of life and light,
And grasps the rainbow that appears
Afar all beautiful and bright,
And finds it only formed of tears.
Ay, let him reach the goal, let fame
Pour glory's sunlight on his name,
Let his songs be on every tongue,
And wealth and honours round him flung:
Then let him show his secret thought,
Will it not own them dearly bought?
See him in weariness fling down
The golden harp, the violet crown;
And sigh for all the toil, the care,
The wrong that he has had to bear;
Then wish the treasures of his lute
Had been, like his own feelings, mute,
And curse the hour when that he gave
To sight that wealth, his lord and slave.
But RAYMOND was in the first stage
Of life's enchanted pilgrimage:
'Tis not for Spring to think on all
The sear and waste of Autumn's fall:--
Enough for him to watch beside
The bursting of the mountain tide,
To wander through the twilight shade
By the dark, arching pine-boughs made,
And at the evening's starlit hour
To seek for some less shadowy bower,
Where dewy leaf, and flower pale,
Made the home of the nightingale.
Or he would seek the turret hall,
And there, unheard, unseen of all,
When even the night winds were mute,
His rich tones answer'd to the lute;
And in his pleasant solitude
He would forget his wayward mood,
And pour his spirit forth when none
Broke on his solitude, save one.
There is a light step passing by
Like the distant sound of music's sigh;
It is that fair and gentle child,
Whose sweetness has so oft beguiled,
Like sunlight on a stormy day,
His almost sullenness away.
They said she was not of mortal birth,
And her face was fairer than face of earth:
What is the thing to liken it to?
A lily just dipp'd in the summer dew--
Parian marble--snow's first fall?--
Her brow was fairer than each and all.
And so delicate was each vein's soft blue,
'Twas not like blood that wander'd through.
Rarely upon that cheek was shed,
By health or by youth, one tinge of red;
And never closest look could descry,
In shine, or in shade, the hue of her eye:
But as it were made of light, it changed,
With every sunbeam that over it ranged;
And that eye could look through the long dark lash,
With the moon's dewy smile, or the lightning's flash.
Her silken tresses, so bright and so fair,
Stream'd like a banner of light on the air,
And seldom its sunny wealth around
Was chaplet of flowers or ribbon bound;
But amid the gold of its thousand curls
Was twisted a braid of snow-white pearls,--
They said 'twas a charmed spell; that before,
This braid her nameless mother wore;
And many were the stories wild
Whisper'd of the neglected child.
LORD AMIRALD , (thus the tale was told),
The former lord of the castle-hold,--
LORD AMIRALD had followed the chase
Till he was first and last in the race;
The blood-dy'd sweat hung on his steed,
Each breath was a gasp, yet he stay'd not his speed.
Twice the dust and foam had been wash'd
By the mountain torrent that over them dash'd;
But still the stag held on his way,
Till a forest of pine trees before them lay,
And bounding and crashing boughs declare
The stag and the hunter have enter'd there.
On, on they went, till a greenwood screen
Lay AMIRALD and his prey between:
He has heard the creature sink on the ground,
And the branches give way at his courser's bound.
The spent stag on the grass is laid;
But over him is leant a maid,
Her arms and fair hair glistening
With the bright waters of the spring;
And AMIRALD paused, and gazed, as seeing
Were grown the sole sense of his being.
At first she heard him not, but bent
Upon her pitying task intent;
The summer clouds of hair that hung
Over her brow were backwards flung,
She saw him! Her first words were prayer
Her gasping favourite's life to spare;
But her next tones were soft and low,
And on her cheek a mantling glow
Play'd like a rainbow; and the eye
That raised in pleading energy,
Shed, starlike, its deep beauty round,
Seem'd now as if to earth spell-bound.--
They parted: but each one that night
Thought on the meeting at twilight.
It matters not, how, day by day,
Love made his sure but secret way.
Oh, where is there the heart but knows
Love's first steps are upon the rose!
And here were all which still should be
Nurses to Love's sweet infancy,--
Hope, mystery, absence:--then each thought
A something holy with it brought.
Their sighs were breathed, their vows were given
Before the face of the high Heaven,
Link'd not with courtly vanities,
But birds and blossoms, leaves and trees:--
Love was not made for palace pride,
For halls and domes--they met beside
A marble fountain, overgrown
With moss, that made it nature's own,
Though through the green shone veins of snow,
Like the small Fairy's paved ways,
As if a relic left to show
The luxury of departed days,
And show its nothingness. The wave
That princely brows was wont to lave
Was left now for the wild bird's bill,
And the red deer to drink their fill.
Yet still it was as fair a spot
As in its once more splendid lot:
Around, the dark sweep of the pine
Guarded it like a wood-nymph's shrine,
And the gold-spotted moss was set
With crowds of the white violet.
One only oak grew by the spring,
The forest's patriarch and king;
A nightingale had built her nest
In the green shadow of its rest;
And in its hollow trunk the bees
Dwelt in their honey palaces;
And underneath its shelter stood,
Leant like a beauty o'er the flood
Watching each tender bud unclose,
A beautiful white Provence rose;--
Yet wan and pale as that it knew
What changing skies and sun could do;
As that it knew, and, knowing, sigh'd,
The vanity of summer pride;
As watching could put off the hour
When falls the leaf and fades the flower.
Alas! that every lovely thing
Lives only but for withering,--
That spring rainbows and summer shine
End but in autumn's pale decline.
And here the lovers met, what hour
The bee departed from the flower,
And droop'd the bud at being left,
Or as ashamed of each sweet theft,
What hour the soft wind bore along
The nightingale's moonlighted song.
And AMIRALD heard her father's name,
He whose it was, was link'd with fame:
Though driven from his heritage,
A hunted exile in his age,
For that he would not bend the knee,
And draw the sword at Rome's decree.
She led him to the lonely cot,
And almost AMIRALD wish'd his lot
Had been cast in that humbler life,
Over whose peace the hour of strife
Passes but like the storm at sea
That wakes not earth's tranquillity.
In secret were they wed, not then
Had AMIRALD power to fling again
The banner of defiance wide
To priestly pomp and priestly pride;
But day by day more strong his hand,
And more his friends, and soon the brand
That in its wrongs and silence slept
Had from its blood-stain'd scabbard leapt.
But here are told such varying tales
That none may know where truth prevails;
For there were hints of murder done,
And deeds of blood that well might shun
All knowledge; but the wildest one
Was most believed: 'twas whisper'd round
Lord AMIRALD in hunting found
An evil spirit, but array'd
In semblance of a human maid;
That 'twas some holy word whose force
Broke off their sinful intercourse.
But this is sure, one evening late
Lord AMIRALD reach'd his castle gate,
And blood was on his spurs of gold,
And blood was on his mantle's fold,--
He flung it back, and on his arm
A fair young child lay pillow'd warm;
It stretch'd its little hands and smiled,
And AMIRALD said it was his child,
And bade the train their aid afford
Suiting the daughter of their Lord.
Then sought his brother, but alone;
Yet there were some who heard a tone
Of stifled agony, a prayer
His child should meet a father's care;
And as he past the hall again
He call'd around his vassal train,
And bade them own his brother's sway.
Then past himself like a dream away,--
And from that hour none heard his name,
No tale, no tidings of him came,
Save a vague murmur, that he fell
In fighting with the Infidel.
But his fair child grew like a flower
Springing in March's earlier hour,
'Mid storm and chill, yet loveliest--
Though somewhat paler than the rest.
Perhaps it was her orphan'd state,
So young, so fair, so desolate,--
Somewhat of likeness in their fate
Made RAYMOND'S heart for her confess
Its hidden depths of tenderness.
Neglected both; and those that pine
In love's despair and hope's decline,
Can love the most when some sweet spell
Breaks the seal on affection's well,
And bids its waters flow like light
Returning to the darken'd sight.
And while his fallen fortunes taught
RAYMOND'S proud solitude of thought,
His spirit's cold, stern haughtiness
In her was gentle mournfulness.
The cold north wind which bows to earth
The lightness of the willow's birth
Bends not the mountain cedar trees;
Folding their branches from the breeze,
They stand as if they could defy
The utmost rage of storm and sky.
And she, she would have thought it sin
To harbour one sweet thought within,
In whose delight he had no part,--
He was the world of her young heart.
A childish fondness, yet revealing
Somewhat of woman's deeper feeling,--
Else wherefore is that crimson blush,
As her cheek felt her bosom's rush
Upon her face, while pausing now
Her eyes are raised to RAYMOND'S brow,
Who, lute-waked to a ballad old,
A legend of the fair and bold.
HE raised the golden cup from the board,
It sparkled with purple wealth,
He kist the brim her lip had prest,
And drank to his ladye's health.
Ladye, to-night I pledge thy name,
To-morrow thou shalt pledge mine;
Ever the smile of beauty should light
The victor's blood-red wine.
There are some flowers of brightest bloom
Amid thy beautiful hair,
Give me those roses, they shall be
The favour I will wear.
For ere their colour is wholly gone,
Or the breath of their sweetness fled,
They shall be placed in thy curls again,
But dy'd of a deeper red.
The warrior rode forth in the morning light,
And beside his snow-white plume
Were the roses wet with the sparkling dew,
Like pearls on their crimson bloom.
The maiden stood on her highest tower,
And watch'd her knight depart;
She dash'd the tear aside, but her hand
Might not still her beating heart.
All day she watch'd the distant clouds
Float on the distant air,
A crucifix upon her neck,
And on her lips a prayer.
The sun went down, and twilight came
With her banner of pearlin grey,
And then afar she saw a band
Wind down the vale their way.
They came like victors, for high o'er their ranks
Were their crimson colours borne;
And a stranger penon droop'd beneath,
But that was bow'd and torn:
But she saw no white steed first in the ranks,
No rider that spurr'd before;
But the evening shadows were closing fast,
And she could see no more.
She turn'd from her watch on the lonely tower
In haste to reach the hall,
And as she sprang down the winding stair
She heard the drawbridge fall.
A hundred harps their welcome rung,
Then paused as if in fear;
The ladye enter'd the hall, and saw
Her true knight stretch'd on his bier!
THE song ceased, yet not with its tone
Is the minstrel's vision wholly flown;
But there he stood as if he had sent
His spirit to rove on the element.
But EVA broke on his trance, and the while
Play'd o'er her lip a sigh and a smile;--
'Now turn thee from that evening sky,
And the dreaming thoughts that are passing by,
And give me those buds, thou hast pluck'd away
The leaves of the rose round which they lay;
Yet still the boon thrice fair will be,
And give them for my tidings to me.
A herald waits in the court to claim
Aid in the Lady of Clarin's name;
And well you know the fair CLOTILDE
Will have her utmost prayer fulfill'd.
Go to the hall at once, and ask
That thine may be the glorious task
To spread the banner to the day
And lead the vassals to the fray.'--
He rush'd to the crowded hall, and there
He heard the herald's words declare
The inroad on her lands, the wrong
The lonely Countess suffer'd long,
And now SIR HERBERT'S arm'd array
Before her very castle lay;
But surely there was many a knight
Whose sword would strike for lady's right;
And surely many a lover's hand
In such a cause would draw the brand.
And rush'd the blood, and flash'd the light
To RAYMOND'S cheek, from RAYMOND'S eye,
When he stood forth and claim'd the fight,
And spoke of death and victory,
Those words that thrill the heart when first
Forth the young warrior's soul has burst.
And smiled the castle lord to see
His ward's impetuous energy.
'Well! get thy sword, the dawning day
Shall see thee lead my best array;
Suits it young warrior well to fight
For lady's cause and lady's right?
'Tis just a field for knight to win
His maiden spurs and honours in.'
And RAYMOND felt as if a gush
Of thousand waters in one rush
Were on his heart, as if the dreams
Of what, alas! life only seems,
Wild thoughts and noontide revelries,
Were turn'd into realities.
Impatient, restless, first his steed
Was hurried to its utmost speed:
And next his falchion's edge was tried,
Then waved the helmet's plume of pride,
Then wandering through the courts and hall,
He paused in none yet pass'd through all.
But there was one whose gentle heart
Could ill take its accustom'd part
In RAYMOND'S feelings, one who deem'd
That almost unkind RAYMOND seem'd:--
If thus the very name of war,
Could fill so utterly each thought,
How durst she hope, that when afar
EVA would be to memory brought.
Oh, she had yet the task to learn
How often woman's heart must turn
To feed upon its own excess
Of deep yet passionate tenderness!
How much of grief the heart must prove
That yields a sanctuary to love!
And ever since the crimson day
Had faded into twilight grey,
She had been in the gallery, where
Hung, pictured, knight and lady fair,
Where haughty brow, and lovely face,
Show'd youth and maiden of her race.
With both it was a favourite spot,
And names and histories which had not
A record save in the dim light
Tradition throws on memory's night
To them were treasures; they could tell
What from the first crusade befell.
There could not be a solitude
More fitted for a pensive mood
Than this old gallery,--the light
Of the full moon came coldly bright--
A silvery stream, save where a stain
Fell from the pictured window pane,--
A ruby flush, a purple dye,
Like the last sun-streak on the sky,
And lighted lip, and cheek of bloom
Almost in mockery of the tomb.
How sad, how strange to think the shade,
The copy faint of beauty made,
Should be the only wreck that death
Shall leave of so much bloom and breath.
The cheek, long since the earth-worm's prey,
Beside the lovely of to-day
Here smiles as bright, as fresh, as fair,
As if of the same hour it were.
There pass'd a step along the hall,
And EVA started as if all
Her treasures, secret until now,
Burnt in the blush upon her brow.
There was a something in their meeting,
A conscious trembling in her greeting,
As coldness from his eye might hide
The struggle of her love and pride;
Then fears of all too much revealing
Vanish'd with a reproachful feeling.
What, coldness! when another day
And RAYMOND would be far away,
When that to-morrow's rising sun
Might be the last he look'd upon!
'Come, EVA , dear! by the moonlight
We'll visit all our haunts to night.
I could not lay me down to rest,
For, like the feathers in my crest,
My thoughts are waving to and fro.
Come, EVA , dear! I could not go
Without a pilgrimage to all
Of garden, nook, and waterfall,--
Where, amid birds, and leaves, and flowers,
And gales that cool'd the sunny hours,
With legend old, and plaining song,
We found not summer's day too long.'
Through many a shadowy spot they past,
Looking its loveliest and its last,
Until they paused beneath the shade
Of cypress and of roses made,--
The one so sad, the one so fair,
Just blent as love and sorrow are.
And RAYMOND prayed the maiden gather,
And twine in a red wreath together
The roses. 'No,' she sigh'd 'not these
Sweet children of the sun and breeze,
Born for the beauty of a day,
Dying as all fair things decay
When loveliest,--these may not be,
RAYMOND , my parting gift to thee.'
From next her heart, where it had lain,
She took an amber scented chain,
To which a cross of gold was hung,
And round the warrior's neck she flung
The relique, while he kiss'd away
The warm tears that upon it lay.
And mark'd they not the pale, dim sky
Had lost its moonlit brilliancy,
When suddenly a bugle rang,--
Forth at its summons RAYMOND sprang,
But turn'd again to say farewell
To her whose gushing teardrops fell
Like summer rain,--but he is gone!
And EVA weeps, and weeps alone.
Dark was the shade of that old tower
In the grey light of morning's hour;
And cold and pale the maiden leant
Over the heavy battlement,
And look'd upon the armed show
That hurrying throng'd the court below:
With her white robe and long bright hair,
A golden veil flung on the air,
Like Peace prepared from earth to fly,
Yet pausing, ere she wing'd on high,
In pity for the rage and crime
That forced her to some fairer clime.
When suddenly her pale cheek burn'd,
For RAYMOND'S eye to her's was turn'd;
But like a meteor past its flame--
She was too sad for maiden shame.
She heard the heavy drawbridge fall,
And RAYMOND rode the first of all;
But when he came to the green height
Which hid the castle from his sight,
With useless spur and slacken'd rein,
He was the laggard of the train.
They paused upon the steep ascent,
And spear, and shield, and breast-plate sent
A light, as if the rising day
Upon a mirror flash'd its ray.
They pass on, EVA only sees
A chance plume waving in the breeze,
And then can see no more--but borne
Upon the echo, came the horn;
At last nor sight nor sound declare
Aught of what pass'd that morning there.
Sweet sang the birds, light swept the breeze,
And play'd the sunlight o'er the trees,
And roll'd the river's depths of blue
Quiet as they were wont to do.
And EVA felt as if of all
Her heart were sole memorial.
Of air-born honey, gift of heaven, I now
Take up the tale. Upon this theme no less
Look thou, Maecenas, with indulgent eye.
A marvellous display of puny powers,
High-hearted chiefs, a nation's history,
Its traits, its bent, its battles and its clans,
All, each, shall pass before you, while I sing.
Slight though the poet's theme, not slight the praise,
So frown not heaven, and Phoebus hear his call.
First find your bees a settled sure abode,
Where neither winds can enter (winds blow back
The foragers with food returning home)
Nor sheep and butting kids tread down the flowers,
Nor heifer wandering wide upon the plain
Dash off the dew, and bruise the springing blades.
Let the gay lizard too keep far aloof
His scale-clad body from their honied stalls,
And the bee-eater, and what birds beside,
And Procne smirched with blood upon the breast
From her own murderous hands. For these roam wide
Wasting all substance, or the bees themselves
Strike flying, and in their beaks bear home, to glut
Those savage nestlings with the dainty prey.
But let clear springs and moss-green pools be near,
And through the grass a streamlet hurrying run,
Some palm-tree o'er the porch extend its shade,
Or huge-grown oleaster, that in Spring,
Their own sweet Spring-tide, when the new-made chiefs
Lead forth the young swarms, and, escaped their comb,
The colony comes forth to sport and play,
The neighbouring bank may lure them from the heat,
Or bough befriend with hospitable shade.
O'er the mid-waters, whether swift or still,
Cast willow-branches and big stones enow,
Bridge after bridge, where they may footing find
And spread their wide wings to the summer sun,
If haply Eurus, swooping as they pause,
Have dashed with spray or plunged them in the deep.
And let green cassias and far-scented thymes,
And savory with its heavy-laden breath
Bloom round about, and violet-beds hard by
Sip sweetness from the fertilizing springs.
For the hive's self, or stitched of hollow bark,
Or from tough osier woven, let the doors
Be strait of entrance; for stiff winter's cold
Congeals the honey, and heat resolves and thaws,
To bees alike disastrous; not for naught
So haste they to cement the tiny pores
That pierce their walls, and fill the crevices
With pollen from the flowers, and glean and keep
To this same end the glue, that binds more fast
Than bird-lime or the pitch from Ida's pines.
Oft too in burrowed holes, if fame be true,
They make their cosy subterranean home,
And deeply lodged in hollow rocks are found,
Or in the cavern of an age-hewn tree.
Thou not the less smear round their crannied cribs
With warm smooth mud-coat, and strew leaves above;
But near their home let neither yew-tree grow,
Nor reddening crabs be roasted, and mistrust
Deep marish-ground and mire with noisome smell,
Or where the hollow rocks sonorous ring,
And the word spoken buffets and rebounds.
What more? When now the golden sun has put
Winter to headlong flight beneath the world,
And oped the doors of heaven with summer ray,
Forthwith they roam the glades and forests o'er,
Rifle the painted flowers, or sip the streams,
Light-hovering on the surface. Hence it is
With some sweet rapture, that we know not of,
Their little ones they foster, hence with skill
Work out new wax or clinging honey mould.
So when the cage-escaped hosts you see
Float heavenward through the hot clear air, until
You marvel at yon dusky cloud that spreads
And lengthens on the wind, then mark them well;
For then 'tis ever the fresh springs they seek
And bowery shelter: hither must you bring
The savoury sweets I bid, and sprinkle them,
Bruised balsam and the wax-flower's lowly weed,
And wake and shake the tinkling cymbals heard
By the great Mother: on the anointed spots
Themselves will settle, and in wonted wise
Seek of themselves the cradle's inmost depth.
But if to battle they have hied them forth-
For oft 'twixt king and king with uproar dire
Fierce feud arises, and at once from far
You may discern what passion sways the mob,
And how their hearts are throbbing for the strife;
Hark! the hoarse brazen note that warriors know
Chides on the loiterers, and the ear may catch
A sound that mocks the war-trump's broken blasts;
Then in hot haste they muster, then flash wings,
Sharpen their pointed beaks and knit their thews,
And round the king, even to his royal tent,
Throng rallying, and with shouts defy the foe.
So, when a dry Spring and clear space is given,
Forth from the gates they burst, they clash on high;
A din arises; they are heaped and rolled
Into one mighty mass, and headlong fall,
Not denselier hail through heaven, nor pelting so
Rains from the shaken oak its acorn-shower.
Conspicuous by their wings the chiefs themselves
Press through the heart of battle, and display
A giant's spirit in each pigmy frame,
Steadfast no inch to yield till these or those
The victor's ponderous arm has turned to flight.
Such fiery passions and such fierce assaults
A little sprinkled dust controls and quells.
And now, both leaders from the field recalled,
Who hath the worser seeming, do to death,
Lest royal waste wax burdensome, but let
His better lord it on the empty throne.
One with gold-burnished flakes will shine like fire,
For twofold are their kinds, the nobler he,
Of peerless front and lit with flashing scales;
That other, from neglect and squalor foul,
Drags slow a cumbrous belly. As with kings,
So too with people, diverse is their mould,
Some rough and loathly, as when the wayfarer
Scapes from a whirl of dust, and scorched with heat
Spits forth the dry grit from his parched mouth:
The others shine forth and flash with lightning-gleam,
Their backs all blazoned with bright drops of gold
Symmetric: this the likelier breed; from these,
When heaven brings round the season, thou shalt strain
Sweet honey, nor yet so sweet as passing clear,
And mellowing on the tongue the wine-god's fire.
But when the swarms fly aimlessly abroad,
Disport themselves in heaven and spurn their cells,
Leaving the hive unwarmed, from such vain play
Must you refrain their volatile desires,
Nor hard the task: tear off the monarchs' wings;
While these prove loiterers, none beside will dare
Mount heaven, or pluck the standards from the camp.
Let gardens with the breath of saffron flowers
Allure them, and the lord of Hellespont,
Priapus, wielder of the willow-scythe,
Safe in his keeping hold from birds and thieves.
And let the man to whom such cares are dear
Himself bring thyme and pine-trees from the heights,
And strew them in broad belts about their home;
No hand but his the blistering task should ply,
Plant the young slips, or shed the genial showers.
And I myself, were I not even now
Furling my sails, and, nigh the journey's end,
Eager to turn my vessel's prow to shore,
Perchance would sing what careful husbandry
Makes the trim garden smile; of Paestum too,
Whose roses bloom and fade and bloom again;
How endives glory in the streams they drink,
And green banks in their parsley, and how the gourd
Twists through the grass and rounds him to paunch;
Nor of Narcissus had my lips been dumb,
That loiterer of the flowers, nor supple-stemmed
Acanthus, with the praise of ivies pale,
And myrtles clinging to the shores they love.
For 'neath the shade of tall Oebalia's towers,
Where dark Galaesus laves the yellowing fields,
An old man once I mind me to have seen-
From Corycus he came- to whom had fallen
Some few poor acres of neglected land,
And they nor fruitful' neath the plodding steer,
Meet for the grazing herd, nor good for vines.
Yet he, the while his meagre garden-herbs
Among the thorns he planted, and all round
White lilies, vervains, and lean poppy set,
In pride of spirit matched the wealth of kings,
And home returning not till night was late,
With unbought plenty heaped his board on high.
He was the first to cull the rose in spring,
He the ripe fruits in autumn; and ere yet
Winter had ceased in sullen ire to rive
The rocks with frost, and with her icy bit
Curb in the running waters, there was he
Plucking the rathe faint hyacinth, while he chid
Summer's slow footsteps and the lagging West.
Therefore he too with earliest brooding bees
And their full swarms o'erflowed, and first was he
To press the bubbling honey from the comb;
Lime-trees were his, and many a branching pine;
And all the fruits wherewith in early bloom
The orchard-tree had clothed her, in full tale
Hung there, by mellowing autumn perfected.
He too transplanted tall-grown elms a-row,
Time-toughened pear, thorns bursting with the plum
And plane now yielding serviceable shade
For dry lips to drink under: but these things,
Shut off by rigorous limits, I pass by,
And leave for others to sing after me.
Come, then, I will unfold the natural powers
Great Jove himself upon the bees bestowed,
The boon for which, led by the shrill sweet strains
Of the Curetes and their clashing brass,
They fed the King of heaven in Dicte's cave.
Alone of all things they receive and hold
Community of offspring, and they house
Together in one city, and beneath
The shelter of majestic laws they live;
And they alone fixed home and country know,
And in the summer, warned of coming cold,
Make proof of toil, and for the general store
Hoard up their gathered harvesting. For some
Watch o'er the victualling of the hive, and these
By settled order ply their tasks afield;
And some within the confines of their home
Plant firm the comb's first layer, Narcissus' tear,
And sticky gum oozed from the bark of trees,
Then set the clinging wax to hang therefrom.
Others the while lead forth the full-grown young,
Their country's hope, and others press and pack
The thrice repured honey, and stretch their cells
To bursting with the clear-strained nectar sweet.
Some, too, the wardship of the gates befalls,
Who watch in turn for showers and cloudy skies,
Or ease returning labourers of their load,
Or form a band and from their precincts drive
The drones, a lazy herd. How glows the work!
How sweet the honey smells of perfumed thyme
Like the Cyclopes, when in haste they forge
From the slow-yielding ore the thunderbolts,
Some from the bull's-hide bellows in and out
Let the blasts drive, some dip i' the water-trough
The sputtering metal: with the anvil's weight
Groans Etna: they alternately in time
With giant strength uplift their sinewy arms,
Or twist the iron with the forceps' grip-
Not otherwise, to measure small with great,
The love of getting planted in their breasts
Goads on the bees, that haunt old Cecrops' heights,
Each in his sphere to labour. The old have charge
To keep the town, and build the walled combs,
And mould the cunning chambers; but the youth,
Their tired legs packed with thyme, come labouring home
Belated, for afar they range to feed
On arbutes and the grey-green willow-leaves,
And cassia and the crocus blushing red,
Glue-yielding limes, and hyacinths dusky-eyed.
One hour for rest have all, and one for toil:
With dawn they hurry from the gates- no room
For loiterers there: and once again, when even
Now bids them quit their pasturing on the plain,
Then homeward make they, then refresh their strength:
A hum arises: hark! they buzz and buzz
About the doors and threshold; till at length
Safe laid to rest they hush them for the night,
And welcome slumber laps their weary limbs.
But from the homestead not too far they fare,
When showers hang like to fall, nor, east winds nigh,
Confide in heaven, but 'neath the city walls
Safe-circling fetch them water, or essay
Brief out-goings, and oft weigh-up tiny stones,
As light craft ballast in the tossing tide,
Wherewith they poise them through the cloudy vast.
This law of life, too, by the bees obeyed,
Will move thy wonder, that nor sex with sex
Yoke they in marriage, nor yield their limbs to love,
Nor know the pangs of labour, but alone
From leaves and honied herbs, the mothers, each,
Gather their offspring in their mouths, alone
Supply new kings and pigmy commonwealth,
And their old court and waxen realm repair.
Oft, too, while wandering, against jagged stones
Their wings they fray, and 'neath the burden yield
Their liberal lives: so deep their love of flowers,
So glorious deem they honey's proud acquist.
Therefore, though each a life of narrow span,
Ne'er stretched to summers more than seven, befalls,
Yet deathless doth the race endure, and still
Perennial stands the fortune of their line,
From grandsire unto grandsire backward told.
Moreover, not Aegyptus, nor the realm
Of boundless Lydia, no, nor Parthia's hordes,
Nor Median Hydaspes, to their king
Do such obeisance: lives the king unscathed,
One will inspires the million: is he dead,
Snapt is the bond of fealty; they themselves
Ravage their toil-wrought honey, and rend amain
Their own comb's waxen trellis. He is the lord
Of all their labour; him with awful eye
They reverence, and with murmuring throngs surround,
In crowds attend, oft shoulder him on high,
Or with their bodies shield him in the fight,
And seek through showering wounds a glorious death.
Led by these tokens, and with such traits to guide,
Some say that unto bees a share is given
Of the Divine Intelligence, and to drink
Pure draughts of ether; for God permeates all-
Earth, and wide ocean, and the vault of heaven-
From whom flocks, herds, men, beasts of every kind,
Draw each at birth the fine essential flame;
Yea, and that all things hence to Him return,
Brought back by dissolution, nor can death
Find place: but, each into his starry rank,
Alive they soar, and mount the heights of heaven.
If now their narrow home thou wouldst unseal,
And broach the treasures of the honey-house,
With draught of water first toment thy lips,
And spread before thee fumes of trailing smoke.
Twice is the teeming produce gathered in,
Twofold their time of harvest year by year,
Once when Taygete the Pleiad uplifts
Her comely forehead for the earth to see,
With foot of scorn spurning the ocean-streams,
Once when in gloom she flies the watery Fish,
And dips from heaven into the wintry wave.
Unbounded then their wrath; if hurt, they breathe
Venom into their bite, cleave to the veins
And let the sting lie buried, and leave their lives
Behind them in the wound. But if you dread
Too rigorous a winter, and would fain
Temper the coming time, and their bruised hearts
And broken estate to pity move thy soul,
Yet who would fear to fumigate with thyme,
Or cut the empty wax away? for oft
Into their comb the newt has gnawed unseen,
And the light-loathing beetles crammed their bed,
And he that sits at others' board to feast,
The do-naught drone; or 'gainst the unequal foe
Swoops the fierce hornet, or the moth's fell tribe;
Or spider, victim of Minerva's spite,
Athwart the doorway hangs her swaying net.
The more impoverished they, the keenlier all
To mend the fallen fortunes of their race
Will nerve them, fill the cells up, tier on tier,
And weave their granaries from the rifled flowers.
Now, seeing that life doth even to bee-folk bring
Our human chances, if in dire disease
Their bodies' strength should languish- which anon
By no uncertain tokens may be told-
Forthwith the sick change hue; grim leanness mars
Their visage; then from out the cells they bear
Forms reft of light, and lead the mournful pomp;
Or foot to foot about the porch they hang,
Or within closed doors loiter, listless all
From famine, and benumbed with shrivelling cold.
Then is a deep note heard, a long-drawn hum,
As when the chill South through the forests sighs,
As when the troubled ocean hoarsely booms
With back-swung billow, as ravening tide of fire
Surges, shut fast within the furnace-walls.
Then do I bid burn scented galbanum,
And, honey-streams through reeden troughs instilled,
Challenge and cheer their flagging appetite
To taste the well-known food; and it shall boot
To mix therewith the savour bruised from gall,
And rose-leaves dried, or must to thickness boiled
By a fierce fire, or juice of raisin-grapes
From Psithian vine, and with its bitter smell
Centaury, and the famed Cecropian thyme.
There is a meadow-flower by country folk
Hight star-wort; 'tis a plant not far to seek;
For from one sod an ample growth it rears,
Itself all golden, but girt with plenteous leaves,
Where glory of purple shines through violet gloom.
With chaplets woven hereof full oft are decked
Heaven's altars: harsh its taste upon the tongue;
Shepherds in vales smooth-shorn of nibbling flocks
By Mella's winding waters gather it.
The roots of this, well seethed in fragrant wine,
Set in brimmed baskets at their doors for food.
But if one's whole stock fail him at a stroke,
Nor hath he whence to breed the race anew,
'Tis time the wondrous secret to disclose
Taught by the swain of Arcady, even how
The blood of slaughtered bullocks oft has borne
Bees from corruption. I will trace me back
To its prime source the story's tangled thread,
And thence unravel. For where thy happy folk,
Canopus, city of Pellaean fame,
Dwell by the Nile's lagoon-like overflow,
And high o'er furrows they have called their own
Skim in their painted wherries; where, hard by,
The quivered Persian presses, and that flood
Which from the swart-skinned Aethiop bears him down,
Swift-parted into sevenfold branching mouths
With black mud fattens and makes Aegypt green,
That whole domain its welfare's hope secure
Rests on this art alone. And first is chosen
A strait recess, cramped closer to this end,
Which next with narrow roof of tiles atop
'Twixt prisoning walls they pinch, and add hereto
From the four winds four slanting window-slits.
Then seek they from the herd a steer, whose horns
With two years' growth are curling, and stop fast,
Plunge madly as he may, the panting mouth
And nostrils twain, and done with blows to death,
Batter his flesh to pulp i' the hide yet whole,
And shut the doors, and leave him there to lie.
But 'neath his ribs they scatter broken boughs,
With thyme and fresh-pulled cassias: this is done
When first the west winds bid the waters flow,
Ere flush the meadows with new tints, and ere
The twittering swallow buildeth from the beams.
Meanwhile the juice within his softened bones
Heats and ferments, and things of wondrous birth,
Footless at first, anon with feet and wings,
Swarm there and buzz, a marvel to behold;
And more and more the fleeting breeze they take,
Till, like a shower that pours from summer-clouds,
Forth burst they, or like shafts from quivering string
When Parthia's flying hosts provoke the fray.
Say what was he, what God, that fashioned forth
This art for us, O Muses? of man's skill
Whence came the new adventure? From thy vale,
Peneian Tempe, turning, bee-bereft,
So runs the tale, by famine and disease,
Mournful the shepherd Aristaeus stood
Fast by the haunted river-head, and thus
With many a plaint to her that bare him cried:
'Mother, Cyrene, mother, who hast thy home
Beneath this whirling flood, if he thou sayest,
Apollo, lord of Thymbra, be my sire,
Sprung from the Gods' high line, why barest thou me
With fortune's ban for birthright? Where is now
Thy love to me-ward banished from thy breast?
O! wherefore didst thou bid me hope for heaven?
Lo! even the crown of this poor mortal life,
Which all my skilful care by field and fold,
No art neglected, scarce had fashioned forth,
Even this falls from me, yet thou call'st me son.
Nay, then, arise! With thine own hands pluck up
My fruit-plantations: on the homestead fling
Pitiless fire; make havoc of my crops;
Burn the young plants, and wield the stubborn axe
Against my vines, if there hath taken the
Such loathing of my greatness.' But that cry,
Even from her chamber in the river-deeps,
His mother heard: around her spun the nymphs
Milesian wool stained through with hyaline dye,
Drymo, Xantho, Ligea, Phyllodoce,
Their glossy locks o'er snowy shoulders shed,
Cydippe and Lycorias yellow-haired,
A maiden one, one newly learned even then
To bear Lucina's birth-pang. Clio, too,
And Beroe, sisters, ocean-children both,
Both zoned with gold and girt with dappled fell,
Ephyre and Opis, and from Asian meads
Deiopea, and, bow at length laid by,
Fleet-footed Arethusa. But in their midst
Fair Clymene was telling o'er the tale
Of Vulcan's idle vigilance and the stealth
Of Mars' sweet rapine, and from Chaos old
Counted the jostling love-joys of the Gods.
Charmed by whose lay, the while their woolly tasks
With spindles down they drew, yet once again
Smote on his mother's ears the mournful plaint
Of Aristaeus; on their glassy thrones
Amazement held them all; but Arethuse
Before the rest put forth her auburn head,
Peering above the wave-top, and from far
Exclaimed, 'Cyrene, sister, not for naught
Scared by a groan so deep, behold! 'tis he,
Even Aristaeus, thy heart's fondest care,
Here by the brink of the Peneian sire
Stands woebegone and weeping, and by name
Cries out upon thee for thy cruelty.'
To whom, strange terror knocking at her heart,
'Bring, bring him to our sight,' the mother cried;
'His feet may tread the threshold even of Gods.'
So saying, she bids the flood yawn wide and yield
A pathway for his footsteps; but the wave
Arched mountain-wise closed round him, and within
Its mighty bosom welcomed, and let speed
To the deep river-bed. And now, with eyes
Of wonder gazing on his mother's hall
And watery kingdom and cave-prisoned pools
And echoing groves, he went, and, stunned by that
Stupendous whirl of waters, separate saw
All streams beneath the mighty earth that glide,
Phasis and Lycus, and that fountain-head
Whence first the deep Enipeus leaps to light,
Whence father Tiber, and whence Anio's flood,
And Hypanis that roars amid his rocks,
And Mysian Caicus, and, bull-browed
'Twixt either gilded horn, Eridanus,
Than whom none other through the laughing plains
More furious pours into the purple sea.
Soon as the chamber's hanging roof of stone
Was gained, and now Cyrene from her son
Had heard his idle weeping, in due course
Clear water for his hands the sisters bring,
With napkins of shorn pile, while others heap
The board with dainties, and set on afresh
The brimming goblets; with Panchaian fires
Upleap the altars; then the mother spake,
'Take beakers of Maconian wine,' she said,
'Pour we to Ocean.' Ocean, sire of all,
She worships, and the sister-nymphs who guard
The hundred forests and the hundred streams;
Thrice Vesta's fire with nectar clear she dashed,
Thrice to the roof-top shot the flame and shone:
Armed with which omen she essayed to speak:
'In Neptune's gulf Carpathian dwells a seer,
Caerulean Proteus, he who metes the main
With fish-drawn chariot of two-footed steeds;
Now visits he his native home once more,
Pallene and the Emathian ports; to him
We nymphs do reverence, ay, and Nereus old;
For all things knows the seer, both those which are
And have been, or which time hath yet to bring;
So willed it Neptune, whose portentous flocks,
And loathly sea-calves 'neath the surge he feeds.
Him first, my son, behoves thee seize and bind
That he may all the cause of sickness show,
And grant a prosperous end. For save by force
No rede will he vouchsafe, nor shalt thou bend
His soul by praying; whom once made captive, ply
With rigorous force and fetters; against these
His wiles will break and spend themselves in vain.
I, when the sun has lit his noontide fires,
When the blades thirst, and cattle love the shade,
Myself will guide thee to the old man's haunt,
Whither he hies him weary from the waves,
That thou mayst safelier steal upon his sleep.
But when thou hast gripped him fast with hand and gyve,
Then divers forms and bestial semblances
Shall mock thy grasp; for sudden he will change
To bristly boar, fell tigress, dragon scaled,
And tawny-tufted lioness, or send forth
A crackling sound of fire, and so shake of
The fetters, or in showery drops anon
Dissolve and vanish. But the more he shifts
His endless transformations, thou, my son,
More straitlier clench the clinging bands, until
His body's shape return to that thou sawest,
When with closed eyelids first he sank to sleep.'
So saying, an odour of ambrosial dew
She sheds around, and all his frame therewith
Steeps throughly; forth from his trim-combed locks
Breathed effluence sweet, and a lithe vigour leapt
Into his limbs. There is a cavern vast
Scooped in the mountain-side, where wave on wave
By the wind's stress is driven, and breaks far up
Its inmost creeks- safe anchorage from of old
For tempest-taken mariners: therewithin,
Behind a rock's huge barrier, Proteus hides.
Here in close covert out of the sun's eye
The youth she places, and herself the while
Swathed in a shadowy mist stands far aloof.
And now the ravening dog-star that burns up
The thirsty Indians blazed in heaven; his course
The fiery sun had half devoured: the blades
Were parched, and the void streams with droughty jaws
Baked to their mud-beds by the scorching ray,
When Proteus seeking his accustomed cave
Strode from the billows: round him frolicking
The watery folk that people the waste sea
Sprinkled the bitter brine-dew far and wide.
Along the shore in scattered groups to feed
The sea-calves stretch them: while the seer himself,
Like herdsman on the hills when evening bids
The steers from pasture to their stall repair,
And the lambs' bleating whets the listening wolves,
Sits midmost on the rock and tells his tale.
But Aristaeus, the foe within his clutch,
Scarce suffering him compose his aged limbs,
With a great cry leapt on him, and ere he rose
Forestalled him with the fetters; he nathless,
All unforgetful of his ancient craft,
Transforms himself to every wondrous thing,
Fire and a fearful beast, and flowing stream.
But when no trickery found a path for flight,
Baffled at length, to his own shape returned,
With human lips he spake, 'Who bade thee, then,
So reckless in youth's hardihood, affront
Our portals? or what wouldst thou hence?'- But he,
'Proteus, thou knowest, of thine own heart thou knowest;
For thee there is no cheating, but cease thou
To practise upon me: at heaven's behest
I for my fainting fortunes hither come
An oracle to ask thee.' There he ceased.
Whereat the seer, by stubborn force constrained,
Shot forth the grey light of his gleaming eyes
Upon him, and with fiercely gnashing teeth
Unlocks his lips to spell the fates of heaven:
'Doubt not 'tis wrath divine that plagues thee thus,
Nor light the debt thou payest; 'tis Orpheus' self,
Orpheus unhappy by no fault of his,
So fates prevent not, fans thy penal fires,
Yet madly raging for his ravished bride.
She in her haste to shun thy hot pursuit
Along the stream, saw not the coming death,
Where at her feet kept ward upon the bank
In the tall grass a monstrous water-snake.
But with their cries the Dryad-band her peers
Filled up the mountains to their proudest peaks:
Wailed for her fate the heights of Rhodope,
And tall Pangaea, and, beloved of Mars,
The land that bowed to Rhesus, Thrace no less
With Hebrus' stream; and Orithyia wept,
Daughter of Acte old. But Orpheus' self,
Soothing his love-pain with the hollow shell,
Thee his sweet wife on the lone shore alone,
Thee when day dawned and when it died he sang.
Nay to the jaws of Taenarus too he came,
Of Dis the infernal palace, and the grove
Grim with a horror of great darkness- came,
Entered, and faced the Manes and the King
Of terrors, the stone heart no prayer can tame.
Then from the deepest deeps of Erebus,
Wrung by his minstrelsy, the hollow shades
Came trooping, ghostly semblances of forms
Lost to the light, as birds by myriads hie
To greenwood boughs for cover, when twilight-hour
Or storms of winter chase them from the hills;
Matrons and men, and great heroic frames
Done with life's service, boys, unwedded girls,
Youths placed on pyre before their fathers' eyes.
Round them, with black slime choked and hideous weed,
Cocytus winds; there lies the unlovely swamp
Of dull dead water, and, to pen them fast,
Styx with her ninefold barrier poured between.
Nay, even the deep Tartarean Halls of death
Stood lost in wonderment, and the Eumenides,
Their brows with livid locks of serpents twined;
Even Cerberus held his triple jaws agape,
And, the wind hushed, Ixion's wheel stood still.
And now with homeward footstep he had passed
All perils scathless, and, at length restored,
Eurydice to realms of upper air
Had well-nigh won, behind him following-
So Proserpine had ruled it- when his heart
A sudden mad desire surprised and seized-
Meet fault to be forgiven, might Hell forgive.
For at the very threshold of the day,
Heedless, alas! and vanquished of resolve,
He stopped, turned, looked upon Eurydice
His own once more. But even with the look,
Poured out was all his labour, broken the bond
Of that fell tyrant, and a crash was heard
Three times like thunder in the meres of hell.
'Orpheus! what ruin hath thy frenzy wrought
On me, alas! and thee? Lo! once again
The unpitying fates recall me, and dark sleep
Closes my swimming eyes. And now farewell:
Girt with enormous night I am borne away,
Outstretching toward thee, thine, alas! no more,
These helpless hands.' She spake, and suddenly,
Like smoke dissolving into empty air,
Passed and was sundered from his sight; nor him
Clutching vain shadows, yearning sore to speak,
Thenceforth beheld she, nor no second time
Hell's boatman brooks he pass the watery bar.
What should he do? fly whither, twice bereaved?
Move with what tears the Manes, with what voice
The Powers of darkness? She indeed even now
Death-cold was floating on the Stygian barge!
For seven whole months unceasingly, men say,
Beneath a skyey crag, by thy lone wave,
Strymon, he wept, and in the caverns chill
Unrolled his story, melting tigers' hearts,
And leading with his lay the oaks along.
As in the poplar-shade a nightingale
Mourns her lost young, which some relentless swain,
Spying, from the nest has torn unfledged, but she
Wails the long night, and perched upon a spray
With sad insistence pipes her dolorous strain,
Till all the region with her wrongs o'erflows.
No love, no new desire, constrained his soul:
By snow-bound Tanais and the icy north,
Far steppes to frost Rhipaean forever wed,
Alone he wandered, lost Eurydice
Lamenting, and the gifts of Dis ungiven.
Scorned by which tribute the Ciconian dames,
Amid their awful Bacchanalian rites
And midnight revellings, tore him limb from limb,
And strewed his fragments over the wide fields.
Then too, even then, what time the Hebrus stream,
Oeagrian Hebrus, down mid-current rolled,
Rent from the marble neck, his drifting head,
The death-chilled tongue found yet a voice to cry
'Eurydice! ah! poor Eurydice!'
With parting breath he called her, and the banks
From the broad stream caught up 'Eurydice!''
So Proteus ending plunged into the deep,
And, where he plunged, beneath the eddying whirl
Churned into foam the water, and was gone;
But not Cyrene, who unquestioned thus
Bespake the trembling listener: 'Nay, my son,
From that sad bosom thou mayst banish care:
Hence came that plague of sickness, hence the nymphs,
With whom in the tall woods the dance she wove,
Wrought on thy bees, alas! this deadly bane.
Bend thou before the Dell-nymphs, gracious powers:
Bring gifts, and sue for pardon: they will grant
Peace to thine asking, and an end of wrath.
But how to approach them will I first unfold-
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
That browse to-day the green Lycaean heights,
Pick from thy herds, as many kine to match,
Whose necks the yoke pressed never: then for these
Build up four altars by the lofty fanes,
And from their throats let gush the victims' blood,
And in the greenwood leave their bodies lone.
Then, when the ninth dawn hath displayed its beams,
To Orpheus shalt thou send his funeral dues,
Poppies of Lethe, and let slay a sheep
Coal-black, then seek the grove again, and soon
For pardon found adore Eurydice
With a slain calf for victim.'
The self-same hour he hies him forth to do
His mother's bidding: to the shrine he came,
The appointed altars reared, and thither led
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
With kine to match, that never yoke had known;
Then, when the ninth dawn had led in the day,
To Orpheus sent his funeral dues, and sought
The grove once more. But sudden, strange to tell
A portent they espy: through the oxen's flesh,
Waxed soft in dissolution, hark! there hum
Bees from the belly; the rent ribs overboil
In endless clouds they spread them, till at last
On yon tree-top together fused they cling,
And drop their cluster from the bending boughs.
So sang I of the tilth of furrowed fields,
Of flocks and trees, while Caesar's majesty
Launched forth the levin-bolts of war by deep
Euphrates, and bare rule o'er willing folk
Though vanquished, and essayed the heights of heaven.
I Virgil then, of sweet Parthenope
The nursling, wooed the flowery walks of peace
Inglorious, who erst trilled for shepherd-wights
The wanton ditty, and sang in saucy youth
Thee, Tityrus, 'neath the spreading beech tree's shade.
The Child Of The Islands - Autumn
BROWN Autumn cometh, with her liberal hand
Binding the Harvest in a thousand sheaves:
A yellow glory brightens o'er the land,
Shines on thatched corners and low cottage-eaves,
And gilds with cheerful light the fading leaves:
Beautiful even here, on hill and dale;
More lovely yet where Scotland's soil receives
The varied rays her wooded mountains hail,
With hues to which our faint and soberer tints are pale.
For there the Scarlet Rowan seems to mock
The red sea coral--berries, leaves, and all;
Light swinging from the moist green shining rock
Which beds the foaming torrent's turbid fall;
And there the purple cedar, grandly tall,
Lifts its crowned head and sun-illumined stem;
And larch (soft drooping like a maiden's pall)
Bends o'er the lake, that seems a sapphire gem
Dropt from the hoary hill's gigantic diadem.
And far and wide the glorious heather blooms,
Its regal mantle o'er the mountains spread;
Wooing the bee with honey-sweet perfumes,
By many a viewless wild flower richly shed;
Up-springing 'neath the glad exulting tread
Of eager climbers, light of heart and limb;
Or yielding, soft, a fresh elastic bed,
When evening shadows gather, faint and dim,
And sun-forsaken crags grow old, and gaunt, and grim.
Oh, Land! first seen when Life lay all unknown,
Like an unvisited country o'er the wave,
Which now my travelled heart looks back upon,
Marking each sunny path, each gloomy cave,
With here a memory, and there a grave:--
Land of romance and beauty; noble land
Of Bruce and Wallace; land where, vainly brave,
Ill-fated Stuart made his final stand,
Ere yet the shivered sword fell hopeless from his hand--
I love you! I remember you! though years
Have fleeted o'er the hills my spirit knew,
Whose wild uncultured heights the plough forbears,
Whose broomy hollows glisten in the dew.
