Flowers Are The Clocks Of The Light
Flowers are the clocks of the light.
Spring grey. Clouds. Half smoke, half crocus.
The rivulets are carrying last November's leaves away
like long lines of ants bearing the gnostic gospels
of the snow thawing into a spiritual life of water
back to the shrine of their colony
to be chewed over by the divines
masticating the mystery into something
like an edible orthodoxy of mystic impiety.
My heart is a bruised apple with purple blood today.
Neither passionate, nor aloof, clinging
nor unwilling to let go if that's what I must do.
One foot on shore. One in a lifeboat.
O what funny bridges we make as if
we were trying to balance the axis
of heaven and earth upon our nose
like the calves of giraffes learning to walk on stilts.
But there you go. What are you going to do?
That's the way it seems.
You've got to look up and stick your neck out
if you want to graze on the stars.
Same way with dreams. You've got to
risk waking up if you don't want to lose them.
I've wandered off from the carnage
of my doomed holy war of one with my heart
into a peaceful valley where I can sit
on a glacial skull of prophetic rock
and sheathe my sword in the wound I drew it from
like fire from the ore of a crippled dragon
that walked with a limp out of the war
weary of winning these honourable surrenders
like Jacob wrestling with the angel in the way.
Soft here. Easy on the eyes. A gentle touch.
The air on the verge of tears and the trees
about to see who's a skeleton and who's a survivor.
Who made it through the winter, and who
dreamed they died in their sleep and did,
and who, the ghost amputee of the limbs they lost.
I have a mindful heart and a warrior's compassion
for lost lovers, friends, suicides, martyrs, heretics,
neglected gods, defrocked saints, those
who fell half crazy on the broken panes
of their own clarity, committing hara kiri
on the splintered plinths of their own love-crossed stars.
One-eyed artists riding a pair of red bicycle glasses
in a high-wire act without safety nets
like a dropp of dew on a spider's thread
trying to lay the first cable of a suspension bridge
they hope will follow them across the impassable abyss,
offering themselves up like uncertain sacrifices to oblivion.
Big-hearted poets who scattered their works
like the apple bloom of hidden orchards
as their eyes waxed wide-eyed
as a harvest moon into late October
and wound up being gouged by slumlords
in squalid apartment rooms
with an atlas of cracks in the windows,
dunking the hard crust of the bitter life
they were given back in return
for breaking the bread of their souls with strangers
even as they bled to death like a goldrush
and all that was eventually left were the nuggets
of the hearts of coal they dunk in their tears
to make them more palatable
when the Hesperides burn out
the last of their radiant diamonds
and all that's left of their sidereal lyric
is written in the braille of black holes
that comes up snake-eyes on the dice
they've carved from their starless skulls.
And painters whose visions fell from the sky
like rain on the eyelids of dirty windows,
like stars who were washed out
like nocturnal watercolours they painted in tears
like hot cinders from the unradiant world's
way of seeing things with its eyes closed.
Those whose flame burned
like the hydrogen blue of a wild iris
and then disappeared into the perfected heat
of their spiritual immolations, and those,
who scattered their ashes like morning doves on the wind
as if they were breaking their bodies
like loaves and fishes among the flowers
thronging up the hillside like the jester-caps
of the wine-stained trillium
getting drunk with nuns in white.
Just want to let my starmud settle in a puddle.
Look at a few clouds for awhile, the crowns of the trees,
notice the deepening red of the upper branches of the birch
reaching out like thermometers for the sun
and how they look so much like ground willows
raised up high on a marble obelisks and altars
like a blood offering to the sky.
I'm at rest for a moment like the nadir of a bell
in its arc of sadness and bliss, life and death,
one breath and the next, neither heads nor tails
of the copper penny of the moon on the horizon.
And from here I can see the Elysian Fields of the Blessed
littered with the corpses and bones
of my companions and fellow aspirants
the spirit knows as its own.
And I mourn the loss of so many heroic children,
so many glorious losers, determined clowns,
all the lost pages of the books of crazy wisdom
that died like the rainbow bodies
of sages and gardens in their own arms
like the new moon in the embrace of the old.
These are my war dead. These
are the crosses and poppies of blood I kneel before.
These are the ones for whom my tears,
my sorrow, my blessing, my heart is shaped
like a dropp of dew at the tip of a blade of stargrass,
ready to fall at the slightest quaking of an insight
into the intimate beauty and cosmic cost of their sacrifice
not for what they believed, but in what
they tried to make come true without knowing
what it was until it appeared before them
like a child with a piece of bread in her hand,
pointing with the other to the birthstar she comes from.
These were wishing wells of clean water in a dry land.
These were people whose skulls were lunar grails
they offered up to the ailing kingdom
and said, here, drink until I'm empty.
These were people of plenty who walked
in rags and scars, poverty, exile and despair
only to be crucified at the stake like scarecrows
in the starfields of their expansive hearts
come to harvest in the hand of Virgo
like the autumnal equinox of a generous soul.
Sitting pensively here before the gates
of the realms they've entered, it's for these,
I wrap my blood like a robe of silence,
like the gentle mantle of this approaching spring
over their shoulders to keep their memory
alive, warm, hauntingly near and eternally human.
These, for whom my heart grows mute
as this long loveletter I've been writing all my life
knowing by the time it finishes me
all those I would have sent it to will be gone,
gone, gone, gone, altogether gone beyond.
But like any war memorial without a heart of stone,
I am a happy and a sad thing simultaneously
to celebrate the indefensibly human divinity
of these who sprang up like poppies in the grass
and spread their spirit like wildfire
in a rage of renewal that proclaimed
the spiritual innocence of our births and deaths,
evangels standing at the sacred forks of rivers
with nothing to say about salvation in passing
but keep on flowing your own way
flawlessly to the sea that receives and seats
everyone below the salt in the lowest place of all
before it raises them up again to fall
like snow on the blue hills
of a deciduously spiritual mindscape.
These who didn't labour in iron chains
but beaded the light and the water into
a necklace of eyes on the loom of a spiderweb.
As if a jeweller had shown us how
to make dreamcatchers out of our tears.
No. Stone will not do to mark the passing
and return of the water birds to the zeniths and nadirs
of these northern lakes I'm peacefully marooned among
like the shattered pieces of two way mirrors
that put an abrupt end to the conscious interrogation
of their own shadows, reflections, echoes and ghosts
like a spiritual form of espionage
as enlightenment slowly dawned upon them like a firefly
that revealed they already had the answers
to their deepest questions
even before they knew what to ask.
Even before it's wholly dark out, the nightwatchman
is lighting up the sky with stars.
Yes. It must be nothing less than life itself
that honours these whose spirits leaped up playfully
like a gust of stars to blow on the flames.
Their names must be written on the wind
with the occasional ink blot of a crow to keep things
spontaneously unavoidable, as fallibly unpredictable
as they lived their lives on the wing
feathered by the fires of life.
So I live my lives, I die my deaths,
I suffer my wounds and my joys,
my eurekas, hallelujahs, my wonders
my masha Allahs, my oi veys, my inspirations,
the barnyard airfields of my mediocrity
with the wingspan of a kite afraid of heights
hanging on for dear life to something grounded
like an ostrich with its head stuck in the stars.
I rise from the ashes in the urns of my burnt-out genius
like a phoenix with the endless afterlives
of a recurring comet wondering
what it's the sign of this time, what message
does it carry like a loveletter or a warning
not meant to take itself too seriously, and to whom
is it addressed if not as a tribute to these
who have adorned and deepened the darkness
and intensified the light by colouring outside the lines
of the taboos of their homeless madness
standing on the thresholds of their beings in transit
like the unacknowledged orphans of what they're becoming?
I observe the branches of the birch,
I taste the ancient breeding of the light
in the plush syrups of the bleeding maples.
I listen for the night bird in the green room
getting ready to sing its heart out
at its debut appearance in the spotlight of the moon.
I watch the sapling aspens shaking nervously
as they recite their new leaves to the wind
at their very first poetry reading
and in a startled rush of heron's wings
I can hear the one-handed applause of the ghosts
of the more seasoned trees of an old growth forest
that once stood here in the midst of life
as lyrical once, as vulnerable once, as these.
I can see death's door ajar ahead of me.
I come to it out of the dark
like a befuddled bat to a porchlight.
How many lives before have I sat here
transcendentally defeated by the better part of me
and watched the stars slowly emerge like eyes
out of the peacock green silk of the sky
like the ghosts of ancient mulberry blossoms
unfolding their poems like the sails of paper boats,
messenger butterflies with secret love notes
written like starmaps to their otherworldliness
in the indecipherable mother-tongue of all holy books.
Antares, Arcturus, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse,
among all these big ripe red stars,
I'm characteristically human enough
to have realized a long time ago,
even before the volcanoes did,
compared to their radiant enormities,
my life's just another blood stain
among many on the darkness
that can't explain themselves
or account for where they've been,
what they've seen, or counter-intuitively why.
Or who spilled the wine on the sun.
And I'm more than well aware
of the concentrated intensity
of the needle-eyed focus
I've been trying to thread my life through
like this night creek flowing before me
like an oilspill on the moon,
like a sacred syllable smuggled
through the lapis lazuli bull-gates
and up the emergency backstairs
of the polyglot towers of PsychoBabylon
where the faithful are called to prayer in tongues.
In the beginning was the Word.
And it was a nightbird singing in the dark.
It was an image of everything that can't be said,
Imagination trying to render the likeness
of an imageless space, the features of a face
that lets you see the stars in her eyes
as the mutable signs of her ineffability
shining through the dark matter of a veil,
even as you're mixing
complementary colours on your palette
like a stained-glass soul to give your life
to what you cannot see. Even in
this morgue of dead gods, this eyeless reality
arrayed in all its creative potential before us,
the dark abundance of the plenum-void,
or however you want to picture or not,
what else could it be, given we're all born
out of our own image of love
with the playful hearts and minds of artists
with the aesthetic tastes
and spiritual genius of children
transfixed by starfish in the morning
well within reach of their shining.
All artists are lunar orphans
that have been left on the stairs
of the last shrine of idolatry
before reality leaves them speechless and deaf.
And how many times have I come here
just to watch my mind painting
in the light and time
of this mystically specific life
my thoughts, emotions, intuitions,
my clarities, the occultations of my fireflies
trying to get a fire started
out of the dry kindling of lightning
I've piled up like a pyre
for my imminent sky burial
like waterbirds lifting off the lake
in a shower of eyes and insights scattered
like seeds and broken rosaries from their wings
to turn into all other things like spring
returning to its myth of origins.
Or a singer alone on the road, homesick
for the silence he broke into with his song
like the pebble of the moon
thrown into the quiescent pond of the world.
Like the call of Canada geese high overhead at night
returning empty from the land of the dead
having delivered their charges successfully
without looking back retroactively upon the past
to see if they were still being followed or not.
But then, again, who isn't walking
in the footsteps of ghosts who went on ahead of them
on some forsaken shore somewhere?
And I've been mistaken often enough to admit it,
I've sat here on my stony throne sometimes
in this abdicated kingdom,
in the middle of this boneyard
of courtly fossils in the darkness
of the La Brea Tarpit in a black out of stars
at the end of my own tunnel vision
when I looked at things in a dark mood
through the third eye of my orbiting telescope
and all I could see was endless space
with a widow's ashes smeared on its face,
not the chromatically abberated rainbows of rosier lenses
with more of a two-eyed outlook on things
that swim into their ken like cults
of shepherd moons that outnumber
the schools of fish than I've ever seen on Neptune.
Just the salt flats of a future that's not much good
at growing flowers and stars,
but has a knack for keeping things from going bad.
And I whispered suggestively into my left ear
that's not a reason green enough to go on living.
There's no food for thought in the ashes
of the Alexandrian Library of the dead.
There's no harvest, there's no end of the world
stored like grain in the empty urns
and back amphorae of the new moon
bobbing like cormorants on the mast
of a shipwreck Atlantean fathoms below the waterline.
And remembering a dead poet friend of mine,
thought old age is the year of the locusts,
though he didn't live it that way
well into his nineties and beyond.
And finding nothing up ahead to give it forward to
gave my future up to living it for people like him
as if it were no less theirs than mine,
only to realize as I progressed backwards in time
the return journey through the zodiac
I've made of the stations of my life
is so much more spiritually vital than the first
that wasn't quite as down to earth
as this one where solid things seem
like mere shadows of the picture-music
streaming like the Road of Ghosts through
a sad nightmare we're all glued to
like constellations of black dwarfs to flypaper
compared with these translucent masterpieces
inspired by the song of a hidden nightbird
empowered by the singular longing
of the candle it keeps lighting up and blowing out,
like the eternal flame of the synteretic spark
looking for enlightenment
with a white cane in the dark.
So. Yes. For me, for them, for people
it will be ten thousand lifetimes
before we embrace again at zenith
when the sun shines at midnight,
and the wide-eyed lunatics
follow the moon like a cult to the dark side
to see what she's been hiding from them
like a black pearl in her other hand.
So, yes, yes, even now that my tears fall
way more often than they ought
or I should even remotely like,
I give my assent to them all like spring rain
on the withered stars and rusty spearheads
of the brown New England asters.
I live it like a living memorial
to future generations yet to come
of what it was like to be human
in a makeshift Eden of desiccated tree limbs
where sacred water snakes
once sang in their green boughs like birds.
I live it for them like the spontaneous flightplan
of an heretical root fire
spreading like a phoenix
through the valley of death
in a frontal assault of fireflies
going off like fireworks in all directions at once
as if the easiest way
to storm the walls in the way of anywhere
and enter by the right gate, is to live
the way these did each in their own good time,
no matter the ferocity of the species-killing meteors
that were hurled against them like the Perseids.
Or the eviction notices they couldn't ignore
that were slipped like razorblades
across their thresholds of pain
to vacate the premises of their biospheres
by such and such a moment on a Mayan calendar.
And in spite of all that, in the face of the fate
that befell them like wild apples
in a windfall of last year's trees,
live it even now at this late date through me
like a legacy of surrealistically enlightened madness
that can always find something to celebrate
about walking around on the earth for their sake
cherishing my insignificance in an unworthy world
just to see in whatever I turn my eyes to
what a jewel of awareness that truly is.
I see the uprooted tree where lighting
decapitated the head of the Medusa.
I see the crocus in its cap
more like two hands folded in prayer
trying to keep warm over a small golden fire
than I do the pope of flowers.
I smell the fragrance of decay
in the damp, green moss of a funeral home
clinging to the cliches of its emotional condolences
like wigs on a skull waiting for a hair transplant
of red columbine with its blonde roots showing through
like the sun peeping through the eyelid of a crimson dusk.
I break off a blood-stained horn of sumac
and savour it like the taste
of a lemon-flavoured couch
I spit out of my mouth like high-protein lint
at the bottom of an empty pocket
that knows how to survive in the woods
without having to live for itself.
My hand caresses the water
like the wing of a loon on a moonlit lake
that isn't waiting for its return.
I pity a dead squirrel with eye-sockets
that have been gouged out like white meat
from the shells of black walnuts
and I can feel compassion whelming up
in the eyes of the dead who can see this through me
like a death mask I place on their faces
eyebrow to eyebrow with this vision of life
I'm living like a lifeboat in the aftermath of theirs.
Compass needles like infinite directions of prayer
among the abandoned pagodas of the pine-cones
waiting for fire to awake the sacred seed syllables
they've hidden under their eyelids
to raise them up to renew the world again
like evergreens in a towering wilderness,
like morning doves hidden under the eaves
of their crumbling temples,
or a nightbird such as me
with a star in its beak
like a lost earring of the moon
it's retrieved like a holy word
from the mindstream
its shining was once returned to
like a silver tribute to the river.
Venus and Jupiter going down in the west.
Saturn and Mars rising late in the east.
Love, power, pensive sorrow and war,
the lifelines of the least of us
flowing like dynasties of blood and tears
down the world mountain,
out of the melting hills
into the new seabeds of these
who were magnanimously blessed by the moon
realizing as they approach the deltas of the dead
they're finally at peace with themselves
like a poet sitting on the banks
of a woodland stream in the early spring
sleepwalking through everyone else's dreams
not as someone who made a vow over a deathbed,
not as mere words mouthed breathlessly
like ghosts dissipating into the chilly dead air,
but the heart of a nightbird returning
to the lyrics of an ancient repertoire
it can't help but remember and sing
like an overture of picture-music
as a prelude to the pagan advent
of the ancestral recurrence of a prophetic spring.
Stars like nocturnal waterlilies soon
crowding the banks of the Milky Way.
A moonrise of lustrous bubbles in Pisces
like fish swimming in the reflected treetops,
singing along with the boundless birds
that nest like a choir of homeless voices
returning like the dead in vital bliss to their roots
like a fire sign to the living
from these who were interred like ashes
in the urns of a phoenix
born with the wingspan
of an autumn sumac that went down in flames
like the names of the noblest of these
who were moved like Luna moths and Icarian comets
to risk flying too close to the sun,
to burn the flightfeathers of their imaginations
like love letters expiring in the heretical fires
on a pyre of broken wands and empty pens
of what inspired them the most to write
in the indelible inks of the human spirit
read like a secret message of invisible desires
over the a fire in a script of cursive smoke
like spring returning like words and birds
to the lyrical mouths of lonely, holy ghosts
trying to put an earthly picture-music
like flesh back on bones of the flutes
of their ineffable spiritual longing
to sing for the unattainable like the high note
of an inconceivably sustainable table of contents.
- quotes about heresy
- quotes about eclipse
- quotes about lifeboats
- quotes about language
- quotes about comets
- quotes about resignation
- quotes about harvest
- quotes about apples
- quotes about birth
Grey clouds drift diagonal
In the lavish morning sky
Or perhaps some industrial plant
Is rattling blocks nearby
These cities, ready always
To spring us a surprise
Call for careful study
If you plan to stay alive.
Hang Flowers from Light Posts
In the midnight rain,
Shiver on solitary streets,
Dream of poetic ladies,
Kisses sweet as plums,
But only see stray dogs
And abandoned newspapers
For even hustlers
And cutthroats to read.
I wish the civic authorities
Would hang flowers
From light posts,
I’d pray and go home.
- quotes about authority
- quotes about newspapers
- quotes about journalism
- quotes about women
- quotes about dogs
- quotes about kiss
- quotes about rain
- quotes about dreaming
- quotes about home
Upon the grass of the wind I lay
Blue wind and violet dreams
Streams of light in golden clouds
Time has a fathers voice
I long for a mellow garden
Pallor of peace like the sea
Fire is in your world
Fire that will burn the city
What is in your heart?
Torches of soldiers
Will you go with the dead?
Burning emblems on their bellies
Fear is cast out
Beauty has no helmets
Some must love in catacombs
Some share prisons with saints
Hear the wind cry
Slaughter of the lambs
Gates with no lies
Senates steaming rivers
No badges or banners
You are their like stars
Everyone caressing humility
Tears dried with peace and joy
Whats So Bad About Feeling Good?
(feldman / hues / chandler)
Youre awake as dawn breaks, another day
And the grey clouds weep how you feel
But the way she touch you just bring you back to life
Dont let them bury your soul in concrete and steel
So whats so bad about feeling good?
Whats so bad, whats so bad?
Whats so bad about feeling good?
Whats so bad, whats so bad?
Why hold back when you know you should
Break the chains of your life and start
As were walking home theres a whispering
From the city lights to the stars
And the way she move her body next to me
In her hair I breathe the air of venus and mars
Whats so bad about feeling good?
Whats so bad, whats so bad?
Why hold back when you know you should
Break the chains of your life and start feeling good
Whats so bad about feeling good?
Break the chains of your life and start feeling good
Dream on, dream on
If youre happy feeling sad
Dream on, dream on
bout the things you could have had
Then tell me what -----
Tell me whats so good about feeling bad?
Lucifer Of The Torch
O Reverend Ravlin, once with sounding lung
You shook the bloody banner of your tongue,
Urged all the fiery boycotters afield
And swore you'd rather follow them than yield,
Alas, how brief the time, how great the change!
Your dogs of war are ailing all of mange;
The loose leash dangles from your finger-tips,
But the loud 'havoc' dies upon your lips.
No spirit animates your feeble clay
You'd rather yield than even run away.
In vain McGlashan labors to inspire
Your pallid nostril with his breath of fire:
The light of battle's faded from your face
You keep the peace, John Chinaman his place.
O Ravlin, what cold water, thrown by whom
Upon the kindling Boycott's ruddy bloom,
Has slaked your parching blood-thirst and allayed
The flash and shimmer of your lingual blade?
Your salary-your salary's unpaid!
In the old days, when Christ with scourges drave
The Ravlins headlong from the Temple's nave,
Each bore upon his pelt the mark divine
The Boycott's red authenticating sign.
Birth-marked forever in surviving hurts,
Glowing and smarting underneath their shirts,
Successive Ravlins have revenged their shame
By blowing every coal and flinging flame.
And you, the latest (may you be the last!)
Endorsed with that hereditary, vast
And monstrous rubric, would the feud prolong,
Save that cupidity forbids the wrong.
In strife you preferably pass your days
But brawl no moment longer than it pays.
By shouting when no more you can incite
The dogs to put the timid sheep to flight
To load, for you, the brambles with their fleece,
You cackle concord to congenial geese,
Put pinches of goodwill upon their tails
And pluck them with a touch that never fails.
The Child Of The Islands - Spring
WHAT shalt THOU know of Spring? A verdant crown
Of young boughs waving o'er thy blooming head:
White tufted Guelder-roses, showering down
A fairy snow-path where thy footsteps tread:
Fragrance and balm,--which purple violets shed:
Wild-birds,--sweet warbling in commingled song:
Brooklets,--thin murmuring down their pebbly bed;
Or more abundant rivers,--swept along
With shoals of tiny fish, in many a silver throng!
To THEE shall be unknown that weary pain,
The feverish thirsting for a breath of air,--
Which chokes the heart of those who sigh in vain
For respite, in their round of toil and care:
Who never gaze on Nature fresh and fair,
Nor in sweet leisure wile an hour away;
But, like caged creatures, sullenly despair,
As day monotonously follows day,
Till youth wears on to age, and strength to faint decay.
A feeble girl sits working all alone!
A ruined Farmer's orphan; pale and weak;
Her early home to wealthier strangers gone,
No rural beauty lingers on her cheek;
Her woe-worn looks a woeful heart bespeak;
Though in her dull, and rarely lifted eye,
(Whose glances nothing hope, and nothing seek,)
Those who have time for pity, might descry
A thousand shattered gleams of merriment gone by!
Her window-sill some sickly plants adorn,
(Poor links to memories sweet of Nature's green!)
There to the City's smoke-polluted morn
The primrose lifts its leaves, with buds between,
'Minished and faint, as though their life had been
Nipped by long pining and obscure regret;
Torn from the sunny bank where erst were seen
Lovely and meek companions, thickly set,--
The cowslip, rich in scent, and humble violet!
Too fanciful! the plant but pines, like her,
For purer air; for sunbeams warm and kind;
Th' enlivening joy of nature's busy stir,
The rural freedom, long since left behind!
For the fresh woodlands,--for the summer wind,--
The open fields with perfumed clover spread;--
The hazel copse,--whose branches intertwined
Made natural bow'rs and arches overhead,
With many a narrow path, where only two could tread.
Never, oh! never more, shall these afford
Her stifled heart their innocent delight!
Never, oh! never more, the rich accord
Of feathered songsters make her morning bright!
Earning scant bread, that finds no appetite,
The sapless life she toils for, lingers on;
And when at length it sinks in dreary night,
A shallow, careless grave is dug,--where none
Come round to bless her rest, whose ceaseless tasks are done!
And now, the devious threads her simple skill
Wove in a quaint device and flowery line,
Adorn some happier maid, whose wayward will
Was struck with wishing for the fair design:
Some 'curléd darling' of a lordly line,
Whose blooming cheek, through veils of texture rare,
Mantling with youth's warm blood is seen to shine;
While her light garments, draped with modest care,
Soft as a dove's white wings, float on the breezy air.
Oh, there is need for permanent belief
In the All-Equal World of Joy to come!
Need for such solace to the restless grief
And heavy troubles of our earthly home!
Else might our wandering reason blindly roam,
And ask, with all a heathen's discontent,
Why Joy's bright cup for some should sparkling foam,
While others, not less worthy, still lament,
And find the cup of tears the only portion sent!
But for the Christian's hope, how hard, how cold,
How bitterly unjust, our lot would seem!
How purposeless and sad, to young and old!
How like the struggles of a torturing dream,
When ghastly midnight bids us strive and scream!
All fades--all fleets--of which our hearts grow fond;
Pain presses on us to the last extreme,--
When lo! the dawn upriseth, clear beyond,
And, radiant from the East, forbids us to despond.
And many a crippled child, and aged man,
And withered crone, who once saw 'better days,'
With just enough of intellect to scan
This gracious truth; uncheered by human praise,
Patient plods through the thorn-encumbered ways:
Oh, trust God counts the hours through which they sigh,
While His green Spring eludes their suffering gaze,
And flowers along Earth's spangled bosom lie,
Whose barren bloom, for them, must unenjoyed pass by!
So lives the little Trapper underground;
No glittering sunshine streaks the oozy wall;
Not e'en a lamp's cold glimmer shineth round
Where he must sit (through summer days and all,
While in warm upper air the cuckoos call,)
For ever listening at the weary gate
Where echoes of the unseen footsteps fall.
Early he comes, and lingers long and late,
With savage men, whose blows his misery aggravate.
Yet sometimes, (for the heart of childhood is
A thing so pregnant with joy's blessed sun,
That all the dismal gloom that round him lies
Can scarce suffice to bid its rays begone)
In lieu of vain complaint, or peevish moan,
A feeble SONG the passing hour will mark!
Poor little nightingale! that sing'st alone,
Thy cage is very low, and bitter dark;
But God hears thee, who hears the glad upsoaring lark.
God seeth thee, who sees the prosperous proud
Into the sunshine of their joy go forth:
God marks thee, weak one, in the human crowd,
And judgeth all thy grief, (as all their mirth,)
Bird with the broken wing that trails on earth!
His angels watch thee, if none watch beside,
As faithfully--despite thy lowly birth--
As the child-royal of the queenly bride,
Or our belief is vain in Christ the Crucified!
In Christ! who made young children's guileless lives
The cherished objects of His love and care;
Who bade each sinner that for pardon strives,
Low, at Heaven's feet, a child-like heart lay bare;
Opening the world's great universal prayer
With these meek words: 'Our Father!' Strange, that we
The common blessings of His earth and air
Deny to those who, circling round His knee,
Embraced, in mortal life, His immortality!
Those 'common blessings!' In this chequered scene
How scant the gratitude we shew to God!
Is it, in truth, a privilege so mean
To wander with free footsteps o'er the sod,
See various blossoms paint the valley clod,
And all things into teeming beauty burst?
A miracle as great as Aaron's rod,
But that our senses, into dulness nurst,
Recurring Custom still with Apathy hath curst.
They who have rarest joy, know Joy's true measure;
They who most suffer, value Suffering's pause;
They who but seldom taste the simplest pleasure,
Kneel oftenest to the Giver and the Cause.
Heavy the curtains feasting Luxury draws,
To hide the sunset and the silver night;
While humbler hearts, when Care no longer gnaws,
And some rare holiday permits delight,
Lingering, with love would watch that earth-enchanting sight.
So sits the pallid weaver at his loom,
Copying the wreaths the artist-pencil drew;
In the dull confines of his cheerless room
Glisten those tints of rich and living hue.
The air is sweet, the grass is fresh with dew,
And feverish aches are throbbing in his veins,
But his are work-day Springs, and Summers too;
And if he quit his loom, he leaves his gains--
That gorgeous, glistering silk, designed with so much pains!
It shall be purchased as a robe of state
By some great lady, when his toil is done;
While on her will obsequious shopmen wait,
To shift its radiance in the flattering sun:
And as she, listless, eyes its beauty, none
Her brow shall darken, or her smile shall shade,
By a strange story--yet a common one--
Of tears that fell (but not on her brocade,)
And misery weakly borne while it was slowly made.
For while that silk the weaver's time beguiled,
His wife lay groaning on her narrow bed,
The suffering mother of a new-born child,
Without a cradle for its weakly head,
Or future certainty of coarsest bread;
Not, in that hour of Nature's sore affright,
A fire, or meal that either might be fed;
So, through the pauses of the dreadful night,
Patient they lay, and longed for morning's blessed light.
Not patient--no; I over-rate his strength
Who listened to the infant's wailing cry,
And mother's weary moan, until at length
He gave them echo with a broken sigh!
Daylight was dawning, and the loom stood nigh:
He looked on it, as though he would discern
If there was light enough to labour by.
What made his heart's-blood leap, and sink, in turn?
What, in that cold gloom caused his pallid cheek to burn?
What made him rise, with wild and sudden start?
Alas! the poor are weak, when they are tried!
(Can the rich say, that they, with steadfast heart,
Have all temptations constantly defied?)
He counts the value of that robe of pride;
And while the dawn clears up, that ushers in
His child's first morn on life's uncertain tide,
He keeps its birthday with a deed of sin,
And pawns his master's silk, bread for his wife to win.
Let none excuse the deed, for it was wrong:--
And since 'twas ruin to the wretch employed,
No doubt the hour's despair was wild and strong
Which left that loom of silken splendours void:
Let Virtue trust their meal was unenjoyed,
Eaten in trembling, drenched with bitterness,--
And that the faint uncertain hope which buoyed
His heart awhile, to hide his guilt's excess,
And get that silk redeemed, was vain, from his distress:
So that true Justice might pursue her course;
And the silk, finished by 'a different hand,'
Might in good time (delayed awhile perforce)
Be brought to clothe that lady of the land
Whom I behold as in a vision stand.
Lo! in my vision, on its folds are laid
The turquoise-circled fingers of her hand;
While by herself, and her attendant maid,
Its texture, soft and rich, is smiled on and surveyed.
Indifferent to her, the heavy cost
Of that rich robe, first pawned for one poor meal;
She that now wears it, and her lord, may boast
No payment made,--yet none dare say THEY steal!
No, not if future reckoning-hours reveal
Debts the encumbered heir can never pay;
But whose dishonest weight his heart shall feel
Through many a restless night and bitter day,
Hearing what cheated men of the bad dead will say.
Onward she moves, in Fashion's magic glass,
Half-strut, half-swim, she slowly saunters by:
A self-delighting, delicate, pampered mass
Of flesh indulged in every luxury
Folly can crave, or riches can supply:
Spangled with diamonds--head, and breast, and zone,
Scorn lighting up her else most vacant eye,
Careless of all conditions but her own,
She sweeps that stuff along, to curtsey to the throne.
That dumb woof tells no story! Silent droops
The gorgeous train, voluminously wide;
And while the lady's knee a moment stoops
(Mocking her secret heart, which swells with pride,)
No ragged shadow follows at her side
Into that royal presence, where her claim
To be admitted, is to be allied
To wealth, and station, and a titled name,--
No warning voice is heard to supplicate or blame.
Nor,--since by giving working hands employ,
Her very vanity must help their need
Whom, in her life of cold ungenerous joy,
She never learned to pity or to heed,--
Would sentence harsh from thoughtful minds proceed;
But that the poor man, dazzled, sees encroach
False lights upon his pathway, which mislead
Those who the subject of his wrongs would broach,
Till Rank a bye-word seems,--and Riches a reproach.
How oft some friendly voice shall vainly speak
The sound true lessons of Life's holier school;--
How much of wholesome influence prove weak,
Because one tinselled, gaudy, selfish fool,
Hath made the exception seem the practiced rule!
In Luxury, so prodigal of show,--
In Charity, so wary and so cool,--
That wealth appeared the poor man's open foe,
And all, of high estate, this language to avow:--
'A life of self-indulgence is for Us,
'A life of self-denial is for them;
'For Us the streets, broad-built and populous,
'For them, unhealthy corners, garrets dim,
'And cellars where the water-rat may swim!
'For Us, green paths refreshed by frequent rain,
'For them, dark alleys where the dust lies grim!
'Not doomed by Us to this appointed pain,--
'God made us, Rich and Poor--of what do these complain?'
Of what? Oh! not of Heaven's great law of old,
That brightest light must fall by deepest shade;
Not that they wander hungry, gaunt, and cold,
While others in smooth splendours are arrayed;
Not that from gardens where they would have strayed
You shut them out, as though a miser's gem
Lay in the crystal stream or emerald glade,
Which they would filch from Nature's diadem;
But that you keep no thought, no memory of THEM.
That, being gleaners in the world's large field
(And knowing well they never can be more,)
Those unto whom the fertile earth must yield
Her increase, will not stand like him of yore,
Large-hearted Boaz, on his threshing-floor,
Watching that weak ones starve not on their ground.
How many sills might frame a beggar's door,
For any love, or help, or pity found,
In rich men's hearts and homes, to help the needy round!
Meanwhile, enjoy your Walks, your Parks, your Drives,
Heirs of Creation's fruits, this world's select!
Bask in the sunshine of your idle lives,
And teach your poorer brother to expect
Nor share, nor help! Rouse up the fierce-toned sect
To grudge him e'en the breeze that once a-week
Might make him feel less weary and deject;
And stand, untouched, to see how thankful-meek
He walks that day, his child close nestling at his cheek.
Compel him to your creed; force him to think;
Cut down his Sabbath to a day of rest
Such as the beasts enjoy,--to eat, and drink,
And drone away his time, by sleep opprest:--
But let 'My lady' send, at her behest,
A dozen different servants to prepare,
Grooms, coachmen, footmen, in her livery drest,
And shining horses, fed with punctual care,
To whirl her to Hyde Park, that she may 'take the air.'
Yet, even with her, we well might moralise;
(No place too gay, if so the heart incline!)
For dark the Seal of Death and Judgment lies
Upon thy rippling waters, Serpentine!
Day after day, drawn up in linkèd line,
Your lounging beauties smile on idle men,
Where Suicides have braved the Will Divine,
Watched the calm flood that lay beneath their ken,
Dashed into seeming peace, and never rose again!
There, on the pathway where the well-groomed steed
Restlessly paws the earth, alarmed and shy;
While his enamoured rider nought can heed
Save the soft glance of some love-lighted eye;
There, they dragged out the wretch who came to die
There was he laid--stiff, stark, and motionless,
And searched for written signs to notify
What pang had driv'n him to such sore excess,
And who should weep his loss, and pity his distress!
Cross from that death-pond to the farther side,
Where fewer loiterers wander to and fro,
There,--buried under London's modern pride,
And ranges of white buildings,--long ago
Stood Tyburn Gate and gallows! Scenes of woe,
Bitter, heart-rending, have been acted here;
While, as he swung in stifling horrid throe,
Hoarse echoes smote the dying felon's ear,
Of yells from fellow-men, triumphant in his fear!
Not always thus. At times a Mother knelt,
And blest the wretch who perished for his crime;
Or a young wife bowed down her head, and felt
Her little son an orphan from that time;
Or some poor frantic girl, whose love sublime
In the coarse highway robber could but see
Her heart's ideal, heard Death's sullen chime
Shivering and weeping on her fainting knee,
And mourned for him who hung high on the gallows-tree.
Nowhere more deeply stamped the trace of gloom
Than in this light haunt of the herding town;
Marks of the world's Forgotten Ones, on whom
The eye of God for ever looketh down,
Still pitiful, above the human frown,
As Glory o'er the Dark! Earth's mercy tires!
But Heaven hath stored a mercy of its own,
Watching the feet that tread among the briars,
And guiding fearful eyes, when fainter light expires.
Yet no such serious thoughts their minds employ,
Who lounge and wander 'neath the sunshine bright,
But how to turn their idleness to joy,
Their weariness to pleasure and delight;
How best with the ennui of life to fight
With operas, plays, assemblies, routs, and balls--
The morning passed in planning for the night
Feastings and dancings in their lighted halls;
And still, as old ones fade, some newer pleasure calls.
Betwixt the deathly stream and Tyburn Gate
Stand withered trees, whose sapless boughs have seen
Beauties whose memory now is out of date,
And lovers, on whose graves the moss is green!
While Spring, for ever fresh, with smile serene,
Woke up grey Time, and drest his scythe with flowers,
And flashed sweet light the tender leaves between,
And bid the wild-bird carol in the bowers,
Year after year the same, with glad returning hours.
Oh, those old trees! what see they when the beam
Falls on blue waters from the bluer sky?
When young Hope whispers low, with smiles that seem
Too joyous to be answered with a sigh?
The scene is then of prosperous gaiety,
Thick-swarming crowds on summer pleasure bent,
And equipages formed for luxury;
While rosy children, young and innocent,
Dance in the onward path, and frolic with content.
But when the scattered leaves on those wan boughs
Quiver beneath the night wind's rustling breath;
When jocund merriment, and whispered vows,
And children's shouts, are hushed; and still as Death
Lies all in heaven above and earth beneath;
When clear and distant shine the steadfast stars
O'er lake and river, mountain, brake, and heath,--
And smile, unconscious of the woe that mars
The beauty of earth's face, deformed by Misery's scars;
What see the old trees THEN? Gaunt, pallid forms
Come, creeping sadly to their hollow hearts,
Seeking frail shelter from the winds and storms,
In broken rest, disturbed by fitful starts;
There, when the chill rain falls, or lightning darts,
Or balmy summer nights are stealing on,
Houseless they slumber, close to wealthy marts
And gilded homes:--there, where the morning sun
That tide of wasteful joy and splendour looked upon!
There the man hides, whose 'better days' are dropped
Round his starvation, like a veil of shame;
Who, till the fluttering pulse of life hath stopped,
Suffers in silence, and conceals his name:--
There the lost victim, on whose tarnished fame
A double taint of Death and Sin must rest,
Dreams of her village home and Parents' blame,
And in her sleep by pain and cold opprest,
Draws close her tattered shawl across her shivering breast.
Her history is written in her face;
The bloom hath left her cheek, but not from age;
Youth, without innocence, or love, or grace,
Blotted with tears, still lingers on that page!
Smooth brow, soft hair, dark eyelash, seem to wage
With furrowed lines a contradiction strong;
Till the wild witchcraft stories, which engage
Our childish thoughts, of magic change and wrong,
Seem realised in her--so old, and yet so young!
And many a wretch forlorn, and huddled group
Of strangers met in brotherhood of woe,
Heads that beneath their burden weakly stoop,--
Youth's tangled curls, and Age's locks of snow,--
Rest on those wooden pillows, till the glow
Of morning o'er the brightening earth shall pass,
And these depart, none asking where they go;
Lost in the World's confused and gathering mass,--
While a new slide fills up Life's magic-lantern glass.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! in thy royal bowers,
Calm THOU shalt slumber, set apart from pain;
Thy spring-day spent in weaving pendent flowers,
Or watching sun-bows glitter through the rain,
Spanning with glorious arch the distant plain;
Or listening to the wood-bird's merry call;
Or gathering sea-shells by the surging main;
And, wheresoe'er thy joyous glances fall,
The wise shall train thy mind, to glean delight from all.
But most thou'lt love all young and tender things,
And open wide and bright, in pleased surprise,
When the soft nestling spreads its half-fledged wings,
Thy innocent and wonder-loving eyes,
To see him thus attempt the sunny skies!
Thou shalt enjoy the kitten's frolic mood,
Pursue in vain gay-painted butterflies,
Watch the sleek puppy lap its milky food,
And fright the clucking hen, with all her restless brood.
Eager thou'lt gaze, where, down the river's tide,
The proud swan glides, and guards its lonely nest;
Or where the white lambs spot the mountain's side,
Where late the lingering sunshine loves to rest;
Midst whom, in frock of blue and coloured vest,
Lies the young shepherd boy, who little heeds
(The livelong day by drowsy dreams opprest)
The nibbling, bleating flock that round him feeds,
But to his faithful dog leaves all the care it needs.
In time, less simple sights and sounds of Earth
Shall yield thy mind a pleasure not less pure:
Mighty beginnings--schemes of glorious birth--
In which th' Enthusiast deems he may secure,
By rapid labour, Fame that shall endure;
Complex machines to lessen human toil,
Fair artist-dreams, which Beauty's forms allure,
New methods planned to till the fertile soil,
And marble graven works, which time forbears to spoil.
For, like the Spring, Man's heart hath buds and leaves,
Which, sunned upon, put forth immortal bloom;
Gifts, that from Heaven his nascent soul receives,
Which, being heavenly, shall survive the tomb.
In its blank silence, in its narrow gloom,
The clay may rest which wrapped his human birth;
But, all unconquered by that bounded doom,
The Spirit of his Thought shall walk the earth,
In glory and in light, midst life, and joy, and mirth.
Thou'rt dead, oh, Sculptor--dead! but not the less
(Wrapped in pale glory from th' illumined shrine)
Thy sweet St. Mary stands in her recess,
Worshipped and wept to, as a thing divine:
Thou'rt dead, oh, Poet!--dead, oh, brother mine!
But not the less the curbèd hearts stoop low
Beneath the passion of thy fervent line:
And thou art dead, oh, Painter! but not so
Thy Inspiration's work, still fresh in living glow.
These are the rulers of the earth! to them
The better spirits due allegiance own;
Vain is the might of rank's proud diadem,
The golden sceptre, or the jewelled crown;
Beyond the shadow of a mortal frown
Lofty they soar! O'er these, pre-eminent,
God only, Sovran regnant, looketh down,
God! who to their intense perception lent
All that is chiefest good and fairest excellent.
Wilt thou take measure of such minds as these,
Or sound, with plummet-line, the Artist-Heart?
Look where he meditates among the trees--
His eyelids full of love, his lips apart
With restless smiles; while keen his glances dart,
Above--around--below--as though to seek
Some dear companion, whom, with eager start,
He will advance to welcome, and then speak
The burning thoughts for which all eloquence is weak.
How glad he looks! Whom goeth he to meet?
Whom? God:--there is no solitude for him.
Lies the earth lonely round his wandering feet?
The birds are singing in the branches dim,
The water ripples to the fountains' brim,
The young lambs in the distant meadows bleat;
And he himself beguiles fatigue of limb
With broken lines, and snatches various sweet,
Of ballads old, quaint hymns for Nature's beauty meet!
Love is too earthly-sensual for his dream;
He looks beyond it, with his spirit-eyes!
His passionate gaze is for the sunset-beam,
And to that fainting glory, as it dies,
Belongs the echo of his swelling sighs.
Pale wingèd Thoughts, the children of his Mind,
Hover around him as he onward hies;
They murmur to him 'Hope!' with every wind,
Though to their lovely Shapes our grosser sight is blind.
But who shall tell, when want and pain have crost
The clouded light of some forsaken day,
What germs of Beauty have been crushed and lost,
What flashing thoughts have gleamed to fade away?
Oh! since rare flowers must yet take root in clay,
And perish if due culture be denied;
Let it be held a Royal boast to say,
For lack of aid, no heaven-born genius died;
Nor dwindled withering down, in desert-sands of Pride!
The lily-wand is theirs! the Angel-gift!
And, if the Earthly one with failing hand
Hold the high glory, do Thou gently lift,
And give him room in better light to stand.
For round THEE, like a garden, lies the land
His pilgrim feet must tread through choking dust;
And Thou wert born to this world's high command,
And he was born to keep a Heavenly Trust;
And both account to ONE, the Merciful and Just.
Youth is the spring-time of untarnished life!
Spring, the green youth of the unfaded year!
We watch their promise, midst the changeful strife
Of storms that threaten and of skies that clear,
And wait, until the harvest-time appear.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS, may those springs which shed
Their blossoms round thee, give no cause for fear;
And may'st thou gently bend, and meekly tread,
Thy garlanded glad path, till summer light be fled!
The Four Seasons : Spring
Come, gentle Spring! ethereal Mildness! come,
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
O Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
With innocence and meditation join'd
In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Which thy own Season paints; when Nature all
Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.
And see where surly Winter passes off,
Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts:
His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
The shatter'd forest, and the ravaged vale;
While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch,
Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
The mountains lift their green heads to the sky.
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm'd,
And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets
Deform the day delightless: so that scarce
The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulf'd,
To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore
The plovers when to scatter o'er the heath,
And sing their wild notes to the listening waste
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous sun,
And the bright Bull receives him. Then no more
The expansive atmosphere is cramp'd with cold
But, full of life and vivifying soul,
Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads then thin,
Fleecy, and white, o'er all-surrounding heaven.
