O! My little girl is gone!
To all the mothers who have lost their daughter/s.
O! My little girl is gone
O! My little girl, my heart is torn
From the day that she was born
Who knew so early she would be gone?
As the truth lays hidden beneath the sun
My heart constantly aches
While it lies fully awake
Daddy’s little girl full of hope,
Denied the chance to develop
Mummy’s little girl full of scope,
How can I, this distraught mum cope?
She walked the path of immense beauty
With this intense world in her little pocket
O! She was a little girl, a young pretty cutie
O! Her sweet memories, how can we forget?
And I can cry no more
Like I used to do before
Day and night I suffer in anguish
O! My little girl, my little young Miss
Day and night, you I can no longer kiss
I hope that in heaven her heart is at peace
Gone is my bundle of sweetness
And days of walking her to school
Gone is mother’s display of fondness
And days of fun with her in a pool
O! My little girl is gone
O! My little girl, my heart is torn
I think of all the things we could have done!
As a proud parental mother and a child
While life’s tide rolled in-shore mild or wild
Gone are the smiles and rosy cheeks
And her nice little mischievous tricks
As I sit there, ponder and begin to weep
Gone is the time she starts to read books!
And makes efforts to improve upon her looks
And I will miss all her little cuddles
And playing mud and splashing puddles
And I will miss her sweet voice
And all her loud playful noise
I ponder on what could have been
This no longer remains to be seen
O! My little girl, who knows the truth?
I shall think of you everyday by the hour
As my own priceless beautiful lost flower
And the favourite saying like mother, like daughter
Has forever lost its fertility to mature any further!
O! My little girl is gone!
O! My little girl is gone!
From the day that she was born
Who knew so early she would be gone?
- quotes about girls
- quotes about time
- quotes about beginning
- quotes about pain
- quotes about walking
- quotes about development
- quotes about birth
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about books
Long Lost Daughter
This poem was inspired by a storyline on the TV show 'Casualty', when Colette's long lost daughter found her.
My Mum came to see me at work,
Asking to speak to me urgently.
She had recieved a phone call
From my long lost daughter, Natalie.
Then one day, Natalie turned up at work.
I was taken by surprise:
She was a beautiful young lady now,
And was stood before my very eyes.
I asked my boss for an hour's break.
Natalie and I went for a walk.
We had a lot of catching up to do,
And had a good heart to heart talk.
She asked why I had her adopted
And I had to tell her the truth.
My Mum had told me if I kept her,
I was no longer welcome under her roof.
I was fifteen at the time.
I was alone and very afraid.
Soon after I had her, she was whisked away,
And so it was at home I stayed.
She asked about her father,
But he left me years ago.
When he discovered I was pregnant,
He just didn't want to know.
Sixteen years had passed
Since I gave my little girl away,
But eventhough life carried on,
I thought about her every day.
Only those close to me knew of her existence.
I'd kept her a secret all that time,
But now the time had finally arrived,
To tell the world, Natalie was mine!
You're Lost Little Girl
You're lost little girl
You're lost little girl
Tell me who
I think that you know what to do
Impossible? Yes, but it's true
I think that you know what to do, yeah
I'm sure that you know what to do
You're lost little girl
You're lost little girl
Tell me who
I think that you know what to do
Impossible? Yes, but it's true
I think that you know what to do, girl
I'm sure that you know what to do
You're lost little girl
You're lost little girl
Above, below, in sky and sod,
In leaf and spar, in star and man,
Well might the wise Athenian scan
The geometric signs of God,
The measured order of His plan.
And India's mystics sang aright
Of the One Life pervading all,--
One Being's tidal rise and fall
In soul and form, in sound and sight,--
Eternal outflow and recall.
God is: and man in guilt and fear
The central fact of Nature owns;
Kneels, trembling, by his altar-stones,
And darkly dreams the ghastly smear
Of blood appeases and atones.
Guilt shapes the Terror: deep within
The human heart the secret lies
Of all the hideous deities;
And, painted on a ground of sin,
The fabled gods of torment rise!
And what is He? The ripe grain nods,
The sweet dews fall, the sweet flowers blow;
But darker signs His presence show
The earthquake and the storm are God's,
And good and evil interflow.
O hearts of love! O souls that turn
Like sunflowers to the pure and best!
To you the truth is manifest:
For they the mind of Christ discern
Who lean like John upon His breast!
In him of whom the sibyl told,
For whom the prophet's harp was toned,
Whose need the sage and magian owned,
The loving heart of God behold,
The hope for which the ages groaned!
Fade, pomp of dreadful imagery
Wherewith mankind have deified
Their hate, and selfishness, and pride!
Let the scared dreamer wake to see
The Christ of Nazareth at his side!
What doth that holy Guide require?
No rite of pain, nor gift of blood,
But man a kindly brotherhood,
Looking, where duty is desire,
To Him, the beautiful and good.
Gone be the faithlessness of fear,
And let the pitying heaven's sweet rain
Wash out the altar's bloody stain;
The law of Hatred disappear,
The law of Love alone remain.
How fall the idols false and grim!
And to! their hideous wreck above
The emblems of the Lamb and Dove!
Man turns from God, not God from him;
And guilt, in suffering, whispers Love!
The world sits at the feet of Christ,
Unknowing, blind, and unconsoled;
It yet shall touch His garment's fold,
And feel the heavenly Alchemist
Transform its very dust to gold.
The theme befitting angel tongues
Beyond a mortal's scope has grown.
O heart of mine! with reverence own
The fulness which to it belongs,
And trust the unknown for the known.
- quotes about divine
- quotes about fables
- quotes about earthquakes
- quotes about hate
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about heart
- quotes about love
- quotes about worry
The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto IX.
I The Wife's Tragedy
Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman's pleasure; down the gulf
Of his condoled necessities
She casts her best, she flings herself.
How often flings for nought, and yokes
Her heart to an icicle or whim,
Whose each impatient word provokes
Another, not from her, but him;
While she, too gentle even to force
His penitence by kind replies,
Waits by, expecting his remorse,
With pardon in her pitying eyes;
And if he once, by shame oppress'd,
A comfortable word confers,
She leans and weeps against his breast,
And seems to think the sin was hers;
And whilst his love has any life,
Or any eye to see her charms,
At any time, she's still his wife,
Dearly devoted to his arms;
She loves with love that cannot tire;
And when, ah woe, she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love springs higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone.
II Common Graces
Is nature in thee too spiritless,
Ignoble, impotent, and dead,
To prize her love and loveliness
The more for being thy daily bread?
And art thou one of that vile crew
Which see no splendour in the sun,
Praising alone the good that's new,
Or over, or not yet begun?
And has it dawn'd on thy dull wits
That love warms many as soft a nest,
That, though swathed round with benefits,
Thou art not singularly blest?
And fail thy thanks for gifts divine,
The common food of many a heart,
Because they are not only thine?
Beware lest in the end thou art
Cast for thy pride forth from the fold,
Too good to feel the common grace
Of blissful myriads who behold
For evermore the Father's face.
III The Zest of Life
Give thanks. It is not time misspent;
Worst fare this betters, and the best,
Wanting this natural condiment,
Breeds crudeness, and will not digest.
The grateful love the Giver's law;
But those who eat, and look no higher,
From sin or doubtful sanction draw
The biting sauce their feasts require.
Give thanks for nought, if you've no more,
And, having all things, do not doubt
That nought, with thanks, is blest before
Whate'er the world can give, without.
IV Fool and Wise
Endow the fool with sun and moon,
Being his, he holds them mean and low;
But to the wise a little boon
Is great, because the giver's so.
I stood by Honor and the Dean,
They seated in the London train.
A month from her! yet this had been,
Ere now, without such bitter pain.
But neighbourhood makes parting light,
And distance remedy has none;
Alone, she near, I felt as might
A blind man sitting in the sun;
She near, all for the time was well;
Hope's self, when we were far apart,
With lonely feeling, like the smell
Of heath on mountains, fill'd my heart.
To see her seem'd delight's full scope,
And her kind smile, so clear of care,
Ev'n then, though darkening all my hope,
Gilded the cloud of my despair.
She had forgot to bring a book.
I lent one; blamed the print for old;
And did not tell her that she took
A Petrarch worth its weight in gold.
I hoped she'd lose it; for my love
Was grown so dainty, high, and nice,
It prized no luxury above
The sense of fruitless sacrifice.
The bell rang, and, with shrieks like death,
Link catching link, the long array,
With ponderous pulse and fiery breath,
Proud of its burthen, swept away;
And through the lingering crowd I broke,
Sought the hill-side, and thence, heart-sick,
Beheld, far off, the little smoke
Along the landscape kindling quick.
What should I do, where should I go,
Now she was gone, my love! for mine
She was, whatever here below
Cross'd or usurp'd my right divine.
Life, without her, was vain and gross,
The glory from the world was gone,
And on the gardens of the Close
As on Sahara shone the sun.
Oppress'd with her departed grace,
My thoughts on ill surmises fed;
The harmful influence of the place
She went to fill'd my soul with dread.
She, mixing with the people there,
Might come back alter'd, having caught
The foolish, fashionable air
Of knowing all, and feeling nought.
Or, giddy with her beauty's praise,
She'd scorn our simple country life,
Its wholesome nights and tranquil days,
And would not deign to be my Wife.
‘My Wife,’ ‘my Wife,’ ah, tenderest word!
How oft, as fearful she might hear,
Whispering that name of ‘Wife,’ I heard
The chiming of the inmost sphere.
I pass'd the home of my regret.
The clock was striking in the hall,
And one sad window open yet,
Although the dews began to fall.
Ah, distance show'd her beauty's scope!
How light of heart and innocent
That loveliness which sicken'd hope
And wore the world for ornament!
How perfectly her life was framed;
And, thought of in that passionate mood,
How her affecting graces shamed
The vulgar life that was but good!
I wonder'd, would her bird be fed,
Her rose-plots water'd, she not by;
Loading my breast with angry dread
Of light, unlikely injury.
So, fill'd with love and fond remorse,
I paced the Close, its every part
Endow'd with reliquary force
To heal and raise from death my heart.
How tranquil and unsecular
The precinct! Once, through yonder gate,
I saw her go, and knew from far
Her love-lit form and gentle state.
Her dress had brush'd this wicket; here
She turn'd her face, and laugh'd, with light
Like moonbeams on a wavering mere.
Weary beforehand of the night,
I went; the blackbird, in the wood,
Talk'd by himself, and eastward grew
In heaven the symbol of my mood,
Where one bright star engross'd the blue.
Padded Thoughts Initial Version
The Present's seen as launching pad
by fools who place their future hope
on Chance or Destiny, who're glad
responsibility to cope
with misadventure can be had
vicariously as they grope
for sense within a world that's mad,
and stumble sideways. Luck, good, bad,
is sought from stars, or cards, whose scope
seems all embracing from cell pad
from which fools launch all future hope.
(27 May 2005)
Sonnet- Buck Up Man!
Oh, Buck up-Man! for things don't ever wait;
'Tis good that none know what the morrow brings;
The world is large; But heart of man has hate;
The earth isn't fit for good human Beings.
Oh, Buck up Man! there's lot to do in life;
A lazy man is wasting precious time;
Don't leave to rust but go whet your blunt knife;
Still lots of ways can make your life sublime.
Oh, Buck up Man for Earth will soon be gone;
Prepare your soul for Heaven's banquet then;
And never mind however you were born;
The Lord's Abode is for all righteous men.
Oh, Buck up Man! tomorrow still brings Hope;
Make up your mind and things all you can cope.
Beyond the blue
Speak of you, sir? You bet he did. Ben Fields was far too sound
To go back on a fellow just because he weren't around.
Why, sir, he thought a lot of you, and only three months back
Says he, "The Squire will some time come a-snuffing out our track
And give us the surprise." And so I got to thinking then
That any day you might drop down on Rove, and me, and Ben.
And now you've come for nothing, for the lad has left us two,
And six long weeks ago, sir, he went up beyond the blue.
Who's Rove? Oh, he's the collie, and the only thing on earth
That I will ever love again. Why, Squire, that dog is worth
More than you ever handled, and that's quite a piece, I know.
Ah, there the beggar is!--come here, you scalawag! and show
Your broken leg all bandaged up. Yes, sir, it's pretty sore;
I did it,--curse me,--and I think I feel the pain far more
Than him, for somehow I just feel as if I'd been untrue
To what my brother said before he went beyond the blue.
You see, the day before he died he says to me, "Say, Ned,
Be sure you take good care of poor old Rover when I'm dead,
And maybe he will cheer your lonesome hours up a bit,
And when he takes to you just see that you're deserving it."
Well, Squire, it wasn't any use. I tried, but couldn't get
The friendship of that collie, for I needed it, you bet.
I might as well have tried to get the moon to help me through,
For Rover's heart had gone with Ben, 'way up beyond the blue.
He never seemed to take to me nor follow me about,
For all I coaxed and petted, for my heart was starving out
For want of some companionship,--I thought, if only he
Would lick my hand or come and put his head aside my knee,
Perhaps his touch would scatter something of the gloom away.
But all alone I had to live until there came a day
When, tired of the battle, as you'd have tired too,
I wished to heaven I'd gone with Ben, 'way up beyond the blue.
. . . . .
One morning I took out Ben's gun, and thought I'd hunt all day,
And started through the clearing for the bush that forward lay,
When something made me look around--I scarce believed my mind--
But, sure enough, the dog was following right close behind.
A feeling first of joy, and than a sharper, greater one
Of anger came, at knowing 'twas not me, but Ben's old gun,
That Rove was after,--well, sir, I just don't mind telling you,
But I forgot that moment Ben was up beyond the blue.
Perhaps it was but jealousy--perhaps it was despair,
But I just struck him with the gun and broke the bone right there;
And then--my very throat seemed choked, for he began to whine
With pain--God knows how tenderly I took that dog of mine
Up in my arms, and tore my old red necktie into bands
To bind the broken leg, while there he lay and licked my hands;
And though I cursed my soul, it was the brightest day I knew,
Or even cared to live, since Ben went up beyond the blue.
I tell you, Squire, I nursed him just as gently as could be,
And now I'm all the world to him, and he's the world to me.
Look, sir, at that big, noble soul, right in his faithful eyes,
The square, forgiving honesty that deep down in them lies.
Eh, Squire? What's that you say? He's got no soul? I tell you, then,
He's grander and he's better than the mass of what's called men;
And I guess he stands a better chance than many of us do
Of seeing Ben some day again, 'way up beyond the blue.
Christmas opened childhood
Like heroes opened games,
And gifts were just the standard
For those with your same name.
Christmas ringed our childhood
Like hoodlums ring a fight,
And no one could believe it-
That Santa was a lie.
Christmas ended childhood,
That day we knew the truth:
We damned our own eye’s knowledge
Of wisdom's sorry proofs.
is the best in the world.
she gave me a world.
always pretty, sometimes sweet.
gave her all, and not once
did she fall.
growing old and gray,
is still as beautiful,
as the sun's bright rays.
will never leave my heart,
always been there,
from the start.
I shall never forget.
Because her name is written,
in fine print, over my heart.
I Believe in Muses
Nine to the Universe, the Nine Divine
I believe in Muses, Inspire me to dream sublime
Empress Omega, Betty Shabazz, Nzinga all of the Queens
I believe in Muses, Inspire me to achieve impossible dreams
Your sepia back, so strong and beautiful as obsidian
I believe in Muses, Inspire me to search where truth is hidden
Thighs, eyes, hips and lips, I desire you body and soul
I believe in Muses, Inspire me to an orgasmic loss of self control
Your beauty has inspired men to create, to build, to rise
I believe in Muses, Inspire me to be a King in your eyes
Arrows of Word: Projectiles In Time
My arrows travel deep into the night,
piercing frescoes of thought at dawn
Travel further, they shall, these shattered shards,
to intone lethargic delirium at midday
Now slow down as eventide comes to claim
spent worth of carrion's goods
from my weary eyes, the bow
Still the journey be far from over
Into the abysses of needless dissection
of day's measure spread, into happenings too wide to be read
But will prove legible in days to come
And with that,
its cycle completed
Arrow returns from target to bow
Only to be spent again,
to tread the time line of another day.
Born from the corrugated breath of dying sun,
a hymn cast, without crest nor breaking
for what appears to be eternity
a day's eternity, as can be,
Living In The Material World
Im living in the material world
Living in the material world
Cant say what Im doing here
But I hope to see much clearer,
After living in the material world
I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car,
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world
Met them all there in the material world
John and paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got richie on a tour
Got caught up in the material world
From the spiritual sky,
Such sweet memories have i
To the spiritual sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I wont get lost
Or go astray
As Im fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
From the spiritual sky,
Such sweet memories have i
To the spiritual sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I wont get lost
Or go astray
While Im living in the material world
Not much giving in the material world
Got a lot of work to do
Try to get a message through
And get back out of this material world
Im living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the lord sri krsnas grace
My salvation from the material world
The Day Of The Daughter Of Hades
He who has looked upon Earth
Deeper than flower and fruit,
Losing some hue of his mirth,
As the tree striking rock at the root,
Unto him shall the marvellous tale
Of Callistes more humanly come
With the touch on his breast than a hail
From the markets that hum.
Now the youth footed swift to the dawn.
'Twas the season when wintertide,
In the higher rock-hollows updrawn,
Leaves meadows to bud, and he spied,
By light throwing shallow shade,
Between the beam and the gloom,
Sicilian Enna, whose Maid
Such aspect wears in her bloom
Underneath since the Charioteer
Of Darkness whirled her away,
On a reaped afternoon of the year,
Nigh the poppy-droop of Day.
O and naked of her, all dust,
The majestic Mother and Nurse,
Ringing cries to the God, the Just,
Curled the land with the blight of her curse:
Recollected of this glad isle
Still quaking. But now more fair,
And momently fraying the while
The veil of the shadows there,
Soft Enna that prostrate grief
Sang through, and revealed round the vines,
Bronze-orange, the crisp young leaf,
The wheat-blades tripping in lines,
A hue unillumined by sun
Of the flowers flooding grass as from founts:
All the penetrable dun
Of the morn ere she mounts.
Nor had saffron and sapphire and red
Waved aloft to their sisters below,
When gaped by the rock-channel head
Of the lake, black, a cave at one blow,
Reverberant over the plain:
A sound oft fearfully swung
For the coming of wrathful rain:
And forth, like the dragon-tongue
Of a fire beaten flat by the gale,
But more as the smoke to behold,
A chariot burst. Then a wail
Quivered high of the love that would fold
Bliss immeasurable, bigger than heart,
Though a God's: and the wheels were stayed,
And the team of the chariot swart
Reared in marble, the six, dismayed,
Like hoofs that by night plashing sea
Curve and ramp from the vast swan-wave:
For, lo, the Great Mother, She!
And Callistes gazed, he gave
His eyeballs up to the sight:
The embrace of the Twain, of whom
To men are their day, their night,
Mellow fruits and the shearing tomb:
Our Lady of the Sheaves
And the Lily of Hades, the Sweet
Of Enna: he saw through leaves
The Mother and Daughter meet.
They stood by the chariot-wheel,
Embraced, very tall, most like
Fellow poplars, wind-taken, that reel
Down their shivering columns and strike
Head to head, crossing throats: and apart,
For the feast of the look, they drew,
Which Darkness no longer could thwart;
And they broke together anew,
Exulting to tears, flower and bud.
But the mate of the Rayless was grave:
She smiled like Sleep on its flood,
That washes of all we crave:
Like the trance of eyes awake
And the spirit enshrouded, she cast
The wan underworld on the lake.
They were so, and they passed.
He tells it, who knew the law
Upon mortals: he stood alive
Declaring that this he saw:
He could see, and survive.
Now the youth was not ware of the beams
With the grasses intertwined,
For each thing seen, as in dreams,
Came stepping to rear through his mind,
Till it struck his remembered prayer
To be witness of this which had flown
Like a smoke melted thinner than air,
That the vacancy doth disown.
And viewing a maiden, he thought
It might now be morn, and afar
Within him the memory wrought
Of a something that slipped from the car
When those, the august, moved by:
Perchance a scarf, and perchance
This maiden. She did not fly,
Nor started at his advance:
She looked, as when infinite thirst
Pants pausing to bless the springs,
Refreshed, unsated. Then first
He trembled with awe of the things
He had seen; and he did transfer,
Divining and doubting in turn,
His reverence unto her;
Nor asked what he crouched to learn:
The whence of her, whither, and why
Her presence there, and her name,
Her parentage: under which sky
Her birth, and how hither she came,
So young, a virgin, alone,
Unfriended, having no fear,
As Oreads have; no moan,
Like the lost upon earth; no tear;
Not a sign of the torch in the blood,
Though her stature had reached the height
When mantles a tender rud
In maids that of youths have sight,
If maids of our seed they be:
For he said: A glad vision art thou!
And she answered him: Thou to me!
As men utter a vow.
Then said she, quick as the cries
Of the rainy cranes: Light! light!
And Helios rose in her eyes,
That were full as the dew-balls bright,
Relucent to him as dews
Unshaded. Breathing, she sent
Her voice to the God of the Muse,
And along the vale it went,
Strange to hear: not thin, not shrill:
Sweet, but no young maid's throat:
The echo beyond the hill
Ran falling on half the note:
And under the shaken ground
Where the Hundred-headed groans
By the roots of great AEtna bound,
As of him were hollow tones
Of wondering roared: a tale
Repeated to sunless halls.
But now off the face of the vale
Shadows fled in a breath, and the walls
Of the lake's rock-head were gold,
And the breast of the lake, that swell
Of the crestless long wave rolled
To shore-bubble, pebble and shell.
A morning of radiant lids
O'er the dance of the earth opened wide:
The bees chose their flowers, the snub kids
Upon hindlegs went sportive, or plied,
Nosing, hard at the dugs to be filled:
There was milk, honey, music to make:
Up their branches the little birds billed:
Chirrup, drone, bleat and buzz ringed the lake.
O shining in sunlight, chief
After water and water's caress,
Was the young bronze-orange leaf,
That clung to the tree as a tress,
Shooting lucid tendrils to wed
With the vine-hook tree or pole,
Like Arachne launched out on her thread.
Then the maiden her dusky stole
In the span of the black-starred zone,
Gathered up for her footing fleet.
As one that had toil of her own
She followed the lines of wheat
Tripping straight through the fields, green blades,
To the groves of olive grey,
Downy-grey, golden-tinged: and to glades
Where the pear-blossom thickens the spray
In a night, like the snow-packed storm:
Pear, apple, almond, plum:
Not wintry now: pushing, warm!
And she touched them with finger and thumb,
As the vine-hook closes: she smiled,
Recounting again and again,
Corn, wine, fruit, oil! like a child,
With the meaning known to men.
For hours in the track of the plough
And the pruning-knife she stepped,
And of how the seed works, and of how
Yields the soil, she seemed adept.
Then she murmured that name of the dearth,
The Beneficent, Hers, who bade
Our husbandmen sow for the birth
Of the grain making earth full glad.
She murmured that Other's: the dirge
Of life-light: for whose dark lap
Our locks are clipped on the verge
Of the realm where runs no sap.
She said: We have looked on both!
And her eyes had a wavering beam
Of various lights, like the froth
Of the storm-swollen ravine stream
In flame of the bolt. What links
Were these which had made him her friend?
He eyed her, as one who drinks,
And would drink to the end.
Now the meadows with crocus besprent,
And the asphodel woodsides she left,
And the lake-slopes, the ravishing scent
Of narcissus, dark-sweet, for the cleft
That tutors the torrent-brook,
Delaying its forceful spleen
With many a wind and crook
Through rock to the broad ravine.
By the hyacinth-bells in the brakes,
And the shade-loved white windflower, half hid,
And the sun-loving lizards and snakes
On the cleft's barren ledges, that slid
Out of sight, smooth as waterdrops, all,
At a snap of twig or bark
In the track of the foreign foot-fall,
She climbed to the pineforest dark,
Overbrowing an emerald chine
Of the grass-billows. Thence, as a wreath,
Running poplar and cypress to pine,
The lake-banks are seen, and beneath,
Vineyard, village, groves, rivers, towers, farms,
The citadel watching the bay,
The bay with the town in its arms,
The town shining white as the spray
Of the sapphire sea-wave on the rock,
Where the rock stars the girdle of sea,
White-ringed, as the midday flock,
Clipped by heat, rings the round of the tree.
That hour of the piercing shaft
Transfixes bough-shadows, confused
In veins of fire, and she laughed,
With her quiet mouth amused
To see the whole flock, adroop,
Asleep, hug the tree-stem as one,
Imperceptibly filling the loop
Of its shade at a slant of sun.
The pipes under pent of the crag,
Where the goatherds in piping recline,
Have whimsical stops, burst and flag
Uncorrected as outstretched swine:
For the fingers are slack and unsure,
And the wind issues querulous:- thorns
And snakes!--but she listened demure,
Comparing day's music with morn's.
Of the gentle spirit that slips
From the bark of the tree she discoursed,
And of her of the wells, whose lips
Are coolness enchanting, rock-sourced.
And much of the sacred loon,
The frolic, the Goatfoot God,
For stories of indolent noon
In the pineforest's odorous nod,
She questioned, not knowing: he can
Be waspish, irascible, rude,
He is oftener friendly to man,
And ever to beasts and their brood.
For the which did she love him well,
She said, and his pipes of the reed,
His twitched lips puffing to tell
In music his tears and his need,
Against the sharp catch of his hurt.
Not as shepherds of Pan did she speak,
Nor spake as the schools, to divert,
But fondly, perceiving him weak
Before Gods, and to shepherds a fear,
A holiness, horn and heel.
All this she had learnt in her ear
From Callistes, and taught him to feel.
Yea, the solemn divinity flushed
Through the shaggy brown skin of the beast,
And the steeps where the cataract rushed,
And the wilds where the forest is priest,
Were his temple to clothe him in awe,
While she spake: 'twas a wonder: she read
The haunts of the beak and the claw
As plain as the land of bread,
But Cities and martial States,
Whither soon the youth veered his theme,
Were impervious barrier-gates
To her: and that ship, a trireme,
Nearing harbour, scarce wakened her glance,
Though he dwelt on the message it bore
Of sceptre and sword and lance
To the bee-swarms black on the shore,
Which were audible almost,
So black they were. It befel
That he called up the warrior host
Of the Song pouring hydromel
In thunder, the wide-winged Song.
And he named with his boyish pride
The heroes, the noble throng
Past Acheron now, foul tide!
With his joy of the godlike band
And the verse divine, he named
The chiefs pressing hot on the strand,
Seen of Gods, of Gods aided, and maimed.
The fleetfoot and ireful; the King;
Him, the prompter in stratagem,
Many-shifted and masterful: Sing,
O Muse! But she cried: Not of them
She breathed as if breath had failed,
And her eyes, while she bade him desist,
Held the lost-to-light ghosts grey-mailed,
As you see the grey river-mist
Hold shapes on the yonder bank.
A moment her body waned,
The light of her sprang and sank:
Then she looked at the sun, she regained
Clear feature, and she breathed deep.
She wore the wan smile he had seen,
As the flow of the river of Sleep,
On the mouth of the Shadow-Queen.
In sunlight she craved to bask,
Saying: Life! And who was she? who?
Of what issue? He dared not ask,
For that partly he knew.
