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The Mouth That Has Visions

What can you see
With your eyes shut?

If this is your vengeance,
If this your betrayal,
This is my heroic act
Purging the cholera
Staining your hearts
Pulsing in a scherzo
Of a single waltz.

Because I can see
The yellow blemish
That I have become
In your myopic vision.

What can you see
With your eyes shut?

If this is the ice,
If this is the inferno
Basking in your heart,
This is my honesty
Cutting the cords
Of pseudo-life
That I have found
In your fractions,
Your frictions.

Because I can see,
Even with eyes shut,
The mendacious direction
Of the bleeding of the heart.

What can you see
With your eyes shut?

If this is your panacea,
If this is your poison,
This is the perfidious snake
That slithers into my ankle
Hissing like diamonds
Succumbing everything.

Because I can see
How the demons built
The celestial heaven that
Buoyed your hearts.

How can your tongue
Somersault and skylark a lot
When the sutures are tight
In your albino eyes?

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Emily Dickinson

The Gleam of an Heroic Act

The gleam of an heroic Act
Such strange illumination
The Possible’s slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination.

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Patrick White

Childhood Never Ends

Childhood's never over.
It goes on evolving along with us
as if maturing had nothing to do
with growing up.
It's what's still creative about yesterday
that lives on inside us
like an ongoing work of art
whose finishing stroke of genius
was never to abandon it.
My childhood has the eyes of a homeless boy.
The eldest son of a single welfare mother
how could I not become a hero
to be worthy of her
who gave her life up for me?
Even the worthless can make noble mistakes
and if I started out tilting at windmills
the ironic absurdity
of my many-headed imagination
has long since turned me into
some kind of dragon voodoo doll
that keeps taking hits from the past
like a junkie trying to curse someone
by sticking pins in himself
as if his blood had eyes.
Who knows the fate
of the fatherless son
who's been martyred
on the heartless altars
of maternal compassion?
I was middle-aged by the time I was seven years old.
I'm sure my mother never meant to raise this.
But there you go.
Things get out of control sometimes
like morning glory vines in a cedar hedge
after a forest fire.
Some people are the point of the sword.
Some are the edge.
Some grab the blade by the hilt
and then there are all those who bleed.
I played Russian roulette with the moon
to clarify my intensities
with Zen bullets
I held to my head like koans
that kept bouncing off my platinum skull
or went clean through
without touching any of my vital organs.
There's a subtle ambiguity
about enlightenment
that makes it hard to distinguish
a great bodhisattva from a contract killer.
I've been watching myself for years now
like a C.I.A. drone
learning all my routines
and personal habits
waiting for the right moment
to make the perfect hit.
I can remember when I thought I was Zorro.
A Spitfire pilot over London in the autumn of 1940.
Born a recipient white-washed by gratitude
like a white picket fence
with a couple of palings missing
for everything from the shoes on my feet
to my next breath
I wanted to make a contribution
that was a liberating payback with interest
for all that we'd received
as a welfare family
living like economic gypsies
on the fringes of better things to come.
The slave wanted to buy his freedom
from the infernal kindness
of his economic masters
indulging themselves in charity
to live forgivably
with God's obscene abundance.
If great oak trees from little acorns grow
and you can get Neils Bohr
out of a single atom
and there was even hope for me
way back then
when I was a switchblade
winning book awards
that alienated me strangely enough
not only from those who gave them out
like well-cut jewels
to a diamond in the rough
but baffled my more bituminous friends
into keeping their distance
as if intelligence
were an untouchable
in a criminal caste system.
I didn't want to be someone
my mother had wasted her life for.
So much of what I am.
So much of what I've done.
So much of what I've not done.
Not much of a son
when I look at it through her eyes
and even less of an outcome
when I look at it through mine.
Things were supposed to come to fruition.
But they've proven to be all vine.
In my grailquest for redemption
I've followed the dark star of my intuition
like black wine
that delighted in leading me astray.
The rational disassociation of the sensibility
as Rimbaud used to say.
Method in your madness.
But that was yesterday
before the center did not hold
and things fell apart
as Yeats said they would.
Not that it does a lot of cosmic good
to know these things.
It's hard to console a pteradactyl
by telling it why
the dinosaurs disappeared.
Everybody goes
with the evolutionary flow of their lifestreams
running downhill
to the big landfill
of their schemes and dreams
coming to a standstill
like the genes and memes
of a homesick Neanderthal.
They knew how to flint knap the moon
but they never learned
how to spin their delusions
like I did
in blood red ochre
on the wombwalls of a limestone cave
deep underground in southwest France.
It's not so hard to be a hero
when there's nothing to lose
and you don't stand a chance.
Think about it.
We're all given minds to express ourselves
and most of humanity
only says what it really means
when no one is listening
like Iago behind Othello's back.
What kind of a play is that?
The actors keep their mouths shut.
The theme's a re-run.
And the heroes
are all vicious petty
snakeoil salesmen
milking both fangs at once
like the crescents of the moon
to heal the last first
of all they have wounded
like a drug addict
in the realm of the Fisher King.
I may be as dark
as an oxymoronic anti-hero
blinded on the road to Damascus
by an improvised explosive device
that was wired like two snakes coupling
in the name of an unknown goat god
but at least I mean what I mean.
I don't say the kingdom's green
when it's black.
I'm not a latter day Teresias.
The fix isn't in on the prophecy.
I don't look at two copulating snakes
and see a double helix.
I live in eclipse
like one of the real heretics.
I am the estranged genius
of my own genome
wholly at home
in my homelessness.
I have learned how to mutate.
To shape-shift my form
like an old Etruscan god
of zodiacal kings
where the river turns towards Rome
like the bloodline of a mad emperor into the arts.
I'm not trying to sell my story to the stars.
I don't believe in lullabies that leave scars.
I don't think there's anything in the way of wealth
that's worth asking for
that's worth more
than the strength to stop asking
and the wisdom to ignore your own power
like an annoying habit
you're trying to transcend
to be a bigger man
than the one you thought you were.
I wanted to be the kind of son
that turned all those floors
all those windows and tables
my mother had to scrub
for rich women in Lansdowne
into glass slippers
that fit her
like a shoe-shine Cinderella
with a prince of a reflection
for an eldest son.
I started out well enough that way.
But look what happened.
Someone once told me
the earth was a sphere
and so it is
if you're rich enough,
but if you keep falling off the edge of it
you take as a sign you're poor.
You look at it
like an old starmap
that never goes out of date
like the full moon
of an empty dinner plate.
You know it's flat.
And hope's not much of a parachute
when it flowers
as if wishes were horses
and beggars could ride
because that's the way
it insists with coercive intensity
things ought to be
and all in one voice
we all agree
to the same inane absurdity.
All the intellectuals
are trying to divine
the direction
of our mutual devolution
like an apocalyptic watershed
right under their feet
by reading the biography
of a best-selling mutant
they're dying to meet
in a debate about creation
and misinformation
as the basis of reality.
And I may have been stubbed out
like a cigarette
or a big toe in a bad dream
on the stone of the earth
whenever I laid my head down
to forget who I was
more than a lifetime or two
because I was a slow learner
with a Mongolian tolerance for pain
but I've never blown a personal crisis
up into an astronomical catastrophe
that makes everything I think
the cosmic life
of a self-conscious dinosaur
that went extinct upon impact.
I've never done that
though that doesn't make me
much of a hero
in the eyes of my undoing.
A hero needs to act spontaneously
on the facts of the situation
through four consecutive acts
of tragic superstition
playing to the crowd.
I've got the scars
to say I've done my time
standing up in the arena
armed with nothing
but long odds against the Christians
but I've never learned how to scream
like a sestina, or the ballade royal
of an approximate Horation ode,
not even in the terza rima
of a divine comedy in hell
the way it says you're supposed to
in all the rhyming dictionaries
that teach you to write
like a social form of etiquette
about things that made you fight for your life
like a lion-god with claws
the size of lunar crescents
that knows how to part your heart
as if the waters of the Red Sea
were nothing but a minor flesh wound
compared to how
you can be opened up like Egypt
the moment you dropp your guard.
Thieves in the pyramid!
Thieves in the pyramid!
Stealing my body of thought
like the tools to build
a better afterlife
than I was dreaming of
like the only way out of here.
Let's hope there's someone waiting
on the other side of the wall
between that freedom
and this prison
with a car
and new clothes
and a snakey mistress
that looks up
and smiles like a gun moll
then hisses and moves
like an anaconda
in black pantyhose
listening to rhythm and blues
on a police radio.
It may not be a cure for cancer.
But it's my last answer
to those who ask me what
I'm doing here
checking my spiritual rear-view mirror
every few minutes of my getaway
like a return journey
I'm not going to make
back to Heartbreak Hill
like Sisyphus
on tour with the Rolling Stones
in the town where I grew up
watching my mother
try to make it through every month
as if she were trying to swim
the Straits of Juan de Fuca
like Marilyn Bell.
Hell is a seven year old boy
sitting at a kitchen table
like a broken toy
late into the night
listening to his exhausted mother
get the sorrow rage and despair
out of her system
like the venom of another day
by making two little Xs with a razorblade
and bleeding it out loud
as if you crossed your heart
and hoped to die
because even death was better
than living the way we did.
I've thrown a lot of snakes
without heads
in the fire ever since.
I've bruised them with my heel.
I was inspired by the views
of a Promethean thief
to introduce fire to the snakepit
that reached out to bite my mother
every day of her life
she couldn't feel anything
but harm at the door of her heart
and dangerous shadows
under the windows into her soul.
Though sometimes
when the world had shut down for the night
I could see through the tears she tried to hold back
beautiful rainbow serpents
still swirling
like the Northern Lights
on the oilslick that overwhelmed her.
Even on her hands and knees
scrubbing the filth
off other people's floors
she found a way to dance
the way she did before
the swan died on the lake
and she was hobbled by four kids
and a seven to five chance against
getting the next month's rent.
She could have let go.
But she didn't.
She hung on to her children
like a fatal mistake
she was deep enough to make
for love's sake
in the middle of welfare hell
where night after night
staring at greasy walls
and torn linoleum
childhood never ends.
You just sit at the table forever
trying to pick the brighter bits
of broken chandeliers
out of the ice-storms
of your frozen tears.
And there's so much you want to do
but you can't
because you're not God
and you're not the genie in the lamp
you're just a child
terrified of hope
thinking to yourself
some people cling to life
like a strong rope up to heaven
and others are barely hanging on by the thread
of the sword
dangling over their heads
like the brutal truth
of a debt to society
that's always in arrears.
Looking back over the years
it gets easier to see
that if nature abhors a vacuum
then it doesn't miss me
or the futile childhood clarity
of a social pariah
sitting at the table
like one of the four elements
my mother gave birth to
listening to the sound of humans
snapping like wishbones
that never came true.

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Wat Tyler - Act III

ACT III.


SCENE—SMITHFIELD.


PIERS (meeting JOHN BALL.)

You look disturb'd, my father?


JOHN BALL.

Piers, I am so.
Jack Straw has forced the Tower: seized the Archbishop,
And beheaded him.


PIERS.

The curse of insurrection!


JOHN BALL.

Aye, Piers! our nobles level down their vassals—
Keep them at endless labour like their brutes,
Degrading every faculty by servitude:
Repressing all the energy of the mind.
We must not wonder then, that like wild beasts,
When they have burst their chains, with brutal rage
They revenge them on their tyrants.


PIERS.

This Archbishop!
He was oppressive to his humble vassals:
Proud, haughty, avaricious.—


JOHN BALL.

A true high-priest!
Preaching humility with his mitre on!
Praising up alms and Christian charity
Even whilst his unforgiving hand distress'd
His honest tenants.


PIERS.

He deserv'd his fate then.


JOHN BALL.

Justice can never link with cruelty.
Is there among the catalogue of crimes
A sin so black that only Death can expiate?
Will Reason never rouse her from her slumbers,
And darting thro' the veil her eagle eye,
See in the sable garment of the law
Revenge conceal'd? —This high priest has been haughty—
He has oppress'd his vassals: tell me, Piers,
Does his Death remedy the ills he caused?
Were it not better to repress his power
Of doing wrong—that so his future life
Might expiate the evils of the past,
And benefit mankind?


PIERS.

But must not vice
Be punished?


JOHN BALL.

Is not punishment revenge?
The momentary violence of anger
May be excus'd: the indignant heart will throb
Against oppression, and the outstretch'd arm
Resent its injured feelings: the Collector
Insulted Alice, and roused the keen emotions
Of a fond father. Tyler murder'd him.


PIERS.
Murder'd!—a most harsh word.


JOHN BALL.

Yes, murder'd him:
His mangled feelings prompted the bad act,
And Nature will almost commend the deed
That Justice blames: but will the awaken'd feelings
Plead with their heart-emoving eloquence
For the cool deliberate murder of Revenge?
Would you, Piers, in your calmer hour of reason
Condemn an erring brother to be slain?
Cut him at once from all the joys of life,
All hopes of reformation! to revenge
The deed his punishment cannot recall?
My blood boil'd in me at the fate of Tyler,
Yet I revenged not.


PIERS.

Oh my Christian father!
They would not argue thus humanely on us,
Were we within their power.


JOHN BALL.

I know they would not!
But we must pity them that they are vicious,
Not imitate their vice.


PIERS.

Alas, poor Tyler!
I do repent me much that I stood back,
When he advanced fearless in rectitude
To meet these royal assassins.


JOHN BALL.

Not for myself,
Tho' I have lost an honest virtuous friend,
Mourn I the death of Tyler: he was one
Gifted with the strong energy of mind,
Quick to perceive the right, and prompt to act
When Justice needed: he would listen to me
With due attention, yet not yielding lightly
What had to him seem'd good; severe in virtue
He awed the ruder people whom he led
By his stern rectitude.


PIERS.

Witness that day
When they destroy'd the palace of the Gaunt;
And hurl'd the wealth his avarice had amass'd,
Amid the fire: the people, fierce in zeal,
Threw in the flames the wretch whose selfish hand
Purloin'd amid the tumult.


JOHN BALL.

I lament
The death of Tyler, for my country's sake.
I shudder lest posterity enslav'd
Should rue his murder!—who shall now control
The giddy multitude, blind to their own good,
And listening with avidity to the tale
Of courtly falsehood!


PIERS.

The King must perform
His plighted promise.


(Cry without) —The Charter!—the Charter!

(Enter Mob and Herald.)


TOM MILLER.

Read it out—read it out.


HOB.

Aye, aye, let's hear the Charter.


HERALD.

Richard Plantagenet, by the grace of God,
King of England, Ireland, France, Scotland,
and the town of Berwick upon Tweed, to all
whom it may concern, These presents,
Whereas our loving subjects have complained
to us of the heavy burdens they endure,
particularly from our late enacted
poll-tax; and whereas they have risen in
arms against our officers, and demanded the
abolition of personal slavery, vassalage, and
manorial rights; we, ever ready in our sovereign
mercy to listen to the petitions of our
loving subjects, do annul all these grievances.


MOB.

Huzza! long live the king!


HERALD.

And do of our royal mercy, grant a free
pardon to all who may have been anyways
concerned in the late insurrections. All this
shall be faithfully performed on our royal
word. So help us God.
God save the King.


(Loud and repeated shouts.)


HERALD.

Now then depart in quiet to your homes.


JOHN BALL.

Nay, my good friend—the people will remain
Embodied peaceably, till Parliament
Confirm the royal charter: tell your king so:
We will await the Charter's confirmation,
Meanwhile comporting ourselves orderly
As peaceful citizens, not risen in tumult,
But to redress their evils.


Exit Herald, &c. HOB, PIERS, and
JOHN BALL, remain.


HOB.

'Twas well order'd.
I place but little trust in courtly faith.


JOHN BALL.

We must remain embodied; else the king
Will plunge again in royal luxury;
And when the storm of danger is past over,
Forget his promises.


HOB.

Aye, like an aguish sinner,
He'll promise to repent when the fit's on him,
When well recover'd, laugh at his own terrors.


PIERS.

Oh ! I am grieved that we must gain so little!
Why are not all these empty ranks abolish'd;
King, slave, and lord, 'ennobl'd into MAN?'
Are we not equal all?—have you not told me
Equality is the sacred right of man,
Inalienable, tho' by force withheld?


JOHN BALL.

Even so: but Piers, my frail and fallible judgment
Knows hardly to decide if it be right,
Peaceably to return; content with little,
With this half restitution of our rights,
Or boldly to proceed through blood and slaughter,
Till we should all be equal and all happy.
I chose the milder way:—perhaps I erred.


PIERS.

I fear me—by the mass, the unsteady people
Are flocking homewards! how the multitude
Diminishes!


JOHN BALL.

Go thou, my son, and stay them.
Carter, do you exert your influence.
All depends on their stay: my mind is troubl'd,
And I would fain compose my thoughts for action.

(Exeunt HOB and PIERS.)

Father of mercies! I do fear me much
That I have err'd: thou gav'st my ardent mind
To pierce the mists of superstitious falsehood;—
Gav'st me to know the truth. I should have urg'd it
Thro' every op, perhaps,
The seemly voice of pity has deceiv'd me,
And all this mighty movement ends in ruin!
I fear me, I have been like the weak leech,
Who, sparing to cut deep, with cruel mercy
Mangles his patient without curing him.

(Great tumult.)

What means this tumult? hark! the clang of arms!
God of eternal justice! the false monarch
Has broke his plighted vow!


Enter PIERS, wounded.


PIERS.

Fly, fly, my father—the perjur'd king—fly! fly!


JOHN BALL.

Nay, nay, my child—I dare abide my fate,
Let me bind up thy wounds.


PIERS.

'Tis useless succour,
They seek thy life; fly, fly, my honour'd father.
Fain would I die in peace to hope thee safe.
I shall soon join thee, Tyler!—they are murdering
Our unsuspecting brethren: half unarm'd,
Trusting too fondly to the tyrant's vows,
They were dispersing:—the streets swim with blood.
O! save thyself.


Enter Soldiers.


SOLDIER.

This is that old seditious heretic.


(Seizes JOHN BALL.)


SECOND SOLDIER.

And here the young spawn of rebellion;
My orders ar'n't to spare him.

(Stabs PIERS.)

Come, you old stirrer-up of insurrection,
You bell-wether of the mob—you ar'n't to die
So easily.


(They lead off JOHN BALL—the tumult
increases—Mob fly across the Stage—
the Troops pursue them—loud cries and
shouts.)


SCENE—WESTMINSTER HALL.

KING, WALWORTH, PHILPOT, SIR JOHN TRESILIAN, &c.


WALWORTH.

My liege, 'twas wisely order'd to destroy
The dunghill rabble, but take prisoner
That old seditious priest: his strange wild notions
Of this equality, when well exposed,
Will create ridicule, and shame the people
Of their late tumults.


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

Aye, there's nothing like
A fair free open trial, where the king
Can chuse his jury and appoint his judges.


KING.

Walworth, I must thank you for my deliverance;
'Twas a bold deed to stab him in the parley!
Kneel down, and rise a knight, Sir William Walworth.


Enter Messenger.


MESSENGER.

I left them hotly at it. Smithfield smoked
With the rebels' blood: your troops fought loyally,
There's not a man of them will lend an ear
To pity.


SIR WILLIAM WALWORTH.

Is John Ball secur'd?


MESSENGER.

They have seiz'd him.


Enter Guards with JOHN BALL.


GUARD.

We've brought the old villain.


SECOND GUARD.

An old mischief-maker—
Why there's fifteen hundred of the mob are kill'd,
All thro' his preaching!


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

Prisoner! are you the arch-rebel, John Ball?


JOHN BALL.

I am John Ball; but I am not a rebel.
Take ye the name, who, arrogant in strength,
Rebel against the people's sovereignty.


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

John Ball, you are accus'd of stirring up
The poor deluded people to rebellion;
Not having the fear of God and of the king
Before your eyes; of preaching up strange notions
Heretical and treasonous; such as saying
That kings have not a right from heaven to govern;
That all mankind are equal; and that ranks
And the distinctions of society,
Aye, and the sacred rights of property
Are evil and oppressive:—plead you guilty
To this most heavy charge?


JOHN BALL.

If it be guilt—
To preach what you are pleas'd to call strange notions.
That all mankind as brethren must be equal;
That privileg'd orders of society
Are evil and oppressive; that the right
Of property is a juggle to deceive
The poor whom you oppress;—I plead me guilty.


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

It is against the custom of this court
That the prisoner should plead guilty.


JOHN BALL.

Why then put you
The needless question?—Sir Judge, let me save
The vain and empty insult of a trial.
What I have done, that I dare justify.


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

Did you not tell the mob they were oppress'd,
And preach upon the equality of man;
With evil intent thereby to stir them up
To tumult and rebellion?


JOHN BALL.

That I told them
That all mankind are equal, is most true:
Ye came as helpless infants to the world:
Ye feel alike the infirmities of nature;
And at last moulder into common clay.
Why then these vain distinctions!—bears not the earth
Food in abundance?—must your granaries
O'erflow with plenty, while the poor man starves?
Sir Judge, why sit you there clad in your furs?
Why are your cellars stor'd with choicest wines?
Your larders hung with dainties, while your vassal,
As virtuous, and as able too by nature,
Tho' by your selfish tyranny depriv'd
Of mind's improvement, shivers in his rags,
And starves amid the plenty he creates.
I have said this is wrong, and I repeat it—
And there will be a time when this great truth
Shall be confess'd—be felt by all mankind.
The electric truth shall run from man to man,
And the blood-cemented pyramid of greatness
Shall fall before the flash!


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN

Audacious rebel!
How darest thou insult this sacred court,
Blaspheming all the dignities of rank?
How could the Government be carried on
Without the sacred orders of the king,
And the nobility?


JOHN BALL.

Tell me, Sir Judge,
What does the government avail the peasant?
Would not he plow his field and sow the corn,
Aye, and in peace enjoy the harvest too:
Would not the sunshine and the dews descend,
Tho' neither King nor Parliament existed?
Do your Court Politics ought matter him?
Would he be warring even unto the death
With his French neighbours?—Charles and
Richard contend;
The people fight and suffer:—think ye, Sirs,
If neither country had been cursed with a chief,
The peasants would have quarrell'd?


KING.

This is treason!
The patience of the court has been insulted—
Condemn the foul mouth'd, contumacious rebel.


SIR JOHN TRESILIAN.

John Ball, whereas you are accused before us
Of stirring up the people to rebellion,
And preaching to them strange and dangerous doctrines;
And whereas your behavior to the court
Has been most insolent and contumacious;
Insulting Majesty—and since you have pleaded
Guilty to all these charges; I condemn you
To death: you shall be hanged by the neck,
But not till you are dead—your bowels opened—
Your heart torn out and burnt before your face—
Your traitorous head be sever'd from your body—
Your body quartered, and exposed upon
The city gates—a terrible example—
And the Lord God have mercy on your soul!


JOHN BALL.

Why be it so. I can smile at your vengeance,
For I am arm'd with rectitude of soul.
The truth, which all my life I have divulg'd
And am now doom'd in torment to expire for,
Shall still survive—the destin'd hour must come,
When it shall blaze with sun-surpassing splendor,
And the dark mists of prejudice and falsehood
Fade in its strong effulgence. Flattery's incense
No more shall shadow round the gore-dyed throne;
That altar of oppression, fed with rites,
More savage than the Priests of Moloch taught,
Shall be consumed amid the fire of Justice;
The ray of truth shall emanate around,
And the whole world be lighted!


KING.

Drag him hence—
Away with him to death! order the troops
Now to give quarter and make prisoners—
Let the blood-reeking sword of war be sheathed,
That the law may take vengeance on the rebels.

THE END.

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Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl

To the Memory of the Household It Describes
This Poem is Dedicated by the Author:

"As the Spirits of Darkness be stronger in the dark, so Good Spirits,which be Angels of Light, are augmented not only by the Divine lightof the Sun, but also by our common Wood Fire: and as the CelestialFire drives away dark spirits, so also this our Fire of Wood doth thesame." -- Cor. Agrippa, Occult Philosophy,

Book I.ch. v.

"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of Storm." EMERSON, The Snow Storm.


The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores, --
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingëd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature's geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below, --
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: "Boys, a path!"
Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin's wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp's supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse thrust his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The cock his lusty greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt's Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.


As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, --
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."


The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.


Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat's dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger's seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons' straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October's wood.


What matter how the night behaved?
What matter how the north-wind raved?
Blow high, blow low, not all its snow
Could quench our hearth-fire's ruddy glow.
O Time and Change! -- with hair as gray
As was my sire's that winter day,
How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on!
Ah, brother! only I and thou
Are left of all that circle now, --
The dear home faces whereupon
That fitful firelight paled and shone.
Henceforward, listen as we will,
The voices of that hearth are still;
Look where we may, the wide earth o'er,
Those lighted faces smile no more.
We tread the paths their feet have worn,
We sit beneath their orchard trees,
We hear, like them, the hum of bees
And rustle of the bladed corn;
We turn the pages that they read,
Their written words we linger o'er,
But in the sun they cast no shade,
No voice is heard, no sign is made,
No step is on the conscious floor!
Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress-trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marbles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That Life is ever lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own!
We sped the time with stories old,
Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told,
Or stammered from our school-book lore
"The Chief of Gambia's golden shore."
How often since, when all the land
Was clay in Slavery's shaping hand,
As if a far-blown trumpet stirred
The languorous sin-sick air, I heard:
"Does not the voice of reason cry,
Claim the first right which Nature gave,
From the red scourge of bondage to fly,
Nor deign to live a burdened slave!"
Our father rode again his ride
On Memphremagog's wooded side;
Sat down again to moose and samp
In trapper's hut and Indian camp;
Lived o'er the old idyllic ease
Beneath St. François' hemlock-trees;
Again for him the moonlight shone
On Norman cap and bodiced zone;
Again he heard the violin play
Which led the village dance away.
And mingled in its merry whirl
The grandam and the laughing girl.
Or, nearer home, our steps he led
Where Salisbury's level marshes spread
Mile-wide as flies the laden bee;
Where merry mowers, hale and strong,
Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along
The low green prairies of the sea.
We shared the fishing off Boar's Head,
And round the rocky Isles of Shoals
The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals;
The chowder on the sand-beach made,
Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot,
With spoons of clam-shell from the pot.
We heard the tales of witchcraft old,
And dream and sign and marvel told
To sleepy listeners as they lay
Stretched idly on the salted hay,
Adrift along the winding shores,
When favoring breezes deigned to blow
The square sail of the gundelow
And idle lay the useless oars.


Our mother, while she turned her wheel
Or run the new-knit stocking-heel,
Told how the Indian hordes came down
At midnight on Concheco town,
And how her own great-uncle bore
His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore.
Recalling, in her fitting phrase,
So rich and picturesque and free
(The common unrhymed poetry
Of simple life and country ways,)
The story of her early days, --
She made us welcome to her home;
Old hearths grew wide to give us room;
We stole with her a frightened look
At the gray wizard's conjuring-book,
The fame whereof went far and wide
Through all the simple country side;
We heard the hawks at twilight play,
The boat-horn on Piscataqua,
The loon's weird laughter far away;
We fished her little trout-brook, knew
What flowers in wood and meadow grew,
What sunny hillsides autumn-brown
She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down,
Saw where in sheltered cove and bay,
The ducks' black squadron anchored lay,
And heard the wild-geese calling loud
Beneath the gray November cloud.


Then, haply, with a look more grave,
And soberer tone, some tale she gave
From painful Sewel's ancient tome,
Beloved in every Quaker home,
Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom,
Or Chalkley's Journal, old and quaint, --
Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint! --
Who, when the dreary calms prevailed,
And water-butt and bread-cask failed,
And cruel, hungry eyes pursued
His portly presence mad for food,
With dark hints muttered under breath
Of casting lots for life or death,
Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies,
To be himself the sacrifice.
Then, suddenly, as if to save
The good man from his living grave,
A ripple on the water grew,
A school of porpoise flashed in view.
"Take, eat," he said, "and be content;
These fishes in my stead are sent
By Him who gave the tangled ram
To spare the child of Abraham."


Our uncle, innocent of books,
Was rich in lore of fields and brooks,
The ancient teachers never dumb
Of Nature's unhoused lyceum.
In moons and tides and weather wise,
He read the clouds as prophecies,
And foul or fair could well divine,
By many an occult hint and sign,
Holding the cunning-warded keys
To all the woodcraft mysteries;
Himself to Nature's heart so near
That all her voices in his ear
Of beast or bird had meanings clear,
Like Apollonius of old,
Who knew the tales the sparrows told,
Or Hermes, who interpreted
What the sage cranes of Nilus said;
A simple, guileless, childlike man,
Content to live where life began;
Strong only on his native grounds,
The little world of sights and sounds
Whose girdle was the parish bounds,
Whereof his fondly partial pride
The common features magnified,
As Surrey hills to mountains grew
In White of Selborne's loving view, --
He told how teal and loon he shot,
And how the eagle's eggs he got,
The feats on pond and river done,
The prodigies of rod and gun;
Till, warming with the tales he told,
Forgotten was the outside cold,
The bitter wind unheeded blew,
From ripening corn the pigeons flew,
The partridge drummed i' the wood, the mink
Went fishing down the river-brink.
In fields with bean or clover gray,
The woodchuck, like a hermit gray,
Peered from the doorway of his cell;
The muskrat plied the mason's trade,
And tier by tier his mud-walls laid;
And from the shagbark overhead
The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell.


Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer
And voice in dreams I see and hear, --
The sweetest woman ever Fate
Perverse denied a household mate,
Who, lonely, homeless, not the less
Found peace in love's unselfishness,
And welcome wheresoe'er she went,
A calm and gracious element,
Whose presence seemed the sweet income
And womanly atmosphere of home, --
Called up her girlhood memories,
The huskings and the apple-bees,
The sleigh-rides and the summer sails,
Weaving through all the poor details
And homespun warp of circumstance
A golden woof-thread of romance.
For well she kept her genial mood
And simple faith of maidenhood;
Before her still a cloud-land lay,
The mirage loomed across her way;
The morning dew, that dries so soon
With others, glistened at her noon;
Through years of toil and soil and care,
From glossy tress to thin gray hair,
All unprofaned she held apart
The virgin fancies of the heart.
Be shame to him of woman born
Who hath for such but thought of scorn.


There, too, our elder sister plied
Her evening task the stand beside;
A full, rich nature, free to trust,
Truthful and almost sternly just,
Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act,
And make her generous thought a fact,
Keeping with many a light disguise
The secret of self-sacrifice.
O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best
That Heaven itself could give thee, -- rest,
Rest from all bitter thoughts and things!
How many a poor one's blessing went
With thee beneath the low green tent
Whose curtain never outward swings!


As one who held herself a part
Of all she saw, and let her heart
Against the household bosom lean,
Upon the motley-braided mat
Our youngest and our dearest sat,
Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes,
Now bathed in the unfading green
And holy peace of Paradise.
Oh, looking from some heavenly hill,
Or from the shade of saintly palms,
Or silver reach of river calms,
Do those large eyes behold me still?
With me one little year ago: --
The chill weight of the winter snow
For months upon her grave has lain;
And now, when summer south-winds blow
And brier and harebell bloom again,
I tread the pleasant paths we trod,
I see the violet-sprinkled sod
Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak
The hillside flowers she loved to seek,
Yet following me where'er I went
With dark eyes full of love's content.
The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills
The air with sweetness; all the hills
Stretch green to June's unclouded sky;
But still I wait with ear and eye
For something gone which should be nigh,
A loss in all familiar things,
In flower that blooms, and bird that sings.
And yet, dear heart! remembering thee,
Am I not richer than of old?
Safe in thy immortality,
What change can reach the wealth I hold?
What chance can mar the pearl and gold
Thy love hath left in trust with me?
And while in life's late afternoon,
Where cool and long the shadows grow,
I walk to meet the night that soon
Shall shape and shadow overflow,
I cannot feel that thou art far,
Since near at need the angels are;
And when the sunset gates unbar,
Shall I not see thee waiting stand,
And, white against the evening star,
The welcome of thy beckoning hand?


Brisk wielder of the birch and rule,
The master of the district school
Held at the fire his favored place,
Its warm glow lit a laughing face
Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared
The uncertain prophecy of beard.
He teased the mitten-blinded cat,
Played cross-pins on my uncle's hat,
Sang songs, and told us what befalls
In classic Dartmouth's college halls.
Born the wild Northern hills among,
From whence his yeoman father wrung
By patient toil subsistence scant,
Not competence and yet not want,
He early gained the power to pay
His cheerful, self-reliant way;
Could doff at ease his scholar's gown
To peddle wares from town to town;
Or through the long vacation's reach
In lonely lowland districts teach,
Where all the droll experience found
At stranger hearths in boarding round,
The moonlit skater's keen delight,
The sleigh-drive through the frosty night,
The rustic party, with its rough
Accompaniment of blind-man's-buff,
And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid,
His winter task a pastime made.
Happy the snow-locked homes wherein
He tuned his merry violin,
Or played the athlete in the barn,
Or held the good dame's winding-yarn,
Or mirth-provoking versions told
Of classic legends rare and old,
Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome
Had all the commonplace of home,
And little seemed at best the odds
'Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods;
Where Pindus-born Arachthus took
The guise of any grist-mill brook,
And dread Olympus at his will
Became a huckleberry hill.


A careless boy that night he seemed;
But at his desk he had the look
And air of one who wisely schemed,
And hostage from the future took
In trainëd thought and lore of book.
Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he
Shall Freedom's young apostles be,
Who, following in War's bloody trail,
Shall every lingering wrong assail;
All chains from limb and spirit strike,
Uplift the black and white alike;
Scatter before their swift advance
The darkness and the ignorance,
The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth,
Which nurtured Treason's monstrous growth,
Made murder pastime, and the hell
Of prison-torture possible;
The cruel lie of caste refute,
Old forms remould, and substitute
For Slavery's lash the freeman's will,
For blind routine, wise-handed skill;
A school-house plant on every hill,
Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence
The quick wires of intelligence;
Till North and South together brought
Shall own the same electric thought,
In peace a common flag salute,
And, side by side in labor's free
And unresentful rivalry,
Harvest the fields wherein they fought.


Another guest that winter night
Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light.
Unmarked by time, and yet not young,
The honeyed music of her tongue
And words of meekness scarcely told
A nature passionate and bold,
Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide,
Its milder features dwarfed beside
Her unbent will's majestic pride.
She sat among us, at the best,
A not unfeared, half-welcome guest,
Rebuking with her cultured phrase
Our homeliness of words and ways.
A certain pard-like, treacherous grace
Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash,
Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash;
And under low brows, black with night,
Rayed out at times a dangerous light;
The sharp heat-lightnings of her face
Presaging ill to him whom Fate
Condemned to share her love or hate.
A woman tropical, intense
In thought and act, in soul and sense,
She blended in a like degree
The vixen and the devotee,
Revealing with each freak or feint
The temper of Petruchio's Kate,
The raptures of Siena's saint.
Her tapering hand and rounded wrist
Had facile power to form a fist;
The warm, dark languish of her eyes
Was never safe from wrath's surprise.
Brows saintly calm and lips devout
Knew every change of scowl and pout;
And the sweet voice had notes more high
And shrill for social battle-cry.


Since then what old cathedral town
Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown,
What convent-gate has held its lock
Against the challenge of her knock!
Through Smyrna's plague-hushed thoroughfares,
Up sea-set Malta's rocky stairs,
Gray olive slopes of hills that hem
Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem,
Or startling on her desert throne
The crazy Queen of Lebanon
With claims fantastic as her own,
Her tireless feet have held their way;
And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray,
She watches under Eastern skies,
With hope each day renewed and fresh,
The Lord's quick coming in the flesh,
Whereof she dreams and prophesies!


Where'er her troubled path may be,
The Lord's sweet pity with her go!
The outward wayward life we see,
The hidden springs we may not know.
Nor is it given us to discern
What threads the fatal sisters spun,
Through what ancestral years has run
The sorrow with the woman born,
What forged her cruel chain of moods,
What set her feet in solitudes,
And held the love within her mute,
What mingled madness in the blood,
A life-long discord and annoy,
Water of tears with oil of joy,
And hid within the folded bud
Perversities of flower and fruit.
It is not ours to separate
The tangled skein of will and fate,
To show what metes and bounds should stand
Upon the soul's debatable land,
And between choice and Providence
Divide the circle of events;
But He who knows our frame is just,
Merciful and compassionate,
And full of sweet assurances
And hope for all the language is,
That He remembereth we are dust!


At last the great logs, crumbling low,
Sent out a dull and duller glow,
The bull's-eye watch that hung in view,
Ticking its weary circuit through,
Pointed with mutely warning sign
Its black hand to the hour of nine.
That sign the pleasant circle broke:
My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke,
Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray,
And laid it tenderly away;
Then roused himself to safely cover
The dull red brands with ashes over.
And while, with care, our mother laid
The work aside, her steps she stayed
One moment, seeking to express
Her grateful sense of happiness
For food and shelter, warmth and health,
And love's contentment more than wealth,
With simple wishes (not the weak,
Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek,
But such as warm the generous heart,
O'er-prompt to do with Heaven its part)
That none might lack, that bitter night,
For bread and clothing, warmth and light.


Within our beds awhile we heard
The wind that round the gables roared,
With now and then a ruder shock,
Which made our very bedsteads rock.
We heard the loosened clapboards tost,
The board-nails snapping in the frost;
And on us, through the unplastered wall,
Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall.
But sleep stole on, as sleep will do
When hearts are light and life is new;
Faint and more faint the murmurs grew,
Till in the summer-land of dreams
They softened to the sound of streams,
Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars,
And lapsing waves on quiet shores.


