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Splinters

Self sent a twister
A tearin after me
Gonna bust my house to splinters yes
An take all thats dear to me
You say you saw it comin yeah
But still you did not flee
I was too weak I couldnt move
Held by growth of a tree
An yes I fell upon that rock
I did not die jus badly broken
An in time my healin it will come yeah
By the words that he has spoken
I fell upon that rock
Who is it now that loves you
Straight in the front door
An crooked out the back yeah
What is it now youre a slave to
On your knees out in your shack
I fell upon that rock yeah
Hes beyond the shadow
Of your doubt an mine
Hes no mans opinion
He is truth divine
Self sent a twister
A tearin after me
Done bust my house to splinters yeah
An took all thats dear to me
Who is it now that loves you
Straight in the front door
An crooked out the back yeah
What is it now that you pray to
As your world begins to crack
I fell upon that rock yeah
Hes beyond the shadow
Of your doubt an mine
Hes no mans opinion
He is truth divine
An yes I fell upon that rock
I did not die jus badly broken
An in time my healin came yeah
By the words that he had spoken

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I Saw My Friend At The Front Door

I saw my friend to the front door
I stood in the golden dust.
Momentous sounds issued
From the little belfry close by.
Tossed! Such a made-up word-
What am I, a flower or a letter?
But my eyes already gaze grimly
Into the darkened looking glass.

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Past a house

We yesterday
drove past a house
near a shopping centre

and at the front wall
the plaster was broken,
the garden that was something
at a time
was treaded to pieces
and left uncared.

The front door hanged decaying
and when my eyes
walked down the corridor
some of the ceiling was missing,
and the wooden floor
was being used for firewood

It seemed as if the house
was now really becoming a ruin
and a naked black toddler
were crawling outside

and a very thin dog
looked as if it never got food
and my darling said:

“We stayed here at a time
and once this house
belonged to us
and it was a beautiful place
and just see how it looks now.”

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Back Door Side Door Front Door: Which Door Might A Confucian Take?

for René Etiemble (Jan.26,1909 - Jan.2002) *

Barely a few speechless moments before your first words
burned the « Coplas por la muerte de su padre »:

‘Nuestras vidas son los ríos
que van a dar en la mar,
que es el morir;
………………………………
y llegados, son iguales
los que viven por sus manos
y los ricos.'

Is the open back door which emboldens courage
No untarnished name to be remembered by
No selfless mate to lay by your honour
No issue laying about themselves for your prize

Decidedly it was a door of stealth
As if choosing it you let it be known
you were only merely passing by
and stopped to hang your hat here for a while

Yet you let your kin and callers believe
your whims were worth putting up with
your mischievous tantrums and gripes
merely the mental athlete's unwinding antics

The poïetic birth pangs of imminent glory
just the mounting stones in the monumental lighthouse
that ages from hence would pick forth
your works your unfathomable literary resource

You upheld dozens who did leave behind a name
a lasting name not quite torn from solitary pain
Yet who could deny you could have bettered their fame
What undisclosed pain you harboured in your brain

Oh so strangely were you endowed with the intelligence
of the Chun Tzu - that uncanny eagle's scan
To rout out of the mazes of your students' past lives
just that one passqge through their Tierra del Fuego

But then you who completely espoused the rigours
of that step by step mounting of respectful steps
Were unsparing in your demands of adherence
to old Master Kung's hierarchical obedience

An open hand ready to sign any cheque
to succour the caller's needs
was alas! also the whip hand
To keep the renegades in constant check

You were possessed of a rare brand of anger
which shook the land about you
At those who bent justice to their unsavoury will
such thunder boiled from the guts of the earth

Now you're gone and empty lecture halls echo your
uncontainable ire where forged resounding silence
You said at the start of a seminal master-seminar:
« Nul n'est prophète dans son pays! »

With the distaff side hanging on your every word
wondering if your plans were for something yet undone

No stray notes lie about to record your travail
No visible correspondence to make it all credible
Only books and books files magazines and books
and an overcrowdedly conquered mental pad
jumbled words scratched into shaded inchoate sketches
ganglia synapses shot-up neurons

no clues to a ragingly flailing mind
none to record the lives you succoured
nor even the beneficiaries' hurriedly scribbled thanks
nor besides to the beclouding relations with one and all
not even a hint at why you may have refused
to forge a name beyond the beaten path of fame

Would going by the front door
in a fanfare of tv talkshows conference papers prize-giving ceremonies paper- interviews in ample studied poses and thoughts for future auto-memoirs volume one to seven the rest put-together posthumously in an omnibus
expurgated version with prefaces notes introductions critiques eulogies

would it have been less like you
to exit by the side-door
the baywindow leading to reflected glory
in a cool cloister of loosened leaves
stray poems in the tradition of your schooled masters

or did you burn them all
in a fit of (cou) rage
tore them to bits incinerated by your fiery mind
or squashed within yesterday's leftovers

not caring who thought what
the mocking condescension
towards
qu'en-dira-t-on


* The late Professor René Etiemble held the Chair of Comparative Literature at the old, pre-1968 Sorbonne University but retired in 1978 while a professor at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. In later life, he even refused nomination to the French Academy of Letters, though he did accept the Academy's Prize. He was a prolific critic, essayist, and memorialist, having published some poetry and three novels. A renowned linguist and grammarian (a graduate of the prestigious and elite Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris) , he remained until his very last days an inveterate Sinophile. He edited the Gallimard-instituted UNESCO oriental literary classics series, a fitting tribute to his encyclopaedic learning.

© T.Wignesan, 6 novembre 1997, Fresnes-94, France (from the collection: Poems Omega Minus, Paris,2002)

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Big Dipper

The mist rolls off the beaches: the train rolls into the station. weekend happiness seekers --- pent-up saturation. well, we dont mean anyone any harm, we werent on the glasgow train. see you
E pleasure beach: roller-coasting heroes. big dipper riding --- well give the local lads a hiding if they keep us from the ladies hanging out in the penny arcades. shaking up the tower ballroom
Wing up in the bathroom. landladys in the backroom --- Im the big dipper --- its the weekend rage. rich widowed landlady give me your spare front door key. if youre 39 or over, Ill make lov
You next thursday --- I may stay over for a week or two drop a postcard to my mum. Ill see you at the waltzer --- well go big-dipping daily.

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Fake Forgiveness

You dissappeared when we needed you the most, you vanished, were nowhere to be found, you were just like a ghost

For two years from you we almost never heard a sound, and I accepted the fact that you weren't ever fully going to come back around

Then your life slip through the cracks, now you're here at our front door on your hands and knees wanting to come back

I don't know what you expected from us maybe to be welcomed with open arms and kind deeds, all I know is that you're not getting that kind of treatment from me, mainly because the likes of you don't deserve it you see

While you got to keep living you care free little life some of us had to inheirt a life full of nothing but pain, misery, struggle, and stife.

While you got to keep doing what you pleased, some of us our free time had to sell so others we could appease

While we had to let responsibility weigh us down, you kept doing whatever you little heart desired and that I will never be able to forgive you for I'm sorry but my forgiveness card has finally expired

Back in the days where from you we didn't hear a sound all I ever hoped for was that maybe you'd change your mind and come back around, but now that your here in my plain eye sight, to be around you, to even look at you is a stuggle, is a fight

I've always thought of myself as a forgiving kind of person but apparently I was wrong, because I'm starting to realize at you I was mad, enraged, and disgusted all along

I realize sitting here now I forgave you for HER sake, but I can't pretend anymore I have to face the truth of the matter, and the truth is that, that forgiveness was fake

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Got This Thing On The Move

Come on over to my side, its where you wanna be.
Come on over to joy ride, and let your morals be.
Aint no way to deny it, if its in your soul.
You dont know till you try it, baby, let the good times roll.
Let me taste your life. let me fill your stream.
Let me make you feel it right now, just lay back and dream.
Got this thing on the move, its beginin.
Got a strange kind of feeling, under my skin.
I hear my baby knockin, at my front door.
She knows what I got, she wants some more.
And when its all over, I start to come down.
Think of the restin place, Ill leave the ground

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Bus Driver and Bella

Bella used to catch the bus from church gate;
Everyday took same bus which was never late.
Not to miss Bella, driver always reached in time;
Reaching office daily in time, Bella also felt fine.

On seeing her, the driver opened the front door,
She stepped forward smilingly and used to board.
He started feeling joy in heart, never felt before
Cherished in his soul, towards her he was lured.

Whenever not seen her, the driver became sad,
Moved slowly with grave soul feeling the day bad.
Suddenly she stopped coming but he held his time
Reaching the bus stop chanting her names’ rhyme.

When the bus was about to reach that bus stop,
The driver used to see all around but Bella was not.
After a long, Bella was seen standing near the stop
Driver delighted and thought for few words swop.

Driver at once opened front door, asked her to rush.
She too thrown sight and smiled; turned towards bus.
To surprise Bella kept outside and looking at him told
That she had got a car standing near that billboard.

She was waiting for her husband who was nearby,
She wanted perfume for car, he had gone to buy.
They got married a month ago, she was on vacation
Driver put his foot to give bus maximum acceleration.

S.D. Tiwari
email sdtiwari1@gmail.com

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Thus wished she

Look, a faceless house wife
Has dusted the sky
All starwebs high above

She said freedom was the host
But she could not twinkle
She said night was her foe
But she couldn’t paint it
She said journey was far taken
But she couldn’t move

She said
Bone burdened dust I say it is time
For a moon sickle to re-invent a circle
Or to cut the knots of planets
Spilling all the comets that fell for their wishes

Thus wished she

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Tale XX

THE BROTHERS.

Than old George Fletcher, on the British coast
Dwelt not a seaman who had more to boast:
Kind, simple and sincere--he seldom spoke,
But sometimes sang and chorus'd--'Hearts of Oak:'
In dangers steady, with his lot content,
His days in labour and in love were spent.
He left a Son so like him, that the old
With joy exclaim'd, ''Tis Fletcher we behold;'
But to his Brother, when the kinsmen came
And view'd his form, they grudged the father's

name.
George was a bold, intrepid, careless lad,
With just the failings that his father had;
Isaac was weak, attentive, slow, exact,
With just the virtues that his father lack'd.
George lived at sea: upon the land a guest -
He sought for recreation, not for rest;
While, far unlike, his brother's feebler form
Shrank from the cold, and shudder'd at the storm;
Still with the Seaman's to connect his trade,
The boy was bound where blocks and ropes were made.
George, strong and sturdy, had a tender mind,
And was to Isaac pitiful and kind;
A very father, till his art was gain'd,
And then a friend unwearied he remain'd;
He saw his brother was of spirit low,
His temper peevish, and his motions slow;
Not fit to bustle in a world, or make
Friends to his fortune for his merit's sake;
But the kind sailor could not boast the art
Of looking deeply in the human heart;
Else had he seen that this weak brother knew
What men to court--what objects to pursue;
That he to distant gain the way discern'd,
And none so crooked but his genius learn'd.
Isaac was poor, and this the brother felt;
He hired a house, and there the Landman dwelt,
Wrought at his trade, and had an easy home,
For there would George with cash and comforts come;
And when they parted, Isaac look'd around
Where other friends and helpers might be found.
He wish'd for some port-place, and one might

fall,
He wisely thought, if he should try for all;
He had a vote--and were it well applied,
Might have its worth--and he had views beside;
Old Burgess Steel was able to promote
An humble man who served him with a vote;
For Isaac felt not what some tempers feel,
But bow'd and bent the neck to Burgess Steel;
And great attention to a lady gave,
His ancient friend, a maiden spare and grave;
One whom the visage long and look demure
Of Isaac pleased--he seem'd sedate and pure;
And his soft heart conceived a gentle flame
For her who waited on this virtuous dame.
Not an outrageous love, a scorching fire,
But friendly liking and chastised desire;
And thus he waited, patient in delay,
In present favour and in fortune's way.
George then was coasting--war was yet delay'd,
And what he gain'd was to his brother paid;
Nor ask'd the Seaman what he saved or spent,
But took his grog, wrought hard, and was content;
Till war awaked the land, and George began
To think what part became a useful man:
'Press'd, I must go: why, then, 'tis better far
At once to enter like a British tar,
Than a brave captain and the foe to shun,
As if I fear'd the music of a gun.'
'Go not!' said Isaac--'you shall wear disguise.'
'What!' said the Seaman, 'clothe myself with lies!'
'Oh! but there's danger.'--'Danger in the fleet?
You cannot mean, good brother, of defeat;
And other dangers I at land must share -
So now adieu! and trust a brother's care.'
Isaac awhile demurr'd--but, in his heart,
So might he share, he was disposed to part:
The better mind will sometimes feel the pain
Of benefactions--favour is a chain;
But they the feeling scorn, and what they wish,

disdain;
While beings form'd in coarser mould will hate
The helping hand they ought to venerate:
No wonder George should in this cause prevail,
With one contending who was glad to fail:
'Isaac, farewell! do wipe that doleful eye;
Crying we came, and groaning we may die;
Let us do something 'twixt the groan and cry:
And hear me, brother, whether pay or prize,
One half to thee I give and I devise;
Por thou hast oft occasion for the aid
Of learn'd physicians, and they will be paid;
Their wives and children men support at sea,
And thou, my lad, art wife and child to me:
Farewell! I go where hope and honour call,
Nor does it follow that who fights must fall,'
Isaac here made a poor attempt to speak,
And a huge tear moved slowly down his cheek;
Like Pluto's iron drop, hard sign of grace,
It slowly roll'd upon the rueful face,
Forced by the striving will alone its way to trace.
Years fled--war lasted--George at sea remain'd,
While the slow Landman still his profits gain'd:
An humble place was vacant--he besought
His patron's interest, and the office caught;
For still the Virgin was his faithful friend,
And one so sober could with truth commend,
Who of his own defects most humbly thought,
And their advice with zeal and reverence sought:
Whom thus the Mistress praised, the Maid approved,
And her he wedded whom he wisely loved.
No more he needs assistance--but, alas!
He fears the money will for liquor pass;
Or that the Seaman might to flatterers lend,
Or give support to some pretended friend:
Still he must write--he wrote, and he confess'd
That, till absolved, he should be sore distress'd;
But one so friendly would, he thought, forgive
The hasty deed--Heav'n knew how he should live;
'But you,' he added, 'as a man of sense,
Have well consider'd danger and expense:
I ran, alas! into the fatal snare,
And now for trouble must my mind prepare;
And how, with children, I shall pick my way
Through a hard world, is more than I can say:
Then change not, Brother, your more happy state,
Or on the hazard long deliberate.'
George answered gravely, 'It is right and fit,
In all our crosses, humbly to submit:
Your apprehensions are unwise, unjust;
Forbear repining, and expel distrust.'
He added, 'Marriage was the joy of life,'
And gave his service to his brother's wife;
Then vow'd to bear in all expense a part,
And thus concluded, 'Have a cheerful heart.'
Had the glad Isaac been his brother's guide,
In the same terms the Seaman had replied;
At such reproofs the crafty Landman smiled,
And softly said, 'This creature is a child.'
Twice had the gallant ship a capture made -
And when in port the happy crew were paid,
Home went the Sailor, with his pockets stored,
Ease to enjoy, and pleasure to afford;
His time was short, joy shone in every face,
Isaac half fainted in the fond embrace:
The wife resolved her honour'd guest to please,
The children clung upon their uncle's knees;
The grog went round, the neighbours drank his

health,
And George exclaimed, 'Ah! what to this is wealth?
Better,' said he, 'to bear a loving heart,
Than roll in riches--but we now must part!'
All yet is still--but hark! the winds o'ersweep
The rising waves, and howl upon the deep;
Ships late becalm'd on mountain-billows ride -
So life is threaten'd and so man is tried.
Ill were the tidings that arrived from sea,
The worthy George must now a cripple be:
His leg was lopp'd; and though his heart was sound,
Though his brave captain was with glory crown'd,
Yet much it vex'd him to repose on shore,
An idle log, and be of use no more:
True, he was sure that Isaac would receive
All of his Brother that the foe might leave;
To whom the Seaman his design had sent,
Ere from the port the wounded hero went:
His wealth and expectations told, he 'knew
Wherein they fail'd, what Isaac's love would do;
That he the grog and cabin would supply,
Where George at anchor during life would lie.'
The Landman read--and, reading, grew distress'd:

-
'Could he resolve t'admit so poor a guest?
Better at Greenwich might the Sailor stay,
Unless his purse could for his comforts pay.'
So Isaac judged, and to his wife appealed,
But yet acknowledged it was best to yield:
'Perhaps his pension, with what sums remain
Due or unsquander'd, may the man maintain;
Refuse we must not.'--With a heavy sigh
The lady heard, and made her kind reply: -
'Nor would I wish it, Isaac, were we sure
How long this crazy building will endure;
Like an old house, that every day appears
About to fall, he may be propp'd for years;
For a few months, indeed, we might comply,
But these old batter'd fellows never die.'
The hand of Isaac, George on entering took,
With love and resignation in his look;
Declared his comfort in the fortune past,
And joy to find his anchor safely cast:
'Call then my nephews, let the grog be brought,
And I will tell them how the ship was fought.'
Alas! our simple Seaman should have known
That all the care, the kindness, he had shown,
Were from his Brother's heart, if not his memory,

flown:
All swept away, to be perceived no more,
Like idle structures on the sandy shore,
The chance amusement of the playful boy,
That the rude billows in their rage destroy.
Poor George confess'd, though loth the truth to

find,
Slight was his knowledge of a Brother's mind:
The vulgar pipe was to the wife offence,
The frequent grog to Isaac an expense;
Would friends like hers, she question'd, 'choose to

come
Where clouds of poison'd fume defiled a room?
This could their Lady-friend, and Burgess Steel
(Teased with his worship's asthma), bear to feel?
Could they associate or converse with him -
A loud rough sailor with a timber limb?'
Cold as he grew, still Isaac strove to show,
By well-feign'd care, that cold he could not grow;
And when he saw his brother look distress'd,
He strove some petty comforts to suggest;
On his wife solely their neglect to lay,
And then t'excuse it, as a woman's way;
He too was chidden when her rules he broke,
And when she sicken'd at the scent of smoke.
George, though in doubt, was still consoled to

find
His Brother wishing to be reckoned kind:
That Isaac seem'd concern'd by his distress,
Gave to his injured feelings some redress;
But none he found disposed to lend an ear
To stories, all were once intent to hear:
Except his nephew, seated on his knee,
He found no creature cared about the sea;
But George indeed--for George they call'd the boy,
When his good uncle was their boast and joy -
Would listen long, and would contend with sleep,
To hear the woes and wonders of the deep;
Till the fond mother cried--'That man will teach
The foolish boy his rude and boisterous speech.'
So judged the father--and the boy was taught
To shun the uncle, whom his love had sought.
The mask of kindness now but seldom worn,
George felt each evil harder to be borne;
And cried (vexation growing day by day),
'Ah! brother Isaac! What! I'm in the way!'
'No! on my credit, look ye, No! but I
Am fond of peace, and my repose would buy
On any terms--in short, we must comply:
My spouse had money--she must have her will -
Ah! brother, marriage is a bitter pill.'
George tried the lady--'Sister, I offend.'
'Me?' she replied--'Oh no! you may depend
On my regard--but watch your brother's way,
Whom I, like you, must study and obey.'
'Ah!' thought the Seaman, 'what a head was mine,
That easy berth at Greenwich to resign!
I'll to the parish'--but a little pride,
And some affection, put the thought aside.
Now gross neglect and open scorn he bore
In silent sorrow--but he felt the more:
The odious pipe he to the kitchen took,
Or strove to profit by some pious book.
When the mind stoops to this degraded state,
New griefs will darken the dependant's fate;
'Brother!' said Isaac, 'you will sure excuse
The little freedom I'm compell'd to use:
My wife's relations--(curse the haughty crew!) -
Affect such niceness, and such dread of you:
You speak so loud--and they have natures soft -
Brother--I wish--do go upon the loft!'
Poor George obey'd, and to the garret fled,
Where not a being saw the tears he shed:
But more was yet required, for guests were come,
Who could not dine if he disgraced the room.
It shock'd his spirit to be esteem'd unfit
With an own brother and his wife to sit;
He grew rebellious--at the vestry spoke
For weekly aid--they heard it as a joke:
'So kind a brother, and so wealthy--you
Apply to us?--No! this will never do:
Good neighbour Fletcher,' said the Overseer,
'We are engaged--you can have nothing here!'
George mutter'd something in despairing tone,
Then sought his loft, to think and grieve alone;
Neglected, slighted, restless on his bed,
With heart half broken, and with scraps ill fed;
Yet was he pleased that hours for play design'd
Were given to ease his ever-troubled mind;
The child still listen'd with increasing joy,
And he was sooth'd by the attentive boy.
At length he sicken'd, and this duteous child
Watch'd o'er his sickness, and his pains beguiled;
The mother bade him from the loft refrain,
But, though with caution, yet he went again;
And now his tales the Sailor feebly told,
His heart was heavy, and his limbs were cold:
The tender boy came often to entreat
His good kind friend would of his presents eat;
Purloin'd or purchased, for he saw, with shame,
The food untouch'd that to his uncle came;
Who, sick in body and in mind, received
The boy's indulgence, gratified and grieved.
'Uncle will die!' said George: --the piteous

wife
Exclaim'd, 'she saw no value in his life;
But, sick or well, to my commands attend,
And go no more to your complaining friend.'
The boy was vex'd, he felt his heart reprove
The stern decree.--What! punish'd for his love!
No! he would go, but softly, to the room,
Stealing in silence--for he knew his doom.
Once in a week the father came to say,
'George, are you ill?' and hurried him away;
Yet to his wife would on their duties dwell,
And often cry, 'Do use my brother well:'
And something kind, no question, Isaac meant,
Who took vast credit for the vague intent.
But, truly kind, the gentle boy essay'd
To cheer his uncle, firm, although afraid;
But now the father caught him at the door,
And, swearing--yes, the man in office swore,
And cried, 'Away! How! Brother, I'm surprised
That one so old can be so ill advised:
Let him not dare to visit you again,
Your cursed stories will disturb his brain;
Is it not vile to court a foolish boy,
Your own absurd narrations to enjoy?
What! sullen!--ha, George Fletcher! you shall see,
Proud as you are, your bread depends on me!'
He spoke, and, frowning, to his dinner went,
Then cool'd and felt some qualms of discontent:
And thought on times when he compell'd his son
To hear these stories, nay, to beg for one;
But the wife's wrath o'ercame the brother's pain,
And shame was felt, and conscience rose, in vain.
George yet stole up; he saw his Uncle lie
Sick on the bed, and heard his heavy sigh;
So he resolved, before he went to rest,
To comfort one so dear and so distressed;
Then watch'd his time, but, with a child-like art,
Betray'd a something treasured at his heart:
Th' observant wife remark'd, 'The boy is grown
So like your brother, that he seems his own:
So close and sullen! and I still suspect
They often meet: --do watch them and detect.'
George now remark'd that all was still as night,
And hasten'd up with terror and delight;
'Uncle!' he cried, and softly tapp'd the door,
Do let me in'--but he could add no more;
The careful father caught him in the fact,
And cried,--'You serpent! is it thus you act?
'Back to your mother!'--and, with hasty blow,
He sent th' indignant boy to grieve below;
Then at the door an angry speech began -
'Is this your conduct?--Is it thus you plan?
Seduce my child, and make my house a scene
Of vile dispute--What is it that you mean?
George, are you dumb? do learn to know your

friends,
And think a while on whom your bread depends.
What! not a word? be thankful I am cool -
But, sir, beware, nor longer play the fool.
Come! brother, come! what is it that you seek
By this rebellion?--Speak, you villain, speak!
Weeping! I warrant--sorrow makes you dumb:
I'll ope your mouth, impostor! if I come:
Let me approach--I'll shake you from the bed,
You stubborn dog--Oh God! my Brother's dead!'
Timid was Isaac, and in all the past
He felt a purpose to be kind at last:
Nor did he mean his brother to depart,
Till he had shown this kindness of his heart;
But day by day he put the cause aside,
Induced by av'rice, peevishness, or pride.
But now awaken'd, from this fatal time
His conscience Isaac felt, and found his crime:
He raised to George a monumental stone,
And there retired to sigh and think alone;
An ague seized him, he grew pale, and shook -
'So,' said his son, 'would my poor Uncle look.'
'And so, my child, shall I like him expire.'
'No! you have physic and a cheerful fire.'
'Unhappy sinner! yes, I'm well supplied
With every comfort my cold heart denied.'
He view'd his Brother now, but not as one
Who vex'd his wife by fondness for her son;
Not as with wooden limb, and seaman's tale,
The odious pipe, vile grog, or humbler ale:
He now the worth and grief alone can view
Of one so mild, so generous, and so true;
'The frank, kind Brother, with such open heart, -
And I to break it--'twas a demon's part!'
So Isaac now, as led by conscience, feels,
Nor his unkindness palliates or conceals;
'This is your folly,' said his heartless wife:
'Alas! my folly cost my Brother's life;
It suffer'd him to languish and decay -
My gentle Brother, whom I could not pay,
And therefore left to pine, and fret his life away