A noise of the hollow ground
Turned the eye to the ear in debate:
Not the soft overflowing of sound
Of the pines, ranked, lofty, straight,
Barely swayed to some whispers remote,
Some swarming whispers above:
Not the pines with the faint airs afloat,
Hush-hushing the nested dove:
It was not the pines, or the rout
Oft heard from mid-forest in chase,
But the long muffled roar of a shout
Subterranean. Sharp grew her face.
She rose, yet not moved by affright;
'Twas rather good haste to use
Her holiday of delight
In the beams of the God of the Muse.
And the steeps of the forest she crossed,
On its dry red sheddings and cones
Up the paths by roots green-mossed,
Spotted amber, and old mossed stones.
Then out where the brook-torrent starts
To her leap, and from bend to curve
A hurrying elbow darts
For the instant-glancing swerve,
Decisive, with violent will
In the action formed, like hers,
The maiden's, ascending; and still
Ascending, the bud of the furze,
The broom, and all blue-berried shoots
Of stubborn and prickly kind,
The juniper flat on its roots,
The dwarf rhododaphne, behind
She left, and the mountain sheep
Far behind, goat, herbage and flower.
The island was hers, and the deep,
All heaven, a golden hour.
Then with wonderful voice, that rang
Through air as the swan's nigh death,
Of the glory of Light she sang,
She sang of the rapture of Breath.
Nor ever, says he who heard,
Heard Earth in her boundaries broad,
From bosom of singer or bird
A sweetness thus rich of the God
Whose harmonies always are sane.
She sang of furrow and seed,
The burial, birth of the grain,
The growth, and the showers that feed,
And the green blades waxing mature
For the husbandman's armful brown.
O, the song in its burden ran pure,
And burden to song was a crown.
Callistes, a singer, skilled
In the gift he could measure and praise,
By a rival's art was thrilled,
Though she sang but a Song of Days,
Where the husbandman's toil and strife
Little varies to strife and toil:
But the milky kernel of life,
With her numbered: corn, wine, fruit, oil
The song did give him to eat:
Gave the first rapt vision of Good,
And the fresh young sense of Sweet
The grace of the battle for food,
With the issue Earth cannot refuse
When men to their labour are sworn.
'Twas a song of the God of the Muse
To the forehead of Morn.
Him loved she. Lo, now was he veiled:
Over sea stood a swelled cloud-rack:
The fishing-boat heavenward sailed,
Bent abeam, with a whitened track,
Surprised, fast hauling the net,
As it flew: sea dashed, earth shook.
She said: Is it night? O not yet!
With a travail of thoughts in her look.
The mountain heaved up to its peak:
Sea darkened: earth gathered her fowl;
Of bird or of branch rose the shriek.
Night? but never so fell a scowl
Wore night, nor the sky since then
When ocean ran swallowing shore,
And the Gods looked down for men.
Broke tempest with that stern roar
Never yet, save when black on the whirl
Rode wrath of a sovereign Power.
Then the youth and the shuddering girl,
Dim as shades in the angry shower,
Joined hands and descended a maze
Of the paths that were racing alive
Round boulder and bush, cleaving ways,
Incessant, with sound of a hive.
The height was a fountain-urn
Pouring streams, and the whole solid height
Leaped, chasing at every turn
The pair in one spirit of flight
To the folding pineforest. Yet here,
Like the pause to things hunted, in doubt,
The stillness bred spectral fear
Of the awfulness ranging without,
And imminent. Downward they fled,
From under the haunted roof,
To the valley aquake with the tread
Of an iron-resounding hoof,
As of legions of thunderful horse
Broken loose and in line tramping hard.
For the rage of a hungry force
Roamed blind of its mark over sward:
They saw it rush dense in the cloak
Of its travelling swathe of steam;
All the vale through a thin thread-smoke
Was thrown back to distance extreme:
And dull the full breast of it blinked,
Like a buckler of steel breathed o'er,
Diminished, in strangeness distinct,
Glowing cold, unearthly, hoar:
An Enna of fields beyond sun,
Out of light, in a lurid web;
And the traversing fury spun
Up and down with a wave's flow and ebb;
As the wave breaks to grasp and to spurn,
Retire, and in ravenous greed,
Inveterate, swell its return.
Up and down, as if wringing from speed
Sights that made the unsighted appear,
Delude and dissolve, on it scoured.
Lo, a sea upon land held career
Through the plain of the vale half-devoured.
Callistes of home and escape
Muttered swiftly, unwitting of speech.
She gazed at the Void of shape,
She put her white hand to his reach,
Saying: Now have we looked on the Three.
And divided from day, from night,
From air that is breath, stood she,
Like the vale, out of light.
Then again in disorderly words
He muttered of home, and was mute,
With the heart of the cowering birds
Ere they burst off the fowler's foot.
He gave her some redness that streamed
Through her limbs in a flitting glow.
The sigh of our life she seemed,
The bliss of it clothing in woe.
Frailer than flower when the round
Of the sickle encircles it: strong
To tell of the things profound,
Our inmost uttering song,
Unspoken. So stood she awhile
In the gloom of the terror afield,
And the silence about her smile
Said more than of tongue is revealed.
I have breathed: I have gazed: I have been:
It said: and not joylessly shone
The remembrance of light through the screen
Of a face that seemed shadow and stone.
She led the youth trembling, appalled,
To the lake-banks he saw sink and rise
Like a panic-struck breast. Then she called,
And the hurricane blackness had eyes.
It launched like the Thunderer's bolt.
Pale she drooped, and the youth by her side
Would have clasped her and dared a revolt
Sacrilegious as ever defied
High Olympus, but vainly for strength
His compassionate heart shook a frame
Stricken rigid to ice all its length.
On amain the black traveller came.
Lo, a chariot, cleaving the storm,
Clove the fountaining lake with a plough,
And the lord of the steeds was in form
He, the God of implacable brow,
Darkness: he: he in person: he raged
Through the wave like a boar of the wilds
From the hunters and hounds disengaged,
And a name shouted hoarsely: his child's.
Horror melted in anguish to hear.
Lo, the wave hissed apart for the path
Of the terrible Charioteer,
With the foam and torn features of wrath,
Hurled aloft on each arm in a sheet;
And the steeds clove it, rushing at land
Like the teeth of the famished at meat.
Then he swept out his hand.
This, no more, doth Callistes recall:
He saw, ere he dropped in swoon,
On the maiden the chariot fall,
As a thundercloud swings on the moon.
Forth, free of the deluge, one cry
From the vanishing gallop rose clear:
And: Skiegeneia! the sky
Rang; Skiegeneia! the sphere.
And she left him therewith, to rejoice,
Repine, yearn, and know not his aim,
The life of their day in her voice,
Left her life in her name.
Now the valley in ruin of fields
And fair meadowland, showing at eve
Like the spear-pitted warrior's shields
After battle, bade men believe
That no other than wrathfullest God
Had been loose on her beautiful breast,
Where the flowery grass was clod,
Wheat and vine as a trailing nest.
The valley, discreet in grief,
Disclosed but the open truth,
And Enna had hope of the sheaf:
There was none for the desolate youth
Devoted to mourn and to crave.
Of the secret he had divined
Of his friend of a day would he rave:
How for light of our earth she pined:
For the olive, the vine and the wheat,
Burning through with inherited fire:
And when Mother went Mother to meet,
She was prompted by simple desire
In the day-destined car to have place
At the skirts of the Goddess, unseen,
And be drawn to the dear earth's face.
She was fire for the blue and the green
Of our earth, dark fire; athirst
As a seed of her bosom for dawn,
White air that had robed and nursed
Her mother. Now was she gone
With the Silent, the God without tear,
Like a bud peeping out of its sheath
To be sundered and stamped with the sere.
And Callistes to her beneath,
As she to our beams, extinct,
Strained arms: he was shade of her shade.
In division so were they linked.
But the song which had betrayed
Her flight to the cavernous ear
For its own keenly wakeful: that song
Of the sowing and reaping, and cheer
Of the husbandman's heart made strong
Through droughts and deluging rains
With his faith in the Great Mother's love:
O the joy of the breath she sustains,
And the lyre of the light above,
And the first rapt vision of Good,
And the fresh young sense of Sweet:
That song the youth ever pursued
In the track of her footing fleet.
For men to be profited much
By her day upon earth did he sing:
Of her voice, and her steps, and her touch
On the blossoms of tender Spring,
Immortal: and how in her soul
She is with them, and tearless abides,
Folding grain of a love for one goal
In patience, past flowing of tides.
And if unto him she was tears,
He wept not: he wasted within:
Seeming sane in the song, to his peers,
Only crazed where the cravings begin.
Our Lady of Gifts prized he less
Than her issue in darkness: the dim
Lost Skiegencia's caress
Of our earth made it richest for him.
And for that was a curse on him raised,
And he withered rathe, dry to his prime,
Though the bounteous Giver be praised
Through the island with rites of old time
Exceedingly fervent, and reaped
Veneration for teachings devout,
Pious hymns when the corn-sheaves are heaped
And the wine-presses ruddily spout,
And the olive and apple are juice
At a touch light as hers lost below.
Whatsoever to men is of use
Sprang his worship of them who bestow,
In a measure of songs unexcelled:
But that soul loving earth and the sun
From her home of the shadows he held
For his beacon where beam there is none:
And to join her, or have her brought back,
In his frenzy the singer would call,
Till he followed where never was track,
On the path trod of all.
The Creole Girl; Or, The Physician’s Story
SHE came to England from the island clime
Which lies beyond the far Atlantic wave;
She died in early youth--before her time--
'Peace to her broken heart, and virgin grave!'
She was the child of Passion, and of Shame,
English her father, and of noble birth;
Though too obscure for good or evil fame,
Her unknown mother faded from the earth.
And what that fair West Indian did betide,
None knew but he, who least of all might tell,--
But that she lived, and loved, and lonely died,
And sent this orphan child with him to dwell.
Oh! that a fair and innocent young face
Should have a poison in its looks alone,
To raise up thoughts of sorrow and disgrace
And shame most bitter, although not its own!
Cruel were they who flung that heavy shade
Across the life whose days did but begin;
Cruel were they who crush'd her heart, and made
Her youth pay penance for his youth's wild sin;
Yet so it was;--among her father's friends
A cold compassion made contempt seem light,
But, in 'the world,' no justice e'er defends
The victims of their tortuous wrong and right:--
And 'moral England,' striking down the weak,
And smiling at the vices of the strong,
On her, poor child! her parent's guilt would wreak,
And that which was her grievance, made her wrong.
The world she understood not; nor did they
Who made that world,--her, either, understand;
The very glory of her features' play
Seem'd like the language of a foreign land;
The shadowy feelings, rich and wild and warm,
That glow'd and mantled in her lovely face,--
The slight full beauty of her youthful form,
Its gentle majesty, its pliant grace,--
The languid lustre of her speaking eye,
The indolent smile of that bewitching mouth,
(Which more than all betray'd her natal sky,
And left us dreaming of the sunny South,)--
The passionate variation of her blood,
Which rose and sank, as rise and sink the waves,
With every change of her most changeful mood,
Shock'd sickly Fashion's pale and guarded slaves.
And so in this fair world she stood alone,
An alien 'mid the ever-moving crowd,
A wandering stranger, nameless and unknown,
Her claim to human kindness disallow'd.
But oft would Passion's bold and burning gaze,
And Curiosity's set frozen stare,
Fix on her beauty in those early days,
And coarsely thus her loveliness declare;
Which she would shrink from, as the gentle plant,
Fern-leaved Mimosa folds itself away;
Suffering and sad;--for easy 'twas to daunt
One who on earth had no protecting stay.
And often to her eye's transparent lid
The unshed tears would rise with sudden start,
And sink again, as though by Reason chid,
Back to their gentle home, her wounded heart;
Even as some gushing fountain idly wells
Up to the prison of its marble side,
Whose power the mounting wave for ever quells,--
So rose her tears--so stemm'd by virgin pride.
And so more lonely each succeeding day,
As she her lot did better understand,
She lived a life which had in it decay,
A flower transplanted to too cold a land,--
Which for a while gives out a hope of bloom,
Then fades and pines, because it may not feel
The freedom and the warmth which gave it room
The beauty of its nature to reveal.
For vainly would the heart accept its lot
And rouse its strength to bear avow'd contempt;
Scorn will be felt as scorn,--deserved or not,--
And from its bitter spell none stand exempt.
There is a basilisk power in human eyes
When they would look a fellow-creature down,
'Neath which the faint soul fascinated lies,
Struck by the cold sneer, or the with'ring frown.
But one there was, among that cruel crowd,
Whose nature half rebell'd against the chain
Which fashion flung around him; though too proud
To own that slavery's weariness and pain.
Too proud; perhaps too weak; for Custom still
Curbs with an iron bit the souls born free;
They start and chafe, yet bend them to the will
Of this most nameless ruler,--so did he.
And even unto him the worldly brand
Which rested on her, half her charm effaced;
Vainly all pure and radiant did she stand,--
Even unto him she was a thing disgraced.
Had she been early doom'd a cloister'd nun,
To Heaven devoted by a holy vow--
His union with that poor deserted one
Had seem'd not more impossible than now.
He could have loved her--fervently and well;
But still the cold world, with its false allure,
Bound his free liking in an icy spell,
And made its whole foundation insecure.
But not like meaner souls, would he, to prove
A vulgar admiration, her pursue;
For though his glances after her would rove,
As something beautiful, and strange, and new,
They were withdrawn if but her eye met his,
Or, for an instant if their light remain'd,
They soften'd into gentlest tenderness,
As asking pardon that his look had pain'd.
And she was nothing unto him,--nor he
Aught unto her; but each of each did dream
In the still hours of thought, when we are free
To quit the real world for the things which seem.
When in his heart Love's folded wings would stir,
And bid his youth choose out a fitting mate,
Against his will his thoughts roam'd back to her,
And all around seem'd blank and desolate.
When, in his worldly haunts, a smother'd sigh
Told he had won some lady of the land,
The dreaming glances of his earnest eye
Beheld far off the Creole orphan stand;
And to the beauty by his side he froze,
As though she were not fair, nor he so young,
And turn'd on her such looks of cold repose
As check'd the trembling accents of her tongue,
And bid her heart's dim passion seek to hide
Its gathering strength, although the task be pain,
Lest she become that mock to woman's pride--
A wretch that loves unwoo'd, and loves in vain.
So in his heart she dwelt,--as one may dwell
Upon the verge of a forbidden ground;
And oft he struggled hard to break the spell
And banish her, but vain the effort found;
For still along the winding way which led
Into his inmost soul, unbidden came
Her haunting form,--and he was visited
By echoes soft of her unspoken name,
Through the long night, when those we love seem near,
However cold, however far away,
Borne on the wings of floating dreams, which cheer
And give us strength to meet the struggling day.
And when in twilight hours she roved apart,
Feeding her love-sick soul with visions fair,
The shadow of his eyes was on her heart,
And the smooth masses of his shining hair
Rose in the glory of the evening light,
And, where she wander'd, glided evermore,
A star which beam'd upon her world's lone night,
Where nothing glad had ever shone before.
But vague and girlish was that love,--no hope,
Even of familiar greeting, ever cross'd
Its innocent, but, oh! most boundless scope;
She loved him,--and she knew her love was lost.
She gazed on him, as one from out a bark,
Bound onward to a cold and distant strand,
Some lovely bay, some haven fair may mark,
Stretching far inward to a sunnier land;
Who, knowing he must still sail on, turns back
To watch with dreaming and most mournful eyes
The ruffling foam which follows in his track,
Or the deep starlight of the shoreless skies.
Oh! many a hopeless love like this may be,--
For love will live that never looks to win;
Gems rashly lost in Passion's stormy sea,
Not to be lifted forth when once cast in!
So time roll'd on, till suddenly that child
Of southern clime and feelings, droop'd and pined
Her cheek wax'd paler, and her eye grew wild,
And from her youthful form all strength declined.
'Twas then I knew her; late and vainly call'd,
To 'minister unto a mind diseased,'--
When on her heart's faint sickness all things pall'd,
And the deep inward pain was never eased:
Her step was always gentle, but at last
It fell as lightly as a wither'd leaf
In autumn hours; and wheresoe'er she pass'd
Smiles died away, she look'd so full of grief.
And more than ever from that world, where still
Her father hoped to place her, she would shrink;
Loving to be alone, her thirst to fill
From the sweet fountains where the dreamers drink.
One eve, beneath the acacia's waving bough,
Wrapt in these lonely thoughts she sate and read;
Her dark hair parted from her sunny brow,
Her graceful arm beneath her languid head;
And droopingly and sad she hung above
The open page, whereon her eyes were bent,
With looks of fond regret and pining love;
Nor heard my step, so deep was she intent.
And when she me perceived, she did not start,
But lifted up those soft dark eyes to mine,
And smiled, (that mournful smile which breaks the heart!)
Then glanced again upon the printed line.
'What readest thou?' I ask'd. With fervent gaze,
As though she would have scann'd my inmost soul,
She turn'd to me, and, as a child obeys
The accustom'd question of revered control,
She pointed to the title of that book,
(Which, bending down, I saw was 'Coralie,')
Then gave me one imploring piteous look,
And tears, too long restrain'd, gush'd fast and free.
It was a tale of one, whose fate had been
Too like her own to make that weeping strange;
Like her, transplanted from a sunnier scene;
Like her, all dull'd and blighted by the change.
No further word was breathed between us two;--
No confidence was made to keep or break;--
But since that day, which pierced my soul quite thro',
My hand the dying girl would faintly take,
And murmur, as its grasp (ah! piteous end!)
Return'd the feeble pressure of her own,
'Be with me to the last,--for thou, dear friend,
Hast all my struggles, all my sorrow known!'
She died!--The pulse of that untrammell'd heart
Fainted to stilness. Those most glorious eyes
Closed on the world where she had dwelt apart,
And her cold bosom heaved no further sighs.
She died!--and no one mourn'd, except her sire,
Who for a while look'd out with eyes more dim;
Lone was her place beside his household fire,
Vanish'd the face that ever smiled on him.
And no one said to him--'Why mournest thou?'
Because she was the unknown child of shame;
(Albeit her mother better kept the vow
Of faithful love, than some who keep their fame.)
Poor mother, and poor child!--unvalued lives!
Wan leaves that perish'd in obscurest shade!
While round me still the proud world stirs and strives,
Say, shall I weep that ye are lowly laid?
Shall I mourn for ye? No!--and least for thee,
Young dreamer, whose pure heart gave way before
Thy bark was launch'd upon Love's stormy sea,
Or treachery wreck'd it on the farther shore.
Least, least of all for thee! Thou art gone hence!
Thee never more shall scornful looks oppress,
Thee the world wrings not with some vain pretence,
Nor chills thy tears, nor mocks at thy distress.
From man's injustice, from the cold award
Of the unfeeling, thou hast pass'd away;
Thou'rt at the gates of light, where angels guard
Thy path to realms of bright eternal day.
There shall thy soul its chains of slavery burst,
There, meekly standing before God's high throne,
Thou'lt find the judgments of our earth reversed,
And answer for no errors but thine own.
The Golden Age
Long ere the Muse the strenuous chords had swept,
And the first lay as yet in silence slept,
A Time there was which since has stirred the lyre
To notes of wail and accents warm with fire;
Moved the soft Mantuan to his silvery strain,
And him who sobbed in pentametric pain;
To which the World, waxed desolate and old,
Fondly reverts, and calls the Age of Gold.
Then, without toil, by vale and mountain side,
Men found their few and simple wants supplied;
Plenty, like dew, dropped subtle from the air,
And Earth's fair gifts rose prodigal as prayer.
Love, with no charms except its own to lure,
Was swiftly answered by a love as pure.
No need for wealth; each glittering fruit and flower,
Each star, each streamlet, made the maiden's dower.
Far in the future lurked maternal throes,
And children blossomed painless as the rose.
No harrowing question `why,' no torturing `how,'
Bent the lithe frame or knit the youthful brow.
The growing mind had naught to seek or shun;
Like the plump fig it ripened in the sun.
From dawn to dark Man's life was steeped in joy,
And the gray sire was happy as the boy.
Nature with Man yet waged no troublous strife,
And Death was almost easier than Life.
Safe on its native mountains throve the oak,
Nor ever groaned 'neath greed's relentless stroke.
No fear of loss, no restlessness for more,
Drove the poor mariner from shore to shore.
No distant mines, by penury divined,
Made him the sport of fickle wave or wind.
Rich for secure, he checked each wish to roam,
And hugged the safe felicity of home.
Those days are long gone by; but who shall say
Why, like a dream, passed Saturn's Reign away?
Over its rise, its ruin, hangs a veil,
And naught remains except a Golden Tale.
Whether 'twas sin or hazard that dissolved
That happy scheme by kindly Gods evolved;
Whether Man fell by lucklessness or pride,-
Let jarring sects, and not the Muse, decide.
But when that cruel Fiat smote the earth,
Primeval Joy was poisoned at its birth.
In sorrow stole the infant from the womb,
The agëd crept in sorrow to the tomb.
The ground, so bounteous once, refused to bear
More than was wrung by sower, seed, and share.
Ofttimes would ruthless winds or torrents raze
The ripening fruit of toilsome nights and days.
Each one in turn grew jealous of his own,
And fenced his patch with ditch and churlish stone.
As greed uprose, and greed engendered strife,
Contention raged coincident with life.
Man against man, maid against maiden turned,
And the soft breast with envious passions burned.
The loss of one was hailed as others' gain,
And pleasure took unnatural birth from pain.
Goaded by woe, and through tradition's lore
Mindful of all the blissfulness of yore,
The Human Race, its sorrows to assuage,
Dreamed afar off a second Golden Age;
Not in the dim irrevocable Past,
But in a Future just as vague and vast.
The prophet's lips, the poet's flattering pen,
Revelled in forecasts of that golden Then.
The days should come when grief would be no more,
And Peace and Plenty rule from shore to shore;
All men alike enjoy what none did earn,
And even more than Saturn's Reign return.
As years rolled on, as centuries went by,
And still that Promised Time seemed no more nigh,
Mankind at length, outwearied with delays,
Gave up all hope of those seductive days.
Then other prophets, other scribes arose,
A nearer, surer Eden to disclose.
`O, long-befooled!' they said, `awake, and deem
The Past a tale, the Future but a dream.
Here, in the living Present, act your part,
Straining its vulgar blessings to your heart.
Let hand with hand and brain with brain contend,
And each one labour to some selfish end.
In wealth and riot, luxury and power,
Baffle the mockery of the transient hour.
If thousands fall, if tens of thousands bleed,
Will not a hundred, or a score, succeed?
Let those who cannot yield to those who can-
Fate has its piles of victims; why not Man?
Better a furious fight where some one wins,
Than sluggish life which ends as it begins.
Vain was the bard who, whilst the World was new,
'Twixt men and beasts the fond distinction drew,
That these confine their downward gaze to earth,
Whilst man looks up, enamoured of his birth.
Not in the skies, but deep beneath the soil,
There will you find your happiness and spoil.
Enough for brutes its simple face to know,
But godlike man must pierce and delve below.
Deep in its bowels seek the shining ore,
And at its touch shall Saturn reign once more.
For him whose thews are sound, whose vision clear,
Whose purpose firm, the Golden Age is here.'
Never from cave or tripod, mount or glade,
Issued a voice so welcomed, so obeyed.
From zone to zone the Golden Gospel flew,
And in its train mankind obedient drew.
See from their seats the ancient Gods dethroned,
Altars upset, and oracles disown'd.
The Muses, scared, conceal the smothered lyre;
No longer prized, the Graces swift retire;
Virtue, a butt for ribalds, seeks her shroud,
And even Venus veils herself in cloud.
Religion, Ethics, all men erst adored,
Hymned on the harp, or fought for with the sword,
All lofty scopes, all ends esteemed of old,
Dissolve like mist before the rage for gold.
The priest for gold makes traffic of his robe;
For gold the soldier desolates the globe;
The poet shapes for gold his venal lays;
Through gold Vice stalks caparisoned with praise.
Tempted by gold, the virgin sells her charms,
Though no Immortal slips into her arms.
Saddled with gold, the adventurer can buy
Titles, precedence, place, and dignity.
High, middle, low, the young, the ripe, the old,
Man, woman, child, live, die, are damned for Gold.
Soon as the youthful mind begins to ope,
It searches Life's significance and scope;
And, fed by generous impulse year by year,
Dreams for itself some glorious career.
Its shall it be, instructed by the Muse,
Truth to abet, and beauty to diffuse;
With full-blown sail, and genius at the helm,
To steer men's thoughts to a serener realm.
Perhaps the ingenuous boy would fain recall
Tintoret's canvas, Memmi's fresco'd wall;
With godlike pencil purify the mart,
And life ennoble with the breath of Art.
Maybe he burns, by Plato's failure fired,
To scale the heights which every wing have tired,
Seize first each part, then comprehend the whole,
And solve the eternal problem of the Soul.
Be these his aims, or, nobler still, to train
His kind to mutiny till Virtue reign,
Soon doth he learn to count his lovely schemes
A host of bubbles in a world of dreams.
Experience whispers early, Have a care!
Who with the Muse would live must live on air.
The tempting maid is but a poet's lie,
`Who gave to song what gold could never buy.'
Confront the world, take counsel with the throng;
Their verdict what? `The thing's not worth a song.'
Are you content you now have learnt your price?
Come, sink the Muse, and don't be quite so nice.
Start a new Company, and float the shares,
Then lunch with Ministers and dine with Mayors.
Pimp for a Party, praise a Premier's heart,
Head a subscription, and then shine-a Bart.
Return your income fifty thousand clear-
The devil's in it, or you'll die a peer.
Success so great is never done by halves-
'Tis only virtue, when 'tis greatest, starves.
Perhaps his breast, untutored yet to serve,
Spurns the base counsel with a proud reserve;
For Youth is stubborn, and when Nature draws,
In vain a parent's warning, wisdom's saws.
Let cravens straight their impotence confess,
And sell their birthright for a filthy mess;
In flowers see, bee-like, nought but stuff for hives,
And for foul lucre prostitute their lives;
They have not failed who never once have tried,
Or, if they failed, they failed for want of pride.
He, he at least his soul will ne'er demean,
But 'mong the foul will keep his honour clean.
O touching sight, to witness day by day
His splendid generous day-dreams fade away!
His sire reproaches, and his brothers scoff,
His mother doubts, his sisters e'en fall off.
The neighbours pity, strangers deem him mad;
Girls, smiling, whisper, What a foolish lad!
Meanwhile his compeers, started in the race,
Are swiftly marching on to power and place.
One makes a coup, and weds a wife of rank;
Another's junior partner in a bank.
A third in sugar with unscriptural hand,
Traffics, and builds a lasting house on sand.
A fourth, for beer and piety renowned,
Owns all the publics in the country round;
Its drink adulterates with face demure,
But burns with zeal to keep opinion pure;
Cares not one jot for bodies drunk or sick,
But scans your soul like a new Dominick.
The fifth, the patron of a new balloon,
Projects a Company to reach the moon;
Baits his prospectus with a batch of peers,
And vows nought pays like money in the Spheres.
Shares in the moon advanced-advancing still.
Then comes a crash-stock guaranteed at nil.
But sure, the man is ruined? Not at all;
He scarce can tumble who has sense to crawl.
Your modern Icarus is much too wise
On his own pinions to attempt the skies-
On others' soaring follies doth he rise.
Long ere the bubble burst his shares were sold;
Just at that moment he had need of gold.
