What a state to be in
Its a world of indecision
So self destructive
And such an ugly business
In and out of fashion
You always leave your mark
An indefinite decision
A dangerous remark
** when youre cold and tired
Dont turn your head away
The distance thats between us
Gets bigger every day
* how come you never see
Youre as faraway as faraway can be
Youre as faraway as faraway can be
You try so hard to impress
You talk the telephone to death
Its what you cant see that counts
But you havent worked that out yet
There is no reason
There is no plan
The truth can be deceptive
From such a quiet man
Theres madness in your words
Not wishing to be heard
But just like yesterday
Youve already slipped away
Youre as faraway as faraway
As faraway as faraway
As faraway as faraway
As faraway as faraway
As faraway as faraway
As faraway from me as you can be
Resignation Pt 1
The days how few, how short the years
Of man's too rapid race!
Each leaving, as it swiftly flies,
A shorter in its place.
They who the longest lease enjoy,
Have told us with a sigh,
That to be born seems little more
Than to begin to die.
Numbers there are who feel this truth
With fears alarm'd; and yet,
In life's delusions lull'd asleep,
This weighty truth forget:
And am not I to these akin?
Age slumbers o'er the quill;
Its honour blots, whate'er it writes,
And am I writing still?
Conscious of nature in decline,
And languor in my thoughts;
To soften censure, and abate
Its rigour on my faults
Permit me, madam! ere to you
The promis'd verse I pay,
To touch on felt infirmity,
Sad sister of decay.
One world deceas'd, another born,
Like Noah they behold,
O'er whose white hairs, and furrow'd brows,
Too many suns have roll'd:
Happy the patriarch! he rejoic'd
His second world to see:
My second world, though gay the scene,
Can boast no charms for me.
To me this brilliant age appears
With desolation spread;
Near all with whom I liv'd, and smil'd,
Whilst life was life, are dead;
And with them died my joys; the grave
Has broken nature's laws;
And clos'd, against this feeble frame,
Its partial cruel jaws;
Cruel to spare! condemn'd to life!
A cloud impairs my sight;
My weak hand disobeys my will,
And trembles as I write.
What shall I write? Thalia, tell;
Say, long abandon'd muse!
What field of fancy shall I range?
What subject shall I choose?
A choice of moment high inspire,
And rescue me from shame,
For doting on thy charms so late,
By grandeur in my theme.
Beyond the themes, which most admire,
Which dazzle, or amaze,
Beyond renown'd exploits of war,
Bright charms, or empire's blaze,
Are themes, which, in a world of woe
Can best appease our pain;
And, in an age of gaudy guilt,
Gay folly's flood restrain;
Amidst the storms of life support
A calm, unshaken mind;
And with unfading laurels crown
The brow of the resign'd.
O resignation! yet unsung,
Untouch'd by former strains;
Though claiming every muse's smile,
And every poet's pains,
Beneath life's evening, solemn shade,
I dedicate my page
To thee, thou safest guard of youth!
Thou sole support of age!
All other duties crescents are
Of virtue faintly bright,
The glorious consummation, thou!
Which fills her orb with light:
How rarely fill'd! the love divine
In evils to discern,
This the first lesson which we want,
The latest, which we learn;
A melancholy truth! for know,
Could our proud hearts resign,
The distance greatly would decrease
'Twixt human and divine.
But though full noble is my theme,
Full urgent is my call
To soften sorrow, and forbid
The bursting tear to fall:
The task I dread; dare I to leave
Of humble prose the shore,
And put to sea? a dangerous sea?
What throngs have sunk before!
How proud the poet's billow swells!
The God! the God! his boast:
A boast how vain! What wrecks abound!
Dead bards stench every coast.
What then am I? Shall I presume,
On such a moulten wing,
Above the general wreck to rise,
And in my winter, sing;
When nightingales, when sweetest bards
Confine their charming song
To summer's animating heats,
Content to warble young?
Yet write I must; a lady(49) sues;
How shameful her request!
My brain in labour for dull rhyme!
Hers teeming with the best!
But you a stranger will excuse,
Nor scorn his feeble strain;
To you a stranger, but, through fate,
No stranger to your pain.
The ghost of grief deceas'd ascends,
His old wound bleeds anew;
His sorrows are recall'd to life
By those he sees in you;
Too well he knows the twisting strings
Of ardent hearts combin'd
When rent asunder, how they bleed,
How hard to be resign'd:
Those tears you pour, his eyes have shed;
The pang you feel, he felt;
Thus nature, loud as virtue, bids
His heart at yours to melt.
But what can heart, or head, suggest?
What sad experience say?
Through truths austere, to peace we work
Our rugged, gloomy way:
What are we? whence? for what? and whither?
Who know not, needs must mourn;
But thought, bright daughter of the skies!
Can tears to triumph turn.
Thought is our armour, 'tis the mind's
When, sent by fate, we meet our foes,
In sore affliction's field;
It plucks the frightful mask from ills,
Forbids pale fear to hide,
Beneath that dark disguise, a friend,
Which turns affection's tide.
Affection frail! train'd up by sense,
From reason's channel strays:
And whilst it blindly points at peace,
Our peace to pain betrays.
Thought winds its fond, erroneous stream
From daily dying flowers,
To nourish rich immortal blooms,
In amaranthine bowers;
Whence throngs, in ecstasy, look down
On what once shock'd their sight;
And thank the terrors of the past
For ages of delight.
All withers here; who most possess
Are losers by their gain,
Stung by full proof, that, bad at best,
Life's idle all is vain:
Vain, in its course, life's murmuring stream;
Did not its course offend,
But murmur cease; life, then, would seem
Still vainer, from its end.
How wretched! who, through cruel fate,
Have nothing to lament!
With the poor alms this world affords
Had not the Greek his world mistook,
His wish had been most wise;
To be content with but one world,
Like him, we should despise.
Of earth's revenue would you state
A full account and fair?
We hope; and hope; and hope; then cast
The total up---
Since vain all here, all future, vast,
Embrace the lot assign'd;
Heaven wounds to heal; its frowns are friends;
Its stroke severe, most kind.
But in laps'd nature rooted deep,
Blind error domineers;
And on fools' errands, in the dark,
Sends out our hopes and fears;
Bids us for ever pains deplore,
Our pleasures overprize;
These oft persuade us to be weak;
Those urge us to be wise.
From virtue's rugged path to right
By pleasure are we brought,
To flowery fields of wrong, and there
Pain chides us for our fault:
Yet whilst it chides, it speaks of peace
If folly is withstood;
And says, time pays an easy price,
For our eternal good.
In earth's dark cot, and in an hour,
And in delusion great,
What an economist is man
To spend his whole estate,
And beggar an eternity!
For which as he was born,
More worlds than one against it weigh'd,
As feathers he should scorn.
Say not, your loss in triumph leads
Religion's feeble strife;
Joys future amply reimburse
Joys bankrupts of this life.
But not deferr'd your joy so long,
It bears an early date;
Affliction's ready pay in hand,
Befriends our present state;
What are the tears, which trickle down
Her melancholy face,
Like liquid pearl? Like pearls of price,
They purchase lasting peace.
Grief softens hearts, and curbs the will,
Impetuous passion tames,
And keeps insatiate, keen desire
From launching in extremes.
Through time's dark womb, our judgment right,
If our dim eye was thrown,
Clear should we see, the will divine
Has but forestall'd our own;
At variance with our future wish,
Self-sever'd we complain;
If so, the wounded, not the wound,
Must answer for the pain:
The day shall come, and swift of wing,
Though you may think it slow,
When, in the list of fortune's smiles,
You'll enter frowns of woe.
For mark the path of Providence;
This course it has pursued-
'Pain is the parent, woe the womb,
Of sound, important good:'
Our hearts are fasten'd to this world
By strong and endless ties:
And every sorrow cuts a string,
And urges us to rise:
'Twill sound severe-Yet rest assur'd
I'm studious of your peace;
Though I should dare to give you joy-
Yes, joy of his decease:
An hour shall come, (you question this,)
An hour, when you shall bless,
Beyond the brightest beams of life,
Dark days of your distress.
Hear then without surprise a truth,
A daughter truth to this,
Swift turns of fortune often tie
A bleeding heart to bliss:
Esteem you this a paradox?
My sacred motto read;
A glorious truth! divinely sung
By one, whose heart had bled;
To resignation swift he flew,
In her a friend he found,
A friend, which bless'd him with a smile
When gasping with his wound.
On earth nought precious is obtain'd
But what is painful too;
By travel, and to travel born,
Our sabbaths are but few:
To real joy we work our way,
Encountering many a shock,
Ere found what truly charms; as found
A Venus in the block.
In some disaster, some severe
Appointment for our sins,
That mother blessing, (not so call'd,)
True happiness, begins.
No martyr e'er defied the flames,
By stings of life unvext;
First rose some quarrel with this world,
Then passion for the next.
You see, then, pangs are parent pangs,
The pangs of happy birth;
Pangs, by which only can be born
True happiness on earth.
The peopled earth look all around,
Or through time's records run!
And say, what is a man unstruck?
It is a man undone.
This moment, am I deeply stung-
My bold pretence is tried;
When vain man boasts, heaven puts to proof
The vauntings of his pride;
Now need I, madam! your support.-
How exquisite the smart;
How critically tim'd the news(50)
Which strikes me to the heart!
The pangs of which I spoke, I feel:
If worth like thine is born,
O long-belov'd! I bless the blow,
And triumph, whilst I mourn.
Nor mourn I long; by grief subdued,
By reason's empire shown;
Deep anguish comes by heaven's decree,
Continues by our own;
And when continued past its point,
Indulg'd in length of time,
Grief is disgrac'd, and, what was fate,
Corrupts into a crime:
And shall I, criminally mean,
Myself and subject wrong?
No; my example shall support
The subject of my song.
Madam! I grant your loss is great;
Nor little is your gain?
Let that be weigh'd; when weigh'd aright,
It richly pays your pain:
When heaven would kindly set us free,
And earth's enchantment end;
It takes the most effectual means,
And robs us of a friend.
But such a friend! and sigh no more?
'Tis prudent; but severe:
Heaven aid my weakness, and I drop
All sorrow-with this tear.
Perhaps your settled grief to soothe,
I should not vainly strive,
But with soft balm your pain assuage,
Had he been still alive;
Whose frequent aid brought kind relief,
In my distress of thought,
Ting'd with his beams my cloudy page,
And beautified a fault:
To touch our passions' secret springs
Was his peculiar care;
And deep his happy genius div'd
In bosoms of the fair;
Nature, which favours to the few,
All art beyond, imparts,
To him presented, at his birth,
The key of human hearts.
But not to me by him bequeath'd
His gentle, smooth address;
His tender hand to touch the wound
In throbbing of distress;
Howe'er, proceed I must, unbless'd
With Esculapian art:
Know, love sometimes, mistaken love!
Plays disaffection's part:
Nor lands, nor seas, nor suns, nor stars,
Can soul from soul divide;
They correspond from distant worlds,
Though transports are denied:
Are you not, then, unkindly kind?
Is not your love severe?
O! stop that crystal source of woe;
Nor wound him with a tear.
As those above from human bliss
Receive increase of joy;
May not a stroke from human woe,
In part, their peace destroy?
He lives in those he left;-to what?
Your, now, paternal care,
Clear from its cloud your brighten'd eye,
It will discern him there;
In features, not of form alone,
But those, I trust, of mind;
Auspicious to the public weal,
And to their fate resign'd.
Think on the tempests he sustain'd;
Revolve his battles won;
And let those prophesy your joy
From such a father's son:
Is consolation what you seek?
Fan, then, his martial fire:
And animate to flame the sparks
Bequeath'd him by his sire:
As nothing great is born in haste,
Wise nature's time allow;
His father's laurels may descend,
And flourish on his brow.
Nor, madam! be surpris'd to hear
That laurels may be due
Not more to heroes of the field,
(Proud boasters!) than to you:
Tender as is the female frame,
Like that brave man you mourn,
You are a soldier, and to fight
Superior battles born;
Beneath a banner nobler far
Than ever was unfurl'd
In fields of blood; a banner bright!
High wav'd o'er all the world.
It, like a streaming meteor, casts
A universal light;
Sheds day, sheds more, eternal day
On nations whelm'd in night.
Beneath that banner, what exploit
Can mount our glory higher,
Than to sustain the dreadful blow,
When those we love expire?
Go forth a moral Amazon;
Arm'd with undaunted thought;
The battle won, though costing dear,
You'll think it cheaply bought:
The passive hero, who sits down
Unactive, and can smile
Beneath affliction's galling load,
Out-acts a Caesar's toil:
The billows stain'd by slaughter'd foes
Inferior praise afford;
Reason's a bloodless conqueror,
More glorious than the sword.
Nor can the thunders of huzzas,
From shouting nations, cause
Such sweet delight, as from your heart
Soft whispers of applause:
The dear deceas'd so fam'd in arms,
With what delight he'll view
His triumphs on the main outdone,
Thus conquer'd, twice, by you.
Share his delight; take heed to shun
Of bosoms most diseas'd
That odd distemper, an absurd
Reluctance to be pleas'd:
Some seem in love with sorrow's charms,
And that foul fiend embrace:
This temper let me justly brand,
And stamp it with disgrace:
Sorrow! of horrid parentage!
Thou second-born of hell!
Against heaven's endless mercies pour'd
How dar'st thou to rebel?
From black and noxious vapours bred,
And nurs'd by want of thought,
And to the door of phrensy's self
By perseverance brought,
Thy most inglorious, coward tears
From brutal eyes have ran:
Smiles, incommunicable smiles!
Are radiant marks of man;
They cast a sudden glory round
Th' illumin'd human face;
And light in sons of honest joy
Some beams of Moses' face:
Is resignation's lesson hard?
Examine, we shall find
That duty gives up little more
Than anguish of the mind;
Resign; and all the load of life
That moment you remove,
Its heavy tax, ten thousand cares
Devolve on one above;
Who bids us lay our burthen down
On his almighty hand,
Softens our duty to relief,
To blessing a command.
For joy what cause! how every sense
Is courted from above
The year around, with presents rich,
The growth of endless love!
But most o'erlook the blessings pour'd,
Forget the wonders done,
And terminate, wrapp'd up in sense,
Their prospect at the sun;
From that, their final point of view,
From that their radiant goal,
On travel infinite of thought,
Sets out the nobler soul,
Broke loose from time's tenacious ties,
And earth's involving gloom,
To range at last its vast domain,
And talk with worlds to come:
They let unmark'd, and unemploy'd,
Life's idle moments run;
And doing nothing for themselves,
Imagine nothing done;
Fatal mistake! their fate goes on,
Their dread account proceeds,
And their not doing is set down
Amongst their darkest deeds;
Though man sits still, and takes his ease;
God is at work on man;
No means, no moment unemployed,
To bless him, if he can.
But man consents not, boldly bent
To fashion his own fate;
Man, a mere bungler in the trade,
Repents his crime too late;
Hence loud laments: let me thy cause,
Indulgent father! plead;
Of all the wretches we deplore,
Not one by thee was made.
What is thy whole creation fair?
Of love divine the child;
Love brought it forth; and, from its birth,
Has o'er it fondly smil'd:
Now, and through periods distant far,
Long ere the world began,
Heaven is, and has in travail been,
Its birth the good of man;
Man holds in constant service bound
The blustering winds and seas;
Nor suns disdain to travel hard
Their master, man, to please:
To final good the worst events
Through secret channels run;
Finish for man their destin'd course,
As 'twas for man begun.
One point (observ'd, perhaps, by few)
Has often smote, and smites
My mind, as demonstration strong;
That heaven in man delights:
What's known to man of things unseen,
Of future worlds, or fates?
So much, nor more, than what to man's
Sublime affairs relates;
What's revelation then? a list,
An inventory just
Of that poor insect's goods, so late
Call'd out of night and dust.
What various motives to rejoice!
To render joy sincere,
Has this no weight? our joy is felt
Beyond this narrow sphere:
Would we in heaven new heaven create,
And double its delight?
A smiling world, when heaven looks down,
How pleasing in its sight!
Angels stoop forward from their thrones
To hear its joyful lays;
As incense sweet enjoy, and join,
Its aromatic praise:
Have we no cause to fear the stroke
Of heaven's avenging rod,
When we presume to counteract
A sympathetic God?
If we resign, our patience makes
His rod an armless wand;
If not, it darts a serpent's sting,
Like that in Moses' hand;
Like that, it swallows up whate'er
Earth's vain magicians bring,
Whose baffled arts would boast below
Of joys a rival spring.
Consummate love! the list how large
Of blessings from thy hand!
To banish sorrow, and be blest,
Is thy supreme command.
Are such commands but ill obey'd?
Of bliss, shall we complain?
The man, who dares to be a wretch,
Deserves still greater pain.
Joy is our duty, glory, health;
The sunshine of the soul;
Our best encomium on the power
Who sweetly plans the whole:
Joy is our Eden still possess'd:
Begone, ignoble grief!
'Tis joy makes gods, and men exalts,
Their nature, our relief;
Relief, for man to that must stoop,
And his due distance know;
Transport's the language of the sides,
Content the style below.
Content is joy, and joy in pain
Is joy and virtue too;
Thus, whilst good present we possess,
More precious we pursue:
Of joy the more we have in hand,
The more have we to come;
Joy, like our money, interest bears,
Which daily swells the sum.
'But how to smile; to stem the tide
Of nature in our veins;
Is it not hard to weep in joy?
What then to smile in pains?'
Victorious joy! which breaks the clouds,
And struggles through a storm;
Proclaims the mind as great, as good
And bids it doubly charm:
If doubly charming in our sex,
A sex, by nature, bold;
What then in yours? 'tis diamond there
Triumphant o'er our gold.
And should not this complaint repress,
And check the rising sigh?
Yet farther opiate to your pain
I labour to supply.
Since spirits greatly damp'd distort
Ideas of delight,
Look through the medium of a friend,
To set your notions right:
As tears the sight, grief dims the soul;
Its object dark appears;
True friendship, like a rising sun,
The soul's horizon clears.
A friend's an optic to the mind
With sorrow clouded o'er;
And gives it strength of sight to see
Redress unseen before.
Reason is somewhat rough in man;
Extremely smooth and fair,
When she, to grace her manly strength,
Assumes a female air:
A friend(51) you have, and I the same,
Whose prudent, soft address
Will bring to life those healing thoughts
Which died in your distress;
That friend, the spirit of my theme
Extracting for your ease,
Will leave to me the dreg, in thoughts
Too common; such as these:
Let those lament to whom full bowls
Of sparkling joys are given;
That triple bane inebriates life,
Imbitters death, and hazards heaven:
Woe to the soul at perfect ease!
'Tis brewing perfect pains;
Lull'd reason sleeps, the pulse is king;
Despotic body reigns;
Have you(52) ne'er pitied joy's gay scenes,
And deem'd their glory dark?
Alas! poor envy! she's stone-blind,
And quite mistakes her mark:
Her mark lies hid in sorrow's shades,
But sorrow well subdu'd;
And in proud fortune's frown defied
By meek, unborrow'd good.
By resignation; all in that
A double friend may find,
A wing to heaven, and, while on earth,
The pillow of mankind:
On pillows void of down, for rest
Our restless hopes we place;
When hopes of heaven lie warm at heart,
Our hearts repose in peace:
The peace, which resignation yields,
Who feel alone can guess;
'Tis disbeliev'd by murmuring minds,
They must conclude it less:
The loss, or gain, of that alone
Have we to hope or fear;
That fate controls, and can invert
The seasons of the year:
O! the dark days, the year around,
Of an impatient mind!
Thro' clouds, and storms, a summer breaks,
To shine on the resign'd:
While man by that of every grace,
And virtue, is possess'd;
Foul vice her pandaemonium builds
In the rebellious breast;
By resignation we defeat
The worst that can annoy;
And suffer, with far more repose,
Than worldlings can enjoy.
From small experience this I speak;
O! grant to those I love
Experience fuller far, ye powers,
Who form our fates above!
My love were due, if not to those
Who, leaving grandeur, came
To shine on age in mean recess,
And light me to my theme!
A theme themselves! A theme, how rare!
The charms, which they display,
To triumph over captive heads,
Are set in bright array:
With his own arms proud man's o'ercome,
His boasted laurels die:
Learning and genius, wiser grown,
To female bosoms fly.
This revolution, fix'd by fate,
In fable was foretold;
The dark prediction puzzled wits,
Nor could the learn'd unfold:
But as those ladies'(53) works I read,
They darted such a ray,
The latent sense burst out at once,
And shone in open day:
So burst, full ripe, distended fruits,
When strongly strikes the sun;
And from the purple grape unpress'd
Spontaneous nectars run.
Pallas, ('tis said,) when Jove grew dull,
Forsook his drowsy brain;
And sprightly leap'd into the throne
Of wisdom's brighter reign;
Her helmet took; that is, shot rays
Of formidable wit;
And lance,-or, genius most acute,
Which lines immortal writ;
And gorgon shield,-or, power to fright
Man's folly, dreadful shone,
And many a blockhead (easy change!)
Turn'd, instantly, to stone.
Our authors male, as, then, did Jove,
Now scratch a damag'd head,
And call for what once quarter'd there,
But find the goddess fled.
The fruit of knowledge, golden fruit!
That once forbidden tree,
Hedg'd-in by surly man, is now
To Britain's daughters free:
In Eve (we know) of fruit so fair
The noble thirst began;
And they, like her, have caus'd a fall,
A fall of fame in man:
And since of genius in our sex,
O Addison! with thee
The sun is set; how I rejoice
This sister lamp to see!
It sheds, like Cynthia, silver beams
On man's nocturnal state;
His lessen'd light, and languid powers,
I show, whilst I relate.
- quotes about resignation
- quotes about illness
- quotes about pain
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about victory
- quotes about birth
- quotes about friendship
- quotes about fate
- quotes about paying
Song To Amarantha, That She Would Dishevel Her Hair
Amarantha sweet and fair
Ah braid no more that shining hair!
As my curious hand or eye
Hovering round thee let it fly.
Let it fly as unconfin'd
As its calm ravisher, the wind,
Who hath left his darling th'East,
To wanton o'er that spicy nest.
Ev'ry tress must be confest
But neatly tangled at the best;
Like a clue of golden thread,
Most excellently ravelled.
Do not then wind up that light
In ribands, and o'er-cloud in night;
Like the sun in's early ray,
But shake your head and scatter day.
See 'tis broke! Within this grove
The bower, and the walks of love,
Weary lie we down and rest,
And fan each other's panting breast.
Here we'll strip and cool our fire
In cream below, in milk-baths higher:
And when all wells are drawn dry,
I'll drink a tear out of thine eye,
Which our very joys shall leave
That sorrows thus we can deceive;
Or our very sorrows weep,
That joys so ripe, so little keep.
Blank, Numb, Floating
it is 1: 55 a.m.
i hear the rain falling
she is fast asleep tired of the demands of her day
i leave her and she takes the pillow for me
i turn on the light
and see this room of books and paperworks
i turn on the computer
i am feeling nothing and i am floating like i am but a spirit
i am numb and i am feeling so dumb
i see this blank wall
i am feeling so empty
i look at her again
she utters words in her sleep and i will not wake her up
i lay my hands on the keys
run my fingers on some letters
there is nothing to write
in particular but there is something to run my fingers on
this attempt to imitate the sound of the rain in letters
to put the motion of the rain to put its smell
to be wet and to have the rain run over me
all over me all over me all over me all over me
blank, numb, floating and wet
this is the poem now
at 2: 03 a.m.
it has gained finally this form
and scent and motion and color
that you have never seen
or felt the way
There Lies The Difference
There Lies the Difference
I dont have to go out tonight
I dont have to guess who Ill see
I havent been lonely
Since the first time we met
Now I know Ill never be.
Cause I really care about you
And you really care about me
And there lies the difference
Between now and when I was free.
This time love wont go away
The futures so easy to see
And there lies the difference
Between now and what used to be.
Theres no substitute for the truth
And I know you come straight from the heart
And our love stands out in the light of the day
Not only in the heat of the dark.
Cause I really care about you
And you really care about me
And there lies the difference
Between now and when I was free.
This time love wont go away
The futures so easy to see
And there lies the difference
Between now and what used to be.
If I could step back in time
With offers of you to be mine
Id only step back
As far as when you came to me.
And this time love wont go away
The futures so easy to see.
And there lies the difference
Between now and what used to be.
Alaric at Rome
Admire, exult, despise, laugh, weep, for here
There is such matter for all feeling.
Unwelcome shroud of the forgotten dead,
Oblivion’s dreary fountain, where art thou:
Why speed’st thou not thy deathlike wave to shed
O’er humbled pride, and self-reproaching woe:
Or time’s stern hand, why blots it not away
The saddening tale that tells of sorrow and decay?
There are, whose glory passeth not away—
Even in the grave their fragrance cannot fade:
Others there are as deathless full as they,
Who for themselves a monument have made
By their own cringes—a lesson to all eyes—
Of wonder to the fool—of warning to the wise.
Yes, there are stories registered on high,
Yes, there are stains time’s fingers cannot blot,
Deeds that shall live when they who did them, die
Things that may cease, but never be forgot
Yet some there are, their very lives would give
To be remembered thus, and yet they cannot live.
But thou, imperial City! that least stood
In greatness once, in sackcloth now and tears,
A mighty name, for evil or for good,
Even in the loneness of thy widowed years:
Thou that hast gazed, as the world hurried by,
Upon its headlong course with sad prophetic eye.