Forth fly the tepid airs: and unconfined,
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
Joyous, the impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers
Drives from their stalls, to where the well used plough
Lies in the furrow, loosen'd from the frost.
There, unrefusing, to the harness'd yoke
They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,
Cheer'd by the simple song and soaring lark.
Meanwhile incumbent o'er the shining share
The master leans, removes the obstructing clay,
Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the glebe
While through the neighbouring fields the sowe stalks,
With measured step, and liberal throws the grain
Into the faithful bosom of the ground;
The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene.
Be gracious, Heaven! for now laborious Man
Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow!
Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend!
And temper all, thou world-reviving sun,
Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live
In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear:
Such themes as these the rural Maro sung
To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refined.
In ancient times the sacred plough employ'd
The kings and awful fathers of mankind:
And some, with whom compared your insect-tribes
Are but the beings of a summer's day,
Have held the scale of empire, ruled the storm
Of mighty war; then, with unwearied hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seized
The plough, and greatly independent lived.
Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough!
And o'er your hills, and long withdrawing vales,
Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun,
Luxuriant and unbounded: as the sea,
Far through his azure turbulent domain,
Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores
Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports;
So with superior boon may your rich soil,
Exuberant, Nature's better blessings pour
O'er every land, the naked nations clothe,
And be the exhaustless granary of a world!
Nor only through the lenient air this change,
Delicious, breathes; the penetrative sun,
His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Of vegetation, sets the steaming Power
At large, to wander o'er the verdant earth,
In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay green!
Thou smiling Nature's universal robe!
United light and shade! where the sight dwells
With growing strength, and ever-new delight.
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill,
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs,
And swells, and deepens, to the cherish'd eye.
The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Till the whole leafy forest stands display'd,
In full luxuriance to the sighing gales;
Where the deer rustle through the twining brake,
And the birds sing conceal'd. At once array'd
In all the colours of the flushing year,
By Nature's swift and secret working hand,
The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
With lavish fragrance; while the promised fruit
Lies yet a little embryo, unperceived,
Within its crimson folds. Now from the town
Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps,
Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields,
Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops
From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze
Of sweetbriar hedges I pursue my walk;
Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
And see the country, far diffused around,
One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower
Of mingled blossoms; where the raptured eye
Hurries from joy to joy, and, hid beneath
The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.
If, brush'd from Russian wilds, a cutting gale
Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings
The clammy mildew; or, dry-blowing, breathe
Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast
The full-blown Spring through all her foliage shrinks,
Joyless and dead, a wide-dejected waste.
For oft, engender'd by the hazy north,
Myriads on myriads, insect armies warp
Keen in the poison'd breeze; and wasteful eat,
Through buds and bark, into the blacken'd core,
Their eager way. A feeble race! yet oft
The sacred sons of vengeance; on whose course
Corrosive Famine waits, and kills the year.
To check this plague, the skilful farmer chaff
And blazing straw before his orchard burns;
Till, all involved in smoke, the latent foe
From every cranny suffocated falls:
Or scatters o'er the blooms the pungent dust
Of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe:
Or, when the envenom'd leaf begins to curl,
With sprinkled water drowns them in their nest;
Nor, while they pick them up with busy bill,
The little trooping birds unwisely scares.
Be patient, swains; these cruel seeming winds
Blow not in vain. Far hence they keep repress'd
Those deepening clouds on clouds, surcharged with rain,
That o'er the vast Atlantic hither borne,
In endless train, would quench the summer-blaze,
And, cheerless, drown the crude unripen'd year.
The north-east spends his rage; he now shut up
Within his iron cave, the effusive south
Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of Heaven
Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Scarce staining ether; but by swift degrees,
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
Along the loaded sky, and mingling deep
Sits on the horizon round a settled gloom:
Not such as wintry-storms on mortals shed,
Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
And full of every hope and every joy,
The wish of Nature. Gradual sinks the breeze
Into a perfect calm; that not a breath
Is heard to quiver through the closing woods,
Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
Of aspin tall. The' uncurling floods, diffused
In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse
Forgetful of their course. 'Tis silence all
And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks
Drop the dry sprig, and mute-imploring eye
The falling verdure. Hush'd in short suspense,
The plumy people streak their wings with oil,
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off:
And wait the approaching sign to strike, at once,
Into the general choir. E'en mountains, vales,
And forests seem, impatient, to demand
The promised sweetness. Man superior walks
Amid the glad creation, musing praise,
And looking lively gratitude. At last,
The clouds consign their treasures to the fields;
And, softly shaking on the dimpled pool
Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow,
In large effusion, o'er the freshened world.
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard,
By such as wander through the forest walks,
Beneath the umbrageous multitude of leaves.
But who can hold the shade, while Heaven descends
In universal bounty, shedding herbs,
And fruits, and flowers, on Nature's ample lap?
Swift Fancy fired anticipates their growth;
And, while the milky nutriment distils,
Beholds the kindling country colour round.
Thus all day long the full-distended clouds
Indulge their genial stores, and well-shower'd earth
Is deep enrich'd with vegetable life;
Till, in the western sky, the downward sun
Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush
Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam.
The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes
The illumined mountain, through the forest streams,
Shakes on the floods, and in a yellow mist,
Far smoking o'er the interminable plain,
In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.
Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs around.
Full swell the woods; their every music wakes,
Mix'd in wild concert with the warbling brooks
Increased, the distant bleatings of the hills,
And hollow lows responsive from the vales,
Whence blending all the sweeten'd zephyr springs.
Meantime, refracted from yon eastern cloud,
Bestriding earth, the grand ethereal bow
Shoots up immense; and every hue unfolds,
In fair proportion running from the red
To where the violet fades into the sky.
Here, awful Newton, the dissolving clouds
Form, fronting on the sun, thy showery prism;
And to the sage instructed eye unfold
The various twine of light, by thee disclosed
From the white mingling maze. Not so the boy;
He wondering views the bright enchantment bend,
Delightful o'er the radiant fields, and runs
To catch the falling glory; but amazed
Beholds the amusive arch before him fly,
Then vanish quite away. Still night succeeds,
A softened shade, and saturated earth
Awaits the morning-beam, to give to light,
Raised through ten thousand different plastic tubes,
The balmy treasures of the former day.
Then spring the living herbs, profusely wild,
O'er all the deep-green earth, beyond the power
Of botanist to number up their tribes:
Whether he steals along the lonely dale,
In silent search; or through the forest, rank
With what the dull incurious weeds account,
Bursts his blind way; or climbs the mountain rock,
Fired by the nodding verdure of its brow.
With such a liberal hand has Nature flung
Their seeds abroad, blown them about in winds,
Innumerous mix'd them with the nursing mould,
The moistening current, and prolific rain.
But who their virtues can declare? who pierce,
With vision pure, into these secret stores
Of health, and life, and joy? the food of Man,
While yet he lived in innocence, and told
A length of golden years; unflesh'd in blood,
A stranger to the savage arts of life,
Death, rapine, carnage, surfeit, and disease;
The lord, and not the tyrant, of the world.
The first fresh dawn then waked the gladden'd race
Of uncorrupted Man, nor blush'd to see
The sluggard sleep beneath its sacred beam;
For their light slumbers gently fumed away;
And up they rose as vigorous as the sun,
Or to the culture of the willing glebe,
Or to the cheerful tendance of the flock.
Meantime the song went round; and dance and sport,
Wisdom and friendly talk, successive, stole
Their hours away: while in the rosy vale
Love breath'd his infant sighs, from anguish free,
And full replete with bliss; save the sweet pain,
That inly thrilling, but exalts it more.
Not yet injurious act, nor surly deed,
Was known among those happy sons of Heaven;
For reason and benevolence were law.
Harmonious Nature too look'd smiling on.
Clear shone the skies, cool'd with eternal gales,
And balmy spirit all. The youthful sun
Shot his best rays, and still the gracious clouds
Dropp'd fatness down; as o'er the swelling mead
The herds and flocks, commixing, play'd secure.
This when, emergent from the gloomy wood,
The glaring lion saw, his horrid heart
Was meeken'd, and he join'd his sullen joy;
For music held the whole in perfect peace:
Soft sigh'd the flute; the tender voice was heard,
Warbling the varied heart; the woodlands round
Applied their quire; and winds and waters flow'd
In consonance. Such were those prime of days.
But now those white unblemish'd manners, whence
The fabling poets took their golden age,
Are found no more amid these iron times.
These dregs of life! now the distemper'd mind
Has lost that concord of harmonious powers,
Which forms the soul of happiness; and all
Is off the poise within: the passions all
Have burst their bounds; and reason half extinct,
Or impotent, or else approving, sees
The foul disorder. Senseless, and deform'd,
Convulsive anger storms at large; or pale,
And silent, settles into fell revenge.
Base envy withers at another's joy,
And hates that excellence it cannot reach.
Desponding fear, of feeble fancies full,
Weak and unmanly, loosens every power.
E'en love itself is bitterness of soul,
A pensive anguish pining at the heart;
Or, sunk to sordid interest, feels no more
That noble wish, that never cloy'd desire,
Which, selfish joy disdaining, seeks alone
To bless the dearer object of its flame.
Hope sickens with extravagance; and grief,
Of life impatient, into madness swells;
Or in dead silence wastes the weeping hours.
These, and a thousand mixt emotions more,
From ever changing views of good and ill,
Form'd infinitely various, vex the mind
With endless storm: whence, deeply rankling, grows
The partial thought, a listless unconcern,
Cold, and averting from our neighbour's good;
Then dark disgust, and hatred, winding wiles,
Coward deceit, and ruffian violence:
At last, extinct each social feeling, fell
And joyless inhumanity pervades
And petrifies the heart. Nature disturb'd
Is deem'd vindictive, to have chang'd her course.
Hence, in old dusky time, a deluge came:
When the deep-cleft disparting orb, that arch'd
The central waters round, impetuous rush'd,
With universal burst, into the gulf,
And o'er the high-piled hills of fractured earth
Wide dash'd the waves, in undulation vast;
Till, from the centre to the streaming clouds,
A shoreless ocean tumbled round the globe.
The Seasons since have, with severer sway,
Oppress'd a broken world: the Winter keen
Shook forth his waste of snows; and Summer shot
His pestilential heats. Great Spring, before,
Green'd all the year; and fruits and blossoms blush'd,
In social sweetness, on the selfsame bough.
Pure was the temperate air; an even calm
Perpetual reign'd, save what the zephyrs bland
Breathed o'er the blue expanse: for then nor storms
Were taught to blow, nor hurricanes to rage;
Sound slept the waters; no sulphureous glooms
Swell'd in the sky, and sent the lightning forth;
While sickly damps and cold autumnal fogs
Hung not, relaxing, on the springs of life.
But now, of turbid elements the sport,
From clear to cloudy tost, from hot to cold,
And dry to moist, with inward-eating change,
Our drooping days are dwindled down to nought,
Their period finish'd ere 'tis well begun.
And yet the wholesome herb neglected dies;
Though with the pure exhilarating soul
Of nutriment and health, and vital powers,
Beyond the search of art, 'tis copious blest.
For, with hot ravine fired, ensanguined man
Is now become the lion of the plain,
And worse. The wolf, who from the nightly fold
Fierce drags the bleating prey, ne'er drunk her milk,
Nor wore her warming fleece: nor has the steer,
At whose strong chest the deadly tiger hangs,
E'er plough'd for him. They too are temper'd high,
With hunger stung and wild necessity;
Nor lodges pity in their shaggy breast.
But man, whom Nature form'd of milder clay,
With every kind emotion in his heart,
And taught alone to weep; while from her lap
She pours ten thousand delicacies, herbs,
And fruits, as numerous as the drops of rain
Or beams that gave them birth: shall he, fair form!
Who wears sweet smiles, and looks erect on Heaven,
E'er stoop to mingle with the prowling herd,
And dip his tongue in gore? The beast of prey,
Blood-stain'd, deserves to bleed: but you, ye flocks,
What have you done; ye peaceful people, what,
To merit death? you, who have given us milk
In luscious streams, and lent us your own coat
Against the Winter's cold? and the plain ox,
That harmless, honest, guileless animal,
In what has he offended? he, whose toil,
Patient and ever ready, clothes the land
With all the pomp of harvest; shall he bleed,
And struggling groan beneath the cruel hands
E'en of the clown he feeds? and that, perhaps,
To swell the riot of the autumnal feast,
Won by his labour? Thus the feeling heart
Would tenderly suggest: but 'tis enough,
In this late age, adventurous, to have touch'd
Light on the numbers of the Samian sage.
High Heaven forbids the bold presumptuous strain,
Whose wisest will has fix'd us in a state
That must not yet to pure perfection rise.
Now when the first foul torrent of the brooks,
Swell'd with the vernal rains, is ebb'd away,
And, whitening, down their mossy-tinctured stream
Descends the billowy foam: now is the time,
While yet the dark-brown water aids the guile,
To tempt the trout. The well-dissembled fly,
The rod fine-tapering with elastic spring,
Snatch'd from the hoary steed the floating line,
And all thy slender watry stores prepare.
But let not on thy hook the tortured worm,
Convulsive, twist in agonizing folds;
Which, by rapacious hunger swallow'd deep,
Gives, as you tear it from the bleeding breast
Of the weak helpless uncomplaining wretch,
Harsh pain and horror to the tender hand.
When with his lively ray the potent sun
Has pierced the streams, and roused the finny-race,
Then, issuing cheerful, to thy sport repair;
Chief should the western breezes curling play,
And light o'er ether bear the shadowy clouds,
High to their fount, this day, amid the hills,
And woodlands warbling round, trace up the brooks;
The next, pursue their rocky-channel'd maze,
Down to the river, in whose ample wave
Their little naiads love to sport at large.
Just in the dubious point, where with the pool
Is mix'd the trembling stream, or where it boils
Around the stone, or from the hollow'd bank
Reverted plays in undulating flow,
There throw, nice-judging, the delusive fly;
And as you lead it round in artful curve,
With eye attentive mark the springing game.
Straight as above the surface of the flood
They wanton rise, or urged by hunger leap,
Then fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook:
Some lightly tossing to the grassy bank,
And to the shelving shore slow dragging some,
With various hand proportion'd to their force.
If yet too young, and easily deceived,
A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant rod,
Him, piteous of his youth and the short space
He has enjoy'd the vital light of Heaven,
Soft disengage, and back into the stream
The speckled captive throw. But should you lure
From his dark haunt, beneath the tangled roots
Of pendent trees, the monarch of the brook,
Behoves you then to ply your finest art.
Long time he, following cautious, scans the fly;
And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft
The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear.
At last, while haply o'er the shaded sun
Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death,
With sullen plunge. At once he darts along,
Deep-struck, and runs out all the lengthened line;
Then seeks the farthest ooze, the sheltering weed,
The cavern'd bank, his old secure abode;
And flies aloft, and flounces round the pool,
Indignant of the guile. With yielding hand,
That feels him still, yet to his furious course
Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage:
Till floating broad upon his breathless side,
And to his fate abandon'd, to the shore
You gaily drag your unresisting prize.
Thus pass the temperate hours; but when the sun
Shakes from his noon-day throne the scattering clouds,
Even shooting listless langour through the deeps;
Then seek the bank where flowering elders crowd,
Where scatter'd wild the lily of the vale
Its balmy essence breathes, where cowslips hang
The dewy head, where purple violets lurk,
With all the lowly children of the shade:
Or lie reclined beneath yon spreading ash,
Hung o'er the steep; whence, borne on liquid wing,
The sounding culver shoots; or where the hawk,
High, in the beetling cliff, his eyry builds.
There let the classic page thy fancy lead
Through rural scenes; such as the Mantuan swain
Paints in the matchless harmony of song.
Or catch thyself the landscape, gliding swift
Athwart imagination's vivid eye:
Or by the vocal woods and waters lull'd,
And lost in lonely musing, in the dream,
Confused, of careless solitude, where mix
Ten thousand wandering images of things,
Soothe every gust of passion into peace;
All but the swellings of the soften'd heart,
That waken, not disturb, the tranquil mind.
Behold yon breathing prospect bids the Muse
Throw all her beauty forth. But who can paint
Like Nature? Can imagination boast,
Amid its gay creation, hues like hers?
Or can it mix them with that matchless skill,
And lose them in each other, as appears
In every bud that blows? If fancy then
Unequal fails beneath the pleasing task,
Ah, what shall language do? Ah, where find words
Tinged with so many colours; and whose power,
To life approaching, may perfume my lays
With that fine oil, those aromatic gales,
That inexhaustive flow continual round?
Yet, though successless, will the toil delight.
Come then, ye virgins and ye youths, whose hearts
Have felt the raptures of refining love;
And thou, Amanda, come, pride of my song!
Form'd by the Graces, loveliness itself!
Come with those downcast eyes, sedate and sweet,
Those looks demure, that deeply pierce the soul,
Where, with the light of thoughtful reason mix'd,
Shines lively fancy and the feeling heart:
Oh come! and while the rosy-footed May
Steals blushing on, together let us tread
The morning dews, and gather in their prime
Fresh-blooming flowers, to grace thy braided hair,
And thy loved bosom that improves their sweets.
See, where the winding vale its lavish stores,
Irriguous, spreads. See, how the lily drinks
The latent rill, scarce oozing through the grass,
Of growth luxuriant; or the humid bank,
In fair profusion, decks. Long let us walk,
Where the breeze blows from yon extended field
Of blossom'd beans. Arabia cannot boast
A fuller gale of joy, than, liberal, thence
Breathes through the sense, and takes the ravished soul.
Nor is the mead unworthy of thy foot,
Full of fresh verdure, and unnumber'd flowers,
The negligence of Nature, wide, and wild;
Where, undisguised by mimic Art, she spreads
Unbounded beauty to the roving eye.
Here their delicious task the fervent bees,
In swarming millions, tend: around, athwart,
Through the soft air, the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and, with inserted tube,
Suck its pure essence, its ethereal soul;
And oft, with bolder wing, they soaring dare
The purple heath, or where the wild thyme grows,
And yellow load them with the luscious spoil.
At length the finish'd garden to the view
Its vistas opens, and its alleys green.
Snatch'd through the verdant maze, the hurried eye
Distracted wanders; now the bowery walk
Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on the lengthen'd gloom, protracted sweeps:
Now meets the bending sky; the river now
Dimpling along, the breezy ruffled lake,
The forest darkening round, the glittering spire,
The ethereal mountain, and the distant main.
But why so far excursive? when at hand,
Along these blushing borders, bright with dew,
And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed spring unbosoms every grace;
Throws out the snowdrop and the crocus first;
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumber'd dyes;
The yellow wall-flower, stain'd with iron brown;
And lavish stock that scents the garden round:
From the soft wing of vernal breezes shed,
Anemones; auriculas, enriched
With shining meal o'er all their velvet leaves;
And full ranunculas, of glowing red.
Then comes the tulip-race, where Beauty plays
Her idle freaks; from family diffused
To family, as flies the father-dust,
The varied colours run; and, while they break
On the charm'd eye, the exulting florist marks,
With secret pride, the wonders of his hand.
No gradual bloom is wanting; from the bud,
Firstborn of Spring, to Summer's musky tribes:
Nor hyacinths, of purest virgin white,
Low-bent, and blushing inward; nor jonquils,
Of potent fragrance; nor Narcissus fair,
As o'er the fabled fountain hanging still;
Nor broad carnations, nor gay-spotted pinks;
Nor, shower'd from every bush, the damask-rose.
Infinite numbers, delicacies, smells,
With hues on hues expression cannot paint,
The breath of Nature, and her endless bloom.
Hail, Source of Being! Universal Soul
Of Heaven and earth! Essential Presence, hail!
To Thee I bend the knee; to Thee my thoughts,
Continual, climb; who, with a master-hand,
Hast the great whole into perfection touched.
By Thee the various vegetative tribes,
Wrapt in a filmy net, and clad with leaves,
Draw the live ether, and imbibe the dew:
By Thee disposed into congenial soils,
Stands each attractive plant, and sucks, and swells
The juicy tide; a twining mass of tubes.
At Thy command the vernal sun awakes
The torpid sap, detruded to the root
By wintry winds; that now in fluent dance,
And lively fermentation, mounting, spreads
All this innumerous-colour'd scene of things.
As rising from the vegetable world
My theme ascends, with equal wing ascend,
My panting Muse; and hark, how loud the woods
Invite you forth in all your gayest trim.
Lend me your song, ye nightingales! oh, pour
The mazy-running soul of melody
Into my varied verse! while I deduce,
From the first note the hollow cuckoo sings,
The symphony of Spring, and touch a theme
Unknown to fame,—the passion of the groves.
When first the soul of love is sent abroad,
Warm through the vital air, and on the heart
Harmonious seizes, the gay troops begin,
In gallant thought, to plume the painted wing;
And try again the long-forgotten strain,
At first faint-warbled. But no sooner grows
The soft infusion prevalent, and wide,
Than, all alive, at once their joy o'erflows
In music unconfined. Up-springs the lark,
Shrill-voiced, and loud, the messenger of morn;
Ere yet the shadows fly, he mounted sings
Amid the dawning clouds, and from their haunts
Calls up the tuneful nations. Every copse
Deep-tangled, tree irregular, and bush
Bending with dewy moisture, o'er the heads
Of the coy quiristers that lodge within,
Are prodigal of harmony. The thrush
And wood-lark, o'er the kind-contending throng
Superior heard, run through the sweetest length
Of notes; when listening Philomela deigns
To let them joy, and purposes, in thought
Elate, to make her night excel their day.
The black-bird whistles from the thorny brake;
The mellow bullfinch answers from the grove:
Nor are the linnets, o'er the flowering furze
Pour'd out profusely, silent. Join'd to these
Innumerous songsters, in the freshening shade
Of new-sprung leaves, their modulations mix
Mellifluous. The jay, the rook, the daw,
And each harsh pipe, discordant heard alone,
Aid the full concert: while the stock-dove breathes
A melancholy murmur through the whole.
'Tis love creates their melody, and all
This waste of music is the voice of love;
That even to birds, and beasts, the tender arts
Of pleasing teaches. Hence the glossy kind
Try every winning way inventive love
Can dictate, and in courtship to their mates
Pour forth their little souls. First, wide around,
With distant awe, in airy rings they rove,
Endeavouring by a thousand tricks to catch
The cunning, conscious, half-averted glance
Of the regardless charmer. Should she seem
Softening the least approvance to bestow,
Their colours burnish, and by hope inspired,
They brisk advance; then, on a sudden struck,
Retire disorder'd; then again approach;
In fond rotation spread the spotted wing,
And shiver every feather with desire.
Connubial leagues agreed, to the deep woods
They haste away, all as their fancy leads,
Pleasure, or food, or secret safety prompts;
That Nature's great command may be obey'd:
Nor all the sweet sensations they perceive
Indulged in vain. Some to the holly-hedge
Nestling repair, and to the thicket some;
Some to the rude protection of the thorn
Commit their feeble offspring. The cleft tree
Offers its kind concealment to a few,
Their food its insects, and its moss their nests.
Others apart far in the grassy dale,
Or roughening waste, their humble texture weare.
But most in woodland solitudes delight,
In unfrequented glooms, or shaggy banks,
Steep, and divided by a babbling brook,
Whose murmurs soothe them all the live-long day,
When by kind duty fix'd. Among the roots
Of hazel, pendent o'er the plaintive stream,
They frame the first foundation of their domes;
Dry sprigs of trees, in artful fabric laid,
And bound with clay together. Now 'tis nought
But restless hurry through the busy air,
Beat by unnumber'd wings. The swallow sweeps
The slimy pool, to build his hanging house
Intent. And often, from the careless back
Of herds and flocks, a thousand tugging bills
Pluck hair and wool; and oft, when unobserved,
Steal from the barn a straw: till soft and warm,
Clean and complete, their habitation grows.
As thus the patient dam assiduous sits,
Not to be tempted from her tender task,
Or by sharp hunger, or by smooth delight,
Though the whole loosen'd Spring around her blows,
Her sympathizing lover takes his stand
High on the opponent bank, and ceaseless sings
The tedious time away; or else supplies
Her place a moment, while she sudden flits
To pick the scanty meal. The appointed time
With pious toil fulfill'd, the callow young,
Warm'd and expanded into perfect life,
Their brittle bondage break, and come to light,
A helpless family, demanding food
With constant clamour: O what passions then,
What melting sentiments of kindly care,
On the new parents seize! Away they fly
Affectionate, and undesiring bear
The most delicious morsel to their young;
Which equally distributed, again
The search begins. Even so a gentle pair,
By fortune sunk, but form'd of generous mould,
And charm'd with cares beyond the vulgar breast,
In some lone cot amid the distant woods,
Sustain'd alone by providential Heaven,
Oft, as they weeping eye their infant train,
Check their own appetites, and give them all.
Nor toil alone they scorn: exalting love,
By the great Father of the Spring inspired,
Gives instant courage to the fearful race,
And to the simple art. With stealthy wing,
Should some rude foot their woody haunts molest,
Amid a neighbouring bush they silent drop,
And whirring thence, as if alarm'd, deceive
The unfeeling schoolboy. Hence, around the head
Of wandering swain, the white-wing'd plover wheels
Her sounding flight, and then directly on
In long excursion skims the level lawn,
To tempt him from her nest. The wild-duck, hence,
O'er the rough moss, and o'er the trackless waste
The heath-hen flutters, pious fraud! to lead
The hot pursuing spaniel far astray.
Be not the Muse ashamed, here to bemoan
Her brothers of the grove, by tyrant Man
Inhuman caught, and in the narrow cage
From liberty confined, and boundless air.
Dull are the pretty slaves, their plumage dull,
Ragged, and all its brightening lustre lost;
Nor is that sprightly wildness in their notes,
Which, clear and vigorous, warbles from the beech.
O then, ye friends of love and love-taught song,
Spare the soft tribes, this barbarous art forbear;
If on your bosom innocence can win,
Music engage, or piety persuade.
But let not chief the nightingale lament
Her ruin'd care too delicately framed
To brook the harsh confinement of the cage.
Oft when, returning with her loaded bill,
The astonish'd mother finds a vacant nest,
By the hard hand of unrelenting clowns
Robb'd, to the ground the vain provision falls;
Her pinions ruffle, and low-drooping scarce
Can bear the mourner to the poplar shade;
Where, all abandon'd to despair, she sings
Her sorrows through the night; and, on the bough,
Sole-sitting, still at every dying fall
Takes up again her lamentable strain
Of winding woe; till, wide around, the woods
Sigh to her song, and with her wail resound.
But now the feather'd youth their former bounds,
Ardent, disdain; and, weighing oft their wings,
Demand the free possession of the sky:
This one glad office more, and then dissolves
Parental love at once, now needless grown.
Unlavish Wisdom never works in vain.
Tis on some evening, sunny, grateful, mild,
When nought but balm is breathing through the woods,
With yellow lustre bright, that the new tribes
Visit the spacious heavens, and look abroad
On Nature's common, far as they can see,
Or wing, their range and pasture. O'er the boughs
Dancing about, still at the giddy verge
Their resolution fails; their pinions still,
In loose libration stretch'd, to trust the void
Trembling refuse: till down before them fly
The parent guides, and chide, exhort, command,
Or push them off. The surging air receives
Its plumy burden; and their self-taught wings
Winnow the waving element. On ground
Alighted, bolder up again they lead,
Farther and farther on, the lengthening flight;
Till vanish'd every fear, and every power
Roused into life and action, light in air
The acquitted parents see their soaring race,
And once rejoicing never know them more.
High from the summit of a craggy cliff,
Hung o'er the deep, such as amazing frowns
On utmost Kilda's shore, whose lonely race
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds,
The royal eagle draws his vigorous young,
Strong-pounced, and ardent with paternal fire.
Now fit to raise a kingdom of their own,
He drives them from his fort, the towering seat,
For ages, of his empire; which, in peace,
Unstain'd he holds, while many a league to sea
He wings his course, and preys in distant isles.
Should I my steps turn to the rural seat,
Whose lofty elms, and venerable oaks,
Invite the rook, who high amid the boughs,
In early Spring, his airy city builds,
And ceaseless caws amusive; there, well-pleased,
I might the various polity survey
Of the mix'd household kind. The careful hen
Calls all her chirping family around,
Fed and defended by the fearless cock;
Whose breast with ardour flames, as on he walks,
Graceful, and crows defiance. In the pond,
The finely checker'd duck, before her train,
Rows garrulous. The stately-sailing swan
Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale;
And, arching proud his neck, with oary feet
Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier-isle,
Protective of his young. The turkey nigh,
Loud-threatening, reddens; while the peacock spreads
His every-colour'd glory to the sun,
And swims in radiant majesty along.
O'er the whole homely scene, the cooing dove
Flies thick in amorous chase, and wanton rolls
The glancing eye, and turns the changeful neck.
While thus the gentle tenants of the shade
Indulge their purer loves, the rougher world
Of brutes, below, rush furious into flame,
And fierce desire. Through all his lusty veins
The bull, deep-scorch'd, the raging passion feels.
Of pasture sick, and negligent of food,
Scarce seen, he wades among the yellow broom,
While o'er his ample sides the rambling spray
Luxuriant shoot; or through the mazy wood
Dejected wanders, nor the inticing bud
Crops, though it presses on his careless sense.
And oft, in jealous madening fancy wrapt,
He seeks the fight; and, idly-butting, feigns
His rival gored in every knotty trunk.
Him should he meet, the bellowing war begins:
Their eyes flash fury; to the hollow'd earth,
Whence the sand flies, they mutter bloody deeds,
And groaning deep, the impetuous battle mix:
While the fair heifer, balmy-breathing, near,
Stands kindling up their rage. The trembling steed,
With this hot impulse seized in every nerve,
Nor heeds the rein, nor hears the sounding thong;
Blows are not felt; but tossing high his head,
And by the well-known joy to distant plains
Attracted strong, all wild he bursts away;
O'er rocks, and woods, and craggy mountains flies;
And, neighing, on the aërial summit takes
The exciting gale; then, steep-descending, cleaves
The headlong torrents foaming down the hills,
E'en where the madness of the straiten'd stream
Turns in black eddies round: such is the force
With which his frantic heart and sinews swell.
Nor undelighted by the boundless Spring
Are the broad monsters of the foaming deep:
From the deep ooze and gelid cavern roused,
They flounce and tumble in unwieldy joy.
Dire were the strain, and dissonant to sing
The cruel raptures of the savage kind:
How by this flame their native wrath sublimed,
They roam, amid the fury of their heart,
The far-resounding waste in fiercer bands,
And growl their horrid loves. But this the theme
I sing, enraptured, to the British Fair,
Forbids, and leads me to the mountain-brow,
Where sits the shepherd on the grassy turf,
Inhaling, healthful, the descending sun.
Around him feeds his many-bleating flock,
Of various cadence; and his sportive lambs,
This way and that convolved, in friskful glee,
Their frolics play. And now the sprightly race
Invites them forth; when swift, the signal given,
They start away, and sweep the massy mound
That runs around the hill; the rampart once
Of iron war, in ancient barbarous times,
When disunited Britain ever bled,
Lost in eternal broil: ere yet she grew
To this deep-laid indissoluble state,
Where Wealth and Commerce lift their golden heads;
And o'er our labours, Liberty and Law,
Impartial, watch; the wonder of a world!
What is this mighty breath, ye sages, say,
That, in a powerful language, felt, not heard,
Instructs the fowls of Heaven; and through their breast
These arts of love diffuses? What, but God?
Inspiring God! who boundless Spirit all,
And unremitting Energy, pervades,
Adjusts, sustains, and agitates the whole.
He ceaseless works alone; and yet alone
Seems not to work: with such perfection framed
Is this complex stupendous scheme of things.
But, though conceal'd, to every purer eye
The informing Author in his works appears:
Chief, lovely Spring, in thee, and thy soft scenes,
The Smiling God is seen; while water, earth,
And air attest his bounty; which exalts
The brute creation to this finer thought,
And annual melts their undesigning hearts
Profusely thus in tenderness and joy.
Still let my song a nobler note assume,
And sing the infusive force of Spring on man;
When heaven and earth, as if contending, vie
To raise his being, and serene his soul.
Can he forbear to join the general smile
Of Nature? Can fierce passions vex his breast,
While every gale is peace, and every grove
Is melody? hence! from the bounteous walks
Of flowing Spring, ye sordid sons of earth,
Hard, and unfeeling of another's woe;
Or only lavish to yourselves; away!
But come, ye generous minds, in whose wide thought,
Of all his works, creative Bounty burns
With warmest beam; and on your open front
And liberal eye, sits, from his dark retreat
Inviting modest Want. Nor, till invoked,
Can restless goodness wait: your active search
Leaves no cold wintry corner unexplored;
Like silent-working Heaven, surprising oft
The lonely heart with unexpected good.
For you the roving spirit of the wind
Blows Spring abroad; for you the teeming clouds
Descend in gladsome plenty o'er the world;
And the sun sheds his kindest rays for you,
Ye flower of human race! in these green days,
Reviving Sickness lifts her languid head;
Life flows afresh; and young-eyed Health exalts
The whole creation round. Contentment walks
The sunny glade, and feels an inward bliss
Spring o'er his mind, beyond the power of kings
To purchase. Pure serenity apace
Induces thought, and contemplation still.
By swift degrees the love of Nature works,
And warms the bosom; till at last sublimed
To rapture, and enthusiastic heat,
We feel the present Deity, and taste
The joy of God to see a happy world!
These are the sacred feelings of thy heart,
Thy heart inform'd by reason's purer ray,
O Lyttelton, the friend! thy passions thus
And meditations vary, as at large,
Courting the Muse, through Hagley Park thou stray'st;
The British Tempé! there along the dale,
With woods o'erhung, and shagg'd with mossy rocks,
Whence on each hand the gushing waters play,
And down the rough cascade white-dashing fall,
Or gleam in lengthened vista through the trees,
You silent steal; or sit beneath the shade
Of solemn oaks, that tuft the swelling mounts
Thrown graceful round by Nature's careless hand,
And pensive listen to the various voice
Of rural peace: the herds, the flocks, the birds,
The hollow-whispering breeze, the plaint of rills,
That, purling down amid the twisted roots
Which creep around, their dewy murmurs shake
On the soothed ear. From these abstracted oft,
You wander through the philosophic world;
Where in bright train continual wonders rise,
Or to the curious or the pious eye.
And oft, conducted by historic truth,
You tread the long extent of backward time:
Planning, with warm benevolence of mind,
And honest zeal unwarp'd by party-rage,
Britannia's weal; how from the venal gulf
To raise her virtue, and her arts revive.
Or, turning thence thy view, these graver thougths
The Muses charm: while, with sure taste refined,
You draw the inspiring breath of ancient song;
Till nobly rises, emulous, thy own.
Perhaps thy loved Lucinda shares thy walk,
With soul to thine attuned. Then Nature all
Wears to the lover's eye a look of love;
And all the tumult of a guilty world,
Tost by ungenerous passions, sinks away.
The tender heart is animated peace;
And as it pours its copious treasures forth,
In varied converse, softening every theme,
You, frequent-pausing, turn, and from her eyes,
Where meeken'd sense, and amiable grace,
And lively sweetness dwell, enraptured, drink
That nameless spirit of ethereal joy,
Unutterable happiness! which love,
Alone, bestows, and on a favour'd few.
Meantime you gain the height, from whose fair brow
The bursting prospect spreads immense around:
And snatch'd o'er hill and dale, and wood and lawn,
And verdant field, and darkening heath between,
And villages embosom'd soft in trees,
And spiry towns by surging columns mark'd
Of household smoke, your eye excursive roams:
Wide-stretching from the hall, in whose kind haunt
The Hospitable Genius lingers still,
To where the broken landscape, by degrees,
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills;
O'er which the Cambrian mountains, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise.
Flush'd by the spirit of the genial year,
Now from the virgin's cheek a fresher bloom
Shoots, less and less, the live carnation round;
Her lips blush deeper sweets; she breathes of youth;
The shining moisture swells into her eyes,
In brighter flow; her wishing bosom heaves,
With palpitations wild; kind tumults seize
Her veins, and all her yielding soul is love.
From the keen gaze her lover turns away,
Full of the dear ecstatic power, and sick
With sighing languishment. Ah then, ye fair!
Be greatly cautious of your sliding hearts:
Dare not the infectious sigh; the pleading look,
Down-cast and low, in meek submission dress'd,
But full of guile. Let not the fervent tongue,
Prompt to deceive, with adulation smooth,
Gain on your purposed will. Nor in the bower,
Where woodbines flaunt, and roses shed a couch,
While Evening draws her crimson curtains round,
Trust your soft minutes with betraying Man.
And let the aspiring youth beware of love,
Of the smooth glance beware; for 'tis too late,
When on his heart the torrent-softness pours;
Then wisdom prostrate lies, and fading fame
Dissolves in air away; while the fond soul,
Wrapp'd in gay visions of unreal bliss,
Still paints the illusive form; the kindling grace;
The inticing smile; the modest-seeming eye,
Beneath whose beauteous beams, belying Heaven,
Lurk searchless cunning, cruelty, and death:
And still false-warbling in his cheated ear,
Her siren voice, enchanting, draws him on
To guileful shores, and meads of fatal joy.
E'en present, in the very lap of love
Inglorious laid; while music flows around,
Perfumes, and oils, and wine, and wanton hours;
Amid the roses fierce Repentance rears
Her snaky crest: a quick returning pang
Shoots through the conscious heart; where honour still,
And great design, against the oppressive load
Of luxury, by fits, impatient heave.
But absent, what fantastic woes, aroused,
Rage in each thought, by restless musing fed,
Chill the warm cheek, and blast the bloom of life?
Neglected fortune flies; and sliding swift,
Prone into ruin fall his scorn'd affairs.
'Tis nought but gloom around: the darken'd sun
Loses his light. The rosy-bosom'd Spring
To weeping fancy pines; and yon bright arch,
Contracted, bends into a dusky vault.
All Nature fades extinct: and she alone,
Heard, felt, and seen, possesses every thought,
Fills every sense, and pants in every vein.
Books are but formal dulness, tedious friends;
And sad amid the social band he sits,
Lonely, and unattentive. From his tongue
The unfinish'd period falls: while borne away
On swelling thought, his wafted spirit flies
To the vain bosom of his distant fair;
And leaves the semblance of a lover, fix'd
In melancholy site, with head declined,
And love-dejected eyes. Sudden he starts,
Shook from his tender trance, and restless runs
To glimmering shades, and sympathetic glooms;
Where the dun umbrage o'er the falling stream,
Romantic, hangs; there through the pensive dusk
Strays, in heart-thrilling meditation lost,
Indulging all to love: or on the bank
Thrown, amid drooping lilies, swells the breeze
With sighs unceasing, and the brook with tears.
Thus in soft anguish he consumes the day,
Nor quits his deep retirement, till the Moon
Peeps through the chambers of the fleecy east,
Enlightened by degrees, and in her train
Leads on the gentle Hours; then forth he walks,
Beneath the trembling languish of her beam,
With soften'd soul, and woos the bird of eve
To mingle woes with his: or, while the world
And all the sons of Care lie hush'd in sleep,
Associates with the midnight shadows drear;
And, sighing to the lonely taper, pours
His idly-tortured heart into the page,
Meant for the moving messenger of love;
Where rapture burns on rapture, every line
With rising frenzy fired. But if on bed
Delirious flung, sleep from his pillow flies.
All night he tosses, nor the balmy power
In any posture finds; till the grey Morn
Lifts her pale lustre on the paler wretch,
Exanimate by love: and then perhaps
Exhausted Nature sinks a while to rest,
Still interrupted by distractèd dreams,
That o'er the sick imagination rise,
And in black colours paint the mimic scene.
Oft with the enchantress of his soul he talks;
Sometimes in crowds distress'd; or if retired
To secret winding flower-enwoven bowers,
Far from the dull impertinence of Man,
Just as he, credulous, his endless cares
Begins to lose in blind oblivious love,
Snatch'd from her yielded hand, he knows not how,
Through forests huge, and long untravel'd heaths
With desolation brown, he wanders waste,
In night and tempest wrapp'd: or shrinks aghast,
Back, from the bending precipice; or wades
The turbid stream below, and strives to reach
The farther shore; where succourless, and sad,
She with extended arms his aid implores;
But strives in vain; borne by the outrageous flood
To distance down, he rides the ridgy wave,
Or whelm'd beneath the boiling eddy sinks.
These are the charming agonies of love,
Whose misery delights. But through the heart
Should jealousy its venom once diffuse,
'Tis then delightful misery no more,
But agony unmix'd incessant gall,
Coroding every thought, and blasting all
Love's paradise. Ye fairy prospects, then,
Ye beds of roses, and ye bowers of joy,
Farewell! ye gleamings of departed peace,
Shine out your last! the yellow-tinging plague
Internal vision taints, and in a night
Of livid gloom imagination wraps.
Ah then! instead of love-enliven'd cheeks,
Of sunny features, and of ardent eyes
With flowing rapture bright, dark looks succeed
Suffused and glaring with untender fire;
A clouded aspect, and a burning cheek,
Where the whole poison'd soul, malignant, sits,
And frightens love away. Ten thousand fears
Invented wild, ten thousand frantic views
Of horrid rivals, hanging on the charms
For which he melts in fondness, eat him up
With fervent anguish, and consuming rage.
In vain reproaches lend their idle aid,
Deceitful pride, and resolution frail,
Giving false peace a moment. Fancy pours,
Afresh, her beauties on his busy thought,
Her first endearments twining round the soul,
With all the witchcraft of ensnaring love.
Straight the fierce storm involves his mind anew
Flames through the nerves, and boils along the veins;
While anxious doubt distracts the tortured heart
For e'en the sad assurance of his fears
Were ease to what he feels. Thus the warm youth
Whom love deludes into his thorny wilds,
Through flowery tempting paths, or leads a life
Of fever'd rapture or of cruel care;
His brightest aims extinguish'd all, and all
His lively moments running down to waste.
But happy they! the happiest of their kind!
Whom gentler stars unite, and in one fate
Their hearts, their fortunes, and their beings blend.
'Tis not the coarser tie of human laws,
Unnatural oft and foreign to the mind,
That binds their peace, but harmony itself,
Attuning all their passions into love;
Where friendship full-exerts her softest power,
Perfect esteem enliven'd by desire
Ineffable, and sympathy of soul;
Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will,
With boundless confidence: for nought but love
Can answer love, and render bliss secure.
Let him, ungenerous, who, alone intent
To bless himself, from sordid parents buys
The loathing virgin, in eternal care,
Well-merited, consume his nights and days:
Let barbarous nations, whose inhuman love
Is wild desire, fierce as the suns they feel;
Let eastern tyrants, from the light of Heaven,
Seclude their bosom-slaves, meanly possess'd
Of a mere lifeless, violated form:
While those whom love cements in holy faith,
And equal transport, free as Nature live,
Disdaining fear. What is the world to them,
Its pomp, its pleasure, and its nonsense all?
Who in each other clasp whatever fair
High fancy forms, and lavish hearts can wish;
Something than beauty dearer, should they look
Or on the mind, or mind-illumined face;
Truth, goodness, honour, harmony, and love,
The richest bounty of indulgent Heaven.
Meantime a smiling offspring rises round,
And mingles both their graces. By degrees,
The human blossom blows; and every day,
Soft as it rolls along, shows some new charm,
The father's lustre, and the mother's bloom.
Then infant reason grows apace, and calls
For the kind hand of an assiduous care.
Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
To teach the young idea how to shoot,
To pour the fresh instruction o'er the mind,
To breathe the enlivening spirit, and to fix
The generous purpose in the glowing breast.
Oh, speak the joy! ye, whom the sudden tear
Surprises often, while you look around,
And nothing strikes your eye but sights of bliss,
All various Nature pressing on the heart:
An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven!
These are the matchless joys of virtuous love;
And thus their moments fly. The Seasons thus,
As ceaseless round a jarring world they roll,
Still find them happy; and consenting Spring
Sheds her own rosy garland on their heads:
Till evening comes at last, serene and mild;
When after the long vernal day of life,
Enamour'd more, as more remembrance swells
With many a proof of recollected love,
Together down they sink in social sleep;
Together freed, their gentle spirits fly
To scenes where love and bliss immortal reign.