Still shines the calm light with as rich a hue
Along the wooded valleys stretched below?
Still gleams my lone lake's unforgotten blue?
Oh, land! although unseen, how well I know
The glory of your face in this autumnal glow!
I know your deep glens, where the eagles cry;
I know the freshness of your mountain breeze,
Your brooklets, gurgling downward ceaselessly,
The singing of your birds among the trees,
Mingling confused a thousand melodies!
I know the lone rest of your birchen bowers,
Where the soft murmur of the working bees
Goes droning past, with scent of heather flowers,
And lulls the heart to dream even in its waking hours.
I know the grey stones in the rocky glen,
Where the wild red-deer gather, one by one,
And listen, startled, to the tread of men
Which the betraying breeze hath backward blown!
So,--with such dark majestic eyes, where shone
Less terror than amazement,--nobly came
Peruvia's Incas, when, through lands unknown,
The cruel conqueror with the blood-stained name
Swept, with pursuing sword and desolating flame!
So taken, so pursued, so tracked to death,
The wild free monarch of the hills shall be,
By cunning men, who creep, with stifled breath,
O'er crag and heather-tuft, on bended knee,
Down-crouching with most thievish treachery;
Climbing again, with limbs o'erspent and tired,
Watching for that their failing eyes scarce see,--
The moment, long delayed and long desired,
When the quick rifle-shot in triumph shall be fired.
Look! look!--what portent riseth on the sky?
The glory of his great betraying horns;
Wide-spreading, many-branched, and nobly-high,
(Such spoil the chieftain's hall with pride adorns.)
Oh, Forest-King! the fair succeeding morns
That brighten o'er those hills, shall miss your crest
From their sun-lighted peaks! He's hit,--but scorn
To die without a struggle: sore distrest,
He flies, while daylight fades, receding in the West.
Ben-Doran glows like iron in the forge,
Then to cold purple turns,--then gloomy grey;
And down the ravine-pass and mountain-gorge
Scarce glimmers now the faintest light of day.
The moonbeams on the trembling waters play,
(Though still the sky is flecked with bars of gold
And there the noble creature stands, at bay;
His strained limbs shivering with a sense of cold,
While weakness films the eye that shone so wildly bold.
His fair majestic head bows low at length;
And, leaping at his torn and bleeding side,
The fierce dogs pin him down with grappling strength;
While eager men come on with rapid stride,
And cheer, exulting in his baffled pride.
Now, from its sheath drawn forth, the gleaming knife
Stabs his broad throat: the gaping wound yawns wide:
One gurgling groan, the last deep sigh of life,
Wells with his gushing blood,--and closed is all the strife!
'Tis done! The hunted, animal Despair,
That hoped and feared no future state, is past:
O'er the stiff nostril blows the evening air;
O'er the glazed eye real darkness gathers fast;
Into a car the heavy corse is cast;
And homeward the belated hunter hies,
Eager to boast of his success at last,
And shew the beauty of his antlered prize,
To Her he loves the best,--the maid with gentle eyes!
And she, whose tender heart would beat and shrink
At the loud yelping of a punished hound,
With rosy lips and playful smile shall drink
The Highland health to him, that circles round.
And where the creature lies, with crimson wound,
And cold, stark limbs, and purple eyes half-closed,
There shall her gentle feet at morn be found!
Of such strange mixtures is the heart composed,
So natural-soft,--so hard, by cunning CUSTOM glozed.
But, lo! the Sabbath rises o'er those hills!
And gathering fast from many a distant home,
By wild romantic paths, and shallow rills,
The Highland groups to distant worship come.
Lightly their footsteps climb, inured to roam
Miles through the trackless heather day by day:
Lasses, with feet as white as driven foam,
And lads, whose various tartans, brightly gay,
With shifting colour deck the winding mountain way.
And some, with folded hands and looks demure,
Are nathless stealing lingering looks behind,
Their young hearts not less reverently pure
Because they hope to welcome accents kind,
And, in that Sabbath crowd, the Loved to find;
And children, glancing with their innocent eyes,
At every flower that quivers in the wind;
And grey-haired shepherds, calm, and old, and wise,
With peasant-wisdom,--drawn from gazing on the skies.
And Auld-Wives, who with Sabbath care have donned
Their snowy mutches, clean, and fresh, and white;
And pious eyes that well The BOOK have conned;
And snooded heads, bound round with ribands bright;
And last,--an old man's grandchild, treading light
By his blind footsteps; or a Mother mild,
Whose shadowy lashes veil her downcast sight,
Bearing along her lately christened child:--
And still by friendly talk their journey is beguiled.
Oh, Scotland, Scotland!--in these later days,
How hath thy decent worship been disgraced!
Where, on your Sabbath hills, for prayer and praise,
Solemn the feet of reverend elders paced,
With what wild brawling, with what ruffian haste,
Gathering to brandish Discord's fatal torch,
Have men your sacred altar-grounds defaced;
Mocking with howling fury, at the porch,
The ever-listening God, in his own holy Church!
The Taught would choose their Teacher: be it so!
Doubtless his lessons they will humbly learn,
Bowing the meek heart reverently low,
Who first claim right to choose him or to spurn;
Drop sentences of suffrage in the urn;
And ballot for that Minister of God,
Whose sacred mission is to bid them turn
Obedient eyes toward the chastening rod,
And walk the narrow path by humbler Christians trod!
Choose,--since your forms permit that choice to be,--
But choose in brotherhood, and pious love;
Assist at that selection solemnly,
As at a sacrifice to One above.
What! fear ye Rome's high altars? Shall THEY prove
The error and the stumbling-block alone?
Their crucifixes, meant your hearts to move,--
Their pictured saints--their images of stone--
Their Virgins garlanded--their Jesu on his Throne?
Yea! rather fear 'the image of a Voice,'
Set up to be an idol and a snare:
Fear the impression of your prideful choice,
The human heart-beat mingling with the prayer;
The heavy sigh that comes all unaware;
The sense of weeping, strugglingly represt;
The yearning adoration and despair,
With which unworthiness is then confest;
Mortal disturbance sent to break Religion's rest!
Fear the excitement--fear the human power
Of eloquent words, which 'twixt you and the skies,
Stand like a fretted screen; and, for that hour,
Confuse and mar the tranquil light that lies
Beyond, unbroken! Fear the glow that dies
With the occasion: darkest dangers yawn
'Neath the foundation where your hope would rise:
For true light fadeth not, nor is withdrawn,
The Lamb's calm City wrapt in one Eternal Dawn!
Children, who playing in their ignorant mirth,
Behold the sunbeam's warm reflected ray,
Reaching to grasp it, touch the blank cold earth,
Their eyes averted from the Source of Day,
Not knowing where the Actual Glory lay.
Fear YE to snatch at glittering beams, and lose
The light that should have cheered your mortal way:
Tremble, responsible yet weak, to choose;
'Ye know not what ye ask,'--nor what ye should refuse!
Say, was it word of power, or fluent speech,
Which marked those simple men of Galilee,
For Christ's disciples? was it theirs to preach
With winning grace, and artful subtilty,
The Saviour's message,--'Die to live with me?'
Bethsaida's fisherman, who bare the spite
Of heathen rage at Patras,--or those three
Who saw HIM glorified on Tabor's height,
And bathed in bloody sweat on dark Gethsemane's night?
The homeliest voice that weakly leads the van
Of many prayers, shall sound as sweet among
The angel host,--as his, the eloquent man,
Who with miraculous sweet, and fervent tongue,
Charms with a spell the mute, applauding throng;
No better, (as respects his human gift)
Than many a Heathen Poet, whose great song,
Age after age continues yet to lift,
As down the Stream of Time melodious treasures drift.
Brothers, why make ye War? and in His Name,
Whose message to the earth was Peace and Love;
What time the awful voice to Shepherds came,
And the clear Herald-Star shone out above?
When shall the meaning of that message move
Our bitter hearts? When shall we cease to come
The patience of a gentle God to prove;
Cainlike in temper,--though no life we doom,--
Our prayer a curse, although our altar be no tomb?
When that indulgence which the PERFECT grants,
By the IMPERFECT also shall be granted;
When narrow light that falls in crooked slants,
Shines broad and bright where'er its glow is wanted;
When cherished errors humbly are recanted;
When there are none who set themselves apart,
To watch how Prayers are prayed, and sweet hymns chanted;
With eyes severe, and criticising heart,--
As though some Player flawed the acting of his part.
From Saints on Earth,--defend us, Saints in Heaven!
By their un-likeness to the thing they ape;
Their cheerlessness, where God such joy hath given,
(Covering this fair world with a veil of crape)
Their lack of kindliness in any shape;
Their fierce, false judgments of another's sin;
And by the narrowness of mind they drape
With full-blown fantasies, and boasts to win
A better path to Heaven, than others wander in!
And ye, calm Angels in that blissful world,
From whence (close knit in brotherhood of strife)
The strong rebellious spirits, downward hurled,
Came to this Earth, with love and beauty rife,
And poisoned all the fountain-wells of life;
Spread the soft shelter of your peaceful wings,
When hard looks stab us like a two-edged knife,
And hearts that yearned for Pity's healing springs,
Are mocked, in dying thirst, by gall which Malice brings.
From the cold glare of their self-righteous eyes,--
From scornful lips, brimful of bitter words,--
From the curled smile that triumphs and defies,--
From arguments that sound like clashing swords,--
Save us, ye dwellers among music-chords!
Whose unseen presence doubtless lingers nigh,
Although no more our blinded sense affords
Your radiant image to the craving eye,
Nor sees your herald-wings, swift-spreading, cleave the sky!
No more to Ishmael's thirst, or Hagar's prayer,
The suffering or the longing heart on Earth;
No more to soothe funereal despair;
No more to fill the cruise in bitter dearth,
Or turn the widow's wailing into mirth;
Shall they return who watched in holy pain
The Human Death, that closed the Heavenly Birth!
Rebellious earth, twice sanctified in vain,
Lonely from those pure steps must evermore remain.
But deep in each man's heart, some angel dwells,--
Mournfully, as in a sepulchral tomb;
Set o'er our nature like calm sentinels,
Denying passage to bad thoughts that come
Tempting us weakly to our final doom,
Patient they watch, whatever may betide;
Shedding pure rays of glory through the gloom,
And bowing meek wings over human pride,--
As once in the lone grave of Him, the Crucified!
Angels of Grief,--who, when our weak eyes tire
Of shedding tears, their sad sweet lessons teach;
Angels of Hope,--who lift with strong desire
Our mortal thoughts beyond a mortal reach;
Angels of Mercy,--who to gentle speech,
And meek, forgiving words, the heart incline,
Weaving a link of brotherhood for each;
Angels of Glory,--whose white vestments shine
Around the good man's couch, in dying life's decline.
Need of such heavenly counterpoise have we
To bear us up, when we would grovel down;
To keep our clogged and tarnished natures free
From the world-rust that round our hearts hath grown
Like mouldering moss upon a sculptured stone;
To soften down the cruelty and sin
Of crabbèd Selfishness, that stands alone,
With greedy eyes that watch what they may win,
The whole wide world a field to gather harvest in!
To gather Harvest! In this Autumn prime,
Earth's literal harvest cumbers the glad land!
This is the sultry moment--the dry time,
When the ripe golden ears, that shining stand,
Fall, rustling, to the Reaper's nimble hand:
When, from those plains the bright sheaves lie among,
(Whose fertile view the sloping hills command,)
Float cheerful sounds of laughter and of song,
And merry-making jests from many a rural throng.
Sweet is the prospect which that distance yields!
Here, honest toil;--while there a sunburnt child
Sleeps by the hedge-row that divides the fields,
Or where the sheltering corn is stacked and piled;
And as the groups have one by one defiled,
(Leaving unwatched the little sleeper's place,)
You guess the Mother, by the way she smiled;
The holy Love that lit her peasant-face,
The lingering glance, replete with Feeling's matchless grace.
He lieth safe until her task be done--
Lulled, basking, into slumber sound and deep;
That Universal Cherisher, the Sun,
With kindly glow o'erlooks his harmless sleep,
And the rough dog close neighbourhood shall keep,
(Friend of the noble and the lowly born)
Till careful shepherds fold the wandering sheep,
And wearied reapers leave the unfinished corn--
Resting through dewy night, to recommence at morn.
Oh, picture of Abundance and of Joy!
Oh, golden Treasure given by God to Man!
Why com'st thou shaded by a base alloy?
What root of evil poisons Nature's plan?
Why should the strain not end as it began,
With notes that echo music as they come?
What mournful silence--what mysterious ban--
Hushes the tones of those who onward roam,
With choral gladness singing,--'happy Harvest-Home?'
What altered cadence lingers in the Vale,
Whose mass of full-eared sheaves the reapers bind?
A sound more sad than Autumn-moaning gale,
More dreary than the later whistling wind
That ushers Winter, bitter and unkind.
Again!--it soundeth like a human sigh!
A horrid fear grows present to my mind:
Here, where the grain is reaped that stood so high,
A Man hath lain him down: to slumber?--no,--to die!
Past the Park gate,--along the market-road,--
And where green water-meadows freshly shine,
By many a Squire and Peer's unseen abode,--
And where the village Alehouse swings its sign,
Betokening rest, and food, and strengthening wine,--
By the rich dairy, where, at even-tide,
Glad Maidens, singing, milk the lowing kine,--
Under blank shadowing garden-walls, that hide
The espaliered fruit well trained upon their sunnier side,--
Jaded and foot-sore, he hath struggled on,
Retracing with sunk heart his morning track;
In vain to HIM the Harvest and the Sun;
Doomed, in the midst of plenteousness, to lack,
And die unfed, beneath the loaded stack,
He hath been wandering miles to seek RELIEF;
(Disabled servant--Labour's broken hack!)
And he returns--refused! His Hour is brief;
But there are those at home for whom he groans with grief.
My pulse beats faster with the coming fear!
I cannot lift his dull expiring weight:
What if the fainting wretch should perish here?
Here,--sinking down beside the rich man's gate,--
On the cropped harvest;--miserable fate!
He tells me something--what, I cannot learn:
Feeble--confused--the words he fain would state:
But accents of complaint I can discern,
And mention of his wife and little ones in turn!
He's DEAD! In that last sigh his weak heart burst!
An end hath now been put to many woes:
The storm-beat mariner hath reached the worst,--
His 'harbour and his ultimate repose.'
He to a world of better justice goes,
We to the Inquest-Room, to hear, in vain,
Description of the strong convulsive throes,
The mighty labour, and the petty gain,
By which a struggling life gets quit at last of pain.
To hear, and to forget, the oft-told story,
Of what forsaken Want in silence bears:
So tarnishing commercial England's glory!
To hear rich men deny that poor men's cares
Should be accounted business of theirs;
To hear pale neighbours (one degree less poor
Than him who perished) prove, all unawares,
The generous opening of THEIR lowly door,
The self-denying hearts that shared the scanty store.
To hear, and acquiesce in, shallow words,
Which make it seem the sickly labourer's fault,
That he hath no accumulated hoards
Of untouched wages; wine, and corn, and malt;
To use when eyesight fails, or limbs grow halt;
To hear his character at random slurred,--
'An idle fellow, sir, not worth his salt;'
And every one receive a bitter word
For whom his clay-cold heart with living love was stirred:
His Wife, a shrew and slattern, knowing not
(What all her betters understand so well)
How to bring comfort to a poor man's lot,
How to keep house,--and how to buy and sell;
His Daughter, a degraded minx, who fell
At sixteen years,--and bore a child of shame,
Permitted with th' immoral set to dwell!
His eldest Son, an idiot boy, and lame,--
In short, the man WAS starved--but no one was to blame.
No one:--Oh! 'Merry England,' hearest thou?
Houseless and hungry died he on thy breast!
No one: Oh! 'Fertile England,' did thy plough--
Furrow no fields; or was their growth represt
By famine-blights that swept from east to west?
No one:--'Religious England,' preach the word
In thy thronged temples on the Day of Rest,
And bid the war of Faith and Works accord:--
'Who giveth to the Poor, he lendeth to the Lord!'
Trust me, that not a soul whose idle hand
Stinted to spare, and so declined to save;
Not one of all who call it 'Native Land,'
Which to their dead and starved compatriot gave
A humble cradle,--and a lowlier grave,--
Stands blameless of this death before the face
Of judging Heaven! The gathered store they have,
That shall condemn them. National disgrace
Rests on the country cursed by such a piteous case.
And yet not once, nor twice, but countless times,
We, in blind worship of the golden calf,
Allow of deaths like these! While funeral chimes
Toll for the rich, whose graven paragraph
Of vanished virtues (too complete by half),
The heirs of their importance soothe and please.
The poor man dies--and hath no EPITAPH!
What if your churchyards held such lines as these,
The listless eye to strike,--the careless heart to freeze?
'Here lies a man who died of Hunger-pain,
In a by-street of England's Capital.
Honest, (in vain!) industrious, (in vain!)
Willing to spend in useful labour all
His years from youth to age. A dangerous fall
Shattered his limbs, and brought him to distress.
His health returned: his strength was past recall:
He asked assistance (earnings growing less,)
Received none, struggled on, and died of Want's excess.'
'Here rests in Death, (who rested not in Life!)
The worn-out Mother of a starving brood:
By night and day, with most courageous strife,
She fought hard Fortune to procure them food:
(A desert-pelican, whose heart's best blood
Oozed in slow drops of failing strength away!)
Much she endured; much misery withstood;
At length weak nature yielded to decay,
And baffled Famine seized his long-resisting prey.'
Oh! the green mounds, that have no head-stones o'er them,
To tell who lies beneath, in slumber cold;
Oh! the green mounds, that saw no Mutes deplore them,
The Pauper-Graves, for whom no church-bells tolled;
What if our startled senses could behold,
(As we to Sabbath-prayer walk calmly by,)
Their visionary epitaphs enrolled;
Upstanding grimly 'neath God's equal sky,
Near the white sculptured tombs where wealthier Christians lie!
Then we should THINK: then we should cry, ALAS!
Then many a pulse would flutter mournfully,
And steps would pause, that now so reckless pass:
For, in this chequered world of ours, we see
Much Carelessness, but little Cruelty;
And (though Heaven knows it is no boast to tell,)
There dwelleth in us a deep sympathy,
Too often, like the stone-closed Arab well,
Sealed from their helpless thirst whose torments it should quell.
We shelter SELFISHNESS behind the mask
Of INCREDULITY: we will not own
What, if admitted, leaves a heavy task
To be performed; or spurned if left undone,
Stamping our frozen hearts as made of stone.
Or, if we grant such suffering exists,
Wide-spread and far, we plead,--'how vain for ONE
To strive to clear away these hopeless mists,
'Striking a few sad names from off these endless lists!'
'WHAT CAN I DO? I know that men have died
'Of their privations; truly, I believe
'That honest labour may be vainly plied:
'But how am I this sorrow to relieve?
'Go, let our Rulers some great plan achieve,
'It rests with These to settle and command,--
'We, meaner souls, can only sigh and grieve.'
So, sitting down, with slack and nerveless hand,
Supine we hear the cry that waileth through the land.
But let us measure help, by their deep woe:
Are we, indeed, as powerless to aid
As they to struggle? Conscience whispers, 'NO!'
Conscience, who shrinks uneasy and afraid,
Condemned,--if that brief answer must be made.
Though, in the Cowardice that flies the pain,
A spark of better nature is betrayed,
Proving, if their appeal could entrance gain,
Our hearts would not be roused and spoken to in vain.
But because generous minds stand few and far,
Like wholesome ears of grain in fields of blight:--
Because one earnest soul, like one great star,
Rises,--without the power in single light
To break the darkness of surrounding night:--
Because the sufferings of the Mass require
The Many, not the Few, their wrongs to right;-
Therefore, Great Hearts grow sick with vain desire,
And, baffled at each turn, the weaker spirits tire.
The GRADUAL is God's law. And we all fail
Because we will not copy it, but would
Against deep-rooted obstacles prevail,
(Which have the change of centuries withstood)
By hurried snatching in our rashest mood:
So, leaving dying branches in our grasp,
Vanishes all the growth of promised good;
Or from the green leaves darts some poisonous asp,
And stings the hand outstretched the fruitage fair to clasp.
So the Mock-Patriot leaves the Poor man's home
A thousand times more wretched, than when first
Loud declamation, full of froth and foam,
Weak discontent to strong rebellion nurst!
By those to whom he proffered aid, accurst,--
Called to account for days of helpless woe,--
The bubble promises give way, and burst,
Which left his rash lips with such ready flow:
The Idol of Himself,--the Orator for show!
Solemn the malediction set on him
Who doth 'pervert the judgment' of the poor,
Mislead the blind and ignorant, and dim
The meagre light which led them heretofore.
Faces he knows not,--weak ones who deplore
The ruin wrought by him,--in dreams shall rise;
Night's veil of darkness cannot cover o'er
The wild reproaching of their blood-shot eyes,
Nor its deep silence hush their hoarse lamenting cries!
While those whom he opposed, pronounce it Sin,
That, with mad Discord in his meteor track,
Some shallow theory of hope to win,
He hounded on a wild infuriate pack:
The feet he taught to leave the quiet track,
Who shall prevent, or whither shall they tread?
What mighty force shall dam the waters back,
When the swoln torrent hath found room to spread?
Rolling and fierce it comes, and whelms his reckless head!
Yet, let no man who feels himself secure
That Wrong exists, believe that humble tools
May not amend, what pining they endure.
Let him not fear the ridicule of fools,
Nor sneers of cold utilitarian schools,
To whom enthusiasts ever seem insane:
Nor to old laws and inappropriate rules
Bow slavish down because his lot is plain,
Unstarred by Rank or Power, ungilt by Wealth or Gain.
What! were they demi-gods and angels, then,
Who have done deeds of glory in our land?
Or only honest, earnest-hearted men,
Born their great mission here to understand,
And nobly labour at it, heart and hand?
Were they all Princes and great Lords, who trod
Their share of Earth in natural command?
No! THEY believed the Breath that woke the clod,
And honoured in themselves the sentient spark from God!
HE did not breathe a different breath of life
Into the noble and the lowly born:
Sprung from one clay, though now in parted strife,
Brothers,--though some may crouch and some may scorn.
WE framed a difference, such as bids the Morn
Shine veiled or bright; but, sent through latticed pane,
Or mullioned arch, or prison-bars forlorn,
Or gleaming through dim aisles with painted stain,
God's outward light it was, God's light it must remain!
Not in the body, or the body's gauds,--
Not in the coronet a goldsmith wrought,--
Not in the pomp a gaping crowd applauds
(Like a pleased child when spangled toys are brought,)
But in the proud pre-eminence of THOUGHT
Lies the true influence that shall aspire:
The Victory in a battle mutely fought:
For that light, none can trample out,--that fire
The breath of fierce disdain but teaches to rise higher!
Hath Science, in her march, avowed no claims
But theirs, first trained in Academic letters?
Doth History give no roll of patriot-names,
Peasants themselves, of peasant sons begetters,
Who taught that light to some, miscalled their BETTERS?
Men, who with iron hands, and hearts as stout,
Filed through the links of Folly's golden fetters;
And rough smith's work they made of it, no doubt,
Small choice of tools, when Souls from Prison would break out.
Yet doubly beautiful it is to see
One, set in the temptation of High Class,
Keep the inherent deep nobility
Of a great nature, strong to over-pass
The check of circumstance and choking mass
Of vicious faults which youthful leisure woo;
Mirror each thought in Honour's stainless glass;
And, by all kindly deeds that Power can do,
Prove that the brave good heart hath come of lineage true.
His gladdest welcome shall be giv'n by those
Who seemed to hold aloof from gentle blood:
Men, falsely deemed RANK'S democratic foes,
Because they love not FASHION'S selfish brood,
And look on idle Pomp with bitter mood.
Straightforward is their judgment; true, and keen;
The English Oak disowns the grafted wood,--
Spurns the high title, linked with spirit mean,--
And scorns the branch whereon the Lowly dare not lean!
Oh! Graceful seems the bending of his brow;
Lovely the earnestness that fills his eyes;
Holy the fire that gave his heart its glow
(Spark of that same great Light which never dies.)
With hope, not fear, they watch his gradual rise:--
His youth's glad service in his age recall:--
Cheer in the race,--and glory in the prize,--
For his sake loving Rank, and Pomp, and all,--
Deeming such statue needs a lofty Pedestal!
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! May such men as these
Alone be teachers of thy childhood pure;
Greet thy fair youth with friendly courtesies,
And to thine age with happy bond endure.
Feel with them; act with them; those ills to cure
That lie within the reach of brotherhood;
For these are men no shallow hopes allure,
Whose loyalty is current in their blood,
But who the people's claims have wisely understood.
Hear a brief fable. One, with heedless tread,
Came o'er the wild fair grass that ne'er was mown:
Then said the grass,--'Your heel is on my head;
And, where in harmless freedom I have grown,
Sorely your iron foot hath tramped me down;
But God,--who to my veins such freshness gave,
Shall heal me with a healing of his own,
Till I, perchance, may lift my head to wave
Above the marble tomb that presses down your grave.'
If he had trod the path within his reach,
And let the wild grass hear the cricket sing,
Think you it would have turned with bitter speech?
No! but saluted him as Nature's king.
Oh, fable,--but not folly,--for the thing
We trample down, if life from God be in it,
Sooner or later takes the upward spring;
And sorely we may rue the reckless minute
We strove to crush its strength, and not in peace to win it.
And not alone in this same trampling strife
Consists Oppression's force; that creeping eft,
That lizard-blooded, frozen death-in-life,
NEUTRALITY, the cursed of Heaven, hath left
More misery to be borne by those bereft
Of power to strive against ill-fortune's spite.
The dagger hath gone home unto the heft;
And those stood by, who would not, but who might
Have turned the assassin steel, and stayed the unequal fight.
Oh! there are moments of our lives, when such
As will not help to lift us, strike us down!
When the green bough just bends so near our clutch,
When the light rope so easily were thrown,
That they are murderers who behold us drown.
Well spoke the Poet-Heart so tried by woe,
That there are hours when left despairing, lone,
'Each idle ON-LOOKER appears a FOE:'
For Hate can scarce do worse, than no compassion show.
Neutrality Is Hate: the aid withheld,
Flings its large balance in the adverse scale;
And makes the enemy we might have quelled,
Strong to attack, and certain to prevail;
Yea, clothes him, scoffing, in a suit of mail!
Those are the days which teach unhappy elves
No more such callous bosoms to assail;
The rocky soil no more the weak-one delves;
Upright we stand, and trust--in God, and in ourselves.
'The flesh will quiver when the pincers tear;'
The heart defies, that feels unjustly slighted;
The soul, oppressed, puts off its robe of Fear,
And warlike stands, in gleaming armour dighted;
And whensoe'er the Wronged would be the Righted,
There always have been, always must be, minds
In whom the Power and Will are found united;
Who rise, as Freedom fit occasion finds,
Skilled Workmen in a Craft which no Apprentice binds.
And therefore should we aid who need our aid,
And freely give to those who need our giving;
Look gently on a brother's humbler trade,
And the coarse hand that labours for its living,
Scorn not because our fortunes are more thriving;
Spurn the cold rule,--'all BARTER, no BESTOWING,'
And such good plans as answer our contriving,
Let no false shame deter from open shewing;--
The crystal spring runs pure,--though men behold it flowing.
But granting we in truth were weak to do
That which our hearts are strong enough to dream;
Shall we, as feeble labourers, wandering go,
And sit down passive by the lulling stream,
Or slumber basking in the noon-tide beam?
Shall we so waste the hours without recall,
Which o'er Life's silent dial duly gleam;
And from red morning to the dewy fall,
Folding our listless hands, pursue no aim at all?
Would not the lip with mocking smile be curled,
If some poor reaper of our autumn corn,
Some hired labourer of the actual world,
Treated our summons with neglect forlorn;
Pleading that Heaven, which made him weakly-born,
Had thus excused him from all settled task?
Should we not answer, with a kind of scorn,
'Do what thou canst,--no more can Reason ask,
But think not, unemployed, in idleness to bask?'
In Heaven's own land,--the heart,--shall we put by
All tasks to US allotted and assigned,--
While thus the mote within a Brother's eye
Clearly we see, but to the beam are blind?
How can we set that reaper sheaves to bind,
According to his body's strength; yet seek
Excuse for our soul's indolence to find?
Oh! let the red shame flush the conscious cheek,--
For duties planned by God, NO man was born too weak!
Task-work goes through the world! the fluent River
Turneth the mill-wheels with a beating sound,
And rolleth onward toward the sea for ever!
The Sea heaves restless to its shoreward bound;
The Winds with varying voices, wander round;
The Branches, in their murmur, bend and thrill;
Flower after flower springs freshly from the ground;
The floating Clouds move ceaseless o'er the hill;
Nothing is set in calm; nothing (save Death) is still.
That glorious orb of Heaven, the blessèd Sun,
A daily journey makes from East to West;
Nightly the Moon and Stars their courses run.
Yea, further we may learn our Lord's behest,
Taught by the pulse that heaves each living breast,
Our folding of the hands is in the GRAVE
And fixed in HEAVEN the Sabbath of our Rest!
Meanwhile, with Sun, and Wind, and Cloud, and Wave,
We ply the life-long task our great Creator gave.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! when to thy young heart
Life's purpose pleads with mighty eloquence,--
Hear, Thou, as one who fain would act his part
Under the guiding of Omnipotence;
Whose clay-wrapped Spirit, looking up from hence,
Asketh what labour it may best perform
Ere the NIGHT cometh; when quick life and sense
Are fellow-sleepers with the slow blind worm,--
And Death's dark curtain hides the sunshine and the storm!
DEEP in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung above his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer's day
Robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
By reason of his fallen divinity
Spreading a shade: the Naiad 'mid her reeds
Press'd her cold finger closer to her lips.
Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went,
No further than to where his feet had stray'd,
And slept there since. Upon the sodden ground
His old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead,
Unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed;
While his bow'd head seem'd list'ning to the Earth,
His ancient mother, for some comfort yet.
It seem'd no force could wake him from his place;
But there came one, who with a kindred hand
Touch'd his wide shoulders, after bending low
With reverence, though to one who knew it not.
She was a Goddess of the infant world;
By her in stature the tall Amazon
Had stood a pigmy's height: she would have ta'en
Achilles by the hair and bent his neck;
Or with a finger stay'd Ixion's wheel.
Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx,
Pedestal'd haply in a palace court,
When sages look'd to Egypt for their lore.
But oh! how unlike marble was that face:
How beautiful, if sorrow had not made
Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self.
There was a listening fear in her regard,
As if calamity had but begun;
As if the vanward clouds of evil days
Had spent their malice, and the sullen rear
Was with its stored thunder labouring up.
One hand she press'd upon that aching spot
Where beats the human heart, as if just there,
Though an immortal, she felt cruel pain:
The other upon Saturn's bended neck
She laid, and to the level of his ear
Leaning with parted lips, some words she spake
In solemn tenor and deep organ tone:
Some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue
Would come in these like accents; O how frail
To that large utterance of the early Gods!
"Saturn, look up!---though wherefore, poor old King?
I have no comfort for thee, no not one:
I cannot say, 'O wherefore sleepest thou?'
For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth
Knows thee not, thus afflicted, for a God;
And ocean too, with all its solemn noise,
Has from thy sceptre pass'd; and all the air
Is emptied of thine hoary majesty.
Thy thunder, conscious of the new command,
Rumbles reluctant o'er our fallen house;
And thy sharp lightning in unpractised hands
Scorches and burns our once serene domain.
O aching time! O moments big as years!
All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth,
And press it so upon our weary griefs
That unbelief has not a space to breathe.
Saturn, sleep on:---O thoughtless, why did I
Thus violate thy slumbrous solitude?
Why should I ope thy melancholy eyes?
Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep."
As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
Those green-rob'd senators of mighty woods,
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
Save from one gradual solitary gust
Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
As if the ebbing air had but one wave;
So came these words and went; the while in tears
She touch'd her fair large forehead to the ground,
Just where her fallen hair might be outspread
A soft and silken mat for Saturn's feet.
One moon, with alteration slow, had shed
Her silver seasons four upon the night,
And still these two were postured motionless,
Like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern;
The frozen God still couchant on the earth,
And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet:
Until at length old Saturn lifted up
His faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone,
And all the gloom and sorrow ofthe place,
And that fair kneeling Goddess; and then spake,
As with a palsied tongue, and while his beard
Shook horrid with such aspen-malady:
"O tender spouse of gold Hyperion,
Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face;
Look up, and let me see our doom in it;
Look up, and tell me if this feeble shape
Is Saturn's; tell me, if thou hear'st the voice
Of Saturn; tell me, if this wrinkling brow,
Naked and bare of its great diadem,
Peers like the front of Saturn? Who had power
To make me desolate? Whence came the strength?
How was it nurtur'd to such bursting forth,
While Fate seem'd strangled in my nervous grasp?
But it is so; and I am smother'd up,
And buried from all godlike exercise
Of influence benign on planets pale,
Of admonitions to the winds and seas,
Of peaceful sway above man's harvesting,
And all those acts which Deity supreme
Doth ease its heart of love in.---I am gone
Away from my own bosom: I have left
My strong identity, my real self,
Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit
Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search!
Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round
Upon all space: space starr'd, and lorn of light;
Space region'd with life-air; and barren void;
Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell.---
Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest
A certain shape or shadow, making way
With wings or chariot fierce to repossess
A heaven he lost erewhile: it must---it must
Be of ripe progress---Saturn must be King.
Yes, there must be a golden victory;
There must be Gods thrown down, and trumpets blown
Of triumph calm, and hymns of festival
Upon the gold clouds metropolitan,
Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
Of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be
Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
Of the sky-children; I will give command:
Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?"
This passion lifted him upon his feet,
And made his hands to struggle in the air,
His Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat,
His eyes to fever out, his voice to cease.
He stood, and heard not Thea's sobbing deep;
A little time, and then again he snatch'd
Utterance thus.---"But cannot I create?
Cannot I form? Cannot I fashion forth
Another world, another universe,
To overbear and crumble this to nought?
Where is another Chaos? Where?"---That word
Found way unto Olympus, and made quake
The rebel three.---Thea was startled up,
And in her bearing was a sort of hope,
As thus she quick-voic'd spake, yet full of awe.
"This cheers our fallen house: come to our friends,
O Saturn! come away, and give them heart;
I know the covert, for thence came I hither."
Thus brief; then with beseeching eyes she went
With backward footing through the shade a space:
He follow'd, and she turn'd to lead the way
Through aged boughs, that yielded like the mist
Which eagles cleave upmounting from their nest.
Meanwhile in other realms big tears were shed,
More sorrow like to this, and such like woe,
Too huge for mortal tongue or pen of scribe:
The Titans fierce, self-hid, or prison-bound,
Groan'd for the old allegiance once more,
And listen'd in sharp pain for Saturn's voice.
But one of the whole mammoth-brood still kept
His sov'reigny, and rule, and majesy;---
Blazing Hyperion on his orbed fire
Still sat, still snuff'd the incense, teeming up
From man to the sun's God: yet unsecure:
For as among us mortals omens drear
Fright and perplex, so also shuddered he---
Not at dog's howl, or gloom-bird's hated screech,
Or the familiar visiting of one
Upon the first toll of his passing-bell,
Or prophesyings of the midnight lamp;
But horrors, portion'd to a giant nerve,
Oft made Hyperion ache. His palace bright,
Bastion'd with pyramids of glowing gold,
And touch'd with shade of bronzed obelisks,
Glar'd a blood-red through all its thousand courts,
Arches, and domes, and fiery galleries;
And all its curtains of Aurorian clouds
Flush'd angerly: while sometimes eagles' wings,
Unseen before by Gods or wondering men,
Darken'd the place; and neighing steeds were heard
Not heard before by Gods or wondering men.
Also, when he would taste the spicy wreaths
Of incense, breath'd aloft from sacred hills,
Instead of sweets, his ample palate took
Savor of poisonous brass and metal sick:
And so, when harbor'd in the sleepy west,
After the full completion of fair day,---
For rest divine upon exalted couch,
And slumber in the arms of melody,
He pac'd away the pleasant hours of ease
With stride colossal, on from hall to hall;
While far within each aisle and deep recess,
His winged minions in close clusters stood,
Amaz'd and full offear; like anxious men
Who on wide plains gather in panting troops,
When earthquakes jar their battlements and towers.
Even now, while Saturn, rous'd from icy trance,
Went step for step with Thea through the woods,
Hyperion, leaving twilight in the rear,
Came slope upon the threshold of the west;
Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope
In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes,
Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet
And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies;
And like a rose in vermeil tint and shape,
In fragrance soft, and coolness to the eye,
That inlet to severe magnificence
Stood full blown, for the God to enter in.
He enter'd, but he enter'd full of wrath;
His flaming robes stream'd out beyond his heels,
And gave a roar, as if of earthly fire,
That scar'd away the meek ethereal Hours
And made their dove-wings tremble. On he flared
From stately nave to nave, from vault to vault,
Through bowers of fragrant and enwreathed light,
And diamond-paved lustrous long arcades,
Until he reach'd the great main cupola;
There standing fierce beneath, he stampt his foot,
And from the basements deep to the high towers
Jarr'd his own golden region; and before
The quavering thunder thereupon had ceas'd,
His voice leapt out, despite of godlike curb,
To this result: "O dreams of day and night!
O monstrous forms! O effigies of pain!
O spectres busy in a cold, cold gloom!
O lank-eared phantoms of black-weeded pools!
Why do I know ye? why have I seen ye? why
Is my eternal essence thus distraught
To see and to behold these horrors new?
Saturn is fallen, am I too to fall?
Am I to leave this haven of my rest,
This cradle of my glory, this soft clime,
This calm luxuriance of blissful light,
These crystalline pavilions, and pure fanes,
Of all my lucent empire? It is left
Deserted, void, nor any haunt of mine.
The blaze, the splendor, and the symmetry,
I cannot see but darkness, death, and darkness.
Even here, into my centre of repose,
The shady visions come to domineer,
Insult, and blind, and stifle up my pomp.---
Fall!---No, by Tellus and her briny robes!
Over the fiery frontier of my realms
I will advance a terrible right arm
Shall scare that infant thunderer, rebel Jove,
And bid old Saturn take his throne again."---
He spake, and ceas'd, the while a heavier threat
Held struggle with his throat but came not forth;
For as in theatres of crowded men
Hubbub increases more they call out "Hush!"
So at Hyperion's words the phantoms pale
Bestirr'd themselves, thrice horrible and cold;
And from the mirror'd level where he stood
A mist arose, as from a scummy marsh.
At this, through all his bulk an agony
Crept gradual, from the feet unto the crown,
Like a lithe serpent vast and muscular
Making slow way, with head and neck convuls'd
From over-strained might. Releas'd, he fled
To the eastern gates, and full six dewy hours
Before the dawn in season due should blush,
He breath'd fierce breath against the sleepy portals,
Clear'd them of heavy vapours, burst them wide
Suddenly on the ocean's chilly streams.
The planet orb of fire, whereon he rode
Each day from east to west the heavens through,
Spun round in sable curtaining of clouds;
Not therefore veiled quite, blindfold, and hid,
But ever and anon the glancing spheres,
Circles, and arcs, and broad-belting colure,
Glow'd through, and wrought upon the muffling dark
Sweet-shaped lightnings from the nadir deep
Up to the zenith,---hieroglyphics old,
Which sages and keen-eyed astrologers
Then living on the earth, with laboring thought
Won from the gaze of many centuries:
Now lost, save what we find on remnants huge
Of stone, or rnarble swart; their import gone,
Their wisdom long since fled.---Two wings this orb
Possess'd for glory, two fair argent wings,
Ever exalted at the God's approach:
And now, from forth the gloom their plumes immense
Rose, one by one, till all outspreaded were;
While still the dazzling globe maintain'd eclipse,
Awaiting for Hyperion's command.
Fain would he have commanded, fain took throne
And bid the day begin, if but for change.
He might not:---No, though a primeval God:
The sacred seasons might not be disturb'd.
Therefore the operations of the dawn
Stay'd in their birth, even as here 'tis told.
Those silver wings expanded sisterly,
Eager to sail their orb; the porches wide
Open'd upon the dusk demesnes of night
And the bright Titan, phrenzied with new woes,
Unus'd to bend, by hard compulsion bent
His spirit to the sorrow of the time;
And all along a dismal rack of clouds,
Upon the boundaries of day and night,
He stretch'd himself in grief and radiance faint.
There as he lay, the Heaven with its stars
Look'd down on him with pity, and the voice
Of Coelus, from the universal space,
Thus whisper'd low and solemn in his ear:
"O brightest of my children dear, earth-born
And sky-engendered, son of mysteries
All unrevealed even to the powers
Which met at thy creating; at whose joys
And palpitations sweet, and pleasures soft,
I, Coelus, wonder, how they came and whence;
And at the fruits thereof what shapes they be,
Distinct, and visible; symbols divine,
Manifestations of that beauteous life
Diffus'd unseen throughout eternal space:
Of these new-form'd art thou, O brightest child!
Of these, thy brethren and the Goddesses!
There is sad feud among ye, and rebellion
Of son against his sire. I saw him fall,
I saw my first-born tumbled from his throne!
To me his arms were spread, to me his voice
Found way from forth the thunders round his head!
Pale wox I, and in vapours hid my face.
Art thou, too, near such doom? vague fear there is:
For I have seen my sons most unlike Gods.
Divine ye were created, and divine
In sad demeanour, solemn, undisturb'd,
Unruffled, like high Gods, ye liv'd and ruled:
Now I behold in you fear, hope, and wrath;
Actions of rage and passion; even as
I see them, on the mortal world beneath,
In men who die.---This is the grief, O son!
Sad sign of ruin, sudden dismay, and fall!
Yet do thou strive; as thou art capable,
As thou canst move about, an evident God;
And canst oppose to each malignant hour
Ethereal presence:---I am but a voice;
My life is but the life of winds and tides,
No more than winds and tides can I avail:---
But thou canst.---Be thou therefore in the van
Of circumstance; yea, seize the arrow's barb
Before the tense string murmur.---To the earth!
For there thou wilt find Saturn, and his woes.
Meantime I will keep watch on thy bright sun,
And of thy seasons be a careful nurse."---
Ere half this region-whisper had come down,
Hyperion arose, and on the stars
Lifted his curved lids, and kept them wide
Until it ceas'd; and still he kept them wide:
And still they were the same bright, patient stars.
Then with a slow incline of his broad breast,
Like to a diver in the pearly seas,
Forward he stoop'd over the airy shore,
And plung'd all noiseless into the deep night.
JUST at the self-same beat of Time's wide wings
Hyperion slid into the rustled air,
And Saturn gain'd with Thea that sad place
Where Cybele and the bruised Titans mourn'd.
It was a den where no insulting light
Could glimmer on their tears; where their own groans
They felt, but heard not, for the solid roar
Of thunderous waterfalls and torrents hoarse,
Pouring a constant bulk, uncertain where.
Crag jutting forth to crag, and rocks that seem'd
Ever as if just rising from a sleep,
Forehead to forehead held their monstrous horns;
And thus in thousand hugest phantasies
Made a fit roofing to this nest of woe.
Instead of thrones, hard flint they sat upon,
Couches of rugged stone, and slaty ridge
Stubborn'd with iron. All were not assembled:
Some chain'd in torture, and some wandering.
Caus, and Gyges, and Briareus,
Typhon, and Dolor, and Porphyrion,
With many more, the brawniest in assault,
Were pent in regions of laborious breath;
Dungeon'd in opaque element, to keep
Their clenched teeth still clench'd, and all their limbs
Lock'd up like veins of metal, crampt and screw'd;
Without a motion, save of their big hearts
Heaving in pain, and horribly convuls'd
With sanguine feverous boiling gurge of pulse.
Mnemosyne was straying in the world;
Far from her moon had Phoebe wandered;
And many else were free to roam abroad,
But for the main, here found they covert drear.
Scarce images of life, one here, one there,
Lay vast and edgeways; like a dismal cirque
Of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor,
When the chill rain begins at shut of eve,
In dull November, and their chancel vault,
The Heaven itself, is blinded throughout night.
Each one kept shroud, nor to his neighbour gave
Or word, or look, or action of despair.
Creus was one; his ponderous iron mace
Lay by him, and a shatter'd rib of rock
Told of his rage, ere he thus sank and pined.
Iapetus another; in his grasp,
A serpent's plashy neck; its barbed tongue
Squeez'd from the gorge, and all its uncurl'd length
Dead: and because the creature could not spit
Its poison in the eyes of conquering Jove.
Next Cottus: prone he lay, chin uppermost,
As though in pain; for still upon the flint
He ground severe his skull, with open mouth
And eyes at horrid working. Nearest him
Asia, born of most enormous Caf,
Who cost her mother Tellus keener pangs,
Though feminine, than any of her sons:
More thought than woe was in her dusky face,
For she was prophesying of her glory;
And in her wide imagination stood
Palm-shaded temples, and high rival fanes
By Oxus or in Ganges' sacred isles.
Even as Hope upon her anchor leans,
So leant she, not so fair, upon a tusk
Shed from the broadest of her elephants.
Above her, on a crag's uneasy shelve,
Upon his elbow rais'd, all prostrate else,
Shadow'd Enceladus; once tame and mild
As grazing ox unworried in the meads;
Now tiger-passion'd, lion-thoughted, wroth,
He meditated, plotted, and even now
Was hurling mountains in that second war,
Not long delay'd, that scar'd the younger Gods
To hide themselves in forms of beast and bird.
Not far hence Atlas; and beside him prone
Phorcus, the sire of Gorgons. Neighbour'd close
Oceanus, and Tethys, in whose lap
Sobb'd Clymene among her tangled hair.
In midst of all lay Themis, at the feet
Of Ops the queen; all clouded round from sight,
No shape distinguishable, more than when
Thick night confounds the pine-tops with the clouds:
And many else whose names may not be told.
For when the Muse's wings are air-ward spread,
Who shall delay her flight? And she must chaunt
Of Saturn, and his guide, who now had climb'd
With damp and slippery footing from a depth
More horrid still. Above a sombre cliff
Their heads appear'd, and up their stature grew
Till on the level height their steps found ease:
Then Thea spread abroad her trembling arms
Upon the precincts of this nest of pain,
And sidelong fix'd her eye on Saturn's face:
There saw she direst strife; the supreme God
At war with all the frailty of grief,
Of rage, of fear, anxiety, revenge,
Remorse, spleen, hope, but most of all despair.
Against these plagues he strove in vain; for Fate
Had pour'd a mortal oil upon his head,
A disanointing poison: so that Thea,
Affrighted, kept her still, and let him pass
First onwards in, among the fallen tribe.
As with us mortal men, the laden heart
Is persecuted more, and fever'd more,
When it is nighing to the mournful house
Where other hearts are sick of the same bruise;
So Saturn, as he walk'd into the midst,
Felt faint, and would have sunk among the rest,
But that he met Enceladus's eye,
Whose mightiness, and awe of him, at once
Came like an inspiration; and he shouted,
"Titans, behold your God!" at which some groan'd;
Some started on their feet; some also shouted;
Some wept, some wail'd, all bow'd with reverence;
And Ops, uplifting her black folded veil,
Show'd her pale cheeks, and all her forehead wan,
Her eye-brows thin and jet, and hollow eyes.
There is a roaring in the bleak-grown pines
When Winter lifts his voice; there is a noise
Among immortals when a God gives sign,
With hushing finger, how he means to load
His tongue with the filll weight of utterless thought,
With thunder, and with music, and with pomp:
Such noise is like the roar of bleak-grown pines;
Which, when it ceases in this mountain'd world,
No other sound succeeds; but ceasing here,
Among these fallen, Saturn's voice therefrom
Grew up like organ, that begins anew
Its strain, when other harmonies, stopt short,
Leave the dinn'd air vibrating silverly.
Thus grew it up---"Not in my own sad breast,
Which is its own great judge and searcher out,
Can I find reason why ye should be thus:
Not in the legends of the first of days,
Studied from that old spirit-leaved book
Which starry Uranus with finger bright
Sav'd from the shores of darkness, when the waves
Low-ebb'd still hid it up in shallow gloom;---
And the which book ye know I ever kept
For my firm-based footstool:---Ah, infirm!
Not there, nor in sign, symbol, or portent
Of element, earth, water, air, and fire,---
At war, at peace, or inter-quarreling
One against one, or two, or three, or all
Each several one against the other three,
As fire with air loud warring when rain-floods
Drown both, and press them both against earth's face,
Where, finding sulphur, a quadruple wrath
Unhinges the poor world;---not in that strife,
Wherefrom I take strange lore, and read it deep,
Can I find reason why ye should be thus:
No, nowhere can unriddle, though I search,
And pore on Nature's universal scroll
Even to swooning, why ye, Divinities,
The first-born of all shap'd and palpable Gods,
Should cower beneath what, in comparison,
Is untremendous might. Yet ye are here,
O'erwhelm'd, and spurn'd, and batter'd, ye are here!
