The Angel In The Way I'm Wrestling With
The angel in the way I'm wrestling with
won't box. I don't get a choice of weapons.
My hip dislocated by a greater intensity than I am,
I'll walk away the stronger man,
a sacred king with a limp, Richard the Second,
or Vulcan, or Byron swimming the Hellespont.
Down on a sunny day, snarly in the sunshine,
too disheartened to get with the picture and bloom.
Nothing against the vases of sappy daffodils
in green vases on open windowsills,
but I feel like tracking starmud into the living room.
Heavy green diamond steel-toed work boots
with their laces undone, their tongues hanging out,
clotted with earth, so the nuns of the narcissi
don't forget they've got dark, dirty roots
and bulbs like prophetic skulls
that have been buried in the garden a long time
who predicted all this would happen in due course.
Everyone clear-eyed as a haiku in a mirror.
Wholly out of season, my heart feels
like the heavy bell of a requiem for all those
who worked themselves to death for so long
like sweating horses hauling this death cart
of a planet around to change its point of view
like the bent axle of a prayer wheel
inclined toward the sun. On this blue-eyed day
and in the morning before dawn, euphoric commotion
of birdsong in celebration of the return of the light,
but I think of how much darkness, the cast off ore,
extinct forests, Jurassic coalbins,
had to clarify themselves
for the sake of a single diamond of equinoctial insight.
The apple trees are wearing their appearances
on their sleeves, and the willows
are adding blonde streaks to their hair
after their long widowhood of veils.
God I wish I didn't have to be a poet sometimes
warped into revealing things from the inside out
like a canary in a coalmine on a sunny day.
I try to imagine how sweet it would feel
just to be in the world like a lackadaisical dandelion
blooming like an average G type sun
in the fresh painterly green of the grass
with a couple of ants for planets.
What a miner I'd make. Always
looking for a motherlode of ore in a gold mine.
Reading between the lines of the spring constellations
to admire the brilliance of the darker messenger,
the deeper clarity of a more pellucid view of the world
as it appears on the nightshift
in the black mirrors of the blind chandeliers
I've been romancing at a dance of celestial spheres
by tracking my footprints all over the ballroom floor
for those who dance iambically with a limp like me to follow.
And my only alibi for looking at things on the dark side.
You can't plumb the depths, or judge the age
of a black hole in light years. And it's totally lost upon me
how you can truly claim to see anything, even spring
if you're not a two-eyed telescope, one eye on day,
one eye on the darkness, and both open simultaneously
like the sun and the moon at opposite ends of the sky,
and the earth in between like the third eye
of a spiritual refugee with an extra lens for backup
in case I should feel as I do today
like a star-nosed mole with tunnel vision
trying to shine above ground with the tulips.
Even as observatories all over the northern hemisphere
are opening their eyes to the light
just to let a little fresh air in
like house plants on open tenement windowsills
sinking their roots deeper into the darkness,
like back lightning into a mystic watershed
to keep from going blind
in the blazing of the blossom overhead.
- quotes about Sun
- quotes about birds
- quotes about Byron
- quotes about diamonds
- quotes about tulips
- quotes about refugee
- quotes about haiku
- quotes about time
- quotes about telescope
When I Turn Off The Living Room Light
Who cares if youre jewish,
And your breath smells of garlic,
And your nose is a shiny red light.
To me you are gorgeous,
And everythings right,
When I turn off the living room light.
Your clothes are old-fashioned,
Your knuckles are bony,
Your hair looks a terrible sight.
But I dont have to see you,
The way that you are,
When I turn off the living room light.
When I turn off the living room light.
I dont have to see you,
The way that you are,
When I turn off the living room light.
Well its not that you are ugly,
And Im not being cruel,
It helps me to relax, dear,
It helps to keep me cool.
Now I am not intending,
To make you feel ashamed,
Whats wrong in me pretending?
cause you cant help being plain.
Your nose may be bulbous,
Your face may be spotty,
Your skin may be wrinkled and tight.
But I dont want to see you,
The way that you are,
So I turn off the living room light.
We dont feel so ugly,
We dont feel so draggy,
We dont feel so twisted up tight.
And we dont feel as ugly as we really are,
When we turn off the living room light.
When we turn off the living room light.
We dont feel as ugly as we really are,
When we turn off the living room light.
- quotes about life
- quotes about nose
- quotes about Israel
- quotes about fashion
- quotes about red
- quotes about elders
- quotes about seasons
- quotes about dance
The Flower In The Living Room
there is this flower
inside a vase early this
morning in the living room
of the house
when everyone had left
to their offices
and somewhere else
in my loneliness it give
like your poem Meg
I Have This Big Mirror In My Living Room
i have this big mirror in my living room
i guess you must have liked it
yesterday you bought one and true to its purpose
your living room like mine has become a wide space
more fantasies, more time seeping in, more ideas perhaps,
more rivers in the mind, more skies, more emptiness,
but let me not talk about it for now.
i like it to be broken. Let me tell you in my next poem.
I Open The Door And Enter The Room
i open this door
and enter this room
i do not have to tell you
that i am always here
the moment i enter it
i close it
and then i have my own world
that you my love
has not entered
for this is my world
where i am happiest
it is surrounded with
each wall contains
there are no words
or other images
and the floors sing
even without lips
i am happy here
Landmines in the Living Room
Those Landmines in the Living room
Can do a man much harm
And, being metaphorical-
They’re a challenge to disarm.
When my daughter’s home from college
a month can seem an age
A simple misspeak or misstep
can incur her wrath and rage.
Her life of course is difficult
She cannot drink or drive
She sleeps all day and parties nights
It’s a wonder we’re alive.
Weight opinions carefully
Whenever she’s around
Don’t set off a screaming match
you will not win a round
We have a fortnight left until
We pack her out the door
And when she’s gone I’ll miss her-
until she invades once more.
Im looking and Im dreaming for the first time
Im inside and Im outside at the same time
And everything is real
Do I like the way I feel?
When the world crashes in into my living room
Television man made me what I am
People like to put the television down
But we are just good friends
(Im a) television man
I knew a girl, she was a macho man
But its alright, I wasnt fooled for long
This is the place for me
Im the king, and youre the queen
Take a walk in the beautiful garden
Everyone would like to say hello
It doesnt matter what you say
Come and take us away
The world crashes in, into my living room
The world crashes in, into my living room
The world crashes in, into my living room
The world crashes in, into my living room
And we are still good friends...(television man)
Im watching everything...(television man)
Television man...(television man)
Im watching everything...(television man)
Television man...and Im gonna say
We are still good friends...and Im trying to be
Watchin everything...and I gotta say
We are still good friends...you know the way it is
Television man...Ive got what you need
We are still good friends...i know the way you are
Television man...i know what youre tryin to be
Watchin everything...and I gotta say
Thats how the story ends.
Staring At Sound/with You
I just don't want them to say,
"oh, it's a beautiful day."
Let's just not talk about the gloom.
Let's all go die in my living-room.
I want to be a movie-star,
And play the part of a man from outer-space.
When we meet, i'll fall in love with you.
And we have sex, but i don't know what to do (what to do).
I want to hear some band play,
A song that sounds just like you look.
And when they play, i'll follow them around,
Cause all i'd do is stare at the sound.
I'd just stare at the sound.
I'd just stare at the sound.
I'd just go.
All that i know
Is my mind is blown.
When i'm with you.
When i'm with you. x5
Working all day and the sun dont shine
Trying to get by and Im just killing time
I feel the rain fall the whole night through
Far away from you california blue
California blue dreaming all alone
Nothing else to do california blue
Everyday I pray Ill be on my way
Saving love for you california blue
One sunny day, Ill get back again
Somehow, someway but I dont know when
California blue california blue
Living my life with you on my mind
Thinking of things that I left far behind
Its been so long doing all I can do
To get back to you california blue
California blue dreaming all alone
Nothing else to do california blue
Everyday I pray Ill be on my way
Saving love for you california blue
One sunny day Ill get back again
Somehow, someway but I dont know when
California blue california blue
Still missing you california blue
Still missing you california blue
Still missing you california blue
As Life Was Five
behave yourself you always said to me.
I behaved myself
when others were warm in winter
and I stood out in the cold.
I behaved myself when others had full plates
and I stared at them hungrily,
never speaking out of turn,
existing in a shell of good white behavior
with my heart a wet-feathered
bird growing but never able to crack out of the shell.
Behaving like a good boy,
my behavior shattered
by outsiders who came
to my village one day
insulting my grandpa because he couldn't speak
the invader's sword
the oppressor's language-
that hurled me into profound despair
that day Grandpa and I walked into the farm office
for a loan and this man didn't give my grandpa
an application because he was stupid, he said,
because he was ignorant and inferior,
and that moment
cut me in two torturous pieces
screaming my grandpa was a lovely man
that this government farm office clerk was a rude beast-
and I saw my grandpa's eyes go dark
with wound-hurts, regret, remorse
that his grandchild would witness
and the apricot tree in his soul
was cut down
using English language as an ax,
and he hung from that dead tree
like a noosed-up Mexican
racist vigilante strung up ten years earlier
for no other reason than that he was different,
than that they didn't understand
his sacred soul, his loving heart,
his prayers and his songs,
Your words, Portate bien,
resonate in me,
and I obey in my integrity, my kindness, my courage,
as I am born again in the suffering of my people,
in our freedom, our beauty, our dual-faced,
dual-cultured, two-songed soul
me porto bien, Grandpa,
leafing my heart
like sweetly fragrant sage.
But the scene of my grandpa in that room,
what came out of his soul
and what soared from his veins,
tidal-waving in my heart,
helped make me into a poet
singing a song that endures and feeds
to make my fledgling heart
that makes my heavy fingers
strum a lover's heart and
create happiness in her sadness,
that makes the very ground in the prairie
soil to plant and feed the vision of so many of us
who just want to dance and love and fly
that makes us loyal to our hearts
and true to our souls!
It's the scene
that has never left me-
through all the sadness
the sweet momentary joys
that have blossomed in me,
broken me, shattered my innocence
never forgotten the room that day,
the way the light hazily filtered in the windows,
the strong dignified presence of my grandfather
in his sheepskin coat and field work boots,
the way the boards creaked under his work boots,
when my children were born at home
and my hands brought them into this world,
that scene was in my hands,
it echoed in my dreams, drummed in my blood,
cried in my silent heart,
was with me through hours of my life,
that man behind the counter,
his important government papers rattling in the breeze,
disdainful look on his face,
that scene, the door, the child I was,
my grandpa's hand on the doorknob, his eyes on me like a voice
in the wind
forgiving and hurtful and loving,
to this moment-
his eyes following me
where I swirl in a maddened dance
to free it from my bones,
like a broken-winged sparrow yearning for spring
let the scene go, having healed it in my soul,
having nurtured it in my heart, I sing its flight, out, go,
fly sweet bird!
But the scene that dusty day
with the drought-baked clay in my pants cuffs,
the sheep starving for feed
and my grandfather's hopes up
that the farm-aid man
would help us as he had other farmers-
that scene framed in my mind, ten years old
and having prayed at mass that morning,
begging God not to let our sheep die,
to perform a miracle for us
with a little help from the farm-aid man,
I knew entering that door,
seeing gringos come out smiling with signed
papers to buy feed,
that we too were going to survive the
the scene with its wooden floor,
my shoes scraping sand grains that had blown in,
the hot sun warming my face,
and me standing in a room later
after the farm-aid man turned us down
and I know our sheep were going to die,
knew Grandfather's heart was going to die,
opened a wound in my heart
and in the wound the scene replays itself
a hundred times,
the grief, the hurt, the confusion
that day changed my life forever,
made me a man, made me understand
that because Grandfather couldn't speak
his heart died that day,
and when I turned and walked out the door
onto Main Street again,
squinting my eyes at the whirling dust,
the world was never the same
because it was the first time
I had ever witnessed racism,
how it killed people's dreams, and during all of it
my grandfather said, Portate bien, mijo,
behave yourself, my son, Portate bien.
Can You Look Down
Although you've gone far, far away,
My heart is still in love,
I see you in each sunny day,
And the sparkling stars above.
You'll be forever with me,
I feel your presence still,
Your face, within my mind, I see,
My emptiness to fill.
Though I may sometimes lonely be,
I feel you are around,
Seeing you in a rustling tree,
Or a warm breeze o'er the ground.
You'll constantly be part of me,
In that fact, I do believe,
But you have reached your sanctuary,
And I am left to grieve.
Can love transcend beyond these plains,
And the boundary you've crossed over,
Breaking free from your earthly chains,
And winging to Lord God, Jehovah.
Can you look down and see me here,
A chosen friend, partner, wife,
For whilst my love remains sincere,
Will you still love me in the afterlife!
India’s 65th Independence Day Celebrations
Sixty-five years free, we’ve been;
Lot of changes, we have seen;
Past struggles are evergreen;
Is India, an improved scene?
Freedom got through sacrifice;
Non-violence was prime device;
Freedom’s cost, hefty a price –
Is forgotten in a trice?
Life is good, can be better;
Indians are a trend-setter;
Yet, brethren end in fetters;
Things happen in mere letters.
Lot more things ought to be done;
Crimes have become almost fun;
Militants roam with own guns;
Food wastage occurs in tons.
Prices have to be contained;
Peace and amity maintained;
Love of neighbour, be retained;
Perseverance, be sustained.
Future appears quite rosy;
People can live much happy;
Leaders must be less cosy;
Lives of common man, sappy.
Corruption must be stamped out;
There must be no room for clout;
Workers need to work, not shout;
Life will improve without a doubt.
Jai Bharat! Jai Bharatiya!
Quatrains Of Life
What has my youth been that I love it thus,
Sad youth, to all but one grown tedious,
Stale as the news which last week wearied us,
Or a tired actor's tale told to an empty house?
What did it bring me that I loved it, even
With joy before it and that dream of Heaven,
Boyhood's first rapture of requited bliss,
What did it give? What ever has it given?
'Let me recount the value of my days,
Call up each witness, mete out blame and praise,
Set life itself before me as it was,
And--for I love it--list to what it says.
Oh, I will judge it fairly. Each old pleasure
Shared with dead lips shall stand a separate treasure.
Each untold grief, which now seems lesser pain,
Shall here be weighed and argued of at leisure.
I will not mark mere follies. These would make
The count too large and in the telling take
More tears than I can spare from seemlier themes
To cure its laughter when my heart should ache.
Only the griefs which are essential things,
The bitter fruit which all experience brings;
Nor only of crossed pleasures, but the creed
Men learn who deal with nations and with kings.
All shall be counted fairly, griefs and joys,
Solely distinguishing 'twixt mirth and noise,
The thing which was and that which falsely seemed,
Pleasure and vanity, man's bliss and boy's.
So I shall learn the reason of my trust
In this poor life, these particles of dust
Made sentient for a little while with tears,
Till the great ``may--be'' ends for me in ``must.''
My childhood? Ah, my childhood! What of it
Stripped of all fancy, bare of all conceit?
Where is the infancy the poets sang?
Which was the true and which the counterfeit?
I see it now, alas, with eyes unsealed,
That age of innocence too well revealed.
The flowers I gathered--for I gathered flowers--
Were not more vain than I in that far field.
Self was my god, the self I most despise,
Blind in its joys and swine--like gluttonies,
The rule of the brute beast that in us is,
Its heaven a kitchen and a gorge its prize.
No other pleasures knew I but of sense,
No other loves but lusts without pretence.
Oh, childhood is but Nature unredeemed,
Blind in desire, unshamed in ignorance.
I was all vanity and greed, my hand
Uncaring, as a panther's, whom it pained,
My nurse, my sisters, the young birds my prey.
I saw them grieve nor stopped to understand.
My mother loved me. Did I love her? Yes,
When I had need of her to soothe distress
Or serve my wants. But when the need was by,
Others were there more dear in idleness.
These coaxed and flattered me. Their wit afforded
Edge to my wit, and I would strut and lord it
Among them a young god--for god I seemed--
Or goose--for goose I was--they still encored it.
Alas, poor mother! What a love was yours!
How little profit of it all endures!
What wasted vigils, what ill--omened prayers;
What thankless thanks for what disastrous cures!
Why did you bind yourself in such harsh fetter,
To serve a heart so hard? It had been better
Surely to take your rest through those long nights,
Than watching on to leave me thus your debtor.
I heard but heeded not her warning voice;
I grudged her face its sadness in my joys,
And when she looked at me I did not guess
The secret of her sorrow and my loss.
They told me she was dying, but my eyes
Brimmed not with tears. I hardly felt surprise,
Nay, rather anger at their trouble when
I asked them ``what it was one does who dies.''
She threw her weak arms round me, and my face
Pressed to her own in one supreme embrace;
I felt her tears upon my cheeks all wet,
And I was carried frightened from the place.
I lost her thus who was indeed my all,
Lost her with scarce a pang whom now I call
Aloud to in the night a grieving man,
Hoar in his sins, and only clasp the wall.
This the beginning. Next my boyhood came,
Childhood embittered, its brute joys the same,
Only in place of kindness cruelty,
For courage fear, and for vain--glory shame.
Here now was none to flatter or to sue.
My lords were of the many, I the few;
These gave command nor heeded my vain prayers.
It was their will, not mine, my hands must do.
I was their slave. My body was the prey
Of their rude sports, more savage still than they,
My every sense the pastime of their whim,
My soul a hunted thing by night and day.
Pain was my portion, hunger, wakefulness,
And cold more bitter still, and that distress
Which is unnamed of tears that dare not fall,
When the weak body grieves and none may guess.
There was no place where I might lay my head,
No refuge from the world which was my dread,
No shrine inviolate for me from my foes,
No corner quite my own, not even my bed.
I would have changed then with the meanest thing
Which has its home in the free fields in Spring,
And makes its lair in the Earth's secret dells,
Or hides in her dark womb by burrowing.
I used to gaze into the depths of Earth,
And watch the worms and beetles that have birth
Under the stones secure from outer ills,
And envy them their loneliness in mirth.
One treasure had I, one thing that I loved,
A snail with shell most delicately grooved,
And a mute patient face which seemed to see,
And horns which moved towards me as I moved.
It was like me a creature full of fear,
But happier far for its strong household gear,
The living fortress on its back wherein
Its griefs could shrink away and disappear.
I kept it in a nest, the hollow bole
Of a dead elm, and for its daily dole,
And my own comfort in its luckier state,
Brought it a lettuce I in secret stole.
It waited for my coming each new noon,
When from my fellows I could steal so soon,
And there I fed it and arranged its cell,
All through a single happy month of June.
And then--ah, then--who even now shall tell,
The terror of that moment, when with yell
Of triumph on their prize they broke and me,
And crushed it 'neath their heels, those hounds of Hell!
Even yet the thought of it makes my blood rush
Back to my temples with an angry flush;
And for an instant, if Man's race could be
Crushed with it, God forgive me, I would crush.
Ay, God forgive me! 'Tis an evil thought,
And thus it is that wrong on wrong is wrought,
Vengeance on vengeance by a single deed
Of violent ill or idleness untaught.
Nay, rather let me love. I will not be
Partner with Man even thus in cruelty
For one least instant, though the prize should stand,
Hate slain for ever and the Nations free.
Thus for four years I lived of slaves the slave,
Too weak to fight, too beaten to be brave.
Who mocks at impotence and coward fear
Knows little of the pangs mute creatures have.
Yet wherefore grieve? Perhaps of all my days
This is the thing I mostly need to praise,
My chiefest treasure to have suffered wrong,
For God is cunning in His works and ways.
The sense of justice which He gives to Man
Is his own suffering, and His pity's plan
Man's own great need of pity which brims o'er
In alms to Africa and Hindostan.
And he who has not suffered nothing knows;
Therefore I chide not at these ancient woes,
But keep them as a lesson to my pride,
Lest I should smite the meanest of my foes.
And it is ended. Kindly Death drew near
And warned them from me with his face of fear.
I did not fear him, but the rest stood awed,
As at the frown of some dread minister.
I passed out of their sight, one living still,
But dead to sense who knows not good or ill,
Their blessings were the last thing that I heard
In that dark house. I wish them only well.
What next befell me was as some have found,
Peace to their wounds upon a battle ground,
Who sleep through days of pain and nights of fear,
Conscious of nothing but their dream profound.
My dream was of a convent with smooth floors,
And whitewashed walls, a place of corridors,
Where the wind blew in summer all day long,
And a shut garden filled with altar flowers.
Here lived in piety a score of men,
Who, having found the world a place of pain,
Or fearing it ere yet they knew it well,
Sought in God's service their eternal gain.
With these it was my privilege to be
The pensioner of their great pity's fee,
Nor favoured less for my dim soul's dark ways,
Awhile 'twixt boyhood and maturity.
My sorrow to their zeal was fruitful soil,
My wounds their pride as needing wine and oil;
All knowledge had they to redeem and save,
Mirth, silence, prayer, and that best opiate, toil.
The garden was my task. I learned to dig,
To nail the fruit--trees, pear, and peach, and fig;
To trim the grass plots and the box make good,
And keep the gravel smooth from leaf or twig.
Dear blessed garden! In this night of days
I see it still with its fair formal face,
Where even the flowers looked prim, as who should ask
Pardon for beauty in so pure a place.
This for the summer. But when winter fell,
A gentler service called me from my cell,
As suited to the frailty of my needs,
To serve the mass and ring the chapel bell.
Mine was the sacristy, the care of copes,
Albs, censers, pyxes, gifts of kings and popes,
Of lace and linen and the lamps which hung
For ever lit with oil of human hopes.
There on the altar steps, as one at home,
I hourly knelt the servant of old Rome,
And learned her ritual, and assuaged my soul
With the high lessons of her martyrdom.
Not seldom in those hours the dream was mine
Of voices speaking and a call divine.
God in all ages thus has shown to men
His secret will, and I too sought a sign.
The voice that called me was a voice of good.
It spoke of feasts less vain than the world's food,
And showed me my place set a guest for aye
Of heavenly things in that calm brotherhood.
Why did I shrink? What profit to my soul
Has the world proved that I must yield it toll?
What its ambitions that for these my zeal
Turned backward then from its eternal goal?
Yet thus it is. Our fallen human blood
Is ever a mixed stream 'twixt bad and good;
And mine, perhaps, worse mingled than the rest,
Flowed in a baser, a more prurient flood.
And so it might not be. There came a day
When I must grasp my fate and choose my way,
And when my will was weaker than a child's,
And pride stood in rebellion and said nay.
There in the garden, while the thrushes sang,
I listened to his prayer with a mute pang.
That man of God who argued with my soul,
And still the vesper chorus rang and rang.
Below us a pool lay with depths profound,
And in its face I gazed as if to sound
His reason's meaning, while the rain of grace
Was shed on all things but my heart around.
``For lo,'' he said, ``thus near us lies the end;
A step--no more--may mar our lives or mend.
This side a little, and Hell gapes for us;
On that side Heaven holds out strong hands, a friend.
``And he who fears is wise. Oh look,'' he cried,
``Here in this pool lies Death with its arms wide.
Speak. Shall I buy you life at cost of mine?
Nay; I would drown, though in my sin I died.''
Thus Moses argued with his people, these
Than I less stubborn and less hard to please.
God on that night spoke loudly to my soul,
And I refused Him--weeping--on my knees.
Here my dream ended. From that hidden life
I went out hungry to a world of strife,
The world of pleasure, and with heart keen set
For human joy as having felt the knife.
What is the root of pleasure in Man's heart?
The need to know made practical in part,
The shaping of the thing the soul has dreamed,
In gold or clay, with art or little art.
Youth knows not how to fashion its own pleasure;
It deals with Fortune without scale or measure.
And so is cheated of the gold life holds,
A treasure house of hope without the treasure.
The need is there, as swallows need to fly,
The strength of wing which longs for liberty;
The courage of the soul which upward tends,
And the eye's light, a truth which is no lie.
Behind us the past sinks, too tedious night,
Whose shadows brighter show the world of light.
And who shall say that laughter is not good,
When the blood pulses in the veins aright?
An April morning with the birds awake;
The sound of waters lapping by a lake;
The scent of flowers, the rhyme of dancing feet;
The breath of midnight with the heart aquake.
These are the moods of pleasure. And no less
The soul itself has need of wantonness.
The thirst of knowledge fired not only Eve,
And youth grieves still to guess and only guess.
We ask for wisdom. Knowledge first of all
Demands our vows from her high pedestal.
We wish ourselves in act as wise as gods,
Nor even in age dare quite our oath recall.
The truth !--to hold the actual thing and be
Bound by no law but hers and liberty.
Such was my youth's ambition, the fruit fair
And good for food of the forbidden tree.
Two things I was resolved my soul should know;
The physical meaning of the Earth below,
With its dumb forces armed for good and ill,
And its blind fires which in their cycles go;
This, and the power of Love. Here doubly set,
The riddle stood which holds life's alphabet.
What of a very truth were God and Man?
I dared not die till I had answered it.
And first of God. What Quixote on what steed
Of foundered folly urged to headlong speed,
Ere chose his path more madly, or fell down
Proner on life's least lenient stones to bleed?
Striding my horse of reason with loose rein,
I tilted at all shadows in disdain.
To each eternal I my question put,
``What art thou, for Man's pleasure or his pain?''
The Maker I had worshipped, where was He,
In the Earth's fields, or the circumfluent sea?
The footsteps of His presence on the wind,
How should I trace them through infinity?
The huge world in its naked shape unclad,
Mocked me with silence, as a thing gone mad.
A brainless virgin, passionless and blind,
Reeling through space, unsentient--yet how sad!
The stars of heaven! Their voices once went out
Through all a firmament in psalm and shout.
What word have they to--night? Nay, Jesse's son
Had only mocked in our new world of doubt.
I searched them, and I numbered, and I came
To numbers only, flame evolved of flame,
Orb wheeled on orb, a meaningless machine,
A handless clock without the maker's name.
Where was my God the Father? Not in space,
Which needs no god for glory or disgrace,
Being itself eternal. He I sought
Knew not the stars but smiled with human face.
Darkly the night looked at me; darker still
The inner Earth with its tumultuous will,
Its legion of destroyers and destroyed,
Its law of hunger and the need to kill.
In this too was no god, or--monstrous thought--
A god of endless wrong, of treason wrought
Through countless ages still against the weak.
Out on such truth if this be all it taught!
Out on such reason! From that cave of dread
Like one despoiled of thieves I naked fled,
My thirst for knowledge slaked in bitterness,
And Earth's blank riddle all too sternly read.
What has my youth been that I love it thus?
The love of Woman? Ah, thou virtuous
Dear face of wisdom which first filled my heaven,
How art thou fled from life's deserted house!
I see thee pure and noble as a vision,
Rapt in the joy of thy sublime derision
Of all things base, yet tender to the pain
Of him that loved thee spite of love's misprision.
Joyous thou wert as a Spring morning filled
With mirth of birds which strive and wive and build,
A presence of all pleasure on the Earth
Transformed through thee and with thy laughter thrilled.
True were thy eyes and pitiful thy voice,
The colour of thy cheeks how rare a choice,
The smiling of thy lips how strangely dear
When thy wit moved and made our souls rejoice!
Few years thou countedst to thy wisdom's score,
But more than mine and than thy pleasure more
I deemed thee roof and crown of womanhood,
Framed for all fame to blazon and adore.
Why wert thou fashioned thus for Earth and Man,
If only Heaven was to possess thy plan?
Why wert thou beautiful as God to me,
If only God should see thee and should scan?
Oh, thou wert cruel in thy ignorance,
Thou first beloved of my time's romance.
The love within thee was a light of death,
Set for a snare and luring to mischance.
What didst thou think of him, the boy untried,
To whom thou spakest of Heaven as speaks a bride?
The love of Heaven! Alas, thou couldst not guess
The fires he nursed or surely thou hadst lied.
His secret springs of passion had no art,
Nor loosed his tongue to any counterpart
Of mastering words. You neither feared nor knew
The rage of cursing hidden in his heart.
If thou hadst seen it, wouldst thou not have said
A soul by Satan tortured and misled?
Thou didst not guess the truth, that in thy hand
The scourges lay, the pincers, and the lead.
Or haply didst thou love me? Not so heaven
Possessed thee then but sometimes there were given
Glimpses which, to my later eyes of light,
Have shown new worlds as if by lightnings riven.
How had it been if I had ventured quite
That first enchanted, unforgotten night,
When I surprised thee weeping and in fear
Forbore the wrong that should have proved me right?
How had it been if youth had been less weak,
And love's mute hand had found the wit to speak.
If thou hadst been less valiant in thy tears,
And I had touched the heaven which was thy cheek?
Would life have been to me what now it is,
A thing of dreams half wise and half unwise,
A web unpatterned where each idler's hand
Has woven his thoughts, flowers, scrolls, and butterflies?
Or rather, had it not, redeemed of bliss,
Grasped at new worlds less impotent than this,
And made of love a heaven? for depths of fate
Lie in the issue of a woman's kiss.
Alas, it was not, and it may not be
Now, though the sun were melted in the sea,
And though thou livedst, and though I still should live,
Searching thy soul through all Eternity.
The ideal love, how fondly it gives place
To loves all real--alas, and flavourless.
The heart in hunger needs its meat to live,
And takes what dole it finds of happiness.
Then are strange spectacles of treason seen,
Earthquakes and tempests and the wars of men,
Shipwrecks of faith, ungodly interludes
And pagan rites to Moloch on the green.
Lust travestied as love goes nightly forth,
Preaching its creed unclean from South to North,
Using the very gestures of true love,
Its words, its prayers, its vows--how little worth!
Where are ye now, ye poor unfortunates,
Who once my partners were in these mad gaits,
Sad souls of women half unsexed by shame,
In what dire clutches of what felon fates?
Dark--eyed I see her, her who caused my fall,
Nay, caused it not who knew it not at all.
I hear her babble her fool's creed of bliss,
While I lie mute, a swine--like prodigal.
Her chamber redolent of unctuous glooms
Prisons me yet with its profane perfumes,
A cell of follies used and cast aside,
Painted in pleasure's likeness--and a tomb's.
Oh, those dead flowers upon her table set,
How loud they preach to me of wisdom yet,
Poor slaughtered innocents there parched in Hell,
Which Heaven had seen at dawn with dewdrops wet!
Littered they lay, those maidenheads of saints,
Mid pots of fard and powder--puffs and paints,
Egregious relics of lost purity
Tortured on wires with all that mars and taints.
Beneath, upon the floor her slippers lay
Who was the queen of all that disarray,
Left where she dropped them when she fled the room
To speed her latest gallant on his way.
The pictures on the wall--by what strange chance--
Showed sacred scenes of Biblical romance;
Among them Pilate on his judgment--seat
Washing before the multitude his hands.
Smiling he sat while in reproachful mood
He they led forth to crucifixion stood.
``Innocent am I,'' thus the legend ran
Inscribed beneath it, ``of this just One's blood.''
Innocent! Ah, the sad forgotten thought
Of that mute face my convent dreams had sought.
And while I sighed, behold the arms of sin
In my own arms enlatticed and enwrought.
A life of pleasure is a misnamed thing,
Soulless at best, an insect on the wing,
But mostly sad with its unconquered griefs,
The noise that frets, the vanities that sting.
The weapons of youth's armoury are these--
The chase, the dance, the gambler's ecstasies.
Each in its turn I handled with the rest,
And drained my cup of folly to the lees.
What days I murdered thus without design,
What nights deflowered in madness and lewd wine!
The ghosts of those lost hours are with me still,
Crying, ``Give back my life, and mine, and mine!''
Yet was it glorious on the scented morn
To wake the woods with clamouring hound and horn,
To ride red--coated where the red fox ran,
And shout with those who laughed to see him torn.
Glorious to lie 'neath the tall reeds in wait
For the swift fowl at flight returning late,
And pull them from their path with lightning shot,
The bolt of Jove less certain in its fate.
Glorious to battle with the crested wave
For the full nets engulphed in the sea's grave,
And see the fishes flash entangled there,
With only courage and strong arms to save.
And glorious more, with sword high--poised and still,
To meet the bull's rush with o'ermastering skill,
And watch the stricken mass in anger die,
Tamed by the potency of human will.
All glorious and vain--glorious and most sad,
Because of the dark death their doing made,
And of the nothingness that swept the track,
Leaving no footprint or of good or bad.
The light--heeled love of laughter and the dance
Held me, yet held not, in its transient trance.
The hours were few when, fired with love and wine,
I trod the Bacchanalian maze of France.
Yet do I mind me of one afternoon
In Meudon wood, when night came all too soon;
And then again the morning, and unstayed
We pranced our measure out from noon to noon.
That day of dancing in my memory stands
A thing apart and almost of romance,
A day of pleasure physical and strong,
Unwearied and unwearying, feet, lips, hands.
The ``Coq de Bruyère'' was the fortunate sign
Of the lone inn where we had met to dine,
And found a score companions light as we
To turn our rustic hostel to a shrine.
If it still stands, how strangely it must view
This older world with hopes of paler hue!
Or was it youth so painted the grass green,
The apple--blossoms pink, the heavens blue?
Alas! I know not, nor remember yet
Her name with whom those foolish hours seemed sweet,
Only that she laughed on and danced with me,
And that my fingers just could span her feet.
How far away! And Meudon, too, how far!
And all those souls of women lost in care,
And even fair France herself how merged in pain!
It was the Spring before the Prussian war.
One day, one only day, and then the light
Waned in the place and hid our faces white,
And, our score paid, we left the empty room
And met no more on this side of the night.
Who speaks of play speaks treason to youth's state.
Youth is the heir to passion, love and hate,
The passion of the body in its strength,
The passion of the soul commensurate.
Nought needs it in its force of whip or goad,
Say rather a strong bridle for the road.
He who would spur it to a fiercer heat
Is an ill rider whom no fortunes bode.
Shame is it that the glory of youth's eyes
Should be lack--lustred with the grape's disguise,
And doubly shame its vast desires should swoon
In maniac clutchings at a vagrant prize.
Gold is the last least noble stake of life,
When all is gone, friends, fashion, fame, love's strife,
The thing men still can chase when dotage stings
And joy is dead and gout is as the knife.
Youth, seeking gold at Fortune's hand, goes bare
Of its best weapons with the humblest there,
As impotent to win a smile from fate
As the least valiant, the most cursed with care.
Watch well the doors of Fortune. Who goes in?
The prince, the peasant, the gay child of sin,
The red--cheeked soldier, the mad crook--backed crone,
Which shall prevail with Fortune? Which shall win?
Nay, who shall tell? Luck levels all pretence,
Manhood's high pride, youth's first concupiscence.
The arbiter of fame it stands and wit,
The judge supreme of sense and lack of sense.
The gambler's heaven is Youth's untimely Hell.
And I, who dwelt there as lost spirits dwell,
There touched the bottom of the pit. Even yet
I dare not nakedly its secrets tell.
What saved me from the gulf? All ye who preach
Art the physician and consoling leech
Of fallen souls, if but a single spark
Of genius lives, behold the text you teach.
In Art's high hall for whoso holds the key
Honour does service on a suppliant knee,
Virtue his handmaid is, to work his will,
And beauty crowns him, be he bond or free.
His sad soul's raiment from his shoulders fall,
Light pure is given, and he is clothed withal,
His eye grows single and his madness parts
As once in song the raging mood of Saul.
What saved me from the gulf? Thrice generous hand,
A king's in gifts, a prophet's in command,
All potent intellect designed to guide,
Transforming grief as with a master's wand!
This life, if it be worthy grown, is thine;
These tears made sweet once bitter with such brine,
This impotence of will to purpose fired,
This death fenced out with mine and countermine.
For I insensate had resolved to fly
From life's despairs and sick pride's misery,
A craven braggart to the arms of death,
And die dishonoured as the wretched die.
Thou stoodst, how oft, between me and my fate,
Bidding me cheer, or, if I dared not, wait,
From morn to night and then from night to morn
Pointing to Fame as to an open gate;
Till Time, the healer, had half closed the wound,
And Spring in the year's mercy came back crowned
With leaves and blossoms, and I could not choose
To lie unknown forgotten underground.
If there be aught of pleasure worth the living
'Tis to be loved when trouble has done grieving,
And the sick soul, resigned to her mute state,
Forgets the pain forgiven and forgiving.
With wan eyes set upon life's door ajar
She waits half conscious of the rising star,
And lo! 'tis Happiness on tip--toe comes
With fruits and flowers and incense from afar.
Scarcely she heeds him as he stops and smiles.
She does not doubt his innocent lips' wiles.
She lies in weakness wondering and half won,
While beauty cunningly her sense beguiles.
Then at her feet he sets his stores unrolled
Of spice and gums and treasure manifold.
All kingdoms of the Earth have tribute paid
To heap the myrrh and frankincense and gold.
These are his gifts, and tenderly he stands
With eyes of reverence and mute folded hands,
Pleading her grace, and lo! her heaven is filled
With music as of archangelic bands.
What saved me from the gulf? A woman's prayer
Sublimely venturing all a soul might dare,
A saint's high constancy outwitting Fate
And dowered with love supreme in its despair.
I had done naught to merit such high lot,
Given naught in hostage and adventured naught.
The gift was free as heaven's own copious rains,
And came like these unseeking and unsought.
O noble heart of woman! On life's sea
Thou sailedst bravely, a proud argosy,
Freighted with wisdom's wealth and ordered well,
Defiant of all storms--since storms must be.
On thy high way thou passedst pursuant only
Of Virtue's purpose and Truth's instinct thronely.
Strength's symbol wert thou, self--contained and free,
Lone in thy path of good but never lonely.
What glory of the morning lit thy shrouds!
What pure thought limned thee white on thunder--clouds!
I from my shattered raft afar in pain
Kneeled to thy form and prayed across the floods.
In godlike patience, to my soul's surprise,
Thou paused and parleyed wise with me unwise.
Ah, dearest soul seraphic! Who shall paint
The heaven revealed of pity in thine eyes?
She took me to her riches. All the gladness
Of her great joy she gave to cure my sadness,
All her soul's garment of unearthly hopes
To ease the ache which fructified to madness.
She took me to her pleasure, wealth long stored
Of silent thought and fancy in full hoard,
Treasures of wisdom and discerning wit,
And dreams of beauty chaste and unexplored.
She took me to her heart,--and what a heart,
Vast as all heaven and love itself and art!
She gave it royally as monarchs give
Who hold back nothing when they give a part.
A king I rose who had knelt down a slave,
A soul new born who only sought a grave,
A victor from the fight whence I had fled,
A hero crowned with bays who was not brave.
Blest transformation! Circe's ancient curse
See here interpreted in plain reverse.
Love, generous love, in me devised a spell
Ennobling all and subtler far than hers.
Thus was I saved. Yet, mark how hardly Fate
Deals with its victors vanquished soon or late.
The ransomed captive of his chains goes free.
She pines in durance who has paid the debt.
Behold this woman of all joy the heir,
Robed in high virtue and worth's worthiest wear,
A saint by saints esteemed, a matron wise
As Rome's Cornelia chastely debonnaire.
Behold her touched with my own soul's disease,
Grieving in joy and easeless still in ease,
The gall of sorrow and the thorn of shame
Twined ever in the wreaths love framed to please.
Behold her languishing for honour's loss,
Her pride nailed daily to a nameless cross,
Her vesture sullied with the dust of sin,
Her gold of purity transfused with dross.
The echo of her voice has tones that thrill:
I hear her weeping with a blind wild will.
A name she speaks to the dim night, his name
Her virtue spared not yet remembered still.
``Say, shall I comfort thee?'' ``O soul of mine,
Thy comfort slays me with its joys like wine.
Thy love is dear to me--then let me go.
Bid me fare forth for aye from thee and thine.''
``Is there no pleasure?'' ``Pleasure is not sweet
When doors are shut and veiled Man's mercy--seat.
My heaven thou wert, but heaven itself is pain
When God is dumb and angels turn their feet.''
``Is there no beauty? See, the sun is fair
And the world laughs because the Spring is there.
Hast thou no laughter?'' ``Ay, I laugh as Eve
Laughed with her lord the night of their despair.''
``The past is passed.'' ``Nay, 'tis a ghost that lives.''
``Grief dies.'' ``We slew it truly and it thrives.
Pain walks behind us like a murdered man
Asking an alms of joy which vainly gives.
``Give me thy tears: their bitterness is true.
Give me thy patience: it is all my due.
Give me thy silence, if thou wilt thy scorn,
But spare thy kisses, for they pierce me through.''
I saw her perish, not at once by death,
Which has an edge of mercy in its sheath.
No bodily pleadings heralded decay;
No violence of pity stopped her breath.
Only the eternal part which was her mind
Had withered there as by a breath unkind.
Only the reason of her eyes was mute;
Their meaning vanished, leaving naught behind.
``No bells shall ring my burial hour,'' she said.
``No prayers be sung, no requiem for the dead.
Only the wind shall chaunt in its wild way,
And be thou there to lay flowers on my head.''
I laid them on her grave. Alas! dear heart,
What love can follow thee where now thou art?
Sleep on. My youth sleeps with thee--and the rest
Would but disturb. We are too far apart.
What has my life been? What life has the wind
Wandering for ever on in change of mind
Winter and summer, chasing hopes as vain
And seeking still the rest it may not find?
When she was dead I rose up in my place,
Like Israel's king, and smiled and washed my face.
My grief had died in me with her long tears,
And I was changed and maimed and passionless.
I said, ``There are griefs wider than this grief,
Hopes broader harvested, of ampler sheaf.
Man may not live the caged bird of his pride,
And he who wends afar shall win relief.''
The world of sea and mountain shape high browed
Lured me to dreams of nobler solitude,
Fair plains beyond the limits of the dawn,
And desert places lawless and untrod.
Beyond youth's lamp of bitter--sweet desires
And manhood's kindling of less lawful fires
A star I sought should lead me to my dream
Of a new Bethlehem and angelic choirs.
This passionate England with its wild unrest,
How has it straitened us to needs unblest!
Need is that somewhere in the world there be
A better wisdom, seek it East or West.
I sought it first on that great Continent
Which is the eldest born of man's intent.
All that the race of Japhet has devised
Of wit to live lives there pre--eminent.
The record of the ages proudly stand
Revealed in constancy and close at hand,
Man's march triumphant against natural foes,
His conquest of the air and sea and land,
From that far day when, wielding shafts of stone,
He drove the bear back from the banks of Rhone,
And built his dwelling on the fair lake's shore
He earliest learned to love and call his own,
On thro' the generations of wild men,
The skin--clad hunters of the field and fen,
At war with life, all life than theirs less strong
Less fenced with cunning in its lawless den,
Until the dawn broke of a larger age,
With milder fortunes and designs more sage,
And men raised cities on the naked plains
With wine and corn and oil for heritage.
Etruscan Italy! Pelasgic Greece!
How did they labour in the arts of peace!
If strong men were before the time of Troy,
What of the wise who planned their palaces?
The men of cunning who, ere letters came
To hand their learning down from fame to fame,
Dealt with Titanic square and basalt slab
And found the law of parallelogram?
Unnamed discoverers, or of those who gave
Its rule to beauty, line and curve and wave,
Smelters of bronze, artificers in gold,
Painters of tear--cups for the hero's grave?
Or those, the last, who of Man's social state
Devised the code his lusts to mitigate,
Who set a bridle on his jaws of pride,
And manacled with law his limbs of hate,
Till each fair town its separate polity
Enjoyed in its own walls well--fenced and free,
With king and court and poet and buffoon
And burgess roll inscribed of chivalry?
This was the old world's golden age renowned
Shown thro' dim glimpses of a past spell--bound.
Some shadow of it lives in Homer's story.
In vain we search. Its like shall not be found.
It vanished in the impatient march of Man
When Empires rose, with Cyrus in the van,
The Assyrian tyranny, the Persian scourge,
And his the all--conquering boy of Macedon.
Then were the little freedoms swept aside,
The household industries for fields more wide.
With heavy hand Rome weighed upon the world
A blind Colossus, order classified.
And what of the new world, the world that is?
Ah, Europe! What a tragedy there lies!
Thy faiths forgotten and thy laws made void,
Hunger and toil thy sole known destinies.
The sombre livery of thy bastard races
Proclaims thee slave and their ignoble faces,
Gaul, Teuton, Serb, all fortunes merged in one,
All bloods commingled in thy frail embraces.
No type, no image of the God in thee,
No form survives of nobler ancestry,
No mark is on thy brow, even that of Cain,
By which to learn thy soul's lost pedigree.
Thou toilest blindly in thy central hive
Of the world's hopes impatient and alive,
Waiting the reason which shall light thy years
To a new gospel of initiative,
Rueful, unconscious, to thy labour bound
And dumb to love, above or underground.
He were the Sage of the new discipline
Who first should wake thy silence into sound.
Where is the poet who shall sing of Man
In his new world, a better Caliban,
And show him Heaven? What nobler Prospero
To cure his ache on an Eternal plan?
The voice that should arouse that slumbering clod
Must echo boldly as to steps unshod
Of angels heralding the advent day
Of a new Saviour and a latest God.
But whose the voice? And where the listeners?
I sought and found not. Rather in my ears
The discord grew of that ungodly host
Whose laughter mocks the music of the Spheres.
``Glory of glories!'' Thus it was they chaunted,
But not to Heaven for which men blindly panted,
Rather to that Hell's master who hath held
Their backs to pain in labour covenanted.
To him the honour and obedience due
Of their lost Moab where the bluebells blew,
Now the sad washpot of his engines' slime,
Their childhood's Edom darkened by his shoe.
Through that dim murk no glimpse of the Divine
Shall pierce with song where the sun dares not shine,
No praise of beauty in a land all bleared
With poison--smoke and waters aniline?
Better they died unchronicled. Their room
Would then be for each weed that wreathed their tomb,
More beautiful than they with all their love
It is not worth a spray of butcher's broom.
All this I read as in an open book
Wandering in bye paths with my pilgrim's crook,
Through Alp and Apennine and Eastward on
To where the Balkans on the Danube look.
On Trajan's wall I lay in the tall grass
And watched the Tartar shepherds wandering pass.
A boy was blowing in his flute below;
Afar the river shone, a sea of glass.
This was the world's once boundary; and beyond
What terrors reigned for fearful hearts and fond,
The Scythian wilderness, where were--wolves were
And night for ever lay in frozen bond!
The subtle wonder of the desert came
And touched my longing with its breath of flame.
I too, methought, sad child of a new age,
Would learn its mystery and inscribe my name,
Clothed in the garments of its ancient past,
My race forgotten and my creed outcast,
On some lone pile whence centuries look down
On days unchanged the earliest with the last.
As Abraham was at Mamre on the leas,
I too would be, or Ur of the Chaldees,
Feeding my flocks in patience at God's hand,
Guided by signs and girt with mysteries.
With staff in hand and wallet for all need,
Footing the goat--tracks or with ass for steed,
Clad in mean raiment, with attendants none,
And fed on locusts as the prophets feed.
Climbing the dunes each morning to behold
The world's last miracle of light enfold
The Eastern heaven, and see the victor sun
Press back the darkness with his spears of gold.
The fair Earth, pure in her sweet nakedness,
Should smile for me each day with a new face,
Her only lover; and her virgin sands
Should be my daily sacrilege to press.
The deep blue shadows of the rocks at noon
My tent should be from a burnt world in swoon,
Rocks scored with what dead names of worshippers,
Of Gods as dead, the sun and stars and moon.
There would I stand in prayer, with unshod feet
And folded arms, at Time's true mercy seat,
Making my vows to the one God of gods
Whose praise the Nations of the East repeat.
Haply some wonder of prophetic kind
My eyes should see to the world's reason blind,
Some ladder to the Heaven, or a face
Speaking in thunder to me from the wind.
I lay in the tall grass, and overhead
The ravens called who once Elisha fed.
It was a message meet for my desires,
And I arose and followed where they led,
Arose and followed;--and behold, at hand,
With tinkling bells and tread as if on sand,
Toward me spectral from the Orient came
The pilgrim camels of that holy Land.
The rock of Horeb is the holiest place
Of all Earth's holies. In the wilderness
It stands with its gaunt head bare to the heaven
As when God spake with Moses face to face.
Red in the eternal sunset of the years,
Crowned with a glory the world's evening wears,
Where evening is with morning a first day
Unchanged in the mute music of the Spheres.
From base to top the boulder crags high thrown
Fortress the plain which Israel camped upon,
A living presence in the unliving waste,
A couchant lion with a mane of stone.
Aloft in the dread shadow of his brows
And shut from summer suns and winter snows,
When snows there be in the parched wilderness,
A cell I found and of it made my house.
A single hewn stone chamber, carved of old
By hermits' hands, of rocks with labour rolled,
Undoored, unwindowed, with the earth for floor,
Within, an altar where their beads they told.
Without, a rood of soil and a scant spring,
Their garden once, where deep in the vast ring
Of those grave granite domes they delved and prayed,
One thorn tree its sole life left blossoming.
There laid I down the burden of my care
And dwelt a space in the clean upper air.
I dwelt, how many days or months or years
I know not, for I owned no calendar;
Only the rising of the winter's sun
Daily more northward as the months moved on,
Only the sun's return along his ways
When summer slackened his first rage outrun;
Only the bee--birds passing overhead
With their Spring twitter and eyes crimson red,
The storks and pelicans in soldier bands,
The purple doves that stayed to coo and wed;
These and the shepherds of the waste, the few
Poor Bedouin clansmen, with their weak flocks, who
Strayed through the valleys at appointed days,
As water failed them or the herbage grew,
Lean hungry--eyed wild sons of Ishmael
Who climbed the rocks and sought me in my cell
With their poor wares of butter, dates and corn
And almond--cake in skins and hydromel,
Unwise in the world's learning, yet with gleams
Of subtler instinct than the vain world deems,
Glimpses of faiths transmitted from afar
In signs and wonders and revealed in dreams.
They taught me their strange knowledge, how to read
The forms celestial ordered to Man's need,
To count on sand the arrow heads of fate
And mark the bird's flight and the grey hare's speed.
The empty waste informed with their keen eyes
Became a scroll close writ with mysteries
Unknown to reason yet compelling awe
With that brave folly which confounds the wise.
Nor less the faith was there of the revealed
God of their fathers, Ishmael's sword and shield,
Their own, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
By martyrs witnessed in the stricken field.
His name was on their lips, a living name.
His law was in their hearts, their pride in shame.
His will their fortitude in hours of ill
When the skies rained not and the locusts came.
I learned their creed in this as in the rest,
Making submission to God's ways as best.
What matter if in truth the ways were His,
So I should abdicate my own unblest!
And thus I might have lived--and died, who knows,
A Moslem saint, on those high mountain brows,
Prayed to by alien lips in alien prayer
As intercessor for their mortal woes,
Lived, died, and been remembered for some good
In the world's chronicle of brotherhood,
Nor yet through strife with his own Bedlam kind,
The Hydra--headed Saxon multitude.
But for the clamour of untimely war,
The sound of Nations marching from afar.
Their voice was on the tongue of winds and men,
Their presaging in sun and moon and star.
I dreamed a dream of our fair mother Earth
In her first beauty, ere mankind had birth,
Peopled with forms how perfect in design,
How rich in purpose, of what varied worth,
Birds, four--foot beasts and fishes of the Sea
Each in its kind and order and degree
Holding their place unchid, her children all,
And none with right to strain her liberty.
Her deep green garment of the forest glade
Held monsters grim, but none was there afraid.
The lion and the antelope lay down
In the same thicket for their noon--day shade.
The tyranny of strength was powerless all
To break her order with unseemly brawl.
No single kind, how stout soe'er of limb,
Might drive her weakest further than the wall.
All was in harmony and all was true
On the green Earth beneath her tent of blue.
When lo, the advent of her first born lie,
The beast with mind from which her bondage grew.
O woeful apparition! what a shape
To set the world's expectancy agape,
To crown its wonders! what lewd naked thing
To wreck its Paradise! The human ape!
Among the forms of dignity and awe
It moved a ribald in the world of law,
In the world's cleanness it alone unclean,
With hairless buttocks and prognathous jaw.
Behold it in that Eden once so fair,
Pirate and wanton, a blind pillager,
With axe and fire and spade among the trees
Blackening a league to build itself a lair.
Behold it marshalling its court,--soft kine,
And foolish sheep and belly--lorded swine,
Striding the horse anon, high--mettled fool,
And fawned on by the dog as one divine.
Outrage on sense and decent Nature's pride!
Feast high of reason--nay of Barmecide,
Where every guest goes hungry but this one,
The Harpy--clawed, too foul to be denied!
I saw it, and I blushed for my Man's race,
And once again when in the foremost place
Of human tyranny its latest born
Stood threatening conquest with an English face.
Chief of the sons of Japhet he, with hand
Hard on the nations of the sea and land,
Intolerant of all, tongues, customs, creeds,
Too dull to spare, too proud to understand.
I saw them shrink abashed before his might,
Like tropic birds before the sparrow's flight.
The world was poorer when they fled. But he
Deemed he had done ``God'' service and ``his right.''
I saw it and I heard it and I rose
With the clear vision of a seer that knows.
I had a message to the powers of wrong
And counted not the number of my foes.
I stood forth in the strength of my soul's rage
And spoke my word of truth to a lewd age.
