The Great Hunger
Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?
Which of these men
Loved the light and the queen
Too long virgin? Yesterday was summer. Who was it promised marriage to himself
Before apples were hung from the ceilings for Hallowe'en?
We will wait and watch the tragedy to the last curtain,
Till the last soul passively like a bag of wet clay
Rolls down the side of the hill, diverted by the angles
Where the plough missed or a spade stands, straitening the way.
A dog lying on a torn jacket under a heeled-up cart,
A horse nosing along the posied headland, trailing
A rusty plough. Three heads hanging between wide-apart legs.
October playing a symphony on a slack wire paling.
Maguire watches the drills flattened out
And the flints that lit a candle for him on a June altar
Flameless. The drills slipped by and the days slipped by
And he trembled his head away and ran free from the world's halter,
And thought himself wiser than any man in the townland
When he laughed over pints of porter
Of how he came free from every net spread
In the gaps of experience. He shook a knowing head
And pretended to his soul
That children are tedious in hurrying fields of April
Where men are spanning across wide furrows.
Lost in the passion that never needs a wife
The pricks that pricked were the pointed pins of harrows.
Children scream so loud that the crows could bring
The seed of an acre away with crow-rude jeers.
Patrick Maguire, he called his dog and he flung a stone in the air
And hallooed the birds away that were the birds of the years.
Turn over the weedy clods and tease out the tangled skeins.
What is he looking for there?
He thinks it is a potato, but we know better
Than his mud-gloved fingers probe in this insensitive hair.
'Move forward the basket and balance it steady
In this hollow. Pull down the shafts of that cart, Joe,
And straddle the horse,' Maguire calls.
'The wind's over Brannagan's, now that means rain.
Graip up some withered stalks and see that no potato falls
Over the tail-board going down the ruckety pass -
And that's a job we'll have to do in December,
Gravel it and build a kerb on the bog-side. Is that Cassidy's ass
Out in my clover? Curse o' God
Where is that dog?.
Never where he's wanted' Maguire grunts and spits
Through a clay-wattled moustache and stares about him from the height.
His dream changes like the cloud-swung wind
And he is not so sure now if his mother was right
When she praised the man who made a field his bride.
Watch him, watch him, that man on a hill whose spirit
Is a wet sack flapping about the knees of time.
He lives that his little fields may stay fertile when his own body
Is spread in the bottom of a ditch under two coulters crossed in Christ's Name.
He was suspicious in his youth as a rat near strange bread,
When girls laughed; when they screamed he knew that meant
The cry of fillies in season. He could not walk
The easy road to destiny. He dreamt
The innocence of young brambles to hooked treachery.
O the grip, O the grip of irregular fields! No man escapes.
It could not be that back of the hills love was free
And ditches straight.
No monster hand lifted up children and put down apes
'O God if I had been wiser!'
That was his sigh like the brown breeze in the thistles.
He looks, towards his house and haggard. 'O God if I had been wiser!'
But now a crumpled leaf from the whitethorn bushes
Darts like a frightened robin, and the fence
Shows the green of after-grass through a little window,
And he knows that his own heart is calling his mother a liar
God's truth is life - even the grotesque shapes of his foulest fire.
The horse lifts its head and cranes
Through the whins and stones
To lip late passion in the crawling clover.
In the gap there's a bush weighted with boulders like morality,
The fools of life bleed if they climb over.
The wind leans from Brady's, and the coltsfoot leaves are holed with rust,
Rain fills the cart-tracks and the sole-plate grooves;
A yellow sun reflects in Donaghmoyne
The poignant light in puddles shaped by hooves.
Come with me, Imagination, into this iron house
And we will watch from the doorway the years run back,
And we will know what a peasant's left hand wrote on the page.
Be easy, October. No cackle hen, horse neigh, tree sough, duck quack.
Maguiire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son's backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the bank of some summer stream;
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
And two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh.
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an appearance.
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.
Poor Paddy Maguire, a fourteen-hour day
He worked for years. It was he that lit the fire
And boiled the kettle and gave the cows their hay.
His mother tall hard as a Protestant spire
Came down the stairs barefoot at the kettle-call
And talked to her son sharply: 'Did you let
The hens out, you?' She had a venomous drawl
And a wizened face like moth-eaten leatherette.
Two black cats peeped between the banisters
And gloated over the bacon-fizzling pan.
Outside the window showed tin canisters.
The snipe of Dawn fell like a whirring stone
And Patrick on a headland stood alone.
The pull is on the traces, it is March
And a cold black wind is blowing from Dundalk.
The twisting sod rolls over on her back
The virgin screams before the irresistible sock.
No worry on Maguire's mind this day
Except that he forgot to bring his matches.
'Hop back there Polly, hoy back, woa, wae,
From every second hill a neighbour watches
With all the sharpened interest of rivalry.
Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.
Primroses and the unearthly start of ferns
Among the blackthorn shadows in the ditch,
A dead sparrow and an old waistcoat. Maguire learns
As the horses turn slowly round the which is which
Of love and fear and things half born to mind
He stands between the plough-handles and he sees
At the end of a long furrow his name signed
Among the poets, prostitutes. With all miseries
He is one. Here with the unfortunate
Who for half-moments of paradise
Pay out good days and wait and wait
For sunlight-woven cloaks. O to be wise
As Respectability that knows the price of all things
And marks God's truth in pounds and pence and farthings.
April, and no one able to calculate
How far it is to harvest. They put down
The seeds blindly with sensuous groping fingers
And sensual dreams sleep dreams subtly underground.
Tomorrow is Wednesday - who cares?
'Remember Eileen Farrelly? I was thinking
A man might do a damned sight worse …' That voice is blown
Through a hole in a garden wall -
And who was Eileen now cannot be known.
The cattle are out on grass
The corn is coming up evenly.
The farm folk are hurrying to catch Mass:
Christ will meet them at the end of the world, the slow and the speedier.
But the fields say: only Time can bless.
Maguire knelt beside a pillar where he could spit
Without being seen. He turned an old prayer round:
'Jesus, Mary, Joseph pray for us
Now and at the Hour.' Heaven dazzled death.
'Wonder should I cross-plough that turnip-ground.'
The tension broke. The congregation lifted it head
As one man and coughed in unison.
Five hundred hearts were hungry for life-
Who lives in Christ shall never die the death.
And the candle-lit Altar and the flowers
And the pregnant Tabernacle lifted a moment to Prophecy
Out of the clayey hours
Maguire sprinkled his face with holy water
As the congregation stood up for the Last Gospel.
He rubbed the dust off his knees with his palm, and then
Coughed the prayer phlegm up from his throat and sighed: Amen.
Once one day in June when he was walking
Among his cattle in the Yellow Meadow
He met a girl carrying a basket
And he was then a young and heated fellow.
Too earnest, too earnest! He rushed beyond the thing
To the unreal. And he saw Sin
Written in letters larger than John Bunyan dreamt of.
For the strangled impulse there is no redemption.
And that girl was gone and he was counting
The dangers in the fields where love ranted
He was helpless. He saw his cattle
And stroked their flanks in lieu of wife to handle.
He would have changed the circle if he could,
The circle that was the grass track where he ran.
Twenty times a day he ran round the field
And still there was no winning-post where the runner is cheered home.
Desperately he broke the tune,
But however he tried always the same melody lept up from the background,
The dragging step of a ploughman going home through the guttery
Headlands under an April-watery moon.
Religion, the fields and the fear of the Lord
And Ignorance giving him the coward's blow,
He dared not rise to pluck the fantasies
From the fruited Tree of Life. He bowed his head
And saw a wet weed twined about his toe.
Evening at the cross-roads -
Heavy heads nodding out words as wise
As the ruminations of cows after milking.
From the ragged road surface a boy picks up
A piece of gravel and stares at it-and then
Tosses it across the elm tree on to the railway.
He means nothing.
Not a damn thing
Somebody is coming over the metal railway bridge
And his hobnailed boots on the arches sound like a gong
Calling men awake. But the bridge is too narrow -
The men lift their heads a moment. That was only John,
So they dream on.
Night in the elms, night in the grass.
O we are too tired to go home yet. Two cyclists pass
Talking loudly of Kitty and Molly?
Horses or women? wisdom or folly?
A door closes on an evicted dog
Where prayers begin in Barney Meegan's kitchen :
Rosie curses the cat between her devotions;
The daughter prays that she may have three wishes -
Health and wealth and love -
From the fairy who is faith or hope or compounds of.
At the cross-roads the crowd had thinned out:
Last words were uttered. There is no to-morrow;
No future but only time stretched for the mowing of the hay
Or putting an axle in the turf-barrow.
Patrick Maguire went home and made cocoa
And broke a chunk off the loaf of wheaten bread;
His mother called down to him to look again
And make sure that the hen-house was locked. His sister grunted in bed
The sound of a sow taking up a new position.
Pat opened his trousers wide over the ashes
And dreamt himself to lewd sleepiness.
The clock ticked on. Time passes.
Health and wealth and love he too dreamed of in May
As he sat on the railway slope and watched the children of the place
Picking up a primrose here and a daisy there -
They were picking up life's truth singly.
But he dreamt of the Absolute envased bouquet -
AIl or nothing. And it was nothing. For God is not all
In one place, complete
Till Hope comes in and takes it on his shoulder -
O Christ, that is what you have done for us:
In a crumb of bread the whole mystery is.
He read the symbol too sharply and turned
From the five simple doors of sense
To the door whose combination lock has puzzled
Philosopher and priest and common dunce.
Men build their heavens as they build their circles
Of friends. God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday -
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears,
A pearl necklace round the neck of poverty.
He sat on the railway slope and watched the evening,
Too beautifully perfect to use,
And his three wishes were three stones too sharp to sit on,
Too hard to carve. Three frozen idols of a speechless muse.
'Now go to Mass and pray and confess your sins
And you'll have all the luck,' his mother said.
He listened to the lie that is a woman's screen
Around a conscience when soft thighs are spread.
And all the while she was setting up the lie
She trusted in Nature that never deceives.
But her son took it as literal truth.
Religion's walls expand to the push of nature. Morality yields
To sense - but not in little tillage fields.
Life went on like that. One summer morning
Again through a hay-field on her way to the shop -
The grass was wet and over-leaned the path -
And Agnes held her skirts sensationally up,
And not because the grass was wet either.
A man was watching her, Patrick Maguire.
She was in love with passion and its weakness
And the wet grass could never cool the fire
That radiated from her unwanted womb in that metaphysical land
Where flesh was thought more spiritual than music
Among the stars - out of reach of the peasant's hand.
Ah, but the priest was one of the people too -
A farmers son - and surely he knew
The needs of a brother and sister.
Religion could not be a counter-irritant like a blister,
But the certain standard, measured and known
By which man might re-make his soul though all walls were down
And all earth's pedestalled gods thrown.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He didn't care a damn.
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head
And inconsequently sang.
While his world withered away,
He had a cigarette to smoke and a pound to spend
On drink the next Saturday.
His cattle were fat
And his horses all that
Midsummer grass could make them.
The young women ran wild
And dreamed of a child
Joy dreams though the fathers might forsake them
But no one would take them;
No man could ever see
That their skirts had loosed buttons,
O the men were as blind as could be.
And Patrick Maguire
From his. purgatory fire
Called the gods of the Christian to prove
That this twisted skein
Was the necessary pain
And not the rope that was strangling true love.
But sitting on a wooden gate
Sometime in July
When he was thirty-four or five
He gloried in the lie:
He made it read the way it should,
He made life read the evil good
While he cursed the ascetic brotherhood
Without knowing why.
Sitting on a wooden gate
All, all alone
He sang and laughed
Like a man quite daft,
Or like a man on a channel raft
He fantasied forth his groan.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He rode in day-dream cars.
He locked his body with his knees
When the gate swung too much in the breeze.
But while he caught high ecstasies
Life slipped between the bars.
He gave himself another year,
Something was bound to happen before then -
The circle would break down
And he would carve the new one to his own will.
A new rhythm is a new life
And in it marriage is hung and money.
He would be a new man walking through unbroken meadows
Of dawn in the year of One.
The poor peasant talking to himself in a stable door
An ignorant peasant deep in dung.
What can the passers-by think otherwise?
Where is his silver bowl of knowledge hung?
Why should men be asked to believe in a soul
That is only the mark of a hoof in guttery gaps?
A man is what is written on the label.
And the passing world stares but no one stops
To look closer. So back to the growing crops
And the ridges he never loved.
Nobody will ever know how much tortured poetry the pulled weeds on the ridge wrote
Before they withered in the July sun,
Nobody will ever read the wild, sprawling, scrawling mad woman's signature,
The hysteria and the boredom of the enclosed nun of his thought.
Like the afterbirth of a cow stretched on a branch in the wind
Life dried in the veins of these women and men:
'The grey and grief and unloved,
The bones in the backs of their hands,
And the chapel pressing its low ceiling over them.
Sometimes they did laugh and see the sunlight,
A narrow slice of divine instruction.
Going along the river at the bend of Sunday
The trout played in the pools encouragement
To jump in love though death bait the hook.
And there would be girls sitting on the grass banks of lanes.
Stretch-legged and lingering staring -
A man might take one of them if he had the courage.
But 'No' was in every sentence of their story
Except when the public-house came in and shouted its piece.
The yellow buttercups and the bluebells among the whin bushes
On rocks in the middle of ploughing
Was a bright spoke in the wheel
Of the peasant's mill.
The goldfinches on the railway paling were worth looking at -
A man might imagine then
Himself in Brazil and these birds the birds of paradise
And the Amazon and the romance traced on the school map lived again.
Talk in evening corners and under trees
Was like an old book found in a king's tomb.
The children gathered round like students and listened
And some of the saga defied the draught in the open tomb
And was not blown.
Their intellectual life consisted in reading
Reynolds News or the Sunday Dispatch,
With sometimes an old almanac brought down from the ceiling
Or a school reader brown with the droppings of thatch.
The sporting results or the headlines of war
Was a humbug profound as the highbrow's Arcana.
Pat tried to be wise to the abstraction of all that
But its secret dribbled down his waistcoat like a drink from a strainer.
He wagered a bob each way on the Derby,
He got a straight tip from a man in a shop -
A double from the Guineas it was and thought himself
A master mathematician when one of them came up
And he could explain how much he'd have drawn
On the double if the second leg had followed the first.
He was betting on form and breeding, he claimed,
And the man that did that could never be burst.
After that they went on to the war, and the generals
On both sides were shown to be stupid as hell.
If he'd taken that road, they remarked of a Marshal,
He'd have … O they know their geography well
This was their university. Maguire was an undergraduate
Who dreamed from his lowly position of rising
To a professorship like Larry McKenna or Duffy
Or the pig-gelder Nallon whose knowledge was amazing.
'A treble, full multiple odds … That's flat porter …
Another one … No, you're wrong about that thing I was telling you. .
Did you part with your filly, Jack? I heard that you sold her.…'
The students were all savants by the time of pub-close.
A year passed and another hurried after it
And Patrick Maguire was still six months behind life -
His mother six months ahead of it;
His sister straddle-legged across it: -
One leg in hell and the other in heaven
And between the purgatory of middle-aged virginity -
She prayed for release to heaven or hell.
His mother's voice grew thinner like a rust-worn knife
But it cut venomously as it thinned,
It cut him up the middle till he became more woman than man,
And it cut through to his mind before the end.
Another field whitened in the April air
And the harrows rattled over the seed.
He gathered the loose stones off the ridges carefully
And grumbled to his men to hurry. He looked like a man who could give advice
To foolish young fellows. He was forty-seven,
And there was depth in his jaw and his voice was the voice of a great cattle-dealer,
A man with whom the fair-green gods break even.
'I think I ploughed that lea the proper depth,
She ought to give a crop if any land gives …
Drive slower with the foal-mare, Joe.'
Joe, a young man of imagined wives,
Smiles to himself and answered like a slave:
'You needn't fear or fret.
I'm taking her as easy, as easy as …
Easy there Fanny, easy, pet.'
They loaded the day-scoured implements on the cart
As the shadows of poplars crookened the furrows.
It was the evening, evening. Patrick was forgetting to be lonely
As he used to be in Aprils long ago.
It was the menopause, the misery-pause.
The schoolgirls passed his house laughing every morning
And sometimes they spoke to him familiarly -
He had an idea. Schoolgirls of thirteen
Would see no political intrigue in an old man's friendship.
The heifer waiting to be nosed by the old bull.
That notion passed too - there was the danger of talk
And jails are narrower than the five-sod ridge
And colder than the black hills facing Armagh in February.
He sinned over the warm ashes again and his crime
The law's long arm could not serve with time.
His face set like an old judge's pose:
Respectability and righteousness,
Stand for no nonsense.
The priest from the altar called Patrick Maguire's name
To hold the collecting-box in the chapel door
During all the Sundays of May.
His neighbours envied him his holy rise,
But he walked down from the church with affected indifference
And took the measure of heaven angle-wise.
He still could laugh and sing,
But not the wild laugh or the abandoned harmony now
That called the world to new silliness from the top of a wooden gate
When thirty-five could take the sparrow's bow.
Let us be kind, let us be kind and sympathetic:
Maybe life is not for joking or for finding happiness in -
This tiny light in Oriental Darkness
Looking out chance windows of poetry or prayer.
And the grief and defeat of men like these peasants
Is God's way - maybe - and we must not want too much
The twisted thread is stronger than the wind-swept fleece.
And in the end who shall rest in truth's high peace?
Or whose is the world now, even now?
O let us kneel where the blind ploughman kneels
And learn to live without despairing
In a mud-walled space -
Illiterate unknown and unknowing.
Let us kneel where he kneels
And feel what he feels.
One day he saw a daisy and he thought it
Reminded him of his childhood -
He stopped his cart to look at it.
Was there a fairy hiding behind it?
He helped a poor woman whose cow
Had died on her;
He dragged home a drunken man on a winter's night
And one rare moment he heard the young people playing on the railway stile
And he wished them happiness and whatever they most desired from life.
He saw the sunlight and begrudged no man
His share of what the miserly soil and soul
Gives in a season to a ploughman.
And he cried for his own loss one late night on the pillow
And yet thanked the God who had arranged these things.
Was he then a saint?
A Matt Talbot of Monaghan?
His sister Mary Anne spat poison at the children
Who sometimes came to the door selling raffle tickets
For holy funds.
'Get out, you little tramps!' she would scream
As she shook to the hens an armful of crumbs,
But Patrick often put his hand deep down
In his trouser-pocket and fingered out a penny
Or maybe a tobacco-stained caramel.
'You're soft,' said the sister; 'with other people's money
It's not a bit funny.'
The cards are shuffled and the deck
Laid flat for cutting - Tom Malone
Cut for trump. I think we'll make
This game, the last, a tanner one.
Hearts. Right. I see you're breaking
Your two-year-old. Play quick, Maguire,
The clock there says it's half-past ten -
Kate, throw another sod on that fire.
One of the card-players laughs and spits
Into the flame across a shoulder.
Outside, a noise like a rat
Among the hen-roosts.
The cock crows over
The frosted townland of the night.
Eleven o'clock and still the game
Goes on and the players seem to be
Drunk in an Orient opium den.
Midnight, one o'clock, two.
Somebody's leg has fallen asleep.
What about home? Maguire, are you
Using your double-tree this week?
Why? do you want it? Play the ace.
There's it, and that's the last card for me.
A wonderful night, we had. Duffy's place
Is very convenient. Is that a ghost or a tree?
And so they go home with dragging feet
And their voices rumble like laden carts.
And they are happy as the dead or sleeping …
I should have led that ace of hearts.
The fields were bleached white,
The wooden tubs full of water
Were white in the winds
That blew through Brannagan's Gap on their way from Siberia;
The cows on the grassless heights .
Followed the hay that had wings -
The February fodder that hung itself on the black branches
Of the hill-top hedge.
A man stood beside a potato-pit
And clapped his arms
And pranced on the crisp roots
And shouted to warm himself.
Then he buck-leaped about the potatoes
And scooped them into a basket.
He looked like a bucking suck-calf
Whose spine was being tickled.
Sometimes he stared across the bogs
And sometimes he straightened his back and vaguely whistled
A tune that weakened his spirit
And saddened his terrier dog's.
A neighbour passed with a spade on his shoulder
And Patrick Maguire bent like a bridge
Whistled-good morning under his oxter
And the man the other side of the hedge
Champed his spade on the road at his toes
And talked an old sentimentality
While the wind blew under his clothes.
The mother sickened and stayed in bed all day,
Her head hardly dented the pillow, so light and thin it had worn,
But she still enquired after the household affairs.
She held the strings of her children's Punch and Judy, and when a mouth opened
It was her truth that the dolls would have spoken
If they hadn't been made of wood and tin -
'Did you open the barn door, Pat, to let the young calves in?'
The priest called to see her every Saturday
And she told him her troubles and fears:
'If Mary Anne was settled I'd die in peace -
I'm getting on in years.'
'You were a good woman,' said the priest,
'And your children will miss you when you're gone.
The likes of you this parish never knew,
I'm sure they'll not forget the work you've done.'
She reached five bony crooks under the tick -
'Five pounds for Masses - won't you say them quick.'
She died one morning in the beginning of May
And a shower of sparrow-notes was the litany for her dying.
The holy water was sprinkled on the bed-clothes
And her children stood around the bed and cried because it was too late for crying.
A mother dead! The tired sentiment:
'Mother, Mother' was a shallow pool
Where sorrow hardly could wash its feet …
Mary Anne came away from the deathbed and boiled the calves their gruel.
'O what was I doing when the procession passed?
Where was I looking? Young women and men
And I might have joined them.
Who bent the coin of my destiny
That it stuck in the slot?
I remember a night we walked
Through the moon of Donaghmoyne,
Four of us seeking adventure,
It was midsummer forty years ago.
Now I know
The moment that gave the turn to my life.
O Christ! I am locked in a stable with pigs and cows for ever.
The world looks on
And talks of the peasant:
The peasant has no worries;
In his little lyrical fields He ploughs and sows;
He eats fresh food,
He loves fresh women, He is his own master
As it was in the Beginning
The simpleness of peasant life.
The birds that sing for him are eternal choirs ,
Everywhere he walks there are flowers.
His heart is pure, His mind is clear,
He can talk to God as Moses and Isaiah talked
The peasant who is only one remove from the beasts he drives. '
'The travellers stop their cars to gape over the green bank into his fields: -
There is the source from which all cultures rise,
And all religions,
There is the pool in which the poet dips
And the musician.
Without the peasant base civilisation must die,
Unless the clay is in the mouth the singer's singing is useless.
The travellers touch the roots of the grass and feel renewed
When they grasp the steering wheels again.
The peasant is the unspoiled child of Prophecy,
The peasant is all virtues - let us salute him without irony
The peasant ploughman who is half a vegetable -
Who can react to sun and rain and sometimes even
Regret that the Maker of Light had not touched him more intensely.
Brought him up from the sub-soil to an existence
Of conscious joy. He was not born blind.
He is not always blind: sometimes the cataract yields
To sudden stone-falling or the desire to breed.
The girls pass along the roads
And he can remember what man is,
But there is nothing he can do.
Is there nothing he can do?
Is there no escape?
No escape, no escape.
The cows and horses breed,
And the potato-seed
Gives a bud and a root and rots
In the good mother's way with her sons;
The fledged bird is thrown
From the nest - on its own.
But the peasant in his little acres is tied
To a mother's womb by the wind-toughened navel-cord
Like a goat tethered to the stump of a tree -
He circles around and around wondering why it should be.
No crash, No drama.
That was how his life happened.
No mad hooves galloping in the sky,
But the weak, washy way of true tragedy -
A sick horse nosing around the meadow for a clean place to die.
We may come out in the October reality, Imagination,
The sleety wind no longer slants to the black hill where Maguire
And his men are now collecting the scattered harness and baskets.
The dog sitting on a wisp of dry stalks
Watches them through the shadows.
'Back in, back in.' One talks to the horse as to a brother.
Maguire himself is patting a potato-pit against the weather -
An old man fondling a new-piled grave:
'Joe, I hope you didn't forget to hide the spade .
For there's rogues in the townland.
Hide it flat in a furrow.
I think we ought to be finished by to-morrow.
Their voices through the darkness sound like voices from a cave,
A dull thudding far away, futile, feeble, far away,
First cousins to the ghosts of the townland.
A light stands in a window. Mary Anne
Has the table set and the tea-pot waiting in the ashes.
She goes to the door and listens and then she calls
From the top of the haggard-wall :
'What's keeping you
And the cows to be milked and all the other work there's to do?'
'All right, all right
We'll not stay here all night '
The curtain falls.
From the homing carts and the trees
And the bawling cows at the gates.
From the screeching water-hens
And the mill-race heavy with the Lammas floods curving over the weir
A train at the station blowing off steam
And the hysterical laughter of the defeated everywhere.
Night, and the futile cards are shuffled again.
Maguire spreads his legs over the impotent cinders that wake no manhood now
And he hardly looks to see which card is trump.
His sister tightens her legs and her lips and frizzles up
Like the wick of an oil-less lamp.
The curtain falls -
Maguire is not afraid of death, the Church will light him a candle
To see his way through the vaults and he'll understand the
Quality of the clay that dribbles over his coffin.
He'll know the names of the roots that climb down to tickle his feet.
And he will feel no different than when he walked through Donaghmoyne.
If he stretches out a hand - a wet clod,
If he opens his nostrils - a dungy smell;
If he opens his eyes once in a million years -
Through a crack in the crust of the earth he may see a face nodding in
Or a woman's legs.
Shut them again for that sight is sin.
He will hardly remember that life happened to him -
Something was brighter a moment. Somebody sang in the distance
A procession passed down a mesmerized street.
He remembers names like Easter and Christmas
By colour his fields were.
Maybe he will be born again, a bird of an angel's conceit
To sing the gospel of life
To a music as flighty tangent
As a tune on an oboe.
And the serious look of his fields will have changed to the leer of a hobo.
Swaggering celestially home to his three wishes granted.
Will that be? will that be?
Or is the earth right that laughs haw-haw
And does not believe
In an unearthly law.
The earth that says:
Patrick Maguire, the old peasant, can neither be damned nor glorified:
The graveyard in which he will lie will be just a deep-drilled potato-field
Where the seed gets no chance to come through
To the fun of the sun.
The tongue in his mouth is the root of a yew.
Silence, silence. The story is done.
He stands in the doorway of his house
A ragged sculpture of the wind,
October creaks the rotted mattress,
The bedposts fall. No hope. No lust.
The hungry fiend
Screams the apocalypse of clay
In every corner of this land.
- quotes about plow
- quotes about cows
- quotes about screams
- quotes about grass
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about midsummer
- quotes about journalism
- quotes about harvest
- quotes about birds
The Word Became Flesh
Man on Earth will one day perish, but not so for The Word we cherish.
The Word of God that many treasure will indeed friend, go on forever.
In the beginning was The Word, this is a verse that many have heard,
And God was with The Word, this is what the Apostle John conferred.
And The Word indeed was God; and clearly said with a definitive nod.
The Word is Christ my friend, who had no beginning and has no end.
Christ is The Living Eternal Word, as many prophets have concurred.
The Word became flesh indeed, coming to earth as the promised seed.
Through Him all things were made as the heavens and earth were laid.
And in Him was life, my friend, and that life was the light of men.
Christ is the true Light of the world, this is the message to herald.
He came to give light to all men, but this they would not understand.
And though He created all things, the world did not recognize Him.
And John was sent to testify, that Christ was The Lord from on High.
Christ’s own people wouldn’t believe and Christ they did not receive.
He came to the darkness of men, but Light they could not comprehend.
Christ came as The Light of all men, but men liked darkness instead,
Not wanting The Light to reveal, that their many deeds were so evil.
But these men are much like the grass and their glory will not last,
But let The Light be your endeavor and like Him you will live forever.
- quotes about Bible
- quotes about words
- quotes about men
- quotes about beginning
- quotes about friendship
- quotes about Earth
- quotes about promises
- quotes about life
- quotes about receiving
Men Loved Wholly Beyond Wisdom
Men loved wholly beyond wisdom
Have the staff without the banner.
Like a fire in a dry thicket
Rising within women's eyes
Is the love men must return.
Heart, so subtle now, and trembling,
What a marvel to be wise.,
To love never in this manner!
To be quiet in the fern
Like a thing gone dead and still,
Listening to the prisoned cricket
Shake its terrible dissembling
Music in the granite hill.
Word Made Flesh
Suck my breast, I'm the word made flesh
Ain't no rest for the word made flesh
My lips are moving but I hear no sound
It's that same old noise, it's in sensurround
Tune yourself up and count yourself down
Word made flesh, word made flesh
Lord help me rise to this occasion
Word made, word made flesh
I've been toiling so hard in the vineyard
Pay your debts to the word made flesh
East meets west in the word made flesh
I see you talking, but I still can't hear
Like a box of glass blocking off my ears
Turn off the charm and prey on your fears
Brainless pests for the word made flesh
Wall Street desks curse the word made flesh
Fall In, My Men, Fall In
The short hour's halt is ended,
The red gone from the west,
The broken wheel is mended,
And the dead men laid to rest.
Three days have we retreated
The brave old Curse-and-Grin –
Outnumbered and defeated –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
Poor weary, hungry sinners,
Past caring and past fear,
The camp-fires of the winners
Are gleaming in the rear.
Each day their front advances,
Each day the same old din,
But freedom holds the chances –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
Despair's cold fingers searches
The sky is black ahead,
We leave in barns and churches
Our wounded and our dead.
Through cold and rain and darkness
And mire that clogs like sin,
In failure in its starkness –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
We go and know not whither,
Nor see the tracks we go –
A horseman gaunt shall tell us,
A rain-veiled light shall show.
By wood and swamp and mountain,
The long dark hours begin –
Before our fresh wounds stiffen –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
With old wounds dully aching –
Fall in, my men, fall in –
See yonder starlight breaking
Through rifts where storm clouds thin!
See yonder clear sky arching
The distant range upon?
I'll plan while we are marching –
Move on, my men - march on!
Fall In, My Men, Fall In
The short hour's halt is ended,
The red gone from the west,
The broken wheel is mended,
And the dead men laid to rest.
Three days have we retreated
The brave old Curse-and-Grin –
Outnumbered and defeated –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
Poor weary, hungry sinners,
Past caring and past fear,
The camp-fires of the winners
Are gleaming in the rear.
Each day their front advances,
Each day the same old din,
But freedom holds the chances –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
Despair's cold fingers searches
The sky is black ahead,
We leave in barns and churches
Our wounded and our dead.
Through cold and rain and darkness
And mire that clogs like sin,
In failure in its starkness –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
We go and know not whither,
Nor see the tracks we go –
A horseman gaunt shall tell us,
A rain-veiled light shall show.
By wood and swamp and mountain,
The long dark hours begin –
Before our fresh wounds stiffen –
Fall in, my men, fall in.
With old wounds dully aching –
Fall in, my men, fall in –
See yonder starlight breaking
Through rifts where storm clouds thin!
See yonder clear sky arching
The distant range upon?
I'll plan while we are marching –
Move on, my men - march on!
Ive Loved Her So Long
Shes a victim of her senses
Do you know her?
Can you see her in the distance
As she tumbles by?
Veteran of a race that should be over
Can you hear her sigh?
With wings to fly
She rolls along
Doing it wrong.
Oh, Ive loved her so long
Oh, Ive loved her so long
Theres a place that I know
We could go get away for a while
I can bring her the peace
That she needs
Give her reason to smile.
Oh, Ive loved her so long
Hatred is such a powerful emotion,
Three letters that create such commotion.
War is a word that bares no goals,
It shall ravage land and blacken souls...
Warriors chant their blood thirsty song,
Each side believing they're not wrong.
Instead of life they only breed death,
While innocence breathe's it's last breath...
Hero's are born yet soon they die,
Families despair and children cry.
For war is a beast that knows no rules,
It's a game that is only played by fools...
Politicians have never witnessed the blood,
Or the men that are lost in the mud.
A game of chess they seem to play,
With the life's of men in a cavalier way...
The choice is simple for us to make,
To deny the demon for mankind's sake.
For as long as both shall hold a breath,
Then war shall deal us only death...
Spread the love... The peace will follow...
Ravine Of Abortive Bliss And Sorrows
From dancing with your lofty shadows I trampled and lost
The metronome of my shifting pace and the road I wallowed
As pernicious as losing the maps to your own penetralium
The dark conquered my impenetrable but open heart
The hysteria brought upon her livid lightning in my eyes and I raged
My infinitesimal voice ricocheted in your halls but are you estranged
From my voice, dear monoliths? Or was I lost in your wailing corridors?
The immense sky was a watchful eye upon every shift
Like a king in a game of chess restricting my abashed feet
And checking and rivaling every move in a wintery snare
Its glacial and hoarse whimper was an intimidating roar
Its watchfulness stalled the night in these impassable walls
That incarcerated my defenselessness - like an implored aegis
And sometimes like a fluently guised and malingering demise
In this hall, where I am everywhere but no longer hold existence
Disembogued of everything, yet tethered to everything -
A veiled allegiance to the inner burning of angels and demons,
A fortress for all the daunted hope, an albino blindness to mendacity,
A ravine of abortive bliss and sorrow devouring the insubstantial soul
And burying its involution to a death that will bore subsistence
A silver rope hang from the sky and its bony sheen beckoned to me
Like a ray of life in this ethereal death, a banister in this amorphous path
But darkness turned to light and it dissipated into the bright
The lighted wick was charred, its sputtering tongue blown away
With all the shattered dreams as the cold gnashed on my bitter bones
Alone and naked in a nameless and faceless void, I learned
That even the brightest of gold and diamonds succumbs to evanesce
Tiny droplets of the moon showered with milky phosphors
And set a gleaming stain in the sanctum of this ravine, like candles,
And my eyes, beleaguered from resentment, watched my own funeral.
IT is full Winter now: the trees are bare,
Save where the cattle huddle from the cold
Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear
The Autumn's gaudy livery whose gold
Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true
To the green doublet; bitter is the wind, as though it blew
From Saturn's cave; a few thin wisps of hay
Lie on the sharp black hedges, where the wain
Dragged the sweet pillage of a summer's day
From the low meadows up the narrow lane;
Upon the half-thawed snow the bleating sheep
Press close against the hurdles, and the shivering house-dogs creep
From the shut stable to the frozen stream
And back again disconsolate, and miss
The bawling shepherds and the noisy team;
And overhead in circling listlessness
The cawing rooks whirl round the frosted stack,
Or crowd the dripping boughs; and in the fen the ice-pools crack
Where the gaunt bittern stalks among the reeds
And flaps his wings, and stretches back his neck,
And hoots to see the moon; across the meads
Limps the poor frightened hare, a little speck;
And a stray seamew with its fretful cry
Flits like a sudden drift of snow against the dull grey sky.
Full winter: and the lusty goodman brings
His load of faggots from the chilly byre,
And stamps his feet upon the hearth, and flings
The sappy billets on the waning fire,
And laughs to see the sudden lightening scare
His children at their play; and yet,--the Spring is in the air,
Already the slim crocus stirs the snow,
And soon yon blanchèd fields will bloom again
With nodding cowslips for some lad to mow,
For with the first warm kisses of the rain
The winter's icy sorrow breaks to tears,
And the brown thrushes mate, and with bright eyes the rabbit peers
From the dark warren where the fir-cones lie,
And treads one snowdrop under foot, and runs
Over the mossy knoll, and blackbirds fly
Across our path at evening, and the suns
Stay longer with us; ah! how good to see
Grass-girdled Spring in all her joy of laughing greenery
Dance through the hedges till the early rose,
(That sweet repentance of the thorny briar!)
Burst from its sheathèd emerald and disclose
The little quivering disk of golden fire
Which the bees know so well, for with it come
Pale boys-love, sops-in-wine, and daffadillies all in bloom.
Then up and down the field the sower goes,
While close behind the laughing younker scares
With shrilly whoop the black and thievish crows,
And then the chestnut-tree its glory wears,
And on the grass the creamy blossom falls
In odorous excess, and faint half-whispered madrigals
Steal from the bluebells' nodding carillons
Each breezy morn, and then white jessamine,
That star of its own heaven, snapdragons
With lolling crimson tongues, and eglantine
In dusty velvets clad usurp the bed
And woodland empery, and when the lingering rose hath shed
Red leaf by leaf its folded panoply,
And pansies closed their purple-lidded eyes,
Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy
Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise,
And violets getting overbold withdraw
From their shy nooks, and scarlet berries dot the leafless haw.
O happy field! and O thrice happy tree!
Soon will your queen in daisy-flowered smock
And crown of flowre-de-luce trip down the lea,
Soon will the lazy shepherds drive their flock
Back to the pasture by the pool, and soon
Through the green leaves will float the hum of murmuring bees at
Soon will the glade be bright with bellamour,
The flower which wantons love, and those sweet nuns
Vale-lilies in their snowy vestiture
Will tell their beaded pearls, and carnations
With mitred dusky leaves will scent the wind,
And straggling traveller's joy each hedge with yellow stars will
Dear Bride of Nature and most bounteous Spring!
That can'st give increase to the sweet-breath'd kine,
And to the kid its little horns, and bring
The soft and silky blossoms to the vine,
Where is that old nepenthe which of yore
Man got from poppy root and glossy-berried mandragore!
There was a time when any common bird
Could make me sing in unison, a time
When all the strings of boyish life were stirred
To quick response or more melodious rhyme
By every forest idyll;--do I change?
Or rather doth some evil thing through thy fair pleasaunce range?
Nay, nay, thou art the same: 'tis I who seek
To vex with sighs thy simple solitude,
And because fruitless tears bedew my cheek
Would have thee weep with me in brotherhood;
Fool! shall each wronged and restless spirit dare
To taint such wine with the salt poison of his own despair!
Thou art the same: 'tis I whose wretched soul
Takes discontent to be its paramour,
And gives its kingdom to the rude control
Of what should be its servitor,--for sure
Wisdom is somewhere, though the stormy sea
Contain it not, and the huge deep answer ''Tis not in me.'
To burn with one clear flame, to stand erect
In natural honour, not to bend the knee
In profitless prostrations whose effect
Is by itself condemned, what alchemy
Can teach me this? what herb Medea brewed
Will bring the unexultant peace of essence not subdued?
The minor chord which ends the harmony,
And for its answering brother waits in vain,
Sobbing for incompleted melody
Dies a Swan's death; but I the heir of pain
A silent Memnon with blank lidless eyes
Wait for the light and music of those suns which never rise.
The quenched-out torch, the lonely cypress-gloom,
The little dust stored in the narrow urn,
The gentle XAIPE of the Attic tomb,--
Were not these better far than to return
To my old fitful restless malady,
Or spend my days within the voiceless cave of misery?
Nay! for perchance that poppy-crownèd God
Is like the watcher by a sick man's bed
Who talks of sleep but gives it not; his rod
Hath lost its virtue, and, when all is said,
Death is too rude, too obvious a key
To solve one single secret in a life's philosophy.
And Love! that noble madness, whose august
And inextinguishable might can slay
The soul with honied drugs,--alas! I must
From such sweet ruin play the runaway,
Although too constant memory never can
Forget the archèd splendour of those brows Olympian
Which for a little season made my youth
So soft a swoon of exquisite indolence
That all the chiding of more prudent Truth
Seemed the thin voice of jealousy,--O Hence
Thou huntress deadlier than Artemis!
Go seek some other quarry! for of thy too perilous bliss
My lips have drunk enough,--no more, no more,--
Though Love himself should turn his gilded prow
Back to the troubled waters of this shore
Where I am wrecked and stranded, even now
The chariot wheels of passion sweep too near,
Hence! Hence! I pass unto a life more barren, more austere.
More barren--ay, those arms will never lean
Down through the trellised vines and draw my soul
In sweet reluctance through the tangled green;
Some other head must wear that aureole,
For I am Hers who loves not any man
Whose white and stainless bosom bears the sign Gorgonian.