O Titans, shall I say 'Arise!'---Ye groan:
Shall I say 'Crouch!'---Ye groan. What can I then?
O Heaven wide! O unseen parent dear!
What can I? Tell me, all ye brethren Gods,
How we can war, how engine our great wrath!
O speak your counsel now, for Saturn's ear
Is all a-hunger'd. Thou, Oceanus,
Ponderest high and deep; and in thy face
I see, astonied, that severe content
Which comes of thought and musing: give us help!"
So ended Saturn; and the God of the sea,
Sophist and sage, from no Athenian grove,
But cogitation in his watery shades,
Arose, with locks not oozy, and began,
In murmurs, which his first-endeavouring tongue
Caught infant-like from the far-foamed sands.
"O ye, whom wrath consumes! who, passion-stung,
Writhe at defeat, and nurse your agonies!
Shut up your senses, stifle up your ears,
My voice is not a bellows unto ire.
Yet listen, ye who will, whilst I bring proof
How ye, perforce, must be content to stoop:
And in the proof much comfort will I give,
If ye will take that comfort in its truth.
We fall by course of Nature's law, not force
Of thunder, or of Jove. Great Saturn, thou
Hast sifted well the atom-universe;
But for this reason, that thou art the King,
And only blind from sheer supremacy,
One avenue was shaded from thine eyes,
Through which I wandered to eternal truth.
And first, as thou wast not the first of powers,
So art thou not the last; it cannot be:
Thou art not the beginning nor the end.
From Chaos and parental Darkness came
Light, the first fruits of that intestine broil,
That sullen ferment, which for wondrous ends
Was ripening in itself. The ripe hour came,
And with it Light, and Light, engendering
Upon its own producer, forthwith touch'd
The whole enormous matter into life.
Upon that very hour, our parentage,
The Heavens and the Earth, were manifest:
Then thou first born, and we the giant race,
Found ourselves ruling new and beauteous realms.
Now comes the pain of truth, to whom 'tis pain;
O folly! for to bear all naked truths,
And to envisage circumstance, all calm,
That is the top of sovereignty. Mark well!
As Heaven and Earth are fairer, fairer far
Than Chaos and blank Darkness, though once chiefs;
And as we show beyond that Heaven and Earth
In form and shape compact and beautiful,
In will, in action free, companionship,
And thousand other signs of purer life;
So on our heels a fresh perfection treads,
A power more strong in beauty, born of us
And fated to excel us, as we pass
In glory that old Darkness: nor are we
Thereby more conquer'd, than by us the rule
Of shapeless Chaos. Say, doth the dull soil
Quarrel with the proud forests it hath fed,
And feedeth still, more comely than itself?
Can it deny the chiefdom of green groves?
Or shall the tree be envious of the dove
Because it cooeth, and hath snowy wings
To wander wherewithal and find its joys?
We are such forest-trees, and our fair boughs
Have bred forth, not pale solitary doves,
But eagles golden-feather'd, who do tower
Above us in their beauty, and must reign
In right thereof; for 'tis the eternal law
That first in beauty should be first in might:
Yea, by that law, another race may drive
Our conquerors to mourn as we do now.
Have ye beheld the young God of the seas,
My dispossessor? Have ye seen his face?
Have ye beheld his chariot, foam'd along
By noble winged creatures he hath made?
I saw him on the calmed waters scud,
With such a glow of beauty in his eyes,
That it enforc'd me to bid sad farewell
To all my empire: farewell sad I took,
And hither came, to see how dolorous fate
Had wrought upon ye; and how I might best
Give consolation in this woe extreme.
Receive the truth, and let it be your balm."
Whether through pos'd conviction, or disdain,
They guarded silence, when Oceanus
Left murmuring, what deepest thought can tell?
But so it was, none answer'd for a space,
Save one whom none regarded, Clymene;
And yet she answer'd not, only complain'd,
With hectic lips, and eyes up-looking mild,
Thus wording timidly among the fierce:
"O Father! I am here the simplest voice,
And all my knowledge is that joy is gone,
And this thing woe crept in among our hearts,
There to remain for ever, as I fear:
I would not bode of evil, if I thought
So weak a creature could turn off the help
Which by just right should come of mighty Gods;
Yet let me tell my sorrow, let me tell
Of what I heard, and how it made me weep,
And know that we had parted from all hope.
I stood upon a shore, a pleasant shore,
Where a sweet clime was breathed from a land
Of fragrance, quietness, and trees, and flowers.
Full of calm joy it was, as I of grief;
Too full of joy and soft delicious warmth;
So that I felt a movement in my heart
To chide, and to reproach that solitude
With songs of misery, music of our woes;
And sat me down, and took a mouthed shell
And murmur'd into it, and made melody---
O melody no more! for while I sang,
And with poor skill let pass into the breeze
The dull shell's echo, from a bowery strand
Just opposite, an island of the sea,
There came enchantment with the shifting wind,
That did both drown and keep alive my ears.
I threw my shell away upon the sand,
And a wave fill'd it, as my sense was fill'd
With that new blissful golden melody.
A living death was in each gush of sounds,
Each family of rapturous hurried notes,
That fell, one after one, yet all at once,
Like pearl beads dropping sudden from their string:
And then another, then another strain,
Each like a dove leaving its olive perch,
With music wing'd instead of silent plumes,
To hover round my head, and make me sick
Of joy and grief at once. Grief overcame,
And I was stopping up my frantic ears,
When, past all hindrance of my trembling hands,
A voice came sweeter, sweeter than all tune,
And still it cried, 'Apollo! young Apollo!
The morning-bright Apollo! young Apollo!'
I fled, it follow'd me, and cried 'Apollo!'
O Father, and O Brethren, had ye felt
Those pains of mine; O Saturn, hadst thou felt,
Ye would not call this too indulged tongue
Presumptuous, in thus venturing to be heard."
So far her voice flow'd on, like timorous brook
That, lingering along a pebbled coast,
Doth fear to meet the sea: but sea it met,
And shudder'd; for the overwhelming voice
Of huge Enceladus swallow'd it in wrath:
The ponderous syllables, like sullen waves
In the half-glutted hollows of reef-rocks,
Came booming thus, while still upon his arm
He lean'd; not rising, from supreme contempt.
"Or shall we listen to the over-wise,
Or to the over-foolish, Giant-Gods?
Not thunderbolt on thunderbolt, till all
That rebel Jove's whole armoury were spent,
Not world on world upon these shoulders piled,
Could agonize me more than baby-words
In midst of this dethronement horrible.
Speak! roar! shout! yell! ye sleepy Titans all.
Do ye forget the blows, the buffets vile?
Are ye not smitten by a youngling arm?
Dost thou forget, sham Monarch of the waves,
Thy scalding in the seas? What! have I rous'd
Your spleens with so few simple words as these?
O joy! for now I see ye are not lost:
O joy! for now I see a thousand eyes
Wide-glaring for revenge!"---As this he said,
He lifted up his stature vast, and stood,
Still without intermission speaking thus:
"Now ye are flames, I'll tell you how to burn,
And purge the ether of our enemies;
How to feed fierce the crooked stings of fire,
And singe away the swollen clouds of Jove,
Stifling that puny essence in its tent.
O let him feel the evil he hath done;
For though I scorn Oceanus's lore,
Much pain have I for more than loss of realms:
The days of peace and slumbrous calm are fled;
Those days, all innocent of scathing war,
When all the fair Existences of heaven
Carne open-eyed to guess what we would speak:---
That was before our brows were taught to frown,
Before our lips knew else but solemn sounds;
That was before we knew the winged thing,
Victory, might be lost, or might be won.
And be ye mindful that Hyperion,
Our brightest brother, still is undisgraced---
Hyperion, lo! his radiance is here!"
All eyes were on Enceladus's face,
And they beheld, while still Hyperion's name
Flew from his lips up to the vaulted rocks,
A pallid gleam across his features stern:
Not savage, for he saw full many a God
Wroth as himself. He look'd upon them all,
And in each face he saw a gleam of light,
But splendider in Saturn's, whose hoar locks
Shone like the bubbling foam about a keel
When the prow sweeps into a midnight cove.
In pale and silver silence they remain'd,
Till suddenly a splendor, like the morn,
Pervaded all the beetling gloomy steeps,
All the sad spaces of oblivion,
And every gulf, and every chasm old,
And every height, and every sullen depth,
Voiceless, or hoarse with loud tormented streams:
And all the everlasting cataracts,
And all the headlong torrents far and near,
Mantled before in darkness and huge shade,
Now saw the light and made it terrible.
It was Hyperion:---a granite peak
His bright feet touch'd, and there he stay'd to view
The misery his brilliance had betray'd
To the most hateful seeing of itself.
Golden his hair of short Numidian curl,
Regal his shape majestic, a vast shade
In midst of his own brightness, like the bulk
Of Memnon's image at the set of sun
To one who travels from the dusking East:
Sighs, too, as mournful as that Memnon's harp
He utter'd, while his hands contemplative
He press'd together, and in silence stood.
Despondence seiz'd again the fallen Gods
At sight of the dejected King of day,
And many hid their faces from the light:
But fierce Enceladus sent forth his eyes
Among the brotherhood; and, at their glare,
Uprose Iapetus, and Creus too,
And Phorcus, sea-born, and together strode
To where he towered on his eminence.
There those four shouted forth old Saturn's name;
Hyperion from the peak loud answered, "Saturn!"
Saturn sat near the Mother of the Gods,
In whose face was no joy, though all the Gods
Gave from their hollow throats the name of "Saturn!"
THUS in altemate uproar and sad peace,
Amazed were those Titans utterly.
O leave them, Muse! O leave them to their woes;
For thou art weak to sing such tumults dire:
A solitary sorrow best befits
Thy lips, and antheming a lonely grief.
Leave them, O Muse! for thou anon wilt find
Many a fallen old Divinity
Wandering in vain about bewildered shores.
Meantime touch piously the Delphic harp,
And not a wind of heaven but will breathe
In aid soft warble from the Dorian flute;
For lo! 'tis for the Father of all verse.
Flush everything that hath a vermeil hue,
Let the rose glow intense and warm the air,
And let the clouds of even and of morn
Float in voluptuous fleeces o'er the hills;
Let the red wine within the goblet boil,
Cold as a bubbling well; let faint-lipp'd shells,
On sands, or in great deeps, vermilion turn
Through all their labyrinths; and let the maid
Blush keenly, as with some warm kiss surpris'd.
Chief isle of the embowered Cyclades,
Rejoice, O Delos, with thine olives green,
And poplars, and lawn-shading palms, and beech,
In which the Zephyr breathes the loudest song,
And hazels thick, dark-stemm'd beneath the shade:
Apollo is once more the golden theme!
Where was he, when the Giant of the sun
Stood bright, amid the sorrow of his peers?
Together had he left his mother fair
And his twin-sister sleeping in their bower,
And in the morning twilight wandered forth
Beside the osiers of a rivulet,
Full ankle-deep in lilies of the vale.
The nightingale had ceas'd, and a few stars
Were lingering in the heavens, while the thrush
Began calm-throated. Throughout all the isle
There was no covert, no retired cave,
Unhaunted by the murmurous noise of waves,
Though scarcely heard in many a green recess.
He listen'd, and he wept, and his bright tears
Went trickling down the golden bow he held.
Thus with half-shut suffused eyes he stood,
While from beneath some cumbrous boughs hard by
With solemn step an awful Goddess came,
And there was purport in her looks for him,
Which he with eager guess began to read
Perplex'd, the while melodiously he said:
"How cam'st thou over the unfooted sea?
Or hath that antique mien and robed form
Mov'd in these vales invisible till now?
Sure I have heard those vestments sweeping o'er
The fallen leaves, when I have sat alone
In cool mid-forest. Surely I have traced
The rustle of those ample skirts about
These grassy solitudes, and seen the flowers
Lift up their heads, as still the whisper pass'd.
Goddess! I have beheld those eyes before,
And their eternal calm, and all that face,
Or I have dream'd."---"Yes," said the supreme shape,
"Thou hast dream'd of me; and awaking up
Didst find a lyre all golden by thy side,
Whose strings touch'd by thy fingers, all the vast
Unwearied ear of the whole universe
Listen'd in pain and pleasure at the birth
Of such new tuneful wonder. Is't not strange
That thou shouldst weep, so gifted? Tell me, youth,
What sorrow thou canst feel; for I am sad
When thou dost shed a tear: explain thy griefs
To one who in this lonely isle hath been
The watcher of thy sleep and hours of life,
From the young day when first thy infant hand
Pluck'd witless the weak flowers, till thine arm
Could bend that bow heroic to all times.
Show thy heart's secret to an ancient Power
Who hath forsaken old and sacred thrones
For prophecies of thee, and for the sake
Of loveliness new born."---Apollo then,
With sudden scrutiny and gloomless eyes,
Thus answer'd, while his white melodious throat
Throbb'd with the syllables.---"Mnemosyne!
Thy name is on my tongue, I know not how;
Why should I tell thee what thou so well seest?
Why should I strive to show what from thy lips
Would come no mystery? For me, dark, dark,
And painful vile oblivion seals my eyes:
I strive to search wherefore I am so sad,
Until a melancholy numbs my limbs;
And then upon the grass I sit, and moan,
Like one who once had wings.---O why should I
Feel curs'd and thwarted, when the liegeless air
Yields to my step aspirant? why should I
Spurn the green turf as hateful to my feet?
Goddess benign, point forth some unknown thing:
Are there not other regions than this isle?
What are the stars? There is the sun, the sun!
And the most patient brilliance of the moon!
And stars by thousands! Point me out the way
To any one particular beauteous star,
And I will flit into it with my lyre,
And make its silvery splendor pant with bliss.
I have heard the cloudy thunder: Where is power?
Whose hand, whose essence, what divinity
Makes this alarum in the elements,
While I here idle listen on the shores
In fearless yet in aching ignorance?
O tell me, lonely Goddess, by thy harp,
That waileth every morn and eventide,
Tell me why thus I rave about these groves!
Mute thou remainest---Mute! yet I can read
A wondrous lesson in thy silent face:
Knowledge enormous makes a God of me.
Names, deeds, gray legends, dire events, rebellions,
Majesties, sovran voices, agonies,
Creations and destroyings, all at once
Pour into the wide hollows of my brain,
And deify me, as if some blithe wine
Or bright elixir peerless I had drunk,
And so become immortal."---Thus the God,
While his enkindled eyes, with level glance
Beneath his white soft temples, steadfast kept
Trembling with light upon Mnemosyne.
Soon wild commotions shook him, and made flush
All the immortal fairness of his limbs;
Most like the struggle at the gate of death;
Or liker still to one who should take leave
Of pale immortal death, and with a pang
As hot as death's is chill, with fierce convulse
Die into life: so young Apollo anguish'd:
His very hair, his golden tresses famed,
Kept undulation round his eager neck.
During the pain Mnemosyne upheld
Her arms as one who prophesied. At length
Apollo shriek'd;---and lo! from all his limbs
Luce intellettual, piena d' amore
Lo, the spirit of a pulsing star within a stone
Born of earth, sprung from night!
Prisoned with the profound fires of the light
That lives like all the tongues of eloquence
Locked in a speech unknown!
The crystal, cold and hard as innocence,
Immures the flame; and yet as if it knew
Raptures or pangs it could not but betray,
As if the light could feel changes of blood and breath
And all--but--human quiverings of the sense,
Throbs of a sudden rose, a frosty blue,
Shoot thrilling in its ray,
Like the far longings of the intellect
Restless in clouding clay.
Who has confined the Light? Who has held it a slave,
Sold and bought, bought and sold?
Who has made of it a mystery to be doled,
Or trophy, to awe with legendary fire,
Where regal banners wave?
And still into the dark it sends Desire.
In the heart's darkness it sows cruelties.
The bright jewel becomes a beacon to the vile,
A lodestar to corruption, envy's own:
Soiled with blood, fought for, clutched at; this world's prize,
Captive Authority. Oh, the star is stone
To all that outward sight,
Yet still, like truth that none has ever used,
Lives lost in its own light.
Troubled I fly. O let me wander again at will
(Far from cries, far from these
Hard blindnesses and frozen certainties!)
Where life proceeds in vastness unaware
And stirs profound and still:
Where leafing thoughts at shy touch of the air
Tremble, and gleams come seeking to be mine,
Or dart, like suddenly remembered youth,
Like the ache of love, a light, lost, found, and lost again.
Surely in the dusk some messenger was there!
But, haunted in the heart, I thirst, I pine.--
Oh, how can truth be truth
Except I taste it close and sweet and sharp
As an apple to the tooth?
On a starr'd, a still mid--night
Lost I halted, lost I gazed about.
Great shapes of trees branched black into the sky:
There was no way but wandered into doubt;
There was no light
In the uncertain desert of dim air
But such as told me of all that was not I,--
Of powers absorbed, intent, and active without sound,
That rooted in their unimagined might,
Over me there ignoring towered and spread.
Homeless in my humanity, and drowned
In a dark world, I listened, all aware;
And that world drew me.
The shadowy crossing of the boughs above my head
Enmeshed me as with undecipherable spells:
The silence laid invisible hands upon my heart,
And the Night knew me.
She put not forth her full power, well I knew:
She only toyed
With reason, used to sunshine flatteries,
The praise of happy senses, trusted true,
And smile of stable Earth's affirming ease.
Yet even in this her ante--room I felt,
Near me, that void
Without foundation, roof, or bound, or end,
Where the eyes fast from their food, the heavenly light,
The untallied senses falter, being denied,
The mind into itself is pressed, is penned,
Even memoried glories of experience melt
Into one mapless, eyeless, elemental Night.
It was so near
That like a swimmer toiled in a full--streaming tide
Drawing him unawares down the unsounded seas,
My soul sank into fear.
O for one far beam of the absenting sun!
O for a voice to assure me, and to release
Out of this clutching silence! There is none:
Shadow on shadow, and stillness on stillness
Enclose me, and fasten round.
Is this a world which Day never has known?
A world made only of doubt and dream and dread?
Is this the interior Night of the dark human soul,
And the immaterial blackness branching from the ground
A fearful forest that itself has sown
Against the stars to tower,--
Stars that dispense their faint uncertain dole
Of light, that darkness may the more abound?
Whither am I come? Where have my wandered feet
Brought me on circling steps, led by what furtive power?
Alas! in this dumb gloom wherein my spirit gropes
Only myself I meet.
Only myself; but in what strange image
Encountered and phantasmally surprised!
This thing of stealth that rises from the shrouds of sleep,
I know it, I with shuddering guess presage
An enemy,--the native of the night
That in me was disguised.
Hollow--echoing caverns where blind rivers creep
With soundless motion; ice--cold, sudden breath
Of climbing cloud, at whose abstracting touch
The upholding rock seems baseless as the mist;
Black silence in the eagle's captive stare
Empty of all but the baulked lust of death,
Could not oppress so much.
Even that which in the dark brain says ``I am,''
Desperate in its faltering to persist,
Flickers like an expiring lamp's last leap of flame
To leave me I know not where.
Let not the beautiful world perish and cease!
My heart cries, freezing in its secret cells.
Let me not be extinguished in the abyss,
Losing the blessèd touch and taste of things,
Earth's heaven of hues and smells!
I am so far from worlds where any fountain springs,
Sunken into this placeless dungeon--dream,
That holds me without wall, or roof, or door.
The light is only legend: I begin
To give away my being like a stream
Wandering among unshapen shapes, that spin
A world of unintelligible dread;
And this world seeks me for its own!
All is dissolved, nothing has meaning more.
Each moment heaps an age of time above my head.
It is the very Mind of Darkness I am in,
Lost, and alone, alone!
The Forests of the Night awaken blind in heat
Of black stupor; and stirring in its deep retreat,
I hear the heart of Darkness slowly beat and beat.
As if Earth, shrouded dense in gloom,
Shuddered in her guilty womb;
As if a power from under earth
Would bring some monstrous spirit to birth;
As if a spirit ran pursued
And sobbing through the shadowy wood;
Ghostly throbs of sound begin
To circle from the distance in,
A phantom beating, dulled, remote,
With madness in its fever--note.
I know not what about me or what above me oppresses
The suffocating air; but fear within me guesses
A peopling of the caverned glooms, miasma--cold recesses.
Leaves depending still, still,
Bronzed to blackness, spill
Dead light from a sinking moon,
Wholly to be sunken soon,
Wandering down a desert coast
At the horizon's end, a lost
Eternal exile from the Day,
Whence she stole a perished ray
That falls from off those fingered fronds,
Black as vipers, cold as bronze.
O is it from my heart or from the darkness round,
The far reverberation, the dull throb of sound,
A pulse, a fearful pulse, in air or underground?
Closer, quicker, through the heat
Drones, insists, the incessant beat.
Round in shuddering circle comes
Beat on frenzied beat of drums,
Nearer in from every side
Thudding, madly multiplied,
To seize the heart and blind the brain
With a monotone insane.
Terrible, terrible in continuance,
It holds me fastened in a trance.
O for a spirit that is not mine, to bear
This weight of the unfathomable night!
O for a spirit of more than mortal might
To take upon him this my load
Of infinitely wide world--quivering fear!
O for a Demon or a God
In saving presence to appear!
What is it that my eyes amid the gloom divine
There in the furtive filterings of the ghast moonshine?
What bodies sway and cry and to the ground incline?
The fear that held me falls apart,
But leaves a horror in my heart.
Stony, stony, of blank stone,
Fixt on that secret altar--throne,
Inhuman human Shape, with hands on knees,
With remote stare that nothing, nothing sees,
Yet is a magnet to a thousand eyes,
A thousand forms that crouch, scenting the scent of blood,
Beat breasts and writhe before you with ejected cries,--
Unbrothered beast, abominable God!
Who made you, and shaped you into more than breath
Can give a will to? What power drove the hand
With terror strong as lust, to shape you there
Immovable as Death,
And carve the rock of darkness in the mind
To horrible resemblance of my kind?
Lost Light, sunken Light!
From what I am, save me!
The fever--beat of sound is in my veins.
I breathe the black, blood--smelling air.
The ecstasy of fear, the blind throb in the breast,
I share it, I must share.
It is not I, I cry;
Yet it is I.
These are the powers that crave me;
This is the full dominion of the Night.
The victims, ah, the victims shriek and die:
And on them the eternal Idol stares.
But they have made him incense of their prayers,
Voluptuously have knelt before their own
Black terror, bodied into stone.
Not the expiring cry
So lacerates my mind, while without end
Through ages up the altar--fumes ascend,
And fading into shadow, from their bodies rent,
Stream spirits without number to conceive,--
But this, O victims, this, that you consent,
That you believe!
They were all human. My heart falters: how
That infinite bond refuse?
Like last reverberations of a bell
That in their ebb and last expiry tell
Of stupefying clamour, when it heaved
And shook its tower to the foundation,--now
Whispers out of the dark accuse, accuse:
I have consented, I have believed.
There is singing of brooks in the shadow, and high in a stainless
Solitude of the East
Ineffable colour ascends like a spirit awaking:
Slowly Earth is released.
It is dawn, it is dawn, the light is budding and breaking.
Earth is released, flowing out from the void of the darkness
Into body and bloom;
Flowing out from the nameless immensity, night, where she waited
Myriad forms to resume,
Gloriously moulded, as if in her freshness created.
The lineaments of the hills, serene in their order,
Arise, and the trees
With their motionless fountains of foliage, perfect in slumber;
And by lovely degrees
The blades of the grass re--appear, minute without number.
The rounded rock glistens and warms, where the water slips by it,
Familiar of old.
The tree stretches up to the air its intimate branches
Bathing in gold;
And the dew--dazzle colours in fire the lichen it blanches.
Each is seen in its beauty of difference, deeply companioned,
Leaf, root, and the stone,
And drawn by the light from their dream in earth's prison, emerging
Distinct in their own
Form, from the formless a million natures are urging.
I see them, I know them, I name them, I share in their being;
I am not betrayed:
I feel in my fibre the touch of a spirit that knows me;
For this was I made;
In a world of delight and of wonder my senses enclose me.
Whence come they, the water--brooks? Out of the mountainous darkness,
Where no life is seen,
From caverns of night are they come, but because of their springing
Meadows laugh to be green;
And hearing the voice of their carol, the children go singing.
The children go singing, they read in the books of the Light
Things hidden from the sage.
Unschooled are their bodies, that run like a ripple and fear not
Coming of grief and age:
The sighs of the night, the doubt in the shadow, they hear not.
Lo, single mid grasses a flower upspringing before me
In delicate poise
Takes the light like a kiss from an innocent mouth, as it quivers
Confiding its joys
To the air, and my heart from its prison of self it delivers.
I stand in the dew and the radiance, my shadow behind me,
Lost out of thought.
The bright beams ascend, and ascending, from earth they uncover
The secret they sought.
Enter me; make me afresh, O Light, my lover!
Why are these beams so twined with sweetness and with pain,
Injury and anger, fear, and all desire,
Whose purity should stream through pulse and brain
Not thickened in dull fume or frayed with fire
But absolute and whole
Into the central soul
Disclouded from those lures and all their train,
Knowing what is and is not; white and bare
As the bathed body quit of day's disguise?
But the only truth is coloured with the secret stain
Of our mortality, that unaware
Infects the farthest vision of the eyes
And region of invisible thought: Vain, vain
That throbbing search! The Light
Is more profound, more secret than the Night.
Who has built an airy mansion for the unresting mind
To inhabit and rejoicing contemplate,--
A many--pillared universe, designed
In order clear, complete and intricate,
Intelligible wonder, not
Too vast to hold man's lot,--
But he has waked on some malignant morn to find
The certainty, too certain to be true,
Distasted, and that palace only a maze
Wherein he wanders and is still confined,
The pillars of it fallen, and no clue,
But through the ruin penetrates a blaze
Of glory beyond glory and of light behind
The light: and the strength fails in him; he knows
Himself lost in a world that overflows.
Yet no power stills the ache or stops the springing need.
The dark creative spiritual Desire
Seizes upon his heart which holds that seed
And straightway, till the last of breath expire,
Like tool upon the wheel
Sharpened the more to feel,
He counts all else waste,--honour, wealth, a weed:
The burden of the beauty is too great,
The eternal mystery in the heart a wound,
Until his vision in the end be freed,
Until he has spent his all to incarnate
An airy spirit upon earthly ground,--
Forms for a God to dwell in and exceed
This fading flesh. Alas! from godlike shapes
Some yet diviner essence still escapes.
O that the form which once kindled to ecstasy
The rapt gazer, and freed him, should become
A cold thing to appraise with leisure's eye,
A beauty disinherited and dumb!
Whither is the spirit flown
From the forsaken stone
That seemed our sunken selves to deify?
O that the thought, the word, which into the heart leapt
Pregnant with light and troubling even to tears,
Should fade and wither, should grow old and dry,
By repetition dulled upon the ears
Like cheapened courtesies the lips accept,
And falsehood, custom cares not to deny;
A scumm'd and stirless pool, a frozen rut,
A path deserted, a door shut.
But that the life should be less living than the dead,
This is the worst; that perfect form and word
Should perish of perfection, yet be fed
With incense still, and duteously adored;
A name prostrate the throng
The presence moved among
Unrecognized; neglected and forsaken bled!
Time's treachery sleeks and glozes to our use
The bright eternal bareness: dearer grows
To mortals what is mortal, comforted
Mid alteration rather to keep truce
With the ancestral darkness than oppose
Too arduous scrutiny: by dreams we are led
Content: to pleasure us, our truth decays.
The God departs, the Idol stays.
I have heard voices under the early stars
Where, among hills, the cold roads glimmer white,--
Voices of shadows passing, each to the other,
Clear in the airy stillness
Call their familiar greeting and Good--night.
Were they not come as guests to a remembered room,
Those words, surrounded by the befriending silence?
But words, ah, words--who can tell what they are made of,
Or how inscrutably shaped to colour and bloom?
Sharp odours they breathe, and bitter and sweet and strong,
Born from exultation, endurance, and desire;
Flying from mind to mind, to bud a thought again,
Spring, and in endless birth their wizard power prolong.
There was a voice on a sun--shafted stair
That sang; I heard it singing:
The very trees seemed listening to their roots
Out in the sunshine, and like drops in light
The words rained on the grasses greenly springing.
Ah, lovely living words, what have we done to you?
Each infant thought a soul exulting to be born
Into a body, a breath breathed from the lips, a word
Dancing, tingling, pulsing, a body fresh as dew!
Once in the bonds of use manacled and confined
How have we made you labour, thinned from beauty and strength,
Dulled with our dullness, starved to the apathy of a serf,
Outcast in streets, abandoned foundlings of the mind!
Yet once, in stillness of night's stillest hour,
Words from the page I read
Rose like a spirit to embrace my spirit.
Their radiant secret shook me: earth was new;
And I throbbed, like one wakened from the dead.
O swift words, words like flames, proud as a victor's eye,
Words armed and terrible, storming the heart, sending
Waves of love, and fear, and accusation over
Peoples,--kindling, changing! Alas, but can you die,
Hardened to wither round the thought wherein you grew?
Become as the blind leading with slow shuffle the blind,
Heavy like senseless stones the savage kneels before?
O shamed, O victim words, what have we done to you?
The Presses are awake. Under the midnight cloud,
Mid labyrinthine silence of the spectral streets,
Sound upon darkness beats,
A pulse, quivering aloud
Insanely, as if a fever throbbed in stone,
As if a demon plied in palpitating gloom
The hurry of his loom
To weave that tissue, white for an instant, then
Populated with words, shadows of thought and act,
Death, birth, fear, madness, joy, disaster, packed
Headlong into a medley, a monotone
Indifferently echoing alike
Laughter and the moan of men!
In the avaricious gloom a secret Ear
Sucks with a whirlpool greed out of the skies
Words, voiceless words, drawn in from far and near,
Bubble--blown rumour, whisperings like spies,
The knife--stab in the night, the fall of thrones,
Alarm of nations like a beating bell,
Jubilant feat, and misery grey,
Caught from all corners of the air pell--mell
In a voice that no man owns,
That a multitude of brazen masks shall shout
To the multitudes of Day.
The few stars, solitary in heights of night
Thieved by the cloud, shine and are dimmed again,
Though none puts out their light.
So solitary in the heart is pain,
Solitary the Dream,
Solitary the Vow, solitary the Deed!
There is no room for these
In that invisible cloud, woven of things that seem,
Sure of accepting softness and the greed
That it shall cling to and make cheaply wise,--
An all--uniting web of lies and of half--lies
And lying silences.
Into my ear, remote, remote, is blown
Out of the darkness and across the seas
Sound of a forest falling, young bodies of trees
One by one falling prone,
To be tamed to a helpless tissue, and to feed
The insatiate Presses' need.
Oh, did they spring to scent the blue silence of air
And sway slow to the wind, launching the light--winged birds?
Ghosts only are there,
The ghosts of trees that shoot no fresh leaf any more
But, drones of darkness, in the midnight bear
Black myriads of words.
Invisibly the night thickens with words that glide
Driven thronging on blind errands, soon to fall
Into a million minds, and glorified
To be their momentary oracle,
Glitter, and then--they are like the innumerable snow
Chance--timed, indifferent, random, swift and slow
That falls to a stillness out of whirling flurry;
And workers heavy--eyed
That under the chill cloud of morning hurry,
Muffled against the shiver in the blood,
Soil it at every stride,
Till each articulate crystal whiteness is confused,
And where the moment's wonder shone is mud,
Trodden, stale, and used.
Hewn and heavy, of granite hewn
Heavy and hard, the walls ascend
Bare, without measure to the eye:
Indifferent to night or noon,
Over pavement they impend.
Locked, impassive, huge, the Door
Stands caverned in the midst: on high,
Ruled and squared, the lintel stone
Bears the carven Janitor,
Justice, blind upon her throne.
Her no praying hands implore:
To her bound eyes no eyes plead.
Reason's idol, calm she sits,
Weighing only the gross deed,
Scrupulous with mind unsoiled
Not to know the thoughts that bleed
In the dumb soul, fluttering, beating
Hither, thither in its cage
Of ancestral ignorance foiled,
Rushing blinded into rage
And its own desire defeating.
Behind the door, within the wall
Locked, they sit, the numbered ones,
Secret from each other, all
Lost to name, like spectres passed
From the region of the sun's
Changeful glory on young limbs
Free to dance and free to leap.
From the acted thought they fast:
Them a roof of silence dims.
The midnight stars move over them;
They move not; but ruled times they keep
With the shadows on the floor.
They are mortised in a scheme,
Where the walls and fastened door,
Built of words that are become
Stones, are like their spirits dumb.
In ripened rustle of the corn
The wind becomes a flowing flame;
As swift it curves and slow relents
The body of a wave is born.
It passes--whither? No one knows;
But in the vision that consents
It is the beauty it became.
The wind blows and the spirit blows,
No moment ever yet the same,
And fresher than a sparkling spring
The unrepeated beauty flows;
And in the child that claps his hands
To see the daisy on the green,
And in the young man where he stands
Poised for the naked plunge; and in
The invisible bursting of the bud,
The leafing of the bough, that sends
Lightness like laughter through the blood
Of dancing girls, its wave is seen;
It flows and sings and never ends!
And flowers, trembling heavenly hues
In a lonely mountain place,
And chiming water's liquid curve,
The torrent's white, rock--ruffled race
Freed for splendour of its swerve,
And clouds that steal the solemn blues
Of noon, unregioned in their trace,
Or, ghostly travellers, invade
The mountains they dissolve in dream;
And mazes of the stars that fade
At dawn, still moving, lost in light;--
All, all the threads of music bind
Together in the visioned mind:
Eternity has imaged them.
O lovely is their secret Law
Timing all their motions true.
They know it not, yet they obey
Without thought and without awe,
Of that fountain unaware
Which they spring from and renew,
Finding out their missioned way,
Everywhere, oh, everywhere!
It is wild as a wild rose
And fearful as the weltering wave.
It is courage to the brave,
Wisdom to the eye that knows.
But we have bound it as with cords,
We have built it into stone,
All its motions frozen stark
Round a hidden human moan.
We have made it old and dark
Out of maiming thought and fears,
And the things our fears forbid,
Out of self--hurt and of rue.
We have built it into words,
And the words are stones! We did
What we could not help but do,--
We, the eternal Prisoners.
Break the word and free the thought!
Break the thought and free the thing!
But who in any net has caught
The wind, or in a sieve the spring?
As soon shall he dissever these,
Through which the life--blood single streams
From germ unknown to fruit unguessed,
Nourished with wonder and with dreams,
In its deep essence unpossessed
And smiling out of mysteries.
The flower is in the bud, the bud
Within the seed, beneath the ground.
But all is flowing of one flood
That is not seen, that is not bound.
This palace--prison of the mind
How in the youthful morn it glows!
Its windows flame with angel--light,
Auroral flushes of the rose,
And all the airs of heaven invite
With miracle of breathing blue
And shifting glory of sun and showers
To ecstasy and song,--and who
Remembers how therein confined
In sunken cells are captive powers,
Powers that a jailer fetters close
With chains of the invisible hours,
To one another hardly known
In furtive glimpse, and each alone?
O marvel of the world, O bright
And luminous palace, built to hold
The light of heaven within its walls
Precious with glory as of gold,
Why comes the night, why comes the night,
When, as about it the sky falls
Filled with the dark, it seems to stand
A dark tower in a lonely land!
In the wonder of dreams on a wave of the sky buoyed
My body was the body of a wish, the word of a thought
Uttered whole from a throb of the heart in a cry's delight.
Never bird out of Africa beating a golden void,
Shifting the coloured regions that Spring has caught,
Pursued the desire of its being in flight
Happier: Time an idle ruin gleamed
Where vision flamed or flowered or streamed.
Slow, slow the mind gropes back to curb and term
Of this strange world; to Time that's used, and all
The enclosing, age--descended ritual,
The invisible garment, cobweb--fine and firm,
Wherein the limbs move to the ancestral call,
And hands repeat what dead hands did before,
And the mind lingers as behind a door.
The hinted glory of liberty is fled,
And in its stead
Is only the shadow of Man's ancient nurse,
Dear Custom, at whose knees he learnt the ways
Of his uncounted tribe, schooled to rehearse
Cruelty and folly, and, ere he comprehend,
Make these his virtue, so to earn her praise.
Massive as mountain to his childish gaze
Is that unmoved authority of power,
His fibre trembles to offend.
And slow as the Earth is in her seasons, she
Befriends and punishes like sun and shower;
Well--used to tears and the heart--broken hour,
Smoulder of mutiny and anger, tamed in the end,
Indulgent of a laughter brief as those,
For all come back at night--fall to her knee,
When the old shadows descend.
With mutter upon her lips, with eyes half blind,
Buried mysteries she knows.
With dark fountains of ignorance in her mind,
How wise she seems, amassed in ancient certitudes!
Her silences, how comfortably kind!
The human slowly grows
Inhuman, where she broods.
And if a solitary spirit would wrest
His wrongs away from what so closely cleaves,
And break into the world that he believes,
Betrayers from within, crying Traitor! seek
To pull him back, securely weak,
In passiveness: he sucked it from her breast.
O away and away and afar from this alien home,
Where spirits are woven together in words of fear,
Released into innocence let me have being and breath!
But is it alone by mercy of dreams that I roam,
Liberated to joy's essential sphere,
In an antechamber of birth or beyond death?
All flushes around me and then dissolves away.
The heavenly dawning closes gray.
Once, only once, never again, never,
The idle curve my hand traces in air,
The first flush on the cloud, lost in the morning's height,
Meeting of the eyes and tremble of delight,
Before the heart is aware
Gone! to return, never again, never!
Futurity flows toward me, all things come
Smooth--flowing, and ere this pulse beat they are bound
In fixity that no repenting power can free;
They are with Egypt and with Nineveh,
Cold as a grave in the ground;
And still, undated, all things toward me come.
Why is all strange? Why do I not grow used?
The ripple upon the stream that nothing stays,
The bough above, in glory of warm light waving slow,
Trouble me, enchant me, as with the stream I flow
Lost into the endless days.
Why is all strange? Why do I not grow used?
Eternity! Where heard I that still word?
Like one that, moving through a foreign street,
Has felt upon him bent from far some earnest look,
Yet sees not whence, and feigns that he mistook,
I marvel at my own heart--beat.
Eternity! how learnt I that far word?
Not for pity and pardon, for Judgment now I cry!
To be seen, that I may see; known, that I may know,
For this I cry.
Dwelling among dear images dream--created,
Flattered or daunted by a deluding mirror
That is not I,--
O to taste the light as my body tastes the air,
Let fall defence, cast off the obstinately excusing
Pleas, and myself be my only vindication!
Nothing but this in the end can satisfy.
Why does this desire pursue me and so possess me?
Is not breath sweet, and the young smile of the morning?
Yet inly to know
That I am bound in a net of minutes and of hours,
Inheriting bondages of habit, and fear,
And ancient woe;
To be rooted so deep in lost ages of time,
With tendrils of hope and want and frail repining,
The ignorant accomplice of purposes abhorred:
This thought is my companion and my foe.
Sometimes to fly to some remoteness of the air
To perceive with different senses, a new body,
I pine and ache;
As on this bed of self, whereon I am bound, I toss
Day and night, filled with ineffectual longing
That bond to break.
O yet, enslaved, I know not to what I am enslaved:
Only this husk and shard of what I am, this fond
Dreamer of dreams, eater and drinker of untruth,
This only I know, and this cannot forsake.
Wondrous glories crowd into the eye's treasure--chamber,
Wondrous harmonies linger in the ear's recesses,
Stored for delight.
But beyond the ear's compass what modulations fine
Tremble, and what marvels unapprehended sparkle
Beyond the sight!
Oh, and beyond the mind's capacity of conceiving,
Much less of measuring, amplitudes of wisdom,
Fit to sustain eternal serenity and courage,
While we go clouded, faltering, finite!
Were I stationed in the sun, to behold the worlds
Not nightly in declension but in dance triumphant
And timeless rolled;
Had I the vision, closed to the eye's horizon,
Labyrinths of an unimagined minuteness
In the mind to hold;
Could I attain the greatest and assume the least,
Shrink to be a blade of the innumerable grass,
Soar eagle--winged amid the altitudes of noontide,
Then might I measure, and what I am behold.
But rained over with riches of hours and moments,
Meshing me as a lily, thick with honeyed light,
The drunken bee;
Intoxicated with wild sweetnesses of sense,
Fullness of the opened heart, glory of earth, and beauty
Roofed in a den I am, a poor captive rather
Who sits in fetters eyeing the barred, the precious blue,
Where high in the envied air a cloud lingers in light
And wings fly whither they desire to be.
Lying in the night I hear from graves unnumbered,
Under stars that have seen all history passing,
The indignant cry:
Must we only in effigy and phantom be remembered,
Malignly obscured or mocked with gilded pretences,
Wherefrom we fly?
Will none unwind these cerements? none lift up from us
This load of false praise and false fortune's betrayal?
Let us be known in nakedness of our nature!
Deliver us from dominion of the lie!
As if they wandered in deserts and groped in caves,
I hear the exclaiming of disenchanted spirits
In bitter lament
Beholding the barren things for which they wasted
The world, the pitiable causes whereon their breath
And blood were spent!
Was this the Light, this little candle at noon? This loathed
Cruelty, the righteousness for which they thirsted,
Sacrificing to invisible idols of the mind?
They see. But who hears? This world is content.
Perfect Experience! Is not the mind worthy
This, when for glimpses only and shining fragments
The martyrs bled?
Majesty and splendour of overcoming vision,
Vision all--judging, certain and universal,
Not this I dread,
But to remain banished into a parcelled being,
Eternized in all these faculties of error!
Better a perfect oblivion in Earth's vastness,
By that eternal ignorance comforted.
Yet does my heart not cease from its supplication,
Yet I remember and cannot be satisfied,
By Time oppressed.
And, as if summoned and drawn whither I know not,
Clinging into earth with strong fibres of nature,
In dark unrest
I burn like a seed that in burial forgotten
Pushes its hope up, growing in blind affiance
Toward the light shining over an unconceived world,
There to be lost, illumined and released.
In my dream there was a Door.
Dark on my musing path it stood
Before me, and straightway I knew
(The certainty ran through my blood)
That, did I open and pass through,
I should know all for evermore.
Those slow hinges, and that weight
Relenting on them, would unroll
The hidden map of all my fate
And all the world and the world's soul.
Who has trembled not at doors?
Motionless, they shake the heart.
Hope and menace on them hang:
They are the closed lips' counterpart
Wherein the sentence is concealed
For leaping joy or lancing pang.
Ah, what answer will they yield?
Will it be barren as the shores
That endless waves beat, like a knell
Slowly repeated to Time's end?
Or will it be the ineffable
Still radiance that shall all amend,
Melting out Time's ancient stain?
Will they open on sunrise
Everlasting, or will they
Close upon the light again,
Like eyelids closing over eyes
That see for the last time the day?
Is it not by such ancient dread
Inspired,--the warning doubt of what
Our prospering spirits has full--fed
With certainties by hope begot--
That on his progress proud we raise
For the returning conqueror
The arch, the immaterial door,
So he may pass, amid the blaze
And loud acclaim at glory's height,
Beneath a shadow of the night,
Where the hinted powers take toll
Of what is mortal in the soul?
O Door, like sealed fatal decree,
Image of death, image of birth,
Ever uncertain certainty!
O silence as of silent earth,
O silence into substance built,
O night projected into day,
O still unspoken Yea or Nay,
O brimming vessel still unspilt,
O end that meets us on the way!
What lies behind your blank accost?
Is it the treasure we have lost
And laboured wearily to recover?
Or something that we never knew,--
Another mind with other measures
Laughing to scorn our pangs and pleasures?
Is it at last the only true,
The unknown Love, the unknown Lover?
With all my soul at earnest gaze
Fixed upon that silent Door,
I stretched my hand the latch to raise,
I lifted up my hand, and then
Some power forbade me, and I forbore.
In the changes of my dream
I was borne to a far place
Empty and wide, and all a--gleam
With sunlit quivering of the grass.
There rose before me, vast and blind,
A towered prison, walled and old;
It seemed a prison--house so great
It could have held all human--kind.
In the midst there was a gate.
And as I dreamed my dream, behold
I saw the prisoners released.
The gates rolled back; and forth they came
Stumbling in the light that smote
Full on them from the dazzling East.
Like knives it stabbed them; like a flame
It seared them; with their hands they hid
Their faces, or as if by rote
Stretched out vain arms, to touch and feel
Familiar walls closing around;
Then, lacking fetters, halted lame
Waiting to do what they were bid.
Their helpless motions made as though
They would run back, or fall, or kneel
Or hide themselves beneath the ground.
This way and that they looked to go.
O never may I see again
Such looks of blank and empty pain!
They were looks of men betrayed
And of their naked souls afraid.
But some there were, a few, that stood
And stretched their arms up to the sun,
As if the light streamed through their blood,
As if their breath was now begun;
As if their spirits till then had slept,
As if they never yet had known
The world of life that was their own.
These it was, not those, who wept.
Was it for pity of all that sad
Throng, or the extreme joy they had?
O that on earth I could have sight
Of those faces, and that light!
I am laid within a place of summer leaves.
Solid boles mount through foliage out of sight.
No shadow lacks some intimacy of light,
No penetrating radiance but receives
Shadowy immersion. Dream
Is on me, is on the hushed, the thronged and drowsing glow.
Even the thoughts emerging from the mind,
Like voices in a sleeping city, seem
Reproved. This is old Earth, so old and kind,
That she is lenient in her overflow
To all things human. Why, why tease the sense
For a hope to a fear unmated?
Why rend the rich seam of experience?
Why toss upon thoughts frustrated?
Each way appears a closing avenue,
Leading, among warm scents, I know not where.
But Whither is to the idle mind no care,
For always there is fragrance of some clue
Neglected, that might guide
As in a trance the veiled soul to its unknown peace:
Peace such as comes like lips laid upon lips,
A brimmed oblivion of all else beside;
Like anchorage to tempest--blinded ships
When the thwart waves resign, and the winds cease.
Earth with warm arms embrace me, and let me feel,
Feel only, a wonder working,
Until the tender and still sense reveal
The secrets round me lurking.
Now might you come back, old divinities,
Earth--born, from cradling green and lost recess,
Serene in your unclouded nakedness,
To enrich the mirror of my musing eyes.
As fruit on the rough bough
Globes itself, the last golden glory of the tree,
Smooth from wild earth the human image rose;
And what diviner shape should hear the vow
Of mortals, or what else their secret knows,
Though past the ache of our mortality?
Shall I not sacrifice unrest and fume
On an altar here secluded?
Let the vext mind re--open like a bloom
Upon which the light has brooded?
Delay me from the sight that only sees!--
Frost of a dawn disclosing the world bare,
And, stript of splendour, all things as they are,
When stiffened grasses and stark branches freeze
And the mind shrinks apart
With all the living colours famished out of it.
O kindly mediation, interpose
Images of those forms that hold the heart,
Warm, wondrous forms whereinto the world flows
To bloom and to perfect them: O admit
Certitude to obscurity awhile,
As cloud in the light suspended.
Gracious is Earth; not far her secret smile:
And here is the soul befriended.
Only such sorrow as lingered in the gaze
Of Proserpine, returning from the dark,
Such tears as filled her, listening to the lark
And looking on the flower that springs and sways,--
All humanized for her
As even the shadows were, when she was throned in night;
No more than these, to enhance the glowing day
Shall enter where the green leaves are astir!
Shall I not be sufficed, and charm away
Perplexities to soft and shadowy flight?
Shall I not now--O whence is this breath come
Of Time in a stealing chillness?
Why cries my heart out? Why are all things dumb,
And strange, strange the stillness?
Whisper to me, whisper! I have listened and have not heard.
Whisper to me, you leaves; have you not more to say?
Now at the ebb of the low evening ray
Whisper some word left over from the day,
The one word, the lost word!--
So I cried; and then was stilled.
For suddenly, unsought, unwilled,
I knew not how, I knew not whence,
There came a lightening of the sense;
I found an answer from within,
That made me to the stars akin;
My pulse obeyed the lovely Law;
With ears I heard, with eyes I saw;
And one leaf, veined with green, indwelling light
Seemed the world's secret and absorbed me quite.
Eternity through a moment
Sparkled; I could not turn away my sight.