It was the first blow struck in that mad war,
My last farewell to my fair hermitage.
O God of many battles! Thou that art
Strong to withstand when warriors close and part,
That art or wast the Lord of the right cause!
How has thy hand grown feeble in its smart!
How are the vassals of thy power to--day
Set in rebellion mastering the fray!
Blaspheming Thee they smite with tongues obscene,
While these Thy saints lie slaughtered where they pray.
How is the cauldron of thy wrath the deepest,
Cold on its stones? No fire for it thou heapest.
Thou in the old time wert a jealous God.
Thieves have dishonoured Thee. And lo, Thou sleepest!
Between the camps I passed in the still night,
The breath of heaven how pure, the stars how bright.
On either hand the life impetuous flowed
Waiting the morrow which should crown the fight.
How did they greet it? With what voice, what word,
What mood of preparation for the sword?
On this side and on that a chaunt was borne
Faint on the night--wind from each hostile horde.
Here lay the camps. The sound from one rose clear,
A single voice through the thrilled listening air.
``There is no God but God,'' it cried aloud.
``Arise, ye faithful, 'tis your hour of prayer.''
And from the other? Hark the ignoble chorus,
Strains of the music halls, the slums before us.
Let our last thought be as our lives were there,
Drink and debauchery! The drabs adore us.
And these were proved the victors on that morrow,
And those the vanquished, fools, beneath war's harrow.
And the world laughed applauding what was done,
And if the angels wept none heard their sorrow.
What has my life been in its last best scene
Stripped of Time's violence, its one serene
Experience of things fair without a flaw,
Its grasp of Heaven's own paradisal green?
After the storm the clouds white laughters fly;
After the battle hark the children's cry!
After the stress of pain, if God so will,
We too may taste our honey ere we die.
What little secret 'tis we need discover!
How small a drop to make the cup brim over!
A single word half spoken between two,
And Heaven is there, the loved one and the lover.
Tell me not, thou, of youth as Time's last glory.
Tell not of manhood when it strikes its quarry.
The prime of years is not the prime of pleasure.
Give me life's later love when locks are hoary,
Love, when the hurry and the rush are past,
Love when the soul knows what will fade what last,
The worth of simple joys youth trampled on,
Its pearl of price upon the dunghill cast.
Time was, I mocked, I too, at life's plain blisses,
The rustic treasure of connubial kisses,
The bourgeois wealth of amorous maid and man
Made man and wife in legal tendernesses.
Time was, but is not, since the scales of pride
Fell from my eyes and left me glorified.
Now 'tis the world's turn. Let it laugh at me,
Who care not, having Love's self on my side.
How came I by this jewel, this sweet friend,
This best companion of my lone life's end?
So young she was, so fair, of soul so gay,
And I with only wisdom to commend.
I looked into her eyes and saw them seek
My own with questions, roses on her cheek.
One sign there is of love no words belie,
The soul's wide windows watching where lips speak.
What wouldst thou with me, thou dear wise one, say?
My face is withered, my few locks are grey.
Time has dealt with me like a dolorous Jew.
My gold he holds; in silver now I pay.
How shall I serve thee? Shall I be thy priest,
To read thy dear sins to the last and least?
I have some knowledge of the ways of men,
Some too of women. Wilt thou be confessed?
Nay, but thou lovest? A gay youth and fair?
Is he less kind to thee than lovers are?
Shall I chastise him for his backward ways,
Teach him thy whole worth and his own despair?
Thou dost deny? Thou lovest none? To thee
Youth, sayest thou, is void, mere vanity.
Yet how to build up life and leave out love,
The corner stone of all its joys to be?
Thou wouldst be wise. Thou swearest to me this.
Know then, all wisdom is but happiness.
So thou art happy, there is none more sage
Than thou of the wise seven famed of Greece.
She did not answer me, but heaved a sigh
And raised her eyes, where tears stood, silently.
I kissed her hands, the outside and the in,
``Child, dost thou love me?'' And she whispered ``Ay.''
Thus the thing happened. And between us two
Was now a secret beautiful and new.
We hid it from all eyes as fearing ill,
And cherished it in wonder, and it grew.
Some say that Heaven is but to be with God,
Hell--but without God--the same blest abode.
How wide the difference only those may know
Whose eyes have seen the glory and the cloud.
We two beheld the glory. Every morn
We rose to greet it with the day new born;
No laggards we when Love was in the fields
Waiting to walk there with us in the corn.
O those first hours of the yet folded day,
While Man still sleeps and Nature has its play,
When beast and bird secure from death and him
Wander and wanton in their own wild way.
These were our prize untroubled by the whim
Of slugging fools still wrapped in dreamings dim.
In these we lived a whole life ere their day
And heard the birds chaunt and the seraphim.
How good it was to see her through the grass,
Pressing to meet me with her morning face
Wreathed in new smiles by the sweet thought within
Triumphant o'er the world and worldlings base!
How good to mark her beauty decked anew
With leaf and blossom, crimson, white and blue!
The beechen spray fresh gathered in her hand
Was her queen's sceptre diamonded with dew.
I heard her young voice long ere she was near,
Calling her call--note of the wood dove clear.
It was our signal. And I answered low
In the same note, ``Beloved, I am here.''
And then the meeting. Who shall count the bliss
Of sweet words said and sweeter silences.
It was agreed between us we should wed
Some happy day nor yet forestall a kiss.
Sublime convention by true lovers made
To try their joy more nearly in the shade.
``Not yet, dear love! Thy mad lips take from mine,
Lest thou shouldst harm me and the world upbraid.''
Who says a wedding day is not all white
From dawn to dusk, nay far into the night?
The man who makes not that one day divine
Dullard is he and dastard in Love's sight.
First day of the new month, the honeymoon,
Last of the old life naked and alone.
The apparent heirship come to actual reign,
The entrance in possession of a throne.
Why grudge rejoicings? The vain world is there.
It sees the feast spread that it may not share.
God's angels envy thee; then why not these?
Let them make merry with thy wealth to spare.
Nay, join it thou. The foolish old life waits,
A slave discharged, to see thee to the gates.
Give it thy bounty, though it claim thy all,
Thy clothes, thy bed, thy empty cups and plates.
The world hath loved thee, or it loved thee not,
What matter now! Thou needest raise no doubt.
All smile on thee to--day, the false, the true.
The new king pardons. Shout then with their shout.
Thy friends surround thee, sceptics of thy reason.
They ply thee gaily in and out of season.
Thou in thy heart the while art far away
True to thy god. Thou heedest not their treason.
Proud in the face of all thou vowest thy vow,
Love in thine eyes and glory on thy brow,
Thou hast sworn to cherish her, to have, to hold,
``Till death us twain do part.'' Ah she! Ah thou!
What has my life been? Nay, my life is good.
Dear life, I love thee, now thou art subdued.
Thou hast fled the battle, cast thine arms away,
And so art victor of the multitude.
Thou art forgotten wholly of thy foes,
Of thy friends wholly, these alike with those.
One garden of the world thy kingdom is
Walled from the wicked, and there blooms thy rose.
She that I love lives there and lives with me.
Enough, kind heaven, I make my terms with thee.
Worth, wealth, renown, power, honour--shadows all!
This is the substance, this reality.
O world that I have known! how well, things, men,
Glories of vanity, the sword, the pen!
Fair praise of kings, applause of crowds--nay more,
Saints' pure approval of the loss and gain!
High deeds of fame which made the eyelids brim
With tears of pride grief's anguish could not dim,
The day of triumph crowning all the days,
The harvest of the years brought home by Time!
What are you to Man's heart, his soul, his sense
Prouder than this, more robed in incidence?
The cry of the first babe, his own, and hers,
Thrilling to joy? Ah matchless eloquence!
The wisdom of all Time is in that cry,
The knowledge of Life's whence, at last, and why,
The root of Love new grafted in the tree,
Even as it falls, which shall not wholly die.
To rest in a new being! Here it stands
The science of all ages in all lands,
The joy which makes us kin with the Earth's life,
And knits us with all Nature joining hands,
Till we forget our heritage of gloom,
Our dark humanity how near its doom.
Away! Man's soul was a disease. 'Tis fled
Scared by this infant face of perfect bloom.
And so, farewell, poor passionate Life, the past.
I close thy record with this word, ``Thou wast.''
Why wait upon the Future? Lo To--day
Smiles on our tears, Time's toy, his best and last.
ONE eve it happened when I sate alone,
Alone upon the terrace of my tower,
A book upon my knees, to counterfeit
The reading that I never read at all,
While Marian, in the garden down below,
Knelt by the fountain (I could just hear thrill
The drowsy silence of the exhausted day)
And peeled a new fig from that purple heap
In the grass beside her,–turning out the red
To feed her eager child, who sucked at it
With vehement lips across a gap of air
As he stood opposite, face and curls a-flame
With that last sun-ray, crying, 'give me, give,'
And stamping with imperious baby-feet,
(We're all born princes)–something startled me,–
The laugh of sad and innocent souls, that breaks
Abruptly, as if frightened at itself;
'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her glance above
In sudden shame that I should hear her laugh,
And straightway dropped my eyes upon my book,
And knew, the first time, 'twas Boccaccio's tales,
The Falcon's,–of the lover who for love
Destroyed the best that loved him. Some of us
Do it still, and then we sit and laugh no more.
Laugh you, sweet Marian! you've the right to laugh,
Since God himself is for you, and a child!
For me there's somewhat less,–and so, I sigh.
The heavens were making room to hold the night,
The sevenfold heavens unfolding all their gates
To let the stars out slowly (prophesied
In close-approaching advent, not discerned),
While still the cue-owls from the cypresses
Of the Poggio called and counted every pulse
Of the skyey palpitation. Gradually
The purple and transparent shadows slow
Had filled up the whole valley to the brim,
And flooded all the city, which you saw
As some drowned city in some enchanted sea,
Cut off from nature,–drawing you who gaze,
With passionate desire, to leap and plunge,
And find a sea-king with a voice of waves,
And treacherous soft eyes, and slippery locks
You cannot kiss but you shall bring away
Their salt upon your lips. The duomo-bell
Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms down,
So deep; and fifty churches answer it
The same, with fifty various instances.
Some gaslights tremble along squares and streets
The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in fire:
And, past the quays, Maria Novella's Place,
In which the mystic obelisks stand up
Triangular, pyramidal, each based
On a single trine of brazen tortoises,
To guard that fair church, Buonarroti's Bride,
That stares out from her large blind dial-eyes,
Her quadrant and armillary dials, black
With rhythms of many suns and moons, in vain
Enquiry for so rich a soul as his,–
Methinks I have plunged, I see it all so clear . . .
And, oh my heart . . .the sea-king!
In my ears
The sound of waters. There he stood, my king!
I felt him, rather than beheld him. Up
I rose, as if he were my king indeed,
And then sate down, in trouble at myself,
And struggling for my woman's empery.
'Tis pitiful; but women are so made:
We'll die for you, perhaps,–'tis probable:
But we'll not spare you an inch of our full height:
We'll have our whole just stature,–five feet four,
Though laid out in our coffins: pitiful!
–'You, Romney!––Lady Waldemar is here?'
He answered in a voice which was not his,
'I have her letter; you shall read it soon:
But first, I must be heard a little, I,
Who have waited long and travelled far for that,
Although you thought to have shut a tedious book
And farewell. Ah, you dog-eared such a page,
And here you find me.'
Did he touch my hand,
Or but my sleeve? I trembled, hand and foot,–
He must have touched me.–'Will you sit?' I asked,
And motioned to a chair; but down he sate,
A little slowly, as a man in doubt,
Upon the couch beside me,–couch and chair
Being wheeled upon the terrace.
'You are come,
My cousin Romney?–this is wonderful.
But all is wonder on such summer-nights;
And nothing should surprise us any more,
Who see that miracle of stars. Behold.'
I signed above, where all the stars were out,
As if an urgent heat had started there
A secret writing from a sombre page,
A blank last moment, crowded suddenly
With hurrying splendours.
'Then you do not know–
'Yes, I know,' I said, 'I know.
I had the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet I did not think you'd leave the work
In England, for so much even,–though, of course,
You'll make a work-day of your holiday,
And turn it to our Tuscan people's use,–
Who much need helping since the Austrian boar
(So bold to cross the Alp by Lombardy
And dash his brute front unabashed against
The steep snow-bosses of that shield of God,
Who soon shall rise in wrath and shake it clear
Came hither also,–raking up our vines
And olive-gardens with his tyrannous tusks,
And rolling on our maize with all his swine.'
'You had the news from Vincent Carrington,'
He echoed,–picking up the phrase beyond,
As if he knew the rest was merely talk
To fill a gap and keep out a strong wind,–
'You had, then, Vincent's personal news?'
I answered, 'All that ruined world of yours
Seems crumbling into marriage. Carrington
Has chosen wisely.'
'Do you take it so?'
He cried, 'and is it possible at last' . .
He paused there,–and then, inward to himself,
'Too much at last, too late!–yet certainly' . .
(And there his voice swayed as an Alpine plank
That feels a passionate torrent underneath)
'The knowledge, if I had known it, first or last,
Had never changed the actual case for me.
And best, for her, at this time.'
Nay, I thought,
He loves Kate Ward, it seems, now, like a man,
Because he has married Lady Waldemar.
Ah, Vincent's letter said how Leigh was moved
To hear that Vincent was betrothed to Kate.
With what cracked pitchers go we to deep wells
In this world! Then I spoke,–'I did not think,
My cousin, you had ever known Kate Ward.'
'In fact I never knew her. 'Tis enough
That Vincent did, before he chose his wife
For other reasons than those topaz eyes
I've heard of. Not to undervalue them,
For all that. One takes up the world with eyes.'
–Including Romney Leigh, I thought again,
Albeit he knows them only by repute.
How vile must all men be, since he's a man.
His deep pathetic voice, as if he guessed
I did not surely love him, took the word;
'You never got a letter from Lord Howe
A month back, dear Aurora?'
'None,' I said.
'I felt it was so,' he replied: 'Yet, strange!
Sir Blaise Delorme has passed through Florence?'
By chance I saw him in Our Lady's church,
(I saw him, mark you, but he saw not me)
Clean-washed in holy-water from the count
Of things terrestrial,–letters and the rest;
He had crossed us out together with his sins.
Ay, strange; but only strange that good Lord Howe
Preferred him to the post because of pauls.
For me I'm sworn never to trust a man–
At least with letters.'
'There were facts to tell,–
To smooth with eye and accent. Howe supposed . .
Well, well, no matter! there was dubious need;
You heard the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet perhaps you had been startled less
To see me, dear Aurora, if you had read
–Now he sets me down as vexed.
I think I've draped myself in woman's pride
To a perfect purpose. Oh, I'm vexed, it seems!
My friend Lord Howe deputes his friend Sir Blaise
To break as softly as a sparrow's egg
That lets a bird out tenderly, the news
Of Romney's marriage to a certain saint;
To smooth with eye and accent,–indicate
His possible presence. Excellently well
You've played your part, my Lady Waldemar,–
As I've played mine.
'Dear Romney,' I began,
'You did not use, of old, to be so like
A Greek king coming from a taken Troy,
'Twas needful that precursors spread your path
With three-piled carpets, to receive your foot
And dull the sound of't. For myself, be sure
Although it frankly ground the gravel here
I still could bear it. Yet I'm sorry, too,
To lose this famous letter, which Sir Blaise
Has twisted to a lighter absently
To fire some holy taper with: Lord Howe
Writes letters good for all things but to lose;
And many a flower of London gossipry
Has dropt wherever such a stem broke off,–
Of course I know that, lonely among my vines,
Where nothing's talked of, save the blight again,
And no more Chianti! Still the letter's use
As preparation . . . . . Did I start indeed?
Last night I started at a cochchafer,
And shook a half-hour after. Have you learnt
No more of women, 'spite of privilege,
Than still to take account too seriously
Of such weak flutterings? Why, we like it, sir,–
We get our powers and our effects that way.
The trees stand stiff and still at time of frost,
If no wind tears them; but, let summer come,
When trees are happy,–and a breath avails
To set them trembling through a million leaves
In luxury of emotion. Something less
It takes to move a woman: let her start
And shake at pleasure,–nor conclude at yours,
The winter's bitter,–but the summer's green.'
He answered, 'Be the summer ever green
With you, Aurora!–though you sweep your sex
With somewhat bitter gusts from where you live
Above them,–whirling downward from your heights
Your very own pine-cones, in a grand disdain
Of the lowland burrs with which you scatter them.
So high and cold to others and yourself,
A little less to Romney, were unjust,
And thus, I would not have you. Let it pass:
I feel content, so. You can bear indeed
My sudden step beside you: but for me,
'Twould move me sore to hear your softened voice,–
Aurora's voice,–if softened unaware
In pity of what I am.'
Ah friend, I thought,
As husband of the Lady Waldemar
You're granted very sorely pitiable!
And yet Aurora Leigh must guard her voice
From softening in the pity of your case,
As if from lie or licence. Certainly
We'll soak up all the slush and soil of life
With softened voices, ere we come to you.
At which I interrupted my own thought
And spoke out calmly. 'Let us ponder, friend,
Whate'er our state, we must have made it first;
And though the thing displease us, ay, perhaps
Displease us warrantably, never doubt
That other states, thought possible once, and then
Rejected by the instinct of our lives,–
If then adopted, had displeased us more
Than this, in which the choice, the will, the love,
Has stamped the honour of a patent act
From henceforth. What we choose, may not be good;
But, that we choose it, proves it good for us
Potentially, fantastically, now
Or last year, rather than a thing we saw,
And saw no need for choosing. Moths will burn
Their wings,–which proves that light is good for moths,
Or else they had flown not, where they agonise.'
'Ay, light is good,' he echoed, and there paused.
And then abruptly, . . 'Marian. Marian's well?'
I bowed my head but found no word. 'Twas hard
To speak of her to Lady Waldemar's
New husband. How much did he know, at last?
How much? how little?––He would take no sign,
But straight repeated,–'Marian. Is she well?'
'She's well,' I answered.
She was there in sight
An hour back, but the night had drawn her home;
Where still I heard her in an upper room,
Her low voice singing to the child in bed,
Who restless with the summer-heat and play
And slumber snatched at noon, was long sometimes
At falling off, and took a score of songs
And mother-hushes, ere she saw him sound.
'She's well,' I answered.
'Here?' he asked.
He stopped and sighed. 'That shall be presently,
But now this must be. I have words to say,
And would be alone to say them, I with you,
And no third troubling.'
'Speak then,' I returned,
'She will not vex you.'
At which, suddenly
He turned his face upon me with its smile,
As if to crush me. 'I have read your book,
'You have read it,' I replied,
'And I have writ it,–we have done with it.
And now the rest?'
'The rest is like the first,'
He answered,–'for the book is in my heart,
Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams in me:
My daily bread tastes of it,–and my wine
Which has no smack of it, I pour it out;
It seems unnatural drinking.'
I took the word up; 'Never waste your wine.
The book lived in me ere it lived in you;
I know it closer than another does,
And that it's foolish, feeble, and afraid,
And all unworthy so much compliment.
Beseech you, keep your wine,–and, when you drink,
Still wish some happier fortune to your friend,
Than even to have written a far better book.'
He answered gently, 'That is consequent:
The poet looks beyond the book he has made,
Or else he had not made it. If a man
Could make a man, he'd henceforth be a god
In feeling what a little thing is man:
It is not my case. And this special book,
I did not make it, to make light of it:
It stands above my knowledge, draws me up;
'Tis high to me. It may be that the book
Is not so high, but I so low, instead;
Still high to me. I mean no compliment:
I will not say there are not, young or old,
Male writers, ay, or female,–let it pass,
Who'll write us richer and completer books.
A man may love a woman perfectly,
And yet by no means ignorantly maintain
A thousand women have not larger eyes:
Enough that she alone has looked at him
With eyes that, large or small, have won his soul.
And so, this book, Aurora,–so, your book.'
'Alas,' I answered, 'is it so, indeed?'
And then was silent.
'Is it so, indeed,'
He echoed, 'that alas is all your word?'
I said,–'I'm thinking of a far-off June,
When you and I, upon my birthday once,
Discoursed of life and art, with both untried.
I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas morning then,
And now 'tis night.'
'And now,' he said, tis night.'
'I'm thinking,' I resumed, tis somewhat sad
That if I had known, that morning in the dew,
My cousin Romney would have said such words
On such a night, at close of many years,
In speaking of a future book of mine,
It would have pleased me better as a hope,
Than as an actual grace it can at all.
That's sad, I'm thinking.'
'Ay,' he said, tis night.'
'And there,' I added lightly, 'are the stars!
And here, we'll talk of stars, and not of books.'
'You have the stars,' he murmured,–'it is well.
Be like them! shine, Aurora, on my dark,
Though high and cold and only like star,
And for this short night only,–you, who keep
The same Aurora of the bright June-day
That withered up the flowers before my face,
And turned my from the garden evermore
Because I was not worthy. Oh, deserved,
Deserved! That I, who verily had not learnt
God's lesson half, attaining as a dunce
To obliterate good words with fractious thumbs
And cheat myself of the context,–I should push
Aside, with male ferocious impudence,
The world's Aurora who had conned her part
On the other side the leaf! ignore her so,
Because she was a woman and a queen,
And had no beard to bristle through her song,–
My teacher, who has taught me with a book,
My Miriam, whose sweet mouth, when nearly drowned
I still heard singing on the shore! Deserved,
That here I should look up unto the stars
And miss the glory' . .
'Can I understand?'
I broke in. 'You speak wildly, Romney Leigh,
Or I hear wildly. In that morning-time
We recollect, the roses were too red,
The trees too green, reproach too natural
If one should see not what the other saw:
And now, it's night, remember; we have shades
In place of colours; we are now grown cold,
And old, my cousin Romney. Pardon me,–
I'm very happy that you like my book,
And very sorry that I quoted back
A ten years' birthday; 'twas so mad a thing
In any woman, I scarce marvel much
You took it for a venturous piece of spite,
Provoking such excuses, as indeed
I cannot call you slack in.'
He answered sadly, 'something, if but so.
This night is softer than an English day,
And men may well come hither when they're sick,
To draw in easier breath from larger air.
'Tis thus with me; I've come to you,–to you,
My Italy of women, just to breathe
My soul out once before you, ere I go,
As humble as God makes me at the last,
(I thank Him) quite out of the way of men,
And yours, Aurora,–like a punished child,
His cheeks all blurred with tears and naughtiness,
To silence in a corner. I am come
To speak, beloved' . .
'Wisely, cousin Leigh,
And worthily of us both!'
For this time I must speak out and confess
That I, so truculent in assumption once,
So absolute in dogma, proud in aim,
And fierce in expectation,–I, who felt
The whole world tugging at my skirts for help,
As if no other man than I, could pull,
Nor woman, but I led her by the hand,
Nor cloth hold, but I had it in my coat,–
Do know myself to-night for what I was
On that June-day, Aurora. Poor bright day,
Which meant the best . . a woman and a rose, . .
And which I smote upon the cheek with words,
Until it turned and rent me! Young you were,
That birthday, poet, but you talked the right:
While I, . . I built up follies like a wall
To intercept the sunshine and your face.
Your face! that's worse.'
'Speak wisely, cousin Leigh.'
'Yes, wisely, dear Aurora, though too late:
But then, not wisely. I was heavy then,
And stupid, and distracted with the cries
Of tortured prisoners in the polished brass
Of that Phalarian bull, society,–
Which seems to bellow bravely like ten bulls,
But, if you listen, moans and cries instead
Despairingly, like victims tossed and gored
And trampled by their hoofs. I heard the cries
Too close: I could not hear the angels lift
A fold of rustling air, nor what they said
To help my pity. I beheld the world
As one great famishing carnivorous mouth,–
A huge, deserted, callow, black, bird Thing,
With piteous open beak that hurt my heart,
Till down upon the filthy ground I dropped,
And tore the violets up to get the worms.
Worms, worms, was all my cry: an open mouth,
A gross want, bread to fill it to the lips,
No more! That poor men narrowed their demands
To such an end, was virtue, I supposed,
Adjudicating that to see it so
Was reason. Oh, I did not push the case
Up higher, and ponder how it answers, when
The rich take up the same cry for themselves,
Professing equally,–'an open mouth
A gross want, food to fill us, and no more!'
Why that's so far from virtue, only vice
Finds reason for it! That makes libertines:
That slurs our cruel streets from end to end
With eighty thousand women in one smile,
Who only smile at night beneath the gas:
The body's satisfaction and no more,
Being used for argument against the soul's,
Her too! the want, here too, implying the right.
–How dark I stood that morning in the sun,
My best Aurora, though I saw your eyes,–
When first you told me . . oh, I recollect
The words . . and how you lifted your white hand,
And how your white dress and your burnished curls
Went greatening round you in the still blue air,
As if an inspiration from within
Had blown them all out when you spoke the same,
Even these,–'You will not compass your poor ends
'Of barley-feeding and material ease,
'Without the poet's individualism
'To work your universal. It takes a soul,
'To move a body,–it takes a high-souled man,
'To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
'It takes the ideal, to blow an inch inside
'The dust of the actual: and your Fouriers failed
'Because not poets enough to understand
'That life develops from within.' I say
Your words,–I could say other words of yours
For none of all your words has been more lost
Than sweet verbena, which, being brushed against,
Will hold you three hours after by the smell,
In spite of long walks on the windy hills.
But these words dealt in sharper perfume,–these
Were ever on me, stinging through my dreams,
And saying themselves for ever o'er my acts
Like some unhappy verdict. That I failed,
Is certain. Stye or no stye, to contrive
The swine's propulsion toward the precipice,
Proved easy and plain. I subtly organised
And ordered, built the cards up higher and higher,
Till, some one breathing, all fell flat again!
In setting right society's wide wrong,
Mere life's so fatal! So I failed indeed
Once, twice, and oftener,–hearing through the rents
Of obstinate purpose, still those words of yours,
'You will not compass your poor ends, not you! '
But harder than you said them; every time
Still farther from your voice, until they came
To overcrow me with triumphant scorn
Which vexed me to resistance. Set down this
For condemnation,–I was guilty here:
I stood upon my deed and fought my doubt,
As men will,–for I doubted,–till at last
My deed gave way beneath me suddenly,
And left me what I am. The curtain dropped,
My part quite ended, all the footlights quenched.
My own soul hissing at me through the dark,
I, ready for confession,–I was wrong,
I've sorely failed; I've slipped the ends of life,
I yield; you have conquered.'
'Stay,' I answered him;
'I've something for your hearing, also. I
Have failed too.'
'You!' he said, 'you're very great:
The sadness of your greatness fits you well:
As if the plume upon a hero's casque
Should nod a shadow upon his victor face.'
I took him up austerely,–'You have read
My book but not my heart; for recollect,
'Tis writ in Sanscrit, which you bungle at.
I've surely failed, I know; if failure means
To look back sadly on work gladly done,–
To wander on my mountains of Delight,
So called, (I can remember a friend's words
As well as you, sir,) weary and in want
Of even a sheep-path, thinking bitterly . .
Well, well! no matter. I but say so much,
To keep you, Romney Leigh, from saying more,
And let you feel I am not so high indeed,
That I can bear to have you at my foot,–
Or safe, that I can help you. That June-day,
Too deeply sunk in craterous sunsets now
For you or me to dig it up alive;
To pluck it out all bleeding with spent flame
At the roots, before those moralising stars
We have got instead,–that poor lost day, you said
Some words as truthful as the thing of mine
You care to keep in memory: and I hold
If I, that day, and, being the girl I was,
Had shown a gentler spirit, less arrogance,
It had not hurt me. Ah, you'll not mistake
The point here. I but only think, you see,
More justly, that's more humbly, of myself,
Than when I tried a crown on and supposed . . .
Nay, laugh, sir,–I'll laugh with you!–pray you, laugh.
I've had so many birthdays since that day,
I've learnt to prize mirth's opportunities,
Which come too seldom. Was it you who said
I was not changed? the same Aurora? Ah,
We could laugh there, too! Why, Ulysses' dog
Knew him, and wagged his tail and died: but if
I had owned a dog, I too, before my Troy,
And if you brought him here, . . I warrant you
He'd look into my face, bark lustily,
And live on stoutly, as the creatures will
Whose spirits are not troubled by long loves.
A dog would never know me, I'm so changed;
Much less a friend . . except that you're misled
By the colour of the hair, the trick of the voice,
Like that of Aurora Leigh's.'
'Sweet trick of voice
I would be a dog for this, to know it at last,
And die upon the falls of it. O love,
O best Aurora! are you then so sad,
You scarcely had been sadder as my wife?'
'Your wife, sir! I must certainly be changed,
If I, Aurora, can have said a thing
So light, it catches at the knightly spurs
Of a noble gentleman like Romney Leigh,
And trips him from his honourable sense
Of what befits' . .
'You wholly misconceive,'
I returned,–'I'm glad of it:
But keep from misconception, too, yourself:
I am not humbled to so low a point,
Nor so far saddened. If I am sad at all,
Ten layers of birthdays on a woman's head,
Are apt to fossilise her girlish mirth,
Though ne'er so merry: I'm perforce more wise,
And that, in truth, means sadder. For the rest,
Look here, sir: I was right upon the whole,
That birthday morning. 'Tis impossible
To get at men excepting through their souls,
However open their carnivorous jaws;
And poets get directlier at the soul,
Than any of you oeconomists:–for which,
You must not overlook the poet's work
When scheming for the world's necessities.
The soul's the way. Not even Christ himself
Can save man else than as He hold man's soul;
And therefore did He come into our flesh,
As some wise hunter creeping on his knees
With a torch, into the blackness of some cave,
To face and quell the beast there,–take the soul,
And so possess the whole man, body and soul.
I said, so far, right, yes; not farther, though:
We both were wrong that June-day,–both as wrong
As an east wind had been. I who talked of art,
And you who grieved for all men's griefs . . . what then?
We surely made too small a part for God
In these things. What we are, imports us more
Than what we eat; and life you've granted me,
Develops from within. But innermost
Of the inmost, most interior of the interne,
God claims his own, Divine humanity
Renewing nature,–or the piercingest verse,
Prest in by subtlest poet, still must keep
As much upon the outside of a man,
As the very bowl, in which he dips his beard.
–And then, . . the rest. I cannot surely speak.
Perhaps I doubt more than you doubted then,
If I, the poet's veritable charge,
Have borne upon my forehead. If I have,
It might feel somewhat liker to a crown,
The foolish green one even.–Ah, I think,
And chiefly when the sun shines, that I've failed.
But what then, Romney? Though we fail indeed,
You . . I . . a score of such weak workers, . . He
Fails never. If He cannot work by us,
He will work over us. Does he want a man,
Much less a woman, think you? Every time
The star winks there, so many souls are born,
Who shall work too. Let our own be calm:
We should be ashamed to sit beneath those stars,
Impatient that we're nothing.'
'Could we sit
Just so for ever, sweetest friend,' he said,
'My failure would seem better than success.
And yet, indeed, your book has dealt with me
More gently, cousin, than you ever will!
The book brought down entire the bright June-day,
And set me wandering in the garden-walks,
And let me watch the garland in a place,
You blushed so . . nay, forgive me; do not stir:
I only thank the book for what it taught,
And what, permitted. Poet, doubt yourself;
But never doubt that you're a poet to me
From henceforth. Ah, you've written poems, sweet,
Which moved me in secret as the sap is moved
In still March branches, signless as a stone:
But this last book o'ercame me like soft rain
Which falls at midnight, when the tightened bark
Breaks out into unhesitating buds,
And sudden protestations of the spring.
In all your other books I saw but you:
A man may see the moon so, in a pond,
And not the nearer therefore to the moon,
Nor use the sight . . except to drown himself
And so I forced my heart back from the sigh
For what had I, I thought, to do with her,–
Aurora . . Romney? But, in this last book,
You showed me something separate from yourself,
Beyond you; and I bore to take it in,
And let it draw me. You have shown me truths,
O June-day friend, that help me now at night,
When June is over! truths not yours, indeed,
But set within my reach by means of you:
Presented by your voice and verse the way
To take them clearest. Verily I was wrong;
And verily, many thinkers of this age,
Ay, many Christian teachers, half in heaven,
Are wrong in just my sense, who understood
Our natural world too insularly, as if
No spiritual counterpart completed it
Consummating its meaning, rounding all
To justice and perfection, line by line,
Form by form, nothing single, nor alone,–
The great below clenched by the great above;
Shade here authenticating substance there;
The body proving spirit, as the effect
The cause: we, meantime, being too grossly apt
To hold the natural, as dogs a bone,
(Though reason and nature beat us in the face),
So obstinately, that we'll break our teeth
Or ever we let go. For everywhere
We're too materialistic,–eating clay,
(Like men of the west) instead of Adam's corn
And Noah's wine; clay by handfuls, clay by lumps,
Until we're filled up to the throat with clay,
And grow the grimy colour of the ground
On which we are feeding. Ay, materialist
The age's name is. God himself, with some,
Is apprehended as the bare result
Of what his hand materially has made,
Expressed in such an algebraic sign,
Called God;–that is, to put it otherwise,
They add up nature to a naught of God
And cross the quotient. There are many, even,
Whose names are written in the Christian church
To no dishonour,–diet still on mud,
And splash the altars with it. You might think
The clay, Christ laid upon their eyelids when,
Still blind, he called them to the use of sight,
Remained there to retard its exercise
With clogging incrustations. Close to heaven,
They see, for mysteries, through the open doors,
Vague puffs of smoke from pots of earthenware;
And fain would enter, when their time shall come,
With quite a different body than St. Paul
Has promised,–husk and chaff, the whole barley-corn,
Or where's the resurrection?'
'Thus it is,'
I sighed. And he resumed with mournful face.
'Beginning so, and filling up with clay
The wards of this great key, the natural world,
And fumbling vainly therefore at the lock
Of the spiritual,–we feel ourselves shut in
With all the wild-beast roar of struggling life,
The terrors and compunctions of our souls,
As saints with lions,–we who are not saints,
And have no heavenly lordship in our stare
To awe them backward! Ay, we are forced so pent
To judge the whole too partially, . . confound
Conclusions. Is there any common phrase
Significant, when the adverb's heard alone,
The verb being absent, and the pronoun out?
But we distracted in the roar of life,
Still insolently at God's adverb snatch,
And bruit against Him that his thought is void,
His meaning hopeless;–cry, that everywhere
The government is slipping from his hand,
Unless some other Christ . . say Romney Leigh . .
Come up, and toil and moil, and change the world,
For which the First has proved inadequate,
However we talk bigly of His work
And piously of His person. We blaspheme
At last, to finish that doxology,
Despairing on the earth for which He died.'
'So now,' I asked, 'you have more hope of men?'
'I hope,' he answered: 'I am come to think
That God will have his work done, as you said,
And that we need not be disturbed too much
For Romney Leigh or others having failed
With this or that quack nostrum,–recipes
For keeping summits by annulling depths,
For learning wrestling with long lounging sleeves,
And perfect heroism without a scratch.
We fail,–what then? Aurora, if I smiled
To see you, in your lovely morning-pride,
Try on the poet's wreath which suits the noon,–
(Sweet cousin, walls must get the weather-stain
Before they grow the ivy!) certainly
I stood myself there worthier of contempt,
Self-rated, in disastrous arrogance,
As competent to sorrow for mankind
And even their odds. A man may well despair,
Who counts himself so needful to success.
I failed. I throw the remedy back on God,
And sit down here beside you, in good hope.'
'And yet, take heed,' I answered, 'lest we lean
Too dangerously on the other side,
And so fail twice. Be sure, no earnest work
Of any honest creature, howbeit weak,
Imperfect, ill-adapted, fails so much,
It is not gathered as a grain of sand
To enlarge the sum of human action used
For carrying out God's end. No creature works
So ill, observe, that therefore he's cashiered.
The honest earnest man must stand and work:
The woman also; otherwise she drops
At once below the dignity of man,
Accepting serfdom. Free men freely work:
Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.'
He cried, 'True. After Adam, work was curse;
The natural creature labours, sweats and frets.
But, after Christ, work turns to privilege;
And henceforth one with our humanity,
The Six-day Worker, working still in us,
Has called us freely to work on with Him
In high companionship. So happiest!
I count that Heaven itself is only work
To a surer issue. Let us work, indeed,–
But, no more, work as Adam . . nor as Leigh
Erewhile, as if the only man on earth,
Responsible for all the thistles blown
And tigers couchant,–struggling in amaze
Against disease and winter,–snarling on
For ever, that the world's not paradise.
Oh cousin, let us be content, in work,
To do the thing we can, and not presume
To fret because it's little. 'Twill employ
Seven men, they say, to make a perfect pin!
Who makes the head, content to miss the point,–
Who makes the point, agreed to leave the join:
And if a man should cry, 'I want a pin,
'And I must make it straightway, head and point,'–
His wisdom is not worth the pin he wants.
Seven men to a pin,–and not a man too much!
Seven generations, haply, to this world,
To right it visibly, a finger's breadth,
And mend its rents a little. Oh, to storm
And say,–'This world here is intolerable;
'I will not eat this corn, nor drink this wine,
'Nor love this woman, flinging her my soul
'Without a bond for't, as a lover should,
'Nor use the generous leave of happiness
'As not too good for using generously'–
(Since virtue kindles at the touch of joy,
Like a man's cheek laid on a woman's hand;
And God, who knows it, looks for quick returns
From joys)!–to stand and claim to have a life
Beyond the bounds of the individual man,
And raise all personal cloisters of the soul
To build up public stores and magazines,
As if God's creatures otherwise were lost,
The builder surely saved by any means!
To think,–I have a pattern on my nail,
And I will carve the world new after it,
And solve so, these hard social questions,–nay,
Impossible social questions,–since their roots
Strike deep in Evil's own existence here,
Which God permits because the question's hard
To abolish evil nor attaint free-will.
Ay, hard to God, but not to Romney Leigh!
For Romney has a pattern on his nail,
(Whatever may be lacking on the Mount)
And not being overnice to separate
What's element from what's convention, hastes
By line on line, to draw you out a world,
Without your help indeed, unless you take
His yoke upon you and will learn of him,–
So much he has to teach! so good a world!
The same, the whole creation's groaning for!
No rich nor poor, no gain nor loss nor stint,
No potage in it able to exclude
A brother's birthright, and no right of birth,
The potage,–both secured to every man;
And perfect virtue dealt out like the rest,
Gratuitously, with the soup at six,
To whoso does not seek it.'
I interrupted,–'I had a cousin once
I held in reverence. If he strained too wide,
It was not to take honour, but give help;
The gesture was heroic. If his hand
Accomplished nothing . . (well, it is not proved)
That empty hand thrown impotently out
Were sooner caught, I think, by One in heaven,
Than many a hand that reaped a harvest in
And keeps the scythe's glow on it. Pray you, then,
For my sake merely, use less bitterness
In speaking of my cousin.'
'Ah,' he said,
'Aurora! when the prophet beats the ass,
The angel intercedes.' He shook his head–
'And yet to mean so well, and fail so foul,
Expresses ne'er another beast than man;
The antithesis is human. Harken, dear;
There's too much abstract willing, purposing,
In this poor world. We talk by aggregates,
And think by systems; and, being used to face
Our evils in statistics, are inclined
To cap them with unreal remedies
Drawn out in haste on the other side the slate.'
'That's true,' I answered, fain to throw up thought
And make a game of't; 'Oh, we generalise
Enough to please you. If we pray at all,
We pray no longer for our daily bread,
But next centenary's harvests. If we give,
Our cup of water is not tendered till
We lay down pipes and found a Company
With Branches. Ass or angel, 'tis the same:
A woman cannot do the thing she ought,
Which means whatever perfect thing she can,
In life, in art, in science, but she fears
To let the perfect action take her part
And rest there: she must prove what she can do
Before she does it,–prate of woman's rights,
Of woman's mission, woman's function, till
The men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry,
'A woman's function plainly is . . to talk.
Poor souls, they are very reasonably vexed!
They cannot hear each other speak.'
An artist, judge so?'
'I, an artist,–yes,
Because, precisely, I'm an artist, sir,
And woman,–if another sate in sight,
I'd whisper,–soft, my sister! not a word!
By speaking we prove only we can speak:
Which he, the man here, never doubted. What
He doubts, is whether we can do the thing
With decent grace, we've not yet done at all:
Now, do it; bring your statue,–you have room!
He'll see it even by the starlight here;
And if 'tis e'er so little like the god
Who looks out from the marble silently
Along the track of his own shining dart
Through the dusk of ages,–there's no need to speak;
The universe shall henceforth speak for you,
And witness, 'She who did this thing, was born
To do it,–claims her license in her work.'
–And so with more works. Whoso cures the plague,
Though twice a woman, shall be called a leech:
Who rights a land's finances, is excused
For touching coppers, though her hands be white,–
But we, we talk!'
'It is the age's mood,'
He said; 'we boast, and do not. We put up
Hostelry signs where'er we lodge a day,–
Some red colossal cow, with mighty paps
A Cyclops' fingers could not strain to milk;
Then bring out presently our saucer-full
of curds. We want more quiet in our works,
More knowledge of the bounds in which we work;
More knowledge that each individual man
Remains an Adam to the general race,
Constrained to see, like Adam, that he keep
His personal state's condition honestly,
Or vain all thoughts of his to help the world,
Which still must be developed from its one,
If bettered in its many. We, indeed,
Who think to lay it out new like a park,
We take a work on us which is not man's;
For God alone sits far enough above,
To speculate so largely. None of us
(Not Romney Leigh) is mad enough to say,
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that slope
And sink the need of acorns. Government,
If veritable and lawful, is not given
By imposition of the foreign hand,–
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book
Of some domestic idealogue, who sits
And coldly chooses empire, where as well
He might republic. Genuine government
Is but the expression of a nation, good
Or less good,–even as all society,
Howe'er unequal, monstrous, crazed and cursed,
Is but the expression of men's single lives,
The loud sum of the silent units. What,
We'd change the aggregate and yet retain
Each separate figure? Whom do we cheat by that?
Now, not even Romney.'
'Cousin, you are sad.
Did all your social labour at Leigh Hall
And elsewhere, come to nought then?'
'It was nought,'
He answered mildly. 'There is room indeed,
For statues still, in this large world of God's,
But not for vacuums,–so I am not sad:
Not sadder than is good for what I am.
My vain phalanstery dissolved itself;
My men and women of disordered lives,
I brought in orderly to dine and sleep,
Broke up those waxen masks I made them wear,
With fierce contortions of the natural face;
And cursed me for my tyrannous constraint
In forcing crooked creatures to live straight;
And set the country hounds upon my back
To bite and tear me for my wicked deed
Of trying to do good without the church
Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you mind
Your ancient neighbours? The great book-club teems
With 'sketches,' 'summaries,' and 'last tracts' but twelve,
On socialistic troublers of close bonds
Betwixt the generous rich and grateful poor.
The vicar preached from 'Revelations,' (till
The doctor woke) and found me with 'the frogs'
On three successive Sundays; ay, and stopped
To weep a little (for he's getting old)
That such perdition should o'ertake a man
Of such fair acres,–in the parish, too!
He printed his discourses 'by request;'
And if your book shall sell as his did, then
Your verses are less good than I suppose.
The women of the neighbourhood subscribed,
And sent me a copy bound in scarlet silk,
Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms of Leigh:
I own that touched me.'
'What, the pretty ones?
'Otherwise the effect was small.
I had my windows broken once or twice
By liberal peasants, naturally incensed
At such a vexer of Arcadian peace,
Who would not let men call their wives their own
To kick like Britons,–and made obstacles
When things went smoothly as a baby drugged,
Toward freedom and starvation; bringing down
The wicked London tavern-thieves and drabs,
To affront the blessed hillside drabs and thieves
With mended morals, quotha,–fine new lives!–
My windows paid for't. I was shot at, once,
By an active poacher who had hit a hare
From the other barrel, tired of springeing game
So long upon my acres, undisturbed,
And restless for the country's virtue, (yet
He missed me)–ay, and pelted very oft
In riding through the village. 'There he goes,
'Who'd drive away our Christian gentlefolks,
'To catch us undefended in the trap
'He baits with poisonous cheese, and locks us up
'In that pernicious prison of Leigh Hall
'With all his murderers! Give another name,
'And say Leigh Hell, and burn it up with fire.'
And so they did at last, Aurora.'
'You never heard it, cousin? Vincent's news
Came stinted, then.'
'They did? they burnt Leigh Hall?'
'You're sorry, dear Aurora? Yes indeed,
They did it perfectly: a thorough work,
And not a failure, this time. Let us grant
'Tis somewhat easier, though, to burn a house
Than build a system:–yet that's easy, too,
In a dream. Books, pictures,–ay, the pictures what,
You think your dear Vandykes would give them pause?
Our proud ancestral Leighs with those peaked beards,
Or bosoms white as foam thrown up on rocks
From the old-spent wave. Such calm defiant looks
They flared up with! now, nevermore they'll twit
The bones in the family-vault with ugly death.
Not one was rescued, save the Lady Maud,
Who threw you down, that morning you were born,
The undeniable lineal mouth and chin,
To wear for ever for her gracious sake;
For which good deed I saved her: the rest went:
And you, your sorry, cousin. Well, for me,
With all my phalansterians safely out,
(Poor hearts, they helped the burners, it was said,
And certainly a few clapped hands and yelled)
The ruin did not hurt me as it might,–
As when for instance I was hurt one day,
A certain letter being destroyed. In fact,
To see the great house flare so . . oaken floors,
Our fathers made so fine with rushes once,
Before our mothers furbished them with trains,–
Carved wainscots, panelled walls, the favourite slide
For draining off a martyr, (or a rogue)
The echoing galleries, half a half-mile long,
And all the various stairs that took you up
And took you down, and took you round about
Upon their slippery darkness, recollect,
All helping to keep up one blazing jest;
The flames through all the casements pushing forth,
Like red-hot devils crinkled into snakes,
All signifying,–'Look you, Romney Leigh,
'We save the people from your saving, here,
'Yet so as by fire! we make a pretty show
'Besides,–and that's the best you've ever done.'–
–To see this, almost moved myself to clap!
The 'vale et plaude' came, too, with effect,
When, in the roof fell, and the fire, that paused,
Stunned momently beneath the stroke of slates
And tumbling rafters, rose at once and roared,
And wrapping the whole house, (which disappeared
In a mounting whirlwind of dilated flame,)
Blew upward, straight, its drift of fiery chaff
In the face of heaven, . . which blenched and ran up higher.'
'Sometimes when I dream,' he said,
'I hear the silence after; 'twas so still.
For all those wild beasts, yelling, cursing round,
Were suddenly silent, while you counted five!
So silent, that you heard a young bird fall
From the top-nest in the neighbouring rookery
Through edging over-rashly toward the light.
The old rooks had already fled too far,
To hear the screech they fled with, though you saw
Some flying on still, like scatterings of dead leaves
In autumn-gusts, seen dark against the sky:
All flying,–ousted, like the house of Leigh.'
'Evidently 'twould have been
A fine sight for a poet, sweet, like you,
To make the verse blaze after. I myself,
Even I, felt something in the grand old trees,
Which stood that moment like brute Druid gods,
Amazed upon the rim of ruin, where,
As into a blackened socket, the great fire
Had dropped,–still throwing up splinters now and then,
To show them grey with all their centuries,
Left there to witness that on such a day
The house went out.'
'While you counted five
I seemed to feel a little like a Leigh,–
But then it passed, Aurora. A child cried;
And I had enough to think of what to do
With all those houseless wretches in the dark,
And ponder where they'd dance the next time, they
Who had burnt the viol.'
'Did you think of that?
Who burns his viol will not dance, I know,
To cymbals, Romney.'
'O my sweet sad voice,'
He cried,–'O voice that speaks and overcomes!
The sun is silent, but Aurora speaks.'
'Alas,' I said; 'I speak I know not what:
I'm back in childhood, thinking as a child,
A foolish fancy–will it make you smile?
I shall not from the window of my room
Catch sight of those old chimneys any more.'
'No more,' he answered. 'If you pushed one day
Through all the green hills to our father's house,
You'd come upon a great charred circle where
The patient earth was singed an acre round;
With one stone-stair, symbolic of my life,
Ascending, winding, leading up to nought!
'Tis worth a poet's seeing. Will you go?'
I made no answer. Had I any right
To weep with this man, that I dared to speak!
A woman stood between his soul and mine,
And waved us off from touching evermore
With those unclean white hands of hers. Enough.
We had burnt our viols and were silent.
The silence lengthened till it pressed. I spoke,
To breathe: 'I think you were ill afterward.'
'More ill,' he answered, 'had been scarcely ill.
I hoped this feeble fumbling at life's knot
Might end concisely,–but I failed to die,
As formerly I failed to live,–and thus
Grew willing, having tried all other ways,
To try just God's. Humility's so good,
When pride's impossible. Mark us, how we make
Our virtues, cousin, from our worn-out sins,
Which smack of them from henceforth. Is it right,
For instance, to wed here, while you love there?
And yet because a man sins once, the sin
Cleaves to him, in necessity to sin;
That if he sin not so, to damn himself,
He sins so, to damn others with himself:
And thus, to wed here, loving there, becomes
A duty. Virtue buds a dubious leaf
Round mortal brows; your ivy's better, dear.
–Yet she, 'tis certain, is my very wife;
The very lamb left mangled by the wolves
Through my own bad shepherding: and could I choose
But take her on my shoulder past this stretch
Of rough, uneasy wilderness, poor lamb,
Poor child, poor child?–Aurora, my beloved,
I will not vex you any more to-night;
But, having spoken what I came to say,
The rest shall please you. What she can, in me,–
Protection, tender liking, freedom, ease,
She shall have surely, liberally, for her
And hers, Aurora. Small amends they'll make
For hideous evils (which she had not known
Except by me) and for this imminent loss,
This forfeit presence of a gracious friend,
Which also she must forfeit for my sake,
Since, . . . drop your hand in mine a moment, sweet,
We're parting!–Ah, my snowdrop, what a touch,
As if the wind had swept it off! you grudge
Your gelid sweetness on my palm but so,
A moment? angry, that I could not bear
You . . speaking, breathing, living, side by side
With some one called my wife . . and live, myself?
Nay, be not cruel–you must understand!
Your lightest footfall on a floor of mine
Would shake the house, my lintel being uncrossed
'Gainst angels: henceforth it is night with me,
And so, henceforth, I put the shutters up;
Auroras must not come to spoil my dark.'
He smiled so feebly, with an empty hand
Stretched sideway from me,–as indeed he looked
To any one but me to give him help,–
And, while the moon came suddenly out full,
The double rose of our Italian moons,
Sufficient, plainly, for the heaven and earth,
(The stars, struck dumb and washed away in dews
Of golden glory, and the mountains steeped
In divine languor) he, the man, appeared
So pale and patient, like the marble man
A sculptor puts his personal sadness in
To join his grandeur of ideal thought,–
As if his mallet struck me from my height
Of passionate indignation, I who had risen
Pale,–doubting, paused, . . . . Was Romney mad indeed?
Had all this wrong of heart made sick the brain?
Then quiet, with a sort of tremulous pride,
'Go, cousin,' I said coldly. 'A farewell
Was sooner spoken 'twixt a pair of friends
In those old days, than seems to suit you now:
And if, since then, I've writ a book or two,
I'm somewhat dull still in the manly art
Of phrase and metaphrase. Why, any man
Can carve a score of white Loves out of snow,
As Buonarroti down in Florence there,
And set them on the wall in some safe shade,
As safe, sir, as your marriage! very good;
Though if a woman took one from the ledge
To put it on the table by her flowers,
And let it mind her of a certain friend,
'Twould drop at once, (so better,) would not bear
Her nail-mark even, where she took it up
A little tenderly; so best, I say:
For me, I would not touch so light a thing,
And risk to spoil it half an hour before
The sun shall shine to melt it; leave it there.
I'm plain at speech, direct in purpose: when
I speak, you'll take the meaning as it is,
And not allow for puckerings in the silks
By clever stitches. I'm a woman, sir,
And use the woman's figures naturally,
As you, the male license. So, I wish you well.
I'm simply sorry for the griefs you've had–
And not for your sake only, but mankind's.
This race is never grateful: from the first,
One fills their cup at supper with pure wine,
Which back they give at cross-time on a sponge,
In bitter vinegar.'
He murmured,–'by so much less pitiable!
God's self would never have come down to die,
Could man have thanked him for it.'
'Tis patent that, whatever,' I resumed,
'You suffered from this thanklessness of men,
You sink no more than Moses' bulrush-boat,
When once relieved of Moses; for you're light,
You're light, my cousin! which is well for you,
And manly. For myself,–now mark me, sir,
They burnt Leigh Hall; but if, consummated
To devils, heightened beyond Lucifers,
They had burnt instead a star or two, of those
We saw above there just a moment back,
Before the moon abolished them,–destroyed
And riddled them in ashes through a sieve
On the head of the foundering universe,–what then?