Next morn we wakened with the shout
Of merry voices high and clear;
And saw the teamsters drawing near
To break the drifted highways out.
Down the long hillside treading slow
We saw the half-buried oxen go,
Shaking the snow from heads uptost,
Their straining nostrils white with frost.
Before our door the straggling train
Drew up, an added team to gain.
The elders threshed their hands a-cold,
Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes
From lip to lip; the younger folks
Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled,
Then toiled again the cavalcade
O'er windy hill, through clogged ravine,
And woodland paths that wound between
Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed.
From every barn a team afoot,
At every house a new recruit,
Where, drawn by Nature's subtlest law,
Haply the watchful young men saw
Sweet doorway pictures of the curls
And curious eyes of merry girls,
Lifting their hands in mock defence
Against the snow-ball's compliments,
And reading in each missive tost
The charm with Eden never lost.


We heard once more the sleigh-bells' sound;
And, following where the teamsters led,
The wise old Doctor went his round,
Just pausing at our door to say,
In the brief autocratic way
Of one who, prompt at Duty's call,
Was free to urge her claim on all,
That some poor neighbor sick abed
At night our mother's aid would need.
For, one in generous thought and deed,
What mattered in the sufferer's sight
The Quaker matron's inward light,
The Doctor's mail of Calvin's creed?
All hearts confess the saints elect
Who, twain in faith, in love agree,
And melt not in an acid sect
The Christian pearl of charity!


So days went on: a week had passed
Since the great world was heard from last.
The Almanac we studied o'er,
Read and reread our little store
Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score;
One harmless novel, mostly hid
From younger eyes, a book forbid,
And poetry, (or good or bad,
A single book was all we had,)
Where Ellwood's meek, drab-skirted Muse,
A stranger to the heathen Nine,
Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine,
The wars of David and the Jews.
At last the floundering carrier bore
The village paper to our door.
Lo! broadening outward as we read,
To warmer zones the horizon spread
In panoramic length unrolled
We saw the marvels that it told.
Before us passed the painted Creeks,
And daft McGregor on his raids
In Costa Rica's everglades.
And up Taygetos winding slow
Rode Ypsilanti's Mainote Greeks,
A Turk's head at each saddle-bow!
Welcome to us its week-old news,
Its corner for the rustic Muse,
Its monthly gauge of snow and rain,
Its record, mingling in a breath
The wedding bell and dirge of death:
Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale,
The latest culprit sent to jail;
Its hue and cry of stolen and lost,
Its vendue sales and goods at cost,
And traffic calling loud for gain.
We felt the stir of hall and street,
The pulse of life that round us beat;
The chill embargo of the snow
Was melted in the genial glow;
Wide swung again our ice-locked door,
And all the world was ours once more!


Clasp, Angel of the backword look
And folded wings of ashen gray
And voice of echoes far away,
The brazen covers of thy book;
The weird palimpsest old and vast,
Wherein thou hid'st the spectral past;
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow
The characters of joy and woe;
The monographs of outlived years,
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears,
Green hills of life that slope to death,
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees
Shade off to mournful cypresses
With the white amaranths underneath.
Even while I look, I can but heed
The restless sands' incessant fall,
Importunate hours that hours succeed,
Each clamorous with its own sharp need,
And duty keeping pace with all.
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids;
I hear again the voice that bids
The dreamer leave his dream midway
For larger hopes and graver fears:
Life greatens in these later years,
The century's aloe flowers to-day!


Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Some Truce of God which breaks its strife,
The worldling's eyes shall gather dew,
Dreaming in throngful city ways
Of winter joys his boyhood knew;
And dear and early friends -- the few
Who yet remain -- shall pause to view
These Flemish pictures of old days;
Sit with me by the homestead hearth,
And stretch the hands of memory forth
To warm them at the wood-fire's blaze!
And thanks untraced to lips unknown
Shall greet me like the odors blown
From unseen meadows newly mown,
Or lilies floating in some pond,
Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond;
The traveller owns the grateful sense
Of sweetness near, he knows not whence,
And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
The benediction of the air.

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II. Half-Rome

What, you, Sir, come too? (Just the man I'd meet.)
Be ruled by me and have a care o' the crowd:
This way, while fresh folk go and get their gaze:
I'll tell you like a book and save your shins.
Fie, what a roaring day we've had! Whose fault?
Lorenzo in Lucina,—here's a church
To hold a crowd at need, accommodate
All comers from the Corso! If this crush
Make not its priests ashamed of what they show
For temple-room, don't prick them to draw purse
And down with bricks and mortar, eke us out
The beggarly transept with its bit of apse
Into a decent space for Christian ease,
Why, to-day's lucky pearl is cast to swine.
Listen and estimate the luck they've had!
(The right man, and I hold him.)

Sir, do you see,
They laid both bodies in the church, this morn
The first thing, on the chancel two steps up,
Behind the little marble balustrade;
Disposed them, Pietro the old murdered fool
To the right of the altar, and his wretched wife
On the other side. In trying to count stabs,
People supposed Violante showed the most,
Till somebody explained us that mistake;
His wounds had been dealt out indifferent where,
But she took all her stabbings in the face,
Since punished thus solely for honour's sake,
Honoris causâ, that's the proper term.
A delicacy there is, our gallants hold,
When you avenge your honour and only then,
That you disfigure the subject, fray the face,
Not just take life and end, in clownish guise.
It was Violante gave the first offence,
Got therefore the conspicuous punishment:
While Pietro, who helped merely, his mere death
Answered the purpose, so his face went free.
We fancied even, free as you please, that face
Showed itself still intolerably wronged;
Was wrinkled over with resentment yet,
Nor calm at all, as murdered faces use,
Once the worst ended: an indignant air
O' the head there was—'t is said the body turned
Round and away, rolled from Violante's side
Where they had laid it loving-husband-like.
If so, if corpses can be sensitive,
Why did not he roll right down altar-step,
Roll on through nave, roll fairly out of church,
Deprive Lorenzo of the spectacle,
Pay back thus the succession of affronts
Whereto this church had served as theatre?
For see: at that same altar where he lies,
To that same inch of step, was brought the babe
For blessing after baptism, and there styled
Pompilia, and a string of names beside,
By his bad wife, some seventeen years ago,
Who purchased her simply to palm on him,
Flatter his dotage and defraud the heirs.
Wait awhile! Also to this very step
Did this Violante, twelve years afterward,
Bring, the mock-mother, that child-cheat full-grown,
Pompilia, in pursuance of her plot,
And there brave God and man a second time
By linking a new victim to the lie.
There, having made a match unknown to him,
She, still unknown to Pietro, tied the knot
Which nothing cuts except this kind of knife;
Yes, made her daughter, as the girl was held,
Marry a man, and honest man beside,
And man of birth to boot,—clandestinely
Because of this, because of that, because
O' the devil's will to work his worst for once,—
Confident she could top her part at need
And, when her husband must be told in turn,
Ply the wife's trade, play off the sex's trick
And, alternating worry with quiet qualms,
Bravado with submissiveness, prettily fool
Her Pietro into patience: so it proved.
Ay, 't is four years since man and wife they grew,
This Guido Franceschini and this same
Pompilia, foolishly thought, falsely declared
A Comparini and the couple's child:
Just at this altar where, beneath the piece
Of Master Guido Reni, Christ on cross,
Second to nought observable in Rome,
That couple lie now, murdered yestereve.
Even the blind can see a providence here.

From dawn till now that it is growing dusk,
A multitude has flocked and filled the church,
Coming and going, coming back again,
Till to count crazed one. Rome was at the show.
People climbed up the columns, fought for spikes
O' the chapel-rail to perch themselves upon,
Jumped over and so broke the wooden work
Painted like porphyry to deceive the eye;
Serve the priests right! The organ-loft was crammed,
Women were fainting, no few fights ensued,
In short, it was a show repaid your pains:
For, though their room was scant undoubtedly,
Yet they did manage matters, to be just,
A little at this Lorenzo. Body o' me!
I saw a body exposed once … never mind!
Enough that here the bodies had their due.
No stinginess in wax, a row all round,
And one big taper at each head and foot.

So, people pushed their way, and took their turn,
Saw, threw their eyes up, crossed themselves, gave place
To pressure from behind, since all the world
Knew the old pair, could talk the tragedy
Over from first to last: Pompilia too,
Those who had known her—what 't was worth to them!
Guido's acquaintance was in less request;
The Count had lounged somewhat too long in Rome,
Made himself cheap; with him were hand and glove
Barbers and blear-eyed, as the ancient sings.
Also he is alive and like to be:
Had he considerately died,—aha!
I jostled Luca Cini on his staff,
Mute in the midst, the whole man one amaze,
Staring amain and crossing brow and breast.
"How now?" asked I. "'T is seventy years," quoth he,
"Since I first saw, holding my father's hand,
"Bodies set forth: a many have I seen,
"Yet all was poor to this I live and see.
"Here the world's wickedness seals up the sum:
"What with Molinos' doctrine and this deed,
"Antichrist surely comes and doomsday's near.
"May I depart in peace, I have seen my see."
"Depart then," I advised, "nor block the road
"For youngsters still behindhand with such sights!"
"Why no," rejoins the venerable sire,
"I know it's horrid, hideous past belief,
"Burdensome far beyond what eye can bear;
"But they do promise, when Pompilia dies
"I' the course o' the day,—and she can't outlive night,—
"They'll bring her body also to expose
"Beside the parents, one, two, three a-breast;
"That were indeed a sight, which might I see,
"I trust I should not last to see the like!"
Whereat I bade the senior spare his shanks,
Since doctors give her till to-night to live,
And tell us how the butchery happened. "Ah,
"But you can't know!" sighs he, "I'll not despair:
"Beside I'm useful at explaining things—
"As, how the dagger laid there at the feet,
"Caused the peculiar cuts; I mind its make,
"Triangular i' the blade, a Genoese,
"Armed with those little hook-teeth on the edge
"To open in the flesh nor shut again:
"I like to teach a novice: I shall stay!"
And stay he did, and stay be sure he will.

A personage came by the private door
At noon to have his look: I name no names:
Well then, His Eminence the Cardinal,
Whose servitor in honourable sort
Guido was once, the same who made the match,
(Will you have the truth?) whereof we see effect.
No sooner whisper ran he was arrived
Than up pops Curate Carlo, a brisk lad,
Who never lets a good occasion slip,
And volunteers improving the event.
We looked he'd give the history's self some help,
Treat us to how the wife's confession went
(This morning she confessed her crime, we know)
And, may-be, throw in something of the Priest—
If he's not ordered back, punished anew,
The gallant, Caponsacchi, Lucifer
I' the garden where Pompilia, Eve-like, lured
Her Adam Guido to his fault and fall.
Think you we got a sprig of speech akin
To this from Carlo, with the Cardinal there?
Too wary he was, too widely awake, I trow.
He did the murder in a dozen words;
Then said that all such outrages crop forth
I' the course of nature when Molinos' tares
Are sown for wheat, flourish and choke the Church:
So slid on to the abominable sect
And the philosophic sin—we've heard all that,
And the Cardinal too, (who book-made on the same)
But, for the murder, left it where he found.
Oh but he's quick, the Curate, minds his game!
And, after all, we have the main o' the fact:
Case could not well be simpler,—mapped, as it were,
We follow the murder's maze from source to sea,
By the red line, past mistake: one sees indeed
Not only how all was and must have been,
But cannot other than be to the end of time.
Turn out here by the Ruspoli! Do you hold
Guido was so prodigiously to blame?
A certain cousin of yours has told you so?
Exactly! Here's a friend shall set you right,
Let him but have the handsel of your ear.

These wretched Comparini were once gay
And galliard, of the modest middle class:
Born in this quarter seventy years ago
And married young, they lived the accustomed life,
Citizens as they were of good repute:
And, childless, naturally took their ease
With only their two selves to care about
And use the wealth for: wealthy is the word,
Since Pietro was possessed of house and land—
And specially one house, when good days smiled,
In Via Vittoria, the aspectable street
Where he lived mainly; but another house
Of less pretension did he buy betimes,
The villa, meant for jaunts and jollity,
I' the Pauline district, to be private there—
Just what puts murder in an enemy's head.
Moreover,—here's the worm i' the core, the germ
O' the rottenness and ruin which arrived,—
He owned some usufruct, had moneys' use
Lifelong, but to determine with his life
In heirs' default: so, Pietro craved an heir,
(The story always old and always new)
Shut his fool's-eyes fast on the visible good
And wealth for certain, opened them owl-wide
On fortune's sole piece of forgetfulness,
The child that should have been and would not be.

Hence, seventeen years ago, conceive his glee
When first Violante, 'twixt a smile and blush,
With touch of agitation proper too,
Announced that, spite of her unpromising age,
The miracle would in time be manifest,
An heir's birth was to happen: and it did.
Somehow or other,—how, all in good time!
By a trick, a sleight of hand you are to hear,—
A child was born, Pompilia, for his joy,
Plaything at once and prop, a fairy-gift,
A saints' grace or, say, grant of the good God,—
A fiddle-pin's end! What imbeciles are we!
Look now: if some one could have prophesied,
"For love of you, for liking to your wife,
"I undertake to crush a snake I spy
"Settling itself i' the soft of both your breasts.
"Give me yon babe to strangle painlessly!
"She'll soar to the safe: you'll have your crying out,
"Then sleep, then wake, then sleep, then end your days
"In peace and plenty, mixed with mild regret,
"Thirty years hence when Christmas takes old folk"—
How had old Pietro sprung up, crossed himself,
And kicked the conjuror! Whereas you and I,
Being wise with after-wit, had clapped our hands;
Nay, added, in the old fool's interest,
"Strangle the black-eyed babe, so far so good,
"But on condition you relieve the man
"O' the wife and throttle him Violante too—
"She is the mischief!"

We had hit the mark.
She, whose trick brought the babe into the world,
She it was, when the babe was grown a girl,
Judged a new trick should reinforce the old,
Send vigour to the lie now somewhat spent
By twelve years' service; lest Eve's rule decline
Over this Adam of hers, whose cabbage-plot
Throve dubiously since turned fools' paradise,
Spite of a nightingale on every stump.
Pietro's estate was dwindling day by day,
While he, rapt far above such mundane care,
Crawled all-fours with his baby pick-a-back,
Sat at serene cats'-cradle with his child,
Or took the measured tallness, top to toe,
Of what was grown a great girl twelve years old:
Till sudden at the door a tap discreet,
A visitor's premonitory cough,
And poverty had reached him in her rounds.

This came when he was past the working-time,
Had learned to dandle and forgot to dig,
And who must but Violante cast about,
Contrive and task that head of hers again?
She who had caught one fish, could make that catch
A bigger still, in angler's policy:
So, with an angler's mercy for the bait,
Her minnow was set wriggling on its barb
And tossed to mid-stream; which means, this grown girl
With the great eyes and bounty of black hair
And first crisp youth that tempts a jaded taste,
Was whisked i' the way of a certain man, who snapped.

Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine
Was head of an old noble house enough,
Not over-rich, you can't have everything,
But such a man as riches rub against,
Readily stick to,—one with a right to them
Born in the blood: 't was in his very brow
Always to knit itself against the world,
Beforehand so, when that world stinted due
Service and suit: the world ducks and defers.
As such folks do, he had come up to Rome
To better his fortune, and, since many years,
Was friend and follower of a cardinal;
Waiting the rather thus on providence
That a shrewd younger poorer brother yet,
The Abate Paolo, a regular priest,
Had long since tried his powers and found he swam
With the deftest on the Galilean pool:
But then he was a web-foot, free o' the wave,
And no ambiguous dab-chick hatched to strut,
Humbled by any fond attempt to swim
When fiercer fowl usurped his dunghill top—
A whole priest, Paolo, no mere piece of one
Like Guido tacked thus to the Church's tail!
Guido moreover, as the head o' the house,
Claiming the main prize, not the lesser luck,
The centre lily, no mere chickweed fringe.

He waited and learned waiting, thirty years;
Got promise, missed performance—what would you have?
No petty post rewards a nobleman
For spending youth in splendid lackey-work,
And there's concurrence for each rarer prize;
When that falls, rougher hand and readier foot
Push aside Guido spite of his black looks.
The end was, Guido, when the warning showed,
The first white hair i' the glass, gave up the game,
Determined on returning to his town,
Making the best of bad incurable,
Patching the old palace up and lingering there
The customary life out with his kin,
Where honour helps to spice the scanty bread.

Just as he trimmed his lamp and girt his loins
To go his journey and be wise at home,
In the right mood of disappointed worth,
Who but Violante sudden spied her prey
(Where was I with that angler-simile?)
And threw her bait, Pompilia, where he sulked—
A gleam i' the gloom!

What if he gained thus much,
Wrung out this sweet drop from the bitter Past,
Bore off this rose-bud from the prickly brake
To justify such torn clothes and scratched hands,
And, after all, brought something back from Rome?
Would not a wife serve at Arezzo well
To light the dark house, lend a look of youth
To the mother's face grown meagre, left alone
And famished with the emptiness of hope,
Old Donna Beatrice? Wife you want
Would you play family-representative,
Carry you elder-brotherly, high and right
O'er what may prove the natural petulance
Of the third brother, younger, greedier still,
Girolamo, also a fledgeling priest,
Beginning life in turn with callow beak
Agape for luck, no luck had stopped and stilled.
Such were the pinks and greys about the bait
Persuaded Guido gulp down hook and all.
What constituted him so choice a catch,
You question? Past his prime and poor beside!
Ask that of any she who knows the trade.
Why first, here was a nobleman with friends,
A palace one might run to and be safe
When presently the threatened fate should fall,
A big-browed master to block door-way up,
Parley with people bent on pushing by
And praying the mild Pietro quick clear scores:
Is birth a privilege and power or no?
Also,—but judge of the result desired,
By the price paid and manner of the sale.
The Count was made woo, win and wed at once:
Asked, and was haled for answer, lest the heat
Should cool, to San Lorenzo, one blind eve,
And had Pompilia put into his arms
O' the sly there, by a hasty candle-blink,
With sanction of some priest-confederate
Properly paid to make short work and sure.

So did old Pietro's daughter change her style
For Guido Franceschini's lady-wife
Ere Guido knew it well; and why this haste
And scramble and indecent secrecy?
"Lest Pietro, all the while in ignorance,
"Should get to learn, gainsay and break the match:
"His peevishness had promptly put aside
"Such honour and refused the proffered boon,
"Pleased to become authoritative once.
"She remedied the wilful man's mistake—"
Did our discreet Violante. Rather say,
Thus did she, lest the object of her game,
Guido the gulled one, give him but a chance,
A moment's respite, time for thinking twice,
Might count the cost before he sold himself,
And try the clink of coin they paid him with.

But coin paid, bargain struck and business done,
Once the clandestine marriage over thus,
All parties made perforce the best o' the fact;
Pietro could play vast indignation off,
Be ignorant and astounded, dupe, poor soul,
Please you, of daughter, wife and son-in-law,
While Guido found himself in flagrant fault,
Must e'en do suit and service, soothe, subdue
A father not unreasonably chafed,
Bring him to terms by paying son's devoir.
Pleasant initiation!

The end, this:
Guido's broad back was saddled to bear all—
Pietro, Violante, and Pompilia too,—
Three lots cast confidently in one lap,
Three dead-weights with one arm to lift the three
Out of their limbo up to life again.
The Roman household was to strike fresh root
In a new soil, graced with a novel name,
Gilt with an alien glory, Aretine
Henceforth and never Roman any more,
By treaty and engagement; thus it ran:
Pompilia's dowry for Pompilia's self
As a thing of course,—she paid her own expense;
No loss nor gain there: but the couple, you see,
They, for their part, turned over first of all
Their fortune in its rags and rottenness
To Guido, fusion and confusion, he
And his with them and theirs,—whatever rag
With coin residuary fell on floor
When Brother Paolo's energetic shake
Should do the relics justice: since 't was thought,
Once vulnerable Pietro out of reach,
That, left at Rome as representative,
The Abate, backed by a potent patron here,
And otherwise with purple flushing him,
Might play a good game with the creditor,
Make up a moiety which, great or small,
Should go to the common stock—if anything,
Guido's, so far repayment of the cost
About to be,—and if, as looked more like,
Nothing,—why, all the nobler cost were his
Who guaranteed, for better or for worse,
To Pietro and Violante, house and home,
Kith and kin, with the pick of company
And life o' the fat o' the land while life should last.
How say you to the bargain at first blush?
Why did a middle-aged not-silly man
Show himself thus besotted all at once?
Quoth Solomon, one black eye does it all.

They went to Arezzo,—Pietro and his spouse,
With just the dusk o' the day of life to spend,
Eager to use the twilight, taste a treat,
Enjoy for once with neither stay nor stint
The luxury of lord-and-lady-ship,
And realize the stuff and nonsense long
A-simmer in their noddles; vent the fume
Born there and bred, the citizen's conceit
How fares nobility while crossing earth,
What rampart or invisible body-guard
Keeps off the taint of common life from such.
They had not fed for nothing on the tales
Of grandees who give banquets worthy Jove,
Spending gold as if Plutus paid a whim,
Served with obeisances as whenwhat God?
I'm at the end of my tether; 't is enough
You understand what they came primed to see:
While Guido who should minister the sight,
Stay all this qualmish greediness of soul
With apples and with flagons—for his part,
Was set on life diverse as pole from pole:
Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye,—what else
Was he just now awake from, sick and sage,
After the very debauch they would begin?—
Suppose such stuff and nonsense really were.
That bubble, they were bent on blowing big,
He had blown already till he burst his cheeks,
And hence found soapsuds bitter to the tongue.
He hoped now to walk softly all his days
In soberness of spirit, if haply so,
Pinching and paring he might furnish forth
A frugal board, bare sustenance, no more,
Till times, that could not well grow worse, should mend.

Thus minded then, two parties mean to meet
And make each other happy. The first week,
And fancy strikes fact and explodes in full.
"This," shrieked the Comparini, "this the Count,
"The palace, the signorial privilege,
"The pomp and pageantry were promised us?
"For this have we exchanged our liberty,
"Our competence, our darling of a child?
"To house as spectres in a sepulchre
"Under this black stone-heap, the street's disgrace,
"Grimmest as that is of the gruesome town,
"And here pick garbage on a pewter plate
"Or cough at verjuice dripped from earthenware?
"Oh Via Vittoria, oh the other place
"I' the Pauline, did we give you up for this?
"Where's the foregone housekeeping good and gay,
"The neighbourliness, the companionship,
"The treat and feast when holidays came round,
"The daily feast that seemed no treat at all,
"Called common by the uncommon fools we were!
"Even the sun that used to shine at Rome,
"Where is it? Robbed and starved and frozen too,
"We will have justice, justice if there be!"
Did not they shout, did not the town resound!
Guido's old lady-mother Beatrice,
Who since her husband, Count Tommaso's death,
Had held sole sway i' the house,—the doited crone
Slow to acknowledge, curtsey and abdicate,—
Was recognized of true novercal type,
Dragon and devil. His brother Girolamo
Came next in order: priest was he? The worse!
No way of winning him to leave his mumps
And help the laugh against old ancestry
And formal habits long since out of date,
Letting his youth be patterned on the mode
Approved of where Violante laid down law.
Or did he brighten up by way of change,
Dispose himself for affability?
The malapert, too complaisant by half
To the alarmed young novice of a bride!
Let him go buzz, betake himself elsewhere
Nor singe his fly-wings in the candle-flame!

Four months' probation of this purgatory,
Dog-snap and cat-claw, curse and counterblast,
The devil's self were sick of his own din;
And Pietro, after trumpeting huge wrongs
At church and market-place, pillar and post,
Square's corner, street's end, now the palace-step
And now the wine-house bench—while, on her side,
Violante up and down was voluble
In whatsoever pair of ears would perk
From goody, gossip, cater-cousin and sib,
Curious to peep at the inside of things
And catch in the act pretentious poverty
At its wits' end to keep appearance up,
Make both ends meet,—nothing the vulgar loves
Like what this couple pitched them right and left.
Then, their worst done that way, both struck tent, marched:
—Renounced their share o' the bargain, flung what dues
Guido was bound to pay, in Guido's face,
Left their hearts'-darling, treasure of the twain
And so forth, the poor inexperienced bride,
To her own devices, bade Arezzo rot,
Cursed life signorial, and sought Rome once more.

I see the comment ready on your lip,
"The better fortune, Guido's—free at least
"By this defection of the foolish pair,
"He could begin make profit in some sort
"Of the young bride and the new quietness,
"Lead his own life now, henceforth breathe unplagued."
Could he? You know the sex like Guido's self.
Learn the Violante-nature!

Once in Rome,
By way of helping Guido lead such life,
Her first act to inaugurate return
Was, she got pricked in conscience: Jubilee
Gave her the hint. Our Pope, as kind as just,
Attained his eighty years, announced a boon
Should make us bless the fact, held Jubilee—
Short shrift, prompt pardon for the light offence
And no rough dealing with the regular crime
So this occasion were not suffered slip—
Otherwise, sins commuted as before,
Without the least abatement in the price.
Now, who had thought it? All this while, it seems,
Our sage Violante had a sin of a sort
She must compound for now or not at all.
Now be the ready riddance! She confessed
Pompilia was a fable not a fact:
She never bore a child in her whole life.
Had this child been a changeling, that were grace
In some degree, exchange is hardly theft,
You take your stand on truth ere leap your lie:
Here was all lie, no touch of truth at all,
All the lie hers—not even Pietro guessed
He was as childless still as twelve years since.
The babe had been a find i' the filth-heap, Sir,
Catch from the kennel! There was found at Rome,
Down in the deepest of our social dregs,
A woman who professed the wanton's trade
Under the requisite thin coverture,
Communis meretrix and washer-wife:
The creature thus conditioned found by chance
Motherhood like a jewel in the muck,
And straightway either trafficked with her prize
Or listened to the tempter and let be,—
Made pact abolishing her place and part
In womankind, beast-fellowship indeed.
She sold this babe eight months before its birth
To our Violante, Pietro's honest spouse,
Well-famed and widely-instanced as that crown
To the husband, virtue in a woman's shape.
She it was, bought, paid for, passed off the thing
As very flesh and blood and child of her
Despite the flagrant fifty years,—and why?
Partly to please old Pietro, fill his cup
With wine at the late hour when lees are left,
And send him from life's feast rejoicingly,—
Partly to cheat the rightful heirs, agape,
Each uncle's cousin's brother's son of him,
For that same principal of the usufruct
It vext him he must die and leave behind.

Such was the sin had come to be confessed.
Which of the tales, the first or last, was true?
Did she so sin once, or, confessing now,
Sin for the first time? Either way you will.
One sees a reason for the cheat: one sees
A reason for a cheat in owning cheat
Where no cheat had been. What of the revenge?
What prompted the contrition all at once,
Made the avowal easy, the shame slight?
Why, prove they but Pompilia not their child,
No child, no dowry! this, supposed their child,
Had claimed what this, shown alien to their blood,
Claimed nowise: Guido's claim was through his wife,
Null then and void with hers. The biter bit,
Do you see! For such repayment of the past,
One might conceive the penitential pair
Ready to bring their case before the courts,
Publish their infamy to all the world
And, arm in arm, go chuckling thence content.

Is this your view? 'T was Guido's anyhow
And colourable: he came forward then,
Protested in his very bride's behalf
Against this lie and all it led to, least
Of all the loss o' the dowry; no! From her
And him alike he would expunge the blot,
Erase the brand of such a bestial birth,
Participate in no hideous heritage
Gathered from the gutter to be garnered up
And glorified in a palace. Peter and Paul!
But that who likes may look upon the pair
Exposed in yonder church, and show his skill
By saying which is eye and which is mouth
Thro' those stabs thick and threefold,—but for that
A strong word on the liars and their lie
Might crave expression and obtain it, Sir!
—Though prematurely, since there's more to come,
More that will shake your confidence in things
Your cousin tells you,—may I be so bold?

This makes the first act of the farce,—anon
The sombre element comes stealing in
Till all is black or blood-red in the piece.
Guido, thus made a laughing-stock abroad,
A proverb for the market-place at home,
Left alone with Pompilia now, this graft
So reputable on his ancient stock,
This plague-seed set to fester his sound flesh,
What does the Count? Revenge him on his wife?
Unfasten at all risks to rid himself
The noisome lazar-badge, fall foul of fate,
And, careless whether the poor rag was ware
O' the part it played, or helped unwittingly,
Bid it go burn and leave his frayed flesh free?
Plainly, did Guido open both doors wide,
Spurn thence the cur-cast creature and clear scores
As man might, tempted in extreme like this?
No, birth and breeding, and compassion too
Saved her such scandal. She was young, he thought,
Not privy to the treason, punished most
I' the proclamation of it; why make her
A party to the crime she suffered by?
Then the black eyes were now her very own,
Not any more Violante's: let her live,
Lose in a new air, under a new sun,
The taint of the imputed parentage
Truly or falsely, take no more the touch
Of Pietro and his partner anyhow!
All might go well yet.

So she thought, herself,
It seems, since what was her first act and deed
When news came how these kindly ones at Rome
Had stripped her naked to amuse the world
With spots here, spots there and spots everywhere?
—For I should tell you that they noised abroad
Not merely the main scandal of her birth,
But slanders written, printed, published wide,
Pamphlets which set forth all the pleasantry
Of how the promised glory was a dream,
The power a bubble, and the wealth—why, dust.
There was a picture, painted to the life,
Of those rare doings, that superlative
Initiation in magnificence
Conferred on a poor Roman family
By favour of Arezzo and her first
And famousest, the Franceschini there.
You had the Countship holding head aloft
Bravely although bespattered, shifts and straits
In keeping out o' the way o' the wheels o' the world,
The comic of those home-contrivances
When the old lady-mother's with was taxed
To find six clamorous mouths in food more real
Than fruit plucked off the cobwebbed family-tree,
Or acorns shed from its gilt mouldered frame—
Cold glories served up with stale fame for sauce.
What, I ask,—when the drunkenness of hate
Hiccuped return for hospitality,
Befouled the table they had feasted on,
Or say,—God knows I'll not prejudge the case,—
Grievances thus distorted, magnified,
Coloured by quarrel into calumny,—
What side did our Pompilia first espouse?
Her first deliberate measure was—she wrote,
Pricked by some loyal impulse, straight to Rome
And her husband's brother the Abate there,
Who, having managed to effect the match,
Might take men's censure for its ill success.
She made a clean breast also in her turn,
And qualified the couple properly,
Since whose departure, hell, she said, was heaven,
And the house, late distracted by their peals,
Quiet as Carmel where the lilies live.
Herself had oftentimes complained: but why?
All her complaints had been their prompting, tales
Trumped up, devices to this very end.
Their game had been to thwart her husband's love
And cross his will, malign his words and ways,
To reach this issue, furnish this pretence
For impudent withdrawal from their bond,—
Theft, indeed murder, since they meant no less
Whose last injunction to her simple self
Had been—what parents'-precept do you think?
That she should follow after with all speed,
Fly from her husband's house clandestinely,
Join them at Rome again, but first of all
Pick up a fresh companion in her flight,
So putting youth and beauty to fit use,—
Some gay dare-devil cloak-and-rapier spark
Capable of adventure,—helped by whom
She, some fine eve when lutes were in the air,
Having put poison in the posset-cup,
Laid hands on money, jewels and the like,
And, to conceal the thing with more effect,
By way of parting benediction too,
Fired the house,—one would finish famously
I' the tumult, slip out, scurry off and away
And turn up merrily at home once more.
Fact this, and not a dream o' the devil, Sir!
And more than this, a fact none dare dispute,
Word for word, such a letter did she write,
And such the Abate read, nor simply read
But gave all Rome to ruminate upon,
In answer to such charges as, I say,
The couple sought to be beforehand with.

The cause thus carried to the courts at Rome,
Guido away, the Abate had no choice
But stand forth, take his absent brother's part,
Defend the honour of himself beside.
He made what head he might against the pair,
Maintained Pompilia's birth legitimate
And all her rights intact—hers, Guido's now:
And so far by his policy turned their flank,
(The enemy being beforehand in the place)
That,—though the courts allowed the cheat for fact,
Suffered Violante to parade her shame,
Publish her infamy to heart's content,
And let the tale o' the feigned birth pass for proved,—
Yet they stopped there, refused to intervene
And dispossess the innocents, befooled
By gifts o' the guilty, at guilt's new caprice.
They would not take away the dowry now
Wrongfully given at first, nor bar at all
Succession to the aforesaid usufruct,
Established on a fraud, nor play the game
Of Pietro's child and now not Pietro's child
As it might suit the gamester's purpose. Thus
Was justice ever ridiculed in Rome:
Such be the double verdicts favoured here
Which send away both parties to a suit
Nor puffed up nor cast down,—for each a crumb
Of right, for neither of them the whole loaf.
Whence, on the Comparini's part, appeal—
Counter-appeal on Guido's,—that's the game:
And so the matter stands, even to this hour,
Bandied as balls are in a tennis-court,
And so might stand, unless some heart broke first,
Till doomsday.

Leave it thus, and now revert
To the old Arezzo whence we moved to Rome.
We've had enough o' the parents, false or true,
Now for a touch o' the daughter's quality.
The start's fair henceforth, every obstacle
Out of the young wife's footpath, she's alone,
Left to walk warily now: how does she walk?
Why, once a dwelling's threshold marked and crossed
In rubric by the enemy on his rounds
As eligible, as fit place of prey,
Baffle him henceforth, keep him out who can!
Stop up the door at the first hint of hoof,
Presently at the window taps a horn,
And Satan's by your fireside, never fear!
Pompilia, left alone now, found herself;
Found herself young too, sprightly, fair enough,
Matched with a husband old beyond his age
(Though that was something like four times her own)
Because of cares past, present and to come:
Found too the house dull and its inmates dead,
So, looked outside for light and life.

And love
Did in a trice turn up with life and light,—
The man with the aureole, sympathy made flesh,
The all-consoling Caponsacchi, Sir!
A priest—what else should the consoler be?
With goodly shoulderblade and proper leg,
A portly make and a symmetric shape,
And curls that clustered to the tonsure quite.
This was a bishop in the bud, and now
A canon full-blown so far: priest, and priest
Nowise exorbitantly overworked,
The courtly Christian, not so much Saint Paul
As a saint of Cæsar's household: there posed he
Sending his god-glance after his shot shaft,
Apollos turned Apollo, while the snake
Pompilia writhed transfixed through all her spires.
He, not a visitor at Guido's house,
Scarce an acquaintance, but in prime request
With the magnates of Arezzo, was seen here,
Heard there, felt everywhere in Guido's path
If Guido's wife's path be her husband's too.
Now he threw comfits at the theatre
Into her lap,—what harm in Carnival?
Now he pressed close till his foot touched her gown,
His hand brushed hers,—how help on promenade?
And, ever on weighty business, found his steps
Incline to a certain haunt of doubtful fame
Which fronted Guido's palace by mere chance;
While—how do accidents sometimes combine!—
Pompilia chose to cloister up her charms
Just in a chamber that o'erlooked the street,
Sat there to pray, or peep thence at mankind.

This passage of arms and wits amused the town.
At last the husband lifted eyebrow,—bent
On day-book and the study how to wring
Half the due vintage from the worn-out vines
At the villa, tease a quarter the old rent
From the farmstead, tenants swore would tumble soon,—
Pricked up his ear a-singing day and night
With "ruin, ruin;"—and so surprised at last—
Why, what else but a titter? Up he jumps.
Back to mind come those scratchings at the grange,
Prints of the paw about the outhouse; rife
In his head at once again are word and wink,
Mum here and budget there, the smell o' the fox,
The must o' the gallant. "Friends, there's falseness here!"

The proper help of friends in such a strait
Is waggery, the world over. Laugh him free
O' the regular jealous-fit that's incident
To all old husbands that wed brisk young wives,
And he'll go duly docile all his days.
"Somebody courts your wife, Count? Where and when?
"How and why? Mere horn-madness: have a care!
"Your lady loves her own room, sticks to it,
"Locks herself in for hours, you say yourself.
"Andwhat, it's Caponsacchi means you harm?
"The Canon? We caress him, he's the world's,
"A man of such acceptance—never dream,
"Though he were fifty times the fox you fear,
"He'd risk his brush for your particular chick,
"When the wide town's his hen-roost! Fie o' the fool!"
So they dispensed their comfort of a kind.
Guido at last cried "Something is in the air,
"Under the earth, some plot against my peace.
"The trouble of eclipse hangs overheard;
"How it should come of that officious orb
"Your Canon in my system, you must say:
"I say—that from the pressure of this spring
"Began the chime and interchange of bells,
"Ever one whisper, and one whisper more,
"And just one whisper for the silvery last,
"Till all at once a-row the bronze-throats burst
"Into a larum both significant
"And sinister: stop it I must and will.
"Let Caponsacchi take his hand away
"From the wire!—disport himself in other paths
"Than lead precisely to my palace-gate,—
"Look where he likes except one window's way
"Where, cheek on hand, and elbow set on sill,
"Happens to lean and say her litanies
"Every day and all day long, just my wife—
"Or wife and Caponsacchi may fare the worse!"

Admire the man's simplicity, "I'll do this,
"I'll not have that, I'll punish and prevent!"—
'T is easy saying. But to a fray, you see,
Two parties go. The badger shows his teeth:
The fox nor lies down sheep-like nor dares fight.
Oh, the wife knew the appropriate warfare well,
The way to put suspicion to the blush!
At first hint of remonstrance, up and out
I' the face of the world, you found her: she could speak,
State her case,—Franceschini was a name,
Guido had his full share of foes and friends—
Why should not she call these to arbitrate?
She bade the Governor do governance,
Cried out on the Archbishop,—why, there now,
Take him for sample! Three successive times,
Had he to reconduct her by main-force
From where she took her station opposite
His shut door,—on the public steps thereto,
Wringing her hands, when he came out to see,
And shrieking all her wrongs forth at his foot,—
Back to the husband and the house she fled:
Judge if that husband warmed him in the face
Of friends or frowned on foes as heretofore!
Judge if he missed the natural grin of folk,
Or lacked the customary compliment
Of cap and bells, the luckless husband's fit!