Let Venus go and chuck her dainty page,
And kiss his mouth, and toss his curly hair,
With net and spear and hunting equipage
Let young Adonis to his tryst repair,
But me her fond and subtle-fashioned spell
Delights no more, though I could win her dearest citadel.
Ay, though I were that laughing shepherd boy
Who from Mount Ida saw the little cloud
Pass over Tenedos and lofty Troy
And knew the coming of the Queen, and bowed
In wonder at her feet, not for the sake
Of a new Helen would I bid her hand the apple take.
Then rise supreme Athena argent-limbed!
And, if my lips be musicless, inspire
At least my life: was not thy glory hymned
By One who gave to thee his sword and lyre
Like Æschylus at well-fought Marathon,
And died to show that Milton's England still could bear a son!
And yet I cannot tread the Portico
And live without desire, fear, and pain,
Or nurture that wise calm which long ago
The grave Athenian master taught to men,
Self-poised, self-centred, and self-comforted,
To watch the world's vain phantasies go by with unbowed head.
Alas! that serene brow, those eloquent lips,
Those eyes that mirrored all eternity,
Rest in their own Colonos, an eclipse
Hath come on Wisdom, and Mnemosyne
Is childless; in the night which she had made
For lofty secure flight Athena's owl itself hath strayed.
Nor much with Science do I care to climb,
Although by strange and subtle witchery
She draw the moon from heaven: the Muse of Time
Unrolls her gorgeous-coloured tapestry
To no less eager eyes; often indeed
In the great epic of Polymnia's scroll I love to read
How Asia sent her myriad hosts to war
Against a little town, and panoplied
In gilded mail with jewelled scimetar,
White-shielded, purple-crested, rode the Mede
Between the waving poplars and the sea
Which men call Artemisium, till he saw Thermopylæ
Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall,
And on the nearer side a little brood
Of careless lions holding festival!
And stood amazèd at such hardihood,
And pitched his tent upon the reedy shore,
And stayed two days to wonder, and then crept at midnight o'er
Some unfrequented height, and coming down
The autumn forests treacherously slew
What Sparta held most dear and was the crown
Of far Eurotas, and passed on, nor knew
How God had staked an evil net for him
In the small bay of Salamis,--and yet, the page grows dim,
Its cadenced Greek delights me not, I feel
With such a goodly time too out of tune
To love it much: for like the Dial's wheel
That from its blinded darkness strikes the noon
Yet never sees the sun, so do my eyes
Restlessly follow that which from my cheated vision flies.
O for one grand unselfish simple life
To teach us what is Wisdom! speak ye hills
Of lone Helvellyn, for this note of strife
Shunned your untroubled crags and crystal rills,
Where is that Spirit which living blamelessly
Yet dared to kiss the smitten mouth of his own century!
Speak ye Rydalian laurels! where is He
Whose gentle head ye sheltered, that pure soul
Whose gracious days of uncrowned majesty
Through lowliest conduct touched the lofty goal
Where Love and Duty mingle! Him at least
The most high Laws were glad of, he had sat at Wisdom's feast,
But we are Learning's changelings, know by rote
The clarion watchword of each Grecian school
And follow none, the flawless sword which smote
The pagan Hydra is an effete tool
Which we ourselves have blunted, what man now
Shall scale the august ancient heights and to old Reverence bow?
One such indeed I saw, but, Ichabod!
Gone is that last dear son of Italy,
Who being man died for the sake of God,
And whose unrisen bones sleep peacefully.
O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower,
Thou marble lily of the lily town! let not the lour
Of the rude tempest vex his slumber, or
The Arno with its tawny troubled gold
O'erleap its marge, no mightier conqueror
Clomb the high Capitol in the days of old
When Rome was indeed Rome, for Liberty
Walked like a Bride beside him, at which sight pale Mystery
Fled shrieking to her farthest sombrest cell
With an old man who grabbled rusty keys,
Fled shuddering for that immemorial knell
With which oblivion buries dynasties
Swept like a wounded eagle on the blast,
As to the holy heart of Rome the great triumvir passed.
He knew the holiest heart and heights of Rome,
He drave the base wolf from the lion's lair,
And now lies dead by that empyreal dome
Which overtops Valdarno hung in air
By Brunelleschi--O Melpomene
Breathe through thy melancholy pipe thy sweetest threnody!
Breathe through the tragic stops such melodies
That Joy's self may grow jealous, and the Nine
Forget a-while their discreet emperies,
Mourning for him who on Rome's lordliest shrine
Lit for men's lives the light of Marathon,
And bare to sun-forgotten fields the fire of the sun!
O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower,
Let some young Florentine each eventide
Bring coronals of that enchanted flower
Which the dim woods of Vallombrosa hide,
And deck the marble tomb wherein he lies
Whose soul is as some mighty orb unseen of mortal eyes.
Some mighty orb whose cycled wanderings,
Being tempest-driven to the farthest rim
Where Chaos meets Creation and the wings
Of the eternal chanting Cherubim
Are pavilioned on Nothing, passed away
Into a moonless void,--and yet, though he is dust and clay,
He is not dead, the immemorial Fates
Forbid it, and the closing shears refrain,
Lift up your heads ye everlasting gates!
Ye argent clarions sound a loftier strain!
For the vile thing he hated lurks within
Its sombre house, alone with God and memories of sin.
Still what avails it that she sought her cave
That murderous mother of red harlotries?
At Munich on the marble architrave
The Grecian boys die smiling, but the seas
Which wash Ægina fret in loneliness
Not mirroring their beauty, so our lives grow colourless
For lack of our ideals, if one star
Flame torch-like in the heavens the unjust
Swift daylight kills it, and no trump of war
Can wake to passionate voice the silent dust
Which was Mazzini once! rich Niobe
For all her stony sorrows hath her sons, but Italy!
What Easter Day shall make her children rise,
Who were not Gods yet suffered? what sure feet
Shall find their graveclothes folded? what clear eyes
Shall see them bodily? O it were meet
To roll the stone from off the sepulchre
And kiss the bleeding roses of their wounds, in love of Her
Our Italy! our mother visible!
Most blessed among nations and most sad,
For whose dear sake the young Calabrian fell
That day at Aspromonte and was glad
That in an age when God was bought and sold
One man could die for Liberty! but we, burnt out and cold,
See Honour smitten on the cheek and gyves
Bind the sweet feet of Mercy: Poverty
Creeps through our sunless lanes and with sharp knives
Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily,
And no word said:--O we are wretched men
Unworthy of our great inheritance! where is the pen
Of austere Milton? where the mighty sword
Which slew its master righteously? the years
Have lost their ancient leader, and no word
Breaks from the voiceless tripod on our ears:
While as a ruined mother in some spasm
Bears a base child and loathes it, so our best enthusiasm
Genders unlawful children, Anarchy
Freedom's own Judas, the vile prodigal
Licence who steals the gold of Liberty
And yet has nothing, Ignorance the real
One Fratricide since Cain, Envy the asp
That stings itself to anguish, Avarice whose palsied grasp
Is in its extent stiffened, monied Greed
For whose dull appetite men waste away
Amid the whirr of wheels and are the seed
Of things which slay their sower, these each day
Sees rife in England, and the gentle feet
Of Beauty tread no more the stones of each unlovely street.
What even Cromwell spared is desecrated
By weed and worm, left to the stormy play
Of wind and beating snow, or renovated
By more destructful hands: Time's worst decay
Will wreathe its ruins with some loveliness,
But these new Vandals can but make a rainproof barrenness.
Where is that Art which bade the Angels sing
Through Lincoln's lofty choir, till the air
Seems from such marble harmonies to ring
With sweeter song than common lips can dare
To draw from actual reed? ah! where is now
The cunning hand which made the flowering hawthorn branches bow
For Southwell's arch, and carved the House of One
Who loved the lilies of the field with all
Our dearest English flowers? the same sun
Rises for us: the seasons natural
Weave the same tapestry of green and grey:
The unchanged hills are with us: but that Spirit hath passed away.
And yet perchance it may be better so,
For Tyranny is an incestuous Queen,
Murder her brother is her bedfellow,
And the Plague chambers with her: in obscene
And bloody paths her treacherous feet are set;
Better the empty desert and a soul inviolate!
For gentle brotherhood, the harmony
Of living in the healthful air, the swift
Clean beauty of strong limbs when men are free
And women chaste, these are the things which lift
Our souls up more than even Agnolo's
Gaunt blinded Sibyl poring o'er the scroll of human woes,
Or Titian's little maiden on the stair
White as her own sweet lily and as tall,
Or Mona Lisa smiling through her hair,--
Ah! somehow life is bigger after all
Than any painted angel could we see
The God that is within us! The old Greek serenity
Which curbs the passion of that level line
Of marble youths, who with untroubled eyes
And chastened limbs ride round Athena's shrine
And mirror her divine economies,
And balanced symmetry of what in man
Would else wage ceaseless warfare,--this at least within the span
Between our mother's kisses and the grave
Might so inform our lives, that we could win
Such mighty empires that from her cave
Temptation would grow hoarse, and pallid Sin
Would walk ashamed of his adulteries,
And Passion creep from out the House of Lust with startled eyes.
To make the Body and the Spirit one
With all right things, till no thing live in vain
From morn to noon, but in sweet unison
With every pulse of flesh and throb of brain
The Soul in flawless essence high enthroned,
Against all outer vain attack invincibly bastioned,
Mark with serene impartiality
The strife of things, and yet be comforted,
Knowing that by the chain causality
All separate existences are wed
Into one supreme whole, whose utterance
Is joy, or holier praise! ah! surely this were governance
Of Life in most august omnipresence,
Through which the rational intellect would find
In passion its expression, and mere sense,
Ignoble else, lend fire to the mind,
And being joined with in harmony
More mystical than that which binds the stars planetary,
Strike from their several tones one octave chord
Whose cadence being measureless would fly
Through all the circling spheres, then to its Lord
Return refreshed with its new empery
And more exultant power,--this indeed
Could we but reach it were to find the last, the perfect creed.
Ah! it was easy when the world was young
To keep one's life free and inviolate,
From our sad lips another song is rung,
By our own hands our heads are desecrate,
Wanderers in drear exile, and dispossessed
Of what should be our own, we can but feed on wild unrest.
Somehow the grace, the bloom of things has flown,
And of all men we are most wretched who
Must live each other's lives and not our own
For very pity's sake and then undo
All that we live for--it was otherwise
When soul and body seemed to blend in mystic symphonies.
But we have left those gentle haunts to pass
With weary feet to the new Calvary,
Where we behold, as one who in a glass
Sees his own face, self-slain Humanity,
And in the dumb reproach of that sad gaze
Learn what an awful phantom the red hand of man can raise.
O smitten mouth! O forehead crowned with thorn!
O chalice of all common miseries!
Thou for our sakes that loved thee not hast borne
An agony of endless centuries,
And we were vain and ignorant nor knew
That when we stabbed thy heart it was our own real hearts we
Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds,
The night that covers and the lights that fade,
The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds,
The lips betraying and the life betrayed;
The deep hath calm: the moon hath rest: but we
Lords of the natural world are yet our own dread enemy.
Is this the end of all that primal force
Which, in its changes being still the same,
From eyeless Chaos cleft its upward course,
Through ravenous seas and whirling rocks and flame,
Till the suns met in heaven and began
Their cycles, and the morning stars sang, and the Word was Man!
Nay, nay, we are but crucified and though
The bloody sweat falls from our brows like rain,
Loosen the nails--we shall come down I know,
Staunch the red wounds--we shall be whole again,
No need have we of hyssop-laden rod,
That which is purely human, that is Godlike, that is God.
Though nature weigh our talents, and dispense
To every man his modicum of sense,
And Conversation in its better part
May be esteem'd a gift, and not an art,
Yet much depends, as in the tiller’s toil,
On culture, and the sowing of the soil.
Words learn'd by rote a parrot may rehearse,
But talking is not always to converse;
Not more distinct from harmony divine,
The constant creaking of a country sign.
As alphabets in ivory employ,
Hour after hour, the yet unletter’d boy,
Sorting and puzzling with a deal of glee
Those seeds of science call’d his a b c;
So language in the mouths of the adult,
Witness its insignificant result,
Too often proves an implement of play,
A toy to sport with, and pass time away.
Collect at evening what the day brought forth,
Compress the sum into its solid worth,
And if it weigh the importance of a fly,
The scales are false, or algebra a lie.
Sacred interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!
But all shall give account of every wrong,
Who dare dishonour or defile the tongue;
Who prostitute it in the cause of vice,
Or sell their glory at a market-price;
Who vote for hire, or point it with lampoon,
The dear-bought placeman, and the cheap buffoon.
There is a prurience in the speech of some,
Wrath stays him, or else God would strike them dumb;
His wise forbearance has their end in view,
They fill their measure and receive their due.
The heathen lawgivers of ancient days,
Names almost worthy of a Christian’s praise,
Would drive them forth from the resort of men,
And shut up every satyr in his den.
Oh, come not ye near innocence and truth,
Ye worms that eat into the bud of youth!
Infectious as impure, your blighting power
Taints in its rudiments the promised flower;
Its odour perish’d, and its charming hue,
Thenceforth ‘tis hateful, for it smells of you.
Not e’en the vigorous and headlong rage
Of adolescence, or a firmer age,
Affords a plea allowable or just
For making speech the pamperer of lust;
But when the breath of age commits the fault,
‘Tis nauseous as the vapour of a vault.
So wither’d stumps disgrace the sylvan scene,
No longer fruitful, and no longer green;
The sapless wood, divested of the bark,
Grows fungous, and takes fire at every spark.
Oaths terminate, as Paul observes, all strife—
Some men have surely then a peaceful life!
Whatever subject occupy discourse,
The feats of Vestris, or the naval force,
Asseveration blustering in your face
Makes contradiction such a hopeless case:
In every tale they tell, or false or true,
Well known, or such as no man ever knew,
They fix attention, heedless of your pain,
With oaths like rivets forced into the brain;
And e’en when sober truth prevails throughout,
They swear it, till affirmance breeds a doubt.
A Persian, humble servant of the sun,
Who, though devout, yet bigotry had none,
Hearing a lawyer, grave in his address,
With adjurations every word impress,
Supposed the man a bishop, or at least,
God’s name so much upon his lips, a priest;
Bow’d at the close with all his graceful airs,
And begg’d an interest in his frequent prayers.
Go, quit the rank to which ye stood preferr’d,
Henceforth associate in one common herd;
Religion, virtue, reason, common sense,
Pronounce your human form a false pretence:
A mere disguise, in which a devil lurks,
Who yet betrays his secret by his works.
Ye powers who rule the tongue, if such there are,
And make colloquial happiness your care,
Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate,
A duel in the form of a debate.
The clash of arguments and jar of words,
Worse than the mortal brunt of rival swords,
Decide no question with their tedious length,
For opposition gives opinion strength,
Divert the champions prodigal of breath,
And put the peaceably disposed to death.
Oh, thwart me not, Sir Soph, at every turn,
Nor carp at every flaw you may discern;
Though syllogisms hang not on my tongue,
I am not surely always in the wrong;
‘Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
A fool must now and then be right by chance.
Not that all freedom of dissent I blame;
No—there I grant the privilege I claim.
A disputable point is no man’s ground;
Rove where you please, ‘tis common all around.
Discourse may want an animated—No,
To brush the surface, and to make it flow;
But still remember, if you mean to please,
To press your point with modesty and ease.
The mark, at which my juster aim I take,
Is contradiction for its own dear sake.
Set your opinion at whatever pitch,
Knots and impediments make something hitch;
Adopt his own, ‘tis equally in vain,
Your thread of argument is snapp’d again;
The wrangler, rather than accord with you,
Will judge himself deceived, and prove it too.
Vociferated logic kills me quite,
A noisy man is always in the right,
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare,
And, when I hope his blunders are all out,
Reply discreetly—To be sure—no doubt!
Dubius is such a scrupulous good man—
Yes—you may catch him tripping, if you can.
He would not, with a peremptory tone,
Assert the nose upon his face his own;
With hesitation admirably slow,
He humbly hopes—presumes—it may be so.
His evidence, if he were call’d by law
To swear to some enormity he saw,
For want of prominence and just relief,
Would hang an honest man and save a thief.
Though constant dread of giving truth offence,
He ties up all his hearers in suspense;
Knows what he knows as if he knew it not;
What he remembers seems to have forgot;
His sole opinion, whatsoe’er befall,
Centring at last in having none at all.
Yet, though he tease and balk your listening ear,
He makes one useful point exceeding clear;
Howe’er ingenious on his darling theme
A sceptic in philosophy may seem,
Reduced to practice, his beloved rule
Would only prove him a consummate fool;
Useless in him alike both brain and speech,
Fate having placed all truth above his reach,
His ambiguities his total sum,
He might as well be blind, and deaf, and dumb.
Where men of judgment creep and feel their way,
The positive pronounce without dismay;
Their want of light and intellect supplied
By sparks absurdity strikes out of pride.
Without the means of knowing right from wrong,
They always are decisive, clear, and strong.
Where others toil with philosophic force,
Their nimble nonsense takes a shorter course;
Flings at your head conviction in the lump,
And gains remote conclusions at a jump:
Their own defect, invisible to them,
Seen in another, they at once condemn;
And, though self-idolised in every case,
Hate their own likeness in a brother’s face.
The cause is plain, and not to be denied,
The proud are always most provoked by pride.
Few competitions but engender spite;
And those the most, where neither has a right.
The point of honour has been deem’d of use,
To teach good manners and to curb abuse:
Admit it true, the consequence is clear,
Our polish’d manners are a mask we wear,
And at the bottom barbarous still and rude;
We are restrain’d indeed, but not subdued.
The very remedy, however sure,
Springs from the mischief it intends to cure,
And savage in its principle appears,
Tried, as it should be, by the fruit it bears.
‘Tis hard, indeed, if nothing will defend
Mankind from quarrels but their fatal end;
That now and then a hero must decease,
That the surviving world may live in peace.
Perhaps at last close scrutiny may shew
The practice dastardly, and mean, and low;
That men engage in it compell’d by force;
And fear, not courage, is its proper source.
The fear of tyrant custom, and the fear
Lest fops should censure us, and fools should sneer.
At least to trample on our Maker’s laws,
And hazard life for any or no cause,
To rush into a fix’d eternal state
Out of the very flames of rage and hate,
Or send another shivering to the bar
With all the guilt of such unnatural war,
Whatever use may urge, or honour plead,
On reason’s verdict is a madman’s deed.
Am I to set my life upon a throw,
Because a bear is rude and surly? No—
A moral, sensible, and well-bred man
Will not affront me, and no other can.
Were I empower’d to regulate the lists,
They should encounter with well loaded fists;
A Trojan combat would be something new,
Let Dares beat Entellus black and blue;
Then each might shew, to his admiring friends,
In honourable bumps his rich amends,
And carry, in contusions of his skull,
A satisfactory receipt in full.
A story, in which native humour reigns,
Is often useful, always entertains:
A graver fact, enlisted on your side,
May furnish illustration, well applied;
But sedentary weavers of long tales
Give me the fidgets, and my patience fails.
‘Tis the most asinine employ on earth,
To hear them tell of parentage and birth,
And echo conversations dull and dry,
Embellish’d with—He said,—and, So said I.
At every interview their route the same,
The repetition makes attention lame:
We bustle up with unsuccessful speed,
And in the saddest part cry—Droll indeed!
The path of narrative with care pursue,
Still making probability your clue;
On all the vestiges of truth attend
And let them guide you to a decent end.
Of all ambitious man may entertain,
The worst that can invade a sickly brain,
Is that which angles hourly for surprise,
And baits its hook with prodigies and lies.
Credulous infancy, or age as weak,
Are fittest auditors for such to seek,
Who to please others will themselves disgrace,
Yet please not, but affront you to your face.
A great retailer of this curious ware,
Having unloaded and made many stare,
Can this be true?—an arch observer cries;
Yes (rather moved), I saw it with these eyes!
Sir! I believe it on that ground alone;
I could not had I seen it with my own.
A tale should be judicious, clear, succint;
The language plain, the incidents well link’d;
Tell not as new what everybody knows,
And, new or old, still hasten to a close;
There, centring in a focus round and neat,
Let all your rays of information meet.
What neither yields us profit nor delight
Is like a nurse’s lullaby at night;
Guy Earl of Warwick and fair Eleanore,
Or giant-killing Jack, would please me more.
The pipe, with solemn interposing puff,
Makes half a sentence at a time enough;
The dozing sages drop the drowsy strain,
Then pause, and puff—and speak, and pause again.
Such often, like the tube they so admire,
Important triflers! have more smoke than fire.
Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys,
Unfriendly to society’s chief joys,
Thy worst effect is banishing for hours
The sex whose presence civilizes ours;
Thou art indeed the drug a gardener wants
To poison vermin that infest his plants;
But are we so to wit and beauty blind,
As to despise the glory of our kind,
And shew the softest minds and fairest forms
As little mercy as he grubs and worms?
They dare not wait the riotous abuse
Thy thirst-creating steams at length produce,
When wine has given indecent language birth,
And forced the floodgates of licentious mirth;
For seaborn Venus her attachment shews
Still to that element from which she rose,
And, with a quiet which no fumes disturb,
Sips meek infusions of a milder herb.
The emphatic speaker dearly loves to oppose,
In contact inconvenient, nose to nose,
As if the gnomon on his neighbour’s phiz,
Touch’d with the magnet, had attracted his.
His whisper’d theme, dilated and at large,
Proves after all a wind-gun’s airy charge,
An extract of his diary—no more,
A tasteless journal of the day before.
He walk’d abroad, o’ertaken in the rain,
Call’d on a friend, drank tea, stepp’d home again,
Resumed his purpose, had a world of talk
With one he stumbled on, and lost his walk.
I interrupt him with a sudden bow,
Adieu, dear sir! lest you should lose it now.
I cannot talk with civet in the room,
A fine puss gentleman that’s all perfume;
The sight’s enough—no need to smell a beau—
Who thrusts his head into a raree-show?
His odoriferous attempts to please
Perhaps might prosper with a swarm of bees;
But we that make no honey, though we sting,
Poets, are sometimes apt to maul the thing.
‘Tis wrong to bring into a mix’d resort,
What makes some sick, and others a-la-mort,
An argument of cogence, we may say,
Why such a one should keep himself away.
A graver coxcomb we may sometimes see,
Quite as absurd, though not so light as he:
A shallow brain behind a serious mask,
An oracle within an empty cask,
The solemn fop; significant and budge;
A fool with judges, amongst fools a judge.
He says but little, and that little said,
Owes all its weight, like loaded dice, to lead.
His wit invites you by his looks to come,
But when you knock, it never is at home:
‘Tis like a parcel sent you by the stage,
Some handsome present, as your hopes presage;
‘Tis heavy, bulky, and bids fair to prove
An absent friend’s fidelity and love,
But when unpack’d, your disappointment groans
To find it stuff’d with brickbats, earth, and stones.
Some men employ their health, an ugly trick,
In making known how oft they have been sick,
And give us, in recitals of disease,
A doctor’s trouble, but without the fees;
Relate how many weeks they kept their bed,
How an emetic or cathartic sped;
Nothing is slightly touch’d, much less forgot,
Nose, ears, and eyes, seem present on the spot.
Now the distemper, spite of draught or pill,
Victorious seem’d, and now the doctor’s skill;
And now—alas for unforeseen mishaps!
They put on a damp nightcap, and relapse;
They thought they must have died, they were so bad:
Their peevish hearers almost wish they had.
Some fretful tempers wince at every touch,
You always do too little or too much:
You speak with life, in hopes to entertain,
Your elevated voice goes through the brain;
You fall at once into a lower key,
That’s worse—the drone-pipe of an humble-bee.
The southern sash admits too strong a light,
You rise and drop the curtain—now ‘tis night.
He shakes with cold—you stir the fire and strive
To make blaze—that’s roasting him alive.
Serve him with venison, and he wishes fish;
With sole—that’s just the sort he would not wish.
He takes what he at first profess’d to loathe,
And in due time feeds heartily on both;
Yet still, o’erclouded with a constant frown,
He does not swallow, but he gulps it down.
Your hope to please him vain on every plan,
Himself should work that wonder if he can—
Alas! his efforts double his distress,
He likes yours little, and his own still less.
Thus always teasing others, always teased,
His only pleasure is to be displeased.
I pity bashful men, who feel the pain
Of fancied scorn and undeserved disdain,
And bear the marks upon a blushing face
Of needless shame and self-imposed disgrace.
Our sensibilities are so acute,
The fear of being silent makes us mute.
We sometimes think we could a speech produce
Much to the purpose, if our tongues were loose;
But, being tried, it dies upon the lip,
Faint as a chicken’s note that has the pip:
Our wasted oil unprofitably burns,
Like hidden lamps in old sepulchral urns.
Few Frenchmen of this evil have complain’d;
It seems as if we Britons were ordain’d,
By way of wholesome curb upon our pride,
To fear each other, fearing none beside.
The cause perhaps inquiry may descry,
Self-searching with an introverted eye,
Conceal’d within an unsuspected part,
The vainest corner of our own vain heart:
For ever aiming at the world’s esteem,
Our self-importance ruins its own scheme;
In other eyes our talents rarely shewn,
Become at length so splendid in our own,
We dare not risk them into public view,
Lest they miscarry of what seems their due.
True modesty is a discerning grace,
And only blushes in the proper place;
But counterfeit is blind, and skulks through fear,
Where ‘tis a shame to be ashamed to appear:
Humility the parent of the first,
The last by vanity produced and nursed.
The circle form’d, we sit in silent state,
Like figures drawn upon a dial-plate;
Yes, ma’am, and No, ma’am, utter’d softly, shew
Every five minutes how the minutes go;
Each individual, suffering a constraint
Poetry may, but colours cannot, paint;
And, if in close committee on the sky,
Reports it hot or cold, or wet or dry;
And finds a changing clime a happy source
Of wise reflection and well-timed discourse.
We next inquire, but softly and by stealth,
Like conservators of the public health,
Of epidemic throats, if such there are,
And coughs, and rheums, and phthisic, and catarrh.
That theme exhausted, a wide chasm ensues,
Fill’d up at last with interesting news;
Who danced with whom, and who are like to wed,
And who is hang’d, and who is brought to bed:
But fear to call a more important cause,
As if ‘twere treason against English laws.
The visit paid, with ecstacy we come,
As from a seven years’ transportation, home,
And there resume an unembarrass’d brow,
Recovering what we lost, we know not how,
The faculties that seem’d reduced to nought,
Expression and the privilege of thought.
The reeking, roaring hero of the chase,
I give him over as a desperate case.
Physicians write in hopes to work a cure,
Never, if honest ones, when death is sure;
And though the fox he follows may be tamed,
A mere fox-follower never is reclaim’d.
Some farrier should prescribe his proper course,
Whose only fit companion is his horse;
Or if, deserving of a better doom,
The noble beast judge otherwise, his groom.
Yet e’en the rogue that serves him, though he stand
To take his honour’s orders, cap in hand,
Prefers his fellow grooms with much good sense,
Their skill a truth, his master’s a pretence.
If neither horse nor groom affect the ‘squire,
Where can at last his jockeyship retire?
Oh, to the club, the scene of savage joys,
The school of coarse good fellowship and noise;
There, in the sweet society of those
Whose friendship from his boyish years he chose,
Let him improve his talent if he can,
Till none but beasts acknowledge him a man.
Man’s heart had been impenetrably seal’d,
Like theirs that cleave the flood or graze the field,
Had not his Maker’s all-bestowing hand
Given him a soul, and bade him understand;
The reasoning power vouchsafed, of course inferr’d
The power to clothe that reason with his word;
For all is perfect that God works on earth,
And he that gives conception aids the birh.
If this be plain, ‘tis plainly understood,
What uses of his boon the Giver would.
The mind despatch’d upon her busy toil,
Should range where Providence has bless’d the soil;
Visiting every flower with labour meet,
And gathering all her treasures sweet by sweet,
She should imbue the tongue with what she sips,
And shed the balmy blessing on the lips,
That good diffused may more abundant grow,
And speech may praise the power that bids it flow.
Will the sweet warbler of the livelong night,
That fills the listening lover with delight,
Forget his harmony, with rapture heard,
To learn the twittering of a meaner bird?
Or make the parrot’s mimicry his choice,
That odious libel on a human voice?
No—nature, unsophisticate by man,
Starts not aside from her Creator’s plan;
The melody, that was at first design’d
To cheer the rude forefathers of mankind,
Is note for note deliver’d in our ears,
In the last scene of her six thousand years.
Yet Fashion, leader of a chattering train,
Whom man for his own hurt permits to reign,
Who shifts and changes all things but his shape,
And would degrade her votary to an ape,
The fruitful parent of abuse and wrong,
Holds a usurp’d dominion o’er his tongue;
There sits and prompts him with his own disgrace,
Prescribes the theme, the tone, and the grimace,
And, when accomplish’d in her wayward school,
Calls gentleman whom she has made a fool.
‘Tis an unalterable fix’d decree,
That none could frame or ratify but she,
That heaven and hell, and righteousness and sin,
Snares in his path, and foes that lurk within,
God and his attributes (a field of day
Where ‘tis an angel’s happiness to stray),
Fruits of his love and wonders of his might,
Be never named in ears esteem’d polite;
That he who dares, when she forbids, be grave,
Shall stand proscribed, a madman or a knave,
A close designer not to be believed,
Or, if excused that charge, at least deceived.
Oh, folly worthy of the nurse’s lap,
Give it the breast, or stop its mouth with pap!
Is it incredible, or can it seem
A dream to any except those that dream,
That man should love his Maker, and that fire,
Warming his heart, should at his lips transpire?
Know then, and modestly let fall your eyes,
And veil your daring crest that braves the skies;
That air of insolence affronts your God,
You need his pardon, and provoke his rod:
Now, in a posture that becomes you more
Than that heroic strut assumed before,
Know, your arrears with every hour accrue
For mercy shewn, while wrath is justly due.
The time is short, and there are souls on earth,
Though future pain may serve for present mirth,
Acquainted with the woes that fear or shame,
By fashion taught, forbade them once to name,
And, having felt the pangs you deem a jest,
Have proved them truths too big to be express’d.
Go seek on revelation’s hallow’d ground,
Sure to succeed, the remedy they found;
Touch’d by that power that you have dared to mock,
That makes seas stable, and dissolves the rock,
Your heart shall yield a life-renewing stream,
That fools, as you have done, shall call a dream.
It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of Him they loved, of Him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced, enrich’d them still the more;
They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done;
To exalt a people, and to place them high,
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them, with a kind engaging air,
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gather’d up the broken thread,
And, truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That, reaching home, the night, they said, is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here—
The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And, made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word.
And left them both exclaiming, ‘Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?
Now theirs was converse, such as it behoves
Man to maintain, and such as God approves:
Their views indeed were indistinct and dim,
But yet successful, being aim’d at him.
Christ and his character their only scope,
Their object, and their subject, and their hope,
They felt what it became them much to feel,
And, wanting him to loose the sacred seal,
Found him as prompt as their desire was true,
To spread the new-born glories in their view.
Well—what are ages and the lapse of time
Match’d against truths, as lasting as sublime?
Can length of years on God himself exact?
Or make that fiction which was once a fact?
No—marble and recording brass decay,
And, like the graver’s memory, pass away;
The works of man inherit, as is just,
Their author’s frailty, and return to dust:
But truth divine for ever stands secure,
Its head is guarded as its base is sure:
Fix’d in the rolling flood of endless years,
The pillar of the eternal plan appears,
The raving storm and dashing wave defies,
Built by that Architect who built the skies.
Hearts may be found, that harbour at this hour
That love of Christ, and all its quickening power;
And lips unstain’d by folly or by strife,
Whose wisdom, drawn from the deep well of life,
Tastes of its healthful origin, and flows
A Jordan for the ablution of our woes.
Oh, days of heaven, and nights of equal praise,
Serene and peaceful as those heavenly days,
When souls drawn upwards in communion sweet
Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat,
Discourse, as if released and safe at home,
Of dangers past, and wonders yet to come,
And spread the sacred treasures of the breast
Upon the lap of covenanted rest!
What, always dreaming over heavenly things,
Like angel-heads in stone with pigeon-wings?
Canting and whining out all day the word,
And half the night?—fanatic and absurd!
Mine be the friend less frequent in his prayers,
Who makes no bustle with his soul’s affairs,
Whose wit can brighten up a wintry day,
And chase the splenetic dull hours away;
Content on earth in earthly things to shine,
Who waits for heaven ere he becomes divine,
Leaves saints to enjoy those altitudes they teach,
And plucks the fruit placed more within his reach.
Well spoken, advocate of sin and shame,
Known by thy bleating, Ignorance thy name.
Is sparkling wit the world’s exclusive right?
The fix’d fee-simple of the vain and light?
Can hopes of heaven, bright prospects of an hour,
That come to waft us out of sorrow’s power,
Obscure or quench a faculty that finds
Its happiest soil in the serenest minds?
Religion curbs indeed its wanton play,
And brings the trifler under rigorous sway,
But gives it usefulness unknown before,
And purifying, makes it shine the more,
A Christian’s wit is inoffensive light,
A beam that aids, but never grieves the sight;
Vigorous in age as in the flush of youth;
‘Tis always active on the side of truth;
Temperance and peace insure its healthful state,
And make it brightest at its latest date.
Oh, I have seen (nor hope perhaps in vain,
Ere life go down, to see such sights again)
A veteran warrior in the Christian field,
Who never saw the sword he could not wield;
Grave without dulness, learned without pride,
Exact, yet not precise, though meek, keen-eyed;
A man that would have foil’d at their own play
A dozen would-be’s of the modern day;
Who, when occasion justified its use,
Had wit as bright as ready to produce,
Could fetch from records of an earlier age,
Or from philosophy’s enlighten’d page,
His rich materials, and regale your ear
With strains it was a privilege to hear:
Yet above all his luxury supreme,
And his chief glory, was the gospel theme;
There he was copious as old Greece or Rome,
His happy eloquence seem’d there at home,
Ambitious not to shine or to excel,
But to treat justly what he loved so well.
It moves me more perhaps than folly ought,
When some green heads, as void of wit as thought,
Suppose themselves monopolists of sense,
And wiser men’s ability pretence.
Though time will wear us, and we must grow old,
Such men are not forgot as soon as cold,
Their fragrant memory will outlast their tomb,
Embalm’d for ever in its own perfume.
And to say truth, though in its early prime,
And when unstain’d with any grosser crime,
Youth has a sprightliness and fire to boast,
That in the valley of decline are lost,
And virtue with peculiar charms appears,
Crown’d with the garland of life’s blooming years;
Yet age, by long experience well inform’d,
Well read, well temper’d, with religion warm’d,
That fire abated which impels rash youth,
Proud of his speed, to overshoot the truth,
As time improves the grape’s authentic juice,
Mellows and makes the speech more fit for use,
And claims a reverence in its shortening day,
That ‘tis an honour and a joy to pay.
The fruits of age, less fair, are yet more sound,
Than those a brighter season pours around;
And, like the stores autumnal suns mature,
Through wintry rigours unimpair’d endure.
What is fanatic frenzy, scorn’d so much,
And dreaded more than a contagious touch?
I grant it dangerous, and approve your fear,
That fire is catching, if you draw too near;
But sage observers oft mistake the flame,
And give true piety that odious name.
To tremble (as the creature of an hour
Ought at the view of an almighty power)
Before His presence, at whose awful throne
All tremble in all worlds, except our own,
To supplicate his mercy, love his ways,
And prize them above pleasure, wealth, or praise,
Though common sense, allow’d a casting voice,
And free from bias, must approve the choice,
Convicts a man fanatic in the extreme,
And wild as madness in the world’s esteem.
But that disease, when soberly defined,
Is the false fire of an o’erheated mind;
It views the truth with a distorted eye,
And either warps or lays it useless by;
‘Tis narrow, selfish, arrogant, and draws
Its sordid nourishment from man’s applause;
And, while at heart sin unrelinquish’d lies,
Presumes itself chief favourite of the skies.
‘Tis such a light as putrefaction breeds
In fly-blown flesh, whereon the maggot feeds,
Shines in the dark, but, usher’d into day,
The stench remains, the lustre dies away.
True bliss, if man may reach it, is composed
Of hearts in union mutually disclosed;
And, farewell else all hope of pure delight,
Those hearts should be reclaim’d, renew’d, upright.
Bad men, profaning friendship’s hallow’d name,
Form, in its stead, a covenant of shame.
A dark confederacy against the laws
Of virtue, and religion’s glorious cause.
They build each other up with dreadful skill,
As bastions set point-blank against God’s will;
Enlarge and fortify the dread redoubt,
Deeply resolved to shut a Saviour out;
Call legions up from hell to back the deed;
And, cursed with conquest, finally succeed.
But souls, that carry on a blest exchange
Of joys they meet with in their heavenly range,
And with a fearless confidence make known
The sorrows sympathy esteems its own,
Daily derive increasing light and force
From such communion in their pleasant course,
Feel less the journey’s roughness and its length,
Meet their opposers with united strength,
And, one in heart, in interest, and design,
Gird up each other to the race divine.
But Conversation, choose what theme we may,
And chiefly when religion leads the way,
Should flow, like waters after summer showers,
Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers.
The Christian, in whose soul, though now distress’d,
Lives the dear thought of joys he once possess’d,
When all his glowing language issued forth
With God’s deep stamp upon its current worth,
Will speak without disguise, and must impart,
Sad as it is, his undissembling heart,
Abhors constraint, and dares not feign a zeal,
Or seem to boast a fire, he does not feel.
The song of Sion is a tasteless thing,
Unless, when rising on a joyful wing,
The soul can mix with the celestial bands,
And give the strain the compass it demands.
Strange tidings these to tell a world, who treat
All but their own experience as deceit!
Will they believe, though credulous enough
To swallow much upon much weaker proof,
That there are blest inhabitants of earth,
Partakers of a new ethereal birth,
Their hopes, desires, and purposes estranged
From things terrestrial, and divinely changed,
Their very language of a kind that speaks
The soul’s sure interest in the good she seeks,
Who deal with Scripture, its importance felt,
As Tully with philosophy once dealt,
And, in the silent watches of the night,
And through the scenes of toil-renewing light,
The social walk, or solitary ride,
Keep still the dear companion at their side?
No—shame upon a self-disgracing age,
God’s work may serve an ape upon a stage
With such a jest as fill’d with hellish glee
Certain invisibles as shrewd as he;
But veneration or respect finds none,
Save from the subjects of that work alone.
The World grown old, her deep discernment shews,
Claps spectacles on her sagacious nose,
Peruses closely the true Christian’s face,
And finds it a mere mask of sly grimace;
Usurps God’s office, lays his bosom bare,
And finds hypocrisy close lurking there;
And, serving God herself through mere constraint,
Concludes his unfeign’d love of him a feint.
And yet, God knows, look human nature through
(And in due time the world shall know it too),
That since the flowers of Eden felt the blast,
That after man’s defection laid all waste,
Sincerity towards the heart-searching God
Has made the new-born creature her abode,
Nor shall be found in unregenerate souls
Till the last fire burn all between the poles.
Sincerity! why ‘tis his only pride,
Weak and imperfect in all grace beside,
He knows that God demands his heart entire,
And gives him all his just demands require.
Without it, his pretensions were as vain
As, having it, he deems the world’s disdain;
That great defect would cost him not alone
Man’s favourable judgment, but his own;
His birthright shaken, and no longer clear
Than while his conduct proves his heart sincere.
Retort the charge, and let the world be told
She boasts a confidence she does not hold;
That, conscious of her crimes, she feels instead
A cold misgiving and a killing dread:
That while in health the ground of her support
Is madly to forget that life is short;
That sick she trembles, knowing she must die,
Her hope presumption, and her faith a lie;
That while she dotes and dreams that she believes,
She mocks her Maker and herself deceives,
Her utmost reach, historical assent,
The doctrines warp’d to what they never meant;
That truth itself is in her head as dull
And useless as a candle in a skull,
And all her love of God a groundless claim,
A trick upon the canvas, painted flame.