If you and I remained still you and I,
It would not shift our places as mere friends,
Nor render decent you should toss a phrase
Beyond the point of actual feeling!–nay
You shall not interrupt me: as you said,
We're parting. Certainly, not once or twice,
To-night you've mocked me somewhat, or yourself,
And I, at least, have not deserved it so
That I should meet it unsurprised. But now,
Enough: we're parting . . parting. Cousin Leigh,
I wish you well through all the acts of life
And life's relation, wedlock, not the least;
And it shall 'please me,' in your words, to know
You yield your wife, protection, freedom, ease,
And very tender liking. May you live
So happy with her, Romney, that your friends
May praise her for it. Meantime, some of us
Are wholly dull in keeping ignorant
Of what she has suffered by you, and what debt
Of sorrow your rich love sits down to pay:
But if 'tis sweet for love to pay its debt,
'Tis sweeter still for love to give its gift;
and you, be liberal in the sweeter way,–
You can, I think. At least, as touches me,
You owe her, cousin Romney, no amends;
She is not used to hold my gown so fast,
You need entreat her now to let it go:
The lady never was a friend of mine,
Nor capable,–I thought you knew as much,–
Of losing for your sake so poor a prize
As such a worthless friendship. Be content,
Good cousin, therefore, both for her and you!
I'll never spoil your dark, nor dull your noon,
Nor vex you when you're merry, nor when you rest:
You shall not need to put a shutter up
To keep out this Aurora. Ah, your north
Can make Auroras which vex nobody,
Scarce known from evenings! also, let me say,
My larks fly higher than some windows. Right;
You've read your Leighs. Indeed 'twould shake a house,
If such as I came in with outstretched hand,
Still warm and thrilling from the clasp of one . .
Of one we know, . . to acknowledge, palm to palm,
As mistress there . . the Lady Waldemar.'
'Now God be with us' . . with a sudden clash
Of voice he interrupted–'what name's that?
You spoke a name, Aurora.'
I would that, Romney, I could name your wife
Nor wound you, yet be worthy.'
'Are we mad?'
He echoed–'wife! mine! Lady Waldemar!
I think you said my wife.' He sprang to his feet,
And threw his noble head back toward the moon
As one who swims against a stormy sea,
And laughed with such a helpless, hopeless scorn,
I stood and trembled.
'May God judge me so,'
He said at last,–'I came convicted here,
And humbled sorely if not enough. I came,
Because this woman from her crystal soul
Had shown me something which a man calls light:
Because too, formerly, I sinned by her
As, then and ever since, I have, by God,
Through arrogance of nature,–though I loved . .
Whom best, I need not say, . . since that is writ
Too plainly in the book of my misdeeds;
And thus I came here to abase myself,
And fasten, kneeling, on her regent brows
A garland which I startled thence one day
Of her beautiful June-youth. But here again
I'm baffled!–fail in my abasement as
My aggrandisement: there's no room left for me,
At any woman's foot, who misconceives
My nature, purpose, possible actions. What!
Are you the Aurora who made large my dreams
To frame your greatness? you conceive so small?
You stand so less than woman, through being more,
And lose your natural instinct, like a beast,
Through intellectual culture? since indeed
I do not think that any common she
Would dare adopt such fancy-forgeries
For the legible life-signature of such
As I, with all my blots: with all my blots!
At last then, peerless cousin, we are peers–
At last we're even. Ah, you've left your height:
And here upon my level we take hands,
And here I reach you to forgive you, sweet,
And that's a fall, Aurora. Long ago
You seldom understood me,–but, before,
I could not blame you. Then you only seemed
So high above, you could not see below;
But now I breathe,–but now I pardon!–nay,
We're parting. Dearest, men have burnt my house,
Maligned my motives,–but not one, I swear,
Has wronged my soul as this Aurora has,
Who called the Lady Waldemar my wife.'
'Not married to her! yet you said' . .
Nay, read the lines' (he held a letter out)
'She sent you through me.'
By the moonlight there,
I tore the meaning out with passionate haste
Much rather than I read it. Thus it ran.
Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society
Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.
I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.
You have seen better days, dear? So have I —
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:
Better to draw than leave undrawn, I think.
Fitter to do than let alone, I hold,
Though better, fitter, by but one degree.
Therefore it was that, rather than sit still
Simply, my right-hand drew it while my left
Pulled smooth and pinched the moustache to a point.
Now I permit your plump lips to unpurse:
So far, one possibly may understand
"Without recourse to witchcraft!" True, my dear.
Thus folks begin with Euclid, — finish, how?
Trying to square the circle! — at any rate,
Solving abstruser problems than this first
"How find the nearest way 'twixt point and point."
Deal but with moral mathematics so —
Master one merest moment's work of mine,
Even this practising with pen and ink, —
Demonstrate why I rather plied the quill
Than left the space a blank, — you gain a fact,
And God knows what a fact's worth! So proceed
By inference from just this moral fact
— I don't say, to that plaguy quadrature
"What the whole man meant, whom you wish you knew,"
But, what meant certain things he did of old,
Which puzzled Europe, — why, you'll find them plain,
This way, not otherwise: I guarantee.
Understand one, you comprehend the rest.
Rays from all round converge to any point:
Study the point then ere you track the rays!
The size o' the circle's nothing; subdivide
Earth, and earth's smallest grain of mustard-seed,
You count as many parts, small matching large,
If you can use the mind's eye: otherwise,
Material optics, being gross at best,
Prefer the large and leave our mind the small —
And pray how many folks have minds can see?
Certainly you — and somebody in Thrace
Whose name escapes me at the moment. You —
Lend me your mind then! Analyse with me
This instance of the line 'twixt blot and blot
I rather chose to draw than leave a blank.
Things else being equal. You are taught thereby
That 't is my nature, when I am at ease,
Rather than idle out my life too long,
To want to do a thing — to put a thought,
Whether a great thought or a little one,
Into an act, as nearly as may be.
Make what is absolutely new — I can't,
Mar what is made already well enough —
I won't: but turn to best account the thing
That 's half-made — that I can. Two blots, you saw
I knew how to extend into a line
Symmetric on the sheet they blurred before —
Such little act sufficed, this time, such thought.
Now, we'll extend rays, widen out the verge,
Describe a larger circle; leave this first
Clod of an instance we began with, rise
To the complete world many clods effect.
Only continue patient while I throw,
Delver-like, spadeful after spadeful up,
Just as truths come, the subsoil of me, mould
Whence spring my moods: your object, — just to find,
Alike from handlift and from barrow-load, 100
What salts and silts may constitute the earth —
If it be proper stuff to blow man glass,
Or bake him pottery, bear him oaks or wheat —
What's born of me, in brief; which found, all's known.
If it were genius did the digging-job,
Logic would speedily sift its product smooth
And leave the crude truths bare for poetry;
But I'm no poet, and am stiff i' the back.
What one spread fails to bring, another may.
In goes the shovel and out comes scoop — as here!
I live to please myself. I recognize
Power passing mine, immeasurable, God —
Above me, whom He made, as heaven beyond
Earth — to use figures which assist our sense.
I know that He is there as I am here.
By the same proof, which seems no proof at all,
It so exceeds familiar forms of proof.
Why "there," not "here"? Because, when I say "there,"
I treat the feeling with distincter shape
That space exists between us: I, — not He, —
Live, think, do human work here — no machine.
His will moves, but a being by myself,
His, and not He who made me for a work,
Watches my working, judges its effect,
But does not interpose. He did so once,
And probably will again some time — not now,
Life being the minute of mankind, not God's,
In a certain sense, like time before and time
After man's earthly life, so far as man
Needs apprehend the matter. Am I clear?
Suppose I bid a courier take to-night
(. . . Once for all, let me talk as if I smoked
Yet in the Residenz, a personage:
I must still represent the thing I was,
Galvanically make dead muscle play.
Or how shall I illustrate muscle's use?)
I could then, last July, bid courier take
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles.
I bid him, since I have the right to bid,
And, my part done so far, his part begins;
He starts with due equipment, will and power,
Means he may use, misuse, not use at all.
At his discretion, at his peril too.
I leave him to himself: but, journey done,
I count the minutes, call for the result
In quickness and the courier quality.
Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward
According to proved service; not before.
Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn.
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path,
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts
Advisers by the wayside, does his best
At his discretion, lags or launches forth,
(He knows and I know) at his peril too.
You see? Exactly thus men stand to God:
I with my courier, God with me. Just so
I have His bidding to perform; but mind
And body, all of me, though made and meant
For that sole service, must consult, concert
With my own self and nobody beside,
How to effect the same: God helps not else.
'T is I who, with my stock of craft and strength,
Choose the directer cut across the hedge,
Or keep the foot-track that respects a crop.
Lie down and rest, rise up and run, — live spare,
Feed free, — all that 's my business: but, arrive,
Deliver message, bring the answer back,
And make my bow, I must: then God will speak,
Praise me or haply blame as service proves.
To other men, to each and everyone,
Another law! what likelier? God, perchance,
Grants each new man, by some as new a mode.
Intercommunication with Himself,
Wreaking on finiteness infinitude;
By such a series of effects, gives each
Last His own imprint: old yet ever new
The process: 't is the way of Deity.
How it succeeds, He knows: I only know
That varied modes of creatureship abound,
Implying just as varied intercourse
For each with the creator of them all.
Each has his own mind and no other's mode.
What mode may yours be? I shall sympathize!
No doubt, you, good young lady that you are,
Despite a natural naughtiness or two,
Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen
And see an outspread providential hand
Above the owl's-wing aigrette — guard and guide —
Visibly o'er your path, about your bed,
Through all your practisings with London-town.
It points, you go; it stays fixed, and you stop;
You quicken its procedure by a word
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise.
Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop,
And such appeals to it may stave off harm,
Pacify the grim guardian of this Square,
And stand you in good stead on quarter-day:
Quite possible in your case; not in mine.
"Ah, but I choose to make the difference,
Find the emancipation?" No, I hope!
If I deceive myself, take noon for night,
Please to become determinedly blind
To the true ordinance of human life.
Through mere presumption — that is my affair.
And truly a grave one; but as grave I think
Your affair, yours, the specially observed, —
Each favoured person that perceives his path
Pointed him, inch by inch, and looks above
For guidance, through the mazes of this world,
In what we call its meanest life-career
— Not how to manage Europe properly.
But how keep open shop, and yet pay rent.
Rear household, and make both ends meet, the same.
I say, such man is no less tasked than I
To duly take the path appointed him
By whatsoever sign he recognize.
Our insincerity on both our heads!
No matter what the object of a life,
Small work or large, — the making thrive a shop,
Or seeing that an empire take no harm, —
There are known fruits to judge obedience by.
You've read a ton's weight, now, of newspaper —
Lives of me, gabble about the kind of prince —
You know my work i' the rough; I ask you, then.
Do I appear subordinated less
To hand-impulsion, one prime push for all.
Than little lives of men, the multitude
That cried out, every quarter of an hour,
For fresh instructions, did or did not work,
And praised in the odd minutes?
Eh, my dear?
Such is the reason why I acquiesced
In doing what seemed best for me to do,
So as to please myself on the great scale,
Having regard to immortality
No less than life — did that which head and heart
Prescribed my hand, in measure with its means
Of doing — used my special stock of power —
Not from the aforesaid head and heart alone,
But every sort of helpful circumstance.
Some problematic and some nondescript:
All regulated by the single care
I' the last resort — that I made thoroughly serve
The when and how, toiled where was need, reposed
As resolutely to the proper point.
Braved sorrow, courted joy, to just one end:
Namely, that just the creature I was bound
To be, I should become, nor thwart at all
God's purpose in creation. I conceive
No other duty possible to man, —
Highest mind, lowest mind, — no other law
By which to judge life failure or success:
What folks call being saved or cast away.
Such was my rule of life; I worked my best
Subject to ultimate judgment, God's not man's.
Well then, this settled, — take your tea, I beg.
And meditate the fact, 'twixt sip and sip, —
This settled — why I pleased myself, you saw,
By turning blot and blot into a line,
O' the little scale, — we'll try now (as your tongue
Tries the concluding sugar-drop) what's meant
To please me most o' the great scale. Why, just now,
With nothing else to do within my reach.
Did I prefer making two blots one line
To making yet another separate
Third blot, and leaving those I found unlinked?
It meant, I like to use the thing I find.
Rather than strive at unfound novelty:
I make the best of the old, nor try for new.
Such will to act, such choice of action's way.
Constitute — when at work on the great scale,
Driven to their farthest natural consequence
By all the help from all the means — my own
Particular faculty of serving God,
Instinct for putting power to exercise
Upon some wish and want o' the time, I prove
Possible to mankind as best I may.
This constitutes my mission, — grant the phrase, —
Namely, to rule men — men within my reach,
To order, influence and dispose them so
As render solid and stabilify
Mankind in particles, the light and loose,
For their good and my pleasure in the act.
Such good accomplished proves twice good to me —
Good for its own sake, as the just and right.
And, in the effecting also, good again
To me its agent, tasked as suits my taste.
Is this much easy to be understood
At first glance? Now begin the steady gaze!
My rank — (if I must tell you simple truth —
Telling were else not worth the whiff o' the weed
I lose for the tale's sake) — dear, my rank i' the world
Is hard to know and name precisely: err
I may, but scarcely over-estimate
My style and title. Do I class with men
Most useful to their fellows? Possibly, —
Therefore, in some sort, best; but, greatest mind
And rarest nature? Evidently no.
A conservator, call me, if you please,
Not a creator nor destroyer: one
Who keeps the world safe. I profess to trace
The broken circle of society,
Dim actual order, I can redescribe
Not only where some segment silver-true
Stays clear, but where the breaks of black commence
Baffling you all who want the eye to probe —
As I make out yon problematic thin
White paring of your thumb-nail outside there,
Above the plaster-monarch on his steed —
See an inch, name an ell, and prophecy
O' the rest that ought to follow, the round moon
Now hiding in the night of things: that round,
I labour to demonstrate moon enough
For the month's purpose, — that society,
Render efficient for the age's need:
Preserving you in either case the old,
Nor aiming at a new and greater thing,
A sun for moon, a future to be made
By first abolishing the present law:
No such proud task for me by any means!
History shows you men whose master-touch
Not so much modifies as makes anew:
Minds that transmute nor need restore at all.
A breath of God made manifest in flesh
Subjects the world to change, from time to time,
Alters the whole conditions of our race
Abruptly, not by unperceived degrees
Nor play of elements already there,
But quite new leaven, leavening the lump,
And liker, so, the natural process. See!
Where winter reigned for ages — by a turn
I' the time, some star-change, (ask geologists)
The ice-tracts split, clash, splinter and disperse.
And there's an end of immobility,
Silence, and all that tinted pageant, base
To pinnacle, one flush from fairy-land
Dead-asleep and deserted somewhere, — see! —
As a fresh sun, wave, spring and joy outburst.
Or else the earth it is, time starts from trance.
Her mountains tremble into fire, her plains
Heave blinded by confusion: what result?
New teeming growth, surprises of strange life
Impossible before, a world broke up
And re-made, order gained by law destroyed.
Not otherwise, in our society
Follow like portents, all as absolute
Regenerations: they have birth at rare
Uncertain unexpected intervals
O' the world, by ministry impossible
Before and after fulness of the days:
Some dervish desert-spectre, swordsman, saint,
Law-giver, lyrist, — Oh, we know the names!
Quite other these than I. Our time requires
No such strange potentate, — who else would dawn, —
No fresh force till the old have spent itself.
Such seems the natural economy.
To shoot a beam into the dark, assists:
To make that beam do fuller service, spread
And utilize such bounty to the height,
That assists also, — and that work is mine.
I recognize, contemplate, and approve
The general compact of society.
Not simply as I see effected good.
But good i' the germ, each chance that's possible
I' the plan traced so far: all results, in short,
For better or worse of the operation due
To those exceptional natures, unlike mine,
Who, helping, thwarting, conscious, unaware.
Did somehow manage to so far describe
This diagram left ready to my hand.
Waiting my turn of trial. I see success.
See failure, see what makes or mars throughout.
How shall I else but help complete this plan
Of which I know the purpose and approve,
By letting stay therein what seems to stand,
And adding good thereto of easier reach
To-day than yesterday?
So much, no more!
Whereon, "No more than that?" — inquire aggrieved
Half of my critics: "nothing new at all?
The old plan saved, instead of a sponged slate
And fresh-drawn figure?" — while, "So much as that?"
Object their fellows of the other faith:
"Leave uneffaced the crazy labyrinth
Of alteration and amendment, lines
Which every dabster felt in duty bound
To signalize his power of pen and ink
By adding to a plan once plain enough?
Why keep each fool's bequeathment, scratch and blurr
Which overscrawl and underscore the piece —
Nay, strengthen them by touches of your own?"
Well, that 's my mission, so I serve the world,
Figure as man o' the moment, — in default
Of somebody inspired to strike such change
Into society — from round to square.
The ellipsis to the rhomboid, how you please,
As suits the size and shape o' the world he finds.
But this I can, — and nobody my peer, —
Do the best with the least change possible:
Carry the incompleteness on, a stage,
Make what was crooked straight, and roughness smooth.
And weakness strong: wherein if I succeed,
It will not prove the worst achievement, sure.
In the eyes at least of one man, one I look
Nowise to catch in critic company:
To-wit, the man inspired, the genius' self
Destined to come and change things thoroughly.
He, at least, finds his business simplified.
Distinguishes the done from undone, reads
Plainly what meant and did not mean this time
We live in, and I work on, and transmit
To such successor: he will operate
On good hard substance, not mere shade and shine.
Let all my critics, born to idleness
And impotency, get their good, and have
Their hooting at the giver: I am deaf —
Who find great good in this society,
Great gain, the purchase of great labour. Touch
The work I may and must, but — reverent
In every fall o' the finger-tip, no doubt.
Perhaps I find all good there's warrant for
I' the world as yet: nay, to the end of time, —
Since evil never means part company
With mankind, only shift side and change shape.
I find advance i' the main, and notably
The Present an improvement on the Past,
And promise for the Future — which shall prove
Only the Present with its rough made smooth,
Its indistinctness emphasized; I hope
No better, nothing newer for mankind,
But something equably smoothed everywhere,
Good, reconciled with hardly-quite-as-good,
Instead of good and bad each jostling each.
"And that's all?" Ay, and quite enough for me!
We have toiled so long to gain what gain I find
I' the Present, — let us keep it! We shall toil
So long before we gain — if gain God grant —
A Future with one touch of difference
I' the heart of things, and not their outside face, —
Let us not risk the whiff of my cigar
For Fourier, Comte and all that ends in smoke!
This I see clearest probably of men
With power to act and influence, now alive:
Juster than they to the true state of things;
In consequence, more tolerant that, side
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike
In the age, the various sorts of happiness
jNIoral, mark! — not material — moods o' the mind
Suited to man and man his opposite:
Say, minor modes of movement — hence to there,
Or thence to here, or simply round about —
So long as each toe spares its neighbour's kibe,
Nor spoils the major march and main advance.
The love of peace, care for the family,
Contentment with what's bad but might be worse —
Good movements these! and good, too, discontent,
So long as that spurs good, which might be best,
Into becoming better, anyhow:
Good — pride of country, putting hearth and home
I' the back-ground, out of undue prominence:
Good — yearning after change, strife, victory,
And triumph. Each shall have its orbit marked,
But no more, — none impede the other's path
In this wide world, — though each and all alike,
Save for me, fain would spread itself through space
And leave its fellow not an inch of way.
I rule and regulate the course, excite,
Restrain: because the whole machine should march
Impelled by those diversely-moving parts,
Each blind to aught beside its little bent.
Out of the turnings round and round inside,
Comes that straightforward world-advance, I want,
And none of them supposes God wants too
And gets through just their hindrance and my help.
I think that to have held the balance straight
For twenty years, say, weighing claim and claim,
And giving each its due, no less no more,
This was good service to humanity,
Right usage of my power in head and heart,
And reasonable piety beside.
Keep those three points in mind while judging me!
You stand, perhaps, for some one man, not men, —
Represent this or the other interest,
Nor mind the general welfare, — so, impugn
My practice and dispute my value: why?
You man of faith, I did not tread the world
Into a paste, and thereof make a smooth
Uniform mound whereon to plant your flag,
The lily-white, above the blood and brains!
Nor yet did I, you man of faithlessness,
So roll things to the level which you love,
That you could stand at ease there and survey
The universal Nothing undisgraced
By pert obtrusion of some old church-spire
I' the distance! Neither friend would I content,
Nor, as the world were simply meant for him.
Thrust out his fellow and mend God's mistake.
Why, you two fools, — my dear friends all the same, —
Is it some change o' the world and nothing else
Contents you? Should whatever was, not be?
How thanklessly you view things! There 's the root
Of the evil, source of the entire mistake:
You see no worth i' the world, nature and life,
Unless we change what is to what may be.
Which means, — may be, i' the brain of one of you!
"Reject what is?" — all capabilities —
Nay, you may style them chances if you choose —
All chances, then, of happiness that lie
Open to anybody that is born,
Tumbles into this life and out again, —
All that may happen, good and evil too,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
"O grandeur of the visible universe
Our human littleness contrasts withal!
O sun, O moon, ye mountains and thou sea,
Thou emblem of immensity, thou this,
That and the other, — what impertinence
In man to eat and drink and walk about
And have his little notions of his own,
The while some wave sheds foam upon the shore!"
First of all, 't is a lie some three-times thick:
The bard, — this sort of speech being poetry, —
The bard puts mankind well outside himself
And then begins instructing them: "This way
I and my friend the sea conceive of you!
What would you give to think such thoughts as ours
Of you and the sea together? "Down they go
On the humbled knees of them: at once they draw
Distinction, recognize no mate of theirs
In one, despite his mock humility,
So plain a match for what he plays with. Next,
The turn of the great ocean-play-fellow,
When the bard, leaving Bond Street very far
From ear-shot, cares not to ventriloquize,
But tells the sea its home-truths: "You, my match?
You, all this terror and inmiensity
And what not? Shall I tell you what you are?
Just fit to hitch into a stanza, so
Wake up and set in motion who's asleep
O' the other side of you, in England, else
Unaware, as folk pace their Bond Street now,
Somebody here despises them so much!
Between us, — they are the ultimate! to them
And their perception go these lordly thoughts:
Since what were ocean — mane and tail, to boot —
Mused I not here, how make thoughts thinkable?
Start forth my stanza and astound the world!
Back, billows, to your insignificance!
Deep, you are done with!"
Learn, my gifted friend,
There are two things i' the world, still wiser folk
Accept — intelligence and sympathy.
You pant about unutterable power
I' the ocean, all you feel but cannot speak?
Why, that's the plainest speech about it all.
You did not feel what was not to be felt.
Well, then, all else but what man feels is naught —
The wash o' the liquor that o'erbrims the cup
Called man, and runs to waste adown his side,
Perhaps to feed a cataract, — who cares?
I'll tell you: all the more I know mankind,
The more I thank God, like my grandmother,
For making me a little lower than
The angels, honour-clothed and glory-crowned:
This is the honour, — that no thing I know,
Feel or conceive, but I can make my own
Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart:
This is the glory, — that in all conceived.
Or felt or known, I recognize a mind
Not mine but like mine, — for the double joy, —
Making all things for me and me for Him.
There's folly for you at this time of day!
So think it! and enjoy your ignorance
Of what — no matter for the worthy's name —
Wisdom set working in a noble heart,
When he, who was earth's best geometer
Up to that time of day, consigned his life
With its results into one matchless book,
The triumph of the human mind so far.
All in geometry man yet could do:
And then wrote on the dedication-page
In place of name the universe applauds,
"But, God, what a geometer art Thou!"
I suppose Heaven is, through Eternity,
The equalizing, ever and anon,
In momentary rapture, great with small,
Omniscience with intelligency, God
With man, — the thunder-glow from pole to pole
Abolishing, a blissful moment-space,
Great cloud alike and small cloud, in one fire —
As sure to ebb as sure again to flow
When the new receptivity deserves
The new completion. There's the Heaven for me.
And I say, therefore, to live out one's life
I' the world here, with the chance, — whether by pain
Or pleasure be the process, long or short
The time, august or mean the circumstance
To human eye, — of learning how set foot
Decidedly on some one path to Heaven,
Touch segment in the circle whence all lines
Lead to the centre equally, red lines
Or black lines, so they but produce themselves —
This, I do say, — and here my sermon ends, —
This makes it worth our while to tenderly
Handle a state of things which mend we might.
Mar we may, but which meanwhile helps so far.
Therefore my end is — save society!
"And that's all?" twangs the never-failing taunt
O' the foe — "No novelty, creativeness,
Mark of the master that renews the age?"
"Nay, all that?" rather will demur my judge
I look to hear some day, nor friend nor foe —
"Did you attain, then, to perceive that God
Knew what He undertook when He made things?"
Ay: that my task was to co-operate
Rather than play the rival, chop and change
The order whence comes all the good we know,
With this, — good's last expression to our sense, —
That there's a further good conceivable
Beyond the utmost earth can realize:
And, therefore, that to change the agency,
The evil whereby good is brought about —
Try to make good do good as evil does —
Were just as if a chemist, wanting white.
And knowing black ingredients bred the dye.
Insisted these too should be white forsooth!
Correct the evil, mitigate your best,
Blend mild with harsh, and soften black to gray
If gray may follow with no detriment
To the eventual perfect purity!
But as for hazarding the main result
By hoping to anticipate one half
In the intermediate process, — no, my friends!
This bad world, I experience and approve;
Your good world, — with no pity, courage, hope.
Fear, sorrow, joy, — devotedness, in short,
Which I account the ultimate of man,
Of which there's not one day nor hour but brings
In flower or fruit, some sample of success,
Out of this same society I save —
None of it for me! That I might have none,
I rapped your tampering knuckles twenty years.
Such was the task imposed me, such my end.
Now for the means thereto. Ah, confidence —
Keep we together or part company?
This is the critical minute! "Such my end?"
Certainly; how could it be otherwise?
Can there be question which was the right task —
To save or to destroy society?
Why, even prove that, by some miracle,
Destruction were the proper work to choose,
And that a torch best remedies what's wrong
I' the temple, whence the long procession wound
Of powers and beauties, earth's achievements all.
The human strength that strove and overthrew, —
The human love that, weak itself, crowned strength,—
The instinct crying "God is whence I came!" —
The reason laying down the law "And such
His will i' the world must be! " — the leap and shout
Of genius "For I hold His very thoughts,
The meaning of the mind of Him!" — nay, more
The ingenuities, each active force
That turning in a circle on itselt
Looks neither up nor down but keeps the spot.
Mere creature-like and, for religion, works,
Works only and works ever, makes and shapes
And changes, still wrings more of good from less,
Still stamps some bad out, where was worst before.
So leaves the handiwork, the act and deed.
Were it but house and land and wealth, to show
Here was a creature perfect in the kind —
Whether as bee, beaver, or behemoth,
What's the importance? he has done his work
For work's sake, worked well, earned a creature's praise; —
I say, concede that same fane, whence deploys
Age after age, all this humanity,
Diverse but ever dear, out of the dark
Behind the altar into the broad day
By the portal — enter, and, concede there mocks
Each lover of free motion and much space
A perplexed length of apse and aisle and nave, —
Pillared roof and carved screen, and what care I?
That irk the movement and impede the march, —
Nay, possibly, bring flat upon his nose
At some odd break-neck angle, by some freak
Of old-world artistry, that personage
Who, could he but have kept his skirts from grief
And catching at the hooks and crooks about,
Had stepped out on the daylight of our time
Plainly the man of the age, — still, still, I bar
Excessive conflagration in the case.
"Shake the flame freely!" shout the multitude:
The architect approves I stuck my torch
Inside a good stout lantern, hung its light
Above the hooks and crooks, and ended so.
To save society was well: the means
Whereby to save it, — there begins the doubt
Permitted you, imperative on me;
Were mine the best means? Did I work aright
With powers appointed me? — since powers denied
Concern me nothing.
Well, my work reviewed
Fairly, leaves more hope than discouragement.
First, there's the deed done: what I found, I leave,-
What tottered, I kept stable: if it stand
One month, without sustainment, still thank me
The twenty years' sustainer! Now, observe,
Sustaining is no brilliant self-display
Like knocking down or even setting up:
Much bustle these necessitate; and still
To vulgar eye, the mightier of the myth
Is Hercules, who substitutes his own
For Atlas' shoulder and supports the globe
A whole day, — not the passive and obscure
Atlas who bore, ere Hercules was born,
And is to go on bearing that same load
When Hercules turns ash on OEta's top.
'T is the transition-stage, the tug and strain.
That strike men: standing still is stupid-like.
My pressure was too constant on the whole
For any part's eruption into space
Mid sparkles, crackling, and much praise of me.
I saw that, in the ordinary life,
Many of the little make a mass of men
Important beyond greatness here and there;
As certainly as, in life exceptional,
When old things terminate and new commence,
A solitary great man's worth the world.
God takes the business into His own hands
At such time: who creates the novel flower
Contrives to guard and give it breathing-room:
I merely tend the corn-field, care for crop,
And weed no acre thin to let emerge
What prodigy may stifle there perchance,
— No, though my eye have noted where he lurks.
Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me —
The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths
That sought the daily bread and nothing more,
The hands that supplicated exercise,
Men that had wives, and women that had babes,
And all these making suit to only live!
Was I to turn aside from husbandry,
Leave hope of harvest for the corn, my care,
To play at horticulture, rear some rose
Or poppy into perfect leaf and bloom
When, mid the furrows, up was pleased to sprout
Some man, cause, system, special interest
I ought to study, stop the world meanwhile?
"But I am Liberty, Philanthropy,
Enhghtenment, or Patriotism, the power
Whereby you are to stand or fall!" cries each:
"Mine and mine only be the flag you flaunt!"
And, when I venture to object "Meantime,
What of yon myriads with no flag at all —
My crop which, who flaunts flag must tread across?"
"Now, this it is to have a puny mind!"
Admire my mental prodigies: "down — down —
Ever at home o' the level and the low.
There bides he brooding! Could he look above,
With less of the owl and more of the eagle eye,
He'd see there's no way helps the little cause
Like the attainment of the great. Dare first
The chief emprise; dispel yon cloud between
The sun and us; nor fear that, though our heads
Find earlier warmth and comfort from his ray,
What Hes about our feet, the multitude,
Will fail of benefaction presently.
Come now, let each of us awhile cry truce
To special interests, make common cause
Against the adversary — or perchance
Mere dullard to his own plain interest!
Which of us will you choose? — since needs must be
Some one o' the warring causes you incline
To hold, i' the main, has right and should prevail;
Why not adopt and give it prevalence?
Choose strict Faith or lax Incredulity, —
King, Caste and Cultus — or the Rights of Man,
Sovereignty of each Proudhon o'er himself,
And all that follows in just consequence!
Go free the stranger from a foreign yoke;
Or stay, concentrate energy at home;
Succeed! — when he deserves, the stranger will.
Comply with the Great Nation's impulse, print
By force of arms, — since reason pleads in vain,
And, mid the sweet compulsion, pity weeps, —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau on the universe!
Snub the Great Nation, cure the impulsive itch
With smartest fillip on a restless nose
Was ever launched by thumb and finger! Bid
Hohenstiel-Schwangau first repeal the tax
On pig-tails and pomatum and then mind
Abstruser matters for next century!
Is your choice made? Why then, act up to choice!
Leave the illogical touch now here now there
I' the way of work, the tantalizing help
First to this then the other opposite:
The blowing hot and cold, sham policy,
Sure ague of the mind and nothing more,
Disease of the perception or the Will,
That fain would hide in a fine name! Your choice,
Speak it out and condemn yourself thereby!"
Well, Leicester-square is not the Residenz:
Instead of shrugging shoulder, turning friend
The deaf ear, with a wink to the police —
I'll answer — by a question, wisdom's mode.
How many years, o' the average, do men
Live in this world? Some score, say computists.
Quintuple me that term and give mankind
The likely hundred, and with all my heart
I'll take your task upon me, work your way,
Concentrate energy on some one cause:
Since, counseller, I also have my cause,
My flag, my faith in its effect, my hope
In its eventual triumph for the good
O' the world. And once upon a time, when I
Was like all you, mere voice and nothing more,
Myself took wings, soared sun-ward, and thence sang
"Look where I live i' the loft, come up to me,
Groundlings, nor grovel longer I gain this height.
And prove you breathe here better than below!
Why, what emancipation far and wide
Will follow in a trice! They too can soar,
Each tenant of the earth's circumference
Claiming to elevate humanity,
They also must attain such altitude,
Live in the luminous circle that surrounds
The planet, not the leaden orb itself.
Press out, each point, from surface to yon verge
Which one has gained and guaranteed your realm!"
Ay, still my fragments wander, music-fraught,
Sighs of the soul, mine once, mine now, and mine
For ever! Crumbled arch, crushed aqueduct,
Alive with tremors in the shaggy growth
Of wild-wood, crevice-sown, that triumphs there
Imparting exultation to the hills!
Sweep of the swathe when only the winds walk
And waft my words above the grassy sea
Under the blinding blue that basks o'er Rome, —
Hear ye not still — "Be Italy again?"
And ye, what strikes the panic to your heart?
Decrepit council-chambers, — where some lamp
Drives the unbroken black three paces off
From where the greybeards huddle in debate,
Dim cowls and capes, and midmost glimmers one
Like tarnished gold, and what they say is doubt.
And what they think is fear, and what suspends
The breath in them is not the plaster-patch
Time disengages from the painted wall
Where Rafael moulderingly bids adieu,
Nor tick of the insect turning tapestry
To dust, which a queen's finger traced of old;
But some word, resonant, redoubtable.
Of who once felt upon his head a hand
Whereof the head now apprehends his foot.
"Light in Rome, Law in Rome, and Liberty
O' the soul in Rome — the free Church, the free State!
Stamp out the nature that's best typified
By its embodiment in Peter's Dome,
The scorpion-body with the greedy pair
Of outstretched nippers, either colonnade
Agape for the advance of heads and hearts!"
There's one cause for you! one and only one.
For I am vocal through the universe,
I' the work-shop, manufactory, exchange
And market-place, sea-port and custom-house
O' the frontier: listen if the echoes die —
"Unfettered commerce! Power to speak and hear,
And print and read! The universal vote!
Its rights for labour!" This, with much beside,
I spoke when I was voice and nothing more,
But altogether such an one as you
My censors. "Voice, and nothing more, indeed!"
Re-echoes round me: "that's the censure, there's
Involved the ruin of you soon or late!
Voice, — when its promise beat the empty air:
And nothing more, — when solid earth's your stage.
And we desiderate performance, deed
For word, the realizing all you dreamed
In the old days: now, for deed, we find at door
O' the council-chamber posted, mute as mouse,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, sentry and safeguard
O' the greybeards all a-chuckle, cowl to cape.
Who challenge Judas, — that 's endearment's style, —
To stop their mouths or let escape grimace,
While they keep cursing Italy and him.
The power to speak, hear, print and read is ours?
Ay, we learn where and how, when clapped inside
A convict-transport bound for cool Cayenne!
The universal vote we have: its urn,
We also have where votes drop, fingered-o'er
By the universal Prefect. Say, Trade's free
And Toil turned master out o' the slave it was:
What then? These feed man's stomach, but his soul
Craves finer fare, nor lives by bread alone.
As somebody says somewhere. Hence you stand
Proved and recorded either false or weak,
Faulty in promise or performance: which?"
Neither, I hope. Once pedestalled on earth,
To act not speak, I found earth was not air.
I saw that multitude of mine, and not
The nakedness and nullity of air
Fit only for a voice to float in free.
Such eyes I saw that craved the light alone.
Such mouths that wanted bread and nothing else,
Such hands that supplicated handiwork,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes,
Yet all these pleading just to live, not die!
Did I believe one whit less in belief.
Take truth for falsehood, wish the voice revoked
That told the truth to heaven for earth to hear?
No, this should be, and shall; but when and how?
At what expense to these who average
Your twenty years of life, my computists?
"Not bread alone" but bread before all else
For these: the bodily want serve first, said I;
If earth-space and the life-time help not here,
Where is the good of body having been?
But, helping body, if we somewhat baulk
The soul of finer fare, such food's to find
Elsewhere and afterward — all indicates.
Even this self-same fact that soul can starve
Yet body still exist its twenty years:
While, stint the body, there's an end at once
O' the revel in the fancy that Rome's free.
And superstition's fettered, and one prints
Whate'er one pleases and who pleases reads
The same, and speaks out and is spoken to.
And divers hundred thousand fools may vote
A vote untampered with by one wise man,
And so elect Barabbas deputy
In lieu of his concurrent. I who trace
The purpose written on the face of things,
For my behoof and guidance — (whoso needs
No such sustainment, sees beneath my signs,
Proves, what I take for writing, penmanship,
Scribble and flourish with no sense for me
O' the sort I solemnly go spelling out, —
Let him! there 's certain work of mine to show
Alongside his work: which gives warranty
Of shrewder vision in the workman — judge!)
I who trace Providence without a break
I' the plan of things, drop plumb on this plain print
Of an intention with a view to good,
That man is made in sympathy with man
At outset of existence, so to speak;
But in dissociation, more and more,
Man from his fellow, as their lives advance
In culture; still humanity, that's born
A mass, keeps flying off, fining away
Ever into a multitude of points,
And ends in isolation, each from each:
Peerless above i' the sky, the pinnacle, —
Absolute contact, fusion, all below
At the base of being. How comes this about?
This stamp of God characterizing man
And nothing else but man in the universe —
That, while he feels with man (to use man's speech)
I' the little things of life, its fleshly wants
Of food and rest and health and happiness,
Its simplest spirit-motions, loves and hates,
Hopes, fears, soul-cravings on the ignoblest scale,
O' the fellow-creature, — owns the bond at base, —
He tends to freedom and divergency
In the upward progress, plays the pinnacle
When life's at greatest (grant again the phrase!
Because there's neither great nor small in life.)
"Consult thou for thy kind that have the eyes
To see, the mouths to eat, the hands to work,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes!"
Prompts Nature. "Care thou for thyself alone
I' the conduct of the mind God made thee with!
Think, as if man had never thought before!
Act, as if all creation hung attent
On the acting of such faculty as thine,
To take prime pattern from thy masterpiece!"
Nature prompts also: neither law obeyed
To the uttermost by any heart and soul
We know or have in record: both of them
Acknowledged blindly by whatever man
We ever knew or heard of in this world.
"Will you have why and wherefore, and the fact
Made plain as pikestaff?" modern Science asks.
"That mass man sprung from was a jelly-lump
Once on a time; he kept an after course
Through fish and insect, reptile, bird and beast,
Till he attained to be an ape at last
Or last but one. And if this doctrine shock
In aught the natural pride" . . . Friend, banish fear,
The natural humility replies!
Do you suppose, even I, poor potentate,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, who once ruled the roast, —
I was born able at all points to ply
My tools? or did I have to learn my trade,
Practise as exile ere perform as prince?
The world knows something of my ups and downs:
But grant me time, give me the management
And manufacture of a model me.
Me fifty-fold, a prince without a flaw, —
Why, there's no social grade, the sordidest,
My embryo potentate should blink and scape.
King, all the better he was cobbler once,
He should know, sitting on the throne, how tastes
Life to who sweeps the doorway. But life's hard,
Occasion rare; you cut probation short,
And, being half-instructed, on the stage
You shuffle through your part as best you may,
And bless your stars, as I do. God takes time.
I like the thought He should have lodged me once
I' the hole, the cave, the hut, the tenement.
The mansion and the palace; made me learn
The feel o' the first, before I found myself
Loftier i' the last, not more emancipate
From first to last of lodging, I was I,
And not at all the place that harboured me.
Do I refuse to follow farther yet
I' the backwardness, repine if tree and flower,
Mountain or streamlet were my dwelling-place
Before I gained enlargement, grew mollusc?
As well account that way for many a thrill
Of kinship, I confess to, with the powers
Called Nature: animate, inanimate.
In parts or in the whole, there's something there
Man-like that somehow meets the man in me.
My pulse goes altogether with the heart
O' the Persian, that old Xerxes, when he stayed
His march to conquest of the world, a day
I' the desert, for the sake of one superb
Plane-tree which queened it there in solitude:
Giving her neck its necklace, and each arm
Its armlet, suiting soft waist, snowy side.
With cincture and apparel. Yes, I lodged
In those successive tenements; perchance
Taste yet the straitness of them while I stretch
Limb and enjoy new liberty the more.
And some abodes are lost or ruinous;
Some, patched-up and pieced out, and so transformed
They still accommodate the traveller
His day of life-time. O you count the links,
Descry no bar of the unbroken man?
Yes, — and who welds a lump of ore, suppose
He likes to make a chain and not a bar.
And reach by link on link, link small, link large,
Out to the due length — why, there's forethought still
Outside o' the series, forging at one end.
While at the other there's — no matter what
The kind of critical intelligence
Believing that last link had last but one
For parent, and no link was, first of all,
Fitted to anvil, hammered into shape.
Else, I accept the doctrine, and deduce
This duty, that I recognize mankind,
In all its height and depth and length and breadth.
Mankind i' the main have little wants, not large:
I, being of will and power to help, i' the main,
Mankind, must help the least wants first. My friend,
That is, my foe, without such power and will,
May plausibly concentrate all he wields,
And do his best at helping some large want,
Exceptionally noble cause, that's seen
Subordinate enough from where I stand.
As he helps, I helped once, when like himself.
Unable to help better, work more wide;
And so would work with heart and hand to-day,
Did only computists confess a fault,
And multiply the single score by five,
Five only, give man's life its hundred years.
Change life, in me shall follow change to match!
Time were then, to work here, there, everywhere,
By turns and try experiment at ease!
Full time to mend as well as mar: why wait
The slow and sober uprise all around
O' the building? Let us run up, right to roof.
Some sudden marvel, piece of perfectness,
And testify what we intend the whole!
Is the world losing patience? "Wait!" say we:
"There's time: no generation needs to die
Unsolaced; you Ve a century in store!"
But, no: I sadly let the voices wing
Their way i' the upper vacancy, nor test
Truth on this solid as I promised once.
Well, and what is there to be sad about?
The world's the world, life's life, and nothing else.
'T is part of life, a property to prize.
That those o' the higher sort engaged i' the world,
Should fancy they can change its ill to good.
Wrong to right, ugliness to beauty: find
Enough success in fancy turning fact.
To keep the sanguine kind in countenance
And justify the hope that busies them:
Failure enough, — to who can follow change
Beyond their vision, see new good prove ill
I' the consequence, see blacks and whites of life
Shift square indeed, but leave the chequered face
Unchanged i' the main, — failure enough for such.
To bid ambition keep the whole from change,
As their best service. I hope naught beside.
No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize,
Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense,
All that our world's worth, flower and fruit of man!
Such minds myself award supremacy
Over the common insignificance,
When only Mind's in question, — Body bows
To quite another government, you know.
Be Kant crowned king o' the castle in the air!
Hans Slouch, — his own, and children's mouths to feed
I' the hovel on the ground, — wants meat, nor chews
"The Critique of Pure Reason" in exchange.
But, now, — suppose I could allow your claims
And quite change life to please you, — would it please?
Would life comport with change and still be life?
Ask, now, a doctor for a remedy:
There's his prescription. Bid him point you out
Which of the five or six ingredients saves
The sick man. "Such the efficacity?
Then why not dare and do things in one dose
Simple and pure, all virtue, no alloy
Of the idle drop and powder?" What's his word?
The efficacity, neat, were neutralized:
It wants dispersing and retarding, — nay
Is put upon its mettle, plays its part
Precisely through such hindrance everywhere,
Finds some mysterious give and take i' the case,
Some gain by opposition, he foregoes
Should he unfetter the medicament.
So with this thought of yours that fain would work
Free in the world: it wants just what it finds —
The ignorance, stupidity, the hate,
Envy and malice and uncharitableness
That bar your passage, break the flow of you
Down from those happy heights where many a cloud
Combined to give you birth and bid you be
The royalest of rivers: on you glide
Silverly till you reach the summit-edge,
Then over, on to all that ignorance.
Stupidity, hate, envy, bluffs and blocks.
Posted to fret you into foam and noise.
What of it? Up you mount in minute mist,
And bridge the chasm that crushed your quietude,
A spirit-rainbow, earthborn jewelry
Outsparkling the insipid firmament
Blue above Terni and its orange-trees.
Do not mistake me! You, too, have your rights!
Hans must not burn Kant's house above his head,
Because he cannot understand Kant's book:
And still less must Hans' pastor bum Kant's self
Because Kant understands some books too well.
But, justice seen to on this little point,
Answer me, is it manly, is it sage
To stop and struggle with arrangements here
It took so many lives, so much of toil,
To tinker up into efficiency?
Can't you contrive to operate at once, —
Since time is short and art is long, — to show
Your quality i' the world, whatever you boast,
Without this fractious call on folks to crush
The world together just to set you free,
Admire the capers you will cut perchance,
Nor mind the mischief to your neighbours?
Age and experience bring discouragement,"
You taunt me: I maintain the opposite.
Am I discouraged who, — perceiving health.
Strength, beauty, as they tempt the eye of soul,
Are uncombinable with flesh and blood, —
Resolve to let my body live its best,
And leave my soul what better yet may be
Or not be, in this life or afterward?
— In either fortune, wiser than who waits
Till magic art procure a miracle.
In virtue of my very confidence
Mankind ought to outgrow its babyhood,
I prescribe rocking, deprecate rough hands,
While thus the cradle holds it past mistake.
Indeed, my task's the harder — equable
Sustainment everywhere, all strain, no push —
Whereby friends credit me with indolence,
Apathy, hesitation. "Stand stock-still
If able to move briskly? 'All a-strain' —
So must we compliment your passiveness?
Sound asleep, rather!"
Just the judgment passed
Upon a statue, luckless like myself,
I saw at Rome once! 'T was some artist's whim
To cover all the accessories close
I' the group, and leave you only Laocoön
With neither sons nor serpents to denote
The purpose of his gesture. Then a crowd
Was called to try the question, criticize
Wherefore such energy of legs and arms.
Nay, eyeballs, starting from the socket. One —
I give him leave to write my history —
Only one said "I think the gesture strives
Against some obstacle we cannot see."
All the rest made their minds up. "'T is a yawn
Of sheer fatigue subsiding to repose:
The Statue's 'Somnolency' clear enough!"
There, my arch stranger-friend, my audience both
And arbitress, you have one half your wish,
At least: you know the thing I tried to do!
All, so far, to my praise and glory — all
Told as befits the self-apologist, —
Who ever promises a candid sweep
And clearance of those errors miscalled crimes
None knows more, none laments so much as he,
And ever rises from confession, proved
A god whose fault was — trying to be man.
Just so, fair judge, — if I read smile aright —
I condescend to figure in your eyes
As biggest heart and best of Europe's friends,
And hence my failure. God will estimate
Success one day; and, in the mean time — you!
I daresay there's some fancy of the sort
Frolicking round this final puff I send
To die up yonder in the ceiling-rose, —
Some consolation-stakes, we losers win!
A plague of the return to "I — I — I
Did this, meant that, hoped, feared the other thing!"
Autobiography, adieu! The rest
Shall make amends, be pure blame, history
And falsehood: not the ineffective truth,
But Thiers-and-Victor-Hugo exercise.
Hear what I never was, but might have been
I' the better world where goes tobacco-smoke!
Here lie the dozen volumes of my life:
(Did I say "lie?" the pregnant word will serve.)
Cut on to the concluding chapter, though!
Because the little hours begin to strike.
Hurry Thiers-Hugo to the labour's end!
Something like this the unwritten chapter reads.
Exemplify the situation thus!
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, being, no dispute,
Absolute mistress, chose the Assembly, first,
To serve her: chose this man, its President
Afterward, to serve also, — specially
To see that they did service one and all.
And now the proper term of years was out.
When the Head-servant must vacate his place;
And nothing lay so patent to the world
As that his fellow-servants one and all
Were — mildly make we mention — knaves or fools,
Each of them with his purpose flourished full
I' the face of you by word and impudence,
Or filtered slyly out by nod and wink
And nudge upon your sympathetic rib —
That not one minute more did knave or fool
Mean to keep faith and serve as he had sworn
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, once that Head away.
Why did such swear except to get the chance,
When time should ripen and confusion bloom,
Of putting Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
To the true use of human property?
Restoring souls and bodies, this to Pope,
And that to King, that other to his planned
Perfection of a Share-and-share-alike,
That other still, to Empire absolute
In shape of the Head-servant's very self
Transformed to master whole and sole: each scheme
Discussible, concede one circumstance —
That each scheme's parent were, beside himself,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, not her serving-man
Sworn to do service in the way she chose
Rather than his way: way superlative,
Only, — by some infatuation, — his
And his and his and everyone's but hers
Who stuck to just the Assembly and the Head.
I niake no doubt the Head, too, had his dream
Of doing sudden duty swift and sure
On all that heap of untrustworthiness —
Catching each vaunter of the villany
He meant to perpetrate when time was ripe,
Once the Head-servant fairly out of doors, —
And, caging here a knave and there a fool,
Cry "Mistress of the servants, these and me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! I, their trusty Head,
Pounce on a pretty scheme concocting here
That's stopped, extinguished by my vigilance.
Your property is safe again: but mark!
Safe in these hands, not yours, who lavish trust
Too lightly. Leave my hands their charge awhile!
I know your business better than yourself:
Let me alone about it! Some fine day,
Once we are rid of the embarrassment,
You shall look up and see your longings crowned!"
Such fancy may have tempted to be false,
But this man chose truth and was wiser so.
He recognized that for great minds i' the world
There is no trial like the appropriate one
Of leaving little minds their liberty
Of littleness to blunder on through life,
Now, aiming at right end by foolish means.
Now, at absurd achievement through the aid
Of good and wise means: trial to acquiesce
In folly's life-long privilege — though with power
To do the little minds the good they need,
Despite themselves, by just abolishing
Their right to play the part and fill the place
I' the scheme of things He schemed who made alike
Great minds and little minds, saw use for each.
Could the orb sweep those puny particles
It just half-lights at distance, hardly leads
I' the leash — sweep out each speck of them from space
They anticize in with their days and nights
And whirlings round and dancings off, forsooth,
And all that fruitless individual life
One cannot lend a beam to but they spoil —
Sweep them into itself and so, one star,
Preponderate henceforth i' the heritage
Of heaven! No! in less senatorial phrase.
The man endured to help, not save outright
The multitude by substituting him
For them, his knowledge, will and way, for God's:
Not change the world, such as it is, and was
And will be, for some other, suiting all
Except the purpose of the maker. No!
He saw that weakness, wickedness will be,
And therefore should be: that the perfect man
As we account perfection — at most pure
0' the special gold, whate'er the form it take,
Head-work or heart-work, fined and thrice-refined
I' the crucible of life, whereto the powers
Of the refiner, one and all, were flung
To feed the flame their utmost, — e'en that block.
He holds out breathlessly triumphant, — breaks
Into some poisonous ore, its opposite.
At the very purest, so compensating
The Adversary — what if we believe?
For earlier stern exclusion of his stuff.
See the sage, with the hunger for the truth,
And see his system that's all true, except
The one weak place that's stanchioned by a lie!
The moralist, that walks with head erect
I' the crystal clarity of air so long.
Until a stumble, and the man's one mire!
Philanthropy undoes the social knot
With axe-edge, makes love room 'twixt head and trunk!
Religion — but, enough, the thing's too clear!
Well, if these sparks break out i' the greenest tree.
Our topmost of performance, yours and mine,
AVhat will be done i' the dry ineptitude
Of ordinary mankind, Ipark and bole.
All seems ashamed of but their mother-earth?
Therefore throughout his term of servitude
He did the appointed service, and forbore
Extraneous action that were duty else,
Done by some other servant, idle now
Or mischievous: no matter, each his own —
Own task, and, in the end, own praise or blame!
He suffered them strut, prate and brag their best.
Squabble at odds on every point save one,
And there shake hands, — agree to trifle time,
Obstruct advance with, each, his cricket-cry
"Wait till the Head be off the shoulders here!
Then comes my King, my Pope, my Autocrat,
My Socialist Republic to her own —
To-wit, that property of only me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau who conceits herself
Free, forsooth, and expects I keep her so!"
— Nay, suffered when, perceiving with dismay
His silence paid no tribute to their noise,
They turned on him. "Dumb menace in that mouth,
Malice in that unstridulosity!
He cannot but intend some stroke of state
Shall signalize his passage into peace
Out of the creaking, — hinder transference
O' the Hohenstielers-Schwangauese to king.
Pope, autocrat, or socialist republic! That's
Exact the cause his lips unlocked would cry!
Therefore be stirring: brave, beard, bully him!
Dock, by the million, of its friendly joints,
The electoral body short at once! who did,
May do again, and undo us beside.
Wrest from his hands the sword for self-defence,
The right to parry any thrust in play
We peradventure please to meditate!"
And so forth; creak, creak, creak: and ne'er a line
His locked mouth oped the wider, till at last
O' the long degraded and insulting day,
Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time.
Then he addressed himself to speak indeed
To the fools, not knaves: they saw him walk straight down
Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged,
And stand at last o' the level, — all he swore.
"People, and not the people's varletry,
This is the task you set myself and these!
