Four Cs of woman t
Carat of diamond is clan of woman.
Clarity in diamond is cleanliness in woman.
Colour of diamond is composure of woman,
Cut of diamond is cuteness of woman..
The four Cs grade the diamond and the woman.
Being diamond itself is a value.
Being woman itself is a value.
The Night Dances With Itself Like An Only Child
The night dances with itself like an only child
to the sounds of its own silence
when it thinks no one is watching.
Every falling leaf, a gesture of the hands,
poised, a word, a bird, a butterfly on a branch,
a sacred syllable from an alphabet that can dance,
caught in the updraft of a momentary insight
of falling to paradise like a flightfeather of light,
and landing the move just right, just so, with perfect timing.
The maples by day, easels for hot palette paintings,
red shift through red, orange, yellow, green
from the outside in toward the trunk, same
as a rainbow, same as the dynastic colours of a sunset.
Same as the fires of life returning to the root.
Same as the starmaps of the visionaries
flying like shamans from the nests they were fledged in.
Same as the ripening of the fruits of the earth,
or roses with green stars under their eyelids.
Different instruments, different voices,
the wind, the rasping of the leaves, the beaver
slapping the startled flesh of the water at my approach,
a twig snapping its drumstick on a rim shot
and the crow, and the squeaking bats, and the lapping
of the waves like the plectra of an aquamarine harpsichord
at the whole notes of the rocks, but a confluence
of picture-music washing the roots of the dead violins
of the wild irises and the timpani of cattails along the mindstream.
Merrily, merrily, row your boat, life is but a dream.
But to judge from the windfalls of green planets
shaken from the black walnut trees, it's a dream
that's urgent with the myriad realities of a multiverse
waking up in a place like here, and a time like now
with a lavish appetite for inhabiting itself
as if appearance weren't just the rind
that had to be peeled away like the skin and the shell
of the meat of the real, the shapes of the known worlds
the rat snakes shed like intimate illusions
that have naturally outgrown themselves,
the new moon in the arms of the old, like a nightsky
leaving the Milky Way, a mythically deflated windsock
tangled in the tree line like a runway that tried to fly by itself.
Now the Great Shedding as the earth turns
like the old abandoned mill wheel upstream
like a circular waterclock making linear time
take its tail in its mouth like an eternal recurrence
that's always pouring itself out of itself like life
into the emptiness between the equinox of one thought
and the solstice of the next like the silence between heartbeats,
the night between the stars, like the inseparable gap
between the distant moon and the intimacy of the moon's reflection
on the newly surfaced dark skin of the water sequencing
its pentatonic scales to the seasonal themes of the mindstream
you can't step into twice, as Heraclitus said in Ephesus long ago,
though it seems that way if all you're doing is dogpaddling
like a delinquent green apple on a snow covered bough, instead
of going along with the perennial renewal of the flow
by letting go of your water skin with its lunar tattoo
like the bright vacancy of an old silo of the light
for the dark abundance of the new insight
into the nature of life when it full in October.
The fall. This hour of my becoming
when everything is burning like the sumac
with the fires of life but nothing is consumed.
Because fire doesn't burn fire and death is unperishing.
And autumn is no less of a transformation than spring
as this new day dances as readily with the old woman
watching from her kitchen window as it does the young girl,
than the rain is to the tides of a lunar ocean
swaying in its shadows as if it were dancing
with its river reeds like a lonely child
in the embrace of her imagination,
like a poet in the grip of his crazy wisdom
flirting like a firefly with the dragons of his madness
without listening to the search parties of the lighthouses
bellowing like the foghorns of mournful trains back on shore
being swept away into the distance like nightwatchmen
and unconvincing ghosts. Things are unmooring
like lifeboats full of seeds and the souls of the dead
taking to their wings like the oars of waterbirds,
and the lowest of earthbound snakes
are dreaming of feathering their scales
into the vans of a dragon firewalking with stars
around the wobbling axis of the earth
on a potter's wheel, turning it like sentient starmud
that's fired up in autumn like an urn that burns like a kiln.
- quotes about dance
- quotes about lifeboats
- quotes about fire
- quotes about peace
- quotes about seasons
- quotes about green
- quotes about paintings
- quotes about autumn
- quotes about art
The pride and the vanity
Flaunt if you have it.
If you don’t, why have you it?
Pride is your opinion about yourself;
Vanity is a display
To secure others’ opinion
About you in exaltation.
If rich, be rich; it is pride.
If poor, be poor; it is pride.
The rich being humble
Itself is a vanity.
The God’s design
The cow turns grass into milk
And the snake, milk into poison.
It is the God’s design.
Who are we to value?
Jerusalem: I see the Four-fold Man, The Humanity in deadly sleep
I see the Four-fold Man, The Humanity in deadly sleep
And its fallen Emanation, the Spectre and its cruel Shadow.
I see the Past, Present and Future existing all at once
Before me. O Divine Spirit, sustain me on thy wings,
That I may awake Albion from his long and cold repose;
For Bacon and Newton, sheath'd in dismal steel, their terrors hang
Like iron scourges over Albion: reasonings like vast serpents
Infold around my limbs, bruising my minute articulations.
I turn my eyes to the schools and universities of Europe
And there behold the Loom of Locke, whose Woof rages dire,
Wash'd by the Water-wheels of Newton: black the cloth
In heavy wreaths folds over every nation: cruel works
Of many Wheels I view, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic
Moving by compulsion each other, not as those in Eden, which,
Wheel within wheel, in freedom revolve in harmony and peace.
- quotes about United Kingdom
- quotes about Isaac Newton
- quotes about universities
- quotes about time
- quotes about school
- quotes about Europe
- quotes about work
- quotes about nations
Four prayers during the yearly seasons in the Highveld
I. Spring begins
Spring begins in green almond leaves,
in blossoms appearing snow white in a cobalt blue sky
where the sun sits brilliant white, glowing more intense than golden chandeliers,
where flowers appear and bridge the skeleton of every tree
while rain now pours down regularly,
sieves down in every bush and in the lane
with yellow and pink blossoms
appearing daily, puffing out.
Lord, let these times become a tribute
and what was once dead and winnowed
now become joyous, as a hymn of praise to You,
let fruit appear from the blessing that You are showering,
let my weak youth now overflow splendid, intact
in a life grounded on You, let Your light shine through my branches.
[Reference: Vroegherfs (Four prayers during the yearly seasons in the Boland: Early autumn) by N.P. van Wyk Louw]
II. In this graceful spring
In this graceful spring
a glorious sun is shining so exuberant and happy
that I am straying, caught are astonished by Your world
where branches daily get new flowers:
flowers are spreading prettily on almond trees
peaches, apricots en plums are in full flowering
in colours of yellow, pink and snow white
and insects, bees and birds arrive in a wonder world.
where joy now jubilant without pain
is fulfilled in every flower, in my words
appear as Your biggest blessing
while You let glory come down from Your heavens,
that the whole of humanity, knows of growth and maturity,
insects, birds and the whole world shout out Your glory.
[Reference: Uit hierdie ligte herfs (Four prayers during the yearly seasons in the Boland: Out of this light autumn) by N.P. van Wyk Louw.]
III. Now the earth is glowing days long
Now the earth is glowing days long,
in the bright light that shines from a cloudless sky
and the last trees are still flowering
before spring disappears with the onslaught of summer.
Everything is still jubilant with flower upon flower
that uninterrupted find secret power,
in full growth devolving to tasty fruit
binding joy, energy and taste
in a harvest serving the Creator Himself,
gloriously taking us to a magnificent experience
where we admire the magic power of His works
and realize how glorious, overwhelming summer is:
that what once could flower
now turn into the best fruit, with branches full everywhere.
[Reference: Four prayers during the yearly seasons in the Boland Winter by N.P. van Wyk Louw.]
IV. Summer rain
Serenity fell overnight like rain
on the dry meadows of my existence
and uninterrupted and once unobserved the blessings appeared
from Your hand between the thunders that were falling around me.
The whole wide world is soaked where Your waters go
when my adult life suddenly bloomed,
are standing before new splendid horizons,
and dumbfounded I come to the knowledge of Your faithful love.
Here where I am overwhelmed by Your grace
I presume that You lead all paths to growth,
as Your power, life, light convenes in sympathy
where each life at a time comes to fullness
and even insignificant creature are regarded by You
with Your love that shower on sinners as I.
[Reference: Eerste sneeu (Four prayers during the yearly seasons in the Boland: First snow) by N.P. van Wyk Louw.]
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
Woman Of The World
Well, shes the woman of the world
And God she know it
Shell turn my head
Every time she shows it
Yeah, nothing you can do
Nothing you can say
No way you can try to change her way
She might be gone tomorrow
Honey, say what you gotta say
Lordy, lordy, lordy, lordy what a woman
Well I tried, I tried so hard to please her
Shed give me a look if I beg to tease her
Theres nothing you can say
Nothing you can do
No way you can try to choochie coo
She might be gone tomorrow
Oh, lordy what you gonna do
And I tried with an open hand
And a heart of sorrow
Hoped that everything would be all right
Dont save too much lovin for tomorrow
Get out all your lovin here tonight
And I tried with an open hand
And a heart of sorrow
Hoped that everything would be all right
Dont save too much lovin for tomorrow
Get out all your lovin here tonight
She got big-eyed cats
She got coats of sable
She seats forty-four at her dinner table
And theres nothing you can do
Nothing you can say
No way you can try to change her way
She might be gone tomorrow
Oh, throwin it all away
The Break Away
Your daisies have come
on the day of my divorce:
the courtroom a cement box,
a gas chamber for the infectious Jew in me
and a perhaps land, a possibly promised land
for the Jew in me,
but still a betrayal room for the till-death-do-us—
and yet a death, as in the unlocking of scissors
that makes the now separate parts useless,
even to cut each other up as we did yearly
under the crayoned-in sun.
The courtroom keeps squashing our lives as they break
into two cans ready for recycling,
flattened tin humans
and a tin law,
even for my twenty-five years of hanging on
by my teeth as I once saw at Ringling Brothers.
The gray room:
Judge, lawyer, witness
and me and invisible Skeezix,
and all the other torn
enduring the bewilderments
of their division.
Your daisies have come
on the day of my divorce.
They arrive like round yellow fish,
sucking with love at the coral of our love.
Yet they wait,
in their short time,
like little utero half-borns,
half killed, thin and bone soft.
They breathe the air that stands
for twenty-five illicit days,
the sun crawling inside the sheets,
the moon spinning like a tornado
in the washbowl,
and we orchestrated them both,
calling ourselves TWO CAMP DIRECTORS.
There was a song, our song on your cassette,
that played over and over
and baptised the prodigals.
It spoke the unspeakable,
as the rain will on an attic roof,
letting the animal join its soul
as we kneeled before a miracle-
forgetting its knife.
The daisies confer
in the old-married kitchen
papered with blue and green chefs
who call out pies, cookies, yummy,
at the charcoal and cigarette smoke
they wear like a yellowy salve.
The daisies absorb it all-
the twenty-five-year-old sanctioned love
(If one could call such handfuls of fists
and immobile arms that!)
and on this day my world rips itself up
while the country unfastens along
with its perjuring king and his court.
It unfastens into an abortion of belief,
as in me-
the legal rift-
as on might do with the daisies
but does not
for they stand for a love
undergoihng open heart surgery
that might take
if one prayed tough enough.
And yet I demand,
even in prayer,
that I am not a thief,
a mugger of need,
and that your heart survive
on its own,
belonging only to itself,
whole, entirely whole,
in its dark cavern under your ribs.
I pray it will know truth,
if truth catches in its cup
and yet I pray, as a child would,
that the surgery take.
I dream it is taking.
Next I dream the love is swallowing itself.
Next I dream the love is made of glass,
glass coming through the telephone
that is breaking slowly,
day by day, into my ear.
Next I dream that I put on the love
like a lifejacket and we float,
jacket and I,
we bounce on that priest-blue.
We are as light as a cat's ear
and it is safe,
safe far too long!
And I awaken quickly and go to the opposite window
and peer down at the moon in the pond
and know that beauty has walked over my head,
into this bedroom and out,
flowing out through the window screen,
dropping deep into the water
I will observe the daisies
fade and dry up
wuntil they become flour,
snowing themselves onto the table
beside the drone of the refrigerator,
beside the radio playing Frankie
(as often as FM will allow)
snowing lightly, a tremor sinking from the ceiling-
as twenty-five years split from my side
like a growth that I sliced off like a melanoma.
It is six P.M. as I water these tiny weeds
and their little half-life,
their numbered days
that raged like a secret radio,
recalling love that I picked up innocently,
as my five-year-old daughter
picked gum off the sidewalk
and it became suddenly an elastic miracle.
For me it was love found
like a diamond
where carrots grow-
the glint of diamond on a plane wing,
meaning: DANGER! THICK ICE!
but the good crunch of that orange,
the diamond, the carrot,
both with four million years of resurrecting dirt,
and the love,
although Adam did not know the word,
the love of Adam
obeying his sudden gift.
You, who sought me for nine years,
in stories made up in front of your naked mirror
or walking through rooms of fog women,
you trying to forget the mother
who built guilt with the lumber of a locked door
as she sobbed her soured mild and fed you loss
through the keyhole,
you who wrote out your own birth
and built it with your own poems,
your own lumber, your own keyhole,
into the trunk and leaves of your manhood,
you, who fell into my words, years
before you fell into me (the other,
both the Camp Director and the camper),
you who baited your hook with wide-awake dreams,
and calls and letters and once a luncheon,
and twice a reading by me for you.
But I wouldn't!
Yet this year,
yanking off all past years,
I took the bait
and was pulled upward, upward,
into the sky and was held by the sun-
the quick wonder of its yellow lap-
and became a woman who learned her own shin
and dug into her soul and found it full,
and you became a man who learned his won skin
and dug into his manhood, his humanhood
and found you were as real as a baker
or a seer
and we became a home,
up into the elbows of each other's soul,
an invisible purchase-
that inhabits our house forever.
blessed by the House-Die
by the altar of the color T.V.
and somehow managed to make a tiny marriage,
a tiny marriage
as in the child's belief in the tooth fairy,
so close to absolute,
so daft within a year or two.
The daisies have come
for the last time.
And I who have,
each year of my life,
spoken to the tooth fairy,
believing in her,
even when I was her,
am helpless to stop your daisies from dying,
although your voice cries into the telephone:
Marry me! Marry me!
and my voice speaks onto these keys tonight:
The love is in dark trouble!
The love is starting to die,
we are in the process of it.
The empty process of it.
I see two deaths,
and the two men plod toward the mortuary of my heart,
and though I willed one away in court today
and I whisper dreams and birthdays into the other,
they both die like waves breaking over me
and I am drowning a little,
but always swimming
among the pillows and stones of the breakwater.
And though your daisies are an unwanted death,
I wade through the smell of their cancer
and recognize the prognosis,
its cartful of loss-
I say now,
you gave what you could.
It was quite a ferris wheel to spin on!
and the dead city of my marriage
seems less important
than the fact that the daisies came weekly,
over and over,
likes kisses that can't stop themselves.
There sit two deaths on November 5th, 1973.
Let one be forgotten-
Bury it! Wall it up!
But let me not forget the man
of my child-like flowers
though he sinks into the fog of Lake Superior,
he remains, his fingers the marvel
of fourth of July sparklers,
his furious ice cream cones of licking,
remains to cool my forehead with a washcloth
when I sweat into the bathtub of his being.
For the rest that is left:
name it gentle,
as gentle as radishes inhabiting
their short life in the earth,
name it gentle,
gentle as old friends waving so long at the window,
or in the drive,
name it gentle as maple wings singing
themselves upon the pond outside,
as sensuous as the mother-yellow in the pond,
that night that it was ours,
when our bodies floated and bumped
in moon water and the cicadas
called out like tongues.
Let such as this
be resurrected in all men
whenever they mold their days and nights
as when for twenty-five days and nights you molded mine
and planted the seed that dives into my God
and will do so forever
no matter how often I sweep the floor.
Master Valluvan, The Long-Misunderstood Tamil Mentor
'The Kurral owes much of its popularity to its exquisite poetic form. A kurral is a couplet containing a complete and striking idea expressed in a refined and intricate metre. No translation can convey an idea of its charming effect. […] The brevity rendered necessary by the form [composed in the Venpa metre] gives an oracular effect to the utterances of the great Tamil ‘Master of the sentences.' They are the choicest of moral epigrams. […] Tiruvalluvar is generally very simple, and his commentators very profound.'
Rev. G.U. Pope, Former Fellow of Madras University
[Pardon these futile measly words from your great Potiya height: they can hardly belittle your true worth.]
