It Is An Indifferent Cruel and Stupid World
It is an indifferent cruel and stupid world-
The Ayatollahs preach genocide
And a hundred nations are hosted by them-
The U.N. Secretary General dignifies them by his presence
Though they have consistently deceived and lied to him and his predecessors-
They preach a medieval exclusive fanatic narrow-
minded doctrine of world domination
as they conceal their race for weapons of mass- destruction
and are traded with and toasted by the Chinese and Russians-
They promise to continue the Nazis work by other means
And the allegedly non- aligned do not contend with them
Shame on these racist haters
And shame on their collaborators
Shame on Humanity
For our having such contemptible creatures among us.
How Cruel the World Can Be
How cruel the world can be at times,
too cruel to think upon.
For the pain and suffering that visits us
is a lingering marathon.
We pray that when it is our time
to welcome something new
that the parting from the life we know
will be a quick adieu.
Somehow we gather strength to face
what comes to us tomorrow.
And on the day before that
we must not dwell on sorrow.
For surely all the pain we've known
will be left to this cruel world.
And the quiet peaceful sleep we need
will finally be unfurled.
How cruel the world can be at times,
too cruel to think upon.
Stupid, Stupid World Full Of Lies
Stupid, stupid world full of lies, self-deceit, greed,
conspiratorial stinging nettles, leeching bills, vampiric,
cutting off the flow of things like tiger-mussels,
hillbilly hippies beating up their girlfriends on crack,
all these egotistic puff ball mushrooms with labial gills
mythically inflated by one night's good rain
into albino planets, people who have more keys to heaven
than they have locks on hell, abandoned school bells
that go on talking to themselves like wandering scholars
light years after the children grew old at their perennial recess
and the moths and the mice and the mildew
keep putting out books epilogues after everyone's
forgotten how to read the signs of their own decay.
Between the horns of the moon that's been thrown
like a goat skull into the wishing well of my heart,
roadie spiders string my harp for me like false eyelashes
in the green room, and the nerves of the mirrors
are shattered into the frayed deltas of the ropes of hope
endangered elephants are trying to climb up to heaven on.
The thin-skinned blissed-out gardenias of Maharajji
are wilting under the eyeshadow of their Mary K cosmetics
as their rainbows grow vicious as vegan dogs
in a spiritual junkyard of razorwire and foodchains
that have overextended their supply lines like the umbilical cords
of kites and puppets and angels on the strings of arachnids.
Too pure for me. I'd be afraid of getting myself on their floors.
Tracking starmud in from the mindstream I've been floating down
from one neuron to the next, one town to another,
like the new moon of an origami swan in a scenic calendar
of apocalyptic moments in the life of a hand grenade
people keep pulling on like the handle of an empty fridge.
Count me among the Andalusian vandals of the delinquent dragons
who keep writing obscene truths in lampblack and terza rima
on the walls where the flamethrowers post their prophecies.
I was born to burnish gold. I was born to dry the eyes
of weeping diamonds. I was born to wire the rainbow bridges
with satchel charges of fireflies and lightning for demolition
so everybody can learn to swim through stone
like glaciers to the other side of their polarized cataracts.
And whenever I look at a house of worship built on quicksand
I've got to laugh like an avalanche of meteors
at the self-serving lustrations of their pretentious extinctions
as the world blazes all around them like a halo of inflammable hairspray.
I've got holy wars of my own to go to that won't be disarmed
by the soft swords of their beeswax candles surrendering
to such a little flame of life at the tip of a limp wick
that trembles with every breath it takes like a feather in a furnace.
I see the mad dogs like arsonists with hydrophobia
frothing at the mouth for war, citing ancient conflagrations
from the burnt out scriptures of their sacred matchbooks
raving at the supernovas that ignore them like ingrown solar flares
that couldn't stand up to a drought, let alone a forest fire.
What good is inspiration if it hasn't got a detonator?
Or enlightenment if all it does is ignite a funeral pyre,
cremate a desire to live like a peer of the dynastic galaxies
you were born among with the silver spoon of a universe in your mouth
whether you use it to cook crack, take your medicine
like a human suffers an excruciating transformation,
or let the hummingbirds sip from it like syringes
flagging snakestongues of blood in celestial sugar water?
And all the warrior poets buffed like medicine bags
of talcum powder, and all the healers selling
batches of bad heroin like dealers to the high school kids
who used to steal their mother's oxycontin from the medicine chest
so they could rail the yellow brick road like roadkill.
All the vates, seers and shamans consulting
prophetic pundits and polls as the critics
repeal the fate of the artist before she's born,
cuckoos taking over the nests of better birds,
parasitic guests taking over the house of the host
as the journalists turn from objective observers
to political spiders weaving the webs they spin as the news
and the audience, breaking mutually consenting protocol
gets up on stage with Hamlet and turns a play into a talkshow
for the fifteen minutes of pop-tart celebrity left on their i-phones.
Originality that used to emanate from the roots up
like the light coming out of a dark universe
now seated like an air traffic controller in an orchard
like the wind assigning runways and instructions
on where to take off and land to a riot of blossoms
with pre-conceived flightpaths and well-known destinations.
Creative writing professors in the literary mills
grinding the grist for whole new generations
of mimetically enculturated oxen
to keep the wheels turning of a lucrative careers bank
that used to be the calling of the insanely inspired
too busy working in the visionary mines of their genius
looking for jewels of insight to waste their potential
on getting a job regurgitating words for baby pelicans,
masticating poetry into spiritual pulp fiction
or sipping them from other men's mouths as if
spit were the nectar of the muse they've never met.
The real dragons, their spines lined with sundials,
really don't care how many chapbooks you've published in a year
nor how many times per capita you've mentioned butterflies
just to ensure your fan club you're still sensitive to beauty
or where you're reading next like a matchbook
burning in the valley of Tuwa or whether your chimney-spark
expiring under the stars is an inferno of unignited creosote
caked in your throat like a callous of black matter
or the ore of the braille alphabet blocks you throw
like snake eyes in dice playing your randomness off
against the lottery of your autobiography copied and pasted
like a colony of red army ants putting your books together
like a folio of butterfly wings perfectly bound for the ant heap.
Detail Orientated Narrow Minded Smart Stupid Folk
Detail orientated narrow minded
Smart stupid folk follow the rules
And cannot understand anything
The realm where 2+2=5
Is beyond their rational minds
They lack understanding
Holy fluffly Paradoxes
On which this universe exists
Thinking they are superior to me!
Global World Domination
soon time prophecy leave taking large looms
we grow tired possessive world view smell
those who main torture extort kill for thrill
those with sick selfish indulged in vile passions
who enjoy games of global world domination
a president’s club supports power crazed extortion
enjoy we do God’s promised end which awaits
demons of deceit who control manipulate hate
Revelation has sentenced foretold demonic fate
Accursed the man, whom Fate ordains, in spite,
And cruel parents teach, to read and write!
What need of letters? wherefore should we spell?
Why write our names? A mark will do as well.
Much are the precious hours of youth misspent,
In climbing Learning's rugged, steep ascent;
When to the top the bold adventurer's got,
He reigns, vain monarch, o'er a barren spot;
Whilst in the vale of Ignorance below,
Folly and Vice to rank luxuriance grow;
Honours and wealth pour in on every side,
And proud Preferment rolls her golden tide.
O'er crabbed authors life's gay prime to waste,
To cramp wild genius in the chains of taste,
To bear the slavish drudgery of schools,
And tamely stoop to every pedant's rules;
For seven long years debarr'd of liberal ease,
To plod in college trammels to degrees;
Beneath the weight of solemn toys to groan,
Sleep over books, and leave mankind unknown;
To praise each senior blockhead's threadbare tale,
And laugh till reason blush, and spirits fail;
Manhood with vile submission to disgrace,
And cap the fool, whose merit is his place,
Vice-Chancellors, whose knowledge is but small,
And Chancellors, who nothing know at all:
Ill-brook'd the generous spirit in those days
When learning was the certain road to praise,
When nobles, with a love of science bless'd,
Approved in others what themselves possess'd.
But now, when Dulness rears aloft her throne,
When lordly vassals her wide empire own;
When Wit, seduced by Envy, starts aside,
And basely leagues with Ignorance and Pride;
What, now, should tempt us, by false hopes misled,
Learning's unfashionable paths to tread;
To bear those labours which our fathers bore,
That crown withheld, which they in triumph wore?
When with much pains this boasted learning's got,
'Tis an affront to those who have it not:
In some it causes hate, in others fear,
Instructs our foes to rail, our friends to sneer.
With prudent haste the worldly-minded fool
Forgets the little which he learn'd at school:
The elder brother, to vast fortunes born,
Looks on all science with an eye of scorn;
Dependent brethren the same features wear,
And younger sons are stupid as the heir.
In senates, at the bar, in church and state,
Genius is vile, and learning out of date.
Is this--oh, death to think!--is this the land
Where Merit and Reward went hand in hand?
Where heroes, parent-like, the poet view'd,
By whom they saw their glorious deeds renew'd?
Where poets, true to honour, tuned their lays,
And by their patrons sanctified their praise?
Is this the land, where, on our Spenser's tongue,
Enamour'd of his voice, Description hung?
Where Jonson rigid Gravity beguiled,
Whilst Reason through her critic fences smiled?
Where Nature listening stood whilst Shakspeare play'd,
And wonder'd at the work herself had made?
Is this the land, where, mindful of her charge
And office high, fair Freedom walk'd at large?
Where, finding in our laws a sure defence,
She mock'd at all restraints, but those of sense?
Where, Health and Honour trooping by her side,
She spread her sacred empire far and wide;
Pointed the way, Affliction to beguile,
And bade the face of Sorrow wear a smile;
Bade those, who dare obey the generous call,
Enjoy her blessings, which God meant for all?
Is this the land, where, in some tyrant's reign,
When a weak, wicked, ministerial train,
The tools of power, the slaves of interest, plann'd
Their country's ruin, and with bribes unmann'd
Those wretches, who, ordain'd in Freedom's cause,
Gave up our liberties, and sold our laws;
When Power was taught by Meanness where to go,
Nor dared to love the virtue of a foe;
When, like a leprous plague, from the foul head
To the foul heart her sores Corruption spread;
Her iron arm when stern Oppression rear'd;
And Virtue, from her broad base shaken, fear'd
The scourge of Vice; when, impotent and vain,
Poor Freedom bow'd the neck to Slavery's chain?
Is this the land, where, in those worst of times,
The hardy poet raised his honest rhymes
To dread rebuke, and bade Controlment speak
In guilty blushes on the villain's cheek;
Bade Power turn pale, kept mighty rogues in awe,
And made them fear the Muse, who fear'd not law?
How do I laugh, when men of narrow souls,
Whom Folly guides, and Prejudice controls;
Who, one dull drowsy track of business trod,
Worship their Mammon, and neglect their God;
Who, breathing by one musty set of rules,
Dote from their birth, and are by system fools;
Who, form'd to dulness from their very youth,
Lies of the day prefer to gospel truth;
Pick up their little knowledge from Reviews,
And lay out all their stock of faith in news;
How do I laugh, when creatures, form'd like these,
Whom Reason scorns, and I should blush to please,
Rail at all liberal arts, deem verse a crime,
And hold not truth, as truth, if told in rhyme!
How do I laugh, when Publius, hoary grown
In zeal for Scotland's welfare, and his own,
By slow degrees, and course of office, drawn
In mood and figure at the helm to yawn,
Too mean (the worst of curses Heaven can send)
To have a foe, too proud to have a friend;
Erring by form, which blockheads sacred hold,
Ne'er making new faults, and ne'er mending old,
Rebukes my spirit, bids the daring Muse
Subjects more equal to her weakness choose;
Bids her frequent the haunts of humble swains,
Nor dare to traffic in ambitious strains;
Bids her, indulging the poetic whim
In quaint-wrought ode, or sonnet pertly trim,
Along the church-way path complain with Gray,
Or dance with Mason on the first of May!
'All sacred is the name and power of kings;
All states and statesmen are those mighty things
Which, howsoe'er they out of course may roll,
Were never made for poets to control.'
Peace, peace, thou dotard! nor thus vilely deem
Of sacred numbers, and their power blaspheme.
I tell thee, wretch, search all creation round,
In earth, in heaven, no subject can be found:
(Our God alone except) above whose height
The poet cannot rise, and hold his state.
The blessed saints above in numbers speak
The praise of God, though there all praise is weak;
In numbers here below the bard shall teach
Virtue to soar beyond the villain's reach;
Shall tear his labouring lungs, strain his hoarse throat,
And raise his voice beyond the trumpet's note,
Should an afflicted country, awed by men
Of slavish principles, demand his pen.
This is a great, a glorious point of view,
Fit for an English poet to pursue;
Undaunted to pursue, though, in return,
His writings by the common hangman burn
How do I laugh, when men, by fortune placed
Above their betters, and by rank disgraced,
Who found their pride on titles which they stain,
And, mean themselves, are of their fathers vain;
Who would a bill of privilege prefer,
And treat a poet like a creditor;
The generous ardour of the Muse condemn,
And curse the storm they know must break on them!
'What! shall a reptile bard, a wretch unknown,
Without one badge of merit but his own,
Great nobles lash, and lords, like common men,
Smart from the vengeance of a scribbler's pen?'
What's in this name of lord, that I should fear
To bring their vices to the public ear?
Flows not the honest blood of humble swains
Quick as the tide which swells a monarch's veins?
Monarchs, who wealth and titles can bestow,
Cannot make virtues in succession flow.
Wouldst thou, proud man! be safely placed above
The censure of the Muse? Deserve her love:
Act as thy birth demands, as nobles ought;
Look back, and, by thy worthy father taught,
Who earn'd those honours thou wert born to wear,
Follow his steps, and be his virtue's heir.
But if, regardless of the road to fame,
You start aside, and tread the paths of shame;
If such thy life, that should thy sire arise,
The sight of such a son would blast his eyes,
Would make him curse the hour which gave thee birth,
Would drive him shuddering from the face of earth,
Once more, with shame and sorrow, 'mongst the dead
In endless night to hide his reverend head;
If such thy life, though kings had made thee more
Than ever king a scoundrel made before;
Nay, to allow thy pride a deeper spring,
Though God in vengeance had made thee a king,
Taking on Virtue's wing her daring flight,
The Muse should drag thee, trembling, to the light,
Probe thy foul wounds, and lay thy bosom bare
To the keen question of the searching air.
Gods! with what pride I see the titled slave,
Who smarts beneath the stroke which Satire gave,
Aiming at ease, and with dishonest art
Striving to hide the feelings of his heart!
How do I laugh, when, with affected air,
(Scarce able through despite to keep his chair,
Whilst on his trembling lip pale Anger speaks,
And the chafed blood flies mounting to his cheeks)
He talks of Conscience, which good men secures
From all those evil moments Guilt endures,
And seems to laugh at those who pay regard
To the wild ravings of a frantic bard.
'Satire, whilst envy and ill-humour sway
The mind of man, must always make her way;
Nor to a bosom, with discretion fraught,
Is all her malice worth a single thought.
The wise have not the will, nor fools the power,
To stop her headstrong course; within the hour,
Left to herself, she dies; opposing strife
Gives her fresh vigour, and prolongs her life.
All things her prey, and every man her aim,
I can no patent for exemption claim,
Nor would I wish to stop that harmless dart
Which plays around, but cannot wound my heart;
Though pointed at myself, be Satire free;
To her 'tis pleasure, and no pain to me.'
Dissembling wretch! hence to the Stoic school,
And there amongst thy brethren play the fool;
There, unrebuked, these wild, vain doctrines preach.
Lives there a man whom Satire cannot reach?
Lives there a man who calmly can stand by,
And see his conscience ripp'd with steady eye?
When Satire flies abroad on Falsehood's wing,
Short is her life, and impotent her sting;
But when to Truth allied, the wound she gives
Sinks deep, and to remotest ages lives.
When in the tomb thy pamper'd flesh shall rot,
And e'en by friends thy memory be forgot,
Still shalt thou live, recorded for thy crimes,
Live in her page, and stink to after-times.
Hast thou no feeling yet? Come, throw off pride,
And own those passions which thou shalt not hide.
Sandwich, who, from the moment of his birth,
Made human nature a reproach on earth,
Who never dared, nor wish'd, behind to stay,
When Folly, Vice, and Meanness led the way,
Would blush, should he be told, by Truth and Wit,
Those actions which he blush'd not to commit.
Men the most infamous are fond of fame,
And those who fear not guilt, yet start at shame.
But whither runs my zeal, whose rapid force,
Turning the brain, bears Reason from her course;
Carries me back to times, when poets, bless'd
With courage, graced the science they profess'd;
When they, in honour rooted, firmly stood,
The bad to punish, and reward the good;
When, to a flame by public virtue wrought,
The foes of freedom they to justice brought,
And dared expose those slaves who dared support
A tyrant plan, and call'd themselves a Court?
Ah! what are poets now? As slavish those
Who deal in verse, as those who deal in prose.
Is there an Author, search the kingdom round,
In whom true worth and real spirit's found?
The slaves of booksellers, or (doom'd by Fate
To baser chains) vile pensioners of state;
Some, dead to shame, and of those shackles proud
Which Honour scorns, for slavery roar aloud;
Others, half-palsied only, mutes become,
And what makes Smollett write, makes Johnson dumb.
Why turns yon villain pale? Why bends his eye
Inward, abash'd, when Murphy passes by?
Dost thou sage Murphy for a blockhead take,
Who wages war with Vice for Virtue's sake?
No, no, like other worldlings, you will find
He shifts his sails and catches every wind.
His soul the shock of Interest can't endure:
Give him a pension then, and sin secure.
With laurell'd wreaths the flatterer's brows adorn:
Bid Virtue crouch, bid Vice exalt her horn;
Bid cowards thrive, put Honesty to flight,
Murphy shall prove, or try to prove it right.
Try, thou state-juggler, every paltry art;
Ransack the inmost closet of my heart;
Swear thou'rt my friend; by that base oath make way
Into my breast, and flatter to betray.
Or, if those tricks are vain; if wholesome doubt
Detects the fraud, and points the villain out;
Bribe those who daily at my board are fed,
And make them take my life who eat my bread.
On Authors for defence, for praise depend;
Pay him but well, and Murphy is thy friend:
He, he shall ready stand with venal rhymes,
To varnish guilt, and consecrate thy crimes;
To make Corruption in false colours shine,
And damn his own good name, to rescue thine.
But, if thy niggard hands their gifts withhold,
And Vice no longer rains down showers of gold,
Expect no mercy; facts, well-grounded, teach,
Murphy, if not rewarded, will impeach.
What though each man of nice and juster thought,
Shunning his steps, decrees, by Honour taught,
He ne'er can be a friend, who stoops so low
To be the base betrayer of a foe?
What though, with thine together link'd, his name
Must be with thine transmitted down to shame?
To every manly feeling callous grown,
Rather than not blast thine, he 'll blast his own.
To ope the fountain whence sedition springs,
To slander government, and libel kings;
With Freedom's name to serve a present hour,
Though born and bred to arbitrary power;
To talk of William with insidious art,
Whilst a vile Stuart's lurking in his heart;
And, whilst mean Envy rears her loathsome head,
Flattering the living, to abuse the dead,
Where is Shebbeare? Oh, let not foul reproach,
Travelling thither in a city-coach,
The pillory dare to name: the whole intent
Of that parade was fame, not punishment;
And that old staunch Whig, Beardmore, standing by,
Can in full court give that report the lie.
With rude unnatural jargon to support,
Half-Scotch, half-English, a declining court;
To make most glaring contraries unite,
And prove beyond dispute that black is white;
To make firm Honour tamely league with Shame,
Make Vice and Virtue differ but in name;
To prove that chains and freedom are but one,
That to be saved must mean to be undone,
Is there not Guthrie? Who, like him, can call
All opposites to proof, and conquer all?
He calls forth living waters from the rock;
He calls forth children from the barren stock;
He, far beyond the springs of Nature led,
Makes women bring forth after they are dead;
He, on a curious, new, and happy plan,
In wedlock's sacred bands joins man to man;
And to complete the whole, most strange, but true,
By some rare magic, makes them fruitful too;
Whilst from their loins, in the due course of years,
Flows the rich blood of Guthrie's 'English Peers.'
Dost thou contrive some blacker deed of shame,
Something which Nature shudders but to name,
Something which makes the soul of man retreat,
And the life-blood run backward to her seat?
Dost thou contrive, for some base private end,
Some selfish view, to hang a trusting friend;
To lure him on, e'en to his parting breath,
And promise life, to work him surer death?
Grown old in villany, and dead to grace,
Hell in his heart, and Tyburn in his face,
Behold, a parson at thy elbow stands,
Lowering damnation, and with open hands,
Ripe to betray his Saviour for reward,
The Atheist chaplain of an Atheist lord!
Bred to the church, and for the gown decreed,
Ere it was known that I should learn to read;
Though that was nothing, for my friends, who knew
What mighty Dulness of itself could do,
Never design'd me for a working priest,
But hoped I should have been a Dean at least:
Condemn'd, (like many more, and worthier men,
To whom I pledge the service of my pen)
Condemn'd (whilst proud and pamper'd sons of lawn,
Cramm'd to the throat, in lazy plenty yawn)
In pomp of reverend beggary to appear,
To pray, and starve on forty pounds a-year:
My friends, who never felt the galling load,
Lament that I forsook the packhorse road,
Whilst Virtue to my conduct witness bears,
In throwing off that gown which Francis wears.
What creature's that, so very pert and prim,
So very full of foppery, and whim,
So gentle, yet so brisk; so wondrous sweet,
So fit to prattle at a lady's feet;
Who looks as he the Lord's rich vineyard trod,
And by his garb appears a man of God?
Trust not to looks, nor credit outward show;
The villain lurks beneath the cassock'd beau;
That's an informer; what avails the name?
Suffice it that the wretch from Sodom came.
His tongue is deadly--from his presence run,
Unless thy rage would wish to be undone.
No ties can hold him, no affection bind,
And fear alone restrains his coward mind;
Free him from that, no monster is so fell,
Nor is so sure a blood-hound found in Hell.
His silken smiles, his hypocritic air,
His meek demeanour, plausible and fair,
Are only worn to pave Fraud's easier way,
And make gull'd Virtue fall a surer prey.
Attend his church--his plan of doctrine view--
The preacher is a Christian, dull, but true;
But when the hallow'd hour of preaching's o'er,
That plan of doctrine's never thought of more;
Christ is laid by neglected on the shelf,
And the vile priest is gospel to himself.
By Cleland tutor'd, and with Blacow bred,
(Blacow, whom, by a brave resentment led,
Oxford, if Oxford had not sunk in fame,
Ere this, had damn'd to everlasting shame)
Their steps he follows, and their crimes partakes;
To virtue lost, to vice alone he wakes,
Most lusciously declaims 'gainst luscious themes,
And whilst he rails at blasphemy, blasphemes.
Are these the arts which policy supplies?
Are these the steps by which grave churchmen rise?
Forbid it, Heaven; or, should it turn out so,
Let me and mine continue mean and low.
Such be their arts whom interest controls;
Kidgell and I have free and modest souls:
We scorn preferment which is gain'd by sin,
And will, though poor without, have peace within.
The Odyssey: Book 2
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his
father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father's land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father's house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their
banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of
wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy."
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-'Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in
all honesty, saying:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going
to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death
and destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live
in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this
wickedness before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord;
it will be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due
knowledge; everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the
Argives set out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going
through much hardship and losing all his men he should come home again
in the twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true."
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to
the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you
think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in the
next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you will
at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall go
on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of
expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such
rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us."
Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of
twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta
and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing.
Some one may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in
this way) some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him
as alive and on his way home I will put up with the waste you
suitors will make for yet another twelve months. If on the other
hand I hear of his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral
rites with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my
mother marry again."
With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably; I
hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their
hearts, and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can
take the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am
shocked at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to
stop such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for
you are many and they are few."
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is
a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even
though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in
his house, and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so
very badly, would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood
would be upon his own head if he fought against such great odds. There
is no sense in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you
people go about your business, and let his father's old friends,
Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all- which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay where
he is till some one comes and tells him something."
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the
wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so."
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work
half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be
fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in
your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom
as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better;
still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward
henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father's
wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you
never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they
have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the
doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall
perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long
delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find
you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now, however, return
home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready
for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the
barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I
go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships
in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and
will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood
neither in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do.
The Achaeans will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew
to boot- so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of
your noble father."
"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough
that you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet
a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger,
and whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do
you all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain
though, thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own,
and must be passenger not captain."
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.
"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"
Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we
should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property
amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who
marries her have that."
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses
should come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made
doors opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper
Euryclea, daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of
everything both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room
"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have
twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some
well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in
all. Get these things put together at once, and say nothing about
it. I will take everything away this evening as soon as my mother
has gone upstairs for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos
to see if I can hear anything about the return of my dear father.
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as
that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is
turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of
the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves; stay
where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering and
worrying your life out on the barren ocean."
"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all
this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days,
unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want
her to spoil her beauty by crying."
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went
back to the suitors.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to
meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of
Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very
ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all the
land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on board her
that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the end of the
harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess spoke
encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them,
and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of
sitting over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with
their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and
voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.
"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water
side, and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on
board; they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does
not know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on
board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of
the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the
hawsers and took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair
wind from the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and
they did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross
plank, raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they
hoisted their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As
the sail bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls
to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are
from everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn.
The Child Of The Islands - Winter
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!'
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
'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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
'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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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,--
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.
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;--
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?
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
'TO-DAY thou girdest up thy loins thyself,
And goest where thou wouldest: presently
Others shall gird thee,' said the Lord, 'to go
Where thou would'st not.' He spoke to Peter thus,
To signify the death which he should die
When crucified head downwards.
If He spoke
To Peter then, He speaks to us the same;
The word suits many different martyrdoms,
And signifies a multiform of death,
Although we scarcely die apostles, we,
And have mislaid the keys of heaven and earth.
For tis not in mere death that men die most;
And, after our first girding of the loins
In youth's fine linen and fair broidery,
To run up hill and meet the rising sun,
We are apt to sit tired, patient as a fool,
While others gird us with the violent bands
Of social figments, feints, and formalisms,
Reversing our straight nature, lifting up
Our base needs, keeping down our lofty thoughts,
Head downward on the cross-sticks of the world.
Yet He can pluck us from the shameful cross.
God, set our feet low and our forehead high,
And show us how a man was made to walk!
Leave the lamp, Susan, and go up to bed.
The room does very well; I have to write
Beyond the stroke of midnight. Get away;
Your steps, for ever buzzing in the room,
Tease me like gnats. Ah, letters! throw them down
At once, as I must have them, to be sure,
Whether I bid you never bring me such
At such an hour, or bid you. No excuse.
You choose to bring them, as I choose perhaps
To throw them in the fire. Now, get to bed,
And dream, if possible, I am not cross.
Why what a pettish, petty thing I grow,–
A mere, mere woman,–a mere flaccid nerve,-
A kerchief left out all night in the rain,
Turned soft so,–overtasked and overstrained
And overlived in this close London life!
And yet I should be stronger.
Your letters, poor Aurora! for they stare
With red seals from the table, saying each,
'Here's something that you know not.' Out alas,
'Tis scarcely that the world's more good and wise
Or even straighter and more consequent
Since yesterday at this time–yet, again,
If but one angel spoke from Ararat,
I should be very sorry not to hear:
So open all the letters! let me read.
Blanche Ord, the writer in the 'Lady's Fan,'
Requests my judgment on . . that, afterwards.
Kate Ward desires the model of my cloak,
And signs, 'Elisha to you.' Pringle Sharpe
Presents his work on 'Social Conduct,' . . craves
A little money for his pressing debts . .
From me, who scarce have money for my needs,–
Art's fiery chariot which we journey in
Being apt to singe our singing-robes to holes,
Although you ask me for my cloak, Kate Ward!
Here's Rudgely knows it,–editor and scribe–
He's 'forced to marry where his heart is not,
Because the purse lacks where he lost his heart.'
Ah,–lost it because no one picked it up!
That's really loss! (and passable impudence.)
My critic Hammond flatters prettily,
And wants another volume like the last.
My critic Belfair wants another book
Entirely different, which will sell, (and live?)
A striking book, yet not a startling book,
The public blames originalities.
(You must not pump spring-water unawares
Upon a gracious public, full of nerves–)
Good things, not subtle, new yet orthodox,
As easy reading as the dog-eared page
That's fingered by said public, fifty years,
Since first taught spelling by its grandmother,
And yet a revelation in some sort:
That's hard, my critic, Belfair! So–what next?
My critic Stokes objects to abstract thoughts;
'Call a man, John, a woman, Joan,' says he,
'And do not prate so of humanities:'
Whereat I call my critic, simply Stokes.
My critic Jobson recommends more mirth,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times,
And all true poets laugh unquenchably
Like Shakspeare and the gods. That's very hard,
The gods may laugh, and Shakspeare; Dante smiled
With such a needy heart on two pale lips,
We cry, 'Weep rather, Dante.' Poems are
Men, if true poems: and who dares exclaim
At any man's door, 'Here, 'tis probable
The thunder fell last week, and killed a wife,
And scared a sickly husband–what of that?
Get up, be merry, shout, and clap your hands,
Because a cheerful genius suits the times–'?
None says so to the man,–and why indeed
Should any to the poem? A ninth seal;
The apocalypse is drawing to a close.
Ha,–this from Vincent Carrington,–'Dear friend,
I want good counsel. Will you lend me wings
To raise me to the subject, in a sketch
I'll bring to-morrow–may I? at eleven?
A poet's only born to turn to use;
So save you! for the world . . and Carrington.'
'(Writ after.) Have you heard of Romney Leigh,
Beyond what's said of him in newspapers,
His phalansteries there, his speeches here,
His pamphlets, pleas, and statements, everywhere?
He dropped me long ago; but no one drops
A golden apple–though, indeed, one day,
You hinted that, but jested. Well, at least,
You know Lord Howe, who sees him . . whom he sees,
And you see, and I hate to see,–for Howe
Stands high upon the brink of theories,
Observes the swimmers, and cries 'Very fine,'
But keeps dry linen equally,–unlike
That gallant breaster, Romney. Strange it is,
Such sudden madness, seizing a young man,
To make earth over again,–while I'm content
To make the pictures. Let me bring the sketch.
A tiptoe Danae, overbold and hot:
Both arms a-flame to meet her wishing Jove
Halfway, and burn him faster down; the face
And breasts upturned and straining, the loose locks
All glowing with the anticipated gold.
Or here's another on the self-same theme.
She lies here–flat upon her prison-floor,
The long hair swathed about her to the heel,
Like wet sea-weed. You dimly see her through
The glittering haze of that prodigious rain,
Half blotted out of nature by a love
As heavy as fate. I'll bring you either sketch.
I think, myself, the second indicates
More passion. '
Surely. Self is put away,
And calm with abdication. She is Jove,
And no more Danae–greater thus. Perhaps
The painter symbolises unawares
Two states of the recipient artist-soul;
One, forward, personal, wanting reverence,
Because aspiring only. We'll be calm,
And know that, when indeed our Joves come down.
We all turn stiller than we have ever been.
Kind Vincent Carrington. I'll let him come.
He talks of Florence,–and may say a word
Of something as it chanced seven years ago,–
A hedgehog in the path, or a lame bird,
In those green country walks, in that good time,
When certainly I was so miserable . .
I seem to have missed a blessing ever since.
The music soars within the little lark,
And the lark soars. It is not thus with men.
We do not make our places with our strains,–
Content, while they rise, to remain behind,
Alone on earth instead of so in heaven.
No matter–I bear on my broken tale.
When Romney Leigh and I had parted thus,
I took a chamber up three flights of stairs
Not far from being as steep as some larks climb,
And, in a certain house in Kensington,
Three years I lived and worked. Get leave to work
In this world,–'tis the best you get at all;
For God, in cursing, gives us better gifts
Than men in benediction. God says, 'Sweat
For foreheads;' men say 'crowns;' and so we are crowned,
Ay, gashed by some tormenting circle of steel
Which snaps with a secret spring. Get work; get work;
Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get.
So, happy and unafraid of solitude,
I worked the short days out,–and watched the sun
On lurid morns or monstrous afternoons,
Like some Druidic idol's fiery brass,
With fixed unflickering outline of dead heat,
In which the blood of wretches pent inside
Seemed oozing forth to incarnadine the air,–
Push out through fog with his dilated disk,
And startle the slant roofs and chimney-pots
With splashes of fierce colour. Or I saw
Fog only, the great tawny weltering fog,
Involve the passive city, strangle it
Alive, and draw it off into the void,
Spires, bridges, streets, and squares, as if a sponge
Had wiped out London,–or as noon and night
Had clapped together and utterly struck out
The intermediate time, undoing themselves
In the act. Your city poets see such things,
Not despicable. Mountains of the south,
When, drunk and mad with elemental wines,
They rend the seamless mist and stand up bare,
Make fewer singers, haply. No one sings,
Descending Sinai; on Parnassus mount,
You take a mule to climb, and not a muse,
Except in fable and figure: forests chant
Their anthems to themselves, and leave you dumb.
But sit in London, at the day's decline,
And view the city perish in the mist
Like Pharaoh's armaments in the deep Red Sea,–
The chariots, horsemen, footmen, all the host,
Sucked down and choked to silence–then, surprised
By a sudden sense of vision and of tune,
You feel as conquerors though you did not fight,
And you and Israel's other singing girls,
Ay, Miriam with them, sing the song you choose.
I worked with patience which means almost power
I did some excellent things indifferently,
Some bad things excellently. Both were praised,
The latter loudest. And by such a time
That I myself had set them down as sins
Scarce worth the price of sackcloth, week by week,
Arrived some letter through the sedulous post,
Like these I've read, and yet dissimilar,
With pretty maiden seals,–initials twined
Of lilies, or a heart marked Emily,
(Convicting Emily of being all heart);
Or rarer tokens from young bachelors,
Who wrote from college (with the same goosequill,
Suppose, they had been just plucked of) and a snatch
From Horace, 'Collegisse juvat,' set
Upon the first page. Many a letter signed
Or unsigned, showing the writers at eighteen
Had lived too long, though every muse should help
The daylight, holding candles,–compliments,
To smile or sigh at. Such could pass with me
No more than coins from Moscow circulate
At Paris. Would ten rubles buy a tag
Of ribbon on the boulevard, worth a sou?
I smiled that all this youth should love me,–sighed
That such a love could scarcely raise them up
To love what was more worthy than myself;
Then sighed again, again, less generously,
To think the very love they lavished so,
Proved me inferior. The strong loved me not,
And he . . my cousin Romney . . did not write.
I felt the silent finger of his scorn
Prick every bubble of my frivolous fame
As my breath blew it, and resolve it back
To the air it came from. Oh, I justified
The measure he had taken of my height:
The thing was plain–he was not wrong a line;
I played at art, made thrusts with a toy-sword,
Amused the lads and maidens.
Came a sigh
Deep, hoarse with resolution,–I would work
To better ends, or play in earnest. 'Heavens,
I think I should be almost popular
If this went on!'–I ripped my verses up,
And found no blood upon the rapier's point:
The heart in them was just an embryo's heart,
Which never yet had beat, that it should die:
Just gasps of make-believe galvanic life;
Mere tones, inorganised to any tune.
And yet I felt it in me where it burnt,
Like those hot fire-seeds of creation held
In Jove's clenched palm before the worlds were sown;
But I–I was not Juno even! my hand
Was shut in weak convulsion, woman's ill,
And when I yearned to loose a finger–lo,
The nerve revolted. 'Tis the same even now:
This hand may never, haply, open large,
Before the spark is quenched, or the palm charred,
To prove the power not else than by the pain.
It burns, it burnt–my whole life burnt with it,
And light, not sunlight and not torchlight, flashed
My steps out through the slow and difficult road.
I had grown distrustful of too forward Springs,
The season's books in drear significance
Of morals, dropping round me. Lively books?
The ash has livelier verdure than the yew;
And yet the yew's green longer, and alone
Found worthy of the holy Christmas time.
We'll plant more yews if possible, albeit
We plant the graveyards with them.
Day and night
I worked my rhythmic thought, and furrowed up
Both watch and slumber with long lines of life
Which did not suit their season. The rose fell
From either cheek, my eyes globed luminous
Through orbits of blue shadow, and my pulse
Would shudder along the purple-veined wrist
Like a shot bird. Youth's stern, set face to face
With youth's ideal: and when people came
And said, 'You work too much, you are looking ill,'
I smiled for pity of them who pitied me,
And thought I should be better soon perhaps
For those ill looks. Observe–' I,' means in youth
Just I . . the conscious and eternal soul
With all its ends,–and not the outside life,
The parcel-man, the doublet of the flesh,
The so much liver, lung, integument,
Which make the sum of 'I' hereafter, when
World-talkers talk of doing well or ill.
I prosper, if I gain a step, although
A nail then pierced my foot: although my brain
Embracing any truth, froze paralysed,
I prosper. I but change my instrument;
I break the spade off, digging deep for gold,
And catch the mattock up.
I worked on, on.
Through all the bristling fence of nights and days
Which hedges time in from the eternities,
I struggled, . . never stopped to note the stakes
Which hurt me in my course. The midnight oil
Would stink sometimes; there came some vulgar needs:
I had to live, that therefore I might work.
And, being but poor, I was constrained, for life,
To work with one hand for the booksellers,
While working with the other for myself
And art. You swim with feet as well as hands
Or make small way. I apprehended this,–
In England, no one lives by verse that lives;
And, apprehending, I resolved by prose
To make a space to sphere my living verse.
I wrote for cyclopædias, magazines,
And weekly papers, holding up my name
To keep it from the mud. I learnt the use
Of the editorial 'we' in a review,
As courtly ladies the fine trick of trains,
And swept it grandly through the open doors
As if one could not pass through doors at all
Save so encumbered. I wrote tales beside,
Carved many an article on cherry-stones
To suit light readers,–something in the lines
Revealing, it was said, the mallet-hand,
But that, I'll never vouch for. What you do
For bread, will taste of common grain, not grapes,
Although you have a vineyard in Champagne,–
Much less in Nephelococcygia,
As mine was, peradventure.
For just so many days, just breathing room
For body and verse, I stood up straight and worked
My veritable work. And as the soul
Which grows within a child, makes the child grow,–
Or as the fiery sap, the touch from God,
Careering through a tree, dilates the bark,
And roughs with scale and knob, before it strikes
The summer foliage out in a green flame–
So life, in deepening with me, deepened all
The course I took, the work I did. Indeed,
The academic law convinced of sin;
The critics cried out on the falling off
Regretting the first manner. But I felt
My heart's life throbbing in my verse to show
It lived, it also–certes incomplete,
Disordered with all Adam in the blood,
But even its very tumours, warts, and wens,
Still organised by, and implying life.
A lady called upon me on such a day.
She had the low voice of your English dames,
Unused, it seems, to need rise half a note
To catch attention,–and their quiet mood,
As if they lived too high above the earth
For that to put them out in anything:
So gentle, because verily so proud;
So wary and afeared of hurting you,
By no means that you are not really vile,
But that they would not touch you with their foot
To push you to your place; so self-possessed
Yet gracious and conciliating, it takes
An effort in their presence to speak truth:
You know the sort of woman,–brilliant stuff,
And out of nature. 'Lady Waldemar.'
She said her name quite simply, as if it meant
Not much indeed, but something,–took my hands,
And smiled, as if her smile could help my case,
And dropped her eyes on me, and let them melt.
'Is this,' she said, 'the Muse?'
'No sibyl even,'
I answered, 'since she fails to guess the cause
Which taxed you with this visit, madam.'
She said, 'I like to be sincere at once;
Perhaps, if I had found a literal Muse,
The visit might have taxed me. As it is,
You wear your blue so chiefly in your eyes,
My fair Aurora, in a frank good way,
It comforts me entirely for your fame,
As well as for the trouble of my ascent
To this Olympus. '
There, a silver laugh
Ran rippling through her quickened little breaths
The steep stair somewhat justified.
Your ladyship has left me curious why
You dared the risk of finding the said Muse?'
'Ah,–keep me, notwithstanding, to the point
Like any pedant. Is the blue in eyes
As awful as in stockings, after all,
I wonder, that you'd have my business out
Before I breathe–exact the epic plunge
In spite of gasps? Well, naturally you think
I've come here, as the lion-hunters go
To deserts, to secure you, with a trap
For exhibition in my drawing-rooms
On zoologic soirées? Not in the least.
Roar softly at me; I am frivolous,
I dare say; I have played at lions, too
Like other women of my class,–but now
I meet my lion simply as Androcles
Met his . . when at his mercy.'
So, she bent
Her head, as queens may mock,–then lifting up
Her eyelids with a real grave queenly look,
Which ruled, and would not spare, not even herself,
'I think you have a cousin:–Romney Leigh.'
'You bring a word from him? '–my eyes leapt up
To the very height of hers,– 'a word from him? '
'I bring a word about him, actually.
But first,'–she pressed me with her urgent eyes–
'You do not love him,–you?'
'You're frank at least
In putting questions, madam,' I replied.
'I love my cousin cousinly–no more.'
'I guessed as much. I'm ready to be frank
In answering also, if you'll question me,
Or even with something less. You stand outside,
You artist women, of the common sex;
You share not with us, and exceed us so
Perhaps by what you're mulcted in, your hearts
Being starved to make your heads: so run the old
Traditions of you. I can therefore speak,
Without the natural shame which creatures feel
When speaking on their level, to their like.
There's many a papist she, would rather die
Than own to her maid she put a ribbon on
To catch the indifferent eye of such a man,–
Who yet would count adulteries on her beads
At holy Mary's shrine, and never blush;
Because the saints are so far off, we lose
All modesty before them. Thus, to-day.
'Tis I, love Romney Leigh.'
'Forbear,' I cried.
'If here's no muse, still less is any saint;
Nor even a friend, that Lady Waldemar
Should make confessions' . .
'That's unkindly said.
If no friend, what forbids to make a friend
To join to our confession ere we have done?
I love your cousin. If it seems unwise
To say so, it's still foolisher (we're frank)
To feel so. My first husband left me young,
And pretty enough, so please you, and rich enough,
To keep my booth in May-fair with the rest
To happy issues. There are marquises
Would serve seven years to call me wife, I know:
And, after seven, I might consider it,
For there's some comfort in a marquisate
When all's said,–yes, but after the seven years;
I, now, love Romney. You put up your lip,
So like a Leigh! so like him!–Pardon me,
I am well aware I do not derogate
In loving Romney Leigh. The name is good,
The means are excellent; but the man, the man–
Heaven help us both,–I am near as mad as he
In loving such an one.'
She slowly wrung
Her heavy ringlets till they touched her smile,
As reasonably sorry for herself;
And thus continued,–
'Of a truth, Miss Leigh,
I have not, without a struggle, come to this.