Tell her again, the sneer upon her face,
And all her censures of the work of grace,
Are insincere, meant only to conceal
A dread she would not, yet is forced to feel;
That in her heart the Christian she reveres,
And, while she seems to scorn him, only fears.
A poet does not work by square or line,
As smiths and joiners perfect a design;
At least we moderns, our attention less,
Beyond the example of our sires digress,
And claim a right to scamper and run wide,
Wherever chance, caprice, or fancy guide.
The world and I fortuitously met;
I owed a trifle, and have paid the debt;
She did me wrong, I recompensed the deed,
And, having struck the balance, now proceed.
Perhaps, however, as some years have pass’d
Since she and I conversed together last,
And I have lived recluse in rural shades,
Which seldom a distinct report pervades,
Great changes and new manners have occurr’d,
And blest reforms that I have never heard,
And she may now be as discreet and wise,
As once absurd in all discerning eyes.
Sobriety perhaps may now be found
Where once intoxication press’d the ground;
The subtle and injurious may be just,
And he grown chaste that was the slave of lust;
Arts once esteem’d may be with shame dismiss’d:
Charity may relax the miser’s fist;
The gamester may have cast his cards away,
Forgot to curse, and only kneel to pray.
It has indeed been told me (with what weight,
How credibly, ‘tis hard for me to state),
That fables old, that seem’d for ever mute,
Revived, are hastening into fresh repute,
And gods and goddesses, discarded long,
Like useless lumber or a stroller’s song,
Are bringing into vogue their heathen train,
And Jupiter bids fair to rule again;
That certain feasts are instituted now,
Where Venus hears the lover’s tender vow;
That all Olympus through the country roves,
To consecrate our few remaining groves,
And Echo learns politely to repeat
The praise of names for ages obsolete;
That, having proved the weakness, it should seem,
Of revelations ineffectual beam,
To bring the passions under sober sway,
And give the moral springs their proper play,
They mean to try what may at last be done,
By stout substantial gods of wood and stone,
And whether Roman rites may not produce
The virtues of old Rome for English use.
May such success attend the pious plan,
May Mercury once more embellish man.
Grace him again with long-forgotten arts,
Reclaim his taste, and brighten up his parts,
Make him athletic as in days of old,
Learn’d at the bar, in the palaestra bold,
Divest the rougher sex of female airs,
And teach the softer not to copy theirs:
The change shall please, nor shall it matter aught,
Who works the wonder, if it be but wrought.
‘Tis time, however, if the case stands thus,
For us plain folks, and all who side with us,
To build our altar, confident and bold,
And say, as stern Elijah said of old,
The strife now stands upon a fair award,
If Israel’s Lord be God, then serve the Lord:
If he be silent, faith is all a whim,
Then Baal is the God, and worship him.
Digression is so much in modern use,
Thought is so rare, and fancy so profuse,
Some never seem so wide of their intent,
As when returning to the theme they meant;
As mendicants, whose business is to roam,
Make every parish but their own their home.
Though such continual zig-zags in a book,
Such drunken reelings have an awkward look,
And I had rather creep to what is true,
Than rove and stagger with no mark in view;
Yet to consult a little, seem’d no crime,
The freakish humour of the present time:
But now to gather up what seems dispersed,
And touch the subject I design’d at first,
May prove, though much beside the rules of art,
Best for the public, and my wisest part.
And first, let no man charge me, that I mean
To clothe in sable every social scene,
And give good company a face severe,
As if they met around a father’s bier;
For tell some men that, pleasure all their bent,
And laughter all their work, is life misspent,
Their wisdom bursts into this sage reply,
Then mirth is sin, and we should always cry.
To find the medium asks some share of wit,
And therefore ‘tis a mark fools never hit.
But though life’s valley be a vale of tears,
A brighter scene beyond that vale appears,
Whose glory, with a light that never fades,
Shoots between scatter’d rocks and opening shades,
And, while it shews the land the soul desires,
The language of the land she seeks inspires.
Thus touch’d, the tongue receives a sacred cure
Of all that was absurd, profane, impure;
Held within modest bounds, the tide of speech
Pursues the course that truth and nature teach;
No longer labours merely to produce
The pomp of sound, or tinkle without use:
Where’er it winds, the salutary stream,
Sprightly and fresh, enriches every theme,
While all the happy man possess’d before,
The gift of nature, or the classic store,
Is made subservient to the grand design,
For which Heaven form’d the faculty divine.
So, should an idiot, while at large he strays,
Find the sweet lyre on which an artist plays,
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seems as it complain’d
Of the rude injuries it late sustain’d,
Till, tuned at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah’s name, and pours his praise along.
OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.
I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite
Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
When wondered at for smiling; not so far,
But still I catch my mother at her post
Beside the nursery-door, with finger up,
'Hush, hush–here's too much noise!' while her sweet eyes
Leap forward, taking part against her word
In the child's riot. Still I sit and feel
My father's slow hand, when she had left us both,
Stroke out my childish curls across his knee;
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she knew
He liked it better than a better jest)
Inquire how many golden scudi went
To make such ringlets. O my father's hand,
Stroke the poor hair down, stroke it heavily,–
Draw, press the child's head closer to thy knee!
I'm still too young, too young to sit alone.
I write. My mother was a Florentine,
Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me
When scarcely I was four years old; my life,
A poor spark snatched up from a failing lamp
Which went out therefore. She was weak and frail;
She could not bear the joy of giving life–
The mother's rapture slew her. If her kiss
Had left a longer weight upon my lips,
It might have steadied the uneasy breath,
And reconciled and fraternised my soul
With the new order. As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was born
To make my father sadder, and myself
Not overjoyous, truly. Women know
The way to rear up children, (to be just,)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles: children learn by such,
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play,
And get not over-early solemnised,–
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's Divine,
Which burns and hurts not,–not a single bloom,–
Become aware and unafraid of Love.
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
–Mine did, I know,–but still with heavier brains,
And wills more consciously responsible,
And not as wisely, since less foolishly;
So mothers have God's licence to be missed.
My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right hand–in the alien sun
In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,–
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop's wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.
And thus beloved, she died. I've heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,–his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet 'twas hard,–would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
'Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother'–stops the mirth
To-day, on women's faces when they walk
With rosy children hanging on their gowns,
Under the cloister, to escape the sun
That scorches in the piazza. After which,
He left our Florence, and made haste to hide
Himself, his prattling child, and silent grief,
Among the mountains above Pelago;
Because unmothered babes, he thought, had need
Of mother nature more than others use,
And Pan's white goats, with udders warm and full
Of mystic contemplations, come to feed
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his own–
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've heard from friends,
For even prosaic men, who wear grief long,
Will get to wear it as a hat aside
With a flower stuck in't. Father, then, and child,
We lived among the mountains many years,
God's silence on the outside of the house,
And we, who did not speak too loud, within;
And old Assunta to make up the fire,
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden flame
Which lightened from the firewood, made alive
That picture of my mother on the wall.
The painter drew it after she was dead;
And when the face was finished, throat and hands,
Her cameriera carried him, in hate
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the last brocade
She dressed in at the Pitti. 'He should paint
No sadder thing than that,' she swore, 'to wrong
Her poor signora.' Therefore, very strange
The effect was. I, a little child, would crouch
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up
And gaze across them, half in terror, half
In adoration, at the picture there,–
That swan-like supernatural white life,
Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk
Which seemed to have no part in it, nor power
To keep it from quite breaking out of bounds:
For hours I sate and stared. Asssunta's awe
And my poor father's melancholy eyes
Still pointed that way. That way, went my thoughts
When wandering beyond sight. And as I grew
In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously,
Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed,
Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful,
Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
With still that face . . . which did not therefore change,
But kept the mystic level of all forms
And fears and admirations; was by turn
Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, and sprite,–
A dauntless Muse who eyes a dreadful Fate,
A loving Psyche who loses sight of Love,
A still Medusa, with mild milky brows
All curdled and all clothed upon with snakes
Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; or, anon,
Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed with swords
Where the Babe sucked; or, Lamia in her first
Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk and blinked,
And, shuddering, wriggled down to the unclean;
Or, my own mother, leaving her last smile
In her last kiss, upon the baby-mouth
My father pushed down on the bed for that,–
Or, my dead mother, without smile or kiss,
Buried at Florence. All which images,
Concentred on the picture, glassed themselves
Before my meditative childhood, . . as
The incoherencies of change and death
Are represented fully, mixed and merged,
In the smooth fair mystery of perpetual Life.
And while I stared away my childish wits
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor child!)
My father, who through love had suddenly
Thrown off the old conventions, broken loose
From chin-bands of the soul, like Lazarus,
Yet had no time to learn to talk and walk
Or grow anew familiar with the sun,–
Who had reached to freedom, not to action, lived,
But lived as one entranced, with thoughts, not aims,–
Whom love had unmade from a common man
But not completed to an uncommon man,–
My father taught me what he had learnt the best
Before he died and left me,–grief and love.
And, seeing we had books among the hills,
Strong words of counselling souls, confederate
With vocal pines and waters,–out of books
He taught me all the ignorance of men,
And how God laughs in heaven when any man
Says, 'Here I'm learned; this, I understand;
In that, I am never caught at fault or doubt.'
He sent the schools to school, demonstrating
A fool will pass for such through one mistake,
While a philosopher will pass for such,
Through said mistakes being ventured in the gross
And heaped up to a system.
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features,–paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.
So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains. I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs,–and suddenly awoke
To full life and its needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
There, ended childhood: what succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurred i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then, at last,
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck; how, with a shriek,
She let me go,–while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharfage where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned!
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which suppliants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more than holy heaven
To which my father went. All new, and strange–
The universe turned stranger, for a child.
Then, land!–then, England! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine,
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,–
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England? the great isle?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Or verdure, field from field, as man from man;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it, they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals; all things, blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here?–not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air!
I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,–once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure,–if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the county squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyreal, to assure their souls
Against chance vulgarisms, and, in the abyss,
The apothecary looked on once a year,
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel, (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality)–and still
The book-club guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets and eat berries!
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love–she was his sister once–
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved.
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall, into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face,–ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm,
And missed it rather,–told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear,–
'She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.
I understood her meaning afterward;
She thought to find my mother in my face,
And questioned it for that. For she, my aunt,
Had loved my father truly, as she could,
And hated, with the gall of gentle souls,
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled away
A wise man from wise courses, a good man
From obvious duties, and, depriving her,
His sister, of the household precedence,
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his native land,
And made him mad, alike by life and death,
In love and sorrow. She had pored for years
What sort of woman could be suitable
To her sort of hate, to entertain it with;
And so, her very curiosity
Became hate too, and all the idealism
She ever used in life, was used for hate,
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at last
The love from which it grew, in strength and heat,
And wrinkled her smooth conscience with a sense
Of disputable virtue (say not, sin)
When Christian doctrine was enforced at church.
And thus my father's sister was to me
My mother's hater. From that day, she did
Her duty to me, (I appreciate it
In her own word as spoken to herself)
Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out,
But measured always. She was generous, bland,
More courteous than was tender, gave me still
The first place,–as if fearful that God's saints
Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein
You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'
Alas, a mother never is afraid
Of speaking angrily to any child,
Since love, she knows, is justified of love.
And I, I was a good child on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live, to have the faults of life:
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave, (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land) I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffer her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words
Which still at any stirring of the heart
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies, (Bene . . or che ch'è ) because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,
The Articles . . the Tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's 'Prick of Love,')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism,)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education,–tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics,–brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, . . by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt,–because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music,–such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished–fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew . . costumes
From French engravings, nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship,–I washed in
From nature, landscapes, (rather say, washed out.)
I danced the polka and Cellarius,
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking, (to a maiden aunt
Or else the author)–books demonstrating
Their right of comprehending husband's talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty 'may it please you,' or 'so it is,'–
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire
And never say 'no' when the world says 'ay,'
For that is fatal,–their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners–their, in brief,
Potential faculty in everything
Of abdicating power in it: she owned
She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands,
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary–or a stool
To tumble over and vex you . . 'curse that stool!'
Or else at best, a cushion where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this . . that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education, (to return)
I wondered if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, . . flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins . .
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light; my own endured:
I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark,
I kept the life, thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life, with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine!
I felt no life which was not patience,–did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it, sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window, to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message,–ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms,
As if I should not, harkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books,
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh,
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper, when I changed a cup,
(I blushed for joy at that!)–'The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England; she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time; she will die.'
'Will die.' My cousin, Romney Leigh, blushed too,
With sudden anger, and approaching me
Said low between his teeth–'You're wicked now?
You wish to die and leave the world a-dusk
For others, with your naughty light blown out?'
I looked into his face defyingly.
He might have known, that, being what I was,
'Twas natural to like to get away
As far as dead folk can; and then indeed
Some people make no trouble when they die.
He turned and went abruptly, slammed the door
And shut his dog out.
Romney, Romney Leigh.
I have not named my cousin hitherto,
And yet I used him as a sort of friend;
My elder by few years, but cold and shy
And absent . . tender when he thought of it,
Which scarcely was imperative, grave betimes,
As well as early master of Leigh Hall,
Whereof the nightmare sate upon his youth
Repressing all its seasonable delights,
And agonising with a ghastly sense
Of universal hideous want and wrong
To incriminate possession. When he came
From college to the country, very oft
He crossed the hills on visits to my aunt,
With gifts of blue grapes from the hothouses,
A book in one hand,–mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose beards are sprouting down toward hell.
Against God's separating judgment-hour.
And she, she almost loved him,–even allowed
That sometimes he should seem to sigh my way;
It made him easier to be pitiful,
And sighing was his gift. So, undisturbed
At whiles she let him shut my music up
And push my needles down, and lead me out
To see in that south angle of the house
The figs grow black as if by a Tuscan rock.
On some light pretext. She would turn her head
At other moments, go to fetch a thing,
And leave me breath enough to speak with him,
For his sake; it was simple.
He would have saved me utterly, it seemed,
He stood and looked so.
Once, he stood so near
He dropped a sudden hand upon my head
Bent down on woman's work, as soft as rain–
But then I rose and shook it off as fire,
The stranger's touch that took my father's place,
Yet dared seem soft.
I used him for a friend
Before I ever knew him for a friend.
'Twas better, 'twas worse also, afterward:
We came so close, we saw our differences
Too intimately. Always Romney Leigh
Was looking for the worms, I for the gods.
A godlike nature his; the gods look down,
Incurious of themselves; and certainly
'Tis well I should remember, how, those days
I was a worm too, and he looked on me.
A little by his act perhaps, yet more
By something in me, surely not my will,
I did not die. But slowly, as one in swoon,
To whom life creeps back in the form of death
With a sense of separation, a blind pain
Of blank obstruction, and a roar i' the ears
Of visionary chariots which retreat
As earth grows clearer . . slowly, by degrees,
I woke, rose up . . where was I? in the world:
For uses, therefore, I must count worth while.
I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,–
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's lodge
Ddispensed such odours,–though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall. Behind the elms,
And through their tops, you saw the folded hills
Striped up and down with hedges, (burley oaks
Projecting from the lines to show themselves)
Thro' which my cousin Romney's chimneys smoked
As still as when a silent mouth in frost
Breathes–showing where the woodlands hid Leigh Hall;
While far above, a jut of table-land,
A promontory without water, stretched,–
You could not catch it if the days were thick,
Or took it for a cloud; but, otherwise
The vigorous sun would catch it up at eve
And use it for an anvil till he had filled
The shelves of heaven with burning thunderbolts,
And proved he need not rest so early;–then
When all his setting trouble was resolved
Toa trance of passive glory, you might see
In apparition on the golden sky
(Alas, my Giotto's background!) the sheep run
Along the fine clear outline, small as mice
That run along a witch's scarlet thread.
Not a grand nature. Not my chestnut-woods
Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the spurs
To the precipices. Not my headlong leaps
Of waters, that cry out for joy or fear
In leaping through the palpitating pines,
Like a white soul tossed out to eternity
With thrills of time upon it. Not indeed
My multitudinous mountains, sitting in
The magic circle, with the mutual touch
Electric, panting from their full deep hearts
Beneath the influent heavens, and waiting for
Communion and commission. Italy
Is one thing, England one.
On English ground
You understand the letter . . ere the fall,
How Adam lived in a garden. All the fields
Are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like;
The hills are crumpled plains–the plains, parterres–
The trees, round, woolly, ready to be clipped;
And if you seek for any wilderness
You find, at best, a park. A nature tamed
And grown domestic like a barn-door fowl,
Which does not awe you with its claws and beak,
Nor tempt you to an eyrie too high up,
But which, in cackling, sets you thinking of
Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast, in the pause
Of finer meditation.
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.
I could not be unthankful, I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts
The sun came, saying, 'Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look?
I make the birds sing–listen! . . but, for you.
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights and weep.'
Then, something moved me. Then, I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now,
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs .
And out-door sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think,–'Enough,
Enough of life in so much!–here's a cause
For rupture; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration; farewell Life!'
–And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.–Then, Life calls to us,
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice,
Above us, or below us, or around . .
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves, because we are more ashamed
So own our compensations than our griefs:
Still, Life's voice!–still, we make our peace with Life.
And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the grey,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf,–and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware: whereat I smiled,–
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.
Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape
As a soul from the body, out of doors,–
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.
Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits . . so much help
By so much rending. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth–
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.
I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasised
Upon the self-same pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes,
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin, he had taught me, as he would
Have taught me wrestling or the game of fives
If such he had known.–most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus, my father gave;
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles, when they pinned the veil
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.
But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope. The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off,
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh
And passed) alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i' the wood, without a brother-babe!
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.
Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!–you think it fine,
You clap hands–'A fair day!'–you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!–the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and undiscomfited
Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdom,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay!–who judges?–who distinguishes
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves king Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve king David? who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne?
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in the catacombs, . . his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-mutter round him? not a child!
I read books bad and good–some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made Atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines,–ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.
The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps–I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God.'
But even so, God save me; and, being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.
I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions . . press and counterpress
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent . . all the best of it perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct,–merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it,–fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of high logic–mount
Step by step!–Sight goes faster; that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how, you cannot tell,
And why, you know not–(did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyse?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.
The cygnet finds the water: but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganised
By sin i' the blood,–his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes;
Then mark, be reverent, be obedient,–
For those dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says
'The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophets holograph
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's,–
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large,–where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom–thus, my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
What's this, Aurora Leigh,
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup?
I write so
Of the only truth-tellers, now left to God,–
The only speakers of essential truth,
Posed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime,–the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder. . 'This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us! what are you about?
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,
That carpet-dusting, though a pretty trade,
Is not the imperative labour after all.
My own best poets, am I one with you,
That thus I love you,–or but one through love?
Does all this smell of thyme about my feet
Conclude my visit to your holy hill
In personal presence, or but testify
The rustling of your vesture through my dreams
With influent odours? When my joy and pain,
My thought and aspiration, like the stops
Of pipe or flute, are absolutely dumb
If not melodious, do you play on me,
My pipers,–and if, sooth, you did not blow,
Would not sound come? or is the music mine,
As a man's voice or breath is called his own,
In breathed by the Life-breather? There's a doubt
For cloudy seasons!
But the sun was high
When first I felt my pulses set themselves
For concords; when the rhythmic turbulence
Of blood and brain swept outward upon words,
As wind upon the alders blanching them
By turning up their under-natures till
They trembled in dilation. O delight
And triumph of the poet,–who would say
A man's mere 'yes,' a woman's common 'no,'
A little human hope of that or this,
And says the word so that it burns you through
With a special revelation, shakes the heart
Of all the men and women in the world,
As if one came back from the dead and spoke,
With eyes too happy, a familiar thing
Become divine i' the utterance! while for him
The poet, the speaker, he expands with joy;
The palpitating angel in his flesh
Thrills inly with consenting fellowship
To those innumerous spirits who sun themselves
Outside of time.
O life, O poetry,
Which means life in life! cognisant of life
Beyond this blood-beat,–passionate for truth
Beyond these senses, –poetry, my life,–
My eagle, with both grappling feet still hot
From Zeus's thunder, who has ravished me
Away from all the shepherds, sheep, and dogs,
And set me in the Olympian roar and round
Of luminous faces, for a cup-bearer,
To keep the mouths of all the godheads moist
For everlasting laughters,–I, myself,
Half drunk across the beaker, with their eyes!
How those gods look!
Enough so, Ganymede.
We shall not bear above a round or two–
We drop the golden cup at Heré's foot
And swoon back to the earth,–and find ourselves
Face-down among the pine-cones, cold with dew,
While the dogs bark, and many a shepherd scoffs,
'What's come now to the youth?' Such ups and downs
Am I such indeed? The name
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen,
Is what I dare not,–though some royal blood
Would seem to tingle in me now and then,
With sense of power and ache,–with imposthumes
And manias usual to the race. Howbeit
I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad,
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of straws;
The thing's too common.
Many fervent souls
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel
If steel had offered, in a restless heat
Of doing something. Many tender souls
Have strung their losses on a rhyming thread.
As children, cowslips:–the more pains they take,
The work more withers. Young men, ay, and maids,
Too often sow their wild oats in tame verse.
Before they sit down under their own vine
And live for use. Alas, near all the birds
Will sing at dawn,–and yet we do not take
The chaffering swallow for the holy lark.
In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of 't; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. Life's violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour's field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
Being acted on and acting seem the same:
In that first onrush of life's chariot-wheels,
We know not if the forests move or we.
And so, like most young poets, in a flush
Of individual life, I poured myself
Along the veins of others, and achieved
Mere lifeless imitations of life verse,
And made the living answer for the dead,
Profaning nature. 'Touch not, do not taste,
Nor handle,'–we're too legal, who write young:
We beat the phorminx till we hurt our thumbs,
As if still ignorant of counterpoint;
We call the Muse . . 'O Muse, benignant Muse!'–
As if we had seen her purple-braided head .
With the eyes in it start between the boughs
As often as a stag's. What make-believe,
With so much earnest! what effete results,
From virile efforts! what cold wire-drawn odes
From such white heats!–bucolics, where the cows
Would scare the writer if they splashed the mud
In lashing off the flies,–didactics, driven
Against the heels of what the master said;
And counterfeiting epics, shrill with trumps
A babe might blow between two straining cheeks
Of bubbled rose, to make his mother laugh;
And elegiac griefs, and songs of love,
Like cast-off nosegays picked up on the road,
The worse for being warm: all these things, writ
On happy mornings, with a morning heart,
That leaps for love, is active for resolve,
Weak for art only. Oft, the ancient forms
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the young blood.
The wine-skins, now and then, a little warped,
Will crack even, as the new wine gurgles in.
Spare the old bottles!–spill not the new wine.
By Keats's soul, the man who never stepped
In gradual progress like another man,
But, turning grandly on his central self,
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
And died, not young,–(the life of a long life,
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a tear
Upon the world's cold cheek to make it burn
For ever;) by that strong excepted soul,
I count it strange, and hard to understand,
That nearly all young poets should write old;
That Pope was sexagenarian at sixteen,
And beardless Byron academical,
And so with others. It may be, perhaps,
Such have not settled long and deep enough
In trance, to attain to clairvoyance,–and still
The memory mixes with the vision, spoils,
And works it turbid.
Or perhaps, again,
In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx,
The melancholy desert must sweep round,
Behind you, as before.–
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence.
But I could not hide
My quickening inner life from those at watch.
They saw a light at a window now and then,
They had not set there. Who had set it there?
My father's sister started when she caught
My soul agaze in my eyes. She could not say
I had no business with a sort of soul,
But plainly she objected,–and demurred,
That souls were dangerous things to carry straight
Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world.
She said sometimes, 'Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning?–have you read that book?
And are you ready for the crochet here?'–
As if she said, 'I know there's something wrong,
I know I have not ground you down enough
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust
For household uses and proprieties,
Before the rain has got into my barn
And set the grains a-sprouting. What, you're green
With out-door impudence? you almost grow?'
To which I answered, 'Would she hear my task,
And verify my abstract of the book?
And should I sit down to the crochet work?
Was such her pleasure?' . . Then I sate and teased
The patient needle til it split the thread,
Which oozed off from it in meandering lace
From hour to hour. I was not, therefore, sad;
My soul was singing at a work apart
Behind the wall of sense, as safe from harm
As sings the lark when sucked up out of sight,
In vortices of glory and blue air.
And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on us–but we will not die.'
Whoever lives true life, will love true love.
I learnt to love that England. Very oft,
Before the day was born, or otherwise
Through secret windings of the afternoons,
I threw my hunters off and plunged myself
Among the deep hills, as a hunted stag
Will take the waters, shivering with the fear
And passion of the course. And when, at last
Escaped,–so many a green slope built on slope
Betwixt me and the enemy's house behind,
I dared to rest, or wander,–like a rest
Made sweeter for the step upon the grass,–
And view the ground's most gentle dimplement,
(As if God's finger touched but did not press
In making England!) such an up and down
Of verdure,–nothing too much up or down,
A ripple of land; such little hills, the sky
Can stoop to tenderly and the wheatfields climb;
Such nooks of valleys, lined with orchises,
Fed full of noises by invisible streams;
And open pastures, where you scarcely tell
White daisies from white dew,–at intervals
The mythic oaks and elm-trees standing out
Self-poised upon their prodigy of shade,–
I thought my father's land was worthy too
Of being my Shakspeare's.
Very oft alone,
Unlicensed; not unfrequently with leave
To walk the third with Romney and his friend
The rising painter, Vincent Carrington,
Whom men judge hardly, as bee-bonneted,
Because he holds that, paint a body well,
You paint a soul by implication, like
The grand first Master. Pleasant walks! for if
He said . . 'When I was last in Italy' . .
It sounded as an instrument that's played
Too far off for the tune–and yet it's fine
Often we walked only two,
If cousin Romney pleased to walk with me.
We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as it chanced;
We were not lovers, nor even friends well-matched–
Say rather, scholars upon different tracks,
And thinkers disagreed; he, overfull
Of what is, and I, haply, overbold
For what might be.
But then the thrushes sang,
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves,–
And then I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it.–At which word
His brow would soften,–and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While, breaking into voluble ecstasy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use . . .the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold,–
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,–hedgerows all alive
With birds and gnats and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had sought life
And palpitated forth upon the wind,–
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
'And see! is God not with us on the earth?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness? behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.
In the beginning when God called all good,
Even then, was evil near us, it is writ.
But we, indeed, who call things good and fair,
The evil is upon us while we speak;
Deliver us from evil, let us pray.
The Hind And The Panther, A Poem In Three Parts : Part III.
Much malice, mingled with a little wit,
Perhaps may censure this mysterious writ;
Because the muse has peopled Caledon
With panthers, bears, and wolves, and beasts unknown,
As if we were not stocked with monsters of our own.
Let Æsop answer, who has set to view
Such kinds as Greece and Phrygia never knew;
And Mother Hubbard, in her homely dress,
Has sharply blamed a British lioness;
That queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep,
Exposed obscenely naked, and asleep.
Led by those great examples, may not I
The wonted organs of their words supply?
If men transact like brutes, 'tis equal then
For brutes to claim the privilege of men.
Others our Hind of folly will indite,
To entertain a dangerous guest by night.
Let those remember, that she cannot die,
Till rolling time is lost in round eternity;
Nor need she fear the Panther, though untamed,
Because the Lion's peace was now proclaimed;
The wary savage would not give offence,
To forfeit the protection of her prince;
But watched the time her vengeance to complete,
When all her furry sons in frequent senate met;
Meanwhile she quenched her fury at the flood,
And with a lenten salad cooled her blood.
Their commons, though but coarse, were nothing scant,
Nor did their minds an equal banquet want.
For now the Hind, whose noble nature strove
To express her plain simplicity of love,
Did all the honours of her house so well,
No sharp debates disturbed the friendly meal.
She turned the talk, avoiding that extreme,
To common dangers past, a sadly-pleasing theme;
Remembering every storm which tossed the state,
When both were objects of the public hate,
And dropt a tear betwixt for her own children's fate.
Nor failed she then a full review to make
Of what the Panther suffered for her sake;
Her lost esteem, her truth, her loyal care,
Her faith unshaken to an exiled heir,
Her strength to endure, her courage to defy,
Her choice of honourable infamy.
On these, prolixly thankful, she enlarged;
Then with acknowledgments herself she charged;
For friendship, of itself an holy tie,
Is made more sacred by adversity.
Now should they part, malicious tongues would say,
They met like chance companions on the way,
Whom mutual fear of robbers had possessed;
While danger lasted, kindness was professed;
But, that once o'er, the short-lived union ends,
The road divides, and there divide the friends.
The Panther nodded, when her speech was done,
And thanked her coldly in a hollow tone;
But said, her gratitude had gone too far
For common offices of Christian care.
If to the lawful heir she had been true,
She paid but Cæsar what was Cæsar's due.
“I might,” she added, “with like praise describe
Your suffering sons, and so return your bribe:
But incense from my hands is poorly prized;
For gifts are scorned where givers are despised.
I served a turn, and then was cast away;
You, like the gaudy fly, your wings display,
And sip the sweets, and bask in your great patron's day.”
This heard, the matron was not slow to find
What sort of malady had seized her mind;
Disdain, with gnawing envy, fell despite,
And cankered malice, stood in open sight;
Ambition, interest, pride without control,
And jealousy, the jaundice of the soul;
Revenge, the bloody minister of ill,
With all the lean tormentors of the will.
'Twas easy now to guess from whence arose
Her new-made union with her ancient foes;
Her forced civilities, her faint embrace,
Affected kindness, with an altered face;
Yet durst she not too deeply probe the wound,
As hoping still the nobler parts were sound;
But strove with anodynes to assuage the smart,
And mildly thus her medicine did impart.
“Complaints of lovers help to ease their pain;
It shows a rest of kindness to complain;
A friendship loath to quit its former hold,
And conscious merit, may be justly bold;
But much more just your jealousy would show,
If others' good were injury to you:
Witness, ye heavens, how I rejoice to see
Rewarded worth and rising loyalty!
Your warrior offspring, that upheld the crown,
The scarlet honour of your peaceful gown,
Are the most pleasing objects I can find,
Charms to my sight, and cordials to my mind:
When virtue spooms before a prosperous gale,
My heaving wishes help to fill the sail;
And if my prayers for all the brave were heard,
Cæsar should still have such, and such should still reward.
“The laboured earth your pains have sowed and tilled,
'Tis just you reap the product of the field:
Yours be the harvest; 'tis the beggar's gain,
To glean the fallings of the loaded wain.
Such scattered ears as are not worth your care,
Your charity, for alms, may safely spare,
For alms are but the vehicles of prayer.
My daily bread is literally implored;
I have no barns nor granaries to hoard.
If Cæsar to his own his hand extends,
Say which of yours his charity offends;
You know, he largely gives to more than are his friends.
Are you defrauded, when he feeds the poor?
Our mite decreases nothing of your store.
I am but few, and by your fare you see
My crying sins are not of luxury.
Some juster motive sure your mind withdraws,
And makes you break our friendship's holy laws;
For barefaced envy is too base a cause.
Show more occasion for your discontent;
Your love, the Wolf, would help you to invent:
Some German quarrel, or, as times go now,
Some French, where force is uppermost, will do.
When at the fountain's head, as merit ought
To claim the place, you take a swilling draught,
How easy 'tis an envious eye to throw,
And tax the sheep for troubling streams below;
Or call her, when no further cause you find,
An enemy professed of all your kind!
But, then, perhaps, the wicked world would think,
The Wolf designed to eat as well as drink.”
This last allusion galled the Panther more,
Because, indeed, it rubbed upon the sore;
Yet seemed she not to wince, though shrewdly pained,
But thus her passive character maintained.
“I never grudged, whate'er my foes report,
Your flaunting fortune in the Lion's court.
You have your day, or you are much belied,
But I am always on the suffering side;
You know my doctrine, and I need not say,
I will not, but I cannot disobey.
On this firm principle I ever stood;
He of my sons who fails to make it good,
By one rebellious act renounces to my blood.”
“Ah,” said the Hind, “how many sons have you,
Who call you mother, whom you never knew!
But most of them, who that relation plead,
Are such ungracious youths as wish you dead.
They gape at rich revenues which you hold,
And fain would nibble at your grandame gold;
Enquire into your years, and laugh to find
Your crazy temper shows you much declined.
Were you not dim and doted, you might see
A pack of cheats that claim a pedigree,
No more of kin to you, than you to me.
Do you not know, that, for a little coin,
Heralds can foist a name into the line?
They ask you blessing but for what you have,
But, once possessed of what with care you save,
The wanton boys would piss upon your grave.
“Your sons of latitude, that court your grace,
Though most resembling you in form and face,
Are far the worst of your pretended race;
And, but I blush your honesty to blot,
Pray God you prove them lawfully begot!
For, in some Popish libels I have read,
The Wolf has been too busy in your bed;
At least their hinder parts, the belly-piece,
The paunch, and all that Scorpio claims, are his.
Their malice too a sore suspicion brings,
For, though they dare not bark, they snarl at kings.
Nor blame them for intruding in your line;
Fat bishoprics are still of right divine.
Think you, your new French proselytes are come,
To starve abroad, because they starved at home?
Your benefices twinkled from afar,
They found the new Messiah by the star;
Those Swisses fight on any side for pay,
And 'tis the living that conforms, not they.
Mark with what management their tribes divide;
Some stick to you, and some to t'other side,
That many churches may for many mouths provide.
More vacant pulpits would more converts make;
All would have latitude enough to take:
The rest unbeneficed your sects maintain;
For ordinations, without cures, are vain,
And chamber practice is a silent gain.
Your sons of breadth at home are much like these;
Their soft and yielding metals run with ease;
They melt, and take the figure of the mould,
But harden and preserve it best in gold.”
“Your Delphic sword,” the Panther then replied,
“Is double-edged, and cuts on either side.
Some sons of mine, who bear upon their shield
Three steeples argent in a sable field,
Have sharply taxed your converts, who, unfed,
Have followed you for miracles of bread;
Such, who themselves of no religion are,
Allured with gain, for any will declare.
Bare lies, with bold assertions, they can face;
But dint of argument is out of place.
The grim logician puts them in a fright;
'Tis easier far to flourish than to fight.
Thus, our eighth Henry's marriage they defame;
They say, the schism of beds began the game,
Divorcing from the Church to wed the dame;
Though largely proved, and by himself professed,
That conscience, conscience would not let him rest,—
I mean, not till possessed of her he loved,
And old, uncharming Catherine was removed.
For sundry years before he did complain,
And told his ghostly confessor his pain.
With the same impudence, without a ground,
They say, that, look the reformation round,
No treatise of humility is found.
But if none were, the gospel does not want;
Our Saviour preached it, and I hope you grant,
The sermon on the mount was Protestant.”
“No doubt,” replied the Hind, “as sure as all
The writings of Saint Peter and Saint Paul;
On that decision let it stand, or fall.
Now for my converts, who, you say, unfed,
Have followed me for miracles of bread.
Judge not by hearsay, but observe at least,
If since their change their loaves have been increased.
The Lion buys no converts; if he did,
Beasts would be sold as fast as he could bid.
Tax those of interest, who conform for gain,
Or stay the market of another reign:
Your broad-way sons would never be too nice
To close with Calvin, if he paid their price;
But, raised three steeples higher, would change their note,
And quit the cassock for the canting-coat.
Now, if you damn this censure, as too bold,
Judge by yourselves, and think not others sold.
“Meantime, my sons accused, by fame's report,
Pay small attendance at the Lion's court,
Nor rise with early crowds, nor flatter late;
For silently they beg, who daily wait.
Preferment is bestowed, that comes unsought;
Attendance is a bribe, and then 'tis bought.
How they should speed, their fortune is untried;
For not to ask, is not to be denied.
For what they have, their God and king they bless,
And hope they should not murmur, had they less.
But if reduced subsistence to implore,
In common prudence they would pass your door;
Unpitied Hudibras, your champion friend,
Has shown how far your charities extend.
This lasting verse shall on his tomb be read,
‘He shamed you living, and upbraids you dead.’
“With odious atheist names you load your foes;
Your liberal clergy why did I expose?
It never fails in charities like those.
In climes where true religion is professed,
That imputation were no laughing jest;
But imprimatur, with a chaplain's name,
Is here sufficient licence to defame.
What wonder is 't that black detraction thrives?
The homicide of names is less than lives;
And yet the perjured murderer survives.”
This said, she paused a little, and suppressed
The boiling indignation of her breast.
She knew the virtue of her blade, nor would
Pollute her satire with ignoble blood;
Her panting foe she saw before her eye,
And back she drew the shining weapon dry.
So when the generous Lion has in sight
His equal match, he rouses for the fight;
But when his foe lies prostrate on the plain,
He sheathes his paws, uncurls his angry mane,
And, pleased with bloodless honours of the day,
Walks over, and disdains the inglorious prey.
So James, if great with less we may compare,
Arrests his rolling thunder-bolts in air;
And grants ungrateful friends a lengthened space,
To implore the remnants of long-suffering grace.
This breathing-time the matron took; and then
Resumed the thrid of her discourse again.
“Be vengeance wholly left to powers divine,
And let heaven judge betwixt your sons and mine:
If joys hereafter must be purchased here
With loss of all that mortals hold so dear,
Then welcome infamy and public shame,
And last, a long farewell to worldly fame!
'Tis said with ease, but, oh, how hardly tried
By haughty souls to human honour tied!
O sharp convulsive pangs of agonising pride!
Down then, thou rebel, never more to rise!
And what thou didst, and dost, so dearly prize,
That fame, that darling fame, make that thy sacrifice.
'Tis nothing thou hast given; then add thy tears
For a long race of unrepenting years:
'Tis nothing yet, yet all thou hast to give:
Then add those may-be years thou hast to live:
Yet nothing still: then poor and naked come,
Thy Father will receive his unthrift home,
And thy blest Saviour's blood discharge the mighty sum.
“Thus,” she pursued, “I discipline a son,
Whose unchecked fury to revenge would run;
He champs the bit, impatient of his loss,
And starts aside, and flounders at the cross.
Instruct him better, gracious God, to know,
As thine is vengeance, so forgiveness too;
That, suffering from ill tongues, he bears no more
Than what his sovereign bears, and what his Saviour bore.
“It now remains for you to school your child,
And ask why God's anointed he reviled;
A king and princess dead! did Shimei worse?
The curser's punishment should fright the curse;
Your son was warned, and wisely gave it o'er,
But he, who counselled him, has paid the score;
The heavy malice could no higher tend,
But woe to him on whom the weights descend.
So to permitted ills the demon flies;
His rage is aimed at him who rules the skies:
Constrained to quit his cause, no succour found,
The foe discharges every tire around,
In clouds of smoke abandoning the fight,
But his own thundering peals proclaim his flight.
“In Henry's change his charge as ill succeeds;
To that long story little answer needs;
Confront but Henry's words with Henry's deeds.
Were space allowed, with ease it might be proved,
What springs his blessed reformation moved.
The dire effects appeared in open sight,
Which from the cause he calls a distant flight,
And yet no larger leap than from the sun to light.
“Now last your sons a double pæan sound,
A treatise of humility is found.
'Tis found, but better it had ne'er been sought,
Than thus in Protestant procession brought.
The famed original through Spain is known,
Rodriguez' work, my celebrated son,
Which yours, by ill-translating, made his own;
Concealed its author, and usurped the name,
The basest and ignoblest theft of fame.
My altars kindled first that living coal;
Restore, or practise better what you stole;
That virtue could this humble verse inspire,
'Tis all the restitution I require.”
Glad was the Panther that the charge was closed,
And none of all her favourite sons exposed;
For laws of arms permit each injured man,
To make himself a saver where he can.
Perhaps the plundered merchant cannot tell
The names of pirates in whose hands he fell;
But at the den of thieves he justly flies,
And every Algerine is lawful prize;
No private person in the foe's estate
Can plead exemption from the public fate.
Yet Christian laws allow not such redress;
Then let the greater supersede the less.
But let the abettors of the Panther's crime
Learn to make fairer wars another time.