Under what leaky hutment roof by stamped-mud floors
trembling clair-oscuro straw-wick kuttuvilakku
on the stark anvil of crisp phrase and sparse syntax
by the raging nama-nir rhyming brine
at Mayilapur's S.Thomé sandy doors
while peacocks danced to your innate pulsating chimes
have you chipped away at uncut gems
Those the Yavanas brought with the monsoons
or such as your sea-daring captain friend Elela-Cinkan's
Even those the Christian missionaries preached
in daredevil enticement
after St.Thomas fell to a vel stuck in his bosom
those like you who were stamped underfoot
Caste in cast-iron strictures
Priest only to the proclaimer paraiyar drum-beaters
The warp and woof of intricately woven venpa verse
elevating your weaving clan to fresh artistic heights
in the humbled ways of your birth
on whose steps have you pitched your ears
whose wisdom have you had to pilfer
whose ways have you had to ape
whose mere thoughts have you then had to set aright
and remould into inextinguishable lines
Or had you tread the ahimsa path of gentle-foot Jains
Treading gently the earth for fear of loping boot pains
SEVEN STARK WORDS
Seven alliterative blockbuster words struck so
they rhymed initially in juxta-positioning lineal parallels
pausing but in the fourth
to resume breath in the fifth
Leaving the interstitial morphemes in resonating ellipses
The economy of your parsing has wreaked havoc down the ages
in all trans-explicatory tongues
Tough-minded men come from afar
with other gods to serve
and sacrifices to make in the name of their Lords
bent your versification to limp rhyme
and left meaning a hung pursuit
in the hands of plagiarists professors preachers
not knowing nor divining the reason for your craftsman's
concatenation of weighted phonemes
advanced theories for your elastic pregnant mind
strung myriads of pages in exegeses
(much perhaps to your amusement now)
each staking a claim to posterity
the villainous hanging on your lips
In a time devoid of papered learning for the poor
When to be born a Sudra or Pariah was a sin
When masters were those top-heavy manically-mantric Brahmin
Preying on the duped loyal sycophantic Vaishyas
wishing to earn karmic merit with their agricultural gain at their altar
such servant-financers as they by legions now lay their souls down
as even the long-gone royally leisure-dispensing Kshaktriyas
how would he who sought the spread of knowledge
not seek to encapsulate learning in mnemonic couplets
arranged according to rigid design
for those who could not count either
Ten fingers in the hand so
Ten the number of facets of a thought
even if theme subject thought were stretched too thin
Whether or not relations with the uncultured enamour
Do not seek to succour what should sour
What does it matter if you gain or lose inferiors
Who feather their own nests and leave you in a mess
Those who look to the benefit that accrues from friendship
And those who covet largesse are thick as thieves
Better be content to walk alone than surround yourself
With friends who'd ditch you like wild stallions in battle
It's better to sever than solder vile ties
With the petty-minded who'd fail you in need
By far it'd serve you better to be snubbed by the wise
Than be warmed by the company of narrow-minded fools
It's infinitely more useful to bear your enemies' scorn
Than court raucous revellers who'd warm you up with guffaws
Friends who'd proffer help remonstrate and find fault
Might as well shun them with scarcely a farewell
Friends who please by word and yet act otherwise
Crop up as a rude shock even in dreams
Turn away from the friend who snuggles up in private
While he seeks to denounce you in a public place
[Tirukkural, Chapter 82: 'Evil Friendship']
No-one contests your calligraphic diamond cutter's skills
Nor your codifier rôle of existing customs beliefs
of kingly comportment
of the wife's place
of manner of securing friendships
of the obtention and dispensation of education
of the seductions in the dainty maiden's coyness
Nor of your infinite wisdom of the times
Nor of your observation of the passing of life about you
Nor alas! of your inveterate nay obsessive need to pontificate
in what is evident to even the half-baked
What mattered was to get the lesson through
even one in ten was well worth the while
if remembered by the unfortunate by birth
who never traversed the threshold of class and caste
who never even buckled exceeding numbers on their toes
To you the ten-by-tens by one-hundred-and-thirty
perhaps you planned a florilège
in old age
by weeding out for posterity's privileged classes
the few quoted over and over
katka kasatara karka karrapin
nitka atatkut taka
vilampu suttapun arum arate
navinal sutta vatu
and you might never have thought
the mighty today are like those trodden poor of your day
at least were shackled to ignorance by force by godly fear
a racially discriminating Overlord
now the privileged in blindness give you lip-service
and a lot of money
hoping by this gesture to earn your merit
not earn YOU merit
and the society's accolade
You remain abused still
by the undistinguishing crowd
who upon the mention of your name
rise to feel proud
of what then
in their shored-up selves
of belonging in
the self-same pigment and tongue
None of your real worth passes into them
Nor the reason for your epigrammatic lines
Should I then beg forgiveness for this affront
much remains redundant
inapt by way of pointing to fresher vistas
and these that follow the rarity of your verse
imbibe nothing else from this age's handy cornucopia
of instant wisdom
Your lines served an eminent purpose in your time
now we bed our minds down by encyclopaedic libraries
we live on another planet
Your chain-ganged lines served to teach the meek
the lame of mind
the dislocated of your time
Yes some still wallow in the same myth
not from want of will
but from the fear of rebirth
imprisoned in conditioned belief
and the essor of Dravidian identity
only defering to the feigned purity of Aryanising blood
reverts to the same mythic belief
some kind of imagined power of breed
History is in the past
It cannot help the present to liberate itself
If one has not understood the difference
If one has not disowned and let fall meaningless myths
If you dear Valuvan lived in these times
Would you not have disowned your own lines
well perhaps some or more
not all finding their way into a florilège of your choice
for you know how love in the third part changed with moeurs
changing with the times
so has the art of governance
and the unconscionable ways and practices of the artha classes
other precautions more pressing than mere friendship
would have compelled you to jettison many a couplet
Who knows even your first ten would have found their way
into a bin
ethical lines of advice
would turn sour in today's ear
No child would heed to the letter your admonitions of behaviour
Nor no wife take her place in the humiliating role of kitchen-helper
No king will base his reign on your strict plans of concern for etiquette
No youth seek virtue in the puritanical preachment of bygone
One singular contention
No peasant revolution
No women's liberation
No religious reformation
grace your pages
the establishment the status quo the traditional hierarchy the Almighty
All find mindful foundation
in your ardent didacticism
and extend licence to those who cry sacrilege
in the coming dismantling of the clans of castial power
Is poetry only meant for teaching what is time-honoured
what is authorised
what seeks not to rock the ship of fate
Helas! My universally-renowned peerless ancestor!
I'd like to think
You'd be the first to have recognized the always changing world
The first to have accepted the parting of ways
For your intelligence your foresight and hindsight
Your immensely powerful quill
would have sought other remedies
other means to convince
a wayward world
a world far too gone and worldly-wise
to hatch the nuances of your admonishing word
N'empêche your name is a comet
hurtling down the ages
The Statue and the Bust
There's a palace in Florence, the world knows well,
And a statue watches it from the square,
And this story of both do our townsmen tell.
Ages ago, a lady there,
At the farthest window facing the East,
Asked, "Who rides by with the royal air?"
The bridesmaids' prattle around her ceased;
She leaned forth, one on either hand;
They saw how the blush of the bride increased—
They felt by its beats her heart expand—
As one at each ear and both in a breath
Whispered, "The Great-Duke Ferdinand."
That self-same instant, underneath,
The Duke rode past in his idle way,
Empty and fine like a swordless sheath.
Gay he rode, with a friend as gay,
Till he threw his head back—"Who is she?"
—"A bride the Riccardi brings home today."
Hair in heaps lay heavily
Over a pale brow spirit-pure—
Carved like the heart of the coal-black tree,
Crisped like a war-steed's encolure—
And vainly sought to dissemble her eyes
Of the blackest black our eyes endure.
And lo, a blade for a knight's emprise
Filled the fine empty sheath of a man,—
The Duke grew straightway brave and wise.
He looked at her, as a lover can;
She looked at him, as one who awakes:
The past was a sleep, and their life began.
Now, love so ordered for both their sakes,
A feast was held that selfsame night
In the pile which the mighty shadow makes.
(For Via Larga is three-parts light,
But the palace overshadows one,
Because of a crime which may God requite!
To Florence and God the wrong was done,
Through the first republic's murder there
By Cosimo and his cursèd son.)
The Duke (with the statue's face in the square)
Turned in the midst of his multitude
At the bright approach of the bridal pair.
Face to face the lovers stood
A single minute and no more,
While the bridegroom bent as a man subdued—
Bowed till his bonnet brushed the floor—
For the Duke on the lady a kiss conferred,
As the courtly custom was of yore.
In a minute can lovers exchange a word?
If a word did pass, which I do not think,
Only one out of the thousand heard.
That was the bridegroom. At day's brink
He and his bride were alone at last
In a bedchamber by a taper's blink.
Calmly he said that her lot was cast,
That the door she had passed was shut on her
Till the final catafalque repassed.
The world meanwhile, its noise and stir,
Through a certain window facing the East,
She could watch like a convent's chronicler.
Since passing the door might lead to a feast,
And a feast might lead to so much beside,
He, of many evils, chose the least.
"Freely I choose too," said the bride—
"Your window and its world suffice,"
Replied the tongue, while the heart replied—
"If I spend the night with that devil twice,
May his window serve as my loop of hell
Whence a damned soul looks on paradise!
"I fly to the Duke who loves me well,
Sit by his side and laugh at sorrow
Ere I count another ave-bell.
"'Tis only the coat of a page to borrow,
And tie my hair in a horse-boy's trim,
And I save my soul—but not tomorrow"—
(She checked herself and her eye grew dim)
"My father tarries to bless my state:
I must keep it one day more for him.
"Is one day more so long to wait?
Moreover the Duke rides past, I know;
We shall see each other, sure as fate."
She turned on her side and slept. Just so!
So we resolve on a thing and sleep:
So did the lady, ages ago.
That night the Duke said, "Dear or cheap
As the cost of this cup of bliss may prove
To body or soul, I will drain it deep."
And on the morrow, bold with love,
He beckoned the bridegroom (close on call,
As his duty bade, by the Duke's alcove)
And smiled "'Twas a very funeral,
Your lady will think, this feast of ours,—
A shame to efface, whate'er befall!
"What if we break from the Arno bowers,
And try if Petraja, cool and green,
Cure last night's fault with this morning's flowers?"
The bridegroom, not a thought to be seen
On his steady brow and quiet mouth,
Said, "Too much favour for me so mean!
"But, alas! my lady leaves the South;
Each wind that comes from the Apennine
Is a menace to her tender youth:
"Nor a way exists, the wise opine,
If she quits her palace twice this year,
To avert the flower of life's decline."
Quoth the Duke, "A sage and a kindly fear.
Moreover Petraja is cold this spring:
Be our feast tonight as usual here!"
And then to himself—"Which night shall bring
Thy bride to her lover's embraces, fool—
Or I am the fool, and thou art the king!
"Yet my passion must wait a night, nor cool—
For tonight the Envoy arrives from France
Whose heart I unlock with thyself, my tool.
"I need thee still and might miss perchance.
Today is not wholly lost, beside,
With its hope of my lady's countenance:
"For I ride—what should I do but ride?
And passing her palace, if I list,
May glance at its window—well betide!"
So said, so done: nor the lady missed
One ray that broke from the ardent brow,
Nor a curl of the lips where the spirit kissed.
Be sure that each renewed the vow,
No morrow's sun should arise and set
And leave them then as it left them now.
But next day passed, and next day yet,
With still fresh cause to wait one day more
Ere each leaped over the parapet.
And still, as love's brief morning wore,
With a gentle start, half smile, half sigh,
They found love not as it seemed before.
They thought it would work infallibly,
But not in despite of heaven and earth:
The rose would blow when the storm passed by.
Meantime they could profit in winter's dearth
By store of fruits that supplant the rose:
The world and its ways have a certain worth:
And to press a point while these oppose
Were simple policy; better wait:
We lose no friends and we gain no foes.
Meantime, worse fates than a lover's fate,
Who daily may ride and pass and look
Where his lady watches behind the grate!
And she—she watched the square like a book
Holding one picture and only one,
Which daily to find she undertook:
When the picture was reached the book was done,
And she turned from the picture at night to scheme
Of tearing it out for herself next sun.
So weeks grew months, years; gleam by gleam
The glory dropped from their youth and love,
And both perceived they had dreamed a dream;
Which hovered as dreams do, still above:
But who can take a dream for a truth?
Oh, hide our eyes from the next remove!
One day as the lady saw her youth
Depart, and the silver thread that streaked
Her hair, and, worn by the serpent's tooth,
The brow so puckered, the chin so peaked,—
And wondered who the woman was,
Hollow-eyed and haggard-cheeked,
Fronting her silent in the glass—
"Summon here," she suddenly said,
"Before the rest of my old self pass,
"Him, the Carver, a hand to aid,
Who fashions the clay no love will change,
And fixes a beauty never to fade.
"Let Robbia's craft so apt and strange
Arrest the remains of young and fair,
And rivet them while the seasons range.
"Make me a face on the window there,
Waiting as ever, mute the while,
My love to pass below in the square!
"And let me think that it may beguile
Dreary days which the dead must spend
Down in their darkness under the aisle,
"To say, 'What matters it at the end?
I did no more while my heart was warm
Than does that image, my pale-faced friend.'
"Where is the use of the lip's red charm,
The heaven of hair, the pride of the brow,
And the blood that blues the inside arm—
"Unless we turn, as the soul knows how,
The earthly gift to an end divine?
A lady of clay is as good, I trow."
But long ere Robbia's cornice, fine,
With flowers and fruits which leaves enlace,
Was set where now is the empty shrine—
(And, leaning out of a bright blue space,
As a ghost might lean from a chink of sky,
The passionate pale lady's face—
Eyeing ever, with earnest eye
And quick-turned neck at its breathless stretch,
Some one who ever is passing by—)
The Duke had sighed like the simplest wretch
In Florence, "Youth—my dream escapes!
Will its record stay?" And he bade them fetch
Some subtle moulder of brazen shapes—
"Can the soul, the will, die out of a man
Ere his body find the grave that gapes?
"John of Douay shall effect my plan,
Set me on horseback here aloft,
Alive, as the crafty sculptor can,
"In the very square I have crossed so oft:
That men may admire, when future suns
Shall touch the eyes to a purpose soft,
"While the mouth and the brow stay brave in bronze—
Admire and say, 'When he was alive
How he would take his pleasure once!'
"And it shall go hard but I contrive
To listen the while, and laugh in my tomb
At idleness which aspires to strive."
So! While these wait the trump of doom,
How do their spirits pass, I wonder,
Nights and days in the narrow room?
Still, I suppose, they sit and ponder
What a gift life was, ages ago,
Six steps out of the chapel yonder.
Only they see not God, I know,
Nor all that chivalry of his,
The soldier-saints who, row on row,
Burn upward each to his point of bliss—
Since, the end of life being manifest,
He had burned his way through the world to this.
I hear you reproach, "But delay was best,
For their end was a crime."—Oh, a crime will do
As well, I reply, to serve for a test,
As a virtue golden through and through,
Sufficient to vindicate itself
And prove its worth at a moment's view!
Must a game be played for the sake of pelf?
Where a button goes, 'twere an epigram
To offer the stamp of the very Guelph.
The true has no value beyond the sham:
As well the counter as coin, I submit,
When your table's a hat, and your prize a dram.
Stake your counter as boldly every whit,
Venture as warily, use the same skill,
Do your best, whether winning or losing it,
If you choose to play!—is my principle.
Let a man contend to the uttermost
For his life's set prize, be it what it will!
The counter our lovers staked was lost
As surely as if it were lawful coin:
And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost
Is—the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin,
Though the end in sight was a vice, I say.
You of the virtue (we issue join)
How strive you? De te, fabula!
Hero and Leander: The First Sestiad
On Hellespont, guilty of true-love's blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoined by Neptune's might;
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
And offered as a dower his burning throne,
Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.
The outside of her garments were of lawn,
The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn;
Her wide sleeves green, and bordered with a grove,
Where Venus in her naked glory strove
To please the careless and disdainful eyes
Of proud Adonis, that before her lies.
Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain,
Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain.
Upon her head she ware a myrtle wreath,
From whence her veil reached to the ground beneath.
Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves
Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives.
Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,
When 'twas the odour which her breath forth cast;
And there for honey bees have sought in vain,
And, beat from thence, have lighted there again.
About her neck hung chains of pebblestone,
Which, lightened by her neck, like diamonds shone.
She ware no gloves; for neither sun nor wind
Would burn or parch her hands, but to her mind,
Or warm or cool them, for they took delight
To play upon those hands, they were so white.
Buskins of shells, all silvered used she,
And branched with blushing coral to the knee;
Where sparrows perched of hollow pearl and gold,
Such as the world would wonder to behold.
Those with sweet water oft her handmaid fills,
Which, as she went, would chirrup through the bills.
Some say for her the fairest Cupid pined
And looking in her face was strooken blind.
But this is true: so like was one the other,
As he imagined Hero was his mother.
And oftentimes into her bosom flew,
About her naked neck his bare arms threw,
And laid his childish head upon her breast,
And, with still panting rocked, there took his rest.
So lovely fair was Hero, Venus' nun,
As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,
Because she took more from her than she left,
And of such wondrous beauty her bereft.
Therefore, in sign her treasure suffered wrack,
Since Hero's time hath half the world been black.
Amorous Leander, beautiful and young,
(whose tragedy divine Musaeus sung,)
Dwelt at Abydos; since him dwelt there none
For whom succeeding times make greater moan.
His dangling tresses, that were never shorn,
Had they been cut, and unto Colchos borne,
Would have allured the vent'rous youth of Greece
To hazard more than for the golden fleece.
Fair Cynthia wished his arms might be her sphere;
Grief makes her pale, because she moves not there.
His body was as straight as Circe's wand;
Jove might have sipped out nectar from his hand.
Even as delicious meat is to the taste,
So was his neck in touching, and surpassed
The white of Pelop's shoulder. I could tell ye
How smooth his breast was and how white his belly;
And whose immortal fingers did imprint
That heavenly path with many a curious dint
That runs along his back, but my rude pen
Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men,
Much less of powerful gods. Let it suffice
That my slack Muse sings of Leander's eyes,
Those orient cheeks and lips, exceeding his
That leaped into the water for a kiss
Of his own shadow and, despising many,
Died ere he could enjoy the love of any.
Had wild Hippolytus Leander seen
Enamoured of his beauty had he been.
His presence made the rudest peasant melt
That in the vast uplandish country dwelt.
The barbarous Thracian soldier, moved with nought,
Was moved with him and for his favour sought.
Some swore he was a maid in man's attire,
For in his looks were all that men desire,
A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye,
A brow for love to banquet royally;
And such as knew he was a man, would say,
'Leander, thou art made for amorous play.
Why art thou not in love, and loved of all?
Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall.'
The men of wealthy Sestos every year,
(For his sake whom their goddess held so dear,
Rose-cheeked Adonis) kept a solemn feast.
Thither resorted many a wandering guest
To meet their loves.
Such as had none at all,
Came lovers home from this great festival.
For every street like to a firmament
Glistered with breathing stars who, where they went,
Frighted the melancholy earth which deemed
Eternal heaven to burn, for so it seemed,
As if another Phaeton had got
The guidance of the sun's rich chariot.
