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Half – Being

Between a calm and a thunder,
I amputate my days, from the mediocre life of mindless alienation.
I bemoan for sanctity.
Man remains innocent of,
another man’s melody.
I get frightened.
Birds are suddenly falling from the sky.

Where the heart denies
a heart, a perfect rhythm,
mind bares a wound.
History does not repeat the truth.
Blank shadows break the windows
and I collect the ashes,
from the burnt plots and ruined homes.

Sometimes you pretend to kill,
an argument deliberately
to know the depth of the answer.
The turmoil of half-being;
the unhappiness of fulfillment,
the transformation of a death into peace,
was it in harmony?

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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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Keep On Movin

I woke up today with this feeling
That better things are coming my way (way)
And if the sunshine has a meaning
Telling me not to let things get in my way
When the rainy days are dying
Gotta keep on, keep on trying
All the bees and birds are flying (ahh ahh ahh)
Never let go, gotta hold on in
Non-stop til the break of dawnin
Keep on movin dont stop rockin (ahh ahh ahh)
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway
Feels like I should be screaming
Trying to get it through to my friends
Sometimes it feels that life has no meaning
But I know things will be alright in the end
When the rainy days are dying
Gotta keep on, keep on trying
All the bees and birds are flying (ahh ahh ahh)
Never let go, gotta hold on in
Non-stop til the break of dawnin
Keep on movin dont stop rockin (ahh ahh ahh)
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway
When the rainy days are dying
Gotta keep on, keep on trying
All the bees and birds are flying (ahh ahh ahh)
Never let go, gotta hold on in
Non-stop til the break of dawnin
Keep on movin dont stop rockin (ahh ahh ahh)
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway
When the rainy days are dying
Gotta keep on, keep on trying
All the bees and birds are flying (ahh ahh ahh)
Never let go, gotta hold on in
Non-stop til the break of dawnin
Keep on movin dont stop rockin (ahh ahh ahh)
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway
Get on up when youre down
Baby, take a good look around
I know its not much, but its okay
Keep on moving anyway...

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Call Me Mellow

Fill the sky with love
Fill the sky with love
I wouldn't mind but she just turned up on the doorstep
Wishful in ashes slightly bedraggled
Last time I saw her she was howling at the moon
Roaming the forest, leap pine and rabbits
Oh is she wild?
Does she see my inner child?
But then she knows it's like a curse
To find the chosen roles reversed
To unify my universe
To call me mellow
If only I was half my age and she was older
We'd live on ice-cream on Coney Island
I know it's gravity that drags down my balloon
She stays in orbit way after midnight
Oh slip and slide
Does she go on the Elide?
But then she knows it's like a curse
To find the chosen roles reversed
To unify my universe
To call me mellow
She'll dress down for us
She'll break new grounds for us
Watching me cracking up
She'll hang around fellows
With all the groundswellers
Driving me like a truck
But then she knows it's like a curse
To find the chosen roles reversed
To unify my universe
To call me mellow

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Hold On

I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Dont ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?
Chorus:
Some day somebodys gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Dont you know?
Dont you know things can change
Thingsll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Can you hold on for one more day
Thingsll go your way
Hold on for one more day
You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
Youve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin your worries pass you by
Dont you think its worth your time
To change your mind?
(chorus)
I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free the chains
Yeah I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and you
Break free, break from the chains
Some day somebodys gonna make you want to
Turn around and say goodbye
Until then baby are you going to let them
Hold you down and make you cry
Dont you know?
Dont you know things can change
Thingsll go your way
If you hold on for one more day yeah
If you hold on
Dont you know things can change
Thingsll go your way
If you hold on for one more day,
If you hold on
Can you hold on
Hold on baby
Wont you tell me now
Hold on for one more day cause
Its gonna go your way
Dont you know things can change
Thingsll go your way
If you hold on for one more day
Cant you change it this time
Make up your mind
Hold on
Hold on
Baby hold on

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Loneliness

Loneliness becomes a 'space' in time where,
Nobody seems to speak to you, you are alone,
Suspended, whilst time endlessly continues,
And your alien existence turns your mind to stone.

Will no one come to break the voice of silence,
Will no one listen, do they ever know
That you alone are calling in the darkness,
Can they to you, some great compassion show.

Many thousands in our world are waiting,
For a word of comfort and a friendly smile,
We must have more concern for one another,
To keep us safe along each measured mile.

Please take the time to fill that 'space' for someone,
Please take the time to speak and to console,
For all of us need love and understanding,
And then, we are not alone, our lives are whole.

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A Wingless Angel Draped In Red

She seeks her shelter from the falling sky
She asks her shelter from the highest tree
She seeks an answer to the question why
Why it is that she has come to be

A wingless angel draped in red
Her wings are lost she sighs
There’s no halo now upon her head
And the fear that she may die

Alone, alone so far from home
A wingless angel cries
She awaits the demon by her side
To kiss between her thighs

Thunder roars beyond her head
This wingless angel draped in red
She lies beside her demons
On a bed of human bone.

Alone, alone, in tears she falls
Upon her virgin knees
All is lost as thunder roars
There’s no one to hear her pleas

She runs to seek her shelter from the falling sky
She asks her shelter from the highest tree
She seeks an answer to the question why
Why it is she lost her wings and the heart
Of a soul that sings, bringing joy throughout the day.

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IV. Tertium Quid

True, Excellency—as his Highness says,
Though she's not dead yet, she's as good as stretched
Symmetrical beside the other two;
Though he's not judged yet, he's the same as judged,
So do the facts abound and superabound:
And nothing hinders that we lift the case
Out of the shade into the shine, allow
Qualified persons to pronounce at last,
Nay, edge in an authoritative word
Between this rabble's-brabble of dolts and fools
Who make up reasonless unreasoning Rome.
"Now for the Trial!" they roar: "the Trial to test
"The truth, weigh husband and weigh wife alike
"I' the scales of law, make one scale kick the beam!"
Law's a machine from which, to please the mob,
Truth the divinity must needs descend
And clear things at the play's fifth act—aha!
Hammer into their noddles who was who
And what was what. I tell the simpletons
"Could law be competent to such a feat
"'T were done already: what begins next week
"Is end o' the Trial, last link of a chain
"Whereof the first was forged three years ago
"When law addressed herself to set wrong right,
"And proved so slow in taking the first step
"That ever some new grievance,—tort, retort,
"On one or the other side,—o'ertook i' the game,
"Retarded sentence, till this deed of death
"Is thrown in, as it were, last bale to boat
"Crammed to the edge with cargo—or passengers?
"'Trecentos inseris: ohe, jam satis est!
"'Huc appelle!'—passengers, the word must be."
Long since, the boat was loaded to my eyes.
To hear the rabble and brabble, you'd call the case
Fused and confused past human finding out.
One calls the square round, t' other the round square—
And pardonably in that first surprise
O' the blood that fell and splashed the diagram:
But now we've used our eyes to the violent hue
Can't we look through the crimson and trace lines?
It makes a man despair of history,
Eusebius and the established fact—fig's end!
Oh, give the fools their Trial, rattle away
With the leash of lawyers, two on either side—
One barks, one bites,—Masters Arcangeli
And Spreti,—that's the husband's ultimate hope
Against the Fisc and the other kind of Fisc,
Bound to do barking for the wife: bow—wow!
Why, Excellency, we and his Highness here
Would settle the matter as sufficiently
As ever will Advocate This and Fiscal That
And Judge the Other, with even—a word and a wink—
We well know who for ultimate arbiter.
Let us beware o' the basset-table—lest
We jog the elbow of Her Eminence,
Jostle his cards,—he'll rap you out a … st!
By the window-seat! And here's the Marquis too!
Indulge me but a moment: if I fail
—Favoured with such an audience, understand!—
To set things right, why, class me with the mob
As understander of the mind of man!

The mob,—now, that's just how the error comes!
Bethink you that you have to deal with plebs,
The commonalty; this is an episode
In burgess-life,—why seek to aggrandize,
Idealize, denaturalize the class?
People talk just as if they had to do
With a noble pair that … Excellency, your ear!
Stoop to me, Highness,—listen and look yourselves!
This Pietro, this Violante, live their life
At Rome in the easy way that's far from worst
Even for their betters,—themselves love themselves,
Spend their own oil in feeding their own lamp
That their own faces may grow bright thereby.
They get to fifty and over: how's the lamp?
Full to the depth o' the wick,—moneys so much;
And also with a remnant,—so much more
Of moneys,—which there's no consuming now,
But, when the wick shall moulder out some day,
Failing fresh twist of tow to use up dregs,
Will lie a prize for the passer-by,—to-wit
Anyone that can prove himself the heir,
Seeing, the couple are wanting in a child:
Meantime their wick swims in the safe broad bowl
O' the middle rank,—not raised a beacon's height
For wind to ravage, nor dropped till lamp graze ground
Like cresset, mudlarks poke now here now there,
Going their rounds to probe the ruts i' the road
Or fish the luck o' the puddle. Pietro's soul
Was satisfied when cronies smirked, "No wine
"Like Pietro's, and he drinks it every day!"
His wife's heart swelled her boddice, joyed its fill
When neighbours turned heads wistfully at church,
Sighed at the load of lace that came to pray.
Well, having got through fifty years of flare,
They burn out so, indulge so their dear selves,
That Pietro finds himself in debt at last,
As he were any lordling of us all:
And, now that dark begins to creep on day,
Creditors grow uneasy, talk aside,
Take counsel, then importune all at once.
For if the good fat rosy careless man,
Who has not laid a ducat by, decease—
Let the lamp fall, no heir at hand to catch—
Why, being childless, there's a spilth i' the street
O' the remnant, there's a scramble for the dregs
By the stranger: so, they grant him no long day
But come in a body, clamour to be paid.

What's his resource? He asks and straight obtains
The customary largess, dole dealt out
To, what we call our "poor dear shame-faced ones,"
In secret once a month to spare the shame
O' the slothful and the spendthrift,—pauper-saints
The Pope puts meat i' the mouth of, ravens they,
And providence he—just what the mob admires!
That is, instead of putting a prompt foot
On selfish worthless human slugs whose slime
Has failed to lubricate their path in life,
Why, the Pope picks the first ripe fruit that falls
And gracious puts it in the vermin's way.
Pietro could never save a dollar? Straight
He must be subsidized at our expense:
And for his wife—the harmless household sheep
One ought not to see harassed in her age—
Judge, by the way she bore adversity,
O' the patient nature you ask pity for!
How long, now, would the roughest marketman,
Handling the creatures huddled to the knife,
Harass a mutton ere she made a mouth
Or menaced biting? Yet the poor sheep here,
Violante, the old innocent burgess-wife,
In her first difficulty showed great teeth
Fit to crunch up and swallow a good round crime.
She meditates the tenure of the Trust,
Fidei commissum is the lawyer-phrase,
These funds that only want an heir to take—
Goes o'er the gamut o' the creditor's cry
By semitones from whine to snarl high up
And growl down low, one scale in sundry keys,—
Pauses with a little compunction for the face
Of Pietro frustrate of its ancient cheer,—
Never a bottle now for friend at need,—
Comes to a stop on her own frittered lace
And neighbourly condolences thereat,
Then makes her mind up, sees the thing to do:
And so, deliberate, snaps house-book clasp,
Posts off to vespers, missal beneath arm,
Passes the proper San Lorenzo by,
Dives down a little lane to the left, is lost
In a labyrinth of dwellings best unnamed,
Selects a certain blind one, black at base,
Blinking at top,—the sign of we know what,—
One candle in a casement set to wink
Streetward, do service to no shrine inside,—
Mounts thither by the filthy flight of stairs,
Holding the cord by the wall, to the tip-top,
Gropes for the door i' the dark, ajar of course,
Raps, opens, enters in: up starts a thing
Naked as needs be—"What, you rogue, 't is you?
"Back,—how can I have taken a farthing yet?
"Mercy on me, poor sinner that I am!
"Here's … why, I took you for Madonna's self
"With all that sudden swirl of silk i' the place!
"What may your pleasure be, my bonny dame?"
Your Excellency supplies aught left obscure?
One of those women that abound in Rome,
Whose needs oblige them eke out one poor trade
By another vile one: her ostensible work
Was washing clothes, out in the open air
At the cistern by Citorio; her true trade—
Whispering to idlers, when they stopped and praised
The ankles she let liberally shine
In kneeling at the slab by the fountain-side,
That there was plenty more to criticize
At home, that eve, i' the house where candle blinked
Decorously above, and all was done
I' the holy fear of God and cheap beside.
Violante, now, had seen this woman wash,
Noticed and envied her propitious shape,
Tracked her home to her house-top, noted too,
And now was come to tempt her and propose
A bargain far more shameful than the first
Which trafficked her virginity away
For a melon and three pauls at twelve years old.
Five minutes' talk with this poor child of Eve,
Struck was the bargain, business at an end—
"Then, six months hence, that person whom you trust,
"Comes, fetches whatsoever babe it be;
"I keep the price and secret, you the babe,
"Paying beside for mass to make all straight:
"Meantime, I pouch the earnest-money-piece."

Down stairs again goes fumbling by the rope
Violante, triumphing in a flourish of fire
From her own brain, self-lit by such success,—
Gains church in time for the "Magnificat"
And gives forth "My reproof is taken away,
"And blessed shall mankind proclaim me now,"
So that the officiating priest turns round
To see who proffers the obstreperous praise:
Then home to Pietro, the enraptured-much
But puzzled-more when told the wondrous news—
How orisons and works of charity,
(Beside that pair of pinners and a coif,
Birth-day surprise last Wednesday was five weeks)
Had borne fruit in the autumn of his life,—
They, or the Orvieto in a double dose.
Anyhow, she must keep house next six months,
Lie on the settle, avoid the three-legged stool,
And, chiefly, not be crossed in wish or whim,
And the result was like to be an heir.

Accordingly, when time was come about,
He found himself the sire indeed of this
Francesca Vittoria Pompilia and the rest
O' the names whereby he sealed her his, next day.
A crime complete in its way is here, I hope?
Lies to God, lies to man, every way lies
To nature and civility and the mode:
Flat robbery of the proper heirs thus foiled
O' the due succession,—and, what followed thence,
Robbery of God, through the confessor's ear
Debarred the most note-worthy incident
When all else done and undone twelve-month through
Was put in evidence at Easter-time.
All other peccadillos!—but this one
To the priest who comes next day to dine with us?
'T were inexpedient; decency forbade.

Is so far clear? You know Violante now,
Compute her capability of crime
By this authentic instance? Black hard cold
Crime like a stone you kick up with your foot
I' the middle of a field?

I thought as much.
But now, a question,—how long does it lie,
The bad and barren bit of stuff you kick,
Before encroached on and encompassed round
With minute moss, weed, wild-flower—made alive
By worm, and fly, and foot of the free bird?
Your Highness,—healthy minds let bygones be,
Leave old crimes to grow young and virtuous-like
I' the sun and air; so time treats ugly deeds:
They take the natural blessing of all change.
There was the joy o' the husband silly-sooth,
The softening of the wife's old wicked heart,
Virtues to right and left, profusely paid
If so they might compensate the saved sin.
And then the sudden existence, dewy-dear,
O' the rose above the dungheap, the pure child
As good as new created, since withdrawn
From the horror of the pre-appointed lot
With the unknown father and the mother known
Too well,—some fourteen years of squalid youth,
And then libertinage, disease, the grave—
Hell in life here, hereafter life in hell:
Look at that horror and this soft repose!
Why, moralist, the sin has saved a soul!
Then, even the palpable grievance to the heirs—
'Faith, this was no frank setting hand to throat
And robbing a man, but … Excellency, by your leave,
How did you get that marvel of a gem,
The sapphire with the Graces grand and Greek?
The story is, stooping to pick a stone
From the pathway through a vineyard—no-man's-land—
To pelt a sparrow with, you chanced on this:
Why now, do those five clowns o' the family
O' the vinedresser digest their porridge worse
That not one keeps it in his goatskin pouch
To do flint's-service with the tinder-box?
Don't cheat me, don't cheat you, don't cheat a friend
But are you so hard on who jostles just
A stranger with no natural sort of claim
To the havings and the holdings (here's the point)
Unless by misadventure, and defect
Of that which ought to be—nay, which there's none
Would dare so much as wish to profit by—
Since who dares put in just so many words
"May Pietro fail to have a child, please God!
"So shall his house and goods belong to me,
"The sooner that his heart will pine betimes"?
Well then, God doesn't please, nor heart shall pine!
Because he has a child at last, you see,
Or selfsame thing as though a child it were,
He thinks, whose sole concern it is to think:
If he accepts it why should you demur?

Moreover, say that certain sin there seem,
The proper process of unsinning sin
Is to begin well-doing somehow else.
Pietro,—remember, with no sin at all
I' the substitution,—why, this gift of God
Flung in his lap from over Paradise
Steadied him in a moment, set him straight
On the good path he had been straying from.
Henceforward no more wilfulness and waste,
Cuppings, carousings,—these a sponge wiped out.
All sort of self-denial was easy now
For the child's sake, the chatelaine to be,
Who must want much and might want who knows what?
And so, the debts were paid, habits reformed,
Expense curtailed, the dowry set to grow.
As for the wife,—I said, hers the whole sin:
So, hers the exemplary penance. 'T was a text
Whereon folk preached and praised, the district through:
"Oh, make us happy and you make us good!
"It all comes of God giving her a child:
"Such graces follow God's best earthly gift!"

Here you put by my guard, pass to my heart
By the home-thrust—"There's a lie at base of all."
Why, thou exact Prince, is it a pearl or no,
Yon globe upon the Principessa's neck?
That great round glory of pellucid stuff,
A fish secreted round a grain of grit!
Do you call it worthless for the worthless core?
(She doesn't, who well knows what she changed for it.)
So, to our brace of burgesses again!
You see so far i' the story, who was right,
Who wrong, who neither, don't you? What, you don't?
Eh? Well, admit there's somewhat dark i' the case,
Let's on—the rest shall clear, I promise you.
Leap over a dozen years: you find, these past,
An old good easy creditable sire,
A careful housewife's beaming bustling face,
Both wrapped up in the love of their one child,
The strange tall pale beautiful creature grown
Lily-like out o' the cleft i' the sun-smit rock
To bow its white miraculous birth of buds
I' the way of wandering Joseph and his spouse,—
So painters fancy: here it was a fact.
And this their lily,—could they but transplant
And set in vase to stand by Solomon's porch
'T wixt lion and lion!—this Pompilia of theirs,
Could they see worthily married, well bestowed,
In house and home! And why despair of this
With Rome to choose from, save the topmost rank?
Themselves would help the choice with heart and soul,
Throw their late savings in a common heap
To go with the dowry, and be followed in time
By the heritage legitimately hers:
And when such paragon was found and fixed,
Why, they might chant their "Nunc dimittis" straight.

Indeed the prize was simply full to a fault,
Exorbitant for the suitor they should seek,
And social class should choose among, these cits.
Yet there's a latitude: exceptional white
Amid the general brown o' the species, lurks
A burgess nearly an aristocrat,
Legitimately in reach: look out for him!
What banker, merchant, has seen better days,
What second-rate painter a-pushing up,
Poet a-slipping down, shall bid the best
For this young beauty with the thumping purse?
Alack, were it but one of such as these
So like the real thing that they pass for it,
All had gone well! Unluckily, poor souls,
It proved to be the impossible thing itself,
Truth and not sham: hence ruin to them all.

For, Guido Franceschini was the head
Of an old family in Arezzo, old
To that degree they could afford be poor
Better than most: the case is common too.
Out of the vast door 'scutcheoned overhead,
Creeps out a serving-man on Saturdays
To cater for the week,—turns up anon
I' the market, chaffering for the lamb's least leg,
Or the quarter-fowl, less entrails, claws and comb
Then back again with prize,—a liver begged
Into the bargain, gizzard overlooked.
He's mincing these to give the beans a taste,
When, at your knock, he leaves the simmering soup,
Waits on the curious stranger-visitant,
Napkin in half-wiped hand, to show the rooms,
Point pictures out have hung their hundred years,
"Priceless," he tells you,—puts in his place at once
The man of money: yes, you're banker-king
Or merchant-kaiser, wallow in your wealth
While patron, the house-master, can't afford
To stop our ceiling-hole that rain so rots:
But he's the man of mark, and there's his shield,
And yonder's the famed Rafael, first in kind,
The painter painted for his grandfather,
And you have paid to see: "Good morning, Sir!
Such is the law of compensation. Still
The poverty was getting nigh acute;
There gaped so many noble mouths to feed,
Beans must suffice unflavoured of the fowl.
The mother,—hers would be a spun-out life
I' the nature of things; the sisters had done well
And married men of reasonable rank:
But that sort of illumination stops,
Throws back no heat upon the parent-hearth.
The family instinct felt out for its fire
To the Church,—the Church traditionally helps
A second son: and such was Paolo,
Established here at Rome these thirty years,
Who played the regular game,—priest and Abate,
Made friends, owned house and land, became of use
To a personage: his course lay clear enough.
The youngest caught the sympathetic flame,
And, though unfledged wings kept him still i' the cage,
Yet he shot up to be a Canon, so
Clung to the higher perch and crowed in hope.
Even our Guido, eldest brother, went
As far i' the way o' the Church as safety seemed,
He being Head o' the House, ordained to wive,—
So, could but dally with an Order or two
And testify good-will i' the cause: he clipped
His top-hair and thus far affected Christ.
But main promotion must fall otherwise,
Though still from the side o' the Church: and here was he
At Rome, since first youth, worn threadbare of soul
By forty-six years' rubbing on hard life,
Getting fast tired o' the game whose word is—"Wait!"
When one day,—he too having his Cardinal
To serve in some ambiguous sort, as serve
To draw the coach the plumes o' the horses' heads,—
The Cardinal saw fit to dispense with him,
Ride with one plume the less; and off it dropped.

Guido thus left,—with a youth spent in vain
And not a penny in purse to show for it,—
Advised with Paolo, bent no doubt in chafe
The black brows somewhat formidably, growled
"Where is the good I came to get at Rome?
"Where the repayment of the servitude
"To a purple popinjay, whose feet I kiss,
"Knowing his father wiped the shoes of mine?"
"Patience," pats Paolo the recalcitrant—
"You have not had, so far, the proper luck,
"Nor do my gains suffice to keep us both:
"A modest competency is mine, not more.
"You are the Count however, yours the style,
"Heirdom and state,—you can't expect all good.
"Had I, now, held your hand of cards … well, well—
"What's yet unplayed, I'll look at, by your leave,
"Over your shoulder,—I who made my game,
"Let's see, if I can't help to handle yours.
"Fie on you, all the Honours in your fist,
"Countship, Househeadship,—how have you misdealt!
"Why, in the first place, these will marry a man!
"Notum tonsoribus! To the Tonsor then!
"Come, clear your looks, and choose your freshest suit,
"And, after function's done with, down we go
"To the woman-dealer in perukes, a wench
"I and some others settled in the shop
"At Place Colonna: she's an oracle. Hmm!
"'Dear, 't is my brother: brother 't is my dear.
"'Dear, give us counsel! Whom do you suggest
"'As properest party in the quarter round
"'For the Count here?—he is minded to take wife,
"'And further tells me he intends to slip
"'Twenty zecchines under the bottom-scalp
"'Of his old wig when he sends it to revive
"'For the wedding: and I add a trifle too.
"'You know what personage I'm potent with.'"
And so plumped out Pompilia's name the first.
She told them of the household and its ways,
The easy husband and the shrewder wife
In Via Vittoria,—how the tall young girl,
With hair black as yon patch and eyes as big
As yon pomander to make freckles fly,
Would have so much for certain, and so much more
In likelihood,—why, it suited, slipped as smooth
As the Pope's pantoufle does on the Pope's foot.
"I'll to the husband!" Guido ups and cries.
"Ay, so you'd play your last court-card, no doubt!"
Puts Paolo in with a groan—"Only, you see,
"'T is I, this time, that supervise your lead.
"Priests play with women, maids, wives, mothers—why?
"These play with men and take them off our hands.
"Did I come, counsel with some cut-beard gruff
"Or rather this sleek young-old barberess?
"Go, brother, stand you rapt in the ante-room
"Of Her Efficacity my Cardinal
"For an hour,—he likes to have lord-suitors lounge,—
"While I betake myself to the grey mare,
"The better horse,—how wise the people's word!—
"And wait on Madam Violante."
Said and done.
He was at Via Vittoria in three skips:
Proposed at once to fill up the one want
O' the burgess-family which, wealthy enough,
And comfortable to heart's desire, yet crouched
Outside a gate to heaven,—locked, bolted, barred,
Whereof Count Guido had a key he kept
Under his pillow, but Pompilia's hand
Might slide behind his neck and pilfer thence.
The key was fairy; its mere mention made
Violante feel the thing shoot one sharp ray
That reached the womanly heart: so—"I assent!
"Yours be Pompilia, hers and ours that key
"To all the glories of the greater life!
"There's Pietro to convince: leave that to me!"

Then was the matter broached to Pietro; then
Did Pietro make demand and get response
That in the Countship was a truth, but in
The counting up of the Count's cash, a lie.
He thereupon stroked grave his chin, looked great,
Declined the honour. Then the wife wiped tear,
Winked with the other eye turned Paolo-ward,
Whispered Pompilia, stole to church at eve,
Found Guido there and got the marriage done,
And finally begged pardon at the feet
Of her dear lord and master. Whereupon
Quoth Pietro—"Let us make the best of things!"
"I knew your love would license us," quoth she:
Quoth Paolo once more, "Mothers, wives and maids,
"These be the tools wherewith priests manage men."

Now, here take breath and ask,—which bird o' the brace
Decoyed the other into clapnet? Who
Was fool, who knave? Neither and both, perchance.
There was a bargain mentally proposed
On each side, straight and plain and fair enough;
Mind knew its own mind: but when mind must speak,
The bargain have expression in plain terms,
There came the blunder incident to words,
And in the clumsy process, fair turned foul.
The straight backbone-thought of the crooked speech
Were just—"I Guido truck my name and rank
"For so much money and youth and female charms.—
'We Pietro and Violante give our child
"And wealth to you for a rise i' the world thereby."
Such naked truth while chambered in the brain
Shocks nowise: walk it forth by way of tongue,—
Out on the cynical unseemliness!
Hence was the need, on either side, of a lie
To serve as decent wrappage: so, Guido gives
Money for money,—and they, bride for groom,
Having, he, not a doit, they, not a child
Honestly theirs, but this poor waif and stray.
According to the words, each cheated each;
But in the inexpressive barter of thoughts,
Each did give and did take the thing designed,
The rank on this side and the cash on that—
Attained the object of the traffic, so.
The way of the world, the daily bargain struck
In the first market! Why sells Jack his ware?
"For the sake of serving an old customer."
Why does Jill buy it? "Simply not to break
"A custom, pass the old stall the first time."
Why, you know where the gist is of the exchange:
Each sees a profit, throws the fine words in.
Don't be too hard o' the pair! Had each pretence
Been simultaneously discovered, stript
From off the body o' the transaction, just
As when a cook (will Excellency forgive?)
Strips away those long rough superfluous legs
From either side the crayfish, leaving folk
A meal all meat henceforth, no garnishry,
(With your respect, Prince!)—balance had been kept,
No party blamed the other,—so, starting fair,
All subsequent fence of wrong returned by wrong
I' the matrimonial thrust and parry, at least
Had followed on equal terms. But, as it chanced,
One party had the advantage, saw the cheat
Of the other first and kept its own concealed:
And the luck o' the first discovery fell, beside,
To the least adroit and self-possessed o' the pair.
'T was foolish Pietro and his wife saw first
The nobleman was penniless, and screamed
"We are cheated!"

Such unprofitable noise
Angers at all times: but when those who plague,
Do it from inside your own house and home,
Gnats which yourself have closed the curtain round,
Noise goes too near the brain and makes you mad.
The gnats say, Guido used the candle-flame
Unfairly,—worsened that first bad of his,
By practising all kinds of cruelty
To oust them and suppress the wail and whine,—
That speedily he so scared and bullied them,
Fain were they, long before five months had passed,
To beg him grant, from what was once their wealth,
Just so much as would help them back to Rome
Where, when they finished paying the last doit
O' the dowry, they might beg from door to door.
So say the Comparini—as if it came
Of pure resentment for this worse than bad,
That then Violante, feeling conscience prick,
Confessed her substitution of the child
Whence all the harm came,—and that Pietro first
Bethought him of advantage to himself
I' the deed, as part revenge, part remedy
For all miscalculation in the pact.

On the other hand "Not so!" Guido retorts—
"I am the wronged, solely, from first to last,
"Who gave the dignity I engaged to give,
"Which was, is, cannot but continue gain.
"My being poor was a bye-circumstance,
"Miscalculated piece of untowardness,
"Might end to-morrow did heaven's windows ope,
"Or uncle die and leave me his estate.
"You should have put up with the minor flaw,
"Getting the main prize of the jewel. If wealth,
"Not rank, had been prime object in your thoughts,
"Why not have taken the butcher's son, the boy
"O' the baker or candlestick-maker? In all the rest,
"It was yourselves broke compact and played false,
"And made a life in common impossible.
"Show me the stipulation of our bond
"That you should make your profit of being inside
"My house, to hustle and edge me out o' the same,
"First make a laughing-stock of mine and me,
"Then round us in the ears from morn to night
"(Because we show wry faces at your mirth)
"That you are robbed, starved, beaten and what not!
"You fled a hell of your own lighting-up,
"Pay for your own miscalculation too:
"You thought nobility, gained at any price,
"Would suit and satisfy,—find the mistake,
"And now retaliate, not on yourselves, but me.
"And how? By telling me, i' the face of the world,
"I it is have been cheated all this while,
"Abominably and irreparably,—my name
"Given to a cur-cast mongrel, a drab's brat,
"A beggar's bye-blow,—thus depriving me
"Of what yourselves allege the whole and sole
'Aim on my part i' the marriage,—money to-wit.
"This thrust I have to parry by a guard
"Which leaves me open to a counter-thrust
"On the other side,—no way but there's a pass
"Clean through me. If I prove, as I hope to do,
"There's not one truth in this your odious tale
"O' the buying, selling, substituting—prove
"Your daughter was and is your daughter,—well,
"And her dowry hers and therefore mine,—what then?
"Why, where's the appropriate punishment for this
"Enormous lie hatched for mere malice' sake
"To ruin me? Is that a wrong or no?
"And if I try revenge for remedy,
"Can I well make it strong and bitter enough?"

I anticipate however—only ask,
Which of the two here sinned most? A nice point!
Which brownness is least black,—decide who can,
Wager-by-battle-of-cheating! What do you say,
Highness? Suppose, your Excellency, we leave
The question at this stage, proceed to the next,
Both parties step out, fight their prize upon,
In the eye o' the world?

They brandish law 'gainst law;
The grinding of such blades, each parry of each,
Throws terrible sparks off, over and above the thrusts,
And makes more sinister the fight, to the eye,
Than the very wounds that follow. Beside the tale
Which the Comparini have to re-assert,
They needs must write, print, publish all abroad
The straitnesses of Guido's household life
The petty nothings we bear privately
But break down under when fools flock to jeer.
What is it all to the facts o' the couple's case,
How helps it prove Pompilia not their child,
If Guido's mother, brother, kith and kin
Fare ill, lie hard, lack clothes, lack fire, lack food?
That's one more wrong than needs.
On the other hand,
Guido,—whose cue is to dispute the truth
O' the tale, reject the shame it throws on him,—
He may retaliate, fight his foe in turn
And welcome, we allow. Ay, but he can't!
He's at home, only acts by proxy here:
Law may meet law,—but all the gibes and jeers,
The superfluity of naughtiness,
Those libels on his House,—how reach at them?
Two hateful faces, grinning all a-glow,
Not only make parade of spoil they filched,
But foul him from the height of a tower, you see.
Unluckily temptation is at hand—
To take revenge on a trifle overlooked,
A pet lamb they have left in reach outside,
Whose first bleat, when he plucks the wool away,
Will strike the grinners grave: his wife remains
Who, four months earlier, some thirteen years old,
Never a mile away from mother's house
And petted to the height of her desire,
Was told one morning that her fate had come,
She must be married—just as, a month before,
Her mother told her she must comb her hair
And twist her curls into one knot behind.
These fools forgot their pet lamb, fed with flowers,
Then 'ticed as usual by the bit of cake,
Out of the bower into the butchery.
Plague her, he plagues them threefold: but how plague?
The world may have its word to say to that:
You can't do some things with impunity.
What remains … well, it is an ugly thought …
But that he drive herself to plague herself—
Herself disgrace herself and so disgrace
Who seek to disgrace Guido?

There's the clue
To what else seems gratuitously vile,
If, as is said, from this time forth the rack
Was tried upon Pompilia: 't was to wrench
Her limbs into exposure that brings shame.
The aim o' the cruelty being so crueller still,
That cruelty almost grows compassion's self
Could one attribute it to mere return
O' the parents' outrage, wrong avenging wrong.
They see in this a deeper deadlier aim,
Not to vex just a body they held dear,
But blacken too a soul they boasted white,
And show the world their saint in a lover's arms,
No matter how driven thither,—so they say.

On the other hand, so much is easily said,
And Guido lacks not an apologist.
The pair had nobody but themselves to blame,
Being selfish beasts throughout, no less, no more:
—Cared for themselves, their supposed good, nought else,
And brought about the marriage; good proved bad,
As little they cared for her its victim—nay,
Meant she should stay behind and take the chance,
If haply they might wriggle themselves free.
They baited their own hook to catch a fish
With this poor worm, failed o' the prize, and then
Sought how to unbait tackle, let worm float
Or sink, amuse the monster while they 'scaped.
Under the best stars Hymen brings above,
Had all been honesty on either side,
A common sincere effort to good end,
Still, this would prove a difficult problem, Prince!
—Given, a fair wife, aged thirteen years,
A husband poor, care-bitten, sorrow-sunk,
Little, long-nosed, bush-bearded, lantern-jawed,
Forty-six years old,—place the two grown one,
She, cut off sheer from every natural aid,
In a strange town with no familiar face—
He, in his own parade-ground or retreat
If need were, free from challenge, much less check
To an irritated, disappointed will—
How evolve happiness from such a match?
'T were hard to serve up a congenial dish
Out of these ill-agreeing morsels, Duke,
By the best exercise of the cook's craft,
Best interspersion of spice, salt and sweet!
But let two ghastly scullions concoct mess
With brimstone, pitch, vitriol and devil's-dung—
Throw in abuse o' the man, his body and soul,
Kith, kin and generation shake all slab
At Rome, Arezzo, for the world to nose,
Then end by publishing, for fiend's arch-prank,
That, over and above sauce to the meat's self,
Why, even the meat, bedevilled thus in dish,
Was never a pheasant but a carrion-crow—
Prince, what will then the natural loathing be?
What wonder if this?—the compound plague o' the pair
Pricked Guido,—not to take the course they hoped,
That is, submit him to their statement's truth,
Accept its obvious promise of relief,
And thrust them out of doors the girl again
Since the girl's dowry would not enter there,
—Quit of the one if baulked of the other: no!
Rather did rage and hate so work in him,
Their product proved the horrible conceit
That he should plot and plan and bring to pass
His wife might, of her own free will and deed,
Relieve him of her presence, get her gone,
And yet leave all the dowry safe behind,
Confirmed his own henceforward past dispute,
While blotting out, as by a belch of hell,
Their triumph in her misery and death.

You see, the man was Aretine, had touch
O' the subtle air that breeds the subtle wit;
Was noble too, of old blood thrice-refined
That shrinks from clownish coarseness in disgust:
Allow that such an one may take revenge,
You don't expect he'll catch up stone and fling,
Or try cross-buttock, or whirl quarter-staff?
Instead of the honest drubbing clowns bestow,
When out of temper at the dinner spoilt,
On meddling mother-in-law and tiresome wife,—
Substitute for the clown a nobleman,
And you have Guido, practising, 't is said,
Immitigably from the very first,
The finer vengeance: this, they say, the fact
O' the famous letter shows—the writing traced
At Guido's instance by the timid wife
Over the pencilled words himself writ first—
Wherein she, who could neither write nor read,
Was made unblushingly declare a tale
To the brother, the Abate then in Rome,
How her putative parents had impressed,
On their departure, their enjoinment; bade
"We being safely arrived here, follow, you!
"Poison your husband, rob, set fire to all,
"And then by means o' the gallant you procure
"With ease, by helpful eye and ready tongue,
"Some brave youth ready to dare, do and die,
"You shall run off and merrily reach Rome
"Where we may live like flies in honey-pot:"—
Such being exact the programme of the course
Imputed her as carried to effect.

They also say,—to keep her straight therein,
All sort of torture was piled, pain on pain,
On either side Pompilia's path of life,
Built round about and over against by fear,
Circumvallated month by month, and week
By week, and day by day, and hour by hour,
Close, closer and yet closer still with pain,
No outlet from the encroaching pain save just
Where stood one saviour like a piece of heaven,
Hell's arms would strain round but for this blue gap.
She, they say further, first tried every chink,
Every imaginable break i' the fire,
As way of escape: ran to the Commissary,
Who bade her not malign his friend her spouse;
Flung herself thrice at the Archbishop's feet,
Where three times the Archbishop let her lie,
Spend her whole sorrow and sob full heart forth,
And then took up the slight load from the ground
And bore it back for husband to chastise,—
Mildly of course,—but natural right is right.
So went she slipping ever yet catching at help,
Missing the high till come to lowest and last,
To-wit a certain friar of mean degree,
Who heard her story in confession, wept,
Crossed himself, showed the man within the monk.
"Then, will you save me, you the one i' the world?
"I cannot even write my woes, nor put
"My prayer for help in words a friend may read,—
"I no more own a coin than have an hour
"Free of observance,—I was watched to church,
"Am watched now, shall be watched back presently,—
"How buy the skill of scribe i' the market-place?
"Pray you, write down and send whatever I say
"O' the need I have my parents take me hence!"
The good man rubbed his eyes and could not choose—
Let her dictate her letter in such a sense
That parents, to save breaking down a wall,
Might lift her over: she went back, heaven in heart.
Then the good man took counsel of his couch,
Woke and thought twice, the second thought the best:
"Here am I, foolish body that I be,
"Caught all but pushing, teaching, who but I,
"My betters their plain duty,—what, I dare
"Help a case the Archbishop would not help,
"Mend matters, peradventure, God loves mar?
"What hath the married life but strifes and plagues
"For proper dispensation? So a fool
"Once touched the ark,—poor Uzzah that I am!
"Oh married ones, much rather should I bid,
"In patience all of ye possess your souls!
"This life is brief and troubles die with it:
"Where were the prick to soar up homeward else?"
So saying, he burnt the letter he had writ,
Said Ave for her intention, in its place,
Took snuff and comfort, and had done with all.
Then the grim arms stretched yet a little more
And each touched each, all but one streak i' the midst,
Whereat stood Caponsacchi, who cried, "This way,
"Out by me! Hesitate one moment more
"And the fire shuts out me and shuts in you!
"Here my hand holds you life out!" Whereupon
She clasped the hand, which closed on hers and drew
Pompilia out o' the circle now complete.
Whose fault or shame but Guido's?—ask her friends.

But then this is the wife's—Pompilia's tale—
Eve's … no, not Eve's, since Eve, to speak the truth,
Was hardly fallen (our candour might pronounce)
When simply saying in her own defence
"The serpent tempted me and I did eat."
So much of paradisal nature, Eve's!
Her daughters ever since prefer to urge
"Adam so starved me I was fain accept
"The apple any serpent pushed my way."
What an elaborate theory have we here,
Ingeniously nursed up, pretentiously
Brought forth, pushed forward amid trumpet-blast,
To account for the thawing of an icicle,
Show us there needed Ætna vomit flame
Ere run the crystal into dew-drops! Else,
How, unless hell broke loose to cause the step,
How could a married lady go astray?
Bless the fools! And 't is just this way they are blessed,
And the world wags still,—because fools are sure
—Oh, not of my wife nor your daughter! No!
But of their own: the case is altered quite.
Look now,—last week, the lady we all love,—
Daughter o' the couple we all venerate,
Wife of the husband we all cap before,
Mother o' the babes we all breathe blessings on,—
Was caught in converse with a negro page.
Hell thawed that icicle, else "Why was it
"Why?" asked and echoed the fools. "Because, you fools,—"
So did the dame's self answer, she who could,
With that fine candour only forthcoming
When 't is no odds whether withheld or no—
"Because my husband was the saint you say,
"And,—with that childish goodness, absurd faith,
"Stupid self-satisfaction, you so praise,—
"Saint to you, insupportable to me.
"Had he,—instead of calling me fine names,
"Lucretia and Susanna and so forth,
"And curtaining Correggio carefully
"Lest I be taught that Leda had two legs,—
"—But once never so little tweaked my nose
"For peeping through my fan at Carnival,
"Confessing thereby 'I have no easy task—
"'I need use all my powers to hold you mine,
"'And then,—why 't is so doubtful if they serve,
"'That—take this, as an earnest of despair!'
"Why, we were quits: I had wiped the harm away,
"Thought 'The man fears me!' and foregone revenge."
We must not want all this elaborate work
To solve the problem why young Fancy-and-flesh
Slips from the dull side of a spouse in years,
Betakes it to the breast of Brisk-and-bold
Whose love-scrapes furnish talk for all the town!
Accordingly one word on the other side
Tips over the piled-up fabric of a tale.
Guido says—that is, always, his friends say—
It is unlikely from the wickedness,
That any man treat any woman so.
The letter in question was her very own,
Unprompted and unaided: she could write-
As able to write as ready to sin, or free,
When there was danger, to deny both facts.
He bids you mark, herself from first to last
Attributes all the so-styled torture just
To jealousy,—jealousy of whom but just
This very Caponsacchi! How suits here
This with the other alleged motive, Prince?
Would Guido make a terror of the man
He meant should tempt the woman, as they charge?
Do you fright your hare that you may catch your hare?
Consider too, the charge was made and met
At the proper time and place where proofs were plain—
Heard patiently and disposed of thoroughly
By the highest powers, possessors of most light,
The Governor for the law, and the Archbishop
For the gospel: which acknowledged primacies,
'T is impudently pleaded, he could warp
Into a tacit partnership with crime—
He being the while, believe their own account,
Impotent, penniless and miserable!
He further asks—Duke, note the knotty point!—
How he,—concede him skill to play such part
And drive his wife into a gallant's arms,—
Could bring the gallant to play his part too
And stand with arms so opportunely wide?
How bring this Caponsacchi,—with whom, friends
And foes alike agree, throughout his life
He never interchanged a civil word
Nor lifted courteous cap to—him how bend
To such observancy of beck and call,
To undertake this strange and perilous feat
For the good of Guido, using, as the lure,
Pompilia whom, himself and she avouch,
He had nor spoken with nor seen, indeed,
Beyond sight in a public theatre,
When she wrote letters (she that could not write!)
The importunate shamelessly-protested love
Which brought him, though reluctant, to her feet,
And forced on him the plunge which, howsoe'er
She might swim up i' the whirl, must bury him
Under abysmal black: a priest contrive
No better, no amour to be hushed up,
But open flight and noon-day infamy?
Try and concoct defence for such revolt!
Take the wife's tale as true, say she was wronged,—
Pray, in what rubric of the breviary
Do you find it registered—the part of a priest
Is—that to right wrongs from the church he skip,
Go journeying with a woman that's a wife,
And be pursued, o'ertaken and captured … how?
In a lay-dress, playing the kind sentinel
Where the wife sleeps (says he who best should know)
And sleeping, sleepless, both have spent the night!
Could no one else be found to serve at need—
No woman—or if man, no safer sort
Than this not well-reputed turbulence?

Then, look into his own account o' the case!
He, being the stranger and astonished one,
Yet received protestations of her love
From lady neither known nor cared about:
Love, so protested, bred in him disgust
After the wonder,—or incredulity,
Such impudence seeming impossible.
But, soon assured such impudence might be,
When he had seen with his own eyes at last
Letters thrown down to him i' the very street
From behind lattice where the lady lurked,
And read their passionate summons to her side—
Why then, a thousand thoughts swarmed up and in,—
How he had seen her once, a moment's space,
Observed she was both young and beautiful,
Heard everywhere report she suffered much
From a jealous husband thrice her age,—in short
There flashed the propriety, expediency
Of treating, trying might they come to terms,
—At all events, granting the interview
Prayed for, one so adapted to assist
Decision as to whether he advance,
Stand or retire, in his benevolent mood!
Therefore the interview befell at length;
And at this one and only interview,
He saw the sole and single course to take—
Bade her dispose of him, head, heart and hand,
Did her behest and braved the consequence,
Not for the natural end, the love of man
For woman whether love be virtue or vice,
But, please you, altogether for pity's sake—
Pity of innocence and helplessness!
And how did he assure himself of both?
Had he been the house-inmate, visitor,
Eye-witness of the described martyrdom,
So, competent to pronounce its remedy
Ere rush on such extreme and desperate course—
Involving such enormity of harm,
Moreover, to the husband judged thus, doomed
And damned without a word in his defence?
Not he! the truth was felt by instinct here,
—Process which saves a world of trouble and time.
There's the priest's story: what do you say to it,
Trying its truth by your own instinct too,
Since that's to be the expeditious mode?
"And now, do hear my version," Guido cries:
"I accept argument and inference both.
"It would indeed have been miraculous
"Had such a confidency sprung to birth
"With no more fanning from acquaintanceship
"Than here avowed by my wife and this priest.
"Only, it did not: you must substitute
"The old stale unromantic way of fault,
"The commonplace adventure, mere intrigue
"In prose form with the unpoetic tricks,
"Cheatings and lies: they used the hackney chair
"Satan jaunts forth with, shabby and serviceable,
"No gilded gimcrack-novelty from below,
"To bowl you along thither, swift and sure.
"That same officious go-between, the wench
"Who gave and took the letters of the two,
"Now offers self and service back to me:
"Bears testimony to visits night by night
"When all was safe, the husband far and away,—
"To many a timely slipping out at large
"By light o' the morning-star, ere he should wake.
"And when the fugitives were found at last,
"Why, with them were found also, to belie
"What protest they might make of innocence,
"All documents yet wanting, if need were,
"To establish guilt in them, disgrace in me—
"The chronicle o' the converse from its rise
"To culmination in this outrage: read!
"Letters from wife to priest, from priest to wife,—
"Here they are, read and say where they chime in
"With the other tale, superlative purity
"O' the pair of saints! I stand or fall by these."

But then on the other side again,—how say
The pair of saints? That not one word is theirs—
No syllable o' the batch or writ or sent
Or yet received by either of the two.
"Found," says the priest, "because he needed them,
"Failing all other proofs, to prove our fault
"So, here they are, just as is natural.
"Oh yes—we had our missives, each of us!
"Not these, but to the full as vile, no doubt:
"Hers as from me,—she could not read, so burnt,—
"Mine as from her,—I burnt because I read.
"Who forged and found them? Cui profuerint!"
(I take the phrase out of your Highness' mouth)
"He who would gain by her fault and my fall,
"The trickster, schemer and pretender—he
"Whose whole career was lie entailing lie
"Sought to be sealed truth by the worst lie last!"

Guido rejoins—"Did the other end o' the tale
"Match this beginning! 'T is alleged I prove
"A murderer at the end, a man of force
"Prompt, indiscriminate, effectual: good!
"Then what need all this trifling woman's-work,
"Letters and embassies and weak intrigue,
"When will and power were mine to end at once
"Safely and surely? Murder had come first
"Not last with such a man, assure yourselves!
"The silent acquetta, stilling at command—
"A drop a day i' the wine or soup, the dose,—
"The shattering beam that breaks above the bed
"And beats out brains, with nobody to blame
"Except the wormy age which eats even oak,—
"Nay, the staunch steel or trusty cord,—who cares
"I' the blind old palace, a pitfall at each step,
"With none to see, much more to interpose
"O' the two, three, creeping house-dog-servant-things
"Born mine and bred mine? Had I willed gross death,
"I had found nearer paths to thrust him prey
"Than this that goes meandering here and there
"Through half the world and calls down in its course
"Notice and noise,—hate, vengeance, should it fail,
"Derision and contempt though it succeed!
"Moreover, what o' the future son and heir?
"The unborn babe about to be called mine,—
"What end in heaping all this shame on him,
"Were I indifferent to my own black share?
"Would I have tried these crookednesses, say,
"Willing and able to effect the straight?"

"Ay, would you!"—one may hear the priest retort,
"Being as you are, i' the stock, a man of guile,
"And ruffianism but an added graft.
"You, a born coward, try a coward's arms,
"Trick and chicane,—and only when these fail
"Does violence follow, and like fox you bite
"Caught out in stealing. Also, the disgrace
"You hardly shrunk at, wholly shrivelled her:
"You plunged her thin white delicate hand i' the flame
"Along with your coarse horny brutish fist,
"Held them a second there, then drew out both
"—Yours roughed a little, hers ruined through and through.
"Your hurt would heal forthwith at ointment's touch—
"Namely, succession to the inheritance
"Which bolder crime had lost you: let things change,
"The birth o' the boy warrant the bolder crime,
"Why, murder was determined, dared and done.
"For me," the priest proceeds with his reply,
"The look o' the thing, the chances of mistake,
"All were against me,—that, I knew the first:
"But, knowing also what my duty was,
"I did it: I must look to men more skilled
"In reading hearts than ever was the world."

Highness, decide! Pronounce, Her Excellency!
Or … even leave this argument in doubt,
Account it a fit matter, taken up
With all its faces, manifold enough,
To ponder on—what fronts us, the next stage,
Next legal process? Guido, in pursuit,
Coming up with the fugitives at the inn,
Caused both to be arrested then and there
And sent to Rome for judgment on the case—
Thither, with all his armoury of proofs,
Betook himself: 't is there we'll meet him now,
Waiting the further issue.

Here you smile
"And never let him henceforth dare to plead,—
"Of all pleas and excuses in the world
"For any deed hereafter to be done,—
"His irrepressible wrath at honour's wound!
"Passion and madness irrepressible?
"Why, Count and cavalier, the husband comes
"And catches foe i' the very act of shame!
"There's man to man,—nature must have her way,—
"We look he should have cleared things on the spot.
"Yes, then, indeed—even tho' it prove he erred—
"Though the ambiguous first appearance, mount
"Of solid injury, melt soon to mist,
"Still,—had he slain the lover and the wife—
"Or, since she was a woman and his wife,
"Slain him, but stript her naked to the skin
"Or at best left no more of an attire
"Than patch sufficient to pin paper to,
"Some one love-letter, infamy and all,
"As passport to the Paphos fit for such,
"Safe-conduct to her natural home the stews,—
"Good! One had recognized the power o' the pulse.
"But when he stands, the stock-fish,—sticks to law—
"Offers the hole in his heart, all fresh and warm,
"For scrivener's pen to poke and play about—
"Can stand, can stare, can tell his beads perhaps,
"Oh, let us hear no syllable o' the rage!
"Such rage were a convenient afterthought
"For one who would have shown his teeth belike,
"Exhibited unbridled rage enough,
"Had but the priest been found, as was to hope,
"In serge, not silk, with crucifix, not sword:
"Whereas the grey innocuous grub, of yore,
"Had hatched a hornet, tickle to the touch,
"The priest was metamorphosed into knight.
"And even the timid wife, whose cue was—shriek,
"Bury her brow beneath his trampling foot,—
"She too sprang at him like a pythoness:
"So, gulp down rage, passion must be postponed,
"Calm be the word! Well, our word is—we brand
"This part o' the business, howsoever the rest
"Befall."

"Nay," interpose as prompt his friends—
"This is the world's way! So you adjudge reward
"To the forbearance and legality
"Yourselves begin by inculcating—ay,
"Exacting from us all with knife at throat!
"This one wrong more you add to wrong's amount,—
"You publish all, with the kind comment here,
"'Its victim was too cowardly for revenge.'"
Make it your own case,—you who stand apart!
The husband wakes one morn from heavy sleep,
With a taste of poppy in his mouth,—rubs eyes,
Finds his wife flown, his strong box ransacked too,
Follows as he best can, overtakes i' the end.
You bid him use his privilege: well, it seems
He's scarce cool-blooded enough for the right move—
Does not shoot when the game were sure, but stands
Bewildered at the critical minute,—since
He has the first flash of the fact alone
To judge from, act with, not the steady lights
Of after-knowledge,—yours who stand at ease
To try conclusions: he's in smother and smoke,
You outside, with explosion at an end:
The sulphur may be lightning or a squib—
He'll know in a minute, but till then, he doubts.
Back from what you know to what he knew not!
Hear the priest's lofty "I am innocent,"
The wife's as resolute "You are guilty!" Come!
Are you not staggered?—pause, and you lose the move!
Nought left you but a low appeal to law,
"Coward" tied to your tail for compliment!
Another consideration: have it your way!
Admit the worst: his courage failed the Count,
He's cowardly like the best o' the burgesses
He's grown incorporate with,—a very cur,
Kick him from out your circle by all means!
Why, trundled down this reputable stair,
Still, the Church-door lies wide to take him in,
And the Court-porch also: in he sneaks to each,—
"Yes, I have lost my honour and my wife,
"And, being moreover an ignoble hound,
"I dare not jeopardize my life for them!"
Religion and Law lean forward from their chairs,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Ay,
Not only applaud him that he scorned the world,
But punish should he dare do otherwise.
If the case be clear or turbid,—you must say!