Some characters may sure be found to write
Among her sons; for 'tis no common sight,
A spotted dam, and all her offspring white.
The savage, though she saw her plea controlled,
Yet would not wholly seem to quit her hold,
But offered fairly to compound the strife,
And judge conversion by the convert's life.
“'Tis true,” she said, “I think it somewhat strange,
So few should follow profitable change;
For present joys are more to flesh and blood,
Than a dull prospect of a distant good.
'Twas well alluded by a son of mine,
(I hope to quote him is not to purloin,)
Two magnets, heaven and earth, allure to bliss;
The larger loadstone that, the nearer this:
The weak attraction of the greater fails;
We nod a while, but neighbourhood prevails;
But when the greater proves the nearer too,
I wonder more your converts come so slow.
Methinks in those who firm with me remain,
It shows a nobler principle than gain.”
“Your inference would be strong,” the Hind replied,
“If yours were in effect the suffering side;
Your clergy's sons their own in peace possess,
Nor are their prospects in reversion less.
My proselytes are struck with awful dread,
Your bloody comet-laws hang blazing o'er their head;
The respite they enjoy but only lent,
The best they have to hope, protracted punishment.
Be judge yourself, if interest may prevail,
Which motives, yours or mine, will turn the scale.
While pride and pomp allure, and plenteous ease,
That is, till man's predominant passions cease,
Admire no longer at my slow increase.
“By education most have been misled;
So they believe, because they so were bred.
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man.
The rest I named before, nor need repeat;
But interest is the most prevailing cheat,
The sly seducer both of age and youth;
They study that, and think they study truth.
When interest fortifies an argument,
Weak reason serves to gain the will's assent;
For souls, already warped, receive an easy bent.
“Add long prescription of established laws,
And pique of honour to maintain a cause,
And shame of change, and fear of future ill,
And zeal, the blind conductor of the will;
And chief, among the still-mistaking crowd,
The fame of teachers obstinate and proud,
And, more than all, the private judge allowed;
Disdain of fathers which the dance began,
And last, uncertain whose the narrower span,
The clown unread, and half-read gentleman.”
To this the Panther, with a scornful smile;—
“Yet still you travail with unwearied toil,
And range around the realm without control,
Among my sons for proselytes to prowl;
And here and there you snap some silly soul.
You hinted fears of future change in state;
Pray heaven you did not prophesy your fate!
Perhaps you think your time of triumph near,
But may mistake the season of the year;
The Swallow's fortune gives you cause to fear.”
“For charity,” replied the matron, “tell
What sad mischance those pretty birds befell.”
“Nay, no mischance,” the savage dame replied,
“But want of wit in their unerring guide,
And eager haste, and gaudy hopes, and giddy pride.
Yet, wishing timely warning may prevail,
Make you the moral, and I'll tell the tale.
“The Swallow, privileged above the rest
Of all the birds, as man's familiar guest,
Pursues the sun, in summer brisk and bold,
But wisely shuns the persecuting cold;
Is well to chancels and to chimneys known,
Though 'tis not thought she feeds on smoke alone.
From hence she has been held of heavenly line,
Endued with particles of soul divine.
This merry chorister had long possessed
Her summer-seat, and feathered well her nest;
Till frowning skies began to change their cheer,
And time turned up the wrong side of the year;
The shading trees began the ground to strow
With yellow leaves, and bitter blasts to blow.
Sad auguries of winter thence she drew,
Which by instinct, or prophecy, she knew;
When prudence warned her to remove betimes,
And seek a better heaven, and warmer climes.
“Her sons were summoned on a steeple's height,
And, called in common council, vote a flight.
The day was named, the next that should be fair;
All to the general rendezvous repair,
They try their fluttering wings, and trust themselves in air.
But whether upward to the moon they go,
Or dream the winter out in caves below,
Or hawk at flies elsewhere, concerns us not to know.
Southwards you may be sure they bent their flight,
And harboured in a hollow rock at night;
Next morn they rose, and set up every sail;
The wind was fair, but blew a mackrel gale;
The sickly young sat shivering on the shore,
Abhorred salt-water never seen before,
And prayed their tender mothers to delay
The passage, and expect a fairer day.
“With these the Martin readily concurred,
A church-begot and church-believing bird;
Of little body, but of lofty mind,
Round bellied, for a dignity designed,
And much a dunce, as Martins are by kind;
Yet often quoted canon-laws, and code,
And fathers which he never understood;
But little learning needs in noble blood.
For, sooth to say, the Swallow brought him in,
Her household chaplain, and her next of kin;
In superstition silly to excess,
And casting schemes by planetary guess;
In fine, short-winged, unfit himself to fly,
His fear foretold foul weather in the sky.
Besides, a Raven from a withered oak,
Left of their lodging, was observed to croak.
That omen liked him not; so his advice
Was present safety, bought at any price;
A seeming pious care, that covered cowardice.
To strengthen this, he told a boding dream,
Of rising waters, and a troubled stream,
Sure signs of anguish, dangers, and distress,
With something more, not lawful to express:
By which he slily seemed to intimate
Some secret revelation of their fate.
For he concluded, once upon a time,
He found a leaf inscribed with sacred rhyme,
Whose antique characters did well denote
The Sibyl's hand of the Cumæan grot;
The mad divineress had plainly writ,
A time should come, but many ages yet,
In which, sinister destinies ordain,
A dame should drown with all her feathered train,
And seas from thence be called the Chelidonian main.
At this, some shook for fear; the more devout
Arose, and blessed themselves from head to foot.
“'Tis true, some stagers of the wiser sort
Made all these idle wonderments their sport;
They said their only danger was delay,
And he, who heard what every fool could say,
Would never fix his thought, but trim his time away.
The passage yet was good; the wind, 'tis true,
Was somewhat high, but that was nothing new,
No more than usual equinoxes blew.
The sun, already from the Scales declined,
Gave little hopes of better days behind,
But change from bad to worse, of weather and of wind.
Nor need they fear the dampness of the sky
Should flag their wings, and hinder them to fly,
'Twas only water thrown on sails too dry.
But, least of all, philosophy presumes
Of truth in dreams, from melancholy fumes;
Perhaps the Martin, housed in holy ground,
Might think of ghosts, that walk their midnight round,
Till grosser atoms, tumbling in the stream
Of fancy, madly met, and clubbed into a dream:
As little weight his vain presages bear,
Of ill effect to such alone who fear;
Most prophecies are of a piece with these,
Each Nostradamus can foretell with ease:
Not naming persons, and confounding times,
One casual truth supports a thousand lying rhymes.
“The advice was true; but fear had seized the most,
And all good counsel is on cowards lost.
The question crudely put to shun delay,
'Twas carried by the major part to stay.
“His point thus gained, Sir Martin dated thence
His power, and from a priest became a prince.
He ordered all things with a busy care,
And cells and refectories did prepare,
And large provisions laid of winter fare;
But, now and then, let fall a word or two,
Of hope, that heaven some miracle might show,
And, for their sakes, the sun should backward go;
Against the laws of nature upward climb,
And, mounted on the Ram, renew the prime;
For which two proofs in sacred story lay,
Of Ahaz' dial, and of Joshua's day.
In expectation of such times as these,
A chapel housed them, truly called of ease;
For Martin much devotion did not ask;
They prayed sometimes, and that was all their task.
“It happened, as beyond the reach of wit
Blind prophecies may have a lucky hit,
That this accomplished, or at least in part,
Gave great repute to their new Merlin's art.
Some Swifts, the giants of the Swallow kind,
Large limbed, stout hearted, but of stupid mind,
(For Swisses, or for Gibeonites designed,)
These lubbers, peeping through a broken pane,
To suck fresh air, surveyed the neighbouring plain,
And saw, but scarcely could believe their eyes,
New blossoms flourish, and new flowers arise;
As God had been abroad, and, walking there,
Had left his footsteps, and reformed the year.
The sunny hills from far were seen to glow
With glittering beams, and in the meads below
The burnished brooks appeared with liquid gold to flow.
At last they heard the foolish Cuckoo sing,
Whose note proclaimed the holiday of spring.
“No longer doubting, all prepare to fly,
And repossess their patrimonial sky.
The priest before them did his wings display;
And that good omens might attend their way,
As luck would have it, 'twas St. Martin's day.
“Who but the Swallow now triumphs alone?
The canopy of heaven is all her own;
Her youthful offspring to their haunts repair,
And glide along in glades, and skim in air,
And dip for insects in the purling springs,
And stoop on rivers to refresh their wings.
Their mother thinks a fair provision made,
That every son can live upon his trade,
And, now the careful charge is off their hands,
Look out for husbands, and new nuptial bands.
The youthful widow longs to be supplied;
But first the lover is by lawyers tied,
To settle jointure-chimneys on the bride.
So thick they couple in so short a space,
That Martin's marriage-offerings rise apace.
Their ancient houses, running to decay,
Are furbished up, and cemented with clay:
They teem already; store of eggs are laid,
And brooding mothers call Lucina's aid.
Fame spreads the news, and foreign fowls appear,
In flocks, to greet the new returning year,
To bless the founder, and partake the cheer.
“And now 'twas time, so fast their numbers rise,
To plant abroad and people colonies.
The youth drawn forth, as Martin had desired,
(For so their cruel destiny required,)
Were sent far off on an ill-fated day;
The rest would needs conduct them on their way,
And Martin went, because he feared alone to stay.
“So long they flew with inconsiderate haste,
That now their afternoon began to waste;
And, what was ominous, that very morn
The sun was entered into Capricorn;
Which, by their bad astronomer's account,
That week the Virgin balance should remount.
An infant moon eclipsed him in his way,
And hid the small remainders of his day.
The crowd, amazed, pursued no certain mark,
But birds met birds, and jostled in the dark.
Few mind the public, in a panic fright,
And fear increased the horror of the night.
Night came, but unattended with repose;
Alone she came, no sleep their eyes to close;
Alone, and black she came; no friendly stars arose.
“What should they do, beset with dangers round,
No neighbouring dorp, no lodging to be found,
But bleaky plains, and bare, unhospitable ground?
The latter brood, who just began to fly,
Sick-feathered, and unpractised in the sky,
For succour to their helpless mother call:
She spread her wings; some few beneath them crawl;
She spread them wider yet, but could not cover all.
To augment their woes, the winds began to move,
Debate in air for empty fields above,
Till Boreas got the skies, and poured amain
His rattling hailstones, mixed with snow and rain.
“The joyless morning late arose, and found
A dreadful desolation reign around,
Some buried in the snow, some frozen to the ground.
The rest were struggling still with death, and lay
The Crows' and Ravens' rights, an undefended prey:
Excepting Martin's race; for they and he
Had gained the shelter of a hollow tree;
But, soon discovered by a sturdy clown,
He headed all the rabble of a town,
And finished them with bats, or polled them down.
Martin himself was caught alive, and tried
For treasonous crimes, because the laws provide
No Martin there in winter shall abide.
High on an oak, which never leaf shall bear,
He breathed his last, exposed to open air;
And there his corpse unblessed is hanging still,
To show the change of winds with his prophetic bill.”
The patience of the Hind did almost fail,
For well she marked the malice of the tale;
Which ribald art their Church to Luther owes;
In malice it began, by malice grows;
He sowed the serpent's teeth, an iron harvest rose.
But most in Martin's character and fate,
She saw her slandered sons, the Panther's hate,
The people's rage, the persecuting state:
Then said, “I take the advice in friendly part;
You clear your conscience, or at least your heart.
Perhaps you failed in your foreseeing skill,
For Swallows are unlucky birds to kill:
As for my sons, the family is blessed,
Whose every child is equal to the rest;
No Church reformed can boast a blameless line,
Such Martins build in yours, and more than mine;
Or else an old fanatic author lies,
Who summed their scandals up by centuries.
But through your parable I plainly see
The bloody laws, the crowd's barbarity;
The sunshine, that offends the purblind sight,
Had some their wishes, it would soon be night.
Mistake me not; the charge concerns not you;
Your sons are malcontents, but yet are true,
As far as non-resistance makes them so;
But that's a word of neutral sense, you know,
A passive term, which no relief will bring,
But trims betwixt a rebel and a king.”
“Rest well assured,” the Pardalis replied,
“My sons would all support the regal side,
Though heaven forbid the cause by battle should be tried.”
The matron answered with a loud Amen,
And thus pursued her argument again:—
“If, as you say, and as I hope no less,
Your sons will practise what yourselves profess,
What angry power prevents our present peace?
The Lion, studious of our common good,
Desires (and kings' desires are ill withstood)
To join our nations in a lasting love;
The bars betwixt are easy to remove,
For sanguinary laws were never made above.
If you condemn that prince of tyranny,
Whose mandate forced your Gallic friends to fly,
Make not a worse example of your own,
Or cease to rail at causeless rigour shown,
And let the guiltless person throw the stone.
His blunted sword your suffering brotherhood
Have seldom felt; he stops it short of blood:
But you have ground the persecuting knife,
And set it to a razor-edge on life.
Cursed be the wit, which cruelty refines,
Or to his father's rod the scorpion joins!
Your finger is more gross than the great monarch's loins.
But you, perhaps, remove that bloody note,
And stick it on the first reformers' coat.
Oh let their crime in long oblivion sleep;
'Twas theirs indeed to make, 'tis yours to keep!
Unjust, or just, is all the question now;
'Tis plain, that, not repealing, you allow.
“To name the Test would put you in a rage;
You charge not that on any former age,
But smile to think how innocent you stand,
Armed by a weapon put into your hand.
Yet still remember, that you wield a sword,
Forged by your foes against your sovereign lord;
Designed to hew the imperial cedar down,
Defraud succession, and dis-heir the crown.
To abhor the makers, and their laws approve,
Is to hate traitors, and the treason love.
What means it else, which now your children say,
We made it not, nor will we take away?
“Suppose some great oppressor had, by slight
Of law, disseised your brother of his right,
Your common sire surrendering in a fright;
Would you to that unrighteous title stand,
Left by the villain's will to heir the land?
More just was Judas, who his Saviour sold;
The sacrilegious bribe he could not hold,
Nor hang in peace, before he rendered back the gold.
What more could you have done, than now you do,
Had Oates and Bedloe and their plot been true;
Some specious reasons for those wrongs were found;
The dire magicians threw their mists around,
And wise men walked as on enchanted ground.
But now when time has made the imposture plain,
(Late though he followed truth, and limping held her train,)
What new delusion charms your cheated eyes again?
The painted harlot might a while bewitch,
But why the hag uncased, and all obscene with itch?
“The first reformers were a modest race;
Our peers possessed in peace their native place,
And when rebellious arms o'erturned the state,
They suffered only in the common fate;
But now the sovereign mounts the regal chair,
And mitred seats are full, yet David's bench is bare.
Your answer is, they were not dispossest;
They need but rub their metal on the Test
To prove their ore;—'twere well if gold alone
Were touched and tried on your discerning stone;
But that unfaithful test unfound will pass
The dross of Atheists, and sectarian brass;
As if the experiment were made to hold
For base production, and reject the gold.
Thus men ungodded may to places rise,
And sects may be preferred without disguise;
No danger to the Church or State from these,
The Papist only has his writ of ease.
No gainful office gives him the pretence
To grind the subject, or defraud the prince.
Wrong conscience, or no conscience, may deserve
To thrive, but ours alone is privileged to starve.
Still thank yourselves, you cry; your noble race
We banish not, but they forsake the place;
Our doors are open:—true, but ere they come,
You toss your censing test, and fume the room;
As if 'twere Toby's rival to expel,
And fright the fiend who could not bear the smell.”
To this the Panther sharply had replied,
But having gained a verdict on her side,
She wisely gave the loser leave to chide;
Well satisfied to have the butt and peace,
And for the plaintiff's cause she cared the less,
Because she sued in forma pauperis;
Yet thought it decent something should be said,
For secret guilt by silence is betrayed;
So neither granted all, nor much denied,
But answered with a yawning kind of pride:
“Methinks such terms of proffered peace you bring,
As once Æneas to the Italian king:
By long possession all the land is mine;
You strangers come with your intruding line,
To share my sceptre, which you call to join.
You plead like him an ancient pedigree,
And claim a peaceful seat by fate's decree.
In ready pomp your sacrificer stands,
To unite the Trojan and the Latin bands;
And, that the league more firmly may be tied,
Demand the fair Lavinia for your bride.
Thus plausibly you veil the intended wrong,
But still you bring your exiled gods along;
And will endeavour, in succeeding space,
Those household puppets on our hearths to place.
Perhaps some barbarous laws have been preferred;
I spake against the Test, but was not heard.
These to rescind, and peerage to restore,
My gracious sovereign would my vote implore;
I owe him much, but owe my conscience more.”
“Conscience is then your plea,” replied the dame,
“Which, well-informed, will ever be the same.
But yours is much of the chameleon hue,
To change the dye with every distant view.
When first the Lion sat with awful sway,
Your conscience taught your duty to obey:
He might have had your statutes and your Test;
No conscience but of subjects was professed.
He found your temper, and no farther tried,
But on that broken reed, your Church, relied.
In vain the sects essayed their utmost art,
With offered treasures to espouse their part;
Their treasures were a bribe too mean to move his heart.
But when, by long experience, you had proved,
How far he could forgive, how well he loved;
(A goodness that excelled his godlike race,
And only short of heaven's unbounded grace;
A flood of mercy that o'erflowed our isle,
Calm in the rise, and fruitful as the Nile,)
Forgetting whence your Egypt was supplied,
You thought your sovereign bound to send the tide;
Nor upward looked on that immortal spring,
But vainly deemed, he durst not be a king.
Then Conscience, unrestrained by fear, began
To stretch her limits, and extend the span;
Did his indulgence as her gift dispose,
And made a wise alliance with her foes.
Can Conscience own the associating name,
And raise no blushes to conceal her shame?
For sure she has been thought a bashful dame.
But if the cause by battle should be tried,
You grant she must espouse the regal side;
O Proteus-conscience, never to be tied!
What Phœbus from the Tripod shall disclose,
Which are, in last resort, your friends or foes?
Homer, who learned the language of the sky,
The seeming Gordian knot would soon untie;
Immortal powers the term of Conscience know,
But Interest is her name with men below.”
“Conscience or Interest be't, or both in one,”
(The Panther answered in a surly tone
“The first commands me to maintain the crown,
The last forbids to throw my barriers down.
Our penal laws no sons of yours admit,
Our Test excludes your tribe from benefit.
These are my banks your ocean to withstand,
Which, proudly rising, overlooks the land,
And, once let in, with unresisted sway,
Would sweep the pastors and their flocks away.
Think not my judgment leads me to comply
With laws unjust, but hard necessity:
Imperious need, which cannot be withstood,
Makes ill authentic, for a greater good.
Possess your soul with patience, and attend;
A more auspicious planet may ascend;
Good fortune may present some happier time
With means to cancel my unwilling crime;
(Unwilling, witness all ye powers above!)
To mend my errors, and redeem your love:
That little space you safely may allow;
Your all-dispensing power protects you now.”
“Hold,” said the Hind, “'tis needless to explain;
You would postpone me to another reign;
Till when, you are content to be unjust:
Your part is to possess, and mine to trust;
A fair exchange proposed, of future chance
For present profit and inheritance.
Few words will serve to finish our dispute;
Who will not now repeal, would persecute.
To ripen green revenge your hopes attend,
Wishing that happier planet would ascend.
For shame, let Conscience be your plea no more;
To will hereafter, proves she might before;
But she's a bawd to gain, and holds the door.
“Your care about your banks infers a fear
Of threatening floods and inundations near;
If so, a just reprise would only be
Of what the land usurped upon the sea;
And all your jealousies but serve to show,
Your ground is, like your neighbour-nation, low.
To intrench in what you grant unrighteous laws,
Is to distrust the justice of your cause;
And argues, that the true religion lies
In those weak adversaries you despise.
Tyrannic force is that which least you fear;
The sound is frightful in a Christian's ear:
Avert it, Heaven! nor let that plague be sent
To us from the dispeopled continent.
“But piety commands me to refrain;
Those prayers are needless in this monarch's reign.
Behold how he protects your friends oppressed,
Receives the banished, succours the distressed!
Behold, for you may read an honest open breast.
He stands in daylight, and disdains to hide
An act, to which by honour he is tied,
A generous, laudable, and kingly pride.
Your Test he would repeal, his peers restore;
This when he says he means, he means no more.”
“Well,” said the Panther, “I believe him just,
“And yet, 'tis but because you must;
You would be trusted, but you would not trust.”
The Hind thus briefly; and disdained to enlarge
On power of kings, and their superior charge,
As heaven's trustees before the people's choice;
Though sure the Panther did not much rejoice
To hear those echoes given of her once loyal voice.
The matron wooed her kindness to the last,
But could not win; her hour of grace was past.
Whom, thus persisting, when she could not bring
To leave the Wolf, and to believe her king,
She gave her up, and fairly wished her joy
Of her late treaty with her new ally:
Which well she hoped would more successful prove,
Than was the Pigeon's and the Buzzard's love.
The Panther asked, what concord there could be
Betwixt two kinds whose natures disagree?
The dame replied: “'Tis sung in every street,
The common chat of gossips when they meet;
But, since unheard by you, 'tis worth your while
To take a wholesome tale, though told in homely style.
“A plain good man, whose name is understood,
(So few deserve the name of plain and good,)
Of three fair lineal lordships stood possessed,
And lived, as reason was, upon the best.
Inured to hardships from his early youth,
Much had he done and suffered for his truth:
At land and sea, in many a doubtful fight,
Was never known a more adventurous knight,
Who oftener drew his sword, and always for the right.
“As fortune would, (his fortune came, though late,)
He took possession of his just estate;
Nor racked his tenants with increase of rent,
Nor lived too sparing, nor too largely spent,
But overlooked his hinds; their pay was just,
And ready, for he scorned to go on trust:
Slow to resolve, but in performance quick;
So true, that he was awkward at a trick.
For little souls on little shifts rely,
And coward arts of mean expedients try;
The noble mind will dare do anything but lie.
False friends, his deadliest foes, could find no way,
But shows of honest bluntness, to betray;
That unsuspected plainness he believed;
He looked into himself, and was deceived.
Some lucky planet sure attends his birth,
Or heaven would make a miracle on earth;
For prosperous honesty is seldom seen
To bear so dead a weight, and yet to win.
It looks as fate with nature's law would strive,
To show plain-dealing once an age may thrive;
And, when so tough a frame she could not bend,
Exceeded her commission, to befriend.
“This grateful man, as heaven increased his store,
Gave God again, and daily fed his poor.
His house with all convenience was purveyed;
The rest he found, but raised the fabric where he prayed;
And in that sacred place his beauteous wife
Employed her happiest hours of holy life.
“Nor did their alms extend to those alone,
Whom common faith more strictly made their own;
A sort of Doves were housed too near the hall,
Who cross the proverb, and abound with gall.
Though some, 'tis true, are passively inclined,
The greater part degenerate from their kind;
Voracious birds, that hotly bill and breed,
And largely drink, because on salt they feed.
Small gain from them their bounteous owner draws;
Yet, bound by promise, he supports their cause,
As corporations privileged by laws.
“That house, which harbour to their kind affords,
Was built long since, God knows, for better birds;
But fluttering there, they nestle near the throne,
And lodge in habitations not their own,
By their high crops and corny gizzards known.
Like Harpies, they could scent a plenteous board,
Then to be sure they never failed their lord:
The rest was form, and bare attendance paid;
They drank, and eat, and grudgingly obeyed.
The more they fed, they ravened still for more;
They drained from Dan, and left Beersheba poor.
All this they had by law, and none repined;
The preference was but due to Levi's kind:
But when some lay-preferment fell by chance,
The gourmands made it their inheritance.
When once possessed, they never quit their claim,
For then 'tis sanctified to heaven's high name;
And hallowed thus, they cannot give consent,
The gift should be profaned by worldly management.
“Their flesh was never to the table served,
Though 'tis not thence inferred the birds were starved;
But that their master did not like the food,
As rank, and breeding melancholy blood.
Nor did it with his gracious nature suit,
E'en though they were not doves, to persecute:
Yet he refused, (nor could they take offence,)
Their glutton kind should teach him abstinence.
Nor consecrated grain their wheat he thought,
Which, new from treading, in their bills they brought;
But left his hinds each in his private power,
That those who like the bran might leave the flour.
He for himself, and not for others, chose,
Nor would he be imposed on, nor impose;
But in their faces his devotion paid,
And sacrifice with solemn rites was made,
And sacred incense on his altars laid.
“Besides these jolly birds, whose corpse impure
Repaid their commons with their salt manure,
Another farm he had behind his house,
Not overstocked, but barely for his use;
Wherein his poor domestic poultry fed,
And from his pious hands received their bread.
Our pampered Pigeons, with malignant eyes,
Beheld these inmates, and their nurseries;
Though hard their fare, at evening, and at morn,
(A cruse of water and an ear of corn,)
Yet still they grudged that modicum, and thought
A sheaf in every single grain was brought.
Fain would they filch that little food away,
While unrestrained those happy gluttons prey;
And much they grieved to see so nigh their hall,
The bird that warned St. Peter of his fall;
That he should raise his mitred crest on high,
And clap his wings, and call his family
To sacred rites; and vex the ethereal powers
With midnight matins at uncivil hours;
Nay more, his quiet neighbours should molest,
Just in the sweetness of their morning rest.
Beast of a bird, supinely when he might
Lie snug and sleep, to rise before the light!
What if his dull forefathers used that cry,
Could he not let a bad example die?
The world was fallen into an easier way;
This age knew better than to fast and pray.
Good sense in sacred worship would appear,
So to begin, as they might end the year.
Such feats in former times had wrought the falls
Of crowing chanticleers in cloistered walls.
Expelled for this, and for their lands, they fled;
And sister Partlet, with her hooded head,
Was hooted hence, because she would not pray abed.
The way to win the restiff world to God,
Was to lay by the disciplining rod,
Unnatural fasts, and foreign forms of prayer;
Religion frights us with a mien severe.
'Tis prudence to reform her into ease,
And put her in undress, to make her please;
A lively faith will bear aloft the mind,
And leave the luggage of good works behind.
“Such doctrines in the Pigeon-house were taught;
You need not ask how wondrously they wrought;
But sure the common cry was all for these,
Whose life and precepts both encouraged ease.
Yet fearing those alluring baits might fail,
And holy deeds o'er all their arts prevail,
(For vice, though frontless, and of hardened face,
Is daunted at the sight of awful grace,)
An hideous figure of their foes they drew,
Nor lines, nor looks, nor shades, nor colours true;
And this grotesque design exposed to public view.
One would have thought it an Egyptian piece,
With garden-gods, and barking deities,
More thick than Ptolemy has stuck the skies.
All so perverse a draught, so far unlike,
It was no libel where it meant to strike.
Yet still the daubing pleased, and great and small,
To view the monster, crowded Pigeon-hall.
There Chanticleer was drawn upon his knees,
Adorning shrines, and stocks of sainted trees;
And by him, a misshapen, ugly race,
The curse of God was seen on every face:
No Holland emblem could that malice mend,
But still the worse the look, the fitter for a fiend.
“The master of the farm, displeased to find
So much of rancour in so mild a kind,
Enquired into the cause, and came to know,
The passive Church had struck the foremost blow;
With groundless fears, and jealousies possest,
As if this troublesome intruding guest
Would drive the birds of Venus from their nest,
A deed his inborn equity abhorred;
But interest will not trust, though God should plight his word.
“A law, the source of many future harms,
Had banished all the poultry from the farms;
With loss of life, if any should be found
To crow or peck on this forbidden ground.
That bloody statute chiefly was designed
For Chanticleer the white, of clergy kind;
But after-malice did not long forget
The lay that wore the robe and coronet.
For them, for their inferiors and allies,
Their foes a deadly Shibboleth devise;
By which unrighteously it was decreed,
That none to trust, or profit, should succeed,
Who would not swallow first a poisonous wicked weed;
Or that, to which old Socrates was cursed,
Or henbane juice to swell them till they burst.
“The patron, as in reason, thought it hard
To see this inquisition in his yard,
By which the sovereign was of subjects' use debarred.
All gentle means he tried, which might withdraw
The effects of so unnatural a law;
But still the dove-house obstinately stood
Deaf to their own, and to their neighbours' good;
And which was worse, if any worse could be,
Repented of their boasted loyalty;
Now made the champions of a cruel cause,
And drunk with fumes of popular applause:
For those whom God to ruin has designed,
He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.
“New doubts indeed they daily strove to raise,
Suggested dangers, interposed delays,
And emissary Pigeons had in store,
Such as the Meccan prophet used of yore,
To whisper counsels in their patron's ear,
And veiled their false advice with zealous fear.
The master smiled to see them work in vain,
To wear him out, and make an idle reign:
He saw, but suffered their protractive arts,
And strove by mildness to reduce their hearts;
But they abused that grace to make allies,
And fondly closed with former enemies;
For fools are double fools, endeavouring to be wise.
“After a grave consult what course were best,
One, more mature in folly than the rest,
Stood up, and told them, with his head aside,
That desperate cures must be to desperate ills applied:
And therefore, since their main impending fear
Was from the increasing race of Chanticleer,
Some potent bird of prey they ought to find,
A foe professed to him, and all his kind:
Some haggard Hawk, who had her eyry nigh,
Well pounced to fasten, and well winged to fly;
One they might trust, their common wrongs to wreak.
The Musquet and the Coystrel were too weak,
Too fierce the Falcon; but, above the rest,
The noble Buzzard ever pleased me best:
Of small renown, 'tis true; for, not to lie,
We call him but a Hawk by courtesy.
I know he haunts the Pigeon-house and Farm,
And more, in time of war, has done us harm:
But all his hate on trivial points depends;
Give up our forms, and we shall soon be friends.
For Pigeons' flesh he seems not much to care;
Crammed Chickens are a more delicious fare.
On this high potentate, without delay,
I wish you would confer the sovereign sway;
Petition him to accept the government,
And let a splendid embassy be sent.
“This pithy speech prevailed, and all agreed,
Old enmities forgot, the Buzzard should succeed.
“Their welcome suit was granted, soon as heard,
His lodgings furnished, and a train prepared,
With B's upon their breast, appointed for his guard.
He came, and, crowned with great solemnity,
‘God save king Buzzard!’ was the general cry.
“A portly prince, and goodly to the sight,
He seemed a son of Anak for his height:
Like those whom stature did to crowns prefer,
Black-browed, and bluff, like Homer's Jupiter;
Broad-backed, and brawny-built for love's delight,
A prophet formed to make a female proselyte;
A theologue more by need than genial bent,
By breeding sharp, by nature confident.
Interest in all his actions was discerned;
More learned than honest, more a wit than learned;
Or forced by fear, or by his profit led,
Or both conjoined, his native clime he fled;
But brought the virtues of his heaven along,
A fair behaviour, and a fluent tongue.
And yet with all his arts he could not thrive,
The most unlucky parasite alive;
Loud praises to prepare his paths he sent,
And then himself pursued his compliment;
But by reverse of fortune chased away,
His gifts no longer than their author stay;
He shakes the dust against the ungrateful race,
And leaves the stench of ordures in the place.
Oft has he flattered and blasphemed the same;
For in his rage he spares no sovereign's name:
The hero and the tyrant change their style,
By the same measure that they frown or smile.
When well received by hospitable foes,
The kindness he returns, is to expose;
For courtesies, though undeserved and great,
No gratitude in felon-minds beget;
As tribute to his wit, the churl receives the treat.
His praise of foes is venomously nice;
So touched, it turns a virtue to a vice;
‘A Greek, and bountiful, forewarns us twice.’
Seven sacraments he wisely does disown,
Because he knows confession stands for one;
Where sins to sacred silence are conveyed,
And not for fear, or love, to be betrayed:
But he, uncalled, his patron to control,
Divulged the secret whispers of his soul;
Stood forth the accusing Satan of his crimes,
And offered to the Moloch of the times.
Prompt to assail, and careless of defence,
Invulnerable in his impudence,
He dares the world; and, eager of a name,
He thrusts about, and jostles into fame.
Frontless, and satire-proof, he scours the streets,
And runs an Indian-muck at all he meets.
So fond of loud report, that, not to miss
Of being known, (his last and utmost bliss,)
He rather would be known for what he is.
“Such was, and is, the Captain of the Test,
Though half his virtues are not here expressed;
The modesty of fame conceals the rest.
The spleenful Pigeons never could create
A prince more proper to revenge their hate;
Indeed, more proper to revenge, than save;
A king, whom in his wrath the Almighty gave:
For all the grace the landlord had allowed,
But made the Buzzard and the Pigeons proud;
Gave time to fix their friends, and to seduce the crowd.
They long their fellow-subjects to enthral,
Their patron's promise into question call,
And vainly think he meant to make them lords of all.
“False fears their leaders failed not to suggest,
As if the Doves were to be dispossest;
Nor sighs, nor groans, nor goggling eyes did want,
For now the Pigeons too had learned to cant.
The house of prayer is stocked with large increase;
Nor doors, nor windows, can contain the press,
For birds of every feather fill the abode;
E'en atheists out of envy own a God,
And, reeking from the stews, adulterers come,
Like Goths and Vandals to demolish Rome.
That conscience, which to all their crimes was mute,
Now calls aloud, and cries to persecute:
No rigour of the laws to be released,
And much the less, because it was their Lord's request;
They thought it great their sovereign to control,
And named their pride, nobility of soul.
“'Tis true, the Pigeons, and their prince elect,
Were short of power, their purpose to effect;
But with their quills did all the hurt they could,
And cuffed the tender Chickens from their food:
And much the Buzzard in their cause did stir,
Though naming not the patron, to infer,
With all respect, he was a gross idolater.
“But when the imperial owner did espy,
That thus they turned his grace to villainy,
Not suffering wrath to discompose his mind,
He strove a temper for the extremes to find,
So to be just, as he might still be kind;
Then, all maturely weighed, pronounced a doom
Of sacred strength for every age to come.
By this the Doves their wealth and state possess,
No rights infringed, but licence to oppress:
Such power have they as factious lawyers long
To crowns ascribed, that kings can do no wrong.
But since his own domestic birds have tried
The dire effects of their destructive pride,
He deems that proof a measure to the rest,
Concluding well within his kingly breast,
His fowls of nature too unjustly were opprest.
He therefore makes all birds of every sect
Free of his farm, with promise to respect
Their several kinds alike, and equally protect.
His gracious edict the same franchise yields
To all the wild increase of woods and fields,
And who in rocks aloof, and who in steeples builds:
To Crows the like impartial grace affords,
And Choughs and Daws, and such republic birds;
Secured with ample privilege to feed,
Each has his district, and his bounds decreed;
Combined in common interest with his own,
But not to pass the Pigeons' Rubicon.
“Here ends the reign of this pretended Dove;
All prophecies accomplished from above,
For Shiloh comes the sceptre to remove.
Reduced from her imperial high abode,
Like Dionysius to a private rod,
The passive Church, that with pretended grace
Did her distinctive mark in duty place,
Now touched, reviles her Maker to his face.
“What after happened is not hard to guess;
The small beginnings had a large increase,
And arts and wealth succeed the secret spoils of peace.
'Tis said, the Doves repented, though too late,
Become the smiths of their own foolish fate:
Nor did their owner hasten their ill hour,
But, sunk in credit, they decreased in power;
Like snows in warmth that mildly pass away,
Dissolving in the silence of decay.
“The Buzzard, not content with equal place,
Invites the feathered Nimrods of his race,
To hide the thinness of their flock from sight,
And all together make a seeming goodly flight:
But each have separate interests of their own;
Two Czars are one too many for a throne.
Nor can the usurper long abstain from food;
Already he has tasted Pigeon's blood,
And may be tempted to his former fare,
When this indulgent lord shall late to heaven repair.
Bare benting times, and moulting months may come,
When, lagging late, they cannot reach their home;
Or rent in schism, (for so their fate decrees,)
Like the tumultuous college of the bees,
They fight their quarrel, by themselves opprest,
The tyrant smiles below, and waits the falling feast.”
Thus did the gentle Hind her fable end,
Nor would the Panther blame it, nor commend;
But, with affected yawnings at the close,
Seemed to require her natural repose;
For now the streaky light began to peep,
And setting stars admonished both to sleep.
The Dame withdrew, and, wishing to her guest
The peace of heaven, betook herself to rest:
Ten thousand angels on her slumbers wait,
With glorious visions of her future state.
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.
The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,
His mother, who was dead. He thought 'If I had a month or two
of life yet
I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm finished,
I'm sorry.' After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst
until the sundown
Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing
him up the cliff.
His sister Tamar
Nursed him in the big westward bedroom
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. 'O Tamar
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar,
It would be better for me to be a cripple,
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey,
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar.
We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea,
And up in the hills and watch the spring come home.'
Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing,
There is little more to say for it when you've said
Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December
Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar
Was with him, and his mind ran on her name,
But she was saying, 'We laugh at poor Aunt Stella
With her spirit
visitors: Lee, something told her truth.
Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone
Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night,
I went to the room, she told me
She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach
By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb.'
'I was up Tassajara way,' he answered,
'Far from the sea.' 'We were glad when you rode home
Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen,
She said she watched the stars flying over you
In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look
Out of her window southward, where I saw
The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead
With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,'
She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.'
Winter is over, visions are over and vanished,
The fields are winking full of poppies,
In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises.'
The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring
from the south; Lee Cauldwell
Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers;
he was miserably lonely and vacant,
He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor
And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farmwork,
rain would come and hinder?
He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind,
and felt the ocean pounding granite.
His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the
eastern chamber; when the storm
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose
and made a light, and lighted
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him,
he had seen too many; he dressed
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard
on one side Stella Moreland,
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny
Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind
and mostly sleepless; in the other
Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare
Within the house answered to storm without.
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside
With her dear brother, who said 'Here's where I fell,
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff,
You can see blood still on the boulders.' Where he vanished to
She could not tell, nor why she was crying 'Lee. No.
No dearest brother, dearest brother no.' But she cried vainly,
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves,
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her,
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
'When it rains it will be quieter,' Tamar thought. She slept
again, all night not a drop fell.
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up
the sky from the overhanging
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed
at last and ran down on the sea.
Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter
pasture up in the hills.
A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty
of canyon wildflowers, water
Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, blackoaks
smoldering with foliage
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood
glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills,
their horns to the wind,
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland
over Wildcat Canyon,
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point Lobos
Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar.
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, 'Listen, Bill Andrews,
We've had gay times together and ridden at night.
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister.
Better keep off the place.' 'I will,' said the other,
'When Tamar tells me to.' 'You think my bones
Aren't mended yet, better keep off.' Lee Cauldwell
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell,
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered:
'I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time.'
'No, I've had all I want, I'm staying
At home now, evenings.' 'Don't do it; better dance your pony
down the cliffs again than close
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn
out, but I remember
Hell's in the box.' Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of
thought was hidden awhile in words,
An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a
candle. A space, and he was saying,
'Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there,
and you'll be going headforemost
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I
mayn't be living
To see you home or hear you're killed.' Lee, smiling at him,
'A soldier's what I won't be, father.' That night
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator
Duelling with a German above a battle
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror.
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling,
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
They two had unbridled the horses
And tied them with long halters near the thicket
Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east
Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit
On the right and looked across the sea.
The steep path down, 'What are we for?' said Tamar wearily,
'to want and want and not dare know it.'
'Because I dropped the faded irises,' Lee answered, 'you're unhappy.
They were all withered, Tamar.
We have grown up in the same house.' 'The withered house
Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No
wonder if we go mad, no wonder.'
They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, 'Sweet, green and cool,
After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee?
Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my
brother. And then
I will stand guard for you.' The murmur and splash of water
made his fever fierier; something
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see
the round arm and clear throat
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking
'O we are beasts, a beast, what am I for?
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on
the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous?
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and
avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister.
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken.'
Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water
Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples,
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow.
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar
Thought, 'If I saw a snake in the water he would come now
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears
Me I believe.' Was it the wild rock coast
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar,
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident,
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural,
Though all other license were; and surely her face
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. 'Tamar?'