Is thine the laurel-crown that greatness wreathes
Round the wan temples of the hallowed dead—
Is it the blighting taint dishonour breathes
In fires undying o’er the guilty head,
Or the brief splendour of that meteor light
Chat for a moment gleams, and all again is night?
Fain would we deem that thou hast risen so high
Thy dazzling light an eagle’s gaze should tire;
No meteor brightness to be seen and die,
No passing pageant, born but to expire,
But full and deathless as the deep dark hue
Of ocean’s sleeping face, or heaven’s unbroken blue.
Yet stains there are to blot thy brightest page,
And wither half the laurels on thy tomb;
A glorious manhood, yet a dim old age,
And years of crime, and nothingness, and gloom:
And then that mightiest crash, that giant fall,
Ambition’s boldest dream might sober and appal.
Thou wondrous chaos, where together dwell
Present and past, the living and the dead,
Thou shattered mass, whose glorious ruins tell
The vanisht might of that discrownèd head:
Where all we see, or do, or hear, or say,
Seems strangely echoed back by tones of yesterday:
Thou solemn grave, where every step we tread
Treads on the slumbering dust of other years;
The while there sleeps within thy precincts dread
What once had human passions, hopes, and fears;
And memory’s gushing tide swells deep and full
And makes thy very ruin fresh and beautiful.
Alas, no common sepulchre art thou,
No habitation for the nameless dead,
Green turf above, and crumbling dust below,
Perchance some mute memorial at their head,
But one vast fane where all unconscious sleep
Earth’s old heroic forms in peaceful slumbers deep.
Thy dead are kings, thy dust are palaces,
Relics of nations thy memorial-stones:
And the dim glories of departed days
Fold like a shroud around thy withered bones
And o’er thy towers the wind’s half-uttered sigh
Whispers, in mournful tones, thy silent elegy.
Yes, in such eloquent silence didst thou lie
When the Goth stooped upon his stricken prey,
And the deep hues of an Italian sky
Flasht on the rude barbarian’s wild array:
While full and ceaseless as the ocean roll,
Horde after horde streamed up thy frowning Capitol.
Twice, ere that day of shame, the embattled foe
Had gazed in wonder on that glorious sight;
Twice had the eternal city bowed her low
In sullen homage to the invader’s might:
Twice had the pageant of that vast array
Swept, from thy walls, O Rome, on its triumphant way.
Twice, from without thy bulwarks, hath the din
Of Gothic clarion smote thy startled ear;
Anger, and strife, and sickness are within,
Famine and sorrow are no strangers here:
Twice hath the cloud hung o’er thee, twice been stayed
Even in the act to burst, twice threatened, twice delayed.
Yet once again, stern Chief, yet once again,
Pour forth the foaming vials of thy wrath:
There lies thy goal, to miss or to attain,
Gird thee, and on upon thy fateful path.
The world hath bowed to Rome, oh! cold were he
Who would not burst his bonds, and in his turn be free.
Therefore arise and arm thee! lo, the world
Looks on in fear! and when the seal is set,
The doom pronounced, the battle-flag unfurled,
Scourge of the nations, wouldst thou linger yet?
Arise and arm thee! spread thy banners forth,
Pour from a thousand hills thy warriors of the north!
Hast thou not marked on a wild autumn day
When the wind slumbereth in a sudden lull,
What deathlike stillness o’er the landscape lay,
How calmly sad, how sadly beautiful;
How each bright tint of tree, and flower, and heath
Were mingling with the sere and withered hues of death?
And thus, beneath the clear, calm vault of heaven
In mournful loveliness that city lay,
And thus, amid the glorious hues of even
That city told of languor and decay:
Till what at morning’s hour lookt warm and bright
Was cold and sad beneath that breathless, voiceless night.
Soon was that stillness broken: like the cry
Of the hoarse onset of the surging wave,
Or louder rush of whirlwinds sweeping by
Was the wild shout those Gothic myriads gave,
As towered on high, above their moonlit road,
Scenes where a Caesar triumpht, or a Scipio trod.
Think ye it strikes too slow, the sword of fate,
Think ye the avenger loiters on his way,
That your own hands must open wide the gate,
And your own voice(s) guide him to his prey;
Alas, it needs not; is it hard to know
Fate’s threat’nings are not vain, the spoiler comes not slow?
And were there none, to stand and weep alone,
And as the pageant swept before their eyes
To hear a dins and long forgotten tone
Tell of old times, and holiest memories,
Till fanciful regret and dreamy woe
Peopled night’s voiceless shades with forms of long Ago?
Oh yes! if fancy feels, beyond to-day,
Thoughts of the past and of the future time,
How should that mightiest city pass away
And not bethink her of her glorious prime,
Whilst every chord that thrills at thoughts of home
Jarr’d with the bursting shout, 'they come, the Goth, they come!'
The trumpet swells yet louder: they are here!
Yea, on your fathers’ bones the avengers tread,
Not this the time to weep upon the bier
That holds the ashes of your hero-dead,
If wreaths may twine for you, or laurels wave,
They shall not deck your life, but sanctify your grave.
Alas! no wreaths are here. Despair may teach
Cowards to conquer and the weak to die;
Nor tongue of man, nor fear, nor shame can preach
So stern a lesson as necessity,
Yet here it speaks not. Yea, though all around
Unhallowed feet are trampling on this haunted ground,
Though every holiest feeling, every tie
That binds the heart of man with mightiest power,
All natural love, all human sympathy
Be crusht, and outraged in this bitter hour,
Here is no echo to the sound of home,
No shame that suns should rise to light a conquer’d Rome.
That troublous night is over: on the brow
Of thy stern hill, thou mighty Capitol,
One form stands gazing: silently below
The morning mists from tower and temple roll,
And lo! the eternal city, as they rise,
Bursts, in majestic beauty, on her conqueror’s eyes.
Yes, there he stood, upon that silent hill,
And there beneath his feet his conquest lay:
Unlike that ocean-city, gazing still
Smilingly forth upon her sunny bay,
But o’er her vanisht might and humbled pride
Mourning, as widowed Venice o’er her Adrian tide.
Breathe there not spirits on the peopled air?
Float there not voices on the murmuring wind?
Oh! sound there not some strains of sadness there,
To touch with sorrow even a victor’s mind,
And wrest one tear from joy! Oh! who shall pen
The thoughts that toucht thy breast, thou lonely conqueror, then?
Perchance his wandering heart was far away,
Lost in dim memories of his early home,
And his young dreams of conquest; how to-day
Beheld him master of Imperial Rome,
Crowning his wildest hopes: perchance his eyes
As they looked sternly on, beheld new victories,
New dreams of wide dominion, mightier, higher,
Come floating up from the abyss of years;
Perchance that solemn sight might quench the fire
Even of that ardent spirit; hopes and fears
Might well be mingling at that murmured sigh,
Whispering from all around, 'All earthly things must die.'
Perchance that wondrous city was to him
But as one voiceless blank; a place of graves,
And recollections indistinct and dim.
Whose sons were conquerors once, and now were slaves:
It may be in that desolate sight his eye
Saw but another step to climb to victory!
Alas! that fiery spirit little knew
The change of life, the nothingness of power,
How both were hastening, as they flowered and grew,
Nearer and nearer to their closing hour:
How every birth of time’s miraculous womb
Swept off the withered leaves that hide the naked tomb.
One little year; that restless soul shall rest,
That frame of vigour shall be crumbling clay,
And tranquilly, above that troubled breast,
The sunny waters hold their joyous way:
And gently shall the murmuring ripples flow,
Nor wake the weary soul that slumbers on below.
Alas! far other thoughts might well be ours
And dash our holiest raptures while we gaze:
Energies wasted, unimproved hours,
The saddening visions of departed days
And while they rise here might we stand alone,
And mingle with thy ruins somewhat of our own.
Beautiful city! If departed things
Ever again put earthly likeness on,
Here should a thousand forms on fancy’s wings
Float up to tell of ages that are gone:
Yea, though hand touch thee not, nor eye should see,
Still should the spirit hold communion, Rome, with thee!
O! it is bitter, that each fairest dream
Should fleet before us but to melt away;
That wildest visions still should loveliest seem
And soonest fade in the broad glare of day:
That while we feel the world is dull and low,
Gazing on thee, we wake to find it is not so.
A little while, alas! a little while,
And the same world has tongue, and ear, and eye,
The careless glance, the cold unmeaning smile,
The thoughtless word, the lack of sympathy!
Who would not turn him from the barren sea
And rest his weary eyes on the green land and thee!
So pass we on. But oh! to harp aright
The vanisht glories of thine early day,
There needs a minstrel of diviner might,
A holier incense than this feeble lay;
To chant thy requiem with more passionate breath,
And twine with bolder hand thy last memorial wreath!
The Frozen Snow
heroin and homelessness,
broken relationships and guns.
cold nights, broken glass windows,
even Jesus got baptized
in a muddy river!
blood on the kitchen floor,
roaches crawl up the walls.
Agent Orange, and picket signs,
flags burning in the alleys.
babies never seen their daddy,
mothers working, minimum wage.
breaking into churches,
and sleeping at the altar,
dont turn back time, or stop the wind!
empty graves, orphaned parents.
the nursing home smells like death
seeds planted in summers past...
wait beneath the frozen snow!
Hes A Go Getter
Hes a go getter, go getter
When his wife gets off from work, hell go get her
Now Ive got a neighbor that lives down the road a ways
His wife holds down a steady job, he dont turn his hand all day
I know that most of you will know the kind Im talkin about
The kind that rather than have to work, hed rather do without
But hes a go getter, a go getter
When his wife gets off from work, hell go get her
Theres a group of men in the court house yard any time that you go by
Playin checkers and tradin odds and makin jokes about their wives
They wait all week for pay day and they hold the moneys plenty
And the wife thats worked those long hard hours never gets a penny
But hes a go getter, a go getter
When his wife gets off from work, hell go get her
Yes hes a go getter, a go getter
When his wife gets off from work, hell go get her
Hes a go getter, a go getter
When his wife gets off from work, hell go get her
Oo La La La
Words and music by rick nielsen and robin zander
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
I gave you just about the best years of my life
I might be lax on my views of the world
I cant explain the politics of your affairs
But there is one thing that I know and say each day
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Life aint so easy
I know youve heard it all before
When you stop movin
Theres always something more
Closed up in front of you
And closin up in back
Dont you stop givin up
When now you should attack, attack
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Dont have a clue to know whats going on
You say you need some time to live alone
Tell me youre sorry so you say
I dont believe a single word you say
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
Oo la la la, oh oo la la la
(repeat to coda)
Edgar Allan Poe
An American literary icon but what caused his death none seem to know
He was more than a man of words the great Edgar Allan Poe
He died when in his forties his best writing years of him ahead
His fame has attained greatness and he is widely read.
Most writers in their forties have scarcely reached their writing prime
His marvellous poem 'The Raven' has not faded out in time
A writer for all ages and one of literary note
And many who love literature have him as their favourite poet.
In life he was quite famous in death greatness he did attain
As an immortal literary gem 'The Raven' does remain
In the English speaking Countries of the World from North to Southern shore
His writings remain popular and his readers now far more
Than he had in his lifetime his genius is living on
Whilst millions of his contemporaries to obscurity have gone
Despite the passing of time his literary legend grow
Though in his too brief life span few him did wish to know.
- quotes about literature
- quotes about writers
- quotes about Edgar Allan Poe
- quotes about science-fiction
- quotes about myth
- quotes about popularity
- quotes about countries
- quotes about United States of America
Just Walk Away
I know I never loved this way before
And no one else has loved me more
With you Ive laughed and cried
I have lived and died
What I wouldnt do just to be with you
I know I must forget you and go on
I cant hold back my tears too long
Though life wont be the same
Ive got to take the blame
And find the strenght I need to let you go
Just walk away
Just say goodbye
Dont turn around now you may see me cry
I mustnt fall apart
Or show my broken heart
Or the love I feel for you
So walk away
And close the door
And let my life be as it was before
And Ill never never know
Just how I let you go
But theres nothing left to say
Just walk away
Therell never be a moment Ill regret
Ive loved you since the day we met
For all the love you gave
And all the love we made
I know Ive got to find the strenght to say
Just walk away
Just say goodbye
Dont turn around now you may see me cry
I mustnt fall apart
Or show my broken heart
Or the love I feel for you
So walk away
And close the door
And let my life be as it was before
And Ill never never know
Just how I let you go
But theres nothing left to say
Just walk away
The Want Of A Nail
Ive been wrong
I had plans so big
But the devils in the details
I left out one thing
No one to love me
No one to love me
No one to love
For the want of a nail, the world was lost
For the want of a nail, the world was lost
For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost
For the want of a rider, the message was lost
For the want of a rider, the message was lost
For the want of a message, the battle was lost
For the want of a battle, the war was lost
For the want of a war, the kingdom was lost
(such a tiny thing)
Whats all this talk about horses and war?
Put yourself in the place of the man at the forge
And day after day you live a life without love
til the morning you cant take it anymore
And you dont get up
Multiply it a billion times
Spread it all round the world
Put the curse of loneliness on every boy and every girl
Until everybodys kicking, everybodys scratching
Everything seems to fail
And it was all for the want of a nail
Tell me what else could the answer be
Dont hold back now
Give me all your love
Just a little more love
A little tiny bit of love
‘He came unto His own, and His own received Him not’
As Christ the Lord was passing by,
He came, one night, to a cottage door.
He came, a poor man, to the poor;
He had no bed whereon to lie.
He asked in vain for a crust of bread,
Standing there in the frozen blast.
The door was locked and bolted fast.
‘Only a beggar!’ the poor man said.
Christ the Lord went further on,
Until He came to a palace gate.
There a king was keeping his state,
In every window the candles shone.
The king beheld Him out in the cold.
He left his guests in the banquet-hall.
He bade his servants tend them all.
‘I wait on a Guest I know of old.’
‘’Tis only a beggar-man!’ they said.
‘Yes,’ he said; ‘it is Christ the Lord.’
He spoke to Him a kindly word,
He gave Him wine and he gave Him bread.
Now Christ is Lord of Heaven and Hell,
And all the words of Christ are true.
He touched the cottage, and it grew;
He touched the palace, and it fell.
The poor man is become a king.
Never was man so sad as he.
Sorrow and Sin on the throne make three,
He has no joy in mortal thing.
But the sun streams in at the cottage door
That stands where once the palace stood.
And the workman, toiling to earn his food,
Was never a king before.
Some New Game
Ive seen them come
Ive seen them go
Ive seen them all
Call this affection
Ive seen them do things
You wouldnt believe
I cant remember your name
I cant remember the time
I cant remember at all
She wants film
She wants sound
She wants everything
Its not love
In slow motion
Its a strange new game
Youve got a picture of me
And Ive got a picture of you
But whos got a picture of us?
Do it once more for the man on the phone
Do it once more for the boys in the band
Do it once more for the girl with no heart
Will you do it once more for me?
She could be anything
She looks good
She looks bad
She could tear me apart
Just say goodbye when you leave
And Ill say goodbye when youre gone
Well say goodbye in the dark
But never again
Do it once more for the man on the phone
Do it once more for the boys in the band
Do it once more for the girl with no heart
Will you do it once more for me?
Ive heard your story before
Ill hear your story again
Now Ive got a story for you
Do it once more for the man on the phone
Do it once more for the boys in the band
Do it once more for the girl with no heart
Will you do it once more for me?
Do it once more for the man on the phone
Do it once more for the boys in the band
Do it once more for the girl with no heart
Will you do it once more for me?
Farewell My Summer Love
Farewell my summer love, farewell
Girl I wont forget you,
Farewell, my summer love, farewell, ooh
I found my happiest days,
When you came to see your grandma in may
I bumped into you by the corner store
I told you that you sure looked good, now
Your grandmas house was next to mine
We were together most of the time
But summers gotten away from us
Times moving too fast for us
Dont turn around
cause you might see me cry
Farewell my summer love, farewell
Girl I wont forget you
Farewell, my summer love, farewell, ooh, yeah
When you return to your hometown
And you discuss your trip
Will I be the guy that you put down
Or someone that you dont forget, no?
Ill never forget you
And maybe next year
When youre out of school
Youll return, but until you do, baby
Dont turn around
You might see me cry
Farewell my summer love, farewell
Girl I wont forget you
Farewell, my summer love, farewell, yeah
If you remember my name,
(drop a line)
Drop a line sometime, yeah
Girl I wont forget you
Farewell my summer love, farewell
Girl I wont forget you
When you return to your hometown
And you discuss your trip
Will I be the guy that you put down
Or someone that you dont forget, no?
Ill never forget you
And maybe next year
When youre out of school
Youll return, but until you do, baby
Dont turn around
You might see me cry
Farewell, my summer love, farewell, oohh, yeah
Farewell, my summer love, farewell
(repeat to fade)
A Postscript unto the Reader
And now good Reader, I return again
To talk with thee, who hast been at the pain
To read throughout, and heed what went before;
And unto thee I'le speak a little more.
Give ear, I pray thee, unto what I say,
That God may hear thy voice another day.
Thou hast a Soul, my friend, and so have I,
To save or lose; a Soul that cannot die,
A soul of greater price than God and Gems;
A Soul more worth than Crowns and Diadems;
A Soul at first created like its Maker,
And of Gods Image made to be partaker:
Upon the wings of Noblest faculties,
Taught for to soar above the Starry Skies,
And not to rest, until it understood
It self possessed of the chiefest good.
And since the Fall, thy Soul retaineth still
Those Faculties of Reason and of Will,
But Oh, how much deprav'd, and out of frame,
As if they were some others, not the same.
Thine Understanding dismally benighted,
And Reason'd eye in Sp'ritual things dim-sighted,
Or else stark blind: Thy Will inclin'd to evil,
And nothing else, a Slave unto the Devil;
That loves to live, and liveth to transgress,
But shuns the way of God and Holiness.
All thin Affections are disordered;
And thou by head-strong Passions are misled.
What need I tell thee of thy crooked way,
And many wicked wand'rings every day?
Or that thine own transgressions are more
In number, than the sands upon the Shore:
Thou art a lump of wickedness become,
And may'st with horrour think upon thy Doom,
Until thy Soul be washed in the flood
Of Christ's most dear, soul-cleansing precious blood.
That, that alone can do away thy sin
Which thou wert born, and hast long lived in.
That, only that, can pacifie Gods wrath,
If apprehended by a lively Faith,
Now whilst the day and means of Grace do last,
Before the opportunity be past.
But if O man, thou liv'st a Christless creature,
And Death surprize thee in a state of nature,
(As who can tell but that may be thy case)
How wilt thou stand before the Judge's face?
When he shall be reveal'd in faming fire,
And come to pay ungodly men their hire:
To execute due vengeance upon those
That knew him not, or that have been his foes?
What wilt thou answer unto his demands,
When he requires a reason at thy hands
Of all the things that thou hast said, or done,
Or left undone, or set thine heart upon?
When he shall thus with thee expostulate,
What cause hadst thou thy Maker for to hate,
To take up Arms against thy Soveraign,
And Enmity against him to maintain?
What injury hath God Almighty done thee?
What good hath he with-held that might have won thee?
What evil, or injustice, hast thou found
In him, that might unto thine hurt redound?
If neither felt, nor feared injury
Hath moved thee to such hostility;
What made thee then the Fountain to forsake,
And unto broken Pits thy self betake?
What reason hadst thou to dishonour God,
Who thee with Mercies never cease to load?
Because the Lord was good, hast thou been evil,
And taken part against him with the Devil?
For all his cost to pay him with despite,
And all his love with hatred to requite?
Is this the fruit of Gods great patience,
To wax more bold in disobedience?
To kick against the bowels of his Love,
Is this aright his Bounty to improve?
Stand still, ye Heav'ns and be astonished,
That God by man should thus be injured!
Give ear, O Earth, and tremble at the sin
Of those that thine Inhabitants have bin.
But thou, vile Wretch, hast added unto all
Thine other faults, and facts so criminal,
The damning sin of wilful unbelief,
Of all Transgressors hadst thou been the chief;
Yet when time was, thou might'st have been set free
From Sin, and Wrath, and punishment by mee.
But thou wouldst not accept of Gospel Grace,
Nor on my terms Eternal Life embrace.
As if that all thy breaches of Gods Law
Were not enough upon thy head to draw
Eternal Wrath: Thou hast despis'd a Saviour,
Rejected me, and trampled on my favour.
How oft have I stood Knocking at thy door,
And been denied entrance evermore?
How often hath my Spirit been withstood,
When as I sent him to have done thee good?
Thou hast no need of any one to plead
Thy Cause, or for thy Soul to intercede:
Plead for thy self, it thou hast ought to say,
And pay thy forfeiture without delay.
Behold thou dost ten thousand Talents owe,
Or pay thy Debt, or else to Prison go.
Think, think, O Man, when Christ shall thus unfold
Thy secret guilt, and make thee to behold
The ugly face of all thy sinful errours,
And fill thy Soul with his amazing terrours,
And let thee see the flaming Pit of Hell
(Where all that have no part in him shall dwell)
When he shall thus expostulate the case,
How canst thou bear to look him in the face?
What wilt thou do without an Advocate?
Or plead, when as thy state is desparate?
Dost think to put him off with fair pretences?
Or wilt thou hide and cover thine offences?
Can any thing from him concealed be,
Who doth the hidden things of darkness see?
Art thou of force his Power to withstand?
Canst thou by might escape out of his hand?
Dost thou intend to run out of his sight,
And save thy self from punishment by flight?
Or wilt thou be eternally accurst,
And bide his Vengeance, let him do his worst?
Oh, who can bear his indignation heat?
Or bide the pains of Hell, which are so great?
If then thou neither canst his Wrath endure,
Nor any Ransom after death procure:
If neither Cryes nor Tears can move his heart
To pardon thee, or mittigate thy smart,
But unto Hell thou must perforce be sent
With dismal horrour and astonishment:
Consider, O my Friends, what cause thou hast
With fear and trembling (while as yet thou may'st)
To lay to heart thy sin and misery,
And to make out after the Remedy.
Consider well the greatness of thy danger,
O Child of wrath, and object of Gods anger,
Thou hangest over the Infernal Pit
By one small thread, and car'st thou not a whit?
There's but a step between thy Soul and Death,
Nothing remains but stopping of thy breath,
(Which may be done to morrow, or before)
And then thou art undone for evermore.
Let this awaken thy Security,
And make thee look about thee speedily,
How canst thou rest an hour or sleep a night,
Or in thy Creature-comforts take delight;
Or with vain Toyes thy self forgetfull make
How near thou art unto the burning Lake?
How canst thou live without tormenting fears?
How canst thou hold from weeping floods of tears,
Yea, tears of blood, I might almost have sed,
If such like tears could from thine eyes be shed?
To gain the world what will it profit thee,
And loose thy Soul and self eternallie?
Eternity on one small point dependeth:
The man is lost that this short life mispendeth,
For as the Tree doth fall, right so it lies;
And man continues in what state he dies.
Who happy die, shall happy rise again;
Who cursed die, shall cursed still remain,
If under Sin, and Wrath, Death leaves thee bound,
At Judgment under Wrath thou shalt be found:
And then wo, wo that ever thou wert born,
O wretched man, of Heav'n and Earth forlorn!
Consider this, all ye that God forget,
Who all his threatenings at nought do set,
Lest into pieces he begin to tear
Your Souls, and there be no deliverer.
O you that now sing care and fear away,
Think often of the formidable Day,
Wherein the Heavens with a mighty noise,
And with a hideous, heart-confounding voice,
Shall pass away together, being roll'd
As men are wont their garments for to fold;
When th' Elements with fervent heat shall melt,
And living Creatures in the same shall swelt,
And altogether in those Flames expire,
Which set the Earths Foundations on fire.
Oh, what amazement will your hearts be in,
And how will you to curse your selves begin
For all your damned sloth, and negligence,
And unbelief, and gross Impenitence,
When you shall hear that dreadful Sentence past,
That all the wicked into Hell be cast?
What horrour will your Consciences surprise,
When you shall hear the fruitless doleful cries
Of such as are compelled to depart
Unto the place of everlasting smart?
What, when you see the sparks fly out of Hell,
And view the Dungeon where you are to dwell,
Wherein you must eternally remain
In anguish, and intolerable pain?
What, when your hands and feet are bound together,
And you are cast into the Lake for ever?
Then shall you feel the truth of what you hear,
That hellish pains are more than you can bear,
And that those Torments are an hundred fold
More terrible than ever you were told.
Nor speak I this, good Reader, to torment thee
Before the time, but rather to prevent thee
From running head-long to thine own decay,
In such a perillous and deadly way.
We, who have known and felt Jehovah's terrours,
Perswade men to repent them of their errours,
And turn to God in time, e're his Decree
Bring forth, and then there be no Remedee!
If in the night, when thou art fast asleep,
Some friend of thine, that better watch doth keep,
Should see thy house all on a burning flame,
And thee almost inclosed with the same:
If such a friend should break thy door and wake thee,
Or else by force out of the peril take thee:
What? wouldst thou take his kindness in ill part?
Or frown upon him for his good desert?
Such, O my friend, such is thy present state,
And danger, being unregenerate.
Awake, awake, and then thou shalt perceive
Thy peril greater than thou wilt believe.
Lift up thine eyes, and see Gods wrathful ire,
Preparing unextinguishable fire
For all that live and die impenitent.