Thus I performed my part of it, and thus
They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here:
Study each instance! yours the loss, not mine.
What they intend now is demonstrable
As plainly: here's such man, and here's such mode
Of making you some other than the thing
You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be,
And only set him up to keep you so.
Do you approve this? Yours the loss, not mine.
Do you condemn it? There's a remedy.
Take me — who know your mind, and mean your good,
With clearer head and stouter arm than they,
Or you, or haply anybody else —
And make me master for the moment! Choose
What time, what power you trust me with: I too
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself
With time and power: they must be adequate
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours
If means be wanting; once their worth approved,
Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate —
Ponder it well! — to the extremest stretch
0' the power you trust me: if with unsuccess,
God wills it, and there's nobody to blame."
Whereon the people answered with a shout
"The trusty one! no tricksters any more!"
How could they other? He was in his place.
What followed? Just what he foresaw, what proved
The soundness of both judgments, — his, o' the knaves
And fools, each trickster with his dupe, — and theirs
The people, in what head and arm should help.
There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled,
Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith!
Heavily did he let his fist fall plumb
On each perturber of the public peace,
No matter whose the wagging head it broke —
From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence
Of night-hawk at first cliance to prowl and prey
For glory and a little gain beside,
Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age, —
To florid head-top, foamy patriotism
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare
Thro' confidence in rectitude, with hand
On private pistol in the pocket: these
And all the dupes of these, who lent themselves
As dust and feather do, to help offence
O' the wind that whirls them at you, then subsides
In safety somewhere, leaving filth afloat,
Annoyance you may brush from eyes and beard, —
These he stopped: bade the wind's spite howl or whine
Its worst outside the building, wind conceives
Meant to be pulled together and become
Its natural playground so. What foolishness
Of dust or feather proved importunate
And fell 'twixt thumb and finger, found them gripe
To detriment of bulk and buoyancy.
Then followed silence and submission. Next,
The inevitable comment came on work
And work's cost; he was censured as profuse
Of human life and liberty: too swift
And thorough his procedure, who had lagged
At the outset, lost the opportunity
Through timid scruples as to right and wrong.
"There's no such certain mark of a small mind"
(So did Sagacity explain the fault)
"As when it needs must square away and sink
To its own small dimensions, private scale
Of right and wrong, — humanity i' the large,
The right and wrong of the universe, forsooth!
This man addressed himself to guard and guide
Hohenstiel-Schwangau. When the case demands
He frustrate villany in the egg, unhatched,
With easy stamp and minimum of pang
E'en to the punished reptile, 'There's my oath
Restrains my foot,' objects our guide and guard,
'I must leave guardianship and guidance now:
Rather than stretch one handbreadth of the law,
I am bound to see it break from end to end.
First show me death i' the body politic:
Then prescribe pill and potion, what may please
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! all is for her sake:
'T was she ordained my service should be so.
What if the event demonstrate her unwise,
If she unwill the thing she willed before?
I hold to the letter and obey the bond
And leave her to perdition loyally.'
Whence followed thrice the expenditure we blame
Of human life and liberty: for want
O' the by-blow, came deliberate butcher's-work!"
"Elsewhere go carry your complaint!" bade he.
"Least, largest, there's one law for all the minds,
Here or above: be true at any price!
'T is just o' the great scale, that such happy stroke
Of falsehood would be found a failure. Truth
Still stands unshaken at her base by me,
Reigns paramount i' the world, for the large good
O' the long late generations, — I and you
Forgotten like this buried foohshness!
Not so the good I rooted in its grave."
This is why he refused to break his oath,
Rather appealed to the people, gained the power
To act as he thought best, then used it, once
For all, no matter what the consequence
To knaves and fools. As thus began his sway,
So, through its twenty years, one rule of right
Sufficed him: govern for the many first,
The poor mean multitude, all mouths and eyes:
Bid the few, better favoured in the brain,
Be patient, nor presume on privilege.
Help him, or else be quiet, — never crave
That he help them, — increase, forsooth, the gulf
Yawning so terribly 'twixt mind and mind
I' the world here, which his purpose was to block
At bottom, were it by an inch, and bridge,
If by a filament, no more, at top,
Equalize things a little! And the way
He took to work that purpose out, was plain
Enough to intellect and honesty
And — superstition, style it if you please,
So long as you allow there was no lack
O' the quality imperative in man —
Reverence. You see deeper? thus saw he,
And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
Was he to do his part? the man's, with might
And main, and not a faintest touch of fear
Sure he was in the hand of God who comes
Before and after, with a work to do
Which no man helps nor hinders. Thus the man,
So timid when the business was to touch
The uncertain order of humanity,
Imperil, for a problematic cure
Of grievance on the surface, any good
I' the deep of things, dim yet discernible —
This same man, so irresolute before,
Show him a true excrescence to cut sheer,
A devil's-graft on God's foundation-stone,
Then — no complaint of indecision more!
He wrenched out the whole canker, root and branch,
Deaf to who cried the world would tumble in
At its four corners if he touched a twig.
Witness that lie of lies, arch-infamy.
When the Republic, with all life involved
In just this law — "Each people rules itself
Its own way, not as any stranger please" —
Turned, and for first proof she was living, bade
Hohenstiel-Schwangau fasten on the throat
Of the first neighbour that claimed benefit
O' the law herself established: "Hohenstiel
For Hohenstielers! Rome, by parity
Of reasoning, for Romans? That 's a jest
Wants proper treatment, — lancet-puncture suits
The proud flesh: Rome ape Hohenstiel forsooth!"
And so the siege and slaughter and success
Whereof we nothing doubt that Hohenstiel
Will have to pay the price, in God's good time,
Which does not always fall on Saturday
When the world looks for wages. Any how.
He found this infamy triumphant. Well, —
Sagacity suggested, make this speech!
"The work was none of mine: suppose wrong wait,
Stand over for redressing? Mine for me,
My predecessors' work on their own head!
Meantime, there's plain advantage, should we leave
Things as we find them. Keep Rome manacled
Hand and foot: no fear of unruliness!
Her foes consent to even seem our friends
So long, no longer. Then, there's glory got
I' the boldness and bravado to the world.
The disconcerted world must grin and bear
The old saucy writing, — 'Grunt thereat who may,
So shall things be, for such my pleasure is —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau.' How that reads in Rome
I' the Capitol where Brennus broke his pate!
And what a flourish for our journalists!"
Only, it was nor read nor flourished of,
Since, not a moment did such glory stay
Excision of the canker! Out it came,
Root and branch, with much roaring, and some blood,
And plentiful abuse of him from friend
And foe. Who cared? Not Nature, that assuaged
The pain and set the patient on his legs
Promptly: the better! had it been the worse,
'T is Nature you must try conclusions with,
Not he, since nursing canker kills the sick
For certain, while to cut may cure, at least.
"Ah," groaned a second time Sagacity,
"Again the little mind, precipitate,
Rash, rude, when even in the right, as here!
The great mind knows the power of gentleness,
Only tries force because persuasion fails.
Had this man, by prelusive trumpet-blast,
Signified 'Truth and Justice mean to come.
Nay, fast approach your threshold! Ere they knock,
See that the house be set in order, swept
And garnished, windows shut, and doors thrown wide!
The free State comes to visit the free Church:
Receive her! or . . or . . never mind what else!'
Thus moral suasion heralding brute force,
How had he seen the old abuses die,
And new life kindle here, there, everywhere.
Roused simply by that mild yet potent spell —
Beyond or beat of drum or stroke of sword —
"How, indeed?" he asked,
"When all to see, after some twenty years,
Were your own fool-face waiting for the sight.
Faced by as wide a grin from ear to ear
O' the knaves that, while the fools were waiting, worked —
Broke yet another generation's heart —
Twenty years' respite helping! Teach your nurse
'Compliance with, before you suck, the teat!'
Find what that means, and meanwhile hold your tongue!"
Whereof the war came which he knew must be.
Now, this had proved the dry-rot of the race
He ruled o'er, that, in the old day, when was need
They fought for their own liberty and life,
Well did they fight, none better: whence, such love
Of fighting somehow still for fighting's sake
Against no matter whose the liberty
And life, so long as self-conceit should crow
And clap the wing, while justice sheathed her claw, —
That what had been the glory of the world
When thereby came the world's good, grew its plague
Now that the champion-armour, donned to dare
The dragon once, was clattered up and down
Highway and by-path of the world at peace,
Merely to mask marauding, or for sake
O' the shine and rattle that apprized the fields
Hohenstiel-Schwangau was a fighter yet.
And would be, till the weary world suppressed
A peccant humour out of fashion now.
Accordingly the world spoke plain at last.
Promised to punish who next played with fire.
So, at his advent, such discomfiture
Taking its true shape of beneficence,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, half-sad and part-wise,
Sat: if with wistful eye reverting oft
To each pet weapon rusty on its peg,
Yet, with a sigh of satisfaction too
That, peacefulness become the law, herself
Got the due share of godsends in its train,
Cried shame and took advantage quietly.
Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, — clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, —
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday — "War is best,
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will —
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody's expense in life or limb:
Which done, — let peace succeed and last a year!"
Such devil's-doctrine was so judged God's law,
We say, when this man stepped upon the stage,
That it had seemed a venial fault at most
Had he once more obeyed Sagacity.
"You come i' the happy interval of peace,
The favourable weariness from war:
Prolong it! — artfully, as if intent
On ending peace as soon as possible.
Quietly so increase the sweets of ease
And safety, so employ the multitude.
Put hod and trowel so in idle hands.
So stuff and stop the wagging jaws with bread.
That selfishness shall surreptitiously
Do wisdom's office, whisper in the ear
Of Hohenstiel-Schwangau, there's a pleasant feel
In being gently forced down, pinioned fast
To the easy arm-chair by the pleading arms
O' the world beseeching her to there abide
Content with all the harm done hitherto,
And let herself be petted in return,
Free to re-wage, in speech and prose and verse,
The old unjust wars, nay — in verse and prose
And speech, — to vaunt new victories, as vile
A plague o' the future, — so that words suffice
For present comfort, and no deeds denote
That, — tired of illimitable line on line
Of boulevard-building, tired o' the theatre
With the tuneful thousand in their thrones above.
For glory of the male intelligence.
And Nakedness in her due niche below,
For illustration of the female use —
She, 'twixt a yawn and sigh, prepares to slip
Out of the arm-chair, wants some blood again
From over the boundary, to colour-up
The sheeny sameness, keep the world aware
Hohenstiel-Schwangau must have exercise
Despite the petting of the universe!
Come, you're a city-builder: what's the way
Wisdom takes when time needs that she entice
Some fierce tribe, castled on the mountain-peak,
Into the quiet and amenity
O' the meadow-land below? By crying 'Done
With fight now, down with fortress?' Rather — 'Dare
On, dare ever, not a stone displaced!'
Cries Wisdom, 'Cradle of our ancestors.
Be bulwark, give our children safety still!
Who of our children please, may stoop and taste
O' the valley-fatness, unafraid, — for why?
At first alarm, they have thy mother-ribs
To run upon for refuge; foes forget
Scarcely what Terror on her vantage-coigne,
Couchant supreme among the powers of air,
Watches — prepared to pounce — the country wide!
Meanwhile the encouraged valley holds its own,
From the first hut's adventure in descent.
Half home, half hiding place, — to dome and spire
Befitting the assured metropolis:
Nor means offence to the fort which caps the crag,
All undismantled of a turret-stone,
And bears the banner-pole that creaks at times
Embarrassed by the old emblazonment,
When festal days are to commemorate.
Otherwise left untenanted, no doubt,
Since, never fear, our myriads from below
Would rush, if needs were, man the walls once more.
Renew the exploits of the earlier time
At moment's notice! But till notice sound,
Inhabit we in ease and opulence!'
And so, till one day thus a notice sounds,
Not trumpeted, but in a whisper-gust
Fitfully playing through mute city streets
At midnight weary of day's feast and game —
'Friends, your famed fort's a ruin past repair!
Its use is — to proclaim it had a use
Stolen away long since. Climb to study there
How to paint barbican and battlement
I' the scenes of our new theatre! We fight
Now — by forbidding neighbours to sell steel
Or buy wine, not by blowing out their brains!
Moreover, while we let time sap the strength
O' the walls omnipotent in menace once,
Neighbours would seem to have prepared surprise —
Run up defences in a mushroom-growth,
For all the world like what we boasted: brief —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau's policy is peace!' "
Ay, so Sagacity advised him filch
Folly from fools: handsomely substitute
The dagger o' lath, while gay they sang and danced
For that long dangerous sword they liked to feel,
Even at feast-time, clink and make friends start.
No! he said "Hear the truth, and bear the truth,
And bring the truth to bear on all you are
And do, assured that only good comes thence
Whate'er the shape good take! While I have rule.
Understand! — war for war's sake, war for the sake
O' the good war gets you as war's sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, — in this paraded shame, —
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, —
Because there has been silence half-an-hour,
Like Heaven on earth, without a cannon-shot
Are minded to disturb the jubilee, —
Because the loud tradition echoes faint,
And who knows but posterity may doubt
If the great deeds were ever done at all,
Much less believe, were such to do again,
So the event would follow: therefore, prove
The old power, at the expense of somebody!
Oh, Glory, — gilded bubble, bard and sage
So nickname rightly, — would thy dance endure
One moment, would thy mocking make believe
Only one upturned eye thy ball was gold,
Had'st thou less breath to buoy thy vacancy
Than a whole multitude expends in praise,
Less range for roaming than from head to head
Of a whole people? Flit, fall, fly again,
Only, fix never where the resolute hand
May prick thee, prove the lie thou art, at once!
Give me real intellect to reason with,
No multitude, no entity that apes
One wise man, being but a million fools!
How and whence wishest glory, thou wise one?
Would'st get it, — did'st thyself guide Providence, —
By stinting of his due each neighbour round
In strength and knowledge and dexterity
So as to have thy littleness grow large
By all those somethings, once, turned nothings, now,
As children make a molehill mountainous
By scooping out the plain into a trench
And saving so their favourite from approach?
Quite otherwise the cheery game of life.
True yet mimetic warfare, whereby man
Does his best with his utmost, and so ends
The victor most of all in fair defeat.
Who thinks, — would he have no one think beside?
Who knows, who does, — must other learning die
And action perish? Why, our giant proves
No better than a dwarf, with rivalry
Prostrate around him. 'Let the whole race stand
And try conclusions fairly!' he cries first.
Show me the great man would engage his peer
Rather by grinning 'Cheat, thy gold is brass!'
Than granting 'Perfect piece of purest ore!
Still, is it less good mintage, this of mine?'
Well, and these right and sound results of soul
I' the strong and healthy one wise man, — shall such
Be vainly sought for, scornfully renounced
I' the multitude that make the entity —
The people? — to what purpose, if no less.
In power and purity of soul, below
The reach of the unit than, in multiplied
Might of the body, vulgarized the more,
Above, in thick and threefold brutishness?
See! you accept such one wise man, myself:
Wiser or less wise, still I operate
From my own stock of wisdom, nor exact
Of other sort of natures you admire.
That whoso rhymes a sonnet pays a tax,
Who paints a landscape dips brush at his cost,
Who scores a septett true for strings and wind
Mulcted must be — else how should I impose
Properly, attitudinize aright,
Did such conflicting claims as these divert
Hohenstiel-Schwangau from observing me?
Therefore, what I find facile, you be sure,
With effort or without it, you shall dare —
You, I aspire to make my better self
And truly the Great Nation. No more war
For war's sake, then! and, — seeing, wickedness
Springs out of folly, — no more foolish dread
O' the neighbour waxing too inordinate
A rival, through his gain of wealth and ease!
What? — keep me patient, Powers! — the people here,
Earth presses to her heart, nor owns a pride
Above her pride i' the race all flame and air
And aspiration to the boundless Great,
The incommensurably Beautiful —
Whose very faulterings groundward come of flight
Urged by a pinion all too passionate
For heaven and what it holds of gloom and glow:
Bravest of thinkers, bravest of the brave
Doers, exalt in Science, rapturous
In Art, the — more than all — magnetic race
To fascinate their fellows, mould mankind
Hohenstiel-Schwangau-fashion, — these, what? — these
Will have to abdicate their primacy
Should such a nation sell them steel untaxed,
And such another take itself, on hire
For the natural sen'night, somebody for lord
Unpatronized by me whose back was turned?
Or such another yet would fain build bridge,
Lay rail, drive tunnel, busy its poor self
With its appropriate fancy: so there's — flash —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau up in arms at once!
Genius has somewhat of the infantine:
But of the childish, not a touch nor taint
Except through self-will, which, being foolishness,
Is certain, soon or late, of punishment.
Which Providence avert! — and that it may
Avert what both of us would so deserve.
No foolish dread o' the neighbour, I enjoin!
By consequence, no wicked war with him,
While I rule!
Does that mean — no war at all
When just the wickedness I here proscribe
Comes, haply, from the neighbour? Does my speech
Precede the praying that you beat the sword
To plough-share, and the spear to pruning-hook.
And sit down henceforth under your own vine
And fig-tree through the sleepy summer month,
Letting what hurly-burly please explode
On the other side the mountain-frontier? No,
Beloved! I foresee and I announce
Necessity of warfare in one case,
For one cause: one way, I bid broach the blood
O' the world. For truth and right, and only right
And truth, — right, truth, on the absolute scale of God,
No pettiness of man's admeasurement, —
In such case only, and for such one cause,
Fight your hearts out, whatever fate betide
Hands energetic to the uttermost!
Lie not! Endure no lie which needs your heart
And hand to push it out of mankind's path —
No lie that lets the natural forces work
Too long ere lay it plain and pulverized —
Seeing man's life lasts only twenty years!
And such a lie, before both man and God,
Being, at this time present, Austria's rule
O'er Italy, — for Austria's sake the first,
Italy's next, and our sake last of all.
Come with me and deliver Italy!
Smite hip and thigh until the oppressor leave
Free from the Adriatic to the Alps
The oppressed one! We were they who laid her low
In the old bad day when Villany braved Truth
And Right, and laughed 'Henceforward, God deposed,
The Devil is to rule for evermore
I' the world!' — whereof to stop the consequence,
And for atonement of false glory there
Gaped at and gabbled over by the world,
We purpose to get God enthroned again
For what the world will gird at as sheer shame
I' the cost of blood and treasure. 'All for naught —
Not even, say, some patch of province, splice
O' the frontier? — some snug honorarium-fee
Shut into glove and pocketed apace?'
(Questions Sagacity) 'in deference
To the natural susceptibility
Of folks at home, unwitting of that pitch
You soar to, and misdoubting if Truth, Right
And the other such augustnesses repay
Expenditure in coin o' the realm, — but prompt
To recognize the cession of Savoy
And Nice as marketable value!' No,
Sagacity, go preach to Metternich,
And, sermon ended, stay where he resides I
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, you and I must march
The other road! war for the hate of war,
Not love, this once!" So Italy was free.
What else noteworthy and commendable
I' the man's career? — that he was resolute
No trepidation, much less treachery
On his part, should imperil from its poise
The ball o' the world, heaved up at such expense
Of pains so far, and ready to rebound,
Let but a finger maladroitly fall,
Under pretence of making fast and sure
The inch gained by late volubility,
And run itself back to the ancient rest
At foot o' the mountain. Thus he ruled, gave proof
The world had gained a point, progressive so,
By choice, this time, as will and power concurred,
0' the fittest man to rule; not chance of birth,
Or such-like dice-throw. Oft Sagacity
Was at his ear: "Confirm this clear advance,
Support this wise procedure! You, elect
O' the people, mean to justify their choice
And out-king all the kingly imbeciles;
But that's just half the enterprise: remains
You find them a successor like yourself,
In head and heart and eye and hand and aim,
Or all done's undone; and whom hope to mould
So like you as the pupil Nature sends,
The son and heir's completeness which you lack?
Lack it no longer! Wed the pick o' the world,
Where'er you think you find it. Should she be
A queen, — tell Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
'So do the old enthroned decrepitudes
Acknowledge, in the rotten hearts of them,
Their knell is knolled, they hasten to make peace
With the new order, recognize in me
Your right to constitute what king you will.
Cringe therefore crown in hand and bride on arm,
To both of us: we triumph, I suppose!'
Is it the other sort of rank? — bright eye,
Soft smile, and so forth, all her queenly boast?
Undaunted the exordium — 'I, the man
O' the people, with the people mate myself:
So stand, so fall. Kings, keep your crowns and brides!
Our progeny (if Providence agree)
Shall live to tread the baubles underfoot
And bid the scarecrows consort with their kin.
For son, as for his sire, be the free wife
In the free state!' "
That is. Sagacity
Would prop up one more lie, the most of all
Pernicious fancy that the son and heir
Receives the genius from the sire, himself
Transmits as surely, — ask experience else!
Which answers, — never was so plain a truth
As that God drops his seed of heavenly flame
Just where He wills on earth: sometimes where man
Seems to tempt — such the accumulated store
Of faculties — one spark to fire the heap;
Sometimes where, fire-ball-like, it falls upon
The naked unpreparedness of rock,
Burns, beaconing the nations through their night.
Faculties, fuel for the flame? All helps
Come, ought to come, or come not, crossed by chance,
From culture and transmission. What's your want
I' the son and heir? Sympathy, aptitude.
Teachableness, the fuel for the flame?
You'll have them for your pains: but the flame's self,
The novel thought of God shall light the world?
No, poet, though your offspring rhyme and chime
I' the cradle, — painter, no, for all your pet
Draws his first eye, beats Salvatore's boy, —
And thrice no, statesman, should your progeny
Tie bib and tucker with no tape but red,
And make a foolscap-kite of protocols!
Critic and copyist and bureaucrat
To heart's content! The seed o' the apple-tree
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
'T is the great gardener grafts the excellence
On wildings where he will.
"How plain I view,
Across those misty years 'twixt me and Rome " —
(Such the man's answer to Sagacity)
The little wayside temple, halfway down
To a mild river that makes oxen white
Miraculously, un-mouse-colours hide,
Or so the Roman country people dream!
I view that sweet small shrub-embedded shrine
On the declivity, was sacred once
To a transmuting Genius of the land,
Could touch and turn its dunnest natures bright,
— Since Italy means the Land of the Ox, we know.
Well, how was it the due succession fell
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool
Calm fane o' the Clitumnian god? The sire
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout,
Endowed instinctively with good and grace
To suit the gliding gentleness below —
Did he? Tradition tells another tale.
Each priest obtained his predecessor's staff,
Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly.
By springing out of ambush, soon or late.
And slaying him: the initiative rite
Simply was murder, save that murder took,
I' the case, another and religious name.
So it was once, is now, shall ever be
With genius and its priesthood in this world:
The new power slays the old — but handsomely.
There he lies, not diminished by an inch
Of stature that he graced the altar with.
Though somebody of other bulk and build
Cries 'What a goodly personage lies here
Reddening the water where the bulrush roots!
May I conduct the service in his place.
Decently and in order, as did he,
And, as he did not, keep a wary watch
When meditating 'neath a willow shade!'
Find out your best man, sure the son of him,
Will prove best man again, and, better still
Somehow than best, the grandson-prodigy!
You think the world would last another day
Did we so make us masters of the trick
Whereby the works go, we could pre-arrange
Their play and reach perfection when we please?
Depend on it, the change and the surprise
Are part o' the plan: 't is we wish steadiness;
Nature prefers a motion by unrest,
Advancement through this force that jostles that.
And so, since much remains i' the world to see.
Here is it still, affording God the sight."
Thus did the man refute Sagacity,
Ever at this one whisper in his ear:
"Here are you picked out, by a miracle,
And placed conspicuously enough, folks say
And you believe, by Providence outright
Taking a new way — nor without success —
To put the world upon its mettle: good!
But Fortune alternates with Providence;
Resource is soon exhausted. Never count
On such a happy hit occurring twice!
Try the old method next time!"
(At whisper in his ear, the laugh outbroke)
"And most discredited of all the modes
By just the men and women who make boast
They are kings and queens thereby! Mere self-defence
Should teach them, on one chapter of the law
Must be no sort of trifling — chastity:
They stand or fall, as their progenitors
Were chaste or unchaste. Now, run eye around
My crowned acquaintance, give each life its look
And no more, — why, you'd think each life was led
Purposely for example of what pains
Who leads it took to cure the prejudice.
And prove there's nothing so unproveable
As who is who, what son of what a sire,
And, — inferentially, — how faint the chance
That the next generation needs to fear
Another fool o' the selfsame type as he
Happily regnant now by right divine
And luck o' the pillow! No: select your lord
By the direct employment of your brains
As best you may, — bad as the blunder prove,
A far worse evil stank beneath the sun
When some legitimate blockhead managed so
Matters that high time was to interfere,
Though interference came from hell itself
And not the blind mad miserable mob
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck
And divine right, — by lies in short, not truth.
And meanwhile use the allotted minute . . . "
Two, three, four, five — yes, five the pendule warns!
Eh? Why, this wild work wanders past all bound
And bearing! Exile, Leicester-square, the life
I' the old gay miserable time, rehearsed,
Tried on again like cast clothes, still to serve
At a pinch, perhaps? "Who's who?" was aptly asked,
Since certainly I am not I! since when?
Where is the bud-mouthed arbitress? A nod
Out-Homering Homer! Stay — there flits the clue
I fain would find the end of! Yes, — "Meanwhile,
Use the allotted minute!" Well, you see,
(Veracious and imaginary Thiers,
Who map out thus the life I might have led,
But did not, — all the worse for earth and me —
Doff spectacles, wipe pen, shut book, decamp!)
You see 't is easy in heroics! Plain
Pedestrian speech shall help me perorate.
Ah, if one had no need to use the tongue!
How obvious and how easy 't is to talk
Inside the soul, a ghostly dialogue —
Instincts with guesses, — instinct, guess, again
With dubious knowledge, half-experience: each
And all the interlocutors alike
Subordinating, — as decorum bids,
Oh, never fear! but still decisively, —
Claims from without that take too high a tone,
— ("God wills this, man wants that, the dignity
Prescribed a prince would wish the other thing") —
Putting them back to insignificance
Beside one intimatest fact — myself
Am first to be considered, since I live
Twenty years longer and then end, perhaps!
But, where one ceases to soliloquize,
Somehow the motives, that did well enough
I' the darkness, when you bring them into light
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye
And organ for the upper magnitudes.
The other common creatures, of less fine
Existence, that acknowledge earth and heaven,
Have it their own way in the argument.
Yes, forced to speak, one stoops to say — one's aim
Was — what it peradventure should have been; —
To renovate a people, mend or end
That bane come of a blessing meant the world —
Inordinate culture of the sense made quick
By soul, — the lust o' the flesh, lust of the eye,
And pride of life, — and, consequent on these,
The worship of that prince o' the power o' the air
Who paints the cloud and fills the emptiness
And bids his votaries, famishing for truth.
Feed on a lie.
Alack, one lies oneself
Even in the stating that one's end was truth,
Truth only, if one states as much in words!
Give me the inner chamber of the soul
For obvious easy argument! 't is there
One pits the silent truth against a lie —
Truth which breaks shell a careless simple bird,
Nor wants a gorget nor a beak filed fine,
Steel spurs and the whole armoury o' the tongue,
To equalize the odds. But, do your best,
Words have to come: and somehow words deflect
As the best cannon ever rifled will.
"Deflect" indeed! nor merely words from thoughts
But names from facts: "Clitumnus" did I say?
As if it had been his ox-whitening wave
Whereby folk practised that grim cult of old —
The murder of their temple's priest by who
Would qualify for his succession. Sure —
Nemi was the true lake's style. Dream had need
Of the ox-whitening piece of prettiness
And so confused names, well known once awake.
So, i' the Residenz yet, not Leicester-square,
Alone, — no such congenial intercourse! —
My reverie concludes, as dreaming should,
With daybreak: nothing done and over yet,
Except cigars! The adventure thus may be,
Or never needs to be at all: who knows?
My Cousin-Duke, perhaps, at whose hard head
— Is it, now — is this letter to be launched,
The sight of whose grey oblong, whose grim seal,
Set all these fancies floating for an hour?
Twenty years are good gain, come what come will!
Double or quits! The letter goes! Or stays?
Canto the First
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.
Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And fill'd their sign posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.
Nelson was once Britannia's god of war,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
'T is with our hero quietly inurn'd;
Because the army's grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern'd;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.
Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten:—I condemn none,
But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I'll take my friend Don Juan.
Most epic poets plunge "in medias res"
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
What went before—by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.
That is the usual method, but not mine—
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
And also of his mother, if you'd rather.
In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb—and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps—but that you soon may see;
Don Juan's parents lived beside the river,
A noble stream, and call'd the Guadalquivir.
His father's name was Jóse—Don, of course,—
A true Hidalgo, free from every stain
Of Moor or Hebrew blood, he traced his source
Through the most Gothic gentlemen of Spain;
A better cavalier ne'er mounted horse,
Or, being mounted, e'er got down again,
Than Jóse, who begot our hero, who
Begot—but that's to come—Well, to renew:
His mother was a learnéd lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
In every Christian language ever named,
With virtues equall'd by her wit alone,
She made the cleverest people quite ashamed,
And even the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded
In their own way by all the things that she did.
Her memory was a mine: she knew by heart
All Calderon and greater part of Lopé,
So that if any actor miss'd his part
She could have served him for the prompter's copy;
For her Feinagle's were an useless art,
And he himself obliged to shut up shop—he
Could never make a memory so fine as
That which adorn'd the brain of Donna Inez.
Her favourite science was the mathematical,
Her noblest virtue was her magnanimity,
Her wit (she sometimes tried at wit) was Attic all,
Her serious sayings darken'd to sublimity;
In short, in all things she was fairly what I call
A prodigy—her morning dress was dimity,
Her evening silk, or, in the summer, muslin,
And other stuffs, with which I won't stay puzzling.
She knew the Latin—that is, "the Lord's prayer,"
And Greek—the alphabet—I'm nearly sure;
She read some French romances here and there,
Although her mode of speaking was not pure;
For native Spanish she had no great care,
At least her conversation was obscure;
Her thoughts were theorems, her words a problem,
As if she deem'd that mystery would ennoble 'em.
She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue,
And said there was analogy between 'em;
She proved it somehow out of sacred song,
But I must leave the proofs to those who've seen 'em;
But this I heard her say, and can't be wrong
And all may think which way their judgments lean 'em,
"'T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,'
The English always used to govern d—n."
Some women use their tongues—she look'd a lecture,
Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,
An all-in-all sufficient self-director,
Like the lamented late Sir Samuel Romilly,
The Law's expounder, and the State's corrector,
Whose suicide was almost an anomaly—
One sad example more, that "All is vanity"
(The jury brought their verdict in "Insanity").
In short, she was a walking calculation,
Miss Edgeworth's novels stepping from their covers,
Or Mrs. Trimmer's books on education,
Or "Coelebs' Wife" set out in quest of lovers,
Morality's prim personification,
In which not Envy's self a flaw discovers;
To others' share let "female errors fall,"
For she had not even one—the worst of all.
Oh! she was perfect past all parallel—
Of any modern female saint's comparison;
So far above the cunning powers of hell,
Her guardian angel had given up his garrison;
Even her minutest motions went as well
As those of the best time-piece made by Harrison:
In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,
Save thine "incomparable oil," Macassar!
Perfect she was, but as perfection is
Insipid in this naughty world of ours,
Where our first parents never learn'd to kiss
Till they were exiled from their earlier bowers,
Where all was peace, and innocence, and bliss
(I wonder how they got through the twelve hours),
Don Jóse, like a lineal son of Eve,
Went plucking various fruit without her leave.
He was a mortal of the careless kind,
With no great love for learning, or the learn'd,
Who chose to go where'er he had a mind,
And never dream'd his lady was concern'd;
The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
To see a kingdom or a house o'erturn'd,
Whisper'd he had a mistress, some said two—
But for domestic quarrels one will do.
Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
A great opinion of her own good qualities;
Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
But then she had a devil of a spirit,
And sometimes mix'd up fancies with realities,
And let few opportunities escape
Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
This was an easy matter with a man
Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
And even the wisest, do the best they can,
Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
That you might "brain them with their lady's fan;"
And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
And why and wherefore no one understands.
'T is pity learnéd virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don't choose to say much upon this head,
I'm a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?
Don Jóse and his lady quarrell'd—why,
Not any of the many could divine,
Though several thousand people chose to try,
'T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
I loathe that low vice—curiosity;
But if there's anything in which I shine,
'T is in arranging all my friends' affairs,
Not having of my own domestic cares.
And so I interfered, and with the best
Intentions, but their treatment was not kind;
I think the foolish people were possess'd,
For neither of them could I ever find,
Although their porter afterwards confess'd—
But that's no matter, and the worst's behind,
For little Juan o'er me threw, down stairs,
A pail of housemaid's water unawares.
A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing,
And mischief-making monkey from his birth;
His parents ne'er agreed except in doting
Upon the most unquiet imp on earth;
Instead of quarrelling, had they been but both in
Their senses, they'd have sent young master forth
To school, or had him soundly whipp'd at home,
To teach him manners for the time to come.
Don Jóse and the Donna Inez led
For some time an unhappy sort of life,
Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead;
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their conduct was exceedingly well-bred,
And gave no outward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smother'd fire broke out,
And put the business past all kind of doubt.
For Inez call'd some druggists and physicians,
And tried to prove her loving lord was mad;
But as he had some lucid intermissions,
She next decided he was only bad;
Yet when they ask'd her for her depositions,
No sort of explanation could be had,
Save that her duty both to man and God
Required this conduct—which seem'd very odd.
She kept a journal, where his faults were noted,
And open'd certain trunks of books and letters,
All which might, if occasion served, be quoted;
And then she had all Seville for abettors,
Besides her good old grandmother (who doted);
The hearers of her case became repeaters,
Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,
Some for amusement, others for old grudges.
And then this best and weakest woman bore
With such serenity her husband's woes,
Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
Who saw their spouses kill'd, and nobly chose
Never to say a word about them more—
Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
And saw his agonies with such sublimity,
That all the world exclaim'd, "What magnanimity!"
No doubt this patience, when the world is damning us,
Is philosophic in our former friends;
'T is also pleasant to be deem'd magnanimous,
The more so in obtaining our own ends;
And what the lawyers call a "malus animus"
Conduct like this by no means comprehends;
Revenge in person's certainly no virtue,
But then 't is not my fault, if others hurt you.
And if your quarrels should rip up old stories,
And help them with a lie or two additional,
I'm not to blame, as you well know—no more is
Any one else—they were become traditional;
Besides, their resurrection aids our glories
By contrast, which is what we just were wishing all:
And science profits by this resurrection—
Dead scandals form good subjects for dissection.
Their friends had tried at reconciliation,
Then their relations, who made matters worse.
('T were hard to tell upon a like occasion
To whom it may be best to have recourse—
I can't say much for friend or yet relation):
The lawyers did their utmost for divorce,
But scarce a fee was paid on either side
Before, unluckily, Don Jóse died.
He died: and most unluckily, because,
According to all hints I could collect
From counsel learnéd in those kinds of laws
(Although their talk's obscure and circumspect),
His death contrived to spoil a charming cause;
A thousand pities also with respect
To public feeling, which on this occasion
Was manifested in a great sensation.
But, ah! he died; and buried with him lay
The public feeling and the lawyers' fees:
His house was sold, his servants sent away,
A Jew took one of his two mistresses,
A priest the other—at least so they say:
I ask'd the doctors after his disease—
He died of the slow fever call'd the tertian,
And left his widow to her own aversion.
Yet Jóse was an honourable man,
That I must say who knew him very well;
Therefore his frailties I'll no further scan
Indeed there were not many more to tell;
And if his passions now and then outran
Discretion, and were not so peaceable
As Numa's (who was also named Pompilius),
He had been ill brought up, and was born bilious.
Whate'er might be his worthlessness or worth,
Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him.
Let's own—since it can do no good on earth—
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver'd round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors' Commons- so he died.
Dying intestate, Juan was sole heir
To a chancery suit, and messuages, and lands,
Which, with a long minority and care,
Promised to turn out well in proper hands:
Inez became sole guardian, which was fair,
And answer'd but to nature's just demands;
An only son left with an only mother
Is brought up much more wisely than another.
Sagest of women, even of widows, she
Resolved that Juan should be quite a paragon,
And worthy of the noblest pedigree
(His sire was of Castile, his dam from Aragon):
Then for accomplishments of chivalry,
In case our lord the king should go to war again,
He learn'd the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learnéd tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan's eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that's loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer'd, lest he should grow vicious.
His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.
Ovid's a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon's morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don't think Sappho's Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil's songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with "Formosum Pastor Corydon."
Lucretius' irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can't help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?
Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learnéd men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy's vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;
For there we have them all "at one fell swoop,"
Instead of being scatter'd through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall'd in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
The Missal too (it was the family Missal)
Was ornamented in a sort of way
Which ancient mass-books often are, and this all
Kinds of grotesques illumined; and how they,
Who saw those figures on the margin kiss all,
Could turn their optics to the text and pray,
Is more than I know—But Don Juan's mother
Kept this herself, and gave her son another.
Sermons he read, and lectures he endured,
And homilies, and lives of all the saints;
To Jerome and to Chrysostom inured,
He did not take such studies for restraints;
But how faith is acquired, and then ensured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his fine Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.
This, too, was a seal'd book to little Juan—
I can't but say that his mamma was right,
If such an education was the true one.
She scarcely trusted him from out her sight;
Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
She did this during even her husband's life—
I recommend as much to every wife.
Young Juan wax'd in goodliness and grace;
At six a charming child, and at eleven
With all the promise of as fine a face
As e'er to man's maturer growth was given:
He studied steadily, and grew apace,
And seem'd, at least, in the right road to heaven,
For half his days were pass'd at church, the other
Between his tutors, confessor, and mother.
At six, I said, he was a charming child,
At twelve he was a fine, but quiet boy;
Although in infancy a little wild,
They tamed him down amongst them: to destroy
His natural spirit not in vain they toil'd,
At least it seem'd so; and his mother's joy
Was to declare how sage, and still, and steady,
Her young philosopher was grown already.
I had my doubts, perhaps I have them still,
But what I say is neither here nor there:
I knew his father well, and have some skill
In character—but it would not be fair
From sire to son to augur good or ill:
He and his wife were an ill-sorted pair—
But scandal's my aversion—I protest
Against all evil speaking, even in jest.
For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
This I will say—my reasons are my own—
That if I had an only son to put
To school (as God be praised that I have none),
'T is not with Donna Inez I would shut
Him up to learn his catechism alone,
No—no—I'd send him out betimes to college,
For there it was I pick'd up my own knowledge.
For there one learns—'t is not for me to boast,
Though I acquired—but I pass over that,
As well as all the Greek I since have lost:
I say that there's the place—but Verbum sat.
I think I pick'd up too, as well as most,
Knowledge of matters—but no matter what—
I never married—but, I think, I know
That sons should not be educated so.
Young Juan now was sixteen years of age,
Tall, handsome, slender, but well knit: he seem'd
Active, though not so sprightly, as a page;
And everybody but his mother deem'd
Him almost man; but she flew in a rage
And bit her lips (for else she might have scream'd)
If any said so, for to be precocious
Was in her eyes a thing the most atrocious.
Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all
Selected for discretion and devotion,
There was the Donna Julia, whom to call
Pretty were but to give a feeble notion
Of many charms in her as natural
As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean,
Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid
(But this last simile is trite and stupid).
The darkness of her Oriental eye
Accorded with her Moorish origin
(Her blood was not all Spanish, by the by;
In Spain, you know, this is a sort of sin);
When proud Granada fell, and, forced to fly,
Boabdil wept, of Donna Julia's kin
Some went to Africa, some stay'd in Spain,
Her great-great-grandmamma chose to remain.
She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an Hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins—nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruin'd its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful as fresh;
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain:
But there's a rumour which I fain would hush,
'T is said that Donna Julia's grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation,
Until it centred in an only son,
Who left an only daughter; my narration
May have suggested that this single one
Could be but Julia (whom on this occasion
I shall have much to speak about), and she
Was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three.
Her eye (I'm very fond of handsome eyes)
Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
Flash'd an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten'd down the whole.
Her glossy hair was cluster'd o'er a brow
Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow's shape was like th' aerial bow,
Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess'd an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.
Wedded she was some years, and to a man
Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a one
'T were better to have two of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
And now I think on 't, "mi vien in mente",
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.
'T is a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate's sultry.
Happy the nations of the moral North!
Where all is virtue, and the winter season
Sends sin, without a rag on, shivering forth
('T was snow that brought St. Anthony to reason);
Where juries cast up what a wife is worth,
By laying whate'er sum in mulct they please on
The lover, who must pay a handsome price,
Because it is a marketable vice.
Alfonso was the name of Julia's lord,
A man well looking for his years, and who
Was neither much beloved nor yet abhorr'd:
They lived together, as most people do,
Suffering each other's foibles by accord,
And not exactly either one or two;
Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,
For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.
Julia was—yet I never could see why—
With Donna Inez quite a favourite friend;
Between their tastes there was small sympathy,
For not a line had Julia ever penn'd:
Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,
For malice still imputes some private end)
That Inez had, ere Don Alfonso's marriage,
Forgot with him her very prudent carriage;
And that still keeping up the old connection,
Which time had lately render'd much more chaste,
She took his lady also in affection,
And certainly this course was much the best:
She flatter'd Julia with her sage protection,
And complimented Don Alfonso's taste;
And if she could not (who can?) silence scandal,
At least she left it a more slender handle.
I can't tell whether Julia saw the affair
With other people's eyes, or if her own
Discoveries made, but none could be aware
Of this, at least no symptom e'er was shown;
Perhaps she did not know, or did not care,
Indifferent from the first or callous grown:
I'm really puzzled what to think or say,
She kept her counsel in so close a way.
Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caress'd him often—such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.
Whate'er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
Yet Julia's very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
'T was but a doubt; but ne'er magician's wand
Wrought change with all Armida's fairy art
Like what this light touch left on Juan's heart.
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look'd a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish'd more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.
But passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, 't is still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or anger, even disdain or hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.
Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly love is
Embarrass'd at first starting with a novice.
Poor Julia's heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For honour's, pride's, religion's, virtue's sake;
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin quake:
She pray'd the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady's case.
She vow'd she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And look'd extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin's grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore—
Again it opens, it can be no other,
'T is surely Juan now—No! I'm afraid
That night the Virgin was no further pray'd.
She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation;
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel upon occasion
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.
And even if by chance—and who can tell?
The devil's so very sly—she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they're over;
And if the man should ask, 't is but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.
And then there are such things as love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmix'd and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, "just such love as mine;"
Thus Julia said—and thought so, to be sure;
And so I'd have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.
Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kist;
For my part, to such doings I'm a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o'er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, 't is quite a crime,
But not my fault—I tell them all in time.
Love, then, but love within its proper limits,
Was Julia's innocent determination
In young Don Juan's favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by love and her together—
I really don't know what, nor Julia either.
Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof—her purity of soul—
She, for the future of her strength convinced.
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mention'd in the sequel.
Her plan she deem'd both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not scandal's fangs could fix on much that's seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable—
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sigh'd)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it—inter nos.
(This should be entre nous, for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for naught.)
I only say suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man's estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of love,
I mean the seraph way of those above.
So much for Julia. Now we'll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid's Miss Medea,
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.
Silent and pensive, idle, restless, slow,
His home deserted for the lonely wood,
Tormented with a wound he could not know,
His, like all deep grief, plunged in solitude:
I'm fond myself of solitude or so,
But then, I beg it may be understood,
By solitude I mean a sultan's, not
A hermit's, with a haram for a grot.
"Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine."
The bard I quote from does not sing amiss,
With the exception of the second line,
For that same twining "transport and security"
Are twisted to a phrase of some obscurity.
The poet meant, no doubt, and thus appeals
To the good sense and senses of mankind,
The very thing which every body feels,
As all have found on trial, or may find,
That no one likes to be disturb'd at meals
Or love.—I won't say more about "entwined"
Or "transport," as we knew all that before,
But beg'security' will bolt the door.
Young Juan wander'd by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turn'd, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.
He thought about himself, and the whole earth
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;—
And then he thought of Donna Julia's eyes.
In thoughts like these true wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
'T was strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think 't was philosophy that this did,
I can't help thinking puberty assisted.
He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He miss'd the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he look'd upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner—
He also found that he had lost his dinner.
Sometimes he turn'd to gaze upon his book,
Boscan, or Garcilasso;—by the wind
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if 't were one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman's tale.
Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With—several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.
Those lonely walks, and lengthening reveries,
Could not escape the gentle Julia's eyes;
She saw that Juan was not at his ease;
But that which chiefly may, and must surprise,
Is, that the Donna Inez did not tease
Her only son with question or surmise:
Whether it was she did not see, or would not,
Or, like all very clever people, could not.
This may seem strange, but yet 't is very common;
For instance—gentlemen, whose ladies take
Leave to o'erstep the written rights of woman,
And break the—Which commandment is 't they break?
(I have forgot the number, and think no man
Should rashly quote, for fear of a mistake.)
I say, when these same gentlemen are jealous,
They make some blunder, which their ladies tell us.
A real husband always is suspicious,
But still no less suspects in the wrong place,
Jealous of some one who had no such wishes,
Or pandering blindly to his own disgrace,
By harbouring some dear friend extremely vicious;
The last indeed's infallibly the case:
And when the spouse and friend are gone off wholly,
He wonders at their vice, and not his folly.
Thus parents also are at times short-sighted;
Though watchful as the lynx, they ne'er discover,
The while the wicked world beholds delighted,
Young Hopeful's mistress, or Miss Fanny's lover,
Till some confounded escapade has blighted
The plan of twenty years, and all is over;
And then the mother cries, the father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs.
But Inez was so anxious, and so clear
Of sight, that I must think, on this occasion,
She had some other motive much more near
For leaving Juan to this new temptation;
But what that motive was, I sha'n't say here;
Perhaps to finish Juan's education,
Perhaps to open Don Alfonso's eyes,
In case he thought his wife too great a prize.
It was upon a day, a summer's day;—
Summer's indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe'er the cause is, one may say,
And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,—
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.
'T was on a summer's day—the sixth of June:—
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making history change its tune,
Then spur away o'er empires and o'er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits of theology.
'T was on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six—perhaps still nearer seven—
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e'er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song—
He won them well, and may he wear them long!
She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell—
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face—
When two such faces are so, 't would be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.
How beautiful she look'd! her conscious heart
Glow'd in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong.
Oh Love! how perfect is thy mystic art,
Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong,
How self-deceitful is the sagest part
Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along-
The precipice she stood on was immense,
So was her creed in her own innocence.
She thought of her own strength, and Juan's youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
And then of Don Alfonso's fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurr'd, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate'er it may in money.
When people say, "I've told you fifty times,"
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, "I've written fifty rhymes,"
They make you dread that they'll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, 't is true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.
Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love,
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she ponder'd this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan's carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake—she thought it was her own;
Unconsciously she lean'd upon the other,
Which play'd within the tangles of her hair:
And to contend with thoughts she could not smother
She seem'd by the distraction of her air.
'T was surely very wrong in Juan's mother
To leave together this imprudent pair,
She who for many years had watch'd her son so—
I'm very certain mine would not have done so.
The hand which still held Juan's, by degrees
Gently, but palpably confirm'd its grasp,
As if it said, "Detain me, if you please;"
Yet there's no doubt she only meant to clasp
His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze:
She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp,
Had she imagined such a thing could rouse
A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.
I cannot know what Juan thought of this,
But what he did, is much what you would do;
His young lip thank'd it with a grateful kiss,
And then, abash'd at its own joy, withdrew
In deep despair, lest he had done amiss,—
Love is so very timid when 't is new:
She blush'd, and frown'd not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.
The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon:
The devil's in the moon for mischief; they
Who call'd her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon
Their nomenclature; there is not a day,
The longest, not the twenty-first of June,
Sees half the business in a wicked way
On which three single hours of moonshine smile—
And then she looks so modest all the while.
There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
A loving languor, which is not repose.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 't was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then—— God knows what next—I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.
Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o'er the controulless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:—You're a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb—and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish indeed they had not had occasion,
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that remorse did not oppose temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented
And whispering "I will ne'er consent"—consented.
'T is said that Xerxes offer'd a reward
To those who could invent him a new pleasure:
Methinks the requisition's rather hard,
And must have cost his majesty a treasure:
For my part, I'm a moderate-minded bard,
Fond of a little love (which I call leisure);
I care not for new pleasures, as the old
Are quite enough for me, so they but hold.
Oh Pleasure! you are indeed a pleasant thing,
Although one must be damn'd for you, no doubt:
I make a resolution every spring
Of reformation, ere the year run out,
But somehow, this my vestal vow takes wing,
Yet still, I trust it may be kept throughout:
I'm very sorry, very much ashamed,
And mean, next winter, to be quite reclaim'd.
Here my chaste Muse a liberty must take—
Start not! still chaster reader—she'll be nice hence—
Forward, and there is no great cause to quake;
This liberty is a poetic licence,
Which some irregularity may make
In the design, and as I have a high sense
Of Aristotle and the Rules, 't is fit
To beg his pardon when I err a bit.
This licence is to hope the reader will
Suppose from June the sixth (the fatal day,
Without whose epoch my poetic skill
For want of facts would all be thrown away),
But keeping Julia and Don Juan still
In sight, that several months have pass'd; we'll say
'T was in November, but I'm not so sure
About the day—the era's more obscure.
We'll talk of that anon.—'T is sweet to hear
At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep
The song and oar of Adria's gondolier,
By distance mellow'd, o'er the waters sweep;
'T is sweet to see the evening star appear;
'T is sweet to listen as the night-winds creep
From leaf to leaf; 't is sweet to view on high
The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.
'T is sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark
Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home;
'T is sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming, and look brighter when we come;
'T is sweet to be awaken'd by the lark,
Or lull'd by falling waters; sweet the hum
Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,
The lisp of children, and their earliest words.
Sweet is the vintage, when the showering grapes
In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth,
Purple and gushing: sweet are our escapes
From civic revelry to rural mirth;
Sweet to the miser are his glittering heaps,
Sweet to the father is his first-born's birth,
Sweet is revenge—especially to women,
Pillage to soldiers, prize-money to seamen.
Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady
Or gentleman of seventy years complete,
Who've made "us youth" wait too—too long already
For an estate, or cash, or country seat,
Still breaking, but with stamina so steady
That all the Israelites are fit to mob its
Next owner for their double-damn'd post-obits.
'T is sweet to win, no matter how, one's laurels,
By blood or ink; 't is sweet to put an end
To strife; 't is sometimes sweet to have our quarrels,
Particularly with a tiresome friend:
Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels;
Dear is the helpless creature we defend
Against the world; and dear the schoolboy spot
We ne'er forget, though there we are forgot.
But sweeter still than this, than these, than all,
Is first and passionate love—it stands alone,
Like Adam's recollection of his fall;
The tree of knowledge has been pluck'd—all's known—
And life yields nothing further to recall
Worthy of this ambrosial sin, so shown,
No doubt in fable, as the unforgiven
Fire which Prometheus filch'd for us from heaven.
Man's a strange animal, and makes strange use
Of his own nature, and the various arts,
And likes particularly to produce
Some new experiment to show his parts;
This is the age of oddities let loose,
Where different talents find their different marts;
You'd best begin with truth, and when you've lost your
Labour, there's a sure market for imposture.
What opposite discoveries we have seen!
(Signs of true genius, and of empty pockets.)
One makes new noses, one a guillotine,
One breaks your bones, one sets them in their sockets;
But vaccination certainly has been
A kind antithesis to Congreve's rockets,
With which the Doctor paid off an old pox,
By borrowing a new one from an ox.
Bread has been made (indifferent) from potatoes;
And galvanism has set some corpses grinning,
But has not answer'd like the apparatus
Of the Humane Society's beginning
By which men are unsuffocated gratis:
What wondrous new machines have late been spinning!
I said the small-pox has gone out of late;
Perhaps it may be follow'd by the great.
'T is said the great came from America;
Perhaps it may set out on its return,—
The population there so spreads, they say
'T is grown high time to thin it in its turn,
With war, or plague, or famine, any way,
So that civilisation they may learn;
And which in ravage the more loathsome evil is—
Their real lues, or our pseudo-syphilis?
This is the patent-age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphry Davy's lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Man's a phenomenon, one knows not what,
And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure;
'T is pity though, in this sublime world, that
Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure;
Few mortals know what end they would be at,
But whether glory, power, or love, or treasure,
The path is through perplexing ways, and when
The goal is gain'd, we die, you know—and then—
What then?—I do not know, no more do you—
And so good night.—Return we to our story:
'T was in November, when fine days are few,
And the far mountains wax a little hoary,
And clap a white cape on their mantles blue;
And the sea dashes round the promontory,
And the loud breaker boils against the rock,
And sober suns must set at five o'clock.
'T was, as the watchmen say, a cloudy night;
No moon, no stars, the wind was low or loud
By gusts, and many a sparkling hearth was bright
With the piled wood, round which the family crowd;
There's something cheerful in that sort of light,
Even as a summer sky's without a cloud:
I'm fond of fire, and crickets, and all that,
A lobster salad, and champagne, and chat.