!'
He takes his Son, and bids the boy unfold
All the good Uncle of his feelings told,
All he lamented--and the ready tear
Falls as he listens, soothed, and grieved to hear.
'Did he not curse me, child?'--'He never cursed,
But could not breathe, and said his heart would

burst.'
'And so will mine:'--'Then, father, you must pray:
My uncle said it took his pains away.'
Repeating thus his sorrows, Isaac shows
That he, repenting, feels the debt he owes,
And from this source alone his every comfort flows.
He takes no joy in office, honours, gain;
They make him humble, nay, they give him pain:
'These from my heart,' he cries, 'all feeling

drove;
They made me cold to nature, dead to love.'
He takes no joy in home, but sighing, sees
A son in sorrow, and a wife at ease;
He takes no joy in office--see him now,
And Burgess Steel has but a passing bow;
Of one sad train of gloomy thoughts possess'd,
He takes no joy in friends, in food, in rest -
Dark are the evil days, and void of peace the best.
And thus he lives, if living be to sigh,
And from all comforts of the world to fly,
Without a hope in life--without a wish to die.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fourth Book

THEY met still sooner. 'Twas a year from thence
When Lucy Gresham, the sick semptress girl,
Who sewed by Marian's chair so still and quick,
And leant her head upon the back to cough
More freely when, the mistress turning round,
The others took occasion to laugh out,–
Gave up a last. Among the workers, spoke
A bold girl with black eyebrows and red lips,–
'You know the news? Who's dying, do you think?
Our Lucy Gresham. I expected it
As little as Nell Hart's wedding. Blush not, Nell,
Thy curls be red enough without thy cheeks;
And, some day, there'll be found a man to dote
On red curls.–Lucy Gresham swooned last night,
Dropped sudden in the street while going home;
And now the baker says, who took her up
And laid her by her grandmother in bed,
He'll give her a week to die in. Pass the silk.
Let's hope he gave her a loaf too, within reach,
For otherwise they'll starve before they die,
That funny pair of bedfellows! Miss Bell,
I'll thank you for the scissors. The old crone
Is paralytic–that's the reason why
Our Lucy's thread went faster than her breath,
Which went too quick, we all know. Marian Erle!
Why, Marian Erle, you're not the fool to cry?
Your tears spoil Lady Waldemar's new dress,
You piece of pity!'
Marian rose up straight,
And, breaking through the talk and through the work,
Went outward, in the face of their surprise,
To Lucy's home, to nurse her back to life
Or down to death. She knew by such an act,
All place and grace were forfeit in the house,
Whose mistress would supply the missing hand
With necessary, not inhuman haste,
And take no blame. But pity, too, had dues:
She could not leave a solitary soul
To founder in the dark, while she sate still
And lavished stitches on a lady's hem
As if no other work were paramount.
'Why, God,' thought Marian, 'has a missing hand
This moment; Lucy wants a drink, perhaps.
Let others miss me! never miss me, God!'

So Marian sat by Lucy's bed, content
With duty, and was strong, for recompense,
To hold the lamp of human love arm-high
To catch the death-strained eyes and comfort them,
Until the angels, on the luminous side
Of death, had got theirs ready. And she said,
When Lucy thanked her sometimes, called her kind,
It touched her strangely. 'Marian Erle called kind!
What, Marian, beaten and sold, who could not die!
'Tis verily good fortune to be kind.
Ah, you,' she said, 'who are born to such a grace,
Be sorry for the unlicensed class, the poor,
Reduced to think the best good fortune means
That others, simply, should be kind to them.'

From sleep to sleep while Lucy slid away
So gently, like a light upon a hill,
Of which none names the moment when it goes,
Though all see when 'tis gone,–a man came in
And stood beside the bed. The old idiot wretch
Screamed feebly, like a baby overlain,
'Sir, sir, you won't mistake me for the corpse?
Don't look at me, sir! never bury me!
Although I lie here, I'm alive as you,
Except my legs and arms,–I eat and drink,
And understand,–(that you're the gentleman
Who fits the funerals up, Heaven speed you, sir,)
And certainly I should be livelier still
If Lucy here . . sir, Lucy is the corpse . .
Had worked more properly to buy me wine:
But Lucy, sir, was always slow at work,
I shan't lose much by Lucy. Marian Erle,
Speak up and show the gentleman the corpse.'

And then a voice said, 'Marian Erle.' She rose;
It was the hour for angels–there, stood hers!
She scarcely marvelled to see Romney Leigh.
As light November snows to empty nests,
As grass to graves, as moss to mildewed stones,
As July suns to ruins, through the rents,
As ministering spirits to mourners, through a loss,
As Heaven itself to men, through pangs of death,
He came uncalled wherever grief had come.
'And so,' said Marian Erle, 'we meet anew,'
And added softly, 'so, we shall not part.'
He was not angry that she had left the house
Wherein he placed her. Well–she had feared it might
Have vexed him. Also, when he found her set
On keeping, though the dead was out of sight,
That half-dead, half-live body left behind
With cankerous heart and flesh,–which took your best
And cursed you for the little good it did,
(Could any leave the bedrid wretch alone,
So joyless, she was thankless even to God,
Much less to you?) he did not say 'twas well
Yet Marian thought he did not take it ill,–
Since day by day he came, and, every day,
She felt within his utterance and his eyes
A closer, tenderer presence of the soul,
Until at last he said, 'We shall not part.'

On that same day, was Marian's work complete:
She had smoothed the empty bed, and swept the floor
Of coffin sawdust, set the chairs anew
The dead had ended gossip in, and stood
In that poor room so cold and orderly,
The door-key in her hand, prepared to go
As they had, howbeit not their way. He spoke.

'Dear Marian, of one clay God made us all,
And though men push and poke and paddle in't
(As children play at fashioning dirt-pies)
And call their fancies by the name of facts,
Assuming difference, lordship, privilege,
When all's plain dirt,–they come back to it at last;
The first grave-digger proves it with a spade,
And pats all even. Need we wait for this,
You, Marian, and I, Romney?'
She at that,
Looked blindly in his face, as when one looks
Through drying autumn-rains to find the sky.
He went on speaking.
'Marian, I being born
What men call noble, and you, issued from
The noble people,–though the tyrannous sword
Which pierced Christ's heart, has cleft the world in twain
'Twixt class and class, opposing rich to poor,–
Shall we keep parted? Not so. Let us lean
And strain together rather, each to each,
Compress the red lips of this gaping wound,
As far as two souls can,–ay, lean and league,
I, from my superabundance,–from your want,
You,–joining in a protest 'gainst the wrong
On both sides!'–
All the rest, he held her hand
In speaking, which confused the sense of much;
Her heart, against his words, beat out so thick
They might as well be written on the dust
Where some poor bird, escaping from hawk's beak,
Has dropped, and beats its shuddering wings,–the lines
Are rubbed so,–yet 'twas something like to this,
–'That they two, standing at the two extremes
Of social classes, had received one seal,
Been dedicate and drawn beyond themselves
To mercy and ministration,–he, indeed,
Through what he knew, and she, through what she felt,
He, by man's conscience, she, by woman's heart,
Relinquishing their several 'vantage posts
Of wealthy case and honourable toil,
To work with God at love. And, since God willed
That, putting out his hand to touch this ark,
He found a woman's hand there, he'd accept
The sign too, hold the tender fingers fast,
And say, 'My fellow-worker, be my wife!'

She told the tale with simple, rustic turns,–
Strong leaps of meaning in her sudden eyes
That took the gaps of any imperfect phrase
Of the unschooled speaker: I have rather writ
The thing I understood so, than the thing
I heard so. And I cannot render right
Her quick gesticulation, wild yet soft,
Self-startled from the habitual mood she used,
Half sad, half languid,–like dumb creatures (now
A rustling bird, and now a wandering deer,
Or squirrel against the oak-gloom flashing up
His sidelong burnished head, in just her way
Of savage spontaneity,) that stir
Abruptly the green silence of the woods,
And make it stranger, holier, more profound;
As Nature's general heart confessed itself
Of life, and then fell backward on repose.

I kissed the lips that ended.–'So indeed
He loves you, Marian?'
'Loves me!' She looked up
With a child's wonder when you ask him first
Who made the sun–a puzzled blush, that grew,
Then broke off in a rapid radiant smile
Of sure solution. 'Loves me! he loves all,–
And me, of course. He had not asked me else
To work with him for ever, and be his wife.'
Her words reproved me. This perhaps was love–
To have its hands too full of gifts to give,
For putting out a hand to take a gift;
To love so much, the perfect round of love
Includes, in strictly conclusion, the being loved;
As Eden-dew went up and fell again,
Enough for watering Eden. Obviously
She had not thought about his love at all:
The cataracts of her soul had poured themselves
And risen self-crowned in rainbow; would she ask
Who crowned her?–it sufficed that she was crowned.
With women of my class, 'tis otherwise:
We haggle for the small change of our gold,
And so much love, accord, for so much love,
Rialto-prices. Are we therefore wrong?
If marriage be a contract, look to it then,
Contracting parties should be equal, just;
Bit if, a simple fealty on one side,
A mere religion,–right to give, is all,
And certain brides of Europe duly ask
To mount the pile, as Indian widows do,
The spices of their tender youth heaped up,
The jewels of their gracious virtues worn,
More gems, more glory,–to consume entire
For a living husband! as the man's alive,
Not dead,–the woman's duty, by so much,
Advanced in England, beyond Hindostan.

I sate there, musing, till she touched my hand
With hers, as softly as a strange white bird
She feared to startle in touching. 'You are kind.
But are you, peradventure, vexed at heart
Because your cousin takes me for a wife?
I know I am not worthy–nay, in truth,
I'm glad on't, since, for that, he chooses me.
He likes the poor things of the world the best;
I would not therefore, if I could, be rich,
It pleasures him to stoop for buttercups;
I would not be a rose upon the wall
A queen might stop at, near the palace-door,
To say to a courtier, 'Pluck that rose for me,
'It's prettier than the rest.' O Romeny Leigh!
I'd rather far be trodden by his foot,
Than like in a great queen's bosom'
Out of breath
She paused.
'Sweet Marian, do you disavow
The roses with that face?'
She dropt her head
As if the wind had caught that flower of her,
And bent it in the garden,–then looked up
With grave assurance. 'Well, you think me bold!
But so we all are, when we're praying to God.
And if I'm bold–yet, lady, credit me,
That, since I know myself for what I am
Much fitter for his handmaid than his wife,
I'll prove the handmaid and the wife at once,
Serve tenderly, and love obediently,
And be a worthier mate, perhaps, than some
Who are wooed in silk among their learned books;
While I shall set myself to read his eyes,
Till such grow plainer to me than the French
To wisest ladies. Do you think I'll miss
A letter, in the spelling of his mind?'
No more than they do, when they sit and write
Their flying words with flickering wild-fowl tails,
Nor ever pause to ask how many t s,
Should that be a y or i –they know't so well:
I've seen them writing, when I brought a dress
And waited,–floating out their soft white hands
On shining paper. But they're hard sometimes,
For all those hands!–we've used out many nights,
And worn the yellow daylight into shreds
Which flapped and shivered down our aching eyes
Till night appeared more tolerable, just
That pretty ladies might look beautiful,
Who said at last . . 'You're lazy in that house!
'You're slow in sending home the work,–I count
'I've waited near an hour for't.' Pardon me
I do not blame them, madam, nor misprize;
They are fair and gracious; ay, but not like you,
Since none but you has Mister Leigh's own blood
Both noble and gentle,–and without it . . well,
They are fair, I said; so fair, it scarce seems strange
That, flashing out in any looking-glass
The wonder of their glorious brows and breasts,
They are charmed so, they forget to look behind
And mark how pale we've grown, we pitiful
Remainders of the world. And so, perhaps,
If Mister Leigh had chosen a wife from these,
She might . . although he's better than her best,
And dearly she would know it . . steal a thought
Which should be all his, an eye-glance from his face,
To plunge into the mirror opposite,
In search of her own beauty's pearl: while I . .
Ah, dearest lady, serge will outweigh silk
For winter-wear, when bodies feel a-cold,
And I'll be a true wife to your cousin Leigh.'

Before I answered, he was there himself.
I think he had been standing in the room,
And listened probably to half her talk,
Arrested, turned to stone,–as white as stone.
Will tender sayings make men look so white?
He loves her then profoundly.
'You are here,
Aurora? Here I meet you!'–We clasped hands.

'Even so, dear Romney. Lady Waldemar
Has sent me in haste to find a cousin of mine
Who shall be.'

'Lady Waldemar is good.'

'Here's one, at least, who is good,' I sighed and touched
Poor Marian's happy head, as, doglike, she
Most passionately patient, waited on,
A-tremble for her turn of greeting words;
'I've sat a full hour with your Marian Erle,
And learnt the thing by heart,–and, from my heart,
Am therefore competent to give you thanks
For such a cousin.'
'You accept at last
A gift from me, Aurora, without scorn?
At last I please you?'–How his voice was changed!

'You cannot please a woman against her will,
And once you vexed me. Shall we speak of that?
We'll say, then, you were noble in it all,
And I not ignorant–let it pass. And now,
You please me, Romney, when you please yourself;
So, please you, be fanatical in love,
And I'm well pleased. Ah, cousin! at the old hall,
Among the gallery portraits of our Leighs,
We shall not find a sweeter signory
Than this pure forehead's.'
Not a word he said.
How arrogant men are!–Even philanthropists,
Who try to take a wife up in the way
They put down a subscription-cheque,–if once
She turns and says, 'I will not tax you so,
Most charitable sir,'–feel ill at ease,
As though she had wronged them somehow. I suppose
We women should remember what we are,
And not throw back an obolus inscribed
With Cæsar's image, lightly. I resumed.

'It strikes me, some of those sublime Vandykes
Were not too proud, to make good saints in heaven;
And, if so, then they're not too proud to-day
To bow down (now the ruffs are off their necks)
And own this good, true, noble Marian, . . yours,
And mine, I'll say!–For poets (bear the word)
Half-poets even, are still whole democrats,–
Oh, not that we're disloyal to the high,
But loyal to the low, and cognisant
Of the less scrutable majesties. For me,
I comprehend your choice–I justify
Your right in choosing.'
'No, no, no' he sighed,
With a sort of melancholy impatient scorn,
As some grown man, who never had a child,
Puts by some child who plays at being a man;
–'You did not, do not, cannot comprehend
My choice, my ends, my motives, nor myself:
No matter now–we'll let it pass, you say.
I thank you for your generous cousinship
Which helps this present; I accept for her
Your favourable thoughts. We're fallen on days,
We two, who are not poets, when to wed
Requires less mutual love than common love,
For two together to bear out at once
Upon the loveless many. Work in pairs,
In galley-couplings or in marriage-rings,
The difference lies in the honour, not the work,–
And such we're bound to, I and she. But love,
(You poets are benighted in this age;
The hour's too late for catching even moths,
You've gnats instead,) love!–love's fool-paradise
Is out of date, like Adam's. Set a swan
To swim the Trenton, rather than true love
To float its fabulous plumage safely down
The cataracts of this loud transition-time,–
Whose roar, for ever, henceforth, in my ears,
Must keep me deaf to music.'
There, I turned
And kissed poor Marian, out of discontent.
The man had baffled, chafed me, till I flung
For refuge to the woman,–as, sometimes,
Impatient of some crowded room's close smell,
You throw a window open, and lean out
To breathe a long breath, in the dewy night,
And cool your angry forehead. She, at least,
Was not built up, as walls are, brick by brick;
Each fancy squared, each feeling ranged by line,
The very heat of burning youth applied
To indurate forms and systems! excellent bricks,
A well-built wall,–which stops you on the road,
And, into which, you cannot see an inch
Although you beat your head against it–pshaw!

'Adieu,' I said, 'for this time, cousins both:
And, cousin Romney, pardon me the word,
Be happy!–oh, in some esoteric sense
Of course!–I mean no harm in wishing well.
Adieu, my Marian:–may she come to me,
Dear Romney, and be married from my house?
It is not part of your philosophy
To keep your bird upon the blackthorn?'
'Ay,'
He answered, 'but it is:–I take my wife
Directly from the people,–and she comes,
As Austria's daughter to imperial France,
Betwixt her eagles, blinking not her race,
From Margaret's Court at garret-height, to meet
And wed me at St. James's, nor put off
Her gown of serge for that. The things we do,
We do: we'll wear no mask, as if we blushed.'

'Dear Romney, you're the poet,' I replied,–
But felt my smile too mournful for my word,
And turned and went. Ay, masks, I thought,–beware
Of tragic masks, we tie before the glass,
Uplifted on the cothurn half a yard
Above the natural stature! we would play
Heroic parts to ourselves,–and end, perhaps,
As impotently as Athenian wives
Who shrieked in fits at the Eumenides.

His foot pursued me down the stair. 'At least,
You'll suffer me to walk with you beyond
These hideous streets, these graves, where men alive,
Packed close with earthworms, burr unconsciously
About the plague that slew them; let me go.
The very women pelt their souls in mud
At any woman who walks here alone.
How came you here alone?–you are ignorant.'

We had a strange and melancholy walk:
The night came drizzling downward in dark rain;
And, as we walked, the colour of the time,
The act, the presence, my hand upon his arm,
His voice in my ear, and mine to my own sense,
Appeared unnatural. We talked modern books,
And daily papers; Spanish marriage-schemes,
And English climate–was't so cold last year?
And will the wind change by to-morrow morn?
Can Guizot stand? is London full? is trade
Competitive? has Dickens turned his hinge
A-pinch upon the fingers of the great?
And are potatoes to grow mythical
Like moly? will the apple die out too?
Which way is the wind to-night? south-east? due east?
We talked on fast, while every common word
Seemed tangled with the thunder at one end,
And ready to pull down upon our heads
A terror out of sight. And yet to pause
Were surelier mortal: we tore greedily up
All silence, all the innocent breathing -points,
As if, like pale conspirators in haste,
We tore up papers where our signatures
Imperilled us to an ugly shame or death.

I cannot tell you why it was. 'Tis plain
We had not loved nor hated: wherefore dread
To spill gunpowder on ground safe from fire?
Perhaps we had lived too closely, to diverge
So absolutely: leave two clocks, they say,
Wound up to different hours, upon one shelf,
And slowly, through the interior wheels of each,
The blind mechanic motion sets itself
A-throb, to feel out for the mutual time.
It was not so with us, indeed. While he
Struck midnight, I kept striking six at dawn,
While he marked judgment, I, redemption-day;
And such exception to a general law,
Imperious upon inert matter even,
Might make us, each to either insecure,
A beckoning mystery, or a troubling fear.

I mind me, when we parted at the door,
How strange his good-night sounded,–like good-night
Beside a deathbed, where the morrow's sun
Is sure to come too late for more good days:–
And all that night I thought . . 'Good-night,' said he.

And so, a month passed. Let me set it down
At once,–I have been wrong, I have been wrong.
We are wrong always, when we think too much
Of what we think or are; albeit our thoughts
Be verily bitter as self-sacrifice,
We're no less selfish. If we sleep on rocks
Or roses, sleeping past the hour of noon
We're lazy. This I write against myself.
I had done a duty in the visit paid
To Marian, and was ready otherwise
To give the witness of my presence and name
Whenever she should marry.–Which, I thought
Sufficed. I even had cast into the scale
An overweight of justice toward the match;
The Lady Waldemar had missed her tool,
Had broken it in the lock as being too straight
For a crooked purpose, while poor Marian Erle
Missed nothing in my accents or my acts:
I had not been ungenerous on the whole,
Nor yet untender; so, enough. I felt
Tired, overworked: this marriage somewhat jarred;
Or, if it did not, all the bridal noise . .
The pricking of the map of life with pins,
In schemes of . . 'Here we'll go,' and 'There we'll stay,'
And 'Everywhere we'll prosper in our love,'
Was scarce my business. Let them order it;
Who else should care? I threw myself aside,
As one who had done her work and shuts her eyes
To rest the better.
I, who should have known,
Forereckoned mischief! Where we disavow
Being keeper to our brother, we're his Cain.