Thus, anyhow, it mounted to the stage
In the law-courts,—let's see clearly from this point!—
Where the priest tells his story true or false,
And the wife her story, and the husband his,
All with result as happy as before.
The courts would nor condemn nor yet acquit
This, that or the other, in so distinct a sense
As end the strife to either's absolute loss:
Pronounced, in place of something definite,
"Each of the parties, whether goat or sheep
"I' the main, has wool to show and hair to hide.
"Each has brought somehow trouble, is somehow cause
"Of pains enough,—even though no worse were proved.
"Here is a husband, cannot rule his wife
"Without provoking her to scream and scratch
"And scour the fields,—causelessly, it may be:
"Here is that wife,—who makes her sex our plague,
"Wedlock, our bugbear,—perhaps with cause enough:
"And here is the truant priest o' the trio, worst
"Or best—each quality being conceivable.
"Let us impose a little mulct on each.
"We punish youth in state of pupilage
"Who talk at hours when youth is bound to sleep,
"Whether the prattle turn upon Saint Rose
"Or Donna Olimpia of the Vatican:
"'T is talk, talked wisely or unwisely talked,
"I' the dormitory where to talk at all,
"Transgresses, and is mulct: as here we mean.
"For the wife,—let her betake herself, for rest,
"After her run, to a House of Convertites—
"Keep there, as good as real imprisonment:
"Being sick and tired, she will recover so.
"For the priest, spritely strayer out of bounds,
"Who made Arezzo hot to hold him,—Rome
"Profits by his withdrawal from the scene.
"Let him be relegate to Civita,
"Circumscribed by its bounds till matters mend:
"There he at least lies out o' the way of harm
"From foes—perhaps from the too friendly fair.
"And finally for the husband, whose rash rule
"Has but itself to blame for this ado,—
"If he be vexed that, in our judgments dealt,
"He fails obtain what he accounts his right,
"Let him go comforted with the thought, no less,
"That, turn each sentence howsoever he may,
"There's satisfaction to extract therefrom.
"For, does he wish his wife proved innocent?
"Well, she's not guilty, he may safely urge,
"Has missed the stripes dishonest wives endure—
"This being a fatherly pat o' the cheek, no more.
"Does he wish her guilty? Were she otherwise
"Would she be locked up, set to say her prayers,
"Prevented intercourse with the outside world,
"And that suspected priest in banishment,
"Whose portion is a further help i' the case?
"Oh, ay, you all of you want the other thing,
"The extreme of law, some verdict neat, complete,—
"Either, the whole o' the dowry in your poke
"With full release from the false wife, to boot,
"And heading, hanging for the priest, beside—
"Or, contrary, claim freedom for the wife,
"Repayment of each penny paid her spouse,
"Amends for the past, release for the future! Such
"Is wisdom to the children of this world;
"But we've no mind, we children of the light,
"To miss the advantage of the golden mean,
"And push things to the steel point." Thus the courts.

Is it settled so far? Settled or disturbed,
Console yourselves: 't is like … an instance, now!
You've seen the puppets, of Place Navona, play,—
Punch and his mate,—how threats pass, blows are dealt,
And a crisis comes: the crowd or clap or hiss
Accordingly as disposed for man or wife—
When down the actors duck awhile perdue,
Donning what novel rag-and-feather trim
Best suits the next adventure, new effect:
And,—by the time the mob is on the move,
With something like a judgment pro and con,—
There's a whistle, up again the actors pop
In t' other tatter with fresh-tinseled staves,
To re-engage in one last worst fight more
Shall show, what you thought tragedy was farce.
Note, that the climax and the crown of things
Invariably is, the devil appears himself,
Armed and accoutred, horns and hoofs and tail!
Just so, nor otherwise it proved—you'll see:
Move to the murder, never mind the rest!

Guido, at such a general duck-down,
I' the breathing-space,—of wife to convent here,
Priest to his relegation, and himself
To Arezzo,—had resigned his part perforce
To brother Abate, who bustled, did his best,
Retrieved things somewhat, managed the three suits—
Since, it should seem, there were three suits-at-law
Behoved him look to, still, lest bad grow worse:
First civil suit,—the one the parents brought,
Impugning the legitimacy of his wife,
Affirming thence the nullity of her rights:
This was before the Rota,—Molinès,
That's judge there, made that notable decree
Which partly leaned to Guido, as I said,—
But Pietro had appealed against the same
To the very court will judge what we judge now—
Tommati and his fellows,—Suit the first.
Next civil suit,—demand on the wife's part
Of separation from the husband's bed
On plea of cruelty and risk to life
Claims restitution of the dowry paid,
Immunity from paying any more:
This second, the Vicegerent has to judge.
Third and last suit,—this time, a criminal one,—
Answer to, and protection from, both these,—
Guido's complaint of guilt against his wife
In the Tribunal of the Governor,
Venturini, also judge of the present cause.
Three suits of all importance plaguing him,
Beside a little private enterprise
Of Guido's,—essay at a shorter cut.
For Paolo, knowing the right way at Rome,
Had, even while superintending these three suits
I' the regular way, each at its proper court,
Ingeniously made interest with the Pope
To set such tedious regular forms aside,
And, acting the supreme and ultimate judge,
Declare for the husband and against the wife.
Well, at such crisis and extreme of straits,—
The man at bay, buffeted in this wise,—
Happened the strangest accident of all.
"Then," sigh friends, "the last feather broke his back,
"Made him forget all possible remedies
"Save one—he rushed to, as the sole relief
"From horror and the abominable thing."
"Or rather," laugh foes, "then did there befall
"The luckiest of conceivable events,
"Most pregnant with impunity for him,
"Which henceforth turned the flank of all attack,
"And bade him do his wickedest and worst."
The wife's withdrawal from the Convertites,
Visit to the villa where her parents lived,
And birth there of his babe. Divergence here!
I simply take the facts, ask what they show.

First comes this thunderclap of a surprise:
Then follow all the signs and silences
Premonitory of earthquake. Paolo first
Vanished, was swept off somewhere, lost to Rome:
(Wells dry up, while the sky is sunny and blue.)
Then Guido girds himself for enterprise,
Hies to Vittiano, counsels with his steward,
Comes to terms with four peasants young and bold,
And starts for Rome the Holy, reaches her
At very holiest, for 't is Christmas Eve,
And makes straight for the Abate's dried-up font,
The lodge where Paolo ceased to work the pipes.
And then, rest taken, observation made
And plan completed, all in a grim week,
The five proceed in a body, reach the place,
—Pietro's, at the Paolina, silent, lone,
And stupefied by the propitious snow.
'T is one i' the evening: knock: a voice "Who's there?"
"Friends with a letter from the priest your friend."
At the door, straight smiles old Violante's self.
She falls,—her son-in-law stabs through and through,
Reaches through her at Pietro—"With your son
"This is the way to settle suits, good sire!"
He bellows "Mercy for heaven, not for earth!
"Leave to confess and save my sinful soul,
"Then do your pleasure on the body of me!"
—"Nay, father, soul with body must take its chance!"
He presently got his portion and lay still.
And last, Pompilia rushes here and there
Like a dove among the lightnings in her brake
Falls also: Guido's, this last husband's-act.
He lifts her by the long dishevelled hair,
Holds her away at arm's length with one hand,
While the other tries if life come from the mouth-
Looks out his whole heart's hate on the shut eyes,
Draws a deep satisfied breath, "So—dead at last!"
Throws down the burden on dead Pietro's knees,
And ends all with "Let us away, my boys!"

And, as they left by one door, in at the other
Tumbled the neighbours—for the shrieks had pierced
To the mill and the grange, this cottage and that shed.
Soon followed the Public Force; pursuit began
Though Guido had the start and chose the road:
So, that same night was he, with the other four,
Overtaken near Baccano,—where they sank
By the way-side, in some shelter meant for beasts,
And now lay heaped together, nuzzling swine,
Each wrapped in bloody cloak, each grasping still
His unwiped weapon, sleeping all the same
The sleep o' the just,—a journey of twenty miles
Brought just and unjust to a level, you see.
The only one i' the world that suffered aught
By the whole night's toil and trouble, flight and chase,
Was just the officer who took them, Head
O' the Public Force,—Patrizj, zealous soul,
Who, having but duty to sustain weak flesh,
Got heated, caught a fever and so died:
A warning to the over-vigilant,
—Virtue in a chafe should change her linen quick,
Lest pleurisy get start of providence.
(That's for the Cardinal, and told, I think!)

Well, they bring back the company to Rome.
Says Guido, "By your leave, I fain would ask
"How you found out 't was I who did the deed?
"What put you on my trace, a foreigner,
"Supposed in Arezzo,—and assuredly safe
"Except for an oversight: who told you, pray?"
"Why, naturally your wife!" Down Guido drops
O' the horse he rode,—they have to steady and stay,
At either side the brute that bore him, bound,
So strange it seemed his wife should live and speak!
She had prayed—at least so people tell you now—
For but one thing to the Virgin for herself,
Not simply, as did Pietro 'mid the stabs,—
Time to confess and get her own soul saved—
But time to make the truth apparent, truth
For God's sake, lest men should believe a lie:
Which seems to have been about the single prayer
She ever put up, that was granted her.
With this hope in her head, of telling truth,—
Being familiarized with pain, beside,—
She bore the stabbing to a certain pitch
Without a useless cry, was flung for dead
On Pietro's lap, and so attained her point.
Her friends subjoin this—have I done with them?—
And cite the miracle of continued life
(She was not dead when I arrived just now)
As attestation to her probity.

Does it strike your Excellency? Why, your Highness,
The self-command and even the final prayer,
Our candour must acknowledge explicable
As easily by the consciousness of guilt.
So, when they add that her confession runs
She was of wifehood one white innocence
In thought, word, act, from first of her short life
To last of it; praying, i' the face of death,
That God forgive her other sins—not this,
She is charged with and must die for, that she failed
Anyway to her husband: while thereon
Comments the old Religious—"So much good
"Patience beneath enormity of ill,
"I hear to my confusion, woe is me,
"Sinner that I stand, shamed in the walk and gait
"I have practised and grown old in, by a child!"—
Guido's friends shrug the shoulder, "Just this same
"Prodigious absolute calm in the last hour
"Confirms us,—being the natural result
"Of a life which proves consistent to the close.
"Having braved heaven and deceived earth throughout,
"She braves still and deceives still, gains thereby
"Two ends, she prizes beyond earth or heaven:
"First sets her lover free, imperilled sore
"By the new turn things take: he answers yet
"For the part he played: they have summoned him indeed:
"The past ripped up, he may be punished still:
"What better way of saving him than this?
"Then,—thus she dies revenged to the uttermost
"On Guido, drags him with her in the dark,
"The lower still the better, do you doubt?
"Thus, two ways, does she love her love to the end,
"And hate her hate,—death, hell is no such price
"To pay for these,—lovers and haters hold."
But there's another parry for the thrust.
"Confession," cry folks—"a confession, think!
"Confession of the moribund is true!"
Which of them, my wise friends? This public one,
Or the private other we shall never know?
The private may contain,—your casuists teach,-
The acknowledgment of, and the penitence for,
That other public one, so people say.
However it be,—we trench on delicate ground,
Her Eminence is peeping o'er the cards,—
Can one find nothing in behalf of this
Catastrophe? Deaf folks accuse the dumb!
You criticize the drunken reel, fool's speech,
Maniacal gesture of the man,—we grant!
But who poured poison in his cup, we ask?
Recall the list of his excessive wrongs,
First cheated in his wife, robbed by her kin,
Rendered anon the laughing-stock o' the world
By the story, true or false, of his wife's birth,—
The last seal publicly apposed to shame
By the open flight of wife and priest,—why, Sirs,
Step out of Rome a furlong, would you know
What anotherguess tribunal than ours here,
Mere worldly Court without the help of grace,
Thinks of just that one incident o' the flight?
Guido preferred the same complaint before
The court at Arezzo, bar of the Granduke,—
In virtue of it being Tuscany
Where the offence had rise and flight began,—
Self-same complaint he made in the sequel here
Where the offence grew to the full, the flight
Ended: offence and flight, one fact judged twice
By two distinct tribunals,—what result?
There was a sentence passed at the same time
By Arezzo and confirmed by the Granduke,
Which nothing baulks of swift and sure effect
But absence of the guilty, (flight to Rome
Frees them from Tuscan jurisdiction now)
—Condemns the wife to the opprobrious doom
Of all whom law just lets escape from death.
The Stinche, House of Punishment, for life,—
That's what the wife deserves in Tuscany:
Here, she deserves—remitting with a smile
To her father's house, main object of the flight!
The thief presented with the thing he steals!

At this discrepancy of judgments—mad,
The man took on himself the office, judged;
And the only argument against the use
O' the law he thus took into his own hands
Is … what, I ask you?—that, revenging wrong,
He did not revenge sooner, kill at first
Whom he killed last! That is the final charge.
Sooner? What's soon or late i' the case?—ask we.
A wound i' the flesh no doubt wants prompt redress;
It smarts a little to-day, well in a week,
Forgotten in a month; or never, or now, revenge!
But a wound to the soul? That rankles worse and worse.
Shall I comfort you, explaining—"Not this once
"But now it may be some five hundred times
"I called you ruffian, pandar, liar and rogue:
"The injury must be less by lapse of time?"
The wrong is a wrong, one and immortal too,
And that you bore it those five hundred times,
Let it rankle unrevenged five hundred years,
Is just five hundred wrongs the more and worse!
Men, plagued this fashion, get to explode this way,
If left no other.

"But we left this man
"Many another way, and there's his fault,"
'T is answered—"He himself preferred our arm
"O' the law to fight his battle with. No doubt
"We did not open him an armoury
"To pick and choose from, use, and then reject.
"He tries one weapon and fails,—he tries the next
"And next: he flourishes wit and common sense,
"They fail him,—he plies logic doughtily,
"It fails him too,—thereon, discovers last
"He has been blind to the combustibles—
"That all the while he is a-glow with ire,
"Boiling with irrepressible rage, and so
"May try explosives and discard cold steel,—
"So hires assassins, plots, plans, executes!
"Is this the honest self-forgetting rage
"We are called to pardon? Does the furious bull
"Pick out four help-mates from the grazing herd
"And journey with them over hill and dale
"Till he find his enemy?"

What rejoinder? save
That friends accept our bull-similitude.
Bull-like,—the indiscriminate slaughter, rude
And reckless aggravation of revenge,
Were all i' the way o' the brute who never once
Ceases, amid all provocation more,
To bear in mind the first tormentor, first
Giver o' the wound that goaded him to fight:
And, though a dozen follow and reinforce
The aggressor, wound in front and wound in flank,
Continues undisturbedly pursuit,
And only after prostrating his prize
Turns on the pettier, makes a general prey.
So Guido rushed against Violante, first
Author of all his wrongs, fons et origo
Malorum—drops first, deluge since,—which done,
He finished with the rest. Do you blame a bull?

In truth you look as puzzled as ere I preached!
How is that? There are difficulties perhaps
On any supposition, and either side.
Each party wants too much, claims sympathy
For its object of compassion, more than just.
Cry the wife's friends, "O the enormous crime
"Caused by no provocation in the world!"
"Was not the wife a little weak?"—inquire—
"Punished extravagantly, if you please,
"But meriting a little punishment?
"One treated inconsiderately, say,
"Rather than one deserving not at all
"Treatment and discipline o' the harsher sort?"
No, they must have her purity itself,
Quite angel,—and her parents angels too
Of an aged sort, immaculate, word and deed:
At all events, so seeming, till the fiend,
Even Guido, by his folly, forced from them
The untoward avowal of the trick o' the birth,
Which otherwise were safe and secret now.
Why, here you have the awfulest of crimes
For nothing! Hell broke loose on a butterfly!
A dragon born of rose-dew and the moon!
Yet here is the monster! Why he's a mere man
Born, bred and brought up in the usual way.
His mother loves him, still his brothers stick
To the good fellow of the boyish games;
The Governor of his town knows and approves,
The Archbishop of the place knows and assists:
Here he has Cardinal This to vouch for the past,
Cardinal That to trust for the future,—match
And marriage were a Cardinal's making,—in short,
What if a tragedy be acted here
Impossible for malice to improve,
And innocent Guido with his innocent four
Be added, all five, to the guilty three,
That we of these last days be edified
With one full taste o' the justice of the world?

The long and the short is, truth seems what I show:—
Undoubtedly no pains ought to be spared
To give the mob an inkling of our lights.
It seems unduly harsh to put the man
To the torture, as I hear the court intends,
Though readiest way of twisting out the truth;
He is noble, and he may be innocent.
On the other hand, if they exempt the man
(As it is also said they hesitate
On the fair ground, presumptive guilt is weak
I' the case of nobility and privilege),—
What crime that ever was, ever will be,
Deserves the torture? Then abolish it!
You see the reduction ad absurdum, Sirs?

Her Excellency must pronounce, in fine!
What, she prefers going and joining play?
Her Highness finds it late, intends retire?
I am of their mind: only, all this talk talked,
'T was not for nothing that we talked, I hope?
Both know as much about it, now, at least,
As all Rome: no particular thanks, I beg!
(You'll see, I have not so advanced myself,
After my teaching the two idiots here!)

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The Wisdom Of Merlyn

These are the time--words of Merlyn, the voice of his age recorded,
All his wisdom of life, the fruit of tears in his youth, of joy in his manhood hoarded,
All the wit of his years unsealed, to the witless alms awarded.

These are his time--gifts of song, his help to the heavy--laden,
Words of an expert of life, who has gathered its sins in his sack, its virtues to grieve and gladden,
Speaking aloud as one who is strong to the heart of man, wife and maiden.

For he is Merlyn of old, the once young, the still robed in glory,
Ancient of days though he be, with wisdom only for wealth and the crown of his locks grown hoary,
Yet with the rage of his soul untamed, the skill of his lips in story.

He dares not unhouselled die, who has seen, who has known, who has tasted
What of the splendours of Time, of the wise wild joys of the Earth, of the newness of pleasures quested,
All that is neither of then nor now, Truth's naked self clean--breasted,

Things of youth and of strength, the Earth with its infinite pity,
Glories of mountain and plain, of streams that wind from the hills to the insolent human city,
Dark with its traders of human woe enthroned in the seats of the mighty.

Fair things nobler than Man before the day of his ruling,
Free in their ancient peace, ere he came to change, to destroy, to hinder with his schooling,
Asking naught that was his to give save freedom from his fooling.

Beautiful, wonderful, wise, a consonant law--ruled heaven,
Garden ungardened yet, in need yet hardly of God to walk there noon or even,
Beast and bird and flower in its place, Earth's wonders more than seven.

Of these he would speak and confess, to the young who regard not their heirship,
Of beauty to boys who are blind, of might to the impotent strong, to the women who crowd Time's fair ship,
Of pearls deep hid in Love's Indian seas, the name of the God they worship.

Thus let it be with Merlyn before his daylight is ended,
One last psalm of his life, the light of it lipped with laughter, the might of it mixed and blended
Still with the subtle sweet need of tears than Pleasure's self more splendid,

Psalm and hymn of the Earth expounding what Time teaches,
Creed no longer of wrath, of silent issueless hopes, of a thing which beyond Man's reach is,
Hope deferred till the heart grows sick, while the preacher vainly preaches.

Nay but a logic of life, which needeth no deferring,
Life with its birthright love, the sun the wind and the rain in multiple pleasure stirring
Under the summer leaves at noon, with no sad doubt of erring,

No sad legend of sin, since his an innocent Eden
Is, and a garden of grace, its gateway clear of the sword, its alleys not angel--ridden,
Its tree of life at the lips of all and never a fruit forbidden.

Merlyn is no vain singer to vex men's ears in the street,
Nay, nor a maid's unbidden. He importuneth none with his song, be it never so wild and sweet.
She that hath ears to hear, let her hear; he will not follow her feet.

Merlyn makes no petition. He asketh of no man alms.
Prince and prophet is he, a monarch, a giver of gifts, a lord of the open plams,
Sueth he naught, not at God's own hand, though he laudeth the Lord in psalms.

Merlyn would speak his message only to hearts that are strong,
To him that hath courage to climb, who would gather time's samphire flowers, who would venture the crags among.
To her who would lesson her soul to fear, with love for sermon and song.

Merlyn hath arms of pity, the weak he would hold to his soul,
Make them partakers of truth, of the ancient weal of the Earth, of the life--throb from Pole to Pole.
He would hold them close; he would dry their tears; with a kiss he would make them whole.

Thus would he sing and to thee, thou child with the eyes of passion
Watching his face in the dark, in the silent light of the stars, while he in his godlike fashion
Maketh his mock at the fears of men, nor spareth to lay the lash on.

Thus would thy Merlyn devise, ere the days of his years be numbered,
Now at threescore and ten. He would leave his word to the world, his soul of its load uncumbered.
Then would he lay his ear to the grave, and sleep as his childhood slumbered.

What is the fruit of Wisdom? To learn the proportion of things;
To know the ant from the lion, the whale from the crest of the wave, the ditty the grasshopper sings
From the chaunt of the full--fledged Paradise bird as he shakes the dew from his wings.

There is one thing more than knowledge, a harvest garnered by few:
To tutor the heart to achieve, to fashion the act to the hand, to do and not yearn to do,
To say to the wish of the soul ``I will,'' to have gathered the flower where it grew.

I was young, and they told me ``Tarry. The rash in the nets are taken.
If there be doubt of thy deed, abstain, lest the day of danger behold thee by these forsaken,
Lest thou lie in the lion's den thou hast roused, with the eyes thou hast dared to waken.''

They spake, but I answered ``Nay, who waiteth shall take no quarry.
Pleasure is fleet as the roe; in the vales he feedeth to--day, but at nightwhen the eyes grow weary
Lo, he hath passed to the desolate hills; he is gone. Nay, he may not tarry.''

For Joy too needeth a net. He cometh tame to thy hand,
Asketh an alms of thy life, to serve thee, thy jubilant slave, if thou wouldst but understand.
Then is thy moment, O Man, for the noose, be it steel or a silken band.

Therefore, where doubt is, do! Thou shalt stumble in thine endeavour,
Ay, till thy knees be sore, thy back with the arrows of grief, and thou stand with an empty quiver.
Yet shall thy heart prevail through its pain, for pain is a mastering lever.

Wouldst thou be wise, O Man? At the knees of a woman begin.
Her eyes shall teach thee thy road, the worth of the thing called pleasure, the joy of the thing called sin.
Else shalt thou go to thy grave in pain for the folly that might have been.

For know, the knowledge of women the beginning of wisdom is.
Who had seven hundred wives and concubines hundreds three, as we read in the book of bliss?
Solomon, wisest of men and kings, and ``all of them princesses.''

Yet, be thou stronger than they. To be ruled of a woman is ill.
Life hath an hundred ways, beside the way of her arms, to give thee of joy thy fill.
Only is love of thy life the flower. Be thine the ultimate will.

A right way is to be happy, a wrong way too. Then beware.
Leave the colt in his stall, he shall grow to a thankless jade, be he never so fat and fair.
Sloth is a crime. Rise up, young fool, and grasp thy joy by the hair.

What is the motto of youth? There is only one. Be thou strong.
Do thy work and achieve, with thy brain, with thy hands, with thy heart, the deeds which to strength belong.
Strike each day thy blow for the right, or failing strike for the wrong.

He that would gain let him give. The shut hand hardly shall win.
Open thy palms to the poor, O thou of the indigent heart. There shall pleas ure be poured therein.
Use thy soul to the cord of joy. If thou sin must, strongly sin.

Cast thy whole heart away. The Earth, philosophers tell,
Leaps to a pebble thrown, be it never so little; it moved to the bidding of that which fell.
Throw thy heart! Thou shalt move the world, though thou fall on the floor of Hell.

Few have the courage of loving. Faint hearts! The loss is theirs.
Few of their idlest whims. ``I would win to Rome ere I die,'' one cried in his daily cares,
Yet plods on on 'Change to his grave, the slave of his stocks and shares.

Learn to appraise thy desires, to weigh the wares of thy heart.
If thou wouldst play with pleasure, avoid Love's passionate tides, its perilous Ocean chart,
Hug the shores of Love's inland seas, and buy thy joys in the mart.

Love lightly, but marry at leisure. Wild Love is a flower of the field
Waiting all hands to gather and ours. If we leave it another will win it and kneel where we kneeled.
Marriage is one tame garden rose in a garden fenced and sealed.

O thou who art sitting silent! Youth, with the eyelids of grief!
How shall I rouse thee to wit? Thou hast stolen the joy of our world. Thouscornest its vain relief.
Nay, she is here. Be thy tongue set free. Play up, thou eloquent thief.

Doubt not thy absolution, sinner, who darest to sin.
So thou prevail in the end, she shall hold thee guiltless of guile, a hero, a paladin.
The end in her eyes hath thee justified, whatever thy means have been.

Love is of body and body, the physical passion of joy;
The desire of the man for the maid, her nakedness strained to his own; the mother's who suckles her boy
With the passionate flow of her naked breast. All else is a fraudulent toy.

Of the house where Love is the master thy beauty may hold the key.
It shall open the hall--door wide, shout loud thy name to its lord. Yet, wouldst thou its full guest be,
Bring with thee other than beauty, wit. Then sit at the feast made free.

``To talk of love is to make love.'' Truly, a maxim of price.
Nathless the noblest soul, shouldst thou tell her of passionate things and fail to gaze in her eyes,
Shall hold thee cheap in her woman's pride, a clown for thy courtesies.

Love hath two mountain summits, the first where pleasure was born
Faint in the cloud--land of light, a vision of possible hope; the second a tempest--torn
Crag where passion is lord and king. Betwixt them what vales forlorn!

Happiness needs to be learned. In youth the ideal woman
Gazed at afar was a dream, a priceless untouchable prize, while she in your arms, too human,
Mocked you with love. 'Tis an art learned late; alas, and the whole by no man.

O! thou in the purple gendered. Thou needst pain for thy case.
Lose thy health or thy heart. Be bowed in thy soul's despond. Be whelmed in a world's disgrace.
So shall thy eyes be unsealed of pride and see Love face to face.

If thou wouldst win love, speak. She shall read the truth on thy lips.
Spoken vows shall prevail, the spell of thy eloquent hand, the flame of thy finger--tips.
Write? She is reading another's eyes while thy sad pen dips and dips.

Thou hast ventured a letter of passion, in ease of thy passionate heart?
Nay, be advised; there is fear, mischance in the written word, when lovers are far apart.
Pain is betrayed by the subtle pen where lips prevailed without art.

Love is a fire. In the lighting, it raiseth a treacherous smoke,
Telling its tale to the world; but anon, growing clear in its flame, may be hid by an old wife's cloak,
And the world learn nothing more and forget the knowledge its smouldering woke.

Comes there a trouble upon thee? Be silent, nor own the debt.
Friendship kicks at the goda; thy naked state is its shame; thou hast angered these with thy fret.
Wait. The world shall forgive thy sin. It asks but leave to forget.

The world is an indolent house--shrew. It scolds but cares not to know
Whether in fancy or fact. What it thinks we have done, that it scourges; the true thing we did it lets go.
What matter? We fare less ill than our act, ay, all of us; more be our woe!

There are days when wisdom is witless, when folly is noble, sublime.
Let us thank the dear gods for our madness, the rush of the blood in our veins, the exuberant pulsings of Time,
And pray, while we sin the forbidden sin, we be spared our penance of crime.

There are habits and customs of passion. Long loves are a tyrannous debt.
But to some there is custom of change, the desire of the untrodden ways, with sunshine of days that were wet,
Of the four fair wives of love's kindly law by licence of Mahomet.

Experience all is of use, save one, to have angered a friend.
Break thy heart for a maid; another shall love thee anon. The gold shall return thou didst spend,
Ay, and thy beaten back grow whole. But friendship's grave is the end.

Why do I love thee, brother? We have shared what things in our youth,
Battle and siege and triumph, together, always together, in wanderings North and South.
But one thing shared binds nearer than all, the kisses of one sweet mouth.

He that hath loved the mother shall love the daughter no less,
Sister the younger sister. There are tones how sweet to his ear, gestures that plead and press,
Echoes fraught with remembered things that cry in the silences.

Fly from thy friend in his fortune, his first days of wealth, of fame;
Or, if thou needest to meet him, do thou as the children of Noah, walk back wards and guard thee from blame.
He who saw found forgiveness none. With thee it were haply the same.

Bridegroom, thy pride is unseemly. Thou boastest abroad, with a smile,
Thou hast read our humanity's riddle. Nay, wait yet a year with thy bride; she shall lesson thee wiser the while.
Then shalt thou blush for thy words to--day, the shame of thy innocent guile.

The love of a girl is a taper lit on a windy night.
Awhile it lightens our darkness, consoles with its pure sudden flame, and the shadows around it grow white.
Anon with a rain--gust of tears it is gone, and we blink more blind for the light.

Sage, thou art proud of thy knowledge, what mountains and marvels seen!
Thou hast loved how madly, how often! hast known what wiles of the heart, what ways of maid, wife and quean!
Yet shalt thou still be betrayed by love, befooled like a boy on the green.

Oh, there is honour in all love. Have lips once kissed thee, be dumb,
Save in their only praise. To cheapen the thing thou hast loved is to bite at thyself thy thumb,
To shout thy own fool's fault to the world, and beat thy shame on a drum.

Who hath dared mock at thy beauty, Lady? Who deemeth thee old?
If he had seen thee anon in the tender light of thine eyes, as I saw thee, what tales had he told
Of ruined kingdoms and kings for one, of misers spending their gold!

Friendship or Love? You ask it: which binds with the stronger tether?
Friendship? Thy comrade of youth, who laughed with thee on thy road? What ailed him in that rough weather,
When to thy bosom Love's angel crept, twin tragedies locked together?

Friendship is fostered with gifts. Be it so; little presents? Yes.
Friendship! But ah, not Love, since love is itself Love's gift and it angereth him to have less.
Woe to the lover who dares to bring more wealth than his tenderness.

This to the woman: Forbear his gifts, the man's thou wouldst hold.
Cheerfully he shall give and thou nothing guess, yet anon he shall weigh thee in scales of his gold.
Woe to thee then if the charge be more than a heartache's cost all told.

Thou art tempted, a passion unworthy? Long struggle hath dulled thy brain?
How shalt thou save thee, poor soul? How buy back the peace of thy days? If of rest thou be fain,
Oft is there virtue in yielding all; thou shalt not be tempted again.

Sacrifice truly is noble. Yet, Lady, ponder thy fate.
Many a victory, won in tears by her who forbore, hath ruined her soul's estate.
Virtue's prize was too dear a whim, the price agreed to too great.

Virtue or vice? Which, think you, should need more veil for her face?
Virtue hath little fear; she goeth in unchaste guise; she ventureth all disgrace.
Poor Vice hid in her shame sits dumb while a stranger taketh her place.

Chastity? Who is unchaste? The church--wed wife, without blame
Yielding her body nightly, a lack--love indolent prize, to the lord of her legal shame?
Or she, the outlawed passionate soul? Their carnal act is the same.

In youth it is well thou lovest. The fire in thee burneth strong.
Choose whom thou wilt, it kindleth; a beggar--maid or a queen, she shall carry the flame along.
Only in age to be loved is best; her right shall repair thy wrong.

Lady, wouldst fly with thy lover? Alas, he loves thee to--day.
How shall it be to--morrow? He saw thee a bird in the air, a rose on its thorny spray.
He would take thee? What shalt thou be in his hand? A burden to bear alway.

Women love beauty in women, a thing to uphold, to adore,
To vaunt for all womanhood's fame, a seemly sweet fitness of body, adorned with all virtuous lore.
Beauty, but not of the kind men prize. On that they would set small store.

What is there cruel as fear? A falcon rending her prey
Showeth an evil eye, but to him she loveth is kind; her rage she shall put away.
But a frightened woman hath pity none. Though she love thee, yet shall she slay.

Show not thy sin to thy son. He shall judge thee harder than these.
All the servants of Noah beheld his shame in the house and loyally held their peace.
Ham alone at his father laughed, made jest of his nakedness.

Cast not loose thy religion, whether believing or no.
Heavy it is with its rule, a burden laid on thy back, a sombre mask at the show.
Yet shall it cloak thee in days of storm, a shield when life's whirlwinds blow.

As to the tree its ivy, so virtue is to the soul.
All the winter long it clothed us in leafage green, and the forest paid us its toll.
Now it is Spring and the rest rejoice while we stand drear in our dole.

Thy love of children is well. Yet a peril lurketh therein.
See lest thy sloth take excuse of thy fondness. Nay, coward art thou, and thine is the pestilent sin.
Shift wouldst thou thy burden of life, the blame of thy ``might have been.''

Courage we all find enough to bear the mischance of our friends.
How many tortured souls have gone to their self--made graves through wreck of their own mad ends:
But no man yet hath his weazand slit for his neighbour's pain in amends.

Fear not to change thy way, since change is of growth, life's sign.
The Child in his growing body, the Sage in his gathered lore, the Saint in his growths divine,
All find pleasure but Age which weeps the unchanging years' decline.

Whence is our fountain of tears? We weep in childhood for pain,
Anon for triumph in manhood, the sudden glory of praise, the giant mastered and slain.
Age weeps only for love renewed and pleasure come back again.

What is our personal self? A fading record of days
Held in our single brain, memory linked with memory back to our childhood's ways.
Beyond it what? A tradition blurred of gossip and nursemaid says.

Why dost thou plain of thine age, O thou with the beard that is thin?
Art thou alone in thy home? Is there none at thy side, not one, to deem thee a man among men?
Nay, thou art young while she holds thy hand, be thy years the threescore and ten.

The world is untimely contrived. It gives us our sunshine in summer,
Its laughing face in our youth, when we need it not to be gay, being each one his own best mummer.
All its frown is for life that goes, its smile for the last new comer.

Europe a horologe is, ill mounted and clogged with grime,
Asia a clock run down. Its hands on the dial are still; its hours are toldby no chime.
Nathless, twice in the twenty--four, it shall tell thee exactly the time.

What is the profit of knowledge? Ah none, though to know not is pain!
We grieve like a child in the dark; we grope for a chink at the door, for a way of escape from the chain;
We beat on life's lock with our bleeding hands, till it opens. And where is the gain?

I have tried all pleasures but one, the last and sweetest; it waits.
Childhood, the childhood of age, to totter again on the lawns, to have done with the loves and the hates,
To gather the daisies, and drop them, and sleep on the nursing knees of the Fates.

I asked of the wise man ``Tell me, what age is the age of pleasure?
Twenty years have I lived. I have spread my meshes in vain. I have taken a paltry treasure.
Where is the heart of the gold?'' And he, ``I will tell thee anon at leisure.''

I pleaded at thirty ``Listen. I have played, I have lost, I have won.
I have loved in joy and sorrow. My life is a burden grown with the thought of its sands outrun.
Where is the joy of our years? At forty?'' ``Say it is just begun.''

At forty I made love's mourning. I stood alone with my foes,
Foot to foot with my Fate, as a man at grips with a man, returning blows for blows.
In the joy of battle ``'Tis here'' I cried. But the wise man, ``Nay, who knows?''

At fifty I walked sedately. At sixty I took my rest.
I had learned the good with the evil. I troubled my soul no more, I had reached the Isles of the Blest.
The sage was dead who had warned my fears. I was wise, I too, with the best.

What do we know of Being? Our own? How short lived, how base!
That which is not our own? The eternal enrolment of stars, the voids and the silences!
The enormous might of the mindless globes whirling through infinite space!

The infinite Great overhead, the infinite Little beneath!
The turn of the cellular germ, the giddy evolving of life in the intricate struggle for breath,
The microbe, the mote alive in the blood, the eyeless atom of death!

Yet which is the greater Being? We have dreamed of a life--giving God,
Him, the mind of the Sun, the conscious brain--flower of Space, with a cosmic form and abode,
With thought and pity and power of will, Humanity's ethical code.

We have dreamed, but we do not believe. Be He here, be He not, 'tis as one.
His Godhead, how does it help? He is far. He is blind to our need. Nay, nay, He is less than the Sun,
Less than the least of the tremulous stars, than our old scorned idols of stone.

For He heareth not, nor seeth. As we to the motes in our blood,
So is He to our lives, a possible symbol of power, a formula half understood.
But the voice of Him, where? the hand grip, where? A child's cry lost in a wood.

Therefore is Matter monarch, the eternal the infinite Thing,
The ``I that am'' which reigneth, which showeth no shadow of change, while humanities wane and spring,
Which saith ``Make no vain Gods before me, who only am Lord and King.''

What then is Merlyn's message, his word to thee weary of pain,
Man, on thy desolate march, thy search for an adequate cause, for a thread, for a guiding rein,
Still in the maze of thy doubts and fears, to bring thee thy joy again?

Thou hast tried to climb to the sky; thou hast called it a firmament;
Thou hast found it a thing infirm, a heaven which is no haven, a bladder punctured and rent,
A mansion frail as the rainbow mist, as thy own soul impotent.

Thou hast clung to a dream in thy tears; thou hast stayed thy rage with a hope;
Thou hast anchored thy wreck to a reed, a cobweb spread for thy sail, with sand for thy salvage rope;
Thou hast made thy course with a compass marred, a toy for thy telescope.

What hast thou done with thy days? Bethink thee, Man, that alone,
Thou of all sentient things, hast learned to grieve in thy joy, hast earned thee the malison
Of going sad without cause of pain, a weeper and woebegone.

Why? For the dream of a dream of another than this fair life
Joyous to all but thee, by every creature beloved in its spring--time of passion rife,
By every creature but only thee, sad husband with sadder wife,

Scared at thought of the end, at the simple logic of death,
Scared at the old Earth's arms outstretched to hold thee again, thou child of an hour, of a breath,
Seeking refuge with all but her, the mother that comforteth.

Merlyn's message is this: he would bid thee have done with pride.
What has it brought thee but grief, thy parentage with the Gods, thy kinship with beasts denied?
What thy lore of a life to come in a cloud--world deified?

O thou child which art Man, distraught with a shadow of ill!
O thou fool of thy dreams, thou gatherer rarely of flowers but of fungi ofevil smell,
Posion growths of the autumn woods, rank mandrake and mort--morell!

Take thy joy with the rest, the bird, the beast of the field,
Each one wiser than thou, which frolic in no dismay, which seize what the seasons yield,
And lay thee down when thy day is done content with the unrevealed.

Take the thing which thou hast. Forget thy kingdom unseen.
Lean thy lips on the Earth; she shall bring new peace to thy eyes with her healing vesture green.
Drink once more at her fount of love, the one true hippocrene.

O thou child of thy fears! Nay, shame on thy childish part
Weeping when called to thy bed. Take cheer. When the shadows come, when the crowd is leaving the mart,
Then shalt thou learn that thou needest sleep, Death's kindly arms for thy heart.

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Loraine

This is the story of one mans soul.
The paths are stony and passion is blind,
And feet must bleed ere the light we find.
The cypher is writ on Lifes mighty scroll,
And the key is in each mans mind.
But who read aright, ye have won release,
Ye have touched the joy in the heart of Peace.

PART I

THERE’S a bend of the river on Glenbar run
Which the wild duck haunt at the set of sun,
And the song of the waters is softened so
That scarcely its current is heard to flow;
And the blackfish hide by the shady bank
’Neath the sunken logs where the reeds are rank,
And the halcyon’s mail is an azure gleam
O’er the shifting shoals of the silver bream,
And the magpies chatter their idle whim,
And the wagtails flitter along the brim,
And tiny martins with breasts of snow
Keep fluttering restlessly to and fro,
And the weeping willows have framed the scene
With the trailing fall of their curtains green,
And the grass grows lush on the level leas
’Neath the low gnarled boughs of the apple trees,
Where the drowsy cattle dream away
The noon-tide hours of the summer day.
There’s a shady nook by the old tree where
The track comes winding from Bendemeer.
So faint are the marks of the bridle track,
From the old slip-rails on the ridge’s back,
That few can follow the lines I know
But I ride with the shadows of long ago!
I am gaunt and gray, I am old and worn,
But my heart goes back to a radiant morn
When someone waited and watched for me
In the friendly shade of that grand old tree.
The winter of Memory brings again
The summer rapture of passionate pain,
And she comes to me with the morning grace
On her sun-gold hair and her lily face,
And her blue eyes soft with the dreamy light
She stole from the stars of the Southern night,
And her slender form like a springtide flower
That sprang from the earth in a magic hour,
With the trembling smile and the tender tone
And the welcome glance—that were mine alone.
And we sit once more as we sat of old
When the future lay in a haze of gold—
In the fairy days when the gods have lent
To our lips the silence of hearts content.
Ah! those were the days of youth’s perfect spring,
When each wandering wind had a song to sing,
When the touch of care and the shade of woe
Were but empty words we could never know
As we rode ’neath the gum and the box trees high,
And our idle laughter went floating by,
As we rode o’er the leagues of the billowy plain
Where the grass grew green ’neath the summer rain,
And over the hills in the range’s heart
To the fern-decked glen where the waters dart,
And we railed at time and the laggard year
Ere a bride would be mistress of Bendemeer.
Now the old-time feud that was first begun
When the Gordons settled on Glenbar run,
It had passed away, it was buried deep
In the quiet graves where our fathers sleep,
And sweet Mary Gordon was left alone
In the quaint old station of rough-hewn stone,
The maiden whom lovers sought near and far—
The stately lily of old Glenbar.
Our kinsfolk had hated, from year to year,
Since the first Loraine came to Bendemeer
They have passed where none can cavil and strive;
How could she and I keep the feud alive!
I, James Loraine, who were better dead
Than harm one hair of her gentle head!
So we made the bond that would bind, one day,
Glenbar and Bendemeer for aye.

For at last, though it left me with saddened face,
I was master of all in my father’s place.
Of the gray old dwelling, rambling and wide,
With the homestead paddocks on either side,
And the deep verandahs and porches tall
Where the vine climbs high on the trellised wall,
Where the pine and cypress their dark crowns rear
O’er the garden—the glory of Bendemeer—
From whence you can dream o’er the tranquil scene
Of the scattered sheep on the lucerne green,
And the mighty plain in the sunlight spread,
With the brown hawk motionless overhead,
And the stockmen’s cottages clustering still
On the gentle slope of the station hill,
And the woolshed gray on the swelling rise
Where the creek winds blue ’neath the bluer skies.

And here in the days when our hearts were light
We lived life joyously day and night.
For the friend of my soul, who was dear to me
As no friend hath been or again can be,
Was Oliver Douglas. In cloud or shine
My heart was his and his heart was mine,
And we lived like brothers from year to year,
And toiled for the honour of Bendemeer,
And my life moved on thro’ a golden haze
The splendid glamour of fortunate days.
What more to a man can the high God send
Than the fairest maid and the firmest friend!
I have read in some poet how Friendship may
Stand strong as a tower in the darkest day,
When the lips of Love that were quick to vow
Have failed ’neath the frown upon Fortune’s brow.
What a friend was he, without fear or guile,
With his careless ways and his ready smile,
With the voice to cheer, and the eye to praise,
And the heart to toil through the hardest days!
How he won all hearts, were they high or low,
By the easy charm that I envied so!

For they say in jest I am true to race—
The dark Loraines of the haughty face—
Awkward, and shy, and unbending when
I am full of love for my fellow-men.
But I caught at the sunshine he flung about—
The man to whom all my heart went out.
Ah! how oft at dusk ’neath the evening star
Have we reined our horses at old Glenbar,
And sat in the quaint familiar room
Made sweet with the scent of the jasmine bloom,
Where my soul first saw in her dreamy eyes
The lights of the gateways of Paradise!
How we lingered over our hopes and fears
As we planned the course of the coming years
Whilst Oliver chatted with easy flow
To Margaret Bruce with the hair of snow—
The proud old dame of a proud old race
Who lived for the child with her sister’s face.

O the joyous days! O the morning air!
When the blood was young and the world was air!
When from Tara and Westmere and Boradaile,
And from Snowdon Hills and from Lilyvale,
And from Tallaran and the plains of Scar
All sent down their horses to old Glenbar.
From many a station for miles away
Came the happy faces on racing day,
Came the big bush buggies fast rolling in
With the four-in-hands and the merry din.
And if strife was keen in those days of old
’Twas for love of sport, not for lust of gold;
For then each man rode as a man should ride
With his honour at stake and the station’s pride,
When every racehorse was sent to race
And each run had a crack for the steeplechase.
And I see the last timber loom big and bare
As we held the field with a length to spare,
And Douglas crashed past me on Charioteer,
The big gray gelding from Bendemeer.
But I rode the bay with the tiny star
That had carried the Lily of old Glenbar.
And I rode for all that I cared for most
And I collared the gray ere he passed the post.
Ah! how gaily and lightly our pulses beat
As the night went out to the trip of feet!
And though all men sought her with hope and praise
It was I she loved—with my awkward ways—
It was I she loved in the golden days!

The drought came down upon Bendemeer,
And the grass grew yellow, and scant, and sere,
And the lucerne paddocks were eaten brown,
And half the trees on the run cut down,
And we toiled all day ’midst the dying sheep,
The tottering frames that could scarcely creep,
And the dead by scores lay over the plain,
But God seemed deaf—for He sent no rain.
And whilst Hope stood sounding her funeral knells
Who had heart to talk about wedding bells?
And the drought held on for a three-year span,
And I woke one morning a ruined man.
Yet Fate smote harder—a deadlier blow—
For on old Glenbar there was word to go.
For the mortgage hung over Glenbar run,
And their stock were dead and their credit done,
And the bank foreclosed. We were cast aside
From the homes where our fathers had lived and died.

So we said good-bye—ah! the bitter end—
At the trysting place on the river bend.
But the ground lay sullen and bare below,
And most of the river had ceased to flow,
And the springs of Hope in our souls were dried,
And in silence we stood there side by side,
And a leaden fear held my brain and heart,
And we strove to go, but we could not part.
O sweet is the dawn of Love’s perfect spring,
When the white arms clasp and the soft lips cling;
But fierce is the passion that fires the blood
When Love stands baulked in its summer flood!

In her dark-ringed eyes shone the sad unrest
That spoke in the heave of her troubled breast,
And her face was white as the chiselled stone,
And her lips pressed madly against my own,
And her heart beat wildly against my heart,
And we strove to go, but we could not part.

But these were the words she said to me—
“Whatever the fate of the years may be,
Hope and my heart will wait for thee.”

PART II

’TWAS a long last look and a mute farewell
To the homes where our fathers had loved to dwell,
And our faces turned to the wild north-west,
And we rode away on a roving quest.
But our hearts were young and we cheered the way
With the golden dreams of a coming day,
When Fate should lead ’neath a happier star
Back to Bendemeer and to old Glenbar.
And a vision rose of one bearded and brown,
A wanderer hasting to Melbourne town,
To the faithful eyes now with sorrow dim
That had suffered and waited and watched for him.
For the new home lay midst the city’s roar
And the Station’s calm would be her’s no more;
And from Douglas’ lips came the story strange
Of the wondrous wealth in a northern range.
The weeks grew months and the months were spent,
As we overlanded a continent—
A thousand miles over scrub and plain
In the sun’s fierce glare and the tropic rain.
But we laughed at hardships to undergo
As we smoked in the ring of the campfire’s glow
And we pushed ahead till, in tracks grown blind,
The last station fence had been left behind;
And the land of the mighty runs spread wide,
Unfenced and virgin on every side,
Where you move—a ship that has lost the strand—
O’er the grassy ocean of one mans land,
Where a score of beasts or a mile the less
Are of little count in the wilderness,
But men count their grass and cattle instead
By the hundred miles and the thousand head.
I have seen the plains lying baked and bare
When drought and famine hold revel there,
And the cattle sink where the rotting shoals
Of the fish float dead in the waterholes.

I have seen the plains when the flood brings down
The leagues of its waters, sullen and brown,
When only the tops of the swaying trees
Mark the creek that wound thro’ the level leas,
And all is a sea to the straining eyes
Save some lonely hut on a distant rise.

I have seen the plains in the mad delight
Of the racing flames in their crimson flight,
When the whip of the wind will not stay or spare,
And woe to the rider who lingers there!

But, O! the plains when their beauty burst
On our wondering eyes as we crossed them first!
When the sun shone bright and a soft wind blew,
And the sky was clear with a fairy hue,
And afar, like an isle in a sea of mist,
Rose a mountain-cap, as of amethyst.
And the big-horned cattle, knee-deep in grass,
Wheeled scattered legions to watch us pass,
As we drifted onward from group to group,
And swift as a bolt came the wild hawk’s swoop
When the brown quail whirled ’neath our horses’ feet,
Or the bronzewing1 broke from his ground retreat;
And the lazy bustard on laggard wing
Out of easy gunshot was loitering;
And for miles around us, at daylight’s close,
The little flock pigeons in coveys rose,
And the squadrons flew, with a gathering force,
Till an army darkened the watercourse.

Thus we crossed the plains to their utmost rim,
To the timbered belts round the mountains grim,
Chain upon chain, to the north and west,
Rose the swelling ridge and the purple crest,
And the gorges hid from the light of God
Where the foot of a white man had never trod.

There’s a tiny flat where the grass grows green,
Like a bay it lies two dark hills between.
And a stream comes down through a narrow cleft:
Here the camp was fixed and the horses left.
’Twas the last sweet grass, and no man could ride
O’er the beetling fastness on either side.
Thence into the heart of the hills we bore,
Rich with ironstone masses and copper ore,
And once or twice in the gorges old
We found a trace of the colour of gold.

In a deep ravine, walled by rugged heights,
Through the toiling days and the restless nights
I felt, ’neath the spell of that gloomy place,
That a change had come o’er my comrade’s face;
Felt, rather than saw, as it seemed to me,
That all was not quite as it used to be;
The laughter and jest, and the glance and tone,
Were not of the man that I once had known,
And it seemed to me that he shunned to hear
Of Mary and Glenbar and Bendemeer.
And there rose a sense I could not define,
Like a widening stream ’twixt his soul and mine.
Then the light of the Past like a star shone out,
And I turned in scorn from my evil doubt.

But the passions that rule since the world began
Were working there in the heart of man,
And a breast that had guarded its secret well
Was burning then with the fires of hell.
’Tis the old, old tale of a woman’s face
More strong than the shadow of foul disgrace.
The old mad lust for the mastery
To pluck the flower that is not for thee.
For the dreamy light of a woman’s eyes
It can lead on to hell or to paradise.

Ah! little I dreamt in the days now done
That the eyes I loved were as dear to one
Whose heart had been eaten with jealous pride
Through the years of our brotherhood, side by side!
For once it chanced as I moved alone
That I stumbled and fell on the ironstone—
A stumble that might have been made in blood,
For a bullet hummed where my feet had stood.
And I turned and saw from my vantage place
The look that was written across his face.

“He had fired at a bird but too low by half,”
And he turned it off with an awkward laugh.
For as yet no shadow of what might be
The power ’neath the surface had come to me.
Yet a shadow crossed, and it left behind
A doubt that rankled within my mind;
And for weeks we played at the duel hard
Of an open candour but secret guard;
And the seeds of discord were subtly sown
When the fever seized me and struck me down;
And days there were when the blood coursed free,
To be followed by morrows of misery.

But the fever heightened, and day by day
I could feel the cords of my life give way.
And my strength went out like an ebbing sea,
Yet daily he tended and cared for me.
It may be some touch of the days of old
Made his hand draw back, made his heart cry “Hold.”
But I saw in his eyes, with all anguish dumb,
That he waited and hoped for the end to come.
Then I lost the power to move hand and head,
And at last I lay in a trance as dead,
Awake yet a-dream, for a day and night
Then I woke with a start—and the moon shone bright
But the tent and the tools and the guns were gone,
And all save the blanket I lay upon!
Not a sound came down from the mountains lone
Where the shadows huge by the moon were thrown.
In the gloomy gorge not a soul was near,
And I called his name with a bitter fear.
But no answer came to my feeble cry—
And I knew he had left me alone to die.


PART III

They speak the truth and they judge me well,
Who call me “the Man who has been in Hell.”
Though the sky be clear and the sun shine bright,
Men have walked on earth through that awful night,
Whose ears have heard and whose eyes have seen
The infernal shades, like the Florentine,
When the veil is rent and we see unroll
The heights and depths of the human soul;
And with whitened locks and with pallid cheek
Have known and felt what we may not speak.
My life had gone out like a brief light’s breath
Had no help come into that fight with death,
But the hands of Fate that are swift and strange
Brought a people down from the Western range,
Brought a wild black tribe down the gorges dark
Who had seen the prints of an unknown mark,
And quickly around me were clustering
Dark faces and spears in a bristling ring;
And I lay there still in a helpless shrift
With a silent prayer that the end be swift.
But a man spoke forth with a threatening spear
That I was the God of the mountains drear,
And accursed be he and his kin and wife,
Who should lay a hand on a sacred life!
So they succoured me. And I lay as a king
Who has dusky daughters to fetch and bring,
Boughs to shelter, and water and food,
And berries to temper the burning blood.
And they made me a shade from the tropic sun
Till the fire of the fever its course had run.
And at last new life, after weeks of pain,
Came stealing gently through every vein;
And I moved with the tribe, but I pondered long
Why Douglas had worked me this bitter wrong.
For as yet no word of the truth was told,
And I held that the motive was lust of gold.
We moved for the plain, and we passed between
The walls of the flat where the camp had been.
No sign of a horse in that grassy bay,
And Oliver Douglas was far away
Across the plains where the red sun dips,
A sin on his soul and a lie on his lips.
But, O! the joy when I found and knelt
By a full revolver and cartridge belt
Marked with his name, and a mark of the mind
In whose guilty haste they were left behind,
To be sacred things till the morn should rise
When men pay in full for their treacheries.
These gave me power and a stronger claim.
They called me, “The Lord of the Thunder and Flame.”
But they watched me close with a sleepless care:
Three years in the mountains still found me there.
But I learnt by heart all the gorges old,
And I found the granite and found the gold:
Wealth beyond dreams—to a savage man
As wild as the myalls with whom he ran!
Ah, God! Could ever my lot have been
To have lived and loved in a different scene,
To have seen love shine like a splendid star
In the eyes of the Lily of old Glenbar?

Five years had passed, and another year,
Since we turned our horses from Bendemeer.
And a bushman, wrinkled, and aged, and brown,
Had worked his passage to Melbourne town.
Let it matter not through what evil stress
He had battled out of the wilderness,
For the joy that was thrilling him through and through
With a secret music that no man knew—
The last sweet words that she said to me:
“Whatever the fate of the years may be,
Hope and my heart will wait for thee!”

Why do you tremble, and sob, and stare,
Old Margaret Bruce with the snowy hair,
And chatter of ghosts of the past to me?
I am here to claim what you hold in fee.
Give me back my own! I have done no wrong.
For the eyes I love I have suffered long.
Now the toil is over—the fierce unrest,
And the lily shall lie on the broad leaf’s breast.
And the heart that was faithful, and strong, and true,
Shall learn what the love of a man can do.
For the future calls both to her and me.
Thither Eden lies—and I hold the key.
Cease, woman, cease! I am waiting here
For a bride to be mistress of Bendemeer.
“Let be the past and this formless dread!
I am James Loraine who was long since dead.
Give me welcome now! Shall all things be vain
To the dead man come to his own again?
Have you naught of comfort for such as I?
The past is dead—let its memories die!
I am changed and worn, I am tired and old,
But I bring the secret of countless gold.
But a wish of hers, but a word of thine,
And Bendemeer and Glenbar are mine.
Bid her come to me that her eyes may see!
Bid her come to me! Bid her come to me!