What thing, long contemplated, alters not
Its seeming substance, as the deepening mind
By contemplation passes out of thought,
Immenser worlds to find?
The Mother as she clasps her infant boy,
Bent over him with the deep looks of joy,
Becomes her own hope; oh, she stays
Not with the idol of her gaze,
But she is gone beyond her farthest prayer
And Time's last injury, to meet him there.
All that distracts him from her bosom now,--
White butterflies, a waving bough--
Presages the usurping world: she grows
To something more than fear and hope forebode,
Wide as the sky. He goes
Out of her heart's possession;
Yet in her arms he lies, that stranger and that God.
Free on its wings the mind can hover, worlds away,
To where the vast Atlantic stream
Dwindles to a watery gleam,
And like a star in bright noonday
The body's home is lost.
The mind can tell me that these mossed
Gray boulders in green shadow deep,
Appearing sunk and socketed in sleep,
Beneath their image of repose
Are all a dizzy motion whirled,
A streaming dust our sight so gross
Confuses to a solid world.
Never mortal eye has seen
Those minim motes, no thought can lodge between,
So restless in their secret fever
They dance invisibly for ever.
Alone the soul has knowledge of release;
Only in the soul is stillness,
Poised to receive a universe in peace.
Only in the soul is stillness! I remember an hour,--
It was the May--month and wild throats were singing
From bough to bough that breathed in bud and flower,
And the full grass was springing
Beneath an old gray tower--
I remember those blue, scented airs,
And how I came at unawares
Beside the daisied border of a mead
Upon a pool so magically clear,
It made each coloured pebble and furry weed
And star--grained sand within its depth appear
Like things of Paradise, unearthly bright;--
No surface seemed to intervene
Fairy floor and eye between,
Save for a traceless quivering of the light,
Gentle as breathing sleep, where stole
Up from its pregnant darkness
The living spring, as private as the soul.
Love from its inward well, a secret wonder, arising
Clear as the trembling water--spring,
A spirit that knows not anything,
Simple in the world and nought despising,
Changes all it meets,--the stone
Becomes a gem, the weed a rose;
But oh, within itself it grows
By all it touches, all it makes its own,
Vast and multitudinous, a Power
To act, to kindle and to dower
In pain's and fear's despite
With glory of unending light.
O fountain in my heart, I feel you now
Full and resistless, so I nothing scorn.
How could I lose you, how
Ever for an hour forget you?
This is the world whereinto I was born.
Why did I tread long roads, seeking, seeking in vain?
Why did I make lament of the dark night?
Why crouch with images of old affright?
Eternal Moment, hold me again, again,
Bathe me in wells of light!
It is now and it is here
The something beyond all things dear,
The miracle that has no name!
When I am not, then I am:
Having nothing, I have all.
It was my hands that built my prison--wall,
It was my thought that did my thought confine,
It was my heart refrained my heart from love.
Now I am stilled as in a gaze divine,
Now I flow upward from my secret well,
Now I behold what spirit I am of.
The Body is the Word; nothing divides
This blood and breath from thought ineffable.
Hold me, Eternal Moment!
The Idols fade: the God abides.
Pharsalia - Book VI: The Fight Near Dyrhachium. Scaeva's Exploits. The Witch Of Thessalia.
Now that the chiefs with minds intent on fight
Had drawn their armies near upon the hills
And all the gods beheld their chosen pair,
Caesar, the Grecian towns despising, scorned
To reap the glory of successful war
Save at his kinsman's cost. In all his prayers
He seeks that moment, fatal to the world,
When shall be cast the die, to win or lose,
And all his fortune hang upon the throw.
Thrice he drew out his troops, his eagles thrice,
Demanding battle; thus to increase the woe
Of Latium, prompt as ever: but his foes,
Proof against every art, refused to leave
The rampart of their camp. Then marching swift
By hidden path between the wooded fields
He seeks, and hopes to seize, Dyrrhachium's fort;
But Magnus, speeding by the ocean marge,
First camped on Petra's slopes, a rocky hill
Thus by the natives named. From thence he keeps
Watch o'er the fortress of Corinthian birth
Which by its towers alone without a guard
Was safe against a siege. No hand of man
In ancient days built up her lofty wall,
No hammer rang upon her massive stones:
Not all the works of war, nor Time himself
Shall undermine her. Nature's hand has raised
Her adamantine rocks and hedged her in
With bulwarks girded by the foamy main:
And but for one short bridge of narrow earth
Dyrrhachium were an island. Steep and fierce,
Dreaded of sailors, are the cliffs that bear
Her walls; and tempests, howling from the west,
Toss up the raging main upon the roofs;
And homes and temples tremble at the shock.
Thirsting for battle and with hopes inflamed
Here Caesar hastes, with distant rampart lines
Seeking unseen to coop his foe within,
Though spread in spacious camp upon the hills.
With eagle eye he measures out the land
Meet to be compassed, nor content with turf
Fit for a hasty mound, he bids his troops
Tear from the quarries many a giant rock:
And spoils the dwellings of the Greeks, and drags
Their walls asunder for his own. Thus rose
A mighty barrier which no ram could burst
Nor any ponderous machine of war.
Mountains are cleft, and level through the hills
The work of Caesar strides: wide yawns the moat,
Forts show their towers rising on the heights,
And in vast circle forests are enclosed
And groves and spacious lands, and beasts of prey,
As in a line of toils. Pompeius lacked
Nor field nor forage in th' encircled span
Nor room to move his camp; nay, rivers rose
Within, and ran their course and reached the sea;
And Caesar wearied ere he saw the whole,
And daylight failed him. Let the ancient tale
Attribute to the labours of the gods
The walls of Ilium: let the fragile bricks
Which compass in great Babylon, amaze
The fleeting Parthian. Here a larger space
Than those great cities which Orontes swift
And Tigris' stream enclose, or that which boasts
In Eastern climes, the lordly palaces
Fit for Assyria's kings, is closed by walls
Amid the haste and tumult of a war
Forced to completion. Yet this labour huge
Was spent in vain. So many hands had joined
Or Sestos with Abydos, or had tamed
With mighty mole the Hellespontine wave,
Or Corinth from the realm of Pelops' king
Had rent asunder, or had spared each ship
Her voyage round the long Malean cape,
Or had done anything most hard, to change
The world's created surface. Here the war
Was prisoned: blood predestinate to flow
In all the parts of earth; the host foredoomed
To fall in Libya or in Thessaly
Was here: in such small amphitheatre
The tide of civil passion rose and fell.
At first Pompeius knew not: so the hind
Who peaceful tills the mid-Sicilian fields
Hears not Pelorous sounding to the storm;
So billows thunder on Rutupian shores ,
Unheard by distant Caledonia's tribes.
But when he saw the mighty barrier stretch
O'er hill and valley, and enclose the land,
He bade his columns leave their rocky hold
And seize on posts of vantage in the plain;
Thus forcing Caesar to extend his troops
On wider lines; and holding for his own
Such space encompassed as divides from Rome
Aricia, sacred to that goddess chaste
Of old Mycenae; or as Tiber holds
From Rome's high ramparts to the Tuscan sea,
Unless he deviate. No bugle call
Commands an onset, and the darts that fly
Fly though forbidden; but the arm that flings
For proof the lance, at random, here and there
Deals impious slaughter. Weighty care compelled
Each leader to withhold his troops from fight;
For there the weary earth of produce failed
Pressed by Pompeius' steeds, whose horny hoofs
Rang in their gallop on the grassy fields
And killed the succulence. They strengthless lay
Upon the mown expanse, nor pile of straw,
Brought from full barns in place of living grass,
Relieved their craving; shook their panting flanks,
And as they wheeled Death struck his victim down.
Then foul contagion filled the murky air
Whose poisonous weight pressed on them in a cloud
Pestiferous; as in Nesis' isle the breath
Of Styx rolls upwards from the mist-clad rocks;
Or that fell vapour which the caves exhale
From Typhon raging in the depths below.
Then died the soldiers, for the streams they drank
Held yet more poison than the air: the skin
Was dark and rigid, and the fiery plague
Made hard their vitals, and with pitiless tooth
Gnawed at their wasted features, while their eyes
Started from out their sockets, and the head
Drooped for sheer weariness. So the disease
Grew swifter in its strides till scarce was room,
'Twixt life and death, for sickness, and the pest
Slew as it struck its victim, and the dead
Thrust from the tents (such all their burial) lay
Blent with the living. Yet their camp was pitched
Hard by the breezy sea by which might come
All nations' harvests, and the northern wind
Not seldom rolled the murky air away.
Their foe, not vexed with pestilential air
Nor stagnant waters, ample range enjoyed
Upon the spacious uplands: yet as though
In leaguer, famine seized them for its prey.
Scarce were the crops half grown when Caesar saw
How prone they seized upon the food of beasts,
And stripped of leaves the bushes and the groves,
And dragged from roots unknown the doubtful herb.
Thus ate they, starving, all that teeth may bite
Or fire might soften, or might pass their throats
Dry, parched, abraded; food unknown before
Nor placed on tables: while the leaguered foe
Was blessed with plenty.
When Pompeius first
Was pleased to break his bonds and be at large,
No sudden dash he makes on sleeping foe
Unarmed in shade of night; his mighty soul
Scorns such a path to victory. 'Twas his aim,
To lay the turrets low; to mark his track,
By ruin spread afar; and with the sword
To hew a path between his slaughtered foes.
Minucius' turret was the chosen spot
Where groves of trees and thickets gave approach
Safe, unbetrayed by dust.
Up from the fields
Flashed all at once his eagles into sight
And all his trumpets blared. But ere the sword
Could win the battle, on the hostile ranks
Dread panic fell; prone as in death they lay
Where else upright they should withstand the foe;
Nor more availed their valour, and in vain
The cloud of weapons flew, with none to slay.
Then blazing torches rolling pitchy flame
Are hurled, and shaken nod the lofty towers
And threaten ruin, and the bastions groan
Struck by the frequent engine, and the troops
Of Magnus by triumphant eagles led
Stride o'er the rampart, in their front the world.
Yet now that passage which not Caesar's self
Nor thousand valiant squadrons had availed
To rescue from their grasp, one man in arms
Steadfast till death refused them; Scaeva named
This hero soldier: long he served in fight
Waged 'gainst the savage on the banks of Rhone;
And now centurion made, through deeds of blood,
He bore the staff before the marshalled line.
Prone to all wickedness, he little recked
How valourous deeds in civil war may be
Greatest of crimes; and when he saw how turned
His comrades from the war and sought in flight
A refuge, 'Whence,' he cried, 'this impious fear
Unknown to Caesar's armies? Do ye turn
Your backs on death, and are ye not ashamed
Not to be found where slaughtered heroes lie?
Is loyalty too weak? Yet love of fight
Might bid you stand. We are the chosen few
Through whom the foe would break. Unbought by blood
This day shall not be theirs. 'Neath Caesar's eye,
True, death would be more happy; but this boon
Fortune denies: at least my fall shall be
Praised by Pompeius. Break ye with your breasts
Their weapons; blunt the edges of their swords
With throats unyielding. In the distant lines
The dust is seen already, and the sound
Of tumult and of ruin finds the ear
Of Caesar: strike; the victory is ours:
For he shall come who while his soldiers die
Shall make the fortress his.' His voice called forth
The courage that the trumpets failed to rouse
When first they rang: his comrades mustering come
To watch his deeds; and, wondering at the man,
To test if valour thus by foes oppressed,
In narrow space, could hope for aught but death.
But Scaeva standing on the tottering bank
Heaves from the brimming turret on the foe
The corpses of the fallen; the ruined mass
Furnishing weapons to his hands; with beams,
And ponderous stones, nay, with his body threats
His enemies; with poles and stakes he thrusts
The breasts advancing; when they grasp the wall
He lops the arm: rocks crush the foeman's skull
And rive the scalp asunder: fiery bolts
Dashed at another set his hair aflame,
Till rolls the greedy blaze about his eyes
With hideous crackle. As the pile of slain
Rose to the summit of the wall he sprang,
Swift as across the nets a hunted pard,
Above the swords upraised, till in mid throng
Of foes he stood, hemmed in by densest ranks
And ramparted by war; in front and rear,
Where'er he struck, the victor. Now his sword
Blunted with gore congealed no more could wound,
But brake the stricken limb; while every hand
Flung every quivering dart at him alone;
Nor missed their aim, for rang against his shield
Dart after dart unerring, and his helm
In broken fragments pressed upon his brow;
His vital parts were safeguarded by spears
That bristled in his body. Fortune saw
Thus waged a novel combat, for there warred
Against one man an army. Why with darts,
Madmen, assail him and with slender shafts,
'Gainst which his life is proof? Or ponderous stones
This warrior chief shall overwhelm, or bolts
Flung by the twisted thongs of mighty slings.
Let steelshod ram or catapult remove
This champion of the gate. No fragile wall
Stands here for Caesar, blocking with its bulk
Pompeius' way to freedom. Now he trusts
His shield no more, lest his sinister hand,
Idle, give life by shame; and on his breast
Bearing a forest of spears, though spent with toil
And worn with onset, falls upon his foe
And braves alone the wounds of all the war.
Thus may an elephant in Afric wastes,
Oppressed by frequent darts, break those that fall
Rebounding from his horny hide, and shake
Those that find lodgment, while his life within
Lies safe, protected, nor doth spear avail
To reach the fount of blood. Unnumbered wounds
By arrow dealt, or lance, thus fail to slay
This single warrior. But lo! from far
A Cretan archer's shaft, more sure of aim
Than vows could hope for, strikes on Scaeva's brow
To light within his eye: the hero tugs
Intrepid, bursts the nerves, and tears the shaft
Forth with the eyeball, and with dauntless heel
Treads them to dust. Not otherwise a bear
Pannonian, fiercer for the wound received,
Maddened by dart from Libyan thong propelled,
Turns circling on her wound, and still pursues
The weapon fleeing as she whirls around.
Thus, in his rage destroyed, his shapeless face
Stood foul with crimson flow. The victors' shout
Glad to the sky arose; no greater joy
A little blood could give them had they seen
That Caesar's self was wounded. Down he pressed
Deep in his soul the anguish, and, with mien,
No longer bent on fight, submissive cried,
'Spare me, ye citizens; remove the war
Far hence: no weapons now can haste my death;
Draw from my breast the darts, but add no more.
Yet raise me up to place me in the camp
Of Magnus, living: this your gift to him;
No brave man's death my title to renown,
But Caesar's flag deserted.' So he spake.
Unhappy Aulus thought his words were true,
Nor saw within his hand the pointed sword;
And leaping forth in haste to make his own
The prisoner and his arms, in middle throat
Received the lightning blade. By this one death
Rose Scaeva's valour again; and thus he cried,
Such be the punishment of all who thought
Great Scaeva vanquished; if Pompeius seeks
Peace from this reeking sword, low let him lay
At Caesar's feet his standards. Me do ye think
Such as yourselves, and slow to meet the fates?
Your love for Magnus and the Senate's cause
Is less than mine for death.' These were his words;
And dust in columns proved that Caesar came.
Thus was Pompeius' glory spared the stain
Of flight compelled by Scaeva. He, when ceased
The battle, fell, no more by rage of fight,
Or sight of blood out-pouring from his wounds,
Roused to the combat. Fainting there he lay
Upon the shoulders of his comrades borne,
Who him adoring (as though deity
Dwelt in his bosom) for his matchless deeds,
Plucked forth the gory shafts and took his arms
To deck the gods and shield the breast of Mars.
Thrice happy thou with such a name achieved,
Had but the fierce Iberian from thy sword,
Or heavy shielded Teuton, or had fled
The light Cantabrian: with no spoils shalt thou
Adorn the Thunderer's temple, nor upraise
The shout of triumph in the ways of Rome.
For all thy prowess, all thy deeds of pride
Do but prepare her lord.
Nor on this hand
Repulsed, Pompeius idly ceased from war,
Content within his bars; but as the sea
Tireless, which tempests force upon the crag
That breaks it, or which gnaws a mountain side
Some day to fall in ruin on itself;
He sought the turrets nearest to the main,
On double onset bent; nor closely kept
His troops in hand, but on the spacious plain
Spread forth his camp. They joyful leave the tents
And wander at their will. Thus Padus flows
In brimming flood, and foaming at his bounds,
Making whole districts quake; and should the bank
Fail 'neath his swollen waters, all his stream
Breaks forth in swirling eddies over fields
Not his before; some lands are lost, the rest
Gain from his bounty.
Hardly from his tower
Had Caesar seen the fire or known the fight:
And coming found the rampart overthrown,
The dust no longer stirred, the rains cold
As from a battle done. The peace that reigned
There and on Magnus' side, as though men slept,
Their victory won, aroused his angry soul.
Quick he prepares, so that he end their joy
Careless of slaughter or defeat, to rush
With threatening columns on Torquatus' post.
But swift as sailor, by his trembling mast
Warned of Circeian tempest, furls his sails,
So swift Torquatus saw, and prompt to wage
The war more closely, he withdrew his men
Within a narrower wall.
Now past the trench
Were Caesar's companies, when from the hills
Pompeius hurled his host upon their ranks
Shut in, and hampered. Not so much o'erwhelmed
As Caesar's soldiers is the hind who dwells
On Etna's slopes, when blows the southern wind,
And all the mountain pours its cauldrons forth
Upon the vale; and huge Enceladus
Writhing beneath his load spouts o'er the plains
A blazing torrent.
Blinded by the dust,
Encircled, vanquished, ere the fight, they fled
In cloud of terror on their rearward foe,
So rushing on their fates. Thus had the war
Shed its last drop of blood and peace ensued,
But Magnus suffered not, and held his troops.
Back from the battle.
Thou, oh Rome, had'st been
Free, happy, mistress of thy laws and rights
Were Sulla here. Now shalt thou ever grieve
That in his crowning crime, to have met in fight
A pious kinsman, Caesar's vantage lay.
Oh tragic destiny! Nor Munda's fight
Hispania had wept, nor Libya mourned
Encrimsoned Utica, nor Nilus' stream,
With blood unspeakable polluted, borne
A nobler corse than her Egyptian kings:
Nor Juba lain unburied on the sands,
Nor Scipio with his blood outpoured appeased
The ghosts of Carthage; nor the blameless life
Of Cato ended: and Pharsalia's name
Had then been blotted from the book of fate.
But Caesar left the region where his arms
Had found the deities averse, and marched
His shattered columns to Thessalian lands.
Then to Pompeius came (whose mind was bent
To follow Caesar wheresoe'er he fled)
His captains, striving to persuade their chief
To seek Ausonia, his native land,
Now freed from foes. 'Ne'er will I pass,' he said,
'My country's limit, nor revisit Rome
Like Caesar, at the head of banded hosts.
Hesperia when the war began was mine;
Mine, had I chosen in our country's shrines,
In midmost forum of her capital,
To join the battle. So that banished far
Be war from Rome, I'll cross the torrid zone
Or those for ever frozen Scythian shores.
What! shall my victory rob thee of the peace
I gave thee by my flight? Rather than thou
Should'st feel the evils of this impious war,
Let Caesar deem thee his.' Thus said, his course
He turned towards the rising of the sun,
And following devious paths, through forests wide,
Made for Emathia, the land by fate
Foredoomed to see the issue.
Thessalia on that side where Titan first
Raises the wintry day, by Ossa's rocks
Is prisoned in: but in th' advancing year
When higher in the vault his chariot rides
'Tis Pelion that meets the morning rays.
And when beside the Lion's flames he drives
The middle course, Othrys with woody top
Screens his chief ardour. On the hither side
Pindus receives the breezes of the west
And as the evening falls brings darkness in.
There too Olympus, at whose foot who dwells
Nor fears the north nor sees the shining bear.
Between these mountains hemmed, in ancient time
The fields were marsh, for Tempe's pass not yet
Was cleft, to give an exit to the streams
That filled the plain: but when Alcides' hand
Smote Ossa from Olympus at a blow,
And Nereus wondered at the sudden flood
Of waters to the main, then on the shore
(Would it had slept for ever 'neath the deep)
Seaborn Achilles' home Pharsalus rose;
And Phylace whence sailed that ship of old
Whose keel first touched upon the beach of Troy;
And Dorion mournful for the Muses' ire
On Thamyris vanquished: Trachis; Melibe
Strong in the shafts of Hercules, the price
Of that most awful torch; Larissa's hold
Potent of yore; and Argos, famous erst,
O'er which men pass the ploughshare: and the spot
Fabled as Echionian Thebes, where once
Agave bore in exile to the pyre
(Grieving 'twas all she had) the head and neck
Of Pentheus massacred. The lake set free
Flowed forth in many rivers: to the west
Aeas, a gentle stream; nor stronger flows
The sire of Isis ravished from his arms;
And Achelous, rival for the hand
Of Oeneus' daughter, rolls his earthy flood
To silt the shore beside the neighbouring isles.
Evenus purpled by the Centaur's blood
Wanders through Calydon: in the Malian Gulf
Thy rapids fall, Spercheius: pure the wave
With which Amphrysos irrigates the meads
Where once Apollo served: Anaurus flows
Breathing no vapour forth; no humid air
Ripples his face: and whatever stream,
Nameless itself, to Ocean gives its waves
Through thee, Peneus: whirled in eddies foams
Apidanus; Enipeus lingers on
Swift only when fresh streams his volume swell:
And thus Asopus takes his ordered course,
Phoenix and Melas; but Eurotas keeps
His stream aloof from that with which he flows,
Peneus, gliding on his top as though
Upon the channel. Fable says that, sprung
From darkest pools of Styx, with common floods
He scorns to mingle, mindful of his source,
So that the gods above may fear him still.
Soon as were sped the rivers, Boebian ploughs
Dark with its riches broke the virgin soil;
Then came Lelegians to press the share,
And Dolopes and sons of Oeolus
By whom the glebe was furrowed. Steed-renowned
Magnetians dwelt there, and the Minyan race
Who smote the sounding billows with the oar.
There in the cavern from the pregnant cloud
Ixion's sons found birth, the Centaur brood
Half beast, half human: Monychus who broke
The stubborn rocks of Pholoe, Rhoetus fierce
Hurling from Oeta's top gigantic elms
Which northern storms could hardly overturn;
Pholus, Alcides' host: Nessus who bore
The Queen across Evenus' waves, to feel
The deadly arrow for his shameful deed;
And aged Chiron who with wintry star
Against the huger Scorpion draws his bow.
Here sparkled on the land the warrior seed;
Here leaped the charger from Thessalian rocks
Struck by the trident of the Ocean King,
Omen of dreadful war; here first he learned,
Champing the bit and foaming at the curb,
Yet to obey his lord. From yonder shore
The keel of pine first floated, and bore men
To dare the perilous chance of seas unknown:
And here Ionus ruler of the land
First from the furnace molten masses drew
Of iron and brass; here first the hammer fell
To weld them, shapeless; here in glowing stream
Ran silver forth and gold, soon to receive
The minting stamp. 'Twas thus that money came
Whereby men count their riches, cause accursed
Of warfare. Hence came down that Python huge
On Cirrha: hence the laurel wreath which crowns
The Pythian victor: here Aloeus' sons
Gigantic rose against the gods, what time
Pelion had almost touched the stars supreme,
And Ossa's loftier peak amid the sky
Opposing, barred the constellations' way.
When in this fated land the chiefs had placed
Their several camps, foreboding of the end
Now fast approaching, all men's thoughts were turned
Upon the final issue of the war.
And as the hour drew near, the coward minds
Trembling beneath the shadow of the fate
Now hanging o'er them, deemed disaster near:
While some took heart; yet doubted what might fall,
In hope and fear alternate. 'Mid the throng
Sextus, unworthy son of worthy sire
Who soon upon the waves that Scylla guards,
Sicilian pirate, exile from his home,
Stained by his deeds of shame the fights he won,
Could bear delay no more; his feeble soul,
Sick of uncertain fate, by fear compelled,
Forecast the future: yet consulted not
The shrine of Delos nor the Pythian caves;
Nor was he satisfied to learn the sound
Of Jove's brass cauldron, 'mid Dodona's oaks,
By her primaeval fruits the nurse of men:
Nor sought he sages who by flight of birds,
Or watching with Assyrian care the stars
And fires of heaven, or by victims slain,
May know the fates to come; nor any source
Lawful though secret. For to him was known
That which excites the hate of gods above;
Magicians' lore, the savage creed of Dis
And all the shades; and sad with gloomy rites
Mysterious altars. For his frenzied soul
Heaven knew too little. And the spot itself
Kindled his madness, for hard by there dwelt
The brood of Haemon whom no storied witch
Of fiction e'er transcended; all their art
In things most strange and most incredible;
There were Thessalian rocks with deadly herbs
Thick planted, sensible to magic chants,
Funereal, secret: and the land was full
Of violence to the gods: the Queenly guest
From Colchis gathered here the fatal roots
That were not in her store: hence vain to heaven
Rise impious incantations, all unheard;
For deaf the ears divine: save for one voice
Which penetrates the furthest depths of airs
Compelling e'en th' unwilling deities
To hearken to its accents. Not the care
Of the revolving sky or starry pole
Can call them from it ever. Once the sound
Of those dread tones unspeakable has reached
The constellations, then nor Babylon
Nor secret Memphis, though they open wide
The shrines of ancient magic and entreat
The gods, could draw them from the fires that smoke
Upon the altars of far Thessaly.
To hearts of flint those incantations bring
Love, strange, unnatural; the old man's breast
Burns with illicit fire. Nor lies the power
In harmful cup nor in the juicy pledge
Of love maternal from the forehead drawn;
Charmed forth by spells alone the mind decays,
By poisonous drugs unharmed. With woven threads
Crossed in mysterious fashion do they bind
Those whom no passion born of beauteous form
Or loving couch unites. All things on earth
Change at their bidding; night usurps the day;
The heavens disobey their wonted laws;
At that dread hymn the Universe stands still;
And Jove while urging the revolving wheels
Wonders they move not. Torrents are outpoured
Beneath a burning sun; and thunder roars
Uncaused by Jupiter. From their flowing locks
Vapours immense shall issue at their call;
When falls the tempest seas shall rise and foam
Moved by their spell; though powerless the breeze
To raise the billows. Ships against the wind
With bellying sails move onward. From the rock
Hangs motionless the torrent: rivers run
Uphill; the summer heat no longer swells
Nile in his course; Maeander's stream is straight;
Slow Rhone is quickened by the rush of Saone;
Hills dip their heads and topple to the plain;
Olympus sees his clouds drift overhead;
And sunless Scythia's sempiternal snows
Melt in mid-winter; the inflowing tides
Driven onward by the moon, at that dread chant
Ebb from their course; earth's axes, else unmoved,
Have trembled, and the force centripetal
Has tottered, and the earth's compacted frame
Struck by their voice has gaped, till through the void
Men saw the moving sky. All beasts most fierce
And savage fear them, yet with deadly aid
Furnish the witches' arts. Tigers athirst
For blood, and noble lions on them fawn
With bland caresses: serpents at their word
Uncoil their circles, and extended glide
Along the surface of the frosty field;
The viper's severed body joins anew;
And dies the snake by human venom slain.
Whence comes this labour on the gods, compelled
To hearken to the magic chant and spells,
Nor daring to despise them? Doth some bond
Control the deities? Is their pleasure so,
Or must they listen? and have silent threats
Prevailed, or piety unseen received
So great a guerdon? Against all the gods
Is this their influence, or on one alone
Who to his will constrains the universe,
Himself constrained? Stars most in yonder clime
Shoot headlong from the zenith; and the moon
Gliding serene upon her nightly course
Is shorn of lustre by their poisonous chant,
Dimmed by dark earthly fires, as though our orb
Shadowed her brother's radiance and barred
The light bestowed by heaven; nor freshly shines
Until descending nearer to the earth
She sheds her baneful drops upon the mead.
These sinful rites and these her sister's songs
Abhorred Erichtho, fiercest of the race,
Spurned for their piety, and yet viler art
Practised in novel form. To her no home
Beneath a sheltering roof her direful head
Thus to lay down were crime: deserted tombs
Her dwelling-place, from which, darling of hell,
She dragged the dead. Nor life nor gods forbad
But that she knew the secret homes of Styx
And learned to hear the whispered voice of ghosts
At dread mysterious meetings. Never sun
Shed his pure light upon that haggard cheek
Pale with the pallor of the shades, nor looked
Upon those locks unkempt that crowned her brow.
In starless nights of tempest crept the hag
Out from her tomb to seize the levin bolt;
Treading the harvest with accursed foot
She burned the fruitful growth, and with her breath
Poisoned the air else pure. No prayer she breathed
Nor supplication to the gods for help
Nor knew the pulse of entrails as do men
Who worship. Funeral pyres she loves to light
And snatch the incense from the flaming tomb.
The gods at her first utterance grant her prayer
For things unlawful, lest they hear again
Its fearful accents: men whose limbs were quick
With vital power she thrust within the grave
Despite the fates who owed them years to come:
The funeral reversed brought from the tomb
Those who were dead no longer; and the pyre
Yields to her shameless clutch still smoking dust
And bones enkindled, and the torch which held
Some grieving sire but now, with fragments mixed
In sable smoke and ceremental cloths
Singed with the redolent fire that burned the dead.
But those who lie within a stony cell
Untouched by fire, whose dried and mummied frames
No longer know corruption, limb by limb
Venting her rage she tears, the bloodless eyes
Drags from their cavities, and mauls the nail
Upon the withered hand: she gnaws the noose
By which some wretch has died, and from the tree
Drags down a pendent corpse, its members torn
Asunder to the winds: forth from the palms
Wrenches the iron, and from the unbending bond
Hangs by her teeth, and with her hands collects
The slimy gore which drips upon the limbs.
Where lay a corpse upon the naked earth
On ravening birds and beasts of prey the hag
Kept watch, nor marred by knife or hand her spoil,
Till on his victim seized some nightly wolf;
Then dragged the morsel from his thirsty fangs;
Nor fears she murder, if her rites demand
Blood from the living, or some banquet fell
Requires the panting entrail. Pregnant wombs
Yield to her knife the infant to be placed
On flaming altars: and whene'er she needs
Some fierce undaunted ghost, he fails not her
Who has all deaths in use. Her hand has chased
From smiling cheeks the rosy bloom of life;
And with sinister hand from dying youth
Has shorn the fatal lock: and holding oft
In foul embraces some departed friend
Severed the head, and through the ghastly lips,
Held by her own apart, some impious tale
Dark with mysterious horror hath conveyed
Down to the Stygian shades.
When rumour brought
Her name to Sextus, in the depth of night,
While Titan's chariot beneath our earth
Wheeled on his middle course, he took his way
Through fields deserted; while a faithful band,
His wonted ministers in deeds of guilt,
Seeking the hag 'mid broken sepulchres,
Beheld her seated on the crags afar
Where Haemus falls towards Pharsalia's plain.
There was she proving for her gods and priests
Words still unknown, and framing numbered chants
Of dire and novel purpose: for she feared
Lest Mars might stray into another world,
And spare Thessalian soil the blood ere long
To flow in torrents; and she thus forbade
Philippi's field, polluted with her song,
Thick with her poisonous distilments sown,
To let the war pass by. Such deaths, she hopes,
Soon shall be hers! the blood of all the world
Shed for her use! to her it shall be given
To sever from their trunks the heads of kings,
Plunder the ashes of the noble dead,
Italia's bravest, and in triumph add
The mightiest warriors to her host of shades.
And now what spoils from Magnus' tombless corse
Her hand may snatch, on which of Caesar's limbs
She soon may pounce, she makes her foul forecast
And eager gloats.
To whom the coward son
Of Magnus thus: 'Thou greatest ornament
Of Haemon's daughters, in whose power it lies
Or to reveal the fates, or from its course
To turn the future, be it mine to know
By thy sure utterance to what final end
Fortune now guides the issue. Not the least
Of all the Roman host on yonder plain
Am I, but Magnus' most illustrious son,
Lord of the world or heir to death and doom.
The unknown affrights me: I can firmly face
The certain terror. Bid my destiny
Yield to thy power the dark and hidden end,
And let me fall foreknowing. From the gods
Extort the truth, or, if thou spare the gods,
Force it from hell itself. Fling back the gates
That bar th' Elysian fields; let Death confess
Whom from our ranks he seeks. No humble task
I bring, but worthy of Erichtho's skill
Of such a struggle fought for such a prize
To search and tell the issue.'
Then the witch
Pleased that her impious fame was noised abroad
Thus made her answer: 'If some lesser fates
Thy wish had been to change, against their wish
It had been easy to compel the gods
To its accomplishment. My art has power
When of one man the constellations press
The speedy death, to compass a delay;
And mine it is, though every star decrees
A ripe old age, by mystic herbs to shear
The life midway. But should some purpose set
From the beginning of the universe,
And all the labouring fortunes of mankind,
Be brought in question, then Thessalian art
Bows to the power supreme. But if thou be
Content to know the issue pre-ordained,
That shall be swiftly thine; for earth and air
And sea and space and Rhodopaean crags
Shall speak the future. Yet it easiest seems
Where death in these Thessalian fields abounds
To raise a single corpse. From dead men's lips
Scarce cold, in fuller accents falls the voice;
Not from some mummied flame in accents shrill
Uncertain to the ear.'
Thus spake the hag
And through redoubled night, a squalid veil
Swathing her pallid features, stole among
Unburied carcases. Fast fled the wolves,
The carrion birds with maw unsatisfied
Relaxed their talons, as with creeping step
She sought her prophet. Firm must be the flesh
As yet, though cold in death, and firm the lungs
Untouched by wound. Now in the balance hung
The fates of slain unnumbered; had she striven
Armies to raise and order back to life
Whole ranks of warriors, the laws had failed
Of Erebus; and, summoned up from Styx,
Its ghostly tenants had obeyed her call,
And rising fought once more. At length the witch
Picks out her victim with pierced throat agape
Fit for her purpose. Gripped by pitiless hook
O'er rocks she drags him to the mountain cave
Accursed by her fell rites, that shall restore
The dead man's life.
Close to the hidden brink
The land that girds the precipice of hell
Sinks towards the depths: with ever falling leaves
A wood o'ershadows, and a spreading yew
Casts shade impenetrable. Foul decay
Fills all the space, and in the deep recess
Darkness unbroken, save by chanted spells,
Reigns ever. Not where gape the misty jaws
Of caverned Taenarus, the gloomy bound
Of either world, through which the nether kings
Permit the passage of the dead to earth,
So poisonous, mephitic, hangs the air.
Nay, though the witch had power to call the shades
Forth from the depths, 'twas doubtful if the cave
Were not a part of hell. Discordant hues
Flamed on her garb as by a fury worn;
Bare was her visage, and upon her brow
Dread vipers hissed, beneath her streaming locks
In sable coils entwined. But when she saw
The youth's companions trembling, and himself
With eyes cast down, with visage as of death,
Thus spake the witch: 'Forbid your craven souls
These fears to cherish: soon returning life
This frame shall quicken, and in tones which reach
Even the timorous ear shall speak the man.
If I have power the Stygian lakes to show,
The bank that sounds with fire, the fury band,
And giants lettered, and the hound that shakes
Bristling with heads of snakes his triple head,
What fear is this that cringes at the sight
Of timid shivering shades?'
Then to her prayer.
First through his gaping bosom blood she pours
Still fervent, washing from his wounds the gore.
Then copious poisons from the moon distils
Mixed with all monstrous things which Nature's pangs
Bring to untimely birth; the froth from dogs
Stricken with madness, foaming at the stream;
A lynx's entrails: and the knot that grows
Upon the fell hyaena; flesh of stags
Fed upon serpents; and the sucking fish
Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds
Make bend the canvas; dragon's eyes; and stones
That sound beneath the brooding eagle's wings.
Nor Araby's viper, nor the ocean snake
Who in the Red Sea waters guards the shell,
Are wanting; nor the slough on Libyan sands
By horned reptile cast; nor ashes fail
Snatched from an altar where the Phoenix died.
And viler poisons many, which herself
Has made, she adds, whereto no name is given:
Pestiferous leaves pregnant with magic chants
And blades of grass which in their primal growth
Her cursed mouth had slimed. Last came her voice
More potent than all herbs to charm the gods
Who rule in Lethe. Dissonant murmurs first
And sounds discordant from the tongues of men
She utters, scarce articulate: the bay
Of wolves, and barking as of dogs, were mixed
With that fell chant; the screech of nightly owl
Raising her hoarse complaint; the howl of beast
And sibilant hiss of snake -- all these were there;
And more -- the waft of waters on the rock,
The sound of forests and the thunder peal.
Such was her voice; but soon in clearer tones
Reaching to Tartarus, she raised her song:
'Ye awful goddesses, avenging power
Of Hell upon the damned, and Chaos huge
Who striv'st to mix innumerable worlds,
And Pluto, king of earth, whose weary soul
Grieves at his godhead; Styx; and plains of bliss
We may not enter: and thou, Proserpine,
Hating thy mother and the skies above,
My patron goddess, last and lowest form
Of Hecate through whom the shades and I
Hold silent converse; warder of the gate
Who castest human offal to the dog:
Ye sisters who shall spin the threads again;
And thou, O boatman of the burning wave,
Now wearied of the shades from hell to me
Returning, hear me if with voice I cry
Abhorred, polluted; if the flesh of man
Hath ne'er been absent from my proffered song,
Flesh washed with brains still quivering; if the child
Whose severed head I placed upon the dish
But for this hand had lived -- a listening ear
Lend to my supplication! From the caves
Hid in the innermost recess of hell
I claim no soul long banished from the light.
For one but now departed, lingering still
Upon the brink of Orcus, is my prayer.
Grant (for ye may) that listening to the spell
Once more he seek his dust; and let the shade
Of this our soldier perished (if the war
Well at your hands has merited), proclaim
The destiny of Magnus to his son.'
Such prayers she uttered; then, her foaming lips
And head uplifting, present saw the ghost.
Hard by he stood, beside the hated corpse
His ancient prison, and loathed to enter in.
There was the yawning chest where fell the blow
That was his death; and yet the gift supreme
Of death, his right, (Ah, wretch!) was reft away.
Angered at Death the witch, and at the pause
Conceded by the fates, with living snake
Scourges the moveless corse; and on the dead
She barks through fissures gaping to her song,
Breaking the silence of their gloomy home:
'Tisiphone, Megaera, heed ye not?
Flies not this wretched soul before your whips
The void of Erebus? By your very names,
She-dogs of hell, I'll call you to the day,
Not to return; through sepulchres and death
Your gaoler: from funereal urns and tombs
I'll chase you forth. And thou, too, Hecate,
Who to the gods in comely shape and mien,
Not that of Erebus, appearst, henceforth
Wasted and pallid as thou art in hell
At my command shalt come. I'll noise abroad
The banquet that beneath the solid earth
Holds thee, thou maid of Enna; by what bond
Thou lov'st night's King, by what mysterious stain
Infected, so that Ceres fears from hell
To call her daughter. And for thee, base king,
Titan shall pierce thy caverns with his rays
And sudden day shall smite thee. Do ye hear?
Or shall I summon to mine aid that god
At whose dread name earth trembles; who can look
Unflinching on the Gorgon's head, and drive
The Furies with his scourge, who holds the depths
Ye cannot fathom, and above whose haunts
Ye dwell supernal; who by waves of Styx
Forswears himself unpunished?'
Then the blood
Grew warm and liquid, and with softening touch
Cherished the stiffened wounds and filled the veins,
Till throbbed once more the slow returning pulse
And every fibre trembled, as with death
Life was commingled. Then, not limb by limb,
With toil and strain, but rising at a bound
Leaped from the earth erect the living man.
Fierce glared his eyes uncovered, and the life
Was dim, and still upon his face remained
The pallid hues of hardly parted death.
Amazement seized upon him, to the earth
Brought back again: but from his lips tight drawn
No murmur issued; he had power alone
When questioned to reply. 'Speak,' quoth the hag,
'As I shall bid thee; great shall be thy gain
If but thou answerest truly, freed for aye
From all Haemonian art. Such burial place
Shall now be thine, and on thy funeral pyre
Such fatal woods shall burn, such chant shall sound,
That to thy ghost no more or magic song
Or spell shall reach, and thy Lethaean sleep
Shall never more be broken in a death
From me received anew: for such reward
Think not this second life enforced in vain.
Obscure may be the answers of the gods
By priestess spoken at the holy shrine;
But whose braves the oracles of death
In search of truth, should gain a sure response.
Then speak, I pray thee. Let the hidden fates
Tell through thy voice the mysteries to come.'
Thus spake she, and her words by mystic force
Gave him his answer; but with gloomy mien,
And tears swift flowing, thus he made reply:
'Called from the margin of the silent stream
I saw no fateful sisters spin the threads.
Yet know I this, that 'mid the Roman shades
Reigns fiercest discord; and this impious war
Destroys the peace that ruled the fields of death.
Elysian meads and deeps of Tartarus
In paths diverse the Roman chieftains leave
And thus disclose the fates. The blissful ghosts
Bear visages of sorrow. Sire and son
The Decii, who gave themselves to death
In expiation of their country's doom,
And great Camillus, wept; and Sulla's shade
Complained of fortune. Scipio bewailed
The scion of his race about to fall
In sands of Libya: Cato, greatest foe
To Carthage, grieves for that indignant soul
Which shall disdain to serve. Brutus alone
In all the happy ranks I smiling saw,
First consul when the kings were thrust from Rome.
The chains were fallen from boastful Catiline.
Him too I saw rejoicing, and the pair
Of Marii, and Cethegus' naked arm.
The Drusi, heroes of the people, joyed,
In laws immoderate; and the famous pair
Of greatly daring brothers: guilty bands
By bars eternal shut within the doors
That close the prison of hell, applaud the fates,
Claiming the plains Elysian: and the King
Throws wide his pallid halls, makes hard the points
Of craggy rocks, and forges iron chains,
The victor's punishment. But take with thee
This comfort, youth, that there a calm abode,
And peaceful, waits thy father and his house.
Nor let the glory of a little span
Disturb thy boding heart: the hour shall come
When all the chiefs shall meet. Shrink not from death,
But glowing in the greatness of your souls,
E'en from your humble sepulchres descend,
And tread beneath your feet, in pride of place,
The wandering phantoms of the gods of Rome.
Which of the chiefs by Tiber's yellow stream,
And which by Nile shall rest (the leaders' fate)
This fight decides, no more. Nor seek to know
From me thy fortunes: for the fates in time
Shall give thee all thy due; and thy great sire,
A surer prophet, in Sicilian fields
Shall speak thy future -- doubting even he
What regions of the world thou should'st avoid
And what should'st seek. O miserable race!
Europe and Asia and Libya's plains,
Which saw your conquests, now shall hold alike
Your burial-place -- nor has the earth for you
A happier land than this.'
His task performed,
He stands in mournful guise, with silent look
Asking for death again; yet could not die
Till mystic herb and magic chant prevailed.
For nature's law, once used, had power no more
To slay the corpse and set the spirit free.
With plenteous wood she builds the funeral pyre
To which the dead man comes: then as the flames
Seized on his form outstretched, the youth and witch
Together sought the camp; and as the dawn
Now streaked the heavens, by the hag's command
The day was stayed till Sextus reached his tent,
And mist and darkness veiled his safe return.
The Troubadour. Canto 2
THE first, the very first; oh! none
Can feel again as they have done;
In love, in war, in pride, in all
The planets of life's coronal,
However beautiful or bright,--
What can be like their first sweet light?
When will the youth feel as he felt,
When first at beauty's feet he knelt?
As if her least smile could confer
A kingdom on its worshipper;
Or ever care, or ever fear
Had cross'd love's morning hemisphere.
And the young bard, the first time praise
Sheds its spring sunlight o'er his lays,
Though loftier laurel, higher name,
May crown the minstrel's noontide fame,
They will not bring the deep content
Of his lure's first encouragement.
And where the glory that will yield
The flush and glow of his first field
To the young chief? Will RAYMOND ever
Feel as he now is feeling?--Never.
The sun wept down or ere they gain'd
The glen where the chief band remain'd.
It was a lone and secret shade,
As nature form'd an ambuscade
For the bird's nest and the deer's lair,
Though now less quiet guests were there.
On one side like a fortress stood
A mingled pine and chesnut wood;
Autumn was falling, but the pine
Seem'd as it mock'd all change; no sign
Of season on its leaf was seen,
The same dark gloom of changeless green.
But like the gorgeous Persian bands
'Mid the stern race of northern lands,
The chesnut boughs were bright with all
That gilds and mocks the autumn's fall.
Like stragglers from an army's rear
Gradual they grew, near and less near,
Till ample space was left to raise,
Amid the trees, the watch-fire's blaze;
And there, wrapt in their cloaks around,
The soldiers scatter'd o'er the ground.
One was more crowded than the rest,
And to that one was RAYMOND prest;--
There sat the chief: kind greetings came
At the first sound of RAYMOND'S name.
'Am I not proud that this should be,
Thy first field to be fought with me:
Years since thy father's sword and mine
Together dimm'd their maiden shine.
We were sworn brothers; when he fell
'Twas mine to hear his last farewell:
And how revenged I need not say,
Though few were left to tell that day.--
Thy brow is his, and thou wilt wield
A sword like his in battle-field.
Let the day break, and thou shalt ride
Another RAYMOND by my side;
And thou shalt win and I confer,
To-morrow, knightly brand and spur.'
With thoughts of pride, and thoughts of grief,
Sat RAYMOND by that stranger chief,
So proud to hear his father's fame,
So sad to hear that father's name,
And then to think that he had known
That father by his name alone;
And aye his heart within him burn'd
When his eye to DE VALENCE turn'd,
Mark'd his high step, his warlike mien,--
'And such my father would have been!'
A few words of years past away,
A few words of the coming day,
They parted, not that night for sleep;
RAYMOND had thoughts that well might keep
Rest from his pillow,--memory, hope,
In youth's horizon had full scope
To blend and part each varied line
Of cloud and clear, of shade and shine.
--He rose and wander'd round, the light
Of the full moon fell o'er each height;
Leaving the wood behind in shade,
O'er rock, and glen, and rill it play'd.
He follow'd a small stream whose tide
Was bank'd by lilies on each side,
And there, as if secure of rest,
A swan had built her lonely nest;
And spread out was each lifted wing,
Like snow or silver glittering.
Wild flowers grew around the dale,
Sweet children of the sun and gale;
From every crag the wild vine fell,
To all else inaccessible;
And where a dark rock rose behind,
Their shelter from the northern wind,
Grew myrtles with their fragrant leaves,
Veil'd with the web the gossamer weaves,
So pearly fair, so light, so frail,
Like beauty's self more than her veil.--
And first to gaze upon the scene,
Quiet as there had never been
Heavier step than village maid
With flowers for her nuptial braid,
Or louder sound than hermit's prayer,
To crush its grass or load its air.
Then to look on the armed train,
The watch-fire on the wooded plain,
And think how with the morrow's dawn,
Would banner wave, and blade be drawn;
How clash of steel, and trumpet's swell,
Would wake the echoes of each dell.
--And thus it ever is with life,
Peace sleeps upon the breast of Strife,
But to be waken'd from its rest,
Till comes that sleep the last and best.
And RAYMOND paused at last, and laid
Himself beneath a chesnut's shade,
A little way apart from all,
That he might catch the waterfall,
Whose current swept like music round,--
When suddenly another sound
Came on the ear; it was a tone,
Rather a murmur than a song,
As he who breathed deem'd all unknown
The words, thoughts, echo bore along.
Parting the boughs which hung between,
Close, thick, as if a tapestried screen,
RAYMOND caught sight of a white plume
Waving o'er brow and cheek of bloom;
And yet the song was sad and low,
As if the chords it waked were woe.
SONG OF THE YOUNG KNIGHT.
YOUR scarf is bound upon my breast,
Your colours dance upon my crest,--
They have been soil'd by dust and rain,
And they must wear a darker stain.
I mark'd thy tears as fast they fell,
I saw but heard not thy farewell,
I gave my steed the spur and rein,--
I dared not look on thee again.
My cheek is pale, but not with fears,
And I have dash'd aside my tears;
This woman's softness of my breast
Will vanish when my spear's in rest.
I know that farewell was our last,
That life and love from me are past;
For I have heard the fated sign
That speaks the downfall of our line.
I slept the soldier's tired sleep;
But yet I heard the music sweep,
Dim, faint, as when I stood beside
The bed whereon my father died.
Farewell, sweet love! never again
Will thine ear listen to the strain
With which so oft at midnight's hour
I've waked the silence of thy bower.
Farewell! I would not tears should stain
Thy fair cheek with their burning rain:
Tears, sweet! would an ill offering be
To one whose death was worthy thee.
RAYMOND thought on that song next day
When bleeding that young warrior lay,
While his hand, in its death-pang, prest
A bright curl to his wounded breast.