Sunday at Hampstead
(AN VERY IDLE IDYLL BY A VERY HUMBLE MEMBER OF THE GREAT AND NOBLE LONDON MOB.)
This is the Heath of Hampstead,
This is the Dome of Saint Paul’s;
Beneath, on the serried house-tops,
A chequered luster falls:
And the might city of London,
Under the clouds and the light,
Seems a low, wet beach, half shingle,
With a few sharp rocks upright.
Here we sit, my darling,
And dream an hour away:
The donkeys are hurried and worried,
But we are not donkeys to-day:
Through all the weary week, dear,
We toil in the murk down there,
Tied to a desk and a counter,
A patient, stupid pair!
But on Sunday we slip our thether,
And away from the smoke and the smirch;
Too grateful to God for His Sabbath
To shut its hours in a church.
Away to the green, green country,
Under the open sky;
Where the earth’s sweet breath is incense
And the lark sings psalms on high.
On Sunday we’re Lord and Lady,
With ten times the love and glee
Of those pale, languid rich ones
Who are always and never free.
The drawl and stare and simper,
So fine and cold and staid,
Like exquisite waxwork figures
That must be kept in the shade.
We can laugh out loud when merry,
We can romp at kiss-in-the-ring,
We can take our beer at a public,
We can loll on the grass and sing.
Would you grieve very much, my darling,
If all yon low wet shore
Were drowned by a mighty flood tide,
And we never toiled there more?
Wicked—there is no sin, dear,
In an idle dreamer’s head;
He turns the world topsy-turvy
To prove that his soul’s not dead.
I am sinking, sinking, sinking;
It’s hard to sit upright!
Your lap is the softest pillow!
Good night, my love, good night!
How your eyes dazzle down into my soul!
I drink and drink of their deep violet wine,
And ever thirst the more, although my whole
Dazed being whirls in drunkenness divine.
Pout down your lips for that bewildering smile,
And kiss me for the interruption, Sweet!
I had escaped you: floating for awhile
In that far cloud ablaze with living heat:
I floated with it though the solemn skies,
I melted with it up the Crystal Sea
Into the heaven of Heavens; and shut my eyes
To fell eternal rest enfolding me . . .
Well, I prefer on tyrannous girl down here,
You jealous violet-eyed Bewitcher, you!
To being lord in Mohammed's seventh sphere
Of meekest hours threescore ten and two!
Was it hundreds of years ago, my Love,
Was it thousands of miles away,
The two poor creatures we know, my Love,
Were toiling day by day;
Were toiling weary, weary.,
With many myriads more,
In a City dark and dreary
On a sullen river’s shore?
Was it truly a fact or a dream, my Love?
I think my brain still reels,
And my ears still throbbing seem, my Love,
With the rush and clang of wheels;
Of vast machinery roaring
Forever in skyless gloom;
Where the poor slaves peach imploring,
Found peace alone in the tomb.
Was it hundreds of years ago, my Love,
Was it thousands of miles away?
Or was it a dream to show, my Love,
The rapture of today?
This day of holy splendor,
This Sabbath of rich rest,
Wherein to God we render
All praise by being blest.
Eight of us promised to meet here
And tea together at five:
And -- who would ever believe it? --
We are the first to arrive!
Oh, shame on us, in darling;
It is a monstrous crime
To make a tryst with others
And be before our time!
Lizzie is off with William,
Quite happy for her part;
Our sugar in her pocket,
And the sweet love in her heart.
Mary and Dick so grandly
Parade suburban streets;
His waistcoat and her bonnet
Proving the best of treats.
And Fanny plagues big Robert
With tricks of the wildest glee:
0 Fanny, you'll get in hot water
If you do not bring us our tea!
Why, bless me, look at that table,
Every one of them there! --
'Ha, here at last we have them,
The always behindhand pair!
'When the last trumpet-solo
Strikes up instead of the lark,
They'll turn in their sleep just grunting
Who's up so soon in the dark?'
Babble and gabble, you rabble,
A thousand in full yell!
And this is your Tower of Babel,
This not-to-be-finished Hotel. *
* THOMSON'S NOTE: Since finished, in a fashion. The verses were written in 1863.
'You should see it in the drawing,
You'd think a Palace they make,
Like the one in the Lady of Lyons,
With this pond for the lovely lake!'
'I wish it wasn't Sunday,
There's no amusement at all:
Who was here Hot-cross-bun-day?
We had such an open-air ball!
'The bands played polkas, waltzes,
Quadrilles; it was glorious fun!
And each gentleman gave them a penny
After each dance was done.'
'Mary is going to chapel,
And what takes her there, do you guess?
Her sweet little duck of a bonnet,
And her new second-hand silk dress.'
'We went to Church one Sunday,
But felt we had no right there;
For it's only a place for the grand folk
Who come in a carriage and pair.
'And I laughed out loud, -- it was shameful!
But Fanny said, Oh, what lives!
He must have been clever, the rascal,
To manage seven hundred wives!'
'Suppose we play Hunt-the-Slipper?'
'We can't, there's the crinoline!' --- 'Phew!!
Bother it, always a nuisance!'
'I think I've seen all the girls here,
About a thousand, or more;
But none of them half so pretty
As our own loving four.'
'Thank you! and I've been listening
To lots of the men, the knaves;
But none of them half such humbugs
As our devoted slaves.'
'Do you see those purple flushes?
The sun will set in state:
Up all! we must cross to the heath, friends,
Before it gets too late.
'We will couch in the fern together,
And watch for the moon and the stars;
And the slim tree-tops will be lighted,
So the boys may light their cigars.
'And while the sunset glory
Burns down in crimson and gold,
LAZY shall tell us a story
Of his wonderful times of old.'
Ten thousand years ago, ('No more than that?')
Ten thousand years, ('The age of Robert's hat!'-
'Silence you gods!' -- 'Pinch Fanny!' -- 'Now we're good.')
This place where we are sitting was a wood,
Savage and desert save for one rude home
Of wattles plastered with stiff clay and loam;
And here, in front, upon the grassy mire
Four naked squaws were squatted round a fire:
Then four tall naked wild men crushing through
The tangled Underfeed came into view;
Two of them bent beneath a mighty boar,
The third was gashed and bleeding, number four
Strutted full-drest in war-paint, ('That was Dick!')
Blue of a devilish pattern laid on thick.
The squaws jumped up to roast the carcass whole;
The braves sank silent, stark 'gainst root and bole.
The meat half-done, they tore it and devoured,
Sullenly ravenous; the women cowered
Until their lords had finished, then partook.
Mist rose; all crept into their cabin nook,
And staked the month; the floor was one broad bed
Of rushes dried with fox and bearskins spread.
Wolves howled and wild cats wailed; they snored; and so
The long night passed, shedding a storm of snow;
This very night ten thousand years ago.
Ten thousand years before, ('Come, draw it mild!
Don't waste Conk-ology like that, my child!')
From where we sit to the horizon's bound
A level brilliant plain was spread all round,
As level and as brilliant as a sea
Under the burning sun; high as your knee
Aflame with flowers, yellow and blue and red:
Long lines of palm-trees marked out there the bed
Of a great river, and among them gleamed
A few grey tents. Then four swift horsemen streamed
Out of the West, magnificent in ire,
Churning the meadow into flakes of fire,
Brandishing monstrous spears as if in fight,
They wheeled, ducked, charged, and shouted fierce delight:
So till they reach the camp: the women there
Awaiting them the evening meal prepare;
Milk from the goats and camels, dates plucked fresh,
Cool curds and cheese, millet, sweet broiled kid's flesh.
The spear struck deep hath picketed each barb;
A grave proud turbaned man in flowing garb
Sups with a grave meek woman, humbly proud,
Whose eyes flash empire. Then the solemn crowd
Of stars above, the silent plain below,
Until the East resumes its furnace-glow;
This same night twenty thousand years ago.
Ten thousand years before, ('But if you take
Such mouthfuls, you will soon eat up Time's cake!')
Where we are sitting rose in splendid light
A broad cool marble palace; from the height
Broad terrace-gardens stairlike sank away
Down to the floor of a deep sapphire bay.
Where the last slope slid greenly to the wave,
And dark rich glossy foliage shadow gave,
Four women -- or four goddesses -- leaned calm,
Of mighty stature, graceful as the palm:
One stroked with careless hand a lion's mane,
One fed an eagle; while a measured strain
Was poured forth by the others, harp and voice,
Music to make the universe rejoice.
An isle was in the offing seen afar,
Deep-purple based, its peak a glittering star;
Whence rowed a galley (drooped the silken sails),
A dragon-barque with golden burning scales.
Then four bronzed giants leapt to land, embraced
The glorious women, chantin : 'Did we haste?
The Cavern-Voice hath silenced all your fears;
Peace on our earth another thousand years!'
On fruits and noble wine, with song's rich flow,
They feasted in the sunset's golden glow;
This same night thirty thousand years ago.
Ten thousand years before, ('Another ten!
Good Lord, how greedy are these little men!')
This place where we are sitting ('Half asleep.')
Was in the sea a hundred fathoms deep:
A floor of silver sand so fine and soft,
A coral forest branching far aloft;
Above, the great dusk emerald golden-green;
Silence profound and solitude serene.
Four mermaids sit beneath the coral rocks,
Combing with golden combs their long green locks,
And wreathing them with little pearly shells;
Four mermen came from out the deep-sea dells,
And whisper to them, and they all turn pale:
Then through the hyaline a voice of wail,
With passionate gestures, 'Ever alas for woe !
A rumour cometh down the Ocean-flow,
A word calamitous! that we shall be
All disinherited from the great sea:
Our tail with which like fishes we can swim
Shall split into an awkward double-limb,
And we must waddle on the arid soil,
And build dirt-huts, and get our food with toil,
And lose our happy, happy lives!' And so
These gentle creatures wept 'Alas for woe!'
This same night forty thousand years ago.
'Are you not going back a little more?
What was the case ten thousand years before?'
Ten thousand years before 'twas Sunday night;
Four lovely girls were listening with delight,
Three noble youths admired another youth
Discoursing History crammed full of truth:
They all were sitting upon Hampstead Heath,
And monstrous grimy London lay beneath.
'The stupidest story LAZY ever told;
I've no more faith in his fine times of old.'
'How do you like our prospects now, my dears?
We'll all be mermaids in ten thousand years.'
'Mermaids arc beautiful enough, but law!
Think of becoming a poor naked squaw!'
'But in these changes, sex will change no doubt;
We'll all be men and women turn about.'
'Then these four chaps will be the squaws?-that's just;
With lots of picaninnies, I do trust!'
'If changes go by fifty thousand, yes;
But if by ten, they last were squaws, I guess!'
'Come on; we'll go and do the very beers
We did this night was fifty thousand years.'
Thou prophet, thou deep sage! we'll go, we'll go:
The ring is round, Life naught, the World an 0;
This night is fifty thousand years ago!
As we rush, as we rush in the Train,
The trees and the houses come wheeling back,
But the starry heavens about the plain
Come flying on our track.
As we rush, as we rush in the Train,
The trees and the houses go wheeling back,
But the starry heavens above the plain
Come flying on our track.
All the beautiful stars of the sky,
The silver doves of the forest of Night,
Over the dull earth swarm and fly,
Companions of our flight.
We will rush ever on without fear;
Let the goal be far, the flight be fleet!
For we carry the Heavens with us, dear,
While the Earth slips from our feet!
Day after day of this azure May
The blood of the Spring has swelled in my veins;
Night after night of broad moonlight
A mystical dream has dazzled my brains.
A seething might, a fierce delight,
The blood of the Spring is the wine of the world;
My veins run fire and thrill desire,
Every leaf of my heart's red rose uncurled.
A sad sweet calm, a tearful balm,
The light of the Moon is the trance of the world;
My brain is fraught with yearning thought,
And the rose is pale and its leaves are furled.
O speed the day, thou dear, dear May,
And hasten the night I charge thee, O June,
When the trance divine shall burn with the wine
And the red rose unfurl all its fire to the Moon!
O mellow moonlight warm,
Weave round my Love a charm;
O countless starry eyes,
Watch from the holy skies;
O ever-solemn Night,
Shield her within thy might:
Watch her, my little one!
Shield her my darling!
How my heart shrinks with fear,
Nightly to leave thee, dear;
Lonely and pure within
Vast glooms of woe and sin:
Our wealth of love and bliss
Too heavenly perfect is:
Good night, my little one!
God keep thee, darling!
The Deserted Garden
I know a village in a far-off land
Where from a sunny, mountain-girdled plain
With tinted walls a space on either hand
And fed by many an olive-darkened lane
The high-road mounts, and thence a silver band
Through vineyard slopes above and rolling grain,
Winds off to that dim corner of the skies
Where behind sunset hills a stately city lies.
Here, among trees whose overhanging shade
Strews petals on the little droves below,
Pattering townward in the morning weighed
With greens from many an upland garden-row,
Runs an old wall; long centuries have frayed
Its scalloped edge, and passers to and fro
Heard never from beyond its crumbling height
Sweet laughter ring at noon or plaintive song at night.
But here where little lizards bask and blink
The tendrils of the trumpet-vine have run,
At whose red bells the humming bird to drink
Stops oft before his garden feast is done;
And rose-geraniums, with that tender pink
That cloud-banks borrow from the setting sun,
Have covered part of this old wall, entwined
With fair plumbago, blue as evening heavens behind.
And crowning other parts the wild white rose
Rivals the honey-suckle with the bees.
Above the old abandoned orchard shows
And all within beneath the dense-set trees,
Tall and luxuriant the rank grass grows,
That settled in its wavy depth one sees
Grass melt in leaves, the mossy trunks between,
Down fading avenues of implicated green;
Wherein no lack of flowers the verdurous night
With stars and pearly nebula o'erlay;
Azalea-boughs half rosy and half white
Shine through the green and clustering apple-spray,
Such as the fairy-queen before her knight
Waved in old story, luring him away
Where round lost isles Hesperian billows break
Or towers loom up beneath the clear, translucent lake;
And under the deep grass blue hare-bells hide,
And myrtle plots with dew-fall ever wet,
Gay tiger-lilies flammulate and pied,
Sometime on pathway borders neatly set,
Now blossom through the brake on either side,
Where heliotrope and weedy mignonette,
With vines in bloom and flower-bearing trees,
Mingle their incense all to swell the perfumed breeze,
That sprung like Hermes from his natal cave
In some blue rampart of the curving West,
Comes up the valleys where green cornfields wave,
Ravels the cloud about the mountain crest,
Breathes on the lake till gentle ripples pave
Its placid floor; at length a long-loved guest,
He steals across this plot of pleasant ground,
Waking the vocal leaves to a sweet vernal sound.
Here many a day right gladly have I sped,
Content amid the wavy plumes to lie,
And through the woven branches overhead
Watch the white, ever-wandering clouds go by,
And soaring birds make their dissolving bed
Far in the azure depths of summer sky,
Or nearer that small huntsman of the air,
The fly-catcher, dart nimbly from his leafy lair;
Pillowed at case to hear the merry tune
Of mating warblers in the boughs above
And shrill cicadas whom the hottest noon
Keeps not from drowsy song; the mourning dove
Pours down the murmuring grove his plaintive croon
That like the voice of visionary love
Oft have I risen to seek through this green maze
(Even as my feet thread now the great world's garden-ways);
And, parting tangled bushes as I passed
Down beechen allies beautiful and dim,
Perhaps by some deep-shaded pool at last
My feet would pause, where goldfish poise and swim,
And snowy callas' velvet cups are massed
Around the mossy, fern-encircled brim.
Here, then, that magic summoning would cease,
Or sound far off again among the orchard trees.
And here where the blanched lilies of the vale
And violets and yellow star-flowers teem,
And pink and purple hyacinths exhale
Their heavy fume, once more to drowse and dream
My head would sink, from many an olden tale
Drawing imagination's fervid theme,
Or haply peopling this enchanting spot
Only with fair creations of fantastic thought.
For oft I think, in years long since gone by,
That gentle hearts dwelt here and gentle hands
Stored all this bowery bliss to beautify
The paradise of some unsung romance;
Here, safe from all except the loved one's eye,
'Tis sweet to think white limbs were wont to glance,
Well pleased to wanton like the flowers and share
Their simple loveliness with the enamored air.
Thrice dear to them whose votive fingers decked
The altars of First Love were these green ways,
These lawns and verdurous brakes forever flecked
With the warm sunshine of midsummer days;
Oft where the long straight allies intersect
And marble seats surround the open space,
Where a tiled pool and sculptured fountain stand,
Hath Evening found them seated, silent, hand in hand.
When twilight deepened, in the gathering shade
Beneath that old titanic cypress row,
Whose sombre vault and towering colonnade
Dwarfed the enfolded forms that moved below,
Oft with close steps these happy lovers strayed,
Till down its darkening aisle the sunset glow
Grew less and patterning the garden floor
Faint flakes of filtering moonlight mantled more and more.
And the strange tempest that a touch imparts
Through the mid fibre of the molten frame,
When the sweet flesh in early youth asserts
Its heyday verve and little hints enflame,
Disturbed them as they walked; from their full hearts
Welled the soft word, and many a tender name
Strove on their lips as breast to breast they strained
And the deep joy they drank seemed never, never drained.
Love's soul that is the depth of starry skies
Set in the splendor of one upturned face
To beam adorably through half-closed eyes;
Love's body where the breadth of summer days
And all the beauty earth and air comprise
Come to the compass of an arm's embrace,
To burn a moment on impassioned lips
And yield intemperate joy to quivering finger-tips,
They knew; and here where morning-glories cling
Round carven forms of carefullest artifice,
They made a bower where every outward thing
Should comment on the cause of their own bliss;
With flowers of liveliest hue encompassing
That flower that the beloved body is
That rose that for the banquet of Love's bee
Has budded all the æons of past eternity.
But their choice seat was where the garden wall,
Crowning a little summit, far and near,
Looks over tufted treetops onto all
The pleasant outer country; rising here
From rustling foliage where cuckoos call
On summer evenings, stands a belvedere,
Buff-hued, of antique plaster, overrun
With flowering vines and weatherworn by rain and sun.
Still round the turrets of this antique tower
The bougainvillea hangs a crimson crown,
Wistaria-vines and clematis in flower,
Wreathing the lower surface further down,
Hide the old plaster in a very shower
Of motley blossoms like a broidered gown.
Outside, ascending from the garden grove,
A crumbling stairway winds to the one room above.
And whoso mounts by this dismantled stair
Finds the old pleasure-hall, long disarrayed,
Brick-tiled and raftered, and the walls foursquare
Ringed all about with a twofold arcade.
Backward dense branches intercept the glare
Of afternoon with eucalyptus shade;
Eastward the level valley-plains expand,
Sweet as a queen's survey of her own Fairyland.
For through that frame the ivied arches make,
Wide tracts of sunny midland charm the eye,
Frequent with hamlet grove, and lucent lake
Where the blue hills' inverted contours lie;
Far to the east where billowy mountains break
In surf of snow against a sapphire sky,
Huge thunderheads loom up behind the ranges,
Changing from gold to pink as deepening sunset changes;
And over plain and far sierra spread
The fulgent rays of fading afternoon,
Showing each utmost peak and watershed
All clarified, each tassel and festoon
Of floating cloud embroidered overhead,
Like lotus-leaves on bluest waters strewn,
Flushing with rose, while all breathes fresh and free
In peace and amplitude and bland tranquillity.
Dear were such evenings to this gentle pair;
Love's tide that launched on with a blast too strong
Sweeps toward the foaming reef, the hidden snare,
Baffling with fond illusion's siren-song,
Too faint, on idle shoals, to linger there
Far from Youth's glowing dream, bore them along,
With purple sail and steered by seraph hands
To isles resplendent in the sunset of romance.
And out of this old house a flowery fane,
A bridal bower, a pearly pleasure-dome,
They built, and furnished it with gold and grain,
And bade all spirits of beauty hither come,
And wingéd Love to enter with his train
And bless their pillow, and in this his home
Make them his priests as Hero was of yore
In her sweet girlhood by the blue Dardanian shore.
Tree-ferns, therefore, and potted palms they brought,
Tripods and urns in rare and curious taste,
Polychrome chests and cabinets inwrought
With pearl and ivory etched and interlaced;
Pendant brocades with massive braid were caught,
And chain-slung, oriental lamps so placed
To light the lounger on some low divan,
Sunken in swelling down and silks from Hindustan.
And there was spread, upon the ample floors,
Work of the Levantine's laborious loom,
Such as by Euxine or Ionian shores
Carpets the dim seraglio's scented gloom.
Each morn renewed, the garden's flowery stores
Blushed in fair vases, ochre and peach-bloom,
And little birds through wicker doors left wide
Flew in to trill a space from the green world outside.
And there was many a dainty attitude,
Bronze and eburnean. All but disarrayed,
Here in eternal doubt sweet Psyche stood
Fain of the bath's delight, yet still afraid
Lest aught in that palatial solitude
Lurked of most menace to a helpless maid.
Therefore forever faltering she stands,
Nor yet the last loose fold slips rippling from her hands.
Close by upon a beryl column, clad
In the fresh flower of adolescent grace,
They set the dear Bithynian shepherd lad,
The nude Antinous. That gentle face,
Forever beautiful, forever sad,
Shows but one aspect, moon-like, to our gaze,
Yet Fancy pictures how those lips could smile
At revelries in Rome, and banquets on the Nile.
And there were shapes of Beauty myriads more,
Clustering their rosy bridal bed around,
Whose scented breadth a silken fabric wore
Broidered with peacock hues on creamiest ground,
Fit to have graced the barge that Cydnus bore
Or Venus' bed in her enchanted mound,
While pillows swelled in stuffs of Orient dyes,
All broidered with strange fruits and birds of Paradise.
'Twas such a bower as Youth has visions of,
Thither with one fair spirit to retire,
Lie upon rose-leaves, sleep and wake with Love
And feast on kisses to the heart's desire;
Where by a casement opening on a grove,
Wide to the wood-winds and the sweet birds' choir,
A girl might stand and gaze into green boughs,
Like Credhe at the window of her golden house.
Or most like Vivien, the enchanting fay,
Where with her friend, in the strange tower they planned,
She lies and dreams eternity away,
Above the treetops in Broceliande,
Sometimes at twilight when the woods are gray
And wolf-packs howl far out across the lande,
Waking to love, while up behind the trees
The large midsummer moon lifts-even so loved these.
For here, their pleasure was to come and sit
Oft when the sun sloped midway to the west,
Watching with sweet enjoyment interknit
The long light slant across the green earth's breast,
And clouds upon the ranges opposite,
Rolled up into a gleaming thundercrest,
Topple and break and fall in purple rain,
And mist of summer showers trail out across the plain.
Whereon the shafts of ardent light, far-flung
Across the luminous azure overhead,
Ofttimes in arcs of transient beauty hung
The fragmentary rainbow's green and red.
Joy it was here to love and to be young,
To watch the sun sink to his western bed,
And streaming back out of their flaming core
The vesperal aurora's glorious banners soar.
Tinging each altitude of heaven in turn,
Those fiery rays would sweep. The cumuli
That peeped above the mountain-tops would burn
Carmine a space; the cirrus-whorls on high,
More delicate than sprays of maiden fern,
Streak with pale rose the peacock-breasted sky,
Then blanch. As water-lilies fold at night,
Sank back into themselves those plumes of fervid light.
And they would watch the first faint stars appear,
The blue East blend with the blue hills below,
As lovers when their shuddering bliss draws near
Into one pulse of fluid rapture grow.
New fragrance on the freshening atmosphere
Would steal with evening, and the sunset glow
Draw deeper down into the wondrous west
Round vales of Proserpine and islands of the blest.
So dusk would come and mingle lake and shore,
The snow-peaks fade to frosty, opaline,
To pearl the doméd clouds the mountains bore,
Where late the sun's effulgent fire had been
Showing as darkness deepened more and more
The incandescent lightnings flare within,
And Night that furls the lily in the glen
And twines impatient arms would fall, and then---and then . . .
Sometimes the peasant, coming late from town
With empty panniers on his little drove
Past the old lookout when the Northern Crown
Glittered with Cygnus through the scented grove,
Would hear soft noise of lute-strings wafted down
And voices singing through the leaves above
Those songs that well from the warm heart that woos
At balconies in Merida or Vera Cruz.
And he would pause under the garden wall,
Caught in the spell of that voluptuous strain,
With all the sultry South in it, and all
Its importunity of love and pain;
And he would wait till the last passionate fall
Died on the night, and all was still again.
Then to his upland village wander home,
Marvelling whence that flood of elfin song might come.
O lyre that Love's white holy hands caress,
Youth, from thy bosom welled their passionate lays
Sweet opportunity for happiness
So brief, so passing beautiful---O days,
When to the heart's divine indulgences
All earth in smiling ministration pays
Thine was the source whose plenitude, past over,
What prize shall rest to pluck, what secret to discover!
The wake of color that follows her when May
Walks on the hills loose-haired and daisy-crowned,
The deep horizons of a summer's day,
Fair cities, and the pleasures that abound
Where music calls, and crowds in bright array
Gather by night to find and to be found;
What were these worth or all delightful things
Without thine eyes to read their true interpretings!
For thee the mountains open glorious gates,
To thee white arms put out from orient skies,
Earth, like a jewelled bride for one she waits,
Decks but to be delicious in thine eyes,
Thou guest of honor for one day, whose fêtes
Eternity has travailed to devise;
Ah, grace them well in the brief hour they last!
Another's turn prepares, another follows fast.
Yet not without one fond memorial
Let my sun set who found the world so fair!
Frail verse, when Time the singer's coronal
Has rent, and stripped the rose-leaves from his hair,
Be thou my tablet on the temple wall!
Among the pious testimonials there,
Witness how sweetly on my heart as well
The miracles of dawn and starry evening fell!
Speak of one then who had the lust to feel,
And, from the hues that far horizons take,
And cloud and sunset, drank the wild appeal,
Too deep to live for aught but life's sweet sake,
Whose only motive was the will to kneel
Where Beauty's purest benediction spake,
Who only coveted what grove and field
And sunshine and green Earth and tender arms could yield---
A nympholept, through pleasant days and drear
Seeking his faultless adolescent dream,
A pilgrim down the paths that disappear
In mist and rainbows on the world's extreme,
A helpless voyager who all too near
The mouth of Life's fair flower-bordered stream,
Clutched at Love's single respite in his need
More than the drowning swimmer clutches at a reed---
That coming one whose feet in other days
Shall bleed like mine for ever having, more
Than any purpose, felt the need to praise
And seek the angelic image to adore,
In love with Love, its wonderful, sweet ways
Counting what most makes life worth living for,
That so some relic may be his to see
How I loved these things too and they were dear to me.
I sometimes think a conscious happiness
Mantles through all the rose's sentient vine
When summer winds with myriad calyces
Of bloom its clambering height incarnadine;
I sometimes think that cleaving lips, no less,
And limbs that crowned desires at length entwine
Are nerves through which that being drinks delight,
Whose frame is the green Earth robed round with day and night.
And such were theirs: the traveller without,
Pausing at night under the orchard trees,
Wondered and crossed himself in holy doubt,
For through their song and in the murmuring breeze
It seemed angelic choirs were all about
Mingling in universal harmonies,
As though, responsive to the chords they woke,
All Nature into sweet epithalamium broke.
And still they think a spirit haunts the place:
'Tis said, when Night has drawn her jewelled pall
And through the branches twinkling fireflies trace
Their mimic constellations, if it fall
That one should see the moon rise through the lace
Of blossomy boughs above the garden wall,
That surely would he take great ill thereof
And famish in a fit of unexpressive love.
But this I know not, for what time the wain
Was loosened and the lily's petal furled,
Then I would rise, climb the old wall again,
And pausing look forth on the sundown world,
Scan the wide reaches of the wondrous plain,
The hamlet sites where settling smoke lay curled,
The poplar-bordered roads, and far away
Fair snowpeaks colored with the sun's last ray.
Waves of faint sound would pulsate from afar
Faint song and preludes of the summer night;
Deep in the cloudless west the evening star
Hung 'twixt the orange and the emerald light;
From the dark vale where shades crepuscular
Dimmed the old grove-girt belfry glimmering white,
Throbbing, as gentlest breezes rose or fell,
Came the sweet invocation of the evening bell.
The Sage Enamoured And The Honest Lady
One fairest of the ripe unwedded left
Her shadow on the Sage's path; he found,
By common signs, that she had done a theft.
He could have made the sovereign heights resound
With questions of the wherefore of her state:
He on far other but an hour before
Intent. And was it man, or was it mate,
That she disdained? or was there haply more?
About her mouth a placid humour slipped
The dimple, as you see smooth lakes at eve
Spread melting rings where late a swallow dipped.
The surface was attentive to receive,
The secret underneath enfolded fast.
She had the step of the unconquered, brave,
Not arrogant; and if the vessel's mast
Waved liberty, no challenge did it wave.
Her eyes were the sweet world desired of souls,
With something of a wavering line unspelt.
They hold the look whose tenderness condoles
For what the sister in the look has dealt
Of fatal beyond healing; and her tones
A woman's honeyed amorous outvied,
As when in a dropped viol the wood-throb moans
Among the sobbing strings, that plain and chide
Like infants for themselves, less deep to thrill
Than those rich mother-notes for them breathed round.
Those voices are not magic of the will
To strike love's wound, but of love's wound give sound,
Conveying it; the yearnings, pains and dreams.
They waft to the moist tropics after storm,
When out of passion spent thick incense steams,
And jewel-belted clouds the wreck transform.
Was never hand on brush or lyre to paint
Her gracious manners, where the nuptial ring
Of melody clasped motion in restraint:
The reed-blade with the breeze thereof may sing.
With such endowments armed was she and decked
To make her spoken thoughts eclipse her kind;
Surpassing many a giant intellect,
The marvel of that cradled infant mind.
It clenched the tiny fist, it curled the toe;
Cherubic laughed, enticed, dispensed, absorbed;
And promised in fair feminine to grow
A Sage's match and mate, more heavenly orbed.
Across his path the spouseless Lady cast
Her shadow, and the man that thing became.
His youth uprising called his age the Past.
This was the strong grey head of laurelled name,
And in his bosom an inverted Sage
Mistook for light of morn the light which sank.
But who while veins run blood shall know the page
Succeeding ere we turn upon our blank?
Comes Beauty with her tale of moon and cloud,
Her silvered rims of mystery pointing in
To hollows of the half-veiled unavowed,
Where beats her secret life, grey heads will spin
Quick as the young, and spell those hieroglyphs
Of phosphorescent dusk, devoutly bent;
They drink a cup to whirl on dizzier cliffs
For their shamed fall, which asks, why was she sent!
Why, and of whom, and whence; and tell they truth,
The legends of her mission to beguile?
Hard likeness to the toilful apes of youth
He bore at times, and tempted the sly smile;
And not on her soft lips was it descried.
She stepped her way benevolently grave:
Nor sign that Beauty fed her worm of pride,
By tossing victim to the courtier knave,
Let peep, nor of the naughty pride gave sign.
Rather 'twas humbleness in being pursued,
As pilgrim to the temple of a shrine.
Had he not wits to pierce the mask he wooed?
All wisdom's armoury this man could wield;
And if the cynic in the Sage it pleased
Traverse her woman's curtain and poor shield,
For new example of a world diseased;
Showing her shrineless, not a temple, bare;
A curtain ripped to tatters by the blast;
Yet she most surely to this man stood fair:
He worshipped like the young enthusiast,
Named simpleton or poet. Did he read
Right through, and with the voice she held reserved
Amid her vacant ruins jointly plead?
Compassion for the man thus noble nerved
The pity for herself she felt in him,
To wreak a deed of sacrifice, and save;
At least, be worthy. That our soul may swim,
We sink our heart down bubbling under wave.
It bubbles till it drops among the wrecks.
But, ah! confession of a woman's breast:
She eminent, she honoured of her sex!
Truth speaks, and takes the spots of the confessed,
To veil them. None of women, save their vile,
Plays traitor to an army in the field.
The cries most vindicating most defile.
How shall a cause to Nature be appealed,
When, under pressure of their common foe,
Her sisters shun the Mother and disown,
On pain of his intolerable crow
Above the fiction, built for him, o'erthrown?
Irrational he is, irrational
Must they be, though not Reason's light shall wane
In them with ever Nature at close call,
Behind the fiction torturing to sustain;
Who hear her in the milk, and sometimes make
A tongueless answer, shivered on a sigh:
Whereat men dread their lofty structure's quake
Once more, and in their hosts for tocsin ply
The crazy roar of peril, leonine
For injured majesty. That sigh of dames
Is rare and soon suppressed. Not they combine
To shake the structure sheltering them, which tames
Their lustier if not wilder: fixed are they,
In elegancy scarce denoting ease;
And do they breathe, it is not to betray
The martyr in the caryatides.
Yet here and there along the graceful row
Is one who fetches breath from deeps, who deems,
Moved by a desperate craving, their old foe
May yield a trustier friend than woman seems,
And aid to bear the sculptured floral weight
Massed upon heads not utterly of stone:
May stamp endurance by expounding fate.
She turned to him, and, This you seek is gone;
Look in, she said, as pants the furnace, brief,
Frost-white. She gave his hearing sight to view
The silent chamber of a brown curled leaf:
Thing that had throbbed ere shot black lightning through.
No further sign of heart could he discern:
The picture of her speech was winter sky;
A headless figure folding a cleft urn,
Where tears once at the overflow were dry.
So spake she her first utterance on the rack.
It softened torment, in the funeral hues
Round wan Romance at ebb, but drove her back
To listen to herself, herself accuse
Harshly as Love's imperial cause allowed.
She meant to grovel, and her lover praised
So high o'er the condemnatory crowd,
That she perforce a fellow phoenix blazed.
The picture was of hand fast joined to hand,
Both pushed from angry skies, their grasp more pledged
Under the threatened flash of a bright brand
At arm's length up, for severing action edged.
Why, then Love's Court of Honour contemplate;
And two drowned shorecasts, who, for the life esteemed
Above their lost, invoke an advocate
In Passion's purity, thereby redeemed.
Redeemed, uplifted, glimmering on a throne,
The woman stricken by an arrow falls.
His advocate she can be, not her own,
If, Traitress to thy sex! one sister calls.
Have we such scenes of drapery's mournfulness
On Beauty's revelations, witched we plant,
Over the fair shape humbled to confess,
An angel's buckler, with loud choiric chant.
No knightly sword to serve, nor harp of bard,
The lady's hand in her physician's knew.
She had not hoped for them as her award,
When zig-zag on the tongue electric flew
Her charge of counter-motives, none impure:
But muteness whipped her skin. She could have said,
Her free confession was to work his cure,
Show proofs for why she could not love or wed.
Were they not shown? His muteness shook in thrall
Her body on the verge of that black pit
Sheer from the treacherous confessional,
Demanding further, while perusing it.
Slave is the open mouth beneath the closed.
She sank; she snatched at colours; they were peel
Of fruit past savour, in derision rosed.
For the dark downward then her soul did reel.
A press of hideous impulse urged to speak:
A novel dread of man enchained her dumb.
She felt the silence thicken, heard it shriek,
Heard Life subsiding on the eternal hum:
Welcome to women, when, between man's laws
And Nature's thirsts, they, soul from body torn,
Give suck at breast to a celestial cause,
Named by the mouth infernal, and forsworn.
Nathless her forehead twitched a sad content,
To think the cure so manifest, so frail
Her charm remaining. Was the curtain's rent
Too wide? he but a man of that herd male?
She saw him as that herd of the forked head
Butting the woman harrowed on her knees,
Clothed only in life's last devouring red.
Confession at her fearful instant sees
Judicial Silence write the devil fact
In letters of the skeleton: at once,
Swayed on the supplication of her act,
The rabble reading, roaring to denounce,
She joins. No longer colouring, with skips
At tangles, picture that for eyes in tears
Might swim the sequence, she addressed her lips
To do the scaffold's office at his ears.
Into the bitter judgement of that herd
On women, she, deeming it present, fell.
Her frenzy of abasement hugged the word
They stone with, and so pile their citadel
To launch at outcasts the foul levin bolt.
As had he flung it, in her breast it burned.
Face and reflect it did her hot revolt
From hardness, to the writhing rebel turned;
Because the golden buckler was withheld,
She to herself applies the powder-spark,
For joy of one wild demon burst ere quelled,
Perishing to astound the tyrant Dark.
She had the Scriptural word so scored on brain,
It rang through air to sky, and rocked a world
That danced down shades the scarlet dance profane;
Most women! see! by the man's view dustward hurled,
Impenitent, submissive, torn in two.
They sink upon their nature, the unnamed,
And sops of nourishment may get some few,
In place of understanding, scourged and shamed.
Barely have seasoned women understood
The great Irrational, who thunders power,
Drives Nature to her primitive wild wood,
And courts her in the covert's dewy hour;
Returning to his fortress nigh night's end,
With execration of her daughters' lures.
They help him the proud fortress to defend,
Nor see what front it wears, what life immures,
The murder it commits; nor that its base
Is shifty as a huckster's opening deal
For bargain under smoothest market face,
While Gentleness bids frigid Justice feel,
Justice protests that Reason is her seat;
Elect Convenience, as Reason masked,
Hears calmly cramped Humanity entreat;
Until a sentient world is overtasked,
And rouses Reason's fountain-self: she calls
On Nature; Nature answers: Share your guilt
In common when contention cracks the walls
Of the big house which not on me is built.
The Lady said as much as breath will bear;
To happier sisters inconceivable:
Contemptible to veterans of the fair,
Who show for a convolving pearly shell,
A treasure of the shore, their written book.
As much as woman's breath will bear and live
Shaped she to words beneath a knotted look,
That held as if for grain the summing sieve.
Her judge now brightened without pause, as wakes
Our homely daylight after dread of spells.
Lips sugared to let loose the little snakes
Of slimy lustres ringing elfin bells
About a story of the naked flesh,
Intending but to put some garment on,
Should learn, that in the subject they enmesh,
A traitor lurks and will be known anon.
Delusion heating pricks the torpid doubt,
Stationed for index down an ancient track:
And ware of it was he while she poured out
A broken moon on forest-waters black.
Though past the stage where midway men are skilled
To scan their senses wriggling under plough,
When yet to the charmed seed of speech distilled,
Their hearts are fallow, he, and witless how,
Loathing, had yielded, like bruised limb to leech,
Not handsomely; but now beholding bleed
Soul of the woman in her prostrate speech,
The valour of that rawness he could read.
Thence flashed it, as the crimson currents ran
From senses up to thoughts, how she had read
Maternally the warm remainder man
Beneath his crust, and Nature's pity shed,
In shedding dearer than heart's blood to light
His vision of the path mild Wisdom walks.
Therewith he could espy Confession's fright;
Her need of him: these flowers grow on stalks;
They suck from soil, and have their urgencies
Beside and with the lovely face mid leaves.
Veins of divergencies, convergencies,
Our botanist in womankind perceives;
And if he hugs no wound, the man can prize
That splendid consummation and sure proof
Of more than heart in her, who might despise,
Who drowns herself, for pity up aloof
To soar and be like Nature's pity: she
Instinctive of what virtue in young days
Had served him for his pilot-star on sea,
To trouble him in haven. Thus his gaze
Came out of rust, and more than the schooled tongue
Was gifted to encourage and assure.
He gave her of the deep well she had sprung;
And name it gratitude, the word is poor.
But name it gratitude, is aught as rare
From sex to sex? And let it have survived
Their conflict, comes the peace between the pair,
Unknown to thousands husbanded and wived:
Unknown to Passion, generous for prey:
Unknown to Love, too blissful in a truce.
Their tenderest of self did each one slay;
His cloak of dignity, her fleur de luce;
Her lily flower, and his abolla cloak,
Things living, slew they, and no artery bled.
A moment of some sacrificial smoke
They passed, and were the dearer for their dead.
He learnt how much we gain who make no claims.
A nightcap on his flicker of grey fire
Was thought of her sharp shudder in the flames,
Confessing; and its conjured image dire,
Of love, the torrent on the valley dashed;
The whirlwind swathing tremulous peaks; young force,
Visioned to hold corrected and abashed
Our senile emulous; which rolls its course
Proud to the shattering end; with these few last
Hot quintessential drops of bryony juice,
Squeezed out in anguish: all of that once vast!
And still, though having skin for man's abuse,
Though no more glorying in the beauteous wreath
Shot skyward from a blood at passionate jet,
Repenting but in words, that stand as teeth
Between the vivid lips; a vassal set;
And numb, of formal value. Are we true
In nature, never natural thing repents;
Albeit receiving punishment for due,
Among the group of this world's penitents;
Albeit remorsefully regretting, oft
Cravenly, while the scourge no shudder spares.
Our world believes it stabler if the soft
Are whipped to show the face repentance wears.
Then hear it, in a moan of atheist gloom,
Deplore the weedy growth of hypocrites;
Count Nature devilish, and accept for doom
The chasm between our passions and our wits!
Affecting lunar whiteness, patent snows,
It trembles at betrayal of a sore.
Hers is the glacier-conscience, to expose
Impurities for clearness at the core.
She to her hungered thundering in breast,
YE SHALL NOT STARVE, not feebly designates
The world repressing as a life repressed,
Judged by the wasted martyrs it creates.
How Sin, amid the shades Cimmerian,
Repents, she points for sight: and she avers,
The hoofed half-angel in the Puritan
Nigh reads her when no brutish wrath deters.
Sin against immaturity, the sin
Of ravenous excess, what deed divides
Man from vitality; these bleed within;
Bleed in the crippled relic that abides.
Perpetually they bleed; a limb is lost,
A piece of life, the very spirit maimed.
But culprit who the law of man has crossed
With Nature's dubiously within is blamed;
Despite our cry at cutting of the whip,
Our shiver in the night when numbers frown,
We but bewail a broken fellowship,
A sting, an isolation, a fall'n crown.
Abject of sinners is that sensitive,
The flesh, amenable to stripes, miscalled
Incorrigible: such title do we give
To the poor shrinking stuff wherewith we are walled;
And, taking it for Nature, place in ban
Our Mother, as a Power wanton-willed,
The shame and baffler of the soul of man,
The recreant, reptilious. Do thou build
Thy mind on her foundations in earth's bed;
Behold man's mind the child of her keen rod,
For teaching how the wits and passions wed
To rear that temple of the credible God;
Sacred the letters of her laws, and plain,
Will shine, to guide thy feet and hold thee firm:
Then, as a pathway through a field of grain,
Man's laws appear the blind progressive worm,
That moves by touch, and thrust of linking rings
The which to endow with vision, lift from mud
To level of their nature's aims and springs,
Must those, the twain beside our vital flood,
Now on opposing banks, the twain at strife
(Whom the so rosy ferryman invites
To junction, and mid-channel over Life,
Unmasked to the ghostly, much asunder smites)
Instruct in deeper than Convenience,
In higher than the harvest of a year.
Only the rooted knowledge to high sense
Of heavenly can mount, and feel the spur
For fruitfullest advancement, eye a mark
Beyond the path with grain on either hand,
Help to the steering of our social Ark
Over the barbarous waters unto land.
For us the double conscience and its war,
The serving of two masters, false to both,
Until those twain, who spring the root and are
The knowledge in division, plight a troth
Of equal hands: nor longer circulate
A pious token for their current coin,
To growl at the exchange; they, mate and mate,
Fair feminine and masculine shall join
Upon an upper plane, still common mould,
Where stamped religion and reflective pace
A statelier measure, and the hoop of gold
Rounds to horizon for their soul's embrace.
Then shall those noblest of the earth and sun
Inmix unlike to waves on savage sea.
But not till Nature's laws and man's are one,
Can marriage of the man and woman be.
He passed her through the sermon's dull defile.
Down under billowy vapour-gorges heaved
The city and the vale and mountain-pile.
She felt strange push of shuttle-threads that weaved.
A new land in an old beneath her lay;
And forth to meet it did her spirit rush,
As bride who without shame has come to say,
Husband, in his dear face that caused her blush.
A natural woman's heart, not more than clad
By station and bright raiment, gathers heat
From nakedness in trusted hands: she had
The joy of those who feel the world's heart beat,
After long doubt of it as fire or ice;
Because one man had helped her to breathe free;
Surprised to faith in something of a price
Past the old charity in chivalry:-
Our first wild step to right the loaded scales
Displaying women shamefully outweighed.
The wisdom of humaneness best avails
For serving justice till that fraud is brayed.