But far above the loveliest Hero shined
And stole away th' enchanted gazer's mind,
For like sea nymphs' enveigling Harmony,
So was her beauty to the standers by.
Nor that night-wandering, pale, and wat'ry star
(When yawning dragons draw her thirling car
From Latmus' mount up to the gloomy sky
Where, crowned with blazing light and majesty,
She proudly sits) more overrules the flood
Than she the hearts of those that near her stood.
Even as, when gaudy nymphs pursue the chase,
Wretched Ixion's shaggy footed race,
Incensed with savage heat, gallop amain
From steep pine-bearing mountains to the plain.
So ran the people forth to gaze upon her,
And all that viewed her were enamoured on her.
And as in fury of a dreadful fight,
Their fellows being slain or put to flight,
Poor soldiers stand with fear of death dead strooken,
So at her presence all surprised and tooken,
Await the sentence of her scornful eyes.
He whom she favours lives, the other dies.
There might you see one sigh, another rage;
And some, (their violent passions to assuage)
Compile sharp satires, but alas too late,
For faithful love will never turn to hate.
And many seeing great princes were denied
Pin'd as they went, and thinking on her died.
On this feast day, O cursed day and hour,
Went Hero thorough Sestos from her tower
To Venus' temple, where unhappily
As after chanced, they did each other spy.
So fair a church as this had Venus none.
The walls were of discoloured jasper stone
Wherein was Proteus carved, and o'erhead
A lively vine of green sea agate spread,
Where by one hand lightheaded Bacchus hung,
And, with the other, wine from grapes out wrung.
Of crystal shining fair the pavement was.
The town of Sestos called it Venus' glass.
There might you see the gods in sundry shapes
Committing heady riots, incest, rapes.
For know, that underneath this radiant floor
Was Danae's statue in a brazen tower,
Jove slyly stealing from his sister's bed,
To dally with Idalian Ganymede,
And for his love Europa bellowing loud,
And tumbling with the Rainbow in a cloud;
Blood quaffing Mars heaving the iron net
Which limping Vulcan and his Cyclops set;
Love kindling fire to burn such towns as Troy;
Sylvanus weeping for the lovely boy
That now is turned into a cypress tree,
Under whose shade the wood gods love to be.
And in the midst a silver altar stood.
There Hero, sacrificing turtle's blood,
Vailed to the ground, vailing her eyelids close,
And modestly they opened as she rose.
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head,
And thus Leander was enamoured.
Stone still he stood, and evermore he gazed
Till with the fire that from his countenance blazed
Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook.
Such force and virtue hath an amorous look.
It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin
We wish that one should lose, the other win.
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots like in each respect.
The reason no man knows; let it suffice
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
He kneeled, but unto her devoutly prayed.
Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said,
'Were I the saint he worships, I would hear him; '
And, as she spake those words, came somewhat near him.
He started up, she blushed as one ashamed,
Wherewith Leander much more was inflamed.
He touched her hand; in touching it she trembled.
Love deeply grounded, hardly is dissembled.
These lovers parleyed by the touch of hands;
True love is mute, and oft amazed stands.
Thus while dumb signs their yielding hearts entangled,
The air with sparks of living fire was spangled,
And night, deep drenched in misty Acheron,
Heaved up her head, and half the world upon
Breathed darkness forth (dark night is Cupid's day) .
And now begins Leander to display
Love's holy fire, with words, with sighs, and tears,
Which like sweet music entered Hero's ears,
And yet at every word she turned aside,
And always cut him off as he replied.
At last, like to a bold sharp sophister,
With cheerful hope thus he accosted her.
'Fair creature, let me speak without offence.
I would my rude words had the influence
To lead thy thoughts as thy fair looks do mine,
Then shouldst thou be his prisoner, who is thine.
Be not unkind and fair; misshapen stuff
Are of behaviour boisterous and rough.
O shun me not, but hear me ere you go.
God knows I cannot force love as you do.
My words shall be as spotless as my youth,
Full of simplicity and naked truth.
This sacrifice, (whose sweet perfume descending
From Venus' altar, to your footsteps bending)
Doth testify that you exceed her far,
To whom you offer, and whose nun you are.
Why should you worship her? Her you surpass
As much as sparkling diamonds flaring glass.
A diamond set in lead his worth retains;
A heavenly nymph, beloved of human swains,
Receives no blemish, but ofttimes more grace;
Which makes me hope, although I am but base:
Base in respect of thee, divine and pure,
Dutiful service may thy love procure.
And I in duty will excel all other,
As thou in beauty dost exceed Love's mother.
Nor heaven, nor thou, were made to gaze upon,
As heaven preserves all things, so save thou one.
A stately builded ship, well rigged and tall,
The ocean maketh more majestical.
Why vowest thou then to live in Sestos here
Who on Love's seas more glorious wouldst appear?
Like untuned golden strings all women are,
Which long time lie untouched, will harshly jar.
Vessels of brass, oft handled, brightly shine.
What difference betwixt the richest mine
And basest mould, but use? For both, not used,
Are of like worth. Then treasure is abused
When misers keep it; being put to loan,
In time it will return us two for one.
Rich robes themselves and others do adorn;
Neither themselves nor others, if not worn.
Who builds a palace and rams up the gate
Shall see it ruinous and desolate.
Ah, simple Hero, learn thyself to cherish.
Lone women like to empty houses perish.
Less sins the poor rich man that starves himself
In heaping up a mass of drossy pelf,
Than such as you. His golden earth remains
Which, after his decease, some other gains.
But this fair gem, sweet in the loss alone,
When you fleet hence, can be bequeathed to none.
Or, if it could, down from th'enameled sky
All heaven would come to claim this legacy,
And with intestine broils the world destroy,
And quite confound nature's sweet harmony.
Well therefore by the gods decreed it is
We human creatures should enjoy that bliss.
One is no number; maids are nothing then
Without the sweet society of men.
Wilt thou live single still? One shalt thou be,
Though never singling Hymen couple thee.
Wild savages, that drink of running springs,
Think water far excels all earthly things,
But they that daily taste neat wine despise it.
Virginity, albeit some highly prize it,
Compared with marriage, had you tried them both,
Differs as much as wine and water doth.
Base bullion for the stamp's sake we allow;
Even so for men's impression do we you,
By which alone, our reverend fathers say,
Women receive perfection every way.
This idol which you term virginity
Is neither essence subject to the eye
No, nor to any one exterior sense,
Nor hath it any place of residence,
Nor is't of earth or mould celestial,
Or capable of any form at all.
Of that which hath no being do not boast;
Things that are not at all are never lost.
Men foolishly do call it virtuous;
What virtue is it that is born with us?
Much less can honour be ascribed thereto;
Honour is purchased by the deeds we do.
Believe me, Hero, honour is not won
Until some honourable deed be done.
Seek you for chastity, immortal fame,
And know that some have wronged Diana's name?
Whose name is it, if she be false or not
So she be fair, but some vile tongues will blot?
But you are fair, (ay me) so wondrous fair,
So young, so gentle, and so debonair,
As Greece will think if thus you live alone
Some one or other keeps you as his own.
Then, Hero, hate me not nor from me fly
To follow swiftly blasting infamy.
Perhaps thy sacred priesthood makes thee loath.
Tell me, to whom mad'st thou that heedless oath? '
'To Venus,' answered she and, as she spake,
Forth from those two tralucent cisterns brake
A stream of liquid pearl, which down her face
Made milk-white paths, whereon the gods might trace
To Jove's high court.
He thus replied: 'The rites
In which love's beauteous empress most delights
Are banquets, Doric music, midnight revel,
Plays, masks, and all that stern age counteth evil.
Thee as a holy idiot doth she scorn
For thou in vowing chastity hast sworn
To rob her name and honour, and thereby
Committ'st a sin far worse than perjury,
Even sacrilege against her deity,
Through regular and formal purity.
To expiate which sin, kiss and shake hands.
Such sacrifice as this Venus demands.'
Thereat she smiled and did deny him so,
As put thereby, yet might he hope for moe.
Which makes him quickly re-enforce his speech,
And her in humble manner thus beseech.
'Though neither gods nor men may thee deserve,
Yet for her sake, whom you have vowed to serve,
Abandon fruitless cold virginity,
The gentle queen of love's sole enemy.
Then shall you most resemble Venus' nun,
When Venus' sweet rites are performed and done.
Flint-breasted Pallas joys in single life,
But Pallas and your mistress are at strife.
Love, Hero, then, and be not tyrannous,
But heal the heart that thou hast wounded thus,
Nor stain thy youthful years with avarice.
Fair fools delight to be accounted nice.
The richest corn dies, if it be not reaped;
Beauty alone is lost, too warily kept.'
These arguments he used, and many more,
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded but her words made war.
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus, having swallowed Cupid's golden hook,
The more she strived, the deeper was she strook.
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paused a while at last she said,
'Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid?
Ay me, such words as these should I abhor
And yet I like them for the orator.'
With that Leander stooped to have embraced her
But from his spreading arms away she cast her,
And thus bespake him: 'Gentle youth, forbear
To touch the sacred garments which I wear.
Upon a rock and underneath a hill
Far from the town (where all is whist and still,
Save that the sea, playing on yellow sand,
Sends forth a rattling murmur to the land,
Whose sound allures the golden Morpheus
In silence of the night to visit us)
My turret stands and there, God knows, I play.
With Venus' swans and sparrows all the day.
A dwarfish beldam bears me company,
That hops about the chamber where I lie,
And spends the night (that might be better spent)
In vain discourse and apish merriment.
Come thither.' As she spake this, her tongue tripped,
For unawares 'come thither' from her slipped.
And suddenly her former colour changed,
And here and there her eyes through anger ranged.
And like a planet, moving several ways,
At one self instant she, poor soul, assays,
Loving, not to love at all, and every part
Strove to resist the motions of her heart.
And hands so pure, so innocent, nay, such
As might have made heaven stoop to have a touch,
Did she uphold to Venus, and again
Vowed spotless chastity, but all in vain.
Cupid beats down her prayers with his wings,
Her vows above the empty air he flings,
All deep enraged, his sinewy bow he bent,
And shot a shaft that burning from him went,
Wherewith she strooken, looked so dolefully,
As made love sigh to see his tyranny.
And as she wept her tears to pearl he turned,
And wound them on his arm and for her mourned.
Then towards the palace of the destinies
Laden with languishment and grief he flies,
And to those stern nymphs humbly made request
Both might enjoy each other, and be blest.
But with a ghastly dreadful countenance,
Threatening a thousand deaths at every glance,
They answered Love, nor would vouchsafe so much
As one poor word, their hate to him was such.
Hearken a while and I will tell you why.
Heaven's winged herald, Jove-borne Mercury,
The selfsame day that he asleep had laid
Enchanted Argus, spied a country maid
Whose careless hair instead of pearl t'adorn it
Glistered with dew, as one that seemed to scorn it;
Her breath as fragrant as the morning rose,
Her mind pure, and her tongue untaught to gloze.
Yet proud she was (for lofty pride that dwells
In towered courts is oft in shepherds' cells.)
And too too well the fair vermilion knew,
And silver tincture of her cheeks, that drew
The love of every swain. On her this god
Enamoured was, and with his snaky rod
Did charm her nimble feet, and made her stay,
The while upon a hillock down he lay
And sweetly on his pipe began to play,
And with smooth speech her fancy to assay,
Till in his twining arms he locked her fast
And then he wooed with kisses; and at last,
As shepherds do, her on the ground he laid
And, tumbling in the grass, he often strayed
Beyond the bounds of shame, in being bold
To eye those parts which no eye should behold.
And, like an insolent commanding lover
Boasting his parentage, would needs discover
The way to new Elysium, but she,
Whose only dower was her chastity,
Having striv'n in vain was now about to cry
And crave the help of shepherds that were nigh.
Herewith he stayed his fury, and began
To give her leave to rise. Away she ran;
After went Mercury who used such cunning
As she, to hear his tale, left off her running.
Maids are not won by brutish force and might,
But speeches full of pleasure, and delight.
And, knowing Hermes courted her, was glad
That she such loveliness and beauty had
As could provoke his liking, yet was mute
And neither would deny nor grant his suit.
Still vowed he love. She, wanting no excuse
To feed him with delays, as women use,
Or thirsting after immortality, -
All women are ambitious naturally -
Imposed upon her lover such a task
As he ought not perform nor yet she ask.
A draught of flowing nectar she requested,
Wherewith the king of gods and men is feasted.
He, ready to accomplish what she willed,
Stole some from Hebe (Hebe Jove's cup filled)
And gave it to his simple rustic love.
Which being known (as what is hid from Jove?)
He inly stormed and waxed more furious
Than for the fire filched by Prometheus,
And thrusts him down from heaven. He, wandering here,
In mournful terms, with sad and heavy cheer,
Complained to Cupid. Cupid for his sake,
To be revenged on Jove did undertake.
And those on whom heaven, earth, and hell relies,
I mean the adamantine Destinies,
He wounds with love, and forced them equally
To dote upon deceitful Mercury.
They offered him the deadly fatal knife
That shears the slender threads of human life.
At his fair feathered feet the engines laid
Which th' earth from ugly Chaos' den upweighed.
These he regarded not but did entreat
That Jove, usurper of his father's seat,
Might presently be banished into hell,
And aged Saturn in Olympus dwell.
They granted what he craved, and once again
Saturn and Ops began their golden reign.
Murder, rape, war, lust, and treachery,
Were with Jove closed in Stygian empery.
But long this blessed time continued not.
As soon as he his wished purpose got
He reckless of his promise did despise
The love of th' everlasting Destinies.
They seeing it both love and him abhorred
And Jupiter unto his place restored.
And but that Learning in despite of Fate
Will mount aloft and enter heaven gate
And to the seat of Jove itself advance,
Hermes had slept in hell with Ignorance.
Yet as a punishment they added this,
That he and Poverty should always kiss.
And to this day is every scholar poor;
Gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor.
Likewise the angry Sisters thus deluded,
To venge themselves on Hermes, have concluded
That Midas' brood shall sit in honour's chair,
To which the Muses' sons are only heir;
And fruitful wits, that in aspiring are,
Shall discontent run into regions far;
And few great lords in virtuous deeds shall joy
But be surprised with every garish toy,
And still enrich the lofty servile clown,
Who with encroaching guile keeps learning down.
Then Muse not Cupid's suit no better sped,
Seeing in their loves the Fates were injured.
Na Tian Piet's Sha'er Of The Late Sultan Abu Bakar Of Johor
In the name of God, let his word begin:
Praise be to God, let praises clear ring;
May our Lord, Jesus Christ's blessings
Guide my pen through these poetizings!
This sha'er is an entirely new composition
Composed by myself, no fear of imitation.
It's Allah's name, I will keep calling out
While creating this poem to avoid confusion.
This story I'm relating at the present moment
I copy not, nor is it by other hands wrought;
Nothing whatsoever is here laid out
That hereunder is not clearly put forth.
Not that I am able to create with much ease,
To all that's to come I'm yet not accustomed;
Why, this sha'er at this time is being composed
Only to console my heart which is heavily laden.
I'm a peranakan, of Chinese origin,
Hardly perfect in character and mind;
I find much that I can not comprehend,
I'm not a man given to much wisdom.
Na Tian Piet is what I go by name
I have in the past composed stories and poems;
Even when explained to - most stupid I remain
The more I keep talking the less I understand.
I was born in times gone by
In the country known as Bencoolen;
Indeed, I am more than stupid:
Ashamed am I composing this lay.
Twenty-four years have gone by
Since I moved to the island of Singapore;
My wife and children accompanied me
To Singapore, a most lovely country.
I stayed in Riau for some time
Together with my wife and children;
Two full years in Riau territory,
Back to Singapore my legs carried me.
At the time when Acheh was waging war
I went there with goods to trade,
I managed to sell them at exhorbitant prices:
Great indeed were the profits I made.
Stricken sick in Acheh were a great many
And those who succumbed were far from few;
As for me I was taken with an infection
In that jungle country hills indeed were legion.
Back to Singapore I retraced my steps
On account of my being felled by illness;
How I was ill! there was no way of telling!
Great was my expenditure! Great my torture!
Once cured, for Acheh again I set sail:
No way for profits, loss was all I got.
Throngs of merchants converged there;
What the Lord wished: bad luck my lot.
Then to the island of Deli set I sail,
There did I abide for a lengthy while;
There too I got to know His Majesty:
Blue-blooded Sultan, the Ruler of Deli!
At that time the ruling Sultan on the throne
Was His Highness Mamun Alrasyid Perkasa;
Within his kingdom by far the most mighty:
Of truely gentle and well-mannered integrity.
I also got to know another ruler well,
The ruling Sultan who reigns in Serdang;
His Royal Highness was extremely young:
Of gentle character, of joyous disposition.
The reigning Sultan at that time there
Was His Highness Saleiman Sariful,
Within Serdang's kingdom, the most mighty:
In feelings considerate, in thoughts bright.
Both Their Highnesses I got to know well,
Wining and dining we rubbed shoulders;
I owe much to their generous natures,
As long as I live I shan't forget them.
While I was still a resident at Deli,
His Highness threw a gala feast;
Inviting friends he carefully picked,
All of whom he knew best already.
For the marriage of his royal sister
To the Sultan of the kingdom of Serdang,
His Royal Highness summoned me
To present myself at the ceremony.
I addressed my congratulations at the feast:
Indeed most able was I in the use of speech;
Mightily pleased was His Highness himself,
While cheers showered on me from all the guests.
With pleasure His Majesty deigned to tell me
That my wishes were most gratifying,
That only in schools could I have gained
The knowledge to express myself in such a way.
His Highness' joy knew no bounds
He thanked me over and over again;
The rejoicing went on in full throttle,
Only after dusk homeward were we bound.
Both their majesties I came to know well,
Endowed were they of the finest manners:
Courteous of word, gentle in speech,
As long as I live, never will I forget them.
To Allah in high heaven I raised my voice:
Preserve Thee, O Lord, their highnesses' health,
Bestow on them the grace of long life
And protect them from all danger.