He answered, and she answered, 'Nothing. A snake in the water
Frightened me.' And again she called his name.
'What is it, Tamar?' 'Nothing. It is cold in the water.
Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head.
Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company.
I won't look till you're in.' He came, trembling.
He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not
Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars
Of the old wound on his leg. 'Come, Lee, I'm freezing.
Come, I won't look.' He saw the clear-skinned shoulders
And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body
In the watery floor under the cave of foliage,
And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes
Under the auburn hair, streamed. 'Lee.
We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself;
If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee
When we were children.' 'Tamar, what is it, what is it?'
'Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think
Another thing.' She slipped face down and lay
In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward
Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders
Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms
Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm
Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire,
So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back
By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy.
The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay
pale and quiet
And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her
and was ashamed to.
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth
stone, the blue eyes were half open,
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love.
One of her arms crushed both her breasts,
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the
roots of die soft grass. 'Tamar,'
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered,
'We have it, we have it. Now I know.
It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again.' He said,
'What shall I do? Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, shivering.
'It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself
again. O brother, brother,
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn.
I love you, I chose my teacher.
Mine, it was my doing.' She flung herself upon him, cold white
and smooth, with sobbing kisses.
'I am so cold, dearest, dearest.' The horses at the canyon mouth
tugged at their halters,
Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight
They came to the old house.
When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind,
then Stella Moreland
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the
dark egged on her dreams to vision,
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This
was the vaporous portion
She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken loneliness,
little loved, nursing an idiot,
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks.
(O torture of needled branches
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind
or the southwind or the northwest.
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on
patrol, alternate giants
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but
here at Lobos the winds are torturers,
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old
woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the
northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant,
Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier
presences in her visions.) Tamar
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among
the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes,
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids,
played back the girl's blown candle
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and
it made them, saw her. 'Ah, Helen,'
Cried out the entranced lips, 'We thought you were tired of the
wind, we thought you never came now.
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show
him your beauty, call him with kisses.
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but
he is your lover and your brother.'
'I am not Helen,' she said, 'what Helen, what Helen?' 'Who
was not the wife but the sister of her man,
Mine was his wife.' 'My mother?' 'And now he is an old hulk
battered ashore. Show him your beauty,
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the
cave. What if the beard is slimy
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you
dead women.' But Tamar clutching
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the
old woman groaned but would not waken,
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot
striped it, then with a scream
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed.
Tamar found place for the candle
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken
a second answer
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone.
But the idiot waked and chuckled,
Waved both hands at the candle saying, 'My little star, my little
star, come little star.'
And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was
Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal
Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder
The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father
Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth
Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries,
And he said, 'What is it, Tamar?' 'She was screaming in a
I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron.
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?'
'Helen? Helen?' he answered slowly and Tamar
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble.
'It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women.'
Old Jinny clapped her hands, 'Little star, little star,
Twinkle all night!' and the stiff form on the bed began to speak,
In a changed voice and from another mode of being
And spirit of thought: 'I cannot think that you have forgotten.
I was walking on the far side of the moon,
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot.
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted
Too near our blood,
And to tangle the interbranching net of generations
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me
And now he is old forgets mine.' 'You are that Helen,'
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from,
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, 'What Helen? This
man's . . .
Sister, this body was saying?' 'By as much more
As you are of your brother.' 'Why,' laughed Tamar trembling,
'Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we
Nothing but children.' Then the old man: 'Lies, lies, lies.
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died.
Your mother and this old woman always hated her,
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature
To die of it, Lily and Stella.' 'It makes me nothing,
My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires,'
Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said,
'Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella,
The voices in her have no minds.' 'Poor little Tamar,'
Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern,
'Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead
Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves
I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited
Was laid to catch you when the world began,
Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait.
But you are the luckier, no one came home to me
To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory,
And that can be endured.' The room was quiet a moment,
And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she
was twelve years old her mind's cage
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening
cloth when lamps are lighted,
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but
caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood,
She in her crumpled voice: 'I'd rather play with Helen, go away
Stella. Stella pinches me,
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters.' 'Jinny,
Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earthquake,
'do you remember, Jinny?'
'Jinny don't like the old man,' she answered, 'give me the star,
give me my star,'
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, 'why have
they taken my little star?
Helen would give it to Jinny.' Then Stella waking from the
trance sighed and arose to quiet her
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, 'You were screaming
in your sleep.' 'I had great visions.
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have
the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny.
Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep
now.' Old Cauldwell tottering
Went to his room; then Tamar said, 'You were talking about
his sister Helen, my aunt Helen,
You never told me about her.' 'She has been dead for forty
years, what should we tell you about her?
Now little Jinny, pretty sister,' And laying her hands upon the
mattress of the bed
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song.
Tamar stood vainly waiting
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not
sleep went to her room and heard it
Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lullabies;
not quiet till daylight.
O swiftness of the swallow and strength
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons,
Beauty of the blue heron that flies
Opposite the color of evening
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle,
beauty of the fountains of the sun
1 pray you enter a little chamber,
I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets,
I have made idols for God to enter
And tiny cells to hold your honey.
I have given you a dotard and an idiot,
An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with incest,
O blower of music through the crooked bugles,
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels,
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps,
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols
To enter and possess.
Tamar, finding no hope,
Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead
And found half-scornful pity and found her sin
Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame
And secrecy in silence, and her lover
Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night
In serviceable safety. They learned, these two,
Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint
Of vague and possible wreck every transgression
Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue
Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene
To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women
Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning,
How could she color such love with perplexed fear?
Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner
Feeling the plant of unescapable fate
Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water
To compass love might enter again to escape
Love's fruit; 'But O, but O,' she thought, 'not to die now.
It is less than half a year
Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls
My lover has known
She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless,
How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin
Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water.
A love sterile and sacred as the stars.
I will tell my lover, he will make me safe,
He will find means . . .
Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman
. . . Unhappy. Miserable,' she sobbed, 'miserable,
The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot
Better to breathe.'
When Lee was not by her side
She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far origin
Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below.
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor
Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream,
unrelative in emotion
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent
layer that seemed all night continuous,
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions
gathered on that house
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering
strange waters), brown-skinned families
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea,
they kindled fires by knobs of granite
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of,
not only around Point Lobos
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock;
Tamar saw the huddled bodies
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was
throbbing music meant for daylight
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing;
then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers,
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
and hearing the universal music
Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English-speakers
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
among them Tamar saw her mother
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and
the universal music
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father
from that flood and saved him,
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful
and white, not fallen to ruin
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him
enter the door, when he had entered
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river
to the sea and to Point Lobos.
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter
surface layer but seeming senseless.
The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said 'because the
moon is lost.' Tamar looked up
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and
the people in the moon would perish
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded
in the face came saying
'Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you.'
Wakening, Tamar thought about him
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was
another man came through her dream,
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee
having ridden to Mill Creek
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass,
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony,
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes,
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing)
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river
And all the air was rich with ripening apples.
She would not go to the house; she did not find
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours,
And on the Carmel bridge above the water
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen,
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves,
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought.
'Tamar,' he said, 'I've been to see you.' 'You hadn't
For a long time.' 'I had some trouble with Lee,
I thought you didn't want me.' While they talked
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable?
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . .
'I didn't want you, you thought?' 'Lee said so.' 'You might
Till Tamar said so.' 'Well,' he answered, 'I've been,
And neither of you was home but now I've met you.'
Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes;
Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders,
And sitting the horse well 'O I can do it, I can do it,
Help me, God,' murmured Tamar in her mind,
'How else what else can I do?' and said, 'Luck, isn't it?
What did you want to see me about?' 'I wanted . . .
Because I ... like you, Tamar.' 'Why should I be careful,'
She thought, 'if I frighten him off what does it matter,
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Let's go down
Into the willow,' she said, 'we needn't be seen
Talking and someone tell him and make trouble
Here on the bridge.' They went to the hidden bank
Under the deep green willows, colored water
Stagnated on its moss up to the stems,
Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle
As quietly as the long unwhitening wave
Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses,
'I have been lonely,' she said. 'Not for me, Tamar.'
'You think not? Will, now that all's over
And likely we'll not see each other again
Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . .'
'What, Tamar?' 'There've been moments . . . hours then . .
When anything you might have asked me for
Would have been given, I'd have done anything
You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will.
I'm telling you this so that you may remember me
As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet
So many others.' 'But now' he meant to ask,
'Now it's too late, Tamar?' and hadn't courage,
And Tamar thought 'Must I go farther and say more?
Let him despise me as I despise myself.
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Now?' she said.
'Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will,
you have grown
Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer;
And carefuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child.
Would I be with you here in the green thicket
If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will,
I'd think it was no harm.' She had laid her hand
On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing,
And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind,
'He is only a little boy but if he turns pale
I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color.
If he reddens I’ve lost and it's no matter.' He did not move
And seemed not to change color and Tamar said,
'Now I must go. Lee will be home soon.
How soft the ground is in the willow shadow.
I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me
Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed
To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me.
Good-bye.' But when she turned he caught her by the arm,
She sickened inward, thinking, 'Now it has come.
I have called and called it and I can't endure it.
Ah. A dumb beast.' But he had found words now and said,
'How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden
The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have
Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar,
You can't go now, you can't.' She unresisting
Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair
And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her
To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow.
He laid her there and kneeling by her: 'You said you trusted me.
You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well
I would cut my hands off not to harm you.' But she,
Driven by the inward spark of life and dreading
Its premature maturity, could not rest
On harmless love, there were no hands to help
In the innocence of love, and like a vision
Came to her the memory of that other lover
And how he had fallen a farther depth
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far
From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off
His kisses and stood up weeping and cried
'It's no use, why will you love me till I cry?
Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't
Sour the three years he has before he dies.'
'I'll wait for you,' said the boy, 'wait years, Tamar.' Then Tamar
Hiding her face against his throat
So that he felt the tears whispered, 'But I ...'
She sobbed, 'Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . .
When I made my soul naked for you
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame
I was ashamed to uncover.' She pressed her mouth
Between the muscles of his breast: 'I want you and want you.
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man.
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away
And I've . . . earned it.' 'Tamar, I swear by God
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you
With all my life.' 'This is our marriage,' Tamar answered.
'But God would have been good to me to have killed me
Before I told you.' The boy feeling her body
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him
That moment; when he awakened she was lying
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass,
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. 'O Tamar,'
Murmured the boy, 'I love you, I love you. What shall I do?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, thinking
'That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least,' and
said, 'There is nothing to do, nothing.
It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too
was to blame a little.
But I didn't mean . . . this.' 'I know,' he said, 'it was my
fault, I would kill myself, Tamar,
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar.' 'Loved? You have hurt
me and broken me, the house is broken
And any thief can enter it.' 'O Tamar!' 'You have broken
our crystal innocence, we can never
Look at each other freely again.' 'What can I do, Tamar?'
'Nothing. I don't know. Nothing.
Never come to the farm to see me.' 'Where can I see you,
Tamar?' 'Lee is always watching me,
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll
put a lamp in my window,
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up
by the cypress. I must go home,
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than
I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul,
I am your tame bird now.'
This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white
Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills;
daily the insufferable sun
Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transparent
ways of the air drained gray
The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed.
The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with
hateful sunlight, waiting rain.
Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty-hooded
summer had fed
Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned
foul, the rock-flowers faded,
And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season.
Walking beside the house-wall
Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the
cypress bark, where Andrews
Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire
Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with
fire, so her self-hatred
Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world
growing hateful, both her lovers
Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all.
The heat of the season
Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose
rock, they call them thousand-leggers,
They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking underfoot
with a bad odor, and dropped
Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous.
Also the sweet and female sea
Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormorant's
wing-claps half a mile off shore;
The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain
in October or November
Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the
female fury abiding
In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost-seer.
'Listen to me, Aunt Stella.
I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella,
will you help me?' That old woman
Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for
her talent. 'Dear Tamar, I will help you.
We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and painful
for me.' 'I am in the darkness
Already, a fiery darkness.' 'The good spirits will guide you,
it is easy for you; for me, death.
Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them.' 'Death's no bad
thing,' she answered, 'each hour of the day
Has more teeth.' 'Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits
will help you and teach you.' 'Aunt Stella,
To-night, to-night?' 'I groan when I go down to death, your
father and brother will come and spoil it.'
'In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea.' 'Well,
in the evening.' 'If they talk to us
I'll buy you black silk and white lace.'
In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old
Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle.
Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny
among the rubble granite
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else
would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the
darkness. 'Here,' said Tamar, 'I made you
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie
beside you, Aunt Stella,
I’ll lay the rug over you both.' They lay on the odorous kelp,
Tamar squatted beside them,
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the
west between the cliff-butts
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening.
The sea and the three women
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret
of her taut nerves,
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but
both were voiceless. Tamar
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop,
for it seemed to her a wandering power
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible
pressed itself for entrance
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced
backward and lay panting, the assault
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard
her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under
the cliff seemed full of persons
With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's
and her trail in the long water.
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, 'Que quieres
pobrecita?' and Tamar, 'Morir,'
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said,
'Es porque no entiendo,
Anything but ingles.' To which he answered, 'Ah pobrecita,'
and was silent. And Tamar
Cried, 'I will talk to that Helen.' But instead another male throat
spoke out of the woman's
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing
voice, yet not to her own:
'An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their
Gods and the tall Gods came walking
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance
and he will sing, and his Gods
Come walking.' Tamar answered, crying, 'I will not, I will
not, tell him to go away and let me
Talk to that Helen.' But old Stella after a silence: 'He says No,
no, the pregnant women
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's
ghosts nor will they endure another
Unless they are pleased.' And Tamar said, 'I cannot dance,
drive him away,' but while she said it
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the
fastenings of her garments.
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the
male voice chanted
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her
Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores
Watch moonrises as white as hers
When the half-moon about midnight
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven:
So Tamar weeping
Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness,
And danced on the naked shore
Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks,
Danced with slow steps and streaming hair,
Dark and slender
Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly
Dancing and weeping . . .
It seemed to her that all her body
Was touched and troubled with polluting presences
Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers
She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin,
Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead
Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping,
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed,
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness,
Kindling with lust and wilder
Coarseness of insolent gestures,
The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men
Or Gods walking the tide-marks,
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening,
Agape to be entered, as the earth
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn
At the end of summer
Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain,
So her body gone mad
Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had
And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line.
Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella
Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and parroted
to herself, there was none but the idiot
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along
the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows,
swaggering along the tide-marks
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that
fallen flower; for fear or feebleness
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium
of this infamy. Only
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back
bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice
she had cried for. 'I am your Helen.
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and
milder ceremonies to summon me.
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us
to wait on the maniac living
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power.'
And Tamar murmured, 'I had nothing,
Desire nor power.' And Helen, 'Humbler than you were. She
has been humbled, my little Tamar.
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and
half a dozen savages,
Dead, and dressed up for Gods.' 'I have endured it,' she answered.
Then the sweet disdainful voice
In the throat of the old woman: 'As for me, I chose rather to
die.' 'How can I kill
A dead woman,' said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips,
but the other listened to thought
And answered, 'O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But,
Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling.
I have heard the wiser flights
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our
Father above the star-fire,
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.'
Tamar, kneeling, drew the
thickness of her draggled hair
Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and
like a snake lifting its head
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, 'It
will live, and my father's
Bitch be proved a liar.' And the voice answered, and the tone
of the voice smiled, 'Her words
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were
many of us to watch the dance you danced there,
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff; your mother, who
used to hate me, was among us, Tamar.
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the
same. We two shared one? You, Tamar,
Are shared by many.' And Tamar: 'This is your help, I dug
down to you secret dead people
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more?
How it feels when the last liquid morsel
Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that burrows
up through the eye-socket, or thrill
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking
dead. That you have no shame
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs
were wet with dead beasts' drippings
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I
cannot touch you I tell you
There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire,
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and
burning for clothing. It is God
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in,
where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer,
A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it,
And pointed bones are at the doors
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things,
nothing would ever clean them
But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river.' 'You
danced, Tamar,' replied
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, 'and
now your song is like your dance,
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you,
Before you came down by the sea to dance,
That lit a candle in your closet and laid
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching.
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap,
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar,
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch
Anything in that house.' 'If you know everything,'
Cried Tamar, 'tell me where to go.
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen.
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours,
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison.
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I,
Betrayed by life and death.' Like rain breaking a storm
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight
And little noises of the rising tide
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence
And dignity of the world. She was white stone,
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away
Whatever is rounded and approachable
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal,
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel,
Saying, 'Have you anything more inside you
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices?
You can do better than my father's by-play
And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people
Have died surely. T have so passed nature
That God himself, who's dead or all these devils
Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you
Last season thunder and not scare me.' Old Stella
Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her
Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling
Began to mimic a storm, 'whoo-whoo' for wind
And 'boom-boom-boom' for thunder. Other voices
Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly
The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets
Sleepy cormorants cried at it. 'Why, now He speaks
Another way than out of the fat throat,'
Cried Tamar, and prayed, 'O strong and clean and terrible
Spirit and not father punish the hateful house.
Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast
Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers
And into the woods and into the stable, show them,
These liars, that you are alive.' Across her voice
The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it,
And shouts above the cliff. 'Look, Jinny, look,'
Cried Tamar, 'the sky'd be red soon, come and we'll dress
And watch the bonfire.' Yet she glanced no thought
At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering
The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove
Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile
The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan,
And in the sudden quietness, 'Tamar,' she said
In the known voice of Helen so many years
Dead, 'though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I
Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied
Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh
Before your mother gave the clay to my lover
To mould you a vessel to hold them.' Tamar, winding
Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh
Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, 'Why then
Do you trouble whom you don't hate?' 'Because we hunger
And hunger for life,' she answered. 'Did I come uncalled?
You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded
And passionate life than any other creature.
How could I ever leave you while the life lasts?
God pity us both, a cataract life
Dashing itself to pieces in an instant.
You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you.
I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us.
Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting
The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon,
While the second death
Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end.'
But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily
Decking old Jinny for the festival fire,
And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook
Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain
Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror
Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously,
'Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?' and thinking,
'She hears when Jinny whimpers,' twistingly pinched
Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella
Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes
No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in
Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now
Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves
And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming
Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls
That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella
Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her,
Not personal like the other, and shook her body
And shook her hands: 'It was no good to do too soon, your
fire's out, you'd been patient for me
It might have saved two fires.' But Tamar: 'Stella.
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella.
O pain, pain, help me.' And the voice: 'She is mine while I
use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain.' And
Tamar, 'What are you, what are you, mocking me?
More dirt and another dead man? O,' she moaned, pressing her
flanks with both her hands, and bending
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered,
'Not a voice from carrion.
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and
waters, if you had waited for me
You'd be the luckier.' 'What shall I give you?' Tamar cried,
'I have given away'
Pain stopped her, and then
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor
saw nothing. A little later
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking.
Tamar's mind and suffering
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor
in her own room; but she was lying
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his
fall, in the big westward bedroom.
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who
nursed her, and in the other
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old
Stella. After the ache of awakening
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house,
she lay thinking with vacant wonder
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the
leaves of a tree
Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea-cliff
and carried up to be laid
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with
ghosts before they found him, a gang
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body,
piercing him? 'Stella,' she whispered,
'Have I been sick long?' 'There, sweetheart, lie still; three or
four days.' 'Has Lee been in to see me?'
'Indeed he has, hours every day.' 'He'll come, then,' and she
closed her eyes and seemed to sleep.
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said,
'Come, Lee.' But her old father
Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar
had closed her eyes. In a little
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by
the bed. 'Why don't you speak,
Lee?' And he said, 'What can I say except I love you, sister?'
'Why do you call me sister,
Not Tamar?' And he answered, 'I love you, Tamar.' Then old
Aunt Stella said, 'See, she's much better.
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss
her, Lee, and let her rest.'
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow,
meaning to kiss the forehead.
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while
Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to
untwine the arms that yoked his neck,
The old man, rising: 'I opened the Book last night thinking
about the sorrows of this house,
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie
with her, nevertheless the damsel
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to
save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy.' 'David,
Will you be gone and let her rest now,' cried old Stella, 'do
you mean to kill her with a bible?'
'Woman,' he answered, 'has God anything to do with you?
She will not die, the Book
Opened and said it.' Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow
and said, 'Go, go. To-morrow
Say all you please; what does it matter?' And the old man said,
'Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us.'
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it,
but went out ahead of his father.
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the
stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid,
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel
spring in her throat but weakness
And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, 'What
does he mean to do? Go away?
Kill himself, Stella?' Stella answered, 'Nothing, nothing, they
talk, it's to keep David quiet.
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you,
little Tamar, smile and be sleepy,
Scold them to-morrow.' 'Shut the sun out of my eyes then,'
Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they
needed to let in one beam
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About
the hour of sundown
Tamar was dreaming trivially an axman chopping down a tree
and field-mice scampering
Out of the roots when suddenly like a shift of wind the dream
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming
out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of
the war in France,
Carrying torches. When they passed Mal Paso Creek the columns
Veered, one of the riders said, 'Here it began,' but another
answered, 'No. Before the granite
Was bedded to build the world on.' So they formed and galloped
north again, hurrying squadrons,
And Tamar thought, 'When they come to the Carmel River
then it will happen. They have passed Mal Paso.'
Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the
keels, a passion blows its bulkless
Navies of vision? High up in the hills
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds,
stood in his cabin doorway
Rolling a cigarette a half-hour after sundown, and he felt puffs
from the south
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the
year was turning at last, and shortly
There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred
yards to westward, where a point of the hill
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw
Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening
Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house roof
breaking up through the blackness
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The
evening darkened. Southwestward
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mal
Paso. Suddenly a nebular company
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of
a car sweeping the road,
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light,
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted
twelve or thirteen companies
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the
headlong ridge like level ground,
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, helmeted,
cantering the headlong ridge
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the
early war, they must be Germans.
Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying,
'Dear sister Helen, kiss me
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your
clothes off and you kissed him
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss
me.' Tamar lay rigid,
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that
under the shell of imbecility
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were
waking flashes, and more often
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of
clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food
for passion listened to her,
And heard: 'Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd
rather I didn't. Darling Helen,
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with
you if he wanted to.
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you.' All
she said after was so mumbled
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and
old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it
seemed to Tamar
A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands
And join itself with a fluid power
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny?
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor,
And floated to the place he had brought it from
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed,
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches,
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling,
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone
Saying 'Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile
Into the horse-corral.' Then Tamar thought
'The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my
Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it.
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow
Canto the First
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.
Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And fill'd their sign posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.
Nelson was once Britannia's god of war,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
'T is with our hero quietly inurn'd;
Because the army's grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern'd;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.
Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten:—I condemn none,
But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I'll take my friend Don Juan.
Most epic poets plunge "in medias res"
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
What went before—by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.
That is the usual method, but not mine—
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
And also of his mother, if you'd rather.
In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb—and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps—but that you soon may see;
Don Juan's parents lived beside the river,
A noble stream, and call'd the Guadalquivir.
His father's name was Jóse—Don, of course,—
A true Hidalgo, free from every stain
Of Moor or Hebrew blood, he traced his source
Through the most Gothic gentlemen of Spain;
A better cavalier ne'er mounted horse,
Or, being mounted, e'er got down again,
Than Jóse, who begot our hero, who
Begot—but that's to come—Well, to renew:
His mother was a learnéd lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
In every Christian language ever named,
With virtues equall'd by her wit alone,
She made the cleverest people quite ashamed,
And even the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded
In their own way by all the things that she did.
Her memory was a mine: she knew by heart
All Calderon and greater part of Lopé,
So that if any actor miss'd his part
She could have served him for the prompter's copy;
For her Feinagle's were an useless art,
And he himself obliged to shut up shop—he
Could never make a memory so fine as
That which adorn'd the brain of Donna Inez.
Her favourite science was the mathematical,
Her noblest virtue was her magnanimity,
Her wit (she sometimes tried at wit) was Attic all,
Her serious sayings darken'd to sublimity;
In short, in all things she was fairly what I call
A prodigy—her morning dress was dimity,
Her evening silk, or, in the summer, muslin,
And other stuffs, with which I won't stay puzzling.
She knew the Latin—that is, "the Lord's prayer,"
And Greek—the alphabet—I'm nearly sure;
She read some French romances here and there,
Although her mode of speaking was not pure;
For native Spanish she had no great care,
At least her conversation was obscure;
Her thoughts were theorems, her words a problem,
As if she deem'd that mystery would ennoble 'em.
She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue,
And said there was analogy between 'em;
She proved it somehow out of sacred song,
But I must leave the proofs to those who've seen 'em;
But this I heard her say, and can't be wrong
And all may think which way their judgments lean 'em,
"'T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,'
The English always used to govern d—n."
Some women use their tongues—she look'd a lecture,
Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,
An all-in-all sufficient self-director,
Like the lamented late Sir Samuel Romilly,
The Law's expounder, and the State's corrector,
Whose suicide was almost an anomaly—
One sad example more, that "All is vanity"
(The jury brought their verdict in "Insanity").
In short, she was a walking calculation,
Miss Edgeworth's novels stepping from their covers,
Or Mrs. Trimmer's books on education,
Or "Coelebs' Wife" set out in quest of lovers,
Morality's prim personification,
In which not Envy's self a flaw discovers;
To others' share let "female errors fall,"
For she had not even one—the worst of all.
Oh! she was perfect past all parallel—
Of any modern female saint's comparison;
So far above the cunning powers of hell,
Her guardian angel had given up his garrison;
Even her minutest motions went as well
As those of the best time-piece made by Harrison:
In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,
Save thine "incomparable oil," Macassar!
Perfect she was, but as perfection is
Insipid in this naughty world of ours,
Where our first parents never learn'd to kiss
Till they were exiled from their earlier bowers,
Where all was peace, and innocence, and bliss
(I wonder how they got through the twelve hours),
Don Jóse, like a lineal son of Eve,
Went plucking various fruit without her leave.
He was a mortal of the careless kind,
With no great love for learning, or the learn'd,
Who chose to go where'er he had a mind,
And never dream'd his lady was concern'd;
The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
To see a kingdom or a house o'erturn'd,
Whisper'd he had a mistress, some said two—
But for domestic quarrels one will do.
Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
A great opinion of her own good qualities;
Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
But then she had a devil of a spirit,
And sometimes mix'd up fancies with realities,
And let few opportunities escape
Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
This was an easy matter with a man
Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
And even the wisest, do the best they can,
Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
That you might "brain them with their lady's fan;"
And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
And why and wherefore no one understands.
'T is pity learnéd virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don't choose to say much upon this head,
I'm a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?
Don Jóse and his lady quarrell'd—why,
Not any of the many could divine,
Though several thousand people chose to try,
'T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
I loathe that low vice—curiosity;
But if there's anything in which I shine,
'T is in arranging all my friends' affairs,
Not having of my own domestic cares.
And so I interfered, and with the best
Intentions, but their treatment was not kind;
I think the foolish people were possess'd,
For neither of them could I ever find,
Although their porter afterwards confess'd—
But that's no matter, and the worst's behind,
For little Juan o'er me threw, down stairs,
A pail of housemaid's water unawares.
A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing,
And mischief-making monkey from his birth;
His parents ne'er agreed except in doting
Upon the most unquiet imp on earth;
Instead of quarrelling, had they been but both in
Their senses, they'd have sent young master forth
To school, or had him soundly whipp'd at home,
To teach him manners for the time to come.
Don Jóse and the Donna Inez led
For some time an unhappy sort of life,
Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead;
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their conduct was exceedingly well-bred,
And gave no outward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smother'd fire broke out,
And put the business past all kind of doubt.
For Inez call'd some druggists and physicians,
And tried to prove her loving lord was mad;
But as he had some lucid intermissions,
She next decided he was only bad;
Yet when they ask'd her for her depositions,
No sort of explanation could be had,
Save that her duty both to man and God
Required this conduct—which seem'd very odd.
She kept a journal, where his faults were noted,
And open'd certain trunks of books and letters,
All which might, if occasion served, be quoted;
And then she had all Seville for abettors,
Besides her good old grandmother (who doted);
The hearers of her case became repeaters,
Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,
Some for amusement, others for old grudges.
And then this best and weakest woman bore
With such serenity her husband's woes,
Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
Who saw their spouses kill'd, and nobly chose
Never to say a word about them more—
Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
And saw his agonies with such sublimity,
That all the world exclaim'd, "What magnanimity!"
No doubt this patience, when the world is damning us,
Is philosophic in our former friends;
'T is also pleasant to be deem'd magnanimous,
The more so in obtaining our own ends;
And what the lawyers call a "malus animus"
Conduct like this by no means comprehends;
Revenge in person's certainly no virtue,
But then 't is not my fault, if others hurt you.
And if your quarrels should rip up old stories,
And help them with a lie or two additional,
I'm not to blame, as you well know—no more is
Any one else—they were become traditional;
Besides, their resurrection aids our glories
By contrast, which is what we just were wishing all:
And science profits by this resurrection—
Dead scandals form good subjects for dissection.
Their friends had tried at reconciliation,
Then their relations, who made matters worse.
('T were hard to tell upon a like occasion
To whom it may be best to have recourse—
I can't say much for friend or yet relation):
The lawyers did their utmost for divorce,
But scarce a fee was paid on either side
Before, unluckily, Don Jóse died.
He died: and most unluckily, because,
According to all hints I could collect
From counsel learnéd in those kinds of laws
(Although their talk's obscure and circumspect),
His death contrived to spoil a charming cause;
A thousand pities also with respect
To public feeling, which on this occasion
Was manifested in a great sensation.
But, ah! he died; and buried with him lay
The public feeling and the lawyers' fees:
His house was sold, his servants sent away,
A Jew took one of his two mistresses,
A priest the other—at least so they say:
I ask'd the doctors after his disease—
He died of the slow fever call'd the tertian,
And left his widow to her own aversion.
Yet Jóse was an honourable man,
That I must say who knew him very well;
Therefore his frailties I'll no further scan
Indeed there were not many more to tell;
And if his passions now and then outran
Discretion, and were not so peaceable
As Numa's (who was also named Pompilius),
He had been ill brought up, and was born bilious.
Whate'er might be his worthlessness or worth,
Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him.
Let's own—since it can do no good on earth—
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver'd round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors' Commons- so he died.
Dying intestate, Juan was sole heir
To a chancery suit, and messuages, and lands,
Which, with a long minority and care,
Promised to turn out well in proper hands:
Inez became sole guardian, which was fair,
And answer'd but to nature's just demands;
An only son left with an only mother
Is brought up much more wisely than another.
Sagest of women, even of widows, she
Resolved that Juan should be quite a paragon,
And worthy of the noblest pedigree
(His sire was of Castile, his dam from Aragon):
Then for accomplishments of chivalry,
In case our lord the king should go to war again,
He learn'd the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learnéd tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan's eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that's loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer'd, lest he should grow vicious.
His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.
Ovid's a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon's morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don't think Sappho's Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil's songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with "Formosum Pastor Corydon."
Lucretius' irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can't help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?
Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learnéd men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy's vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;
For there we have them all "at one fell swoop,"
Instead of being scatter'd through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall'd in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
The Missal too (it was the family Missal)
Was ornamented in a sort of way
Which ancient mass-books often are, and this all
Kinds of grotesques illumined; and how they,
Who saw those figures on the margin kiss all,
Could turn their optics to the text and pray,
Is more than I know—But Don Juan's mother
Kept this herself, and gave her son another.
Sermons he read, and lectures he endured,
And homilies, and lives of all the saints;
To Jerome and to Chrysostom inured,
He did not take such studies for restraints;
But how faith is acquired, and then ensured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his fine Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.
This, too, was a seal'd book to little Juan—
I can't but say that his mamma was right,
If such an education was the true one.
She scarcely trusted him from out her sight;
Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
She did this during even her husband's life—
I recommend as much to every wife.
Young Juan wax'd in goodliness and grace;
At six a charming child, and at eleven
With all the promise of as fine a face
As e'er to man's maturer growth was given:
He studied steadily, and grew apace,
And seem'd, at least, in the right road to heaven,
For half his days were pass'd at church, the other
Between his tutors, confessor, and mother.
At six, I said, he was a charming child,
At twelve he was a fine, but quiet boy;
Although in infancy a little wild,
They tamed him down amongst them: to destroy
His natural spirit not in vain they toil'd,
At least it seem'd so; and his mother's joy
Was to declare how sage, and still, and steady,
Her young philosopher was grown already.
I had my doubts, perhaps I have them still,
But what I say is neither here nor there:
I knew his father well, and have some skill
In character—but it would not be fair
From sire to son to augur good or ill:
He and his wife were an ill-sorted pair—
But scandal's my aversion—I protest
Against all evil speaking, even in jest.
For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
This I will say—my reasons are my own—
That if I had an only son to put
To school (as God be praised that I have none),
'T is not with Donna Inez I would shut
Him up to learn his catechism alone,
No—no—I'd send him out betimes to college,
For there it was I pick'd up my own knowledge.
For there one learns—'t is not for me to boast,
Though I acquired—but I pass over that,
As well as all the Greek I since have lost:
I say that there's the place—but Verbum sat.
I think I pick'd up too, as well as most,
Knowledge of matters—but no matter what—
I never married—but, I think, I know
That sons should not be educated so.
Young Juan now was sixteen years of age,
Tall, handsome, slender, but well knit: he seem'd
Active, though not so sprightly, as a page;
And everybody but his mother deem'd
Him almost man; but she flew in a rage
And bit her lips (for else she might have scream'd)
If any said so, for to be precocious
Was in her eyes a thing the most atrocious.
Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all
Selected for discretion and devotion,
There was the Donna Julia, whom to call
Pretty were but to give a feeble notion
Of many charms in her as natural
As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean,
Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid
(But this last simile is trite and stupid).
The darkness of her Oriental eye
Accorded with her Moorish origin
(Her blood was not all Spanish, by the by;
In Spain, you know, this is a sort of sin);
When proud Granada fell, and, forced to fly,
Boabdil wept, of Donna Julia's kin
Some went to Africa, some stay'd in Spain,
Her great-great-grandmamma chose to remain.
She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an Hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins—nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruin'd its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful as fresh;
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain:
But there's a rumour which I fain would hush,
'T is said that Donna Julia's grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation,
Until it centred in an only son,
Who left an only daughter; my narration
May have suggested that this single one
Could be but Julia (whom on this occasion
I shall have much to speak about), and she
Was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three.
Her eye (I'm very fond of handsome eyes)
Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
Flash'd an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten'd down the whole.
Her glossy hair was cluster'd o'er a brow
Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow's shape was like th' aerial bow,
Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess'd an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.
Wedded she was some years, and to a man
Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a one
'T were better to have two of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
And now I think on 't, "mi vien in mente",
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.
'T is a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate's sultry.
Happy the nations of the moral North!
Where all is virtue, and the winter season
Sends sin, without a rag on, shivering forth
('T was snow that brought St. Anthony to reason);
Where juries cast up what a wife is worth,
By laying whate'er sum in mulct they please on
The lover, who must pay a handsome price,
Because it is a marketable vice.
Alfonso was the name of Julia's lord,
A man well looking for his years, and who
Was neither much beloved nor yet abhorr'd:
They lived together, as most people do,
Suffering each other's foibles by accord,
And not exactly either one or two;
Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,
For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.
Julia was—yet I never could see why—
With Donna Inez quite a favourite friend;
Between their tastes there was small sympathy,
For not a line had Julia ever penn'd:
Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,
For malice still imputes some private end)
That Inez had, ere Don Alfonso's marriage,
Forgot with him her very prudent carriage;
And that still keeping up the old connection,
Which time had lately render'd much more chaste,
She took his lady also in affection,
And certainly this course was much the best:
She flatter'd Julia with her sage protection,
And complimented Don Alfonso's taste;
And if she could not (who can?) silence scandal,
At least she left it a more slender handle.
I can't tell whether Julia saw the affair
With other people's eyes, or if her own
Discoveries made, but none could be aware
Of this, at least no symptom e'er was shown;
Perhaps she did not know, or did not care,
Indifferent from the first or callous grown:
I'm really puzzled what to think or say,
She kept her counsel in so close a way.
Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caress'd him often—such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.
Whate'er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
Yet Julia's very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
'T was but a doubt; but ne'er magician's wand
Wrought change with all Armida's fairy art
Like what this light touch left on Juan's heart.
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look'd a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish'd more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.
But passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, 't is still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or anger, even disdain or hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.
Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly love is
Embarrass'd at first starting with a novice.
Poor Julia's heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For honour's, pride's, religion's, virtue's sake;
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin quake:
She pray'd the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady's case.
She vow'd she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And look'd extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin's grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore—
Again it opens, it can be no other,
'T is surely Juan now—No! I'm afraid
That night the Virgin was no further pray'd.
She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation;
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel upon occasion
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.
And even if by chance—and who can tell?
The devil's so very sly—she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they're over;
And if the man should ask, 't is but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.
And then there are such things as love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmix'd and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, "just such love as mine;"
Thus Julia said—and thought so, to be sure;
And so I'd have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.
Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kist;
For my part, to such doings I'm a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o'er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, 't is quite a crime,
But not my fault—I tell them all in time.
Love, then, but love within its proper limits,
Was Julia's innocent determination
In young Don Juan's favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by love and her together—
I really don't know what, nor Julia either.
Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof—her purity of soul—
She, for the future of her strength convinced.
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mention'd in the sequel.
Her plan she deem'd both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not scandal's fangs could fix on much that's seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable—
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sigh'd)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it—inter nos.
(This should be entre nous, for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for naught.)
I only say suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man's estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of love,
I mean the seraph way of those above.
So much for Julia. Now we'll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid's Miss Medea,
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.
Silent and pensive, idle, restless, slow,
His home deserted for the lonely wood,
Tormented with a wound he could not know,
His, like all deep grief, plunged in solitude:
I'm fond myself of solitude or so,
But then, I beg it may be understood,
By solitude I mean a sultan's, not
A hermit's, with a haram for a grot.
"Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine."
The bard I quote from does not sing amiss,
With the exception of the second line,
For that same twining "transport and security"
Are twisted to a phrase of some obscurity.
The poet meant, no doubt, and thus appeals
To the good sense and senses of mankind,
The very thing which every body feels,
As all have found on trial, or may find,
That no one likes to be disturb'd at meals
Or love.—I won't say more about "entwined"
Or "transport," as we knew all that before,
But beg'security' will bolt the door.
Young Juan wander'd by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turn'd, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.
He thought about himself, and the whole earth
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;—
And then he thought of Donna Julia's eyes.
In thoughts like these true wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
'T was strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think 't was philosophy that this did,
I can't help thinking puberty assisted.
He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He miss'd the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he look'd upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner—
He also found that he had lost his dinner.
Sometimes he turn'd to gaze upon his book,
Boscan, or Garcilasso;—by the wind
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if 't were one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman's tale.
Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With—several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.
Those lonely walks, and lengthening reveries,
Could not escape the gentle Julia's eyes;
She saw that Juan was not at his ease;
But that which chiefly may, and must surprise,
Is, that the Donna Inez did not tease
Her only son with question or surmise:
Whether it was she did not see, or would not,
Or, like all very clever people, could not.
This may seem strange, but yet 't is very common;
For instance—gentlemen, whose ladies take
Leave to o'erstep the written rights of woman,
And break the—Which commandment is 't they break?
(I have forgot the number, and think no man
Should rashly quote, for fear of a mistake.)
I say, when these same gentlemen are jealous,
They make some blunder, which their ladies tell us.
A real husband always is suspicious,
But still no less suspects in the wrong place,
Jealous of some one who had no such wishes,
Or pandering blindly to his own disgrace,
By harbouring some dear friend extremely vicious;
The last indeed's infallibly the case:
And when the spouse and friend are gone off wholly,
He wonders at their vice, and not his folly.