So it went on and on till—who was right?
One merry April morning, Guido woke
After the cuckoo, so late, near noonday,
With an inordinate yawning of the jaws,
Ears plugged, eyes gummed together, palate, tongue
And teeth one mud-paste made of poppy-milk;
And found his wife flown, his scritoire the worse
For a rummage,—jewelry that was, was not,
Some money there had made itself wings too,—
The door lay wide and yet the servants slept
Sound as the dead, or dosed which does as well.
In short, Pompilia, she who, candid soul,
Had not so much as spoken all her life
To the Canon, nay, so much as peeped at him
Between her fingers while she prayed in church,—
This lamb-like innocent of fifteen years
(Such she was grown to by this time of day)
Had simply put an opiate in the drink
Of the whole household overnight, and then
Got up and gone about her work secure,
Laid hand on this waif and the other stray,
Spoiled the Philistine and marched out of doors
In company of the Canon who, Lord's love,
What with his daily duty at the church,
Nightly devoir where ladies congregate,
Had something else to mind, assure yourself,
Beside Pompilia, paragon though she be,
Or notice if her nose were sharp or blunt!
Well, anyhow, albeit impossible,
Both of them were together jollily
Jaunting it Rome-ward, half-way there by this,
While Guido was left go and get undrugged,
Gather his wits up, groaningly give thanks
When neighbours crowded round him to condole.
"Ah," quoth a gossip, "well I mind me now,
"The Count did always say he thought he felt
"He feared as if this very chance might fall!
"And when a man of fifty finds his corns
"Ache and his joints throb, and foresees a storm,
"Though neighbours laugh and say the sky is clear,
"Let us henceforth believe him weatherwise!"
Then was the story told, I'll cut you short:
All neighbours knew: no mystery in the world.
The lovers left at nightfall—over night
Had Caponsacchi come to carry off
Pompilia,—not alone, a friend of his,
One Guillichini, the more conversant
With Guido's housekeeping that he was just
A cousin of Guido's and might play a prank—
(Have not you too a cousin that's a wag?)
—Lord and a Canon also,—what would you have?
Such are the red-clothed milk-swollen poppy-heads
That stand and stiffen 'mid the wheat o' the Church!—
This worthy came to aid, abet his best.
And so the house was ransacked, booty bagged,
The lady led downstairs and out of doors
Guided and guarded till, the city passed,
A carriage lay convenient at the gate.
Good-bye to the friendly Canon; the loving one
Could peradventure do the rest himself.
In jumps Pompilia, after her the priest,
"Whip, driver! Money makes the mare to go,
"And we've a bagful. Take the Roman road!"
So said the neighbours. This was eight hours since.

Guido heard all, swore the befitting oaths,
Shook off the relics of his poison-drench,
Got horse, was fairly started in pursuit
With never a friend to follow, found the track
Fast enough, 't was the straight Perugia way,
Trod soon upon their very heels, too late
By a minute only at Camoscia, reached
Chiusi, Foligno, ever the fugitives
Just ahead, just out as he galloped in,
Getting the good news ever fresh and fresh,
Till, lo, at the last stage of all, last post
Before Rome,—as we say, in sight of Rome
And safety (there's impunity at Rome
For priests, you know) at—what's the little place?—
What some call Castelnuovo, some just call
The Osteria, because o' the post-house inn,
There, at the journey's all but end, it seems,
Triumph deceived them and undid them both,
Secure they might foretaste felicity
Nor fear surprisal: so, they were surprised.
There did they halt at early evening, there
Did Guido overtake them: 't was day-break;
He came in time enough, not time too much,
Since in the courtyard stood the Canon's self
Urging the drowsy stable-grooms to haste
Harness the horses, have the journey end,
The trifling four-hours'-running, so reach Rome.
And the other runaway, the wife? Upstairs,
Still on the couch where she had spent the night,
One couch in one room, and one room for both.
So gained they six hours, so were lost thereby.

Sir, what's the sequel? Lover and beloved
Fall on their knees? No impudence serves here?
They beat their breasts and beg for easy death,
Confess this, that and the other?—anyhow
Confess there wanted not some likelihood
To the supposition so preposterous,
That, O Pompilia, thy sequestered eyes
Had noticed, straying o'er the prayerbook's edge,
More of the Canon than that black his coat,
Buckled his shoes were, broad his hat of brim:
And that, O Canon, thy religious care
Had breathed too soft a benedicite
To banish trouble from a lady's breast
So lonely and so lovely, nor so lean!
This you expect? Indeed, then, much you err.
Not to such ordinary end as this
Had Caponsacchi flung the cassock far,
Doffed the priest, donned the perfect cavalier.
The die was cast: over shoes over boots:
And just as she, I presently shall show,
Pompilia, soon looked Helen to the life,
Recumbent upstairs in her pink and white,
So, in the inn-yard, bold as 't were Troy-town,
There strutted Paris in correct costume,
Cloak, cap and feather, no appointment missed,
Even to a wicked-looking sword at side,
He seemed to find and feel familiar at.
Nor wanted words as ready and as big
As the part he played, the bold abashless one.
"I interposed to save your wife from death,
"Yourself from shame, the true and only shame:
"Ask your own conscience else!—or, failing that,
"What I have done I answer, anywhere,
"Here, if you will; you see I have a sword:
"Or, since I have a tonsure as you taunt,
"At Rome, by all means,—priests to try a priest.
"Only, speak where your wife's voice can reply!"
And then he fingered at the sword again.
So, Guido called, in aid and witness both,
The Public Force. The Commissary came,
Officers also; they secured the priest;
Then, for his more confusion, mounted up
With him, a guard on either side, the stair
To the bed-room where still slept or feigned a sleep
His paramour and Guido's wife: in burst
The company and bade her wake and rise.

Her defence? This. She woke, saw, sprang upright
I' the midst and stood as terrible as truth,
Sprang to her husband's side, caught at the sword
That hung there useless,—since they held each hand
O' the lover, had disarmed him properly,—
And in a moment out flew the bright thing
Full in the face of Guido: but for help
O' the guards who held her back and pinioned her
With pains enough, she had finished you my tale
With a flourish of red all round it, pinked her man
Prettily; but she fought them one to six.
They stopped that,—but her tongue continued free:
She spat forth such invective at her spouse,
O'erfrothed him with such foam of murderer,
Thief, pandar—that the popular tide soon turned,
The favour of the very sbirri, straight
Ebbed from the husband, set toward his wife,
People cried "Hands off, pay a priest respect!"
And "persecuting fiend" and "martyred saint"
Began to lead a measure from lip to lip.

But facts are facts and flinch not; stubborn things,
And the question "Prithee, friend, how comes my purse
"I' the poke of you?"—admits of no reply.
Here was a priest found out in masquerade,
A wife caught playing truant if no more;
While the Count, mortified in mien enough,
And, nose to face, an added palm in length,
Was plain writ "husband" every piece of him:
Capture once made, release could hardly be.
Beside, the prisoners both made appeal,
"Take us to Rome!"

Taken to Rome they were;
The husband trooping after, piteously,
Tail between legs, no talk of triumph now—
No honour set firm on its feet once more
On two dead bodies of the guilty,—nay,
No dubious salve to honour's broken pate
From chance that, after all, the hurt might seem
A skin-deep matter, scratch that leaves no scar:
For Guido's first search,—ferreting, poor soul,
Here, there and everywhere in the vile place
Abandoned to him when their backs were turned,
Found,—furnishing a last and best regale,—
All the love-letters bandied 'twixt the pair
Since the first timid trembling into life
O' the love-star till its stand at fiery full.
Mad prose, mad verse, fears, hopes, triumph, despair,
Avowal, disclaimer, plans, dates, names,—was nought
Wanting to prove, if proof consoles at all,
That this had been but the fifth act o' the piece
Whereof the due proemium, months ago
These playwrights had put forth, and ever since
Matured the middle, added 'neath his nose.
He might go cross himself: the case was clear.

Therefore to Rome with the clear case; there plead
Each party its best, and leave law do each right,
Let law shine forth and show, as God in heaven,
Vice prostrate, virtue pedestalled at last,
The triumph of truth! What else shall glad our gaze
When once authority has knit the brow
And set the brain behind it to decide
Between the wolf and sheep turned litigants?
"This is indeed a business!" law shook head:
"A husband charges hard things on a wife,
"The wife as hard o' the husband: whose fault here?
"A wife that flies her husband's house, does wrong:
"The male friend's interference looks amiss,
"Lends a suspicion: but suppose the wife,
"On the other hand, be jeopardized at home—
"Nay, that she simply hold, ill-groundedly,
"An apprehension she is jeopardized,—
"And further, if the friend partake the fear,
"And, in a commendable charity
"Which trusteth all, trust her that she mistrusts,—
"What do they but obey law—natural law?
"Pretence may this be and a cloak for sin,
"And circumstances that concur i' the close
"Hint as much, loudly—yet scarce loud enough
"To drown the answer 'strange may yet be true:'
"Innocence often looks like guiltiness.
"The accused declare that in thought, word and deed,
"Innocent were they both from first to last
"As male-babe haply laid by female-babe
"At church on edge of the baptismal font
"Together for a minute, perfect-pure.
"Difficult to believe, yet possible,
"As witness Joseph, the friend's patron-saint.
"The night at the inn—there charity nigh chokes
"Ere swallow what they both asseverate;
"Though down the gullet faith may feel it go,
"When mindful of what flight fatigued the flesh
"Out of its faculty and fleshliness,
"Subdued it to the soul, as saints assure:
"So long a flight necessitates a fall
"On the first bed, though in a lion's den,
"And the first pillow, though the lion's back:
"Difficult to believe, yet possible.
"Last come the letters' bundled beastliness—
"Authority repugns give glance to—nay,
"Turns head, and almost lets her whip-lash fall;
"Yet here a voice cries 'Respite!' from the clouds—
"the accused, both in a tale, protest, disclaim,
"Abominate the horror: 'Not my hand'
"Asserts the friend—'Nor mine' chimes in the wife,
"'Seeing I have no hand, nor write at all.'
"Illiterate—for she goes on to ask,
"What if the friend did pen now verse now prose,
"Commend it to her notice now and then?
"'T was pearls to swine: she read no more than wrote,
"And kept no more than read, for as they fell
"She ever brushed the burr-like things away,
"Or, better, burned them, quenched the fire in smoke.
"As for this fardel, filth and foolishness,
"She sees it now the first time: burn it too!
"While for his part the friend vows ignorance
"Alike of what bears his name and bears here:
"'T is forgery, a felon's masterpiece,
"And, as 't is said the fox still finds the stench,
"Home-manufacture and the husband's work.
"Though he confesses, the ingenuous friend,
"That certain missives, letters of a sort,
"Flighty and feeble, which assigned themselves
"To the wife, no less have fallen, far too oft,
"In his path: wherefrom he understood just this
"That were they verily the lady's own.
"Why, she who penned them, since he never saw
"Save for one minute the mere face of her,
"Since never had there been the interchange
"Of word with word between them all their life,
"Why, she must be the fondest of the frail,
"And fit, she for the 'apage' he flung,
"Her letters for the flame they went to feed!
"But, now he sees her face and hears her speech,
"Much he repents him if, in fancy-freak
"For a moment the minutest measurable,
"He coupled her with the first flimsy word
"O' the self-spun fabric some mean spider-soul
"Furnished forth: stop his films and stamp on him!
"Never was such a tangled knottiness,
"But thus authority cuts the Gordian through,
"And mark how her decision suits the need!
"Here's troublesomeness, scandal on both sides,
"Plenty of fault to find, no absolute crime:
"Let each side own its fault and make amends!
"What does a priest in cavalier's attire
"Consorting publicly with vagrant wives
"In quarters close as the confessional,
"Though innocent of harm? 'T is harm enough:
"Let him pay it,—say, be relegate a good
"Three years, to spend in some place not too far
"Nor yet too near, midway 'twixt near and far,
"Rome and Arezzo,—Civita we choose,
"Where he may lounge away time, live at large,
"Find out the proper function of a priest,
"Nowise an exile,—that were punishment,—
"But one our love thus keeps out of harm's way
"Not more from the husband's anger than, mayhap
"His own … say, indiscretion, waywardness,
"And wanderings when Easter eves grow warm.
"For the wife,—well, our best step to take with her,
"On her own showing, were to shift her root
"From the old cold shade and unhappy soil
"Into a generous ground that fronts the south
"Where, since her callow soul, a-shiver late,
"Craved simply warmth and called mere passers-by
"To the rescue, she should have her fill of shine.
"Do house and husband hinder and not help?
"Why then, forget both and stay here at peace,
"Come into our community, enroll
"Herself along with those good Convertites,
"Those sinners saved, those Magdalens re-made,
"Accept their ministration, well bestow
"Her body and patiently possess her soul,
"Until we see what better can be done.
"Last for the husband: if his tale prove true,
"Well is he rid of two domestic plagues—
"Both wife that ailed, do whatsoever he would,
"And friend of hers that undertook the cure.
"See, what a double load we lift from breast!
"Off he may go, return, resume old life,
"Laugh at the priest here and Pompilia there
"In limbo each and punished for their pains,
"And grateful tell the inquiring neighbourhood—
"In Rome, no wrong but has its remedy."
The case was closed. Now, am I fair or no
In what I utter? Do I state the facts,
Having forechosen a side? I promised you!

The Canon Caponsacchi, then, was sent
To change his garb, re-trim his tonsure, tie
The clerkly silk round, every plait correct,
Make the impressive entry on his place
Of relegation, thrill his Civita,
As Ovid, a like sufferer in the cause,
Planted a primrose-patch by Pontus: where,—
What with much culture of the sonnet-stave
And converse with the aborigines,
Soft savagery of eyes unused to roll
And hearts that all awry went pit-a-pat
And wanted setting right in charity,—
What were a couple of years to while away?
Pompilia, as enjoined, betook herself
To the aforesaid Convertites, soft sisterhood
In Via Lungara, where the light ones live,
Spin, pray, then sing like linnets o'er the flax.
"Anywhere, anyhow, out of my husband's house
"Is heaven," cried she,—was therefore suited so.
But for Count Guido Franceschini, he-
The injured man thus righted—found no heaven
I' the house when he returned there, I engage,
Was welcomed by the city turned upside down
In a chorus of inquiry. "What, back—you?
"And no wife? Left her with the Penitents?
"Ah, being young and pretty, 't were a shame
"To have her whipped in public: leave the job
"To the priests who understand! Such priests as yours—
"(Pontifex Maximus whipped Vestals once)
"Our madcap Caponsacchi: think of him!
"So, he fired up, showed fight and skill of fence?
"Ay, you drew also, but you did not fight!
"The wiser, 't is a word and a blow with him,
"True Caponsacchi, of old Head-i'-the-Sack
"That fought at Fiesole ere Florence was:
"He had done enough, to firk you were too much.
"And did the little lady menace you,
"Make at your breast with your own harmless sword?
"The spitfire! Well, thank God you're safe and sound,
"Have kept the sixth commandment whether or no
"The lady broke the seventh: I only wish
"I were as saint-like, could contain me so.
"I, the poor sinner, fear I should have left
"Sir Priest no nose-tip to turn up at me!"
You, Sir, who listen but interpose no word,
Ask yourself, had you borne a baiting thus?
Was it enough to make a wise man mad?
Oh, but I'll have your verdict at the end!

Well, not enough, it seems: such mere hurt falls,
Frets awhile, aches long, then grows less and less,
And so gets done with. Such was not the scheme
O' the pleasant Comparini: on Guido's wound
Ever in due succession, drop by drop,
Came slow distilment from the alembic here
Set on to simmer by Canidian hate,
Corrosives keeping the man's misery raw.
First fire-drop,—when he thought to make the best
O' the bad, to wring from out the sentence passed,
Poor, pitiful, absurd although it were,
Yet what might eke him out result enough
And make it worth while to have had the right
And not the wrong i' the matter judged at Rome.
Inadequate her punishment, no less
Punished in some slight sort his wife had been;
Then, punished for adultery, what else?
On such admitted crime he thought to seize,
And institute procedure in the courts
Which cut corruption of this kind from man,
Cast loose a wife proved loose and castaway:
He claimed in due form a divorce at least.

This claim was met now by a counterclaim:
Pompilia sought divorce from bed and board
Of Guido, whose outrageous cruelty,
Whose mother's malice and whose brother's hate
Were just the white o' the charge, such dreadful depths
Blackened its centre,—hints of worse than hate,
Love from that brother, by that Guido's guile,
That mother's prompting. Such reply was made,
So was the engine loaded, wound up, sprung
On Guido, who received bolt full in breast;
But no less bore up, giddily perhaps.
He had the Abate Paolo still in Rome,
Brother and friend and fighter on his side:
They rallied in a measure, met the foe
Manlike, joined battle in the public courts,
As if to shame supine law from her sloth:
And waiting her award, let beat the while
Arezzo's banter, Rome's buffoonery,
On this ear and on that ear, deaf alike,
Safe from worse outrage. Let a scorpion nip,
And never mind till he contorts his tail!
But there was sting i' the creature; thus it struck.
Guido had thought in his simplicity—
That lying declaration of remorse,
That story of the child which was no child
And motherhood no motherhood at all,
That even this sin might have its sort of good
Inasmuch as no question more could be,—
Call it false, call the story true,—no claim
Of further parentage pretended now:
The parents had abjured all right, at least,
I' the woman owned his wife: to plead right still
Were to declare the abjuration false:
He was relieved from any fear henceforth
Their hands might touch, their breath defile again
Pompilia with his name upon her yet.
Well, no: the next news was, Pompilia's health
Demanded change after full three long weeks
Spent in devotion with the Sisterhood,—
Which rendered sojourn,—so the court opined,—
Too irksome, since the convent's walls were high
And windows narrow, now was air enough
Nor light enough, but all looked prison-like,
The last thing which had come in the court's head.
Propose a new expedient therefore,—this!
She had demanded—had obtained indeed,
By intervention of her pitying friends
Or perhaps lovers—(beauty in distress,
Beauty whose tale is the town-talk beside,
Never lacks friendship's arm about her neck)—
Obtained remission of the penalty,
Permitted transfer to some private place
Where better air, more light, new food might soothe—
Incarcerated (call it, all the same)
At some sure friend's house she must keep inside,
Be found in at requirement fast enough,—
Domus pro carcere, in Roman style.
You keep the house i' the main, as most men do
And all good women: but free otherwise,
Should friends arrive, to lodge them and what not?
And such a domum, such a dwelling-place,
Having all Rome to choose from, where chose she?
What house obtained Pompilia's preference?
Why, just the Comparini's—just, do you mark,
Theirs who renounced all part and lot in her
So long as Guido could be robbed thereby,
And only fell back on relationship
And found their daughter safe and sound again
When that might surelier stab him: yes, the pair
Who, as I told you, first had baited hook
With this poor gilded fly Pompilia-thing,
Then caught the fish, pulled Guido to the shore
And gutted him,—not found a further use
For the bait, would trail the gauze wings yet again
I' the way of what new swimmer passed their stand.
They took Pompilia to their hiding-place—
Not in the heart of Rome as formerly,
Under observance, subject to control—
But out o' the way,—or in the way, who knows?
That blind mute villa lurking by the gate
At Via Paulina, not so hard to miss
By the honest eye, easy enough to find
In twilight by marauders: where perchance
Some muffled Caponsacchi might repair,
Employ odd moments when he too tried change,
Found that a friend's abode was pleasanter
Than relegation, penance and the rest.

Come, here's the last drop does its worst to wound
Here's Guido poisoned to the bone, you say
Your boasted still's full strain and strength: not so!
One master-squeeze from screw shall bring to birth
The hoard i' the heart o' the toad, hell's quintessence.
He learned the true convenience of the change,
And why a convent lacks the cheerful hearts
And helpful hands which female straits require,
When, in the blind mute villa by the gate,
Pompilia—what? sang, danced, saw company?
—Gave birth, Sir, to a child, his son and heir,
Or Guido's heir and Caponsacchi's son.
I want your word now: what do you say to this?
What would say little Arezzo and great Rome,
And what did God say and the devil say
One at each ear o' the man, the husband, now
The father? Why, the overburdened mind
Broke down, what was a brain became a blaze.
In fury of the moment—(that first news
Fell on the Count among his vines, it seems,
Doing his farm-work,)—why, he summoned steward,
Called in the first four hard hands and stout hearts
From field and furrow, poured forth his appeal,
Not to Rome's law and gospel any more,
But this clown with a mother or a wife,
That clodpole with a sister or a son:
And, whereas law and gospel held their peace,
What wonder if the sticks and stones cried out?

All five soon somehow found themselves at Rome,
At the villa door: there was the warmth and light—
The sense of life so just an inch inside—
Some angel must have whispered "One more chance!"


Knocked at the door,—"Who is it knocks?" cried one.
"I will make," surely Guido's angel urged,
"One final essay, last experiment,
"Speak the word, name the name from out all names
"Which, if,—as doubtless strong illusions are,
"And strange disguisings whereby truth seems false,
"And, since I am but man, I dare not do
"God's work until assured I see with God,—
"If I should bring my lips to breathe that name
"And they be innocent,—nay, by one mere touch
"Of innocence redeemed from utter guilt,-
"That name will bar the door and bid fate pass.
"I will not say 'It is a messenger,
"'A neighbour, even a belated man,
"'Much less your husband's friend, your husband's self:'
"At such appeal the door is bound to ope.
"But I will say"—here's rhetoric and to spare!
Why, Sir, the stumbling-block is cursed and kicked,
Block though it be; the name that brought offence
Will bring offence: the burnt child dreads the fire
Although that fire feed on some taper-wick
Which never left the altar nor singed a fly:
And had a harmless man tripped you by chance,
How would you wait him, stand or step aside,
When next you heard he rolled your way? Enough.


"Giuseppe Caponsacchi!" Guido cried;
And open flew the door: enough again.
Vengeance, you know, burst, like a mountain-wave
That holds a monster in it, over the house,
And wiped its filthy four walls free at last
With a wash of hell-fire,—father, mother, wife,
Killed them all, bathed his name clean in their blood,
And, reeking so, was caught, his friends and he,
Haled hither and imprisoned yesternight
O' the day all this was.

Now, Sir, tale is told,
Of how the old couple come to lie in state
Though hacked to pieces,—never, the expert say,
So thorough a study of stabbing—while the wife
(Viper-like, very difficult to slay)
Writhes still through every ring of her, poor wretch,
At the Hospital hard by—survives, we'll hope,
To somewhat purify her putrid soul
By full confession, make so much amends
While time lasts; since at day's end die she must.

For Caponsacchi,—why, they'll have him here,
As hero of the adventure, who so fit
To figure in the coming Carnival?
'T will make the fortune of whate'er saloon
Hears him recount, with helpful cheek, and eye
Hotly indignant now, now dewy-dimmed,
The incidents of flight, pursuit, surprise,
Capture, with hints of kisses all between—
While Guido, wholly unromantic spouse,
No longer fit to laugh at since the blood
Gave the broad farce an all too brutal air,
Why, he and those four luckless friends of his
May tumble in the straw this bitter day—
Laid by the heels i' the New Prison, I hear,
To bide their trial, since trial, and for the life,
Follows if but for form's sake: yes, indeed!

But with a certain issue: no dispute,
"Try him," bids law: formalities oblige:
But as to the issue,—look me in the face!—
If the law thinks to find them guilty, Sir,
Master or men—touch one hair of the five,
Then I say in the name of all that's left
Of honour in Rome, civility i' the world
Whereof Rome boasts herself the central source,—
There's an end to all hope of justice more.
Astræa's gone indeed, let hope go too!
Who is it dares impugn the natural law,
Deny God's word "the faithless wife shall die"?
What, are we blind? How can we fail to learn
This crowd of miseries make the man a mark,
Accumulate on one devoted head
For our example?—yours and mine who read
Its lesson thus—"Henceforward let none dare
"Stand, like a natural in the public way,
"Letting the very urchins twitch his beard
"And tweak his nose, to earn a nickname so,
"Be styled male-Grissel or else modern Job!"
Had Guido, in the twinkling of an eye,
Summed up the reckoning, promptly paid himself,
That morning when he came up with the pair
At the wayside inn,—exacted his just debt
By aid of what first mattock, pitchfork, axe
Came to hand in the helpful stable-yard,
And with that axe, if providence so pleased,
Cloven each head, by some Rolando-stroke,
In one clean cut from crown to clavicle,
—Slain the priest-gallant, the wife-paramour,
Sticking, for all defence, in each skull's cleft
The rhyme and reason of the stroke thus dealt,
To-wit, those letters and last evidence
Of shame, each package in its proper place,—
Bidding, who pitied, undistend the skulls,—
I say, the world had praised the man. But no!
That were too plain, too straight; too simply just!
He hesitates, calls law forsooth to help.
And law, distasteful to who calls in law
When honour is beforehand and would serve,
What wonder if law hesitate in turn,
Plead her disuse to calls o' the kind, reply
(Smiling a little) "'T is yourself assess
"The worth of what's lost, sum of damage done.
"What you touched with so light a finger-tip,
"You whose concern it was to grasp the thing,
"Why must law gird herself and grapple with?
"Law, alien to the actor whose warm blood
"Asks heat from law whose veins run lukewarm milk,—
"What you dealt lightly with, shall law make out
"Heinous forsooth?"

Sir, what's the good of law
In a case o'the kind? None, as she all but says.
Call in law when a neighbour breaks your fence,
Cribs from your field, tampers with rent or lease,
Touches the purse or pocket,—but wooes your wife?
No: take the old way trod when men were men!
Guido preferred the new path,—for his pains,
Stuck in a quagmire, floundered worse and worse
Until he managed somehow scramble back
Into the safe sure rutted road once more,
Revenged his own wrong like a gentleman.
Once back 'mid the familiar prints, no doubt
He made too rash amends for his first fault,
Vaulted too loftily over what barred him late,
And lit i' the mire again,—the common chance,
The natural over-energy: the deed
Maladroit yields three deaths instead of one,
And one life left: for where's the Canon's corpse?
All which is the worse for Guido, but, be frank—
The better for you and me and all the world,
Husbands of wives, especially in Rome.
The thing is put right, in the old place,—ay,
The rod hangs on its nail behind the door,
Fresh from the brine: a matter I commend
To the notice, during Carnival that's near,
Of a certain what's-his-name and jackanapes
Somewhat too civil of eves with lute and song
About a house here, where I keep a wife.
(You, being his cousin, may go tell him so.)

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Still You Care Not.

Trail away to trace your steps
Linger around hopefully we might meet
Brush my eyes to grip your see..

..Act the tortoise always behind you
Beckon my hands to portray your view
Sing your song to make your clue

Bestow a chance award me life
Bid a moment and save my dive
Grin back and bestow a hug
Grant me time please care.

Still you care not...

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Something About Forever That Is Never Guaranteed

If anyone is unclear,
As to whose accustomed greed
Has been historically jeopardized.
You need only to look into those faces,
To witness a gloating smuggness...
Sinking fast upon those of fattened cheeks.
And a swelling being done,
Of swollen tear dripping eyes.

With this reality that shocks and surprises...
An exclusive feasting enjoyed,
Seems to be diminishing quickly.
With the shrinking of their numbers.
And the ending of them has begun,
To make them appear...
Visably weakened and mentally sick.
And they are aware whatever happens,
From now on they will have to pay for it!

'No free rides?
No free lunch to munch on in between...
Our travels to observe those of lesser means?
How utterly appalling! '

And those on foreign shores hear their screams!

'MEDIC! MEDIC!
We need assistance.
Hearts are stopping all over the place.
Can we not get better care then this? '

And in their loud protest to overshadow this fact...
Blatant theft, deceit and a bleeding elitism,
Have taken more than a few steps back.

And those scenes depicting irrational gluttony...
Are being removed and burned as trash!
From a past many believed would forever last.

However...
There is something about forever,
That is never guaranteed.

'MEDIC! MEDIC!
We need assistance.
Hearts are stopping all over the place.
Can we not get better care then this?
Thousands we pay annually for 'premium' service.
We deserve better than we claim exists! '

~Someone called? ~

'You're not a medic!
You're a mortician.'

~I am a magician as well.
You see those horses over there?
They look as if they are running in place,
Don't they?
People were stunned to see what I could do...
After they were beatened to death! ~

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To England

I
THERE was a time when all thy sons were proud
To speak thy name,
England, when Europe echoed back aloud
Thy fearless fame:
When Spain reeled shattered helpless from thy guns
And splendid ire,
When from Canadian snows to Indian suns
Pitt's soul was fire.
O that in days like these were, fair and free
From shame and scorn,
Fate had allowed, benignly, pityingly
That I was born!
O that, if struck, then struck with glorious wounds,
I bore apart
(Not torn with fangs of leprous coward hounds)
My bleeding heart!
II
We hate You — not because of cruel deeds
Staining a glorious effort. They who live
Learn in this earth to give and to forgive,
Where heart and soul are noble and fate's needs
Imperious: No, nor yet that cruel seeds
Of power and wrong you've sown alternative,
We hate You, we your sons who yet believe
That truth and justice are not empty creeds!
No, but because of greed and garbled pay,
Wages of sin and death: because you smother
Your conscience, making cursèd all the day.
Bible in one hand, bludgeon in the other,
Cain-like you come upon and slay your brother,
And, kneeling down, thank God for it, and pray!
III
I whom you fed with shame and starved with woe,
I wheel above You,
Your fatal vulture, for I hate You so,
I almost love You!
I smell your ruin out. I light and croak
My sombre lore,
As swaggering You go by, O 'heart of oak'
Rotten to the core!
Look westward! Ireland's vengeful eyes are cast
On freedom won.
Look eastward! India stirs from sleep at last.
You are undone!
Look southward, where Australia hears your voice,
And turns away!
O brutal Hypocrite, she makes her choice
With the rising day!
Foul Esau, you who sold your high birthright
For gilded mud,
Who did the wrong and, priestlike, called it right,
And swindled God! —
The hour is gone of insult, pain and patience;
The hour is come
When they arise, the faithful mightier Nations,
To drag you down!
IV
England, the land I loved
With passionate pride,
For hate of whom I live
Who for love had died,
Can I, while shines the sun,
That hour regain
When I again may come to you
And love again?
No, not while that Flag
Of greed and lust
Flaunts in the air, untaught
To drag the dust! —
Never, till expiant,
I see You kneel,
And, brandished, gleams aloft
The foeman's steel!
Ah, then to speed, and laugh,
As my heart caught the knife
'Mother, I love you! Here,
Here is my life!'

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Estrella

Mystery voice whispering sound
Sound of silence, echoes the emptiness
Haunting in chamber of the darkness
Within a sanctuary of nothingness
Embraced, in a giant continent

Hushing the bright,
Parfum de paradise sprayed
Emancipate dusts to be in celestial arm
Touched in calm, with love, He made warm
Pure affection stirred into gravitational attraction
So that the love light can bind, gracing the space
After blowing dearly soul to the center of heart
New born arrived, radiated to the core bright
Wonder if the angels were busy that night
Delivering you a life, new born star to rise

In a far distance,
Reflecting serenade in our eyes
All candles in the sky, diamonds of the night
Letting the heartbeats twinkle, blinking the light
Inspired every single eye to brighten their hearts
As a single shine shimmering the beauty of dark

If other sparks enthrall your sight
My dear estrella, my star of the night
Dont say the light not by your side
Never a star gazing its own light
Truly my eyes witness your starlight

Lanterns of millions for you holding around
Orion smiles could be the brightest one
But dont shy little star, dear estrellita
Can be small, different color of shine
Lovely as you, forever irreplaceable yours
So stay twinkling muse, blinking on us,

Twinkling light, O my Dazzling star,
With other charming shines around you
This sweet night, let moon be our shepherd
Bright in our hands, share loves in the dark,
Surrounding the moon, Ringing with the clouds
Lets paint the glittering light to reach each other hearts
Drawing constellations where we will see our life be bolder
And we shall break the long silence echoes in this chamber
Looking the masterpiece painting, on the sky, calm all travelers
True direction, north to south guidance that never astray forever
O the beauty in each of you, such incomparable my dear star
As you were born with love in the place you are supposed to
If we losing one of the clues, will change the meaning of view

Beauty and night perfection
Never gone, by the rise of morning light
Awaking sun not denying our love for night
This red star only to fulfill the mission given
To remind life born in different unique light vision
As you not an ordinary star, my dear companion

Has reach for us time we born and beauty
Dont you only envy the others shine only
Denying the sparks you have within
Pretending as if we are not exist
Will only fading light in this continent
Where nothingness hiding in the darkness
Allow the sound of emptiness haunting us

So shine my dear estrella, my shining star
Forever shine us with love in our eyes


*(Estrella=star in spanish, Estrellita=lil star)

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0256 What are those kids up to?

It’s in a quiet corner to itself
away from the grandiose creations of the
Italian Renaissance gallery, so
you can stand undisturbed to wonder
just what’s going on?

A small painting: in a peaceful
green and hilly summer countryside,
not a soul in sight except
these three – children? - their faces under
their hoodies seem known to each other
but shadowed, small, not asking to be
known to us; absorbed, maybe learning, and
they’re enacting, in this remote spot,
the Crucifixion

Jesus hanging patiently up there, a bit like
a kid trying it out for himself to see
what it feels like (and there was a case, a kid
a few years back, on Hampstead Heath,
it was hushed up; no accomplices let on) :
Mary’s quietly grieving, no big painterly
gestures there; she’s huddled up, a girl
who’s really learning about emotion as she
acts it out; John, lost in thinking as he
tries to meet in his boy's mind, the
dimension, the immensity.

It would be easier, if this were
a short story by some masterly
South American writer:
three kids who have been totally
unexposed to scriptures, find this
Bible book, read it as, like, science fiction,
decide to act it out. The master
of short stories would have to
work out the denouement:
did the kids, unobserved, pack up
and return to normal life, but
secretly transformed in inner mind?
Or did one die, as on Hampstead Heath,
the others never let on, and yet
never forget? And later, become…?

Or would a well-scripted film,
like 'Whistle down the Wind', make
a memorable, reasonable reality
of this, subtly balancing
fiction and emotion,
that children and their parents
would go to see together, even
buy the video?

It’s such a private scene, this rehearsal
of the event so hard to imagine,
even if you try; as if you were
on a fast Italian train; saw it flash past
your window; not quite believe your eyes; then already
two kilometres on, wonder if you should have
pulled the communication cord with
that elegant Italian instruction
next to it? Or try to tell the guard
in your halting Italian, that you’d seen
the Crucifixion back there…he’s Catholic,
you’re crazy English…yet, it happens..
‘miraculo… miraculo…! ’ the train’s
many kilometres down the line by now;
the kids have maybe had enough to
last them a lifetime.. packed up, gone home..so
some kinda joke, Protestant English
taking the mickey out of
Catholic superstitious visions? Best say nothing,
it’ll work itself out in God’s good time
so to speak

We’re sensible, down to earth people –
A prosaic answer, perhaps? Like,
this is a record of the moment in art
when rumours of the delicate
realism of that strange but skilful, detailed Flemish art
hit the idealist Italian scene, by
secondhand account? ‘Yes,
they paint very carefully, real
young people in a real landscape,
acting out the greatest dramas –
you should try it…’

Or perhaps some quietly, intensely
devout patron might have said,
I'd like a small Crucifixion scene to take
around with me, or have upon the table
in front of me to inspire my poetry;
no need for dramatics, nor for labouring the point;
just paint the scene; take my own children
as the models; that will touch me more...

In the still silent backwater of this public gallery
the Crucifixion plays itself out in paint,
privately; you’re reluctant
to leave it, to seek the tearoom; since,
no answers; only
questions

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Patrick White

Ever Since I Became A Poet

Ever since I became a poet
my whole life is an open wound
I've been bleeding out of
like a ribbon on a gift addressed to everyone.
Started out an astronomer
and then came poetry and painting.
And ever since, on days like this,
feels like I'm hanging in mid air
like Sri Lankans do to prophesy at New Year
with a great hook of a question-mark
through my gut. And I do. I prophecy
just to get a grip on the blinding pain.
Probably prophesy too much.
Wish I was talented enough to say nothing
and wasn't compelled to scream out like this in agony
like a screech owl with blood on its claws
and huge wise eyes that can see in the dark.

End times. Sixty three years closer
to being reborn again as someone
I can identify with. And the stars have aged
a lot slower than I have. I look back.
I look omnidirectionally ahead like a star
and when I feel like a wolf, wild, free, alert and wary,
what a long, dangerous, dark, strange, radiant trip it's been,
but when I'm a salmon, in the Druidic sense of the word,
It seems I've been swimming upstream most of my life
through a fluid, shapeshifting waterclock
of a space-time continuum that summons me
like a ghost to a seance where I spiritually spawn and die.
Arta longa; vita brevis. All things expire
in the same creative medium they were born from
and came closest to mastering. Like childhood.

Fame was a temptation in the beginning
but only as an aid to intriguing women
with the exquisite ferocity of my ability
to suddenly break into stars when things were their darkest.
Women have always been the gates
to the land of enlightenment for me,
the window with the view that opens out
onto whole new vistas of God so encompassingly beautiful
half the time their beauty was freaked with mystic terror
like little threads of lightning from a passing storm
over the darkening hills as the stars and fireflies came out
and charmed me back into having
the courage to open my eyes again.
Lightning, stars, fireflies, three avatars of insight.

My sex life has strangely paralleled my literary career.
I call myself a heretic. But in fact, I've always been
sacrilegiously sacrificial when it comes to poetry or love.
I let the lamb put the lion on the altar for a change.
It's my oxymoronic approach to God as a woman
in whom all opposites are reconciled in a unitive state
that can be more accurately approximated as not-two, better than one.
And I don't expect everybody to know what that means,
or how much pain there is behind those few moments of bliss
you just seem to blunder into indelibly out of the blue.
Karma, atma, anke, fate, synchronous happenings
in a charged particle field
in a dynamic equilibrium of reversible polarities.
Call it what you like, one brief kiss and you're an addict for life.
The muse comes your way
and you're overtaken by the path you're on,
and you realize, as you stand there gaping,
as a poet in the presence, you've got nothing
of any consequence to say until your mouth learns how to listen
and no one can teach you to do that better than a woman.