I might have held that poor child to my heart
A little longer! 'twould have hurt me much
To have hastened by its beats the marriage day,
And kept her safe meantime from tampering hands,
Or, peradventure, traps? What drew me back
From telling Romney plainly, the designs
Of Lady Waldemar, as spoken out
To me . . me? had I any right, ay, right,
With womanly compassion and reserve
To break the fall of woman's impudence?–
To stand by calmly, knowing what I knew,
And hear him call her good?
Distrust that word.
'There is none good save God,' said Jesus Christ.
If He once, in the first creation-week,
Called creatures good,–for ever afterward,
The Devil only has done it, and his heirs.
The knaves who win so, and the fools who lose;
The world's grown dangerous. In the middle age,
I think they called malignant fays and imps
Good people. A good neighbour, even in this
Is fatal sometimes,–cuts your morning up
To mince-meat of the very smallest talk,
Then helps to sugar her bohea at night
With her reputation. I have known good wives,
As chaste, or nearly so, as Potiphar's;
And good, good mothers, who would use a child
To better an intrigue; good friends, beside.
(Very good) who hung succinctly round your neck
And sucked your breath, as cats are fabled to do
By sleeping infants. And we all have known
Good critics, who have stamped out poet's hopes;
Good statesmen, who pulled ruin on the state;
Good patriots, who for a theory, risked a cause
Good kings, who disemboweled for a tax;
Good popes, who brought all good to jeopardy;
Good Christians, who sate still in easy chairs,
And damned the general world for standing up.–
Now, may the good God pardon all good men!

How bitterly I speak,–how certainly
The innocent white milk in us is turned,
By much persistent shining of the sun!
Shake up the sweetest in us long enough
With men, it drips to foolish curd, too sour
To feed the most untender of Christ's lambs.

I should have thought . . .a woman of the world
Like her I'm meaning,–centre to herself,
Who has wheeled on her own pivot half a life
In isolated self-love and self-will,
As a windmill seen at distance radiating
Its delicate white vans against the sky,
So soft and soundless, simply beautiful,–
Seen nearer . . what a roar and tear it makes,
How it grinds and bruises! . . if she loves at last,
Her love's a re-adjustment of self-love,
No more; a need felt of another's use
To her one advantage,–as the mill wants grain,
The fire wants fuel, the very wolf wants prey;
And none of these is more unscrupulous
Than such a charming woman when she loves.
She'll not be thwarted by an obstacle
So trifling as . . her soul is, . . much less yours!–
Is God a consideration?–she loves you,
Not God; she will not flinch for him indeed:
She did not for the Marchioness of Perth,
When wanting tickets for the birthnight ball.
She loves you, sir, with passion, to lunacy;
She loves you like her diamonds . . almost.
Well,
A month passed so, and then the notice came;
On such a day the marriage at the church.
I was not backward.
Half St. Giles in frieze
Was bidden to meet St. James in cloth of gold,
And, after contract at the altar, pass
To eat a marriage-feast on Hampstead Heath.
Of course the people came in uncompelled,
Lame, blind, and worse–sick, sorrowful, and worse,
The humours of the peccant social wound
All pressed out, poured out upon Pimlico.
Exasperating the unaccustomed air
With hideous interfusion: you'd suppose
A finished generation, dead of plague,
Swept outward from their graves into the sun,
The moil of death upon them. What a sight!
A holiday of miserable men
Is sadder than a burial-day of kings.

They clogged the streets, they oozed into the church
In a dark slow stream, like blood. To see that sight,
The noble ladies stood up in their pews,
Some pale for fear, a few as red for hate,
Some simply curious , some just insolent,
And some in wondering scorn,–'What next? what next?'
These crushed their delicate rose-lips from the smile
That misbecame them in a holy place,
With broidered hems of perfumed handkerchiefs;
Those passed the salts with confidence of eyes
And simultaneous shiver of moiré silk;
While all the aisles, alive and black with heads,
Crawled slowly toward the altar from the street,
As bruised snakes crawl and hiss out of a hole
With shuddering involutions, swaying slow
From right to left, and then from left to right,
In pants and pauses. What an ugly crest
Of faces, rose upon you everywhere,
From that crammed mass! you did not usually
See faces like them in the open day:
They hide in cellars, not to make you mad
As Romney Leigh is.–Faces?–O my God,
We call those, faces? men's and women's . . ay,
And children's;–babies, hanging like a rag
Forgotten on their mother's neck,–poor mouths.
Wiped clean of mother's milk by mother's blow
Before they are taught her cursing. Faces . . phew,
We'll call them vices festering to despairs,
Or sorrows petrifying to vices: not
A finger-touch of God left whole on them;
All ruined, lost–the countenance worn out
As the garments, the will dissolute as the acts,
The passions loose and draggling in the dirt
To trip the foot up at the first free step!–
Those, faces! 'twas as if you had stirred up hell
To heave its lowest dreg-fiends uppermost
In fiery swirls of slime,–such strangled fronts,
Such obdurate jaws were thrown up constantly,
To twit you with your race, corrupt your blood,
And grind to devilish colors all your dreams
Henceforth, . . though, haply, you should drop asleep
By clink of silver waters, in a muse
On Raffael's mild Madonna of the Bird.

I've waked and slept through many nights and days
Since then,–but still that day will catch my breath
Like a nightmare. There are fatal days, indeed,
In which the fibrous years have taken root
So deeply, that they quiver to their tops
Whene'er you stir the dust of such a day.

My cousin met me with his eyes and hand,
And then, with just a word, . . that 'Marian Erle
Was coming with her bridesmaids presently,'
Made haste to place me by the altar-stair,
Where he and other noble gentlemen
And high-born ladies, waited for the bride.

We waited. It was early: there was time
For greeting, and the morning's compliment;
And gradually a ripple of women's talk
Arose and fell, and tossed about a spray
Of English s s, soft as a silent hush,
And, notwithstanding, quite as audible
As louder phrases thrown out by the men.
–'Yes really, if we've need to wait in church,
We've need to talk there.'–'She? 'Tis Lady Ayr
In blue–not purple! that's the dowager.'
–'She looks as young.'–'She flirts as young, you mean!
Why if you had seen her upon Thursday night,
You'd call Miss Norris modest.'–' You again!
I waltzed with you three hours back. Up at six,
Up still at ten: scarce time to change one's shoes.
I feel as white and sulky as a ghost,
So pray don't speak to me, Lord Belcher.'–'No,
I'll look at you instead, and it's enough
While you have that face.' 'In church, my lord! fie, fie!'
–'Adair, you stayed for the Division?'–'Lost
By one.' 'The devil it is! I'm sorry for't.
And if I had not promised Mistress Grove' . .
–'You might have kept your word to Liverpool.'
'Constituents must remember, after all,
We're mortal.'–'We remind them of it.'–'Hark,
The bride comes! Here she comes, in a stream of milk!'
–'There? Dear, you are asleep still; don't you know
The five Miss Granvilles? always dressed in white
To show they're ready to be married.'–'Lower!
The aunt is at your elbow.'–'Lady Maud,
Did Lady Waldemar tell you she had seen
This girl of Leigh's?' 'No,–wait! 'twas Mrs. Brookes,
Who told me Lady Waldemar told her–
No, 'twasn't Mrs. Brookes.'–'She's pretty?'–'Who?
Mrs.Brookes? Lady Waldemar?'–'How hot!
Pray is't the law to-day we're not to breathe?
You're treading on my shawl–I thank you, sir.'
–'They say the bride's a mere child, who can't read,
But knows the things she shouldn't, with wide-awake
Great eyes. I'd go through fire to look at her.'
–'You do, I think.'–'and Lady Waldemar
(You see her; sitting close to Romney Leigh;
How beautiful she looks, a little flushed!)
Has taken up the girl, and organised
Leigh's folly. Should I have come here, you suppose,
Except she'd asked me?'–'She'd have served him more
By marrying him herself.'
'Ah–there she comes,
The bride, at last!'
'Indeed, no. Past eleven.
She puts off her patched petticoat to-day
And puts on May-fair manners, so begins
By setting us to wait.'–'Yes, yes, this Leigh
Was always odd; it's in the blood, I think;
His father's uncle's cousin's second son
Was, was . . you understand me–and for him,
He's stark!–has turned quite lunatic upon
This modern question of the poor–the poor:
An excellent subject when you're moderate;
You've seen Prince Albert's model lodging-house?
Does honour to his royal highness. Good:
But would he stop his carriage in Cheapside
To shake a common fellow by the fist
Whose name was . . Shakspeare? no. We draw a line,
And if we stand not by our order, we
In England, we fall headlong. Here's a sight,–
A hideous sight, a most indecent sight,–
My wife would come, sir, or I had kept her back.
By heaven, sir, when poor Damiens' trunk and limbs
Were torn by horses, women of the court
Stood by and stared, exactly as to-day
On this dismembering of society,
With pretty troubled faces.'
'Now, at last.
She comes now.'
'Where? who sees? you push me, sir,
Beyond the point of what is mannerly.
You're standing, madam, on my second flounce–
I do beseech you.'
'Noit's not the bride.
Half-past eleven. How late! the bridegroom, mark,
Gets anxious and goes out.'
'And as I said . .
These Leighs! our best blood running in the rut!
It's something awful. We had pardoned him
A simple misalliance, got up aside
For a pair of sky-blue eyes; our House of Lords
Has winked at such things, and we've all been young.
But here's an inter-marriage reasoned out,
A contract (carried boldly to the light,
To challenge observation, pioneer
Good acts by a great example) 'twixt the extremes
Of martyrised society,–on the left,
The well-born,–on the right, the merest mob.
To treat as equals!–'tis anarchical!
It means more than it says–'tis damnable!
Why, sir, we can't have even our coffee good,
Unless we strain it.'
'Here, Miss Leigh!'
'Lord Howe,
You're Romney's friend. What's all this waiting for?'

'I cannot tell. The bride has lost her head
(And way, perhaps!) to prove her sympathy
With the bridegroom.'
'What,–you also, disapprove!'

'Oh I approve of nothing in the world,'
He answered; 'not of you, still less of me,
Nor even of Romney–though he's worth us both.
We're all gone wrong. The tune in us is lost:
And whistling in back alleys to the moon,
Will never catch it.'
Let me draw Lord Howe;
A born aristocrat, bred radical,
And educated socialist, who still
Goes floating, on traditions of his kind,
Across the theoretic flood from France,–
Though, like a drenched Noah on a rotten deck,
Scarce safer for his place there. He, at least,
Will never land on Ararat, he knows,
To recommence the world on the old plan:
Indeed, he thinks, said world had better end;
He sympathises rather with the fish
Outside, than with the drowned paired beasts within
Who cannot couple again or multiply:
And that's the sort of Noah he is, Lord Howe.
He never could be anything complete,
Except a loyal, upright gentleman,
A liberal landlord, graceful diner-out,
And entertainer more than hospitable,
Whom authors dine with and forget the port.
Whatever he believes, and it is much,
But no-wise certain . . now here and now there, . .
He still has sympathies beyond his creed,
Diverting him from action. In the House,
No party counts upon him, and all praise:
All like his books too, (for he has written books)
Which, good to lie beside a bishop's chair,
So oft outreach themselves with jets of fire
At which the foremost of the progressists
May warm audacious hands in passing by.
Of stature over-tall, lounging for ease;
Light hair, that seems to carry a wind in it,
And eyes that, when they look on you, will lean
Their whole weight half in indolence, and half
In wishing you unmitigated good,
Until you know not if to flinch from him
Or thank him.–'Tis Lord Howe.
'We're all gone wrong,'
Said he, 'and Romney, that dear friend of ours,
Is no-wise right. There's one true thing on earth;
That's love! He takes it up, and dresses it,
And acts a play with it, as Hamlet did,
To show what cruel uncles we have been,
And how we should be uneasy in our minds,
While he, Prince Hamlet, weds a pretty maid
(Who keeps us too long waiting, we'll confess)
By symbol, to instruct us formally
To fill the ditches up 'twixt class and class,
And live together in phalansteries.
What then?–he's mad, our Hamlet! clap his play,
And bind him.'
'Ah, Lord Howe, this spectacle
Pulls stronger at us than the Dane's. See there!
The crammed aisles heave and strain and steam with life–
Dear Heaven, what life!'
'Why , yes,–a poet sees;
Which makes him different from a common man.
I, too, see somewhat, though I cannot sing;
I should have been a poet, only that
My mother took fright at the ugly world,
And bore me tongue-tied. If you'll grant me now
That Romney gives us a fine actor-piece
To make us merry on his marriage-morn,–
The fable's worse than Hamlet's, I'll concede
The terrible people, old and poor and blind,
Their eyes eat out with plague and poverty
From seeing beautiful and cheerful sights,
We'll liken to a brutalized King Lear,
Led out,–by no means to clear scores with wrongs–
His wrongs are so far back, . . he has forgot;
All's past like youth; but just to witness here
A simple contract,–he, upon his side,
And Regan with her sister Goneril
And all the dappled courtiers and court-fools,
On their side. Not that any of these would say
They're sorry, neither. What is done, is done.
And violence is now turned privilege,
As cream turns cheese, if buried long enough.
What could such lovely ladies have to do
With the old man there, in those ill-odorous rags,
Except to keep the wind-side of him? Lear
Is flat and quiet, as a decent grave;
He does not curse his daughters in the least.
Be these his daughters? Lear is thinking of
His porridge chiefly . . is it getting cold
At Hampstead? will the ale be served in pots?
Poor Lear, poor daughters? Bravo, Romney's play?'

A murmur and a movement drew around;
A naked whisper touched us. Something wrong!
What's wrong! That black crowd, as an overstrained
Cord, quivered in vibrations, and I saw
Was that his face I saw? . . his . . Romney Leigh's.
Which tossed a sudden horror like a sponge
Into all eyes,–while himself stood white upon
The topmost altar-stair, and tried to speak,
And failed, and lifted higher above his head
A letter, . . as a man who drowns and gasps.

'My brothers, bear with me! I am very weak.
I meant but only good. Perhaps I meant
Too proudly,–and God snatched the circumstance
And changed it therefore. There's no marriage–none
She leaves me,–she departs,–she disappears,–
I lose her. Yet I never forced her 'ay'
To have her 'no' so cast into my teeth
In manner of an accusation, thus.
My friends, you are all dismissed. Go, eat and drink
According to the programme,–and farewell!'

He ended. There was silence in the church;
We heard a baby sucking in its sleep
At the farthest end of the aisle. Then spoke a man,
'Now, look to it, coves, that all the beef and drink
Be not filched from us like the other fun;
For beer's spilt easier than a woman is!
This gentry is not honest with the poor;
They bring us up, to trick us.'–'Go it, Jim,'
A woman screamed back,–'I'm a tender soul;
I never banged a child at two years old
And drew blood from him, but I sobbed for it
Next moment,–and I've had a plague of seven.
I'm tender; I've no stomach even for beef.
Until I know about the girl that's lost,
That's killed, mayhap. I did misdoubt, at first,
The fine lord meant no good by her, or us.
He, maybe, got the upper hand of her
By holding up a wedding-ring, and then . .
A choking finger on her throat, last night,
And just a clever tale to keep us still,
As she is, poor lost innocent. 'Disappear!'
Who ever disappears except a ghost?
And who believes a story of a ghost?
I ask you,–would a girl go off, instead
Of staying to be married? a fine tale!
A wicked man, I say, a wicked man!
For my part I would rather starve on gin
Than make my dinner on his beef and beer.'–
At which a cry rose up–'We'll have our rights.
We'll have the girl, the girl! Your ladies there
Are married safely and smoothly every day,
And she shall not drop through into a trap
Because she's poor and of the people: shame!
We'll have no tricks played off by gentlefolks;
We'll see her righted.
Through the rage and roar
I heard the broken words which Romney flung
Among the turbulent masses, from the ground
He held still, with his masterful pale face–
As huntsmen throw the ration to the pack,
Who, falling on it headlong, dog on dog
In heaps of fury, rend it, swallow it up
With yelling hound jaws,–his indignant words,
His piteous words, his most pathetic words,
Whereof I caught the meaning here and there
By his gesture . . torn in morsels, yelled across,
And so devoured. From end to end, the church
Rocked round us like the sea in storm, and then
Broke up like the earth in earthquake. Men cried out
'Police!'–and women stood and shrieked for God,
Or dropt and swooned; or, like a herd of deer,
(For whom the black woods suddenly grow alive,
Unleashing their wild shadows down the wind
To hunt the creatures into corners, back
And forward) madly fled, or blindly fell,
Trod screeching underneath the feet of those
Who fled and screeched.
The last sight left to me
Was Romney's terrible calm face above
The tumult!–the last sound was 'Pull him down!
Strike–Kill him!' Stretching my unreasoning arms,
As men in dreams, who vainly interpose
'Twixt gods and their undoing, with a cry
I struggled to precipitate myself
Head-foremost to the rescue of my soul
In that white face, . . till some one caught me back,
And so the world went out,–I felt no more.

What followed, was told after by Lord Howe,
Who bore me senseless from the strangling crowd
In church and street, and then returned alone
To see the tumult quelled. The men of law
Had fallen as thunder on a roaring fire,
And made all silent,–while the people's smoke
Passed eddying slowly from the emptied aisles.

Here's Marian's letter, which a ragged child
Brought running, just as Romney at the porch
Looked out expectant of the bride. He sent
The letter to me by his friend Lord Howe
Some two hours after, folded in a sheet
On which his well-known hand had left a word.
Here's Marian's letter.
'Noble friend, dear saint
Be patient with me. Never think me vile,
Who might to-morrow morning be your wife
But that I loved you more than such a name.
Farewell, my Romney. Let me write it once,–
My Romney.
Tis so pretty a coupled word,
I have no heart to pluck it with a blot.
We say 'My God' sometimes, upon our knees,
Who is not therefore vexed: so bear with it . .
And me. I know I'm foolish, weak, and vain;
Yet most of all I'm angry with myself
For losing your last footstep on the stair,
The last time of your coming,–yesterday!
The very first time I lost step of yours,
(Its sweetness comes the next to what you speak)
But yesterday sobs took me by the throat,
And cut me off from music.
'Mister Leigh,
You'll set me down as wrong in many things.
You've praised me, sir, for truth,–and now you'll learn
I had not courage to be rightly true.
I once began to tell you how she came,
The woman . . and you stared upon the floor
In one of your fixed thoughts . . which put me out
For that day. After, some one spoke of me,
So wisely, and of you, so tenderly,
Persuading me to silence for your sake . . .
Well, well! it seems this moment I was wrong
In keeping back from telling you the truth:
There might be truth betwixt us two, at least,
If nothing else. And yet 'twas dangerous.
Suppose a real angel came from heaven
To live with men and women! he'd go mad,
If no considerate hand should tie a blind
Across his piercing eyes. 'Tis thus with you:
You see us too much in your heavenly light;
I always thought so, angel,–and indeed
There's danger that you beat yourself to death
Against the edges of this alien world,
In some divine and fluttering pity.
'Yes
It would be dreadful for a friend of yours,
To see all England thrust you out of doors
And mock you from the windows. You might say,
Or think (that's worse), 'There's some one in the house
I miss and love still.' Dreadful!
'Very kind,
I pray you mark, was Lady Waldemar.
She came to see me nine times, rather ten–
So beautiful, she hurts me like the day
Let suddenly on sick eyes.
'Most kind of all,
Your cousin!–ah, most like you! Ere you came
She kissed me mouth to mouth: I felt her soul
Dip through her serious lips in holy fire.
God help me, but it made me arrogant;
I almost told her that you would not lose
By taking me to wife: though, ever since,
I've pondered much a certain thing she asked . .
'He love's you, Marian?' . . in a sort of mild
Derisive sadness . . as a mother asks
Her babe, 'You'll touch that star, you think?'
'Farewell!
I know I never touched it.
'This is worst:
Babes grow, and lose the hope of things above;
A silver threepence sets them leaping high–
But no more stars! mark that.
'I've writ all night,
And told you nothing. God, if I could die,
And let this letter break off innocent
Just here! But no–for your sake . .
'Here's the last:
I never could be happy as your wife,
I never could be harmless as your friend,
I never will look more into your face,
Till God says, 'Look!' I charge you, seek me not,
Nor vex yourself with lamentable thoughts
That peradventure I have come to grief;
Be sure I'm well, I'm merry, I'm at ease,
But such a long way, long way, long way off,
I think you'll find me sooner in my grave;
And that's my choice, observe. For what remains,
An over-generous friend will care for me,
And keep me happy . . happier . .
'There's a blot!
This ink runs thick . . we light girls lightly weep . .
And keep me happier . . was the thing to say, . .
Than as your wife I could be!–O, my star,
My saint, my soul! for surely you're my soul,
Through whom God touched me! I am not so lost
I cannot thank you for the good you did,
The tears you stopped, which fell down bitterly,
Like these–the times you made me weep for joy
At hoping I should learn to write your notes
And save the tiring of your eyes, at night;
And most for that sweet thrice you kissed my lips
And said 'Dear Marian.'
Twould be hard to read,
This letter, for a reader half as learn'd,
But you'll be sure to master it, in spite
Of ups and downs. My hand shakes, I am blind,
I'm poor at writing, at the best,–and yet
I tried to make my g s the way you showed.
Farewell–Christ love you.–Say 'Poor Marian' now.'

Poor Marian!–wanton Marian!–was it so,
Or so? For days, her touching, foolish lines
We mused on with conjectural fantasy,
As if some riddle of a summer-cloud
On which some one tries unlike similitudes
Of now a spotted Hydra-skin cast off,
And now a screen of carven ivory
That shuts the heaven's conventual secrets up
From mortals over-bold. We sought the sense:
She loved him so perhaps, (such words mean love,)
That, worked on by some shrewd perfidious tongue,
(And then I thought of Lady Waldemar)
She left him, not to hurt him; or perhaps
She loved one in her class,–or did not love,
But mused upon her wild bad tramping life,
Until the free blood fluttered at her heart,
And black bread eaten by the road-side hedge
Seemed sweeter than being put to Romney's school
Of philanthropical self-sacrifice,
Irrevocably.–Girls are girls, beside,
Thought I, and like a wedding by one rule.
You seldom catch these birds, except with chaff:
They feel it almost an immoral thing
To go out and be married in broad day,
Unless some winning special flattery should
Excuse them to themselves for't, . . 'No one parts
Her hair with such a silver line as you,
One moonbeam from the forehead to the crown!'
Or else . . 'You bite your lip in such a way,
It spoils me for the smiling of the rest'–
And so on. Then a worthless gaud or two,
To keep for love,–a ribbon for the neck,
Or some glass pin,–they have their weight with girls.

And Romney sought her many days and weeks:
He sifted all the refuse of the town,
Explored the trains, enquired among the ships,
And felt the country through from end to end;
No Marian!–Though I hinted what I knew,–
A friend of his had reasons of her own
For throwing back the match–he would not hear:
The lady had been ailing ever since,
The shock had harmed her. Something in his tone
Repressed me; something in me shamed my doubt
To a sigh, repressed too. He went on to say
That, putting questions where his Marian lodged,
He found she had received for visitors,
Besides himself and Lady Waldemar
And, that once, mea dubious woman dressed
Beyond us both. The rings upon her hands
Had dazed the children when she threw them pence.
'She wore her bonnet as the queen might hers,
To show the crown,' they said,–'a scarlet crown
Of roses that had never been in bud.'