Thus parents also are at times short-sighted;
Though watchful as the lynx, they ne'er discover,
The while the wicked world beholds delighted,
Young Hopeful's mistress, or Miss Fanny's lover,
Till some confounded escapade has blighted
The plan of twenty years, and all is over;
And then the mother cries, the father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs.
But Inez was so anxious, and so clear
Of sight, that I must think, on this occasion,
She had some other motive much more near
For leaving Juan to this new temptation;
But what that motive was, I sha'n't say here;
Perhaps to finish Juan's education,
Perhaps to open Don Alfonso's eyes,
In case he thought his wife too great a prize.
It was upon a day, a summer's day;—
Summer's indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe'er the cause is, one may say,
And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,—
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.
'T was on a summer's day—the sixth of June:—
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making history change its tune,
Then spur away o'er empires and o'er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits of theology.
'T was on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six—perhaps still nearer seven—
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e'er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song—
He won them well, and may he wear them long!
She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell—
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face—
When two such faces are so, 't would be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.
How beautiful she look'd! her conscious heart
Glow'd in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong.
Oh Love! how perfect is thy mystic art,
Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong,
How self-deceitful is the sagest part
Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along-
The precipice she stood on was immense,
So was her creed in her own innocence.
She thought of her own strength, and Juan's youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
And then of Don Alfonso's fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurr'd, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate'er it may in money.
When people say, "I've told you fifty times,"
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, "I've written fifty rhymes,"
They make you dread that they'll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, 't is true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.
Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love,
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she ponder'd this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan's carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake—she thought it was her own;
Unconsciously she lean'd upon the other,
Which play'd within the tangles of her hair:
And to contend with thoughts she could not smother
She seem'd by the distraction of her air.
'T was surely very wrong in Juan's mother
To leave together this imprudent pair,
She who for many years had watch'd her son so—
I'm very certain mine would not have done so.
The hand which still held Juan's, by degrees
Gently, but palpably confirm'd its grasp,
As if it said, "Detain me, if you please;"
Yet there's no doubt she only meant to clasp
His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze:
She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp,
Had she imagined such a thing could rouse
A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.
I cannot know what Juan thought of this,
But what he did, is much what you would do;
His young lip thank'd it with a grateful kiss,
And then, abash'd at its own joy, withdrew
In deep despair, lest he had done amiss,—
Love is so very timid when 't is new:
She blush'd, and frown'd not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.
The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon:
The devil's in the moon for mischief; they
Who call'd her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon
Their nomenclature; there is not a day,
The longest, not the twenty-first of June,
Sees half the business in a wicked way
On which three single hours of moonshine smile—
And then she looks so modest all the while.
There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
A loving languor, which is not repose.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 't was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then—— God knows what next—I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.
Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o'er the controulless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:—You're a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb—and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish indeed they had not had occasion,
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that remorse did not oppose temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented
And whispering "I will ne'er consent"—consented.
'T is said that Xerxes offer'd a reward
To those who could invent him a new pleasure:
Methinks the requisition's rather hard,
And must have cost his majesty a treasure:
For my part, I'm a moderate-minded bard,
Fond of a little love (which I call leisure);
I care not for new pleasures, as the old
Are quite enough for me, so they but hold.
Oh Pleasure! you are indeed a pleasant thing,
Although one must be damn'd for you, no doubt:
I make a resolution every spring
Of reformation, ere the year run out,
But somehow, this my vestal vow takes wing,
Yet still, I trust it may be kept throughout:
I'm very sorry, very much ashamed,
And mean, next winter, to be quite reclaim'd.
Here my chaste Muse a liberty must take—
Start not! still chaster reader—she'll be nice hence—
Forward, and there is no great cause to quake;
This liberty is a poetic licence,
Which some irregularity may make
In the design, and as I have a high sense
Of Aristotle and the Rules, 't is fit
To beg his pardon when I err a bit.
This licence is to hope the reader will
Suppose from June the sixth (the fatal day,
Without whose epoch my poetic skill
For want of facts would all be thrown away),
But keeping Julia and Don Juan still
In sight, that several months have pass'd; we'll say
'T was in November, but I'm not so sure
About the day—the era's more obscure.
We'll talk of that anon.—'T is sweet to hear
At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep
The song and oar of Adria's gondolier,
By distance mellow'd, o'er the waters sweep;
'T is sweet to see the evening star appear;
'T is sweet to listen as the night-winds creep
From leaf to leaf; 't is sweet to view on high
The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.
'T is sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark
Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home;
'T is sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming, and look brighter when we come;
'T is sweet to be awaken'd by the lark,
Or lull'd by falling waters; sweet the hum
Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,
The lisp of children, and their earliest words.
Sweet is the vintage, when the showering grapes
In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth,
Purple and gushing: sweet are our escapes
From civic revelry to rural mirth;
Sweet to the miser are his glittering heaps,
Sweet to the father is his first-born's birth,
Sweet is revenge—especially to women,
Pillage to soldiers, prize-money to seamen.
Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady
Or gentleman of seventy years complete,
Who've made "us youth" wait too—too long already
For an estate, or cash, or country seat,
Still breaking, but with stamina so steady
That all the Israelites are fit to mob its
Next owner for their double-damn'd post-obits.
'T is sweet to win, no matter how, one's laurels,
By blood or ink; 't is sweet to put an end
To strife; 't is sometimes sweet to have our quarrels,
Particularly with a tiresome friend:
Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels;
Dear is the helpless creature we defend
Against the world; and dear the schoolboy spot
We ne'er forget, though there we are forgot.
But sweeter still than this, than these, than all,
Is first and passionate love—it stands alone,
Like Adam's recollection of his fall;
The tree of knowledge has been pluck'd—all's known—
And life yields nothing further to recall
Worthy of this ambrosial sin, so shown,
No doubt in fable, as the unforgiven
Fire which Prometheus filch'd for us from heaven.
Man's a strange animal, and makes strange use
Of his own nature, and the various arts,
And likes particularly to produce
Some new experiment to show his parts;
This is the age of oddities let loose,
Where different talents find their different marts;
You'd best begin with truth, and when you've lost your
Labour, there's a sure market for imposture.
What opposite discoveries we have seen!
(Signs of true genius, and of empty pockets.)
One makes new noses, one a guillotine,
One breaks your bones, one sets them in their sockets;
But vaccination certainly has been
A kind antithesis to Congreve's rockets,
With which the Doctor paid off an old pox,
By borrowing a new one from an ox.
Bread has been made (indifferent) from potatoes;
And galvanism has set some corpses grinning,
But has not answer'd like the apparatus
Of the Humane Society's beginning
By which men are unsuffocated gratis:
What wondrous new machines have late been spinning!
I said the small-pox has gone out of late;
Perhaps it may be follow'd by the great.
'T is said the great came from America;
Perhaps it may set out on its return,—
The population there so spreads, they say
'T is grown high time to thin it in its turn,
With war, or plague, or famine, any way,
So that civilisation they may learn;
And which in ravage the more loathsome evil is—
Their real lues, or our pseudo-syphilis?
This is the patent-age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphry Davy's lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Man's a phenomenon, one knows not what,
And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure;
'T is pity though, in this sublime world, that
Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure;
Few mortals know what end they would be at,
But whether glory, power, or love, or treasure,
The path is through perplexing ways, and when
The goal is gain'd, we die, you know—and then—
What then?—I do not know, no more do you—
And so good night.—Return we to our story:
'T was in November, when fine days are few,
And the far mountains wax a little hoary,
And clap a white cape on their mantles blue;
And the sea dashes round the promontory,
And the loud breaker boils against the rock,
And sober suns must set at five o'clock.
'T was, as the watchmen say, a cloudy night;
No moon, no stars, the wind was low or loud
By gusts, and many a sparkling hearth was bright
With the piled wood, round which the family crowd;
There's something cheerful in that sort of light,
Even as a summer sky's without a cloud:
I'm fond of fire, and crickets, and all that,
A lobster salad, and champagne, and chat.
'T was midnight—Donna Julia was in bed,
Sleeping, most probably,—when at her door
Arose a clatter might awake the dead,
If they had never been awoke before,
And that they have been so we all have read,
And are to be so, at the least, once more;—
The door was fasten'd, but with voice and fist
First knocks were heard, then "Madam—Madam—hist!
"For God's sake, Madam—Madam—here's my master,
With more than half the city at his back—
Was ever heard of such a curst disaster!
'T is not my fault—I kept good watch—Alack!
Do pray undo the bolt a little faster—
They're on the stair just now, and in a crack
Will all be here; perhaps he yet may fly—
Surely the window's not so very high!"
By this time Don Alfonso was arrived,
With torches, friends, and servants in great number;
The major part of them had long been wived,
And therefore paused not to disturb the slumber
Of any wicked woman, who contrived
By stealth her husband's temples to encumber:
Examples of this kind are so contagious,
Were one not punish'd, all would be outrageous.
I can't tell how, or why, or what suspicion
Could enter into Don Alfonso's head;
But for a cavalier of his condition
It surely was exceedingly ill-bred,
Without a word of previous admonition,
To hold a levee round his lady's bed,
And summon lackeys, arm'd with fire and sword,
To prove himself the thing he most abhorr'd.
Poor Donna Julia, starting as from sleep
(Mind—that I do not say—she had not slept),
Began at once to scream, and yawn, and weep;
Her maid Antonia, who was an adept,
Contrived to fling the bed-clothes in a heap,
As if she had just now from out them crept:
I can't tell why she should take all this trouble
To prove her mistress had been sleeping double.
But Julia mistress, and Antonia maid,
Appear'd like two poor harmless women, who
Of goblins, but still more of men afraid,
Had thought one man might be deterr'd by two,
And therefore side by side were gently laid,
Until the hours of absence should run through,
And truant husband should return, and say,
"My dear, I was the first who came away."
Now Julia found at length a voice, and cried,
"In heaven's name, Don Alfonso, what d' ye mean?
Has madness seized you? would that I had died
Ere such a monster's victim I had been!
What may this midnight violence betide,
A sudden fit of drunkenness or spleen?
Dare you suspect me, whom the thought would kill?
Search, then, the room!"—Alfonso said, "I will."
He search'd, they search'd, and rummaged everywhere,
Closet and clothes' press, chest and window-seat,
And found much linen, lace, and several pair
Of stockings, slippers, brushes, combs, complete,
With other articles of ladies fair,
To keep them beautiful, or leave them neat:
Arras they prick'd and curtains with their swords,
And wounded several shutters, and some boards.
Under the bed they search'd, and there they found—
No matter what—it was not that they sought;
They open'd windows, gazing if the ground
Had signs or footmarks, but the earth said nought;
And then they stared each other's faces round:
'T is odd, not one of all these seekers thought,
And seems to me almost a sort of blunder,
Of looking in the bed as well as under.
During this inquisition, Julia's tongue
Was not asleep—"Yes, search and search," she cried,
"Insult on insult heap, and wrong on wrong!
It was for this that I became a bride!
For this in silence I have suffer'd long
A husband like Alfonso at my side;
But now I'll bear no more, nor here remain,
If there be law or lawyers in all Spain.
"Yes, Don Alfonso! husband now no more,
If ever you indeed deserved the name,
Is 't worthy of your years?—you have threescore—
Fifty, or sixty, it is all the same—
Is 't wise or fitting, causeless to explore
For facts against a virtuous woman's fame?
Ungrateful, perjured, barbarous Don Alfonso,
How dare you think your lady would go on so?
"Is it for this I have disdain'd to hold
The common privileges of my sex?
That I have chosen a confessor so old
And deaf, that any other it would vex,
And never once he has had cause to scold,
But found my very innocence perplex
So much, he always doubted I was married—
How sorry you will be when I've miscarried!
"Was it for this that no Cortejo e'er
I yet have chosen from out the youth of Seville?
Is it for this I scarce went anywhere,
Except to bull-fights, mass, play, rout, and revel?
Is it for this, whate'er my suitors were,
I favor'd none—nay, was almost uncivil?
Is it for this that General Count O'Reilly,
Who took Algiers, declares I used him vilely?
"Did not the Italian Musico Cazzani
Sing at my heart six months at least in vain?
Did not his countryman, Count Corniani,
Call me the only virtuous wife in Spain?
Were there not also Russians, English, many?
The Count Strongstroganoff I put in pain,
And Lord Mount Coffeehouse, the Irish peer,
Who kill'd himself for love (with wine) last year.
"Have I not had two bishops at my feet,
The Duke of Ichar, and Don Fernan Nunez?
And is it thus a faithful wife you treat?
I wonder in what quarter now the moon is:
I praise your vast forbearance not to beat
Me also, since the time so opportune is—
Oh, valiant man! with sword drawn and cock'd trigger,
Now, tell me, don't you cut a pretty figure?
"Was it for this you took your sudden journey.
Under pretence of business indispensable
With that sublime of rascals your attorney,
Whom I see standing there, and looking sensible
Of having play'd the fool? though both I spurn, he
Deserves the worst, his conduct's less defensible,
Because, no doubt, 't was for his dirty fee,
And not from any love to you nor me.
"If he comes here to take a deposition,
By all means let the gentleman proceed;
You've made the apartment in a fit condition:
There's pen and ink for you, sir, when you need—
Let every thing be noted with precision,
I would not you for nothing should be fee'd—
But, as my maid's undrest, pray turn your spies out."
"Oh!" sobb'd Antonia, "I could tear their eyes out."
"There is the closet, there the toilet, there
The antechamber—search them under, over;
There is the sofa, there the great arm-chair,
The chimney—which would really hold a lover.
I wish to sleep, and beg you will take care
And make no further noise, till you discover
The secret cavern of this lurking treasure—
And when 't is found, let me, too, have that pleasure.
"And now, Hidalgo! now that you have thrown
Doubt upon me, confusion over all,
Pray have the courtesy to make it known
Who is the man you search for? how d' ye call
Him? what's his lineage? let him but be shown—
I hope he's young and handsome—is he tall?
Tell me—and be assured, that since you stain
My honour thus, it shall not be in vain.
"At least, perhaps, he has not sixty years,
At that age he would be too old for slaughter,
Or for so young a husband's jealous fears
(Antonia! let me have a glass of water).
I am ashamed of having shed these tears,
They are unworthy of my father's daughter;
My mother dream'd not in my natal hour
That I should fall into a monster's power.
"Perhaps 't is of Antonia you are jealous,
You saw that she was sleeping by my side
When you broke in upon us with your fellows:
Look where you please—we've nothing, sir, to hide;
Only another time, I trust, you'll tell us,
Or for the sake of decency abide
A moment at the door, that we may be
Drest to receive so much good company.
"And now, sir, I have done, and say no more;
The little I have said may serve to show
The guileless heart in silence may grieve o'er
The wrongs to whose exposure it is slow:
I leave you to your conscience as before,
'T will one day ask you why you used me so?
God grant you feel not then the bitterest grief!—
Antonia! where's my pocket-handkerchief?"
She ceased, and turn'd upon her pillow; pale
She lay, her dark eyes flashing through their tears,
Like skies that rain and lighten; as a veil,
Waved and o'ershading her wan cheek, appears
Her streaming hair; the black curls strive, but fail,
To hide the glossy shoulder, which uprears
Its snow through all;—her soft lips lie apart,
And louder than her breathing beats her heart.
The Senhor Don Alfonso stood confused;
Antonia bustled round the ransack'd room,
And, turning up her nose, with looks abused
Her master and his myrmidons, of whom
Not one, except the attorney, was amused;
He, like Achates, faithful to the tomb,
So there were quarrels, cared not for the cause,
Knowing they must be settled by the laws.
With prying snub-nose, and small eyes, he stood,
Following Antonia's motions here and there,
With much suspicion in his attitude;
For reputations he had little care;
So that a suit or action were made good,
Small pity had he for the young and fair,
And ne'er believed in negatives, till these
Were proved by competent false witnesses.
But Don Alfonso stood with downcast looks,
And, truth to say, he made a foolish figure;
When, after searching in five hundred nooks,
And treating a young wife with so much rigour,
He gain'd no point, except some self-rebukes,
Added to those his lady with such vigour
Had pour'd upon him for the last half-hour,
Quick, thick, and heavy—as a thunder-shower.
At first he tried to hammer an excuse,
To which the sole reply was tears and sobs,
And indications of hysterics, whose
Prologue is always certain throes, and throbs,
Gasps, and whatever else the owners choose:
Alfonso saw his wife, and thought of Job's;
He saw too, in perspective, her relations,
And then he tried to muster all his patience.
He stood in act to speak, or rather stammer,
But sage Antonia cut him short before
The anvil of his speech received the hammer,
With "Pray, sir, leave the room, and say no more,
Or madam dies."—Alfonso mutter'd, "D—n her,"
But nothing else, the time of words was o'er;
He cast a rueful look or two, and did,
He knew not wherefore, that which he was bid.
With him retired his "posse comitatus,"
The attorney last, who linger'd near the door
Reluctantly, still tarrying there as late as
Antonia let him—not a little sore
At this most strange and unexplain'd "hiatus"
In Don Alfonso's facts, which just now wore
An awkward look; as he revolved the case,
The door was fasten'd in his legal face.
No sooner was it bolted, than—Oh shame!
Oh sin! Oh sorrow! and oh womankind!
How can you do such things and keep your fame,
Unless this world, and t' other too, be blind?
Nothing so dear as an unfilch'd good name!
But to proceed—for there is more behind:
With much heartfelt reluctance be it said,
Young Juan slipp'd half-smother'd, from the bed.
He had been hid—I don't pretend to say
How, nor can I indeed describe the where—
Young, slender, and pack'd easily, he lay,
No doubt, in little compass, round or square;
But pity him I neither must nor may
His suffocation by that pretty pair;
'T were better, sure, to die so, than be shut
With maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.
And, secondly, I pity not, because
He had no business to commit a sin,
Forbid by heavenly, fined by human laws,
At least 't was rather early to begin;
But at sixteen the conscience rarely gnaws
So much as when we call our old debts in
At sixty years, and draw the accompts of evil,
And find a deuced balance with the devil.
Of his position I can give no notion:
'T is written in the Hebrew Chronicle,
How the physicians, leaving pill and potion,
Prescribed, by way of blister, a young belle,
When old King David's blood grew dull in motion,
And that the medicine answer'd very well;
Perhaps 't was in a different way applied,
For David lived, but Juan nearly died.
What's to be done? Alfonso will be back
The moment he has sent his fools away.
Antonia's skill was put upon the rack,
But no device could be brought into play—
And how to parry the renew'd attack?
Besides, it wanted but few hours of day:
Antonia puzzled; Julia did not speak,
But press'd her bloodless lip to Juan's cheek.
He turn'd his lip to hers, and with his hand
Call'd back the tangles of her wandering hair;
Even then their love they could not all command,
And half forgot their danger and despair:
Antonia's patience now was at a stand—
"Come, come, 't is no time now for fooling there,"
She whisper'd, in great wrath—"I must deposit
This pretty gentleman within the closet:
"Pray, keep your nonsense for some luckier night—
Who can have put my master in this mood?
What will become on 't—I'm in such a fright,
The devil's in the urchin, and no good—
Is this a time for giggling? this a plight?
Why, don't you know that it may end in blood?
You'll lose your life, and I shall lose my place,
My mistress all, for that half-girlish face.
"Had it but been for a stout cavalier
Of twenty-five or thirty (come, make haste)—
But for a child, what piece of work is here!
I really, madam, wonder at your taste
(Come, sir, get in)—my master must be near:
There, for the present, at the least, he's fast,
And if we can but till the morning keep
Our counsel—(Juan, mind, you must not sleep)."
Now, Don Alfonso entering, but alone,
Closed the oration of the trusty maid:
She loiter'd, and he told her to be gone,
An order somewhat sullenly obey'd;
However, present remedy was none,
And no great good seem'd answer'd if she stay'd:
Regarding both with slow and sidelong view,
She snuff'd the candle, curtsied, and withdrew.
Alfonso paused a minute—then begun
Some strange excuses for his late proceeding;
He would not justify what he had done,
To say the best, it was extreme ill-breeding;
But there were ample reasons for it, none
Of which he specified in this his pleading:
His speech was a fine sample, on the whole,
Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call "rigmarole."
Julia said nought; though all the while there rose
A ready answer, which at once enables
A matron, who her husband's foible knows,
By a few timely words to turn the tables,
Which, if it does not silence, still must pose,—
Even if it should comprise a pack of fables;
'T is to retort with firmness, and when he
Suspects with one, do you reproach with three.
Julia, in fact, had tolerable grounds,—
Alfonso's loves with Inez were well known,
But whether 't was that one's own guilt confounds—
But that can't be, as has been often shown,
A lady with apologies abounds;—
It might be that her silence sprang alone
From delicacy to Don Juan's ear,
To whom she knew his mother's fame was dear.
There might be one more motive, which makes two;
Alfonso ne'er to Juan had alluded,—
Mention'd his jealousy but never who
Had been the happy lover, he concluded,
Conceal'd amongst his premises; 't is true,
His mind the more o'er this its mystery brooded;
To speak of Inez now were, one may say,
Like throwing Juan in Alfonso's way.
A hint, in tender cases, is enough;
Silence is best, besides there is a tact—
(That modern phrase appears to me sad stuff,
But it will serve to keep my verse compact)—
Which keeps, when push'd by questions rather rough,
A lady always distant from the fact:
The charming creatures lie with such a grace,
There's nothing so becoming to the face.
They blush, and we believe them; at least I
Have always done so; 't is of no great use,
In any case, attempting a reply,
For then their eloquence grows quite profuse;
And when at length they 're out of breath, they sigh,
And cast their languid eyes down, and let loose
A tear or two, and then we make it up;
And then—and then—and then—sit down and sup.
Alfonso closed his speech, and begg'd her pardon,
Which Julia half withheld, and then half granted,
And laid conditions he thought very hard on,
Denying several little things he wanted:
He stood like Adam lingering near his garden,
With useless penitence perplex'd and haunted,
Beseeching she no further would refuse,
When, lo! he stumbled o'er a pair of shoes.
A pair of shoes!—what then? not much, if they
Are such as fit with ladies' feet, but these
(No one can tell how much I grieve to say)
Were masculine; to see them, and to seize,
Was but a moment's act.—Ah! well-a-day!
My teeth begin to chatter, my veins freeze—
Alfonso first examined well their fashion,
And then flew out into another passion.
He left the room for his relinquish'd sword,
And Julia instant to the closet flew.
"Fly, Juan, fly! for heaven's sake—not a word—
The door is open—you may yet slip through
The passage you so often have explored—
Here is the garden-key—Fly—fly—Adieu!
Haste—haste! I hear Alfonso's hurrying feet—
Day has not broke—there's no one in the street:"
None can say that this was not good advice,
The only mischief was, it came too late;
Of all experience 't is the usual price,
A sort of income-tax laid on by fate:
Juan had reach'd the room-door in a trice,
And might have done so by the garden-gate,
But met Alfonso in his dressing-gown,
Who threaten'd death—so Juan knock'd him down.
Dire was the scuffle, and out went the light;
Antonia cried out "Rape!" and Julia "Fire!"
But not a servant stirr'd to aid the fight.
Alfonso, pommell'd to his heart's desire,
Swore lustily he'd be revenged this night;
And Juan, too, blasphemed an octave higher;
His blood was up: though young, he was a Tartar,
And not at all disposed to prove a martyr.
Alfonso's sword had dropp'd ere he could draw it,
And they continued battling hand to hand,
For Juan very luckily ne'er saw it;
His temper not being under great command,
If at that moment he had chanced to claw it,
Alfonso's days had not been in the land
Much longer.—Think of husbands', lovers' lives!
And how ye may be doubly widows—wives!
Alfonso grappled to detain the foe,
And Juan throttled him to get away,
And blood ('t was from the nose) began to flow;
At last, as they more faintly wrestling lay,
Juan contrived to give an awkward blow,
And then his only garment quite gave way;
He fled, like Joseph, leaving it; but there,
I doubt, all likeness ends between the pair.
Lights came at length, and men, and maids, who found
An awkward spectacle their eyes before;
Antonia in hysterics, Julia swoon'd,
Alfonso leaning, breathless, by the door;
Some half-torn drapery scatter'd on the ground,
Some blood, and several footsteps, but no more:
Juan the gate gain'd, turn'd the key about,
And liking not the inside, lock'd the out.
Here ends this canto.—Need I sing, or say,
How Juan naked, favour'd by the night,
Who favours what she should not, found his way,
And reach'd his home in an unseemly plight?
The pleasant scandal which arose next day,
The nine days' wonder which was brought to light,
And how Alfonso sued for a divorce,
Were in the English newspapers, of course.
If you would like to see the whole proceedings,
The depositions, and the cause at full,
The names of all the witnesses, the pleadings
Of counsel to nonsuit, or to annul,
There's more than one edition, and the readings
Are various, but they none of them are dull;
The best is that in short-hand ta'en by Gurney,
Who to Madrid on purpose made a journey.
But Donna Inez, to divert the train
Of one of the most circulating scandals
That had for centuries been known in Spain,
At least since the retirement of the Vandals,
First vow'd (and never had she vow'd in vain)
To Virgin Mary several pounds of candles;
And then, by the advice of some old ladies,
She sent her son to be shipp'd off from Cadiz.
She had resolved that he should travel through
All European climes, by land or sea,
To mend his former morals, and get new,
Especially in France and Italy
(At least this is the thing most people do).
Julia was sent into a convent: she
Grieved, but, perhaps, her feelings may be better
Shown in the following copy of her Letter:—
"They tell me 't is decided; you depart:
'T is wise—'t is well, but not the less a pain;
I have no further claim on your young heart,
Mine is the victim, and would be again;
To love too much has been the only art
I used;—I write in haste, and if a stain
Be on this sheet, 't is not what it appears;
My eyeballs burn and throb, but have no tears.
"I loved, I love you, for this love have lost
State, station, heaven, mankind's, my own esteem,
And yet can not regret what it hath cost,
So dear is still the memory of that dream;
Yet, if I name my guilt, 't is not to boast,
None can deem harshlier of me than I deem:
I trace this scrawl because I cannot rest—
I've nothing to reproach, or to request.
"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
'T is woman's whole existence; man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart;
Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
And few there are whom these cannot estrange;
Men have all these resources, we but one,
To love again, and be again undone.
"You will proceed in pleasure, and in pride,
Beloved and loving many; all is o'er
For me on earth, except some years to hide
My shame and sorrow deep in my heart's core;
These I could bear, but cannot cast aside
The passion which still rages as before—
And so farewell—forgive me, love me—No,
That word is idle now—but let it go.
"My breast has been all weakness, is so yet;
But still I think I can collect my mind;
My blood still rushes where my spirit's set,
As roll the waves before the settled wind;
My heart is feminine, nor can forget—
To all, except one image, madly blind;
So shakes the needle, and so stands the pole,
As vibrates my fond heart to my fix'd soul.
"I have no more to say, but linger still,
And dare not set my seal upon this sheet,
And yet I may as well the task fulfil,
My misery can scarce be more complete:
I had not lived till now, could sorrow kill;
Death shuns the wretch who fain the blow would meet,
And I must even survive this last adieu,
And bear with life, to love and pray for you!"
This note was written upon gilt-edged paper
With a neat little crow-quill, slight and new:
Her small white hand could hardly reach the taper,
It trembled as magnetic needles do,
And yet she did not let one tear escape her;
The seal a sun-flower; "Elle vous suit partout,"
The motto cut upon a white cornelian;
The wax was superfine, its hue vermilion.
This was Don Juan's earliest scrape; but whether
I shall proceed with his adventures is
Dependent on the public altogether;
We'll see, however, what they say to this:
Their favour in an author's cap's a feather,
And no great mischief's done by their caprice;
And if their approbation we experience,
Perhaps they'll have some more about a year hence.
My poem's epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books; each book containing,
With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters; the episodes are three:
A panoramic view of hell's in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic's no misnomer.
All these things will be specified in time,
With strict regard to Aristotle's rules,
The Vade Mecum of the true sublime,
Which makes so many poets, and some fools:
Prose poets like blank-verse, I'm fond of rhyme,
Good workmen never quarrel with their tools;
I've got new mythological machinery,
And very handsome supernatural scenery.
There's only one slight difference between
Me and my epic brethren gone before,
And here the advantage is my own, I ween
(Not that I have not several merits more,
But this will more peculiarly be seen);
They so embellish, that 't is quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story's actually true.
If any person doubt it, I appeal
To history, tradition, and to facts,
To newspapers, whose truth all know and feel,
To plays in five, and operas in three acts;
All these confirm my statement a good deal,
But that which more completely faith exacts
Is that myself, and several now in Seville,
Saw Juan's last elopement with the devil.
If ever I should condescend to prose,
I'll write poetical commandments, which
Shall supersede beyond all doubt all those
That went before; in these I shall enrich
My text with many things that no one knows,
And carry precept to the highest pitch:
I'll call the work "Longinus o'er a Bottle,
Or, Every Poet his own Aristotle."
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit—flirtation with the muse of Moore.
Thou shalt not covet Mr. Sotheby's Muse,
His Pegasus, nor anything that's his;
Thou shalt not bear false witness like "the Blues"
(There's one, at least, is very fond of this);
Thou shalt not write, in short, but what I choose:
This is true criticism, and you may kiss—
Exactly as you please, or not,—the rod;
But if you don't, I'll lay it on, by G-d!
If any person should presume to assert
This story is not moral, first, I pray,
That they will not cry out before they're hurt,
Then that they'll read it o'er again, and say
(But, doubtless, nobody will be so pert)
That this is not a moral tale, though gay;
Besides, in Canto Twelfth, I mean to show
The very place where wicked people go.
If, after all, there should be some so blind
To their own good this warning to despise,
Led by some tortuosity of mind,
Not to believe my verse and their own eyes,
And cry that they "the moral cannot find,"
I tell him, if a clergyman, he lies;
Should captains the remark, or critics, make,
They also lie too—under a mistake.
The public approbation I expect,
And beg they'll take my word about the moral,
Which I with their amusement will connect
(So children cutting teeth receive a coral);
Meantime, they'll doubtless please to recollect
My epical pretensions to the laurel:
For fear some prudish readers should grow skittish,
I've bribed my grandmother's review—the British.
I sent it in a letter to the Editor,
Who thank'd me duly by return of post—
I'm for a handsome article his creditor;
Yet, if my gentle Muse he please to roast,
And break a promise after having made it her,
Denying the receipt of what it cost,
And smear his page with gall instead of honey,
All I can say is—that he had the money.
I think that with this holy new alliance
I may ensure the public, and defy
All other magazines of art or science,
Daily, or monthly, or three monthly; I
Have not essay'd to multiply their clients,
Because they tell me 't were in vain to try,
And that the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly
Treat a dissenting author very martyrly.
"Non ego hoc ferrem calida juventâ
Consule Planco," Horace said, and so
Say I; by which quotation there is meant a
Hint that some six or seven good years ago
(Long ere I dreamt of dating from the Brenta)
I was most ready to return a blow,
And would not brook at all this sort of thing
In my hot youth—when George the Third was King.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day)—
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squander'd my whole summer while 't was May,
And feel no more the spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deem'd, my soul invincible.
No more—no more—Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee:
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 't was not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
No more—no more—Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, my universe!
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse:
The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgment,
Though heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.
My days of love are over; me no more
The charms of maid, wife, and still less of widow,
Can make the fool of which they made before,—
In short, I must not lead the life I did do;
The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er,
The copious use of claret is forbid too,
So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
Ambition was my idol, which was broken
Before the shrines of Sorrow, and of Pleasure;
And the two last have left me many a token
O'er which reflection may be made at leisure:
Now, like Friar Bacon's brazen head, I've spoken,
"Time is, Time was, Time's past:"—a chymic treasure
Is glittering youth, which I have spent betimes—
My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.
What is the end of Fame? 't is but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their "midnight taper,"
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.
What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's King
Cheops erected the first pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin's lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
But I being fond of true philosophy,
Say very often to myself, "Alas!
All things that have been born were born to die,
And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass;
You've pass'd your youth not so unpleasantly,
And if you had it o'er again—'t would pass—
So thank your stars that matters are no worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse."
But for the present, gentle reader! and
Still gentler purchaser! the bard—that's I—
Must, with permission, shake you by the hand,
And so "Your humble servant, and good-b'ye!"
We meet again, if we should understand
Each other; and if not, I shall not try
Your patience further than by this short sample—
'T were well if others follow'd my example.
"Go, little book, from this my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters—go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days."
When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to praise—
The four first rhymes are Southey's every line:
For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.
Two Christmas Eves
THE white snow veils the earth's brown face,
Strong frost has bound the veil in place--
Under the wide, clear, dark-blue sky
All choked with snow the hollows lie,
Dead-white the fields--once summer sweet--
And woodlands where we used to meet:
We don't meet now, we never part.
Ever together, heart to heart,
We've worked, lost often, seldom won,
Seen pleasures ended, pains begun,
Have done our best, and faced, we two,
Almost the worst that Fate could do--
Yet not Fate's uttermost of ill,
Since here we are--together still!
For me you left, my dearest, best,
Your girlhood's safe warm sheltered nest;
For me gave up all else that could
Have made your woman-life seem good.
You thought a man's whole heart was worth
Just all the other wealth of earth;
I thought my painter's brush would be
A magic wand for you and me.
What dreams we had of fame and gold,
Of Art-that never could withhold
From me, who loved her so, full powers
To make my love for her serve ours,
To shape and build a palace fair
Of radiant hours, and place you there!
Art turned away her face from us,
And all the dreaming's ended--thus!
Our garret's cold; the wind is keen,
And cuts these rotten boards between.
There is no lock upon the door,
No carpet on the uneven floor,
No curtain to the window where
Through frost-blanched panes the moon's cold stare
Fronts us. She's careless--used to see
This world of ours, and misery!
Why, how you shiver! Oh, my sweet,
How cold your hands are, and your feet!
How hot this face of yours I kiss!
How could our love have led to this?
What devil is there over all
That lets such things as this befall?
It was not want of striving. Love,
Bear witness for me how I strove,
Worked till I grew quite sick and faint,
Worked till I could not see to paint
Because my eyes were sore and wet,
Yet never sold one picture yet.
We would have worked--yes, there's the sting--
We would have worked at anything!
Our hands asked work. There's work somewhere,
That makes it all more hard to bear;
Yet we could never understand
Where is the work that asks our hand!
There's no more firing, and the cold
Is biting through your shawl's thin fold,
And both the blankets have been sold.
Nestle beside me, in my arm,
And let me try to keep you warm.
We pawned the table and the bed,
To get our last week's fire and bread,
And now the last crust's eaten. Well,
There's nothing left to pawn or sell!
Our rent is due on Monday too,
How can we pay it--I and you?
What shall we do? What shall we do?
And we are--what was that you said?
You are so tired ? Your dearest head
Is burning hot, and aching so?
Ah, yes! I know it is--I know!
You're tired and weak and faint and ill,
And fevers burn and shiverings chill
This world of mine I'm holding here.
If I could suffer only, dear--
But all the burdens on you fall,
And I sit here, and bear it all!
And other men and other wives,
Who never worked in all their lives--
No, nor yet loved as we have, sweet--
Are wrapped in furs, warm hands and feet,
And feast to-night in homes made bright
With blazing logs and candle-light;
Not dark like this, where we two sit,
Who chose to work, and starve for it!
Don't go to sleep; you mustn't sleep
Here on the frozen floor! Yes, creep
Closer to me. Oh, if I knew
What is this something left to do!
Listen to me! It's Christmas Eve,
When hearts grow warmer, I believe,
And friends forget and friends forgive.
What if we stifled down my pride,
And put your bitter thoughts aside,
And asked your father's help once more?
True, when we asked for it before,
He turned and cursed us both, and swore
That he disowned you. You and I
Had made our bed, and there must lie;
That he would help us not one whit,
Though we should die for want of it.
Now I shall ask his help again.
It's colder now than it was then;
The cold creeps closer to life's core--
Death's nearer to us than before;
And when your father sees how near,
He may relent, and save you, dear.
For my sake, love! I am too weak
To bear your tears upon my cheek,
Your sobs against my heart, to bear
Those eyes of yours, and their despair!
Not faltering, my own pain I bore--
I cannot bear yours any more!
Stand up. You're stiff? That will not last!
The stairs are dark? They'll soon be passed!
You're tired? My sweet, I know you are;
But try to walk--it isn't far.
Oh, that the Christ they say was born
On that dream-distant Christmas morn
May hear and help us now! Be strong!
Yes, lean on me. Perhaps ere long,
All this, gone by, will only seem
A half-remembered evil dream.
Come; I will help you walk. We'll try
Just this last venture, you and I!
Failed! Back again in the ice-gloom
Of our bare, bleak, rat-haunted room!
The moon still looks--what does she care
To see my moon-flower lying there?
My rose, once red and white and fair,
Now white and wan, and pinched and thin,
Cold, through the coat I've wrapped her in,
And shivering, even in her sleep,
To hear how wakeful rats can keep.
We dragged our weary faltering feet
Through the bright noisy crowded street,
And reached the square where, stern in stone,
Her father's town-house sulks alone.
Sick, stupid, helpless, wretched, poor,
We waited at her father's door.
They let us in. Then let us tread
Through the warm hall with soft furs spread.
Next, 'Name and business.' Oh, exact
Were the man's orders how to act,
If e'er his master's child should come
To cross the threshold of her home!
I told our name. The man 'would see
If any message was' for me.
We waited there without a word.
How warm the whole house was! We heard
Soft music with soft voices blent,
And smelt sweet flowers with mingled scent,
And heard the wine poured out--that chink
That glass makes as the diners drink--
The china clatter. We, at least,
Appreciated that night's feast.
Then some one gave a note to me
With insolent smile. I read: 'When she
Is tired of love and poverty,
And chooses to return to what
She left, the duties she forgot,
And never see again this man,
And be here as before--she can.'
We came away: that much is clear;
I don't know how we got back here--
I must have carried her somehow,
And have been strong enough. And now
She lies asleep--and I, awake,
Must do this something for her sake--
The only possible thing to do,
Oh, love! to cut our soul in two,
And take 'this man' away from you!
If now I let your father know
My choice is made, and that I go
And you are here--oh, love! oh, wife!
I break my heart and save your life.
Doubt what to do? All doubt's about
The deeds that are not worth a doubt!
This deed takes me, and I obey,
And there is nothing left to say.
Good-bye, dear eyes I cannot see--
Weep only gently, eyes, for me;
Dear lips, I've kissed and kissed again,
Lose those encircling lines of pain;
Dear face, so thin and faded now,
Win back youth's grace, and light, and glow;
Oh, hands I hold in mine--oh, heart
That holds mine in it--we must part!
When you wake up, and find me fled,
And find your father here instead,
Will you not wonder how my feet
Ever could turn from you, my sweet?
Ah, no! your heart and mine are one;
Our heart will tell you how 'twas done.
No more we meet until I've won
Enough to dare be happy on;
And if I fail--I have known bliss,
And bliss has bred an hour like this.
I am past Fate's harming--all her power
Could mix nought bitterer than this hour.
Good-bye--our room--our marriage life!--
Oh, kiss me through your dreams, my wife!
I have grown rich! I have found out
The thing men break their hearts about!
I have dug gold, and gold, and sold
My diggings, and reaped in more gold--
Sowed that, and reaped again, and played
For stakes, and always won, and made
More money than we'll ever spend,
And have forborne one word to send.
It has been easier for her so:
To wait one year, and then to know
How all is well, and how we two
Shall part no more our whole lives through.
It had been harder to have heard
Some incomplete, imperfect word
Of how I prospered, how despaired,
How well I strove, how ill I fared,
Or strove well and fared well, nor know
Each day which way the scale would go;
Rejoice, and grieve, and hope, and fear,
As I have done throughout the year.
The year is over now--the prize
Is--all our lives of Paradise!
Through all the year her lips and hands
Have drawn me on with passion-bands,
Her soul has held my soul, and taught
The way of storming Fortune's fort.
My little love, those days of ours,
Our dear delight, our sacred hours
Have wrapped me round in all the year;
And brought the gold and brought me here,
And brought this hour than all more fair--
Our triumph hour! What shall we care
For all the past's most maddening pain
When you are in my arms again?