Awake, awake, O Sinner, and repent,
And quarrel not, because I thus alarm
Thy Soul, to save it from eternal harm.
Perhaps thou harbourest such thoughts as these:
I hope I may enjoy my carnal ease
A little longer, and my self refresh
With those delights that gratifie the flesh,
And yet repent before it be too late,
And get into the comfortable state;
I hope I have yet many years to spend,
And time enough those matters to attend.
Presumptuous heart! Is God engag'd to give
A longer time to such as love to live
Like Rebels still, who think to stain his Glory
By wickedness, and after to be sory?
Unto thy lust shall he be made a drudge,
Who thee, and all ungodly men, shall judge?
Canst thou account sin sweet, and yet confess,
That first, or last, it ends in bitterness?
Is sin a thing that must procure thee sorrow?
And woulst thou dally with't another morrow?
O foolish man, who lovest to enjoy
That which will thee distress, or else destroy!
What gained Sampson by his Delilah?
What gained David by his Bathsheba?
The one became a Slave, lost both his eyes,
And made them sport that were his Enemies;
The other penneth, as a certain token
Of Gods displeasure, that his bones were broken,
Besides the woes he after met withal,
To chasten him for that his grievious Fall:
His own Son Ammon using crafty wiles,
His Daughter Thamar wickedly defiles;
His second Son more beautiful than good,
His hands embreweth in his Brothers Bolld:
And by and by aspiring to the Crown,
He strives to pull his gentle Father down:
With hellish rage, him fiercely persecuting,
And bruitishly his Concubines polluting.
Read whoso list, and ponder what he reads,
And he shall find small joy in evil deeds.
Moreover this consider, that the longer
Thou liv'st in sin, thy sin will grow the stronger,
And then it will an harder matter prove,
To leave those wicked haunts that thou dost love.
The Black-moor may as eas'ly change his skin,
As old transgressors leave their wonted sin.
And who can tell what may become of thee,
Or where thy Soul in one days time may be?
We see that Death ner old nor young men spares,
But one and other takes at unawares.
For in a moment, whil'st men Peace do cry,
Destruction seizeth on them suddenly.
Thou who this morning art a lively wight,
May'st be a Corps and damned Ghost ere night.
Oh, dream not then, that it will serve the turn,
Upon thy death bed for thy sins to mourn,
But think how many have been snatcht away,
And had no time for mercy once to pray.
It's just with God Repentance to deny
To such as put it off until they dy,
And late Repentance seldom proveth true,
Which if it fail, thou know'st what must ensue;
For after this short life is at an end,
What is amiss thou never canst amend.
Believe, O man, that to procrastinate,
And put it off until it be too late,
As 'tis thy sin, so is it Satans wile,
Whereby he doth great multitudes beguile.
How many thousands hath this strong delusion
Already brought to ruine and confusion,
Whose Souls are now reserv'd in Iron Chains,
Under thick darkness to eternal pains?
They thought of many years, as thou dost now,
But were deceived quite, and so may'st thou.
Oh, then my friend, while not away thy time,
Nor by rebellion aggravate thy Crime.
Oh put not off Repentance till to morrow,
Adventure not without Gods leave to borrow
Another day to spend upon thy lust,
Lest God (that is most holy, wise, and just)
Denounce in wrath, and to thy terrour say:
This night shall Devils fetch thy Soul away.
Now seek the face of God with all thy heart;
Acknowledge unto him how vile thou art;
Tell him thy sins deserve eternal wrath,
And that it is a wonder that he hath
Permitted thee so long to draw thy breath,
Who might have cut thee off by sudden death,
And sent thy Soul into the lowest Pit,
From whence no price should ever ransom it,
And that he may most justly do it still
(Because thou hast deserv'd it) if he will.
Yet also tell him that, if he shall please,
He can forgive thy Sins, and thee release,
And that in Christ his Son he may be just,
And justifie all those what on him trust:
That though thy sins are of a crimson dy,
Yet Christ his Blood can cleanse thee thorowly.
Tell him, that he may make his glorious Name
More wonderful by covering thy shame;
That Mercy may be greatly magnify'd,
And Justice also fully satisfy'd,
If he shall please to own thee in his Son,
Who hath paid dear for Men's Redemption.
Tell him thou hast an unbelieving heart,
Which hindereth thee from coming for a part
In Christ: and that although his terrours aw thee,
Thou canst not come till he be pleas'd to draw thee.
Tell him thou know'st thine heart to be so bad,
And thy condition so exceeding sad,
That though Salvation may be had for nought
Thou canst not come and take, till thou be brought.
Oh beg of him to bow thy stubborn Will
To come to Christ, that he thy lusts may kill.
Look up to Christ for his attractive pow'r,
Which he exerteth in a needful hour;
Who saith, whenas I lifted up shall be,
Then will I draw all sorts of men to me.
O wait upon him with true diligence,
And trembling fear in every Ordinance;
Unto his call earnest attention give,
Whose voice makes deaf men hear, and dead men live.
Thus weep, and mourn, thus hearken, pray and wait,
Till he behold, and pitty thine estate,
Who is more ready to bestow his Grace,
Then thou the same art willing to imbrace;
Yea, he hath Might enough to bring thee home,
Though thou hast neither strength nor will to come.
If he delay to answer thy request,
Know that oft-times he doth it for the best:
Not with intent to drive us from his door,
But for to make us importune him more;
Or else to bring us duly to confess,
And be convinc'd of our unworthiness.
Oh, be not weary then, but persevere
To beg his Grace till he thy suit shall hear:
And leave him not, nor from his foot-stool go,
Till over thee Compassions skirt he throw.
Eternal Life will recompence thy pains,
If found at last, with everlasting gains.
For if the Lord be pleas'd to hear thy cryes,
And to forgive thy great iniquities,
Thou wilt have cause for ever to admire,
And laud his Grace, that granted thy desire.
Then shalt thou find thy labour is not lost:
But that the good obtain'd surmounts the cost.
Nor shalt thou grieve for loss of sinful pleasures,
Exchang'd for heavenly joyes and lasting treasures.
The yoke of Christ, which once thou didst esteem
A tedious yoke, shall then most easie seem.
For why? The love of Christ shall thee constrain
To take delight in that which was thy pain;
The wayes of Wisdom shall be pleasant wayes,
And thou shalt chuse therein to spend thy dayes.
If once thy Soul be brought to such a pass,
O'bless the Lord, and magnifie his Grace.
Thou, that of late hadst reason to be sad,
May'st now rejoyce, and be exceeding glad,
For thy condition is as happy now,
As erst it was disconsolate and low;
Thou art become as rich as whilome poor,
As blessed now, as cursed heretofore;
For being cleansed with Christs precious Blood,
Thou hast an int'rest in the chiefest good:
Gods anger is towards thy Soul appeased,
And in his Christ he is with thee well pleased.
Yea, he doth look upon thee with a mild
And gracious aspect as upon his child;
He is become thy Father and thy Friend,
And will defend thee from the cursed Fiend.
Thou need'st not fear the roaring Lyon's rage,
Since God Almighty doth himself engage
To bear thy Soul in Everlasting Armes,
Above the reach of all destructive harms.
What ever here thy sufferings may be,
Yet from them all the Lord shall rescue thee.
He will preserve thee by his wond'rous might
Unto that rich Inheritance in light.
Oh, sing for you, all ye regenerate,
Whom Christ hath brought into this blessed state!
O love the Lord, all ye his Saints, who hath
Redeemed you from everlasting wrath:
Who hath by dying made your Souls to live,
And what he dearly bought doth freely give:
Give up you selves to walk in all his wayes,
And study how to live unto his praise.
The time is short you have to serve him here:
The day of your deliv'rance draweth near.
Lift up your heads, ye upright ones in heart,
Who in Christ's purchase have obtain'd a part.
Behold, he rides upon a shining Cloud,
With Angels voice, and Trumpet sounding loud;
He comes to save his folk from all their foes,
And plague the men that Holiness oppose.
So come, Lord Jesus, quickly come we pray:
Yea come, and hasten our Redemption day.
Of Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper
Query: was ever a quainter
Crotchet than this of the painter
Who took "Reform" for his motto?
He, pupil of old Fungaio,
Is always confounded (heigho!)
With Pacchia, contemporaneous
No question, but how extraneous
In the grace of soul, the power
Of hand,—undoubted dower
Of Pacchia who decked (as we know,
My Kirkup!) San Bernardino,
Turning the small dark Oratory
To Siena's Art-laboratory,
As he made its straitness roomy
And glorified its gloomy,
With Bazzi and Beccafumi.
(Another heigho for Bazzi:
How people miscall him Razzi!)
This Painter was of opinion
Our earth should be his dominion
Whose Art could correct to pattern
What Nature had slurred—the slattern!
And since, beneath the heavens,
Things lay now at sixes and sevens,
Or, as he said, sopra-sotto—
Thought the painter Pacchiarotto
Things wanted reforming, therefore.
"Wanted it"—ay, but wherefore?
When earth held one so ready
As he to step forth, stand steady
In the middle of God's creation
And prove to demonstration
What the dark is, what the light is,
What the wrong is, what the right is,
What the ugly, what the beautiful,
What the restive, what the dutiful,
In Mankind profuse around him?
Man, devil as now he found him,
Would presently soar up angel
At the summons of such evangel,
And owe—what would Man not owe
To the painter Pacchiarotto?
Ay, look to thy laurels, Giotto!
But Man, he perceived, was stubborn,
Grew regular brute, once cub born;
And it struck him as expedient—
Ere he tried to make obedient;
The wolf, fox, bear, and monkey
By piping advice in one key,—
That his pipe should play a prelude
To something heaven-tinged not hell-hued,
Something not harsh but docile,
Man-liquid, not Man-fossil—
Not fact, in short, but fancy.
By a laudable necromancy
He would conjure up ghosts—a circle
Deprived of the means to work ill
Should his music prove distasteful
And pearls to the swine go wasteful.
To be rent of swine—that was hard!
With fancy he ran no hazard:
Fact might knock him o'er the mazard.
So, the painter Pacchiarotto
Constructed himself a grotto
In the quarter of Stalloreggi—
As authors of note allege ye.
And on each of the whitewashed sides of it
He painted—(none far and wide so fit
As he to perform in fresco)—
He painted nor cried quiesco
Till he peopled its every square foot
With Man—from the Beggar barefoot
To the Noble in cap and feather;
All sorts and conditions together.
The Soldier in breastplate and helmet
Stood frowningly—hail fellow well met—
By the Priest armed with bell, book, and candle.
Nor did he omit to handle
The Fair Sex, our brave distemperer:
Not merely King, Clown, Pope, Emperor—
He diversified too his Hades
Of all forms, pinched Labor and paid Ease,
With as mixed an assemblage of Ladies.
Which work done, dry,—he rested him,
Cleaned palette, washed brush, divested him
Of the apron that suits frescanti,
And, bonnet on ear stuck jaunty,
This hand upon hip well planted,
That, free to wave as it wanted,
He addressed in a choice oration
His folk of each name and nation,
Taught its duty to every station.
The Pope was declared an arrant
Impostor at once, I warrant.
The Emperor—truth might tax him
With ignorance of the maxim
"Shear sheep but nowise flay them!"
And the Vulgar that obey them,
The Ruled, well-matched with the Ruling,
They failed not of wholesome schooling
On their knavery and their fooling.
As for Art—where's decorum? Pooh-poohed it is
By Poets that plague us with lewd ditties,
And Painters that pester with nudities!
Now, your rater and debater
Is balked by a mere spectator
Who simply stares and listens
Tongue-tied, while eye nor glistens
Nor brow grows hot and twitchy,
Nor mouth, for a combat itchy,
Quivers with some convincing
Reply—that sets him wincing?
Nay, rather—reply that furnishes
Your debater with just what burnishes
The crest of him, all one triumph,
As you see him rise, hear him cry "Humph!
Convinced am I? This confutes me?
Receive the rejoinder that suits me!
Confutation of vassal for prince meet—
Wherein all the powers that convince meet,
And mash my opponent to mincemeat!"
So, off from his head flies the bonnet,
His hip loses hand planted on it,
While t' other hand, frequent in gesture,
Slinks modestly back beneath vesture,
As—hop, skip and jump,—he's along with
Those weak ones he late proved so strong with!
Pope, Emperor, lo, he's beside them,
Friendly now, who late could not abide them,
King, Clown, Soldier, Priest, Noble, Burgess;
And his voice, that out-roared Boanerges,
How minikin-mildly it urges
In accents how gentled and gingered
Its word in defence of the injured!
"Oh, call him not culprit, this Pontiff!
Be hard on this Kaiser ye won't if
Ye take into con-si-der-ation
What dangers attend elevation!
The Priest—who expects him to descant
On duty with more zeal and less cant?
He preaches but rubbish he's reared in.
The Soldier, grown deaf (by the mere din
Of battle) to mercy, learned tippling
And what not of vice while a stripling.
The Lawyer—his lies are conventional.
And as for the Poor Sort—why mention all
Obstructions that leave barred and bolted
Access to the brains of each dolt-head?"
He ended, you wager? Not half! A bet?
Precedence to males in the alphabet!
Still, disposed of Man's A B C, there's X
Y Z want assistance,—the Fair Sex I
How much may be said in excuse of
Those vanities—males see no use of—
From silk shoe on heel to laced poll's-hood!
What's their frailty beside our own falsehood?
The boldest, most brazen of . . . trumpets,
How kind can they be to their dumb pets!
Of their charms—how are most frank, how few venal!
While as for those charges of Juvenal—
Quœ nemo dixisset in toto
Nisi (œdepol) ore illoto—
He dismissed every charge with an "A page!"
Then, cocking (in Scotch phrase) his cap a-gee,
Right hand disengaged from the doublet
—Like landlord, in house he had sublet
Resuming of guardianship gestion,
To call tenants' conduct in question—
Hop, skip, jump, to inside from outside
Of chamber, he lords, ladies, louts eyed
With such transformation of visage
As fitted the censor of this age.
No longer an advocate tepid
Of frailty, but champion intrepid
Of strength,—not of falsehood but verity,—
He, one after one, with asperity
Stripped bare all the cant-clothed abuses,
Disposed of sophistic excuses,
Forced folly each shift to abandon,
And left vice with no leg to stand on.
So crushing the force he exerted,
That Man at his foot lay converted!
True—Man bred of paint-pot and mortar!
But why suppose folks of this sort are
More likely to hear and be tractable
Than folks all alive and, in fact, able
To testify promptly by action
Their ardor, and make satisfaction
For misdeeds non verbis sed factis?
"With folks all alive be my practice
Henceforward! O mortar, paint-pot O,
Farewell to ye I" cried Pacchiarotto,
"Let only occasion intérpose!"
It did so: for, pat to the purpose
Through causes I need not examine,
There fell upon Siena a famine.
In vain did the magistrates busily
Seek succor, fetch grain out of Sicily,
Nay, throw mill and bakehouse wide open—
Such misery followed as no pen
Of mine shall depict ye. Faint, fainter
Waxed hope of relief: so, our painter,
Emboldened by triumph of recency,
How could he do other with decency
Than rush in this strait to the rescue,
Play schoolmaster, point as with fescue
To each and all slips in Man's spelling
The law of the land?—slips now telling
With monstrous effect on the city,
Whose magistrates moved him to pity
As, bound to read law to the letter,
They minded their hornbook no better.
I ought to have told you, at starting,
How certain, who itched to be carting
Abuses away clean and thorough
From Siena, both province and borough,
Had formed themselves into a company
Whose swallow could bolt in a lump any
Obstruction of scruple, provoking
The nicer throat's coughing and choking:
Fit Club, by as fit a name dignified
Of "Freed Ones"—"Bardotti"—which signified
"Spare-Horses" that walk by the wagon
The team has to drudge for and drag on.
This notable Club Pacchiarotto
Had joined long since, paid scot and lot to,
As free and accepted "Bardotto."
The Bailiwick watched with no quiet eye
The outrage thus done to society,
And noted the advent especially
Of Pacchiarotto their fresh ally.
These Spare-Horses forthwith assembled:
Neighed words whereat citizens trembled
As oft as the chiefs, in the Square by
The Duomo, proposed a way whereby
The city were cured of disaster.
"Just substitute servant for master,
Make Poverty Wealth and Wealth Poverty,
Unloose Man from overt and covert tie,
And straight out of social confusion
True Order would spring!" Brave illusion—
Aims heavenly attained by means earthly!
Off to these at full speed rushed our worthy,—
Brain practised and tongue no less tutored,
In argument's armor accoutred,—
Sprang forth, mounted rostrum, and essayed
Proposals like those to which "Yes" said
So glibly each personage painted
O' the wall-side wherewith you're acquainted.
He harangued on the faults of the Bailiwick:
"Red soon were our State-candle's paly wick,
If wealth would become but interfluous;
Fill voids up with just the superfluous;
If ignorance gave way to knowledge
—Not pedantry picked up at college
From Doctors, Professors et cætera—
(They say: 'kai to loipa'—like better a
Long Greek string of kappas, taus, lambdas,
Tacked on to the tail of each damned ass)—
No knowledge we want of this quality,
But knowledge indeed—practicality
Through insight's fine universality!
If you shout 'Bailiffs, out on ye all! Fie,
Thou Chief of our forces, Amalfi,
Who shieldest the rogue and the clot poll!'
If you pounce on and poke out, with what pole
I leave ye to fancy, our Siena's
Beast-litter of sloths and hyenas—"
(Whoever to scan this is ill able
Forgets the town's name's a disyllable)—
"If, this done, ye did—as ye might—place
For once the right man in the right place,
If you listened to me" . . .
At which last "I."
There flew at his throat like a mastiff
One Spare-Horse—another and another!
Such outbreak of tumult and pother,
Horse-faces a-laughing and fleering,
Horse-voices a-mocking and jeering,
Horse-hands raised to collar the caitiff
Whose impudence ventured the late "If"—
That, had not fear sent Pacchiarotto
Off tramping, as fast as could trot toe,
Away from the scene of discomfiture—
Had he stood there stock-still in a dumbfit—sure
Am I he had paid in his peison
Till his mother might fail to know her son,
Though she gazed on him never so wistful,
do the figure so tattered and tristful.
Each mouth full of curses, each fist full
Of cuffings—behold, Pacchiarotto,
The pass which thy project has got to,
Of trusting, nigh ashes still hot—tow!
(The paraphrase—which I much need—is
From Horace "per ignes incedis.")
Right and left did he dash helter-skelter
In agonized search of a shelter.
No purlieu so blocked and no alley
So blind as allowed him to rally
His spirits and see—nothing hampered
His steps if he trudged and not scampered
Up here and down there in a city
That's all ups and downs, more the pity
For folks who would outrun the constable.
At last he stopped short at the one stable
And sure place of refuge that's offered
Humanity. Lately was coffered
A corpse in its sepulchre, situate
By St. John's Observance. "Habituate
Thyself to the strangest of bedfellows,
And, kicked by the live, kiss the dead fellows!"
So Misery counselled the craven.
At once he crept safely to haven
Through a hole left unbricked in the structure.
Ay, Misery, in have you tucked your
Poor client and left him conterminous
With—pah!—the thing fetid and verminous!
(I gladly would spare you the detail,
But History writes what I retail.)
Two days did he groan in his domicile:
"Good Saints, set me free and I promise I'll
Adjure all ambition of preaching
Change, whether to minds touched by teaching
—The smooth folk of fancy, mere figments
Created by plaster and pigments,—
Or to minds that receive with such rudeness
Dissuasion from pride, greed and lewdness,
—The rough folk of fact, life's true specimens
Of mind—'haud in posse sed esse mens'
As it was, is, and shall be forever
Despite of my utmost endeavor.
O live foes I thought to illumine,
Henceforth lie untroubled your gloom in!
I need my own light, every spark, as
I couch with this sole friend—a carcase!"
Two days thus he maundered and rambled;
Then, starved back to sanity, scrambled
From out his receptacle loathsome.
"A spectre!"—declared upon oath some
Who saw him emerge and (appalling
To mention) his garments a-crawling
With plagues far beyond the Egyptian.
He gained, in a state past description,
A convent of months, the Observancy.
Thus far is a fact: I reserve fancy
For Fancy's more proper employment:
And now she waves wing with enjoyment,
To tell ye how preached the Superior,
When somewhat our painter's exterior
Was sweetened. He needed (no mincing
The matter) much soaking and rinsing,
Nay, rubbing with drugs odoriferous,
Till, rid of his garments pestiferous,
And, robed by the help of the Brotherhood
In odds and ends,—this gown and t' other hood,—
His empty inside first well-garnished,—
He delivered a tale round, unvarnished.
"Ah, Youth!" ran the Abbot's admonishment,
"Thine error scarce moves my astonishment.
For—why shall I shrink from asserting?—
Myself have had hopes of converting
The foolish to wisdom, till, sober,
My life found its May grow October.
I talked and I wrote, but, one morning,
Life's Autumn bore fruit in this warning:
'Let tongue rest, and quiet thy quill be!
Earth is earth and not heaven, and ne'er will be.'
Man's work is to labor and leaven—
As best he may—earth here with heaven;
'Tis work for work's sake that he's needing:
Let him work on and on as if speeding
Work's end, but not dream of succeeding!
Because if success were intended,
Why, heaven would begin ere earth ended.
A Spare-Horse? Be rather a thill-horse,
Or—what's the plain truth—just a mill-horse!
Earth's a mill where we grind and wear mufflers:
A whip awaits shirkers and shufflers
Who slacken their pace, sick of lugging
At what don't advance for their tugging.
Though round goes the mill, we must still post
On and on as if moving the mill-post.
So, grind away, mouth-wise and pen-wise,
Do all that we can to make men wise!
And if men prefer to be foolish,
Ourselves have proved horse-like not mulish:
Sent grist, a good sackful, to hopper,
And worked as the Master thought proper.
Tongue I wag, pen I ply, who am Abbot;
Stick, thou, Son, to daub-brush and dab-pot!
But, soft! I scratch hard on the scab hot?
Though cured of thy plague, there may linger
A pimple I fray with rough finger?
So soon could my homily transmute
Thy brass into gold? Why, the man's mute!"
"Ay, Father, I'm mute with admiring
How Nature's indulgence untiring
Still bids us turn deaf ear to Reason's
Best rhetoric—clutch at all seasons
And hold fast to what's proved untenable!
Thy maxim is—Man's not amenable
To argument: whereof by consequence—
Thine arguments reach me: a non-sequence!
Yet blush not discouraged, O Father!
I stand unconverted, the rather
That nowise I need a conversion.
No live man (I cap thy assertion)
By argument ever could take hold
Of me. 'Twas the dead thing, the clay-cold,
Which grinned 'Art thou so in a hurry
That out of warm light thou must scurry
And join me down here in the dungeon
Because, above, one's Jack and one—John,
One's swift in the race, one—a hobbler,
One's a crowned king and one—a capped cobbler,
Rich and poor, sage and fool, virtuous, vicious?
Why complain? Art thou so unsuspicious
That all's for an hour of essaying
Who's fit and who's unfit for playing
His part in the after-construction
—Heaven's Piece whereof Earth's the Induction?
Things rarely go smooth at Rehearsal.
Wait patient the change universal,
And act, and let act, in existence!
For, as thou art clapped hence or hissed hence,
Thou host thy promotion or otherwise.
And why must wise thou have thy brother wise
Because in rehearsal thy cue be
To shine by the side of a booby?
No polishing garnet to ruby!
All's well that ends well—through Art's magic.
Some end, whether comic or tragic,
The Artist has purposed, be certain!
Explained at the fall of the curtain—
In showing thy wisdom at odds with
That folly: he tries men and gods with
No problem for weak wits to solve meant,
But one worth such Author's evolvement.
So, back nor disturb play's production
By giving thy brother instruction
To throw up his fool's-part allotted!
Lest haply thyself prove besotted
When stript, for thy pains, of that costume
Of sage, which has bred the imposthume
I prick to relieve thee of,—Vanity!'
"So, Father, behold me in sanity!
I'm back to the palette and mahlstick:
And as for Man—let each and all stick
To what was prescribed them at starting!
Once planted as fools—no departing
From folly one inch, sæculorum
In sæcula! Pass me the jorum,
And push me the platter—my stomach
Retains, through its fasting, still some ache—
And then, with your kind Benedicite.
I have told with simplicity
My tale, dropped those harsh analytics,
And tried to content you, my critics,
Who greeted my early uprising!
I knew you through all the disguising,
Droll dogs, as I jumped up, cried, "Heyday!
This Monday is—what else but May-day?
And these in the drabs, blues, and yellows.
Are surely the privileged fellows.
So, saltbox and bones, tongs and bellows!"
(I threw up the window) "Your pleasure?"
Then he who directed the measure—
An old friend—put leg forward nimbly,
"We critics as sweeps out your chimbly!
Much soot to remove from your flue, sir!
Who spares coal in kitchen an't you, sir!
And neighbors complain it's no joke, sir,
—You ought to consume your own smoke, sir!"
Ah, rogues, but my housemaid suspects you—
Is confident oft she detects you
In bringing more filth into my house
Than ever you found there! I'm pious,
However: 'twas God made you dingy
And me—with no need to be stingy
Of soap, when 'tis sixpence the packet.
So, dance away, boys, dust my jacket,
Bang drum and blow fife—ay, and rattle
Your brushes, for that's half the battle!
Don't trample the grass,—hocus-pocus
With grime my Spring snowdrop and crocus,—
And, what with your rattling and tinkling,
Who knows but you give me an inkling
How music sounds, thanks to the jangle
Of regular drum and triangle?