When Romney told me that,–for now and then
He came to tell me how the search advanced,
His voice dropped: I bent forward for the rest:
The woman had been with her, it appeared,
At first from week to week, then day by day,
And last, 'twas sure . .
I looked upon the ground
To escape the anguish of his eyes, and asked
As low as when you speak to mourners new
Of those they cannot bear yet to call dead,
If Marian had as much as named to him
A certain Rose, an early friend of hers,
A ruined creature.'
'Never.'–Starting up
He strode from side to side about the room,
Most like some prisoned lion sprung awake,
Who has felt the desert sting him through his dreams.
'What was I to her, that she should tell me aught?
A friend! Was I a friend? I see all clear.
Such devils would pull angels out of heaven,
Provided they could reach them; 'tis their pride;
And that's the odds 'twixt soul and body-plague!
The veriest slave who drops in Cairo's street,
Cries, 'Stand off from me,' to the passengers;
While these blotched souls are eager to infect,
And blow their bad breath in a sister's face
As if they got some ease by it.'
I broke through.
'Some natures catch no plagues. I've read of babes
Found whole and sleeping by the spotted breast
Of one a full day dead. I hold it true,
As I'm a woman and know womanhood,
That Marian Erle, however lured from place,
Deceived in way, keeps pure in aim and heart,
As snow that's drifted from the garden-bank
To the open road.'
'Twas hard to hear him laugh.
'The figure's happy. Well–a dozen carts
And trampers will secure you presently
A fine white snow-drift. Leave it there, your snow!
'Twill pass for soot ere sunset. Pure in aim?
She's pure in aim, I grant you,–like myself,
Who thought to take the world upon my back
To carry it over a chasm of social ill,
And end by letting slip through impotence
A single soul, a child's weight in a soul,
Straight down the pit of hell! yes, I and she
Have reason to be proud of our pure aims.'
Then softly, as the last repenting drops
Of a thunder shower, he added, 'The poor child;
Poor Marian! 'twas a luckless day for her,
When first she chanced on my philanthropy.'

He drew a chair beside me, and sate down;
And I, instinctively, as women use
Before a sweet friend's grief,–when, in his ear,
They hum the tune of comfort, though themselves
Most ignorant of the special words of such,
And quiet so and fortify his brain
And give it time and strength for feeling out
To reach the availing sense beyond that sound,–
Went murmuring to him, what, if written here,
Would seem not much, yet fetched him better help
Than, peradventure, if it had been more.

I've known the pregnant thinkers of this time
And stood by breathless, hanging on their lips,
When some chromatic sequence of fine thought
In learned modulation phrased itself
To an unconjectured harmony of truth.
And yet I've been more moved, more raised, I say,
By a simple word . . a broken easy thing,
A three-years infant might say after you,–
A look, a sigh, a touch upon the palm,
Which meant less than 'I love you' . . than by all
The full-voiced rhetoric of those master-mouths.

'Ah, dear Aurora,' he began at last,
His pale lips fumbling for a sort of smile,
'Your printer's devils have not spoilt your heart:
That's well. And who knows but, long years ago,
When you and I talked, you were somewhat right
In being so peevish with me? You, at least,
Have ruined no one through your dreams! Instead,
You've helped the facile youth to live youth's day
With innocent distraction, still perhaps
Suggestive of things better than your rhymes.
The little shepherd-maiden, eight years old,
I've seen upon the mountains of Vaucluse,
Asleep i' the sun her head upon her knees,
The flocks all scattered,–is more laudable
Than any sheep-dog trained imperfectly,
Who bites the kids through too much zeal.'
'I look
As if I had slept, then?'
He was touched at once
By something in my face. Indeed 'twas sure
That he and I,–despite a year or two
Of younger life on my side, and on his,
The heaping of the years' work on the days,–
The three-hour speeches from the member's seat,
The hot committees, in and out the House,
The pamphlets, 'Arguments,' 'Collective Views,'
Tossed out as straw before sick houses, just
To show one's sick and so be trod to dirt,
And no more use,–through this world's underground
The burrowing, groping effort, whence the arm
And heart came bleeding,–sure, that he and I
Were, after all, unequally fatigued!
That he, in his developed manhood, stood
A little sunburnt by the glare of life;
While I . . it seemed no sun had shone on me,
So many seasons I had forgot my Springs;
My cheeks had pined and perished from their orbs.
And all the youth blood in them had grown white
As dew on autumn cyclamens: alone
My eyes and forehead answered for my face.

He said . . 'Aurora, you are changed–are ill!'

'Not so, my cousin,–only not asleep!'
I answered, smiling gently. 'Let it be.
You scarcely found the poet of Vaucluse
As drowsy as the shepherds. What is art,
But life upon the larger scale, the higher,
When, graduating up in a spiral line
Of still expanding and ascending gyres,
It pushes toward the intense significance
Of all things, hungry for the Infinite?
Art's life,–and where we live, we suffer and toil.'

He seemed to sift me with his painful eyes.
'Alas! You take it gravely; you refuse
Your dreamland, right of common, and green rest.
You break the mythic turf where danced the nymphs,
With crooked ploughs of actual life,–let in
The axes to the legendary woods,
To pay the head-tax. You are fallen indeed
On evil days, you poets, if yourselves
Can praise that art of yours no otherwise;
And, if you cannot, . .better take a trade
And be of use! 'twere cheaper for your youth.'

'Of use!' I softly echoed, 'there's the point
We sweep about for ever in an argument;
Like swallows, which the exasperate, dying year
Sets spinning in black circles, round and round,
Preparing for far flights o'er unknown seas.
And we . . where tend we?'
'Where?' he said, and sighed.
'The whole creation, from the hour we are born,
Perplexes us with questions. Not a stone
But cries behind us, every weary step,
'Where, where?' I leave stones to reply to stones.
Enough for me and for my fleshly heart
To harken the invocations of my kind,
When men catch hold upon my shuddering nerves
And shriek, 'What help? what hope? what bread i' the house,
'What fire i' the frost?' There must be some response,
Though mine fail utterly. This social Sphinx,
Who sits between the sepulchres and stews,
Makes mock and mow against the crystal heavens,
And bullies God,–exacts a word at least
From each man standing on the side of God,
However paying a sphinx-price for it.
We pay it also if we hold our peace,
In pangs and pity. Let me speak and die.
Alas! you'll say, I speak and kill, instead.'

I pressed in there; 'The best men, doing their best,
Know peradventure least of what they do:
Men usefullest i' the world, are simply used;
The nail that holds the wood, must pierce it first,
And He alone who wields the hammer, sees
The work advanced by the earliest blow. Take heart.'
'Ah, if I could have taken yours!' he said,
'But that's past now.' Then rising . . 'I will take
At least your kindness and encouragement.
I thank you. Dear, be happy. Sing your songs,
If that's your way! but sometimes slumber too,
Nor tire too much with following, out of breath,
The rhymes upon your mountains of Delight.
Reflect, if Art be, in truth, the higher life,
You need the lower life to stand upon,
In order to reach up into that higher:
And none can stand a-tiptoe in the place
He cannot stand in with two stable feet.
Remember then!–for art's sake, hold your life.'

We parted so. I held him in respect.
I comprehended what he was in heart
And sacrificial greatness. Ay, but he
Supposed me a thing too small to deign to know;
He blew me, plainly, from the crucible,
As some intruding, interrupting fly
Not worth the pains of his analysis
Absorbed on nobler subjects. Hurt a fly!
He would not for the world: he's pitiful
To flies even. 'Sing,' says he, 'and teaze me still,
If that's your way, poor insect.' That's your way!

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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The Tower Beyond Tragedy