During these three years gone by
I have lived in the kingdom of Deli;
Then to Singapore I made tracks:
Oh! what a most lovely country!
Now I'm well grounded in Singapore,
Land of the English Company
Where burgeons bustling activity;
Where every thing may be bought cheap.
Here thrive I in my own flowering cloister
In peace and restful leisure all to myself;
I have sprung deep roots in this island
And at writing day by day I try my hand.
Right at this moment I'm composing a sha'er,
Wherever errors occur I crave your indulgence;
If you find my language rightly wanting,
Know that I'm yet to acquire the necessary flair.
My poem's by a man who needs assistance,
Those adept at poetizing are certainly rare;
I'll own up to my faults wherever they appear:
I do sincerely hope a curse hangs not over me!
I can't make much of the art of poetizing;
One's a great deal more free in one's heart;
When on the day I shall be pronounced dead,
This sha'er will have replaced me in good stead.
This sha'er I'm composing at my own leisure
For I haven't acquired the necessary skill;
If I'm caught making unforgiveable mistakes,
I hope I'll not be made the object of ridicule.
My poem in the hands of the mean
Would suffer the fate of uninformed critics:
In character and intelligence far from perfect,
People who are lacking in wisdom.
What I'm creating is a narrative poem,
Most dull it would be once the plot's obvious;
If my diction leaves much to be desired,
I hope I shan't become the target of abuse!
Composing a sha'er is not an easy task,
For the right idea, one must look high and low;
The tension mounts in one's own chest
Just looking for the word that's best.
With God as a cause, I compose this poem,
This is not an intention which invites mistakes;
If in the making of this poem faults abound,
Forgive me! Dear Reader! I'll recite them all.
Creating this poem relieves my anxiety,
A poem that I fashion, friendless, all alone;
If defects arise, let God acknowledge them,
Forgive me! Oh Lord! Noble art Thou!
I compose this lay at the present moment,
I suffer not that it be other than just right;
I do not commit errors to earn others' scorn:
Whatever I compose, from a clear vision's born.
I sit composing my poem day after day,
With diligence I look for words that are right;
Let me assure you, it's me alone who writes,
There's no one else who speaks in my stead.
In daylight I compose day by day,
Looking for ideas all within myself,
To all I'm open, no deaf ear I turn,
In order to obtain whatever I seek.
I'm labouring at this poem at this moment,
Thanks be to God Almighty's assistance:
Might my task be light and without hindrance
In looking for words in the Malay parlance!
Hardworking am I in my literary endeavour
As always from the beginning to the present;
If ever it appears there looms excess or less,
To my less than clear thoughts blame the mess.
Composing a sha'er is no easy undertaking:
Thoughts get entangled like loose thread;
Always look for ideas while remaining calm
In order that you may find them for easy recall.
The art of writing upon me came,
Its four reaches appear the same;
Do not just put anything down on paper gratis,
Keep looking you must however long it takes.
Most difficult it is to take pen to paper.
Would that it were easy to think clearly!
You may not consign just anything in mind,
For if you miss the mark, blame is your fate.
In writing there develops an art
In order to make reading pleasant,
Searching its poesy till it's found
In order to praise it in our name.
Don't be like a person struck with latah
Unable to understand a word or utterance;
Our name being reduced to utter shambles
In the eyes of all those readers yet to come.
Writing this poem like one in full faith,
Wise, intelligent and sensible as well,
Thoughts so resigned as to right the senses,
So that one may be hailed to the end of time.
Oh God! Lend a ear to my story:
I got to know this King of old lineage
As a result of composing this poem:
Through a newspaper I got to know him.
Herebelow I shall make clear
In order that people may read,
Important to say right from the start,
His Majesty already knew about me.
In this sha'er woven with panegyric
See how the plot of the story unravels:
Of how to the King I came to be known,
Sultan Abubakar was his regal name.
Enthroned was he in the state of Johor:
Wise, intelligent and learned a Sultan,
Most difficult would it be to find a peer,
Great indeed was the fame of his name.
I give praise to his Highness in my poem:
His palace in Singapore, verily a gem,
Chock-full of possessions of all sorts;
I know 'cause I've seen it all myself.
Tijersall was the name of his palace
Where everything was in perfect shape,
Things from Europe, Japan and China,
Of all sorts and of varied colours.
The Tijersall Palace to be found in Singapore
Its beauteous appearance was beyond measure,
Nothing of its kind was anywhere to be seen,
Its internal furnishings were far from cheap.
Compared to other palaces in Johor
Its appearance remains indescribable;
Difficult it would be to find one similar,
So deftly conceived, this Sultan's castle.
My writings began to appear in newspapers;
I reported on everything, on every topic:
My pseudonym: Pen of the Sky in great fame,
My articles displaying much discipline and patience.
In the paper called Betawi Pembrita
Appeared indeed my writings;
Most long in news and reports,
That was why the King rejoiced.
I praised His Majesty at great length,
In, not base, but highly refined terms
Like gold being subject to the precious test:
The name of His Highness was held aloft.
The praises I offered were most fetching
And all of them were heard by the King;
All his vizirs too, as many as there were,
Old and young took most kindly to them.
There was also a Minister to the King,
Mohamad Saleh was his singular name:
A man of great sensibility and wisdom,
Received the honour of Datu' Bintara Luar.
It was this chieftain who read the report
And my eulogy of the monarch revealed
To His Majesty and his Vizir at once;
Having heard it, both of them felt great joy.
Great thanks His Highness addressed me:
Through this chieftain the king got to know me:
Sweet of character, with a joyous disposition,
As long as I live, never will I forget him.
Hope I, the Almighty his life prolong,
His wife and children's together too
So that he may rise ever higher in rank
And live in comfort in a life made long.
This the most true-hearted chieftain
Many the writings he has made clear
From China, Japan and the Whites,
Most good is he in nature and disposition.
Dare you to find one equally clever,
Difficult indeed even in a thousand;
Malays in the land of the Indies:
There are the rich and the poor.
All is most true that I praise in him
Like gold being put to the test;
Most loyal is he when he gives his word,
Gentle of utterance, shorn of all evil.
Most loved is he by the Chinese race,
A minister of much sense and wisdom,
In intelligence and character most perfect,
His fame has spread far and wide.
How the King first got to know me
Was through seeing my writing in ink.
How the Monarch liked what he read
And upon me his liking entrusted.
In the newspapers I explained
If ever any one went in search
Of my person and of my self,
To my children his questions address.
The result: my name in that paper
Appears in there as Celestial Plume;
It is because of this fact I say so,
So that people will rightly know.
You can enquire after me from my son,
Na Kim Liong is the name he goes by,
Ditoko Robinson & Co employs him,
Becoming in the process their clerk.
In the year 1894, on the 23rd of May,
Received a letter from the hand of a minister;
An epistle from Datu' Bintang Luar himself:
A royal behest to appear before him.
In the letter it was thus laid down:
To Johore the King requested I go,
The Princess' nuptial ceremony to attend;
To entertain the guests a sumptuous dinner.
Most anxious was I in within myself
That in the letter it was thus laid out;
Never have been invited by the King,
Not until this day such an invitation.
Oh to Allah up high I gave my thanks
For His Majesty's desire to befriend me,
While at the same time I set about
Preparing a complete set of fineries.
When the hour for setting forth arrived,
I undid my slippers and put on my shoes:
I felt all heated up at that very moment,
And then through the door I strode out.
It was by carriage I set out on my journey,
Past through level jungle and plain;
My pleasure then knew no bounds:
The King choosing to show me favour.
Throughout the drive I kept reflecting
On how I should address my greetings,
All those listening must of needs like them:
Praiseworthy they must be, this was clear.
At the time of my arrival in Johor territory,
It was a country of widespread renown;
I arrived in the place on the dot at noon:
The harbour though was not quite deep.
The King's five steamships rode at anchor,
A great many flags flapped from their masts;
One thing was true, I had arrived in Johor:
I saw a great many horses-and-carriages.
Flags by thousands fluttered all the way,
In colours: black, white, yellow and red;
Throngs of people, countless to the eye,
Lived within the borders of this state.
There were four Chinese theatre-houses,
And two Malay wayang halls as well,
Several female ronggeng and joget joints,
Melodious voices streamed far out from there.
The Chinese were gambling much away,
A great many of them milling in the fortress;
Most brave were they, throwing away things,
Hardly showing the slightest remorse.
In Johore State, there were many Chinese,
Tens of thousands inhabited the country,
By far the men outnumbered the women:
Once having come, they sprung roots there.
As soon as the day turned into night,
Most clear, as by fire, one could see:
Thousands of Japanese lamps turned on
Plunged the palace surroundings in daylight!
Not only the immediate palace grounds,
All along the thoroughfares everywhere,
The fire of Japanese lamps brightened
And exposed the flags in varied colours.
Chock-full of people before the wayang stages
Watched under lights that were most clear:
Surely no less than ten thousand spectators
Came and gathered in front of the wayang stages.
All the sounds of rejoicing were most acute:
The Chinese theatre was located apart
From those of the Malay wayang and joget;
Great the rejoicings, nothing like it I've seen.
Great too the rejoicings of the gamblers there,
Numerous the gambling dens, here and there;
Of those gambling, many were Chinese,
Hailing from areas spread far and wide.
Great indeed the food, of all sorts of colours
That were being sold, right where they gambled;
A good part of the food that the Chinese cooked
Were taken and hawked from place to place.
Such then were the Princess' wedding celebrations
Given in marriage to the King's own royal nephew;
Splendorous the rejoicings, verily indescribable:
Lasting full fifteen days and full fifteen nights.
Her Highness the Princess, daughter of the King
Was about to be married to the princely son
Of His Highness Abdul Rahman, the deceased:
The name of the bridegroom was Prince Ahmad.
Drawn into the audience hall for the dinner,
Exactly at seven o'clock in the evening
Were two hundred and forty of the invitees:
Some were peranakan, most local Chinese.
There were thirty tables for the Chinese,
At each table were seated eight invitees;
Chinese themselves prepared their food
And all those present sat themselves down.
Only I still remained all alone standing.
His Royal Highness bade me approach him:
Me, the towkay, to the King was drawn.
Why was I standing all alone by myself?
So I replied with as pleasant a face:
Might Your Highness lay wrath aside,
Your Humble Servant doesn't like Chinese fare,
Your Humble Servant stands satiated right now.
His Royal Highness smiled and said:
I am helping myself to Malay cuisine.
If Your Highness wishes to bid me eat,
Humble Servant most delightfully will.
All the Chinese guests had finished eating,
Only I among the Chinese was still waiting;
All those who had dined most surely departed,
All of them making their way out in turns.
They went to watch the Chinese wayang.
Some indeed took to gambling right there;
Yes, all those who had dined turned up there
To watch the men and women in the wayang.
I was the only Chinese left all to myself,
Close to the presence of His Highness;
And all of a sudden the King espied me,
As being one of his guests at the palace.
Present too the Sultan of Pahang with his heirs,
Even as His Royal Highness the Sultan of Riau;
Many indeed were the princes and princesses
From Riau, Pahang, Trengganu and Kedah.
There at the very same moment of time
Were three Englishmen and three Arabs as well;
Of the Chinese, there was no one but me left,
Amidst thirty Malays, right at that moment.
There too could be seen the orang besar,
From their breasts dangled starry medals;
Their attire was of exceptional elegance.
All the viziers and ministers were present too.
Almost similar to costumes worn in Turkey
Were those worn by viziers and ministers,
The highborn Sultan's accoutred clothes
Shone resplendent like a polished diamond.
Even when everyone had wined and dined,
There was no-one to offer a vote of thanks;
At the moment when the clock chimed ten,
All the invited guests held their breath.
Just then the Raja entered his private apartments
To demand of his royal daughter the use of henna;
Everybody sought the Princess' fingernails to see:
His Highness' daughter, the bride and bridegroom.
According to the Malay Raja's custom
Sixteen gun salute was duely rendered;
As a sign of respect he wore henna
While music sounded in accompaniment.
Great the animation in the private apartments:
Among the wives of the viziers and ministers,
And among the wives of the orang besar
When the prince was being adorned with henna.
In the private quarters there was much activity,
People were drinking, eating and moving about;
The bridal couple were inured to the use of henna:
The hustle and bustle was beyond description.
The palace apartments shone wholly bright,
People just turned on hundreds of lights:
More or less there were fifty lamps,
The four-branched kroon lamps.
The carpet on the floor twinkled like stars,
So numerous, impossible to say how many;
So lovely, so beautiful were they to watch,
The bride and bridegroom together on the dais.
It was beyond description, such the hectic rejoicing:
A good many wayang and joget to dance at;
By the thousands people stood tirelessly watching,
Verily chock-full wherever you cared to look.
The time it took, it was fifteen full days:
Lighted torches by the hundreds of thousands,
Wayang and joget were compelled to perform,
And all who watched felt happily at ease.
The masts of ships were festooned with lights,
The edge of the ocean seemed just at the side,
The Japanese lamps lay hung up like hats,
All along the pathways nothing looked deserted.
Moreover from the houses of the common folk
Lights went up on account of the festivities,
Hundreds of boxes of candles were used in that night
Together with hundreds of petrol lamps to be right!
Again from one good deed it's amply clear
How ten thousand Japanese lamps, no less
Shone out brilliantly from three palaces:
Thousands of lamps were lit by their inmates.
What's more even at home people enjoyed wayang,
Great was the rejoicing during the day and the night,
All had become infused with hightening spirits,
And many indeed even forgot the hour of prayer.
Most elated was everybody, both old and young,
All kinds of fare, all of it was there to be found:
Different sorts of cakes together with sweetmeats,
All indeed most delicious to the touch of the tongue.
 sha'er: also written thus: syair or sha'ir. This poetic form is the equivalent of the ballad in English. Essentially, it narrates an event(s) or, as in this case, undertakes the biography of an individual. As a narrative poem in Malay, it may even assume the proportions of an epic poem, such as, Sha'ir Ken Tambuhan. The structure of the sha'er is quite formal and inflexible: the narration is undertaken in quatrains whose end rhymes are identical: AAAA, or its variant, and as such may prove to be monotonous and even, quite often, forced and jarring to the ear. The line of verse may habitually contain - as with the pantun - anything from eight to twelve syllables or slightly more, each line being thus - given the frequence of bi-syllabic words in Malay - limited to a minimum of four words (nouns/pronouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) . Often the lines of the quatrain are linked by internal rhyme: both assonance and consonance. Each line is normally self-contained syntactically and/or semantically, though now and then enjambement may occur: the latter are however limited to a couplet.
 Sultan Abu Bakar: b.1831 in Singapore, d.4 June 1895 in London. Sultan of Johore State. When the Malacca sultanate disintegrated under the assault of European colonialism, its legitimate heirs fanned out to Singapore/Johore, Perak and Pahang principally, founding as it were other lineages which are still the 'ruling houses' in these states. Abu Bakar was the son of the bendahara (princely court official ranking immediately after the heir apparent or crown prince in Malay royal succession) who acceded to the Johor throne after the death of the sultan who ceded Singapore to Sir Stamford Raffles.
 Syair is the alternative modern spelling of sha'er and Johor likewise of the old spelling Johore.
 Na Tian Piet: b.1836, a Chinese peranakan [cf.note 5] in Bencoolen, Sumatra. The date of his demise in Singapore is yet to be determined, though, according to Claudine Salmon, it is certain that he died before Song Ong Siang began the writing of his book: One Hundred Years' History of the Chinese in Singapore in 1923. Biographical details of the author may be gleaned from the poem itself. He was a peripatetic trader in his youth, voyaging between Singapore and Sumatra (as far as Enggano island in the Indian Ocean) in order to trade in spices and small goods before contributing to ephemeral journals and newspapers in Singapore, where he settled in later life after having sojourned for periods of years at a time in Riau and Deli. It is evident that he was a respected member of his community in Singapore. He had a son and daughter who settled in Singapore themselves. Before Claudine Salmon undertook research for her article on him [cf. the Introduction], he was practically unknown to contemporary researchers in the field.
 Quoted by P.Parameswaran in Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies, XII,2, (Chennai) , March 1995, p.50.
 J.C.Catford, A Linguistic Theory of Translation (An Essay in Applied Linguistics) , London-New York-Toronto: Oxford University Press (Language and Language Learning Series) ,1974, pp.20 & 22ff.
 A.K.Ramanujan, The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology, London: Peter Owen (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) ,1970,125p.
 Although Na evokes Allah frequently in his text, this is one rare occasion when Jesus Christ replaces the former. Na was both a Protestant Christian and a lay-preacher.
 peranakan: offspring of non-Malay and Malay unions. In Na's case, his father was Chinese.
 Na Tian Piet: the first name: 'Tian Piet' means Heavenly Plume.
 Bencoolen: Bengkulu, town on the southwest coast of Sumatra. (3.48S-102.16E)
 Riau: group of islands to the south of Singapore. (1.00N-102.00E)
 Aceh: on the northeast coast of Sumatra. (4.00N-97.00E)
 Deli: island south of the south-western coast of Java. (7.00S-105.32E)
 Mamun Alrasjid Perkasa Alamsjah: Maakmun Alrasyid Perkasa Alamsyah, Sultan of Deli (1857-1924) , reigned from 1875.
 Saleimun Sariful Alamsjah: Sultan Sulaiman Syariful Alamsyah (1862-1946) , reigned in Serdang from 1881 onwards.
 English Company: East India Company which bought the island of Tumasik (former name of Singapore) from the Sultan of Johor for a stipend of five thousand dollars, payable annually.
 Malay: the Malay used by Na, especially in his prose, appears to have been the spoken form of many in Singapore and the west-coast Malayan towns, right up to the postwar period.
 latah: kind of hysteria, according to dictionaries, but Frank A.Swettenham in his Malay Sketches (1896) has this to say on the subject: (cf.p.72)
'The lâtah man or woman usually met with, if suddenly startled, by a touch, a noise, or the sight of something unexpected, will not only show all the signs of a very nervous person but almost invariably will fire off a volley of expressions more or less obscene, having no reference at all to the circumstance which has suddenly aroused attention. As a rule it is necessary to startle these people before they will say or do anything to show that they are differently constituted to their neighbours, and when they have betrayed themselves either by word or deed their instinct is to get away as quickly as possible.'
 the Malay word for theatrical shows in general, but also serves as an adjective, as for example: wayang gambar means cinema, or wayang kulit means shadow play.