Whereby, tap-tap, chink-chink, 'tis proven
I break rule as bad as Beethoven.
"That chord now—a groan or a grunt is 't?
Schumann's self was no worse contrapuntist.
No ear! or if ear, so tough-gristled—
He thought that he sung while he whistled!"
So, this time I whistle, not sing at all,
My story, the largess I fling at all
And every the rough there whose aubade
Did its best to amuse me,—nor so bad!
Take my thanks, pick up largess, and scamper
Off free, ere your mirth gets a damper!
You've Monday, your one day, your fun-day,
While mine is a year that's all Sunday.
I've seen you, times—who knows how many?—
Dance in here, strike up, play the zany,
Make mouths at the Tenant, hoot warning
You'll find him decamped next May-morning;
Then scuttle away, glad to 'scape hence
With—kicks? no, but laughter and ha'pence!
Mine's freehold, by grace of the grand Lord
Who lets out the ground here,—my landlord:
To him I pay quit-rent—devotion;
Nor hence shall I budge, I've a notion,
Nay, here shall my whistling and singing
Set all his street's echoes a-ringing
Long after the last of your number
Has ceased my front-court to encumber
While, treading down rose and ranunculus,
You Tommy-make-room-for-your-Uncle us!
Troop, all of you—man or homunculus,
Quick march! for Xanthippe, my house-maid,
If once on your pates she a souse made
With what, pan or pot, bowl or skoramis,
First comes to her hand—things were more amiss!
I would not for worlds be your place in—
Recipient of slops from the basin!
You, jack-in-the-Green, leaf-and-twiggishness
Won't save a dry thread on your priggishness!
While as for Quilp-Hop-o'-my-thumb there,
Banjo-Byron that twangs the strum-strum there—
He'll think as the pickle he curses,
I've discharged on his pate his own verses!
"Dwarfs are saucy," says Dickens: so, sauced in
Your own sauce, . . .
But, back to my Knight of the Pencil,
Dismissed to his fresco and stencil!
Whose story—begun with a chuckle,
And throughout timed by raps of the knuckle,—
To small enough purpose were studied
If it ends with crown cracked or nose bloodied.
Come, critics,—not shake hands, excuse me!
But—say have you grudged to amuse me
This once in the forty-and-over
Long years since you trampled my clover
And scared from my house-eaves each sparrow
I never once harmed by that arrow
Of song, karterotaton belos,
(Which Pindar declares the true melos,)
I was forging and filing and finishing,
And no whit my labors diminishing
Because, though high up in a chamber
Where none of your kidney may clamber
Your hullabaloo would approach me?
Was it "grammar" wherein you would "coach" me—
You,—pacing in even that paddock
Of language allotted you ad hoc,
With a clog at your fetlocks,—you—scorners
Of me free of all its four corners?
Was it "clearness of words which convey thought"?
Ay, if words never needed enswathe aught
But ignorance, impudence, envy
And malice—what word-swathe would then vie
With yours for a clearness crystalline?
But had you to put in one small line
Some thought big and bouncing—as noddle
Of goose, born to cackle and waddle
And bite at man's heel as goose-wont is,
Never felt plague its puny os frontis—
You'd know, as you hissed, spat and sputtered,
Clear cackle is easily uttered!
Lo, I've laughed out my laugh on this mirth-day!
Beside, at week's end, dawns my birthday,
That hebdome, hieron emar—
(More things in a day than you deem are!)
—Tei gar Apollona chrusaora
Egeinato Leto. So, gray or ray
Betide me, six days hence, I'm vexed here
By no sweep, that's certain, till next year!
"Vexed?"—roused from what else were insipid ease!
Leave snoring abed to Pheidippides!
We'll up and work! won't we, Euripides?
Though nature weigh our talents, and dispense
To every man his modicum of sense,
And Conversation in its better part
May be esteem'd a gift, and not an art,
Yet much depends, as in the tiller’s toil,
On culture, and the sowing of the soil.
Words learn'd by rote a parrot may rehearse,
But talking is not always to converse;
Not more distinct from harmony divine,
The constant creaking of a country sign.
As alphabets in ivory employ,
Hour after hour, the yet unletter’d boy,
Sorting and puzzling with a deal of glee
Those seeds of science call’d his a b c;
So language in the mouths of the adult,
Witness its insignificant result,
Too often proves an implement of play,
A toy to sport with, and pass time away.
Collect at evening what the day brought forth,
Compress the sum into its solid worth,
And if it weigh the importance of a fly,
The scales are false, or algebra a lie.
Sacred interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!
But all shall give account of every wrong,
Who dare dishonour or defile the tongue;
Who prostitute it in the cause of vice,
Or sell their glory at a market-price;
Who vote for hire, or point it with lampoon,
The dear-bought placeman, and the cheap buffoon.
There is a prurience in the speech of some,
Wrath stays him, or else God would strike them dumb;
His wise forbearance has their end in view,
They fill their measure and receive their due.
The heathen lawgivers of ancient days,
Names almost worthy of a Christian’s praise,
Would drive them forth from the resort of men,
And shut up every satyr in his den.
Oh, come not ye near innocence and truth,
Ye worms that eat into the bud of youth!
Infectious as impure, your blighting power
Taints in its rudiments the promised flower;
Its odour perish’d, and its charming hue,
Thenceforth ‘tis hateful, for it smells of you.
Not e’en the vigorous and headlong rage
Of adolescence, or a firmer age,
Affords a plea allowable or just
For making speech the pamperer of lust;
But when the breath of age commits the fault,
‘Tis nauseous as the vapour of a vault.
So wither’d stumps disgrace the sylvan scene,
No longer fruitful, and no longer green;
The sapless wood, divested of the bark,
Grows fungous, and takes fire at every spark.
Oaths terminate, as Paul observes, all strife—
Some men have surely then a peaceful life!
Whatever subject occupy discourse,
The feats of Vestris, or the naval force,
Asseveration blustering in your face
Makes contradiction such a hopeless case:
In every tale they tell, or false or true,
Well known, or such as no man ever knew,
They fix attention, heedless of your pain,
With oaths like rivets forced into the brain;
And e’en when sober truth prevails throughout,
They swear it, till affirmance breeds a doubt.
A Persian, humble servant of the sun,
Who, though devout, yet bigotry had none,
Hearing a lawyer, grave in his address,
With adjurations every word impress,
Supposed the man a bishop, or at least,
God’s name so much upon his lips, a priest;
Bow’d at the close with all his graceful airs,
And begg’d an interest in his frequent prayers.
Go, quit the rank to which ye stood preferr’d,
Henceforth associate in one common herd;
Religion, virtue, reason, common sense,
Pronounce your human form a false pretence:
A mere disguise, in which a devil lurks,
Who yet betrays his secret by his works.
Ye powers who rule the tongue, if such there are,
And make colloquial happiness your care,
Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate,
A duel in the form of a debate.
The clash of arguments and jar of words,
Worse than the mortal brunt of rival swords,
Decide no question with their tedious length,
For opposition gives opinion strength,
Divert the champions prodigal of breath,
And put the peaceably disposed to death.
Oh, thwart me not, Sir Soph, at every turn,
Nor carp at every flaw you may discern;
Though syllogisms hang not on my tongue,
I am not surely always in the wrong;
‘Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
A fool must now and then be right by chance.
Not that all freedom of dissent I blame;
No—there I grant the privilege I claim.
A disputable point is no man’s ground;
Rove where you please, ‘tis common all around.
Discourse may want an animated—No,
To brush the surface, and to make it flow;
But still remember, if you mean to please,
To press your point with modesty and ease.
The mark, at which my juster aim I take,
Is contradiction for its own dear sake.
Set your opinion at whatever pitch,
Knots and impediments make something hitch;
Adopt his own, ‘tis equally in vain,
Your thread of argument is snapp’d again;
The wrangler, rather than accord with you,
Will judge himself deceived, and prove it too.
Vociferated logic kills me quite,
A noisy man is always in the right,
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare,
And, when I hope his blunders are all out,
Reply discreetly—To be sure—no doubt!
Dubius is such a scrupulous good man—
Yes—you may catch him tripping, if you can.
He would not, with a peremptory tone,
Assert the nose upon his face his own;
With hesitation admirably slow,
He humbly hopes—presumes—it may be so.
His evidence, if he were call’d by law
To swear to some enormity he saw,
For want of prominence and just relief,
Would hang an honest man and save a thief.
Though constant dread of giving truth offence,
He ties up all his hearers in suspense;
Knows what he knows as if he knew it not;
What he remembers seems to have forgot;
His sole opinion, whatsoe’er befall,
Centring at last in having none at all.
Yet, though he tease and balk your listening ear,
He makes one useful point exceeding clear;
Howe’er ingenious on his darling theme
A sceptic in philosophy may seem,
Reduced to practice, his beloved rule
Would only prove him a consummate fool;
Useless in him alike both brain and speech,
Fate having placed all truth above his reach,
His ambiguities his total sum,
He might as well be blind, and deaf, and dumb.
Where men of judgment creep and feel their way,
The positive pronounce without dismay;
Their want of light and intellect supplied
By sparks absurdity strikes out of pride.
Without the means of knowing right from wrong,
They always are decisive, clear, and strong.
Where others toil with philosophic force,
Their nimble nonsense takes a shorter course;
Flings at your head conviction in the lump,
And gains remote conclusions at a jump:
Their own defect, invisible to them,
Seen in another, they at once condemn;
And, though self-idolised in every case,
Hate their own likeness in a brother’s face.
The cause is plain, and not to be denied,
The proud are always most provoked by pride.
Few competitions but engender spite;
And those the most, where neither has a right.
The point of honour has been deem’d of use,
To teach good manners and to curb abuse:
Admit it true, the consequence is clear,
Our polish’d manners are a mask we wear,
And at the bottom barbarous still and rude;
We are restrain’d indeed, but not subdued.
The very remedy, however sure,
Springs from the mischief it intends to cure,
And savage in its principle appears,
Tried, as it should be, by the fruit it bears.
‘Tis hard, indeed, if nothing will defend
Mankind from quarrels but their fatal end;
That now and then a hero must decease,
That the surviving world may live in peace.
Perhaps at last close scrutiny may shew
The practice dastardly, and mean, and low;
That men engage in it compell’d by force;
And fear, not courage, is its proper source.
The fear of tyrant custom, and the fear
Lest fops should censure us, and fools should sneer.
At least to trample on our Maker’s laws,
And hazard life for any or no cause,
To rush into a fix’d eternal state
Out of the very flames of rage and hate,
Or send another shivering to the bar
With all the guilt of such unnatural war,
Whatever use may urge, or honour plead,
On reason’s verdict is a madman’s deed.
Am I to set my life upon a throw,
Because a bear is rude and surly? No—
A moral, sensible, and well-bred man
Will not affront me, and no other can.
Were I empower’d to regulate the lists,
They should encounter with well loaded fists;
A Trojan combat would be something new,
Let Dares beat Entellus black and blue;
Then each might shew, to his admiring friends,
In honourable bumps his rich amends,
And carry, in contusions of his skull,
A satisfactory receipt in full.
A story, in which native humour reigns,
Is often useful, always entertains:
A graver fact, enlisted on your side,
May furnish illustration, well applied;
But sedentary weavers of long tales
Give me the fidgets, and my patience fails.
‘Tis the most asinine employ on earth,
To hear them tell of parentage and birth,
And echo conversations dull and dry,
Embellish’d with—He said,—and, So said I.
At every interview their route the same,
The repetition makes attention lame:
We bustle up with unsuccessful speed,
And in the saddest part cry—Droll indeed!
The path of narrative with care pursue,
Still making probability your clue;
On all the vestiges of truth attend
And let them guide you to a decent end.
Of all ambitious man may entertain,
The worst that can invade a sickly brain,
Is that which angles hourly for surprise,
And baits its hook with prodigies and lies.
Credulous infancy, or age as weak,
Are fittest auditors for such to seek,
Who to please others will themselves disgrace,
Yet please not, but affront you to your face.
A great retailer of this curious ware,
Having unloaded and made many stare,
Can this be true?—an arch observer cries;
Yes (rather moved), I saw it with these eyes!
Sir! I believe it on that ground alone;
I could not had I seen it with my own.
A tale should be judicious, clear, succint;
The language plain, the incidents well link’d;
Tell not as new what everybody knows,
And, new or old, still hasten to a close;
There, centring in a focus round and neat,
Let all your rays of information meet.
What neither yields us profit nor delight
Is like a nurse’s lullaby at night;
Guy Earl of Warwick and fair Eleanore,
Or giant-killing Jack, would please me more.
The pipe, with solemn interposing puff,
Makes half a sentence at a time enough;
The dozing sages drop the drowsy strain,
Then pause, and puff—and speak, and pause again.
Such often, like the tube they so admire,
Important triflers! have more smoke than fire.
Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys,
Unfriendly to society’s chief joys,
Thy worst effect is banishing for hours
The sex whose presence civilizes ours;
Thou art indeed the drug a gardener wants
To poison vermin that infest his plants;
But are we so to wit and beauty blind,
As to despise the glory of our kind,
And shew the softest minds and fairest forms
As little mercy as he grubs and worms?
They dare not wait the riotous abuse
Thy thirst-creating steams at length produce,
When wine has given indecent language birth,
And forced the floodgates of licentious mirth;
For seaborn Venus her attachment shews
Still to that element from which she rose,
And, with a quiet which no fumes disturb,
Sips meek infusions of a milder herb.
The emphatic speaker dearly loves to oppose,
In contact inconvenient, nose to nose,
As if the gnomon on his neighbour’s phiz,
Touch’d with the magnet, had attracted his.
His whisper’d theme, dilated and at large,
Proves after all a wind-gun’s airy charge,
An extract of his diary—no more,
A tasteless journal of the day before.
He walk’d abroad, o’ertaken in the rain,
Call’d on a friend, drank tea, stepp’d home again,
Resumed his purpose, had a world of talk
With one he stumbled on, and lost his walk.
I interrupt him with a sudden bow,
Adieu, dear sir! lest you should lose it now.
I cannot talk with civet in the room,
A fine puss gentleman that’s all perfume;
The sight’s enough—no need to smell a beau—
Who thrusts his head into a raree-show?
His odoriferous attempts to please
Perhaps might prosper with a swarm of bees;
But we that make no honey, though we sting,
Poets, are sometimes apt to maul the thing.
‘Tis wrong to bring into a mix’d resort,
What makes some sick, and others a-la-mort,
An argument of cogence, we may say,
Why such a one should keep himself away.
A graver coxcomb we may sometimes see,
Quite as absurd, though not so light as he:
A shallow brain behind a serious mask,
An oracle within an empty cask,
The solemn fop; significant and budge;
A fool with judges, amongst fools a judge.
He says but little, and that little said,
Owes all its weight, like loaded dice, to lead.
His wit invites you by his looks to come,
But when you knock, it never is at home:
‘Tis like a parcel sent you by the stage,
Some handsome present, as your hopes presage;
‘Tis heavy, bulky, and bids fair to prove
An absent friend’s fidelity and love,
But when unpack’d, your disappointment groans
To find it stuff’d with brickbats, earth, and stones.
Some men employ their health, an ugly trick,
In making known how oft they have been sick,
And give us, in recitals of disease,
A doctor’s trouble, but without the fees;
Relate how many weeks they kept their bed,
How an emetic or cathartic sped;
Nothing is slightly touch’d, much less forgot,
Nose, ears, and eyes, seem present on the spot.
Now the distemper, spite of draught or pill,
Victorious seem’d, and now the doctor’s skill;
And now—alas for unforeseen mishaps!
They put on a damp nightcap, and relapse;
They thought they must have died, they were so bad:
Their peevish hearers almost wish they had.
Some fretful tempers wince at every touch,
You always do too little or too much:
You speak with life, in hopes to entertain,
Your elevated voice goes through the brain;
You fall at once into a lower key,
That’s worse—the drone-pipe of an humble-bee.
The southern sash admits too strong a light,
You rise and drop the curtain—now ‘tis night.
He shakes with cold—you stir the fire and strive
To make blaze—that’s roasting him alive.
Serve him with venison, and he wishes fish;
With sole—that’s just the sort he would not wish.
He takes what he at first profess’d to loathe,
And in due time feeds heartily on both;
Yet still, o’erclouded with a constant frown,
He does not swallow, but he gulps it down.
Your hope to please him vain on every plan,
Himself should work that wonder if he can—
Alas! his efforts double his distress,
He likes yours little, and his own still less.
Thus always teasing others, always teased,
His only pleasure is to be displeased.
I pity bashful men, who feel the pain
Of fancied scorn and undeserved disdain,
And bear the marks upon a blushing face
Of needless shame and self-imposed disgrace.
Our sensibilities are so acute,
The fear of being silent makes us mute.
We sometimes think we could a speech produce
Much to the purpose, if our tongues were loose;
But, being tried, it dies upon the lip,
Faint as a chicken’s note that has the pip:
Our wasted oil unprofitably burns,
Like hidden lamps in old sepulchral urns.
Few Frenchmen of this evil have complain’d;
It seems as if we Britons were ordain’d,
By way of wholesome curb upon our pride,
To fear each other, fearing none beside.
The cause perhaps inquiry may descry,
Self-searching with an introverted eye,
Conceal’d within an unsuspected part,
The vainest corner of our own vain heart:
For ever aiming at the world’s esteem,
Our self-importance ruins its own scheme;
In other eyes our talents rarely shewn,
Become at length so splendid in our own,
We dare not risk them into public view,
Lest they miscarry of what seems their due.
True modesty is a discerning grace,
And only blushes in the proper place;
But counterfeit is blind, and skulks through fear,
Where ‘tis a shame to be ashamed to appear:
Humility the parent of the first,
The last by vanity produced and nursed.
The circle form’d, we sit in silent state,
Like figures drawn upon a dial-plate;
Yes, ma’am, and No, ma’am, utter’d softly, shew
Every five minutes how the minutes go;
Each individual, suffering a constraint
Poetry may, but colours cannot, paint;
And, if in close committee on the sky,
Reports it hot or cold, or wet or dry;
And finds a changing clime a happy source
Of wise reflection and well-timed discourse.
We next inquire, but softly and by stealth,
Like conservators of the public health,
Of epidemic throats, if such there are,
And coughs, and rheums, and phthisic, and catarrh.
That theme exhausted, a wide chasm ensues,
Fill’d up at last with interesting news;
Who danced with whom, and who are like to wed,
And who is hang’d, and who is brought to bed:
But fear to call a more important cause,
As if ‘twere treason against English laws.
The visit paid, with ecstacy we come,
As from a seven years’ transportation, home,
And there resume an unembarrass’d brow,
Recovering what we lost, we know not how,
The faculties that seem’d reduced to nought,
Expression and the privilege of thought.
The reeking, roaring hero of the chase,
I give him over as a desperate case.
Physicians write in hopes to work a cure,
Never, if honest ones, when death is sure;
And though the fox he follows may be tamed,
A mere fox-follower never is reclaim’d.
Some farrier should prescribe his proper course,
Whose only fit companion is his horse;
Or if, deserving of a better doom,
The noble beast judge otherwise, his groom.
Yet e’en the rogue that serves him, though he stand
To take his honour’s orders, cap in hand,
Prefers his fellow grooms with much good sense,
Their skill a truth, his master’s a pretence.
If neither horse nor groom affect the ‘squire,
Where can at last his jockeyship retire?
Oh, to the club, the scene of savage joys,
The school of coarse good fellowship and noise;
There, in the sweet society of those
Whose friendship from his boyish years he chose,
Let him improve his talent if he can,
Till none but beasts acknowledge him a man.
Man’s heart had been impenetrably seal’d,
Like theirs that cleave the flood or graze the field,
Had not his Maker’s all-bestowing hand
Given him a soul, and bade him understand;
The reasoning power vouchsafed, of course inferr’d
The power to clothe that reason with his word;
For all is perfect that God works on earth,
And he that gives conception aids the birh.
If this be plain, ‘tis plainly understood,
What uses of his boon the Giver would.
The mind despatch’d upon her busy toil,
Should range where Providence has bless’d the soil;
Visiting every flower with labour meet,
And gathering all her treasures sweet by sweet,
She should imbue the tongue with what she sips,
And shed the balmy blessing on the lips,
That good diffused may more abundant grow,
And speech may praise the power that bids it flow.
Will the sweet warbler of the livelong night,
That fills the listening lover with delight,
Forget his harmony, with rapture heard,
To learn the twittering of a meaner bird?
Or make the parrot’s mimicry his choice,
That odious libel on a human voice?
No—nature, unsophisticate by man,
Starts not aside from her Creator’s plan;
The melody, that was at first design’d
To cheer the rude forefathers of mankind,
Is note for note deliver’d in our ears,
In the last scene of her six thousand years.
Yet Fashion, leader of a chattering train,
Whom man for his own hurt permits to reign,
Who shifts and changes all things but his shape,
And would degrade her votary to an ape,
The fruitful parent of abuse and wrong,
Holds a usurp’d dominion o’er his tongue;
There sits and prompts him with his own disgrace,
Prescribes the theme, the tone, and the grimace,
And, when accomplish’d in her wayward school,
Calls gentleman whom she has made a fool.
‘Tis an unalterable fix’d decree,
That none could frame or ratify but she,
That heaven and hell, and righteousness and sin,
Snares in his path, and foes that lurk within,
God and his attributes (a field of day
Where ‘tis an angel’s happiness to stray),
Fruits of his love and wonders of his might,
Be never named in ears esteem’d polite;
That he who dares, when she forbids, be grave,
Shall stand proscribed, a madman or a knave,
A close designer not to be believed,
Or, if excused that charge, at least deceived.
Oh, folly worthy of the nurse’s lap,
Give it the breast, or stop its mouth with pap!
Is it incredible, or can it seem
A dream to any except those that dream,
That man should love his Maker, and that fire,
Warming his heart, should at his lips transpire?
Know then, and modestly let fall your eyes,
And veil your daring crest that braves the skies;
That air of insolence affronts your God,
You need his pardon, and provoke his rod:
Now, in a posture that becomes you more
Than that heroic strut assumed before,
Know, your arrears with every hour accrue
For mercy shewn, while wrath is justly due.
The time is short, and there are souls on earth,
Though future pain may serve for present mirth,
Acquainted with the woes that fear or shame,
By fashion taught, forbade them once to name,
And, having felt the pangs you deem a jest,
Have proved them truths too big to be express’d.
Go seek on revelation’s hallow’d ground,
Sure to succeed, the remedy they found;
Touch’d by that power that you have dared to mock,
That makes seas stable, and dissolves the rock,
Your heart shall yield a life-renewing stream,
That fools, as you have done, shall call a dream.
It happen’d on a solemn eventide,
Soon after He that was our surety died,
Two bosom friends, each pensively inclined,
The scene of all those sorrows left behind,
Sought their own village, busied as they went
In musings worthy of the great event:
They spake of Him they loved, of Him whose life,
Though blameless, had incurr’d perpetual strife,
Whose deeds had left, in spite of hostile arts,
A deep memorial graven on their hearts.
The recollection, like a vein of ore,
The farther traced, enrich’d them still the more;
They thought him, and they justly thought him, one
Sent to do more than he appear’d to have done;
To exalt a people, and to place them high,
Above all else, and wonder’d he should die.
Ere yet they brought their journey to an end,
A stranger join’d them, courteous as a friend,
And ask’d them, with a kind engaging air,
What their affliction was, and begg’d a share.
Inform’d, he gather’d up the broken thread,
And, truth and wisdom gracing all he said,
Explain’d, illustrated, and search’d so well
The tender theme on which they chose to dwell,
That, reaching home, the night, they said, is near,
We must not now be parted, sojourn here—
The new acquaintance soon became a guest,
And, made so welcome at their simple feast,
He bless’d the bread, but vanish’d at the word.
And left them both exclaiming, ‘Twas the Lord!
Did not our hearts feel all he deign’d to say,
Did they not burn within us by the way?
Now theirs was converse, such as it behoves
Man to maintain, and such as God approves:
Their views indeed were indistinct and dim,
But yet successful, being aim’d at him.
Christ and his character their only scope,
Their object, and their subject, and their hope,
They felt what it became them much to feel,
And, wanting him to loose the sacred seal,
Found him as prompt as their desire was true,
To spread the new-born glories in their view.
Well—what are ages and the lapse of time
Match’d against truths, as lasting as sublime?
Can length of years on God himself exact?
Or make that fiction which was once a fact?
No—marble and recording brass decay,
And, like the graver’s memory, pass away;
The works of man inherit, as is just,
Their author’s frailty, and return to dust:
But truth divine for ever stands secure,
Its head is guarded as its base is sure:
Fix’d in the rolling flood of endless years,
The pillar of the eternal plan appears,
The raving storm and dashing wave defies,
Built by that Architect who built the skies.
Hearts may be found, that harbour at this hour
That love of Christ, and all its quickening power;
And lips unstain’d by folly or by strife,
Whose wisdom, drawn from the deep well of life,
Tastes of its healthful origin, and flows
A Jordan for the ablution of our woes.
Oh, days of heaven, and nights of equal praise,
Serene and peaceful as those heavenly days,
When souls drawn upwards in communion sweet
Enjoy the stillness of some close retreat,
Discourse, as if released and safe at home,
Of dangers past, and wonders yet to come,
And spread the sacred treasures of the breast
Upon the lap of covenanted rest!