Her buried body fed the life she drank.
And not another stripping of her wound!
The startled thought on black delirium sank,
While with her gentle surgeon she communed,
And woman's prospect of the yoke repelled.
Her buried body gave her flowers and food;
The peace, the homely skies, the springs that welled;
Love, the large love that folds the multitude.
Soul's chastity in honesty, and this
With beauty, made the dower to men refused.
And little do they know the prize they miss;
Which is their happy fortune! Thus he mused
For him, the cynic in the Sage had play
A hazy moment, by a breath dispersed;
To think, of all alive most wedded they,
Whom time disjoined! He needed her quick thirst
For renovated earth: on earth she gazed,
With humble aim to foot beside the wise.
Lo, where the eyelashes of night are raised
Yet lowly over morning's pure grey eyes.
The Day Of The Daughter Of Hades
He who has looked upon Earth
Deeper than flower and fruit,
Losing some hue of his mirth,
As the tree striking rock at the root,
Unto him shall the marvellous tale
Of Callistes more humanly come
With the touch on his breast than a hail
From the markets that hum.
Now the youth footed swift to the dawn.
'Twas the season when wintertide,
In the higher rock-hollows updrawn,
Leaves meadows to bud, and he spied,
By light throwing shallow shade,
Between the beam and the gloom,
Sicilian Enna, whose Maid
Such aspect wears in her bloom
Underneath since the Charioteer
Of Darkness whirled her away,
On a reaped afternoon of the year,
Nigh the poppy-droop of Day.
O and naked of her, all dust,
The majestic Mother and Nurse,
Ringing cries to the God, the Just,
Curled the land with the blight of her curse:
Recollected of this glad isle
Still quaking. But now more fair,
And momently fraying the while
The veil of the shadows there,
Soft Enna that prostrate grief
Sang through, and revealed round the vines,
Bronze-orange, the crisp young leaf,
The wheat-blades tripping in lines,
A hue unillumined by sun
Of the flowers flooding grass as from founts:
All the penetrable dun
Of the morn ere she mounts.
Nor had saffron and sapphire and red
Waved aloft to their sisters below,
When gaped by the rock-channel head
Of the lake, black, a cave at one blow,
Reverberant over the plain:
A sound oft fearfully swung
For the coming of wrathful rain:
And forth, like the dragon-tongue
Of a fire beaten flat by the gale,
But more as the smoke to behold,
A chariot burst. Then a wail
Quivered high of the love that would fold
Bliss immeasurable, bigger than heart,
Though a God's: and the wheels were stayed,
And the team of the chariot swart
Reared in marble, the six, dismayed,
Like hoofs that by night plashing sea
Curve and ramp from the vast swan-wave:
For, lo, the Great Mother, She!
And Callistes gazed, he gave
His eyeballs up to the sight:
The embrace of the Twain, of whom
To men are their day, their night,
Mellow fruits and the shearing tomb:
Our Lady of the Sheaves
And the Lily of Hades, the Sweet
Of Enna: he saw through leaves
The Mother and Daughter meet.
They stood by the chariot-wheel,
Embraced, very tall, most like
Fellow poplars, wind-taken, that reel
Down their shivering columns and strike
Head to head, crossing throats: and apart,
For the feast of the look, they drew,
Which Darkness no longer could thwart;
And they broke together anew,
Exulting to tears, flower and bud.
But the mate of the Rayless was grave:
She smiled like Sleep on its flood,
That washes of all we crave:
Like the trance of eyes awake
And the spirit enshrouded, she cast
The wan underworld on the lake.
They were so, and they passed.
He tells it, who knew the law
Upon mortals: he stood alive
Declaring that this he saw:
He could see, and survive.
Now the youth was not ware of the beams
With the grasses intertwined,
For each thing seen, as in dreams,
Came stepping to rear through his mind,
Till it struck his remembered prayer
To be witness of this which had flown
Like a smoke melted thinner than air,
That the vacancy doth disown.
And viewing a maiden, he thought
It might now be morn, and afar
Within him the memory wrought
Of a something that slipped from the car
When those, the august, moved by:
Perchance a scarf, and perchance
This maiden. She did not fly,
Nor started at his advance:
She looked, as when infinite thirst
Pants pausing to bless the springs,
Refreshed, unsated. Then first
He trembled with awe of the things
He had seen; and he did transfer,
Divining and doubting in turn,
His reverence unto her;
Nor asked what he crouched to learn:
The whence of her, whither, and why
Her presence there, and her name,
Her parentage: under which sky
Her birth, and how hither she came,
So young, a virgin, alone,
Unfriended, having no fear,
As Oreads have; no moan,
Like the lost upon earth; no tear;
Not a sign of the torch in the blood,
Though her stature had reached the height
When mantles a tender rud
In maids that of youths have sight,
If maids of our seed they be:
For he said: A glad vision art thou!
And she answered him: Thou to me!
As men utter a vow.
Then said she, quick as the cries
Of the rainy cranes: Light! light!
And Helios rose in her eyes,
That were full as the dew-balls bright,
Relucent to him as dews
Unshaded. Breathing, she sent
Her voice to the God of the Muse,
And along the vale it went,
Strange to hear: not thin, not shrill:
Sweet, but no young maid's throat:
The echo beyond the hill
Ran falling on half the note:
And under the shaken ground
Where the Hundred-headed groans
By the roots of great AEtna bound,
As of him were hollow tones
Of wondering roared: a tale
Repeated to sunless halls.
But now off the face of the vale
Shadows fled in a breath, and the walls
Of the lake's rock-head were gold,
And the breast of the lake, that swell
Of the crestless long wave rolled
To shore-bubble, pebble and shell.
A morning of radiant lids
O'er the dance of the earth opened wide:
The bees chose their flowers, the snub kids
Upon hindlegs went sportive, or plied,
Nosing, hard at the dugs to be filled:
There was milk, honey, music to make:
Up their branches the little birds billed:
Chirrup, drone, bleat and buzz ringed the lake.
O shining in sunlight, chief
After water and water's caress,
Was the young bronze-orange leaf,
That clung to the tree as a tress,
Shooting lucid tendrils to wed
With the vine-hook tree or pole,
Like Arachne launched out on her thread.
Then the maiden her dusky stole
In the span of the black-starred zone,
Gathered up for her footing fleet.
As one that had toil of her own
She followed the lines of wheat
Tripping straight through the fields, green blades,
To the groves of olive grey,
Downy-grey, golden-tinged: and to glades
Where the pear-blossom thickens the spray
In a night, like the snow-packed storm:
Pear, apple, almond, plum:
Not wintry now: pushing, warm!
And she touched them with finger and thumb,
As the vine-hook closes: she smiled,
Recounting again and again,
Corn, wine, fruit, oil! like a child,
With the meaning known to men.
For hours in the track of the plough
And the pruning-knife she stepped,
And of how the seed works, and of how
Yields the soil, she seemed adept.
Then she murmured that name of the dearth,
The Beneficent, Hers, who bade
Our husbandmen sow for the birth
Of the grain making earth full glad.
She murmured that Other's: the dirge
Of life-light: for whose dark lap
Our locks are clipped on the verge
Of the realm where runs no sap.
She said: We have looked on both!
And her eyes had a wavering beam
Of various lights, like the froth
Of the storm-swollen ravine stream
In flame of the bolt. What links
Were these which had made him her friend?
He eyed her, as one who drinks,
And would drink to the end.
Now the meadows with crocus besprent,
And the asphodel woodsides she left,
And the lake-slopes, the ravishing scent
Of narcissus, dark-sweet, for the cleft
That tutors the torrent-brook,
Delaying its forceful spleen
With many a wind and crook
Through rock to the broad ravine.
By the hyacinth-bells in the brakes,
And the shade-loved white windflower, half hid,
And the sun-loving lizards and snakes
On the cleft's barren ledges, that slid
Out of sight, smooth as waterdrops, all,
At a snap of twig or bark
In the track of the foreign foot-fall,
She climbed to the pineforest dark,
Overbrowing an emerald chine
Of the grass-billows. Thence, as a wreath,
Running poplar and cypress to pine,
The lake-banks are seen, and beneath,
Vineyard, village, groves, rivers, towers, farms,
The citadel watching the bay,
The bay with the town in its arms,
The town shining white as the spray
Of the sapphire sea-wave on the rock,
Where the rock stars the girdle of sea,
White-ringed, as the midday flock,
Clipped by heat, rings the round of the tree.
That hour of the piercing shaft
Transfixes bough-shadows, confused
In veins of fire, and she laughed,
With her quiet mouth amused
To see the whole flock, adroop,
Asleep, hug the tree-stem as one,
Imperceptibly filling the loop
Of its shade at a slant of sun.
The pipes under pent of the crag,
Where the goatherds in piping recline,
Have whimsical stops, burst and flag
Uncorrected as outstretched swine:
For the fingers are slack and unsure,
And the wind issues querulous:- thorns
And snakes!--but she listened demure,
Comparing day's music with morn's.
Of the gentle spirit that slips
From the bark of the tree she discoursed,
And of her of the wells, whose lips
Are coolness enchanting, rock-sourced.
And much of the sacred loon,
The frolic, the Goatfoot God,
For stories of indolent noon
In the pineforest's odorous nod,
She questioned, not knowing: he can
Be waspish, irascible, rude,
He is oftener friendly to man,
And ever to beasts and their brood.
For the which did she love him well,
She said, and his pipes of the reed,
His twitched lips puffing to tell
In music his tears and his need,
Against the sharp catch of his hurt.
Not as shepherds of Pan did she speak,
Nor spake as the schools, to divert,
But fondly, perceiving him weak
Before Gods, and to shepherds a fear,
A holiness, horn and heel.
All this she had learnt in her ear
From Callistes, and taught him to feel.
Yea, the solemn divinity flushed
Through the shaggy brown skin of the beast,
And the steeps where the cataract rushed,
And the wilds where the forest is priest,
Were his temple to clothe him in awe,
While she spake: 'twas a wonder: she read
The haunts of the beak and the claw
As plain as the land of bread,
But Cities and martial States,
Whither soon the youth veered his theme,
Were impervious barrier-gates
To her: and that ship, a trireme,
Nearing harbour, scarce wakened her glance,
Though he dwelt on the message it bore
Of sceptre and sword and lance
To the bee-swarms black on the shore,
Which were audible almost,
So black they were. It befel
That he called up the warrior host
Of the Song pouring hydromel
In thunder, the wide-winged Song.
And he named with his boyish pride
The heroes, the noble throng
Past Acheron now, foul tide!
With his joy of the godlike band
And the verse divine, he named
The chiefs pressing hot on the strand,
Seen of Gods, of Gods aided, and maimed.
The fleetfoot and ireful; the King;
Him, the prompter in stratagem,
Many-shifted and masterful: Sing,
O Muse! But she cried: Not of them
She breathed as if breath had failed,
And her eyes, while she bade him desist,
Held the lost-to-light ghosts grey-mailed,
As you see the grey river-mist
Hold shapes on the yonder bank.
A moment her body waned,
The light of her sprang and sank:
Then she looked at the sun, she regained
Clear feature, and she breathed deep.
She wore the wan smile he had seen,
As the flow of the river of Sleep,
On the mouth of the Shadow-Queen.
In sunlight she craved to bask,
Saying: Life! And who was she? who?
Of what issue? He dared not ask,
For that partly he knew.
A noise of the hollow ground
Turned the eye to the ear in debate:
Not the soft overflowing of sound
Of the pines, ranked, lofty, straight,
Barely swayed to some whispers remote,
Some swarming whispers above:
Not the pines with the faint airs afloat,
Hush-hushing the nested dove:
It was not the pines, or the rout
Oft heard from mid-forest in chase,
But the long muffled roar of a shout
Subterranean. Sharp grew her face.
She rose, yet not moved by affright;
'Twas rather good haste to use
Her holiday of delight
In the beams of the God of the Muse.
And the steeps of the forest she crossed,
On its dry red sheddings and cones
Up the paths by roots green-mossed,
Spotted amber, and old mossed stones.
Then out where the brook-torrent starts
To her leap, and from bend to curve
A hurrying elbow darts
For the instant-glancing swerve,
Decisive, with violent will
In the action formed, like hers,
The maiden's, ascending; and still
Ascending, the bud of the furze,
The broom, and all blue-berried shoots
Of stubborn and prickly kind,
The juniper flat on its roots,
The dwarf rhododaphne, behind
She left, and the mountain sheep
Far behind, goat, herbage and flower.
The island was hers, and the deep,
All heaven, a golden hour.
Then with wonderful voice, that rang
Through air as the swan's nigh death,
Of the glory of Light she sang,
She sang of the rapture of Breath.
Nor ever, says he who heard,
Heard Earth in her boundaries broad,
From bosom of singer or bird
A sweetness thus rich of the God
Whose harmonies always are sane.
She sang of furrow and seed,
The burial, birth of the grain,
The growth, and the showers that feed,
And the green blades waxing mature
For the husbandman's armful brown.
O, the song in its burden ran pure,
And burden to song was a crown.
Callistes, a singer, skilled
In the gift he could measure and praise,
By a rival's art was thrilled,
Though she sang but a Song of Days,
Where the husbandman's toil and strife
Little varies to strife and toil:
But the milky kernel of life,
With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil
The song did give him to eat:
Gave the first rapt vision of Good,
And the fresh young sense of Sweet
The grace of the battle for food,
With the issue Earth cannot refuse
When men to their labour are sworn.
'Twas a song of the God of the Muse
To the forehead of Morn.
Him loved she. Lo, now was he veiled:
Over sea stood a swelled cloud-rack:
The fishing-boat heavenward sailed,
Bent abeam, with a whitened track,
Surprised, fast hauling the net,
As it flew: sea dashed, earth shook.
She said: Is it night? O not yet!
With a travail of thoughts in her look.
The mountain heaved up to its peak:
Sea darkened: earth gathered her fowl;
Of bird or of branch rose the shriek.
Night? but never so fell a scowl
Wore night, nor the sky since then
When ocean ran swallowing shore,
And the Gods looked down for men.
Broke tempest with that stern roar
Never yet, save when black on the whirl
Rode wrath of a sovereign Power.
Then the youth and the shuddering girl,
Dim as shades in the angry shower,
Joined hands and descended a maze
Of the paths that were racing alive
Round boulder and bush, cleaving ways,
Incessant, with sound of a hive.
The height was a fountain-urn
Pouring streams, and the whole solid height
Leaped, chasing at every turn
The pair in one spirit of flight
To the folding pineforest. Yet here,
Like the pause to things hunted, in doubt,
The stillness bred spectral fear
Of the awfulness ranging without,
And imminent. Downward they fled,
From under the haunted roof,
To the valley aquake with the tread
Of an iron-resounding hoof,
As of legions of thunderful horse
Broken loose and in line tramping hard.
For the rage of a hungry force
Roamed blind of its mark over sward:
They saw it rush dense in the cloak
Of its travelling swathe of steam;
All the vale through a thin thread-smoke
Was thrown back to distance extreme:
And dull the full breast of it blinked,
Like a buckler of steel breathed o'er,
Diminished, in strangeness distinct,
Glowing cold, unearthly, hoar:
An Enna of fields beyond sun,
Out of light, in a lurid web;
And the traversing fury spun
Up and down with a wave's flow and ebb;
As the wave breaks to grasp and to spurn,
Retire, and in ravenous greed,
Inveterate, swell its return.
Up and down, as if wringing from speed
Sights that made the unsighted appear,
Delude and dissolve, on it scoured.
Lo, a sea upon land held career
Through the plain of the vale half-devoured.
Callistes of home and escape
Muttered swiftly, unwitting of speech.
She gazed at the Void of shape,
She put her white hand to his reach,
Saying: Now have we looked on the Three.
And divided from day, from night,
From air that is breath, stood she,
Like the vale, out of light.
Then again in disorderly words
He muttered of home, and was mute,
With the heart of the cowering birds
Ere they burst off the fowler's foot.
He gave her some redness that streamed
Through her limbs in a flitting glow.
The sigh of our life she seemed,
The bliss of it clothing in woe.
Frailer than flower when the round
Of the sickle encircles it: strong
To tell of the things profound,
Our inmost uttering song,
Unspoken. So stood she awhile
In the gloom of the terror afield,
And the silence about her smile
Said more than of tongue is revealed.
I have breathed: I have gazed: I have been:
It said: and not joylessly shone
The remembrance of light through the screen
Of a face that seemed shadow and stone.
She led the youth trembling, appalled,
To the lake-banks he saw sink and rise
Like a panic-struck breast. Then she called,
And the hurricane blackness had eyes.
It launched like the Thunderer's bolt.
Pale she drooped, and the youth by her side
Would have clasped her and dared a revolt
Sacrilegious as ever defied
High Olympus, but vainly for strength
His compassionate heart shook a frame
Stricken rigid to ice all its length.
On amain the black traveller came.
Lo, a chariot, cleaving the storm,
Clove the fountaining lake with a plough,
And the lord of the steeds was in form
He, the God of implacable brow,
Darkness: he: he in person: he raged
Through the wave like a boar of the wilds
From the hunters and hounds disengaged,
And a name shouted hoarsely: his child's.
Horror melted in anguish to hear.
Lo, the wave hissed apart for the path
Of the terrible Charioteer,
With the foam and torn features of wrath,
Hurled aloft on each arm in a sheet;
And the steeds clove it, rushing at land
Like the teeth of the famished at meat.
Then he swept out his hand.
This, no more, doth Callistes recall:
He saw, ere he dropped in swoon,
On the maiden the chariot fall,
As a thundercloud swings on the moon.
Forth, free of the deluge, one cry
From the vanishing gallop rose clear:
And: Skiegeneia! the sky
Rang; Skiegeneia! the sphere.
And she left him therewith, to rejoice,
Repine, yearn, and know not his aim,
The life of their day in her voice,
Left her life in her name.
Now the valley in ruin of fields
And fair meadowland, showing at eve
Like the spear-pitted warrior's shields
After battle, bade men believe
That no other than wrathfullest God
Had been loose on her beautiful breast,
Where the flowery grass was clod,
Wheat and vine as a trailing nest.
The valley, discreet in grief,
Disclosed but the open truth,
And Enna had hope of the sheaf:
There was none for the desolate youth
Devoted to mourn and to crave.
Of the secret he had divined
Of his friend of a day would he rave:
How for light of our earth she pined:
For the olive, the vine and the wheat,
Burning through with inherited fire:
And when Mother went Mother to meet,
She was prompted by simple desire
In the day-destined car to have place
At the skirts of the Goddess, unseen,
And be drawn to the dear earth's face.
She was fire for the blue and the green
Of our earth, dark fire; athirst
As a seed of her bosom for dawn,
White air that had robed and nursed
Her mother. Now was she gone
With the Silent, the God without tear,
Like a bud peeping out of its sheath
To be sundered and stamped with the sere.
And Callistes to her beneath,
As she to our beams, extinct,
Strained arms: he was shade of her shade.
In division so were they linked.
But the song which had betrayed
Her flight to the cavernous ear
For its own keenly wakeful: that song
Of the sowing and reaping, and cheer
Of the husbandman's heart made strong
Through droughts and deluging rains
With his faith in the Great Mother's love:
O the joy of the breath she sustains,
And the lyre of the light above,
And the first rapt vision of Good,
And the fresh young sense of Sweet:
That song the youth ever pursued
In the track of her footing fleet.
For men to be profited much
By her day upon earth did he sing:
Of her voice, and her steps, and her touch
On the blossoms of tender Spring,
Immortal: and how in her soul
She is with them, and tearless abides,
Folding grain of a love for one goal
In patience, past flowing of tides.
And if unto him she was tears,
He wept not: he wasted within:
Seeming sane in the song, to his peers,
Only crazed where the cravings begin.
Our Lady of Gifts prized he less
Than her issue in darkness: the dim
Lost Skiegencia's caress
Of our earth made it richest for him.
And for that was a curse on him raised,
And he withered rathe, dry to his prime,
Though the bounteous Giver be praised
Through the island with rites of old time
Exceedingly fervent, and reaped
Veneration for teachings devout,
Pious hymns when the corn-sheaves are heaped
And the wine-presses ruddily spout,
And the olive and apple are juice
At a touch light as hers lost below.
Whatsoever to men is of use
Sprang his worship of them who bestow,
In a measure of songs unexcelled:
But that soul loving earth and the sun
From her home of the shadows he held
For his beacon where beam there is none:
And to join her, or have her brought back,
In his frenzy the singer would call,
Till he followed where never was track,
On the path trod of all.
The Bridal of Pennacook
We had been wandering for many days
Through the rough northern country. We had seen
The sunset, with its bars of purple cloud,
Like a new heaven, shine upward from the lake
Of Winnepiseogee; and had felt
The sunrise breezes, midst the leafy isles
Which stoop their summer beauty to the lips
Of the bright waters. We had checked our steeds,
Silent with wonder, where the mountain wall
Is piled to heaven; and, through the narrow rift
Of the vast rocks, against whose rugged feet
Beats the mad torrent with perpetual roar,
Where noonday is as twilight, and the wind
Comes burdened with the everlasting moan
Of forests and of far-off waterfalls,
We had looked upward where the summer sky,
Tasselled with clouds light-woven by the sun,
Sprung its blue arch above the abutting crags
O'er-roofing the vast portal of the land
Beyond the wall of mountains. We had passed
The high source of the Saco; and bewildered
In the dwarf spruce-belts of the Crystal Hills,
Had heard above us, like a voice in the cloud,
The horn of Fabyan sounding; and atop
Of old Agioochook had seen the mountains'
Piled to the northward, shagged with wood, and thick
As meadow mole-hills,—the far sea of Casco,
A white gleam on the horizon of the east;
Fair lakes, embosomed in the woods and hills;
Moosehillock's mountain range, and Kearsarge
Lifting his granite forehead to the sun!
And we had rested underneath the oaks
Shadowing the bank, whose grassy spires are shaken
By the perpetual beating of the falls
Of the wild Ammonoosuc. We had tracked
The winding Pemigewasset, overhung
By beechen shadows, whitening down its rocks,
Or lazily gliding through its intervals,
From waving rye-fields sending up the gleam
Of sunlit waters. We had seen the moon
Rising behind Umbagog's eastern pines,
Like a great Indian camp-fire; and its beams
At midnight spanning with a bridge of silver
The Merrimac by Uncanoonuc's falls.
There were five souls of us whom travel's chance
Had thrown together in these wild north hills
A city lawyer, for a month escaping
From his dull office, where the weary eye
Saw only hot brick walls and close thronged streets;
Briefless as yet, but with an eye to see
Life's sunniest side, and with a heart to take
Its chances all as godsends; and his brother,
Pale from long pulpit studies, yet retaining
The warmth and freshness of a genial heart,
Whose mirror of the beautiful and true,
In Man and Nature, was as yet undimmed
By dust of theologic strife, or breath
Of sect, or cobwebs of scholastic lore;
Like a clear crystal calm of water, taking
The hue and image of o'erleaning flowers,
Sweet human faces, white clouds of the noon,
Slant starlight glimpses through the dewy leaves,
And tenderest moonrise. 'Twas, in truth, a study,
To mark his spirit, alternating between
A decent and professional gravity
And an irreverent mirthfulness, which often
Laughed in the face of his divinity,
Plucked off the sacred ephod, quite unshrined
The oracle, and for the pattern priest
Left us the man. A shrewd, sagacious merchant,
To whom the soiled sheet found in Crawford's inn,
Giving the latest news of city stocks
And sales of cotton, had a deeper meaning
Than the great presence of the awful mountains
Glorified by the sunset; and his daughter,
A delicate flower on whom had blown too long
Those evil winds, which, sweeping from the ice
And winnowing the fogs of Labrador,
Shed their cold blight round Massachusetts Bay,
With the same breath which stirs Spring's opening leaves
And lifts her half-formed flower-bell on its stem,
Poisoning our seaside atmosphere.
It chanced that as we turned upon our homeward way,
A drear northeastern storm came howling up
The valley of the Saco; and that girl
Who had stood with us upon Mount Washington,
Her brown locks ruffled by the wind which whirled
In gusts around its sharp, cold pinnacle,
Who had joined our gay trout-fishing in the streams
Which lave that giant's feet; whose laugh was heard
Like a bird's carol on the sunrise breeze
Which swelled our sail amidst the lake's green islands,
Shrank from its harsh, chill breath, and visibly drooped
Like a flower in the frost. So, in that quiet inn
Which looks from Conway on the mountains piled
Heavily against the horizon of the north,
Like summer thunder-clouds, we made our home
And while the mist hung over dripping hills,
And the cold wind-driven rain-drops all day long
Beat their sad music upon roof and pane,
We strove to cheer our gentle invalid.
The lawyer in the pauses of the storm
Went angling down the Saco, and, returning,
Recounted his adventures and mishaps;
Gave us the history of his scaly clients,
Mingling with ludicrous yet apt citations
Of barbarous law Latin, passages
From Izaak Walton's Angler, sweet and fresh
As the flower-skirted streams of Staffordshire,
Where, under aged trees, the southwest wind
Of soft June mornings fanned the thin, white hair
Of the sage fisher. And, if truth be told,
Our youthful candidate forsook his sermons,
His commentaries, articles and creeds,
For the fair page of human loveliness,
The missal of young hearts, whose sacred text
Is music, its illumining, sweet smiles.
He sang the songs she loved; and in his low,
Deep, earnest voice, recited many a page
Of poetry, the holiest, tenderest lines
Of the sad bard of Olney, the sweet songs,
Simple and beautiful as Truth and Nature,
Of him whose whitened locks on Rydal Mount
Are lifted yet by morning breezes blowing
From the green hills, immortal in his lays.
And for myself, obedient to her wish,
I searched our landlord's proffered library,—
A well-thumbed Bunyan, with its nice wood pictures
Of scaly fiends and angels not unlike them;
Watts' unmelodious psalms; Astrology's
Last home, a musty pile of almanacs,
And an old chronicle of border wars
And Indian history. And, as I read
A story of the marriage of the Chief
Of Saugus to the dusky Weetamoo,
Daughter of Passaconaway, who dwelt
In the old time upon the Merrimac,
Our fair one, in the playful exercise
Of her prerogative,—the right divine
Of youth and beauty,—bade us versify
The legend, and with ready pencil sketched
Its plan and outlines, laughingly assigning
To each his part, and barring our excuses
With absolute will. So, like the cavaliers
Whose voices still are heard in the Romance
Of silver-tongued Boccaccio, on the banks
Of Arno, with soft tales of love beguiling
The ear of languid beauty, plague-exiled
From stately Florence, we rehearsed our rhymes
To their fair auditor, and shared by turns
Her kind approval and her playful censure.
It may be that these fragments owe alone
To the fair setting of their circumstances,—
The associations of time, scene, and audience,—
Their place amid the pictures which fill up
The chambers of my memory. Yet I trust
That some, who sigh, while wandering in thought,
Pilgrims of Romance o'er the olden world,
That our broad land,—our sea-like lakes and mountains
Piled to the clouds, our rivers overhung
By forests which have known no other change
For ages than the budding and the fall
Of leaves, our valleys lovelier than those
Which the old poets sang of,—should but figure
On the apocryphal chart of speculation
As pastures, wood-lots, mill-sites, with the privileges,
Rights, and appurtenances, which make up
A Yankee Paradise, unsung, unknown,
To beautiful tradition; even their names,
Whose melody yet lingers like the last
Vibration of the red man's requiem,
Exchanged for syllables significant,
Of cotton-mill and rail-car, will look kindly
Upon this effort to call up the ghost
Of our dim Past, and listen with pleased ear
To the responses of the questioned Shade.
I. THE MERRIMAC
O child of that white-crested mountain whose springs
Gush forth in the shade of the cliff-eagle's wings,
Down whose slopes to the lowlands thy wild waters shine,
Leaping gray walls of rock, flashing through the dwarf pine;
From that cloud-curtained cradle so cold and so lone,
From the arms of that wintry-locked mother of stone,
By hills hung with forests, through vales wide and free,
Thy mountain-born brightness glanced down to the sea.
No bridge arched thy waters save that where the trees
Stretched their long arms above thee and kissed in the breeze:
No sound save the lapse of the waves on thy shores,
The plunging of otters, the light dip of oars.
Green-tufted, oak-shaded, by Amoskeag's fall
Thy twin Uncanoonucs rose stately and tall,
Thy Nashua meadows lay green and unshorn,
And the hills of Pentucket were tasselled with corn.
But thy Pennacook valley was fairer than these,
And greener its grasses and taller its trees,
Ere the sound of an axe in the forest had rung,
Or the mower his scythe in the meadows had swung.
In their sheltered repose looking out from the wood
The bark-builded wigwams of Pennacook stood;
There glided the corn-dance, the council-fire shone,
And against the red war-post the hatchet was thrown.
There the old smoked in silence their pipes, and the young
To the pike and the white-perch their baited lines flung;
There the boy shaped his arrows, and there the shy maid
Wove her many-hued baskets and bright wampum braid.
O Stream of the Mountains! if answer of thine
Could rise from thy waters to question of mine,
Methinks through the din of thy thronged banks a moan
Of sorrow would swell for the days which have gone.
Not for thee the dull jar of the loom and the wheel,
The gliding of shuttles, the ringing of steel;
But that old voice of waters, of bird and of breeze,
The dip of the wild-fowl, the rustling of trees.
II. THE BASHABA
Lift we the twilight curtains of the Past,
And, turning from familiar sight and sound,
Sadly and full of reverence let us cast
A glance upon Tradition's shadowy ground,
Led by the few pale lights which, glimmering round
That dim, strange land of Eld, seem dying fast;
And that which history gives not to the eye,
The faded coloring of Time's tapestry,
Let Fancy, with her dream-dipped brush, supply.
Roof of bark and walls of pine,
Through whose chinks the sunbeams shine,
Tracing many a golden line
On the ample floor within;
Where, upon that earth-floor stark,
Lay the gaudy mats of bark,
With the bear's hide, rough and dark,
And the red-deer's skin.
Window-tracery, small and slight,
Woven of the willow white,
Lent a dimly checkered light;
And the night-stars glimmered down,
Where the lodge-fire's heavy smoke,
Slowly through an opening broke,
In the low roof, ribbed with oak,
Sheathed with hemlock brown.
Gloomed behind the changeless shade
By the solemn pine-wood made;
Through the rugged palisade,
In the open foreground planted,
Glimpses came of rowers rowing,
Stir of leaves and wild-flowers blowing,
Steel-like gleams of water flowing,
In the sunlight slanted.
Here the mighty Bashaba
Held his long-unquestioned sway,
From the White Hills, far away,
To the great sea's sounding shore;
Chief of chiefs, his regal word
All the river Sachems heard,
At his call the war-dance stirred,
Or was still once more.
There his spoils of chase and war,
Jaw of wolf and black bear's paw,
Panther's skin and eagle's claw,
Lay beside his axe and bow;
And, adown the roof-pole hung,
Loosely on a snake-skin strung,
In the smoke his scalp-locks swung
Grimly to and fro.
Nightly down the river going,
Swifter was the hunter's rowing,
When he saw that lodge-fire, glowing
O'er the waters still and red;
And the squaw's dark eye burned brighter,
And she drew her blanket tighter,
As, with quicker step and lighter,
From that door she fled.
For that chief had magic skill,
And a Panisee's dark will,
Over powers of good and ill,
Powers which bless and powers which ban;
Wizard lord of Pennacook,
Chiefs upon their war-path shook,
When they met the steady look
Of that wise dark man.
Tales of him the gray squaw told,
When the winter night-wind cold
Pierced her blanket's thickest fold,
And her fire burned low and small,
Till the very child abed,
Drew its bear-skin over bead,
Shrinking from the pale lights shed
On the trembling wall.
All the subtle spirits hiding
Under earth or wave, abiding
In the caverned rock, or riding
Misty clouds or morning breeze;
Every dark intelligence,
Secret soul, and influence
Of all things which outward sense
Feels, or bears, or sees,—
These the wizard's skill confessed,
At his bidding banned or blessed,
Stormful woke or lulled to rest
Wind and cloud, and fire and flood;
Burned for him the drifted snow,
Bade through ice fresh lilies blow,
And the leaves of summer grow
Over winter's wood!
Not untrue that tale of old!
Now, as then, the wise and bold
All the powers of Nature hold
Subject to their kingly will;
From the wondering crowds ashore,
Treading life's wild waters o'er,
As upon a marble floor,
Moves the strong man still.
Still, to such, life's elements
With their sterner laws dispense,
And the chain of consequence
Broken in their pathway lies;
Time and change their vassals making,
Flowers from icy pillows waking,
Tresses of the sunrise shaking
Over midnight skies.
Still, to th' earnest soul, the sun
Rests on towered Gibeon,
And the moon of Ajalon
Lights the battle-grounds of life;
To his aid the strong reverses
Hidden powers and giant forces,
And the high stars, in their courses,
Mingle in his strife!
III. THE DAUGHTER
The soot-black brows of men, the yell
Of women thronging round the bed,
The tinkling charm of ring and shell,
The Powah whispering o'er the dead!
All these the Sachem's home had known,
When, on her journey long and wild
To the dim World of Souls, alone,
In her young beauty passed the mother of his child.
Three bow-shots from the Sachem's dwelling
They laid her in the walnut shade,
Where a green hillock gently swelling
Her fitting mound of burial made.
There trailed the vine in summer hours,
The tree-perched squirrel dropped his shell,—
On velvet moss and pale-hued flowers,
Woven with leaf and spray, the softened sunshine fell!
The Indian's heart is hard and cold,
It closes darkly o'er its care,
And formed in Nature's sternest mould,
Is slow to feel, and strong to bear.
The war-paint on the Sachem's face,
Unwet with tears, shone fierce and red,
And still, in battle or in chase,
Dry leaf and snow-rime crisped beneath his foremost tread.
Yet when her name was heard no more,
And when the robe her mother gave,
And small, light moccasin she wore,
Had slowly wasted on her grave,
Unmarked of him the dark maids sped
Their sunset dance and moonlit play;
No other shared his lonely bed,
No other fair young head upon his bosom lay.
A lone, stern man. Yet, as sometimes
The tempest-smitten tree receives
From one small root the sap which climbs
Its topmost spray and crowning leaves,
So from his child the Sachem drew
A life of Love and Hope, and felt
His cold and rugged nature through
The softness and the warmth of her young being melt.
A laugh which in the woodland rang
Bemocking April's gladdest bird,—
A light and graceful form which sprang
To meet him when his step was heard,—
Eyes by his lodge-fire flashing dark,
Small fingers stringing bead and shell
Or weaving mats of bright-hued bark,—
With these the household-god had graced his wigwam well.
Child of the forest! strong and free,
Slight-robed, with loosely flowing hair,
She swam the lake or climbed the tree,
Or struck the flying bird in air.
O'er the heaped drifts of winter's moon
Her snow-shoes tracked the hunter's way;
And dazzling in the summer noon
The blade of her light oar threw off its shower of spray!
Unknown to her the rigid rule,
The dull restraint, the chiding frown,
The weary torture of the school,
The taming of wild nature down.
Her only lore, the legends told
Around the hunter's fire at night;
Stars rose and set, and seasons rolled,
Flowers bloomed and snow-flakes fell, unquestioned in her sight.
Unknown to her the subtle skill
With which the artist-eye can trace
In rock and tree and lake and hill
The outlines of divinest grace;
Unknown the fine soul's keen unrest,
Which sees, admires, yet yearns alway;
Too closely on her mother's breast
To note her smiles of love the child of Nature lay!
It is enough for such to be
Of common, natural things a part,
To feel, with bird and stream and tree,
The pulses of the same great heart;
But we, from Nature long exiled,
In our cold homes of Art and Thought
Grieve like the stranger-tended child,
Which seeks its mother's arms, and sees but feels them not.
The garden rose may richly bloom
In cultured soil and genial air,
To cloud the light of Fashion's room
Or droop in Beauty's midnight hair;
In lonelier grace, to sun and dew
The sweetbrier on the hillside shows
Its single leaf and fainter hue,
Untrained and wildly free, yet still a sister rose!
Thus o'er the heart of Weetamoo
Their mingling shades of joy and ill
The instincts of her nature threw;
The savage was a woman still.
Midst outlines dim of maiden schemes,
Heart-colored prophecies of life,
Rose on the ground of her young dreams
The light of a new home, the lover and the wife.
IV. THE WEDDING
Cool and dark fell the autumn night,
But the Bashaba's wigwam glowed with light,
For down from its roof, by green withes hung,
Flaring and smoking the pine-knots swung.
And along the river great wood-fires
Shot into the night their long, red spires,
Showing behind the tall, dark wood,
Flashing before on the sweeping flood.
In the changeful wind, with shimmer and shade,
Now high, now low, that firelight played,
On tree-leaves wet with evening dews,
On gliding water and still canoes.
The trapper that night on Turee's brook,
And the weary fisher on Contoocook,
Saw over the marshes, and through the pine,
And down on the river, the dance-lights shine.
For the Saugus Sachem had come to woo
The Bashaba's daughter Weetamoo,
And laid at her father's feet that night
His softest furs and wampum white.
From the Crystal Hills to the far southeast
The river Sagamores came to the feast;
And chiefs whose homes the sea-winds shook
Sat down on the mats of Pennacook.
They came from Sunapee's shore of rock,
From the snowy sources of Snooganock,
And from rough Coos whose thick woods shake
Their pine-cones in Umbagog Lake.
From Ammonoosuc's mountain pass,
Wild as his home, came Chepewass;
And the Keenomps of the bills which throw
Their shade on the Smile of Manito.
With pipes of peace and bows unstrung,
Glowing with paint came old and young,
In wampum and furs and feathers arrayed,
To the dance and feast the Bashaba made.
Bird of the air and beast of the field,
All which the woods and the waters yield,
On dishes of birch and hemlock piled,
Garnished and graced that banquet wild.
Steaks of the brown bear fat and large
From the rocky slopes of the Kearsarge;
Delicate trout from Babboosuck brook,
And salmon speared in the Contoocook;
Squirrels which fed where nuts fell thick
in the gravelly bed of the Otternic;
And small wild-hens in reed-snares caught
from the banks of Sondagardee brought;
Pike and perch from the Suncook taken,
Nuts from the trees of the Black Hills shaken,
Cranberries picked in the Squamscot bog,
And grapes from the vines of Piscataquog:
And, drawn from that great stone vase which stands
In the river scooped by a spirit's hands,
Garnished with spoons of shell and horn,
Stood the birchen dishes of smoking corn.
Thus bird of the air and beast of the field,
All which the woods and the waters yield,
Furnished in that olden day
The bridal feast of the Bashaba.
And merrily when that feast was done
On the fire-lit green the dance begun,
With squaws' shrill stave, and deeper hum
Of old men beating the Indian drum.
Painted and plumed, with scalp-locks flowing,
And red arms tossing and black eyes glowing,
Now in the light and now in the shade
Around the fires the dancers played.
The step was quicker, the song more shrill,
And the beat of the small drums louder still
Whenever within the circle drew
The Saugus Sachem and Weetamoo.
The moons of forty winters had shed
Their snow upon that chieftain's head,
And toil and care and battle's chance
Had seamed his hard, dark countenance.
A fawn beside the bison grim,—
Why turns the bride's fond eye on him,
In whose cold look is naught beside
The triumph of a sullen pride?
Ask why the graceful grape entwines
The rough oak with her arm of vines;
And why the gray rock's rugged cheek
The soft lips of the mosses seek.
Why, with wise instinct, Nature seems
To harmonize her wide extremes,
Linking the stronger with the weak,
The haughty with the soft and meek!
V. THE NEW HOME
A wild and broken landscape, spiked with firs,
Roughening the bleak horizon's northern edge;
Steep, cavernous hillsides, where black hemlock spurs
And sharp, gray splinters of the wind-swept ledge
Pierced the thin-glazed ice, or bristling rose,
Where the cold rim of the sky sunk down upon the snows.
And eastward cold, wide marshes stretched away,
Dull, dreary flats without a bush or tree,
O'er-crossed by icy creeks, where twice a day
Gurgled the waters of the moon-struck sea;
And faint with distance came the stifled roar,
The melancholy lapse of waves on that low shore.
No cheerful village with its mingling smokes,
No laugh of children wrestling in the snow,
No camp-fire blazing through the hillside oaks,
No fishers kneeling on the ice below;
Yet midst all desolate things of sound and view,
Through the long winter moons smiled dark-eyed Weetamoo.
Her heart had found a home; and freshly all
Its beautiful affections overgrew
Their rugged prop. As o'er some granite wall
Soft vine-leaves open to the moistening dew
And warm bright sun, the love of that young wife
Found on a hard cold breast the dew and warmth of life.
The steep, bleak hills, the melancholy shore,
The long, dead level of the marsh between,
A coloring of unreal beauty wore
Through the soft golden mist of young love seen.
For o'er those hills and from that dreary plain,
Nightly she welcomed home her hunter chief again.
No warmth of heart, no passionate burst of feeling,
Repaid her welcoming smile and parting kiss,
No fond and playful dalliance half concealing,
Under the guise of mirth, its tenderness;
But, in their stead, the warrior's settled pride,
And vanity's pleased smile with homage satisfied.
Enough for Weetamoo, that she alone
Sat on his mat and slumbered at his side;
That he whose fame to her young ear had flown
Now looked upon her proudly as his bride;
That he whose name the Mohawk trembling heard
Vouchsafed to her at times a kindly look or word.
For she had learned the maxims of her race,
Which teach the woman to become a slave,
And feel herself the pardonless disgrace
Of love's fond weakness in the wise and brave,—
The scandal and the shame which they incur,
Who give to woman all which man requires of her.
So passed the winter moons. The sun at last
Broke link by link the frost chain of the rills,
And the warm breathings of the southwest passed
Over the hoar rime of the Saugus hills;
The gray and desolate marsh grew green once more,
And the birch-tree's tremulous shade fell round the Sachem's door.
Then from far Pennacook swift runners came,
With gift and greeting for the Saugus chief;
Beseeching him in the great Sachem's name,
That, with the coming of the flower and leaf,
The song of birds, the warm breeze and the rain,
Young Weetamoo might greet her lonely sire again.
And Winnepurkit called his chiefs together,
And a grave council in his wigwam met,
Solemn and brief in words, considering whether
The rigid rules of forest etiquette
Permitted Weetamoo once more to look
Upon her father's face and green-banked Pennacook.
With interludes of pipe-smoke and strong water,
The forest sages pondered, and at length,
Concluded in a body to escort her
Up to her father's home of pride and strength,
Impressing thus on Pennacook a sense
Of Winnepurkit's power and regal consequence.
So through old woods which Aukeetamit's hand,
A soft and many-shaded greenness lent,
Over high breezy hills, and meadow land
Yellow with flowers, the wild procession went,
Till, rolling down its wooded banks between,
A broad, clear, mountain stream, the Merrimac was seen.
The hunter leaning on his bow undrawn,
The fisher lounging on the pebbled shores,
Squaws in the clearing dropping the seed-corn,
Young children peering through the wigwam doors,
Saw with delight, surrounded by her train
Of painted Saugus braves, their Weetamoo again.
VI. AT PENNACOOK
The hills are dearest which our childish feet
Have climbed the earliest; and the streams most sweet
Are ever those at which our young lips drank,
Stooped to their waters o'er the grassy bank.
Midst the cold dreary sea-watch, Home's hearth-light
Shines round the helmsman plunging through the night;
And still, with inward eye, the traveller sees
In close, dark, stranger streets his native trees.
The home-sick dreamer's brow is nightly fanned
By breezes whispering of his native land,
And on the stranger's dim and dying eye
The soft, sweet pictures of his childhood lie.
Joy then for Weetamoo, to sit once more
A child upon her father's wigwam floor!
Once more with her old fondness to beguile
From his cold eye the strange light of a smile.
The long, bright days of summer swiftly passed,
The dry leaves whirled in autumn's rising blast,
And evening cloud and whitening sunrise rime
Told of the coming of the winter-time.
But vainly looked, the while, young Weetamoo,
Down the dark river for her chief's canoe;
No dusky messenger from Saugus brought
The grateful tidings which the young wife sought.
At length a runner from her father sent,
To Winnepurkit's sea-cooled wigwam went
'Eagle of Saugus,—in the woods the dove
Mourns for the shelter of thy wings of love.'