'T was midnight—Donna Julia was in bed,
Sleeping, most probably,—when at her door
Arose a clatter might awake the dead,
If they had never been awoke before,
And that they have been so we all have read,
And are to be so, at the least, once more;—
The door was fasten'd, but with voice and fist
First knocks were heard, then "Madam—Madam—hist!
"For God's sake, Madam—Madam—here's my master,
With more than half the city at his back—
Was ever heard of such a curst disaster!
'T is not my fault—I kept good watch—Alack!
Do pray undo the bolt a little faster—
They're on the stair just now, and in a crack
Will all be here; perhaps he yet may fly—
Surely the window's not so very high!"
By this time Don Alfonso was arrived,
With torches, friends, and servants in great number;
The major part of them had long been wived,
And therefore paused not to disturb the slumber
Of any wicked woman, who contrived
By stealth her husband's temples to encumber:
Examples of this kind are so contagious,
Were one not punish'd, all would be outrageous.
I can't tell how, or why, or what suspicion
Could enter into Don Alfonso's head;
But for a cavalier of his condition
It surely was exceedingly ill-bred,
Without a word of previous admonition,
To hold a levee round his lady's bed,
And summon lackeys, arm'd with fire and sword,
To prove himself the thing he most abhorr'd.
Poor Donna Julia, starting as from sleep
(Mind—that I do not say—she had not slept),
Began at once to scream, and yawn, and weep;
Her maid Antonia, who was an adept,
Contrived to fling the bed-clothes in a heap,
As if she had just now from out them crept:
I can't tell why she should take all this trouble
To prove her mistress had been sleeping double.
But Julia mistress, and Antonia maid,
Appear'd like two poor harmless women, who
Of goblins, but still more of men afraid,
Had thought one man might be deterr'd by two,
And therefore side by side were gently laid,
Until the hours of absence should run through,
And truant husband should return, and say,
"My dear, I was the first who came away."
Now Julia found at length a voice, and cried,
"In heaven's name, Don Alfonso, what d' ye mean?
Has madness seized you? would that I had died
Ere such a monster's victim I had been!
What may this midnight violence betide,
A sudden fit of drunkenness or spleen?
Dare you suspect me, whom the thought would kill?
Search, then, the room!"—Alfonso said, "I will."
He search'd, they search'd, and rummaged everywhere,
Closet and clothes' press, chest and window-seat,
And found much linen, lace, and several pair
Of stockings, slippers, brushes, combs, complete,
With other articles of ladies fair,
To keep them beautiful, or leave them neat:
Arras they prick'd and curtains with their swords,
And wounded several shutters, and some boards.
Under the bed they search'd, and there they found—
No matter what—it was not that they sought;
They open'd windows, gazing if the ground
Had signs or footmarks, but the earth said nought;
And then they stared each other's faces round:
'T is odd, not one of all these seekers thought,
And seems to me almost a sort of blunder,
Of looking in the bed as well as under.
During this inquisition, Julia's tongue
Was not asleep—"Yes, search and search," she cried,
"Insult on insult heap, and wrong on wrong!
It was for this that I became a bride!
For this in silence I have suffer'd long
A husband like Alfonso at my side;
But now I'll bear no more, nor here remain,
If there be law or lawyers in all Spain.
"Yes, Don Alfonso! husband now no more,
If ever you indeed deserved the name,
Is 't worthy of your years?—you have threescore—
Fifty, or sixty, it is all the same—
Is 't wise or fitting, causeless to explore
For facts against a virtuous woman's fame?
Ungrateful, perjured, barbarous Don Alfonso,
How dare you think your lady would go on so?
"Is it for this I have disdain'd to hold
The common privileges of my sex?
That I have chosen a confessor so old
And deaf, that any other it would vex,
And never once he has had cause to scold,
But found my very innocence perplex
So much, he always doubted I was married—
How sorry you will be when I've miscarried!
"Was it for this that no Cortejo e'er
I yet have chosen from out the youth of Seville?
Is it for this I scarce went anywhere,
Except to bull-fights, mass, play, rout, and revel?
Is it for this, whate'er my suitors were,
I favor'd none—nay, was almost uncivil?
Is it for this that General Count O'Reilly,
Who took Algiers, declares I used him vilely?
"Did not the Italian Musico Cazzani
Sing at my heart six months at least in vain?
Did not his countryman, Count Corniani,
Call me the only virtuous wife in Spain?
Were there not also Russians, English, many?
The Count Strongstroganoff I put in pain,
And Lord Mount Coffeehouse, the Irish peer,
Who kill'd himself for love (with wine) last year.
"Have I not had two bishops at my feet,
The Duke of Ichar, and Don Fernan Nunez?
And is it thus a faithful wife you treat?
I wonder in what quarter now the moon is:
I praise your vast forbearance not to beat
Me also, since the time so opportune is—
Oh, valiant man! with sword drawn and cock'd trigger,
Now, tell me, don't you cut a pretty figure?
"Was it for this you took your sudden journey.
Under pretence of business indispensable
With that sublime of rascals your attorney,
Whom I see standing there, and looking sensible
Of having play'd the fool? though both I spurn, he
Deserves the worst, his conduct's less defensible,
Because, no doubt, 't was for his dirty fee,
And not from any love to you nor me.
"If he comes here to take a deposition,
By all means let the gentleman proceed;
You've made the apartment in a fit condition:
There's pen and ink for you, sir, when you need—
Let every thing be noted with precision,
I would not you for nothing should be fee'd—
But, as my maid's undrest, pray turn your spies out."
"Oh!" sobb'd Antonia, "I could tear their eyes out."
"There is the closet, there the toilet, there
The antechamber—search them under, over;
There is the sofa, there the great arm-chair,
The chimney—which would really hold a lover.
I wish to sleep, and beg you will take care
And make no further noise, till you discover
The secret cavern of this lurking treasure—
And when 't is found, let me, too, have that pleasure.
"And now, Hidalgo! now that you have thrown
Doubt upon me, confusion over all,
Pray have the courtesy to make it known
Who is the man you search for? how d' ye call
Him? what's his lineage? let him but be shown—
I hope he's young and handsome—is he tall?
Tell me—and be assured, that since you stain
My honour thus, it shall not be in vain.
"At least, perhaps, he has not sixty years,
At that age he would be too old for slaughter,
Or for so young a husband's jealous fears
(Antonia! let me have a glass of water).
I am ashamed of having shed these tears,
They are unworthy of my father's daughter;
My mother dream'd not in my natal hour
That I should fall into a monster's power.
"Perhaps 't is of Antonia you are jealous,
You saw that she was sleeping by my side
When you broke in upon us with your fellows:
Look where you please—we've nothing, sir, to hide;
Only another time, I trust, you'll tell us,
Or for the sake of decency abide
A moment at the door, that we may be
Drest to receive so much good company.
"And now, sir, I have done, and say no more;
The little I have said may serve to show
The guileless heart in silence may grieve o'er
The wrongs to whose exposure it is slow:
I leave you to your conscience as before,
'T will one day ask you why you used me so?
God grant you feel not then the bitterest grief!—
Antonia! where's my pocket-handkerchief?"
She ceased, and turn'd upon her pillow; pale
She lay, her dark eyes flashing through their tears,
Like skies that rain and lighten; as a veil,
Waved and o'ershading her wan cheek, appears
Her streaming hair; the black curls strive, but fail,
To hide the glossy shoulder, which uprears
Its snow through all;—her soft lips lie apart,
And louder than her breathing beats her heart.
The Senhor Don Alfonso stood confused;
Antonia bustled round the ransack'd room,
And, turning up her nose, with looks abused
Her master and his myrmidons, of whom
Not one, except the attorney, was amused;
He, like Achates, faithful to the tomb,
So there were quarrels, cared not for the cause,
Knowing they must be settled by the laws.
With prying snub-nose, and small eyes, he stood,
Following Antonia's motions here and there,
With much suspicion in his attitude;
For reputations he had little care;
So that a suit or action were made good,
Small pity had he for the young and fair,
And ne'er believed in negatives, till these
Were proved by competent false witnesses.
But Don Alfonso stood with downcast looks,
And, truth to say, he made a foolish figure;
When, after searching in five hundred nooks,
And treating a young wife with so much rigour,
He gain'd no point, except some self-rebukes,
Added to those his lady with such vigour
Had pour'd upon him for the last half-hour,
Quick, thick, and heavy—as a thunder-shower.
At first he tried to hammer an excuse,
To which the sole reply was tears and sobs,
And indications of hysterics, whose
Prologue is always certain throes, and throbs,
Gasps, and whatever else the owners choose:
Alfonso saw his wife, and thought of Job's;
He saw too, in perspective, her relations,
And then he tried to muster all his patience.
He stood in act to speak, or rather stammer,
But sage Antonia cut him short before
The anvil of his speech received the hammer,
With "Pray, sir, leave the room, and say no more,
Or madam dies."—Alfonso mutter'd, "D—n her,"
But nothing else, the time of words was o'er;
He cast a rueful look or two, and did,
He knew not wherefore, that which he was bid.
With him retired his "posse comitatus,"
The attorney last, who linger'd near the door
Reluctantly, still tarrying there as late as
Antonia let him—not a little sore
At this most strange and unexplain'd "hiatus"
In Don Alfonso's facts, which just now wore
An awkward look; as he revolved the case,
The door was fasten'd in his legal face.
No sooner was it bolted, than—Oh shame!
Oh sin! Oh sorrow! and oh womankind!
How can you do such things and keep your fame,
Unless this world, and t' other too, be blind?
Nothing so dear as an unfilch'd good name!
But to proceed—for there is more behind:
With much heartfelt reluctance be it said,
Young Juan slipp'd half-smother'd, from the bed.
He had been hid—I don't pretend to say
How, nor can I indeed describe the where—
Young, slender, and pack'd easily, he lay,
No doubt, in little compass, round or square;
But pity him I neither must nor may
His suffocation by that pretty pair;
'T were better, sure, to die so, than be shut
With maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.
And, secondly, I pity not, because
He had no business to commit a sin,
Forbid by heavenly, fined by human laws,
At least 't was rather early to begin;
But at sixteen the conscience rarely gnaws
So much as when we call our old debts in
At sixty years, and draw the accompts of evil,
And find a deuced balance with the devil.
Of his position I can give no notion:
'T is written in the Hebrew Chronicle,
How the physicians, leaving pill and potion,
Prescribed, by way of blister, a young belle,
When old King David's blood grew dull in motion,
And that the medicine answer'd very well;
Perhaps 't was in a different way applied,
For David lived, but Juan nearly died.
What's to be done? Alfonso will be back
The moment he has sent his fools away.
Antonia's skill was put upon the rack,
But no device could be brought into play—
And how to parry the renew'd attack?
Besides, it wanted but few hours of day:
Antonia puzzled; Julia did not speak,
But press'd her bloodless lip to Juan's cheek.
He turn'd his lip to hers, and with his hand
Call'd back the tangles of her wandering hair;
Even then their love they could not all command,
And half forgot their danger and despair:
Antonia's patience now was at a stand—
"Come, come, 't is no time now for fooling there,"
She whisper'd, in great wrath—"I must deposit
This pretty gentleman within the closet:
"Pray, keep your nonsense for some luckier night—
Who can have put my master in this mood?
What will become on 't—I'm in such a fright,
The devil's in the urchin, and no good—
Is this a time for giggling? this a plight?
Why, don't you know that it may end in blood?
You'll lose your life, and I shall lose my place,
My mistress all, for that half-girlish face.
"Had it but been for a stout cavalier
Of twenty-five or thirty (come, make haste)—
But for a child, what piece of work is here!
I really, madam, wonder at your taste
(Come, sir, get in)—my master must be near:
There, for the present, at the least, he's fast,
And if we can but till the morning keep
Our counsel—(Juan, mind, you must not sleep)."
Now, Don Alfonso entering, but alone,
Closed the oration of the trusty maid:
She loiter'd, and he told her to be gone,
An order somewhat sullenly obey'd;
However, present remedy was none,
And no great good seem'd answer'd if she stay'd:
Regarding both with slow and sidelong view,
She snuff'd the candle, curtsied, and withdrew.
Alfonso paused a minute—then begun
Some strange excuses for his late proceeding;
He would not justify what he had done,
To say the best, it was extreme ill-breeding;
But there were ample reasons for it, none
Of which he specified in this his pleading:
His speech was a fine sample, on the whole,
Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call "rigmarole."
Julia said nought; though all the while there rose
A ready answer, which at once enables
A matron, who her husband's foible knows,
By a few timely words to turn the tables,
Which, if it does not silence, still must pose,—
Even if it should comprise a pack of fables;
'T is to retort with firmness, and when he
Suspects with one, do you reproach with three.
Julia, in fact, had tolerable grounds,—
Alfonso's loves with Inez were well known,
But whether 't was that one's own guilt confounds—
But that can't be, as has been often shown,
A lady with apologies abounds;—
It might be that her silence sprang alone
From delicacy to Don Juan's ear,
To whom she knew his mother's fame was dear.
There might be one more motive, which makes two;
Alfonso ne'er to Juan had alluded,—
Mention'd his jealousy but never who
Had been the happy lover, he concluded,
Conceal'd amongst his premises; 't is true,
His mind the more o'er this its mystery brooded;
To speak of Inez now were, one may say,
Like throwing Juan in Alfonso's way.
A hint, in tender cases, is enough;
Silence is best, besides there is a tact—
(That modern phrase appears to me sad stuff,
But it will serve to keep my verse compact)—
Which keeps, when push'd by questions rather rough,
A lady always distant from the fact:
The charming creatures lie with such a grace,
There's nothing so becoming to the face.
They blush, and we believe them; at least I
Have always done so; 't is of no great use,
In any case, attempting a reply,
For then their eloquence grows quite profuse;
And when at length they 're out of breath, they sigh,
And cast their languid eyes down, and let loose
A tear or two, and then we make it up;
And then—and then—and then—sit down and sup.
Alfonso closed his speech, and begg'd her pardon,
Which Julia half withheld, and then half granted,
And laid conditions he thought very hard on,
Denying several little things he wanted:
He stood like Adam lingering near his garden,
With useless penitence perplex'd and haunted,
Beseeching she no further would refuse,
When, lo! he stumbled o'er a pair of shoes.
A pair of shoes!—what then? not much, if they
Are such as fit with ladies' feet, but these
(No one can tell how much I grieve to say)
Were masculine; to see them, and to seize,
Was but a moment's act.—Ah! well-a-day!
My teeth begin to chatter, my veins freeze—
Alfonso first examined well their fashion,
And then flew out into another passion.
He left the room for his relinquish'd sword,
And Julia instant to the closet flew.
"Fly, Juan, fly! for heaven's sake—not a word—
The door is open—you may yet slip through
The passage you so often have explored—
Here is the garden-key—Fly—fly—Adieu!
Haste—haste! I hear Alfonso's hurrying feet—
Day has not broke—there's no one in the street:"
None can say that this was not good advice,
The only mischief was, it came too late;
Of all experience 't is the usual price,
A sort of income-tax laid on by fate:
Juan had reach'd the room-door in a trice,
And might have done so by the garden-gate,
But met Alfonso in his dressing-gown,
Who threaten'd death—so Juan knock'd him down.
Dire was the scuffle, and out went the light;
Antonia cried out "Rape!" and Julia "Fire!"
But not a servant stirr'd to aid the fight.
Alfonso, pommell'd to his heart's desire,
Swore lustily he'd be revenged this night;
And Juan, too, blasphemed an octave higher;
His blood was up: though young, he was a Tartar,
And not at all disposed to prove a martyr.
Alfonso's sword had dropp'd ere he could draw it,
And they continued battling hand to hand,
For Juan very luckily ne'er saw it;
His temper not being under great command,
If at that moment he had chanced to claw it,
Alfonso's days had not been in the land
Much longer.—Think of husbands', lovers' lives!
And how ye may be doubly widows—wives!
Alfonso grappled to detain the foe,
And Juan throttled him to get away,
And blood ('t was from the nose) began to flow;
At last, as they more faintly wrestling lay,
Juan contrived to give an awkward blow,
And then his only garment quite gave way;
He fled, like Joseph, leaving it; but there,
I doubt, all likeness ends between the pair.
Lights came at length, and men, and maids, who found
An awkward spectacle their eyes before;
Antonia in hysterics, Julia swoon'd,
Alfonso leaning, breathless, by the door;
Some half-torn drapery scatter'd on the ground,
Some blood, and several footsteps, but no more:
Juan the gate gain'd, turn'd the key about,
And liking not the inside, lock'd the out.
Here ends this canto.—Need I sing, or say,
How Juan naked, favour'd by the night,
Who favours what she should not, found his way,
And reach'd his home in an unseemly plight?
The pleasant scandal which arose next day,
The nine days' wonder which was brought to light,
And how Alfonso sued for a divorce,
Were in the English newspapers, of course.
If you would like to see the whole proceedings,
The depositions, and the cause at full,
The names of all the witnesses, the pleadings
Of counsel to nonsuit, or to annul,
There's more than one edition, and the readings
Are various, but they none of them are dull;
The best is that in short-hand ta'en by Gurney,
Who to Madrid on purpose made a journey.
But Donna Inez, to divert the train
Of one of the most circulating scandals
That had for centuries been known in Spain,
At least since the retirement of the Vandals,
First vow'd (and never had she vow'd in vain)
To Virgin Mary several pounds of candles;
And then, by the advice of some old ladies,
She sent her son to be shipp'd off from Cadiz.
She had resolved that he should travel through
All European climes, by land or sea,
To mend his former morals, and get new,
Especially in France and Italy
(At least this is the thing most people do).
Julia was sent into a convent: she
Grieved, but, perhaps, her feelings may be better
Shown in the following copy of her Letter:—
"They tell me 't is decided; you depart:
'T is wise—'t is well, but not the less a pain;
I have no further claim on your young heart,
Mine is the victim, and would be again;
To love too much has been the only art
I used;—I write in haste, and if a stain
Be on this sheet, 't is not what it appears;
My eyeballs burn and throb, but have no tears.
"I loved, I love you, for this love have lost
State, station, heaven, mankind's, my own esteem,
And yet can not regret what it hath cost,
So dear is still the memory of that dream;
Yet, if I name my guilt, 't is not to boast,
None can deem harshlier of me than I deem:
I trace this scrawl because I cannot rest—
I've nothing to reproach, or to request.
"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
'T is woman's whole existence; man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart;
Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
And few there are whom these cannot estrange;
Men have all these resources, we but one,
To love again, and be again undone.
"You will proceed in pleasure, and in pride,
Beloved and loving many; all is o'er
For me on earth, except some years to hide
My shame and sorrow deep in my heart's core;
These I could bear, but cannot cast aside
The passion which still rages as before—
And so farewell—forgive me, love me—No,
That word is idle now—but let it go.
"My breast has been all weakness, is so yet;
But still I think I can collect my mind;
My blood still rushes where my spirit's set,
As roll the waves before the settled wind;
My heart is feminine, nor can forget—
To all, except one image, madly blind;
So shakes the needle, and so stands the pole,
As vibrates my fond heart to my fix'd soul.
"I have no more to say, but linger still,
And dare not set my seal upon this sheet,
And yet I may as well the task fulfil,
My misery can scarce be more complete:
I had not lived till now, could sorrow kill;
Death shuns the wretch who fain the blow would meet,
And I must even survive this last adieu,
And bear with life, to love and pray for you!"
This note was written upon gilt-edged paper
With a neat little crow-quill, slight and new:
Her small white hand could hardly reach the taper,
It trembled as magnetic needles do,
And yet she did not let one tear escape her;
The seal a sun-flower; "Elle vous suit partout,"
The motto cut upon a white cornelian;
The wax was superfine, its hue vermilion.
This was Don Juan's earliest scrape; but whether
I shall proceed with his adventures is
Dependent on the public altogether;
We'll see, however, what they say to this:
Their favour in an author's cap's a feather,
And no great mischief's done by their caprice;
And if their approbation we experience,
Perhaps they'll have some more about a year hence.
My poem's epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books; each book containing,
With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters; the episodes are three:
A panoramic view of hell's in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic's no misnomer.
All these things will be specified in time,
With strict regard to Aristotle's rules,
The Vade Mecum of the true sublime,
Which makes so many poets, and some fools:
Prose poets like blank-verse, I'm fond of rhyme,
Good workmen never quarrel with their tools;
I've got new mythological machinery,
And very handsome supernatural scenery.
There's only one slight difference between
Me and my epic brethren gone before,
And here the advantage is my own, I ween
(Not that I have not several merits more,
But this will more peculiarly be seen);
They so embellish, that 't is quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story's actually true.
If any person doubt it, I appeal
To history, tradition, and to facts,
To newspapers, whose truth all know and feel,
To plays in five, and operas in three acts;
All these confirm my statement a good deal,
But that which more completely faith exacts
Is that myself, and several now in Seville,
Saw Juan's last elopement with the devil.
If ever I should condescend to prose,
I'll write poetical commandments, which
Shall supersede beyond all doubt all those
That went before; in these I shall enrich
My text with many things that no one knows,
And carry precept to the highest pitch:
I'll call the work "Longinus o'er a Bottle,
Or, Every Poet his own Aristotle."
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit—flirtation with the muse of Moore.
Thou shalt not covet Mr. Sotheby's Muse,
His Pegasus, nor anything that's his;
Thou shalt not bear false witness like "the Blues"
(There's one, at least, is very fond of this);
Thou shalt not write, in short, but what I choose:
This is true criticism, and you may kiss—
Exactly as you please, or not,—the rod;
But if you don't, I'll lay it on, by G-d!
If any person should presume to assert
This story is not moral, first, I pray,
That they will not cry out before they're hurt,
Then that they'll read it o'er again, and say
(But, doubtless, nobody will be so pert)
That this is not a moral tale, though gay;
Besides, in Canto Twelfth, I mean to show
The very place where wicked people go.
If, after all, there should be some so blind
To their own good this warning to despise,
Led by some tortuosity of mind,
Not to believe my verse and their own eyes,
And cry that they "the moral cannot find,"
I tell him, if a clergyman, he lies;
Should captains the remark, or critics, make,
They also lie too—under a mistake.
The public approbation I expect,
And beg they'll take my word about the moral,
Which I with their amusement will connect
(So children cutting teeth receive a coral);
Meantime, they'll doubtless please to recollect
My epical pretensions to the laurel:
For fear some prudish readers should grow skittish,
I've bribed my grandmother's review—the British.
I sent it in a letter to the Editor,
Who thank'd me duly by return of post—
I'm for a handsome article his creditor;
Yet, if my gentle Muse he please to roast,
And break a promise after having made it her,
Denying the receipt of what it cost,
And smear his page with gall instead of honey,
All I can say is—that he had the money.
I think that with this holy new alliance
I may ensure the public, and defy
All other magazines of art or science,
Daily, or monthly, or three monthly; I
Have not essay'd to multiply their clients,
Because they tell me 't were in vain to try,
And that the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly
Treat a dissenting author very martyrly.
"Non ego hoc ferrem calida juventâ
Consule Planco," Horace said, and so
Say I; by which quotation there is meant a
Hint that some six or seven good years ago
(Long ere I dreamt of dating from the Brenta)
I was most ready to return a blow,
And would not brook at all this sort of thing
In my hot youth—when George the Third was King.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day)—
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squander'd my whole summer while 't was May,
And feel no more the spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deem'd, my soul invincible.
No more—no more—Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee:
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 't was not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
No more—no more—Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, my universe!
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse:
The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgment,
Though heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.
My days of love are over; me no more
The charms of maid, wife, and still less of widow,
Can make the fool of which they made before,—
In short, I must not lead the life I did do;
The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er,
The copious use of claret is forbid too,
So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
Ambition was my idol, which was broken
Before the shrines of Sorrow, and of Pleasure;
And the two last have left me many a token
O'er which reflection may be made at leisure:
Now, like Friar Bacon's brazen head, I've spoken,
"Time is, Time was, Time's past:"—a chymic treasure
Is glittering youth, which I have spent betimes—
My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.
What is the end of Fame? 't is but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their "midnight taper,"
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.
What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's King
Cheops erected the first pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin's lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
But I being fond of true philosophy,
Say very often to myself, "Alas!
All things that have been born were born to die,
And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass;
You've pass'd your youth not so unpleasantly,
And if you had it o'er again—'t would pass—
So thank your stars that matters are no worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse."
But for the present, gentle reader! and
Still gentler purchaser! the bard—that's I—
Must, with permission, shake you by the hand,
And so "Your humble servant, and good-b'ye!"
We meet again, if we should understand
Each other; and if not, I shall not try
Your patience further than by this short sample—
'T were well if others follow'd my example.
"Go, little book, from this my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters—go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days."
When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to praise—
The four first rhymes are Southey's every line:
For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.
Paradise Lost: Book 08
The Angel ended, and in Adam's ear
So charming left his voice, that he a while
Thought him still speaking, still stood fixed to hear;
Then, as new waked, thus gratefully replied.
What thanks sufficient, or what recompence
Equal, have I to render thee, divine
Historian, who thus largely hast allayed
The thirst I had of knowledge, and vouchsafed
This friendly condescension to relate
Things, else by me unsearchable; now heard
With wonder, but delight, and, as is due,
With glory attributed to the high
Creator! Something yet of doubt remains,
Which only thy solution can resolve.
When I behold this goodly frame, this world,
Of Heaven and Earth consisting; and compute
Their magnitudes; this Earth, a spot, a grain,
An atom, with the firmament compared
And all her numbered stars, that seem to roll
Spaces incomprehensible, (for such
Their distance argues, and their swift return
Diurnal,) merely to officiate light
Round this opacous Earth, this punctual spot,
One day and night; in all her vast survey
Useless besides; reasoning I oft admire,
How Nature wise and frugal could commit
Such disproportions, with superfluous hand
So many nobler bodies to create,
Greater so manifold, to this one use,
For aught appears, and on their orbs impose
Such restless revolution day by day
Repeated; while the sedentary Earth,
That better might with far less compass move,
Served by more noble than herself, attains
Her end without least motion, and receives,
As tribute, such a sumless journey brought
Of incorporeal speed, her warmth and light;
Speed, to describe whose swiftness number fails.
So spake our sire, and by his countenance seemed
Entering on studious thoughts abstruse; which Eve
Perceiving, where she sat retired in sight,
With lowliness majestick from her seat,
And grace that won who saw to wish her stay,
Rose, and went forth among her fruits and flowers,
To visit how they prospered, bud and bloom,
Her nursery; they at her coming sprung,
And, touched by her fair tendance, gladlier grew.
Yet went she not, as not with such discourse
Delighted, or not capable her ear
Of what was high: such pleasure she reserved,
Adam relating, she sole auditress;
Her husband the relater she preferred
Before the Angel, and of him to ask
Chose rather; he, she knew, would intermix
Grateful digressions, and solve high dispute
With conjugal caresses: from his lip
Not words alone pleased her. O! when meet now
Such pairs, in love and mutual honour joined?
With Goddess-like demeanour forth she went,
Not unattended; for on her, as Queen,
A pomp of winning Graces waited still,
And from about her shot darts of desire
Into all eyes, to wish her still in sight.
And Raphael now, to Adam's doubt proposed,
Benevolent and facile thus replied.
To ask or search, I blame thee not; for Heaven
Is as the book of God before thee set,
Wherein to read his wonderous works, and learn
His seasons, hours, or days, or months, or years:
This to attain, whether Heaven move or Earth,
Imports not, if thou reckon right; the rest
From Man or Angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets to be scanned by them who ought
Rather admire; or, if they list to try
Conjecture, he his fabrick of the Heavens
Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move
His laughter at their quaint opinions wide
Hereafter; when they come to model Heaven
And calculate the stars, how they will wield
The mighty frame; how build, unbuild, contrive
To save appearances; how gird the sphere
With centrick and eccentrick scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb:
Already by thy reasoning this I guess,
Who art to lead thy offspring, and supposest
That bodies bright and greater should not serve
The less not bright, nor Heaven such journeys run,
Earth sitting still, when she alone receives
The benefit: Consider first, that great
Or bright infers not excellence: the Earth
Though, in comparison of Heaven, so small,
Nor glistering, may of solid good contain
More plenty than the sun that barren shines;
Whose virtue on itself works no effect,
But in the fruitful Earth; there first received,
His beams, unactive else, their vigour find.
Yet not to Earth are those bright luminaries
Officious; but to thee, Earth's habitant.
And for the Heaven's wide circuit, let it speak
The Maker's high magnificence, who built
So spacious, and his line stretched out so far;
That Man may know he dwells not in his own;
An edifice too large for him to fill,
Lodged in a small partition; and the rest
Ordained for uses to his Lord best known.
The swiftness of those circles attribute,
Though numberless, to his Omnipotence,
That to corporeal substances could add
Speed almost spiritual: Me thou thinkest not slow,
Who since the morning-hour set out from Heaven
Where God resides, and ere mid-day arrived
In Eden; distance inexpressible
By numbers that have name. But this I urge,
Admitting motion in the Heavens, to show
Invalid that which thee to doubt it moved;
Not that I so affirm, though so it seem
To thee who hast thy dwelling here on Earth.
God, to remove his ways from human sense,
Placed Heaven from Earth so far, that earthly sight,
If it presume, might err in things too high,
And no advantage gain. What if the sun
Be center to the world; and other stars,
By his attractive virtue and their own
Incited, dance about him various rounds?
Their wandering course now high, now low, then hid,
Progressive, retrograde, or standing still,
In six thou seest; and what if seventh to these
The planet earth, so stedfast though she seem,
Insensibly three different motions move?
Which else to several spheres thou must ascribe,
Moved contrary with thwart obliquities;
Or save the sun his labour, and that swift
Nocturnal and diurnal rhomb supposed,
Invisible else above all stars, the wheel
Of day and night; which needs not thy belief,
If earth, industrious of herself, fetch day
Travelling east, and with her part averse
From the sun's beam meet night, her other part
Still luminous by his ray. What if that light,
Sent from her through the wide transpicuous air,
To the terrestrial moon be as a star,
Enlightening her by day, as she by night
This earth? reciprocal, if land be there,
Fields and inhabitants: Her spots thou seest
As clouds, and clouds may rain, and rain produce
Fruits in her softened soil for some to eat
Allotted there; and other suns perhaps,
With their attendant moons, thou wilt descry,
Communicating male and female light;
Which two great sexes animate the world,
Stored in each orb perhaps with some that live.
For such vast room in Nature unpossessed
By living soul, desart and desolate,
Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute
Each orb a glimpse of light, conveyed so far
Down to this habitable, which returns
Light back to them, is obvious to dispute.
But whether thus these things, or whether not;
But whether the sun, predominant in Heaven,
Rise on the earth; or earth rise on the sun;
He from the east his flaming road begin;
Or she from west her silent course advance,
With inoffensive pace that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces even,
And bears thee soft with the smooth hair along;
Sollicit not thy thoughts with matters hid;
Leave them to God above; him serve, and fear!
Of other creatures, as him pleases best,
Wherever placed, let him dispose; joy thou
In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
And thy fair Eve; Heaven is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee, and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition, or degree;
Contented that thus far hath been revealed
Not of Earth only, but of highest Heaven.
To whom thus Adam, cleared of doubt, replied.
How fully hast thou satisfied me, pure
Intelligence of Heaven, Angel serene!
And, freed from intricacies, taught to live
The easiest way; nor with perplexing thoughts
To interrupt the sweet of life, from which
God hath bid dwell far off all anxious cares,
And not molest us; unless we ourselves
Seek them with wandering thoughts, and notions vain.
But apt the mind or fancy is to rove
Unchecked, and of her roving is no end;
Till warned, or by experience taught, she learn,
That, not to know at large of things remote
From use, obscure and subtle; but, to know
That which before us lies in daily life,
Is the prime wisdom: What is more, is fume,
Or emptiness, or fond impertinence:
And renders us, in things that most concern,
Unpractised, unprepared, and still to seek.
Therefore from this high pitch let us descend
A lower flight, and speak of things at hand
Useful; whence, haply, mention may arise
Of something not unseasonable to ask,
By sufferance, and thy wonted favour, deigned.
Thee I have heard relating what was done
Ere my remembrance: now, hear me relate
My story, which perhaps thou hast not heard;
And day is not yet spent; till then thou seest
How subtly to detain thee I devise;
Inviting thee to hear while I relate;
Fond! were it not in hope of thy reply:
For, while I sit with thee, I seem in Heaven;
And sweeter thy discourse is to my ear
Than fruits of palm-tree pleasantest to thirst
And hunger both, from labour, at the hour
Of sweet repast; they satiate, and soon fill,
Though pleasant; but thy words, with grace divine
Imbued, bring to their sweetness no satiety.
To whom thus Raphael answered heavenly meek.
Nor are thy lips ungraceful, Sire of men,
Nor tongue ineloquent; for God on thee
Abundantly his gifts hath also poured
Inward and outward both, his image fair:
Speaking, or mute, all comeliness and grace
Attends thee; and each word, each motion, forms;
Nor less think we in Heaven of thee on Earth
Than of our fellow-servant, and inquire
Gladly into the ways of God with Man:
For God, we see, hath honoured thee, and set
On Man his equal love: Say therefore on;
For I that day was absent, as befel,
Bound on a voyage uncouth and obscure,
Far on excursion toward the gates of Hell;
Squared in full legion (such command we had)
To see that none thence issued forth a spy,
Or enemy, while God was in his work;
Lest he, incensed at such eruption bold,
Destruction with creation might have mixed.
Not that they durst without his leave attempt;
But us he sends upon his high behests
For state, as Sovran King; and to inure
Our prompt obedience. Fast we found, fast shut,
The dismal gates, and barricadoed strong;
But long ere our approaching heard within
Noise, other than the sound of dance or song,
Torment, and loud lament, and furious rage.
Glad we returned up to the coasts of light
Ere sabbath-evening: so we had in charge.
But thy relation now; for I attend,
Pleased with thy words no less than thou with mine.
So spake the Godlike Power, and thus our Sire.
For Man to tell how human life began
Is hard; for who himself beginning knew
Desire with thee still longer to converse
Induced me. As new waked from soundest sleep,
Soft on the flowery herb I found me laid,
In balmy sweat; which with his beams the sun
Soon dried, and on the reeking moisture fed.
Straight toward Heaven my wondering eyes I turned,
And gazed a while the ample sky; till, raised
By quick instinctive motion, up I sprung,
As thitherward endeavouring, and upright
Stood on my feet: about me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady woods, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murmuring streams; by these,
Creatures that lived and moved, and walked, or flew;
Birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled;
With fragrance and with joy my heart o'erflowed.
Myself I then perused, and limb by limb
Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran
With supple joints, as lively vigour led:
But who I was, or where, or from what cause,
Knew not; to speak I tried, and forthwith spake;
My tongue obeyed, and readily could name
Whate'er I saw. Thou Sun, said I, fair light,
And thou enlightened Earth, so fresh and gay,
Ye Hills, and Dales, ye Rivers, Woods, and Plains,
And ye that live and move, fair Creatures, tell,
Tell, if ye saw, how I came thus, how here?--
Not of myself;--by some great Maker then,
In goodness and in power pre-eminent:
Tell me, how may I know him, how adore,
From whom I have that thus I move and live,
And feel that I am happier than I know.--
While thus I called, and strayed I knew not whither,
From where I first drew air, and first beheld
This happy light; when, answer none returned,
On a green shady bank, profuse of flowers,
Pensive I sat me down: There gentle sleep
First found me, and with soft oppression seised
My droused sense, untroubled, though I thought
I then was passing to my former state
Insensible, and forthwith to dissolve:
When suddenly stood at my head a dream,
Whose inward apparition gently moved
My fancy to believe I yet had being,
And lived: One came, methought, of shape divine,
And said, 'Thy mansion wants thee, Adam; rise,
'First Man, of men innumerable ordained
'First Father! called by thee, I come thy guide
'To the garden of bliss, thy seat prepared.'
So saying, by the hand he took me raised,
And over fields and waters, as in air
Smooth-sliding without step, last led me up
A woody mountain; whose high top was plain,
A circuit wide, enclosed, with goodliest trees
Planted, with walks, and bowers; that what I saw
Of Earth before scarce pleasant seemed. Each tree,
Loaden with fairest fruit that hung to the eye
Tempting, stirred in me sudden appetite
To pluck and eat; whereat I waked, and found
Before mine eyes all real, as the dream
Had lively shadowed: Here had new begun
My wandering, had not he, who was my guide
Up hither, from among the trees appeared,
Presence Divine. Rejoicing, but with awe,
In adoration at his feet I fell
Submiss: He reared me, and 'Whom thou soughtest I am,'
Said mildly, 'Author of all this thou seest
'Above, or round about thee, or beneath.
'This Paradise I give thee, count it thine
'To till and keep, and of the fruit to eat:
'Of every tree that in the garden grows
'Eat freely with glad heart; fear here no dearth:
'But of the tree whose operation brings
'Knowledge of good and ill, which I have set
'The pledge of thy obedience and thy faith,
'Amid the garden by the tree of life,
'Remember what I warn thee, shun to taste,
'And shun the bitter consequence: for know,
'The day thou eatest thereof, my sole command
'Transgressed, inevitably thou shalt die,
'From that day mortal; and this happy state
'Shalt lose, expelled from hence into a world
'Of woe and sorrow.' Sternly he pronounced
The rigid interdiction, which resounds
Yet dreadful in mine ear, though in my choice
Not to incur; but soon his clear aspect
Returned, and gracious purpose thus renewed.
'Not only these fair bounds, but all the Earth
'To thee and to thy race I give; as lords
'Possess it, and all things that therein live,
'Or live in sea, or air; beast, fish, and fowl.
'In sign whereof, each bird and beast behold
'After their kinds; I bring them to receive
'From thee their names, and pay thee fealty
'With low subjection; understand the same
'Of fish within their watery residence,
'Not hither summoned, since they cannot change
'Their element, to draw the thinner air.'
As thus he spake, each bird and beast behold
Approaching two and two; these cowering low
With blandishment; each bird stooped on his wing.
I named them, as they passed, and understood
Their nature, with such knowledge God endued
My sudden apprehension: But in these
I found not what methought I wanted still;
And to the heavenly Vision thus presumed.
O, by what name, for thou above all these,
Above mankind, or aught than mankind higher,
Surpassest far my naming; how may I
Adore thee, Author of this universe,
And all this good to man? for whose well being
So amply, and with hands so liberal,
Thou hast provided all things: But with me
I see not who partakes. In solitude
What happiness, who can enjoy alone,
Or, all enjoying, what contentment find?
Thus I presumptuous; and the Vision bright,
As with a smile more brightened, thus replied.
What callest thou solitude? Is not the Earth
With various living creatures, and the air
Replenished, and all these at thy command
To come and play before thee? Knowest thou not
Their language and their ways? They also know,
And reason not contemptibly: With these
Find pastime, and bear rule; thy realm is large.
So spake the Universal Lord, and seemed
So ordering: I, with leave of speech implored,
And humble deprecation, thus replied.
Let not my words offend thee, Heavenly Power;
My Maker, be propitious while I speak.
Hast thou not made me here thy substitute,
And these inferiour far beneath me set?
Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony, or true delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Given and received; but, in disparity
The one intense, the other still remiss,
Cannot well suit with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike: Of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek, fit to participate
All rational delight: wherein the brute
Cannot be human consort: They rejoice
Each with their kind, lion with lioness;
So fitly them in pairs thou hast combined:
Much less can bird with beast, or fish with fowl
So well converse, nor with the ox the ape;
Worse then can man with beast, and least of all.
Whereto the Almighty answered, not displeased.
A nice and subtle happiness, I see,
Thou to thyself proposest, in the choice
Of thy associates, Adam! and wilt taste
No pleasure, though in pleasure, solitary.
What thinkest thou then of me, and this my state?
Seem I to thee sufficiently possessed
Of happiness, or not? who am alone
From all eternity; for none I know
Second to me or like, equal much less.
How have I then with whom to hold converse,
Save with the creatures which I made, and those
To me inferiour, infinite descents
Beneath what other creatures are to thee?
He ceased; I lowly answered. To attain
The highth and depth of thy eternal ways
All human thoughts come short, Supreme of things!
Thou in thyself art perfect, and in thee
Is no deficience found: Not so is Man,
But in degree; the cause of his desire
By conversation with his like to help
Or solace his defects. No need that thou
Shouldst propagate, already Infinite;
And through all numbers absolute, though One:
But Man by number is to manifest
His single imperfection, and beget
Like of his like, his image multiplied,
In unity defective; which requires
Collateral love, and dearest amity.
Thou in thy secresy although alone,
Best with thyself accompanied, seekest not
Social communication; yet, so pleased,
Canst raise thy creature to what highth thou wilt
Of union or communion, deified:
I, by conversing, cannot these erect
From prone; nor in their ways complacence find.
Thus I emboldened spake, and freedom used
Permissive, and acceptance found; which gained
This answer from the gracious Voice Divine.
Thus far to try thee, Adam, I was pleased;
And find thee knowing, not of beasts alone,
Which thou hast rightly named, but of thyself;
Expressing well the spirit within thee free,
My image, not imparted to the brute;
Whose fellowship therefore unmeet for thee
Good reason was thou freely shouldst dislike;
And be so minded still: I, ere thou spakest,
Knew it not good for Man to be alone;
And no such company as then thou sawest
Intended thee; for trial only brought,
To see how thou couldest judge of fit and meet:
What next I bring shall please thee, be assured,
Thy likeness, thy fit help, thy other self,
Thy wish exactly to thy heart's desire.
He ended, or I heard no more; for now
My earthly by his heavenly overpowered,
Which it had long stood under, strained to the highth
In that celestial colloquy sublime,
As with an object that excels the sense
Dazzled and spent, sunk down; and sought repair
Of sleep, which instantly fell on me, called
By Nature as in aid, and closed mine eyes.
Mine eyes he closed, but open left the cell
Of fancy, my internal sight; by which,
Abstract as in a trance, methought I saw,
Though sleeping, where I lay, and saw the shape
Still glorious before whom awake I stood:
Who stooping opened my left side, and took
From thence a rib, with cordial spirits warm,
And life-blood streaming fresh; wide was the wound,
But suddenly with flesh filled up and healed:
The rib he formed and fashioned with his hands;
Under his forming hands a creature grew,
Man-like, but different sex; so lovely fair,
That what seemed fair in all the world, seemed now
Mean, or in her summed up, in her contained
And in her looks; which from that time infused
Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her air inspired
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
She disappeared, and left me dark; I waked
To find her, or for ever to deplore
Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorned
With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable: On she came,
Led by her heavenly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice; nor uninformed
Of nuptial sanctity, and marriage rites:
Grace was in all her steps, Heaven in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.
I, overjoyed, could not forbear aloud.
This turn hath made amends; thou hast fulfilled
Thy words, Creator bounteous and benign,
Giver of all things fair! but fairest this
Of all thy gifts! nor enviest. I now see
Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, myself
Before me: Woman is her name;of Man
Extracted: for this cause he shall forego
Father and mother, and to his wife adhere;
And they shall be one flesh, one heart, one soul.
She heard me thus; and though divinely brought,
Yet innocence, and virgin modesty,
Her virtue, and the conscience of her worth,
That would be wooed, and not unsought be won,
Not obvious, not obtrusive, but, retired,
The more desirable; or, to say all,
Nature herself, though pure of sinful thought,
Wrought in her so, that, seeing me, she turned:
I followed her; she what was honour knew,
And with obsequious majesty approved
My pleaded reason. To the nuptial bower
I led her blushing like the morn: All Heaven,
And happy constellations, on that hour
Shed their selectest influence; the Earth
Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs
Whispered it to the woods, and from their wings
Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub,
Disporting, till the amorous bird of night
Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening-star
On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.
Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss,
Which I enjoy; and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As, used or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor vehement desire; these delicacies
I mean of taste, sight, smell, herbs, fruits, and flowers,
Walks, and the melody of birds: but here
Far otherwise, transported I behold,
Transported touch; here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange! in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmoved; here only weak
Against the charm of Beauty's powerful glance.
Or Nature failed in me, and left some part
Not proof enough such object to sustain;
Or, from my side subducting, took perhaps
More than enough; at least on her bestowed
Too much of ornament, in outward show
Elaborate, of inward less exact.
For well I understand in the prime end
Of Nature her the inferiour, in the mind
And inward faculties, which most excel;
In outward also her resembling less
His image who made both, and less expressing
The character of that dominion given
O'er other creatures: Yet when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems
And in herself complete, so well to know
Her own, that what she wills to do or say,
Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best:
All higher knowledge in her presence falls
Degraded; Wisdom in discourse with her
Loses discountenanced, and like Folly shows;
Authority and Reason on her wait,
As one intended first, not after made
Occasionally; and, to consummate all,
Greatness of mind and Nobleness their seat
Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard angelick placed.
To whom the Angel with contracted brow.
Accuse not Nature, she hath done her part;
Do thou but thine; and be not diffident
Of Wisdom; she deserts thee not, if thou
Dismiss not her, when most thou needest her nigh,
By attributing overmuch to things
Less excellent, as thou thyself perceivest.
For, what admirest thou, what transports thee so,
An outside? fair, no doubt, and worthy well
Thy cherishing, thy honouring, and thy love;
Not thy subjection: Weigh with her thyself;
Then value: Oft-times nothing profits more
Than self-esteem, grounded on just and right
Well managed; of that skill the more thou knowest,
The more she will acknowledge thee her head,
And to realities yield all her shows:
Made so adorn for thy delight the more,
So awful, that with honour thou mayest love
Thy mate, who sees when thou art seen least wise.
But if the sense of touch, whereby mankind
Is propagated, seem such dear delight
Beyond all other; think the same vouchsafed
To cattle and each beast; which would not be
To them made common and divulged, if aught
Therein enjoyed were worthy to subdue
The soul of man, or passion in him move.
What higher in her society thou findest
Attractive, human, rational, love still;
In loving thou dost well, in passion not,
Wherein true love consists not: Love refines
The thoughts, and heart enlarges; hath his seat
In reason, and is judicious; is the scale
By which to heavenly love thou mayest ascend,
Not sunk in carnal pleasure; for which cause,
Among the beasts no mate for thee was found.
To whom thus, half abashed, Adam replied.
Neither her outside formed so fair, nor aught
In procreation common to all kinds,
(Though higher of the genial bed by far,
And with mysterious reverence I deem,)
So much delights me, as those graceful acts,
Those thousand decencies, that daily flow
From all her words and actions mixed with love
And sweet compliance, which declare unfeigned
Union of mind, or in us both one soul;
Harmony to behold in wedded pair
More grateful than harmonious sound to the ear.
Yet these subject not; I to thee disclose
What inward thence I feel, not therefore foiled,
Who meet with various objects, from the sense
Variously representing; yet, still free,
Approve the best, and follow what I approve.
To love, thou blamest me not; for Love, thou sayest,
Leads up to Heaven, is both the way and guide;
Bear with me then, if lawful what I ask:
Love not the heavenly Spirits, and how their love
Express they? by looks only? or do they mix
Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?
To whom the Angel, with a smile that glowed
Celestial rosy red, Love's proper hue,
Answered. Let it suffice thee that thou knowest
Us happy, and without love no happiness.
Whatever pure thou in the body enjoyest,
(And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence; and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars;
Easier than air with air, if Spirits embrace,
Total they mix, union of pure with pure
Desiring, nor restrained conveyance need,
As flesh to mix with flesh, or soul with soul.
But I can now no more; the parting sun
Beyond the Earth's green Cape and verdant Isles
Hesperian sets, my signal to depart.
Be strong, live happy, and love! But, first of all,
Him, whom to love is to obey, and keep
His great command; take heed lest passion sway
Thy judgement to do aught, which else free will
Would not admit: thine, and of all thy sons,
The weal or woe in thee is placed; beware!
I in thy persevering shall rejoice,
And all the Blest: Stand fast;to stand or fall
Free in thine own arbitrement it lies.
Perfect within, no outward aid require;
And all temptation to transgress repel.
So saying, he arose; whom Adam thus
Followed with benediction. Since to part,
Go, heavenly guest, ethereal Messenger,
Sent from whose sovran goodness I adore!
Gentle to me and affable hath been
Thy condescension, and shall be honoured ever
With grateful memory: Thou to mankind
Be good and friendly still, and oft return!
So parted they; the Angel up to Heaven
From the thick shade, and Adam to his bower.
A Rhymed Lesson (Urania)
Yes, dear Enchantress,â€”Âwandering far and long,
In realms unperfumed by the breath of song,
Where flowers ill-flavored shed their sweets around,
And bitterest roots invade the ungenial ground,
Whose gems are crystals from the Epsom mine,
Whose vineyards flow with antimonial wine,
Whose gates admit no mirthful feature in,
Save one gaunt mocker, the Sardonic grin,
Whose pangs are real, not the woes of rhyme
That blue-eyed misses warble out of time;â€”Â
Truant, not recreant to thy sacred claim,
Older by reckoning, but in heart the same,
Freed for a moment from the chains of toil,
I tread once more thy consecrated soil;
Here at thy feet my old allegiance own,
Thy subject still, and loyal to thy throne!
My dazzled glance explores the crowded hall;
Alas, how vain to hope the smiles of all!
I know my audience. All the gay and young
Love the light antics of a playful tongue;
And these, remembering some expansive line
My lips let loose among the nuts and wine,
Are all impatience till the opening pun
Proclaims the witty shamfight is begun.
Two fifths at least, if not the total half,
Have come infuriate for an earthquake laugh;
I know full well what alderman has tied
His red bandanna tight about his side;
I see the mother, who, aware that boys
Perform their laughter with superfluous noise,
Beside her kerchief brought an extra one
To stop the explosions of her bursting son;
I know a tailor, once a friend of mine,
Expects great doings in the button line,â€”Â
For mirthâ€™s concussions rip the outward case,
And plant the stitches in a tenderer place.
I know my audience,â€”Âthese shall have their due;
A smile awaits them ere my song is through!
I know myself. Not servile for applause,
My Muse permits no deprecating clause;
Modest or vain, she will not be denied
One bold confession due to honest pride;
And well she knows the drooping veil of song
Shall save her boldness from the cavillerâ€™s wrong.
Her sweeter voice the Heavenly Maid imparts
To tell the secrets of our aching hearts
For this, a suppliant, captive, prostrate, bound,
She kneels imploring at the feet of sound;
For this, convulsed in thoughtâ€™s maternal pains,
She loads her arms with rhymeâ€™s resounding chains;
Faint though the music of her fetters be,
It lends one charm,â€”Âher lips are ever free!
Think not I come, in manhoodâ€™s fiery noon,
To steal his laurels from the stage buffoon;
His sword of lath the harlequin may wield;
Behold the star upon my lifted shield
Though the just critic pass my humble name,
And sweeter lips have drained the cup of fame,
While my gay stanza pleased the banquetâ€™s lords,
The soul within was tuned to deeper chords!
Say, shall my arms, in other conflicts taught
To swing aloft the ponderous mace of thought,
Lift, in obedience to a school-girlâ€™s law,
Mirthâ€™s tinsel wand or laughterâ€™s tickling straw?
Say, shall I wound with satireâ€™s rankling spear
The pure, warm hearts that bid me welcome here?
No! while I wander through the land of dreams,
To strive with great and play with trifling themes,
Let some kind meaning fill the varied line.
You have your judgment; will you trust to mine?
Between two breaths what crowded mysteries lie,â€”Â
The first short gasp, the last and long-drawn sigh!
Like phantoms painted on the magic slide,
Forth from the darkness of the past we glide,
As living shadows for a moment seen
In airy pageant on the eternal screen,
Traced by a ray from one unchanging flame,
Then seek the dust and stillness whence we came.
But whence and why, our trembling souls inquire,
Caught these dim visions their awakening fire?
Oh, who forgets when first the piercing thought
Through childhoodâ€™s musings found its way unsought?
I am;â€”ÂI live. The mystery and the fear
When the dread question, what has brought me here?
Burst through lifeâ€™s twilight, as before the sun
Roll the deep thunders of the morning gun!
Are angel faces, silent and serene,
Bent on the conflicts of this little scene,
Whose dream-like efforts, whose unreal strife,
Are but the preludes to a larger life?
Or does lifeâ€™s summer see the end of all,
These leaves of being mouldering as they fall,
As the old poet vaguely used to deem,
As WESLEY questioned in his youthful dream?
Oh, could such mockery reach our souls indeed,
Give back the Pharaohsâ€™ or the Athenianâ€™s creed;
Better than this a Heaven of manâ€™s device,â€”Â
The Indianâ€™s sports, the Moslemâ€™s paradise!
Or is our beingâ€™s only end and aim
To add new glories to our Makerâ€™s name,
As the poor insect, shrivelling in the blaze,
Lends a faint sparkle to its streaming rays?
Does earth send upward to the Eternalâ€™s ear
The mingled discords of her jarring sphere
To swell his anthem, while creation rings
With notes of anguish from its shattered strings?
Is it for this the immortal Artist means
These conscious, throbbing, agonized machines?