Then Margaret faced me with words of lead:—
Peace, peace, Loraine!—the poor child is dead.
Married and dead! You are parted far,
Dear friend, from the Lily of old Glenbar.
The Bendemeer and the Glenbar lands,
They have passed long since to the Douglas hands.
She had waited long, she had waited true,
She had knelt in her sorrow and wept for you.
When he came, at last, with a grave, sad face
To tell the tale of your resting place.
His were the hands—they were clasped in ours—
That had soothed and tended your dying hours;
That had dug the grave and had piled the stone
In the dim blue range where you slept alone.
And he spoke your word in his own sad pain,
Not to mourn for you—we should meet again
But whatever the fate of the years might send,
The friend of your soul—let him be her friend. ’
But the starlight died in her eyes that day,
And with roses white on her cheeks she lay,
And the summer faded and came again
Ere her shadow rose from its bed of pain.
But he came and went with an anxious air
As one consecrated to watch and care,
And from oversea came the call of race
To title and wealth and an ancient place,
And when Bendemeer and Glenbar were sold,
They were his for the sake of the days of old.
And he pressed his claim till she came to see
That their lives could be lived to your memory.
She was wedded here. She lies buried far.
The ocean divides her from old Glenbar.”

Married, and dead! Is it all a dream,
To melt away on the morning beam?
Some passing horror of night whose power
Still haunts the brain in its waking hour?
Can these trembling lips and these stony eyes,
And this heart grown numb in its agonies,
Be a man indeed? Do I see and hear?
Or roam a shade through some realm of fear?
And of him?” I cried. “Shall no vengeance find
These soft lying lips and this double mind?
There are human snakes who have lived too long!”
But she said: “Loraine, let God judge the wrong.
For the man you seek—he is oversea
With ten thousand miles ’twixt his face and thee.”

In the fevered night when the gas-lamps flare,
And the human river sweeps here and there,
By terrace and church, and long lines of street,
And by dim-lit parks where the shadows meet,
I am drifting down with the human flood:
The poison of madness is in my blood.
Are there hearts as bitter and dead as mine
Where the faces throng in the moving line—
Numb with the chill of a black despair
That no man guesses or wants to share?
Unto each man once shall the gage be thrown:
He must fight the fight with his soul alone,
When all ways are barred and he stands at bay
Face to face with truth in the naked day.
I have fought the fight with my soul alone.
I have won my laurel—a heart of stone.

O never again when the white stars shine
Shall the eyes I love look their love in mine!
And never again when the soft winds blow
Shall we ride by the river, or whisper low
By the shady nook ’neath the old tree where
The track comes winding from Bendemeer!
And no bridal bells for our joy shall ring
When Nature wakes to the voice of Spring.
And no tiny hands with a touch divine
Shall link for ever her soul and mine!
She is dead! My lily! My shy bush flower!
The summer has fled where she bloomed an hour.
Do her sweet eyes shine from some lonely star
O’er the bend of the river on old Glenbar?

Mine is selfish grief, mine is selfish pain;
But her sorrow is seared on my heart and brain.
What she heard, I hear; what she saw, I see;
What she felt is bare as a page to me
Shall such evil thrive? Shall she droop and die
And the man who loved her stand idly by?
Let God right the wrong! Will he give the dead
The sunshine and grace of the summers fled?
Has He solace here for the silent tears
Of the hopeless days, of the wasted years?
Let God right the wrong! He is deaf and blind
To the griefs and passions that shake mankind!
Who has eyes to see, let him use his sight:
Wrong is not righted, but might is right.
Then be might my right and my hate the rod,
And my hand in anger the hand of God
And the power is gold, which no power can bend—
I have learnt the means—I can see the end

To my mountains then: there to toil and wait.
I have lived for love: I can live for hate.
Till the power be mine, till the way be sure,
I can face the future and still endure.
With a wild fire flaming through all my blood
I have called to Evil “Be thou my Good!”
Love has patient been: love was strong and true;
But the heart of hate can be patient too
Can be strong to suffer and calm to wait,
But swift to strike in the hour of Fate—
To strike at the heart that has wrought her dole,
To strike at the man who has killed my soul!

PART IV

THE mountains swarm like a human hive,
The picks are swinging in many a drive,
The axe is ringing on many a tree,
And the blast of a charge thunders sullenly;
And the growing heaps of the dull gray stone
And the tents of men stud the hillside lone,
And the moan of the windlass comes again,
With an eerie sound like a soul in pain.
And across the plains, lying baked and brown,
Where the long teams creep till the sun goes down,
Comes the curse, and the whip like a pistol crack,
As the bullocks strain on the burning track.
Soon the battery’s thunder will rend the sky
From the gorge where he left me alone to die.
They have felt the stir in the cities south,
And the “Comrade Field” is in every mouth,
And northward rushes the wave of greed,
For the whole world knows ofThe Devil’s Lead.”
“Four jewelled walls—there are millions there!”
But one mans hand is on every share—
One who knows the mountains from crest to glen,
A hater of women and feared of men,
Who has heart for nothing save gold and gain.
A power to be reckoned with—James Loraine!
As a miser handles and counts his gold,
So I hoard my hate with a joy untold.
Let the weaklings sink ’neath their dumb despair!
Shall I spare the coward who did not spare
O, the joy of hate! O, the liquid fire!
When the strong soul throbs to one fierce desire!
So I thirst for life as a hound for blood,
And woe to the hunters who cross my mood!
To strike hard and home! Then to watch him die
And to soothe his death with my memory!
This were joy indeed, worth a few years’ breath!
This were joy indeed, though the price were death!
Then what holds my heart, and what stays my hand,
Who can cross at will to the motherland?
’Tis a voice that floats through my dreams at night,
And a white hand ringed with a fairy light,
From the world unseen, that has drawn anear,
A tremulous whisper—“At Bendemeer.”

I had planned the end in the mountains grim,
Where the dream of wealth would be lure to him.
Bound fast to a tree in some gloomy glen
Where no cry can reach to the ears of men,
And shot with the bullet he meant for me—
I have dug it out of the hardwood tree.
Then to loose his cords and to let him lie
With his false face turned to the smiling sky,
With his dying grip—in a death of shame—
On the pistol butt that still bears his name!

A fool I have been from my mother’s breast,
A fool who acted and thought for the best,
Made way for others and stood aside
And saw knaves feasted and deified.
With an open heart I have striven to do
To men as ye would they would do to you.”

And what have I gained by the Christian rule?
A smile and a sneer at the trusting fool!
And the generous wish to be fair and just
Has been deemed but weakness and self-distrust.
Now these things are over. My soul is free.
I will deal with men as they deal with me.
For I care not whither my purpose tend,
Let Hell find the means so I gain the end
And no guile too subtle or dark shall prove;
I have done with scruple, and done with love.

The thud of the stampers all night and day
Is loud in the gorge where the campfire lay.
From the big hotel where the lights shine long
Comes the broken snatch of a drinking song.
For the roofs go up as the shafts go down
In the fever and rush of a mining town.

I sit in my office with busy pen,
The saddest and richest of mining men.
I have sat like a spider and spun and spun
Till I hold the mortgage on many a run.
I have land and houses and shares and gold,
My stock increase by the thousandfold.
I am feared and courted with flattering breath
And all that I live for is one mans death.
I have worked his ruin. I hold his fate.
I have woven a web round the man I hate.
I have crossed his schemes, I have won the fight,
For tools can be willing when gold is bright.
And the deeds of mortgage are in their hands
Over Bendemeer and the Glenbar lands.

As I sleep at last on my bed of care
Comes the white hand floating upon the air,
And a woman’s whisper is in my ear,
The man that you hate is at Bendemeer.”

The last crimson streak in the West was dead,
And the white stars broke through the blue o’erhead,
And the hornèd moon like a sceptre pale
Cast its thin blue ray on the old sliprail,
As I crossed Glenbar by the big tree where
The track goes winding to Bendemeer.

All the plain lay silent and silver-gray
Like a shroud for a bride on her bridal day.
I could feel the menace and the hand of Fate
As I stood once more at the garden gate.
With a passionate heart for a while I stood,
For the past came back like a rushing flood,
Then I moved the latch and I crept within—
A thief in the silence who fears his sin.
Like funeral plumes for some giant king
Rise the dark pine-crowns, and their shadows cling
Purple and solemn to path and lawn,
Like the shadow of murder that waits the dawn.
And the morepork’s call from the timbered knoll
Seems the hoot of fiends for a dead mans soul.

I am creeping slow down the well-known way,
All round me is ruin and slow decay,
By the weed-choked beds and the paths o’ergrown,
And rank grass seeding on lawns unmown,
And a low fence matted with running vine,
In the home of my fathers that once was mine.

The old rambling pile and verandahs wide,
Like an isle half lost in some dim gray tide,
Seems to welcome me, seems to feel and know
That a ghost is here from the Long Ago!
And my fingers close, whilst my blood is flame,
Round the pistol-butt that still bears his name.

Creep, creep to the west where the ground is bare,
For a dim light shines from a window there.
I have toiled for this thro’ the gloomy past.
I have prayed for this—’tis my hour at last!
Hear, God of the Just, whilst I own Thy might
Who hast given this man to my hands this night!
Here I kneel and pray. Be my hand the rod,
Be my hand in anger the hand of God!

Where the fold of the curtain falls, half drawn,
By the windows, wide to the western lawn,
From the shadows vague of the outer gloom
I have slipped—a shadow—within the room.
In the shaded light, on the low white bed,
I can see his face . . . he is lying . . . dead
The hand of Time has not marred its grace,
Though the lines are deep on the well-known face.
And the brow is placid and white and chill
With the peace that comes when the heart is still.

And the lamplight falls on the golden hair
Of a weeping child who is kneeling there.

O human vengeance and human hate!
See, thine altars scattered and desolate!
Poor paltry things of a passing breath,
Ye are silent here in the halls of Death!

Be his soul at rest. Though his sin was deep,
Yet bitter the harvest he lived to reap.
He has suffered long, he has worn the chain
Of a lifes remorse in his heart and brain.
He has known the terror of hidden sin
When the soul stands bare to the judge within.
Be his heart at rest in the peace divine!
Be Thy mercy, Lord, on his soul . . . and mine!

For the child looks up with her mother’s face,
With the sungold hair and the lily’s grace.
From the lashes wet with their pearly dew
Shine the dark-blue depths of the eyes I knew,
The sweet eyes soft with the dreamy light
And the mystic spell of the southern night.

They have left me this—’tis the bond of Fate—
The woman I love and the man I hate!
Through the windows wide blows the gentle breeze,
And the wind-harp sighs in the shadowy trees,
And I see the rise of a splendid star
O’er the bend of the river on old Glenbar!

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Guilt and Sorrow

I

A traveller on the skirt of Sarum's Plain
Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare;
Stooping his gait, but not as if to gain
Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air
Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with care
Both of the time to come, and time long fled:
Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair;
A coat he wore of military red
But faded, and stuck o'er with many a patch and shred.

II

While thus he journeyed, step by step led on,
He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
That welcome in such house for him was none.
No board inscribed the needy to allure
Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
And desolate, "Here you will find a friend!"
The pendent grapes glittered above the door;--
On he must pace, perchance 'till night descend,
Where'er the dreary roads their bare white lines extend.

III

The gathering clouds grow red with stormy fire,
In streaks diverging wide and mounting high;
That inn he long had passed; the distant spire,
Which oft as he looked back had fixed his eye,
Was lost, though still he looked, in the blank sky.
Perplexed and comfortless he gazed around,
And scarce could any trace of man descry,
Save cornfields stretched and stretching without bound;
But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be found.

IV

No tree was there, no meadow's pleasant green,
No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear;
Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen,
But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer.
Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near;
And so he sent a feeble shout--in vain;
No voice made answer, he could only hear
Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain,
Or whistling thro' thin grass along the unfurrowed plain.

V

Long had he fancied each successive slope
Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn
And rest; but now along heaven's darkening cope
The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne.
Thus warned he sought some shepherd's spreading thorn
Or hovel from the storm to shield his head,
But sought in vain; for now, all wild, forlorn,
And vacant, a huge waste around him spread;
The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only bed.

VI

And be it so--for to the chill night shower
And the sharp wind his head he oft hath bared;
A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
Hath told; for, landing after labour hard,
Full long endured in hope of just reward,
He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.

VII

For years the work of carnage did not cease,
And death's dire aspect daily he surveyed,
Death's minister; then came his glad release,
And hope returned, and pleasure fondly made
Her dwelling in his dreams. By Fancy's aid
The happy husband flies, his arms to throw
Round his wife's neck; the prize of victory laid
In her full lap, he sees such sweet tears flow
As if thenceforth nor pain nor trouble she could know.

VIII

Vain hope! for frand took all that he had earned.
The lion roars and gluts his tawny brood
Even in the desert's heart; but he, returned,
Bears not to those he loves their needful food.
His home approaching, but in such a mood
That from his sight his children might have run.
He met a traveller, robbed him, shed his blood;
And when the miserable work was done
He fled, a vagrant since, the murderer's fate to shun.

IX

From that day forth no place to him could be
So lonely, but that thence might come a pang
Brought from without to inward misery.
Now, as he plodded on, with sullen clang
A sound of chains along the desert rang;
He looked, and saw upon a gibbet high
A human body that in irons swang,
Uplifted by the tempest whirling by;
And, hovering, round it often did a raven fly.

X

It was a spectacle which none might view,
In spot so savage, but with shuddering pain;
Nor only did for him at once renew
All he had feared from man, but roused a train
Of the mind's phantoms, horrible as vain.
The stones, as if to cover him from day,
Rolled at his back along the living plain;
He fell, and without sense or motion lay;
But, when the trance was gone, feebly pursued his way.

XI

As one whose brain habitual phrensy fires
Owes to the fit in which his soul hath tossed
Profounder quiet, when the fit retires,
Even so the dire phantasma which had crossed
His sense, in sudden vacancy quite lost,
Left his mind still as a deep evening stream.
Nor, if accosted now, in thought engrossed,
Moody, or inly troubled, would he seem
To traveller who might talk of any casual theme.

XII

Hurtle the clouds in deeper darkness piled,
Gone is the raven timely rest to seek;
He seemed the only creature in the wild
On whom the elements their rage might wreak;
Save that the bustard, of those regions bleak
Shy tenant, seeing by the uncertain light
A man there wandering, gave a mournful shriek,
And half upon the ground, with strange affright,
Forced hard against the wind a thick unwieldy flight.

XIII

All, all was cheerless to the horizon's bound;
The weary eye--which, wheresoe'er it strays,
Marks nothing but the red sun's setting round,
Or on the earth strange lines, in former days
Left by gigantic arms--at length surveys
What seems an antique castle spreading wide;
Hoary and naked are its walls, and raise
Their brow sublime: in shelter there to bide
He turned, while rain poured down smoking on every side.

XIV

Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep
Thy secrets, thou that lov'st to stand and hear
The Plain resounding to the whirlwind's sweep,
Inmate of lonesome Nature's endless year;
Even if thou saw'st the giant wicker rear
For sacrifice its throngs of living men,
Before thy face did ever wretch appear,
Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain
Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now would gain.

XV

Within that fabric of mysterious form,
Winds met in conflict, each by turns supreme;
And, from the perilous ground dislodged, through storm
And rain he wildered on, no moon to stream
From gulf of parting clouds one friendly beam,
Nor any friendly sound his footsteps led;
Once did the lightning's faint disastrous gleam
Disclose a naked guide-post's double head,
Sight which tho' lost at once a gleam of pleasure shed.

XVI

No swinging sign-board creaked from cottage elm
To stay his steps with faintness overcome;
'Twas dark and void as ocean's watery realm
Roaring with storms beneath night's starless gloom;
No gipsy cowered o'er fire of furze or broom;
No labourer watched his red kiln glaring bright,
Nor taper glimmered dim from sick man's room;
Along the waste no line of mournful light
From lamp of lonely toll-gate streamed athwart the night.

XVII

At length, though hid in clouds, the moon arose;
The downs were visible--and now revealed
A structure stands, which two bare slopes enclose.
It was a spot, where, ancient vows fulfilled,
Kind pious hands did to the Virgin build
A lonely Spital, the belated swain
From the night terrors of that waste to shield:
But there no human being could remain,
And now the walls are named the "Dead House" of the plain.

XVIII

Though he had little cause to love the abode
Of man, or covet sight of mortal face,
Yet when faint beams of light that ruin showed,
How glad he was at length to find some trace
Of human shelter in that dreary place.
Till to his flock the early shepherd goes,
Here shall much-needed sleep his frame embrace.
In a dry nook where fern the floor bestrows
He lays his stiffened limbs,--his eyes begin to close;

XIX

When hearing a deep sigh, that seemed to come
From one who mourned in sleep, he raised his head,
And saw a woman in the naked room
Outstretched, and turning on a restless bed:
The moon a wan dead light around her shed.
He waked her--spake in tone that would not fail,
He hoped, to calm her mind; but ill he sped,
For of that ruin she had heard a tale
Which now with freezing thoughts did all her powers assail;

XX

Had heard of one who, forced from storms to shroud,
Felt the loose walls of this decayed Retreat
Rock to incessant neighings shrill and loud,
While his horse pawed the floor with furious heat;
Till on a stone, that sparkled to his feet,
Struck, and still struck again, the troubled horse:
The man half raised the stone with pain and sweat,
Half raised, for well his arm might lose its force
Disclosing the grim head of a late murdered corse.

XXI

Such tale of this lone mansion she had learned
And, when that shape, with eyes in sleep half drowned,
By the moon's sullen lamp she first discerned,
Cold stony horror all her senses bound.
Her he addressed in words of cheering sound;
Recovering heart, like answer did she make;
And well it was that, of the corse there found,
In converse that ensued she nothing spake;
She knew not what dire pangs in him such tale could wake.

XXII

But soon his voice and words of kind intent
Banished that dismal thought; and now the wind
In fainter howlings told its 'rage' was spent:
Meanwhile discourse ensued of various kind,
Which by degrees a confidence of mind
And mutual interest failed not to create.
And, to a natural sympathy resigned,
In that forsaken building where they sate
The Woman thus retraced her own untoward fate.

XXIII

"By Derwent's side my father dwelt--a man
Of virtuous life, by pious parents bred;
And I believe that, soon as I began
To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
And afterwards, by my good father taught,
I read, and loved the books in which I read;
For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.

XXIV

"A little croft we owned--a plot of corn,
A garden stored with peas, and mint, and thyme,
And flowers for posies, oft on Sunday morn
Plucked while the church bells rang their earliest chime.
Can I forget our freaks at shearing time!
My hen's rich nest through long grass scarce espied;
The cowslip-gathering in June's dewy prime;
The swans that with white chests upreared in pride
Rushing and racing came to meet me at the water-side.

XXV

"The staff I well remember which upbore
The bending body of my active sire;
His seat beneath the honied sycamore
Where the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;
When market-morning came, the neat attire
With which, though bent on haste, myself I decked;
Our watchful house-dog, that would tease and tire
The stranger till its barking-fit I checked;
The red-breast, known for years, which at my casement pecked.

XXVI

"The suns of twenty summers danced along,--
Too little marked how fast they rolled away:
But, through severe mischance and cruel wrong,
My father's substance fell into decay:
We toiled and struggled, hoping for a day
When Fortune might put on a kinder look;
But vain were wishes, efforts vain as they;
He from his old hereditary nook
Must part; the summons came;--our final leave we took.

XXVII

"It was indeed a miserable hour
When, from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,
Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
That on his marriage day sweet music made!
Tilt then, he hoped his bones might there be laid
Close by my mother in their native bowers:
Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed;--
I could not pray:--through tears that fell in showers
Glimmered our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!

XXVIII

"There was a Youth whom I had loved so long,
That when I loved him not I cannot say:
'Mid the green mountains many a thoughtless song
We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May;
When we began to tire of childish play,
We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
And I in truth did love him like a brother,
For never could I hope to meet with such another.

XXIX

"Two years were passed since to a distant town
He had repaired to ply a gainful trade:
What tears of bitter grief, till then unknown!
What tender vows, our last sad kiss delayed!
To him we turned:--we had no other aid:
Like one revived, upon his neck I wept;
And her whom he had loved in joy, he said,
He well could love in grief; his faith he kept;
And in a quiet home once more my father slept.

XXX

"We lived in peace and comfort; and were blest
With daily bread, by constant toil supplied.
Three lovely babes had lain upon my breast;
And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
And knew not why. My happy father died,
When threatened war reduced the children's meal:
Thrice happy! that for him the grave could hide
The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
And tears that flowed for ills which patience might not heal.

XXXI

"'Twas a hard change; an evil time was come;
We had no hope, and no relief could gain:
But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum
Beat round to clear the streets of want and pain.
My husband's arms now only served to strain
Me and his children hungering in his view;
In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
To join those miserable men he flew,
And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.

XXXII

"There were we long neglected, and we bore
Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weighed;
Green fields before us, and our native shore,
We breathed a pestilential air, that made
Ravage for which no knell was heard. We prayed
For our departure; wished and wished--nor knew,
'Mid that long sickness and those hopes delayed,
That happier days we never more must view.
The parting signal streamed--at last the land withdrew.

XXXIII

"But the calm summer season now was past.
On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
Ran mountains high before the howling blast,
And many perished in the whirlwind's sweep.
We gazed with terror on their gloomy sleep,
Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
That we the mercy of the waves should rue:
We reached the western world, a poor devoted crew.

XXXIV

"The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would unman the firmest heart to hear.
All perished--all in one remorseless year,
Husband and children! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored."

XXXV

Here paused she of all present thought forlorn,
Nor voice nor sound, that moment's pain expressed,
Yet Nature, with excess of grief o'erborne,
From her full eyes their watery load released.
He too was mute; and, ere her weeping ceased,
He rose, and to the ruin's portal went,
And saw the dawn opening the silvery east
With rays of promise, north and southward sent;
And soon with crimson fire kindled the firmament.

XXXVI

"O come," he cried, "come, after weary night
Of such rough storm, this happy change to view."
So forth she came, and eastward looked; the sight
Over her brow like dawn of gladness threw;
Upon her cheek, to which its youthful hue
Seemed to return, dried the last lingering tear,
And from her grateful heart a fresh one drew:
The whilst her comrade to her pensive cheer
Tempered fit words of hope; and the lark warbled near.

XXXVII

They looked and saw a lengthening road, and wain
That rang down a bare slope not far remote:
The barrows glistered bright with drops of rain,
Whistled the waggoner with merry note,
The cock far off sounded his clarion throat;
But town, or farm, or hamlet, none they viewed,
Only were told there stood a lonely cot
A long mile thence. While thither they pursued
Their way, the Woman thus her mournful tale renewed.

XXXVIII

"Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
Is now, by beams of dawning light imprest,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main;
The very ocean hath its hour of rest.
I too forgot the heavings of my breast.
How quiet 'round me ship and ocean were!
As quiet all within me. I was blest,
And looked, and fed upon the silent air
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.

XXXIX

"Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps,
And groans that rage of racking famine spoke;
The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps,
The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke,
The shriek that from the distant battle broke,
The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host
Driven by the bomb's incessant thunderstroke
To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish tossed,
Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!

XL

"Some mighty gulf of separation past,
I seemed transported to another world;
A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurled,
And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home
And from all hope I was for ever hurled.
For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.

XLI

"And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
That I, at last, a resting-place had found;
'Here will I dwell,' said I, 'my whole life long,
Roaming the illimitable waters round;
Here will I live, of all but heaven disowned,
And end my days upon the peaceful flood.'--
To break my dream the vessel reached its bound;
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.

XLII

"No help I sought; in sorrow turned adrift,
Was hopeless, as if cast on some bare rock;
Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
Nor raised my hand at any door to knock.
I lay where, with his drowsy mates, the cock
From the cross-timber of an out-house hung:
Dismally tolled, that night, the city clock!
At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
Nor to the beggar's language could I fit my tongue.

XLIII

"So passed a second day; and, when the third
Was come, I tried in vain the crowd's resort.
--In deep despair, by frightful wishes stirred,
Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort;
There, pains which nature could no more support,
With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;
And, after many interruptions short
Of hideous sense, I sank, nor step could crawl:
Unsought for was the help that did my life recall.

XLIV

"Borne to a hospital, I lay with brain
Drowsy and weak, and shattered memory;
I heard my neighbours in their beds complain
Of many things which never troubled me--
Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,
Of looks where common kindness had no part,
Of service done with cold formality,
Fretting the fever round the languid heart,
And groans which, as they said, might make a dead man start.

XLV

"These things just served to stir the slumbering sense,
Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
With strength did memory return; and, thence
Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
The lanes I sought, and, as the sun retired,
Came where beneath the trees a faggot blazed,
The travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
And gave me food--and rest, more welcome, more desired.

XLVI

"Rough potters seemed they, trading soberly
With panniered asses driven from door to door;
But life of happier sort set forth to me,
And other joys my fancy to allure--
The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
In barn uplighted; and companions boon,
Well met from far with revelry secure
Among the forest glades, while jocund June
Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.

XLVII

"But ill they suited me--those journeys dark
O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch!
To charm the surly house-dog's faithful bark,
Or hang on tip-toe at the lifted latch.
The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill:
Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.

XLVIII

"What could I do, unaided and unblest?
My father! gone was every friend of thine:
And kindred of dead husband are at best
Small help; and, after marriage such as mine,
With little kindness would to me incline.
Nor was I then for toil or service fit;
My deep-drawn sighs no effort could confine;
In open air forgetful would I sit
Whole hours, with idle arms in moping sorrow knit.

XLIX

"The roads I paced, I loitered through the fields;
Contentedly, yet sometimes self-accused.
Trusted my life to what chance bounty yields,
Now coldly given, now utterly refused.
The ground I for my bed have often used:
But what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth,
Is that I have my inner self abused,
Foregone the home delight of constant truth,
And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.

L

"Through tears the rising sun I oft have viewed,
Through tears have seen him towards that world descend
Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
Three years a wanderer now my course I bend--
Oh! tell me whither--for no earthly friend
Have I."--She ceased, and weeping turned away;
As if because her tale was at an end,
She wept; because she had no more to say
Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.

LI

True sympathy the Sailor's looks expressed,
His looks--for pondering he was mute the while.
Of social Order's care for wretchedness,
Of Time's sure help to calm and reconcile,
Joy's second spring and Hope's long-treasured smile,
'Twas not for 'him' to speak--a man so tried,
Yet, to relieve her heart, in friendly style
Proverbial words of comfort he applied,
And not in vain, while they went pacing side by side.

LII

Ere long, from heaps of turf, before their sight,
Together smoking in the sun's slant beam,
Rise various wreaths that into one unite
Which high and higher mounts with silver gleam:
Fair spectacle,---but instantly a scream
Thence bursting shrill did all remark prevent;
They paused, and heard a hoarser voice blaspheme,
And female cries. Their course they thither bent,
And met a man who foamed with anger vehement,

LIII

A woman stood with quivering lips and pale,
And, pointing to a little child that lay
Stretched on the ground, began a piteous tale;
How in a simple freak of thoughtless play
He had provoked his father, who straightway,
As if each blow were deadlier than the last,
Struck the poor innocent. Pallid with dismay
The Soldier's Widow heard and stood aghast;
And stern looks on the man her grey-haired Comrade cast.

LIV

His voice with indignation rising high
Such further deed in manhood's name forbade;
The peasant, wild in passion, made reply
With bitter insult and revilings sad;
Asked him in scorn what business there he had;
What kind of plunder he was hunting now;
The gallows would one day of him be glad;--
Though inward anguish damped the Sailor's brow,
Yet calm he seemed as thoughts so poignant would allow.

LV

Softly he stroked the child, who lay outstretched
With face to earth; and, as the boy turned round
His battered head, a groan the Sailor fetched
As if he saw--there and upon that ground--
Strange repetition of the deadly wound
He had himself inflicted. Through his brain
At once the griding iron passage found;
Deluge of tender thoughts then rushed amain,
Nor could his sunken eyes the starting tear restrain.

LVI

Within himself he said--What hearts have we!
The blessing this a father gives his child!
Yet happy thou, poor boy! compared with me,
Suffering not doing ill--fate far more mild.
The stranger's looks and tears of wrath beguiled
The father, and relenting thoughts awoke;
He kissed his son--so all was reconciled.
Then, with a voice which inward trouble broke
Ere to his lips it came, the Sailor them bespoke.

LVII

"Bad is the world, and hard is the world's law
Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
Much need have ye that time more closely draw
The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
And that among so few there still be peace:
Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
Your pains shall ever with your years increase?"--
While from his heart the appropriate lesson flows,
A correspondent calm stole gently o'er his woes.

LVIII

Forthwith the pair passed on; and down they look
Into a narrow valley's pleasant scene
Where wreaths of vapour tracked a winding brook,
That babbled on through groves and meadows green;
A low-roofed house peeped out the trees between;
The dripping groves resound with cheerful lays,
And melancholy lowings intervene
Of scattered herds, that in the meadow graze,
Some amid lingering shade, some touched by the sun's rays.

LIX

They saw and heard, and, winding with the road,
Down a thick wood, they dropt into the vale;
Comfort, by prouder mansions unbestowed,
Their wearied frames, she hoped, would soon regale.
Erelong they reached that cottage in the dale:
It was a rustic inn;--the board was spread,
The milk-maid followed with her brimming pail,
And lustily the master carved the bread,
Kindly the housewife pressed, and they in comfort fed.

LX

Their breakfast done, the pair, though loth, must part;
Wanderers whose course no longer now agrees.
She rose and bade farewell! and, while her heart
Struggled with tears nor could its sorrow ease,
She left him there; for, clustering round his knees,
With his oak-staff the cottage children played;
And soon she reached a spot o'erhung with trees
And banks of ragged earth; beneath the shade
Across the pebbly road a little runnel strayed.

LXI

A cart and horse beside the rivulet stood;
Chequering the canvas roof the sunbeams shone.
She saw the carman bend to scoop the flood
As the wain fronted her,--wherein lay one,
A pale-faced Woman, in disease far gone.
The carman wet her lips as well behoved;
Bed under her lean body there was none,
Though even to die near one she most had loved
She could not of herself those wasted limbs have moved.

LXII

The Soldier's Widow learned with honest pain
And homefelt force of sympathy sincere,
Why thus that worn-out wretch must there sustain
The jolting road and morning air severe.
The wain pursued its way; and following near
In pure compassion she her steps retraced
Far as the cottage. "A sad sight is here,"
She cried aloud; and forth ran out in haste
The friends whom she had left but a few minutes past.

LXIII

While to the door with eager speed they ran,
From her bare straw the Woman half upraised
Her bony visage--gaunt and deadly wan;
No pity asking, on the group she gazed
With a dim eye, distracted and amazed;
Then sank upon her straw with feeble moan.
Fervently cried the housewife--"God be praised,
I have a house that I can call my own;
Nor shall she perish there, untended and alone!"

LXIV

So in they bear her to the chimney seat,
And busily, though yet with fear, untie
Her garments, and, to warm her icy feet
And chafe her temples, careful hands apply.
Nature reviving, with a deep-drawn sigh
She strove, and not in vain, her head to rear;
Then said--"I thank you all; if I must die,
The God in heaven my prayers for you will hear;
Till now I did not think my end had been so near.

LXV

"Barred every comfort labour could procure,
Suffering what no endurance could assuage,
I was compelled to seek my father's door,
Though loth to be a burthen on his age.
But sickness stopped me in an early stage
Of my sad journey; and within the wain
They placed me--there to end life's pilgrimage,
Unless beneath your roof I may remain;
For I shall never see my father's door again.

LXVI

"My life, Heaven knows, hath long been burthensome;
But, if I have not meekly suffered, meek
May my end be! Soon will this voice be dumb:
Should child of mine e'er wander hither, speak
Of me, say that the worm is on my cheek.--
Torn from our hut, that stood beside the sea
Near Portland lighthouse in a lonesome creek,
My husband served in sad captivity
On shipboard, bound till peace or death should set him free.

LXVII

"A sailor's wife I knew a widow's cares,
Yet two sweet little ones partook my bed;
Hope cheered my dreams, and to my daily prayers
Our heavenly Father granted each day's bread;
Till one was found by stroke of violence dead,
Whose body near our cottage chanced to lie;
A dire suspicion drove us from our shed;
In vain to find a friendly face we try,
Nor could we live together those poor boys and I;

LXVIII

"For evil tongues made oath how on that day
My husband lurked about the neighbourhood;
Now he had fled, and whither none could say,
And 'he' had done the deed in the dark wood--
Near his own home!--but he was mild and good;
Never on earth was gentler creature seen;
He'd not have robbed the raven of its food.
My husband's lovingkindness stood between
Me and all worldly harms and wrongs however keen."

LXIX

Alas! the thing she told with labouring breath
The Sailor knew too well. That wickedness
His hand had wrought; and when, in the hour of death,
He saw his Wife's lips move his name to bless
With her last words, unable to suppress
His anguish, with his heart he ceased to strive;
And, weeping loud in this extreme distress,
He cried--"Do pity me! That thou shouldst live
I neither ask nor wish--forgive me, but forgive!"

LXX

To tell the change that Voice within her wrought
Nature by sign or sound made no essay;
A sudden joy surprised expiring thought,
And every mortal pang dissolved away.
Borne gently to a bed, in death she lay;
Yet still while over her the husband bent,
A look was in her face which seemed to say,
"Be blest; by sight of thee from heaven was sent
Peace to my parting soul, the fulness of content."

LXXI

'She' slept in peace,--his pulses throbbed and stopped,
Breathless he gazed upon her face,--then took
Her hand in his, and raised it, but both dropped,
When on his own he cast a rueful look.
His ears were never silent; sleep forsook
His burning eyelids stretched and stiff as lead;
All night from time to time under him shook
The floor as he lay shuddering on his bed;
And oft he groaned aloud, "O God, that I were dead!"

LXXII

The Soldier's Widow lingered in the cot,
And, when he rose, he thanked her pious care
Through which his Wife, to that kind shelter brought,
Died in his arms; and with those thanks a prayer
He breathed for her, and for that merciful pair.
The corse interred, not one hour heremained
Beneath their roof, but to the open air
A burthen, now with fortitude sustained,
He bore within a breast where dreadful quiet reigned.

LXXIII

Confirmed of purpose, fearlessly prepared
For act and suffering, to the city straight
He journeyed, and forthwith his crime declared:
"And from your doom," he added, "now I wait,
Nor let it linger long, the murderer's fate."
Not ineffectual was that piteous claim:
"O welcome sentence which will end though late,"
He said, "the pangs that to my conscience came
Out of that deed. My trust, Saviour! is in thy name!"

LXXIV

His fate was pitied. Him in iron case
(Reader, forgive the intolerable thought)
They hung not:--no one on 'his' form or face
Could gaze, as on a show by idlers sought;
No kindred sufferer, to his death-place brought
By lawless curiosity or chance,
When into storm the evening sky is wrought,
Upon his swinging corse an eye can glance,
And drop, as he once dropped, in miserable trance.

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The Great Hunger

I
Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?
Which of these men
Loved the light and the queen
Too long virgin? Yesterday was summer. Who was it promised marriage to himself
Before apples were hung from the ceilings for Hallowe'en?
We will wait and watch the tragedy to the last curtain,
Till the last soul passively like a bag of wet clay
Rolls down the side of the hill, diverted by the angles
Where the plough missed or a spade stands, straitening the way.
A dog lying on a torn jacket under a heeled-up cart,
A horse nosing along the posied headland, trailing
A rusty plough. Three heads hanging between wide-apart legs.
October playing a symphony on a slack wire paling.
Maguire watches the drills flattened out
And the flints that lit a candle for him on a June altar
Flameless. The drills slipped by and the days slipped by
And he trembled his head away and ran free from the world's halter,
And thought himself wiser than any man in the townland
When he laughed over pints of porter
Of how he came free from every net spread
In the gaps of experience. He shook a knowing head
And pretended to his soul
That children are tedious in hurrying fields of April
Where men are spanning across wide furrows.
Lost in the passion that never needs a wife
The pricks that pricked were the pointed pins of harrows.
Children scream so loud that the crows could bring
The seed of an acre away with crow-rude jeers.
Patrick Maguire, he called his dog and he flung a stone in the air
And hallooed the birds away that were the birds of the years.
Turn over the weedy clods and tease out the tangled skeins.
What is he looking for there?
He thinks it is a potato, but we know better
Than his mud-gloved fingers probe in this insensitive hair.
'Move forward the basket and balance it steady
In this hollow. Pull down the shafts of that cart, Joe,
And straddle the horse,' Maguire calls.
'The wind's over Brannagan's, now that means rain.
Graip up some withered stalks and see that no potato falls
Over the tail-board going down the ruckety pass -
And that's a job we'll have to do in December,
Gravel it and build a kerb on the bog-side. Is that Cassidy's ass
Out in my clover? Curse o' God
Where is that dog?.
Never where he's wanted' Maguire grunts and spits
Through a clay-wattled moustache and stares about him from the height.
His dream changes like the cloud-swung wind
And he is not so sure now if his mother was right
When she praised the man who made a field his bride.
Watch him, watch him, that man on a hill whose spirit
Is a wet sack flapping about the knees of time.
He lives that his little fields may stay fertile when his own body
Is spread in the bottom of a ditch under two coulters crossed in Christ's Name.
He was suspicious in his youth as a rat near strange bread,
When girls laughed; when they screamed he knew that meant
The cry of fillies in season. He could not walk
The easy road to destiny. He dreamt
The innocence of young brambles to hooked treachery.
O the grip, O the grip of irregular fields! No man escapes.
It could not be that back of the hills love was free
And ditches straight.
No monster hand lifted up children and put down apes
As here.
'O God if I had been wiser!'
That was his sigh like the brown breeze in the thistles.
He looks, towards his house and haggard. 'O God if I had been wiser!'
But now a crumpled leaf from the whitethorn bushes
Darts like a frightened robin, and the fence
Shows the green of after-grass through a little window,
And he knows that his own heart is calling his mother a liar
God's truth is life - even the grotesque shapes of his foulest fire.
The horse lifts its head and cranes
Through the whins and stones
To lip late passion in the crawling clover.
In the gap there's a bush weighted with boulders like morality,
The fools of life bleed if they climb over.
The wind leans from Brady's, and the coltsfoot leaves are holed with rust,
Rain fills the cart-tracks and the sole-plate grooves;
A yellow sun reflects in Donaghmoyne
The poignant light in puddles shaped by hooves.
Come with me, Imagination, into this iron house
And we will watch from the doorway the years run back,
And we will know what a peasant's left hand wrote on the page.
Be easy, October. No cackle hen, horse neigh, tree sough, duck quack.

II
Maguiire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son's backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the bank of some summer stream;
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
And two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh.
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an appearance.
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.

III .
Poor Paddy Maguire, a fourteen-hour day
He worked for years. It was he that lit the fire
And boiled the kettle and gave the cows their hay.
His mother tall hard as a Protestant spire
Came down the stairs barefoot at the kettle-call
And talked to her son sharply: 'Did you let
The hens out, you?' She had a venomous drawl
And a wizened face like moth-eaten leatherette.
Two black cats peeped between the banisters
And gloated over the bacon-fizzling pan.
Outside the window showed tin canisters.
The snipe of Dawn fell like a whirring stone
And Patrick on a headland stood alone.
The pull is on the traces, it is March
And a cold black wind is blowing from Dundalk.
The twisting sod rolls over on her back
The virgin screams before the irresistible sock.
No worry on Maguire's mind this day
Except that he forgot to bring his matches.
'Hop back there Polly, hoy back, woa, wae,
From every second hill a neighbour watches
With all the sharpened interest of rivalry.
Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.
Primroses and the unearthly start of ferns
Among the blackthorn shadows in the ditch,
A dead sparrow and an old waistcoat. Maguire learns
As the horses turn slowly round the which is which
Of love and fear and things half born to mind
He stands between the plough-handles and he sees
At the end of a long furrow his name signed
Among the poets, prostitutes. With all miseries
He is one. Here with the unfortunate
Who for half-moments of paradise
Pay out good days and wait and wait
For sunlight-woven cloaks. O to be wise
As Respectability that knows the price of all things
And marks God's truth in pounds and pence and farthings.

IV
April, and no one able to calculate
How far it is to harvest. They put down
The seeds blindly with sensuous groping fingers
And sensual dreams sleep dreams subtly underground.
Tomorrow is Wednesday - who cares?
'Remember Eileen Farrelly? I was thinking
A man might do a damned sight worse …' That voice is blown
Through a hole in a garden wall -
And who was Eileen now cannot be known.
The cattle are out on grass
The corn is coming up evenly.
The farm folk are hurrying to catch Mass:
Christ will meet them at the end of the world, the slow and the speedier.
But the fields say: only Time can bless.
Maguire knelt beside a pillar where he could spit
Without being seen. He turned an old prayer round:
'Jesus, Mary, Joseph pray for us
Now and at the Hour.' Heaven dazzled death.
'Wonder should I cross-plough that turnip-ground.'
The tension broke. The congregation lifted it head
As one man and coughed in unison.
Five hundred hearts were hungry for life-
Who lives in Christ shall never die the death.
And the candle-lit Altar and the flowers
And the pregnant Tabernacle lifted a moment to Prophecy
Out of the clayey hours
Maguire sprinkled his face with holy water
As the congregation stood up for the Last Gospel.
He rubbed the dust off his knees with his palm, and then
Coughed the prayer phlegm up from his throat and sighed: Amen.
Once one day in June when he was walking
Among his cattle in the Yellow Meadow
He met a girl carrying a basket
And he was then a young and heated fellow.
Too earnest, too earnest! He rushed beyond the thing
To the unreal. And he saw Sin
Written in letters larger than John Bunyan dreamt of.
For the strangled impulse there is no redemption.
And that girl was gone and he was counting
The dangers in the fields where love ranted
He was helpless. He saw his cattle
And stroked their flanks in lieu of wife to handle.
He would have changed the circle if he could,
The circle that was the grass track where he ran.
Twenty times a day he ran round the field
And still there was no winning-post where the runner is cheered home.
Desperately he broke the tune,
But however he tried always the same melody lept up from the background,
The dragging step of a ploughman going home through the guttery
Headlands under an April-watery moon.
Religion, the fields and the fear of the Lord
And Ignorance giving him the coward's blow,
He dared not rise to pluck the fantasies
From the fruited Tree of Life. He bowed his head
And saw a wet weed twined about his toe.

V
Evening at the cross-roads -
Heavy heads nodding out words as wise
As the ruminations of cows after milking.
From the ragged road surface a boy picks up
A piece of gravel and stares at it-and then
Tosses it across the elm tree on to the railway.
He means nothing.
Not a damn thing
Somebody is coming over the metal railway bridge
And his hobnailed boots on the arches sound like a gong
Calling men awake. But the bridge is too narrow -
The men lift their heads a moment. That was only John,
So they dream on.
Night in the elms, night in the grass.
O we are too tired to go home yet. Two cyclists pass
Talking loudly of Kitty and Molly?
Horses or women? wisdom or folly?
A door closes on an evicted dog
Where prayers begin in Barney Meegan's kitchen :
Rosie curses the cat between her devotions;
The daughter prays that she may have three wishes -
Health and wealth and love -
From the fairy who is faith or hope or compounds of.
At the cross-roads the crowd had thinned out:
Last words were uttered. There is no to-morrow;
No future but only time stretched for the mowing of the hay
Or putting an axle in the turf-barrow.
Patrick Maguire went home and made cocoa
And broke a chunk off the loaf of wheaten bread;
His mother called down to him to look again
And make sure that the hen-house was locked. His sister grunted in bed
The sound of a sow taking up a new position.
Pat opened his trousers wide over the ashes
And dreamt himself to lewd sleepiness.
The clock ticked on. Time passes.

VI
Health and wealth and love he too dreamed of in May
As he sat on the railway slope and watched the children of the place
Picking up a primrose here and a daisy there -
They were picking up life's truth singly.
But he dreamt of the Absolute envased bouquet -
AIl or nothing. And it was nothing. For God is not all
In one place, complete
Till Hope comes in and takes it on his shoulder -
O Christ, that is what you have done for us:
In a crumb of bread the whole mystery is.
He read the symbol too sharply and turned
From the five simple doors of sense
To the door whose combination lock has puzzled
Philosopher and priest and common dunce.
Men build their heavens as they build their circles
Of friends. God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday -
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears,
A pearl necklace round the neck of poverty.
He sat on the railway slope and watched the evening,
Too beautifully perfect to use,
And his three wishes were three stones too sharp to sit on,
Too hard to carve. Three frozen idols of a speechless muse.

VII
'Now go to Mass and pray and confess your sins
And you'll have all the luck,' his mother said.
He listened to the lie that is a woman's screen
Around a conscience when soft thighs are spread.
And all the while she was setting up the lie
She trusted in Nature that never deceives.
But her son took it as literal truth.
Religion's walls expand to the push of nature. Morality yields
To sense - but not in little tillage fields.
Life went on like that. One summer morning
Again through a hay-field on her way to the shop -
The grass was wet and over-leaned the path -
And Agnes held her skirts sensationally up,
And not because the grass was wet either.
A man was watching her, Patrick Maguire.
She was in love with passion and its weakness
And the wet grass could never cool the fire
That radiated from her unwanted womb in that metaphysical land
Where flesh was thought more spiritual than music
Among the stars - out of reach of the peasant's hand.
Ah, but the priest was one of the people too -
A farmers son - and surely he knew
The needs of a brother and sister.
Religion could not be a counter-irritant like a blister,
But the certain standard, measured and known
By which man might re-make his soul though all walls were down
And all earth's pedestalled gods thrown.

VIII
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He didn't care a damn.
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head
And inconsequently sang.
While his world withered away,
He had a cigarette to smoke and a pound to spend
On drink the next Saturday.
His cattle were fat
And his horses all that
Midsummer grass could make them.
The young women ran wild
And dreamed of a child
Joy dreams though the fathers might forsake them
But no one would take them;
No man could ever see
That their skirts had loosed buttons,
O the men were as blind as could be.
And Patrick Maguire
From his. purgatory fire
Called the gods of the Christian to prove
That this twisted skein
Was the necessary pain
And not the rope that was strangling true love.
But sitting on a wooden gate
Sometime in July
When he was thirty-four or five
He gloried in the lie:
He made it read the way it should,
He made life read the evil good
While he cursed the ascetic brotherhood
Without knowing why.
Sitting on a wooden gate
All, all alone
He sang and laughed
Like a man quite daft,
Or like a man on a channel raft
He fantasied forth his groan.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He rode in day-dream cars.
He locked his body with his knees
When the gate swung too much in the breeze.
But while he caught high ecstasies
Life slipped between the bars.

IX
He gave himself another year,
Something was bound to happen before then -
The circle would break down
And he would carve the new one to his own will.
A new rhythm is a new life
And in it marriage is hung and money.
He would be a new man walking through unbroken meadows
Of dawn in the year of One.
The poor peasant talking to himself in a stable door
An ignorant peasant deep in dung.
What can the passers-by think otherwise?
Where is his silver bowl of knowledge hung?
Why should men be asked to believe in a soul
That is only the mark of a hoof in guttery gaps?
A man is what is written on the label.
And the passing world stares but no one stops
To look closer. So back to the growing crops
And the ridges he never loved.
Nobody will ever know how much tortured poetry the pulled weeds on the ridge wrote
Before they withered in the July sun,
Nobody will ever read the wild, sprawling, scrawling mad woman's signature,
The hysteria and the boredom of the enclosed nun of his thought.
Like the afterbirth of a cow stretched on a branch in the wind
Life dried in the veins of these women and men:
'The grey and grief and unloved,
The bones in the backs of their hands,
And the chapel pressing its low ceiling over them.
Sometimes they did laugh and see the sunlight,
A narrow slice of divine instruction.
Going along the river at the bend of Sunday
The trout played in the pools encouragement
To jump in love though death bait the hook.
And there would be girls sitting on the grass banks of lanes.
Stretch-legged and lingering staring -
A man might take one of them if he had the courage.
But 'No' was in every sentence of their story
Except when the public-house came in and shouted its piece.
The yellow buttercups and the bluebells among the whin bushes
On rocks in the middle of ploughing
Was a bright spoke in the wheel
Of the peasant's mill.
The goldfinches on the railway paling were worth looking at -
A man might imagine then
Himself in Brazil and these birds the birds of paradise
And the Amazon and the romance traced on the school map lived again.
Talk in evening corners and under trees
Was like an old book found in a king's tomb.
The children gathered round like students and listened
And some of the saga defied the draught in the open tomb
And was not blown.

X
Their intellectual life consisted in reading
Reynolds News or the Sunday Dispatch,
With sometimes an old almanac brought down from the ceiling
Or a school reader brown with the droppings of thatch.
The sporting results or the headlines of war
Was a humbug profound as the highbrow's Arcana.
Pat tried to be wise to the abstraction of all that
But its secret dribbled down his waistcoat like a drink from a strainer.
He wagered a bob each way on the Derby,
He got a straight tip from a man in a shop -
A double from the Guineas it was and thought himself
A master mathematician when one of them came up
And he could explain how much he'd have drawn
On the double if the second leg had followed the first.
He was betting on form and breeding, he claimed,
And the man that did that could never be burst.
After that they went on to the war, and the generals
On both sides were shown to be stupid as hell.
If he'd taken that road, they remarked of a Marshal,
He'd have … O they know their geography well
This was their university. Maguire was an undergraduate
Who dreamed from his lowly position of rising
To a professorship like Larry McKenna or Duffy
Or the pig-gelder Nallon whose knowledge was amazing.
'A treble, full multiple odds … That's flat porter …
Another one … No, you're wrong about that thing I was telling you. .
Did you part with your filly, Jack? I heard that you sold her.…'
The students were all savants by the time of pub-close.

XI
A year passed and another hurried after it
And Patrick Maguire was still six months behind life -
His mother six months ahead of it;
His sister straddle-legged across it: -
One leg in hell and the other in heaven
And between the purgatory of middle-aged virginity -
She prayed for release to heaven or hell.
His mother's voice grew thinner like a rust-worn knife
But it cut venomously as it thinned,
It cut him up the middle till he became more woman than man,
And it cut through to his mind before the end.
Another field whitened in the April air
And the harrows rattled over the seed.
He gathered the loose stones off the ridges carefully
And grumbled to his men to hurry. He looked like a man who could give advice
To foolish young fellows. He was forty-seven,
And there was depth in his jaw and his voice was the voice of a great cattle-dealer,
A man with whom the fair-green gods break even.
'I think I ploughed that lea the proper depth,
She ought to give a crop if any land gives …
Drive slower with the foal-mare, Joe.'
Joe, a young man of imagined wives,
Smiles to himself and answered like a slave:
'You needn't fear or fret.
I'm taking her as easy, as easy as …
Easy there Fanny, easy, pet.'
They loaded the day-scoured implements on the cart
As the shadows of poplars crookened the furrows.
It was the evening, evening. Patrick was forgetting to be lonely
As he used to be in Aprils long ago.
It was the menopause, the misery-pause.
The schoolgirls passed his house laughing every morning
And sometimes they spoke to him familiarly -
He had an idea. Schoolgirls of thirteen
Would see no political intrigue in an old man's friendship.
Love
The heifer waiting to be nosed by the old bull.
That notion passed too - there was the danger of talk
And jails are narrower than the five-sod ridge
And colder than the black hills facing Armagh in February.
He sinned over the warm ashes again and his crime
The law's long arm could not serve with time.
His face set like an old judge's pose:
Respectability and righteousness,
Stand for no nonsense.
The priest from the altar called Patrick Maguire's name
To hold the collecting-box in the chapel door
During all the Sundays of May.
His neighbours envied him his holy rise,
But he walked down from the church with affected indifference
And took the measure of heaven angle-wise.
He still could laugh and sing,
But not the wild laugh or the abandoned harmony now
That called the world to new silliness from the top of a wooden gate
When thirty-five could take the sparrow's bow.
Let us be kind, let us be kind and sympathetic:
Maybe life is not for joking or for finding happiness in -
This tiny light in Oriental Darkness
Looking out chance windows of poetry or prayer.
And the grief and defeat of men like these peasants
Is God's way - maybe - and we must not want too much
To see.
The twisted thread is stronger than the wind-swept fleece.
And in the end who shall rest in truth's high peace?
Or whose is the world now, even now?
O let us kneel where the blind ploughman kneels
And learn to live without despairing
In a mud-walled space -
Illiterate unknown and unknowing.
Let us kneel where he kneels
And feel what he feels.
One day he saw a daisy and he thought it
Reminded him of his childhood -
He stopped his cart to look at it.
Was there a fairy hiding behind it?
He helped a poor woman whose cow
Had died on her;
He dragged home a drunken man on a winter's night
And one rare moment he heard the young people playing on the railway stile
And he wished them happiness and whatever they most desired from life.
He saw the sunlight and begrudged no man
His share of what the miserly soil and soul
Gives in a season to a ploughman.
And he cried for his own loss one late night on the pillow
And yet thanked the God who had arranged these things.
Was he then a saint?
A Matt Talbot of Monaghan?
His sister Mary Anne spat poison at the children
Who sometimes came to the door selling raffle tickets
For holy funds.
'Get out, you little tramps!' she would scream
As she shook to the hens an armful of crumbs,
But Patrick often put his hand deep down
In his trouser-pocket and fingered out a penny
Or maybe a tobacco-stained caramel.
'You're soft,' said the sister; 'with other people's money
It's not a bit funny.'
The cards are shuffled and the deck
Laid flat for cutting - Tom Malone
Cut for trump. I think we'll make
This game, the last, a tanner one.
Hearts. Right. I see you're breaking
Your two-year-old. Play quick, Maguire,
The clock there says it's half-past ten -
Kate, throw another sod on that fire.
One of the card-players laughs and spits
Into the flame across a shoulder.
Outside, a noise like a rat
Among the hen-roosts.
The cock crows over
The frosted townland of the night.
Eleven o'clock and still the game
Goes on and the players seem to be
Drunk in an Orient opium den.
Midnight, one o'clock, two.
Somebody's leg has fallen asleep.
What about home? Maguire, are you
Using your double-tree this week?
Why? do you want it? Play the ace.
There's it, and that's the last card for me.
A wonderful night, we had. Duffy's place
Is very convenient. Is that a ghost or a tree?
And so they go home with dragging feet
And their voices rumble like laden carts.
And they are happy as the dead or sleeping …
I should have led that ace of hearts.