The yellow dust I loved to hold
Was like your hair's less heavy gold;
The clear, deep sea, that bore me hence,
Was like your eyes' grey innocence;
And not one fair thing could I see
But somehow seemed yourself to me.
The very work I had to do
Easier than rest was, done for you.
And through my dreams you walked all night
And filled sleep's byways with delight!
How I have wondered every day
How you would look, and what would say
On that same day! 'Perhaps she paints,
Thinks of our lessons--prays to saints
With my name in her prayers--or goes
Through gardens, heaping rose on rose.
How I love roses! Or mayhap
Sits with some work dropped in her lap,
And dreams and dreams--what could there be
For her to dream about but me?'
This London--how I hated it
A year ago! It now seems fit
Even to be our meeting-place.
It holds the glory of her face,
The wonder of her eyes, the grace
Of lovely lines and curves--in fine,
The soul of sweetness that is mine!
I'll seek her at her father's; say,
'I claim my wife. I will repay
A hundredfold all you have spent
On keeping me in banishment,
On keeping her in affluence,
At her heart's dearest coin's expense!
That is past now, and I have come
To take my wife and sweetheart home,
To show her all my golden store,
My heart, hers to the very core,
And never leave her any more!'
But just before that hour supreme,
Close here our old house is, that dream
And daylight have been showing me
The year through. I would like to see
That room I found so hard to leave,
So hard to keep, last Christmas Eve.
Faith's easy now! There is a God
Who trod the earth we two have trod;
He pays me for our pain last year,
For all these months of longing, fear,
Doubt and uncertainty--outright,
By letting me come here to-night
And just contrast that dead despair
With the Earth-Heaven we two shall share!
Just one look at the old room's door,
If I can get no chance of more;
Yet gold will buy most things--may buy
The leave to see that room. We'll try!
May I go up? Just once to see
The room that sheltered her and me?--
My God! the rapture of to-day
Has sent me mad;--you did not say
She died the night I went away!
The Defence of Guenevere
But, learning now that they would have her speak,
She threw her wet hair backward from her brow,
Her hand close to her mouth touching her cheek,
As though she had had there a shameful blow,
And feeling it shameful to feel ought but shame
All through her heart, yet felt her cheek burned so,
She must a little touch it; like one lame
She walked away from Gauwaine, with her head
Still lifted up; and on her cheek of flame
The tears dried quick; she stopped at last and said:
"O knights and lords, it seems but little skill
To talk of well-known things past now and dead.
"God wot I ought to say, I have done ill,
And pray you all forgiveness heartily!
Because you must be right, such great lords--still
"Listen, suppose your time were come to die,
And you were quite alone and very weak;
Yea, laid a dying while very mightily
"The wind was ruffling up the narrow streak
Of river through your broad lands running well:
Suppose a hush should come, then some one speak:
" 'One of these cloths is heaven, and one is hell,
Now choose one cloth for ever; which they be,
I will not tell you, you must somehow tell
" 'Of your own strength and mightiness; here, see!'
Yea, yea, my lord, and you to ope your eyes,
At foot of your familiar bed to see
"A great God's angel standing, with such dyes,
Not known on earth, on his great wings, and hands
Held at two ways, light from the inner skies
"Showing him well, and making his commands
Seem to be God's commands, moreover, too,
Holding within his hands the cloths on wands;
"And one of these strange choosing cloths was blue,
Wavy and long, and one cut short and red;
No man could tell the better of the two.
"After a shivering half-hour you said:
'God help! heaven's colour, the blue;' and he said: 'hell.'
Perhaps you then would roll upon your bed,
"And cry to all good men that loved you well,
'Ah Christ! if only I had known, known, known;'
Launcelot went away, then I could tell,
"Like wisest man how all things would be, moan,
And roll and hurt myself, and long to die,
And yet fear much to die for what was sown.
"Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,
Whatever may have happened through these years,
God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie."
Her voice was low at first, being full of tears,
But as it cleared, it grew full loud and shrill,
Growing a windy shriek in all men's ears,
A ringing in their startled brains, until
She said that Gauwaine lied, then her voice sunk,
And her great eyes began again to fill,
Though still she stood right up, and never shrunk,
But spoke on bravely, glorious lady fair!
Whatever tears her full lips may have drunk,
She stood, and seemed to think, and wrung her hair,
Spoke out at last with no more trace of shame,
With passionate twisting of her body there:
"It chanced upon a day that Launcelot came
To dwell at Arthur's court: at Christmas time
This happened; when the heralds sung his name,
" 'Son of King Ban of Benwick,' seemed to chime
Along with all the bells that rang that day,
O'er the white roofs, with little change of rhyme.
"Christmas and whitened winter passed away,
And over me the April sunshine came,
Made very awful with black hail-clouds, yea
"And in the Summer I grew white with flame,
And bowed my head down--Autumn, and the sick
Sure knowledge things would never be the same,
"However often Spring might be most thick
Of blossoms and buds, smote on me, and I grew
Careless of most things, let the clock tick, tick,
"To my unhappy pulse, that beat right through
My eager body; while I laughed out loud,
And let my lips curl up at false or true,
"Seemed cold and shallow without any cloud.
Behold my judges, then the cloths were brought;
While I was dizzied thus, old thoughts would crowd,
"Belonging to the time ere I was bought
By Arthur's great name and his little love;
Must I give up for ever then, I thought,
"That which I deemed would ever round me move
Glorifying all things; for a little word,
Scarce ever meant at all, must I now prove
"Stone-cold for ever? Pray you, does the Lord
Will that all folks should be quite happy and good?
I love God now a little, if this cord
"Were broken, once for all what striving could
Make me love anything in earth or heaven?
So day by day it grew, as if one should
"Slip slowly down some path worn smooth and even,
Down to a cool sea on a summer day;
Yet still in slipping there was some small leaven
"Of stretched hands catching small stones by the way,
Until one surely reached the sea at last,
And felt strange new joy as the worn head lay
"Back, with the hair like sea-weed; yea all past
Sweat of the forehead, dryness of the lips,
Washed utterly out by the dear waves o'ercast,
"In the lone sea, far off from any ships!
Do I not know now of a day in Spring?
No minute of that wild day ever slips
"From out my memory; I hear thrushes sing,
And wheresoever I may be, straightway
Thoughts of it all come up with most fresh sting:
"I was half mad with beauty on that day,
And went without my ladies all alone,
In a quiet garden walled round every way;
"I was right joyful of that wall of stone,
That shut the flowers and trees up with the sky,
And trebled all the beauty: to the bone,
"Yea right through to my heart, grown very shy
With weary thoughts, it pierced, and made me glad;
Exceedingly glad, and I knew verily,
"A little thing just then had made me mad;
I dared not think, as I was wont to do,
Sometimes, upon my beauty; if I had
"Held out my long hand up against the blue,
And, looking on the tenderly darken'd fingers,
Thought that by rights one ought to see quite through,
"There, see you, where the soft still light yet lingers,
Round by the edges; what should I have done,
If this had joined with yellow spotted singers,
"And startling green drawn upward by the sun?
But shouting, loosed out, see now! all my hair,
And trancedly stood watching the west wind run
"With faintest half-heard breathing sound--why there
I lose my head e'en now in doing this;
But shortly listen--in that garden fair
"Came Launcelot walking; this is true, the kiss
Wherewith we kissed in meeting that spring day,
I scarce dare talk of the remember'd bliss,
"When both our mouths went wandering in one way,
And aching sorely, met among the leaves;
Our hands being left behind strained far away.
"Never within a yard of my bright sleeves
Had Launcelot come before--and now, so nigh!
After that day why is it Guenevere grieves?
"Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,
Whatever happened on through all those years,
God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.
"Being such a lady could I weep these tears
If this were true? A great queen such as I
Having sinn'd this way, straight her conscience sears;
"And afterwards she liveth hatefully,
Slaying and poisoning, certes never weeps,--
Gauwaine, be friends now, speak me lovingly.
"Do I not see how God's dear pity creeps
All through your frame, and trembles in your mouth?
Remember in what grave your mother sleeps,
"Buried in some place far down in the south,
Men are forgetting as I speak to you;
By her head sever'd in that awful drouth
"Of pity that drew Agravaine's fell blow,
I pray your pity! let me not scream out
For ever after, when the shrill winds blow
"Through half your castle-locks! let me not shout
For ever after in the winter night
When you ride out alone! in battle-rout
"Let not my rusting tears make your sword light!
Ah! God of mercy, how he turns away!
So, ever must I dress me to the fight;
"So--let God's justice work! Gauwaine, I say,
See me hew down your proofs: yea, all men know
Even as you said how Mellyagraunce one day,
"One bitter day in la Fausse Garde, for so
All good knights held it after, saw--
Yea, sirs, by cursed unknightly outrage; though
"You, Gauwaine, held his word without a flaw,
This Mellyagraunce saw blood upon my bed--
Whose blood then pray you? is there any law
"To make a queen say why some spots of red
Lie on her coverlet? or will you say:
`Your hands are white, lady, as when you wed,
" `Where did you bleed?' and I must stammer out: 'Nay,
I blush indeed, fair lord, only to rend
My sleeve up to my shoulder, where there lay
" `A knife-point last night:' so must I defend
The honour of the lady Guenevere?
Not so, fair lords, even if the world should end
"This very day, and you were judges here
Instead of God. Did you see Mellyagraunce
When Launcelot stood by him? what white fear
"Curdled his blood, and how his teeth did dance,
His side sink in? as my knight cried and said:
'Slayer of unarm'd men, here is a chance!
" `Setter of traps, I pray you guard your head,
By God I am so glad to fight with you,
Stripper of ladies, that my hand feels lead
" `For driving weight; hurrah now! draw and do,
For all my wounds are moving in my breast,
And I am getting mad with waiting so.'
"He struck his hands together o'er the beast,
Who fell down flat and grovell'd at his feet,
And groan'd at being slain so young `at least.'
"My knight said: `Rise you, sir, who are so fleet
At catching ladies, half-arm'd will I fight,
My left side all uncover'd!' then I weet,
"Up sprang Sir Mellyagraunce with great delight
Upon his knave's face; not until just then
Did I quite hate him, as I saw my knight
"Along the lists look to my stake and pen
With such a joyous smile, it made me sigh
From agony beneath my waist-chain, when
"The fight began, and to me they drew nigh;
Ever Sir Launcelot kept him on the right,
And traversed warily, and ever high
"And fast leapt caitiff's sword, until my knight
Sudden threw up his sword to his left hand,
Caught it, and swung it; that was all the fight,
"Except a spout of blood on the hot land;
For it was hottest summer; and I know
I wonder'd how the fire, while I should stand,
"And burn, against the heat, would quiver so,
Yards above my head; thus these matters went;
Which things were only warnings of the woe
"That fell on me. Yet Mellyagraunce was shent,
For Mellyagraunce had fought against the Lord;
Therefore, my lords, take heed lest you be blent
"With all this wickedness; say no rash word
Against me, being so beautiful; my eyes,
Wept all away to grey, may bring some sword
"To drown you in your blood; see my breast rise,
Like waves of purple sea, as here I stand;
And how my arms are moved in wonderful wise,
"Yea also at my full heart's strong command,
See through my long throat how the words go up
In ripples to my mouth; how in my hand
"The shadow lies like wine within a cup
Of marvellously colour'd gold; yea now
This little wind is rising, look you up,
"And wonder how the light is falling so
Within my moving tresses: will you dare
When you have looked a little on my brow,
"To say this thing is vile? or will you care
For any plausible lies of cunning woof,
When you can see my face with no lie there
"For ever? am I not a gracious proof--
'But in your chamber Launcelot was found'--
Is there a good knight then would stand aloof,
"When a queen says with gentle queenly sound:
'O true as steel, come now and talk with me,
I love to see your step upon the ground
" 'Unwavering, also well I love to see
That gracious smile light up your face, and hear
Your wonderful words, that all mean verily
" 'The thing they seem to mean: good friend, so dear
To me in everything, come here to-night,
Or else the hours will pass most dull and drear;
" 'If you come not, I fear this time I might
Get thinking over much of times gone by,
When I was young, and green hope was in sight:
" 'For no man cares now to know why I sigh;
And no man comes to sing me pleasant songs,
Nor any brings me the sweet flowers that lie
" 'So thick in the gardens; therefore one so longs
To see you, Launcelot; that we may be
Like children once again, free from all wrongs
" 'Just for one night.' Did he not come to me?
What thing could keep true Launcelot away
If I said, 'Come?' There was one less than three
"In my quiet room that night, and we were gay;
Till sudden I rose up, weak, pale, and sick,
Because a bawling broke our dream up, yea
"I looked at Launcelot's face and could not speak,
For he looked helpless too, for a little while;
Then I remember how I tried to shriek,
"And could not, but fell down; from tile to tile
The stones they threw up rattled o'er my head
And made me dizzier; till within a while
"My maids were all about me, and my head
On Launcelot's breast was being soothed away
From its white chattering, until Launcelot said--
"By God! I will not tell you more to-day,
Judge any way you will--what matters it?
You know quite well the story of that fray,
"How Launcelot still'd their bawling, the mad fit
That caught up Gauwaine--all, all, verily,
But just that which would save me; these things flit.
"Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,
Whatever may have happen'd these long years,
God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie!
"All I have said is truth, by Christ's dear tears."
She would not speak another word, but stood
Turn'd sideways; listening, like a man who hears
His brother's trumpet sounding through the wood
Of his foes' lances. She lean'd eagerly,
And gave a slight spring sometimes, as she could
At last hear something really; joyfully
Her cheek grew crimson, as the headlong speed
Of the roan charger drew all men to see,
The knight who came was Launcelot at good need.
The Triumph Of Time
Before our lives divide for ever,
While time is with us and hands are free,
(Time, swift to fasten and swift to sever
Hand from hand, as we stand by the sea)
I will say no word that a man might say
Whose whole life's love goes down in a day;
For this could never have been; and never,
Though the gods and the years relent, shall be.
Is it worth a tear, is it worth an hour,
To think of things that are well outworn?
Of fruitless husk and fugitive flower,
The dream foregone and the deed forborne?
Though joy be done with and grief be vain,
Time shall not sever us wholly in twain;
Earth is not spoilt for a single shower;
But the rain has ruined the ungrown corn.
It will grow not again, this fruit of my heart,
Smitten with sunbeams, ruined with rain.
The singing seasons divide and depart,
Winter and summer depart in twain.
It will grow not again, it is ruined at root,
The bloodlike blossom, the dull red fruit;
Though the heart yet sickens, the lips yet smart,
With sullen savour of poisonous pain.
I have given no man of my fruit to eat;
I trod the grapes, I have drunken the wine.
Had you eaten and drunken and found it sweet,
This wild new growth of the corn and vine,
This wine and bread without lees or leaven,
We had grown as gods, as the gods in heaven,
Souls fair to look upon, goodly to greet,
One splendid spirit, your soul and mine.
In the change of years, in the coil of things,
In the clamour and rumour of life to be,
We, drinking love at the furthest springs,
Covered with love as a covering tree,
We had grown as gods, as the gods above,
Filled from the heart to the lips with love,
Held fast in his hands, clothed warm with his wings,
O love, my love, had you loved but me!
We had stood as the sure stars stand, and moved
As the moon moves, loving the world; and seen
Grief collapse as a thing disproved,
Death consume as a thing unclean.
Twain halves of a perfect heart, made fast
Soul to soul while the years fell past;
Had you loved me once, as you have not loved;
Had the chance been with us that has not been.
I have put my days and dreams out of mind,
Days that are over, dreams that are done.
Though we seek life through, we shall surely find
There is none of them clear to us now, not one.
But clear are these things; the grass and the sand,
Where, sure as the eyes reach, ever at hand,
With lips wide open and face burnt blind,
The strong sea-daisies feast on the sun.
The low downs lean to the sea; the stream,
One loose thin pulseless tremulous vein,
Rapid and vivid and dumb as a dream,
Works downward, sick of the sun and the rain;
No wind is rough with the rank rare flowers;
The sweet sea, mother of loves and hours,
Shudders and shines as the grey winds gleam,
Turning her smile to a fugitive pain.
Mother of loves that are swift to fade,
Mother of mutable winds and hours.
A barren mother, a mother-maid,
Cold and clean as her faint salt flowers.
I would we twain were even as she,
Lost in the night and the light of the sea,
Where faint sounds falter and wan beams wade,
Break, and are broken, and shed into showers.
The loves and hours of the life of a man,
They are swift and sad, being born of the sea.
Hours that rejoice and regret for a span,
Born with a man's breath, mortal as he;
Loves that are lost ere they come to birth,
Weeds of the wave, without fruit upon earth.
I lose what I long for, save what I can,
My love, my love, and no love for me!
It is not much that a man can save
On the sands of life, in the straits of time,
Who swims in sight of the great third wave
That never a swimmer shall cross or climb.
Some waif washed up with the strays and spars
That ebb-tide shows to the shore and the stars;
Weed from the water, grass from a grave,
A broken blossom, a ruined rhyme.
There will no man do for your sake, I think,
What I would have done for the least word said.
I had wrung life dry for your lips to drink,
Broken it up for your daily bread:
Body for body and blood for blood,
As the flow of the full sea risen to flood
That yearns and trembles before it sink,
I had given, and lain down for you, glad and dead.
Yea, hope at highest and all her fruit,
And time at fullest and all his dower,
I had given you surely, and life to boot,
Were we once made one for a single hour.
But now, you are twain, you are cloven apart,
Flesh of his flesh, but heart of my heart;
And deep in one is the bitter root,
And sweet for one is the lifelong flower.
To have died if you cared I should die for you, clung
To my life if you bade me, played my part
As it pleased you — these were the thoughts that stung,
The dreams that smote with a keener dart
Than shafts of love or arrows of death;
These were but as fire is, dust, or breath,
Or poisonous foam on the tender tongue
Of the little snakes that eat my heart.
I wish we were dead together to-day,
Lost sight of, hidden away out of sight,
Clasped and clothed in the cloven clay,
Out of the world's way, out of the light,
Out of the ages of worldly weather,
Forgotten of all men altogether,
As the world's first dead, taken wholly away,
Made one with death, filled full of the night.
How we should slumber, how we should sleep,
Far in the dark with the dreams and the dews!
And dreaming, grow to each other, and weep,
Laugh low, live softly, murmur and muse;
Yea, and it may be, struck through by the dream,
Feel the dust quicken and quiver, and seem
Alive as of old to the lips, and leap
Spirit to spirit as lovers use.
Sick dreams and sad of a dull delight;
For what shall it profit when men are dead
To have dreamed, to have loved with the whole soul's might,
To have looked for day when the day was fled?
Let come what will, there is one thing worth,
To have had fair love in the life upon earth:
To have held love safe till the day grew night,
While skies had colour and lips were red.
Would I lose you now? would I take you then,
If I lose you now that my heart has need?
And come what may after death to men,
What thing worth this will the dead years breed?
Lose life, lose all; but at least I know,
O sweet life's love, having loved you so,
Had I reached you on earth, I should lose not again,
In death nor life, nor in dream or deed.
Yea, I know this well: were you once sealed mine,
Mine in the blood's beat, mine in the breath,
Mixed into me as honey in wine,
Not time, that sayeth and gainsayeth,
Nor all strong things had severed us then;
Not wrath of gods, nor wisdom of men,
Nor all things earthly, nor all divine,
Nor joy nor sorrow, nor life nor death.
I had grown pure as the dawn and the dew,
You had grown strong as the sun or the sea.
But none shall triumph a whole life through:
For death is one, and the fates are three.
At the door of life, by the gate of breath,
There are worse things waiting for men than death;
Death could not sever my soul and you,
As these have severed your soul from me.
You have chosen and clung to the chance they sent you,
Life sweet as perfume and pure as prayer.
But will it not one day in heaven repent you?
Will they solace you wholly, the days that were?
Will you lift up your eyes between sadness and bliss,
Meet mine, and see where the great love is,
And tremble and turn and be changed? Content you;
The gate is strait; I shall not be there.
But you, had you chosen, had you stretched hand,
Had you seen good such a thing were done,
I too might have stood with the souls that stand
In the sun's sight, clothed with the light of the sun;
But who now on earth need care how I live?
Have the high gods anything left to give,
Save dust and laurels and gold and sand?
Which gifts are goodly; but I will none.
O all fair lovers about the world,
There is none of you, none, that shall comfort me.
My thoughts are as dead things, wrecked and whirled
Round and round in a gulf of the sea;
And still, through the sound and the straining stream,
Through the coil and chafe, they gleam in a dream,
The bright fine lips so cruelly curled,
And strange swift eyes where the soul sits free.
Free, without pity, withheld from woe,
Ignorant; fair as the eyes are fair.
Would I have you change now, change at a blow,
Startled and stricken, awake and aware?
Yea, if I could, would I have you see
My very love of you filling me,
And know my soul to the quick, as I know
The likeness and look of your throat and hair?
I shall not change you. Nay, though I might,
Would I change my sweet one love with a word?
I had rather your hair should change in a night,
Clear now as the plume of a black bright bird;
Your face fail suddenly, cease, turn grey,
Die as a leaf that dies in a day.
I will keep my soul in a place out of sight,
Far off, where the pulse of it is not heard.
Far off it walks, in a bleak blown space,
Full of the sound of the sorrow of years.
I have woven a veil for the weeping face,
Whose lips have drunken the wine of tears;
I have found a way for the failing feet,
A place for slumber and sorrow to meet;
There is no rumour about the place,
Nor light, nor any that sees or hears.
I have hidden my soul out of sight, and said
'Let none take pity upon thee, none
Comfort thy crying: for lo, thou art dead,
Lie still now, safe out of sight of the sun.
Have I not built thee a grave, and wrought
Thy grave-clothes on thee of grievous thought,
With soft spun verses and tears unshed,
And sweet light visions of things undone?
'I have given thee garments and balm and myrrh,
And gold, and beautiful burial things.
But thou, be at peace now, make no stir;
Is not thy grave as a royal king's?
Fret not thyself though the end were sore;
Sleep, be patient, vex me no more.
Sleep; what hast thou to do with her?
The eyes that weep, with the mouth that sings?'
Where the dead red leaves of the years lie rotten,
The cold old crimes and the deeds thrown by,
The misconceived and the misbegotten,
I would find a sin to do ere I die,
Sure to dissolve and destroy me all through,
That would set you higher in heaven, serve you
And leave you happy, when clean forgotten,
As a dead man out of mind, am I.
Your lithe hands draw me, your face burns through me,
I am swift to follow you, keen to see;
But love lacks might to redeem or undo me;
As I have been, I know I shall surely be;
'What should such fellows as I do?' Nay,
My part were worse if I chose to play;
For the worst is this after all; if they knew me,
Not a soul upon earth would pity me.
And I play not for pity of these; but you,
If you saw with your soul what man am I,
You would praise me at least that my soul all through
Clove to you, loathing the lives that lie;
The souls and lips that are bought and sold,
The smiles of silver and kisses of gold,
The lapdog loves that whine as they chew,
The little lovers that curse and cry.
There are fairer women, I hear; that may be;
But I, that I love you and find you fair,
Who are more than fair in my eyes if they be,
Do the high gods know or the great gods care?
Though the swords in my heart for one were seven,
Should the iron hollow of doubtful heaven,
That knows not itself whether night-time or day be,
Reverberate words and a foolish prayer?
I will go back to the great sweet mother,
Mother and lover of men, the sea.
I will go down to her, I and none other,
Close with her, kiss her and mix her with me;
Cling to her, strive with her, hold her fast:
O fair white mother, in days long past
Born without sister, born without brother,
Set free my soul as thy soul is free.
O fair green-girdled mother of mine,
Sea, that art clothed with the sun and the rain,
Thy sweet hard kisses are strong like wine,
Thy large embraces are keen like pain.
Save me and hide me with all thy waves,
Find me one grave of thy thousand graves,
Those pure cold populous graves of thine
Wrought without hand in a world without stain.
I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships,
Change as the winds change, veer in the tide;
My lips will feast on the foam of thy lips,
I shall rise with thy rising, with thee subside;
Sleep, and not know if she be, if she were,
Filled full with life to the eyes and hair,
As a rose is fulfilled to the roseleaf tips
With splendid summer and perfume and pride.
This woven raiment of nights and days,
Were it once cast off and unwound from me,
Naked and glad would I walk in thy ways,
Alive and aware of thy ways and thee;
Clear of the whole world, hidden at home,
Clothed with the green and crowned with the foam,
A pulse of the life of thy straits and bays,
A vein in the heart of the streams of the sea.
Fair mother, fed with the lives of men,
Thou art subtle and cruel of heart, men say.
Thou hast taken, and shalt not render again;
Thou art full of thy dead, and cold as they.
But death is the worst that comes of thee;
Thou art fed with our dead, O mother, O sea,
But when hast thou fed on our hearts? or when,
Having given us love, hast thou taken away?
O tender-hearted, O perfect lover,
Thy lips are bitter, and sweet thine heart.
The hopes that hurt and the dreams that hover,
Shall they not vanish away and apart?
But thou, thou art sure, thou art older than earth;
Thou art strong for death and fruitful of birth;
Thy depths conceal and thy gulfs discover;
From the first thou wert; in the end thou art.
And grief shall endure not for ever, I know.
As things that are not shall these things be;
We shall live through seasons of sun and of snow,
And none be grievous as this to me.
We shall hear, as one in a trance that hears,
The sound of time, the rhyme of the years;
Wrecked hope and passionate pain will grow
As tender things of a spring-tide sea.
Sea-fruit that swings in the waves that hiss,
Drowned gold and purple and royal rings.
And all time past, was it all for this?
Times unforgotten, and treasures of things?
Swift years of liking and sweet long laughter,
That wist not well of the years thereafter
Till love woke, smitten at heart by a kiss,
With lips that trembled and trailing wings?
There lived a singer in France of old
By the tideless dolorous midland sea.
In a land of sand and ruin and gold
There shone one woman, and none but she.
And finding life for her love's sake fail,
Being fain to see her, he bade set sail,
Touched land, and saw her as life grew cold,
And praised God, seeing; and so died he.
Died, praising God for his gift and grace:
For she bowed down to him weeping, and said
'Live;' and her tears were shed on his face
Or ever the life in his face was shed.
The sharp tears fell through her hair, and stung
Once, and her close lips touched him and clung
Once, and grew one with his lips for a space;
And so drew back, and the man was dead.
O brother, the gods were good to you.
Sleep, and be glad while the world endures.
Be well content as the years wear through;
Give thanks for life, and the loves and lures;
Give thanks for life, O brother, and death,
For the sweet last sound of her feet, her breath,
For gifts she gave you, gracious and few,
Tears and kisses, that lady of yours.
Rest, and be glad of the gods; but I,
How shall I praise them, or how take rest?
There is not room under all the sky
For me that know not of worst or best,
Dream or desire of the days before,
Sweet things or bitterness, any more.
Love will not come to me now though I die,
As love came close to you, breast to breast.
I shall never be friends again with roses;
I shall loathe sweet tunes, where a note grown strong
Relents and recoils, and climbs and closes,
As a wave of the sea turned back by song.
There are sounds where the soul's delight takes fire,
Face to face with its own desire;
A delight that rebels, a desire that reposes;
I shall hate sweet music my whole life long.
The pulse of war and passion of wonder,
The heavens that murmur, the sounds that shine,
The stars that sing and the loves that thunder,
The music burning at heart like wine,
An armed archangel whose hands raise up
All senses mixed in the spirit's cup
Till flesh and spirit are molten in sunder —
These things are over, and no more mine.
These were a part of the playing I heard
Once, ere my love and my heart were at strife;
Love that sings and hath wings as a bird,
Balm of the wound and heft of the knife.
Fairer than earth is the sea, and sleep
Than overwatching of eyes that weep,
Now time has done with his one sweet word,
The wine and leaven of lovely life.
I shall go my ways, tread out my measure,
Fill the days of my daily breath
With fugitive things not good to treasure,
Do as the world doth, say as it saith;
But if we had loved each other — O sweet,
Had you felt, lying under the palms of your feet,
The heart of my heart, beating harder with pleasure
To feel you tread it to dust and death —
Ah, had I not taken my life up and given
All that life gives and the years let go,
The wine and honey, the balm and leaven,
The dreams reared high and the hopes brought low?
Come life, come death, not a word be said;
Should I lose you living, and vex you dead?
I never shall tell you on earth; and in heaven,
If I cry to you then, will you hear or know?
The Eve Of Revolution
The trumpets of the four winds of the world
From the ends of the earth blow battle; the night heaves,
With breasts palpitating and wings refurled,
With passion of couched limbs, as one who grieves
Sleeping, and in her sleep she sees uncurled
Dreams serpent-shapen, such as sickness weaves,
Down the wild wind of vision caught and whirled,
Dead leaves of sleep, thicker than autumn leaves,
Shadows of storm-shaped things,
Flights of dim tribes of kings,
The reaping men that reap men for their sheaves,
And, without grain to yield,
Their scythe-swept harvest-field
Thronged thick with men pursuing and fugitives,
Dead foliage of the tree of sleep,
Leaves blood-coloured and golden, blown from deep to deep.
I hear the midnight on the mountains cry
With many tongues of thunders, and I hear
Sound and resound the hollow shield of sky
With trumpet-throated winds that charge and cheer,
And through the roar of the hours that fighting fly,
Through flight and fight and all the fluctuant fear,
A sound sublimer than the heavens are high,
A voice more instant than the winds are clear,
Say to my spirit, "Take
Thy trumpet too, and make
A rallying music in the void night's ear,
Till the storm lose its track,
And all the night go back;
Till, as through sleep false life knows true life near,
Thou know the morning through the night,
And through the thunder silence, and through darkness light."
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The height of night is shaken, the skies break,
The winds and stars and waters come and go
By fits of breath and light and sound, that wake
As out of sleep, and perish as the show
Built up of sleep, when all her strengths forsake
The sense-compelling spirit; the depths glow,
The heights flash, and the roots and summits shake
Of earth in all her mountains,
And the inner foamless fountains
And wellsprings of her fast-bound forces quake;
Yea, the whole air of life
Is set on fire of strife,
Till change unmake things made and love remake;
Reason and love, whose names are one,
Seeing reason is the sunlight shed from love the sun.
The night is broken eastward; is it day,
Or but the watchfires trembling here and there,
Like hopes on memory's devastated way,
In moonless wastes of planet-stricken air?
O many-childed mother great and grey,
O multitudinous bosom, and breasts that bare
Our fathers' generations, whereat lay
The weanling peoples and the tribes that were,
Whose new-born mouths long dead
Those ninefold nipples fed,
Dim face with deathless eyes and withered hair,
Fostress of obscure lands,
Whose multiplying hands
Wove the world's web with divers races fair
And cast it waif-wise on the stream,
The waters of the centuries, where thou sat'st to dream;
O many-minded mother and visionary,
Asia, that sawest their westering waters sweep
With all the ships and spoils of time to carry
And all the fears and hopes of life to keep,
Thy vesture wrought of ages legendary
Hides usward thine impenetrable sleep,
And thy veiled head, night's oldest tributary,
We know not if it speak or smile or weep.
But where for us began
The first live light of man
And first-born fire of deeds to burn and leap,
The first war fair as peace
To shine and lighten Greece,
And the first freedom moved upon the deep,
God's breath upon the face of time
Moving, a present spirit, seen of men sublime;
There where our east looks always to thy west,
Our mornings to thine evenings, Greece to thee,
These lights that catch the mountains crest by crest,
Are they of stars or beacons that we see?
Taygetus takes here the winds abreast,
And there the sun resumes Thermopylae;
The light is Athens where those remnants rest,
And Salamis the sea-wall of that sea.
The grass men tread upon
Is very Marathon,
The leaves are of that time-unstricken tree
That storm nor sun can fret
Nor wind, since she that set
Made it her sign to men whose shield was she;
Here, as dead time his deathless things,
Eurotas and Cephisus keep their sleepless springs.
O hills of Crete, are these things dead? O waves,
O many-mouthed streams, are these springs dry?
Earth, dost thou feed and hide now none but slaves?
Heaven, hast thou heard of men that would not die?
Is the land thick with only such men's graves
As were ashamed to look upon the sky?
Ye dead, whose name outfaces and outbraves
Death, is the seed of such as you gone by?
Sea, have thy ports not heard
Some Marathonian word
Rise up to landward and to Godward fly?
No thunder, that the skies
Sent not upon us, rise
With fire and earthquake and a cleaving cry?
Nay, light is here, and shall be light,
Though all the face of the hour be overborne with night.
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken northward; the pale plains
And footless fields of sun-forgotten snow
Feel through their creviced lips and iron veins
Such quick breath labour and such clean blood flow
As summer-stricken spring feels in her pains
When dying May bears June, too young to know
The fruit that waxes from the flower that wanes;
Strange tyrannies and vast,
Tribes frost-bound to their past,
Lands that are loud all through their length with chains,
Wastes where the wind's wings break,
Displumed by daylong ache
And anguish of blind snows and rack-blown rains,
And ice that seals the White Sea's lips,
Whose monstrous weights crush flat the sides of shrieking ships;
Horrible sights and sounds of the unreached pole,
And shrill fierce climes of inconsolable air,
Shining below the beamless aureole
That hangs about the north-wind's hurtling hair,
A comet-lighted lamp, sublime and sole
Dawn of the dayless heaven where suns despair;
Earth, skies, and waters, smitten into soul,
Feel the hard veil that iron centuries wear
Rent as with hands in sunder,
Such hands as make the thunder
And clothe with form all substance and strip bare;
Shapes, shadows, sounds and lights
Of their dead days and nights
Take soul of life too keen for death to bear;
Life, conscience, forethought, will, desire,
Flood men's inanimate eyes and dry-drawn hearts with fire.
Light, light, and light! to break and melt in sunder
All clouds and chains that in one bondage bind
Eyes, hands, and spirits, forged by fear and wonder
And sleek fierce fraud with hidden knife behind;
There goes no fire from heaven before their thunder,
Nor are the links not malleable that wind
Round the snared limbs and souls that ache thereunder;
The hands are mighty, were the head not blind.
Priest is the staff of king,
And chains and clouds one thing,
And fettered flesh with devastated mind.
Open thy soul to see,
Slave, and thy feet are free;
Thy bonds and thy beliefs are one in kind,
And of thy fears thine irons wrought
Hang weights upon thee fashioned out of thine own thought.
O soul, O God, O glory of liberty,
To night and day their lightning and their light!
With heat of heart thou kindlest the quick sea,
And the dead earth takes spirit from thy sight;
The natural body of things is warm with thee,
And the world's weakness parcel of thy might;
Thou seest us feeble and forceless, fit to be
Slaves of the years that drive us left and right,
Drowned under hours like waves
Wherethrough we row like slaves;
But if thy finger touch us, these take flight.
If but one sovereign word
Of thy live lips be heard,
What man shall stop us, and what God shall smite?
Do thou but look in our dead eyes,
They are stars that light each other till thy sundawn rise.
Thou art the eye of this blind body of man,
The tongue of this dumb people; shalt thou not
See, shalt thou speak not for them?
Time is wan And hope is weak with waiting, and swift thought
Hath lost the wings at heel wherewith he ran,
And on the red pit's edge sits down distraught
To talk with death of days republican
And dreams and fights long since dreamt out and fought;
Of the last hope that drew
To that red edge anew
The firewhite faith of Poland without spot;
Of the blind Russian might,
And fire that is not light;
Of the green Rhineland where thy spirit wrought;
But though time, hope, and memory tire,
Canst thou wax dark as they do, thou whose light is fire?
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken westward; the wide sea
That makes immortal motion to and fro
From world's end unto world's end, and shall be
When nought now grafted of men's hands shall grow
And as the weed in last year's waves are we
Or spray the sea-wind shook a year ago
From its sharp tresses down the storm to lee,
The moving god that hides
Time in its timeless tides
Wherein time dead seems live eternity,
That breaks and makes again
Much mightier things than men,
Doth it not hear change coming, or not see?
Are the deeps deaf and dead and blind,
To catch no light or sound from landward of mankind?
O thou, clothed round with raiment of white waves,
Thy brave brows lightening through the grey wet air,
Thou, lulled with sea-sounds of a thousand caves,
And lit with sea-shine to thine inland lair,
Whose freedom clothed the naked souls of slaves
And stripped the muffled souls of tyrants bare,
O, by the centuries of thy glorious graves,
By the live light of the earth that was thy care,
Live, thou must not be dead,
Live; let thine armed head
Lift itself up to sunward and the fair
Daylight of time and man,
Thine head republican,
With the same splendour on thine helmless hair
That in his eyes kept up a light
Who on thy glory gazed away their sacred sight;
Who loved and looked their sense to death on thee;
Who taught thy lips imperishable things,
And in thine ears outsang thy singing sea;
Who made thy foot firm on the necks of kings
And thy soul somewhile steadfast--woe are we
It was but for a while, and all the strings
Were broken of thy spirit; yet had he
Set to such tunes and clothed it with such wings
It seemed for his sole sake
Impossible to break,
And woundless of the worm that waits and stings,
The golden-headed worm
Made headless for a term,
The king-snake whose life kindles with the spring's,
To breathe his soul upon her bloom,
And while she marks not turn her temple to her tomb.
By those eyes blinded and that heavenly head
And the secluded soul adorable,
O Milton's land, what ails thee to be dead?
Thine ears are yet sonorous with his shell
That all the songs of all thy sea-line fed
With motive sound of spring-tides at mid swell,
And through thine heart his thought as blood is shed,
Requickening thee with wisdom to do well;
Such sons were of thy womb,
England, for love of whom
Thy name is not yet writ with theirs that fell,
But, till thou quite forget
What were thy children, yet
On the pale lips of hope is as a spell;
And Shelley's heart and Landor's mind
Lit thee with latter watch-fires; why wilt thou be blind?
Though all were else indifferent, all that live
Spiritless shapes of nations; though time wait
In vain on hope till these have help to give,
And faith and love crawl famished from the gate;
Canst thou sit shamed and self-contemplative
With soulless eyes on thy secluded fate?
Though time forgive them, thee shall he forgive,
Whose choice was in thine hand to be so great?
Who cast out of thy mind
The passion of man's kind,
And made thee and thine old name separate?
Now when time looks to see
New names and old and thee
Build up our one Republic state by state,
England with France, and France with Spain,
And Spain with sovereign Italy strike hands and reign.
O known and unknown fountain-heads that fill
Our dear life-springs of England! O bright race
Of streams and waters that bear witness still
To the earth her sons were made of! O fair face
Of England, watched of eyes death cannot kill,
How should the soul that lit you for a space
Fall through sick weakness of a broken will
To the dead cold damnation of disgrace?
Such wind of memory stirs
On all green hills of hers,
Such breath of record from so high a place,
From years whose tongues of flame
Prophesied in her name
Her feet should keep truth's bright and burning trace,
We needs must have her heart with us,
Whose hearts are one with man's; she must be dead or thus.
Who is against us? who is on our side?
Whose heart of all men's hearts is one with man's?
Where art thou that wast prophetess and bride,
When truth and thou trod under time and chance?
What latter light of what new hope shall guide
Out of the snares of hell thy feet, O France?
What heel shall bruise these heads that hiss and glide,
What wind blow out these fen-born fires that dance
Before thee to thy death?
No light, no life, no breath,
From thy dead eyes and lips shall take the trance,
Till on that deadliest crime
Reddening the feet of time
Who treads through blood and passes, time shall glance
Pardon, and Italy forgive,
And Rome arise up whom thou slewest, and bid thee live.
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken southward; the springs run,
The daysprings and the watersprings that flow
Forth with one will from where their source was one,
Out of the might of morning: high and low,
The hungering hills feed full upon the sun,
The thirsting valleys drink of him and glow
As a heart burns with some divine thing done,
Or as blood burns again
In the bruised heart of Spain,
A rose renewed with red new life begun,
Dragged down with thorns and briers,
That puts forth buds like fires
Till the whole tree take flower in unison,
And prince that clogs and priest that clings
Be cast as weeds upon the dunghill of dead things.