 A traditional popular Malay dance, performed in public at amusement parks where taxi-girls dance for a fee with (mostly) men without effecting any form of bodily contact; the participants sway back and forth to the accompaniment of the rebab (a violin with three chords) and the gendang (a two-faced drum) . The participants also indulge in casual conversation or in a bout of repeating or composing pantun (the traditional Malay form of poetry known to be perfected in the Malay world only) .
 A dancing-girl for hire or the dance-hall where such taxi-girls dance the ronggeng (cf. note xvii) or other modern dances like the rumba or samba with their paying partners.
 Corrupted spelling of a word of Chinese origin and referring generally to a Chinese businessman or man of wealth in Malaysia or Singapore.
 Malay composite word for the aristocracy; orang means human being, man or woman, and besar literally big, large or great while together they mean big man or aristocrat.
 A red dye obtained from the inai shrub in Malaysia and used for colouring the finger and toe nails; according to Malay custom, the bride has to ceremoniously colour her finger and toe nails on the eve of her wedding ceremony and known as malam berinai.
(Copyright ©: T. Wignesan, Paris,1994: [Published in The Gombak Review, Vol.4, n° 1 (International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur) ,1999, pp.101-121 and in T. Wignesan. Sporadic Striving amid Echoed Voices, Mirrored Images and Stereotypic Posturing in Malaysian-Singaporean Literatures. Allahabad: Cyberwit.net,2008.)
Translated by T. Wignesan. (c) T. Wignesan,1994, Paris, France.
Book IV - Part 03 - The Senses And Mental Pictures
Bodies that strike the eyes, awaking sight.
From certain things flow odours evermore,
As cold from rivers, heat from sun, and spray
From waves of ocean, eater-out of walls
Around the coasts. Nor ever cease to flit
The varied voices, sounds athrough the air.
Then too there comes into the mouth at times
The wet of a salt taste, when by the sea
We roam about; and so, whene'er we watch
The wormword being mixed, its bitter stings.
To such degree from all things is each thing
Borne streamingly along, and sent about
To every region round; and Nature grants
Nor rest nor respite of the onward flow,
Since 'tis incessantly we feeling have,
And all the time are suffered to descry
And smell all things at hand, and hear them sound.
Besides, since shape examined by our hands
Within the dark is known to be the same
As that by eyes perceived within the light
And lustrous day, both touch and sight must be
By one like cause aroused. So, if we test
A square and get its stimulus on us
Within the dark, within the light what square
Can fall upon our sight, except a square
That images the things? Wherefore it seems
The source of seeing is in images,
Nor without these can anything be viewed.
Now these same films I name are borne about
And tossed and scattered into regions all.
But since we do perceive alone through eyes,
It follows hence that whitherso we turn
Our sight, all things do strike against it there
With form and hue. And just how far from us
Each thing may be away, the image yields
To us the power to see and chance to tell:
For when 'tis sent, at once it shoves ahead
And drives along the air that's in the space
Betwixt it and our eyes. And thus this air
All glides athrough our eyeballs, and, as 'twere,
Brushes athrough our pupils and thuswise
Passes across. Therefore it comes we see
How far from us each thing may be away,
And the more air there be that's driven before,
And too the longer be the brushing breeze
Against our eyes, the farther off removed
Each thing is seen to be: forsooth, this work
With mightily swift order all goes on,
So that upon one instant we may see
What kind the object and how far away.
Nor over-marvellous must this be deemed
In these affairs that, though the films which strike
Upon the eyes cannot be singly seen,
The things themselves may be perceived. For thus
When the wind beats upon us stroke by stroke
And when the sharp cold streams, 'tis not our wont
To feel each private particle of wind
Or of that cold, but rather all at once;
And so we see how blows affect our body,
As if one thing were beating on the same
And giving us the feel of its own body
Outside of us. Again, whene'er we thump
With finger-tip upon a stone, we touch
But the rock's surface and the outer hue,
Nor feel that hue by contact- rather feel
The very hardness deep within the rock.
Now come, and why beyond a looking-glass
An image may be seen, perceive. For seen
It soothly is, removed far within.
'Tis the same sort as objects peered upon
Outside in their true shape, whene'er a door
Yields through itself an open peering-place,
And lets us see so many things outside
Beyond the house. Also that sight is made
By a twofold twin air: for first is seen
The air inside the door-posts; next the doors,
The twain to left and right; and afterwards
A light beyond comes brushing through our eyes,
Then other air, then objects peered upon
Outside in their true shape. And thus, when first
The image of the glass projects itself,
As to our gaze it comes, it shoves ahead
And drives along the air that's in the space
Betwixt it and our eyes, and brings to pass
That we perceive the air ere yet the glass.
But when we've also seen the glass itself,
Forthwith that image which from us is borne
Reaches the glass, and there thrown back again
Comes back unto our eyes, and driving rolls
Ahead of itself another air, that then
'Tis this we see before itself, and thus
It looks so far removed behind the glass.
Wherefore again, again, there's naught for wonder
In those which render from the mirror's plane
A vision back, since each thing comes to pass
By means of the two airs. Now, in the glass
The right part of our members is observed
Upon the left, because, when comes the image
Hitting against the level of the glass,
'Tis not returned unshifted; but forced off
Backwards in line direct and not oblique,-
Exactly as whoso his plaster-mask
Should dash, before 'twere dry, on post or beam,
And it should straightway keep, at clinging there,
Its shape, reversed, facing him who threw,
And so remould the features it gives back:
It comes that now the right eye is the left,
The left the right. An image too may be
From mirror into mirror handed on,
Until of idol-films even five or six
Have thus been gendered. For whatever things
Shall hide back yonder in the house, the same,
However far removed in twisting ways,
May still be all brought forth through bending paths
And by these several mirrors seen to be
Within the house, since Nature so compels
All things to be borne backward and spring off
At equal angles from all other things.
To such degree the image gleams across
From mirror unto mirror; where 'twas left
It comes to be the right, and then again
Returns and changes round unto the left.
Again, those little sides of mirrors curved
Proportionate to the bulge of our own flank
Send back to us their idols with the right
Upon the right; and this is so because
Either the image is passed on along
From mirror unto mirror, and thereafter,
When twice dashed off, flies back unto ourselves;
Or else the image wheels itself around,
When once unto the mirror it has come,
Since the curved surface teaches it to turn
To usward. Further, thou might'st well believe
That these film-idols step along with us
And set their feet in unison with ours
And imitate our carriage, since from that
Part of a mirror whence thou hast withdrawn
Straightway no images can be returned.
Further, our eye-balls tend to flee the bright
And shun to gaze thereon; the sun even blinds,
If thou goest on to strain them unto him,
Because his strength is mighty, and the films
Heavily downward from on high are borne
Through the pure ether and the viewless winds,
And strike the eyes, disordering their joints.
So piecing lustre often burns the eyes,
Because it holdeth many seeds of fire
Which, working into eyes, engender pain.
Again, whatever jaundiced people view
Becomes wan-yellow, since from out their bodies
Flow many seeds wan-yellow forth to meet
The films of things, and many too are mixed
Within their eye, which by contagion paint
All things with sallowness. Again, we view
From dark recesses things that stand in light,
Because, when first has entered and possessed
The open eyes this nearer darkling air,
Swiftly the shining air and luminous
Followeth in, which purges then the eyes
And scatters asunder of that other air
The sable shadows, for in large degrees
This air is nimbler, nicer, and more strong.
And soon as ever 'thas filled and oped with light
The pathways of the eyeballs, which before
Black air had blocked, there follow straightaway
Those films of things out-standing in the light,
Provoking vision- what we cannot do
From out the light with objects in the dark,
Because that denser darkling air behind
Followeth in, and fills each aperture
And thus blockades the pathways of the eyes
That there no images of any things
Can be thrown in and agitate the eyes.
And when from far away we do behold
The squared towers of a city, oft
Rounded they seem,- on this account because
Each distant angle is perceived obtuse,
Or rather it is not perceived at all;
And perishes its blow nor to our gaze
Arrives its stroke, since through such length of air
Are borne along the idols that the air
Makes blunt the idol of the angle's point
By numerous collidings. When thuswise
The angles of the tower each and all
Have quite escaped the sense, the stones appear
As rubbed and rounded on a turner's wheel-
Yet not like objects near and truly round,
But with a semblance to them, shadowily.
Likewise, our shadow in the sun appears
To move along and follow our own steps
And imitate our carriage- if thou thinkest
Air that is thus bereft of light can walk,
Following the gait and motion of mankind.
For what we use to name a shadow, sure
Is naught but air deprived of light. No marvel:
Because the earth from spot to spot is reft
Progressively of light of sun, whenever
In moving round we get within its way,
While any spot of earth by us abandoned
Is filled with light again, on this account
It comes to pass that what was body's shadow
Seems still the same to follow after us
In one straight course. Since, evermore pour in
New lights of rays, and perish then the old,
Just like the wool that's drawn into the flame.
Therefore the earth is easily spoiled of light
And easily refilled and from herself
Washeth the black shadows quite away.
And yet in this we don't at all concede
That eyes be cheated. For their task it is
To note in whatsoever place be light,
In what be shadow: whether or no the gleams
Be still the same, and whether the shadow which
Just now was here is that one passing thither,
Or whether the facts be what we said above,
'Tis after all the reasoning of mind
That must decide; nor can our eyeballs know
The nature of reality. And so
Attach thou not this fault of mind to eyes,
Nor lightly think our senses everywhere
Are tottering. The ship in which we sail
Is borne along, although it seems to stand;
The ship that bides in roadstead is supposed
There to be passing by. And hills and fields
Seem fleeing fast astern, past which we urge
The ship and fly under the bellying sails.
The stars, each one, do seem to pause, affixed
To the ethereal caverns, though they all
Forever are in motion, rising out
And thence revisiting their far descents
When they have measured with their bodies bright
The span of heaven. And likewise sun and moon
Seem biding in a roadstead,- objects which,
As plain fact proves, are really borne along.
Between two mountains far away aloft
From midst the whirl of waters open lies
A gaping exit for the fleet, and yet
They seem conjoined in a single isle.
When boys themselves have stopped their spinning round,
The halls still seem to whirl and posts to reel,
Until they now must almost think the roofs
Threaten to ruin down upon their heads.
And now, when Nature begins to lift on high
The sun's red splendour and the tremulous fires,
And raise him o'er the mountain-tops, those mountains-
O'er which he seemeth then to thee to be,
His glowing self hard by atingeing them
With his own fire- are yet away from us
Scarcely two thousand arrow-shots, indeed
Oft scarce five hundred courses of a dart;
Although between those mountains and the sun
Lie the huge plains of ocean spread beneath
The vasty shores of ether, and intervene
A thousand lands, possessed by many a folk
And generations of wild beasts. Again,
A pool of water of but a finger's depth,
Which lies between the stones along the pave,
Offers a vision downward into earth
As far, as from the earth o'erspread on high
The gulfs of heaven; that thus thou seemest to view
Clouds down below and heavenly bodies plunged
Wondrously in heaven under earth.
Then too, when in the middle of the stream
Sticks fast our dashing horse, and down we gaze
Into the river's rapid waves, some force
Seems then to bear the body of the horse,
Though standing still, reversely from his course,
And swiftly push up-stream. And wheresoe'er
We cast our eyes across, all objects seem
Thus to be onward borne and flow along
In the same way as we. A portico,
Albeit it stands well propped from end to end
On equal columns, parallel and big,
Contracts by stages in a narrow cone,
When from one end the long, long whole is seen,-
Until, conjoining ceiling with the floor,
And the whole right side with the left, it draws
Together to a cone's nigh-viewless point.
To sailors on the main the sun he seems
From out the waves to rise, and in the waves
To set and bury his light- because indeed
They gaze on naught but water and the sky.
Again, to gazers ignorant of the sea,
Vessels in port seem, as with broken poops,
To lean upon the water, quite agog;
For any portion of the oars that's raised
Above the briny spray is straight, and straight
The rudders from above. But other parts,
Those sunk, immersed below the water-line,
Seem broken all and bended and inclined
Sloping to upwards, and turned back to float
Almost atop the water. And when the winds
Carry the scattered drifts along the sky
In the night-time, then seem to glide along
The radiant constellations 'gainst the clouds
And there on high to take far other course
From that whereon in truth they're borne. And then,
If haply our hand be set beneath one eye
And press below thereon, then to our gaze
Each object which we gaze on seems to be,
By some sensation twain- then twain the lights
Of lampions burgeoning in flowers of flame,
And twain the furniture in all the house,
Two-fold the visages of fellow-men,
And twain their bodies. And again, when sleep
Has bound our members down in slumber soft
And all the body lies in deep repose,
Yet then we seem to self to be awake
And move our members; and in night's blind gloom
We think to mark the daylight and the sun;
And, shut within a room, yet still we seem
To change our skies, our oceans, rivers, hills,
To cross the plains afoot, and hear new sounds,
Though still the austere silence of the night
Abides around us, and to speak replies,
Though voiceless. Other cases of the sort
Wondrously many do we see, which all
Seek, so to say, to injure faith in sense-
In vain, because the largest part of these
Deceives through mere opinions of the mind,
Which we do add ourselves, feigning to see
What by the senses are not seen at all.
For naught is harder than to separate
Plain facts from dubious, which the mind forthwith
Adds by itself.
Again, if one suppose
That naught is known, he knows not whether this
Itself is able to be known, since he
Confesses naught to know. Therefore with him
I waive discussion- who has set his head
Even where his feet should be. But let me grant
That this he knows,- I question: whence he knows
What 'tis to know and not-to-know in turn,
And what created concept of the truth,
And what device has proved the dubious
To differ from the certain?- since in things
He's heretofore seen naught of true. Thou'lt find
That from the senses first hath been create
Concept of truth, nor can the senses be
Rebutted. For criterion must be found
Worthy of greater trust, which shall defeat
Through own authority the false by true;
What, then, than these our senses must there be
Worthy a greater trust? Shall reason, sprung
From some false sense, prevail to contradict
Those senses, sprung as reason wholly is
From out of the senses?- For lest these be true,
All reason also then is falsified.
Or shall the ears have power to blame the eyes,
Or yet the touch the ears? Again, shall taste
Accuse this touch or shall the nose confute
Or eyes defeat it? Methinks not so it is:
For unto each has been divided of
Its function quite apart, its power to each;
And thus we're still constrained to perceive
The soft, the cold, the hot apart, apart
All divers hues and whatso things there be
Conjoined with hues. Likewise the tasting tongue
Has its own power apart, and smells apart
And sounds apart are known. And thus it is
That no one sense can e'er convict another.
Nor shall one sense have power to blame itself,
Because it always must be deemed the same,
Worthy of equal trust. And therefore what
At any time unto these senses showed,
The same is true. And if the reason be
Unable to unravel us the cause
Why objects, which at hand were square, afar
Seemed rounded, yet it more availeth us,
Lacking the reason, to pretend a cause
For each configuration, than to let
From out our hands escape the obvious things
And injure primal faith in sense, and wreck
All those foundations upon which do rest
Our life and safety. For not only reason
Would topple down; but even our very life
Would straightaway collapse, unless we dared
To trust our senses and to keep away
From headlong heights and places to be shunned
Of a like peril, and to seek with speed
Their opposites! Again, as in a building,
If the first plumb-line be askew, and if
The square deceiving swerve from lines exact,
And if the level waver but the least
In any part, the whole construction then
Must turn out faulty- shelving and askew,
Leaning to back and front, incongruous,
That now some portions seem about to fall,
And falls the whole ere long- betrayed indeed
By first deceiving estimates: so too
Thy calculations in affairs of life
Must be askew and false, if sprung for thee
From senses false. So all that troop of words
Marshalled against the senses is quite vain.
And now remains to demonstrate with ease
How other senses each their things perceive.
Firstly, a sound and every voice is heard,
When, getting into ears, they strike the sense
With their own body. For confess we must
Even voice and sound to be corporeal,
Because they're able on the sense to strike.
Besides voice often scrapes against the throat,
And screams in going out do make more rough
The wind-pipe- naturally enough, methinks,
When, through the narrow exit rising up
In larger throng, these primal germs of voice
Have thus begun to issue forth. In sooth,
Also the door of the mouth is scraped against
By air blown outward from distended cheeks.
And thus no doubt there is, that voice and words
Consist of elements corporeal,
With power to pain. Nor art thou unaware
Likewise how much of body's ta'en away,
How much from very thews and powers of men
May be withdrawn by steady talk, prolonged
Even from the rising splendour of the morn
To shadows of black evening,- above all
If 't be outpoured with most exceeding shouts.
Therefore the voice must be corporeal,
Since the long talker loses from his frame
Moreover, roughness in the sound
Comes from the roughness in the primal germs,
As a smooth sound from smooth ones is create;
Nor have these elements a form the same
When the trump rumbles with a hollow roar,
As when barbaric Berecynthian pipe
Buzzes with raucous boomings, or when swans
By night from icy shores of Helicon
With wailing voices raise their liquid dirge.
Thus, when from deep within our frame we force
These voices, and at mouth expel them forth,
The mobile tongue, artificer of words,
Makes them articulate, and too the lips
By their formations share in shaping them.
Hence when the space is short from starting-point
To where that voice arrives, the very words
Must too be plainly heard, distinctly marked.
For then the voice conserves its own formation,
Conserves its shape. But if the space between
Be longer than is fit, the words must be
Through the much air confounded, and the voice
Disordered in its flight across the winds-
And so it haps, that thou canst sound perceive,
Yet not determine what the words may mean;
To such degree confounded and encumbered
The voice approaches us. Again, one word,
Sent from the crier's mouth, may rouse all ears
Among the populace. And thus one voice
Scatters asunder into many voices,
Since it divides itself for separate ears,
Imprinting form of word and a clear tone.