XII
The fields were bleached white,
The wooden tubs full of water
Were white in the winds
That blew through Brannagan's Gap on their way from Siberia;
The cows on the grassless heights .
Followed the hay that had wings -
The February fodder that hung itself on the black branches
Of the hill-top hedge.
A man stood beside a potato-pit
And clapped his arms
And pranced on the crisp roots
And shouted to warm himself.
Then he buck-leaped about the potatoes
And scooped them into a basket.
He looked like a bucking suck-calf
Whose spine was being tickled.
Sometimes he stared across the bogs
And sometimes he straightened his back and vaguely whistled
A tune that weakened his spirit
And saddened his terrier dog's.
A neighbour passed with a spade on his shoulder
And Patrick Maguire bent like a bridge
Whistled-good morning under his oxter
And the man the other side of the hedge
Champed his spade on the road at his toes
And talked an old sentimentality
While the wind blew under his clothes.
The mother sickened and stayed in bed all day,
Her head hardly dented the pillow, so light and thin it had worn,
But she still enquired after the household affairs.
She held the strings of her children's Punch and Judy, and when a mouth opened
It was her truth that the dolls would have spoken
If they hadn't been made of wood and tin -
'Did you open the barn door, Pat, to let the young calves in?'
The priest called to see her every Saturday
And she told him her troubles and fears:
'If Mary Anne was settled I'd die in peace -
I'm getting on in years.'
'You were a good woman,' said the priest,
'And your children will miss you when you're gone.
The likes of you this parish never knew,
I'm sure they'll not forget the work you've done.'
She reached five bony crooks under the tick -
'Five pounds for Masses - won't you say them quick.'
She died one morning in the beginning of May
And a shower of sparrow-notes was the litany for her dying.
The holy water was sprinkled on the bed-clothes
And her children stood around the bed and cried because it was too late for crying.
A mother dead! The tired sentiment:
'Mother, Mother' was a shallow pool
Where sorrow hardly could wash its feet …
Mary Anne came away from the deathbed and boiled the calves their gruel.
'O what was I doing when the procession passed?
Where was I looking? Young women and men
And I might have joined them.
Who bent the coin of my destiny
That it stuck in the slot?
I remember a night we walked
Through the moon of Donaghmoyne,
Four of us seeking adventure,
It was midsummer forty years ago.
Now I know
The moment that gave the turn to my life.
O Christ! I am locked in a stable with pigs and cows for ever.

XIII
The world looks on
And talks of the peasant:
The peasant has no worries;
In his little lyrical fields He ploughs and sows;
He eats fresh food,
He loves fresh women, He is his own master
As it was in the Beginning
The simpleness of peasant life.
The birds that sing for him are eternal choirs ,
Everywhere he walks there are flowers.
His heart is pure, His mind is clear,
He can talk to God as Moses and Isaiah talked
The peasant who is only one remove from the beasts he drives. '
'The travellers stop their cars to gape over the green bank into his fields: -
There is the source from which all cultures rise,
And all religions,
There is the pool in which the poet dips
And the musician.
Without the peasant base civilisation must die,
Unless the clay is in the mouth the singer's singing is useless.
The travellers touch the roots of the grass and feel renewed
When they grasp the steering wheels again.
The peasant is the unspoiled child of Prophecy,
The peasant is all virtues - let us salute him without irony
The peasant ploughman who is half a vegetable -
Who can react to sun and rain and sometimes even
Regret that the Maker of Light had not touched him more intensely.
Brought him up from the sub-soil to an existence
Of conscious joy. He was not born blind.
He is not always blind: sometimes the cataract yields
To sudden stone-falling or the desire to breed.
The girls pass along the roads
And he can remember what man is,
But there is nothing he can do.
Is there nothing he can do?
Is there no escape?
No escape, no escape.
The cows and horses breed,
And the potato-seed
Gives a bud and a root and rots
In the good mother's way with her sons;
The fledged bird is thrown
From the nest - on its own.
But the peasant in his little acres is tied
To a mother's womb by the wind-toughened navel-cord
Like a goat tethered to the stump of a tree -
He circles around and around wondering why it should be.
No crash, No drama.
That was how his life happened.
No mad hooves galloping in the sky,
But the weak, washy way of true tragedy -
A sick horse nosing around the meadow for a clean place to die.

XIV
We may come out in the October reality, Imagination,
The sleety wind no longer slants to the black hill where Maguire
And his men are now collecting the scattered harness and baskets.
The dog sitting on a wisp of dry stalks
Watches them through the shadows.
'Back in, back in.' One talks to the horse as to a brother.
Maguire himself is patting a potato-pit against the weather -
An old man fondling a new-piled grave:
'Joe, I hope you didn't forget to hide the spade .
For there's rogues in the townland.
Hide it flat in a furrow.
I think we ought to be finished by to-morrow.
Their voices through the darkness sound like voices from a cave,
A dull thudding far away, futile, feeble, far away,
First cousins to the ghosts of the townland.
A light stands in a window. Mary Anne
Has the table set and the tea-pot waiting in the ashes.
She goes to the door and listens and then she calls
From the top of the haggard-wall :
'What's keeping you
And the cows to be milked and all the other work there's to do?'
'All right, all right
We'll not stay here all night '
Applause, applause,
The curtain falls.
Applause, applause
From the homing carts and the trees
And the bawling cows at the gates.
From the screeching water-hens
And the mill-race heavy with the Lammas floods curving over the weir
A train at the station blowing off steam
And the hysterical laughter of the defeated everywhere.
Night, and the futile cards are shuffled again.
Maguire spreads his legs over the impotent cinders that wake no manhood now
And he hardly looks to see which card is trump.
His sister tightens her legs and her lips and frizzles up
Like the wick of an oil-less lamp.
The curtain falls -
Applause, applause.
Maguire is not afraid of death, the Church will light him a candle
To see his way through the vaults and he'll understand the
Quality of the clay that dribbles over his coffin.
He'll know the names of the roots that climb down to tickle his feet.
And he will feel no different than when he walked through Donaghmoyne.
If he stretches out a hand - a wet clod,
If he opens his nostrils - a dungy smell;
If he opens his eyes once in a million years -
Through a crack in the crust of the earth he may see a face nodding in
Or a woman's legs.
Shut them again for that sight is sin.
He will hardly remember that life happened to him -
Something was brighter a moment. Somebody sang in the distance
A procession passed down a mesmerized street.
He remembers names like Easter and Christmas
By colour his fields were.
Maybe he will be born again, a bird of an angel's conceit
To sing the gospel of life
To a music as flighty tangent
As a tune on an oboe.
And the serious look of his fields will have changed to the leer of a hobo.
Swaggering celestially home to his three wishes granted.
Will that be? will that be?
Or is the earth right that laughs haw-haw
And does not believe
In an unearthly law.
The earth that says:
Patrick Maguire, the old peasant, can neither be damned nor glorified:
The graveyard in which he will lie will be just a deep-drilled potato-field
Where the seed gets no chance to come through
To the fun of the sun.
The tongue in his mouth is the root of a yew.
Silence, silence. The story is done.
He stands in the doorway of his house
A ragged sculpture of the wind,
October creaks the rotted mattress,
The bedposts fall. No hope. No lust.
The hungry fiend
Screams the apocalypse of clay
In every corner of this land.

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The Marriage Of Geraint

The brave Geraint, a knight of Arthur's court,
A tributary prince of Devon, one
Of that great Order of the Table Round,
Had married Enid, Yniol's only child,
And loved her, as he loved the light of Heaven.
And as the light of Heaven varies, now
At sunrise, now at sunset, now by night
With moon and trembling stars, so loved Geraint
To make her beauty vary day by day,
In crimsons and in purples and in gems.
And Enid, but to please her husband's eye,
Who first had found and loved her in a state
Of broken fortunes, daily fronted him
In some fresh splendour; and the Queen herself,
Grateful to Prince Geraint for service done,
Loved her, and often with her own white hands
Arrayed and decked her, as the loveliest,
Next after her own self, in all the court.
And Enid loved the Queen, and with true heart
Adored her, as the stateliest and the best
And loveliest of all women upon earth.
And seeing them so tender and so close,
Long in their common love rejoiced Geraint.
But when a rumour rose about the Queen,
Touching her guilty love for Lancelot,
Though yet there lived no proof, nor yet was heard
The world's loud whisper breaking into storm,
Not less Geraint believed it; and there fell
A horror on him, lest his gentle wife,
Through that great tenderness for Guinevere,
Had suffered, or should suffer any taint
In nature: wherefore going to the King,
He made this pretext, that his princedom lay
Close on the borders of a territory,
Wherein were bandit earls, and caitiff knights,
Assassins, and all flyers from the hand
Of Justice, and whatever loathes a law:
And therefore, till the King himself should please
To cleanse this common sewer of all his realm,
He craved a fair permission to depart,
And there defend his marches; and the King
Mused for a little on his plea, but, last,
Allowing it, the Prince and Enid rode,
And fifty knights rode with them, to the shores
Of Severn, and they past to their own land;
Where, thinking, that if ever yet was wife
True to her lord, mine shall be so to me,
He compassed her with sweet observances
And worship, never leaving her, and grew
Forgetful of his promise to the King,
Forgetful of the falcon and the hunt,
Forgetful of the tilt and tournament,
Forgetful of his glory and his name,
Forgetful of his princedom and its cares.
And this forgetfulness was hateful to her.
And by and by the people, when they met
In twos and threes, or fuller companies,
Began to scoff and jeer and babble of him
As of a prince whose manhood was all gone,
And molten down in mere uxoriousness.
And this she gathered from the people's eyes:
This too the women who attired her head,
To please her, dwelling on his boundless love,
Told Enid, and they saddened her the more:
And day by day she thought to tell Geraint,
But could not out of bashful delicacy;
While he that watched her sadden, was the more
Suspicious that her nature had a taint.

At last, it chanced that on a summer morn
(They sleeping each by either) the new sun
Beat through the blindless casement of the room,
And heated the strong warrior in his dreams;
Who, moving, cast the coverlet aside,
And bared the knotted column of his throat,
The massive square of his heroic breast,
And arms on which the standing muscle sloped,
As slopes a wild brook o'er a little stone,
Running too vehemently to break upon it.
And Enid woke and sat beside the couch,
Admiring him, and thought within herself,
Was ever man so grandly made as he?
Then, like a shadow, past the people's talk
And accusation of uxoriousness
Across her mind, and bowing over him,
Low to her own heart piteously she said:

'O noble breast and all-puissant arms,
Am I the cause, I the poor cause that men
Reproach you, saying all your force is gone?
I AM the cause, because I dare not speak
And tell him what I think and what they say.
And yet I hate that he should linger here;
I cannot love my lord and not his name.
Far liefer had I gird his harness on him,
And ride with him to battle and stand by,
And watch his mightful hand striking great blows
At caitiffs and at wrongers of the world.
Far better were I laid in the dark earth,
Not hearing any more his noble voice,
Not to be folded more in these dear arms,
And darkened from the high light in his eyes,
Than that my lord through me should suffer shame.
Am I so bold, and could I so stand by,
And see my dear lord wounded in the strife,
And maybe pierced to death before mine eyes,
And yet not dare to tell him what I think,
And how men slur him, saying all his force
Is melted into mere effeminacy?
O me, I fear that I am no true wife.'

Half inwardly, half audibly she spoke,
And the strong passion in her made her weep
True tears upon his broad and naked breast,
And these awoke him, and by great mischance
He heard but fragments of her later words,
And that she feared she was not a true wife.
And then he thought, 'In spite of all my care,
For all my pains, poor man, for all my pains,
She is not faithful to me, and I see her
Weeping for some gay knight in Arthur's hall.'
Then though he loved and reverenced her too much
To dream she could be guilty of foul act,
Right through his manful breast darted the pang
That makes a man, in the sweet face of her
Whom he loves most, lonely and miserable.
At this he hurled his huge limbs out of bed,
And shook his drowsy squire awake and cried,
'My charger and her palfrey;' then to her,
'I will ride forth into the wilderness;
For though it seems my spurs are yet to win,
I have not fallen so low as some would wish.
And thou, put on thy worst and meanest dress
And ride with me.' And Enid asked, amazed,
'If Enid errs, let Enid learn her fault.'
But he, 'I charge thee, ask not, but obey.'
Then she bethought her of a faded silk,
A faded mantle and a faded veil,
And moving toward a cedarn cabinet,
Wherein she kept them folded reverently
With sprigs of summer laid between the folds,
She took them, and arrayed herself therein,
Remembering when first he came on her
Drest in that dress, and how he loved her in it,
And all her foolish fears about the dress,
And all his journey to her, as himself
Had told her, and their coming to the court.

For Arthur on the Whitsuntide before
Held court at old Caerleon upon Usk.
There on a day, he sitting high in hall,
Before him came a forester of Dean,
Wet from the woods, with notice of a hart
Taller than all his fellows, milky-white,
First seen that day: these things he told the King.
Then the good King gave order to let blow
His horns for hunting on the morrow morn.
And when the King petitioned for his leave
To see the hunt, allowed it easily.
So with the morning all the court were gone.
But Guinevere lay late into the morn,
Lost in sweet dreams, and dreaming of her love
For Lancelot, and forgetful of the hunt;
But rose at last, a single maiden with her,
Took horse, and forded Usk, and gained the wood;
There, on a little knoll beside it, stayed
Waiting to hear the hounds; but heard instead
A sudden sound of hoofs, for Prince Geraint,
Late also, wearing neither hunting-dress
Nor weapon, save a golden-hilted brand,
Came quickly flashing through the shallow ford
Behind them, and so galloped up the knoll.
A purple scarf, at either end whereof
There swung an apple of the purest gold,
Swayed round about him, as he galloped up
To join them, glancing like a dragon-fly
In summer suit and silks of holiday.
Low bowed the tributary Prince, and she,
Sweet and statelily, and with all grace
Of womanhood and queenhood, answered him:
'Late, late, Sir Prince,' she said, 'later than we!'
'Yea, noble Queen,' he answered, 'and so late
That I but come like you to see the hunt,
Not join it.' 'Therefore wait with me,' she said;
'For on this little knoll, if anywhere,
There is good chance that we shall hear the hounds:
Here often they break covert at our feet.'

And while they listened for the distant hunt,
And chiefly for the baying of Cavall,
King Arthur's hound of deepest mouth, there rode
Full slowly by a knight, lady, and dwarf;
Whereof the dwarf lagged latest, and the knight
Had vizor up, and showed a youthful face,
Imperious, and of haughtiest lineaments.
And Guinevere, not mindful of his face
In the King's hall, desired his name, and sent
Her maiden to demand it of the dwarf;
Who being vicious, old and irritable,
And doubling all his master's vice of pride,
Made answer sharply that she should not know.
'Then will I ask it of himself,' she said.
'Nay, by my faith, thou shalt not,' cried the dwarf;
'Thou art not worthy even to speak of him;'
And when she put her horse toward the knight,
Struck at her with his whip, and she returned
Indignant to the Queen; whereat Geraint
Exclaiming, 'Surely I will learn the name,'
Made sharply to the dwarf, and asked it of him,
Who answered as before; and when the Prince
Had put his horse in motion toward the knight,
Struck at him with his whip, and cut his cheek.
The Prince's blood spirted upon the scarf,
Dyeing it; and his quick, instinctive hand
Caught at the hilt, as to abolish him:
But he, from his exceeding manfulness
And pure nobility of temperament,
Wroth to be wroth at such a worm, refrained
From even a word, and so returning said:

'I will avenge this insult, noble Queen,
Done in your maiden's person to yourself:
And I will track this vermin to their earths:
For though I ride unarmed, I do not doubt
To find, at some place I shall come at, arms
On loan, or else for pledge; and, being found,
Then will I fight him, and will break his pride,
And on the third day will again be here,
So that I be not fallen in fight. Farewell.'

'Farewell, fair Prince,' answered the stately Queen.
'Be prosperous in this journey, as in all;
And may you light on all things that you love,
And live to wed with her whom first you love:
But ere you wed with any, bring your bride,
And I, were she the daughter of a king,
Yea, though she were a beggar from the hedge,
Will clothe her for her bridals like the sun.'

And Prince Geraint, now thinking that he heard
The noble hart at bay, now the far horn,
A little vext at losing of the hunt,
A little at the vile occasion, rode,
By ups and downs, through many a grassy glade
And valley, with fixt eye following the three.
At last they issued from the world of wood,
And climbed upon a fair and even ridge,
And showed themselves against the sky, and sank.
And thither there came Geraint, and underneath
Beheld the long street of a little town
In a long valley, on one side whereof,
White from the mason's hand, a fortress rose;
And on one side a castle in decay,
Beyond a bridge that spanned a dry ravine:
And out of town and valley came a noise
As of a broad brook o'er a shingly bed
Brawling, or like a clamour of the rooks
At distance, ere they settle for the night.

And onward to the fortress rode the three,
And entered, and were lost behind the walls.
'So,' thought Geraint, 'I have tracked him to his earth.'
And down the long street riding wearily,
Found every hostel full, and everywhere
Was hammer laid to hoof, and the hot hiss
And bustling whistle of the youth who scoured
His master's armour; and of such a one
He asked, 'What means the tumult in the town?'
Who told him, scouring still, 'The sparrow-hawk!'
Then riding close behind an ancient churl,
Who, smitten by the dusty sloping beam,
Went sweating underneath a sack of corn,
Asked yet once more what meant the hubbub here?
Who answered gruffly, 'Ugh! the sparrow-hawk.'
Then riding further past an armourer's,
Who, with back turned, and bowed above his work,
Sat riveting a helmet on his knee,
He put the self-same query, but the man
Not turning round, nor looking at him, said:
'Friend, he that labours for the sparrow-hawk
Has little time for idle questioners.'
Whereat Geraint flashed into sudden spleen:
'A thousand pips eat up your sparrow-hawk!
Tits, wrens, and all winged nothings peck him dead!
Ye think the rustic cackle of your bourg
The murmur of the world! What is it to me?
O wretched set of sparrows, one and all,
Who pipe of nothing but of sparrow-hawks!
Speak, if ye be not like the rest, hawk-mad,
Where can I get me harbourage for the night?
And arms, arms, arms to fight my enemy? Speak!'
Whereat the armourer turning all amazed
And seeing one so gay in purple silks,
Came forward with the helmet yet in hand
And answered, 'Pardon me, O stranger knight;
We hold a tourney here tomorrow morn,
And there is scantly time for half the work.
Arms? truth! I know not: all are wanted here.
Harbourage? truth, good truth, I know not, save,
It may be, at Earl Yniol's, o'er the bridge
Yonder.' He spoke and fell to work again.

Then rode Geraint, a little spleenful yet,
Across the bridge that spanned the dry ravine.
There musing sat the hoary-headed Earl,
(His dress a suit of frayed magnificence,
Once fit for feasts of ceremony) and said:
'Whither, fair son?' to whom Geraint replied,
'O friend, I seek a harbourage for the night.'
Then Yniol, 'Enter therefore and partake
The slender entertainment of a house
Once rich, now poor, but ever open-doored.'
'Thanks, venerable friend,' replied Geraint;
'So that ye do not serve me sparrow-hawks
For supper, I will enter, I will eat
With all the passion of a twelve hours' fast.'
Then sighed and smiled the hoary-headed Earl,
And answered, 'Graver cause than yours is mine
To curse this hedgerow thief, the sparrow-hawk:
But in, go in; for save yourself desire it,
We will not touch upon him even in jest.'

Then rode Geraint into the castle court,
His charger trampling many a prickly star
Of sprouted thistle on the broken stones.
He looked and saw that all was ruinous.
Here stood a shattered archway plumed with fern;
And here had fallen a great part of a tower,
Whole, like a crag that tumbles from the cliff,
And like a crag was gay with wilding flowers:
And high above a piece of turret stair,
Worn by the feet that now were silent, wound
Bare to the sun, and monstrous ivy-stems
Claspt the gray walls with hairy-fibred arms,
And sucked the joining of the stones, and looked
A knot, beneath, of snakes, aloft, a grove.

And while he waited in the castle court,
The voice of Enid, Yniol's daughter, rang
Clear through the open casement of the hall,
Singing; and as the sweet voice of a bird,
Heard by the lander in a lonely isle,
Moves him to think what kind of bird it is
That sings so delicately clear, and make
Conjecture of the plumage and the form;
So the sweet voice of Enid moved Geraint;
And made him like a man abroad at morn
When first the liquid note beloved of men
Comes flying over many a windy wave
To Britain, and in April suddenly
Breaks from a coppice gemmed with green and red,
And he suspends his converse with a friend,
Or it may be the labour of his hands,
To think or say, 'There is the nightingale;'
So fared it with Geraint, who thought and said,
'Here, by God's grace, is the one voice for me.'

It chanced the song that Enid sang was one
Of Fortune and her wheel, and Enid sang:

'Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel and lower the proud;
Turn thy wild wheel through sunshine, storm, and cloud;
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate.

'Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel with smile or frown;
With that wild wheel we go not up or down;
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.

'Smile and we smile, the lords of many lands;
Frown and we smile, the lords of our own hands;
For man is man and master of his fate.

'Turn, turn thy wheel above the staring crowd;
Thy wheel and thou are shadows in the cloud;
Thy wheel and thee we neither love nor hate.'

'Hark, by the bird's song ye may learn the nest,'
Said Yniol; 'enter quickly.' Entering then,
Right o'er a mount of newly-fallen stones,
The dusky-raftered many-cobwebbed hall,
He found an ancient dame in dim brocade;
And near her, like a blossom vermeil-white,
That lightly breaks a faded flower-sheath,
Moved the fair Enid, all in faded silk,
Her daughter. In a moment thought Geraint,
'Here by God's rood is the one maid for me.'
But none spake word except the hoary Earl:
'Enid, the good knight's horse stands in the court;
Take him to stall, and give him corn, and then
Go to the town and buy us flesh and wine;
And we will make us merry as we may.
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.'

He spake: the Prince, as Enid past him, fain
To follow, strode a stride, but Yniol caught
His purple scarf, and held, and said, 'Forbear!
Rest! the good house, though ruined, O my son,
Endures not that her guest should serve himself.'
And reverencing the custom of the house
Geraint, from utter courtesy, forbore.

So Enid took his charger to the stall;
And after went her way across the bridge,
And reached the town, and while the Prince and Earl
Yet spoke together, came again with one,
A youth, that following with a costrel bore
The means of goodly welcome, flesh and wine.
And Enid brought sweet cakes to make them cheer,
And in her veil enfolded, manchet bread.
And then, because their hall must also serve
For kitchen, boiled the flesh, and spread the board,
And stood behind, and waited on the three.
And seeing her so sweet and serviceable,
Geraint had longing in him evermore
To stoop and kiss the tender little thumb,
That crost the trencher as she laid it down:
But after all had eaten, then Geraint,
For now the wine made summer in his veins,
Let his eye rove in following, or rest
On Enid at her lowly handmaid-work,
Now here, now there, about the dusky hall;
Then suddenly addrest the hoary Earl:

'Fair Host and Earl, I pray your courtesy;
This sparrow-hawk, what is he? tell me of him.
His name? but no, good faith, I will not have it:
For if he be the knight whom late I saw
Ride into that new fortress by your town,
White from the mason's hand, then have I sworn
From his own lips to have it--I am Geraint
Of Devon--for this morning when the Queen
Sent her own maiden to demand the name,
His dwarf, a vicious under-shapen thing,
Struck at her with his whip, and she returned
Indignant to the Queen; and then I swore
That I would track this caitiff to his hold,
And fight and break his pride, and have it of him.
And all unarmed I rode, and thought to find
Arms in your town, where all the men are mad;
They take the rustic murmur of their bourg
For the great wave that echoes round the world;
They would not hear me speak: but if ye know
Where I can light on arms, or if yourself
Should have them, tell me, seeing I have sworn
That I will break his pride and learn his name,
Avenging this great insult done the Queen.'

Then cried Earl Yniol, 'Art thou he indeed,
Geraint, a name far-sounded among men
For noble deeds? and truly I, when first
I saw you moving by me on the bridge,
Felt ye were somewhat, yea, and by your state
And presence might have guessed you one of those
That eat in Arthur's hall in Camelot.
Nor speak I now from foolish flattery;
For this dear child hath often heard me praise
Your feats of arms, and often when I paused
Hath asked again, and ever loved to hear;
So grateful is the noise of noble deeds
To noble hearts who see but acts of wrong:
O never yet had woman such a pair
Of suitors as this maiden: first Limours,
A creature wholly given to brawls and wine,
Drunk even when he wooed; and be he dead
I know not, but he past to the wild land.
The second was your foe, the sparrow-hawk,
My curse, my nephew--I will not let his name
Slip from my lips if I can help it--he,
When that I knew him fierce and turbulent
Refused her to him, then his pride awoke;
And since the proud man often is the mean,
He sowed a slander in the common ear,
Affirming that his father left him gold,
And in my charge, which was not rendered to him;
Bribed with large promises the men who served
About my person, the more easily
Because my means were somewhat broken into
Through open doors and hospitality;
Raised my own town against me in the night
Before my Enid's birthday, sacked my house;
From mine own earldom foully ousted me;
Built that new fort to overawe my friends,
For truly there are those who love me yet;
And keeps me in this ruinous castle here,
Where doubtless he would put me soon to death,
But that his pride too much despises me:
And I myself sometimes despise myself;
For I have let men be, and have their way;
Am much too gentle, have not used my power:
Nor know I whether I be very base
Or very manful, whether very wise
Or very foolish; only this I know,
That whatsoever evil happen to me,
I seem to suffer nothing heart or limb,
But can endure it all most patiently.'

'Well said, true heart,' replied Geraint, 'but arms,
That if the sparrow-hawk, this nephew, fight
In next day's tourney I may break his pride.'

And Yniol answered, 'Arms, indeed, but old
And rusty, old and rusty, Prince Geraint,
Are mine, and therefore at thy asking, thine.
But in this tournament can no man tilt,
Except the lady he loves best be there.
Two forks are fixt into the meadow ground,
And over these is placed a silver wand,
And over that a golden sparrow-hawk,
The prize of beauty for the fairest there.
And this, what knight soever be in field
Lays claim to for the lady at his side,
And tilts with my good nephew thereupon,
Who being apt at arms and big of bone
Has ever won it for the lady with him,
And toppling over all antagonism
Has earned himself the name of sparrow-hawk.'
But thou, that hast no lady, canst not fight.'

To whom Geraint with eyes all bright replied,
Leaning a little toward him, 'Thy leave!
Let ME lay lance in rest, O noble host,
For this dear child, because I never saw,
Though having seen all beauties of our time,
Nor can see elsewhere, anything so fair.
And if I fall her name will yet remain
Untarnished as before; but if I live,
So aid me Heaven when at mine uttermost,
As I will make her truly my true wife.'

Then, howsoever patient, Yniol's heart
Danced in his bosom, seeing better days,
And looking round he saw not Enid there,
(Who hearing her own name had stolen away)
But that old dame, to whom full tenderly
And folding all her hand in his he said,
'Mother, a maiden is a tender thing,
And best by her that bore her understood.
Go thou to rest, but ere thou go to rest
Tell her, and prove her heart toward the Prince.'

So spake the kindly-hearted Earl, and she
With frequent smile and nod departing found,
Half disarrayed as to her rest, the girl;
Whom first she kissed on either cheek, and then
On either shining shoulder laid a hand,
And kept her off and gazed upon her face,
And told them all their converse in the hall,
Proving her heart: but never light and shade
Coursed one another more on open ground
Beneath a troubled heaven, than red and pale
Across the face of Enid hearing her;
While slowly falling as a scale that falls,
When weight is added only grain by grain,
Sank her sweet head upon her gentle breast;
Nor did she lift an eye nor speak a word,
Rapt in the fear and in the wonder of it;
So moving without answer to her rest
She found no rest, and ever failed to draw
The quiet night into her blood, but lay
Contemplating her own unworthiness;
And when the pale and bloodless east began
To quicken to the sun, arose, and raised
Her mother too, and hand in hand they moved
Down to the meadow where the jousts were held,
And waited there for Yniol and Geraint.

And thither came the twain, and when Geraint
Beheld her first in field, awaiting him,
He felt, were she the prize of bodily force,
Himself beyond the rest pushing could move
The chair of Idris. Yniol's rusted arms
Were on his princely person, but through these
Princelike his bearing shone; and errant knights
And ladies came, and by and by the town
Flowed in, and settling circled all the lists.
And there they fixt the forks into the ground,
And over these they placed the silver wand,
And over that the golden sparrow-hawk.
Then Yniol's nephew, after trumpet blown,
Spake to the lady with him and proclaimed,
'Advance and take, as fairest of the fair,
What I these two years past have won for thee,
The prize of beauty.' Loudly spake the Prince,
'Forbear: there is a worthier,' and the knight
With some surprise and thrice as much disdain
Turned, and beheld the four, and all his face
Glowed like the heart of a great fire at Yule,
So burnt he was with passion, crying out,
'Do battle for it then,' no more; and thrice
They clashed together, and thrice they brake their spears.
Then each, dishorsed and drawing, lashed at each
So often and with such blows, that all the crowd
Wondered, and now and then from distant walls
There came a clapping as of phantom hands.
So twice they fought, and twice they breathed, and still
The dew of their great labour, and the blood
Of their strong bodies, flowing, drained their force.
But either's force was matched till Yniol's cry,
'Remember that great insult done the Queen,'
Increased Geraint's, who heaved his blade aloft,
And cracked the helmet through, and bit the bone,
And felled him, and set foot upon his breast,
And said, 'Thy name?' To whom the fallen man
Made answer, groaning, 'Edyrn, son of Nudd!
Ashamed am I that I should tell it thee.
My pride is broken: men have seen my fall.'
'Then, Edyrn, son of Nudd,' replied Geraint,
'These two things shalt thou do, or else thou diest.
First, thou thyself, with damsel and with dwarf,
Shalt ride to Arthur's court, and coming there,
Crave pardon for that insult done the Queen,
And shalt abide her judgment on it; next,
Thou shalt give back their earldom to thy kin.
These two things shalt thou do, or thou shalt die.'
And Edyrn answered, 'These things will I do,
For I have never yet been overthrown,
And thou hast overthrown me, and my pride
Is broken down, for Enid sees my fall!'
And rising up, he rode to Arthur's court,
And there the Queen forgave him easily.
And being young, he changed and came to loathe
His crime of traitor, slowly drew himself
Bright from his old dark life, and fell at last
In the great battle fighting for the King.

But when the third day from the hunting-morn
Made a low splendour in the world, and wings
Moved in her ivy, Enid, for she lay
With her fair head in the dim-yellow light,
Among the dancing shadows of the birds,
Woke and bethought her of her promise given
No later than last eve to Prince Geraint--
So bent he seemed on going the third day,
He would not leave her, till her promise given--
To ride with him this morning to the court,
And there be made known to the stately Queen,
And there be wedded with all ceremony.
At this she cast her eyes upon her dress,
And thought it never yet had looked so mean.
For as a leaf in mid-November is
To what it is in mid-October, seemed
The dress that now she looked on to the dress
She looked on ere the coming of Geraint.
And still she looked, and still the terror grew
Of that strange bright and dreadful thing, a court,
All staring at her in her faded silk:
And softly to her own sweet heart she said:

'This noble prince who won our earldom back,
So splendid in his acts and his attire,
Sweet heaven, how much I shall discredit him!
Would he could tarry with us here awhile,
But being so beholden to the Prince,
It were but little grace in any of us,
Bent as he seemed on going this third day,
To seek a second favour at his hands.
Yet if he could but tarry a day or two,
Myself would work eye dim, and finger lame,
Far liefer than so much discredit him.'

And Enid fell in longing for a dress
All branched and flowered with gold, a costly gift
Of her good mother, given her on the night
Before her birthday, three sad years ago,
That night of fire, when Edyrn sacked their house,
And scattered all they had to all the winds:
For while the mother showed it, and the two
Were turning and admiring it, the work
To both appeared so costly, rose a cry
That Edyrn's men were on them, and they fled
With little save the jewels they had on,
Which being sold and sold had bought them bread:
And Edyrn's men had caught them in their flight,
And placed them in this ruin; and she wished
The Prince had found her in her ancient home;
Then let her fancy flit across the past,
And roam the goodly places that she knew;
And last bethought her how she used to watch,
Near that old home, a pool of golden carp;
And one was patched and blurred and lustreless
Among his burnished brethren of the pool;
And half asleep she made comparison
Of that and these to her own faded self
And the gay court, and fell asleep again;
And dreamt herself was such a faded form
Among her burnished sisters of the pool;
But this was in the garden of a king;
And though she lay dark in the pool, she knew
That all was bright; that all about were birds
Of sunny plume in gilded trellis-work;
That all the turf was rich in plots that looked
Each like a garnet or a turkis in it;
And lords and ladies of the high court went
In silver tissue talking things of state;
And children of the King in cloth of gold
Glanced at the doors or gamboled down the walks;
And while she thought 'They will not see me,' came
A stately queen whose name was Guinevere,
And all the children in their cloth of gold
Ran to her, crying, 'If we have fish at all
Let them be gold; and charge the gardeners now
To pick the faded creature from the pool,
And cast it on the mixen that it die.'
And therewithal one came and seized on her,
And Enid started waking, with her heart
All overshadowed by the foolish dream,
And lo! it was her mother grasping her
To get her well awake; and in her hand
A suit of bright apparel, which she laid
Flat on the couch, and spoke exultingly:

'See here, my child, how fresh the colours look,
How fast they hold like colours of a shell
That keeps the wear and polish of the wave.
Why not? It never yet was worn, I trow:
Look on it, child, and tell me if ye know it.'

And Enid looked, but all confused at first,
Could scarce divide it from her foolish dream:
Then suddenly she knew it and rejoiced,
And answered, 'Yea, I know it; your good gift,
So sadly lost on that unhappy night;
Your own good gift!' 'Yea, surely,' said the dame,
'And gladly given again this happy morn.
For when the jousts were ended yesterday,
Went Yniol through the town, and everywhere
He found the sack and plunder of our house
All scattered through the houses of the town;
And gave command that all which once was ours
Should now be ours again: and yester-eve,
While ye were talking sweetly with your Prince,
Came one with this and laid it in my hand,
For love or fear, or seeking favour of us,
Because we have our earldom back again.
And yester-eve I would not tell you of it,
But kept it for a sweet surprise at morn.
Yea, truly is it not a sweet surprise?
For I myself unwillingly have worn
My faded suit, as you, my child, have yours,
And howsoever patient, Yniol his.
Ah, dear, he took me from a goodly house,
With store of rich apparel, sumptuous fare,
And page, and maid, and squire, and seneschal,
And pastime both of hawk and hound, and all
That appertains to noble maintenance.
Yea, and he brought me to a goodly house;
But since our fortune swerved from sun to shade,
And all through that young traitor, cruel need
Constrained us, but a better time has come;
So clothe yourself in this, that better fits
Our mended fortunes and a Prince's bride:
For though ye won the prize of fairest fair,
And though I heard him call you fairest fair,
Let never maiden think, however fair,
She is not fairer in new clothes than old.
And should some great court-lady say, the Prince
Hath picked a ragged-robin from the hedge,
And like a madman brought her to the court,
Then were ye shamed, and, worse, might shame the Prince
To whom we are beholden; but I know,
That when my dear child is set forth at her best,
That neither court nor country, though they sought
Through all the provinces like those of old
That lighted on Queen Esther, has her match.'

Here ceased the kindly mother out of breath;
And Enid listened brightening as she lay;
Then, as the white and glittering star of morn
Parts from a bank of snow, and by and by
Slips into golden cloud, the maiden rose,
And left her maiden couch, and robed herself,
Helped by the mother's careful hand and eye,
Without a mirror, in the gorgeous gown;
Who, after, turned her daughter round, and said,
She never yet had seen her half so fair;
And called her like that maiden in the tale,
Whom Gwydion made by glamour out of flowers
And sweeter than the bride of Cassivelaun,
Flur, for whose love the Roman Csar first
Invaded Britain, 'But we beat him back,
As this great Prince invaded us, and we,
Not beat him back, but welcomed him with joy
And I can scarcely ride with you to court,
For old am I, and rough the ways and wild;
But Yniol goes, and I full oft shall dream
I see my princess as I see her now,
Clothed with my gift, and gay among the gay.'

But while the women thus rejoiced, Geraint
Woke where he slept in the high hall, and called
For Enid, and when Yniol made report
Of that good mother making Enid gay
In such apparel as might well beseem
His princess, or indeed the stately Queen,
He answered: 'Earl, entreat her by my love,
Albeit I give no reason but my wish,
That she ride with me in her faded silk.'
Yniol with that hard message went; it fell
Like flaws in summer laying lusty corn:
For Enid, all abashed she knew not why,
Dared not to glance at her good mother's face,
But silently, in all obedience,
Her mother silent too, nor helping her,
Laid from her limbs the costly-broidered gift,
And robed them in her ancient suit again,
And so descended. Never man rejoiced
More than Geraint to greet her thus attired;
And glancing all at once as keenly at her
As careful robins eye the delver's toil,
Made her cheek burn and either eyelid fall,
But rested with her sweet face satisfied;
Then seeing cloud upon the mother's brow,
Her by both hands she caught, and sweetly said,

'O my new mother, be not wroth or grieved
At thy new son, for my petition to her.
When late I left Caerleon, our great Queen,
In words whose echo lasts, they were so sweet,
Made promise, that whatever bride I brought,
Herself would clothe her like the sun in Heaven.
Thereafter, when I reached this ruined hall,
Beholding one so bright in dark estate,
I vowed that could I gain her, our fair Queen,
No hand but hers, should make your Enid burst
Sunlike from cloud--and likewise thought perhaps,
That service done so graciously would bind
The two together; fain I would the two
Should love each other: how can Enid find
A nobler friend? Another thought was mine;
I came among you here so suddenly,
That though her gentle presence at the lists
Might well have served for proof that I was loved,
I doubted whether daughter's tenderness,
Or easy nature, might not let itself
Be moulded by your wishes for her weal;
Or whether some false sense in her own self
Of my contrasting brightness, overbore
Her fancy dwelling in this dusky hall;
And such a sense might make her long for court
And all its perilous glories: and I thought,
That could I someway prove such force in her
Linked with such love for me, that at a word
(No reason given her) she could cast aside
A splendour dear to women, new to her,
And therefore dearer; or if not so new,
Yet therefore tenfold dearer by the power
Of intermitted usage; then I felt
That I could rest, a rock in ebbs and flows,
Fixt on her faith. Now, therefore, I do rest,
A prophet certain of my prophecy,
That never shadow of mistrust can cross
Between us. Grant me pardon for my thoughts:
And for my strange petition I will make
Amends hereafter by some gaudy-day,
When your fair child shall wear your costly gift
Beside your own warm hearth, with, on her knees,
Who knows? another gift of the high God,
Which, maybe, shall have learned to lisp you thanks.'

He spoke: the mother smiled, but half in tears,
Then brought a mantle down and wrapt her in it,
And claspt and kissed her, and they rode away.

Now thrice that morning Guinevere had climbed
The giant tower, from whose high crest, they say,
Men saw the goodly hills of Somerset,
And white sails flying on the yellow sea;
But not to goodly hill or yellow sea
Looked the fair Queen, but up the vale of Usk,
By the flat meadow, till she saw them come;
And then descending met them at the gates,
Embraced her with all welcome as a friend,
And did her honour as the Prince's bride,
And clothed her for her bridals like the sun;
And all that week was old Caerleon gay,
For by the hands of Dubric, the high saint,
They twain were wedded with all ceremony.

And this was on the last year's Whitsuntide.
But Enid ever kept the faded silk,
Remembering how first he came on her,
Drest in that dress, and how he loved her in it,
And all her foolish fears about the dress,
And all his journey toward her, as himself
Had told her, and their coming to the court.

And now this morning when he said to her,
'Put on your worst and meanest dress,' she found
And took it, and arrayed herself therein.

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The Forest Sanctuary - Part I.

I.
The voices of my home!-I hear them still!
They have been with me through the dreamy night-
The blessed household voices, wont to fill
My heart's clear depths with unalloy'd delight!
I hear them still, unchang'd:-though some from earth
Are music parted, and the tones of mirth-
Wild, silvery tones, that rang through days more bright!
Have died in others,-yet to me they come,
Singing of boyhood back-the voices of my home!

II.
They call me through this hush of woods, reposing
In the grey stillness of the summer morn,
They wander by when heavy flowers are closing,
And thoughts grow deep, and winds and stars are born;
Ev'n as a fount's remember'd gushings burst
On the parch'd traveller in his hour of thirst,
E'en thus they haunt me with sweet sounds, till worn
By quenchless longings, to my soul I say-
Oh! for the dove's swift wings, that I might flee away,

III.
And find mine ark!-yet whither?-I must bear
A yearning heart within me to the grave.
I am of those o'er whom a breath of air-
Just darkening in its course the lake's bright wave,
And sighing through the feathery canes -hath power
To call up shadows, in the silent hour,
From the dim past, as from a wizard's cave!-
So must it be!-These skies above me spread,
Are they my own soft skies?-Ye rest not here, my dead!

IV.
Ye far amidst the southern flowers lie sleeping,
Your graves all smiling in the sunshine clear,
Save one!-a blue, lone, distant main is sweeping
High o'er one gentle head-ye rest not here!-
'Tis not the olive, with a whisper swaying,
Not thy low ripplings, glassy water, playing
Through my own chesnut groves, which fill mine ear;
But the faint echoes in my breast that dwell,
And for their birth-place moan, as moans the ocean-shell.

V.
Peace!-I will dash these fond regrets to earth,
Ev'n as an eagle shakes the cumbering rain
From his strong pinion. Thou that gav'st me birth,
And lineage, and once home,-my native Spain!
My own bright land-my father's land-my child's!
What hath thy son brought from thee to the wilds?
He hath brought marks of torture and the chain,
Traces of things which pass not as a breeze,
A blighted name, dark thoughts, wrath, woe-thy gifts are these.

VI.
A blighted name-I hear the winds of morn-
Their sounds are not of this!-I hear the shiver
Of the green reeds, and all the rustlings, borne
From the high forest, when the light leaves quiver:
Their sounds are not of this!-the cedars, waving,
Lend it no tone: His wide savannahs laving,
It is not murmur'd by the joyous river!
What part hath mortal name, where God alone
Speaks to the mighty waste, and through its heart is known?

VII.
Is it not much that I may worship Him,
With nought my spirit's breathings to control,
And feel His presence in the vast, and dim,
And whispery woods, where dying thunders roll
From the far cataracts?-Shall I not rejoice
That I have learn'd at last to know His voice
From man's?-I will rejoice!-my soaring soul
Now hath redeem'd her birth-right of the day,
And won, through clouds, to Him, her own unfetter'd way!

VIII.
And thou, my boy! that silent at my knee
Dost lift to mine thy soft, dark, earnest eyes,
Fill'd with the love of childhood, which I see
Pure through its depths, a thing without disguise;
Thou that hast breath'd in slumber on my breast,
When I have check'd its throbs to give thee rest,
Mine own! whose young thoughts fresh before me rise!
Is it not much that I may guide thy prayer,
And circle thy glad soul with free and healthful air?

IX.
Why should I weep on thy bright head, my boy?
Within thy fathers' halls thou wilt not dwell,
Nor lift their banner, with a warrior's joy,
Amidst the sons of mountain chiefs, who fell
For Spain of old.-Yet what if rolling waves
Have borne us far from our ancestral graves?
Thou shalt not feel thy bursting heart rebel
As mine hath done; nor bear what I have borne,
Casting in falsehood's mould th' indignant brow of scorn.

X.
This shall not be thy lot, my blessed child!
I have not sorrow'd, struggled, liv'd in vain-
Hear me! magnificent and ancient wild;
And mighty rivers, ye that meet the main,
As deep meets deep; and forests, whose dim shade
The flood's voice, and the wind's, by swells pervade;
Hear me!-'tis well to die, and not complain,
Yet there are hours when the charg'd heart must speak,
Ev'n in the desert's ear to pour itself, or break!

XI.
I see an oak before me, it hath been
The crown'd one of the woods; and might have flung
Its hundred arms to Heaven, still freshly green,
But a wild vine around the stem hath clung,
From branch to branch close wreaths of bondage throwing,
Till the proud tree, before no tempest bowing,
Hath shrunk and died, those serpent-folds among.
Alas! alas!-what is it that I see?
An image of man's mind, land of my sires, with thee!

XII.
Yet art thou lovely!-Song is on thy hills-
Oh sweet and mournful melodies of Spain,
That lull'd my boyhood, how your memory thrills
The exile's heart with sudden-wakening pain!-
Your sounds are on the rocks-that I might hear
Once more the music of the mountaineer!-
And from the sunny vales the shepherd's strain
Floats out, and fills the solitary place
With the old tuneful names of Spain's heroic race.

XIII.
But there was silence one bright, golden day,
Through my own pine-hung mountains. Clear, yet lone
In the rich autumn light the vineyards lay,
And from the fields the peasant's voice was gone;
And the red grapes untrodden strew'd the ground,
And the free flocks untended roam'd around:
Where was the pastor?-where the pipe's wild tone?
Music and mirth were hush'd the hills among,
While to the city's gates each hamlet pour'd its throng.

XIV.
Silence upon the mountains!-But within
The city's gates a rush-a press-a swell
Of multitudes their torrent way to win;
And heavy boomings of a dull deep bell,
A dead pause following each-like that which parts
The dash of billows, holding breathless hearts
Fast in the hush of fear-knell after knell;
And sounds of thickening steps, like thunder-rain,
That plashes on the roof of some vast echoing fane!

XV.
What pageant's hour approach'd?-The sullen gate
Of a strong ancient prison-house was thrown
Back to the day. And who, in mournful state,
Came forth, led slowly o'er its threshold-stone?
They that had learn'd, in cells of secret gloom,
How sunshine is forgotten!-They, to whom
The very features of mankind were grown
Things that bewilder'd!-O'er their dazzled sight,
They lifted their wan hands, and cower'd before the light!

XVI.
To this man brings his brother!-Some were there,
Who with their desolation had entwin'd
Fierce strength, and girt the sternness of despair
Fast round their bosoms, ev'n as warriors bind
The breast-plate on for fight: but brow and cheek
Seem'd theirs a torturing panoply to speak!
And there were some, from whom the very mind
Had been wrung out: they smil'd-oh! startling smile
Whence man's high soul is fled!-where doth it sleep the while?

XVII.
But onward moved the melancholy train,
For their false creeds in fiery pangs to die.
This was the solemn sacrifice of Spain-
Heaven's offering from the land of chivalry!
Through thousands, thousands of their race they mov'd-
Oh! how unlike all others!-the belov'd,
The free, the proud, the beautiful! whose eye
Grew fix'd before them, while a people's breath
Was hush'd, and its one soul bound in the thought of death!

XVIII.
It might be that amidst the countless throng,
There swell'd some heart with Pity's weight oppress'd,
For the wide stream of human love is strong;
And woman, on whose fond and faithful breast
Childhood is rear'd, and at whose knee the sigh
Of its first prayer is breath'd, she, too, was nigh.
-But life is dear, and the free footstep bless'd,
And home a sunny place, where each may fill
Some eye with glistening smiles,-and therefore all were still-

XIX.
All still-youth, courage, strength!-a winter laid,
A chain of palsy, cast on might and mind!
Still, as at noon a southern forest's shade,
They stood, those breathless masses of mankind;
Still, as a frozen torrent!-but the wave
Soon leaps to foaming freedom-they, the brave,
Endur'd-they saw the martyr's place assign'd
In the red flames-whence is the withering spell
That numbs each human pulse?-they saw, and thought it well.

XX.
And I, too, thought it well! That very morn
From a far land I came, yet round me clung
The spirit of my own. No hand had torn
With a strong grasp away the veil which hung
Between mine eyes and truth. I gaz'd, I saw,
Dimly, as through a glass. In silent awe
I watch'd the fearful rites; and if there sprung
One rebel feeling from its deep founts up,
Shuddering, I flung it back, as guilt's own poison-cup

XXI.
But I was waken'd as the dreamers waken
Whom the shrill trumpet and the shriek of dread
Rouse up at midnight, when their walls are taken,
And they must battle till their blood is shed
On their own threshold-floor. A path for light
Through my torn breast was shatter'd by the might
Of the swift thunder-stroke-and Freedom's tread
Came in through ruins, late, yet not in vain,
Making the blighted place all green with life again.

XXII.
Still darkly, slowly, as a sullen mass
Of cloud, o'ersweeping, without wind, the sky,
Dream-like I saw the sad procession pass,
And mark'd its victims with a tearless eye.
They mov'd before me but as pictures, wrought
Each to reveal some secret of man's thought,
On the sharp edge of sad mortality,
Till in his place came one-oh! could it be?
-My friend, my heart's first friend!-and did I gaze on thee?

XXIII.
On thee! with whom in boyhood I had play'd,
At the grape-gatherings, by my native streams;
And to whose eye my youthful soul had laid
Bare, as to Heaven's, its glowing world of dreams;
And by whose side midst warriors I had stood,
And in whose helm was brought-oh! earn'd with blood
The fresh wave to my lips, when tropic beams
Smote on my fever'd brow!-Ay, years had pass'd,
Severing our paths, brave friend!-and thus we met at last!

XXIV.
I see it still-the lofty mien thou borest-
On thy pale forehead sat a sense of power!
The very look that once thou brightly worest,
Cheering me onward through a fearful hour,
When we were girt by Indian bow and spear,
Midst the white Andes-ev'n as mountain deer,
Hemm'd in our camp-but thro' the javelin shower
We rent our way, a tempest of despair!
-And thou-hadst thou but died with thy true brethren there!

XXV.
I call the fond wish back-for thou hast perish'd
More nobly far, my Alvar!-making known
The might of truth; and be thy memory cherish'd
With theirs, the thousands, that around her throne
Have pour'd their lives out smiling, in that doom
Finding a triumph, if denied a tomb!
-Ay, with their ashes hath the wind been sown,
And with the wind their spirit shall be spread,
Filling man's heart and home with records of the dead.

XXVI.
Thou Searcher of the Soul! in whose dread sight
Not the bold guilt alone, that mocks the skies,
But the scarce-own'd, unwhisper'd thought of night,
As a thing written with the sunbeam lies;
Thou know'st-whose eye through shade and depth can see.
That this man's crime was but to worship thee,
Like those that made their hearts thy sacrifice,
The call'd of yore; wont by the Saviour's side,
On the dim Olive-Mount to pray at eventide.

XXVII.
For the strong spirit will at times awake,
Piercing the mists that wrap her clay-abode;
And, born of thee, she may not always take
Earth's accents for the oracles of God;
And ev'n for this-O dust, whose mask is power!
Reed, that wouldst be a scourge thy little hour!
Spark, whereon yet the mighty hath not trod,
And therefore thou destroyest!-where were flown
Our hope, if man were left to man's decree alone?

XXVIII.
But this I felt not yet. I could but gaze
On him, my friend; while that swift moment threw
A sudden freshness back on vanish'd days,
Like water-drops on some dim picture's hue;
Calling the proud time up, when first I stood
Where banners floated, and my heart's quick blood
Sprang to a torrent as the clarion blew,
And he-his sword was like a brother's worn,
That watches through the field his mother's youngest born.

XXIX.
But a lance met me in that day's career,
Senseless I lay amidst th' o'ersweeping fight,
Wakening at last-how full, how strangely clear,
That scene on memory flash'd!-the shivery light,
Moonlight, on broken shields-the plain of slaughter,
The fountain-side-the low sweet sound of water-
And Alvar bending o'er me-from the night
Covering me with his mantle!-all the past
Flow'd back-my soul's far chords all answer'd to the blast.

XXX.
Till, in that rush of visions, I became
As one that by the bands of slumber wound,
Lies with a powerless, but all-thrilling frame,
Intense in consciousness of sight and sound,
Yet buried in a wildering dream which brings
Lov'd faces round him, girt with fearful things!
Troubled ev'n thus I stood, but chain'd and bound
On that familiar form mine eye to keep-
-Alas! I might not fall upon his neck and weep!

XXXI.
He pass'd me-and what next?-I look'd on two,
Following his footsteps to the same dread place,
For the same guilt-his sisters!-Well I knew
The beauty on those brows, though each young face
Was chang'd-so deeply chang'd!-a dungeon's air
Is hard for lov'd and lovely things to bear,
And ye, O daughters of a lofty race,
Queen-like Theresa! radiant Inez!-flowers
So cherish'd! were ye then but rear'd for those dark hours?

XXXII.
A mournful home, young sisters! had ye left,
With your lutes hanging hush'd upon the wall,
And silence round the aged man, bereft
Of each glad voice, once answering to his call.
Alas, that lonely father! doom'd to pine
For sounds departed in his life's decline,
And, midst the shadowing banners of his hall,
With his white hair to sit, and deem the name
A hundred chiefs had borne, cast down by you to shame!

XXXIII.
And woe for you, midst looks and words of love,
And gentle hearts and faces, nurs'd so long!
How had I seen you in your beauty move,
Wearing the wreath, and listening to the song!
-Yet sat, ev'n then, what seem'd the crowd to shun,
Half veil'd upon the clear pale brow of one,
And deeper thoughts than oft to youth belong,
Thoughts, such as wake to evening's whispery sway,
Within the drooping shade of her sweet eyelids lay.

XXXIV.
And if she mingled with the festive train,
It was but as some melancholy star
Beholds the dance of shepherds on the plain,
In its bright stillness present, though afar.
Yet would she smile-and that, too, hath its smile-
Circled with joy which reach'd her not the while,
And bearing a lone spirit, not at war
With earthly things, but o'er their form and hue
Shedding too clear a light, too sorrowfully true.

XXXV.
But the dark hours wring forth the hidden might
Which hath lain bedded in the silent soul,
A treasure all undreamt of;-as the night
Calls out the harmonies of streams that roll
Unheard by day. It seem'd as if her breast
Had hoarded energies, till then suppress'd
Almost with pain, and bursting from control,
And finding first that hour their pathway free:
-Could a rose brave the storm, such might her emblem be!

XXXVI.
For the soft gloom whose shadow still had hung
On her fair brow, beneath its garlands worn,
Was fled; and fire, like prophecy's had sprung
Clear to her kindled eye. It might be scorn-
Pride-sense of wrong-ay, the frail heart is bound
By these at times, ev'n as with adamant round,
Kept so from breaking!-yet not thus upborne
She mov'd, though some sustaining passion's wave
Lifted her fervent soul-a sister for the brave!

XXXVII.
And yet, alas! to see the strength which clings
Round woman in such hours!-a mournful sight,
Though lovely!-an o'erflowing of the springs,
The full springs of affection, deep as bright!
And she, because her life is ever twin'd
With other lives, and by no stormy wind
May thence be shaken, and because the light
Of tenderness is round her, and her eye
Doth weep such passionate tears-therefore she thus can die.

XXXVIII.
Therefore didst thou , through that heart-shaking scene,
As through a triumph move; and cast aside
Thine own sweet thoughtfulness for victory's mien,
O faithful sister! cheering thus the guide,
And friend, and brother of thy sainted youth,
Whose hand had led thee to the source of truth,
Where thy glad soul from earth was purified;
Nor wouldst thou, following him through all the past,
That he should see thy step grow tremulous at last.

XXXIX.
For thou hadst made no deeper love a guest
Midst thy young spirit's dreams, than that which grows
Between the nurtur'd of the same fond breast,
The shelter'd of one roof; and thus it rose
Twin'd in with life.-How is it, that the hours
Of the same sport, the gathering early flowers
Round the same tree, the sharing one repose,
And mingling one first prayer in murmurs soft,
From the heart's memory fade, in this world's breath, so oft?