AND waning stars, and brightening sky,
And on the clouds a crimson dye,
And fresher breeze, and opening flowers,
Tell the approach of morning hours.
Oh, how can breath, and light, and bloom,
Herald a day of death and doom!
With knightly pennons, which were spread
Like mirror's for the morning's red,
Gather the ranks, while shout and horn
Are o'er the distant mountains borne.
'Twas a fair sight, that arm'd array
Winding through the deep vale their way,
Helmet and breast-plate gleaming in gold,
Banners waving their crimson fold,
Like clouds of the day-break: hark to the peal
Of the war-cry, answer'd by clanging steel!
The young chief strokes his courser's neck,
The ire himself had provoked to check,
Impatient for that battle plain
He may reach but never leave again;
And with flashing eye and sudden start,
He hears the trumpet's stately tone,
Like the echo of his beating heart,
And meant to rouse his ear alone.
And by his side the warrior grey,
With hair as white as the plumes that play
Over his head, yet spurs he as proud,
As keen as the youngest knight of the crowd:
And glad and glorious on they ride
In strength and beauty, power and pride.
And such the morning, but let day
Close on that gallant fair array,
The moon will see another sight
Than that which met the dawning light.--
Look on that field,--'tis the battle field!
Look on what harvest victory will yield!
There the steed and his rider o'erthrown,
Crouch together, their warfare is done:
The bolt is undrawn, the bow is unbent,
And the archer lies like his arrow spent.
Deep is the banner of crimson dyed,
But not with the red of its morning pride;
Torn and trampled with soil and stain,
When will it float on the breeze again;--
And over the ghastly plain are spread,
Pillow'd together, the dying and dead.
There lay one with an unclosed eye
Set in bright, cold vacancy,
While on its fix'd gaze the moonbeam shone,
Light mocking the eye whose light was gone;
And by his side another lay,
The life-blood ebbing fast away,
But calm his cheek and calm his eye,
As if leant on his mother's bosom to die.
Too weak to move, he feebly eyed
A wolf and a vulture close to his side,
Watching and waiting, himself the prey,
While each one kept the other away.
Little of this the young warrior deems
When, with heart and head all hopes and dreams,
He hastes for the battle:--The trumpet's call
Waken'd RAYMOND the first of all;
His the first step that to stirrup sprung,
His the first banner upwards flung;
And brow and cheek with his spirit glow'd,
When first at DE VALENCE'S side he rode.
The quiet glen is left behind,
The dark wood lost in the blue sky;
When other sounds come on the wind,
And other pennons float on high.
With snow-white plumes and glancing crest,
And standard raised, and spear in rest,
On a small river's farther banks
Wait their approach Sir HERBERT'S ranks.--
One silent gaze, as if each band
Could slaughter both with eye and hand.
Then peals the war-cry! then the dash
Amid the waters! and the crash
Of spears,--the falchion's iron ring,--
The arrow hissing from the string,
Tell they have met. Thus from the height
The torrent rushes in its might.
With the lightning's speed, the thunder's peal,
Flashes the lance, and strikes the steel.
Many a steed to the earth is borne,
Many a banner trampled and torn;
Or ever its brand could strike a blow,
Many a gallant arm lies low;--
Many a scarf, many a crest,
Float with the leaves on the river's breast;
And strange it is to see how around
Buds and flowers strew the ground,
For the banks were cover'd with wild rose trees,
Oh! what should they do amid scenes like these.
In the blue stream, as it hovered o'er,
A hawk was mirror'd, and before
Its wings could reach yon pine, which stands
A bow-shot off from the struggling bands,
The stain of death was on the flood,
And the red waters roll'd dark with blood.--
RAYMOND'S spear was the first that flew,
He the first who dash'd the deep river through;
His step the first on the hostile strand,
And the first that fell was borne down by his hand.
The fight is ended:--the same sun
Has seen the battle lost and won;
The field is cover'd with dying and dead,
With the valiant who stood, and the coward who fled.
And a gallant salute the trumpets sound,
As the warriors gather from victory around.
On a hill that skirted the purple flood,
With his peers around, DE VALENCE stood,
And with bended knee, and forehead bare,
Save its cloud of raven hair,
And beautiful as some wild star
Come in its glory and light from afar,
With his dark eyes flashing stern and bright,
And his cheek o'erflooded with crimson light,
And the foeman's banner over his head,
His first field's trophy proudly spread,
Knelt RAYMOND down his boon to name,--
The knightly spurs he so well might claim:
And a softness stole to DE VALENCE'S eyes,
As he bade the new-made knight arise.--
From his own belt he took the brand,
And gave it into RAYMOND'S hand,
And said it might a memory yield
Of his father's friend, and his own first field.
Pleasant through the darkening night
Shines from Clarin's towers the light.
Home from the battle the warriors ride,
In the soldiers' triumph, and soldiers' pride:
The drawbridge is lower'd, and in they pour,
Like the sudden rush of a summer shower,
While the red torch-light bursts through the gloom,
Over banner and breast-plate, helm and plume.
Sudden a flood of lustre play'd
Over a lofty ballustrade,
Music and perfume swept the air,
Messengers sweet for the spring to prepare;
And like a sunny vision sent
For worship and astonishment,
Aside a radiant ladye flung
The veil that o'er her beauty hung.
With stately grace to those below,
She bent her gem encircled brow,
And bade them welcome in the name
Of her they saved, the castle's dame,
Who had not let another pay
Thanks, greeting to their brave array,--
But she had vow'd the battle night
To fasting, prayer, and holy rite.
On the air the last tones of the music die,
The odour passes away like a sigh,
The torches flash a parting gleam,
And she vanishes as she came, like a dream.
But many an eye dwelt on the shade,
Till fancy again her form display'd,
And still again seem'd many an ear
The softness of her voice to hear.
And many a heart had a vision that night,
Which future years never banish'd quite.
And sign and sound of festival
Are ringing through that castle hall;
Tapers, whose flame send a perfumed cloud,
Flash their light o'er a gorgeous crowd;
With a thousand colours the tapestry falls
Over the carved and gilded walls,
And, between, the polish'd oak pannels hear,
Like dark mirrors, the image of each one there.
At one end the piled up hearth is spread
With sparkling embers of glowing red:
Above the branching antlers have place,
Sign of many a hard won chase;
And beneath, in many a polish'd line,
The arms of the hunter and warrior shine;
And around the fire, like a laurell'd arch,
Raised for some victor's triumphal march,
The wood is fretted with tracery fair,
And green boughs and flowers are waving there.
Lamps, like faery planets shine,
O'er massive cups of the genial wine,
And shed a ray more soft and fair
Than the broad red gleam of the torch's glare;
And, flitting like a rainbow, plays
In beautiful and changing rays,
When from the pictured windows fall
The colour'd shadows o'er the hall;
As every pane some bright hue lent
To vary the lighted element.
The ladye of the festive board
Was ward to the castle's absent lord;
The Ladye ADELINE ,--the same
Bright vision that with their greeting came
Maidens four stood behind her chair,
Each one was young, and each one fair;
Yet they were but as the stars at night
When the mood shines forth in her fullness of light
On the knot of her wreathed hair was set
A blood-red ruby coronet;
But among the midnight cloud of curls
That hung o'er her brow were eastern pearls,
As if to tell their wealth of snow,
How white her forehead could look below.
Around her floated a veil of white,
Like the silvery rack round the star of twilight;
And down to the ground her mantle's fold
Spread its length of purple and gold;
And sparkling gems were around her arm,
That shone like marble, only warm,
With the blue veins wandering tide,
And the hand with its crimson blush inside.
A zone of precious stones embraced
The graceful circle of her waist,
Sparkling as if they were proud
Of the clasp to them allow'd.
But yet there was 'mid this excess
Of soft and dazzling loveliness,
A something in the eye, and hand,
And forehead, speaking of command:
An eye whose dark flash seem'd allied
To even more than beauty's pride,--
A hand as only used to wave
Its sign to worshipper and slave,--
A forehead, but that was too fair
To read of aught but beauty there!
And RAYMOND had the place of pride,
The place so envied by her side,--
The victor's seat,--and overhead
The banner he had won was spread.
His health was pledged!--he only heard
The murmur of one silver word;
The pageant seem'd to fade away,
Vanish'd the board and glad array,
The gorgeous hall around grew dim,
There shone one only light for him,
That radiant form, whose brightness fell
In power upon him like a spell,
Laid in its strength by Love to reign
Despotic over heart and brain.
Silent he stood amid the mirth,
Oh, love is timid in its birth!
Watching her lightest look or stir,
As he but look'd and breathed with her.
Gay words were passing, but he leant
In silence; yet, one quick glance sent,--
His secret is no more his own,
When has woman her power not known?
The feast broke up:--that midnight shade
Heard many a gentle serenade
Beneath the ladye's lattice. One
Breathed after all the rest were gone.
SLEEP , ladye! for the moonlit hour,
Like peace, is shining on thy bower;
It is so late, the nightingale
Has ended even his love tale.
Sleep, ladye! 'neath thy turret grows,
Cover'd with flowers, one pale white rose;
I envy its sweet sighs, they steep
The perfumed airs that lull thy sleep.
Perchance, around thy chamber floats
The music of my lone lute notes,--
Oh, may they on thine eyelids fall,
And make thy slumbers musical!
Sleep, ladye! to thy rest be given
The gleamings of thy native heaven,
And thoughts of early paradise,
The treasures of thy sleeping eyes.
I NEED not say whose was the song
The sighing night winds bore along.
RAYMOND had left the maiden's side
As one too dizzy with the tide
To breast the stream, or strive, or shrink,
Enough for him to feel, not think;
Enough for him the dim sweet fear,
The twilight of the heart, or ere
Awakening hope has named the name
Of love, or blown its spark to flame.
Restlessness, but as the winds range
From leaf to leaf, from flower to flower;
Changefulness, but as rainbows change,
From colour'd sky to sunlit hour.
Ay, well indeed may minstrel sing,--
What have the heart and year like spring?
Her vow was done: the castle dame
Next day to join the revellers came;
And never had a dame more gay
O'er hall or festival held sway.
And youthful knight, and ladye fair,
And juggler quaint, and minstrel rare,
And mirth, and crowds, and music, all
Of pleasure gather'd at her call.
And RAYMOND moved as in a dream
Of song and odour, bloom and beam,
As he dwelt in a magic bower,
Charm'd from all by fairy power.
--And ADELINE rode out that morn,
With hunting train, and hawk, and horn;
And broider'd rein, and curb of gold,
And housings with their purple fold
Decked the white steed o'er which she leant
Graceful as a young cypress, bent
By the first summer wind: she wore
A cap the heron plume waved o'er,
And round her wrist a golden band,
Which held the falcon on her hand.
The bird's full eye, so clear, so bright,
Match'd not her own's dark flashing light.
And RAYMOND , as he watch'd the dyes
Of her cheek rich with exercise,
Could almost deem her beauty's power
Was now in its most potent hour;
But when at night he saw her glance
The gayest of the meteor dance,
The jewels in her braided hair,
Her neck, her arms of ivory bare,
The silver veil, the broider'd vest,--
Look'd she not then her loveliest?
Ah, every change of beauty's face
And beauty's shape has its own grace!
That night his heart throbb'd when her hand
Met his touch in the saraband:
That night her smile first bade love live
On the sweet life that hope can give.--
Beautiful, but thrice wayward, wild,
Capricious as a petted child,
She was all chance, all change; but now
A smile is on her radiant brow,--
A moment and that smile is fled,
Coldness and scorn are there instead.
Ended the dance, and ADELINE
Flung herself, like an eastern queen,
Upon the cushions which were laid
Amid a niche of that gay hall,
Hid from the lamps; around it play'd
The softness of the moonlight fall.
And there the gorgeous shapes past by
But like a distant pageantry,
In which you have yourself no share,
For all its pride, and pomp, and care.
She pass'd her hand across the chords
Of a lute near, and with soft words
Answer'd; then said, 'no, thou shalt sing
Some legend of the fair and brave.'
To RAYMOND'S hand the lute she gave,
Whose very soul within him burn'd
When her dark eye on his was turn'd:
One moment's pause, it slept not long,--
His spirit pour'd itself in song.
THE lady sits in her lone bower,
With cheek wan as the white rose flower
That blooms beside, 'tis pale and wet
As that rose with its dew pearls set.
Her cheek burns with a redder dye,
Flashes light from her tearful eye;
She has heard pinions beat the air,
She sees her white dove floating there;
And well she knows its faithful wing,
The treasure of her heart will bring;
And takes the gentle bird its stand
Accustom'd on the maiden's hand,
With glancing eye and throbbing breast,
As if rejoicing in its rest.
She read the scroll,--'dear love, to-night
By the lake, all is there for flight
What time the moon is down;--oh, then
My own life shall we meet again!'
One upward look of thankfulness,
One pause of joy, one fond caress
Of her soft lips, as to reward
The messenger of EGINHARD.
That night in her proud father's hall
She shone the fairest one of all;
For like the cloud of evening came
Over her cheek the sudden flame,
And varying as each moment brought
Some hasty change of secret thought;
As if its colour would confess
The conscious heart's inmost recess.
And the clear depths of her dark eye
Were bright with troubled brilliancy,
Yet the lids droop'd as with the tear
Which might oppress but not appear.
And flatteries, and smile and sigh
Loaded the air as she past by.
It sparkled, but her jewell'd vest
Was crost above a troubled breast:
Her curls, with all their sunny glow,
Were braided o'er an aching brow:
But well she knew how many sought
To gaze upon her secret thought;--
And Love is proud,--she might not brook
That other's on her heart should look.
But there she sate, cold, pale, and high,
Beneath her purple canopy;
And there was many a mutter'd word,
And one low whisper'd name was heard,--
The name of EGINHARD ,--that name
Like some forbidden secret came.
The theme went, that he dared to love
One like a star his state above;
Here to the princess turn'd each eye,--
And it was said, he did not sigh
With love that pales the pining cheek,
And leaves the slighted heart to break.
And then a varying tale was told,
How a page had betray'd for gold;
But all was rumour light and vain,
That all might hear, but none explain.
Like one that seeks a festival,
Early the princess left the hall;
Yet said she, sleep dwelt on her eyes,
That she was worn with revelries.
And hastily her maidens' care
Unbinds the jewels from her hair.
Odours are round her chamber strown,
And ELENORE is left alone.
With throbbing heart, whose pulses beat
Louder than fall her ivory feet,
She rises from her couch of down;
And, hurriedly, a robe is thrown
Around her form, and her own hand
Lets down her tresses golden band.
Another moment she has shred
Those graceful tresses from her head.
There stands a plate of polish'd steel,
She folds her cloak as to conceal
Her strange attire, for she is drest
As a young page in dark green vest.
Softly she steps the balustrade,
Where myrtle, rose, and hyacinth made
A passage to the garden shade.
It was a lovely summer night,
The air was incense-fill'd, the light
Was dim and tremulous, a gleam,
When a star, mirror'd on the stream,
Sent a ray round just to reveal
How gales from flower to flower steal.
'It was on such a night as this,
When even a single breath is bliss,
Such a soft air, such a mild heaven,
My vows to EGINHARD were given.'
Sigh'd ELENORE , 'Oh, might it be
A hope, a happy augury!'
She reach'd the lake,--a blush, a smile,
Contended on her face the while;
And safely in a little cove,
Shelter'd by willow trees above,
An ambuscade from all secured,
Her lover's little boat lay moor'd.--
One greeting word, with muffled oar,
And silent lip, they left that shore.
It was most like a phantom dream
To see that boat flit o'er the stream,
So still, that but yet less and less
It grew, it had seem'd motionless.
And then the silent lake, the trees
Visible only when the breeze
Aside the shadowy branches threw,
And let one single star shine through,
While the faint glimmer scarcely gave
To view the wanderers of the wave.
The breeze has borne the clouds away
That veil'd the blushes of young day;
The lark has sung his morning song;--
Surely the princess slumbers long.
And now it is the accustom'd hour
Her royal father seeks her bower,
When her soft voice and gentle lute,
The snowfall of her fairy foot,
The flowers she has cull'd, with dew
Yet moist upon each rainbow hue;
The fruits with bloom upon their cheek,
Fresh as the morning's first sun streak;
Each, all conspired to wile away
The weariness of royal sway.
But she is gone: there hangs her lute,
And there it may hang lone and mute:
The flowers may fade, for who is there
To triumph now if they are fair:
There are her gems,--oh, let them twine
An offering round some sainted shrine!
For she who wore them may not wear
Again those jewels in her hair.
At first the monarch's rage was wild;
But soon the image of his child,
In tenderness rose on his heart,
How could he bear from it to part?
And anger turn'd to grief: in vain
Ambition had destroy'd the chain
With which love had bound happiness.
In vain remorse, in vain redress,--
Fruitless all search. And years past o'er,
No tidings came of ELENORE,
Although the king would have laid down
His golden sceptre, purple crown,
His pomp, his power, but to have prest
His child one moment to his breast.
And where was ELENORE ? her home
Was now beneath the forest dome;--
A hundred knights had watch'd her hall,
Her guards were now the pine trees tall:
For harps waked with the minstrel tale,
Sang to her sleep the nightingale:
For silver vases, where were blent
Rich perfumes from Arabia sent,
Were odours when the wild thyme flower
Wafted its sweets on gale and shower:
For carpets of the purple loom
The violets spread their cloud of bloom,
Starr'd with primroses; and around
Boughs like green tapestry swept the ground.
--And there they dwelt apart from all
That gilds and mocks ambition's thrall;
Apart from cities, crowds, and care,
Hopes that deceive, and toils that wear;
For they had made themselves a world
Like that or ever man was hurl'd
From his sweet Eden, to begin
His bitter course of grief and sin.--
And they were happy; EGINHARD
Had won the prize for which he dared
Dungeon and death; but what is there
That the young lover will not dare?
And she, though nurtured as a flower,
The favourite bud of a spring bower,
Daughter of palaces, yet made
Her dwelling place in the green shade;
Happy, as she remember'd not
Her royal in her peasant lot,--
With gentle cares, and smiling eyes
As love could feel no sacrifice.
Happy her ivory brow to lave
Without a mirror but the wave,
As one whose sweetness could dispense
With all save its own excellence;--
A fair but gentle creature, meant
For heart, and hearth, and home content.
It was at night the chase was over,
And ELENORE sat by her lover,--
Her lover still, though years had fled
Since their first word of love was said,--
When one sought, at that darksome hour,
The refuge of their lonely bower,
A hunter, who, amid the shade,
Had from his own companions stray'd.
And ELENORE gazed on his face,
And knew her father! In the chase
Often the royal mourner sought
A refuge from his one sad thought.
He knew her not,--the lowly mien,
The simple garb of forest green,
The darken'd brow, which told the spoil
The sun stole from her daily toil,
The cheek where woodland health had shed
The freshness of its morning red,--
All was so changed. She spread the board,
Her hand the sparkling wine cup pour'd;
And then around the hearth they drew,
And cheerfully the woodfire threw
Its light around.--Bent o'er her wheel
Scarcely dared ELENORE to steal
A look, half tenderness, half fear,
Yet seem'd he as he loved to hear
Her voice, as if it had a tone
Breathing of days and feelings gone.
'Ah! surely,' thought she, 'Heaven has sent
My father here, as that it meant,
Our years of absence ended now!'
She gazed upon his soften'd brow;
And the next moment, all revealing,
ELENORE at his feet is kneeling!--
Need I relate that, reconciled,
The father bless'd his truant child.
WHERE is the heart that has not bow'd
A slave, eternal Love, to thee:
Look on the cold, the gay, the proud,
And is there one among them free?
The cold, the proud,--oh! Love has turn'd
The marble till with fire it burn'd;
The gay, the young,--alas that they
Should ever bend beneath thy sway!
Look on the cheek the rose might own,
The smile around like sunshine thrown;
The rose, the smile, alike are thine,
To fade and darken at thy shrine.
And what must love be in a heart
All passion's fiery depths concealing,
Which has in its minutest part
More than another's whole of feeling.
And RAYMOND'S heart; love's morning sun
On fitter altar never shone;
Loving with all the snow-white truth,
That is found but in early youth;
Freshness of feeling as of flower,
That lives not more than spring's first hour;
And loving with that wild devotion,
That deep and passionate emotion,
With which the minstrel soul is thrown
On all that it would make its own.
And RAYMOND loved; the veriest slave
That e'er his life to passion gave:
Upon his ear no murmur came
That seem'd not echoing her name;
The lightest colour on her cheek
Was lovelier than the morning break.
He gazed upon her as he took
His sense of being from her look:--
Sometimes it was idolatry,
Like homage to some lovely star,
Whose beauty though for hope too high,
He yet might worship from afar.
At other times his heart would swell
With tenderness unutterable:
He would have borne her to an isle
Where May and June had left their smile;
And there, heard but by the lone gale,
He would have whisper'd his love tale;
And without change, or cloud, or care,
Have kept his bosom's treasure there.
And then, with all a lover's pride,
He thought it shame such gem to hide:
And imaged he a courtly scene
Of which she was the jewell'd queen,--
The one on whom each glance was bent,
The beauty of the tournament,
The magnet of the festival,
The grace, the joy, the life of all,--
But she, alas for her false smile!
ADELINE loved him not the while.
And is it thus that woman's heart
Can trifle with its dearest part,
Its own pure sympathies?--can fling
The poison'd arrow from the string
In utter heartlessness around,
And mock, or think not of the wound?
And thus can woman barter all
That makes and gilds her gentle thrall,--
The blush which should be like the one
White violets hide from the sun,--
The soft, low sighs, like those which breathe
In secret from a twilight wreath,--
The smile like a bright lamp, whose shine
Is vow'd but only to one shrine;
All these sweet spells,--and can they be
Weapons of reckless vanity?
And woman, in whose gentle heart
From all save its sweet self apart,
Love should dwell with that purity
Which but in woman's love can be:
A sacred fire, whose flame was given
To shed on earth the light of heaven,--
That she can fling her wealth aside
In carelessness, or sport, or pride!
It was not form'd for length of bliss,
A dream so fond, so false as this;
Enough for ADELINE to win
The heart she had no pleasure in,--
Enough that bright eyes turn'd in vain
On him who bow'd beneath her chain:--
Then came the careless word and look,
All the fond soul so ill can brook,
The jealous doubt, the burning pain,
That rack the lover's heart and brain;
The fear that will not own it fear,
The hope that cannot disappear;
Faith clinging to its visions past,
And trust confiding to the last.
And thus it is: ay, let Love throw
Aside his arrows and his bow;
But let him not with one spell part,
The veil that binds his eyes and heart.
Woe for Love when his eyes shall be
Open'd upon reality!
One day a neighbouring baron gave
A revel to the fair and brave,--
And knights upon their gallant steeds,
And ladies on their palfreys gray,
All shining in their gayest weeds,
Held for the festival their way.
A wanderer on far distant shores,
That baron, had brought richest stores
To his own hall, and much of rare
And foreign luxury was there:
Pages, with colour'd feathers, fann'd
The odours of Arabia's land;
The carpets strewn around each room
Were all of Persia's purple loom;
And dark slaves waited on his guests,
Each habited in Moorish vests,
With turbann'd brows, and bands of gold
Around their arms and ancles roll'd.
And gazed the guests o'er many a hoard,
Like Sinbad's, from his travel stored.
They look'd upon the net work dome,
Where found the stranger birds a home,
With rainbow wings and gleaming eyes,
Seen only beneath Indian skies.
At length they stood around the ring,
Where stalk'd, unchain'd, the forest king,
With eyes of fire and mane erect,
As if by human power uncheck'd.
Full ill had RAYMOND'S spirit borne
The wayward mood, the careless scorn,
With which his mistress had that day
Trifled his happiness away.--
His very soul within him burn'd,
When, as in chance, her dark eye turn'd
On him, she spoke in reckless glee,--
''Is there a knight who, for love of me,
Into the court below will spring,
And bear from the lion the glove I fling?'
A shriek!--a pause,--then loud acclaim
Rose to the skies with RAYMOND'S name.
Oh, worthy of a lady's love!
RAYMOND has borne away the glove.
He laid the prize at the maiden's feet,
Then turn'd from the smile he dared not meet:
A moment more he is on the steed,
The spur has urged to its utmost speed,
As that he could fly from himself, and all
The misery of his spirit's thrall.
The horse sank down, and RAYMOND then
Started to see the foaming rein,
The drops that hung on the courser's hide,
And the rowel's red trace on its panting side;
And deep shame mingled with remorse,
As he brought the cool stream to his fallen horse.
The spot where he paused was a little nook,
Like a secret page in nature's book,--
Around were steeps where the wild vine
Hung, wreathed in many a serpentine,
Wearing each the colour'd sign
Of the autumn's pale decline.
Like a lake in the midst was spread
A grassy sweep of softest green,
Smooth, flower-dropt, as no human tread
Upon its growth had ever been.
Limes rose around, but lost each leaf,
Like hopes luxuriant but brief;
And by their side the sycamore
Grew prouder of its scarlet store:
The air was of that cold clear light
That heralds in an autumn night,--
The amber west had just a surge
Of crimson on its utmost verge;
And on the east were piled up banks
Where darkness gather'd with her ranks
Of clouds, and in the midst a zone
Of white with transient brightness shone
From the young moon, who scarcely yet
Had donn'd her lighted coronet.
With look turn'd to the closing day,
As he watch'd every hue decay,
Sat RAYMOND ; and a passer by
Had envied him his reverie;--
But nearer look had scann'd his brow,
And started at its fiery glow,
As if the temples' burning swell
Had made their pulses visible.
Too glazed, too fix'd, his large eyes shone
To see aught that they gazed upon.
Not his the paleness that may streak
The lover's or the minstrel's cheek,
As it had its wan colour caught
From moods of melancholy thought;
'Twas that cold, dark, unearthly shade,
But for a corpse's death look made;
Speaking that desperateness of pain,
As one more pang, and the rack'd brain
Would turn to madness; one more grief,
And the swoln heart breaks for relief.
Oh, misery! to see the tomb
Close over all our world of bloom;
To look our last in the dear eyes
Which made our light of paradise;
To know that silent is the tone
Whose tenderness was all our own;
To kiss the cheek which once had burn'd
At the least glance, and find it turn'd
To marble; and then think of all
Of hope, that memory can recall.
Yes, misery! but even here
There is a somewhat left to cheer,
A gentle treasuring of sweet things
Remembrance gathers from the past,
The pride of faithfulness, which clings
To love kept sacred to the last.
And even if another's love
Has touch'd the heart to us above
The treasures of the east, yet still
There is a solace for the ill.
Those who have known love's utmost spell
Can feel for those who love as well;
Can half forget their own distress,
To share the loved one's happiness.
Oh, but to know our heart has been,
Like the toy of an Indian queen,
Torn, trampled, without thought or care,--
Where is despair like this despair!--
ll night beneath an oak he lay,
Till nature blush'd bright into day;
When, at a trumpet's sudden sound,
Started his courser from the ground:
And his loud neigh waked RAYMOND'S dream,
And, gazing round, he saw the gleam
Of arms upon a neighbouring height,
Where helm and cuirass stream'd in light.
As RAYMOND rose from his unrest
He knew DE VALENCE'S falcon crest;
And the red cross that shone like a glory afar,
Told the warrior was vow'd to the holy war.
Ay, this,' thought RAYMOND , 'is the strife
To make my sacrifice of life;
What is it now to me that fame
Shall brighten over RAYMOND'S name;
There is no gentle heart to bound,
No cheek to mantle at the sound:
Lady's favour no more I wear,--
My heart, my helm--oh! what are there?
A blighted hope, a wither'd rose.
Surely this warfare is for those
Who only of the victory crave
A holy but a nameless grave.'
Short greeting past; DE VALENCE read
All that the pale lip left unsaid;
On the wan brow, in the dimm'd eye,
The whole of youth's despondency,
Which at the first shock it has known
Deems its whole world of hope o'erthrown.
And it was fix'd, that at Marseilles,
Where the fleet waited favouring gales,
RAYMOND should join the warrior train,
Leagued 'gainst the infidels of Spain.
They parted:--Over RAYMOND'S thought
Came sadness mingled too with shame;
When suddenly his memory brought
The long forgotten EVA'S name.
Oh! Love is like the mountain tide,
Sweeping away all things beside,
Till not another trace appears
But its own joys, and griefs, and fears.
He took her cross, he took her chain
From the heart where they still had lain;
And that heart felt as if its fate
Had sudden grown less desolate,
In thus remembering love that still
Would share and sooth in good and ill.
He spurr'd his steed; but the night fall
Had darken'd ere he reach'd the hall;
And gladly chief and vassal train
Welcomed the youthful knight again.
And many praised his stately tread,
His face with darker manhood spread;
But of those crowding round him now,
Who mark'd the paleness of his brow,
But one, who paused till they were past,
Who look'd the first but spoke the last:
Her welcome in its timid fear
Fell almost cold on RAYMOND'S ear;
A single look,--he felt he gazed
Upon a gentle child no more,
The blush that like the lightning blazed,
The cheek then paler than before,
A something of staid maiden grace,
A cloud of thought upon her face;
She who had been, in RAYMOND'S sight,
A plaything, fancy, and delight,--
Was changed: the depth of her blue eye
Spoke to him now of sympathy,
And seem'd her melancholy tone
A very echo of his own;
And that pale forehead, surely care
Has graved an early lesson there.
They roved through many a garden scene,
Where other, happier days had been;
And soon had RAYMOND told his all
Of hopes, like stars but bright to fall;
Of feelings blighted, changed, and driven
Like exiles from their native heaven;
And of an aimless sword, a lute
Whose chords were now uncharm'd and mute.
But EVA'S tender blandishing
Was as the April rays, that fling
A rainbow till the thickest rain
Melts into blue and light again.
There is a feeling in the heart
Of woman which can have no part
In man; a self devotedness,
As victims round their idols press,
And asking nothing, but to show
How far their zeal and faith can go.
Pure as the snow the summer sun
Never at noon hath look'd upon,--
Deep as is the diamond wave,
Hidden in the desart cave,--
Changeless as the greenest leaves
Of the wreath the cypress weaves,--
Hopeless often when most fond,
Without hope or fear beyond
Its own pale fidelity,--
And this woman's love can be!
And RAYMOND although not again
Dreaming of passion's burning chain,
Yet felt that life had still dear things
To which the lingering spirit clings.
More dear, more lovely EVA shone
In thinking of that faithless one;
And read he not upon the cheek
All that the lip might never speak,
All the heart cherish'd yet conceal'd,
Scarce even to itself reveal'd.
And RAYMOND , though with heart so torn
By anger, agony, and scorn,
Might ill bear even with love's name,
Yet felt the maiden's hidden flame
Come like the day-star in the east,
When every other light has ceased;
Sent from the bosom of the night
To harbinger the morning light.
Again they parted: she to brood
O'er dreaming hopes in solitude,
And every pitying saint to pray
For RAYMOND on the battle day.
And he no longer deem'd the field
But death to all his hopes could yield.
To other, softer dreams allied,
He thought upon the warrior's pride.
But as he pass'd the castle gate
He left so wholly desolate,
His throbbing pulse, his burning brain,
The sudden grasp upon the rein,
The breast and lip that gasp'd for air,
Told Love's shaft was still rankling there.
That night, borne o'er the bounding seas,
The vessel swept before the breeze,
Loaded the air, the war-cry's swell,
Woe to the Moorish infidel;
And raising their rich hymn, a band
Of priests were kneeling on the strand,
To bless the parting ship, and song
Came from the maidens ranged along
The sea wall, and who incense gave,
And flowers, like offerings to the wave
That bore the holy and the brave.
And RAYMOND felt his spirit rise,
And burn'd his cheek, and flash'd his eyes
With something of their ancient light,
While plume and pennon met his sight;
While o'er the deep swept the war-cry,
And peal'd the trumpet's voice on high,
While the ship rode the waves as she
Were mistress of their destiny.
And muster'd on the deck the band,
Till died the last shout from the strand;
But when the martial pomp was o'er,
And, like the future, dim the shore
On the horizon hung, again
Closed RAYMOND'S memory, like a chain
The spirit struggles with in vain.
The sky with its delicious blue,
The stars like visions wandering through:
Surely, if Fate had treasured there
Her rolls of life, they must be fair;
The mysteries their glories hide
Must be but of life's brightest side;
It cannot be that Fate would write
Her dark decrees in lines of light.
And RAYMOND mused upon the hour
When, comrade of the star and flower,
He watch'd beside his lady's bower;
He number'd every hope and dream,
Like blooms that threw upon life's stream
Colours of beauty, and then thought
On knowledge, all too dearly bought;
Feelings lit up in waste to burn,
Hopes that seem but shadows fair,
All that the heart so soon must learn,
All that it finds so hard to bear.
The young moon's vestal lamp that hour
Seem'd pale as that it pined for love;
No marvel such a night had power,
So calm below, so fair above,
To wake the spirit's finest chords
Till minstrel thoughts found minstrel words.
THE LAST SONG.
IT is the latest song of mine
That ever breathes thy name,
False idol of a dream-raised shrine,
Thy very thought is shame,--
Shame that I could my sprit bow
To one so very false as thou.
I had past years where the green wood
Makes twilight of the noon,
And I had watch'd the silver flood
Kiss'd by the rising moon;
And gazed upon the clear midnight
In all its luxury of light.
And, thrown where the blue violets dwell,
I would pass hours away,
Musing o'er some old chronicle
Fill'd with a wild love lay;
Till beauty seem'd to me a thing
Made for all nature's worshipping.
saw thee, and the air grew bright
In thy clear eyes' sunshine;
I oft had dream'd of shapes of light,
But not of shape like thine.
My heart bow'd down,--I worshipp'd thee,
A woman and a deity.
I may not say how thy first look
Turn'd my whole soul to flame,
I read it as a glorious book
Fill'd with high deeds of fame;
I felt a hero's spirit rise,
Unknown till lighted at thine eyes.
False look, false hope, and falsest love!
All meteors sent to me
To show how they the heart could move,
And how deceiving be:
They left me, darken'd, crush'd, alone,
My bosom's household gods o'erthrown.
The world itself was changed, and all
That I had loved before
Seem'd as if gone beyond recall,
And I could hope no more;
The sear of fire, the dint of steel,
Are easier than Love's wounds to heal.
But this is past, and I can cope
With what I'd fain forget;
I have a sweet, a gentle hope
That lingers with me yet,--
A hope too fair, too pure to be
Named in the words that speak of thee.
Henceforth within the last recess
Of my heart shall remain
Thy name in all its bitterness,
But never named again;
The only memory of that heart
Will be to think how false thou art.
And yet I fain would name thy name,
My heart's now gentle queen,
E'en as they burn the perfumed flame
Where the plague spot has been;
Methinks that it will cleanse away
The ills that on my spirit prey.
Sweet EVA ! the last time I gazed
Upon thy deep blue eyes,
The cheek whereon my look had raised
A blush's crimson dyes,
I marvell'd, love, this heart of mine
Had worshipp'd at another shrine.
I will think of thee when the star,
That lit our own fair river,
Shines in the blue sky from afar,
As beautiful as ever;
That twilight star, sweet love, shall be
A sign and seal with thee and me!
The Door Of Humility
We lead the blind by voice and hand,
And not by light they cannot see;
We are not framed to understand
The How and Why of such as He;
But natured only to rejoice
At every sound or sign of hope,
And, guided by the still small voice,
In patience through the darkness grope;
Until our finer sense expands,
And we exchange for holier sight
The earthly help of voice and hands,
And in His light behold the Light.
Let there be Light! The self-same Power
That out of formless dark and void
Endued with life's mysterious dower
Planet, and star, and asteroid;
That moved upon the waters' face,
And, breathing on them His intent,
Divided, and assigned their place
To, ocean, air, and firmament;
That bade the land appear, and bring
Forth herb and leaf, both fruit and flower,
Cattle that graze, and birds that sing,
Ordained the sunshine and the shower;
That, moulding man and woman, breathed
In them an active soul at birth
In His own image, and bequeathed
To them dominion over Earth;
That, by whatever is, decreed
His Will and Word shall be obeyed,
From loftiest star to lowliest seed;-
The worm and me He also made.
And when, for nuptials of the Spring
With Summer, on the vestal thorn
The bridal veil hung flowering,
A cry was heard, and I was born.
To be by blood and long descent
A member of a mighty State,
Whose greatness, sea-girt, but unpent
By ocean, makes the world more great;
That, ranging limitless, hath won
A Rule more wide than that of Rome,
And, journeying onward with the sun,
In every zone hath found a home;
That, keeping old traditions fast,
Still hails the things that are to be,
And, firmly rooted in the Past,
On Law hath grafted Liberty;-
That is a birthright nobler far
Than princely claim or Right Divine
From far-off rapine, wanton war,
And I could feel this birthright mine.
And not the lowliest hand that drives
Or share or loom, if so it be
Of British strain, but thence derives
A patent of nobility.
The guiding of the infant years
Onward to good, away from guile,
A mother's humanising tears,
A father's philosophic smile;
Refining beauty, gentle ways,
The admonitions of the wise,
The love that watches, helps, and prays,
And pities, but doth ne'er despise;
An ancient Faith, abiding hope,
The charity that suffers long,
But flames with sacred zeal to cope
With man's injustice, nature's wrong;
Melodious leisure, learnëd shelf,
Discourse of earnest, temperate mind,
The playful wit that of itself
Flashes, but leaves no wound behind;
The knowledge gleaned from Greece and Rome,
From studious Teuton, sprightly Gaul,
The lettered page, the mellow tome,
And poets' wisdom more than all;-
These, when no lips severe upbraid,
But counsel rather than control,
In budding boyhood lend their aid
To sensibility of soul.
But, more than mentor, mother, sire,
Can lend to shape the future man
With help of learning or of lyre,
Of ancient rule, or modern plan,
Is that which with our breath we bring
Into the world, we know not whence,
That needs nor care nor fostering,
Because an instinct and a sense.
And days and years are all forgot
When Nature's aspect, growth, and grace,
And veering moods, to me were not
The features of the Loved One's face.
The cloud whose shadow skims the lake,
The shimmering haze of summer noon,
The voice of April in the brake,
The silence of the mounting moon,
Swaying of bracken on the hill,
The murmur of the vagrant stream,
These motions of some unseen Will,
These babblings of some heavenly dream,
Seemed tokens of divine desire
To hold discourse with me, and so
To touch my lips with hallowed fire,
And tell me things I ought to know.
I gazed and listened, all intent,
As to the face and voice of Fate,
But what they said, or what they meant,
I could surmise not, nor translate.
They did but lure me to unrest,
Unanswered questioning, longings vain,
As when one scans some palimpsest
No erudition can explain;
But left me with a deep distaste
For common speech, that still did seem
More meaningless than mountain waste,
Less human than the far-off stream.
So that a stranger in the land
Wherein I moved, where'er I went,
I dwelt, whom none could understand,
Or exorcise my discontent.
And I to them, and they to me
Seemed from two different planets come,
And, save to flower and wild-bird's glee,
My heart was deaf, my soul was dumb.
But slowly dawned a happier time
When I began to apprehend,
And catch, as in some poet's rhyme,
The intimations of a friend;
When Nature spake no unknown tongue,
But language kindred to my thought,
Till everything She said, I sung,
In notes unforced, in words unsought.
And I to Her so closely drew,
The seasons round, in mind and mood,
I felt at length as if we knew
Self-same affection, self-same feud:
That both alike scorned worldly aim,
Profit, applause, parade, and pride,
Whereby the love of generous fame
And worthy deeds grows petrified.
I did as yet not understand
Nature is far more vast than I,
Deep as the ocean, wide as land,
And overarching as the sky;
And but responded to my call,
And only felt and fed my need,
Because She doth the same for all
Who to her pity turn and plead.
Shall man have mind, and Nature none,
Shall I, not she, have soul and heart?
Nay, rather, if we be not one,
Each is of each the counterpart.
She too may have within her breast
A conscience, if not like to yours,
A sense of rightness ill at rest,
Long as her waywardness endures.
And hence her thunder, earthquakes, hail,
Her levin bolts, her clouds' discharge:
She sins upon a larger scale,
Because She is herself more large.
Hence, too, when She hath pierced with pain
The heart of man, and wrecked his years,
The pity of the April rain,
And late repentance of her tears.
She is no better, worse, than we;
We can but say she seems more great,
That half her will, like ours, is free,
And half of it is locked in Fate.
Nor need we fear that we should err
Beyond our scope in reasoning thus,-
That there must be a God for Her,
If that there be a God for us.
The chiming of the Sabbath bell,
The silence of the Sabbath fields,
Over the hamlet cast a spell
To which the gracious spirit yields.
Sound is there none of wheel or wain,
Husht stands the anvil, husht the forge,
No shout is heard in rustic lane,
No axe resounds in timbered gorge.
No flail beats time on granary floor,
The windmill's rushing wings are stayed,
And children's glee rings out no more
From hedgerow bank or primrose glade.
The big-boned team that firm and slow
Draw yoked, are free to couch or stray;
The basking covey seem to know
None will invade their peace to-day.
And speckless swains, and maidens neat,
Through rustic porch, down cottage stair,
Demurely up the village street
Stream onward to the House of Prayer.
They kneel as they were taught to kneel
In childhood, and demand not why,
But, as they chant or answer, feel
A vague communion with the sky.
But when the impetuous mind is spurred
To range through epochs great but gone,
And, heedless of dogmatic word,
With fearless ardour presses on,
Confronting pulpit, sceptre, shrine,
With point by Logic beaten out,
And, questioning tenets deemed divine
With human challenge, human doubt,
Hoists Reason's sail, and for the haze
Of ocean quits Tradition's shore,
Awhile he comes, and kneels, and prays,
Then comes and kneels, but prays no more;
And only for the love he bears
To those who love him, and who reared
His frame to genuflexion, shares
In ritual, vain, if still revered.
His Gods are many or are none,
Saturn and Mithra, Christ and Jove,
Consorting, as the Ages run,
With Vestal choir or Pagan drove.
Abiding still by Northern shores,
He sees far off on Grecian coast
Veiled Aphrodite, but adores
Minerva and Apollo most.
Beauty of vision, voice, and mind,
Enthrall him so, that unto him
All Creeds seem true, if he but find
Siren, or saint, or seraphim.
And thus once more he dwells apart,
His inward self enswathed in mist,
Blending with poet's pious heart
The dreams of pagan Hedonist.
If Beauty be the Spirit's quest,
Its adoration, creed, and shrine,
Wherein its restlessness finds rest,
And earthly type of the Divine,
Must there for such not somewhere be
A blending of all beauteous things
In some one form wherein we see
The sum of our imaginings?
The smile on mountain's musing brow,
Sunrise and sunset, moon and star,
Wavelets around the cygnet's prow,
Glamour anear and charm afar;
The silence of the silvery pool,
Autumn's reserve and Summer's fire,
Slow vanishings of Winter's rule
To free full voice of April's choir;-
The worshippers of Beauty find
In maiden form, and face, and tress;
Faint intimations of her mind
And undulating loveliness.
Bound, runnels, bound, bound on, and flow!
Sing, merle and mavis, pair and sing!
Gone is the Winter, fled the snow,
And all that lives is flushed with Spring.
Harry the woods, young truant folk,
For flowers to deck your cottage sills,
And, underneath my orchard oak,
Cluster, ye golden daffodils!
Unfettered by domestic vow,
Cuckoo, proclaim your vagrant loves,
And coo upon the self-same bough,
Soar, laverock, soar on song to sky,
And with the choir of Heaven rejoice!
You cannot be more glad than I,
Who feel Her gaze, and hear Her voice:
Who see Her cheek more crimson glow,
And through Her veins love's current stream,
And feel a fear She doth but know
Is kin to joy and dawning dream.
Bound, rivulets, bound, bound on, and flow!
Sing, merle and mavis, pair and sing!
Gone from the world are want and woe,
And I myself am one with Spring.
They err who say that Love is blind,
Or, if it be, 'tis but in part,
And that, if for fair face it find
No counterpart in mind and heart,
It dwells on that which it beholds,
Fair fleshly vision void of soul,
Deeming, illusioned, this enfolds,
Longing's fulfilment, end, and whole.
Were such my hapless carnal lot,
I too might evanescent bliss
Embrace, fierce-fancied, fast forgot,
Then leave for some fresh loveliness.
But April gaze, and Summer tress,
With something of Autumnal thought,
In Her seem blent to crown and bless
A bond I long in dreams have sought.
She looks as though She came to grace
The earth, from world less soiled than this,
Around her head and virgin face
Halo of heavenly holiness.
He who hath roamed through various lands,
And, wheresoe'er his steps are set,
The kindred meaning understands
Of spire, and dome, and minaret;
By Roman river, Stamboul's sea,
In Peter's or Sophia's shrine,
Acknowledges with reverent knee
The presence of the One Divine;
Who, to the land he loves so well
Returning, towards the sunset hour
Wends homeward, feels yet stronger spell
In lichened roof and grey church-tower;
Round whose foundations, side by side,
Sleep hamlet wit and village sage,
While loud the blackbird cheers his bride
Deep in umbrageous Vicarage.
Was it that sense which some aver
Foreshadows Fate it doth not see,
That gave unwittingly to Her
The name, for ever dear to me,
Borne by that tearful Mother whom,
Nigh unto Ostia's shelving sand,
Augustine laid in lonely tomb,
Ere sailing for his Afric land?
But I at least should have foreseen,
When Monica to me had grown
Familiar word, that names may mean
More than by word and name is shown;
That nought can keep two lives apart
More than divorce 'twixt mind and mind,
Even though heart be one with heart;-
Alas! Alas! Yes, Love is blind.
How could I think of jarring Creeds,
And riddles that unread remain,
Or ask if Heaven's indulgence heeds
Broils born of man's polemic brain,
And pause because my venturous mind
Had roamed through tracks of polar thought,
Whence mightiest spirits turn back blind,
Since finding not the thing they sought,
When Love, with luring gifts in hand,
Beauty, refinement, smile, caress,
Heart to surmise and understand,
And crowning grace of holiness,
Stood there before me, and, with gaze
I had been purblind not to see,
Said, ``I to you will, all my days,
Give what you yearn to give to me''?
Must both then sorrow, while we live,
Because, rejoicing, I forgot
Something there was I could not give,
Because, alas! I had it not.
She comes from Vicarage Garden, see!
Radiant as morning, lithe and tall,
Fresh lilies in her hand, but She
The loveliest lily of them all.
The thrushes in their fluting pause,
The bees float humming round her head,
Earth, air, and heaven shine out because
They hear her voice, and feel her tread.
Up in the fretted grey church-tower,
That rustic gaze for miles can see,
The belfry strikes the silvery hour,
Announcing her propinquity.
And I who, fearful to be late,
Passed long since through the deerpark pale,
And loitered by the churchyard gate,
Once more exclaim, ``Hail! loved one! hail!''
We pass within, and up the nave,
Husht, because Heaven seems always there,
Wend choirward, where, devoutly grave,
She kneels, to breathe a silent prayer.
She takes the flowers I too have brought,
Blending them deftly with her own,
And ranges them, as quick as thought,
Around the white-draped altar-throne.
How could she know my gaze was not
On things unseen, but fixed on Her,
That, as She prayed, I all forgot
The worship in the worshipper?-
While She beheld, as in a glass,
The Light Divine, that I but sought
Sight of her soul?-Alas! Alas!
Love is yet blinder than I thought.
Who hath not seen a little cloud
Up from the clear horizon steal,
And, mounting lurid, mutter loud
Husht grows the grove, the summer leaf
Trembles and writhes, as if in pain,
And then the sky, o'ercharged with grief,
Bursts into drenching tears of rain.
I through the years had sought to hide
My darkening doubts from simple sight.
'Tis sacrilegious to deride
Faith of unquestioning neophyte.
And what, methought, is Doubt at best?
A sterile wind through seeded sedge
Blowing for nought, an empty nest
That lingers in a leafless hedge.
Pain, too, there is we should not share
With others lest it mar their joy;
There is a quiet bliss in prayer
None but the heartless would destroy.
But just as Love is quick divined
From heightened glow or visage pale,
The meditations of the Mind
Disclose themselves through densest veil.
And 'tis the unloving and least wise
Who through life's inmost precincts press,
And with unsympathetic eyes
Outrage our sacred loneliness.
Then, when their sacrilegious gaze
The mournful void hath half surmised,
To some more tender soul they raise
The veil of ignorance it prized.
`What though I write farewell I could
Not utter, lest your gaze should chide,
'Twill by your love be understood
My love is still, dear, at your side.