Ah heaven, bow down, be nearer! This is she,
Italia, the world's wonder, the world's care,
Free in her heart ere quite her hands be free,
And lovelier than her loveliest robe of air.
The earth hath voice, and speech is in the sea,
Sounds of great joy, too beautiful to bear;
All things are glad because of her, but we
Most glad, who loved her when the worst days were.
O sweetest, fairest, first,
O flower, when times were worst,
Thou hadst no stripe wherein we had no share.
Have not our hearts held close,
Kept fast the whole world's rose?
Have we not worn thee at heart whom none would wear?
First love and last love, light of lands,
Shall we not touch thee full-blown with our lips and hands?
O too much loved, what shall we say of thee?
What shall we make of our heart's burning fire,
The passion in our lives that fain would be
Made each a brand to pile into the pyre
That shall burn up thy foemen, and set free
The flame whence thy sun-shadowing wings aspire?
Love of our life, what more than men are we,
That this our breath for thy sake should expire,
For whom to joyous death
Glad gods might yield their breath,
Great gods drop down from heaven to serve for hire?
We are but men, are we,
And thou art Italy;
What shall we do for thee with our desire?
What gift shall we deserve to give?
How shall we die to do thee service, or how live?
The very thought in us how much we love thee
Makes the throat sob with love and blinds the eyes.
How should love bear thee, to behold above thee
His own light burning from reverberate skies?
They give thee light, but the light given them of thee
Makes faint the wheeling fires that fall and rise.
What love, what life, what death of man's should move thee,
What face that lingers or what foot that flies?
It is not heaven that lights
Thee with such days and nights,
But thou that heaven is lit from in such wise.
O thou her dearest birth,
Turn thee to lighten earth,
Earth too that bore thee and yearns to thee and cries;
Stand up, shine, lighten, become flame,
Till as the sun's name through all nations be thy name.
I take the trumpet from my lips and sing.
O life immeasurable and imminent love,
And fear like winter leading hope like spring,
Whose flower-bright brows the day-star sits above,
Whose hand unweariable and untiring wing
Strike music from a world that wailed and strove,
Each bright soul born and every glorious thing,
From very freedom to man's joy thereof,
O time, O change and death,
Whose now not hateful breath
But gives the music swifter feet to move
Through sharp remeasuring tones
Of refluent antiphones
More tender-tuned than heart or throat of dove,
Soul into soul, song into song,
Life changing into life, by laws that work not wrong;
O natural force in spirit and sense, that art
One thing in all things, fruit of thine own fruit,
O thought illimitable and infinite heart
Whose blood is life in limbs indissolute
That still keeps hurtless thine invisible part
And inextirpable thy viewless root
Whence all sweet shafts of green and each thy dart
Of sharpening leaf and bud resundering shoot;
Hills that the day-star hails,
Heights that the first beam scales,
And heights that souls outshining suns salute,
Valleys for each mouth born
Free now of plenteous corn,
Waters and woodlands' musical or mute;
Free winds that brighten brows as free,
And thunder and laughter and lightning of the sovereign sea;
Rivers and springs, and storms that seek your prey;
With strong wings ravening through the skies by night;
Spirits and stars that hold one choral way;
O light of heaven, and thou the heavenlier light
Aflame above the souls of men that sway
All generations of all years with might;
O sunrise of the repossessing day,
And sunrise of all-renovating right;
And thou, whose trackless foot
Mocks hope's or fear's pursuit,
Swift Revolution, changing depth with height;
And thou, whose mouth makes one
All songs that seek the sun,
Serene Republic of a world made white;
Thou, Freedom, whence the soul's springs ran;
Praise earth for man's sake living, and for earth's sake man.
Make yourselves wings, O tarrying feet of fate,
And hidden hour that hast our hope to bear,
A child-god, through the morning-coloured gate
That lets love in upon the golden air,
Dead on whose threshold lies heart-broken hate,
Dead discord, dead injustice, dead despair;
O love long looked for, wherefore wilt thou wait,
And shew not yet the dawn on thy bright hair.
Not yet thine hand released
Refreshing the faint east,
Thine hand reconquering heaven, to seat man there?
Come forth, be born and live,
Thou that hast help to give
And light to make man's day of manhood fair:
With flight outflying the sphered sun,
Hasten thine hour and halt not, till thy work be done.
The Lady Of La Garaye - Part IV
SILENT old gateway! whose two columns stand
Like simple monuments on either hand;
No trellised iron-work, with pleasant view
Of trim-set flowery gardens shining through;
No bolts to bar unasked intruders out;
No well-oiled hinge whose sound, like one low note
Of music, tells the listening hearts that yearn,
Expectant of dear footsteps, where to turn;
No ponderous bell whose loud vociferous tone
Into the rose-decked lodge hath echoing gone,
Bringing the porter forth with brief delay,
To spread those iron wings that check the way;
Nothing but ivy-leaves, and crumbling stone;
Silent old gateway,--even thy life is gone!
But ere those columns, lost in ivvied shade,
Black on the midnight sky their forms portrayed;
And ere thy gate, by damp weeds overtopped,
Swayed from its rusty fastenings and then dropped,--
When it stood portal to a living home,
And saw the living faces go and come,
What various minds, and in what various moods,
Crossed the fair paths of these sweet solitudes!
Old gateway, thou hast witnessed times of mirth,
When light the hunter's gallop beat the earth;
When thy quick wakened echo could but know
Laughter and happy voices, and the flow
Of jocund spirits, when the pleasant sight
Of broidered dresses (careless youth's delight,)
Trooped by at sunny morn, and back at falling night.
And thou hast witnessed triumph,--when the Bride
Passed through,--the stately Bridegroom at her side;
The village maidens scattering many a flower,
Bright as the bloom of living beauty's dower,
With cheers and shouts that bid the soft tears rise
Of joy exultant, in her downcast eyes.
And thou hadst gloom, when,--fallen from beauty's state,--
Her mournful litter rustled through the gate,
And the wind waved its branches as she past,--
And the dishevelled curls around her cast,
Rose on that breeze and kissed, before they fell,
The iron scroll-work with a wild farewell!
And thou hast heard sad dirges chanted low,
And sobbings loud from those who saw with woe
The feet borne forward by a funeral train,
Which homeward never might return again,
Nor in the silence of the frozen nights
Reclaim that dwelling and its lost delights;
But lowly lie, however wild love's yearning,
The dust that clothed them, unto dust returning.
Through thee, how often hath been borne away
Man's share of dual life--the senseless clay!
Through thee how oft hath hastened, glad and bold,
God's share--the eager spirit in that mould;
But neither life nor death hath left a trace
On the strange silence of that vacant place.
Not vacant in the day of which I write!
Then rose thy pillared columns fair and white;
Then floated out the odorous pleasant scent
Of cultured shrubs and flowers together blent,
And o'er the trim-kept gravel's tawny hue
Warm fell the shadows and the brightness too.
Count Claud is at the gate, but not alone:
Who is his friend?
They pass, and both are gone.
Gone, by the bright warm path, to those sad halls
Where now his slackened step in sadness falls;
Sadness of every day and all day long,
Spite of the summer glow and wild bird's song.
Who is that slow-paced Priest to whom he bows
Courteous precedence, as he sighing shows
The oriel window where his Gertrude dwells,
And all her mournful story briefly tells?
Who is that friend whose hand with gentle clasp
Answers his own young agonizing grasp,
And looks upon his burst of passionate tears
With calmer grieving of maturer years?
Oh! well round that friend's footsteps might be breathed
The blessing which the Italian poet wreathed
Into a garland gay of graceful words,
As full of music as a lute's low chords;
'Blessed be the year, the time, the day, the hour,'
When He passed through those gates, whose gentle power
Lifted with ministrant zeal the leaden grief,
Probed the soul's festering wounds and brought relief,
And taught the sore vexed spirits where to find
Balm that could heal, and thoughts that cheered the mind.
Prior of Benedictines, did thy prayers
Bring down a blessing on them unawares,
While yet their faces were to thee unknown,
And thou wert kneeling in thy cell alone,
Where thy meek litanies went up to Heaven,
That ALL who suffered might have comfort given,
And thy heart yearned for all thy fellow-men,
Smitten with sorrows far beyond thy ken?
He sits by Gertrude's couch, and patient listens
To her wild grieving voice;--his dark eye glistens
With tearful sympathy for that young wife,
Telling the torture of her broken life;
And when he answers her she seems to know
The peace of resting by a river's flow.
Tender his words, and eloquently wise;
Mild the pure fervour of his watchful eyes;
Meek with serenity of constant prayer
The luminous forehead, high and broad and bare;
The thin mouth, though not passionless, yet still;
With a sweet calm that speaks an angel's will,
Resolving service to his God's behest,
And ever musing how to serve Him best.
Not old, nor young; with manhood's gentlest grace;
Pale to transparency the pensive face,
Pale not with sickness, but with studious thought,
The body tasked, the fine mind overwrought;
With something faint and fragile in the whole,
As though 'twere but a lamp to hold a soul.
Such was the friend who came to La Garaye,
And Claud and Gertrude lived to bless the day!
There is a love that hath not lover's wooing,
Love's wild caprices, nor love's hot pursuing;
But yet a clinging and persistent love,
Tenderly binding, most unapt to rove;
As full of fervent and adoring dreams,
As the more gross and earthlier passion seems,
But far more single-hearted; from its birth,
With humblest notions of unequal worth!
Guided and guidable; with thankful trust;
Timid, lest all complaint should be unjust;
Circling,--a lesser orb,--around its star
With tributary love, that dare not war.
Such is the love which aged men inspire;
Priests, whose pure hearts are full of sacred fire;
And friends of dear friends dead,--whom trembling we admire.
A touch of mystery lights the rising morn
Of love for those who lived ere we were born;
Whose eyes the eyes of ancestors have seen;
Whose voice hath answered voices that have been;
Whose words show wisdom gleaned in days gone by,
As glory flushes from a sunset sky.
Our judgment leans upon them, feeling weak;
Our hearts lift yearning towards them as they speak,
And silently we listen, lest we lose
Some teaching truth, and benefits refuse.
With such a love did Gertrude learn to greet
The gentle Prior; whose slow-pacing feet
Each day of her sad life made welcome sound
Across the bright path of her garden ground.
And ere the golden summer past away,
And leaves were yellowing with a pale decay;
Ere, drenched by sweeping storms of autumn rain,
In turbulent billows lay the beaten grain;
Ere Breton orchards, ripening, turned to red
All the green freshness which the spring-time shed,
Mocking the glory which the sunset fills
With stripes of crimson o'er the painted hills,--
Her thoughts submitted to his thoughts' control,
As 'twere an elder brother of her soul.
Well she remembered how that soul was stirred,
By the rebuking of his gentle word,
When in her faltering tones complaint was given,
'What had I done; to earn such fate from Heaven?'
'Oh, Lady! here thou liest, with all that wealth
Or love can do to cheer thee back to health;
With books that woo the fancies of thy brain,
To happier thoughts than brooding over pain;
With light, with flowers, with freshness, and with food,
Dainty and chosen, fit for sickly mood:
With easy couches for thy languid frame,
Bringing real rest, and not the empty name;
And silent nights, and soothed and comforted days;
And Nature's beauty spread before thy gaze:--
'What have the Poor done, who instead of these
Suffer in foulest rags each dire disease,
Creep on the earth, and lean against the stones,
When some disjointing torture racks their bones;
And groan and grope throughout the wearying night,
Denied the rich man's easy luxury,--light?
What has the Babe done,--who, with tender eyes,
Blinks at the world a little while, and dies;
Having first stretched, in wild convulsive leaps,
His fragile limbs, which ceaseless suffering keeps
In ceaseless motion, till the hour when death
Clenches his little heart, and stops his breath?
What has the Idiot done, whose half-formed soul
Scarce knows the seasons as they onward roll;
Who flees with gibbering cries, and bleeding feet,
From idle boys who pelt him in the street!
What have the fair girls done, whose early bloom
Wasting like flowers that pierce some creviced tomb,
Plants that have only known a settled shade,
Lives that for others' uses have been made,--
Toil on from morn to night, from night to morn,
For those chance pets of Fate, the wealthy born;
Bound not to murmur, and bound not to sin,
However bitter be the bread they win?
What hath the Slandered done, who vainly strives
To set his life among untarnished lives?
Whose bitter cry for justice only fills
The myriad echoes lost among life's hills;
Who hears for evermore the self-same lie
Clank clog-like at his heel when he would try
To climb above the loathly creeping things
Whose venom poisons, and whose fury stings,
And so slides back; for ever doomed to hear
The old witch, Malice, hiss with serpent leer
The old hard falsehood to the old bad end,
Helped, it may be, by some traducing friend,
Or one rocked with him on one mother's breast,--
Learned in the art of where to smite him best.
'What we must suffer, proves not what was done:
So taught the God of Heaven's anointed Son,
Touching the blind man's eyes amid a crowd
Of ignorant seething hearts who cried aloud
The blind, or else his parents, had offended;
That was Man's preaching; God that preaching mended.
But whatsoe'er we suffer, being still
Fixed and appointed by the heavenly will,
Behoves us bear with patience as we may
The Potter's moulding of our helpless clay.
Much, Lady, hath He taken, but He leaves
What outweighs all for which thy spirit grieves;
No greater gift lies even in God's control
Than the large love that fills a human soul.
If taking that, He left thee all the rest,
Would not vain anguish wring thy pining breast?
If, taking all, that dear love yet remains,
Hath it not balm for all thy bitter pains?
'Oh, Lady! there are lonely deaths that make
The heart that thinks upon them burn and ache;
And such I witnessed on the purple shore
Where scorched Vesuvius rears his summit hoar,
And Joan's gaunt palace, with its skull-like eyes,
And barbarous and cruel memories,
For ever sees the blue wave lap its feet,
And the white glancing of the fishers' fleet.
The death of the FORSAKEN! lone he lies,
His sultry noon, fretted by slow black flies,
That settle on pale cheek and quivering brow
With a soft torment. The increasing glow
Brings the full shock of day; the hot air grows
Impure alike from action and repose;
Bruised fruit, and faded flowers, and dung and dust,
The rich man's stew-pan, and the beggar's crust,
Poison the faint lips opening hot and dry,
Loathing the plague they breathe with gasping sigh,
The thick oppression of its stifling heat,
The busy murmur of the swarming street,
The roll of chariots and the rush of feet;
With the tormenting music's nasal twang
Distorting melodies his loved ones sang!
'Then comes a change--not silence, but less sound,
Less echo of hard footsteps on the ground,
Less rolling thunder of vociferous words,
As though the clang struck out in crashing chords
Fell into single notes, that promise rest
To the wild fever of the labouring breast.
'Last cometh on the night--the hot, bad night,
With less of all--of heat, of dust, of light;
And leaves him watching, with a helpless stare,--
The theme of no one's hope and no one's care!
The cresset lamp, that stands so grim and tall,
Widens and wavers on the upper wall;
And calming down from day's perpetual storm
His thoughts' dark chaos takes some certain form,
And he begins to pine for joys long lost,
Or hopes unrealized;--till bruised and tost
He sends his soul vain journeys through the gloom
For radiant eyes that should have wept his doom.
Then clasps his hands in prayer, and for a time,
Gives aspirations unto things sublime:
But sinking to some speck of sorrow found,
Some point which, like a little festering wound,
Holds all his share of pain,--he gazes round,
Seeking some vanished form, some hand whose touch
Would almost cure him; and he yearns so much,
That passionate painful sobs his breathing choke,
And the thin bubble of his dream hath broke!
'So, still again; and all alone again;
Not even a vision present with his pain.
The hot real round him; the forsaken bed;
The tumbled pillow, and the restless head.
The drink so near his couch, and yet too far
For feeble hands to reach; the cold fine star
That glitters through the unblinded window-pane,
And with slow gliding leaves it blank again;
Till morning flushing through the world once more,
Brings the dull likeness of the day before,--
The first vague freshness of new wings unfurled,
As though Hope lighted, somewhere, in the world;
The heat of noon; the fading down of light;
The glimmering evening, and the restless night.
And then again the morning; and the noon;
The evening and the morning;--till a boon
Of double weakness sinks him, and he knows
One or two other days shall end his woes:
One or two mournful evenings, glimmering grey,
One or two hopeless risings of new day.
One or two noons too weak to brush off flies,
One or two nights of flickering feeble sighs,
One or two shivering breaks of helpless tears,
One or two yearnings for forgotten years,--
And then the end of all, then the great change,
When the freed soul, let loose at length to range,
Leaves the imprisoning and imprisoned clay,
And soars far out of reach of sorrow and decay!'
Then Claud, who watched the faint and pitying flush
Tint her transparent cheek; with sudden gush
Of manly ardour, spoke of soldier deaths;
Of scattered slain who lay on cold bleak heaths:
Of prisoners pining for their native land
After the battle's vain and desperate stand;
Brave hearts in dungeons,--rusting like their swords;
And wounded men,--midst whom the rifling hordes
Of spoil-desiring searchers crept and smote,--
Who vainly heard the rallying bugle's note,
Or the quick march of their companions pass;
Sunk, dumb and dying, on the trampled grass.
Then also, the meek anxious Prior told
Of war's worst horrors,--when in freezing cold,
Or in the torrid heat, men lay and groaned,
With none to hear or heed them when they moaned;
Or, with half-help,--borne in a comrade's arms
To where, all huddled up in feverish swarms,
The dying numbers mocked the scanty skill
Of wearied surgeons,--crowding, crowding still,
With different small degrees of lingering breath,
Asking for instant aid, or choked in death.
Order, and cleanliness, and thought, and care,
The hush of quiet, or the sound of prayer,
These things were not:--nor, from the exhausted store,
Medicines and balms, to help the troubling sore;
Nor soft cool lint, like dew on parched-up ground,
Clothing the weary, burning, festering wound;
Nor delicate linen; nor fresh cooling drinks
To woo the fever-cracking lip which shrinks
Even from such solace; nor the presence blest
Of holy women watching broken rest,
And gliding past them through the wakeful night,
Like her whose Shadow made the soldier's light.
And as the three discoursed of things like these,
Sweet Gertrude felt her mind grow ill at ease.
The words of Claud,--that God took what was given
To teach their hearts to turn from earth to heaven;
The Prior's words, of tender mild appeal,
Teaching her how for others' woes to feel;
Weighed on her heart; till all the past life seemed
Thankless and thoughtless: and the lady dreamed
Of succour to the helpless, and of deeds
Pious and merciful, whose beauty breeds
Good deeds in others, copying what is done,
And ending all by earnest thought begun.
Nor idly dreamed. Where once the shifting throng
Of merry playmates met, with dance and song,--
Long rows of simple beds the place proclaim
A Hospital, in all things but the name.
In that same castle where the lavish feast
Lay spread, that fatal night, for many a guest,
The sickly poor are fed! Beneath that porch
Where Claud shed tears that seemed the lids to scorch,
Seeing her broken beauty carried by
Like a crushed flower that now has but to die,
The self-same Claud now stands and helps to guide
Some ragged wretch to rest and warmth inside.
But most to those, the hopeless ones, on whom
Early or late her own sad spoken doom,
Hath been pronounced; the Incurables; she spends
Her lavish pity, and their couch attends.
Her home is made their home; her wealth their dole;
Her busy courtyard hears no more the roll
Of gilded vehicles, or pawing steeds,
But feeble steps of those whose bitter needs
Are their sole passport. Through that gateway press
All varying forms of sickness and distress,
And many a poor worn face that hath not smiled
For years,--and many a feebled crippled child,--
Blesses the tall white portal where they stand,
And the dear Lady of the liberal hand.
Not in a day such happy change was brought;
Not in a day the works of mercy wrought:
But in God's gradual time. As Winter's chain
Melts from the earth and leaves it green again:
As the fresh bud a crimsoning beauty shows
From the black briars of a last year's rose:
So the full season of her love matures,
And her one illness breeds a thousand cures.
Her soft eyes looking into other eyes,
Bleared, and defaced to blinding cavities,
Weary not in their task; nor turn away
With a sick loathing from their glimmering ray.
Her small white comforting hand,--no longer hid
In pearl-embroidered gauntlet,--lifts the lid
Outworn with labour in the bitter fields,
And with a tender skill some healing yields;
Bathes the swoln redness,--shades unwelcome light;--
And into morning turns their threatening night.
And Claud, her eager Claud, with fervent heart,
Earnest in all things, nobly does his part;
His high intelligence hath mastered much
That baffled science: with a surgeon's touch
He treats,--himself,--the hurts from many a wound,
And, by deep study, novel cures hath found.
But good and frank and simple he remains,
Though a King's notice lauds successful pains;
And, echoing through his grateful country, fame
Sends to far nations noble Garaye's name.
Oh! loved and reverenced long that name shall be,
Though, crumbled on the soil of Brittany,
No stone, at last, of that pale Ruin shows
Where stood the gateway of his joys and woes.
For, in the Breton town, the good deeds done
Yield a fresh harvest still, from sire to son:
Still thrives the noble Hospital that gave
Shelter to those whom none from pain could save;
Still to the schools the ancient chiming clock
Calls the poor yeanlings of a simple flock:
Still the calm Refuge for the fallen and lost
(Whom love a blight and not a blessing crost,)
Sends out a voice to woo the grieving breast,--
Come unto me, ye weary, and find rest!
And still the gentle nurses,--vowed to give
Their aid to all who suffer and yet live,--
Go forth in show-white cap and sable gown,
Tending the sick and hungry in the town,
And show dim pictures on their quiet walls
Of those who dwelt in Garaye's ruined halls!
The Lady Of La Garaye - Part II
A FIRST walk after sickness: the sweet breeze
That murmurs welcome in the bending trees,
When the cold shadowy foe of life departs,
And the warm blood flows freely through our hearts:
The smell of roses,--sound of trickling streams,
The elastic turf cross-barred with golden gleams,
That seems to lift, and meet our faltering tread;
The happy birds, loud singing overhead;
The glorious range of distant shade and light,
In blue perspective, rapturous to our sight,
Weary of draperied curtains folding round,
And the monotonous chamber's narrow bound;
With,--best of all,--the consciousness at length,
In every nerve of sure returning strength:--
Long the dream stayed to cheer that darkened room,
That this should be the end of all that gloom!
Long, as the vacant life trained idly by,
She pressed her pillow with a restless sigh,--
'To-morrow, surely, I shall stronger feel!'
To-morrow! but the slow days onward steal,
And find her still with feverish aching head,
Still cramped with pain; still lingering in her bed;
Still sighing out the tedium of the time;
Still listening to the clock's recurring chime,
As though the very hours that struck were foes,
And might, but would not, grant complete respose.
Until the skilled physician,--sadly bold
From frequent questioning,--her sentence told!
That no good end could come to her faint yearning,--
That no bright hour should see her health returning,--
That changeful seasons,--not for one dark year,
But on through life,--must teach her how to bear:
For through all Springs, with rainbow-tinted showers,
And through all Summers, with their wealth of flowers,
And every Autumn, with its harvest-home,
And all white Winters of the time to come,--
Crooked and sick for ever she must be:
Her life of wild activity and glee
Was with the past, the future was a life
Dismal and feeble; full of suffering; rife
With chill denials of accustomed joy,
Continual torment, and obscure annoy.
Blighted in all her bloom,--her withered frame
Must now inherit age; young but in name.
Never could she, at close of some long day
Of pain that strove with hope, exulting lay
A tiny new-born infant on her breast,
And, in the soft lamp's glimmer, sink to rest,
The strange corporeal weakness sweetly blent
With a delicious dream of full content;
With pride of motherhood, and thankful prayers,
And a confused glad sense of novel cares,
And peeps into the future brightly given,
As though her babe's blue eyes turned earth to heaven!
Never again could she, when Claud returned
After brief absence, and her fond heart yearned
To see his earnest eyes, with upward glancing,
Greet her known windows, even while yet advancing,--
Fly with light footsteps down the great hall-stair,
And give him welcome in the open air
As though she were too glad to see him come,
To wait till he should enter happy home,
And there, quick-breathing, glowing, sparkling stand,
His arm round her slim waist; hand locked in hand;
The mutual kiss exchanged of happy greeting,
That needs no secrecy of lovers' meeting;
While, giving welcome also in their way,
Her dogs barked rustling round him, wild with play;
And voices called, and hasty steps replied,
And the sleek fiery steed was led aside,
And the grey seneschal came forth and smiled,
Who held him in his arms while yet a child;
And cheery jinglings from unfastened doors,
And vaulted echoes through long corridors,
And distant bells that thrill along the wires,
And stir of logs that heap up autumn fires,
Crowned the glad eager bustle that makes known
The Master's step is on his threshold-stone!
Never again those rides so gladly shared,
So much enjoyed,--in which so much was dared
To prove no peril from the gate or brook,--
Need bring the shadow of an anxious look,
To mar the pleasant ray of proud surprise
That shone from out those dear protecting eyes.
No more swift hurrying through the summer rain,
That showered light silver on the freshened plain,
Hung on the tassels of the hazel bough,
And plashed the azure of the river's flow.
No more glad climbing of the mountain height,
From whence a map, drawn out in lines of light,
Showed dotting villages, and distant spires,
And the red rows of metal-burning fires,
And purple covering woods, within which stand
White mansions of the nobles of the land.
No more sweet wanderings far from tread of men,
In the deep thickets of the sunny glen,
To see the vanished Spring bud forth again;
Its well remembered tufts of primrose set
Among the sheltered banks of violet;
Or in thatched summer-houses sit and dream,
Through gurgling gushes of the woodland stream;
Then, rested rise, and by the sunset ray
Saunter at will along the homeward way;
Pausing at each delight,--the singing loud
Of some sweet thrush, e'er lingering eve be done;
Or the pink shining of some casual cloud
That blushes deeper as it nears the sun.
The rough woodpath; the little rocky burn;
Nothing of this can ever now return.
The life of joy is over: what is left
Is a half life; a life of strength bereft;
The body broken from the yearning soul,
Never again to make a perfect whole!
Helpless desires, and cravings unfulfilled;
Bitter regret, in stormy weepings stilled;
Strivings whose easy effort used to bless,
Grown full of danger and sharp weariness;
This is the life whose dreadful dawn must rise
When the night lifts, within whose gloom she lies:
Hope, on whose lingering help she leaned so late,
Struck from her clinging by the sword of fate--
That wild word NEVER, to her shrinking gaze,
Seems written on the wall in fiery rays.
Never!--our helpless changeful natures shrink
Before that word as from the grave's cold brink!
Set us a term whereto we must endure,
And you shall find our crown of patience sure;
But the irrevocable smites us down;--
Helpless we lie before the eternal frown;
Waters of Marah whelm the blinded soul,
Stifle the heart, and drown our self-control.
So, when she heard the grave physician speak,
Horror crept through her veins, who, faint and weak,
And tortured by all motion, yet had lain
With a meek cheerfulness that conquered pain,
Hoping,--till that dark hour. Give back the hope,
Though years rise sad with intervening scope!
Scarce can those radiant eyes with sickly stare
Yet comprehend that sentence of despair:
Crooked and sick for ever! Crooked and sick!
She, in whose veins the passionate blood ran quick
As leaps the rivulet from the mountain height,
That dances rippling into Summer light;
She, in whose cheek the rich bloom always stayed,
And only deepened to a lovelier shade;
She, whose fleet limbs no exercise could tire,
When wild hill-climbing wooed her spirit higher!
Knell not above her bed this funeral chime;
Bid her be prisoner for a certain time;
Tell her blank years must waste in that changed home,
But not for ever,--not for life to come;
Let infinite torture be her daily guest,
But set a term beyond which shall be rest.
In vain! she sees that trembling fountain rise,
Tears of compassion in an old man's eyes;
And in low pitying tones, again he tells
The doom that sounds to her like funeral bells.
Long on his face her wistful gaze she kept;
Then dropped her head, and wildly moaned and wept;
Shivering through every limb, as lightning thought
Smote her with all the endless ruin wrought.
Never to be a mother! Never give
Another life beyond her own to live,
Never to see her husband bless their child,
Thinking (dear blessèd thought!) like him it smiled:
Never again with Claud to walk or ride,
Partake his pleasures with a playful pride,
But cease from all companionship so shared,
And only have the hours his pity spared.
His pity--ah! his pity, would it prove
As warm and lasting as admiring love?
Or would her petty joys' late-spoken doom
Carry the great joy with them to joy's tomb?
Would all the hopes of life at once take wing?
The thought went through her with a secret sting,
And she repeated, with a moaning cry,
'Better to die, O God! 'Twere best to die!'
But we die not by wishing; in God's hour,
And not our own, do we yield up the power
To suffer or enjoy. The broken heart
Creeps through the world, encumbered by its clay;
While dearly loved and cherished ones depart,
Though prayer and sore lamenting clog their way.
She lived: she left that sick room, and was brought
Into the scenes of customary thought:
The banquet-room, where lonely sunshine slept,
Saw her sweet eyes look round before she wept;
The garden heard the slow wheels of her chair,
When noon-day heat had warmed the untried air;
The pictures she had smiled upon for years,
Met her gaze trembling through a mist of tears;
Her favourite dog, his long unspoken name
Hearing once more, with timid fawning came;
It seemed as if all things partook her blight,
And sank in shadow like a spell of night.
And she saw Claud,--Claud in the open day,
Who through dim sunsets, curtained half away,
And by the dawn, and by the lamp's pale ray
So long had watched her!
And Claud also saw,
That beauty which was once without a flaw;
And flushed,--but strove to hide the sense of shock,--
The feelings that some witchcraft seemed to mock.
Are those her eyes, those eyes so full of pain?
Her restless looks that hunt for ease in vain?
Is that her step, that halt uneven tread?
Is that her blooming cheek, so pale and dead?
Is that,--the querulous anxious mind that tells
Its little ills, and on each ailment dwells,--
The spirit alert which early morning stirred
Even as it rouses every gladsome bird,
Whose chorus of irregular music goes
Up with the dew that leaves the sun-touched rose?
Oh! altered, altered; even the smile is gone,
Which, like a sunbeam, once exulting shone!
Smiles have returned; but not the smiles of yore;
The joy, the youth, the triumph, are no more.
An anxious smile remains, that disconnects
Smiling from gladness; one that more dejects,
Than floods of passionate weeping, for it tries
To contradict the question of our eyes:
We say, 'Thou'rt pained, poor heart, and full of woe?'
It drops that shining veil, and answers 'No;'
Shrinks from the touch of unaccepted hands,
And while it grieves, a show of joy commands.
Wan shine such smiles;--as evening sunlight falls
On a deserted house whose empty walls
No longer echo to the children's play
Or voice of ruined inmates fled away;
Where wintry winds alone, with idle state,
Move the slow swinging of its rusty gate.
But something sadder even than her pain
Torments her now; and thrills each languid vein.
Love's tender instinct feels through every nerve
When love's desires, or love itself doth swerve.
All the world's praise re-echoed to the sky
Cancels not blame that shades a lover's eye;
All the world's blame, which scorn for scorn repays,
Fails to disturb the joy of lover's praise.
Ah! think not vanity alone doth deck
Wtih rounded pearls the young girl's innocent neck,
Who in her duller days contented tries
The homely robe that with no rival vies,
But on the happy night she hopes to meet
The one to whom she comes with trembling feet,
With crimson roses decks her bosom fair,
Warm as the thoughts of love all glowing there,
Because she must his favourite colours wear;
And all the bloom and beauty of her youth
Can scarce repay, she thinks, her lover's truth.
Vain is the argument so often moved,
'Who feels no jealousy hath never loved;'
She whose quick fading comes before her tomb,
Is jealous even of her former bloom.
Restless she pines; because, to her distress,
One charm the more is now one claim the less
On his regard whose words are her chief treasures,
And by whose love alone her worth she measures.
Gertrude of La Garaye, thy heart is sore;
A worm is gnawing at the rose's core,
A doubt corrodeth all thy tender trust,
The freshness of thy day is choked in dust.
Not for the pain--although the pain be great,
Not for the change--though changed be all thy state;
But for a sorrow dumb and unrevealed,
Most from its cause with mournful care concealed--
From Claud--who goes and who returns with sighs
And gazes on his wife with wistful eyes,
And muses in his brief and cheerless rides
If her dull mood will mend; and inly chides
His own sad spirit, that sinks down so low,
Instead of lifting her from all her woe;
And thinks if he but loved her less, that he
Could cheer her drooping soul with gaiety--
But wonders evermore that Beauty's loss
To such a soul should seem so sore a cross.
Until one evening in that quiet hush
That lulls the falling day, when all the gush
Of various sounds seem buried with the sun,
He told his thought.
As winter streamlets run,
Freed by some sudden thaw, and swift make way
Into the natural channels where they play,
So leaped her young heart to his tender tone,
So, answering to his warmth, resumed her own;
And all her doubt and all her grief confest,
Leaning her faint head on his faithful breast.
'Not always, Claud, did I my beauty prize;
Thy words first made it precious in my eyes,
And till thy fond voice made the gift seem rare,
Nor tongue nor mirror taught me I was fair.
I recked no more of beauty in that day
Of happy girlishness and childlike play,
Than some poor woodland bird who stays his flight
On some low bough when summer days are bright,
And in that pleasant sunshine sits and sings,
And breaks the plumage of his glistening wings,
Recks of the passer-by who stands to praise
His feathered smoothness and his thrilling lays.
But now, I make my moan--I make my moan--
I weep the brightness lost, the beauty gone;
Because, now, fading is to fall from thee,
As the dead fruit falls blighted from the tree;
For thee,--not vanished loveliness,--I weep;
My beauty was a spell, thy love to keep;
For I have heard and read how men forsake
When time and tears that gift of beauty take,
Nor care although the heart they leave may break!'
A husband's love was there--a husband's love,--
Strong, comforting, all other loves above;
On her bowed neck he laid his tender hand,
And his voice steadied to his soul's command:
'Oh! thou mistaken and unhappy child,
Still thy complainings, for thy words are wild.
Thy beauty, though so perfect, was but one
Of the bright ripples dancing to the sun,
Which, from the hour I hoped to call thee wife,
Glanced down the silver stream of happy life.
Whatever change Time's heavy clouds may make,
Those are the waters which my thirst shall slake;
River of all my hopes thou wert and art;
The current of thy being bears my heart;
Whether it sweep along in shine or shade,
By barren rocks, or banks in flowers arrayed,
Foam with the storm, or glide in soft repose,--
In that deep channel, love unswerving flows!
How canst thou dream of beauty as a thing
On which depends the heart's own withering?
Lips budding red wth tints of vernal years,
And delicate lids of eyes that shed no tears,
And light that falls upon the shining hair
As though it found a second sunbeam there,--
These must go by, my Gertrude, must go by;
The leaf must wither and the flower must die;
The rose can only have a rose's bloom;
Age would have wrought thy wondrous beauty's doom;
A little sooner did that beauty go--
A little sooner--Darling, take it so;
Nor add a strange despair to all this woe;
And take my faith, by changes unremoved,
To thy last hour of age and blight, beloved!'
But she again,--'Alas! not from distrust
I mourn, dear Claud, nor yet to thee unjust.
I love thee: I believe thee: yea, I know
Thy very soul is wrung to see my woe;
The earthquake of compassion trembles still
Within its depths, and conquers natural will.
But after,--after,--when the shock is past,--
When cruel Time, who flies to change so fast,
Hath made my suffering an accustomed thing,
And only left me slowly withering;
Then will the empty days rise chill and lorn,
The lonely evening, the unwelcome morn,
Until thy path at length be brightly crost
By some one holding all that I have lost;
Some one with youthful eyes, enchanting, bright,
Full as the morning of a liquid light;
And while my pale lip stiff and sad remains,
Her smiles shall thrill like sunbeams through thy veins:
I shall fade down, and she, with simple art,
All bloom and beauty, dance into thy heart!
Then, then, my Claud, shall I--at length alone--
Recede from thee with an unnoticed moan,
Sink where none heed me, and be seen no more,
Like waves that fringe the Netherlandish shore,
Which roll unmurmuring to the flat low land,
And sigh to death in that monotonous sand.'
Again his earnest hand on hers he lays,
With love and pain and wonder in his gaze.
'Oh, darling! bitter word and bitter thought
What dæmon to thy trusting heart hath brought?
It may be thus within some sensual breast,
By passion's fire, not true love's power possest;
The creature love, that never lingers late,
A springtide thirst for some chance-chosen mate.
Oh! my companion, 'twas not so with me;
Not in the days long past, nor now shall be.
The drunken dissolute hour of Love's sweet cup,
When eyes are wild, and mantling blood is up,
Even in my youth to me was all unknown:
Until I truly loved, I was alone.
I asked too much of intellect and grace,
To pine, though young, for every pretty face,
Whose passing brightness to quick fancies made
A sort of sunshine in the idle shade;
Beauties who starred the earth like common flowers,
The careless eglantines of wayside bowers.
I lingered till some blossom rich and rare
Hung like a glory on the scented air,
Enamouring at once the heart and eye,
So that I paused, and could not pass it by.
Then woke the passionate love within my heart,
And only with my life shall that depart;
'Twas not so sensual strong, so loving weak,
To ebb when ebbs the rose-tinge on thy cheek;
Fade with thy fading, weakening day by day
Till thy locks silver with a dawning grey:
No, Gertrude, trust me, for thou may'st believe,
A better faith is that which I receive;
Sacred I'll hold the sacred name of wife,
And love thee to the sunset verge of life!
Yea, shall so much of empire o'er man's soul
Live in a wanton's smile, and no control
Bind down his heart to keep a steadier faith,
For links that are to last from life to death?
Let those who can, in transient love rejoice,--
Still to new hopes breathe forth successive sighs,--
Give me the music of the accustomed voice,
And the sweet light of long familiar eyes!'
He ceased. But she, for all her fervent speech,
Sighed as she listened. 'Claud, I cannot reach
The summit of the hope where thou wouldst set me,
And all I crave is never to forget me!
Wedded I am to pain and not to thee,
Thy life's companion I no more can be,
For thou remainest all thou wert--but I
Am a fit bride for Death, and long to die.
Yea, long for death; for thou wouldst miss me then
More even than now, in mountain and in glen;
And musing by the white tomb where I lay,
Think of the happier time and earlier day,
And wonder if the love another gave
Equalled the passion buried in that grave.'
Then with a patient tenderness he took
That pale wife in his arms, with yearning look:
'Oh! dearer now than when thy girlish tongue
Faltered consent to love while both were young,
Weep no more foolish tears, but lift thy head;
Those drops fall on my heart like molten lead;
And all my soul is full of vain remorse,
Because I let thee take that dangerous course,
Share in the chase, pursue with horn and hound,
And follow madly o'er the roughened ground.
Not lightly did I love, nor lightly choose;
Whate'er thou losest I will also lose;
If bride of Death,--being first my chosen bride,--
I will await death, lingering by thy side;
And God, He knows, who reads all human thought,
And by whose will this bitter hour was brought,
How eagerly, could human pain be shifted,
I would lie low, and thou once more be lifted
To walk in beauty as thou didst before,
And smile upon the welcome world once more.
Oh! loved even to the brim of love's full fount,
Wilt thou set nothing to firm faith's account?
Choke back thy tears which are thy bitter smart,
Lean thy dear head upon my aching heart;
It may be God, who saw our careless life,
Not sinful, yet not blameless, my sweet wife,
(Since all we thought of, in our youth's bright May,
Was but the coming joy from day to day
Hath blotted out all joy to bid us learn
That this is not our home; and make us turn
From the enchanted earth, where much was given,
To higher aims, and a forgotten heaven.'
So spoke her love--and wept in spite of words;
While her heart echoed all his heart's accords,
And leaning down, she said with whispering sigh,
'I sinned, my Claud, in wishing so to die.'
Then they, who oft in Love's delicious bowers
Had fondly wasted glad and passionate hours,
Kissed with a mutual moan:--but o'er their lips
Love's light passed clear, from under Life's eclipse.