I
You'd never have thought the Queen was Helen's sister- Troy's
burning-flower from Sparta, the beautiful sea-flower
Cut in clear stone, crowned with the fragrant golden mane, she
the ageless, the uncontaminable-
This Clytemnestra was her sister, low-statured, fierce-lipped, not
dark nor blonde, greenish-gray-eyed,
Sinewed with strength, you saw, under the purple folds of the
queen-cloak, but craftier than queenly,
Standing between the gilded wooden porch-pillars, great steps of
stone above the steep street,
Awaiting the King.
Most of his men were quartered on the town;
he, clanking bronze, with fifty
And certain captives, came to the stair. The Queen's men were
a hundred in the street and a hundred
Lining the ramp, eighty on the great flags of the porch; she
raising her white arms the spear-butts
Thundered on the stone, and the shields clashed; eight shining
clarions
Let fly from the wide window over the entrance the wildbirds of
their metal throats, air-cleaving
Over the King come home. He raised his thick burnt-colored
beard and smiled; then Clytemnestra,
Gathering the robe, setting the golden-sandaled feet carefully,
stone by stone, descended
One half the stair. But one of the captives marred the comeliness
of that embrace with a cry
Gull-shrill, blade-sharp, cutting between the purple cloak and
the bronze plates, then Clytemnestra:
Who was it? The King answered: A piece of our goods out of
the snatch of Asia, a daughter of the king,
So treat her kindly and she may come into her wits again. Eh,
you keep state here my queen.
You've not been the poorer for me.- In heart, in the widowed
chamber, dear, she pale replied, though the slaves
Toiled, the spearmen were faithful. What's her name, the slavegirl's?
AGAMEMNON Come up the stair. They tell me my kinsman's
Lodged himself on you.
CLYTEMNESTRA Your cousin Aegisthus? He was out of refuge,
flits between here and Tiryns.
Dear: the girl's name?
AGAMEMNON Cassandra. We've a hundred or so other
captives; besides two hundred
Rotted in the hulls, they tell odd stories about you and your
guest: eh? no matter: the ships
Ooze pitch and the August road smokes dirt, I smell like an
old shepherd's goatskin, you'll have bath-water?
CLYTEMNESTRA
They're making it hot. Come, my lord. My hands will pour it.
(They enter the palace.)
CASSANDRA
In the holy city,
In Troy, when the stone was standing walls and the ash
Was painted and carved wood and pictured curtains,
And those lived that are dead, they had caged a den
Of wolves out of the mountain, and I a maiden
Was led to see them: it stank and snarled,
The smell was the smell here, the eyes were the eyes
Of steep Mycenae: O God guardian of wanderers
Let me die easily.
So cried Cassandra the daughter of King Priam, treading the steps
of the palace at Mycenae.
Swaying like a drunken woman, drunk with the rolling of the
ship, and with tears, and with prophecy.
The stair may yet be seen, among the old stones that are Mycenae;
tall dark Cassandra, the prophetess,
The beautiful girl with whom a God bargained for love, high-nurtured,
captive, shamefully stained
With the ship's filth and the sea's, rolled her dark head upon her
shoulders like a drunken woman
And trod the great stones of the stair. The captives, she among
them, were ranked into a file
On the flagged porch, between the parapet and the spearmen.
The people below shouted for the King,
King Agamemnon, returned conqueror, after the ten years of
battle and death in Asia.
Then cried Cassandra:
Good spearmen you did not kill my father, not you
Violated my mother with the piercing
That makes no life in the womb, not you defiled
My tall blond brothers with the masculine lust
That strikes its loved one standing,
And leaves him what no man again nor a girl
Ever will gaze upon with the eyes of desire:
Therefore you'll tell me
Whether it's an old custom in the Greek country
The cow goring the bull, break the inner door back
And see in what red water how cloaked your King
Bathes, and my brothers are avenged a little.
One said: Captive be quiet. And she: What have I to be quiet for,
you will not believe me.
Such wings my heart spreads when the red runs out of any
Greek, I must let the bird fly. O soldiers
He that mishandled me dies! The first, one of your two brute
Aj axes, that threw me backward
On the temple flagstones, a hard bride-bed, I enduring him
heard the roofs of my city breaking,
The roar of flames and spearmen: what came to Ajax? Out of a
cloud the loud-winged falcon lightning
Came on him shipwrecked, clapped its wings about him, clung
to him, the violent flesh burned and the bones
Broke from each other in that passion; and now this one, returned
safe, the Queen is his lightning.
While she yet spoke a slave with haggard eyes darted from the
door; there were hushed cries and motions
In the inner dark of the great hall. Then the Queen Clytemnestra
issued, smiling. She drew
Her cloak up, for the brooch on the left shoulder was broken; the
fillet of her hair had come unbound;
Yet now she was queenly at length; and standing at the stair-head
spoke: Men of Mycenae, I have made
Sacrifice for the joy this day has brought to us, the King come
home, the enemy fallen, fallen,
In the ashes of Asia. I have made sacrifice. I made the prayer
with my own lips, and struck the bullock
With my own hand. The people murmured together, She's not
a priestess, the Queen is not a priestess,
What has she done there, what wild sayings
Make wing in the Queen's throat?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have something to tell you.
Too much joy is a message-bearer of misery.
A little is good; but come too much and it devours us. Therefore
we give of a great harvest
Sheaves to the smiling Gods; and therefore out of a full cup we
pour the quarter. No man
Dare take all that God sends him, whom God favors, or destruction
Rides into the house in the last basket. I have been twelve years
your shepherdess, I the Queen have ruled you
And I am accountable for you.
CASSANDRA
Why should a man kill his own mother?
The cub of the lion being grown
Will fight with the lion, but neither lion nor wolf
Nor the unclean jackal
Bares tooth against the womb that he dropped out of:
Yet I have seen
CLYTEMNESTRA
Strike that captive woman with your hand, spearman; and then
if the spirit
Of the she-wolf in her will not quiet, with the butt of the spear.
CASSANDRA -the blade in the child's hand
Enter the breast that the child sucked-that woman's-
The left breast that the robe has dropped from, for the brooch is
broken,
That very hillock of whiteness, and she crying, she kneeling
(The spearman 'who is nearest CASSANDRA covers her mouth
twith his hand.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
My sister's beauty entered Troy with too much gladness. They
forgot to make sacrifice.
Therefore destruction entered; therefore the daughters of Troy
cry out in strange dispersals, and this one
Grief has turned mad. I will not have that horror march under
the Lion-gate of Mycenae
That split the citadel of Priam. Therefore I say I have made
sacrifice; I have subtracted
A fraction from immoderate joy. For consider, my people,
How unaccountably God has favored the city and brought home
the army. King Agamemnon,
My dear, my husband, my lord and yours,
Is yet not such a man as the Gods love; but insolent, fierce, overbearing,
whose folly
Brought many times many great evils
On all the heads and fighting hopes of the Greek force. Why,
even before the fleet made sail,
While yet it gathered on Boeotian Aulis, this man offended. He
slew one of the deer
Of the sacred herd of Artemis, out of pure impudence, hunter's
pride that froths in a young boy
Laying nock to string of his first bow: this man, grown, a grave
king, leader of the Greeks.
The angry Goddess
Blew therefore from the horn of the Trojan shore storm without
end, no slackening, no turn, no slumber
Of the eagle bound to break the oars of the fleet and split the
hulls venturing: you know what answer
Calchas the priest gave: his flesh must pay whose hand did the
evil-his flesh! mine also. His? My daughter.
They knew that of my three there was one that I loved.
Blameless white maid, my Iphigenia, whose throat the knife,
Whose delicate soft throat the thing that cuts sheep open was
drawn across by a priest's hand
And the soft-colored lips drained bloodless
That had clung here-here- Oh!
(Drawing the robe from her breasts.)
These feel soft, townsmen; these are red at the tips, they have
neither blackened nor turned marble.
King Agamemnon hoped to pillow his black-haired breast upon
them, my husband, that mighty conqueror,
Come home with glory. He thought they were still a woman's,
they appear a woman's. I'll tell you something.
Since fawn slaughtered for slaughtered fawn evened the debt
these that feel soft and warm are wounding ice,
They ache with their hardness . . .
Shall I go on and count the other follies of the King? The
insolences to God and man
That brought down plague, and brought Achilles' anger against
the army? Yet God brought home a remnant
Against all hope: therefore rejoice.
But lest too much rejoicing slay us I have made sacrifice. A little
girl's brought you over the sea.
What could be great enough for safe return? A sheep's death?
A bull's? What thank-offering?
All these captives, battered from the ships, bruised with captivity,
damaged flesh and forlorn minds?
God requires wholeness in the victim. You dare not think what
he demands. I dared. I, I,
Dared.
Men of the Argolis, you that went over the sea and you that
guarded the home coasts
And high stone war-belts of the cities: remember how many
spearmen these twelve years have called me
Queen, and have loved me, and been faithful, and remain faithful.
What I bring you is accomplished.
VOICES
King Agamemnon. The King. We will hear the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA What I bring you is accomplished.
Accept it, the cities are at peace, the ways are safe between
them, the Gods favor us. Refuse it ...
You will not refuse it ...
VOICES The King. We will hear the King. Let
us see the King.
CLYTEMNESTRA
You will not refuse it; I have my faithful They would run, the
red rivers,
From the gate and by the graves through every crooked street
of the great city, they would run in the pasture
Outside the walls: and on this stair: stemmed at this entrance-
CASSANDRA
Ah, sister, do you also behold visions? I was watching red
water-
CLYTEMNESTRA
Be wise, townsmen. As for the King: slaves will bring him to you
when he has bathed; you will see him.
The slaves will carry him on a litter, he has learned Asian ways in
Asia, too great a ruler
To walk, like common spearmen.
CASSANDRA Who is that, standing behind
you, Clytemnestra? What God
Dark in the doorway?
CLYTEMNESTRA Deal you with your own demons. You
know what I have done, captive. You know
I am holding lions with my two eyes: if I turn and loose
them . . .
CASSANDRA It is . . . the King. There! There! Ah!
CLYTEMNESTRA
Or of I should make any move to increase confusion. If I should
say for example, Spearman
Kill that woman. I cannot say it this moment; so little as from
one spear wound in your body
A trickle would loose them on us.
CASSANDRA Yet he stands behind you.
A-ah! I can bear it. I have seen much lately
Worse.
A CAPTAIN (down the stair; standing forward from his men)
O Queen, there is no man in the world, but one (if that one
lives), may ask you to speak
Otherwise than you will. You have spoken in riddles to the
people . . .
CASSANDRA Not me! Why will you choose
Me! I submitted to you living, I was forced, you entered me . . .
THE CAPTAIN Also there was a slave here,
Whose eyes stood out from his chalk face, came buzzing from
the palace postern gate, whimpering
A horrible thing. I killed him. But the men have heard it.
CASSANDRA You were the king, I was your slave.
Here you see, here, I took the black-haired breast of the bull,
I endured it, I opened my thighs, I suffered
The other thing besides death that you Greeks have to give
us ...
THE CAPTAIN Though this one raves and you are silent,
Queen, terrible-eyed . . .
CASSANDRA That was the slave's part: but this
time . . . dead King . . .
I ... will . . . not submit. Ah! Ah! No!
If you will steal the body of someone living take your wife's,
take that soldier's there
THE CAPTAIN
I pray you Queen command the captive woman be quieted in a
stone chamber; she increases confusion,
The soldiers cannot know some terrible thing may not have
happened; you men and the King's grin
Like wolves over the kill, the whole city totters on a swordedge
over sudden
CASSANDRA (screaming)
Drive him off me! Pity, pity!
I have no power; I thought when he was dead another man would
use me, your Greek custom,
Not he, he, newly slain.
He is driving me out, he enters, he possesses, this is my last defilement.
Ah . . . Greeks . . .
Pity Cassandra!
With the voice the spirit seemed to fly out.
She upflung her shining
Arms with the dreadful and sweet gesture of a woman surrendering
utterly to force and love,
She in the eyes of the people, like a shameless woman, and fell
writhing, and the dead King's soul
Entered her body. In that respite the Queen:
Captain: and you,
soldiers, that shift unsoldierly
The weapons that should be upright, at attention, like stiff
grass-blades: and you, people of Mycenae:
While this one maddened, and you muttered, echoing together,
and you, soldier, with anxious questions
Increased confusion: who was it that stood firm, who was it that
stood silent, who was it that held
With her two eyes the whole city from splitting wide asunder?
Your Queen was it? I am your Queen,
And now I will answer what you asked. ... It is true. . . . He
has died. ... I am the Queen.
My little son Orestes will grow up and govern you.
While she
spoke the body of Cassandra
Arose among the shaken spears, taller than the spears, and stood
among the waving spears
Stone-quiet, like a high war-tower in a windy pinewood, but
deadly to look at, with blind and tyrannous
Eyes; and the Queen: All is accomplished; and if you are wise,
people of Mycenae: quietness is wisdom.
No tumult will call home a dead man out of judgment. The end
is the end. Ah, soldiers! Down spears!
What, now Troy's fallen you think there's not a foreigner in
the world bronze may quench thirst on? Lion-cubs,
If you will tear each other in the lair happy the wolves, happy
the hook-nose vultures.
Call the eaters of carrion? I am your Queen, I am speaking to
you, you will hear me out before you whistle
The foul beaks from the mountain nest. I tell you I will forget
mercy if one man moves now.
I rule you, I.
The Gods have satisfied themselves in this man's death; there
shall not one drop of the blood of the city
Be shed further. I say the high Gods are content; as for the
lower,
And the great ghost of the King: my slaves will bring out the
King's body decently before you
And set it here, in the eyes of the city: spices the ships bring from
the south will comfort his spirit;
Mycenae and Tiryns and the shores will mourn him aloud; sheep
will be slain for him; a hundred beeves
Spill their thick blood into the trenches; captives and slaves go
down to serve him, yes all these captives
Burn in the ten-day fire with him, unmeasured wine quench it,
urned in pure gold the gathered ashes
Rest forever in the sacred rock; honored; a conqueror. . . .
Slaves, bring the King out of the house.
Alas my husband! she cried, clutching the brown strands of her
hair in both her hands, you have left me
A woman among lions! Ah, the King's power, ah the King's
victories! Weep for me, Mycenae!
Widowed of the King!
The people stood amazed, like sheep that
snuff at their dead shepherd, some hunter's
Ill-handled arrow having struck him from the covert, all by
mischance; he is fallen on the hillside
Between the oak-shadow and the stream; the sun burns his dead
face, his staff lies by him, his dog
Licks his hand, whining. So, like sheep, the people
Regarded that dead majesty whom the slaves brought out of the
house on a gold bed, and set it
Between the pillars of the porch. His royal robe covered his
wounds, there was no stain
Nor discomposure.
Then that captain who had spoken before:
O Queen, before the mourning
The punishment: tell us who has done this. She raised her head,
and not a woman but a lioness
Blazed at him from her eyes: Dog, she answered, dog of the
army,
Who said Speak dog, and you dared speak? Justice is mine.
Then he was silent; but Cassandra's
Body standing tall among the spears, over the parapet, her body
but not her spirit
Cried with a man's voice: Shall not even the stones of the stair,
shall not the stones under the columns
Speak, and the towers of the great wall of my city come down
against the murderess? O Mycenae
I yearned to night and day under the tents by Troy, O Tiryns,
O Mycenae, the door
Of death, and the gate before the door!
CLYTEMNESTRA That woman lies, or the
spirit of a lie cries from her. Spearman,
Kill that woman!
But Cassandra's body set its back against the
parapet, its face
Terribly fronting the raised knife; and called the soldier by his
name, in the King's voice, saying
Sheathe it; and the knife lowered, and the soldier
Fell on his knees before the King in the woman's body; and the
body of Cassandra cried from the parapet:
Horrible things, horrible things this house has witnessed: but here
is the most vile, that hundreds
Of spears are idle while the murderess, Clytemnestra the murderess,
the snake that came upon me
Naked and bathing, the death that lay with me in bed, the death
that has borne children to me,
Stands there unslain.
CLYTEMNESTRA Cowards, if the bawling of that bewildered
heifer from Troy fields has frightened you
How did you bear the horns of her brothers? Bring her to me.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Let no man doubt, men of Mycenae,
She has yet the knife hid in her clothes, the very blade that
stabbed her husband and the blood is on it.
Look, she handles it now. Look, fellows. The hand under the
robe. Slay her not easily, that she-wolf.
Do her no honor with a spear! Ah! If I could find the word, if
I could find it,
The name of her, to say husband-slayer and bed-defiler, bitch
and wolf-bitch, king's assassin
And beast, beast, beast, all in one breath, in one word: spearmen
You would heap your shields over this woman and crush her
slowly, slowly, while she choked and screamed,
No, you would peel her bare and on the pavement for a bridebed
with a spear-butt for husband
Dig the lewd womb until it burst: this for Agamemnon, this for
Aegisthus Agh, cowards of the city
Do you stand quiet?
CLYTEMNESTRA Truly, soldiers,
I think it is he verily. No one could invent the abominable voice,
the unspeakable gesture,
The actual raging insolence of the tyrant. I am the hand ridded
the Argolis of him.
I here, I killed him, I, justly.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA You have heard her, you have
heard her, she has made confession.
Now if she'll show you the knife too
CLYTEMNESTRA Here. I kept it for safety.
And, as that beast said, his blood's yet on it.
Look at it, with so little a key I unlocked the kingdom of destruction.
Stand firm, till a God
Lead home this ghost to the dark country
So many Greeks have peopled, through his crimes, his violence,
his insolence, stand firm till that moment
And through the act of this hand and of this point no man shall
suffer anything again forever
Of Agamemnon.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
I say if you let this woman live, this crime go
unpunished, what man among you
Will be safe in his bed? The woman ever envies the man, his
strength, his freedom, his loves.
Her envy is like a snake beside him, all his life through, her envy
and hatred: law tames that viper:
Law dies if the Queen die not: the viper is free then.
It will be poison in your meat or a knife to bleed you sleeping.
They fawn and slaver over us
And then we are slain.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of the slaves that carried the King’s
body)
Is my lord Aegisthus
Slain on the way? How long? How long?
(To the people) He
came, fat with his crimes.
Greek valor broke down Troy, your valor, soldiers, and the brain
of Odysseus, the battle-fury of Achilles,
The stubborn strength of Menelaus, the excellence of you all:
this dead man here, his pride
Ruined you a hundred times: he helped nowise, he brought bitter
destruction: but he gathered your glory
For the cloak of his shoulders. I saw him come up the stair, I saw
my child Iphigenia
Killed for his crime; I saw his harlot, the captive woman there,
crying out behind him, I saw . . .
I saw ... I saw . . . how can I speak what crowd of the dead
faces of the faithful Greeks,
Your brothers, dead of his crimes; those that perished of plague
and those that died in the lost battles
After he had soured the help of Achilles for another harlot
those dead faces of your brothers,
Some black with the death-blood, many trampled under the
hooves of horses, many spotted with pestilence,
Flew all about him, all lamenting, all crying out against him,
horrible horrible I gave them
Vengeance; and you freedom.
(To the slave) Go up and look,
for God's sake, go up to the parapets,
Look toward the mountain. Bring me word quickly, my strength
breaks,
How can I hold all the Argolis with my eyes forever? I alone?
Hell cannot hold her dead men,
Keep watch there-send me word by others-go, go!
(To the people) He
came triumphing.
Magnificent, abominable, all in bronze.
I brought him to the bath; my hands undid the armor;
My hands poured out the water;
Dead faces like flies buzzed all about us;
He stripped himself before me, loathsome, unclean, with laughter;
The labors of the Greeks had made him fat, the deaths of the
faithful had swelled his belly;
I threw a cloak over him for a net and struck, struck, struck,
Blindly, in the steam of the bath; he bellowed, netted,
And bubbled in the water;
All the stone vault asweat with steam bellowed;
And I undid the net and the beast was dead, and the broad vessel
Stank with his blood.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
The word! The word! O burning mind of Godr
If ever I gave you bulls teach me that word, the name for her,
the name for her!
A SLAVE (running from the door; to CLYTEMNESTRA)
My lord. Aegisthus has come down the mountain, Queen, he
approaches the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA It is time. I am tired now.
Meet him and tell him to come in the postern doorway.
THE CAPTAIN (on the stair: addressing the soldiers and the people
below)
Companions: before God, hating the smell of crimes, crushes the
city into gray ashes
We must make haste. Judge now and act. For the husband-slayer
I say she must die, let her pay forfeit. And for the great ghost
of the King, let all these captives,
But chiefly the woman Cassandra, the crier in a man's voice there,
be slain upon his pyre to quiet him.
He will go down to his dark place and God will spare the city.
(To the soldiers above, on the ramp and the porch)
Comrades: Mycenae is greater
Than the Queen of Mycenae. The King is dead: let the Queen
die: let the city live. Comrades,
We suffered something in Asia, on the stranger's coast, laboring
for you. We dreamed of home there
In the bleak wind and drift of battle; we continued ten years,
laboring and dying; we accomplished
The task set us; we gathered what will make all the Greek cities
glorious, a name forever;
We shared the spoil, taking our share to enrich Mycenae. O but
our hearts burned then, O comrades
But our hearts melted when the great oars moved the ships, the
water carried us, the blue sea-waves
Slid under the black keel; I could not see them, I was blind with
tears, thinking of Mycenae.
We have come home. Behold the dear streets of our longing,
The stones that we desired, the steep ways of the city and the
sacred doorsteps
Reek and steam with pollution, the accursed vessel
Spills a red flood over the floors.
The fountain of it stands there and calls herself the Queen. No
Queen, no Queen, that husband-slayer,
A common murderess. Comrades join us
We will make clean the city and sweeten it before God. We
will mourn together at the King's burying,
And a good year will come, we will rejoice together.
CLYTEMNESTRA Dog, you dare
something. Fling no spear, soldiers,
He has a few fools back of him would attempt the stair if the
dog were slain: I will have no one
Killed out of need.
ONE OF HER MEN ON THE PORCH (flinging his spear)
Not at him: at you
Murderess!
But some God, no lover of justice, turned it; the
great bronze tip grazing her shoulder
Clanged on the stones behind: the gong of a change in the dance:
now Clytemnestra, none to help her,
One against all, swayed raging by the King's corpse, over the
golden bed: it is said that a fire
Stood visibly over her head, mixed in the hair, pale flames and
radiance.
CLYTEMNESTRA Here am I, thieves, thieves,
Drunkards, here is my breast, a deep white mark for cowards to
aim at: kings have lain on it.
No spear yet, heroes, heroes?
See, I have no blemish: the arms are white, the breasts are deep
and white, the whole body is blemishless:
You are tired of your brown wives, draw lots for me, rabble,
thieves, there is loot here, shake the dice, thieves, a game yet!
One of you will take the bronze and one the silver,
One the gold, and one me,
Me Clytemnestra a spoil worth having:
Kings have kissed me, this dead dog was a king, there is another
King at the gate: thieves, thieves, would not this shining
Breast brighten a sad thief's hut, roll in his bed's filth
Shiningly? You could teach me to draw water at the fountain,
A dirty child on the other hip: where are the dice? Let me
throw first, if I throw sixes
I choose my masters: closer you rabble, let me smell you.
Don't fear the knife, it has king's blood on it, I keep it for an
ornament,
It has shot its sting.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools, fools, Strike!
Are your hands dead?
CLYTEMNESTRA You Would see all of me
Before you choose whether to kill or dirtily cherish? If what
the King's used needs commending
To the eyes of thieves for thieves' use: give me room, give me
room, fellows, you'll see it is faultless.
The dress . . . there . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Fools this wide whore played wife
When she was going about to murder me the King; you, will
you let her trip you
With the harlot's trick? Strike! Make an end!
CLYTEMNESTRA I have not my
sister's, Troy's flame's beauty, but I have something.
This arm, round, firm, skin without hair, polished like marble:
the supple-jointed shoulders:
Men have praised the smooth neck, too,
The strong clear throat over the deep wide breasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA She is
buying an hour: sheep: it may be Aegisthus
Is at the Lion-gate.
CLYTEMNESTRA If he were here, Aegisthus,
I’d not be the pedlar of what trifling charms I have for an
hour of life yet. You have wolves' eyes:
Yet there is something kindly about the blue ones there yours,
young soldier, young soldier. . . . The last,
The under-garment? You won't buy me yet? This dead dog,
The King here, never saw me naked: I had the night for nurse:
turn his head sideways, the eyes
Are only half shut. If I should touch him, and the blood came,
you'd say I had killed him. Nobody, nobody,
Killed him: his pride burst.
Ah, no one has pity!
I can serve well, I have always envied your women, the public ones.
Who takes me first? Tip that burnt log onto the flagstones,
This will be in a king's bed then. Your eyes are wolves' eyes:
So many, so many, so famishing
I will undo it, handle me not yet, I can undo it ...
Or I will tear it.
And when it is off me then I will be delivered to you beasts . . .
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Then strip her and use her to the bones, wear her through, kill
her with it.
CLYTEMNESTRA
When it is torn
You'll say I am lovely: no one has seen before . . .
It won't tear: I'll slit it with this knife
(Aegisthus, with many spearmen, issues from the great door.
CLYTEMNESTRA stabs right and left with the knife; the
men are too close to strike her with their long spears.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
It's time. Cowards, goats, goats. Here! Aegisthus!
Aegisthus
I am here. What have they done?
CLYTEMNESTRA
Nothing: clear the porch: I have done something. Drive them
on the stair!
Three of them I've scarred for life: a rough bridegroom, the
rabble, met a fierce bride.
(She catches up her robe.)
I held them with my eyes, hours, hours. I am not tired. . . .
My lord, my lover:
I have killed a twelve-point stag for a present for you: with my
own hands: look, on the golden litter.
You arrive timely.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
Tricked, stabbed, shamed, mocked at, the spoil of a lewd woman,
despised
I lie there ready for her back-stairs darling to spit on. Tricked,
stabbed, sunk in the drain
And gutter of time. I that thundered the assault, I that mustered
the Achaeans. Cast out of my kingdom,
Cast out of time, out of the light.
CLYTEMNESTRA One of the captives, dear.
It left its poor wits
Over the sea. If it annoys you I'll quiet it. But post your sentinels.
All's not safe yet, though I am burning with joy now.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA O single-eyed
glare of the sky
Flying southwest to the mountain: sun, through a slave's eyes,
My own broken, I see you this last day; my own darkened, no
dawn forever; the adulterers
Will swim in your warm gold, day after day; the eyes of the
murderess will possess you;
And I have gone away down: knowing that no God in the earth
nor sky loves justice; and having tasted
The toad that serves women for heart. From now on may all
bridegrooms
Marry them with swords. Those that have borne children
Their sons rape them with spears.
CLYTEMNESTRA More yet, more, more, more,
while my hand's in? It's not a little
You easily living lords of the sky require of who'd be like you,
who'd take time in the triumph,
Build joy solid. Do we have to do everything? I have killed
what I hated:
Kill what I love? The prophetess said it, this dead man says it:
my little son, the small soft image
That squirmed in my arms be an avenger? Love, from your loins
Seed: I begin new, I will be childless for you. The child my son,
the child my daughter!
Though I cry I feel nothing.
AEGISTHUS O strongest spirit in the world.
We have dared enough, there is an end to it.
We may pass nature a little, an arrow-flight,
But two shots over the wall you come in a cloud upon the feasting
Gods, lightning and madness.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Dear: make them safe. They may try to run away, the children.
Set spears to watch them: no harm, no harm,
But stab the nurse if they go near a door. Watch them, keep the
gates, order the sentinels,
While I make myself Queen over this people again. I can do it.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA The sun's gone; that glimmer's
The moon of the dead. The dark God calls me. Yes, God,
I'll come in a moment.
CLYTEMNESTRA (at the head of the great stairs)
Soldiers: townsmen: it seems
I am not at the end delivered to you: dogs, for the lion came:
the poor brown and spotted women
Will have to suffice you. But is it nothing to have come within
handling distance of the clear heaven
This dead man knew when he was young and God endured him?
Is it nothing to you?
It is something to me to have felt the fury
And concentration of you: I will not say I am grateful: I am
not angry: to be desired
Is wine even to a queen. You bathed me in it, from brow to foot-sole,
I had nearly enough.
But now remember that the dream is over. I am the Queen:
Mycenae is my city. If you grin at me
I have spears: also Tiryns and all the country people of the
Argolis will come against you and swallow you,
Empty out these ways and walls, stock them with better subjects.
A rock nest for new birds here, townsfolk:
You are not essential.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA. I hear him calling through the shewolf's
noise, Agamemnon, Agamemnon,
The dark God calls. Some old king in a fable is it?
CLYTEMNESTRA So choose.
What choices? To reenter my service
Unpunished, no thought of things past, free of conditions . . .
Or dine at this man's table, have new mouths made in you to
eat bronze with.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA Who is Agamemnon?
CLYTEMNESTRA
You letting go of the sun: is it dark the land you are running
away to?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA It is dark.
CLYTEMNESTRA IS it Sorrowful?
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA
There is nothing but misery.
CLYTEMNESTRA Has any man ever come back thence?
Hear me, not the dark God.
THE BODY OF CASSANDRA No man has ever.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Go then, go, go down. You will not choose to follow him, people
of the rock-city? No one
Will choose to follow him. I have killed: it is easy: it may be
I shall kill nearer than this yet:
But not you, townsfolk, you will give me no cause; I want
security; I want service, not blood.
I have been desired of the whole city, publicly; I want service,
not lust. You will make no sign
Of your submission; you will not give up your weapons; neither
shall your leaders be slain;
And he that flung the spear, I have forgotten his face.
AEGISTHUS (entering) Dearest,
they have gone, the nurse and the children,
No one knows where.
CLYTEMNESTRA I am taming this people: send men after
them. If any harm comes to the children
Bring me tokens. I will not be in doubt, I will not have the arch
fall on us. I dare
What no one dares. I envy a little the dirty mothers of the city.
O, O!
Nothing in me hurts. I have animal waters in my eyes, but the
spirit is not wounded. Electra and Orestes
Are not to live when they are caught. Bring me sure tokens.
CASSANDRA Who is this woman like a beacon
Lit on the stair, who are these men with dogs' heads?
I have ranged time and seen no sight like this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Have you returned, Cassandra? . . . The dead king has gone
down to his place, we may bury his leavings.
CASSANDRA
I have witnessed all the wars to be; I am not sorrowful
For one drop from the pail of desolation
Spilt on my father's city; they were carrying it forward
To water the world under the latter starlight.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to her slaves)
Take up the poles of the bed; reverently; careful on the stair;
give him to the people. (To the people) O soldiers
This was your leader; lay him with honor in the burial-chapel;
guard him with the spears of victory;
Mourn him until to-morrow, when the pyre shall be built.
Ah, King of men, sleep, sleep, sleep!
. . . But when shall I? ... They are after their corpse, like
dogs after the butcher's cart. Cleomenes, that captain
With the big voice: Neobulus was the boy who flung the spear
and missed. I shall not miss
When spear-flinging-time comes. . . . Captive woman, you have
seen the future, tell me my fortune.
(Aegisthus comes from the doorway.)
Aegisthus,
Have your hounds got them?
AEGISTHUS I've covered every escape with men,
they'll not slip through me. But commanded
To bring them here living.
CLYTEMNESTRA That's hard: tigresses don't do it: I
have some strength yet: don't speak of it
And I shall do it.
AEGISTHUS It is a thing not to be done: we'll guard them
closely: but mere madness
Lies over the wall of too-much.
CLYTEMNESTRA King of Mycenae, new-crowned
king, who was your mother?
AEGISTHUS Pelopia.
What mark do you aim at?
CLYTEMNESTRA And your father?
AEGISTHUS Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA And her father?
AEGISTHUS The
same man, Thyestes.
CLYTEMNESTRA
See, dearest, dearest? They love what men call crime, they have
taken her crime to be the king of Mycenae.
Here is the stone garden of the plants that pass nature: there is
no too-much here: the monstrous
Old rocks want monstrous roots to serpent among them. I will
have security. I'd burn the standing world
Up to this hour and begin new. You think I am too much used
for a new brood? Ah, lover,
I have fountains in me. I had a fondness for the brown cheek
of that boy, the curl of his
lip,
The widening blue of the doomed eyes ... I will be spared
nothing. Come in, come in, they'll have news for us.
no
CASSANDRA
If anywhere in the world
Were a tower with foundations, or a treasure-chamber
With a firm vault, or a walled fortress
That stood on the years, not staggering, not moving
As the mortar were mixed with wine for water
And poppy for lime: they reel, they are all drunkards,
The piled strengths of the world: no pyramid
In bitter Egypt in the desert
But skips at moonrise; no mountain
Over the Black Sea in awful Caucasus
But whirls like a young kid, like a bud of the herd,
Under the hundredth star: I am sick after steadfastness
Watching the world cataractlike
Pour screaming onto steep ruins: for the wings of prophecy
God once my lover give me stone sandals
Planted on stone: he hates me, the God, he will never
Take home the gift of the bridleless horse
The stallion, the unbitted stallion: the bed
Naked to the sky on Mount Ida,
The soft clear grass there,
Be blackened forever, may vipers and Greeks
In that glen breed
Twisting together, where the God
Come golden from the sun
Gave me for a bride-gift prophecy and I took it for a treasure:
I a fool, I a maiden,
I would not let him touch me though love of him maddened me
Till he fed me that poison, till he planted that fire in me,
The girdle flew loose then.

The Queen considered this rock, she gazed on the great stone
blocks of Mycenae's acropolis;
Monstrous they seemed to her, solid they appeared to her, safe
rootage for monstrous deeds: Ah fierce one
Who knows who laid them for a snare? What people in the
world's dawn breathed on chill air and the vapor
Of their breath seemed stone and has stood and you dream it is
established? These also are a foam on the stream
Of the falling of the world: there is nothing to lay hold on:
No crime is a crime, the slaying of the King was a meeting of
two bubbles on the lip of the cataract,
One winked . . . and the killing of your children would be
nothing: I tell you for a marvel that the earth is a dancer,
The grave dark earth is less quiet than a fool's fingers,
That old one, spinning in the emptiness, blown by no wind in
vain circles, light-witted and a dancer.
CLYTEMNESTRA (entering)
You are prophesying: prophesy to a purpose, captive woman.
My children, the boy and the girl,
Have wandered astray, no one can find them.
CASSANDRA Shall I tell the lioness
Where meat is, or the she-wolf where the lambs wander astray?
CLYTEMNESTRA But look into the darkness
And foam of the world: the boy has great tender blue eyes,
brown hair, disdainful lips, you'll know him
By the gold stripe bordering his garments; the girl's eyes are
my color, white her clothing
CASSANDRA Millions
Of shining bubbles burst and wander
On the stream of the world falling . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA These are my children!
CASSANDRA I see
mountains, I see no faces.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Tell me and I make you free; conceal it from me and a soldier's
spear finishes the matter.
CASSANDRA
I am the spear's bride, I have been waiting, waiting for that
ecstasy
CLYTEMNESTRA (striking her) Live then. It will not be unpainful.
(CLYTEMNESTRA goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O fair roads north where the land narrows
Over the mountains between the great gulfs,
that I too with the King's children
Might wander northward hand in hand.
Mine are worse wanderings:
They will shelter on Mount Parnassus,
For me there is no mountain firm enough,
The storms of light beating on the headlands,
The storms of music undermine the mountains, they stumble
and fall inward,
Such music the stars
Make in their courses, the vast vibration
Plucks the iron heart of the earth like a harp-string.
Iron and stone core, O stubborn axle of the earth, you also
Dissolving in a little time like salt in water,
What does it matter that I have seen Macedon
Roll all the Greek cities into one billow and strand in Asia
The anthers and bracts of the flower of the world?
That I have seen Egypt and Nineveh
Crumble, and a Latian village
Plant the earth with javelins? It made laws for all men, it dissolved
like a cloud.
I have also stood watching a storm of wild swans
Rise from one river-mouth . . . O force of the earth rising,
O fallings of the earth: forever no rest, not forever
From the wave and the trough, from the stream and the slack,
from growth and decay: O vulture-
Pinioned, my spirit, one flight yet, last, longest, unguided,
Try into the gulf,
Over Greece, over Rome, you have space O my spirit for the
years