XL.
But thee that breath had touch'd not; thee, nor him,
The true in all things found!-and thou wert blest
Ev'n then, that no remember'd change could dim
The perfect image of affection, press'd
Like armour to thy bosom!-thou hadst kept
Watch by that brother's couch of pain, and wept,
Thy sweet face covering with thy robe, when rest
Fled from the sufferer; thou hadst bound his faith
Unto thy soul-one light, one hope ye chose-one death.

XLI.
So didst thou pass on brightly!-but for her,
Next in that path, how may her doom be spoken!
-All-merciful! to think that such things were,
And are , and seen by men with hearts unbroken!
To think of that fair girl, whose path had been
So strew'd with rose-leaves, all one fairy scene!
And whose quick glance came ever as a token
Of hope to drooping thought, and her glad voice
As a free bird's in spring, that makes the woods rejoice!

XLII.
And she to die!-she lov'd the laughing earth
With such deep joy in its fresh leaves and flowers!
-Was not her smile even as the sudden birth
Of a young rainbow, colouring vernal showers?
Yes! but to meet her fawn-like step, to hear
The gushes of wild song, so silvery clear,
Which, oft unconsciously, in happier hours
Flow'd from her lips, was to forget the sway
Of Time and Death below,-blight, shadow, dull decay!

XLIII.
Could this change be?-the hour, the scene, where last
I saw that form, came floating o'er my mind:
-A golden vintage-eve;-the heats were pass'd,
And, in the freshness of the fanning wind,
Her father sat, where gleam'd the first faint star
Through the lime-boughs; and with her light guitar,
She, on the greensward at his feet reclin'd,
In his calm face laugh'd up; some shepherd-lay
Singing, as childhood sings on the lone hills at play.

XLIV.
And now-oh God!-the bitter fear of death,
The sore amaze, the faint o'ershadowing dread,
Had grasp'd her!-panting in her quick-drawn breath,
And in her white lips quivering;-onward led,
She look'd up with her dim bewilder'd eyes,
And there smil'd out her own soft brilliant skies,
Far in their sultry southern azure spread,
Glowing with joy, but silent!-still they smil'd,
Yet sent down no reprieve for earth's poor trembling child.

XLV.
Alas! that earth had all too strong a hold,
Too fast, sweet Inez! on thy heart, whose bloom
Was given to early love, nor knew how cold
The hours which follow. There was one, with whom,
Young as thou wert, and gentle, and untried,
Thou might'st, perchance, unshrinkingly have died;
But he was far away;-and with thy doom
Thus gathering, life grew so intensely dear,
That all thy slight frame shook with its cold mortal fear!

XLVI.
No aid!-thou too didst pass!-and all had pass'd,
The fearful-and the desperate-and the strong!
Some like the bark that rushes with the blast,
Some like the leaf swept shiveringly along,
And some as men, that have but one more field
To fight, and then may slumber on their shield,
Therefore they arm in hope. But now the throng
Roll'd on, and bore me with their living tide,
Ev'n as a bark wherein is left no power to guide.

XLVII.
Wave swept on wave. We reach'd a stately square,
Deck'd for the rites. An altar stood on high,
And gorgeous, in the midst. A place for prayer,
And praise, and offering. Could the earth supply
No fruits, no flowers for sacrifice, of all
Which on her sunny lap unheeded fall?
No fair young firstling of the flock to die,
As when before their God the Patriarchs stood?
-Look down! man brings thee, Heaven! his brother's guiltless blood!

XLVIII.
Hear its voice, hear!-a cry goes up to thee,
From the stain'd sod;-make thou thy judgment known
On him, the shedder!-let his portion be
The fear that walks at midnight-give the moan
In the wind haunting him a power to say
'Where is thy brother?'-and the stars a ray
To search and shake his spirit, when alone
With the dread splendor of their burning eyes!
-So shall earth own thy will-mercy, not sacrifice!

XLIX.
Sounds of triumphant praise!-the mass was sung-
-Voices that die not might have pour'd such strains!
Thro' Salem's towers might that proud chant have rung,
When the Most High, on Syria's palmy plains,
Had quell'd her foes!-so full it swept, a sea
Of loud waves jubilant, and rolling free!
-Oft when the wind, as thro' resounding fanes,
Hath fill'd the choral forests with its power,
Some deep tone brings me back the music of that hour.

L.
It died away;-the incense-cloud was driven
Before the breeze-the words of doom were said;
And the sun faded mournfully from Heaven,
-He faded mournfully! and dimly red,
Parting in clouds from those that look'd their last,
And sigh'd-'farewell, thou sun!'-Eve glow'd and pass'd-
Night-midnight and the moon-came forth and shed
Sleep, even as dew, on glen, wood, peopled spot-
Save one-a place of death-and there men slumber'd not.

LI.
'Twas not within the city -but in sight
Of the snow-crown'd sierras, freely sweeping,
With many an eagle's eyrie on the height,
And hunter's cabin, by the torrent peeping
Far off: and vales between, and vineyards lay,
With sound and gleam of waters on their way,
And chesnut-woods, that girt the happy sleeping,
In many a peasant-home!-the midnight sky
Brought softly that rich world round those who came to die.

LII.
The darkly-glorious midnight sky of Spain,
Burning with stars!-What had the torches' glare
To do beneath that Temple, and profane
Its holy radiance?-By their wavering flare,
I saw beside the pyres-I see thee now ,
O bright Theresa! with thy lifted brow,
And thy clasp'd hands, and dark eyes fill'd with prayer!
And thee, sad Inez! bowing thy fair head,
And mantling up thy face, all colourless with dread!

LIII.
And Alvar, Alvar!-I beheld thee too,
Pale, stedfast, kingly; till thy clear glance fell
On that young sister; then perturb'd it grew,
And all thy labouring bosom seem'd to swell
With painful tenderness. Why came I there,
That troubled image of my friend to bear,
Thence, for my after-years?-a thing to dwell
In my heart's core, and on the darkness rise,
Disquieting my dreams with its bright mournful eyes?

LIV.
Why came I? oh! the heart's deep mystery!-Why
In man's last hour doth vain affection's gaze
Fix itself down on struggling agony,
To the dimm'd eye-balls freezing, as they glaze?
It might be-yet the power to will seem'd o'er-
That my soul yearn'd to hear his voice once more!
But mine was fetter'd!-mute in strong amaze,
I watch'd his features as the night-wind blew,
And torch-light or the moon's pass'd o'er their marble hue.

LV.
The trampling of a steed!-a tall white steed,
Rending his fiery way the crowds among-
A storm's way through a forest-came at speed,
And a wild voice cried 'Inez!' Swift she flung
The mantle from her face, and gaz'd around,
With a faint shriek at that familiar sound,
And from his seat a breathless rider sprung,
And dash'd off fiercely those who came to part,
And rush'd to that pale girl, and clasp'd her to his heart.

LVI.
And for a moment all around gave way
To that full burst of passion!-on his breast,
Like a bird panting yet from fear she lay,
But blest-in misery's very lap-yet blest!-
Oh love, love, strong as death!-from such an hour
Pressing out joy by thine immortal power,
Holy and fervent love! had earth but rest
For thee and thine, this world were all too fair!
How could we thence be wean'd to die without despair?

LVII.
But she-as falls a willow from the storm,
O'er its own river streaming-thus reclin'd
On the youth's bosom hung her fragile form,
And clasping arms, so passionately twin'd
Around his neck-with such a trusting fold,
A full deep sense of safety in their hold,
As if nought earthly might th' embrace unbind!
Alas! a child's fond faith, believing still
Its mother's breast beyond the lightning's reach to kill!

LVIII.
Brief rest! upon the turning billow's height,
A strange sweet moment of some heavenly strain,
Floating between the savage gusts of night,
That sweep the seas to foam! Soon dark again
The hour-the scene-th' intensely present, rush'd
Back on her spirit, and her large tears gush'd
Like blood-drops from a victim; with swift rain
Bathing the bosom where she lean'd that hour,
As if her life would melt into th' o'erswelling shower.

LIX.
But he, whose arm sustain'd her!-oh! I knew
'Twas vain, and yet he hop'd!-he fondly strove
Back from her faith her sinking soul to woo,
As life might yet be hers!-A dream of love
Which could not look upon so fair a thing,
Remembering how like hope, like joy, like spring,
Her smile was wont to glance, her step to move,
And deem that men indeed, in very truth,
Could mean the sting of death for her soft flowering youth!

LX.
He woo'd her back to life.-'Sweet Inez, live!
My blessed Inez!-visions have beguil'd
Thy heart-abjure them!-thou wert form'd to give,
And to find, joy; and hath not sunshine smil'd
Around thee ever? Leave me not, mine own!
Or earth will grow too dark!-for thee alone,
Thee have I lov'd, thou gentlest! from a child,
And borne thine image with me o'er the sea,
Thy soft voice in my soul-speak!-Oh! yet live for me!'

LXI.
She look'd up wildly; these were anxious eyes
Waiting that look-sad eyes of troubled thought,
Alvar's-Theresa's!-Did her childhood rise,
With all its pure and home-affections fraught,
In the brief glance?-She clasp'd her hands-the strife
Of love, faith, fear, and that vain dream of life,
Within her woman's breast so deeply wrought,
It seem'd as if a reed so slight and weak
Must , in the rending storm not quiver only-break!

LXII.
And thus it was-the young cheek flush'd and faded,
As the swift blood in currents came and went,
And hues of death the marble brow o'ershaded,
And the sunk eye a watery lustre sent
Thro' its white fluttering lids. Then tremblings pass'd
O'er the frail form, that shook it, as the blast
Shakes the sere leaf, until the spirit rent
Its way to peace-the fearful way unknown-
Pale in love's arms she lay-she! -what had lov'd was gone!

LXIII.
Joy for thee, trembler!-thou redeem'd one, joy!
Young dove set free! earth, ashes, soulless clay,
Remain'd for baffled vengeance to destroy;
-Thy chain was riven!-nor hadst thou cast away
Thy hope in thy last hour!-though love was there
Striving to wring thy troubled soul from prayer,
And life seem'd robed in beautiful array,
Too fair to leave!-but this might be forgiven,
Thou wert so richly crown'd with precious gifts of Heaven!

LXIV.
But woe for him who felt the heart grow still,
Which, with its weight of agony, had lain
Breaking on his!-Scarce could the mortal chill
Of the hush'd bosom, ne'er to heave again,
And all the silence curdling round the eye,
Bring home the stern belief that she could die,
That she indeed could die!-for wild and vain
As hope might be-his soul had hoped-'twas o'er-
-Slowly his failing arms dropp'd from the form they bore.

LXV.
They forc'd him from that spot.-It might be well,
That the fierce, reckless words by anguish wrung
From his torn breast, all aimless as they fell,
Like spray-drops from the strife of torrents flung,
Were mark'd as guilt.-There are, who note these things
Against the smitten heart; its breaking strings
-On whose low thrills once gentle music hung-
With a rude hand of touch unholy trying,
And numbering then as crimes, the deep, strange tones replying.

LXVI.
But ye in solemn joy, O faithful pair!
Stood gazing on your parted sister's dust;
I saw your features by the torch's glare,
And they were brightening with a heavenward trust!
I saw the doubt, the anguish, the dismay,
Melt from my Alvar's glorious mien away,
And peace was there-the calmness of the just!
And, bending down the slumberer's brow to kiss,
'Thy rest is won,' he said :-'sweet sister! praise for this!'

LXVII.
I started as from sleep;-yes! he had spoken-
A breeze had troubled memory's hidden source!
At once the torpor of my soul was broken-
Thought, feeling, passion, woke in tenfold force.
-There are soft breathings in the southern wind,
That so your ce-chains, O ye streams! unbind,
And free the foaming swiftness of your course!
-I burst from those that held me back, and fell
Ev'n on his neck, and cried-'Friend, brother! fare thee well!'

LXVIII.
Did he not say 'Farewell?'-Alas! no breath
Came to mine ear. Hoarse murmurs from the throng
Told that the mysteries in the face of death
Had from their eager sight been veil'd too long.
And we were parted as the surge might part
Those that would die together, true of heart.
-His hour was come-but in mine anguish strong,
Like a fierce swimmer through the midnight sea,
Blindly I rush'd away from that which was to be.

LXIX.
Away-away I rush'd;-but swift and high
The arrowy pillars of the firelight grew,
Till the transparent darkness of the sky
Flush'd to a blood-red mantle in their hue;
And, phantom-like, the kindling city seem'd
To spread, float, wave, as on the wind they stream'd,
With their wild splendour chasing me!-I knew
The death-work was begun-I veil'd mine eyes,
Yet stopp'd in spell-bound fear to catch the victims' cries,

LXX.
What heard I then?-a ringing shriek of pain,
Such as for ever haunts the tortur'd ear?
-I heard a sweet and solemn-breathing strain
Piercing the flames, untremulous and clear!
-The rich, triumphal tones!-I knew them well,
As they came floating with a breezy swell!
Man's voice was there-a clarion voice to cheer
In the mid-battle-ay, to turn the flying-
Woman's-that might have sung of Heaven beside the dying!

LXXI.
It was a fearful, yet a glorious thing,
To hear that hymn of martyrdom, and know
That its glad stream of melody could spring
Up from th' unsounded gulfs of human woe!
Alvar! Theresa!-what is deep? what strong?
-God's breath within the soul!-It fill'd that song
From your victorious voices!-but the glow
On the hot air and lurid skies increas'd-
-Faint grew the sounds-more faint-I listen'd-they had ceas'd!

LXXII.
And thou indeed hadst perish'd, my soul's friend!
I might form other ties-but thou alone
Couldst with a glance the veil of dimness rend,
By other years o'er boyhood's memory thrown!
Others might aid me onward:-Thou and I
Had mingled the fresh thoughts that early die,
Once flowering-never more!-And thou wert gone!
Who could give back my youth, my spirit free,
Or be in aught again what thou hadst been to me?

LXXIII.
And yet I wept thee not, thou true and brave!
I could not weep!-there gather'd round thy name
Too deep a passion!-thou denied a grave!
Thou , with the blight flung on thy soldier's fame!
Had I not known thy heart from childhood's time?
Thy heart of hearts?-and couldst thou die for crime?
-No! had all earth decreed that death of shame,
I would have set, against all earth's decree,
Th' inalienable trust of my firm soul in thee!

LXXIV.
There are swift hours in life-strong, rushing hours,
That do the work of tempests in their might!
They shake down things that stood as rocks and towers
Unto th' undoubting mind;-they pour in light
Where it but startles-like a burst of day
For which th' uprooting of an oak makes way;-
They sweep the colouring mists from off our sight,
They touch with fire, thought's graven page, the roll
Stamp'd with past years-and lo! it shrivels as a scroll!

LXXV.
And this was of such hours!-the sudden flow
Of my soul's tide seem'd whelming me; the glare
Of the red flames, yet rocking to and fro,
Scorch'd up my heart with breathless thirst for air,
And solitude, and freedom. It had been
Well with me then, in some vast desert scene,
To pour my voice out, for the winds to bear
On with them, wildly questioning the sky,
Fiercely th' untroubled stars, of man's dim destiny.

LXXVI.
I would have call'd, adjuring the dark cloud;
To the most ancient Heavens I would have said
-'Speak to me! show me truth!'-through night aloud
I would have cried to him, the newly dead,
'Come back! and show me truth!'-My spirit seem'd
Gasping for some free burst, its darkness teem'd
With such pent storms of thought!-again I fled-
I fled, a refuge from man's face to gain,
Scarce conscious when I paus'd, entering a lonely fane.

LXXVII.
A mighty minster, dim, and proud, and vast!
Silence was round the sleepers, whom its floor
Shut in the grave; a shadow of the past,
A memory of the sainted steps that wore
Erewhile its gorgeous pavement, seem'd to brood
Like mist upon the stately solitude,
A halo of sad fame to mantle o'er
Its white sepulchral forms of mail-clad men,
And all was hush'd as night in some deep Alpine glen.

LXXVIII.
More hush'd, far more!-for there the wind sweeps by,
Or the woods tremble to the streams' loud play!
Here a strange echo made my very sigh
Seem for the place too much a sound of day!
Too much my footstep broke the moonlight, fading,
Yet arch through arch in one soft flow pervading;
And I stood still:-prayer, chant, had died away,
Yet past me floated a funereal breath
Of incense.-I stood still-as before God and death!

LXXIX.
For thick ye girt me round, ye long-departed!
Dust-imaged form-with cross, and shield, and crest;
It seem'd as if your ashes would have started,
Had a wild voice burst forth above your rest!
Yet ne'er, perchance, did worshipper of yore
Bear to your thrilling presence what I bore
Of wrath-doubt-anguish-battling in the breast!
I could have pour'd out words, on that pale air,
To make your proud tombs ring:-no, no! I could not there!

LXXX.
Not midst those aisles, through which a thousand years
Mutely as clouds and reverently had swept;
Not by those shrines, which yet the trace of tears
And kneeling votaries on their marble kept!
Ye were too mighty in your pomp of gloom
And trophied age, O temple, altar, tomb!
And you, ye dead!-for in that faith ye slept,
Whose weight had grown a mountain's on my heart,
Which could not there be loos'd.-I turn'd me to depart.

LXXXI.
I turn'd-what glimmer'd faintly on my sight,
Faintly, yet brightening, as a wreath of snow
Seen through dissolving haze?-The moon, the night,
Had waned, and dawn pour'd in;-grey, shadowy, slow,
Yet day-spring still!-a solemn hue it caught,
Piercing the storied windows, darkly fraught
With stoles and draperies of imperial glow;
And soft, and sad, that colouring gleam was thrown,
Where, pale, a pictur'd form above the altar shone.

LXXXII.
Thy form, thou Son of God!-a wrathful deep,
With foam, and cloud, and tempest, round thee spread,
And such a weight of night!-a night, when sleep
From the fierce rocking of the billows fled.
A bark show'd dim beyond thee, with its mast
Bow'd, and its rent sail shivering to the blast;
But, like a spirit in thy gliding tread,
Thou, as o'er glass, didst walk that stormy sea
Through rushing winds, which left a silent path for thee

LXXXIII.
So still thy white robes fell!-no breath of air
Within their long and slumberous folds had sway!
So still the waves of parted, shadowy hair
From thy clear brow flow'd droopingly away!
Dark were the Heavens above thee, Saviour!-dark
The gulfs, Deliverer! round the straining bark!
But thou!-o'er all thine aspect and array
Was pour'd one stream of pale, broad, silvery light-
-Thou wert the single star of that all-shrouding night!

LXXXIV.
Aid for one sinking!-Thy lone brightness gleam'd
On his wild face, just lifted o'er the wave,
With its worn, fearful; human look that seem'd
To cry through surge and blast-'I perish-save!'
Not to the winds-not vainly!-thou wert nigh,
Thy hand was stretch'd to fainting agony,
Even in the portals of th' unquiet grave!
O thou that art the life! and yet didst bear
Too much of mortal woe to turn from mortal prayer!

LXXXV.
But was it not a thing to rise on death,
With its remember'd light, that face of thine,
Redeemer! dimm'd by this world's misty breath,
Yet mournfully, mysteriously divine?
-Oh! that calm, sorrowful, prophetic eye,
With its dark depths of grief, love, majesty!
And the pale glory of the brow!-a shrine
Where Power sat veil'd, yet shedding softly round
What told that thou couldst be but for a time uncrown'd!

LXXXVI.
And more than all, the Heaven of that sad smile!
The lip of mercy, our immortal trust!
Did not that look, that very look, erewhile,
Pour its o'ershadow'd beauty on the dust?
Wert thou not such when earth's dark cloud hung o'er thee?
-Surely thou wert!-my heart grew hush'd before thee,
Sinking with all its passions, as the gust
Sank at thy voice, along its billowy way:-
-What had I there to do, but kneel, and weep, and pray?

LXXXVII.
Amidst the stillness rose my spirit's cry
Amidst the dead-'By that full cup of woe,
Press'd from the fruitage of mortality,
Saviour! for thee-give light! that I may know
If by thy will, in thine all-healing name,
Men cast down human hearts to blighting shame,
And early death-and say, if this be so,
Where then is mercy?-whither shall we flee,
So unallied to hope, save by our hold on thee?

LXXXVIII.
'But didst thou not, the deep sea brightly treading,
Lift from despair that struggler with the wave?
And wert thou not, sad tears, yet awful, shedding,
Beheld, a weeper at a mortal's grave?
And is this weight of anguish, which they bind
On life, this searing to the quick of mind,
That but to God its own free path would crave,
This crushing out of hope, and love, and youth,
Thy will indeed?-Give light! that I may know the truth!

LXXXIX.
'For my sick soul is darken'd unto death,
With shadows from the suffering it hath seen
The strong foundations of mine ancient faith
Sink from beneath me-whereon shall I lean?
-Oh! if from thy pure lips was wrung the sigh
Of the dust's anguish! if like man to die,
-And earth round him shuts heavily-hath been
Even to thee bitter, aid me!-guide me!-turn
My wild and wandering thoughts back from their starless bourne!'

XC.
And calm'd I rose:-but how the while had risen
Morn's orient sun, dissolving mist and shade!
-Could there indeed be wrong, or chain, or prison.
In the bright world such radiance might pervade?
It fill'd the fane, it mantled the pale form
Which rose before me through the pictured storm,
Even the grey tombs it kindled, and array'd
With life!-how hard to see thy race begun,
And think man wakes to grief, wakening to thee, O sun!

XCI.
I sought my home again:-and thou, my child,
There at thy play beneath yon ancient pine,
With eyes, whose lightning laughter hath beguil'd
A thousand pangs, thence flashing joy to mine;
Thou in thy mother's arms, a babe, didst meet
My coming with young smiles, which yet, though sweet,
Seem'd on my soul all mournfully to shine,
And ask a happier heritage for thee,
Than but in turn the blight of human hope to see.

XCII.
Now sport, for thou are free-the bright birds chasing,
Whose wings waft star-like gleams from tree to tree;
Or with the fawn, thy swift wood-playmate racing,
Sport on, my joyous child! for thou art free!
Yes, on that day I took thee to my heart,
And inly vow'd, for thee a better part
To choose; that so thy sunny bursts of glee
Should wake no more dim thoughts of far-seen woe,
But, gladdening fearless eyes, flow on-as now they flow.

XCIII.
Thou hast a rich world round thee:-Mighty shades
Weaving their gorgeous tracery o'er thy head,
With the light melting through their high arcades,
As through a pillar'd cloister's: but the dead
Sleep not beneath; nor doth the sunbeam pass
To marble shrines through rainbow-tinted glass;
Yet thou, by fount and forest-murmur led
To worship, thou art blest!-to thee is shown
Earth in her holy pomp, deck'd for her God alone.

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The Child Of The Islands - Winter

I.

ERE the Night cometh! On how many graves
Rests, at this hour, their first cold winter's snow!
Wild o'er the earth the sleety tempest raves;
Silent, our Lost Ones slumber on below;
Never to share again the genial glow
Of Christmas gladness round the circled hearth;
Never returning festivals to know,
Or holidays that mark some loved one's birth,
Or children's joyous songs, and loud delighted mirth.
II.

The frozen tombs are sheeted with one pall,--
One shroud for every churchyard, crisp and bright,--
One foldless mantle, softly covering all
With its unwrinkled width of spotless white.
There, through the grey dim day and starlit night,
It rests, on rich and poor, and young and old,--
Veiling dear eyes,--whose warm homne-cheering light
Our pining hearts can never more behold,--
With an unlifting veil,--that falleth blank and cold.
III.

The Spring shall melt that snow,--but kindly eyes
Return not with the Sun's returning powers,--
Nor to the clay-cold cheek, that buried lies,
The living blooms that flush perennial flowers,--
Nor, with the song-birds, vocal in the bowers,
The sweet familiar tones! In silence drear
We pass our days,--and oft in midnight hours
Call madly on their names who cannot hear,--
Names graven on the tombs of the departed year!
IV.

There lies the tender Mother, in whose heart
So many claimed an interest and a share!
Humbly and piously she did her part
In every task of love and household care:
And mournfully, with sad abstracted air,
The Father-Widower, on his Christmas Eve,
Strokes down his youngest child's long silken hair,
And, as the gathering sobs his bosom heave,
Goes from that orphaned group, unseen to weep and grieve.
V.

Feeling his loneliness the more this day
Because SHE kept it with such gentle joy,
Scarce can he brook to see his children play,
Remembering how her love it did employ
To choose each glittering gift and welcome toy:
His little timid girl, so slight of limb,--
His fearless, glorious, merry-hearted boy,--
They coax him to their sports,--nor know how dim
The Christmas taper's light must burn henceforth for him!
VI.

Ah! when these two are wrapt in peaceful sleep,
His worn eyes on the sinking embers set,
A Vigil to her Memory shall keep!
Her bridal blush when first his love she met,--
Her dying words of meek and fond regret,--
Her tearful thanks for all his kindness past,--
These shall return to him,--while linger yet
The last days of the year,--that year the last
Upon whose circling hours her sunny smile was cast!
VII.

Life's Dial now shows blank, for want of HER:
There shall be holiday and festival,
But each his mourning heart shall only stir
With repetitions of her funeral:
Quenched is the happy light that used to fall
On common things, and bid them lustre borrow:
No more the daily air grows musical,
Echoing her soft good night and glad good morrow,
Under the snow she lies,--and he must grieve down sorrow!
VIII.

And learn how Death can hallow trivial things;
How the eyes fill with melancholy tears
When some chance voice a common ballad sings
The Loved sang too, in well-remembered years,--
How strangely blank the beaten track appears
Which led them to the threshold of our door,--
And how old books some pencilled word endears;
Faint tracery, where our dreaming hearts explore
Their vanished thoughts whose souls commune with us no more!
IX.

Under the snow she lies! And there lies too
The young fair blossom, neither Wife nor Bride;
Whose Child-like beauty no man yet might woo,
Dwelling in shadow by her parent's side
Like a fresh rosebud, which the green leaves hide.
Calm as the light that fades along the West,
When not a ripple stirs the azure tide,
She sank to Death: and Heaven knows which is best,
The Matron's task fulfilled, or Virgin's spotless rest.
X.

A quiet rest it is: though o'er that form
We wept, because our human love was weak!
Our Dove's white wings are folded from the storm,--
Tears cannot stain those eyelids pure and meek,--
And pale for ever is the marble cheek
Where, in her life, the shy quick-gushing blood
Was wont with roseate eloquence to speak;
Ebbing and flowing with each varying mood
Of her young timid heart, so innocently good!
XI.

And, near her, sleeps the old grey-headed Sire,
Whose faded eyes, in dying prayer uplifted,
Taught them the TRUTH who saw him thus expire,
(Although not eloquent or greatly gifted)
Because they saw the winnowing fan that sifted
Chaff from the grain, disturbed not his high Trust:
In the dark storm, Hope's anchor never drifted,
The dread funereal sentence, 'Dust to Dust,'
No terror held for him who slumbers with the Just.
XII.

There, too, is laid the son of many vows;
The stately heir--the treasure of his home:
His early death hath saddened noble brows,
Yet to grieved hearts doth consolation come:
Where shall they find, though through the world they roam,
A star as perfect, and as radiant clear?
Like Ormonde's Ossory, in his early doom,
The throb of triumph checks the rising tear;
No living son can be their dead Son's proud compeer.
XIII.

HE was not called to leave temptations hollow,
And orgies wild, and bacchanalian nights:
Where vice led on, his spirit scorned to follow:
His soul, self-exiled from all low delights,
Mastered the strength of sensual appetites:
Great plans, good thoughts, alone had power to move him,
Holy Ambition, such as Heaven requites:
His heart, (as they best know who used to love him,)
Was young, and warm, but pure, as the white snow above him.
XIV.

He sleeps! And she, his young betrothèd bride,
Sleeps too,--her beauty hid in winding-sheet.
The blind tears, freely shed for both, are dried;
And round their silent graves the mourner's feet
Have ceased to echo: but their souls shall meet
In the far world, where no sad burial chime
Knells for departed life; but, endless sweet,
In purity, and love, and joy sublime,
Eternal Hope survives all past decays of Time.
XV.

And there, rests One, whom none on earth remember
Except that heart whose fond life fed its own!
The cherished babe, who, through this bleak December,
Far from the Mother's bosom, lieth lone,
Where the cold North-wind makes its wintry moan.
A flower, whose beauty cannot be renewed;
A bird, whose song beyond the cloud is gone;
A child, whose empty cradle is bedewed
By bitter-falling tears in hours of solitude!
XVI.

Ah! how can Death untwist the cord of Love,
Which bid those parted lives together cling?
Prest to the bosom of that brooding Dove,
Into those infant eyes would softly spring
A sense of happiness and cherishing:
The tender lips knew no completed word,--
The small feet could not run for tottering,--
But a glad silent smile the red mouth stirred,
And murmurs of delight whene'er her name was heard!
XVII.

Oh! Darling, since all life for death is moulded,
And every cradled head some tomb must fill,--
A little sooner only hast thou folded
Thy helpless hands, that struggled and are still:
A little sooner thy Creator's will
Hath called thee to the Life that shall endure;
And, in that Heaven his gathered saints shall fill,
Hath 'made thy calling and election sure.'
His work in thee being done, was thy death premature?
XVIII.

Baptised,--and so from sin innate reclaimed,--
Pure from impure,--Redemption's forfeit paid,--
Too young to be for wilful errors blamed,--
Thy Angel, little Child so lowly laid,
For ever looketh upward, undismayed!
No earthly trespass, clouding Heaven's clear light,
Casts the Great Glory into dreadful shade:
We weep for thee by day,--we weep by night,--
Whilst thou beholdest GOD with glad enraptured sight!
XIX.

Whom call we prematurely summoned? All
In whom some gleams of quivering sense remain:
Leaves not quite rotted yellow to their fall,
Flowers not yet withered dry in every vein:
All who depart ere stress of mortal pain
Makes that which crushes pain a blessed boon:
The extremest verge of life we would attain,--
And come he morning, evening, night, or noon,
Death, which must come to all, still comes to all too soon.
XX.

For either,--being young,--a bitter strife
Divides the parent's heart 'twixt woe and wonder,
Or, being set and planted in mid-life,
So many earthward roots are torn asunder,
The stroke falls blasting like the shock of thunder!
Or, being old, and good, and fit to die,
The greater is their loss who sheltered under
That tree's wide-spreading branches! Still we sigh,
And, craving back our Dead, lament them where they lie!
XXI.

Yet there, the pangs of mortal grief are o'er!
Pictures and lockets worn in Love's wild fever,
Rest on unthrobbing hearts: ears hear no more
Harsh words, which uttered once must haunt for ever,
Despite forgiving wish, and sad endeavour:--
Maniacs, whom fellow-creatures feared and bound,
Learn the dread fastening of their chain to sever;
Those bloodshot eyes, that glared so wildly round,
Sealed in eternal calm, and closed in holy ground.
XXII.

Peace comes to those, who, restless and forlorn,
Wasting in doubt's cold torment, day by day,
Watched alienated eyes for fond return
Of Love's warm light for ever passed away.
Ah, fools! no second morn's renewing ray
Gilds the blank Present, like the happy Past;
Madly ye built, 'mid ruin and decay,--
Striving Hope's anchor in the sand to cast,
And, drifting with the storm, made shipwreck at the last!
XXIII.

There your Philosophers and Poets dwell:
Your great Inventors,--men of giant mind;
The hearts that rose with such a mighty swell,
How little earth sufficeth now to bind!
Heroes and Patriots, Rulers of their kind,
Ambitious Statesmen, flatterers of the Throne,
All, in this lowly rest, their level find:
The weakness of their mortal strength laid down
Beneath the mouldering leaves of Glory's laurelled crown.
XXIV.

And high above them, on the cypress bough,
The little winter robin, all day long,
Slanting his bright eye at the dazzling snow,
Sings with a loud voice and a cheerful song:
While round about, in many a clustering throng,
The tufted snowdrop lifts its gentle head,
And bird and flower, in language mute yet strong,
Reprove our wailing for the happy dead,
And, by their joy, condemn the selfish tears we shed.
XXV.

For Snowdrops are the harbingers of Spring,--
A sort of link between dumb life and light,--
Freshness preserved amid all withering,--
Bloom in the midst of grey and frosty blight,--
Pale Stars that gladden Nature's dreary night!
And well the Robin may companion be,
Whose breast of glowing red, like embers bright,
Carries a kindling spark from tree to tree,
Lighting the solemn yew where darkness else would be.

XXVI.

The Rose is lovely fair, and rich in scent,
The Lily, stately as a cloistered nun,
The Violet, with its sweet head downward bent,
The Polyanthus, in the noon-day sun,
And Blue-bell swinging where the brooklets run:
But all these grow in summer hours of mirth;
Only the Snowdrop cometh forth alone,
Peering above the cold and niggard earth,
Then bending down to watch the soil that gave it birth.
XXVII.

Seeming to say,--'Behold, your DEAD lie here,
'Beneath the heavy mould whose burial sound
'Smote with such horror on your shrinking ear
'When the dark coffin sank beneath the ground:
'Yet therefrom spring these flowers that quiver round,
'Their frail bells trembling o'er the damp cold sod.
'Fear not, nor doubt--your lost ones shall be found;
'For they, like us, shall burst the valley clod,
'And, in white spotless robes, rise up to light and God!'
XXVIII.

Oh! nothing cheerless dwelleth by the tomb,
And nothing cheerless in the wintry sky;
They are asleep whose bed is in that gloom;
They are at rest who in that prison lie,
And have no craving for their liberty!
They hear no storm; the clear frost chills them not,
When the still solemn stars shine out on high;
The dreamless slumber of the grave shall blot
All record of dull pain and suffering from their lot!
XXIX.

Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who, hand to hand,
Bravely, but vainly, massacre withstood,
In the dark passes of the INDIAN land,
Where thoughts of unforgotten horror brood!
Whose cry for mercy, in despairing mood,
Rose in a language foreign to their foes,
Groaning and choking in a sea of blood,
No prayer--no hymn to soothe their last repose,
No calm and friendly hands their stiffening eyes to close!

XXX.

Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who trembling bore
Their shuddering limbs along; and pace by pace
Saw in that white sheet plashed with human gore
The dread familiar look of some brave face,--
Distorted,--ghastly,--with a lingering trace
Of life and sorrow in its pleading glance,--
A dying dream of parted Love's embrace,--
A hope of succour, brought by desperate chance,--
Or wild unconscious stare of Death's delirious trance.
XXXI.

Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who left behind
Brothers and husbands, foully, fiercely slain:
Who, led by traitors, wandered on, half blind
With bitter tears of sorrow, shed in vain,
Crossing the steep ascent, or dreary plain;
Mothers of helpless children,--delicate wives,
Who brought forth wailing infants, born in pain,
Amid a crowded wreck of human lives,
And scenes that chill the soul, though vital strength survives.
XXXII.

Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who never laid
Their Dead to rest with service and with psalm:
Their bones left bleaching in the alien shade
Of mountains crested with the Indian Palm.
Oh! English village graves, how sweet and calm
Shines on your native earth the setting sun!
Yet GLORY gave their wounds a healing balm--
Glory,--like that thy youthful trophies won
In thy first 'prime of life,'-- victorious Wellington!
XXXIII.

'In thy life's prime,'--ere yet the fading grey
Had blanched the tresses of thy gallant head:
Or from thy step Time's gradual faint decay
Stole the proud bearing of a Soldier's tread!
Gone are the troops thy voice to battle led,--
Thy conquering hand shall wield the sword no more,--
The foes and comrades of thy youth are dead,--
By Elba's rock and lone St. Helen's shore
No prisoned Emperor hears the boundless ocean roar.

XXXIV.

But, though its battle-strength be out of date,
The eager gesture of that warrior hand,--
Raised in the warmth of brief and blunt debate
In the hushed Senate of thy native land,--
Hath something in it of the old command;
The voice retains a certain power to thrill
Which cheered to Victory many a gallant band:
In thy keen sense, and proud unconquered will,
Though thy Life's Prime be past, men own their Leader still!
XXXV.

Plodding his way along the winter path,
Behold, a different lot hard fortune shews:
A blind old veteran in the tempest's wrath,
Around whose feet no fabled laurel grows.
Long hath he dwelt in an enforced repose;
And, when the tales of glorious deeds are heard,
His sightless countenance with pleasure glows,--
His brave old heart is for a moment stirred,--
Then, sad he shrinks away, muttering some mournful word.
XXXVI.

For ever idle in this work-day world--
For ever lonely in the moving throng--
Like a seared leaf by eddying breezes whirled,
Hither and thither vaguely borne along:
No guide to steer his course, if right or wrong,
Save the dumb immemorial friend of man,
Who, by some instinct delicate and strong,
From those impassive glances learns to scan
Some wish to move or rest,--some vestige of a plan:
XXXVII.

The wildbird's carol in the pleasant woods
Is all he knows of Spring! The rich perfume
Of flowers, with all their various scented buds,
Tells him to welcome Summer's heavy bloom:
And by the wearied gleaners trooping home,--
The heavy tread of many gathering feet,--
And by the laden Waggon-loads that come
Brushing the narrow hedge with burden sweet,--
He guesses Harvest in, and Autumn's store complete.
XXXVIII.

But in God's Temple the great lamp is out;
And he must worship glory in the Dark!
Till Death, in midnight mystery, hath brought
The veiled Soul's re-illuminating spark,--
The pillar of the CLOUD enfolds the ark!
And, like a man that prayeth underground
In Bethlehem's rocky shrine, he can but mark
The lingering hours by circumstance and sound,
And break with gentle hymns the solemn silence round.
XXXIX.

Yet still Life's Better Light shines out above!
And in that village church where first he learned
To bear his cheerless doom for Heaven's dear love,
He sits, with wistful face for ever turned
To hear of those who Heavenly pity earned:
Blind Bartimeus, and him desolate
Who for Bethesda's waters vainly yearned:
And inly sighs, condemned so long to wait,
Baffled and helpless still, beyond the Temple gate!
XL.

And can the Blind man miss the Summer sun?
This wintry sheet of wide unbroken white
His sealed blank eyes undazzled rest upon;
Yet round him hangs all day a twofold night,
He felt the warmth, who never saw the light!
He loved to sit beside the cottage door
When blossoms of the gorse were golden bright,
And hear glad children's shouts come o'er the moor,
And bask away his time in happy dreams of yore.
XLI.

The Sunbeam slanting down on bench or bank
Was, unto him, a sweet consoling friend;
Such as our mournful hearts incline to thank,
But that such thanks affection's depth offend.
All vanished pictures it had power to send
That greeted his keen eyesight, long ago!
Gay plumèd troops defiling without end,--
And glancing bayonets and martial show,--
And hands he used to grasp,--and looks he used to know.
XLII.

Yea, sometimes, back again to earlier life,
Even to his childish days, his thoughts would steal;
And hear, in lieu of arms and clashing strife,
The low hum of his Mother's spinning wheel,--
And on his withered cheek her lips could feel
As when she kissed its boyish sunburnt bloom:
And fancy little acts of love and zeal,
By which she now would soothe his bitter doom:
But she is dead,--and he,--alone in all his gloom!
XLIII.

Oh! by the beauty of a Summer day,--
The glorious blue that on the fountain lies,--
The tender quivering of the fresh green spray,--
The softness of the night when stars arise;
By the clear gladness of your children's eyes,--
And the familiar sweetness of that face
Most welcome to you underneath the skies,--
Pity that fellow-creature's mournful case
Whom Darkness follows still, where'er his dwelling-place!

XLIV.

'PITY THE BLIND!' How oft, in dolent tone,
That cry is heard along the peopled street,
While the Brute-Guide with patient care leads on
The tardy groping of his Master's feet!
But little dream we, as those steps we meet,
We too are blind, though clear the visual ray
That gives us leave familiar looks to greet,
Smiling and pausing on our onward way:
We too are blind,--and dark the paths wherein we stray.
XLV.

Yea, blind! and adder-deaf,--and idiot-dull,--
To many a sight and sound that cries aloud.
Is there no moral blindness of the Soul?
Is he less shut from light, who, through the crowd
Threads his blank way, among the poor and proud,--
The foul and fair,--all forms to him the same,--
Than they whose hearts have never yet avowed
Perception of the universal claim
Wrapped in that common phrase, a 'fellow-creature's' name.
XLVI.

Christmas is smiling at the Rich man's door,--
Its joyolus holiday his home endears:
Christmas is frowning on the thin-clad Poor,
With looks of cold distress and frozen tears:
How plain the duty of the time appears!
But Selfishness is Blindness of the Heart;
And, having eyes, we see not; having ears,
We hear not warnings, which should make us start,
While God's good angels watch the acting of our part.
XLVII.

Now, slowly trudging through the crispèd snow,
Under the wintry arch of Heaven's clear dome,
Joy's cadenced music set to tones of woe,
Beneath the windows of the rich man's home
Street-Singers, with their Christmas Carols, roam.
Ah! who shall recognise that sound again,
Nor think of him, who hallowed years to come,
When the past Christmas taught his fervent pen
A 'CAROL' of dear love and brotherhood 'twixt men!
XLVIII.

To what good actions that small book gave birth,
God only knows, who sends the wingèd seed
To its appointed resting-place on earth!
What timely help in hours of sorest need,--
What gentle lifting of the bruisèd reed,--
What kind compassion shewn to young and old,--
Proved the true learning of its simple creed,--
We know not,--but we know good thoughts, well told,
Strike root in many a heart, and bear a hundred-fold!
XLIX.

Oh, lovely lesson! art thou hard to learn?
Is it indeed so difficult to share
The school-boy hoard our efforts did not earn?
Shall we still grudge life's luck, to lives of care,
And dream that what we spend on these, we spare?
ALMS being the exception, SELF the rule,
Still shall we give our guinea here and there
('Annual') to church, and hospital, and school,
And lavish hundreds more, on pleasures which befool.
L.

Take but the aggregate of several sums
Allotted for the privilege to stay,
Watching some dancer's feet, who onward comes
Light as a bird upon a bending spray:
When,--oh! thou custom-governed Conscience,--say,
Did niggard Charity at once bestow
What careless Pleasure squanders every day?
When did the tale of real and squalid woe
Awake within thy breast such sympathetic glow?
LI.

Prosaic Questioner, thy words beguile
No listener's ear: SHE curtsies, gazing round:
Who would not spend a fortune on her smile!
How curved the stately form prepared to bound
With footfall echoing to the music's sound,
In the Cachucha's proud triumphant pace !
What soft temptation in her look is found
When the gay Tarantalla's wilder grace
Wakes all th' impassioned glow that lights her Southern face!
LII.

And now, a peasant girl, abashed she stands:
How pretty and how timid are her eyes:
How gracefully she clasps her small fair hands,
How acts her part of shy and sweet surprise:
How earnest is her love without disguise:
How piteously, when from that dream awaking,
She finds him false on whom her faith relies,
All the arch mirth those features fair forsaking,
She hides her face and sobs as though her heart were breaking!
LIII.

A Sylphide now, among her bowers of roses,
Or, by lone reeds, a Lake's enamoured fairy,
Her lovely limbs to slumber she composes,
Or flies aloft, with gestures soft and airy:
Still on her guard when seeming most unwary,
Scarce seen, before the small feet twinkle past,
Haunting, and yet of love's caresses chary,
Her maddened lover follows vainly fast,--
While still the perfect step seems that she danced the last!
LIV.

Poor Child of Pleasure! thou art young and fair,
And youth and beauty are enchanting things:
But hie thee home, bewitching Bayadère,
Strip off thy glittering armlets, pearls, and rings,
Thy peasant boddice, and thy Sylphide wings:
Grow old and starve: require true Christian aid:
And learn, when real distress thy bosom wrings,
For whom was all that costly outlay made:
For SELF, and not for thee, the golden ore was paid!
LV.

For the quick beating of the jaded heart,
When sated Pleasure woke beneath thy gaze,
And heaved a languid sigh, alone, apart,
Half for thy beauty, half for 'other days:'
For the trained skill thy pliant form displays,
Pleasing the eye and casting o'er the mind
A spell which, Circé-like, thy power could raise,
A drunkenness of Soul and Sense combined,
Where Fancy's filmy Veil gross Passion's form refined.
LVI.

For these, while thou hadst beauty, youth, and health,
Thou supple-limbed and nimble-stepping slave
Of two cold masters, Luxury and Wealth,
The wages of thy task they duly gave,
Thy food was choice, and thy apparel brave:
Appeal not now to vanished days of joy
For arguments to succour and to save,--
Proud Self indulgence hath a newer toy,
And younger slaves have skill, and these thy Lords employ.
LVII.

And thou, first flatterer of her early prime,
Ere praises grew familiar as the light,
And the young feet flew round in measured time
Amid a storm of clapping every night;
Thou, at whose glance the smile grew really bright
That decked her lips for tutored mirth before,--
Wilt THOU deny her and forget her quite?
Thy idol, for whose sake the lavish store
In prodigal caprice thy hand was wont to pour?
LVIII.

Yea, wherefore not? for SELF, and not for her,
Those sums were paid, her facile love to win:
Thy heart's cold ashes vainly would she stir,
The light is quenched she looked so lovely in!
Eke out the measure of thy fault, and sin
'First with her, then against her,' cast her off,
Though on thy words her faith she learned to pin:
The WORLD at her, and not at thee, shall scoff,--
Yea, lowlier than before, its servile cap shall doff.
LIX.

And since these poor forsaken ones are apt
With ignorant directness to perceive
Only the fact that gentle links are snapt,
Love's perjured nonsense taught them to believe
Would last for ever: since to mourn and grieve
Over these broken vows is to grow wild:
It may be she will come, some winter eve,
And, weeping like a broken-hearted child,
Reproach thee for the days when she was thus beguiled.
LX.

Then,--in thy spacious library,--where dwell
Philosophers, Historians, and Sages,
Full of deep lore which thou hast studied well;
And classic Poets, whose melodious pages
Are shut, like birds, in lacquered trellis cages,--
Let thy more educated mind explain
By all experience of recorded ages,
How commonplace is this her frantic pain,
And how such things have been, and must be yet again!
LXI.

If the ONE BOOK should strike those foreign eyes,
And thy professed Religion she would scan,--
Learning its shallow influence to despise;
Argue thy falsehood on a skilful plan,
Protestant, and protesting gentleman!
Prove all the folly, all the fault, her own;
Let her crouch humbly 'neath misfortune's ban;
She hath unlovely, undelightful grown,
That sin no words absolve: for that no tears atone!
LXII.

But Prudery,--with averted angry glance,--
Bars pleading, and proclaims the sentence just;
Life's gambler having lost her desperate chance,
Now let the Scorned One grovel in the dust!
Now let the Wanton share the Beggar's crust!
Yet every wretch destroyed by Passion's lure,
Had a First Love,--Lost Hope,--and Broken Trust:
And Heaven shall judge whose thoughts and lives are pure,
Not always theirs worst sin, who worldly scorn endure.
LXIII.

The Worthlessness of those we might relieve
Is chill Denial's favourite pretence:
The proneness of the needy to deceive
By many a stale and counterfeit pretence,--
Their vice,--their folly,--their improvidence.
There's not a ragged beggar that we meet,
Tuning his voice to whining eloquence,
And shuffling towards us with half-naked feet
As some rich equipage comes rolling down the street,--
LXIV.

But we prepare that Sinner to condemn,
And speak a curse, where we were called to bless:
From a corrupted root,--a withered stem;
'Tis gross hypocrisy, and not distress,
Or want brought on by loathsome drunkenness,
Seen in the wandering of his bloodshot eye
Glazed stupid with habitual excess:
Even children raise a simulated cry,--
Worthless we deem them all,--and worthless pass them by.
LXV.

Nor without reason is the spirit grieved,
And wrath aroused for Truth and Justice' sake:
The tales by which vile Cunning hath deceived,
On calculated chances planned to make
Frozen Compassion's sealed-up fountains wake;
The affectation of distorted pains;
The stealthy dram which trembling fingers take
To send the chill blood coursing through the veins
From a worn heart which scarce its vital heat retains;--
LXVI.

Craving of gifts to pawn, exchange, or sell;--
These are the baser errors of the Poor!
What thine are, Almsgiver, thou best canst tell,
And how thy spirit its temptations bore,
Giving thee now a right to bar the door
Against thy fellow-trespasser: his brow
Hath lost, perchance, the innocence of yore:
The wrestling sin that forced his Soul to bow,
He hath not bravely met and overborne: hast THOU?
LXVII.

Oh, different temptations lurk for all!
The Rich have idleness and luxury,
The Poor are tempted onward to their fall
By the oppression of their Poverty:
Hard is the struggle--deep the agony
When from the demon watch that lies in wait
The soul with shuddering terror strives to flee,
And idleness--or want--or love--or hate--
Lure us to various crimes, for one condemning fate!
LXVIII.

Didst THOU, when sleety blasts at midnight howled,
And wretches, clad in Misery's tattered guise,
Like starving wolves, it may be, thieved and prowled;
Never lie dreaming,--shut from winter skies,--
While the warm shadow of remembered eyes,
Like a hot sun-glow, all thy frame opprest;
And love-sick and unhallowed phantasies
Born of a lawless hope, assailed thy breast,
And robbed God's solemn night, of Prayer and tranquil rest.
LXIX.

When the great Sunrise, shining from above
With an impelling and awakening ray,
Found thee so listless in thy sinful love,
Thy flushing cheek could only turn away
From the clear light of that distasteful day,
And, leaning on thy languid hand, invite
Darkness again, that fading dreams might stay,--
Was God's fair Noon not robbed of Duty's Right,
Even as the holy rest was cheated from his night?
LXX.

Whom thou dost injure,--thou that dost not strike,--
What thou dost covet,--thou that dost not steal,--
HE knows, who made Temptations so unlike,
But SIN the same: to HIM all hearts reveal
The Proteus-like disguises which conceal
That restless Spirit which doth so beguile
And easily beset us: all we feel
Of good or bad,--He knows,--and all the vile
Degrading earthly stains which secret thought defile.
LXXI.

HIS eye detects the stealthy murderer's arm
Uplifted in the hour of midnight gloom:
HE sees, through blushes delicately warm,
Feigned Innocence her forfeit throne resume,
And marks the canker underneath the bloom:
But oft the sentence erring man decreed,
Finds before HIM reversal of its doom:
HE judgeth all our sorrow--all our need--
And pitying bends to hear the sorely tempted plead.
LXXII.

What if by HIM more sternly shall be judged
Crimes to which no necessity impelled,
Than theirs, to whom our human justice grudged
Compassion for the weeping we beheld?
What if the savage blow that madly felled
The object of fierce rage, be lighter deemed
Than cruelty where life-blood never welled,
But where the hope was quenched that faintly gleamed,
And the heart drained of tears which still unpitied streamed?
LXXIII.

What if the village brawl, the drunken bout,
The Sabbath-breaking of the skittle-ground,
Shall all be sins foregone and blotted out,
And in their stead worse Sabbath-breaking found
In that which stands not chid for brawling sound;
The silent printed libel; which invests
A strip of paper with the power to wound,--
Where some fair name like dew on nightshade rests,
In a coarse gathered heap of foul indecent jests?
LXXIV.

How, if the ignorant clown less vile appears,
Than educated stabbers in the dark,
Who joyed in matron grief, and girlish tears,
And lit in happy homes that quenchless spark
The bitterness of DOUBT: who bid the ark
Float over troubled waters for all time;
And those who once sang joyous as the lark
Bow down in silence; tarnished for no crime;
Stung by a trailing snake, and spotted with its slime?
LXXV.

Oh! learnèd, clothed, and cultivated minds,
To whom the laws their purpose have declared,
Sit ye in judgment but on labouring hinds?
Yea, for the poor your censure is not spared!
Yet shall the faults they made, the crimes they dared,
The errors which ye found so hard to pass,
Seem as the faults of children, when compared
With the corruption of a different class,
When God calls angels forth from this world's buried mass.
LXXVI.

Weigh, weigh and balance nicely as you will
The poor man's errors with the poor man's need:
The fiat of the Just One liveth still,
And Human laws, though blindly men may read,
The law of Heaven can never supersede.
By the cold light of Wisdom's complex rules
Vainly we study hard a different creed,--
'Do AS YE WOULD BE DONE BY' mocks the schools,
And mars the shallow craft of worldly-witted fools.
LXXVII.

A careless Giver is the poor man's curse!
Think not, by this, absolved of alms to stand;
The niggard heart of indolence does worse,
Stinting both trouble and the liberal hand.
Obey the voice of a divine command;
'Remember Mercy!' haply thou shalt save
If only one, of all that mournful band,
From gaol, or workhouse, or an early grave!
Hear, thou,--and Heaven shall hear thy voice for mercy crave.
LXXVIII.

Yea, hear the voice that for compassion calls:
Prove him unworthy ere he be denied:
Lest, through thy coldness, dismal workhouse walls
Blankly enclose him round on every side,
And from his eyes God's outward glory hide.
There, like a creature pent in wooden shed,
He in a bitter darkness shall abide,
Duly though sparely clothed, and scantly fed,
But pining for the paths his feet were wont to tread.
LXXIX.

There shall his soul, of Nature's sweetness reft,
Robbed of the light that came in angel-gleams
And on the mind such blessed influence left,--
Be filled with dark defying prison-dreams.
Cruel the world's enforced relieving seems,
Preserving life, but not what made life fair;
Stagnant and shut from all life's running streams,
His heart sinks down from feverish restless care,
Into the weary blank of brutalised Despair!
LXXX.

Where is the gorse-flower on the golden moor?
Where the red poppy laughing in the corn?
Where the tall lily at the cottage door,--
The briar-rose dancing in the breezy morn,--
The yellow buttercups of sunshine born,--
The daisies spangling all the village green,--
The showering blossoms of the scented thorn,--
The cowslips that enwreathed the May-day Queen?
What hath he done, that these shall never more be seen?
LXXXI.

Oh, flowers! oh, dumb companions on lone hills,--
In meadow walks, and lovely loitering lanes,--
Whose memory brings fresh air and bubbling rills
Amid Life's suffocating fever-pains;
For Rich and Poor your equal joy remains!
Decrepid age and childhood's careless mirth
Alike shall own the power your spell retains:
Midst all the fading changes of the earth
Your smiles, at least, live on,--immortal in their birth.
LXXXII.

Who, when some inward anger fiercely burned,--
Hath trod the fresh green carpet where ye lie,
Your soft peace-making faces upward turned,
With a dumb worship to the solemn sky,--
Nor felt his wrath in shame and sorrow die?
Old voices calling to his haunted heart
From grassy meadows known in infancy,
Playfields whose memory bids a teardrop start,
Scenes from a former life whose sunshine dwells apart.
LXXXIII.