But the dark chief of Saugus turned aside
In the grim anger of hard-hearted pride;
I bore her as became a chieftain's daughter,
Up to her home beside the gliding water.
If now no more a mat for her is found
Of all which line her father's wigwam round,
Let Pennacook call out his warrior train,
And send her back with wampum gifts again.'
The baffled runner turned upon his track,
Bearing the words of Winnepurkit back.
'Dog of the Marsh,' cried Pennacook, 'no more
Shall child of mine sit on his wigwam floor.
'Go, let him seek some meaner squaw to spread
The stolen bear-skin of his beggar's bed;
Son of a fish-hawk! let him dig his clams
For some vile daughter of the Agawams,
'Or coward Nipmucks! may his scalp dry black
In Mohawk smoke, before I send her back.'
He shook his clenched hand towards the ocean wave,
While hoarse assent his listening council gave.
Alas poor bride! can thy grim sire impart
His iron hardness to thy woman's heart?
Or cold self-torturing pride like his atone
For love denied and life's warm beauty flown?
On Autumn's gray and mournful grave the snow
Hung its white wreaths; with stifled voice and low
The river crept, by one vast bridge o'er-crossed,
Built by the boar-locked artisan of Frost.
And many a moon in beauty newly born
Pierced the red sunset with her silver horn,
Or, from the east, across her azure field
Rolled the wide brightness of her full-orbed shield.
Yet Winnepurkit came not,—on the mat
Of the scorned wife her dusky rival sat;
And he, the while, in Western woods afar,
Urged the long chase, or trod the path of war.
Dry up thy tears, young daughter of a chief!
Waste not on him the sacredness of grief;
Be the fierce spirit of thy sire thine own,
His lips of scorning, and his heart of stone.
What heeds the warrior of a hundred fights,
The storm-worn watcher through long hunting nights,
Cold, crafty, proud of woman's weak distress,
Her home-bound grief and pining loneliness?
VII. THE DEPARTURE
The wild March rains had fallen fast and long
The snowy mountains of the North among,
Making each vale a watercourse, each hill
Bright with the cascade of some new-made rill.
Gnawed by the sunbeams, softened by the rain,
Heaved underneath by the swollen current's strain,
The ice-bridge yielded, and the Merrimac
Bore the huge ruin crashing down its track.
On that strong turbid water, a small boat
Guided by one weak hand was seen to float;
Evil the fate which loosed it from the shore,
Too early voyager with too frail an oar!
Down the vexed centre of that rushing tide,
The thick huge ice-blocks threatening either side,
The foam-white rocks of Amoskeag in view,
With arrowy swiftness sped that light canoe.
The trapper, moistening his moose's meat
On the wet bank by Uncanoonuc's feet,
Saw the swift boat flash down the troubled stream;
Slept he, or waked he? was it truth or dream?
The straining eye bent fearfully before,
The small hand clenching on the useless oar,
The bead-wrought blanket trailing o'er the water—
He knew them all—woe for the Sachem's daughter!
Sick and aweary of her lonely life,
Heedless of peril, the still faithful wife
Had left her mother's grave, her father's door,
To seek the wigwam of her chief once more.
Down the white rapids like a sear leaf whirled,
On the sharp rocks and piled-up ices hurled,
Empty and broken, circled the canoe
In the vexed pool below—but where was Weetamoo.
VIII. SONG OF INDIAN WOMEN
The Dark eye has left us,
The Spring-bird has flown;
On the pathway of spirits
She wanders alone.
The song of the wood-dove has died on our shore
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We hear it no more!
O dark water Spirit
We cast on thy wave
These furs which may never
Hang over her grave;
Bear down to the lost one the robes that she wore
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
Of the strange land she walks in
No Powah has told:
It may burn with the sunshine,
Or freeze with the cold.
Let us give to our lost one the robes that she wore:
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
The path she is treading
Shall soon be our own;
Each gliding in shadow
Unseen and alone!
In vain shall we call on the souls gone before:
Mat wonck kunna-monee! They hear us no more!
O mighty Sowanna!
Thy gateways unfold,
From thy wigwam of sunset
Lift curtains of gold!
Take home the poor Spirit whose journey is o'er
Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see her no more!
So sang the Children of the Leaves beside
The broad, dark river's coldly flowing tide;
Now low, now harsh, with sob-like pause and swell,
On the high wind their voices rose and fell.
Nature's wild music,—sounds of wind-swept trees,
The scream of birds, the wailing of the breeze,
The roar of waters, steady, deep, and strong,—
Mingled and murmured in that farewell song.
HE was a Grecian lad, who coming home
With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
Stood at his galley's prow, and let the foam
Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously,
And holding wave and wind in boy's despite
Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night
Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear
Like a thin thread of gold against the sky,
And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear,
And bade the pilot head her lustily
Against the nor'west gale, and all day long
Held on his way, and marked the rowers' time with measured song,
And when the faint Corinthian hills were red
Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head,
And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray,
And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold
Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,
And a rich robe stained with the fishes' juice
Which of some swarthy trader he had bought
Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought,
And by the questioning merchants made his way
Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day
Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud,
Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet
Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd
Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat
Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring
The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling
The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang
His studded crook against the temple wall
To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall;
And then the clear-voiced maidens 'gan to sing,
And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,
A beechen cup brimming with milky foam,
A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery
Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee
Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil
Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked
Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid
To please Athena, and the dappled hide
Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade
Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried,
And from the pillared precinct one by one
Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had
And the old priest put out the waning fires
Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed
For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres
Came fainter on the wind, as down the road
In joyous dance these country folk did pass,
And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.
Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe,
And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine,
And the rose-petals falling from the wreath
As the night breezes wandered through the shrine,
And seemed to be in some entrancèd swoon
Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon
Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor,
When from his nook upleapt the venturous lad,
And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared
From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared
Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled
The Gorgon's head its leaden eyeballs rolled,
And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield,
And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold
In passion impotent, while with blind gaze
The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.
The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp
Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
The net for tunnies, heard a brazen tramp
Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast
Divide the folded curtains of the night,
And knelt upon the little poop, and prayed in holy fright.
And guilty lovers in their venery
Forgat a little while their stolen sweets,
Deeming they heard dread Dian's bitter cry;
And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats
Ran to their shields in haste precipitate,
Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.
For round the temple rolled the clang of arms,
And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear,
And the air quaked with dissonant alarums
Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear,
And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed,
And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.
Ready for death with parted lips he stood,
And well content at such a price to see
That calm wide brow, that terrible maidenhood,
The marvel of that pitiless chastity,
Ah! well content indeed, for never wight
Since Troy's young shepherd prince had seen so wonderful a sight.
Ready for death he stood, but lo! the air
Grew silent, and the horses ceased to neigh,
And off his brow he tossed the clustering hair,
And from his limbs he threw the cloak away,
For whom would not such love make desperate,
And nigher came, and touched her throat, and with hands violate
Undid the cuirass, and the crocus gown,
And bared the breasts of polished ivory,
Till from the waist the peplos falling down
Left visible the secret mystery
Which to no lover will Athena show,
The grand cool flanks, the crescent thighs, the bossy hills of snow.
Those who have never known a lover's sin
Let them not read my ditty, it will be
To their dull ears so musicless and thin
That they will have no joy of it, but ye
To whose wan cheeks now creeps the lingering smile,
Ye who have learned who Eros is,--O listen yet a-while.
A little space he let his greedy eyes
Rest on the burnished image, till mere sight
Half swooned for surfeit of such luxuries,
And then his lips in hungering delight
Fed on her lips, and round the towered neck
He flung his arms, nor cared at all his passion's will to check.
Never I ween did lover hold such tryst,
For all night long he murmured honeyed word,
And saw her sweet unravished limbs, and kissed
Her pale and argent body undisturbed,
And paddled with the polished throat, and pressed
His hot and beating heart upon her chill and icy breast.
It was as if Numidian javelins
Pierced through and through his wild and whirling brain,
And his nerves thrilled like throbbing violins
In exquisite pulsation, and the pain
Was such sweet anguish that he never drew
His lips from hers till overhead the lark of warning flew.
They who have never seen the daylight peer
Into a darkened room, and drawn the curtain,
And with dull eyes and wearied from some dear
And worshipped body risen, they for certain
Will never know of what I try to sing,
How long the last kiss was, how fond and late his lingering.
The moon was girdled with a crystal rim,
The sign which shipmen say is ominous
Of wrath in heaven, the wan stars were dim,
And the low lightening east was tremulous
With the faint fluttering wings of flying dawn,
Ere from the silent sombre shrine this lover had withdrawn.
Down the steep rock with hurried feet and fast
Clomb the brave lad, and reached the cave of Pan,
And heard the goat-foot snoring as he passed,
And leapt upon a grassy knoll and ran
Like a young fawn unto an olive wood
Which in a shady valley by the well-built city stood.
And sought a little stream, which well he knew,
For oftentimes with boyish careless shout
The green and crested grebe he would pursue,
Or snare in woven net the silver trout,
And down amid the startled reeds he lay
Panting in breathless sweet affright, and waited for the day.
On the green bank he lay, and let one hand
Dip in the cool dark eddies listlessly,
And soon the breath of morning came and fanned
His hot flushed cheeks, or lifted wantonly
The tangled curls from off his forehead, while
He on the running water gazed with strange and secret smile.
And soon the shepherd in rough woollen cloak
With his long crook undid the wattled cotes,
And from the stack a thin blue wreath of smoke
Curled through the air across the ripening oats,
And on the hill the yellow house-dog bayed
As through the crisp and rustling fern the heavy cattle strayed.
And when the light-foot mower went afield
Across the meadows laced with threaded dew,
And the sheep bleated on the misty weald,
And from its nest the waking corn-crake flew,
Some woodmen saw him lying by the stream
And marvelled much that any lad so beautiful could seem,
Nor deemed him born of mortals, and one said,
'It is young Hylas, that false runaway
Who with a Naiad now would make his bed
Forgetting Herakles,' but others, 'Nay,
It is Narcissus, his own paramour,
Those are the fond and crimson lips no woman can allure.'
And when they nearer came a third one cried,
'It is young Dionysos who has hid
His spear and fawnskin by the river side
Weary of hunting with the Bassarid,
And wise indeed were we away to fly
They live not long who on the gods immortal come to spy.'
So turned they back, and feared to look behind,
And told the timid swain how they had seen
Amid the reeds some woodland God reclined,
And no man dared to cross the open green,
And on that day no olive-tree was slain,
Nor rushes cut, but all deserted was the fair domain.
Save when the neat-herd's lad, his empty pail
Well slung upon his back, with leap and bound
Raced on the other side, and stopped to hail
Hoping that he some comrade new had found,
And gat no answer, and then half afraid
Passed on his simple way, or down the still and silent glade
A little girl ran laughing from the farm
Not thinking of love's secret mysteries,
And when she saw the white and gleaming arm
And all his manlihood, with longing eyes
Whose passion mocked her sweet virginity
Watched him a-while, and then stole back sadly and wearily.
Far off he heard the city's hum and noise,
And now and then the shriller laughter where
The passionate purity of brown-limbed boys
Wrestled or raced in the clear healthful air,
And now and then a little tinkling bell
As the shorn wether led the sheep down to the mossy well.
Through the grey willows danced the fretful gnat,
The grasshopper chirped idly from the tree,
In sleek and oily coat the water-rat
Breasting the little ripples manfully
Made for the wild-duck's nest, from bough to bough
Hopped the shy finch, and the huge tortoise crept across the slough.
On the faint wind floated the silky seeds,
As the bright scythe swept through the waving grass,
The ousel-cock splashed circles in the reeds
And flecked with silver whorls the forest's glass,
Which scarce had caught again its imagery
Ere from its bed the dusky tench leapt at the dragonfly.
But little care had he for any thing
Though up and down the beech the squirrel played,
And from the copse the linnet 'gan to sing
To her brown mate her sweetest serenade,
Ah! little care indeed, for he had seen
The breasts of Pallas and the naked wonder of the Queen.
But when the herdsman called his straggling goats
With whistling pipe across the rocky road,
And the shard-beetle with its trumpet-notes
Boomed through the darkening woods, and seemed to bode
Of coming storm, and the belated crane
Passed homeward like a shadow, and the dull big drops of rain
Fell on the pattering fig-leaves, up he rose,
And from the gloomy forest went his way
Past sombre homestead and wet orchard-close,
And came at last unto a little quay,
And called his mates a-board, and took his seat
On the high poop, and pushed from land, and loosed the dripping
And steered across the bay, and when nine suns
Passed down the long and laddered way of gold,
And nine pale moons had breathed their orisons
To the chaste stars their confessors, or told
Their dearest secret to the downy moth
That will not fly at noonday, through the foam and surging froth
Came a great owl with yellow sulphurous eyes
And lit upon the ship, whose timbers creaked
As though the lading of three argosies
Were in the hold, and flapped its wings, and shrieked,
And darkness straightway stole across the deep,
Sheathed was Orion's sword, dread Mars himself fled down the steep,
And the moon hid behind a tawny mask
Of drifting cloud, and from the ocean's marge
Rose the red plume, the huge and hornèd casque,
The seven-cubit spear, the brazen targe!
And clad in bright and burnished panoply
Athena strode across the stretch of sick and shivering sea!
To the dull sailors' sight her loosened locks
Seemed like the jagged storm-rack, and her feet
Only the spume that floats on hidden rocks,
And marking how the rising waters beat
Against the rolling ship, the pilot cried
To the young helmsman at the stern to luff to windward side.
But he, the over-bold adulterer,
A dear profaner of great mysteries,
An ardent amorous idolater,
When he beheld those grand relentless eyes
Laughed loud for joy, and crying out 'I come'
Leapt from the lofty poop into the chill and churning foam.
Then fell from the high heaven one bright star,
One dancer left the circling galaxy,
And back to Athens on her clattering car
In all the pride of venged divinity
Pale Pallas swept with shrill and steely clank,
And a few gurgling bubbles rose where her boy lover sank.
And the mast shuddered as the gaunt owl flew
With mocking hoots after the wrathful Queen,
And the old pilot bade the trembling crew
Hoist the big sail, and told how he had seen
Close to the stern a dim and giant form,
And like a dipping swallow the stout ship dashed through the storm.
And no man dared to speak of Charmides
Deeming that he some evil thing had wrought,
And when they reached the strait Symplegades
They beached their galley on the shore, and sought
The toll-gate of the city hastily,
And in the market showed their brown and pictured pottery.
But some good Triton-god had ruth, and bare
The boy's drowned body back to Grecian land,
And mermaids combed his dank and dripping hair
And smoothed his brow, and loosed his clenching hand,
Some brought sweet spices from far Araby,
And others bade the halcyon sing her softest lullaby.
And when he neared his old Athenian home,
A mighty billow rose up suddenly
Upon whose oily back the clotted foam
Lay diapered in some strange fantasy,
And clasping him unto its glassy breast,
Swept landward, like a white-maned steed upon a venturous quest!
Now where Colonos leans unto the sea
There lies a long and level stretch of lawn,
The rabbit knows it, and the mountain bee
For it deserts Hymettus, and the Faun
Is not afraid, for never through the day
Comes a cry ruder than the shout of shepherd lads at play.
But often from the thorny labyrinth
And tangled branches of the circling wood
The stealthy hunter sees young Hyacinth
Hurling the polished disk, and draws his hood
Over his guilty gaze, and creeps away,
Nor dares to wind his horn, or--else at the first break of day
The Dyrads come and throw the leathern ball
Along the reedy shore, and circumvent
Some goat-eared Pan to be their seneschal
For fear of bold Poseidon's ravishment,
And loose their girdles, with shy timorous eyes,
Lest from the surf his azure arms and purple beard should rise.
On this side and on that a rocky cave,
Hung with the yellow-bell'd laburnum, stands,
Smooth is the beach, save where some ebbing wave
Leaves its faint outline etched upon the sands,
As though it feared to be too soon forgot
By the green rush, its playfellow,--and yet, it is a spot
So small, that the inconstant butterfly
Could steal the hoarded honey from each flower
Ere it was noon, and still not satisfy
Its over-greedy love,--within an hour
A sailor boy, were he but rude enow
To land and pluck a garland for his galley's painted prow,
Would almost leave the little meadow bare,
For it knows nothing of great pageantry,
Only a few narcissi here and there
Stand separate in sweet austerity,
Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
And here and there a daffodil waves tiny scimetars.
Hither the billow brought him, and was glad
Of such dear servitude, and where the land
Was virgin of all waters laid the lad
Upon the golden margent of the strand,
And like a lingering lover oft returned
To kiss those pallid limbs which once with intense fire burned,
Ere the wet seas had quenched that holocaust,
That self-fed flame, that passionate lustihead,
Ere grisly death with chill and nipping frost
Had withered up those lilies white and red
Which, while the boy would through the forest range,
Answered each other in a sweet antiphonal counterchange.
And when at dawn the woodnymphs, hand-in-hand,
Threaded the bosky dell, their satyr spied
The boy's pale body stretched upon the sand,
And feared Poseidon's treachery, and cried,
And like bright sunbeams flitting through a glade,
Each startled Dryad sought some safe and leafy ambuscade.
Save one white girl, who deemed it would not be
So dread a thing to feel a sea-god's arms
Crushing her breasts in amorous tyranny,
And longed to listen to those subtle charms
Insidious lovers weave when they would win
Some fencèd fortress, and stole back again, nor thought it sin
To yield her treasure unto one so fair,
And lay beside him, thirsty with love's drouth,
Called him soft names, played with his tangled hair,
And with hot lips made havoc of his mouth
Afraid he might not wake, and then afraid
Lest he might wake too soon, fled back, and then, fond renegade,
Returned to fresh assault, and all day long
Sat at his side, and laughed at her new toy,
And held his hand, and sang her sweetest song,
Then frowned to see how froward was the boy
Who would not with her maidenhood entwine,
Nor knew that three days since his eyes had looked on Proserpine,
Nor knew what sacrilege his lips had done,
But said, 'He will awake, I know him well,
He will awake at evening when the sun
Hangs his red shield on Corinth's citadel,
This sleep is but a cruel treachery
To make me love him more, and in some cavern of the sea
Deeper than ever falls the fisher's line
Already a huge Triton blows his horn,
And weaves a garland from the crystalline
And drifting ocean-tendrils to adorn
The emerald pillars of our bridal bed,
For sphered in foaming silver, and with coral-crownèd head,
We two will sit upon a throne of pearl,
And a blue wave will be our canopy,
And at our feet the water-snakes will curl
In all their amethystine panoply
Of diamonded mail, and we will mark
The mullets swimming by the mast of some storm-foundered bark,
Vermilion-finned with eyes of bossy gold
Like flakes of crimson light, and the great deep
His glassy-portaled chamber will unfold,
And we will see the painted dolphins sleep
Cradled by murmuring halcyons on the rocks
Where Proteus in quaint suit of green pastures his monstrous flocks.
And tremulous opal-hued anemones
Will wave their purple fringes where we tread
Upon the mirrored floor, and argosies
Of fishes flecked with tawny scales will thread
The drifting cordage of the shattered wreck,
And honey-coloured amber beads our twining limbs will deck.'
But when that baffled Lord of War the Sun
With gaudy pennon flying passed away
Into his brazen House, and one by one
The little yellow stars began to stray
Across the field of heaven, ah! then indeed
She feared his lips upon her lips would never care to feed,
And cried, 'Awake, already the pale moon
Washes the trees with silver, and the wave
Creeps grey and chilly up this sandy dune,
The croaking frogs are out, and from the cave
The night-jar shrieks, the fluttering bats repass,
And the brown stoat with hollow flanks creeps through the dusky
Nay, though thou art a God, be not so coy,
For in yon stream there is a little reed
That often whispers how a lovely boy
Lay with her once upon a grassy mead,
Who when his cruel pleasure he had done
Spread wings of rustling gold and soared aloft into the sun.
Be not so coy, the laurel trembles still
With great Apollo's kisses, and the fir
Whose clustering sisters fringe the sea-ward hill
Hath many a tale of that bold ravisher
Whom men call Boreas, and I have seen
The mocking eyes of Hermes through the poplar's silvery sheen.
Even the jealous Naiads call me fair,
And every morn a young and ruddy swain
Wooes me with apples and with locks of hair,
And seeks to soothe my virginal disdain
By all the gifts the gentle wood-nymphs love;
But yesterday he brought to me an iris-plumaged dove
With little crimson feet, which with its store
Of seven spotted eggs the cruel lad
Had stolen from the lofty sycamore
At day-break, when her amorous comrade had
Flown off in search of berried juniper
Which most they love; the fretful wasp, that earliest vintager
Of the blue grapes, hath not persistency
So constant as this simple shepherd-boy
For my poor lips, his joyous purity
And laughing sunny eyes might well decoy
A Dryad from her oath to Artemis;
For very beautiful is he, his mouth was made to kiss,
His argent forehead, like a rising moon
Over the dusky hills of meeting brows,
Is crescent shaped, the hot and Tyrian noon
Leads from the myrtle-grove no goodlier spouse
For Cytheræa, the first silky down
Fringes his blushing cheeks, and his young limbs are strong and
And he is rich, and fat and fleecy herds
Of bleating sheep upon his meadows lie,
And many an earthen bowl of yellow curds
Is in his homestead for the thievish fly
To swim and drown in, the pink clover mead
Keeps its sweet store for him, and he can pipe on oaten reed.
And yet I love him not, it was for thee
I kept my love, I knew that thou would'st come
To rid me of this pallid chastity;
Thou fairest flower of the flowerless foam
Of all the wide Ægean, brightest star
Of ocean's azure heavens where the mirrored planets are!
I knew that thou would'st come, for when at first
The dry wood burgeoned, and the sap of Spring
Swelled in my green and tender bark or burst
To myriad multitudinous blossoming
Which mocked the midnight with its mimic moons
That did not dread the dawn, and first the thrushes' rapturous tunes
Startled the squirrel from its granary,
And cuckoo flowers fringed the narrow lane,
Through my young leaves a sensuous ecstasy
Crept like new wine, and every mossy vein
Throbbed with the fitful pulse of amorous blood,
And the wild winds of passion shook my slim stem's maidenhood.
The trooping fawns at evening came and laid
Their cool black noses on my lowest boughs
And on my topmost branch the blackbird made
A little nest of grasses for his spouse,
And now and then a twittering wren would light
On a thin twig which hardly bare the weigh of such delight.
I was the Attic shepherd's trysting place,
Beneath my shadow Amaryllis lay,
And round my trunk would laughing Daphnis chase
The timorous girl, till tired out with play
She felt his hot breath stir her tangled hair,
And turned, and looked, and fled no more from such delightful snare.
Then come away unto my ambuscade
Where clustering woodbine weaves a canopy
For amorous pleasaunce, and the rustling shade
Of Paphian myrtles seems to sanctify
The dearest rites of love, there in the cool
And green recesses of its farthest depth there is a pool,
The ouzel's haunt, the wild bee's pasturage,
For round its rim great creamy lilies float
Through their flat leaves in verdant anchorage,
Each cup a white-sailed golden-laden boat
Steered by a dragon-fly,--be not afraid
To leave this wan and wave-kissed shore, surely the place were made
For lovers such as we, the Cyprian Queen,
One arm around her boyish paramour,
Strays often there at eve, and I have seen
The moon strip off her misty vestiture
For young Endymion's eyes, be not afraid,
The panther feet of Dian never tread that secret glade.
Nay if thou wil'st, back to the beating brine,
Back to the boisterous billow let us go,
And walk all day beneath the hyaline
Huge vault of Neptune's watery portico,
And watch the purple monsters of the deep
Sport in ungainly play, and from his lair keen Xiphias leap.
For if my mistress find me lying here
She will not ruth or gentle pity show,
But lay her boar-spear down, and with austere
Relentless fingers string the cornel bow,
And draw the feathered notch against her breast,
And loose the archèd cord, ay, even now upon the quest
I hear her hurrying feet,--awake, awake,
Thou laggard in love's battle! once at least
Let me drink deep of passion's wine, and slake
My parchèd being with the nectarous feast
Which even Gods affect! O come Love come,
Still we have time to reach the cavern of thine azure home.'
Scarce had she spoken when the shuddering trees
Shook, and the leaves divided, and the air
Grew conscious of a God, and the grey seas
Crawled backward, and a long and dismal blare
Blew from some tasselled horn, a sleuth-hound bayed,
And like a flame a barbèd reed flew whizzing down the glade.
And where the little flowers of her breast
Just brake into their milky blossoming,
This murderous paramour, this unbidden guest,
Pierced and struck deep in horrid chambering,
And ploughed a bloody furrow with its dart,
And dug a long red road, and cleft with wingèd death her heart.
Sobbing her life out with a bitter cry
On the boy's body fell the Dryad maid,
Sobbing for incomplete virginity,
And raptures unenjoyed, and pleasures dead,
And all the pain of things unsatisfied,
And the bright drops of crimson youth crept down her throbbing
Ah! pitiful it was to hear her moan,
And very pitiful to see her die
Ere she had yielded up her sweets, or known
The joy of passion, that dread mystery
Which not to know is not to live at all,
And yet to know is to be held in death's most deadly thrall.
But as it hapt the Queen of Cythere,
Who with Adonis all night long had lain
Within some shepherd's hut in Arcady,
On team of silver doves and gilded wane
Was journeying Paphos-ward, high up afar
From mortal ken between the mountains and the morning star,
And when low down she spied the hapless pair,
And heard the Oread's faint despairing cry,
Whose cadence seemed to play upon the air
As though it were a viol, hastily
She bade her pigeons fold each straining plume,
And dropt to earth, and reached the strand, and saw their dolorous
For as a gardener turning back his head
To catch the last notes of the linnet, mows
With careless scythe too near some flower bed,
And cuts the thorny pillar of the rose,
And with the flower's loosened loveliness
Strews the brown mould, or as some shepherd lad in wantonness
Driving his little flock along the mead
Treads down two daffodils which side by side
Have lured the lady-bird with yellow brede
And made the gaudy moth forget its pride,
Treads down their brimming golden chalices
Under light feet which were not made for such rude ravages,
Or as a schoolboy tired of his book
Flings himself down upon the reedy grass
And plucks two water-lilies from the brook,
And for a time forgets the hour glass,
Then wearies of their sweets, and goes his way,
And lets the hot sun kill them, even so these lovers lay.
And Venus cried, 'It is dread Artemis
Whose bitter hand hath wrought this cruelty,
Or else that mightier may whose care it is
To guard her strong and stainless majesty
Upon the hill Athenian,--alas!
That they who loved so well unloved into Death's house should pass.
So with soft hands she laid the boy and girl
In the great golden waggon tenderly,
Her white throat whiter than a moony pearl
Just threaded with a blue vein's tapestry
Had not yet ceased to throb, and still her breast
Swayed like a wind-stirred lily in ambiguous unrest.
And then each pigeon spread its milky van,
The bright car soared into the dawning sky,
And like a cloud the aerial caravan
Passed over the Ægean silently,
Till the faint air was troubled with the song
From the wan mouths that call on bleeding Thammuz all night long.
But when the doves had reached their wonted goal
Where the wide stair of orbèd marble dips
Its snows into the sea, her fluttering soul
Just shook the trembling petals of her lips
And passed into the void, and Venus knew
That one fair maid the less would walk amid her retinue,
And bade her servants carve a cedar chest
With all the wonder of this history,
Within whose scented womb their limbs should rest
Where olive-trees make tender the blue sky
On the low hills of Paphos, and the faun
Pipes in the noonday, and the nightingale sings on till dawn.
Nor failed they to obey her hest, and ere
The morning bee had stung the daffodil
With tiny fretful spear, or from its lair
The waking stag had leapt across the rill
And roused the ouzel, or the lizard crept
Athwart the sunny rock, beneath the grass their bodies slept.
And when day brake, within that silver shrine
Fed by the flames of cressets tremulous,
Queen Venus knelt and prayed to Proserpine
That she whose beauty made Death amorous
Should beg a guerdon from her pallid Lord,
And let Desire pass across dread Charon's icy ford.
In melancholy moonless Acheron,
Far from the goodly earth and joyous day,
Where no spring ever buds, nor ripening sun
Weighs down the apple trees, nor flowery May
Chequers with chestnut blooms the grassy floor,
Where thrushes never sing, and piping linnets mate no more,
There by a dim and dark Lethæan well
Young Charmides was lying, wearily
He plucked the blossoms from the asphodel,
And with its little rifled treasury
Strewed the dull waters of the dusky stream,
And watched the white stars founder, and the land was like a
When as he gazed into the watery glass
And through his brown hair's curly tangles scanned
His own wan face, a shadow seemed to pass
Across the mirror, and a little hand
Stole into his, and warm lips timidly
Brushed his pale cheeks, and breathed their secret forth into a sigh.
Then turned he round his weary eyes and saw,
And ever nigher still their faces came,
And nigher ever did their young mouths draw
Until they seemed one perfect rose of flame,
And longing arms around her neck he cast,
And felt her throbbing bosom, and his breath came hot and fast,
And all his hoarded sweets were hers to kiss,
And all her maidenhood was his to slay,
And limb to limb in long and rapturous bliss
Their passion waxed and waned,--O why essay
To pipe again of love too venturous reed!
Enough, enough that Erôs laughed upon that flowerless mead.
Too venturous poesy O why essay
To pipe again of passion! fold thy wings
O'er daring Icarus and bid thy lay
Sleep hidden in the lyre's silent strings,
Till thou hast found the old Castalian rill,
Or from the Lesbian waters plucked drowned Sappho's golden quill!
Enough, enough that he whose life had been
A fiery pulse of sin, a splendid shame,
Could in the loveless land of Hades glean
One scorching harvest from those fields of flame
Where passion walks with naked unshod feet
And is not wounded,--ah! enough that once their lips could meet
In that wild throb when all existences
Seem narrowed to one single ecstasy
Which dies through its own sweetness and the stress
Of too much pleasure, ere Persephone
Had bade them serve her by the ebon throne
Of the pale God who in the fields of Enna loosed her zone.
The Four Seasons : Autumn
Crown'd with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn, nodding o'er the yellow plain,
Comes jovial on; the Doric reed once more,
Well pleased, I tune. Whate'er the wintry frost
Nitrous prepared; the various blossom'd Spring
Put in white promise forth; and Summer-suns
Concocted strong, rush boundless now to view,
Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious theme.
Onslow! the Muse, ambitious of thy name,
To grace, inspire, and dignify her song,
Would from the public voice thy gentle ear
A while engage. Thy noble cares she knows,
The patriot virtues that distend thy thought,
Spread on thy front, and in thy bosom glow;
While listening senates hang upon thy tongue,
Devolving through the maze of eloquence
A roll of periods, sweeter than her song.
But she too pants for public virtue, she,
Though weak of power, yet strong in ardent will,
Whene'er her country rushes on her heart,
Assumes a bolder note, and fondly tries
To mix the patriot's with the poet's flame.
When the bright Virgin gives the beauteous days,
And Libra weighs in equal scales the year;
From Heaven's high cope the fierce effulgence shook
Of parting Summer, a serener blue,
With golden light enliven'd, wide invests
The happy world. Attemper'd suns arise,
Sweet-beam'd, and shedding oft through lucid clouds
A pleasing calm; while broad, and brown, below
Extensive harvests hang the heavy head.
Rich, silent, deep, they stand; for not a gale
Rolls its light billows o'er the bending plain:
A calm of plenty! till the ruffled air
Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow.
Rent is the fleecy mantle of the sky;
The clouds fly different; and the sudden sun
By fits effulgent gilds the illumined field,
And black by fits the shadows sweep along.
A gaily chequer'd heart-expanding view,
Far as the circling eye can shoot around,
Unbounded tossing in a flood of corn.
These are thy blessings, Industry! rough power!
Whom labour still attends, and sweat, and pain;
Yet the kind source of every gentle art,
And all the soft civility of life:
Raiser of human kind! by Nature cast,
Naked, and helpless, out amid the woods
And wilds, to rude inclement elements;
With various seeds of art deep in the mind
Implanted, and profusely pour'd around
Materials infinite, but idle all.
Still unexerted, in the unconscious breast,
Slept the lethargic powers; Corruption still,
Voracious, swallow'd what the liberal hand
Of bounty scatter'd o'er the savage year:
And still the sad barbarian, roving, mix'd
With beasts of prey; or for his acorn-meal
Fought the fierce tusky boar; a shivering wretch!
Aghast, and comfortless, when the bleak north,
With Winter charged, let the mix'd tempest fly,
Hail, rain, and snow, and bitter-breathing frost:
Then to the shelter of the hut he fled;
And the wild season, sordid, pined away.
For home he had not; home is the resort
Of love, of joy, of peace and plenty, where,
Supporting and supported, polish'd friends,
And dear relations mingle into bliss.
But this the rugged savage never felt,
E'en desolate in crowds; and thus his days
Roll'd heavy, dark, and unenjoy'd along:
A waste of time! till Industry approach'd,
And roused him from his miserable sloth:
His faculties unfolded; pointed out,
Where lavish Nature the directing hand
Of art demanded; show'd him how to raise
His feeble force by the mechanic powers,
To dig the mineral from the vaulted earth,
On what to turn the piercing rage of fire,
On what the torrent, and the gather'd blast;
Gave the tall ancient forest to his axe;
Taught him to chip the wood, and hew the stone,
Till by degrees the finish'd fabric rose;
Tore from his limbs the blood-polluted fur,
And wrapt them in the woolly vestment warm,
Or bright in glossy silk, and flowing lawn;
With wholesome viands fill'd his table, pour'd
The generous glass around, inspired to wake
The life-refining soul of decent wit:
Nor stopp'd at barren bare necessity;
But still advancing bolder, led him on
To pomp, to pleasure, elegance, and grace;
And, breathing high ambition through his soul,
Set science, wisdom, glory, in his view,
And bade him be the Lord of all below.
Then gathering men their natural powers combined,
And form'd a Public; to the general good
Submitting, aiming, and conducting all.
For this the Patriot-Council met, the full,
The free, and fairly represented Whole;
For this they plann'd the holy guardian laws,
Distinguish'd orders, animated arts,
And with joint force Oppression chaining, set
Imperial Justice at the helm; yet still
To them accountable: nor slavish dream'd
That toiling millions must resign their weal,
And all the honey of their search, to such
As for themselves alone themselves have raised.
Hence every form of cultivated life
In order set, protected, and inspired,
Into perfection wrought. Uniting all,
Society grew numerous, high, polite,
And happy. Nurse of art! the city rear'd
In beauteous pride her tower-encircled head;
And, stretching street on street, by thousands drew,
From twining woody haunts, or the tough yew
To bows strong-straining, her aspiring sons.
Then Commerce brought into the public walk
The busy merchant; the big warehouse built;
Raised the strong crane; choked up the loaded street
With foreign plenty; and thy stream, O Thames,
Large, gentle, deep, majestic, king of floods!
Chose for his grand resort. On either hand,
Like a long wintry forest, groves of masts
Shot up their spires; the bellying sheet between
Possess'd the breezy void; the sooty hulk
Steer'd sluggish on; the splendid barge along
Row'd, regular, to harmony; around,
The boat, light-skimming, stretch'd its oary wings;
While deep the various voice of fervent toil
From bank to bank increased; whence ribb'd with oak,
To bear the British thunder, black, and bold,
The roaring vessel rush'd into the main.
Then too the pillar'd dome, magnific, heaved
Its ample roof; and Luxury within
Pour'd out her glittering stores: the canvass smooth,
With glowing life protuberant, to the view
Embodied rose; the statue seem'd to breathe,
And soften into flesh; beneath the touch
Of forming art, imagination-flush'd.
All is the gift of Industry; whate'er
Exalts, embellishes, and renders life
Delightful. Pensive Winter cheer'd by him
Sits at the social fire, and happy hears
The excluded tempest idly rave along;
His harden'd fingers deck the gaudy Spring;
Without him Summer were an arid waste;
Nor to the Autumnal months could thus transmit
Those full, mature, immeasurable stores,
That, waving round, recall my wandering song.
Soon as the morning trembles o'er the sky,
And, unperceived, unfolds the spreading day;
Before the ripen'd field the reapers stand,
In fair array, each by the lass he loves,
To bear the rougher part, and mitigate
By nameless gentle offices her toil.
At once they stoop, and swell the lusty sheaves;
While through their cheerful band the rural talk,
The rural scandal, and the rural jest,
Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,
And steal unfelt the sultry hours away.
Behind the master walks, builds up the shocks;
And, conscious, glancing oft on every side
His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy.
The gleaners spread around, and here and there,
Spike after spike, their scanty harvest pick.
Be not too narrow, husbandmen! but fling
From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,
The liberal handful. Think, oh grateful think!
How good the God of Harvest is to you;
Who pours abundance o'er your flowing fields;
While these unhappy partners of your kind
Wide-hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,
And ask their humble dole. The various turns
Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want
What now, with hard reluctance, faint, ye give.
The lovely young Lavinia once had friends;
And Fortune smiled, deceitful, on her birth.
For, in her helpless years deprived of all,
Of every stay, save Innocence and Heaven,
She with her widow'd mother, feeble, old,
And poor, lived in a cottage, far retired
Among the windings of a woody vale;
By solitude and deep surrounding shades,
But more by bashful modesty, conceal'd.
Together thus they shunn'd the cruel scorn
Which virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet
From giddy passion and low-minded pride:
Almost on Nature's common bounty fed;
Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,
Content, and careless of to-morrow's fare.
Her form was fresher than the morning rose,
When the dew wets its leaves; unstain'd and pure
As is the lily, or the mountain snow.
The modest Virtues mingled in her eyes,
Still on the ground dejected, darting all
Their humid beams into the blooming flowers:
Or when the mournful tale her mother told,
Of what her faithless fortune promised once,
Thrill'd in her thought, they, like the dewy star
Of evening, shone in tears. A native grace
Sat fair-proportion'd on her polish'd limbs,
Veil'd in a simple robe, their best attire,
Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness
Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,
But is when unadorn'd, adorn'd the most.
Thoughtless of beauty, she was Beauty's self,
Recluse amid the close-embowering woods.
As in the hollow breast of Appenine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild;
So flourish'd blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compell'd
By strong Necessity's supreme command,
With smiling patience in her looks, she went
To glean Palemon's fields. The pride of swains
Palemon was, the generous, and the rich;
Who led the rural life in all its joy
And elegance, such as Arcadian song
Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times;
When tyrant custom had not shackled man,
But free to follow Nature was the mode.
He then, his fancy with autumnal scenes
Amusing, chanced beside his reaper-train
To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye;
Unconcious of her power, and turning quick
With unaffected blushes from his gaze:
He saw her charming, but he saw not half
The charms her down-cast modesty conceal'd.
That very moment love and chaste desire
Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;
For still the world prevail'd and its dread laugh,
Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,
Should his heart own a gleaner in the field;
And thus in secret to his soul he sigh'd:—
“What pity! that so delicate a form,
By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense
And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,
Of old Acasto's line; and to my mind
Recalls that patron of my happy life,
From whom my liberal fortune took its rise;
Now to the dust gone down; his houses, lands,
And once fair-spreading family, dissolved.
'Tis said that in some lone obscure retreat,
Urged by remembrance sad, and decent pride,
Far from those scenes which knew their better days,
His aged widow and his daughter live,
Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.
Romantic wish! would this the daughter were!”
When, strict inquiring, from herself he found
She was the same, the daughter of his friend,
Of bountiful Acasto; who can speak
The mingled passions that surprised his heart,
And through his nerves in shivering transport ran?
Then blazed his smother'd flame, avow'd, and bold;
And as he view'd her, ardent, o'er and o'er,
Love, gratitude, and pity wept at once.
Confused, and frighten'd at his sudden tears,
Her rising beauties flush'd a higher bloom,
As thus Palemon, passionate and just,
Pour'd out the pious rapture of his soul:
“And art thou then Acasto's dear remains?
She, whom my restless gratitude has sought,
So long in vain? O heavens! the very same,
The soften'd image of my noble friend;
Alive his every look, his every feature,
More elegantly touch'd. Sweeter than Spring!
Thou sole surviving blossom from the root
That nourish'd up my fortune! say, ah where,
In what sequester'd desert hast thou drawn
The kindest aspect of delighted Heaven?
Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair;
Though Poverty's cold wind and crushing rain
Beat keen and heavy on thy tender years?
O let me now into a richer soil
Transplant thee safe! where vernal suns and showers
Diffuse their warmest, largest influence;
And of my garden be the pride and joy!
Ill it befits thee, oh, it ill befits
Acasto's daughter, his, whose open stores,
Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,
The father of a country, thus to pick
The very refuse of those harvest fields,
Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy.
Then throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,
But ill applied to such a rugged task;
The fields, the master, all, my fair, are thine;
If to the various blessings which thy house
Has on me lavish'd, thou wilt add that bliss,
That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!”
Here ceased the youth: yet still his speaking eye
Express'd the sacred triumph of his soul,
With conscious virtue, gratitude, and love,
Above the vulgar joy divinely raised.
Nor waited he reply. Won by the charm
Of goodness irresistible, and all
In sweet disorder lost, she blush'd consent.
The news immediate to her mother brought,
While, pierced with anxious thought, she pined away
The lonely moments for Lavinia's fate;
Amazed, and scarce believing what she heard,
Joy seized her wither'd veins, and one bright gleam
Of setting life shone on her evening-hours:
Not less enraptured than the happy pair;
Who flourish'd long in tender bliss, and rear'd
A numerous offspring, lovely like themselves,
And good, the grace of all the country round.
Defeating oft the labours of the year,
The sultry south collects a potent blast.
At first, the groves are scarcely seen to stir
Their trembling tops; and a still murmur runs
Along the soft-inclining fields of corn.
But as the aërial tempest fuller swells,
And in one mighty stream, invisible,
Immense, the whole excited atmosphere
Impetuous rushes o'er the sounding world;
Strain'd to the root, the stooping forest pours
A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves.
High beat, the circling mountains eddy in,
From the bare wild, the dissipated storm,
And send it in a torrent down the vale.
Exposed, and naked, to its utmost rage,
Through all the sea of harvest rolling round,
The billowy plain floats wide; nor can evade,
Though pliant to the blast, its seizing force;
Or whirl'd in air, or into vacant chaff
Shook waste. And sometimes too a burst of rain,
Swept from the black horizon, broad, descends
In one continuous flood. Still over head
The mingling tempest weaves its gloom, and still
The deluge deepens; till the fields around
Lie sunk, and flatted, in the sordid wave.
Sudden, the ditches swell; the meadows swim.
Red, from the hills, innumerable streams
Tumultuous roar; and high above its banks
The river lift; before whose rushing tide
Herds, flocks, and harvests, cottages, and swains,
Roll mingled down; all that the winds had spared
In one wild moment ruin'd; the big hopes,
And well earn'd treasures of the painful year.
Fled to some eminence, the husbandman
Helpless beholds the miserable wreck
Driving along; his drowning ox at once
Descending, with his labours scatter'd round,
He sees; and instant o'er his shivering thought
Comes Winter unprovided, and a train
Of claimant children dear. Ye masters, then,
Be mindful of the rough laborious hand
That sinks you soft in elegance and ease;
Be mindful of those limbs in russet clad,
Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful pride;
And, oh! be mindful of that sparing board,
Which covers yours with luxury profuse,
Makes your glass sparkle, and your sense rejoice!
Nor cruelly demand what the deep rains
And all-involving winds have swept away.
Here the rude clamour of the sportsman's joy,
The gun fast-thundering, and the winded horn,
Would tempt the muse to sing the rural game:
How in his mid-career the spaniel struck,
Stiff, by the tainted gale, with open nose,
Outstretch'd and finely sensible, draws full,
Fearful and cautious, on the latent prey;
As in the sun the circling covey bask
Their varied plumes, and watchful every way,
Through the rough stubble turn the secret eye.
Caught in the meshy snare, in vain they beat
Their idle wings, entangled more and more:
Nor on the surges of the boundless air,
Though borne triumphant, are they safe; the gun,
Glanced just, and sudden, from the fowler's eye,
O'ertakes their sounding pinions: and again,
Immediate, brings them from the towering wing,
Dead to the ground; or drives them wide dispersed,
Wounded, and wheeling various, down the wind.