``Nor must we meet to speak goodbye,
Lest that my Will should lose its choice,
And conscience waver, for then I
Should see your face and hear your voice.
``But, when you find yourself once more,
Come back, come back and look for me,
Beside the little lowly door,
The Doorway of Humility.''
There! Peace at last! The far-off roar
Of human passion dies away.
``Welcome to our broad shade once more,''
The waning woodlands seem to say:
The music of the vagrant wind,
That wandered aimlessly, is stilled;
The songless branches all remind
That Summer's glory is fulfilled.
The fluttering of the falling leaves
Dimples the leaden pool awhile;
So Age impassively receives
Youth's tale of troubles with a smile.
Thus, as the seasons steal away,
How much is schemed, how little done,
What splendid plans at break of day!
What void regrets at set of sun!
The world goes round, for you, for me,
For him who sleeps, for him who strives,
And the cold Fates indifferent see
Crowning or failure of our lives.
Then fall, ye leaves, fade, summer breeze!
Grow, sedges, sere on every pool!
Let each old glowing impulse freeze,
Let each old generous project cool!
It is not wisdom, wit, nor worth,
Self-sacrifice nor friendship true,
Makes venal devotees of earth
Prostrate themselves and worship you.
The consciousness of sovran powers,
The stubborn purpose, steadfast will,
Have ever, in this world of ours,
Achieved success, achieve it still.
Farewell, ye woods! No more I sit;
Great voices in the distance call.
If this be peace, enough of it!
I go. Fall, unseen foliage, fall!
Nay, but repress rebellious woe!
In grief 'tis not that febrile fool,
Passion, that can but overthrow,
But Resignation, that should rule.
In patient sadness lurks a gift
To purify the life it stings,
And, as the days move onward, lift
The lonely heart to loftier things;
Bringing within one's ripening reach
The sceptre of majestic Thought,
Wherefrom one slowly learns to teach
The Wisdom to oneself it taught.
And unto what can man aspire,
On earth, more worth the striving for,
Than to be Reason's loftier lyre,
And reconciling monitor;
To strike a more resounding string
And deeper notes of joy and pain,
Than such as but lamenting sing,
Or warble but a sensuous strain:
So, when my days are nearly sped,
And my last harvest labours done,
That I may have around my head
The halo of a setting sun.
Yet even if be heard above
Such selfish hope, presumptuous claim,
Better one hour of perfect love
Than an eternity of Fame!
Where then for grief seek out the cure?
What scenes will bid my smart to cease?
High peaks should teach one to endure,
And lakes secluded bring one peace.
Farewell awhile, then, village bells,
Autumnal wood and harvest wain!
And welcome, as it sinks or swells,
The music of the mighty main,
That seems to say, now loud, now low,
Rising or falling, sweet or shrill,
``I pace, a sentry, to and fro,
To guard your Island fortress still.''
The roses falter on their stalk,
The late peach reddens on the wall,
The flowers along the garden walk
Unheeded fade, unheeded fall.
My gates unopened drip with rain,
The wolf-hound wends from floor to floor,
And, listening for my voice in vain,
Waileth along the corridor.
Within the old accustomed place
Where we so oft were wont to be,
Kneeling She prays, while down her face
The fruitless tears fall silently.
Rain, wind, and rain. The writhing lake
Scuds to and fro to scape their stroke:
The mountains veil their heads, and make
Of cloud and mist a wintry cloak.
Through where the arching pinewoods make
Dusk cloisters down the mountain side,
The loosened avalanches take
Valeward their way, with death for guide,
And toss their shaggy manes and fling
To air their foam and tawny froth,
From ledge and precipice bound and spring,
With hungry roar and deepening wrath;
Till, hamlet homes and orchards crushed,
And, rage for further ravin stayed,
They slumber, satiated, husht,
Upon the ruins they have made.
I rise from larch-log hearth, and, lone,
Gaze on the spears of serried rain,
That faster, nigher, still are blown,
Then stream adown the window pane.
The peasant's goatskin garments drip,
As home he wends with lowered head,
Shakes off the drops from lid and lip,
Then slinks within his châlet shed.
The cattle bells sound dull and hoarse,
The boats rock idly by the shore;
Only the swollen torrents course
With faster feet and fuller roar.
Mournful, I shape a mournful song,
And ask the heavens, but ask in vain,
``How long, how long?'' Ah! not so long
As, in my heart, rain, wind, and rain.
I ask the dark, the dawn, the sun,
The domeward-pointing peaks of snow,
Lofty and low alike, but none
Will tell me what I crave to know.
My mind demands, ``Whence, Whither, Why?''
From mountain slope and green defile,
And wait the answer. The reply-
A far-off irresponsive smile.
I ask the stars, when mortals sleep,
The pensive moon, the lonely winds;
But, haply if they know, they keep
The secret of secluded minds.
Shall I in vain, then, strive to find,
Straining towards merely fancied goal?
Where in the lily lurks the mind,
Where in the rose discern the soul?
More mindless still, stream, pasture, lake,
The mountains yet more heartless seem,
And life's unceasing quest and ache
Only a dream within a dream.
We know no more, though racked with thought
Than he who, in yon châlet born,
Gives not the riddle, Life, a thought,
But lays him down and sleeps till morn.
Sometimes he kneels; I cannot kneel,
So suffer from a wider curse
Than Eden's outcasts, for I feel
An exile in the universe.
The rudeness of his birth enures
His limbs to every season's stings,
And, never probing, so endures
The sadness at the heart of things.
When lauwine growls, and thunder swells,
Their far-off clamour sounds to me
But as the noise of clanging bells
Above a silent sanctuary.
It is their silence that appals,
Their aspect motionless that awes,
When searching spirit vainly calls
On the effect to bare the Cause.
I get no answer, near or far;
The mountains, though they soar so high,
And scale the pathless ether, are
No nearer unto God than I.
There dwells nor mystery nor veil
Round the clear peaks no foot hath trod;
I, gazing on their frontage pale,
See but the waning ghost of God.
Is Faith then but a drug for sleep,
And Hope a fondly soothing friend
That bids us, when it sees us weep,
Wait for the End that hath no end?
Then do I hear voice unforgot
Wailing across the distance dim,
``Think, dear! If God existeth not,
Why are you always seeking Him?''
Like glowing furnace of the forge,
How the winds rise and roar, as they
Up twisting valley, craggy gorge,
Seek, and still seek, to storm their way;
Then, baffled, up the open slope
With quickening pulses scale and pant,
Indomitably bent to cope
With bristling fronts of adamant.
All through the day resounds the strife,
Then doth at sunset hour subside:
So the fierce passions of our life
Slowly expire at eventide.
By Nature we are ne'er misled;
We see most truly when we dream.
A singer wise was he who said,
``Follow the gleam! Follow the gleam!''
I dreamed, last night, again I stood,
Silent, without the village shrine,
While She in modest maidenhood
Left, fondly clasped, her hand in mine.
And, with a face as cerecloth white,
And tears like those that by the bier
Of loved one lost make dim the sight,
She poured her sorrows in mine ear.
``I love your voice, I love your gaze,
But there is something dearer still,
The faith that kneels, the hope that prays,
And bows before the Heavenly Will.
``Not where hills rise, or torrents roll,
Seek Him, nor yet alone, apart;
He dwells within the troubled soul,
His home is in the human heart.
``Withal, the peaceful mountains may
'Twixt doubt and yearning end the strife:
So ponder, though you cannot pray,
And think some meaning into life:
``Nor like to those that cross the main
To wander witless through strange land,
Hearing unmastered tongues, disdain
The speech they do not understand.
``Firm stands my faith that they who sound
The depths of doubt Faith yet will save:
They are like children playing round
A still remembered mother's grave;
``Not knowing, when they wax more old,
And somewhat can her vision share,
She will the winding-sheet unfold,
And beckon them to evening prayer.''
Then, with my hand betwixt her hands,
She laid her lips upon my brow,
And, as to one who understands,
Said, ``Take once more my vestal vow.
``No other gaze makes mine to glow,
No other footstep stirs my heart,
To me you only dearer grow,
Dearer and nearer, more apart.
``Whene'er you come with humble mind,
The little Door stands open wide,
And, bending low, you still will find
Me waiting on the other side.''
Her silence woke me. . . . To your breast
Fold me, O sleep! and seal mine ears;
That She may roam through my unrest
Till all my dreams are drenched with tears!
Why linger longer, subject, here,
Where Nature sits and reigns alone,
Inspiring love not, only fear,
Upon her autocratic throne?
Her edicts are the rigid snow,
The wayward winds, the swaying branch;
She hath no pity to bestow,
Her law the lawless avalanche.
Though soon cascades will bound and sing,
That now but drip with tears of ice,
And upland meadows touched by Spring
Blue gentian blend with edelweiss,
Hence to the Land of youthful dreams,
The Land that taught me all I know.
Farewell, lone mountain-peaks and streams;
Yet take my thanks before I go.
You gave me shelter when I fled,
But sternly bade me stem my tears,
Nor aimless roam with rustling tread
'Mong fallen leaves of fruitless years.
Upon the topmost wheel-track steep,
The parting of two nations' ways,
Athwart stone cross engraven deep,
The name ``Italia'' greets the gaze!
I trembled, when I saw it first,
With joy, my boyish longings fed,
The headspring of my constant thirst,
The altar of my pilgrim tread.
Now once again the magic word,
So faintly borne to Northern home,
Sounds like a silvery trumpet heard
Beneath some universal dome.
The forests soften to a smile,
A smile the very mountains wear,
Through mossy gorge and grassed defile
Torrents race glad and debonair.
From casement, balcony and door,
Hang golden gourds, droops tear-tipped vine,
And sun-bronzed faces bask before
Thin straw-swathed flasks of last year's wine.
Unyoked, the patient sleek-skinned steers
Take, like their lords, no heed of time.
Hark! now the evening star appears,
Ave Maria belfries chime.
The maidens knit, and glance, and sing,
With glowing gaze 'neath ebon tress,
And, like to copse-buds sunned by Spring,
Seem burgeoning into tenderness.
On waveless lake where willows weep,
The Borromean Islands rest
As motionless as babe asleep
Upon a slumbering Mother's breast.
O Land of sunshine, song, and Love!
Whether thy children reap or sow,
Of Love they chant on hills above,
Of Love they sing in vale below.
But what avail the love-linked hands,
And love-lit eyes, to them that roam
Passionless through impassioned lands,
Since they have left their heart at home!
Among my dreams, now known as dreams
In this my reawakened life,
I thought that by historic streams,
Apart from stress, aloof from strife,
By rugged paths that twist and twine
Through olive slope and chesnut wood
Upward to mediaeval shrine,
Or high conventual brotherhood,
Along the mountain-curtained track
Round peaceful lake where wintry bands
Halt briefly but to bivouac
Ere blustering on to Northern lands;-
Through these, through all I first did see,
With me to share my raptures none,
That nuptialled Monica would be
My novice and companion:
That we should float from mere to mere,
And sleep within some windless cove,
With nightingales to lull the ear,
From ilex wood and orange grove;
Linger at hamlets lost to fame,
That still wise-wandering feet beguile,
To gaze on frescoed wall or frame
Lit by Luini's gracious smile.
Now, but companioned by my pain,
Among each well-remembered scene
I can but let my Fancy feign
The happiness that might have been;
Imagine that I hear her voice,
Imagine that I feel her hand,
And I, enamoured guide, rejoice
To see her swift to understand.
Alack! Imagination might
As lief with rustic Virgil roam,
Reverent, or, welcomed guest, alight
At Pliny's philosophic home;
Hear one majestically trace
Rome's world-wide sway from wattled wall,
And read upon the other's face
The omens of an Empire's fall.
Like moonlight seen through forest leaves,
She shines upon me from afar,
What time men reap the ripened sheaves,
And Heaven rains many a falling star.
I gaze up to her lofty height,
And feel how far we dwell apart:
O if I could, this night, this night,
Fold her full radiance to my heart!
But She in Heaven, and I on earth,
Still journey on, but each alone;
She, maiden Queen of sacred birth,
Who with no consort shares her throne.
What if She ever thought She saw
The self within myself prefer
Communion with the silent awe
Of far-off mountains more than Her;
That Nature hath the mobile grace
To make life with our moods agree,
And so had grown the Loved One's face,
Since it nor checked nor chided me;
Or from the tasks that irk and tire
I sought for comfort from the Muse,
Because it grants the mind's desire
All that familiar things refuse.
How vain such thought! The face, the form,
Of mountain summits but express,
Clouded or clear, in sun or storm,
Feebly Her spirit's loftiness.
Did I explore from pole to pole,
In Nature's aspect I should find
But faint reflections of Her soul,
Dim adumbrations of Her mind.
O come and test with lake, with stream,
With mountain, which the stronger be,
Thou, my divinest dearest dream,
My Muse, and more than Muse, to me!
They tell me that Jehovah speaks
In silent grove, on lonely strand,
And summit of the mountain peaks;
Yet there I do not understand.
The stars, disdainful of my thought,
Majestic march toward their goal,
And to my nightly watch have brought
No explanation to my soul.
The truth I seek I cannot find,
In air or sky, on land or sea;
If the hills have their secret mind,
They will not yield it up to me:
Like one who lost mid lonely hills
Still seeks but cannot find his way,
Since guide is none save winding rills,
That seem themselves, too, gone astray.
And so from rise to set of sun,
At glimmering dawn, in twilight haze,
I but behold the face of One
Who veils her face, and weeps, and prays.
What know I that She doth not know?
What I know not, She understands:
With heavenly gifts She overflows,
While I have only empty hands.
O weary wanderer! Best forego
This questioning of wind and wave.
For you the sunshine and the snow,
The womb, the cradle, and the grave.
How blest, when organ concords swell,
And anthems are intoned, are they
Who neither reason nor rebel,
But meekly bow their heads and pray.
And such the peasants mountain-bred,
Who hail to-day with blithe accord
Her Feast Who to the Angel said,
``Behold the Handmaid of the Lord!''
Downward they wind from pastoral height,
Or hamlet grouped round shattered towers,
To wend to shrine more richly dight,
And bring their gift of wilding flowers;
Their gifts, their griefs, their daily needs,
And lay these at Her statue's base,
Who never, deem they, intercedes
Vainly before the Throne of Grace.
Shall I, because I stand apart,
A stranger to their pious vows,
Scorn their humility of heart
That pleads before the Virgin Spouse,
Confiding that the Son will ne'er,
If in His justice wroth with them,
Refuse to harken to Her prayer
Who suckled Him in Bethlehem?
Of all the intercessors born
By man's celestial fancy, none
Hath helped the sorrowing, the forlorn,
Lowly and lone, as She hath done.
The maiden faithful to Her shrine
Bids demons of temptation flee,
And mothers fruitful as the vine
Retain their vestal purity.
Too trustful love, by lust betrayed,
And by cold worldlings unforgiven,
Unto Her having wept and prayed,
Faces its fate, consoled and shriven.
The restless, fiercely probing mind
No honey gleans, though still it stings.
What comfort doth the spirit find
In Reason's endless reasonings?
They have no solace for my grief,
Compassion none for all my pain:
They toss me like the fluttering leaf,
And leave me to the wind and rain.
If Conscience be God's Law to Man,
Then Conscience must perforce arraign
Whatever falls beneath the ban
Of that allotted Suzerain.
And He, who bids us not to swerve,
Whither the wayward passions draw,
From its stern sanctions, must observe
The limits of the self-same Law.
Yet, if obedient Conscience scan
The sum of wrongs endured and done
Neither by act nor fault of Man,
They rouse it to rebellion.
Life seems of life by life bereft
Through some immitigable curse,
And Man sole moral being left
In a non-moral Universe.
My Conscience would my Will withstand,
Did Will project a world like this:
Better Eternal vacuum still,
Than murder, lust, and heartlessness!
If Man makes Conscience, then being good
Is only being worldly wise,
And universal brotherhood
A comfortable compromise.
O smoke of War! O blood-steeped sod!
O groans of fratricidal strife!
Who will explain the ways of God,
That I may be at peace with life!
The moral riddle 'tis that haunts,
Primeval and unending curse,
Racking the mind when pulpit vaunts
A Heaven-created Universe.
Yet whence came Life, and how begin?
Rolleth the globe by choice or chance?
Dear Lord! Why longer shut me in
This prison-house of ignorance!
City acclaimed ere Dante's days
Fair, and baptized in field of flowers,
Once more I scan with tender gaze
Your glistening domes, your storied towers.
I feel as if long years had flown
Since first with eager heart I came,
And, girdled by your mountain zone,
Found you yet fairer than your fame.
It was the season purple-sweet
When figs are plump, and grapes are pressed,
And all your sons with following feet
Bore a dead Poet to final rest.
You seemed to fling your gates ajar,
And softly lead me by the hand,
Saying, ``Behold! henceforth you are
No stranger in the Tuscan land.''
And though no love my love can wean
From native crag and cradling sea,
Yet Florence from that hour hath been
More than a foster-nurse to me.
When mount I terraced slopes arrayed
In bridal bloom of peach and pear,
While under olive's phantom shade
Lupine and beanflower scent the air,
The wild-bees hum round golden bay,
The green frog sings on fig-tree bole,
And, see! down daisy-whitened way
Come the slow steers and swaying pole.
The fresh-pruned vine-stems, curving, bend
Over the peaceful wheaten spears,
And with the glittering sunshine blend
Their transitory April tears.
O'er wall and trellis trailed and wound,
Hang roses blushing, roses pale;
And, hark! what was that silvery sound?
The first note of the nightingale.
Curtained, I close my lids and dream
Of Beauty seen not but surmised,
And, lulled by scent and song, I seem
When from the deep sweet swoon I wake
And gaze past slopes of grape and grain,
Where Arno, like some lonely lake,
Silvers the far-off seaward plain,
I see celestial sunset fires
That lift us from this earthly leaven,
And darkly silent cypress spires
Pointing the way from hill to Heaven.
Then something more than mortal steals
Over the wavering twilight air,
And, messenger of nightfall, peals
From each crowned peak a call to prayer.
And now the last meek prayer is said,
And, in the hallowed hush, there is
Only a starry dome o'erhead,
Propped by columnar cypresses.
Re-roaming through this palaced town,
I suddenly, 'neath grim-barred pile,
Catch sight of Dante's awful frown,
Or Leonardo's mystic smile;
Then, swayed by memory's fancy, stroll
To where from May-day's flaming pyre
Savonarola's austere soul
Went up to Heaven in tongues of fire;
Or Buonarroti's plastic hand
Made marble block from Massa's steep
Dawn into Day at his command,
Then plunged it into Night and Sleep.
No later wanderings can dispel
The glamour of the bygone years;
And, through the streets I know so well,
I scarce can see my way for tears.
A sombre shadow seems to fall
On comely altar, transept fair;
The saints are still on frescoed wall,
But who comes thither now for prayer?
Men throng from far-off stranger land,
To stare, to wonder, not to kneel,
With map and guide-book in their hand
To tell them what to think and feel.
They scan, they prate, they marvel why
The figures still expressive glow,
Oblivious they were painted by
Adoring Frà Angelico.
Did Dante from his tomb afar
Return, his wrongs redressed at last,
And see you, Florence, as you are,
Half alien to your gracious Past,
Finding no Donatello now,
No reverent Giotto 'mong the quick,
To glorify ascetic vow
Of Francis or of Dominic;
Self-exiled by yet sterner fate
Than erst, he would from wandering cease,
And, ringing at monastic gate,
Plead, ``I am one who craves for peace.''
And what he sought but ne'er could find,
Shall I, less worthy, hope to gain,
The freedom of the tranquil mind,
The lordship over loss and pain?
More than such peace I found when I
Did first, in unbound youth, repair
To Tuscan shrine, Ausonian sky.
I found it, for I brought it there.
Yet Art brings peace, itself is Peace,
And, as I on these frescoes gaze,
I feel all fretful tumults cease
And harvest calm of mellower days.
For Soul too hath its seasons. Time,
That leads Spring, Summer, Autumn, round,
Makes our ephemeral passions chime
With something permanent and profound.
And, as in Nature, April oft
Strives to revert to wintry hours,
But shortly upon garth and croft
Re-sheds warm smiles and moistening showers,
Or, for one day, will Autumn wear
The gayer garments of the Spring,
And then athwart the wheatfields bare
Again her graver shadows fling;
So, though the Soul hath moods that veer,
And seem to hold no Rule in awe,
Like the procession of the year,
It too obeys the sovran Law.
Nor Art itself brings settled peace,
Until the mind is schooled to know
That gusts subside and tumults cease
Only in sunset's afterglow.
Life's contradictions vanish then,
Husht thought replacing clashing talk
Among the windy ways of men.
'Tis in the twilight Angels walk.
The last warm gleams of sunset fade
From cypress spire and stonepine dome,
And, in the twilight's deepening shade,
Lingering, I scan the wrecks of Rome.
Husht the Madonna's Evening Bell;
The steers lie loosed from wain and plough;
The vagrant monk is in his cell,
The meek nun-novice cloistered now.
Pedant's presumptuous voice no more
Vexes the spot where Caesar trod,
And o'er the pavement's soundless floor
Come banished priest and exiled God.
The lank-ribbed she-wolf, couched among
The regal hillside's tangled scrubs,
With doting gaze and fondling tongue
Suckles the Vestal's twin-born cubs.
Yet once again Evander leads
Æneas to his wattled home,
And, throned on Tiber's fresh-cut reeds,
Talks of burnt Troy and rising Rome.
From out the tawny dusk one hears
The half-feigned scream of Sabine maids,
The rush to arms, then swift the tears
That separate the clashing blades.
The Lictors with their fasces throng
To quell the Commons' rising roar,
As Tullia's chariot flames along,
Splashed with her murdered father's gore.
Her tresses free from band or comb,
Love-dimpled Venus, lithe and tall,
And fresh as Fiumicino's foam,
Mounts her pentelic pedestal.
With languid lids, and lips apart,
And curving limbs like wave half-furled,
Unarmed she dominates the heart,
And without sceptre sways the world.
Nerved by her smile, avenging Mars
Stalks through the Forum's fallen fanes,
Or, changed of mien and healed of scars,
Threads sylvan slopes and vineyard plains.
With waves of song from wakening lyre
Apollo routs the wavering night,
While, parsley-crowned, the white-robed choir
Wind chanting up the Sacred Height,
Where Jove, with thunder-garlands wreathed,
And crisp locks frayed like fretted foam,
Sits with his lightnings half unsheathed,
And frowns against the foes of Rome.
You cannot kill the Gods. They still
Reclaim the thrones where once they reigned,
Rehaunt the grove, remount the rill,
And renovate their rites profaned.
Diana's hounds still lead the chase,
Still Neptune's Trident crests the sea,
And still man's spirit soars through space
On feathered heels of Mercury.
No flood can quench the Vestals' Fire;
The Flamen's robes are still as white
As ere the Salii's armoured choir
Were drowned by droning anchorite.
The saint may seize the siren's seat,
The shaveling frown where frisked the Faun;
Ne'er will, though all beside should fleet,
The Olympian Presence be withdrawn.
Here, even in the noontide glare,
The Gods, recumbent, take their ease;
Go look, and you will find them there,
Slumbering behind some fallen frieze.
But most, when sunset glow hath paled,
And come, as now, the twilight hour,
In vesper vagueness dimly veiled
I feel their presence and their power.
What though their temples strew the ground,
And to the ruin owls repair,
Their home, their haunt, is all around;
They drive the cloud, they ride the air.
And, when the planets wend their way
Along the never-ageing skies,
``Revere the Gods'' I hear them say;
``The Gods are old, the Gods are wise.''
Build as man may, Time gnaws and peers
Through marble fissures, granite rents;
Only Imagination rears
Let Gaul and Goth pollute the shrine,
Level the altar, fire the fane:
There is no razing the Divine;
The Gods return, the Gods remain.
Christ is arisen. The place wherein
They laid Him shows but cerements furled,
And belfry answers belfry's din
To ring the tidings round the world.
Grave Hierarchs come, an endless band,
In jewelled mitre, cope embossed,
Who bear Rome's will to every land
In all the tongues of Pentecost.
Majestic, along marble floor,
Walk Cardinals in blood-red robe,
Martyrs for Faith and Christ no more,
Who gaze as though they ruled the globe.
With halberds bare and doublets slashed,
Emblems that war will never cease,
Come martial guardians, unabashed,
And march afront the Prince of Peace.
Then, in his gestatorial Chair
See Christ's vicegerent, bland, benign,
To crowds all prostrate as in prayer
Lean low, and make the Holy Sign.
Then trumpets shrill, and organ peals,
Throughout the mighty marble pile,
Whileas a myriad concourse kneels
In dense-packed nave and crowded aisle.
Hark to the sudden hush! Aloft
From unseen source in empty dome
Swells prayerful music silvery-soft,
Borne from far-off celestial Home.
Then, when the solemn rite is done,
The worshippers stream out to where
Dance fountains glittering in the sun,
While expectation fills the air.
Now on high balcony He stands,
And-save for the Colonna curse,-
Blesses with high-uplifted hands
The City and the Universe.
Christ is arisen! But scarce as when,
On the third day of death and gloom,
Came ever-loving Magdalen
With tears and spices to His tomb.
The Tiber winds its sluggish way
Through niggard tracts whence Rome's command
Once cast the shadow of her sway,
O'er Asian city, Afric sand.
Nor even yet doth She resign
Her sceptre. Still the spell is hers,
Though she may seem a rifled shrine
'Mid circumjacent sepulchres.
One after one, they came, they come,
Gaul, Goth, Savoy, to work their will;
She answers, when She most seems dumb,
``I wore the Crown, I wear it still.
``From Jove I first received the gift,
I from Jehovah wear it now,
Nor shall profane invader lift
The diadem from off my brow.
``The Past is mine, and on the Past
The Future builds; and Time will rear
The next strong structure on the last,
Where men behold but shattered tier.
``The Teuton hither hies to teach,
To prove, disprove, to delve and probe.
Fool! Pedant! Does he think to reach
The deep foundations of the globe?''
For me, I am content to tread
On Sabine dust and Gothic foe.
Leave me to deepening silent dread
Of vanished Empire's afterglow.
In this Imperial wilderness
Why rashly babble and explore?
O, let me know a little less,
So I may feel a little more!
For upward of one thousand years,
Here men and women prayed to Jove,
With smiles and incense, gifts and tears,
In secret shrine, or civic grove;
And, when Jove did not seem to heed,
Sought Juno's mediatorial power,
Or begged fair Venus intercede
And melt him in his amorous hour.
Sages invoked Minerva's might;
The Poet, ere he struck the lyre,
Prayed to the God of Song and Light
To touch the strings with hallowed fire.
With flaming herbs were altars smoked
Sprinkled with blood and perfumed must,
And gods and goddesses invoked
To second love or sanction lust.
And did they hear and heed the prayer,
Or, through that long Olympian reign,
Were they divinities of air
Begot of man's fantastic brain?
In Roman halls their statues still
Serenely stand, but no one now
Ascends the Capitolian Hill,
To render thanks, or urge the vow.
Through now long centuries hath Rome
Throned other God, preached other Creed,
That here still have their central home,
And feed man's hope, content his need.
Against these, too, will Time prevail?
No! Let whatever gestates, be,
Secure will last the tender tale
From Bethlehem to Calvary.
Throughout this world of pain and loss,
Man ne'er will cease to bend his knee
To Crown of Thorns, to Spear, to Cross,
And Doorway of Humility.
If Reason be the sole safe guide
In man implanted from above,
Why crave we for one only face,
Why consecrate the name of Love?
Faces there are no whit less fair,
Yet ruddier lip, more radiant eye,
Same rippling smile, same auburn hair,
But not for us. Say, Reason, why.
Why bound our hearts when April pied
Comes singing, or when hawthorn blows?
Doth logic in the lily hide,
And where's the reason in the rose?
Why weld our keels and launch our ships,
If Reason urge some wiser part,
Kiss England's Flag with dying lips
And fold its glories to the heart?
In this gross world we touch and see,
If Reason be no trusty guide,
For world unseen why should it be
The sole explorer justified?
The homing swallow knows its nest,
Sure curves the comet to its goal,
Instinct leads Autumn to its rest,
And why not Faith the homing soul?
Is Reason so aloof, aloft,
It doth not 'gainst itself rebel,
And are not Reason's reasonings oft
By Reason proved unreasonable?
He is perplexed no more, who prays,
``Hail, Mary Mother, full of grace!''
O drag me from Doubt's endless maze,
And let me see my Loved One's face!
``Upon this rock!'' Yet even here
Where Christian God ousts Pagan wraith,
Rebellious Reason whets its spear,
And smites upon the shield of Faith.
On sacred mount, down seven-hilled slopes,
Fearless it faces foe and friend,
Saying to man's immortal hopes,
``Whatso began, perforce must end.''
Not men alone, but gods too, die;
Fanes are, like hearths, left bare and lone;
This earth will into fragments fly,
And Heaven itself be overthrown.
Why then should Man immortal be?
He is but fleeting form, to fade,
Like momentary cloud, or sea
Of waves dispersed as soon as made.
Yet if 'tis Force, not Form, survives,
Meseems therein that one may find
Some comfort for distressful lives;
For, if Force ends not, why should Mind?
Is Doubt more forceful than Belief?
The doctor's cap than friar's cowl?
O ripeness of the falling leaf!
O wisdom of the moping owl!
Man's Mind will ever stand apart
From Science, save this have for goal
The evolution of the heart,
And sure survival of the Soul.
The Umbilicum lonely stands
Where once rose porch and vanished dome;
But he discerns who understands
That every road may lead to Rome.
Enthroned in Peter's peaceful Chair,
The spiritual Caesar sways
A wider Realm of earth and air
Than trembled at Octavian's gaze.
His universal arms embrace
The saint, the sinner, and the sage,
And proffer refuge, comfort, grace
To tribulation's pilgrimage.
Here scientific searchers find
Precursors for two thousand years,
Who in a drouthy world divined
Fresh springs for human doubts and fears.
Here fair chaste Agnes veils her face
From prowlers of the sensual den,
And pity, pardon, and embrace
Await repentant Magdalen.
Princess and peasant-mother wend
To self-same altar, self-same shrine,
And Cardinal and Patriarch bend
Where lepers kneel, and beggars whine.
And is there then, in my distress,
No road, no gate, no shrine, for me?
The answer comes, ``Yes, surely, yes!
The Doorway of Humility.''
O rival Faiths! O clamorous Creeds!
Would you but hush your strife in prayer,
And raise one Temple for our needs,
Then, then, we all might worship there.
But dogma new with dogma old
Clashes to soothe the spirit's grief,
And offer to the unconsoled
Polyglot Babel of Belief!
The billows roll, and rise, and break,
Around me; fixedly shine the stars
In clear dome overhead, and take
Their course, unheeding earthly jars.
Yet if one's upward gaze could be
But stationed where the planets are,
The star were restless as the sea,
The sea be tranquil as the star.
Hollowed like cradle, then like grave,
Now smoothly curved, now shapeless spray,
Withal the undirected wave
Forms, and reforms, and knows its way.
Then, waters, bear me on where He,
Ere death absolved at Christian font,
Removed Rome's menaced majesty
Eastward beyond the Hellespont.
Foreseeing not what Fate concealed,
But Time's caprice would there beget,
That Cross would unto Crescent yield,
Caesar and Christ to Mahomet.
Is it then man's predestined state
To search for, ne'er to find, the Light?
Arise, my Star, illuminate
These empty spaces of the Night!
Last night I heard the cuckoo call
Among the moist green glades of home,
And in the Chase around the Hall
Saw the May hawthorn flower and foam.
Deep in the wood where primrose stars
Paled before bluebell's dazzling reign,
The nightingale's sad sobbing bars
Rebuked the merle's too joyful strain.
The kine streamed forth from stall and byre,
The foal frisked round its mother staid,
The meads, by sunshine warmed, took fire,
And lambs in pasture, bleating, played.
The uncurbed rivulets raced to where
The statelier river curled and wound,
And trout, of human step aware,
Shot through the wave without a sound.
Adown the village street, as clear
As in one's wakeful mid-day hours,
Beheld I Monica drawing near,
Her vestal lap one crib of flowers.
Lending no look to me, she passed
By the stone path, as oft before,
Between old mounds Spring newly grassed,
And entered through the Little Door.
Led by her feet, I hastened on,
But, ere my feverish steps could get
To the low porch, lo! Morning shone
On Moslem dome and minaret!
Now Vesper brings the sunset hour,
And, where crusading Knighthood trod,
Muezzin from his minaret tower
Proclaims, ``There is no God but God!''
Male God who shares his godhead with
No Virgin Mother's sacred tear,
But finds on earth congenial kith
In wielders of the sword and spear:
Male God who on male lust bestows
The ruddy lip, the rounded limb,
And promises, at battle's close,
Houri, not saint nor seraphim.
Swift through the doubly-guarded stream,
Shoots the caïque 'neath oarsmen brisk,
While from its cushioned cradle gleam
The eyes of yashmaked odalisque.
Unchanged adown the changing years,
Here where the Judas blossoms blaze,
Against Sophia's marble piers
The scowling Muslim lean and gaze;
And still at sunset's solemn hour,
Where Christ's devout Crusader trod,
Defiant from the minaret's tower
Proclaim, ``There is no God but God!''
Three rival Rituals. One revered
In that loved English hamlet where,
With flowers in Vicarage garden reared,
She decks the altar set for prayer:
Another, where majestic Rome,
With fearless Faith and flag unfurled
'Gainst Doubt's ephemeral wave and foam,
Demands obedience from the world.
The third, where now I stand, and where
Two hoary Continents have met,
And Islam guards from taint and tare
Monistic Creed of Mahomet.
Yet older than all three, but banned
To suffer still the exile's doom
From shrine where Turkish sentries stand,
And Christians wrangle round Christ's tomb.
Where then find Creed, divine or dead,
All may embrace, and none contemn?-
Remember Who it was that said,
``Not here, nor at Jerusalem!''
To Acrocorinth's brow I climb,
And, lulled in retrospective bliss,
Descry, as through the mists of time,
Faintly the far Acropolis.
Below me, rivers, mountains, vales,
Wide stretch of ancient Hellas lies:
Symbol of Song that never fails,
Parnassus communes with the skies.
I linger, dream-bound by the Past,
Till sundown joins time's deep abyss,
Then skirt, through shadows moonlight-cast,
Lone strand of sailless Salamis,
Until Eleusis gleams through dawn,
Where, though a suppliant soul I come,
The veil remains still unwithdrawn,
And all the Oracles are dumb.
So onward to the clear white Light,
Where, though the worshippers be gone,
Abides on unmysterious height
The calm unquestioning Parthenon.
Find I, now there I stand at last,
That naked Beauty, undraped Truth,
Can satisfy our yearnings vast,
The doubts of age, the dreams of youth;
That, while we ask, in futile strife,
From altar, tripod, fount, or well,
Form is the secret soul of life,
And Art the only Oracle;
That Hera and Athena, linked
With Aphrodite, hush distress,
And, in their several gifts distinct,
Withal are Triune Goddesses?
That mortal wiser then was He
Who gave the prize to Beauty's smile,
Divides his gifts among the Three,
And thuswise baffles Discord's guile?
But who is wise? The nobler twain,
Who the restraining girdle wear,
Contend too often all in vain
With sinuous curve and frolic hair.
Just as one sees in marble, still,
Pan o'er Apollo's shoulder lean,
Suggesting to the poet's quill
The sensual note, the hint obscene.
Doth then the pure white Light grow dim,
And must it be for ever thus?
Listen! I hear a far-off Hymn,
Veni, Creator, Spiritus!
The harvest of Hymettus drips
As sweet as when the Attic bees
Swarmed round the honey-laden lips
Of heavenly-human Sophocles.
The olives are as green in grove
As in the days the poets bless,
When Pallas with Poseidon strove
To be the City's Patroness.
The wine-hued main, white marble frieze,
Dome of blue ether over all,
One still beholds, but nowhere sees
O'erhead, no Zeus or frowns or nods,
Olympus none in air or skies;
Below, a sepulchre of Gods,
And tombs of dead Divinities.
Yet, are they dead? Still stricken blind,
Tiresiaslike, are they that see,
With bold uncompromising mind,
Wisdom in utter nudity;
Experiencing a kindred fate
With the First Parents of us all,
Jehovah thrust through Eden's Gate,
When Knowledge brought about their Fall.
Hath Aphrodite into foam,
Whence She first flowered, sunk back once more,
And doth She nowhere find a home,
Or worship, upon Christian shore?
Her shrine is in the human breast,
To find her none need soar or dive.
Goodness or Loveliness our quest,
The ever-helpful Gods survive.
Hellas retorts, when Hebrew gibes
At Gods of levity and lust,
``God of Judaea's wandering tribes
Was jealous, cruel, and unjust.''
Godhead, withal, remains the same,
And Art embalms its symbols still;
As Poets, when athirst for Fame,
Still dream of Aganippe's rill.
Why still pursue a bootless quest,
And wander heartsore farther East,
Because unanswered, south or west,
By Pagan seer or Christian priest?
Brahma and Buddha, what have they
To offer to my shoreless search?
``Let Contemplation be,'' they say,
``Your ritual, Nothingness your Church.
``Passion and purpose both forsake,
Echoes from non-existent wall;
We do but dream we are awake,
Ourselves the deepest dream of all.
``We dream we think, feel, touch, and see,
And what these are, still dreaming, guess,
Though there is no Reality
Behind their fleeting semblances.''
Thus the East answers my appeal,
Denies, and so illudes, my want.
Alas! Could I but cease to feel,
Brahma should be my Hierophant.
But, hampered by my Western mind,
I cannot set the Spirit free
From Matter, but Illusion find,
Of all, the most illusory.
The morning mists that hid the bay
And curtained mountains fast asleep,
Begin to feel the touch of day,
And roll from off both wave and steep.
In floating folds they curve and rise,
Then slowly melt and merge in air,
Till high above me glow the skies,
And cloudless sunshine everywhere.
Parnassus wears nor veil nor frown,
Windless the eagle wings his way,
As I from Delphi gaze adown
On Salona and Amphissa.
It was the sovran Sun that drew
Aloft and scattered morning haze,
And now fills all the spacious blue
The Cenci : A Tragedy In Five Acts
Count Francesco Cenci.
Giacomo, his Son.
Bernardo, his Son.
Orsino, a Prelate.
Savella, the Pope's Legate.
Andrea, Servant to Cenci.
Nobles, Judges, Guards, Servants.
Lucretia, Wife of Cenci, and Step-mother of his children.
Beatrice, his Daughter.
The Scene lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.
Time. During the Pontificate of Clement VIII.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
Enter Count Cenci, and Cardinal Camillo.
That matter of the murder is hushed up
If you consent to yield his Holiness
Your fief that lies beyond the Pincian gate.-
It needed all my interest in the conclave
To bend him to this point: he said that you
Bought perilous impunity with your gold;
That crimes like yours if once or twice compounded
Enriched the Church, and respited from hell
An erring soul which might repent and live:-
But that the glory and the interest
Of the high throne he fills, little consist
With making it a daily mart of guilt
As manifold and hideous as the deeds
Which you scarce hide from men's revolted eyes.
The third of my possessions-let it go!
Ay, I once heard the nephew of the Pope
Had sent his architect to view the ground,
Meaning to build a villa on my vines
The next time I compounded with his uncle:
I little thought he should outwit me so!
Henceforth no witness-not the lamp-shall see
That which the vassal threatened to divulge
Whose throat is choked with dust for his reward.
The deed he saw could not have rated higher
Than his most worthless life:-it angers me!
Respited me from Hell!-So may the Devil
Respite their souls from Heaven. No doubt Pope Clement,
And his most charitable nephews, pray
That the Apostle Peter and the Saints
Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy
Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of days
Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards
Of their revenue.-But much yet remains
To which they show no title.
Oh, Count Cenci!
So much that thou mightst honourably live
And reconcile thyself with thine own heart
And with thy God, and with the offended world.
How hideously look deeds of lust and blood
Through those snow white and venerable hairs!-
Your children should be sitting round you now,
But that you fear to read upon their looks
The shame and misery you have written there.
Where is your wife? Where is your gentle daughter?
Methinks her sweet looks, which make all things else
Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you.
Why is she barred from all society
But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs?
Talk with me, Count,-you know I mean you well
I stood beside your dark and fiery youth
Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Watch meteors, but it vanished not-I marked
Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now
Do I behold you in dishonoured age
Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes.
Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
And in that hope have saved your life three times.
For which Aldobrandino owes you now
My fief beyond the Pincian.-Cardinal,
One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth,
And so we shall converse with less restraint.
A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter-
He was accustomed to frequent my house;
So the next day his wife and daughter came
And asked if I had seen him; and I smiled:
I think they never saw him any more.
Thou execrable man, beware!-
Nay this is idle:-We should know each other.
As to my character for what men call crime
Seeing I please my senses as I list,
And vindicate that right with force or guile,
It is a public matter, and I care not
If I discuss it with you. I may speak
Alike to you and my own conscious heart-
For you give out that you have half reformed me,
Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent
If fear should not; both will, I do not doubt.
All men delight in sensual luxury,
All men enjoy revenge; and most exult
Over the tortures they can never feel-
Flattering their secret peace with others' pain.
But I delight in nothing else. I love
The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's, and that mine.
And I have no remorse and little fear,
Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none
But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred
Until it be accomplished.
Art thou not
No.-I am what your theologians call
Hardened;-which they must be in impudence,
So to revile a man's peculiar taste.
True, I was happier than I am, while yet
Manhood remained to act the thing I thought;
While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now
Invention palls:-Ay, we must all grow old-
And but that there yet remains a deed to act
Whose horror might make sharp an appetite
Duller than mine-I'd do-I know not what.
When I was young I thought of nothing else
But pleasure; and I fed on honey sweets:
Men, by St. Thomas! cannot live like bees,
And I grew tired:-yet, till I killed a foe,
And heard his groans, and heard his children's groans,
Knew I not what delight was else on earth,
Which now delights me little. I the rather
Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals,
The dry fixed eyeball; the pale quivering lip,
Which tell me that the spirit weeps within
Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ.
I rarely kill the body, which preserves,
Like a strong prison, the soul within my power,
Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear
For hourly pain.
Hell's most abandoned fiend
Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt,
Speak to his heart as now you speak to me;
I thank my God that I believe you not.
My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca
Would speak with you.
Bid him attend me in
The grand saloon.
Farewell; and I will pray
Almighty God that thy false, impious words
Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee.
The third of my possessions! I must use
Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword,
Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday
There came an order from the Pope to make
Fourfold provision for my cursèd sons;
Whom I had sent from Rome to Salamanca,
Hoping some accident might cut them off;
And meaning if I could to starve them there.
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them!
Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned:-then, as to Beatrice- [Looking around him suspiciously.
I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should? And yet I need not speak
Though the heart triumphs with itself in words.
O, thou most silent air, that shalt not hear
What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber,-let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step scorning surprise,
But not of my intent!-Andrea!
Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber
This evening:-no, at midnight and alone.
-A Garden of the Cenci Palace. EnterBeatrice and Orsino, as in conversation.
Pervert not truth,
Orsino. You remember where we held
That conversation;-nay, we see the spot
Even from this cypress;-two long years are past
Since, on an April midnight, underneath
The moonlight ruins of mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.
You said you loved me then.
You are a Priest,
Speak to me not of love.
I may obtain
The dispensation of the Pope to marry.
Because I am a Priest do you believe
Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,
Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?
As I have said, speak to me not of love;
Had you a dispensation I have not;
Nor will I leave this home of misery
Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life, and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! All the love that once
I felt for you, is turned to bitter pain.
Ours was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke, by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And thus I love you still, but holily,
Even as a sister or a spirit might;
And so I swear a cold fidelity.
And it is well perhaps we shall not marry.
You have a sly, equivocating vein
That suits me not.-Ah, wretched that I am!
Where shall I turn? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah, no! forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forbode,-but what can they forbode
Worse than I now endure?
All will be well.
Is the petition yet prepared? You know
My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice;
Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill
So that the Pope attend to your complaint.
Your zeal for all I wish;-Ah me, you are cold!
Your utmost skill . . . speak but one word . . . (aside)
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend! [To Orsino.
This night my father gives a sumptuous feast,
Orsino; he has heard some happy news
From Salamanca, from my brothers there,
And with this outward show of love he mocks
His inward hate. 'Tis bold hypocrisy,
For he would gladlier celebrate their deaths,
Which I have heard him pray for on his knees:
Great God! that such a father should be mine!
But there is mighty preparation made,
And all our kin, the Cenci, will be there,
And all the chief nobility of Rome.
And he has bidden me and my pale Mother
Attire ourselves in festival array.
Poor lady! She expects some happy change
In his dark spirit from this act; I none.
At supper I will give you the petition:
I know the Pope
Will ne'er absolve me from my priestly vow
But by absolving me from the revenue
Of many a wealthy see; and, Beatrice,
I think to win thee at an easier rate.
Nor shall he read her eloquent petition:
He might bestow her on some poor relation
Of his sixth cousin, as he did her sister,
And I should be debarred from all access.
Then as to what she suffers from her father,
In all this there is much exaggeration:-
Old men are testy and will have their way;
A man may stab his enemy, or his vassal,
And live a free life as to wine or women,
And with a peevish temper may return
To a dull home, and rate his wife and children;
Daughters and wives call this foul tyranny.
I shall be well content if on my conscience
There rest no heavier sin than what they suffer
From the devices of my love-a net
From which she shall escape not. Yet I fear
Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze,
Whose beams anatomize me nerve by nerve
And lay me bare, and make me blush to see
My hidden thoughts.-Ah, no! A friendless girl
Who clings to me, as to her only hope:-
I were a fool, not less than if a panther
Were panic-stricken by the antelope's eye,
If she escape me.
-A Magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace. A Banquet. Enter Cenci, Lucretia, Beatrice, Orsino, Camillo, Nobles.
Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome ye,
Princes and Cardinals, pillars of the church,
Whose presence honours our festivity.
I have too long lived like an anchorite,
And in my absence from your merry meetings
An evil word is gone abroad of me;
But I do hope that you, my noble friends,
When you have shared the entertainment here,
And heard the pious cause for which 'tis given,
And we have pledged a health or two together,
Will think me flesh and blood as well as you;
Sinful indeed, for Adam made all so,
But tender-hearted, meek and pitiful.
In truth, my Lord, you seem too light of heart,
Too sprightly and companionable a man,
To act the deeds that rumour pins on you. (To his Companion.)
I never saw such blithe and open cheer
In any eye!
Some most desired event,
In which we all demand a common joy,
Has brought us hither; let us hear it, Count.
It is indeed a most desired event.
If, when a parent from a parent's heart
Lifts from this earth to the great Father of all
A prayer, both when he lays him down to sleep,
And when he rises up from dreaming it;
One supplication, one desire, one hope,
That he would grant a wish for his two sons,
Even all that he demands in their regard-
And suddenly beyond his dearest hope
It is accomplished, he should then rejoice,
And call his friends and kinsmen to a feast,
And task their love to grace his merriment,-
Then honour me thus far-for I am he.
Great God! How horrible! Some dreadful ill
Must have befallen my brothers.
Fear not, Child,
He speaks too frankly.
Ah! My blood runs cold.
I fear that wicked laughter round his eye,
Which wrinkles up the skin even to the hair.
Here are the letters brought from Salamanca;
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God!
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform,
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.
My disobedient and rebellious sons
Are dead!-Why, dead!-What means this change of cheer?
You hear me not, I tell you they are dead;
And they will need no food or raiment more:
The tapers that did light them the dark way
Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.
Rejoice with me-my heart is wondrous glad.
[Lucretia sinks, half fainting; Beatrice supports her.
It is not true!-Dear lady, pray look up.
Had it been true, there is a God in Heaven,
He would not live to boast of such a boon.
Unnatural man, thou knowest that it is false.
Ay, as the word of God; whom here I call
To witness that I speak the sober truth;-
And whose most favouring Providence was shown
Even in the manner of their deaths. For Rocco
Was kneeling at the mass, with sixteen others,
When the church fell and crushed him to a mummy,
The rest escaped unhurt. Cristofano
Was stabbed in error by a jealous man,
Whilst she he loved was sleeping with his rival;
All in the self-same hour of the same night;
Which shows that Heaven has special care of me.
I beg those friends who love me, that they mark
The day a feast upon their calendars.
It was the twenty-seventh of December:
Ay, read the letters if you doubt my oath.
[The Assembly appears confused; several of the guests rise.
Oh, horrible! I will depart-
I do believe it is some jest; though faith!
'Tis mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
I think his son has married the Infanta,
Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado;
'Tis but to season some such news; stay, stay!
I see 'tis only raillery by his smile.
(filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up).