I took a master in the German tongue,
I gamed a little, went to Paris twice;
But, after all, this love! . . . you eat of love,
And do as vile a thing as if you ate
Of garlic–which, whatever else you eat,
Tastes uniformly acrid, till your peach
Reminds you of your onion! Am I coarse?
Well, love's coarse, nature's coarse–ah there's the rub!
We fair fine ladies, who park out our lives
From common sheep-paths, cannot help the crows
From flying over,–we're as natural still
As Blowsalinda. Drape us perfectly
In Lyons' velvet,–we are not, for that,
Lay-figures, like you! we have hearts within,
Warm, live, improvident, indecent hearts,
As ready for distracted ends and acts
As any distressed sempstress of them all
That Romney groans and toils for. We catch love
And other fevers, in the vulgar way.
Love will not be outwitted by our wit,
Nor outrun by our equipages:–mine
Persisted, spite of efforts. All my cards
Turned up but Romney Leigh; my German stopped
At germane Wertherism; my Paris rounds
Returned me from the Champs Elysées just
A ghost, and sighing like Dido's. I came home
Uncured,–convicted rather to myself
Of being in love . . in love! That's coarse you'll say
I'm talking garlic.'
Coldly I replied.
'Apologise for atheism, not love!
For, me, I do believe in love, and God.
I know my cousin: Lady Waldemar
I know not: yet I say as much as this–
Whoever loves him, let her not excuse
But cleanse herself; that, loving such a man,
She may not do it with such unworthy love
He cannot stoop and take it.'
'That is said
Austerely, like a youthful prophetess,
Who knits her brows across her pretty eyes
To keep them back from following the grey flight
Of doves between the temple-columns. Dear,
Be kinder with me. Let us two be friends.
I'm a mere woman–the more weak perhaps
Through being so proud; you're better; as for him,
He's best. Indeed he builds his goodness up
So high, it topples down to the other side,
And makes a sort of badness; there's the worst
I have to say against your cousin's best!
And so be mild, Aurora, with my worst,
For his sake, if not mine.'
'I own myself
Incredulous of confidence like this
Availing him or you.'
'I, worthy of him?
In your sense I am not so–let it pass.
And yet I save him if I marry him;
Let that pass too.'
'Pass, pass, we play police
Upon my cousin's life, to indicate
What may or may not pass?' I cried. 'He knows
what's worthy of him; the choice remains with him;
And what he chooses, act or wife, I think
I shall not call unworthy, I, for one.'
'Tis somewhat rashly said,' she answered slow.
Now let's talk reason, though we talk of love.
Your cousin Romney Leigh's a monster! there,
The word's out fairly; let me prove the fact.
We'll take, say, that most perfect of antiques,
They call the Genius of the Vatican,
Which seems too beauteous to endure itself
In this mixed world, and fasten it for once
Upon the torso of the Drunken Fawn,
(Who might limp surely, if he did not dance,)
Instead of Buonarroti's mask: what then?
We show the sort of monster Romney is,
With god-like virtue and heroic aims
Subjoined to limping possibilities
Of mismade human nature. Grant the man
Twice godlike, twice heroic,–still he limps,
And here's the point we come to.'
But, Lady Waldemar, the point's the thing
We never come to.'
At need! I like you'–(there, she took my hands)
'And now my lioness, help Androcles,
For all your roaring. Help me! for myself
I would not say so–but for him. He limps
So certainly, he'll fall into the pit
A week hence,–so I lose him–so he is lost!
And when he's fairly married, he a Leigh,
To a girl of doubtful life, undoubtful birth,
Starved out in London, till her coarse-grained hands
Are whiter than her morals,–you, for one,
May call his choice most worthy.'
He, . . . Romney!'
'Ah, you're moved at last,' she said.
'These monsters, set out in the open sun,
Of course throw monstrous shadows: those who think
Awry, will scarce act straightly. Who but he?
And who but you can wonder? He has been mad,
The whole world knows, since first, a nominal man,
He soured the proctors, tried the gownsmen's wits,
With equal scorn of triangles and wine,
And took no honours, yet was honourable.
They'll tell you he lost count of Homer's ships
In Melbourne's poor-bills, Ashley's factory bills,–
Ignored the Aspasia we all dared to praise,
For other women, dear, we could not name
Because we're decent. Well, he had some right
On his side probably; men always have,
Who go absurdly wrong. The living boor
Who brews your ale, exceeds in vital worth
Dead Caesar who 'stops bungholes' in the cask;
And also, to do good is excellent,
For persons of his income, even to boors:
I sympathise with all such things. But he
Went mad upon them . . madder and more mad,
From college times to these,–as, going down hill,
The faster still, the farther! you must know
Your Leigh by heart; he has sown his black young curls
With bleaching cares of half a million men
Already. If you do not starve, or sin,
You're nothing to him. Pay the income-tax,
And break your heart upon't . . . he'll scarce be touched;
But come upon the parish, qualified
For the parish stocks, and Romney will be there
To call you brother, sister, or perhaps
A tenderer name still. Had I any chance
With Mister Leigh, who am Lady Waldemar,
And never committed felony?'
Too bitterly,' I said, 'for the literal truth.'
'The truth is bitter. Here's a man who looks
For ever on the ground! you must be low;
Or else a pictured ceiling overhead,
Good painting thrown away. For me, I've done
What women may, (we're somewhat limited,
We modest women) but I've done my best.
–How men are perjured when they swear our eyes
Have meaning in them! they're just blue or brown,–
They just can drop their lids a little. In fact,
Mine did more, for I read half Fourier through,
Proudhon, Considerant, and Louis Blanc
With various other of his socialists;
And if I had been a fathom less in love,
Had cured myself with gaping. As it was,
I quoted from them prettily enough,
Perhaps, to make them sound half rational
To a saner man than he, whene'er we talked,
(For which I dodged occasion)–learnt by heart
His speeches in the Commons and elsewhere
Upon the social question; heaped reports
Of wicked women and penitentiaries,
On all my tables, with a place for Sue;
And gave my name to swell subscription-lists
Toward keeping up the sun at nights in heaven,
And other possible ends. All things I did,
Except the impossible . . such as wearing gowns
Provided by the Ten Hours' movement! there,
I stopped–we must stop somewhere. He, meanwhile,
Unmoved as the Indian tortoise 'neath the world
Let all that noise go on upon his back;
He would not disconcert or throw me out;
'Twas well to see a woman of my class
With such a dawn of conscience. For the heart,
Made firewood for his sake, and flaming up
To his very face . . he warmed his feet at it:
But deigned to let my carriage stop him short
In park or street,–he leaning on the door
With news of the committee which sate last
On pickpockets at suck.'
'You jest–you jest.'
'As martyrs jest, dear (if you read their lives),
Upon the axe which kills them. When all's done
By me, . . for him–you'll ask him presently
The color of my hair–he cannot tell,
Or answers 'dark' at random,–while, be sure,
He's absolute on the figure, five or ten,
Of my last subscription. Is it bearable,
And I a woman?'
'Is it reparable,
Though I were a man?'
'I know not. That's to prove.
But, first, this shameful marriage?'
'Ay?' I cried.
'Then really there's a marriage.'
I held him fast upon it. 'Mister Leigh,'
Said I, 'shut up a thing, it makes more noise.
'The boiling town keeps secrets ill; I've known
'Yours since last week. Forgive my knowledge so:
'You feel I'm not the woman of the world
'The world thinks; you have borne with me before
'And used me in your noble work, our work,
'And now you shall not cast me off because
'You're at the difficult point, the join. 'Tis true
'Even if I can scarce admit the cogency
'Of such a marriage . . where you do not love
'(Except the class), yet marry and throw your name
'Down to the gutter, for a fire-escape
'To future generation! it's sublime,
'A great example,–a true Genesis
'Of the opening social era. But take heed;
'This virtuous act must have a patent weight,
'Or loses half its virtue. Make it tell,
'Interpret it, and set it in the light,
'And do not muffle it in a winter-cloak
'As a vulgar bit of shame,–as if, at best,
'A Leigh had made a misalliance and blushed
'A Howard should know it.' Then, I pressed him more–
'He would not choose,' I said, 'that even his kin, . .
'Aurora Leigh, even . . should conceive his act
'Less sacrifice, more appetite.' At which
He grew so pale, dear, . . to the lips, I knew
I had touched him. 'Do you know her,' he inquired,
'My cousin Aurora?' 'Yes,' I said, and lied
(But truly we all know you by your books),
And so I offered to come straight to you,
Explain the subject, justify the cause,
And take you with me to Saint Margaret's Court
To see this miracle, this Marian Erle,
This drover's daughter (she's not pretty, he swears),
Upon whose finger, exquisitely pricked
By a hundred needles, we're to hang the tie
'Twixt class and class in England,–thus indeed
By such a presence, yours and mine, to lift
The match up from the doubtful place. At once
He thanked me, sighing, . . murmured to himself
'She'll do it perhaps; she's noble,'–thanked me, twice,
And promised, as my guerdon, to put off
His marriage for a month.'
I answered then.
'I understand your drift imperfectly.
You wish to lead me to my cousin's betrothed,
To touch her hand if worthy, and hold her hand
If feeble, thus to justify his match.
So be it then. But how this serves your ends,
And how the strange confession of your love
Serves this, I have to learn–I cannot see.'
She knit her restless forehead. 'Then, despite,
Aurora, that most radiant morning name,
You're dull as any London afternoon.
I wanted time,–and gained it,–wanted you,
And gain you! You will come and see the girl
In whose most prodigal eyes, the lineal pearl
And pride of all your lofty race of Leighs
Is destined to solution. Authorised
By sight and knowledge, then, you'll speak your mind,
And prove to Romney, in your brilliant way,
He'll wrong the people and posterity
(Say such a thing is bad for you and me,
And you fail utterly), by concluding thus
An execrable marriage. Break it up.
Disroot it–peradventure, presently,
We'll plant a better fortune in its place.
Be good to me, Aurora, scorn me less
For saying the thing I should not. Well I know
I should not. I have kept, as others have,
The iron rule of womanly reserve
In lip and life, till now: I wept a week
Before I came here.'–Ending, she was pale;
The last words, haughtily said, were tremulous.
This palfrey pranced in harness, arched her neck,
And, only by the foam upon the bit,
You saw she champed against it.
Then I rose.
'I love love: truth's no cleaner thing than love.
I comprehend a love so fiery hot
It burns its natural veil of august shame,
And stands sublimely in the nude, as chaste
As Medicean Venus. But I know,
A love that burns through veils will burn through masks
And shrivel up treachery. What, love and lie!
Nay–go to the opera! your love's curable.'
'I love and lie!' she said–'I lie, forsooth?'
And beat her taper foot upon the floor,
And smiled against the shoe,–'You're hard, Miss Leigh,
Unversed in current phrases.–Bowling-greens
Of poets are fresher than the world's highways:
Forgive me that I rashly blew the dust
Which dims our hedges even, in your eyes,
And vexed you so much. You find, probably,
No evil in this marriage,–rather good
Of innocence, to pastoralise in song:
You'll give the bond your signature, perhaps,
Beneath the lady's work,–indifferent
That Romney chose a wife, could write her name,
In witnessing he loved her.'
'Loved!' I cried;
'Who tells you that he wants a wife to love?
He gets a horse to use, not love, I think:
There's work for wives as well,–and after, straw,
When men are liberal. For myself, you err
Supposing power in me to break this match.
I could not do it, to save Romney's life,
And would not, to save mine.'
'You take it so,'
She said, 'farewell then. Write your books in peace,
As far as may be for some secret stir
Now obvious to me,–for, most obviously,
In coming hither I mistook the way.'
Whereat she touched my hand and bent her head,
And floated from me like a silent cloud
That leaves the sense of thunder.
I drew breath,
As hard as in a sick-room. After all,
This woman breaks her social system up
For love, so counted–the love possible
To such,–and lilies are still lilies, pulled
By smutty hands, though spotted from their white;
And thus she is better, haply, of her kind,
Than Romney Leigh, who lives by diagrams,
And crosses out the spontaneities
Of all his individual, personal life
With formal universals. As if man
Were set upon a high stool at a desk,
To keep God's books for Him, in red and black,
And feel by millions! What, if even God
Were chiefly God by living out Himself
To an individualism of the Infinite,
Eterne, intense, profuse,–still throwing up
The golden spray of multitudinous worlds
In measure to the proclive weight and rush
Of his inner nature,–the spontaneous love
Still proof and outflow of spontaneous life?
Then live, Aurora!
Two hours afterward,
Within Saint Margaret's Court I stood alone,
Close-veiled. A sick child, from an ague-fit,
Whose wasted right hand gambled 'gainst his left
With an old brass button, in a blot of sun,
Jeered weakly at me as I passed across
The uneven pavement; while a woman, rouged
Upon the angular cheek-bones, kerchief torn,
Thin dangling locks, and flat lascivious mouth,
Cursed at a window, both ways, in and out,
By turns some bed-rid creature and myself,–
'Lie still there, mother! liker the dead dog
You'll be to-morrow. What, we pick our way,
Fine madam, with those damnable small feet!
We cover up our face from doing good,
As if it were our purse! What brings you here,
My lady? is't to find my gentleman
Who visits his tame pigeon in the eaves?
Our cholera catch you with its cramps and spasms,
And tumble up your good clothes, veil and all,
And turn your whiteness dead-blue.' I looked up;
I think I could have walked through hell that day,
And never flinched. 'The dear Christ comfort you,'
I said, 'you must have been most miserable
To be so cruel,'–and I emptied out
My purse upon the stones: when, as I had cast
The last charm in the cauldron, the whole court
Went boiling, bubbling up, from all its doors
And windows, with a hideous wail of laughs
And roar of oaths, and blows perhaps . . I passed
Too quickly for distinguishing . . and pushed
A little side-door hanging on a hinge,
And plunged into the dark, and groped and climbed
The long, steep, narrow stair 'twixt broken rail
And mildewed wall that let the plaster drop
To startle me in the blackness. Still, up, up!
So high lived Romney's bride. I paused at last
Before a low door in the roof, and knocked;
There came an answer like a hurried dove–
'So soon! can that be Mister Leigh? so soon?'
And, as I entered, an ineffable face
Met mine upon the threshold. 'Oh, not you,
Not you!' . . the dropping of the voice implied;
'Then, if not you, for me not any one.'
I looked her in the eyes, and held her hands,
And said 'I am his cousin,–Romney Leigh's;
And here I'm come to see my cousin too.'
She touched me with her face and with her voice,
This daughter of the people. Such soft flowers
From such rough roots? The people, under there,
Can sin so, curse so, look so, smell so . . . faugh!
Yet have such daughters!
Was Marian Erle. She was not white nor brown,
But could look either, like a mist that changed
According to being shone on more or less:
The hair, too, ran its opulence of curls
In doubt 'twixt dark and bright, nor left you clear
To name the color. Too much hair perhaps
(I'll name a fault here) for so small a head,
Which seemed to droop on that side and on this,
As a full-blown rose uneasy with its weight,
Though not a breath should trouble it. Again,
The dimple in the cheek had better gone
With redder, fuller rounds; and somewhat large
The mouth was, though the milky little teeth
Dissolved it to so infantile a smile!
For soon it smiled at me; the eyes smiled too,
But 'twas as if remembering they had wept,
And knowing they should, some day, weep again.
We talked. She told me all her story out,
Which I'll re-tell with fuller utterance,
As coloured and confirmed in aftertimes
By others, and herself too. Marian Erle
Was born upon the ledge of Malvern Hill,
To eastward, in a hut, built up at night,
To evade the landlord's eye, of mud and turf,
Still liable, if once he looked that way,
To being straight levelled, scattered by his foot,
Like any other anthill. Born, I say;
God sent her to his world, commissioned right,
Her human testimonials fully signed,
Not scant in soul–complete in lineaments;
But others had to swindle her a place
To wail in when she had come. No place for her,
By man's law! born an outlaw, was this babe;
Her first cry in our strange and strangling air,
When cast in spasms out by the shuddering womb,
Was wrong against the social code,–forced wrong.
What business had the baby to cry there?
I tell her story and grow passionate.
She, Marian, did not tell it so, but used
Meek words that made no wonder of herself
For being so sad a creature. 'Mister Leigh
Considered truly that such things should change.
They will, in heaven–but meantime, on the earth,
There's none can like a nettle as a pink,
Except himself. We're nettles, some of us,
And give offence by the act of springing up;
And, if we leave the damp side of the wall,
The hoes, of course, are on us.' So she said.
Her father earned his life by random jobs
Despised by steadier workmen–keeping swine
On commons, picking hops, or hurrying on
The harvest at wet seasons,–or, at need,
Assisting the Welsh drovers, when a drove
Of startled horses plunged into the mist
Below the mountain-road, and sowed the wind
With wandering neighings. In between the gaps
Of such irregular work, he drank and slept,
And cursed his wife because, the pence being out,
She could not buy more drink. At which she turned,
(The worm), and beat her baby in revenge
For her own broken heart. There's not a crime
But takes its proper change out still in crime
If once rung on the counter of this world:
Let sinners look to it.
Yet the outcast child,
For whom the very mother's face forewent
The mother's special patience, lived and grew;
Learnt early to cry low, and walk alone,
With that pathetic vacillating roll
Of the infant body on the uncertain feet,
(The earth being felt unstable ground so soon)
At which most women's arms unclose at once
With irrepressive instinct. Thus, at three,
This poor weaned kid would run off from the fold,
This babe would steal off from the mother's chair,
And, creeping through the golden walls of gorse,
Would find some keyhole toward the secrecy
Of Heaven's high blue, and, nestling down, peer out–
Oh, not to catch the angels at their games,
She had never heard of angels, but to gaze
She knew not why, to see she knew not what,
A-hungering outward from the barren earth
For something like a joy. She liked, she said,
To dazzle black her sight against the sky,
For then, it seemed, some grand blind Love came down,
And groped her out, and clasped her with a kiss;
She learnt God that way, and was beat for it
Whenever she went home,–yet came again,
As surely as the trapped hare, getting free,
Returns to his form. This grand blind Love, she said,
This skyey father and mother both in one,
Instructed her and civilised her more
Than even the Sunday-school did afterward,
To which a lady sent her to learn books
And sit upon a long bench in a row
With other children. Well, she laughed sometimes
To see them laugh and laugh, and moil their texts;
But ofter she was sorrowful with noise,
And wondered if their mothers beat them hard
That ever they should laugh so. There was one
She loved indeed,–Rose Bell, a seven years' child,
So pretty and clever, who read syllables
When Marian was at letters; she would laugh
At nothing–hold your finger up, she laughed,
Then shook her curls down on her eyes and mouth
To hide her make-mirth from the schoolmaster.
And Rose's pelting glee, as frank as rain
On cherry-blossoms, brightened Marian too,
To see another merry whom she loved.
She whispered once (the children side by side,
With mutual arms entwined about their necks)
'Your mother lets you laugh so?' 'Ay,' said Rose,
'She lets me. She was dug into the ground
Six years since, I being but a yearling wean.
Such mothers let us play and lose our time,
And never scold nor beat us! Don't you wish
You had one like that?' There, Marian, breaking off
Looked suddenly in my face. 'Poor Rose,' said she,
'I heard her laugh last night in Oxford Street.
I'd pour out half my blood to stop that laugh,–
Poor Rose, poor Rose!' said Marian.
It tried her, when she had learnt at Sunday-school
What God was, what he wanted from us all,
And how, in choosing sin, we vexed the Christ,
To go straight home and hear her father pull
The name down on us from the thunder-shelf,
Then drink away his soul into the dark
From seeing judgment. Father, mother, home,
Were God and heaven reversed to her: the more
She knew of Right, the more she guessed their wrong:
Her price paid down for knowledge, was to know
The vileness of her kindred: through her heart,
Her filial and tormented heart, henceforth
They struck their blows at virtue. Oh, 'tis hard
To learn you have a father up in heaven
By a gathering certain sense of being, on earth,
Still worse than orphaned: 'tis too heavy a grief,
The having to thank God for such a joy!
And so passed Marian's life from year to year.
Her parents took her with them when they tramped,
Dodged lanes and heaths, frequented towns and fairs,
And once went farther and saw Manchester,
And once the sea, that blue end of the world,
That fair scroll-finis of a wicked book,–
And twice a prison, back at intervals,
Returning to the hills. Hills draw like heaven,
And stronger sometimes, holding out their hands
To pull you from the vile flats up to them;
And though, perhaps, these strollers still strolled back,
As sheep do, simply that they knew the way,
They certainly felt bettered unawares
Emerging from the social smut of towns
To wipe their feet clean on the mountain turf.
In which long wanderings, Marian lived and learned,
Endured and learned. The people on the roads
Would stop and ask her how her eyes outgrew
Her cheeks, and if she meant to lodge the birds
In all that hair; and then they lifted her,
The miller in his cart, a mile or twain,
The butcher's boy on horseback. Often, too,
The pedlar stopped, and tapped her on the head
With absolute forefinger, brown and ringed,
And asked if peradventure she could read:
And when she answered 'ay,' would toss her down
Some stray odd volume from his heavy pack,
A Thomson's Seasons, mulcted of the Spring,
Or half a play of Shakespeare's, torn across:
(She had to guess the bottom of a page
By just the top sometimes,–as difficult,
As, sitting on the moon, to guess the earth!),
Or else a sheaf of leaves (for that small Ruth's
Small gleanings) torn out from the heart of books,
From Churchyard Elegies and Edens Lost,
From Burns, and Bunyan, Selkirk, and Tom Jones.
'Twas somewhat hard to keep the things distinct,
And oft the jangling influence jarred the child
Like looking at a sunset full of grace
Through a pothouse window while the drunken oaths
Went on behind her; but she weeded out
Her book-leaves, threw away the leaves that hurt,
(First tore them small, that none should find a word),
And made a nosegay of the sweet and good
To fold within her breast, and pore upon
At broken moments of the noontide glare,
When leave was given her to untie her cloak
And rest upon the dusty roadside bank
From the highway's dust. Or oft, the journey done,
Some city friend would lead her by the hand
To hear a lecture at an institute.
And thus she had grown, this Marian Erle of ours,
To no book-learning,–she was ignorant
Of authors,–not in earshot of the things
Out-spoken o'er the heads of common men,
By men who are uncommon,–but within
The cadenced hum of such, and capable
Of catching from the fringes of the wind
Some fragmentary phrases, here and there,
Of that fine music,–which, being carried in
To her soul, had reproduced itself afresh
In finer motions of the lips and lids.
She said, in speaking of it, 'If a flower
Were thrown you out of heaven at intervals,
You'd soon attain to a trick of looking up,–
And so with her.' She counted me her years,
Till I felt old; and then she counted me
Her sorrowful pleasures, till I felt ashamed.
She told me she was almost glad and calm
On such and such a season; sate and sewed,
With no one to break up her crystal thoughts:
While rhymes from lovely poems span around
Their ringing circles of ecstatic tune,
Beneath the moistened finger of the Hour.
Her parents called her a strange, sickly child,
Not good for much, and given to sulk and stare,
And smile into the hedges and the clouds,
And tremble if one shook her from her fit
By any blow, or word even. Out-door jobs
Went ill with her; and household quiet work
She was not born to. Had they kept the north,
They might have had their pennyworth out of her
Like other parents, in the factories;
(Your children work for you, not you for them,
Or else they better had been choked with air
The first breath drawn;) but, in this tramping life,
Was nothing to be done with such a child,
But tramp and tramp. And yet she knitted hose
Not ill, and was not dull at needlework;
And all the country people gave her pence
For darning stockings past their natural age,
And patching petticoats from old to new,
And other light work done for thrifty wives.
One day, said Marian–the sun shone that day–
Her mother had been badly beat, and felt
The bruises sore about her wretched soul
(That must have been): she came in suddenly,
And snatching, in a sort of breathless rage,
Her daughter's headgear comb, let down the hair
Upon her, like a sudden waterfall,
Then drew her drenched and passive, by the arm,
Outside the hut they lived in. When the child
Could clear her blinded face from all that stream
Of tresses . . there, a man stood, with beasts' eyes
That seemed as they would swallow her alive,
Complete in body and spirit, hair and all,–
With burning stertorous breath that hurt her cheek,
He breathed so near. The mother held her tight,
Saying hard between her teeth–'Why wench, why wench,
The squire speaks to you now–the squire's too good,
He means to set you up and comfort us.
Be mannerly at least.' The child turned round
And looked up piteous in the mother's face
(Be sure that mother's death-bed will not want
Another devil to damn, than such a look),
'Oh, mother!' then, with desperate glance to heaven,
'Good, free me from my mother,' she shrieked out,
'These mothers are too dreadful.' And, with force
As passionate as fear, she tore her hands,
Like lilies from the rocks, from hers and his,
And sprang down, bounded headlong down the steep,
Away from both–away, if possible,
As far as God,–away! They yelled at her,
As famished hounds at a hare. She heard them yell;
She felt her name hiss after her from the hills,
Like shot from guns. On, on. And now she had cast
The voices off with the uplands. On. Mad fear
Was running in her feet and killing the ground;
The white roads curled as if she burnt them up,
The green fields melted, wayside trees fell back
To make room for her. Then her head grew vexed;
Trees, fields, turned on her and ran after her;
She heard the quick pants of the hills behind,
Their keen air pricked her neck. She had lost her feet,
Could run no more, yet somehow went as fast,–
The horizon, red, 'twixt steeples in the east
So sucked her forward, forward, while her heart
Kept swelling, swelling, till it swelled so big
It seemed to fill her body; then it burst,
And overflowed the world and swamped the light,
'And now I am dead and safe,' thought Marian Erle–
She had dropped, she had fainted.
When the sense returned,
The night had passed–not life's night. She was 'ware
Of heavy tumbling motions, creaking wheels,
The driver shouting to the lazy team
That swung their rankling bells against her brain,
While, through the waggon's coverture and chinks,
The cruel yellow morning pecked at her
Alive or dead, upon the straw inside,–
At which her soul ached back into the dark
And prayed, 'no more of that.' A waggoner
Had found her in a ditch beneath the moon,
As white as moonshine, save for the oozing blood.
At first he thought her dead; but when he had wiped
The mouth and heard it sigh, he raised her up,
And laid her in his waggon in the straw,
And so conveyed her to the distant town
To which his business called himself, and left
That heap of misery at the hospital.
She stirred;–the place seemed new and strange as death.
The white strait bed, with others strait and white,
Like graves dug side by side, at measured lengths,
And quiet people walking in and out
With wonderful low voices and soft steps,
And apparitional equal care for each,
Astonished her with order, silence, law:
And when a gentle hand held out a cup,
She took it, as you do at sacrament,
Half awed, half melted,–not being used, indeed,
To so much love as makes the form of love
And courtesy of manners. Delicate drinks
And rare white bread, to which some dying eyes
Were turned in observation. O my God,
How sick we must be, ere we make men just!
I think it frets the saints in heaven to see
How many Desolate creatures on the earth
Have learnt the simple dues of fellowship
And social comfort, in a hospital,
As Marian did. She lay there, stunned, half tranced,
And wished, at intervals of growing sense,
She might be sicker yet, if sickness made
The world so marvellous kind, the air so hushed,
And all her wake-time quiet as a sleep;
For now she understood, (as such things were)
How sickness ended very oft in heaven,
Among the unspoken raptures. Yet more sick,
And surelier happy. Then she dropped her lids,
And, folding up her hands as flowers at night,
Would lose no moment of the blessed time.
She lay and seethed in fever many weeks;
But youth was strong and overcame the test;
Revolted soul and flesh were reconciled
And fetched back to the necessary day
And daylight duties. She could creep about
The long bare rooms, and stare out drearily
From any narrow window on the street,
Till some one, who had nursed her as a friend,
Said coldly to her, as an enemy,
'She had leave to go next week, being well enough,'
While only her heart ached. 'Go next week,' thought she,
'Next week! how would it be with her next week,
Let out into that terrible street alone
Among the pushing people, . . to go . . where?'
One day, the last before the dreaded last,
Among the convalescents, like herself
Prepared to go next morning, she sate dumb,
And heard half absently the women talk,
How one was famished for her baby's cheeks–
'The little wretch would know her! a year old,
And lively, like his father!' one was keen
To get to work, and fill some clamorous mouths;
And one was tender for her dear goodman
Who had missed her sorely,–and one, querulous . .
'Would pay those scandalous neighbours who had dared
To talk about her as already dead,'–
And one was proud . . 'and if her sweetheart Luke
Had left her for a ruddier face than hers,
(The gossip would be seen through at a glance)
Sweet riddance of such sweethearts–let him hang!
'Twere good to have been as sick for such an end.'
And while they talked, and Marian felt the worse
For having missed the worst of all their wrongs,
A visitor was ushered through the wards
And paused among the talkers. 'When he looked,
It was as if he spoke, and when he spoke
He sang perhaps,' said Marian; 'could she tell?
She only knew' (so much she had chronicled,
As seraphs might, the making of the sun)
'That he who came and spake was Romney Leigh,
And then, and there, she saw and heard him first.'
And when it was her turn to have the face
Upon her,–all those buzzing pallid lips
Being satisfied with comfort–when he changed
To Marian, saying, 'And you? You're going, where?'–
She, moveless as a worm beneath a stone
Which some one's stumbling foot has spurned aside,
Writhed suddenly, astonished with the light,
And breaking into sobs cried, 'Where I go?
None asked me till this moment. Can I say
Where I go? When it has not seemed worth while
To God himself, who thinks of every one,
To think of me, and fix where I shall go?'
'So young,' he gently asked her, 'you have lost
Your father and your mother?'
'Both' she said,
'Both lost! My father was burnt up with gin
Or ever I sucked milk, and so is lost.
My mother sold me to a man last month,
And so my mother's lost, 'tis manifest.
And I, who fled from her for miles and miles,
As if I had caught sight of the fires of hell
Through some wild gap, (she was my mother, sir)
It seems I shall be lost too, presently,
And so we end, all three of us.'
He said,–with such a pity in his voice,
It soothed her more than her own tears,–'poor child!
'Tis simple that betrayal by mother's love
Should bring despair of God's too. Yet be taught
He's better to us than many mothers are,
And children cannot wander beyond reach
Of the sweep of his white raiment. Touch and hold'
And if you weep still, weep where John was laid
While Jesus loved him.'
'She could say the words,'
She told me, 'exactly as he uttered them
A year back, . . since in any doubt or dark,
They came out like the stars, and shone on her
With just their comfort. Common words, perhaps;
The ministers in church might say the same;
But he, he made the church with what he spoke,–
The difference was the miracle,' said she.
Then catching up her smile to ravishment,
She added quickly, 'I repeat his words,
But not his tones: can any one repeat
The music of an organ, out of church?
And when he said 'poor child,' I shut my eyes
To feel how tenderly his voice broke through,
As the ointment-box broke on the Holy feet
To let out the rich medicative nard.'
She told me how he had raised and rescued her
With reverent pity, as, in touching grief,
He touched the wounds of Christ,–and made her feel
More self-respecting. Hope, he called, belief
In God,–work, worship . . therefore let us pray!
And thus, to snatch her soul from atheism,
And keep it stainless from her mother's face,
He sent her to a famous sempstress-house
Far off in London, there to work and hope.
With that they parted. She kept sight of Heaven,
But not of Romney. He had good to do
To others: through the days and through the nights,
She sewed and sewed and sewed. She drooped sometimes,
And wondered, while, along the tawny light,
She struck the new thread into her needle's eye,
How people without mothers on the hills,
Could choose the town to live in!–then she drew
The stitch, and mused how Romney's face would look,
And if 'twere likely he'd remember hers,
When they two had their meeting after death.
ONE eve it happened when I sate alone,
Alone upon the terrace of my tower,
A book upon my knees, to counterfeit
The reading that I never read at all,
While Marian, in the garden down below,
Knelt by the fountain (I could just hear thrill
The drowsy silence of the exhausted day)
And peeled a new fig from that purple heap
In the grass beside her,–turning out the red
To feed her eager child, who sucked at it
With vehement lips across a gap of air
As he stood opposite, face and curls a-flame
With that last sun-ray, crying, 'give me, give,'
And stamping with imperious baby-feet,
(We're all born princes)–something startled me,–
The laugh of sad and innocent souls, that breaks
Abruptly, as if frightened at itself;
'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her glance above
In sudden shame that I should hear her laugh,
And straightway dropped my eyes upon my book,
And knew, the first time, 'twas Boccaccio's tales,
The Falcon's,–of the lover who for love
Destroyed the best that loved him. Some of us
Do it still, and then we sit and laugh no more.
Laugh you, sweet Marian! you've the right to laugh,
Since God himself is for you, and a child!
For me there's somewhat less,–and so, I sigh.
The heavens were making room to hold the night,
The sevenfold heavens unfolding all their gates
To let the stars out slowly (prophesied
In close-approaching advent, not discerned),
While still the cue-owls from the cypresses
Of the Poggio called and counted every pulse
Of the skyey palpitation. Gradually
The purple and transparent shadows slow
Had filled up the whole valley to the brim,
And flooded all the city, which you saw
As some drowned city in some enchanted sea,
Cut off from nature,–drawing you who gaze,
With passionate desire, to leap and plunge,
And find a sea-king with a voice of waves,
And treacherous soft eyes, and slippery locks
You cannot kiss but you shall bring away
Their salt upon your lips. The duomo-bell
Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms down,
So deep; and fifty churches answer it
The same, with fifty various instances.
Some gaslights tremble along squares and streets
The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in fire:
And, past the quays, Maria Novella's Place,
In which the mystic obelisks stand up
Triangular, pyramidal, each based
On a single trine of brazen tortoises,
To guard that fair church, Buonarroti's Bride,
That stares out from her large blind dial-eyes,
Her quadrant and armillary dials, black
With rhythms of many suns and moons, in vain
Enquiry for so rich a soul as his,–
Methinks I have plunged, I see it all so clear . . .
And, oh my heart . . .the sea-king!
In my ears
The sound of waters. There he stood, my king!
I felt him, rather than beheld him. Up
I rose, as if he were my king indeed,
And then sate down, in trouble at myself,
And struggling for my woman's empery.
'Tis pitiful; but women are so made:
We'll die for you, perhaps,–'tis probable:
But we'll not spare you an inch of our full height:
We'll have our whole just stature,–five feet four,
Though laid out in our coffins: pitiful!
–'You, Romney!––Lady Waldemar is here?'
He answered in a voice which was not his,
'I have her letter; you shall read it soon:
But first, I must be heard a little, I,
Who have waited long and travelled far for that,
Although you thought to have shut a tedious book
And farewell. Ah, you dog-eared such a page,
And here you find me.'
Did he touch my hand,
Or but my sleeve? I trembled, hand and foot,–
He must have touched me.–'Will you sit?' I asked,
And motioned to a chair; but down he sate,
A little slowly, as a man in doubt,
Upon the couch beside me,–couch and chair
Being wheeled upon the terrace.
'You are come,
My cousin Romney?–this is wonderful.
But all is wonder on such summer-nights;
And nothing should surprise us any more,
Who see that miracle of stars. Behold.'
I signed above, where all the stars were out,
As if an urgent heat had started there
A secret writing from a sombre page,
A blank last moment, crowded suddenly
With hurrying splendours.
'Then you do not know–
'Yes, I know,' I said, 'I know.
I had the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet I did not think you'd leave the work
In England, for so much even,–though, of course,
You'll make a work-day of your holiday,
And turn it to our Tuscan people's use,–
Who much need helping since the Austrian boar
(So bold to cross the Alp by Lombardy
And dash his brute front unabashed against
The steep snow-bosses of that shield of God,
Who soon shall rise in wrath and shake it clear
Came hither also,–raking up our vines
And olive-gardens with his tyrannous tusks,
And rolling on our maize with all his swine.'
'You had the news from Vincent Carrington,'
He echoed,–picking up the phrase beyond,
As if he knew the rest was merely talk
To fill a gap and keep out a strong wind,–
'You had, then, Vincent's personal news?'
I answered, 'All that ruined world of yours
Seems crumbling into marriage. Carrington
Has chosen wisely.'
'Do you take it so?'
He cried, 'and is it possible at last' . .
He paused there,–and then, inward to himself,
'Too much at last, too late!–yet certainly' . .
(And there his voice swayed as an Alpine plank
That feels a passionate torrent underneath)
'The knowledge, if I had known it, first or last,
Had never changed the actual case for me.
And best, for her, at this time.'
Nay, I thought,
He loves Kate Ward, it seems, now, like a man,
Because he has married Lady Waldemar.
Ah, Vincent's letter said how Leigh was moved
To hear that Vincent was betrothed to Kate.
With what cracked pitchers go we to deep wells
In this world! Then I spoke,–'I did not think,
My cousin, you had ever known Kate Ward.'
'In fact I never knew her. 'Tis enough
That Vincent did, before he chose his wife
For other reasons than those topaz eyes
I've heard of. Not to undervalue them,
For all that. One takes up the world with eyes.'
–Including Romney Leigh, I thought again,
Albeit he knows them only by repute.
How vile must all men be, since he's a man.
His deep pathetic voice, as if he guessed
I did not surely love him, took the word;
'You never got a letter from Lord Howe
A month back, dear Aurora?'
'None,' I said.
'I felt it was so,' he replied: 'Yet, strange!
Sir Blaise Delorme has passed through Florence?'
By chance I saw him in Our Lady's church,
(I saw him, mark you, but he saw not me)
Clean-washed in holy-water from the count
Of things terrestrial,–letters and the rest;
He had crossed us out together with his sins.
Ay, strange; but only strange that good Lord Howe
Preferred him to the post because of pauls.
For me I'm sworn never to trust a man–
At least with letters.'
'There were facts to tell,–
To smooth with eye and accent. Howe supposed . .
Well, well, no matter! there was dubious need;
You heard the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet perhaps you had been startled less
To see me, dear Aurora, if you had read
–Now he sets me down as vexed.
I think I've draped myself in woman's pride
To a perfect purpose. Oh, I'm vexed, it seems!
My friend Lord Howe deputes his friend Sir Blaise
To break as softly as a sparrow's egg
That lets a bird out tenderly, the news
Of Romney's marriage to a certain saint;
To smooth with eye and accent,–indicate
His possible presence. Excellently well
You've played your part, my Lady Waldemar,–
As I've played mine.
'Dear Romney,' I began,
'You did not use, of old, to be so like
A Greek king coming from a taken Troy,
'Twas needful that precursors spread your path
With three-piled carpets, to receive your foot
And dull the sound of't. For myself, be sure
Although it frankly ground the gravel here
I still could bear it. Yet I'm sorry, too,
To lose this famous letter, which Sir Blaise
Has twisted to a lighter absently
To fire some holy taper with: Lord Howe
Writes letters good for all things but to lose;
And many a flower of London gossipry
Has dropt wherever such a stem broke off,–
Of course I know that, lonely among my vines,
Where nothing's talked of, save the blight again,
And no more Chianti! Still the letter's use
As preparation . . . . . Did I start indeed?
Last night I started at a cochchafer,
And shook a half-hour after. Have you learnt
No more of women, 'spite of privilege,
Than still to take account too seriously
Of such weak flutterings? Why, we like it, sir,–
We get our powers and our effects that way.
The trees stand stiff and still at time of frost,
If no wind tears them; but, let summer come,
When trees are happy,–and a breath avails
To set them trembling through a million leaves
In luxury of emotion. Something less
It takes to move a woman: let her start
And shake at pleasure,–nor conclude at yours,
The winter's bitter,–but the summer's green.'
He answered, 'Be the summer ever green
With you, Aurora!–though you sweep your sex
With somewhat bitter gusts from where you live
Above them,–whirling downward from your heights
Your very own pine-cones, in a grand disdain
Of the lowland burrs with which you scatter them.
So high and cold to others and yourself,
A little less to Romney, were unjust,
And thus, I would not have you. Let it pass:
I feel content, so. You can bear indeed
My sudden step beside you: but for me,
'Twould move me sore to hear your softened voice,–
Aurora's voice,–if softened unaware
In pity of what I am.'
Ah friend, I thought,
As husband of the Lady Waldemar
You're granted very sorely pitiable!
And yet Aurora Leigh must guard her voice
From softening in the pity of your case,
As if from lie or licence. Certainly
We'll soak up all the slush and soil of life
With softened voices, ere we come to you.
At which I interrupted my own thought
And spoke out calmly. 'Let us ponder, friend,
Whate'er our state, we must have made it first;
And though the thing displease us, ay, perhaps
Displease us warrantably, never doubt
That other states, thought possible once, and then
Rejected by the instinct of our lives,–
If then adopted, had displeased us more
Than this, in which the choice, the will, the love,
Has stamped the honour of a patent act
From henceforth. What we choose, may not be good;
But, that we choose it, proves it good for us
Potentially, fantastically, now
Or last year, rather than a thing we saw,
And saw no need for choosing. Moths will burn
Their wings,–which proves that light is good for moths,
Or else they had flown not, where they agonise.'
'Ay, light is good,' he echoed, and there paused.
And then abruptly, . . 'Marian. Marian's well?'
I bowed my head but found no word. 'Twas hard
To speak of her to Lady Waldemar's
New husband. How much did he know, at last?
How much? how little?––He would take no sign,
But straight repeated,–'Marian. Is she well?'
'She's well,' I answered.
She was there in sight
An hour back, but the night had drawn her home;
Where still I heard her in an upper room,
Her low voice singing to the child in bed,
Who restless with the summer-heat and play
And slumber snatched at noon, was long sometimes
At falling off, and took a score of songs
And mother-hushes, ere she saw him sound.
'She's well,' I answered.
'Here?' he asked.
He stopped and sighed. 'That shall be presently,
But now this must be. I have words to say,
And would be alone to say them, I with you,
And no third troubling.'
'Speak then,' I returned,
'She will not vex you.'
At which, suddenly
He turned his face upon me with its smile,
As if to crush me. 'I have read your book,
'You have read it,' I replied,
'And I have writ it,–we have done with it.
And now the rest?'
'The rest is like the first,'
He answered,–'for the book is in my heart,
Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams in me:
My daily bread tastes of it,–and my wine
Which has no smack of it, I pour it out;
It seems unnatural drinking.'
I took the word up; 'Never waste your wine.
The book lived in me ere it lived in you;
I know it closer than another does,
And that it's foolish, feeble, and afraid,
And all unworthy so much compliment.
Beseech you, keep your wine,–and, when you drink,
Still wish some happier fortune to your friend,
Than even to have written a far better book.'
He answered gently, 'That is consequent:
The poet looks beyond the book he has made,
Or else he had not made it. If a man
Could make a man, he'd henceforth be a god
In feeling what a little thing is man:
It is not my case. And this special book,
I did not make it, to make light of it:
It stands above my knowledge, draws me up;
'Tis high to me. It may be that the book
Is not so high, but I so low, instead;
Still high to me. I mean no compliment:
I will not say there are not, young or old,
Male writers, ay, or female,–let it pass,
Who'll write us richer and completer books.
A man may love a woman perfectly,
And yet by no means ignorantly maintain
A thousand women have not larger eyes:
Enough that she alone has looked at him
With eyes that, large or small, have won his soul.