What, always dreaming over heavenly things,
Like angel-heads in stone with pigeon-wings?
Canting and whining out all day the word,
And half the night?—fanatic and absurd!
Mine be the friend less frequent in his prayers,
Who makes no bustle with his soul’s affairs,
Whose wit can brighten up a wintry day,
And chase the splenetic dull hours away;
Content on earth in earthly things to shine,
Who waits for heaven ere he becomes divine,
Leaves saints to enjoy those altitudes they teach,
And plucks the fruit placed more within his reach.
Well spoken, advocate of sin and shame,
Known by thy bleating, Ignorance thy name.
Is sparkling wit the world’s exclusive right?
The fix’d fee-simple of the vain and light?
Can hopes of heaven, bright prospects of an hour,
That come to waft us out of sorrow’s power,
Obscure or quench a faculty that finds
Its happiest soil in the serenest minds?
Religion curbs indeed its wanton play,
And brings the trifler under rigorous sway,
But gives it usefulness unknown before,
And purifying, makes it shine the more,
A Christian’s wit is inoffensive light,
A beam that aids, but never grieves the sight;
Vigorous in age as in the flush of youth;
‘Tis always active on the side of truth;
Temperance and peace insure its healthful state,
And make it brightest at its latest date.
Oh, I have seen (nor hope perhaps in vain,
Ere life go down, to see such sights again)
A veteran warrior in the Christian field,
Who never saw the sword he could not wield;
Grave without dulness, learned without pride,
Exact, yet not precise, though meek, keen-eyed;
A man that would have foil’d at their own play
A dozen would-be’s of the modern day;
Who, when occasion justified its use,
Had wit as bright as ready to produce,
Could fetch from records of an earlier age,
Or from philosophy’s enlighten’d page,
His rich materials, and regale your ear
With strains it was a privilege to hear:
Yet above all his luxury supreme,
And his chief glory, was the gospel theme;
There he was copious as old Greece or Rome,
His happy eloquence seem’d there at home,
Ambitious not to shine or to excel,
But to treat justly what he loved so well.
It moves me more perhaps than folly ought,
When some green heads, as void of wit as thought,
Suppose themselves monopolists of sense,
And wiser men’s ability pretence.
Though time will wear us, and we must grow old,
Such men are not forgot as soon as cold,
Their fragrant memory will outlast their tomb,
Embalm’d for ever in its own perfume.
And to say truth, though in its early prime,
And when unstain’d with any grosser crime,
Youth has a sprightliness and fire to boast,
That in the valley of decline are lost,
And virtue with peculiar charms appears,
Crown’d with the garland of life’s blooming years;
Yet age, by long experience well inform’d,
Well read, well temper’d, with religion warm’d,
That fire abated which impels rash youth,
Proud of his speed, to overshoot the truth,
As time improves the grape’s authentic juice,
Mellows and makes the speech more fit for use,
And claims a reverence in its shortening day,
That ‘tis an honour and a joy to pay.
The fruits of age, less fair, are yet more sound,
Than those a brighter season pours around;
And, like the stores autumnal suns mature,
Through wintry rigours unimpair’d endure.
What is fanatic frenzy, scorn’d so much,
And dreaded more than a contagious touch?
I grant it dangerous, and approve your fear,
That fire is catching, if you draw too near;
But sage observers oft mistake the flame,
And give true piety that odious name.
To tremble (as the creature of an hour
Ought at the view of an almighty power)
Before His presence, at whose awful throne
All tremble in all worlds, except our own,
To supplicate his mercy, love his ways,
And prize them above pleasure, wealth, or praise,
Though common sense, allow’d a casting voice,
And free from bias, must approve the choice,
Convicts a man fanatic in the extreme,
And wild as madness in the world’s esteem.
But that disease, when soberly defined,
Is the false fire of an o’erheated mind;
It views the truth with a distorted eye,
And either warps or lays it useless by;
‘Tis narrow, selfish, arrogant, and draws
Its sordid nourishment from man’s applause;
And, while at heart sin unrelinquish’d lies,
Presumes itself chief favourite of the skies.
‘Tis such a light as putrefaction breeds
In fly-blown flesh, whereon the maggot feeds,
Shines in the dark, but, usher’d into day,
The stench remains, the lustre dies away.
True bliss, if man may reach it, is composed
Of hearts in union mutually disclosed;
And, farewell else all hope of pure delight,
Those hearts should be reclaim’d, renew’d, upright.
Bad men, profaning friendship’s hallow’d name,
Form, in its stead, a covenant of shame.
A dark confederacy against the laws
Of virtue, and religion’s glorious cause.
They build each other up with dreadful skill,
As bastions set point-blank against God’s will;
Enlarge and fortify the dread redoubt,
Deeply resolved to shut a Saviour out;
Call legions up from hell to back the deed;
And, cursed with conquest, finally succeed.
But souls, that carry on a blest exchange
Of joys they meet with in their heavenly range,
And with a fearless confidence make known
The sorrows sympathy esteems its own,
Daily derive increasing light and force
From such communion in their pleasant course,
Feel less the journey’s roughness and its length,
Meet their opposers with united strength,
And, one in heart, in interest, and design,
Gird up each other to the race divine.
But Conversation, choose what theme we may,
And chiefly when religion leads the way,
Should flow, like waters after summer showers,
Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers.
The Christian, in whose soul, though now distress’d,
Lives the dear thought of joys he once possess’d,
When all his glowing language issued forth
With God’s deep stamp upon its current worth,
Will speak without disguise, and must impart,
Sad as it is, his undissembling heart,
Abhors constraint, and dares not feign a zeal,
Or seem to boast a fire, he does not feel.
The song of Sion is a tasteless thing,
Unless, when rising on a joyful wing,
The soul can mix with the celestial bands,
And give the strain the compass it demands.
Strange tidings these to tell a world, who treat
All but their own experience as deceit!
Will they believe, though credulous enough
To swallow much upon much weaker proof,
That there are blest inhabitants of earth,
Partakers of a new ethereal birth,
Their hopes, desires, and purposes estranged
From things terrestrial, and divinely changed,
Their very language of a kind that speaks
The soul’s sure interest in the good she seeks,
Who deal with Scripture, its importance felt,
As Tully with philosophy once dealt,
And, in the silent watches of the night,
And through the scenes of toil-renewing light,
The social walk, or solitary ride,
Keep still the dear companion at their side?
No—shame upon a self-disgracing age,
God’s work may serve an ape upon a stage
With such a jest as fill’d with hellish glee
Certain invisibles as shrewd as he;
But veneration or respect finds none,
Save from the subjects of that work alone.
The World grown old, her deep discernment shews,
Claps spectacles on her sagacious nose,
Peruses closely the true Christian’s face,
And finds it a mere mask of sly grimace;
Usurps God’s office, lays his bosom bare,
And finds hypocrisy close lurking there;
And, serving God herself through mere constraint,
Concludes his unfeign’d love of him a feint.
And yet, God knows, look human nature through
(And in due time the world shall know it too),
That since the flowers of Eden felt the blast,
That after man’s defection laid all waste,
Sincerity towards the heart-searching God
Has made the new-born creature her abode,
Nor shall be found in unregenerate souls
Till the last fire burn all between the poles.
Sincerity! why ‘tis his only pride,
Weak and imperfect in all grace beside,
He knows that God demands his heart entire,
And gives him all his just demands require.
Without it, his pretensions were as vain
As, having it, he deems the world’s disdain;
That great defect would cost him not alone
Man’s favourable judgment, but his own;
His birthright shaken, and no longer clear
Than while his conduct proves his heart sincere.
Retort the charge, and let the world be told
She boasts a confidence she does not hold;
That, conscious of her crimes, she feels instead
A cold misgiving and a killing dread:
That while in health the ground of her support
Is madly to forget that life is short;
That sick she trembles, knowing she must die,
Her hope presumption, and her faith a lie;
That while she dotes and dreams that she believes,
She mocks her Maker and herself deceives,
Her utmost reach, historical assent,
The doctrines warp’d to what they never meant;
That truth itself is in her head as dull
And useless as a candle in a skull,
And all her love of God a groundless claim,
A trick upon the canvas, painted flame.
Tell her again, the sneer upon her face,
And all her censures of the work of grace,
Are insincere, meant only to conceal
A dread she would not, yet is forced to feel;
That in her heart the Christian she reveres,
And, while she seems to scorn him, only fears.
A poet does not work by square or line,
As smiths and joiners perfect a design;
At least we moderns, our attention less,
Beyond the example of our sires digress,
And claim a right to scamper and run wide,
Wherever chance, caprice, or fancy guide.
The world and I fortuitously met;
I owed a trifle, and have paid the debt;
She did me wrong, I recompensed the deed,
And, having struck the balance, now proceed.
Perhaps, however, as some years have pass’d
Since she and I conversed together last,
And I have lived recluse in rural shades,
Which seldom a distinct report pervades,
Great changes and new manners have occurr’d,
And blest reforms that I have never heard,
And she may now be as discreet and wise,
As once absurd in all discerning eyes.
Sobriety perhaps may now be found
Where once intoxication press’d the ground;
The subtle and injurious may be just,
And he grown chaste that was the slave of lust;
Arts once esteem’d may be with shame dismiss’d:
Charity may relax the miser’s fist;
The gamester may have cast his cards away,
Forgot to curse, and only kneel to pray.
It has indeed been told me (with what weight,
How credibly, ‘tis hard for me to state),
That fables old, that seem’d for ever mute,
Revived, are hastening into fresh repute,
And gods and goddesses, discarded long,
Like useless lumber or a stroller’s song,
Are bringing into vogue their heathen train,
And Jupiter bids fair to rule again;
That certain feasts are instituted now,
Where Venus hears the lover’s tender vow;
That all Olympus through the country roves,
To consecrate our few remaining groves,
And Echo learns politely to repeat
The praise of names for ages obsolete;
That, having proved the weakness, it should seem,
Of revelations ineffectual beam,
To bring the passions under sober sway,
And give the moral springs their proper play,
They mean to try what may at last be done,
By stout substantial gods of wood and stone,
And whether Roman rites may not produce
The virtues of old Rome for English use.
May such success attend the pious plan,
May Mercury once more embellish man.
Grace him again with long-forgotten arts,
Reclaim his taste, and brighten up his parts,
Make him athletic as in days of old,
Learn’d at the bar, in the palaestra bold,
Divest the rougher sex of female airs,
And teach the softer not to copy theirs:
The change shall please, nor shall it matter aught,
Who works the wonder, if it be but wrought.
‘Tis time, however, if the case stands thus,
For us plain folks, and all who side with us,
To build our altar, confident and bold,
And say, as stern Elijah said of old,
The strife now stands upon a fair award,
If Israel’s Lord be God, then serve the Lord:
If he be silent, faith is all a whim,
Then Baal is the God, and worship him.
Digression is so much in modern use,
Thought is so rare, and fancy so profuse,
Some never seem so wide of their intent,
As when returning to the theme they meant;
As mendicants, whose business is to roam,
Make every parish but their own their home.
Though such continual zig-zags in a book,
Such drunken reelings have an awkward look,
And I had rather creep to what is true,
Than rove and stagger with no mark in view;
Yet to consult a little, seem’d no crime,
The freakish humour of the present time:
But now to gather up what seems dispersed,
And touch the subject I design’d at first,
May prove, though much beside the rules of art,
Best for the public, and my wisest part.
And first, let no man charge me, that I mean
To clothe in sable every social scene,
And give good company a face severe,
As if they met around a father’s bier;
For tell some men that, pleasure all their bent,
And laughter all their work, is life misspent,
Their wisdom bursts into this sage reply,
Then mirth is sin, and we should always cry.
To find the medium asks some share of wit,
And therefore ‘tis a mark fools never hit.
But though life’s valley be a vale of tears,
A brighter scene beyond that vale appears,
Whose glory, with a light that never fades,
Shoots between scatter’d rocks and opening shades,
And, while it shews the land the soul desires,
The language of the land she seeks inspires.
Thus touch’d, the tongue receives a sacred cure
Of all that was absurd, profane, impure;
Held within modest bounds, the tide of speech
Pursues the course that truth and nature teach;
No longer labours merely to produce
The pomp of sound, or tinkle without use:
Where’er it winds, the salutary stream,
Sprightly and fresh, enriches every theme,
While all the happy man possess’d before,
The gift of nature, or the classic store,
Is made subservient to the grand design,
For which Heaven form’d the faculty divine.
So, should an idiot, while at large he strays,
Find the sweet lyre on which an artist plays,
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seems as it complain’d
Of the rude injuries it late sustain’d,
Till, tuned at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah’s name, and pours his praise along.
Solomon on the Vanity of the World, A Poem. In Three Books. - Pleasure. Book II.
Solomon, again seeking happiness, inquires if wealth and greatness can produce it: begins with the magnificence of gardens and buildings; the luxury of music and feasting; and proceeds to the hopes and desires of love. In two episodes are shown the follies and troubles of that passion. Solomon, still disappointed, falls under the temptations of libertinism and idolatry; recovers his thought; reasons aright; and concludes that, as to the pursuit of pleasure and sensual delight, All Is Vanity and Vexation of Spirit.
Try then, O man, the moments to deceive
That from the womb attend thee to the grave:
For wearied Nature find some apter scheme;
Health be thy hope, and pleasure be thy theme;
From the perplexing and unequal ways
Where Study brings thee from the endless maze
Which Doubt persuades o run, forewarn'd, recede
To the gay field, and flowery path, that lead
To jocund mirth, soft joy, and careless ease:
Forsake what my instruct for what may please:
Essay amusing art and proud expense,
And make thy reason subject to thy sense.
I communed thus: the power of wealth I tried,
And all the various luxe of costly pride;
Artists and plans relieved my solemn hours:
I founded palaces and planted bowers,
Birds, fishes, beasts, of exotic kind
I to the limits of my court confined,
To trees transferr'd I gave a second birth,
And bade a foreign shade grace Judah's earth.
Fish-ponds were made where former forests grew
And hills were levell'd to extend the view.
Rivers, diverted from their native course,
And bound with chains of artificial force,
From large cascades in pleasing tumult roll'd,
Or rose through figured stone or breathing gold.
From furthest Africa's tormented womb
The marble brought, erects the spacious dome,
Or forms the pillars' long-extended rows,
On which the planted grove and pensile garden grows.
The workmen here obey the master's call,
To gild the turret and to paint the wall;
To mark the pavement there with various stone,
And on the jasper steps to rear the throne:
The spreading cedar, that an age had stood,
Supreme of trees, and mistress of the wood,
Cut down and carved, my shining roof adorns,
And Lebanon his ruin'd honour mourns.
A thousand artists show their cunning powers
To raise the wonders of the ivory towers:
A thousand maidens ply the purple loom
To weave the bed and deck the regal room;
Till Tyre confesses her exhausted store,
That on her coast the murex is no more;
Till from the Paian isle and Liby's coast
The mountains grieve their hopes of marble lost
And India's woods return their just complaint,
Their brood decay'd, and want of elephant.
My full design with vast expense achieved,
I came, beheld, admired, reflected, grieved:
I chid the folly of my thoughtless haste,
For, the work perfected, the joy was past.
To my new courts sad Thought did still repair,
And round my gilded roofs hung hovering Care.
In vain on silken beds I sought repose,
And Restless oft from purple couches rose;
Vexatious Thought still found my flying mind,
Nor bound by limits nor to place confined:
Haunted my nights, and terrified my days,
Stalk'd through my gardens, and pursued my ways,
Nor shut from artful bower, nor lost in winding maze.
Yet take thy bent, my soul; another sense
Indulge: add music to magnificence:
Essay if harmony may grief control,
Or power of sound prevail upon the soul.
Often our seers and poets have confess'd
That music's force can tame the furious beast;
Can make the wolf or foaming boar restrain
His rage, the lion drop his crested main,
Attentive to the song; the lynx forget
His wrath to man, and lick the minstrel's feet.
Are we, alas! less savage yet than these?
Else music sure may human cares appease.
I spake my purpose, and the cheerful choir
Parted their shares of harmony: the lyre
Soften'd the timbrel's noise; the trumpet's sound
Provoked the Dorian flute, (both sweeter found
When mix'd) the fife the viol's notes refined,
And every strength with every grace was join'd:
Each morn they waked me with a sprightly lay;
Each evening their repeated skill express'd
Scenes of repose and images of rest;
Yet still in vain; for music gather'd thought;
But how unequal the effects it brought?
The soft ideas of the cheerful note,
Lightly received, were easily forgot;
The solemn violence of the graver sound
Knew to strike deep, and leave a lasting wound.
And now reflecting, I with grief descry
The sickly lust of the fantastic eye;
How the weak organ is with seeing cloy'd,
Flying ere night what it at noon enjoy'd.
And now (unhappy search of thought!) I found
The fickle ear soon glutted with the sound,
Condemn'd eternal changes to pursue,
Tired with the last and eager of the new.
I bade the virgins and the youth advance,
To temper music with the sprightly dance.
In vain! too low the mimic motions seem;
What takes our heart must merit our esteem.
Nature, I thought, perform'd too mean a part,
Forming her movements to the rules of art;
And vex'd I found that the musician's hand
Had o'er the dancer's mind too great command.
I drank; I liked it not: 'twas rage, 'twas noise;
An airy scene of transitory joys,
In vain I trusted that the flowing bowl
Would banish sorrow and enlarge the soul.
To the late revel and protracted feast
Wild dreams succeeded and disorder'd rest;
And as at dawn of morn fair reason's light
Broke through the fumes and phantoms of the night,
What had been said, I ask'd my soul, what done?
How flow'd our mirth, and whence the source begun?
Perhaps the jest that charm'd the sprightly crowd,
And made the jovial table laugh so loud,
To some false notion owed its poor pretence,
To an ambiguous word's percerted sense,
To a wild sonnet, or a wanton air,
Offence and torture to the sober ear,
Perhaps, alas! the pleasing stream was brought
From this man's error, from another's fault;
From topics which good-nature would forget,
And prudence mention with the last regret.
Add yet unnumber'd ills that lie unseen
In the pernicious draught; the word obscene
Or harsh, which once elanced must ever fly
Irrevocable: the too prompt reply,
Seed of severe distrust and fierce debate,
What we should shun, and what we ought to hate.
Add, too, the blood impoverish'd, and the course
Of health suppress'd by wine's continued course.
Unhappy man! whom sorrow thus and rage
To different ills alternately engage;
Who drinks, alas! but to forget; nor sees
That melancholy sloth, severe disease,
Memory confused, and interrupted thought,
Death's harbingers, lie latent in the draught;
And in the flowers that wreath the sparkling bowl
Fell adders hiss, and poisonous serpents roll.
Remains there ought untried that may remove
Sickness of mind, and heal the bosom? - Love!
Love yet remains; indulge his genial fire,
Cherish fair Hope, solicit young Desire,
And boldly bid thy anxious soul explore
This last great remedy's mysterious power.
Why, therefore, hesitates my doubtful breast?
Why ceases it one moment to be bless'd?
Fly swift, my Friends; my Servants fly; employ
Your instant pains to bring our master joy.
Let all my wives and concubines be dress'd;
Let them to-night attend the royal feast;
All Israel's beauty, all the foreign fair,
The gifts of princes, or the spoils of war:
Before their monarch they shall singly pass,
And the most worthy shall obtain the grace.
I said: the feast was served; the bowl was crown'd;
To the King's pleasure went the mirthful round.
The women came: as custom wills they pass'd:
On one (O that distinguish'd one!) I cast
The favourite glance? O! yet my mind retains
That fond beginning of my infant pains.
Mature the virgin was, of Egypt's race,
Grace shaped her limbs and beauty deck'd her face:
Easy her motion seem'd, serene her air;
Full, though unzoned, her bosom rose; her hair
Untied, and, ignorant of artful aid,
Adown her shoulders loosely lay display'd,
And in the jetty curls ten thousand cupids play'd.
Fix'd on her charms, and pleased that I could love,
Aid me, my Friends, contribute to improve
Your monarch's bliss, I said: fresh roses bring
To strew my bed, till the impoverish'd Spring
Confess her want: around my amorous head
Be dropping myrrh and liquid amber shed
Till Arab has no more; from the soft lyre,
Sweet flute, and ten-string'd instrument require
Sounds of delight: and thou, fair Nymph, draw nigh,
Thou in whose graceful form and potent eye,
Thy master's joy, long sought, at length is found,
And, as thy brow, let my desires be crown'd.
O favourite virgin, that hast warm'd the breast,
Whose sovereign dictates subjugate the East!
I said: and sudden from the golden throne,
With a submissive step, I hasted down.
The glowing garland from my hair I took,
Love in my heart, obedience in my look,
Prepared to place it on her comely head,
O favourite Virgin! (yet again I said)
Receive the honours destined to thy brow;
And O, above thy fellows, happy thou!
Their duty must thy sovereign word obey.
Rise up, my love, my fair one, come away.
What pang, alas! what ecstasy of smart
Tore up my senses and transfix'd my heart,
When she with modest scorn the wreath return'd,
Reclined her beauteous neck, and inward mourn'd!
Forced by my pride, I my concern suppress'd,
Pretended drowsiness and wish of rest;
And sullen, I forsook th' imperfect feast:
Ordering the eunuchs, to whose proper care
Our Eastern gradneur gives th' imprison'd fair,
To lead her forth to a distinuish'd bower,
And nid her dress the bed, and wait the hour.
Restless I follow'd this obdurate maid,
(Swift are the steps that Love and Anger tread)
Approach'd her person, courted her embrace,
Renew'd my flame, repeated my disgrace:
By turns put on the suppliant and the lord:
Threaten'd this moment, and the next implored,
Offer'd again the unaccepted wreath,
And choice of happy love, or instant death.
Averse to all her amorous King desired,
Far as she might she decently retired,
And darting scorn and sorrow from her eyes,
What means, said she, King Solomon the wise?
This wretched body trembles at your power;
Thus far could Fortune, but she can no more.
Free to herself my potent mind remains,
Nor fears the victor's rage, nor feels his chains.
'Tis said that thou canst plausibly dispute,
Supreme of seers, of angel, man, and brute:
Canst plead, with subtle wit and fair discourse,
Of passion's folly and of reason's force;
That to the tribes attentive, thou canst know
Whence their misfortunes or their blessings flow:
That thou in science as in power art great,
And truth and honour on thy edicts wait.
Where is that knowledge now, that regal thought,
With just advice and timely counsel fraught?
Where now, O Judge of Israel, does it rove? -
What in one moment dost thou offer? - Love!
Love? why, 'tis joy or sorrow, peace or strife;
'Tis all the colour of remaining life,
And human misery must begin or end
As he becomes a tyrant or a friend.
Would David's son, religious, just, and grave,
To the first bride-bed of the world receive
A foreigner, a Heathen, and a slave?
Or grant thy passion has these names destroy'd,
That Love, like Death, makes all distinction void,
Yet in his empire o'er thy abject breast
His flames and torments only are exprest,
His rage can in my smiles alone relent,
And all his joys solicit my consent.
Soft love, spontaneous tree, its parted root
Must from two hearts with equal vigour shoot,
Whilst each delighted, and delighting, gives
The pleasing ecstasy which each receives:
Cherish'd with hope, and fed with joy, it grows,
Its cheerful buds their opening bloom disclose,
And round the happy soul diffusive odour flows.
If angry fate that mutual care denies,
The fading plant bewails its due supplies;
Wild with despair, or sick with grief, it dies.
By force beasts act, and are by force restrain'd;
The human mind by gentle means is gain'd.
Thy useless strength mistaken King employ:
Sated with rage, and ignorant of joy,
Thou shalt not gain what I deny to yield,
Nor reap the harvest, though thou spoil'st the field.
Know, Solomon, thy poor extent of sway;
Contract thy brow, and Israel shall obey;
But wilful Love thou must with smiles appease,
Approach his awful throne by just degrees,
And if thou wouldst be happy, learn to please.
Not that those arts can here successful prove,
For I am destined to another's love.
Beyond the cruel bounds of thy command,
To my dear equal, in my native land,
My plighted vow I gave; I his received:
Each swore with truth, with pleasure each believed
The mutual contract was to heaven convey'd;
In equal scales thy busy angels weigh'd
Its solemn force, and clapp'd their wings, and spread
The lasting roll, recording what we said.
Now in my heart behold thy poniard stain'd;
Take the sad life which I have long disdain'd;
End, in a dying virgin's wretched fate,
Thy ill-starr'd passion and my steadfast hate:
For long as blood informs these circling veins,
Or fleeting breath its latest power retains,
Hear me to Egypt's vengeful gods declare
Hate is my part; be thine O King despair.
Now strike, she said, and open'd bare her breast,
Stand it in Judah's Chronicles confest
That David's son, by impious passion moved,
Smote a she-slave, and murder'd what he loved.
Ashamed, confused, I started from the bed,
And to my soul, yet uncollected, said,
Into thyself fond Solomon return;
Reflect again, and thou again shalt mourn.
When I through number'd years have pleasure sought,
And in vain hope the wanton phantom caught,
To mock my sense and mortify my pride,
'Tis in another's power and is denied.
Am I a king, great Heaven? does life or death
Hang on the wrath or mercy of my breath,
While kneeling I my servant's smiles implore,
And one mad damsel dares dispute my power?
To ravish her? that thought was soon depress'd,
Which must debase the monarch to the beast.
To send her back? O whither, and to whom?
To lands where Solomon must never come?
To that insulting rival's happy arms
For whom, disdaining me, she keeps her charms?