Oh, thou bright wine whose purple splendour leaps
And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl
Under the lamplight, as my spirits do,
To hear the death of my accursèd sons!
Could I believe thou wert their mingled blood,
Then would I taste thee like a sacrament,
And pledge with thee the mighty Devil in Hell,
Who, if a father's curses, as men say,
Climb with swift wings after their children's souls,
And drag them from the very throne of Heaven,
Now triumphs in my triumph!-But thou art
Superfluous; I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine to-night.
Here, Andrea! Bear the bowl around.
Will none among this noble company
Check the abandoned villain?
For God's sake
Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane,
Some ill will come of this.
Seize, silence him!
(addressing those who rise with a threatening gesture).
Who moves? Who speaks?
(turning to the Company)
Enjoy yourselves.-Beware! For my revenge
Is as the sealed commission of a king
That kills, and none dare name the murderer.
[The Banquet is broken up; several of the Guests are departing.
I do entreat you, go not, noble guests;
What, although tyranny and impious hate
Stand sheltered by a father's hoary hair?
What, if 'tis he who clothed us in these limbs
Who tortures them, and triumphs? What, if we,
The desolate and the dead, were his own flesh,
His children and his wife, whom he is bound
To love and shelter? Shall we therefore find
No refuge in this merciless wide world?
O think what deep wrongs must have blotted out
First love, then reverence in a child's prone mind,
Till it thus vanquish shame and fear! O think!
I have borne much, and kissed the sacred hand
Which crushed us to the earth, and thought its stroke
Was perhaps some paternal chastisement!
Have excused much, doubted; and when no doubt
Remained, have sought by patience, love, and tears
To soften him, and when this could not be
I have knelt down through the long sleepless nights
And lifted up to God, the Father of all,
Passionate prayers: and when these were not heard
I have still borne,-until I meet you here,
Princes and kinsmen, at this hideous feast
Given at my brothers' deaths. Two yet remain,
His wife remains and I, whom if ye save not,
Ye may soon share such merriment again
As fathers make over their children's graves.
O Prince Colonna, thou art our near kinsman,
Cardinal, thou art the Pope's chamberlain,
Camillo, thou art chief justiciary,
Take us away!
(He has been conversing with Camillo during the first part of Beatrice's speech; he hears the conclusion, and now advances.)
I hope my good friends here
Will think of their own daughters-or perhaps
Of their own throats-before they lend an ear
To this wild girl.
(not noticing the words of Cenci).
Dare no one look on me?
None answer? Can one tyrant overbear
The sense of many best and wisest men?
Or is it that I sue not in some form
Of scrupulous law, that ye deny my suit?
O God! That I were buried with my brothers!
And that the flowers of this departed spring
Were fading on my grave! And that my father
Were celebrating now one feast for all!
A bitter wish for one so young and gentle;
Can we do nothing?
Nothing that I see.
Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy:
Yet I would second any one.
Retire to your chamber, insolent girl!
Retire thou, impious man! Ay, hide thyself
Where never eye can look upon thee more!
Wouldst thou have honour and obedience
Who art a torturer? Father, never dream
Though thou mayst overbear this company,
But ill must come of ill.-Frown not on me!
Haste, hide thyself, lest with avenging looks
My brothers' ghosts should hunt thee from thy seat!
Cover thy face from every living eye,
And start if thou but hear a human step:
Seek out some dark and silent corner, there,
Bow thy white head before offended God,
And we will kneel around, and fervently
Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee.
My friends, I do lament this insane girl
Has spoilt the mirth of our festivity.
Good night, farewell; I will not make you longer
Spectators of our dull domestic quarrels.
[Exeunt all but Cenci and Beatrice.
My brain is swimming round;
Give me a bowl of wine!
Thou painted viper!
Beast that thou art! Fair and yet terrible!
I know a charm shall make thee meek and tame,
Now get thee from my sight!
Fill up this goblet with Greek wine. I said
I would not drink this evening; but I must;
For, strange to say, I feel my spirits fail
With thinking what I have decreed to do.- [Drinking the wine.
Be thou the resolution of quick youth
Within my veins, and manhood's purpose stern,
And age's firm, cold, subtle villainy;
As if thou wert indeed my children's blood
Which I did thirst to drink! The charm works well;
It must be done; it shall be done, I swear!
END OF THE FIRST ACT.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Enter Lucretia and Bernardo.
Weep not, my gentle boy; he struck but me
Who have borne deeper wrongs. In truth, if he
Had killed me, he had done a kinder deed.
O God, Almighty, do Thou look upon us,
We have no other friend but only Thee!
Yet weep not; though I love you as my own,
I am not your true mother.
O more, more,
Than ever mother was to any child,
That have you been to me! Had he not been
My father, do you think that I should weep!
Alas! Poor boy, what else couldst thou have done?
(in a hurried voice).
Did he pass this way? Have you seen him, brother?
Ah, no! that is his step upon the stairs;
'Tis nearer now; his hand is on the door;
Mother, if I to thee have ever been
A duteous child, now save me! Thou, great God,
Whose image upon earth a father is,
Dost Thou indeed abandon me? He comes;
The door is opening now; I see his face;
He frowns on others, but he smiles on me,
Even as he did after the feast last night. Enter a Servant.
Almighty God, how merciful Thou art!
'Tis but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news?
My master bids me say, the Holy Father
Has sent back your petition thus unopened. [Giving a paper.
And he demands at what hour 'twere secure
To visit you again?
At the Ave Mary.[Exit Servant.
So, daughter, our last hope has failed; Ah me!
How pale you look; you tremble, and you stand
Wrapped in some fixed and fearful meditation,
As if one thought were over strong for you:
Your eyes have a chill glare; O, dearest child!
Are you gone mad? If not, pray speak to me.
You see I am not mad: I speak to you.
You talked of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast? Could it be worse
Than when he smiled, and cried, 'My sons are dead!'
And every one looked in his neighbour's face
To see if others were as white as he?
At the first word he spoke I felt the blood
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance;
And when it passed I sat all weak and wild;
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words
Checked his unnatural pride; and I could see
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.
Until this hour thus have you ever stood
Between us and your father's moody wrath
Like a protecting presence: your firm mind
Has been our only refuge and defence:
What can have thus subdued it? What can now
Have given you that cold melancholy look,
Succeeding to your unaccustomed fear?
What is it that you say? I was just thinking
'Twere better not to struggle any more.
Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,
Yet never-Oh! Before worse comes of it
'Twere wise to die: it ends in that at last.
Oh, talk not so, dear child! Tell me at once
What did your father do or say to you?
He stayed not after that accursèd feast
One moment in your chamber.-Speak to me.
Oh, sister, sister, prithee, speak to us!
(speaking very slowly with a forced calmness).
It was one word, Mother, one little word;
One look, one smile. (Wildly.)
Oh! He has trampled me
Under his feet, and made the blood stream down
My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all
Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh
Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve,
And we have eaten.-He has made me look
On my beloved Bernardo, when the rust
Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,
And I have never yet despaired-but now!
What could I say?
Ah, no! 'tis nothing new.
The sufferings we all share have made me wild:
He only struck and cursed me as he passed;
He said, he looked, he did;-nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disordered me.
Alas! I am forgetful of my duty,
I should preserve my senses for your sake.
Nay, Beatrice; have courage, my sweet girl,
If any one despairs it should be I
Who loved him once, and now must live with him
Till God in pity call for him or me.
For you may, like your sister, find some husband,
And smile, years hence, with children round your knees;
Whilst I, then dead, and all this hideous coil
Shall be remembered only as a dream.
Talk not to me, dear lady, of a husband.
Did you not nurse me when my mother died?
Did you not shield me and that dearest boy?
And had we any other friend but you
In infancy, with gentle words and looks,
To win our father not to murder us?
And shall I now desert you? May the ghost
Of my dead Mother plead against my soul
If I abandon her who filled the place
She left, with more, even, than a mother's love!
And I am of my sister's mind. Indeed
I would not leave you in this wretchedness,
Even though the Pope should make me free to live
In some blithe place, like others of my age,
With sports, and delicate food, and the fresh air.
Oh, never think that I will leave you, Mother!
My dear, dear children!
Enter Cenci, suddenly.
What, Beatrice here!
[She shrinks back, and covers her face.
Nay, hide not your face, 'tis fair;
Look up! Why, yesternight you dared to look
With disobedient insolence upon me,
Bending a stern and an inquiring brow
On what I meant; whilst I then sought to hide
That which I came to tell you-but in vain.
(wildly, staggering towards the door).
O that the earth would gape! Hide me, O God!
Then it was I whose inarticulate words
Fell from my lips, and who with tottering steps
Fled from your presence, as you now from mine.
Stay, I command you-from this day and hour
Never again, I think, with fearless eye,
And brow superior, and unaltered cheek,
And that lip made for tenderness or scorn,
Shalt thou strike dumb the meanest of mankind;
Me least of all. Now get thee to thy chamber!
Thou too, loathed image of thy cursèd mother, [To Bernardo.
Thy milky, meek face makes me sick with hate! [Exeunt Beatrice and Bernardo.
So much has passed between us as must make
Me bold, her fearful.-'Tis an awful thing
To touch such mischief as I now conceive:
So men sit shivering on the dewy bank,
And try the chill stream with their feet; once in . . .
How the delighted spirit pants for joy!
(advancing timidly towards him).
O husband! Pray forgive poor Beatrice.
She meant not any ill.
Nor you perhaps?
Nor that young imp, whom you have taught by rote
Parricide with his alphabet? Nor Giacomo?
Nor those two most unnatural sons, who stirred
Enmity up against me with the Pope?
Whom in one night merciful God cut off:
Innocent lambs! They thought not any ill.
You were not here conspiring? You said nothing
Of how I might be dungeoned as a madman;
Or be condemned to death for some offence,
And you would be the witnesses?-This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And He had sentenced me, and there were none
But you to be the executioners
Of His decree enregistered in Heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this?
So help me God,
I never thought the things you charge me with!
If you dare speak that wicked lie again
I'll kill you. What! It was not by your counsel
That Beatrice disturbed the feast last night?
You did not hope to stir some enemies
Against me, and escape, and laugh to scorn
What every nerve of you now trembles at?
You judged that men were bolder than they are;
Few dare to stand between their grave and me.
Look not so dreadfully! By my salvation
I knew not aught that Beatrice designed;
Nor do I think she designed any thing
Until she heard you talk of her dead brothers.
Blaspheming liar! You are damned for this!
But I will take you where you may persuade
The stones you tread on to deliver you:
For men shall there be none but those who dare
All things-not question that which I command.
On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know
That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella:
'Tis safely walled, and moated round about:
Its dungeons underground, and its thick towers
Never told tales; though they have heard and seen
What might make dumb things speak.-Why do you linger?
Make speediest preparation for the journey! [Exit Lucretia.
The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
A busy stir of men about the streets;
I see the bright sky through the window panes:
It is a garish, broad, and peering day;
Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and ears,
And every little corner, nook, and hole
Is penetrated with the insolent light.
Come darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?
And wherefore should I wish for night, who do
A deed which shall confound both night and day?
'Tis she shall grope through a bewildering mist
Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish for night;
The act I think shall soon extinguish all
For me: I bear a darker deadlier gloom
Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,
Or constellations quenched in murkiest cloud,
In which I walk secure and unbeheld
Towards my purpose.-Would that it were done!
-A Chamber in the Vatican. Enter Camillo and Giacomo, in conversation.
There is an obsolete and doubtful law
By which you might obtain a bare provision
Of food and clothing-
Nothing more? Alas!
Bare must be the provision which strict law
Awards, and agèd, sullen avarice pays.
Why did my father not apprentice me
To some mechanic trade? I should have then
Been trained in no highborn necessities
Which I could meet not by my daily toil.
The eldest son of a rich nobleman
Is heir to all his incapacities;
He has wide wants, and narrow powers. If you,
Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once
From thrice-driven beds of down, and delicate food,
An hundred servants, and six palaces,
To that which nature doth indeed require?-
Nay, there is reason in your plea; 'twere hard.
'Tis hard for a firm man to bear: but I
Have a dear wife, a lady of high birth,
Whose dowry in ill hour I lent my father
Without a bond or witness to the deed:
And children, who inherit her fine senses,
The fairest creatures in this breathing world;
And she and they reproach me not. Cardinal,
Do you not think the Pope would interpose
And stretch authority beyond the law?
Though your peculiar case is hard, I know
The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then to check
Your father's cruel hand; he frowned and said,
'Children are disobedient, and they sting
Their fathers' hearts to madness and despair,
Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Cenci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awakened hate,
And thus he is exasperated to ill.
In the great war between the old and young
I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,
Will keep at least blameless neutrality.' Enter Orsino.
You, my good Lord Orsino, heard those words.
Alas, repeat them not again!
There then is no redress for me, at least
None but that which I may achieve myself,
Since I am driven to the brink.-But, say,
My innocent sister and my only brother
Are dying underneath my father's eye.
The memorable torturers of this land,
Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,
Never inflicted on the meanest slave
What these endure; shall they have no protection?
Why, if they would petition to the Pope
I see not how he could refuse it-yet
He holds it of most dangerous example
In aught to weaken the paternal power,
Being, as 'twere, the shadow of his own.
I pray you now excuse me. I have business
That will not bear delay.
But you, Orsino,
Have the petition: wherefore not present it?
I have presented it, and backed it with
My earnest prayers, and urgent interest;
It was returned unanswered. I doubt not
But that the strange and execrable deeds
Alleged in it-in truth they might well baffle
Any belief-have turned the Pope's displeasure
Upon the accusers from the criminal:
So I should guess from what Camillo said.
My friend, that palace-walking devil Gold
Has whispered silence to his Holiness:
And we are left, as scorpions ringed with fire.
What should we do but strike ourselves to death?
For he who is our murderous persecutor
Is shielded by a father's holy name,
Or I would-
What? Fear not to speak your thought.
Words are but holy as the deeds they cover:
A priest who has forsworn the God he serves;
A judge who makes Truth weep at his decree;
A friend who should weave counsel, as I now,
But as the mantle of some selfish guile;
A father who is all a tyrant seems,
Were the profaner for his sacred name.
Ask me not what I think; the unwilling brain
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust
Imagination with such phantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into words,
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim
To the mind's eye.-My heart denies itself
To think what you demand.
But a friend's bosom
Is as the inmost cave of our own mind
Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day,
And from the all-communicating air.
You look what I suspected-
Spare me now!
I am as one lost in a midnight wood,
Who dares not ask some harmless passenger
The path across the wilderness, lest he,
As my thoughts are, should be-a murderer.
I know you are my friend, and all I dare
Speak to my soul that will I trust with thee.
But now my heart is heavy, and would take
Lone counsel from a night of sleepless care.
Pardon me, that I say farewell-farewell!
I would that to my own suspected self
I could address a word so full of peace.
Farewell!-Be your thoughts better or more bold. [Exit Giacomo.
I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
To feed his hope with cold encouragement:
It fortunately serves my close designs
That 'tis a trick of this same family
To analyse their own and other minds.
Such self-anatomy shall teach the will
Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers,
Knowing what must be thought, and may be done,
Into the depth of darkest purposes:
So Cenci fell into the pit; even I,
Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself,
And made me shrink from what I cannot shun,
Show a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do
As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall fee the accuser conscience.
(After a pause.)
Now what harm
If Cenci should be murdered?-Yet, if murdered,
Wherefore by me? And what if I could take
The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
In such an action? Of all earthly things
I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words;
And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives
His daughter's dowry were a secret grave
If a priest wins her.-Oh, fair Beatrice!
Would that I loved thee not, or loving thee
Could but despise danger and gold and all
That frowns between my wish and its effect,
Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape . . .
Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,
And follows me to the resort of men,
And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,
So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire;
And if I strike my damp and dizzy head
My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights
Till weak imagination half possesses
The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours:
From the unravelled hopes of Giacomo
I must work out my own dear purposes.
I see, as from a tower, the end of all:
Her father dead; her brother bound to me
By a dark secret, surer than the grave;
Her mother scared and unexpostulating
From the dread manner of her wish achieved:
And she!-Once more take courage, my faint heart;
What dares a friendless maiden matched with thee?
I have such foresight as assures success:
Some unbeheld divinity doth ever,
When dread events are near, stir up men's minds
To black suggestions; and he prospers best,
Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes
Its empire and its prey of other hearts
Till it become his slave . . . as I will do.
END OF THE SECOND ACT.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Lucretia, to her enter Beatrice.
(She enters staggering, and speaks wildly.)
Reach me that handkerchief!-My brain is hurt;
My eyes are full of blood; just wipe them for me . . .
I see but indistinctly . . .
My sweet child,
You have no wound; 'tis only a cold dew
That starts from your dear brow . . . Alas! Alas!
What has befallen?
How comes this hair undone?
Its wandering strings must be what blind me so,
And yet I tied it fast.-O, horrible!
The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls
Spin round! I see a woman weeping there,
And standing calm and motionless, whilst I
Slide giddily as the world reels. . . . My God!
The beautiful blue heaven is flecked with blood!
The sunshine on the floor is black! The air
Is changed to vapours such as the dead breathe
In charnel pits! Pah! I am choked! There creeps
A clinging, black, contaminating mist
About me . . . 'tis substantial, heavy, thick,
I cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
My fingers and my limbs to one another,
And eats into my sinews, and dissolves
My flesh to a pollution, poisoning
The subtle, pure, and inmost spirit of life!
My God! I never knew what the mad felt
Before; for I am mad beyond all doubt!
No, I am dead! These putrefying limbs
Shut round and sepulchre the panting soul
Which would burst forth into the wandering air! (A pause.)
What hideous thought was that I had even now?
'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here
O'er these dull eyes . . . upon this weary heart!
O, world! O, life! O, day! O, misery!
What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not:
Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain,
But not its cause; suffering has dried away
The source from which it sprung . . .
Like Parricide . . .
Misery has killed its father: yet its father
Never like mine . . . O, God! What thing am I?
My dearest child, what has your father done?
Who art thou, questioner? I have no father.
She is the madhouse nurse who tends on me,
It is a piteous office.
[To Lucretia, in a slow, subdued voice.
Do you know
I thought I was that wretched Beatrice
Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales
From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there,
Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story
So did I overact in my sick dreams,
That I imagined . . . no, it cannot be!
Horrible things have been in this wide world,
Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange
Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
Than ever there was found a heart to do.
But never fancy imaged such a deed
As . . .
[Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself.
Who art thou? Swear to me, ere I die
With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seemest . . . Mother!
My sweet child, know you . . .
Yet speak it not:
For then if this be truth, that other too
Must be a truth, a firm enduring truth,
Linked with each lasting circumstance of life,
Never to change, never to pass away.
Why so it is. This is the Cenci Palace;
Thou art Lucretia; I am Beatrice.
I have talked some wild words, but will no more.
Mother, come near me: from this point of time,
I am . . .
[Her voice dies away faintly.
Alas! What has befallen thee, child?
What has thy father done?
What have I done?
Am I not innocent? Is it my crime
That one with white hair, and imperious brow,
Who tortured me from my forgotten years,
As parents only dare, should call himself
My father, yet should be!-Oh, what am I?
What name, what place, what memory shall be mine?
What retrospects, outliving even despair?
He is a violent tyrant, surely, child:
We know that death alone can make us free;
His death or ours. But what can he have done
Of deadlier outrage or worse injury?
Thou art unlike thyself; thine eyes shoot forth
A wandering and strange spirit. Speak to me,
Unlock those pallid hands whose fingers twine
With one another.
'Tis the restless life
Tortured within them. If I try to speak
I shall go mad. Ay, something must be done;
What, yet I know not . . . something which shall make
The thing that I have suffered but a shadow
In the dread lightning which avenges it;
Brief, rapid, irreversible, destroying
The consequence of what it cannot cure.
Some such thing is to be endured or done:
When I know what, I shall be still and calm,
And never anything will move me more.
But now!-O blood, which art my father's blood,
Circling through these contaminated veins,
If thou, poured forth on the polluted earth,
Could wash away the crime, and punishment
By which I suffer . . . no, that cannot be!
Many might doubt there were a God above
Who sees and permits evil, and so die:
That faith no agony shall obscure in me.
It must indeed have been some bitter wrong;
Yet what, I dare not guess. Oh, my lost child,
Hide not in proud impenetrable grief
Thy sufferings from my fear.
I hide them not.
What are the words which you would have me speak?
I, who can feign no image in my mind
Of that which has transformed me: I, whose thought
Is like a ghost shrouded and folded up
In its own formless horror: of all words,
That minister to mortal intercourse,
Which wouldst thou hear? For there is none to tell
My misery: if another ever knew
Aught like to it, she died as I will die,
And left it, as I must, without a name.
Death! Death! Our law and our religion call thee
A punishment and a reward . . . Oh, which
Have I deserved?
The peace of innocence;
Till in your season you be called to heaven.
Whate'er you may have suffered, you have done
No evil. Death must be the punishment
Of crime, or the reward of trampling down
The thorns which God has strewed upon the path
Which leads to immortality.
Ay; death . . .
The punishment of crime. I pray thee, God,
Let me not be bewildered while I judge.
If I must live day after day, and keep
These limbs, the unworthy temple of Thy spirit,
As a foul den from which what Thou abhorrest
May mock Thee, unavenged . . . it shall not be!
Self-murder . . . no, that might be no escape,
For Thy decree yawns like a Hell between
Our will and it:-O! In this mortal world
There is no vindication and no law
Which can adjudge and execute the doom
Of that through which I suffer.
(She approaches him solemnly.)
I have to tell you that, since last we met,
I have endured a wrong so great and strange,
That neither life nor death can give me rest.
Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds
Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.
And what is he who has thus injured you?
The man they call my father: a dread name.
It cannot be . . .
What it can be, or not,
Forbear to think. It is, and it has been;
Advise me how it shall not be again.
I thought to die; but a religious awe
Restrains me, and the dread lest death itself
Might be no refuge from the consciousness
Of what is yet unexpiated. Oh, speak!
Accuse him of the deed, and let the law
Oh, ice-hearted counsellor!
If I could find a word that might make known
The crime of my destroyer; and that done,
My tongue should like a knife tear out the secret
Which cankers my heart's core; ay, lay all bare
So that my unpolluted fame should be
With vilest gossips a stale mouthèd story;
A mock, a byword, an astonishment:-
If this were done, which never shall be done,
Think of the offender's gold, his dreaded hate,
And the strange horror of the accuser's tale,
Baffling belief, and overpowering speech;
Scarce whispered, unimaginable, wrapped
In hideous hints . . . Oh, most assured redress!
You will endure it then?
It seems your counsel is small profit.
[Turns from him, and speaks half to herself.
All must be suddenly resolved and done.
What is this undistinguishable mist
Of thoughts, which rise, like shadow after shadow,
Darkening each other?
Should the offender live?
Triumph in his misdeed? and make, by use,
His crime, whate'er it is, dreadful no doubt,
Thine element; until thou mayst become
Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue
Of that which thou permittest?
Thou double-visaged shadow? Only judge!
[She retires absorbed in thought.
If the lightning
Of God has e'er descended to avenge . . .
Blaspheme not! His high Providence commits
Its glory on this earth, and their own wrongs
Into the hands of men; if they neglect
To punish crime . . .
But if one, like this wretch,
Should mock, with gold, opinion, law, and power?
If there be no appeal to that which makes
The guiltiest tremble? If because our wrongs,
For that they are unnatural, strange, and monstrous,
Exceed all measure of belief? O God!
If, for the very reasons which should make
Redress most swift and sure, our injurer triumphs?
And we, the victims, bear worse punishment
Than that appointed for their torturer?
But that there is redress where there is wrong,
So we be bold enough to seize it.
If there were any way to make all sure,
I know not . . . but I think it might be good
To . . .
Why, his late outrage to Beatrice;
For it is such, as I but faintly guess,
As makes remorse dishonour, and leaves her
Only one duty, how she may avenge:
You, but one refuge from ills ill endured;
Me, but one counsel . . .
For we cannot hope
That aid, or retribution, or resource
Will arise thence, where every other one
Might find them with less need.
Then . . .
And, honoured Lady, while I speak, I pray,
That you put off, as garments overworn,
Forbearance and respect, remorse and fear,
And all the fit restraints of daily life,
Which have been borne from childhood, but which now
Would be a mockery to my holier plea.
As I have said, I have endured a wrong,
Which, though it be expressionless, is such
As asks atonement; both for what is past,
And lest I be reserved, day after day,
To load with crimes an overburthened soul,
And be . . . what ye can dream not. I have prayed
To God, and I have talked with my own heart,
And have unravelled my entangled will,
And have at length determined what is right.
Art thou my friend, Orsino? False or true?
Pledge thy salvation ere I speak.
To dedicate my cunning, and my strength,
My silence, and whatever else is mine,
To thy commands.
You think we should devise
And execute what is devised,
And suddenly. We must be brief and bold.
And yet most cautious.
For the jealous laws
Would punish us with death and infamy
For that which it became themselves to do.
Be cautious as ye may, but prompt. Orsino,
What are the means?
I know two dull, fierce outlaws,
Who think man's spirit as a worm's, and they
Would trample out, for any slight caprice,
The meanest or the noblest life. This mood
Is marketable here in Rome. They sell
What we now want.
To-morrow before dawn,
Cenci will take us to that lonely rock,
Petrella, in the Apulian Apennines.
If he arrive there . . .
He must not arrive.
Will it be dark before you reach the tower?
The sun will scarce be set.
But I remember
Two miles on this side of the fort, the road
Crosses a deep ravine; 'tis rough and narrow,
And winds with short turns down the precipice;
And in its depth there is a mighty rock,
Which has, from unimaginable years,
Sustained itself with terror and with toil
Over a gulf, and with the agony
With which it clings seems slowly coming down;
Even as a wretched soul hour after hour,
Clings to the mass of life; yet clinging, leans;
And leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss
In which it fears to fall: beneath this crag
Huge as despair, as if in weariness,
The melancholy mountain yawns . . . below,
You hear but see not an impetuous torrent
Raging among the caverns, and a bridge
Crosses the chasm; and high above there grow,
With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag,
Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair
Is matted in one solid roof of shade
By the dark ivy's twine. At noonday here
'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night.
Before you reach that bridge make some excuse
For spurring on your mules, or loitering
Until . . .
What sound is that?
Hark! No, it cannot be a servant's step
It must be Cenci, unexpectedly
Returned . . . Make some excuse for being here.
(To Orsino, as she goes out.)
That step we hear approach must never pass
The bridge of which we spoke.
[Exeunt Lucretia and Beatrice.
What shall I do?
Cenci must find me here, and I must bear
The imperious inquisition of his looks
As to what brought me hither: let me mask
Mine own in some inane and vacant smile. Enter Giacomo, in a hurried manner.
How! Have you ventured hither? Know you then
That Cenci is from home?
I sought him here;
And now must wait till he returns.
Weigh you the danger of this rashness?
Does my destroyer know his danger? We
Are now no more, as once, parent and child,
But man to man; the oppressor to the oppressed;
The slanderer to the slandered; foe to foe:
He has cast Nature off, which was his shield,
And Nature casts him off, who is her shame;
And I spurn both. Is it a father's throat
Which I will shake, and say, I ask not gold;
I ask not happy years; nor memories
Of tranquil childhood; nor home-sheltered love;
Though all these hast thou torn from me, and more;
But only my fair fame; only one hoard
Of peace, which I thought hidden from thy hate,
Under the penury heaped on me by thee,
Or I will . . . God can understand and pardon,
Why should I speak with man?
Be calm, dear friend.
Well, I will calmly tell you what he did.
This old Francesco Cenci, as you know,
Borrowed the dowry of my wife from me,
And then denied the loan; and left me so
In poverty, the which I sought to mend
By holding a poor office in the state.
It had been promised to me, and already
I bought new clothing for my raggèd babes,
And my wife smiled; and my heart knew repose.
When Cenci's intercession, as I found,
Conferred this office on a wretch, whom thus
He paid for vilest service. I returned
With this ill news, and we sate sad together
Solacing our despondency with tears
Of such affection and unbroken faith
As temper life's worst bitterness; when he,
As he is wont, came to upbraid and curse,
Mocking our poverty, and telling us
Such was God's scourge for disobedient sons.
And then, that I might strike him dumb with shame,
I spoke of my wife's dowry; but he coined
A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
The sum in secret riot; and he saw
My wife was touched, and he went smiling forth.
And when I knew the impression he had made,
And felt my wife insult with silent scorn
My ardent truth, and look averse and cold,
I went forth too: but soon returned again;
Yet not so soon but that my wife had taught
My children her harsh thoughts, and they all cried,
'Give us clothes, father! Give us better food!
What you in one night squander were enough
For months!' I looked, and saw that home was hell.
And to that hell will I return no more
Until mine enemy has rendered up
Atonement, or, as he gave life to me
I will, reversing Nature's law . . .
The compensation which thou seekest here
Will be denied.
Then . . . Are you not my friend?
Did you not hint at the alternative,
Upon the brink of which you see I stand,
The other day when we conversed together?
My wrongs were then less. That word parricide,
Although I am resolved, haunts me like fear.
It must be fear itself, for the bare word
Is hollow mockery. Mark, how wisest God
Draws to one point the threads of a just doom,
So sanctifying it: what you devise
Is, as it were, accomplished.
Is he dead?
His grave is ready. Know that since we met
Cenci has done an outrage to his daughter.
That she speaks not, but you may
Conceive such half conjectures as I do,
From her fixed paleness, and the lofty grief
Of her stern brow bent on the idle air,
And her severe unmodulated voice,
Drowning both tenderness and dread; and last
From this; that whilst her step-mother and I,
Bewildered in our horror, talked together
With obscure hints; both self-misunderstood
And darkly guessing, stumbling, in our talk,
Over the truth, and yet to its revenge,
She interrupted us, and with a look
Which told before she spoke it, he must die: . . .
It is enough. My doubts are well appeased;
There is a higher reason for the act
Than mine; there is a holier judge than me,
A more unblamed avenger. Beatrice,
Who in the gentleness of thy sweet youth
Hast never trodden on a worm, or bruised
A living flower, but thou hast pitied it
With needless tears! Fair sister, thou in whom
Men wondered how such loveliness and wisdom
Did not destroy each other! Is there made
Ravage of thee? O, heart, I ask no more
Justification! Shall I wait, Orsino,
Till he return, and stab him at the door?
Not so; some accident might interpose
To rescue him from what is now most sure;
And you are unprovided where to fly,
How to excuse or to conceal. Nay, listen:
All is contrived; success is so assured
That . . .
'Tis my brother's voice! You know me not?
My sister, my lost sister!
I see Orsino has talked with you, and
That you conjecture things too horrible
To speak, yet far less than the truth. Now, stay not,
He might return: yet kiss me; I shall know
That then thou hast consented to his death.
Farewell, farewell! Let piety to God,
Brotherly love, justice and clemency,
And all things that make tender hardest hearts
Make thine hard, brother. Answer not . . . farewell.
-A mean Apartment in Giacomo's House. Giacomo alone.
'Tis midnight, and Orsino comes not yet. [Thunder, and the sound of a storm.
What! can the everlasting elements
Feel with a worm like man? If so, the shaft
Of mercy-wingèd lightning would not fall
On stones and trees. My wife and children sleep:
They are now living in unmeaning dreams:
But I must wake, still doubting if that deed
Be just which is most necessary. O,
Thou unreplenished lamp! whose narrow fire
Is shaken by the wind, and on whose edge
Devouring darkness hovers! Thou small flame,
Which, as a dying pulse rises and falls,
Still flickerest up and down, how very soon,
Did I not feed thee, wouldst thou fail and be
As thou hadst never been! So wastes and sinks
Even now, perhaps, the life that kindled mine:
But that no power can fill with vital oil
That broken lamp of flesh. Ha! 'tis the blood
Which fed these veins that ebbs till all is cold:
It is the form that moulded mine that sinks
Into the white and yellow spasms of death:
It is the soul by which mine was arrayed
In God's immortal likeness which now stands
Naked before Heaven's judgement seat!
[A bell strikes.
The hours crawl on; and when my hairs are white,
My son will then perhaps be waiting thus,
Tortured between just hate and vain remorse;
Chiding the tardy messenger of news
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 12
WHEN Turnus saw the Latins leave the field,
Their armies broken, and their courage quell’d,
Himself become the mark of public spite,
His honor question’d for the promis’d fight;
The more he was with vulgar hate oppress’d, 5
The more his fury boil’d within his breast:
He rous’d his vigor for the last debate,
And rais’d his haughty soul to meet his fate.
As, when the swains the Libyan lion chase,
He makes a sour retreat, nor mends his pace; 10
But, if the pointed jav’lin pierce his side,
The lordly beast returns with double pride:
He wrenches out the steel, he roars for pain;
His sides he lashes, and erects his mane:
So Turnus fares; his eyeballs flash with fire, 15
Thro’ his wide nostrils clouds of smoke expire.
Trembling with rage, around the court he ran,
At length approach’d the king, and thus began:
“No more excuses or delays: I stand
In arms prepar’d to combat, hand to hand, 20
This base deserter of his native land.
The Trojan, by his word, is bound to take
The same conditions which himself did make.
Renew the truce; the solemn rites prepare,
And to my single virtue trust the war. 25
The Latians unconcern’d shall see the fight;
This arm unaided shall assert your right:
Then, if my prostrate body press the plain,
To him the crown and beauteous bride remain.”
To whom the king sedately thus replied: 30
“Brave youth, the more your valor has been tried,
The more becomes it us, with due respect,
To weigh the chance of war, which you neglect.
You want not wealth, or a successive throne,
Or cities which your arms have made your own: 35
My towns and treasures are at your command,
And stor’d with blooming beauties is my land;
Laurentum more than one Lavinia sees,
Unmarried, fair, of noble families.
Now let me speak, and you with patience hear, 40
Things which perhaps may grate a lover’s ear,
But sound advice, proceeding from a heart
Sincerely yours, and free from fraudful art.
The gods, by signs, have manifestly shown,
No prince Italian born should heir my throne: 45
Oft have our augurs, in prediction skill’d,
And oft our priests, a foreign son reveal’d.
Yet, won by worth that cannot be withstood,
Brib’d by my kindness to my kindred blood,
Urg’d by my wife, who would not be denied, 50
I promis’d my Lavinia for your bride:
Her from her plighted lord by force I took;
All ties of treaties, and of honor, broke:
On your account I wag’d an impious war—
With what success, ’t is needless to declare; 55
I and my subjects feel, and you have had your share.
Twice vanquish’d while in bloody fields we strive,
Scarce in our walls we keep our hopes alive:
The rolling flood runs warm with human gore;
The bones of Latians blanch the neighb’ring shore. 60
Why put I not an end to this debate,
Still unresolv’d, and still a slave to fate?
If Turnus’ death a lasting peace can give,
Why should I not procure it whilst you live?
Should I to doubtful arms your youth betray, 65
What would my kinsmen the Rutulians say?
And, should you fall in fight, (which Heav’n defend!)
How curse the cause which hasten’d to his end
The daughter’s lover and the father’s friend?
Weigh in your mind the various chance of war; 70
Pity your parent’s age, and ease his care.”
Such balmy words he pour’d, but all in vain:
The proffer’d med’cine but provok’d the pain.
The wrathful youth, disdaining the relief,
With intermitting sobs thus vents his grief: 75
“The care, O best of fathers, which you take
For my concerns, at my desire forsake.
Permit me not to languish out my days,
But make the best exchange of life for praise.
This arm, this lance, can well dispute the prize; 80
And the blood follows, where the weapon flies.
His goddess mother is not near, to shroud
The flying coward with an empty cloud.”
But now the queen, who fear’d for Turnus’ life,
And loath’d the hard conditions of the strife, 85
Held him by force; and, dying in his death,
In these sad accents gave her sorrow breath:
“O Turnus, I adjure thee by these tears,
And whate’er price Amata’s honor bears
Within thy breast, since thou art all my hope, 90
My sickly mind’s repose, my sinking age’s prop;
Since on the safety of thy life alone
Depends Latinus, and the Latian throne:
Refuse me not this one, this only pray’r,
To waive the combat, and pursue the war. 95
Whatever chance attends this fatal strife,
Think it includes, in thine, Amata’s life.
I cannot live a slave, or see my throne
Usurp’d by strangers or a Trojan son.”
At this, a flood of tears Lavinia shed; 100
A crimson blush her beauteous face o’erspread,
Varying her cheeks by turns with white and red.
The driving colors, never at a stay,
Run here and there, and flush, and fade away.
Delightful change! Thus Indian iv’ry shows, 105
Which with the bord’ring paint of purple glows;
Or lilies damask’d by the neighb’ring rose.
The lover gaz’d, and, burning with desire,
The more he look’d, the more he fed the fire:
Revenge, and jealous rage, and secret spite, 110
Roll in his breast, and rouse him to the fight.
Then fixing on the queen his ardent eyes,
Firm to his first intent, he thus replies:
“O mother, do not by your tears prepare
Such boding omens, and prejudge the war. 115
Resolv’d on fight, I am no longer free
To shun my death, if Heav’n my death decree.”
Then turning to the herald, thus pursues:
“Go, greet the Trojan with ungrateful news;
Denounce from me, that, when to-morrow’s light 120
Shall gild the heav’ns, he need not urge the fight;
The Trojan and Rutulian troops no more
Shall dye, with mutual blood, the Latian shore:
Our single swords the quarrel shall decide,
And to the victor be the beauteous bride.” 125
He said, and striding on, with speedy pace,
He sought his coursers of the Thracian race.
At his approach they toss their heads on high,
And, proudly neighing, promise victory.
The sires of these Orythia sent from far, 130
To grace Pilumnus, when he went to war.
The drifts of Thracian snows were scarce so white,
Nor northern winds in fleetness match’d their flight.
Officious grooms stand ready by his side;
And some with combs their flowing manes divide, 135
And others stroke their chests and gently soothe their pride.
He sheath’d his limbs in arms; a temper’d mass
Of golden metal those, and mountain brass.
Then to his head his glitt’ring helm he tied,
And girt his faithful fauchion to his side. 140
In his Ætnæan forge, the God of Fire
That fauchion labor’d for the hero’s sire;
Immortal keenness on the blade bestow’d,
And plung’d it hissing in the Stygian flood.
Propp’d on a pillar, which the ceiling bore, 145
Was plac’d the lance Auruncan Actor wore;
Which with such force he brandish’d in his hand,
The tough ash trembled like an osier wand:
Then cried: “O pond’rous spoil of Actor slain,
And never yet by Turnus toss’d in vain, 150
Fail not this day thy wonted force; but go,
Sent by this hand, to pierce the Trojan foe!
Give me to tear his corslet from his breast,
And from that eunuch head to rend the crest;
Dragg’d in the dust, his frizzled hair to soil, 155
Hot from the vexing ir’n, and smear’d with fragrant oil!”
Thus while he raves, from his wide nostrils flies
A fiery steam, and sparkles from his eyes.
So fares the bull in his lov’d female’s sight:
Proudly he bellows, and preludes the fight; 160
He tries his goring horns against a tree,
And meditates his absent enemy;
He pushes at the winds; he digs the strand
With his black hoofs, and spurns the yellow sand.
Nor less the Trojan, in his Lemnian arms, 165
To future fight his manly courage warms:
He whets his fury, and with joy prepares
To terminate at once the ling’ring wars;
To cheer his chiefs and tender son, relates
What Heav’n had promis’d, and expounds the fates. 170
Then to the Latian king he sends, to cease
The rage of arms, and ratify the peace.
The morn ensuing, from the mountain’s height,
Had scarcely spread the skies with rosy light;
Th’ ethereal coursers, bounding from the sea, 175
From out their flaming nostrils breath’d the day;
When now the Trojan and Rutulian guard,
In friendly labor join’d, the list prepar’d.
Beneath the walls they measure out the space;
Then sacred altars rear, on sods of grass, 180
Where, with religious rites, their common gods they place.
In purest white the priests their heads attire;
And living waters bear, and holy fire;
And, o’er their linen hoods and shaded hair,
Long twisted wreaths of sacred vervain wear, 185
In order issuing from the town appears
The Latin legion, arm’d with pointed spears;
And from the fields, advancing on a line,
The Trojan and the Tuscan forces join:
Their various arms afford a pleasing sight; 190
A peaceful train they seem, in peace prepar’d for fight.
Betwixt the ranks the proud commanders ride,
Glitt’ring with gold, and vests in purple dyed;
Here Mnestheus, author of the Memmian line,
And there Messapus, born of seed divine. 195
The sign is giv’n; and, round the listed space,
Each man in order fills his proper place.
Reclining on their ample shields, they stand,
And fix their pointed lances in the sand.
Now, studious of the sight, a num’rous throng 200
Of either sex promiscuous, old and young,
Swarm from the town: by those who rest behind,
The gates and walls and houses’ tops are lin’d.
Meantime the Queen of Heav’n beheld the sight,
With eyes unpleas’d, from Mount Albano’s height 205
(Since call’d Albano by succeeding fame,
But then an empty hill, without a name).
She thence survey’d the field, the Trojan pow’rs,
The Latian squadrons, and Laurentine tow’rs.
Then thus the goddess of the skies bespake, 210
With sighs and tears, the goddess of the lake,
King Turnus’ sister, once a lovely maid,
Ere to the lust of lawless Jove betray’d:
Compress’d by force, but, by the grateful god,
Now made the Nais of the neighb’ring flood. 215
“O nymph, the pride of living lakes,” said she,
“O most renown’d, and most belov’d by me,
Long hast thou known, nor need I to record,
The wanton sallies of my wand’ring lord.
Of ev’ry Latian fair whom Jove misled 220
To mount by stealth my violated bed,
To thee alone I grudg’d not his embrace,
But gave a part of heav’n, and an unenvied place.
Now learn from me thy near approaching grief,
Nor think my wishes want to thy relief. 225
While fortune favor’d, nor Heav’n’s King denied
To lend my succor to the Latian side,
I sav’d thy brother, and the sinking state:
But now he struggles with unequal fate,
And goes, with gods averse, o’ermatch’d in might, 230
To meet inevitable death in fight;
Nor must I break the truce, nor can sustain the sight.
Thou, if thou dar’st, thy present aid supply;
It well becomes a sister’s care to try.”
At this the lovely nymph, with grief oppress’d, 235
Thrice tore her hair, and beat her comely breast.
To whom Saturnia thus: “Thy tears are late:
Haste, snatch him, if he can be snatch’d from fate:
New tumults kindle; violate the truce:
Who knows what changeful fortune may produce? 240
’T is not a crime t’ attempt what I decree;
Or, if it were, discharge the crime on me.”
She said, and, sailing on the winged wind,
Left the sad nymph suspended in her mind.
And now in pomp the peaceful kings appear: 245
Four steeds the chariot of Latinus bear;
Twelve golden beams around his temples play,
To mark his lineage from the God of Day.
Two snowy coursers Turnus’ chariot yoke,
And in his hand two massy spears he shook: 250
Then issued from the camp, in arms divine,
Æneas, author of the Roman line;
And by his side Ascanius took his place,
The second hope of Rome’s immortal race.
Adorn’d in white, a rev’rend priest appears, 255
And off’rings to the flaming altars bears;
A porket, and a lamb that never suffer’d shears.
Then to the rising sun he turns his eyes,
And strews the beasts, design’d for sacrifice,
With salt and meal: with like officious care 260
He marks their foreheads, and he clips their hair.
Betwixt their horns the purple wine he sheds;
With the same gen’rous juice the flame he feeds.
Æneas then unsheath’d his shining sword,
And thus with pious pray’rs the gods ador’d: 265
“All-seeing sun, and thou, Ausonian soil,
For which I have sustain’d so long a toil,
Thou, King of Heav’n, and thou, the Queen of Air,
Propitious now, and reconcil’d by pray’r;
Thou, God of War, whose unresisted sway 270
The labors and events of arms obey;
Ye living fountains, and ye running floods,
All pow’rs of ocean, all ethereal gods,
Hear, and bear record: if I fall in field,
Or, recreant in the fight, to Turnus yield, 275
My Trojans shall encrease Evander’s town;
Ascanius shall renounce th’ Ausonian crown:
All claims, all questions of debate, shall cease;
Nor he, nor they, with force infringe the peace.
But, if my juster arms prevail in fight, 280
(As sure they shall, if I divine aright,)
My Trojans shall not o’er th’ Italians reign:
Both equal, both unconquer’d shall remain,
Join’d in their laws, their lands, and their abodes;
I ask but altars for my weary gods. 285
The care of those religious rites be mine;
The crown to King Latinus I resign:
His be the sov’reign sway. Nor will I share
His pow’r in peace, or his command in war.
For me, my friends another town shall frame, 290
And bless the rising tow’rs with fair Lavinia’s name.”
Thus he. Then, with erected eyes and hands,
The Latian king before his altar stands.
“By the same heav’n,” said he, “and earth, and main,
And all the pow’rs that all the three contain; 295
By hell below, and by that upper god
Whose thunder signs the peace, who seals it with his nod;
So let Latona’s double offspring hear,
And double-fronted Janus, what I swear:
I touch the sacred altars, touch the flames, 300
And all those pow’rs attest, and all their names;
Whatever chance befall on either side,
No term of time this union shall divide:
No force, no fortune, shall my vows unbind,
Or shake the steadfast tenor of my mind; 305
Not tho’ the circling seas should break their bound,
O’erflow the shores, or sap the solid ground;
Not tho’ the lamps of heav’n their spheres forsake,
Hurl’d down, and hissing in the nether lake:
Ev’n as this royal scepter” (for he bore 310
A scepter in his hand) “shall never more
Shoot out in branches, or renew the birth:
An orphan now, cut from the mother earth
By the keen ax, dishonor’d of its hair,
And cas’d in brass, for Latian kings to bear.” 315
When thus in public view the peace was tied
With solemn vows, and sworn on either side,
All dues perform’d which holy rites require;
The victim beasts are slain before the fire,
The trembling entrails from their bodies torn, 320
And to the fatten’d flames in chargers borne.
Already the Rutulians deem their man
O’ermatch’d in arms, before the fight began.
First rising fears are whisper’d thro’ the crowd;
Then, gath’ring sound, they murmur more aloud. 325
Now, side to side, they measure with their eyes
The champions’ bulk, their sinews, and their size:
The nearer they approach, the more is known
Th’ apparent disadvantage of their own.
Turnus himself appears in public sight 330
Conscious of fate, desponding of the fight.
Slowly he moves, and at his altar stands
With eyes dejected, and with trembling hands;
And, while he mutters undistinguish’d pray’rs,
A livid deadness in his cheeks appears. 335
With anxious pleasure when Juturna view’d
Th’ increasing fright of the mad multitude,
When their short sighs and thick’ning sobs she heard,
And found their ready minds for change prepar’d;
Dissembling her immortal form, she took 340
Camertus’ mien, his habit, and his look;
A chief of ancient blood; in arms well known
Was his great sire, and he his greater son.
His shape assum’d, amid the ranks she ran,
And humoring their first motions, thus began: 345
“For shame, Rutulians, can you bear the sight
Of one expos’d for all, in single fight?
Can we, before the face of heav’n, confess
Our courage colder, or our numbers less?
View all the Trojan host, th’ Arcadian band, 350
And Tuscan army; count ’em as they stand:
Undaunted to the battle if we go,
Scarce ev’ry second man will share a foe.
Turnus, ’t is true, in this unequal strife,
Shall lose, with honor, his devoted life, 355
Or change it rather for immortal fame,
Succeeding to the gods, from whence he came:
But you, a servile and inglorious band,
For foreign lords shall sow your native land,
Those fruitful fields your fighting fathers gain’d, 360
Which have so long their lazy sons sustain’d.”
With words like these, she carried her design:
A rising murmur runs along the line.
Then ev’n the city troops, and Latians, tir’d
With tedious war, seem with new souls inspir’d: 365
Their champion’s fate with pity they lament,
And of the league, so lately sworn, repent.
Nor fails the goddess to foment the rage
With lying wonders, and a false presage;
But adds a sign, which, present to their eyes, 370
Inspires new courage, and a glad surprise.
For, sudden, in the fiery tracts above,
Appears in pomp th’ imperial bird of Jove:
A plump of fowl he spies, that swim the lakes,
And o’er their heads his sounding pinions shakes; 375
Then, stooping on the fairest of the train,
In his strong talons truss’d a silver swan.
Th’ Italians wonder at th’ unusual sight;
But, while he lags, and labors in his flight,
Behold, the dastard fowl return anew, 380
And with united force the foe pursue:
Clam’rous around the royal hawk they fly,
And, thick’ning in a cloud, o’ershade the sky.