But whatso part of voices fails to hit
The ears themselves perishes, borne beyond,
Idly diffused among the winds. A part,
Beating on solid porticoes, tossed back
Returns a sound; and sometimes mocks the ear
With a mere phantom of a word. When this
Thou well hast noted, thou canst render count
Unto thyself and others why it is
Along the lonely places that the rocks
Give back like shapes of words in order like,
When search we after comrades wandering
Among the shady mountains, and aloud
Call unto them, the scattered. I have seen
Spots that gave back even voices six or seven
For one thrown forth- for so the very hills,
Dashing them back against the hills, kept on
With their reverberations. And these spots
The neighbouring country-side doth feign to be
Haunts of the goat-foot satyrs and the nymphs;
And tells ye there be fauns, by whose night noise
And antic revels yonder they declare
The voiceless silences are broken oft,
And tones of strings are made and wailings sweet
Which the pipe, beat by players' finger-tips,
Pours out; and far and wide the farmer-race
Begins to hear, when, shaking the garmentings
Of pine upon his half-beast head, god-Pan
With puckered lip oft runneth o'er and o'er
The open reeds,- lest flute should cease to pour
The woodland music! Other prodigies
And wonders of this ilk they love to tell,
Lest they be thought to dwell in lonely spots
And even by gods deserted. This is why
They boast of marvels in their story-tellings;
Or by some other reason are led on-
Greedy, as all mankind hath ever been,
To prattle fables into ears.
One need not wonder how it comes about
That through those places (through which eyes cannot
View objects manifest) sounds yet may pass
And assail the ears. For often we observe
People conversing, though the doors be closed;
No marvel either, since all voice unharmed
Can wind through bended apertures of things,
While idol-films decline to- for they're rent,
Unless along straight apertures they swim,
Like those in glass, through which all images
Do fly across. And yet this voice itself,
In passing through shut chambers of a house,
Is dulled, and in a jumble enters ears,
And sound we seem to hear far more than words.
Moreover, a voice is into all directions
Divided up, since off from one another
New voices are engendered, when one voice
Hath once leapt forth, outstarting into many-
As oft a spark of fire is wont to sprinkle
Itself into its several fires. And so,
Voices do fill those places hid behind,
Which all are in a hubbub round about,
Astir with sound. But idol-films do tend,
As once set forth, in straight directions all;
Wherefore one can inside a wall see naught,
Yet catch the voices from beyond the same.
Nor tongue and palate, whereby we flavour feel,
Present more problems for more work of thought.
Firstly, we feel a flavour in the mouth,
When forth we squeeze it, in chewing up our food,-
As any one perchance begins to squeeze
With hand and dry a sponge with water soaked.
Next, all which forth we squeeze is spread about
Along the pores and intertwined paths
Of the loose-textured tongue. And so, when smooth
The bodies of the oozy flavour, then
Delightfully they touch, delightfully
They treat all spots, around the wet and trickling
Enclosures of the tongue. And contrariwise,
They sting and pain the sense with their assault,
According as with roughness they're supplied.
Next, only up to palate is the pleasure
Coming from flavour; for in truth when down
'Thas plunged along the throat, no pleasure is,
Whilst into all the frame it spreads around;
Nor aught it matters with what food is fed
The body, if only what thou take thou canst
Distribute well digested to the frame
And keep the stomach in a moist career.
Now, how it is we see some food for some,
Others for others....
I will unfold, or wherefore what to some
Is foul and bitter, yet the same to others
Can seem delectable to eat,- why here
So great the distance and the difference is
That what is food to one to some becomes
Fierce poison, as a certain snake there is
Which, touched by spittle of a man, will waste
And end itself by gnawing up its coil.
Again, fierce poison is the hellebore
To us, but puts the fat on goats and quails.
That thou mayst know by what devices this
Is brought about, in chief thou must recall
What we have said before, that seeds are kept
Commixed in things in divers modes. Again,
As all the breathing creatures which take food
Are outwardly unlike, and outer cut
And contour of their members bounds them round,
Each differing kind by kind, they thus consist
Of seeds of varying shape. And furthermore,
Since seeds do differ, divers too must be
The interstices and paths (which we do call
The apertures) in all the members, even
In mouth and palate too. Thus some must be
More small or yet more large, three-cornered some
And others squared, and many others round,
And certain of them many-angled too
In many modes. For, as the combination
And motion of their divers shapes demand,
The shapes of apertures must be diverse
And paths must vary according to their walls
That bound them. Hence when what is sweet to some,
Becomes to others bitter, for him to whom
'Tis sweet, the smoothest particles must needs
Have entered caressingly the palate's pores.
And, contrariwise, with those to whom that sweet
Is sour within the mouth, beyond a doubt
The rough and barbed particles have got
Into the narrows of the apertures.
Now easy it is from these affairs to know
Indeed, where one from o'er-abundant bile
Is stricken with fever, or in other wise
Feels the roused violence of some malady,
There the whole frame is now upset, and there
All the positions of the seeds are changed,-
So that the bodies which before were fit
To cause the savour, now are fit no more,
And now more apt are others which be able
To get within the pores and gender sour.
Both sorts, in sooth, are intermixed in honey-
What oft we've proved above to thee before.
Now come, and I will indicate what wise
Impact of odour on the nostrils touches.
And first, 'tis needful there be many things
From whence the streaming flow of varied odours
May roll along, and we're constrained to think
They stream and dart and sprinkle themselves about
Impartially. But for some breathing creatures
One odour is more apt, to others another-
Because of differing forms of seeds and pores.
Thus on and on along the zephyrs bees
Are led by odour of honey, vultures too
By carcasses. Again, the forward power
Of scent in dogs doth lead the hunter on
Whithersoever the splay-foot of wild beast
Hath hastened its career; and the white goose,
The saviour of the Roman citadel,
Forescents afar the odour of mankind.
Thus, diversely to divers ones is given
Peculiar smell that leadeth each along
To his own food or makes him start aback
From loathsome poison, and in this wise are
The generations of the wild preserved.
Yet is this pungence not alone in odours
Or in the class of flavours; but, likewise,
The look of things and hues agree not all
So well with senses unto all, but that
Some unto some will be, to gaze upon,
More keen and painful. Lo, the raving lions,
They dare not face and gaze upon the cock
Who's wont with wings to flap away the night
From off the stage, and call the beaming morn
With clarion voice- and lions straightway thus
Bethink themselves of flight, because, ye see,
Within the body of the cocks there be
Some certain seeds, which, into lions' eyes
Injected, bore into the pupils deep
And yield such piercing pain they can't hold out
Against the cocks, however fierce they be-
Whilst yet these seeds can't hurt our gaze the least,
Either because they do not penetrate,
Or since they have free exit from the eyes
As soon as penetrating, so that thus
They cannot hurt our eyes in any part
By there remaining.
To speak once more of odour;
Whatever assail the nostrils, some can travel
A longer way than others. None of them,
However, 's borne so far as sound or voice-
While I omit all mention of such things
As hit the eyesight and assail the vision.
For slowly on a wandering course it comes
And perishes sooner, by degrees absorbed
Easily into all the winds of air;
And first, because from deep inside the thing
It is discharged with labour (for the fact
That every object, when 'tis shivered, ground,
Or crumbled by the fire, will smell the stronger
Is sign that odours flow and part away
From inner regions of the things). And next,
Thou mayest see that odour is create
Of larger primal germs than voice, because
It enters not through stony walls, wherethrough
Unfailingly the voice and sound are borne;
Wherefore, besides, thou wilt observe 'tis not
So easy to trace out in whatso place
The smelling object is. For, dallying on
Along the winds, the particles cool off,
And then the scurrying messengers of things
Arrive our senses, when no longer hot.
So dogs oft wander astray, and hunt the scent.
Now mark, and hear what objects move the mind,
And learn, in few, whence unto intellect
Do come what come. And first I tell thee this:
That many images of objects rove
In many modes to every region round-
So thin that easily the one with other,
When once they meet, uniteth in mid-air,
Like gossamer or gold-leaf. For, indeed,
Far thinner are they in their fabric than
Those images which take a hold on eyes
And smite the vision, since through body's pores
They penetrate, and inwardly stir up
The subtle nature of mind and smite the sense.
Thus, Centaurs and the limbs of Scyllas, thus
The Cerberus-visages of dogs we see,
And images of people gone before-
Dead men whose bones earth bosomed long ago;
Because the images of every kind
Are everywhere about us borne- in part
Those which are gendered in the very air
Of own accord, in part those others which
From divers things do part away, and those
Which are compounded, made from out their shapes.
For soothly from no living Centaur is
That phantom gendered, since no breed of beast
Like him was ever; but, when images
Of horse and man by chance have come together,
They easily cohere, as aforesaid,
At once, through subtle nature and fabric thin.
In the same fashion others of this ilk
Created are. And when they're quickly borne
In their exceeding lightness, easily
(As earlier I showed) one subtle image,
Compounded, moves by its one blow the mind,
Itself so subtle and so strangely quick.
That these things come to pass as I record,
From this thou easily canst understand:
So far as one is unto other like,
Seeing with mind as well as with the eyes
Must come to pass in fashion not unlike.
Well, now, since I have shown that I perceive
Haply a lion through those idol-films
Such as assail my eyes, 'tis thine to know
Also the mind is in like manner moved,
And sees, nor more nor less than eyes do see
(Except that it perceives more subtle films)
The lion and aught else through idol-films.
And when the sleep has overset our frame,
The mind's intelligence is now awake,
Still for no other reason, save that these-
The self-same films as when we are awake-
Assail our minds, to such degree indeed
That we do seem to see for sure the man
Whom, void of life, now death and earth have gained
Dominion over. And Nature forces this
To come to pass because the body's senses
Are resting, thwarted through the members all,
Unable now to conquer false with true;
And memory lies prone and languishes
In slumber, nor protests that he, the man
Whom the mind feigns to see alive, long since
Hath been the gain of death and dissolution.
And further, 'tis no marvel idols move
And toss their arms and other members round
In rhythmic time- and often in men's sleeps
It haps an image this is seen to do;
In sooth, when perishes the former image,
And other is gendered of another pose,
That former seemeth to have changed its gestures.
Of course the change must be conceived as speedy;
So great the swiftness and so great the store
Of idol-things, and (in an instant brief
As mind can mark) so great, again, the store
Of separate idol-parts to bring supplies.
It happens also that there is supplied
Sometimes an image not of kind the same;
But what before was woman, now at hand
Is seen to stand there, altered into male;
Or other visage, other age succeeds;
But slumber and oblivion take care
That we shall feel no wonder at the thing.
And much in these affairs demands inquiry,
And much, illumination- if we crave
With plainness to exhibit facts. And first,
Why doth the mind of one to whom the whim
To think has come behold forthwith that thing?
Or do the idols watch upon our will,
And doth an image unto us occur,
Directly we desire- if heart prefer
The sea, the land, or after all the sky?
Assemblies of the citizens, parades,
Banquets, and battles, these and all doth she,
Nature, create and furnish at our word?
Maugre the fact that in same place and spot
Another's mind is meditating things
All far unlike. And what, again, of this:
When we in sleep behold the idols step,
In measure, forward, moving supple limbs,
Whilst forth they put each supple arm in turn
With speedy motion, and with eyeing heads
Repeat the movement, as the foot keeps time?
Forsooth, the idols they are steeped in art,
And wander to and fro well taught indeed,-
Thus to be able in the time of night
To make such games! Or will the truth be this:
Because in one least moment that we mark-
That is, the uttering of a single sound-
There lurk yet many moments, which the reason
Discovers to exist, therefore it comes
That, in a moment how so brief ye will,
The divers idols are hard by, and ready
Each in its place diverse? So great the swiftness,
So great, again, the store of idol-things,
And so, when perishes the former image,
And other is gendered of another pose,
The former seemeth to have changed its gestures.
And since they be so tenuous, mind can mark
Sharply alone the ones it strains to see;
And thus the rest do perish one and all,
Save those for which the mind prepares itself.
Further, it doth prepare itself indeed,
And hopes to see what follows after each-
Hence this result. For hast thou not observed
How eyes, essaying to perceive the fine,
Will strain in preparation, otherwise
Unable sharply to perceive at all?
Yet know thou canst that, even in objects plain,
If thou attendest not, 'tis just the same
As if 'twere all the time removed and far.
What marvel, then, that mind doth lose the rest,
Save those to which 'thas given up itself?
So 'tis that we conjecture from small signs
Things wide and weighty, and involve ourselves
In snarls of self-deceit.
XII. The Book and the Ring
Here were the end, had anything an end:
Thus, lit and launched, up and up roared and soared
A rocket, till the key o' the vault was reached,
And wide heaven held, a breathless minute-space,
In brilliant usurpature: thus caught spark,
Rushed to the height, and hung at full of fame
Over men's upturned faces, ghastly thence,
Our glaring Guido: now decline must be.
In its explosion, you have seen his act,
By my power—may-be, judged it by your own,—
Or composite as good orbs prove, or crammed
With worse ingredients than the Wormwood Star.
The act, over and ended, falls and fades:
What was once seen, grows what is now described,
Then talked of, told about, a tinge the less
In every fresh transmission; till it melts,
Trickles in silent orange or wan grey
Across our memory, dies and leaves all dark,
And presently we find the stars again.
Follow the main streaks, meditate the mode
Of brightness, how it hastes to blend with black!
After that February Twenty-Two,
Since our salvation, Sixteen-Ninety-Eight,
Of all reports that were, or may have been,
Concerning those the day killed or let live,
Four I count only. Take the first that comes.
A letter from a stranger, man of rank,
Venetian visitor at Rome,—who knows,
On what pretence of busy idleness?
Thus he begins on evening of that day.
"Here are we at our end of Carnival;
"Prodigious gaiety and monstrous mirth,
"And constant shift of entertaining show:
"With influx, from each quarter of the globe,
"Of strangers nowise wishful to be last
"I' the struggle for a good place presently
"When that befalls fate cannot long defer.
"The old Pope totters on the verge o' the grave:
"You see, Malpichi understood far more
"Than Tozzi how to treat the ailments: age,
"No question, renders these inveterate.
"Cardinal Spada, actual Minister,
"Is possible Pope; I wager on his head,
"Since those four entertainments of his niece
"Which set all Rome a-stare: Pope probably—
"Though Colloredo has his backers too,
"And San Cesario makes one doubt at times:
"Altieri will be Chamberlain at most.
"A week ago the sun was warm like May,
"And the old man took daily exercise
"Along the river-side; he loves to see
"That Custom-house he built upon the bank,
"For, Naples born, his tastes are maritime:
"But yesterday he had to keep in-doors
"Because of the outrageous rain that fell.
"On such days the good soul has fainting-fits,
"Or lies in stupor, scarcely makes believe
"Of minding business, fumbles at his beads.
"They say, the trust that keeps his heart alive
"Is that, by lasting till December next,
"He may hold Jubilee a second time,
"And, twice in one reign, ope the Holy Doors.
"By the way, somebody responsible
"Assures me that the King of France has writ
"Fresh orders: Fénelon will be condemned:
"The Cardinal makes a wry face enough,
"Having a love for the delinquent: still,
"He's the ambassador, must press the point.
"Have you a wager too, dependent here?
"Now, from such matters to divert awhile,
"Hear of to-day's event which crowns the week,
"Casts all the other wagers into shade.
"Tell Dandolo I owe him fifty drops
"Of heart's blood in the shape of gold zecchines!
"The Pope has done his worst: I have to pay
"For the execution of the Count, by Jove!
"Two days since, I reported him as safe,
"Re-echoing the conviction of all Rome:
"Who could suspect its one deaf ear—the Pope's?
"But prejudices grow insuperable,
"And that old enmity to Austria, that
"Passion for France and France's pageant-king
"(Of which, why pause to multiply the proofs
"Now scandalously rife in Europe's mouth?)
"These fairly got the better in our man
"Of justice, prudence, and esprit de corps,
"And he persisted in the butchery.
"Also, 't is said that in his latest walk
"To that Dogana-by-the-Bank he built,
"The crowd,—he suffers question, unrebuked,—
"Asked, 'Whether murder was a privilege
"'Only reserved for nobles like the Count?'
"And he was ever mindful of the mob.
"Martinez, the Cæsarian Minister,
"—Who used his best endeavours to spare blood,
"And strongly pleaded for the life 'of one,'
"Urged he, 'I may have dined at table with!'—
"He will not soon forget the Pope's rebuff,
"—Feels the slight sensibly, I promise you!
"And but for the dissuasion of two eyes
"That make with him foul weather or fine day,
"He had abstained, nor graced the spectacle:
"As it was, barely would he condescend
"Look forth from the palchetto where he sat
"Under the Pincian: we shall hear of this.
"The substituting, too, the People's Square
"For the out-o'-the-way old quarter by the Bridge,
"Was meant as a conciliatory sop
"To the mob; it gave one holiday the more.
"But the French Embassy might unfurl flag,—
"Still the good luck of France to fling a foe!
"Cardinal Bouillon triumphs properly.
"Palchetti were erected in the Place,
"And houses, at the edge of the Three Streets,
"Let their front windows at six dollars each:
"Anguisciola, that patron of the arts,
"Hired one; our Envoy Contarini too.
"Now for the thing; no sooner the decree
"Gone forth,—'t is four-and-twenty hours ago,—
"Than Acciaiuoli and Panciatichi,
"Old friends, indeed compatriots of the man,
"Being pitched on as the couple properest
"To intimate the sentence yesternight,
"Were closeted ere cock-crow with the Count.
"They both report their efforts to dispose
"The unhappy nobleman for ending well,
"Despite the natural sense of injury,
"Were crowned at last with a complete success.
"And when the Company of Death arrived
"At twenty-hours,—the way they reckon here,—
"We say, at sunset, after dinner-time,—
"The Count was led down, hoisted up on car,
"Last of the five, as heinousest, you know:
"Yet they allowed one whole car to each man.