These are not subjects for the peaceful Muse,
Nor will she stain with such her spotless song;
Then most delighted, when she social sees
The whole mix'd animal-creation round
Alive and happy. 'Tis not joy to her,
The falsely cheerful barbarous game of death,
This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth
Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn:
When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,
Urged by necessity, had ranged the dark,
As if their conscious ravage shunn'd the light,
Ashamed. Not so the steady tyrant Man,
Who with the thoughtless insolence of power
Inflamed, beyond the most infuriate wrath
Of the worst monster that e'er roam'd the waste,
For sport alone pursues the cruel chase,
Amid the beamings of the gentle days.
Upbraid, ye ravening tribes, our wanton rage,
For hunger kindles you, and lawless want;
But lavish fed, in Nature's bounty roll'd,
To joy at anguish, and delight in blood,
Is what your horrid bosoms never knew.
Poor is the triumph o'er the timid hare!
Scared from the corn, and now to some lone seat
Retired: the rushy fen; the ragged furze,
Stretch'd o'er the stony heath; the stubble chapt;
The thistly lawn; the thick entangled broom;
Of the same friendly hue, the wither'd fern;
The fallow ground laid open to the sun,
Concoctive; and the nodding sandy bank,
Hung o'er the mazes of the mountain brook.
Vain is her best precaution; though she sits
Conceal'd, with folded ears; unsleeping eyes,
By Nature raised to take the horizon in;
And head couch'd close betwixt her hairy feet,
In act to spring away. The scented dew
Betrays her early labyrinth; and deep,
In scatter'd sullen openings, far behind,
With every breeze she hears the coming storm.
But nearer, and more frequent, as it loads
The sighing gale, she springs amazed, and all
The savage soul of game is up at once:
The pack full-opening, various; the shrill horn
Resounded from the hills; the neighing steed,
Wild for the chase; and the loud hunter's shout;
O'er a weak, harmless, flying creature, all
Mix'd in mad tumult, and discordant joy.
The stag too, singled from the herd, where long
He ranged the branching monarch of the shades,
Before the tempest drives. At first, in speed
He, sprightly, puts his faith; and, roused by fear,
Gives all his swift aërial soul to flight;
Against the breeze he darts, that way the more
To leave the lessening murderous cry behind:
Deception short! though fleeter than the winds
Blown o'er the keen-air'd mountain by the north,
He bursts the thickets, glances through the glades,
And plunges deep into the wildest wood;
If slow, yet sure, adhesive to the track
Hot-steaming, up behind him come again
The inhuman rout, and from the shady depth
Expel him, circling through his every shift.
He sweeps the forest oft; and sobbing sees
The glades, mild opening to the golden day;
Where, in kind contest, with his butting friends
He wont to struggle, or his loves enjoy.
Oft in the full-descending flood he tries
To lose the scent, and lave his burning sides:
Oft seeks the herd; the watchful herd, alarm'd,
With selfish care avoid a brother's woe.
What shall he do? His once so vivid nerves,
So full of buoyant spirit, now no more
Inspire the course; but fainting breathless toil,
Sick, seizes on his heart: he stands at bay;
And puts his last weak refuge in despair.
The big round tears run down his dappled face;
He groans in anguish: while the growling pack,
Blood-happy, hang at his fair jutting chest,
And mark his beauteous chequer'd sides with gore.
Of this enough. But if the sylvan youth,
Whose fervent blood boils into violence,
Must have the chase; behold, despising flight,
The roused up lion, resolute, and slow,
Advancing full on the protended spear,
And coward band, that circling wheel aloof.
Slunk from the cavern, and the troubled wood,
See the grim wolf; on him his shaggy foe
Vindictive fix, and let the ruffian die:
Or, growling horrid, as the brindled boar
Grins fell destruction, to the monster's heart
Let the dart lighten from the nervous arm.
These Britain knows not; give, ye Britons, then
Your sportive fury, pitiless, to pour
Loose on the nightly robber of the fold;
Him, from his craggy winding haunts unearth'd,
Let all the thunder of the chase pursue.
Throw the broad ditch behind you; o'er the hedge
High bound, resistless; nor the deep morass
Refuse, but through the shaking wilderness
Pick your nice way; into the perilous flood
Bear fearless, of the raging instinct full;
And as you ride the torrent, to the banks
Your triumph sound sonorous, running round,
From rock to rock, in circling echoes tost;
Then scale the mountains to their woody tops;
Rush down the dangerous steep; and o'er the lawn,
In fancy swallowing up the space between,
Pour all your speed into the rapid game.
For happy he! who tops the wheeling chase;
Has every maze evolved, and every guile
Disclosed; who knows the merits of the pack;
Who saw the villain seized, and dying hard,
Without complaint, though by a hundred mouths
Relentless torn: O glorious he, beyond
His daring peers! when the retreating horn
Calls them to ghostly halls of gray renown,
With woodland honours graced; the fox's fur,
Depending decent from the roof: and spread
Round the drear walls, with antic figures fierce,
The stag's large front: he then is loudest heard,
When the night staggers with severer toils,
With feats Thessalian Centaurs never knew,
And their repeated wonders shake the dome.
But first the fuel'd chimney blazes wide;
The tankards foam; and the strong table groans
Beneath the smoking sirloin, stretch'd immense
From side to side; in which, with desperate knife,
They deep incision make, and talk the while
Of England's glory, ne'er to be defaced
While hence they borrow vigour: or amain
Into the pasty plunged, at intervals,
If stomach keen can intervals allow,
Relating all the glories of the chase.
Then sated Hunger bids his Brother Thirst
Produce the mighty bowl; the mighty bowl,
Swell'd high with fiery juice, steams liberal round
A potent gale, delicious, as the breath
Of Maia to the love-sick shepherdess,
On violets diffused, while soft she hears
Her panting shepherd stealing to her arms.
Nor wanting is the brown October, drawn,
Mature and perfect, from his dark retreat
Of thirty years; and now his honest front
Flames in the light refulgent, not afraid
E'en with the vineyard's best produce to vie.
To cheat the thirsty moments, Whist a while
Walks his dull round beneath a cloud of smoke,
Wreath'd, fragrant, from the pipe; or the quick dice,
In thunder leaping from the box, awake
The sounding gammon: while romp-loving miss
Is haul'd about, in gallantry robust.
At last these puling idlenesses laid
Aside, frequent and full, the dry divan
Close in firm circle; and set, ardent, in
For serious drinking. Nor evasion sly,
Nor sober shift, is to the puking wretch
Indulged apart; but earnest, brimming bowls
Lave every soul, the table floating round,
And pavement, faithless to the fuddled foot.
Thus as they swim in mutual swill, the talk,
Vociferous at once from twenty tongues,
Reels fast from theme to theme; from horses, hounds,
To church or mistress, politics or ghost,
In endless mazes, intricate, perplex'd.
Meantime, with sudden interruption, loud,
The impatient catch bursts from the joyous heart;
That moment touch'd is every kindred soul;
And, opening in a full-mouth'd cry of joy,
The laugh, the slap, the jocund curse go round;
While, from their slumbers shook, the kennel'd hounds
Mix in the music of the day again.
As when the tempest, that has vex'd the deep
The dark night long, with fainter murmurs falls;
So gradual sinks their mirth. Their feeble tongues,
Unable to take up the cumbrous word,
Lie quite dissolved. Before their maudlin eyes,
Seen dim and blue, the double tapers dance,
Like the sun wading through the misty sky.
Then, sliding soft, they drop. Confused above,
Glasses and bottles, pipes and gazetteers,
As if the table e'en itself was drunk,
Lie a wet broken scene; and wide, below,
Is heap'd the social slaughter: where astride
The lubber Power in filthy triumph sits,
Slumbrous, inclining still from side to side,
And steeps them drench'd in potent sleep till morn.
Perhaps some doctor, of tremendous paunch,
Awful and deep, a black abyss of drink,
Outlives them all; and from his buried flock
Retiring, full of rumination sad,
Laments the weakness of these latter times.
But if the rougher sex by this fierce sport
Is hurried wild, let not such horrid joy
E'er stain the bosom of the British Fair.
Far be the spirit of the chase from them!
Uncomely courage, unbeseeming skill;
To spring the fence, to rein the prancing steed;
The cap, the whip, the masculine attire;
In which they roughen to the sense, and all
The winning softness of their sex is lost.
In them 'tis graceful to dissolve at woe;
With every motion, every word, to wave
Quick o'er the kindling cheek the ready blush;
And from the smallest violence to shrink
Unequal, then the loveliest in their fears;
And by this silent adulation, soft,
To their protection more engaging Man.
O may their eyes no miserable sight,
Save weeping lovers, see! a nobler game,
Through love's enchanting wiles pursued, yet fled,
In chase ambiguous. May their tender limbs
Float in the loose simplicity of dress!
And, fashion'd all to harmony, alone
Know they to seize the captivated soul,
In rapture warbled from love-breathing lips;
To teach the lute to languish; with smooth step,
Disclosing motion in its every charm,
To swim along, and swell the mazy dance;
To train the foliage o'er the snowy lawn;
To guide the pencil, turn the tuneful page;
To lend new flavour to the fruitful year,
And heighten Nature's dainties: in their race
To rear their graces into second life;
To give society its highest taste;
Well order'd home man's best delight to make;
And by submissive wisdom, modest skill,
With every gentle care-eluding art,
To raise the virtues, animate the bliss,
And sweeten all the toils of human life:
This be the female dignity, and praise.
Ye swains, now hasten to the hazel bank;
Where, down yon dale, the wildly winding brook
Falls hoarse from steep to steep. In close array,
Fit for the thickets and the tangling shrub,
Ye virgins, come. For you their latest song
The woodlands raise; the clustering nuts for you
The lover finds amid the secret shade;
And, where they burnish on the topmost bough,
With active vigour crushes down the tree;
Or shakes them ripe from the resigning husk,
A glossy shower, and of an ardent brown,
As are the ringlets of Melinda's hair:
Melinda! form'd with every grace complete;
Yet these neglecting, above beauty wise,
And far transcending such a vulgar praise.
Hence from the busy joy-resounding fields,
In cheerful error, let us tread the maze
Of Autumn, unconfined; and taste, revived,
The breath of orchard big with bending fruit,
Obedient to the breeze and beating ray,
From the deep-loaded bough a mellow shower
Incessant melts away. The juicy pear
Lies, in a soft profusion, scatter'd round.
A various sweetness swells the gentle race;
By Nature's all-refining hand prepared;
Of temper'd sun, and water, earth, and air,
In ever changing composition mix'd.
Such, falling frequent through the chiller night,
The fragrant stores, the wide projected heaps
Of apples, which the lusty-handed Year,
Innumerous, o'er the blushing orchard shakes.
A various spirit, fresh, delicious, keen,
Dwells in their gelid pores; and, active, points
The piercing cyder for the thirsty tongue:
Thy native theme, and boon inspirer too,
Philips, Pomona's bard, the second thou
Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfetter'd verse,
With British freedom sing the British song:
How, from Silurian vats, high sparkling wines
Foam in transparent floods; some strong, to cheer
The wintry revels of the labouring hind;
And tasteful some, to cool the summer hours.
In this glad season, while his sweetest beams
The sun sheds equal o'er the meeken'd day;
Oh lose me in the green delightful walks
Of, Dodington, thy seat, serene and plain;
Where simple Nature reigns; and every view,
Diffusive, spreads the pure Dorsetian downs,
In boundless prospect; yonder shagg'd with wood,
Here rich with harvest, and there white with flocks!
Meantime the grandeur of thy lofty dome,
Far splendid, seizes on the ravish'd eye.
New beauties rise with each revolving day;
New columns swell; and still the fresh Spring finds
New plants to quicken, and new groves to green.
Full of thy genius all! the Muses' seat:
Where in the secret bower, and winding walk,
For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay.
Here wandering oft, fired with the restless thirst
Of thy applause, I solitary court
The inspiring breeze: and meditate the book
Of Nature ever open; aiming thence,
Warm from the heart, to learn the moral song.
Here, as I steal along the sunny wall,
Where Autumn basks, with fruit empurpled deep,
My pleasing theme continual prompts my thought:
Presents the downy peach; the shining plum:
The ruddy, fragrant nectarine; and dark,
Beneath his ample leaf, the luscious fig.
The vine too here her curling tendrils shoots;
Hangs out her clusters, glowing to the south;
And scarcely wishes for a warmer sky.
Turn we a moment Fancy's rapid flight
To vigorous soils, and climes of fair extent;
Where, by the potent sun elated high,
The vineyard swells refulgent on the day;
Spreads o'er the vale; or up the mountain climbs,
Profuse; and drinks amid the sunny rocks,
From cliff to cliff increased, the heighten'd blaze.
Low bend the weighty boughs. The clusters clear,
Half through the foliage seen, or ardent flame,
Or shine transparent; while perfection breathes
White o'er the turgent film the living dew.
As thus they brighten with exalted juice,
Touch'd into flavour by the mingling ray;
The rural youth and virgins o'er the field,
Each fond for each to cull the autumnal prime,
Exulting rove, and speak the vintage nigh.
Then comes the crushing swain; the country floats,
And foams unbounded with the mashy flood;
That by degrees fermented, and refined,
Round the raised nations pours the cup of joy:
The claret smooth, red as the lip we press
In sparkling fancy, while we drain the bowl;
The mellow-tasted burgundy; and quick,
As is the wit it gives, the gay champagne.
Now, by the cool declining year condensed,
Descend the copious exhalations, check'd
As up the middle sky unseen they stole,
And roll the doubling fogs around the hill.
No more the mountain, horrid, vast, sublime,
Who pours a sweep of rivers from his sides,
And high between contending kingdoms rears
The rocky long division, fills the view
With great variety; but in a night
Of gathering vapour, from the baffled sense
Sinks dark and dreary. Thence expanding far,
The huge dusk, gradual, swallows up the plain:
Vanish the woods: the dim-seen river seems
Sullen, and slow, to roll the misty wave.
E'en in the height of noon oppress'd, the sun
Sheds weak, and blunt, his wide-refracted ray;
Whence glaring oft, with many a broaden'd orb,
He frights the nations. Indistinct on earth,
Seen through the turbid air, beyond the life
Objects appear; and, wilder'd, o'er the waste
The shepherd stalks gigantic. Till at last
Wreath'd dun around, in deeper circles still
Successive closing, sits the general fog
Unbounded o'er the world; and, mingling thick,
A formless grey confusion covers all.
As when of old (so sung the Hebrew Bard)
Light, uncollected, through the chaos urged
Its infant way; nor Order yet had drawn
His lovely train from out the dubious gloom.
These roving mists, that constant now begin
To smoke along the hilly country, these,
With weightier rains, and melted Alpine snows,
The mountain-cisterns fill, those ample stores
Of water, scoop'd among the hollow rocks;
Whence gush the streams, the ceaseless fountains play,
And their unfailing wealth the rivers draw.
Some sages say, that, where the numerous wave
For ever lashes the resounding shore,
Drill'd through the sandy stratum, every way,
The waters with the sandy stratum rise;
Amid whose angles infinitely strain'd,
They joyful leave their jaggy salts behind,
And clear and sweeten as they soak along.
Nor stops the restless fluid, mounting still,
Though oft amidst the irriguous vale it springs;
But to the mountain courted by the sand,
That leads it darkling on in faithful maze,
Far from the parent-main, it boils again
Fresh into day; and all the glittering hill
Is bright with spouting rills. But hence this vain
Amusive dream! why should the waters love
To take so far a journey to the hills,
When the sweet valleys offer to their toil
Inviting quiet, and a nearer bed?
Or if by blind ambition led astray,
They must aspire; why should they sudden stop
Among the broken mountain's rushy dells,
And, ere they gain its highest peak, desert
The attractive sand that charm'd their course so long?
Besides, the hard agglomerating salts,
The spoil of ages, would impervious choke
Their secret channels; or, by slow degrees,
High as the hills protrude the swelling vales:
Old Ocean too, suck'd through the porous globe,
Had long ere now forsook his horrid bed,
And brought Deucalion's watery times again.
Say then, where lurk the vast eternal springs,
That, like creating Nature, lie conceal'd
From mortal eye, yet with their lavish stores
Refresh the globe, and all its joyous tribes!
O thou pervading Genius, given to man,
To trace the secrets of the dark abyss,
O lay the mountains bare! and wide display
Their hidden structure to the astonish'd view!
Strip from the branching Alps their piny load;
The huge incumbrance of horrific woods
From Asian Taurus, from Imaus stretch'd
Athwart the roving Tartar's sullen bounds;
Give opening Hemus to my searching eye,
And high Olympus pouring many a stream!
O from the sounding summits of the north,
The Dofrine hills, through Scandinavia roll'd
To farthest Lapland and the frozen main;
From lofty Caucasus, far seen by those
Who in the Caspian and black Euxine toil;
From cold Riphean rocks, which the wild Russ
Believes the stony girdle of the world:
And all the dreadful mountains, wrapp'd in storm,
Whence wide Siberia draws her lonely floods;
O sweep the eternal snows! hung o'er the deep,
That ever works beneath his sounding base,
Bid Atlas, propping heaven, as poets feign,
His subterranean wonders spread! unveil
The miny caverns, blazing on the day,
Of Abyssinia's cloud-compelling cliffs,
And of the bending Mountains of the Moon!
O'ertopping all these giant sons of earth,
Let the dire Andes, from the radiant line
Stretch'd to the stormy seas that thunder round
The southern pole, their hideous deeps unfold!
Amazing scene! Behold! the glooms disclose;
I see the rivers in their infant beds!
Deep, deep I hear them, labouring to get free;
I see the leaning strata, artful ranged;
The gaping fissures to receive the rains,
The melting snows, and ever dripping fogs.
Strow'd bibulous above I see the sands,
The pebbly gravel next, the layers then
Of mingled moulds, of more retentive earths
The gutter'd rocks and mazy-running clefts;
That, while the stealing moisture they transmit,
Retard its motion, and forbid its waste.
Beneath the incessant weeping of these drains,
I see the rocky siphons stretch'd immense,
The mighty reservoirs, of harden'd chalk,
Or stiff compacted clay, capacious form'd:
O'erflowing thence, the congregated stores,
The crystal treasures of the liquid world,
Through the stirr'd sands a bubbling passage burst;
And welling out, around the middle steep,
Or from the bottoms of the bosom'd hills,
In pure effusion flow. United, thus,
The exhaling sun, the vapour-burden'd air,
The gelid mountains, that to rain condensed
These vapours in continual current draw,
And send them, o'er the fair-divided earth,
In bounteous rivers to the deep again,
A social commerce hold, and firm support
The full-adjusted harmony of things.
When Autumn scatters his departing gleams,
Warn'd of approaching Winter, gather'd, play
The swallow-people; and toss'd wide around,
O'er the calm sky, in convolution swift,
The feather'd eddy floats: rejoicing once,
Ere to their wintry slumbers they retire;
In clusters clung, beneath the mouldering bank,
And where, unpierced by frost, the cavern sweats.
Or rather into warmer climes convey'd,
With other kindred birds of season, there
They twitter cheerful, till the vernal months
Invite them welcome back: for, thronging, now
Innumerous wings are in commotion all.
Where the Rhine loses his majestic force
In Belgian plains, won from the raging deep,
By diligence amazing, and the strong
Unconquerable hand of Liberty,
The stork-assembly meets; for many a day,
Consulting deep, and various, ere they take
Their arduous voyage through the liquid sky:
And now their route design'd, their leaders chose,
Their tribes adjusted, clean'd their vigorous wings;
And many a circle, many a short essay,
Wheel'd round and round, in congregation full
The figured flight ascends; and, riding high
The aërial billows, mixes with the clouds.
Or where the Northern ocean, in vast whirls,
Boils round the naked melancholy isles
Of farthest Thule, and the Atlantic surge
Pours in among the stormy Hebrides;
Who can recount what transmigrations there
Are annual made? what nations come and go?
And how the living clouds on clouds arise?
Infinite wings! till all the plume-dark air,
And rude resounding shore are one wild cry.
Here the plain harmless native his small flock,
And herd diminutive of many hues,
Tends on the little island's verdant swell,
The shepherd's sea-girt reign; or, to the rocks
Dire-clinging, gathers his ovarious food;
Or sweeps the fishy shore! or treasures up
The plumage, rising full, to form the bed
Of luxury. And here a while the Muse,
High hovering o'er the broad cerulean scene,
Sees Caledonia, in romantic view:
Her airy mountains, from the waving main,
Invested with a keen diffusive sky,
Breathing the soul acute; her forests huge,
Incult, robust, and tall, by Nature's hand
Planted of old; her azure lakes between,
Pour'd out extensive, and of watery wealth
Full; winding deep, and green, her fertile vales;
With many a cool translucent brimming flood
Wash'd lovely, from the Tweed (pure parent stream,
Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed,
With, silvan Jed, thy tributary brook)
To where the north-inflated tempest foams
O'er Orca's or Betubium's highest peak:
Nurse of a people, in Misfortune's school
Train'd up to hardy deeds; soon visited
By Learning, when before the gothic rage
She took her western flight. A manly race,
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise, and brave;
Who still through bleeding ages struggled hard,
(As well unhappy Wallace can attest,
Great patriot-hero! ill requited chief!)
To hold a generous undiminish'd state;
Too much in vain! Hence of unequal bounds
Impatient, and by tempting glory borne
O'er every land, for every land their life
Has flow'd profuse, their piercing genius plann'd,
And swell'd the pomp of peace their faithful toil.
As from their own clear north, in radiant streams,
Bright over Europe bursts the boreal morn.
Oh! is there not some patriot, in whose power
That best, that godlike luxury is placed,
Of blessing thousands, thousands yet unborn,
Through late posterity? some, large of soul,
To cheer dejected industry? to give
A double harvest to the pining swain?
And teach the labouring hand the sweets of toil?
How, by the finest art, the native robe
To weave; how white as hyperborean snow,
To form the lucid lawn; with venturous oar
How to dash wide the billow; nor look on,
Shamefully passive while Batavian fleets
Defraud us of the glittering finny swarms,
That heave our friths, and crowd upon our shores;
How all-enlivening trade to rouse, and wing
The prosperous sail, from every growing port,
Uninjured, round the sea-encircled globe;
And thus, in soul united as in name,
Bid Britain reign the mistress of the deep?
Yes, there are such. And full on thee, Argyle,
Her hope, her stay, her darling, and her boast,
From her first patriots and her heroes sprung,
Thy fond imploring country turns her eye;
In thee with all a mother's triumph, sees
Her every virtue, every grace combined,
Her genius, wisdom, her engaging turn,
Her pride of honour, and her courage tried,
Calm, and intrepid, in the very throat
Of sulphurous war, on Tenier's dreadful field.
Nor less the palm of peace inwreathes thy brow:
For, powerful as thy sword, from thy rich tongue
Persuasion flows, and wins the high debate;
While mix'd in thee combine the charm of youth,
The force of manhood, and the depth of age.
Thee, Forbes, too, whom every worth attends,
As truth sincere, as weeping friendship kind,
Thee, truly generous, and in silence great,
Thy country feels through her reviving arts,
Plann'd by thy wisdom, by thy soul inform'd;
And seldom has she known a friend like thee.
But see the fading many-colour'd woods,
Shade deepening over shade, the country round
Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk, and dun,
Of every hue, from wan declining green
To sooty dark. These now the lonesome Muse,
Low whispering, lead into their leaf-strown walks,
And give the Season in its latest view.
Meantime, light shadowing all, a sober calm
Fleeces unbounded ether: whose least wave
Stands tremulous, uncertain where to turn
The gentle current: while illumined wide,
The dewy-skirted clouds imbibe the sun,
And through their lucid veil his soften'd force
Shed o'er the peaceful world. Then is the time,
For those whom Wisdom and whom Nature charm,
To steal themselves from the degenerate crowd,
And soar above this little scene of things:
To tread low-thoughted Vice beneath their feet;
To soothe the throbbing passions into peace;
And woo lone Quiet in her silent walks.
Thus solitary, and in pensive guise,
Oft let me wander o'er the russet mead,
And through the sadden'd grove, where scarce is heard
One dying strain, to cheer the woodman's toil.
Haply some widow'd songster pours his plaint,
Far, in faint warblings, through the tawny copse:
While congregated thrushes, linnets, larks,
And each wild throat, whose artless strains so late
Swell'd all the music of the swarming shades,
Robb'd of their tuneful souls, now shivering sit
On the dead tree, a dull despondent flock;
With not a brightness waving o'er their plumes,
And nought save chattering discord in their note.
O let not, aim'd from some inhuman eye,
The gun the music of the coming year
Destroy; and harmless, unsuspecting harm,
Lay the weak tribes a miserable prey,
In mingled murder, fluttering on the ground!
The pale-descending year, yet pleasing still,
A gentler mood inspires; for now the leaf
Incessant rustles from the mournful grove;
Oft startling such as, studious, walk below,
And slowly circles through the waving air.
But should a quicker breeze amid the boughs
Sob, o'er the sky the leafy deluge streams;
Till choked, and matted with the dreary shower,
The forest walks, at every rising gale,
Roll wide the wither'd waste, and whistle bleak.
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;
And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race
Their sunny robes resign. E'en what remain'd
Of stronger fruits falls from the naked tree;
And woods, fields, gardens, orchards, all around
The desolated prospect thrills the soul.
He comes! he comes! in every breeze the Power
Of Philosophic Melancholy comes!
His near approach the sudden starting tear,
The glowing cheek, the mild dejected air,
The soften'd feature, and the beating heart,
Pierced deep with many a virtuous pang, declare.
O'er all the soul his sacred influence breathes!
Inflames imagination; through the breast
Infuses every tenderness; and far
Beyond dim earth exalts the swelling thought.
Ten thousand thousand fleet ideas, such
As never mingled with the vulgar dream,
Crowd fast into the mind's creative eye.
As fast the correspondent passions rise,
As varied, and as high: Devotion raised
To rapture, and divine astonishment;
The love of Nature unconfined, and, chief,
Of human race; the large ambitious wish,
To make them blest; the sigh for suffering worth
Lost in obscurity; the noble scorn
Of tyrant pride; the fearless great resolve;
The wonder which the dying patriot draws,
Inspiring glory through remotest time;
The awaken'd throb for virtue, and for fame;
The sympathies of love, and friendship dear;
With all the social offspring of the heart.
Oh! bear me then to vast embowering shades,
To twilight groves, and visionary vales;
To weeping grottos, and prophetic glooms;
Where angel forms athwart the solemn dusk,
Tremendous sweep, or seem to sweep along;
And voices more than human, through the void
Deep sounding, seize the enthusiastic ear?
Or is this gloom too much? Then lead, ye powers,
That o'er the garden and the rural seat
Preside, which shining through the cheerful hand
In countless numbers blest Britannia sees;
O lead me to the wide extended walks,
The fair majestic paradise of Stowe!
Not Persian Cyrus on Ionia's shore
E'er saw such sylvan scenes; such various art
By genius fired, such ardent genius tamed
By cool judicious art; that, in the strife,
All beauteous Nature fears to be outdone.
And there, O Pitt, thy country's early boast,
There let me sit beneath the shelter'd slopes,
Or in that Temple where, in future times,
Thou well shalt merit a distinguish'd name;
And, with thy converse blest, catch the last smiles
Of Autumn beaming o'er the yellow woods.
While there with thee the enchanted round I walk,
The regulated wild, gay Fancy then
Will tread in thought the groves of attic land;
Will from thy standard taste refine her own,
Correct her pencil to the purest truth
Of Nature, or, the unimpassion'd shades
Forsaking, raise it to the human mind.
Or if hereafter she, with juster hand,
Shall draw the tragic scene, instruct her, thou,
To mark the varied movements of the heart,
What every decent character requires,
And every passion speaks: O through her strain
Breathe thy pathetic eloquence! that moulds
The attentive senate, charms, persuades, exalts,
Of honest Zeal the indignant lightning throws,
And shakes Corruption on her venal throne.
While thus we talk, and through Elysian vales
Delighted rove, perhaps a sigh escapes:
What pity, Cobham, thou thy verdant files
Of order'd trees shouldst here inglorious range,
Instead of squadrons flaming o'er the field,
And long embattled hosts! when the proud foe,
The faithless vain disturber of mankind,
Insulting Gaul, has roused the world to war;
When keen, once more, within their bounds to press
Those polish'd robbers, those ambitious slaves,
The British youth would hail thy wise command,
Thy temper'd ardour and thy veteran skill.
The western sun withdraws the shorten'd day;
And humid Evening, gliding o'er the sky,
In her chill progress, to the ground condensed
The vapours throws. Where creeping waters ooze,
Where marshes stagnate, and where rivers wind,
Cluster the rolling fogs, and swim along
The dusky-mantled lawn. Meanwhile the Moon
Full-orb'd, and breaking through the scatter'd clouds,
Shows her broad visage in the crimson'd east.
Turn'd to the sun direct, her spotted disk,
Where mountains rise, umbrageous dales descend,
And caverns deep, as optic tube descries,
A smaller earth, gives us his blaze again,
Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day.
Now through the passing cloud she seems to stoop,
Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime.
Wide the pale deluge floats, and streaming mild
O'er the sky'd mountain to the shadowy vale,
While rocks and floods reflect the quivering gleam,
The whole air whitens with a boundless tide
Of silver radiance, trembling round the world.
But when half blotted from the sky her light,
Fainting, permits the starry fires to burn
With keener lustre through the depth of heaven;
Or near extinct her deaden'd orb appears,
And scarce appears, of sickly beamless white;
Oft in this season, silent from the north
A blaze of meteors shoots; ensweeping first
The lower skies, they all at once converge
High to the crown of heaven, and all at once
Relapsing quick, as quickly reascend,
And mix, and thwart, extinguish, and renew,
All ether coursing in a maze of light.
From look to look, contagious through the crowd,
The panic runs, and into wondrous shapes
The appearance throws: armies in meet array,
Throng'd with aërial spears, and steeds of fire;
Till the long lines of full extended war
In bleeding fight commix'd, the sanguine flood
Rolls a broad slaughter o'er the plains of heaven.
As thus they scan the visionary scene,
On all sides swells the superstitious din,
Incontinent; and busy frenzy talks
Of blood and battle; cities overturn'd,
And late at night in swallowing earthquake sunk,
Or hideous wrapt in fierce ascending flame;
Of sallow famine, inundation, storm;
Of pestilence, and every great distress;
Empires subversed, when ruling fate has struck
The unalterable hour: e'en Nature's self
Is deem'd to totter on the brink of time.
Not so the man of philosophic eye,
And inspect sage; the waving brightness he
Curious surveys, inquisitive to know
The causes, and materials, yet unfix'd,
Of this appearance beautiful and new.
Now black, and deep, the night begins to fall,
A shade immense! Sunk in the quenching gloom,
Magnificent and vast, are heaven and earth.
Order confounded lies; all beauty void;
Distinction lost; and gay variety
One universal blot: such the fair power
Of light, to kindle and create the whole.
Drear is the state of the benighted wretch,
Who then, bewilder'd, wanders through the dark,
Full of pale fancies, and chimeras huge;
Nor visited by one directive ray,
From cottage streaming, or from airy hall.
Perhaps impatient as he stumbles on,
Struck from the root of slimy rushes, blue,
The wildfire scatters round, or gather'd trails
A length of flame deceitful o'er the moss:
Whither decoy'd by the fantastic blaze,
Now lost and now renew'd he sinks absorb'd,
Rider and horse, amid the miry gulf:
While still, from day to day, his pining wife
And plaintive children his return await,
In wild conjecture lost. At other times,
Sent by the better Genius of the night,
Innoxious, gleaming on the horse's mane,
The meteor sits; and shows the narrow path,
That winding leads through pits of death, or else
Instructs him how to take the dangerous ford.
The lengthen'd night elapsed, the Morning shines
Serene, in all her dewy beauty bright,
Unfolding fair the last autumnal day.
And now the mounting sun dispels the fog;
The rigid hoar frost melts before his beam;
And hung on every spray, on every blade
Of grass, the myriad dew-drops twinkle round.
Ah, see where, robb'd and murder'd, in that pit
Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatch'd,
Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night,
And fix'd o'er sulphur: while, not dreaming ill,
The happy people, in their waxen cells,
Sat tending public cares, and planning schemes
Of temperance, for Winter poor; rejoiced
To mark, full flowing round, their copious stores.
Sudden the dark oppressive steam ascends;
And, used to milder scents, the tender race,
By thousands, tumble from their honey'd domes,
Convolved, and agonizing in the dust.
And was it then for this you roam'd the Spring,
Intent from flower to flower? for this you toil'd
Ceaseless the burning Summer heats away?
For this in Autumn search'd the blooming waste,
Nor lost one sunny gleam? for this sad fate?
O Man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long
Shall prostrate Nature groan beneath your rage,
Awaiting renovation? when obliged,
Must you destroy? of their ambrosial food
Can you not borrow; and, in just return,
Afford them shelter from the wintry winds;
Or, as the sharp year pinches, with their own
Again regale them on some smiling day?
See where the stony bottom of their town
Looks desolate, and wild; with here and there
A helpless number, who the ruin'd state
Survive, lamenting weak, cast out to death.
Thus a proud city, populous and rich,
Full of the works of peace, and high in joy,
At theatre or feast, or sunk in sleep,
(As late, Palermo, was thy fate) is seized
By some dread earthquake, and convulsive hurl'd
Sheer from the black foundation, stench-involved,
Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame.
Hence every harsher sight! for now the day,
O'er heaven and earth diffused, grows warm, and high;
Infinite splendour! wide investing all.
How still the breeze! save what the filmy thread
Of dew evaporate brushes from the plain.
How clear the cloudless sky? how deeply tinged
With a peculiar blue! the ethereal arch
How swell'd immense! amid whose azure throned
The radiant sun how gay! how calm below
The gilded earth! the harvest-treasures all
Now gather'd in, beyond the rage of storms,
Sure to the swain; the circling fence shut up;
And instant Winter's utmost rage defied.
While, loose to festive joy, the country round
Laughs with the loud sincerity of mirth,
Shook to the wind their cares. The toil-strung youth
By the quick sense of music taught alone,
Leaps wildly graceful in the lively dance.
Her every charm abroad, the village-toast,
Young, buxom, warm, in native beauty rich,
Darts not unmeaning looks; and, where her eye
Points an approving smile, with double force,
The cudgel rattles, and the wrestler twines.
Age too shines out; and, garrulous, recounts
The feats of youth. Thus they rejoice; nor think
That, with to-morrow's sun, their annual toil
Begins again the never ceasing round.
Oh, knew he but his happiness, of men
The happiest he! who far from public rage,
Deep in the vale, with a choice few retired,
Drinks the pure pleasures of the Rural Life.
What though the dome be wanting, whose proud gate,
Each morning, vomits out the sneaking crowd
Of flatterers false, and in their turn abused?
Vile intercourse! what though the glittering robe
Of every hue reflected light can give,
Or floating loose, or stiff with mazy gold,
The pride and gaze of fools! oppress him not?
What though, from utmost land and sea purvey'd,
For him each rarer tributary life
Bleeds not, and his insatiate table heaps
With luxury, and death? What though his bowl
Flames not with costly juice; nor sunk in beds,
Oft of gay care, he tosses out the night,
Or melts the thoughtless hours in idle state?
What though he knows not those fantastic joys
That still amuse the wanton, still deceive;
A face of pleasure, but a heart of pain;
Their hollow moments undelighted all?
Sure peace is his; a solid life, estranged
To disappointment, and fallacious hope:
Rich in content, in Nature's bounty rich,
In herbs and fruits; whatever greens the Spring,
When heaven descends in showers; or bends the bough,
When Summer reddens, and when Autumn beams;
Or in the wintry glebe whatever lies
Conceal'd, and fattens with the richest sap:
These are not wanting; nor the milky drove,
Luxuriant, spread o'er all the lowing vale;
Nor bleating mountains; nor the chide of streams,
And hum of bees, inviting sleep sincere
Into the guiltless breast, beneath the shade,
Or thrown at large amid the fragrant hay;
Nor aught besides of prospect, grove, or song,
Dim grottos, gleaming lakes, and fountain clear.
Here too dwells simple Truth; plain Innocence;
Unsullied Beauty; sound unbroken Youth,
Patient of labour, with a little pleased;
Health ever blooming; unambitious Toil;
Calm Contemplation, and poetic Ease.
Let others brave the flood in quest of gain,
And beat, for joyless months, the gloomy wave.
Let such as deem it glory to destroy
Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;
Unpierced, exulting in the widow's wail,
The virgin's shriek, and infant's trembling cry.
Let some, far distant from their native soil,
Urged or by want or harden'd avarice,
Find other lands beneath another sun.
Let this through cities work his eager way,
By legal outrage and establish'd guile,
The social sense extinct; and that ferment
Mad into tumult the seditious herd,
Or melt them down to slavery. Let these
Insnare the wretched in the toils of law,
Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,
An iron race! and those of fairer front,
But equal inhumanity, in courts,
Delusive pomp and dark cabals, delight;
Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile,
And tread the weary labyrinth of state.
While he, from all the stormy passions free
That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,
At distance safe, the human tempest roar,
Wrapp'd close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,
The rage of nations, and the crush of states,
Move not the man, who, from the world escaped,
In still retreats and flowery solitudes,
To Nature's voice attends, from month to month,
And day to day, through the revolving year;
Admiring, sees her in her every shape;
Feels all her sweet emotions at his heart;
Takes what she liberal gives, nor thinks of more.
He, when young Spring protrudes the bursting germs,
Marks the first bud, and sucks the healthful gale
Into his freshen'd soul; her genial hours
He full enjoys; and not a beauty blows,
And not an opening blossom breathes in vain.
In Summer he, beneath the living shade,
Such as o'er frigid Tempè wont to wave,
Or Hemus cool, reads what the Muse, of these,
Perhaps, has in immortal numbers sung;
Or what she dictates writes: and, oft an eye
Shot round, rejoices in the vigorous year.
When Autumn's yellow lustre gilds the world,
And tempts the sickled swain into the field,
Seized by the general joy, his heart distends
With gentle throes; and, through the tepid gleams
Deep musing, then he best exerts his song.
E'en Winter wild to him is full of bliss.
IV. Tertium Quid
True, Excellency—as his Highness says,
Though she's not dead yet, she's as good as stretched
Symmetrical beside the other two;
Though he's not judged yet, he's the same as judged,
So do the facts abound and superabound:
And nothing hinders that we lift the case
Out of the shade into the shine, allow
Qualified persons to pronounce at last,
Nay, edge in an authoritative word
Between this rabble's-brabble of dolts and fools
Who make up reasonless unreasoning Rome.
"Now for the Trial!" they roar: "the Trial to test
"The truth, weigh husband and weigh wife alike
"I' the scales of law, make one scale kick the beam!"
Law's a machine from which, to please the mob,
Truth the divinity must needs descend
And clear things at the play's fifth act—aha!
Hammer into their noddles who was who
And what was what. I tell the simpletons
"Could law be competent to such a feat
"'T were done already: what begins next week
"Is end o' the Trial, last link of a chain
"Whereof the first was forged three years ago
"When law addressed herself to set wrong right,
"And proved so slow in taking the first step
"That ever some new grievance,—tort, retort,
"On one or the other side,—o'ertook i' the game,
"Retarded sentence, till this deed of death
"Is thrown in, as it were, last bale to boat
"Crammed to the edge with cargo—or passengers?
"'Trecentos inseris: ohe, jam satis est!
"'Huc appelle!'—passengers, the word must be."
Long since, the boat was loaded to my eyes.
To hear the rabble and brabble, you'd call the case
Fused and confused past human finding out.
One calls the square round, t' other the round square—
And pardonably in that first surprise
O' the blood that fell and splashed the diagram:
But now we've used our eyes to the violent hue
Can't we look through the crimson and trace lines?
It makes a man despair of history,
Eusebius and the established fact—fig's end!
Oh, give the fools their Trial, rattle away
With the leash of lawyers, two on either side—
One barks, one bites,—Masters Arcangeli
And Spreti,—that's the husband's ultimate hope
Against the Fisc and the other kind of Fisc,
Bound to do barking for the wife: bow—wow!
Why, Excellency, we and his Highness here
Would settle the matter as sufficiently
As ever will Advocate This and Fiscal That
And Judge the Other, with even—a word and a wink—
We well know who for ultimate arbiter.
Let us beware o' the basset-table—lest
We jog the elbow of Her Eminence,
Jostle his cards,—he'll rap you out a … st!
By the window-seat! And here's the Marquis too!
Indulge me but a moment: if I fail
—Favoured with such an audience, understand!—
To set things right, why, class me with the mob
As understander of the mind of man!
The mob,—now, that's just how the error comes!
Bethink you that you have to deal with plebs,
The commonalty; this is an episode
In burgess-life,—why seek to aggrandize,
Idealize, denaturalize the class?
People talk just as if they had to do
With a noble pair that … Excellency, your ear!
Stoop to me, Highness,—listen and look yourselves!
This Pietro, this Violante, live their life
At Rome in the easy way that's far from worst
Even for their betters,—themselves love themselves,
Spend their own oil in feeding their own lamp
That their own faces may grow bright thereby.
They get to fifty and over: how's the lamp?
Full to the depth o' the wick,—moneys so much;
And also with a remnant,—so much more
Of moneys,—which there's no consuming now,
But, when the wick shall moulder out some day,
Failing fresh twist of tow to use up dregs,
Will lie a prize for the passer-by,—to-wit
Anyone that can prove himself the heir,
Seeing, the couple are wanting in a child:
Meantime their wick swims in the safe broad bowl
O' the middle rank,—not raised a beacon's height
For wind to ravage, nor dropped till lamp graze ground
Like cresset, mudlarks poke now here now there,
Going their rounds to probe the ruts i' the road
Or fish the luck o' the puddle. Pietro's soul
Was satisfied when cronies smirked, "No wine
"Like Pietro's, and he drinks it every day!"
His wife's heart swelled her boddice, joyed its fill
When neighbours turned heads wistfully at church,
Sighed at the load of lace that came to pray.
Well, having got through fifty years of flare,
They burn out so, indulge so their dear selves,
That Pietro finds himself in debt at last,
As he were any lordling of us all:
And, now that dark begins to creep on day,
Creditors grow uneasy, talk aside,
Take counsel, then importune all at once.
For if the good fat rosy careless man,
Who has not laid a ducat by, decease—
Let the lamp fall, no heir at hand to catch—
Why, being childless, there's a spilth i' the street
O' the remnant, there's a scramble for the dregs
By the stranger: so, they grant him no long day
But come in a body, clamour to be paid.
What's his resource? He asks and straight obtains
The customary largess, dole dealt out
To, what we call our "poor dear shame-faced ones,"
In secret once a month to spare the shame
O' the slothful and the spendthrift,—pauper-saints
The Pope puts meat i' the mouth of, ravens they,
And providence he—just what the mob admires!
That is, instead of putting a prompt foot
On selfish worthless human slugs whose slime
Has failed to lubricate their path in life,
Why, the Pope picks the first ripe fruit that falls
And gracious puts it in the vermin's way.
Pietro could never save a dollar? Straight
He must be subsidized at our expense:
And for his wife—the harmless household sheep
One ought not to see harassed in her age—
Judge, by the way she bore adversity,
O' the patient nature you ask pity for!
How long, now, would the roughest marketman,
Handling the creatures huddled to the knife,
Harass a mutton ere she made a mouth
Or menaced biting? Yet the poor sheep here,
Violante, the old innocent burgess-wife,
In her first difficulty showed great teeth
Fit to crunch up and swallow a good round crime.
She meditates the tenure of the Trust,
Fidei commissum is the lawyer-phrase,
These funds that only want an heir to take—
Goes o'er the gamut o' the creditor's cry
By semitones from whine to snarl high up
And growl down low, one scale in sundry keys,—
Pauses with a little compunction for the face
Of Pietro frustrate of its ancient cheer,—
Never a bottle now for friend at need,—
Comes to a stop on her own frittered lace
And neighbourly condolences thereat,
Then makes her mind up, sees the thing to do:
And so, deliberate, snaps house-book clasp,
Posts off to vespers, missal beneath arm,
Passes the proper San Lorenzo by,
Dives down a little lane to the left, is lost
In a labyrinth of dwellings best unnamed,
Selects a certain blind one, black at base,
Blinking at top,—the sign of we know what,—
One candle in a casement set to wink
Streetward, do service to no shrine inside,—
Mounts thither by the filthy flight of stairs,
Holding the cord by the wall, to the tip-top,
Gropes for the door i' the dark, ajar of course,
Raps, opens, enters in: up starts a thing
Naked as needs be—"What, you rogue, 't is you?