II
Are not few of captivity: how many have I stood here
Among the great stones, while the Queen's people
Go in and out of the gate, wearing light linen
For summer and the wet spoils of wild beasts
In the season of storms: and the stars have changed, I have
watched
The grievous and unprayed-to constellations
Pile steaming spring and patient autumn
Over the enduring walls: but you over the walls of the world,
Over the unquieted centuries, over the darkness-hearted
Millenniums wailing thinly to be born, O vulture-pinioned
Try into the dark,
Watch the north spawn white bodies and red-gold hair,
Race after race of beastlike warriors; and the cities
Burn, and the cities build, and new lands be uncovered
In the way of the sun to his setting ... go on farther, what
profit
In the wars and the toils? but I say
Where are prosperous people my enemies are, as you pass them
O my spirit
Curse Athens for the joy and the marble, curse Corinth
For the wine and the purple, and Syracuse
For the gold and the ships; but Rome, Rome,
With many destructions for the corn and the laws and the javelins,
the insolence, the threefold
Abominable power: pass the humble
And the lordships of darkness, but far down
Smite Spain for the blood on the sunset gold, curse France
For the fields abounding and the running rivers, the lights in the
cities, the laughter, curse England
For the meat on the tables and the terrible gray ships, for old
laws, far dominions, there remains
A mightier to be cursed and a higher for malediction
When America has eaten Europe and takes tribute of Asia, when
the ends of the world grow aware of each other
And are dogs in one kennel, they will tear
The master of the hunt with the mouths of the pack: new fallings,
new risings, O winged one
No end of the fallings and risings? An end shall be surely,
Though unnatural things are accomplished, they breathe in the
sea's depth,
They swim in the air, they bridle the cloud-leaper lightning to
carry their messages:
Though the eagles of the east and the west and the falcons of
the north were not quieted, you have seen a white cloth
Cover the lands from the north and the eyes of the lands and the
claws of the hunters,
The mouths of the hungry with snow
Were filled, and their claws
Took hold upon ice in the pasture, a morsel of ice was their
catch in the rivers,
That pure white quietness
Waits on the heads of the mountains, not sleep but death, will
the fire
Of burnt cities and ships in that year warm you my enemies?
The frost, the old frost,
Like a cat with a broken-winged bird it will play with you,
It will nip and let go; you will say it is gone, but the next
Season it increases: O clean, clean,
White and most clean, colorless quietness,
Without trace, without trail, without stain in the garment, drawn
down
From the poles to the girdle. ... I have known one Godhead
To my sore hurt: I am growing to come to another: O grave
and kindly
Last of the lords of the earth, I pray you lead my substance
Speedily into another shape, make me grass, Death, make me
stone,
Make me air to wander free between the stars and the peaks;
but cut humanity
Out of my being, that is the wound that festers in me,
Not captivity, not my enemies: you will heal the earth also,
Death, in your time; but speedily Cassandra.
You rock-fleas hopping in the clefts of Mycenae,
Suckers of blood, you carrying the scepter farther, Persian,
Emathian,
Roman and Mongol and American, and you half-gods
Indian and Syrian and the third, emperors of peace, I have seen
on what stage
You sing the little tragedy; the column of the ice that was before
on one side flanks it,
The column of the ice to come closes it up on the other: audience
nor author
I have never seen yet: I have heard the silence: it is I Cassandra,
Eight years the bitter watchdog of these doors,
Have watched a vision
And now approach to my end. Eight years I have seen the
phantoms
Walk up and down this stair; and the rocks groan in the night,
the great stones move when no man sees them.
And I have forgotten the fine ashlar masonry of the courts of my
father. I am not Cassandra
But a counter of sunrises, permitted to live because I am crying
to die; three thousand,
Pale and red, have flowed over the towers in the wall since I was
here watching; the deep east widens,
The cold wind blows, the deep earth sighs, the dim gray finger
of light crooks at the morning star.
The palace feasted late and sleeps with its locked doors; the last
drunkard from the alleys of the city
Long has reeled home. Whose foot is this then, what phantom
Toils on the stair?
A VOICE BELOW Is someone watching above? Good sentinel I
am only a girl beggar.
I would sit on the stair and hold my bowl.
CASSANDRA I here eight years have
begged for a thing and not received it.
THE VOICE
You are not a sentinel? You have been asking some great boon,
out of all reason.
CASSANDRA No: what the meanest
Beggar disdains to take.
THE GIRL BEGGAR Beggars disdain nothing: what is it that
they refuse you?
CASSANDRA What's given
Even to the sheep and to the bullock.
THE GIRL Men give them salt, grass
they find out for themselves.
CASSANDRA Men give them
The gift that you though a beggar have brought down from the
north to give my mistress.
THE GIRL You speak riddles.
I am starving, a crust is my desire.
CASSANDRA Your voice is young though
winds have hoarsened it, your body appears
Flexible under the rags: have you some hidden sickness, the
young men will not give you silver?
THE GIRL
I have a sickness: I will hide it until I am cured. You are not
a Greek woman?
CASSANDRA But you
Born in Mycenae return home. And you bring gifts from Phocis:
for my once master who's dead
Vengeance; and for my mistress peace, for my master the King
peace, and, by-shot of the doom's day,
Peace for me also. But I have prayed for it.
THE GIRL I know you, I knew
you before you spoke to me, captive woman,
And I unarmed will kill you with my hands if you babble
prophecies.
That peace you have prayed for, I will bring it to you
If you utter warnings.
CASSANDRA To-day I shall have peace, you cannot
tempt me, daughter of the Queen, Electra.
Eight years ago I watched you and your brother going north
to Phocis: the Queen saw knowledge of you
Move in my eyes: I would not tell her where you were when
she commanded me: I will not betray you
To-day either: it is not doleful to me
To see before I die generations of destruction enter the doors
of Agamemnon.
Where is your brother?
ELECTRA Prophetess: you see all: I will tell you
nothing.
CASSANDRA He has well chosen his ambush,
It is true Aegisthus passes under that house to-day, to hunt in
the mountain.
ELECTRA Now I remember
Your name. Cassandra.
CASSANDRA Hush: the gray has turned yellow, the
standing beacons
Stream up from the east; they stir there in the palace; strange,
is it not, the dawn of one's last day's
Like all the others? Your brother would be fortunate if to-day
were also
The last of his.
ELECTRA He will endure his destinies; and Cassandra hers;
and Electra mine.
He has been for years like one tortured with fire: this day will
quench it.
CASSANDRA They are opening the gates: beg now.
To your trade, beggar-woman.
THE PORTER (coming out) Eh, pillar of miseries,
You still on guard there? Like a mare in a tight stall, never lying
down. What's this then?
A second ragged one? This at least can bend in the middle and
sit on a stone.
ELECTRA Dear gentleman
I am not used to it, my father is dead and hunger forces me to
beg, a crust or a penny.
THE PORTER
This tall one's licensed in a manner. I think they'll not let two
bundles of rag
Camp on the stair: but if you'd come to the back door and please
me nicely: with a little washing
It'd do for pastime.
ELECTRA I was reared gently: I will sit here, the King
will see me,
And none mishandle me.
THE PORTER I bear no blame for you.
I have not seen you: you came after the gates were opened.
(He goes in.)
CASSANDRA
O blossom of fire, bitter to men,
Watchdog of the woeful days,
How many sleepers
Bathing in peace, dreaming themselves delight,
All over the city, all over the Argolid plain, all over the dark
earth,
(Not me, a deeper draught of peace
And darker waters alone may wash me)
Do you, terrible star, star without pity,
Wolf of the east, waken to misery.
To the wants unaccomplished, to the eating desires,
To unanswered love, to hunger, to the hard edges
And mold of reality, to the whips of their masters.
They had flown away home to the happy darkness,
They were safe until sunrise.
(King Aegisthus, with his retinue, comes from the great
door.)
AEGISTHUS
Even here, in the midst of the city, the early day
Has a clear savor. (To ELECTRA) What, are you miserable, holding
the bowl out?
We'll hear the lark to-day in the wide hills and smell the mountain.
I'd share happiness with you.
What's your best wish, girl beggar?
ELECTRA It is covered, my lord, how
should a beggar
Know what to wish for beyond a crust and a dark corner and a
little kindness?
AEGISTHUS Why do you tremble?
ELECTRA
I was reared gently; my father is dead.
AEGISTHUS Stand up: will you take
service here in the house? What country
Bred you gently and proved ungentle to you?
ELECTRA I have wandered
north from the Eurotas, my lord,
Begging at farmsteads.
AEGISTHUS The Queen's countrywoman then, she'll
use you kindly. She'll be coming
In a moment, then I'll speak for you. -Did you bid them yoke
the roans into my chariot, Menalcas,
The two from Orchomenus?
ONE OF THE RETINUE Yesterday evening, my lord,
I sent to the stable.
AEGISTHUS They cost a pretty penny, we'll see how they
carry it. She's coming: hold up your head, girl.
(CLYTEMNESTRA, with two serving-women, comes from
the door.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
Good hunt, dearest. Here's a long idle day for me to look to.
Kill early, come home early.
AEGISTHUS
There's a poor creature on the step who's been reared nicely
and slipped into misery. I said you'd feed her,
And maybe find her a service. Farewell, sweet one.
CLYTEMNESTRA Where did she come from? How long have you
been here?
AEGISTHUS She says she has begged her way up from Sparta.
The horses are stamping on the cobbles, good-by, good-by.
(He goes down the stair with his huntsmen.)
CLYTEMNESTRA Good-by, dearest. Well. Let me see your face.
ELECTRA It is filthy to look at. I am ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA (to one of her serving-women) Leucippe do
you think this is a gayety of my lord's, he's not used to be
so kindly to beggars?
-Let me see your face.
LEUCIPPE She is very dirty, my lady. It is possible one of the
house-boys . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA I say draw that rag back, let me see your face.
I'd have him whipped then.
ELECTRA It was only in hope that someone would put a crust
in the bowl, your majesty, for I am starving. I didn't think
your majesty would see me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Draw back the rag.
ELECTRA I am very faint and starving but I will go down; I am
ashamed.
CLYTEMNESTRA Stop her, Corinna. Fetch the porter, Leucippe.
You will not go so easily. (ELECTRA sinks down on the steps
and lies prone, her head covered.) I am aging out of queenship
indeed, when even the beggars refuse my bidding.
(LEUCIPPE comes in 'with the porter.) You have a dirty stair,
porter. How long has this been here?
THE PORTER O my lady it has crept up since I opened the doors,
it was not here when I opened the doors.
CLYTEMNESTRA Lift it up and uncover its face. What is that
cry in the city? Stop: silent: I heard a cry . . .
Prophetess, your nostrils move like a dog's, what is that shouting?
. . .
I have grown weak, I am exhausted, things frighten me ...
Tell her to be gone, Leucippe, I don't wish to see her, I don't
wish to see her.
(ELECTRA rises.)
ELECTRA Ah, Queen, I will show you my face.
CLYTEMNESTRA No ... no ... be gone.
ELECTRA (uncovering her face)
Mother: I have come home: I am humbled. This house keeps
a dark welcome
For those coming home out of far countries.
CLYTEMNESTRA I Won't look: how
could I know anyone? I am old and shaking.
He said, Over the wall beyond nature
Lightning, and the laughter of the Gods. I did not cross it,
I will not kill what I gave life to.
Whoever you are, go, go, let me grow downward to the grave
quietly now.
ELECTRA I cannot
Go: I have no other refuge. Mother! Will you not kiss me, will
you not take me into the house,
Your child once, long a wanderer? Electra my name. I have
begged my way from Phocis, my brother is dead there,
Who used to care for me.
CLYTEMNESTRA Who is dead, who?
ELECTRA My brother Orestes,
Killed in a court quarrel
CLYTEMNESTRA (weeping) Oh, you lie! The widening blue
blue eyes,
The little voice of the child . . . Liar.
ELECTRA It is true. I have wept
long, on every mountain. You, mother,
Have only begun weeping. Far off, in a far country, no fit
burial . . .
CLYTEMNESTRA And do you bringing
Bitterness ... or lies . . . look for a welcome? I have only
loved two:
The priest
killed my daughter for a lamb on a stone and now
you say the boy too . . . dead, dead?
The world's full of it, a shoreless lake of lies and floating rumors
. . . pack up your wares, peddler,
Too false for a queen. Why, no, if I believed you . . . Beast,
treacherous beast, that shouting comes nearer,
What's in the city?
ELECTRA I am a stranger, I know nothing of the city,
I know only
My mother hates me, and Orestes my brother
Died pitifully, far off.
CLYTEMNESTRA Too many things, too many things call
me, what shall I do? Electra,
Electra help me. This comes of living softly, I had a lion's
strength
Once.
ELECTRA Me for help? I am utterly helpless, I had help in my
brother and he is dead in Phocis.
Give me refuge: but each of us two must weep for herself, one
sorrow. An end of the world were on us
What would it matter to us weeping? Do you remember him,
Mother, mother?
CLYTEMNESTRA I have dared too much: never dare anything,
Electra, the ache is afterward,
At the hour it hurts nothing. Prophetess, you lied.
You said he would come with vengeance on me: but now he is
dead, this girl says: and because he was lovely, blue-eyed,
And born in a most unhappy house I will believe it. But the
world's fogged with the breath of liars,
And if she has laid a net for me . . .
I'll call up the old lioness lives yet in my body, I have dared,
I have dared, and tooth and talon
Carve a way through. Lie to me?
ELECTRA Have I endured for months,
with feet bleeding, among the mountains,
Between the great gulfs alone and starving, to bring you a lie
now? I know the worst of you, I looked for the worst,
Mother, mother, and have expected nothing but to die of this
home-coming: but Orestes
Has entered the cave before; he is gathered up in a lonely mountain
quietness, he is guarded from angers
In the tough cloud that spears fall back from.
CLYTEMNESTRA Was he still beautiful?
The brown mothers down in the city
Keep their brats about them; what it is to live high! Oh!
Tell them down there, tell them in Tiryns,
Tell them in Sparta,
That water drips through the Queen's fingers and trickles down
her wrists, for the boy, for the boy
Born of her body, whom she, fool, fool, fool,
Drove out of the world. Electra,
Make peace with me.
Oh, Oh, Oh!
I have labored violently all the days of my life for nothing--
nothing-worse than anything- this death
Was a thing I wished. See how they make fools of us.
Amusement for them, to watch us labor after the thing that will
tear us in
pieces. . . . Well, strength's good.
I am the Queen; I will gather up my fragments
And not go mad now.
ELECTRA Mother, what are the men
With spears gathering at the stair's foot? Not of Mycenae by
their armor, have you mercenaries
Wanting pay? Do they serve . . . Aegisthus?
CLYTEMNESTRA What men? I seem
not to know . . .
Who has laid a net for me, what fool
For me, me? Porter, by me.
Leucippe, my guards; into the house, rouse them. I am sorry
for him,
I am best in storm. You, Electra?
The death you'll die, my daughter. Guards, out! Was it a lie?
No matter, no matter, no matter,
Here's peace. Spears, out, out! They bungled the job making
me a woman. Here's youth come back to me,
And all the days of gladness.
LEUCIPPE (running back from the door) O, Queen, strangers ...
ORESTES (a sword in his hand, 'with spearmen following, comes
from the door) Where is that woman
The Gods utterly hate?
ELECTRA Brother: let her not speak, kill quickly.
Is the other one safe now?
ORESTES That dog
Fell under his chariot, we made sure of him between the wheels
and the hooves, squealing. Now for this one.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Wait. I was weeping, Electra will tell you, my hands are wet
still,
For your blue eyes that death had closed she said away up in
Phocis. I die now, justly or not
Is out of the story, before I die I'd tell you wait, child, wait.
Did I quiver
Or pale at the blade? I say, caught in a net, netted in by my
enemies, my husband murdered,
Myself to die, I am joyful knowing she lied, you live, the only
creature
Under all the spread and arch of daylight
That I love, lives.
ELECTRA The great fangs drawn fear craftiness now,
kill quickly.
CLYTEMNESTRA As for her, the wife of a shepherd
Suckled her, but you
These very breasts nourished: rather one of your northern
spearmen do what's needful; not you
Draw blood where you drew milk. The Gods endure much, but
beware them.
ORESTES This, a God in his temple
Openly commanded.
CLYTEMNESTRA Ah, child, child, who has mistaught you and
who has betrayed you? What voice had the God?
How was it different from a man's and did you see him? Who
sent the priest presents? They fool us,
And the Gods let them. No doubt also the envious King of
Phocis has lent you counsel as he lent you
Men: let one of them do it. Life's not jewel enough
That I should plead for it: this much I pray, for your sake, not
with your hand, not with your hand, or the memory
Will so mother you, so glue to you, so embracing you,
Not the deep sea's green day, no cleft of a rock in the bed of
the deep sea, no ocean of darkness
Outside the stars, will hide nor wash you. What is it to me that
I have rejoiced knowing you alive,
child, O precious to me, O alone loved, if now dying by my
manner of death
I make nightmare the heir, nightmare, horror, in all I have of
you;
And you haunted forever, never to sleep dreamless again, never
to see blue cloth
But the red runs over it; fugitive of dreams, madman at length,
the memory of a scream following you houndlike,
Inherit Mycenae? Child, for this has not been done before, there
is no old fable, no whisper
Out of the foundation, among the people that were before our
people, no echo has ever
Moved among these most ancient stones, the monsters here, nor
stirred under any mountain, nor fluttered
Under any sky, of a man slaying his mother. Sons have kil

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Ever Open Door

Sharings good, sharings fine
But no one wants to share this world of mine
Is dull, dark and grey
And no one wants to find the way
To my front door is always open to you
Hey now life, give me a break
For much more of this I cannot
Take me to a far off place
Where theres no rich or poor
And every house has got an ever open door
I want to find my direction
I want my love and affection
Yes Im needing it more and more
I want to find my own answers
Its time I knew what my plans were
Im going to find out what Im looking for
Im gonna take all my chances
Gonna make my advances
Gonna see what my life has in store
Ive got a feeling inside me
Ill put the past way behind me
Pick myself up from the floor
I want my sun in the morning
Want my friends to come calling
Ill keep a welcome outside my door

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Downbound Train

I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Now I work down at the carwash
Where all it ever does is rain
Dont you feel like youre a rider on a downbound train
She just said joe I gotta go
We had it once we aint got it any more
She packed her bags left me behind
She bought a ticket on the central line
Nights as I sleep, I hear that whistle whining
I feel her kiss in the misty rain
And I feel like Im a rider on a downbound train
Last night I heard your voice
You were crying, crying, you were so alone
You said your love had never died
You were waiting for me at home
Put on my jacket, I ran through the woods
I ran till I thought my chest would explode
There in the clearing, beyond the highway
In the moonlight, our wedding house shone
I rushed through the yard, I burst through the front door
My head pounding hard, up the stairs I climbed
The room was dark, our bed was empty
Then I heard that long whistle whine
And I dropped to my knees, hung my head and cried
Now I swing a sledge hammer on a railroad gang
Knocking down them cross ties, working in the rain
Now dont it feel like youre a rider on a downbound train

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Youre Gonna Love It

(cydney davis/lloyd tolbert)
We have been together much too long
God has given us a special bond
Lets take it and make it last forever
You have given me so much respect
You put your love for me above all else
Understand, youre my man
Cant wait to show you
What Ill do
When I say I do
Ill do it just for you
Youre gonna love it
Think its time for us to set a date
So much harder for us both to wait, so long
Its getting strong
And I cant hold it
I know this kind of love is heaven sent
And Ive got faith that this was always meant to be
You and me
And I cant wait to show you
What Ill do
When I say I do
You know my love is true
Youre gonna love it
What Ill do
When I say I do
Ill do it just for you
Youre gonna love it
Ive got a vision
Of passions burning fire
Ive made a decision
To give you all your desire
Ive been thinking bout loving you
All night, all day, aint gonna give you a break
Our honeymoon will last forever
I hope that youre in shape
For what Ill do
So what you want me to do?
I know this kind of love is heaven sent
I got faith that this was always meant to be
You and me
I cant wait to show you
What Ill do
When I say I do
You know my love is true
Youre gonna love it
What Ill do
When I say I do
Ill do it just for you
Youre gonna love it
What Ill do
When I say I do
You know my love is true
Youre gonna love it
What Ill do
When I say I do
Ill do it just for you
Youre gonna love it

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Live By Yo Rep

-this is ??? shalonda, bone magazine, here interviewing...
-three 6 mafia
-from memphis, who has a unique quality of rap style, what would you do if
Someone tried to duplicate your ideas?
[lord infamous]
Lord infamous takin 1000 of razor blades
And i be pressin them into the flesh
Takin my pitchfork up out of the fire
And soakin it down in their chest
Through the ribs, spines, charcoalin the muscle tissue
And sendin what's left in the mail to mammy
Cause i think she just might miss you
But first, i want to slowly pull off all your skin
Get grease and boil it hot pour it on you and your dead friends
I probably outta be not be so horribly slaughtering the body
I am so naughty because i am moderately in to photography
Following through the autopsy
No love for them bustas so just pour some acid all over them, too
That's what i would do, skinny pimp what would you do?
[skinny pimp]
Just look into the eyes of the mask
Slangin the ak to knock out my enemies
Fear of the razor, da blast, he done passed
I'm leavin no trace of the evidence
Bodies sit in box chopped up in pieces
His soul done rose, i placed them tubes up under my mattress
My conscience is black and it's strange
Cause i murdered a victim, the devil just rushin my time
With this 9 in my hand causin death when you sleep
In the casket i leave you no killas in mind
Pullin a jack, reach me that cheese, make a stupid move
Then ya bleed
Bustin 17, please don't scream, don't run
Either long range street sweep
Never ever run from the buckshots, bust em at ya back
When i'm full of yak, ain't no clue
In 2 deep, you sneak, we creep, juiceman, what would you do?
[juicy j]
First the juice look in the white pages for this trick
Mafia-style fool cause you don't know who ya messin with
Caught him slippin in his home, minimum breathin on the phone
Warnin sign to let you know i'm comin so you better be gone
Wether ya run i be stoppin ya, with the 2 9s i be poppin ya
Witness a killa from north memphis of the three 6 mafia
2 killas at yo front door, 3 killas at yo back door
His broad peeked through the curtains
And saw them gats pointed at the window
Nothin but destruction after we touched em
Man i thought you knew
That's what i would do, gangsta boo what would you do?
[gangsta boo]
Think about a master plan on how to buck them bustas dead
Gangsta boo this pimin playa comin with the livin dead
Yes i'm so so crazy
So so wild i be like puttin blood on you trick
Torture your body with nothin but fire
Then i calmly shoot you quick
Blast you in yo head make sure you dead
Cause i don't want you to live
My words of wisdom:
The weaker the victim the bigger the thrill is
The three 6 mafia do not feel sorry and that's how the story goes
We full of them leaves so we proceed to take all of your soul
It's not a problem when i be buckin them suckas
I do it smooth
That's what this lady boo would do, now paul what would you do?
[d.j. paul]
First i hit up crunchy, and i get full of that holy smoke
The devil's already up in a killa
So i feel i have not to go too far to loc
This time you crossed the wrong click
Beware your murder's all on my mind
Plus satan's inside
Movin my hand a little closer to this plastic 9
Burnin from the angle, my glock knows more
Every blink of the eye
But before it's all gone, bone, quickly i'm stickin them ?loogers?
To watch you die
Dropped ya to your knees, now it's time for you to bless
Man, i be dj paul, da killaman, with a fist full of fire
Punch a hole straight through yo chest
So bustas hear me close, you stole some styles and dis that's cool
But steppin up to the bloody glock 9 millimeter
Three 6 dang fools, ain't fools the best, what would you do?
Chorus (4x): bone,live by yo rep cause we know you bound to slip
When we blast with that mask we gon empty this clip
[lord infamous]
See we can't tolerate no sissy that is layzie
Broke out the blender and i made some krayzie gravy
It's eazy, and when it was time to get bizzy
Don't break, you can wish, but you can't escape
Because we crave dead flesh
Three 6 tricks, easily you can be next
-yeah, the three 6 mafia, straight outta memphis, breakin these bones like it
Ain't sh*t, for the 9 nickel, triyaaaaaack!