Dark is the soul whose sullen creed can bind
In chains like these the all-embracing Mind;
No! two-faced bigot, thou dost ill reprove
The sensual, selfish, yet benignant Jove,
And praise a tyrant throned in lonely pride,
Who loves himself, and cares for naught beside;
Who gave thee, summoned from primeval night,
A thousand laws, and not a single right,â€”Â
A heart to feel, and quivering nerves to thrill,
The sense of wrong, the death-defying will;
Who girt thy senses with this goodly frame,
Its earthly glories and its orbs of flame,
Not for thyself, unworthy of a thought,
Poor helpless victim of a life unsought,
But all for him, unchanging and supreme,
The heartless centre of thy frozen scheme.
Trust not the teacher with his lying scroll,
Who tears the charter of thy shuddering soul;
The God of love, who gave the breath that warms
All living dust in all its varied forms,
Asks not the tribute of a world like this
To fill the measure of his perfect bliss.
Though winged with life through all its radiant shores,
Creation flowed with unexhausted stores
Cherub and seraph had not yet enjoyed;
For this he called thee from the quickening void!
Nor this alone; a larger gift was thine,
A mightier purpose swelled his vast design
Thought,â€”Âconscience,â€”Âwill,â€”Â to make them all thine own,
He rent a pillar from the eternal throne!
Made in his image, thou must nobly dare
The thorny crown of sovereignty to share.
With eye uplifted, it is thine to view,
From thine own centre, Heavenâ€™s oâ€™erarching blue;
So round thy heart a beaming circle lies
No fiend can blot, no hypocrite disguise;
From all its orbs one cheering voice is heard,
Full to thine ear it bears the Fatherâ€™s word,
Now, as in Eden where his first-born trod
â€œSeek thine own welfare, true to man and God!â€
Think not too meanly of thy low estate;
Thou hast a choice; to choose is to create!
Remember whose the sacred lips that tell,
Angels approve thee when thy choice is well;
Remember, One, a judge of righteous men,
Swore to spare Sodom if she held but ten!
Use well the freedom which thy Master gave,
(Thinkâ€™st thou that Heaven can tolerate a slave?)
And He who made thee to be just and true
Will bless thee, love thee,â€”Âay, respect thee too!
Nature has placed thee on a changeful tide,
To breast its waves, but not without a guide;
Yet, as the needle will forget its aim,
Jarred by the fury of the electric flame,
As the true current it will falsely feel,
Warped from its axis by a freight of steel;
So will thy conscience lose its balanced truth
If passionâ€™s lightning fall upon thy youth,
So the pure effluence quit its sacred hold
Girt round too deeply with magnetic gold.
Go to yon tower, where busy science plies
Her vast antennae, feeling through the skies
That little vernier on whose slender lines
The midnight taper trembles as it shines,
A silent index, tracks the planetsâ€™ march
In all their wanderings through the ethereal arch;
Tells through the mist where dazzled Mercury burns,
And marks the spot where Uranus returns.
So, till by wrong or negligence effaced,
The living index which thy Maker traced
Repeats the line each starry Virtue draws
Through the wide circuit of creationâ€™s laws;
Still tracks unchanged the everlasting ray
Where the dark shadows of temptation stray,
But, once defaced, forgets the orbs of light,
And leaves thee wandering oâ€™er the expanse of night.
â€œWhat is thy creed?â€ a hundred lips inquire;
â€œThou seekest God beneath what Christian spire?â€
Nor ask they idly, for uncounted lies
Float upward on the smoke of sacrifice;
When manâ€™s first incense rose above the plain,
Of earthâ€™s two altars one was built by Cain!
Uncursed by doubt, our earliest creed we take;
We love the precepts for the teacherâ€™s sake;
The simple lessons which the nursery taught
Fell soft and stainless on the buds of thought,
And the full blossom owes its fairest hue
To those sweet tear-drops of affectionâ€™s dew.
Too oft the light that led our earlier hours
Fades with the perfume of our cradle flowers;
The clear, cold question chills to frozen doubt;
Tired of beliefs, we dread to live without
Oh then, if Reason waver at thy side,
Let humbler Memory be thy gentle guide;
Go to thy birthplace, and, if faith was there,
Repeat thy fatherâ€™s creed, thy motherâ€™s prayer!
Faith loves to lean on Timeâ€™s destroying arm,
And age, like distance, lends a double charm;
In dim cathedrals, dark with vaulted gloom,
What holy awe invests the saintly tomb!
There pride will bow, and anxious care expand,
And creeping avarice come with open hand;
The gay can weep, the impious can adore,
From mornâ€™s first glimmerings on the chancel floor
Till dying sunset sheds his crimson stains
Through the faint halos of the irised panes.
Yet there are graves, whose rudely-shapen sod
Bears the fresh footprints where the sexton trod;
Graves where the verdure has not dared to shoot,
Where the chance wild-flower has not fixed its root,
Whose slumbering tenants, dead without a name,
The eternal record shall at length proclaim
Pure as the holiest in the long array
Of hooded, mitred, or tiaraed clay!
Come, seek the air; some pictures we may gain
Whose passing shadows shall not be in vain;
Not from the scenes that crowd the strangerâ€™s soil,
Not from our own amidst the stir of toil,
But when the Sabbath brings its kind release,
And Care lies slumbering on the lap of Peace.
The air is hushed, the street is holy ground;
Hark! The sweet bells renew their welcome sound
As one by one awakes each silent tongue,
It tells the turret whence its voice is flung.
The Chapel, last of sublunary things
That stirs our echoes with the name of Kings,
Whose bell, just glistening from the font and forge,
Rolled its proud requiem for the second George,
Solemn and swelling, as of old it rang,
Flings to the wind its deep, sonorous clang;
The simpler pile, that, mindful of the hour
When Howeâ€™s artillery shook its half-built tower,
Wears on its bosom, as a bride might do,
The iron breastpin which the â€œRebelsâ€ threw,
Wakes the sharp echoes with the quivering thrill
Of keen vibrations, tremulous and shrill;
Aloft, suspended in the morningâ€™s fire,
Crash the vast cymbals from the Southern spire;
The Giant, standing by the elm-clad green,
His white lance lifted oâ€™er the silent scene,
Whirling in air his brazen goblet round,
Swings from its brim the swollen floods of sound;
While, sad with memories of the olden time,
Throbs from his tower the Northern Minstrelâ€™s chime,â€”Â
Faint, single tones, that spell their ancient song,
But tears still follow as they breathe along.
Child of the soil, whom fortune sends to range
Where man and nature, faith and customs change,
Borne in thy memory, each familiar tone
Mourns on the winds that sigh in every zone.
When Ceylon sweeps thee with her perfumed breeze
Through the warm billows of the Indian seas;
Whenâ€”Âship and shadow blended both in oneâ€”Â
Flames oâ€™er thy mast the equatorial sun,
From sparkling midnight to refulgent noon
Thy canvas swelling with the still monsoon;
When through thy shrouds the wild tornado sings,
And thy poor sea-bird folds her tattered wings,â€”Â
Oft will delusion oâ€™er thy senses steal,
And airy echoes ring the Sabbath peal
Then, dim with grateful tears, in long array
Rise the fair town, the island-studded bay,
Home, with its smiling board, its cheering fire,
The half-choked welcome of the expecting sire,
The motherâ€™s kiss, and, still if aught remain,
Our whispering hearts shall aid the silent strain.
Ah, let the dreamer oâ€™er the taffrail lean
To muse unheeded, and to weep unseen;
Fear not the tropicâ€™s dews, the eveningâ€™s chills,
His heart lies warm among his triple hills!
Turned from her path by this deceitful gleam,
My wayward fancy half forgets her theme.
See through the streets that slumbered in repose
The living current of devotion flows,
Its varied forms in one harmonious band
Age leading childhood by its dimpled hand;
Want, in the robe whose faded edges fall
To tell of rags beneath the tartan shawl;
And wealth, in silks that, fluttering to appear,
Lift the deep borders of the proud cashmere.
See, but glance briefly, sorrow-worn and pale,
Those sunken cheeks beneath the widowâ€™s veil;
Alone she wanders where with him she trod,
No arm to stay her, but she leans on God.
While other doublets deviate here and there,
What secret handcuff binds that pretty pair?
Compactest couple! pressing side to side,â€”Â
Ah, the white bonnet that reveals the bride!
By the white neckcloth, with its straitened tie,
The sober hat, the Sabbath-speaking eye,
Severe and smileless, he that runs may read
The stern disciple of Genevaâ€™s creed
Decent and slow, behold his solemn march;
Silent he enters through yon crowded arch.
A livelier bearing of the outward man,
The light-hued gloves, the undevout rattan,
Now smartly raised or half profanely twirled,â€”Â
A bright, fresh twinkle from the week-day world,â€”Â
Tell their plain story; yes, thine eyes behold
A cheerful Christian from the liberal fold.
Down the chill street that curves in gloomiest shade
What marks betray yon solitary maid?
The cheekâ€™s red rose that speaks of balmier air,
The Celtic hue that shades her braided hair,
The gilded missal in her kerchief tied,â€”Â
Poor Nora, exile from Killarneyâ€™s side!
Sister in toil, though blanched by colder skies,
That left their azure in her downcast eyes,
See pallid Margaret, Laborâ€™s patient child,
Scarce weaned from home, the nursling of the wild,
Where white Katahdin oâ€™er the horizon shines,
And broad Penobscot dashes through the pines.
Still, as she hastes, her careful fingers hold
The unfailing hymn-book in its cambric fold.
Six days at drudgeryâ€™s heavy wheel she stands,
The seventh sweet morning folds her weary hands.
Yes, child of suffering, thou mayst well be sure
He who ordained the Sabbath loves the poor!
This weekly picture faithful Memory draws,
Nor claims the noisy tribute of applause;
Faint is the glow such barren hopes can lend,
And frail the line that asks no loftier end.
Trust me, kind listener, I will yet beguile
Thy saddened features of the promised smile.
This magic mantle thou must well divide,
It has its sable and its ermine side;
Yet, ere the lining of the robe appears,
Take thou in silence what I give in tears.
Dear listening soul, this transitory scene
Of murmuring stillness, busily serene,â€”Â
This solemn pause, the breathing-space of man,
The halt of toilâ€™s exhausted caravan,â€”Â
Comes sweet with music to thy wearied ear;
Rise with its anthems to a holier sphere!
Deal meekly, gently, with the hopes that guide
The lowliest brother straying from thy side
If right, they bid thee tremble for thine own;
If wrong, the verdict is for God alone.
What though the champions of thy faith esteem
The sprinkled fountain or baptismal stream;
Shall jealous passions in unseemly strife
Cross their dark weapons oâ€™er the waves of life?
Let my free soul, expanding as it can,
Leave to his scheme the thoughtful Puritan;
But Calvinâ€™s dogma shall my lips deride?
In that stern faith my angel Mary died;
Or ask if mercyâ€™s milder creed can save,
Sweet sister, risen from thy new-made grave?
True, the harsh founders of thy church reviled
That ancient faith, the trust of Erinâ€™s child;
Must thou be raking in the crumbled past
For racks and fagots in her teeth to cast?
See from the ashes of Helvetiaâ€™s pile
The whitened skull of old Servetus smile!
Round her young heart thy â€œRomish Upasâ€ threw
Its firm, deep fibres, strengthening as she grew;
Thy sneering voice may call them â€œPopish tricks,â€
Her Latin prayers, her dangling crucifix,
But De Profundis blessed her fatherâ€™s grave,
That â€œidolâ€ cross her dying mother gave!
What if some angel looks with equal eyes
On her and thee, the simple and the wise,
Writes each dark fault against thy brighter creed,
And drops a tear with every foolish bead!
Grieve, as thou must, oâ€™er historyâ€™s reeking page;
Blush for the wrongs that stain thy happier age;
Strive with the wanderer from the better path,
Bearing thy message meekly, not in wrath;
Weep for the frail that err, the weak that fall,
Have thine own faith,â€”Âbut hope and pray for all!
Faith; Conscience; Love. A meaner task remains,
And humbler thoughts must creep in lowlier strains.
Shalt thou be honest? Ask the worldly schools,
And all will tell thee knaves are busier fools;
Prudent? Industrious? Let not modern pens
Instruct â€œPoor Richardâ€™sâ€ fellow-citizens.
Be firm! One constant element in luck
Is genuine solid old Teutonic pluck.
See yon tall shaft; it felt the earthquakeâ€™s thrill,
Clung to its base, and greets the sunrise still.
Stick to your aim: the mongrelâ€™s hold will slip,
But only crowbars loose the bulldogâ€™s grip;
Small as he looks, the jaw that never yields
Drags down the bellowing monarch of the fields!
Yet in opinions look not always back,â€”Â
Your wake is nothing, mind the coming track;
Leave what youâ€™ve done for what you have to do;
Donâ€™t be â€œconsistent,â€ but be simply true.
Donâ€™t catch the fidgets; you have found your place
Just in the focus of a nervous race,
Fretful to change and rabid to discuss,
Full of excitements, always in a fuss.
Think of the patriarchs; then compare as men
These lean-cheeked maniacs of the tongue and pen!
Run, if you like, but try to keep your breath;
Work like a man, but donâ€™t be worked to death;
And with new notions,â€”Âlet me change the rule,â€”Â
Donâ€™t strike the iron till it â€™s slightly cool.
Choose well your set; our feeble nature seeks
The aid of clubs, the countenance of cliques;
And with this object settle first of all
Your weight of metal and your size of ball.
Track not the steps of such as hold you cheap,
Too mean to prize, though good enough to keep;
The â€œreal, genuine, no-mistake Tom Thumbsâ€
Are little people fed on great menâ€™s crumbs.
Yet keep no followers of that hateful brood
That basely mingles with its wholesome food
The tumid reptile, which, the poet said,
Doth wear a precious jewel in his head.
If the wild filly, â€œProgress,â€ thou wouldst ride,
Have young companions ever at thy side;
But wouldst thou stride the stanch old mare, â€œSuccess,â€
Go with thine elders, though they please thee less.
Shun such as lounge through afternoons and eves,
And on thy dial write, â€œBeware of thieves!â€
Felon of minutes, never taught to feel
The worth of treasures which thy fingers steal,
Pick my left pocket of its silver dime,
But spare the right,â€”Âit holds my golden time!
Does praise delight thee? Choose some ultra side,â€”Â
A sure old recipe, and often tried;
Be its apostle, congressman, or bard,
Spokesman or jokesman, only drive it hard;
But know the forfeit which thy choice abides,
For on two wheels the poor reformer rides,â€”Â
One black with epithets the anti throws,
One white with flattery painted by the pros.
Though books on MANNERS are not out of print,
An honest tongue may drop a harmless hint.
Stop not, unthinking, every friend you meet,
To spin your wordy fabric in the street;
While you are emptying your colloquial pack,
The fiend Lumbago jumps upon his back.
Nor cloud his features with the unwelcome tale
Of how he looks, if haply thin and pale;
Health is a subject for his child, his wife,
And the rude office that insures his life.
Look in his face, to meet thy neighborâ€™s soul,
Not on his garments, to detect a hole;
â€œHow to observeâ€ is what thy pages show,
Pride of thy sex, Miss Harriet Martineau!
Oh, what a precious book the one would be
That taught observers what they â€™re not to see!
I tell in verseâ€”Ââ€™t were better done in proseâ€”Â
One curious trick that everybody knows;
Once form this habit, and itâ€™s very strange
How long it sticks, how hard it is to change.
Two friendly people, both disposed to smile,
Who meet, like others, every little while,
Instead of passing with a pleasant bow,
And â€œHow dâ€™ ye do?â€ or â€œHow â€™s your uncle now?â€
Impelled by feelings in their nature kind,
But slightly weak and somewhat undefined,
Rush at each other, make a sudden stand,
Begin to talk, expatiate, and expand;
Each looks quite radiant, seems extremely struck,
Their meeting so was such a piece of luck;
Each thinks the other thinks he â€™s greatly pleased
To screw the vice in which they both are squeezed;
So there they talk, in dust, or mud, or snow,
Both bored to death, and both afraid to go!
Your hat once lifted, do not hang your fire,
Nor, like slow Ajax, fighting still, retire;
When your old castor on your crown you clap,
Go off; youâ€™ve mounted your percussion cap.
Some words on language may be well applied,
And take them kindly, though they touch your pride.
Words lead to things; a scale is more precise,â€”Â
Coarse speech, bad grammar, swearing, drinking, vice.
Our cold Northeasterâ€™s icy fetter clips
The native freedom of the Saxon lips;
See the brown peasant of the plastic South,
How all his passions play about his mouth!
With us, the feature that transmits the soul,
A frozen, passive, palsied breathing-hole.
The crampy shackles of the ploughboyâ€™s walk
Tie the small muscles when he strives to talk;
Not all the pumice of the polished town
Can smooth this roughness of the barnyard down;
Rich, honored, titled, he betrays his race
By this one mark,â€”Âheâ€™s awkward in the face;â€”Â
Natureâ€™s rude impress, long before he knew
The sunny street that holds the sifted few.
It canâ€™t be helped, though, if weâ€™re taken young,
We gain some freedom of the lips and tongue;
But school and college often try in vain
To break the padlock of our boyhoodâ€™s chain
One stubborn word will prove this axiom true,â€”Â
No quondam rustic can enunciate view.
A few brief stanzas may be well employed
To speak of errors we can all avoid.
Learning condemns beyond the reach of hope
The careless lips that speak of soâ€™ap for soap;
Her edict exiles from her fair abode
The clownish voice that utters roâ€™ad for road
Less stern to him who calls his coat a coâ€™at,
And steers his boat, believing it a boâ€™at,
She pardoned one, our classic cityâ€™s boast,
Who said at Cambridge moâ€™st instead of most,
But knit her brows and stamped her angry foot
To hear a Teacher call a root a roâ€™ot.
Once more: speak clearly, if you speak at all;
Carve every word before you let it fall;
Donâ€™t, like a lecturer or dramatic star,
Try over-hard to roll the British R;
Do put your accents in the proper spot;
Donâ€™t,â€”Âlet me beg you,â€”Âdonâ€™t say â€œHow?â€ for â€œWhat?â€
And when you stick on conversationâ€™s burs,
Donâ€™t strew your pathway with those dreadful urs.
From little matters let us pass to less,
And lightly touch the mysteries of dress;
The outward forms the inner man reveal,â€”Â
We guess the pulp before we cut the peel.
I leave the broadcloth,â€”Âcoats and all the rest,â€”Â
The dangerous waistcoat, called by cockneys â€œvest,â€
The things named â€œpantsâ€ in certain documents,
A word not made for gentlemen, but â€œgents;â€
One single precept might the whole condense
Be sure your tailor is a man of sense;
But add a little care, a decent pride,
And always err upon the sober side.
Three pairs of boots one pair of feet demands,
If polished daily by the ownerâ€™s hands;
If the dark menialâ€™s visit save from this,
Have twice the number,â€”Âfor he â€™ll sometimes miss.
One pair for critics of the nicer sex,
Close in the instepâ€™s clinging circumflex,
Long, narrow, light; the Gallic boot of love,
A kind of cross between a boot and glove.
Compact, but easy, strong, substantial, square,
Let native art compile the medium pair.
The third remains, and let your tasteful skill
Here show some relics of affection still;
Let no stiff cowhide, reeking from the tan,
No rough caoutchoue, no deformed brogan,
Disgrace the tapering outline of your feet,
Though yellow torrents gurgle through the street.
Wear seemly gloves; not black, nor yet too light,
And least of all the pair that once was white;
Let the dead party where you told your loves
Bury in peace its dead bouquets and gloves;
Shave like the goat, if so your fancy bids,
But be a parent,â€”Âdonâ€™t neglect your kids.
Have a good hat; the secret of your looks
Lives with the beaver in Canadian brooks;
Virtue may flourish in an old cravat,
But man and nature scorn the shocking hat.
Does beauty slight you from her gay abodes?
Like bright Apollo, you must take to Rhoades,â€”Â
Mount the new castor,â€”Âice itself will melt;
Boots, gloves, may fail; the hat is always felt.
Be shy of breastpins; plain, well-ironed white,
With small pearl buttons,â€”Âtwo of them in sight,â€”Â
Is always genuine, while your gems may pass,
Though real diamonds, for ignoble glass.
But spurn those paltry Cisatlantic lies
That round his breast the shabby rustic ties;
Breathe not the name profaned to hallow things
The indignant laundress blushes when she brings!
Our freeborn race, averse to every check,
Has tossed the yoke of Europe from its neck;
From the green prairie to the sea-girt town,
The whole wide nation turns its collars down.
The stately neck is manhoodâ€™s manliest part;
It takes the life-blood freshest from the heart.
With short, curled ringlets close around it spread,
How light and strong it lifts the Grecian head!
Thine, fair Erechtheus of Minervaâ€™s wall;
Or thine, young athlete of the Louvreâ€™s hall,
Smooth as the pillar flashing in the sun
That filled the arena where thy wreaths were won,
Firm as the band that clasps the antlered spoil
Strained in the winding anacondaâ€™s coil
I spare the contrast; it were only kind
To be a little, nay, intensely blind.
Choose for yourself: I know it cuts your ear;
I know the points will sometimes interfere;
I know that often, like the filial John,
Whom sleep surprised with half his drapery on,
You show your features to the astonished town
With one side standing and the other down;â€”Â
But, O, my friend! my favorite fellow-man!
If Nature made you on her modern plan,
Sooner than wander with your windpipe bare,â€”Â
The fruit of Eden ripening in the air,â€”Â
With that lean head-stalk, that protruding chin,
Wear standing collars, were they made of tin!
And have a neckclothâ€”Âby the throat of Jove!â€”Â
Cut from the funnel of a rusty stove!
The long-drawn lesson narrows to its close,
Chill, slender, slow, the dwindled current flows;
Tired of the ripples on its feeble springs,
Once more the Muse unfolds her upward wings.
Land of my birth, with this unhallowed tongue,
Thy hopes, thy dangers, I perchance had sung;
But who shall sing, in brutal disregard
Of all the essentials of the â€œnative bardâ€?
Lake, sea, shore, prairie, forest, mountain, fall,
His eye omnivorous must devour them all;
The tallest summits and the broadest tides
His foot must compass with its giant strides,
Where Ocean thunders, where Missouri rolls,
And tread at once the tropics and the poles;
His food all forms of earth, fire, water, air,
His home all space, his birthplace everywhere.
Some grave compatriot, having seen perhaps
The pictured page that goes in Worcesterâ€™s Maps,
And, read in earnest what was said in jest,
â€œWho drives fat oxenâ€â€”Âplease to add the rest,â€”Â
Sprung the odd notion that the poetâ€™s dreams
Grow in the ratio of his hills and streams;
And hence insisted that the aforesaid â€œbard,â€
Pink of the future, fancyâ€™s pattern-card,
The babe of nature in the â€œgiant West,â€
Must be of course her biggest and her best.
Oh! when at length the expected bard shall come,
Land of our pride, to strike thine echoes dumb,
(And many a voice exclaims in prose and rhyme,
Itâ€™s getting late, and heâ€™s behind his time,)
When all thy mountains clap their hands in joy,
And all thy cataracts thunder, â€œThat â€™s the boy,â€â€”Â
Say if with him the reign of song shall end,
And Heaven declare its final dividend!
Becalm, dear brother! whose impassioned strain
Comes from an alley watered by a drain;
The little Mincio, dribbling to the Po,
Beats all the epics of the Hoang Ho;
If loved in earnest by the tuneful maid,
Donâ€™t mind their nonsense,â€”Ânever be afraid!
The nurse of poets feeds her winged brood
By common firesides, on familiar food;
In a low hamlet, by a narrow stream,
Where bovine rustics used to doze and dream,
She filled young Williamâ€™s fiery fancy full,
While old John Shakespeare talked of beeves and wool!
No Alpine needle, with its climbing spire,
Brings down for mortals the Promethean fire,
If careless nature have forgot to frame
An altar worthy of the sacred flame.
Unblest by any save the goatherdâ€™s lines,
Mont Blanc rose soaring through his â€œsea of pines;â€
In vain the rivers from their ice-caves flash;
No hymn salutes them but the Ranz des Vaches,
Till lazy Coleridge, by the morningâ€™s light,
Gazed for a moment on the fields of white,
And lo! the glaciers found at length a tongue,
Mont Blanc was vocal, and Chamouni sung!
Children of wealth or want, to each is given
One spot of green, and all the blue of heaven!
Enough if these their outward shows impart;
The rest is thine,â€”Âthe scenery of the heart.
If passionâ€™s hectic in thy stanzas glow,
Thy heartâ€™s best life-blood ebbing as they flow;
If with thy verse thy strength and bloom distil,
Drained by the pulses of the fevered thrill;
If soundâ€™s sweet effluence polarize thy brain,
And thoughts turn crystals in thy fluid strain,â€”Â
Nor rolling ocean, nor the prairieâ€™s bloom,
Nor streaming cliffs, nor rayless cavernâ€™s gloom,
Needâ€™st thou, young poet, to inform thy line;
Thy own broad signet stamps thy song divine!
Let others gaze where silvery streams are rolled,
And chase the rainbow for its cup of gold;
To thee all landscapes wear a heavenly dye,
Changed in the glance of thy prismatic eye;
Nature evoked thee in sublimer throes,
For thee her inmost Arethusa flows,â€”Â
The mighty motherâ€™s living depths are stirred,â€”Â
Thou art the starred Osiris of the herd!
A few brief lines; they touch on solemn chords,
And hearts may leap to hear their honest words;
Yet, ere the jarring bugle-blast is blown,
The softer lyre shall breathe its soothing tone.
New England! proudly may thy children claim
Their honored birthright by its humblest name
Cold are thy skies, but, ever fresh and clear,
No rank malaria stains thine atmosphere;
No fungous weeds invade thy scanty soil,
Scarred by the ploughshares of unslumbering toil.
Long may the doctrines by thy sages taught,
Raised from the quarries where their sires have wrought,
Be like the granite of thy rock-ribbed land,â€”Â
As slow to rear, as obdurate to stand;
And as the ice that leaves thy crystal mine
Chills the fierce alcohol in the Creoleâ€™s wine,
So may the doctrines of thy sober school
Keep the hot theories of thy neighbors cool!
If ever, trampling on her ancient path,
Cankered by treachery or inflamed by wrath,
With smooth â€œResolvesâ€ or with discordant cries,
The mad Briareus of disunion rise,
Chiefs of New England! by your siresâ€™ renown,
Dash the red torches of the rebel down!
Flood his black hearthstone till its flames expire,
Though your old Sachem fanned his council-fire!
But if at last, her fading cycle run,
The tongue must forfeit what the arm has won,
Then rise, wild Ocean! roll thy surging shock
Full on old Plymouthâ€™s desecrated rock!
Scale the proud shaft degenerate hands have hewn,
Where bleeding Valor stained the flowers of June!
Sweep in one tide her spires and turrets down,
And howl her dirge above Monadnockâ€™s crown!
List not the tale; the Pilgrimâ€™s hallowed shore,
Though strewn with weeds, is granite at the core;
Oh, rather trust that He who made her free
Will keep her true as long as faith shall be!
Farewell! yet lingering through the destined hour,
Leave, sweet Enchantress, one memorial flower!
An Angel, floating oâ€™er the waste of snow
That clad our Western desert, long ago,
(The same fair spirit who, unseen by day,
Shone as a star along the Mayflowerâ€™s way,)â€”Â
Sent, the first herald of the Heavenly plan,
To choose on earth a resting-place for man,â€”Â
Tired with his flight along the unvaried field,
Turned to soar upwards, when his glance revealed
A calm, bright bay enclosed in rocky bounds,
And at its entrance stood three sister mounds.
The Angel spake: â€œThis threefold hill shall be
The home of Arts, the nurse of Liberty!
One stately summit from its shaft shall pour
Its deep-red blaze along the darkened shore;
Emblem of thoughts that, kindling far and wide,
In dangerâ€™s night shall be a nationâ€™s guide.
One swelling crest the citadel shall crown,
Its slanted bastions black with battleâ€™s frown,
And bid the sons that tread its scowling heights
Bare their strong arms for man and all his rights!
One silent steep along the northern wave
Shall hold the patriarchâ€™s and the heroâ€™s grave;
When fades the torch, when oâ€™er the peaceful scene
The embattled fortress smiles in living green,
The cross of Faith, the anchor staff of Hope,
Shall stand eternal on its grassy slope;
There through all time shall faithful Memory tell,
â€™Here Virtue toiled, and Patriot Valor fell;
Thy free, proud fathers slumber at thy side;
Live as they lived, or perish as they died!â€™â€
Paradise Lost: Book 09
No more of talk where God or Angel guest
With Man, as with his friend, familiar us'd,
To sit indulgent, and with him partake
Rural repast; permitting him the while
Venial discourse unblam'd. I now must change
Those notes to tragick; foul distrust, and breach
Disloyal on the part of Man, revolt,
And disobedience: on the part of Heaven
Now alienated, distance and distaste,
Anger and just rebuke, and judgement given,
That brought into this world a world of woe,
Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery
Death's harbinger: Sad talk!yet argument
Not less but more heroick than the wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd;
Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long
Perplexed the Greek, and Cytherea's son:
If answerable style I can obtain
Of my celestial patroness, who deigns
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumbering; or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:
Since first this subject for heroick song
Pleas'd me long choosing, and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite
Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroick deem'd chief mastery to dissect
With long and tedious havock fabled knights
In battles feign'd; the better fortitude
Of patience and heroick martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, imblazon'd shields,
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds,
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast
Serv'd up in hall with sewers and seneshals;
The skill of artifice or office mean,
Not that which justly gives heroick name
To person, or to poem. Me, of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains; sufficient of itself to raise
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing
Depress'd; and much they may, if all be mine,
Not hers, who brings it nightly to my ear.
The sun was sunk, and after him the star
Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring
Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter
"twixt day and night, and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veil'd the horizon round:
When satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On Man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless returned
From compassing the earth; cautious of day,
Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried
His entrance, and foreworned the Cherubim
That kept their watch; thence full of anguish driven,
The space of seven continued nights he rode
With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line
He circled; four times crossed the car of night
From pole to pole, traversing each colure;
On the eighth returned; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or Cherubick watch, by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,
Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change,
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gulf shot under ground, till part
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:
In with the river sunk, and with it rose
Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought
Where to lie hid; sea he had searched, and land,
From Eden over Pontus and the pool
Maeotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctick; and in length,
West from Orontes to the ocean barred
At Darien ; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus: Thus the orb he roamed
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Considered every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found
The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him after long debate, irresolute
Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose
Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom
To enter, and his dark suggestions hide
From sharpest sight: for, in the wily snake
Whatever sleights, none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtlety
Proceeding; which, in other beasts observed,
Doubt might beget of diabolick power
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolved, but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus poured.
More justly, seat worthier of Gods, as built
With second thoughts, reforming what was old!
O Earth, how like to Heaven, if not preferred
For what God, after better, worse would build?
Terrestrial Heaven, danced round by other Heavens
That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps,
Light above light, for thee alone, as seems,
In thee concentring all their precious beams
Of sacred influence! As God in Heaven
Is center, yet extends to all; so thou,
Centring, receivest from all those orbs: in thee,
Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears
Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth
Of creatures animate with gradual life
Of growth, sense, reason, all summed up in Man.
With what delight could I have walked thee round,
If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange
Of hill, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,
Now land, now sea and shores with forest crowned,
Rocks, dens, and caves! But I in none of these
Find place or refuge; and the more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries: all good to me becomes
Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state.
But neither here seek I, no nor in Heaven
To dwell, unless by mastering Heaven's Supreme;
Nor hope to be myself less miserable
By what I seek, but others to make such
As I, though thereby worse to me redound:
For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and, him destroyed,
Or won to what may work his utter loss,
For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him linked in weal or woe;
In woe then; that destruction wide may range:
To me shall be the glory sole among
The infernal Powers, in one day to have marred
What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making; and who knows how long
Before had been contriving? though perhaps
Not longer than since I, in one night, freed
From servitude inglorious well nigh half
The angelick name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers: He, to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers thus impaired,
Whether such virtue spent of old now failed
More Angels to create, if they at least
Are his created, or, to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature formed of earth, and him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heavenly spoils, our spoils: What he decreed,
He effected; Man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this world, and earth his seat,
Him lord pronounced; and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service angel-wings,
And flaming ministers to watch and tend
Their earthly charge: Of these the vigilance
I dread; and, to elude, thus wrapt in mist
Of midnight vapour glide obscure, and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find
The serpent sleeping; in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast; and, mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the highth of Deity aspired!
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires, must down as low
As high he soared; obnoxious, first or last,
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils:
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust: Spite then with spite is best repaid.
So saying, through each thicket dank or dry,
Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on
His midnight-search, where soonest he might find
The serpent; him fast-sleeping soon he found
In labyrinth of many a round self-rolled,
His head the midst, well stored with subtile wiles:
Not yet in horrid shade or dismal den,
Nor nocent yet; but, on the grassy herb,
Fearless unfeared he slept: in at his mouth
The Devil entered; and his brutal sense,
In heart or head, possessing, soon inspired
With act intelligential; but his sleep
Disturbed not, waiting close the approach of morn.
Now, when as sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flowers, that breathed
Their morning incense, when all things, that breathe,
From the Earth's great altar send up silent praise
To the Creator, and his nostrils fill
With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,
And joined their vocal worship to the quire
Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake
The season prime for sweetest scents and airs:
Then commune, how that day they best may ply
Their growing work: for much their work out-grew
The hands' dispatch of two gardening so wide,
And Eve first to her husband thus began.
Adam, well may we labour still to dress
This garden, still to tend plant, herb, and flower,
Our pleasant task enjoined; but, till more hands
Aid us, the work under our labour grows,
Luxurious by restraint; what we by day
Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,
One night or two with wanton growth derides
Tending to wild. Thou therefore now advise,
Or bear what to my mind first thoughts present:
Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind
The woodbine round this arbour, or direct
The clasping ivy where to climb; while I,
In yonder spring of roses intermixed
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon:
For, while so near each other thus all day
Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on; which intermits
Our day's work, brought to little, though begun
Early, and the hour of supper comes unearned?
To whom mild answer Adam thus returned.
Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear!
Well hast thou motioned, well thy thoughts employed,
How we might best fulfil the work which here
God hath assigned us; nor of me shalt pass
Unpraised: for nothing lovelier can be found
In woman, than to study houshold good,
And good works in her husband to promote.
Yet not so strictly hath our Lord imposed
Labour, as to debar us when we need
Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,
Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse
Of looks and smiles; for smiles from reason flow,
To brute denied, and are of love the food;
Love, not the lowest end of human life.
For not to irksome toil, but to delight,
He made us, and delight to reason joined.
These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint hands
Will keep from wilderness with ease, as wide
As we need walk, till younger hands ere long
Assist us; But, if much converse perhaps
Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield:
For solitude sometimes is best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
Befall thee severed from me; for thou knowest
What hath been warned us, what malicious foe
Envying our happiness, and of his own
Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame
By sly assault; and somewhere nigh at hand
Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find
His wish and best advantage, us asunder;
Hopeless to circumvent us joined, where each
To other speedy aid might lend at need:
Whether his first design be to withdraw
Our fealty from God, or to disturb
Conjugal love, than which perhaps no bliss
Enjoyed by us excites his envy more;
Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
That gave thee being, still shades thee, and protects.
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.
To whom the virgin majesty of Eve,
As one who loves, and some unkindness meets,
With sweet austere composure thus replied.
Offspring of Heaven and Earth, and all Earth's Lord!
That such an enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee informed I learn,
And from the parting Angel over-heard,
As in a shady nook I stood behind,
Just then returned at shut of evening flowers.
But, that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt
To God or thee, because we have a foe
May tempt it, I expected not to hear.
His violence thou fearest not, being such
As we, not capable of death or pain,
Can either not receive, or can repel.
His fraud is then thy fear; which plain infers
Thy equal fear, that my firm faith and love
Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced;
Thoughts, which how found they harbour in thy breast,
Adam, mis-thought of her to thee so dear?
To whom with healing words Adam replied.
Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve!
For such thou art; from sin and blame entire:
Not diffident of thee do I dissuade
Thy absence from my sight, but to avoid
The attempt itself, intended by our foe.
For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses
The tempted with dishonour foul; supposed
Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
Against temptation: Thou thyself with scorn
And anger wouldst resent the offered wrong,
Though ineffectual found: misdeem not then,
If such affront I labour to avert
From thee alone, which on us both at once
The enemy, though bold, will hardly dare;
Or daring, first on me the assault shall light.
Nor thou his malice and false guile contemn;
Subtle he needs must be, who could seduce
Angels; nor think superfluous other's aid.
I, from the influence of thy looks, receive
Access in every virtue; in thy sight
More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were
Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on,
Shame to be overcome or over-reached,
Would utmost vigour raise, and raised unite.
Why shouldst not thou like sense within thee feel
When I am present, and thy trial choose
With me, best witness of thy virtue tried?
So spake domestick Adam in his care
And matrimonial love; but Eve, who thought
Less attributed to her faith sincere,
Thus her reply with accent sweet renewed.
If this be our condition, thus to dwell
In narrow circuit straitened by a foe,
Subtle or violent, we not endued
Single with like defence, wherever met;
How are we happy, still in fear of harm?
But harm precedes not sin: only our foe,
Tempting, affronts us with his foul esteem
Of our integrity: his foul esteem
Sticks no dishonour on our front, but turns
Foul on himself; then wherefore shunned or feared
By us? who rather double honour gain
From his surmise proved false; find peace within,
Favour from Heaven, our witness, from the event.
And what is faith, love, virtue, unassayed
Alone, without exteriour help sustained?
Let us not then suspect our happy state
Left so imperfect by the Maker wise,
As not secure to single or combined.
Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
And Eden were no Eden, thus exposed.
To whom thus Adam fervently replied.
O Woman, best are all things as the will
Of God ordained them: His creating hand
Nothing imperfect or deficient left
Of all that he created, much less Man,
Or aught that might his happy state secure,
Secure from outward force; within himself
The danger lies, yet lies within his power:
Against his will he can receive no harm.
But God left free the will; for what obeys
Reason, is free; and Reason he made right,
But bid her well be ware, and still erect;
Lest, by some fair-appearing good surprised,
She dictate false; and mis-inform the will
To do what God expressly hath forbid.
Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins,
That I should mind thee oft; and mind thou me.
Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve;
Since Reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the foe suborned,
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warned.
Seek not temptation then, which to avoid
Were better, and most likely if from me
Thou sever not: Trial will come unsought.
Wouldst thou approve thy constancy, approve
First thy obedience; the other who can know,
Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?
But, if thou think, trial unsought may find
Us both securer than thus warned thou seemest,
Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more;
Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue; summon all!
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.
So spake the patriarch of mankind; but Eve
Persisted; yet submiss, though last, replied.
With thy permission then, and thus forewarned
Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words
Touched only; that our trial, when least sought,
May find us both perhaps far less prepared,
The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.
Thus saying, from her husband's hand her hand
Soft she withdrew; and, like a Wood-Nymph light,
Oread or Dryad, or of Delia's train,
Betook her to the groves; but Delia's self
In gait surpassed, and Goddess-like deport,
Though not as she with bow and quiver armed,
But with such gardening tools as Art yet rude,
Guiltless of fire, had formed, or Angels brought.
To Pales, or Pomona, thus adorned,
Likest she seemed, Pomona when she fled
Vertumnus, or to Ceres in her prime,
Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.
Her long with ardent look his eye pursued
Delighted, but desiring more her stay.
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated; she to him as oft engaged
To be returned by noon amid the bower,
And all things in best order to invite
Noontide repast, or afternoon's repose.
O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presumed return! event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Foundst either sweet repast, or sound repose;
Such ambush, hid among sweet flowers and shades,
Waited with hellish rancour imminent
To intercept thy way, or send thee back
Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss!
For now, and since first break of dawn, the Fiend,
Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come;
And on his quest, where likeliest he might find
The only two of mankind, but in them
The whole included race, his purposed prey.
In bower and field he sought, where any tuft
Of grove or garden-plot more pleasant lay,
Their tendance, or plantation for delight;
By fountain or by shady rivulet
He sought them both, but wished his hap might find
Eve separate; he wished, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanced; when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses blushing round
About her glowed, oft stooping to support
Each flower of slender stalk, whose head, though gay
Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,
Hung drooping unsustained; them she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,
From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.
Nearer he drew, and many a walk traversed
Of stateliest covert, cedar, pine, or palm;
Then voluble and bold, now hid, now seen,
Among thick-woven arborets, and flowers
Imbordered on each bank, the hand of Eve:
Spot more delicious than those gardens feigned
Or of revived Adonis, or renowned
Alcinous, host of old Laertes' son;
Or that, not mystick, where the sapient king
Held dalliance with his fair Egyptian spouse.
Much he the place admired, the person more.
As one who long in populous city pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing on a summer's morn, to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight;
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound;
If chance, with nymph-like step, fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more;
She most, and in her look sums all delight:
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone: Her heavenly form
Angelick, but more soft, and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture, or least action, overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought:
That space the Evil-one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good; of enmity disarmed,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge:
But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure, not for him ordained: then soon
Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts
Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites.
Thoughts, whither have ye led me! with what sweet
Compulsion thus transported, to forget
What hither brought us! hate, not love;nor hope
Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste
Of pleasure; but all pleasure to destroy,
Save what is in destroying; other joy
To me is lost. Then, let me not let pass
Occasion which now smiles; behold alone
The woman, opportune to all attempts,
Her husband, for I view far round, not nigh,
Whose higher intellectual more I shun,
And strength, of courage haughty, and of limb
Heroick built, though of terrestrial mould;
Foe not informidable! exempt from wound,
I not; so much hath Hell debased, and pain
Enfeebled me, to what I was in Heaven.
She fair, divinely fair, fit love for Gods!
Not terrible, though terrour be in love
And beauty, not approached by stronger hate,
Hate stronger, under show of love well feigned;
The way which to her ruin now I tend.
So spake the enemy of mankind, enclosed
In serpent, inmate bad! and toward Eve
Addressed his way: not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since; but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape
And lovely; never since of serpent-kind
Lovelier, not those that in Illyria changed,
Hermione and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus; nor to which transformed
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline, was seen;
He with Olympias; this with her who bore
Scipio, the highth of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but feared
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a ship, by skilful steersmen wrought
Nigh river's mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail:
So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curled many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye; she, busied, heard the sound
Of rusling leaves, but minded not, as used
To such disport before her through the field,
From every beast; more duteous at her call,
Than at Circean call the herd disguised.
He, bolder now, uncalled before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bowed
His turret crest, and sleek enamelled neck,
Fawning; and licked the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turned at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad
Of her attention gained, with serpent-tongue
Organick, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began.
Wonder not, sovran Mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole wonder! much less arm
Thy looks, the Heaven of mildness, with disdain,
Displeased that I approach thee thus, and gaze
Insatiate; I thus single;nor have feared
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retired.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore
With ravishment beheld! there best beheld,
Where universally admired; but here
In this enclosure wild, these beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discern
Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
Who sees thee? and what is one? who should be seen
A Goddess among Gods, adored and served
By Angels numberless, thy daily train.
So glozed the Tempter, and his proem tuned:
Into the heart of Eve his words made way,
Though at the voice much marvelling; at length,
Not unamazed, she thus in answer spake.
What may this mean? language of man pronounced
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?
The first, at least, of these I thought denied
To beasts; whom God, on their creation-day,
Created mute to all articulate sound:
The latter I demur; for in their looks
Much reason, and in their actions, oft appears.
Thee, Serpent, subtlest beast of all the field
I knew, but not with human voice endued;
Redouble then this miracle, and say,
How camest thou speakable of mute, and how
To me so friendly grown above the rest
Of brutal kind, that daily are in sight?
Say, for such wonder claims attention due.
To whom the guileful Tempter thus replied.
Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve!
Easy to me it is to tell thee all
What thou commandest; and right thou shouldst be obeyed:
I was at first as other beasts that graze
The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food; nor aught but food discerned
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high:
Till, on a day roving the field, I chanced
A goodly tree far distant to behold
Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,
Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at even,
Unsucked of lamb or kid, that tend their play.
To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolved
Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quickened at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urged me so keen.
About the mossy trunk I wound me soon;
For, high from ground, the branches would require
Thy utmost reach or Adam's: Round the tree
All other beasts that saw, with like desire
Longing and envying stood, but could not reach.
Amid the tree now got, where plenty hung
Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my fill
I spared not; for, such pleasure till that hour,
At feed or fountain, never had I found.
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Strange alteration in me, to degree
Of reason in my inward powers; and speech
Wanted not long; though to this shape retained.
Thenceforth to speculations high or deep
I turned my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Considered all things visible in Heaven,
Or Earth, or Middle; all things fair and good:
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heavenly ray,
United I beheld; no fair to thine
Equivalent or second! which compelled
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee of right declared
Sovran of creatures, universal Dame!
So talked the spirited sly Snake; and Eve,
Yet more amazed, unwary thus replied.
Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first proved:
But say, where grows the tree? from hence how far?
For many are the trees of God that grow
In Paradise, and various, yet unknown
To us; in such abundance lies our choice,
As leaves a greater store of fruit untouched,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provision, and more hands
Help to disburden Nature of her birth.
To whom the wily Adder, blithe and glad.
Empress, the way is ready, and not long;
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
Fast by a fountain, one small thicket past
Of blowing myrrh and balm: if thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon
Lead then, said Eve. He, leading, swiftly rolled
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest; as when a wandering fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil Spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads the amazed night-wanderer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool;
There swallowed up and lost, from succour far.
So glistered the dire Snake, and into fraud
Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the tree
Of prohibition, root of all our woe;
Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake.
Serpent, we might have spared our coming hither,
Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess,
The credit of whose virtue rest with thee;
Wonderous indeed, if cause of such effects.
But of this tree we may not taste nor touch;
God so commanded, and left that command
Sole daughter of his voice; the rest, we live
Law to ourselves; our reason is our law.
To whom the Tempter guilefully replied.
Indeed! hath God then said that of the fruit
Of all these garden-trees ye shall not eat,
Yet Lords declared of all in earth or air$?
To whom thus Eve, yet sinless. Of the fruit
Of each tree in the garden we may eat;
But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst
The garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
She scarce had said, though brief, when now more bold
The Tempter, but with show of zeal and love
To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on; and, as to passion moved,
Fluctuates disturbed, yet comely and in act
Raised, as of some great matter to begin.
As when of old some orator renowned,
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourished, since mute! to some great cause addressed,
Stood in himself collected; while each part,
Motion, each act, won audience ere the tongue;
Sometimes in highth began, as no delay
Of preface brooking, through his zeal of right:
So standing, moving, or to highth up grown,
The Tempter, all impassioned, thus began.
O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving Plant,
Mother of science! now I feel thy power
Within me clear; not only to discern
Things in their causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest agents, deemed however wise.
Queen of this universe! do not believe
Those rigid threats of death: ye shall not die:
How should you? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge; by the threatener? look on me,
Me, who have touched and tasted; yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than Fate
Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to Man, which to the Beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass? and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how just? of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not feared then, nor obeyed:
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why then was this forbid? Why, but to awe;
Why, but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as Gods,
Knowing both good and evil, as they know.
That ye shall be as Gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet;
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, Gods.
So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off
Human, to put on Gods; death to be wished,
Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring.
And what are Gods, that Man may not become
As they, participating God-like food?
The Gods are first, and that advantage use
On our belief, that all from them proceeds:
I question it; for this fair earth I see,
Warmed by the sun, producing every kind;
Them, nothing: if they all things, who enclosed
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
The offence, that Man should thus attain to know?
What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree
Impart against his will, if all be his?
Or is it envy? and can envy dwell
In heavenly breasts? These, these, and many more
Causes import your need of this fair fruit.
Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste!
He ended; and his words, replete with guile,
Into her heart too easy entrance won:
Fixed on the fruit she gazed, which to behold
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth:
Mean while the hour of noon drew on, and waked
An eager appetite, raised by the smell
So savoury of that fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye; yet first
Pausing a while, thus to herself she mused.
Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired;
Whose taste, too long forborn, at first assay
Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise:
Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,
Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree
Of knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil;
Forbids us then to taste! but his forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want:
For good unknown sure is not had; or, had
And yet unknown, is as not had at all.
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise?
Such prohibitions bind not. But, if death
Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
Our inward freedom? In the day we eat
Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die!
How dies the Serpent? he hath eaten and lives,
And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
Irrational till then. For us alone
Was death invented? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?
For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather, what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: What hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat!
Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty Serpent; and well might;for Eve,
Intent now wholly on her taste, nought else
Regarded; such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; not was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death: Satiate at length,
And hightened as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began.
O sovran, virtuous, precious of all trees
In Paradise! of operation blest
To sapience, hitherto obscured, infamed.
And thy fair fruit let hang, as to no end
Created; but henceforth my early care,
Not without song, each morning, and due praise,
Shall tend thee, and the fertile burden ease
Of thy full branches offered free to all;
Till, dieted by thee, I grow mature
In knowledge, as the Gods, who all things know;
Though others envy what they cannot give:
For, had the gift been theirs, it had not here
Thus grown. Experience, next, to thee I owe,
Best guide; not following thee, I had remained
In ignorance; thou openest wisdom's way,
And givest access, though secret she retire.
And I perhaps am secret: Heaven is high,
High, and remote to see from thence distinct
Each thing on Earth; and other care perhaps
May have diverted from continual watch
Our great Forbidder, safe with all his spies
About him. But to Adam in what sort
Shall I appear? shall I to him make known
As yet my change, and give him to partake
Full happiness with me, or rather not,
But keeps the odds of knowledge in my power
Without copartner? so to add what wants
In female sex, the more to draw his love,
And render me more equal; and perhaps,
A thing not undesirable, sometime
Superiour; for, inferiour, who is free
This may be well: But what if God have seen,
And death ensue? then I shall be no more!
And Adam, wedded to another Eve,
Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct;
A death to think! Confirmed then I resolve,
Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe:
So dear I love him, that with him all deaths
I could endure, without him live no life.
So saying, from the tree her step she turned;
But first low reverence done, as to the Power
That dwelt within, whose presence had infused
Into the plant sciential sap, derived
From nectar, drink of Gods. Adam the while,
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn
Her tresses, and her rural labours crown;
As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen.
Great joy he promised to his thoughts, and new
Solace in her return, so long delayed:
Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill,
Misgave him; he the faltering measure felt;
And forth to meet her went, the way she took
That morn when first they parted: by the tree
Of knowledge he must pass; there he her met,
Scarce from the tree returning; in her hand
A bough of fairest fruit, that downy smiled,
New gathered, and ambrosial smell diffused.
To him she hasted; in her face excuse
Came prologue, and apology too prompt;
Which, with bland words at will, she thus addressed.
Hast thou not wondered, Adam, at my stay?
Thee I have missed, and thought it long, deprived
Thy presence; agony of love till now
Not felt, nor shall be twice; for never more
Mean I to try, what rash untried I sought,
The pain of absence from thy sight. But strange
Hath been the cause, and wonderful to hear:
This tree is not, as we are told, a tree
Of danger tasted, nor to evil unknown
Opening the way, but of divine effect
To open eyes, and make them Gods who taste;
And hath been tasted such: The serpent wise,
Or not restrained as we, or not obeying,
Hath eaten of the fruit; and is become,
Not dead, as we are threatened, but thenceforth
Endued with human voice and human sense,
Reasoning to admiration; and with me
Persuasively hath so prevailed, that I
Have also tasted, and have also found
The effects to correspond; opener mine eyes,
Dim erst, dilated spirits, ampler heart,
And growing up to Godhead; which for thee
Chiefly I sought, without thee can despise.
For bliss, as thou hast part, to me is bliss;
Tedious, unshared with thee, and odious soon.
Thou therefore also taste, that equal lot
May join us, equal joy, as equal love;
Lest, thou not tasting, different degree
Disjoin us, and I then too late renounce
Deity for thee, when Fate will not permit.
Thus Eve with countenance blithe her story told;
But in her cheek distemper flushing glowed.
On the other side Adam, soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed,
Astonied stood and blank, while horrour chill
Ran through his veins, and all his joints relaxed;
From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve
Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed:
Speechless he stood and pale, till thus at length
First to himself he inward silence broke.
O fairest of Creation, last and best
Of all God's works, Creature in whom excelled
Whatever can to sight or thought be formed,
Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet!
How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost,
Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote!
Rather, how hast thou yielded to transgress
The strict forbiddance, how to violate
The sacred fruit forbidden! Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguiled thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die:
How can I live without thee! how forego
Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly joined,
To live again in these wild woods forlorn!
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart: no, no!I feel
The link of Nature draw me: flesh of flesh,
Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.
So having said, as one from sad dismay
Recomforted, and after thoughts disturbed
Submitting to what seemed remediless,
Thus in calm mood his words to Eve he turned.
Bold deed thou hast presumed, adventurous Eve,
And peril great provoked, who thus hast dared,
Had it been only coveting to eye
That sacred fruit, sacred to abstinence,
Much more to taste it under ban to touch.