So, yes, women for most of the duration and then
the beginning of this long spiritual journey
that starts in the heart with separation from someone.
As if the stars just threw acid in your eyes
and forced you to look at things another way.
And then you understand how even
a wild, single-petalled rose can open the eyes in your blood
and when you cry, it's haemoglobin, not tears
that wash the blindness out of them like an oilslick.

And reversing the spin on the eclipse, you grow to be grateful
to the things you either didn't know how, or were afraid to look at.
Sight is a kind of love, and there's no end of the seeing.
You can walk in darkness like a diamond in a lump of coal
for millions of years and never suspect
you've been shining all along,
you've been decaying into light.
What is the most fervent longing of the trees
if it isn't one day to turn themselves into the light
they keep reaching out to like
Dutch elms with six millions leaves a piece?
To be rooted in the very source of life they aspire to.
That's why so many flowers look uncannily like the stars.
And the Sufis say you take on the characteristics
of anyone you've been around longer than forty days.
And by the time you're as old as I am
you look in the mirror, and you see
the features of the universe that's been living you
for as long as you can remember, moment by moment.

Bless, curse, heal, scry, prophesy, deepen, praise, purge,
improve, reform, redress, delight, teach, or celebrate,
when I can't find any meaning in my insignificance
it's great to think that poetry might do all of these things,
but the more I write, the more I begin
to counter-intuitively suspect poetry's got an agenda of its own
you catch a glimpse of from time to time in the depths
and in the millions of subconscious harmonies
that show up spontaneously on the surface
in the course of your life's work that defy explanation
except as a mode of participatory collaborative creation
where you don't always know who you're working with
or who is working you, as the case may be, so you
often feel like a bit of a fraud to put your name alone
on the fruits your labour, as if a single tree
took a bow for the whole orchard
and the sun and the light, the earth, the rain,
had nothing to do with what lept from your brain
like the myth of the origin of Athena.

And I hope it does some good in the world
like a wheelbarrow you bring to a garden.
I hope I've made a gift of a gift of a gift of a gift
though the way life is that's as hard to determine
as who the real giver is. And as a pragmatic mystic
and practising artist, with my head in the stars
and my feet on the ground, not really any of my business.

And speaking of that, I loathe the way poetry
has been heartshrunk from a noble calling
into a petty business card. And as for those few among many
who still have the courage and the clarity
to risk the revolutionary dangers of their sincerity,
it fills me with savage indignation to see
their imaginations chained like young trees
to a four by four square of permissible earth
surrounded by a lifeless prairie of parking lot asphalt.
That's how scared parking lots are of trees.

But things will change, and change again
because people get sick of the obvious soon enough
and the bling of tinfoil on the midways of life,
and stepping out of the blazing of the circus
into the darkness beyond, look up at the stars
and long as they have done and will always do
to lose themselves in the mystery
that's shining all around them as if
the light were emanating from the inside of the lanterns
they hold up like their hearts to the darkness.
And believe me, as much as I love astronomy
and the shape of a telescope has almost
as much sex appeal to me as the genius of a woman's body
it was poetry that taught me how much further
one of these little lanterns can see into the mystery
than the most gargantuan spaced out observatories can.
The seeking is always more beguiling than the finding,
depending, of course, on what you're looking for.
And losing yourself in something that absorbs you wholly
is still the quickest way to dust off the staleness of life
and polish the mirror to brighten the stars in your eyes.

Or if you're having one of those demonically possessed days
when it seems you keep knocking on the front doors
of the hives of killers bees that keep swarming you
with the ferocity of mass mundanities, hoping one of them
might turn out to be a pinata full of treats
at a Mexican birthday party, if you persist in risking enough.
Poetry, if you give it more than you even thought you had to give,
will give you in return, when you need them the most
the arms to take up against a sea of troubled dubieties,
and sitting down at your desk, out of breath from running,
empower you to give every bee and demon back its stinger
by giving each a name, and writing them to death
like a constellation of black dwarfs, as I have here
just to irradiate the air again with northern auroras
of solar flares lifting the veils to reveal
the intense clarity in the eyes of the mystery
that all things are as they are,
because just like atoms and quasars
when all is said and done
everything comes down to metaphors.
And the esoteric teachings of inspired shape-shifters,
whispering cosmically in the dark to themselves
the secret spells of black matter that landscape the light
with imagination, insight, and intuition
and without nudging a single atom
with the slightest notion of thought
bring whole new worlds to fruition
with every wavelength of the mystery
that abides within like compassion
shy in the shadows of love, waiting
for love to open the door from the inside
and see what it's done to the place
in the absence of the stranger
standing on his own threshold in the doorway
of the homelessness that throws its arms about him
like space, time, light, love, light and life
and welcomes him back like the return journey
of the way he left in the first place.

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I remember, I remember - Past and Present after Thomas Hood and William Wordsworth - Lucy

I remember, I remember
the house where I was born
before foreclosure took away
the homestead I had sworn
in good faith, all attest 'tis true,
to leave grandchildren three: -
times change, leave little rest, I rue
that difference to me!

It seems so very long ago
the liberating Yanks
found welcome everywhere they'd go -
though some were pita swanks,
but since the Shah announced 'I ran'
our bearings all at sea
became - time reeled again would ban
all difference for me!

I remember, I remember
the sun porch, now in pawn,
proud flag a flying red, white, blue,
which now hangs so forlorn
Sun, moon spun round each priceless day,
or so I seemed to see,
four bucks a gallon gas I pay -
what difference to me!

My mind thought then nostalgic ease
eternally could last,
all my desires, priorities
seemed sated very fast,
The fever on my brow shoots higher
now Sheiks of Araby,
up ante for crude imports, tire -
what difference to me!

I remember, I remember
before Alaskan oil
had spilled upon once pristine shore,
polluting fauna, soil.
With climate change I'm feeling sore,
note each commodity
continues rising more and more -
what difference to me!

Back then I'd travel aimlessly,
cared not I ran Iraq,
from dawn till dark, from sea to sea
could, rising with the lark,
ignore the cost of gasoline
in land of liberty:
my budget now seems far more lean,
what difference to me!

I remember, I remember
before FEMA's disgrace,
I never thought dark terrorists
I might meet face to face,
Days fifty two times seven cheap,
no need to spare expense,
I'm farther now from Heaven's keep:
Oh boy! What difference!

(c) Jonathan Robin - Parody written 4 June 2008


Variations on a theme - I remember Thomas Hood - Enjoy!

Past and Present

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor bought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily-cups-
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday, -
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And throught the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir frees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.
Thomas Hood 1799_1845


HOOD Thomas 1799_1845 hood1_0007_hood1_0000 PXX_JZX Past and Present_I remember, I remember


I Remember

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born;
The rent was thirty-two a month,
Which made my father mourn.
He said he could remember when
His father paid the rent;
And when a man's expenses did
Not take his every cent.

I remember, I remember-
My mother telling my cousin
That eggs had gone to twenty-six
Or seven cents a dozen;
And how she told my father that
She didn't like to speak
Of things like that, but Bridget now
Demanded four a week.

I remember, I remember-
And with a mirthless laugh-
My weekly board at college took
A jump to three and a half.
I bought an eighteen-dollar suit,
And father told me, 'Sonny,
I'll pay the bill this time, but, Oh,
I am not made out of money! '

I remember, I remember,
When I was young and brave
And I declared, 'Well, Birdie, we
Shall now begin to save.'
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from wealth
Than when I was a boy.

Franklin Pierce ADAMS 1881_1960 Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 - I Remember

I Remember


I remember, I remember,
When I discovered porn.
The little book that gave a boy -
Or so I heard – the horn:
It never meant a wank to me,
Nor did it drive me mad.
But in a funny kind of way
I often wish it had.

I remember, I remember,
The tweeny walking by,
I used to think her stocking-tops
Were close against her thigh:
It was a childish innocence.
But now ‘tis little joy
To know my thoughts are just as pure
As when I was a boy.


Naomi MARKS
Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 I Remember – Past and Present


I Remember

I remember, I remember,
The house where I was wed,
And the little room from which, that night,
My smiling bride was led;
She didn’t come a wink too soon,
Nor make too long a stay;
But now I often wish her folks
Had kept the girl away!

I remember, I remember,
Her dresses, red and white,
Her bonnets and her caps and cloaks, -
The cost an awful sight!
The “corner lot” on which I built,
And where my brother met
At first my wife, one washing-day, -
That man is single yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to court,
And thought that all of married life*
Was just such pleasant sport:
My spirit flew in feathers then,
No care was on my brow;
I scarce could wait to shut the gate, -
I’m not so anxious now!

I remember, I remember,
My dear one’s smile and sigh;
I used to think her tender heart
Was close against the sky;
It was a childish ignorance,
But now it soothes me not
To know I’m farther off from heaven
Then when she wasn’t got!

Phoebe CARY
Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 I Remember – Past and Present


I Remember


I remember, I remember,
(I wish I’d ne’er been born)
The little widow and her son
Came creeping in forlorn;
She never gave a wink too soon
Till he had gone to play;
But now, I oft regret that larks
Had borne that boy away.

I remember, I remember
The presents dear and cheap,
The letters and the valentines –
And othr things a heap!
The cottage which the masons built,
And where her youngster set
The pin pin upon the big arm chair –
That boy is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Her neck Itried to wring,
And saw the boy run out Pall Mall
Two peelers quick to bring;
My hair it flew in masses then,
I got a heavy blow,
The cold dark cell could hardly cool
The swelling on my brow.

I remember, I remember
A fair man, broad and hig;
I used to think his slender hair
Did match his clothes and tie;
It showed a childish ignorance,
But now ‘tis little joy
To know she ran away with him,
And left that awful boy.

Archibald STODART-WALKER 1869_1934
Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 I Remember – Past and Present

I remember, I remember,
The day that I was born,
When first I saw this breathing world,
All naked and forlorn,
They wrapped me in a linen cloth,
And then in one of frieze;
And tho’ I could not speak just then,
I still contrived to sneeze.”

I remember, I remember,
Old ladies came from far;
Some said I was like mother dear,
But others thought like Pa;
Yet all agreed I had a head,
And most expressive eyes;
The latter were about as large
As plums in Christmas pies.”


Notes and Queries UNEDA pseudonym Philadelphia 10 June 1871
Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 I Remember – Past and Present

I remember, I remember,
The cell, which now I scorn,
The little window where no sun
Could cheer the dreary morn.
Policeman X, no wink too son,
Brought in my musty fare,
And, growling as he went away,
Locked me in safely there!

I remember, I remember,
We’d been out late at night,
Twain herons who, o’er sundry cups,
Wound up by “getting tight; ”
And then although no blood was spilt,
That fiend in blue we met;
“Run in” upon my natal day –
Oh, would I could forget.

I remember, I remember,
No sofa would he bring,
He said the air seem’d rather fresh
For night birds on the wing!
The spirits needed feathers then,
And rest my fevered brow;
He only said, “The place is cool, ”
And, “Mind! don’t make a row! ”

Author Unknown - The Figaro 7 March 1874
Parody Thomas HOOD 1799_1845 I Remember – Past and Present


Lucy

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove
A maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love.

A violet by a mossy stone
Half-hidden from the eye;
Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

William WORDSWORTH 1770_1850

see also numerous parodies on the above including

Lucy's Cousin


He lived amidst th’untrodden ways
To Rydal lake that lead;
A bard whom there were none to praise,
And very few to read.

Behind a cloud his mystic sense,
Deep hidden, who can spy?
Bright as the night when not a star
Is shining in the sky.

Unread his works – his “Milk White Doe”
With dust is dark and dim;
It’s still in Longman’s shop, and oh!
The difference to him!


Hartley COLERIDGE 1796_1849
Parody William WORDSWORTH - Lucy

A Song of the Cambridge Streets


We dwelt where youthful brains grow ripe,
A town not drain’d too well,
With here and there a choky pipe,
And here and there a smell.

They tore up streets, they dug below,
They made a deal of fuss,
Now sick’ning manholes reek, and oh!
The difference to us!

Walter William SKEAT – 1835_1912
Parody William Wordsworth Lucy and Alfred Tennyson The Brook

The Amateur Botanist


A primrose by a river's brim
‘Primula vulgaris’ was to him,
And it was nothing more;
A pansy, delicately reared,
‘Viola tricolor’ appeared
In true botanic lore.

That which a pink the layman deems
‘Dianthus caryophyllus’ seems
To any flower-fan; or
A sunflower, in that talk of his,
‘Annuus helianthus’ is,
And it is nothing more.


Toboganning on Parnassus
Franklin Pierce ADAMS Parody William WORDSWORTH Lucy

_____________

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Patrick White

Blue Fire

Blue fire in your eyes, for years
I've watched you smiling everywhere
against the odds
of the secret you carry within you,
the pain you carry within you
like a broken mirror
waiting for the moon to rise
as if you were a thousand lakes, each
waiting for the pearl
that would answer their darkness from within.
I was always afraid of your edges,
the way you pretended
to mistake my face for a mask,
as if I was always up to something,
as if you could hear the whisper
of the assassin behind the door
before anyone else could,
as if your pain had taught you
to be quick and clever,
to double-back like a choir of tigers,
the ghost of a supple cougar,
and ambush the hurt
you were certain would follow
any overture of flowers,
the waterlilies rigged to go off
like dismembering mines,
and the globes of the cherries
that hung like streetlights and chandeliers,
like tears long held back,
covert bruises, and kisses long denied,
small, black, radioactive planets
charred by the wary shadows of Eve.
And I never thought
you could see more in me
than a passing newspaper
hurled at your door
like another bone of the world,
another slug-line, another playbill
sporting the plague-mark
of another macabre extinction.
And you almost convinced me I was,
you were so curt in your convictions,
so ready to diffract the light of the stars,
to bend their shining
into their emission and absorption spectra,
to show under the lens of your polished glass sky
the subtle skeletons of death
that proved their wings were ladders.
It would be obvious
to compare you to a field of burning wheat,
to point to the fish
that rudder like eclipses through your blood
from a safe bridge above your flowing;
and you were right
when you said it would take a long time
before I could write a poem about you:
it's taken eleven years
of being suddenly startled by your beauty
as you showed up randomly
in the wrack and ruin of here and there
like a wild sunflower
that strangely survived its own innocence
in the ashes of a sacred grove.
I have never not been
shocked to see you
like a window coming around the corner,
like a loaf of gold in a hungry nation,
a star cluster out of the reach
of my autumnal fingertips,
a sky too far for touching,
and the light of the life
that animated your beauty
something clear and vital and lyrical
that exceeded even you,
something that shone out of you
as if the lantern couldn't see
the shadows that danced in its fire,
what measure of darkness
was stunned by its poppy.
I know beauty well enough
to fear the black fire of its unattainability,
the terrible preludes of possession
that arrive like temporary reprieves
and suicidal postcards,
the brutal bedside confessions
that wire the heart to an electric throne
that dims the lightbulbs with a shudder of night.
And I have preferred my palace of ashes
to the diamond hovels
of impoverished beginnings,
remembering how my scars
turned into an untranslatable alphabet,
every letter the cartouche or coffin
of forgotten royalty
embalmed in the dirty rags of time,
the tars and feathers of farcical birds
trying to hatch pyramids
that crystallized like salt in a desert
after the lifting of veils and rivers and tears.
I have stood like a ghost at the gate
of a house I was born in
and admired the beauty of roses
that went on blooming long after
I had planted them and disappeared
to let them flourish in the rain and the sun.
And I have felt the thorn of moonlight
press into my flesh like a slow fang
charged with a fatal elixir,
cold infernoes of ferocious transformations
and endured my own afterlife
like a road and a wounded wheel
threshold after threshold of black ice
as my heart tried to crawl back to the tide
like an iron crab.
I have cultivated exotic solitudes
that couldn't say my name
without laughing,
and heard the wind lament
my most cherished intensities.
I am no stranger to death
or the eerie emptiness
of laying myself down on the table
like the only joker in a full house
to ever make a guest appearance.
But I am too stubborn for regrets
or I haven't been convinced
of their necessity yet,
and why should I belittle
so much joy and excruciation
as the mistakes a river made in its running
as if it could correct its way back to the sea?
Think of it.
All these stars
and not one in the wrong place.
But I grew sick of the useless pain
and the misery and the grief,
the cosmic effort to open a simple seed,
boundary stones hurled at the heart
and the hard bread of broken smiles
and the ghost food of the ego-feasts
that mistake mystic vision for a lighthouse
and run themselves up on the rocks
to be cherished among the wreckage
like emotional salvage;
and I had nothing more to give,
I had nothing more to say or celebrate,
my shadow confessed to an eclipse
it was a loser,
my blood bleached itself white
and packed itself like a fire hose
under a switch and a small glass window that read
in case of emergency, surrender,
and I learned to apologize
for all the wars I'd won,
and finance monuments to my defeat,
depict myself as less than what
I never had a chance to know I was
just to keep the rose
from putting its eyes out
on its own thorns.
And I did a good job of it;
I learned to love unconditionally,
I learned to love without love,
I learned to love without me.
I forgave and understood everything;
I shuddered in pain and understood,
saw how we all die eventually,
how the candles of beauty and truth
in this terminal vastness
are so rare and precious,
even unjustly they should be cherished,
not allowed to go out in the heart
even if death and betrayal took all,
even if every breath of a desolate lover
turned into a knife on the wind, an arrow of spite,
not to let the rage to be done forever with caring,
with hurting, with radioactive solitudes
that tainted the heartwells with vicious reason,
forsake the slightest victory of tenderness,
forgo the least memory
of human intimacy in such an implacable night.
But the darkness forgives no one
and the light is a vicious testament
to how many wounded there are in the world,
how many injured and broken,
torn down like doorways
at the end of a hall no one walks down anymore,
destroyed from within by a dream
that could barely say its name
to anyone who asked why it wept.
So many injured, hurt, condemned
by the silence of forgotten smiles
that have dispersed their seed
in the dusk of a vernal ephemerality
that no more acknowledged their passage
than a broom the destiny of dust.
And there's a part of me that cares yet,
however many lashes of the mind
assault the heart like an island
with the salt of reason
and a tide of serpents, even now
my eyes crack in the heat
of so much suffering,
so much transformative fire,
the butterfly in the furnace of the dragon's mouth.
But I had to grow tougher than space to survive,
to teach fire how to walk
on the dead seas of a vast moonscape
pocked with the astronomical impacts
of a childhood I lost like a leaky atmosphere,
I had to convince the world
I was at least as real and irrelevant as it,
that I could breathe in the randomness
the cold drafts of a faceless abyss.
I was a fraud out to prove his own sincerity,
and there are saints that would wince,
ferocious hermits in glass deserts,
hallucinatory purities of nothingness
that would tremble to undergo
the talons of the furies that afflicted me
like barbed stars on a chain
that refused to indulge itself with any key,
any liberation that smacked of peace.
And this is not a confession,
not an accusation or retrospective opprobrium;
nor does the withered branch
cling to the wraith of a blossom
any longer than it takes the frost of an early winter
to melt like an orchard.
I applaud the intensity of my mistakes,
the depths of my madness,
the unsustainable enlightenment of my rage;
how every victory was shadowed
by my own insistent mortality,
the doggish constancy of my own fallibility.
And there were perversities within me,
the dark haloes of my occlusive sanctity
that wanted to lead the night like a willing virgin
through the intimate stations
of the far fields beyond the blazing billboards
that urged a delusional frenzy
to seed her like a blind fish
in the gutted depths of an eyeless normalcy.
I wanted to dare my own horror into submission,
risk without counting
the sugar-coating on the placebo
of my inherited humanity
in the impersonality of the void
that never paid any heed
to the furious courage of my expansive folly.
What nonsense it all seems like now;
the renewable virginity of a junkie
that bled like a candle to shoot the moon
under the tongue of a pointless habit.
Who did I think I was, fool
that I was to believe
all these brutal masks of frost
were only waiting for the sun,
that the collective ashes of the ancient urn-burial
that calls itself society
would rise to the blue phoenix
that woke up drunk in the recovery room
eating its own heart
just to prove it didn't need one
to remain true to its own transgressions?
In a fever of creation
I enhanced the quality
of human idiocy. An oracle, I revealed
the shallow roots of the sacred fires
and lit my cigarette and warmed my hands
over the eternal flames
that snapped shut
like the eyelids of windproof zippoes.
Like wardens the sun and moon
walked the ramparts above, high-powered rifles,
the heretical compasses of misdirection,
and I saw how even the stars,
the cool rush of the established constellations
were nothing more than the subtle tracks
of a long-term addiction
that could afford its own vice,
random derangement in the name of nothing;
the whole of creation
nothing but a black rock
cooked in a spoon,
the severed filament
of a wingless embryo of night
enthroned in the tomb of a shattered lightbulb.
Ecstasy became the ghoul of a horrid withdrawal
steeled to my isolation
and I reveled in the severities of my spirit,
the hospital furnace of a raging heart
that disposed of my gangrenous body parts,
the febrile infection of the disgusting dream
that cooed like a madame
in the brothel of a ruined magnolia
where I finally lay down with my spirit,
enshrined in the blood and mud and lust
of an incubator in hell
where I was delivered prematurely to the night,
the immaculate conception
of an inspired whore
that didn't try to reform
the fire in the mirror that burned like a face.
Now no one can recognize me,
and no one can account
for the injudicious happiness
of a condemned soul
that can scatter its ashes
like stars across the sky
for the wind to dance,
a road of ghosts to nowhere.
And the days and the nights
rain and shine, rise and fall,
and blood, and time,
and the curse and the blessing of their carrying forth
into a carrying forth
like the eye of a waterclock,
occur as they occur
without blame or salvation
in a freedom that doesn't know I'm here
to witness the improbability of their existence,
the improbability of you and I
sitting down on the concrete stair
of the bookstore where you work,
like two thorns removed from our own hearts,
free of the shadowless viper and the black rose
that taught us to bite and swallow
and I swear,
the spontaneous irony of your laughter
was sweeter than water lapping
the startled shores
of two islands on the moon,
both of us joyously distinguished
in a confusion of doves and crows
by what we had denied.

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William Blake

Tiriel

1

And Aged Tiriel. stood before the Gates of his beautiful palace
With Myratana. once the Queen of all the western plains
But now his eyes were darkned. & his wife fading in death
They stood before their once delightful palace. & thus the Voice
Of aged Tiriel. arose. that his sons might hear in their gates
Accursed race of Tiriel. behold your father
Come forth & look on her that bore you. come you accursed sons.
In my weak arms. I here have borne your dying mother
Come forth sons of the Curse come forth. see the death of Myratana
His sons ran from their gates. & saw their aged parents stand
And thus the eldest son of Tiriel raisd his mighty voice
Old man unworthy to be calld. the father of Tiriels race
For evry one of those thy wrinkles. each of those grey hairs
Are cruel as death. & as obdurate as the devouring pit
Why should thy sons care for thy curses thou accursed man
Were we not slaves till we rebeld. Who cares for Tiriels curse
His blessing was a cruel curse. His curse may be a blessing
He ceast the aged man raisd up his right hand to the heavens
His left supported Myratana shrinking in pangs of death
The orbs of his large eyes he opend. & thus his voice went forth
Serpents not sons. wreathing around the bones of Tiriel
Ye worms of death feasting upon your aged parents flesh
Listen & hear your mothers groans. No more accursed Sons
She bears. she groans not at the birth of Heuxos or Yuva
These are the groans of death ye serpents These are the groans of death
Nourishd with milk ye serpents. nourishd with mothers tears & cares
Look at my eyes blind as the orbless scull among the stones
Look at my bald head. Hark listen ye serpents listen
What Myratana. What my wife. O Soul O Spirit O fire
What Myratana. art thou dead. Look here ye serpents look
The serpents sprung from her own bowels have draind her dry as this[.]
Curse on your ruthless heads. for I will bury her even here
So saying he began to dig a grave with his aged hands
But Heuxos calld a son of Zazel. to dig their mother a grave
Old cruelty desist & let us dig a grave for thee
Thou hast refusd our charity thou hast refusd our food
Thou hast refusd our clothes our beds our houses for thy dwelling
Chusing to wander like a Son of Zazel in the rocks
Why dost thou curse. is not the curse now come upon your head
Was it not you enslavd the sons of Zazel. & they have cursd
And now you feel it. Dig a grave & let us bury our mother
There take the body. cursed sons. & may the heavens rain wrath
As thick as northern fogs. around your gates. to choke you up
That you may lie as now your mother lies. like dogs. cast out
The stink. of your dead carcases. annoying man & beast
Till your white bones are bleachd with age for a memorial.
No your remembrance shall perish. for when your carcases
Lie stinking on the earth. the buriers shall arise from the east
And. not a bone of all the soils of Tiriel remain
Bury your mother but you cannot bury the curse of Tiriel
He ceast & darkling oer the mountains sought his pathless way

2

He wanderd day & night to him both day & night were dark
The sun he felt but the bright moon was now a useless globe
Oer mountains & thro vales of woe. the blind & aged man
Wanderd till he that leadeth all. led him to the vales of Har
And Har & Heva like two children sat beneath the Oak
Mnetha now aged waited on them. & brought them food & clothing
But they were as the shadow of Har. & as the years forgotten
Playing with flowers. & running after birds they spent the day
And in the night like infants slept delighted with infant dreams
Soon as the blind wanderer enterd the pleasant gardens of Har
They ran weeping like frighted infants for refuge in Mnethas arms
The blind man felt his way & cried peace to these open doors
Let no one fear for poor blind Tiriel hurts none but himself
Tell me O friends where am I now. & in what pleasant place
This is the valley of Har said Mnetha & this the tent of Har
Who art thou poor blind man. that takest the name of Tiriel on thee
Tiriel is king of all the west. who art thou I am Mnetha
And this is Har & Heva. trembling like infants by my side
I know Tiriel is king of the west & there he lives in joy
No matter who I am O Mnetha. if thou hast any food
Give it me. for I cannot stay my journey is far from hence
Then Har said O my mother Mnetha venture not so near him
For he is the king of rotten wood & of the bones of death
He wanders. without eyes. & passes thro thick walls & doors
Thou shalt not smite my mother Mnetha O thou eyeless man
A wanderer. I beg for food. you see I cannot weep
I cast away my staff the kind companion of my travel
And I kneel down that you may see I am a harmless man
He kneeled down & Mnetha said Come Har & Heva rise
He is an innocent old man & hungry with his travel
Then Har arose & laid his hand upon old Tiriels head
God bless thy poor bald pate. God bless. thy hollow winking eyes
God bless thy shriveld beard. God. bless. thy many wrinkled forehead
Thou hast no teeth old man & thus I kiss thy sleek bald head
Heva come kiss his bald head for he will not hurt us Heva
Then Heva came & took old Tiriel in her mothers arms
Bless thy poor eyes old man. & bless the old father of Tiriel
Thou art my Tiriels old father. I know thee thro thy wrinkles
Because thou smellest. like the figtree. thou smellest like ripe figs
How didst thou lose thy eyes old Tiriel. bless thy wrinkled face
Mnetha said come in aged wanderer tell us of thy name
Why shouldest thou conceal thyself from those of thine own flesh
I am not of this region. said Tiriel dissemblingly
I am an aged wanderer once father of a race
Far in the north. but they were wicked & were all destroyd
And I their father sent an outcast. I have told you all
Ask me no more I pray for grief hath seald my precious sight
O Lord said Mnetha how I tremble are there then more people
More human creatures on this earth beside the sons of Har
No more said Tiriel but I remain on all this globe
And I remain an outcast. hast thou any thing to drink
Then Mnetha gave him milk & fruits. & they sat down together

3

They sat & eat & Har & Heva smild on Tiriel
Thou art a very old old man but I am older than thou
How came thine hair to leave thy forehead how came thy face so brown
My hair is very long my beard. doth cover all my breast
God bless thy piteous face. to count the wrinkles in thy face
Would puzzle Mnetha. bless thy face for thou art Tiriel
Tiriel I never saw but once I sat with him & eat
He was as chearful as a prince & gave me entertainment
But long I staid not at his palace for I am forcd to wander
What wilt thou leave us too said Heva thou shalt not leave us too
For we have many sports to shew thee & many songs to sing
And after dinner we will walk into the cage of Har
And thou shalt help us to catch birds. & gather them ripe cherries
Then let thy name be Tiriel & never leave us more
If thou dost go said Har I wish thine eyes may see thy folly
My sons have left me did thine leave thee O twas very cruel
No venerable man said Tiriel ask me not such things
For thou dost make my heart to bleed my sons were not like thine
But worse O never ask me more or I must flee away
Thou shalt not go said Heva till thou hast seen our singing birds
And heard Har sing in the great cage & slept upon our fleeces
Go not for thou art so like Tiriel. that I love thine head
Tho it is wrinkled like the earth parchd with the summer heat
Then Tiriel rose up from the seat & said god bless these tents
My Journey is oer rocks & mountains. not in pleasant vales
I must not sleep nor rest because of madness & dismay
And Mnetha said Thou must not go to wander dark. alone
But dwell with us & let us be to thee instead of eyes
And I will bring thee food old man. till death shall call thee hence
Then Tiriel frownd & answerd. Did I not command you saying
Madness & deep dismay posses[s] the heart of the blind man
The wanderer who seeks the woods leaning upon his staff
Then Mnetha trembling at his frowns led him to the tent door
And gave to him his staff & blest him. he went on his way
But Har & Heva stood & watchd him till he enterd the wood
And then they went & wept to Mnetha. but they soon forgot their tears

4

Over the weary hills the blind man took his lonely way
To him the day & night alike was dark & desolate
But far he had not gone when Ijim from his woods come down
Met him at entrance of the forest in a dark & lonely way
Who art thou Eyeless wretch that thus obstructst the lions path
Ijim shall rend thy feeble joints thou tempter of dark Ijim
Thous hast the form of Tiriel but I know thee well enough
Stand from my path foul fiend is this the las of thy deceits
To be a hypocrite & stand in shape of a blind beggar
The blind man heard his brothers voice & kneeld down on his knee
O brother Ijim if it is thy voice that speaks to me
Smite not thy brother Tiriel tho weary of his life
My sons have smitten me already. and if thou smitest me
The curse that rolls over their heads will rest itself on thine
Tis now seven years since in my palace I beheld thy face
Come thou dark fiend I dare thy cunning know that Ijim scorns
To smite the[e] in the form of helpless age & eyeless policy
Rise up for I discern thee & I dare thy eloquent tongue
Come I will lead thee on thy way & use thee as a scoff
O Brother Ijim thou beholdest wretched Tiriel
Kiss me my brother & then leave me to wander desolate
No artful fiend. but I will lead thee dost thou want to go
Reply not lest I bind thee with the green flags of the brook
Ay now thou art discoverd I will use thee like a slave
When Tiriel heard the words of Ijim he sought not to reply
He knew twas vain for Ijims words were as the voice of Fate
And they went on together over hills thro woody dales
Blind to the pleasures of the sight & deaf to warbling birds
All day they walkd & all the night beneath the pleasant Moon
Westwardly journeying till Tiriel grew weary with his travel
O Ijim I am faint & weary for my knees forbid
To bear me further. urge me not lest I should die with travel
A little rest I crave a little water from a brook
Or I shall soon discover that I am a mortal man
And you will lose your once lovd Tiriel alas how fain I am
Impudent fiend said Ijim hold thy glib & eloquent tongue
Tiriel is a king. & thou the tempter of dark Ijim
Drink of this runing brook. & I will bear thee on my shoulders
He drank & Ijim raisd him up & bore him on his shoulders
All day he bore him & when evening drew her solemn curtain
Enterd the gates of Tiriels palace. & stood & calld aloud
Heuxos come forth I here have brought the fiend that troubles Ijim
Look knowst thou aught of this grey beard. or of these blinded eyes
Heuxos & Lotho ran forth at the sound of Ijims voice
And saw their aged father borne upon his mighty shoulders
Their eloquent tongues were dumb & sweat stood on. their trembling limbs
They knew twas vain to strive with Ijim they bowd & silent stood
What Heuxos call thy father for I mean to sport to night
This is the Hypocritc that sometimes roars a dreadful lion
Then I have rent his limbs & left him rotting in the forest
For birds to eat but I have scarce departed from the place
But like a tyger he would come & so I rent him too
Then like a river be would seek to drown me in his waves
But soon I buffetted the torrent anon like to a cloud
Fraught with the swords of lightning. but I bravd the vengeance too
Then he would creep like a bright serpent till around my neck
While I was Sleeping he would twine I squeezd his poisnous soul
Then like a toad or like a newt. would whisper in my ears
Or like a rock stood in my way. or like a poisnous shrub
At last I caught him in the form of Tiriel blind & old
And so Ill keep him fetch your father fetch forth Myratana
They stood confounded. and Thus Tiriel raisd his silver voice
Serpents not sons why do you stand fetch hither Tiriel
Fetch hither Myratana & delight yourselves with scoffs
For poor blind Tiriel is returnd & this much injurd head
Is ready for your bitter taunts. come forth sons of the curse
Mean time the other sons of Tiriel ran around their father
Confounded at the terrible strength of Ijim they knew twas vain
Both spear & shield were useless & the coat of iron mail
When Ijim stretchd his mighty arm. the arrow from his limbs
Rebounded & the piercing sword broke on his naked flesh
Then is it true Heuxos that thou hast turnd thy aged parent
To be the sport of wintry winds. (said Ijim) is this true
It is a lie & I am like the tree torn by the wind
Thou eyeless fiend. & you dissemblers. Is this Tiriels house
It is as false [as] Matha. & as dark as vacant Orcus
Escape ye fiends for Ijim will not lift his hand against ye
So saying. Ijim gloomy turnd his back & silent sought
The secret forests & all night wanderd in desolate ways

5

And aged Tiriel stood & said where does the thunder sleep
Where doth he hide his terrible head & his swift & fiery daughters
Where do they shroud their fiery wings & the terrors of their hair
Earth thus I stamp thy bosom rouse the earthquake from his den
To raise his dark & burning visage thro the cleaving ground
To thrust these towers with his shoulders. let his fiery dogs
Rise from the center belching flames & roarings. dark smoke
Where art thou Pestilence that bathest in fogs & standing lakes
Rise up thy sluggish limbs. & let the loathsomest of poisons
Drop from thy garments as thou walkest. wrapt in yellow clouds
Here take thy seat. in this wide court. let it be strewn with dead
And sit & smile upon these cursed sons of Tiriel
Thunder & fire & pestilence. here you not Tiriels curse
He ceast the heavy clouds confusd rolld round the lofty towers
Discharging their enormous voices. at the fathers curse
The earth trembled fires belched from the yawning clefts
And when the shaking ceast a fog possest the accursed clime
The cry was great in Tiriels palace his five daughters ran
And caught him by the garments weeping with cries of bitter woe
Aye now you feel the curse you cry. but may all ears be deaf
As Tiriels & all eyes as blind as Tiriels to your woes
May never stars shine on your roofs may never sun nor moon
Visit you but eternal fogs hover around your walls
Hela my youngest daughter you shall lead me from this place
And let the curse fall on the rest & wrap them up together
He ceast & Hela led her father from the noisom place
In haste they fled while all the sons & daughters of Tiriel
Chaind in thick darkness utterd cries of mourning all the night
And in the morning Lo an hundred men in ghastly death
The four daughters stretchd on the marble pavement silent all
falln by the pestilence the rest moped round in guilty fears
And all the children in their beds were cut off in one night
Thirty of Tiriels sons remaind. to wither in the palace
Desolate. Loathed. Dumb Astonishd waiting for black death

6

And Hela led her father thro the silent of the night
Astonishd silent. till the morning beams began to spring
Now Hela I can go with pleasure & dwell with Har & Heva
Now that the curse shall clean devour all those guilty sons
This is the right & ready way I know it by the sound
That our feet make. Remember Hela I have savd thee from death
Then be obedient to thy father for the curse is taken off thee
I dwelt with Myratana five years in the desolate rock
And all that time we waited for the fire to fall from heaven
Or for the torrents of the sea to overwhelm you all
But now my wife is dead & all the time of grace is past
You see the parents curse. Now lead me where I have commanded
O Leagued with evil spirits thou accursed man of sin
True I was born thy slave who askd thee to save me from death—
Twas for thy self thou cruel man because thou wantest eyes
True Hela this is the desert of all those cruel ones
Is Tiriel cruel look. his daughter & his youngest daughter
Laughs at affection glories in rebellion. scoffs at Love:—
I have not eat these two days lead me to Har & Hevas tent
Or I will wrap the[e] up in such a terrible fathers curse
That thou shalt feel worms in thy marrow creeping thro thy bones
Yet thou shalt lead me. Lead me I command to Har & Heva
O cruel O destroyer O consumer. O avenger
To Har & Heva I will lead thee then would that they would curse
Then would they curse as thou hast cursed but they are not like thee
O they are holy. & forgiving filld with loving mercy
Forgetting the offences of their most rebellious children
Or else thou wouldest not have livd to curse thy helpless children
Look on my eyes Hela & see for thou has eyes to see
The tears swell from my stony fountains. wherefore do I weep
Wherefore from my blind orbs art thou not siezd with poisnous stings
Laugh serpent youngest venomous reptile of the flesh of Tiriel
Laugh. for thy father Tiriel shall give the[e] cause to laugh
Unless thou lead me to the tent of Har child of the curse
Silence thy evil tongue thou murderer of thy helpless children
I lead thee to the tent of Har not that I mind thy curse
But that I feel they will curse thee & hang upon thy bones
Fell shaking agonies. & in each wrinkle of that face
Plant worms of death to feast upon the tongue of terrible curses
Hela my daughter listen. thou art the daughter of Tiriel
Thy father calls. Thy father lifts his hand unto the heavens
For thou hast laughed at my tears. & curst thy aged father
Let snakes rise from thy bedded locks & laugh among thy curls
He ceast her dark hair upright stood while snakes infolded round
Her madding brows. her shrieks apalld the soul of Tiriel
What have I done Hela my daughter fearst thou now the curse
Or wherefore dost thou cry Ah wretch to curse thy aged father
Lead me to Har & Heva & the curse of Tiriel
Shall fail. If thou refuse howl in the desolate mountains

7

She howling led him over mountains & thro frighted vales
Till to the caves of Zazel they approachd at even tide
Forth from their caves old Zazel & his sons ran. when they saw
Their tyrant prince blind & his daughter howling & leading him
They laughd & mocked some threw dirt & stones as they passd by
But when Tiriel turnd around & raisd his awful voice
Some fled away but Zazel stood still & thus began
Bald tyrant. wrinkled cunning listen to Zazels chains
Twas thou that chaind thy brother Zazel where are now thine eyes
Shout beautiful daughter of Tiriel. thou singest a sweet song
Where are you going. come & eat some roots & drink some water
Thy crown is bald old man. the sun will dry thy brains away
And thou wilt be as foolish as thy foolish brother Zazel
The blind man heard. & smote his breast & trembling passed on
They threw dirt after them. till to the covert of a wood
The howling maiden led her father where wild beasts resort
Hoping to end her woes. but from her cries the tygers fled
All night they wanderd thro the wood & when the sun arose
They enterd on the mountains of Har at Noon the happy tents
Were frighted by the dismal cries of Hela on the mountains
But Har & Heva slept fearless as babes. on loving breasts
Mnetha awoke she ran & stood at the tent door & saw
The aged wanderer led towards the tents she took her bow
And chose her arrows then advancd to meet the terrible pair

8

And Mnetha hasted & met them at the gate of the lower garden
Stand still or from my bow receive a sharp & winged death
Then Tiriel stood. saying what soft voice threatens such bitter things
Lead me to Har & Heva I am Tiriel King of the west
And Mnetha led them to the tent of Har. and Har & Heva
Ran to the door. when Tiriel felt the ankles of aged Har
He said. O weak mistaken father of a lawless race
Thy laws O Har & Tiriels wisdom end together in a curse
Why is one law given to the lion & th patient Ox
And why men bound beneath the heavens in a reptile form
A worm of sixty winters creeping on the dusky ground
The child springs from the womb. the father ready stands to form
The infant head while the mother idle plays with her dog on her couch
The young bosom is cold for lack of mothers nourishment & milk
Is cut off from the weeping mouth with difficulty & pain
The little lids are lifted & the little nostrils opend
The father forms a whip to rouze the sluggish senses to act
And scourges off all youthful fancies from the newborn man
Then walks the weak infant in sorrow compelld to number footsteps
Upon the sand. &c
And when the drone has reachd his crawling length
Black berries appear that poison all around him. Such was Tiriel
Compelld to pray repugnant & to humble the immortal spirit
Till I am subtil as a serpent in a paradise
Consuming all both flowers & fruits insects & warbling birds
And now my paradise is falln & a drear sandy plain
Returns my thirsty hissings in a curse on thee O Har
Mistaken father of a lawless race my voice is past
He ceast outstretchd at Har & Hevas feet in awful death

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The Garden of Years

I

I have shut fast the door, and am alone
With the sweet memory of this afternoon,
That saw my vague dreams on a sudden grown
Into fulfilment, as I oft have known
Stray notes upon a keyboard fall atune
When least persuaded. I besought no boon
Of Fate to-day; I that, since first Love came
Into my life, have been so importune.
To-day alone I did not press my claim,
And lo! all I have dreamed of is my own!