Singed wings, you know, are but for simple folk;
He, with his peers, 'scapes safe from flame and smoke,
And buys a borough with the happy stroke.
Few are the souls who die for Cato's creed:
To fail seems base, when all around succeed.
Foiled in his purpose, both by foe and friend,
Through noble means to reach a noble end,
The baffled boy forswears his cherished dream,
And learns to swim, like others, with the stream.
Keen to recover precious moments lost,
And taught by bitter tasks what Virtue cost,
He midst the rush, whilst others rise and fall,
Swims on, the most unscrupulous of all.
Let others chouse with care, he cheats with pluck,
And millions stake their all upon his luck.
His daring overawes the small, the great,
And whilst he plunders they but peculate.
He lures the easy, makes the fat his spoil,
Pares the lean wage of proletarian toil;
Swindles the widow of her hoarded mite,
Drags the poor pensioner once more to fight;
Robs age of rest, and youth of prospects fair,
Plunges the sanguine bridegroom in despair;
Severs the ties made sacred long by home,
And sends the son from sire across the foam;
Dashes the faith of plighted swain and maid,
And helps alone the cynic sexton's spade:
Does all that well beseems a Fallen Star-
It needs a Lucifer to fall so far!
Sometimes will Fortune on the traitor scowl,
And e'en with gold not pay a deed so foul.
He who was born a glittering child of light,
Trenchant as Raphael, as Ithuriel bright,
Yet sells his soul a vulgar prize to reap,
And for brute guerdons holds his honour cheap,
Too often finds that he who, grovelling, flies
From unrewarded reverie in the skies,
And seeks in venal efforts to employ
The gifts God formed for beauty and for joy,
Makes but a barren barter of his birth,
And Heaven foregoes, without securing earth.
See how he sinks! The more he strains to clutch
Terrestrial spoil, unworthy of his touch,
It seems, for him, to take elusive shapes,
And like a shadow from his grasp escapes.
As baser wax his aims, more mean his scope,
More and still more he sprawls-the sport of Hope.
Still as he tries to suffocate his soul,
Farther beyond him seems the carnal goal.
In vain he turns to catch the favouring gale;
Becalmed he lies-he labours but to fail.
Poor and despised, he now would fain retrace
His erring steps to his first dwelling-place,
But finds, alas! baseness hath borne its fruit;
Wings long unused have withered at the root.
He who in vain has crawled in vain would fly,
And rots abandoned both by earth and sky.
Meaner his end than that poor tradesman's doom,
Who, asked what words of honour on his tomb
His friends should place, with cynic touch replied,
`Here lies who, born a man, a grocer died!'
Whom doth this foe of human virtue spare?
Look round! More sweet its victims, the more fair.
Its natural slaves, who, spawned from wealth, are born
To Traffic's tricks they lack the soul to scorn,
Whose lust for lucre is their proper lot,
It just as oft impoverishes as not.
'Tis those in whom the Unseen God inspires
The restless leaven of divine desires;
Who, from the moment that they lisp, betray
An alien spirit housed within their clay;
Whose fretful youth life's narrow limits chafe,
And yearns for worlds more spacious, if less safe;
Striving to reach, despite its fleshly thrall,
That larger Something which surrounds us all;-
These, these the souls-and not that baser band-
To whom Gold loves to stretch a helping hand;
With early smiles their generous aims to bless,
And lead them, blind, to ruinous success.
When Lelius chanted first his fragrant lays,
Men praised, and he was amply paid with praise.
Not salons' sycophant, nor Fashion's bard,
No glittering heaps did his sweet notes reward.
He was content with audience fit, though few,
When to his side the cunning demon drew.
`Your pen's worth gold; you need but blunt its point;
Come, cut the Muse; the times are out of joint.
Fame's well enough, but comfort has its laws;
You'll make a damned poor supper off applause.
Sing, be select, and starve. Prose is the thing-
The thing that pays. The Million now is King.
Write gossip, scandal, slander-what you will;
A well-filled purse awaits a ready quill.'
The curst insidious demon has his way,
And Grub-street swallows Lelius for aye.
Turn from the pen, and for a while survey
The wide domains which brush and canvas sway.
Enter those realms, and what do we behold?
Art, heavenly Art, the slave and pimp of gold!
Time was when its poor votaries were too proud
To sate the itch of a vain-glorious crowd,
Serve the mean aims of narrow personal pelf,
And swell the ignoble retinue of Self.
Only the State, which merges private ends,
Or sacred Church, which lifts them and extends,
Might then presume the artist's craft to claim,
And paid him, happy, with immortal Fame.
Here, Friendship's guest, where fairest Florence lies,
A dream in stone, stretched out before mine eyes,
I think of all the treasures there enshrined,
And what small dole nurtured each master mind;
Or led by memory o'er the classic chain
Which Umbrian slope divides from Tuscan plain,
I all the priceless unbought gems recall
That link with heaven Assisi's frescoed wall;
Then, borne on wings of weakness, I repair
To mine own land, and groan to think that there,
Debased by Fashion to a venal trade,
Art counts its triumphs by its fortunes made;
Spurned by the State, and by the Church unsought,
Works but for wealth, and by the base is bought;
Stranger to altars, palaces, or domes,
Pampers the pomp of ostentatious homes.
How changed the days since Duccio's hand of old
On Saints and Virgins lavished costly gold;
But for himself asked but a few poor crowns,
Less than we give to harlequins and clowns.
Now do our mercenary tricksters grudge
Almost the very canvas that they smudge;
Yet scan with greedy eyes the glittering heap
That opulent folly holds, for once, so cheap.
See, too, how Genius, when its touch was true,
On humble walls its lasting fancies drew;
Whose modern apes, ridiculously bold,
Hang their ephemeral daubs in frames of gold.
In vain doth Heaven, while Gold thus rules the earth,
With generous instincts sow the soul at birth.
Swift in the genial soil the seed takes root,
Then seeks the sun with many a venturous shoot.
But, ah, how soon the cruel outer air
Checks the brave growth and nips its promise fair!
Warmed by the glow of Tasso's splendid lay,
Or borne by Dante to the gates of Day;
Softly seduced by Scott's romantic strain
To deem all ends, excepting honour, vain;
Or nobly trained by Shelley's burning song
To cherish an eternal feud with wrong,-
The simple girl constructs a future fair,
Rears a whole world of castles in the air,
And nowhere warned, or deaf to warning, deems
That life will clothe and justify her dreams.
As year by year the maiden grows apace,
And half the woman mantles in her face,
With sickening sense, sad eye, and sinking heart,
She sees her forecasts one by one depart.
Slowly, but, ah, too surely doth she find
That poets' tales no longer rule mankind;
That Peace is homeless as the hunted hare,
And Love far less a shelter than a snare;
That godlike Valour meets a demon's doom,
Whilst Prudence prospers even from the tomb;
That Youth, save schooled in Mammon's miry ways,
Groans o'er the lapse of unrequited days;
That Beauty, Genius, all are vain and cold,
Till foully touched and fertilised by Gold.
Soon as the time so dear to mother's vows
Draws nigh, to find the maid some fitting spouse,
Then most of all she learns what leading part
Is played by Gold in dramas of the heart.
Chance to young Hylas, beautiful as Dawn,
And sweet as fair, she feels her fancy drawn.
Are you a nymph? one whispers. Let him pass.
He doth but gather daisies in the grass.
Where your cool wave, hidden from human eyes,
In which to lure and love him till he dies?
Bid him rejoin his Hercules, and seize
The golden apples of the Hesperides;
And then perchance, should none more rich than he
Engage your love, you may his Hera be.
Alas, poor Hylas! worse than Mysian fate
Doth his meandering flowery feet await.
If that a Solon, versed in every art
Of song and science, touch the maiden's heart,
The neighbours softly whisper, Have a care;
Can Erudition keep a chaise and pair?
Pundits, alas, like fools, must pay their bills,
And Knowledge figures sorrily in wills.
For single life learning is well enough,
But marriage should be made of sterner stuff.
Should Cato's fame her pious soul attract,
The whole world cries, The woman must be cracked.
What! wed with Virtue! Is the girl awake?
Sure, she confounds the altar with the stake.
Send for the doctor. Try a change of air.
Swear Cato drinks. In war and love all's fair.
Bring Croesus to the front. At four he's free-
There's no one left to swindle after three.
In one brief hour behold him curled and drest,
And borne on wings of fashion to the West!
What though to regions fondly deemed refined,
He brings his City manners, City mind,
And cynics titter?-he laughs best who wins,-
A Greenwhich dinner covers many sins.
What! dine with Croesus? Surely. Is a feast
One jot the worse because the host's a beast?
He's worse than that-a snob-a cad. Agreed;
But then his goblets smack of Ganymede?
Do some strange freaks his conversation mar?
He stops your censure with a prime cigar.
A Norway stream, a shooting-lodge in Perth,
In practice look uncommonly like worth.
The Town to hear some new soprano flocks.
You long to go? Well, Croesus has a box.
How at this hour are tickets to be got
For the Regatta? Croesus has a yacht.
Goodwood is here. Your hopes begin to flag.
One chance awaits you: Croesus has a drag.
You doat on Flower-shows: Croesus has a bone.
Be friends with Croesus, and the World's your own.
Who could resist seductions such as these?
Or what could charm, if Croesus failed to please?
Blinded and bribed, the critical are cured,
And loud extol whom late they scarce endured.
Caressed and courted, Croesus grows the rage,
The type and glory of our Golden Age;
And Cato, Hylas, Solon, shoved aside,
Our heavenly maid is hailed as Croesus' bride.
Shade of Lucretius! if thy lyre waxed wild
With sacred rage for Clytemnestra's child,
And nought could hold thee as thy soul surveyed
The cursëd ills Religion can persuade,
How would thy verse impetuously shower
Sonorous scorn on Gold's atrocious power;
Embalm its victims with a touch divine,
And damn the monster in one sounding line!
Can honeyed forms or stereotyped applause
Alter the scope of Heaven's eternal laws?
What though with gifts should massive sideboards groan,
And every heart be glad except her own,
And troops of blooming girls behold with pride,
Perchance with envy, this resplendent bride;
Though vieing voices hail her Fashion's queen,
And even a Bishop's blessing crown the scene,
No rites, no rings, no altars, can avail
To make a sacred contract of a sale,
Stir the far depths of the reluctant mind,
Or join the hearts which love hath failed to bind.
If soul stands passive whilst the flesh is sold,
Is there no foul aroma in the gold?
Is the base barter covered by the price,
And do huge figures make the nasty nice?
The nameless outcast, prowling for her prey,
Renews her filthy bargain day by day;
Let Croesus give her what he gave his wife,
She's virtuous too-at least, she's his for life.
Croesus-but hold! Let Charity presume
That Croesus' wife but dimly knew her doom.
The luckless maid, since knowledge comes too late,
In splendour seeks oblivion of her fate;
Of every tender pious aim bereft,
Hugs in despair the only idol left;
In alien worship seeks to be consoled,
And builds her hopes of happiness on Gold.
Gold rules her steps, determines her desires-
Mere puppet she, whilst Mammon jerks the wires.
Futile to ask if London suits her health-
Would you consult her doctor, not her wealth?
You soon are answered: Whether ill or well,
A house in Town is indispensable.
Where shall it be? On gravel or on clay?
Wherever tenants have the most to pay.
Price is the thing, not soil. If Fashion's camp
Be pitched just here, what matter dry or damp?
But, health apart, 'tis known that Croesus' wife,
If left to choose, prefers a country life.
Well, she shall have it when the Parks are brown,
And Fashion, wearied, hath dispersed the Town.
But whilst the woods are leafy, and the lanes
With lush wild-flowers rob life of half its pains;
While sweetest scents and softest sounds combine
To make existence, did they last, divine;
Not for the world must Croesus' wife be missed
From fetid streets, foul rooms, and Fashion's list;
And only thence to rural refuge flies
As, self-exhausted, pleasant Summer dies.
Say, shall we marvel, amid scenes like these,
With all to dazzle, but with nought to please,
If links of simple gold should fail to cleave,
And tempters prompt their webs not vainly weave?
See, Plutus, first in each ignoble strife,
Battered and bored, bethinks him of a wife.
The happy tidings, spreading through the West,
Fires each maternal mercenary breast.
The soaring dames parade their daughters' charms,
To lure the hug of Plutus' palsied arms;
And as brave Eld for one fair woman fought,
For one foul man our world to rage is wrought.
At last, opining he might chance do worse,
Plutus to proud Olympia flings his purse.
Olympia lifts it with triumphant smile,
Whilst round her crowds congratulating guile,
Escorts her to the altar, decks her brows
With orange-buds, then leaves her with her spouse,
Who, though his suit by golden showers throve,
Can grasp his Danaë with no thews of Jove.
O, who shall tell Olympia's tale aright,
Each splendid day, each miserable night;
Her thirst divine by human draughts but slaked,
Her smiling face whilst the heart sorely ached,
Or note the edge whence one we loved so well
To sweet, seductive, base perdition fell?
I cast no stone, but half by rage consoled,
I snatch the lyre and curse this fiendish Gold.
Though Beauty's fame oft spreads through all the land,
Splendour is far more curiously scanned;
And they who once upon Olympia threw
A passing glance, since she was fair to view,
Now gilded pomp and Ostentation's choir
Attend her path, of gazing never tire;
Suck up her speech, translate her silent eyes,
Each movement, look, and posture scrutinise,
Stalk all her steps, as matron, friend, and wife,
And feed in greedy gossip on her life.
Not mine to follow to the noisome den
Where woman's frailty stands the gaze of men,
And well-coached menials, limed with gold, detail
The piteous scenes that pass behind the veil.
Enough to know that, thanks to wealth, once more
Plutus can woo, e'en richer than before.
The tottering cuckold leaves the court consoled;
Considerate juries tip his horns with Gold!
Sure some malicious demon in the brain
It needs must be, drives men reputed sane
To spurn the joys adjacent to their feet,
In the fond chase of this receding cheat?
Say, when the Stoic on his tranquil height,
And swinish crowd, sweating in miry fight,
In every age a like conclusion reach,
And sage and simple one same sermon preach-
That whether Heaven hath made one serf or king,
Reason alone true happiness can bring-
Can we but stand astounded as we scan
This race untaught, unteachable, called Man?
Would you be truly rich, how small the heap
Your aims require, the price how passing cheap!
A modest house, from urban jars removed,
By thrist selected, yet by taste approved;
Whose walls are gay with every sweet that blows,
Whose windows scented by the blushing rose;
Whose chambers few to no fine airs pretend,
Yet never are too full to greet a friend;
A garden plot, whither unbidden come
Bird's idle pipe and bee's laborious hum;
Smooth-shaven lawn, whereon in pastime's hours
The mallet rings within a belt of flowers;
A leafy nook where to enjoy at will
Gibbon's rich prose or Shakespeare's wizard quill;
A neighbouring copse wherein the stock-doves coo,
And a wild stream unchecked sings all day through;
Two clean bright stalls, where midday, night, and morn,
Two good stout roadsters champ their well-earned corn;
A few learned shelves from modern rubbish free,
Yet always, Mill, with just a place for Thee;
Head ne'er at dawn by clownish bouts obscured,
And limbs by temperate exercise inured;
A few firm friendships made in early life,
Yet doubly fastened by a pleasant wife;
A wholesome board, a draught of honest wine;-
This is true wealth; and this, thank Heaven, is mine!
And though you ransacked worlds from shore to shore,
From sea to sky, you could not give me more.
And if, all these beyond, I still should crave
Something impossible this side the grave,
Let humbler souls my soaring hopes forgive-
After my life still in my verse to live.
Well would it be if Mammon's feverish rage
Did but the vulgar and the base engage;
If those alone whose undistinguished name,
Haply if fouled, would shed no slur on Fame,
Sought in this sordid, despicable strife,
To find the good and snatch the crown of life.
But in the mire of venal fight embroiled,
Have we not seen the noblest scutcheons soiled?
Not the proud thought that many a splendid fray,
When crowns obeyed the fortunes of the day,
To stalwart arms its pregnant issue owed,
Whose glorious blood in their own body flowed;
Not the remembrance that their sires did share
The toils that made this England great and fair;
Not their resplendent pedigree, nor all
The line of haught fierce faces on the wall,
That tells the tale of their ancestral hall,
Have yet availed, in days like these, to hold
Men, thus seduced, from the coarse race for Gold.
Have we not seen the generous beast, whose sires
Once bore their fathers into battle's fires,
By titled gamblers' mercenary taste
His once stout loins to nimble flanks debased,
Made for curst gold to sweat through all his pores,
The panting pet of blacklegs, lords, and whores?
On such a course what dismal woes await,
Let the world learn by young Lucullus' fate.
Whilst yet the bloom of boyhood matched his cheek,
And all his duty was to master Greek.
Make a long score, bound o'er the running brook,
Cleave the clear wave, Lucullus had a book.
No glorious volume was't, whose subtle page
The wisdom breathed of many a studious age.
No wealth of wit, no Learning's garnered sheaves
Lay, like a treasure, lurking in its leaves.
But, in their place, crabbed Calculation scrawled
Symbols which shocked and figures that appalled.
Not for sweet Fancy, nor the simple stake
Of generous sports, did he his tasks forsake.
Ere sentiment could move, or sense control,
Adventurous Greed had swallowed up his soul.
If Gold Acrisius' Tower of Brass could flout,
How will the playground shut the monster out?
Thus by his own base instincts first betrayed,
The race of harpies lend their shameful aid,
With evil eye his smiling lands behold,
And smooth his path to infamy with gold.
At length behold him grown to man's estate,
Rich, noble, noted, lord of his own fate.
Here Duty beckons, Honour there incites,
And Love entices to its saving rites.
He heeds them not; he joins the madding crowd,
King of the base, the vulgar, and the loud;
Builds his most precious friendships on a bet,
And through the gutter trails his coronet.
Vain fool! inflamed by flattery and conceit,
He marks no pitfalls yawning at his feet;
But, winning, deems the cunning snare his luck,
And losing, pays, to plume him on his pluck;
Accepts each challenge, doubles every stake,
While tipsy plaudits follow in his wake.
But what avails, if Fortune quits his side?
Curse on the jade, he cries, she always lied!
Well, now's an end! . . . A comrade plucks his gown:
An end as yet, man! cut the timber down.
The luck will turn; you lost for want of skill;
Come, play again-you'll win. . . . By G-, I will!
Done soon as said. The swift sure axe resounds
Through the green stretch of his ancestral grounds.
The soaring elm, whose topmost boughs defied
The scaling valour of his boyish pride;
The umbrageous beech, beneath whose courtly shade
The loves that issued in his life were made;
The lordly oak, young when his line was young,
To which with pride inherited had clung
His sires and they from whom his sires were sprung;
Behold them now, around the naked hall,
One after one in fell succession fall.
Lo, the wide woods which centuries had seen
By frosts unmoved, mid thunder-fugues serene,
By thousand suns, by tens of thousand showers,
Fostered and fed, one greedy day devours.
And all in vain! Lured by the severed spoil,
The foul fierce harpies fasten on the soil.
`My lands on luck.' We take you. Clear the course;
Twenty to one upon Lucullus' horse!
One minute more, and poor Lucullus flies,
The beggared heir of all the centuries.
Then scoffed, and scourged, and stripped of all his wealth,
His last friends leave him-energy and health.
Anxiety and fierce Excitement's flame
Have scorched his blood and shrivelled up his frame.
`Plum to a pony!' hear the cripple call;
`Ere six months pass, the grave will end it all.'
Lucky at last, he wins his bootless bet,
And dies of drink, debauchery, and debt.
Gone are the times indeed when savage Might
Usurped the throne and claimed the wage of Right.
No longer now the tiller of the soil
Sees his fair fields the lusty robber's spoil;
No timid burgher now grows rich by stealth,
Lest some rude noble swoop upon his wealth;
The quiet citizen no longer fears
A raid upon his money or his ears,
That local turmoil or imperial strife
Will wreck his home or leave him bare for life.
But say, is Force the only fearful foe,
Or the keen Sword worst source of human woe?
Wielding base weapons Violence disdained,
Cunning prevails where once Compulsion reigned.
The tyrant's lance, Oppression's piercing shaft,
Torment no more, but abdicate to Craft.
Could feudal despot swooping on his prey,
Could bandit burning for the unequal fray,
Could fire, sword, famine, spread more wreck abroad,
Than marks the path of Greed allied with Fraud;
Or waits on life, where no rude signs portend
When the dread bolt of Ruin will descend?
See the poor father, who for years has toiled,
At one fell stroke of all his store despoiled.
His was the pious wish, by daily care
And safe degrees to make his hearth more fair;
His the ambition-far too meek to roam-
To swell the simple luxuries of home;
By loving thrift to deck his comely spouse
With some poor gem, the summit of her vows;
To instruct his boys in every generous art
Which trains the man to act a shining part;
By culture's aid to see his daughters armed
With each fair grace that in their mother charmed;
Year after year, as strength and vigour waned,
To find his fondest forecasts all attained;
And then, since faithful to the final stage,
Doff the hard harness from the back of age.
But watchful Greed with jealous eye beheld
Day after day his little earnings swelled;
Studied the tender workings of his mind,
Marked the fond aims to which his heart inclined;
With specious lips his trusting senses stole,
And with false visions fired his prudent soul.
Poor wretch! but yesterday in modest state
He lived, secure from every bolt of Fate.
To-day, he wanders feverish and depressed,
As though whole Andes weighed upon his breast.
To-morrow, back unto his home he crawls,
A beggared man, and at the threshold falls.
Now will no more his trustful wife behold
The gladsome face returning as of old,
And read in sparkling eye and smiling cheek
The day's good tidings e'en before he speak;
Never again in hastening footsteps guess
Some pretty love-gift, token of success.
Their blooming boys, for whom parental hope
So oft had cast the fairest horoscope,
And seen with fond anticipating eyes
Each proud successive civic honour rise,
Torn from their noble studies, have to crave
From base pursuits the pittance of a slave,
Pour the soul's wine into the body's sieve,
And grand life lose in mean attempts to live.
Perchance, at home their humble wants denied,
Gaunt Hunger drives them from their mother's side;
Leaves her to weep alone o'er what hath been,
And places ocean, pitiless, between.
The tender girls, their father's pride and joy,
Whose dreams a fiend had scrupled to destroy;
From childhood's earliest days whose only care
Was to be gracious, virtuous, and fair,
And who from Heaven could nothing else implore
Save to be all their mother was before;
Who pictured as their perfect scheme of life
A clinging daughter and a helpful wife,-
At one rude flash behold the world enlarge,
And stand, pale victims, trembling on the marge.
Little, alas, now boots it where they roam,
Since they must leave the tranquil shores of home.
Whether, poor slaves, they crawl with aching feet
Hour after hour from dreary street to street,
Or, as in mockery of home, alas!
Beneath the stranger's icy portal pass,
And thankless task and miserable wage
Their exiled cheerless energies engage,
Their youth, their life, is blasted at the core,
And Hope's sweet sap will mount their veins no more.
Should every door their humble prayers repel,
Scorning to buy what Hunger kneels to sell,
And they, half thankful that the strangers spurn,
To their own roof be driven to return,
How strange the scene that meets their wearied gaze!
How changed the hearth, the home, of other days!
Contracting Care usurps the mother's face,
Whose smiles of old spread sunshine through the place.
Alone she weeps; but should she chance to hear
Her husband's steps, she hides the furtive tear;
Follows his movements with an anxious dread,
Studies his brow, and scans his restless tread;
Assails his woe with every female wile,
Prattles of hope, and simulates a smile.
He, broken man, wrapt in perpetual gloom,
Wanders anon from vacant room to room;
Then, creeping back, the image of despair,
With a deep sigh he sinks into his chair.
He seldom speaks; and when his voice is heard,
Peevish its tone, and querulous his word;
And vain laments and childish tears attest
The lamp of life is dying in his breast.
Perhaps his death some timely pittance frees,
Secured by prudence in their days of ease;
And, O the pity! posthumous relief
Stanches love's wounds, and blunts the edge of grief.
Unless, indeed-for this too hath been known-
All-grasping Greed hath made that mite its own,
Filched from the widow her last hopes of bread,
And whom it ruined living, plunders dead!
These are thy triumphs, Gold! thy trophies these,
To nurture fraud, and rob the world of ease,
Faith to befool, young genius to seduce,
And blight at once its beauty and its use.
Thine is the bait, as loveless hearths avouch,
Which drags fresh victims to the venal couch;
Thine the foul traps wherewith our ways are rife,
That lure them first, then close upon their life;
Thine, thine the springes, set in regions fair,
Whose unseen nooses strangle whom they snare;
The cynic glory thine to lie in wait
To make men little who had else been great,
Frustrate our plenty, aggravate our dearth,
And keep eternal feud 'twixt Heaven and Earth!
Lo, where huge London, huger day by day,
O'er six fair counties spreads its hideous sway,
A tract there lies by Fortune's favours blest,
And at Fame's font yclept the happy West.
There, as by wizard touch, for miles on miles,
Rise squares, streets, crescents of palatial piles.
In the brave days when England's trusty voice
Made grappling rivals tremble or rejoice;
When, foremost shield of Weakness or of Right,
She scorned to warn unless resolved to smite;
When, few but firm, her stalwart children bore
The terror of her Flag from shore to shore,
Purged Christ's dear tomb from sacrilege and shame,
And made the Moslem quake at Richard's name;
Taught the vain Gaul, though gallant, still to kneel,
And Spain's proud sons the weight of northern steel;-
Then were her best in no such splendour nursed
As now awaits her basest and her worst.
No kingly Harry glittering with renown,
No Edward radiant in a peaceful crown,
Was housed as now, at turn of Fortune's wrist,
Some lucky navvy turned capitalist,
Some convict's bastard who a-sudden shines
In the bright splendour of Australian mines,
Or subtle Greek, who, skilled in Eastern ways,
Exposes all Golconda to our gaze.
These, as to Pomp's pretentious peaks they rush,
Heed not the crowds their sordid conquests crush:
Secure in glaring opulence, they scan
With placid eyes the miseries of man;
Fat units, watch the leanness of the whole,
And gag remonstrance with a paltry dole:
Mid harrowing want, with conscience unafraid,
Die on the golden dirt-heaps they have made.
Here Plenty gorges gifts from every zone,
There thankful Hunger gnaws its meagre bone;
Profusion here melts more than pearls in wine,
There craves gaunt Penury some shucks from swine;
And whilst rich rogues quaff deep round roaring fires,
At Dives' portal Lazarus expires!
Betwixt these fierce extremes of wealth and woe,
A crowd of strugglers hustles to and fro,
Whose one sole aim and only hope in life
Are just to wrench subsistence from the strife.
To what base shifts these hideous straits compel
The straining wretches, let our records tell.
Victims of greedy Competition's craft,
We drain cheap poison in each sparkling draught,
Purchase a lie in every vaunted ware,
And swallow filth in the most frugal fare.
Building a refuge for our age, we find
The crumbling mortar lets in wet and wind;
Face the rude waves, by science freed from awe,
To sink, poor dupes, on life-belts made of straw!
Nor this the worst! When ripened Shame would hide
Fruits of that hour when Passion conquered Pride,
There are not wanting in this Christian land
The breast remorseless and the Thuggish hand,
To advertise the dens where Death is sold,
And quench the breath of baby-life for gold!
Nor man alone, case-hardened man, surveys
These shocking contrasts with a careless gaze.
Fair melting woman of the tender breast
Here finds no room for pity as her guest.