And so, this book, Aurora,–so, your book.'
'Alas,' I answered, 'is it so, indeed?'
And then was silent.
'Is it so, indeed,'
He echoed, 'that alas is all your word?'
I said,–'I'm thinking of a far-off June,
When you and I, upon my birthday once,
Discoursed of life and art, with both untried.
I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas morning then,
And now 'tis night.'
'And now,' he said, tis night.'
'I'm thinking,' I resumed, tis somewhat sad
That if I had known, that morning in the dew,
My cousin Romney would have said such words
On such a night, at close of many years,
In speaking of a future book of mine,
It would have pleased me better as a hope,
Than as an actual grace it can at all.
That's sad, I'm thinking.'
'Ay,' he said, tis night.'
'And there,' I added lightly, 'are the stars!
And here, we'll talk of stars, and not of books.'
'You have the stars,' he murmured,–'it is well.
Be like them! shine, Aurora, on my dark,
Though high and cold and only like star,
And for this short night only,–you, who keep
The same Aurora of the bright June-day
That withered up the flowers before my face,
And turned my from the garden evermore
Because I was not worthy. Oh, deserved,
Deserved! That I, who verily had not learnt
God's lesson half, attaining as a dunce
To obliterate good words with fractious thumbs
And cheat myself of the context,–I should push
Aside, with male ferocious impudence,
The world's Aurora who had conned her part
On the other side the leaf! ignore her so,
Because she was a woman and a queen,
And had no beard to bristle through her song,–
My teacher, who has taught me with a book,
My Miriam, whose sweet mouth, when nearly drowned
I still heard singing on the shore! Deserved,
That here I should look up unto the stars
And miss the glory' . .
'Can I understand?'
I broke in. 'You speak wildly, Romney Leigh,
Or I hear wildly. In that morning-time
We recollect, the roses were too red,
The trees too green, reproach too natural
If one should see not what the other saw:
And now, it's night, remember; we have shades
In place of colours; we are now grown cold,
And old, my cousin Romney. Pardon me,–
I'm very happy that you like my book,
And very sorry that I quoted back
A ten years' birthday; 'twas so mad a thing
In any woman, I scarce marvel much
You took it for a venturous piece of spite,
Provoking such excuses, as indeed
I cannot call you slack in.'
He answered sadly, 'something, if but so.
This night is softer than an English day,
And men may well come hither when they're sick,
To draw in easier breath from larger air.
'Tis thus with me; I've come to you,–to you,
My Italy of women, just to breathe
My soul out once before you, ere I go,
As humble as God makes me at the last,
(I thank Him) quite out of the way of men,
And yours, Aurora,–like a punished child,
His cheeks all blurred with tears and naughtiness,
To silence in a corner. I am come
To speak, beloved' . .
'Wisely, cousin Leigh,
And worthily of us both!'
For this time I must speak out and confess
That I, so truculent in assumption once,
So absolute in dogma, proud in aim,
And fierce in expectation,–I, who felt
The whole world tugging at my skirts for help,
As if no other man than I, could pull,
Nor woman, but I led her by the hand,
Nor cloth hold, but I had it in my coat,–
Do know myself to-night for what I was
On that June-day, Aurora. Poor bright day,
Which meant the best . . a woman and a rose, . .
And which I smote upon the cheek with words,
Until it turned and rent me! Young you were,
That birthday, poet, but you talked the right:
While I, . . I built up follies like a wall
To intercept the sunshine and your face.
Your face! that's worse.'
'Speak wisely, cousin Leigh.'
'Yes, wisely, dear Aurora, though too late:
But then, not wisely. I was heavy then,
And stupid, and distracted with the cries
Of tortured prisoners in the polished brass
Of that Phalarian bull, society,–
Which seems to bellow bravely like ten bulls,
But, if you listen, moans and cries instead
Despairingly, like victims tossed and gored
And trampled by their hoofs. I heard the cries
Too close: I could not hear the angels lift
A fold of rustling air, nor what they said
To help my pity. I beheld the world
As one great famishing carnivorous mouth,–
A huge, deserted, callow, black, bird Thing,
With piteous open beak that hurt my heart,
Till down upon the filthy ground I dropped,
And tore the violets up to get the worms.
Worms, worms, was all my cry: an open mouth,
A gross want, bread to fill it to the lips,
No more! That poor men narrowed their demands
To such an end, was virtue, I supposed,
Adjudicating that to see it so
Was reason. Oh, I did not push the case
Up higher, and ponder how it answers, when
The rich take up the same cry for themselves,
Professing equally,–'an open mouth
A gross want, food to fill us, and no more!'
Why that's so far from virtue, only vice
Finds reason for it! That makes libertines:
That slurs our cruel streets from end to end
With eighty thousand women in one smile,
Who only smile at night beneath the gas:
The body's satisfaction and no more,
Being used for argument against the soul's,
Her too! the want, here too, implying the right.
–How dark I stood that morning in the sun,
My best Aurora, though I saw your eyes,–
When first you told me . . oh, I recollect
The words . . and how you lifted your white hand,
And how your white dress and your burnished curls
Went greatening round you in the still blue air,
As if an inspiration from within
Had blown them all out when you spoke the same,
Even these,–'You will not compass your poor ends
'Of barley-feeding and material ease,
'Without the poet's individualism
'To work your universal. It takes a soul,
'To move a body,–it takes a high-souled man,
'To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
'It takes the ideal, to blow an inch inside
'The dust of the actual: and your Fouriers failed
'Because not poets enough to understand
'That life develops from within.' I say
Your words,–I could say other words of yours
For none of all your words has been more lost
Than sweet verbena, which, being brushed against,
Will hold you three hours after by the smell,
In spite of long walks on the windy hills.
But these words dealt in sharper perfume,–these
Were ever on me, stinging through my dreams,
And saying themselves for ever o'er my acts
Like some unhappy verdict. That I failed,
Is certain. Stye or no stye, to contrive
The swine's propulsion toward the precipice,
Proved easy and plain. I subtly organised
And ordered, built the cards up higher and higher,
Till, some one breathing, all fell flat again!
In setting right society's wide wrong,
Mere life's so fatal! So I failed indeed
Once, twice, and oftener,–hearing through the rents
Of obstinate purpose, still those words of yours,
'You will not compass your poor ends, not you! '
But harder than you said them; every time
Still farther from your voice, until they came
To overcrow me with triumphant scorn
Which vexed me to resistance. Set down this
For condemnation,–I was guilty here:
I stood upon my deed and fought my doubt,
As men will,–for I doubted,–till at last
My deed gave way beneath me suddenly,
And left me what I am. The curtain dropped,
My part quite ended, all the footlights quenched.
My own soul hissing at me through the dark,
I, ready for confession,–I was wrong,
I've sorely failed; I've slipped the ends of life,
I yield; you have conquered.'
'Stay,' I answered him;
'I've something for your hearing, also. I
Have failed too.'
'You!' he said, 'you're very great:
The sadness of your greatness fits you well:
As if the plume upon a hero's casque
Should nod a shadow upon his victor face.'
I took him up austerely,–'You have read
My book but not my heart; for recollect,
'Tis writ in Sanscrit, which you bungle at.
I've surely failed, I know; if failure means
To look back sadly on work gladly done,–
To wander on my mountains of Delight,
So called, (I can remember a friend's words
As well as you, sir,) weary and in want
Of even a sheep-path, thinking bitterly . .
Well, well! no matter. I but say so much,
To keep you, Romney Leigh, from saying more,
And let you feel I am not so high indeed,
That I can bear to have you at my foot,–
Or safe, that I can help you. That June-day,
Too deeply sunk in craterous sunsets now
For you or me to dig it up alive;
To pluck it out all bleeding with spent flame
At the roots, before those moralising stars
We have got instead,–that poor lost day, you said
Some words as truthful as the thing of mine
You care to keep in memory: and I hold
If I, that day, and, being the girl I was,
Had shown a gentler spirit, less arrogance,
It had not hurt me. Ah, you'll not mistake
The point here. I but only think, you see,
More justly, that's more humbly, of myself,
Than when I tried a crown on and supposed . . .
Nay, laugh, sir,–I'll laugh with you!–pray you, laugh.
I've had so many birthdays since that day,
I've learnt to prize mirth's opportunities,
Which come too seldom. Was it you who said
I was not changed? the same Aurora? Ah,
We could laugh there, too! Why, Ulysses' dog
Knew him, and wagged his tail and died: but if
I had owned a dog, I too, before my Troy,
And if you brought him here, . . I warrant you
He'd look into my face, bark lustily,
And live on stoutly, as the creatures will
Whose spirits are not troubled by long loves.
A dog would never know me, I'm so changed;
Much less a friend . . except that you're misled
By the colour of the hair, the trick of the voice,
Like that of Aurora Leigh's.'
'Sweet trick of voice
I would be a dog for this, to know it at last,
And die upon the falls of it. O love,
O best Aurora! are you then so sad,
You scarcely had been sadder as my wife?'
'Your wife, sir! I must certainly be changed,
If I, Aurora, can have said a thing
So light, it catches at the knightly spurs
Of a noble gentleman like Romney Leigh,
And trips him from his honourable sense
Of what befits' . .
'You wholly misconceive,'
I returned,–'I'm glad of it:
But keep from misconception, too, yourself:
I am not humbled to so low a point,
Nor so far saddened. If I am sad at all,
Ten layers of birthdays on a woman's head,
Are apt to fossilise her girlish mirth,
Though ne'er so merry: I'm perforce more wise,
And that, in truth, means sadder. For the rest,
Look here, sir: I was right upon the whole,
That birthday morning. 'Tis impossible
To get at men excepting through their souls,
However open their carnivorous jaws;
And poets get directlier at the soul,
Than any of you oeconomists:–for which,
You must not overlook the poet's work
When scheming for the world's necessities.
The soul's the way. Not even Christ himself
Can save man else than as He hold man's soul;
And therefore did He come into our flesh,
As some wise hunter creeping on his knees
With a torch, into the blackness of some cave,
To face and quell the beast there,–take the soul,
And so possess the whole man, body and soul.
I said, so far, right, yes; not farther, though:
We both were wrong that June-day,–both as wrong
As an east wind had been. I who talked of art,
And you who grieved for all men's griefs . . . what then?
We surely made too small a part for God
In these things. What we are, imports us more
Than what we eat; and life you've granted me,
Develops from within. But innermost
Of the inmost, most interior of the interne,
God claims his own, Divine humanity
Renewing nature,–or the piercingest verse,
Prest in by subtlest poet, still must keep
As much upon the outside of a man,
As the very bowl, in which he dips his beard.
–And then, . . the rest. I cannot surely speak.
Perhaps I doubt more than you doubted then,
If I, the poet's veritable charge,
Have borne upon my forehead. If I have,
It might feel somewhat liker to a crown,
The foolish green one even.–Ah, I think,
And chiefly when the sun shines, that I've failed.
But what then, Romney? Though we fail indeed,
You . . I . . a score of such weak workers, . . He
Fails never. If He cannot work by us,
He will work over us. Does he want a man,
Much less a woman, think you? Every time
The star winks there, so many souls are born,
Who shall work too. Let our own be calm:
We should be ashamed to sit beneath those stars,
Impatient that we're nothing.'
'Could we sit
Just so for ever, sweetest friend,' he said,
'My failure would seem better than success.
And yet, indeed, your book has dealt with me
More gently, cousin, than you ever will!
The book brought down entire the bright June-day,
And set me wandering in the garden-walks,
And let me watch the garland in a place,
You blushed so . . nay, forgive me; do not stir:
I only thank the book for what it taught,
And what, permitted. Poet, doubt yourself;
But never doubt that you're a poet to me
From henceforth. Ah, you've written poems, sweet,
Which moved me in secret as the sap is moved
In still March branches, signless as a stone:
But this last book o'ercame me like soft rain
Which falls at midnight, when the tightened bark
Breaks out into unhesitating buds,
And sudden protestations of the spring.
In all your other books I saw but you:
A man may see the moon so, in a pond,
And not the nearer therefore to the moon,
Nor use the sight . . except to drown himself
And so I forced my heart back from the sigh
For what had I, I thought, to do with her,–
Aurora . . Romney? But, in this last book,
You showed me something separate from yourself,
Beyond you; and I bore to take it in,
And let it draw me. You have shown me truths,
O June-day friend, that help me now at night,
When June is over! truths not yours, indeed,
But set within my reach by means of you:
Presented by your voice and verse the way
To take them clearest. Verily I was wrong;
And verily, many thinkers of this age,
Ay, many Christian teachers, half in heaven,
Are wrong in just my sense, who understood
Our natural world too insularly, as if
No spiritual counterpart completed it
Consummating its meaning, rounding all
To justice and perfection, line by line,
Form by form, nothing single, nor alone,–
The great below clenched by the great above;
Shade here authenticating substance there;
The body proving spirit, as the effect
The cause: we, meantime, being too grossly apt
To hold the natural, as dogs a bone,
(Though reason and nature beat us in the face),
So obstinately, that we'll break our teeth
Or ever we let go. For everywhere
We're too materialistic,–eating clay,
(Like men of the west) instead of Adam's corn
And Noah's wine; clay by handfuls, clay by lumps,
Until we're filled up to the throat with clay,
And grow the grimy colour of the ground
On which we are feeding. Ay, materialist
The age's name is. God himself, with some,
Is apprehended as the bare result
Of what his hand materially has made,
Expressed in such an algebraic sign,
Called God;–that is, to put it otherwise,
They add up nature to a naught of God
And cross the quotient. There are many, even,
Whose names are written in the Christian church
To no dishonour,–diet still on mud,
And splash the altars with it. You might think
The clay, Christ laid upon their eyelids when,
Still blind, he called them to the use of sight,
Remained there to retard its exercise
With clogging incrustations. Close to heaven,
They see, for mysteries, through the open doors,
Vague puffs of smoke from pots of earthenware;
And fain would enter, when their time shall come,
With quite a different body than St. Paul
Has promised,–husk and chaff, the whole barley-corn,
Or where's the resurrection?'
'Thus it is,'
I sighed. And he resumed with mournful face.
'Beginning so, and filling up with clay
The wards of this great key, the natural world,
And fumbling vainly therefore at the lock
Of the spiritual,–we feel ourselves shut in
With all the wild-beast roar of struggling life,
The terrors and compunctions of our souls,
As saints with lions,–we who are not saints,
And have no heavenly lordship in our stare
To awe them backward! Ay, we are forced so pent
To judge the whole too partially, . . confound
Conclusions. Is there any common phrase
Significant, when the adverb's heard alone,
The verb being absent, and the pronoun out?
But we distracted in the roar of life,
Still insolently at God's adverb snatch,
And bruit against Him that his thought is void,
His meaning hopeless;–cry, that everywhere
The government is slipping from his hand,
Unless some other Christ . . say Romney Leigh . .
Come up, and toil and moil, and change the world,
For which the First has proved inadequate,
However we talk bigly of His work
And piously of His person. We blaspheme
At last, to finish that doxology,
Despairing on the earth for which He died.'
'So now,' I asked, 'you have more hope of men?'
'I hope,' he answered: 'I am come to think
That God will have his work done, as you said,
And that we need not be disturbed too much
For Romney Leigh or others having failed
With this or that quack nostrum,–recipes
For keeping summits by annulling depths,
For learning wrestling with long lounging sleeves,
And perfect heroism without a scratch.
We fail,–what then? Aurora, if I smiled
To see you, in your lovely morning-pride,
Try on the poet's wreath which suits the noon,–
(Sweet cousin, walls must get the weather-stain
Before they grow the ivy!) certainly
I stood myself there worthier of contempt,
Self-rated, in disastrous arrogance,
As competent to sorrow for mankind
And even their odds. A man may well despair,
Who counts himself so needful to success.
I failed. I throw the remedy back on God,
And sit down here beside you, in good hope.'
'And yet, take heed,' I answered, 'lest we lean
Too dangerously on the other side,
And so fail twice. Be sure, no earnest work
Of any honest creature, howbeit weak,
Imperfect, ill-adapted, fails so much,
It is not gathered as a grain of sand
To enlarge the sum of human action used
For carrying out God's end. No creature works
So ill, observe, that therefore he's cashiered.
The honest earnest man must stand and work:
The woman also; otherwise she drops
At once below the dignity of man,
Accepting serfdom. Free men freely work:
Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.'
He cried, 'True. After Adam, work was curse;
The natural creature labours, sweats and frets.
But, after Christ, work turns to privilege;
And henceforth one with our humanity,
The Six-day Worker, working still in us,
Has called us freely to work on with Him
In high companionship. So happiest!
I count that Heaven itself is only work
To a surer issue. Let us work, indeed,–
But, no more, work as Adam . . nor as Leigh
Erewhile, as if the only man on earth,
Responsible for all the thistles blown
And tigers couchant,–struggling in amaze
Against disease and winter,–snarling on
For ever, that the world's not paradise.
Oh cousin, let us be content, in work,
To do the thing we can, and not presume
To fret because it's little. 'Twill employ
Seven men, they say, to make a perfect pin!
Who makes the head, content to miss the point,–
Who makes the point, agreed to leave the join:
And if a man should cry, 'I want a pin,
'And I must make it straightway, head and point,'–
His wisdom is not worth the pin he wants.
Seven men to a pin,–and not a man too much!
Seven generations, haply, to this world,
To right it visibly, a finger's breadth,
And mend its rents a little. Oh, to storm
And say,–'This world here is intolerable;
'I will not eat this corn, nor drink this wine,
'Nor love this woman, flinging her my soul
'Without a bond for't, as a lover should,
'Nor use the generous leave of happiness
'As not too good for using generously'–
(Since virtue kindles at the touch of joy,
Like a man's cheek laid on a woman's hand;
And God, who knows it, looks for quick returns
From joys)!–to stand and claim to have a life
Beyond the bounds of the individual man,
And raise all personal cloisters of the soul
To build up public stores and magazines,
As if God's creatures otherwise were lost,
The builder surely saved by any means!
To think,–I have a pattern on my nail,
And I will carve the world new after it,
And solve so, these hard social questions,–nay,
Impossible social questions,–since their roots
Strike deep in Evil's own existence here,
Which God permits because the question's hard
To abolish evil nor attaint free-will.
Ay, hard to God, but not to Romney Leigh!
For Romney has a pattern on his nail,
(Whatever may be lacking on the Mount)
And not being overnice to separate
What's element from what's convention, hastes
By line on line, to draw you out a world,
Without your help indeed, unless you take
His yoke upon you and will learn of him,–
So much he has to teach! so good a world!
The same, the whole creation's groaning for!
No rich nor poor, no gain nor loss nor stint,
No potage in it able to exclude
A brother's birthright, and no right of birth,
The potage,–both secured to every man;
And perfect virtue dealt out like the rest,
Gratuitously, with the soup at six,
To whoso does not seek it.'
I interrupted,–'I had a cousin once
I held in reverence. If he strained too wide,
It was not to take honour, but give help;
The gesture was heroic. If his hand
Accomplished nothing . . (well, it is not proved)
That empty hand thrown impotently out
Were sooner caught, I think, by One in heaven,
Than many a hand that reaped a harvest in
And keeps the scythe's glow on it. Pray you, then,
For my sake merely, use less bitterness
In speaking of my cousin.'
'Ah,' he said,
'Aurora! when the prophet beats the ass,
The angel intercedes.' He shook his head–
'And yet to mean so well, and fail so foul,
Expresses ne'er another beast than man;
The antithesis is human. Harken, dear;
There's too much abstract willing, purposing,
In this poor world. We talk by aggregates,
And think by systems; and, being used to face
Our evils in statistics, are inclined
To cap them with unreal remedies
Drawn out in haste on the other side the slate.'
'That's true,' I answered, fain to throw up thought
And make a game of't; 'Oh, we generalise
Enough to please you. If we pray at all,
We pray no longer for our daily bread,
But next centenary's harvests. If we give,
Our cup of water is not tendered till
We lay down pipes and found a Company
With Branches. Ass or angel, 'tis the same:
A woman cannot do the thing she ought,
Which means whatever perfect thing she can,
In life, in art, in science, but she fears
To let the perfect action take her part
And rest there: she must prove what she can do
Before she does it,–prate of woman's rights,
Of woman's mission, woman's function, till
The men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry,
'A woman's function plainly is . . to talk.
Poor souls, they are very reasonably vexed!
They cannot hear each other speak.'
An artist, judge so?'
'I, an artist,–yes,
Because, precisely, I'm an artist, sir,
And woman,–if another sate in sight,
I'd whisper,–soft, my sister! not a word!
By speaking we prove only we can speak:
Which he, the man here, never doubted. What
He doubts, is whether we can do the thing
With decent grace, we've not yet done at all:
Now, do it; bring your statue,–you have room!
He'll see it even by the starlight here;
And if 'tis e'er so little like the god
Who looks out from the marble silently
Along the track of his own shining dart
Through the dusk of ages,–there's no need to speak;
The universe shall henceforth speak for you,
And witness, 'She who did this thing, was born
To do it,–claims her license in her work.'
–And so with more works. Whoso cures the plague,
Though twice a woman, shall be called a leech:
Who rights a land's finances, is excused
For touching coppers, though her hands be white,–
But we, we talk!'
'It is the age's mood,'
He said; 'we boast, and do not. We put up
Hostelry signs where'er we lodge a day,–
Some red colossal cow, with mighty paps
A Cyclops' fingers could not strain to milk;
Then bring out presently our saucer-full
of curds. We want more quiet in our works,
More knowledge of the bounds in which we work;
More knowledge that each individual man
Remains an Adam to the general race,
Constrained to see, like Adam, that he keep
His personal state's condition honestly,
Or vain all thoughts of his to help the world,
Which still must be developed from its one,
If bettered in its many. We, indeed,
Who think to lay it out new like a park,
We take a work on us which is not man's;
For God alone sits far enough above,
To speculate so largely. None of us
(Not Romney Leigh) is mad enough to say,
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that slope
And sink the need of acorns. Government,
If veritable and lawful, is not given
By imposition of the foreign hand,–
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book
Of some domestic idealogue, who sits
And coldly chooses empire, where as well
He might republic. Genuine government
Is but the expression of a nation, good
Or less good,–even as all society,
Howe'er unequal, monstrous, crazed and cursed,
Is but the expression of men's single lives,
The loud sum of the silent units. What,
We'd change the aggregate and yet retain
Each separate figure? Whom do we cheat by that?
Now, not even Romney.'
'Cousin, you are sad.
Did all your social labour at Leigh Hall
And elsewhere, come to nought then?'
'It was nought,'
He answered mildly. 'There is room indeed,
For statues still, in this large world of God's,
But not for vacuums,–so I am not sad:
Not sadder than is good for what I am.
My vain phalanstery dissolved itself;
My men and women of disordered lives,
I brought in orderly to dine and sleep,
Broke up those waxen masks I made them wear,
With fierce contortions of the natural face;
And cursed me for my tyrannous constraint
In forcing crooked creatures to live straight;
And set the country hounds upon my back
To bite and tear me for my wicked deed
Of trying to do good without the church
Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you mind
Your ancient neighbours? The great book-club teems
With 'sketches,' 'summaries,' and 'last tracts' but twelve,
On socialistic troublers of close bonds
Betwixt the generous rich and grateful poor.
The vicar preached from 'Revelations,' (till
The doctor woke) and found me with 'the frogs'
On three successive Sundays; ay, and stopped
To weep a little (for he's getting old)
That such perdition should o'ertake a man
Of such fair acres,–in the parish, too!
He printed his discourses 'by request;'
And if your book shall sell as his did, then
Your verses are less good than I suppose.
The women of the neighbourhood subscribed,
And sent me a copy bound in scarlet silk,
Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms of Leigh:
I own that touched me.'
'What, the pretty ones?
'Otherwise the effect was small.
I had my windows broken once or twice
By liberal peasants, naturally incensed
At such a vexer of Arcadian peace,
Who would not let men call their wives their own
To kick like Britons,–and made obstacles
When things went smoothly as a baby drugged,
Toward freedom and starvation; bringing down
The wicked London tavern-thieves and drabs,
To affront the blessed hillside drabs and thieves
With mended morals, quotha,–fine new lives!–
My windows paid for't. I was shot at, once,
By an active poacher who had hit a hare
From the other barrel, tired of springeing game
So long upon my acres, undisturbed,
And restless for the country's virtue, (yet
He missed me)–ay, and pelted very oft
In riding through the village. 'There he goes,
'Who'd drive away our Christian gentlefolks,
'To catch us undefended in the trap
'He baits with poisonous cheese, and locks us up
'In that pernicious prison of Leigh Hall
'With all his murderers! Give another name,
'And say Leigh Hell, and burn it up with fire.'
And so they did at last, Aurora.'
'You never heard it, cousin? Vincent's news
Came stinted, then.'
'They did? they burnt Leigh Hall?'
'You're sorry, dear Aurora? Yes indeed,
They did it perfectly: a thorough work,
And not a failure, this time. Let us grant
'Tis somewhat easier, though, to burn a house
Than build a system:–yet that's easy, too,
In a dream. Books, pictures,–ay, the pictures what,
You think your dear Vandykes would give them pause?
Our proud ancestral Leighs with those peaked beards,
Or bosoms white as foam thrown up on rocks
From the old-spent wave. Such calm defiant looks
They flared up with! now, nevermore they'll twit
The bones in the family-vault with ugly death.
Not one was rescued, save the Lady Maud,
Who threw you down, that morning you were born,
The undeniable lineal mouth and chin,
To wear for ever for her gracious sake;
For which good deed I saved her: the rest went:
And you, your sorry, cousin. Well, for me,
With all my phalansterians safely out,
(Poor hearts, they helped the burners, it was said,
And certainly a few clapped hands and yelled)
The ruin did not hurt me as it might,–
As when for instance I was hurt one day,
A certain letter being destroyed. In fact,
To see the great house flare so . . oaken floors,
Our fathers made so fine with rushes once,
Before our mothers furbished them with trains,–
Carved wainscots, panelled walls, the favourite slide
For draining off a martyr, (or a rogue)
The echoing galleries, half a half-mile long,
And all the various stairs that took you up
And took you down, and took you round about
Upon their slippery darkness, recollect,
All helping to keep up one blazing jest;
The flames through all the casements pushing forth,
Like red-hot devils crinkled into snakes,
All signifying,–'Look you, Romney Leigh,
'We save the people from your saving, here,
'Yet so as by fire! we make a pretty show
'Besides,–and that's the best you've ever done.'–
–To see this, almost moved myself to clap!
The 'vale et plaude' came, too, with effect,
When, in the roof fell, and the fire, that paused,
Stunned momently beneath the stroke of slates
And tumbling rafters, rose at once and roared,
And wrapping the whole house, (which disappeared
In a mounting whirlwind of dilated flame,)
Blew upward, straight, its drift of fiery chaff
In the face of heaven, . . which blenched and ran up higher.'
'Sometimes when I dream,' he said,
'I hear the silence after; 'twas so still.
For all those wild beasts, yelling, cursing round,
Were suddenly silent, while you counted five!
So silent, that you heard a young bird fall
From the top-nest in the neighbouring rookery
Through edging over-rashly toward the light.
The old rooks had already fled too far,
To hear the screech they fled with, though you saw
Some flying on still, like scatterings of dead leaves
In autumn-gusts, seen dark against the sky:
All flying,–ousted, like the house of Leigh.'
'Evidently 'twould have been
A fine sight for a poet, sweet, like you,
To make the verse blaze after. I myself,
Even I, felt something in the grand old trees,
Which stood that moment like brute Druid gods,
Amazed upon the rim of ruin, where,
As into a blackened socket, the great fire
Had dropped,–still throwing up splinters now and then,
To show them grey with all their centuries,
Left there to witness that on such a day
The house went out.'
'While you counted five
I seemed to feel a little like a Leigh,–
But then it passed, Aurora. A child cried;
And I had enough to think of what to do
With all those houseless wretches in the dark,
And ponder where they'd dance the next time, they
Who had burnt the viol.'
'Did you think of that?
Who burns his viol will not dance, I know,
To cymbals, Romney.'
'O my sweet sad voice,'
He cried,–'O voice that speaks and overcomes!
The sun is silent, but Aurora speaks.'
'Alas,' I said; 'I speak I know not what:
I'm back in childhood, thinking as a child,
A foolish fancy–will it make you smile?
I shall not from the window of my room
Catch sight of those old chimneys any more.'
'No more,' he answered. 'If you pushed one day
Through all the green hills to our father's house,
You'd come upon a great charred circle where
The patient earth was singed an acre round;
With one stone-stair, symbolic of my life,
Ascending, winding, leading up to nought!
'Tis worth a poet's seeing. Will you go?'
I made no answer. Had I any right
To weep with this man, that I dared to speak!
A woman stood between his soul and mine,
And waved us off from touching evermore
With those unclean white hands of hers. Enough.
We had burnt our viols and were silent.
The silence lengthened till it pressed. I spoke,
To breathe: 'I think you were ill afterward.'
'More ill,' he answered, 'had been scarcely ill.
I hoped this feeble fumbling at life's knot
Might end concisely,–but I failed to die,
As formerly I failed to live,–and thus
Grew willing, having tried all other ways,
To try just God's. Humility's so good,
When pride's impossible. Mark us, how we make
Our virtues, cousin, from our worn-out sins,
Which smack of them from henceforth. Is it right,
For instance, to wed here, while you love there?
And yet because a man sins once, the sin
Cleaves to him, in necessity to sin;
That if he sin not so, to damn himself,
He sins so, to damn others with himself:
And thus, to wed here, loving there, becomes
A duty. Virtue buds a dubious leaf
Round mortal brows; your ivy's better, dear.
–Yet she, 'tis certain, is my very wife;
The very lamb left mangled by the wolves
Through my own bad shepherding: and could I choose
But take her on my shoulder past this stretch
Of rough, uneasy wilderness, poor lamb,
Poor child, poor child?–Aurora, my beloved,
I will not vex you any more to-night;
But, having spoken what I came to say,
The rest shall please you. What she can, in me,–
Protection, tender liking, freedom, ease,
She shall have surely, liberally, for her
And hers, Aurora. Small amends they'll make
For hideous evils (which she had not known
Except by me) and for this imminent loss,
This forfeit presence of a gracious friend,
Which also she must forfeit for my sake,
Since, . . . drop your hand in mine a moment, sweet,
We're parting!–Ah, my snowdrop, what a touch,
As if the wind had swept it off! you grudge
Your gelid sweetness on my palm but so,
A moment? angry, that I could not bear
You . . speaking, breathing, living, side by side
With some one called my wife . . and live, myself?
Nay, be not cruel–you must understand!
Your lightest footfall on a floor of mine
Would shake the house, my lintel being uncrossed
'Gainst angels: henceforth it is night with me,
And so, henceforth, I put the shutters up;
Auroras must not come to spoil my dark.'
He smiled so feebly, with an empty hand
Stretched sideway from me,–as indeed he looked
To any one but me to give him help,–
And, while the moon came suddenly out full,
The double rose of our Italian moons,
Sufficient, plainly, for the heaven and earth,
(The stars, struck dumb and washed away in dews
Of golden glory, and the mountains steeped
In divine languor) he, the man, appeared
So pale and patient, like the marble man
A sculptor puts his personal sadness in
To join his grandeur of ideal thought,–
As if his mallet struck me from my height
Of passionate indignation, I who had risen
Pale,–doubting, paused, . . . . Was Romney mad indeed?
Had all this wrong of heart made sick the brain?
Then quiet, with a sort of tremulous pride,
'Go, cousin,' I said coldly. 'A farewell
Was sooner spoken 'twixt a pair of friends
In those old days, than seems to suit you now:
And if, since then, I've writ a book or two,
I'm somewhat dull still in the manly art
Of phrase and metaphrase. Why, any man
Can carve a score of white Loves out of snow,
As Buonarroti down in Florence there,
And set them on the wall in some safe shade,
As safe, sir, as your marriage! very good;
Though if a woman took one from the ledge
To put it on the table by her flowers,
And let it mind her of a certain friend,
'Twould drop at once, (so better,) would not bear
Her nail-mark even, where she took it up
A little tenderly; so best, I say:
For me, I would not touch so light a thing,
And risk to spoil it half an hour before
The sun shall shine to melt it; leave it there.
I'm plain at speech, direct in purpose: when
I speak, you'll take the meaning as it is,
And not allow for puckerings in the silks
By clever stitches. I'm a woman, sir,
And use the woman's figures naturally,
As you, the male license. So, I wish you well.
I'm simply sorry for the griefs you've had–
And not for your sake only, but mankind's.
This race is never grateful: from the first,
One fills their cup at supper with pure wine,
Which back they give at cross-time on a sponge,
In bitter vinegar.'
He murmured,–'by so much less pitiable!
God's self would never have come down to die,
Could man have thanked him for it.'
'Tis patent that, whatever,' I resumed,
'You suffered from this thanklessness of men,
You sink no more than Moses' bulrush-boat,
When once relieved of Moses; for you're light,
You're light, my cousin! which is well for you,
And manly. For myself,–now mark me, sir,
They burnt Leigh Hall; but if, consummated
To devils, heightened beyond Lucifers,
They had burnt instead a star or two, of those
We saw above there just a moment back,
Before the moon abolished them,–destroyed
And riddled them in ashes through a sieve
On the head of the foundering universe,–what then?
If you and I remained still you and I,
It would not shift our places as mere friends,
Nor render decent you should toss a phrase
Beyond the point of actual feeling!–nay
You shall not interrupt me: as you said,
We're parting. Certainly, not once or twice,
To-night you've mocked me somewhat, or yourself,
And I, at least, have not deserved it so
That I should meet it unsurprised. But now,
Enough: we're parting . . parting. Cousin Leigh,
I wish you well through all the acts of life
And life's relation, wedlock, not the least;
And it shall 'please me,' in your words, to know
You yield your wife, protection, freedom, ease,
And very tender liking. May you live
So happy with her, Romney, that your friends
May praise her for it. Meantime, some of us
Are wholly dull in keeping ignorant
Of what she has suffered by you, and what debt
Of sorrow your rich love sits down to pay:
But if 'tis sweet for love to pay its debt,
'Tis sweeter still for love to give its gift;
and you, be liberal in the sweeter way,–
You can, I think. At least, as touches me,
You owe her, cousin Romney, no amends;
She is not used to hold my gown so fast,
You need entreat her now to let it go:
The lady never was a friend of mine,
Nor capable,–I thought you knew as much,–
Of losing for your sake so poor a prize
As such a worthless friendship. Be content,
Good cousin, therefore, both for her and you!
I'll never spoil your dark, nor dull your noon,
Nor vex you when you're merry, nor when you rest:
You shall not need to put a shutter up
To keep out this Aurora. Ah, your north
Can make Auroras which vex nobody,
Scarce known from evenings! also, let me say,
My larks fly higher than some windows. Right;
You've read your Leighs. Indeed 'twould shake a house,
If such as I came in with outstretched hand,
Still warm and thrilling from the clasp of one . .
Of one we know, . . to acknowledge, palm to palm,
As mistress there . . the Lady Waldemar.'
'Now God be with us' . . with a sudden clash
Of voice he interrupted–'what name's that?
You spoke a name, Aurora.'
I would that, Romney, I could name your wife
Nor wound you, yet be worthy.'
'Are we mad?'
He echoed–'wife! mine! Lady Waldemar!
I think you said my wife.' He sprang to his feet,
And threw his noble head back toward the moon
As one who swims against a stormy sea,
And laughed with such a helpless, hopeless scorn,
I stood and trembled.
'May God judge me so,'
He said at last,–'I came convicted here,
And humbled sorely if not enough. I came,
Because this woman from her crystal soul
Had shown me something which a man calls light:
Because too, formerly, I sinned by her
As, then and ever since, I have, by God,
Through arrogance of nature,–though I loved . .
Whom best, I need not say, . . since that is writ
Too plainly in the book of my misdeeds;
And thus I came here to abase myself,
And fasten, kneeling, on her regent brows
A garland which I startled thence one day
Of her beautiful June-youth. But here again
I'm baffled!–fail in my abasement as
My aggrandisement: there's no room left for me,
At any woman's foot, who misconceives
My nature, purpose, possible actions. What!
Are you the Aurora who made large my dreams
To frame your greatness? you conceive so small?
You stand so less than woman, through being more,
And lose your natural instinct, like a beast,
Through intellectual culture? since indeed
I do not think that any common she
Would dare adopt such fancy-forgeries
For the legible life-signature of such
As I, with all my blots: with all my blots!
At last then, peerless cousin, we are peers–
At last we're even. Ah, you've left your height:
And here upon my level we take hands,
And here I reach you to forgive you, sweet,
And that's a fall, Aurora. Long ago
You seldom understood me,–but, before,
I could not blame you. Then you only seemed
So high above, you could not see below;
But now I breathe,–but now I pardon!–nay,
We're parting. Dearest, men have burnt my house,
Maligned my motives,–but not one, I swear,
Has wronged my soul as this Aurora has,
Who called the Lady Waldemar my wife.'
'Not married to her! yet you said' . .
Nay, read the lines' (he held a letter out)
'She sent you through me.'
By the moonlight there,
I tore the meaning out with passionate haste
Much rather than I read it. Thus it ran.
VIII. Dominus Hyacinthus de Archangelis, Pauperum Procurator
Ah, my Giacinto, he's no ruddy rogue,
Is not Cinone? What, to-day we're eight?
Seven and one's eight, I hope, old curly-pate!
—Branches me out his verb-tree on the slate,
Up to -aturus, person, tense, and mood,
Quies me cum subjunctivo (I could cry)
And chews Corderius with his morning crust!
Look eight years onward, and he's perched, he's perched
Dapper and deft on stool beside this chair,
Cinozzo, Cinoncello, who but he?
—Trying his milk-teeth on some crusty case
Like this, papa shall triturate full soon
To smooth Papinianian pulp!
Already through my head, though noon be now,
Does supper-time and what belongs to eve.
Dispose, O Don, o' the day, first work then play!
—The proverb bids. And "then" means, won't we hold
Our little yearly lovesome frolic feast,
Cinuolo's birth-night, Cinicello's own,
That makes gruff January grin perforce!
For too contagious grows the mirth, the warmth
Escaping from so many hearts at once—
When the good wife, buxom and bonny yet,
Jokes the hale grandsire,—such are just the sort
To go off suddenly,—he who hides the key
O' the box beneath his pillow every night,—
Which box may hold a parchment (someone thinks)
Will show a scribbled something like a name
"Cinino, Ciniccino," near the end,
"To whom I give and I bequeath my lands,
"Estates, tenements, hereditaments,
"When I decease as honest grandsire ought."
Wherefore—yet this one time again perhaps—
Shan't my Orvieto fuddle his old nose!
Then, uncles, one or the other, well i' the world,
May—drop in, merely?—trudge through rain and wind,
Rather! The smell-feasts rouse them at the hint
There's cookery in a certain dwelling-place!
Gossips, too, each with keepsake in his poke,
Will pick the way, thrid lane by lantern-light,
And so find door, put galligaskin off
At entry of a decent domicile
Cornered in snug Condotti,—all for love,
All to crush cup with Cinucciatolo!
Let others climb the heights o' the court, the camp!
How vain are chambering and wantonness,
Revel and rout and pleasures that make mad!
Commend me to home-joy, the family board,
Altar and hearth! These, with a brisk career,
A source of honest profit and good fame,
Just so much work as keeps the brain from rust,
Just so much play as lets the heart expand,
Honouring God and serving man,—I say,
These are reality, and all else,—fluff,
Nutshell and naught,—thank Flaccus for the phrase!
Suppose I had been Fisc, yet bachelor!
Why, work with a will, then! Wherefore lazy now?
Turn up the hour-glass, whence no sand-grain slips
But should have done its duty to the saint
O' the day, the son and heir that's eight years old!
Let law come dimple Cinoncino's cheek,
And Latin dumple Cinarello's chin,
The while we spread him fine and toss him flat
This pulp that makes the pancake, trim our mass
Of matter into Argument the First,
Prime Pleading in defence of our accused,
Which, once a-waft on paper wing, shall soar,
Shall signalize before applausive Rome
What study, and mayhap some mother-wit,
Can do toward making Master fop and Fisc
Old bachelor Bottinius bite his thumb.
Now, how good God is! How falls plumb to point
This murder, gives me Guido to defend
Now, of all days i' the year, just when the boy
Verges on Virgil, reaches the right age
For some such illustration from his sire,
Stimulus to himself! One might wait years
And never find the chance which now finds me!
The fact is, there's a blessing on the hearth,
A special providence for fatherhood!
Here's a man, and what's more, a noble, kills
—Not sneakingly but almost with parade—
Wife's father and wife's mother and wife's self
That's mother's self of son and heir (like mine!)
—And here stand I, the favoured advocate,
Who pluck this flower o' the field, no Solomon
Was ever clothed in glorious gold to match,
And set the same in Cinoncino's cap!
I defend Guido and his comrades—I!
Pray God, I keep me humble: not to me—
Non nobis, Domine, sed tibi laus!
How the fop chuckled when they made him Fisc!
We'll beat you, my Bottinius, all for love,
All for our tribute to Cinotto's day.
Why, 'sbuddikins, old Innocent himself
May rub his eyes at the bustle,—ask "What's this
"Rolling from out the rostrum, as a gust
"O' the Pro Milone had been prisoned there,
"And rattled Rome awake?" Awaken Rome,
How can the Pope doze on in decency?
He needs must wake up also, speak his word,
Have his opinion like the rest of Rome,
About this huge, this hurly-burly case:
He wants who can excogitate the truth,
Give the result in speech, plain black and white,
To mumble in the mouth and make his own
—A little changed, good man, a little changed!
No matter, so his gratitude be moved,
By when my Giacintino gets of age,
Mindful of who thus helped him at a pinch,
Archangelus Procurator Pauperum—
And proved Hortensius Redivivus!
To earn the Est-est, merit the minced herb
That mollifies the liver's leathery slice,
With here a goose-foot, there a cock's-comb stuck,
Cemented in an element of cheese!
I doubt if dainties do the grandsire good:
Last June he had a sort of strangling … bah!
He's his own master, and his will is made.
So, liver fizz, law flit and Latin fly
As we rub hands o'er dish by way of grace!
May I lose cause if I vent one word more
Except,—with fresh-cut quill we ink the white,—
P-r-o-pro Guidone et Sociis. There!
Count Guido married—or, in Latin due,
What? Duxit in uxorem?—commonplace!
Toedas jugales iniit, subiit,—ha!
He underwent the matrimonial torch?
Connubio stabili sibi junxit,—hum!
In stable bond of marriage bound his own?
That's clear of any modern taint: and yet …
Virgil is little help to who writes prose.
He shall attack me Terence with the dawn,
Shall Cinuccino! Mum, mind business, Sir!
Thus circumstantially evolve we facts,
Ita se habet ideo series facti:
He wedded,—ah, with owls for augury!