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Live By Yo Rep

-this is ??? shalonda, bone magazine, here interviewing...
-three 6 mafia
-from memphis, who has a unique quality of rap style, what would you do if
Someone tried to duplicate your ideas?
[lord infamous]
Lord infamous takin 1000 of razor blades
And i be pressin them into the flesh
Takin my pitchfork up out of the fire
And soakin it down in their chest
Through the ribs, spines, charcoalin the muscle tissue
And sendin what's left in the mail to mammy
Cause i think she just might miss you
But first, i want to slowly pull off all your skin
Get grease and boil it hot pour it on you and your dead friends
I probably outta be not be so horribly slaughtering the body
I am so naughty because i am moderately in to photography
Following through the autopsy
No love for them bustas so just pour some acid all over them, too
That's what i would do, skinny pimp what would you do?
[skinny pimp]
Just look into the eyes of the mask
Slangin the ak to knock out my enemies
Fear of the razor, da blast, he done passed
I'm leavin no trace of the evidence
Bodies sit in box chopped up in pieces
His soul done rose, i placed them tubes up under my mattress
My conscience is black and it's strange
Cause i murdered a victim, the devil just rushin my time
With this 9 in my hand causin death when you sleep
In the casket i leave you no killas in mind
Pullin a jack, reach me that cheese, make a stupid move
Then ya bleed
Bustin 17, please don't scream, don't run
Either long range street sweep
Never ever run from the buckshots, bust em at ya back
When i'm full of yak, ain't no clue
In 2 deep, you sneak, we creep, juiceman, what would you do?
[juicy j]
First the juice look in the white pages for this trick
Mafia-style fool cause you don't know who ya messin with
Caught him slippin in his home, minimum breathin on the phone
Warnin sign to let you know i'm comin so you better be gone
Wether ya run i be stoppin ya, with the 2 9s i be poppin ya
Witness a killa from north memphis of the three 6 mafia
2 killas at yo front door, 3 killas at yo back door
His broad peeked through the curtains
And saw them gats pointed at the window
Nothin but destruction after we touched em
Man i thought you knew
That's what i would do, gangsta boo what would you do?
[gangsta boo]
Think about a master plan on how to buck them bustas dead
Gangsta boo this pimin playa comin with the livin dead
Yes i'm so so crazy
So so wild i be like puttin blood on you trick
Torture your body with nothin but fire
Then i calmly shoot you quick
Blast you in yo head make sure you dead
Cause i don't want you to live
My words of wisdom:
The weaker the victim the bigger the thrill is
The three 6 mafia do not feel sorry and that's how the story goes
We full of them leaves so we proceed to take all of your soul
It's not a problem when i be buckin them suckas
I do it smooth
That's what this lady boo would do, now paul what would you do?
[d.j. paul]
First i hit up crunchy, and i get full of that holy smoke
The devil's already up in a killa
So i feel i have not to go too far to loc
This time you crossed the wrong click
Beware your murder's all on my mind
Plus satan's inside
Movin my hand a little closer to this plastic 9
Burnin from the angle, my glock knows more
Every blink of the eye
But before it's all gone, bone, quickly i'm stickin them ?loogers?
To watch you die
Dropped ya to your knees, now it's time for you to bless
Man, i be dj paul, da killaman, with a fist full of fire
Punch a hole straight through yo chest
So bustas hear me close, you stole some styles and dis that's cool
But steppin up to the bloody glock 9 millimeter
Three 6 dang fools, ain't fools the best, what would you do?
Chorus (4x): bone,live by yo rep cause we know you bound to slip
When we blast with that mask we gon empty this clip
[lord infamous]
See we can't tolerate no sissy that is layzie
Broke out the blender and i made some krayzie gravy
It's eazy, and when it was time to get bizzy
Don't break, you can wish, but you can't escape
Because we crave dead flesh
Three 6 tricks, easily you can be next
-yeah, the three 6 mafia, straight outta memphis, breakin these bones like it
Ain't sh*t, for the 9 nickel, triyaaaaaack!

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I Surrender

Yeah I know, y'know, what a calling is
I mean we all have a calling in our life, I believe
You know I'm from the dirt man
I come up in these streets, went without eatin', you know what I'm sayin'?
Saw my Mom go without eatin'
I got tired of that I had to go out there
In them streets and hustle, you know?
I mean you know what I'm sayin'?
I mean it's easy for y'all to say, y'know (I surrender)
Surrender your life, you know what I'm sayin'? (I surrender)
Give your life to God and all that
Y'know, that's good and I believe in God (I surrender to you Lord)
But when you got bills at your front door all the time
You know what I'm sayin'?
Kids screamin' "Daddy, Momma, where the food at?" (I surrender)
Man it makes it kinda hard to believe in (I surrender)
Y'know, and have faith in something that you can't see (I surrender to your Lord)
Even though you wanna believe
Y'all just gonna have to just pray for me
You know what I'm sayin'? 'Cause uh...
Constantly my mind and my heart is racing (yeah)
All by myself trying to solve all these problems I'm facing (oh yeah)
Looking to man trying to find hope (uh-huh)
But man will never know the depth of my struggles (oh)
I was depending on myself (on myself)
To give myself a hand (wow but)
But when depending on myself (I...)
Fell time again (that's why)
And that's why I'm standing here alone (all alone)
With no one else
Lord I realised that I can't fight these battles by myself
I surrender
I surrender (oh I)
I surrender to you Lord
I surrender
I surrender (oh I)
I surrender to you Lord
I surrender (I surrender)
I surrender (Lord to you)
I surrender to you Lord
Coming out with both hands up
I surrender (uhh)
Listen...
I tried everything I could to make it work (mmm-hmm)
But everything I seemed to try just made it worse (ohh)
And every road that I'd go down there were no signs (signs)
Destination lonely with no peace of mind (yeah, ohh)
I was depending on myself (on myself)
To give myself a hand (but when)
But when depending on myself (I would fell time and time again)
Fell time again (that's why)
And that's why I'm standing here alone (standing all alone)
With no one else
Lord I realised that I can't fight these battles by myself
I surrender
I surrender
I surrender (oh I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (said I surrender)
I surrender (ohh I)
I surrender (surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (I done tried everything and now I)
I surrender (surrender yeah)
I surrender (to you Lord)
I surrender to you Lord
Coming out with both hands up
I surrender (ohh)
Won't you guard the place around it
(There's no where for me to go)
Joy I have tried to find (whoo)
(See I've searched high and I've searched low)
Said you walked throughout the building
So come and rescue me from this hell
'Cause I can't do it by myself (I can't do it... by myself)
I surrender (hey I surrender)
I surrender (ohh) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (I surrender) (I surrender... to you Lord) (yes I do)
I surrender (I surrender) (I surrender) (to you)
I surrender (yeah)
I surrender to you Lord ('cause I'm sick and tired of going through)
I surrender (I need your help) (need your help)
I surrender (to find my may) (to find my way)
I surrender to you Lord (I'm here and willing) (here and willing) (to make a change) (make a change, yeah)
I surrender (I surrender all my darkness) (hey) (I surrender)
I surrender (now you give me your light) (yes sir) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (I surrender all my wrongs) (yes I do) (and Lord you make it right) (make it right) (I surrender)
I surrender (I surrender my situation) (I surrender) (I surrender)
I surrender (and Lord fix it for me) (fix it for me) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (no more hesitation) (hey) (here I am on my knees) (I surrender)
I surrender (I surrender) (I surrender) (I surrender)
I surrender (I surrender) (I surrender) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (I surrender) (I surrender) (whoo, hey) (I surrender)
I surrender (I surrender my self, my house, my kids, my wife) (yeah) (I surrender)
I surrender (my dog, my car, my love, my life) (yes sir) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord (Lord I surrender my soul) (oh-ho) (I surrender)
I surrender (you have got complete control) (haha) (I surrender)
I surrender (of the situation) (I surrender)
I surrender to you Lord...

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Your House

I pass your old house sometimes, in the car,
or walking with friends, and I sneak a glance
at the front door where we stood some nights,
or up at the middle window. The light
bounces from the pane, strikes a deeper flame,
fades, and stars crash, heavy with memory,
and that gorgeous wound is open again.
And sometimes it seems there was nothing else,
except “what should have been”, but for folly
and the currents that focussed my blindness.
But not often. The tides of life flow on.
I know where we stand, and why we’re there.
It’s the truth of a crowded youth, where,
clarity never showed, never played a part
and where, for all the sins of history,
love alone might never have been enough.

The sharp roughcast has been painted over.
The old fence has been replaced and the doors
and windows too. All that lingers there still
is a story that hasn’t been told, and,
it’s not the fear of forgetting now
that sometimes imprisons an aging mind.
It’s the hints of heaven, the reminders
of the heights that promise reaches,
of the heights we’re prone to fall from.

Up the street, past the light at Maggie’s gate -
where we often would meet just after eight -
I wander again round that endless bend
of that village on the brink of the world,
mind bridging the years as you hover -
as memory tells it now of that first walk -
on a dark winter’s night in sixty seven:
speed talking, speed floating through the old quarter.
Did I confuse latin and french you asked?
Someone passed us then, barely visible,
opposite McGhee's garage, and was gone,
And you and I, engrossed, walked on and on...

Our old school looms like a primitive force
bustling with kids with the same kind of dreams.
I walk through another age, a stranger
looking over valleys of flowing change,
devoid of signs of us. I superimpose
an older world beyond the rusting gates
and see a satchel on your shoulder,
mischief run wild on your smiling face,
and for a lost moment get the urge
to raise a trembling hand and wave fondly,
to see you wave back, from there or somewhere,
with no commitment or small talk required.
A wave across the distance would do.

Your garden fence is temptation to me.
To stop and lean, to look up for your eyes;
to look over cool clear winter nights again,
when all that echoed were two quiet voices.
You kept my letters in a drawer up there,
behind the middle window, fermenting
until finally they flooded your heart.
Facing the wrong way at that moment
I missed the flush-through into the soft blue.
I missed the moment of the end of longing.
I held you and beheld it unseeing,
just when nothing else truly mattered;
though the tumult and heat of the circling world
was bearing down fast on our village lives.
And one night, my fingers through your jet hair -
early in June on the last of the moon -
you said “what is it that’s wrong? ” and I knew
that you wanted more then than I could give.
A bullet of silence ripped through the dawn.
It was on my lips, but the words rebelled.
With sunlight just over the rim of the Earth,
it slowed and began to turn the wrong way..
I stood there, eyes closed, head on your shoulder
with my heart beating in vain against yours,
simply afraid of the strength of a love
I wasn’t quite ready to cope with yet,
and so began the retreat from our love.
I turned my collar to its beauty then,
and we sheltered in the arms of others.

The wind and rain of the next two winters
weathered our resolve, and almost saved us,
though words were rare, glances less, and distance barred
the ambush lying in wait within us.
Warm words of hope, littering the pages,
drew us together for one last attempt,
on a cold sunday night before Christmas
down at the corner on Hamilton Road.
But, deluded by youth I wriggled free,
sure-footedly dancing myself into hell,
against my heart and against my will.
You’d crossed the bridge to honour the pledges
of a million years of preparation,
risked one last flight to Jerusalem,
to hear them denied in a pulse of ego
by a fool on the verge of paradise -
complacent in the comfort of your lips -
pretending he’d have to think about it.
It was time for you to leave; you were right.
Disbelief bit deeply into my bones
and settled there for a lifetime it seemed.
A wiser kid would have stuck with the truth,
would have honoured that love with whatever it took,
would have cried after you down on his knees,
but... I didn't...

The wheel of fate makes the slightest of turns
and all of our lives are changed forever.

What if all of it was written after all
and all that broke down was fated to fail?
Were slants of starlight the shaping force
writing the future into our eyes?

I was inside your house years afterwards,
sat in the front room where you used to sit,
and the house was you, and the air was you.
I talked and looked around, acting normal;
breathing you deeply, gulping down failure,
careening though time to your father’s voice
echoing from his chair beside the hall door.
He was gone too, nearly ten years before.
And back and forth your brother and I
chatted away, though I was barely there.

Standing now outside Milligan’s old house,
I stare at the woodland that hides so much:
the long lost road that wasn't lost then,
the old swing tree our love was carved upon,
the railway line that brought us the world,
and get lost in something I can’t break down.
Uprooted from the village to the coast,
the wind through those trees called me back 'home',
seemed to mark for good our time and place.
From anywhere, any time, I can clearly see
them bend before a surging southerly,
and hear its lonely sighing through the leaves:
a whispering song that reminds me to call
a number I can't forget.

On the table here there’s a photograph
of you and I when time was just a word,
when the future was an endless sky.
Now starlings gather on the autumn wind
and raindrops trickle down the window pane
to a song you mentioned in a letter:
it went “I want you here to have and hold
as the years go by and we grow old and grey”
and other piercing sentimentalities.
And at last, they’ve cut me off at the pass -
the patient soldiers of love and regret -
as I look and listen too many times
to make up now for not listening then
for not having heard what your heart clearly said.

I should have seen it so much sooner,
before the limousines and lace, before
I turned my eyes and ears against the truth
beaten out on bells and endless circles.
And in loss I made you my nirvana
leaving me as blinded by the past now
as I once was by the future.

There was so little space between our small chairs
back in our senior primary school class.
And you were so slim and you moved so fast,
and faster still with a table tennis bat
when the ball would almost disappear,
blurring from sight beneath locked eyes,
minute after minute, blind to the world
that one day would bring our game to a close..
But everything wears away in the end,
as the planet keeps on taking its toll.
As you and I fall behind the waves,
now your kids and mine are older by far
than the two kids who left Dunragit Hall
together, after dancing to Cracklin Rosie.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 7

Thus, then, did Ulysses wait and pray; but the girl drove on to
the town. When she reached her father's house she drew up at the
gateway, and her brothers- comely as the gods- gathered round her,
took the mules out of the waggon, and carried the clothes into the
house, while she went to her own room, where an old servant,
Eurymedusa of Apeira, lit the fire for her. This old woman had been
brought by sea from Apeira, and had been chosen as a prize for
Alcinous because he was king over the Phaecians, and the people obeyed
him as though he were a god. She had been nurse to Nausicaa, and had
now lit the fire for her, and brought her supper for her into her
own room.
Presently Ulysses got up to go towards the town; and Minerva shed
a thick mist all round him to hide him in case any of the proud
Phaecians who met him should be rude to him, or ask him who he was.
Then, as he was just entering the town, she came towards him in the
likeness of a little girl carrying a pitcher. She stood right in front
of him, and Ulysses said:
"My dear, will you be so kind as to show me the house of king
Alcinous? I am an unfortunate foreigner in distress, and do not know
one in your town and country."
Then Minerva said, "Yes, father stranger, I will show you the
house you want, for Alcinous lives quite close to my own father. I
will go before you and show the way, but say not a word as you go, and
do not look at any man, nor ask him questions; for the people here
cannot abide strangers, and do not like men who come from some other
place. They are a sea-faring folk, and sail the seas by the grace of
Neptune in ships that glide along like thought, or as a bird in the
air."
On this she led the way, and Ulysses followed in her steps; but
not one of the Phaecians could see him as he passed through the city
in the midst of them; for the great goddess Minerva in her good will
towards him had hidden him in a thick cloud of darkness. He admired
their harbours, ships, places of assembly, and the lofty walls of
the city, which, with the palisade on top of them, were very striking,
and when they reached the king's house Minerva said:
"This is the house, father stranger, which you would have me show
you. You will find a number of great people sitting at table, but do
not be afraid; go straight in, for the bolder a man is the more likely
he is to carry his point, even though he is a stranger. First find the
queen. Her name is Arete, and she comes of the same family as her
husband Alcinous. They both descend originally from Neptune, who was
father to Nausithous by Periboea, a woman of great beauty. Periboea
was the youngest daughter of Eurymedon, who at one time reigned over
the giants, but he ruined his ill-fated people and lost his own life
to boot.
"Neptune, however, lay with his daughter, and she had a son by
him, the great Nausithous, who reigned over the Phaecians.
Nausithous had two sons Rhexenor and Alcinous; Apollo killed the first
of them while he was still a bridegroom and without male issue; but he
left a daughter Arete, whom Alcinous married, and honours as no
other woman is honoured of all those that keep house along with
their husbands.
"Thus she both was, and still is, respected beyond measure by her
children, by Alcinous himself, and by the whole people, who look
upon her as a goddess, and greet her whenever she goes about the city,
for she is a thoroughly good woman both in head and heart, and when
any women are friends of hers, she will help their husbands also to
settle their disputes. If you can gain her good will, you may have
every hope of seeing your friends again, and getting safely back to
your home and country."
Then Minerva left Scheria and went away over the sea. She went to
Marathon and to the spacious streets of Athens, where she entered
the abode of Erechtheus; but Ulysses went on to the house of Alcinous,
and he pondered much as he paused a while before reaching the
threshold of bronze, for the splendour of the palace was like that
of the sun or moon. The walls on either side were of bronze from end
to end, and the cornice was of blue enamel. The doors were gold, and
hung on pillars of silver that rose from a floor of bronze, while
the lintel was silver and the hook of the door was of gold.
On either side there stood gold and silver mastiffs which Vulcan,
with his consummate skill, had fashioned expressly to keep watch
over the palace of king Alcinous; so they were immortal and could
never grow old. Seats were ranged all along the wall, here and there
from one end to the other, with coverings of fine woven work which the
women of the house had made. Here the chief persons of the Phaecians
used to sit and eat and drink, for there was abundance at all seasons;
and there were golden figures of young men with lighted torches in
their hands, raised on pedestals, to give light by night to those
who were at table. There are fifty maid servants in the house, some of
whom are always grinding rich yellow grain at the mill, while others
work at the loom, or sit and spin, and their shuttles go, backwards
and forwards like the fluttering of aspen leaves, while the linen is
so closely woven that it will turn oil. As the Phaecians are the
best sailors in the world, so their women excel all others in weaving,
for Minerva has taught them all manner of useful arts, and they are
very intelligent.
Outside the gate of the outer court there is a large garden of about
four acres with a wall all round it. It is full of beautiful trees-
pears, pomegranates, and the most delicious apples. There are luscious
figs also, and olives in full growth. The fruits never rot nor fail
all the year round, neither winter nor summer, for the air is so
soft that a new crop ripens before the old has dropped. Pear grows
on pear, apple on apple, and fig on fig, and so also with the
grapes, for there is an excellent vineyard: on the level ground of a
part of this, the grapes are being made into raisins; in another
part they are being gathered; some are being trodden in the wine tubs,
others further on have shed their blossom and are beginning to show
fruit, others again are just changing colour. In the furthest part
of the ground there are beautifully arranged beds of flowers that
are in bloom all the year round. Two streams go through it, the one
turned in ducts throughout the whole garden, while the other is
carried under the ground of the outer court to the house itself, and
the town's people draw water from it. Such, then, were the
splendours with which the gods had endowed the house of king Alcinous.
So here Ulysses stood for a while and looked about him, but when
he had looked long enough he crossed the threshold and went within the
precincts of the house. There he found all the chief people among
the Phaecians making their drink-offerings to Mercury, which they
always did the last thing before going away for the night. He went
straight through the court, still hidden by the cloak of darkness in
which Minerva had enveloped him, till he reached Arete and King
Alcinous; then he laid his hands upon the knees of the queen, and at
that moment the miraculous darkness fell away from him and he became
visible. Every one was speechless with surprise at seeing a man there,
but Ulysses began at once with his petition.
"Queen Arete," he exclaimed, "daughter of great Rhexenor, in my
distress I humbly pray you, as also your husband and these your guests
(whom may heaven prosper with long life and happiness, and may they
leave their possessions to their children, and all the honours
conferred upon them by the state) to help me home to my own country as
soon as possible; for I have been long in trouble and away from my
friends."
Then he sat down on the hearth among the ashes and they all held
their peace, till presently the old hero Echeneus, who was an
excellent speaker and an elder among the Phaeacians, plainly and in
all honesty addressed them thus:
"Alcinous," said he, "it is not creditable to you that a stranger
should be seen sitting among the ashes of your hearth; every one is
waiting to hear what you are about to say; tell him, then, to rise and
take a seat on a stool inlaid with silver, and bid your servants mix
some wine and water that we may make a drink-offering to Jove the lord
of thunder, who takes all well-disposed suppliants under his
protection; and let the housekeeper give him some supper, of
whatever there may be in the house."
When Alcinous heard this he took Ulysses by the hand, raised him
from the hearth, and bade him take the seat of Laodamas, who had
been sitting beside him, and was his favourite son. A maid servant
then brought him water in a beautiful golden ewer and poured it into a
silver basin for him to wash his hands, and she drew a clean table
beside him; an upper servant brought him bread and offered him many
good things of what there was in the house, and Ulysses ate and drank.
Then Alcinous said to one of the servants, "Pontonous, mix a cup of
wine and hand it round that we may make drink-offerings to Jove the
lord of thunder, who is the protector of all well-disposed
suppliants."
Pontonous then mixed wine and water, and handed it round after
giving every man his drink-offering. When they had made their
offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was minded, Alcinous said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, hear my words. You
have had your supper, so now go home to bed. To-morrow morning I shall
invite a still larger number of aldermen, and will give a
sacrificial banquet in honour of our guest; we can then discuss the
question of his escort, and consider how we may at once send him
back rejoicing to his own country without trouble or inconvenience
to himself, no matter how distant it may be. We must see that he comes
to no harm while on his homeward journey, but when he is once at
home he will have to take the luck he was born with for better or
worse like other people. It is possible, however, that the stranger is
one of the immortals who has come down from heaven to visit us; but in
this case the gods are departing from their usual practice, for
hitherto they have made themselves perfectly clear to us when we
have been offering them hecatombs. They come and sit at our feasts
just like one of our selves, and if any solitary wayfarer happens to
stumble upon some one or other of them, they affect no concealment,
for we are as near of kin to the gods as the Cyclopes and the savage
giants are."
Then Ulysses said: "Pray, Alcinous, do not take any such notion into
your head. I have nothing of the immortal about me, neither in body
nor mind, and most resemble those among you who are the most
afflicted. Indeed, were I to tell you all that heaven has seen fit
to lay upon me, you would say that I was still worse off than they
are. Nevertheless, let me sup in spite of sorrow, for an empty stomach
is a very importunate thing, and thrusts itself on a man's notice no
matter how dire is his distress. I am in great trouble, yet it insists
that I shall eat and drink, bids me lay aside all memory of my sorrows
and dwell only on the due replenishing of itself. As for yourselves,
do as you propose, and at break of day set about helping me to get
home. I shall be content to die if I may first once more behold my
property, my bondsmen, and all the greatness of my house."
Thus did he speak. Every one approved his saying, and agreed that he
should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken reasonably. Then when
they had made their drink-offerings, and had drunk each as much as
he was minded they went home to bed every man in his own abode,
leaving Ulysses in the cloister with Arete and Alcinous while the
servants were taking the things away after supper. Arete was the first
to speak, for she recognized the shirt, cloak, and good clothes that
Ulysses was wearing, as the work of herself and of her maids; so she
said, "Stranger, before we go any further, there is a question I
should like to ask you. Who, and whence are you, and who gave you
those clothes? Did you not say you had come here from beyond the sea?"
And Ulysses answered, "It would be a long story Madam, were I to
relate in full the tale of my misfortunes, for the hand of heaven
has been laid heavy upon me; but as regards your question, there is an
island far away in the sea which is called 'the Ogygian.' Here
dwells the cunning and powerful goddess Calypso, daughter of Atlas.
She lives by herself far from all neighbours human or divine. Fortune,
however, me to her hearth all desolate and alone, for Jove struck my
ship with his thunderbolts, and broke it up in mid-ocean. My brave
comrades were drowned every man of them, but I stuck to the keel and
was carried hither and thither for the space of nine days, till at
last during the darkness of the tenth night the gods brought me to the
Ogygian island where the great goddess Calypso lives. She took me in
and treated me with the utmost kindness; indeed she wanted to make
me immortal that I might never grow old, but she could not persuade me
to let her do so.
"I stayed with Calypso seven years straight on end, and watered
the good clothes she gave me with my tears during the whole time;
but at last when the eighth year came round she bade me depart of
her own free will, either because Jove had told her she must, or
because she had changed her mind. She sent me from her island on a
raft, which she provisioned with abundance of bread and wine. Moreover
she gave me good stout clothing, and sent me a wind that blew both
warm and fair. Days seven and ten did I sail over the sea, and on
the eighteenth I caught sight of the first outlines of the mountains
upon your coast- and glad indeed was I to set eyes upon them.
Nevertheless there was still much trouble in store for me, for at this
point Neptune would let me go no further, and raised a great storm
against me; the sea was so terribly high that I could no longer keep
to my raft, which went to pieces under the fury of the gale, and I had
to swim for it, till wind and current brought me to your shores.
"There I tried to land, but could not, for it was a bad place and
the waves dashed me against the rocks, so I again took to the sea
and swam on till I came to a river that seemed the most likely landing
place, for there were no rocks and it was sheltered from the wind.
Here, then, I got out of the water and gathered my senses together
again. Night was coming on, so I left the river, and went into a
thicket, where I covered myself all over with leaves, and presently
heaven sent me off into a very deep sleep. Sick and sorry as I was I
slept among the leaves all night, and through the next day till
afternoon, when I woke as the sun was westering, and saw your
daughter's maid servants playing upon the beach, and your daughter
among them looking like a goddess. I besought her aid, and she
proved to be of an excellent disposition, much more so than could be
expected from so young a person- for young people are apt to be
thoughtless. She gave me plenty of bread and wine, and when she had
had me washed in the river she also gave me the clothes in which you
see me. Now, therefore, though it has pained me to do so, I have
told you the whole truth."
Then Alcinous said, "Stranger, it was very wrong of my daughter
not to bring you on at once to my house along with the maids, seeing
that she was the first person whose aid you asked."
"Pray do not scold her," replied Ulysses; "she is not to blame.
She did tell me to follow along with the maids, but I was ashamed
and afraid, for I thought you might perhaps be displeased if you saw
me. Every human being is sometimes a little suspicious and irritable."
"Stranger," replied Alcinous, "I am not the kind of man to get angry
about nothing; it is always better to be reasonable; but by Father
Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, now that I see what kind of person you are,
and how much you think as I do, I wish you would stay here, marry my
daughter, and become my son-in-law. If you will stay I will give you a
house and an estate, but no one (heaven forbid) shall keep you here
against your own wish, and that you may be sure of this I will
attend to-morrow to the matter of your escort. You can sleep during
the whole voyage if you like, and the men shall sail you over smooth
waters either to your own home, or wherever you please, even though it
be a long way further off than Euboea, which those of my people who
saw it when they took yellow-haired Rhadamanthus to see Tityus the son
of Gaia, tell me is the furthest of any place- and yet they did the
whole voyage in a single day without distressing themselves, and
came back again afterwards. You will thus see how much my ships
excel all others, and what magnificent oarsmen my sailors are."
Then was Ulysses glad and prayed aloud saying, "Father Jove, grant
that Alcinous may do all as he has said, for so he will win an
imperishable name among mankind, and at the same time I shall return
to my country."
Thus did they converse. Then Arete told her maids to set a bed in
the room that was in the gatehouse, and make it with good red rugs,
and to spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for
Ulysses to wear. The maids thereon went out with torches in their
hands, and when they had made the bed they came up to Ulysses and
said, "Rise, sir stranger, and come with us for your bed is ready,"
and glad indeed was he to go to his rest.
So Ulysses slept in a bed placed in a room over the echoing gateway;
but Alcinous lay in the inner part of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 22