II

I have shut fast the door, for so I may
Relive that moment of the turn of tide—
That swift solution of the long delay
That clothed with silver splendor dying day;
And, with low-whispering memory for guide,
See once again your startled eyes confide
The secret of surrender; and your hand
Flutter toward mine, before you turn aside—
And the gold wings of young consent expand
Fresh from the cracking chrysalis of Nay!

III

I did not dare to speak at first. It seemed
A thing unreal, that with the air might blend—
That strange swift signal—and I feared I dreamed!
Ahead, the city’s lamps, converging, gleamed
To a thin angle at the street’s far bend,
And, as we neared, each from its column’s end
Stepped out, and past us, furtive, slipped away:
Nor could Love’s self a longer respite lend
The radiant moments of our shortening day,
That Time, the donor, one by one redeemed.

IV

We spoke of eloquently empty things;
Of younger days that were before we met,
The trivial acts to which the memory clings,
And in familiar spots unbidden brings
To mind, when graver matters we forget.
The sacred secret lay unspoken, yet
Hovered, half-veiled, between our conscious eyes,
Touched with an indefinable regret
For that swift moment of our love’s surprise—
Like a waked bird, poised upon ready wings.

V

I cannot tell how first we came to dwell
In short, shy words upon this closer theme,
Or how it was each understood so well
There was no need in clearer speech to tell
The phases of our duplicated dream.
In that sweet intimacy, it would seem
Our endless love had never been begun:
Like the twin branches of a tranquil stream
Our two hearts ran together and were one,
With no trite word to mar the perfect spell!

VI

Heart of my heart, I am no longer young:
Long have I waited for this day of days
When some small sign from you should loose my tongue
When I should see that gate wide-open flung
That of Love’s garden screened the sunlit ways;
Long have I waited, till your hand should raise
The veil between our understanding eyes,
That you in mine, that I in yours might gaze,
While my heart shouted to the open skies
The song that long in silence it hath sung!

VII

Dear eyes of earnest brown! How well I know
Their every sadness and their every smile;
How I have watched their laughter come and go,
Or some swift shadow cloud their bonny glow
Of stingless scoffing and of guiltless guile:
How jealous grew I in an instant, while
Some thought I knew not on the mirror blew!
Forgotten, from my heaven I stood exile,
And my rose dreamings dimmed upon my view,
As sunset’s fire grays on the Alpine snow.

VIII

But each doubt fled as swift as it appeared;
And, day by day, I grew to understand
The heart of him who long his death hath feared,
And, sudden, sees the stately palms upreared
Of some oasis in a desert land.
Yet, even as that far green across the sand
Cheered the dry way of my heart’s wandering,
I hardly looked at length to plunge my hand
And thirsty lips deep in the distant spring
That step by step my feet so slowly neared.

IX

For often I had seen the broken pledge
Of far mirages, swung upon the air,
Touched with the tender green of palm and sedge,
And where a thin stream, sliding from a ledge,
Promised me hope and paid me in despair.
So, come at last, in spite of all, to where
The falling waters all the senses cool,
Is it so strange that I should hardly dare
Believe I stand in truth beside the pool
That shone so small upon the desert’s edge?

X

I have come far. If my lips cannot say
The words that younger lovers use to woo,
It is because the long and thirsty day,
The sun-baked stretches of my weary way,
Have dried their memory of the holy dew.
If I cannot at once my claim renew
To light, and perfume, music, and a smile,
It is because of discords, had in lieu
Of harmonies. Sweet, patience for a while!
I shall praise later. Grant me time to pray.

XI

Heart of my heart, blame not the arid sand:—
It has but lent the turf a deeper green.
Blame not the copper skies that overspanned
The heartless reaches of that backward land:—
For them the water shows a smoother sheen.
And blame me not if at the brink I lean
Mutely, and seem uneloquent and cold:—
Viewing the verdure of this fair demesne.
I am so young, who yesterday was old!
It is enough to try to understand.

XII

’T was in the garden, phantom-trod, of those
My younger years, when life before me lay,
That first I saw the flower of Love unclose
From fancy’s folded bud. Youth only knows
How tenderly I longed to pluck it! Nay,
I would not waken those dead hours to-day:
For Time’s consuming fire, with lambent lip,
Has kissed my fair frail flower, and so I may
Not touch with the most careful finger-tip
Its ashes, perfect as the unburnt rose.

XIII

From our Fate’s map of matters foreordained
Who of us all would rend the veil away—
See the sealed shrine of destiny profaned,
And all the awful ultima explained,
Arid so lose right to hope and need to pray?
Who is there of us all who would not say
That mystery is merciful? Too soon
Our roses droop, our limpid skies go gray,
And youth’s morn glooms to age’s afternoon:—
Let the lees lie until the wine be drained.

XIV

Yet are some hours by rapture made so bright
That the sense reels before the blinding blaze
Of an effulgent radiancy, that might,
Spread through a lifetime, shed the steady light
Of calm content on twice ten thousand days.
Ah, if the jealous future would but raise
These, like white beacons on a sad sea thrown,
How patient we should be of life’s delays
That seem denials! Ah, love, had I but known
All my life long the will of Fate to-night!

XV

Close was your secret guarded, empty years!
No far horizon ever hid so well
The dreamt-of harbors of imagined spheres
From the strained eyes of ocean’s pioneers,
Until the appointed dawn from swell to swell
Leaped, and decreed discovery befel.
Had I but known, how different all had been!
To-day—to-day of which you would not tell—
Had lain upon my heart like the unseen
Familiar green of shores their native nears.

XVI

Ah, prescient day when I came down to thee,
Heart of the sea, rebellious as my own!
No other tongue could tell the tragedy
Of those boy-dreamings that were not to be;
Such eloquence was thine and thine alone.
So that fair western land, where they had grown,
Sank to a thin grey line, and so I turned
And pledged my troth unto the great unknown,
Cruel, kind world. How little had I learned
In all the years before I sought the sea!

XVII

For as a myriad bubbles on our stem
Flashed to swift life, and then as swiftly died,
My fancy saw, like them, my visions yearn
An instant on my eyes, and then return
Upon the eddies of the backward tide.
Dear hopes of youth, so youthfully allied
With one familiar comer of the world!
Dear foolish dreams, in mercy thus denied!
How little knew I what the East unfurled:—
I was so wise, and had so much to learn!

XVIII

All my life long in memory I shall guard
That slow sea-swing that lullabied the heart,
While the thin, thoughtful mast, shrouded and sparred,
Moved in and out upon the silver-starred
Midnight, as if it traced upon a chart:
And the prow forced the fluttering waves apart,
As they had been the leaves of some wise tome,
Wherefrom it read Life’s story from the start,
Set to the music of the whirling foam,
Wind-rippled cordage, and slow-straining yard.

XIX

All my life long in memory I shall know
How the slow, careful fingers of the light
Sort and shift countless jewels to and fro
On liquid velvet, when the breezes blow
After the calm that lay upon the night.
All my life long shall linger on my sight
One flower-like cloud that watched the daylight die,
Until the west-wind, pausing in its flight,
Plucked it, and idly on a turquoise sky
Scattered its petals in a crimson snow.

XX

And yet, had I but known what was to be,
The stillness sweet had been more sweetly still,
The laughter-laden singing of the sea,
That hallowed life and pledged eternity,
I should not then have understood so ill.
And, seeing how the west-wind worked its will
Upon the cloud, I should have known how you
Would one day in a myriad roses spill
My life, and give me faith and hope, in lieu
Of the black heart that you plucked out from me.

XXI

O my one love, so frail, so fair, so pure,
Had I but seen you faintly and afar,
My fluctuating faith had pointed sure
As swings the needle—slave, while worlds endure,
To the mute bidding of the northern star—
And many things had never been that are!
Had I but known what Life would bring to-day,
How had the years sung by, with naught to mar
That sweet crescendo, to our fairy-play
Hope’s eloquent, enchanted overture!

XXII

Now, from the goal of this, my heart’s fair fate,
I scan the backward way with wondering eyes,
And, in the silence of the night, debate
Upon each changing charm that lay in wait
Beneath the arch of ever stranger skies.
Like to a map the varied prospect lies
Of the long years since from your side I turned:
Fata Morgana-wise my pleasures rise,
Each in its turn sought after, squandered, spurned—
More trivial each, that treasured was of late!

XXIII

How wide a world it was that met my sight,
Whose eyes were narrowed to but childish things!
Asia lay bathed in unimagined light,
With all the splendors of her past bedight.
Work of the ages’ full-forgotten kings:
And, rocking ’twixt her summers and her springs,
The blue-robed Indian Ocean slept and sighed,
Decked with her emerald islands, looped in strings
Upon the breathing bosom of her tide:—
Slept all bronze day, and all star-studded night.

XXIV

Africa frowned across my breathless lee,
Mute, unforgetful, cursed, but unconquered still,
Sahara-hemmed in heart and destiny,
Unpardoned yet, and yet too proud for plea,
Pregnant with purpose of unaltered ill.
Distant, the swerved sirocco seemed to spill
From its black cup a plague upon the land,
And, crawling on past barren ridge and hill
Through hope-devouring endlessness of sand,
The swarthy Nile sulked northward to the sea.

XXV

Those earliest Americas of all
That, with half-lowered lids, dream on the day
Of the imperial Incas, seemed to call,
As, when their own long, languid evenings fall,
The sea calls landward from her curving bay.
Hearing, I answered, bent my aimless way
To the cool shade that nestled ’neath their palms,
And so, long nights on sloping shoreways lay,
While moons crept, silver-shod, across the calms,
And wrapped their radiance in the horizon’s pall.

XXVI

Years melted into years as still I strayed,
And Life, still searching, from her pack withdrew
More novel baubles, offered me in trade
For those unvalued days, wherewith I paid
Because with them I knew not what to do:
Till at the end, I smiled to think of you
As but a memory. Fool! How swift I found,
Like the mechanic mole, I burrowed through
Oblivion, an inch below the ground!
One touch, and all my blindness lay displayed.

XXVII

I know, should some one ask me which was best
Of all the lands wherewith our world is starred,
There could be but one answer to the test.
A rover heart had urged me on a quest
Wherein all gates of distance were unbarred,
Yet never was I able to discard
The thought of that young land that gave me birth:
Still in my memory’s holiest shrine I guard
That virgin daughter of the grim old earth,
The star-eyed White Republic of the West!

XXVIII

Yet, like some chapter of an old romance,
My heart holds one memorial morning dear,
When the gray hazes whirled, as in a dance,
Up from the rippled Channel’s wide expanse,
And sunlit shores stept, on a sudden, near.
On that chief day of that prophetic year
Some pledge I could but dimly understand,
Some subtle spell, lay on the calm and clear
Blue harbor of this mute majestic land,
And hope shone smiling in the eyes of France!

XXIX

And France it was that crushed my callow creed,
That held me like a mother to her breast;
That staunched the wounds my ignorance made bleed,
And, in the hour of that, my direst need,
Showed where my star still hung against the West.
France was the judge that put my faith to test,
Little by little lent it sturdier strength,
And schooled the rover in the rules of rest;
And now, dear heart, that you are mine at length,
I see ’t was she that taught me love indeed.

XXX

Thus, in my deepest heart must I inshrine
Her stately cliffs, patrolled by guardian seas;
Her hollowed hillsides, where the slender vine,
Pregnant with promise of the autumn wine,
Leans on its staff against the battling breeze:
And all her silver streams, that seek the seas,
Threading the dappled fabric of her lawns—
Her crimson sunsets, snared among the trees,
And all the crescent glory of her dawns,—
For I am hers for aye, and she is mine!

XXXI

The murmured secrets of her Norman firs,
Wherein at night the whisper of the air
To busy babble all the branches spurs,
Till every drowsy needle wakes and stirs,
And of the gossip speaks its little share:
Her shadowy mines, her southern gardens, where
The oval olives crowd the bending bough:
All these are mine:—but, most of all, O fair
Laughing and languid Paris, mine art thou,
Pinned like a pearl on that white brow of hers!

XXXII

Waywardest wanton of the world to woo,
Blackest of heart, of face the most sublime,
O Cleopatran city, through and through
Blazing with sin and splendor, once I knew
No star upon the black night of thy crime;
Till on the stagnant bosom of thy slime
Bloomed a white lily with a heart of gold:—
Heart of my heart, what matters it if Time
Damned this fair city in the days of old?
She stands regenerate, as the home of you!

XXXIII

As the rank refuse of the city goes
Out to the sea, that maketh all things clean,
So past your doorway all her folly flows,
Rubbish purged pure by one redeeming rose:—
Paris and Hell, but your face in between!
Upon that ground where rose the guillotine
Your slender feet, like benedictions, fall.
With this redress the grim Fates intervene:—
The past is naught, dear love, and you are all!
Paris is pure since your pure eyes she knows.

XXXIV

And it was Paris fully roused me first
From that, my torpor. Flashing on the scene
With nimble feet, this dearest dancer burst
Upon my sight, within her eyes such thirst
As dares and damns, a rose her lips between.
Girdled with jewels, crowned as is a queen,
With Lethe’s poppies dozing in her hair,
Gowned in thin stuffs of silver-dotted sheen,
Humanly sinful, and divinely fair,
She tore the mask from off my best and worst!

XXXV

I know not how it was she spun that spell
Which made me see, who had been blind so long,
Or with what kiss aroused; nor can I tell
How such a one as she contrived so well
To tempt my weakness and to leave me strong.
Some note there was in her compellant song
That made me man who had been boy till then,
And hurled the idler in among the throng,
Frontward to fight his way with other men,
Scale highest Heaven, and plumb profoundest Hell.

XXXVI

But this I know:—she flung the gauntlet true,
And at the challenge fear shrank back ashamed:
Hope, silver-armored, roused herself anew,
A blast upon the brazen trumpet blew,
And at the call my hand the gage reclaimed.
Wounded, mayhap, in earlier combats maimed,
Yet, as of old, with my escutcheon clean,
A space I sought, where red the pennants flamed,
To see the seat of Love and Beauty’s queen,—
And from the past leaned out the thought of you!

XXXVII

You stepped into my life once more, and lo!
The well-drilled steeds tore loose from every rein:
They whom the years had taught so meek to go
Felt the old breezes past their nostrils blow,
And whirled Love’s chariot to the fore again!
Afresh I knew the rapture and the pain
Of your dear voice, so kind, so unconcerned;
Despite my will, the incense, quenched in vain,
With sweeter perfume on your altars burned,
And gowned in gray the temple columns’ snow.

XXXVIII

For siren Paris with her tenderest smile
Had failed to blot the old songs from the score.
The every glamor and the every wile
Of this most sovereign sorceress of guile
But left the tempted truer than before!
Loving I lost, regaining, loved the more:—
What ne’er I learned from sweet propinquity,
My exile taught. Blindness I begged her for:—
She touched my eyes, and showed them how to see,
And how that they had been but blind erewhile.

XXXIX

Upon that day hope turned one golden grain
Of purest promise from the loam of toil,
Significant of some yet hidden vein
Beneath, and by the signal bade me gain
What lay unmined below the stubborn soil.
As if by magic, cleared of ruck and roil,
The spring of Life grew undefiled and pure,
And, limpid lying, freed of all turmoil,
Mirrored your face, immutable and sure,
And then I knew that we should meet again.

XL

Oh, clad in all a dream’s unstable guise,
And unsubstantial as the veriest air,
Thenceforward hung your presence on my eyes,
Worthy of all and any sacrifice,
Pale, but beyond my maddest memory fair!
Walked I by day, the phantom form was there;
Slept I, its radiance on my dreams was cast,
Teaching me mutely how I might prepare
To be, when we should meet again at last,
More pure, more humble, worthier,—and more wise.

XLI

No longer toy of each most idle whim,
But unto nobler aims apprentice made,
I filled my duty’s chalice to the brim,
And daily drank my portion, good or grim;—
So was Hope’s stirring summons well obeyed.
And, grew I ever of the end afraid,
Despaired I of my ultimate design,
In that dark hour, when most I needed aid,
As if my draught grew stimulant with wine,
Your promised lips hallowed the goblet’s rim.

XLII

Love, to all men that loathe their lives to-day
I fain would give of those rapt years a part;
Of all the words I dreamt I heard you say,
I could spare some to cheer the hapless way
Of every mortal who is sick at heart.
Of hope and honor all the cruel mart
I fain would have one rose relieve the gloom,
Appeasing the unutterable smart
With one sweet breath of that self-same perfume
That turned my own December into May.

XLIII

And yet—and yet—let the great world go past!
God holds within the hollow of His hand
Each scourged pariah, down-trodden, and outclassed,
Who pauses at the steep abyss, aghast;—
His will we cannot hope to understand.
Only of all good things that He hath planned,
And all that in the future He may send,
There is no further boon that I demand,
Since I have thisthat half I comprehend—
That I have held you to my heart at last!

XLIV

I know that I am worthier to-day
Of your consent than in that long ago
When first I loved you. All the winding way
Was somehow shot with an enlightening ray
That taught me things that I had need to know.
At every step there lay some sign, to show
How best to win you, where I had but lost:
The years were stern and merciless, but oh,
With you the prize, how little seems the cost:—
’T were in my heart tenfold the price to pay!

XLV

I often wondered if you ever guessed
How over leagues of sea your influence sped,
How in my every mood of vague unrest
Completest calm crept close against my breast,
Night lightened, and the dawn was mine instead:
And if, perchance, when, woven thread by thread,
My rhyme-linked thoughts lay on some printed page,
They came unto your hand, and, as you read,
You knew them birds bred in your soul’s pure cage,
That I had kissed, and given again the West.

XLVI

Rereading these, I mind me well what night
Saw each first flutter to my eager hand,
How to my heart I held the wanderer tight,
Smoothed its soft wings, all ruffled by the flight,
And strove each timid note to understand.
sweet unconscious breeder of the band,
Let others say my thoughts are all my own!
I know them nestlings of my native land,
Whose songs were taught by you and you alone:—
All I can do is note the strains aright.

XLVII

I love them all so well that I would fain
Believe you held their songs as dear as I,
That on your memory may perchance have lain
Some one or two of all the rhythmic train
That you inspired, and I taught how to fly.
Could I but know that some so softly lie
In that most silken nest, I were content!
Ah, tell me some sang true in brushing by
The only ear for which their songs were meant,
And made the meaning of my message plain.

XLVIII

For this the curse of those that tempt the pen:—
Where thousands read, one eye may never see
The thoughts that are but lifeless creatures, when
Taken into the myriad hearts of men,
If one intended ear heed not the plea.
What though I knew that, in mine own degree,
I had made lips to laugh and eyes to weep?
Rather that one unworthy word from me
Within your heart should sleep, and wake, and sleep:—
All I have done were worth the labor then.

XLIX

Heart of my heart, what all the world may do
To blot my name or keep its memory green
Is naught. I crave not to be of the few
Who, unforgotten, thread the ages through
And lordlier laurels with each cycle glean.
Grant me but this, whereon my life may lean:
As once I saw you in your bonny way
Your mirror kiss, that stood two flowers between,
Let these, my pages, the reflector play,
And kiss again what mirrors only you!

L

Dearest, to me come oftentimes at night
Pictures, wherein I find you fitly framed—
Shores of strange seas, incomparably bright,
And hill-girt landscapes, haloed with a light
Ethereal, that none hath ever named.
No ownership in these I could have claimed:
They are not of my making. Love alone
Could so blind Nature, utterly ashamed,
With beauty thus out-rivalling her own,
That seems transcendent to our mortal sight.

LI

For I am not of those who, in their dreams,
Are wont to rank their love with simple things,
With humble flowers, babble of vapid streams,
Or that rare note of rapture that redeems
The idle gossip that the blackbird sings.
The grim old earth hath seen too many springs,
Lovers enough have trapped her charm in words:
To all her flowers the mould of usage clings,
And, to the music of her weary birds,
The burden of reiterated themes.

LII

This love of ours doth wonderfully dwell
In new demesnes, born when it first arose;
Treads the young turf of some yet virgin dell,
Where novel buds miraculously swell
On trees not known before, and where unclose
Unprecedented vistas. Where it goes,
Strange birds invent unwonted melodies,
That in all earth no other lover knows
Save our two selves alone, for each of these
Sounds a fresh note, as of a new-wrought bell.

LIII

I cannot tell in words what lands these are
Through which I see you moving like a queen:
There is no earthly radiance like that star
That stands in silent majesty, afar,
The peaks of unfamiliar hills between.
Some unknown pigment turns the tender green
Of all that dreaming landscape to a hue
That never was, save in the lovely scene
That Love hath only planned for framing you,
And that no mortal hand could make or mar.

LIV

There is a sheen in those soft gowns you wear
Like water turned to opal by the moon;
A lustre in those jewels that you bear,
Twined in and out amid your dusky hair,
Like the still stars, and like the blaze of noon.
There is a perfume of some sweeter June
Than earth hath seen, that follows where you go;
And all the solemn silence is atune
With unvoiced songs, such as the angels know,
Born without breath upon the breathless air!

LV

We may not hope to find each other thus
In waking hours. Our days are too beset
With the world’s voices, shrill and clamorous:
Life is too sharply strained, too strenuous—
We are but mortal, and we may forget!
The momentary pang of some regret
May lay its hand an instant on your eyes
And mine, dear heart, and cloud our vision—yet
Remember that with earthly fears and sighs
We two have naught to do, nor they with us.

LVI

What though unbidden tears may turn us blind?
Twilight still comes, and still brings sweet release:
Merciful night, in spite of all, shall find
Us waiting each for each, for sleep is kind,
And moulds from sorrow’s clay the cup of peace.
Heart of my heart, drink deep of that surcease
That at her goblet’s rim divinely gleams:
Whate’er may be deceptive day’s caprice,
I wait you on the borderland of dreams,
Where the world stumbles and is left behind!

LVII

And, through my visions as you thread your way,
Girt with that grace my eyes alone may see,
If I make bold your noiseless steps to stay,
It is because in sleep alone I may
Be half to you of all that I would be.
It is because my longing lips, set free,
Can compass then alone each subtle phrase,
And snare in speech that magic melody
Which, since your coming, sings adown my days.
Only in sleep my lips my heart obey.

LVIII

And who shall say but what our dreams may tell
Some secret we were hardly meant to know,
As if a feather from a rapt lark fell,
To say that in high heaven all things are well,
However black the heart of man below?
If through my visions thus you nightly go,
Robed round with love, may not my dreaming mean
That some day we may wander to and fro
In unknown meadows gowned in such a green
As all the fields of earth cannot excel?

LIX

Ah, love, there is a pledge of keener bliss
In these unbidden dreams of sleeping hours,
That set all right that may have been amiss,
And lend us wings to clear whate’er abyss
Darkly across our waking pathway glowers.
There is some promise in these strange new flowers
Holier than we have dreamt of or have planned;
Some fairer fate eternally is ours:—
Only it is so hard to understand.
You love me! Are there greater things than this?

LX

I think that in the past, unheard, unseen,
All influences of the earth and air,
The gleam of water, and the forest’s green,
Have spun some cobweb sympathy between
Our hearts, now one in finding them so fair:
That every sunset taught us to prepare
For the pure dawn when Love was sure to rise;
That every cloud but made us more aware
That soon or late his sun would greet our eyes,
And all our heaven be cloudless and serene!

LXI

Else, how should we have come to understand
The perfect meaning of this perfect day?
How could this hour, unbidden and unplanned,
Bring in its train such infinite command
Of all the things we do not need to say?
It is too soon, mayhap, to trace the way
By which we came, guided by birds and flowers,
To the full knowledge of the joys of May:—
We can retrace the path in later hours,
And all our haunts revisit, hand in hand.

LXII

To-night it is enough for us to know
That we are one; to know that, if we will,
We may a bridge across the darkness throw,
Whereon our tender thoughts may come and go,
In silent love that distance cannot kill.
I only seek the heart-begotten skill
To put in simple words this truth sublime:—
That I have loved you, dearest, love you still,
And so shall love you till the end of time!
It is enough that what is so is so.

LXIII

Let me but tell you, lamely if I must,
Of how I love you; how, despite all wiles,
That tender flower, that in my boyhood thrust
Its star-eyed promise from the barren dust,
Still on my path with purest fragrance smiles;
Of how my heart returns, through weary miles,
To that song-spilling throng of birds unseen
Whose inter-rippling music so beguiles
All the long hours, the dawn and dark between.
Love, let me place the secret in your trust!

LXIV

I loved you first, I know not how or where:—
The world began upon the day we met!
Truth’s self slept in your eyes; and in your hair
The sun lay trapped, as in a silken snare:
The tinkle of some crystal fountain’s jet
Sang in your voice; a hint of violet
Slept on your breath, and dawn’s divinest glow
Flushed your soft cheek—but ah, more tender yet
The ivory of your throat’s ascending snow!
I loved you first when first I found you fair.

LXV

Could you but guess how like the dawn you grew
Upon my east, slow as such dawnings will!
Spell-bound and breathless, diademed with dew.
My sunless world its sudden sovereign knew;
And all the fern-fringed forest waited, still.
Slow spread the glory on the distant hill,
From that faint early flush grown clear and strong,
And then, with one divinely daring thrill,
A single bird unleashed its soul in song,
And swung exultant upward in the blue!

LXVI

I loved you first because, when first you stood
Upon the threshold of my world new-born,
That strange new note I dimly understood
Leapt laughing from the bosom of the wood
Straight to the arms of my supremest morn!
Because your clear eyes, innocent of scorn,
Swept infinite horizons into view;
And the gray hazes, from their moorings torn,
Revealed wide fields that thenceforth, knowing you,
It was for me to till for gain and good.

LXVII

Yet was I blind to all the better part
Of morning’s mute miraculous intent.
That spell you wove about me at the start,
Conjured to life by simple beauty’s art,
Told but a tithe of all the truth it meant:
And all the higher purpose that you lent
Unto my life, went wrapped within a veil.
Uneloquent, the message that was sent,
Wan with desire of speech, stood, proud and pale,
Outside the holiest holy of my heart.

LXVIII

The chiefest lessons Life makes clear are those
She teaches most at leisure. Sure and slow
Successive leaves of her wise book unclose;
And, day by day, the vital story grows
To consummation, till we come to know
Its perfect purport. All that lay below
The rapture of my earliest glimpse of you
Only that stoic tutor Time could show:—
Long evenings of reiterated dew
Alone perfect the perfume of the rose!

LXIX

The patient years polished with practised hand
Love’s crystal to a smooth symmetric swell,
Till the curved lens lay, accurately planned,
Flawlessly fitted to the brazen band
Within whose compass it was meant to dwell.
Then from my eyes the scales of blindness fell:
Undreamt-of planets swam into my ken.
And new-mapped heavens with stars made haste to spell
The meaning of the message that, till then,
It was not in my power to understand.

LXX

I love you now, not with the love alone
Of blind rebellious boyhood, as of old:
The blooms of mere enchantment, beauty-blown,
Lie withered, and the full fruit, slowlier grown,
Bends the slim bough beneath unmeasured gold.
The sun, of these new secrets, Time hath told—
The tempests of communicative tears—
The strong, blind winds of passion—and behold!—
The careful cultivation of the years
Hath made a harvest of what Love hath sown.

LXXI

I love you now, because that I and you
Were complements before the birth of Time;
Because our souls have come, the ages through,
Down to the moment when God’s purpose drew
The twain together in one perfect rhyme;
Because that I have made Love’s aria climb
The scales that every subtler phrase involved,
Until I struck the seventh chord sublime.
And one low word upon your lips resolved
My melody, beyond all music new!

LXXII

You are the magnet moon, and I the sea,
Cradling her face, climbing to catch more clear
The image of her pure tranquillity:
You are the west-wind, mistress of the lea,
And I the reed, that bows when she is near:
You are the spring, and I the obedient year
Whose soul awakens where her footfalls go:
You are the stream, and I a leaf, to veer
Where’er the singing current choose to flow:—
O light and breath, perfume and melody!

LXXIII

I love you for your lips the rose hath kissed—
Your cheeks, more tender than arbutus blooms;
For those half-hidden veins of amethyst
In your white throat, and for the tender mist
That clouds your eyes, as haze the autumn glooms:
For that faint subtle fragrance which perfumes
The soft bewitching tangle of your hair;
For your low laughter in the darkening rooms,
Where our instinctive hands lie linked, and where
Daylight and dark keep transitory tryst!

LXXIV

Life of my love, love of my life, in vain
I marshall every phrase that speech supplies:
The summits of my meaning yet remain
Cloud-capped, above the flat familiar plain
Of spoken thought, unsealed against the skies!
The mute interrogation of your eyes
My own must mutely meet. Ah, touch my hand,
And, like a child, instruct me in what wise
I may contrive to make you understand
The love that aught but silence must profane!

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Don Juan: Canto The Thirteenth

I now mean to be serious;--it is time,
Since laughter now-a-days is deem'd too serious.
A jest at Vice by Virtue's call'd a crime,
And critically held as deleterious:
Besides, the sad's a source of the sublime,
Although when long a little apt to weary us;
And therefore shall my lay soar high and solemn,
As an old temple dwindled to a column.

The Lady Adeline Amundeville
('Tis an old Norman name, and to be found
In pedigrees, by those who wander still
Along the last fields of that Gothic ground)
Was high-born, wealthy by her father's will,
And beauteous, even where beauties most abound,
In Britain - which of course true patriots find
The goodliest soil of body and of mind.

I'll not gainsay them; it is not my cue;
I'll leave them to their taste, no doubt the best:
An eye's an eye, and whether black or blue,
Is no great matter, so 'tis in request,
'Tis nonsense to dispute about a hue -
The kindest may be taken as a test.
The fair sex should be always fair; and no man,
Till thirty, should perceive there 's a plain woman.

And after that serene and somewhat dull
Epoch, that awkward corner turn'd for days
More quiet, when our moon's no more at full,
We may presume to criticise or praise;
Because indifference begins to lull
Our passions, and we walk in wisdom's ways;
Also because the figure and the face
Hint, that 'tis time to give the younger place.

I know that some would fain postpone this era,
Reluctant as all placemen to resign
Their post; but theirs is merely a chimera,
For they have pass'd life's equinoctial line:
But then they have their claret and Madeira
To irrigate the dryness of decline;
And county meetings, and the parliament,
And debt, and what not, for their solace sent.

And is there not religion, and reform,
Peace, war, the taxes, and what's call'd the 'Nation'?
The struggle to be pilots in a storm?
The landed and the monied speculation?
The joys of mutual hate to keep them warm,
Instead of love, that mere hallucination?
Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.

Rough Johnson, the great moralist, profess'd,
Right honestly, 'he liked an honest hater!'-
The only truth that yet has been confest
Within these latest thousand years or later.
Perhaps the fine old fellow spoke in jest:-
For my part, I am but a mere spectator,
And gaze where'er the palace or the hovel is,
Much in the mode of Goethe's Mephistopheles;

But neither love nor hate in much excess;
Though 'twas not once so. If I sneer sometimes,
It is because I cannot well do less,
And now and then it also suits my rhymes.
I should be very willing to redress
Men's wrongs, and rather check than punish crimes,
Had not Cervantes, in that too true tale
Of Quixote, shown how all such efforts fail.

Of all tales 'tis the saddest - and more sad,
Because it makes us smile: his hero 's right,
And still pursues the right;- to curb the bad
His only object, and 'gainst odds to fight
His guerdon: 'tis his virtue makes him mad!
But his adventures form a sorry sight;
A sorrier still is the great moral taught
By that real epic unto all who have thought.

Redressing injury, revenging wrong,
To aid the damsel and destroy the caitiff;
Opposing singly the united strong,
From foreign yoke to free the helpless native:-
Alas! must noblest views, like an old song,
Be for mere fancy's sport a theme creative,
A jest, a riddle, Fame through thin and thick sought!
And Socrates himself but Wisdom's Quixote?

Cervantes smiled Spain's chivalry away;
A single laugh demolish'd the right arm
Of his own country;- seldom since that day
Has Spain had heroes. While Romance could charm,
The world gave ground before her bright array;
And therefore have his volumes done such harm,
That all their glory, as a composition,
Was dearly purchased by his land's perdition.

I'm 'at my old lunes'- digression, and forget
The Lady Adeline Amundeville;
The fair most fatal Juan ever met,
Although she was not evil nor meant ill;
But Destiny and Passion spread the net
(Fate is a good excuse for our own will),
And caught them;- what do they not catch, methinks?
But I 'm not OEdipus, and life's a Sphinx.

I tell the tale as it is told, nor dare
To venture a solution: 'Davus sum!'
And now I will proceed upon the pair.
Sweet Adeline, amidst the gay world's hum,
Was the Queen -Bee, the glass of all that 's fair;
Whose charms made all men speak, and women dumb.
The last's a miracle, and such was reckon'd,
And since that time there has not been a second.

Chaste was she, to detraction's desperation,
And wedded unto one she had loved well -
A man known in the councils of the nation,
Cool, and quite English, imperturbable,
Though apt to act with fire upon occasion,
Proud of himself and her: the world could tell
Nought against either, and both seem'd secure -
She in her virtue, he in his hauteur.

It chanced some diplomatical relations,
Arising out of business, often brought
Himself and Juan in their mutual stations
Into close contact. Though reserved, nor caught
By specious seeming, Juan's youth, and patience,
And talent, on his haughty spirit wrought,
And form'd a basis of esteem, which ends
In making men what courtesy calls friends.

And thus Lord Henry, who was cautious as
Reserve and pride could make him, and full slow
In judging men - when once his judgment was
Determined, right or wrong, on friend or foe,
Had all the pertinacity pride has,
Which knows no ebb to its imperious flow,
And loves or hates, disdaining to be guided,
Because its own good pleasure hath decided.

His friendships, therefore, and no less aversions,
Though oft well founded, which confirm'd but more
His prepossessions, like the laws of Persians
And Medes, would ne'er revoke what went before.
His feelings had not those strange fits, like tertians,
Of common likings, which make some deplore
What they should laugh at - the mere ague still
Of men's regard, the fever or the chill.

''Tis not in mortals to command success:
But do you more, Sempronius - don't deserve it,'
And take my word, you won't have any less.
Be wary, watch the time, and always serve it;
Give gently way, when there's too great a press;
And for your conscience, only learn to nerve it,
For, like a racer, or a boxer training,
'Twill make, if proved, vast efforts without paining.