Nupserat, heu sinistris avibus,
One of the blood Arezzo boasts her best,
Dominus Guido, nobili genere ortus,
But the version afterward!
Curb we this ardour! Notes alone, to-day,
The speech to-morrow and the Latin last:
Such was the rule in Farinacci's time.
Indeed I hitched it into verse and good.
Unluckily, law quite absorbs a man,
Or else I think I too had poetized.
"Law is the pork substratum of the fry,
"Goose-foot and cock's-comb are Latinity,"—
And in this case, if circumstance assist,
We'll garnish law with idiom, never fear!
Out-of-the-way events extend our scope:
For instance, when Bottini brings his charge,
"That letter which you say Pompilia wrote,—
"To criminate her parents and herself
"And disengage her husband from the coil,—
"That, Guido Franceschini wrote, say we:
"Because Pompilia could nor read nor write,
"Therefore he pencilled her such letter first,
"Then made her trace in ink the same again."
—Ha, my Bottini, have I thee on hip?
How will he turn this and break Tully's pate?
"Existimandum" (don't I hear the dog!)
"Quod Guido designaverit elementa
"Dictoe epistoloe, quoe fuerint
"(Superinducto ab ea calamo)
"Notata atramento"—there's a style!—
"Quia ipsa scribere nesciebat" Boh!
Now, my turn! Either, Insulse! (I outburst)
Stupidly put! Inane is the response,
Inanis est responsio, or the like—
To-wit, that each of all those characters,
Quod singula elementa epistoloe,
Had first of all been traced for her by him,
Fuerant per eum prius designata,
And then, the ink applied a-top of that,
Et deinde, superinducto calamo,
The piece, she says, became her handiwork,
Per eam, efformata, ut ipsa asserit.
Inane were such response! (a second time:)
Her husband outlined her the whole, forsooth?
Vir ejus lineabat epistolam?
What, she confesses that she wrote the thing,
Fatetur eam scripsisse, (scorn that scathes!)
That she might pay obedience to her lord?
Ut viro obtemperaret, apices
(Here repeat charge with proper varied phrase)
Eo designante, ipsaque calamum
Super inducente? By such argument,
Ita pariter, she seeks to show the same,
(Ay, by Saint Joseph and what saints you please)
Epistolam ostendit, medius fidius,
No voluntary deed but fruit of force!
Non voluntarie sed coacte scriptam!
That's the way to write Latin, friend my Fisc!
Bottini is a beast, one barbarous:
Look out for him when he attempts to say
"Armed with a pistol, Guido followed her!"
Will not I be beforehand with my Fisc,
Cut away phrase by phrase from underfoot!
Guido Pompiliam—Guido thus his wife
Following with igneous engine, shall I have?
Armis munitus igneis persequens—
Arma sulphurea gestans, sulphury arms,
Or, might one style a pistol—popping-piece?
Armatus breviori sclopulo?
We'll let him have been armed so, though it make
Somewhat against us: I had thought to own—
Provided with a simple travelling-sword,
Ense solummodo viatorio
Instructus: but we'll grant the pistol here:
Better we lost the cause than lacked the gird
At the Fisc's Latin, lost the Judge's laugh!
It's Venturini that decides for style.
Tommati rather goes upon the law.
So, as to law,—
Ah, but with law ne'er hope
To level the fellow,—don't I know his trick!
How he draws up, ducks under, twists aside!
He's a lean-gutted hectic rascal, fine
As pale-haired red-eyed ferret which pretends
'T is ermine, pure soft snow from tail to snout.
He eludes law by piteous looks aloft,
Lets Latin glance off as he makes appeal
To saint that's somewhere in the ceiling-top:
Do you suppose I don't conceive the beast?
Plague of the ermine-vermin! For it takes,
It takes, and here's the fellow Fisc, you see,
And Judge, you'll not be long in seeing next!
Confound the fop—he's now at work like me:
Enter his study, as I seem to do,
Hear him read out his writing to himself!
I know he writes as if he spoke: I hear
The hoarse shrill throat, see shut eyes, neck shot-forth,
—I see him strain on tiptoe, soar and pour
Eloquence out, nor stay nor stint at all—
Perorate in the air, then quick to press
With the product! What abuse of type and sheet!
He'll keep clear of my cast, my logic-throw,
Let argument slide, and then deliver swift
Some bowl from quite an unguessed point of stand—
Having the luck o' the last word, the reply!
A plaguy cast, a mortifying stroke:
You face a fellow—cries "So, there you stand?
"But I discourteous jump clean o'er your head!
"You take ship-carpentry for pilotage,
"Stop rat-holes, while a sea sweeps through the breach,—
"Hammer and fortify at puny points?
"Do, clamp and tenon, make all tight and safe!
"'T is here and here and here you ship a sea,
"No good of your stopped leaks and littleness!"
Yet what do I name "little and a leak"?
The main defence o' the murder's used to death,
By this time, dry bare bones, no scrap we pick:
Safer I worked the new, the unforeseen,
The nice by-stroke, the fine and improvised
Point that can titillate the brain o' the Bench
Torpid with over-teaching, long ago!
As if Tommati (that has heard, reheard
And heard again, first this side and then that—
Guido and Pietro, Pietro and Guido, din
And deafen, full three years, at each long ear)
Don't want amusement for instruction now,
Won't rather feel a flea run o'er his ribs,
Than a daw settle heavily on his head!
Oh I was young and had the trick of fence,
Knew subtle pass and push with careless right—
My left arm ever quiet behind back,
With dagger ready: not both hands to blade!
Puff and blow, put the strength out, Blunderbore!
There's my subordinate, young Spreti, now,
Pedant and prig,—he'll pant away at proof,
That's his way!
Now for mine—to rub some life
Into one's choppy fingers this cold day!
I trust Cinuzzo ties on tippet, guards
The precious throat on which so much depends!
Guido must be all goose-flesh in his hole,
Despite the prison-straw: bad Carnival
For captives! no sliced fry for him, poor Count!
The town a-swarm with strangers to amuse,
To edify, to give one's name and fame
In charge of, till they find, some future day,
Cintino come and claim it, his name too,
Pledge of the pleasantness they owe papa—
Who else was it cured Rome of her great qualms,
When she must needs have her own judgment?—ay,
When all her topping wits had set to work,
Pronounced already on the case: mere boys,
Twice Cineruggiolo's age with half his sense,
As good as tell me, when I cross the court,
"Master Arcangeli!" (plucking at my gown)
"We can predict, we comprehend your play,
"We'll help you save your client." Tra-la-la!
I've travelled ground, from childhood to this hour,
To have the town anticipate my track?
The old fox takes the plain and velvet path,
The young hound's predilection,—prints the dew,
Don't he, to suit their pulpy pads of paw?
No! Burying nose deep down i' the briery bush,
Thus I defend Count Guido.
Where are we weak?
First, which is foremost in advantage too,
Our murder,—we call, killing,—is a fact
Confessed, defended, made a boast of: good!
To think the Fisc claimed use of torture here,
And got thereby avowal plump and plain
That gives me just the chance I wanted,—scope
Not for brute-force but ingenuity,
Explaining matters, not denying them!
One may dispute,—as I am bound to do,
And shall,—validity of process here:
Inasmuch as a noble is exempt
From torture which plebeians undergo
In such a case: for law is lenient, lax,
Remits the torture to a nobleman
Unless suspicion be of twice the strength
Attaches to a man born vulgarly:
We don't card silk with comb that dresses wool.
Moreover 't was severity undue
In this case, even had the lord been lout.
What utters, on this head, our oracle,
Our Farinacci, my Gamaliel erst,
In those immortal "Questions"? This I quote:
"Of all the tools at Law's disposal, sure
"That named Vigiliarum is the best—
"That is, the worst—to whoso needs must bear:
"Lasting, as it may do, from some seven hours
"To ten; (beyond ten, we've no precedent;
"Certain have touched their ten, but, bah, they died!)
"It does so efficaciously convince,
"That,—speaking by much observation here,—
"Out of each hundred cases, by my count,
"Never I knew of patients beyond four
"Withstand its taste, or less than ninety-six
"End by succumbing: only martyrs four,
"Of obstinate silence, guilty or no,—against
"Ninety-six full confessors, innocent
"Or otherwise,—so shrewd a tool have we!"
No marvel either: in unwary hands,
Death on the spot is no rare consequence:
As indeed all but happened in this case
To one of ourselves, our young tough peasant-friend
The accomplice called Baldeschi: they were rough,
Dosed him with torture as you drench a horse,
Not modify your treatment to a man:
So, two successive days he fainted dead,
And only on the third essay, gave up,
Confessed like flesh and blood. We could reclaim,—
Blockhead Bottini giving cause enough!
But no,—we'll take it as spontaneously
Confessed: we'll have the murder beyond doubt.
Ah, fortunate (the poet's word reversed)
Inasmuch as we know our happiness!
Had the antagonist left dubiety,
Here were we proving murder a mere myth,
And Guido innocent, ignorant, absent,—ay,
Absent! He was—why, where should Christian be?—
Engaged in visiting his proper church,
The duty of us all at Christmas-time,
When Caponsacchi, the seducer, stung
To madness by his relegation, cast
About him and contrived a remedy
In murder: since opprobrium broke afresh,
By birth o' the babe, on him the imputed sire,
He it was quietly sought to smother up
His shame and theirs together,—killed the three,
And fled—(go seek him where you please to search)—
Just at the time when Guido, touched by grace,
Devotions ended, hastened to the spot,
Meaning to pardon his convicted wife,
"Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace!"—
And thus arrived i' the nick of time to catch
The charge o' the killing, though great-heartedly
He came but to forgive and bring to life.
Doubt ye the force of Christmas on the soul?
"Is thine eye evil because mine is good?"
So, doubtless, had I needed argue here
But for the full confession round and sound!
Thus might you wrong some kingly alchemist,—
Whose concern should not be with showing brass
Transmuted into gold, but triumphing,
Rather, about his gold changed out of brass,
Not vulgarly to the mere sight and touch,
But in the idea, the spiritual display,
The apparition buoyed by winged words
Hovering above its birth-place in the brain,—
Thus would you wrong this excellent personage
Forced, by the gross need, to gird apron round,
Plant forge, light fire, ply bellows,—in a word,
Demonstrate: when a faulty pipkin's crack
May disconcert you his presumptive truth!
Here were I hanging to the testimony
Of one of these poor rustics—four, ye gods!
Whom the first taste of friend the Fiscal's cord
May drive into undoing my whole speech,
Undoing, on his birthday,—what is worse,—
My son and heir!
I wonder, all the same,
Not so much at those peasants' lack of heart;
But—Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
Bear pain no better! Everybody knows
It used once, when my father was a boy,
To form a proper, nay, important point
I' the education of our well-born youth,
That they took torture handsomely at need,
Without confessing in this clownish guise.
Each noble had his rack for private use,
And would, for the diversion of a guest,
Bid it be set up in the yard of arms,
And take thereon his hour of exercise,—
Command the varletry stretch, strain their best,
While friends looked on, admired my lord could smile
'Mid tugging which had caused an ox to roar.
Men are no longer men!
No longer Farinacci, let us add,
If I one more time fly from point proposed!
So, Vindicatio,—here begins the speech!—
Honoris causa; thus we make our stand:
Honour in us had injury, we prove.
Or if we fail to prove such injury
More than misprision of the fact,—what then?
It is enough, authorities declare,
If the result, the deed in question now,
Be caused by confidence that injury
Is veritable and no figment: since,
What, though proved fancy afterward, seemed fact
At the time, they argue shall excuse result.
That which we do, persuaded of good cause
For what we do, hold justifiable!—
So casuists bid: man, bound to do his best,
They would not have him leave that best undone
And mean to do his worst,—though fuller light
Show best was worst and worst would have been best.
Act by the present light!—they ask of man.
Ultra quod hic non agitur, besides
It is not anyway our business here,
De probatione adulterii,
To prove what we thought crime was crime indeed,
Ad irrogandam poenam, and require
Its punishment: such nowise do we seek:
Sed ad effectum, but 't is our concern,
Excusandi, here to simply find excuse,
Occisorem, for who did the killing-work,
Et ad illius defensionem, (mark
The difference) and defend the man, just that!
Quo casu levior probatio
Exuberaret, to which end far lighter proof
Suffices than the prior case would claim:
It should be always harder to convict,
In short, than to establish innocence.
Therefore we shall demonstrate first of all
That Honour is a gift of God to man
Precious beyond compare: which natural sense
Of human rectitude and purity,—
Which white, man's soul is born with,—brooks no touch:
Therefore, the sensitivest spot of all,
Wounded by any wafture breathed from black,
Is,—honour within honour, like the eye
Centred i' the ball,—the honour of our wife.
Touch us o' the pupil of our honour, then,
Not actually,—since so you slay outright,—
But by a gesture simulating touch,
Presumable mere menace of such taint,—
This were our warrant for eruptive ire
"To whose dominion I impose no end."
(Virgil, now, should not be too difficult
To Cinoncino,—say, the early books.
Pen, truce to further gambols! Poscimur!)
Nor can revenge of injury done here
To the honour proved the life and soul of us,
Be too excessive, too extravagant:
Such wrong seeks and must have complete revenge.
Show we this, first, on the mere natural ground:
Begin at the beginning, and proceed
In an apt sentence Cassiodorus cites,
Propounds for basis of all household law—
I hardly recollect it, but it ends,
"Bird mates with bird, beast genders with his like,
"And brooks no interference." Bird and beast?
The very insects … if they wive or no,
How dare I say when Aristotle doubts?
But the presumption is they likewise wive,
At least the nobler sorts; for take the bee
As instance,—copying King Solomon,—
Why that displeasure of the bee to aught
Which savours of incontinency, makes
The unchaste a very horror to the hive?
Whence comes it bees obtain their epithet
Of castoe apes, notably "the chaste"?
Because, ingeniously saith Scaliger,
(The young sage,—see his book of Table-talk)
"Such is their hatred of immodest act,
"They fall upon the offender, sting to death."
I mind a passage much confirmative
I' the Idyllist (though I read him Latinized)
"Why" asks a shepherd, "is this bank unfit
"For celebration of our vernal loves?"
"Oh swain," returns the instructed shepherdess,
"Bees swarm here, and would quick resent our warmth!"
Only cold-blooded fish lack instinct here,
Nor gain nor guard connubiality:
But beasts, quadrupedal, mammiferous,
Do credit to their beasthood: witness him
That Ælian cites, the noble elephant,
(Or if not Ælian, somebody as sage)
Who seeing, much offence beneath his nose,
His master's friend exceed in courtesy
The due allowance to his master's wife,
Taught them good manners and killed both at once,
Making his master and the world admire.
Indubitably, then, that master's self,
Favoured by circumstance, had done the same
Or else stood clear rebuked by his own beast.
Adeo, ut qui honorem spernit, thus,
Who values his own honour not a straw,—
Et non recuperare curat, nor
Labours by might and main to salve its wound,
Se ulciscendo, by revenging him,
Nil differat a belluis, is a brute,
Ipsismet belluis, nay, contrariwise,
Much more irrational than brutes themselves,
Should be considered, reputetur! How?
If a poor animal feel honour smart,
Taught by blind instinct nature plants in him,
Shall man,—confessed creation's master-stroke,
Nay, intellectual glory, nay, a god,
Nay, of the nature of my Judges here,—
Shall man prove the insensible, the block,
The blot o' the earth he crawls on to disgrace?
(Come, that's both solid and poetic!) Man
Derogate, live for the low tastes alone,
Mean creeping cares about the animal life?
Absit such homage to vile flesh and blood!
(May Gigia have remembered, nothing stings
Fried liver out of its monotony
Of richness, like a root of fennel, chopped
Fine with the parsley: parsley-sprigs, I said—
Was there need I should say "and fennel too"?
But no, she cannot have been so obtuse!
To our argument! The fennel will be chopped.)
From beast to man next mount we—ay, but, mind,
Still mere man, not yet Christian,—that, in time!
Not too fast, mark you! 'T is on Heathen grounds
We next defend our act: then, fairly urge—
If this were done of old, in a green tree,
Allowed in the Spring rawness of our kind,
What may be licensed in the Autumn dry
And ripe, the latter harvest-tide of man?
If, with his poor and primitive half-lights,
The Pagan, whom our devils served for gods,
Could stigmatise the breach of marriage-vow
As that which blood, blood only might efface,—
Absolve the husband, outraged, whose revenge
Anticipated law, plied sword himself,—
How with the Christian in full blaze of noon?
Shall not he rather double penalty,
Multiply vengeance, than, degenerate,
Let privilege be minished, droop, decay?
Therefore set forth at large the ancient law!
Superabundant the examples be
To pick and choose from. The Athenian Code,
Solon's, the name is serviceable,—then,
The Laws of the Twelve Tables, that fifteenth,—
"Romulus" likewise rolls out round and large
The Julian; the Cornelian; Gracchus' Law:
So old a chime, the bells ring of themselves!
Spreti can set that going if he please,
I point you, for my part, the belfry plain,
Intent to rise from dusk, diluculum,
Into the Christian day shall broaden next.
First, the fit compliment to His Holiness
Happily reigning: then sustain the point—
All that was long ago declared as law
By the natural revelation, stands confirmed
By Apostle and Evangelist and Saint,—
To-wit—that Honour is man's supreme good.
Why should I baulk Saint Jerome of his phrase?
Ubi honor non est, where no honour is,
Ibi contemptus est; and where contempt,
Ibi injuria frequens; and where that,
The frequent injury, ibi et indignatio;
And where the indignation, ibi quies
Nulla: and where there is no quietude
Why, ibi, there, the mind is often cast
Down from the heights where it proposed to dwell,
Mens a proposito soepe dejicitur.
And naturally the mind is so cast down,
Since harder't is, quum difficilius sit,
Iram cohibere, to coerce one's wrath,
Quam miracula facere, than work miracles,—
So Gregory smiles in his First Dialogue.
Whence we infer, the ingenuous soul, the man
Who makes esteem of honour and repute,
Whenever honour and repute are touched,
Arrives at term of fury and despair,
Loses all guidance from the reason-check:
As in delirium or a frenzy-fit,
Nor fury nor despair he satiates,—no,
Not even if he attain the impossible,
O'erturn the hinges of the universe
To annihilate—not whoso caused the smart
Solely, the author simply of his pain,
But the place, the memory, vituperii,
O' the shame and scorn: quia,—says Solomon,
(The Holy Spirit speaking by his mouth
In Proverbs, the sixth chapter near the end)
—Because, the zeal and fury of a man,
Zelus et furor viri, will not spare,
Non parcet, in the day of his revenge,
In die vindictoe, nor will acquiesce,
Nec acquiescet, through a person's prayers,
Cujusdam precibus,—nec suscipiet,
Nor yet take, pro redemptione, for
Redemption, dona plurium, gifts of friends,
Mere money-payment to compound for ache.
Who recognizes not my client's case?
Whereto, as strangely consentaneous here,
Adduce Saint Bernard in the Epistle writ
To Robertulus, his nephew: "Too much grief,
"Dolor quippe nimius non deliberat,
"Does not excogitate propriety,
"Non verecundatur, nor knows shame at all,
"Non consulit rationem, nor consults
"Reason, non dignitatis metuit
"Damnum, nor dreads the loss of dignity;
"Modum et ordinem, order and the mode,
"Ignorat, it ignores:" why, trait for trait,
Was ever portrait limned so like the life?
(By Cavalier Maratta, shall I say?
I hear he's first in reputation now.)
Yes, that of Samson in the Sacred Text
That's not so much the portrait as the man!
Samson in Gaza was the antetype
Of Guido at Rome: observe the Nazarite!
Blinded he was,—an easy thing to bear:
Intrepidly he took imprisonment,
Gyves, stripes and daily labour at the mill:
But when he found himself, i' the public place,
Destined to make the common people sport,
Disdain burned up with such an impetus
I' the breast of him that, all the man one fire,
Moriatur, roared he, let my soul's self die,
Anima mea, with the Philistines!
So, pulled down pillar, roof, and death and all,
Multosque plures interfecit, ay,
And many more he killed thus, moriens,
Dying, quam vivus, than in his whole life,
Occiderat, he ever killed before.
Are these things writ for no example, Sirs?
One instance more, and let me see who doubts!
Our Lord Himself, made all of mansuetude,
Sealing the sum of sufferance up, received
Opprobrium, contumely and buffeting
Without complaint: but when He found Himself
Touched in His honour never so little for once,
Then outbroke indignation pent before—
"Honorem meum nemini dabo!" "No,
"My honour I to nobody will give!"
And certainly the example so hath wrought,
That whosoever, at the proper worth,
Apprises worldly honour and repute,
Esteems it nobler to die honoured man
Beneath Mannaia, than live centuries
Disgraced in the eye o' the world. We find Saint Paul
No recreant to this faith delivered once:
"Far worthier were it that I died," cries he,
Expedit mihi magis mori, "than
"That anyone should make my glory void,"
Quam ut gloriam meam quis evacuet!
See, ad Corinthienses: whereupon
Saint Ambrose makes a comment with much fruit,
Doubtless my Judges long since laid to heart,
So I desist from bringing forward here.
(I can't quite recollect it.)
Have I proved
Satis superque, both enough and to spare,
That Revelation old and new admits
The natural man may effervesce in ire,
O'erflood earth, o'erfroth heaven with foamy rage,
At the first puncture to his self-respect?
Then, Sirs, this Christian dogma, this law-bud
Full-blown now, soon to bask the absolute flower
Of Papal doctrine in our blaze of day,—
Bethink you, shall we miss one promise-streak,
One doubtful birth of dawn crepuscular,
One dew-drop comfort to humanity,
Now that the chalice teems with noonday wine?
Yea, argue Molinists who bar revenge—
Referring just to what makes out our case!
Under old dispensation, argue they,
The doom of the adulterous wife was death,
Stoning by Moses' law. "Nay, stone her not,
"Put her away!" next legislates our Lord;
And last of all, "Nor yet divorce a wife!"
Ordains the Church, "she typifies ourself,
The Bride no fault shall cause to fall from Christ."
Then, as no jot nor tittle of the Law
Has passed away—which who presumes to doubt?
As not one word of Christ is rendered vain—
Which, could it be though heaven and earth should pass?
—Where do I find my proper punishment
For my adulterous wife, I humbly ask
Of my infallible Pope,—who now remits
Even the divorce allowed by Christ in lieu
Of lapidation Moses licensed me?
The Gospel checks the Law which throws the stone,
The Church tears the divorce-bill Gospel grants:
Shall wives sin and enjoy impunity?
What profits me the fulness of the days,
The final dispensation, I demand,
Unless Law, Gospel and the Church subjoin
"But who hath barred thee primitive revenge,
"Which, like fire damped and dammed up, burns more fierce?
"Use thou thy natural privilege of man,
"Else wert thou found like those old ingrate Jews,
"Despite the manna-banquet on the board,
"A-longing after melons, cucumbers,
"And such like trash of Egypt left behind!"
(There was one melon had improved our soup:
But did not Cinoncino need the rind
To make a boat with? So I seem to think.)
Law, Gospel and the Church—from these we leap
To the very last revealment, easy rule
Befitting the well-born and thorough-bred
O' the happy day we live in, not the dark
O' the early rude and acorn-eating race.
"Behold," quoth James, "we bridle in a horse
"And turn his body as we would thereby!"
Yea, but we change the bit to suit the growth,
And rasp our colt's jaw with a rugged spike
We hasten to remit our managed steed
Who wheels round at persuasion of a touch.
Civilization bows to decency,
The acknowledged use and wont: 't is manners,—mild
But yet imperative law,—which make the man.
Thus do we pay the proper compliment
To rank, and that society of Rome,
Hath so obliged us by its interest,
Taken our client's part instinctively,
As unaware defending its own cause.
What dictum doth Society lay down
I' the case of one who hath a faithless wife?
Wherewithal should the husband cleanse his way?
Be patient and forgive? Oh, language fails,—
Shrinks from depicturing his turpitude!
For if wronged husband raise not hue and cry,
Quod si maritus de adulterio non
Conquereretur, he's presumed a—foh!
Presumitur leno: so, complain he must.
But how complain? At your tribunal, lords?
Far weightier challenge suits your sense, I wot!
You sit not to have gentlemen propose
Questions gentility can itself discuss.
Did not you prove that to our brother Paul?
The Abate, quum judicialiter
Prosequeretur, when he tried the law,
Guidonis causam, in Count Guido's case,
Accidit ipsi, this befell himself,
Quod risum moverit et cachinnos, that
He moved to mirth and cachinnation, all
Or nearly all, fere in omnibus
Etiam sensatis et cordatis, men
Strong-sensed, sound-hearted, nay, the very Court,
Ipsismet in judicibus, I might add,
Non tamen dicam. In a cause like this,
So multiplied were reasons pro and con,
Delicate, intertwisted and obscure,
That Law refused loan of a finger-tip
To unravel, re-adjust the hopeless twine,
Since, half-a-dozen steps outside Law's seat,
There stood a foolish trifler with a tool
A-dangle to no purpose by his side,
Had clearly cut the embroilment in a trice.
Asserunt enim unanimiter
Doctores, for the Doctors all assert,
That husbands, quod mariti, must be held
Viles, cornuti reputantur, vile,
Fronts branching forth a florid infamy,
Si propriis manibus, if with their own hands,
Non sumunt, they fail straight to take revenge,
Vindictam, but expect the deed be done
By the Court—expectant illam fieri
Per judices, qui summopere rident, which
Gives an enormous guffaw for reply,
Et cachinnantur. For he ran away,
Deliquit enim, just that he might 'scape
The censure of both counsellors and crowd,
Ut vulgi et doctorum evitaret
Censuram, and lest so he superadd
To loss of honour ignominy too,
Et sic ne istam quoque ignominiam
Amisso honori superadderet.
My lords, my lords, the inconsiderate step
Was—we referred ourselves to Law at all!
Twit me not with "Law else had punished you!"
Each punishment of the extra-legal step,
To which the high-born preferably revert,
Is ever for some oversight, some slip
I' the taking vengeance, not for vengeance' self.
A good thing, done unhandsomely, turns ill;
And never yet lacked ill the law's rebuke.
For pregnant instance, let us contemplate
The luck of Leonardus,—see at large
Of Sicily's Decisions sixty-first.
This Leonard finds his wife is false: what then?
He makes her own son snare her, and entice
Out of the town walls to a private walk
Wherein he slays her with commodity.
They find her body half-devoured by dogs:
Leonard is tried, convicted, punished, sent
To labour in the galleys seven years long:
Why? For the murder? Nay, but for the mode!
Malus modus occidendi, ruled the Court,
An ugly mode of killing, nothing more!
Another fructuous sample,—see "De Re
"Criminali," in Matthæus' divine piece.
Another husband, in no better plight,
Simulates absence, thereby tempts his wife;
On whom he falls, out of sly ambuscade,
Backed by a brother of his, and both of them
Armed to the teeth with arms that law had blamed.
Nimis dolose, overwilily,
Fuisse operatum, did they work,
Pronounced the law: had all been fairly done
Law had not found him worthy, as she did,
Of four years' exile. Why cite more? Enough
Is good as a feast—(unless a birthday-feast
For one's Cinuccio) so, we finish here.
My lords, we rather need defend ourselves
Inasmuch as, for a twinkling of an eye,
We hesitatingly appealed to law,—
Than need deny that, on mature advice,
We blushingly bethought us, bade revenge
Back to its simple proper private way
Of decent self-dealt gentlemanly death.
Judges, here is the law, and here beside,
The testimony! Look to it!
Pause and breathe!
So far is only too plain; we must watch:
Bottini will scarce hazard an attack
Here: best anticipate the fellow's play,
And guard the weaker places—warily ask,
What if considerations of a sort,
Reasons of a kind, arise from out the strange
Peculiar unforeseen new circumstance
Of this our (candour owns) abnormal act,
To bar the right of us revenging so?
"Impunity were otherwise your meed:
"Go slay your wife and welcome,"—may be urged,—
"But why the innocent old couple slay,
"Pietro, Violante? You may do enough,
"Not too much, not exceed the golden mean:
"Neither brute-beast nor Pagan, Gentile, Jew,
"Nor Christian, no nor votarist of the mode,
"Is justified to push revenge so far."
No, indeed? Why, thou very sciolist!
The actual wrong, Pompilia seemed to do,
Was virtual wrong done by the parents here—
Imposing her upon us as their child—
Themselves allow: then, her fault was their fault,
Her punishment be theirs accordingly!
But wait a little, sneak not off so soon!
Was this cheat solely harm to Guido, pray?
The precious couple you call innocent,—
Why, they were felons that Law failed to clutch,
Qui ut fraudarent, who that they might rob,
Legitime vocatos, folk law called,
Ad fidei commissum, true heirs to the Trust,
Partum supposuerunt, feigned this birth,
Immemores reos factos esse, blind
To the fact that, guilty, they incurred thereby,
Ultimi supplicii, hanging or what's worse.
Do you blame us that we turn Law's instruments,
Not mere self-seekers,—mind the public weal,
Nor make the private good our sole concern?
That having—shall I say—secured a thief,
Not simply we recover from his pouch
The stolen article our property,
But also pounce upon our neighbour's purse
We opportunely find reposing there,
And do him justice while we right ourselves?
He owes us, for our part, a drubbing say,
But owes our neighbour just a dance i' the air
Under the gallows: so, we throttle him.
That neighbour's Law, that couple are the Thief,
We are the over ready to help Law—
Zeal of her house hath eaten us up: for which,
Can it be, Law intends to eat up us,
Crudum Priamum, devour poor Priam raw,
('T was Jupiter's own joke) with babes to boot,
Priamique pisinnos, in Homeric phrase?
Shame!—and so ends my period prettily.
But even,—prove the pair not culpable,
Free as unborn babe from connivance at,
Participation in, their daughter's fault:
Ours the mistake. Is that a rare event?
Non semel, it is anything but rare,
In contingentia facti, that by chance,
Impunes evaserunt, go scot-free,
Qui, such well-meaning people as ourselves,
Justo dolore moti, who aggrieved
With cause, apposuerunt manus, lay
Rough hands, in innocentes, on wrong heads.
Cite we an illustrative case in point:
Mulier Smirnea quoedam, good my lords,
A gentlewoman lived in Smyrna once,
Virum et filium ex eo conceptum, who
Both husband and her son begot by him
Killed, interfecerat, ex quo, because,
Vir filium suum perdiderat, her spouse
Had been beforehand with her, killed her son,
Matrimonii primi, of a previous bed.
Deinde accusata, then accused,
Apud Dolabellam, before him that sat
Proconsul, nec duabus coedibus
Contaminatam liberare, nor
To liberate a woman doubly-dyed
With murder, voluit, made he up his mind,
Nec condeminare, nor to doom to death,
Justo dolore impulsam, one impelled
By just grief; sed remisit, but sent her up
Ad Areopagum, to the Hill of Mars,
Coetum, to that assembly of the sage
Paralleled only by my judges here;
Ubi, cognito de causa, where, the cause
Well weighed, responsum est, they gave reply,
Ut ipsa et accusator, that both sides
O' the suit, redirent, should come back again,
Post centum annos, after a hundred years,
For judgment; et sic, by which sage decree,
Duplici parricidio rea, one
Convicted of a double parricide,
Quamvis etiam innocentem, though in truth
Out of the pair, one innocent at least
She, occidisset, plainly had put to death,
Undequaque, yet she altogether 'scaped,
Evasit impunis. See the case at length
In Valerius, fittingly styled Maximus,
That eighth book of his Memorable Facts.
Nor Cyriacus cities beside the mark:
Similiter uxor quoe mandaverat,
Just so, a lady who had taken care,
Homicidium viri, that her lord be killed,
Ex denegatione debiti,
For denegation of a certain debt,
Matrimonialis, he was loth to pay,
Fuit pecuniaria mulcta, was
Amerced in a pecuniary mulct,
Punita, et ad poenam, and to pains,
Temporalem, for a certain space of time,
In monasterio, in a convent.
In monasterio! He mismanages
In with the ablative, the accusative!
I had hoped to have hitched the villain into verse
For a gift, this very day, a complete list
O' the prepositions each with proper case,
Telling a story, long was in my head.
"What prepositions take the accusative?
Ad to or at—who saw the cat?—down to
Ob, for, because of, keep her claws off!" Tush!
Law in a man takes the whole liberty:
The muse is fettered: just as Ovid found!)
And now, sea widens and the coast is clear.
What of the dubious act you bade excuse?
Surely things broaden, brighten, till at length
Remains—so far from act that needs defence—
Apology to make for act delayed
One minute, let alone eight mortal months
Of hesitation! "Why procrastinate?"
(Out with it my Bottinius, ease thyself!)
"Right, promptly done, is twice right: right delayed
"Turns wrong. We grant you should have killed your wife,
"But killed o' the moment, at the meeting her
"In company with the priest: then did the tongue
"O' the Brazen Head give license, 'Time is now!'
"Wait to make mind up? 'Time is past' it peals.
"Friend, you are competent to mastery
"O' the passions that confessedly explain
"An outbreak: you allow an interval,
"And then break out as if time's clock still clanged.
"You have forfeited your chance, and flat you fall
"Into the commonplace category
"Of men bound to go softly all their days,
Now, which way make response?
What was the answer Guido gave, himself?
—That so to argue came of ignorance
How honour bears a wound. "For, wound," said he,
"My body, and the smart soon mends and ends:
"While, wound my soul where honour sits and rules,
"Longer the sufferance, stronger grows the pain,
"Being ex incontinenti, fresh as first."
But try another tack, urge common sense
By way of contrast: say—Too true, my lords!
We did demur, awhile did hesitate:
Since husband sure should let a scruple speak
Ere he slay wife,—for his own safety, lords!
Carpers abound in this misjudging world:
Moreover, there's a nicety in law
That seems to justify them should they carp.
Suppose the source of injury a son,—
Father may slay such son yet run no risk:
Why graced with such a privilege? Because
A father so incensed with his own child,
Or must have reason, or believe he has:
Quia semper, seeing that in such event,
Presumitur, the law is bound suppose,
Quod capiat pater, that the sire must take,
Bonum consilium pro filio,
The best course as to what befits his boy,
Through instinct, ex instinctu, of mere love,
Amoris, and, paterni, fatherhood;
Quam confidentiam, which confidence,
Non habet, law declines to entertain,
De viro, of the husband: where finds he
An instinct that compels him love his wife?
Rather is he presumably her foe.
So, let him ponder long in this bad world
Ere do the simplest act of justice.
Again—and here we brush Bottini's breast—
Object you, "See the danger of delay!
"Suppose a man murdered my friend last month:
"Had I come up and killed him for his pains
"In rage, I had done right, allows the law:
"I meet him now and kill him in cold blood,
"I do wrong, equally allows the law:
"Wherein do actions differ, yours and mine?"
In plenitudine intellectus es?
Hast thy wits, Fisc? To take such slayer's life,
Returns it life to thy slain friend at all?
Had he stolen ring instead of stabbing friend,—
To-day, to-morrow or next century,
Meeting the thief, thy ring upon his thumb,
Thou justifiably hadst wrung it thence:
So, couldst thou wrench thy friend's life back again,
Though prisoned in the bosom of his foe.
Why, law would look complacent on thy wrath.
Our case is, that the thing we lost, we found:
The honour, we were robbed of eight months since,
Being recoverable at any day
By death of the delinquent. Go thy ways!
Ere thou hast learned law, will be much to do,
As said the gaby while he shod the goose.
Nay, if you urge me, interval was none!
From the inn to the villa—blank or else a bar
Of adverse and contrarious incident
Solid between us and our just revenge!
What with the priest who flourishes his blade,
The wife who like a fury flings at us,
The crowd—and then the capture, the appeal
To Rome, the journey there, the jaunting thence
To shelter at the House of Convertites,
The visits to the Villa, and so forth,
Where was one minute left us all this while
To put in execution that revenge
We planned o' the instant?—as it were, plumped down
O' the spot, some eight months since, which round sound egg,
Rome, more propitious than our nest, should hatch!
Object not, "You reached Rome on Christmas-eve,
"And, despite liberty to act at once,
"Waited a whole and indecorous week!"
Hath so the Molinism, the canker, lords,
Eaten to our bone? Is no religion left?
No care for aught held holy by the Church?
What, would you have us skip and miss those Feasts
O' the Natal Time, must we go prosecute
Secular business on a sacred day?
Should not the merest charity expect,
Setting our poor concerns aside for once,
We hurried to the song matutinal
I' the Sistine, and pressed forward for the Mass
The Cardinal that's Camerlengo chaunts,
Then rushed on to the blessing of the Hat
And Rapier, which the Pope sends to what prince
Has done most detriment to the Infidel—
And thereby whetted courage if 't were blunt?
Meantime, allow we kept the house a week,
Suppose not we were idle in our mew!
Picture us raging here and raving there—
"'Money?' I need none. 'Friends?' The word is null.
"Restore the white was on that shield of mine
"Borne at" … wherever might be shield to bear.
"I see my grandsire, he who fought so well
"At" … here find out and put in time and place,
Or else invent the fight his grandsire fought:
"I see this! I see that!"
(See nothing else,
Or I shall scarce see lamb's fry in an hour!
What to the uncle, as I bid advance
The smoking dish? "Fry suits a tender tooth!
"Behoves we care a little for our kin—
"You, Sir,—who care so much for cousinship
"As come to your poor loving nephew's feast!"
He has the reversion of a long lease yet—
Land to bequeath! He loves lamb's fry, I know!)
Here fall to be considered those same six
Qualities; what Bottini needs must call
So many aggravations of our crime,
Parasite-growth upon mere murder's back.
We summarily might dispose of such
By some off-hand and jaunty fling, some skit—
"So, since there's proved no crime to aggravate,
"A fico for your aggravations, Fisc!"
No,—handle mischief rather,—play with spells
Were meant to raise a spirit, and laugh the while
We show that did he rise we stand his match!
Therefore, first aggravation: we made up—
Over and above our simple murderous selves—
A regular assemblage of armed men,
Unluckily it was the very judge
That sits in judgment on our cause to-day
Who passed the law as Governor of Rome:
"Four men armed,"—though for lawful purpose, mark!
Much more for an acknowledged crime,—"shall die."
We five were armed to the teeth, meant murder too?
Why, that's the very point that saves us, Fisc!
Let me instruct you. Crime nor done nor meant,—
You punish still who arm and congregate:
For wherefore use bad means to a good end?
Crime being meant not done,—you punish still
The means to crime, whereon you haply pounce,
Though accident have baulked them of effect.
But crime not only compassed but complete,
Meant and done too? Why, since you have the end,
Be that your sole concern, nor mind those means
No longer to the purpose! Murdered we?
(—Which, that our luck was in the present case,
Quod contigisse in prasenti casu,
Is palpable, manibus palpatum est—)
Make murder out against us, nothing else!
Of many crimes committed with a view
To one main crime, Law overlooks the less,
Intent upon the large. Suppose a man
Having in view commission of a theft,
Climbs the town-wall: 't is for the theft he hangs,
In case he stands convicted of such theft:
Law remits whipping, due to who clomb wall
Through bravery or wantonness alone,
Just to dislodge a daw's nest, plant a flag.
So I interpret you the manly mind
Of him about to judge both you and me,—
Our Governor, who, being no Fisc, my Fisc,
Cannot have blundered on ineptitude!
Next aggravation,—that the arms themselves
Were specially of such forbidden sort
Through shape or length or breadth, as, prompt, Law plucks
From single hand of solitary man,
Making him pay the carriage with his life:
Delatio armorum, arms against the rule,
Contra formam constitutionis, of
Pope Alexander's blessed memory.
Such are the poignards with the double prong,
Horn-like, when tines make bold the antlered buck,
Each prong of brittle glass—wherewith to stab
And break off short and so let fragment stick
Fast in the flesh to baffle surgery:
Such being the Genoese blade with hooked edge
That did us service at the villa here.
Sed parcat mihi tam eximius vir,
But,—let so rare a personage forgive,—
Fisc, thy objection is a foppery!
Thy charge runs that we killed three innocents:
Killed, dost see? Then, if killed, what matter how?
By stick or stone, by sword or dagger, tool
Long or tool short, round or triangular—
Poor slain folk find small comfort in the choice!
Means to an end, means to an end, my Fisc!
Nature cries out, "Take the first arms you find!"
Furor ministrat arma: where's a stone?
Unde mî lapidem, where darts for me?
Unde sagittas? But subdue the bard
And rationalize a little. Eight months since,
Had we, or had we not, incurred your blame
For letting 'scape unpunished this bad pair?
I think I proved that in last paragraph!
Why did we so? Because our courage failed.
Wherefore? Through lack of arms to fight the foe:
We had no arms or merely lawful ones,
An unimportant sword and blunderbuss,
Against a foe, pollent in potency,
The amasius, and our vixen of a wife.
Well then, how culpably do we gird loin
And once more undertake the high emprise,
Unless we load ourselves this second time
With handsome superfluity of arms,
Since better is "too much" than "not enough,"
And "plus non vitiat," too much does no harm,
Except in mathematics, sages say.
Gather instruction from the parable!
At first we are advised—"A lad hath here
"Seven barley loaves and two small fishes: what
"Is that among so many?" Aptly asked:
But put that question twice and, quite as apt,
The answer is "Fragments, twelve baskets full!"
And, while we speak of superabundance, fling
We word by the way to fools who cast their flout
On Guido—"Punishment were pardoned him,
"But here the punishment exceeds offence:
"He might be just, but he was cruel too!"
Why, grant there seems a kind of cruelty
In downright stabbing people he could maim,
(If so you stigmatize the stern and strict)
Still, Guido meant no cruelty—may plead
Transgression of his mandate, over-zeal
O' the part of his companions: all he craved
Was, they should fray the faces of the folk,
Merely disfigure, nowise make them die.
Solummodo fassus est, he owns no more,
Dedisse mandatum, than that he desired,
Ad sfrisiandum, dicam, that they hack
And hew, i' the customary phrase, his wife,
Uxorem tantum, and no harm beside.
If his instructions then be misconceived,
Nay, disobeyed, impute you blame to him?
Cite me no Panicollus to the point,
As adverse! Oh, I quite expect his case—
How certain noble youths of Sicily
Having good reason to mistrust their wives,
Killed them and were absolved in consequence:
While others who had gone beyond the need
By mutilation of each paramour—
As Galba in the Horatian satire grieved
—These were condemned to the galleys, cast for guilt
Exceeding simple murder of a wife.
But why? Because of ugliness, and not
Cruelty, in the said revenge, I trow!
Ex causa abscissionis partium;
Qui nempe id facientes reputantur
Naturoe inimici, man revolts
Against them as the natural enemy.
Pray, grant to one who meant to slit the nose
And slash the cheek and slur the mouth, at most,
A somewhat more humane award than these
Obtained, these natural enemies of man!
Objectum funditus corruit, flat you fall,
My Fisc! I waste no kick on you, but pass.