But past who can recall, or done undo?
Not God Omnipotent, nor Fate; yet so
Perhaps thou shalt not die, perhaps the fact
Is not so heinous now, foretasted fruit,
Profaned first by the serpent, by him first
Made common, and unhallowed, ere our taste;
Nor yet on him found deadly; yet he lives;
Lives, as thou saidst, and gains to live, as Man,
Higher degree of life; inducement strong
To us, as likely tasting to attain
Proportional ascent; which cannot be
But to be Gods, or Angels, demi-Gods.
Nor can I think that God, Creator wise,
Though threatening, will in earnest so destroy
Us his prime creatures, dignified so high,
Set over all his works; which in our fall,
For us created, needs with us must fail,
Dependant made; so God shall uncreate,
Be frustrate, do, undo, and labour lose;
Not well conceived of God, who, though his power
Creation could repeat, yet would be loth
Us to abolish, lest the Adversary
Triumph, and say; "Fickle their state whom God
"Most favours; who can please him long? Me first
"He ruined, now Mankind; whom will he next?"
Matter of scorn, not to be given the Foe.
However I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom: If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of Nature draw me to my own;
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine;
Our state cannot be severed; we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.
So Adam; and thus Eve to him replied.
O glorious trial of exceeding love,
Illustrious evidence, example high!
Engaging me to emulate; but, short
Of thy perfection, how shall I attain,
Adam, from whose dear side I boast me sprung,
And gladly of our union hear thee speak,
One heart, one soul in both; whereof good proof
This day affords, declaring thee resolved,
Rather than death, or aught than death more dread,
Shall separate us, linked in love so dear,
To undergo with me one guilt, one crime,
If any be, of tasting this fair fruit;
Whose virtue for of good still good proceeds,
Direct, or by occasion, hath presented
This happy trial of thy love, which else
So eminently never had been known?
Were it I thought death menaced would ensue
This my attempt, I would sustain alone
The worst, and not persuade thee, rather die
Deserted, than oblige thee with a fact
Pernicious to thy peace; chiefly assured
Remarkably so late of thy so true,
So faithful, love unequalled: but I feel
Far otherwise the event; not death, but life
Augmented, opened eyes, new hopes, new joys,
Taste so divine, that what of sweet before
Hath touched my sense, flat seems to this, and harsh.
On my experience, Adam, freely taste,
And fear of death deliver to the winds.
So saying, she embraced him, and for joy
Tenderly wept; much won, that he his love
Had so ennobled, as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.
In recompence for such compliance bad
Such recompence best merits from the bough
She gave him of that fair enticing fruit
With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat,
Against his better knowledge; not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs; and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky loured; and, muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin
Original: while Adam took no thought,
Eating his fill; nor Eve to iterate
Her former trespass feared, the more to sooth
Him with her loved society; that now,
As with new wine intoxicated both,
They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel
Divinity within them breeding wings,
Wherewith to scorn the earth: But that false fruit
Far other operation first displayed,
Carnal desire inflaming; he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes; she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn:
Till Adam thus 'gan Eve to dalliance move.
Eve, now I see thou art exact of taste,
And elegant, of sapience no small part;
Since to each meaning savour we apply,
And palate call judicious; I the praise
Yield thee, so well this day thou hast purveyed.
Much pleasure we have lost, while we abstained
From this delightful fruit, nor known till now
True relish, tasting; if such pleasure be
In things to us forbidden, it might be wished,
For this one tree had been forbidden ten.
But come, so well refreshed, now let us play,
As meet is, after such delicious fare;
For never did thy beauty, since the day
I saw thee first and wedded thee, adorned
With all perfections, so inflame my sense
With ardour to enjoy thee, fairer now
Than ever; bounty of this virtuous tree!
So said he, and forbore not glance or toy
Of amorous intent; well understood
Of Eve, whose eye darted contagious fire.
Her hand he seised; and to a shady bank,
Thick over-head with verdant roof imbowered,
He led her nothing loth; flowers were the couch,
Pansies, and violets, and asphodel,
And hyacinth; Earth's freshest softest lap.
There they their fill of love and love's disport
Took largely, of their mutual guilt the seal,
The solace of their sin; till dewy sleep
Oppressed them, wearied with their amorous play,
Soon as the force of that fallacious fruit,
That with exhilarating vapour bland
About their spirits had played, and inmost powers
Made err, was now exhaled; and grosser sleep,
Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams
Incumbered, now had left them; up they rose
As from unrest; and, each the other viewing,
Soon found their eyes how opened, and their minds
How darkened; innocence, that as a veil
Had shadowed them from knowing ill, was gone;
Just confidence, and native righteousness,
And honour, from about them, naked left
To guilty Shame; he covered, but his robe
Uncovered more. So rose the Danite strong,
Herculean Samson, from the harlot-lap
Of Philistean Dalilah, and waked
Shorn of his strength. They destitute and bare
Of all their virtue: Silent, and in face
Confounded, long they sat, as strucken mute:
Till Adam, though not less than Eve abashed,
At length gave utterance to these words constrained.
O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear
To that false worm, of whomsoever taught
To counterfeit Man's voice; true in our fall,
False in our promised rising; since our eyes
Opened we find indeed, and find we know
Both good and evil; good lost, and evil got;
Bad fruit of knowledge, if this be to know;
Which leaves us naked thus, of honour void,
Of innocence, of faith, of purity,
Our wonted ornaments now soiled and stained,
And in our faces evident the signs
Of foul concupiscence; whence evil store;
Even shame, the last of evils; of the first
Be sure then.--How shall I behold the face
Henceforth of God or Angel, erst with joy
And rapture so oft beheld? Those heavenly shapes
Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze
Insufferably bright. O! might I here
In solitude live savage; in some glade
Obscured, where highest woods, impenetrable
To star or sun-light, spread their umbrage broad
And brown as evening: Cover me, ye Pines!
Ye Cedars, with innumerable boughs
Hide me, where I may never see them more!--
But let us now, as in bad plight, devise
What best may for the present serve to hide
The parts of each from other, that seem most
To shame obnoxious, and unseemliest seen;
Some tree, whose broad smooth leaves together sewed,
And girded on our loins, may cover round
Those middle parts; that this new comer, Shame,
There sit not, and reproach us as unclean.
So counselled he, and both together went
Into the thickest wood; there soon they chose
The fig-tree; not that kind for fruit renowned,
But such as at this day, to Indians known,
In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a pillared shade
High over-arched, and echoing walks between:
There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
At loop-holes cut through thickest shade: Those leaves
They gathered, broad as Amazonian targe;
And, with what skill they had, together sewed,
To gird their waist; vain covering, if to hide
Their guilt and dreaded shame! O, how unlike
To that first naked glory! Such of late
Columbus found the American, so girt
With feathered cincture; naked else, and wild
Among the trees on isles and woody shores.
Thus fenced, and, as they thought, their shame in part
Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind,
They sat them down to weep; nor only tears
Rained at their eyes, but high winds worse within
Began to rise, high passions, anger, hate,
Mistrust, suspicion, discord; and shook sore
Their inward state of mind, calm region once
And full of peace, now tost and turbulent:
For Understanding ruled not, and the Will
Heard not her lore; both in subjection now
To sensual Appetite, who from beneath
Usurping over sovran Reason claimed
Superiour sway: From thus distempered breast,
Adam, estranged in look and altered style,
Speech intermitted thus to Eve renewed.
Would thou hadst hearkened to my words, and staid
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange
Desire of wandering, this unhappy morn,
I know not whence possessed thee; we had then
Remained still happy; not, as now, despoiled
Of all our good; shamed, naked, miserable!
Let none henceforth seek needless cause to approve
The faith they owe; when earnestly they seek
Such proof, conclude, they then begin to fail.
To whom, soon moved with touch of blame, thus Eve.
What words have passed thy lips, Adam severe!
Imputest thou that to my default, or will
Of wandering, as thou callest it, which who knows
But might as ill have happened thou being by,
Or to thyself perhaps? Hadst thou been there,
Or here the attempt, thou couldst not have discerned
Fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake;
No ground of enmity between us known,
Why he should mean me ill, or seek to harm.
Was I to have never parted from thy side?
As good have grown there still a lifeless rib.
Being as I am, why didst not thou, the head,
Command me absolutely not to go,
Going into such danger, as thou saidst?
Too facile then, thou didst not much gainsay;
Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss.
Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent,
Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me.
To whom, then first incensed, Adam replied.
Is this the love, is this the recompence
Of mine to thee, ingrateful Eve! expressed
Immutable, when thou wert lost, not I;
Who might have lived, and joyed immortal bliss,
Yet willingly chose rather death with thee?
And am I now upbraided as the cause
Of thy transgressing? Not enough severe,
It seems, in thy restraint: What could I more
I warned thee, I admonished thee, foretold
The danger, and the lurking enemy
That lay in wait; beyond this, had been force;
And force upon free will hath here no place.
But confidence then bore thee on; secure
Either to meet no danger, or to find
Matter of glorious trial; and perhaps
I also erred, in overmuch admiring
What seemed in thee so perfect, that I thought
No evil durst attempt thee; but I rue
The errour now, which is become my crime,
And thou the accuser. Thus it shall befall
Him, who, to worth in women overtrusting,
Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook;
And, left to herself, if evil thence ensue,
She first his weak indulgence will accuse.
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;
And of their vain contest appeared no end.
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 9
WHILE these affairs in distant places pass’d,
The various Iris Juno sends with haste,
To find bold Turnus, who, with anxious thought,
The secret shade of his great grandsire sought.
Retir’d alone she found the daring man, 5
And op’d her rosy lips, and thus began:
“What none of all the gods could grant thy vows,
That, Turnus, this auspicious day bestows.
Æneas, gone to seek th’ Arcadian prince,
Has left the Trojan camp without defense; 10
And, short of succors there, employs his pains
In parts remote to raise the Tuscan swains.
Now snatch an hour that favors thy designs;
Unite thy forces, and attack their lines.”
This said, on equal wings she pois’d her weight, 15
And form’d a radiant rainbow in her flight.
The Daunian hero lifts his hands and eyes,
And thus invokes the goddess as she flies:
“Iris, the grace of heav’n, what pow’r divine
Has sent thee down, thro’ dusky clouds to shine? 20
See, they divide; immortal day appears,
And glitt’ring planets dancing in their spheres!
With joy, these happy omens I obey,
And follow to the war the god that leads the way.”
Thus having said, as by the brook he stood, 25
He scoop’d the water from the crystal flood;
Then with his hands the drops to heav’n he throws,
And loads the pow’rs above with offer’d vows.
Now march the bold confed’rates thro’ the plain,
Well hors’d, well clad; a rich and shining train. 30
Messapus leads the van; and, in the rear,
The sons of Tyrrheus in bright arms appear.
In the main battle, with his flaming crest,
The mighty Turnus tow’rs above the rest.
Silent they move, majestically slow, 35
Like ebbing Nile, or Ganges in his flow.
The Trojans view the dusty cloud from far,
And the dark menace of the distant war.
Caicus from the rampire saw it rise,
Black’ning the fields, and thick’ning thro’ the skies. 40
Then to his fellows thus aloud he calls:
“What rolling clouds, my friends, approach the walls?
Arm! arm! and man the works! prepare your spears
And pointed darts! the Latian host appears.”
Thus warn’d, they shut their gates; with shouts ascend 45
The bulwarks, and, secure, their foes attend:
For their wise gen’ral, with foreseeing care,
Had charg’d them not to tempt the doubtful war,
Nor, tho’ provok’d, in open fields advance,
But close within their lines attend their chance. 50
Unwilling, yet they keep the strict command,
And sourly wait in arms the hostile band.
The fiery Turnus flew before the rest:
A piebald steed of Thracian strain he press’d;
His helm of massy gold, and crimson was his crest. 55
With twenty horse to second his designs,
An unexpected foe, he fac’d the lines.
“Is there,” he said, “in arms, who bravely dare
His leader’s honor and his danger share?”
Then spurring on, his brandish’d dart he threw, 60
In sign of war: applauding shouts ensue.
Amaz’d to find a dastard race, that run
Behind the rampires and the battle shun,
He rides around the camp, with rolling eyes,
And stops at ev’ry post, and ev’ry passage tries. 65
So roams the nightly wolf about the fold:
Wet with descending show’rs, and stiff with cold,
He howls for hunger, and he grins for pain,
(His gnashing teeth are exercis’d in vain,)
And, impotent of anger, finds no way 70
In his distended paws to grasp the prey.
The mothers listen; but the bleating lambs
Securely swig the dug, beneath the dams.
Thus ranges eager Turnus o’er the plain.
Sharp with desire, and furious with disdain; 75
Surveys each passage with a piercing sight,
To force his foes in equal field to fight.
Thus while he gazes round, at length he spies,
Where, fenc’d with strong redoubts, their navy lies,
Close underneath the walls; the washing tide 80
Secures from all approach this weaker side.
He takes the wish’d occasion, fills his hand
With ready fires, and shakes a flaming brand.
Urg’d by his presence, ev’ry soul is warm’d,
And ev’ry hand with kindled firs is arm’d. 85
From the fir’d pines the scatt’ring sparkles fly;
Fat vapors, mix’d with flames, involve the sky.
What pow’r, O Muses, could avert the flame
Which threaten’d, in the fleet, the Trojan name?
Tell: for the fact, thro’ length of time obscure, 90
Is hard to faith; yet shall the fame endure.
’T is said that, when the chief prepar’d his flight,
And fell’d his timber from Mount Ida’s height,
The grandam goddess then approach’d her son,
And with a mother’s majesty begun: 95
“Grant me,” she said, “the sole request I bring,
Since conquer’d heav’n has own’d you for its king.
On Ida’s brows, for ages past, there stood,
With firs and maples fill’d, a shady wood;
And on the summit rose a sacred grove, 100
Where I was worship’d with religious love.
Those woods, that holy grove, my long delight,
I gave the Trojan prince, to speed his flight.
Now, fill’d with fear, on their behalf I come;
Let neither winds o’erset, nor waves intomb 105
The floating forests of the sacred pine;
But let it be their safety to be mine.”
Then thus replied her awful son, who rolls
The radiant stars, and heav’n and earth controls:
“How dare you, mother, endless date demand 110
For vessels molded by a mortal hand?
What then is fate? Shall bold Æneas ride,
Of safety certain, on th’ uncertain tide?
Yet, what I can, I grant; when, wafted o’er,
The chief is landed on the Latian shore, 115
Whatever ships escape the raging storms,
At my command shall change their fading forms
To nymphs divine, and plow the wat’ry way,
Like Dotis and the daughters of the sea.”
To seal his sacred vow, by Styx he swore, 120
The lake of liquid pitch, the dreary shore,
And Phlegethon’s innavigable flood,
And the black regions of his brother god.
He said; and shook the skies with his imperial nod.
And now at length the number’d hours were come, 125
Prefix’d by fate’s irrevocable doom,
When the great Mother of the Gods was free
To save her ships, and finish Jove’s decree.
First, from the quarter of the morn, there sprung
A light that sign’d the heav’ns, and shot along; 130
Then from a cloud, fring’d round with golden fires,
Were timbrels heard, and Berecynthian choirs;
And, last, a voice, with more than mortal sounds,
Both hosts, in arms oppos’d, with equal horror wounds:
“O Trojan race, your needless aid forbear, 135
And know, my ships are my peculiar care.
With greater ease the bold Rutulian may,
With hissing brands, attempt to burn the sea,
Than singe my sacred pines. But you, my charge,
Loos’d from your crooked anchors, launch at large, 140
Exalted each a nymph: forsake the sand,
And swim the seas, at Cybele’s command.”
No sooner had the goddess ceas’d to speak,
When, lo! th’ obedient ships their haulsers break;
And, strange to tell, like dolphins, in the main 145
They plunge their prows, and dive, and spring again:
As many beauteous maids the billows sweep,
As rode before tall vessels on the deep.
The foes, surpris’d with wonder, stood aghast;
Messapus curb’d his fiery courser’s haste; 150
Old Tiber roar’d, and, raising up his head,
Call’d back his waters to their oozy bed.
Turnus alone, undaunted, bore the shock,
And with these words his trembling troops bespoke:
“These monsters for the Trojans’ fate are meant, 155
And are by Jove for black presages sent.
He takes the cowards’ last relief away;
For fly they cannot, and, constrain’d to stay,
Must yield unfought, a base inglorious prey.
The liquid half of all the globe is lost; 160
Heav’n shuts the seas, and we secure the coast.
Theirs is no more than that small spot of ground
Which myriads of our martial men surround.
Their fates I fear not, or vain oracles.
’T was giv’n to Venus they should cross the seas, 165
And land secure upon the Latian plains:
Their promis’d hour is pass’d, and mine remains.
’T is in the fate of Turnus to destroy,
With sword and fire, the faithless race of Troy.
Shall such affronts as these alone inflame 170
The Grecian brothers, and the Grecian name?
My cause and theirs is one; a fatal strife,
And final ruin, for a ravish’d wife.
Was ’t not enough, that, punish’d for the crime,
They fell; but will they fall a second time? 175
One would have thought they paid enough before,
To curse the costly sex, and durst offend no more.
Can they securely trust their feeble wall,
A slight partition, a thin interval,
Betwixt their fate and them; when Troy, tho’ built 180
By hands divine, yet perish’d by their guilt?
Lend me, for once, my friends, your valiant hands,
To force from out their lines these dastard bands.
Less than a thousand ships will end this war,
Nor Vulcan needs his fated arms prepare. 185
Let all the Tuscans, all th’ Arcadians, join!
Nor these, nor those, shall frustrate my design.
Let them not fear the treasons of the night,
The robb’d Palladium, the pretended flight:
Our onset shall be made in open light. 190
No wooden engine shall their town betray;
Fires they shall have around, but fires by day.
No Grecian babes before their camp appear,
Whom Hector’s arms detain’d to the tenth tardy year.
Now, since the sun is rolling to the west, 195
Give we the silent night to needful rest:
Refresh your bodies, and your arms prepare;
The morn shall end the small remains of war.”
The post of honor to Messapus falls,
To keep the nightly guard, to watch the walls, 200
To pitch the fires at distances around,
And close the Trojans in their scanty ground.
Twice seven Rutulian captains ready stand,
And twice seven hundred horse these chiefs command;
All clad in shining arms the works invest, 205
Each with a radiant helm and waving crest.
Stretch’d at their length, they press the grassy ground;
They laugh, they sing, (the jolly bowls go round,)
With lights and cheerful fires renew the day,
And pass the wakeful night in feasts and play. 210
The Trojans, from above, their foes beheld,
And with arm’d legions all the rampires fill’d.
Seiz’d with affright, their gates they first explore;
Join works to works with bridges, tow’r to tow’r:
Thus all things needful for defense abound. 215
Mnestheus and brave Seresthus walk the round,
Commission’d by their absent prince to share
The common danger, and divide the care.
The soldiers draw their lots, and, as they fall,
By turns relieve each other on the wall. 220
Nigh where the foes their utmost guards advance,
To watch the gate was warlike Nisus’ chance.
His father Hyrtacus of noble blood;
His mother was a huntress of the wood,
And sent him to the wars. Well could he bear 225
His lance in fight, and dart the flying spear,
But better skill’d unerring shafts to send.
Beside him stood Euryalus, his friend:
Euryalus, than whom the Trojan host
No fairer face, or sweeter air, could boast— 230
Scarce had the down to shade his cheeks begun.
One was their care, and their delight was one:
One common hazard in the war they shar’d,
And now were both by choice upon the guard.
Then Nisus thus: “Or do the gods inspire 235
This warmth, or make we gods of our desire?
A gen’rous ardor boils within my breast,
Eager of action, enemy to rest:
This urges me to fight, and fires my mind
To leave a memorable name behind. 240
Thou see’st the foe secure; how faintly shine
Their scatter’d fires! the most, in sleep supine
Along the ground, an easy conquest lie:
The wakeful few the fuming flagon ply;
All hush’d around. Now hear what I revolve— 245
A thought unripe—and scarcely yet resolve.
Our absent prince both camp and council mourn;
By message both would hasten his return:
If they confer what I demand on thee,
(For fame is recompense enough for me,) 250
Methinks, beneath yon hill, I have espied
A way that safely will my passage guide.”
Euryalus stood list’ning while he spoke,
With love of praise and noble envy struck;
Then to his ardent friend expos’d his mind: 255
“All this, alone, and leaving me behind!
Am I unworthy, Nisus, to be join’d?
Think’st thou I can my share of glory yield,
Or send thee unassisted to the field?
Not so my father taught my childhood arms; 260
Born in a siege, and bred among alarms!
Nor is my youth unworthy of my friend,
Nor of the heav’n-born hero I attend.
The thing call’d life, with ease I can disclaim,
And think it over-sold to purchase fame.” 265
Then Nisus thus: “Alas! thy tender years
Would minister new matter to my fears.
So may the gods, who view this friendly strife,
Restore me to thy lov’d embrace with life,
Condemn’d to pay my vows, (as sure I trust,) 270
This thy request is cruel and unjust.
But if some chance—as many chances are,
And doubtful hazards, in the deeds of war—
If one should reach my head, there let it fall,
And spare thy life; I would not perish all. 275
Thy bloomy youth deserves a longer date:
Live thou to mourn thy love’s unhappy fate;
To bear my mangled body from the foe,
Or buy it back, and fun’ral rites bestow.
Or, if hard fortune shall those dues deny, 280
Thou canst at least an empty tomb supply.
O let not me the widow’s tears renew!
Nor let a mother’s curse my name pursue:
Thy pious parent, who, for love of thee,
Forsook the coasts of friendly Sicily, 285
Her age committing to the seas and wind,
When ev’ry weary matron stay’d behind.”
To this, Euryalus: “You plead in vain,
And but protract the cause you cannot gain.
No more delays, but haste!” With that, he wakes 290
The nodding watch; each to his office takes.
The guard reliev’d, the gen’rous couple went
To find the council at the royal tent.
All creatures else forgot their daily care,
And sleep, the common gift of nature, share; 295
Except the Trojan peers, who wakeful sate
In nightly council for th’ indanger’d state.
They vote a message to their absent chief,
Shew their distress, and beg a swift relief.
Amid the camp a silent seat they chose, 300
Remote from clamor, and secure from foes.
On their left arms their ample shields they bear,
The right reclin’d upon the bending spear.
Now Nisus and his friend approach the guard,
And beg admission, eager to be heard: 305
Th’ affair important, not to be deferr’d.
Ascanius bids ’em be conducted in,
Ord’ring the more experienc’d to begin.
Then Nisus thus: “Ye fathers, lend your ears;
Nor judge our bold attempt beyond our years. 310
The foe, securely drench’d in sleep and wine,
Neglect their watch; the fires but thinly shine;
And where the smoke in cloudy vapors flies,
Cov’ring the plain, and curling to the skies,
Betwixt two paths, which at the gate divide, 315
Close by the sea, a passage we have spied,
Which will our way to great Æneas guide.
Expect each hour to see him safe again,
Loaded with spoils of foes in battle slain.
Snatch we the lucky minute while we may; 320
Nor can we be mistaken in the way;
For, hunting in the vale, we both have seen
The rising turrets, and the stream between,
And know the winding course, with ev’ry ford.”
He ceas’d; and old Alethes took the word: 325
“Our country gods, in whom our trust we place,
Will yet from ruin save the Trojan race,
While we behold such dauntless worth appear
In dawning youth, and souls so void of fear.”
Then into tears of joy the father broke; 330
Each in his longing arms by turns he took;
Panted and paus’d; and thus again he spoke:
“Ye brave young men, what equal gifts can we,
In recompense of such desert, decree?
The greatest, sure, and best you can receive, 335
The gods and your own conscious worth will give.
The rest our grateful gen’ral will bestow,
And young Ascanius till his manhood owe.”
“And I, whose welfare in my father lies,”
Ascanius adds, “by the great deities, 340
By my dear country, by my household gods,
By hoary Vesta’s rites and dark abodes,
Adjure you both, (on you my fortune stands;
That and my faith I plight into your hands,)
Make me but happy in his safe return, 345
Whose wanted presence I can only mourn;
Your common gift shall two large goblets be
Of silver, wrought with curious imagery,
And high emboss’d, which, when old Priam reign’d,
My conqu’ring sire at sack’d Arisba gain’d; 350
And more, two tripods cast in antic mold,
With two great talents of the finest gold;
Beside a costly bowl, ingrav’d with art,
Which Dido gave, when first she gave her heart.
But, if in conquer’d Italy we reign, 355
When spoils by lot the victor shall obtain—
Thou saw’st the courser by proud Turnus press’d:
That, Nisus, and his arms, and nodding crest,
And shield, from chance exempt, shall be thy share:
Twelve lab’ring slaves, twelve handmaids young and fair, 360
All clad in rich attire, and train’d with care;
And, last, a Latian field with fruitful plains,
And a large portion of the king’s domains.
But thou, whose years are more to mine allied—
No fate my vow’d affection shall divide 365
From thee, heroic youth! Be wholly mine;
Take full possession; all my soul is thine.
One faith, one fame, one fate, shall both attend;
My life’s companion, and my bosom friend:
My peace shall be committed to thy care, 370
And to thy conduct my concerns in war.”
Then thus the young Euryalus replied:
“Whatever fortune, good or bad, betide,
The same shall be my age, as now my youth;
No time shall find me wanting to my truth. 375
This only from your goodness let me gain
(And, this ungranted, all rewards are vain):
Of Priam’s royal race my mother came—
And sure the best that ever bore the name—
Whom neither Troy nor Sicily could hold 380
From me departing, but, o’erspent and old,
My fate she follow’d. Ignorant of this
(Whatever) danger, neither parting kiss,
Nor pious blessing taken, her I leave,
And in this only act of all my life deceive. 385
By this right hand and conscious Night I swear,
My soul so sad a farewell could not bear.
Be you her comfort; fill my vacant place
(Permit me to presume so great a grace);
Support her age, forsaken and distress’d. 390
That hope alone will fortify my breast
Against the worst of fortunes, and of fears.”
He said. The mov’d assistants melt in tears.
Then thus Ascanius, wonderstruck to see
That image of his filial piety: 395
“So great beginnings, in so green an age,
Exact the faith which I again ingage.
Thy mother all the dues shall justly claim,
Creusa had, and only want the name.
Whate’er event thy bold attempt shall have, 400
’T is merit to have borne a son so brave.
Now by my head, a sacred oath, I swear,
(My father us’d it,) what, returning here
Crown’d with success, I for thyself prepare,
That, if thou fail, shall thy lov’d mother share.” 405
He said, and weeping, while he spoke the word,
From his broad belt he drew a shining sword,
Magnificent with gold. Lycaon made,
And in an iv’ry scabbard sheath’d the blade.
This was his gift. Great Mnestheus gave his friend 410
A lion’s hide, his body to defend;
And good Alethes furnish’d him, beside,
With his own trusty helm, of temper tried.
Thus arm’d they went. The noble Trojans wait
Their issuing forth, and follow to the gate 415
With prayers and vows. Above the rest appears
Ascanius, manly far beyond his years,
And messages committed to their care,
Which all in winds were lost, and flitting air.
The trenches first they pass’d; then took their way 420
Where their proud foes in pitch’d pavilions lay;
To many fatal, ere themselves were slain.
They found the careless host dispers’d upon the plain,
Who, gorg’d, and drunk with wine, supinely snore.
Unharnass’d chariots stand along the shore: 425
Amidst the wheels and reins, the goblet by,
A medley of debauch and war, they lie.
Observing Nisus shew’d his friend the sight:
“Behold a conquest gain’d without a fight.
Occasion offers, and I stand prepar’d; 430
There lies our way; be thou upon the guard,
And look around, while I securely go,
And hew a passage thro’ the sleeping foe.”
Softly he spoke; then striding took his way,
With his drawn sword, where haughty Rhamnes lay; 435
His head rais’d high on tapestry beneath,
And heaving from his breast, he drew his breath;
A king and prophet, by King Turnus lov’d:
But fate by prescience cannot be remov’d.
Him and his sleeping slaves he slew; then spies 440
Where Remus, with his rich retinue, lies.
His armor-bearer first, and next he kills
His charioteer, intrench’d betwixt the wheels
And his lov’d horses; last invades their lord;
Full on his neck he drives the fatal sword: 445
The gasping head flies off; a purple flood
Flows from the trunk, that welters in the blood,
Which, by the spurning heels dispers’d around,
The bed besprinkles and bedews the ground.
Lamus the bold, and Lamyrus the strong, 450
He slew, and then Serranus fair and young.
From dice and wine the youth retir’d to rest,
And puff’d the fumy god from out his breast:
Ev’n then he dreamt of drink and lucky play—
More lucky, had it lasted till the day. 455
The famish’d lion thus, with hunger bold,
O’erleaps the fences of the nightly fold,
And tears the peaceful flocks: with silent awe
Trembling they lie, and pant beneath his paw.
Nor with less rage Euryalus employs 460
The wrathful sword, or fewer foes destroys;
But on th’ ignoble crowd his fury flew;
He Fadus, Hebesus, and Rhoetus slew.
Oppress’d with heavy sleep the former fell,
But Rhoetus wakeful, and observing all: 465
Behind a spacious jar he slink’d for fear;
The fatal iron found and reach’d him there;
For, as he rose, it pierc’d his naked side,
And, reeking, thence return’d in crimson dyed.
The wound pours out a stream of wine and blood; 470
The purple soul comes floating in the flood.
Now, where Messapus quarter’d, they arrive.
The fires were fainting there, and just alive;
The warrior-horses, tied in order, fed.
Nisus observ’d the discipline, and said: 475
“Our eager thirst of blood may both betray;
And see the scatter’d streaks of dawning day,
Foe to nocturnal thefts. No more, my friend;
Here let our glutted execution end.
A lane thro’ slaughter’d bodies we have made.” 480
The bold Euryalus, tho’ loth, obey’d.
Of arms, and arras, and of plate, they find
A precious load; but these they leave behind.
Yet, fond of gaudy spoils, the boy would stay
To make the rich caparison his prey, 485
Which on the steed of conquer’d Rhamnes lay.
Nor did his eyes less longingly behold
The girdle-belt, with nails of burnish’d gold.
This present Cædicus the rich bestow’d
On Remulus, when friendship first they vow’d, 490
And, absent, join’d in hospitable ties:
He, dying, to his heir bequeath’d the prize;
Till, by the conqu’ring Ardean troops oppress’d,
He fell; and they the glorious gift possess’d.
These glitt’ring spoils (now made the victor’s gain) 495
He to his body suits, but suits in vain:
Messapus’ helm he finds among the rest,
And laces on, and wears the waving crest.
Proud of their conquest, prouder of their prey,
They leave the camp, and take the ready way. 500
But far they had not pass’d, before they spied
Three hundred horse, with Volscens for their guide.
The queen a legion to King Turnus sent;
But the swift horse the slower foot prevent,
And now, advancing, sought the leader’s tent. 505
They saw the pair; for, thro’ the doubtful shade,
His shining helm Euryalus betray’d,
On which the moon with full reflection play’d.
“’T is not for naught,” cried Volscens from the crowd,
“These men go there;” then rais’d his voice aloud: 510
“Stand! stand! why thus in arms? And whither bent?
From whence, to whom, and on what errand sent?”
Silent they scud away, and haste their flight
To neighb’ring woods, and trust themselves to night.
The speedy horse all passages belay, 515
And spur their smoking steeds to cross their way,
And watch each entrance of the winding wood.
Black was the forest: thick with beech it stood,
Horrid with fern, and intricate with thorn;
Few paths of human feet, or tracks of beasts, were worn. 520
The darkness of the shades, his heavy prey,
And fear, misled the younger from his way.
But Nisus hit the turns with happier haste,
And, thoughtless of his friend, the forest pass’d,
And Alban plains, from Alba’s name so call’d, 525
Where King Latinus then his oxen stall’d;
Till, turning at the length, he stood his ground,
And miss’d his friend, and cast his eyes around:
“Ah wretch!” he cried, “where have I left behind
Th’ unhappy youth? where shall I hope to find? 530
Or what way take?” Again he ventures back,
And treads the mazes of his former track.
He winds the wood, and, list’ning, hears the noise
Of tramping coursers, and the riders’ voice.
The sound approach’d; and suddenly he view’d 535
The foes inclosing, and his friend pursued,
Forelaid and taken, while he strove in vain
The shelter of the friendly shades to gain.
What should he next attempt? what arms employ,
What fruitless force, to free the captive boy? 540
Or desperate should he rush and lose his life,
With odds oppress’d, in such unequal strife?
Resolv’d at length, his pointed spear he shook;
And, casting on the moon a mournful look:
“Guardian of groves, and goddess of the night, 545
Fair queen,” he said, “direct my dart aright.
If e’er my pious father, for my sake,
Did grateful off’rings on thy altars make,
Or I increas’d them with my sylvan toils,
And hung thy holy roofs with savage spoils, 550
Give me to scatter these.” Then from his ear
He pois’d, and aim’d, and launch’d the trembling spear.
The deadly weapon, hissing from the grove,
Impetuous on the back of Sulmo drove;
Pierc’d his thin armor, drank his vital blood, 555
And in his body left the broken wood.
He staggers round; his eyeballs roll in death,
And with short sobs he gasps away his breath.
All stand amaz’d—a second jav’lin flies
With equal strength, and quivers thro’ the skies. 560
This thro’ thy temples, Tagus, forc’d the way,
And in the brainpan warmly buried lay.
Fierce Volscens foams with rage, and, gazing round,
Descried not him who gave the fatal wound,
Nor knew to fix revenge: “But thou,” he cries, 565
“Shalt pay for both,” and at the pris’ner flies
With his drawn sword. Then, struck with deep despair,
That cruel sight the lover could not bear;
But from his covert rush’d in open view,
And sent his voice before him as he flew: 570
“Me! me!” he cried—“turn all your swords alone
On me—the fact confess’d, the fault my own.
He neither could nor durst, the guiltless youth:
Ye moon and stars, bear witness to the truth!
His only crime (if friendship can offend) 575
Is too much love to his unhappy friend.”
Too late he speaks: the sword, which fury guides,
Driv’n with full force, had pierc’d his tender sides.
Down fell the beauteous youth: the yawning wound
Gush’d out a purple stream, and stain’d the ground. 580
His snowy neck reclines upon his breast,
Like a fair flow’r by the keen share oppress’d;
Like a white poppy sinking on the plain,
Whose heavy head is overcharg’d with rain.
Despair, and rage, and vengeance justly vow’d, 585
Drove Nisus headlong on the hostile crowd.
Volscens he seeks; on him alone he bends:
Borne back and bor’d by his surrounding friends,
Onward he press’d, and kept him still in sight;
Then whirl’d aloft his sword with all his might: 590
Th’ unerring steel descended while he spoke,
Pierc’d his wide mouth, and thro’ his weazon broke.
Dying, he slew; and, stagg’ring on the plain,
With swimming eyes he sought his lover slain;
Then quiet on his bleeding bosom fell, 595
Content, in death, to be reveng’d so well.
O happy friends! for, if my verse can give
Immortal life, your fame shall ever live,
Fix’d as the Capitol’s foundation lies,
And spread, where’er the Roman eagle flies! 600
The conqu’ring party first divide the prey,
Then their slain leader to the camp convey.
With wonder, as they went, the troops were fill’d,
To see such numbers whom so few had kill’d.
Serranus, Rhamnes, and the rest, they found: 605
Vast crowds the dying and the dead surround;
And the yet reeking blood o’erflows the ground.
All knew the helmet which Messapus lost,
But mourn’d a purchase that so dear had cost.
Now rose the ruddy morn from Tithon’s bed, 610
And with the dawn of day the skies o’erspread;
Nor long the sun his daily course withheld,
But added colors to the world reveal’d:
When early Turnus, wak’ning with the light,
All clad in armor, calls his troops to fight. 615
His martial men with fierce harangue he fir’d,
And his own ardor in their souls inspir’d.
This done—to give new terror to his foes,
The heads of Nisus and his friend he shows,
Rais’d high on pointed spears—a ghastly sight: 620
Loud peals of shouts ensue, and barbarous delight.
Meantime the Trojans run, where danger calls;
They line their trenches, and they man their walls.
In front extended to the left they stood;
Safe was the right, surrounded by the flood. 625
But, casting from their tow’rs a frightful view,
They saw the faces, which too well they knew,
Tho’ then disguis’d in death, and smear’d all o’er
With filth obscene, and dropping putrid gore.
Soon hasty fame thro’ the sad city bears 630
The mournful message to the mother’s ears.
An icy cold benumbs her limbs; she shakes;
Her cheeks the blood, her hand the web forsakes.
She runs the rampires round amidst the war,
Nor fears the flying darts; she rends her hair, 635
And fills with loud laments the liquid air.
“Thus, then, my lov’d Euryalus appears!
Thus looks the prop of my declining years!
Was’t on this face my famish’d eyes I fed?
Ah! how unlike the living is the dead! 640
And could’st thou leave me, cruel, thus alone?
Not one kind kiss from a departing son!
No look, no last adieu before he went,
In an ill-boding hour to slaughter sent!
Cold on the ground, and pressing foreign clay, 645
To Latian dogs and fowls he lies a prey!
Nor was I near to close his dying eyes,
To wash his wounds, to weep his obsequies,
To call about his corpse his crying friends,
Or spread the mantle (made for other ends) 650
On his dear body, which I wove with care,
Nor did my daily pains or nightly labor spare.
Where shall I find his corpse? what earth sustains
His trunk dismember’d, and his cold remains?
For this, alas! I left my needful ease, 655
Expos’d my life to winds and winter seas!
If any pity touch Rutulian hearts,
Here empty all your quivers, all your darts;
Or, if they fail, thou, Jove, conclude my woe,
And send me thunderstruck to shades below!” 660
Her shrieks and clamors pierce the Trojans’ ears,
Unman their courage, and augment their fears;
Nor young Ascanius could the sight sustain,
Nor old Ilioneus his tears restrain,
But Actor and Idæus jointly sent, 665
To bear the madding mother to her tent.
And now the trumpets terribly, from far,
With rattling clangor, rouse the sleepy war.
The soldiers’ shouts succeed the brazen sounds;
And heav’n, from pole to pole, the noise rebounds. 670
The Volscians bear their shields upon their head,
And, rushing forward, form a moving shed.
These fill the ditch; those pull the bulwarks down:
Some raise the ladders; others scale the town.
But, where void spaces on the walls appear, 675
Or thin defense, they pour their forces there.
With poles and missive weapons, from afar,
The Trojans keep aloof the rising war.
Taught, by their ten years’ siege, defensive fight,
They roll down ribs of rocks, an unresisted weight, 680
To break the penthouse with the pond’rous blow,
Which yet the patient Volscians undergo:
But could not bear th’ unequal combat long;
For, where the Trojans find the thickest throng,
The ruin falls: their shatter’d shields give way, 685
And their crush’d heads become an easy prey.
They shrink for fear, abated of their rage,
Nor longer dare in a blind fight engage;
Contented now to gall them from below
With darts and slings, and with the distant bow. 690
Elsewhere Mezentius, terrible to view,
A blazing pine within the trenches threw.
But brave Messapus, Neptune’s warlike son,
Broke down the palisades, the trenches won,
And loud for ladders calls, to scale the town. 695
Calliope, begin! Ye sacred Nine,
Inspire your poet in his high design,
To sing what slaughter manly Turnus made,
What souls he sent below the Stygian shade,
What fame the soldiers with their captain share, 700
And the vast circuit of the fatal war;
For you in singing martial facts excel;
You best remember, and alone can tell.
There stood a tow’r, amazing to the sight,
Built up of beams, and of stupendous height: 705
Art, and the nature of the place, conspir’d
To furnish all the strength that war requir’d.
To level this, the bold Italians join;
The wary Trojans obviate their design;
With weighty stones o’erwhelm their troops below, 710
Shoot thro’ the loopholes, and sharp jav’lins throw.
Turnus, the chief, toss’d from his thund’ring hand
Against the wooden walls, a flaming brand:
It stuck, the fiery plague; the winds were high;
The planks were season’d, and the timber dry. 715
Contagion caught the posts; it spread along,
Scorch’d, and to distance drove the scatter’d throng.
The Trojans fled; the fire pursued amain,
Still gath’ring fast upon the trembling train;
Till, crowding to the corners of the wall, 720
Down the defense and the defenders fall.
The mighty flaw makes heav’n itself resound:
The dead and dying Trojans strew the ground.
The tow’r, that follow’d on the fallen crew,
Whelm’d o’er their heads, and buried whom it slew: 725
Some stuck upon the darts themselves had sent;
All the same equal ruin underwent.
Young Lycus and Helenor only scape;
Sav’d—how, they know not—from the steepy leap.
Helenor, elder of the two: by birth, 730
On one side royal, one a son of earth,
Whom to the Lydian king Licymnia bare,
And sent her boasted bastard to the war
(A privilege which none but freemen share).
Slight were his arms, a sword and silver shield: 735
No marks of honor charg’d its empty field.
Light as he fell, so light the youth arose,
And rising, found himself amidst his foes;
Nor flight was left, nor hopes to force his way.
Embolden’d by despair, he stood at bay; 740
And—like a stag, whom all the troop surrounds
Of eager huntsmen and invading hounds—
Resolv’d on death, he dissipates his fears,
And bounds aloft against the pointed spears:
So dares the youth, secure of death; and throws 745
His dying body on his thickest foes.
But Lycus, swifter of his feet by far,
Runs, doubles, winds and turns, amidst the war;
Springs to the walls, and leaves his foes behind,
And snatches at the beam he first can find; 750
Looks up, and leaps aloft at all the stretch,
In hopes the helping hand of some kind friend to reach
But Turnus follow’d hard his hunted prey
(His spear had almost reach’d him in the way,
Short of his reins, and scarce a span behind): 755
“Fool!” said the chief, “tho’ fleeter than the wind,
Couldst thou presume to scape, when I pursue?”
He said, and downward by the feet he drew
The trembling dastard; at the tug he falls;
Vast ruins come along, rent from the smoking walls. 760
Thus on some silver swan, or tim’rous hare,
Jove’s bird comes sousing down from upper air;
Her crooked talons truss the fearful prey:
Then out of sight she soars, and wings her way.
So seizes the grim wolf the tender lamb, 765
In vain lamented by the bleating dam.
Then rushing onward with a barb’rous cry,
The troops of Turnus to the combat fly.
The ditch with fagots fill’d, the daring foe
Toss’d firebrands to the steepy turrets throw. 770
Ilioneus, as bold Lucetius came
To force the gate, and feed the kindling flame,
Roll’d down the fragment of a rock so right,
It crush’d him double underneath the weight.
Two more young Liger and Asylas slew: 775
To bend the bow young Liger better knew;
Asylas best the pointed jav’lin threw.
Brave Cæneus laid Ortygius on the plain;
The victor Cæneus was by Turnus slain.
By the same hand, Clonius and Itys fall, 780
Sagar, and Ida, standing on the wall.
From Capys’ arms his fate Privernus found:
Hurt by Themilla first—but slight the wound—
His shield thrown by, to mitigate the smart,
He clapp’d his hand upon the wounded part: 785
The second shaft came swift and unespied,
And pierc’d his hand, and nail’d it to his side,
Transfix’d his breathing lungs and beating heart:
The soul came issuing out, and hiss’d against the dart.
The son of Arcens shone amid the rest, 790
In glitt’ring armor and a purple vest,
(Fair was his face, his eyes inspiring love,)
Bred by his father in the Martian grove,
Where the fat altars of Palicus flame,
And sent in arms to purchase early fame. 795
Him when he spied from far, the Tuscan king
Laid by the lance, and took him to the sling,
Thrice whirl’d the thong around his head, and threw:
The heated lead half melted as it flew;
It pierc’d his hollow temples and his brain; 800
The youth came tumbling down, and spurn’d the plain.
Then young Ascanius, who, before this day,
Was wont in woods to shoot the savage prey,
First bent in martial strife the twanging bow,
And exercis’d against a human foe— 805
With this bereft Numanus of his life,
Who Turnus’ younger sister took to wife.
Proud of his realm, and of his royal bride,
Vaunting before his troops, and lengthen’d with a stride,
In these insulting terms the Trojans he defied: 810
‘Twice-conquer’d cowards, now your shame is shown—
Coop’d up a second time within your town!
Who dare not issue forth in open field,
But hold your walls before you for a shield.
Thus threat you war? thus our alliance force? 815
What gods, what madness, hether steer’d your course?
You shall not find the sons of Atreus here,
Nor need the frauds of sly Ulysses fear.
Strong from the cradle, of a sturdy brood,
We bear our newborn infants to the flood; 820
There bath’d amid the stream, our boys we hold,
With winter harden’d, and inur’d to cold.
They wake before the day to range the wood,
Kill ere they eat, nor taste unconquer’d food.
No sports, but what belong to war, they know: 825
To break the stubborn colt, to bend the bow.
Our youth, of labor patient, earn their bread;
Hardly they work, with frugal diet fed.
From plows and harrows sent to seek renown,
They fight in fields, and storm the shaken town. 830
No part of life from toils of war is free,
No change in age, or diff’rence in degree.
We plow and till in arms; our oxen feel,
Instead of goads, the spur and pointed steel;
Th’ inverted lance makes furrows in the plain. 835
Ev’n time, that changes all, yet changes us in vain:
The body, not the mind; nor can control
Th’ immortal vigor, or abate the soul.
Our helms defend the young, disguise the gray:
We live by plunder, and delight in prey. 840
Your vests embroider’d with rich purple shine;
In sloth you glory, and in dances join.
Your vests have sweeping sleeves; with female pride
Your turbants underneath your chins are tied.
Go, Phrygians, to your Dindymus again! 845
Go, less than women, in the shapes of men!
Go, mix’d with eunuchs, in the Mother’s rites,
Where with unequal sound the flute invites;
Sing, dance, and howl, by turns, in Ida’s shade:
Resign the war to men, who know the martial trade!” 850
This foul reproach Ascanius could not hear
With patience, or a vow’d revenge forbear.
At the full stretch of both his hands he drew,
And almost join’d the horns of the tough yew.
But, first, before the throne of Jove he stood, 855
And thus with lifted hands invok’d the god:
“My first attempt, great Jupiter, succeed!
An annual off’ring in thy grove shall bleed;
A snow-white steer, before thy altar led,
Who, like his mother, bears aloft his head, 860
Butts with his threat’ning brows, and bellowing stands,
And dares the fight, and spurns the yellow sands.”
Jove bow’d the heav’ns, and lent a gracious ear,
And thunder’d on the left, amidst the clear.
Sounded at once the bow; and swiftly flies 865
The feather’d death, and hisses thro’ the skies.
The steel thro’ both his temples forc’d the way:
Extended on the ground, Numanus lay.
“Go now, vain boaster, and true valor scorn!
The Phrygians, twice subdued, yet make this third return.” 870
Ascanius said no more. The Trojans shake
The heav’ns with shouting, and new vigor take.
Apollo then bestrode a golden cloud,
To view the feats of arms, and fighting crowd;
And thus the beardless victor he bespoke aloud: 875
“Advance, illustrious youth, increase in fame,
And wide from east to west extend thy name;
Offspring of gods thyself; and Rome shall owe
To thee a race of demigods below.
This is the way to heav’n: the pow’rs divine 880
From this beginning date the Julian line.
To thee, to them, and their victorious heirs,
The conquer’d war is due, and the vast world is theirs.
Troy is too narrow for thy name.” He said,
And plunging downward shot his radiant head; 885
Dispell’d the breathing air, that broke his flight:
Shorn of his beams, a man to mortal sight.
Old Butes’ form he took, Anchises’ squire,
Now left, to rule Ascanius, by his sire:
His wrinkled visage, and his hoary hairs, 890
His mien, his habit, and his arms, he wears,
And thus salutes the boy, too forward for his years:
“Suffice it thee, thy father’s worthy son,
The warlike prize thou hast already won.
The god of archers gives thy youth a part 895
Of his own praise, nor envies equal art.
Now tempt the war no more.” He said, and flew
Obscure in air, and vanish’d from their view.
The Trojans, by his arms, their patron know,
And hear the twanging of his heav’nly bow. 900
Then duteous force they use, and Phœbus’ name,
To keep from fight the youth too fond of fame.
Undaunted, they themselves no danger shun;
From wall to wall the shouts and clamors run.
They bend their bows; they whirl their slings around; 905
Heaps of spent arrows fall, and strew the ground;
And helms, and shields, and rattling arms resound.
The combat thickens, like the storm that flies
From westward, when the show’ry Kids arise;
Or patt’ring hail comes pouring on the main, 910
When Jupiter descends in harden’d rain,
Or bellowing clouds burst with a stormy sound,
And with an armed winter strew the ground.
Pand’rus and Bitias, thunderbolts of war,
Whom Hiera to bold Alcanor bare 915
On Ida’s top, two youths of height and size
Like firs that on their mother mountain rise,
Presuming on their force, the gates unbar,
And of their own accord invite the war.
With fates averse, against their king’s command, 920
Arm’d, on the right and on the left they stand,
And flank the passage: shining steel they wear,
And waving crests above their heads appear.
Thus two tall oaks, that Padus’ banks adorn,
Lift up to heav’n their leafy heads unshorn, 925
And, overpress’d with nature’s heavy load,
Dance to the whistling winds, and at each other nod.
In flows a tide of Latians, when they see
The gate set open, and the passage free;
Bold Quercens, with rash Tmarus, rushing on, 930
Equicolus, that in bright armor shone,
And Hæmon first; but soon repuls’d they fly,
Or in the well-defended pass they die.
These with success are fir’d, and those with rage,
And each on equal terms at length ingage. 935
Drawn from their lines, and issuing on the plain,
The Trojans hand to hand the fight maintain.
Fierce Turnus in another quarter fought,
When suddenly th’ unhop’d-for news was brought,
The foes had left the fastness of their place, 940
Prevail’d in fight, and had his men in chase.
He quits th’ attack, and, to prevent their fate,
Runs where the giant brothers guard the gate.
The first he met, Antiphates the brave,
But base-begotten on a Theban slave, 945
Sarpedon’s son, he slew: the deadly dart
Found passage thro’ his breast, and pierc’d his heart.
Fix’d in the wound th’ Italian cornel stood,
Warm’d in his lungs, and in his vital blood.
Aphidnus next, and Erymanthus dies, 950
And Meropes, and the gigantic size
Of Bitias, threat’ning with his ardent eyes.
Not by the feeble dart he fell oppress’d
(A dart were lost within that roomy breast),
But from a knotted lance, large, heavy, strong, 955
Which roar’d like thunder as it whirl’d along:
Not two bull hides th’ impetuous force withhold,
Nor coat of double mail, with scales of gold.
Down sunk the monster bulk and press’d the ground;
His arms and clatt’ring shield on the vast body sound, 960
Not with less ruin than the Bajan mole,
Rais’d on the seas, the surges to control—
At once comes tumbling down the rocky wall;
Prone to the deep, the stones disjointed fall
Of the vast pile; the scatter’d ocean flies; 965
Black sands, discolor’d froth, and mingled mud arise:
The frighted billows roll, and seek the shores;
Then trembles Prochyta, then Ischia roars:
Typhœus, thrown beneath, by Jove’s command,
Astonish’d at the flaw that shakes the land, 970
Soon shifts his weary side, and, scarce awake,
With wonder feels the weight press lighter on his back.
The warrior god the Latian troops inspir’d,
New strung their sinews, and their courage fir’d,
But chills the Trojan hearts with cold affright: 975
Then black despair precipitates their flight.
When Pandarus beheld his brother kill’d,
The town with fear and wild confusion fill’d,
He turns the hinges of the heavy gate
With both his hands, and adds his shoulders to the weight; 980
Some happier friends within the walls inclos’d;
The rest shut out, to certain death expos’d:
Fool as he was, and frantic in his care,
T’ admit young Turnus, and include the war!
He thrust amid the crowd, securely bold, 985
Like a fierce tiger pent amid the fold.
Too late his blazing buckler they descry,
And sparkling fires that shot from either eye,
His mighty members, and his ample breast,
His rattling armor, and his crimson crest. 990
Far from that hated face the Trojans fly,
All but the fool who sought his destiny.
Mad Pandarus steps forth, with vengeance vow’d
For Bitias’ death, and threatens thus aloud:
“These are not Ardea’s walls, nor this the town 995
Amata proffers with Lavinia’s crown:
’T is hostile earth you tread. Of hope bereft,
No means of safe return by flight are left.”
To whom, with count’nance calm, and soul sedate,
Thus Turnus: “Then begin, and try thy fate: 1000
My message to the ghost of Priam bear;
Tell him a new Achilles sent thee there.”
A lance of tough ground ash the Trojan threw,
Rough in the rind, and knotted as it grew:
With his full force he whirl’d it first around; 1005
But the soft yielding air receiv’d the wound:
Imperial Juno turn’d the course before,
And fix’d the wand’ring weapon in the door.
“But hope not thou,” said Turnus, “when I strike,
To shun thy fate: our force is not alike, 1010
Nor thy steel temper’d by the Lemnian god.”