Lord Henry also liked to be superior,
As most men do, the little or the great;
The very lowest find out an inferior,
At least they think so, to exert their state
Upon: for there are very few things wearier
Than solitary Pride's oppressive weight,
Which mortals generously would divide,
By bidding others carry while they ride.

In birth, in rank, in fortune likewise equal,
O'er Juan he could no distinction claim;
In years he had the advantage of time's sequel;
And, as he thought, in country much the same -
Because bold Britons have a tongue and free quill,
At which all modern nations vainly aim;
And the Lord Henry was a great debater,
So that few members kept the house up later.

These were advantages: and then he thought -
It was his foible, but by no means sinister -
That few or none more than himself had caught
Court mysteries, having been himself a minister:
He liked to teach that which he had been taught,
And greatly shone whenever there had been a stir;
And reconciled all qualities which grace man,
Always a patriot, and sometimes a placeman.

He liked the gentle Spaniard for his gravity;
He almost honour'd him for his docility;
Because, though young, he acquiesced with suavity,
Or contradicted but with proud humility.
He knew the world, and would not see depravity
In faults which sometimes show the soil's fertility,
If that the weeds o'erlive not the first crop -
For then they are very difficult to stop.

And then he talk'd with him about Madrid,
Constantinople, and such distant places;
Where people always did as they were bid,
Or did what they should not with foreign graces.
Of coursers also spake they: Henry rid
Well, like most Englishmen, and loved the races;
And Juan, like a true-born Andalusian,
Could back a horse, as despots ride a Russian.

And thus acquaintance grew, at noble routs,
And diplomatic dinners, or at other -
For Juan stood well both with Ins and Outs,
As in freemasonry a higher brother.
Upon his talent Henry had no doubts;
His manner show'd him sprung from a high mother;
And all men like to show their hospitality
To him whose breeding matches with his quality.

At Blank-Blank Square;- for we will break no squares
By naming streets: since men are so censorious,
And apt to sow an author's wheat with tares,
Reaping allusions private and inglorious,
Where none were dreamt of, unto love's affairs,
Which were, or are, or are to be notorious,
That therefore do I previously declare,
Lord Henry's mansion was in Blank-Blank Square.

Also there bin another pious reason
For making squares and streets anonymous;
Which is, that there is scarce a single season
Which doth not shake some very splendid house
With some slight heart-quake of domestic treason -
A topic scandal doth delight to rouse:
Such I might stumble over unawares,
Unless I knew the very chastest squares.

'Tis true, I might have chosen Piccadilly,
A place where peccadillos are unknown;
But I have motives, whether wise or silly,
For letting that pure sanctuary alone.
Therefore I name not square, street, place, until I
Find one where nothing naughty can be shown,
A vestal shrine of innocence of heart:

At Henry's mansion then, in Blank-Blank Square,
Was Juan a recherche, welcome guest,
As many other noble scions were;
And some who had but talent for their crest;
Or wealth, which is a passport every where;
Or even mere fashion, which indeed's the best
Recommendation; and to be well drest
Will very often supersede the rest.

And since 'there's safety in a multitude
Of counsellors,' as Solomon has said,
Or some one for him, in some sage, grave mood;-
Indeed we see the daily proof display'd
In senates, at the bar, in wordy feud,
Where'er collective wisdom can parade,
Which is the only cause that we can guess
Of Britain's present wealth and happiness;-

But as 'there's safety' grafted in the number
'Of counsellors' for men, thus for the sex
A large acquaintance lets not Virtue slumber;
Or should it shake, the choice will more perplex -
Variety itself will more encumber.
'Midst many rocks we guard more against wrecks;
And thus with women: howsoe'er it shocks some's
Self-love, there's safety in a crowd of coxcombs.

But Adeline had not the least occasion
For such a shield, which leaves but little merit
To virtue proper, or good education.
Her chief resource was in her own high spirit,
Which judged mankind at their due estimation;
And for coquetry, she disdain'd to wear it:
Secure of admiration, its impression
Was faint, as of an every-day possession.

To all she was polite without parade;
To some she show'd attention of that kind
Which flatters, but is flattery convey'd
In such a sort as cannot leave behind
A trace unworthy either wife or maid;-
A gentle, genial courtesy of mind,
To those who were, or pass'd for meritorious,
Just to console sad glory for being glorious;

Which is in all respects, save now and then,
A dull and desolate appendage. Gaze
Upon the shades of those distinguish'd men
Who were or are the puppet-shows of praise,
The praise of persecution; gaze again
On the most favour'd; and amidst the blaze
Of sunset halos o'er the laurel-brow'd,
What can ye recognise?--a gilded cloud.

There also was of course in Adeline
That calm patrician polish in the address,
Which ne'er can pass the equinoctial line
Of any thing which nature would express;
Just as a mandarin finds nothing fine,-
At least his manner suffers not to guess
That any thing he views can greatly please.
Perhaps we have borrow'd this from the Chinese -

Perhaps from Horace: his 'Nil admirari'
Was what he call'd the 'Art of Happiness;'
An art on which the artists greatly vary,
And have not yet attain'd to much success.
However, 'tis expedient to be wary:
Indifference certes don't produce distress;
And rash enthusiasm in good society
Were nothing but a moral inebriety.

But Adeline was not indifferent: for
(Now for a common-place!) beneath the snow,
As a volcano holds the lava more
Within--et caetera. Shall I go on?--No!
I hate to hunt down a tired metaphor,
So let the often-used volcano go.
Poor thing! How frequently, by me and others,
It hath been stirr'd up till its smoke quite smothers!

I'll have another figure in a trice:-
What say you to a bottle of champagne?
Frozen into a very vinous ice,
Which leaves few drops of that immortal rain,
Yet in the very centre, past all price,
About a liquid glassful will remain;
And this is stronger than the strongest grape
Could e'er express in its expanded shape:

'Tis the whole spirit brought to a quintessence;
And thus the chilliest aspects may concentre
A hidden nectar under a cold presence.
And such are many - though I only meant her
From whom I now deduce these moral lessons,
On which the Muse has always sought to enter.
And your cold people are beyond all price,
When once you have broken their confounded ice.

But after all they are a North-West Passage
Unto the glowing India of the soul;
And as the good ships sent upon that message
Have not exactly ascertain'd the Pole
(Though Parry's efforts look a lucky presage),
Thus gentlemen may run upon a shoal;
For if the Pole's not open, but all frost
(A chance still), 'tis a voyage or vessel lost.

And young beginners may as well commence
With quiet cruising o'er the ocean woman;
While those who are not beginners should have sense
Enough to make for port, ere time shall summon
With his grey signal-flag; and the past tense,
The dreary 'Fuimus' of all things human,
Must be declined, while life's thin thread's spun out
Between the gaping heir and gnawing gout.

But heaven must be diverted; its diversion
Is sometimes truculent - but never mind:
The world upon the whole is worth the assertion
(If but for comfort) that all things are kind:
And that same devilish doctrine of the Persian,
Of the two principles, but leaves behind
As many doubts as any other doctrine
Has ever puzzled Faith withal, or yoked her in.

The English winter - ending in July,
To recommence in August - now was done.
'Tis the postilion's paradise: wheels fly;
On roads, east, south, north, west, there is a run.
But for post-horses who finds sympathy?
Man's pity's for himself, or for his son,
Always premising that said son at college
Has not contracted much more debt than knowledge.

The London winter's ended in July -
Sometimes a little later. I don't err
In this: whatever other blunders lie
Upon my shoulders, here I must aver
My Muse a glass of weatherology;
For parliament is our barometer:
Let radicals its other acts attack,
Its sessions form our only almanack.

When its quicksilver's down at zero,--lo
Coach, chariot, luggage, baggage, equipage!
Wheels whirl from Carlton palace to Soho,
And happiest they who horses can engage;
The turnpikes glow with dust; and Rotten Row
Sleeps from the chivalry of this bright age;
And tradesmen, with long bills and longer faces,
Sigh - as the postboys fasten on the traces.

They and their bills, 'Arcadians both,' are left
To the Greek kalends of another session.
Alas! to them of ready cash bereft,
What hope remains? Of hope the full possession,
Or generous draft, conceded as a gift,
At a long date - till they can get a fresh one -
Hawk'd about at a discount, small or large;
Also the solace of an overcharge.

But these are trifles. Downward flies my lord,
Nodding beside my lady in his carriage.
Away! away! 'Fresh horses!' are the word,
And changed as quickly as hearts after marriage;
The obsequious landlord hath the change restored;
The postboys have no reason to disparage
Their fee; but ere the water'd wheels may hiss hence,
The ostler pleads too for a reminiscence.

'Tis granted; and the valet mounts the dickey -
That gentleman of lords and gentlemen;
Also my lady's gentlewoman, tricky,
Trick'd out, but modest more than poet's pen
Can paint,- 'Cosi viaggino i Ricchi!'
(Excuse a foreign slipslop now and then,
If but to show I've travell'd; and what's travel,
Unless it teaches one to quote and cavil?)

The London winter and the country summer
Were well nigh over. 'Tis perhaps a pity,
When nature wears the gown that doth become her,
To lose those best months in a sweaty city,
And wait until the nightingale grows dumber,
Listening debates not very wise or witty,
Ere patriots their true country can remember;-
But there 's no shooting (save grouse) till September.

I've done with my tirade. The world was gone;
The twice two thousand, for whom earth was made,
Were vanish'd to be what they call alone -
That is, with thirty servants for parade,
As many guests, or more; before whom groan
As many covers, duly, daily, laid.
Let none accuse Old England's hospitality -
Its quantity is but condensed to quality.

Lord Henry and the Lady Adeline
Departed like the rest of their compeers,
The peerage, to a mansion very fine;
The Gothic Babel of a thousand years.
None than themselves could boast a longer line,
Where time through heroes and through beauties steers;
And oaks as olden as their pedigree
Told of their sires, a tomb in every tree.

A paragraph in every paper told
Of their departure: such is modern fame:
'Tis pity that it takes no farther hold
Than an advertisement, or much the same;
When, ere the ink be dry, the sound grows cold.
The Morning Post was foremost to proclaim -
'Departure, for his country seat, to-day,
Lord H. Amundeville and Lady A.

'We understand the splendid host intends
To entertain, this autumn, a select
And numerous party of his noble friends;
'Midst whom we have heard, from sources quite correct,
With many more by rank and fashion deck'd;
Also a foreigner of high condition,
The envoy of the secret Russian mission.'

And thus we see - who doubts the Morning Post?
(Whose articles are like the 'Thirty -nine,'
Which those most swear to who believe them most)-
Our gay Russ Spaniard was ordain'd to shine,
Deck'd by the rays reflected from his host,
With those who, Pope says, 'greatly daring dine.'
'T is odd, but true,--last war the News abounded
More with these dinners than the kill'd or wounded;-

As thus: 'On Thursday there was a grand dinner;
Present, Lords A. B. C.'- Earls, dukes, by name
Announced with no less pomp than victory's winner:
Then underneath, and in the very same
Column; date, 'Falmouth. There has lately been here
The Slap-dash regiment, so well known to fame,
Whose loss in the late action we regret:
The vacancies are fill'd up - see Gazette.'

To Norman Abbey whirl'd the noble pair,-
An old, old monastery once, and now
Still older mansion; of a rich and rare
Mix'd Gothic, such as artists all allow
Few specimens yet left us can compare
Withal: it lies perhaps a little low,
Because the monks preferr'd a hill behind,
To shelter their devotion from the wind.

It stood embosom'd in a happy valley,
Crown'd by high woodlands, where the Druid oak
Stood like Caractacus in act to rally
His host, with broad arms 'gainst the thunderstroke;
And from beneath his boughs were seen to sally
The dappled foresters - as day awoke,
The branching stag swept down with all his herd,
To quaff a brook which murmur'd like a bird.

Before the mansion lay a lucid lake,
Broad as transparent, deep, and freshly fed
By a river, which its soften'd way did take
In currents through the calmer water spread
Around: the wildfowl nestled in the brake
And sedges, brooding in their liquid bed:
The woods sloped downwards to its brink, and stood
With their green faces fix'd upon the flood.

Its outlet dash'd into a deep cascade,
Sparkling with foam, until again subsiding,
Its shriller echoes - like an infant made
Quiet - sank into softer ripples, gliding
Into a rivulet; and thus allay'd,
Pursued its course, now gleaming, and now hiding
Its windings through the woods; now clear, now blue,
According as the skies their shadows threw.

A glorious remnant of the Gothic pile
(While yet the church was Rome's) stood half apart
In a grand arch, which once screen'd many an aisle.
These last had disappear'd - a loss to art:
The first yet frown'd superbly o'er the soil,
And kindled feelings in the roughest heart,
Which mourn'd the power of time's or tempest's march,
In gazing on that venerable arch.

Within a niche, nigh to its pinnacle,
Twelve saints had once stood sanctified in stone;
But these had fallen, not when the friars fell,
But in the war which struck Charles from his throne,
When each house was a fortalice, as tell
The annals of full many a line undone,-
The gallant cavaliers, who fought in vain
For those who knew not to resign or reign.

But in a higher niche, alone, but crowned,
The Virgin Mother of the God -born Child,
With her Son in her blessed arms, look'd round,
Spared by some chance when all beside was spoil'd;
She made the earth below seem holy ground.
This may be superstition, weak or wild,
But even the faintest relics of a shrine
Of any worship wake some thoughts divine.

A mighty window, hollow in the centre,
Shorn of its glass of thousand colourings,
Through which the deepen'd glories once could enter,
Streaming from off the sun like seraph's wings,
Now yawns all desolate: now loud, now fainter,
The gale sweeps through its fretwork, and oft sings
The owl his anthem, where the silenced quire
Lie with their hallelujahs quench'd like fire.

But in the noontide of the moon, and when
The wind is winged from one point of heaven,
There moans a strange unearthly sound, which then
Is musical - a dying accent driven
Through the huge arch, which soars and sinks again.
Some deem it but the distant echo given
Back to the night wind by the waterfall,
And harmonised by the old choral wall:

Others, that some original shape, or form
Shaped by decay perchance, hath given the power
(Though less than that of Memnon's statue, warm
In Egypt's rays, to harp at a fix'd hour)
To this grey ruin, with a voice to charm.
Sad, but serene, it sweeps o'er tree or tower;
The cause I know not, nor can solve; but such
The fact:- I 've heard it - once perhaps too much.

Amidst the court a Gothic fountain play'd,
Symmetrical, but deck'd with carvings quaint -
Strange faces, like to men in masquerade,
And here perhaps a monster, there a saint:
The spring gush'd through grim mouths of granite made,
And sparkled into basins, where it spent
Its little torrent in a thousand bubbles,
Like man's vain glory, and his vainer troubles.

The mansion's self was vast and venerable,
With more of the monastic than has been
Elsewhere preserved: the cloisters still were stable,
The cells, too, and refectory, I ween:
An exquisite small chapel had been able,
Still unimpair'd, to decorate the scene;
The rest had been reform'd, replaced, or sunk,
And spoke more of the baron than the monk.

Huge halls, long galleries, spacious chambers, join'd
By no quite lawful marriage of the arts,
Might shock a connoisseur; but when combined,
Form'd a whole which, irregular in parts,
Yet left a grand impression on the mind,
At least of those whose eyes are in their hearts:
We gaze upon a giant for his stature,
Nor judge at first if all be true to nature.

Steel barons, molten the next generation
To silken rows of gay and garter'd earls,
Glanced from the walls in goodly preservation;
And Lady Marys blooming into girls,
With fair long locks, had also kept their station;
And countesses mature in robes and pearls:
Also some beauties of Sir Peter Lely,
Whose drapery hints we may admire them freely.

Judges in very formidable ermine
Were there, with brows that did not much invite
The accused to think their lordships would determine
His cause by leaning much from might to right:
Bishops, who had not left a single sermon:
Attorneys -general, awful to the sight,
As hinting more (unless our judgments warp us)
Of the 'Star Chamber' than of 'Habeas Corpus.'

Generals, some all in armour, of the old
And iron time, ere lead had ta'en the lead;
Others in wigs of Marlborough's martial fold,
Huger than twelve of our degenerate breed:
Lordlings, with staves of white or keys of gold:
Nimrods, whose canvass scarce contain'd the steed;
And here and there some stern high patriot stood,
Who could not get the place for which he sued.

But ever and anon, to soothe your vision,
Fatigued with these hereditary glories,
There rose a Carlo Dolce or a Titian,
Or wilder group of savage Salvatore's;
Here danced Albano's boys, and here the sea shone
In Vernet's ocean lights; and there the stories
Of martyrs awed, as Spagnoletto tainted
His brush with all the blood of all the sainted.

Here sweetly spread a landscape of Lorraine;
There Rembrandt made his darkness equal light,
Or gloomy Caravaggio's gloomier stain
Bronzed o'er some lean and stoic anchorite:-
But, lo! a Teniers woos, and not in vain,
Your eyes to revel in a livelier sight:
His bell -mouth'd goblet makes me feel quite Danish
Or Dutch with thirst - What, ho! a flask of Rhenish.

O reader! if that thou canst read,- and know,
'T is not enough to spell, or even to read,
To constitute a reader; there must go
Virtues of which both you and I have need;-
Firstly, begin with the beginning (though
That clause is hard); and secondly, proceed;
Thirdly, commence not with the end - or, sinning
In this sort, end at least with the beginning.

But, reader, thou hast patient been of late,
While I, without remorse of rhyme, or fear,
Have built and laid out ground at such a rate,
Dan Phoebus takes me for an auctioneer.
That poets were so from their earliest date,
By Homer's 'Catalogue of ships' is clear;
But a mere modern must be moderate -
I spare you then the furniture and plate.

The mellow autumn came, and with it came
The promised party, to enjoy its sweets.
The corn is cut, the manor full of game;
The pointer ranges, and the sportsman beats
In russet jacket:- lynx -like is his aim;
Full grows his bag, and wonderful his feats.
Ah, nut -brown partridges! Ah, brilliant pheasants!
And ah, ye poachers!- 'T is no sport for peasants.

An English autumn, though it hath no vines,
Blushing with Bacchant coronals along
The paths, o'er which the far festoon entwines
The red grape in the sunny lands of song,
Hath yet a purchased choice of choicest wines;
The claret light, and the Madeira strong.
If Britain mourn her bleakness, we can tell her,
The very best of vineyards is the cellar.

Then, if she hath not that serene decline
Which makes the southern autumn's day appear
As if 't would to a second spring resign
The season, rather than to winter drear,
Of in -door comforts still she hath a mine,-
The sea -coal fires the 'earliest of the year;'
Without doors, too, she may compete in mellow,
As what is lost in green is gain'd in yellow.

And for the effeminate villeggiatura -
Rife with more horns than hounds - she hath the chase,
So animated that it might allure
Saint from his beads to join the jocund race;
Even Nimrod's self might leave the plains of Dura,
And wear the Melton jacket for a space:
If she hath no wild boars, she hath a tame
Preserve of bores, who ought to be made game.

The noble guests, assembled at the Abbey,
Consisted of - we give the sex the pas -
The Duchess of Fitz -Fulke; the Countess Crabby;
The Ladies Scilly, Busey;- Miss Eclat,
Miss Bombazeen, Miss Mackstay, Miss O'Tabby,
And Mrs. Rabbi, the rich banker's squaw;
Also the honourable Mrs. Sleep,
Who look'd a white lamb, yet was a black sheep:

With other Countesses of Blank - but rank;
At once the 'lie' and the 'elite' of crowds;
Who pass like water filter'd in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds;
Or paper turn'd to money by the Bank:
No matter how or why, the passport shrouds
The 'passee' and the past; for good society
Is no less famed for tolerance than piety,-

That is, up to a certain point; which point
Forms the most difficult in punctuation.
Appearances appear to form the joint
On which it hinges in a higher station;
And so that no explosion cry 'Aroint
Thee, witch!' or each Medea has her Jason;
Or (to the point with Horace and with Pulci)
'Omne tulit punctum, quae miscuit utile dulci.'

I can't exactly trace their rule of right,
Which hath a little leaning to a lottery.
I 've seen a virtuous woman put down quite
By the mere combination of a coterie;
Also a so -so matron boldly fight
Her way back to the world by dint of plottery,
And shine the very Siria of the spheres,
Escaping with a few slight, scarless sneers.

I have seen more than I 'll say:- but we will see
How our villeggiatura will get on.
The party might consist of thirty -three
Of highest caste - the Brahmins of the ton.
I have named a few, not foremost in degree,
But ta'en at hazard as the rhyme may run.
By way of sprinkling, scatter'd amongst these,
There also were some Irish absentees.

There was Parolles, too, the legal bully,
Who limits all his battles to the bar
And senate: when invited elsewhere, truly,
He shows more appetite for words than war.
There was the young bard Rackrhyme, who had newly
Come out and glimmer'd as a six weeks' star.
There was Lord Pyrrho, too, the great freethinker;
And Sir John Pottledeep, the mighty drinker.

There was the Duke of Dash, who was a - duke,
'Ay, every inch a' duke; there were twelve peers
Like Charlemagne's - and all such peers in look
And intellect, that neither eyes nor ears
For commoners had ever them mistook.
There were the six Miss Rawbolds - pretty dears!
All song and sentiment; whose hearts were set
Less on a convent than a coronet.

There were four Honourable Misters, whose
Honour was more before their names than after;
There was the preux Chevalier de la Ruse,
Whom France and Fortune lately deign'd to waft here,
Whose chiefly harmless talent was to amuse;
But the clubs found it rather serious laughter,
Because - such was his magic power to please -
The dice seem'd charm'd, too, with his repartees.

There was Dick Dubious, the metaphysician,
Who loved philosophy and a good dinner;
Angle, the soi -disant mathematician;
Sir Henry Silvercup, the great race -winner.
There was the Reverend Rodomont Precisian,
Who did not hate so much the sin as sinner;
And Lord Augustus Fitz -Plantagenet,
Good at all things, but better at a bet.

There was jack jargon, the gigantic guardsman;
And General Fireface, famous in the field,
A great tactician, and no less a swordsman,
Who ate, last war, more Yankees than he kill'd.
There was the waggish Welsh Judge, Jefferies Hardsman,
In his grave office so completely skill'd,
That when a culprit came far condemnation,
He had his judge's joke for consolation.

Good company 's a chess -board - there are kings,
Queens, bishops, knights, rooks, pawns; the world 's a game;
Save that the puppets pull at their own strings,
Methinks gay Punch hath something of the same.
My Muse, the butterfly hath but her wings,
Not stings, and flits through ether without aim,
Alighting rarely:- were she but a hornet,
Perhaps there might be vices which would mourn it.

I had forgotten - but must not forget -
An orator, the latest of the session,
Who had deliver'd well a very set
Smooth speech, his first and maidenly transgression
Upon debate: the papers echoed yet
With his debut, which made a strong impression,
And rank'd with what is every day display'd -
'The best first speech that ever yet was made.'

Proud of his 'Hear hims!' proud, too, of his vote
And lost virginity of oratory,
Proud of his learning (just enough to quote),
He revell'd in his Ciceronian glory:
With memory excellent to get by rote,
With wit to hatch a pun or tell a story,
Graced with some merit, and with more effrontery,
'His country's pride,' he came down to the country.

There also were two wits by acclamation,
Longbow from Ireland, Strongbow from the Tweed,
Both lawyers and both men of education;
But Strongbow's wit was of more polish'd breed:
Longbow was rich in an imagination
As beautiful and bounding as a steed,
But sometimes stumbling over a potato,-
While Strongbow's best things might have come from Cato.

Strongbow was like a new -tuned harpsichord;
But Longbow wild as an AEolian harp,
With which the winds of heaven can claim accord,
And make a music, whether flat or sharp.
Of Strongbow's talk you would not change a word:
At Longbow's phrases you might sometimes carp:
Both wits - one born so, and the other bred -
This by his heart, his rival by his head.

If all these seem a heterogeneous mas
To be assembled at a country seat,
Yet think, a specimen of every class
Is better than a humdrum tete -a -tete.
The days of Comedy are gone, alas!
When Congreve's fool could vie with Moliere's bete:
Society is smooth'd to that excess,
That manners hardly differ more than dress.

Our ridicules are kept in the back -ground -
Ridiculous enough, but also dull;
Professions, too, are no more to be found
Professional; and there is nought to cull
Of folly's fruit; for though your fools abound,
They're barren, and not worth the pains to pull.
Society is now one polish'd horde,
Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.

But from being farmers, we turn gleaners, gleaning
The scanty but right -well thresh'd ears of truth;
And, gentle reader! when you gather meaning,
You may be Boaz, and I - modest Ruth.
Farther I 'd quote, but Scripture intervening
Forbids. it great impression in my youth
Was made by Mrs. Adams, where she cries,
'That Scriptures out of church are blasphemies.'

But what we can we glean in this vile age
Of chaff, although our gleanings be not grist.
I must not quite omit the talking sage,
Kit -Cat, the famous Conversationist,
Who, in his common -place book, had a page
Prepared each morn for evenings. 'List, oh, list!'-
'Alas, poor ghost!'- What unexpected woes
Await those who have studied their bon -mots!

Firstly, they must allure the conversation
By many windings to their clever clinch;
And secondly, must let slip no occasion,
Nor bate (abate) their hearers of an inch,
But take an ell - and make a great sensation,
If possible; and thirdly, never flinch
When some smart talker puts them to the test,
But seize the last word, which no doubt 's the best.

Lord Henry and his lady were the hosts;
The party we have touch'd on were the guests:
Their table was a board to tempt even ghosts
To pass the Styx for more substantial feasts.
I will not dwell upon ragouts or roasts,
Albeit all human history attests
That happiness for man - the hungry sinner!-
Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.

Witness the lands which 'flow'd with milk and honey,'
Held out unto the hungry Israelites;
To this we have added since, the love of money,
The only sort of pleasure which requites.
Youth fades, and leaves our days no longer sunny;
We tire of mistresses and parasites;
But oh, ambrosial cash! Ah! who would lose thee?
When we no more can use, or even abuse thee!

The gentlemen got up betimes to shoot,
Or hunt: the young, because they liked the sport -
The first thing boys like after play and fruit;
The middle -aged to make the day more short;
For ennui is a growth of English root,
Though nameless in our language:- we retort
The fact for words, and let the French translate
That awful yawn which sleep can not abate.

The elderly walk'd through the library,
And tumbled books, or criticised the pictures,
Or saunter'd through the gardens piteously,
And made upon the hot -house several strictures,
Or rode a nag which trotted not too high,
Or on the morning papers read their lectures,
Or on the watch their longing eyes would fix,
Longing at sixty for the hour of six.

But none were 'gene:' the great hour of union
Was rung by dinner's knell; till then all were
Masters of their own time - or in communion,
Or solitary, as they chose to bear
The hours, which how to pass is but to few known.
Each rose up at his own, and had to spare
What time he chose for dress, and broke his fast
When, where, and how he chose for that repast.

The ladies - some rouged, some a little pale -
Met the morn as they might. If fine, they rode,
Or walk'd; if foul, they read, or told a tale,
Sung, or rehearsed the last dance from abroad;
Discuss'd the fashion which might next prevail,
And settled bonnets by the newest code,
Or cramm'd twelve sheets into one little letter,
To make each correspondent a new debtor.

For some had absent lovers, all had friends.
The earth has nothing like a she epistle,
And hardly heaven - because it never ends.
I love the mystery of a female missal,
Which, like a creed, ne'er says all it intends,
But full of cunning as Ulysses' whistle,
When he allured poor Dolon:- you had better
Take care what you reply to such a letter.

Then there were billiards; cards, too, but no dice;-
Save in the clubs no man of honour plays;-
Boats when 't was water, skating when 't was ice,
And the hard frost destroy'd the scenting days:
And angling, too, that solitary vice,
Whatever Izaak Walton sings or says;
The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.

With evening came the banquet and the wine;
The conversazione; the duet,
Attuned by voices more or less divine
(My heart or head aches with the memory yet).
The four Miss Rawbolds in a glee would shine;
But the two youngest loved more to be set
Down to the harp - because to music's charms
They added graceful necks, white hands and arms.

Sometimes a dance (though rarely on field days,
For then the gentlemen were rather tired)
Display'd some sylph -like figures in its maze;
Then there was small -talk ready when required;
Flirtation - but decorous; the mere praise
Of charms that should or should not be admired.
The hunters fought their fox -hunt o'er again,
And then retreated soberly - at ten.

The politicians, in a nook apart,
Discuss'd the world, and settled all the spheres;
The wits watch'd every loophole for their art,
To introduce a bon -mot head and ears;
Small is the rest of those who would be smart,
A moment's good thing may have cost them years
Before they find an hour to introduce it;
And then, even then, some bore may make them lose it.

But all was gentle and aristocratic
In this our party; polish'd, smooth, and cold,
As Phidian forms cut out of marble Attic.
There now are no Squire Westerns as of old;
And our Sophias are not so emphatic,
But fair as then, or fairer to behold.
We have no accomplish'd blackguards, like Tom Jones,
But gentlemen in stays, as stiff as stones.

They separated at an early hour;
That is, ere midnight - which is London's noon:
But in the country ladies seek their bower
A little earlier than the waning moon.
Peace to the slumbers of each folded flower -
May the rose call back its true colour soon!
Good hours of fair cheeks are the fairest tinters,
And lower the price of rouge - at least some winters.

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Canto the Thirteenth

I
I now mean to be serious; -- it is time,
Since laughter now-a-days is deem'd too serious.
A jest at Vice by Virtue's call'd a crime,
And critically held as deleterious:
Besides, the sad's a source of the sublime,
Although when long a little apt to weary us;
And therefore shall my lay soar high and solemn,
As an old temple dwindled to a column.

II
The Lady Adeline Amundeville
('T is an old Norman name, and to be found
In pedigrees, by those who wander still
Along the last fields of that Gothic ground)
Was high-born, wealthy by her father's will,
And beauteous, even where beauties most abound,
In Britain -- which of course true patriots find
The goodliest soil of body and of mind.

III
I'll not gainsay them; it is not my cue;
I'll leave them to their taste, no doubt the best:
An eye's an eye, and whether black or blue,
Is no great matter, so 't is in request,
'T is nonsense to dispute about a hue --
The kindest may be taken as a test.
The fair sex should be always fair; and no man,
Till thirty, should perceive there's a plain woman.

IV
And after that serene and somewhat dull
Epoch, that awkward corner turn'd for days
More quiet, when our moon's no more at full,
We may presume to criticise or praise;
Because indifference begins to lull
Our passions, and we walk in wisdom's ways;
Also because the figure and the face
Hint, that 't is time to give the younger place.

V
I know that some would fain postpone this era,
Reluctant as all placemen to resign
Their post; but theirs is merely a chimera,
For they have pass'd life's equinoctial line:
But then they have their claret and Madeira
To irrigate the dryness of decline;
And county meetings, and the parliament,
And debt, and what not, for their solace sent.

VI
And is there not religion, and reform,
Peace, war, the taxes, and what's call'd the "Nation"?
The struggle to be pilots in a storm?
The landed and the monied speculation?
The joys of mutual hate to keep them warm,
Instead of love, that mere hallucination?
Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.

VII
Rough Johnson, the great moralist, profess'd,
Right honestly, "he liked an honest hater!" --
The only truth that yet has been confest
Within these latest thousand years or later.
Perhaps the fine old fellow spoke in jest: --
For my part, I am but a mere spectator,
And gaze where'er the palace or the hovel is,
Much in the mode of Goethe's Mephistopheles;

VIII
But neither love nor hate in much excess;
Though 't was not once so. If I sneer sometimes,
It is because I cannot well do less,
And now and then it also suits my rhymes.
I should be very willing to redress
Men's wrongs, and rather check than punish crimes,
Had not Cervantes, in that too true tale
Of Quixote, shown how all such efforts fail.

IX
Of all tales 't is the saddest -- and more sad,
Because it makes us smile: his hero's right,
And still pursues the right; -- to curb the bad
His only object, and 'gainst odds to fight
His guerdon: 't is his virtue makes him mad!
But his adventures form a sorry sight;
A sorrier still is the great moral taught
By that real epic unto all who have thought.

X
Redressing injury, revenging wrong,
To aid the damsel and destroy the caitiff;
Opposing singly the united strong,
From foreign yoke to free the helpless native: --
Alas! must noblest views, like an old song,
Be for mere fancy's sport a theme creative,
A jest, a riddle, Fame through thin and thick sought!
And Socrates himself but Wisdom's Quixote?

XI
Cervantes smiled Spain's chivalry away;
A single laugh demolish'd the right arm
Of his own country; -- seldom since that day
Has Spain had heroes. While Romance could charm,
The world gave ground before her bright array;
And therefore have his volumes done such harm,
That all their glory, as a composition,
Was dearly purchased by his land's perdition.

XII
I'm "at my old lunes" -- digression, and forget
The Lady Adeline Amundeville;
The fair most fatal Juan ever met,
Although she was not evil nor meant ill;
But Destiny and Passion spread the net
(Fate is a good excuse for our own will),
And caught them; -- what do they not catch, methinks?
But I'm not Oedipus, and life's a Sphinx.

XIII
I tell the tale as it is told, nor dare
To venture a solution: "Davus sum!"
And now I will proceed upon the pair.
Sweet Adeline, amidst the gay world's hum,
Was the Queen-Bee, the glass of all that's fair;
Whose charms made all men speak, and women dumb.
The last's a miracle, and such was reckon'd,
And since that time there has not been a second.

XIV
Chaste was she, to detraction's desperation,
And wedded unto one she had loved well --
A man known in the councils of the nation,
Cool, and quite English, imperturbable,
Though apt to act with fire upon occasion,
Proud of himself and her: the world could tell
Nought against either, and both seem'd secure --
She in her virtue, he in his hauteur.

XV
It chanced some diplomatical relations,
Arising out of business, often brought
Himself and Juan in their mutual stations
Into close contact. Though reserved, nor caught
By specious seeming, Juan's youth, and patience,
And talent, on his haughty spirit wrought,
And form'd a basis of esteem, which ends
In making men what courtesy calls friends.

XVI
And thus Lord Henry, who was cautious as
Reserve and pride could make him, and full slow
In judging men -- when once his judgment was
Determined, right or wrong, on friend or foe,
Had all the pertinacity pride has,
Which knows no ebb to its imperious flow,
And loves or hates, disdaining to be guided,
Because its own good pleasure hath decided.

XVII
His friendships, therefore, and no less aversions,
Though oft well founded, which confirm'd but more
His prepossessions, like the laws of Persians
And Medes, would ne'er revoke what went before.
His feelings had not those strange fits, like tertians,
Of common likings, which make some deplore
What they should laugh at -- the mere ague still
Of men's regard, the fever or the chill.

XVIII
"'T is not in mortals to command success:
But do you more, Sempronius -- don't deserve it,"
And take my word, you won't have any less.
Be wary, watch the time, and always serve it;
Give gently way, when there's too great a press;
And for your conscience, only learn to nerve it,
For, like a racer, or a boxer training,
'T will make, if proved, vast efforts without paining.

XIX
Lord Henry also liked to be superior,
As most men do, the little or the great;
The very lowest find out an inferior,
At least they think so, to exert their state
Upon: for there are very few things wearier
Than solitary Pride's oppressive weight,
Which mortals generously would divide,
By bidding others carry while they ride.

XX
In birth, in rank, in fortune likewise equal,
O'er Juan he could no distinction claim;
In years he had the advantage of time's sequel;
And, as he thought, in country much the same --
Because bold Britons have a tongue and free quill,
At which all modern nations vainly aim;
And the Lord Henry was a great debater,
So that few members kept the house up later.

XXI
These were advantages: and then he thought --
It was his foible, but by no means sinister --
That few or none more than himself had caught
Court mysteries, having been himself a minister:
He liked to teach that which he had been taught,
And greatly shone whenever there had been a stir;
And reconciled all qualities which grace man,
Always a patriot, and sometimes a placeman.

XXII
He liked the gentle Spaniard for his gravity;
He almost honour'd him for his docility;
Because, though young, he acquiesced with suavity,
Or contradicted but with proud humility.
He knew the world, and would not see depravity
In faults which sometimes show the soil's fertility,
If that the weeds o'erlive not the first crop --
For then they are very difficult to stop.

XXIII
And then he talk'd with him about Madrid,
Constantinople, and such distant places;
Where people always did as they were bid,
Or did what they should not with foreign graces.
Of coursers also spake they: Henry rid
Well, like most Englishmen, and loved the races;
And Juan, like a true-born Andalusian,
Could back a horse, as despots ride a Russian.

XXIV
And thus acquaintance grew, at noble routs,
And diplomatic dinners, or at other --
For Juan stood well both with Ins and Outs,
As in freemasonry a higher brother.
Upon his talent Henry had no doubts;
His manner show'd him sprung from a high mother;
And all men like to show their hospitality
To him whose breeding matches with his quality.

XXV
At Blank-Blank Square; -- for we will break no squares
By naming streets: since men are so censorious,
And apt to sow an author's wheat with tares,
Reaping allusions private and inglorious,
Where none were dreamt of, unto love's affairs,
Which were, or are, or are to be notorious,
That therefore do I previously declare,
Lord Henry's mansion was in Blank-Blank Square.

XXVI
Also there bin another pious reason
For making squares and streets anonymous;
Which is, that there is scarce a single season
Which doth not shake some very splendid house
With some slight heart-quake of domestic treason --
A topic scandal doth delight to rouse:
Such I might stumble over unawares,
Unless I knew the very chastest squares.

XXVII
'T is true, I might have chosen Piccadilly,
A place where peccadillos are unknown;
But I have motives, whether wise or silly,
For letting that pure sanctuary alone.
Therefore I name not square, street, place, until I
Find one where nothing naughty can be shown,
A vestal shrine of innocence of heart:
Such are -- but I have lost the London Chart.