Third aggravation: that our act was done—
Not in the public street, where safety lies,
Not in the bye-place, caution may avoid,
Wood, cavern, desert, spots contrived for crime,—
But in the very house, home; nook and nest,
O' the victims, murdered in their dwelling-place,
In domo ac habitatione propria,
Where all presumably is peace and joy.
The spider, crime, pronounce we twice a pest
When, creeping from congenial cottage, she
Taketh hold with her hands, to horrify
His household more, i' the palace of the king.
All three were housed and safe and confident.
Moreover, the permission that our wife
Should have at length domum pro carcere,
Her own abode in place of prison—why,
We ourselves granted, by our other self
And proxy Paolo: did we make such grant,
Meaning a lure?—elude the vigilance
O' the jailor, lead her to commodious death,
While we ostensibly relented?
Just so did we, nor otherwise, my Fisc!
Is vengeance lawful? We demand our right,
But find it will be questioned or refused
By jailor, turnkey, hangdog,—what know we?
Pray, how is it we should conduct ourselves?
To gain our private right—break public peace,
Do you bid us?—trouble order with our broils?
Endanger . . shall I shrink to own . . ourselves?—
Who want no broken head nor bloody nose
(While busied slitting noses, breaking heads)
From the first tipstaff that may interfere!
Nam quicquid sit, for howsoever it be,
An de consensu nostro, if with leave
Or not, a monasterio, from the nuns,
Educta esset, she had been led forth,
Potuimus id dissimulare, we
May well have granted leave in pure pretence,
Ut aditum habere, that thereby
An entry we might compass, a free move
Potuissemus, to her easy death,
Ad eam occidendam. Privacy
O' the hearth, and sanctitude of home, say you?
Shall we give man's abode more privilege
That God's?—for in the churches where He dwells,
In quibus assistit Regum Rex, by means
Of His essence, per essentiam, all the same,
Et nihilominus, therein, in eis,
Ex justa via delinquens, whoso dares
To take a liberty on ground enough,
Is pardoned, excusatur: that's our case—
Delinquent through befitting cause. You hold,
To punish a false wife in her own house
Is graver than, what happens every day,
To hale a debtor from his hiding-place
In church protected by the Sacrament?
To this conclusion have I brought my Fisc?
Foxes have holes, and fowls o' the air their nests;
Praise you the impiety that follows, Fisc?
Shall false wife yet have where to lay her head?
"Contra Fiscum definitum est!" He's done!
"Surge et scribe," make a note of it!
—If I may dally with Aquinas' word.
Or in the death-throe does he mutter still,
Fourth aggravation, that we changed our garb,
And rusticized ourselves with uncouth hat,
Rough vest and goatskin wrappage; murdered thus
Mutatione vestium, in disguise,
Whereby mere murder got complexed with wile,
Turned homicidium ex insidiis? Fisc,
How often must I round the in the ears—
All means are lawful to a lawful end?
Concede he had the right to kill his wife:
The Count indulged in a travesty; why?
De illa ut vindictam sumeret,
That on her he might lawful vengeance take,
Commodius, with more ease, et tutius,
And safelier: wants he warrant for the step?
Read to thy profit how the Apostle once
For ease and safety, when Damascus raged,
Was let down in a basket by the wall
To 'scape the malice of the governor
(Another sort of Governor boasts Rome!)
—Many are of opinion,—covered close,
Concealed with—what except that very cloak
He left behind at Troas afterward?
I shall not add a syllable: Molinists may!
Well, have we more to manage? Ay, indeed!
Fifth aggravation, that our wife reposed
Sub potestate judicis, beneath
Protection of the judge,—her house was styled
A prison, and his power became its guard
In lieu of wall and gate and bolt and bar.
This is a tough point, shrewd, redoubtable:
Because we have to supplicate that judge
Shall overlook wrong done the judgment-seat.
Now, I might suffer my own nose be pulled,
As man: but then as father … if the Fisc
Touched one hair of my boy who held my hand
In confidence he could not come to harm
Crossing the Corso, at my own desire,
Going to see those bodies in the church—
What would you say to that, Don Hyacinth?
This is the sole and single knotty point:
For, bid Tommati blink his interest,
You laud his magnanimity the while:
But baulk Tommati's office,—he talks big!
"My predecessors in the place,—those sons
"O' the prophets that may hope succeed me here,—
"Shall I diminish their prerogative?
"Count Guido Franceschini's honour!—well,
"Has the Governor of Rome none?"
The cards are all against us. Make a push,
Kick over table, as shrewd gamesters do!
We, do you say, encroach upon the rights,
Deny the omnipotence o' the Judge forsooth?
We, who have only been from first to last
Intending that his purpose should prevail,
Nay more, at times, anticipating it
At risk of his rebuke?
But wait awhile!
Cannot we lump this with the sixth and last
Of the aggravations—that the Majesty
O' the Sovereign here received a wound? to-wit,
Loesa Majestas, since our violence
Was out of envy to the course of law,
In odium litis? We cut short thereby
Three pending suits, promoted by ourselves
I' the main,—which worsens crime, accedit ad
Yes, here the eruptive wrath with full effect!
How, did not indignation chain my tongue,
Could I repel this last, worst charge of all!
(There is a porcupine to barbacue;
Gigia can jug a rabbit well enough,
With sour-sweet sauce and pine-pips; but, good Lord,
Suppose the devil instigate the wench
To stew, not roast him? Stew my porcupine?
If she does, I know where his quills shall stick!
Come, I must go myself and see to things:
I cannot stay much longer stewing here.)
Our stomach … I mean, our soul is stirred within,
And we want words. We wounded Majesty?
Fall under such a censure, we?—who yearned
So much that Majesty dispel the cloud
And shine on us with healing on her wings,
That we prayed Pope Majestas' very self
To anticipate a little the tardy pack,
Bell us forth deep the authoritative bay
Should start the beagles into sudden yelp
Unisonous,—and, Gospel leading Law,
Grant there assemble in our own behoof
A Congregation, a particular Court,
A few picked friends of quality and place,
To hear the several matters in dispute,—
Causes big, little and indifferent,
Bred of our marriage like a mushroom-growth,—
All at once (can one brush off such too soon?)
And so with laudable despatch decide
Whether we, in the main (to sink detail)
Were one the Pope should hold fast or let go.
"What, take the credit from the Law?" you ask?
Indeed, we did! Law ducks to Gospel here:
Why should Law gain the glory and pronounce
A judgment shall immortalize the Pope?
Yes: our self-abnegating policy
Was Joab's—we would rouse our David's sloth,
Bid him encamp against a city, sack
A place whereto ourselves had long laid siege,
Lest, taking it at last, it take our name
Nor be styled Innocentinopolis.
But no! The modesty was in alarm,
The temperance refused to interfere,
Returned us our petition with the word
"Ad judices suos," "Leave him to his Judge!"
As who should say "Why trouble my repose?
"Why consult Peter in a simple case,
"Peter's wife's sister in her fever-fit
"Might solve as readily as the Apostle's self?
"Are my Tribunals posed by aught so plain?
"Hath not my Court a conscience? It is of age,
We do ask,—but, inspire reply
To the Court thou bidst me ask, as I have asked—
Oh thou, who vigilantly dost attend
To even the few, the ineffectual words
Which rise from this our low and mundane sphere
Up to thy region out of smoke and noise,
Seeking corroboration from thy nod
Who art all justice—which means mercy too,
In a low noisy smoky world like ours
Where Adam's sin made peccable his seed!
We venerate the father of the flock,
Whose last faint sands of life, the frittered gold,
Fall noiselessly, yet all too fast, o' the cone
And tapering heap of those collected years:
Never have these been hurried in their flow,
Though justice fain would jog reluctant arm,
In eagerness to take the forfeiture
Of guilty life: much less shall mercy sue
In vain that thou let innocence survive,
Precipitate no minim of the mass
O' the all-so precious moments of thy life,
By pushing Guido into death and doom!
(Our Cardinal engages to go read
The Pope my speech, and point its beauties out.
They say, the Pope has one half-hour, in twelve,
Of something like a moderate return
Of the intellectuals,—never much to lose!
If I adroitly plant this passage there,
The Fisc will find himself forestalled, I think,
Though he stand, beat till the old ear-drum break!
—Ah, boy of my own bowels, Hyacinth,
Wilt ever catch the knack, requite the pains
Of poor papa, become proficient too
I' the how and why and when, the time to laugh,
The time to weep, the time, again, to pray,
And all the times prescribed by Holy Writ?
Well, well, we fathers can but care, but cast
Our bread upon the waters!)
In a word,
These secondary charges go to ground,
Since secondary, and superfluous,—motes
Quite from the main point: we did all and some,
Little and much, adjunct and principal,
Causa honoris. Is there such a cause
As the sake of honour? By that sole test try
Our action, nor demand if more or less,
Because of the action's mode, we merit blame
Or may-be deserve praise! The Court decides.
Is the end lawful? It allows the means:
What we may do, we may with safety do,
And what means "safety" we ourselves must judge.
Put case a person wrongs me past dispute:
If my legitimate vengeance be a blow,
Mistrusting my bare arm can deal that blow,
I claim co-operation of a stick;
Doubtful if stick be tough, I crave a sword;
Diffident of ability in fence,
I fee a friend, a swordsman to assist:
Take one—he may be coward, fool or knave:
Why not take fifty?—and if these exceed
I' the due degree of drubbing, whom accuse
But the first author of the aforesaid wrong
Who put poor me to such a world of pains?
Surgery would have just excised a wart;
The patient made such pother, struggled so
That the sharp instrument sliced nose and all.
Taunt us not that our friends performed for pay!
Ourselves had toiled for simple honour's sake:
But country clowns want dirt they comprehend,
The piece of gold! Our reasons, which suffice
Ourselves, be ours alone; our piece of gold
Be, to the rustic, reason he approves!
We must translate our motives like our speech,
Into the lower phrase that suits the sense
O' the limitedly apprehensive. Let
Each level have its language! Heaven speaks first
To the angel, then the angel tames the word
Down to the ear of Tobit: he, in turn,
Diminishes the message to his dog,
And finally that dog finds how the flea
(Which else, importunate, might check his speed)
Shall learn its hunger must have holiday,
By application of his tongue or paw:
So many varied sorts of language here,
Each following each with pace to match the step,
Haud passibus oequis!
Talking of which flea,
Reminds me I must put in special word
For the poor humble following,—the four friends,
Sicarii, our assassins caught and caged.
Ourselves are safe in your approval now:
Yet must we care for our companions, plead
The cause o' the poor, the friends (of old-world faith)
Who lie in tribulation for our sake.
Pauperum Procurator is my style:
I stand forth as the poor man's advocate:
And when we treat of what concerns the poor,
Et cum agatur de pauperibus,
In bondage, carceratis, for their sake,
In eorum causis, natural piety,
Pietas, ever ought to win the day,
Triumphare debet, quia ipsi sunt,
Because those very paupers constitute,
Thesaurus Christi, all the wealth of Christ.
Nevertheless I shall not hold you long
With multiplicity of proofs, nor burn
Candle at noon-tide, clarify the clear.
There beams a case refulgent from our books—
Castrensis, Butringarius, everywhere
I find it burn to dissipate the dark.
'T is this: a husband had a friend, which friend
Seemed to him over-friendly with his wife
In thought and purpose,—I pretend no more.
To justify suspicion or dispel,
He bids his wife make show of giving heed,
Semblance of sympathy—propose, in fine,
A secret meeting in a private place.
The friend, enticed thus, finds an ambuscade,
To-wit, the husband posted with a pack
Of other friends, who fall upon the first
And beat his love and life out both at once.
These friends were brought to question for their help;
Law ruled "The husband being in the right,
"Who helped him in the right can scarce be wrong"—
Opinio, an opinion every way,
Multum tenenda cordi, heart should hold!
When the inferiors follow as befits
The lead o' the principal, they change their name,
And, non dicuntur, are no longer called
His mandatories, mandatorii,
But helpmates, sed auxiliatores; since
To that degree does honour' sake lend aid,
Adeo honoris causa est efficax,
That not alone, non solum, does it pour
Itself out, se diffundat, on mere friends,
We bring to do our bidding of this sort,
In mandatorios simplices, but sucks
Along with it in wide and generous whirl,
Sed etiam assassinii qualitate
Qualificatos, people qualified
By the quality of assassination's self,
Dare I make use of such neologism,
Ut utar verbo.
Haste we to conclude.
Of the other points that favour, leave some few
For Spreti; such as the delinquents' youth.
One of them falls short, by some months, of age
Fit to be managed by the gallows; two
May plead exemption from our law's award,
Being foreigners, subjects of the Granduke—
I spare that bone to Spreti, and reserve
Myself the juicier breast of argument—
Flinging the breast-blade i' the face o' the Fisc,
Who furnished me the tid-bit: he must needs
Play off his privilege and rack the clowns,—
And they, at instance of the rack, confess
All four unanimously made resolve,—
The night o' the murder, in brief minute snatched
Behind the back of Guido as he fled,—
That, since he had not kept his promise, paid
The money for the murder on the spot,
So, reaching home again, might please ignore
The pact or pay them in improper coin,—
They one and all resolved, these hopeful friends,
'T were best inaugurate the morrow's light,
Nature recruited with her due repose,
By killing Guido as he lay asleep
Pillowed on wallet which contained their fee.
I thank the Fisc for knowledge of this fact:
What fact could hope to make more manifest
Their rectitude, Guido's integrity?
For who fails recognize the touching truth
That these poor rustics bore no envy, hate,
Malice nor yet uncharitableness
Against the people they had put to death?
In them, did such an act reward itself?
All done was to deserve the simple pay,
Obtain the bread clowns earn by sweat of brow,
And missing which, they missed of everything—
Hence claimed pay, even at expense of life
To their own lord, so little warped (admire!)
By prepossession, such the absolute
Instinct of equity in rustic souls!
Whereas our Count, the cultivated mind,
He, wholly rapt in his serene regard
Of honour, he contemplating the sun
Who hardly marks if taper blink below,—
He, dreaming of no argument for death
Except a vengeance worthy noble hearts,—
Dared not so desecrate the deed, forsooth,
Vulgarize vengeance, as defray its cost
By money dug from out the dirty earth,
Irritant mere, in Ovid's phrase, to ill.
What though he lured base hinds by lucre's hope,—
The only motive they could masticate,
Milk for babes, not strong meat which men require?
The deed done, those coarse hands were soiled enough,
He spared them the pollution of the pay.
So much for the allegement, thine, my Fisc,
Quo nil absurdius, than which nought more mad,
Excogitari potest, may be squeezed
From out the cogitative brain of thee!
And now, thou excellent the Governor!
(Push to the peroration) coeterum
Enixe supplico, I strive in prayer,
Ut dominis meis, that unto the Court,
Benigna fronte, with a gracious brow,
Et oculis serenis, and mild eyes,
Perpendere placeat, it may please them weigh,
Quod dominus Guido, that our noble Count,
Occidit, did the killing in dispute,
Ut ejus honor tumulatus, that
The honour of him buried fathom-deep
In infamy, in infamia, might arise,
Resurgeret, as ghost breaks sepulchre!
Occidit, for he killed, uxorem, wife,
Quia illi fuit, since she was to him,
Opprobrio, a disgrace and nothing more!
Et genitores, killed her parents too,
Qui, who, postposita verecundia,
Having thrown off all sort of decency,
Filiam repudiarunt, had renounced
Their daughter, atque declarare non
Erubuerunt, nor felt blush tinge cheek,
Declaring, meretricis genitam
Esse, she was the offspring of a drab,
Ut ipse dehonestaretur, just
That so himself might lose his social rank!
Cujus mentem, and which daughter's heart and soul,
They, perverterunt, turned from the right course,
Et ad illicitos amores non
Dumtaxat pellexerunt, and to love
Not simply did alluringly incite,
Sed vi obedientioe, but by force
O' the duty, filialis, daughters owe,
Coegerunt, forced and drove her to the deed:
Occidit, I repeat he killed the clan,
Ne scilicet amplius in dedecore,
Lest peradventure longer life might trail,
Viveret, link by link his turpitude,
Invisus consanguineis, hateful so
To kith and kindred, a nobilibus
Notatus, shunned by men of quality,
Relictus ab amicis, left i' the lurch
By friends, ab omnibus derisus, turned
A common hack-block to try edge of jokes.
Occidit, and he killed them here in Rome,
In Urbe, the Eternal City, Sirs,
Nempe quoe alias spectata est,
The appropriate theatre which witnessed once,
Matronam nobilem, Lucretia's self,
Abluere pudicitioe maculas,
Wash off the spots of her pudicity,
Sanguine proprio, with her own pure blood;
Quoe vidit, and which city also saw,
Patrem, Virginius, undequaque, quite,
Impunem, with no sort of punishment,
Nor, et non illaudatum, lacking praise,
Sed polluentem parricidio,
Imbrue his hands with butchery, filioe,
Of chaste Virginia, to avoid a rape,
Ne raperetur ad stupra; so to heart,
Tanti illi cordi fuit, did he take,
Suspicio, the mere fancy men might have,
Honoris amittendi, of fame's loss,
Ut potius voluerit filia
Orbari, he preferred to lose his child,
Quam illa incederet, rather than she walk
The ways an, inhonesta, child disgraced,
Licet non sponte, though against her will.
Occidit—killed them, I reiterate—
In propria domo, in their own abode,
Ut adultera et parentes, that each wretch,
Conscii agnoscerent, might both see and say,
Nullum locum, there's no place, nullumque esse
Asylum, nor yet refuge of escape,
Impenetrabilem, shall serve as bar,
Honori loeso, to the wounded one
In honour; neve ibi opprobria
Continuarentur, killed them on the spot,
Moreover, dreading lest within those walls
The opprobrium peradventure be prolonged,
Et domus quoe testis fuit turpium,
And that the domicile which witnessed crime,
Esset et poenoe, might watch punishment:
Occidit, killed, I round you in the ears,
Quia alio modo, since by other mode,
Non poterat ejus existimatio,
There was no possibility his fame,
Loesa, gashed griesly, tam enormiter,
Ducere cicatrices, might be healed:
Occidit ut exemplum proeberet
Uxoribus, killed her, so to lesson wives
Jura conjugii, that the marriage-oath,
Esse servanda, must be kept henceforth:
Occidit denique, killed her, in a word,
Ut pro posse honestus viveret,
That he, please God, might creditably live,
Sin minus, but if fate willed otherwise,
Proprii honoris, of his outraged fame,
Offensi, by Mannaia, if you please,
Commiseranda victima caderet,
The pitiable victim he should fall!
Done! I' the rough, i' the rough! But done! And, lo,
Landed and stranded lies my very speech,
My miracle, my monster of defence—
Leviathan into the nose whereof
I have put fish-hook, pierced his jaw with thorn,
And given him to my maidens for a play!
I' the rough: to-morrow I review my piece,
Tame here and there undue floridity.
It's hard: you have to plead before these priests
And poke at them with Scripture, or you pass
For heathen and, what's worse, for ignorant
O' the quality o' the Court and what it likes
By way of illustration of the law.
To-morrow stick in this, and throw out that,
And, having first ecclesiasticized,
Regularize the whole, next emphasize,
Then latinize, and lastly Cicero-ize,
Giving my Fisc his finish. There's my speech!
And where's my fry, and family and friends?
Where's that huge Hyacinth I mean to hug
Till he cries out, "Jam satis! Let me breathe!"
Now, what an evening have I earned to-day!
Hail, ye true pleasures, all the rest are false!
Oh the old mother, oh the fattish wife!
Rogue Hyacinth shall put on paper toque,
And wrap himself around with mamma's veil
Done up to imitate papa's black robe,
(I'm in the secret of the comedy,—
Part of the program leaked out long ago!)
And call himself the Advocate o' the Poor,
Mimic Don father that defends the Count:
And for reward shall have a small full glass
Of manly red rosolio to himself,
—Always provided that he conjugate
Bibo, I drink, correctly—nor be found
Make the perfectum, bipsi, as last year!
How the ambitious do so harden heart
As lightly hold by these home-sanctitudes,
To me is matter of bewilderment—
Bewilderment! Because ambition's range
Is nowise tethered by domestic tie.
Am I refused an outlet from my home
To the world's stage?—whereon a man should play
The man in public, vigilant for law,
Zealous for truth, a credit to his kind,
Nay,—since, employing talent so, I yield
The Lord His own again with usury,—
A satisfaction, yea, to God Himself!
Well, I have modelled me by Agur's wish,
"Remove far from me vanity and lies,
"Feed me with food convenient for me!" What
I' the world should a wise man require beyond?
Can I but coax the good fat little wife
To tell her fool of a father the mad prank
His scrapegrace nephew played this time last year
At Carnival! He could not choose, I think,
But modify that inconsiderate gift
O' the cup and cover (somewhere in the will
Under the pillow, someone seems to guess)
—Correct that clause in favour of a boy
The trifle ought to grace, with name engraved,
Would look so well, produced in future years
To pledge a memory, when poor papa
Latin and law are long since laid at rest—
Hyacintho dono dedit avus! Why,
The wife should get a necklace for her pains,
The very pearls that made Violante proud,
And Pietro pawned for half their value once,—
Redeemable by somebody, ne sit
Marita quoe rotundioribus
Onusta mammis … baccis ambulet:
Her bosom shall display the big round balls,
No braver proudly borne by wedded wife!
With which Horatian promise I conclude.
Into the pigeon-hole with thee, my speech!
Off and away, first work then play, play, play!
Bottini, burn thy books, thou blazing ass!
Sing "Tra-la-la, for, lambkins, we must live!"
A Poem On The Last Day - Book III
The book unfolding, the resplendent seat
Of saints and angels, the tremendous fate
Of guilty souls, the gloomy realms of woe,
And all the horrors of the world below,
I next presume to sing. What yet remains
Demands my last, but most exalted, strains.
And let the Muse or now affect the sky,
Or in inglorious shades for ever lie.
She kindles, she's inflamed so near the goal;
She mounts, she gains upon the starry pole;
The world grows less as she pursues her flight,
And the sun darkens to her distant sight.
Heaven, opening, all its sacred pomp displays,
And overwhelms her with the rushing blaze!
The triumph rings! archangels shout around!
And echoing Nature lengthens out the sound!
Ten thousand trumpets now at once advance;
Now deepest silence lulls the vast expanse;
So deep the silence, and so strong the blast,
As Nature died when she had groan'd her last.
Nor man nor angel moves: the Judge on high
Looks round, and with His glory fills the sky:
Then on the fatal book His hand He lays,
Which high to view supporting seraphs raise;
In solemn form the rituals are prepared,
The seal is broken, and a groan is heard.
And thou, my soul, (O fall to sudden prayer,
And let the thought sink deep!) shalt thou be there?
See on the left, (for by the great command
The throng divided falls on either hand,)
How weak, how pale, how haggard, how obscene!
What more than death in every face and mien!
With what distress, and glarings of affright,
They shock the heart, and turn away the sight!
In gloomy orbs their trembling eye-balls roll,
And tell the horrid secrets of the soul.
Each gesture mourns, each look is black with care,
And every groan is loaden with despair.
Reader, if guilty, spare the Muse, and find
A truer image pictured in thy mind.
Shouldst thou behold thy brother, father, wife,
And all the soft companions of thy life,
Whose blended interests levell'd at one aim,
Whose mix'd desires sent up one common flame,
Divided far; thy wretched self alone
Cast on the left, of all whom thou hast known;
How would it wound! What millions wouldst thou give
For one more trial, one day more to live!
Flung back in time an hour, a moment's space,
To grasp with eagerness the means of grace;
Contend for mercy with a pious rage,
And in that moment to redeem an age!
Drive back the tide, suspend a storm in air,
Arrest the sun; but still of this despair.
Mark, on the right, how amiable a grace!
Their Maker's image fresh in every face!
What purple bloom my ravish'd soul admires,
And their eyes sparkling with immortal fires!
Triumphant beauty! charms that rise above
This world, and in bless'd angels kindle love!
To the great Judge with holy pride they turn,
And dare behold the' Almighty's anger burn;
Its flash sustain, against its terror rise,
And on the dread tribunal fix their eyes.
Are these the forms that moulder'd in the dust?
O the transcendent glory of the just!
Yet still some thin remains of fear and doubt
The' infected brightness of their joy pollute.
Thus the chaste bridegroom, when the priest draws nigh,
Beholds his blessing with a trembling eye,
Feels doubtful passions throb in every vein,
And in his cheeks are mingled joy and pain,
Lest still some intervening chance should rise,
Leap forth at once, and snatch the golden prize;
Inflame his woe by bringing it so late,
And stab him in the crisis of his fate.
Since Adam's family, from first to last,
Now into one distinct survey is cast;
Look round, vain-glorious Muse, and you whoe'er
Devote yourselves to Fame, and think her fair;
Look round, and seek the lights of human race,
Whose shining acts Time's brightest annals grace;
Who founded sects; crowns conquer'd, or resign'd;
Gave names to nations, or famed empires join'd;
Who raised the vale, and laid the mountain low,
And taught obedient rivers where to flow;
Who with vast fleets, as with a mighty chain,
Could bind the madness of the roaring main:
All lost! all undistinguish'd! nowhere found!
How will this truth in Bourbon's palace sound?
That hour, on which the' Almighty King on high
From all eternity has fix'd His eye,
Whether His right hand favour'd, or annoy'd,
Continued, alter'd, threaten'd, or destroy'd;
Southern or eastern sceptre downward hurl'd,
Gave north or west dominion o'er the world;
The point of time, for which the world was built,
For which the blood of God Himself was spilt,
That dreadful moment is arrived.
Aloft, the seats of bliss their pomp display,
Brighter than brightness this distinguish'd day;
Less glorious, when of old the' eternal Son
From realms of night return'd with trophies won;
Through heaven's high gates when He triumphant rode,
And shouting angels hail'd the victor God.
Horrors, beneath, darkness in darkness, hell
Of hell, where torments behind torments dwell;
A furnace formidable, deep, and wide,
O'er-boiling with a mad sulphureous tide,
Expands its jaws, most dreadful to survey,
And roars outrageous for the destined prey.
The sons of light scarce unappall'd look down,
And nearer press Heaven's everlasting throne.
Such is the scene; and one short moment's space
Concludes the hopes and fears of human race.
Proceed who dares!-I tremble as I write;
The whole creation swims before my sight:
I see, I see, the Judge's frowning brow:
Say not, 'tis distant; I behold it now.
I faint, my tardy blood forgets to flow,
My soul recoils at the stupendous woe;
That woe, those pangs, which from the guilty breast,
In these, or words like these, shall be express'd:-
``Who burst the barriers of my peaceful grave?
Ah, cruel Death! that would no longer save,
But grudged me e'en that narrow dark abode,
And cast me out into the wrath of God;
Where shrieks, the roaring flame, the rattling chain,
And all the dreadful eloquence of pain,
Our only song; black fire's malignant light,
The sole refreshment of the blasted sight.
``Must all those powers Heaven gave me to supply
My soul with pleasure, and bring-in my joy,
Rise up in arms against me, join the foe,
Sense, Reason, Memory, increase my woe?
And shall my voice, ordain'd on hymns to dwell,
Corrupt to groans, and blow the fires of hell?
O! must I look with terror on my gain,
And with existence only measure pain?
What! no reprieve, no least indulgence given,
No beam of hope from any point of heaven?
Ah, Mercy! Mercy! art thou dead above?
Is love extinguish'd in the Source of Love?
``Bold that I am! did Heaven stoop down to hell?
The' expiring Lord of Life my ransom seal?
Have not I been industrious to provoke?
From His embraces obstinately broke?
Pursued, and panted for His mortal hate,
Earn'd my destruction, labour'd out my fate?
And dare I on extinguish'd love exclaim?
Take, take full vengeance, rouse the slackening flame;
Just is my lot-but O! must it transcend
The reach of time, despair a distant end?
With dreadful growth shoot forward, and arise,
Where Thought can't follow, and bold Fancy dies?
``NEVER! Where falls the soul at that dread sound?
Down an abyss how dark, and how profound!
Down, down, (I still am falling,-horrid pain!)
Ten thousand thousand fathoms still remain;
My plunge but still begun.-And this for sin?
Could I offend, if I had never been,
But still increased the senseless happy mass,
Flow'd in the stream, or shiver'd in the grass?
``Father of Mercies! why from silent earth
Didst Thou awake, and curse me into birth?
Tear me from quiet, ravish me from night,
And make a thankless present of Thy light?
Push into being a reverse of Thee,
And animate a clod with misery?
``The beasts are happy; they come forth, and keep
Short watch on earth, and then lie down to sleep.
Pain is for man; and O! how vast a pain,
For crimes which made the Godhead bleed in vain,
Annull'd His groans, as far as in them lay,
And flung His agonies and death away!
As our dire punishment for ever strong,
Our constitution too for ever young;
Cursed with returns of vigour, still the same,
Powerful to bear and satisfy the flame;
Still to be caught, and still to be pursued;
To perish still, and still to be renew'd!
``And this, my Help! my God! at Thy decree?
Nature is changed, and hell should succour me.
And canst Thou, then, look down from perfect bliss,
And see me plunging in the dark abyss?
Calling Thee Father in a sea of fire?
Or pouring blasphemies at Thy desire?
With mortals' anguish wilt Thou raise Thy name,
And by my pangs Omnipotence proclaim?
``Thou, who canst toss the planets to and fro,
Contract not Thy great vengeance to my woe;
Crush worlds; in hotter flames fallen angels lay:
On me Almighty wrath is cast away.
Call back Thy thunders, Lord, hold-in Thy rage,
Nor with a speck of wretchedness engage:
Forget me quite, nor stoop a worm to blame;
But lose me in the greatness of Thy name.
Thou art all love, all mercy, all Divine;
And shall I make those glories cease to shine?
Shall sinful man grow great by his offence,
And from its course turn back Omnipotence?
``Forbid it! and O! grant, great God, at least
This one, this slender, almost no request:
When I have wept a thousand lives away,
When torment is grown weary of its prey,
When I have raved ten thousand years in fire,
Ten thousand thousand, let me then expire.''
Deep anguish, but too late! The hopeless soul,
Bound to the bottom of the burning pool,
Though loath, and ever loud blaspheming, owns,
He's justly doom'd to pour eternal groans;
Enclosed with horrors, and transfix'd with pain,
Rolling in vengeance, struggling with his chain;
To talk to fiery tempests; to implore
The raging flame to give its burnings o'er;
To toss, to writhe, to pant beneath his load,
And bear the weight of an offended God.
The favour'd of their Judge in triumph move
To take possession of their thrones above;
Satan's accursed desertion to supply,
And fill the vacant stations of the sky;
Again to kindle long-extinguish'd rays,
And with new lights dilate the heavenly blaze;
To crop the roses of immortal youth,
And drink the fountain-head of sacred truth;
To swim in seas of bliss, to strike the string,
And lift the voice to their Almighty King;
To lose eternity in grateful lays,
And fill heaven's wide circumference with praise.
But I attempt the wondrous height in vain,
And leave unfinish'd the too lofty strain;
What boldly I begin, let others end;
My strength exhausted, fainting I descend,
And choose a less, but no ignoble, theme,-
Dissolving elements, and worlds in flame.
The fatal period, the great hour, is come,
And Nature shrinks at her approaching doom;
Loud peals of thunder give the sign, and all
Heaven's terrors in array surround the ball;
Sharp lightnings with the meteors' blaze conspire,
And, darted downward, set the world on fire;
Black rising clouds the thicken'd ether choke,
And spiry flames dart through the rolling smoke,
With keen vibrations cut the sullen night,
And strike the darken'd sky with dreadful light;
From heaven's four regions, with immortal force,
Angels drive-on the wind's impetuous course
To' enrage the flame: it spreads, it soars on high,
Swells in the storm, and billows through the sky:
Here winding pyramids of fire ascend,
Cities and deserts in one ruin blend;
Here blazing volumes, wafted, overwhelm
The spacious face of a far-distant realm;
There, undermined, down rush eternal hills,
The neighbouring vales the vast destruction fills.
Hear'st thou that dreadful crack? that sound which broke
Like peals of thunder, and the centre shook?
What wonders must that groan of Nature tell!
Olympus there, and mightier Atlas, fell;
Which seem'd above the reach of fate to stand,
A towering monument of God's right hand;
Now dust and smoke, whose brow so lately spread
O'er shelter'd countries its diffusive shade.
Show me that celebrated spot, where all
The various rulers of the sever'd ball
Have humbly sought wealth, honour, and redress,
That land which Heaven seem'd diligent to bless,
Once call'd Britannia: can her glories end?
And can't surrounding seas her realms defend?
Alas! in flames behold surrounding seas!
Like oil, their waters but augment the blaze.
Some angel say, Where ran proud Asia's bound?
Or where with fruits was fair Europa crown'd?
Where stretch'd waste Libya? Where did India's store
Sparkle in diamonds, and her golden ore?
Each lost in each, their mingling kingdoms glow,
And all, dissolved, one fiery deluge flow:
Thus earth's contending monarchies are join'd,
And a full period of ambition find.
And now whate'er or swims, or walks, or flies,
Inhabitants of sea, or earth, or skies;
All on whom Adam's wisdom fix'd a name;
All plunge and perish in the conquering flame.
This globe alone would but defraud the fire,
Starve its devouring rage: the flakes aspire,
And catch the clouds, and make the heavens their prey;
The sun, the moon, the stars, all melt away;
All, all is lost; no monument, no sign,
Where once so proudly blazed the gay machine.
So bubbles on the foaming stream expire,
So sparks that scatter from the kindling fire.
The devastations of one dreadful hour
The great Creator's six days' work devour.
A mighty, mighty ruin! yet one soul
Has more to boast, and far outweighs the whole;
Exalted in superior excellence,
Casts down to nothing such a vast expense.
Have you not seen the' eternal mountains nod,
An earth dissolving, a descending God?
What strange surprises through all nature ran!
For whom these revolutions, but for man?
For him, Omnipotence new measures takes,
For him, through all eternity awakes;
Pours on him gifts sufficient to supply
Heaven's loss, and with fresh glories fill the sky.
Think deeply then, O man, how great thou art;
Pay thyself homage with a trembling heart.
What angels guard, no longer dare neglect;
Slighting thyself, affront not God's respect.
Enter the sacred temple of thy breast,
And gaze, and wander there, a ravish'd guest;
Gaze on those hidden treasures thou shalt find,
Wander through all the glories of thy mind.
Of perfect knowledge, see, the dawning light
Foretells a noon most exquisitely bright!
Here springs of endless joy are breaking forth!
There buds the promise of celestial worth!
Worth, which must ripen in a happier clime,
And brighter sun, beyond the bounds of time.
Thou, minor, canst not guess thy vast estate,
What stores, on foreign coasts, thy landing wait:
Lose not thy claim: let virtue's path be trod;
Thus glad all heaven, and please that bounteous God,
Who, to light thee to pleasures, hung on high
Yon radiant orb, proud regent of the sky;
That service done, its beams shall fade away,
And God shine forth in one eternal day.
The Eve Of Revolution
The trumpets of the four winds of the world
From the ends of the earth blow battle; the night heaves,
With breasts palpitating and wings refurled,
With passion of couched limbs, as one who grieves
Sleeping, and in her sleep she sees uncurled
Dreams serpent-shapen, such as sickness weaves,
Down the wild wind of vision caught and whirled,
Dead leaves of sleep, thicker than autumn leaves,
Shadows of storm-shaped things,
Flights of dim tribes of kings,
The reaping men that reap men for their sheaves,
And, without grain to yield,
Their scythe-swept harvest-field
Thronged thick with men pursuing and fugitives,
Dead foliage of the tree of sleep,
Leaves blood-coloured and golden, blown from deep to deep.
I hear the midnight on the mountains cry
With many tongues of thunders, and I hear
Sound and resound the hollow shield of sky
With trumpet-throated winds that charge and cheer,
And through the roar of the hours that fighting fly,
Through flight and fight and all the fluctuant fear,
A sound sublimer than the heavens are high,
A voice more instant than the winds are clear,
Say to my spirit, "Take
Thy trumpet too, and make
A rallying music in the void night's ear,
Till the storm lose its track,
And all the night go back;
Till, as through sleep false life knows true life near,
Thou know the morning through the night,
And through the thunder silence, and through darkness light."
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The height of night is shaken, the skies break,
The winds and stars and waters come and go
By fits of breath and light and sound, that wake
As out of sleep, and perish as the show
Built up of sleep, when all her strengths forsake
The sense-compelling spirit; the depths glow,
The heights flash, and the roots and summits shake
Of earth in all her mountains,
And the inner foamless fountains
And wellsprings of her fast-bound forces quake;
Yea, the whole air of life
Is set on fire of strife,
Till change unmake things made and love remake;
Reason and love, whose names are one,
Seeing reason is the sunlight shed from love the sun.
The night is broken eastward; is it day,
Or but the watchfires trembling here and there,
Like hopes on memory's devastated way,
In moonless wastes of planet-stricken air?
O many-childed mother great and grey,
O multitudinous bosom, and breasts that bare
Our fathers' generations, whereat lay
The weanling peoples and the tribes that were,
Whose new-born mouths long dead
Those ninefold nipples fed,
Dim face with deathless eyes and withered hair,
Fostress of obscure lands,
Whose multiplying hands
Wove the world's web with divers races fair
And cast it waif-wise on the stream,
The waters of the centuries, where thou sat'st to dream;
O many-minded mother and visionary,
Asia, that sawest their westering waters sweep
With all the ships and spoils of time to carry
And all the fears and hopes of life to keep,
Thy vesture wrought of ages legendary
Hides usward thine impenetrable sleep,
And thy veiled head, night's oldest tributary,
We know not if it speak or smile or weep.
But where for us began
The first live light of man
And first-born fire of deeds to burn and leap,
The first war fair as peace
To shine and lighten Greece,
And the first freedom moved upon the deep,
God's breath upon the face of time
Moving, a present spirit, seen of men sublime;
There where our east looks always to thy west,
Our mornings to thine evenings, Greece to thee,
These lights that catch the mountains crest by crest,
Are they of stars or beacons that we see?
Taygetus takes here the winds abreast,
And there the sun resumes Thermopylae;
The light is Athens where those remnants rest,
And Salamis the sea-wall of that sea.
The grass men tread upon
Is very Marathon,
The leaves are of that time-unstricken tree
That storm nor sun can fret
Nor wind, since she that set
Made it her sign to men whose shield was she;
Here, as dead time his deathless things,
Eurotas and Cephisus keep their sleepless springs.
O hills of Crete, are these things dead? O waves,
O many-mouthed streams, are these springs dry?
Earth, dost thou feed and hide now none but slaves?
Heaven, hast thou heard of men that would not die?
Is the land thick with only such men's graves
As were ashamed to look upon the sky?
Ye dead, whose name outfaces and outbraves
Death, is the seed of such as you gone by?
Sea, have thy ports not heard
Some Marathonian word
Rise up to landward and to Godward fly?
No thunder, that the skies
Sent not upon us, rise
With fire and earthquake and a cleaving cry?
Nay, light is here, and shall be light,
Though all the face of the hour be overborne with night.
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken northward; the pale plains
And footless fields of sun-forgotten snow
Feel through their creviced lips and iron veins
Such quick breath labour and such clean blood flow
As summer-stricken spring feels in her pains
When dying May bears June, too young to know
The fruit that waxes from the flower that wanes;
Strange tyrannies and vast,
Tribes frost-bound to their past,
Lands that are loud all through their length with chains,
Wastes where the wind's wings break,
Displumed by daylong ache
And anguish of blind snows and rack-blown rains,
And ice that seals the White Sea's lips,
Whose monstrous weights crush flat the sides of shrieking ships;
Horrible sights and sounds of the unreached pole,
And shrill fierce climes of inconsolable air,
Shining below the beamless aureole
That hangs about the north-wind's hurtling hair,
A comet-lighted lamp, sublime and sole
Dawn of the dayless heaven where suns despair;
Earth, skies, and waters, smitten into soul,
Feel the hard veil that iron centuries wear
Rent as with hands in sunder,
Such hands as make the thunder
And clothe with form all substance and strip bare;
Shapes, shadows, sounds and lights
Of their dead days and nights
Take soul of life too keen for death to bear;
Life, conscience, forethought, will, desire,
Flood men's inanimate eyes and dry-drawn hearts with fire.
Light, light, and light! to break and melt in sunder
All clouds and chains that in one bondage bind
Eyes, hands, and spirits, forged by fear and wonder
And sleek fierce fraud with hidden knife behind;
There goes no fire from heaven before their thunder,
Nor are the links not malleable that wind
Round the snared limbs and souls that ache thereunder;
The hands are mighty, were the head not blind.
Priest is the staff of king,
And chains and clouds one thing,
And fettered flesh with devastated mind.
Open thy soul to see,
Slave, and thy feet are free;
Thy bonds and thy beliefs are one in kind,
And of thy fears thine irons wrought
Hang weights upon thee fashioned out of thine own thought.
O soul, O God, O glory of liberty,
To night and day their lightning and their light!
With heat of heart thou kindlest the quick sea,
And the dead earth takes spirit from thy sight;
The natural body of things is warm with thee,
And the world's weakness parcel of thy might;
Thou seest us feeble and forceless, fit to be
Slaves of the years that drive us left and right,
Drowned under hours like waves
Wherethrough we row like slaves;
But if thy finger touch us, these take flight.
If but one sovereign word
Of thy live lips be heard,
What man shall stop us, and what God shall smite?
Do thou but look in our dead eyes,
They are stars that light each other till thy sundawn rise.
Thou art the eye of this blind body of man,
The tongue of this dumb people; shalt thou not
See, shalt thou speak not for them?
Time is wan And hope is weak with waiting, and swift thought
Hath lost the wings at heel wherewith he ran,
And on the red pit's edge sits down distraught
To talk with death of days republican
And dreams and fights long since dreamt out and fought;
Of the last hope that drew
To that red edge anew
The firewhite faith of Poland without spot;
Of the blind Russian might,
And fire that is not light;
Of the green Rhineland where thy spirit wrought;
But though time, hope, and memory tire,
Canst thou wax dark as they do, thou whose light is fire?
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken westward; the wide sea
That makes immortal motion to and fro
From world's end unto world's end, and shall be
When nought now grafted of men's hands shall grow
And as the weed in last year's waves are we
Or spray the sea-wind shook a year ago
From its sharp tresses down the storm to lee,
The moving god that hides
Time in its timeless tides
Wherein time dead seems live eternity,
That breaks and makes again
Much mightier things than men,
Doth it not hear change coming, or not see?
Are the deeps deaf and dead and blind,
To catch no light or sound from landward of mankind?