Unsexed, she strains to Ostentation's goal,
While Splendour's dreams demoralise her soul;
Drains, like a goddess, hecatombs of lives,
Nor heeds who lags, provided she arrives.
See Claribel, by every gift designed
Mid anguish keen to be an angel kind,
Once plunged in rival factions' golden fight,
Turned to a demon in her own despite.
Behold, to-morrow in the Royal smile
Will bask the birth and wealth of all the Isle.
She, long abroad, received the summons late.
What's to be done? Nor time nor tide will wait.
She turns her wardrobe over, racks her brain;
Nothing will do. She wants a dress and train.
Drive to the modiste's. Not a finger free.
There's only Clara. Clara let it be.
But Clara's sick and sorry. Give her gold;
Her aches will cease, her sorrows be consoled.
It must be done. Sure Lilian there will glow
In gorgeous newness decked from top to toe;
Shall it be said that Claribel did less?
To-morrow, then, in time the train and dress.
So Clara drags her weary limbs from bed,
O'er the brave finery hangs her throbbing head;
Still as her senses swim sews on and on,
Till day dies out and twilight pale is gone.
Then, by the taper's soft and silent light,
Like a pale flower that opens most by night,
Her pace she quickens, and the needle moves
Subtler and swifter through the gauzy grooves;
But as the dawn on guttering sockets gains,
Her tired lids drop, and sleep arrests her pains.
But sleep how short! She feels her shoulder clutched:
`Clara, awake! the train's not even touched!
Day strides apace. See, there's the morning sun,
And ere again he sinks, 't must all be done.'
Again, again, the shooting thread she plies,
In silent agony of smothered sighs.
She seems to breathe her breath into the gown,
To give it life the while she lays hers down.
Fast as the task advances set by pride,
So fast within her ebbs the vital tide.
The daylight goes, and softly comes the moon's,
And then poor Clara over the last stitch swoons.
Meanwhile, the panting Claribel awaits
The precious gown within her golden gates.
It comes-it comes. Now who shall shine her down?
Not Lilian, surely? No, not the entire Town.
She not for worlds had lost this courtly chance;
And Clara dies that Claribel may dance!
If private worth, thus languishing, expires,
Will public Virtue keep alive her fires?
The slaves of wealth, in Britain as in Rome,
Bring to the Forum vices formed at home.
First the community, and then the State,
Falls to their fangs, which naught can satiate.
Not born nor bred to rule, of culture void,
And by no wave of young ambition buoyed,
Anxious on heights conspicuous to flaunt
Nought but the tawdry trophies they can vaunt,
They woo the grasping crowd with golden guile,
And spread Corruption's canker through the Isle.
You want a seat? Then boldly sate your itch.
Be very radical, and very rich.
Sell your opinions first to please the pure,
Then buy the sordid, and your triumph's sure.
Do all, in brief, that honest men abhor,
And England hails another Senator.
See the vain Tribune who, in lust of power,
Bows to the base exactions of the hour,
And, fooled by sycophants, stands forth at last
A devotee turned sworn iconoclast!
Behind him sit dense rows of golden mutes,
Deaf to whate'er demonstrates or refutes,
Ready to vote, rescind, obey in all
The whip demands, as hounds the huntsman's call.
They neither know nor reck what helpful deeds
In this grave hour their perilled Country needs.
They want to see their daughters nobly wed,
Their wives at Court, their own names trumpeted,
Their private Bills advanced another stage,
Their schemes of plunder foisted on the age.
Leave them but these, the gamblers come to call,
Nor heed an Empire nodding to its fall!
When Power is built on props like these, how vain
The hope that Law the giddy will restrain!
Spoilt by twin sops, servility and gold,
The headstrong crowd is then but ill controlled.
In vain they now would sway who lately served,
And Riot cows Authority unnerved.
Better that such base compromise should end,
And the dread bolt of Anarchy descend!
Goths of the gutter, Vandals of the slum,
Thieves and Reformers, come! Barbarians, come!
Before your might let rails and rules be hurled,
And sweep Civilisation from the world!
Nor now, alas, do Commoners alone
To private ends the public weal postpone.
Those too, whom worth ancestral plants on seats
High above where all vulgar Clamour beats,
With paltry fear to their clipped ermine cling,
And shrink from right, lest right should ruin bring.
The Peers stand firm; the Commons disagree.
The Peers be-well, it now is close on three.
By five, a world of reasons will be found.
Throw Jonas over, or the ship's aground.
You know the fury of the hand that steers;
And what were Britain with no House of Peers?
Would Primogeniture its fall survive,
Or even Property be kept alive?
Let Herbert fume, or frantic Cecil chafe,
Better a deal to choose the side that's safe;
Bow to the will of Finlen and his hordes,
And still thank Heavën for a House of Lords!
Thus may the British breast exult to think.
That noble names can sell ignoble ink;
That ill-got gains, if deftly spent, unlock
Birth's choicest circles to the ambitious smock;
That Dives foul mounts fine Aristo's stairs,
If but Aristo Dives' plunder shares;
And half Debrett urbanely flocks to White's,
To back the boor who saves them from the kites.
His son succeeds him. `Make the son a Peer.
Why not? His income's eighty thousand clear.
New blood is wanted. Here's the very stuff.
Besides, he wields the county vote.' Enough.
But hold! there's Cato. `Cato! are you sane?
Why, Cato's means but one small hearth sustain.
Ennoble Cato, you'll have Peers for life,
Or else forbid the man to take a wife.
He can't maintain the necessary state,
And would you have a poor name legislate?
No, Dives' son's the very man we need.
What says the Crown?' The Crown! Of course, Agreed.
And the young fool, enriched by parent knaves,
From Ruin's jaws our Constitution saves!
Is there no path of honour for the great,
No sound and clean salvation for the State?
Must we for ever fly to shifts like this,
And trust to Gold to save us from the abyss?
Must honours old by new-got wealth be vamped,
And Valour's stock by plutocrats be swamped?
Back to your lands, base sons of splendid sires!
From spendthrift squares back to your native shires!
Back, back from Baden, and leave Homburg's shades
To dazzling Jews and mercenary jades.
Leave London's round of vulgar joys to those
Who seek in such from base pursuits repose.
Cease to contend with upstart Wealth's parade,
To wring your lands to vie with tricks of trade;
And, proudly spurning Glitter's transient lies,
At least be honest, if you can't be wise!
Worship your household gods, and spend at home
The solid earnings of the generous loam.
Delve, fence, and drain; the dripping waste reclaim;
With spreading woodlands multiply your fame.
Yours let it be to screen the reverent hind,
Who loves your presence, 'gainst the frost and wind;
Scorning to count the profit, raise his lot;
Lure the shy Graces to his lowly cot;
Be, one and all, acknowledged, far and wide,
Patriarchs and patterns of the country side.
And whether demagogues shall rise or fall,
A Cleon mount, or Boänerges bawl,
True to yourselves and native duty, thus
Save this poor England by being virtuous!
And you, Sir, hope of this once famous isle,
Round whom its halo plays, its favours smile,
Hark to the Muse, which, poised on Candour's wings,
Flouts the base crowd, but scorns to flatter kings.
Hark, while she tells you, nor her counsel spurn,
From giddy Pleasure's gilded toys to turn;
That not from minions opulent or coarse
Do Princes gain their lustre and their force;
That Reverence anchors not in deep carouse,
And that a Crown fits only kingly brows!
Fired by each bright example, shun the shade,
Where Scandal best can ply her noxious trade.
Learn from your pious Father how to share
With hands, too lonely now, a Kingdom's care.
Be by your fair loved Consort's pattern moved,
And like your virtuous Mother, stand approved;
Do for this England all the Sceptre can,
And be at least a stainless gentleman.
Be this too much, you well may live to find
That firmest Thrones can fail the weak and blind,
And, though no Samson, sharing half his fate,
Pull down the pillars of a mighty State!
Whilst our domestic fortunes thus obey
All-searching Gold's demoralising sway,
We hug the limits of our puny shore,
And Glory knows our once great name no more.
First are we still in every bloodless fray,
Where piles of gold adventurous prows repay;
But when flushed Honour sets the world on fire,
We furl our sails and to our coasts retire;
And, basely calm whilst outraged nations bleed,
Invent new doctrines to excuse our greed.
When gallant Denmark, now the spoiler's prey,
Flashed her bright blade, and faced the unequal fray,
And, all abandoned both by men and gods,
Fell, faint with wounds, before accursèd odds,-
Where, where was England's vindicating sword,
Her promised arm, to stay the invading horde;
Bid the rude German drop his half-clutched spoil,
And scare the robber from ancestral soil?
The fair young Dane, beloved by every Grace,
And all the Virtues shining in her face,
Who, more an angel than a princess deemed,
Withal was even sweeter than she seemed,
With noisy throats we summoned o'er the foam,
And with cheap cheers escorted to her home.
But when with streaming eye and throbbing breast
She, pious child, her loving fears confessed,
And, leagued with Honour's voice and Valour's ire,
Prayed us to save her country and her sire,
We turned away, and opulently cold,
Put back our swords of steel in sheaths of gold!
And yet what sandy base doth Gold afford,
Though crowned by Law, and fenced round by the Sword,
Learn from that Empire which, a scorn for aye,
Grew in a night and perished in a day!
Helped by a magic name and doubtful hour,
See the Adventurer scale the steeps of Power.
Upon him groups of desperate gamesters wait,
To snatch their profit from a sinking State.
Folly, and Fate which Folly still attends,
Conspire to shape and expedite their ends.
The Hour, the Man are here! No pulse? No breath?
Wake, Freedom, wake! In vain! She sleeps like Death.
The impious hands, emboldened by her swoon,
Choke in the night, and slay her in the noon!
Then, when vain crowds with dilatory glaive
Rush to avenge the life they would not save,
The prompt conspirators with lavish hand
Fling their last pieces to a pampered band,
Bribe cut-throat blades Vengeance' choked ways to hold,
And bar the avenues of rage with gold!
Then mark how soon, amid triumphant hymns,
The Imperial purple girds the blood-stained limbs.
The perjured hands a golden sceptre gain,
A crown of gold screens the seared brow of Cain,
And golden eagles, erst of simpler ore,
Assert the Caesar, and his rod restore.
See round his throne Pomp's servile tributes swell,
Not Nero knew, e'er Rome to ruin fell,
Far from his feet the lust of glitter spread,
And the vain herd on Splendour's follies fed!
Nor they alone, the shallow, base, and gay,
Bend to this Idol with the feet of clay:
Statesmen and soldiers kneel with flattering suit,
Kings are his guests, e'en queens his cheeks salute;
Senates extol him, supple priests caress,
And even thou, O Pius, stoop'st to bless!
And the World's verdict, ever blind as base,
Welcomes the `Second Saviour' of the race!
And yet how weak this Empire girt with gold
Did prove to save when Battle's torrents rolled,
Have we not seen in ruin, rout, and shame,
Burnt deep in Gaul's for ever broken fame?
What then availed her courts of pomp and pride,
What her bright camps with glittering shows allied?
What, in that hour, the luxury which passed
To soldiers' lips the sybarite repast?
Did all her gold suffice, when steel withstood
Her stride, to make her rash, vain challenge good?
Behold her Chief, in comfort longwhile slung,
By War's rough couch and random fare unstrung
His vaunted Leaders, who to Power had mown
Their path with swords that propped a venal Throne,
Brandishing rival blades, his brain confound,
While still, but sure, the solid foe press round.
See her soft sons, whom arms enervate lead,
Spurn the long marches which to victory speed,
And, fondly deeming Science served by Wealth
Will snatch the fight at distance and by stealth,
Smitten with fear at Valour's downright face,
And taught swift limbs in Flight's ignoble chase!
See one, see all, before the Victor fleet,
Then lay their swords, submissive, at his feet!
O hapless France! e'en then insurgent ire
Had your soiled scutcheon lifted from the mire,
Placed the bright helm on Honour's front once more,
And laurels reaped more lasting than of yore,
Had not rich ease your manhood's marrow stole,
And gold emollient softened all your soul.
O, what a sight-a sight these eyes beheld-
Her fair green woods by the invader felled;
Her fields and vineyards by the Teuton trod,
Those she once smote encamped upon her sod;
Her homes, in dread, abandoned to the foe,
Or saved from rapine by obsequience low;
Her cities ransomed, provinces o'erawed,
Her iron strongholds wrenched by force or fraud;
Her once proud Paris grovelling in the dust,
And-crowning irony, if lesson just-
The grasping victor, loth to quit his hold,
Coaxed slowly homewards o'er a bridge of gold!
Is there no warning, England, here, for thee?
Or are Heaven's laws balked by a strip of sea?
Are thy foundations, Albion, so approved,
Thou canst behold such downfall all unmoved?
Have we not marked how this Briarean Gold
Doth all our life and energies enfold?
And as our practice, so our doctrines too-
We shape new ethics for our vices new;
Our sires forswear, our splendid Past defame,
And in high places glory in our shame!
Hear our loud-tinkling Tribunes all declare
Once lavish England hath no blood to spare,
No gold to spend; within her watery wall
She needs to roll and wallow in it all.
Doth towering Might some poor faint Cause oppress,
They bid her turn, impartial, from distress;
Indulge her tears, but hide her ire from sight,
Lest a like doom her angry front invite.
And when this craven caution fails to save
Her peaceful fortunes from the braggart glaive,
They bid her still be moral and be meek,
Hug tight her gold, and turn the other cheek.
Her very sons, sprung from her mighty loins,
We aliens make, to save some paltry coins;
With our own hands destroy our Empire old,
And stutter, `All is lost, except our gold!'
With languid limbs, by comfortable fire,
We see our glories, one by one, expire;
A Nelson's flag, a Churchill's flashing blade,
Debased to menials of rapacious Trade;
Lost by a Cardwell what a Wellesley won,
And by a Gladstone Chatham's world undone!
Pale, gibbering spectres fumbling at the helm,
Whilst dark winds howl, and billowy seas o'erwhelm.
Yet deem you, England, that you thus will save,
Even your wealth from rapine or the grave?
Will your one chain of safety always hold,
Or `silver streak' for ever guard your gold?
If through long slumbrous years the ignoble rust
Of selfish ease your erst bright steel encrust,
When Storm impends, you vainly will implore
The Gods of Ocean to protect your shore.
Bribed by the foe, behold Britannia stand
At Freedom's portals with a traitress hand,
Help the Barbarian to its sacred hold,
Then, like Tarpeia, sink oppressed with Gold!
Perish the thought! O, rather let me see
Conspiring myriads bristling on the sea,
Our tranquil coasts bewildered by alarms,
And Britain, singly, face a World in arms!
What if a treacherous Heaven befriend our foes?
Let us go down in glory, as we rose!
And if that doom-the best that could betide-
Be to our Fame by envious Fate denied,
Then come, primeval clouds and seasons frore,
And wrap in gloom our luckless land once more!
Come, every wind of Heaven that rudely blows,
Plunge back our Isle in never-ending snows!
Rage, Eurus, rage! fierce Boreas, descend!
With glacial mists lost Albion befriend!
E'en of its name be every trace destroyed,
And Dark sit brooding o'er the formless Void!
The Ghost - Book IV
Coxcombs, who vainly make pretence
To something of exalted sense
'Bove other men, and, gravely wise,
Affect those pleasures to despise,
Which, merely to the eye confined,
Bring no improvement to the mind,
Rail at all pomp; they would not go
For millions to a puppet-show,
Nor can forgive the mighty crime
Of countenancing pantomime;
No, not at Covent Garden, where,
Without a head for play or player,
Or, could a head be found most fit,
Without one player to second it,
They must, obeying Folly's call,
Thrive by mere show, or not at all
With these grave fops, who, (bless their brains!)
Most cruel to themselves, take pains
For wretchedness, and would be thought
Much wiser than a wise man ought,
For his own happiness, to be;
Who what they hear, and what they see,
And what they smell, and taste, and feel,
Distrust, till Reason sets her seal,
And, by long trains of consequences
Insured, gives sanction to the senses;
Who would not (Heaven forbid it!) waste
One hour in what the world calls Taste,
Nor fondly deign to laugh or cry,
Unless they know some reason why;
With these grave fops, whose system seems
To give up certainty for dreams,
The eye of man is understood
As for no other purpose good
Than as a door, through which, of course,
Their passage crowding, objects force,
A downright usher, to admit
New-comers to the court of Wit:
(Good Gravity! forbear thy spleen;
When I say Wit, I Wisdom mean)
Where (such the practice of the court,
Which legal precedents support)
Not one idea is allow'd
To pass unquestion'd in the crowd,
But ere it can obtain the grace
Of holding in the brain a place,
Before the chief in congregation
Must stand a strict examination.
Not such as those, who physic twirl,
Full fraught with death, from every curl;
Who prove, with all becoming state,
Their voice to be the voice of Fate;
Prepared with essence, drop, and pill,
To be another Ward or Hill,
Before they can obtain their ends,
To sign death-warrants for their friends,
And talents vast as theirs employ,
_Secundum artem_ to destroy,
Must pass (or laws their rage restrain)
Before the chiefs of Warwick Lane:
Thrice happy Lane! where, uncontroll'd,
In power and lethargy grown old,
Most fit to take, in this bless'd land,
The reins--which fell from Wyndham's hand,
Her lawful throne great Dulness rears,
Still more herself, as more in years;
Where she, (and who shall dare deny
Her right, when Reeves and Chauncy's by?)
Calling to mind, in ancient time,
One Garth, who err'd in wit and rhyme,
Ordains, from henceforth, to admit
None of the rebel sons of Wit,
And makes it her peculiar care
That Schomberg never shall be there.
Not such as those, whom Polly trains
To letters, though unbless'd with brains,
Who, destitute of power and will
To learn, are kept to learning still;
Whose heads, when other methods fail,
Receive instruction from the tail,
Because their sires,--a common case
Which brings the children to disgrace,--
Imagine it a certain rule
They never could beget a fool,
Must pass, or must compound for, ere
The chaplain, full of beef and prayer,
Will give his reverend permit,
Announcing them for orders fit;
So that the prelate (what's a name?
All prelates now are much the same)
May, with a conscience safe and quiet,
With holy hands lay on that fiat
Which doth all faculties dispense,
All sanctity, all faith, all sense;
Makes Madan quite a saint appear,
And makes an oracle of Cheere.
Not such as in that solemn seat,
Where the Nine Ladies hold retreat,--
The Ladies Nine, who, as we're told,
Scorning those haunts they loved of old,
The banks of Isis now prefer,
Nor will one hour from Oxford stir,--
Are held for form, which Balaam's ass
As well as Balaam's self might pass,
And with his master take degrees,
Could he contrive to pay the fees.
Men of sound parts, who, deeply read,
O'erload the storehouse of the head
With furniture they ne'er can use,
Cannot forgive our rambling Muse
This wild excursion; cannot see
Why Physic and Divinity,
To the surprise of all beholders,
Are lugg'd in by the head and shoulders;
Or how, in any point of view,
Oxford hath any thing to do.
But men of nice and subtle learning,
Remarkable for quick discerning,
Through spectacles of critic mould,
Without instruction, will behold
That we a method here have got
To show what is, by what is not;
And that our drift (parenthesis
For once apart) is briefly this:
Within the brain's most secret cells
A certain Lord Chief-Justice dwells,
Of sovereign power, whom, one and all,
With common voice, we Reason call;
Though, for the purposes of satire,
A name, in truth, is no great matter;
Jefferies or Mansfield, which you will--
It means a Lord Chief-Justice still.
Here, so our great projectors say,
The Senses all must homage pay;
Hither they all must tribute bring,
And prostrate fall before their king;
Whatever unto them is brought,
Is carried on the wings of Thought
Before his throne, where, in full state,
He on their merits holds debate,
Examines, cross-examines, weighs
Their right to censure or to praise:
Nor doth his equal voice depend
On narrow views of foe and friend,
Nor can, or flattery, or force
Divert him from his steady course;
The channel of Inquiry's clear,
No sham examination's here.
He, upright justicer, no doubt,
_Ad libitum_ puts in and out,
Adjusts and settles in a trice
What virtue is, and what is vice;
What is perfection, what defect;
What we must choose, and what reject;
He takes upon him to explain
What pleasure is, and what is pain;
Whilst we, obedient to the whim,
And resting all our faith on him,
True members of the Stoic Weal,
Must learn to think, and cease to feel.
This glorious system, form'd for man
To practise when and how he can,
If the five Senses, in alliance,
To Reason hurl a proud defiance,
And, though oft conquer'd, yet unbroke,
Endeavour to throw off that yoke,
Which they a greater slavery hold
Than Jewish bondage was of old;
Or if they, something touch'd with shame,
Allow him to retain the name
Of Royalty, and, as in sport,
To hold a mimic formal court;
Permitted--no uncommon thing--
To be a kind of puppet king,
And suffer'd, by the way of toy,
To hold a globe, but not employ;
Our system-mongers, struck with fear,
Prognosticate destruction near;
All things to anarchy must run;
The little world of man's undone.
Nay, should the Eye, that nicest sense,
Neglect to send intelligence
Unto the Brain, distinct and clear,
Of all that passes in her sphere;
Should she, presumptuous, joy receive
Without the Understanding's leave,
They deem it rank and daring treason
Against the monarchy of Reason,
Not thinking, though they're wondrous wise,
That few have reason, most have eyes;
So that the pleasures of the mind
To a small circle are confined,
Whilst those which to the senses fall
Become the property of all.
Besides, (and this is sure a case
Not much at present out of place)
Where Nature reason doth deny,
No art can that defect supply;
But if (for it is our intent
Fairly to state the argument)
A man should want an eye or two,
The remedy is sure, though new:
The cure's at hand--no need of fear--
For proof--behold the Chevalier!--
As well prepared, beyond all doubt,
To put eyes in, as put them out.
But, argument apart, which tends
To embitter foes and separate friends,
(Nor, turn'd apostate from the Nine,
Would I, though bred up a divine,
And foe, of course, to Reason's Weal,
Widen that breach I cannot heal)
By his own sense and feelings taught,
In speech as liberal as in thought,
Let every man enjoy his whim;
What's he to me, or I to him?
Might I, though never robed in ermine,
A matter of this weight determine,
No penalties should settled be
To force men to hypocrisy,
To make them ape an awkward zeal,
And, feeling not, pretend to feel.
I would not have, might sentence rest
Finally fix'd within my breast,
E'en Annet censured and confined,
Because we're of a different mind.
Nature, who, in her act most free,
Herself delights in liberty,
Profuse in love, and without bound,
Pours joy on every creature round;
Whom yet, was every bounty shed
In double portions on our head,
We could not truly bounteous call,
If Freedom did not crown them all.
By Providence forbid to stray,
Brutes never can mistake their way;
Determined still, they plod along
By instinct, neither right nor wrong;
But man, had he the heart to use
His freedom, hath a right to choose;
Whether he acts, or well, or ill,
Depends entirely on his will.
To her last work, her favourite Man,
Is given, on Nature's better plan,
A privilege in power to err.
Nor let this phrase resentment stir
Amongst the grave ones, since indeed
The little merit man can plead
In doing well, dependeth still
Upon his power of doing ill.
Opinions should be free as air;
No man, whate'er his rank, whate'er
His qualities, a claim can found
That my opinion must be bound,
And square with his; such slavish chains
From foes the liberal soul disdains;
Nor can, though true to friendship, bend
To wear them even from a friend.
Let those, who rigid judgment own,
Submissive bow at Judgment's throne,
And if they of no value hold
Pleasure, till pleasure is grown cold,
Pall'd and insipid, forced to wait
For Judgment's regular debate
To give it warrant, let them find
Dull subjects suited to their mind.
Theirs be slow wisdom; be my plan,
To live as merry as I can,
Regardless, as the fashions go,
Whether there's reason for't or no:
Be my employment here on earth
To give a liberal scope to mirth,
Life's barren vale with flowers to adorn,
And pluck a rose from every thorn.
But if, by Error led astray,
I chance to wander from my way,
Let no blind guide observe, in spite,
I'm wrong, who cannot set me right.
That doctor could I ne'er endure
Who found disease, and not a cure;
Nor can I hold that man a friend
Whose zeal a helping hand shall lend
To open happy Folly's eyes,
And, making wretched, make me wise:
For next (a truth which can't admit
Reproof from Wisdom or from Wit)
To being happy here below,
Is to believe that we are so.
Some few in knowledge find relief;
I place my comfort in belief.
Some for reality may call;
Fancy to me is all in all.
Imagination, through the trick
Of doctors, often makes us sick;
And why, let any sophist tell,
May it not likewise make us well?
This I am sure, whate'er our view,
Whatever shadows we pursue,
For our pursuits, be what they will,
Are little more than shadows still;
Too swift they fly, too swift and strong,
For man to catch or hold them long;
But joys which in the fancy live,
Each moment to each man may give:
True to himself, and true to ease,
He softens Fate's severe decrees,
And (can a mortal wish for more?)
Creates, and makes himself new o'er,
Mocks boasted vain reality,
And is, whate'er he wants to be.
Hail, Fancy!--to thy power I owe
Deliverance from the gripe of Woe;
To thee I owe a mighty debt,
Which Gratitude shall ne'er forget,
Whilst Memory can her force employ,
A large increase of every joy.
When at my doors, too strongly barr'd,
Authority had placed a guard,
A knavish guard, ordain'd by law
To keep poor Honesty in awe;
Authority, severe and stern,
To intercept my wish'd return;
When foes grew proud, and friends grew cool,
And laughter seized each sober fool;
When Candour started in amaze,
And, meaning censure, hinted praise;
When Prudence, lifting up her eyes
And hands, thank'd Heaven that she was wise;
When all around me, with an air
Of hopeless sorrow, look'd despair;
When they, or said, or seem'd to say,
There is but one, one only way
Better, and be advised by us,
Not be at all, than to be thus;
When Virtue shunn'd the shock, and Pride,
Disabled, lay by Virtue's side,
Too weak my ruffled soul to cheer,
Which could not hope, yet would not fear;
Health in her motion, the wild grace
Of pleasure speaking in her face,
Dull regularity thrown by,
And comfort beaming from her eye,
Fancy, in richest robes array'd,
Came smiling forth, and brought me aid;
Came smiling o'er that dreadful time,
And, more to bless me, came in rhyme.
Nor is her power to me confined;
It spreads, it comprehends mankind.
When (to the spirit-stirring sound
Of trumpets breathing courage round,
And fifes well-mingled, to restrain
And bring that courage down again;
Or to the melancholy knell
Of the dull, deep, and doleful bell,
Such as of late the good Saint Bride
Muffled, to mortify the pride
Of those who, England quite forgot,
Paid their vile homage to the Scot;
Where Asgill held the foremost place,
Whilst my lord figured at a race)
Processions ('tis not worth debate
Whether they are of stage or state)
Move on, so very, very slow,
Tis doubtful if they move, or no;
When the performers all the while
Mechanically frown or smile,
Or, with a dull and stupid stare,
A vacancy of sense declare,
Or, with down-bending eye, seem wrought
Into a labyrinth of thought,
Where Reason wanders still in doubt,
And, once got in, cannot get out;
What cause sufficient can we find,
To satisfy a thinking mind,
Why, duped by such vain farces, man
Descends to act on such a plan?
Why they, who hold themselves divine,
Can in such wretched follies join,
Strutting like peacocks, or like crows,
Themselves and Nature to expose?