"His intrepidity, nay, nonchalance,
"As up he stood and down he sat himself,
"Struck admiration into those who saw.
"Then the procession started, took the way
"From the New Prisons by the Pilgrim's Street,
"The street of the Governo, Pasquin's Street,
"(Where was stuck up, mid other epigrams,
"A quatrain … but of all that, presently!)
"The Place Navona, the Pantheon's Place,
"Place of the Column, last the Corso's length,
"And so debouched thence at Mannaia's foot
"I' the Place o' the People. As is evident,
"(Despite the malice,—plainly meant, I fear,
"By this abrupt change of locality,—
"The Square's no such bad place to head and hang)
"We had the titillation as we sat
"Assembled, (quality in conclave, ha?)
"Of, minute after minute, some report
"How the slow show was winding on its way
"Now did a car run over, kill a man,
"Just opposite a pork-shop numbered Twelve:
"And bitter were the outcries of the mob
"Against the Pope: for, but that he forbids
"The Lottery, why, Twelve were Tern Quatern!
"Now did a beggar by Saint Agnes, lame
"From his youth up, recover use of leg,
"Through prayer of Guido as he glanced that way:
"So that the crowd near crammed his hat with coin.
"Thus was kept up excitement to the last,
"—Not an abrupt out-bolting, as of yore,
"From Castle, over Bridge and on to block,
"And so all ended ere you well could wink!
"To mount the scaffold-steps, Guido was last
"Here also, as atrociousest in crime.
"We hardly noticed how the peasants died,
"They dangled somehow soon to right and left,
"And we remained all ears and eyes, could give
"Ourselves to Guido undividedly,
"As he harangued the multitude beneath.
"He begged forgiveness on the part of God,
"And fair construction of his act from men,
"Whose suffrage he entreated for his soul,
"Suggesting that we should forthwith repeat
"A Pater and an Ave, with the hymn
"Salve Regina Coeli, for his sake.
"Which said, he turned to the confessor, crossed
"And reconciled himself, with decency,
"Oft glancing at Saint Mary's opposite,
"Where they possess, and showed in shrine to-day,
"The blessed Umbilicus of our Lord,
"(A relic 't is believed no other church
"In Rome can boast of)—then rose up, as brisk
"Knelt down again, bent head, adapted neck,
"And, with the name of Jesus on his lips,
"Received the fatal blow.
"The headsman showed
"The head to the populace. Must I avouch
"We strangers own to disappointment here?
"Report pronounced him fully six feet high,
"Youngish, considering his fifty years,
"And, if not handsome, dignified at least.
"Indeed, it was no face to please a wife!
"His friends say, this was caused by the costume:
"He wore the dress he did the murder in,
"That is, a just-a-corps of russet serge,
"Black camisole, coarse cloak of baracan
"(So they style here the garb of goat's-hair cloth)
"White hat and cotton cap beneath, poor Count
"Preservative against the evening dews
"During the journey from Arezzo. Well,
"So died the man, and so his end was peace;
"Whence many a moral were to meditate.
"Spada,—you may bet Dandolo,—is Pope!
"Now for the quatrain!"
No, friend, this will do!
You've sputtered into sparks. What streak comes next?
A letter: Don Giacinto Arcangeli,
Doctor and Proctor, him I made you mark
Buckle to business in his study late,
The virtuous sire, the valiant for the truth,
Acquaints his correspondent,—Florentine,
By name Cencini, advocate as well,
Socius and brother-in-the-devil to match,—
A friend of Franceschini, anyhow,
And knit up with the bowels of the case,—
Acquaints him, (in this paper that I touch)
How their joint effort to obtain reprieve
For Guido had so nearly nicked the nine
And ninety and one over,—folk would say
At Tarocs,—or succeeded,—in our phrase.
To this Cencini's care I owe the Book,
The yellow thing I take and toss once more,—
How will it be, my four-years'-intimate,
When thou and I part company anon?—
'T was he, the "whole position of the case,"
Pleading and summary, were put before;
Discreetly in my Book he bound them all,
Adding some three epistles to the point.
Here is the first of these, part fresh as penned,
The sand, that dried the ink, not rubbed away,
Though penned the day whereof it tells the deed:
Part—extant just as plainly, you know where,
Whence came the other stuff, went, you know how,
To make the Ring that's all but round and done.
"Late they arrived, too late, egregious Sir,
"Those same justificative points you urge
"Might benefit His Blessed Memory
"Count Guido Franceschini now with God:
"Since the Court,—to state things succinctly,—styled
"The Congregation of the Governor,
"Having resolved on Tuesday last our cause
"I' the guilty sense, with death for punishment,
"Spite of all pleas by me deducible
"In favour of said Blessed Memory,—
"I, with expenditure of pains enough,
"Obtained a respite, leave to claim and prove
"Exemption from the law's award,—alleged
"The power and privilege o' the Clericate:
"To which effect a courier was despatched.
"But ere an answer from Arezzo came,
"The Holiness of our Lord the Pope (prepare!)
"Judging it inexpedient to postpone
"The execution of such sentence passed,
"Saw fit, by his particular cheirograph,
"To derogate, dispense with privilege,
"And wink at any hurt accruing thence
"To Mother Church through damage of her son:
"Also, to overpass and set aside
"That other plea on score of tender age,
"Put forth by me to do Pasquini good,
"One of the four in trouble with our friend.
"So that all five, to-day, have suffered death
"With no distinction save in dying,—he,
"Decollate by mere due of privilege,
"The rest hanged decently and in order. Thus
"Came the Count to his end of gallant man,
"Defunct in faith and exemplarity:
"Nor shall the shield of his great House lose shine
"Thereby, nor its blue banner blush to red.
"This, too, should yield sustainment to our hearts—
"He had commiseration and respect
"In his decease from universal Rome,
"Quantum est hominum venustiorum,
"The nice and cultivated everywhere:
"Though, in respect of me his advocate,
"Needs must I groan o'er my debility,
"Attribute the untoward event o' the strife
"To nothing but my own crass ignorance
"Which failed to set the valid reasons forth,
"Find fit excuse: such is the fate of war!
"May God compensate us the direful blow
"By future blessings on his family,
"Whereof I lowly beg the next commands;
"—Whereto, as humbly, I confirm myself…"
And so forth,—follow name and place and date.
On next leaf—
"There, old fox, show the clients t' other side
"And keep this corner sacred, I beseech!
"You and your pleas and proofs were what folk call
"Pisan assistance, aid that comes too late,
"Saves a man dead as nail in post of door.
"Had I but time and space for narrative!
"What was the good of twenty Clericates
"When Somebody's thick headpiece once was bent
"On seeing Guido's drop into the bag?
"How these old men like giving youth a push!
"So much the better: next push goes to him,
"And a new Pope begins the century.
"Much good I get by my superb defence!
"But argument is solid and subsists,
"While obstinacy and ineptitude
"Accompany the owner to his tomb—
"What do I care how soon? Beside, folk see!
"Rome will have relished heartily the show,
"Yet understood the motives, never fear,
"Which caused the indecent change o' the People's Place
"To the People's Playground,—stigmatize the spite
"Which in a trice precipitated things!
"As oft the moribund will give a kick
"To show they are not absolutely dead,
"So feebleness i' the socket shoots its last,
"A spirt of violence for energy!
"But thou, Cencini, brother of my breast,
"O fox whose home is 'mid the tender grape,
"Whose couch in Tuscany by Themis' throne,
"Subject to no such … best I shut my mouth
"Or only open it again to say,
"This pother and confusion fairly laid,
"My hands are empty and my satchel lank.
"Now then for both the Matrimonial Cause
"And the Case of Gomez! Serve them hot and hot!
"Reliqua differamus in crastinum!
"The impatient estafette cracks whip outside:
"Still, though the earth should swallow him who swears
"And me who make the mischief, in must slip—
"My boy, your godson, fat-chaps Hyacinth,
"Enjoyed the sight while Papa plodded here.
"I promised him, the rogue, a month ago,
"The day his birthday was, of all the days,
"That if I failed to save Count Guido's head,
"Cinuccio should at least go see it chopped
"From trunk—'So, latinize your thanks! quoth I.
"'That I prefer, hoc malim,' raps me out
"The rogue: you notice the subjunctive? Ah!
"Accordingly he sat there, bold in box,
"Proud as the Pope behind the peacock-fans:
"Whereon a certain lady-patroness
"For whom I manage things (my boy in front,
"Her Marquis sat the third in evidence;
"Boys have no eyes nor ears save for the show)
"'This time, Cintino,' was her sportive word,
"When whiz and thump went axe and mowed lay man,
"And folk could fall to the suspended chat,
"'This time, you see, Bottini rules the roast,
"'Nor can Papa with all his eloquence
"'Be reckoned on to help as heretofore!'
"Whereat Cinone pouts; then, sparkishly—
"'Papa knew better than aggrieve his Pope,
"'And baulk him of his grudge against our Count,
"'Else he'd have argued-off Bottini's' . . what?
"'His nose,'—the rogue! well parried of the boy!
"He's long since out of Cæsar (eight years old)
"And as for tripping in Eutropius … well,
"Reason the more that we strain every nerve
"To do him justice, mould a model-mouth,
"A Bartolus-cum-Baldo for next age:
"For that I purse the pieces, work the brain,
"And want both Gomez and the marriage-case,
"Success with which shall plaster aught of pate
"That's broken in me by Bottini's flail,
"And bruise his own, belike, that wags and brags.
"Adverti supplico humiliter
"Quod don't the fungus see, the fop divine
"That one hand drives two horses, left and right?
"With this rein did I rescue from the ditch
"The fortune of our Franceschini, keep
"Unsplashed the credit of a noble House,
"And set the fashionable cause at Rome
"A-prancing till bystanders shouted ware!'
"The other rein's judicious management
"Suffered old Somebody to keep the pace,
"Hobblingly play the roadster: who but he
"Had his opinion, was not led by the nose
"In leash of quibbles strung to look like law!
"You'll soon see,—when I go to pay devoir
"And compliment him on confuting me,—
"If, by a back-swing of the pendulum,
"Grace be not, thick and threefold, consequent.
"'I must decide as I see proper, Don!
"'I'm Pope, I have my inward lights for guide.
"'Had learning been the matter in dispute,
"'Could eloquence avail to gainsay fact,
"'Yours were the victory, be comforted!'
"Cinuzzo will be gainer by it all.
"Quick then with Gomez, hot and hot next case!"
Follows, a letter, takes the other side.
Tall blue-eyed Fisc whose head is capped with cloud,
Doctor Bottini,—to no matter who,
Writes on the Monday two days afterward.
Now shall the honest championship of right,
Crowned with success, enjoy at last, unblamed,
Moderate triumph! Now shall eloquence
Poured forth in fancied floods for virtue's sake,
(The print is sorrowfully dyked and dammed,
But shows where fain the unbridled force would flow,
Finding a channel)—now shall this refresh
The thirsty donor with a drop or two!
Here has been truth at issue with a lie:
Let who gained truth the day have handsome pride
In his own prowess! Eh! What ails the man?
"Well, it is over, ends as I foresaw:
"Easily proved, Pompilia's innocence!
"Catch them entrusting Guido's guilt to me
"Who had, as usual, the plain truth to plead.
"I always knew the clearness of the stream
"Would show the fish so thoroughly, child might prong
"The clumsy monster: with no mud to splash,
"Small credit to lynx-eye and lightning-spear!
"This Guido,—(much sport he contrived to make,
"Who at first twist, preamble of the cord,
"Turned white, told all, like the poltroon he was!)—
"Finished, as you expect, a penitent,
"Fully confessed his crime, and made amends,
"And, edifying Rome last Saturday,
"Died like a saint, poor devil! That's the man
"The gods still give to my antagonist:
"Imagine how Arcangeli claps wing
"And crows! 'Such formidable facts to face,
"'So naked to attack, my client here,
"'And yet I kept a month the Fisc at bay,
"'And in the end had foiled him of the prize
"'By this arch-stroke, this plea of privilege,
"'But that the Pope must gratify his whim,
"'Put in his word, poor old man,—let it pass!'
"—Such is the cue to which all Rome responds.
"What with the plain truth given me to uphold,
"And, should I let truth slip, the Pope at hand
"To pick up, steady her on legs again,
"My office turns a pleasantry indeed!
"Not that the burly boaster did one jot
"O' the little was to do—young Spreti's work!
"But for him,—mannikin and dandiprat,
"Mere candle-end and inch of cleverness
"Stuck on Arcangeli's save-all,—but for him
"The spruce young Spreti, what is bad were worse!
"I looked that Rome should have the natural gird
"At advocate with case that proves itself;
"I knew Arcangeli would grin and brag:
"But what say you to one impertinence
"Might move a stone? That monk, you are to know,
"That barefoot Augustinian whose report
"O' the dying woman's words did detriment
"To my best points it took the freshness from,
"—That meddler preached to purpose yesterday
"At San Lorenzo as a winding-up
"O' the show which proved a treasure to the church.
"Out comes his sermon smoking from the press:
"Its text—'Let God be true, and every man
"'A liar'—and its application, this
"The longest-winded of the paragraphs,
"I straight unstitch, tear out and treat you with:
"'T is piping hot and posts through Rome to-day.
"Remember it, as I engage to do!
"But if you rather be disposed to see
"In the result of the long trial here,—
"This dealing doom to guilt and doling praise
"To innocency,—any proof that truth
"May look for vindication from the world,
"Much will you have misread the signs, I say.
"God, who seems acquiescent in the main
"With those who add 'So will he ever sleep'—
"Flutters their foolishness from time to time,
"Puts forth His right-hand recognizably;
"Even as, to fools who deem He needs must right
"Wrong on the instant, as if earth were heaven,
"He wakes remonstrance—'Passive, Lord, how long?'
"Because Pompilia's purity prevails,
"Conclude you, all truth triumphs in the end?
"So might those old inhabitants of the ark,
"Witnessing haply their dove's safe return,
"Pronounce there was no danger, all the while
"O' the deluge, to the creature's counterparts,
"Aught that beat wing i' the world, was white or soft,—
"And that the lark, the thrush, the culver too,
"Might equally have traversed air, found earth,
"And brought back olive-branch in unharmed bill.
"Methinks I hear the Patriarch's warning voice—
"'Though this one breast, by miracle, return,
"'No wave rolls by, in all the waste, but bears
"'Within it some dead dove-like thing as dear,
"'Beauty made blank and harmlessness destroyed!'
"How many chaste and noble sister-fames
"Wanted the extricating hand, so lie
"Strangled, for one Pompilia proud above
"The welter, plucked from the world's calumny,
"Stupidity, simplicity,—who cares?
"Romans! An elder race possessed your land
"Long ago, and a false faith lingered still,
"As shades do though the morning-star be out.
"Doubtless some pagan of the twilight-day
"Has often pointed to a cavern-mouth
"Obnoxious to beholders, hard by Rome,
"And said,—nor he a bad man, no, nor fool,
"Only a man born blind like all his mates,—
"'Here skulk in safety, lurk, defying law,
"'The devotees to execrable creed,
"'Adoring—with what culture … Jove, avert
"'Thy vengeance from us worshippers of thee!…
"'What rites obscene—their idol-god, an Ass!'
"So went the word forth, so acceptance found,
"So century re-echoed century,
"Cursed the accursed,—and so, from sire to son,
"You Romans cried 'The offscourings of our race
"'Corrupt within the depths there: fitly fiends
"'Perform a temple-service o'er the dead:
"'Child, gather garment round thee, pass nor pry!'
"Thus groaned your generations: till the time
"Grew ripe, and lightning had revealed, belike,—
"Thro' crevice peeped into by curious fear,—
"Some object even fear could recognize
"I' the place of spectres; on the illumined wall,
"To-wit, some nook, tradition talks about,
"Narrow and short, a corpse's length, no more:
"And by it, in the due receptacle,
"The little rude brown lamp of earthenware,
"The cruse, was meant for flowers but now held blood,
"The rough-scratched palm-branch, and the legend left
"Pro Christo. Then the mystery lay clear:
"The abhorred one was a martyr all the time,
"Heaven's saint whereof earth was not worthy. What?
"Do you continue in the old belief?
"Where blackness bides unbroke, must devils brood?
"Is it so certain not another cell
"O' the myriad that make up the catacomb
"Contains some saint a second flash would show?
"Will you ascend into the light of day
"And, having recognized a martyr's shrine,
"Go join the votaries that gape around
"Each vulgar god that awes the market-place?
"Are these the objects of your praising? See!
"In the outstretched right hand of Apollo, there,
"Lies screened a scorpion: housed amid the folds
"Of Juno's mantle lurks a centipede!
"Each statue of a god were fitlier styled
"Demon and devil. Glorify no brass
"That shines like burnished gold in noonday glare,
"For fools! Be otherwise instructed, you!
"And preferably ponder, ere ye judge,
"Each incident of this strange human play
"Privily acted on a theatre
"That seemed secure from every gaze but God's,—
"Till, of a sudden, earthquake laid wall low
"And let the world perceive wild work inside
"And how, in petrifaction of surprise,
"The actors stood,—raised arm and planted foot,—
"Mouth as it made, eye as it evidenced,
"Despairing shriek, triumphant hate,—transfixed,
"Both he who takes and she who yields the life.