Then rising, on his utmost stretch he stood,
And aim’d from high: the full descending blow
Cleaves the broad front and beardless cheeks in two.
Down sinks the giant with a thund’ring sound: 1015
His pond’rous limbs oppress the trembling ground;
Blood, brains, and foam gush from the gaping wound:
Scalp, face, and shoulders the keen steel divides,
And the shar’d visage hangs on equal sides.
The Trojans fly from their approaching fate; 1020
And, had the victor then secur’d the gate,
And to his troops without unclos’d the bars,
One lucky day had ended all his wars.
But boiling youth, and blind desire of blood,
Push’d on his fury, to pursue the crowd. 1025
Hamstring’d behind, unhappy Gyges died;
Then Phalaris is added to his side.
The pointed jav’lins from the dead he drew,
And their friends’ arms against their fellows threw.
Strong Halys stands in vain; weak Phlegys flies; 1030
Saturnia, still at hand, new force and fire supplies.
Then Halius, Prytanis, Alcander fall—
Ingag’d against the foes who scal’d the wall:
But, whom they fear’d without, they found within.
At last, tho’ late, by Lynceus he was seen. 1035
He calls new succors, and assaults the prince:
But weak his force, and vain is their defense.
Turn’d to the right, his sword the hero drew,
And at one blow the bold aggressor slew.
He joints the neck; and, with a stroke so strong, 1040
The helm flies off, and bears the head along.
Next him, the huntsman Amycus he kill’d,
In darts invenom’d and in poison skill’d.
Then Clytius fell beneath his fatal spear,
And Creteus, whom the Muses held so dear: 1045
He fought with courage, and he sung the fight;
Arms were his bus’ness, verses his delight.
The Trojan chiefs behold, with rage and grief,
Their slaughter’d friends, and hasten their relief.
Bold Mnestheus rallies first the broken train, 1050
Whom brave Seresthus and his troop sustain.
To save the living, and revenge the dead,
Against one warrior’s arms all Troy they led.
“O, void of sense and courage!” Mnestheus cried,
“Where can you hope your coward heads to hide? 1055
Ah! where beyond these rampires can you run?
One man, and in your camp inclos’d, you shun!
Shall then a single sword such slaughter boast,
And pass unpunish’d from a num’rous host?
Forsaking honor, and renouncing fame, 1060
Your gods, your country, and your king you shame!”
This just reproach their virtue does excite:
They stand, they join, they thicken to the fight.
Now Turnus doubts, and yet disdains to yield,
But with slow paces measures back the field, 1065
And inches to the walls, where Tiber’s tide,
Washing the camp, defends the weaker side.
The more he loses, they advance the more,
And tread in ev’ry step he trod before.
They shout: they bear him back; and, whom by might 1070
They cannot conquer, they oppress with weight.
As, compass’d with a wood of spears around,
The lordly lion still maintains his ground;
Grins horrible, retires, and turns again;
Threats his distended paws, and shakes his mane; 1075
He loses while in vain he presses on,
Nor will his courage let him dare to run:
So Turnus fares, and, unresolved of flight,
Moves tardy back, and just recedes from fight.
Yet twice, inrag’d, the combat he renews, 1080
Twice breaks, and twice his broken foes pursues.
But now they swarm, and, with fresh troops supplied,
Come rolling on, and rush from ev’ry side:
Nor Juno, who sustain’d his arms before,
Dares with new strength suffice th’ exhausted store; 1085
For Jove, with sour commands, sent Iris down,
To force th’ invader from the frighted town.
With labor spent, no longer can he wield
The heavy fanchion, or sustain the shield,
O’erwhelm’d with darts, which from afar they fling: 1090
The weapons round his hollow temples ring;
His golden helm gives way, with stony blows
Batter’d, and flat, and beaten to his brows.
His crest is rash’d away; his ample shield
Is falsified, and round with jav’lins fill’d. 1095
The foe, now faint, the Trojans overwhelm;
And Mnestheus lays hard load upon his helm.
Sick sweat succeeds; he drops at ev’ry pore;
With driving dust his cheeks are pasted o’er;
Shorter and shorter ev’ry gasp he takes; 1100
And vain efforts and hurtless blows he makes.
Plung’d in the flood, and made the waters fly.
The yellow god the welcome burthen bore,
And wip’d the sweat, and wash’d away the gore;
Then gently wafts him to the farther coast, 1105
And sends him safe to cheer his anxious host.
'TO-DAY thou girdest up thy loins thyself,
And goest where thou wouldest: presently
Others shall gird thee,' said the Lord, 'to go
Where thou would'st not.' He spoke to Peter thus,
To signify the death which he should die
When crucified head downwards.
If He spoke
To Peter then, He speaks to us the same;
The word suits many different martyrdoms,
And signifies a multiform of death,
Although we scarcely die apostles, we,
And have mislaid the keys of heaven and earth.
For tis not in mere death that men die most;
And, after our first girding of the loins
In youth's fine linen and fair broidery,
To run up hill and meet the rising sun,
We are apt to sit tired, patient as a fool,
While others gird us with the violent bands
Of social figments, feints, and formalisms,
Reversing our straight nature, lifting up
Our base needs, keeping down our lofty thoughts,
Head downward on the cross-sticks of the world.
Yet He can pluck us from the shameful cross.
God, set our feet low and our forehead high,
And show us how a man was made to walk!
Leave the lamp, Susan, and go up to bed.
The room does very well; I have to write
Beyond the stroke of midnight. Get away;
Your steps, for ever buzzing in the room,
Tease me like gnats. Ah, letters! throw them down
At once, as I must have them, to be sure,
Whether I bid you never bring me such
At such an hour, or bid you. No excuse.
You choose to bring them, as I choose perhaps
To throw them in the fire. Now, get to bed,
And dream, if possible, I am not cross.
Why what a pettish, petty thing I grow,–
A mere, mere woman,–a mere flaccid nerve,-
A kerchief left out all night in the rain,
Turned soft so,–overtasked and overstrained
And overlived in this close London life!
And yet I should be stronger.
Your letters, poor Aurora! for they stare
With red seals from the table, saying each,
'Here's something that you know not.' Out alas,
'Tis scarcely that the world's more good and wise
Or even straighter and more consequent
Since yesterday at this time–yet, again,
If but one angel spoke from Ararat,
I should be very sorry not to hear:
So open all the letters! let me read.
Blanche Ord, the writer in the 'Lady's Fan,'
Requests my judgment on . . that, afterwards.
Kate Ward desires the model of my cloak,
And signs, 'Elisha to you.' Pringle Sharpe
Presents his work on 'Social Conduct,' . . craves
A little money for his pressing debts . .
From me, who scarce have money for my needs,–
Art's fiery chariot which we journey in
Being apt to singe our singing-robes to holes,
Although you ask me for my cloak, Kate Ward!
Here's Rudgely knows it,–editor and scribe–
He's 'forced to marry where his heart is not,
Because the purse lacks where he lost his heart.'
Ah,–lost it because no one picked it up!
That's really loss! (and passable impudence.)
My critic Hammond flatters prettily,
And wants another volume like the last.
My critic Belfair wants another book
Entirely different, which will sell, (and live?)
A striking book, yet not a startling book,
The public blames originalities.
(You must not pump spring-water unawares
Upon a gracious public, full of nerves–)
Good things, not subtle, new yet orthodox,
As easy reading as the dog-eared page
That's fingered by said public, fifty years,
Since first taught spelling by its grandmother,
And yet a revelation in some sort:
That's hard, my critic, Belfair! So–what next?
My critic Stokes objects to abstract thoughts;
'Call a man, John, a woman, Joan,' says he,
'And do not prate so of humanities:'
Whereat I call my critic, simply Stokes.
My critic Jobson recommends more mirth,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times,
And all true poets laugh unquenchably
Like Shakspeare and the gods. That's very hard,
The gods may laugh, and Shakspeare; Dante smiled
With such a needy heart on two pale lips,
We cry, 'Weep rather, Dante.' Poems are
Men, if true poems: and who dares exclaim
At any man's door, 'Here, 'tis probable
The thunder fell last week, and killed a wife,
And scared a sickly husband–what of that?
Get up, be merry, shout, and clap your hands,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times–'?
None says so to the man,–and why indeed
Should any to the poem? A ninth seal;
The apocalypse is drawing to a close.
Ha,–this from Vincent Carrington,–'Dear friend,
I want good counsel. Will you lend me wings
To raise me to the subject, in a sketch
I'll bring to-morrow–may I? at eleven?
A poet's only born to turn to use;
So save you! for the world . . and Carrington.'
'(Writ after.) Have you heard of Romney Leigh,
Beyond what's said of him in newspapers,
His phalansteries there, his speeches here,
His pamphlets, pleas, and statements, everywhere?
He dropped me long ago; but no one drops
A golden apple–though, indeed, one day,
You hinted that, but jested. Well, at least,
You know Lord Howe, who sees him . . whom he sees,
And you see, and I hate to see,–for Howe
Stands high upon the brink of theories,
Observes the swimmers, and cries 'Very fine,'
But keeps dry linen equally,–unlike
That gallant breaster, Romney. Strange it is,
Such sudden madness, seizing a young man,
To make earth over again,–while I'm content
To make the pictures. Let me bring the sketch.
A tiptoe Danae, overbold and hot:
Both arms a-flame to meet her wishing Jove
Halfway, and burn him faster down; the face
And breasts upturned and straining, the loose locks
All glowing with the anticipated gold.
Or here's another on the self-same theme.
She lies here–flat upon her prison-floor,
The long hair swathed about her to the heel,
Like wet sea-weed. You dimly see her through
The glittering haze of that prodigious rain,
Half blotted out of nature by a love
As heavy as fate. I'll bring you either sketch.
I think, myself, the second indicates
More passion. '
Surely. Self is put away,
And calm with abdication. She is Jove,
And no more Danae–greater thus. Perhaps
The painter symbolises unawares
Two states of the recipient artist-soul;
One, forward, personal, wanting reverence,
Because aspiring only. We'll be calm,
And know that, when indeed our Joves come down.
We all turn stiller than we have ever been.
Kind Vincent Carrington. I'll let him come.
He talks of Florence,–and may say a word
Of something as it chanced seven years ago,–
A hedgehog in the path, or a lame bird,
In those green country walks, in that good time,
When certainly I was so miserable . .
I seem to have missed a blessing ever since.
The music soars within the little lark,
And the lark soars. It is not thus with men.
We do not make our places with our strains,–
Content, while they rise, to remain behind,
Alone on earth instead of so in heaven.
No matter–I bear on my broken tale.
When Romney Leigh and I had parted thus,
I took a chamber up three flights of stairs
Not far from being as steep as some larks climb,
And, in a certain house in Kensington,
Three years I lived and worked. Get leave to work
In this world,–'tis the best you get at all;
For God, in cursing, gives us better gifts
Than men in benediction. God says, 'Sweat
For foreheads;' men say 'crowns;' and so we are crowned,
Ay, gashed by some tormenting circle of steel
Which snaps with a secret spring. Get work; get work;
Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get.
So, happy and unafraid of solitude,
I worked the short days out,–and watched the sun
On lurid morns or monstrous afternoons,
Like some Druidic idol's fiery brass,
With fixed unflickering outline of dead heat,
In which the blood of wretches pent inside
Seemed oozing forth to incarnadine the air,–
Push out through fog with his dilated disk,
And startle the slant roofs and chimney-pots
With splashes of fierce colour. Or I saw
Fog only, the great tawny weltering fog,
Involve the passive city, strangle it
Alive, and draw it off into the void,
Spires, bridges, streets, and squares, as if a sponge
Had wiped out London,–or as noon and night
Had clapped together and utterly struck out
The intermediate time, undoing themselves
In the act. Your city poets see such things,
Not despicable. Mountains of the south,
When, drunk and mad with elemental wines,
They rend the seamless mist and stand up bare,
Make fewer singers, haply. No one sings,
Descending Sinai; on Parnassus mount,
You take a mule to climb, and not a muse,
Except in fable and figure: forests chant
Their anthems to themselves, and leave you dumb.
But sit in London, at the day's decline,
And view the city perish in the mist
Like Pharaoh's armaments in the deep Red Sea,–
The chariots, horsemen, footmen, all the host,
Sucked down and choked to silence–then, surprised
By a sudden sense of vision and of tune,
You feel as conquerors though you did not fight,
And you and Israel's other singing girls,
Ay, Miriam with them, sing the song you choose.
I worked with patience which means almost power
I did some excellent things indifferently,
Some bad things excellently. Both were praised,
The latter loudest. And by such a time
That I myself had set them down as sins
Scarce worth the price of sackcloth, week by week,
Arrived some letter through the sedulous post,
Like these I've read, and yet dissimilar,
With pretty maiden seals,–initials twined
Of lilies, or a heart marked Emily,
(Convicting Emily of being all heart);
Or rarer tokens from young bachelors,
Who wrote from college (with the same goosequill,
Suppose, they had been just plucked of) and a snatch
From Horace, 'Collegisse juvat,' set
Upon the first page. Many a letter signed
Or unsigned, showing the writers at eighteen
Had lived too long, though every muse should help
The daylight, holding candles,–compliments,
To smile or sigh at. Such could pass with me
No more than coins from Moscow circulate
At Paris. Would ten rubles buy a tag
Of ribbon on the boulevard, worth a sou?
I smiled that all this youth should love me,–sighed
That such a love could scarcely raise them up
To love what was more worthy than myself;
Then sighed again, again, less generously,
To think the very love they lavished so,
Proved me inferior. The strong loved me not,
And he . . my cousin Romney . . did not write.
I felt the silent finger of his scorn
Prick every bubble of my frivolous fame
As my breath blew it, and resolve it back
To the air it came from. Oh, I justified
The measure he had taken of my height:
The thing was plain–he was not wrong a line;
I played at art, made thrusts with a toy-sword,
Amused the lads and maidens.
Came a sigh
Deep, hoarse with resolution,–I would work
To better ends, or play in earnest. 'Heavens,
I think I should be almost popular
If this went on!'–I ripped my verses up,
And found no blood upon the rapier's point:
The heart in them was just an embryo's heart,
Which never yet had beat, that it should die:
Just gasps of make-believe galvanic life;
Mere tones, inorganised to any tune.
And yet I felt it in me where it burnt,
Like those hot fire-seeds of creation held
In Jove's clenched palm before the worlds were sown;
But I–I was not Juno even! my hand
Was shut in weak convulsion, woman's ill,
And when I yearned to loose a finger–lo,
The nerve revolted. 'Tis the same even now:
This hand may never, haply, open large,
Before the spark is quenched, or the palm charred,
To prove the power not else than by the pain.
It burns, it burnt–my whole life burnt with it,
And light, not sunlight and not torchlight, flashed
My steps out through the slow and difficult road.
I had grown distrustful of too forward Springs,
The season's books in drear significance
Of morals, dropping round me. Lively books?
The ash has livelier verdure than the yew;
And yet the yew's green longer, and alone
Found worthy of the holy Christmas time.
We'll plant more yews if possible, albeit
We plant the graveyards with them.
Day and night
I worked my rhythmic thought, and furrowed up
Both watch and slumber with long lines of life
Which did not suit their season. The rose fell
From either cheek, my eyes globed luminous
Through orbits of blue shadow, and my pulse
Would shudder along the purple-veined wrist
Like a shot bird. Youth's stern, set face to face
With youth's ideal: and when people came
And said, 'You work too much, you are looking ill,'
I smiled for pity of them who pitied me,
And thought I should be better soon perhaps
For those ill looks. Observe–' I,' means in youth
Just I . . the conscious and eternal soul
With all its ends,–and not the outside life,
The parcel-man, the doublet of the flesh,
The so much liver, lung, integument,
Which make the sum of 'I' hereafter, when
World-talkers talk of doing well or ill.
I prosper, if I gain a step, although
A nail then pierced my foot: although my brain
Embracing any truth, froze paralysed,
I prosper. I but change my instrument;
I break the spade off, digging deep for gold,
And catch the mattock up.
I worked on, on.
Through all the bristling fence of nights and days
Which hedges time in from the eternities,
I struggled, . . never stopped to note the stakes
Which hurt me in my course. The midnight oil
Would stink sometimes; there came some vulgar needs:
I had to live, that therefore I might work.
And, being but poor, I was constrained, for life,
To work with one hand for the booksellers,
While working with the other for myself
And art. You swim with feet as well as hands
Or make small way. I apprehended this,–
In England, no one lives by verse that lives;
And, apprehending, I resolved by prose
To make a space to sphere my living verse.
I wrote for cyclopædias, magazines,
And weekly papers, holding up my name
To keep it from the mud. I learnt the use
Of the editorial 'we' in a review,
As courtly ladies the fine trick of trains,
And swept it grandly through the open doors
As if one could not pass through doors at all
Save so encumbered. I wrote tales beside,
Carved many an article on cherry-stones
To suit light readers,–something in the lines
Revealing, it was said, the mallet-hand,
But that, I'll never vouch for. What you do
For bread, will taste of common grain, not grapes,
Although you have a vineyard in Champagne,–
Much less in Nephelococcygia,
As mine was, peradventure.
For just so many days, just breathing room
For body and verse, I stood up straight and worked
My veritable work. And as the soul
Which grows within a child, makes the child grow,–
Or as the fiery sap, the touch from God,
Careering through a tree, dilates the bark,
And roughs with scale and knob, before it strikes
The summer foliage out in a green flame–
So life, in deepening with me, deepened all
The course I took, the work I did. Indeed,
The academic law convinced of sin;
The critics cried out on the falling off
Regretting the first manner. But I felt
My heart's life throbbing in my verse to show
It lived, it also–certes incomplete,
Disordered with all Adam in the blood,
But even its very tumours, warts, and wens,
Still organised by, and implying life.
A lady called upon me on such a day.
She had the low voice of your English dames,
Unused, it seems, to need rise half a note
To catch attention,–and their quiet mood,
As if they lived too high above the earth
For that to put them out in anything:
So gentle, because verily so proud;
So wary and afeared of hurting you,
By no means that you are not really vile,
But that they would not touch you with their foot
To push you to your place; so self-possessed
Yet gracious and conciliating, it takes
An effort in their presence to speak truth:
You know the sort of woman,–brilliant stuff,
And out of nature. 'Lady Waldemar.'
She said her name quite simply, as if it meant
Not much indeed, but something,–took my hands,
And smiled, as if her smile could help my case,
And dropped her eyes on me, and let them melt.
'Is this,' she said, 'the Muse?'
'No sibyl even,'
I answered, 'since she fails to guess the cause
Which taxed you with this visit, madam.'
She said, 'I like to be sincere at once;
Perhaps, if I had found a literal Muse,
The visit might have taxed me. As it is,
You wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes,
My fair Aurora, in a frank good way,
It comforts me entirely for your fame,
As well as for the trouble of my ascent
To this Olympus. '
There, a silver laugh
Ran rippling through her quickened little breaths
The steep stair somewhat justified.
Your ladyship has left me curious why
You dared the risk of finding the said Muse?'
'Ah,–keep me, notwithstanding, to the point
Like any pedant. Is the blue in eyes
As awful as in stockings, after all,
I wonder, that you'd have my business out
Before I breathe–exact the epic plunge
In spite of gasps? Well, naturally you think
I've come here, as the lion-hunters go
To deserts, to secure you, with a trap
For exhibition in my drawing-rooms
On zoologic soirées? Not in the least.
Roar softly at me; I am frivolous,
I dare say; I have played at lions, too
Like other women of my class,–but now
I meet my lion simply as Androcles
Met his . . when at his mercy.'
So, she bent
Her head, as queens may mock,–then lifting up
Her eyelids with a real grave queenly look,
Which ruled, and would not spare, not even herself,
'I think you have a cousin:–Romney Leigh.'
'You bring a word from him? '–my eyes leapt up
To the very height of hers,– 'a word from him? '
'I bring a word about him, actually.
But first,'–she pressed me with her urgent eyes–
'You do not love him,–you?'
'You're frank at least
In putting questions, madam,' I replied.
'I love my cousin cousinly–no more.'
'I guessed as much. I'm ready to be frank
In answering also, if you'll question me,
Or even with something less. You stand outside,
You artist women, of the common sex;
You share not with us, and exceed us so
Perhaps by what you're mulcted in, your hearts
Being starved to make your heads: so run the old
Traditions of you. I can therefore speak,
Without the natural shame which creatures feel
When speaking on their level, to their like.
There's many a papist she, would rather die
Than own to her maid she put a ribbon on
To catch the indifferent eye of such a man,–
Who yet would count adulteries on her beads
At holy Mary's shrine, and never blush;
Because the saints are so far off, we lose
All modesty before them. Thus, to-day.
'Tis I, love Romney Leigh.'
'Forbear,' I cried.
'If here's no muse, still less is any saint;
Nor even a friend, that Lady Waldemar
Should make confessions' . .
'That's unkindly said.
If no friend, what forbids to make a friend
To join to our confession ere we have done?
I love your cousin. If it seems unwise
To say so, it's still foolisher (we're frank)
To feel so. My first husband left me young,
And pretty enough, so please you, and rich enough,
To keep my booth in May-fair with the rest
To happy issues. There are marquises
Would serve seven years to call me wife, I know:
And, after seven, I might consider it,
For there's some comfort in a marquisate
When all's said,–yes, but after the seven years;
I, now, love Romney. You put up your lip,
So like a Leigh! so like him!–Pardon me,
I am well aware I do not derogate
In loving Romney Leigh. The name is good,
The means are excellent; but the man, the man–
Heaven help us both,–I am near as mad as he
In loving such an one.'
She slowly wrung
Her heavy ringlets till they touched her smile,
As reasonably sorry for herself;
And thus continued,–
'Of a truth, Miss Leigh,
I have not, without a struggle, come to this.
I took a master in the German tongue,
I gamed a little, went to Paris twice;
But, after all, this love! . . . you eat of love,
And do as vile a thing as if you ate
Of garlic–which, whatever else you eat,
Tastes uniformly acrid, till your peach
Reminds you of your onion! Am I coarse?
Well, love's coarse, nature's coarse–ah there's the rub!
We fair fine ladies, who park out our lives
From common sheep-paths, cannot help the crows
From flying over,–we're as natural still
As Blowsalinda. Drape us perfectly
In Lyons' velvet,–we are not, for that,
Lay-figures, like you! we have hearts within,
Warm, live, improvident, indecent hearts,
As ready for distracted ends and acts
As any distressed sempstress of them all
That Romney groans and toils for. We catch love
And other fevers, in the vulgar way.
Love will not be outwitted by our wit,
Nor outrun by our equipages:–mine
Persisted, spite of efforts. All my cards
Turned up but Romney Leigh; my German stopped
At germane Wertherism; my Paris rounds
Returned me from the Champs Elysées just
A ghost, and sighing like Dido's. I came home
Uncured,–convicted rather to myself
Of being in love . . in love! That's coarse you'll say
I'm talking garlic.'
Coldly I replied.
'Apologise for atheism, not love!
For, me, I do believe in love, and God.
I know my cousin: Lady Waldemar
I know not: yet I say as much as this–
Whoever loves him, let her not excuse
But cleanse herself; that, loving such a man,
She may not do it with such unworthy love
He cannot stoop and take it.'
'That is said
Austerely, like a youthful prophetess,
Who knits her brows across her pretty eyes
To keep them back from following the grey flight
Of doves between the temple-columns. Dear,
Be kinder with me. Let us two be friends.
I'm a mere woman–the more weak perhaps
Through being so proud; you're better; as for him,
He's best. Indeed he builds his goodness up
So high, it topples down to the other side,
And makes a sort of badness; there's the worst
I have to say against your cousin's best!
And so be mild, Aurora, with my worst,
For his sake, if not mine.'
'I own myself
Incredulous of confidence like this
Availing him or you.'
'I, worthy of him?
In your sense I am not so–let it pass.
And yet I save him if I marry him;
Let that pass too.'
'Pass, pass, we play police
Upon my cousin's life, to indicate
What may or may not pass?' I cried. 'He knows
what's worthy of him; the choice remains with him;
And what he chooses, act or wife, I think
I shall not call unworthy, I, for one.'
'Tis somewhat rashly said,' she answered slow.
Now let's talk reason, though we talk of love.
Your cousin Romney Leigh's a monster! there,
The word's out fairly; let me prove the fact.
We'll take, say, that most perfect of antiques,
They call the Genius of the Vatican,
Which seems too beauteous to endure itself
In this mixed world, and fasten it for once
Upon the torso of the Drunken Fawn,
(Who might limp surely, if he did not dance,)
Instead of Buonarroti's mask: what then?
We show the sort of monster Romney is,
With god-like virtue and heroic aims
Subjoined to limping possibilities
Of mismade human nature. Grant the man
Twice godlike, twice heroic,–still he limps,
And here's the point we come to.'
But, Lady Waldemar, the point's the thing
We never come to.'
At need! I like you'–(there, she took my hands)
'And now my lioness, help Androcles,
For all your roaring. Help me! for myself
I would not say so–but for him. He limps
So certainly, he'll fall into the pit
A week hence,–so I lose him–so he is lost!
And when he's fairly married, he a Leigh,
To a girl of doubtful life, undoubtful birth,
Starved out in London, till her coarse-grained hands
Are whiter than her morals,–you, for one,
May call his choice most worthy.'
He, . . . Romney!'
'Ah, you're moved at last,' she said.
'These monsters, set out in the open sun,
Of course throw monstrous shadows: those who think
Awry, will scarce act straightly. Who but he?
And who but you can wonder? He has been mad,
The whole world knows, since first, a nominal man,
He soured the proctors, tried the gownsmen's wits,
With equal scorn of triangles and wine,
And took no honours, yet was honourable.
They'll tell you he lost count of Homer's ships
In Melbourne's poor-bills, Ashley's factory bills,–
Ignored the Aspasia we all dared to praise,
For other women, dear, we could not name
Because we're decent. Well, he had some right
On his side probably; men always have,
Who go absurdly wrong. The living boor
Who brews your ale, exceeds in vital worth
Dead Caesar who 'stops bungholes' in the cask;
And also, to do good is excellent,
For persons of his income, even to boors:
I sympathise with all such things. But he
Went mad upon them . . madder and more mad,
From college times to these,–as, going down hill,
The faster still, the farther! you must know
Your Leigh by heart; he has sown his black young curls
With bleaching cares of half a million men
Already. If you do not starve, or sin,
You're nothing to him. Pay the income-tax,
And break your heart upon't . . . he'll scarce be touched;
But come upon the parish, qualified
For the parish stocks, and Romney will be there
To call you brother, sister, or perhaps
A tenderer name still. Had I any chance
With Mister Leigh, who am Lady Waldemar,
And never committed felony?'
Too bitterly,' I said, 'for the literal truth.'
'The truth is bitter. Here's a man who looks
For ever on the ground! you must be low;
Or else a pictured ceiling overhead,
Good painting thrown away. For me, I've done
What women may, (we're somewhat limited,
We modest women) but I've done my best.
–How men are perjured when they swear our eyes
Have meaning in them! they're just blue or brown,–
They just can drop their lids a little. In fact,
Mine did more, for I read half Fourier through,
Proudhon, Considerant, and Louis Blanc
With various other of his socialists;
And if I had been a fathom less in love,
Had cured myself with gaping. As it was,
I quoted from them prettily enough,
Perhaps, to make them sound half rational
To a saner man than he, whene'er we talked,
(For which I dodged occasion)–learnt by heart
His speeches in the Commons and elsewhere
Upon the social question; heaped reports
Of wicked women and penitentiaries,
On all my tables, with a place for Sue;
And gave my name to swell subscription-lists
Toward keeping up the sun at nights in heaven,
And other possible ends. All things I did,
Except the impossible . . such as wearing gowns
Provided by the Ten Hours' movement! there,
I stopped–we must stop somewhere. He, meanwhile,
Unmoved as the Indian tortoise 'neath the world
Let all that noise go on upon his back;
He would not disconcert or throw me out;
'Twas well to see a woman of my class
With such a dawn of conscience. For the heart,
Made firewood for his sake, and flaming up
To his very face . . he warmed his feet at it:
But deigned to let my carriage stop him short
In park or street,–he leaning on the door
With news of the committee which sate last
On pickpockets at suck.'
'You jest–you jest.'
'As martyrs jest, dear (if you read their lives),
Upon the axe which kills them. When all's done
By me, . . for him–you'll ask him presently
The color of my hair–he cannot tell,
Or answers 'dark' at random,–while, be sure,
He's absolute on the figure, five or ten,
Of my last subscription. Is it bearable,
And I a woman?'
'Is it reparable,
Though I were a man?'
'I know not. That's to prove.
But, first, this shameful marriage?'
'Ay?' I cried.
'Then really there's a marriage.'
I held him fast upon it. 'Mister Leigh,'
Said I, 'shut up a thing, it makes more noise.
'The boiling town keeps secrets ill; I've known
'Yours since last week. Forgive my knowledge so:
'You feel I'm not the woman of the world
'The world thinks; you have borne with me before
'And used me in your noble work, our work,
'And now you shall not cast me off because
'You're at the difficult point, the join. 'Tis true
'Even if I can scarce admit the cogency
'Of such a marriage . . where you do not love
'(Except the class), yet marry and throw your name
'Down to the gutter, for a fire-escape
'To future generation! it's sublime,
'A great example,–a true Genesis
'Of the opening social era. But take heed;
'This virtuous act must have a patent weight,
'Or loses half its virtue. Make it tell,
'Interpret it, and set it in the light,
'And do not muffle it in a winter-cloak
'As a vulgar bit of shame,–as if, at best,
'A Leigh had made a misalliance and blushed
'A Howard should know it.' Then, I pressed him more–
'He would not choose,' I said, 'that even his kin, . .
'Aurora Leigh, even . . should conceive his act
'Less sacrifice, more appetite.' At which
He grew so pale, dear, . . to the lips, I knew
I had touched him. 'Do you know her,' he inquired,
'My cousin Aurora?' 'Yes,' I said, and lied
(But truly we all know you by your books),
And so I offered to come straight to you,
Explain the subject, justify the cause,
And take you with me to Saint Margaret's Court
To see this miracle, this Marian Erle,
This drover's daughter (she's not pretty, he swears),
Upon whose finger, exquisitely pricked
By a hundred needles, we're to hang the tie
'Twixt class and class in England,–thus indeed
By such a presence, yours and mine, to lift
The match up from the doubtful place. At once
He thanked me, sighing, . . murmured to himself
'She'll do it perhaps; she's noble,'–thanked me, twice,
And promised, as my guerdon, to put off
His marriage for a month.'
I answered then.
'I understand your drift imperfectly.
You wish to lead me to my cousin's betrothed,
To touch her hand if worthy, and hold her hand
If feeble, thus to justify his match.
So be it then. But how this serves your ends,
And how the strange confession of your love
Serves this, I have to learn–I cannot see.'
She knit her restless forehead. 'Then, despite,
Aurora, that most radiant morning name,
You're dull as any London afternoon.
I wanted time,–and gained it,–wanted you,
And gain you! You will come and see the girl
In whose most prodigal eyes, the lineal pearl
And pride of all your lofty race of Leighs
Is destined to solution. Authorised
By sight and knowledge, then, you'll speak your mind,
And prove to Romney, in your brilliant way,
He'll wrong the people and posterity
(Say such a thing is bad for you and me,
And you fail utterly), by concluding thus
An execrable marriage. Break it up.
Disroot it–peradventure, presently,
We'll plant a better fortune in its place.
Be good to me, Aurora, scorn me less
For saying the thing I should not. Well I know
I should not. I have kept, as others have,
The iron rule of womanly reserve
In lip and life, till now: I wept a week
Before I came here.'–Ending, she was pale;
The last words, haughtily said, were tremulous.
This palfrey pranced in harness, arched her neck,
And, only by the foam upon the bit,
You saw she champed against it.
Then I rose.
'I love love: truth's no cleaner thing than love.
I comprehend a love so fiery hot
It burns its natural veil of august shame,
And stands sublimely in the nude, as chaste
As Medicean Venus. But I know,
A love that burns through veils will burn through masks
And shrivel up treachery. What, love and lie!
Nay–go to the opera! your love's curable.'
'I love and lie!' she said–'I lie, forsooth?'
And beat her taper foot upon the floor,
And smiled against the shoe,–'You're hard, Miss Leigh,
Unversed in current phrases.–Bowling-greens
Of poets are fresher than the world's highways:
Forgive me that I rashly blew the dust
Which dims our hedges even, in your eyes,
And vexed you so much. You find, probably,
No evil in this marriage,–rather good
Of innocence, to pastoralise in song:
You'll give the bond your signature, perhaps,
Beneath the lady's work,–indifferent
That Romney chose a wife, could write her name,
In witnessing he loved her.'
'Loved!' I cried;
'Who tells you that he wants a wife to love?
He gets a horse to use, not love, I think:
There's work for wives as well,–and after, straw,
When men are liberal. For myself, you err
Supposing power in me to break this match.
I could not do it, to save Romney's life,
And would not, to save mine.'
'You take it so,'
She said, 'farewell then. Write your books in peace,
As far as may be for some secret stir
Now obvious to me,–for, most obviously,
In coming hither I mistook the way.'
Whereat she touched my hand and bent her head,
And floated from me like a silent cloud
That leaves the sense of thunder.
I drew breath,
As hard as in a sick-room. After all,
This woman breaks her social system up
For love, so counted–the love possible
To such,–and lilies are still lilies, pulled
By smutty hands, though spotted from their white;
And thus she is better, haply, of her kind,
Than Romney Leigh, who lives by diagrams,
And crosses out the spontaneities
Of all his individual, personal life
With formal universals. As if man
Were set upon a high stool at a desk,
To keep God's books for Him, in red and black,
And feel by millions! What, if even God
Were chiefly God by living out Himself
To an individualism of the Infinite,
Eterne, intense, profuse,–still throwing up
The golden spray of multitudinous worlds
In measure to the proclive weight and rush
Of his inner nature,–the spontaneous love
Still proof and outflow of spontaneous life?
Then live, Aurora!
Two hours afterward,
Within Saint Margaret's Court I stood alone,
Close-veiled. A sick child, from an ague-fit,
Whose wasted right hand gambled 'gainst his left
With an old brass button, in a blot of sun,
Jeered weakly at me as I passed across
The uneven pavement; while a woman, rouged
Upon the angular cheek-bones, kerchief torn,
Thin dangling locks, and flat lascivious mouth,
Cursed at a window, both ways, in and out,
By turns some bed-rid creature and myself,–
'Lie still there, mother! liker the dead dog
You'll be to-morrow. What, we pick our way,
Fine madam, with those damnable small feet!
We cover up our face from doing good,
As if it were our purse! What brings you here,
My lady? is't to find my gentleman
Who visits his tame pigeon in the eaves?
Our cholera catch you with its cramps and spasms,
And tumble up your good clothes, veil and all,
And turn your whiteness dead-blue.' I looked up;
I think I could have walked through hell that day,
And never flinched. 'The dear Christ comfort you,'
I said, 'you must have been most miserable
To be so cruel,'–and I emptied out
My purse upon the stones: when, as I had cast
The last charm in the cauldron, the whole court
Went boiling, bubbling up, from all its doors
And windows, with a hideous wail of laughs
And roar of oaths, and blows perhaps . . I passed
Too quickly for distinguishing . . and pushed
A little side-door hanging on a hinge,
And plunged into the dark, and groped and climbed
The long, steep, narrow stair 'twixt broken rail
And mildewed wall that let the plaster drop
To startle me in the blackness. Still, up, up!
So high lived Romney's bride. I paused at last
Before a low door in the roof, and knocked;
There came an answer like a hurried dove–
'So soon! can that be Mister Leigh? so soon?'
And, as I entered, an ineffable face
Met mine upon the threshold. 'Oh, not you,
Not you!' . . the dropping of the voice implied;
'Then, if not you, for me not any one.'
I looked her in the eyes, and held her hands,
And said 'I am his cousin,–Romney Leigh's;
And here I'm come to see my cousin too.'
She touched me with her face and with her voice,
This daughter of the people. Such soft flowers
From such rough roots? The people, under there,
Can sin so, curse so, look so, smell so . . . faugh!
Yet have such daughters!
Was Marian Erle. She was not white nor brown,
But could look either, like a mist that changed
According to being shone on more or less:
The hair, too, ran its opulence of curls
In doubt 'twixt dark and bright, nor left you clear
To name the color. Too much hair perhaps
(I'll name a fault here) for so small a head,
Which seemed to droop on that side and on this,
As a full-blown rose uneasy with its weight,
Though not a breath should trouble it. Again,
The dimple in the cheek had better gone
With redder, fuller rounds; and somewhat large
The mouth was, though the milky little teeth
Dissolved it to so infantile a smile!
For soon it smiled at me; the eyes smiled too,
But 'twas as if remembering they had wept,
And knowing they should, some day, weep again.
We talked. She told me all her story out,
Which I'll re-tell with fuller utterance,
As coloured and confirmed in aftertimes
By others, and herself too. Marian Erle
Was born upon the ledge of Malvern Hill,
To eastward, in a hut, built up at night,
To evade the landlord's eye, of mud and turf,
Still liable, if once he looked that way,
To being straight levelled, scattered by his foot,
Like any other anthill. Born, I say;
God sent her to his world, commissioned right,
Her human testimonials fully signed,
Not scant in soul–complete in lineaments;
But others had to swindle her a place
To wail in when she had come. No place for her,
By man's law! born an outlaw, was this babe;
Her first cry in our strange and strangling air,
When cast in spasms out by the shuddering womb,
Was wrong against the social code,–forced wrong.
What business had the baby to cry there?
I tell her story and grow passionate.
She, Marian, did not tell it so, but used
Meek words that made no wonder of herself
For being so sad a creature. 'Mister Leigh
Considered truly that such things should change.
They will, in heaven–but meantime, on the earth,
There's none can like a nettle as a pink,
Except himself. We're nettles, some of us,
And give offence by the act of springing up;
And, if we leave the damp side of the wall,
The hoes, of course, are on us.' So she said.
Her father earned his life by random jobs
Despised by steadier workmen–keeping swine
On commons, picking hops, or hurrying on
The harvest at wet seasons,–or, at need,
Assisting the Welsh drovers, when a drove
Of startled horses plunged into the mist
Below the mountain-road, and sowed the wind
With wandering neighings. In between the gaps
Of such irregular work, he drank and slept,
And cursed his wife because, the pence being out,
She could not buy more drink. At which she turned,
(The worm), and beat her baby in revenge
For her own broken heart. There's not a crime
But takes its proper change out still in crime
If once rung on the counter of this world:
Let sinners look to it.
Yet the outcast child,
For whom the very mother's face forewent
The mother's special patience, lived and grew;
Learnt early to cry low, and walk alone,
With that pathetic vacillating roll
Of the infant body on the uncertain feet,
(The earth being felt unstable ground so soon)
At which most women's arms unclose at once
With irrepressive instinct. Thus, at three,
This poor weaned kid would run off from the fold,
This babe would steal off from the mother's chair,
And, creeping through the golden walls of gorse,
Would find some keyhole toward the secrecy
Of Heaven's high blue, and, nestling down, peer out–
Oh, not to catch the angels at their games,
She had never heard of angels, but to gaze
She knew not why, to see she knew not what,
A-hungering outward from the barren earth
For something like a joy. She liked, she said,
To dazzle black her sight against the sky,
For then, it seemed, some grand blind Love came down,
And groped her out, and clasped her with a kiss;
She learnt God that way, and was beat for it
Whenever she went home,–yet came again,
As surely as the trapped hare, getting free,
Returns to his form. This grand blind Love, she said,
This skyey father and mother both in one,
Instructed her and civilised her more
Than even the Sunday-school did afterward,
To which a lady sent her to learn books
And sit upon a long bench in a row
With other children. Well, she laughed sometimes
To see them laugh and laugh, and moil their texts;
But ofter she was sorrowful with noise,
And wondered if their mothers beat them hard
That ever they should laugh so. There was one
She loved indeed,–Rose Bell, a seven years' child,
So pretty and clever, who read syllables
When Marian was at letters; she would laugh
At nothing–hold your finger up, she laughed,
Then shook her curls down on her eyes and mouth
To hide her make-mirth from the schoolmaster.
And Rose's pelting glee, as frank as rain
On cherry-blossoms, brightened Marian too,
To see another merry whom she loved.
She whispered once (the children side by side,
With mutual arms entwined about their necks)
'Your mother lets you laugh so?' 'Ay,' said Rose,
'She lets me. She was dug into the ground
Six years since, I being but a yearling wean.
Such mothers let us play and lose our time,
And never scold nor beat us! Don't you wish
You had one like that?' There, Marian, breaking off
Looked suddenly in my face. 'Poor Rose,' said she,
'I heard her laugh last night in Oxford Street.
I'd pour out half my blood to stop that laugh,–
Poor Rose, poor Rose!' said Marian.
It tried her, when she had learnt at Sunday-school
What God was, what he wanted from us all,
And how, in choosing sin, we vexed the Christ,
To go straight home and hear her father pull
The name down on us from the thunder-shelf,
Then drink away his soul into the dark
From seeing judgment. Father, mother, home,
Were God and heaven reversed to her: the more
She knew of Right, the more she guessed their wrong:
Her price paid down for knowledge, was to know
The vileness of her kindred: through her heart,
Her filial and tormented heart, henceforth
They struck their blows at virtue. Oh, 'tis hard
To learn you have a father up in heaven
By a gathering certain sense of being, on earth,
Still worse than orphaned: 'tis too heavy a grief,
The having to thank God for such a joy!
And so passed Marian's life from year to year.
Her parents took her with them when they tramped,
Dodged lanes and heaths, frequented towns and fairs,
And once went farther and saw Manchester,
And once the sea, that blue end of the world,
That fair scroll-finis of a wicked book,–
And twice a prison, back at intervals,
Returning to the hills. Hills draw like heaven,
And stronger sometimes, holding out their hands
To pull you from the vile flats up to them;
And though, perhaps, these strollers still strolled back,
As sheep do, simply that they knew the way,
They certainly felt bettered unawares
Emerging from the social smut of towns
To wipe their feet clean on the mountain turf.
In which long wanderings, Marian lived and learned,
Endured and learned. The people on the roads
Would stop and ask her how her eyes outgrew
Her cheeks, and if she meant to lodge the birds
In all that hair; and then they lifted her,
The miller in his cart, a mile or twain,
The butcher's boy on horseback. Often, too,
The pedlar stopped, and tapped her on the head
With absolute forefinger, brown and ringed,
And asked if peradventure she could read:
And when she answered 'ay,' would toss her down
Some stray odd volume from his heavy pack,
A Thomson's Seasons, mulcted of the Spring,
Or half a play of Shakespeare's, torn across:
(She had to guess the bottom of a page
By just the top sometimes,–as difficult,
As, sitting on the moon, to guess the earth!),
Or else a sheaf of leaves (for that small Ruth's
Small gleanings) torn out from the heart of books,
From Churchyard Elegies and Edens Lost,
From Burns, and Bunyan, Selkirk, and Tom Jones.
'Twas somewhat hard to keep the things distinct,
And oft the jangling influence jarred the child
Like looking at a sunset full of grace
Through a pothouse window while the drunken oaths
Went on behind her; but she weeded out
Her book-leaves, threw away the leaves that hurt,
(First tore them small, that none should find a word),
And made a nosegay of the sweet and good
To fold within her breast, and pore upon
At broken moments of the noontide glare,
When leave was given her to untie her cloak
And rest upon the dusty roadside bank
From the highway's dust. Or oft, the journey done,
Some city friend would lead her by the hand
To hear a lecture at an institute.
And thus she had grown, this Marian Erle of ours,
To no book-learning,–she was ignorant
Of authors,–not in earshot of the things
Out-spoken o'er the heads of common men,
By men who are uncommon,–but within
The cadenced hum of such, and capable
Of catching from the fringes of the wind
Some fragmentary phrases, here and there,
Of that fine music,–which, being carried in
To her soul, had reproduced itself afresh
In finer motions of the lips and lids.
She said, in speaking of it, 'If a flower
Were thrown you out of heaven at intervals,
You'd soon attain to a trick of looking up,–
And so with her.' She counted me her years,
Till I felt old; and then she counted me
Her sorrowful pleasures, till I felt ashamed.
She told me she was almost glad and calm
On such and such a season; sate and sewed,
With no one to break up her crystal thoughts:
While rhymes from lovely poems span around
Their ringing circles of ecstatic tune,
Beneath the moistened finger of the Hour.
Her parents called her a strange, sickly child,
Not good for much, and given to sulk and stare,
And smile into the hedges and the clouds,
And tremble if one shook her from her fit
By any blow, or word even. Out-door jobs
Went ill with her; and household quiet work
She was not born to. Had they kept the north,
They might have had their pennyworth out of her
Like other parents, in the factories;
(Your children work for you, not you for them,
Or else they better had been choked with air
The first breath drawn;) but, in this tramping life,
Was nothing to be done with such a child,
But tramp and tramp. And yet she knitted hose
Not ill, and was not dull at needlework;
And all the country people gave her pence
For darning stockings past their natural age,
And patching petticoats from old to new,
And other light work done for thrifty wives.
One day, said Marian–the sun shone that day–
Her mother had been badly beat, and felt
The bruises sore about her wretched soul
(That must have been): she came in suddenly,
And snatching, in a sort of breathless rage,
Her daughter's headgear comb, let down the hair
Upon her, like a sudden waterfall,
Then drew her drenched and passive, by the arm,
Outside the hut they lived in. When the child
Could clear her blinded face from all that stream
Of tresses . . there, a man stood, with beasts' eyes
That seemed as they would swallow her alive,
Complete in body and spirit, hair and all,–
With burning stertorous breath that hurt her cheek,
He breathed so near. The mother held her tight,
Saying hard between her teeth–'Why wench, why wench,
The squire speaks to you now–the squire's too good,
He means to set you up and comfort us.
Be mannerly at least.' The child turned round
And looked up piteous in the mother's face
(Be sure that mother's death-bed will not want
Another devil to damn, than such a look),
'Oh, mother!' then, with desperate glance to heaven,
'Good, free me from my mother,' she shrieked out,
'These mothers are too dreadful.' And, with force
As passionate as fear, she tore her hands,
Like lilies from the rocks, from hers and his,
And sprang down, bounded headlong down the steep,
Away from both–away, if possible,
As far as God,–away! They yelled at her,
As famished hounds at a hare. She heard them yell;
She felt her name hiss after her from the hills,
Like shot from guns. On, on. And now she had cast
The voices off with the uplands. On. Mad fear
Was running in her feet and killing the ground;
The white roads curled as if she burnt them up,
The green fields melted, wayside trees fell back
To make room for her. Then her head grew vexed;
Trees, fields, turned on her and ran after her;
She heard the quick pants of the hills behind,
Their keen air pricked her neck. She had lost her feet,
Could run no more, yet somehow went as fast,–
The horizon, red, 'twixt steeples in the east
So sucked her forward, forward, while her heart
Kept swelling, swelling, till it swelled so big
It seemed to fill her body; then it burst,
And overflowed the world and swamped the light,
'And now I am dead and safe,' thought Marian Erle–
She had dropped, she had fainted.
When the sense returned,
The night had passed–not life's night. She was 'ware
Of heavy tumbling motions, creaking wheels,
The driver shouting to the lazy team
That swung their rankling bells against her brain,
While, through the waggon's coverture and chinks,
The cruel yellow morning pecked at her
Alive or dead, upon the straw inside,–
At which her soul ached back into the dark
And prayed, 'no more of that.' A waggoner
Had found her in a ditch beneath the moon,
As white as moonshine, save for the oozing blood.
At first he thought her dead; but when he had wiped
The mouth and heard it sigh, he raised her up,
And laid her in his waggon in the straw,
And so conveyed her to the distant town
To which his business called himself, and left
That heap of misery at the hospital.
She stirred;–the place seemed new and strange as death.
The white strait bed, with others strait and white,
Like graves dug side by side, at measured lengths,
And quiet people walking in and out
With wonderful low voices and soft steps,
And apparitional equal care for each,
Astonished her with order, silence, law:
And when a gentle hand held out a cup,
She took it, as you do at sacrament,
Half awed, half melted,–not being used, indeed,
To so much love as makes the form of love
And courtesy of manners. Delicate drinks
And rare white bread, to which some dying eyes
Were turned in observation. O my God,
How sick we must be, ere we make men just!
I think it frets the saints in heaven to see
How many Desolate creatures on the earth
Have learnt the simple dues of fellowship
And social comfort, in a hospital,
As Marian did. She lay there, stunned, half tranced,
And wished, at intervals of growing sense,
She might be sicker yet, if sickness made
The world so marvellous kind, the air so hushed,
And all her wake-time quiet as a sleep;
For now she understood, (as such things were)
How sickness ended very oft in heaven,
Among the unspoken raptures. Yet more sick,
And surelier happy. Then she dropped her lids,
And, folding up her hands as flowers at night,
Would lose no moment of the blessed time.
She lay and seethed in fever many weeks;
But youth was strong and overcame the test;
Revolted soul and flesh were reconciled
And fetched back to the necessary day
And daylight duties. She could creep about
The long bare rooms, and stare out drearily
From any narrow window on the street,
Till some one, who had nursed her as a friend,
Said coldly to her, as an enemy,
'She had leave to go next week, being well enough,'
While only her heart ached. 'Go next week,' thought she,
'Next week! how would it be with her next week,
Let out into that terrible street alone
Among the pushing people, . . to go . . where?'
One day, the last before the dreaded last,
Among the convalescents, like herself
Prepared to go next morning, she sate dumb,
And heard half absently the women talk,
How one was famished for her baby's cheeks–
'The little wretch would know her! a year old,
And lively, like his father!' one was keen
To get to work, and fill some clamorous mouths;
And one was tender for her dear goodman
Who had missed her sorely,–and one, querulous . .
'Would pay those scandalous neighbours who had dared
To talk about her as already dead,'–
And one was proud . . 'and if her sweetheart Luke
Had left her for a ruddier face than hers,
(The gossip would be seen through at a glance)
Sweet riddance of such sweethearts–let him hang!
'Twere good to have been as sick for such an end.'
And while they talked, and Marian felt the worse
For having missed the worst of all their wrongs,
A visitor was ushered through the wards
And paused among the talkers. 'When he looked,
It was as if he spoke, and when he spoke
He sang perhaps,' said Marian; 'could she tell?
She only knew' (so much she had chronicled,
As seraphs might, the making of the sun)
'That he who came and spake was Romney Leigh,
And then, and there, she saw and heard him first.'
And when it was her turn to have the face
Upon her,–all those buzzing pallid lips
Being satisfied with comfort–when he changed
To Marian, saying, 'And you? You're going, where?'–
She, moveless as a worm beneath a stone
Which some one's stumbling foot has spurned aside,
Writhed suddenly, astonished with the light,
And breaking into sobs cried, 'Where I go?
None asked me till this moment. Can I say
Where I go? When it has not seemed worth while
To God himself, who thinks of every one,
To think of me, and fix where I shall go?'
'So young,' he gently asked her, 'you have lost
Your father and your mother?'
'Both' she said,
'Both lost! My father was burnt up with gin
Or ever I sucked milk, and so is lost.
My mother sold me to a man last month,
And so my mother's lost, 'tis manifest.
And I, who fled from her for miles and miles,
As if I had caught sight of the fires of hell
Through some wild gap, (she was my mother, sir)
It seems I shall be lost too, presently,
And so we end, all three of us.'
He said,–with such a pity in his voice,
It soothed her more than her own tears,–'poor child!
'Tis simple that betrayal by mother's love
Should bring despair of God's too. Yet be taught
He's better to us than many mothers are,
And children cannot wander beyond reach
Of the sweep of his white raiment. Touch and hold'
And if you weep still, weep where John was laid
While Jesus loved him.'
'She could say the words,'
She told me, 'exactly as he uttered them
A year back, . . since in any doubt or dark,
They came out like the stars, and shone on her
With just their comfort. Common words, perhaps;
The ministers in church might say the same;
But he, he made the church with what he spoke,–
The difference was the miracle,' said she.
Then catching up her smile to ravishment,
She added quickly, 'I repeat his words,
But not his tones: can any one repeat
The music of an organ, out of church?
And when he said 'poor child,' I shut my eyes
To feel how tenderly his voice broke through,
As the ointment-box broke on the Holy feet
To let out the rich medicative nard.'
She told me how he had raised and rescued her
With reverent pity, as, in touching grief,
He touched the wounds of Christ,–and made her feel
More self-respecting. Hope, he called, belief
In God,–work, worship . . therefore let us pray!
And thus, to snatch her soul from atheism,
And keep it stainless from her mother's face,
He sent her to a famous sempstress-house
Far off in London, there to work and hope.
With that they parted. She kept sight of Heaven,
But not of Romney. He had good to do
To others: through the days and through the nights,
She sewed and sewed and sewed. She drooped sometimes,
And wondered, while, along the tawny light,
She struck the new thread into her needle's eye,
How people without mothers on the hills,
Could choose the town to live in!–then she drew
The stitch, and mused how Romney's face would look,
And if 'twere likely he'd remember hers,
When they two had their meeting after death.