Fantastic tyrant of the amorous heart,
How hard thy yoke! how cruel is thy dart?
Those 'scape thy anger who refuse thy sway,
And those are punish'd most who most obey,
See Judah's king revere thy greater power;
What canst thou covet, or how triumph more;
Why, then, O Love, with an obdurate ear,
Does this proud nymph reject a monarch's prayer?
Why to some simple shepherd does she run
Where wealth and pleasure may thy reign support,
To some poor cottage on the mountain's brow,
Now bleak with winds, and cover'd now with snow,
And household cares suppress thy genial fires!
Too aptly the afflicted Heathens prove
The force, while they erect the shrines of Love.
His mystic form the artisans of Greece
In wounded stone or molten gold express;
And Cyprus to his godhead pays her vow,
Fast in his hand the idol holds his bow;
A quiver by his side sustains his store
Of pointed darts, sad emblems of his power;
A pair of wings he has, which he extends
Now to be gone, which now again he bends,
Prone to return, as best may serve his wanton ends.
Entirely thus I find the fiend portray'd,
Since first, alas! I saw the beauteous maid;
I felt him strike, and now I see him fly:
Cursed daemon! O! for ever broken lie
Those fatal shafts by which I inward bleed!
O! can my wishes yet o'ertake thy speed!
Tired mayst thou turn'st thy course, resolved to bring
Except thou turn'st thy course, resolved to bring
The damsel back, and save the love-sick king.
My soul thus struggling in the fatal net,
Unable to enjoy or to forget,
I reason'd much, alas! but more I loved,
Sent and recall'd, ordain'd and disapproved,
Till hopeless plunged in an abyss of grief,
I from necessity received relief;
Time gently aided to assuage my pain
And wisdom took once more the slacken'd rein.
But O how short my interval of wo!
Our griefs how swift, our remedies how slow!
Another nymph, (for so did Heaven ordain,
To change the manner but renew the pain)
Another nymph, amongst the many fair
That made my softer hours their solemn care,
Before the rest affected still to stand,
And watch'd my eye, preventing my command,
Abra, she so was call'd, did sooner haste
To grace my presence; Abra went the last;
Abra was ready ere I call'd her name,
And though I call'd another, Abra came.
Her equals first observed her growing zeal,
And laughing gloss'd, that Abra served so well.
To me her actions did unheeded die,
Or were remark'd but with a common eye,
Till more apprized of what the rumour said,
More I observed peculiar in the maid.
The sun declined had shot his western ray,
When, tired with business of the solemn day,
I purposed to unbend the evening hours,
And banquet private in the women's bowers.
I call'd before I sat to wash my hands,
for so the precept of the law commands;
Love had ordain'd that it was Abra's turn
To mix the sweets, and minister the urn.
With awful homage and submissive dread
The maid approach'd, on my declining head
To pour the oils: she trembled as she pour'd:
With an unguarded look she now devour'd
My nearer face; and now recall'd her eye,
And heaved, and strove to hide a sudden sigh.
And whence, said I, canst thou have dread or pain?
What can thy imag'ry of sorrow mean?
Secluded from the world and all its care,
Hast thou to grieve or joy, to hope or fear?
For sure, I added, sure thy little heart
Ne'er felt Love's anger or received his dart.
Abash'd she blush'd, and with disorder spoke;
Her rising shame adorn'd the words it broke.
If the great master will descend to hear
The humble series of his handmaid's care,
O! while she tells it, let him not put on
The look that awes the nations from the throne;
O! let not death severe in glory lie
In the king's frown and terror of his eye.
Mine to obey, thy part is to ordain:
And though to mention be to suffer pain,
If the king smiles whilst I my wo recite
If weeping I find favour in his sight,
Flow fast my tears, full rising his delight.
O! witness earth beneath and heaven above,
For can I hide it? I am sick of love!
If madness may the name of passion bear,
Or love be call'd what is indeed despair.
Thou sovereign Power, whose secret will controls
The inward bent and motion of our souls!
Why hast thou placed such infinite degrees
Between the cause and cure of my disease?
The mighty object of that raging fire
In which unpitied Abra must expire,
Had he born some simple shepherd's heir,
The lowing herd or fleecy sheep his care,
At morn with him I o'er the hills had run,
Scornful of winter's frost and summer's run,
Still asking here he made his flock to rest at noon.
For him at night, the dear expected guest,
Had with hasty joy prepared the feast,
And from the cottage, o'er the distant plain,
Sent forth my longing eye to meet the swain,
Wavering, impatient, toss'd by hope and fear,
Till he and joy together should appear,
And the loved dog declare his master near.
On my declining neck and open breast
I should have lull'd the lovely youth to rest,
And from beneath is head at dawning day,
With softest care, have stolen my arm away,
To rise, and from the fold release the sheep,
Fond of his flock, indulgent to his sleep.
Or if kind Heaven, propitious to my flame,
(For sure from Heaven the faithful ardour came)
Had blest my life, and deck'd my natal hour
With height of title and extent of power,
Without a crime my passion had aspired,
Found the loved prince, and told what I desired
Then I had come, preventing Sheba's queen,
To see the comeliest of the sons of men:
To hear the charming poet's amorous song,
And gather honey falling from his tongue;
To take the fragrant kisses of his mouth,
Sweeter than breezes of her native south,
Likening his grace, his person, and his mien,
To all that great or beauteous I had seen.
Serene and bright his eyes, as solar beams,
Reflecting temper'd light from crystal streams;
Ruddy as gold his cheek; his bosom fair
As silve;r the curled ringlets of his hair
Black as the raven's wing; his lips more red
Than eastern coral or the scarlet thread;
Even his teeth, and white like a young flock,
Coeval, newly shorn, from the clear brook
Recent, and blanching on the sunny rock.
Ivory with sapphires interspersed, explains
How white his hands, how blue the manly veins;
Columns of polish'd marble, firmly set
On golden bases, are his legs and feet:
His stature all majestic, all divine,
Strait as the palm tree, strong as is the pine;
Saffron and myrrh are on his garments shed,
And everlasting sweets bloom round his head,
What utter I! where am I! wretched maid!
Die, Abra, die; too plainly thou hast said
Thy soul's desire to meet his high embrace,
And blessing stamp'd upon thy future race;
To bid attentive nations bless thy womb,
With unborn monarchs charged, and Solomon to come.
Here o'er her speech her flowing eyes prevail.
O foulish maid! and O unhappy tale!
My suffering heart for ever shall defy
New wounds and danger from a future eye.
O! yet my tortured senses deep retain
The wretched memory of my former pain,
The dire affront, and my Egyptian chain.
As time, I said, may happily efface
That cruel image of the King's disgrace,
Imperial Reason shall resume her seat,
And Solomon, once fall'n again be great.
Betray'd by passion, as subdued in war,
We wisely should exert a double care,
Nor ever ought a second time to err.
This Abra then -------
I saw her; 'twas humanity; it gave
Some respite to the sorrows of my slave.
Her fond excess proclaim'd her passion true,
And generous pity to that truth was due.
Well I entreated her who well deserved;
I call'd her often, for she always served:
Use made her person easy to my sight,
And ease insensibly produced delight.
Whene'er I revell'd in the women's bowers
(For first I sought her but at looser hours)
The apples she had gather'd smelt most sweet,
The cake she kneaded was the savoury meat;
But fruits their odour lost, and meats their taste,
If gentle Abra had not deck'd the feast:
Dishonour'd did the sparkling goblet stand,
Unless received from gentle Abra's hand;
And when the virgins form'd the evening choir,
Raising their voices to the master-lyre,
Too that I thought this voice, and that too shrill;
One show'd too much, and one too little skill;
Nor could my soul approve the music's tone,
Till all was hush'd, and Abra sung alone.
Fairer she seem'd distinguish'd from the rest,
And better mien disclosed, as better drest:
A bright tiara round her forehead tied,
To juster bounds confined its rising pride:
The blushing ruby on her snowy breast
Render'd its panting whiteness more confest;
Bracelets of pearl gave roundness to her arm,
And every gem augmented every charm:
Her senses pleased, her beauty still improved,
And she more lovely grew as more beloved.
And now I could behold, avow, and blame,
The several follies of my former flame,
Willing my heart for recompence to prove
The certain joys that lie in prosperous love.
For what, said I, from Abra can I fear,
Too humble to insult, too soft to be severe?
The damsel's sole ambition is to please;
With freedom I may like, and quit with ease;
She soothes, but never can enthral my mind:
Why may not peace and love for once be join'd?
Great Heaven! how frail thy creature man is made!
How by himself insensibly betray'd!
In our own strength unhappily secure,
Too little cautious of the adverse power,
And by the blast of self-opinion moved,
We wish to charm, and seek to be beloved.
On pleasure's flowing brink we idly stray,
Masters as yet of our returning way;
Seeing no danger we disarm our mind,
And give our conduct to the waves and wind;
Then in the flowery mead or verdant shade
To wanton dalliance negligently laid,
We weave the chaplet and we crown the bowl,
And smiling see the nearer waters roll,
Till the strong gusts of raging passion rise,
Till the dire tempest mingles earth and skies,
And swift into the boundless ocean borne,
Our foolish confidence too late we mourn;
Round our devoted heads the billows beat,
And from our troubled view the lessen'd lands retreat.
O mighty Love! from thy unbounded power
How shall the human bosom rest secure?
How shall our thought avoid the various snare,
Or wisdom to our caution'd soul declare
The different shapes thou pleasest to employ
When bent to hurt, and certain to destroy;
The haughty nymph, in open beauty drest,
To-day encounters our unguarded breast;
She looks with majesty, and moves with state:
Unbent her soul, and in misfortune great,
She scorns the world, and dares the rage of Fate.
Here whilst we take stern manhood for our guide,
And guard our conduct with becoming pride,
Charm'd with the courage in her action shown,
We praise her mind, the image of our own,
She that can please is certain to persuade;
To-day beloved, to-morrow is obey'd.
We think we see through Reason's optics right,
Nor find how Beauty's rays elude our sight:
Struck with her eye whilst we applaud her mind,
And when we speak her great we wish her kind.
To-morrow, cruel Power! thou arm'st the fair
With flowing sorrow and dishevell'd hair.
Sad her complaint, and humble is her tale,
Her sighs explaining where her accents fail;
Here generous softness warms the honest breast;
We raise the sad, and succour the distrest,
And whilst our wish prepares the kind relief,
Whilst pity mitigates her rising grief,
We sicken soon from her contagious care,
Grieve for her sorrows, groan for her despair,
And against love, too late, those bosoms arm,
Which tears can soften, and which sighs can warm.
Against this nearest, cruelest of foes,
What shall wit meditate, or force oppose?
Whence, feeble Nature, shall we summon aid,
If by our pity and our pride betray'd?
External remedy shall we hope to find,
When the close fiend has gain'd our treacherous mind,
Insulting there does Reason's power deride,
And, blind himself, conducts the dazzled guide?
My conqueror now, my lovely Abra, held
My freedom in her chains; my heart was fill'd
With her, with her alone, in her alone
It sought its peace and joy: while she was gone
It sigh'd, and grieved, impatient of her stay:
Return'd she chased those sighs, that grief, away;
Her absence made the night, her presence brought the day.
The ball, the play, the mask, by turns succeed:
For her I make the song; the dance with her I lead:
I court her, various, in each shape and dress
That luxury may form or thought express.
To-day beneath the palm-tree, on the plains,
In Deborah's arms and habit Abra reigns:
The wreath, denoting conquest, guides her brow,
And low, like Barak, at her feet I bow.
The mimic Chorus sings her prosperous hand,
As she had slain the foe and saved the land.
To-morrow she approves a softer air,
Forsakes the pomp and pageantry of war,
The form peaceful Abigail assumes,
And from the village with the present comes:
The youthful band depose their glittering arms,
Receive her bounties and recite her charms,
Whilst I assume my father's step and mien,
To meet with due regard my future queen.
If hap'ly Abra's will be now inclined
To range the woods or chase the flying hind,
Soon as the sun awakes, the sprightly court
Leave their repose, and hasten to the sport.
In lessen'd royalty, and humble state,
Thy king, Jerusalem! descends to wait
Till Abra comes. She comes; a milk-white steed
Mixture of Persia's and Arabia's breed,
Sustains the nymph: her garments flying loose,
(As the Sidonian maids or Thracian use)
And half her knee and half her breast appear
By art, like negligence disclosed and nare.
Her left hand guides the hunting courser's flight,
A silver bow she carries in her right,
And from the golden quiver at her side
Rustles the ebon arrow's feather'd pride;
Sapphires and diamonds on her front display
An artificial moon's increasing ray.
Diana, huntress, mistress of the groves,
The favourite Abra speaks, and looks, and moves.
Her as the present goddess, I obey,
Beneath her feet the captive game I lay;
The mingled Chorus sing Diana's fame,
Clarions and horns in louder peals proclaim
Her mystic praise, the vocal triumphs bound
Against the hills; the hills reflect the sound.
If tired this evening with the hunted woods,
To the large fish-pools or the glassy floods
Her mind to-morrow points a thousand hands
To-night employ'd obey the king's commands;
Upon the wat'ry beach an artful pile
Of planks is join'd, and forms a moving isle;
A golden chariot in the midst is set,
And silver cygnets seem to feel its weight.
Abra, bright queen, ascends her gaudy throne,
In semblance of the Grecian Venus knows;
Tritons and sea-green naiads round her move,
And sing in moving strains the force of love;
Whilst, as th' approaching pageant does appear,
And echoing crowds speak mighty Venus near,
I, her adorer, too devoutly stand
Fast on the utmost margin of the land,
With arms and hopes extended, to receive
The fancied goddess rising from the wave.
O subject Reason! O imperious Love!
Whither yet further would my folly rove?
Is it enough that Abra should be great
In the wall'd palace or the rural seat;
That masking habits and a borrow'd name
Contrive to hide my plenitude of shame?
No, no: Jerusalem combined must see
My open fault and regal infamy.
Solemn a month is destined for the feast;
Abra invites; the nation is the guest.
To have the honour of each day sustain'd
The woods are travers'd, and the lakes are drain'd:
Arabia's wilds and Egypt's are explored;
The edible creation decks the board:
Hardly the phenix 'scapes ---------
The men their lyres, the maids their voices raise,
To sing my happiness and Abra's praise,
And slavish bards our mutual loves rehearse
In lying strains and ignominious verse;
While from the banquet leading forth the bride,
Whom prudent love from public eyes should hide,
I show her to the world, confess'd and known
Queen of my heart, and partner of my throne.
And now her friends and flatterers fill the court;
From Dan and from Beersheba they resort;
They barter places and dispose of grants,
Whole provinces unequal to their wants;
They teach her to recede or to debate;
With toys of love to mix affairs of state;
By practised rules her empire to secure,
And in my pleasure make my ruin sure.
They gave and she transferr'd the cursed advice,
That monarchs should their inward soul disguise,
Dissemble and command, be false and wise;
By ignominious arts, for servile ends,
Should compliment their foes and shun their friends.
And now I leave the true and just supports
Of legal princes and of honest courts,
Barzillai's and the fierce Benaiah's heirs,
Whose sires, great partners in my father's cares,
Saluted their young king, at Hebron crown'd,
Great by their toil, and glorious by their wound:
And now unhappy counsel, I prefer
Those whom my follies only made me fear,
Old Corah's brood and taunting Shimei's race,
Miscreants who owed their lives to David's grace,
Though they had spurn'd his rule and cursed him to his face.
Still Abra's power, my scandal, still increased;
Justice submitted to what Abra pleased:
Her will alone could settle or revoke,
And law was fixt by what she latest spoke.
Israel neglected, Abra was my care;
I only acted, thought, and lived for her,
I durst not reason with my wounded heart;
Abra possess'd; she was its better part.
O! had I now review'd the famous cause
Which gave my righteous youth so just applause,
In vain on the dissembled mother's tongue
Had cunning art and sly persuasion hung,
And real care in vain, and native love,
And real care in vain, and native love,
In the true parent's panting breast had strove,
While both deceived had seen the destined child
Or slain, or saved, as Abra frown'd or smiled.
Uknowing to command, proud to obey,
A lifeless king, a royal shade I lay.
Unheard the injured orphans now complain;
The widow's cries address the throne in vain.
Causes unjudged disgrace the loaded file,
And sleeping laws the king's neglect revile.
No more the Elders throng'd around my throne
To hear my maxims, and reform their own;
No more the young nobility were taught
How Moses govern'd and how David fought.
Loose and undisciplined the soldier lay,
Or lost in drink and game the solid day;
Porches and schools, design'd for public good,
Uncover'd, and with scaffolds cumber'd stood,
Or nodded, threatening ruin --
Half pillars wanted their expected height,
And roofs imperfect prejudiced the sight.
The artists grieve; the labouring people droop;
My father's legacy, my country's hope,
God's temples, lie unfinish'd -
The wise and grave deplored their monarch's fate,
And future mischiefs of a sinking state.
In this the serious said, is this the man,
Whose active soul through every science ran?
Who by just rule and elevated skill
Prescribed the dubious bounds of good and ill?
Whose golden sayings and immortal wit
On large phylacteries expressive writ,
Were to the forehead of the Rabbins tied,
Our youth's instruction and our age's pride?
Could not the wise his wild desires restrain?
Then was our hearing and his preaching vain!
What from his life and letters were we taught
But that his knowledge aggravates his fault?
In lighter mood, the humorous and the gay
(As crown'd with roses at their feasts they lay)
Sent the full goblet charged with Abra's name,
And charms superior to the master's fame.
Laughing, some praise the king, who let them see
How aptly luxe and empire might agree:
Some gloss'd how love and wisdom were at strife,
And brought my proverbs to confront my life.
However, friend, here's to the king, one cries
To him who was the king, the friend replies.
The king, for Judah's and for wisdom's curse
To Abra yields; could I or thou do worse?
Our looser lives let Chance or Folly steer,
If thus the prudent and determined err.
Let Dinah bind with flowers her flowing hair,
And touch the lute and sound the wanton air,
Let us the bliss without the sting receive,
Free as we will or to enjoy or leave.
Pleasures on levity's smooth surface flow;
Thought brings the weight that sinks the soul to wo.
Now be this maxim to the king convey'd,
And added to the thousand he has made.
Sadly, O Reason, is thy power express'd,
Thou gloomy tyrant of the frighted beast!
And harsh the rules which we fom thee receive,
If for our wisdom we our pleasure give,
And more to think be only more to grieve:
If Judah's king, at thy tribunal tried,
Forsakes his joy to vindicate his pride,
And, changing sorrows, I am only found
Loosed from the chains of love, in thine more strictly bound.
But do I call thee tyrant, or complain
How hard thy laws, how absolute thy reign?
While thou, alas! art but an empty name,
To no two men who e'er discoursed the same;
The idle product of a troubled thought,
In borrow'd shapes and airy colours wrought,
A fancied line, and a reflected shade;
A chain which man to fetter man has made,
By artifice imposed, by fear obey'd.
Yet, wretched name, or arbitrary thing,
Whence-ever I thy cruel essence bring,
I own thy influence, for I feel thy sting.
Reluctant I perceive thee in my soul,
Form'd to command, and destind to control,
Yes, thy insulting dictates shall be heard;
Virtue for once shall be her own reward:
Yes, rebel Israel, this unhappy maid
Shall be dismiss'd; the crowd shall be obey'd:
The king his passion and his rule shall leave,
No longer Abra's but the people's slave:
My coward soul shall bear its wayward fate;
I will, alas! be wretched to be great,
And sigh in royalty, and grieve in state.
I said, resolved to plunge into my grief
At once, so far as to expect relief
From my despair alone --
To her I loved, toher I must forsake.
How inconsistent majesty and love.
I always should, it said, esteem her well,
But never see her more: it bid her feel
No future pain for me; but instant wed
A lover more proportion'd to her bed,
And quiet dedicate her remnant life
To the just duties of an humble wife.
She read, and forth to me she wildly ran,
To me, the ease of all her former pain.
She kneel'd, entreated, struggled, threaten'd, cried,
And with alternate passion lived and died;
Till now denied the liberty to mourn,
And by rude fury from my presence torn,
This only object of my real care
Cut off from hope, abandon'd to despair,
In some few posting fatal hours is hurl'd
From wealth, from power, from love, and from the world.
Here tell me, if thou darest, my conscious soul,
What different sorrows did within thee roll?
What pangs, what fires, what racks, did thou sustain?
What sad vicissitudes of smarting pain?
How oft from pomp and state did I remove,
To feed despair, and cherish hopeless love?
How oft all day recall'd I Abra's charms,
Her beauties press'd, and panting in my arms?
How oft with sighs view'd every female face
Where mimic Fancy might her likeness trace?
How oft desired to fly from Isreal's throne,
And live in shades with her and love alone?
How oft all night pursued her in my dreams,
O'er flowery valleys and through crystal streams,
And waking, view'd with grief the rising sun,
And fondly mourn'd the dear delusion gone?
When thus the gather'd storms of wretched love
In my swollen bosom with long war had strove,
At length they broke their bounds; at length their force
Bore down whatever met its stronger course;
Laid all the civil bonds of manhood waste,
And scatter'd ruin as the torrent pass'd.
So from the hills, whose hollow caves contain
The congregated snow and swelling rain,
Till the full stores their ancient bounds disdain,
Precipitate the furious torrent flows:
In vain would speed avoid or strength oppose:
Towns, forests, herds, and men, promiscuous drown'd,
With one great death deform the dreary ground;
The echoed woes from distant rocks resound.
And now what impious ways, my wishes took,
How they the monarch and the man forsook,
And how I follow'd an abandon'd will
Through crooked paths and sad retreats of ill;
By turns my prostituted bed receives,
Through tribes of women how I loosely ranged
Impatient, liked to-night, to-morrow changed,
And by the instinct of capricious lust
Enjoy'd, disdain'd, was grateful or unjust;
O, be these scenes from human eyes conceal'd,
In clouds of decent silence justly veil'd!
O, be the wanton images convey'd
To black oblivion and eternal shade!
Or let their sad epitome alone
And outward lines to future ages be known,
Enough to propagate the sure belief
That vice engenders shame, and folly broods o'er grief.
Buried in sloth and lost in ease I lay;
The night I revell'd, and I slept the day.
New heaps of fuel damp'd my kindling fires,
And daily change extinguish'd young desires,
By its own force destroy'd, fruition ceased;
And always wearied, I was never pleased.
No longer now does my neglected mind
Its wonted stores and old ideas find.
Fix'd judgement there no longer does abide
To take the true or set the false aside,
No longer does swift Memory trace the cells
Where springing Wit or young Invention dwells,
Frequent debauch to habitude prevails;
Patience of toil and love of virtue fails.
By sad degrees impair'd my vigour dies,
Till I command no longer e'en in vice.
The women on my dotage build their sway:
In regal garments now I gravely stride,
Awed by the Persian damsels' haughty pride;
Now with the looser Syrian dance and sing,
In robes tuck'd up, opprobrious to the king.
Charm'd by their eyes, their manners I acquire,
And shape my foolishness to their desire;
Seduced and awed by the Philistine dame,
At Dagon's shrine I kindle impious flame.
With the Chaldean's charms her rites prevail,
And curling frankincense ascends to Baal.
To each new harlot I new altars dress,
And serve her god whose person I caress.
Where, my deluded sense, was reason flown?
Where the high majesty of David's throne?
Where all the maxims of eternal truth,
With which the living God inform'd my youth,
When with the lewd Egyptian I adore
Vain idols, deities that ne'er before
In Isreal's land had fix'd their dire abodes,
Beastly divinities, and droves of gods;
Osiris, Apis, powers that chew the cud,
And dog Anubis, flatterer for his food?
When in the woody hill's forbidden shade
I carved the marble and invoked its aid:
When in the fens to snake and flies, with zeal
Unworthy human thought, I prostrate fell;
To shrubs and plants my vile devotion paid,
And set the bearded leek to which I pray'd;
When to all beings sacred rites were given,
forgot the Arbiter of earth and heaven?
Through these sad shades, this chaos in my soul,
Some seeds of light at length began to roll:
The rising motion of an infant ray
Shot glimmering through the cloud, and promised day.
And now one moment able to reflect,
I found the king abandon'd to neglect,
Seen without awe, and served without respect.
I found my subjects amicably join
To lessen their defects by citing mine.
The priest with pity prays for David's race,
And left his text to dwell on my disgrace.
The father, whilst he warn'd his erring son,
The sad examples which he ought to shun,
Described, and only named not, Solomon.
Each bard, each sire, did to his pupil sing,
A wise child better than a foolish king.
Into myself my reason's eye I turn'd,
And as I much reflected much I mourn'd.
A mighty king I am, an earthly god;
Nations obey my word and wait my nod:
I raise or sink, imprison or set free,
And life or death, depends on my decree.
Fond of the idea, and the thought is vain;
O'er Judah's king ten thousand tyrants reign,
Legions of lust and various powers of ill
Insult the master's tributary will;
And he from whom the nations should receive
Justice and freedom, lies himself a slave,
Tortured by cruel change of wild desires,
Lash'd by mad rage, and scorch'd by brutal fires.
O Reason! once again to thee I call;
Accept my sorrow and retrieve my fall.
Wisdom, thou say'st, from heaven received her birth,
Her beams transmitted to the subject earth:
Yet thi great empress of the human soul
Does only with the imagined power control,
If restless passion, by rebellious sway,
Compels the weak usurper to obey.