XXVIII
At Henry's mansion then, in Blank-Blank Square,
Was Juan a recherchè, welcome guest,
As many other noble scions were;
And some who had but talent for their crest;
Or wealth, which is a passport every where;
Or even mere fashion, which indeed's the best
Recommendation; and to be well drest
Will very often supersede the rest.

XXIX
And since "there's safety in a multitude
Of counsellors," as Solomon has said,
Or some one for him, in some sage, grave mood; --
Indeed we see the daily proof display'd
In senates, at the bar, in wordy feud,
Where'er collective wisdom can parade,
Which is the only cause that we can guess
Of Britain's present wealth and happiness; --

XXX
But as "there's safety" grafted in the number
"Of counsellors" for men, thus for the sex
A large acquaintance lets not Virtue slumber;
Or should it shake, the choice will more perplex --
Variety itself will more encumber.
'Midst many rocks we guard more against wrecks;
And thus with women: howsoe'er it shocks some's
Self-love, there's safety in a crowd of coxcombs.

XXXI
But Adeline had not the least occasion
For such a shield, which leaves but little merit
To virtue proper, or good education.
Her chief resource was in her own high spirit,
Which judged mankind at their due estimation;
And for coquetry, she disdain'd to wear it:
Secure of admiration, its impression
Was faint, as of an every-day possession.

XXXII
To all she was polite without parade;
To some she show'd attention of that kind
Which flatters, but is flattery convey'd
In such a sort as cannot leave behind
A trace unworthy either wife or maid; --
A gentle, genial courtesy of mind,
To those who were, or pass'd for meritorious,
Just to console sad glory for being glorious;

XXXIII
Which is in all respects, save now and then,
A dull and desolate appendage. Gaze
Upon the shades of those distinguish'd men
Who were or are the puppet-shows of praise,
The praise of persecution; gaze again
On the most favour'd; and amidst the blaze
Of sunset halos o'er the laurel-brow'd,
What can ye recognise? -- a gilded cloud.

XXXIV
There also was of course in Adeline
That calm patrician polish in the address,
Which ne'er can pass the equinoctial line
Of any thing which nature would express;
Just as a mandarin finds nothing fine, --
At least his manner suffers not to guess
That any thing he views can greatly please.
Perhaps we have borrow'd this from the Chinese --

XXXV
Perhaps from Horace: his "Nil admirari"
Was what he call'd the "Art of Happiness;"
An art on which the artists greatly vary,
And have not yet attain'd to much success.
However, 't is expedient to be wary:
Indifference certes don't produce distress;
And rash enthusiasm in good society
Were nothing but a moral inebriety.

XXXVI
But Adeline was not indifferent: for
(Now for a common-place!) beneath the snow,
As a volcano holds the lava more
Within -- et cætera. Shall I go on? -- No!
I hate to hunt down a tired metaphor,
So let the often-used volcano go.
Poor thing! How frequently, by me and others,
It hath been stirr'd up till its smoke quite smothers!

XXXVII
I'll have another figure in a trice: --
What say you to a bottle of champagne?
Frozen into a very vinous ice,
Which leaves few drops of that immortal rain,
Yet in the very centre, past all price,
About a liquid glassful will remain;
And this is stronger than the strongest grape
Could e'er express in its expanded shape:

XXXVIII
'T is the whole spirit brought to a quintessence;
And thus the chilliest aspects may concentre
A hidden nectar under a cold presence.
And such are many -- though I only meant her
From whom I now deduce these moral lessons,
On which the Muse has always sought to enter.
And your cold people are beyond all price,
When once you have broken their confounded ice.

XXXIX
But after all they are a North-West Passage
Unto the glowing India of the soul;
And as the good ships sent upon that message
Have not exactly ascertain'd the Pole
(Though Parry's efforts look a lucky presage),
Thus gentlemen may run upon a shoal;
For if the Pole's not open, but all frost
(A chance still), 't is a voyage or vessel lost.

XL
And young beginners may as well commence
With quiet cruising o'er the ocean woman;
While those who are not beginners should have sense
Enough to make for port, ere time shall summon
With his grey signal-flag; and the past tense,
The dreary "Fuimus" of all things human,
Must be declined, while life's thin thread's spun out
Between the gaping heir and gnawing gout.

XLI
But heaven must be diverted; its diversion
Is sometimes truculent -- but never mind:
The world upon the whole is worth the assertion
(If but for comfort) that all things are kind:
And that same devilish doctrine of the Persian,
Of the two principles, but leaves behind
As many doubts as any other doctrine
Has ever puzzled Faith withal, or yoked her in.

XLII
The English winter -- ending in July,
To recommence in August -- now was done.
'T is the postilion's paradise: wheels fly;
On roads, east, south, north, west, there is a run.
But for post-horses who finds sympathy?
Man's pity's for himself, or for his son,
Always premising that said son at college
Has not contracted much more debt than knowledge.

XLIII
The London winter's ended in July --
Sometimes a little later. I don't err
In this: whatever other blunders lie
Upon my shoulders, here I must aver
My Muse a glass of Weatherology;
For parliament is our barometer:
Let radicals its other acts attack,
Its sessions form our only almanack.

XLIV
When its quicksilver's down at zero, -- lo
Coach, chariot, luggage, baggage, equipage!
Wheels whirl from Carlton palace to Soho,
And happiest they who horses can engage;
The turnpikes glow with dust; and Rotten Row
Sleeps from the chivalry of this bright age;
And tradesmen, with long bills and longer faces,
Sigh -- as the postboys fasten on the traces.

XLV
They and their bills, "Arcadians both," are left
To the Greek kalends of another session.
Alas! to them of ready cash bereft,
What hope remains? Of hope the full possession,
Or generous draft, conceded as a gift,
At a long date -- till they can get a fresh one --
Hawk'd about at a discount, small or large;
Also the solace of an overcharge.

XLVI
But these are trifles. Downward flies my lord,
Nodding beside my lady in his carriage.
Away! away! "Fresh horses!" are the word,
And changed as quickly as hearts after marriage;
The obsequious landlord hath the change restored;
The postboys have no reason to disparage
Their fee; but ere the water'd wheels may hiss hence,
The ostler pleads too for a reminiscence.

XLVII
'T is granted; and the valet mounts the dickey --
That gentleman of lords and gentlemen;
Also my lady's gentlewoman, tricky,
Trick'd out, but modest more than poet's pen
Can paint, -- "Cosi viaggino i Ricchi!"
(Excuse a foreign slipslop now and then,
If but to show I've travell'd; and what's travel,
Unless it teaches one to quote and cavil?)

XLVIII
The London winter and the country summer
Were well nigh over. 'T is perhaps a pity,
When nature wears the gown that doth become her,
To lose those best months in a sweaty city,
And wait until the nightingale grows dumber,
Listening debates not very wise or witty,
Ere patriots their true country can remember; --
But there's no shooting (save grouse) till September.

XLIX
I've done with my tirade. The world was gone;
The twice two thousand, for whom earth was made,
Were vanish'd to be what they call alone --
That is, with thirty servants for parade,
As many guests, or more; before whom groan
As many covers, duly, daily, laid.
Let none accuse Old England's hospitality --
Its quantity is but condensed to quality.

L
Lord Henry and the Lady Adeline
Departed like the rest of their compeers,
The peerage, to a mansion very fine;
The Gothic Babel of a thousand years.
None than themselves could boast a longer line,
Where time through heroes and through beauties steers;
And oaks as olden as their pedigree
Told of their sires, a tomb in every tree.

LI
A paragraph in every paper told
Of their departure: such is modern fame:
'T is pity that it takes no farther hold
Than an advertisement, or much the same;
When, ere the ink be dry, the sound grows cold.
The Morning Post was foremost to proclaim --
"Departure, for his country seat, to-day,
Lord H. Amundeville and Lady A.

LII
"We understand the splendid host intends
To entertain, this autumn, a select
And numerous party of his noble friends;
'Midst whom we have heard, from sources quite correct,
The Duke of D--- the shooting season spends,
With many more by rank and fashion deck'd;
Also a foreigner of high condition,
The envoy of the secret Russian mission."

LIII
And thus we see -- who doubts the Morning Post?
(Whose articles are like the "Thirty-nine,"
Which those most swear to who believe them most) --
Our gay Russ Spaniard was ordain'd to shine,
Deck'd by the rays reflected from his host,
With those who, Pope says, "greatly daring dine."
'T is odd, but true, -- last war the News abounded
More with these dinners than the kill'd or wounded; --

LIV
As thus: "On Thursday there was a grand dinner;
Present, Lords A. B. C." -- Earls, dukes, by name
Announced with no less pomp than victory's winner:
Then underneath, and in the very same
Column; date, "Falmouth. There has lately been here
The Slap-dash regiment, so well known to fame,
Whose loss in the late action we regret:
The vacancies are fill'd up -- see Gazette."

LV
To Norman Abbey whirl'd the noble pair, --
An old, old monastery once, and now
Still older mansion; of a rich and rare
Mix'd Gothic, such as artists all allow
Few specimens yet left us can compare
Withal: it lies perhaps a little low,
Because the monks preferr'd a hill behind,
To shelter their devotion from the wind.

LVI
It stood embosom'd in a happy valley,
Crown'd by high woodlands, where the Druid oak
Stood like Caractacus in act to rally
His host, with broad arms 'gainst the thunderstroke;
And from beneath his boughs were seen to sally
The dappled foresters -- as day awoke,
The branching stag swept down with all his herd,
To quaff a brook which murmur'd like a bird.

LVII
Before the mansion lay a lucid lake,
Broad as transparent, deep, and freshly fed
By a river, which its soften'd way did take
In currents through the calmer water spread
Around: the wildfowl nestled in the brake
And sedges, brooding in their liquid bed:
The woods sloped downwards to its brink, and stood
With their green faces fix'd upon the flood.

LVIII
Its outlet dash'd into a deep cascade,
Sparkling with foam, until again subsiding,
Its shriller echoes -- like an infant made
Quiet -- sank into softer ripples, gliding
Into a rivulet; and thus allay'd,
Pursued its course, now gleaming, and now hiding
Its windings through the woods; now clear, now blue,
According as the skies their shadows threw.

LIX
A glorious remnant of the Gothic pile
(While yet the church was Rome's) stood half apart
In a grand arch, which once screen'd many an aisle.
These last had disappear'd -- a loss to art:
The first yet frown'd superbly o'er the soil,
And kindled feelings in the roughest heart,
Which mourn'd the power of time's or tempest's march,
In gazing on that venerable arch.

LX
Within a niche, nigh to its pinnacle,
Twelve saints had once stood sanctified in stone;
But these had fallen, not when the friars fell,
But in the war which struck Charles from his throne,
When each house was a fortalice, as tell
The annals of full many a line undone, --
The gallant cavaliers, who fought in vain
For those who knew not to resign or reign.

LXI
But in a higher niche, alone, but crowned,
The Virgin Mother of the God-born Child,
With her Son in her blessed arms, look'd round,
Spared by some chance when all beside was spoil'd;
She made the earth below seem holy ground.
This may be superstition, weak or wild,
But even the faintest relics of a shrine
Of any worship wake some thoughts divine.

LXII
A mighty window, hollow in the centre,
Shorn of its glass of thousand colourings,
Through which the deepen'd glories once could enter,
Streaming from off the sun like seraph's wings,
Now yawns all desolate: now loud, now fainter,
The gale sweeps through its fretwork, and oft sings
The owl his anthem, where the silenced quire
Lie with their hallelujahs quench'd like fire.

LXIII
But in the noontide of the moon, and when
The wind is wingéd from one point of heaven,
There moans a strange unearthly sound, which then
Is musical -- a dying accent driven
Through the huge arch, which soars and sinks again.
Some deem it but the distant echo given
Back to the night wind by the waterfall,
And harmonised by the old choral wall:

LXIV
Others, that some original shape, or form
Shaped by decay perchance, hath given the power
(Though less than that of Memnon's statue, warm
In Egypt's rays, to harp at a fix'd hour)
To this grey ruin, with a voice to charm.
Sad, but serene, it sweeps o'er tree or tower;
The cause I know not, nor can solve; but such
The fact: -- I've heard it -- once perhaps too much.

LXV
Amidst the court a Gothic fountain play'd,
Symmetrical, but deck'd with carvings quaint --
Strange faces, like to men in masquerade,
And here perhaps a monster, there a saint:
The spring gush'd through grim mouths of granite made,
And sparkled into basins, where it spent
Its little torrent in a thousand bubbles,
Like man's vain glory, and his vainer troubles.

LXVI
The mansion's self was vast and venerable,
With more of the monastic than has been
Elsewhere preserved: the cloisters still were stable,
The cells, too, and refectory, I ween:
An exquisite small chapel had been able,
Still unimpair'd, to decorate the scene;
The rest had been reform'd, replaced, or sunk,
And spoke more of the baron than the monk.

LXVII
Huge halls, long galleries, spacious chambers, join'd
By no quite lawful marriage of the arts,
Might shock a connoisseur; but when combined,
Form'd a whole which, irregular in parts,
Yet left a grand impression on the mind,
At least of those whose eyes are in their hearts:
We gaze upon a giant for his stature,
Nor judge at first if all be true to nature.

LXVIII
Steel barons, molten the next generation
To silken rows of gay and garter'd earls,
Glanced from the walls in goodly preservation;
And Lady Marys blooming into girls,
With fair long locks, had also kept their station;
And countesses mature in robes and pearls:
Also some beauties of Sir Peter Lely,
Whose drapery hints we may admire them freely.

LXIX
Judges in very formidable ermine
Were there, with brows that did not much invite
The accused to think their lordships would determine
His cause by leaning much from might to right:
Bishops, who had not left a single sermon:
Attorneys-general, awful to the sight,
As hinting more (unless our judgments warp us)
Of the "Star Chamber" than of "Habeas Corpus."

LXX
Generals, some all in armour, of the old
And iron time, ere lead had ta'en the lead;
Others in wigs of Marlborough's martial fold,
Huger than twelve of our degenerate breed:
Lordlings, with staves of white or keys of gold:
Nimrods, whose canvass scarce contain'd the steed;
And here and there some stern high patriot stood,
Who could not get the place for which he sued.

LXXI
But ever and anon, to soothe your vision,
Fatigued with these hereditary glories,
There rose a Carlo Dolce or a Titian,
Or wilder group of savage Salvatore's;
Here danced Albano's boys, and here the sea shone
In Vernet's ocean lights; and there the stories
Of martyrs awed, as Spagnoletto tainted
His brush with all the blood of all the sainted.

LXXII
Here sweetly spread a landscape of Lorraine;
There Rembrandt made his darkness equal light,
Or gloomy Caravaggio's gloomier stain
Bronzed o'er some lean and stoic anchorite: --
But, lo! a Teniers woos, and not in vain,
Your eyes to revel in a livelier sight:
His bell-mouth'd goblet makes me feel quite Danish
Or Dutch with thirst -- What, ho! a flask of Rhenish.

LXXIII
O reader! if that thou canst read, -- and know,
'T is not enough to spell, or even to read,
To constitute a reader; there must go
Virtues of which both you and I have need; --
Firstly, begin with the beginning (though
That clause is hard); and secondly, proceed;
Thirdly, commence not with the end -- or, sinning
In this sort, end at least with the beginning.

LXXIV
But, reader, thou hast patient been of late,
While I, without remorse of rhyme, or fear,
Have built and laid out ground at such a rate,
Dan Phoebus takes me for an auctioneer.
That poets were so from their earliest date,
By Homer's "Catalogue of ships" is clear;
But a mere modern must be moderate --
I spare you then the furniture and plate.

LXXV
The mellow autumn came, and with it came
The promised party, to enjoy its sweets.
The corn is cut, the manor full of game;
The pointer ranges, and the sportsman beats
In russet jacket: -- lynx-like is his aim;
Full grows his bag, and wonderful his feats.
Ah, nut-brown partridges! Ah, brilliant pheasants!
And ah, ye poachers! -- 'T is no sport for peasants.

LXXVI
An English autumn, though it hath no vines,
Blushing with Bacchant coronals along
The paths, o'er which the far festoon entwines
The red grape in the sunny lands of song,
Hath yet a purchased choice of choicest wines;
The claret light, and the Madeira strong.
If Britain mourn her bleakness, we can tell her,
The very best of vineyards is the cellar.

LXXVII
Then, if she hath not that serene decline
Which makes the southern autumn's day appear
As if 't would to a second spring resign
The season, rather than to winter drear,
Of in-door comforts still she hath a mine, --
The sea-coal fires the "earliest of the year;"
Without doors, too, she may compete in mellow,
As what is lost in green is gain'd in yellow.

LXXVIII
And for the effeminate villeggiatura --
Rife with more horns than hounds -- she hath the chase,
So animated that it might allure
Saint from his beads to join the jocund race;
Even Nimrod's self might leave the plains of Dura,
And wear the Melton jacket for a space:
If she hath no wild boars, she hath a tame
Preserve of bores, who ought to be made game.

LXXIX
The noble guests, assembled at the Abbey,
Consisted of -- we give the sex the pas --
The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke; the Countess Crabby;
The Ladies Scilly, Busey; -- Miss Eclat,
Miss Bombazeen, Miss Mackstay, Miss O'Tabby,
And Mrs. Rabbi, the rich banker's squaw;
Also the honourable Mrs. Sleep,
Who look'd a white lamb, yet was a black sheep:

LXXX
With other Countesses of Blank -- but rank;
At once the "lie" and the "élite" of crowds;
Who pass like water filter'd in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds;
Or paper turn'd to money by the Bank:
No matter how or why, the passport shrouds
The "passée" and the past; for good society
Is no less famed for tolerance than piety, --

LXXXI
That is, up to a certain point; which point
Forms the most difficult in punctuation.
Appearances appear to form the joint
On which it hinges in a higher station;
And so that no explosion cry "Aroint
Thee, witch!" or each Medea has her Jason;
Or (to the point with Horace and with Pulci)
"Omne tulit punctum, quæ miscuit utile dulci."

LXXXII
I can't exactly trace their rule of right,
Which hath a little leaning to a lottery.
I've seen a virtuous woman put down quite
By the mere combination of a coterie;
Also a so-so matron boldly fight
Her way back to the world by dint of plottery,
And shine the very Siria of the spheres,
Escaping with a few slight, scarless sneers.

LXXXIII
I have seen more than I'll say: -- but we will see
How our villeggiatura will get on.
The party might consist of thirty-three
Of highest caste -- the Brahmins of the ton.
I have named a few, not foremost in degree,
But ta'en at hazard as the rhyme may run.
By way of sprinkling, scatter'd amongst these,
There also were some Irish absentees.

LXXXIV
There was Parolles, too, the legal bully,
Who limits all his battles to the bar
And senate: when invited elsewhere, truly,
He shows more appetite for words than war.
There was the young bard Rackrhyme, who had newly
Come out and glimmer'd as a six weeks' star.
There was Lord Pyrrho, too, the great freethinker;
And Sir John Pottledeep, the mighty drinker.

LXXXV
There was the Duke of Dash, who was a -- duke,
"Ay, every inch a" duke; there were twelve peers
Like Charlemagne's -- and all such peers in look
And intellect, that neither eyes nor ears
For commoners had ever them mistook.
There were the six Miss Rawbolds -- pretty dears!
All song and sentiment; whose hearts were set
Less on a convent than a coronet.

LXXXVI
There were four Honourable Misters, whose
Honour was more before their names than after;
There was the preux Chevalier de la Ruse,
Whom France and Fortune lately deign'd to waft here,
Whose chiefly harmless talent was to amuse;
But the clubs found it rather serious laughter,
Because -- such was his magic power to please --
The dice seem'd charm'd, too, with his repartees.

LXXXVII
There was Dick Dubious, the metaphysician,
Who loved philosophy and a good dinner;
Angle, the soi-disant mathematician;
Sir Henry Silvercup, the great race-winner.
There was the Reverend Rodomont Precisian,
Who did not hate so much the sin as sinner;
And Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet,
Good at all things, but better at a bet.

LXXXVIII
There was jack jargon, the gigantic guardsman;
And General Fireface, famous in the field,
A great tactician, and no less a swordsman,
Who ate, last war, more Yankees than he kill'd.
There was the waggish Welsh Judge, Jefferies Hardsman,
In his grave office so completely skill'd,
That when a culprit came far condemnation,
He had his judge's joke for consolation.

LXXXIX
Good company's a chess-board -- there are kings,
Queens, bishops, knights, rooks, pawns; the world's a game;
Save that the puppets pull at their own strings,
Methinks gay Punch hath something of the same.
My Muse, the butterfly hath but her wings,
Not stings, and flits through ether without aim,
Alighting rarely: -- were she but a hornet,
Perhaps there might be vices which would mourn it.

XC
I had forgotten -- but must not forget --
An orator, the latest of the session,
Who had deliver'd well a very set
Smooth speech, his first and maidenly transgression
Upon debate: the papers echoed yet
With his début, which made a strong impression,
And rank'd with what is every day display'd --
"The best first speech that ever yet was made."

XCI
Proud of his "Hear hims!" proud, too, of his vote
And lost virginity of oratory,
Proud of his learning (just enough to quote),
He revell'd in his Ciceronian glory:
With memory excellent to get by rote,
With wit to hatch a pun or tell a story,
Graced with some merit, and with more effrontery,
"His country's pride," he came down to the country.

XCII
There also were two wits by acclamation,
Longbow from Ireland, Strongbow from the Tweed,
Both lawyers and both men of education;
But Strongbow's wit was of more polish'd breed:
Longbow was rich in an imagination
As beautiful and bounding as a steed,
But sometimes stumbling over a potato, --
While Strongbow's best things might have come from Cato.

XCIII
Strongbow was like a new-tuned harpsichord;
But Longbow wild as an Æolian harp,
With which the winds of heaven can claim accord,
And make a music, whether flat or sharp.
Of Strongbow's talk you would not change a word:
At Longbow's phrases you might sometimes carp:
Both wits -- one born so, and the other bred --
This by his heart, his rival by his head.

XCIV
If all these seem a heterogeneous mass
To be assembled at a country seat,
Yet think, a specimen of every class
Is better than a humdrum tete-a-tete.
The days of Comedy are gone, alas!
When Congreve's fool could vie with Molière's bête:
Society is smooth'd to that excess,
That manners hardly differ more than dress.

XCV
Our ridicules are kept in the back-ground --
Ridiculous enough, but also dull;
Professions, too, are no more to be found
Professional; and there is nought to cull
Of folly's fruit; for though your fools abound,
They're barren, and not worth the pains to pull.
Society is now one polish'd horde,
Form'd of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.

XCVI
But from being farmers, we turn gleaners, gleaning
The scanty but right-well thresh'd ears of truth;
And, gentle reader! when you gather meaning,
You may be Boaz, and I -- modest Ruth.
Farther I'd quote, but Scripture intervening
Forbids. A great impression in my youth
Was made by Mrs. Adams, where she cries,
"That Scriptures out of church are blasphemies."

XCVII
But what we can we glean in this vile age
Of chaff, although our gleanings be not grist.
I must not quite omit the talking sage,
Kit-Cat, the famous Conversationist,
Who, in his common-place book, had a page
Prepared each morn for evenings. "List, oh, list!" --
"Alas, poor ghost!" -- What unexpected woes
Await those who have studied their bons-mots!

XCVIII
Firstly, they must allure the conversation
By many windings to their clever clinch;
And secondly, must let slip no occasion,
Nor bate (abate) their hearers of an inch,
But take an ell -- and make a great sensation,
If possible; and thirdly, never flinch
When some smart talker puts them to the test,
But seize the last word, which no doubt's the best.

XCIX
Lord Henry and his lady were the hosts;
The party we have touch'd on were the guests:
Their table was a board to tempt even ghosts
To pass the Styx for more substantial feasts.
I will not dwell upon ragoûts or roasts,
Albeit all human history attests
That happiness for man -- the hungry sinner! --
Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.

C
Witness the lands which "flow'd with milk and honey,"
Held out unto the hungry Israelites;
To this we have added since, the love of money,
The only sort of pleasure which requites.
Youth fades, and leaves our days no longer sunny;
We tire of mistresses and parasites;
But oh, ambrosial cash! Ah! who would lose thee?
When we no more can use, or even abuse thee!

CI
The gentlemen got up betimes to shoot,
Or hunt: the young, because they liked the sport --
The first thing boys like after play and fruit;
The middle-aged to make the day more short;
For ennui is a growth of English root,
Though nameless in our language: -- we retort
The fact for words, and let the French translate
That awful yawn which sleep can not abate.

CII
The elderly walk'd through the library,
And tumbled books, or criticised the pictures,
Or saunter'd through the gardens piteously,
And made upon the hot-house several strictures,
Or rode a nag which trotted not too high,
Or on the morning papers read their lectures,
Or on the watch their longing eyes would fix,
Longing at sixty for the hour of six.

CIII
But none were "gêné:" the great hour of union
Was rung by dinner's knell; till then all were
Masters of their own time -- or in communion,
Or solitary, as they chose to bear
The hours, which how to pass is but to few known.
Each rose up at his own, and had to spare
What time he chose for dress, and broke his fast
When, where, and how he chose for that repast.

CIV
The ladies -- some rouged, some a little pale --
Met the morn as they might. If fine, they rode,
Or walk'd; if foul, they read, or told a tale,
Sung, or rehearsed the last dance from abroad;
Discuss'd the fashion which might next prevail,
And settled bonnets by the newest code,
Or cramm'd twelve sheets into one little letter,
To make each correspondent a new debtor.

CV
For some had absent lovers, all had friends.
The earth has nothing like a she epistle,
And hardly heaven -- because it never ends.
I love the mystery of a female missal,
Which, like a creed, ne'er says all it intends,
But full of cunning as Ulysses' whistle,
When he allured poor Dolon: -- you had better
Take care what you reply to such a letter.

CVI
Then there were billiards; cards, too, but no dice; --
Save in the clubs no man of honour plays; --
Boats when 't was water, skating when 't was ice,
And the hard frost destroy'd the scenting days:
And angling, too, that solitary vice,
Whatever Izaak Walton sings or says;
The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.

CVII
With evening came the banquet and the wine;
The conversazione; the duet,
Attuned by voices more or less divine
(My heart or head aches with the memory yet).
The four Miss Rawbolds in a glee would shine;
But the two youngest loved more to be set
Down to the harp -- because to music's charms
They added graceful necks, white hands and arms.

CVIII
Sometimes a dance (though rarely on field days,
For then the gentlemen were rather tired)
Display'd some sylph-like figures in its maze;
Then there was small-talk ready when required;
Flirtation -- but decorous; the mere praise
Of charms that should or should not be admired.
The hunters fought their fox-hunt o'er again,
And then retreated soberly -- at ten.

CIX
The politicians, in a nook apart,
Discuss'd the world, and settled all the spheres;
The wits watch'd every loophole for their art,
To introduce a bon-mot head and ears;
Small is the rest of those who would be smart,
A moment's good thing may have cost them years
Before they find an hour to introduce it;
And then, even then, some bore may make them lose it.

CX
But all was gentle and aristocratic
In this our party; polish'd, smooth, and cold,
As Phidian forms cut out of marble Attic.
There now are no Squire Westerns as of old;
And our Sophias are not so emphatic,
But fair as then, or fairer to behold.
We have no accomplish'd blackguards, like Tom Jones,
But gentlemen in stays, as stiff as stones.

CXI
They separated at an early hour;
That is, ere midnight -- which is London's noon:
But in the country ladies seek their bower
A little earlier than the waning moon.
Peace to the slumbers of each folded flower --
May the rose call back its true colour soon!
Good hours of fair cheeks are the fairest tinters,
And lower the price of rouge -- at least some winters.

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[1] Death And Life

DEATH AND LIFE
.
DEATH-PERCEPTION: LIFE-PERCEPTION

Poet: Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar

50 Poems & Criticism

1 Gratitude
2 Gratitude; Again
3 The Wheel of Death
4 Free from worry
5 Contemplation
6 A puzzle
7 The Truth
8 Forms of Death
9 Conclusion
10 Life-Death
11 A Pair
12 The Opposite
13 Equal
14 Sakhi
15 A desire
16 Reality
17 The Philosophy of Life
18 Excelsior!
19 Experimenting
20 Meaningfulness
21 A Prayer
22 A Mirage
23 A Vow
24 The Call of Conquest
25 A Call
26 One Day
27 Purpose
28 A Wish
29 As Desired
30 Proved
31 Healthy Vision
32 Compatibility
33 Dreadful
34 The Philosophy of Death
35 An Invitation
36 To The Fairy of Death
37 A Request
38 The Mode of Death
39 A Comparison
40 The Difference
41 The End
42 A Blow
43 Truth
44 A Proclamation
45 I Bow Thee
46 Good Bye
47 Preordained
48 An Ascetic
49 The Last Will
50 Kritkarma

  

ARTICLES

1 The Motif of Death in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar —
An Assessment /
Dr. D. C. Chambial, Maranda (H.P.)
.
2 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception': A Dialectical Study
Mrs. Purnima Ray, Burdwan (W.B.)
.
3 Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar's 'Death-Perception: Life- Perception': An analysis
Dr. (mrs.) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V., (Visakhapatnam) (A.P.)
.
4 'Death' in the Poetry of Mahendra Bhatnagar
Dr. D. Murali Manohar, Hyderabad (A.P.)
.
5 Revealing Reflections On Death And Life
Dr. Atma Ram
.
6 Reflecions on Mahendra Bhatnagar's Philosophy of Death
Dr. A.K. Chaturvedi

 



[1] Gratitude

Death is;
Death is imminent,
Unavoidable -
That's why
Life is so desired!
That's why
There's such a semblance
Between life and death!
Death's given
Beauty to life
Such
Endless — vast!
Death's given
Man
Life - art - efficiency
Such
Embellishment - adornment!
Indubiously
Transience,
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death - tension
Are acceptable,
Gratitude
To death
Life's gratitude!

[2] Gratitude; Again

Death's made life
very beautiful,

Transformed this world,
in fact,
into a pleasant heaven,

We learnt
the meaning of love,
only then
true's true,

Transformed man
into higher beings
than immortal god!

[3] The Wheel of Death

Cruel is
The wheel of death
Very cruel!
Under which
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!

This earth rocks horribly!

Invisibly
Silently
Continuously moves
This wheel of death
Uninterrupted... unchanged!

Before it
Stability has
No existence
Its motion
Always controls
Life and death,
Earth and sky!

[4] Free from Worry

Fearing death
will make
living
futile!
weight heavy
dry onerous
pleasureless heart.

So
Life
only meaningful,
when every moment is free
from the dread of death.

It is ill-ominous
to talk about
the fear of death,
or cataclysm
for this reason.

[5] Contemplation

Death?
A question-mark!
To know the mystery
not only difficult
but also
all unknown
for man.
Body
merges into five-elements
everything scatters
and ends.
Life's
not to return;
impossible
to revive again,
and know the mystery.


When there's no self
death — a puzzle
queer puzzle!
Uninterpreted to-date,
A wonderful puzzle!

All efforts futile —
to explicate
the meaning of death;
it's very intricate difficult
to contemplate.

[6] A Puzzle

What?
Body
Not worth living;

Therefore...
Soul!
You left.

In quest of new
On an unknown path;

Where?
But where? ?

Unknown,
Everything unknown!
A pitch dark night,
Everything
Mysterious!

Who questions?
Who answers?

[7] The Truth

If there were no death,
God wouldn't have any existence,
man
would have never reconciled
with his fate!

God - a symbol,
God - a proof
of man's helplessness
of readiness after death.

The whole philosophy
of hell and heaven
is an imagination.

Man
at each moment
is afraid of death, and
horripilant again and again!
He knows —
'death is imminent'!

So, his each step
is frought with suspicion.
Not only this
he is also
absolutely ignorant
of the so called
Yam's1 world.
That's why
he takes refuge
in God
for eternal peace in death!

That's why
he sings the long song -
'Ram nam satya hai! '
(God's name is the only TRUTH)
O, birth and death
is nothing
save for his cruel-amusing act!

[1 God, dispensing death in Indian mythology.]

[8] Forms of Death

Be death natural
or accidental
conclusion is the same -
end of a conscious life,
to change into a senselessness
active life
to sleep for good
palpitation of heart!
Both are the so called
writs of Providence,
the script of fate: invisible, indelible.

But
an act of terminating life
by suicide
or
by murder,
or destruction of the ferocious
in self or social defense,
isn't death,
but, a murder.
Though the end, the same
death!
True death or untimely death.

[9] Conclusion

Death?
A question-mark?

Stable
Unanswered,
adamant,
stands
as an adversary.

But, man
accept not defeat,
not a bit
think of God
in defense,
in an answer to the question,
no, not!

The mystery of death
to be unmasked... revealed
sure
sure
some day!

[10] Life-Death

Death:
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth,

Birth:
One end;
Death:
The other extreme end!

Birth - a shore
Death - an opposite bank;
Birth:
Why a jubilation?
Death:
Pain...!
Why?

Birth - death
When equal?

One / well shaped;
The other / completely invisible!

Birth -
A beginning,
Death -
Destruction: an assault!

Birth... known,


Death... un-known!
Birth: beginning
Death: end,
Birth - initiation
Death - an earthly end!

Birth: yes, a being,
Death: ah! a non-being!

Birth: a new dawn,
Death: a horrendous night!

[11] A Pair

Sandy desert spread
all around
like the dying lamp-flame
brown
yellow
Palish-green
waterless
slipping age
at he verge of death!

But
countless
waving... green
oases
Thorny
leafless
growing trees -
flags
of life!

Lake —
a resting place... life giving
infusing life!

[12] The Oppsite

Life: a jubilation
Death: the last breath
A melody / a cry!
Pious action / loud lamentation!

[13] Equal

Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning-evening are one.

Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one.


It is
the true wisdom,
the real knowledge,
every other consideration
is in vain.

[14 Sakhi1

What makes you so sad?
Why do you lose your wits?
Life - very precious; true
Death - eternal, why do you rue

[1 A detached saintly statement.]

[15] A Desire

May all children and young live!
Heart-rending is untimely death!

[16] Reality

''Death —
a birth
over and over again
of soul.''

It's untrue
to consider this idea true?
A blind faith
an irrational faith!

Life / blends in five-elements,
the end / of a creation,
the end / of a person,
a being.
No where
here... there.

It's true
there be an eternal fusion.
Neither there is any Hell,
nor there is any Heaven,
this manifest world is the only truth.
Death — a truth,
Lifea truth!

[17] The Philosophy Of Life

External motion —
physical vibration,
Internal motion —
Life.

The transporter of life-motion
I

Ceaseless controller —
I
as long as
life is in flux
History will be created by

human-mind
human-body.

Nev er there be catastrophe;
Life ever be full of melody,
Every particle be in motion.

To fuse is
To lose internal motion.

[18] Excelsior!

Struggles and strifes
lead to life,
to be inactive,
an indication - of the approaching death,
to stop - the end of life.
Life: only a flux
ceaseless flux!
To grow,
to change
is to be alive!
Stasis
an established trait
of the lifeless.

Life has a thrill, a throb,
a continuous palpitation in the live hearts!

To stop —
de-existence
invitation to ill-ominous death,

Excelsior... excelsior!
The only 'mool-mantra'1
to prove life!

[1 Key principle.]

[19] Experimenting

In man
Wish for life
Eternal and strongest,

Whereas
The final truth
About every life
Is death!
Yes, end is certainly,

Unavoidable!

But / it is also true -
impatient passion for
Immortality and youth

Will never wane,

Man's queer valour
Longs for melody,
Not for tears!
Every time
Continuous struggle
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya1; he will be!

[1 victorious over death.]

[20] Meaningfulness

Mere living
isn't a proof of
life's meaningfulness,
Living -
only helplessness
like death - an exit.

Which is natural
in adopting it
without any specificity,
'Living-being'
doesn't mean
to be 'a human being.'

Declaration of
human glory only when
there is perfect peace of mind -
when we give
a new meaning to life,
in pitch dark
open doors
to a world full of lights.

Know the mysteries of life,
Talk to the moon and stars.
Let selflessness
be the motive of our living,
let's devour materialistic hurdles
at every step.

Let's acquire
such capabilities,
then
life may be

dedicated to death.

No regret,
no sorrow.

There isn't
the least difference of opinion.

This life is successful
this life is rare.

Blessed is the Earth!

[21] A Prayer

I long
not for immortality,
I long for
youthfulness.
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
absolute peace
of human mind and body.

This desired boon
is sought
not from any god.

Self-achieved by self-efforts
not by any prayer.

Body free from pain
mind free from torture.

Yes,
May
we live for
125 years!
For ourselves,
for others.

[22] A Mirage

Self-willed and ambitious
man
runs after money
after pleasures
at the cost of life.
How strange
at this queer, dirty intention!

If there is life / money must flow in,
If there is life / pleasure must dog in!

Shattered and disorderly life
malady-stricken / frustrated wounded life
momentary
eager to fall into
the death-pool!

Blind, perplexed, ignorant
Man
Construes money to be supreme
thinks pleasure all in all!

He'll spoil / the precious life,
and will lose life / the gift of God!

[23] A Vow

Absolutely loyal
we,
have descended in
the formidable duel of
life and death!
being soldiers of
an immortal army of life,
will not be surrounded
by the deceitful trick of
any adversary!

May be vanquished,
but, will never admit the supremacy
of death a bit,
won't let our right
to live
be snatched away!

The triumphant-call will echo
till the last breath
struggling
life-strength will fight
till the last edge of hope / effort!

[24] The Call Of Conquest

The whole world sleeps -
who weeps
in the dead of night?

It's heard -
in the house hard by
death has suddenly charged,
it's true —
someone has died.

The sharp dagger
of theYama-doot1
has once again
touched the man!

Reach
with ambrosial heart-felt condolences,
may this man

live again and again!

Let life-drum sound
every moment

though
biers be laid!

[1 Emissary of Yam / God dispensing death in Indian
mythology.]