"Back,—how can I have taken a farthing yet?
"Mercy on me, poor sinner that I am!
"Here's … why, I took you for Madonna's self
"With all that sudden swirl of silk i' the place!
"What may your pleasure be, my bonny dame?"
Your Excellency supplies aught left obscure?
One of those women that abound in Rome,
Whose needs oblige them eke out one poor trade
By another vile one: her ostensible work
Was washing clothes, out in the open air
At the cistern by Citorio; her true trade—
Whispering to idlers, when they stopped and praised
The ankles she let liberally shine
In kneeling at the slab by the fountain-side,
That there was plenty more to criticize
At home, that eve, i' the house where candle blinked
Decorously above, and all was done
I' the holy fear of God and cheap beside.
Violante, now, had seen this woman wash,
Noticed and envied her propitious shape,
Tracked her home to her house-top, noted too,
And now was come to tempt her and propose
A bargain far more shameful than the first
Which trafficked her virginity away
For a melon and three pauls at twelve years old.
Five minutes' talk with this poor child of Eve,
Struck was the bargain, business at an end—
"Then, six months hence, that person whom you trust,
"Comes, fetches whatsoever babe it be;
"I keep the price and secret, you the babe,
"Paying beside for mass to make all straight:
"Meantime, I pouch the earnest-money-piece."
Down stairs again goes fumbling by the rope
Violante, triumphing in a flourish of fire
From her own brain, self-lit by such success,—
Gains church in time for the "Magnificat"
And gives forth "My reproof is taken away,
"And blessed shall mankind proclaim me now,"
So that the officiating priest turns round
To see who proffers the obstreperous praise:
Then home to Pietro, the enraptured-much
But puzzled-more when told the wondrous news—
How orisons and works of charity,
(Beside that pair of pinners and a coif,
Birth-day surprise last Wednesday was five weeks)
Had borne fruit in the autumn of his life,—
They, or the Orvieto in a double dose.
Anyhow, she must keep house next six months,
Lie on the settle, avoid the three-legged stool,
And, chiefly, not be crossed in wish or whim,
And the result was like to be an heir.
Accordingly, when time was come about,
He found himself the sire indeed of this
Francesca Vittoria Pompilia and the rest
O' the names whereby he sealed her his, next day.
A crime complete in its way is here, I hope?
Lies to God, lies to man, every way lies
To nature and civility and the mode:
Flat robbery of the proper heirs thus foiled
O' the due succession,—and, what followed thence,
Robbery of God, through the confessor's ear
Debarred the most note-worthy incident
When all else done and undone twelve-month through
Was put in evidence at Easter-time.
All other peccadillos!—but this one
To the priest who comes next day to dine with us?
'T were inexpedient; decency forbade.
Is so far clear? You know Violante now,
Compute her capability of crime
By this authentic instance? Black hard cold
Crime like a stone you kick up with your foot
I' the middle of a field?
I thought as much.
But now, a question,—how long does it lie,
The bad and barren bit of stuff you kick,
Before encroached on and encompassed round
With minute moss, weed, wild-flower—made alive
By worm, and fly, and foot of the free bird?
Your Highness,—healthy minds let bygones be,
Leave old crimes to grow young and virtuous-like
I' the sun and air; so time treats ugly deeds:
They take the natural blessing of all change.
There was the joy o' the husband silly-sooth,
The softening of the wife's old wicked heart,
Virtues to right and left, profusely paid
If so they might compensate the saved sin.
And then the sudden existence, dewy-dear,
O' the rose above the dungheap, the pure child
As good as new created, since withdrawn
From the horror of the pre-appointed lot
With the unknown father and the mother known
Too well,—some fourteen years of squalid youth,
And then libertinage, disease, the grave—
Hell in life here, hereafter life in hell:
Look at that horror and this soft repose!
Why, moralist, the sin has saved a soul!
Then, even the palpable grievance to the heirs—
'Faith, this was no frank setting hand to throat
And robbing a man, but … Excellency, by your leave,
How did you get that marvel of a gem,
The sapphire with the Graces grand and Greek?
The story is, stooping to pick a stone
From the pathway through a vineyard—no-man's-land—
To pelt a sparrow with, you chanced on this:
Why now, do those five clowns o' the family
O' the vinedresser digest their porridge worse
That not one keeps it in his goatskin pouch
To do flint's-service with the tinder-box?
Don't cheat me, don't cheat you, don't cheat a friend
But are you so hard on who jostles just
A stranger with no natural sort of claim
To the havings and the holdings (here's the point)
Unless by misadventure, and defect
Of that which ought to be—nay, which there's none
Would dare so much as wish to profit by—
Since who dares put in just so many words
"May Pietro fail to have a child, please God!
"So shall his house and goods belong to me,
"The sooner that his heart will pine betimes"?
Well then, God doesn't please, nor heart shall pine!
Because he has a child at last, you see,
Or selfsame thing as though a child it were,
He thinks, whose sole concern it is to think:
If he accepts it why should you demur?
Moreover, say that certain sin there seem,
The proper process of unsinning sin
Is to begin well-doing somehow else.
Pietro,—remember, with no sin at all
I' the substitution,—why, this gift of God
Flung in his lap from over Paradise
Steadied him in a moment, set him straight
On the good path he had been straying from.
Henceforward no more wilfulness and waste,
Cuppings, carousings,—these a sponge wiped out.
All sort of self-denial was easy now
For the child's sake, the chatelaine to be,
Who must want much and might want who knows what?
And so, the debts were paid, habits reformed,
Expense curtailed, the dowry set to grow.
As for the wife,—I said, hers the whole sin:
So, hers the exemplary penance. 'T was a text
Whereon folk preached and praised, the district through:
"Oh, make us happy and you make us good!
"It all comes of God giving her a child:
"Such graces follow God's best earthly gift!"
Here you put by my guard, pass to my heart
By the home-thrust—"There's a lie at base of all."
Why, thou exact Prince, is it a pearl or no,
Yon globe upon the Principessa's neck?
That great round glory of pellucid stuff,
A fish secreted round a grain of grit!
Do you call it worthless for the worthless core?
(She doesn't, who well knows what she changed for it.)
So, to our brace of burgesses again!
You see so far i' the story, who was right,
Who wrong, who neither, don't you? What, you don't?
Eh? Well, admit there's somewhat dark i' the case,
Let's on—the rest shall clear, I promise you.
Leap over a dozen years: you find, these past,
An old good easy creditable sire,
A careful housewife's beaming bustling face,
Both wrapped up in the love of their one child,
The strange tall pale beautiful creature grown
Lily-like out o' the cleft i' the sun-smit rock
To bow its white miraculous birth of buds
I' the way of wandering Joseph and his spouse,—
So painters fancy: here it was a fact.
And this their lily,—could they but transplant
And set in vase to stand by Solomon's porch
'T wixt lion and lion!—this Pompilia of theirs,
Could they see worthily married, well bestowed,
In house and home! And why despair of this
With Rome to choose from, save the topmost rank?
Themselves would help the choice with heart and soul,
Throw their late savings in a common heap
To go with the dowry, and be followed in time
By the heritage legitimately hers:
And when such paragon was found and fixed,
Why, they might chant their "Nunc dimittis" straight.
Indeed the prize was simply full to a fault,
Exorbitant for the suitor they should seek,
And social class should choose among, these cits.
Yet there's a latitude: exceptional white
Amid the general brown o' the species, lurks
A burgess nearly an aristocrat,
Legitimately in reach: look out for him!
What banker, merchant, has seen better days,
What second-rate painter a-pushing up,
Poet a-slipping down, shall bid the best
For this young beauty with the thumping purse?
Alack, were it but one of such as these
So like the real thing that they pass for it,
All had gone well! Unluckily, poor souls,
It proved to be the impossible thing itself,
Truth and not sham: hence ruin to them all.
For, Guido Franceschini was the head
Of an old family in Arezzo, old
To that degree they could afford be poor
Better than most: the case is common too.
Out of the vast door 'scutcheoned overhead,
Creeps out a serving-man on Saturdays
To cater for the week,—turns up anon
I' the market, chaffering for the lamb's least leg,
Or the quarter-fowl, less entrails, claws and comb
Then back again with prize,—a liver begged
Into the bargain, gizzard overlooked.
He's mincing these to give the beans a taste,
When, at your knock, he leaves the simmering soup,
Waits on the curious stranger-visitant,
Napkin in half-wiped hand, to show the rooms,
Point pictures out have hung their hundred years,
"Priceless," he tells you,—puts in his place at once
The man of money: yes, you're banker-king
Or merchant-kaiser, wallow in your wealth
While patron, the house-master, can't afford
To stop our ceiling-hole that rain so rots:
But he's the man of mark, and there's his shield,
And yonder's the famed Rafael, first in kind,
The painter painted for his grandfather,
And you have paid to see: "Good morning, Sir!
Such is the law of compensation. Still
The poverty was getting nigh acute;
There gaped so many noble mouths to feed,
Beans must suffice unflavoured of the fowl.
The mother,—hers would be a spun-out life
I' the nature of things; the sisters had done well
And married men of reasonable rank:
But that sort of illumination stops,
Throws back no heat upon the parent-hearth.
The family instinct felt out for its fire
To the Church,—the Church traditionally helps
A second son: and such was Paolo,
Established here at Rome these thirty years,
Who played the regular game,—priest and Abate,
Made friends, owned house and land, became of use
To a personage: his course lay clear enough.
The youngest caught the sympathetic flame,
And, though unfledged wings kept him still i' the cage,
Yet he shot up to be a Canon, so
Clung to the higher perch and crowed in hope.
Even our Guido, eldest brother, went
As far i' the way o' the Church as safety seemed,
He being Head o' the House, ordained to wive,—
So, could but dally with an Order or two
And testify good-will i' the cause: he clipped
His top-hair and thus far affected Christ.
But main promotion must fall otherwise,
Though still from the side o' the Church: and here was he
At Rome, since first youth, worn threadbare of soul
By forty-six years' rubbing on hard life,
Getting fast tired o' the game whose word is—"Wait!"
When one day,—he too having his Cardinal
To serve in some ambiguous sort, as serve
To draw the coach the plumes o' the horses' heads,—
The Cardinal saw fit to dispense with him,
Ride with one plume the less; and off it dropped.
Guido thus left,—with a youth spent in vain
And not a penny in purse to show for it,—
Advised with Paolo, bent no doubt in chafe
The black brows somewhat formidably, growled
"Where is the good I came to get at Rome?
"Where the repayment of the servitude
"To a purple popinjay, whose feet I kiss,
"Knowing his father wiped the shoes of mine?"
"Patience," pats Paolo the recalcitrant—
"You have not had, so far, the proper luck,
"Nor do my gains suffice to keep us both:
"A modest competency is mine, not more.
"You are the Count however, yours the style,
"Heirdom and state,—you can't expect all good.
"Had I, now, held your hand of cards … well, well—
"What's yet unplayed, I'll look at, by your leave,
"Over your shoulder,—I who made my game,
"Let's see, if I can't help to handle yours.
"Fie on you, all the Honours in your fist,
"Countship, Househeadship,—how have you misdealt!
"Why, in the first place, these will marry a man!
"Notum tonsoribus! To the Tonsor then!
"Come, clear your looks, and choose your freshest suit,
"And, after function's done with, down we go
"To the woman-dealer in perukes, a wench
"I and some others settled in the shop
"At Place Colonna: she's an oracle. Hmm!
"'Dear, 't is my brother: brother 't is my dear.
"'Dear, give us counsel! Whom do you suggest
"'As properest party in the quarter round
"'For the Count here?—he is minded to take wife,
"'And further tells me he intends to slip
"'Twenty zecchines under the bottom-scalp
"'Of his old wig when he sends it to revive
"'For the wedding: and I add a trifle too.
"'You know what personage I'm potent with.'"
And so plumped out Pompilia's name the first.
She told them of the household and its ways,
The easy husband and the shrewder wife
In Via Vittoria,—how the tall young girl,
With hair black as yon patch and eyes as big
As yon pomander to make freckles fly,
Would have so much for certain, and so much more
In likelihood,—why, it suited, slipped as smooth
As the Pope's pantoufle does on the Pope's foot.
"I'll to the husband!" Guido ups and cries.
"Ay, so you'd play your last court-card, no doubt!"
Puts Paolo in with a groan—"Only, you see,
"'T is I, this time, that supervise your lead.
"Priests play with women, maids, wives, mothers—why?
"These play with men and take them off our hands.
"Did I come, counsel with some cut-beard gruff
"Or rather this sleek young-old barberess?
"Go, brother, stand you rapt in the ante-room
"Of Her Efficacity my Cardinal
"For an hour,—he likes to have lord-suitors lounge,—
"While I betake myself to the grey mare,
"The better horse,—how wise the people's word!—
"And wait on Madam Violante."
Said and done.
He was at Via Vittoria in three skips:
Proposed at once to fill up the one want
O' the burgess-family which, wealthy enough,
And comfortable to heart's desire, yet crouched
Outside a gate to heaven,—locked, bolted, barred,
Whereof Count Guido had a key he kept
Under his pillow, but Pompilia's hand
Might slide behind his neck and pilfer thence.
The key was fairy; its mere mention made
Violante feel the thing shoot one sharp ray
That reached the womanly heart: so—"I assent!
"Yours be Pompilia, hers and ours that key
"To all the glories of the greater life!
"There's Pietro to convince: leave that to me!"
Then was the matter broached to Pietro; then
Did Pietro make demand and get response
That in the Countship was a truth, but in
The counting up of the Count's cash, a lie.
He thereupon stroked grave his chin, looked great,
Declined the honour. Then the wife wiped tear,
Winked with the other eye turned Paolo-ward,
Whispered Pompilia, stole to church at eve,
Found Guido there and got the marriage done,
And finally begged pardon at the feet
Of her dear lord and master. Whereupon
Quoth Pietro—"Let us make the best of things!"
"I knew your love would license us," quoth she:
Quoth Paolo once more, "Mothers, wives and maids,
"These be the tools wherewith priests manage men."
Now, here take breath and ask,—which bird o' the brace
Decoyed the other into clapnet? Who
Was fool, who knave? Neither and both, perchance.
There was a bargain mentally proposed
On each side, straight and plain and fair enough;
Mind knew its own mind: but when mind must speak,
The bargain have expression in plain terms,
There came the blunder incident to words,
And in the clumsy process, fair turned foul.
The straight backbone-thought of the crooked speech
Were just—"I Guido truck my name and rank
"For so much money and youth and female charms.—
'We Pietro and Violante give our child
"And wealth to you for a rise i' the world thereby."
Such naked truth while chambered in the brain
Shocks nowise: walk it forth by way of tongue,—
Out on the cynical unseemliness!
Hence was the need, on either side, of a lie
To serve as decent wrappage: so, Guido gives
Money for money,—and they, bride for groom,
Having, he, not a doit, they, not a child
Honestly theirs, but this poor waif and stray.
According to the words, each cheated each;
But in the inexpressive barter of thoughts,
Each did give and did take the thing designed,
The rank on this side and the cash on that—
Attained the object of the traffic, so.
The way of the world, the daily bargain struck
In the first market! Why sells Jack his ware?
"For the sake of serving an old customer."
Why does Jill buy it? "Simply not to break
"A custom, pass the old stall the first time."
Why, you know where the gist is of the exchange:
Each sees a profit, throws the fine words in.
Don't be too hard o' the pair! Had each pretence
Been simultaneously discovered, stript
From off the body o' the transaction, just
As when a cook (will Excellency forgive?)
Strips away those long rough superfluous legs
From either side the crayfish, leaving folk
A meal all meat henceforth, no garnishry,
(With your respect, Prince!)—balance had been kept,
No party blamed the other,—so, starting fair,
All subsequent fence of wrong returned by wrong
I' the matrimonial thrust and parry, at least
Had followed on equal terms. But, as it chanced,
One party had the advantage, saw the cheat
Of the other first and kept its own concealed:
And the luck o' the first discovery fell, beside,
To the least adroit and self-possessed o' the pair.
'T was foolish Pietro and his wife saw first
The nobleman was penniless, and screamed
"We are cheated!"
Such unprofitable noise
Angers at all times: but when those who plague,
Do it from inside your own house and home,
Gnats which yourself have closed the curtain round,
Noise goes too near the brain and makes you mad.
The gnats say, Guido used the candle-flame
Unfairly,—worsened that first bad of his,
By practising all kinds of cruelty
To oust them and suppress the wail and whine,—
That speedily he so scared and bullied them,
Fain were they, long before five months had passed,
To beg him grant, from what was once their wealth,
Just so much as would help them back to Rome
Where, when they finished paying the last doit
O' the dowry, they might beg from door to door.
So say the Comparini—as if it came
Of pure resentment for this worse than bad,
That then Violante, feeling conscience prick,
Confessed her substitution of the child
Whence all the harm came,—and that Pietro first
Bethought him of advantage to himself
I' the deed, as part revenge, part remedy
For all miscalculation in the pact.
On the other hand "Not so!" Guido retorts—
"I am the wronged, solely, from first to last,
"Who gave the dignity I engaged to give,
"Which was, is, cannot but continue gain.
"My being poor was a bye-circumstance,
"Miscalculated piece of untowardness,
"Might end to-morrow did heaven's windows ope,
"Or uncle die and leave me his estate.
"You should have put up with the minor flaw,
"Getting the main prize of the jewel. If wealth,
"Not rank, had been prime object in your thoughts,
"Why not have taken the butcher's son, the boy
"O' the baker or candlestick-maker? In all the rest,
"It was yourselves broke compact and played false,
"And made a life in common impossible.
"Show me the stipulation of our bond
"That you should make your profit of being inside
"My house, to hustle and edge me out o' the same,
"First make a laughing-stock of mine and me,
"Then round us in the ears from morn to night
"(Because we show wry faces at your mirth)
"That you are robbed, starved, beaten and what not!
"You fled a hell of your own lighting-up,
"Pay for your own miscalculation too:
"You thought nobility, gained at any price,
"Would suit and satisfy,—find the mistake,
"And now retaliate, not on yourselves, but me.
"And how? By telling me, i' the face of the world,
"I it is have been cheated all this while,
"Abominably and irreparably,—my name
"Given to a cur-cast mongrel, a drab's brat,
"A beggar's bye-blow,—thus depriving me
"Of what yourselves allege the whole and sole
'Aim on my part i' the marriage,—money to-wit.
"This thrust I have to parry by a guard
"Which leaves me open to a counter-thrust
"On the other side,—no way but there's a pass
"Clean through me. If I prove, as I hope to do,
"There's not one truth in this your odious tale
"O' the buying, selling, substituting—prove
"Your daughter was and is your daughter,—well,
"And her dowry hers and therefore mine,—what then?
"Why, where's the appropriate punishment for this
"Enormous lie hatched for mere malice' sake
"To ruin me? Is that a wrong or no?
"And if I try revenge for remedy,
"Can I well make it strong and bitter enough?"
I anticipate however—only ask,
Which of the two here sinned most? A nice point!
Which brownness is least black,—decide who can,
Wager-by-battle-of-cheating! What do you say,
Highness? Suppose, your Excellency, we leave
The question at this stage, proceed to the next,
Both parties step out, fight their prize upon,
In the eye o' the world?
They brandish law 'gainst law;
The grinding of such blades, each parry of each,
Throws terrible sparks off, over and above the thrusts,
And makes more sinister the fight, to the eye,
Than the very wounds that follow. Beside the tale
Which the Comparini have to re-assert,
They needs must write, print, publish all abroad
The straitnesses of Guido's household life—
The petty nothings we bear privately
But break down under when fools flock to jeer.
What is it all to the facts o' the couple's case,
How helps it prove Pompilia not their child,
If Guido's mother, brother, kith and kin
Fare ill, lie hard, lack clothes, lack fire, lack food?
That's one more wrong than needs.
On the other hand,
Guido,—whose cue is to dispute the truth
O' the tale, reject the shame it throws on him,—
He may retaliate, fight his foe in turn
And welcome, we allow. Ay, but he can't!
He's at home, only acts by proxy here:
Law may meet law,—but all the gibes and jeers,
The superfluity of naughtiness,
Those libels on his House,—how reach at them?
Two hateful faces, grinning all a-glow,
Not only make parade of spoil they filched,
But foul him from the height of a tower, you see.
Unluckily temptation is at hand—
To take revenge on a trifle overlooked,
A pet lamb they have left in reach outside,
Whose first bleat, when he plucks the wool away,
Will strike the grinners grave: his wife remains
Who, four months earlier, some thirteen years old,
Never a mile away from mother's house
And petted to the height of her desire,
Was told one morning that her fate had come,
She must be married—just as, a month before,
Her mother told her she must comb her hair
And twist her curls into one knot behind.
These fools forgot their pet lamb, fed with flowers,
Then 'ticed as usual by the bit of cake,
Out of the bower into the butchery.
Plague her, he plagues them threefold: but how plague?
The world may have its word to say to that:
You can't do some things with impunity.
What remains … well, it is an ugly thought …
But that he drive herself to plague herself—
Herself disgrace herself and so disgrace
Who seek to disgrace Guido?
There's the clue
To what else seems gratuitously vile,
If, as is said, from this time forth the rack
Was tried upon Pompilia: 't was to wrench
Her limbs into exposure that brings shame.
The aim o' the cruelty being so crueller still,
That cruelty almost grows compassion's self
Could one attribute it to mere return
O' the parents' outrage, wrong avenging wrong.
They see in this a deeper deadlier aim,
Not to vex just a body they held dear,
But blacken too a soul they boasted white,
And show the world their saint in a lover's arms,
No matter how driven thither,—so they say.
On the other hand, so much is easily said,
And Guido lacks not an apologist.
The pair had nobody but themselves to blame,
Being selfish beasts throughout, no less, no more:
—Cared for themselves, their supposed good, nought else,
And brought about the marriage; good proved bad,
As little they cared for her its victim—nay,
Meant she should stay behind and take the chance,
If haply they might wriggle themselves free.
They baited their own hook to catch a fish
With this poor worm, failed o' the prize, and then
Sought how to unbait tackle, let worm float
Or sink, amuse the monster while they 'scaped.
Under the best stars Hymen brings above,
Had all been honesty on either side,
A common sincere effort to good end,
Still, this would prove a difficult problem, Prince!
—Given, a fair wife, aged thirteen years,
A husband poor, care-bitten, sorrow-sunk,
Little, long-nosed, bush-bearded, lantern-jawed,
Forty-six years old,—place the two grown one,
She, cut off sheer from every natural aid,
In a strange town with no familiar face—
He, in his own parade-ground or retreat
If need were, free from challenge, much less check
To an irritated, disappointed will—
How evolve happiness from such a match?
'T were hard to serve up a congenial dish
Out of these ill-agreeing morsels, Duke,
By the best exercise of the cook's craft,
Best interspersion of spice, salt and sweet!
But let two ghastly scullions concoct mess
With brimstone, pitch, vitriol and devil's-dung—
Throw in abuse o' the man, his body and soul,
Kith, kin and generation shake all slab
At Rome, Arezzo, for the world to nose,
Then end by publishing, for fiend's arch-prank,
That, over and above sauce to the meat's self,
Why, even the meat, bedevilled thus in dish,
Was never a pheasant but a carrion-crow—
Prince, what will then the natural loathing be?
What wonder if this?—the compound plague o' the pair
Pricked Guido,—not to take the course they hoped,
That is, submit him to their statement's truth,
Accept its obvious promise of relief,
And thrust them out of doors the girl again
Since the girl's dowry would not enter there,
—Quit of the one if baulked of the other: no!
Rather did rage and hate so work in him,
Their product proved the horrible conceit
That he should plot and plan and bring to pass
His wife might, of her own free will and deed,
Relieve him of her presence, get her gone,
And yet leave all the dowry safe behind,
Confirmed his own henceforward past dispute,
While blotting out, as by a belch of hell,
Their triumph in her misery and death.
You see, the man was Aretine, had touch
O' the subtle air that breeds the subtle wit;
Was noble too, of old blood thrice-refined
That shrinks from clownish coarseness in disgust:
Allow that such an one may take revenge,
You don't expect he'll catch up stone and fling,
Or try cross-buttock, or whirl quarter-staff?
Instead of the honest drubbing clowns bestow,
When out of temper at the dinner spoilt,
On meddling mother-in-law and tiresome wife,—
Substitute for the clown a nobleman,
And you have Guido, practising, 't is said,
Immitigably from the very first,
The finer vengeance: this, they say, the fact
O' the famous letter shows—the writing traced
At Guido's instance by the timid wife
Over the pencilled words himself writ first—
Wherein she, who could neither write nor read,
Was made unblushingly declare a tale
To the brother, the Abate then in Rome,
How her putative parents had impressed,
On their departure, their enjoinment; bade
"We being safely arrived here, follow, you!
"Poison your husband, rob, set fire to all,
"And then by means o' the gallant you procure
"With ease, by helpful eye and ready tongue,
"Some brave youth ready to dare, do and die,
"You shall run off and merrily reach Rome
"Where we may live like flies in honey-pot:"—
Such being exact the programme of the course
Imputed her as carried to effect.
They also say,—to keep her straight therein,
All sort of torture was piled, pain on pain,
On either side Pompilia's path of life,
Built round about and over against by fear,
Circumvallated month by month, and week
By week, and day by day, and hour by hour,
Close, closer and yet closer still with pain,
No outlet from the encroaching pain save just
Where stood one saviour like a piece of heaven,
Hell's arms would strain round but for this blue gap.
She, they say further, first tried every chink,
Every imaginable break i' the fire,
As way of escape: ran to the Commissary,
Who bade her not malign his friend her spouse;
Flung herself thrice at the Archbishop's feet,
Where three times the Archbishop let her lie,
Spend her whole sorrow and sob full heart forth,
And then took up the slight load from the ground
And bore it back for husband to chastise,—
Mildly of course,—but natural right is right.
So went she slipping ever yet catching at help,
Missing the high till come to lowest and last,
To-wit a certain friar of mean degree,
Who heard her story in confession, wept,
Crossed himself, showed the man within the monk.
"Then, will you save me, you the one i' the world?
"I cannot even write my woes, nor put
"My prayer for help in words a friend may read,—
"I no more own a coin than have an hour
"Free of observance,—I was watched to church,
"Am watched now, shall be watched back presently,—
"How buy the skill of scribe i' the market-place?
"Pray you, write down and send whatever I say
"O' the need I have my parents take me hence!"
The good man rubbed his eyes and could not choose—
Let her dictate her letter in such a sense
That parents, to save breaking down a wall,
Might lift her over: she went back, heaven in heart.
Then the good man took counsel of his couch,
Woke and thought twice, the second thought the best:
"Here am I, foolish body that I be,
"Caught all but pushing, teaching, who but I,
"My betters their plain duty,—what, I dare
"Help a case the Archbishop would not help,
"Mend matters, peradventure, God loves mar?
"What hath the married life but strifes and plagues
"For proper dispensation? So a fool
"Once touched the ark,—poor Uzzah that I am!
"Oh married ones, much rather should I bid,
"In patience all of ye possess your souls!
"This life is brief and troubles die with it:
"Where were the prick to soar up homeward else?"
So saying, he burnt the letter he had writ,
Said Ave for her intention, in its place,
Took snuff and comfort, and had done with all.
Then the grim arms stretched yet a little more
And each touched each, all but one streak i' the midst,
Whereat stood Caponsacchi, who cried, "This way,
"Out by me! Hesitate one moment more
"And the fire shuts out me and shuts in you!
"Here my hand holds you life out!" Whereupon
She clasped the hand, which closed on hers and drew
Pompilia out o' the circle now complete.
Whose fault or shame but Guido's?—ask her friends.
But then this is the wife's—Pompilia's tale—
Eve's … no, not Eve's, since Eve, to speak the truth,
Was hardly fallen (our candour might pronounce)
When simply saying in her own defence
"The serpent tempted me and I did eat."
So much of paradisal nature, Eve's!
Her daughters ever since prefer to urge
"Adam so starved me I was fain accept
"The apple any serpent pushed my way."
What an elaborate theory have we here,
Ingeniously nursed up, pretentiously
Brought forth, pushed forward amid trumpet-blast,
To account for the thawing of an icicle,
Show us there needed Ætna vomit flame
Ere run the crystal into dew-drops! Else,
How, unless hell broke loose to cause the step,
How could a married lady go astray?
Bless the fools! And 't is just this way they are blessed,
And the world wags still,—because fools are sure
—Oh, not of my wife nor your daughter! No!
But of their own: the case is altered quite.
Look now,—last week, the lady we all love,—
Daughter o' the couple we all venerate,
Wife of the husband we all cap before,
Mother o' the babes we all breathe blessings on,—
Was caught in converse with a negro page.
Hell thawed that icicle, else "Why was it—
"Why?" asked and echoed the fools. "Because, you fools,—"
So did the dame's self answer, she who could,
With that fine candour only forthcoming
When 't is no odds whether withheld or no—
"Because my husband was the saint you say,
"And,—with that childish goodness, absurd faith,
"Stupid self-satisfaction, you so praise,—
"Saint to you, insupportable to me.
"Had he,—instead of calling me fine names,
"Lucretia and Susanna and so forth,
"And curtaining Correggio carefully
"Lest I be taught that Leda had two legs,—
"—But once never so little tweaked my nose
"For peeping through my fan at Carnival,
"Confessing thereby 'I have no easy task—
"'I need use all my powers to hold you mine,
"'And then,—why 't is so doubtful if they serve,
"'That—take this, as an earnest of despair!'
"Why, we were quits: I had wiped the harm away,
"Thought 'The man fears me!' and foregone revenge."
We must not want all this elaborate work
To solve the problem why young Fancy-and-flesh
Slips from the dull side of a spouse in years,
Betakes it to the breast of Brisk-and-bold
Whose love-scrapes furnish talk for all the town!
Accordingly one word on the other side
Tips over the piled-up fabric of a tale.
Guido says—that is, always, his friends say—
It is unlikely from the wickedness,
That any man treat any woman so.
The letter in question was her very own,
Unprompted and unaided: she could write-
As able to write as ready to sin, or free,
When there was danger, to deny both facts.
He bids you mark, herself from first to last
Attributes all the so-styled torture just
To jealousy,—jealousy of whom but just
This very Caponsacchi! How suits here
This with the other alleged motive, Prince?
Would Guido make a terror of the man
He meant should tempt the woman, as they charge?
Do you fright your hare that you may catch your hare?
Consider too, the charge was made and met
At the proper time and place where proofs were plain—
Heard patiently and disposed of thoroughly
By the highest powers, possessors of most light,
The Governor for the law, and the Archbishop
For the gospel: which acknowledged primacies,
'T is impudently pleaded, he could warp
Into a tacit partnership with crime—
He being the while, believe their own account,
Impotent, penniless and miserable!
He further asks—Duke, note the knotty point!—
How he,—concede him skill to play such part
And drive his wife into a gallant's arms,—
Could bring the gallant to play his part too
And stand with arms so opportunely wide?
How bring this Caponsacchi,—with whom, friends
And foes alike agree, throughout his life
He never interchanged a civil word
Nor lifted courteous cap to—him how bend
To such observancy of beck and call,
—To undertake this strange and perilous feat
For the good of Guido, using, as the lure,
Pompilia whom, himself and she avouch,
He had nor spoken with nor seen, indeed,
Beyond sight in a public theatre,
When she wrote letters (she that could not write!)
The importunate shamelessly-protested love
Which brought him, though reluctant, to her feet,
And forced on him the plunge which, howsoe'er
She might swim up i' the whirl, must bury him
Under abysmal black: a priest contrive
No better, no amour to be hushed up,
But open flight and noon-day infamy?
Try and concoct defence for such revolt!
Take the wife's tale as true, say she was wronged,—
Pray, in what rubric of the breviary
Do you find it registered—the part of a priest
Is—that to right wrongs from the church he skip,
Go journeying with a woman that's a wife,
And be pursued, o'ertaken and captured … how?
In a lay-dress, playing the kind sentinel
Where the wife sleeps (says he who best should know)
And sleeping, sleepless, both have spent the night!
Could no one else be found to serve at need—
No woman—or if man, no safer sort
Than this not well-reputed turbulence?
Then, look into his own account o' the case!
He, being the stranger and astonished one,
Yet received protestations of her love
From lady neither known nor cared about:
Love, so protested, bred in him disgust
After the wonder,—or incredulity,
Such impudence seeming impossible.
But, soon assured such impudence might be,
When he had seen with his own eyes at last
Letters thrown down to him i' the very street
From behind lattice where the lady lurked,
And read their passionate summons to her side—
Why then, a thousand thoughts swarmed up and in,—
How he had seen her once, a moment's space,
Observed she was both young and beautiful,
Heard everywhere report she suffered much
From a jealous husband thrice her age,—in short
There flashed the propriety, expediency
Of treating, trying might they come to terms,
—At all events, granting the interview
Prayed for, one so adapted to assist
Decision as to whether he advance,
Stand or retire, in his benevolent mood!
Therefore the interview befell at length;
And at this one and only interview,
He saw the sole and single course to take—
Bade her dispose of him, head, heart and hand,
Did her behest and braved the consequence,
Not for the natural end, the love of man
For woman whether love be virtue or vice,
But, please you, altogether for pity's sake—
Pity of innocence and helplessness!
And how did he assure himself of both?
Had he been the house-inmate, visitor,
Eye-witness of the described martyrdom,
So, competent to pronounce its remedy
Ere rush on such extreme and desperate course—
Involving such enormity of harm,
Moreover, to the husband judged thus, doomed
And damned without a word in his defence?
Not he! the truth was felt by instinct here,
—Process which saves a world of trouble and time.
There's the priest's story: what do you say to it,
Trying its truth by your own instinct too,
Since that's to be the expeditious mode?
"And now, do hear my version," Guido cries:
"I accept argument and inference both.
"It would indeed have been miraculous
"Had such a confidency sprung to birth
"With no more fanning from acquaintanceship
"Than here avowed by my wife and this priest.
"Only, it did not: you must substitute
"The old stale unromantic way of fault,
"The commonplace adventure, mere intrigue
"In prose form with the unpoetic tricks,
"Cheatings and lies: they used the hackney chair
"Satan jaunts forth with, shabby and serviceable,
"No gilded gimcrack-novelty from below,
"To bowl you along thither, swift and sure.
"That same officious go-between, the wench
"Who gave and took the letters of the two,
"Now offers self and service back to me:
"Bears testimony to visits night by night
"When all was safe, the husband far and away,—
"To many a timely slipping out at large
"By light o' the morning-star, ere he should wake.
"And when the fugitives were found at last,
"Why, with them were found also, to belie
"What protest they might make of innocence,
"All documents yet wanting, if need were,
"To establish guilt in them, disgrace in me—
"The chronicle o' the converse from its rise
"To culmination in this outrage: read!
"Letters from wife to priest, from priest to wife,—
"Here they are, read and say where they chime in
"With the other tale, superlative purity
"O' the pair of saints! I stand or fall by these."
But then on the other side again,—how say
The pair of saints? That not one word is theirs—
No syllable o' the batch or writ or sent
Or yet received by either of the two.
"Found," says the priest, "because he needed them,
"Failing all other proofs, to prove our fault
"So, here they are, just as is natural.
"Oh yes—we had our missives, each of us!
"Not these, but to the full as vile, no doubt:
"Hers as from me,—she could not read, so burnt,—
"Mine as from her,—I burnt because I read.
"Who forged and found them? Cui profuerint!"
(I take the phrase out of your Highness' mouth)
"He who would gain by her fault and my fall,
"The trickster, schemer and pretender—he
"Whose whole career was lie entailing lie
"Sought to be sealed truth by the worst lie last!"
Guido rejoins—"Did the other end o' the tale
"Match this beginning! 'T is alleged I prove
"A murderer at the end, a man of force
"Prompt, indiscriminate, effectual: good!
"Then what need all this trifling woman's-work,
"Letters and embassies and weak intrigue,
"When will and power were mine to end at once
"Safely and surely? Murder had come first
"Not last with such a man, assure yourselves!
"The silent acquetta, stilling at command—
"A drop a day i' the wine or soup, the dose,—
"The shattering beam that breaks above the bed
"And beats out brains, with nobody to blame
"Except the wormy age which eats even oak,—
"Nay, the staunch steel or trusty cord,—who cares
"I' the blind old palace, a pitfall at each step,
"With none to see, much more to interpose
"O' the two, three, creeping house-dog-servant-things
"Born mine and bred mine? Had I willed gross death,
"I had found nearer paths to thrust him prey
"Than this that goes meandering here and there
"Through half the world and calls down in its course
"Notice and noise,—hate, vengeance, should it fail,
"Derision and contempt though it succeed!
"Moreover, what o' the future son and heir?
"The unborn babe about to be called mine,—
"What end in heaping all this shame on him,
"Were I indifferent to my own black share?
"Would I have tried these crookednesses, say,
"Willing and able to effect the straight?"
"Ay, would you!"—one may hear the priest retort,
"Being as you are, i' the stock, a man of guile,
"And ruffianism but an added graft.
"You, a born coward, try a coward's arms,
"Trick and chicane,—and only when these fail
"Does violence follow, and like fox you bite
"Caught out in stealing. Also, the disgrace
"You hardly shrunk at, wholly shrivelled her:
"You plunged her thin white delicate hand i' the flame
"Along with your coarse horny brutish fist,
"Held them a second there, then drew out both
"—Yours roughed a little, hers ruined through and through.
"Your hurt would heal forthwith at ointment's touch—
"Namely, succession to the inheritance
"Which bolder crime had lost you: let things change,
"The birth o' the boy warrant the bolder crime,
"Why, murder was determined, dared and done.
"For me," the priest proceeds with his reply,
"The look o' the thing, the chances of mistake,
"All were against me,—that, I knew the first:
"But, knowing also what my duty was,
"I did it: I must look to men more skilled
"In reading hearts than ever was the world."
Highness, decide! Pronounce, Her Excellency!
Or … even leave this argument in doubt,
Account it a fit matter, taken up
With all its faces, manifold enough,
To ponder on—what fronts us, the next stage,
Next legal process? Guido, in pursuit,
Coming up with the fugitives at the inn,
Caused both to be arrested then and there
And sent to Rome for judgment on the case—
Thither, with all his armoury of proofs,
Betook himself: 't is there we'll meet him now,
Waiting the further issue.
Here you smile
"And never let him henceforth dare to plead,—
"Of all pleas and excuses in the world
"For any deed hereafter to be done,—
"His irrepressible wrath at honour's wound!
"Passion and madness irrepressible?
"Why, Count and cavalier, the husband comes
"And catches foe i' the very act of shame!
"There's man to man,—nature must have her way,—
"We look he should have cleared things on the spot.
"Yes, then, indeed—even tho' it prove he erred—
"Though the ambiguous first appearance, mount
"Of solid injury, melt soon to mist,
"Still,—had he slain the lover and the wife—
"Or, since she was a woman and his wife,
"Slain him, but stript her naked to the skin
"Or at best left no more of an attire
"Than patch sufficient to pin paper to,
"Some one love-letter, infamy and all,
"As passport to the Paphos fit for such,
"Safe-conduct to her natural home the stews,—
"Good! One had recognized the power o' the pulse.
"But when he stands, the stock-fish,—sticks to law—
"Offers the hole in his heart, all fresh and warm,
"For scrivener's pen to poke and play about—
"Can stand, can stare, can tell his beads perhaps,
"Oh, let us hear no syllable o' the rage!
"Such rage were a convenient afterthought
"For one who would have shown his teeth belike,
"Exhibited unbridled rage enough,
"Had but the priest been found, as was to hope,
"In serge, not silk, with crucifix, not sword:
"Whereas the grey innocuous grub, of yore,
"Had hatched a hornet, tickle to the touch,
"The priest was metamorphosed into knight.
"And even the timid wife, whose cue was—shriek,
"Bury her brow beneath his trampling foot,—
"She too sprang at him like a pythoness:
"So, gulp down rage, passion must be postponed,
"Calm be the word! Well, our word is—we brand
"This part o' the business, howsoever the rest
"Nay," interpose as prompt his friends—
"This is the world's way! So you adjudge reward
"To the forbearance and legality
"Yourselves begin by inculcating—ay,
"Exacting from us all with knife at throat!
"This one wrong more you add to wrong's amount,—
"You publish all, with the kind comment here,
"'Its victim was too cowardly for revenge.'"
Make it your own case,—you who stand apart!
The husband wakes one morn from heavy sleep,
With a taste of poppy in his mouth,—rubs eyes,
Finds his wife flown, his strong box ransacked too,
Follows as he best can, overtakes i' the end.
You bid him use his privilege: well, it seems
He's scarce cool-blooded enough for the right move—
Does not shoot when the game were sure, but stands
Bewildered at the critical minute,—since
He has the first flash of the fact alone
To judge from, act with, not the steady lights
Of after-knowledge,—yours who stand at ease
To try conclusions: he's in smother and smoke,
You outside, with explosion at an end:
The sulphur may be lightning or a squib—
He'll know in a minute, but till then, he doubts.
Back from what you know to what he knew not!
Hear the priest's lofty "I am innocent,"
The wife's as resolute "You are guilty!" Come!
Are you not staggered?—pause, and you lose the move!
Nought left you but a low appeal to law,
"Coward" tied to your tail for compliment!
Another consideration: have it your way!
Admit the worst: his courage failed the Count,
He's cowardly like the best o' the burgesses
He's grown incorporate with,—a very cur,
Kick him from out your circle by all means!
Why, trundled down this reputable stair,
Still, the Church-door lies wide to take him in,
And the Court-porch also: in he sneaks to each,—
"Yes, I have lost my honour and my wife,
"And, being moreover an ignoble hound,
"I dare not jeopardize my life for them!"
Religion and Law lean forward from their chairs,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Ay,
Not only applaud him that he scorned the world,
But punish should he dare do otherwise.
If the case be clear or turbid,—you must say!
Thus, anyhow, it mounted to the stage
In the law-courts,—let's see clearly from this point!—
Where the priest tells his story true or false,
And the wife her story, and the husband his,
All with result as happy as before.
The courts would nor condemn nor yet acquit
This, that or the other, in so distinct a sense
As end the strife to either's absolute loss:
Pronounced, in place of something definite,
"Each of the parties, whether goat or sheep
"I' the main, has wool to show and hair to hide.
"Each has brought somehow trouble, is somehow cause
"Of pains enough,—even though no worse were proved.
"Here is a husband, cannot rule his wife
"Without provoking her to scream and scratch
"And scour the fields,—causelessly, it may be:
"Here is that wife,—who makes her sex our plague,
"Wedlock, our bugbear,—perhaps with cause enough:
"And here is the truant priest o' the trio, worst
"Or best—each quality being conceivable.
"Let us impose a little mulct on each.
"We punish youth in state of pupilage
"Who talk at hours when youth is bound to sleep,
"Whether the prattle turn upon Saint Rose
"Or Donna Olimpia of the Vatican:
"'T is talk, talked wisely or unwisely talked,
"I' the dormitory where to talk at all,
"Transgresses, and is mulct: as here we mean.
"For the wife,—let her betake herself, for rest,
"After her run, to a House of Convertites—
"Keep there, as good as real imprisonment:
"Being sick and tired, she will recover so.
"For the priest, spritely strayer out of bounds,
"Who made Arezzo hot to hold him,—Rome
"Profits by his withdrawal from the scene.
"Let him be relegate to Civita,
"Circumscribed by its bounds till matters mend:
"There he at least lies out o' the way of harm
"From foes—perhaps from the too friendly fair.
"And finally for the husband, whose rash rule
"Has but itself to blame for this ado,—
"If he be vexed that, in our judgments dealt,
"He fails obtain what he accounts his right,
"Let him go comforted with the thought, no less,
"That, turn each sentence howsoever he may,
"There's satisfaction to extract therefrom.
"For, does he wish his wife proved innocent?
"Well, she's not guilty, he may safely urge,
"Has missed the stripes dishonest wives endure—
"This being a fatherly pat o' the cheek, no more.
"Does he wish her guilty? Were she otherwise
"Would she be locked up, set to say her prayers,
"Prevented intercourse with the outside world,
"And that suspected priest in banishment,
"Whose portion is a further help i' the case?