O thou, clothed round with raiment of white waves,
Thy brave brows lightening through the grey wet air,
Thou, lulled with sea-sounds of a thousand caves,
And lit with sea-shine to thine inland lair,
Whose freedom clothed the naked souls of slaves
And stripped the muffled souls of tyrants bare,
O, by the centuries of thy glorious graves,
By the live light of the earth that was thy care,
Live, thou must not be dead,
Live; let thine armed head
Lift itself up to sunward and the fair
Daylight of time and man,
Thine head republican,
With the same splendour on thine helmless hair
That in his eyes kept up a light
Who on thy glory gazed away their sacred sight;
Who loved and looked their sense to death on thee;
Who taught thy lips imperishable things,
And in thine ears outsang thy singing sea;
Who made thy foot firm on the necks of kings
And thy soul somewhile steadfast--woe are we
It was but for a while, and all the strings
Were broken of thy spirit; yet had he
Set to such tunes and clothed it with such wings
It seemed for his sole sake
Impossible to break,
And woundless of the worm that waits and stings,
The golden-headed worm
Made headless for a term,
The king-snake whose life kindles with the spring's,
To breathe his soul upon her bloom,
And while she marks not turn her temple to her tomb.
By those eyes blinded and that heavenly head
And the secluded soul adorable,
O Milton's land, what ails thee to be dead?
Thine ears are yet sonorous with his shell
That all the songs of all thy sea-line fed
With motive sound of spring-tides at mid swell,
And through thine heart his thought as blood is shed,
Requickening thee with wisdom to do well;
Such sons were of thy womb,
England, for love of whom
Thy name is not yet writ with theirs that fell,
But, till thou quite forget
What were thy children, yet
On the pale lips of hope is as a spell;
And Shelley's heart and Landor's mind
Lit thee with latter watch-fires; why wilt thou be blind?
Though all were else indifferent, all that live
Spiritless shapes of nations; though time wait
In vain on hope till these have help to give,
And faith and love crawl famished from the gate;
Canst thou sit shamed and self-contemplative
With soulless eyes on thy secluded fate?
Though time forgive them, thee shall he forgive,
Whose choice was in thine hand to be so great?
Who cast out of thy mind
The passion of man's kind,
And made thee and thine old name separate?
Now when time looks to see
New names and old and thee
Build up our one Republic state by state,
England with France, and France with Spain,
And Spain with sovereign Italy strike hands and reign.
O known and unknown fountain-heads that fill
Our dear life-springs of England! O bright race
Of streams and waters that bear witness still
To the earth her sons were made of! O fair face
Of England, watched of eyes death cannot kill,
How should the soul that lit you for a space
Fall through sick weakness of a broken will
To the dead cold damnation of disgrace?
Such wind of memory stirs
On all green hills of hers,
Such breath of record from so high a place,
From years whose tongues of flame
Prophesied in her name
Her feet should keep truth's bright and burning trace,
We needs must have her heart with us,
Whose hearts are one with man's; she must be dead or thus.
Who is against us? who is on our side?
Whose heart of all men's hearts is one with man's?
Where art thou that wast prophetess and bride,
When truth and thou trod under time and chance?
What latter light of what new hope shall guide
Out of the snares of hell thy feet, O France?
What heel shall bruise these heads that hiss and glide,
What wind blow out these fen-born fires that dance
Before thee to thy death?
No light, no life, no breath,
From thy dead eyes and lips shall take the trance,
Till on that deadliest crime
Reddening the feet of time
Who treads through blood and passes, time shall glance
Pardon, and Italy forgive,
And Rome arise up whom thou slewest, and bid thee live.
I set the trumpet to my lips and blow.
The night is broken southward; the springs run,
The daysprings and the watersprings that flow
Forth with one will from where their source was one,
Out of the might of morning: high and low,
The hungering hills feed full upon the sun,
The thirsting valleys drink of him and glow
As a heart burns with some divine thing done,
Or as blood burns again
In the bruised heart of Spain,
A rose renewed with red new life begun,
Dragged down with thorns and briers,
That puts forth buds like fires
Till the whole tree take flower in unison,
And prince that clogs and priest that clings
Be cast as weeds upon the dunghill of dead things.
Ah heaven, bow down, be nearer! This is she,
Italia, the world's wonder, the world's care,
Free in her heart ere quite her hands be free,
And lovelier than her loveliest robe of air.
The earth hath voice, and speech is in the sea,
Sounds of great joy, too beautiful to bear;
All things are glad because of her, but we
Most glad, who loved her when the worst days were.
O sweetest, fairest, first,
O flower, when times were worst,
Thou hadst no stripe wherein we had no share.
Have not our hearts held close,
Kept fast the whole world's rose?
Have we not worn thee at heart whom none would wear?
First love and last love, light of lands,
Shall we not touch thee full-blown with our lips and hands?
O too much loved, what shall we say of thee?
What shall we make of our heart's burning fire,
The passion in our lives that fain would be
Made each a brand to pile into the pyre
That shall burn up thy foemen, and set free
The flame whence thy sun-shadowing wings aspire?
Love of our life, what more than men are we,
That this our breath for thy sake should expire,
For whom to joyous death
Glad gods might yield their breath,
Great gods drop down from heaven to serve for hire?
We are but men, are we,
And thou art Italy;
What shall we do for thee with our desire?
What gift shall we deserve to give?
How shall we die to do thee service, or how live?
The very thought in us how much we love thee
Makes the throat sob with love and blinds the eyes.
How should love bear thee, to behold above thee
His own light burning from reverberate skies?
They give thee light, but the light given them of thee
Makes faint the wheeling fires that fall and rise.
What love, what life, what death of man's should move thee,
What face that lingers or what foot that flies?
It is not heaven that lights
Thee with such days and nights,
But thou that heaven is lit from in such wise.
O thou her dearest birth,
Turn thee to lighten earth,
Earth too that bore thee and yearns to thee and cries;
Stand up, shine, lighten, become flame,
Till as the sun's name through all nations be thy name.
I take the trumpet from my lips and sing.
O life immeasurable and imminent love,
And fear like winter leading hope like spring,
Whose flower-bright brows the day-star sits above,
Whose hand unweariable and untiring wing
Strike music from a world that wailed and strove,
Each bright soul born and every glorious thing,
From very freedom to man's joy thereof,
O time, O change and death,
Whose now not hateful breath
But gives the music swifter feet to move
Through sharp remeasuring tones
Of refluent antiphones
More tender-tuned than heart or throat of dove,
Soul into soul, song into song,
Life changing into life, by laws that work not wrong;
O natural force in spirit and sense, that art
One thing in all things, fruit of thine own fruit,
O thought illimitable and infinite heart
Whose blood is life in limbs indissolute
That still keeps hurtless thine invisible part
And inextirpable thy viewless root
Whence all sweet shafts of green and each thy dart
Of sharpening leaf and bud resundering shoot;
Hills that the day-star hails,
Heights that the first beam scales,
And heights that souls outshining suns salute,
Valleys for each mouth born
Free now of plenteous corn,
Waters and woodlands' musical or mute;
Free winds that brighten brows as free,
And thunder and laughter and lightning of the sovereign sea;
Rivers and springs, and storms that seek your prey;
With strong wings ravening through the skies by night;
Spirits and stars that hold one choral way;
O light of heaven, and thou the heavenlier light
Aflame above the souls of men that sway
All generations of all years with might;
O sunrise of the repossessing day,
And sunrise of all-renovating right;
And thou, whose trackless foot
Mocks hope's or fear's pursuit,
Swift Revolution, changing depth with height;
And thou, whose mouth makes one
All songs that seek the sun,
Serene Republic of a world made white;
Thou, Freedom, whence the soul's springs ran;
Praise earth for man's sake living, and for earth's sake man.
Make yourselves wings, O tarrying feet of fate,
And hidden hour that hast our hope to bear,
A child-god, through the morning-coloured gate
That lets love in upon the golden air,
Dead on whose threshold lies heart-broken hate,
Dead discord, dead injustice, dead despair;
O love long looked for, wherefore wilt thou wait,
And shew not yet the dawn on thy bright hair.
Not yet thine hand released
Refreshing the faint east,
Thine hand reconquering heaven, to seat man there?
Come forth, be born and live,
Thou that hast help to give
And light to make man's day of manhood fair:
With flight outflying the sphered sun,
Hasten thine hour and halt not, till thy work be done.
The Columbiad: Book VI
British cruelty to American prisoners. Prison Ship. Retreat of Washington with the relics of his army, pursued by Howe. Washington recrossing the Delaware in the night, to surprise the British van, is opposed by uncommon obstacles. His success in this audacious enterprise lays the foundation of the American empire. A monument to be ere on the bank of the Delaware. Approach of Burgoyne, sailing up the St. Laurence with an army of Britons and various other nations. Indignant energy of the colonies, compared to that of Greece in opposing the invasion of Xerxes. Formation of an army of citizens, under the command of Gates. Review of the American and British armies, and of the savage tribes who join the British standard. Battle of Saratoga. Story of Lucinda. Second battle, and capture of Burgoyne and his army.
But of all tales that war's black annals hold,
The darkest, foulest still remains untold;
New modes of torture wait the shameful strife,
And Britain wantons in the waste of life.
Cold-blooded Cruelty, first fiend of hell,
Ah think no more with savage hordes to dwell;
Quit the Caribian tribes who eat their slain,
Fly that grim gang, the Inquisitors of Spain,
Boast not thy deeds in Moloch's shrines of old,
Leave Barbary's pirates to their blood-bought gold,
Let Holland steal her victims, force them o'er
To toils and death on Java's morbid shore;
Some cloak, some color all these crimes may plead;
Tis avarice, passion, blind religion's deed;
But Britons here, in this fraternal broil,
Grave, cool, deliberate in thy service toil.
Far from the nation's eye, whose nobler soul
Their wars would humanize, their pride control,
They lose the lessons that her laws impart,
And change the British for the brutal heart.
Fired by no passion, madden'd by no zeal,
No priest, no Plutus bids them not to feel;
Unpaid, gratuitous, on torture bent,
Their sport is death, their pastime to torment;
All other gods they scorn, but bow the knee,
And curb, well pleased, O Cruelty, to thee.
Come then, curst goddess, where thy votaries reign,
Inhale their incense from the land and main;
Come to Newyork, their conquering arms to greet,
Brood o'er their camp and breathe along their fleet;
The brother chiefs of Howe's illustrious name
Demand thy labors to complete their fame.
What shrieks of agony thy praises sound!
What grateless dungeons groan beneath the ground!
See the black Prison Ship's expanding womb
Impested thousands, quick and dead, entomb.
Barks after barks the captured seamen bear,
Transboard and lodge thy silent victims there;
A hundred scows, from all the neighboring shore,
Spread the dull sail and ply the constant oar,
Waft wrecks of armies from the well fought field,
And famisht garrisons who bravely yield;
They mount the hulk, and, cramm'd within the cave,
Hail their last house, their living, floating grave.
She comes, the Fiend! her grinning jaws expand,
Her brazen eyes cast lightning o'er the strand,
Her wings like thunder-clouds the welkin sweep,
Brush the tall spires and shade the shuddering deep;
She gains the deck, displays her wonted store,
Her cords and scourges wet with prisoners' gore;
Gripes, pincers, thumb-screws spread beneath her feet,
Slow poisonous drugs and loads of putrid meat;
Disease hangs drizzling from her slimy locks,
And hot contagion issues from her box.
O'er the closed hatches ere she takes her place,
She moves the massy planks a little space,
Opes a small passage to the cries below,
That feast her soul on messages of woe;
There sits with gaping ear and changeless eye,
Drinks every groan and treasures every sigh,
Sustains the faint, their miseries to prolong,
Revives the dying and unnerves the strong.
But as the infected mass resign their breath.
She keeps with joy the register of death.
As tost thro portholes from the encumber'd cave,
Corpse after corpse fall dashing in the wave;
Corpse after corpse, for days and months and years,
The tide bears off, and still its current clears;
At last, o'erloaded with the putrid gore,
The slime-clad waters thicken round the shore.
Green Ocean's self, that oft his wave renews,
That drinks whole fleets with all their battling crews,
That laves, that purifies the earth and sky,
Yet ne'er before resign'd his natural dye,
Here purples, blushes for the race he bore
To rob and ravage this unconquer'd shore;
The scaly nations, as they travel by,
Catch the contagion, sicken, gasp and die.
Now Hesper turns the Hero's tearful eye
To other fields where other standards fly;
For here constrain'd new warfare to disclose,
And show the feats of more than mortal foes,
Where interposing with celestial might,
His own dread labors must decide the fight,
He bids the scene with pomp unusual rise,
To teach Columbus how to read the skies.
He marks the trace of Howe's triumphant course,
And wheels o'er Jersey plains his gathering force;
Where dauntless Washington, begirt with foes,
Still greater rises as the danger grows,
And wearied troops, o'er kindred warriors slain,
Attend his march thro many a sanguine plain.
From Hudson's bank to Trenton's wintry strand,
He guards in firm retreat his feeble band;
Britons by thousands on his flanks advance,
Bend o'er his rear and point the lifted lance.
Past Delaware's frozen stream, with scanty force,
He checks retreat; then turning back his course,
Remounts the wave, and thro the mingled roar
Of ice and storm reseeks the hostile shore,
Wrapt in the gloom of night. The offended Flood
Starts from his cave, assumes the indignant god,
Rears thro the parting tide his foamy form,
And with his fiery eyeballs lights the storm.
He stares around him on the host he heard,
Clears his choked urn and smooths his icy beard,
And thus: Audacious chief, this troubled wave
Tempt not; or tempting, here shall gape thy grave.
Is nothing sacred to thy venturous might?
The howling storm, the holy truce of night,
High tossing ice-isles crashing round thy side,
Insidious rocks that pierce the tumbling tide?
Fear then this forceful arm, and hear once more,
Death stands between thee and that shelvy shore.
The chief beholds the god, and notes his cry,
But onward drives, nor pauses to reply;
Calls to each bark, and spirits every host
To toil, gain, tempt the interdicted coast.
The crews, regardless of the doubling roar,
Breast the strong helm, and wrestle with the oar,
Stem with resurgent prow the struggling spray,
And with phosphoric lanterns shape their way.
The god perceived his warning words were vain,
And rose more furious to assert his reign,
Lash'd up a loftier surge, and heaved on high
A ridge of billows that obstruct the sky;
And, as the accumulated mass he rolls,
Bares the sharp rocks and lifts the gaping shoals.
Forward the fearless barges plunge and bound,
Top the curl'd wave, or grind the flinty ground,
Careen, whirl, right, and sidelong dasht and tost,
Now seem to reach and now to lose the coast.
Still unsubdued the sea-drench'd army toils,
Each buoyant skiff the flouncing godhead foils;
He raves and roars, and in delirious woe
Calls to his aid his ancient hoary foe,
Almighty Frost; when thus the vanquish'd Flood
Bespeaks in haste the great earth-rending god:
Father of storms! behold this mortal race
Confound my force and brave me to my face.
Not all my waves by all my tempests driven,
Nor black night brooding o'er the starless heaven,
Can check their course; they toss and plunge amain,
And lo, my guardian rocks project their points in vain.
Come to my help, and with thy stiffening breath
Clog their strain'd helms, distend their limbs indeath.
Tho ancient enmity our realms divide,
And oft thy chains arrest my laboring tide,
Let strong necessity our cause combine,
Thy own disgrace anticipate in mine;
Even now their oars thy sleet in vain congeals,
Thy crumbling ice-cakes crash beneath their keels;
Their impious arms already cope with ours,
And mortal man defies immortal Powers.
Roused at the call, the Monarch mounts the storm;
In muriat flakes he robes his nitrous form,
Glares thro the compound, all its blast inhales,
And seas turn crystal where he breathes his gales.
He comes careering o'er his bleak domain,
But comes untended by his usual train;
Hail, sleet and snow-rack far behind him fly,
Too weak to wade thro this petrific sky,
Whose air consolidates and cuts and stings,
And shakes hoar tinsel from its flickering wings.
Earth heaves and cracks beneath the alighting god;
He gains the pass, bestrides the roaring flood,
Shoots from his nostrils one wide withering sheet
Of treasured meteors on the struggling fleet;
The waves conglaciate instant, fix in air,
Stand like a ridge of rocks, and shiver there.
The barks, confounded in their headlong surge,
Or wedged in crystal, cease their oars to urge;
Some with prone prow, as plunging down the deep,
And some remounting o'er the slippery steep
Seem laboring still, but moveless, lifeless all;
And the chill'd army here awaits its fall.
But Hesper, guardian of Hesperia's right,
From his far heaven looks thro the rayless night;
And, stung to vengeance at the unequal strife,
To save her host, in jeopardy of life,
Starts from his throne, ascends his flamy car.
And turns tremendous to the field of war.
His wheels, resurging from the depth of even,
Roll back the night, streak wide the startled heaven,
Regain their easting with reverted gyres,
And stud their path with scintillating fires.
He cleaves the clouds; and, swift as beams of day,
O'er California sweeps his splendid way;
Missouri's mountains at his passage nod,
And now sad Delaware feels the present god,
And trembles at his tread. For here to fight
Rush two dread Powers of such unmeasured might,
As threats to annihilate his doubtful reign,
Convulse the heaven and mingle earth and main.
Frost views his brilliant foe with scornful eye,
And whirls a tenfold tempest thro the sky;
Where each fine atom of the immense of air,
Steel'd, pointed, barb'd for unexampled war,
Sings o'er the shuddering ground; when thus he broke
Contemptuous silence, and to Hesper spoke:
Thou comest in time to share their last disgrace,
To change to crystal with thy rebel race,
Stretch thy huge corse o'er Delaware's bank afar,
And learn the force of elemental war.
Or if undying life thy lamp inspire,
Take that one blast and to thy sky retire;
There, roll'd eternal round the heavens, proclaim
Thy own disaster and my deathless fame.
I come, said Hesper, not to insult the brave,
But break thy sceptre and let loose my wave,
Teach the proud Stream more peaceful tides to roll,
And send thee howling to thy stormy pole;
That drear dominion shall thy rage confine;
This land, these waters and those troops are mine.
He added not; and now the sable storm,
Pierced by strong splendor, burst before his form;
His visage stern an awful lustre shed,
His pearly planet play'd around his head.
He seized a lofty pine, whose roots of yore
Struck deep in earth, to guard the sandy shore
From hostile ravage of the mining tide,
That rakes with spoils of earth its crumbling side.
He wrencht it from the soil, and o'er the foe
Whirl'd the strong trunk, and aim'd a sweeping blow,
That sung thro air, but miss'd the moving god,
And fell wide crashing on the frozen flood.
For many a rood the shivering ice it tore,
Loosed every bark and shook the sounding shore;
Stroke after stroke with doubling force he plied,
Foil'd the hoar Fiend and pulverized the tide.
The baffled tyrant quits the desperate cause;
From Hesper's heat the river swells and thaws,
The fleet rolls gently to the Jersey coast,
And morning splendors greet the landing host.
Tis here dread Washington, when first the day
O'er Trenton beam'd to light his rapid way,
Pour'd the rude shock on Britain's vanguard train,
And led whole squadrons in his captive chain;
Where veteran troops to half their numbers yield,
Tread back their steps, or press the sanguine field,
To Princeton plains precipitate their flight,
Thro new disasters and unfinish'd fight,
Resign their conquests by one sad surprise,
Sink in their pride and see their rivals rise.
Here dawn'd the daystar of Hesperia's fame,
Here herald glory first emblazed her name;
On Delaware's bank her base of empire stands,
The work of Washington's immortal hands;
Prompt at his side while gallant Mercer trod,
And seal'd the firm foundation with his blood.
In future years, if right the Muse divine,
Some great memorial on this bank shall shine;
A column bold its granite shaft shall rear,
Swell o'er the strand and check the passing air,
Cast its broad image on the watery glade,
And Bristol greet the monumental shade;
Eternal emblem of that gloomy hour,
When the great general left her storm-beat shore,
To tempest, night and his own sword consign'd
His country's fates, the fortunes of mankind.
Where sealike Laurence, rolling in his pride,
With Ocean's self disputes the tossing tide,
From shore to shore, thro dim distending skies,
Beneath full sails imbanded nations rise.
Britain and Brunswick here their flags unfold,
Here Hessia's hordes, for toils of slaughter sold,
Anspach and Darmstadt swell the hireling train,
Proud Caledonia crowds the masted main,
Hibernian kerns and Hanoverian slaves
Move o'er the decks and darken wide the waves.
Tall on the boldest bark superior shone
A warrior ensign'd with a various crown;
Myrtles and laurels equal honors join'd,
Which arms had purchased and the Muses twined;
His sword waved forward, and his ardent eye
Seem'd sharing empires in the southern sky.
Beside him rose a herald to proclaim
His various honors, titles, feats and fame;
Who raised an opening scroll, where proudly shone
Burgoyne and vengeance from the British throne.
Champlain receives the congregated host,
And his husht waves beneath the sails are lost;
Ticonderoga rears his rocks in vain,
Nor Edward's walls the weighty shock sustain;
Deep George's loaded lake reluctant guides
Their bounding barges o'er his sacred tides.
State after state the splendid pomp appalls,
Each town surrenders, every fortress falls;
Sinclair retires; and with his feeble train,
In slow retreat o'er many a fatal plain,
Allures their march; wide moves their furious force,
And flaming hamlets mark their wasting course;
Thro fortless realms their spreading ranks are wheel'd,
On Mohawk's wrestern wave, on Bennington's dread field.
At last where Hudson, with majestic pace,
Swells at the sight, and checks his rapid race,
Thro dark Stillwater slow and silent moves,
And flying troops with sullen pause reproves,
A few firm bands their starry standard rear,
Wheel, front and face the desolating war.
Sudden the patriot flame each province warms,
Deep danger calls, the freemen quit their farms,
Seize their tried muskets, name their chiefs to lead,
Endorse their knapsacks and to vengeance speed.
O'er all the land the kindling ardor flies,
Troop follows troop, and flags on flags arise,
Concentred, train'd, their forming files unite,
Swell into squadrons and demand the fight.
When Xerxes, raving at his sire's disgrace,
Pour'd his dark millions on the coast of Thrace,
O'er groaning Hellespont his broad bridge hurl'd,
Hew'd ponderous Athos from the trembling world,
Still'd with his weight of ships the struggling main,
And bound the billows in his boasted chain,
Wide o'er proud Macedon he wheel'd his course,
Thrace, Thebes, Thessalia join'd his furious force.
Thro six torn states his hovering swarms increase,
And hang tremendous on the skirts of Greece;
Deep groan the shrines of all her guardian gods,
Sad Pelion shakes, divine Olympus nods,
Shock'd Ossa sheds his hundred hills of snow,
And Tempe swells her murmuring brook below;
Wild in her starts of rage the Pythian shrieks,
Dodona's Oak the pangs of nature speaks,
Eleusis quakes thro all her mystic caves,
And black Trophonius gapes a thousand graves.
But soon the freeborn Greeks to vengeance rise,
Brave Sparta springs where first the danger lies,
Her self-devoted Band, in one steel'd mass,
Plunge in the gorge of death, and choke the Pass,
Athenian youths, the unwieldy war to meet,
Couch the stiff lance, or mount the well arm'd fleet;
They sweep the incumber'd seas of their vast load,
And fat their fields with lakes of Asian blood.
So leapt our youths to meet the invading hordes,
Fame fired their courage, freedom edged their swords.
Gates in their van on high-hill'd Bemus rose,
Waved his blue steel and dared the headlong foes;
Undaunted Lincoln, laboring on his right,
Urged every arm, and gave them hearts to fight;
Starke, at the dexter flank, the onset claims,
Indignant Herkimer the left inflames;
He bounds exulting to commence the strife.
And buy the victory with his barter'd life.
And why, sweet Minstrel, from the harp of fame
Withhold so long that once resounding name?
The chief who, steering by the boreal star,
O'er wild Canadia led our infant war,
In desperate straits superior powers display'd,
Burgoyne's dread scourge, Montgomery's ablest aid;
Ridgefield and Compo saw his valorous might
With ill-arm'd swains put veteran troops to flight.
Tho treason foul hath since absorb'd his soul,
Bade waves of dark oblivion round him roll,
Sunk his proud heart abhorrent and abhorr'd,
Effaced his memory and defiled his sword;
Yet then untarnisht roll'd his conquering car;
Then famed and foremost in the ranks of war
Brave Arnold trod; high valor warm'd his breast,
And beams of glory play'd around his crest.
Here toils the chief; whole armies from his eye
Resume their souls, and swift to combat fly.
Camp'd on a hundred hills, and trench'd in form,
Burgoyne's long legions view the gathering storm;
Uncounted nations round their general stand,
And wait the signal from his guiding hand.
Canadia crowds her Gallic colons there,
Ontario's yelling tribes torment the air,
Wild Huron sends his lurking hordes from far,
Insidious Mohawk swells the woodland war;
Scalpers and ax-men rush from Erie's shore,
And Iroquois augments the war whoop roar;
While all his ancient troops his train supply,
Half Europe's banners waving thro the sky;
Deep squadron'd horse support his endless flanks,
And park'd artillery frowns behind the ranks.
Flush'd with the conquest of a thousand fields,
And rich with spoils that all the region yields,
They burn with zeal to close the long campaign,
And crush Columbia on this final plain.
His fellow chiefs inhale the hero's flame,
Nerves of his arm and partners in his fame:
Phillips, with treasured thunders poised and wheel'd
In brazen tubes, prepares to rake the field;
The trench-tops darken with the sable rows,
And, tipt with fire, the waving match-rope glows.
There gallant Reidesel in German guise,
And Specht and Breyman, prompt for action, rise;
His savage hordes the murderous Johnson leads,
Files thro the woods and treads the tangled weeds,
Shuns open combat, teaches where to run,
Skulk, couch the ambush, aim the hunter's gun,
Whirl the sly tomahawk, the war whoop sing,
Divide the spoils and pack the scalps they bring.
Frazer in quest of glory seeks the field;-
False glare of glory, what hast thou to yield?
How long, deluding phantom, wilt thou blind,
Mislead, debase, unhumanize mankind?
Bid the bold youth, his headlong sword who draws,
Heed not the object, nor inquire the cause;
But seek adventuring, like an errant knight,
Wars not his own, gratuitous in fight,
Greet the gored field, then plunging thro the fire,
Mow down his men, with stupid pride expire,
Shed from his closing eyes the finish'd flame,
And ask, for all his crimes, a deathless name?
And when shall solid glory, pure and bright,
Alone inspire us, and our deeds requite?
When shall the applause of men their chiefs pursue
In just proportion to the good they do,
On virtue's base erect the shrine of fame,
Define her empire, and her code proclaim?
Unhappy Frazer! little hast thou weigh'd
The crirneful cause thy valor comes to aid.
Far from thy native land, thy sire, thy wife,
Love's lisping race that cling about thy life,
Thy soul beats high, thy thoughts expanding roam
On battles past, and laurels yet to come:
Alas, what laurels? where the lasting gain?
A pompous funeral on a desert plain!
The cannon's roar, the muffled drums proclaim,
In one short blast, thy momentary fame,
And some war minister per-hazard reads
In what far field the tool of placemen bleeds.
Brave Heartly strode in youth's o'erweening pride;
Housed in the camp he left his blooming bride,
The sweet Lucinda; whom her sire from far,
On steeds high bounding o'er the waste of war,
Had guided thro the lines, and hither led,
That fateful morn, the plighted chief to wed.
He deem'd, deluded sire! the contest o'er,
That routed rebels dared the fight no more;
And came to mingle, as the tumult ceased,
The victor's triumph with the nuptial feast.
They reach'd his tent; when now with loud alarms
The morn burst forth and roused the camp to arms;
Conflicting passions seized the lover's breast,
Bright honor call'd, and bright Lucinda prest:-
And wilt thou leave me for that clangorous call?
Traced I these deserts but to see thee fall?
I know thy valorous heart, thy zeal that speeds
Where dangers press and boldest battle bleeds.
My father said blest Hymen here should join
With sacred Love to make Lucinda thine;
But other union these dire drums foredoom,
The dark dead union of the eternal tomb.
On yonder plain, soon sheeted o'er with blood,
Our nuptial couch shall prove a crimson clod;
For there this night thy livid corse must lie,
I'll seek it there, and on that bosom die.
Yet go; tis duty calls; but o'er thy head
Let this white plume its floating foliage spread;
That from the rampart, thro the troubled air,
These eyes may trace thee toiling in the war.
She fixt the feather on his crest above,
Bound with the mystic knot, the knot of love;
He parted silent, but in silent prayer
Bade Love and Hymen guard the timorous fair.
Where Saratoga show'd her champaign side,
That Hudson bathed with still untainted tide,
The opposing pickets push'd their scouting files,
Wheel'd skirmisht, halted, practised all their wiles;
Each to mislead, insnare, exhaust their foes,
And court the conquest ere the armies close.
Now roll like winged storms the solid lines,
The clarion thunders and the battle joins,
Thick flames in vollied flashes load the air,
And echoing mountains give the noise of war;
Sulphureous clouds rise reddening round the height,
And veil the skies, and wrap the sounding fight.
Soon from the skirts of smoke, where thousands toil,
Ranks roll away and into light recoil;
Starke pours upon them in a storm of lead;
His hosted swains bestrew the field with dead,
Pierce with strong bayonets the German reins,
Whelm two battalions in their captive chains,
Bid Baum, with wounds enfeebled, quit the field,
And Breyman next his gushing lifeblood yield.
This Frazer sees, and thither turns his course,
Bears down before them with Britannia's force,
Wheels a broad column on the victor flank,
And springs to vengeance thro the foremost rank.
Lincoln, to meet the hero, sweeps the plain;
His ready bands the laboring Starke sustain;
Host matching host, the doubtful battle burns,
And now the Britons, now their foes by turns
Regain the ground; till Frazer feels the force
Of a rude grapeshot in his flouncing horse;
Nor knew the chief, till struggling from the fall,
That his gored thigh had first received the ball.
He sinks expiring on the slippery soil;
Shock'd at the sight, his baffled troops recoil;
Where Lincoln, pressing with redoubled might,
Broke thro their squadrons and confirmed the flight;
When this brave leader met a stunning blow,
That stopt his progress and avenged the foe.
He left the field; but prodigal of life,
Unwearied Francis still prolong'd the strife;
Till a chance carabine attained his head,
And stretch'd the hero mid the vulgar dead.
His near companions rush with ardent gait,
Swift to revenge, but soon to share his fate;
Brown, Adams, Coburn, falling side by side,
Drench the chill sod with all their vital tide.
Firm on the west bold Herkimer sustains
The gather'd shock of all Canadia's trains;
Colons and wildmen post their skulkers there,
Outflank his pickets and assail his rear,
Drive in his distant scouts with hideous blare,
And press, on three sides close, the hovering war.
Johnson's own shrieks commence the deafening din,
Rouse every ambush and the storm begin.
A thousand thickets, thro each opening glen,
Pour forth their hunters to the chase of men;
Trunks of huge trees, and rocks and ravines lend
Unnumber'd batteries and their files defend;
They fire, they squat, they rise, advance and fly,
And yells and groans alternate rend the sky.
The well aim'd hatchet cleaves the helmless head,
Mute showers of arrows and loud storms of lead
Rain thick from hands unseen, and sudden fling
A deep confusion thro the laboring wing.
But Herkimer undaunted quits the stand,
Breaks in loose files his disencumbered band,
Wheels on the howling glens each light-arm'd troop,
And leads himself where Johnson tones his whoop,
Pours thro his copse a well directed fire;
The semisavage sees his tribes retire,
Then follows thro the brush in full horse speed,
And gains the hilltop where the Hurons lead;
Here turns his courser; when a grateful sight
Recals his stragglers, and restrains his flight.
For Herkimer no longer now sustains
The loss of blood that his faint vitals drains:
A ball had pierced him ere he changed his field;
The slow sure death his prudence had conceal'd,
Till dark derouted foes should yield to flight,
And his firm friends could finish well the fight.
Lopt from his horse the hero sinks at last;
The Hurons ken him, and with hallooing blast
Shake the vast wilderness; the tribes around
Drink with broad ears and swell the rending sound,
Rush back to vengeance with tempestuous might,
Sweep the long slopes from every neighboring height,
Full on their check'd pursuers; who regain,
From all their woods, the first contested plain.
Here open fight begins; and sure defeat
Had forced that column to a swift retreat,
But Arnold, toiling thro the distant smoke,
Beheld their plight, a small detachment took,
Bore down behind them with his field-park loud,
And hail'd his grapeshot thro the savage crowd;
Strow'd every copse with dead, and chased afar
The affrighted relics from the skirts of war.
But on the centre swells the heaviest charge,
The squares develop and the lines enlarge.
Here Kosciusko's mantling works conceal'd
His batteries mute, but soon to scour the field;
Morgan with all his marksmen flanks the foe,
Hull, Brooks and Courtlandt in the vanguard glow;
Here gallant Dearborn leads his light-arm'd train,
Here Scammel towers, here Silly shakes the plain.
Gates guides the onset with his waving brand,
Assigns their task to each unfolding band,
Sustains, inspirits, prompts the warrior's rage,
Now bids the flank and now the front engage,
Points the stern riflers where their slugs to pour,
And tells the unmasking batteries when to roar.
For here impetuous Powell wheels and veers
His royal guards, his British grenadiers;
His Highland broadswords cut their wasting course,
His horse-artillery whirls its furious force.
Here Specht and Reidesel to battle bring
Their scattering yagers from each folding wing;
And here, concentred in tremendous might,
Britain's whole park, descending to the fight,
Roars thro the ranks; tis Phillips leads the train,
And toils and thunders o'er the shuddering plain.
Burgoyne, secure of victory, from his height,
Eyes the whole field and orders all the fight,
Marks where his veterans plunge their fiercest fire,
And where his foes seem halting to retire,
Already sees the starry staff give way.
And British ensigns gaining on the day;
When from the western wing, in steely glare,
All-conquering Arnold surged the tide of war.
Columbia kindles as her hero comes;
Her trump's shrill clangor and her deafening drums
Redoubling sound the charge; they rage, they burn,
And hosted Europe trembles in her turn.
So when Pelides' absence check'd her fate,
All Ilion issued from her guardian gate;
Her huddling squadrons like a tempest pour'd,
Each man a hero and each dart a sword,
Full on retiring Greece tumultuous fall,
And Greece reluctant seeks her sheltering wall;
But Pelius' son rebounding o'er the plain,
Troy backward starts and seeks her towers again.
Arnold's dread falchion, with terrific sway,
Rolls on the ranks and rules the doubtful day,
Confounds with one wide sweep the astonish'd foes,
And bids at last the scene of slaughter close.
Pale rout begins, Britannia's broken train
Tread back their steps and scatter from the plain,
To their strong camp precipitate retire,
And wide behind them streams the roaring fire.
Meantime, the skirts of war as Johnson gored,
His kindred cannibals desert their lord;
They scour the waste for undistinguish'd prey,
Howl thro the night the horrors of the day,
Scalp every straggler from all parties stray'd,
Each wounded wanderer thro the moonlight glade;
And while the absent armies give them place,
Each camp they plunder and each world disgrace.
One deed shall tell what fame great Albion draws
From these auxiliars in her barbarous cause,
Lucinda's fate; the tale, ye nations, hear;
Eternal ages, trace it with a tear.
Long from the rampart, thro the imbattled field,
She spied her Heartly where his column wheel'd,
Traced him with steadfast eye and tortured breast,
That heaved in concert with his dancing crest;
And oft, with head advanced and hand outspread,
Seem'd from her Love to ward the flying lead;
Till, dimm'd by distance and the gathering cloud;
At last he vanish'd in the warrior crowd.
She thought he fell; and wild with fearless air,
She left the camp to brave the woodland war,
Made a long circuit, all her friends to shun,
And wander'd wide beneath the falling sun;
Then veering to the field, the pickets past,
To gain the hillock where she miss'd him last.
Fond maid, he rests not there; from finish'd fight
He sought the camp, and closed the rear of flight.
He hurries to his tent;-oh rage! despair!
No glimpse, no tidings of the frantic fair;
Save that some carmen, as acamp they drove,
Had seen her coursing for the western grove.
Faint with fatigue and choked with burning thirst,
Forth from his friends with bounding leap he burst,
Vaults o'er the palisade with eyes on flame,
And fills the welkin with Lucinda's name,
Swift thro the wild wood paths phrenetic springs,-
Lucind! Lucinda! thro the wild wood rings.
All night he wanders; barking wolves alone
And screaming night-birds answer to his moan;
For war had roused them from their savage den;
They scent the field, they snuff the walks of men.
The fair one too, of every aid forlorn,
Had raved and wander'd, till officipus morn
Awaked the Mohawks from their short repose,
To glean the plunder, ere their comrades rose.
Two Mohawks met the maid,-historian, hold!-
Poor Human Nature! must thy shame be told?
Where then that proud preeminence of birth,
Thy Moral Sense? the brightest boast of earth.
Had but the tiger changed his heart for thine,
Could rocks their bowels with that heart combine,
Thy tear had gusht, thy hand relieved her pain,
And led Lucinda to her lord again.
She starts, with eyes upturn'd and fleeting breath,
In their raised axes views her instant death,
Spreads her white hands to heaven in frantic prayer,
Then runs to grasp their knees, and crouches there.
Her hair, half lost along the shrubs she past,
Rolls in loose tangles round her lovely waist;
Her kerchief torn betrays the globes of snow
That heave responsive to her weight of woe.
Does all this eloquence suspend the knife?
Does no superior bribe contest her life?
There does: the scalps by British gold are paid;
A long-hair'd scalp adorns that heavenly head;
Arid comes the sacred spoil from friend or foe,
No marks distinguish, and no man can know.
With calculating pause and demon grin,
They seize her hands, and thro her face divine
Drive the descending ax; the shriek she sent
Attain'd her lover's ear; he thither bent
With all the speed his wearied limbs could yield,
Whirl'd his keen blade, and stretch'd upon the field
The yelling fiends; who there disputing stood
Her gory scalp, their horrid prize of blood.
He sunk delirious on her lifeless clay,
And past, in starts of sense, the dreadful day.
Are these thy trophies, Carleton! these the swords
Thy hand unsheath'd and gave the savage hordes,
Thy boasted friends, by treaties brought from far,
To aid thy master in his murderous war?
But now Britannia's chief, with proud disdain
Coop'd in his camp, demands the field again.
Back to their fate his splendid host he drew,
Swell'd high their rage, and led the charge anew;
Again the batteries roar, the lightnings play,
Again they fall, again they roll away;
For now Columbia, with rebounding might,
Foil'd quick their columns, but confined their flight.
Her wings, like fierce tornados, gyring ran,
Crusht their wide flanks and gain'd their flying van;
Here Arnold charged; the hero storm'd and pour'd
A thousand thunders where he turn'
No pause, no parley; onward far he fray'd,
Dispersed whole squadrons every bound he made,
Broke thro their rampart, seized theircampand stores
And pluck'd the standard from their broken towers.
Aghast, confounded in the midway field,
They drop their arms; the banded nations yield.
When sad Burgoyne, in one disastrous day,
Sees future crowns and former wreaths decay,
His banners furl'd, his long battalions wheel'd
To pile their muskets on the battle field;
While two pacific armies shade one plain,
The mighty victors and the captive train.
Paradise Lost: Book 10
Mean while the heinous and despiteful act
Of Satan, done in Paradise; and how
He, in the serpent, had perverted Eve,
Her husband she, to taste the fatal fruit,
Was known in Heaven; for what can 'scape the eye
Of God all-seeing, or deceive his heart
Omniscient? who, in all things wise and just,
Hindered not Satan to attempt the mind
Of Man, with strength entire and free will armed,
Complete to have discovered and repulsed
Whatever wiles of foe or seeming friend.
For still they knew, and ought to have still remembered,
The high injunction, not to taste that fruit,
Whoever tempted; which they not obeying,
(Incurred what could they less?) the penalty;
And, manifold in sin, deserved to fall.
Up into Heaven from Paradise in haste
The angelick guards ascended, mute, and sad,
For Man; for of his state by this they knew,
Much wondering how the subtle Fiend had stolen
Entrance unseen. Soon as the unwelcome news
From Earth arrived at Heaven-gate, displeased
All were who heard; dim sadness did not spare
That time celestial visages, yet, mixed
With pity, violated not their bliss.
About the new-arrived, in multitudes
The ethereal people ran, to hear and know
How all befel: They towards the throne supreme,
Accountable, made haste, to make appear,
With righteous plea, their utmost vigilance
And easily approved; when the Most High
Eternal Father, from his secret cloud,
Amidst in thunder uttered thus his voice.
Assembled Angels, and ye Powers returned
From unsuccessful charge; be not dismayed,
Nor troubled at these tidings from the earth,
Which your sincerest care could not prevent;
Foretold so lately what would come to pass,
When first this tempter crossed the gulf from Hell.
I told ye then he should prevail, and speed
On his bad errand; Man should be seduced,
And flattered out of all, believing lies
Against his Maker; no decree of mine
Concurring to necessitate his fall,
Or touch with lightest moment of impulse
His free will, to her own inclining left
In even scale. But fallen he is; and now
What rests, but that the mortal sentence pass
On his transgression,--death denounced that day?
Which he presumes already vain and void,
Because not yet inflicted, as he feared,
By some immediate stroke; but soon shall find
Forbearance no acquittance, ere day end.
Justice shall not return as bounty scorned.
But whom send I to judge them? whom but thee,
Vicegerent Son? To thee I have transferred
All judgement, whether in Heaven, or Earth, or Hell.
Easy it may be seen that I intend
Mercy colleague with justice, sending thee
Man's friend, his Mediator, his designed
Both ransom and Redeemer voluntary,
And destined Man himself to judge Man fallen.
So spake the Father; and, unfolding bright
Toward the right hand his glory, on the Son
Blazed forth unclouded Deity: He full
Resplendent all his Father manifest
Expressed, and thus divinely answered mild.
Father Eternal, thine is to decree;
Mine, both in Heaven and Earth, to do thy will
Supreme; that thou in me, thy Son beloved,
Mayest ever rest well pleased. I go to judge
On earth these thy transgressours; but thou knowest,
Whoever judged, the worst on me must light,
When time shall be; for so I undertook
Before thee; and, not repenting, this obtain
Of right, that I may mitigate their doom
On me derived; yet I shall temper so
Justice with mercy, as may illustrate most
Them fully satisfied, and thee appease.
Attendance none shall need, nor train, where none
Are to behold the judgement, but the judged,
Those two; the third best absent is condemned,
Convict by flight, and rebel to all law:
Conviction to the serpent none belongs.
Thus saying, from his radiant seat he rose
Of high collateral glory: Him Thrones, and Powers,
Princedoms, and Dominations ministrant,
Accompanied to Heaven-gate; from whence
Eden, and all the coast, in prospect lay.
Down he descended straight; the speed of Gods
Time counts not, though with swiftest minutes winged.
Now was the sun in western cadence low
From noon, and gentle airs, due at their hour,
To fan the earth now waked, and usher in
The evening cool; when he, from wrath more cool,
Came the mild Judge, and Intercessour both,
To sentence Man: The voice of God they heard
Now walking in the garden, by soft winds
Brought to their ears, while day declined; they heard,
And from his presence hid themselves among
The thickest trees, both man and wife; till God,
Approaching, thus to Adam called aloud.