What cause, but that (you'll understand
We have our remedy at hand,
That if perchance we start a doubt,
Ere it is fix'd, we wipe it out;
As surgeons, when they lop a limb,
Whether for profit, fame, or whim,
Or mere experiment to try,
Must always have a styptic by)
Fancy steps in, and stamps that real,
Which, _ipso facto_, is ideal.
Can none remember?--yes, I know,
All must remember that rare show
When to the country Sense went down,
And fools came flocking up to town;
When knights (a work which all admit
To be for knighthood much unfit)
Built booths for hire; when parsons play'd,
In robes canonical array'd,
And, fiddling, join'd the Smithfield dance,
The price of tickets to advance:
Or, unto tapsters turn'd, dealt out,
Running from booth to booth about,
To every scoundrel, by retail,
True pennyworths of beef and ale,
Then first prepared, by bringing beer in,
For present grand electioneering;
When heralds, running all about
To bring in Order, turn'd it out;
When, by the prudent Marshal's care,
Lest the rude populace should stare,
And with unhallow'd eyes profane
Gay puppets of Patrician strain,
The whole procession, as in spite,
Unheard, unseen, stole off by night;
When our loved monarch, nothing both,
Solemnly took that sacred oath,
Whence mutual firm agreements spring
Betwixt the subject and the king,
By which, in usual manner crown'd,
His head, his heart, his hands, he bound,
Against himself, should passion stir
The least propensity to err,
Against all slaves, who might prepare,
Or open force, or hidden snare,
That glorious Charter to maintain,
By which we serve, and he must reign;
Then Fancy, with unbounded sway,
Revell'd sole mistress of the day,
And wrought such wonders, as might make
Egyptian sorcerers forsake
Their baffled mockeries, and own
The palm of magic hers alone.
A knight, (who, in the silken lap
Of lazy Peace, had lived on pap;
Who never yet had dared to roam
'Bove ten or twenty miles from home,
Nor even that, unless a guide
Was placed to amble by his side,
And troops of slaves were spread around
To keep his Honour safe and sound;
Who could not suffer, for his life,
A point to sword, or edge to knife;
And always fainted at the sight
Of blood, though 'twas not shed in fight;
Who disinherited one son
For firing off an alder gun,
And whipt another, six years old,
Because the boy, presumptuous, bold
To madness, likely to become
A very Swiss, had beat a drum,
Though it appear'd an instrument
Most peaceable and innocent,
Having, from first, been in the hands
And service of the City bands)
Graced with those ensigns, which were meant
To further Honour's dread intent,
The minds of warriors to inflame,
And spur them on to deeds of fame;
With little sword, large spurs, high feather,
Fearless of every thing but weather,
(And all must own, who pay regard
To charity, it had been hard
That in his very first campaign
His honours should be soil'd with rain)
A hero all at once became,
And (seeing others much the same
In point of valour as himself,
Who leave their courage on a shelf
From year to year, till some such rout
In proper season calls it out)
Strutted, look'd big, and swagger'd more
Than ever hero did before;
Look'd up, look'd down, look'd all around,
Like Mavors, grimly smiled and frown'd;
Seem'd Heaven, and Earth, and Hell to call
To fight, that he might rout them all,
And personated Valour's style
So long, spectators to beguile,
That, passing strange, and wondrous true,
Himself at last believed it too;
Nor for a time could he discern,
Till Truth and Darkness took their turn,
So well did Fancy play her part,
That coward still was at the heart.
Whiffle (who knows not Whiffle's name,
By the impartial voice of Fame
Recorded first through all this land
In Vanity's illustrious band?)
Who, by all-bounteous Nature meant
For offices of hardiment,
A modern Hercules at least,
To rid the world of each wild beast,
Of each wild beast which came in view,
Whether on four legs or on two,
Degenerate, delights to prove
His force on the parade of Love,
Disclaims the joys which camps afford,
And for the distaff quits the sword;
Who fond of women would appear
To public eye and public ear,
But, when in private, lets them know
How little they can trust to show;
Who sports a woman, as of course,
Just as a jockey shows a horse,
And then returns her to the stable,
Or vainly plants her at his table,
Where he would rather Venus find
(So pall'd, and so depraved his mind)
Than, by some great occasion led,
To seize her panting in her bed,
Burning with more than mortal fires,
And melting in her own desires;
Who, ripe in years, is yet a child,
Through fashion, not through feeling, wild;
Whate'er in others, who proceed
As Sense and Nature have decreed,
From real passion flows, in him
Is mere effect of mode and whim;
Who laughs, a very common way,
Because he nothing has to say,
As your choice spirits oaths dispense
To fill up vacancies of sense;
Who, having some small sense, defies it,
Or, using, always misapplies it;
Who now and then brings something forth
Which seems indeed of sterling worth;
Something, by sudden start and fit,
Which at a distance looks like wit,
But, on examination near,
To his confusion will appear,
By Truth's fair glass, to be at best
A threadbare jester's threadbare jest;
Who frisks and dances through the street,
Sings without voice, rides without seat,
Plays o'er his tricks, like Aesop's ass,
A gratis fool to all who pass;
Who riots, though he loves not waste,
Whores without lust, drinks without taste,
Acts without sense, talks without thought,
Does every thing but what he ought;
Who, led by forms, without the power
Of vice, is vicious; who one hour,
Proud without pride, the next will be
Humble without humility:
Whose vanity we all discern,
The spring on which his actions turn;
Whose aim in erring, is to err,
So that he may be singular,
And all his utmost wishes mean
Is, though he's laugh'd at, to be seen:
Such, (for when Flattery's soothing strain
Had robb'd the Muse of her disdain,
And found a method to persuade
Her art to soften every shade,
Justice, enraged, the pencil snatch'd
From her degenerate hand, and scratch'd
Out every trace; then, quick as thought,
From life this striking likeness caught)
In mind, in manners, and in mien,
Such Whiffle came, and such was seen
In the world's eye; but (strange to tell!)
Misled by Fancy's magic spell,
Deceived, not dreaming of deceit,
Cheated, but happy in the cheat,
Was more than human in his own.
Oh, bow, bow all at Fancy's throne,
Whose power could make so vile an elf
With patience bear that thing, himself.
But, mistress of each art to please,
Creative Fancy, what are these,
These pageants of a trifler's pen,
To what thy power effected then?
Familiar with the human mind,
And swift and subtle as the wind,
Which we all feel, yet no one knows,
Or whence it comes, or where it goes,
Fancy at once in every part
Possess'd the eye, the head, the heart,
And in a thousand forms array'd,
A thousand various gambols play'd.
Here, in a face which well might ask
The privilege to wear a mask
In spite of law, and Justice teach
For public good to excuse the breach,
Within the furrow of a wrinkle
'Twixt eyes, which could not shine but twinkle,
Like sentinels i' th' starry way,
Who wait for the return of day,
Almost burnt out, and seem to keep
Their watch, like soldiers, in their sleep;
Or like those lamps, which, by the power
Of law, must burn from hour to hour,
(Else they, without redemption, fall
Under the terrors of that Hall,
Which, once notorious for a hop,
Is now become a justice shop)
Which are so managed, to go out
Just when the time comes round about,
Which yet, through emulation, strive
To keep their dying light alive,
And (not uncommon, as we find,
Amongst the children of mankind)
As they grow weaker, would seem stronger,
And burn a little, little longer:
Fancy, betwixt such eyes enshrined,
No brush to daub, no mill to grind,
Thrice waved her wand around, whose force
Changed in an instant Nature's course,
And, hardly credible in rhyme,
Not only stopp'd, but call'd back Time;
The face of every wrinkle clear'd,
Smooth as the floating stream appear'd,
Down the neck ringlets spread their flame,
The neck admiring whence they came;
On the arch'd brow the Graces play'd;
On the full bosom Cupid laid;
Suns, from their proper orbits sent,
Became for eyes a supplement;
Teeth, white as ever teeth were seen,
Deliver'd from the hand of Green,
Started, in regular array,
Like train-bands on a grand field day,
Into the gums, which would have fled,
But, wondering, turn'd from white to red;
Quite alter'd was the whole machine,
And Lady ---- ---- was fifteen.
Here she made lordly temples rise
Before the pious Dashwood's eyes,
Temples which, built aloft in air,
May serve for show, if not for prayer;
In solemn form herself, before,
Array'd like Faith, the Bible bore.
There over Melcombe's feather'd head--
Who, quite a man of gingerbread,
Savour'd in talk, in dress, and phiz,
More of another world than this,
To a dwarf Muse a giant page,
The last grave fop of the last age--
In a superb and feather'd hearse,
Bescutcheon'd and betagg'd with verse,
Which, to beholders from afar,
Appear'd like a triumphal car,
She rode, in a cast rainbow clad;
There, throwing off the hallow'd plaid,
Naked, as when (in those drear cells
Where, self-bless'd, self-cursed, Madness dwells)
Pleasure, on whom, in Laughter's shape,
Frenzy had perfected a rape,
First brought her forth, before her time,
Wild witness of her shame and crime,
Driving before an idol band
Of drivelling Stuarts, hand in hand;
Some who, to curse mankind, had wore
A crown they ne'er must think of more;
Others, whose baby brows were graced
With paper crowns, and toys of paste,
She jigg'd, and, playing on the flute,
Spread raptures o'er the soul of Bute.
Big with vast hopes, some mighty plan,
Which wrought the busy soul of man
To her full bent; the Civil Law,
Fit code to keep a world in awe,
Bound o'er his brows, fair to behold,
As Jewish frontlets were of old;
The famous Charter of our land
Defaced, and mangled in his hand;
As one whom deepest thoughts employ,
But deepest thoughts of truest joy,
Serious and slow he strode, he stalk'd;
Before him troops of heroes walk'd,
Whom best he loved, of heroes crown'd,
By Tories guarded all around;
Dull solemn pleasure in his face,
He saw the honours of his race,
He saw their lineal glories rise,
And touch'd, or seem'd to touch, the skies:
Not the most distant mark of fear,
No sign of axe or scaffold near,
Not one cursed thought to cross his will
Of such a place as Tower Hill.
Curse on this Muse, a flippant jade,
A shrew, like every other maid
Who turns the corner of nineteen,
Devour'd with peevishness and spleen;
Her tongue (for as, when bound for life,
The husband suffers for the wife,
So if in any works of rhyme
Perchance there blunders out a crime,
Poor culprit bards must always rue it,
Although 'tis plain the Muses do it)
Sooner or later cannot fail
To send me headlong to a jail.
Whate'er my theme, (our themes we choose,
In modern days, without a Muse;
Just as a father will provide
To join a bridegroom and a bride,
As if, though they must be the players,
The game was wholly his, not theirs)
Whate'er my theme, the Muse, who still
Owns no direction but her will,
Plies off, and ere I could expect,
By ways oblique and indirect,
At once quite over head and ears
In fatal politics appears.
Time was, and, if I aught discern
Of fate, that time shall soon return,
When, decent and demure at least,
As grave and dull as any priest,
I could see Vice in robes array'd,
Could see the game of Folly play'd
Successfully in Fortune's school,
Without exclaiming rogue or fool.
Time was, when, nothing both or proud,
I lackey'd with the fawning crowd,
Scoundrels in office, and would bow
To cyphers great in place; but now
Upright I stand, as if wise Fate,
To compliment a shatter'd state,
Had me, like Atlas, hither sent
To shoulder up the firmament,
And if I stoop'd, with general crack,
The heavens would tumble from my back.
Time was, when rank and situation
Secured the great ones of the nation
From all control; satire and law
Kept only little knaves in awe;
But now, Decorum lost, I stand
Bemused, a pencil in my hand,
And, dead to every sense of shame,
Careless of safety and of fame,
The names of scoundrels minute down,
And libel more than half the town.
How can a statesman be secure
In all his villanies, if poor
And dirty authors thus shall dare
To lay his rotten bosom bare?
Muses should pass away their time
In dressing out the poet's rhyme
With bills, and ribands, and array
Each line in harmless taste, though gay;
When the hot burning fit is on,
They should regale their restless son
With something to allay his rage,
Some cool Castalian beverage,
Or some such draught (though they, 'tis plain,
Taking the Muse's name in vain,
Know nothing of their real court,
And only fable from report)
As makes a Whitehead's Ode go down,
Or slakes the Feverette of Brown:
But who would in his senses think,
Of Muses giving gall to drink,
Or that their folly should afford
To raving poets gun or sword?
Poets were ne'er designed by Fate
To meddle with affairs of state,
Nor should (if we may speak our thought
Truly as men of honour ought)
Sound policy their rage admit,
To launch the thunderbolts of Wit
About those heads, which, when they're shot,
Can't tell if 'twas by Wit or not.
These things well known, what devil, in spite,
Can have seduced me thus to write
Out of that road, which must have led
To riches, without heart or head,
Into that road, which, had I more
Than ever poet had before
Of wit and virtue, in disgrace
Would keep me still, and out of place;
Which, if some judge (you'll understand
One famous, famous through the land
For making law) should stand my friend,
At last may in a pillory end;
And all this, I myself admit,
Without one cause to lead to it?
For instance, now--this book--the Ghost--
Methinks I hear some critic Post
Remark most gravely--'The first word
Which we about the Ghost have heard.'
Peace, my good sir!--not quite so fast--
What is the first, may be the last,
Which is a point, all must agree,
Cannot depend on you or me.
Fanny, no ghost of common mould,
Is not by forms to be controll'd;
To keep her state, and show her skill,
She never comes but when she will.
I wrote and wrote, (perhaps you doubt,
And shrewdly, what I wrote about;
Believe me, much to my disgrace,
I, too, am in the self-same case
But still I wrote, till Fanny came
Impatient, nor could any shame
On me with equal justice fall
If she had never come at all.
An underling, I could not stir
Without the cue thrown out by her,
Nor from the subject aid receive
Until she came and gave me leave.
So that, (ye sons of Erudition
Mark, this is but a supposition,
Nor would I to so wise a nation
Suggest it as a revelation)
If henceforth, dully turning o'er
Page after page, ye read no more
Of Fanny, who, in sea or air,
May be departed God knows where,
Rail at jilt Fortune; but agree
No censure can be laid on me;
For sure (the cause let Mansfield try)
Fanny is in the fault, not I.
But, to return--and this I hold
A secret worth its weight in gold
To those who write, as I write now,
Not to mind where they go, or how,
Through ditch, through bog, o'er hedge and stile,
Make it but worth the reader's while,
And keep a passage fair and plain
Always to bring him back again.
Through dirt, who scruples to approach,
At Pleasure's call, to take a coach?
But we should think the man a clown,
Who in the dirt should set us down.
But to return--if Wit, who ne'er
The shackles of restraint could bear,
In wayward humour should refuse
Her timely succour to the Muse,
And, to no rules and orders tied,
Roughly deny to be her guide,
She must renounce Decorum's plan,
And get back when, and how she can;
As parsons, who, without pretext,
As soon as mention'd, quit their text,
And, to promote sleep's genial power,
Grope in the dark for half an hour,
Give no more reason (for we know
Reason is vulgar, mean, and low)
Why they come back (should it befall
That ever they come back at all)
Into the road, to end their rout,
Than they can give why they went out.
But to return--this book--the Ghost--
A mere amusement at the most;
A trifle, fit to wear away
The horrors of a rainy day;
A slight shot-silk, for summer wear,
Just as our modern statesmen are,
If rigid honesty permit
That I for once purloin the wit
Of him, who, were we all to steal,
Is much too rich the theft to feel:
Yet in this book, where Base should join
With Mirth to sugar every line;
Where it should all be mere chit-chat,
Lively, good-humour'd, and all that;
Where honest Satire, in disgrace,
Should not so much as show her face,
The shrew, o'erleaping all due bounds,
Breaks into Laughter's sacred grounds,
And, in contempt, plays o'er her tricks
In science, trade, and politics.
By why should the distemper'd scold
Attempt to blacken men enroll'd
In Power's dread book, whose mighty skill
Can twist an empire to their will;
Whose voice is fate, and on their tongue
Law, liberty, and life are hung;
Whom, on inquiry, Truth shall find
With Stuarts link'd, time out of mind,
Superior to their country's laws,
Defenders of a tyrant's cause;
Men, who the same damn'd maxims hold
Darkly, which they avow'd of old;
Who, though by different means, pursue
The end which they had first in view,
And, force found vain, now play their part
With much less honour, much more art?
Why, at the corners of the streets,
To every patriot drudge she meets,
Known or unknown, with furious cry
Should she wild clamours vent? or why,
The minds of groundlings to inflame,
A Dashwood, Bute, and Wyndham name?
Why, having not, to our surprise,
The fear of death before her eyes,
Bearing, and that but now and then,
No other weapon but her pen,
Should she an argument afford
For blood to men who wear a sword?
Men, who can nicely trim and pare
A point of honour to a hair--
(Honour!--a word of nice import,
A pretty trinket in a court,
Which my lord, quite in rapture, feels
Dangling and rattling with his seals--
Honour!--a word which all the Nine
Would be much puzzled to define--
Honour!--a word which torture mocks,
And might confound a thousand Lockes--
Which--for I leave to wiser heads,
Who fields of death prefer to beds
Of down, to find out, if they can,
What honour is, on their wild plan--
Is not, to take it in their way,
And this we sure may dare to say
Without incurring an offence,
Courage, law, honesty, or sense):
Men, who, all spirit, life, and soul
Neat butchers of a button-hole,
Having more skill, believe it true
That they must have more courage too:
Men who, without a place or name,
Their fortunes speechless as their fame,
Would by the sword new fortunes carve,
And rather die in fight than starve
At coronations, a vast field,
Which food of every kind might yield;
Of good sound food, at once most fit
For purposes of health and wit,
Could not ambitious Satire rest,
Content with what she might digest?
Could she not feast on things of course,
A champion, or a champion's horse?
A champion's horse--no, better say,
Though better figured on that day,
A horse, which might appear to us,
Who deal in rhyme, a Pegasus;
A rider, who, when once got on,
Might pass for a Bellerophon,
Dropt on a sudden from the skies,
To catch and fix our wondering eyes,
To witch, with wand instead of whip,
The world with noble horsemanship,
To twist and twine, both horse and man,
On such a well-concerted plan,
That, Centaur-like, when all was done,
We scarce could think they were not one?
Could she not to our itching ears
Bring the new names of new-coin'd peers,
Who walk'd, nobility forgot,
With shoulders fitter for a knot
Than robes of honour; for whose sake
Heralds in form were forced to make,
To make, because they could not find,
Great predecessors to their mind?
Could she not (though 'tis doubtful since
Whether he plumber is, or prince)
Tell of a simple knight's advance
To be a doughty peer of France?
Tell how he did a dukedom gain,
And Robinson was Aquitain?
Tell how her city chiefs, disgraced,
Were at an empty table placed,--
A gross neglect, which, whilst they live,
They can't forget, and won't forgive;
A gross neglect of all those rights
Which march with city appetites,
Of all those canons, which we find
By Gluttony, time out of mind,
Established, which they ever hold
Dearer than any thing but gold?
Thanks to my stars--I now see shore--
Of courtiers, and of courts no more--
Thus stumbling on my city friends,
Blind Chance my guide, my purpose bends
In line direct, and shall pursue
The point which I had first in view,
Nor more shall with the reader sport
Till I have seen him safe in port.
Hush'd be each fear--no more I bear
Through the wide regions of the air
The reader terrified, no more
Wild ocean's horrid paths explore.
Be the plain track from henceforth mine--
Cross roads to Allen I resign;
Allen, the honor of this nation;
Allen, himself a corporation;
Allen, of late notorious grown
For writings, none, or all, his own;
Allen, the first of letter'd men,
Since the good Bishop holds his pen,
And at his elbow takes his stand,
To mend his head, and guide his hand.
But hold--once more, Digression hence--
Let us return to Common Sense;
The car of Phoebus I discharge,
My carriage now a Lord Mayor's barge.
Suppose we now--we may suppose
In verse, what would be sin in prose--
The sky with darkness overspread,
And every star retired to bed;
The gewgaw robes of Pomp and Pride
In some dark corner thrown aside;
Great lords and ladies giving way
To what they seem to scorn by day,
The real feelings of the heart,
And Nature taking place of Art;
Desire triumphant through the night,
And Beauty panting with delight;
Chastity, woman's fairest crown,
Till the return of morn laid down.
Then to be worn again as bright
As if not sullied in the night;
Dull Ceremony, business o'er,
Dreaming in form at Cottrell's door;
Precaution trudging all about
To see the candles safely out,
Bearing a mighty master-key,
Habited like Economy,
Stamping each lock with triple seals;
Mean Avarice creeping at her heels.
Suppose we too, like sheep in pen,
The Mayor and Court of Aldermen
Within their barge, which through the deep,
The rowers more than half asleep,
Moved slow, as overcharged with state;
Thames groan'd beneath the mighty weight,
And felt that bauble heavier far
Than a whole fleet of men of war.
Sleep o'er each well-known faithful head
With liberal hand his poppies shed;
Each head, by Dulness render'd fit
Sleep and his empire to admit.
Through the whole passage not a word,
Not one faint, weak half-sound was heard;
Sleep had prevail'd to overwhelm
The steersman nodding o'er the helm;
The rowers, without force or skill,
Left the dull barge to drive at will;
The sluggish oars suspended hung,
And even Beardmore held his tongue.
Commerce, regardful of a freight
On which depended half her state,
Stepp'd to the helm; with ready hand
She safely clear'd that bank of sand,
Where, stranded, our west-country fleet
Delay and danger often meet,
Till Neptune, anxious for the trade,
Comes in full tides, and brings them aid.
Next (for the Muses can survey
Objects by night as well as day;
Nothing prevents their taking aim,
Darkness and light to them the same)
They pass'd that building which of old
Queen-mothers was design'd to hold;
At present a mere lodging-pen,
A palace turn'd into a den;
To barracks turn'd, and soldiers tread
Where dowagers have laid their head.
Why should we mention Surrey Street,
Where every week grave judges meet
All fitted out with hum and ha,
In proper form to drawl out law,
To see all causes duly tried
'Twixt knaves who drive, and fools who ride?
Why at the Temple should we stay?
What of the Temple dare we say?
A dangerous ground we tread on there,
And words perhaps may actions bear;
Where, as the brethren of the seas
For fares, the lawyers ply for fees.
What of that Bridge, most wisely made
To serve the purposes of trade,
In the great mart of all this nation,
By stopping up the navigation,
And to that sand bank adding weight,
Which is already much too great?
What of that Bridge, which, void of sense
But well supplied with impudence,
Englishmen, knowing not the Guild,
Thought they might have a claim to build,
Till Paterson, as white as milk,
As smooth as oil, as soft as silk,
In solemn manner had decreed
That on the other side the Tweed
Art, born and bred, and fully grown,
Was with one Mylne, a man unknown,
But grace, preferment, and renown
Deserving, just arrived in town:
One Mylne, an artist perfect quite
Both in his own and country's right,
As fit to make a bridge as he,
With glorious Patavinity,
To build inscriptions worthy found
To lie for ever under ground.
Much more worth observation too,
Was this a season to pursue
The theme, our Muse might tell in rhyme:
The will she hath, but not the time;
For, swift as shaft from Indian bow,
(And when a goddess comes, we know,
Surpassing Nature acts prevail.
And boats want neither oar nor sail)
The vessel pass'd, and reach'd the shore
So quick, that Thought was scarce before.
Suppose we now our City court
Safely delivered at the port.
And, of their state regardless quite,
Landed, like smuggled goods, by night,
The solemn magistrate laid down,
The dignity of robe and gown,
With every other ensign gone,
Suppose the woollen nightcap on;
The flesh-brush used, with decent state,
To make the spirits circulate,
(A form which, to the senses true,
The lickerish chaplain uses too,
Though, something to improve the plan,
He takes the maid instead of man)
Swathed, and with flannel cover'd o'er,
To show the vigour of threescore,
The vigour of threescore and ten,
Above the proof of younger men,
Suppose, the mighty Dulman led
Betwixt two slaves, and put to bed;
Suppose, the moment he lies down,
No miracle in this great town,
The drone as fast asleep as he
Must in the course of nature be,
Who, truth for our foundation take,
When up, is never half awake.
There let him sleep, whilst we survey
The preparations for the day;
That day on which was to be shown
Court pride by City pride outdone.
The jealous mother sends away,
As only fit for childish play,
That daughter who, to gall her pride,
Shoots up too forward by her side.
The wretch, of God and man accursed,
Of all Hell's instruments the worst,
Draws forth his pawns, and for the day
Struts in some spendthrift's vain array;
Around his awkward doxy shine
The treasures of Golconda's mine;
Each neighbour, with a jealous glare,
Beholds her folly publish'd there.
Garments well saved, (an anecdote
Which we can prove, or would not quote)
Garments well saved, which first were made
When tailors, to promote their trade,
Against the Picts in arms arose,
And drove them out, or made them clothes;
Garments immortal, without end,
Like names and titles, which descend
Successively from sire to son;
Garments, unless some work is done
Of note, not suffer'd to appear
'Bove once at most in every year,
Were now, in solemn form, laid bare,
To take the benefit of air,
And, ere they came to be employ'd
On this solemnity, to void
That scent which Russia's leather gave,
From vile and impious moth to save.
Each head was busy, and each heart
In preparation bore a part;
Running together all about
The servants put each other out,
Till the grave master had decreed,
The more haste ever the worse speed.
Miss, with her little eyes half-closed,
Over a smuggled toilette dosed;
The waiting-maid, whom story notes
A very Scrub in petticoats,
Hired for one work, but doing all,
In slumbers lean'd against the wall.
Milliners, summon'd from afar,
Arrived in shoals at Temple Bar,
Strictly commanded to import
Cart loads of foppery from Court;
With labour'd visible design,
Art strove to be superbly fine;
Nature, more pleasing, though more wild,
Taught otherwise her darling child,
And cried, with spirited disdain,
Be Hunter elegant and plain!
Lo! from the chambers of the East,
A welcome prelude to the feast,
In saffron-colour'd robe array'd,
High in a car, by Vulcan made,
Who work'd for Jove himself, each steed,
High-mettled, of celestial breed,
Pawing and pacing all the way,
Aurora brought the wish'd-for day,
And held her empire, till out-run
By that brave jolly groom, the Sun.
The trumpet--hark! it speaks--it swells
The loud full harmony; it tells
The time at hand when Dulman, led
By Form, his citizens must head,
And march those troops, which at his call
Were now assembled, to Guildhall,
On matters of importance great,
To court and city, church and state.
From end to end the sound makes way,
All hear the signal and obey;
But Dulman, who, his charge forgot,
By Morpheus fetter'd, heard it not;
Nor could, so sound he slept and fast,
Hear any trumpet, but the last.
Crape, ever true and trusty known,
Stole from the maid's bed to his own,
Then in the spirituals of pride,
Planted himself at Dulman's side.
Thrice did the ever-faithful slave,
With voice which might have reach'd the grave,
And broke Death's adamantine chain,
On Dulman call, but call'd in vain.
Thrice with an arm, which might have made
The Theban boxer curse his trade,
The drone he shook, who rear'd the head,
And thrice fell backward on his bed.
What could be done? Where force hath fail'd,
Policy often hath prevail'd;
And what--an inference most plain--
Had been, Crape thought might be again.
Under his pillow (still in mind
The proverb kept, 'fast bind, fast find')
Each blessed night the keys were laid,
Which Crape to draw away assay'd.
What not the power of voice or arm
Could do, this did, and broke the charm;
Quick started he with stupid stare,
For all his little soul was there.