They cuff, they scratch, they cross his airy course;
Nor can th’ incumber’d bird sustain their force; 385
But vex’d, not vanquish’d, drops the pond’rous prey,
And, lighten’d of his burthen, wings his way.
Th’ Ausonian bands with shouts salute the sight,
Eager of action, and demand the fight.
Then King Tolumnius, vers’d in augurs’ arts, 390
Cries out, and thus his boasted skill imparts:
“At length ’t is granted, what I long desir’d!
This, this is what my frequent vows requir’d.
Ye gods, I take your omen, and obey.
Advance, my friends, and charge! I lead the way. 395
These are the foreign foes, whose impious band,
Like that rapacious bird, infest our land:
But soon, like him, they shall be forc’d to sea
By strength united, and forego the prey.
Your timely succor to your country bring, 400
Haste to the rescue, and redeem your king.”
He said; and, pressing onward thro’ the crew,
Pois’d in his lifted arm, his lance he threw.
The winged weapon, whistling in the wind,
Came driving on, nor miss’d the mark design’d. 405
At once the cornel rattled in the skies;
At once tumultuous shouts and clamors rise.
Nine brothers in a goodly band there stood,
Born of Arcadian mix’d with Tuscan blood,
Gylippus’ sons: the fatal jav’lin flew, 410
Aim’d at the midmost of the friendly crew.
A passage thro’ the jointed arms it found,
Just where the belt was to the body bound,
And struck the gentle youth extended on the ground.
Then, fir’d with pious rage, the gen’rous train 415
Run madly forward to revenge the slain.
And some with eager haste their jav’lins throw;
And some with sword in hand assault the foe.
The wish’d insult the Latine troops embrace,
And meet their ardor in the middle space. 420
The Trojans, Tuscans, and Arcadian line,
With equal courage obviate their design.
Peace leaves the violated fields, and hate
Both armies urges to their mutual fate.
With impious haste their altars are o’erturn’d, 425
The sacrifice half-broil’d, and half-unburn’d.
Thick storms of steel from either army fly,
And clouds of clashing darts obscure the sky;
Brands from the fire are missive weapons made,
With chargers, bowls, and all the priestly trade. 430
Latinus, frighted, hastens from the fray,
And bears his unregarded gods away.
These on their horses vault; those yoke the car;
The rest, with swords on high, run headlong to the war.
Messapus, eager to confound the peace, 435
Spurr’d his hot courser thro’ the fighting prease,
At King Aulestes, by his purple known
A Tuscan prince, and by his regal crown;
And, with a shock encount’ring, bore him down.
Backward he fell; and, as his fate design’d, 440
The ruins of an altar were behind:
There, pitching on his shoulders and his head,
Amid the scatt’ring fires he lay supinely spread.
The beamy spear, descending from above,
His cuirass pierc’d, and thro’ his body drove. 445
Then, with a scornful smile, the victor cries:
“The gods have found a fitter sacrifice.”
Greedy of spoils, th’ Italians strip the dead
Of his rich armor, and uncrown his head.
Priest Corynæus, arm’d his better hand, 450
From his own altar, with a blazing brand;
And, as Ebusus with a thund’ring pace
Advanc’d to battle, dash’d it on his face:
His bristly beard shines out with sudden fires;
The crackling crop a noisome scent expires. 455
Following the blow, he seiz’d his curling crown
With his left hand; his other cast him down.
The prostrate body with his knees he press’d,
And plung’d his holy poniard in his breast.
While Podalirius, with his sword, pursued 460
The shepherd Alsus thro’ the flying crowd,
Swiftly he turns, and aims a deadly blow
Full on the front of his unwary foe.
The broad ax enters with a crashing sound,
And cleaves the chin with one continued wound; 465
Warm blood, and mingled brains, besmear his arms around.
An iron sleep his stupid eyes oppress’d,
And seal’d their heavy lids in endless rest.
But good Æneas rush’d amid the bands;
Bare was his head, and naked were his hands, 470
In sign of truce: then thus he cries aloud:
“What sudden rage, what new desire of blood,
Inflames your alter’d minds? O Trojans, cease
From impious arms, nor violate the peace!
By human sanctions, and by laws divine, 475
The terms are all agreed; the war is mine.
Dismiss your fears, and let the fight ensue;
This hand alone shall right the gods and you:
Our injur’d altars, and their broken vow,
To this avenging sword the faithless Turnus owe.” 480
Thus while he spoke, unmindful of defense,
A winged arrow struck the pious prince.
But, whether from some human hand it came,
Or hostile god, is left unknown by fame:
No human hand or hostile god was found, 485
To boast the triumph of so base a wound.
When Turnus saw the Trojan quit the plain,
His chiefs dismay’d, his troops a fainting train,
Th’ unhop’d event his heighten’d soul inspires:
At once his arms and coursers he requires; 490
Then, with a leap, his lofty chariot gains,
And with a ready hand assumes the reins.
He drives impetuous, and, where’er he goes,
He leaves behind a lane of slaughter’d foes.
These his lance reaches; over those he rolls 495
His rapid car, and crushes out their souls:
In vain the vanquish’d fly; the victor sends
The dead men’s weapons at their living friends.
Thus, on the banks of Hebrus’ freezing flood,
The God of Battles, in his angry mood, 500
Clashing his sword against his brazen shield,
Let loose the reins, and scours along the field:
Before the wind his fiery coursers fly;
Groans the sad earth, resounds the rattling sky.
Wrath, Terror, Treason, Tumult, and Despair 505
(Dire faces, and deform’d) surround the car;
Friends of the god, and followers of the war.
With fury not unlike, nor less disdain,
Exulting Turnus flies along the plain:
His smoking horses, at their utmost speed, 510
He lashes on, and urges o’er the dead.
Their fetlocks run with blood; and, when they bound,
The gore and gath’ring dust are dash’d around.
Thamyris and Pholus, masters of the war,
He kill’d at hand, but Sthenelus afar: 515
From far the sons of Imbracus he slew,
Glaucus and Lades, of the Lycian crew;
Both taught to fight on foot, in battle join’d,
Or mount the courser that outstrips the wind.
Meantime Eumedes, vaunting in the field, 520
New fir’d the Trojans, and their foes repell’d.
This son of Dolon bore his grandsire’s name,
But emulated more his father’s fame;
His guileful father, sent a nightly spy,
The Grecian camp and order to descry: 525
Hard enterprise! and well he might require
Achilles’ car and horses, for his hire:
But, met upon the scout, th’ Ætolian prince
In death bestow’d a juster recompense.
Fierce Turnus view’d the Trojan from afar, 530
And launch’d his jav’lin from his lofty car;
Then lightly leaping down, pursued the blow,
And, pressing with his foot his prostrate foe,
Wrench’d from his feeble hold the shining sword,
And plung’d it in the bosom of its lord. 535
“Possess,” said he, “the fruit of all thy pains,
And measure, at thy length, our Latian plains.
Thus are my foes rewarded by my hand;
Thus may they build their town, and thus enjoy the land!”
Then Dares, Butes, Sybaris he slew, 540
Whom o’er his neck his flound’ring courser threw.
As when loud Boreas, with his blust’ring train,
Stoops from above, incumbent on the main;
Where’er he flies, he drives the rack before,
And rolls the billows on th’ Ægæan shore: 545
So, where resistless Turnus takes his course,
The scatter’d squadrons bend before his force;
His crest of horses’ hair is blown behind
By adverse air, and rustles in the wind.
This haughty Phegeus saw with high disdain, 550
And, as the chariot roll’d along the plain,
Light from the ground he leapt, and seiz’d the rein.
Thus hung in air, he still retain’d his hold,
The coursers frighted, and their course controll’d.
The lance of Turnus reach’d him as he hung, 555
And pierc’d his plated arms, but pass’d along,
And only raz’d the skin. He turn’d, and held
Against his threat’ning foe his ample shield;
Then call’d for aid: but, while he cried in vain,
The chariot bore him backward on the plain. 560
He lies revers’d; the victor king descends,
And strikes so justly where his helmet ends,
He lops the head. The Latian fields are drunk
With streams that issue from the bleeding trunk.
While he triumphs, and while the Trojans yield, 565
The wounded prince is forc’d to leave the field:
Strong Mnestheus, and Achates often tried,
And young Ascanius, weeping by his side,
Conduct him to his tent. Scarce can he rear
His limbs from earth, supported on his spear. 570
Resolv’d in mind, regardless of the smart,
He tugs with both his hands, and breaks the dart.
The steel remains. No readier way he found
To draw the weapon, than t’ inlarge the wound.
Eager of fight, impatient of delay, 575
He begs; and his unwilling friends obey.
Iapis was at hand to prove his art,
Whose blooming youth so fir’d Apollo’s heart,
That, for his love, he proffer’d to bestow
His tuneful harp and his unerring bow. 580
The pious youth, more studious how to save
His aged sire, now sinking to the grave,
Preferr’d the pow’r of plants, and silent praise
Of healing arts, before Phœbean bays.
Propp’d on his lance the pensive hero stood, 585
And heard and saw, unmov’d, the mourning crowd.
The fam’d physician tucks his robes around
With ready hands, and hastens to the wound.
With gentle touches he performs his part,
This way and that, soliciting the dart, 590
And exercises all his heav’nly art.
All soft’ning simples, known of sov’reign use,
He presses out, and pours their noble juice.
These first infus’d, to lenify the pain,
He tugs with pincers, but he tugs in vain. 595
Then to the patron of his art he pray’d:
The patron of his art refus’d his aid.
Meantime the war approaches to the tents;
Th’ alarm grows hotter, and the noise augments:
The driving dust proclaims the danger near; 600
And first their friends, and then their foes appear:
Their friends retreat; their foes pursue the rear.
The camp is fill’d with terror and affright:
The hissing shafts within the trench alight;
An undistinguish’d noise ascends the sky, 605
The shouts of those who kill, and groans of those who die.
But now the goddess mother, mov’d with grief,
And pierc’d with pity, hastens her relief.
A branch of healing dittany she brought,
Which in the Cretan fields with care she sought: 610
Rough is the stem, which woolly leafs surround;
The leafs with flow’rs, the flow’rs with purple crown’d,
Well known to wounded goats; a sure relief
To draw the pointed steel, and ease the grief.
This Venus brings, in clouds involv’d, and brews 615
Th’ extracted liquor with ambrosian dews,
And od’rous panacee. Unseen she stands,
Temp’ring the mixture with her heav’nly hands,
And pours it in a bowl, already crown’d
With juice of med’c’nal herbs prepar’d to bathe the wound. 620
The leech, unknowing of superior art
Which aids the cure, with this foments the part;
And in a moment ceas’d the raging smart.
Stanch’d is the blood, and in the bottom stands:
The steel, but scarcely touch’d with tender hands, 625
Moves up, and follows of its own accord,
And health and vigor are at once restor’d.
Iapis first perceiv’d the closing wound,
And first the footsteps of a god he found.
“Arms! arms!” he cries; “the sword and shield prepare, 630
And send the willing chief, renew’d, to war.
This is no mortal work, no cure of mine,
Nor art’s effect, but done by hands divine.
Some god our general to the battle sends;
Some god preserves his life for greater ends.” 635
The hero arms in haste; his hands infold
His thighs with cuishes of refulgent gold:
Inflam’d to fight, and rushing to the field,
That hand sustaining the celestial shield,
This gripes the lance, and with such vigor shakes, 640
That to the rest the beamy weapon quakes.
Then with a close embrace he strain’d his son,
And, kissing thro’ his helmet, thus begun:
“My son, from my example learn the war,
In camps to suffer, and in fields to dare; 645
But happier chance than mine attend thy care!
This day my hand thy tender age shall shield,
And crown with honors of the conquer’d field:
Thou, when thy riper years shall send thee forth
To toils of war, be mindful of my worth; 650
Assert thy birthright, and in arms be known,
For Hector’s nephew, and Æneas’ son.”
He said; and, striding, issued on the plain.
Anteus and Mnestheus, and a num’rous train,
Attend his steps; the rest their weapons take, 655
And, crowding to the field, the camp forsake.
A cloud of blinding dust is rais’d around,
Labors beneath their feet the trembling ground.
Now Turnus, posted on a hill, from far
Beheld the progress of the moving war: 660
With him the Latins view’d the cover’d plains,
And the chill blood ran backward in their veins.
Juturna saw th’ advancing troops appear,
And heard the hostile sound, and fled for fear.
Æneas leads; and draws a sweeping train, 665
Clos’d in their ranks, and pouring on the plain.
As when a whirlwind, rushing to the shore
From the mid ocean, drives the waves before;
The painful hind with heavy heart foresees
The flatted fields, and slaughter of the trees; 670
With like impetuous rage the prince appears
Before his doubled front, nor less destruction bears.
And now both armies shock in open field;
Osiris is by strong Thymbræus kill’d.
Archetius, Ufens, Epulon, are slain 675
(All fam’d in arms, and of the Latian train)
By Gyas’, Mnestheus’, and Achates’ hand.
The fatal augur falls, by whose command
The truce was broken, and whose lance, embrued
With Trojan blood, th’ unhappy fight renew’d. 680
Loud shouts and clamors rend the liquid sky,
And o’er the field the frighted Latins fly.
The prince disdains the dastards to pursue,
Nor moves to meet in arms the fighting few;
Turnus alone, amid the dusky plain, 685
He seeks, and to the combat calls in vain.
Juturna heard, and, seiz’d with mortal fear,
Forc’d from the beam her brother’s charioteer;
Assumes his shape, his armor, and his mien,
And, like Metiscus, in his seat is seen. 690
As the black swallow near the palace plies;
O’er empty courts, and under arches, flies;
Now hawks aloft, now skims along the flood,
To furnish her loquacious nest with food:
So drives the rapid goddess o’er the plains; 695
The smoking horses run with loosen’d reins.
She steers a various course among the foes;
Now here, now there, her conqu’ring brother shows;
Now with a straight, now with a wheeling flight,
She turns, and bends, but shuns the single fight. 700
Æneas, fir’d with fury, breaks the crowd,
And seeks his foe, and calls by name aloud:
He runs within a narrower ring, and tries
To stop the chariot; but the chariot flies.
If he but gain a glimpse, Juturna fears, 705
And far away the Daunian hero bears.
What should he do! Nor arts nor arms avail;
And various cares in vain his mind assail.
The great Messapus, thund’ring thro’ the field,
In his left hand two pointed jav’lins held: 710
Encount’ring on the prince, one dart he drew,
And with unerring aim and utmost vigor threw.
Æneas saw it come, and, stooping low
Beneath his buckler, shunn’d the threat’ning blow.
The weapon hiss’d above his head, and tore 715
The waving plume which on his helm he wore.
Forced by this hostile act, and fir’d with spite,
That flying Turnus still declin’d the fight,
The Prince, whose piety had long repell’d
His inborn ardor, now invades the field; 720
Invokes the pow’rs of violated peace,
Their rites and injur’d altars to redress;
Then, to his rage abandoning the rein,
With blood and slaughter’d bodies fills the plain.
What god can tell, what numbers can display, 725
The various labors of that fatal day;
What chiefs and champions fell on either side,
In combat slain, or by what deaths they died;
Whom Turnus, whom the Trojan hero kill’d;
Who shar’d the fame and fortune of the field! 730
Jove, could’st thou view, and not avert thy sight,
Two jarring nations join’d in cruel fight,
Whom leagues of lasting love so shortly shall unite!
Æneas first Rutulian Sucro found,
Whose valor made the Trojans quit their ground; 735
Betwixt his ribs the jav’lin drove so just,
It reach’d his heart, nor needs a second thrust.
Now Turnus, at two blows, two brethren slew;
First from his horse fierce Amycus he threw:
Then, leaping on the ground, on foot assail’d 740
Diores, and in equal fight prevail’d.
Their lifeless trunks he leaves upon the place;
Their heads, distilling gore, his chariot grace.
Three cold on earth the Trojan hero threw,
Whom without respite at one charge he slew: 745
Cethegus, Tanais, Tagus, fell oppress’d,
And sad Onythes, added to the rest,
Of Theban blood, whom Peridia bore.
Turnus two brothers from the Lycian shore,
And from Apollo’s fane to battle sent, 750
O’erthrew; nor Phœbus could their fate prevent.
Peaceful Menoetes after these he kill’d,
Who long had shunn’d the dangers of the field:
On Lerna’s lake a silent life he led,
And with his nets and angle earn’d his bread; 755
Nor pompous cares, nor palaces, he knew,
But wisely from th’ infectious world withdrew:
Poor was his house; his father’s painful hand
Discharg’d his rent, and plow’d another’s land.
As flames among the lofty woods are thrown 760
On diff’rent sides, and both by winds are blown;
The laurels crackle in the sputt’ring fire;
The frighted sylvans from their shades retire:
Or as two neighb’ring torrents fall from high;
Rapid they run; the foamy waters fry; 765
They roll to sea with unresisted force,
And down the rocks precipitate their course:
Not with less rage the rival heroes take
Their diff’rent ways, nor less destruction make.
With spears afar, with swords at hand, they strike; 770
And zeal of slaughter fires their souls alike.
Like them, their dauntless men maintain the field;
And hearts are pierc’d, unknowing how to yield:
They blow for blow return, and wound for wound;
And heaps of bodies raise the level ground. 775
Murranus, boasting of his blood, that springs
From a long royal race of Latian kings,
Is by the Trojan from his chariot thrown,
Crush’d with the weight of an unwieldy stone:
Betwixt the wheels he fell; the wheels, that bore 780
His living load, his dying body tore.
His starting steeds, to shun the glitt’ring sword,
Paw down his trampled limbs, forgetful of their lord.
Fierce Hyllus threaten’d high, and, face to face,
Affronted Turnus in the middle space: 785
The prince encounter’d him in full career,
And at his temples aim’d the deadly spear;
So fatally the flying weapon sped,
That thro’ his brazen helm it pierc’d his head.
Nor, Cisseus, couldst thou scape from Turnus’ hand, 790
In vain the strongest of th’ Arcadian band:
Nor to Cupentus could his gods afford
Availing aid against th’ Ænean sword,
Which to his naked heart pursued the course;
Nor could his plated shield sustain the force. 795
Iolas fell, whom not the Grecian pow’rs,
Nor great subverter of the Trojan tow’rs,
Were doom’d to kill, while Heav’n prolong’d his date;
But who can pass the bounds prefix’d by fate?
In high Lyrnessus, and in Troy, he held 800
Two palaces, and was from each expell’d:
Of all the mighty man, the last remains
A little spot of foreign earth contains.
And now both hosts their broken troops unite
In equal ranks, and mix in mortal fight. 805
Seresthus and undaunted Mnestheus join
The Trojan, Tuscan, and Arcadian line:
Sea-born Messapus, with Atinas, heads
The Latin squadrons, and to battle leads.
They strike, they push, they throng the scanty space, 810
Resolv’d on death, impatient of disgrace;
And, where one falls, another fills his place.
The Cyprian goddess now inspires her son
To leave th’ unfinish’d fight, and storm the town:
For, while he rolls his eyes around the plain 815
In quest of Turnus, whom he seeks in vain,
He views th’ unguarded city from afar,
In careless quiet, and secure of war.
Occasion offers, and excites his mind
To dare beyond the task he first design’d. 820
Resolv’d, he calls his chiefs; they leave the fight:
Attended thus, he takes a neighb’ring height;
The crowding troops about their gen’ral stand,
All under arms, and wait his high command.
Then thus the lofty prince: “Hear and obey, 825
Ye Trojan bands, without the least delay
Jove is with us; and what I have decreed
Requires our utmost vigor, and our speed.
Your instant arms against the town prepare,
The source of mischief, and the seat of war. 830
This day the Latian tow’rs, that mate the sky,
Shall level with the plain in ashes lie:
The people shall be slaves, unless in time
They kneel for pardon, and repent their crime.
Twice have our foes been vanquish’d on the plain: 835
Then shall I wait till Turnus will be slain?
Your force against the perjur’d city bend.
There it began, and there the war shall end.
The peace profan’d our rightful arms requires;
Cleanse the polluted place with purging fires.” 840
He finish’d; and, one soul inspiring all,
Form’d in a wedge, the foot approach the wall.
Without the town, an unprovided train
Of gaping, gazing citizens are slain.
Some firebrands, others scaling ladders bear, 845
And those they toss aloft, and these they rear:
The flames now launch’d, the feather’d arrows fly,
And clouds of missive arms obscure the sky.
Advancing to the front, the hero stands,
And, stretching out to heav’n his pious hands, 850
Attests the gods, asserts his innocence,
Upbraids with breach of faith th’ Ausonian prince;
Declares the royal honor doubly stain’d,
And twice the rites of holy peace profan’d.
Dissenting clamors in the town arise; 855
Each will be heard, and all at once advise.
One part for peace, and one for war contends;
Some would exclude their foes, and some admit their friends.
The helpless king is hurried in the throng,
And, whate’er tide prevails, is borne along. 860
Thus, when the swain, within a hollow rock,
Invades the bees with suffocating smoke,
They run around, or labor on their wings,
Disus’d to flight, and shoot their sleepy stings;
To shun the bitter fumes in vain they try; 865
Black vapors, issuing from the vent, involve the sky.
But fate and envious fortune now prepare
To plunge the Latins in the last despair.
The queen, who saw the foes invade the town,
And brands on tops of burning houses thrown, 870
Cast round her eyes, distracted with her fear—
No troops of Turnus in the field appear.
Once more she stares abroad, but still in vain,
And then concludes the royal youth is slain.
Mad with her anguish, impotent to bear 875
The mighty grief, she loathes the vital air.
She calls herself the cause of all this ill,
And owns the dire effects of her ungovern’d will;
She raves against the gods; she beats her breast;
She tears with both her hands her purple vest: 880
Then round a beam a running noose she tied,
And, fasten’d by the neck, obscenely died.
Soon as the fatal news by Fame was blown,
And to her dames and to her daughter known,
The sad Lavinia rends her yellow hair 885
And rosy cheeks; the rest her sorrow share:
With shrieks the palace rings, and madness of despair.
The spreading rumor fills the public place:
Confusion, fear, distraction, and disgrace,
And silent shame, are seen in ev’ry face. 890
Latinus tears his garments as he goes,
Both for his public and his private woes;
With filth his venerable beard besmears,
And sordid dust deforms his silver hairs.
And much he blames the softness of his mind, 895
Obnoxious to the charms of womankind,
And soon seduc’d to change what he so well design’d;
To break the solemn league so long desir’d,
Nor finish what his fates, and those of Troy, requir’d.
Now Turnus rolls aloof o’er empty plains, 900
And here and there some straggling foes he gleans.
His flying coursers please him less and less,
Asham’d of easy fight and cheap success.
Thus half-contented, anxious in his mind,
The distant cries come driving in the wind, 905
Shouts from the walls, but shouts in murmurs drown’d;
A jarring mixture, and a boding sound.
“Alas!” said he, “what mean these dismal cries?
What doleful clamors from the town arise?”
Confus’d, he stops, and backward pulls the reins. 910
She who the driver’s office now sustains,
Replies: “Neglect, my lord, these new alarms;
Here fight, and urge the fortune of your arms:
There want not others to defend the wall.
If by your rival’s hand th’ Italians fall, 915
So shall your fatal sword his friends oppress,
In honor equal, equal in success.”
To this, the prince: “O sister—for I knew
The peace infring’d proceeded first from you;
I knew you, when you mingled first in fight; 920
And now in vain you would deceive my sight—
Why, goddess, this unprofitable care?
Who sent you down from heav’n, involv’d in air,
Your share of mortal sorrows to sustain,
And see your brother bleeding on the plain? 925
For to what pow’r can Turnus have recourse,
Or how resist his fate’s prevailing force?
These eyes beheld Murranus bite the ground:
Mighty the man, and mighty was the wound.
I heard my dearest friend, with dying breath, 930
My name invoking to revenge his death.
Brave Ufens fell with honor on the place,
To shun the shameful sight of my disgrace.
On earth supine, a manly corpse he lies;
His vest and armor are the victor’s prize. 935
Then, shall I see Laurentum in a flame,
Which only wanted, to complete my shame?
How will the Latins hoot their champion’s flight!
How Drances will insult and point them to the sight!
Is death so hard to bear? Ye gods below, 940
(Since those above so small compassion show,)
Receive a soul unsullied yet with shame,
Which not belies my great forefather’s name!”
He said; and while he spoke, with flying speed
Came Sages urging on his foamy steed: 945
Fix’d on his wounded face a shaft he bore,
And, seeking Turnus, sent his voice before:
“Turnus, on you, on you alone, depends
Our last relief: compassionate your friends!
Like lightning, fierce Æneas, rolling on, 950
With arms invests, with flames invades the town:
The brands are toss’d on high; the winds conspire
To drive along the deluge of the fire.
All eyes are fix’d on you: your foes rejoice;
Ev’n the king staggers, and suspends his choice; 955
Doubts to deliver or defend the town,
Whom to reject, or whom to call his son.
The queen, on whom your utmost hopes were plac’d,
Herself suborning death, has breath’d her last.
’T is true, Messapus, fearless of his fate, 960
With fierce Atinas’ aid, defends the gate:
On ev’ry side surrounded by the foe,
The more they kill, the greater numbers grow;
An iron harvest mounts, and still remains to mow.
You, far aloof from your forsaken bands, 965
Your rolling chariot drive o’er empty sands.”
Stupid he sate, his eyes on earth declin’d,
And various cares revolving in his mind:
Rage, boiling from the bottom of his breast,
And sorrow mix’d with shame, his soul oppress’d; 970
And conscious worth lay lab’ring in his thought,
And love by jealousy to madness wrought.
By slow degrees his reason drove away
The mists of passion, and resum’d her sway.
Then, rising on his car, he turn’d his look, 975
And saw the town involv’d in fire and smoke.
A wooden tow’r with flames already blaz’d,
Which his own hands on beams and rafters rais’d;
And bridges laid above to join the space,
And wheels below to roll from place to place. 980
“Sister, the Fates have vanquish’d: let us go
The way which Heav’n and my hard fortune show.
The fight is fix’d; nor shall the branded name
Of a base coward blot your brother’s fame.
Death is my choice; but suffer me to try 985
My force, and vent my rage before I die.”
He said; and, leaping down without delay,
Thro’ crowds of scatter’d foes he freed his way.
Striding he pass’d, impetuous as the wind,
And left the grieving goddess far behind. 990
As when a fragment, from a mountain torn
By raging tempests, or by torrents borne,
Or sapp’d by time, or loosen’d from the roots—
Prone thro’ the void the rocky ruin shoots,
Rolling from crag to crag, from steep to steep; 995
Down sink, at once, the shepherds and their sheep:
Involv’d alike, they rush to nether ground;
Stunn’d with the shock they fall, and stunn’d from earth rebound:
So Turnus, hasting headlong to the town,
Should’ring and shoving, bore the squadrons down. 1000
Still pressing onward, to the walls he drew,
Where shafts, and spears, and darts promiscuous flew,
And sanguine streams the slipp’ry ground embrue.
First stretching out his arm, in sign of peace,
He cries aloud, to make the combat cease: 1005
“Rutulians, hold; and Latin troops, retire!
The fight is mine; and me the gods require.
’T is just that I should vindicate alone
The broken truce, or for the breach atone.
This day shall free from wars th’ Ausonian state, 1010
Or finish my misfortunes in my fate.”
Both armies from their bloody work desist,
And, bearing backward, form a spacious list.
The Trojan hero, who receiv’d from fame
The welcome sound, and heard the champion’s name, 1015
Soon leaves the taken works and mounted walls,
Greedy of war where greater glory calls.
He springs to fight, exulting in his force;
His jointed armor rattles in the course.
Like Eryx, or like Athos, great he shows, 1020
Or Father Apennine, when, white with snows,
His head divine obscure in clouds he hides,
And shakes the sounding forest on his sides.
The nations, overaw’d, surcease the fight;
Immovable their bodies, fix’d their sight. 1025
Ev’n death stands still; nor from above they throw
Their darts, nor drive their batt’ring-rams below.
In silent order either army stands,
And drop their swords, unknowing, from their hands.
Th’ Ausonian king beholds, with wond’ring sight, 1030
Two mighty champions match’d in single fight,
Born under climes remote, and brought by fate,
With swords to try their titles to the state.
Now, in clos’d field, each other from afar
They view; and, rushing on, begin the war. 1035
They launch their spears; then hand to hand they meet;
The trembling soil resounds beneath their feet:
Their bucklers clash; thick blows descend from high,
And flakes of fire from their hard helmets fly.
Courage conspires with chance, and both ingage 1040
With equal fortune yet, and mutual rage.
As when two bulls for their fair female fight
In Sila’s shades, or on Taburnus’ height;
With horns adverse they meet; the keeper flies;
Mute stands the herd; the heifers roll their eyes, 1045
And wait th’ event; which victor they shall bear,
And who shall be the lord, to rule the lusty year:
With rage of love the jealous rivals burn,
And push for push, and wound for wound return;
Their dewlaps gor’d, their sides are lav’d in blood; 1050
Loud cries and roaring sounds rebellow thro’ the wood:
Such was the combat in the listed ground;
So clash their swords, and so their shields resound.
Jove sets the beam; in either scale he lays
The champions’ fate, and each exactly weighs. 1055
On this side, life and lucky chance ascends;
Loaded with death, that other scale descends.
Rais’d on the stretch, young Turnus aims a blow
Full on the helm of his unguarded foe:
Shrill shouts and clamors ring on either side, 1060
As hopes and fears their panting hearts divide.
But all in pieces flies the traitor sword,
And, in the middle stroke, deserts his lord.
Now ’t is but death, or flight; disarm’d he flies,
When in his hand an unknown hilt he spies. 1065
Fame says that Turnus, when his steeds he join’d,
Hurrying to war, disorder’d in his mind,
Snatch’d the first weapon which his haste could find.
’T was not the fated sword his father bore,
But that his charioteer Metiscus wore. 1070
This, while the Trojans fled, the toughness held;
But, vain against the great Vulcanian shield,
The mortal-temper’d steel deceiv’d his hand:
The shiver’d fragments shone amid the sand.
Surpris’d with fear, he fled along the field, 1075
And now forthright, and now in orbits wheel’d;
For here the Trojan troops the list surround,
And there the pass is clos’d with pools and marshy ground.
Æneas hastens, tho’ with heavier pace—
His wound, so newly knit, retards the chase, 1080
And oft his trembling knees their aid refuse—
Yet, pressing foot by foot, his foe pursues.
Thus, when a fearful stag is clos’d around
With crimson toils, or in a river found,
High on the bank the deep-mouth’d hound appears, 1085
Still opening, following still, where’er he steers;
The persecuted creature, to and fro,
Turns here and there, to scape his Umbrian foe:
Steep is th’ ascent, and, if he gains the land,
The purple death is pitch’d along the strand. 1090
His eager foe, determin’d to the chase,
Stretch’d at his length, gains ground at ev’ry pace;
Now to his beamy head he makes his way,
And now he holds, or thinks he holds, his prey:
Just at the pinch, the stag springs out with fear; 1095
He bites the wind, and fills his sounding jaws with air:
The rocks, the lakes, the meadows ring with cries;
The mortal tumult mounts, and thunders in the skies.
Thus flies the Daunian prince, and, flying, blames
His tardy troops, and, calling by their names, 1100
Demands his trusty sword. The Trojan threats
The realm with ruin, and their ancient seats
To lay in ashes, if they dare supply
With arms or aid his vanquish’d enemy:
Thus menacing, he still pursues the course, 1105
With vigor, tho’ diminish’d of his force.
Ten times already round the listed place
One chief had fled, and t’other giv’n the chase:
No trivial prize is play’d; for on the life
Or death of Turnus now depends the strife. 1110
Within the space, an olive tree had stood,
A sacred shade, a venerable wood,
For vows to Faunus paid, the Latins’ guardian god.
Here hung the vests, and tablets were ingrav’d,
Of sinking mariners from shipwrack sav’d. 1115
With heedless hands the Trojans fell’d the tree,
To make the ground inclos’d for combat free.
Deep in the root, whether by fate, or chance,
Or erring haste, the Trojan drove his lance;
Then stoop’d, and tugg’d with force immense, to free 1120
Th’ incumber’d spear from the tenacious tree;
That, whom his fainting limbs pursued in vain,
His flying weapon might from far attain.
Confus’d with fear, bereft of human aid,
Then Turnus to the gods, and first to Faunus pray’d: 1125
“O Faunus, pity! and thou Mother Earth,
Where I thy foster son receiv’d my birth,
Hold fast the steel! If my religious hand
Your plant has honor’d, which your foes profan’d,
Propitious hear my pious pray’r!” He said, 1130
Nor with successless vows invok’d their aid.
Th’ incumbent hero wrench’d, and pull’d, and strain’d;
But still the stubborn earth the steel detain’d.
Juturna took her time; and, while in vain
He strove, assum’d Meticus’ form again, 1135
And, in that imitated shape, restor’d
To the despairing prince his Daunian sword.
The Queen of Love, who, with disdain and grief,
Saw the bold nymph afford this prompt relief,
T’ assert her offspring with a greater deed, 1140
From the tough root the ling’ring weapon freed.
Once more erect, the rival chiefs advance:
One trusts the sword, and one the pointed lance;
And both resolv’d alike to try their fatal chance.
Meantime imperial Jove to Juno spoke, 1145
Who from a shining cloud beheld the shock:
“What new arrest, O Queen of Heav’n, is sent
To stop the Fates now lab’ring in th’ event?
What farther hopes are left thee to pursue?
Divine Æneas, (and thou know’st it too,) 1150
Foredoom’d, to these celestial seats are due.
What more attempts for Turnus can be made,
That thus thou ling’rest in this lonely shade?
Is it becoming of the due respect
And awful honor of a god elect, 1155
A wound unworthy of our state to feel,
Patient of human hands and earthly steel?
Or seems it just, the sister should restore
A second sword, when one was lost before,
And arm a conquer’d wretch against his conqueror? 1160
For what, without thy knowledge and avow,
Nay more, thy dictate, durst Juturna do?
At last, in deference to my love, forbear
To lodge within thy soul this anxious care;
Reclin’d upon my breast, thy grief unload: 1165
Who should relieve the goddess, but the god?
Now all things to their utmost issue tend,
Push’d by the Fates to their appointed end.
While leave was giv’n thee, and a lawful hour
For vengeance, wrath, and unresisted pow’r, 1170
Toss’d on the seas, thou couldst thy foes distress,
And, driv’n ashore, with hostile arms oppress;
Deform the royal house; and, from the side
Of the just bridegroom, tear the plighted bride:
Now cease at my command.” The Thund’rer said; 1175
And, with dejected eyes, this answer Juno made:
“Because your dread decree too well I knew,
From Turnus and from earth unwilling I withdrew.
Else should you not behold me here, alone,
Involv’d in empty clouds, my friends bemoan, 1180
But, girt with vengeful flames, in open sight
Engag’d against my foes in mortal fight.
’T is true, Juturna mingled in the strife
By my command, to save her brother’s life—
At least to try; but, by the Stygian lake, 1185
(The most religious oath the gods can take,)
With this restriction, not to bend the bow,
Or toss the spear, or trembling dart to throw.
And now, resign’d to your superior might,
And tir’d with fruitless toils, I loathe the fight. 1190
This let me beg (and this no fates withstand)
Both for myself and for your father’s land,
That, when the nuptial bed shall bind the peace,
(Which I, since you ordain, consent to bless,)
The laws of either nation be the same; 1195
But let the Latins still retain their name,
Speak the same language which they spoke before,
Wear the same habits which their grandsires wore.
Call them not Trojans: perish the renown
And name of Troy, with that detested town. 1200
Latium be Latium still; let Alba reign
And Rome’s immortal majesty remain.”
Then thus the founder of mankind replies
(Unruffled was his front, serene his eyes):
“Can Saturn’s issue, and heav’n’s other heir, 1205
Such endless anger in her bosom bear?
Be mistress, and your full desires obtain;
But quench the choler you foment in vain.
From ancient blood th’ Ausonian people sprung,
Shall keep their name, their habit, and their tongue. 1210
The Trojans to their customs shall be tied:
I will, myself, their common rites provide;
The natives shall command, the foreigners subside.
All shall be Latium; Troy without a name;
And her lost sons forget from whence they came. 1215
From blood so mix’d, a pious race shall flow,
Equal to gods, excelling all below.
No nation more respect to you shall pay,
Or greater off’rings on your altars lay.”
Juno consents, well pleas’d that her desires 1220
Had found success, and from the cloud retires.
The peace thus made, the Thund’rer next prepares
To force the wat’ry goddess from the wars.
Deep in the dismal regions void of light,
Three daughters at a birth were born to Night: 1225
These their brown mother, brooding on her care,
Indued with windy wings to flit in air,
With serpents girt alike, and crown’d with hissing hair.
In heav’n the Diræ call’d, and still at hand,
Before the throne of angry Jove they stand, 1230
His ministers of wrath, and ready still
The minds of mortal men with fears to fill,
Whene’er the moody sire, to wreak his hate
On realms or towns deserving of their fate,
Hurls down diseases, death and deadly care, 1235
And terrifies the guilty world with war.
One sister plague if these from heav’n he sent,
To fright Juturna with a dire portent.
The pest comes whirling down: by far more slow
Springs the swift arrow from the Parthian bow, 1240
Or Cydon yew, when, traversing the skies,
And drench’d in pois’nous juice, the sure destruction flies.
With such a sudden and unseen a flight
Shot thro’ the clouds the daughter of the night.
Soon as the field inclos’d she had in view, 1245
And from afar her destin’d quarry knew,
Contracted, to the boding bird she turns,
Which haunts the ruin’d piles and hallow’d urns,
And beats about the tombs with nightly wings,
Where songs obscene on sepulchers she sings. 1
The Rustling Leave
In the cold wintry evening,
When it was gloam and twilight,
Covering myself with thick blanket of wool,
I used to go to a small garden,
Where my father planted the apple trees.
Often I roved around the victims,
Of callous spoiling Autumn.
The leafless branches tormented me,
Presenting undressed bare reality.
They looked like skeletons of ghosts,
Without flesh, with naked bones,
Who often disturb us in our sleep.
The swishy wind blew moaning,
Lamenting over the bodies,
Of the dried fallen leaves,
Blowing them to this or that end,
Resting nowhere to be disposed,
Some swept onto the stagnant water,
On the green surface to float.
The blown rustling leaves reminded,
Once they were fresh and green,
Fluttered resisting blows of the wind,
Sucked the honeyed sap of life,
When attached to the source.
Amid the blooming winter crops,
The grove presented a doleful contrast,
Making depressed both heart and mind,
The vanished tongue whispering a secret,
Consoled the weeping heart over the plague,
That death is the overleaf of life,
The front side overshadows the other.
The House Of Dust: Part 03: 12: Witches' Sabbath
Now, when the moon slid under the cloud
And the cold clear dark of starlight fell,
He heard in his blood the well-known bell
Tolling slowly in heaves of sound,
Slowly beating, slowly beating,
Shaking its pulse on the stagnant air:
Sometimes it swung completely round,
Horribly gasping as if for breath;
Falling down with an anguished cry . . .
Now the red bat, he mused, will fly;
Something is marked, this night, for death . . .
And while he mused, along his blood
Flew ghostly voices, remote and thin,
They rose in the cavern of his brain,
Like ghosts they died away again;
And hands upon his heart were laid,
And music upon his flesh was played,
Until, as he was bidden to do,
He walked the wood he so well knew.
Through the cold dew he moved his feet,
And heard far off, as under the earth,
Discordant music in shuddering tones,
Screams of laughter, horrible mirth,
Clapping of hands, and thudding of drums,
And the long-drawn wail of one in pain.
To-night, he thought, I shall die again,
We shall die again in the red-eyed fire
To meet on the edge of the wood beyond
With the placid gaze of fed desire . . .
He walked; and behind the whisper of trees,
In and out, one walked with him:
She parted the branches and peered at him,
Through lowered lids her two eyes burned,
He heard her breath, he saw her hand,
Wherever he turned his way, she turned:
Kept pace with him, now fast, now slow;
Moving her white knees as he moved . . .
This is the one I have always loved;
This is the one whose bat-soul comes
To dance with me, flesh to flesh,
In the starlight dance of horns and drums . . .
The walls and roofs, the scarlet towers,
Sank down behind a rushing sky.
He heard a sweet song just begun
Abruptly shatter in tones and die.
It whirled away. Cold silence fell.
And again came tollings of a bell.
* * * * *
This air is alive with witches: the white witch rides
Swifter than smoke on the starlit wind.
In the clear darkness, while the moon hides,
They come like dreams, like something remembered . .
Let us hurry! beloved; take my hand,
Forget these things that trouble your eyes,
Forget, forget! Our flesh is changed,
Lighter than smoke we wreathe and rise . . .
The cold air hisses between us . . . Beloved, beloved,
What was the word you said?
Something about clear music that sang through water . . .
I cannot remember. The storm-drops break on the leaves.
Something was lost in the darkness. Someone is dead.
Someone lies in the garden and grieves.
Look how the branches are tossed in this air,
Flinging their green to the earth!
Black clouds rush to devour the stars in the sky,
The moon stares down like a half-closed eye.
The leaves are scattered, the birds are blown,
Oaks crash down in the darkness,
We run from our windy shadows; we are running alone.
* * * * *
The moon was darkened: across it flew
The swift grey tenebrous shape he knew,
Like a thing of smoke it crossed the sky,
The witch! he said. And he heard a cry,
And another came, and another came,
And one, grown duskily red with blood,
Floated an instant across the moon,
Hung like a dull fantastic flame . . .
The earth has veins: they throb to-night,
The earth swells warm beneath my feet,
The tips of the trees grow red and bright,
The leaves are swollen, I feel them beat,
They press together, they push and sigh,
They listen to hear the great bat cry,
The great red bat with the woman's face . . .
Hurry! he said. And pace for pace
That other, who trod the dark with him,
Crushed the live leaves, reached out white hands
And closed her eyes, the better to see
The priests with claws, the lovers with hooves,
The fire-lit rock, the sarabands.
I am here! she said. The bough he broke—
Was it the snapping bough that spoke?
I am here! she said. The white thigh gleamed
Cold in starlight among dark leaves,
The head thrown backward as he had dreamed,
The shadowy red deep jasper mouth;
And the lifted hands, and the virgin breasts,
Passed beside him, and vanished away.
I am here! she cried. He answered 'Stay!'
And laughter arose, and near and far
Answering laughter rose and died . . .
Who is there? in the dark? he cried.
He stood in terror, and heard a sound
Of terrible hooves on the hollow ground;
They rushed, were still; a silence fell;
And he heard deep tollings of a bell.
* * * * *
Look beloved! Why do you hide your face?
Look, in the centre there, above the fire,
They are bearing the boy who blasphemed love!
They are playing a piercing music upon him
With a bow of living wire! . . .
The virgin harlot sings,
She leans above the beautiful anguished body,
And draws slow music from those strings.
They dance around him, they fling red roses upon him,
They trample him with their naked feet,
His cries are lost in laughter,
Their feet grow dark with his blood, they beat and
They dance upon him, until he cries no more . . .
Have we not heard that cry before?
Beside a sea, in the green evening,
Beneath green clouds, in a copper sky . . .
Was it you? was it I?
They have quenched the fires, they dance in the darkness,
The satyrs have run among them to seize and tear,
Look! he has caught one by the hair,
She screams and falls, he bears her away with him,
And the night grows full of whistling wings.
Far off, one voice, serene and sweet,
Rises and sings . . .
'By the clear waters where once I died,
In the calm evening bright with stars. . . .'
Where have I heard these words? Was it you who sang them?
It was long ago.
Let us hurry, beloved! the hard hooves trample;
The treetops tremble and glow.
* * * * *
In the clear dark, on silent wings,
The red bat hovers beneath her moon;
She drops through the fragrant night, and clings
Fast in the shadow, with hands like claws,
With soft eyes closed and mouth that feeds,
To the young white flesh that warmly bleeds.
The maidens circle in dance, and raise
From lifting throats, a soft-sung praise;
Their knees and breasts are white and bare,
They have hung pale roses in their hair,
Each of them as she dances by
Peers at the blood with a narrowed eye.
See how the red wing wraps him round,
See how the white youth struggles in vain!
The weak arms writhe in a soundless pain;
He writhes in the soft red veiny wings,
But still she whispers upon him and clings. . . .
This is the secret feast of love,
Look well, look well, before it dies,
See how the red one trembles above,
See how quiet the white one lies! . . . .
Wind through the trees. . . .and a voice is heard
Singing far off. The dead leaves fall. . . .
'By the clear waters where once I died,
In the calm evening bright with stars,
One among numberless avatars,
I wedded a mortal, a mortal bride,
And lay on the stones and gave my flesh,
And entered the hunger of him I loved.
How shall I ever escape this mesh
Or be from my lover's body removed?'
Dead leaves stream through the hurrying air
And the maenads dance with flying hair.
* * * * *
The priests with hooves, the lovers with horns,
Rise in the starlight, one by one,
They draw their knives on the spurting throats,
They smear the column with blood of goats,
They dabble the blood on hair and lips
And wait like stones for the moon's eclipse.
They stand like stones and stare at the sky
Where the moon leers down like a half-closed eye. . .
In the green moonlight still they stand
While wind flows over the darkened sand
And brood on the soft forgotten things
That filled their shadowy yesterdays. . . .
Where are the breasts, the scarlet wings? . . . .
They gaze at each other with troubled gaze. . . .
And then, as the shadow closes the moon,
Shout, and strike with their hooves the ground,
And rush through the dark, and fill the night
With a slowly dying clamor of sound.
There, where the great walls crowd the stars,
There, by the black wind-riven walls,
In a grove of twisted leafless trees. . . .
Who are these pilgrims, who are these,
These three, the one of whom stands upright,
While one lies weeping and one of them crawls?
The face that he turned was a wounded face,
I heard the dripping of blood on stones. . . .
Hooves had trampled and torn this place,
And the leaves were strewn with blood and bones.
Sometimes, I think, beneath my feet,
The warm earth stretches herself and sighs. . . .
Listen! I heard the slow heart beat. . . .
I will lie on this grass as a lover lies
And reach to the north and reach to the south
And seek in the darkness for her mouth.
* * * * *
Beloved, beloved, where the slow waves of the wind
Shatter pale foam among great trees,
Under the hurrying stars, under the heaving arches,
Like one whirled down under shadowy seas,
I run to find you, I run and cry,
Where are you? Where are you? It is I. It is I.
It is your eyes I seek, it is your windy hair,
Your starlight body that breathes in the darkness there.
Under the darkness I feel you stirring. . . .
Is this you? Is this you?
Bats in this air go whirring. . . .
And this soft mouth that darkly meets my mouth,
Is this the soft mouth I knew?
Darkness, and wind in the tortured trees;
And the patter of dew.
* * * * *
Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!
Dance till the brain is red with speed!
Dance till you fall! Lift your torches!
Kiss your lovers until they bleed!
Backward I draw your anguished hair
Until your eyes are stretched with pain;
Backward I press you until you cry,
Your lips grow white, I kiss you again,
I will take a torch and set you afire,
I will break your body and fling it away. . . .
Look, you are trembling. . . .Lie still, beloved!
Lock your hands in my hair, and say
Darling! darling! darling! darling!
All night long till the break of day.
Is it your heart I hear beneath me. . . .
Or the far tolling of that tower?
The voices are still that cried around us. . . .
The woods grow still for the sacred hour.
Rise, white lover! the day draws near.
The grey trees lean to the east in fear.
'By the clear waters where once I died . . . .'
Beloved, whose voice was this that cried?
'By the clear waters that reach the sun
By the clear waves that starward run. . . .
I found love's body and lost his soul,
And crumbled in flame that should have annealed. . .
How shall I ever again be whole,
By what dark waters shall I be healed?'
Silence. . . .the red leaves, one by one,
Fall. Far off, the maenads run.
Silence. Beneath my naked feet
The veins of the red earth swell and beat.
The dead leaves sigh on the troubled air,
Far off the maenads bind their hair. . . .
Hurry, beloved! the day comes soon.
The fire is drawn from the heart of the moon.
* * * * *
The great bell cracks and falls at last.
The moon whirls out. The sky grows still.
Look, how the white cloud crosses the stars
And suddenly drops behind the hill!
Your eyes are placid, you smile at me,
We sit in the room by candle-light.
We peer in each other's veins and see
No sign of the things we saw this night.
Only, a song is in your ears,
A song you have heard, you think, in dream:
The song which only the demon hears,
In the dark forest where maenads scream . . .
'By the clear waters where once I died . . .
In the calm evening bright with stars . . . '
What do the strange words mean? you say,—
And touch my hand, and turn away.