O troubled, weak, and coward, as thou art,
Without thy poor advice the labouring heart
To worse extremes with swifter steps would run,
Not saved by virtue, yet vice undone.
Oft have I said, the praise of doing well
Is to the ear as ointment to the smell.
Now if some flies perchance, however small,
Into the alabaster urn should fall,
The odours of the sweets enclosed would die,
And stench corrupt (sad change) their place supply:
So the least faults, if mixed with fairest deed,
Of future ill become the fatal seed;
Into the balm of purest virtue cast,
Annoy all life with one contagious blast.
Lost Solomon! pursue this thought no more;
Of thy past errors recollect the store;
And silent weep, that while the deathless Muse
Shall sing the just, shall o'er their head diffuse
Perfumes with lavish hand, she shall proclaim
Thy crimes alone, and to thy evil fame
Impartial, scatter damps and poisons on thy name.
Awaking therefore, as who long had dream'd,
Much of my women and their gods ashamed,
From this abyss of exemplary vice
Resolved, as time might aid my thought, to rise,
Again I bid the mournful goddess write
Of human hope by cross event destroy'd,
Of useless wealth and greatness enjoy'd;
Of lust and love, with their fantastic train,
Their wishes, smiles, and looks, deceitful all and vain.
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.
Canto the Fifth
When amatory poets sing their loves
In liquid lines mellifluously bland,
And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,
They little think what mischief is in hand;
The greater their success the worse it proves,
As Ovid's verse may give to understand;
Even Petrarch's self, if judged with due severity,
Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity.
I therefore do denounce all amorous writing,
Except in such a way as not to attract;
Plain -- simple -- short, and by no means inviting,
But with a moral to each error tack'd,
Form'd rather for instructing than delighting,
And with all passions in their turn attack'd;
Now, if my Pegasus should not be shod ill,
This poem will become a moral model.
The European with the Asian shore
Sprinkled with palaces; the ocean stream
Here and there studded with a seventy-four;
Sophia's cupola with golden gleam;
The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;
The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,
Far less describe, present the very view
Which charm'd the charming Mary Montagu.
I have a passion for the name of "Mary,"
For once it was a magic sound to me;
And still it half calls up the realms of fairy,
Where I beheld what never was to be;
All feelings changed, but this was last to vary,
A spell from which even yet I am not quite free:
But I grow sad -- and let a tale grow cold,
Which must not be pathetically told.
The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o'er the blue Symplegades;
'T is a grand sight from off the Giant's Grave
To watch the progress of those rolling seas
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease;
There's not a sea the passenger e'er pukes in,
Turns up more dangerous breakers than the Euxine.
'T was a raw day of Autumn's bleak beginning,
When nights are equal, but not so the days;
The Parcae then cut short the further spinning
Of seamen's fates, and the loud tempests raise
The waters, and repentance for past sinning
In all, who o'er the great deep take their ways:
They vow to amend their lives, and yet they don't;
Because if drown'd, they can't -- if spared, they won't.
A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation,
And age, and sex, were in the market ranged;
Each bevy with the merchant in his station:
Poor creatures! their good looks were sadly changed.
All save the blacks seem'd jaded with vexation,
From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged;
The negroes more philosophy display'd, --
Used to it, no doubt, as eels are to be flay'd.
Juan was juvenile, and thus was full,
As most at his age are, of hope and health;
Yet I must own he looked a little dull,
And now and then a tear stole down by stealth;
Perhaps his recent loss of blood might pull
His spirit down; and then the loss of wealth,
A mistress, and such comfortable quarters,
To be put up for auction amongst Tartars,
Were things to shake a stoic; ne'ertheless,
Upon the whole his carriage was serene:
His figure, and the splendour of his dress,
Of which some gilded remnants still were seen,
Drew all eyes on him, giving them to guess
He was above the vulgar by his mien;
And then, though pale, he was so very handsome;
And then -- they calculated on his ransom.
Like a backgammon board the place was dotted
With whites and blacks, in groups on show for sale,
Though rather more irregularly spotted:
Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.
It chanced amongst the other people lotted,
A man of thirty rather stout and hale,
With resolution in his dark grey eye,
Next Juan stood, till some might choose to buy.
He had an English look; that is, was square
In make, of a complexion white and ruddy,
Good teeth, with curling rather dark brown hair,
And, it might be from thought or toil or study,
An open brow a little mark'd with care:
One arm had on a bandage rather bloody;
And there he stood with such sang-froid, that greater
Could scarce be shown even by a mere spectator.
But seeing at his elbow a mere lad,
Of a high spirit evidently, though
At present weigh'd down by a doom which had
O'erthrown even men, he soon began to show
A kind of blunt compassion for the sad
Lot of so young a partner in the woe,
Which for himself he seem'd to deem no worse
Than any other scrape, a thing of course.
"My boy!" said he, "amidst this motley crew
Of Georgians, Russians, Nubians, and what not,
All ragamuffins differing but in hue,
With whom it is our luck to cast our lot,
The only gentlemen seem I and you;
So let us be acquainted, as we ought:
If I could yield you any consolation,
'T would give me pleasure. -- Pray, what is your nation?"
When Juan answer'd -- "Spanish!" he replied,
"I thought, in fact, you could not be a Greek;
Those servile dogs are not so proudly eyed:
Fortune has play'd you here a pretty freak,
But that's her way with all men, till they're tried;
But never mind, -- she'll turn, perhaps, next week;
She has served me also much the same as you,
Except that I have found it nothing new."
"Pray, sir," said Juan, "if I may presume,
What brought you here?" -- "Oh! nothing very rare --
Six Tartars and a drag-chain." -- "To this doom
But what conducted, if the question's fair,
Is that which I would learn." -- "I served for some
Months with the Russian army here and there,
And taking lately, by Suwarrow's bidding,
A town, was ta'en myself instead of Widdin."
"Have you no friends?" -- "I had -- but, by God's blessing,
Have not been troubled with them lately. Now
I have answer'd all your questions without pressing,
And you an equal courtesy should show.'
"Alas!" said Juan, "'t were a tale distressing,
And long besides." -- "Oh! if 't is really so,
You're right on both accounts to hold your tongue;
A sad tale saddens doubly, when't is long.
"But droop not: Fortune at your time of life,
Although a female moderately fickle,
Will hardly leave you (as she's not your wife)
For any length of days in such a pickle.
To strive, too, with our fate were such a strife
As if the corn-sheaf should oppose the sickle:
Men are the sport of circumstances, when
The circumstances seem the sport of men."
"'T is not," said Juan, "for my present doom
I mourn, but for the past; -- I loved a maid:" --
He paused, and his dark eye grew full of gloom;
A single tear upon his eyelash staid
A moment, and then dropp'd; "but to resume,
'T is not my present lot, as I have said,
Which I deplore so much; for I have borne
Hardships which have the hardiest overworn,
"On the rough deep. But this last blow --" and here
He stopp'd again, and turn'd away his face.
"Ay," quoth his friend, "I thought it would appear
That there had been a lady in the case;
And these are things which ask a tender tear,
Such as I, too, would shed if in your place:
I cried upon my first wife's dying day,
And also when my second ran away:
"My third --" -- "Your third!" quoth Juan, turning round;
"You scarcely can be thirty: have you three?"
"No -- only two at present above ground:
Surely 't is nothing wonderful to see
One person thrice in holy wedlock bound!"
"Well, then, your third," said Juan; "what did she?
She did not run away, too, -- did she, sir?"
"No, faith." -- "What then?" -- "I ran away from her."
"You take things coolly, sir," said Juan. "Why,"
Replied the other, "what can a man do?
There still are many rainbows in your sky,
But mine have vanish'd. All, when life is new,
Commence with feelings warm, and prospects high;
But time strips our illusions of their hue,
And one by one in turn, some grand mistake
Casts off its bright skin yearly like the snake.
"'T is true, it gets another bright and fresh,
Or fresher, brighter; but the year gone through,
This skin must go the way, too, of all flesh,
Or sometimes only wear a week or two; --
Love's the first net which spreads its deadly mesh;
Ambition, Avarice, Vengeance, Glory, glue
The glittering lime-twigs of our latter days,
Where still we flutter on for pence or praise."
"All this is very fine, and may be true,"
Said Juan; "but I really don't see how
It betters present times with me or you."
"No?" quoth the other; "yet you will allow
By setting things in their right point of view,
Knowledge, at least, is gain'd; for instance, now,
We know what slavery is, and our disasters
May teach us better to behave when masters."
"Would we were masters now, if but to try
Their present lessons on our Pagan friends here,"
Said Juan, -- swallowing a heart-burning sigh:
"Heaven help the scholar whom his fortune sends here!"
"Perhaps we shall be one day, by and by,"
Rejoin'd the other, when our bad luck mends here;
"Meantime (yon old black eunuch seems to eye us)
I wish to G-d that somebody would buy us.
"But after all, what is our present state?
'T is bad, and may be better -- all men's lot:
Most men are slaves, none more so than the great,
To their own whims and passions, and what not;
Society itself, which should create
Kindness, destroys what little we had got:
To feel for none is the true social art
Of the world's stoics -- men without a heart."
Just now a black old neutral personage
Of the third sex stept up, and peering over
The captives, seem'd to mark their looks and age,
And capabilities, as to discover
If they were fitted for the purposed cage:
No lady e'er is ogled by a lover,
Horse by a blackleg, broadcloth by a tailor,
Fee by a counsel, felon by a jailor,
As is a slave by his intended bidder.
'T is pleasant purchasing our fellow-creatures;
And all are to be sold, if you consider
Their passions, and are dext'rous; some by features
Are bought up, others by a warlike leader,
Some by a place -- as tend their years or natures;
The most by ready cash -- but all have prices,
From crowns to kicks, according to their vices.
The eunuch, having eyed them o'er with care,
Turn'd to the merchant, and begun to bid
First but for one, and after for the pair;
They haggled, wrangled, swore, too -- so they did!
As though they were in a mere Christian fair
Cheapening an ox, an ass, a lamb, or kid;
So that their bargain sounded like a battle
For this superior yoke of human cattle.
At last they settled into simple grumbling,
And pulling out reluctant purses, and
Turning each piece of silver o'er, and tumbling
Some down, and weighing others in their hand,
And by mistake sequins with paras jumbling,
Until the sum was accurately scann'd,
And then the merchant giving change, and signing
Receipts in full, began to think of dining.
I wonder if his appetite was good?
Or, if it were, if also his digestion?
Methinks at meals some odd thoughts might intrude,
And conscience ask a curious sort of question,
About the right divine how far we should
Sell flesh and blood. When dinner has opprest one,
I think it is perhaps the gloomiest hour
Which turns up out of the sad twenty-four.
Voltaire says "No:" he tells you that Candide
Found life most tolerable after meals;
He's wrong -- unless man were a pig, indeed,
Repletion rather adds to what he feels,
Unless he's drunk, and then no doubt he's freed
From his own brain's oppression while it reels.
Of food I think with Philip's son, or rather
Ammon's (ill pleased with one world and one father);
I think with Alexander, that the act
Of eating, with another act or two,
Makes us feel our mortality in fact
Redoubled; when a roast and a ragout,
And fish, and soup, by some side dishes back'd,
Can give us either pain or pleasure, who
Would pique himself on intellects, whose use
Depends so much upon the gastric juice?
The other evening ('t was on Friday last) --
This is a fact and no poetic fable --
Just as my great coat was about me cast,
My hat and gloves still lying on the table,
I heard a shot -- 't was eight o'clock scarce past --
And, running out as fast as I was able,
I found the military commandant
Stretch'd in the street, and able scarce to pant.
Poor fellow! for some reason, surely bad,
They had slain him with five slugs; and left him there
To perish on the pavement: so I had
Him borne into the house and up the stair,
And stripp'd and look'd to -- But why should I ad
More circumstances? vain was every care;
The man was gone: in some Italian quarrel
Kill'd by five bullets from an old gun-barrel.
I gazed upon him, for I knew him well;
And though I have seen many corpses, never
Saw one, whom such an accident befell,
So calm; though pierced through stomach, heart, and liver,
He seem'd to sleep, -- for you could scarcely tell
(As he bled inwardly, no hideous river
Of gore divulged the cause) that he was dead:
So as I gazed on him, I thought or said --
"Can this be death? then what is life or death?
Speak!" but he spoke not: "Wake!" but still he slept: --
"But yesterday and who had mightier breath?
A thousand warriors by his word were kept
In awe: he said, as the centurion saith,
'Go,' and he goeth; 'come,' and forth he stepp'd.
The trump and bugle till he spake were dumb --
And now nought left him but the muffled drum."
And they who waited once and worshipp'd -- they
With their rough faces throng'd about the bed
To gaze once more on the commanding clay
Which for the last, though not the first, time bled:
And such an end! that he who many a day
Had faced Napoleon's foes until they fled, --
The foremost in the charge or in the sally,
Should now be butcher'd in a civic alley.
The scars of his old wounds were near his new,
Those honourable scars which brought him fame;
And horrid was the contrast to the view --
But let me quit the theme; as such things claim
Perhaps even more attention than is due
From me: I gazed (as oft I have gazed the same)
To try if I could wrench aught out of death
Which should confirm, or shake, or make a faith;
But it was all a mystery. Here we are,
And there we go: -- but where? five bits of lead,
Or three, or two, or one, send very far!
And is this blood, then, form'd but to be shed?
Can every element our elements mar?
And air -- earth -- water -- fire live -- and we dead?
We whose minds comprehend all things? No more;
But let us to the story as before.
The purchaser of Juan and acquaintance
Bore off his bargains to a gilded boat,
Embark'd himself and them, and off they went thence
As fast as oars could pull and water float;
They look'd like persons being led to sentence,
Wondering what next, till the caïque was brought
Up in a little creek below a wall
O'ertopp'd with cypresses, dark-green and tall.
Here their conductor tapping at the wicket
Of a small iron door, 't was open'd, and
He led them onward, first through a low thicket
Flank'd by large groves, which tower'd on either hand:
They almost lost their way, and had to pick it --
For night was dosing ere they came to land.
The eunuch made a sign to those on board,
Who row'd off, leaving them without a word.
As they were plodding on their winding way
Through orange bowers, and jasmine, and so forth
(Of which I might have a good deal to say,
There being no such profusion in the North
Of oriental plants, "et cetera,"
But that of late your scribblers think it worth
Their while to rear whole hotbeds in their works
Because one poet travell'd 'mongst the Turks) --
As they were threading on their way, there came
Into Don Juan's head a thought, which he
Whisper'd to his companion: -- 't was the same
Which might have then occurr'd to you or me.
"Methinks," said he, "it would be no great shame
If we should strike a stroke to set us free;
Let's knock that old black fellow on the head,
And march away -- 't were easier done than said."
"Yes," said the other, "and when done, what then?
How get out? how the devil got we in?
And when we once were fairly out, and when
From Saint Bartholomew we have saved our skin,
To-morrow'd see us in some other den,
And worse off than we hitherto have been;
Besides, I'm hungry, and just now would take,
Like Esau, for my birthright a beef-steak.
"We must be near some place of man's abode; --
For the old negro's confidence in creeping,
With his two captives, by so queer a road,
Shows that he thinks his friends have not been sleeping;
A single cry would bring them all abroad:
'T is therefore better looking before leaping --
And there, you see, this turn has brought us through,
By Jove, a noble palace! -- lighted too."
It was indeed a wide extensive building
Which open'd on their view, and o'er the front
There seem'd to be besprent a deal of gilding
And various hues, as is the Turkish wont, --
A gaudy taste; for they are little skill'd in
The arts of which these lands were once the font:
Each villa on the Bosphorus looks a screen
New painted, or a pretty opera-scene.
And nearer as they came, a genial savour
Of certain stews, and roast-meats, and pilaus,
Things which in hungry mortals' eyes find favour,
Made Juan in his harsh intentions pause,
And put himself upon his good behaviour:
His friend, too, adding a new saving clause,
Said, "In Heaven's name let's get some supper now,
And then I'm with you, if you're for a row."
Some talk of an appeal unto some passion,
Some to men's feelings, others to their reason;
The last of these was never much the fashion,
For reason thinks all reasoning out of season.
Some speakers whine, and others lay the lash on,
But more or less continue still to tease on,
With arguments according to their "forte;"
But no one dreams of ever being short. --
But I digress: of all appeals, -- although
I grant the power of pathos, and of gold,
Of beauty, flattery, threats, a shilling, -- no
Method's more sure at moments to take hold
Of the best feelings of mankind, which grow
More tender, as we every day behold,
Than that all-softening, overpowering knell,
The tocsin of the soul -- the dinner-bell.
Turkey contains no bells, and yet men dine;
And Juan and his friend, albeit they heard
No Christian knoll to table, saw no line
Of lackeys usher to the feast prepared,
Yet smelt roast-meat, beheld a huge fire shine,
And cooks in motion with their clean arms bared,
And gazed around them to the left and right
With the prophetic eye of appetite.
And giving up all notions of resistance,
They follow'd close behind their sable guide,
Who little thought that his own crack'd existence
Was on the point of being set aside:
He motion'd them to stop at some small distance,
And knocking at the gate, 't was open'd wide,
And a magnificent large hall display'd
The Asian pomp of Ottoman parade.
I won't describe; description is my forte,
But every fool describes in these bright days
His wondrous journey to some foreign court,
And spawns his quarto, and demands your praise --
Death to his publisher, to him 't is sport;
While Nature, tortured twenty thousand ways,
Resigns herself with exemplary patience
To guide-books, rhymes, tours, sketches, illustrations.
Along this hall, and up and down, some, squatted
Upon their hams, were occupied at chess;
Others in monosyllable talk chatted,
And some seem'd much in love with their own dress.
And divers smoked superb pipes decorated
With amber mouths of greater price or less;
And several strutted, others slept, and some
Prepared for supper with a glass of rum.
As the black eunuch enter'd with his brace
Of purchased Infidels, some raised their eyes
A moment without slackening from their pace;
But those who sate ne'er stirr'd in anywise:
One or two stared the captives in the face,
Just as one views a horse to guess his price;
Some nodded to the negro from their station,
But no one troubled him with conversation.
He leads them through the hall, and, without stopping,
On through a farther range of goodly rooms,
Splendid but silent, save in one, where, dropping,
A marble fountain echoes through the glooms
Of night which robe the chamber, or where popping
Some female head most curiously presumes
To thrust its black eyes through the door or lattice,
As wondering what the devil a noise that is.
Some faint lamps gleaming from the lofty walls
Gave light enough to hint their farther way,
But not enough to show the imperial halls,
In all the flashing of their full array;
Perhaps there's nothing -- I'll not say appals,
But saddens more by night as well as day,
Than an enormous room without a soul
To break the lifeless splendour of the whole.
Two or three seem so little, one seems nothing:
In deserts, forests, crowds, or by the shore,
There solitude, we know, has her full growth in
The spots which were her realms for evermore;
But in a mighty hall or gallery, both in
More modern buildings and those built of yore,
A kind of death comes o'er us all alone,
Seeing what's meant for many with but one.
A neat, snug study on a winter's night,
A book, friend, single lady, or a glass
Of claret, sandwich, and an appetite,
Are things which make an English evening pass;
Though certes by no means so grand a sight
As is a theatre lit up by gas.
I pass my evenings in long galleries solely,
And that's the reason I'm so melancholy.
Alas! man makes that great which makes him little:
I grant you in a church 't is very well:
What speaks of Heaven should by no means be brittle,
But strong and lasting, till no tongue can tell
Their names who rear'd it; but huge houses fit ill --
And huge tombs worse -- mankind, since Adam fell:
Methinks the story of the tower of Babel
Might teach them this much better than I'm able.
Babel was Nimrod's hunting-box, and then
A town of gardens, walls, and wealth amazing,
Where Nabuchadonosor, king of men,
Reign'd, till one summer's day he took to grazing,
And Daniel tamed the lions in their den,
The people's awe and admiration raising;
'T was famous, too, for Thisbe and for Pyramus,
And the calumniated queen Semiramis.
That injured Queen by chroniclers so coarse
Has been accused (I doubt not by conspiracy)
Of an improper friendship for her horse
(Love, like religion, sometimes runs to heresy):
This monstrous tale had probably its source
(For such exaggerations here and there I see)
In writing "Courser" by mistake for "Courier:"
I wish the case could come before a jury here.
But to resume, -- should there be (what may not
Be in these days?) some infidels, who don't,
Because they can't find out the very spot
Of that same Babel, or because they won't
(Though Claudius Rich, Esquire, some bricks has got,
And written lately two memoirs upon't),
Believe the Jews, those unbelievers, who
Must be believed, though they believe not you,
Yet let them think that Horace has exprest
Shortly and sweetly the masonic folly
Of those, forgetting the great place of rest,
Who give themselves to architecture wholly;
We know where things and men must end at best:
A moral (like all morals) melancholy,
And "Et sepulchri immemor struis domos"
Shows that we build when we should but entomb us.
At last they reach'd a quarter most retired,
Where echo woke as if from a long slumber;
Though full of all things which could be desired,
One wonder'd what to do with such a number
Of articles which nobody required;
Here wealth had done its utmost to encumber
With furniture an exquisite apartment,
Which puzzled Nature much to know what Art meant.
It seem'd, however, but to open on
A range or suite of further chambers, which
Might lead to heaven knows where; but in this one
The movables were prodigally rich:
Sofas 't was half a sin to sit upon,
So costly were they; carpets every stitch
Of workmanship so rare, they made you wish
You could glide o'er them like a golden fish.
The black, however, without hardly deigning
A glance at that which wrapt the slaves in wonder,
Trampled what they scarce trod for fear of staining,
As if the milky way their feet was under
With all its stars; and with a stretch attaining
A certain press or cupboard niched in yonder --
In that remote recess which you may see --
Or if you don't the fault is not in me, --
I wish to be perspicuous; and the black,
I say, unlocking the recess, pull'd forth
A quantity of clothes fit for the back
Of any Mussulman, whate'er his worth;
And of variety there was no lack --
And yet, though I have said there was no dearth,
He chose himself to point out what he thought
Most proper for the Christians he had bought.
The suit he thought most suitable to each
Was, for the elder and the stouter, first
A Candiote cloak, which to the knee might reach,
And trousers not so tight that they would burst,
But such as fit an Asiatic breech;
A shawl, whose folds in Cashmire had been nurst,
Slippers of saffron, dagger rich and handy;
In short, all things which form a Turkish Dandy.
While he was dressing, Baba, their black friend,
Hinted the vast advantages which they
Might probably attain both in the end,
If they would but pursue the proper way
Which fortune plainly seem'd to recommend;
And then he added, that he needs must say,
"'T would greatly tend to better their condition,
If they would condescend to circumcision.
"For his own part, he really should rejoice
To see them true believers, but no less
Would leave his proposition to their choice."
The other, thanking him for this excess
Of goodness, in thus leaving them a voice
In such a trifle, scarcely could express
"Sufficiently" (he said) "his approbation
Of all the customs of this polish'd nation.
"For his own share -- he saw but small objection
To so respectable an ancient rite;
And, after swallowing down a slight refection,
For which he own'd a present appetite,
He doubted not a few hours of reflection
Would reconcile him to the business quite."
"Will it?" said Juan, sharply: "Strike me dead,
But they as soon shall circumcise my head!
"Cut off a thousand heads, before--" -- "Now, pray,"
Replied the other, "do not interrupt:
You put me out in what I had to say.
Sir! -- as I said, as soon as I have supt,
I shall perpend if your proposal may
Be such as I can properly accept;
Provided always your great goodness still
Remits the matter to our own free-will."
Baba eyed Juan, and said, "Be so good
As dress yourself-" and pointed out a suit
In which a Princess with great pleasure would
Array her limbs; but Juan standing mute,
As not being in a masquerading mood,
Gave it a slight kick with his Christian foot;
And when the old negro told him to "Get ready,"
Replied, "Old gentleman, I'm not a lady."
"What you may be, I neither know nor care,"
Said Baba; "but pray do as I desire:
I have no more time nor many words to spare."
"At least," said Juan, "sure I may enquire
The cause of this odd travesty?" -- "Forbear,"
Said Baba, "to be curious; 't will transpire,
No doubt, in proper place, and time, and season:
I have no authority to tell the reason."
"Then if I do," said Juan, "I'll be --" -- "Hold!"
Rejoin'd the negro, "pray be not provoking;
This spirit's well, but it may wax too bold,
And you will find us not too fond of joking."
"What, sir!" said Juan, "shall it e'er be told
That I unsex'd my dress?" But Baba, stroking
The things down, said, "Incense me, and I call
Those who will leave you of no sex at all.
"I offer you a handsome suit of clothes:
A woman's, true; but then there is a cause
Why you should wear them." -- "What, though my soul loathes
The effeminate garb?" -- thus, after a short pause,
Sigh'd Juan, muttering also some slight oaths,
"What the devil shall I do with all this gauze?"
Thus he profanely term'd the finest lace
Which e'er set off a marriage-morning face.
And then he swore; and, sighing, on he slipp'd
A pair of trousers of flesh-colour'd silk;
Next with a virgin zone he was equipp'd,
Which girt a slight chemise as white as milk;
But tugging on his petticoat, he tripp'd,
Which -- as we say -- or, as the Scotch say, whilk
(The rhyme obliges me to this; sometimes
Monarchs are less imperative than rhymes) --
Whilk, which (or what you please), was owing to
His garment's novelty, and his being awkward:
And yet at last he managed to get through
His toilet, though no doubt a little backward:
The negro Baba help'd a little too,
When some untoward part of raiment stuck hard;
And, wrestling both his arms into a gown,
He paused, and took a survey up and down.