Then Ulysses tore off his rags, and sprang on to the broad
pavement with his bow and his quiver full of arrows. He shed the
arrows on to the ground at his feet and said, "The mighty contest is
at an end. I will now see whether Apollo will vouchsafe it to me to
hit another mark which no man has yet hit."
On this he aimed a deadly arrow at Antinous, who was about to take
up a two-handled gold cup to drink his wine and already had it in
his hands. He had no thought of death- who amongst all the revellers
would think that one man, however brave, would stand alone among so
many and kill him? The arrow struck Antinous in the throat, and the
point went clean through his neck, so that he fell over and the cup
dropped from his hand, while a thick stream of blood gushed from his
nostrils. He kicked the table from him and upset the things on it,
so that the bread and roasted meats were all soiled as they fell
over on to the ground. The suitors were in an uproar when they saw
that a man had been hit; they sprang in dismay one and all of them
from their seats and looked everywhere towards the walls, but there
was neither shield nor spear, and they rebuked Ulysses very angrily.
"Stranger," said they, "you shall pay for shooting people in this way:
om yi you shall see no other contest; you are a doomed man; he whom
you have slain was the foremost youth in Ithaca, and the vultures
shall devour you for having killed him."
Thus they spoke, for they thought that he had killed Antinous by
mistake, and did not perceive that death was hanging over the head
of every one of them. But Ulysses glared at them and said:
"Dogs, did you think that I should not come back from Troy? You have
wasted my substance, have forced my women servants to lie with you,
and have wooed my wife while I was still living. You have feared
neither Cod nor man, and now you shall die."
They turned pale with fear as he spoke, and every man looked round
about to see whither he might fly for safety, but Eurymachus alone
spoke.
"If you are Ulysses," said he, "then what you have said is just.
We have done much wrong on your lands and in your house. But
Antinous who was the head and front of the offending lies low already.
It was all his doing. It was not that he wanted to marry Penelope;
he did not so much care about that; what he wanted was something quite
different, and Jove has not vouchsafed it to him; he wanted to kill
your son and to be chief man in Ithaca. Now, therefore, that he has
met the death which was his due, spare the lives of your people. We
will make everything good among ourselves, and pay you in full for all
that we have eaten and drunk. Each one of us shall pay you a fine
worth twenty oxen, and we will keep on giving you gold and bronze till
your heart is softened. Until we have done this no one can complain of
your being enraged against us."
Ulysses again glared at him and said, "Though you should give me all
that you have in the world both now and all that you ever shall
have, I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full. You
must fight, or fly for your lives; and fly, not a man of you shall."
Their hearts sank as they heard him, but Eurymachus again spoke
saying:
"My friends, this man will give us no quarter. He will stand where
he is and shoot us down till he has killed every man among us. Let
us then show fight; draw your swords, and hold up the tables to shield
you from his arrows. Let us have at him with a rush, to drive him from
the pavement and doorway: we can then get through into the town, and
raise such an alarm as shall soon stay his shooting."
As he spoke he drew his keen blade of bronze, sharpened on both
sides, and with a loud cry sprang towards Ulysses, but Ulysses
instantly shot an arrow into his breast that caught him by the
nipple and fixed itself in his liver. He dropped his sword and fell
doubled up over his table. The cup and all the meats went over on to
the ground as he smote the earth with his forehead in the agonies of
death, and he kicked the stool with his feet until his eyes were
closed in darkness.
Then Amphinomus drew his sword and made straight at Ulysses to try
and get him away from the door; but Telemachus was too quick for
him, and struck him from behind; the spear caught him between the
shoulders and went right through his chest, so that he fell heavily to
the ground and struck the earth with his forehead. Then Telemachus
sprang away from him, leaving his spear still in the body, for he
feared that if he stayed to draw it out, some one of the Achaeans
might come up and hack at him with his sword, or knock him down, so he
set off at a run, and immediately was at his father's side. Then he
said:
"Father, let me bring you a shield, two spears, and a brass helmet
for your temples. I will arm myself as well, and will bring other
armour for the swineherd and the stockman, for we had better be
armed."
"Run and fetch them," answered Ulysses, "while my arrows hold out,
or when I am alone they may get me away from the door."
Telemachus did as his father said, and went off to the store room
where the armour was kept. He chose four shields, eight spears, and
four brass helmets with horse-hair plumes. He brought them with all
speed to his father, and armed himself first, while the stockman and
the swineherd also put on their armour, and took their places near
Ulysses. Meanwhile Ulysses, as long as his arrows lasted, had been
shooting the suitors one by one, and they fell thick on one another:
when his arrows gave out, he set the bow to stand against the end wall
of the house by the door post, and hung a shield four hides thick
about his shoulders; on his comely head he set his helmet, well
wrought with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it,
and he grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears.
Now there was a trap door on the wall, while at one end of the
pavement there was an exit leading to a narrow passage, and this
exit was closed by a well-made door. Ulysses told Philoetius to
stand by this door and guard it, for only one person could attack it
at a time. But Agelaus shouted out, "Cannot some one go up to the trap
door and tell the people what is going on? Help would come at once,
and we should soon make an end of this man and his shooting."
"This may not be, Agelaus," answered Melanthius, "the mouth of the
narrow passage is dangerously near the entrance to the outer court.
One brave man could prevent any number from getting in. But I know
what I will do, I will bring you arms from the store room, for I am
sure it is there that Ulysses and his son have put them."
On this the goatherd Melanthius went by back passages to the store
room of Ulysses, house. There he chose twelve shields, with as many
helmets and spears, and brought them back as fast as he could to
give them to the suitors. Ulysses' heart began to fail him when he saw
the suitors putting on their armour and brandishing their spears. He
saw the greatness of the danger, and said to Telemachus, "Some one
of the women inside is helping the suitors against us, or it may be
Melanthius."
Telemachus answered, "The fault, father, is mine, and mine only; I
left the store room door open, and they have kept a sharper look out
than I have. Go, Eumaeus, put the door to, and see whether it is one
of the women who is doing this, or whether, as I suspect, it is
Melanthius the son of Dolius."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Melanthius was again going to
the store room to fetch more armour, but the swineherd saw him and
said to Ulysses who was beside him, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it
is that scoundrel Melanthius, just as we suspected, who is going to
the store room. Say, shall I kill him, if I can get the better of him,
or shall I bring him here that you may take your own revenge for all
the many wrongs that he has done in your house?"
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus and I will hold these suitors in
check, no matter what they do; go back both of you and bind
Melanthius' hands and feet behind him. Throw him into the store room
and make the door fast behind you; then fasten a noose about his body,
and string him close up to the rafters from a high bearing-post,
that he may linger on in an agony."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said; they went to
the store room, which they entered before Melanthius saw them, for
he was busy searching for arms in the innermost part of the room, so
the two took their stand on either side of the door and waited. By and
by Melanthius came out with a helmet in one hand, and an old
dry-rotted shield in the other, which had been borne by Laertes when
he was young, but which had been long since thrown aside, and the
straps had become unsewn; on this the two seized him, dragged him back
by the hair, and threw him struggling to the ground. They bent his
hands and feet well behind his back, and bound them tight with a
painful bond as Ulysses had told them; then they fastened a noose
about his body and strung him up from a high pillar till he was
close up to the rafters, and over him did you then vaunt, O
swineherd Eumaeus, saying, "Melanthius, you will pass the night on a
soft bed as you deserve. You will know very well when morning comes
from the streams of Oceanus, and it is time for you to be driving in
your goats for the suitors to feast on."
There, then, they left him in very cruel bondage, and having put
on their armour they closed the door behind them and went back to take
their places by the side of Ulysses; whereon the four men stood in the
cloister, fierce and full of fury; nevertheless, those who were in the
body of the court were still both brave and many. Then Jove's daughter
Minerva came up to them, having assumed the voice and form of
Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her and said, "Mentor, lend me
your help, and forget not your old comrade, nor the many good turns he
has done you. Besides, you are my age-mate."
But all the time he felt sure it was Minerva, and the suitors from
the other side raised an uproar when they saw her. Agelaus was the
first to reproach her. "Mentor," he cried, "do not let Ulysses beguile
you into siding with him and fighting the suitors. This is what we
will do: when we have killed these people, father and son, we will
kill you too. You shall pay for it with your head, and when we have
killed you, we will take all you have, in doors or out, and bring it
into hotch-pot with Ulysses' property; we will not let your sons
live in your house, nor your daughters, nor shall your widow
continue to live in the city of Ithaca."
This made Minerva still more furious, so she scolded Ulysses very
angrily. "Ulysses," said she, "your strength and prowess are no longer
what they were when you fought for nine long years among the Trojans
about the noble lady Helen. You killed many a man in those days, and
it was through your stratagem that Priam's city was taken. How comes
it that you are so lamentably less valiant now that you are on your
own ground, face to face with the suitors in your own house? Come
on, my good fellow, stand by my side and see how Mentor, son of
Alcinous shall fight your foes and requite your kindnesses conferred
upon him."
But she would not give him full victory as yet, for she wished still
further to prove his own prowess and that of his brave son, so she
flew up to one of the rafters in the roof of the cloister and sat upon
it in the form of a swallow.
Meanwhile Agelaus son of Damastor, Eurynomus, Amphimedon,
Demoptolemus, Pisander, and Polybus son of Polyctor bore the brunt
of the fight upon the suitors' side; of all those who were still
fighting for their lives they were by far the most valiant, for the
others had already fallen under the arrows of Ulysses. Agelaus shouted
to them and said, "My friends, he will soon have to leave off, for
Mentor has gone away after having done nothing for him but brag.
They are standing at the doors unsupported. Do not aim at him all at
once, but six of you throw your spears first, and see if you cannot
cover yourselves with glory by killing him. When he has fallen we need
not be uneasy about the others."
They threw their spears as he bade them, but Minerva made them all
of no effect. One hit the door post; another went against the door;
the pointed shaft of another struck the wall; and as soon as they
had avoided all the spears of the suitors Ulysses said to his own men,
"My friends, I should say we too had better let drive into the
middle of them, or they will crown all the harm they have done us by
us outright."
They therefore aimed straight in front of them and threw their
spears. Ulysses killed Demoptolemus, Telemachus Euryades, Eumaeus
Elatus, while the stockman killed Pisander. These all bit the dust,
and as the others drew back into a corner Ulysses and his men rushed
forward and regained their spears by drawing them from the bodies of
the dead.
The suitors now aimed a second time, but again Minerva made their
weapons for the most part without effect. One hit a bearing-post of
the cloister; another went against the door; while the pointed shaft
of another struck the wall. Still, Amphimedon just took a piece of the
top skin from off Telemachus's wrist, and Ctesippus managed to graze
Eumaeus's shoulder above his shield; but the spear went on and fell to
the ground. Then Ulysses and his men let drive into the crowd of
suitors. Ulysses hit Eurydamas, Telemachus Amphimedon, and Eumaeus
Polybus. After this the stockman hit Ctesippus in the breast, and
taunted him saying, "Foul-mouthed son of Polytherses, do not be so
foolish as to talk wickedly another time, but let heaven direct your
speech, for the gods are far stronger than men. I make you a present
of this advice to repay you for the foot which you gave Ulysses when
he was begging about in his own house."
Thus spoke the stockman, and Ulysses struck the son of Damastor with
a spear in close fight, while Telemachus hit Leocritus son of Evenor
in the belly, and the dart went clean through him, so that he fell
forward full on his face upon the ground. Then Minerva from her seat
on the rafter held up her deadly aegis, and the hearts of the
suitors quailed. They fled to the other end of the court like a herd
of cattle maddened by the gadfly in early summer when the days are
at their longest. As eagle-beaked, crook-taloned vultures from the
mountains swoop down on the smaller birds that cower in flocks upon
the ground, and kill them, for they cannot either fight or fly, and
lookers on enjoy the sport- even so did Ulysses and his men fall
upon the suitors and smite them on every side. They made a horrible
groaning as their brains were being battered in, and the ground
seethed with their blood.
Leiodes then caught the knees of Ulysses and said, "Ulysses I
beseech you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of
the women in your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop
the others. I saw them, but they would not listen, and now they are
paying for their folly. I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill
me, I shall die without having done anything to deserve it, and
shall have got no thanks for all the good that I did."
Ulysses looked sternly at him and answered, "If you were their
sacrificing priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might
be long before I got home again, and that you might marry my wife
and have children by her. Therefore you shall die."
With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped
when he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he
struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell
rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking.
The minstrel Phemius son of Terpes- he who had been forced by the
suitors to sing to them- now tried to save his life. He was standing
near towards the trap door, and held his lyre in his hand. He did
not know whether to fly out of the cloister and sit down by the
altar of Jove that was in the outer court, and on which both Laertes
and Ulysses had offered up the thigh bones of many an ox, or whether
to go straight up to Ulysses and embrace his knees, but in the end
he deemed it best to embrace Ulysses' knees. So he laid his lyre on
the ground the ground between the mixing-bowl and the silver-studded
seat; then going up to Ulysses he caught hold of his knees and said,
"Ulysses, I beseech you have mercy on me and spare me. You will be
sorry for it afterwards if you kill a bard who can sing both for
gods and men as I can. I make all my lays myself, and heaven visits me
with every kind of inspiration. I would sing to you as though you were
a god, do not therefore be in such a hurry to cut my head off. Your
own son Telemachus will tell you that I did not want to frequent
your house and sing to the suitors after their meals, but they were
too many and too strong for me, so they made me."
Telemachus heard him, and at once went up to his father. "Hold!"
he cried, "the man is guiltless, do him no hurt; and we will Medon
too, who was always good to me when I was a boy, unless Philoetius
or Eumaeus has already killed him, or he has fallen in your way when
you were raging about the court."
Medon caught these words of Telemachus, for he was crouching under a
seat beneath which he had hidden by covering himself up with a freshly
flayed heifer's hide, so he threw off the hide, went up to Telemachus,
and laid hold of his knees.
"Here I am, my dear sir," said he, "stay your hand therefore, and
tell your father, or he will kill me in his rage against the suitors
for having wasted his substance and been so foolishly disrespectful to
yourself."
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "Fear not; Telemachus has
saved your life, that you may know in future, and tell other people,
how greatly better good deeds prosper than evil ones. Go, therefore,
outside the cloisters into the outer court, and be out of the way of
the slaughter- you and the bard- while I finish my work here inside."
The pair went into the outer court as fast as they could, and sat
down by Jove's great altar, looking fearfully round, and still
expecting that they would be killed. Then Ulysses searched the whole
court carefully over, to see if anyone had managed to hide himself and
was still living, but he found them all lying in the dust and
weltering in their blood. They were like fishes which fishermen have
netted out of the sea, and thrown upon the beach to lie gasping for
water till the heat of the sun makes an end of them. Even so were
the suitors lying all huddled up one against the other.
Then Ulysses said to Telemachus, "Call nurse Euryclea; I have
something to say to her."
Telemachus went and knocked at the door of the women's room. "Make
haste," said he, "you old woman who have been set over all the other
women in the house. Come outside; my father wishes to speak to you."
When Euryclea heard this she unfastened the door of the women's room
and came out, following Telemachus. She found Ulysses among the
corpses bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just
been devouring an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all
bloody, so that he is a fearful sight; even so was Ulysses
besmirched from head to foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses
and such a quantity of blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy,
for she saw that a great deed had been done; but Ulysses checked
her, "Old woman," said he, "rejoice in silence; restrain yourself, and
do not make any noise about it; it is an unholy thing to vaunt over
dead men. Heaven's doom and their own evil deeds have brought these
men to destruction, for they respected no man in the whole world,
neither rich nor poor, who came near them, and they have come to a bad
end as a punishment for their wickedness and folly. Now, however, tell
me which of the women in the house have misconducted themselves, and
who are innocent."
"I will tell you the truth, my son," answered Euryclea. "There are
fifty women in the house whom we teach to do things, such as carding
wool, and all kinds of household work. Of these, twelve in all have
misbehaved, and have been wanting in respect to me, and also to
Penelope. They showed no disrespect to Telemachus, for he has only
lately grown and his mother never permitted him to give orders to
the female servants; but let me go upstairs and tell your wife all
that has happened, for some god has been sending her to sleep."
"Do not wake her yet," answered Ulysses, "but tell the women who
have misconducted themselves to come to me."
Euryclea left the cloister to tell the women, and make them come
to Ulysses; in the meantime he called Telemachus, the stockman, and
the swineherd. "Begin," said he, "to remove the dead, and make the
women help you. Then, get sponges and clean water to swill down the
tables and seats. When you have thoroughly cleansed the whole
cloisters, take the women into the space between the domed room and
the wall of the outer court, and run them through with your swords
till they are quite dead, and have forgotten all about love and the
way in which they used to lie in secret with the suitors."
On this the women came down in a body, weeping and wailing bitterly.
First they carried the dead bodies out, and propped them up against
one another in the gatehouse. Ulysses ordered them about and made them
do their work quickly, so they had to carry the bodies out. When
they had done this, they cleaned all the tables and seats with sponges
and water, while Telemachus and the two others shovelled up the
blood and dirt from the ground, and the women carried it all away
and put it out of doors. Then when they had made the whole place quite
clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the
narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the
yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the
other two, "I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they
were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the
suitors."
So saying he made a ship's cable fast to one of the bearing-posts
that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around
the building, at a good height, lest any of the women's feet should
touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has
been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their
nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have to
put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most
miserably. Their feet moved convulsively for a while, but not for very
long.
As for Melanthius, they took him through the cloister into the inner
court. There they cut off his nose and his ears; they drew out his
vitals and gave them to the dogs raw, and then in their fury they
cut off his hands and his feet.
When they had done this they washed their hands and feet and went
back into the house, for all was now over; and Ulysses said to the
dear old nurse Euryclea, "Bring me sulphur, which cleanses all
pollution, and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the
cloisters. Go, moreover, and tell Penelope to come here with her
attendants, and also all the maid servants that are in the house."
"All that you have said is true," answered Euryclea, "but let me
bring you some clean clothes- a shirt and cloak. Do not keep these
rags on your back any longer. It is not right."
"First light me a fire," replied Ulysses.
She brought the fire and sulphur, as he had bidden her, and
Ulysses thoroughly purified the cloisters and both the inner and outer
courts. Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what
had happened; whereon they came from their apartment with torches in
their hands, and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his
head and shoulders and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as
if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them.

poem by , translated by Samuel ButlerReport problemRelated quotes
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