Behold him, taken up, rubb'd down,
In elbow-chair, and morning-gown;
Behold him, in his latter bloom,
Stripp'd, wash'd, and sprinkled with perfume;
Behold him bending with the weight
Of robes, and trumpery of state;
Behold him (for the maxim's true,
Whate'er we by another do,
We do ourselves; and chaplain paid,
Like slaves in every other trade,
Had mutter'd over God knows what,
Something which he by heart had got)
Having, as usual, said his prayers,
Go titter, totter to the stairs:
Behold him for descent prepare,
With one foot trembling in the air;
He starts, he pauses on the brink,
And, hard to credit, seems to think;
Through his whole train (the chaplain gave
The proper cue to every slave)
At once, as with infection caught,
Each started, paused, and aim'd at thought;
He turns, and they turn; big with care,
He waddles to his elbow-chair,
Squats down, and, silent for a season,
At last with Crape begins to reason:
But first of all he made a sign,
That every soul, but the divine,
Should quit the room; in him, he knows,
He may all confidence repose.
'Crape--though I'm yet not quite awake--
Before this awful step I take,
On which my future all depends,
I ought to know my foes and friends.
My foes and friends--observe me still--
I mean not those who well or ill
Perhaps may wish me, but those who
Have't in their power to do it too.
Now if, attentive to the state,
In too much hurry to be great,
Or through much zeal,--a motive, Crape,
Deserving praise,--into a scrape
I, like a fool, am got, no doubt
I, like a wise man, should get out:
Note that remark without replies;
I say that to get out is wise,
Or, by the very self-same rule,
That to get in was like a fool.
The marrow of this argument
Must wholly rest on the event,
And therefore, which is really hard,
Against events too I must guard.
Should things continue as they stand,
And Bute prevail through all the land
Without a rival, by his aid
My fortunes in a trice are made;
Nay, honours on my zeal may smile,
And stamp me Earl of some great Isle:
But if, a matter of much doubt,
The present minister goes out,
Fain would I know on what pretext
I can stand fairly with the next?
For as my aim, at every hour,
Is to be well with those in power,
And my material point of view,
Whoever's in, to be in too,
I should not, like a blockhead, choose
To gain these, so as those to lose:
'Tis good in every case, you know,
To have two strings unto our bow.'
As one in wonder lost, Crape view'd
His lord, who thus his speech pursued:
'This, my good Crape, is my grand point;
And as the times are out of joint,
The greater caution is required
To bring about the point desired.
What I would wish to bring about
Cannot admit a moment's doubt;
The matter in dispute, you know,
Is what we call the _Quomodo_.
That be thy task.'--The reverend slave,
Becoming in a moment grave,
Fix'd to the ground and rooted stood,
Just like a man cut out out of wood,
Such as we see (without the least
Reflection glancing on the priest)
One or more, planted up and down,
Almost in every church in town;
He stood some minutes, then, like one
Who wish'd the matter might be done,
But could not do it, shook his head,
And thus the man of sorrow said:
'Hard is this task, too hard I swear,
By much too hard for me to bear;
Beyond expression hard my part,
Could mighty Dulman see my heart,
When he, alas! makes known a will
Which Crape's not able to fulfil.
Was ever my obedience barr'd
By any trifling nice regard
To sense and honour? Could I reach
Thy meaning without help of speech,
At the first motion of thy eye
Did not thy faithful creature fly?
Have I not said, not what I ought,
But what my earthly master taught?
Did I e'er weigh, through duty strong,
In thy great biddings, right and wrong?
Did ever Interest, to whom thou
Canst not with more devotion bow,
Warp my sound faith, or will of mine
In contradiction run to thine?
Have I not, at thy table placed,
When business call'd aloud for haste,
Torn myself thence, yet never heard
To utter one complaining word,
And had, till thy great work was done,
All appetites, as having none?
Hard is it, this great plan pursued
Of voluntary servitude;
Pursued without or shame, or fear,
Through the great circle of the year,
Now to receive, in this grand hour,
Commands which lie beyond my power,
Commands which baffle all my skill,
And leave me nothing but my will:
Be that accepted; let my lord
Indulgence to his slave afford:
This task, for my poor strength unfit,
Will yield to none but Dulman's wit.'
With such gross incense gratified,
And turning up the lip of pride,
'Poor Crape'--and shook his empty head--
'Poor puzzled Crape!' wise Dulman said,
'Of judgment weak, of sense confined,
For things of lower note design'd;
For things within the vulgar reach,
To run of errands, and to preach;
Well hast thou judged, that heads like mine
Cannot want help from heads like thine;
Well hast thou judged thyself unmeet
Of such high argument to treat;
Twas but to try thee that I spoke,
And all I said was but a joke.
Nor think a joke, Crape, a disgrace,
Or to my person, or my place;
The wisest of the sons of men
Have deign'd to use them now and then.
The only caution, do you see,
Demanded by our dignity,
From common use and men exempt,
Is that they may not breed contempt.
Great use they have, when in the hands
Of one like me, who understands,
Who understands the time and place,
The person, manner, and the grace,
Which fools neglect; so that we find,
If all the requisites are join'd,
From whence a perfect joke must spring,
A joke's a very serious thing.
But to our business--my design,
Which gave so rough a shock to thine,
To my capacity is made
As ready as a fraud in trade;
Which, like broad-cloth, I can, with ease,
Cut out in any shape I please.
Some, in my circumstance, some few,
Aye, and those men of genius too,
Good men, who, without love or hate,
Whether they early rise or late,
With names uncrack'd, and credit sound,
Rise worth a hundred thousand pound,
By threadbare ways and means would try
To bear their point--so will not I.
New methods shall my wisdom find
To suit these matters to my mind;
So that the infidels at court,
Who make our city wits their sport,
Shall hail the honours of my reign,
And own that Dulman bears a brain.
Some, in my place, to gain their ends,
Would give relations up, and friends;
Would lend a wife, who, they might swear
Safely, was none the worse for wear;
Would see a daughter, yet a maid,
Into a statesman's arms betray'd;
Nay, should the girl prove coy, nor know
What daughters to a father owe,
Sooner than schemes so nobly plann'd
Should fail, themselves would lend a hand;
Would vote on one side, whilst a brother,
Properly taught, would vote on t'other;
Would every petty band forget;
To public eye be with one set,
In private with a second herd,
And be by proxy with a third;
Would, (like a queen, of whom I read,
The other day--her name is fled--
In a book,--where, together bound,
'Whittington and his Cat' I found--
A tale most true, and free from art,
Which all Lord Mayors should have by heart;
A queen oh!--might those days begin
Afresh, when queens would learn to spin--
Who wrought, and wrought, but for some plot,
The cause of which I've now forgot,
During the absence of the sun
Undid what she by day had done)
Whilst they a double visage wear,
What's sworn by day, by night unswear.
Such be their arts, and such, perchance,
May happily their ends advance;
Prom a new system mine shall spring,
A _locum tenens_ is the thing.
That's your true plan. To obligate
The present ministers of state,
My shadow shall our court approach,
And bear my power, and have my coach;
My fine state-coach, superb to view,
A fine state-coach, and paid for too.
To curry favour, and the grace
Obtain of those who're out of place;
In the mean time I--that's to say,
I proper, I myself--here stay.
But hold--perhaps unto the nation,
Who hate the Scot's administration,
To lend my coach may seem to be
Declaring for the ministry,
For where the city-coach is, there
Is the true essence of the Mayor:
Therefore (for wise men are intent
Evils at distance to prevent,
Whilst fools the evils first endure,
And then are plagued to seek a cure)
No coach--a horse--and free from fear,
To make our Deputy appear,
Fast on his back shall he be tied,
With two grooms marching by his side;
Then for a horse--through all the land,
To head our solemn city-band,
Can any one so fit be found
As he who in Artillery-ground,
Without a rider, (noble sight!)
Led on our bravest troops to fight?
But first, Crape, for my honour's sake--
A tender point--inquiry make
About that horse, if the dispute
Is ended, or is still in suit:
For whilst a cause, (observe this plan
Of justice) whether horse or man
The parties be, remains in doubt,
Till 'tis determined out and out,
That power must tyranny appear
Which should, prejudging, interfere,
And weak, faint judges overawe,
To bias the free course of law.
You have my will--now quickly run,
And take care that my will be done.
In public, Crape, you must appear,
Whilst I in privacy sit here;
Here shall great Dulman sit alone,
Making this elbow-chair my throne,
And you, performing what I bid,
Do all, as if I nothing did.'
Crape heard, and speeded on his way;
With him to hear was to obey;
Not without trouble, be assured,
A proper proxy was procured
To serve such infamous intent,
And such a lord to represent;
Nor could one have been found at all
On t'other side of London Wall.
The trumpet sounds--solemn and slow
Behold the grand procession go,
All moving on, cat after kind,
As if for motion ne'er design'd.
Constables, whom the laws admit
To keep the peace by breaking it;
Beadles, who hold the second place
By virtue of a silver mace,
Which every Saturday is drawn,
For use of Sunday, out of pawn;
Treasurers, who with empty key
Secure an empty treasury;
Churchwardens, who their course pursue
In the same state, as to their pew
Churchwardens of St Margaret's go,
Since Peirson taught them pride and show,
Who in short transient pomp appear,
Like almanacs changed every year;
Behind whom, with unbroken locks,
Charity carries the poor's box,
Not knowing that with private keys
They ope and shut it when they please:
Overseers, who by frauds ensure
The heavy curses of the poor;
Unclean came flocking, bulls and bears,
Like beasts into the ark, by pairs.
Portentous, flaming in the van,
Stalk'd the professor, Sheridan,
A man of wire, a mere pantine,
A downright animal machine;
He knows alone, in proper mode,
How to take vengeance on an ode,
And how to butcher Ammon's son
And poor Jack Dryden both in one:
On all occasions next the chair
He stands, for service of the Mayor,
And to instruct him how to use
His A's and B's, and P's and Q's:
O'er letters, into tatters worn,
O'er syllables, defaced and torn,
O'er words disjointed, and o'er sense,
Left destitute of all defence,
He strides, and all the way he goes
Wades, deep in blood, o'er Criss-cross-rows:
Before him every consonant
In agonies is seen to pant;
Behind, in forms not to be known,
The ghosts of tortured vowels groan.
Next Hart and Duke, well worthy grace
And city favour, came in place;
No children can their toils engage,
Their toils are turn'd to reverend age;
When a court dame, to grace his brows
Resolved, is wed to city-spouse,
Their aid with madam's aid must join,
The awkward dotard to refine,
And teach, whence truest glory flows,
Grave sixty to turn out his toes.
Each bore in hand a kit; and each
To show how fit he was to teach
A cit, an alderman, a mayor,
Led in a string a dancing bear.
Since the revival of Fingal,
Custom, and custom's all in all,
Commands that we should have regard,
On all high seasons, to the bard.
Great acts like these, by vulgar tongue
Profaned, should not be said, but sung.
This place to fill, renown'd in fame,
The high and mighty Lockman came,
And, ne'er forgot in Dulman's reign,
With proper order to maintain
The uniformity of pride,
Brought Brother Whitehead by his side.
On horse, who proudly paw'd the ground,
And cast his fiery eyeballs round,
Snorting, and champing the rude bit,
As if, for warlike purpose fit,
His high and generous blood disdain'd,
To be for sports and pastimes rein'd,
Great Dymock, in his glorious station,
Paraded at the coronation.
Not so our city Dymock came,
Heavy, dispirited, and tame;
No mark of sense, his eyes half-closed,
He on a mighty dray-horse dozed:
Fate never could a horse provide
So fit for such a man to ride,
Nor find a man with strictest care,
So fit for such a horse to bear.
Hung round with instruments of death,
The sight of him would stop the breath
Of braggart Cowardice, and make
The very court Drawcansir quake;
With dirks, which, in the hands of Spite,
Do their damn'd business in the night,
From Scotland sent, but here display'd
Only to fill up the parade;
With swords, unflesh'd, of maiden hue,
Which rage or valour never drew;
With blunderbusses, taught to ride
Like pocket-pistols, by his side,
In girdle stuck, he seem'd to be
A little moving armoury.
One thing much wanting to complete
The sight, and make a perfect treat,
Was, that the horse, (a courtesy
In horses found of high degree)
Instead of going forward on,
All the way backward should have gone.
Horses, unless they breeding lack,
Some scruple make to turn their back,
Though riders, which plain truth declares,
No scruple make of turning theirs.
Far, far apart from all the rest,
Fit only for a standing jest,
The independent, (can you get
A better suited epithet?)
The independent Amyand came,
All burning with the sacred flame
Of Liberty, which well he knows
On the great stock of Slavery grows;
Like sparrow, who, deprived of mate,
Snatch'd by the cruel hand of Fate,
From spray to spray no more will hop,
But sits alone on the house-top;
Or like himself, when all alone
At Croydon he was heard to groan,
Lifting both hands in the defence
Of interest, and common sense;
Both hands, for as no other man
Adopted and pursued his plan,
The left hand had been lonesome quite,
If he had not held up the right;
Apart he came, and fix'd his eyes
With rapture on a distant prize,
On which, in letters worthy note,
There 'twenty thousand pounds' was wrote.
False trap, for credit sapp'd is found
By getting twenty thousand pound:
Nay, look not thus on me, and stare,
Doubting the certainty--to swear
In such a case I should be loth--
But Perry Cust may take his oath.
In plain and decent garb array'd,
With the prim Quaker, Fraud, came Trade;
My love is young, so young;
Young is her cheek, and her throat,
And life is a song to be sung
With love the word for each note.
Young is her cheek and her throat;
Her eyes have the smile o' May.
And love is the word for each note
In the song of my life to-day.
Her eyes have the smile o' May;
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
And the song of my life to-day
Is love, beautiful love.
Her heart is the heart of a dove,
Ah, would it but fly to my breast
Where love, beautiful love,
Has made it a downy nest.
Ah, would she but fly to my breast,
My love who is young, so young;
I have made her a downy nest
And life is a song to be sung.
A dull little station, a man with the eye
Of a dreamer; a bevy of girls moving by;
A swift moving train and a hot Summer sun,
The curtain goes up, and our play is begun.
The drama of passion, of sorrow, of strife,
Which always is billed for the theatre Life.
It runs on forever, from year unto year,
With scarcely a change when new actors appear.
It is old as the world is-far older in truth,
For the world is a crude little planet of youth.
And back in the eras before it was formed,
The passions of hearts through the Universe stormed.
Maurice Somerville passed the cluster of girls
Who twisted their ribbons and fluttered their curls
In vain to attract him; his mind it was plain
Was wholly intent on the incoming train.
That great one eyed monster puffed out its black breath,
Shrieked, snorted and hissed, like a thing bent on death,
Paused scarcely a moment, and then sped away,
And two actors more now enliven our play.
A graceful young woman with eyes like the morn,
With hair like the tassels which hang from the corn,
And a face that might serve as a model for Peace,
Moved lightly along, smiled and bowed to Maurice,
Then was lost in the circle of friends waiting near.
A discord of shrill nasal tones smote the ear,
As they greeted their comrade and bore her from sight.
(The ear oft is pained while the eye feels delight
In the presence of women throughout our fair land:
God gave them the graces which win and command,
But the devil, who always in mischief rejoices,
Slipped into their teachers and ruined their voices.)
There had stepped from the train just behind Mabel Lee
A man whose deportment bespoke him to be
A child of good fortune. His mien and his air
Were those of one all unaccustomed to care.
His brow was not vexed with the gold seeker's worry,
His manner was free from the national hurry.
Repose marked his movements. Yet gaze in his eye,
And you saw that this calm outer man was a lie;
And you knew that deep down in the depths of his breast
There dwelt the unmerciful imp of unrest.
He held out his hand; it was clasped with a will
In both the firm palms of Maurice Somerville.
'Well, Reese, my old Comrade;' 'Ha, Roger, my boy,'
They cried in a breath, and their eyes gemmed with joy
(Which but for their sex had been set in a tear),
As they walked arm in arm to the trap waiting near,
And drove down the shining shell roadway which wound
Through forest and meadow, in search of the Sound.
I smell the salt water-that perfume which starts
The blood from hot brains back to world withered hearts;
You may talk of the fragrance of flower filled fields,
You may sing of the odors the Orient yields,
You may tell of the health laden scent of the pine,
But give me the subtle salt breath of the brine.
Already I feel lost emotions of youth
Steal back to my soul in their sweetness and truth;
Small wonder the years leave no marks on your face,
Time's scythe gathers rust in this idyllic place.
You must feel like a child on the Great Mother's breast,
With the Sound like a nurse watching over your rest?
There is beauty and truth in your quaint simile,
I love the Sound more than the broad open sea.
The ocean seems always stern, masculine, bold,
The Sound is a woman, now warm, and now cold.
It rises in fury and threatens to smite,
Then falls at your feet with a coo of delight;
Capricious, seductive, first frowning, then smiling,
And always, whatever its mood is, beguiling.
Look, now you can see it, bright beautiful blue,
And far in the distance there loom into view
The banks of Long Island, full thirty miles off;
A sign of wet weather to-morrow. Don't scoff!
We people who chum with the waves and the wind
Know more than all wise signal bureaus combined.
But come, let us talk of yourself-for of me
There is little to tell which your eyes may not see.
Since we finished at College (eight years, is it not?)
I simply have dreamed away life in this spot.
With my dogs and my horses, a book and a pen,
And a week spent in town as a change now and then.
Fatigue for the body, disease for the mind,
Are all that the city can give me, I find.
Yet once in a while there is wisdom I hold
In leaving the things that are dearer than gold,-
Loved people and places-if only to learn
The exquisite rapture it is to return.
But you, I remember, craved motion and change;
You hated the usual, worshiped the strange.
Adventure and travel I know were your theme:
Well, how did the real compare with the dream?
You have compassed the earth since we parted at Yale,
Has life grown the richer, or only grown stale?
Stale, stale, my dear boy! that's the story in short,
I am weary of travel, adventure and sport;
At home and abroad, in all climates and lands,
I have had what life gives when a full purse commands
I have chased after Pleasure, that phantom faced elf,
And lost the best part of my youth and myself.
And now, barely thirty, I'm heart sick and blue;
Life seems like a farce scarcely worth sitting through.
I dread its long stretch of dissatisfied years;
Ah! wealth is not always the boon it appears.
And poverty lights not such ruinous fires
As gratified appetites, tastes and desires.
Fate curses, when letting us do as we please-
It stunts a man's soul to be cradled in ease.
You are right in a measure; the devil I hold
Is oftener found in full coffers of gold
Than in bare, empty larders. The soul, it is plain,
Needs the conflicts of earth, needs the stress and the strain
Of misfortune, to bring out its strength in this life-
The Soul's calisthenics are sorrow and strife.
But, Roger, what folly to stand in youth's prime
And talk like a man who could father old Time.
You have life all before you; the past,-let it sleep;
Its lessons alone are the things you should keep.
There is virtue sometimes in our follies and sinnings;
Right lives very often have faulty beginnings.
Results, and not causes, are what we should measure.
You have learned precious truths in your search after pleasure.
You have learned that a glow worm is never a star,
You have learned that Peace builds not her temples afar.
And now, dispossessed of the spirit to roam,
You are finely equipped to establish a home.
That's the one thing you need to lend savor to life,
A home, and the love of a sweet hearted wife,
And children to gladden the path to old age.
Alas! from life's book I have torn out that page;
I have loved many times and in many a fashion,
Which means I know nothing at all of the passion.
I have scattered my heart, here and there, bit by bit,
'Til now there is nothing worth while left of it;
And, worse than all else, I have ceased to believe
In the virtue and truth of the daughters of Eve.
There's tragedy for you-when man's early trust
In woman, experience hurls to the dust!
Then you doubt your own mother?
She passed heavenward
Before I remember; a saint, I have heard,
While she lived; there are scores of good women to-day,
Temptation has chanced not to wander their way.
The devil has more than his lordship can do,
He can't make the rounds, so some women keep true.
You think then each woman, if tempted, must fall?
Yes, if tempted her way-not one way suits them all-
They have tastes in their sins as they have in their clothes,
The tempter, of course, has to first study those.
One needs to be flattered, another is bought;
One yields to caresses, by frowns one is caught.
One wants a bold master, another a slave,
With one you must jest, with another be grave.
But swear you're a sinner whom she has reformed
And the average feminine fortress is stormed.
In rescuing men from abysses of sin
She loses her head-and herself tumbles in.
The mind of a woman was shaped for a saint,
But deep in her heart lies the devil's own taint.
With plans for salvation her busy brain teems,
While her heart longs in secret to know how sin seems.
And if with this question unanswered she dies,
Temptation came not in the right sort of guise.
There's my estimate, Reese, of the beautiful sex;
I see by your face that my words wound and vex,
But remember, my boy, I'm a man of the world.
Thank God, in the vortex I have not been hurled.
If experience breeds such a mental disease,
I am glad I have lived with the birds and the bees,
And the winds and the waves, and let people alone.
So far in my life but good women I've known.
My mother, my sister, a few valued friends-
A teacher, a schoolmate, and there the list ends.
But to know one true woman in sunshine and gloom,
From the zenith of life to the door of the tomb,
To know her, as I knew that mother of mine,
Is to know the whole sex and to kneel at the shrine.
Then you think saint and woman synonymous terms?
Oh, no! we are all, men and women, poor worms
Crawling up from the dampness and darkness of clay
To bask in the sunlight and warmth of the day.
Some climb to a leaf and reflect its bright sheen,
Some toil through the grass, and are crushed there unseen.
Some sting if you touch them, and some evolve wings;
Yet God dwells in each of the poor, groping things.
They came from the Source-to the Source they go back;
The sinners are those who have missed the true track.
We can not judge women or men as a class,
Each soul has its own distinct place in the mass.
There is no sex in sin; it were folly to swear
All women are angels, but worse to declare
All are devils as you do. You're morbid, my boy,
In what you thought gold you have found much alloy
And now you are doubting there is the true ore.
But wait till you study my sweet simple store
Of pure sterling treasures; just wait till you've been
A few restful weeks, or a season, within
The charmed circle of home life; then, Roger, you'll find
These malarial mists clearing out of your mind.
As a ship cuts the fog and is caught by the breeze,
And swept through the sunlight to fair, open seas,
So your heart will be caught and swept out to the ocean
Of youth and youth's birthright of happy emotion.
I'll wager my hat (it was new yesterday)
That you'll fall in love, too, in a serious way.
Our girls at Bay Bend are bewitching and fair,
And Cupid lurks ever in salt Summer air.
I question your gifts as a prophet, and yet,
I confess in my travels I never have met
A woman whose face so impressed me at sight,
As one seen to-day; a mere girl, sweet and bright,
Who entered the train quite alone and sat down
Surrounded by parcels she'd purchased in town.
A trim country lass, but endowed with the beauty
Which makes a man think of his conscience and duty.
Some women, you know, move us that way-God bless them,
While others rouse only a thirst to possess them
The face of the girl made me wish to be good,
I went out and smoked to escape from the mood.
When conscience through half a man's life has been sleeping
What folly to wake it to worry and weeping!
The pessimist role is a modern day fad,
But, Roger, you make a poor cynic, my lad.
Your heart at the core is as sound as a nut,
Though the wheels of your mind have dropped into the rut
Of wrong thinking. You need a strong hand on the lever
Of good common sense, and an earnest endeavor
To pull yourself out of the slough of despond
Back into the highway of peace just beyond.
And now, here we are at Peace Castle in truth,
And there stands its Chatelaine, sweet Sister Ruth,
To welcome you, Roger; you'll find a new type
In this old-fashioned girl, who in years scarcely ripe,
And as childish in heart as she is in her looks,
And without worldly learning or knowledge of books,
Yet in housewifely wisdom is wise as a sage.
She is quite out of step with the girls of her age,
For she has no ambition beyond the home sphere.
Ruth, here's Roger Montrose, my comrade of dear College days.
The gray eyes of the girl of nineteen
Looked into the face oft in fancy she'd seen
When her brother had talked of his comrade at Yale.
His stature was lower, his cheek was more pale
Than her thought had portrayed him; a look in his eye
Made her sorry, she knew not for what nor knew why,
But she longed to befriend him, as one needing aid.
While he, gazing down on the face of the maid,
Spoke some light words of greeting, the while his mind ran
On her 'points' good and bad; for the average man
When he looks at a woman proceeds first to scan her
As if she were horse flesh, and in the same manner
Notes all that is pleasing, or otherwise. So
Roger gazed at Ruth Somerville.
'Mouth like a bow
And eyes full of motherhood; color too warm,
And too round in the cheek and too full in the form
For the highest ideal of beauty and art.
Domestic-that word is the cue to her part
She would warm a man's slippers, but never his veins;
She would feed well his stomach, but never his brains.
And after she looks on her first baby's face,
Her husband will hold but a second-class place
In her thoughts or emotions, unless he falls ill,
When a dozen trained nurses her place can not fill.
She is sweet of her kind; and her kind since the birth
Of this sin ridden, Circe-cursed planet, the Earth,
Has kept it, I own, with its medleys of evil
From going straight into the hands of the devil.
It is not through its heroes the world lives and thrives,
But through its sweet commonplace mothers and wives.
We love them, and leave them; deceive, and respect them,
We laud loud their virtues and straightway neglect them.
They are daisy and buttercup women of earth
Who grace common ways with their sweetness and worth.
We praise, but we pass them, to reach for some flower
That stings when we pluck it, or wilts in an hour.
'You are thornless, fair Ruth! you are useful and sweet!
But lovers shall pass you to sigh at the feet
Of the selfish and idle, for such is man's way;
Your lot is to work, and to weep, and to pray.
To give much and get little; to toil and to wait
For the meager rewards of indifferent fate.
Yet so wholesome your heart, you will never complain;
You will feast on life's sorrow and drink of its pain,
And thank God for the banquet; 'tis women like you
Who make the romancing of preachers seem true.
The earth is your debtor to such large amounts
There must be a heaven to square up accounts,
Or else the whole scheme of existence at best
Is a demon's poor effort at making a jest.'
That night as Ruth brushed out her bright hazel hair
Her thoughts were of Roger, 'His bold laughing air
Is a cloak to some sorrow concealed in his breast,
His mind is the home of some secret unrest.'
She sighed; and there woke in her bosom once more
The impulse to comfort and help him; to pour
Soothing oil from the urn of her heart on his wounds.
Where motherhood nature in woman abounds
It is thus Cupid comes; unannounced and unbidden,
In sweet pity's guise, with his arrows well hidden.
But once given welcome and housed as a guest,
He hurls the whole quiver full into her breast,
While he pulls off his mask and laughs up in her eyes
With an impish delight at her start of surprise.
So intent is this archer on bagging his game
He scruples at nothing which gives him good aim.
Ruth's heart was a virgin's, in love menaced danger
While she sat by her mirror and pitied the stranger.
But just as she blew out her candle and stood
Robed for sleep in the moonlight, a change in her mood
Quickly banished the dreamer, and brought in its stead
The practical housekeeper. Sentiment fled;
And she puzzled her brain to decide which were best,
Corn muffins or hot graham gems, for the guest!
The short-sighted minister preached at Bay Bend
His long-winded sermon quite through to the end,
Unmindful there sat in the Somerville pew
A stranger whose pale handsome countenance drew
All eyes from his own reverend self; nor suspected
What Ruth and her brother too plainly detected
That the stranger was bored.