When there had been no quarrels--and no deaths--
No vacant places in our early home:
When blossoms, with their various scented breaths,
Were all the pure hearts knew of beauty's bloom,
Where earthlier passion yet had found no room:
When, from low copse, or sunny upland lawn,
We shouted loud for joy, that steps might come
Bounding and springing, agile as the fawn,--
And 'Sleep came with the dew,' and gladness with the dawn.
LXXXIV.

Oh! Flowers, oh! gentle never-failing friends,
Which from the world's beginning still have smiled
To cheer Life's pilgrim as he onward wends,--
Seems not your soothing influence, meek and mild,
Like comfort spoken by a little child,
Who, in some desperate sorrow, though he knows
Nothing of all Life's grieving, dark and wild,
An innocent compassion fondly shews,
And fain would win us back from fever to repose?
LXXXV.

For morbid folly let my song be chid,--
Incur the cynic's proudly withering sneer,--
But these are feelings (unexprest) which bid
The poor man hold his cottage freedom dear;
The matin lark hath thrilled his gladdened ear,
With its exulting and triumphant song;
The nightingale's sweet notes he loved to hear,
In the dim twilight, when the labouring throng
All weary from their work, in silence trudged along.
LXXXVI.

The glowing Claudes,--the Poussins,--which your eyes
Behold and value,--treasure as you may,--
His pictures were the sights you do not prize--
The leaf turned yellow by the autumn ray,
The woodbine wreath that swung across his way,
The sudden openings in the hazel-wood:--
He knew no history of Rome's decay,
But, where grey tombstones in the churchyard stood,
He spelt out all the Past on which his mind could brood.
LXXXVII.

Some humble love-scene of his village lot,
Or some obscure Tradition, could invest
Field, copse, and stile,--or lone and shadowy spot,--
With all the Poetry his heart confest:
The old companions that he loved the best
Met not in crowds at Fashion's busy call:
But loud their merriment, and gay the jest,
At statute fair and homely festival:
And now, life's path is dark, for he hath lost them all!
LXXXVIII.

Therefore deal gently with his destiny,
Which, rightly looked on, differs from your own,
Less in the points of feeling, than degree:
Contrast the great and generous pity shewn,--
The bounteous alms some inquest-hour makes known,--
Bestowed by those whose means of self-support
Are so precarious,--with the pittance thrown
From niggard hands, which only spend for sport,
Scattering vain largesse down in Pleasure's idle court.
LXXXIX.

Contrast the rich man, with his ready wealth
Feeing a skilled Physician's hand to ease
The pang that robs him of that blessing Health,
With the poor man's lone hour of fell disease;
The wretched ague-fits that burn and freeze,
He understands not; but his aching head
Is conscious that the wasting arm he sees
Grown daily thinner, earns his children's bread,
And that they pine and starve around his helpless bed.
XC.

Contrast that terror of the chastening rod
Which those to whom so much was giv'n, must feel,
With the one anxious hope of meeting God!
Of finding all the bliss, the glory real,--
The Mercy that their sorrows past shall heal,--
The Eternal rest,--the happy equal share,--
All that was promised by the Preacher's zeal,
When weekly pausing in a life of care,
Poor voices joined the rich in thanksgiving and prayer.
XCI.

The stamp of imperfection rests on all
Our human intellects have power to plan;
'Tis Heaven's own mark, fire-branded at the fall,
When we sank lower than we first began,
And the Bad Angel stained the heart of man:
The Good our nature struggles to achieve
Becomes, not what we would, but what we can:--
Ah! shall we therefore idly, vainly grieve,
Or coldly turn away, reluctant to relieve?

XCII.

Even now a Radiant Angel goeth forth,
A spirit that hath healing on his wings,--
And flieth East and West and North and South
To do the bidding of the King of Kings:
Stirring men's hearts to compass better things,
And teaching BROTHERHOOD as that sweet source
Which holdeth in itself all blessed springs;
And shewing how to guide its silver course,
When it shall flood the world with deep exulting force.
XCIII.

And some shall be too indolent to teach,--
And some too proud of other men to learn,--
And some shall clothe their thoughts in mystic speech,
So that we scarce their meaning may discern;
But all shall feel their hearts within them burn,
(Even those by whom the Holy is denied)
And in their worldly path shall pause and turn,
Because a Presence walketh by their side,
Not of their earthlier mould, but pure and glorified:
XCIV.

And some shall blindly overshoot the mark,
Which others, feeble-handed, fail to hit,
And some, like that lone Dove who left the ark,
With restless and o'erwearied wing to flit
Over a world by lurid storm-gleams lit,--
Shall seek firm landing for a deed of worth,
And see the water-floods still cover it:--
For 'there are many languages on Earth,
But only one in Heaven,' where all good plans have birth.
XCV.

Faint not, oh Spirit, in dejected mood
Thinking how much is planned, how little done:
Revolt not, Heart, though still misunderstood,
For Gratitude, of all things 'neath the sun,
Is easiest lost,--and insecurest, won:
Doubt not, clear mind, that workest out the Right
For the right's sake: the thin thread must be spun,
And Patience weave it, ere that sign of might,
Truth's Banner, wave aloft, full flashing to the light.
XCVI.

Saw ye the blacksmith with a struggling frown
Hammer the sparkle-drifting iron straight,--
Saw ye the comely anchor, holding down
The storm-tried vessel with its shapely weight?
Saw ye the bent tools, old and out of date,
The crucibles, and fragments of pale ore,--
Saw ye the lovely coronet of state
Which in the festal hour a monarch wore,
The sceptre and the orb which in her hand she bore?
XCVII.

Saw ye the trudging labourer with his spade
Plant the small seedling in the rugged ground,--
Saw ye the forest-trees within whose shade
The wildest blasts of winter wander round,
While the strong branches toss and mock the sound?
Saw ye the honey which the bee had hived,
By starving men in desert wandering found;
And how the soul gained hope, the worn limbs thrived,
Upon the gathered store by insect skill contrived?
XCVIII.

Lo! out of Chaos was the world first called,
And Order out of blank Disorder came.
The feebly-toiling heart that shrinks appalled,
In Dangers weak, in Difficulties tame,
Hath lost the spark of that creative flame
Dimly permitted still on earth to burn,
Working out slowly Order's perfect frame:
Distributed to those whose souls can learn,
As labourers under God, His task-work to discern.
XCIX.

CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! Thou art one by birth
In whom the weak ones see a human guide:
A Lily in the garden of their earth,
That toilest not, but yet art well supplied
With costly luxuries and robes of pride.
Thy word shall lead full many a wavering soul,
Behoves thee therefore hold thyself allied
With the Mind-Workers, that thy good control
May serve HIS world whose light shines out from pole to pole.
C.

So, when Life's Winter closes on thy toil,
And the great pause of Death's chill silence comes,--
When seeds of good lie buried in the soil,
And labourers rest within their narrow homes,--
When dormant Consciousness no longer roams
In awe-struck fancy towards that distant land
Where no snow falleth, and no ocean foams,
But waits the trumpet in the Angel's hand,--
THOU may'st be one of those who join Heaven's shining band.

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The Golden Age

Long ere the Muse the strenuous chords had swept,
And the first lay as yet in silence slept,
A Time there was which since has stirred the lyre
To notes of wail and accents warm with fire;
Moved the soft Mantuan to his silvery strain,
And him who sobbed in pentametric pain;
To which the World, waxed desolate and old,
Fondly reverts, and calls the Age of Gold.

Then, without toil, by vale and mountain side,
Men found their few and simple wants supplied;
Plenty, like dew, dropped subtle from the air,
And Earth's fair gifts rose prodigal as prayer.
Love, with no charms except its own to lure,
Was swiftly answered by a love as pure.
No need for wealth; each glittering fruit and flower,
Each star, each streamlet, made the maiden's dower.
Far in the future lurked maternal throes,
And children blossomed painless as the rose.
No harrowing question `why,' no torturing `how,'
Bent the lithe frame or knit the youthful brow.
The growing mind had naught to seek or shun;
Like the plump fig it ripened in the sun.
From dawn to dark Man's life was steeped in joy,
And the gray sire was happy as the boy.
Nature with Man yet waged no troublous strife,
And Death was almost easier than Life.
Safe on its native mountains throve the oak,
Nor ever groaned 'neath greed's relentless stroke.
No fear of loss, no restlessness for more,
Drove the poor mariner from shore to shore.
No distant mines, by penury divined,
Made him the sport of fickle wave or wind.
Rich for secure, he checked each wish to roam,
And hugged the safe felicity of home.

Those days are long gone by; but who shall say
Why, like a dream, passed Saturn's Reign away?
Over its rise, its ruin, hangs a veil,
And naught remains except a Golden Tale.
Whether 'twas sin or hazard that dissolved
That happy scheme by kindly Gods evolved;
Whether Man fell by lucklessness or pride,-
Let jarring sects, and not the Muse, decide.
But when that cruel Fiat smote the earth,
Primeval Joy was poisoned at its birth.
In sorrow stole the infant from the womb,
The agëd crept in sorrow to the tomb.
The ground, so bounteous once, refused to bear
More than was wrung by sower, seed, and share.
Ofttimes would ruthless winds or torrents raze
The ripening fruit of toilsome nights and days.
Each one in turn grew jealous of his own,
And fenced his patch with ditch and churlish stone.
As greed uprose, and greed engendered strife,
Contention raged coincident with life.
Man against man, maid against maiden turned,
And the soft breast with envious passions burned.
The loss of one was hailed as others' gain,
And pleasure took unnatural birth from pain.
Goaded by woe, and through tradition's lore
Mindful of all the blissfulness of yore,
The Human Race, its sorrows to assuage,
Dreamed afar off a second Golden Age;
Not in the dim irrevocable Past,
But in a Future just as vague and vast.
The prophet's lips, the poet's flattering pen,
Revelled in forecasts of that golden Then.
The days should come when grief would be no more,
And Peace and Plenty rule from shore to shore;
All men alike enjoy what none did earn,
And even more than Saturn's Reign return.

As years rolled on, as centuries went by,
And still that Promised Time seemed no more nigh,
Mankind at length, outwearied with delays,
Gave up all hope of those seductive days.
Then other prophets, other scribes arose,
A nearer, surer Eden to disclose.
`O, long-befooled!' they said, `awake, and deem
The Past a tale, the Future but a dream.
Here, in the living Present, act your part,
Straining its vulgar blessings to your heart.
Let hand with hand and brain with brain contend,
And each one labour to some selfish end.
In wealth and riot, luxury and power,
Baffle the mockery of the transient hour.
If thousands fall, if tens of thousands bleed,
Will not a hundred, or a score, succeed?
Let those who cannot yield to those who can-
Fate has its piles of victims; why not Man?
Better a furious fight where some one wins,
Than sluggish life which ends as it begins.
Vain was the bard who, whilst the World was new,
'Twixt men and beasts the fond distinction drew,
That these confine their downward gaze to earth,
Whilst man looks up, enamoured of his birth.
Not in the skies, but deep beneath the soil,
There will you find your happiness and spoil.
Enough for brutes its simple face to know,
But godlike man must pierce and delve below.
Deep in its bowels seek the shining ore,
And at its touch shall Saturn reign once more.
For him whose thews are sound, whose vision clear,
Whose purpose firm, the Golden Age is here.'

Never from cave or tripod, mount or glade,
Issued a voice so welcomed, so obeyed.
From zone to zone the Golden Gospel flew,
And in its train mankind obedient drew.
See from their seats the ancient Gods dethroned,
Altars upset, and oracles disown'd.
The Muses, scared, conceal the smothered lyre;
No longer prized, the Graces swift retire;
Virtue, a butt for ribalds, seeks her shroud,
And even Venus veils herself in cloud.
Religion, Ethics, all men erst adored,
Hymned on the harp, or fought for with the sword,
All lofty scopes, all ends esteemed of old,
Dissolve like mist before the rage for gold.
The priest for gold makes traffic of his robe;
For gold the soldier desolates the globe;
The poet shapes for gold his venal lays;
Through gold Vice stalks caparisoned with praise.
Tempted by gold, the virgin sells her charms,
Though no Immortal slips into her arms.
Saddled with gold, the adventurer can buy
Titles, precedence, place, and dignity.
High, middle, low, the young, the ripe, the old,
Man, woman, child, live, die, are damned for Gold.

Soon as the youthful mind begins to ope,
It searches Life's significance and scope;
And, fed by generous impulse year by year,
Dreams for itself some glorious career.
Its shall it be, instructed by the Muse,
Truth to abet, and beauty to diffuse;
With full-blown sail, and genius at the helm,
To steer men's thoughts to a serener realm.
Perhaps the ingenuous boy would fain recall
Tintoret's canvas, Memmi's fresco'd wall;
With godlike pencil purify the mart,
And life ennoble with the breath of Art.
Maybe he burns, by Plato's failure fired,
To scale the heights which every wing have tired,
Seize first each part, then comprehend the whole,
And solve the eternal problem of the Soul.
Be these his aims, or, nobler still, to train
His kind to mutiny till Virtue reign,
Soon doth he learn to count his lovely schemes
A host of bubbles in a world of dreams.
Experience whispers early, Have a care!
Who with the Muse would live must live on air.
The tempting maid is but a poet's lie,
`Who gave to song what gold could never buy.'
Confront the world, take counsel with the throng;
Their verdict what? `The thing's not worth a song.'
Are you content you now have learnt your price?
Come, sink the Muse, and don't be quite so nice.
Start a new Company, and float the shares,
Then lunch with Ministers and dine with Mayors.
Pimp for a Party, praise a Premier's heart,
Head a subscription, and then shine-a Bart.
Return your income fifty thousand clear-
The devil's in it, or you'll die a peer.
Success so great is never done by halves-
'Tis only virtue, when 'tis greatest, starves.

Perhaps his breast, untutored yet to serve,
Spurns the base counsel with a proud reserve;
For Youth is stubborn, and when Nature draws,
In vain a parent's warning, wisdom's saws.
Let cravens straight their impotence confess,
And sell their birthright for a filthy mess;
In flowers see, bee-like, nought but stuff for hives,
And for foul lucre prostitute their lives;
They have not failed who never once have tried,
Or, if they failed, they failed for want of pride.
He, he at least his soul will ne'er demean,
But 'mong the foul will keep his honour clean.

O touching sight, to witness day by day
His splendid generous day-dreams fade away!
His sire reproaches, and his brothers scoff,
His mother doubts, his sisters e'en fall off.
The neighbours pity, strangers deem him mad;
Girls, smiling, whisper, What a foolish lad!
Meanwhile his compeers, started in the race,
Are swiftly marching on to power and place.
One makes a coup, and weds a wife of rank;
Another's junior partner in a bank.
A third in sugar with unscriptural hand,
Traffics, and builds a lasting house on sand.
A fourth, for beer and piety renowned,
Owns all the publics in the country round;
Its drink adulterates with face demure,
But burns with zeal to keep opinion pure;
Cares not one jot for bodies drunk or sick,
But scans your soul like a new Dominick.
The fifth, the patron of a new balloon,
Projects a Company to reach the moon;
Baits his prospectus with a batch of peers,
And vows nought pays like money in the Spheres.
Shares in the moon advanced-advancing still.
Then comes a crash-stock guaranteed at nil.
But sure, the man is ruined? Not at all;
He scarce can tumble who has sense to crawl.
Your modern Icarus is much too wise
On his own pinions to attempt the skies-
On others' soaring follies doth he rise.
Long ere the bubble burst his shares were sold;
Just at that moment he had need of gold.
Singed wings, you know, are but for simple folk;
He, with his peers, 'scapes safe from flame and smoke,
And buys a borough with the happy stroke.

Few are the souls who die for Cato's creed:
To fail seems base, when all around succeed.
Foiled in his purpose, both by foe and friend,
Through noble means to reach a noble end,
The baffled boy forswears his cherished dream,
And learns to swim, like others, with the stream.
Keen to recover precious moments lost,
And taught by bitter tasks what Virtue cost,
He midst the rush, whilst others rise and fall,
Swims on, the most unscrupulous of all.
Let others chouse with care, he cheats with pluck,
And millions stake their all upon his luck.
His daring overawes the small, the great,
And whilst he plunders they but peculate.
He lures the easy, makes the fat his spoil,
Pares the lean wage of proletarian toil;
Swindles the widow of her hoarded mite,
Drags the poor pensioner once more to fight;
Robs age of rest, and youth of prospects fair,
Plunges the sanguine bridegroom in despair;
Severs the ties made sacred long by home,
And sends the son from sire across the foam;
Dashes the faith of plighted swain and maid,
And helps alone the cynic sexton's spade:
Does all that well beseems a Fallen Star-
It needs a Lucifer to fall so far!

Sometimes will Fortune on the traitor scowl,
And e'en with gold not pay a deed so foul.
He who was born a glittering child of light,
Trenchant as Raphael, as Ithuriel bright,
Yet sells his soul a vulgar prize to reap,
And for brute guerdons holds his honour cheap,
Too often finds that he who, grovelling, flies
From unrewarded reverie in the skies,
And seeks in venal efforts to employ
The gifts God formed for beauty and for joy,
Makes but a barren barter of his birth,
And Heaven foregoes, without securing earth.
See how he sinks! The more he strains to clutch
Terrestrial spoil, unworthy of his touch,
It seems, for him, to take elusive shapes,
And like a shadow from his grasp escapes.
As baser wax his aims, more mean his scope,
More and still more he sprawls-the sport of Hope.
Still as he tries to suffocate his soul,
Farther beyond him seems the carnal goal.
In vain he turns to catch the favouring gale;
Becalmed he lies-he labours but to fail.
Poor and despised, he now would fain retrace
His erring steps to his first dwelling-place,
But finds, alas! baseness hath borne its fruit;
Wings long unused have withered at the root.
He who in vain has crawled in vain would fly,
And rots abandoned both by earth and sky.
Meaner his end than that poor tradesman's doom,
Who, asked what words of honour on his tomb
His friends should place, with cynic touch replied,
`Here lies who, born a man, a grocer died!'

Whom doth this foe of human virtue spare?
Look round! More sweet its victims, the more fair.
Its natural slaves, who, spawned from wealth, are born
To Traffic's tricks they lack the soul to scorn,
Whose lust for lucre is their proper lot,
It just as oft impoverishes as not.
'Tis those in whom the Unseen God inspires
The restless leaven of divine desires;
Who, from the moment that they lisp, betray
An alien spirit housed within their clay;
Whose fretful youth life's narrow limits chafe,
And yearns for worlds more spacious, if less safe;
Striving to reach, despite its fleshly thrall,
That larger Something which surrounds us all;-
These, these the souls-and not that baser band-
To whom Gold loves to stretch a helping hand;
With early smiles their generous aims to bless,
And lead them, blind, to ruinous success.
When Lelius chanted first his fragrant lays,
Men praised, and he was amply paid with praise.
Not salons' sycophant, nor Fashion's bard,
No glittering heaps did his sweet notes reward.
He was content with audience fit, though few,
When to his side the cunning demon drew.
`Your pen's worth gold; you need but blunt its point;
Come, cut the Muse; the times are out of joint.
Fame's well enough, but comfort has its laws;
You'll make a damned poor supper off applause.
Sing, be select, and starve. Prose is the thing-
The thing that pays. The Million now is King.
Write gossip, scandal, slander-what you will;
A well-filled purse awaits a ready quill.'
The curst insidious demon has his way,
And Grub-street swallows Lelius for aye.

Turn from the pen, and for a while survey
The wide domains which brush and canvas sway.
Enter those realms, and what do we behold?
Art, heavenly Art, the slave and pimp of gold!
Time was when its poor votaries were too proud
To sate the itch of a vain-glorious crowd,
Serve the mean aims of narrow personal pelf,
And swell the ignoble retinue of Self.
Only the State, which merges private ends,
Or sacred Church, which lifts them and extends,
Might then presume the artist's craft to claim,
And paid him, happy, with immortal Fame.
Here, Friendship's guest, where fairest Florence lies,
A dream in stone, stretched out before mine eyes,
I think of all the treasures there enshrined,
And what small dole nurtured each master mind;
Or led by memory o'er the classic chain
Which Umbrian slope divides from Tuscan plain,
I all the priceless unbought gems recall
That link with heaven Assisi's frescoed wall;
Then, borne on wings of weakness, I repair
To mine own land, and groan to think that there,
Debased by Fashion to a venal trade,
Art counts its triumphs by its fortunes made;
Spurned by the State, and by the Church unsought,
Works but for wealth, and by the base is bought;
Stranger to altars, palaces, or domes,
Pampers the pomp of ostentatious homes.
How changed the days since Duccio's hand of old
On Saints and Virgins lavished costly gold;
But for himself asked but a few poor crowns,
Less than we give to harlequins and clowns.
Now do our mercenary tricksters grudge
Almost the very canvas that they smudge;
Yet scan with greedy eyes the glittering heap
That opulent folly holds, for once, so cheap.
See, too, how Genius, when its touch was true,
On humble walls its lasting fancies drew;
Whose modern apes, ridiculously bold,
Hang their ephemeral daubs in frames of gold.

In vain doth Heaven, while Gold thus rules the earth,
With generous instincts sow the soul at birth.
Swift in the genial soil the seed takes root,
Then seeks the sun with many a venturous shoot.
But, ah, how soon the cruel outer air
Checks the brave growth and nips its promise fair!
Warmed by the glow of Tasso's splendid lay,
Or borne by Dante to the gates of Day;
Softly seduced by Scott's romantic strain
To deem all ends, excepting honour, vain;
Or nobly trained by Shelley's burning song
To cherish an eternal feud with wrong,-
The simple girl constructs a future fair,
Rears a whole world of castles in the air,
And nowhere warned, or deaf to warning, deems
That life will clothe and justify her dreams.
As year by year the maiden grows apace,
And half the woman mantles in her face,
With sickening sense, sad eye, and sinking heart,
She sees her forecasts one by one depart.
Slowly, but, ah, too surely doth she find
That poets' tales no longer rule mankind;
That Peace is homeless as the hunted hare,
And Love far less a shelter than a snare;
That godlike Valour meets a demon's doom,
Whilst Prudence prospers even from the tomb;
That Youth, save schooled in Mammon's miry ways,
Groans o'er the lapse of unrequited days;
That Beauty, Genius, all are vain and cold,
Till foully touched and fertilised by Gold.

Soon as the time so dear to mother's vows
Draws nigh, to find the maid some fitting spouse,
Then most of all she learns what leading part
Is played by Gold in dramas of the heart.
Chance to young Hylas, beautiful as Dawn,
And sweet as fair, she feels her fancy drawn.
Are you a nymph? one whispers. Let him pass.
He doth but gather daisies in the grass.
Where your cool wave, hidden from human eyes,
In which to lure and love him till he dies?
Bid him rejoin his Hercules, and seize
The golden apples of the Hesperides;
And then perchance, should none more rich than he
Engage your love, you may his Hera be.
Alas, poor Hylas! worse than Mysian fate
Doth his meandering flowery feet await.
If that a Solon, versed in every art
Of song and science, touch the maiden's heart,
The neighbours softly whisper, Have a care;
Can Erudition keep a chaise and pair?
Pundits, alas, like fools, must pay their bills,
And Knowledge figures sorrily in wills.
For single life learning is well enough,
But marriage should be made of sterner stuff.
Should Cato's fame her pious soul attract,
The whole world cries, The woman must be cracked.
What! wed with Virtue! Is the girl awake?
Sure, she confounds the altar with the stake.
Send for the doctor. Try a change of air.
Swear Cato drinks. In war and love all's fair.
Bring Croesus to the front. At four he's free-
There's no one left to swindle after three.
In one brief hour behold him curled and drest,
And borne on wings of fashion to the West!
What though to regions fondly deemed refined,
He brings his City manners, City mind,
And cynics titter?-he laughs best who wins,-
A Greenwhich dinner covers many sins.
What! dine with Croesus? Surely. Is a feast
One jot the worse because the host's a beast?
He's worse than that-a snob-a cad. Agreed;
But then his goblets smack of Ganymede?
Do some strange freaks his conversation mar?
He stops your censure with a prime cigar.
A Norway stream, a shooting-lodge in Perth,
In practice look uncommonly like worth.
The Town to hear some new soprano flocks.
You long to go? Well, Croesus has a box.
How at this hour are tickets to be got
For the Regatta? Croesus has a yacht.
Goodwood is here. Your hopes begin to flag.
One chance awaits you: Croesus has a drag.
You doat on Flower-shows: Croesus has a bone.
Be friends with Croesus, and the World's your own.
Who could resist seductions such as these?
Or what could charm, if Croesus failed to please?
Blinded and bribed, the critical are cured,
And loud extol whom late they scarce endured.
Caressed and courted, Croesus grows the rage,
The type and glory of our Golden Age;
And Cato, Hylas, Solon, shoved aside,
Our heavenly maid is hailed as Croesus' bride.

Shade of Lucretius! if thy lyre waxed wild
With sacred rage for Clytemnestra's child,
And nought could hold thee as thy soul surveyed
The cursëd ills Religion can persuade,
How would thy verse impetuously shower
Sonorous scorn on Gold's atrocious power;
Embalm its victims with a touch divine,
And damn the monster in one sounding line!

Can honeyed forms or stereotyped applause
Alter the scope of Heaven's eternal laws?
What though with gifts should massive sideboards groan,
And every heart be glad except her own,
And troops of blooming girls behold with pride,
Perchance with envy, this resplendent bride;
Though vieing voices hail her Fashion's queen,
And even a Bishop's blessing crown the scene,
No rites, no rings, no altars, can avail
To make a sacred contract of a sale,
Stir the far depths of the reluctant mind,
Or join the hearts which love hath failed to bind.
If soul stands passive whilst the flesh is sold,
Is there no foul aroma in the gold?
Is the base barter covered by the price,
And do huge figures make the nasty nice?
The nameless outcast, prowling for her prey,
Renews her filthy bargain day by day;
Let Croesus give her what he gave his wife,
She's virtuous too-at least, she's his for life.
Croesus-but hold! Let Charity presume
That Croesus' wife but dimly knew her doom.

The luckless maid, since knowledge comes too late,
In splendour seeks oblivion of her fate;
Of every tender pious aim bereft,
Hugs in despair the only idol left;
In alien worship seeks to be consoled,
And builds her hopes of happiness on Gold.
Gold rules her steps, determines her desires-
Mere puppet she, whilst Mammon jerks the wires.
Futile to ask if London suits her health-
Would you consult her doctor, not her wealth?
You soon are answered: Whether ill or well,
A house in Town is indispensable.
Where shall it be? On gravel or on clay?
Wherever tenants have the most to pay.
Price is the thing, not soil. If Fashion's camp
Be pitched just here, what matter dry or damp?
But, health apart, 'tis known that Croesus' wife,
If left to choose, prefers a country life.
Well, she shall have it when the Parks are brown,
And Fashion, wearied, hath dispersed the Town.
But whilst the woods are leafy, and the lanes
With lush wild-flowers rob life of half its pains;
While sweetest scents and softest sounds combine
To make existence, did they last, divine;
Not for the world must Croesus' wife be missed
From fetid streets, foul rooms, and Fashion's list;
And only thence to rural refuge flies
As, self-exhausted, pleasant Summer dies.

Say, shall we marvel, amid scenes like these,
With all to dazzle, but with nought to please,
If links of simple gold should fail to cleave,
And tempters prompt their webs not vainly weave?
See, Plutus, first in each ignoble strife,
Battered and bored, bethinks him of a wife.
The happy tidings, spreading through the West,
Fires each maternal mercenary breast.
The soaring dames parade their daughters' charms,
To lure the hug of Plutus' palsied arms;
And as brave Eld for one fair woman fought,
For one foul man our world to rage is wrought.
At last, opining he might chance do worse,
Plutus to proud Olympia flings his purse.
Olympia lifts it with triumphant smile,
Whilst round her crowds congratulating guile,
Escorts her to the altar, decks her brows
With orange-buds, then leaves her with her spouse,
Who, though his suit by golden showers throve,
Can grasp his Danaë with no thews of Jove.
O, who shall tell Olympia's tale aright,
Each splendid day, each miserable night;
Her thirst divine by human draughts but slaked,
Her smiling face whilst the heart sorely ached,
Or note the edge whence one we loved so well
To sweet, seductive, base perdition fell?
I cast no stone, but half by rage consoled,
I snatch the lyre and curse this fiendish Gold.

Though Beauty's fame oft spreads through all the land,
Splendour is far more curiously scanned;
And they who once upon Olympia threw
A passing glance, since she was fair to view,
Now gilded pomp and Ostentation's choir
Attend her path, of gazing never tire;
Suck up her speech, translate her silent eyes,
Each movement, look, and posture scrutinise,
Stalk all her steps, as matron, friend, and wife,
And feed in greedy gossip on her life.
Not mine to follow to the noisome den
Where woman's frailty stands the gaze of men,
And well-coached menials, limed with gold, detail
The piteous scenes that pass behind the veil.
Enough to know that, thanks to wealth, once more
Plutus can woo, e'en richer than before.
The tottering cuckold leaves the court consoled;
Considerate juries tip his horns with Gold!

Sure some malicious demon in the brain
It needs must be, drives men reputed sane
To spurn the joys adjacent to their feet,
In the fond chase of this receding cheat?
Say, when the Stoic on his tranquil height,
And swinish crowd, sweating in miry fight,
In every age a like conclusion reach,
And sage and simple one same sermon preach-
That whether Heaven hath made one serf or king,
Reason alone true happiness can bring-
Can we but stand astounded as we scan
This race untaught, unteachable, called Man?
Would you be truly rich, how small the heap
Your aims require, the price how passing cheap!
A modest house, from urban jars removed,
By thrist selected, yet by taste approved;
Whose walls are gay with every sweet that blows,
Whose windows scented by the blushing rose;
Whose chambers few to no fine airs pretend,
Yet never are too full to greet a friend;
A garden plot, whither unbidden come
Bird's idle pipe and bee's laborious hum;
Smooth-shaven lawn, whereon in pastime's hours
The mallet rings within a belt of flowers;
A leafy nook where to enjoy at will
Gibbon's rich prose or Shakespeare's wizard quill;
A neighbouring copse wherein the stock-doves coo,
And a wild stream unchecked sings all day through;
Two clean bright stalls, where midday, night, and morn,
Two good stout roadsters champ their well-earned corn;
A few learned shelves from modern rubbish free,
Yet always, Mill, with just a place for Thee;
Head ne'er at dawn by clownish bouts obscured,
And limbs by temperate exercise inured;
A few firm friendships made in early life,
Yet doubly fastened by a pleasant wife;
A wholesome board, a draught of honest wine;-
This is true wealth; and this, thank Heaven, is mine!
And though you ransacked worlds from shore to shore,
From sea to sky, you could not give me more.
And if, all these beyond, I still should crave
Something impossible this side the grave,
Let humbler souls my soaring hopes forgive-
After my life still in my verse to live.

Well would it be if Mammon's feverish rage
Did but the vulgar and the base engage;
If those alone whose undistinguished name,
Haply if fouled, would shed no slur on Fame,
Sought in this sordid, despicable strife,
To find the good and snatch the crown of life.
But in the mire of venal fight embroiled,
Have we not seen the noblest scutcheons soiled?
Not the proud thought that many a splendid fray,
When crowns obeyed the fortunes of the day,
To stalwart arms its pregnant issue owed,
Whose glorious blood in their own body flowed;
Not the remembrance that their sires did share
The toils that made this England great and fair;
Not their resplendent pedigree, nor all
The line of haught fierce faces on the wall,
That tells the tale of their ancestral hall,
Have yet availed, in days like these, to hold
Men, thus seduced, from the coarse race for Gold.
Have we not seen the generous beast, whose sires
Once bore their fathers into battle's fires,
By titled gamblers' mercenary taste
His once stout loins to nimble flanks debased,
Made for curst gold to sweat through all his pores,
The panting pet of blacklegs, lords, and whores?

On such a course what dismal woes await,
Let the world learn by young Lucullus' fate.
Whilst yet the bloom of boyhood matched his cheek,
And all his duty was to master Greek.
Make a long score, bound o'er the running brook,
Cleave the clear wave, Lucullus had a book.
No glorious volume was't, whose subtle page
The wisdom breathed of many a studious age.
No wealth of wit, no Learning's garnered sheaves
Lay, like a treasure, lurking in its leaves.
But, in their place, crabbed Calculation scrawled
Symbols which shocked and figures that appalled.
Not for sweet Fancy, nor the simple stake
Of generous sports, did he his tasks forsake.
Ere sentiment could move, or sense control,
Adventurous Greed had swallowed up his soul.
If Gold Acrisius' Tower of Brass could flout,
How will the playground shut the monster out?
Thus by his own base instincts first betrayed,
The race of harpies lend their shameful aid,
With evil eye his smiling lands behold,
And smooth his path to infamy with gold.

At length behold him grown to man's estate,
Rich, noble, noted, lord of his own fate.
Here Duty beckons, Honour there incites,
And Love entices to its saving rites.
He heeds them not; he joins the madding crowd,
King of the base, the vulgar, and the loud;
Builds his most precious friendships on a bet,
And through the gutter trails his coronet.
Vain fool! inflamed by flattery and conceit,
He marks no pitfalls yawning at his feet;
But, winning, deems the cunning snare his luck,
And losing, pays, to plume him on his pluck;
Accepts each challenge, doubles every stake,
While tipsy plaudits follow in his wake.
But what avails, if Fortune quits his side?
Curse on the jade, he cries, she always lied!
Well, now's an end! . . . A comrade plucks his gown:
An end as yet, man! cut the timber down.
The luck will turn; you lost for want of skill;
Come, play again-you'll win. . . . By G-, I will!
Done soon as said. The swift sure axe resounds
Through the green stretch of his ancestral grounds.
The soaring elm, whose topmost boughs defied
The scaling valour of his boyish pride;
The umbrageous beech, beneath whose courtly shade
The loves that issued in his life were made;
The lordly oak, young when his line was young,
To which with pride inherited had clung
His sires and they from whom his sires were sprung;
Behold them now, around the naked hall,
One after one in fell succession fall.
Lo, the wide woods which centuries had seen
By frosts unmoved, mid thunder-fugues serene,
By thousand suns, by tens of thousand showers,
Fostered and fed, one greedy day devours.
And all in vain! Lured by the severed spoil,
The foul fierce harpies fasten on the soil.
`My lands on luck.' We take you. Clear the course;
Twenty to one upon Lucullus' horse!
One minute more, and poor Lucullus flies,
The beggared heir of all the centuries.

Then scoffed, and scourged, and stripped of all his wealth,
His last friends leave him-energy and health.
Anxiety and fierce Excitement's flame
Have scorched his blood and shrivelled up his frame.
`Plum to a pony!' hear the cripple call;
`Ere six months pass, the grave will end it all.'
Lucky at last, he wins his bootless bet,
And dies of drink, debauchery, and debt.

Gone are the times indeed when savage Might
Usurped the throne and claimed the wage of Right.
No longer now the tiller of the soil
Sees his fair fields the lusty robber's spoil;
No timid burgher now grows rich by stealth,
Lest some rude noble swoop upon his wealth;
The quiet citizen no longer fears
A raid upon his money or his ears,
That local turmoil or imperial strife
Will wreck his home or leave him bare for life.
But say, is Force the only fearful foe,
Or the keen Sword worst source of human woe?
Wielding base weapons Violence disdained,
Cunning prevails where once Compulsion reigned.
The tyrant's lance, Oppression's piercing shaft,
Torment no more, but abdicate to Craft.
Could feudal despot swooping on his prey,
Could bandit burning for the unequal fray,
Could fire, sword, famine, spread more wreck abroad,
Than marks the path of Greed allied with Fraud;
Or waits on life, where no rude signs portend
When the dread bolt of Ruin will descend?

See the poor father, who for years has toiled,
At one fell stroke of all his store despoiled.
His was the pious wish, by daily care
And safe degrees to make his hearth more fair;
His the ambition-far too meek to roam-
To swell the simple luxuries of home;
By loving thrift to deck his comely spouse
With some poor gem, the summit of her vows;
To instruct his boys in every generous art
Which trains the man to act a shining part;
By culture's aid to see his daughters armed
With each fair grace that in their mother charmed;
Year after year, as strength and vigour waned,
To find his fondest forecasts all attained;
And then, since faithful to the final stage,
Doff the hard harness from the back of age.
But watchful Greed with jealous eye beheld
Day after day his little earnings swelled;
Studied the tender workings of his mind,
Marked the fond aims to which his heart inclined;
With specious lips his trusting senses stole,
And with false visions fired his prudent soul.
Poor wretch! but yesterday in modest state
He lived, secure from every bolt of Fate.
To-day, he wanders feverish and depressed,
As though whole Andes weighed upon his breast.
To-morrow, back unto his home he crawls,
A beggared man, and at the threshold falls.
Now will no more his trustful wife behold
The gladsome face returning as of old,
And read in sparkling eye and smiling cheek
The day's good tidings e'en before he speak;
Never again in hastening footsteps guess
Some pretty love-gift, token of success.
Their blooming boys, for whom parental hope
So oft had cast the fairest horoscope,
And seen with fond anticipating eyes
Each proud successive civic honour rise,
Torn from their noble studies, have to crave
From base pursuits the pittance of a slave,
Pour the soul's wine into the body's sieve,
And grand life lose in mean attempts to live.
Perchance, at home their humble wants denied,
Gaunt Hunger drives them from their mother's side;
Leaves her to weep alone o'er what hath been,
And places ocean, pitiless, between.
The tender girls, their father's pride and joy,
Whose dreams a fiend had scrupled to destroy;
From childhood's earliest days whose only care
Was to be gracious, virtuous, and fair,
And who from Heaven could nothing else implore
Save to be all their mother was before;
Who pictured as their perfect scheme of life
A clinging daughter and a helpful wife,-
At one rude flash behold the world enlarge,
And stand, pale victims, trembling on the marge.
Little, alas, now boots it where they roam,
Since they must leave the tranquil shores of home.
Whether, poor slaves, they crawl with aching feet
Hour after hour from dreary street to street,
Or, as in mockery of home, alas!
Beneath the stranger's icy portal pass,
And thankless task and miserable wage
Their exiled cheerless energies engage,
Their youth, their life, is blasted at the core,
And Hope's sweet sap will mount their veins no more.
Should every door their humble prayers repel,
Scorning to buy what Hunger kneels to sell,
And they, half thankful that the strangers spurn,
To their own roof be driven to return,
How strange the scene that meets their wearied gaze!
How changed the hearth, the home, of other days!
Contracting Care usurps the mother's face,
Whose smiles of old spread sunshine through the place.
Alone she weeps; but should she chance to hear
Her husband's steps, she hides the furtive tear;
Follows his movements with an anxious dread,
Studies his brow, and scans his restless tread;
Assails his woe with every female wile,
Prattles of hope, and simulates a smile.
He, broken man, wrapt in perpetual gloom,
Wanders anon from vacant room to room;
Then, creeping back, the image of despair,
With a deep sigh he sinks into his chair.

He seldom speaks; and when his voice is heard,
Peevish its tone, and querulous his word;
And vain laments and childish tears attest
The lamp of life is dying in his breast.
Perhaps his death some timely pittance frees,
Secured by prudence in their days of ease;
And, O the pity! posthumous relief
Stanches love's wounds, and blunts the edge of grief.
Unless, indeed-for this too hath been known-
All-grasping Greed hath made that mite its own,
Filched from the widow her last hopes of bread,
And whom it ruined living, plunders dead!

These are thy triumphs, Gold! thy trophies these,
To nurture fraud, and rob the world of ease,
Faith to befool, young genius to seduce,
And blight at once its beauty and its use.
Thine is the bait, as loveless hearths avouch,
Which drags fresh victims to the venal couch;
Thine the foul traps wherewith our ways are rife,
That lure them first, then close upon their life;
Thine, thine the springes, set in regions fair,
Whose unseen nooses strangle whom they snare;
The cynic glory thine to lie in wait
To make men little who had else been great,
Frustrate our plenty, aggravate our dearth,
And keep eternal feud 'twixt Heaven and Earth!

Lo, where huge London, huger day by day,
O'er six fair counties spreads its hideous sway,
A tract there lies by Fortune's favours blest,
And at Fame's font yclept the happy West.
There, as by wizard touch, for miles on miles,
Rise squares, streets, crescents of palatial piles.
In the brave days when England's trusty voice
Made grappling rivals tremble or rejoice;
When, foremost shield of Weakness or of Right,
She scorned to warn unless resolved to smite;
When, few but firm, her stalwart children bore
The terror of her Flag from shore to shore,
Purged Christ's dear tomb from sacrilege and shame,
And made the Moslem quake at Richard's name;
Taught the vain Gaul, though gallant, still to kneel,
And Spain's proud sons the weight of northern steel;-
Then were her best in no such splendour nursed
As now awaits her basest and her worst.
No kingly Harry glittering with renown,
No Edward radiant in a peaceful crown,
Was housed as now, at turn of Fortune's wrist,
Some lucky navvy turned capitalist,
Some convict's bastard who a-sudden shines
In the bright splendour of Australian mines,
Or subtle Greek, who, skilled in Eastern ways,
Exposes all Golconda to our gaze.
These, as to Pomp's pretentious peaks they rush,
Heed not the crowds their sordid conquests crush:
Secure in glaring opulence, they scan
With placid eyes the miseries of man;
Fat units, watch the leanness of the whole,
And gag remonstrance with a paltry dole:
Mid harrowing want, with conscience unafraid,
Die on the golden dirt-heaps they have made.
Here Plenty gorges gifts from every zone,
There thankful Hunger gnaws its meagre bone;
Profusion here melts more than pearls in wine,
There craves gaunt Penury some shucks from swine;
And whilst rich rogues quaff deep round roaring fires,
At Dives' portal Lazarus expires!

Betwixt these fierce extremes of wealth and woe,
A crowd of strugglers hustles to and fro,
Whose one sole aim and only hope in life
Are just to wrench subsistence from the strife.
To what base shifts these hideous straits compel
The straining wretches, let our records tell.
Victims of greedy Competition's craft,
We drain cheap poison in each sparkling draught,
Purchase a lie in every vaunted ware,
And swallow filth in the most frugal fare.
Building a refuge for our age, we find
The crumbling mortar lets in wet and wind;
Face the rude waves, by science freed from awe,
To sink, poor dupes, on life-belts made of straw!

Nor this the worst! When ripened Shame would hide
Fruits of that hour when Passion conquered Pride,
There are not wanting in this Christian land
The breast remorseless and the Thuggish hand,
To advertise the dens where Death is sold,
And quench the breath of baby-life for gold!

Nor man alone, case-hardened man, surveys
These shocking contrasts with a careless gaze.
Fair melting woman of the tender breast
Here finds no room for pity as her guest.
Unsexed, she strains to Ostentation's goal,
While Splendour's dreams demoralise her soul;
Drains, like a goddess, hecatombs of lives,
Nor heeds who lags, provided she arrives.
See Claribel, by every gift designed
Mid anguish keen to be an angel kind,
Once plunged in rival factions' golden fight,
Turned to a demon in her own despite.
Behold, to-morrow in the Royal smile
Will bask the birth and wealth of all the Isle.
She, long abroad, received the summons late.
What's to be done? Nor time nor tide will wait.
She turns her wardrobe over, racks her brain;
Nothing will do. She wants a dress and train.
Drive to the modiste's. Not a finger free.
There's only Clara. Clara let it be.
But Clara's sick and sorry. Give her gold;
Her aches will cease, her sorrows be consoled.
It must be done. Sure Lilian there will glow
In gorgeous newness decked from top to toe;
Shall it be said that Claribel did less?
To-morrow, then, in time the train and dress.

So Clara drags her weary limbs from bed,
O'er the brave finery hangs her throbbing head;
Still as her senses swim sews on and on,
Till day dies out and twilight pale is gone.
Then, by the taper's soft and silent light,
Like a pale flower that opens most by night,
Her pace she quickens, and the needle moves
Subtler and swifter through the gauzy grooves;
But as the dawn on guttering sockets gains,
Her tired lids drop, and sleep arrests her pains.
But sleep how short! She feels her shoulder clutched:
`Clara, awake! the train's not even touched!
Day strides apace. See, there's the morning sun,
And ere again he sinks, 't must all be done.'
Again, again, the shooting thread she plies,
In silent agony of smothered sighs.
She seems to breathe her breath into the gown,
To give it life the while she lays hers down.
Fast as the task advances set by pride,
So fast within her ebbs the vital tide.
The daylight goes, and softly comes the moon's,
And then poor Clara over the last stitch swoons.

Meanwhile, the panting Claribel awaits
The precious gown within her golden gates.
It comes-it comes. Now who shall shine her down?
Not Lilian, surely? No, not the entire Town.
She not for worlds had lost this courtly chance;
And Clara dies that Claribel may dance!

If private worth, thus languishing, expires,
Will public Virtue keep alive her fires?
The slaves of wealth, in Britain as in Rome,
Bring to the Forum vices formed at home.
First the community, and then the State,
Falls to their fangs, which naught can satiate.
Not born nor bred to rule, of culture void,
And by no wave of young ambition buoyed,
Anxious on heights conspicuous to flaunt
Nought but the tawdry trophies they can vaunt,
They woo the grasping crowd with golden guile,
And spread Corruption's canker through the Isle.
You want a seat? Then boldly sate your itch.
Be very radical, and very rich.
Sell your opinions first to please the pure,
Then buy the sordid, and your triumph's sure.
Do all, in brief, that honest men abhor,
And England hails another Senator.

See the vain Tribune who, in lust of power,
Bows to the base exactions of the hour,
And, fooled by sycophants, stands forth at last
A devotee turned sworn iconoclast!
Behind him sit dense rows of golden mutes,
Deaf to whate'er demonstrates or refutes,
Ready to vote, rescind, obey in all
The whip demands, as hounds the huntsman's call.
They neither know nor reck what helpful deeds
In this grave hour their perilled Country needs.
They want to see their daughters nobly wed,
Their wives at Court, their own names trumpeted,
Their private Bills advanced another stage,
Their schemes of plunder foisted on the age.
Leave them but these, the gamblers come to call,
Nor heed an Empire nodding to its fall!

When Power is built on props like these, how vain
The hope that Law the giddy will restrain!
Spoilt by twin sops, servility and gold,
The headstrong crowd is then but ill controlled.
In vain they now would sway who lately served,
And Riot cows Authority unnerved.
Better that such base compromise should end,
And the dread bolt of Anarchy descend!
Goths of the gutter, Vandals of the slum,
Thieves and Reformers, come! Barbarians, come!
Before your might let rails and rules be hurled,
And sweep Civilisation from the world!

Nor now, alas, do Commoners alone
To private ends the public weal postpone.
Those too, whom worth ancestral plants on seats
High above where all vulgar Clamour beats,
With paltry fear to their clipped ermine cling,
And shrink from right, lest right should ruin bring.
The Peers stand firm; the Commons disagree.
The Peers be-well, it now is close on three.
By five, a world of reasons will be found.
Throw Jonas over, or the ship's aground.
You know the fury of the hand that steers;
And what were Britain with no House of Peers?
Would Primogeniture its fall survive,
Or even Property be kept alive?
Let Herbert fume, or frantic Cecil chafe,
Better a deal to choose the side that's safe;
Bow to the will of Finlen and his hordes,
And still thank Heavën for a House of Lords!
Thus may the British breast exult to think.
That noble names can sell ignoble ink;
That ill-got gains, if deftly spent, unlock
Birth's choicest circles to the ambitious smock;
That Dives foul mounts fine Aristo's stairs,
If but Aristo Dives' plunder shares;
And half Debrett urbanely flocks to White's,
To back the boor who saves them from the kites.
His son succeeds him. `Make the son a Peer.
Why not? His income's eighty thousand clear.
New blood is wanted. Here's the very stuff.
Besides, he wields the county vote.' Enough.
But hold! there's Cato. `Cato! are you sane?
Why, Cato's means but one small hearth sustain.
Ennoble Cato, you'll have Peers for life,
Or else forbid the man to take a wife.
He can't maintain the necessary state,
And would you have a poor name legislate?
No, Dives' son's the very man we need.
What says the Crown?' The Crown! Of course, Agreed.
And the young fool, enriched by parent knaves,
From Ruin's jaws our Constitution saves!

Is there no path of honour for the great,
No sound and clean salvation for the State?
Must we for ever fly to shifts like this,
And trust to Gold to save us from the abyss?
Must honours old by new-got wealth be vamped,
And Valour's stock by plutocrats be swamped?
Back to your lands, base sons of splendid sires!
From spendthrift squares back to your native shires!
Back, back from Baden, and leave Homburg's shades
To dazzling Jews and mercenary jades.
Leave London's round of vulgar joys to those
Who seek in such from base pursuits repose.
Cease to contend with upstart Wealth's parade,
To wring your lands to vie with tricks of trade;
And, proudly spurning Glitter's transient lies,
At least be honest, if you can't be wise!
Worship your household gods, and spend at home
The solid earnings of the generous loam.
Delve, fence, and drain; the dripping waste reclaim;
With spreading woodlands multiply your fame.
Yours let it be to screen the reverent hind,
Who loves your presence, 'gainst the frost and wind;
Scorning to count the profit, raise his lot;
Lure the shy Graces to his lowly cot;
Be, one and all, acknowledged, far and wide,
Patriarchs and patterns of the country side.
And whether demagogues shall rise or fall,
A Cleon mount, or Boänerges bawl,
True to yourselves and native duty, thus
Save this poor England by being virtuous!

And you, Sir, hope of this once famous isle,
Round whom its halo plays, its favours smile,
Hark to the Muse, which, poised on Candour's wings,
Flouts the base crowd, but scorns to flatter kings.
Hark, while she tells you, nor her counsel spurn,
From giddy Pleasure's gilded toys to turn;
That not from minions opulent or coarse
Do Princes gain their lustre and their force;
That Reverence anchors not in deep carouse,
And that a Crown fits only kingly brows!
Fired by each bright example, shun the shade,
Where Scandal best can ply her noxious trade.
Learn from your pious Father how to share
With hands, too lonely now, a Kingdom's care.
Be by your fair loved Consort's pattern moved,
And like your virtuous Mother, stand approved;
Do for this England all the Sceptre can,
And be at least a stainless gentleman.
Be this too much, you well may live to find
That firmest Thrones can fail the weak and blind,
And, though no Samson, sharing half his fate,
Pull down the pillars of a mighty State!

Whilst our domestic fortunes thus obey
All-searching Gold's demoralising sway,
We hug the limits of our puny shore,
And Glory knows our once great name no more.
First are we still in every bloodless fray,
Where piles of gold adventurous prows repay;
But when flushed Honour sets the world on fire,
We furl our sails and to our coasts retire;
And, basely calm whilst outraged nations bleed,
Invent new doctrines to excuse our greed.
When gallant Denmark, now the spoiler's prey,
Flashed her bright blade, and faced the unequal fray,
And, all abandoned both by men and gods,
Fell, faint with wounds, before accursèd odds,-
Where, where was England's vindicating sword,
Her promised arm, to stay the invading horde;
Bid the rude German drop his half-clutched spoil,
And scare the robber from ancestral soil?
The fair young Dane, beloved by every Grace,
And all the Virtues shining in her face,
Who, more an angel than a princess deemed,
Withal was even sweeter than she seemed,
With noisy throats we summoned o'er the foam,
And with cheap cheers escorted to her home.
But when with streaming eye and throbbing breast
She, pious child, her loving fears confessed,
And, leagued with Honour's voice and Valour's ire,
Prayed us to save her country and her sire,
We turned away, and opulently cold,
Put back our swords of steel in sheaths of gold!

And yet what sandy base doth Gold afford,
Though crowned by Law, and fenced round by the Sword,
Learn from that Empire which, a scorn for aye,
Grew in a night and perished in a day!
Helped by a magic name and doubtful hour,
See the Adventurer scale the steeps of Power.
Upon him groups of desperate gamesters wait,
To snatch their profit from a sinking State.
Folly, and Fate which Folly still attends,
Conspire to shape and expedite their ends.
The Hour, the Man are here! No pulse? No breath?
Wake, Freedom, wake! In vain! She sleeps like Death.
The impious hands, emboldened by her swoon,
Choke in the night, and slay her in the noon!
Then, when vain crowds with dilatory glaive
Rush to avenge the life they would not save,
The prompt conspirators with lavish hand
Fling their last pieces to a pampered band,
Bribe cut-throat blades Vengeance' choked ways to hold,
And bar the avenues of rage with gold!

Then mark how soon, amid triumphant hymns,
The Imperial purple girds the blood-stained limbs.
The perjured hands a golden sceptre gain,
A crown of gold screens the seared brow of Cain,
And golden eagles, erst of simpler ore,
Assert the Caesar, and his rod restore.
See round his throne Pomp's servile tributes swell,
Not Nero knew, e'er Rome to ruin fell,
Far from his feet the lust of glitter spread,
And the vain herd on Splendour's follies fed!
Nor they alone, the shallow, base, and gay,
Bend to this Idol with the feet of clay:
Statesmen and soldiers kneel with flattering suit,
Kings are his guests, e'en queens his cheeks salute;
Senates extol him, supple priests caress,
And even thou, O Pius, stoop'st to bless!
And the World's verdict, ever blind as base,
Welcomes the `Second Saviour' of the race!

And yet how weak this Empire girt with gold
Did prove to save when Battle's torrents rolled,
Have we not seen in ruin, rout, and shame,
Burnt deep in Gaul's for ever broken fame?
What then availed her courts of pomp and pride,
What her bright camps with glittering shows allied?
What, in that hour, the luxury which passed
To soldiers' lips the sybarite repast?
Did all her gold suffice, when steel withstood
Her stride, to make her rash, vain challenge good?
Behold her Chief, in comfort longwhile slung,
By War's rough couch and random fare unstrung
His vaunted Leaders, who to Power had mown
Their path with swords that propped a venal Throne,
Brandishing rival blades, his brain confound,
While still, but sure, the solid foe press round.
See her soft sons, whom arms enervate lead,
Spurn the long marches which to victory speed,
And, fondly deeming Science served by Wealth
Will snatch the fight at distance and by stealth,
Smitten with fear at Valour's downright face,
And taught swift limbs in Flight's ignoble chase!
See one, see all, before the Victor fleet,
Then lay their swords, submissive, at his feet!

O hapless France! e'en then insurgent ire
Had your soiled scutcheon lifted from the mire,
Placed the bright helm on Honour's front once more,
And laurels reaped more lasting than of yore,
Had not rich ease your manhood's marrow stole,
And gold emollient softened all your soul.
O, what a sight-a sight these eyes beheld-
Her fair green woods by the invader felled;
Her fields and vineyards by the Teuton trod,
Those she once smote encamped upon her sod;
Her homes, in dread, abandoned to the foe,
Or saved from rapine by obsequience low;
Her cities ransomed, provinces o'erawed,
Her iron strongholds wrenched by force or fraud;
Her once proud Paris grovelling in the dust,
And-crowning irony, if lesson just-
The grasping victor, loth to quit his hold,
Coaxed slowly homewards o'er a bridge of gold!