[25] A Call

They who sing Alakh1
have come,
who sing the sweet beloved song
of new life
have come!

Singers of Sohar2
have come!

Players of life-song
on every string of the violin of heart
have come!

Mentally vanquished!
Awake!
Strike by stretching!
Awake!

Jump
into the live sea
of life
O divers!
Stir the stupor!

[1 A word urging inspiration.
2 An auspicious song sung at the birth of a child.]

[26] One Day

Have faith
Life
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
fear not!

Let's destroy
every doubt!
Have faith
life will be victorious!

Deep darkness
of dead death
will surround / frighten;
have faith in

the sun's strength / firmness
Let's unmask
every particle of it!

Let's floodlight around!
Have faith
life will be triumphant!

[27] Purpose

We
who are the artisans of life
should talk only
about life,
discover
the meaningfulness of life,
and know
about the essence of life!

If death
destroys us
let us
strike back at it,
let us
sing the glory of life,
let us
strike a severe blow at
Yama, death!

[28] A Wish

let there be
no existence of death-serpent
in the garden of life,
let human self
not be terrorized
of death scare!

let every person
enjoy life
without any doubt,
let his each moment be
mellifluous!

Let a lover of life
play with life,
and live life fully
by embracing
every pleasure!

[29] Longing

As long as
I wished

to live,

lived heartily!
Imagine
the lamps burnt on
even in rains!

None
was kind,
struggled -
with firm faith in

self potence!

[30] Proved

With a wish to live
one won't
wait for death!
Gold
pure, drossless:
why should it take
a fire-test?

End the illusion,
Bend the kaal-chakar1!
Associate with life!
Give up this stupor!

[1 Cycle of death / time]

[31] Healthy Vision

Live
by thinking self
immortal,
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
should it
be termed
true living?

When face to face
with the end
Or
Should remain ignorant of it
Should
we call it
true living?

[32] Compatibility

I sing
I sing the songs
of victory!
I sing

about the triumph of life
over death!
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of life-bud
of the dearest thing!

I sing
again and again!

The sounds that echo
in the sky of the graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
are translations
of my
life-sentiments!
The compatriots
of my
life-adorations!

[33] Dreadful

Beware!

We have
hoisted the red flags,
on every house, in every village,
in every town,
of life, new life!

In every locality, at every cross,
here, there -
everywhere!
Hoisted
red flags!

Now
the demon of death
won't be able to carry out
his terrorist, fatal, men-devouring
maddening trick!

Ambushes
on entering into the body,
proclaims himself
an unvanquished doota1
of Yama2
lays down
within the body
explosives,

and...
remote-controls
by hiding
in invisible places!

Let's see,

where from he comes now!

[1 Emissary. 2 Lord of death.]

[34] The Philosophy of Death

Death:
When a certainty,
In vain
Why

to doubt,
to fear
so much!

O, tell death -
'Come; when you please.'

At this time
Come,
Let's sing and dance!
Play on varied musical instruments!

Let's end this silence;
Who cares
for death?

[35] An Invitation

Death
come,
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot;
away... far away
into hell!
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,

prepare them
for a change in life!
I don't acknowledge
any Chitragupta1
any Yama;
I'll challenge them!
Just, let me jump
into the hell-pond!
Just, let me mingle
with the huge crowd of
hell-denizens!

[1 According to Indian mythology an official in the court of Yama who keeps record of righteous and unrighteous actions of living beings.]

[36] To The Fairy of Death

O death, come
I am ready!
Never think,
I am helpless.

Won't you
Inform?
Won't you

Oblige me?

You'll come —
On tip-toes,
Surprising
Like a clever girl.

Alright,
Accepted!
My beloved,
Your this game
Is welcome!

Come quietly,
Come, o death
I'm ready!

I know
It well
That of the book of life
Thou art the end!

Therefore,
For me
Thou art the good news
Of totality!

Come
O death, come
I'm ready!
Awaiting you
I've bedecked myself,
I'm ready!

[37] A Request

Death -
it hardly matters
if you are feminine,
I can befriend you!

Why do you feel shy?

Come
be my comrade!
If not a cohabiter
be my neighbour!

You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
peep out,
evaluate —
and one day
all at once
make me accompany you
to the land of the dead!
Just
taunting and teasing!

[38] The Mode of Death

Death might be overtaking
while dreaming,
Prana1
might be out from the body
just then.

A dreaming man
passes away!

What does he know?

Ask those living
who
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
what happened?
What happened?
At last?

[1The life-force]

[39] A Comparison

Between Shiva
and shava1
the difference lies only in the 'I'
(the first vowel sound)

Shiva —
is goodness,
gives comfort!
Shava —
ill-ominous,
only decays!

Shiva has three eyes,
Shava is blind!

A great imbroglio!

[1Shava — a dead body.]

[40] The Distance

You remembered
Thanks!
Gave a sweet pain
Accepted!

How strange the coincidence
That the last farewell
O, the first love!
Came
On the disappearing path,
With a wish -
Never to be fulfilled,
Sometime with a true physical touch
Our co-feelings
Never to be distanced!

I go -
Go with memory,
Go with pain!

[41] The End

Strife
Where is it now?
Journey -
Where is it now?

Everything stood still
The running, jumping, the liquid river water
Everything frozen —
Like blood in veins!

All bones of body
Continuously
Crackle with pain,
Who'll press them
Now
Till the dying breath?
Dark surrounds
While none is around!

Now there is no flutter
Only a stasis,
Now life -
A fatigued filament;
A scatter!

[42] A Blow

I...

kept you alive -
so

I'll carry
your living but decayed corpse!
Carry it silently, helplessly!

You
murdered
the faiths,
you
burnt the wishes
in a flaming furnace,
sham, hypocrisy
well enacted
and filled every moment of life
with unbearable pain!

Never became a loved one;
never became a murderer!
O, never snatched the right to live -
though the doubt was unmasked,
every doubt!

When kept alive
I'll burn in the hell-fire
bear all by
being insensitive!

Early or late
all
in an eternal sleep have to fall,
dust unto dust!

O unfortunate!
Then, why to weep?

[43] Truth

Life-bird
will fly,
fly away!
Life-bird
will fly away!

Why you try so hard,
sing hymns every morn and eve,
nothing is in your control
you bow in every temple,

one day from the body
Life-bird
will fly away,

that will
never return!
Fly away
Life-bird
will fly away!

[44] Preordained

It is preordained that
you
one day
will sleep
in the lap of death
silently!

It is preordained that
you
one day
will be lost
in the pitch dark
of the death!

It is preordained that
you
one day
renouncing name and fair form
will be reduced
to ashes!

[45] A Proclamation

Tell
the world -
now
Mahendra Bhatnagar sleeps!
Sleeps in an eternal sleep!

What
is to happen
happens;
O Man!
Why do you weep?

Life
that is one's own,
one has no right
over it too,
hearth - wealth
that is one's own
that too
in fact
has no essence!
You've no claim
over that!

Becoming
silent - stoic

set out
leaving everything

set out
severing all relations
new and old!

Everyone
has to experience
this moment,
death's eternal
then
why to fear it?

O immortal death!
You may consider me
helpless,
end,
I voluntarily
accept you,
accept you from body and mind!

I sleep
on the comfortable
soil-bed!
I lose my identity
by fusing with the particles
of this soil!
I sow a new life!
As I have accepted life
likewise
O death
I do accept you!

I go,
I go from this world!
I go from this
lovely home, lovely world!
I go
for good... for good!
I go!

[46] I Bow Thee

Adieu!
O the springs of the world
Adieu!
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
Adieu!

Hills... valleys
Slopes... marshes
Adieu!

Adieu
O, the high waves of the sea!

Fluttering
wings of illusion,
Eyes

Profuse with love
Adieu!

The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
Adieu!
Adieu!

[47] Good Bye!

We
Beaten by fate,
We
Defeated
In the game of life,

Ah!
Tortured by dears,
Hurt on heart,
With a bowed head
Silent
Go for good —

Never
Remember,
Even today
Listen,
Do not light the memory-lamp!

[48] An Ascetic

To overcome death
one more Siddharth1 — an ascetic
has set out!

Who at each step
trampled the elusive moves of
Yama's legion!

Wasn't trapped
in any vyuha2
tied his noose hard
on death!

He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day —
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,

preserve this
heritage
by making it a stupa3

:
1 initial name of Buddha.2 phlanx, the war movement arrangement of an army to surround or capture the enemy. 3 a Buddhistic tope/sacred spot.

[49] The Last Will

Never weep,
Never be disinterested!

Bear a blow
Never lose temper.

Let the last act be
free from rituals
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!

Life after death
when none has known
when none has seen...
All established systems:
imaginary,
illogical.
To follow them - not desired!
O never be a blind-follower,
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge.

Follow -
good faith and good feelings!

 

[50] Kritkarma1

Why bewail?
Why bewail
on the renunciation of body?

End —
a sign of perfection,
a successful stage
Why to bewail?

The end of life
A stage
Why to bewail?

Let us
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life,
glorify it.

Take the last salute!

:
One who has finished one's duty/karma.


ARTICLES

[1 ]
THE MOTIF OF DEATH
N THE IPOETRY OF MAHENDRA BHATNAGAR:
AN ASSESSMENT

– Dr. D. C. Chambial

Life is poised between the two antipodal points of birth and death. Where there is birth, there is death. Where one begins the other ends. Birth is welcome and rejoiced. Death is considered terrible and is, therefore, mourned. Enmeshed in the enigma of existence man has been trying since time immemorial to dive into the mysteries of life and death. All metaphysical systems of world are the outcome of man’s endeavour to find truth in this regard. In the modern age of science man has toiled hard to lay bare the mystery of death. However, it still remains beyond the domain of science. Where the domain of science ends, the domain of metaphysics begins.What is outside the physical world is left for the philosophy to explain. Mahendra Bhatnagar has, in his book, 'Death-Perception: Life-Perception', tried to perceive the mystery of life and death. In this paper my endeavour shall be to explore Mahendra Bhatnagar’s views about death.
In order to answer the question: What is death? The poet has nothing to say different from the commonly held notion about it that death is ‘an earthly end’ and compares it to ‘a horrendous night’ (‘Life - Death’: 22) . What the poet calls ‘a horrendous night’ is the state of existence after death. However, this ‘horrendous night’ begins with death. As the one side of a coin cannot be severed from the other, similarly, birth and death are also integral and cannot be separated: ‘an unbreakable string / tied to birth’ (Ibid.) The poet declares the Vedic truth: ‘Death - a truth’ (Reality’: 32) . It is also the truth of existence. Where there is life, there is death.
Man, ever since he began to speculate and meditate about the fate of life after its termination on this terra firma, has found death an enigma to explore. It was, and still is, an enigma for him.
There is a lot about death that one wants to know: what is death? What happens to the individual on death? If body is the dwelling of soul, as the Hinduism and most of the other world religions maintain, then, what happens to the soul on and after death? What would happen if there were no death? Etc. The poet also believes in this arcane nature of death and states: ‘Death? / A question-mark! ’ (Contemplation: 10) . He, once again, repeats this mystery of death in his poem, ‘Conclusion’, with the same words and is staunch in his faith that man is ever engaged in unraveling and unmasking the secrets about death. He says though ‘death’, at present, isa question-mark’, but a day will certainly come whenThe mystery of death / to be unmasked... revealed’ (‘Conclusion’: 20)
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet, opens his discourse about death and tells the readers about its imminence. He says: ‘Death is imminent / Unavoidable’ (Gratitude’: 2) . It is very much intone with the Hindu philosophy that states: ‘Jatasya hi dhruvo mrityu...’ (the Ghagvadgita: II,27) . He further expounds that death which is the end of life on the earth ‘... is certainly / Unavoidable! ’ (Experimenting’: 38) . The fact that whosoever has life and is born on this earth is bound to decay or die. An individual’s life is limited. One cannot go beyond this limit. None can abjure the verity that one day this life on earth has to come to an end. There is no way out. The poet sings:
One day from the body
Life-bird
will fly away,
That will
Never return!
Fly away!
Life-bird
Will fly away!
(‘Truth’: 94)
Here the poet, with the help of the symbol of a bird, tries to explain that one day JIVA or PRANA will have to forsake this body. It cannot live in for good. This body is subject to the laws of destructibility and transience.
Death has never been a welcome. The very origin of death, according to Christianity, is cruel, for it is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God: they disobeyed the God, ate the forbidden fruit and the God, in turn, not only expelled them out of Eden but also inflicted death on them. Death has been with man since his first disobedience and the original sin. The poet calls death a cruel wheel that spares no one:
Cruel is
the wheel of death
very cruel!
Under which
Lifeless - living
Gradually grinding and changing
Every moment, every minute!
This earth rocks horribly!
invisibly / Silently
Continuously moves
This wheel of death.
(‘The Wheel of Death’: 6) .
This wheel always goes on like the wheel of time and one and all fall prey to it without any distinction.
The termination of life from the physical body is termed as death. Death is death whatever be its kind or form. The philosopher poet, Dr. Mahendra also declares that ‘Though the end, the same death! ’ (‘Forms of Death’: 18) . Nonetheless, he differentiates and recognizes two kinds of death: one, natural or accidental death; two, the unnatural or suicide or murder. In this regard the poet writes: ‘Death natural / or accidental /... / end of a conscious life’ (Ibid.) These both kinds of death, natural and accidental, are so called because they are the ‘writs of Providence’ (Ibid.) But, about the second kind, ‘suicide / or / murder’, the poet says that it ‘isn’t death, but, a murder.’ (ibid.) Thus, the poet acknowledges two kinds of death with clear difference.
The poet is of the view that one should not fear death. While living one should be free from its fear. Living constantly under the fear of death will make the individual a coward and one will not be able to accomplish anything in one’s life. Thus the whole objective of life and living will be defeated. One is supposed to live and, while living, do such acts that are helpful for the progress of humanity. With this motive in mind, the poet says that ‘Fearing death / will make / living futile! / weight heavy / dry onerous / pleasureless heart.’ (Free From Worry’: 8) . Under the constant fear of death, life loses its meaning. In order to make life meaningful one has to be free from the fear of death. So, the philosopher poet says:
Life
only meaningful,
when every moment is free
from the dread of death. (Ibid.)
The poet seems to echo what the Hindu philosophy says:
v'kksP; kuUo'kkspLRoa izKkoknkaÜp Hkk'klsA
xrklwuxrklawÜp ukuq'kkspfUr if.Mrk%AA
What should not be worried about you should not worry say the wise
Whether one lives or dies does not bother the pundit.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,11) .
The poet, in his poem ‘The Philosophy of Death’ (72) posits:
Death:
When a certainty,
In vain
Why
to doubt
to fear
so much?
O, tell death —
‘Come; when you please.’
There is no need either to nourish any doubt about death or fear it; it is imminent. In another poem, he says:
It is preordained that
you
one day
will sleep
in the lap of death
silently!
× × ×
in the pitch dark
of the death! (‘Preordained’: 96)
and then talks about the destruction of the body after death by consigning it to fire: ‘fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ’ (Ibid.) The JIVA forsakes body; body becomes dead because it is senseless to all external stimuli of the physical world, and finally the body joins the five elements - fire, earth, water, air, and sky, the PANCH BHUTA — out of which it had taken shape.
All this happens, the poet argues, when body becomes unsuitable for the soul as it’s dwelling. Then the soul leaves it and looks for a new one that is befitting for it, the poet says:
What?
Body
Not worth living;
Therefore...
Soul!
You left
In quest of new.’ (‘A Puzzle’: 12)
as if the soul unfolds the secret of its leaving the body, that is death, to the poet. The poet’s philosophy seems to echo the Vedic philosophy:
oklkafl th.kkZfu; Fkk fogk; uokfu x`g~.kkfr ujkss•ijkf.kA
rFkk 'kjhjkf.k fogk; th.kkZU; kfu la; fr uokfu nsghAA
As a man discards the old and worn out clothes,
Likewise the soul discards old body and enters new one.
(the Bhagvadgita: II,22) .
In the absence of death there would have no God nor the need for any such supreme divinity. The poet continues his argument thatIf there were no death, / God wouldn’t have any existence’ (‘The truth’: 14) . It means that in the absence of death man would have thought himself to be the Supreme Being and the God were to be something non-existent. It is the existence of death that makes human being inferior to God and man needs some super power to attribute to that power all the enigmas of physical and metaphysical existence that are beyond the human ken. In the absence of death, evenThe whole philosophy / hell and heaven’ (Ibid.) would have become redundant. But, there is death that necessitates the existence of God, before whose will the man bows. Therefore, the man realizes the ultimate truth that ‘Ram nam satya hai / (God’s name is the only TRUTH) ’ (Ibid.) In other words, the poet contends that only God is the Reality.
It is not that death has made the existence of God feasible but it also has a purpose. The poet maintains that death is not without purpose. It also has its utilitarian value and makes life not only useful but also beautiful for existence on this earth. He posits:

Death’s made life very beautiful,
Transforms this world, in fact,
Into a pleasant heaven,
We learnt the meaning of love,
only then
true’s true,
Transformed man into higher beings
Than immortal god!
(‘Gratitude; Again’: 4)
.

Whatever man tries to achieve in life and art is also death’s gift to him; so, the poet firmly holds:
Death’s given
Beauty to life
Such
Endless - vast!
Death’s given
Man
Life - art - efficiency
Such
Embellishment - adornment!
(‘Gratitude’: 2)
It is a fact that death has some objective. But, the poet not only encourages the mankind to shed the fear of death but also suggests to betittle death by finding a purpose of living because:
We
who are the artisans of life
should talk only about life
discover
the meaningfulness of life.
and know
about the essence of life.
(‘Purpose’: 56)
His panacea for belittling death is:
If death
destroys us
let us
strike back at it. (Ibid.)
But, how can we strike back at death? The poet has himself answered this question successfully in the poem itself that it can be done by discovering ‘the meaningfulness of lifeand by singing ‘the glory of life’ (Ibid.) The ‘meaningfulness of life’ suggests a purposeful life so that he is remembered even after he is dead.
Death is imminent. It cannot be avoided. It is the fate of all living beings on this earth. It can only be relegated to pettiness. Then there is no need to fear death: ‘let human self / not be terrorized / of death care’ (‘A Wish’: 58) . The living ones should always be ready to welcome death. There is no alternative to it. Therefore, the poet has debunked death of all its power and fear and and welcomes death to
come,
do come one day!
And take me away
in your flying-chariot
away... far away
(‘An Invitation’: 74) .
perhaps, like the persona in Emily Dickinson’s poem, ‘The Chariot’1
To conclude our discussion, we can say that the poet comes out with some very concrete suggestions to tear off the hitherto much significance attached to death. He does not believe in any type of ritual, because these do not form part of the eternal truth; these have been devised and followed by the survivors. He exhorts the mankind: ‘Let the last act be / free from rituals’ (‘The Last Will’: 110) . What is more important. in order to find the ultimate truth, to unmask the enigma of death shrouded in the mystery, is to approach the hitherto unsolved riddle of death single-mindedly. For this he suggests: ‘let mind be set / only on the mystery deyond death! ’ (Ibid.) He also consoles those who are left behind wailing and bemoaning in these words: ‘End - / a sign of perfection, / a successful stage / why to bewail’ and should
follow in the footsteps
of the departed
to attain the meaning of life
glorify it.
(‘Kritkarma’: 112) .
It isthe meaning of lifethat has not been found yet and the quest for which is ever going on like the journey of life as propounded by Aurobindo Ghose2. Mahendra Bhatnagar, the poet and philosopher, has very deeply studied and experienced, in his imagination, the concept of death and has made some very radical observations that make him stand all alone as a sedate thinker in the contemporary poetry.
.
Notes:
(1) In the Dickinson’s poem, Death is one of the occupants in the chariot. Death asks the poetess / persona to accompany him. The opening lines of the poem are:
Because I could not stop for death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And immortality.
In Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poem, the poet / persona invites Death to take him / her with himself, because he is not afraid of death and ready to go with him.
(2) In his poem, ‘Is This the End? ’, Aurobindo Ghose says that death does not put an end to the journey or quest of life. The poet refers to soul that is immortal and continues its journey ceaselessly. It goes on even after the goal has been achieved. The last two stanzas of them poem, that have relevance to the argument in the present article, are:
The Immortal in the mortal is his name!
An artist Godhead here
Ever remoulds himself in dimmer shapes,
Unwilling the cease.
Till all is done for which the stars were made,
Till the heart discovers God
And the soul knows itself. And even then
There is no end.
.


[2]
Death-Perception: Life-Perception
— Mrs. Purnima Ray

Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s ‘Death-Perception: Life-Perception’ is a collection of fifty beautiful poems translated from original Hindi into English by Dr. D.C.Chambial. The poet, and the translator are already well-known figures in the literary arena, both in India and abroad. The Appendix 1&2 published in this book help us to know their achievements in detail. In short, their bio-notes are as follows -
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is a leading Professor of Hindi Language and Literature, guides scholars, has several published books, and received many awards. His major poetry-collections include ‘Forty Poems’ translated by Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, and Prof. L.S.Sharma, ‘After The Forty Poems’ translated by Dr. Ramsevak Singh Yadav, Prof. Vareendra Kumar Varma, and Shree Amir Mohammad Khan, ‘Exuberance and other poems’, translated by Dr. Ravinandan Sinha, and ‘Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’ translated by Dr. H.C.Gupta.
Dr. D.C.Chambial is a Professor of English, a widely published Indo-English poet and critic, has several published books, poetry collections, and on criticism, and edits an international journal ‘Poetcrit’. At the outset the translator in his note makes clear to us the most important features of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry, which we have to recho in our discussion from time to time in our own way. And we will see that Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are deep, intense in feeling, suggestive and thought-provoking.
The title of this present collection is very important. One should notice that ‘Death-Perception’ comes first, then ‘Life Perception’. The ‘Death-theme’ is a very common and universal one, but the fact is that we sometimes are aware of it, and sometimes not. Most of us know that it is inevitable and certain, and we are eager to know more about it, and want to escape from its clutches, but we do not know how to do it. It is here the utility of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems on this subject. He explores all the possible ways with his extraordinary creative spirit, and he succeeds to satisfy our quench for the thirst of knowledge of this kind.
Poet Mahendra points us to see the fact that we are standing on the backbone of ‘Death’, so that our desire for life is being stirred again and again:
Death is;
Death is imminent,
Unavoidable —
That’s why
Life is so desired!
Although we get scared by it every now and then, yet it is acceptable, and for thatlife’ itself is grateful to ‘Death’:
Death element / feeling
Minute by minute death-tension
Are acceptable,
Gratitude
To Death
Life’s gratitude!
Because Death’s contributions to Life are unnumbered:
Death’s made life
very beautiful,
Transformed this world,
in fact,
Into a pleasant heaven,
We learnt
the meaning of love...
and the most important achievement of ‘Death’ is that it
...Transformed man
Into higher beings
than immortal god!
This poet has seen ‘Death’ in the best possible ways, yet
he admits the impossibility to define it:
All efforts futile -
to explicate
the meaning of death;
it’s very intricate difficult
to contemplate.
He does not ignore its dark sides:
Cruel is
The wheel of death
very cruel!
He defines finely in a word:
.. A wonderful puzzle!
Poet Mahendra can establish a truth that man’s all philosophy including the idea of God revolves round ‘Death’:
If there were no death,
God wouldn’t have any existence,
man
would have never reconciled
with his fate!
For he is always led by this fact:
... ‘Death is imminent’!
So his idea of God is nothing but:
... a proof
of man’s helplessness
of readiness after death...
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar equates the relation between Life and death through a fine imagery:
Death:
An unbreakable string
Tied to birth..
So he rightly poses the stoic question:
... Birth
why a jubilation?
Death:
pain..!
why?
Birth-death
when equal?
He can justify what he says regarding this by a logical fallacy:
Morning is red
Evening is red
Morning - evening are one.

Wail on birth
Wail on death
Birth-death are one...
It seems that he wants to say as one cannot detach death from life, similarly life cannot be detached from death:
Death -
a birth
Over and over again
of soul...
Like the ancient Greek philosophers the poet says:
... this manifest world is the only truth...
Yet he confirms:
Death - a truth
Life - a truth
The poet gives us the key-principle to overcome death:
... Every time
Continuous struggle
With the eternal challenge
of death is welcome!
He will be
A mrityunjaya; he will be!
At the same time he makes us aware of meaningfulness of life:
Mere living
isn’t a proof of
life’s meaningfulness...
and his ‘meaningfulness’ finds its expression in humanistic approach to life:
Let selflessness
be the motive of our living,
let’s devour materialistic hurdles
on every step.
Let’s acquire / such capabilities,
then
life may be
dedicated to death...
So in ‘Prayer’ poet Bhatnagar does not want any ascetic attainment, but leads the mankind in time of need:
I long
not for immortality,
I long for
youthfulness.
Perfect health, diseaselessness,
absolute peace
of human mind and body...
.
He shows us where ‘death’ takes place:
.
Shattered and disorderly life
Malady-stricken / Frustrated wounded life
momentary
eager to fall into
the death-pool!
.
and the victory of life over death:
.
Have faith
Life
will be victorious,
fear not the wicked,
fear not!
.
Like a Miltonic hero the poet discloses the way:
.
If death destroys us
let us
strike back at it,
Let us
sing the glory of life,
let us
strike a severe blow at
Yama, death!
.
Here also revolution takes place, one has to utter these words:
.
That I may
unite all those
living in hell,
urge on them
for a revolt,
prepare them
for a change in life!
.
It is only then we can realise what he says:
.
With a wish to live
one won’t
wait for death!
.
He does not want the Epicurean way of living be termed as ‘true-living’:
.
Live / by thinking self
immortal,
laugh and sing
without any concern,
eat and drink
without any worry;
should it / be termed / true living?
.
Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar sings paean of life, but there is something more special in his singing:
.
I sing
about the triumph of life
over death!
.
Like post-Tagorean Bengali surrealistic poet Jibanananda Das he admires the wealth of life:
.
I sing dauntlessly
the triumph of thru life-bud
of the dearest thing!
I sing again and again!
.
One may compare the words ‘again and again’ quoted above with Jibananada’s abar asiba phire (I will come again) . The words which poet Bhatnagar used are different, but the total effect is the same:
.
The sounds that echo
in the sky of graveyard
of the liberated-selves of carefree birds
are translations
of my life sentiments!
The compatriots
of my life - adorations!
.
Here he establishes one truth that poets from ages to ages sing life in there unique ways.
Perhaps for that reason poet Bhatnagar can romanticize ‘Death’:
.
(1) You’ll come —
On tip-toes,
Surprising
Like a clever girl.
Alright,
Accepted!
My beloved,
your this game
is welcome
.
(2) You beautiful like the moon,
from the opposite window
peep out
evaluate —
.
One should notice that the poet attaches feminity to a beautiful object.
Poet Bhatnagar’s creativity finds its fullest expression when he uses the word ‘passing away’ instead of ‘death’:
.
Death might be overtaking
while dreaming,
Prana
might be out from the body
just then.
A dreaming man
passes away!
.
Yes, the dreaming people are active and creative, they dream before turning themselves into creativity, as Lord Vishnu sleeps and dreams before the creation of the Universe; they do not know the word ‘death’ while engrossing in their way of life. The last lines of this poem makes us thoughtful, leave us in a whirlpool of suggestions:
What does he know?
Ask those living
who
have covered the dead body
with a sheet of cloth!
What happened?
What happened?
At last?
It seems that poet Bhatnagar accepts indirectly the will of God behind death:
It is preordained that
you
one day
will sleep
in the lap of death
silently!
So he says to himself and at the same time to us to renounce all earthly attachments:
Never
Remember,
Even today
Listen,
Do not light the memory-lamp!
He does not forget to remind us the most precious things of life, and he puts all this so masterly in the tongue of a dying-person:
Adieu!
O the springs of the world
Adieu!
O, the shining moon
The twinkling bright stars
Adieu!
Hills..... valleys
Slopes... marshes
Adieu!
O, the high waves of the sea!
In a way, he values most the Nature surrounding us, as
Mrityunjaya in Rabindranath Tagore’s short-story ‘The Hidden Treasure’ exclaimed: “I want sunlight, air, sky’’ etc. wanting to live.
For he knows that ultimate truth is, he makes a goodbye to an illusory world behind him:
Fluttering
wings of illusion,
Eyes
Profuse with love
Adieu!

The strings of
An inextricable knot
The unrealised hopes
Adieu!
Adieu!
‘An Ascetic’ is an important poem, in the sense that the poet gives here a message to the strife - torn world we are living in:
He who sings
songs of life
at the edge of doom,
one day -
he will attain
an immortal place
by changing his shape,
Preserve this / heritage /
by making it a stupa.
The suggestion is if we sing songs of life, then there should be no hankering after life-killing desires and efforts; again the poet’s spirituality lies in humanity, and man’s religion in his ‘Kritakarma’. The poem ‘The Last Will’ can be seen as his consolation for us as well as a clarion call:
let mind be set
only on the mystery beyond death!
× × × ×
Let refinement of worship be
in the splendour of knowledge..
Here he gives more emphasis on ‘mind’ which controls all body-organs, and on ‘knowledge’, the purest of all things in the world, as we find in The Srimat Bhagavat Gita.
Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is, no doubt, an avant-garde Indian poet. Dr. D.C.Chambial excellent rendition extends the readership of
Dr. Bhatnagar’s philosophy and poetic ability. Dr. Chambial has done his job well, for his transcreation has retained all the literary qualities of the original poems - e.g. ‘the economy of linguistic expressions’, lucidity etc.

. .

[3]
Death-Perception: Life-Perception
An Analytical Study

— Dr (Mrs) Jaya Lakshmi Rao V.


DEATH PERCEPTION - LIFE PERCEPTION is a sensitively rendered volume of 50 poems, originally written in Hindi. The poems retain their natural flavour to a great extent, thanks to the versatility of the well-known poet of national and international fame Dr D.C. Chambial. As the title indicates the mysterious entity of death and the magical polarity called life occupy the mind and art of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar. The theme of death and life has ever been source of deep contemplation often verging on to obsession for creative writers from times immemorial. Yet it never lost its freshness and vigour due to the mystery that surrounds it, the magnetism it generates and the manifold wonder it evokes. Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poetry bears witness to all the above observations.
Dr Chambial kept the translation as close as the linguistic boundaries between the original Hindi and the foreign English languages have allowed. Praise is to him, who, despite the language constrictions was able to carry and convey the poetic preoccupations of the well¬ known Hindi Poet with life and death.
The volume begins with a difference. In the first poem ‘Gratitude’, the poet gleans a reason to be grateful to death. It certainly is a new perception. The poet says: “Death’s given / Man / Life-art¬efficiency / Such / Embellishment - adornment.” According to the poet, it is death that makes life beautiful and therefore desirable. Death’s imminence makes life all the more attractive. So, he offers “Gratitude / To death / Life’s gratitude.” The fact that death equals all is mourned in a poem entitled ‘The Wheel of Death / Time’. Death tramps the white radiance of life. Death is relentless, inexorable: “Before it! Stability has! No existence! Its motion! Always controls! Life and death! Earth and sky.”
Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar’s poems are not for those who seek the romantic, who look for the sensational. They do not jingle either. There is evidently a deep contemplation, a firm conviction in his poems. Written in free verse, some of the lines remain clearly etched in the reader’s mind. Lines such as: “Invisibly / Silently / Continuously moves / This wheel of death / Uninterrupted... unchanged! ” make a mark because in spite of simple terminology the poet has used memorable imagery. When he captions a poem as ‘Wheel of Time’ (kaal chakra) , the poet is using a native metaphor. In the cultures of India, time is compared to a wheel, a wheel that is conceptualized with the elements of birth-growth (life) - death that repeat themselves ceaselessly. It is a cyclic process that is inevitable and unavoidable. So, says the poet why grieve over death and spoil one’s peace of mind? —“Life! only meaningful, / When every moment is free / From the dread of death.” Despite the scientific advancement, death is a ‘wonderful puzzle’ for the poet. He sees death as a conundrum in poems such as ‘Contemplation’ andA Puzzle’. It is the fear of death that urges man to take “refuge! In God! For eternal peace..” Yet the poet firmly believes that man’s invincibility will make him seeThe mystery of death / To be unmasked... revealed / Sure... some day” in ‘Conclusion’.
. In poems such as ‘Life-Death’ andThe Opposite’ the dividing line between the polarities of life and death are brought to focus. To the poet they are not separate but intrinsically interconnected. One cannot be without the other. They are the beginning and end of a unique cycle. Why then are feelings generated by then different? questions the poet. “Birth: Why a jubilation? / Death: Pain...? Why? ” the ironical fact however is, “Wail on birth! Wail on death! Birth-death are one.” (‘Equal’) According to the poet it is futile to think of Hell or Heaven. Suffice to know thatThis manifest world the only truth / Death - a truth, / Life - a truth! ” The common everyday thought of life and death attains a special significance in the poems of Dr Mahendra Bhatnagar because of the complexity of human emotion and intellectual activity. Although the theme of death is glaring enough, we are especially made to take notice of it due to the rhythm the poet used. It successfully indicates the relative value of his individualized perception. For example in a poem entitled ‘The Philosophy of lifethe poet says that life is “ External motion / Physical vibration / Internal motion - / Life. Real death is to lose ‘internal’ motion, the spiritual death. Now we know where the ‘fuse’ lies. The poetic thought continues on to ‘Excelsior’. If - “Struggles and strifes / lead to life” then “to be inactive” is “an indication - of the approaching death, / to stop - the end of life.”
Here is a rediscovery of the Vedic observation that our life is a pilgrimage and that man is an eternal traveler on the move. Life is an adventure. There is no resting on the journey and there is no end to it either. In the Aitereya Brhmana there is hymn, which ends with the refrain: ‘Charaiveti, Charaiveti’ which means “Hence O traveler, march along, march along.” One finds an echo in “Excelsior.... excelsior! ”
Now that we do not have a key to the puzzle of death, why not we unravel the ‘mysteries of life’, which in turn equips us with the ability ‘to talk to the moon and to the stars’ thus achieving ‘meaningfulness’ of life. In other words, the poet exhorts us to keep in touch with the unseen presence of the cosmic power by its physical manifestation in various forms of nature. True, nature is our guide, friend, and philosopher. It gives according to the poet “Perfect peace of mind /... a new meaning to life.”
A Prayer’ is an insightful poem on the secret of leading a happy life. In the poet’s opinion happy life is an outcome of self achievement. He says: “We live for / 125 years” only when we have a “Body free from pain / Mind free from torture.” So that we live as much for ‘ourselves’ as of ‘others’ because according to the Indian thought the whole world is a family - Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. The foregone thought is entirely in opposition with the feeling that “Blind, perplexed, ignorant / Man... construes money to be supreme / Thinks pleasure all in all.” (‘A Mirage’) InA Vow’ the poet depicts death as an adversary whom we the human race fight like soldiers because life is too precious to lose to “a deceitful trick of / Any adversary! ”
. ‘A Call’ is a unique poem in which the poet uses a number of sensory images to celebrate the carnival of life. In a Tagore-like lyricism, the poet hails the singers of Alakh and Sohar who play on ‘every string of the violin of heart’. Their songs are mainly meant for the ‘mentally vanquished’, to awaken those whose life turned into ‘stupor’. A number of poems expound the value attached to life, a rare gift. Poems such as ‘One day’, ‘Proved’, A Healthy Vision’, and ‘Compatibility’ sing of Shanti (peace) , victory, glory and pleasure of life. He envisages life wherein all will laugh and be merry. Death is compared to a terrorist in the poem ‘Dreadful’ who “remote controls” life - “By hiding / In invisible places.”
InThe Philosophy of Death’, ‘An Invitation’, ‘To the Fairy of Death ‘ andA Request’ there is a new challenge, a new welcome to a hail-fellow-well-met attitude to death. There is neither fear nor fascination towards humanity’s foe i.e. death. But one finds camaraderie, bonhomie, open, and candid. Death is treated as a friend, “a clever girl”, “a cohabiter” anda neighbour.” Thus, we witness a metamorphosis in the poet’s notion of death as it passes from the stage of being the fearful and the awe-inspiring to that of a much¬-awaited welcome guest. Finally an agreeable compromise is reached. Peace at last! The pilgrim realizes his futile fencing with an invincible enemy. What cannot be cured must be endured. This endurance is not born of frustration but out of wise realization. that makes a world of difference.
In ‘Comparison’ the poet juxtaposes Shiva, the three-eyed Godhead with shava, the lifeless body. A single vowel shift from ‘i’ to ‘a’ brings in an irreplaceable difference in consciousness i.e. from spandana to jada. ‘ A Blow’ shows the futility of involvement because says the poet: “Early or late / all / in an eternal sleep have to fall / dust unto dust! ” thus after being enlightened that every one “One day / renouncing name and fair form / will be reduced / to ashes! ” (‘Preordained’) , the poet proclaims in ‘Proclamation’: “0 Death / I do accept you.../ I go / For good... for good / I go! ”
Now there is loveliness all around. Nothing but peace remains. Not, that which is a result of impotent stupor but the peace one arrives at after experiencing the vicissitudes of life, like the pe

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Your Image

In my madness
Transformed agonies
Existential leanings
Yourself because of me
I hold your image
In my eyes
Like after death
The snake is burnt
As he carries
The image of his slayer

In my own circles
Like a mirror in palm
While you do your eyes
A reflection always
As you shatter me
Into dust
But like the snake
Ye shall burn me
To escape thy image

And by then
Ye shall see thine image
In thy soul
27/2/2009

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Sonnet 8

Another night I think of you.
All your charm and sweet caress.
How you won my heart! is it not true.
Your supple soft sweet breasts.
You been and gone the night before,
The smell of your scent lingers on.
How you keep me wanting more.
With you there can be no wrong!
Those eyes that see through me.
A teasing warm kiss of delight.
Tell me now this will always be.
Every single part of you excites!
Will forever feel this way you say.
My heart will tell you forever and a day.

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