"Oh, ay, you all of you want the other thing,
"The extreme of law, some verdict neat, complete,—
"Either, the whole o' the dowry in your poke
"With full release from the false wife, to boot,
"And heading, hanging for the priest, beside—
"Or, contrary, claim freedom for the wife,
"Repayment of each penny paid her spouse,
"Amends for the past, release for the future! Such
"Is wisdom to the children of this world;
"But we've no mind, we children of the light,
"To miss the advantage of the golden mean,
"And push things to the steel point." Thus the courts.
Is it settled so far? Settled or disturbed,
Console yourselves: 't is like … an instance, now!
You've seen the puppets, of Place Navona, play,—
Punch and his mate,—how threats pass, blows are dealt,
And a crisis comes: the crowd or clap or hiss
Accordingly as disposed for man or wife—
When down the actors duck awhile perdue,
Donning what novel rag-and-feather trim
Best suits the next adventure, new effect:
And,—by the time the mob is on the move,
With something like a judgment pro and con,—
There's a whistle, up again the actors pop
In t' other tatter with fresh-tinseled staves,
To re-engage in one last worst fight more
Shall show, what you thought tragedy was farce.
Note, that the climax and the crown of things
Invariably is, the devil appears himself,
Armed and accoutred, horns and hoofs and tail!
Just so, nor otherwise it proved—you'll see:
Move to the murder, never mind the rest!
Guido, at such a general duck-down,
I' the breathing-space,—of wife to convent here,
Priest to his relegation, and himself
To Arezzo,—had resigned his part perforce
To brother Abate, who bustled, did his best,
Retrieved things somewhat, managed the three suits—
Since, it should seem, there were three suits-at-law
Behoved him look to, still, lest bad grow worse:
First civil suit,—the one the parents brought,
Impugning the legitimacy of his wife,
Affirming thence the nullity of her rights:
This was before the Rota,—Molinès,
That's judge there, made that notable decree
Which partly leaned to Guido, as I said,—
But Pietro had appealed against the same
To the very court will judge what we judge now—
Tommati and his fellows,—Suit the first.
Next civil suit,—demand on the wife's part
Of separation from the husband's bed
On plea of cruelty and risk to life—
Claims restitution of the dowry paid,
Immunity from paying any more:
This second, the Vicegerent has to judge.
Third and last suit,—this time, a criminal one,—
Answer to, and protection from, both these,—
Guido's complaint of guilt against his wife
In the Tribunal of the Governor,
Venturini, also judge of the present cause.
Three suits of all importance plaguing him,
Beside a little private enterprise
Of Guido's,—essay at a shorter cut.
For Paolo, knowing the right way at Rome,
Had, even while superintending these three suits
I' the regular way, each at its proper court,
Ingeniously made interest with the Pope
To set such tedious regular forms aside,
And, acting the supreme and ultimate judge,
Declare for the husband and against the wife.
Well, at such crisis and extreme of straits,—
The man at bay, buffeted in this wise,—
Happened the strangest accident of all.
"Then," sigh friends, "the last feather broke his back,
"Made him forget all possible remedies
"Save one—he rushed to, as the sole relief
"From horror and the abominable thing."
"Or rather," laugh foes, "then did there befall
"The luckiest of conceivable events,
"Most pregnant with impunity for him,
"Which henceforth turned the flank of all attack,
"And bade him do his wickedest and worst."
—The wife's withdrawal from the Convertites,
Visit to the villa where her parents lived,
And birth there of his babe. Divergence here!
I simply take the facts, ask what they show.
First comes this thunderclap of a surprise:
Then follow all the signs and silences
Premonitory of earthquake. Paolo first
Vanished, was swept off somewhere, lost to Rome:
(Wells dry up, while the sky is sunny and blue.)
Then Guido girds himself for enterprise,
Hies to Vittiano, counsels with his steward,
Comes to terms with four peasants young and bold,
And starts for Rome the Holy, reaches her
At very holiest, for 't is Christmas Eve,
And makes straight for the Abate's dried-up font,
The lodge where Paolo ceased to work the pipes.
And then, rest taken, observation made
And plan completed, all in a grim week,
The five proceed in a body, reach the place,
—Pietro's, at the Paolina, silent, lone,
And stupefied by the propitious snow.
'T is one i' the evening: knock: a voice "Who's there?"
"Friends with a letter from the priest your friend."
At the door, straight smiles old Violante's self.
She falls,—her son-in-law stabs through and through,
Reaches through her at Pietro—"With your son
"This is the way to settle suits, good sire!"
He bellows "Mercy for heaven, not for earth!
"Leave to confess and save my sinful soul,
"Then do your pleasure on the body of me!"
—"Nay, father, soul with body must take its chance!"
He presently got his portion and lay still.
And last, Pompilia rushes here and there
Like a dove among the lightnings in her brake
Falls also: Guido's, this last husband's-act.
He lifts her by the long dishevelled hair,
Holds her away at arm's length with one hand,
While the other tries if life come from the mouth-
Looks out his whole heart's hate on the shut eyes,
Draws a deep satisfied breath, "So—dead at last!"
Throws down the burden on dead Pietro's knees,
And ends all with "Let us away, my boys!"
And, as they left by one door, in at the other
Tumbled the neighbours—for the shrieks had pierced
To the mill and the grange, this cottage and that shed.
Soon followed the Public Force; pursuit began
Though Guido had the start and chose the road:
So, that same night was he, with the other four,
Overtaken near Baccano,—where they sank
By the way-side, in some shelter meant for beasts,
And now lay heaped together, nuzzling swine,
Each wrapped in bloody cloak, each grasping still
His unwiped weapon, sleeping all the same
The sleep o' the just,—a journey of twenty miles
Brought just and unjust to a level, you see.
The only one i' the world that suffered aught
By the whole night's toil and trouble, flight and chase,
Was just the officer who took them, Head
O' the Public Force,—Patrizj, zealous soul,
Who, having but duty to sustain weak flesh,
Got heated, caught a fever and so died:
A warning to the over-vigilant,
—Virtue in a chafe should change her linen quick,
Lest pleurisy get start of providence.
(That's for the Cardinal, and told, I think!)
Well, they bring back the company to Rome.
Says Guido, "By your leave, I fain would ask
"How you found out 't was I who did the deed?
"What put you on my trace, a foreigner,
"Supposed in Arezzo,—and assuredly safe
"Except for an oversight: who told you, pray?"
"Why, naturally your wife!" Down Guido drops
O' the horse he rode,—they have to steady and stay,
At either side the brute that bore him, bound,
So strange it seemed his wife should live and speak!
She had prayed—at least so people tell you now—
For but one thing to the Virgin for herself,
Not simply, as did Pietro 'mid the stabs,—
Time to confess and get her own soul saved—
But time to make the truth apparent, truth
For God's sake, lest men should believe a lie:
Which seems to have been about the single prayer
She ever put up, that was granted her.
With this hope in her head, of telling truth,—
Being familiarized with pain, beside,—
She bore the stabbing to a certain pitch
Without a useless cry, was flung for dead
On Pietro's lap, and so attained her point.
Her friends subjoin this—have I done with them?—
And cite the miracle of continued life
(She was not dead when I arrived just now)
As attestation to her probity.
Does it strike your Excellency? Why, your Highness,
The self-command and even the final prayer,
Our candour must acknowledge explicable
As easily by the consciousness of guilt.
So, when they add that her confession runs
She was of wifehood one white innocence
In thought, word, act, from first of her short life
To last of it; praying, i' the face of death,
That God forgive her other sins—not this,
She is charged with and must die for, that she failed
Anyway to her husband: while thereon
Comments the old Religious—"So much good
"Patience beneath enormity of ill,
"I hear to my confusion, woe is me,
"Sinner that I stand, shamed in the walk and gait
"I have practised and grown old in, by a child!"—
Guido's friends shrug the shoulder, "Just this same
"Prodigious absolute calm in the last hour
"Confirms us,—being the natural result
"Of a life which proves consistent to the close.
"Having braved heaven and deceived earth throughout,
"She braves still and deceives still, gains thereby
"Two ends, she prizes beyond earth or heaven:
"First sets her lover free, imperilled sore
"By the new turn things take: he answers yet
"For the part he played: they have summoned him indeed:
"The past ripped up, he may be punished still:
"What better way of saving him than this?
"Then,—thus she dies revenged to the uttermost
"On Guido, drags him with her in the dark,
"The lower still the better, do you doubt?
"Thus, two ways, does she love her love to the end,
"And hate her hate,—death, hell is no such price
"To pay for these,—lovers and haters hold."
But there's another parry for the thrust.
"Confession," cry folks—"a confession, think!
"Confession of the moribund is true!"
Which of them, my wise friends? This public one,
Or the private other we shall never know?
The private may contain,—your casuists teach,-
The acknowledgment of, and the penitence for,
That other public one, so people say.
However it be,—we trench on delicate ground,
Her Eminence is peeping o'er the cards,—
Can one find nothing in behalf of this
Catastrophe? Deaf folks accuse the dumb!
You criticize the drunken reel, fool's speech,
Maniacal gesture of the man,—we grant!
But who poured poison in his cup, we ask?
Recall the list of his excessive wrongs,
First cheated in his wife, robbed by her kin,
Rendered anon the laughing-stock o' the world
By the story, true or false, of his wife's birth,—
The last seal publicly apposed to shame
By the open flight of wife and priest,—why, Sirs,
Step out of Rome a furlong, would you know
What anotherguess tribunal than ours here,
Mere worldly Court without the help of grace,
Thinks of just that one incident o' the flight?
Guido preferred the same complaint before
The court at Arezzo, bar of the Granduke,—
In virtue of it being Tuscany
Where the offence had rise and flight began,—
Self-same complaint he made in the sequel here
Where the offence grew to the full, the flight
Ended: offence and flight, one fact judged twice
By two distinct tribunals,—what result?
There was a sentence passed at the same time
By Arezzo and confirmed by the Granduke,
Which nothing baulks of swift and sure effect
But absence of the guilty, (flight to Rome
Frees them from Tuscan jurisdiction now)
—Condemns the wife to the opprobrious doom
Of all whom law just lets escape from death.
The Stinche, House of Punishment, for life,—
That's what the wife deserves in Tuscany:
Here, she deserves—remitting with a smile
To her father's house, main object of the flight!
The thief presented with the thing he steals!
At this discrepancy of judgments—mad,
The man took on himself the office, judged;
And the only argument against the use
O' the law he thus took into his own hands
Is … what, I ask you?—that, revenging wrong,
He did not revenge sooner, kill at first
Whom he killed last! That is the final charge.
Sooner? What's soon or late i' the case?—ask we.
A wound i' the flesh no doubt wants prompt redress;
It smarts a little to-day, well in a week,
Forgotten in a month; or never, or now, revenge!
But a wound to the soul? That rankles worse and worse.
Shall I comfort you, explaining—"Not this once
"But now it may be some five hundred times
"I called you ruffian, pandar, liar and rogue:
"The injury must be less by lapse of time?"
The wrong is a wrong, one and immortal too,
And that you bore it those five hundred times,
Let it rankle unrevenged five hundred years,
Is just five hundred wrongs the more and worse!
Men, plagued this fashion, get to explode this way,
If left no other.
"But we left this man
"Many another way, and there's his fault,"
'T is answered—"He himself preferred our arm
"O' the law to fight his battle with. No doubt
"We did not open him an armoury
"To pick and choose from, use, and then reject.
"He tries one weapon and fails,—he tries the next
"And next: he flourishes wit and common sense,
"They fail him,—he plies logic doughtily,
"It fails him too,—thereon, discovers last
"He has been blind to the combustibles—
"That all the while he is a-glow with ire,
"Boiling with irrepressible rage, and so
"May try explosives and discard cold steel,—
"So hires assassins, plots, plans, executes!
"Is this the honest self-forgetting rage
"We are called to pardon? Does the furious bull
"Pick out four help-mates from the grazing herd
"And journey with them over hill and dale
"Till he find his enemy?"
What rejoinder? save
That friends accept our bull-similitude.
Bull-like,—the indiscriminate slaughter, rude
And reckless aggravation of revenge,
Were all i' the way o' the brute who never once
Ceases, amid all provocation more,
To bear in mind the first tormentor, first
Giver o' the wound that goaded him to fight:
And, though a dozen follow and reinforce
The aggressor, wound in front and wound in flank,
Continues undisturbedly pursuit,
And only after prostrating his prize
Turns on the pettier, makes a general prey.
So Guido rushed against Violante, first
Author of all his wrongs, fons et origo
Malorum—drops first, deluge since,—which done,
He finished with the rest. Do you blame a bull?
In truth you look as puzzled as ere I preached!
How is that? There are difficulties perhaps
On any supposition, and either side.
Each party wants too much, claims sympathy
For its object of compassion, more than just.
Cry the wife's friends, "O the enormous crime
"Caused by no provocation in the world!"
"Was not the wife a little weak?"—inquire—
"Punished extravagantly, if you please,
"But meriting a little punishment?
"One treated inconsiderately, say,
"Rather than one deserving not at all
"Treatment and discipline o' the harsher sort?"
No, they must have her purity itself,
Quite angel,—and her parents angels too
Of an aged sort, immaculate, word and deed:
At all events, so seeming, till the fiend,
Even Guido, by his folly, forced from them
The untoward avowal of the trick o' the birth,
Which otherwise were safe and secret now.
Why, here you have the awfulest of crimes
For nothing! Hell broke loose on a butterfly!
A dragon born of rose-dew and the moon!
Yet here is the monster! Why he's a mere man—
Born, bred and brought up in the usual way.
His mother loves him, still his brothers stick
To the good fellow of the boyish games;
The Governor of his town knows and approves,
The Archbishop of the place knows and assists:
Here he has Cardinal This to vouch for the past,
Cardinal That to trust for the future,—match
And marriage were a Cardinal's making,—in short,
What if a tragedy be acted here
Impossible for malice to improve,
And innocent Guido with his innocent four
Be added, all five, to the guilty three,
That we of these last days be edified
With one full taste o' the justice of the world?
The long and the short is, truth seems what I show:—
Undoubtedly no pains ought to be spared
To give the mob an inkling of our lights.
It seems unduly harsh to put the man
To the torture, as I hear the court intends,
Though readiest way of twisting out the truth;
He is noble, and he may be innocent.
On the other hand, if they exempt the man
(As it is also said they hesitate
On the fair ground, presumptive guilt is weak
I' the case of nobility and privilege),—
What crime that ever was, ever will be,
Deserves the torture? Then abolish it!
You see the reduction ad absurdum, Sirs?
Her Excellency must pronounce, in fine!
What, she prefers going and joining play?
Her Highness finds it late, intends retire?
I am of their mind: only, all this talk talked,
'T was not for nothing that we talked, I hope?
Both know as much about it, now, at least,
As all Rome: no particular thanks, I beg!
(You'll see, I have not so advanced myself,
After my teaching the two idiots here!)
WHERE are the swallows fled?
Frozen and dead,
Perchance, upon some bleak and stormy shore.
O doubting heart!
Far over purple seas
They wait, in sunny ease,
The balmy southern breeze,
To bring them to their northern homes once more.
Why must the flowers die?
Prison’d they lie
In the cold tomb, heedless of tears or rain.
O doubting heart!
They only sleep below
The soft white ermine snow,
While winter winds shall blow,
To breathe and smile upon you soon again.
The sun has hid its rays
These many days;
Will dreary hours never leave the earth?
O doubting heart!
The stormy clouds on high
Veil the same sunny sky,
That soon (for spring is nigh)
Shall wake the summer into golden mirth.
Fair hope is dead, and light
Is quench’d in night.
What sound can break the silence of despair?
O doubting heart!
Thy sky is overcast,
Yet stars shall rise at last,
Brighter for darkness past,
And angels’ silver voices stir the air.
When ich Dich liebe was geht es Dich an?
THE air is full of the peal of bells,
The rhythmical pealing of marriage bells;
But athwart and above their ringing--
Throbbing clear like the light of a star
Lost in the sunrise--I hear afar
The skylark's jubilant singing.
The clouds all woollen and white on high,
Like flocks of heavenly sheep go by,
Go through heaven's sapphire meadows;
While here on the earth's green meadows, deep
In sapphire flowers, our earthly sheep
Loll in their loitering shadows.
Come, we will sit by the wayside here,
They must cross this field to the chapel, dear,
The loved by the side for her lover.
Grey, through the glimmer of vernal green,
Its time-worn tower may just be seen
Through the yews which curtain it over.
Nay, little brother, why should I pine?
Dare a violet ask that the sun should shine,
The shining sun shine for it solely?
Lowly it lifteth its meek blue eye,
And yields up its soul to the sun on high,
Nor asks for love, loving so wholly.
He passed by the garden where, snow-white and red,
I tended the flowers which give us our bread,
And watered my lilies and roses;
He passed and repassed both early and late,
And lingering, often would lean on the gate
While I tied for him one of my posies.
Day after day would he pass this way,
And his smiling was sweet as the flowers of May,
Or the scent of the bee-haunted clover;
And a softer flame seemed to light up his eye
Than the lily-white moon's in the rose-hued sky,
Ere the blush of the May-day is over.
Aye, day after day he would stop on his way,
While the trees were in leaf and the meadows were gay,
And the curled little lambs were grazing;
As he went, or returned in the waning light
From the smoke-capped city whose lamps by night
Turn the black clouds red with their blazing.
It's a year to-day when the young sun sets
Since I gave him that first bunch of violets
From the root on the grave of our mother.
Though thou seest them not with the bodily eye,
The language of flowers much better than I
I know that thou knowest, my brother.
Violets--then golden daffodils
Which the light of the sun like a wine-cup fills--
Tall tulips like flames upspringing--
Golden-brown wallflowers bright as his locks--
Marigolds--balsams--and perfumed stocks
Whose scent's like a blackbird's singing.
You see, my darling, I never forget!
Aye, those were your own very words--ere yet
Our father lost his all in yon city,
Where the people, they say, in their struggle for gold,
Become like wild beasts, and the feeble and old
Are trampled upon without pity.
Poor father was better to-day: for the smile
Of the sun seemed to gladden him too for awhile
As he sat by the bright little casement,
With buttercups heaped on his knees without stint,
Which, deeming them childishly fresh from the mint,
He counted in chuckling amazement.
The air is full of the peal of bells--
The rhythmical pealing of marriage bells!
And there floats o'er the fields, o'er the fallows,
Borne on the wind with the wind-blown chimes,
From the old house hidden in older limes,
A chatter of maidens and swallows.
Ah, give me the flowers!--the last year was all
In tune with the flowers from the spring to the fall,
And with singing of birds in the bowers;
And once--ah, look not so angry, dear!--
He whispered so softly I scarce could hear,
'You yourself are the flower of all flowers!'
But oh, when the wind was loud in the trees,
When the fluttering petals snowed down on the leas,
And the dim sun went out like an ember,
He stood by the gate all drenched with the mist,
And I gave him my last Christmas rose, which he kissed
For the last time that last of November.
Say, could he help if a hope as sweet
As the wild thyme had sprouted under his feet?
If his face in my heart is enfolden,
As the sun-smit globes of the summer rain
Reflect and hold and refract again
The sun, the eternally golden.
He cometh, he cometh, oh brother, there!
Ah would that you saw the glint of his hair,
For he looks like that saint in the story
Whom you loved so to hear of in days of old,
Till he lit up your dreams with his curls of gold,
Exhaling a mystical glory.
The unseen wings of the morning air
Fan his brow and ruffle his hair
As he steps with a stately measure;
White daisies under his feet are spread,
White butterflies hover above his head,
White clouds high up in the azure:
Pelt him with sunlit April rain,
Rain which ripens the earth-hid grain,
Which brings up the grass and the heather!
Hark at the peal of the bridal bells,
How their musical chiming swells and swells
As they enter the church door together.
Let us go hence now--'tis over--the twain
One will they be when they pass here again:
All my flowers in their pathway I scatter;
Though he forget me as yesterday's rose,
My heart with a sweet tender feeling o'erflows:
If I love him, to whom can it matter?
Yea, let us go now; the stile, love, is here:
Henceforth I live but for thee. What! a tear
Splashed on thy hand? Nay, a drop from the shower
That has passed over, for yon, on that dark
Ominous cloud, dearest brother, the arc
Of the Lord's bow now breaks into flower.
A Wreath Of Sonnets To A Sweetheart
Tonight for the first time I caught your gaze
where you smelt roses in a garden,
with auburn curly hair hanging down your shoulders,
at morning glories trumpeting in strings over the wall
the window reflected you, caught in bright glass
and from the street I saw how lovely you are
feelings dancing in your sea-green eyes
aware of a unknown secret bond
but in the morning light you did disappear like mist
and when I rose
your were just a thought
you were already gone
like a pretty withered flower;
our friendship came suddenly.
Our friendship came suddenly.
like lightning falling from the blue sky
where two people in the great universe
are astounded by each other momentarily,
maybe we knew intrinsically that troubled days were coming,
perhaps had a intuition that moments decay with time
and for the time that was given to us, we were madly in love
like everyone in mankind at times
as if you came into my life unstoppable,
the winter rain of months changed
with a unknown adaptability
and although you are at times far off and distant
you still remain the only one;
like two jewels your eyes are shining.
Like two jewels your eyes are shining
pierced by a bright light,
they are oval like olives
with the glittering of rainbows
still they have got the ability
to with a own secret language
draw my thoughts to you
when you bewitch me, full of sunshine laughter and elated
making the world wonderful
as if we are exceptional,
as if clouds are writing enchanting words in the sky,
the sun is rising over days that just get more beautiful
and like two children we find meaning;
by our own free will we are incorporated into each other
By our own free will we are incorporated into each other
in ecstasy, recreation and trouble
of the small loving death
with words that your body writes.
Your slender body
presses tightly against mine
and I can feel your heart beating
without hesitation driven
moments are drawing out long
we are fulfilled in ecstasy,
you drawn me still closer
hitting your nails into me, screaming in pleasure
as if caught in this single moment,
you were twisting from sheer pleasure.
You were twisting from sheer pleasure,
but why do your eyes bother me
when you complete me so perfectly,
going deep into my soul leaving an inability?
When this wondrous night passes
you stay incomprehensible to me,
as if something is missing from my comprehension,
that lies between us, something almost untouchable.
Still there is sunshine in every glance that you give
and an intimate certainty with which you love me
as if you trust me with every secret,
as if our feelings will never change
even when destiny foams thundering,
when the cold rain pours down.
When the cold rain pours down
as if there’s no stopping to it,
sieving down in a Cape winter in banks of fog,
with the wind howling around the corners of the house
there’s a monotonousness in the noise,
days became grey as if stripped from meaning,
your smile comes to me day after day to refresh my life,
it’s as if you traverse my life the whole time
and I realise how fleeting life is,
that what we have got is caught in the here and now,
in the glitter and sparkle of the moment,
where I cannot still draw you near;
while you are doing your undressing dance.
While you are doing your undressing dance
my beloved auburn girl, you are standing there winking,
while braless you gambol around me
catching me in a trance
and the sincerity of your glance, the sparkle
at times is terrifying as if it maims,
as if something gruesome shines in your eyes,
spread your web for me without a chance of escape
let smoke rise from sparks
in the temple of my heart
and when the fire alarms are wailing and I yearn for you
you have already caught me and can be silent,
you play your game and I my part to it;
glowing lights are radiating in the night.
Glowing lights are radiating in the night,
bringing joy to the dark hour
and in my veins power rushes
of passion’s glowing fire
of earthly desires, as if from the ground
burning through my blood
when your sparking mouth
let desires awake in a pouring flood
and creeping your hand sail over my chest
in flaming lust,
in the hour of deeper thirst
that only lips, hands and bodies can answer to,
it feels as if in emotions we are overstepping the mark;
tonight there is a potsherd moon.
Tonight there is a potsherd moon
as if the moon is breaking in pieces
there’s only a piece of it glowing in the heaven
and very slowly
it rises in the sky, as if it is following the stars in its orbit
where it hangs high as apiece, until the morning comes eventually,
showing early morning still against the blue sky
until its brilliance disappears, suddenly wasted
and still it’s as if the moon has enchanted me,
with its rays and shadows
falling secretly over my whole life,
it enchants me with love
that I find without fear;
when you kiss me a star shoots past.
When you kiss me a star shoots past,
you are the sunshine of this summer,
you make me mad with passion,
as the answer to what my life is yearning for
and in the dark night
when you come and lie
somewhat afraid next to me, supple and soft
there’s passion that I read in your eyes.
Your lips stroke butterfly soft over my mouth,
at times only touches my cheek,
as if near to holy ground
free and never caught
with eyes at times gleaming secretively;
you smell of flowers blooming in spring.
You smell of flowers blooming in spring
fresh, noble and sweet
and its as if thousands of streams flows through your eyes,
as if a glowing
is radiating out of them
but against your blouse sinful blossoms are showing,
an attraction, a stimulation that goes to your loins
where all promises, all relationships ends
as if you are the flower of flowers,
out of which all others come,
going the way of Eve, with great loving
drawing every man, to whom you glance astoundingly
and in this spring you smile at me,
as if you can free me from every other woman.
As if you can free me from every other woman
with lasciviousness in every step,
you are only looking at me
and sometimes your eyes radiate like thunder
and when age come with the years,
will fire then still rise between us
when our youth disappears into the grey, bended in spent disguise,
beginning to show the road to eternity?
Will we then still know the meaning of love,
when all other things begin to fade away
like fog in the brain and memory
and will we still dare
where things now look lovely and heavenly
to look past the surface?
To look past the surface
how the terribly strong wind
is blowing the winter rain away,
one morning I was gazing with moisture blinding me
while the palm trees were waving around,
it was grabbing broken branches,
with the water in the distance looking grey in the bay
and I was walking unnoticed to your window
and I was wondering if you
would look down from the top window,
maybe would spot me, if I would be able to get in touch with you
and even that gloomy day was lustrous to me
as you love me in times of joy and sorrow;
now that winter is drawing skeleton.
Now that winter is drawing skeleton
with days bending like branches over me,
with a few birds rising calling into the air,
have I got to miss you, search for you for joy and meaning?
Am I still blinded
against the errors that you scream out,
where like all others you are caught in this age?
Still there’s something in me that wants to find you
and I dream right through the night
how your slender arms embrace me,
I see you in other faces during the day,
as if you are close to me
and I wonder what to expect of these things
while the leaves of the acorn are falling and perishing around me?
Tonight for the first time I caught your gaze,
our friendship came suddenly,
like two jewels your eyes are shining,
by our own free will we are incorporated into each other.
You were twisting from sheer pleasure
when the cold rain pours down,
while you are doing your undressing dance,
flowing lights are radiating in the night.
Tonight there is a potsherd moon,
when you kiss me a star shoots past,
you smell of flowers blooming in spring,
as if you can free me from every other woman
to look past the surface
now that winter is drawing skeleton.
An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England
the spiritual, Platonic old England …
S. T. COLERIDGE, Anima Poetae
‘Your situation’, said Coningsby, looking up the green and silent valley, ‘is absolutely poetic.’
‘I try sometimes to fancy’, said Mr Millbank, with a rather fierce smile, ‘that I am in the New World.’
BENJAMIN DISRAELI, Coningsby
1 QUAINT MAZES
And, after all, it is to them we return.
Their triumph is to rise and be our hosts:
lords of unquiet or of quiet sojourn,
those muddy-hued and midge-tormented ghosts.
On blustery lilac-bush and terrace-urn
bedaubed with bloom Linnaean pentecosts
put their pronged light; the chilly fountains burn.
Religion of the heart, with trysts and quests
and pangs of consolation, its hawk’s hood
twitched off for sweet carnality, again
rejoices in old hymns of servitude,
haunting the sacred well, the hidden shrine.
It is the ravage of the heron wood;
it is the rood blazing upon the green.
2 DAMON’S LAMENT FOR HIS CLORINDA, YORKSHIRE 1654
November rips gold foil from the oak ridges.
Dour folk huddle in High Hoyland, Penistone.
The tributaries of the Sheaf and Don
bulge their dull spate, cramming the poor bridges.
The North Sea batters our shepherds’ cottages
from sixty miles. No sooner has the sun
swung clear above earth’s rim than it is gone.
We live like gleaners of its vestiges
knowing we flourish, though each year a child
with the set face of a tomb-weeper is put down
for ever and ever. Why does the air grow cold
in the region of mirrors? And who is this clown
doffing his mask at the masked threshold
to selfless raptures that are all his own?
3 WHO ARE THESE COMING TO THE SACRIFICE?
High voices in domestic chapels; praise;
praise-worthy feuds; new-burgeoned spires that sprung
crisp-leaved as though from dropping-wells. The young
ferns root among our vitrified tears.
What an elopement that was: the hired chaise
tore through the fir-grove, scattered kinsmen flung
buckshot and bridles, and the tocsin swung
from the tarred bellcote dappled with dove-smears.
Wires tarnish in gilt corridors, in each room
stiff with the bric-a-brac of loss and gain.
Love fled, truly outwitted, through a swirl
of long-laid dust. Today you sip and smile
though still not quite yourself. Guarding its pane
the spider looms against another storm.
4 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (I)
Make miniatures of the once-monstrous theme:
the red-coat devotees, melees of wheels,
Jagannath’s lovers. With indifferent aim
unleash the rutting cannon at the walls
of forts and palaces; pollute the wells.
Impound the memoirs for their bankrupt shame,
fantasies of true destiny that kills
‘under the sanction of the English name’.
Be moved by faith, obedience without fault,
the flawless hubris of heroic guilt,
the grace of visitation; and be stirred
by all her god-quests, her idolatries,
in conclave of abiding injuries,
sated upon the stillness of the bride.
5 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (II)
Suppose they sweltered here three thousand years
patient for our destruction. There is a greeting
beyond the act. Destiny is the great thing,
true lord of annexation and arrears.
Our law-books overrule the emperors.
The mango is the bride-bed of light. Spring
jostles the flame-tree. But new mandates bring
new images of faith, good subahdars!
The flittering candles of the wayside shrines
melt into dawn. The sun surmounts the dust.
Krishna from Radha lovingly untwines.
Lugging the earth, the oxen bow their heads.
The alien conscience of our days is lost
among the ruins and on endless roads.
6 A SHORT HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (III)
Malcolm and Frere, Colebrooke and Elphinstone,
the life of empire like the life of the mind
‘simple, sensuous, passionate’, attuned
to the clear theme of justice and order, gone.
Gone the ascetic pastimes, the Persian
scholarship, the wild boar run to ground,
the watercolours of the sun and wind.
Names rise like outcrops on the rich terrain,
like carapaces of the Mughal tombs
lop-sided in the rice-fields, boarded-up
near railway-crossings and small aerodromes.
‘India’s a peacock-shrine next to a shop
selling mangola, sitars, lucky charms,
heavenly Buddhas smiling in their sleep.’
7 LOSS AND GAIN
Pitched high above the shallows of the sea
lone bells in gritty belfries do not ring
but coil a far and inward echoing
out of the air that thrums. Enduringly,
fuchsia-hedges fend between cliff and sky;
brown stumps of headstones tamp into the ling
the ruined and the ruinously strong.
Platonic England grasps its tenantry
where wild-eyed poppies raddle tawny farms
and wild swans root in lily-clouded lakes.
Vulnerable to each other the twin forms
of sleep and waking touch the man who wakes
to sudden light, who thinks that this becalms
even the phantoms of untold mistakes.
While friends defected, you stayed and were sure,
fervent in reason, watchful of each name:
a signet-seal’s unostentatious gem
gleams against walnut on the escritoire,
focus of reckoning and judicious prayer.
This is the durable covenant, a room
quietly furnished with stuff of martyrdom,
lit by the flowers and moths from your own shire,
by silvery vistas frothed with convolvulus;
radiance of dreams hardly to be denied.
The twittering pipistrelle, so strange and close,
plucks its curt flight through the moist eventide;
the children thread among old avenues
of snowberries, clear-calling as they fade.
9 THE LAUREL AXE
Autumn resumes the land, ruffles the woods
with smoky wings, entangles them. Trees shine
out from their leaves, rocks mildew to moss-green;
the avenues are spread with brittle floods.
Platonic England, house of solitudes,
rests in its laurels and its injured stone,
replete with complex fortunes that are gone,
beset by dynasties of moods and clouds.
It stands, as though at ease with its own world,
the mannerly extortions, languid praise,
all that devotion long since bought and sold,
the rooms of cedar and soft-thudding baize,
tremulous boudoirs where the crystals kissed
in cabinets of amethyst and frost.
Remember how, at seven years, the decrees
were brought home: child-soul must register
for Christ’s dole, be allotted its first Easter,
blanch-white and empty, chilled by the lilies,
betrothed among the well-wishers and spies.
Reverend Mother, breakfastless, could feast her
constraint on terracotta and alabaster
and brimstone and the sweets of paradise.
Theology makes good bedside reading. Some
who are lost covet scholastic proof,
subsistence of probation, modest balm.
The wooden wings of justice borne aloof,
we close our eyes to Anselm and lie calm.
All night the cisterns whisper in the roof.
11 IDYLLS OF THE KING
The pigeon purrs in the wood; the wood has gone;
dark leaves that flick to silver in the gust,
and the marsh-orchids and the heron’s nest,
goldgrimy shafts and pillars of the sun.
Weightless magnificence upholds the past.
Cement recesses smell of fur and bone
and berries wrinkle in the badger-run
and wiry heath-fern scatters its fresh rust.
‘O clap your hands’ so that the dove takes flight,
bursts through the leaves with an untidy sound,
plunges its wings into the green twilight
above this long-sought and forsaken ground,
the half-built ruins of the new estate,
warheads of mushrooms round the filter-pond.
12 THE EVE OF ST MARK
Stroke the small silk with your whispering hands,
godmother; nod and nod from the half-gloom;
broochlight intermittent between the fronds,
the owl immortal in its crystal dome.
Along the mantelpiece veined lustres trill,
the clock discounts us with a telling chime.
Familiar ministrants, clerks-of-appeal,
burnish upon the threshold of the dream:
churchwardens in wing-collars bearing scrolls
of copyhold well-tinctured and well-tied.
Your photo-albums loved by the boy-king
preserve in sepia waterglass the souls
of distant cousins, virgin till they died,
and the lost delicate suitors who could sing.
13 THE HEREFORDSHIRE CAROL
So to celebrate that kingdom: it grows
greener in winter, essence of the year;
the apple-branches musty with green fur.
In the viridian darkness of its yews
it is an enclave of perpetual vows
broken in time. Its truth shows disrepair,
disfigured shrines, their stones of gossamer,
Old Moore’s astrology, all hallows,
the squire’s effigy bewigged with frost,
and hobnails cracking puddles before dawn.
In grange and cottage girls rise from their beds
by candlelight and mend their ruined braids.
Touched by the cry of the iconoclast,
how the rose-window blossoms with the sun!
Edith: A Tale Of The Woods
Du Heilige! rufe dein Kind zur?ch habe genossen das irdische Gl?ch habe gelebt und geliebet. ~
The woods? oh! solemn are the boundless woods
Of the great Western World, when day declines,
And louder sounds the roll of distant floods,
More deep the rustling of the ancient pines;
When dimness gathers on the stilly air,
And mystery seems o'er every leaf to brood,
Awful it is for human heart to bear
The might and burden of the solitude!
Yet, in that hour, midst those green wastes, there sate
One young and fair,?and oh! how desolate!
But undismay'd; while sank the crimson light,
And the high cedars darken'd with the night,
Alone she sate; tho' many lay around,
They, pale and silent on the bloody ground,
Were sever'd from her need and from her wo,
Far as Death severs Life. O'er that wild spot
Combat had rag'd, and brought the valiant low,
And left them, with the history of their lot,
Unto the forest oaks. A fearful scene
For her whose home of other days had been
Midst the fair halls of England! but the love
Which fill'd her soul was strong to cast out fear,
And by its might upborne all else above,
She shrank not?mark'd not that the dead were near.
Of him alone she thought, whose languid head
Faintly upon her wedded bosom fell;
Memory of aught but him on earth was fled,
While heavily she felt his life-blood well
Fast o'er her garments forth, and vainly bound
With her torn robe and hair the streaming wound,
Yet hoped, still hoped!?Oh! from such hope how long
Affection wooes the whispers that deceive,
Ev'n when the pressure of dismay grows strong,
And we, that weep, watch, tremble, ne'er believe
The blow indeed can fall! So bow'd she there
Over the dying, while unconscious prayer
Fill'd all her soul. Now pour'd the moonlight down,
Veining the pine-stems thro' the foliage brown,
And fire-flies, kindling up the leafy place,
Cast fitful radiance o'er the warrior's face,
Whereby she caught its changes: to her eye,
The eye that faded look'd through gathering haze,
Whence love, o'ermastering mortal agony,
Lifted a long, deep, melancholy gaze,
When voice was not: that fond, sad meaning pass'd?
She knew the fulness of her wo at last!
One shriek the forests heard,?and mute she lay,
And cold; yet clasping still the precious clay
To her scarce-heaving breast. O Love and Death!
Ye have sad meetings on this changeful earth,
Many and sad! but airs of heavenly breath
Shall melt the links which bind you, for your birth
Is far apart.
Now light, of richer hue
Than the moon sheds, came flushing mist and dew;
The pines grew red with morning; fresh winds play'd,
Bright-colour'd birds with splendour cross'd the shade,
Flitting on flower-like wings; glad murmurs broke
From reed, and spray, and leaf, the living strings
Of Earth's Eolian lyre, whose music woke
Into young life and joy all happy things.
And she too woke from that long dreamless trance,
The widow'd Edith: fearfully her glance
Fell, as in doubt, on faces dark and strange,
And dusky forms. A sudden sense of change
Flash'd o'er her spirit, ev'n ere memory swept
The tide of anguish back with thoughts that slept;
Yet half instinctively she rose, and spread
Her arms, as 'twere for something lost or fled,
Then faintly sank again. The forest-bough,
With all its whispers, wav'd not o'er her now,?
Where was she? Midst the people of the wild,
By the red hunter's fire: an aged chief,
Whose home look'd sad?for therein play'd no child?
Had borne her, in the stillness of her grief,
To that lone cabin of the woods; and there,
Won by a form so desolately fair,
Or touch'd with thoughts from some past sorrow sprung,
O'er her low couch an Indian matron hung;
While in grave silence, yet with earnest eye,
The ancient warrior of the waste stood by,
Bending in watchfulness his proud grey head,
And leaning on his bow.
And life return'd,
Life, but with all its memories of the dead,
To Edith's heart; and well the sufferer learn'd
Her task of meek endurance, well she wore
The chasten'd grief that humbly can adore,
Midst blinding tears. But unto that old pair,
Ev'n as a breath of spring's awakening air,
Her presence was; or as a sweet wild tune
Bringing back tender thoughts, which all too soon
Depart with childhood. Sadly they had seen
A daughter to the land of spirits go,
And ever from that time her fading mien,
And voice, like winds of summer, soft and low,
Had haunted their dim years; but Edith's face
Now look'd in holy sweetness from her place,
And they again seem'd parents. Oh! the joy,
The rich deep blessedness?tho' earth's alloy,
Fear, that still bodes, be there?of pouring forth
The heart's whole power of love, its wealth and worth
Of strong affection, in one healthful flow,
On something all its own!?that kindly glow,
Which to shut inward is consuming pain,
Gives the glad soul its flowering time again,
When, like the sunshine, freed.?And gentle cares
Th' adopted Edith meekly gave for theirs
Who lov'd her thus: her spirit dwelt the while,
With the departed, and her patient smile
Spoke of farewells to earth;?yet still she pray'd,
Ev'n o'er her soldier's lowly grave, for aid
One purpose to fulfil, to leave one trace
Brightly recording that her dwelling-place
Had been among the wilds; for well she knew
The secret whisper of her bosom true,
Which warn'd her hence.
And now, by many a word
Link'd unto moments when the heart was stirr'd,
By the sweet mournfulness of many a hymn,
Sung when the woods at eve grew hush'd and dim,
By the persuasion of her fervent eye,
All eloquent with child-like piety,
By the still beauty of her life, she strove
To win for heaven, and heaven-born truth, the love
Pour'd out on her so freely.?Nor in vain
Was that soft-breathing influence to enchain
The soul in gentle bonds: by slow degrees
Light follow'd on, as when a summer breeze
Parts the deep masses of the forest shade
And lets the sunbeam through:?her voice was made
Ev'n such a breeze; and she, a lowly guide,
By faith and sorrow rais'd and purified,
So to the Cross her Indian fosterers led,
Until their prayers were one. When morning spread
O'er the blue lake, and when the sunset's glow
Touch'd into golden bronze the cypress-bough,
And when the quiet of the Sabbath time
Sank on her heart, tho' no melodious chime
Waken'd the wilderness, their prayers were one.
?Now might she pass in hope, her work was done!
And she was passing from the woods away;
The broken flower of England might not stay
Amidst those alien shades; her eye was bright
Ev'n yet with something of a starry light,
But her form wasted, and her fair young cheek
Wore oft and patiently a fatal streak,
A rose whose root was death. The parting sigh
Of autumn thro' the forests had gone by,
And the rich maple o'er her wanderings lone
Its crimson leaves in many a shower had strown,
Flushing the air; and winter's blast had been
Amidst the pines; and now a softer green
Fring'd their dark boughs; for spring again had come,
The sunny spring! but Edith to her home
Was journeying fast. Alas! we think it sad
To part with life, when all the earth looks glad
In her young lovely things, when voices break
Into sweet sounds, and leaves and blossoms wake:
Is it not brighter then, in that far clime
Where graves are not, nor blights of changeful time,
If here such glory dwell with passing blooms,
Such golden sunshine rest around the tombs?
So thought the dying one. 'Twas early day,
And sounds and odours with the breezes' play,
Whispering of spring-time, thro' the cabin-door,
Unto her couch life's farewell sweetness bore;
Then with a look where all her hope awoke,
'My father!'?to the grey-hair'd chief she spoke?
'Know'st thou that I depart?'?'I know, I know,'
He answer'd mournfully, 'that thou must go
To thy belov'd, my daughter!'?'Sorrow not
For me, kind mother!' with meek smiles once more
She murmur'd in low tones; 'one happy lot
Awaits us, friends! upon the better shore;
For we have pray'd together in one trust,
And lifted our frail spirits from the dust
To God, who gave them. Lay me by mine own,
Under the cedar-shade: where he is gone,
Thither I go. There will my sisters be,
And the dead parents, lisping at whose knee
My childhood's prayer was learn'd?the Saviour's prayer
Which now ye know?and I shall meet you there,
Father and gentle mother!?ye have bound
The bruised reed, and mercy shall be found
By Mercy's children.'?From the matron's eye
Dropp'd tears, her sole and passionate reply;
But Edith felt them not; for now a sleep,
Solemnly beautiful, a stillness deep,
Fell on her settled face. Then, sad and slow,
And mantling up his stately head in wo,
'Thou'rt passing hence,' he sang, that warrior old,
In sounds like those by plaintive waters roll'd.
'Thou'rt passing from the lake's green side,
And the hunter's hearth away;
For the time of flowers, for the summer's pride,
Daughter! thou canst not stay.
Thou'rt journeying to thy spirit's home,
Where the skies are ever clear!
The corn-month's golden hours will come,
But they shall not find thee here.
And we shall miss thy voice, my bird!
Under our whispering pine;
Music shall midst the leaves be heard,
But not a song like thine.
A breeze that roves o'er stream and hill,
Telling of winter gone,
Hath such sweet falls?yet caught we still
A farewell in its tone.
But thou, my bright one! thou shalt be
Where farewell sounds are o'er;
Thou, in the eyes thou lov'st, shalt see
No fear of parting more.
The mossy grave thy tears have wet,
And the wind's wild moanings by,
Thou with thy kindred shalt forget,
Midst flowers?not such as die.
The shadow from thy brow shall melt,
The sorrow from thy strain,
But where thine earthly smile hath dwelt,
Our hearts shall thirst in vain.
Dim will our cabin be, and lone,
When thou, its light, art fled;
Yet hath thy step the pathway shown
Unto the happy dead.
And we will follow thee, our guide!
And join that shining band;
Thou'rt passing from the lake's green side?
Go to the better land!'
The song had ceas'd, the listeners caught no breath,
That lovely sleep had melted into death.