Is there no warning, England, here, for thee?
Or are Heaven's laws balked by a strip of sea?
Are thy foundations, Albion, so approved,
Thou canst behold such downfall all unmoved?
Have we not marked how this Briarean Gold
Doth all our life and energies enfold?
And as our practice, so our doctrines too-
We shape new ethics for our vices new;
Our sires forswear, our splendid Past defame,
And in high places glory in our shame!
Hear our loud-tinkling Tribunes all declare
Once lavish England hath no blood to spare,
No gold to spend; within her watery wall
She needs to roll and wallow in it all.
Doth towering Might some poor faint Cause oppress,
They bid her turn, impartial, from distress;
Indulge her tears, but hide her ire from sight,
Lest a like doom her angry front invite.
And when this craven caution fails to save
Her peaceful fortunes from the braggart glaive,
They bid her still be moral and be meek,
Hug tight her gold, and turn the other cheek.
Her very sons, sprung from her mighty loins,
We aliens make, to save some paltry coins;
With our own hands destroy our Empire old,
And stutter, `All is lost, except our gold!'
With languid limbs, by comfortable fire,
We see our glories, one by one, expire;
A Nelson's flag, a Churchill's flashing blade,
Debased to menials of rapacious Trade;
Lost by a Cardwell what a Wellesley won,
And by a Gladstone Chatham's world undone!
Pale, gibbering spectres fumbling at the helm,
Whilst dark winds howl, and billowy seas o'erwhelm.
Yet deem you, England, that you thus will save,
Even your wealth from rapine or the grave?
Will your one chain of safety always hold,
Or `silver streak' for ever guard your gold?
If through long slumbrous years the ignoble rust
Of selfish ease your erst bright steel encrust,
When Storm impends, you vainly will implore
The Gods of Ocean to protect your shore.
Bribed by the foe, behold Britannia stand
At Freedom's portals with a traitress hand,
Help the Barbarian to its sacred hold,
Then, like Tarpeia, sink oppressed with Gold!

Perish the thought! O, rather let me see
Conspiring myriads bristling on the sea,
Our tranquil coasts bewildered by alarms,
And Britain, singly, face a World in arms!
What if a treacherous Heaven befriend our foes?
Let us go down in glory, as we rose!
And if that doom-the best that could betide-
Be to our Fame by envious Fate denied,
Then come, primeval clouds and seasons frore,
And wrap in gloom our luckless land once more!
Come, every wind of Heaven that rudely blows,
Plunge back our Isle in never-ending snows!
Rage, Eurus, rage! fierce Boreas, descend!
With glacial mists lost Albion befriend!
E'en of its name be every trace destroyed,
And Dark sit brooding o'er the formless Void!

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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.'
'No–it'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, me–a 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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Thurso’s Landing

I
The coast-road was being straightened and repaired again,
A group of men labored at the steep curve
Where it falls from the north to Mill Creek. They scattered and hid
Behind cut banks, except one blond young man
Who stooped over the rock and strolled away smiling
As if he shared a secret joke with the dynamite;
It waited until he had passed back of a boulder,
Then split its rock cage; a yellowish torrent
Of fragments rose up the air and the echoes bumped
From mountain to mountain. The men returned slowly
And took up their dropped tools, while a banner of dust
Waved over the gorge on the northwest wind, very high
Above the heads of the forest.
Some distance west of the road,
On the promontory above the triangle
Of glittering ocean that fills the gorge-mouth,
A woman and a lame man from the farm below
Had been watching, and turned to go down the hill. The young
woman looked back,
Widening her violet eyes under the shade of her hand. 'I think
they'll blast again in a minute.'
And the man: 'I wish they'd let the poor old road be. I don't
like improvements.' 'Why not?' 'They bring in the world;
We're well without it.' His lameness gave him some look of age
but he was young too; tall and thin-faced,
With a high wavering nose. 'Isn't he amusing,' she said, 'that
boy Rick Armstrong, the dynamite man,
How slowly he walks away after he lights the fuse. He loves to
show off. Reave likes him, too,'
She added; and they clambered down the path in the rock-face,
little dark specks
Between the great headland rock and the bright blue sea.

II
The road-workers had made their camp
North of this headland, where the sea-cliff was broken down and
sloped to a cove. The violet-eyed woman's husband,
Reave Thurso, rode down the slope to the camp in the gorgeous
autumn sundown, his hired man Johnny Luna
Riding behind him. The road-men had just quit work and four
or five were bathing in the purple surf-edge,
The others talked by the tents; blue smoke fragrant with food
and oak-wood drifted from the cabin stove-pipe
And slowly went fainting up the vast hill.
Thurso drew rein by
a group of men at a tent door
And frowned at them without speaking, square-shouldered and
heavy-jawed, too heavy with strength for so young a man,
He chose one of the men with his eyes. 'You're Danny Woodruff,
aren't you, that drives the tractor?' Who smiled
And answered 'Maybe. What then?' 'Why, nothing, except you
broke my fence and you've got to fix it.' 'You don't say,'
He said laughing. 'Did somebody break your fence? Well, that's
too bad.' 'My man here saw you do it.
He warned you out of the field.' 'Oh, was I warned?' He turned
to Luna: 'What did I say to you, cowboy?'
'You say, you say,' Luna's dark face flushed black, 'you say
'Go to hell.'
' Woodruff gravely, to Thurso:
'That's what I say.' The farmer had a whip in his hand, a hotter
man might have struck, but he carefully
Hung it on the saddle-horn by the thong at the butt, dismounted,
and said, 'You'll fix it though.' He was somewhat
Short-coupled, but so broad in the chest and throat, and obviously
all oak, that Woodruff recoiled a step,
Saying 'If you've got a claim for damages, take it to the county.'
'I'm taking it nearer hand.
You'll fix the fence.' Woodruffs companions
Began to come in between, and one said 'Wait for him
Until he fixes it, your cows will be down the road.'
Thurso shook his head slightly and bored forward
Toward his one object; who felt the persecuting
Pale eyes under dark brows dazzle resistance.
He was glad the bathers came up the shore, to ask
What the dispute was, their presence released his mind
A moment from the obstinate eyes. The blithe young firer
Of dynamite blasts, Rick Armstrong, came in foremost,
Naked and very beautiful, all his blond body
Gleaming from the sea; he'd been one or two evenings
A guest at the farmhouse, and now took Thurso's part
So gracefully that the tractor-driver, already
Unnerved by that leaden doggedness, was glad to yield.
He'd mend the fence in the morning: Oh, sure, he wanted
To do the right thing: but Thurso's manner
Had put him off.
The group dissolved apart, having made for
a moment its unconscious beauty
In the vast landscape above the ocean in the colored evening;
the naked bodies of the young bathers
Polished with light, against the brown and blue denim core of
the rest; and the ponies, one brown, one piebald,
Compacted into the group, the Spanish-Indian horseman dark
bronze above them, under broad red
Heavens leaning to the lonely mountain.

III
In the moonlight two hours before Sunday dawn
Rick Armstrong went on foot over the hill
Toward the farmhouse in the deep gorge, where it was dark,
And he smelled the stream. Thurso had invited him
To go deer-hunting with them, seeing lights in the house
He hurried down, not to make his friends wait.
He passed under a lonely noise in the sky
And wondered at it, and remembered the great cable
That spanned the gorge from the hill, with a rusted iron skip
Hanging from it like a stuck black moon; relics,
With other engines on the headland, of ancient lime-kilns
High up the canyon, from which they shot the lime
To the promontory along the airy cable-way
To be shipped by sea. The works had failed; the iron skip
Stuck on its rusted pulleys would never move again
Until it fell, but to make a desolate creaking
In the mountain east-wind that poured down the gorge
Every clear night. He looked for it and could not find it
Against the white sky, but stumbled over a root
And hurried down to the house.
There were layered smells of
horses and leather
About the porch; the door stood half open, in the yellow slot
Of lamplight appeared two faces, Johnny Luna's dark hollow
Egyptian profile and Helen Thurso's
Very white beyond, her wide-parted violet eyes looked black
and her lips moved. Her husband's wide chest
Eclipsed the doorway. 'Here you are. I was afraid you wouldn't
wake up. Come in,' Thurso said,
'Coffee and bacon, it will be long to lunch.' A fourth in the
room was the lame man, Reave Thurso's brother,
Who said at parting, 'Take care of Helen, won't you, Reave,
Don't tire her out.' He was not of the party but had risen to see
them off. She answered from the porch, laughing,
The light from the door gilding her cheek, 'I'll not be the tired
one, Mark, by evening. Pity the others.'
'Let the men do the shooting, Helen, spare yourself. Killing's
against your nature, it would hurt with unhappy thought
Some later time.' 'Ah,' she answered, 'not so gentle as you
think. Good-bye, brother.'
They mounted the drooping horses and rode up canyon
Between black trees, under that lonely creaking in the sky, and
turned southward
Along the coast-road to enter a darker canyon.
The horses jerked at the bridle-hands,
Nosing out a way for the stammering hooves
Along the rocks of a ribbed creek-bed; thence a path upward
To the height of a ridge; in that clear the red moonset
Appeared between murky hills, like a burning ship
On the world's verge.
Thurso and Luna stealthily dismounted.
They stole two ways down the starry-glimmering slope like
assassins, above the black fur of forest, and vanished
In the shifty gray. The two others remained, Armstrong looked
wistfully
Toward his companion through the high reddish gloom, and
saw the swell of her breast and droop of her throat
Darkling against the low moon-scarred west. She whispered and
said, 'The poor thing may drive up hill toward us:
And I'll not fire, do you want to trade rifles with me? The old
one that Reave has lent you is little use.'
He answered, 'I guess one gun's as good as another, you can't
see the bead, you can't see the notch.' 'Oh: well.
The light will grow.' They were silent a time, sitting and holding
the horses, the red moon on the sea-line
Suddenly foundered; still the east had nothing.
'We'd better take ourselves
Out of the sky, and tie up the horses.' She began to move, down
the way lately climbed, the cowboy's
Pony trailing behind her, Armstrong led Reave's. He saw her
white shirt below him gleam in the starlight
Like bare shoulders above the shadow. They unbridled the horses
and tethered them to buckthorn bushes, and went back
Into the sky; but lay close against the ridge to be hidden, for a
cloud whitened. Orion and Sirius
Stood southward in the mid heaven, and Armstrong said,
'They're strange at dawn, see, they're not autumn stars,
They belong to last March.' 'Maybe next March,' she answered
Without looking. 'Tell me how you've charmed Reave
To make him love you? He never has cared for a friend before,
Cold and lonely by nature. He seems to love you.'
'Why: nothing. If he lacks friends perhaps it's only
Because this country has been too vacant for him
To make choices from.' 'No,' she answered, 'he's cold,
And all alone in himself. Well. His goodness is strength.
He's never set his mind on anything yet
But got it with a strong hand. His brother, you met this morning,
Is very different, a weak man of course,
But kindly and full of pity toward every creature, but really at heart
As cold as Reave. I never loved hunting, and he's
Persuaded me to hate it. Let him persuade
Reave if he could!' Armstrong said, 'Why did you come then?'
'Ah? To watch things be killed.'

They heard the wind
Flustering below, and felt the sallow increase of clearness
On grass-blades, and the girl's face, and the far sea,
A light of visions, faint and a virgin. One rifle-shot
Snapped the still dawn; Armstrong cradled his gun
But nothing came up the hill. The cloud-line eastward
Suddenly flushed with rose-color flame, and standing
Rays of transparent purple shadow appeared
Behind the fired fleece. Helen Thurso sighed and stood up,
'Let's see if we can't lead one of the horses down,
Now light has come, to bring up the corpse.' 'The . . . for
what?'
'The meat,' she said impatiently, 'the killed thing. It's a hard
climb.'
'You think they got it?' 'Couldn't fail; but other years
They've taken two in that trap.' Nearly straight down,
At the edge of the wood, in the pool of blue shade in the cleft
hill,
The two men were seen, one burdened, like mites in a bowl; and
Helen with a kind of triumph: 'Look down there:
What size Reave Thurso is really: one of those little dirty black
ants that come to dead things could carry him
With the deer added.'

They drove a horse down the headlong
pitch; the sun came up like a man shouting
While they climbed back, then Helen halted for breath. Thurso
tightened the lashings under the saddle,
That held his booty on the pony's back, and said to Armstrong,
'That tree that stands alone on the spur,
It looks like a match: its trunk's twenty feet through. The biggest
redwoods left on the coast are there,
The lumbermen couldn't reach them.'
Johnny Luna, when they
reached the ridge,
Was sent home leading his horse, with the buck mounted. The
others rode east, the two men ahead, and Helen
Regarding their heads and shoulders against the sharp sky or
the sides of hills; they left the redwood canyons
And rode a long while among interminable gray ranges bushed
on the north with oak and lupin;
Farther they wandered among flayed bison-shaped hills, and rode
at noon under sparse bull-pines,
And so returned, having seen no life at all
Except high up the sun the black vultures,
Some hawks hunting the gorges, and a far coyote.
In the afternoon, nearing toward home, it was Helen
Who saw five deer strung on a ridge. 'Oh. Look.
So I've betrayed them,' she said bitterly. Reave said to Armstrong,
'Your shot: the buck to the north,' and while he spoke fired, but
the other
Had raised his cheek from the rifle-stock to look
At Helen angrily laughing, her face brilliant
In the hard sunlight, with lakes of deep shade
Under the brows and the chin; when he looked back
The ridge was cleared. 'Why didn't you let him have it?
You'd such an easy shot,' Thurso said,
'Against the cloud, mine was among the bushes,
I saw him fall and roll over.' 'Be very happy,'
Helen said. 'He was hard hit, for he ran down hill.
That makes you shine.'
They labored across the gorge
And climbed up to the ridge. A spongy scarlet thing
Was found at the foot of a green oak-bush and Helen
Came and saw it. 'He was hit in the lung,' Reave said,
'Coughed up a froth of blood and ran down hill.
I have to get him.' 'It looks like a red toadstool:
Red scum on rotten wood. Does it make you sick?
Not a bit: it makes you happy.' 'Why do you come hunting, Helen,
If you hate hunting? Keep still at least. As for being happy:
Look where I have to go down.' He showed her the foamy spots
of blood, on the earth and the small leaves,
Going down a steep thicket that seemed impassable. She answered,
'Let the poor thing die in peace.' 'It would seem a pity,'
He answered, 'to let him suffer; besides the waste.' Armstrong
looked down and said, 'He'll be in the creek-bed.
I'll go down there and work up the gulch, if you go down here.'
'You'd never find him without the blood-trail,'
Reave answered. Then Helen suddenly went back and touched
the foam of blood on the ground, dipping four fingers,
And returned and said, 'I was afraid to do it, so I did it. Now
I'm no better than you. Don't go down.
Please, Reave. Let's hurry and go home. I'm tired.' Reave said
to Armstrong, 'That would be best, if you'd take her home.
It's only a mile and a half, help her with the horses, won't you?
Take mine too. I'll hang the buck in a tree
Near where I find him, and come fetch him to-morrow.' 'If you
want,' Armstrong said. Helen clenched
Her blood-tipped fingers and felt them stick to the palm. 'All
right. I'll do
What you've chosen,' she said with smoothed lips. 'Mark wins,
he said I'd be tired. But he was wrong,'
Opening her hand, regarding the red-lined nails,
'To think me all milk and kindness.' Thurso went down
The thicket; and Helen: 'Nothing could turn him back.
He's never set his mind on anything yet
But snuffled like a bloodhound to the bitter end.' They heard
the branches
Breaking below, and returned by the open slope
To the horses across the creek.
They rode softly
Down the canyon; Helen said, 'I'm not tired.
Do you ever think about death? I've seen you play with it,
Strolling away while the fuse fizzed in the rock.'
'Hell no, that was all settled when they made the hills.'
'Did you notice how high he held his bright head
And the branched horns, keen with happiness?
Nothing told him
That all would break in a moment and the blood choke his throat.
I hope that poor stag
Had many loves in his life.' He looked curiously,
A little moved, at her face; too pale, like a white flame
That has form but no brilliance in the light of day;
The wide violet eyes hollowed with points of craving darkness
Under the long dark lashes; and the charcoal mark
Across her slightly hollowed cheek, where a twig had crossed it
When they rode the burnt hillside. He said: 'I ought
ToVe gone with Reave, it doesn't seem fair to let him
Sweat alone in that jungle.' 'He enjoys toil.
You don't know him yet. Give him a blood-trail to follow,
That's all he wants for Christmas. What he's got's nothing to him,
His game's the getting. But slow, slow: be hours yet.
From here we can choose ways, and though it's a good deal longer,
There's daylight left, we'll go by the head of the hill: up there
you can see the whole coast
And a thousand hills. Look,' she said laughing,
'What the crooked bushes have done,' showing her light shirt
Torn at the breast, and a long red scratch
Under the bright smooth breast. He felt in his mind
A moving dizziness, and shifted his body backward
From the saddle-horn.

A curl of sea-cloud stood on the head of the hill
Like a wave breaking against the wind; but when they reached
it, windows of clearness in it were passing
From the northwest, through which the mountain sea-wall looked
abrupt as dreams, from Lobos like a hand on the sea
To the offshore giant at Point Sur southward. Straight down
through the coursing mists like a crack in the mountain sea-root,
Mill Creek Canyon, like a crack in the naked root of a dead pine
when the bark peels off. The bottom
Of the fissure was black with redwood, and lower
Green with alders; between the black and the green the painted
roof of the farmhouse, like a dropped seed,
Thurso's house, like a grain of corn in the crack of a plank, where
the hens can't reach it.

Cloud steered between;
Helen Thurso said 'What if the rut is a rock canyon,
Look how Fm stuck in a rut: do I have to live there?
And Reave's old mother's like a white-headed hawk.
Your job here's nearly finished, where will you go?'
'I haven't thought: all places are like each other:
Maybe Nevada in the spring.
There's work all over.' 'I,' she said, trembling; 'it seems cold
up here.
I hate the sea-fog. Now let's look east.' They had tied
The horses to the highest bushes on the north slope,
And walked on the open dome of the hill, they crossed it
And the east was clear; the beautiful desolate inhuman range
beyond range of summits all seen at once,
Dry bright and quiet and their huge blue shadows. Helen said
faintly,
'He's down there somewhere. It's that deer's blood.
It made me drunk, it was too red I thought.
Life is so tiny little, and if it shoots
Into the darkness without ever once flashing?'
They turned back to the dome-top under the cloud.
'You're tired, Helen.' 'I'll not let the days of my life
Hang like a string of naughts between two nothings.
Wear a necklace of round zeros for pearls;
I'm not made that way. Think what you please. Shall we go down
now?'
'The cloud has come all around us,' he answered, seeing the distilled
drops of the cloud like seed-pearls
Hung in her hair and on the dark lashes. He turned to go down
to the horses, she said 'I have seen dawn with you,
The red moonset and white dawn,
And starlight on the mountain, and noon on burnt hills where
there was no shadow but a vulture's, and that stag's blood:
I've lived with you
A long day like a lifetime, at last I've drawn something
In the string of blanks.' She lifted her face against his shoulder
and said 'Good-bye.' He said 'I'm Reave's friend,'
And kissed her good-bye seeing she desired it, her breasts burrowed
against him and friendship forgot his mind,
With such brief wooing they stirred the deep wells of pleasure.

She lay but half quieted, still hotly longing,
Her eyes morbidly shuttered like the sleep of fever showed
threads of the white and faint arcs of the crystalline
Violet irises, barred across by the strong dark lashes; the night
of the lids covered the pupils,
Behind them, and under the thick brown hair and under the
cunning sutures of the hollow bone the nerve-cells
With locking fibrils made their own world and light, the multitude
of small rayed animals of one descent.
That make one mind, imagined a mountain
Higher than the scope of nature, predominant over all these edges
of the earth, on its head a sacrifice
Half naked, all flaming, her hair blown like a fire through the
level skies; for she had to believe this passion
Not the wild heat of nature, but the superstitiously worshipped
spirit of love, that is thought to burn
All its acts righteous.
While Helen adorned the deed with the
dream it needed, her lover meanwhile
Explored with hands and eyes the moulded smoothness through
the open clothing, reviving his spent desire
Until they were joined in longer-lasting delight; her nerve-cells
intermitted their human dream;
The happy automatism of life, inhuman as the sucking heart of
the whirlwind, usurped the whole person,
Aping pain, crying out and writhing like torture.

They rose and
went down to the horses;
The light had changed in the sea-cloud, the sun must be near
setting. When they were halfway down the mountain
The whole cloud began to glow with color like a huge rose, a
forest of transparent pale crimson petals
Blowing all about them; slowly the glory
Flared up the slope and faded in the high air.

IV
They rode
through pale twilight
And whispered at the farmhouse door inarticulate leave-takings.
Helen went in; Armstrong unsaddled the horses
Ahd walked heavily up canyon and crossed the hill.
Helen said, 'Reave went after a wounded deer
And sent me home. He hasn't come home yet?'
Reave's mother said 'We've not seen him,' steadily watching her
Across the lamplight with eyes like an old hawk's,
Red-brown and indomitable, and tired. But if she was hawk-like
As Helen fancied, it was not in the snatching look
But the alienation and tamelessness and sullied splendor
Of a crippled hawk in a cage. She was worn at fifty
To thin old age; the attritions of time and toil and arthritis
That wear old women to likeness had whetted this one
To difference, as if they had bitten on a bronze hawk
Under the eroded flesh.
Helen avoided her eyes
And said to the other in the room, 'Ah, Mark, you guessed right.
I'm tired to death, must creep up to bed now.' The old woman:
'So you came home alone? That young Armstrong
Stayed with Reave.' Helen faltered an instant and said,
'No, for Reave sent him with me, wishing his horse
To be taken home. Mr. Armstrong stopped
By the corral, he was unsaddling the horses I think,
But I was too tired to help him. My rifle, Mark,
Is clean: I minded your words.'

An hour later the heavy tread
of a man was heard on the steps
And the fall of a fleshy bulk by the door, crossed by the click of
hooves or antlers, and Reave came in,
His shirt blood-stained on the breast and shoulders. 'I got him,'
he said. 'It seemed for awhile I'd be out all night.
By luck I found him, at twilight in a buckeye bush. Where's
Helen, gone to bed?' 'She seemed flurried with thoughts,'
His mother answered, and going to the door that led to the
kitchen she called, 'Olvidia,'
Bring in the supper.' 'Well, yes,' Reave said. 'I must first hang
up the carcass and wash my hands.' 'Olvidia,'
His mother called to the kitchen, 'will you tell Johnny: is Johnny
there? Tell him to fetch the meat
From the door-step and hang it up with the other.' Mark said,
'How far, Reave, did you carry it?' 'Two miles or so.
Rough country at first; I held it in front of me to butt the brush
with.' 'Why, what does it weigh?' 'Oh,' he said, 'a young
buck.
About Helen's weight.' 'You are strong,' his mother said, 'that's
good: but a fool.' 'Well, mother, I might have hung it
In a tree and gone up with a horse to-morrow; I shouldered it
to save time.'

Mark, enviously:
'You've seen many green canyons and the clouds on a hundred
hills.
My mind has better mountains than these in it,
And bloodless ones.' The dark Spanish-Indian woman
Olvidia took Reave's empty plate and the dish,
And Mrs. Thurso said, 'Reave, you've big arms,
And ribs like a rain-barrel, what do they amount to
If the mind inside is a baby? Our white-face bull's
Bigger and wiser.' 'What have I done?' 'I'll never say
Your young Helen's worth keeping, but while you have her
Don't turn her out to pasture on the mountain
With the yellow-haired young man. Those heavy blue eyes
Came home all enriched.' Reave laughed and Mark said bitterly,
'Mother, that's mean.
You know her too well for that. Helen is as clear as the crystal
sky, don't breathe on her.' 'You,' she answered fondly.
Reave smiled, 'I trust Rick Armstrong as I do my own hand.'
'It shames my time of life,'
She answered, 'to have milky-new sons. What has he done for you
To be your angel?' 'Why,' he said, 'I like him.' 'That's generous,
And rare in you. How old is he?' 'My age. Twenty-four.'
'Oh, that's a better reason to trust him.' 'Hm?' 'You're the
same age.'
'That's no reason.' 'No,' she answered.

V
Toward noon the next day
Helen was ironing linen by the kitchen stove,
A gun-shot was heard quite near the house, she dropped the iron
And ran outdoors and met Mark. 'What was that shot?' 'Don't
go up there, Helen.' 'Why not, why not,' she stammered,
'Why not,' the flush of the stove-heat graying on her cheek.
'Reave has put poor old Bones out of pain.' 'Oh, that!'
Laughing and trembling, 'Your funeral face. I thought something
had happened to someone. Let the old dog sleep.'
She went up hill to the screen of seawind-stunted laurel and oak,
where Reave was already spading
Dust into the gape of a small grave. 'You've done for poor old
Bones, have you? You knew I loved him,
So you took him off.' 'A pity you came just now, Helen. He
died in a moment. If we'd used this mercy
Two or three months ago we'd have saved pain.' She answered,
quivering with anger, 'You do it on the sly
And call it mercy. Ah, killing's your pleasure, your secret vice.'
'I'll wish you sunnier pleasures: and a little
Sense in your head: he was made of miseries: you've seen him plead
To be helped, and wonder at us when the pain stayed.
I've helped him now.' 'Will you do as much for yourself
When life dirties and darkens? Your father did.'
'No, I will not,' he said, shovelling the dust.
'What's that said for? For spite?' 'No, Reave.
I was wondering. For I think it's reasonable.
When the flower and fruit are gone, nothing but sour rind,
Why suck the shell? I think your father was right.'
'Drop a little silence on him,' Reave answered.
'We may help out the beasts, but a man mustn't be beaten.
That was a little too easy, to pop himself off because he went broke.
I was ten years old, I tried not to despise the soft stuff
That ran away to the dark from a touch of trouble:
Because the lime-kilns failed and the lumber mill
Ran out of redwood.
My mother took up his ruins and made a farm;
She wouldn't run away, to death or charity. Mark and I helped.
We lost most of the land but we saved enough.'
'Think of one man owning so many canyons:
Sovranes, Granite,' she counted on her fingers, 'Garapatas, Palo
Colorado,
Rocky Creek, and this Mill Creek.' 'Oh, that was nothing, the
land was worth nothing
In those days, only for lime and redwood.' She answered,
'You needn't despise him, Reave. My dad never owned anything.
While I worked in a laundry and while I crated fruit
He ate my wages and lived as long as he could
And died crying.' 'We're proud of our fathers, hm?
Well, he was sick a long time,' Reave said, patting
The back of the spade on the filled grave; 'but courage might live
While the lungs rot. I think it might. You never
Saw him again, did you?' 'How saw him?' 'We used to see mine
Often in the evenings.' 'What do you mean, Reave?'
'Why: in the evenings.
Coming back to stare at his unfinished things.
Mother still often sees him.' Helen's face brightening
With happy interest, 'Oh where?' she said. 'On the paths;
Looking up at that thing, with his mouth open.'
Reave waved his hand toward the great brown iron skip
Hanging on its cable in the canyon sky,
That used to carry the lime from the hill, but now
Stuck on dead pulleys in the sky. 'It ought to be taken down
Before it falls. I’ll do it when we've done the plowing.'
Helen said, 'Does he ever speak?' 'Too ashamed of himself.
I spoke to him once:
I was carrying firewood into the house, my arms were full. He
worked a smile on his face and pointed
At the trolley up there.' 'Do you really believe,' she said, 'that
your father's ghost?' 'Certainly not. Some stain
Stagnates here in the hollow canyon air, or sticks in our minds.
How could too weak to live
Show after it died?' 'I knew,' she answered, blanching again
with capricious anger, 'you'd no mercy in you,
But only sudden judgment for any weak thing;
And neither loving nor passionate; dull, cold and scornful. I used
to keep a gay heart in my worst days
And laugh a little: how can I live
Where nothing except poor Mark is even half human, you like
a stone, hard and joyless, dark inside,
And your mother like an old hawk, and even dirty Olvidia and
Johnny Luna, dark and hollow
As the hearts of jugs. The dog here in the ground Oh but how
carefully you scrape the blood-lake
Had loving brown eyes: so you killed him: he was sometimes
joyful: it wouldn't do. You killed him for that.' He answered,
Staring, 'Were you born a fool? What's the matter, Helen?'
'If I had to stay here
I'd turn stone too: cold and dark: I'd give a dollar
For a mirror now, and show you that square face of yours
Taken to pieces with amazement: you never guessed
Helen's a shrew. Oh, what do you want her for?
Let her go.' She left him; and when he came in at noon
Spoke meekly, she seemed to have wept.

VI
In the evening, in
Helen's presence,
Reave's mother said, 'Did that sand-haired young man
Find you, Reave, when he came this afternoon?
He didn't come to the house.' 'Who?' 'That road-worker,
Arnfield.' 'Rick Armstrong?' 'Most likely: the one I warned you
Not to pasture your heifer with.' 'He was here?' 'No,
Not here. I saw him come down the hill, and Helen
Went out to meet him.' Mark Thurso looked up
From the book he'd been reading, and watched his mother
As a pigeon on a rock watches a falcon quartering
The field beyond the next fence; but Helen suddenly:
'Now listen, Mark. I'm to be framed, ah?
I think so. I never liked her.' The old woman said,
'Did you say something?' 'Not yet,' she answered. Reave made
a mocking
Noise in his throat and said, 'Let them alone.
No peace between women.
This morning I sent Luna over the hill
With one of the bucks we killed, no doubt my friend came over
At quitting-time to say thank-you: why he didn't find me's
Less clear, but watch the women build it between them
To a big darkness.' 'Not I,' Helen said,
And dipped her needle two or three careful stitches
In the cloth she was mending, then looked up suddenly
To see who watched her. 'If I'd seen him,' she said, 'I'd have
spoken to him.
I am not sick with jealousy of your new friend. But he was
probably not here; the old eyes that make
A dead man's phantom can imagine a live one's.' The old woman:
'When you saw him you ran to meet him; I sent Olvidia
To see if the speckled hen had stolen a nest in the willows. She
walked down there, what she saw amazed her.
I've not allowed her to tell me though she bubbles with it. Your
business, Reave: ask her. Not mine: I'm only
The slow man's mother.' Helen stood up, trembling a little and
smiling, she held the needle and the spool
And folded the cloth, saying 'Your mother, Reave,
Loves you well: too well: you and I honor her for that. She has
hated me from the day she heard of me,
But that was jealousy, the shadow that shows love's real: nothing
to resent. But now you seem very friendly
With that young man too: she can't bear to yield you again, it
cracks the string of her mind. No one can fancy
What she's plotted with the kitchen woman . . .' Mark Thurso
said with lips that suddenly whitened: '7 met Armstrong.
I told him you'd ridden up the high pasture, for so I believed.
He asked me to thank you warmly
For the buck you sent: I forgot to tell you. I was with him while
he was here, and when he went back I hobbled
Some ways up hill.' The old woman moved her lips but said
nothing; but Reave: 'Here: what's the matter,
Brother? You were with me constantly all afternoon.' 'But an
hour,' Mark said. 'Hm? Five minutes.' Then Helen,
Looking from the one to the other: 'If I am hated, I think I am
loved too. I'd something to say . . .
Oh: yes: will you promise, Reave, promise Olvidia
You'll give her, for telling the perfect truth, whatever your
mother has promised her for telling lies: then I'm safe.
Call her and ask her.' He answered, 'She'll sleep in hell first.
Here's enough stories
Without hers in the egg-basket. Do you think it was Armstrong
you saw, mother? I trust Rick Armstrong
From the bright point to the handle.' Helen said, 'Ah, Mark,
You'd never imagine I'd be satisfied with that.
I have to be satisfied with that.' 'Why not?' Reave said.
And she: 'If it was nothing worse than killing to fear
I'd confess. All kinds of lies. I fear you so much
I'd confess ... all kinds of lies ... to get it over with,'
She said, making a clicking noise in her throat
Like one who has drunk too much and hiccoughs, 'only
To get it over with: only, I haven't done anything.
This terror, Mark, has no reason,
Reave never struck nor threatened me, yet well I know
That while I've lived here I've always been sick with fear
As that woman is with jealousy. Deep in me, a black lake
His eyes drill to, it spurts. Sometime he'll drill to my heart
And that's the nut of courage hidden in the lake.
Then we'll see. I don't mean anything bad, you know: I'm very
innocent,
And wish to think high, like Mark. Olvidia of course is a hollow
liar. May I go now? I'm trembling-tired:
If you'll allow me to go up to bed? But indeed I dare not
While you sit judging.' She looked at Mark and slightly
Reached both her hands toward him, smiled and went out.
But in the little dark hallway under the stair,
When she hastened through it in the sudden darkness,
The door being neither open nor shut passed edgewise
Between her two groping hands, her cheek and brow
Struck hard on the edge.

Her moan was heard in the room of
lamplight;
Where they had been sitting silent while she went out,
An4 when she had gone Mark Thurso had said, 'Mother:
You've done an infamous thing.' 'They might play Jack and queen
All they please,' she answered, 'but not my son
For the fool card in the deck,' the shock of struck wood was heard,
And Helen's hushed groan: Mark, dragging his lameness, reeled
Swiftly across the room saying 'What has she done?'
He groped in the passage and spoke tenderly, then Reave
Went and brought Helen to the lamplight; a little blood
Ran through her left eye to her lips from the cut eyebrow.
The implacable old woman said 'She's not hurt.
Will you make a fuss?' Helen said, 'The wood of your house
Is like your mother, Reave, hits in the dark.
This will wash off.' She went to the kitchen and met
Olvidia who'd been listening against the door,
Then Helen, moaning 'I'm ringed with my enemies,' turned
To flee, and turned back. 'I will take it now. My husband, Olvidia,
Is ready to kill me, you see. I have been kind to you
Two or three times. Have you seen any unusual
Or wicked meeting to-day?' The Indian woman,
Dreading Reave's anger and seeing the blood, but hardly
Understanding the words, blanked her dark face
And wagged her head. 'Don't know. What you mean, wicked?
I better keep out of this.' 'A dish of water, Olvidia.
Be near me, Mark. Reave: will you ask her now?'
He said 'Wash and be quiet.' Helen said, 'Oh Olvidia,
Someone has made him angry at you and me.
Look in my eyes. Tell no bad stories . . . lies, that is ...
Did you see anything when you looked for eggs
In the willows along the creek?' Olvidia folded
Her lips together and stepped backward, then Helen
Sighed, dabbling her cheek with water. 'It hurts. I think
It will turn black.' Reave suddenly shouted 'Answer.'
Olvidia, retreating farther: 'What you want of me?
I find no eggs.' Mark said, 'Come, Helen, Oh come. I've watched
innocence tormented
And can no more. Go up and sleep if you can, I'll speak for you,
to-morrow all this black cloud of wrong
Will be melted quite away in the morning.' Reave said, 'Don't
fawn on her, you make me mad. Women will do it.
But why praise 'em for it?' Helen, meekly: 'I am very tired and
helpless and driven to the edge. Think kindly of me,
Mark, I believe I shall be much hated. Your mother . . .
This is all. Light me a candle.' At the foot of the stair
She closed the door, and silently tip-toed through
The passage and the other room to the door of the house,
There pinched the wick, and praying for no wind
To make a stir in the house, carefully opened
The outer door and latched it behind her.

She traversed the hill,
And at the road-men's camp, plucking at the fly
Of a lit tent, thought momently it was curious
She stood among so many unrestrained men
Without fear, yet feared Reave. 'I must see Rick Armstrong
This moment: which tent?' They laid their hands of cards
Carefully face down on the packing-box.
'Why, ma'am, I can't say exactly,' but she had run off
To another lamp of shining canvas and found him.
'Let me stand into the light.' She showed her cut brow
A little bleeding again with hurry in the dark,
And the purpling bruise. 'What Reave did. Your friend Reave.
His mother spied and told on us. What will you do?'
'By God!' 'Oh,' she said, 'that's no good.
How could you keep me here? Borrow a car,
There are cars here.' He said 'I'll take care of you.' She
shuddered,
Beating her fists together, breathed long and said:
'If you choose to stand here and talk among the men listening
It is not my fault. I say if you and these men could stop him when
he comes
You can'tto-night, to-night, in an hour nothing can stop him:
he'd call the sheriff to-morrow and have me
Like a stolen cow, nothing but ridiculous, a mark for children to
hoot at, crying in my hair, probably
Led on a rope. Don't you know him? I do. Oh my lover
Take me to the worst hut at the world's end and kill me there,
but take me from here before Reave comes.
I'd go so gladly. And how could you bear to face him, he thought
you his faithful friend, for shame even?
Oh hurry, hurry!'

VII
In the desert at the foot of sun-rotted hills
A row of wooden cabins flanks a gaunt building
Squatted on marbly terraces of its own excrement,
Digested rock from which the metal has been sucked,
Drying in the rage of the sun. Reave Thurso stopped
At the first cabin, a woman came out and pointed;
He went to the farthest cabin, knocked, and went in.
'Well, Helen. You found a real sunny place.' Opening the door
She'd been a violet-eyed girl, a little slatternly
But rich with life; she stood back from the door
Sallow, with pinched nostrils and dwindled eyes,
As if she had lost a fountain of blood, and faintly
Whispering 'I knew you.' Reave looked about him like one
Attentively learning the place, and Helen said
'I never hoped that you wouldn't come at last,
It seemed a kind of blood-trail for you to follow.
And then I knew you were tardy and cold of course and at last
You'd come at last, you never give up anything,
How did you track us at last?' 'Oh,' he laughed, 'Time and I.
He's at work?' 'Yes.' 'If you wanted to hide
You'd have got him to change his name.' 'I begged him to,' she
answered,
Suddenly weeping, 'so many times.' 'Don't cry, don't cry.
You know that I'll never hurt you. Mark loves you too, he's been
very lonely. He wanted me to let you go,
But that was nonsense. He's been sick since you went away. Do
you remember the rose-bush you made me buy
That time in Salinas? Mark's watered it for you, sick or well,
Every day, limping around the house with a pail of water spilling
on his poor ankle-joint,
He'll be glad to see you again. Well, pack your things.' She gathered
Her blanked face to some show of life. 'Look around at this
country. Oh Reave. Reave. Look. I let him
Take me here at last. And he hasn't been always perfectly kind:
but since I’ve been living with him I love him . . .
My heart would break if I tried to tell you how much. I'm not
ashamed. There was something in me that didn't
Know about love until I was living with him. I kissed him, when
he went back to work this noon.
I didn't know you were corning; forgot you were coming sometime.
See how it is. No: I understand:
You won't take me.' He, astonished: 'Not take you? After hunting
you a whole year? You dream too much, Helen.
It makes you lovely in a way, but it clouds your mind. You must
distinguish. All this misfortune of yours
Probably . . .' 'Oh God,' she said, shuddering,
'Will you preach too? First listen to me: I tell you all the other
joys I’ve ever known in my life
Were dust to this . . . misfortune; the desert sun out there is a
crow's wing against the brightness of this . . .
Misfortune: Oh I didn't mean, dear,
To make you angry.' She was suddenly kneeling to him and
pressed her face
On his hard thigh: 'I know Pve been wicked, Reave.
You must leave me in the dirt for a bad woman: the women here
See the marks of it, look sidelings at me.
I'll still believe you used to love me a little,
But now of course
You wouldn't want for a wife ... a handkerchief
You lost and another man picked me up and
Wiped his mouth. Oh there may have been many
Other men. In a year: you can't tell.
Your mother is strong and always rightly despised me.
She'd spit on me if she saw me now. So now
You'll simply cast me off; you're strong, like your mother,
And when you see that a thing's perfectly worthless
You can pick it out of your thoughts. Don't forgive me. I only
Pray you to hate me. Say 'She's no good. To hell with her!
That's the mercy I pray you for.' He said hastily, 'Get up,
This is no theater. I intend to take you back, Helen,
I never was very angry at you, remembering
That a. woman's more like a child, besides you were muddled
With imaginations and foolish reading. So we'll shut this bad year
In a box of silence and drown it out of our minds.' She stood
away from him toward the farther wall
With a sharp white face, like a knife-blade worn thin and hollow
with too much whetting, and said, turning her face
Toward the window, 'How do I know that he can compel me?
He can torment us, but there's no law
To give me to him. You can't take me against my will. No: I
won't go. Do you think you're God,
And we have to do what you want?' He said, 'You'll go all
right.' She, laughing, 'At last you've struck something
Stiffer than you. Reave, that stubborn will
Is not strength but disease, I've always known it, like the slow
limy sickness
You hear about, that turns a man's flesh to bone,
The willing muscles and fibers little by little
Grow hard and helpless, at last you can't dent them, nothing will move,
He lands in a tent beside the circus, with a painting of him
Over the door and people pay ten cents
To see the petrified man: that's your stubbornness,
Your mind sets and can't change, you don't go on
Because you want to but because you have to, I pity you,
But here you're stopped.' Suddenly she trembled and shrank
little again. '7f you could take me
I'd stab you in bed sleeping.' 'You know,' he answered,
'You're talking foolishness. I have to see Armstrong before we go,
When he quits work, I guess there's a couple of hours, but you'd
best get ready.' 'Why must you see ... Rick?'
Reave made no answer, Helen covertly watched him, slowly the
metal temper failed from her face.
'I'll go,' she said faintly, 'and tell him.' 'You'll stay here.' 'Reave?
Reave. You said you weren't angry.' 'Not at you. If I'd anyone
To help me, I'd send you off first. Walked around like a man,
Was a male bitch . . .' 'I led him, I called him, I did it.
It's all mine.' 'What?' 'The blame, the blame, the blame,
I planned it, all mine, I did it, Reave.' A white speck glittered
At the commissure of his lips, he licked his lips
As if he were thirsty and said difficultly, 'I've had a
Year to think about it: have to have relief, you're
Let off, keep still.' She felt his eyes
Craftily avoiding hers, and something monstrous in him moulding
the mass of his body to a coarsened
More apelike form, that a moment appeared and then was
cramped back to human: her image-making mind beheld
Her lover go under the hammers of this coarse power, his face
running thick blood turn up at last
Like a drowning man's, before he went down the darkness, all his
gay bravery crushed made horrible submission:
With any warning or whatever weapons he'd be like a bird in a
dog's mouth, Reave had all the strength,
Would fight foul, with all means and no mercy: 'Oh, Oh, take
me with you
If you want me, but now. Before he comes.
How could I look at him again if I'm going to leave him? You
understand
That's too much to ask me, to stand between you
Like a cow between the brown bull and the white one.
In spite of all I'm not so ... shameless as ...
You think.' He made a questioning noise, 'Hm?' and she thinking
He'd failed to hear: 'I'll go and live with you
If you'll take me now. I can't face Rick, not wait for Rick,'
She said, weaving and parting the fingers
Of her two supplicant hands. She essayed more words,
But only the lips and no voice made them, then again
Breath filled the words, 'I've done wickedly, I'm sorry.
I will obey you now.' His eyes were hidden
While he considered, all at once he said joyfully
'Pack then.' 'Me, not my things: there's nothing.' 'Then come.'
She followed him; suddenly in the doorway she dropped
And kissed the threshold.
Thurso watched and said nothing;
She got up and walked at his side in the hot white dust by the
row of small cabins,
The wood of their doors and walls was worn to the look of seadrift
by the desert sand-scour. Suddenly Helen
Laughed like the bitter crying of a killdeer when someone walks
near the nest, 'My God, Reave, have you come for me
In the old wreck of a farm-truck, will it still run?' 'What else?
We haven't got rich, we haven't bought cars
While I've been away from home hunting you.' 'The pigs and
I,' she cried shrilly. Reave nodded, and went to the door
Of the last cabin, and said to the woman to whom he had spoken
before: 'I'm taking my wife home.
This woman's my wife. When Armstrong comes, tell that bastard
We're going west. He's got a car.' Helen cried, 'Oh, cheat, cheat,
Will you tole him after you?' He said heavily. 'What do you mean?
Come on,' and so holding her wrist that the bones ached
Drew her to the car. She had yielded and was subject to him,
She could imagine no recourse, her mind palsied
Like the wrist-clenched hand.

VIII
After twenty miles he turned
The carbureter-connection, slyly regarding
His seat-mate, she fogged with misery observed nothing.
The engine went lame, 'What's the matter?' he said, turning
The carbureter-connection; the engine stalled.
He lifted the hood and made the motions of helplessness,
Looking up sometimes at Helen, who sat in the dust on the high
seat on the folded blanket,
Her face in her hands. 'We're stuck here,' Thurso said. 'Well,
we have water.' She dropped her hands from her face
And stared at the road ahead; then she began to see the desert
about them, the unending incandescent
Plain of white dust, stippled with exact placing of small gray
plants, each tuft a painfully measured
Far distance from every other and so apparently forever, all
wavering under the rage of the sun,
A perfect arena for the man's cruelty; but now she was helpless.
Still Armstrong failed to come; Helen awoke again
From blind misery, and watched Reave's nerves
Growing brittle while the sun sailed west. He babbled childlike
About cattle and pastures, things unreal, unimaginable,
In the white anguish here; his hands quivered,
And the sun sank.

In the night Helen revived
Enough to make action appear possible again.
She crept stealthily away in the starry darkness
Thinking Reave slept; when he spoke she tried to run,
Her thighs and calves were like hollow water, he followed
And brought her back through the vast unnatural pallor of the night,
Rough-handed, but only saying 'You're too restless.' She writhed
her hands together like bitter flames and lay down
On the spread blanket. After while she lay face upward. Those
foam-bubbles on the stale water of night
Were floating stars, what did it matter, which of two men?
Yesterday the one had been lovely and the other
Came in like ugly death, but difference had died. Rick Armstrong
must have made some ridiculous plan
For heading them off or else he'd have come. Perhaps he thought
she went willingly. Why not? 'I go with you willingly,'
She said aloud, 'dear, do you hear me? I've shot my load of
feeling, there's nothing left in the world
Worth thinking twice. We'll crawl home to our hole.'
He answered, 'I can't believe he's a coward: he'll come in the
morning.' 'I dread death
More than your mother's eyes,' she answered. 'I'm the coward
or I'd kill myself. Dear, I fear death
More than I hate this dishwater broth of life. A bowlful a day, O
God! Do the stars look
Like lonely and pretty sparkles when you look up?
They look to me like bubbles of grease on cold
Dishwater.' He said, 'Sleep, you’ll feel better.' He heard her
sighing
And twisting her body on the sand while the night waned.
He got up and stood beside her and said anxiously,
'I was to blame too, Helen. Part of the blame
Is mine, Helen. I didn't show enough love,
Nor do often enough
What women want. Maybe it made your life
Seem empty. It seems ... it seems to me it wouldn't be decent
To do it just now: but I'll remember and be
Better when we get home.' She said, 'O God! Fool, fool,
A spoonful a night. Your mother was lying to you.
She knows better.'

In the morning
Thurso waited two hours from sunrise;
They had nothing to eat; Helen endured her headache, and the
shameless sun
Blared from the east. Reave greased the joints of the truck.
When one of those long gray desert lizards that run
With heads raised highly, scudded through the white sand,
He flung the wrench suddenly and broke its back
And said 'He won't come then. My God, Helen,
Was he tired of you? He won't come.' She watched her husband
Pick up the wrench and batter that broken life,
Still lifting up its head at him, into the sand. He saw the yellow
Grains of fat in the red flesh and said,
'Come here, Helen. Yellow you see, yellow you see.
Your friend makes us all vile.' She understood
That 'yellow' meant cowardly, and that this was Armstrong
Battered to a cake of blood.

IX
They drove west
Through the white land; the heat and the light increased,
At length around a ridge of ancient black lava
Appeared a place of dust where food could be bought, but Helen
Would eat nothing. In the evening they came
293
THURSO'S LANDING
Among fantastic Joshua-trees to a neat
Framed square of cabins at the foot of a mountain
Like a skeleton; seeing Helen so white and sick,
And the motor misfiring, Reave chose to lodge at this camp.
He'd tinker the engine while there was daylight. He found the timer
Choked up with drift of the desert; having washed it with gasoline
and heard the cylinders
Roar cheerfully again, he returned to Helen.

She was not in the cabin,
But sat with chance companions on a painted bench under the
boughs of one of those reptilian trees
Near the camp entrance; no longer white and morose, her face
was flushed, her eyes sparkling with darkness
In the purple evening that washed the mountain. Before he came
she was saying, 'My husband just doesn't care
What anyone thinks: he said, all right, if I wanted to see the
desert, but he wouldn't take either one
Of our new cars to be spoiled, he'd drive the old farmtruck . . .'
Seeing Reave approaching, greased black to the elbows, 'Oh, Oh,
What's he been doing? Oh: it's black, I think? Dear, I felt better
When the sun went down.' He, staring at her companions:
'That's good.' 'They call it desert fever,' she stammered.
'The heat's the cause.' She stood up, giggling and swaying.
'Was nearly exhausted, they gave me a little medicine.
Nice people.' 'What did you give her?' 'She begged for a tablespoonful,'
the old woman answered, 'Texas corn-whiskey.
Are you going west?' Helen said gravely, 'A spoonful a night:
O God!' 'She's eaten nothing,' Reave said,
'Since yesterday. Come and lie down, Helen.' She obeyed, walking
unsteadily beside him, with terrified eyes.
'Dear, please don't touch me, your hands are terrible,' she said.
'They think you killed him.'
He made her lie down on the bed while he washed himself.
She wept and said, 'I always make friends easily.
I used to be full of joy. Now my wishes
Or your own soul will destroy you when you get home.
I'd give my life to save you.' He groaned angrily,
But she was unable to be silent and said:
'I think you're even worse hurt than I am. Were you ever on a ship?
This place is like a ship, everything smells
In spite of neatness, and I am desert-sick.
Oh, Reave, I never dreamed that you'd be deep-wounded.
Forgive me dear.' He violently: 'Lick your own sores.
The man was my friend and that degrades me: but you’ve
Slept with him. You couldn't help but have learned him
In a year's familiar life and I've been thinking
That whores you, because no woman can love a coward,
And still you stayed . . .' 'For his money, for his money you know,'
She answered through chattering teeth, 'and the fine house
You found me in among the rich gardens, the jewels and furs,
Necklaces of pearls like round zeroes, all these hangings of gold
That make me heavy . . .' 'Ah,' he said, 'be quiet.' He went
out, and returning after a time with a tray of food
Lighted the lamp and cut meat in small bites and forced her to
eat. 'Dear,' she mourned, 'I can't swallow
Though I chew and chew. The rocking of the ship and the hot
smell close up my throat. Oh be patient with me.
When we land I'll feel better,' her deep-colored eyes moving in
sickly rhythm to the roll of the ship,
He said 'You're in the desert: an auto-camp by the road. Wake
up and eat.' She sat up on the bed
And looked anxiously about the bleak lamplight, then took the tray
And obeyed his will. 'I thought you were my dad.
Once we travelled on a boat from the south
To San Francisco. I expect I saw from the deck the Mill Creek
mountains and never
Guessed,' she said, shuddering. While she ate she began to fear
That people who were going to die dreamed of a ship
The night before. The truck would be overturned
And crush her body in the sand like that lizard's,
A tire would have burst.
Against the black horror of death
All living miseries looked sweet; in a moment of aimless
Wild anguish she was unable not to cry out, and said:
'Ah, Ah, what have you done, tearing me from him? I love him,
you know.
Maybe he's cowardly or maybe he's only tired of me, but if he's
yellow to the bones, if he's yellower than gold,
I love him, you know.
If I were crushed in the sand like that lizard you killed, to a cake
of blood why not? for I think you'll
Do it sometime the sun would dry me and my dust would blow
to his feet: if I were dead in the desert
And he drowned in the middle ocean toward Asia, yet something
and something from us would climb like white
Fires up the sky and twine high shining wings in the hollow sky:
while you in your grave lie stuck
Like a stone in a ditch.' He, frowning: 'Have you finished?'
He took the tray and said, 'Have you had enough?'
'Never enough. Dear, give me back to him. I can't think yet
That you understand,' she said slyly and trembling.
'Don't you care, that he and I have made love together
In the mountains and in the city and in the desert,
And once at a Navajo shepherd's camp in the desert in a storm of
lightnings
Playing through the cracks of the shed: can you wink and
swallow
All that?' 'I can't help it. You've played the beast.
But you are my goods and you'll be guarded, your filthy time
Has closed. Now keep still.'
She was silent and restless for a good while.
He said, 'You'll be sleeping soon, and you need sleep.
I'll go outside while you get ready for bed.'
'Let me speak, just a little,' she said humbly.
'Please, Reave, won't you leave me here in the morning, I'll
manage somehow.
You're too strong for us, but, dear, be merciful.
I think you don't greatly want me: what you love really
Is something to track down: your mountains are full of deer:
Oh, hunt some bleeding doe. I truly love you.
I always thought of you as a dear, dear friend
When even we were hiding from you.' He was astonished
To see her undress while she was speaking to him,
She seemed to regard him as a mere object, a keeper,
But nothing human. 'And Rick Armstrong,' she said,
'I can't be sure that I love him: dear, I don't know
That I'll go back to him; but I must have freedom, I must have
freedom
If only to die in, it comes too late . . .'
She turned her back and slipped off the undergarment
And glided into the bed. She was beautiful still,
The smooth fluted back and lovely long tapering legs not
changed,
Nor the supple motions; nor that recklessness
Of what Thurso called modesty was any change;
She never tried to conceal her body from him
Since they were married, but always thoughtless and natural;
And nestled her head in the pillow when she lay down
With little nods, the tender way he remembered:
So that a wave of compassionate love
Dissolved his heart: he thought, 'Dearest, I've done
Brutally: I'll not keep you against your will.
But you must promise to write to me for help
When you leave that cur.' He made the words in his mind
And began to say: 'Dearest . . .' but nothing further
Had meaning in it, mere jargon of mutterings, the mouth's refusal
Of the mind's surrender; and his mind flung up a memory
Of that poor dead man, his father, with the sad beaten face
When the lime-kilns failed: that man yielded and was beaten,
A man mustn't be beaten. But Helen hearing
The 'dearest,' and the changed voice, wishfully
Lifted her head, and the great violet eyes
Sucked at Reave's face. 'No,' he said. He blew out the lamp,
Resolved to make this night a new marriage night
And undo their separation. She bitterly submitted;
'I can bear this: it doesn't matter: I'll never tell him.
I feel the ship sailing to a bad place. Reave, I'm so tired
That I shall die. If my wrist were broken
You wouldn't take my hand and arm in your hands
And wriggle the bones for pleasure? You're doing that
With a worse wound.' Her mind had many layers;
The vocal one was busy with anguish, and others
Finding a satisfaction in martyrdom
Enjoyed its outcry; the mass of her mind
Remained apparently quite neutral, under a familiar
Embrace without sting, without savor, without significance,
Except that this breast was hairier.