'Though his gaze never stirred
From the face of the preacher, his heart has not heard,'
Ruth said to herself; and her soft mother-eye
Was fixed on his face with a look like a sigh
In its tremulous depths, as they rose to depart.
Then suddenly Roger, alert, seemed to start
And his dull, listless glance changed to one of surprise
And of pleasure. Ruth saw that the goal of his eyes
Was her friend Mabel Lee in the vestibule; fair
As a saint that is pictured with sun tangled hair
And orbs like the skies in October. She smiled,
And the saint disappeared in the innocent child
With an unconscious dower of beauty and youth
She paused in the vestibule waiting for Ruth
And seemed not to notice the warm eager gaze
Of two men fixed upon her in different ways.
One, the look which souls lift to a being above,
The other a look of unreasoning love
Born of fancy and destined to grow in an hour
To a full fledged emotion of mastering power.
She spoke, and her voice disappointed the ear;
It lacked some deep chords that the heart hoped to hear.
It was sweet, but not vibrant; it came from the throat,
And one listened in vain for a full chested note.
While something at times like a petulant sound
Seemed in strange disaccord with the peace so profound
Of the eyes and the brow.
Though our sight is deceived
The ear is an organ that may be believed.
The faces of people are trained to conceal,
But their unruly voices are prone to reveal
What lies deep in their natures; a voice rarely lies,
But Mabel Lee's voice told one tale, while her eyes
Told another. Large, liquid, and peaceful as lakes
Where the azure dawn rests, ere the loud world awakes,
Were the beautiful eyes of the maiden. 'A saint,
Without mortal blemish or weak human taint,'
Said Maurice to himself. To himself Roger said:
'The touch of her soft little hands on my head
Would convert me. What peace for a world weary breast
To just sit by her side and be soothed into rest.'
Daring thoughts for a stranger. Maurice, who had known
Mabel Lee as a child, to himself would not own
Such bold longings as those were. He held her to be
Too sacred for even a thought that made free.
And the voice in his bosom was silenced and hushed
Lest the bloom from her soul by his words should be brushed.
There are men to whom love is religion; but woman
Is far better pleased with a homage more human.
Though she may not be able to love in like fashion,
She wants to be wooed with both ardor and passion.
Had Mabel Lee read Roger's thoughts of her, bold
Though they were, they had flattered and pleased her, I hold.
The stranger was duly presented.
I am sure, has no least recollection of me,
But the pleasure is mine to have looked on her face
Once before this.
Indeed? May I ask where?
Was the train, and the time yesterday.
'Then I came
From my shopping excursion in town by the same
Fast express which brought you? Had I known that the friend
Of my friends, was so near me en route for Bay Bend,
I had waived all conventions and asked him to take
One-half of my parcels for sweet pity's sake.
You sadden me sorely. As long as I live
I shall mourn the great pleasure chance chose not to give.
Take courage, mon ami. Our fair friend, Miss Lee,
Fills her time quite as full of sweet works as the bee;
Like the bee, too, she drives out the drones from her hive.
You must toil in her cause, in her favor to thrive.
She need but command me. To wait upon beauty
And goodness combined makes a pleasure of duty.
Who serves Mabel Lee serves all Righteousness too.
Pray, then, that she gives you some labor to do.
The cure for the pessimist lies in good deeds.
Who toils for another forgets his own needs,
And mischief and misery never attend
On the man who is occupied fully.
Has the town on her shoulders. Whatever may be
The cause that is needy, we look to Miss Lee.
Have you gold? She will make you disgorge it ere long;
Are you poor? Well, perchance you can dance-sing a song-
Make a speech-tell a story, or plan a charade.
Whatever you have, gold or wits, sir, must aid
In her numerous charities.
Riches and brain
Are but loans from the Master. He meant them, 'tis plain,
To be used in His service; and people are kind,
When once you can set them to thinking. I find
It is lack of perception, not lack of good heart
Which makes the world selfish in seeming. My part
Is to call the attention of Plenty to need,
And to bid Pleasure pause for a moment and heed
The woes and the burdens of Labor.
From the rosy and eloquent lips of Miss Lee
Would make Avarice pour out his coffers of gold
At her feet, I should fancy; would soften the cold,
Selfish heart of the world to compassionate sighs,
And bring tears of pity to vain Pleasure's eyes.
As the sunset a color on lily leaves throws,
The words and the glances of Roger Montrose
O'er the listener's cheeks sent a pink tinted wave;
While Maurice seemed disturbed, and his sister grew grave.
The false chink of flattery's coin smites the ear
With an unpleasant ring when the heart is sincere.
Yet the man whose mind pockets are filled with this ore,
Though empty his brain cells, is never a bore
To the opposite sex.
While Maurice knew of old
Roger's wealth in that coin that does duty for gold
In Society dealings, it hurt him to see
The cheap metal offered to sweet Mabel Lee.
(Yet, perchance, the hurt came, not so much that 'twas offered,
As in seeing her take, with a smile, what was proffered.)
They had walked, two by two, down the elm shaded street,
Which led to a cottage, vine hidden, and sweet
With the breath of the roses that covered it, where
Mabel paused in the gateway; a picture most fair.
'I would ask you to enter,' she said, 'ere you pass,
But in just twenty minutes my Sunday-school class
Claims my time and attention; and later I meet
A Committee on Plans for the boys of the street.
We seek to devise for these pupils in crime
Right methods of thought and wise uses of time.
I am but a vagrant, untutored and wild,
May I join your street class, and be taught like a child?
If you come I will carefully study your case.
I must go along, too, just to keep him in place.
Then you think him unruly?
I was, but am changed since one-half hour ago.
The change is too sudden to be of much worth;
The deepest convictions are slowest of birth.
Conversion, I hold, to be earnest and lasting,
Begins with repentance and praying and fasting,
And (begging your pardon for such a bold speech),
You seem, sir, a stranger to all and to each
Of these ways of salvation.
Since yesterday, miss,
When, unseen, I first saw you (believe me in this),
I have deeply repented my sins of the past.
To-night I will pray, and to-morrow will fast-
Or, make it next week, when my shore appetite
May be somewhat subdued in its ravenous might.
That's the way of the orthodox sinner! He waits
Until time or indulgence or misery sates
All his appetites, then his repentance begins,
When his sins cease to please, then he gives up his sins
And grows pious. Now prove you are morally brave
By actually giving up something you crave!
We have fricasseed chicken and strawberry cake
For our dinner to-day.
For dear principle's sake
I could easily do what you ask, were it not
Most unkind to Miss Ruth, who gave labor and thought
To that menu, preparing it quite to my taste.
But the thought and the dinner will both go to waste,
If we linger here longer; and Mabel, I see,
Is impatient to go to her duties.
Is reluctant to turn from the lily although
The lily may obviously wish he would go
And leave her to muse in the sunlight alone.
Yet when the rose calls him, his sorrow, I own,
Has its recompense. So from delight to delight
I fly with my wings honeyladen.
Oh, love is like the dawnlight
That turns the dark to day,
And love is like the deep night
With secrets hid away.
And love is like the moonlight
Where tropic Summers glow,
And love is like the twilight
When dreams begin to grow.
Oh, love is like the sunlight
That sets the world ablaze.
And love is like the moonlight
With soft, illusive rays.
And love is like the starlight
That glimmers o'er the skies.
And love is like the far light
That shines from God's great eyes.
Maurice Somerville from his turreted den
Looked out of the window and laid down his pen.
A soft salty wind from the water was blowing,
Below in the garden sat Ruth with her sewing.
And stretched on the grass at her feet Roger lay
With a book in his hand.
Through the ripe August day,
Piped the Katydids' voices, Jack Frost's tally-ho
Commanding Queen Summer to pack up and go.
Maurice leaned his head on the casement and sighed,
Strong and full in his heart surged love's turbulent tide.
And thoughts of the woman he worshiped with longing
Took shape and like angels about him came thronging.
The world was all Mabel! her exquisite face
Seemed etched on the sunlight and gave it its grace;
Her eyes made the blue of the heavens, the sun
Was her wonderful hair caught and coiled into one
Shining mass. With a reverent, worshipful awe,
It was Mabel, fair Mabel, dear Mabel he saw,
When he looked up to God.
They had been much together
Through all the bright stretches of midsummer weather,
Ruth, Roger, and Mabel and he. Scarce a day
But the four were united in work or in play.
And much of the play to a man or a maid
Not in love had seemed labor. Recital, charade,
Garden party, church festival, musical, hop,
Were all planned by Miss Lee without respite or stop.
The poor were the richer; school, hospital, church,
The heathen, the laborer left in the lurch
By misfortune, the orphan, the indigent old,
Our kind Lady Bountiful aided with gold
Which she filched from the pockets of pleasure-God's spoil,
And God's blessing will follow such lives when they toil
Through an infinite sympathy.
Fair Mabel Lee
Loved to rule and to lead. She was eager to be
In the eyes of the public. That modern day craze
Possessed her in secret, and this was its phase.
An innocent, even commendable, fad
Which filled empty larders and cheered up the sad.
She loved to do good. But, alas! in her heart,
She loved better still the authoritative part
Which she played in her town.
'Neath the saint's aureole
Lurked the feminine tyrant who longed to control,
And who never would serve; but her sway was so sweet,
That her world was contented to bow at her feet.
Who toils in the great public vineyard must needs
Let other hands keep his own garden from weeds.
So busy was Mabel with charity fairs
She gave little thought to her home or its cares.
Mrs. Lee, like the typical modern day mother,
Was maid to her daughter; the father and brother
Were slaves at her bidding; an excellent plan
To make a tyrannical wife for some man.
Yet where was the man who, beholding the grace
Of that slight girlish creature, and watching her face
With its infantile beauty and sweetness, would dare
Think aught but the rarest of virtues dwelt there?
Rare virtues she had, but in commonplace ones
Which make happy husbands and home loving sons
She was utterly lacking. Ruth Somerville saw
In sorrow and silence this blemishing flaw
In the friend whom she loved with devotion! Maurice
Saw only the angel with eyes full of peace.
The faults of plain women are easily seen.
But who cares to peer back of beauty's fair screen
For things which are ugly to look on?
Is not quite in love when his sharp eyes discover
The flaws in his jewel.
Maurice from his room
Looked dreamily down on the garden of bloom,
Where Ruth sat with Roger; he smiled as he thought
How quickly the world sated cynic was brought
Into harness by Cupid. The man mad with drink,
And the man mad with love, is quite certain to think
All other men drunkards or lovers. In truth
Maurice had expected his friend to love Ruth.
'She was young, she was fair; with her bright sunny art
She could scatter the mists from his world befogged heart.
She could give him the one heaven under God's dome,
A peaceful, well ordered, and love-guarded home.
And he? why of course he would worship her! When
Cupid finds the soft spot in the hearts of such men
They are ideal husbands.' Maurice Somerville
Felt the whole world was shaping itself to his will.
And his heart stirred with joy as, by thought necromancy,
He made the near future unfold to his fancy,
And saw Ruth the bride of his friend, and the place
She left vacant supplied with the beauty and grace
Of this woman he longed for, the love of his life,
Fair Mabel, his angel, his sweet spirit wife.
Maurice to his desk turned again and once more
Began to unburden his bosom and pour
His heart out on paper-the poet's relief,
When drunk with life's rapture or sick with its grief.
When shall I tell my lady that I love her?
Will it be while the sunshine woos the world,
Or when the mystic twilight bends above her,
Or when the day's bright banners all are furled?
Will wild winds shriek, or will the calm stars glow,
When I shall tell her that I love her so,
I love her so?
I think the sun should shine in all his glory;
Again, the twilight seems the fitting time.
Yet sweet dark night would understand the story,
So old, so new, so tender, so sublime.
Wild storms should rage to chord with my desire,
Yet faithful stars should shine and never tire,
And never tire.
Ah, if my lady will consent to listen,
All hours, will times, shall hear my story told.
In amorous dawns, on nights when pale stars glisten
In dim hushed gloamings and in noon hours bold,
While thunders crash, and while the winds breathe low,
Will I re-tell her that I love her so.
I love her so.
The October day had been luscious and fair
Like a woman of thirty. A chill in the air
As the sun faced the west spoke of frost lurking near
All day the Sound lay without motion, and clear
As a mirror, and blue as a blond baby's eyes.
A change in the tide brought a change to the skies.
The bay stirred and murmured and parted its lips
And breathed a long sigh for the lost lovely ships,
That had gone with the Summer.
Its calm placid breast
Was stirred into passionate pain and unrest.
Not a sail, not a sail anywhere to be seen!
The soft azure eyes of the sea turned to green.
A sudden wind rose; like a runaway horse
Unchecked and unguided it sped on its course.
The waves bared their teeth, and spat spray in the face
Of the furious gale as they fled in the chase.
The sun hurried into a cloud; and the trees
Bowed low and yet lower, as if to appease
The wrath of the storm king that threatened them Close
To the waves at their wildest stood Roger Montrose.
The day had oppressed him; and now the unrest
Of the wind beaten sea brought relief to his breast,
Or at least brought the sense of companionship. Lashed
By his higher emotions, the man's passions dashed
On the shore of his mind in a frenzy of pain,
Like the waves on the rocks, and a frenzy as vain.
Since the day he first looked on her face, Mabel Lee
Had seemed to his self sated nature to be,
On life's troubled ocean, a beacon of light,
To guide him safe out from the rocks and the night.
Her calm soothed his passion; her peace gave him poise;
She seemed like a silence in life's vulgar noise.
He bathed in the light which her purity cast,
And felt half absolved from the sins of the past.
He longed in her mantle of goodness to hide
And forget the whole world. By the incoming tide
He talked with his heart as one talks with a friend
Who is dying. 'The summer has come to an end
And I wake from my dreaming,' he mused. 'Wake to know
That my place is not here-I must go I must go.
Who dares laugh at Love shall hear Love laughing last,
As forth from his bowstring barbed arrows are cast.
I scoffed at the god with a sneer on my lip,
And he forces me now from his chalice to sip
A bitter sweet potion. Ah, lightly the part
Of a lover I've played many times, but my heart
Has been proud in its record of friendship. And now
The mad, eager lover born in me must bow
To the strong claims of friendship. I love Mabel Lee;
Dared I woo as I would, I could make her love me.
The soul of a maid who knows not passion's fire
Is moth to the flame of a man's strong desire.
With one kiss on her lips I could banish the nun
And wake in her virginal bosom the one
Mighty love of her life. If I leave her, I know
She will be my friend's wife in a season or so.
He loves her, he always has loved her; 'tis he
Who ever will do all the loving; and she
Will accept it, and still be the saint to the end,
And she never will know what she missed; but my friend
Has the right to speak first. God! how can he delay?
I marvel at men who are fashioned that way.
He has worshiped her since first she put up her tresses,
And let down the hem of her school-girlish dresses
And now she is full twenty-two; were I he
A brood of her children should climb on my knee
By this time! What a sin against love to postpone
The day that might make her forever his own.
The man who can wait has no blood in his veins.
Maurice is a dreamer, he loves with his brains
Not with soul and with senses. And yet his whole life
Will be blank if he makes not this woman his wife.
She is woof of his dreams, she is warp of his mind;
Who tears her away shall leave nothing behind.
No, no, I am going: farewell to Bay Bend
I am no woman's lover-I am one man's friend.
Still-born in the arms of the matron eyed year
Lies the beautiful dream that my life buries here.
Its tomb was its cradle; it came but to taunt me,
It died, but its phantom shall ever more haunt me.'
He turned from the waves that leaped at him in wrath
To find Mabel Lee, like a wraith, in his path.
The rose from her cheek had departed in fear;
The tip of her eyelash was gemmed with a tear.
The rude winds had disarranged mantle and dress,
And she clung with both hands to her hat in distress.
'I am frightened,' she cried, in a tremulous tone;
'I dare not proceed any farther alone.
As I came by the church yard the wind felled a tree,
And invisible hands seemed to hurl it at me;
I hurried on, shrieking; the wind, in disgust,
Tore the hat from my head, filled my eyes full of dust,
And otherwise made me the butt of its sport.
Just then I spied you, like a light in the port,
And I steered for you. Please do not laugh at my fright!
I am really quite bold in the calm and the light,
But when a storm gathers, or darkness prevails,
My courage deserts me, my bravery fails,
And I want to hide somewhere and cover my ears,
And give myself up to weak womanish tears.'
Her ripple of talk allowed Roger Montrose
A few needed moments to calm and compose
His excited emotions; to curb and control
The turbulent feelings that surged through his soul
At the sudden encounter.
'I quite understand,'
He said in a voice that was under command
Of his will, 'All your fears in a storm of this kind.
There is something uncanny and weird in the wind;
Intangible, viewless, it speeds on its course,
And forests and oceans must yield to its force.
What art has constructed with patience and toil,
The wind in one second of time can despoil.
It carries destruction and death and despair,
Yet no man can follow it into its lair
And bind it or stay it-this thing without form.
Ah! there comes the rain! we are caught in the storm.
Put my coat on your shoulders and come with me where
Yon rock makes a shelter-I often sit there
To watch the great conflicts 'twixt tempest and sea.
Let me lie at your feet! 'Tis the last time, Miss Lee,
I shall see you, perchance, in this life, who can say?
I leave on the morrow at break o' the day.'
Indeed? Why, how sudden! and may I inquire
The reason you leave us without one desire
To return? for your words seem a final adieu.
I never expect to return, that is true,
Yet my wish is to stay.
Are you not your own master?
Alas, yes! and therein lies the cause of disaster.
Myself bids me go, my calm, reasoning part,
The will is the man, not the poor, foolish heart,
Which is ever at war with the intellect. So
I silence its clamoring voices and go.
Were I less my own master, I then might remain.
Your words are but riddles, I beg you explain.
No, no, rather bid me keep silent! To say
Why I go were as weak on my part as to stay.
I think you most cruel! You know, sir, my sex
Loves dearly a secret. Then why should you vex
And torment me in this way by hinting at one?
Let us talk of the weather, I think the storm done.
Very well! I will go! No, you need not come too,
And I will not shake hands, I am angry with you.
And you will not shake hands when we part for all time?
Then read me your riddle!
No, that were a crime
Against honor and friendship; girl, girl, have a care-
You are goading my poor, tortured heart to despair.
His last words were lost in the loud thunder's crash;
The sea seemed ablaze with a sulphurous flash.
From the rocks just above them an evergreen tree
Was torn up by the roots and flung into the sea.
The waves with rude arms hurled it back on the shore;
The wind gained in fury. The glare and the roar
Of the lightning and tempest paled Mabel Lee's cheek.
Her pupils dilated; she sprang with a shriek
Of a terrified child lost to all save alarm,
And clasped Roger Montrose with both hands by the arm,
While her cheek pressed his shoulder. An agony, sweet
And unbearable, thrilled from his head to his feet,
His veins were like rivers, with billows of fire:
His will lost control; and long fettered desire
Slipped its leash. He caught Mabel Lee to his breast,
Drew her face up to his, on her frightened lips pressed
Wild caresses of passion that startled and shocked.
Like a madman he looked, like a madman he talked,
Waiting not for reply, with no pause but a kiss,
While his iron arms welded her bosom to his.
'Girl, girl, you demanded my secret,' he cried;
'Well, that bruise on your lips tells the story! I tried,
Good God, how I tried! to be silent and go
Without speaking one word, without letting you know
That I loved you; yet how could you look in my eyes
And not see love was there like the sun in the skies?
Ah, those hands on my arm-that dear head lightly pressed
On my shoulder! God, woman, the heart in my breast
Was dry powder, your touch was the spark; and the blame
Must be yours if both lives are scorched black with the flame.
Do you hate me, despise me, for being so weak?
No, no! let me kiss you again ere you speak!
You are mine for the moment; and mine-mine alone
Is the first taste of passion your soft mouth has known.
Whoever forestalls me in winning your hand,
Between you and him shall this mad moment stand-
You shall think of me, though you think only to hate.
There-speak to me-speak to me-tell me my fate;
On your words, Mabel Lee, hangs my whole future life.
I covet you, covet you, sweet, for my wife;
I want to stay here at your side. Since I first
Saw your face I have felt an unquenchable thirst
To be good-to look deep in your eyes and find God,
And to leave in the past the dark paths I have trod
In my search after pleasure. Ah, must I go back
Into folly again, to retread the old track
Which leads out into nothingness? Girl, answer me,
As souls answer at Judgment.'
The face of the sea
Shone with sudden pink splendor. The riotous wind
Swooned away with exhaustion. Each dark cloud seemed lined
With vermilion. The tempest was over. A word
Floated up like a feather; the silence was stirred
By the soul of a sigh. The last remnant of gray
In the skies turned to gold, as a voice whispered, 'Stay.'
God grinds His poor people to powder
All day and all night I can hear,
Their cries growing louder and louder.
Oh, God, have You deadened Your ear?
The chimes in old Trinity steeple
Ring in the sweet season of prayer,
And still God is grinding His people,
He is grinding them down to despair.
Mind, body and muscle and marrow,
He grinds them again and again.
Can He who takes heed of the sparrow
Be blind to the tortures of men?
In a bare little room of a tenement row
Of the city, Maurice sat alone. It was so
(In this nearness to life's darkest phases of grief
And despair) that his own bitter woe found relief.
Joy needs no companion; but sorrow and pain
Long to comrade with sorrow. The flowery chain
Flung by Pleasure about her gay votaries breaks
With the least strain upon it. The chain sorrow makes
Links heart unto heart. As a bullock will fly
To far fields when an arrow has pierced him, to die,
So Maurice had flown over far oceans to find
No balm for his wounds, and no peace for his mind.
Cosmopolitan, always, is sorrow; at home
In all countries and lands, thriving well while we roam
In vain efforts to slay it. Toil only, brings peace
To the tempest tossed heart. What in travel Maurice
Failed to find-self-forgetfulness-came with his work
For the suffering poor in the slums of New York.
He had wandered in strange heathen countries-had been
Among barbarous hordes; but the greed and the sin
Of his own native land seemed the shame of the hour.
In his gold there was balm, in his pen there was power
To comfort the needy, to aid and defend
The unfortunate. Close in their midst, as a friend
And companion, for more than twelve months he had dwelt.
Like a ray of pure light in a cellar was felt
This strong, wholesome presence. His little room bare
Of all luxuries, taught the poor souls who flocked there
For his counsel and aid, how by mere cleanliness
The grim features of want lose some lines of distress.
The slips from the plants on his window ledge, given
To beauty starved souls, spoke more clearly of heaven
And God than did sermons or dry creedy tracts.
Maurice was no preacher; and yet his kind acts
Of mercy and self-immolation sufficed
To wake in dark minds a bright image of Christ-
The Christ often heard of, but doubted before.
Maurice spoke no word of religion. Of yore
His heart had accepted the creeds of his youth
Without pausing to cavil, or question their truth.
Faith seemed his inheritance. But, with the blow
Which slew love and killed friendship, faith, too, seemed to go.
It is easy to be optimistic in pleasure,
But when Pain stands us up by her portal to measure
The actual height of our trust and belief,
Ah! then is the time when our faith comes to grief.
The woes of our fellows, God sends them, 'tis plain;
But the devil himself is the cause of our pain.
We question the wisdom that rules o'er the world,
And our minds into chaos and darkness are hurled.
The average scoffer at faith goes about
Pouring into the ears of his fellows each doubt
Which assails him. One truth he fails wholly to heed;
That a doubt oft repeated may bore like a creed.
Maurice kept his thoughts to himself, but his pen
Was dipped in the gall of his heart now and then,
And his muse was the mouthpiece. The sin unforgiven
I hold by the Cherubim chanting in heaven
Is the sin of the poet who dares sing a strain
Which adds to the world's awful chorus of pain
And repinings. The souls whom the gods bless at birth
With the great gift of song, have been sent to the earth
To better and brighten it. Woe to the heart
Which lets its own sorrow embitter its art.
Unto him shall more sorrow be given; and life
After life filled with sorrow, till, spent with the strife,
He shall cease from rebellion, and bow to the rod
In submission, and own and acknowledge his God.
Maurice, with his unwilling muse in the gloom
Of a mood pessimistic, was shut in his room.
A whistle, a step on the stairway, a knock,
Then over the transom there fluttered a flock
Of white letters. The Muse, with a sigh of content,
Left the poet to read them, and hurriedly went
Back to pleasanter regions. Maurice glanced them through:
There were brief business epistles from two
Daily papers, soliciting work from his pen;
A woman begged money for Christ's sake; three men
Asked employment; a mother wrote only to say
How she blessed him and prayed God to bless him each day
For his kindness to her and to hers; and the last
Was a letter from Ruth. The pale ghost of the past
Rose out of its poor shallow grave, with the scent
And the mold of the clay clinging to it, and leant
O'er Maurice as he read, while its breath fanned his cheek.
'Forgive me,' wrote Ruth; 'for at last I must speak
Of the two whom you wish to forget. Well I know
How you suffered, still suffer, from fate's sudden blow,
Though I am a woman, and women must stay
And fight out pain's battles where men run away.
But my strength has its limit, my courage its end,
The time has now come when I, too, leave Bay Bend.
Maurice, let the bitterness housed in your heart
For the man you long loved as a comrade, depart,
And let pity replace it. Oh, weep for his sorrow-
From your fountain of grief, held in check, let me borrow;
I have so overdrawn on the bank of my tears
That my anguish is now refused payment. For years
You loved Mabel Lee. Well, to some hearts love speaks
His whole tale of passion in brief little weeks.
As Minerva, full grown, from the great brow of Jove
Sprang to life, so full blown from our breasts may spring Love.
Love hid like a bee in my heart's lily cup;
I knew not he was there till his sting woke me up.
Maurice, oh, Maurice! Can you fancy the woe
Of seeing the prize which you coveted so
Misused, or abused, by another? The wife
Of the man whom I worshiped is spoiling the life
That was wax in her hands, wax to shape as she chose.
You were blind to her faults, so was Roger Montrose.
Both saw but the saint; well, let saints keep their places,
And not crowd the women in life's hurried races.
As saint, Mabel Lee might succeed; but, oh brother,
She never was meant for a wife or a mother.
Her beautiful home has the desolate air
Of a house that is ruled by its servants. The care-
The thought of the woman (that sweet, subtle power
Pervading some rooms like the scent of a flower),
Which turns house into home-that is lacking. She goes
On her merciful rounds, does our Lady Montrose,
Looking after the souls of the heathen, and leaving
The poor hungry soul of her lord to its grieving.
He craves her companionship; wants her to be
At his side, more his own, than the public's. But she
Holds such love is but selfish; and thinks he should make
Some sacrifice gladly for charity's sake.
Her schools, and her clubs, and her fairs fill her time;
He wants her to travel; no, that were a crime
To go seeking for pleasure, and leave duty here.
God had given her work and her labor lay near.
A month of the theater season in town?
No, the stage is an evil that needs putting down
By good people. So, scheme as he will, the poor man
Has to finally yield every project and plan
To this sweet stubborn saint; for the husband, you see,
Stands last in her thoughts. He has come, after three
Patient years, to that knowledge; his wishes, his needs
Must always give way to her whims, or her creeds.
She knows not the primer of loving; her soul
Is engrossed with the poor petty wish to control,
And she chafes at restriction. Love loves to be bound,
And its sweetest of freedom in bondage is found.
She pulls at her fetters. One worshiping heart
And its faithful devotion play but a small part
In her life. She would rather be lauded and praised
By a crowd of inferior followers, raised
To the pitiful height of their leader, than be
One man's goddess. There, now, is the true Mabel Lee!