Where art thou, Adam, wont with joy to meet
My coming seen far off? I miss thee here,
Not pleased, thus entertained with solitude,
Where obvious duty ere while appeared unsought:
Or come I less conspicuous, or what change
Absents thee, or what chance detains?--Come forth!
He came; and with him Eve, more loth, though first
To offend; discountenanced both, and discomposed;
Love was not in their looks, either to God,
Or to each other; but apparent guilt,
And shame, and perturbation, and despair,
Anger, and obstinacy, and hate, and guile.
Whence Adam, faltering long, thus answered brief.
I heard thee in the garden, and of thy voice
Afraid, being naked, hid myself. To whom
The gracious Judge without revile replied.
My voice thou oft hast heard, and hast not feared,
But still rejoiced; how is it now become
So dreadful to thee? That thou art naked, who
Hath told thee? Hast thou eaten of the tree,
Whereof I gave thee charge thou shouldst not eat?
To whom thus Adam sore beset replied.
O Heaven! in evil strait this day I stand
Before my Judge; either to undergo
Myself the total crime, or to accuse
My other self, the partner of my life;
Whose failing, while her faith to me remains,
I should conceal, and not expose to blame
By my complaint: but strict necessity
Subdues me, and calamitous constraint;
Lest on my head both sin and punishment,
However insupportable, be all
Devolved; though should I hold my peace, yet thou
Wouldst easily detect what I conceal.--
This Woman, whom thou madest to be my help,
And gavest me as thy perfect gift, so good,
So fit, so acceptable, so divine,
That from her hand I could suspect no ill,
And what she did, whatever in itself,
Her doing seemed to justify the deed;
She gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
To whom the Sovran Presence thus replied.
Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey
Before his voice? or was she made thy guide,
Superiour, or but equal, that to her
Thou didst resign thy manhood, and the place
Wherein God set thee above her made of thee,
And for thee, whose perfection far excelled
Hers in all real dignity? Adorned
She was indeed, and lovely, to attract
Thy love, not thy subjection; and her gifts
Were such, as under government well seemed;
Unseemly to bear rule; which was thy part
And person, hadst thou known thyself aright.
So having said, he thus to Eve in few.
Say, Woman, what is this which thou hast done?
To whom sad Eve, with shame nigh overwhelmed,
Confessing soon, yet not before her Judge
Bold or loquacious, thus abashed replied.
The Serpent me beguiled, and I did eat.
Which when the Lord God heard, without delay
To judgement he proceeded on the accused
Serpent, though brute; unable to transfer
The guilt on him, who made him instrument
Of mischief, and polluted from the end
Of his creation; justly then accursed,
As vitiated in nature: More to know
Concerned not Man, (since he no further knew)
Nor altered his offence; yet God at last
To Satan first in sin his doom applied,
Though in mysterious terms, judged as then best:
And on the Serpent thus his curse let fall.
Because thou hast done this, thou art accursed
Above all cattle, each beast of the field;
Upon thy belly groveling thou shalt go,
And dust shalt eat all the days of thy life.
Between thee and the woman I will put
Enmity, and between thine and her seed;
Her seed shall bruise thy head, thou bruise his heel.
So spake this oracle, then verified
When Jesus, Son of Mary, second Eve,
Saw Satan fall, like lightning, down from Heaven,
Prince of the air; then, rising from his grave
Spoiled Principalities and Powers, triumphed
In open show; and, with ascension bright,
Captivity led captive through the air,
The realm itself of Satan, long usurped;
Whom he shall tread at last under our feet;
Even he, who now foretold his fatal bruise;
And to the Woman thus his sentence turned.
Thy sorrow I will greatly multiply
By thy conception; children thou shalt bring
In sorrow forth; and to thy husband's will
Thine shall submit; he over thee shall rule.
On Adam last thus judgement he pronounced.
Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife,
And eaten of the tree, concerning which
I charged thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat thereof:
Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thou in sorrow
Shalt eat thereof, all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles it shall bring thee forth
Unbid; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
Till thou return unto the ground; for thou
Out of the ground wast taken, know thy birth,
For dust thou art, and shalt to dust return.
So judged he Man, both Judge and Saviour sent;
And the instant stroke of death, denounced that day,
Removed far off; then, pitying how they stood
Before him naked to the air, that now
Must suffer change, disdained not to begin
Thenceforth the form of servant to assume;
As when he washed his servants feet; so now,
As father of his family, he clad
Their nakedness with skins of beasts, or slain,
Or as the snake with youthful coat repaid;
And thought not much to clothe his enemies;
Nor he their outward only with the skins
Of beasts, but inward nakedness, much more.
Opprobrious, with his robe of righteousness,
Arraying, covered from his Father's sight.
To him with swift ascent he up returned,
Into his blissful bosom reassumed
In glory, as of old; to him appeased
All, though all-knowing, what had passed with Man
Recounted, mixing intercession sweet.
Mean while, ere thus was sinned and judged on Earth,
Within the gates of Hell sat Sin and Death,
In counterview within the gates, that now
Stood open wide, belching outrageous flame
Far into Chaos, since the Fiend passed through,
Sin opening; who thus now to Death began.
O Son, why sit we here each other viewing
Idly, while Satan, our great author, thrives
In other worlds, and happier seat provides
For us, his offspring dear? It cannot be
But that success attends him; if mishap,
Ere this he had returned, with fury driven
By his avengers; since no place like this
Can fit his punishment, or their revenge.
Methinks I feel new strength within me rise,
Wings growing, and dominion given me large
Beyond this deep; whatever draws me on,
Or sympathy, or some connatural force,
Powerful at greatest distance to unite,
With secret amity, things of like kind,
By secretest conveyance. Thou, my shade
Inseparable, must with me along;
For Death from Sin no power can separate.
But, lest the difficulty of passing back
Stay his return perhaps over this gulf
Impassable, impervious; let us try
Adventurous work, yet to thy power and mine
Not unagreeable, to found a path
Over this main from Hell to that new world,
Where Satan now prevails; a monument
Of merit high to all the infernal host,
Easing their passage hence, for intercourse,
Or transmigration, as their lot shall lead.
Nor can I miss the way, so strongly drawn
By this new-felt attraction and instinct.
Whom thus the meager Shadow answered soon.
Go, whither Fate, and inclination strong,
Leads thee; I shall not lag behind, nor err
The way, thou leading; such a scent I draw
Of carnage, prey innumerable, and taste
The savour of death from all things there that live:
Nor shall I to the work thou enterprisest
Be wanting, but afford thee equal aid.
So saying, with delight he snuffed the smell
Of mortal change on earth. As when a flock
Of ravenous fowl, though many a league remote,
Against the day of battle, to a field,
Where armies lie encamped, come flying, lured
With scent of living carcasses designed
For death, the following day, in bloody fight:
So scented the grim Feature, and upturned
His nostril wide into the murky air;
Sagacious of his quarry from so far.
Then both from out Hell-gates, into the waste
Wide anarchy of Chaos, damp and dark,
Flew diverse; and with power (their power was great)
Hovering upon the waters, what they met
Solid or slimy, as in raging sea
Tost up and down, together crouded drove,
From each side shoaling towards the mouth of Hell;
As when two polar winds, blowing adverse
Upon the Cronian sea, together drive
Mountains of ice, that stop the imagined way
Beyond Petsora eastward, to the rich
Cathaian coast. The aggregated soil
Death with his mace petrifick, cold and dry,
As with a trident, smote; and fixed as firm
As Delos, floating once; the rest his look
Bound with Gorgonian rigour not to move;
And with Asphaltick slime, broad as the gate,
Deep to the roots of Hell the gathered beach
They fastened, and the mole immense wrought on
Over the foaming deep high-arched, a bridge
Of length prodigious, joining to the wall
Immoveable of this now fenceless world,
Forfeit to Death; from hence a passage broad,
Smooth, easy, inoffensive, down to Hell.
So, if great things to small may be compared,
Xerxes, the liberty of Greece to yoke,
From Susa, his Memnonian palace high,
Came to the sea: and, over Hellespont
Bridging his way, Europe with Asia joined,
And scourged with many a stroke the indignant waves.
Now had they brought the work by wonderous art
Pontifical, a ridge of pendant rock,
Over the vexed abyss, following the track
Of Satan to the self-same place where he
First lighted from his wing, and landed safe
From out of Chaos, to the outside bare
Of this round world: With pins of adamant
And chains they made all fast, too fast they made
And durable! And now in little space
The confines met of empyrean Heaven,
And of this World; and, on the left hand, Hell
With long reach interposed; three several ways
In sight, to each of these three places led.
And now their way to Earth they had descried,
To Paradise first tending; when, behold!
Satan, in likeness of an Angel bright,
Betwixt the Centaur and the Scorpion steering
His zenith, while the sun in Aries rose:
Disguised he came; but those his children dear
Their parent soon discerned, though in disguise.
He, after Eve seduced, unminded slunk
Into the wood fast by; and, changing shape,
To observe the sequel, saw his guileful act
By Eve, though all unweeting, seconded
Upon her husband; saw their shame that sought
Vain covertures; but when he saw descend
The Son of God to judge them, terrified
He fled; not hoping to escape, but shun
The present; fearing, guilty, what his wrath
Might suddenly inflict; that past, returned
By night, and listening where the hapless pair
Sat in their sad discourse, and various plaint,
Thence gathered his own doom; which understood
Not instant, but of future time, with joy
And tidings fraught, to Hell he now returned;
And at the brink of Chaos, near the foot
Of this new wonderous pontifice, unhoped
Met, who to meet him came, his offspring dear.
Great joy was at their meeting, and at sight
Of that stupendious bridge his joy encreased.
Long he admiring stood, till Sin, his fair
Enchanting daughter, thus the silence broke.
O Parent, these are thy magnifick deeds,
Thy trophies! which thou viewest as not thine own;
Thou art their author, and prime architect:
For I no sooner in my heart divined,
My heart, which by a secret harmony
Still moves with thine, joined in connexion sweet,
That thou on earth hadst prospered, which thy looks
Now also evidence, but straight I felt,
Though distant from thee worlds between, yet felt,
That I must after thee, with this thy son;
Such fatal consequence unites us three!
Hell could no longer hold us in our bounds,
Nor this unvoyageable gulf obscure
Detain from following thy illustrious track.
Thou hast achieved our liberty, confined
Within Hell-gates till now; thou us impowered
To fortify thus far, and overlay,
With this portentous bridge, the dark abyss.
Thine now is all this world; thy virtue hath won
What thy hands builded not; thy wisdom gained
With odds what war hath lost, and fully avenged
Our foil in Heaven; here thou shalt monarch reign,
There didst not; there let him still victor sway,
As battle hath adjudged; from this new world
Retiring, by his own doom alienated;
And henceforth monarchy with thee divide
Of all things, parted by the empyreal bounds,
His quadrature, from thy orbicular world;
Or try thee now more dangerous to his throne.
Whom thus the Prince of darkness answered glad.
Fair Daughter, and thou Son and Grandchild both;
High proof ye now have given to be the race
Of Satan (for I glory in the name,
Antagonist of Heaven's Almighty King,)
Amply have merited of me, of all
The infernal empire, that so near Heaven's door
Triumphal with triumphal act have met,
Mine, with this glorious work; and made one realm,
Hell and this world, one realm, one continent
Of easy thorough-fare. Therefore, while I
Descend through darkness, on your road with ease,
To my associate Powers, them to acquaint
With these successes, and with them rejoice;
You two this way, among these numerous orbs,
All yours, right down to Paradise descend;
There dwell, and reign in bliss; thence on the earth
Dominion exercise and in the air,
Chiefly on Man, sole lord of all declared;
Him first make sure your thrall, and lastly kill.
My substitutes I send ye, and create
Plenipotent on earth, of matchless might
Issuing from me: on your joint vigour now
My hold of this new kingdom all depends,
Through Sin to Death exposed by my exploit.
If your joint power prevail, the affairs of Hell
No detriment need fear; go, and be strong!
So saying he dismissed them; they with speed
Their course through thickest constellations held,
Spreading their bane; the blasted stars looked wan,
And planets, planet-struck, real eclipse
Then suffered. The other way Satan went down
The causey to Hell-gate: On either side
Disparted Chaos overbuilt exclaimed,
And with rebounding surge the bars assailed,
That scorned his indignation: Through the gate,
Wide open and unguarded, Satan passed,
And all about found desolate; for those,
Appointed to sit there, had left their charge,
Flown to the upper world; the rest were all
Far to the inland retired, about the walls
Of Pandemonium; city and proud seat
Of Lucifer, so by allusion called
Of that bright star to Satan paragoned;
There kept their watch the legions, while the Grand
In council sat, solicitous what chance
Might intercept their emperour sent; so he
Departing gave command, and they observed.
As when the Tartar from his Russian foe,
By Astracan, over the snowy plains,
Retires; or Bactrin Sophi, from the horns
Of Turkish crescent, leaves all waste beyond
The realm of Aladule, in his retreat
To Tauris or Casbeen: So these, the late
Heaven-banished host, left desart utmost Hell
Many a dark league, reduced in careful watch
Round their metropolis; and now expecting
Each hour their great adventurer, from the search
Of foreign worlds: He through the midst unmarked,
In show plebeian Angel militant
Of lowest order, passed; and from the door
Of that Plutonian hall, invisible
Ascended his high throne; which, under state
Of richest texture spread, at the upper end
Was placed in regal lustre. Down a while
He sat, and round about him saw unseen:
At last, as from a cloud, his fulgent head
And shape star-bright appeared, or brighter; clad
With what permissive glory since his fall
Was left him, or false glitter: All amazed
At that so sudden blaze the Stygian throng
Bent their aspect, and whom they wished beheld,
Their mighty Chief returned: loud was the acclaim:
Forth rushed in haste the great consulting peers,
Raised from their dark Divan, and with like joy
Congratulant approached him; who with hand
Silence, and with these words attention, won.
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers;
For in possession such, not only of right,
I call ye, and declare ye now; returned
Successful beyond hope, to lead ye forth
Triumphant out of this infernal pit
Abominable, accursed, the house of woe,
And dungeon of our tyrant: Now possess,
As Lords, a spacious world, to our native Heaven
Little inferiour, by my adventure hard
With peril great achieved. Long were to tell
What I have done; what suffered;with what pain
Voyaged th' unreal, vast, unbounded deep
Of horrible confusion; over which
By Sin and Death a broad way now is paved,
To expedite your glorious march; but I
Toiled out my uncouth passage, forced to ride
The untractable abyss, plunged in the womb
Of unoriginal Night and Chaos wild;
That, jealous of their secrets, fiercely opposed
My journey strange, with clamorous uproar
Protesting Fate supreme; thence how I found
The new created world, which fame in Heaven
Long had foretold, a fabrick wonderful
Of absolute perfection! therein Man
Placed in a Paradise, by our exile
Made happy: Him by fraud I have seduced
From his Creator; and, the more to encrease
Your wonder, with an apple; he, thereat
Offended, worth your laughter! hath given up
Both his beloved Man, and all his world,
To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us,
Without our hazard, labour, or alarm;
To range in, and to dwell, and over Man
To rule, as over all he should have ruled.
True is, me also he hath judged, or rather
Me not, but the brute serpent in whose shape
Man I deceived: that which to me belongs,
Is enmity which he will put between
Me and mankind; I am to bruise his heel;
His seed, when is not set, shall bruise my head:
A world who would not purchase with a bruise,
Or much more grievous pain?--Ye have the account
Of my performance: What remains, ye Gods,
But up, and enter now into full bliss?
So having said, a while he stood, expecting
Their universal shout, and high applause,
To fill his ear; when, contrary, he hears
On all sides, from innumerable tongues,
A dismal universal hiss, the sound
Of publick scorn; he wondered, but not long
Had leisure, wondering at himself now more,
His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare;
His arms clung to his ribs; his legs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous serpent on his belly prone,
Reluctant, but in vain; a greater power
Now ruled him, punished in the shape he sinned,
According to his doom: he would have spoke,
But hiss for hiss returned with forked tongue
To forked tongue; for now were all transformed
Alike, to serpents all, as accessories
To his bold riot: Dreadful was the din
Of hissing through the hall, thick swarming now
With complicated monsters head and tail,
Scorpion, and Asp, and Amphisbaena dire,
Cerastes horned, Hydrus, and Elops drear,
And Dipsas; (not so thick swarmed once the soil
Bedropt with blood of Gorgon, or the isle
Ophiusa,) but still greatest he the midst,
Now Dragon grown, larger than whom the sun
Ingendered in the Pythian vale or slime,
Huge Python, and his power no less he seemed
Above the rest still to retain; they all
Him followed, issuing forth to the open field,
Where all yet left of that revolted rout,
Heaven-fallen, in station stood or just array;
Sublime with expectation when to see
In triumph issuing forth their glorious Chief;
They saw, but other sight instead! a croud
Of ugly serpents; horrour on them fell,
And horrid sympathy; for, what they saw,
They felt themselves, now changing; down their arms,
Down fell both spear and shield; down they as fast;
And the dire hiss renewed, and the dire form
Catched, by contagion; like in punishment,
As in their crime. Thus was the applause they meant,
Turned to exploding hiss, triumph to shame
Cast on themselves from their own mouths. There stood
A grove hard by, sprung up with this their change,
His will who reigns above, to aggravate
Their penance, laden with fair fruit, like that
Which grew in Paradise, the bait of Eve
Used by the Tempter: on that prospect strange
Their earnest eyes they fixed, imagining
For one forbidden tree a multitude
Now risen, to work them further woe or shame;
Yet, parched with scalding thirst and hunger fierce,
Though to delude them sent, could not abstain;
But on they rolled in heaps, and, up the trees
Climbing, sat thicker than the snaky locks
That curled Megaera: greedily they plucked
The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed;
This more delusive, not the touch, but taste
Deceived; they, fondly thinking to allay
Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
Chewed bitter ashes, which the offended taste
With spattering noise rejected: oft they assayed,
Hunger and thirst constraining; drugged as oft,
With hatefullest disrelish writhed their jaws,
With soot and cinders filled; so oft they fell
Into the same illusion, not as Man
Whom they triumphed once lapsed. Thus were they plagued
And worn with famine, long and ceaseless hiss,
Till their lost shape, permitted, they resumed;
Yearly enjoined, some say, to undergo,
This annual humbling certain numbered days,
To dash their pride, and joy, for Man seduced.
However, some tradition they dispersed
Among the Heathen, of their purchase got,
And fabled how the Serpent, whom they called
Ophion, with Eurynome, the wide--
Encroaching Eve perhaps, had first the rule
Of high Olympus; thence by Saturn driven
And Ops, ere yet Dictaean Jove was born.
Mean while in Paradise the hellish pair
Too soon arrived; Sin, there in power before,
Once actual; now in body, and to dwell
Habitual habitant; behind her Death,
Close following pace for pace, not mounted yet
On his pale horse: to whom Sin thus began.
Second of Satan sprung, all-conquering Death!
What thinkest thou of our empire now, though earned
With travel difficult, not better far
Than still at Hell's dark threshold to have sat watch,
Unnamed, undreaded, and thyself half starved?
Whom thus the Sin-born monster answered soon.
To me, who with eternal famine pine,
Alike is Hell, or Paradise, or Heaven;
There best, where most with ravine I may meet;
Which here, though plenteous, all too little seems
To stuff this maw, this vast unhide-bound corps.
To whom the incestuous mother thus replied.
Thou therefore on these herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
Feed first; on each beast next, and fish, and fowl;
No homely morsels! and, whatever thing
The sithe of Time mows down, devour unspared;
Till I, in Man residing, through the race,
His thoughts, his looks, words, actions, all infect;
And season him thy last and sweetest prey.
This said, they both betook them several ways,
Both to destroy, or unimmortal make
All kinds, and for destruction to mature
Sooner or later; which the Almighty seeing,
From his transcendent seat the Saints among,
To those bright Orders uttered thus his voice.
See, with what heat these dogs of Hell advance
To waste and havock yonder world, which I
So fair and good created; and had still
Kept in that state, had not the folly of Man
Let in these wasteful furies, who impute
Folly to me; so doth the Prince of Hell
And his adherents, that with so much ease
I suffer them to enter and possess
A place so heavenly; and, conniving, seem
To gratify my scornful enemies,
That laugh, as if, transported with some fit
Of passion, I to them had quitted all,
At random yielded up to their misrule;
And know not that I called, and drew them thither,
My Hell-hounds, to lick up the draff and filth
Which Man's polluting sin with taint hath shed
On what was pure; til, crammed and gorged, nigh burst
With sucked and glutted offal, at one sling
Of thy victorious arm, well-pleasing Son,
Both Sin, and Death, and yawning Grave, at last,
Through Chaos hurled, obstruct the mouth of Hell
For ever, and seal up his ravenous jaws.
Then Heaven and Earth renewed shall be made pure
To sanctity, that shall receive no stain:
Till then, the curse pronounced on both precedes.
He ended, and the heavenly audience loud
Sung Halleluiah, as the sound of seas,
Through multitude that sung: Just are thy ways,
Righteous are thy decrees on all thy works;
Who can extenuate thee? Next, to the Son,
Destined Restorer of mankind, by whom
New Heaven and Earth shall to the ages rise,
Or down from Heaven descend.--Such was their song;
While the Creator, calling forth by name
His mighty Angels, gave them several charge,
As sorted best with present things. The sun
Had first his precept so to move, so shine,
As might affect the earth with cold and heat
Scarce tolerable; and from the north to call
Decrepit winter; from the south to bring
Solstitial summer's heat. To the blanc moon
Her office they prescribed; to the other five
Their planetary motions, and aspects,
In sextile, square, and trine, and opposite,
Of noxious efficacy, and when to join
In synod unbenign; and taught the fixed
Their influence malignant when to shower,
Which of them rising with the sun, or falling,
Should prove tempestuous: To the winds they set
Their corners, when with bluster to confound
Sea, air, and shore; the thunder when to roll
With terrour through the dark aereal hall.
Some say, he bid his Angels turn ascanse
The poles of earth, twice ten degrees and more,
From the sun's axle; they with labour pushed
Oblique the centrick globe: Some say, the sun
Was bid turn reins from the equinoctial road
Like distant breadth to Taurus with the seven
Atlantick Sisters, and the Spartan Twins,
Up to the Tropick Crab: thence down amain
By Leo, and the Virgin, and the Scales,
As deep as Capricorn; to bring in change
Of seasons to each clime; else had the spring
Perpetual smiled on earth with vernant flowers,
Equal in days and nights, except to those
Beyond the polar circles; to them day
Had unbenighted shone, while the low sun,
To recompense his distance, in their sight
Had rounded still the horizon, and not known
Or east or west; which had forbid the snow
From cold Estotiland, and south as far
Beneath Magellan. At that tasted fruit
The sun, as from Thyestean banquet, turned
His course intended; else, how had the world
Inhabited, though sinless, more than now,
Avoided pinching cold and scorching heat?
These changes in the Heavens, though slow, produced
Like change on sea and land; sideral blast,
Vapour, and mist, and exhalation hot,
Corrupt and pestilent: Now from the north
Of Norumbega, and the Samoed shore,
Bursting their brazen dungeon, armed with ice,
And snow, and hail, and stormy gust and flaw,
Boreas, and Caecias, and Argestes loud,
And Thrascias, rend the woods, and seas upturn;
With adverse blast upturns them from the south
Notus, and Afer black with thunderous clouds
From Serraliona; thwart of these, as fierce,
Forth rush the Levant and the Ponent winds,
Eurus and Zephyr, with their lateral noise,
Sirocco and Libecchio. Thus began
Outrage from lifeless things; but Discord first,
Daughter of Sin, among the irrational
Death introduced, through fierce antipathy:
Beast now with beast 'gan war, and fowl with fowl,
And fish with fish; to graze the herb all leaving,
Devoured each other; nor stood much in awe
Of Man, but fled him; or, with countenance grim,
Glared on him passing. These were from without
The growing miseries, which Adam saw
Already in part, though hid in gloomiest shade,
To sorrow abandoned, but worse felt within;
And, in a troubled sea of passion tost,
Thus to disburden sought with sad complaint.
O miserable of happy! Is this the end
Of this new glorious world, and me so late
The glory of that glory, who now become
Accursed, of blessed? hide me from the face
Of God, whom to behold was then my highth
Of happiness!--Yet well, if here would end
The misery; I deserved it, and would bear
My own deservings; but this will not serve:
All that I eat or drink, or shall beget,
Is propagated curse. O voice, once heard
Delightfully, Encrease and multiply;
Now death to hear! for what can I encrease,
Or multiply, but curses on my head?
Who of all ages to succeed, but, feeling
The evil on him brought by me, will curse
My head? Ill fare our ancestor impure,
For this we may thank Adam! but his thanks
Shall be the execration: so, besides
Mine own that bide upon me, all from me
Shall with a fierce reflux on me rebound;
On me, as on their natural center, light
Heavy, though in their place. O fleeting joys
Of Paradise, dear bought with lasting woes!
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man? did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me, or here place
In this delicious garden? As my will
Concurred not to my being, it were but right
And equal to reduce me to my dust;
Desirous to resign and render back
All I received; unable to perform
Thy terms too hard, by which I was to hold
The good I sought not. To the loss of that,
Sufficient penalty, why hast thou added
The sense of endless woes? Inexplicable
Why am I mocked with death, and lengthened out
To deathless pain? How gladly would I meet
Mortality my sentence, and be earth
Insensible! How glad would lay me down
As in my mother's lap! There I should rest,
And sleep secure; his dreadful voice no more
Would thunder in my ears; no fear of worse
To me, and to my offspring, would torment me
With cruel expectation. Yet one doubt
Pursues me still, lest all I cannot die;
Lest that pure breath of life, the spirit of Man
Which God inspired, cannot together perish
With this corporeal clod; then, in the grave,
Or in some other dismal place, who knows
But I shall die a living death? O thought
Horrid, if true! Yet why? It was but breath
Of life that sinned; what dies but what had life
And sin? The body properly had neither,
All of me then shall die: let this appease
The doubt, since human reach no further knows.
For though the Lord of all be infinite,
Is his wrath also? Be it, Man is not so,
But mortal doomed. How can he exercise
Wrath without end on Man, whom death must end?
Can he make deathless death? That were to make
Strange contradiction, which to God himself
Impossible is held; as argument
Of weakness, not of power. Will he draw out,
For anger's sake, finite to infinite,
In punished Man, to satisfy his rigour,
Satisfied never? That were to extend
His sentence beyond dust and Nature's law;
By which all causes else, according still
To the reception of their matter, act;
Not to the extent of their own sphere. But say
That death be not one stroke, as I supposed,
Bereaving sense, but endless misery
From this day onward; which I feel begun
Both in me, and without me; and so last
To perpetuity;--Ay me!that fear
Comes thundering back with dreadful revolution
On my defenceless head; both Death and I
Am found eternal, and incorporate both;
Nor I on my part single; in me all
Posterity stands cursed: Fair patrimony
That I must leave ye, Sons! O, were I able
To waste it all myself, and leave ye none!
So disinherited, how would you bless
Me, now your curse! Ah, why should all mankind,
For one man's fault, thus guiltless be condemned,
It guiltless? But from me what can proceed,
But all corrupt; both mind and will depraved
Not to do only, but to will the same
With me? How can they then acquitted stand
In sight of God? Him, after all disputes,
Forced I absolve: all my evasions vain,
And reasonings, though through mazes, lead me still
But to my own conviction: first and last
On me, me only, as the source and spring
Of all corruption, all the blame lights due;
So might the wrath! Fond wish!couldst thou support
That burden, heavier than the earth to bear;
Than all the world much heavier, though divided
With that bad Woman? Thus, what thou desirest,
And what thou fearest, alike destroys all hope
Of refuge, and concludes thee miserable
Beyond all past example and future;
To Satan only like both crime and doom.
O Conscience! into what abyss of fears
And horrours hast thou driven me; out of which
I find no way, from deep to deeper plunged!
Thus Adam to himself lamented loud,
Through the still night; not now, as ere Man fell,
Wholesome, and cool, and mild, but with black air
Accompanied; with damps, and dreadful gloom;
Which to his evil conscience represented
All things with double terrour: On the ground
Outstretched he lay, on the cold ground; and oft
Cursed his creation; Death as oft accused
Of tardy execution, since denounced
The day of his offence. Why comes not Death,
Said he, with one thrice-acceptable stroke
To end me? Shall Truth fail to keep her word,
Justice Divine not hasten to be just?
But Death comes not at call; Justice Divine
Mends not her slowest pace for prayers or cries,
O woods, O fountains, hillocks, dales, and bowers!
With other echo late I taught your shades
To answer, and resound far other song.--
Whom thus afflicted when sad Eve beheld,
Desolate where she sat, approaching nigh,
Soft words to his fierce passion she assayed:
But her with stern regard he thus repelled.
Out of my sight, thou Serpent! That name best
Befits thee with him leagued, thyself as false
And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape,
Like his, and colour serpentine, may show
Thy inward fraud; to warn all creatures from thee
Henceforth; lest that too heavenly form, pretended
To hellish falshood, snare them! But for thee
I had persisted happy; had not thy pride
And wandering vanity, when least was safe,
Rejected my forewarning, and disdained
Not to be trusted; longing to be seen,
Though by the Devil himself; him overweening
To over-reach; but, with the serpent meeting,
Fooled and beguiled; by him thou, I by thee
To trust thee from my side; imagined wise,
Constant, mature, proof against all assaults;
And understood not all was but a show,
Rather than solid virtue; all but a rib
Crooked by nature, bent, as now appears,
More to the part sinister, from me drawn;
Well if thrown out, as supernumerary
To my just number found. O! why did God,
Creator wise, that peopled highest Heaven
With Spirits masculine, create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
Of nature, and not fill the world at once
With Men, as Angels, without feminine;
Or find some other way to generate
Mankind? This mischief had not been befallen,
And more that shall befall; innumerable
Disturbances on earth through female snares,
And strait conjunction with this sex: for either
He never shall find out fit mate, but such
As some misfortune brings him, or mistake;
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gained
By a far worse; or, if she love, withheld
By parents; or his happiest choice too late
Shall meet, already linked and wedlock-bound
To a fell adversary, his hate or shame:
Which infinite calamity shall cause
To human life, and houshold peace confound.
He added not, and from her turned; but Eve,
Not so repulsed, with tears that ceased not flowing
And tresses all disordered, at his feet
Fell humble; and, embracing them, besought
His peace, and thus proceeded in her plaint.
Forsake me not thus, Adam! witness Heaven
What love sincere, and reverence in my heart
I bear thee, and unweeting have offended,
Unhappily deceived! Thy suppliant
I beg, and clasp thy knees; bereave me not,
Whereon I live, thy gentle looks, thy aid,
Thy counsel, in this uttermost distress,
My only strength and stay: Forlorn of thee,
Whither shall I betake me, where subsist?
While yet we live, scarce one short hour perhaps,
Between us two let there be peace; both joining,
As joined in injuries, one enmity
Against a foe by doom express assigned us,
That cruel Serpent: On me exercise not
Thy hatred for this misery befallen;
On me already lost, me than thyself
More miserable! Both have sinned;but thou
Against God only; I against God and thee;
And to the place of judgement will return,
There with my cries importune Heaven; that all
The sentence, from thy head removed, may light
On me, sole cause to thee of all this woe;
Me, me only, just object of his ire!
She ended weeping; and her lowly plight,
Immoveable, till peace obtained from fault
Acknowledged and deplored, in Adam wrought
Commiseration: Soon his heart relented
Towards her, his life so late, and sole delight,
Now at his feet submissive in distress;
Creature so fair his reconcilement seeking,
His counsel, whom she had displeased, his aid:
As one disarmed, his anger all he lost,
And thus with peaceful words upraised her soon.
Unwary, and too desirous, as before,
So now of what thou knowest not, who desirest
The punishment all on thyself; alas!
Bear thine own first, ill able to sustain
His full wrath, whose thou feelest as yet least part,
And my displeasure bearest so ill. If prayers
Could alter high decrees, I to that place
Would speed before thee, and be louder heard,
That on my head all might be visited;
Thy frailty and infirmer sex forgiven,
To me committed, and by me exposed.
But rise;--let us no more contend, nor blame
Each other, blamed enough elsewhere; but strive
In offices of love, how we may lighten
Each other's burden, in our share of woe;
Since this day's death denounced, if aught I see,
Will prove no sudden, but a slow-paced evil;
A long day's dying, to augment our pain;
And to our seed (O hapless seed!) derived.
To whom thus Eve, recovering heart, replied.
Adam, by sad experiment I know
How little weight my words with thee can find,
Found so erroneous; thence by just event
Found so unfortunate: Nevertheless,
Restored by thee, vile as I am, to place
Of new acceptance, hopeful to regain
Thy love, the sole contentment of my heart
Living or dying, from thee I will not hide
What thoughts in my unquiet breast are risen,
Tending to some relief of our extremes,
Or end; though sharp and sad, yet tolerable,
As in our evils, and of easier choice.
If care of our descent perplex us most,
Which must be born to certain woe, devoured
By Death at last; and miserable it is
To be to others cause of misery,
Our own begotten, and of our loins to bring
Into this cursed world a woeful race,
That after wretched life must be at last
Food for so foul a monster; in thy power
It lies, yet ere conception to prevent
The race unblest, to being yet unbegot.
Childless thou art, childless remain: so Death
Shall be deceived his glut, and with us two
Be forced to satisfy his ravenous maw.
But if thou judge it hard and difficult,
Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain
From love's due rights, nuptial embraces sweet;
And with desire to languish without hope,
Before the present object languishing
With like desire; which would be misery
And torment less than none of what we dread;
Then, both ourselves and seed at once to free
From what we fear for both, let us make short, --
Let us seek Death; -- or, he not found, supply
With our own hands his office on ourselves:
Why stand we longer shivering under fears,
That show no end but death, and have the power,
Of many ways to die the shortest choosing,
Destruction with destruction to destroy? --
She ended here, or vehement despair
Broke off the rest: so much of death her thoughts
Had entertained, as dyed her cheeks with pale.
But Adam, with such counsel nothing swayed,
To better hopes his more attentive mind
Labouring had raised; and thus to Eve replied.
Eve, thy contempt of life and pleasure seems
To argue in thee something more sublime
And excellent, than what thy mind contemns;
But self-destruction therefore sought, refutes
That excellence thought in thee; and implies,
Not thy contempt, but anguish and regret
For loss of life and pleasure overloved.
Or if thou covet death, as utmost end
Of misery, so thinking to evade
The penalty pronounced; doubt not but God
Hath wiselier armed his vengeful ire, than so
To be forestalled; much more I fear lest death,
So snatched, will not exempt us from the pain
We are by doom to pay; rather, such acts
Of contumacy will provoke the Highest
To make death in us live: Then let us seek
Some safer resolution, which methinks
I have in view, calling to mind with heed
Part of our sentence, that thy seed shall bruise
The Serpent's head; piteous amends! unless
Be meant, whom I conjecture, our grand foe,
Satan; who, in the serpent, hath contrived
Against us this deceit: To crush his head
Would be revenge indeed! which will be lost
By death brought on ourselves, or childless days
Resolved, as thou proposest; so our foe
Shal 'scape his punishment ordained, and we
Instead shall double ours upon our heads.
No more be mentioned then of violence
Against ourselves; and wilful barrenness,
That cuts us off from hope; and savours only
Rancour and pride, impatience and despite,
Reluctance against God and his just yoke
Laid on our necks. Remember with what mild
And gracious temper he both heard, and judged,
Without wrath or reviling; we expected
Immediate dissolution, which we thought
Was meant by death that day; when lo!to thee
Pains only in child-bearing were foretold,
And bringing forth; soon recompensed with joy,
Fruit of thy womb: On me the curse aslope
Glanced on the ground; with labour I must earn
My bread; what harm? Idleness had been worse;
My labour will sustain me; and, lest cold
Or heat should injure us, his timely care
Hath, unbesought, provided; and his hands
Clothed us unworthy, pitying while he judged;
How much more, if we pray him, will his ear
Be open, and his heart to pity incline,
And teach us further by what means to shun
The inclement seasons, rain, ice, hail, and snow!
Which now the sky, with various face, begins
To show us in this mountain; while the winds
Blow moist and keen, shattering the graceful locks
Of these fair spreading trees; which bids us seek
Some better shroud, some better warmth to cherish
Our limbs benummed, ere this diurnal star
Leave cold the night, how we his gathered beams
Reflected may with matter sere foment;
Or, by collision of two bodies, grind
The air attrite to fire; as late the clouds
Justling, or pushed with winds, rude in their shock,
Tine the slant lightning; whose thwart flame, driven down
Kindles the gummy bark of fir or pine;
And sends a comfortable heat from far,
Which might supply the sun: Such fire to use,
And what may else be remedy or cure
To evils which our own misdeeds have wrought,
He will instruct us praying, and of grace
Beseeching him; so as we need not fear
To pass commodiously this life, sustained
By him with many comforts, till we end
In dust, our final rest and native home.
What better can we do, than, to the place
Repairing where he judged us, prostrate fall
Before him reverent; and there confess
Humbly our faults, and pardon beg; with tears
Watering the ground, and with our sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 2
ALL were attentive to the godlike man,
When from his lofty couch he thus began:
“Great queen, what you command me to relate
Renews the sad remembrance of our fate:
An empire from its old foundations rent, 5
And ev’ry woe the Trojans underwent;
A peopled city made a desart place;
All that I saw, and part of which I was:
Not ev’n the hardest of our foes could hear,
Nor stern Ulysses tell without a tear. 10
And now the latter watch of wasting night,
And setting stars, to kindly rest invite;
But, since you take such int’rest in our woe,
And Troy’s disastrous end desire to know,
I will restrain my tears, and briefly tell 15
What in our last and fatal night befell.
“By destiny compell’d, and in despair,
The Greeks grew weary of the tedious war,
And by Minerva’s aid a fabric rear’d,
Which like a steed of monstrous height appear’d: 20
The sides were plank’d with pine; they feign’d it made
For their return, and this the vow they paid.
Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side
Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:
With inward arms the dire machine they load, 25
And iron bowels stuff the dark abode.
In sight of Troy lies Tenedos, an isle
(While Fortune did on Priam’s empire smile)
Renown’d for wealth; but, since, a faithless bay,
Where ships expos’d to wind and weather lay. 30
There was their fleet conceal’d. We thought, for Greece
Their sails were hoisted, and our fears release.
The Trojans, coop’d within their walls so long,
Unbar their gates, and issue in a throng,
Like swarming bees, and with delight survey 35
The camp deserted, where the Grecians lay:
The quarters of the sev’ral chiefs they show’d;
Here Phœnix, here Achilles, made abode;
Here join’d the battles; there the navy rode.
Part on the pile their wond’ring eyes employ: 40
The pile by Pallas rais’d to ruin Troy.
Thymoetes first (’t is doubtful whether hir’d,
Or so the Trojan destiny requir’d)
Mov’d that the ramparts might be broken down,
To lodge the monster fabric in the town. 45
But Capys, and the rest of sounder mind,
The fatal present to the flames designed,
Or to the wat’ry deep; at least to bore
The hollow sides, and hidden frauds explore.
The giddy vulgar, as their fancies guide, 50
With noise say nothing, and in parts divide.
Laocoon, follow’d by a num’rous crowd,
Ran from the fort, and cried, from far, aloud:
‘O wretched countrymen! what fury reigns?
What more than madness has possess’d your brains? 55
Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
And are Ulysses’ arts no better known?
This hollow fabric either must inclose,
Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
Or ’t is an engine rais’d above the town, 60
T’ o’erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
Somewhat is sure design’d, by fraud or force:
Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.’
Thus having said, against the steed he threw
His forceful spear, which, hissing as it flew, 65
Pierc’d thro’ the yielding planks of jointed wood,
And trembling in the hollow belly stood.
The sides, transpierc’d, return a rattling sound,
And groans of Greeks inclos’d come issuing thro’ the wound.
And, had not Heav’n the fall of Troy design’d, 70
Or had not men been fated to be blind,
Enough was said and done t’ inspire a better mind.
Then had our lances pierc’d the treach’rous wood,
And Ilian tow’rs and Priam’s empire stood.
Meantime, with shouts, the Trojan shepherds bring 75
A captive Greek, in bands, before the king;
Taken to take; who made himself their prey,
T’ impose on their belief, and Troy betray;
Fix’d on his aim, and obstinately bent
To die undaunted, or to circumvent. 80
About the captive, tides of Trojans flow;
All press to see, and some insult the foe.
Now hear how well the Greeks their wiles disguis’d;
Behold a nation in a man compris’d.
Trembling the miscreant stood, unarm’d and bound; 85
He star’d, and roll’d his haggard eyes around,
Then said: ‘Alas! what earth remains, what sea
Is open to receive unhappy me?
What fate a wretched fugitive attends,
Scorn’d by my foes, abandon’d by my friends?’ 90
He said, and sigh’d, and cast a rueful eye:
Our pity kindles, and our passions die.
We cheer the youth to make his own defense,
And freely tell us what he was, and whence:
What news he could impart, we long to know, 95
And what to credit from a captive foe.
“His fear at length dismiss’d, he said: ‘Whate’er
My fate ordains, my words shall be sincere:
I neither can nor dare my birth disclaim;
Greece is my country, Sinon is my name. 100
Tho’ plung’d by Fortune’s pow’r in misery,
’T is not in Fortune’s pow’r to make me lie.
If any chance has hither brought the name
Of Palamedes, not unknown to fame,
Who suffer’d from the malice of the times, 105
Accus’d and sentenc’d for pretended crimes,
Because these fatal wars he would prevent;
Whose death the wretched Greeks too late lament—
Me, then a boy, my father, poor and bare
Of other means, committed to his care, 110
His kinsman and companion in the war.
While Fortune favor’d, while his arms support
The cause, and rul’d the counsels, of the court,
I made some figure there; nor was my name
Obscure, nor I without my share of fame. 115
But when Ulysses, with fallacious arts,
Had made impression in the people’s hearts,
And forg’d a treason in my patron’s name
(I speak of things too far divulg’d by fame),
My kinsman fell. Then I, without support, 120
In private mourn’d his loss, and left the court.
Mad as I was, I could not bear his fate
With silent grief, but loudly blam’d the state,
And curs’d the direful author of my woes.
’T was told again; and hence my ruin rose. 125
I threaten’d, if indulgent Heav’n once more
Would land me safely on my native shore,
His death with double vengeance to restore.
This mov’d the murderer’s hate; and soon ensued
Th’ effects of malice from a man so proud. 130
Ambiguous rumors thro’ the camp he spread,
And sought, by treason, my devoted head;
New crimes invented; left unturn’d no stone,
To make my guilt appear, and hide his own;
Till Calchas was by force and threat’ning wrought— 135
But why—why dwell I on that anxious thought?
If on my nation just revenge you seek,
And ’t is t’ appear a foe, t’ appear a Greek;
Already you my name and country know;
Assuage your thirst of blood, and strike the blow: 140
My death will both the kingly brothers please,
And set insatiate Ithacus at ease.’