X
They drove through the two
deserts and arrived home. Helen went in
With whetted nerves for the war with Reave's mother, resolving
Not to be humble at least; but instead of the sharp old woman a
little creature
With yellow hair and pleated excess of clothing stood up in the
room; and blushed and whitened, anxiously
Gazing, clasping thin hands together. Reave said, 'It's Hester
Clark.' And to Hester Clark: 'Tell Olvidia
To count two more for supper; my wife and I have come home.'
She answered, 'Oh yes,' fleeing. Then Helen:
'What's this little thing? Why does it wear my dress?' 'She's
only hemmed it over,' he said, 'at the edges.
Have it again if you want, I had to find something for her.' His
mother was heard on the stair, and entering
Looked hard at Helen and went and kissed Reave. Who said, 'I
shall stay at home now, mother: Helen's come home.'
'Yes. How do you do.' Her red-brown eyes brushed Helen's
body from the neck to the ankles, 'I'll have them heat
Bathwater.' Helen trembled and said, 'How kind. There are
showers in all the camps: if you mean anything else:
Reave seems content.' 'Very well. He's easily of course contented.
He picks up things by the road: one of them
I've allowed to live here: to speak honestly
In hope to keep his mind off another woman: but that cramps
and can't change.' 'If I knew what I want!'
Helen cried suddenly. 'The girl is a servant here,' Reave said.
'I hate the spitefulness of women. The housework
Needed help when you were not here.' Then Helen: 'She's quite
sick I think: she'll have to clear out I think.
Yet something in me felt kindly toward that little wax face
In my old clothes. I came home against my will. Why isn't Mark
here?' The far door opened for Olvidia,
Unable to imagine any pretext for entrance, but unable to bridle
her need
Of coming, to stare and smile from flat black eyes. Behind her
Johnny Luna was seen peering, but dared not enter.
Then Helen wondered, where was that thin little thing?
Crying somewhere? And Reave's mother said: 'Now you'll cut down
The old cable, as you promised, Reave. We're tired of seeing it.
You'll have time now.' He answered, 'Where's Mark, mother?
Helen just asked you.' 'I heard her.
Sitting under a bush on the

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Seventh Book

'THE woman's motive? shall we daub ourselves
With finding roots for nettles? 'tis soft clay
And easily explored. She had the means,
The moneys, by the lady's liberal grace,
In trust for that Australian scheme and me,
Which so, that she might clutch with both her hands,
And chink to her naughty uses undisturbed,
She served me (after all it was not strange,;
'Twas only what my mother would have done)
A motherly, unmerciful, good turn.

'Well, after. There are nettles everywhere,
But smooth green grasses are more common still;
The blue of heaven is larger than the cloud;
A miller's wife at Clichy took me in
And spent her pity on me,–made me calm
And merely very reasonably sad.
She found me a servant's place in Paris where
I tried to take the cast-off life again,
And stood as quiet as a beaten ass
Who, having fallen through overloads, stands up
To let them charge him with another pack.

'A few months, so. My mistress, young and light,
Was easy with me, less for kindness than
Because she led, herself, an easy time
Betwixt her lover and her looking-glass,
Scarce knowing which way she was praised the most.
She felt so pretty and so pleased all day
She could not take the trouble to be cross,
But sometimes, as I stooped to tie her shoe,
Would tap me softly with her slender foot
Still restless with the last night's dancing in't,
And say 'Fie, pale-face! are you English girls
'All grave and silent? mass-book still, and Lent?
'And first-communion colours on your cheeks,
'Worn past the time for't? little fool, be gay!'
At which she vanished, like a fairy, through
A gap of silver laughter.
'Came an hour
When all went otherwise. She did not speak,
But clenched her brows, and clipped me with her eyes
As if a viper with a pair of tongs,
Too far for any touch, yet near enough
To view the writhing creature,–then at last,
'Stand still there, in the holy Virgin's name,
'Thou Marian; thou'rt no reputable girl,
'Although sufficient dull for twenty saints!
'I think thou mock'st me and my house,' she said;
'Confess thou'lt be a mother in a month,
'Thou mask of saintship.'
'Could I answer her?
The light broke in so. It meant that then, that?
I had not thought of that, in all my thoughts,
Through all the cold, dumb aching of my brow,
Through all the heaving of impatient life
Which threw me on death at intervals, through all
The upbreak of the fountains of my heart
The rains had swelled too large: it could mean that?
Did God make mothers out of victims, then,
And set such pure amens to hideous deeds?
Why not? He overblows an ugly grave
With violets which blossom in the spring.
And I could be a mother in a month!
I hope it was not wicked to be glad.
I lifted up my voice and wept, and laughed,
To heaven, not her, until I tore my throat.
'Confess, confess!' what was there to confess,
Except man's cruelty, except my wrong?
Except this anguish, or this ecstasy?
This shame, or glory? The light woman there
Was small to take it in: an acorn-cup
Would take the sea in sooner.
Good,' she cried;
'Unmarried and a mother, and she laughs!
'These unchaste girls are always impudent.
'Get out, intriguer! leave my house, and trot:
'I wonder you should look me in the face,
'With such a filthy secret.'
'Then I rolled
My scanty bundle up, and went my way,
Washed white with weeping, shuddering head and foot
With blind hysteric passion, staggering forth
Beyond those doors, 'Twas natural, of course,
She should not ask me where I meant to sleep;
I might sleep well beneath the heavy Seine,
Like others of my sort; the bed was laid
For us. By any woman, womanly,
Had thought of him who should be in a month,
The sinless babe that should be in a month,
And if by chance he might be warmer housed
Than underneath such dreary, dripping eaves.'

I broke on Marian there. 'Yet she herself,
A wife, I think, had scandals of her own,
A lover, not her husband.'
'Ay,' she said
'But gold and meal are measured otherwise;
I learnt so much at school,' said Marian Erle.

'O crooked world,' I cried, 'ridiculous
If not so lamentable! It's the way
With these light women of a thrifty vice,
My Marian,–always hard upon the rent
In any sister's virtue! while they keep
Their chastity so darned with perfidy,
That, though a rag itself, it looks as well
Across a street, in balcony or coach,
As any stronger stuff might. For my part,
I'd rather take the wind-side of the stews
Than touch such women with my finger-end
They top the poor street-walker by their lie,
And look the better for being so much worse
The devil's most devilish when respectable.
But you, dear, and your story.'
'All the rest
Is here,' she said, and sighed upon the child.
'I found a mistress-sempstress who was kind
And let me sew in peace among her girls;
And what was better than to draw the threads
All day and half the night, for him, and him?
And so I lived for him, and so he lives,
And so I know, by this time, God lives too.'
She smiled beyond the sun, and ended so,
And all my soul rose up to take her part
Against the world's successes, virtues, fames.
'Come with me, sweetest sister,' I returned,
'And sit within my house, and do me good
From henceforth, thou and thine! ye are my own
From henceforth. I am lonely in the world,
And thou art lonely, and the child is half
An orphan. Come, and, henceforth, thou and I
Being still together, will not miss a friend,
Nor he a father, since two mothers shall
Make that up to him. I am journeying south,
And, in my Tuscan home I'll find a niche,
And set thee there, my saint, the child and thee,
And burn the lights of love before thy face,
And ever at thy sweet look cross myself
From mixing with the world's prosperities;
That so, in gravity and holy calm,
We too may live on toward the truer life.'

She looked me in the face and answered not,
Nor signed she was unworthy, nor gave thanks,
But took the sleeping child and held it out
To meet my kiss, as if requiting me
And trusting me at once. And thus, at once,
I carried him and her to where I lived;
She's there now, in the little room, asleep,
I hear the soft child-breathing through the door;
And all three of us, at to-morrow's break,
Pass onward, homeward, to our Italy.
Oh, Romney Leigh, I have your debts to pay,
And I'll be just and pay them.
But yourself!
To pay your debts is scarcely difficult;
To buy your life is nearly impossible,
Being sold away to Lamia. My head aches;
I cannot see my road along this dark;
Nor can I creep and grope, as fits the dark,
For these foot-catching robes of womanhood:
A man might walk a little . . but I!–He loves
The Lamia-woman,–and I, write to him
What stops his marriage, and destroys his peace,–
Or what, perhaps, shall simply trouble him,
Until she only need to touch his sleeve
With just a finger's tremulous white flame,
Saying, 'Ah,–Aurora Leigh! a pretty tale,
'A very pretty poet! I can guess
'The motive'–then, to catch his eyes in hers,
And vow she does not wonder,–and they two
To break in laughter, as the sea along
A melancholy coast, and float up higher,
In such a laugh, their fatal weeds of love!
Ay, fatal, ay. And who shall answer me,
Fate has not hurried tides; and if to-night
My letter would not be a night too late,–
An arrow shot into a man that's dead,
To prove a vain intention? Would I show
The new wife vile, to make the husband mad?
No, Lamia! shut the shutters, bar the doors
From every glimmer on they serpent-skin!
I will not let thy hideous secret out
To agonise the man I love–I mean
The friend I love . . as friends love.
It is strange,
To-day while Marian told her story, like
To absorb most listeners, how I listened chief
To a voice not hers, nor yet that enemy's,
Nor God's in wrath, . . but one that mixed with mine
Long years ago, among the garden-trees,
And said to me, to me too, 'Be my wife,
Aurora!' It is strange, with what a swell
Of yearning passion, as a snow of ghosts
Might beat against the impervious doors of heaven,
I thought, 'Now, if I had been a woman, such
As God made women, to save men by love,–
By just my love I might have saved this man,
And made a nobler poem for the world
Than all I have failed in.' But I failed besides
In this; and now he's lost! through me alone!
And, by my only fault, his empty house
Sucks in, at this same hour, a wind from hell
To keep his hearth cold, make his casements creak
For ever to the tune of plague and sin–
O Romney, O my Romney, O my friend!
My cousin and friend! my helper, when I would,
My love that might be! mine!
Why, how one weeps
When one's too weary! Were a witness by,
He'd say some folly . . that I loved the man,
Who knows? . . and make me laugh again for scorn.
At strongest, women are as weak in flesh,
As men, at weakest, vilest, are in soul:
So, hard for women to keep pace with men!
As well give up at once, sit down at once.
And weep as I do. Tears, tears! why, we weep?
'Tis worth enquiry?–That we've shamed a life,
Or lost a love, or missed a world, perhaps?
By no means. Simply, that we've walked too far,
Or talked too much, or felt the wind i' the east,–
And so we weep, as if both body and soul
Broke up in water–this way.
Poor mixed rags
Forsooth we're made of, like those other dolls
That lean with pretty faces into fairs.
It seems as if I had a man in me,
Despising such a woman.
Yet indeed.
To see a wrong or suffering moves us all
To undo it, though we should undo ourselves;
Ay, all the more, that we undo ourselves;
That's womanly, past doubt, and not ill-moved.
A natural movement, therefore, on my part,
To fill the chair up of my cousin's wife,
And save him from a devil's company!
We're all so,–made so–'tis our woman's trade
To suffer torment for another's ease.
The world's male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last;
And, if Cervantes had been greater still,
He had made his Don a Donna.
So it clears,
And so we rain our skies blue.
Put away
This weakness. If, as I have just now said,
A man's within me–let him act himself,
Ignoring the poor conscious trouble of blood
That's called the woman merely. I will write
Plain words to England,–if too late, too late,–
If ill-accounted, then accounted ill;
We'll trust the heavens with something.

'Dear Lord Howe,
You'll find a story on another leaf
That's Marian Erle's,–what noble friend of yours
She trusted once, through what flagitious means
To what disastrous ends;–the story's true.
I found her wandering on the Paris quays,
A babe upon her breast,–unnatural
Unseasonable outcast on such snows
Unthawed to this time. I will tax in this
Your friendship, friend,–if that convicted She
Be not his wife yet, to denounce the facts
To himself,–but, otherwise, to let them pass
On tip-toe like escaping murderers,
And tell my cousin, merely–Marian lives,
Is found, and finds her home with such a friend,
Myself, Aurora. Which good news, 'She's found,'
Will help to make him merry in his love:
I sent it, tell him, for my marriage gift,
As good as orange-water for the nerves,
Or perfumed gloves for headaches,–though aware
That he, except of love, is scarcely sick;
I mean the new love this time, . . since last year.
Such quick forgetting on the part of men!
Is any shrewder trick upon the cards
To enrich them? pray instruct me how it's done.
First, clubs,–and while you look at clubs, it's spades;
That's prodigy. The lightning strikes a man,
And when we think to find him dead and charred . .
Why, there he is on a sudden, playing pipes
Beneath the splintered elm-tree! Crime and shame
And all their hoggery trample your smooth world,
Nor leave more foot-marks than Apollo's kine,
Whose hoofs were muffled by the thieving god
In tamarisk-leaves and myrtle. I'm so sad,
So weary and sad to-night, I'm somewhat sour,–
Forgive me. To be blue and shrew at once,
Exceeds all toleration except yours;
But yours, I know, is infinite. Farewell.
To-morrow we take train for Italy.
Speak gently of me to your gracious wife,
As one, however far, shall yet be near
In loving wishes to your house.'
I sign.
And now I'll loose my heart upon a page,
This–
'Lady Waldemar, I'm very glad
I never liked you; which you knew so well,
You spared me, in your turn, to like me much.
Your liking surely had done worse for me
Than has your loathing, though the last appears
Sufficiently unscrupulous to hurt,
And not afraid of judgment. Now, there's space
Between our faces,–I stand off, as if
I judged a stranger's portrait and pronounced
Indifferently the type was good or bad:
What matter to me that the lines are false,
I ask you? Did I ever ink my lips
By drawing your name through them as a friend's.
Or touch your hands as lovers do? thank God
I never did: and, since you're proved so vile,
Ay, vile, I say,–we'll show it presently,–
I'm not obliged to nurse my friend in you,
Or wash out my own blots, in counting yours,
Or even excuse myself to honest souls
Who seek to touch my lip or clasp my palm,–
'Alas, but Lady Waldemar came first!'
'Tis true, by this time, you may near me so
That you're my cousin's wife. You've gambled
As Lucifer, and won the morning-star
In that case,–and the noble house of Leigh
Must henceforth with its good roof shelter you:
I cannot speak and burn you up between
Those rafters, I who am born a Leigh,–nor speak
And pierce your breast through Romney's, I who live
His friend and cousin!–so, you are safe. You two
Must grow together like the tares and wheat
Till God's great fire.–But make the best of time.

'And hide this letter! let it speak no more
Than I shall, how you tricked poor Marian Erle,
And set her own love digging her own grave
Within her green hope's pretty garden-ground;
Ay, sent her forth with some of your sort
To a wicked house in France,–from which she fled
With curses in her eyes and ears and throat,
Her whole soul choked with curses,–mad, in short,
And madly scouring up and down for weeks
The foreign hedgeless country, lone and lost,–
So innocent, male-fiends might slink within
Remote hell-corners, seeing her so defiled!

'But you,–you are a woman and more bold.
To do you justice, you'd not shrink to face . .
We'll say, the unfledged life in the other room,
Which, treading down God's corn, you trod in sight
Of all the dogs, in reach of all the guns,–
Ay, Marian's babe, her poor unfathered child,
Her yearling babe!–you'd face him when he wakes
And opens up his wonderful blue eyes:
You'd meet them and not wink perhaps, nor fear
God's triumph in them and supreme revenge,
So, righting His creation's balance-scale
(You pulled as low as Tophet) to the top
Of most celestial innocence! For me
Who am not as bold, I own those infant eyes
Have set me praying.
'While they look at heaven,
No need of protestation in my words
Against the place you've made them! let them look!
They'll do your business with the heavens, be sure:
I spare you common curses.
'Ponder this.
If haply you're the wife of Romney Leigh,
(For which inheritance beyond your birth
You sold that poisonous porridge called your soul)
I charge you, be his faithful and true wife!
Keep warm his hearth and clean his board, and, when
He speaks, be quick with your obedience;
Still grind your paltry wants and low desires
To dust beneath his heel; though, even thus,
The ground must hurt him,–it was writ of old,
'Ye shall not yoke together ox and ass,'
The nobler and ignobler. Ay, but you
Shall do your part as well as such ill things
Can do aught good. You shall not vex him,–mark,
You shall not vex him, . .jar him when he's sad,
Or cross him when he's eager. Understand
To trick him with apparent sympathies,
Nor let him see thee in the face too near
And unlearn thy sweet seeming. Pay the price
Of lies, by being constrained to lie on still;
'Tis easy for they sort: a million more
Will scarcely damn thee deeper.
'Doing which,
You are very safe from Marian and myself;
We'll breathe as softly as the infant here,
And stir no dangerous embers. Fail a point,
And show our Romney wounded, ill-content,
Tormented in his home, . . we open a mouth,
And such a noise will follow, the last trump's
Will scarcely seem more dreadful, even to you;
You'll have no pipers after: Romney will
(I know him) push you forth as none of his,
All other men declaring it well done;
While women, even the worst, your like, will draw
Their skirts back, not to brush you in the street;
And so I warn you. I'm . . . Aurora Leigh.'

The letter written, I felt satisfied.
The ashes, smouldering in me, were thrown out
By handfuls from me: I had writ my heart
And wept my tears, and now was cool and calm;
And, going straightway to the neighbouring room,
I lifted up the curtains of the bed
Where Marian Erle, the babe upon her arm,
Both faces leaned together like a pair
Of folded innocences, self-complete,
Each smiling from the other, smiled and slept.
There seemed no sin, no shame, no wrath, no grief.
I felt, she too had spoken words that night,
But softer certainly, and said to God,–
Who laughs in heaven perhaps, that such as I
Should make ado for such as she.–'Defiled'
I wrote? 'defiled' I thought her? Stoop,
Stoop lower, Aurora! get the angels' leave
To creep in somewhere, humbly, on your knees,
Within this round of sequestration white
In which they have wrapt earth's foundlings, heaven's elect!

The next day, we took train to Italy
And fled on southward in the roar of steam.
The marriage-bells of Romney must be loud,
To sound so clear through all! I was not well;
And truly, though the truth is like a jest,
I could not choose but fancy, half the way,
I stood alone i' the belfry, fifty bells
Of naked iron, mad with merriment,
(As one who laughs and cannot stop himself)
All clanking at me, in me, over me,
Until I shrieked a shriek I could not hear,
And swooned with noise,–but still, along my swoon,
Was 'ware the baffled changes backward rang,
Prepared, at each emerging sense, to beat
And crash it out with clangour. I was weak;
I struggled for the posture of my soul
In upright consciousness of place and time,
But evermore, 'twixt waking and asleep,
Slipped somehow, staggered, caught at Marian's eyes
A moment, (it is very good for strength
To know that some one needs you to be strong)
And so recovered what I called myself,
For that time.
I just knew it when we swept
Above the old roofs of Dijon. Lyons dropped
A spark into the night, half trodden out
Unseen. But presently the winding Rhone
Washed out the moonlight large along his banks,
Which strained their yielding curves out clear and clean
To hold it,–shadow of town and castle just blurred
Upon the hurrying river. Such an air
Blew thence upon the forehead,–half an air
And half a water,–that I leaned and looked;
Then, turning back on Marian, smiled to mark
That she looked only on her child, who slept,
His face towards the moon too.
So we passed
The liberal open country and the close,
And shot through tunnels, like a lightning-wedge
By great Thor-hammers driven through the rock,
Which, quivering through the intestine blackness, splits,
And lets it in at once: the train swept in
Athrob with effort, trembling with resolve,
The fierce denouncing whistle wailing on
And dying off smothered in the shuddering dark,
While we, self-awed, drew troubled breath, oppressed
As other Titans, underneath the pile
And nightmare of the mountains. Out, at last,
To catch the dawn afloat upon the land!
–Hills, slung forth broadly and gauntly everywhere,
Not crampt in their foundations, pushing wide
Rich outspreads of the vineyards and the corn
(As if they entertained i' the name of France)
While, down their straining sides, streamed manifest
A soil as red as Charlemagne's knightly blood,
To consecrate the verdure. Some one said,
'Marseilles!' And lo, the city of Marseilles,
With all her ships behind her, and beyond,
The scimitar of ever-shining sea,
For right-hand use, bared blue against the sky!
That night we spent between the purple heaven
And purple water: I think Marian slept;
But I, as a dog a-watch for his master's foot,
Who cannot sleep or eat before he hears,
I sate upon the deck and watched all night,
And listened through the stars for Italy.
Those marriage-bells I spoke of, sounded far,
As some child's go-cart in the street beneath
To a dying man who will not pass the day,
And knows it, holding by a hand he loves.
I, too, sate quiet, satisfied with death,
Sate silent: I could hear my own soul speak,
And had my friend,–for Nature comes sometimes
And says, 'I am ambassador for God.'
I felt the wind soft from the land of souls;
The old miraculous mountains heaved in sight,
One straining past another along the shore,
The way of grand dull Odyssean ghosts
Athirst to drink the cool blue wine of seas
And stare on voyagers. Peak pushing peak
They stood: I watched beyond that Tyrian belt
Of intense sea betwixt them and the ship,
Down all their sides the misty olive-woods
Dissolving in the weak congenial moon,
And still disclosing some brown convent-tower
That seems as if it grew from some brown rock,–
Or many a little lighted village, dropt
Like a fallen star, upon so high a point,
You wonder what can keep it in its place
From sliding headlong with the waterfalls
Which drop and powder all the myrtle-groves
With spray of silver. Thus my Italy
Was stealing on us. Genoa broke with day;
The Doria's long pale palace striking out,
From green hills in advance of the white town,
A marble finger dominant to ships,
Seen glimmering through the uncertain grey of dawn.

But then I did not think, 'my Italy,'
I thought, 'my father!' O my father's house,
Without his presence!–Places are too much
Or else too little, for immortal man;
Too little, when love's May o'ergrows the ground,–
Too much, when that luxuriant wealth of green
Is rustling to our ankles in dead leaves.
'Tis only good to be, or here or there,
Because we had a dream on such a stone,
Or this or that,–but, once being wholly waked,
And come back to the stone without the dream,
We trip upon't,–alas! and hurt ourselves;
Or else it falls on us and grinds us flat,
The heaviest grave-stone on this buying earth.
–But while I stood and mused, a quiet touch
Fell light upon my arm, and, turning round,
A pair of moistened eyes convicted mine.
'What, Marian! is the babe astir so soon?'
'He sleeps,' she answered; 'I have crept up thrice,
And seen you sitting, standing, still at watch.
I thought it did you good till now, but now' . . .
'But now,' I said, 'you leave the child alone.'
'And your're alone,' she answered,–and she looked
As if I, too, were something. Sweet the help
Of one we have helped! Thanks, Marian, for that help.

I found a house, at Florence, on the hill
Of Bellosguardo. 'Tis a tower that keeps
A post of double-observation o'er
The valley of Arno (holding as a hand
The outspread city) straight toward Fiesole
And Mount Morello and the setting sun,–
The Vallombrosan mountains to the right,
Which sunrise fills as full as crystal cups
Wine-filled, and red to the brim because it's red.
No sun could die, nor yet be born, unseen
By dwellers at my villa: morn and eve
Were magnified before us in the pure
Illimitable space and pause of sky,
Intense as angels' garments blanched with God,
Less blue than radiant. From the outer wall
Of the garden, dropped the mystic floating grey
Of olive-trees, (with interruptions green
From maize and vine) until 'twas caught and torn
On that abrupt black line of cypresses
Which signed the way to Florence. Beautiful
The city lay along the ample vale,
Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza and street;
The river trailing like a silver cord
Through all, and curling loosely, both before
And after, over the whole stretch of land
Sown whitely up and down its opposite slopes,
With farms and villas.
Many weeks had passed,
No word was granted.–Last, a letter came
From Vincent Carrington:–'My Dear Miss Leigh,
You've been as silent as a poet should,
When any other man is sure to speak.
If sick, if vexed, if dumb, a silver-piece
Will split a man's tongue,–straight he speaks and says,
'Received that cheque.' But you! . . I send you funds
To Paris, and you make no sign at all.
Remember I'm responsible and wait
A sign of you, Miss Leigh.
'Meantime your book
Is eloquent as if you were not dumb;
And common critics, ordinarily deaf
To such fine meanings, and, like deaf men, loth
To seem deaf, answering chance-wise, yes or no,
'It must be,' or 'it must not,' (most pronounced
When least convinced) pronounce for once aright:
You'd think they really heard,–and so they do . .
The burr of three or four who really hear
And praise your book aright: Fame's smallest trump
Is a great ear-trumpet for the deaf as posts,
No other being effective. Fear not, friend;
We think, here, you have written a good book,
And you, a woman! It was in you–yes,
I felt 'twas in you: yet I doubted half
If that od-force of German Reichenbach
Which still from female finger-tips burns blue,
Could strike out, as our masculine white heats,
To quicken a man. Forgive me. All my heart
Is quick with yours, since, just a fortnight since,
I read your book and loved it.
'Will you love
My wife, too? Here's my secret, I might keep
A month more from you! but I yield it up
Because I know you'll write the sooner for't,–
Most women (of your height even) counting love
Life's only serious business. Who's my wife
That shall be in a month? you ask? nor guess?
Remember what a pair of topaz eyes
You once detected, turned against the wall,
That morning, in my London painting-room;
The face half-sketched, and slurred; the eyes alone!
But you . . you caught them up with yours, and said
'Kate Ward's eyes, surely.'–Now, I own the truth,
I had thrown them there to keep them safe from Jove;
They would so naughtily find out their way
To both the heads of both my Danaës,
Where just it made me mad to look at them.
Such eyes! I could not paint or think of eyes
But those,–and so I flung them into paint
And turned them to the wall's care. Ay, but now
I've let them out, my Kate's! I've painted her,
(I'll change my style, and leave mythologies)
The whole sweet face; it looks upon my soul
Like a face on water, to beget itself,
A half-length portrait, in a hanging cloak
Like one you wore once; 'tis a little frayed;
I pressed, too, for the nude harmonious arm–
But she . . she'd have her way, and have her cloak;
She said she could be like you only so,
And would not miss the fortune. Ah, my friend,
You'll write and say she shall not miss your love
Through meeting mine? in faith, she would not change:
She has your books by heart, more than my words,
And quotes you up against me till I'm pushed
Where, three months since, her eyes were! nay, in fact,
Nought satisfied her but to make me paint
Your last book folded in her dimpled hands,
Instead of my brown palette, as I wished,
(And, grant me, the presentment had been newer)
She'd grant me nothing: I've compounded for
The naming of the wedding-day next month,
And gladly too. 'Tis pretty, to remark
How women can love women of your sort,
And tie their hearts with love-knots to your feet,
Grow insolent about you against men,
And put us down by putting up the lip,
As if a man,–there are such, let us own.
Who write not ill,–remains a man, poor wretch,
While you–! Write far worse than Aurora Leigh,
And there'll be women who believe of you
(Besides my Kate) that if you walked on sand
You would not leave a foot-print.
'Are you put
To wonder by my marriage, like poor Leigh?
'Kate Ward!' he said. 'Kate Ward!' he said anew.
'I thought . . .' he said, and stopped,–'I did not think . . .'
And then he dropped to silence.
'Ah, he's changed
I had not seen him, you're aware, for long,
But went of course. I have not touched on this
Through all this letter,–conscious of your heart,
And writing lightlier for the heavy fact,
As clocks are voluble with lead.
'How weak
To say I'm sorry. Dear Leigh, dearest Leigh!
In those old days of Shropshire,–pardon me,–
When he and you fought many a field of gold
On what you should do, or you should not do,
Make bread of verses, (it just came to that)
I thought you'd one day draw a silken peace
Through a gold ring. I thought so. Foolishly,
The event proved,–for you went more opposite
To each other, month by month, and year by year,
Until this happened. God knows best, we say,
But hoarsely. When the fever took him first,
Just after I had writ to you in France,
They tell me Lady Waldemar mixed drinks
And counted grains, like any salaried nurse,
Excepting that she wept too. Then Lord Howe,
You're right about Lord Howe! Lord Howe's a trump;
And yet, with such in his hand, a man like Leigh
May lose, as he does. There's an end to all,–
Yes, even this letter, through the second sheet
May find you doubtful. Write a word for Kate:
Even now she reads my letters like a wife,
And if she sees her name, I'll see her smile,
And share the luck. So, bless you, friend of two!
I will not ask you what your feeling is
At Florence with my pictures. I can hear
Your heart a-flutter over the snow-hills;
And, just to pace the Pitti with you once,
I'd give a half-hour of to-morrow's walk
With Kate . . I think so. Vincent Carrington.'

The noon was hot; the air scorched like the sun,
And was shut out. The closed persiani threw
Their long-scored shadows on my villa-floor,
And interlined the golden atmosphere
Straight, still,–across the pictures on the wall
The statuette on the console, (of young Love
And Psyche made one marble by a kiss)
The low couch where I leaned, the table near,
The vase of lilies, Marian pulled last night,
(Each green leaf and each white leaf ruled in black
As if for writing some new text of fate)
And the open letter, rested on my knee,–
But there, the lines swerved, trembled, though I sate
Untroubled . . plainly, . . reading it again
And three times. Well, he's married; that is clear.
No wonder that he's married, nor much more
That Vincent's therefore, 'sorry.' Why, of course,
The lady nursed him when he was not well,
Mixed drinks,–unless nepenthe was the drink,
'Twas scarce worth telling. But a man in love
Will see the whole sex in his mistress' hood,
The prettier for its lining of fair rose;
Although he catches back, and says at last,
'I'm sorry.' Sorry. Lady Waldemar
At prettiest, under the said hood, preserved
From such a light as I could hold to her face
To flare its ugly wrinkles out to shame,–
Is scarce a wife for Romney, as friends judge,
Aurora Leigh, or Vincent Carrington,–
That's plain. And if he's 'conscious of my heart' . .
Perhaps it's natural, though the phrase is strong;
(One's apt to use strong phrases, being in love)
And even that stuff of 'fields of gold,' 'gold rings,'
And what he 'thought,' poor Vincent! what he 'thought,'
May never mean enough to ruffle me.
–Why, this room stifles. Better burn than choke;
Best have air, air, although it comes with fire,
Throw open blinds and windows to the noon
And take a blister on my brow instead
Of this dead weight! best, perfectly be stunned
By those insufferable cicale, sick
And hoarse with rapture of the summer-heat,
That sing like poets, till their hearts break, . . sing
Till men say, 'It's too tedious.'
Books succeed,
And lives fail. Do I feel it so, at last?
Kate loves a worn-out cloak for being like mine,
While I live self-despised for being myself,
And yearn toward some one else, who yearns away
From what he is, in his turn. Strain a step
For ever, yet gain no step? Are we such,
We cannot, with our admirations even,
Our tip-toe aspirations, touch a thing
That's higher than we? is all a dismal flat,
And God alone above each,–as the sun
O'er level lagunes, to make them shine and stink,–
Laying stress upon us with immediate flame,
While we respond with our miasmal fog,
And call it mounting higher, because we grow
More highly fatal?
Tush, Aurora Leigh!
You wear your sackcloth looped in Cæsar's way.
And brag your failings as mankind's. Be still.
There is what's higher in this very world,
Than you can live, or catch at. Stand aside,
And look at others–instance little Kate!
She'll make a perfect wife for Carrington.
She always has been looking round the earth
For something good and green to alight upon
And nestle into, with those soft-winged eyes
Subsiding now beneath his manly hand
'Twixt trembling lids of inexpressive joy:
I will not scorn her, after all, too much,
That so much she should love me. A wise man
Can pluck a leaf, and find a lecture in't;
And I, too, . . God has made me,–I've a heart
That's capable of worship, love, and loss;
We say the same of Shakspeare's. I'll be meek,
And learn to reverence, even this poor myself.

The book, too–pass it. 'A good book,' says he,
'And you a woman,' I had laughed at that,
But long since. I'm a woman,–it is true;
Alas, and woe to us, when we feel it most!
Then, least care have we for the crowns and goals,
And compliments on writing our good books.

The book has some truth in it, I believe:
And truth outlives pain, as the soul does life.
I know we talk our Phædons to the end
Through all the dismal faces that we make,
O'er-wrinkled with dishonouring agony
From any mortal drug. I have written truth,
And I a woman; feebly, partially,
Inaptly in presentation, Romney'll add,
Because a woman. For the truth itself,
That's neither man's nor woman's, but just God's;
None else has reason to be proud of truth:
Himself will see it sifted, disenthralled,
And kept upon the height and in the light,
As far as, and no farther, than 'tis truth;
For,–now He has left off calling firmaments
And strata, flowers and creatures, very good,–
He says it still of truth, which is His own.
Truth, so far, in my book;–the truth which draws
Through all things upwards; that a twofold world
Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things
And spiritual,–who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points. We divide
This apple of life, and cut it through the pips,–
The perfect round which fitted Venus' hand
Has perished utterly as if we ate
Both halves. Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural's impossible;–no form,
No motion! Without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable;–no beauty or power!
And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(And still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,–fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal, to the antetype
Some call the ideal,–better called the real,
And certain to be called so presently,
When things shall have their names. Look long enough
On any peasant's face here, coarse and lined.
You'll catch Antinous somewhere in that clay,
As perfect-featured as he yearns at Rome
From marble pale with beauty; then persist,
And, if your apprehension's competent,
You'll find some fairer angel at his back,
As much exceeding him, as he the boor,
And pushing him with empyreal disdain
For ever out of sight. Ay, Carrington
Is glad of such a creed! an artist must,
Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone
With just his hand, and finds it suddenly
A-piece with and conterminous to his soul.
Why else do these things move him, leaf or stone?
The bird's not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.
A mere itself,–cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And build up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God. 'There's nothing great
Nor small,' has said a poet of our day,
(Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin's bell)
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Truth so far, in my book! a truth which draws
From all things upwards. I, Aurora, still
Have felt it hound me through the wastes of life
As Jove did Io: and, until that Hand
Shall overtake me wholly, and, on my head,
Lay down its large, unfluctuating peace,
The feverish gad-fly pricks me up and down
It must be. Art's the witness of what Is
Behind this show. If this world's show were all,
Then imitation would be all in Art;
There, Jove's hand gripes us!–For we stand here, we.
If genuine artists, witnessing for God's
Complete, consummate, undivided work:
–That not a natural flower can grow on earth,
Without a flower upon the spiritual side,
Substantial, archetypal, all a-glow
With blossoming causes,–not so far away,
That we, whose spirit-sense is somewhat cleared,
May not catch something of the bloom and breath,–
Too vaguely apprehended, though indeed
Still apprehended, consciously or not,
And still transferred to picture, music, verse,
For thrilling audient and beholding souls
By signs and touches which are known to souls,–
How known, they know not,–why, they cannot find,
So straight call out on genius, say, 'A man
Produced this,'–when much rather they should say,
Tis insight, and he saw this.'
Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. If a man could feel,
Not one day, in the artist's ecstasy,
But every day, feast, fast, or working-day,
The spiritual significance burn through
The hieroglyphic of material shows,
Henceforward he would paint the globe with wings,
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, the tree,
And even his very body as a man,–
Which now he counts so vile, that all the towns
Make offal of their daughters for its use
On summer-nights, when God is sad in heaven
To think what goes on in his recreant world
He made quite other; while that moon he made
To shine there, at the first love's covenant,
Shines still, convictive as a marriage-ring
Before adulterous eyes.
How sure it is,
That, if we say a true word, instantly
We feel 'tis God's, not ours, and pass it on
As bread at sacrament, we taste and pass
Nor handle for a moment, as indeed
We dared to set up any claim to such!
And Imy poem;–let my readers talk;
I'm closer to itI can speak as well:
I'll say, with Romney, that the book is weak,
The range uneven, the points of sight obscure,
The music interrupted.
Let us go.
The end of woman (or of man, I think)
Is not a book. Alas, the best of books
Is but a word in Art, which soon grows cramped,
Stiff, dubious-statured with the weight of years,
And drops an accent or digamma down
Some cranny of unfathomable time,
Beyond the critic's reaching. Art itself,
We've called the higher life, still must feel the soul
Live past it. For more's felt than is perceived,
And more's perceived than can be interpreted,
And Love strikes higher with his lambent flame
Than Art can pile the faggots.
Is it so?
When Jove's hand meets us with composing touch,
And when, at last, we are hushed and satisfied,–
Then, Io does not call it truth, but love?
Well, well! my father was an Englishman:
My mother's blood in me is not so strong
That I should bear this stress of Tuscan noon
And keep my wits. The town, there, seems to seethe
In this Medæan boil-pot of the sun,
And all the patient hills are bubbling round
As if a prick would leave them flat. Does heaven
Keep far off, not to set us in a blaze?
Not so,–let drag your fiery fringes, heaven,
And burn us up to quiet! Ah, we know
Too much here, not to know what's best for peace;
We have too much light here, not to want more fire
To purify and end us. We talk, talk,
Conclude upon divine philosophies,
And get the thanks of men for hopeful books;
Whereat we take our own life up, and . . pshaw!
Unless we piece it with another's life,
(A yard of silk to carry out our lawn)
As well suppose my little handkerchief
Would cover Samminiato, church and all,
If out I threw it past the cypresses,
As, in this ragged, narrow life of mine,
Contain my own conclusions.
But at least
We'll shut up the persiani, and sit down,
And when my head's done aching, in the cool,
Write just a word to Kate and Carrington.
May joy be with them! she has chosen well,
And he not ill.
I should be glad, I think,
Except for Romney. Had he married Kate,
I surely, surely, should be very glad.
This Florence sits upon me easily,
With native air and tongue. My graves are calm,
And do not too much hurt me. Marian's good,
Gentle and loving,–lets me hold the child,
Or drags him up the hills to find me flowers
And fill those vases, ere I'm quite awake,–
The grandiose red tulips, which grow wild,
Or else my purple lilies, Dante blew
To a larger bubble with his prophet-breath;
Or one of those tall flowering reeds which stand
In Arno like a sheaf of sceptres, left
By some remote dynasty of dead gods,
To suck the stream for ages and get green,
And blossom wheresoe'er a hand divine
Had warmed the place with ichor. Such I've found
At early morning, laid across my bed,
And woke up pelted with a childish laugh
Which even Marian's low precipitous 'hush'
Had vainly interposed to put away,–
While I, with shut eyes, smile and motion for
The dewy kiss that's very sure to come
From mouth and cheeks, the whole child's face at once
Dissolved on mine,–as if a nosegay burst
Its string with the weight of roses overblown,
And dropt upon me. Surely I should be glad.
The little creature almost loves me now,
And calls my name . . 'Alola,' stripping off
The r s like thorns, to make it smooth enough
To take between his dainty, milk-fed lips,
God love him! I should certainly be glad,
Except, God help me, that I'm sorrowful,
Because of Romney.
Romney, Romney! Well,
This grows absurd!–too like a tune that runs
I' the head, and forces all things in the world,
Wind, rain, the creaking gnat or stuttering fly,
To sing itself and vex you;–yet perhaps
A paltry tune you never fairly liked,
Some 'I'd be a butterfly,' or 'C'est l'amour:'
We're made so,–not such tyrants to ourselves,
We are not slaves to nature. Some of us
Are turned, too, overmuch like some poor verse
With a trick of ritournelle: the same thing goes
And comes back ever.
Vincent Carrington
Is 'sorry,' and I'm sorry; but he's strong
To mount from sorrow to his heaven of love,
And when he says at moments, 'Poor, poor Leigh,
Who'll never call his own, so true a heart,
So fair a face even,'–he must quickly lose
The pain of pity in the blush he has made
By his very pitying eyes. The snow, for him,
Has fallen in May, and finds the whole earth warm,
And melts at the first touch of the green grass.
But Romney,–he has chosen, after all.
I think he had as excellent a sun
To see by, as most others, and perhaps
Has scarce seen really worse than some of us,
When all's said. Let him pass. I'm not too much
A woman, not to be a man for once,
And bury all my Dead like Alaric,
Depositing the treasures of my soul
In this drained water-course, and, letting flow
The river of life again, with commerce-ships
And pleasure-barges, full of silks and songs.
Blow winds, and help us.
Ah, we mock ourselves
With talking of the winds! perhaps as much
With other resolutions. How it weighs,
This hot, sick air! and how I covet here
The Dead's provision on the river's couch,
With silver curtains drawn on tinkling rings!
Or else their rest in quiet crypts,–laid by
From heat and noise!–from those cicale, say,
And this more vexing heart-beat.
So it is:
We covet for the soul, the body's part,
To die and rot. Even so, Aurora, ends
Our aspiration, who bespoke our place
So far in the east. The occidental flats
Had fed us fatter, therefore? we have climbed
Where herbage ends? we want the beast's part now
And tire of the angel's?–Men define a man,
The creature who stands front-ward to the stars,
The creature who looks inward to himself,
The tool-wright, laughing creature. 'Tis enough:
We'll say instead, the inconsequent creature, man,–
For that's his specialty. What creature else
Conceives the circle, and then walks the square?
Loves things proved bad, and leaves a thing proved good?
You think the bee makes honey half a year,
To loathe the comb in winter, and desire
The little ant's food rather? But a man
Note men!–they are but women after all,
As women are but Auroras!–there are men
Born tender, apt to pale at a trodden worm,
Who paint for pastime, in their favourite dream,
Spruce auto-vestments flowered with crocus-flames:
There are, too, who believe in hell, and lie:
There are, who waste their souls in working out
Life's problem on these sands betwixt two tides,
And end,– 'Now give us the beast's part, in death.'

Alas, long-suffering and most patient God,
Thou need'st be surelier God to bear with us
Than even to have made us! thou, aspire, aspire
From henceforth for me! thou who hast, thyself,
Endured this fleshhood, knowing how, as a soaked
And sucking vesture, it would drag us down
And choke us in the melancholy Deep,
Sustain me, that, with thee, I walk these waves,
Resisting!–breathe me upward, thou for me
Aspiring, who art the way, the truth, the life,–
That no truth henceforth seem indifferent,
No way to truth laborious, and no life,
Not even this life I live, intolerable!
The days went by. I took up the old days
With all their Tuscan pleasures, worn and spoiled,–
Like some lost book we dropt in the long grass
On such a happy summer-afternoon
When last we read it with a loving friend,
And find in autumn, when the friend is gone,
The grass cut short, the weather changed, too late,
And stare at, as at something wonderful
For sorrow,–thinking how two hands, before,
Had held up what is left to only one,
And how we smiled when such a vehement nail
Impressed the tiny dint here, which presents
This verse in fire for ever! Tenderly
And mournfully I lived. I knew the birds
And insects,–which look fathered by the flowers
And emulous of their hues: I recognised
The moths, with that great overpoise of wings
Which makes a mystery of them how at all
They can stop flying: butterflies, that bear
Upon their blue wings such red embers round,
They seem to scorch the blue air into holes
Each flight they take: and fire-flies, that suspire
In short soft lapses of transported flame
Across the tingling Dark, while overhead
The constant and inviolable stars
Outburn those lights-of-love: melodious owls,
(If music had but one note and was sad,
'Twould sound just so) and all the silent swirl
Of bats, that seem to follow in the air
Some grand circumference of a shadowy dome
To which we are blind: and then, the nightingale
Which pluck our heart across a garden-wall,
(When walking in the town) and carry it
So high into the bowery almond-trees,
We tremble and are afraid, and feel as if
The golden flood of moonlight unaware
Dissolved the pillars of the steady earth
And made it less substantial. An I knew
The harmless opal snakes, and large-mouthed frogs,
(Those noisy vaunters of their shallow streams)
And lizards, the green lightnings of the wall,
Which, if you sit down still, nor sigh too loud,
Will flatter you and take you for a stone,
And flash familiarly about your feet
With such prodigious eyes in such small heads!–
I knew them though they had somewhat dwindled from
My childish imagery,–and kept in mind
How last I sat among them equally,
In fellowship and mateship, as a child
Will bear him still toward insect, beast, and bird,
Before the Adam in him has foregone
All privilege of Eden,–making friends
And talk, with such a bird or such a goat,
And buying many a two-inch-wide rush-cage
To let out the caged cricket on a tree,
Saying, 'Oh, my dear grillino, were you cramped
And are you happy with the ilex-leaves?
And do you love me who have let you go?
Say yes in singing, and I'll understand.'
But now the creatures all seemed farther off,
No longer mine, nor like me; only there,
A gulph between us. I could yearn indeed,
Like other rich men, for a drop of dew
To cool this heat,–a drop of the early dew,
The irrecoverable child-innocence
(Before the heart took fire and withered life)
When childhood might pair equally with birds;
But now . . the birds were grown too proud for us!
Alas, the very sun forbids the dew.

And I, I had come back to an empty nest,
Which every bird's too wise for. How I heard
My father's step on that deserted ground,
His voice along that silence, as he told
The names of bird and insect, tree and flower,
And all the presentations of the stars
Across Valdarno, interposing still
'My child,' 'my child.' When fathers say 'my child,'
'Tis easier to conceive the universe,
And life's transitions down the steps of law.

I rode once to the little mountain-house
As fast as if to find my father there,
But, when in sight of't, within fifty yards,
I dropped my horse's bridle on his neck
And paused upon his flank. The house's front
Was cased with lingots of ripe Indian corn
In tesselated order, and device
Of golden patterns: not a stone of wall
Uncovered,–not an inch of room to grow
A vine-leaf. The old porch had disappeared;
And, in the open doorway, sate a girl
At plaiting straws,-her black hair strained away
To a scarlet kerchief caught beneath her chin
In Tuscan fashion,–her full ebon eyes,
Which looked too heavy to be lifted so,
Still dropt and lifted toward the mulberry-tree
On which the lads were busy with their staves
In shout and laughter, stripping all the boughs
As bare as winter, of those summer leaves
My father had not changed for all the silk
In which the ugly silkworms hide themselves.
Enough. My horse recoiled before my heart
I turned the rein abruptly. Back we went
As fast, to Florence.
That was trial enough
Of graves. I would not visit, if I could,
My father's or my mother's any more,
To see if stone-cutter or lichen beat
So early in the race, or throw my flowers,
Which could not out-smell heaven or sweeten earth.
They live too far above, that I should look
So far below to find them: let me think
That rather they are visiting my grave,
This life here, (undeveloped yet to life)
And that they drop upon me, now and then,
For token or for solace, some small weed
Least odorous of the growths of paradise,
To spare such pungent scents as kill with joy.
My old Assunta, too was dead, was dead–
O land of all men's past! for me alone,
It would not mix its tenses. I was past,
It seemed, like others,–only not in heaven.
And, many a Tuscan eve, I wandered down
The cypress alley, like a restless ghost
That tries its feeble ineffectual breath
Upon its own charred funeral-brands put out
Too soon,–where, black and stiff, stood up the trees
Against the broad vermilion of the skies.
Such skies!–all clouds abolished in a sweep
Of God's skirt, with a dazzle to ghosts and men,
As down I went, saluting on the bridge
The hem of such, before 'twas caught away
Beyond the peaks of Lucca. Underneath,
The river, just escaping from the weight
Of that intolerable glory, ran
In acquiescent shadow murmurously:
And up, beside it, streamed the festa-folk
With fellow-murmurs from their feet and fans,
(With issimo and ino and sweet poise
Of vowels in their pleasant scandalous talk)
Returning from the grand-duke's dairy-farm
Before the trees grew dangerous at eight,
(For, 'trust no tree by moonlight,' Tuscans say)
To eat their ice at Doni's tenderly,–
Each lovely lady close to a cavalier
Who holds her dear fan while she feeds her smile
On meditative spoonfuls of vanille,
He breathing hot protesting vows of love,
Enough to thaw her cream, and scorch his beard.
'Twas little matter. I could pass them by
Indifferently, not fearing to be known.
No danger of being wrecked upon a friend,
And forced to take an iceberg for an isle!
The very English, here, must wait to learn
To hang the cobweb of their gossip out
And catch a fly. I'm happy. It's sublime,
This perfect solitude of foreign lands!
To be, as if you had not been till then,
And were then, simply that you chose to be:
To spring up, not be brought forth from the ground,
Like grasshoppers at Athens, and skip thrice
Before a woman makes a pounce on you
And plants you in her hair!–possess yourself,
A new world all alive with creatures new,
New sun, new moon, new flowers, new people–ah,
And be possessed by none of them! No right
In one, to call your name, enquire your where,
Or what you think of Mister Some-one's book,
Or Mister Other's marriage, or decease,
Or how's the headache which you had last week,
Or why you look so pale still, since it's gone?
–Such most surprising riddance of one's life
Comes next one's death; it's disembodiment
Without the pang. I marvel, people choose
To stand stock-still like fakirs, till the moss
Grows on them, and they cry out, self-admired,
'How verdant and how virtuous!' Well, I'm glad;
Or should be, if grown foreign to myself
As surely as to others.
Musing so,
I walked the narrow unrecognising streets,
Where many a palace-front peers gloomily
Through stony vizors iron-barred, (prepared
Alike, should foe or lover pass that way,
For guest or victim) and came wandering out
Upon the churches with mild open doors
And plaintive wail of vespers, where a few,
Those chiefly women, sprinkled round in blots
Upon the dusk pavement, knelt and prayed
Toward the altar's silver glory. Oft a ray
(I liked to sit and watch) would tremble out,
Just touch some face more lifted, more in need,
Of course a woman's–while I dreamed a tale
To fit its fortunes. There was one who looked
As if the earth had suddenly grown too large
For such a little humpbacked thing as she;
The pitiful black kerchief round her neck
Sole proof she had had a mother. One, again,
Looked sick for love,–seemed praying some soft saint
To put more virtue in the new fine scarf
She spent a fortnight's meals on, yesterday,
That cruel Gigi might return his eyes
From Giuliana. There was one, so old,
So old, to kneel grew easier than to stand.–
So solitary, she accepts at last
Our Lady for her gossip, and frets on
Against the sinful world which goes its rounds
In marrying and being married, just the same
As when 'twas almost good and had the right,
(Her Gian alive, and she herself eighteen).
And yet, now even, if Madonna willed,
She'd win a tern in Thursday's lottery,
And better all things. Did she dream for nought,
That, boiling cabbage for the fast day's soup,
It smelt like blessed entrails? such a dream
For nought? would sweetest Mary cheat her so,
And lose that certain candle, straight and white
As any fair grand-duchess in her teens,
Which otherwise should flare here in a week?
Benigna sis, thou beauteous Queen of heaven!

I sate there musing and imagining
Such utterance from such faces: poor blind souls
That writhed toward heaven along the devil's trail,–
Who knows, I thought, but He may stretch his hand
And pick them up? 'tis written in the Book,
He heareth the young ravens when they cry;
And yet they cry for carrion.–O my God,–
And we, who make excuses for the rest,
We do it in our measure. Then I knelt,
And dropped my head upon the pavement too,
And prayed, since I was foolish in desire
Like other creatures, craving offal-food,
That He would stop his ears to what I said,
And only listen to the run and beat
Of this poor, passionate, helpless blood–
And then
I lay and spoke not. But He heard in heaven.
So many Tuscan evenings passed the same!
I could not lose a sunset on the bridge,
And would not miss a vigil in the church,
And liked to mingle with the out-door crowd
So strange and gay and ignorant of my face,
For men you know not, are as good as trees.
And only once, at the Santissima,
I almost chanced upon a man I knew,
Sir Blaise Delorme. He saw me certainly,
And somewhat hurried, as he crossed himself,
The smoothness of the action,–then half bowed,
But only half, and merely to my shade,
I slipped so quick behind the porphyry plinth,
And left him dubious if 'twas really I,
Or peradventure Satan's usual trick
To keep a mounting saint uncanonised.
But I was safe for that time, and he too;
The argent angels in the altar-flare
Absorbed his soul next moment. The good man!
In England we were scare acquaintances,
That here in Florence he should keep my thought
Beyond the image on his eye, which came
And went: and yet his thought disturbed my life.
For, after that, I often sate at home
On evenings, watching how they fined themselves
With gradual conscience to a perfect night,
Until a moon, diminished to a curve,
Lay out there, like a sickle for His hand
Who cometh down at last to reap the earth.
At such times, ended seemed my trade of verse;
I feared to jingle bells upon my robe
Before the four-faced silent cherubim;
With God so near me, could I sing of God?
I did not write, nor read, nor even think,
But sate absorbed amid the quickening glooms,
Most like some passive broken lump of salt
Dropt in by chance to a bowl of oenomel,
To spoil the drink a little, and lose itself,
Dissolving slowly, slowly, until lost.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"

Life!
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?

How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!

Fool!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Felice Whatsoever-was-the-name
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.

That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
Behind him!

And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!

Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!

I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!

Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!

You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.

Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!

Panciatichi!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!

Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?

"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!

'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I find—no child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!

And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!

And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little lifefrom one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
—Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
You knowthe tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.

Thus
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!

Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"

So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word—
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!

You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!

Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die—
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!

Till when,
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.

Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke's—no, I am the Pope's!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, …
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?

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Fateful days of life

It is believed that all pairs are decided in heaven,
Many agree and accept golden phrase even,
Lucky are those who get desired partner,
Unlucky are those who become good listener,

God gave us sense to think good or bad,
Some doesn’t learn even after becoming dad,
Life seems to them on earth like living hell,
Nothing goes right for them and not doing well,

Knowing fully well but still trying to knot,
Never asked question about it is for what?
All were going for marriage so did I?
Never knew it well before we met eyes

Initial days were fine and not so boring,
Problems were few but gradually started pouring,
Preferred living out and most on touring,
Relations got strained and started soaring,

Never tried to know what exactly was matter,
Time was running out to be found it later,
In my own house I have became waiter,
Sometimes she called me fool and also liar,

Happy days were those when I had good freedom,
I used to enjoy more except facing boredom,
Never had it occurred or idea entered seldom,
To marry in life was step taken with wisdom.

It is jokingly said marriage is like sweet,
Person may enjoy when first time they meet,
Who is not marrying may suffer it later most,
As what is test of sweet is permanently lost,

Life is not easy and someone may outcry,
Why did he marry without knowing why?
It is easy to watch birds moving in the sky,
Wings may be weak but always ready to fly,

Life can be made better like In heaven
facing all odds still trying for even,
new views to be injected and made life joyful,
Life is worth living after making it beautiful

After all who are we to make it hell?
When going is smooth and ending very well
why to think of woes and more stories to tell?
It tatantamounts to cheating as soul is for sales

Life may move freely as two wheels of vehicle
It may have good tuning and sound musical
It may have ups and down and more woes to add
Life is all about surprises with mixture of good and bad

Joy and sadness is part of the life
it is always in the hands of wife
if she is determined to remain calm and loyal
Life may not be living hell but gorgeous like royal

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