One difficulty still remain'd -- his hair
Was hardly long enough; but Baba found
So many false long tresses all to spare,
That soon his head was most completely crown'd,
After the manner then in fashion there;
And this addition with such gems was bound
As suited the ensemble of his toilet,
While Baba made him comb his head and oil it.
And now being femininely all array'd,
With some small aid from scissors, paint, and tweezers,
He look'd in almost all respects a maid,
And Baba smilingly exclaim'd, "You see, sirs,
A perfect transformation here display'd;
And now, then, you must come along with me, sirs,
That is -- the Lady:" clapping his hands twice,
Four blacks were at his elbow in a trice.
"You, sir," said Baba, nodding to the one,
'Will please to accompany those gentlemen
To supper; but you, worthy Christian nun,
Will follow me: no trifling, sir; for when
I say a thing, it must at once be done.
What fear you? think you this a lion's den?
Why, 't is a palace; where the truly wise
Anticipate the Prophet's paradise.
"You fool! I tell you no one means you harm."
"So much the better," Juan said, "for them;
Else they shall feel the weight of this my arm,
Which is not quite so light as you may deem.
I yield thus far; but soon will break the charm
If any take me for that which I seem:
So that I trust for everybody's sake,
That this disguise may lead to no mistake."
"Blockhead! come on, and see," quoth Baba; while
Don Juan, turning to his comrade, who
Though somewhat grieved, could scarce forbear a smile
Upon the metamorphosis in view, --
"Farewell!" they mutually exclaim'd: "this soil
Seems fertile in adventures strange and new;
One's turn'd half Mussulman, and one a maid,
By this old black enchanter's unsought aid."
"Farewell!" said Juan: 'should we meet no more,
I wish you a good appetite." -- "Farewell!"
Replied the other; "though it grieves me sore;
When we next meet we'll have a tale to tell:
We needs must follow when Fate puts from shore.
Keep your good name; though Eve herself once fell."
"Nay," quoth the maid, "the Sultan's self shan't carry me,
Unless his highness promises to marry me."
And thus they parted, each by separate doors;
Baba led Juan onward room by room
Through glittering galleries and o'er marble floors,
Till a gigantic portal through the gloom,
Haughty and huge, along the distance lowers;
And wafted far arose a rich perfume:
It seem'd as though they came upon a shrine,
For all was vast, still, fragrant, and divine.
The giant door was broad, and bright, and high,
Of gilded bronze, and carved in curious guise;
Warriors thereon were battling furiously;
Here stalks the victor, there the vanquish'd lies;
There captives led in triumph droop the eye,
And in perspective many a squadron flies:
It seems the work of times before the line
Of Rome transplanted fell with Constantine.
This massy portal stood at the wide close
Of a huge hall, and on its either side
Two little dwarfs, the least you could suppose,
Were sate, like ugly imps, as if allied
In mockery to the enormous gate which rose
O'er them in almost pyramidic pride:
The gate so splendid was in all its features,
You never thought about those little creatures,
Until you nearly trod on them, and then
You started back in horror to survey
The wondrous hideousness of those small men,
Whose colour was not black, nor white, nor grey,
But an extraneous mixture, which no pen
Can trace, although perhaps the pencil may;
They were mis-shapen pigmies, deaf and dumb --
Monsters, who cost a no less monstrous sum.
Their duty was -- for they were strong, and though
They look'd so little, did strong things at times --
To ope this door, which they could really do,
The hinges being as smooth as Rogers' rhymes;
And now and then, with tough strings of the bow,
As is the custom of those Eastern climes,
To give some rebel Pacha a cravat;
For mutes are generally used for that.
They spoke by signs -- that is, not spoke at all;
And looking like two incubi, they glared
As Baba with his fingers made them fall
To heaving back the portal folds: it scared
Juan a moment, as this pair so small
With shrinking serpent optics on him stared;
It was as if their little looks could poison
Or fascinate whome'er they fix'd their eyes on.
Before they enter'd, Baba paused to hint
To Juan some slight lessons as his guide:
"If you could just contrive," he said, "to stint
That somewhat manly majesty of stride,
'T would be as well, and (though there's not much in 't)
To swing a little less from side to side,
Which has at times an aspect of the oddest; --
And also could you look a little modest,
"'T would be convenient; for these mutes have eyes
Like needles, which may pierce those petticoats;
And if they should discover your disguise,
You know how near us the deep Bosphorus floats;
And you and I may chance, ere morning rise,
To find our way to Marmora without boats,
Stitch'd up in sacks -- a mode of navigation
A good deal practised here upon occasion."
With this encouragement, he led the way
Into a room still nobler than the last;
A rich confusion form'd a disarray
In such sort, that the eye along it cast
Could hardly carry anything away,
Object on object flash'd so bright and fast;
A dazzling mass of gems, and gold, and glitter,
Magnificently mingled in a litter.
Wealth had done wonders -- taste not much; such things
Occur in Orient palaces, and even
In the more chasten'd domes of Western kings
(Of which I have also seen some six or seven),
Where I can't say or gold or diamond flings
Great lustre, there is much to be forgiven;
Groups of bad statues, tables, chairs, and pictures,
On which I cannot pause to make my strictures.
In this imperial hall, at distance lay
Under a canopy, and there reclined
Quite in a confidential queenly way,
A lady; Baba stopp'd, and kneeling sign'd
To Juan, who though not much used to pray,
Knelt down by instinct, wondering in his mind,
What all this meant: while Baba bow'd and bended
His head, until the ceremony ended.
The lady rising up with such an air
As Venus rose with from the wave, on them
Bent like an antelope a Paphian pair
Of eyes, which put out each surrounding gem;
And raising up an arm as moonlight fair,
She sign'd to Baba, who first kiss'd the hem
Of her deep purple robe, and speaking low,
Pointed to Juan who remain'd below.
Her presence was as lofty as her state;
Her beauty of that overpowering kind,
Whose force description only would abate:
I'd rather leave it much to your own mind,
Than lessen it by what I could relate
Of forms and features; it would strike you blind
Could I do justice to the full detail;
So, luckily for both, my phrases fail.
Thus much however I may add, -- her years
Were ripe, they might make six-and-twenty springs;
But there are forms which Time to touch forbears,
And turns aside his scythe to vulgar things,
Such as was Mary's Queen of Scots; true -- tears
And love destroy; and sapping sorrow wrings
Charms from the charmer, yet some never grow
Ugly; for instance -- Ninon de l'Enclos.
She spake some words to her attendants, who
Composed a choir of girls, ten or a dozen,
And were all clad alike; like Juan, too,
Who wore their uniform, by Baba chosen;
They form'd a very nymph-like looking crew,
Which might have call'd Diana's chorus "cousin,"
As far as outward show may correspond;
I won't be bail for anything beyond.
They bow'd obeisance and withdrew, retiring,
But not by the same door through which came in
Baba and Juan, which last stood admiring,
At some small distance, all he saw within
This strange saloon, much fitted for inspiring
Marvel and praise; for both or none things win;
And I must say, I ne'er could see the very
Great happiness of the "Nil Admirari."
"Not to admire is all the art I know
(Plain truth, dear Murray, needs few flowers of speech)
To make men happy, or to keep them so"
(So take it in the very words of Creech) --
Thus Horace wrote we all know long ago;
And thus Pope quotes the precept to re-teach
From his translation; but had none admired,
Would Pope have sung, or Horace been inspired?
Baba, when all the damsels were withdrawn,
Motion'd to Juan to approach, and then
A second time desired him to kneel down,
And kiss the lady's foot; which maxim when
He heard repeated, Juan with a frown
Drew himself up to his full height again,
And said, "It grieved him, but he could not stoop
To any shoe, unless it shod the Pope."
Baba, indignant at this ill-timed pride,
Made fierce remonstrances, and then a threat
He mutter'd (but the last was given aside)
About a bow-string -- quite in vain; not yet
Would Juan bend, though 't were to Mahomet's bride:
There's nothing in the world like etiquette
In kingly chambers or imperial halls,
As also at the race and county balls.
He stood like Atlas, with a world of words
About his ears, and nathless would not bend:
The blood of all his line's Castilian lords
Boil'd in his veins, and rather than descend
To stain his pedigree a thousand swords
A thousand times of him had made an end;
At length perceiving the "foot" could not stand,
Baba proposed that he should kiss the hand.
Here was an honourable compromise,
A half-way house of diplomatic rest,
Where they might meet in much more peaceful guise;
And Juan now his willingness exprest
To use all fit and proper courtesies,
Adding, that this was commonest and best,
For through the South the custom still commands
The gentleman to kiss the lady's hands.
And he advanced, though with but a bad grace,
Though on more thorough-bred or fairer fingers
No lips e'er left their transitory trace;
On such as these the lip too fondly lingers,
And for one kiss would fain imprint a brace,
As you will see, if she you love shall bring hers
In contact; and sometimes even a fair stranger's
An almost twelvemonth's constancy endangers.
The lady eyed him o'er and o'er, and bade
Baba retire, which he obey'd in style,
As if well used to the retreating trade;
And taking hints in good part all the while,
He whisper'd Juan not to be afraid,
And looking on him with a sort of smile,
Took leave, with such a face of satisfaction
As good men wear who have done a virtuous action.
When he was gone, there was a sudden change:
I know not what might be the lady's thought,
But o'er her bright brow flash'd a tumult strange,
And into her dear cheek the blood was brought,
Blood-red as sunset summer clouds which range
The verge of Heaven; and in her large eyes wrought,
A mixture of sensations might be scann'd,
Of half voluptuousness and half command.
Her form had all the softness of her sex,
Her features all the sweetness of the devil,
When he put on the cherub to perplex
Eve, and paved (God knows how) the road to evil;
The sun himself was scarce more free from specks
Than she from aught at which the eye could cavil;
Yet, somehow, there was something somewhere wanting,
As if she rather order'd than was granting.
Something imperial, or imperious, threw
A chain o'er all she did; that is, a chain
Was thrown as 't were about the neck of you, --
And rapture's self will seem almost a pain
With aught which looks like despotism in view:
Our souls at least are free, and 't is in vain
We would against them make the flesh obey --
The spirit in the end will have its way.
Her very smile was haughty, though so sweet;
Her very nod was not an inclination;
There was a self-will even in her small feet,
As though they were quite conscious of her station --
They trod as upon necks; and to complete
Her state (it is the custom of her nation),
A poniard deck'd her girdle, as the sign
She was a sultan's bride (thank Heaven, not mine!).
"To hear and to obey" had been from birth
The law of all around her; to fulfill
All phantasies which yielded joy or mirth,
Had been her slaves' chief pleasure, as her will;
Her blood was high, her beauty scarce of earth:
Judge, then, if her caprices e'er stood still;
Had she but been a Christian, I've a notion
We should have found out the "perpetual motion."
Whate'er she saw and coveted was brought;
Whate'er she did not see, if she supposed
It might be seen, with diligence was sought,
And when 't was found straightway the bargain closed;
There was no end unto the things she bought,
Nor to the trouble which her fancies caused;
Yet even her tyranny had such a grace,
The women pardon'd all except her face.
Juan, the latest of her whims, had caught
Her eye in passing on his way to sale;
She order'd him directly to be bought,
And Baba, who had ne'er been known to fail
In any kind of mischief to be wrought,
At all such auctions knew how to prevail:
She had no prudence, but he had; and this
Explains the garb which Juan took amiss.
His youth and features favour'd the disguise,
And, should you ask how she, a sultan's bride,
Could risk or compass such strange phantasies,
This I must leave sultanas to decide:
Emperors are only husbands in wives' eyes,
And kings and consorts oft are mystified,
As we may ascertain with due precision,
Some by experience, others by tradition.
But to the main point, where we have been tending: --
She now conceived all difficulties past,
And deem'd herself extremely condescending
When, being made her property at last,
Without more preface, in her blue eyes blending
Passion and power, a glance on him she cast,
And merely saying, "Christian, canst thou love?"
Conceived that phrase was quite enough to move.
And so it was, in proper time and place;
But Juan, who had still his mind o'erflowing
With Haidée's isle and soft Ionian face,
Felt the warm blood, which in his face was glowing,
Rush back upon his heart, which fill'd apace,
And left his cheeks as pale as snowdrops blowing;
These words went through his soul like Arab-spears,
So that he spoke not, but burst into tears.
She was a good deal shock'd; not shock'd at tears,
For women shed and use them at their liking;
But there is something when man's eye appears
Wet, still more disagreeable and striking;
A woman's tear-drop melts, a man's half sears,
Like molten lead, as if you thrust a pike in
His heart to force it out, for (to be shorter)
To them 't is a relief, to us a torture.
And she would have consoled, but knew not how:
Having no equals, nothing which had e'er
Infected her with sympathy till now,
And never having dreamt what 't was to bear
Aught of a serious, sorrowing kind, although
There might arise some pouting petty care
To cross her brow, she wonder'd how so near
Her eyes another's eye could shed a tear.
But nature teaches more than power can spoil,
And, when a strong although a strange sensation
Moves -- female hearts are such a genial soil
For kinder feelings, whatsoe'er their nation,
They naturally pour the "wine and oil,"
Samaritans in every situation;
And thus Gulbeyaz, though she knew not why,
Felt an odd glistening moisture in her eye.
But tears must stop like all things else; and soon
Juan, who for an instant had been moved
To such a sorrow by the intrusive tone
Of one who dared to ask if "he had loved,"
Call'd back the stoic to his eyes, which shone
Bright with the very weakness he reproved;
And although sensitive to beauty, he
Felt most indignant still at not being free.
Gulbeyaz, for the first time in her days,
Was much embarrass'd, never having met
In all her life with aught save prayers and praise;
And as she also risk'd her life to get
Him whom she meant to tutor in love's ways
Into a comfortable tete-a-tete,
To lose the hour would make her quite a martyr,
And they had wasted now almost a quarter.
I also would suggest the fitting time
To gentlemen in any such like case,
That is to say in a meridian clime --
With us there is more law given to the chase,
But here a small delay forms a great crime:
So recollect that the extremest grace
Is just two minutes for your declaration --
A moment more would hurt your reputation.
Juan's was good; and might have been still better,
But he had got Haidée into his head:
However strange, he could not yet forget her,
Which made him seem exceedingly ill-bred.
Gulbeyaz, who look'd on him as her debtor
For having had him to her palace led,
Began to blush up to the eyes, and then
Grow deadly pale, and then blush back again.
At length, in an imperial way, she laid
Her hand on his, and bending on him eyes
Which needed not an empire to persuade,
Look'd into his for love, where none replies:
Her brow grew black, but she would not upbraid,
That being the last thing a proud woman tries;
She rose, and pausing one chaste moment, threw
Herself upon his breast, and there she grew.
This was an awkward test, as Juan found,
But he was steel'd by sorrow, wrath, and pride:
With gentle force her white arms he unwound,
And seated her all drooping by his side,
Then rising haughtily he glanced around,
And looking coldly in her face, he cried,
"The prison'd eagle will not pair, nor I
Serve a Sultana's sensual phantasy.
"Thou ask'st if I can love? be this the proof
How much I have loved -- that I love not thee!
In this vile garb, the distaff, web, and woof,
Were fitter for me: Love is for the free!
I am not dazzled by this splendid roof,
Whate'er thy power, and great it seems to be;
Heads bow, knees bend, eyes watch around a throne,
And hands obey -- our hearts are still our own."
This was a truth to us extremely trite;
Not so to her, who ne'er had heard such things:
She deem'd her least command must yield delight,
Earth being only made for queens and kings.
If hearts lay on the left side or the right
She hardly knew, to such perfection brings
Legitimacy its born votaries, when
Aware of their due royal rights o'er men.
Besides, as has been said, she was so fair
As even in a much humbler lot had made
A kingdom or confusion anywhere,
And also, as may be presumed, she laid
Some stress on charms, which seldom are, if e'er,
By their possessors thrown into the shade:
She thought hers gave a double "right divine;"
And half of that opinion's also mine.
Remember, or (if you can not) imagine,
Ye, who have kept your chastity when young,
While some more desperate dowager has been waging
Love with you, and been in the dog-days stung
By your refusal, recollect her raging!
Or recollect all that was said or sung
On such a subject; then suppose the face
Of a young downright beauty in this case.
Suppose, -- but you already have supposed,
The spouse of Potiphar, the Lady Booby,
Phaedra, and all which story has disclosed
Of good examples; pity that so few by
Poets and private tutors are exposed,
To educate -- ye youth of Europe -- you by!
But when you have supposed the few we know,
You can't suppose Gulbeyaz' angry brow.
A tigress robb'd of young, a lioness,
Or any interesting beast of prey,
Are similes at hand for the distress
Of ladies who can not have their own way;
But though my turn will not be served with less,
These don't express one half what I should say:
For what is stealing young ones, few or many,
To cutting short their hopes of having any?
The love of offspring's nature's general law,
From tigresses and cubs to ducks and ducklings;
There's nothing whets the beak, or arms the claw
Like an invasion of their babes and sucklings;
And all who have seen a human nursery, saw
How mothers love their children's squalls and chucklings;
This strong extreme effect (to tire no longer
Your patience) shows the cause must still be stronger.
If I said fire flash'd from Gulbeyaz' eyes,
'T were nothing -- for her eyes flash'd always fire;
Or said her cheeks assumed the deepest dyes,
I should but bring disgrace upon the dyer,
So supernatural was her passion's rise;
For ne'er till now she knew a check'd desire:
Even ye who know what a check'd woman is
(Enough, God knows!) would much fall short of this.
Her rage was but a minute's, and 't was well --
A moment's more had slain her; but the while
It lasted 't was like a short glimpse of hell:
Nought's more sublime than energetic bile,
Though horrible to see yet grand to tell,
Like ocean warring 'gainst a rocky isle;
And the deep passions flashing through her form
Made her a beautiful embodied storm.
A vulgar tempest 't were to a typhoon
To match a common fury with her rage,
And yet she did not want to reach the moon,
Like moderate Hotspur on the immortal page;
Her anger pitch'd into a lower tune,
Perhaps the fault of her soft sex and age --
Her wish was but to "kill, kill, kill," like Lear's,
And then her thirst of blood was quench'd in tears.
A storm it raged, and like the storm it pass'd,
Pass'd without words -- in fact she could not speak;
And then her sex's shame broke in at last,
A sentiment till then in her but weak,
But now it flow'd in natural and fast,
As water through an unexpected leak;
For she felt humbled -- and humiliation
Is sometimes good for people in her station
It teaches them that they are flesh and blood,
It also gently hints to them that others,
Although of clay, are yet not quite of mud;
That urns and pipkins are but fragile brothers,
And works of the same pottery, bad or good,
Though not all born of the same sires and mothers:
It teaches -- Heaven knows only what it teaches,
But sometimes it may mend, and often reaches.
Her first thought was to cut off Juan's head;
Her second, to cut only his -- acquaintance;
Her third, to ask him where he had been bred;
Her fourth, to rally him into repentance;
Her fifth, to call her maids and go to bed;
Her sixth, to stab herself; her seventh, to sentence
The lash to Baba: -- but her grand resource
Was to sit down again, and cry of course.
She thought to stab herself, but then she had
The dagger close at hand, which made it awkward;
For Eastern stays are little made to pad,
So that a poniard pierces if 't is stuck hard:
She thought of killing Juan -- but, poor lad!
Though he deserved it well for being so backward,
The cutting off his head was not the art
Most likely to attain her aim -- his heart.
Juan was moved; he had made up his mind
To be impaled, or quarter'd as a dish
For dogs, or to be slain with pangs refined,
Or thrown to lions, or made baits for fish,
And thus heroically stood resign'd,
Rather than sin -- except to his own wish:
But all his great preparatives for dying
Dissolved like snow before a woman crying.
As through his palms Bob Acres' valour oozed,
So Juan's virtue ebb'd, I know not how;
And first he wonder'd why he had refused;
And then, if matters could be made up now;
And next his savage virtue he accused,
Just as a friar may accuse his vow,
Or as a dame repents her of her oath,
Which mostly ends in some small breach of both.
So he began to stammer some excuses;
But words are not enough in such a matter,
Although you borrow'd all that e'er the muses
Have sung, or even a Dandy's dandiest chatter,
Or all the figures Castlereagh abuses;
Just as a languid smile began to flatter
His peace was making, but before he ventured
Further, old Baba rather briskly enter'd.
"Bride of the Sun! and Sister of the Moon!"
('T was thus he spake) "and Empress of the Earth!
Whose frown would put the spheres all out of tune,
Whose smile makes all the planets dance with mirth,
Your slave brings tidings -- he hopes not too soon --
Which your sublime attention may be worth:
The Sun himself has sent me like a ray,
To hint that he is coming up this way."
"Is it," exclaim'd Gulbeyaz, "as you say?
I wish to heaven he would not shine till morning!
But bid my women form the milky way.
Hence, my old comet! give the stars due warning --
And, Christian! mingle with them as you may,
And as you'd have me pardon your past scorning --"
Here they were interrupted by a humming
Sound, and then by a cry, "The Sultan's coming!"
First came her damsels, a decorous file,
And then his Highness' eunuchs, black and white;
The train might reach a quarter of a mile:
His majesty was always so polite
As to announce his visits a long while
Before he came, especially at night;
For being the last wife of the Emperour,
She was of course the favorite of the four.
His Highness was a man of solemn port,
Shawl'd to the nose, and bearded to the eyes,
Snatch'd from a prison to preside at court,
His lately bowstrung brother caused his rise;
He was as good a sovereign of the sort
As any mention'd in the histories
Of Cantemir, or Knolles, where few shine
Save Solyman, the glory of their line.
He went to mosque in state, and said his prayers
With more than "Oriental scrupulosity;"
He left to his vizier all state affairs,
And show'd but little royal curiosity:
I know not if he had domestic cares --
No process proved connubial animosity;
Four wives and twice five hundred maids, unseen,
Were ruled as calmly as a Christian queen.
If now and then there happen'd a slight slip,
Little was heard of criminal or crime;
The story scarcely pass'd a single lip --
The sack and sea had settled all in time,
From which the secret nobody could rip:
The Public knew no more than does this rhyme;
No scandals made the daily press a curse --
Morals were better, and the fish no worse.
He saw with his own eyes the moon was round,
Was also certain that the earth was square,
Because he had journey'd fifty miles, and found
No sign that it was circular anywhere;
His empire also was without a bound:
'T is true, a little troubled here and there,
By rebel pachas, and encroaching giaours,
But then they never came to "the Seven Towers;"
Except in shape of envoys, who were sent
To lodge there when a war broke out, according
To the true law of nations, which ne'er meant
Those scoundrels, who have never had a sword in
Their dirty diplomatic hands, to vent
Their spleen in making strife, and safely wording
Their lies, yclep'd despatches, without risk or
The singeing of a single inky whisker.
He had fifty daughters and four dozen sons,
Of whom all such as came of age were stow'd,
The former in a palace, where like nuns
They lived till some Bashaw was sent abroad,
When she, whose turn it was, was wed at once,
Sometimes at six years old -- though it seems odd,
'T is true; the reason is, that the Bashaw
Must make a present to his sire in law.
His sons were kept in prison, till they grew
Of years to fill a bowstring or the throne,
One or the other, but which of the two
Could yet be known unto the fates alone;
Meantime the education they went through
Was princely, as the proofs have always shown:
So that the heir apparent still was found
No less deserving to be hang'd than crown'd.
His majesty saluted his fourth spouse
With all the ceremonies of his rank,
Who clear'd her sparkling eyes and smooth'd her brows,
As suits a matron who has play'd a prank;
These must seem doubly mindful of their vows,
To save the credit of their breaking bank:
To no men are such cordial greetings given
As those whose wives have made them fit for heaven.
His Highness cast around his great black eyes,
And looking, as he always look'd, perceived
Juan amongst the damsels in disguise,
At which he seem'd no whit surprised nor grieved,
But just remark'd with air sedate and wise,
While still a fluttering sigh Gulbeyaz heaved,
"I see you've bought another girl; 't is pity
That a mere Christian should be half so pretty."
This compliment, which drew all eyes upon
The new-bought virgin, made her blush and shake.
Her comrades, also, thought themselves undone:
Oh! Mahomet! that his majesty should take
Such notice of a giaour, while scarce to one
Of them his lips imperial ever spake!
There was a general whisper, toss, and wriggle,
But etiquette forbade them all to giggle.
The Turks do well to shut -- at least, sometimes --
The women up, because, in sad reality,
Their chastity in these unhappy climes
Is not a thing of that astringent quality
Which in the North prevents precocious crimes,
And makes our snow less pure than our morality;
The sun, which yearly melts the polar ice,
Has quite the contrary effect on vice.
Thus in the East they are extremely strict,
And Wedlock and a Padlock mean the same;
Excepting only when the former's pick'd
It ne'er can be replaced in proper frame;
Spoilt, as a pipe of claret is when prick'd:
But then their own Polygamy's to blame;
Why don't they knead two virtuous souls for life
Into that moral centaur, man and wife?
Thus far our chronicle; and now we pause,
Though not for want of matter; but 't is time
According to the ancient epic laws,
To slacken sail, and anchor with our rhyme.
Let this fifth canto meet with due applause,
The sixth shall have a touch of the sublime;
Meanwhile, as Homer sometimes sleeps, perhaps
You'll pardon to my muse a few short naps.