This fair unfinish’d tale, these broken starts,
Rais’d expectations in our longing hearts:
Unknowing as we were in Grecian arts. 145
His former trembling once again renew’d,
With acted fear, the villain thus pursued:
“’Long had the Grecians (tir’d with fruitless care,
And wearied with an unsuccessful war)
Resolv’d to raise the siege, and leave the town; 150
And, had the gods permitted, they had gone;
But oft the wintry seas and southern winds
Withstood their passage home, and chang’d their minds.
Portents and prodigies their souls amaz’d;
But most, when this stupendous pile was rais’d: 155
Then flaming meteors, hung in air, were seen,
And thunders rattled thro’ a sky serene.
Dismay’d, and fearful of some dire event,
Eurypylus t’ enquire their fate was sent.
He from the gods this dreadful answer brought: 160
“O Grecians, when the Trojan shores you sought,
Your passage with a virgin’s blood was bought:
So must your safe return be bought again,
And Grecian blood once more atone the main.”
The spreading rumor round the people ran; 165
All fear’d, and each believ’d himself the man.
Ulysses took th’ advantage of their fright;
Call’d Calchas, and produc’d in open sight:
Then bade him name the wretch, ordain’d by fate
The public victim, to redeem the state. 170
Already some presag’d the dire event,
And saw what sacrifice Ulysses meant.
For twice five days the good old seer withstood
Th’ intended treason, and was dumb to blood,
Till, tir’d, with endless clamors and pursuit 175
Of Ithacus, he stood no longer mute;
But, as it was agreed, pronounc’d that I
Was destin’d by the wrathful gods to die.
All prais’d the sentence, pleas’d the storm should fall
On one alone, whose fury threaten’d all. 180
The dismal day was come; the priests prepare
Their leaven’d cakes, and fillets for my hair.
I follow’d nature’s laws, and must avow
I broke my bonds and fled the fatal blow.
Hid in a weedy lake all night I lay, 185
Secure of safety when they sail’d away.
But now what further hopes for me remain,
To see my friends, or native soil, again;
My tender infants, or my careful sire,
Whom they returning will to death require; 190
Will perpetrate on them their first design,
And take the forfeit of their heads for mine?
Which, O! if pity mortal minds can move,
If there be faith below, or gods above,
If innocence and truth can claim desert, 195
Ye Trojans, from an injur’d wretch avert.’
“False tears true pity move; the king commands
To loose his fetters, and unbind his hands:
Then adds these friendly words: ‘Dismiss thy fears;
Forget the Greeks; be mine as thou wert theirs. 200
But truly tell, was it for force or guile,
Or some religious end, you rais’d the pile?’
Thus said the king. He, full of fraudful arts,
This well-invented tale for truth imparts:
‘Ye lamps of heav’n!’ he said, and lifted high 205
His hands now free, ‘thou venerable sky!
Inviolable pow’rs, ador’d with dread!
Ye fatal fillets, that once bound this head!
Ye sacred altars, from whose flames I fled!
Be all of you adjur’d; and grant I may, 210
Without a crime, th’ ungrateful Greeks betray,
Reveal the secrets of the guilty state,
And justly punish whom I justly hate!
But you, O king, preserve the faith you gave,
If I, to save myself, your empire save. 215
The Grecian hopes, and all th’ attempts they made,
Were only founded on Minerva’s aid.
But from the time when impious Diomede,
And false Ulysses, that inventive head,
Her fatal image from the temple drew, 220
The sleeping guardians of the castle slew,
Her virgin statue with their bloody hands
Polluted, and profan’d her holy bands;
From thence the tide of fortune left their shore,
And ebb’d much faster than it flow’d before: 225
Their courage languish’d, as their hopes decay’d;
And Pallas, now averse, refus’d her aid.
Nor did the goddess doubtfully declare
Her alter’d mind and alienated care.
When first her fatal image touch’d the ground, 230
She sternly cast her glaring eyes around,
That sparkled as they roll’d, and seem’d to threat:
Her heav’nly limbs distill’d a briny sweat.
Thrice from the ground she leap’d, was seen to wield
Her brandish’d lance, and shake her horrid shield. 235
Then Calchas bade our host for flight prepare,
And hope no conquest from the tedious war,
Till first they sail’d for Greece; with pray’rs besought
Her injur’d pow’r, and better omens brought.
And now their navy plows the wat’ry main, 240
Yet soon expect it on your shores again,
With Pallas pleas’d; as Calchas did ordain.
But first, to reconcile the blue-ey’d maid
For her stol’n statue and her tow’r betray’d,
Warn’d by the seer, to her offended name 245
We rais’d and dedicate this wondrous frame,
So lofty, lest thro’ your forbidden gates
It pass, and intercept our better fates:
For, once admitted there, our hopes are lost;
And Troy may then a new Palladium boast; 250
For so religion and the gods ordain,
That, if you violate with hands profane
Minerva’s gift, your town in flames shall burn,
(Which omen, O ye gods, on Græcia turn!)
But if it climb, with your assisting hands, 255
The Trojan walls, and in the city stands;
Then Troy shall Argos and Mycenæ burn,
And the reverse of fate on us return.’
“With such deceits he gain’d their easy hearts,
Too prone to credit his perfidious arts. 260
What Diomede, nor Thetis’ greater son,
A thousand ships, nor ten years’ siege, had done—
False tears and fawning words the city won.
“A greater omen, and of worse portent,
Did our unwary minds with fear torment, 265
Concurring to produce the dire event.
Laocoon, Neptune’s priest by lot that year,
With solemn pomp then sacrific’d a steer;
When, dreadful to behold, from sea we spied
Two serpents, rank’d abreast, the seas divide, 270
And smoothly sweep along the swelling tide.
Their flaming crests above the waves they show;
Their bellies seem to burn the seas below;
Their speckled tails advance to steer their course,
And on the sounding shore the flying billows force. 275
And now the strand, and now the plain they held;
Their ardent eyes with bloody streaks were fill’d;
Their nimble tongues they brandish’d as they came,
And lick’d their hissing jaws, that sputter’d flame.
We fled amaz’d; their destin’d way they take, 280
And to Laocoon and his children make;
And first around the tender boys they wind,
Then with their sharpen’d fangs their limbs and bodies grind
The wretched father, running to their aid
With pious haste, but vain, they next invade; 285
Twice round his waist their winding volumes roll’d;
And twice about his gasping throat they fold.
The priest thus doubly chok’d, their crests divide,
And tow’ring o’er his head in triumph ride.
With both his hands he labors at the knots; 290
His holy fillets the blue venom blots;
His roaring fills the flitting air around.
Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound,
He breaks his bands, the fatal altar flies,
And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies. 295
Their tasks perform’d, the serpents quit their prey,
And to the tow’r of Pallas make their way:
Couch’d at her feet, they lie protected there
By her large buckler and protended spear.
Amazement seizes all; the gen’ral cry 300
Proclaims Laocoon justly doom’d to die,
Whose hand the will of Pallas had withstood,
And dared to violate the sacred wood.
All vote t’ admit the steed, that vows be paid
And incense offer’d to th’ offended maid. 305
A spacious breach is made; the town lies bare;
Some hoisting-levers, some the wheels prepare
And fasten to the horse’s feet; the rest
With cables haul along th’ unwieldly beast.
Each on his fellow for assistance calls; 310
At length the fatal fabric mounts the walls,
Big with destruction. Boys with chaplets crown’d,
And choirs of virgins, sing and dance around.
Thus rais’d aloft, and then descending down,
It enters o’er our heads, and threats the town. 315
O sacred city, built by hands divine!
O valiant heroes of the Trojan line!
Four times he struck: as oft the clashing sound
Of arms was heard, and inward groans rebound.
Yet, mad with zeal, and blinded with our fate, 320
We haul along the horse in solemn state;
Then place the dire portent within the tow’r.
Cassandra cried, and curs’d th’ unhappy hour;
Foretold our fate; but, by the god’s decree,
All heard, and none believ’d the prophecy. 325
With branches we the fanes adorn, and waste,
In jollity, the day ordain’d to be the last.
Meantime the rapid heav’ns roll’d down the light,
And on the shaded ocean rush’d the night;
Our men, secure, nor guards nor sentries held, 330
But easy sleep their weary limbs compell’d.
The Grecians had embark’d their naval pow’rs
From Tenedos, and sought our well-known shores,
Safe under covert of the silent night,
And guided by th’ imperial galley’s light; 335
When Sinon, favor’d by the partial gods,
Unlock’d the horse, and op’d his dark abodes;
Restor’d to vital air our hidden foes,
Who joyful from their long confinement rose.
Tysander bold, and Sthenelus their guide, 340
And dire Ulysses down the cable slide:
Then Thoas, Athamas, and Pyrrhus haste;
Nor was the Podalirian hero last,
Nor injur’d Menelaus, nor the fam’d
Epeus, who the fatal engine fram’d. 345
A nameless crowd succeed; their forces join
T’ invade the town, oppress’d with sleep and wine.
Those few they find awake first meet their fate;
Then to their fellows they unbar the gate.
“’T was in the dead of night, when sleep repairs 350
Our bodies worn with toils, our minds with cares,
When Hector’s ghost before my sight appears:
A bloody shroud he seem’d, and bath’d in tears;
Such as he was, when, by Pelides slain,
Thessalian coursers dragg’d him o’er the plain. 355
Swoln were his feet, as when the thongs were thrust
Thro’ the bor’d holes; his body black with dust;
Unlike that Hector who return’d from toils
Of war, triumphant, in Æacian spoils,
Or him who made the fainting Greeks retire, 360
And launch’d against their navy Phrygian fire.
His hair and beard stood stiffen’d with his gore;
And all the wounds he for his country bore
Now stream’d afresh, and with new purple ran.
I wept to see the visionary man, 365
And, while my trance continued, thus began:
‘O light of Trojans, and support of Troy,
Thy father’s champion, and thy country’s joy!
O, long expected by thy friends! from whence
Art thou so late return’d for our defense? 370
Do we behold thee, wearied as we are
With length of labors, and with toils of war?
After so many fun’rals of thy own
Art thou restor’d to thy declining town?
But say, what wounds are these? What new disgrace 375
Deforms the manly features of thy face?’
“To this the specter no reply did frame,
But answer’d to the cause for which he came,
And, groaning from the bottom of his breast,
This warning in these mournful words express’d: 380
‘O goddess-born! escape, by timely flight,
The flames and horrors of this fatal night.
The foes already have possess’d the wall;
Troy nods from high, and totters to her fall.
Enough is paid to Priam’s royal name, 385
More than enough to duty and to fame.
If by a mortal hand my father’s throne
Could be defended, ’t was by mine alone.
Now Troy to thee commends her future state,
And gives her gods companions of thy fate: 390
From their assistance happier walls expect,
Which, wand’ring long, at last thou shalt erect.’
He said, and brought me, from their blest abodes,
The venerable statues of the gods,
With ancient Vesta from the sacred choir, 395
The wreaths and relics of th’ immortal fire.
“Now peals of shouts come thund’ring from afar,
Cries, threats, and loud laments, and mingled war:
The noise approaches, tho’ our palace stood
Aloof from streets, encompass’d with a wood. 400
Louder, and yet more loud, I hear th’ alarms
Of human cries distinct, and clashing arms.
Fear broke my slumbers; I no longer stay,
But mount the terrace, thence the town survey,
And hearken what the frightful sounds convey. 405
Thus, when a flood of fire by wind is borne,
Crackling it rolls, and mows the standing corn;
Or deluges, descending on the plains,
Sweep o’er the yellow year, destroy the pains
Of lab’ring oxen and the peasant’s gains; 410
Unroot the forest oaks, and bear away
Flocks, folds, and trees, an undistinguish’d prey:
The shepherd climbs the cliff, and sees from far
The wasteful ravage of the wat’ry war.
Then Hector’s faith was manifestly clear’d, 415
And Grecian frauds in open light appear’d.
The palace of Deiphobus ascends
In smoky flames, and catches on his friends.
Ucalegon burns next: the seas are bright
With splendor not their own, and shine with Trojan light. 420
New clamors and new clangors now arise,
The sound of trumpets mix’d with fighting cries.
With frenzy seiz’d, I run to meet th’ alarms,
Resolv’d on death, resolv’d to die in arms,
But first to gather friends, with them t’ oppose 425
(If fortune favor’d) and repel the foes;
Spurr’d by my courage, by my country fir’d,
With sense of honor and revenge inspir’d.
“Pantheus, Apollo’s priest, a sacred name,
Had scap’d the Grecian swords, and pass’d the flame: 430
With relics loaden, to my doors he fled,
And by the hand his tender grandson led.
‘What hope, O Pantheus? whither can we run?
Where make a stand? and what may yet be done?’
Scarce had I said, when Pantheus, with a groan: 435
‘Troy is no more, and Ilium was a town!
The fatal day, th’ appointed hour, is come,
When wrathful Jove’s irrevocable doom
Transfers the Trojan state to Grecian hands.
The fire consumes the town, the foe commands; 440
And armed hosts, an unexpected force,
Break from the bowels of the fatal horse.
Within the gates, proud Sinon throws about
The flames; and foes for entrance press without,
With thousand others, whom I fear to name, 445
More than from Argos or Mycenæ came.
To sev’ral posts their parties they divide;
Some block the narrow streets, some scour the wide:
The bold they kill, th’ unwary they surprise;
Who fights finds death, and death finds him who flies. 450
The warders of the gate but scarce maintain
Th’ unequal combat, and resist in vain.’
“I heard; and Heav’n, that well-born souls inspires,
Prompts me thro’ lifted swords and rising fires
To run where clashing arms and clamor calls, 455
And rush undaunted to defend the walls.
Ripheus and Iph’itus by my side engage,
For valor one renown’d, and one for age.
Dymas and Hypanis by moonlight knew
My motions and my mien, and to my party drew; 460
With young Coroebus, who by love was led
To win renown and fair Cassandra’s bed,
And lately brought his troops to Priam’s aid,
Forewarn’d in vain by the prophetic maid.
Whom when I saw resolv’d in arms to fall, 465
And that one spirit animated all:
‘Brave souls!’ said I,—’but brave, alas! in vain—
Come, finish what our cruel fates ordain.
You see the desp’rate state of our affairs,
And heav’n’s protecting pow’rs are deaf to pray’rs. 470
The passive gods behold the Greeks defile
Their temples, and abandon to the spoil
Their own abodes: we, feeble few, conspire
To save a sinking town, involv’d in fire.
Then let us fall, but fall amidst our foes: 475
Despair of life the means of living shows.’
So bold a speech incourag’d their desire
Of death, and added fuel to their fire.
“As hungry wolves, with raging appetite,
Scour thro’ the fields, nor fear the stormy night— 480
Their whelps at home expect the promis’d food,
And long to temper their dry chaps in blood—
So rush’d we forth at once; resolv’d to die,
Resolv’d, in death, the last extremes to try.
We leave the narrow lanes behind, and dare 485
Th’ unequal combat in the public square:
Night was our friend; our leader was despair.
What tongue can tell the slaughter of that night?
What eyes can weep the sorrows and affright?
An ancient and imperial city falls: 490
The streets are fill’d with frequent funerals;
Houses and holy temples float in blood,
And hostile nations make a common flood.
Not only Trojans fall; but, in their turn,
The vanquish’d triumph, and the victors mourn. 495
Ours take new courage from despair and night:
Confus’d the fortune is, confus’d the fight.
All parts resound with tumults, plaints, and fears;
And grisly Death in sundry shapes appears.
Androgeos fell among us, with his band, 500
Who thought us Grecians newly come to land.
‘From whence,’ said he, ‘my friends, this long delay?
You loiter, while the spoils are borne away:
Our ships are laden with the Trojan store;
And you, like truants, come too late ashore.’ 505
He said, but soon corrected his mistake,
Found, by the doubtful answers which we make:
Amaz’d, he would have shunn’d th’ unequal fight;
But we, more num’rous, intercept his flight.
As when some peasant, in a bushy brake, 510
Has with unwary footing press’d a snake;
He starts aside, astonish’d, when he spies
His rising crest, blue neck, and rolling eyes;
So from our arms surpris’d Androgeos flies.
In vain; for him and his we compass’d round, 515
Possess’d with fear, unknowing of the ground,
And of their lives an easy conquest found.
Thus Fortune on our first endeavor smil’d.
Coroebus then, with youthful hopes beguil’d,
Swoln with success, and of a daring mind, 520
This new invention fatally design’d.
‘My friends,’ said he, ‘since Fortune shows the way,
’T is fit we should th’ auspicious guide obey.
For what has she these Grecian arms bestow’d,
But their destruction, and the Trojans’ good? 525
Then change we shields, and their devices bear:
Let fraud supply the want of force in war.
They find us arms.’ This said, himself he dress’d
In dead Androgeos’ spoils, his upper vest,
His painted buckler, and his plumy crest. 530
Thus Ripheus, Dymas, all the Trojan train,
Lay down their own attire, and strip the slain.
Mix’d with the Greeks, we go with ill presage,
Flatter’d with hopes to glut our greedy rage;
Unknown, assaulting whom we blindly meet, 535
And strew with Grecian carcasses the street.
Thus while their straggling parties we defeat,
Some to the shore and safer ships retreat;
And some, oppress’d with more ignoble fear,
Remount the hollow horse, and pant in secret there. 540
“But, ah! what use of valor can be made,
When heav’n’s propitious pow’rs refuse their aid!
Behold the royal prophetess, the fair
Cassandra, dragg’d by her dishevel’d hair,
Whom not Minerva’s shrine, nor sacred bands, 545
In safety could protect from sacrilegious hands:
On heav’n she cast her eyes, she sigh’d, she cried—
’T was all she could—her tender arms were tied.
So sad a sight Coroebus could not bear;
But, fir’d with rage, distracted with despair, 550
Amid the barb’rous ravishers he flew:
Our leader’s rash example we pursue.
But storms of stones, from the proud temple’s height,
Pour down, and on our batter’d helms alight:
We from our friends receiv’d this fatal blow, 555
Who thought us Grecians, as we seem’d in show.
They aim at the mistaken crests, from high;
And ours beneath the pond’rous ruin lie.
Then, mov’d with anger and disdain, to see
Their troops dispers’d, the royal virgin free, 560
The Grecians rally, and their pow’rs unite,
With fury charge us, and renew the fight.
The brother kings with Ajax join their force,
And the whole squadron of Thessalian horse.
“Thus, when the rival winds their quarrel try, 565
Contending for the kingdom of the sky,
South, east, and west, on airy coursers borne;
The whirlwind gathers, and the woods are torn:
Then Nereus strikes the deep; the billows rise,
And, mix’d with ooze and sand, pollute the skies. 570
The troops we squander’d first again appear
From several quarters, and enclose the rear.
They first observe, and to the rest betray,
Our diff’rent speech; our borrow’d arms survey.
Oppress’d with odds, we fall; Coroebus first, 575
At Pallas’ altar, by Peneleus pierc’d.
Then Ripheus follow’d, in th’ unequal fight;
Just of his word, observant of the right:
Heav’n thought not so. Dymas their fate attends,
With Hypanis, mistaken by their friends. 580
Nor, Pantheus, thee, thy miter, nor the bands
Of awful Phœbus, sav’d from impious hands.
Ye Trojan flames, your testimony bear,
What I perform’d, and what I suffer’d there;
No sword avoiding in the fatal strife, 585
Expos’d to death, and prodigal of life;
Witness, ye heavens! I live not by my fault:
I strove to have deserv’d the death I sought.
But, when I could not fight, and would have died,
Borne off to distance by the growing tide, 590
Old Iphitus and I were hurried thence,
With Pelias wounded, and without defense.
New clamors from th’ invested palace ring:
We run to die, or disengage the king.
So hot th’ assault, so high the tumult rose, 595
While ours defend, and while the Greeks oppose
As all the Dardan and Argolic race
Had been contracted in that narrow space;
Or as all Ilium else were void of fear,
And tumult, war, and slaughter, only there. 600
Their targets in a tortoise cast, the foes,
Secure advancing, to the turrets rose:
Some mount the scaling ladders; some, more bold,
Swerve upwards, and by posts and pillars hold;
Their left hand gripes their bucklers in th’ ascent, 605
While with their right they seize the battlement.
From their demolish’d tow’rs the Trojans throw
Huge heaps of stones, that, falling, crush the foe;
And heavy beams and rafters from the sides
(Such arms their last necessity provides) 610
And gilded roofs, come tumbling from on high,
The marks of state and ancient royalty.
The guards below, fix’d in the pass, attend
The charge undaunted, and the gate defend.
Renew’d in courage with recover’d breath, 615
A second time we ran to tempt our death,
To clear the palace from the foe, succeed
The weary living, and revenge the dead.
“A postern door, yet unobserv’d and free,
Join’d by the length of a blind gallery, 620
To the king’s closet led: a way well known
To Hector’s wife, while Priam held the throne,
Thro’ which she brought Astyanax, unseen,
To cheer his grandsire and his grandsire’s queen.
Thro’ this we pass, and mount the tow’r, from whence 625
With unavailing arms the Trojans make defense.
From this the trembling king had oft descried
The Grecian camp, and saw their navy ride.
Beams from its lofty height with swords we hew,
Then, wrenching with our hands, th’ assault renew; 630
And, where the rafters on the columns meet,
We push them headlong with our arms and feet.
The lightning flies not swifter than the fall,
Nor thunder louder than the ruin’d wall:
Down goes the top at once; the Greeks beneath 635
Are piecemeal torn, or pounded into death.
Yet more succeed, and more to death are sent;
We cease not from above, nor they below relent.
Before the gate stood Pyrrhus, threat’ning loud,
With glitt’ring arms conspicuous in the crowd. 640
So shines, renew’d in youth, the crested snake,
Who slept the winter in a thorny brake,
And, casting off his slough when spring returns,
Now looks aloft, and with new glory burns;
Restor’d with pois’nous herbs, his ardent sides 645
Reflect the sun; and rais’d on spires he rides;
High o’er the grass, hissing he rolls along,
And brandishes by fits his forky tongue.
Proud Periphas, and fierce Automedon,
His father’s charioteer, together run 650
To force the gate; the Scyrian infantry
Rush on in crowds, and the barr’d passage free.
Ent’ring the court, with shouts the skies they rend;
And flaming firebrands to the roofs ascend.
Himself, among the foremost, deals his blows, 655
And with his ax repeated strokes bestows
On the strong doors; then all their shoulders ply,
Till from the posts the brazen hinges fly.
He hews apace; the double bars at length
Yield to his ax and unresisted strength. 660
A mighty breach is made: the rooms conceal’d
Appear, and all the palace is reveal’d;
The halls of audience, and of public state,
And where the lonely queen in secret sate.
Arm’d soldiers now by trembling maids are seen, 665
With not a door, and scarce a space, between.
The house is fill’d with loud laments and cries,
And shrieks of women rend the vaulted skies;
The fearful matrons run from place to place,
And kiss the thresholds, and the posts embrace. 670
The fatal work inhuman Pyrrhus plies,
And all his father sparkles in his eyes;
Nor bars, nor fighting guards, his force sustain:
The bars are broken, and the guards are slain.
In rush the Greeks, and all the apartments fill; 675
Those few defendants whom they find, they kill.
Not with so fierce a rage the foaming flood
Roars, when he finds his rapid course withstood;
Bears down the dams with unresisted sway,
And sweeps the cattle and the cots away. 680
These eyes beheld him when he march’d between
The brother kings: I saw th’ unhappy queen,
The hundred wives, and where old Priam stood,
To stain his hallow’d altar with his brood.
The fifty nuptial beds (such hopes had he, 685
So large a promise, of a progeny),
The posts, of plated gold, and hung with spoils,
Fell the reward of the proud victor’s toils.
Where’er the raging fire had left a space,
The Grecians enter and possess the place. 690
“Perhaps you may of Priam’s fate enquire.
He, when he saw his regal town on fire,
His ruin’d palace, and his ent’ring foes,
On ev’ry side inevitable woes,
In arms, disus’d, invests his limbs, decay’d, 695
Like them, with age; a late and useless aid.
His feeble shoulders scarce the weight sustain;
Loaded, not arm’d, he creeps along with pain,
Despairing of success, ambitious to be slain!
Uncover’d but by heav’n, there stood in view 700
An altar; near the hearth a laurel grew,
Dodder’d with age, whose boughs encompass round
The household gods, and shade the holy ground.
Here Hecuba, with all her helpless train
Of dames, for shelter sought, but sought in vain. 705
Driv’n like a flock of doves along the sky,
Their images they hug, and to their altars fly.
The Queen, when she beheld her trembling lord,
And hanging by his side a heavy sword,
‘What rage,’ she cried, ‘has seiz’d my husband’s mind? 710
What arms are these, and to what use design’d?
These times want other aids! Were Hector here,
Ev’n Hector now in vain, like Priam, would appear.
With us, one common shelter thou shalt find,
Or in one common fate with us be join’d.’ 715
She said, and with a last salute embrac’d
The poor old man, and by the laurel plac’d.
Behold! Polites, one of Priam’s sons,
Pursued by Pyrrhus, there for safety runs.
Thro’ swords and foes, amaz’d and hurt, he flies 720
Thro’ empty courts and open galleries.
Him Pyrrhus, urging with his lance, pursues,
And often reaches, and his thrusts renews.
The youth, transfix’d, with lamentable cries,
Expires before his wretched parent’s eyes: 725
Whom gasping at his feet when Priam saw,
The fear of death gave place to nature’s law;
And, shaking more with anger than with age,
‘The gods,’ said he, ‘requite thy brutal rage!
As sure they will, barbarian, sure they must, 730
If there be gods in heav’n, and gods be just—
Who tak’st in wrongs an insolent delight;
With a son’s death t’ infect a father’s sight.
Not he, whom thou and lying fame conspire
To call thee his—not he, thy vaunted sire, 735
Thus us’d my wretched age: the gods he fear’d,
The laws of nature and of nations heard.
He cheer’d my sorrows, and, for sums of gold,
The bloodless carcass of my Hector sold;
Pitied the woes a parent underwent, 740
And sent me back in safety from his tent.’
“This said, his feeble hand a javelin threw,
Which, flutt’ring, seem’d to loiter as it flew:
Just, and but barely, to the mark it held,
And faintly tinkled on the brazen shield. 745
“Then Pyrrhus thus: ‘Go thou from me to fate,
And to my father my foul deeds relate.
Now die!’ With that he dragg’d the trembling sire,
Slidd’ring thro’ clotter’d blood and holy mire,
(The mingled paste his murder’d son had made,) 750
Haul’d from beneath the violated shade,
And on the sacred pile the royal victim laid.
His right hand held his bloody falchion bare,
His left he twisted in his hoary hair;
Then, with a speeding thrust, his heart he found: 755
The lukewarm blood came rushing thro’ the wound,
And sanguine streams distain’d the sacred ground.
Thus Priam fell, and shar’d one common fate
With Troy in ashes, and his ruin’d state:
He, who the scepter of all Asia sway’d, 760
Whom monarchs like domestic slaves obey’d.
On the bleak shore now lies th’ abandon’d king,
A headless carcass, and a nameless thing.
“Then, not before, I felt my cruddled blood
Congeal with fear, my hair with horror stood: 765
My father’s image fill’d my pious mind,
Lest equal years might equal fortune find.
Again I thought on my forsaken wife,
And trembled for my son’s abandon’d life.
I look’d about, but found myself alone, 770
Deserted at my need! My friends were gone.
Some spent with toil, some with despair oppress’d,
Leap’d headlong from the heights; the flames consum’d the rest.
Thus, wand’ring in my way, without a guide,
The graceless Helen in the porch I spied 775
Of Vesta’s temple; there she lurk’d alone;
Muffled she sate, and, what she could, unknown:
But, by the flames that cast their blaze around,
That common bane of Greece and Troy I found.
For Ilium burnt, she dreads the Trojan sword; 780
More dreads the vengeance of her injur’d lord;
Ev’n by those gods who refug’d her abhorr’d.
Trembling with rage, the strumpet I regard,
Resolv’d to give her guilt the due reward:
‘Shall she triumphant sail before the wind, 785
And leave in flames unhappy Troy behind?
Shall she her kingdom and her friends review,
In state attended with a captive crew,
While unreveng’d the good old Priam falls,
And Grecian fires consume the Trojan walls? 790
For this the Phrygian fields and Xanthian flood
Were swell’d with bodies, and were drunk with blood?
’T is true, a soldier can small honor gain,
And boast no conquest, from a woman slain:
Yet shall the fact not pass without applause, 795
Of vengeance taken in so just a cause;
The punish’d crime shall set my soul at ease,
And murm’ring manes of my friends appease.’
Thus while I rave, a gleam of pleasing light
Spread o’er the place; and, shining heav’nly bright, 800
My mother stood reveal’d before my sight
Never so radiant did her eyes appear;
Not her own star confess’d a light so clear:
Great in her charms, as when on gods above
She looks, and breathes herself into their love. 805
She held my hand, the destin’d blow to break;
Then from her rosy lips began to speak:
‘My son, from whence this madness, this neglect
Of my commands, and those whom I protect?
Why this unmanly rage? Recall to mind 810
Whom you forsake, what pledges leave behind.
Look if your helpless father yet survive,
Or if Ascanius or Creusa live.
Around your house the greedy Grecians err;
And these had perish’d in the nightly war, 815
But for my presence and protecting care.
Not Helen’s face, nor Paris, was in fault;
But by the gods was this destruction brought.
Now cast your eyes around, while I dissolve
The mists and films that mortal eyes involve, 820
Purge from your sight the dross, and make you see
The shape of each avenging deity.
Enlighten’d thus, my just commands fulfil,
Nor fear obedience to your mother’s will.
Where yon disorder’d heap of ruin lies, 825
Stones rent from stones; where clouds of dust arise—
Amid that smother Neptune holds his place,
Below the wall’s foundation drives his mace,
And heaves the building from the solid base.
Look where, in arms, imperial Juno stands 830
Full in the Scæan gate, with loud commands,
Urging on shore the tardy Grecian bands.
See! Pallas, of her snaky buckler proud,
Bestrides the tow’r, refulgent thro’ the cloud:
See! Jove new courage to the foe supplies, 835
And arms against the town the partial deities.
Haste hence, my son; this fruitless labor end:
Haste, where your trembling spouse and sire attend:
Haste; and a mother’s care your passage shall befriend.’
She said, and swiftly vanish’d from my sight, 840
Obscure in clouds and gloomy shades of night.
I look’d, I listen’d; dreadful sounds I hear;
And the dire forms of hostile gods appear.
Troy sunk in flames I saw (nor could prevent),
And Ilium from its old foundations rent; 845
Rent like a mountain ash, which dar’d the winds,
And stood the sturdy strokes of lab’ring hinds.
About the roots the cruel ax resounds;
The stumps are pierc’d with oft-repeated wounds:
The war is felt on high; the nodding crown 850
Now threats a fall, and throws the leafy honors down.
To their united force it yields, tho’ late,
And mourns with mortal groans th’ approaching fate:
The roots no more their upper load sustain;
But down she falls, and spreads a ruin thro’ the plain. 855
“Descending thence, I scape thro’ foes and fire:
Before the goddess, foes and flames retire.
Arriv’d at home, he, for whose only sake,
Or most for his, such toils I undertake,
The good Anchises, whom, by timely flight, 860
I purpos’d to secure on Ida’s height,
Refus’d the journey, resolute to die
And add his fun’rals to the fate of Troy,
Rather than exile and old age sustain.
‘Go you, whose blood runs warm in ev’ry vein. 865
Had Heav’n decreed that I should life enjoy,
Heav’n had decreed to save unhappy Troy.
’T is, sure, enough, if not too much, for one,
Twice to have seen our Ilium overthrown.
Make haste to save the poor remaining crew, 870
And give this useless corpse a long adieu.
These weak old hands suffice to stop my breath;
At least the pitying foes will aid my death,
To take my spoils, and leave my body bare:
As for my sepulcher, let Heav’n take care. 875
’T is long since I, for my celestial wife
Loath’d by the gods, have dragg’d a ling’ring life;
Since ev’ry hour and moment I expire,
Blasted from heav’n by Jove’s avenging fire.’
This oft repeated, he stood fix’d to die: 880
Myself, my wife, my son, my family,
Intreat, pray, beg, and raise a doleful cry—
‘What, will he still persist, on death resolve,
And in his ruin all his house involve!’
He still persists his reasons to maintain; 885
Our pray’rs, our tears, our loud laments, are vain.
“Urg’d by despair, again I go to try
The fate of arms, resolv’d in fight to die:
‘What hope remains, but what my death must give?
Can I, without so dear a father, live? 890
You term it prudence, what I baseness call:
Could such a word from such a parent fall?
If Fortune please, and so the gods ordain,
That nothing should of ruin’d Troy remain,
And you conspire with Fortune to be slain, 895
The way to death is wide, th’ approaches near:
For soon relentless Pyrrhus will appear,
Reeking with Priam’s blood—the wretch who slew
The son (inhuman) in the father’s view,
And then the sire himself to the dire altar drew. 900
O goddess mother, give me back to Fate;
Your gift was undesir’d, and came too late!
Did you, for this, unhappy me convey
Thro’ foes and fires, to see my house a prey?
Shall I my father, wife, and son behold, 905
Welt’ring in blood, each other’s arms infold?
Haste! gird my sword, tho’ spent and overcome:
’T is the last summons to receive our doom.
I hear thee, Fate; and I obey thy call!
Not unreveng’d the foe shall see my fall. 910
Restore me to the yet unfinish’d fight:
My death is wanting to conclude the night.’
Arm’d once again, my glitt’ring sword I wield,
While th’ other hand sustains my weighty shield,
And forth I rush to seek th’ abandon’d field. 915
I went; but sad Creusa stopp’d my way,
And cross the threshold in my passage lay,
Embrac’d my knees, and, when I would have gone,
Shew’d me my feeble sire and tender son:
‘If death be your design, at least,’ said she, 920
‘Take us along to share your destiny.
If any farther hopes in arms remain,
This place, these pledges of your love, maintain.
To whom do you expose your father’s life,
Your son’s, and mine, your now forgotten wife!’ 925
While thus she fills the house with clam’rous cries,
Our hearing is diverted by our eyes:
For, while I held my son, in the short space
Betwixt our kisses and our last embrace;
Strange to relate, from young Iulus’ head 930
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
Around his brows, and on his temples fed.
Amaz’d, with running water we prepare
To quench the sacred fire, and slake his hair;
But old Anchises, vers’d in omens, rear’d 935
His hands to heav’n, and this request preferr’d:
‘If any vows, almighty Jove, can bend
Thy will; if piety can pray’rs commend,
Confirm the glad presage which thou art pleas’d to send.’
Scarce had he said, when, on our left, we hear 940
A peal of rattling thunder roll in air:
There shot a streaming lamp along the sky,
Which on the winged lightning seem’d to fly;
From o’er the roof the blaze began to move,
And, trailing, vanish’d in th’ Idæan grove. 945
It swept a path in heav’n, and shone a guide,
Then in a steaming stench of sulphur died.
“The good old man with suppliant hands implor’d
The gods’ protection, and their star ador’d.
‘Now, now,’ said he, ‘my son, no more delay! 950
I yield, I follow where Heav’n shews the way.
Keep, O my country gods, our dwelling place,
And guard this relic of the Trojan race,
This tender child! These omens are your own,
And you can yet restore the ruin’d town. 955
At least accomplish what your signs foreshow:
I stand resign’d, and am prepar’d to go.’
“He said. The crackling flames appear on high.
And driving sparkles dance along the sky.
With Vulcan’s rage the rising winds conspire, 960
And near our palace roll the flood of fire.
‘Haste, my dear father, (’t is no time to wait,)
And load my shoulders with a willing freight.
Whate’er befalls, your life shall be my care;
One death, or one deliv’rance, we will share. 965
My hand shall lead our little son; and you,
My faithful consort, shall our steps pursue.
Next, you, my servants, heed my strict commands:
Without the walls a ruin’d temple stands,
To Ceres hallow’d once; a cypress nigh 970
Shoots up her venerable head on high,
By long religion kept; there bend your feet,
And in divided parties let us meet.
Our country gods, the relics, and the bands,
Hold you, my father, in your guiltless hands: 975
In me ’t is impious holy things to bear,
Red as I am with slaughter, new from war,
Till in some living stream I cleanse the guilt
Of dire debate, and blood in battle spilt.’
Thus, ord’ring all that prudence could provide, 980
I clothe my shoulders with a lion’s hide
And yellow spoils; then, on my bending back,
The welcome load of my dear father take;
While on my better hand Ascanius hung,
And with unequal paces tripp’d along. 985
Creusa kept behind; by choice we stray
Thro’ ev’ry dark and ev’ry devious way.
I, who so bold and dauntless, just before,
The Grecian darts and shock of lances bore,
At ev’ry shadow now am seiz’d with fear, 990
Not for myself, but for the charge I bear;
Till, near the ruin’d gate arriv’d at last,
Secure, and deeming all the danger past,
A frightful noise of trampling feet we hear.
My father, looking thro’ the shades, with fear, 995
Cried out: ‘Haste, haste, my son, the foes are nigh;
Their swords and shining armor I descry.’
Some hostile god, for some unknown offense,
Had sure bereft my mind of better sense;
For, while thro’ winding ways I took my flight, 1000
And sought the shelter of the gloomy night,
Alas! I lost Creusa: hard to tell
If by her fatal destiny she fell,
Or weary sate, or wander’d with affright;
But she was lost for ever to my sight. 1005
I knew not, or reflected, till I meet
My friends, at Ceres’ now deserted seat.
We met: not one was wanting; only she
Deceiv’d her friends, her son, and wretched me.
“What mad expressions did my tongue refuse! 1010
Whom did I not, of gods or men, accuse!
This was the fatal blow, that pain’d me more
Than all I felt from ruin’d Troy before.
Stung with my loss, and raving with despair,
Abandoning my now forgotten care, 1015
Of counsel, comfort, and of hope bereft,
My sire, my son, my country gods I left.
In shining armor once again I sheathe
My limbs, not feeling wounds, nor fearing death.
Then headlong to the burning walls I run, 1020
And seek the danger I was forc’d to shun.
I tread my former tracks; thro’ night explore
Each passage, ev’ry street I cross’d before.
All things were full of horror and affright,
And dreadful ev’n the silence of the night. 1025
Then to my father’s house I make repair,
With some small glimpse of hope to find her there.
Instead of her, the cruel Greeks I met;
The house was fill’d with foes, with flames beset.
Driv’n on the wings of winds, whole sheets of fire, 1030
Thro’ air transported, to the roofs aspire.
From thence to Priam’s palace I resort,
And search the citadel and desart court.
Then, unobserv’d, I pass by Juno’s church:
A guard of Grecians had possess’d the porch; 1035
There Phœnix and Ulysses watch the prey,
And thither all the wealth of Troy convey:
The spoils which they from ransack’d houses brought,
And golden bowls from burning altars caught,
The tables of the gods, the purple vests, 1040
The people’s treasure, and the pomp of priests.
A rank of wretched youths, with pinion’d hands,
And captive matrons, in long order stands.
Then, with ungovern’d madness, I proclaim,
Thro’ all the silent street, Creusa’s name: 1045
Creusa still I call; at length she hears,
And sudden thro’ the shades of night appears—
Appears, no more Creusa, nor my wife,
But a pale specter, larger than the life.
Aghast, astonish’d, and struck dumb with fear, 1050
I stood; like bristles rose my stiffen’d hair.
Then thus the ghost began to soothe my grief
‘Nor tears, nor cries, can give the dead relief.
Desist, my much-lov’d lord, ’t indulge your pain;
You bear no more than what the gods ordain. 1055
My fates permit me not from hence to fly;
Nor he, the great controller of the sky.
Long wand’ring ways for you the pow’rs decree;
On land hard labors, and a length of sea.
Then, after many painful years are past, 1060
On Latium’s happy shore you shall be cast,
Where gentle Tiber from his bed beholds
The flow’ry meadows, and the feeding folds.
There end your toils; and there your fates provide
A quiet kingdom, and a royal bride: 1065
There fortune shall the Trojan line restore,
And you for lost Creusa weep no more.
Fear not that I shall watch, with servile shame,
Th’ imperious looks of some proud Grecian dame;
Or, stooping to the victor’s lust, disgrace 1070
My goddess mother, or my royal race.
And now, farewell! The parent of the gods
Restrains my fleeting soul in her abodes:
I trust our common issue to your care.’
She said, and gliding pass’d unseen in air. 1075
I strove to speak: but horror tied my tongue;
And thrice about her neck my arms I flung,
And, thrice deceiv’d, on vain embraces hung.
Light as an empty dream at break of day,
Or as a blast of wind, she rush’d away. 1080
“Thus having pass’d the night in fruitless pain,
I to my longing friends return again,
Amaz’d th’ augmented number to behold,
Of men and matrons mix’d, of young and old;
A wretched exil’d crew together brought, 1085
With arms appointed, and with treasure fraught,
Resolv’d, and willing, under my command,
To run all hazards both of sea and land.
The Morn began, from Ida, to display
Her rosy cheeks; and Phosphor led the day: 1090
Before the gates the Grecians took their post,
And all pretense of late relief was lost.
I yield to Fate, unwillingly retire,
And, loaded, up the hill convey my sire.”
This goal can and must be attained in this life. But even if this does not happen, remember that he who has found the way once, always returns to this world with an internal maturity that enables him to continue his work.
Was Comrade Jesus Christ a Palestinian and Mr.Judas Iscariot was a Jew?
Anyway Comrade Jesus fought against the unjust
And Judas betrayed him?
I write this New Nursery Rhyme to poor kindergarten
Please Re-name this cruel World
for the Human Welfare?
a humble dedication to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon!
Why should i eat my eggs row when, i can fry or boil them? !
For, you got the same dream that i had last night;
And you came to my house to tell me about it,
But, seeing me at work means a lot on this earth!
The rain has washed away the young trees along the narrow path,
And i am now ready to teach you how to go along in peace;
For your dream was like the one i had last night,
But, seeing me at work means a lot to the world!
and then there was Alma,
a name which means soul.
she tells the story about her
son, how she gave birth
at such an early age, meeting
this chinese man,
who offered her a nice world
who promised her heaven.
it turned sour. The chinese man
left her. But she managed to
eke out a living for her son.
She raised him.
She files an annulment
two years and still undecided.
When the annulment is granted
she promises to invite us to her party
The motif? Wear the color of freedom.
I Am A Minor Player In This World
I AM A MINOR PLAYER IN THIS WORLD
I am a minor player in this world
A bit player on this stage
Who does not strut
And often barely seems
To be seen.
When the drama ends for me
The main show will go on
Without any break in its rhythm.
A few may notice
But their pain will too be drowned
In the general sound
Of everything else booming or screaming.
I am a bit player
And when the door is closed
The final exit made
This stage will continue to be played upon
I had never scriven on it.