"As ye become spectators of this scene,
"Watch obscuration of a pearl-pure fame
"By vapoury films, enwoven circumstance,
"—A soul made weak by its pathetic want
"Of just the first apprenticeship to sin
"Which thenceforth makes the sinning soul secure
"From all foes save itself, souls' truliest foe,—
"Since egg turned snake needs fear no serpentry,—
"As ye behold this web of circumstance
"Deepen the more for every thrill and throe,
"Convulsive effort to disperse the films
"And disenmesh the fame o' the martyr,—mark
"How all those means, the unfriended one pursues,
"To keep the treasure trusted to her breast,
"Each struggle in the flight from death to life,
"How all, by procuration of the powers
"Of darkness, are transformed,—no single ray,
"Shot forth to show and save the inmost star,
"But, passed as through hell's prism, proceeding black
"To the world that hates white: as ye watch, I say,
"Till dusk and such defacement grow eclipse
"By,—marvellous perversity of man!—
"The inadequacy and inaptitude
"Of that self-same machine, that very law
"Man vaunts, devised to dissipate the gloom,
"Rescue the drowning orb from calumny,
"—Hear law, appointed to defend the just,
"Submit, for best defence, that wickedness
"Was bred of flesh and innate with the bone
"Borne by Pompilia's spirit for a space,
"And no mere chance fault, passionate and brief:
"Finally, when ye find,—after this touch
"Of man's protection which intends to mar
"The last pin-point of light and damn the disc,—
"One wave of the hand of God amid the worlds
"Bid vapour vanish, darkness flee away,
"And let the vexed star culminate in peace
"Approachable no more by earthly mist—
"What I call God's hand,—you, perhaps,—mere chance
"Of the true instinct of an old good man
"Who happens to hate darkness and love light,—
"In whom too was the eye that saw, not dim,
"The natural force to do the thing he saw,
"Nowise abated,—both by miracle,—
"All this well pondered,—I demand assent
"To the enunciation of my text
"In face of one proof more that 'God is true
"'And every man a liar'—that who trusts
"To human testimony for a fact
"Gets this sole fact—himself is proved a fool;
"Man's speech being false, if but by consequence
"That only strength is true: while man is weak,
"And, since truth seems reserved for heaven not earth,
"Plagued here by earth's prerogative of lies,
"Should learn to love and long for what, one day,
"Approved by life's probation, he may speak.
"For me, the weary and worn, who haply prompt
"To mirth or pity, as I move the mood,—
"A friar who glides unnoticed to the grave,
"With these bare feet, coarse robe and rope-girt waist,—
"I have long since renounced your world, ye know:
"Yet what forbids I weigh the prize forgone,
"The worldly worth? I dare, as I were dead,
"Disinterestedly judge this and that
"Good ye account good: but God tries the heart.
"Still, if you question me of my content
"At having put each human pleasure by,
"I answer, at the urgency of truth:
"As this world seems, I dare not say I know
"—Apart from Christ's assurance which decides—
"Whether I have not failed to taste much joy.
"For many a doubt will fain perturb my choice—
"Many a dream of life spent otherwise—
"How human love, in varied shapes, might work
"As glory, or as rapture, or as grace:
"How conversancy with the books that teach,
"The arts that help,—how, to grow good and great,
"Rather than simply good, and bring thereby
"Goodness to breathe and live, nor, born i' the brain,
"Die there,—how these and many another gift
"Of life are precious though abjured by me.
"But, for one prize, best meed of mightiest man,
"Arch-object of ambition,—earthly praise,
"Repute o' the world, the flourish of loud trump,
"The softer social fluting,—Oh, for these,
"—No, my friends! Fame,—that bubble which, world-wide
"Each blows and bids his neighbour lend a breath,
"That so he haply may behold thereon
"One more enlarged distorted false fool's-face,
"Until some glassy nothing grown as big
"Send by a touch the imperishable to suds,—
"No, in renouncing fame, my loss was light,
"Choosing obscurity, my chance was well!"
Didst ever touch such ampollosity
As the monk's own bubble, let alone its spite?
What's his speech for, but just the fame he flouts?
How he dares reprehend both high and low,
Nor stoops to turn the sentence "God is true
"And every man a liar—save the Pope
"Happily reigning—my respects to him!"
And so round off the period. Molinism
Simple and pure! To what pitch get we next?
I find that, for first pleasant consequence,
Gomez, who had intended to appeal
From the absurd decision of the Court,
Declines, though plain enough his privilege,
To call on help from lawyers any more—
Resolves earth's liars may possess the world,
Till God have had sufficiency of both:
So may I whistle for my job and fee!
But, for this virulent and rabid monk,—
If law be an inadequate machine,
And advocacy, froth and impotence,
We shall soon see, my blatant brother! That's
Exactly what I hope to show your sort!
For, by a veritable piece of luck,
The providence, you monks round period with,
All may be gloriously retrieved. Perpend!
That Monastery of the Convertites
Whereto the Court consigned Pompilia first,
—Observe, if convertite, why, sinner then,
Or what's the pertinency of award?—
And whither she was late returned to die,
—Still in their jurisdiction, mark again!—
That thrifty Sisterhood, for perquisite,
Claims every piece whereof may die possessed
Each sinner in the circuit of its walls.
Now, this Pompilia seeing that, by death
O' the couple, all their wealth devolved on her,
Straight utilized the respite ere decease,
By regular conveyance of the goods
She thought her own, to will and to devise,—
Gave all to friends, Tighetti and the like,
In trust for him she held her son and heir,
Gaetano,—trust which ends with infancy:
So willing and devising, since assured
The justice of the Court would presently
Confirm her in her rights and exculpate,
Re-integrate and rehabilitate—
Place her as, through my pleading, now she stands.
But here's the capital mistake: the Court
Found Guido guilty,—but pronounced no word
About the innocency of his wife:
I grounded charge on broader base, I hope!
No matter whether wife be true or false,
The husband must not push aside the law,
And punish of a sudden: that's the point:
Gather from out my speech the contrary!
It follows that Pompilia, unrelieved
By formal sentence from imputed fault,
Remains unfit to have and to dispose
Of property which law provides shall lapse.
Wherefore the Monastery claims its due:
And whose, pray, whose the office, but the Fisc's?
Who but I institute procedure next
Against the person of dishonest life,
Pompilia whom last week I sainted so?
I it is teach the monk what scripture means,
And that the tongue should prove a two-edged sword,
No axe sharp one side, blunt the other way,
Like what amused the town at Guido's cost!
Astræa redux! I've a second chance
Before the self-same Court o' the Governor
Who soon shall see volte-face and chop, change sides.
Accordingly, I charge you on your life,
Send me with all despatch the judgment late
O' the Florence Rota Court, confirmative
O' the prior judgment at Arezzo, clenched
Again by the Granducal signature,
Wherein Pompilia is convicted, doomed,
And only destined to escape through flight
The proper punishment. Send me the piece,—
I'll work it! And this foul-mouthed friar shall find
His Noah's-dove that brought the olive back
Turn into quite the other sooty scout,
The raven, Noah first put forth the ark,
Which never came back but ate carcasses!
No adequate machinery in law?
No power of life and death i' the learned tongue?
Methinks I am already at my speech,
Startle the world with "Thou, Pompilia, thus?
"How is the fine gold of the Temple dim!"
And so forth. But the courier bids me close,
And clip away one joke that runs through Rome,
Side by side with the sermon which I send.
How like the heartlessness of the old hunks
Arcangeli! His Count is hardly cold,
The client whom his blunders sacrificed,
When somebody must needs describe the scene—
How the procession ended at the church
That boasts the famous relic: quoth our brute,
"Why, that's just Martial's phrase for 'make an end'—
"Ad umbilicum sic perventum est!"
The callous dog,—let who will cut off head,
He cuts a joke and cares no more than so!
I think my speech shall modify his mirth.
"How is the fine gold dim!"—but send the piece!
Alack, Bottini, what is my next word
But death to all that hope? The Instrument
Is plain before me, print that ends my Book
With the definitive verdict of the Court,
Dated September, six months afterward,
(Such trouble and so long the old Pope gave!)
"In restitution of the perfect fame
"Of dead Pompilia, quondam Guido's wife,
"And warrant to her representative
"Domenico Tighetti, barred hereby,
"While doing duty in his guardianship,
"From all molesting, all disquietude,
"Each perturbation and vexation brought
"Or threatened to be brought against the heir
"By the Most Venerable Convent called
"Saint Mary Magdalen o' the Convertites
'I' the Corso."
Justice done a second time!
Well judged, Marc Antony, Locum-tenens
O' the Governor, a Venturini too!
For which I save thy name,—last of the list!
Next year but one, completing his nine years
Of rule in Rome, died Innocent my Pope
—By some account, on his accession-day.
If he thought doubt would do the next age good,
'T is pity he died unapprised what birth
His reign may boast of, be remembered by—
Terrible Pope, too, of a kind,—Voltaire.
And so an end of all i' the story. Strain
Never so much my eyes, I miss the mark
If lived or died that Gaetano, child
Of Guido and Pompilia: only find,
Immediately upon his father's death,
A record, in the annals of the town—
That Porzia, sister of our Guido, moved
The Priors of Arezzo and their head
Its Gonfalonier to give loyally
A public attestation of the right
O' the Franceschini to all reverence—
Apparently because of the incident
O' the murder,—there's no mention made o' the crime,
But what else could have caused such urgency
To cure the mob, just then, of greediness
For scandal, love of lying vanity,
And appetite to swallow crude reports
That bring annoyance to their betters?—bane
Which, here, was promptly met by antidote.
I like and shall translate the eloquence
Of nearly the worst Latin ever writ:
"Since antique time whereof the memory
"Holds the beginning, to this present hour,
"The Franceschini ever shone, and shine
"Still i' the primary rank, supreme amid
"The lustres of Arezzo, proud to own
"In this great family, the flag-bearer,
"Guide of her steps and guardian against foe,—
"As in the first beginning, so to-day!"
There, would you disbelieve the annalist,
Go rather by the babble of a bard?
I thought, Arezzo, thou hadst fitter souls,
Petrarch,—nay, Buonarroti at a pinch,
To do thee credit as vexillifer!
Was it mere mirth the Patavinian meant,
Making thee out, in his veracious page,
Founded by Janus of the Double Face?
Well, proving of such perfect parentage,
Our Gaetano, born of love and hate,
Did the babe live or die? I fain would find!
What were his ancies if he grew a man?
Was he proud,—a true scion of the stock
Which bore the blazon, shall make bright my page—
Shield, Azure, on a Triple Mountain, Or,
A Palm-tree, Proper, whereunto is tied
A Greyhound, Rampant, striving in the slips?
Or did he love his mother, the base-born,
And fight i' the ranks, unnoticed by the world?
Such, then, the final state o' the story. So
Did the Star Wormwood in a blazing fall
Frighten awhile the waters and lie lost.
So did this old woe fade from memory:
Till after, in the fulness of the days,
I needs must find an ember yet unquenched,
And, breathing, blow the spark to flame. It lives,
If precious be the soul of man to man.
So, British Public, who may like me yet,
(Marry and amen!) learn one lesson hence
Of many which whatever lives should teach:
This lesson, that our human speech is naught,
Our human testimony false, our fame
And human estimation words and wind.
Why take the artistic way to prove so much?
Because, it is the glory and good of Art,
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least.
How look a brother in the face and say
"Thy right is wrong, eyes hast thou yet art blind,
"Thine ears are stuffed and stopped, despite their length:
"And, oh, the foolishness thou countest faith!"
Say this as silverly as tongue can troll—
The anger of the man may be endured,
The shrug, the disappointed eyes of him
Are not so bad to bear—but here's the plague
That all this trouble comes of telling truth,
Which truth, by when it reaches him, looks false,
Seems to be just the thing it would supplant,
Nor recognizable by whom it left:
While falsehood would have done the work of truth.
But Art,—wherein man nowise speaks to men,
Only to mankind,—Art may tell a truth
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought,
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.
So may you paint your picture, twice show truth,
Beyond mere imagery on the wall,—
So, note by note, bring music from your mind,
Deeper than ever e'en Beethoven dived,—
So write a book shall mean beyond the facts,
Suffice the eye and save the soul beside.
And save the soul! If this intent save mine,—
If the rough ore be rounded to a ring,
Render all duty which good ring should do,
And, failing grace, succeed in guardianship,—
Might mine but lie outside thine, Lyric Love,
Thy rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised)
Linking our England to his Italy!
The candle and the fly
A woman in love is a candle;
Her love and the candle’s flame are to burn.
Her pining is the candle’s burning.
They pine and burn and exhaust themselves.
A man in love is like a fly;
Both are in flight towards their targets
Of love and flame, to which they succumb
By one longing and the other by falling.
The candle is burnt; so is the beloved.
The fly is burnt; so is the lover.
No doubt, the end for them is mere ash
But their pursuits gave them enough push.
I Will Take You As A Grain Of Sand In My Palm Against The Sun
your name you call yourself is
insignificant, a speck of dust,
a grain of sand, you have slept
for years, in this dream of being
what a sadness you have
the inability to gleam freely
like a diamond even on a faint
light in the dark cave
i have been looking for you
missing you like the only
missing soul-mate of my whole life
i have existed i have not lived at all
i have not died either
for lack of reason and power
to unbreathe to vomit what
has been generously fed us
now, it has come this
magnanimous opportunity of meeting you again
i shall take you gently in my palm
let you rest in there and when the sun comes
you will gleam
he will know your name and presence
your insignificance by itself
the sun tells you
is diamond against the vast sky,
shining, shining in the shores of our lives
When A Man Loves A Woman
When a man loves a woman, there is nothing he won't do;
He is vested with the strength to move mountains-it's true!
Whence found, true love allows that all his actions be toward one goal-
All a man truly wants is the one magical mate for his all-too-mysterious soul!
Promise a man your heart, you will get his and so very much more, in return;
His whole life shall become a duteous devotion to you and all with which you concern!
Share with a man your beauty and he will prove its might-even to you, though you disbelieve;
Share with this man your life-its magnificence shall be far more than either could ever conceive!
When a woman loves a man, there are no bounds to her steadfast devotion-
It will stand the test of time itself and see its way, even across the largest ocean!
From her heart comes her truth, his only choice-its obliged and humble acceptance;
He shall offer all he may as recompense, yet, it shall always seem a pittance!
Where there is love, truth, beauty and wisdom abound;
When there is love, its power and resplendence doth truly astound!
Maurice Harris,8 May 2010
‘Other woman’ is an ego booster
And a sexual stimulant to man,
Though an enigma to woman, his wife.
It is past that marriage is eternal;
It is past that woman is house bound.
Both are employed; both have exposure.
The time spent by colleagues across sex
Is longer than the time spent by couples.
Proximity brings about intimacy
And intimacy leads to sexual love.
Other woman need not be a better lot.
That she is untried and hard to attain
Is itself her potent charm to tempt man.
Her presence acts like an aphrodisiac
And her nearness makes man alcoholic.
Marriage can give him a blanket of warmth
But can not keep him off from yearning.
Other woman fills the void existing
Or dig one and fill it with herself.
Other woman enjoys her quota too.
The marriages old and staid are shaken;
The marriages loosely held are broken.
Nay, ideal couples too bite their dust.
Staying separate is a catalyst.
Emotional infidelity sets,
To be followed or not by adultery.
Potent man each draws his ‘other woman’.
Who is no one but some one’s fertile wife.
‘Other woman’ is not a certain woman
But a woman of a certain period.
‘Other man’ and ‘other woman’ are drawn
To form a perfect pair by heart and soul.
They both enjoy their companionship.
She takes care of her looks and he, of his,
Which throw benefits to their spouses too.
Hormones in spate, they find purpose in life.
Husbands, by and large, have other women.
Wives shed their qualm to play other woman.
Male promiscuity is manliness;
Female titillation is womanliness.
‘We look before and after
And pine for what is not’ - Shelly
The Circus Animals' Desertion
I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.
What can I but enumerate old themes?
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride?
And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
'The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away,
But masterful Heaven had intetvened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy,
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.
And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
players and painted stage took all my love,
And not those things that they were emblems of.
Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
I Listen To The Silence
I listen to the silence, not the ambassador birds of the message
aligned along the branch of a black tree,
waiting to have their say, deliver
the formal meaning; I follow them back
to the original fountain-mouth of the silence
that isn't dawn or sunset, or a woman in a garden,
but a clear light with the presence of a feather
and, almost at times, a face, that's always been there
behind the racket and the paint rags
of the cacophonous actors gathering on stage,
the understudy that hovers like a silver fish
in the reeds and the shadows of the undulant curtains,
rarely seen, and more of a fragrance of light
than a second queen, an unverifiable void
with delicate gestures that turn all my questions
back on me like the soft underside of milky green leaves,
as if something took my hand and turned it over
to show me the answers pearled in my palm.
And it would be wrong to attribute eyes to this silence
though I feel it's the space where the seeing happens
in the beginningless moment before
the watcher and the watched rework the seeing up into a play
of heroes, villains, events, and fireflies of awareness
in a chronic struggle of opposites.
And it would be wrong to accord it a mouth, lips, a tongue
because it seems to say everything
without saying anything, without
wounding itself on the quick edge of a word. And there are times
when it almost seems to smile upon my childish efforts
to know what it is, to return to the sea,
to the corals of the moon, with my hands full of cherries and stars,
the abundance of living on the earth
with waterlilies and rat snakes.
It indulges me with the serenity of an old, unknown sorrow
that had to create the world to speak itself to the end
and now sits enthroned in the emptiness of its own presence.
And just when I think I've come up against its impassable clarity
like a fly against a windowpane;
I discover myself immersed in it like an eel
undulating like a free banner of water
through its unpartitioned enclosure,
hardly a wavelength of distinction between myself and it;
and everything I write is an oracle
that swims away knowing more about it than I do
before I decided not to ask it for a name.
And though it may have been the voiceless cachet
of the divine numinosities that opened
the resplendent roses of the past
that squandered their eyelids on asphalt and scripture,
the watershed of the snow-robed mountain gods,
now it's a dropp of water holding its breath like the moon
at the tip of the green sword of the cattails
ready to send a shudder of tears and blood and fruit
through the mirror again like the first pulse
of its falling into existence, hazelnuts into the mouths
of waiting salmon, things losing their balance
against the backdropp of the hidden harmony
by which they are created in the image of their own conception
and known: apple-blow from the orchard
or ashes from the nightshift crematoria.
And, perhaps, this is that silence that seizes the heart with the love
of an unsayable emptiness as infinite as the beloved
that can't be filled by anyone less,
as a question must be returned like a wave to the sea that asked it
before it realizes on the threshold of its own depths
there never was a brevity of being
that hasn't always been the perfect answer.