Grieve not that you lost her, but grieve for the one
Who with me stood last night by the corpse of his son,
And with me stood alone. Ah! how wisely and well
Could Mabel descant on Maternity! tell
Other women the way to train children to be
An honor and pride to their parents! Yet she,
From the first, left her child to the nurses. She found
'Twas a tax on her nerves to have baby around
When it worried and cried. The nurse knew what to do,
And a block down the street lived Mama! 'twixt the two
Little Roger would surely be cared for. She must
Keep her strength and be worthy the love and the trust
Of the poor, who were yearly increasing, and not
Bestow on her own all the care and the thought-
That were selfishness, surely.
Well, the babe grew apace,
But yesterday morning a flush on its face
And a look in its eye worried Roger. The mother
Was due at some sort of convention or other
In Boston-I think 'twas a grand federation
Of clubs formed by women to rescue the Nation
From man's awful clutches; and Mabel was made
The head delegate of the Bay Bend Brigade.
Once drop in a small, selfish nature the seed
Of ambition for place, and it grows like a weed.
The fair village angel we called Mabel Lee,
As Mrs. Montrose, has developed, you see,
To a full fledged Reformer. It quite turned her head
To be sent to the city of beans and brown bread
As a delegate! (Delegate! magical word!
The heart of the queer modern woman is stirred
Far more by its sound than by aught she may hear
In the phrases poor Cupid pours into her ear.)
Mabel chirped to the baby a dozen good-byes,
And laughed at the trouble in Roger's grave eyes,
As she leaned o'er the lace ruffled crib of her son
And talked baby-talk: 'Now be good, 'ittle one,
While Mama is away, and don't draw a long breath,
Unless 'oo would worry Papa half to death.
And don't cough, and, of all things, don't sneeze, 'ittle dear,
Or Papa will be thrown into spasms of fear.
Now, good-bye, once again, 'ittle man; mother knows
There is no other baby like Roger Montrose
In the whole world to-day.'
So she left him. That night
The nurse sent a messenger speeding in fright
For the Doctor; a second for Grandmama Lee
And Roger despatched still another for me.
All in vain! through the gray chilly paths of the dawn
The soul of the beautiful baby passed on
Into Mother-filled lands.
Ah! my God, the despair
Of seeing that agonized sufferer there;
To stand by his side, yet denied the relief
Of sharing, as wife, and as mother, his grief.
Enough! I have borne all I can bear. The role
Of friend to a lover pulls hard on the soul
Of a sensitive woman. The three words in life
Which have meaning to me are home, mother and wife-
Or, rather, wife, mother and home. Once I thought
Men cared for the women who found home the spot
Next to heaven for happiness; women who knew
No ambition beyond being loyal and true,
And who loved all the tasks of the housewife. I learn,
Instead, that from women of that kind men turn,
With a yawn, unto those who are useless; who live
For the poor hollow world and for what it can give,
And who make home the spot where, when other joys cease,
One sleeps late when one wishes.
You left me Maurice
Left the home I have kept since our dear Mother died,
With such sisterly love and such housewifely pride,
And you wandered afar, and for what cause, forsooth?
Oh! because a vain, self-loving woman, in truth,
Had been faithless. The man whom I worshiped, ignored
The love and the comfort my woman's heart stored
In its depths for his taking, and sought Mabel Lee.
Well, I'm done with the role of the housewife. I see
There is nothing in being domestic. The part
Is unpicturesque, and at war with all art.
The senile old Century leers with dim eyes
At our sex and demands that we shock or surprise
His thin blood into motion. The home's not the place
To bring a pleased smile to his wicked old face.
To the mandate I bow; since all strive for that end,
I must join the great throng! I am leaving Bay Bend
This day week. I will see you in town as I pass
To the college at C--, where I enter the class
Of medical students-I fancy you will
Like to see my name thus-Dr. Ruth Somerville.'
Maurice dropped the long, closely written epistle,
Stared hard at the wall, and gave vent to a whistle.
A Doctor! his sweet, little home-loving sister.
A Doctor! one might as well prefix a Mister
To Ruth Somerville, that most feminine name.
And then in the wake of astonishment came
Keen pity for all she had suffered. 'Poor Ruth,
She writes like an agonized woman, in truth,
And like one torn with jealousy. Ah, I can see,'
He mused, 'how the pure soul of sweet Mabel Lee
Revolts at the bondage and shrinks from the ban
That lies in the love of that sensual man.
He is of the earth, earthy. He loves but her beauty,
He cares not for conscience, or honor or duty.
Like a moth she was dazzled and lured by the flame
Of a light she thought love, till she learned its true name;
When she found it mere passion, it lost all its charms.
No wonder she flies from his fettering arms!
God pity you, Mabel! poor ill mated wife;
But my love, like a planet, shall watch o'er your life,
Though all other light from your skies disappear,
Like a sun in the darkness my love shall appear.
Unselfish and silent, it asks no return,
But while the great firmament lasts it shall burn.'
Muse, muse, awake, and sing thy loneliest strain,
Song, song, be sad with sorrow's deepest pain,
Heart, heart, bow down and never bound again,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Night, night, draw close thy filmy mourning veil,
Moon, moon, conceal thy beauty sweet and pale,
Wind, wind, sigh out thy most pathetic wail,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Time, time, speed by, thou art too slow, too slow,
Grief, grief, pass on, and take thy cup of woe,
Life, life, be kind, ah! do not wound her so,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
Sleep, sleep, dare not to touch mine aching eyes,
Love, love, watch on, though fate thy wish denies,
Heart, heart, sigh on, since she, my Lady, sighs,
My Lady grieves, she grieves.
The flower breathes low to the bee,
'Behold, I am ripe with bloom.
Let Love have his way with me,
Ere I fall unwed in my tomb.'
The rooted plant sighs in distress
To the winds by the garden walk
'Oh, waft me my lover's caress,
Or I shrivel and die on my stalk.'
The whippoorwill utters her love
In a passionate 'Come, oh come,'
To the male in the depths of the grove,
But the heart of a woman is dumb.
The lioness seeks her mate,
The she-tiger calls her own-
Who made it a woman's fate
To sit in the silence alone?
Wooed, wedded and widowed ere twenty. The life
Of Zoe Travers is told in that sentence. A wife
For one year, loved and loving; so full of life's joy
That death, growing jealous, resolved to destroy
The Eden she dwelt in. Five desolate years
She walked robed in weeds, and bathed ever in tears,
Through the valley of memory. Locked in love's tomb
Lay youth in its glory and hope in its bloom.
At times she was filled with religious devotion,
Again crushed to earth with rebellious emotion
And unresigned sorrow.
Ah, wild was her grief!
And the years seemed to bring her no balm of relief.
When a heart from its sorrow time cannot estrange,
God sends it another to alter and change
The current of feeling. Zoe's mother, her one
Tie to earth, became ill. When the doctors had done
All the harm which they dared do with powder and pill,
They ordered a trial of Dame Nature's skill.
Dear Nature! what grief in her bosom must stir
When she sees us turn everywhere save unto her
For the health she holds always in keeping; and sees
Us at last, when too late, creeping back to her knees,
Begging that she at first could have given!
Mother Nature's heart grieved o'er the mother of Zoe,
Who came but to die on her bosom. She died
Where the mocking bird poured out its passionate tide
Of lush music; and all through the dark days of pain
That succeeded, and over and through the refrain
Of her sorrow, Zoe heard that wild song evermore.
It seemed like a blow which pushed open a door
In her heart. Something strange, sweet and terrible stirred
In her nature, aroused by the song of that bird.
It rang like a voice from the future; a call
That came not from the past; yet the past held her all.
To the past she had plighted her vows; in the past
Lay her one dream of happiness, first, only, last.
Alone in the world now, she felt the unrest
Of an unanchored boat on the wild billow's breast.
Two homes had been shattered; the West held but tombs.
She drifted again where the magnolia blooms
And the mocking bird sings. Oh! that song, that wild strain,
Whose echoes still haunted her heart and her brain!
How she listened to hear it repeated! It came
Through the dawn to her heart, and the sound was like flame.
It chased all the shadows of night from her room,
And burst the closed bud of the day into bloom.
It leaped to the heavens, it sank to the earth
It gave life new rapture and love a new birth.
It ran through her veins like a fiery stream,
And the past and its sorrow-was only a dream.
The call of a bird in the spring for its lover
Is the voice of all Nature when winter is over.
The heart of the woman re-echoed the strain,
And its meaning, at last, to her senses was plain.
Grief's winter was over, the snows from her heart
Were melted; hope's blossoms were ready to start.
The spring had returned with its siren delights,
And her youth and emotions asserted their rights.
Then memory struggled with passion. The dead
Seemed to rise from the grave and accuse her. She fled
From her thoughts as from lepers; returned to old ways,
And strove to keep occupied, filling her days
With devotional duties. But when the night came
She heard through her slumber that song like a flame,
And her dreams were sweet torture. She sought all too soon
To chill the warm sun of her youth's ardent noon
With the shadows of premature evening. Her mind
Lacked direction a
The Undying One- Canto III
'THERE is a sound the autumn wind doth make
Howling and moaning, listlessly and low:
Methinks that to a heart that ought to break
All the earth's voices seem to murmur so.
The visions that crost
Our path in light--
The things that we lost
In the dim dark night--
The faces for which we vainly yearn--
The voices whose tones will not return--
That low sad wailing breeze doth bring
Borne on its swift and rushing wing.
Have ye sat alone when that wind was loud,
And the moon shone dim from the wintry cloud?
When the fire was quench'd on your lonely hearth,
And the voices were still which spoke of mirth?
If such an evening, tho' but one,
It hath been yours to spend alone--
Never,--though years may roll along
Cheer'd by the merry dance and song;
Though you mark'd not that bleak wind's sound before,
When louder perchance it used to roar--
Never shall sound of that wintry gale
Be aught to you but a voice of wail!
So o'er the careless heart and eye
The storms of the world go sweeping by;
But oh! when once we have learn'd to weep,
Well doth sorrow his stern watch keep.
Let one of our airy joys decay--
Let one of our blossoms fade away--
And all the griefs that others share
Seem ours, as well as theirs, to bear:
And the sound of wail, like that rushing wind
Shall bring all our own deep woe to mind!
'I went through the world, but I paused not now
At the gladsome heart and the joyous brow:
I went through the world, and I stay'd to mark
Where the heart was sore, and the spirit dark:
And the grief of others, though sad to see,
Was fraught with a demon's joy to me!
'I saw the inconstant lover come to take
Farewell of her he loved in better days,
And, coldly careless, watch the heart-strings break--
Which beat so fondly at his words of praise.
She was a faded, painted, guilt-bow'd thing,
Seeking to mock the hues of early spring,
When misery and years had done their worst
To wither her away. The big tears burst
From out her flashing eyes, which turn'd on him
With agony, reproach, and fear, while dim
Each object swam in her uncertain sight,
And nature's glories took the hue of night.
There was, in spite of all her passion's storm,
A wild revolting beauty in her form;
A beauty as of sin, when first she comes
To tempt us from our calm and pleasant homes.
Her voice, with the appealing tone it took,
Her soft clear voice, belied her fearless look:
And woman's tenderness seem'd still to dwell
In that full bosom's agonizing swell.
And he stood there, the worshipp'd one of years--
Sick of her fondness--angry at her tears;
Choking the loathing words which rose within
The heart whose passion tempted her to sin;
While with a strange sad smile lost hours she mourns,
And prays and weeps, and weeps and prays by turns.
A moment yet he paused, and sigh'd--a sigh
Of deep, deep bitterness; and on his eye
Love's gentle shadow rested for a space--
And faded feelings brighten'd o'er his face.
'Twas but a moment, and he turn'd in wrath
To quench the sunshine on her lonely path.
And his lip curl'd, as on that alter'd cheek
His cold glance rested--while, all faint and weak,
With tearful sad imploring gaze she stood,
Watching with trembling heart his changeful mood;
Her thin lips parted with a ghastly smile,
She strove to please--yet felt she fail'd the while.
And thus his words burst forth:' And dost thou dare
Reproach me with the burden of thy care?
Accuse thy self-will'd heart, where passion reign'd;
Some other hand the lily might have stain'd,
For thou didst listen when none else approved,
Proud in thy strength, and eager to be loved.
Rose of the morning, how thy leaves are gone!
How art thou faded since the sunrise shone!
Think not my presence was the cause of all--
Oh no, thy folly would have made thee fall:
Alike thy woe--alike the cause of blame--
Another tempter, but thine act the same.
And tell me not of all I said or swore:
Poor wretch! art thou as in the days of yore?
Thing of the wanton heart and faded brow,
Whate'er I said or did--I loathe thee now!'
The frozen tears sank back beneath the lid,
Whose long black lashes half their sadness hid--
And with a calm and stedfast look, which spoke
Unutterable scorn, her spirit woke:--
'And thou art he, for whom my young heart gave
All hope of pardon on this side the grave!
For whom I still have struggled on, for years,
Through days of bitterness and nights of tears!--
True, I am changed since that bright summer's day,
When first from home love lured my steps to stray:
And true it is that art hath sought to hide
The work of woe which all my words belied;--
But for whose sake have I with watchful care,
Though sick at heart, endeavour'd to be fair?
For whom, when daylight broke along the skies,
Have I with fear survey'd my weeping eyes?
For whom, with trembling fingers sought to dress
Each woe-worn feature with mock loveliness?
Chased the pale sickness from my darken'd brow,
And strove to listen, calm--as I do now?
For whom--if not for thee?--Oh! had I been
Pure as the stainless lily--were each scene
Of guilt and passion blotted from that book
Where weepingly and sad the angels look--
Did I stand here the calm approved wife,
Bound to thee by the chain that binds for life--
Could I have loved thee more? The dream is past--
I who forsook, am lonely at the last!
One hour ago the thought that we must part,
And part for ever, would have broke my heart:
But now--I cast thee from me! Go and seek
To pale the roses on a fresher cheek.
Why lingerest thou? Dost fear, when thou art gone,
My woman's heart will wake, and live alone?
Fear not--the specious tongue whose well-feign'd tale
Hath lured the dove to leave her native vale,
May use its art some other to beguile;
And the approving world--will only smile.
But she who sins, and suffers for that sin,
Who throws the dangerous die, and doth not win--
Loves once--and loves no more!' He glided by,
And she turn'd from him with a shuddering sigh.
'I saw the widower mournful stand,
Gazing out on the sea and the land;
O'er the yellow corn and the waving trees,
And the blue stream rippling in the breeze.
Oh! beautiful seem the earth and sky--
Why doth he heave that bitter sigh?
Vain are the sunshine and brightness to him--
His heart is heavy, his eyes are dim.
His thoughts are not with the moaning sea,
Though his gaze be fix'd on it vacantly:
His thoughts are far, where the dark boughs wave
O'er the silent rest of his Mary's grave.
He starts, and brushes away the tear;
For the soft small voices are in his ear,
Of the bright-hair'd angels his Mary left
To comfort her lonely and long bereft.
With a gush of sorrow he turns to press
His little ones close with a fond caress,
And they sigh--oh! not because Mary sleeps,
For she is forgotten--but that HE weeps.
Yes! she is forgotten--the patient love,
The tenderness of that meek-eyed dove,
The voice that rose on the evening air
To bid them kneel to the God of prayer,
The joyous tones that greeted them, when
After a while she came again--
The pressure soft of her rose-leaf cheek--
The touch of her hand, as white and weak
She laid it low on each shining head,
And bless'd the sons of the early dead:
All is forgotten--all past away
Like the fading close of a summer's day:
Or the sound of her voice (though they scarce can tell
Whose voice it was, that they loved so well)
Comes with their laughter, a short sweet dream--
As the breeze blows over the gentle stream,
Rippling a moment its quiet breast,
And leaving it then to its sunny rest.
But he!--oh! deep in his inmost soul,
Which hath drunk to the dregs of sorrow's bowl--
Her look--and her smile--the lightest word
Of the musical voice he so often heard,
And never may hear on earth again,
Though he love it more than he loved it then--
Are buried--to rise at times unbid
And force hot tears to the burning lid:
The mother that bore her may learn to forget,
But he will remember and weep for her yet!
Oh! while the heart where her head hath lain
In its hours of joy, in its sighs of pain;
While the hand which so oft hath been clasp'd in hers
In the twilight hour, when nothing stirs--
Beat with the deep, full pulse of life--
Can he forget his gentle wife?
Many may love him, and he in truth
May love; but not with the love of his youth:
Ever amid his joy will come
A stealing sigh for that long-loved home,
And her step and her voice will go gliding by
In the desolate halls of his memory!
'I saw a father weeping, when the last
Of all his dear ones from his sight had past--
The young lamb, in his solitary fold,
Who should have buried him, for he was old.
Silently she had pass'd away from earth,
Beloved by none but him who gave her birth:
And now he sat, with haggard look and wild,
By the lone tomb of his forgotten child:--
'None remember thee! thou whose heart
Pour'd love on all around.
Thy name no anguish can impart--
'Tis a forgotten sound.
Thine old companions pass me by
With a cold bright smile, and a vacant eye--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! thou wert not
Beauteous as some things are;
No glory beam'd upon thy lot,
My pale and quiet star.
Like a winter bud that too soon hath burst,
Thy cheek was fading from the first--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! they could spy
Nought, when they gazed on thee,
But thy soul's deep love in thy quiet eye--
It hath pass'd from their memory.
The gifts of genius were not thine
Proudly before the world to shine--
And none remember thee
'None remember thee! now thou'rt gone,
Or they could not choose but weep,--
When they think of thee, my gentle one,
In thy long and lonely sleep.
Fain would I murmur thy name, and tell
How fondly together we used to dwell--
But none remember thee
'I saw a husband, and a guilty wife,
Who once made all the sunshine of his life,
Kneeling upon the threshold of her home,
Where heavily her weary feet had come:
A faded form, a humble brow, are hers--
The livery which sinful sorrow wears;
While with deep agony she lifts her eyes,
And prays him to forgive her, ere she dies!
Long days--long days swell in his broken heart,
When death had seem'd less bitter than to part--
When in her innocence her hush'd lip spoke
The faint confession of the love he woke;
And the first kiss on that pure cheek impress'd,
Made her shrink, trembling, from his faithful breast.
And after years when her light footstep made
Most precious music--when in sun or shade
She was the same bright, happy, loving thing--
Low at his feet she now lies withering!
His half-stretch'd hand already bids her be
Forgiven and at peace--his kindly eye
Is turn'd on her through tears, to think that she,
His purely-loved, should bide such agony.
Already on his tongue the quivering word
Of comfort trembles, though as yet unheard;
Already he hath bent o'er that pale face:
Why starts he, groaning, from her wild embrace?
Oh! as she clasp'd his knees, her full heart woke
To all its tenderness--a murmur broke
Forth from her lip; the cherish'd name of one
Whose image dwelt when purity was gone,
Secure amid the ruins of lost things,
Filling her soul with soft imaginings,
Like a lone flower within the moss-grown halls
Where echo vainly unto echo calls.
Deep wrath, and agony, and vain despair,
Are painted on his brow who hears her prayer.
'Breathe not her name--it is a sound
Of fearfulness and dread.
Seest thou no trace of tears around?
Yet have salt tears been shed!
Thy babe who nestled at thy breast,
And laugh'd upon thy knee;
That creature of the quiet rest,
Thy child--was too like thee!
The careless fawn that lightly springs--
The rosebud in the dew--
The fair of nature's fairy things--
Like them thy daughter grew.
And then she left her father's side,
Not, woman! as a happy bride,
With a tearful smile, half sad, half meek;
The flush of guilt was on her cheek:
And in the desert wilds I sought--
And in the haunts of men.
Woman! what thou hast felt is naught
To what I suffer'd then.
I thought that--but it may not be--
I thought I could have pardon'd thee;
But when I dream of her, and think
Thy steps led on to ruin's brink--
Oh she is gone, and thou art here
Where ye both were of yore--
To mock with late-repentant tear
Hopes which may come no more!
Hadst thou, frail wretch, been by her still,
To shield her gentle head from ill--
To do thy mother's part--but go--
I will not curse thee, in my woe :
Only, depart!--and haply when
Lonely and left I die,
Thy pardon'd form shall rise again
And claim one parting sigh!'
He closed on her the portal of her home,
Where never more her weary feet may come--
And their wrung hearts are sever'd till that day
When God shall hear, and judge the things of clay.
'I saw the parricide raving stand,
With a rolling eye, and a bloody hand;
Through his thick chill veins the curdling stream
Flows dark and languid. No sunny beam
Can wake the deep pulse of his heart to joy,
Since he raised his murderous hand to destroy.
By day, by night, no pause is given
Of hope to the soul accursed by Heaven.
Through the riotous feast; through his own dull groans;
Through the musical sound of his loved one's tones;
Through the whispering breath of the evening air,
Faulters the old man's dying prayer.
Few were the words he spoke as he sank;
And the greedy poniard his life-blood drank:
'Spare me, my son, I will yield thee all.'
Oh, what would the murderer give to recall
One murmuring sigh to that silent tongue,
Which in infancy sought his ear to please;
One pulse of life, to the hands that clung
Feebly and tremblingly round his knees!
In vain! he hath won the gold he sought;
And the burning agony of thought
Shall haunt him still, till he lays his head
With a shuddering groan on his dying bed!
'I saw a young head bow'd in its deep woe,
Ev'n unto death; and sad, and faint, and slow,
As she sat lonely in her hall of tears,
Her lips address'd some shade of other years:
'Oh! dear to the eyes that are weeping
Was thy form, my lost love:
Though the heart where thine image is sleeping
Its truth might not prove.
I have wept and turn'd from thee, for fear thou shouldst trace
All the love that I bore thee, deep writ on my face.
But oh! could we once more be meeting,
As then, love, we met:
Could I feel that fond heart of thine beating,
Close, close, to mine yet:
I would cling to thee, dearest, nor fear thou shouldst guess
How deeply thy welcome had power to bless,
Oh! tis not for a day, or an hour,
I part from thee now,
To weep and shake off, like a flower,
The tears from my brow:
'Tis to sit dreaming idly of days that are gone,
And start up to remember--that I am alone.
They say that my heart hath recover'd
The deep bitter blow;
That the cloud which for long days hath hover'd,
Is gone from my brow;
That my eyes do not weep, and my lips wear a smile;
It is true --but I do not forget thee the while.
Oh, they know not, amidst all my gladness,
Thy shadow is there:
They feel not the deep thrill of sadness,
Nor the soul's lone despair.
They see not the sudden quick pang, when thy name
Is carelessly utter'd, to praise or to blame!
If to gaze on each long-treasured token
Till bitter tears flow,
And to wonder my heart is not broken
By the weight of its woe:
To join in the world's loud and 'wildering din,
While a passionate feeling is choking within:
If to yearn, in the arms that once bound thee,
To lean down my head;
With the dear ones who used to come round thee,
Salt tear-drops to shed:
If to list to the voice that is like thine, in vain;
And feel its dim echo ring wild through my brain:
If to dream there were pleasure in meeting
Those who once were with thee:
To murmur a sad farewell greeting,
Then sink on my knee;
With my straining hands clasp'd to the Heavens in prayer,
And my choked bosom heaving with grief and despair:
If to sit and to think of thee only,
While they laugh round the hearth;
And feel my full heart grow more lonely
At the sound of their mirth:--
If this be forgetting thee, dear one and good--
Forget thee--forget thee--Oh God! that I could!'
'I saw the child of parents poor,
Dreaming with pain of her cottage door;
Which she left for the splendour which may not cheer--
Pomp hath not power to dry one tear.
The palace--the sunshine--what are they to her
'Mid the heart's full throb, and the bosom's stir?
The picture that rises bedimm'd with tears,
Is an aged woman, bow'd down by years;
Sitting alone in her evening's close,
And feebly weeping for many woes.
Her thin hands are weaving the endless thread,
Her faded eyes gaze where her daughter fled,
O'er the moss-grown copse and the wooded hill:
'Oh! would that I were with my mother still!
That I were with her who rear'd me up--
(And I fill'd to the brim her sorrow's cup)--
That I were with her who taught me to pray
At the morning's dawn and the close of day--
That I were with her whose harshest look
Was half of sorrow and half rebuke.
Oh! the depth of my sin I never could see,
But I feel it now, with the babe on my knee.'
The high proud gaze of her scornful eye
Is quench'd with the tears for days gone by;
And her little one starts from its broken rest,
Woke by the sobs of that heaving breast.
She gazes with fear on its undimm'd brow--
What are the thoughts that lurk below?
Perchance, like her own, the day will come
When its name shall be hush'd in its parent home;
When the hearts that cherish its lightest tone,
Shall wish that the sound from earth were gone.
Perchance it is doom'd to an early grave,
Or a struggling death on the stormy wave;
Or the fair little dimpled hand that clings
So fast in her soft hair's shining rings,
May be dark with the blood of his fellow-men,
And the clanking chain hang round it then.
Haply, forgetting her patient care,
The young, bright creature slumbering there,
Shall forsake her--as she hath forsaken them--
For a heavy heart and a diadem!
She clasps it strong with a burning kiss--
'Oh God! in thy mercy, spare me this.''
'I saw a widow, by her cherish'd son,
Ere all of light, and life, and hope, was gone--
When the last dying glance was faintly raised,
Ere death with withering power the brightness glazed
Of those deep heavenly eyes: a glance which seem'd
To ask her, if the world where he had dream'd
Such dreams of happiness with her, must be
Forsaken in the spring-tide of his glee:
If he indeed must die. I saw her take
His hand, and gaze, as if her heart would break,
On his pale brow and languid limbs of grace,
And wipe the death-dew gently from his face.
I saw her after, when the unconscious clay,
Deaf to her wild appeals, all mutely lay,
With brow upturn'd, and parted lips, whose hue
Was scarce more pale than hers, who met my view.
She stood, and wept not in her deep despair,
But press'd her lips upon his shining hair
With a long bitter kiss, and then with grief--
Like hers of old, who pray'd and found relief--
She groan'd to God, and watch'd to see him stir,
But, ah! no prophet came, to raise him up for her!
'I saw the orphan go forth in dread
Through the pitiless world, and turn to gaze
Once more on the dark and narrow bed
Where sleep the authors of her days.
Well may she weep them, for never more,
After she turns from that cottage door,
Will her young heart beat to a kindly word,
Such as in early days she heard:
Or her young eye shine, as she hastens her pace
To bask in the light of a loved one's face.
Her lot is cast;
Her hope is past;
The careless, the cold, and the cruel may come
To gaze on the orphan, and pass her by:
But a word, or a sound, or a look of home--
For them she must bow her head, and die!
'I saw the dark and city-clouded spot,
Where, by his busy patrons all forgot,
The young sad poet dreams of better days,
And gives his genius forth in darken'd rays.
Chill o'er his soul, gaunt poverty hath thrown
Her veil of shadows, as he sighs alone;
And, withering up the springs and streams of youth,
Left him to feel misfortune's bitter truth,
And own with deep, impassion'd bitterness,
Who would describe--must faintly feel, distress.
Slowly he wanders, with a languid pace,
To the small window of his hiding-place;
Pressing with straining force, all vainly now,
His hot, weak fingers on his throbbing brow;
And seeking for bright thoughts, which care and pain
Have driven from his dim and 'wilder'd brain.
He breathes a moment that unclouded air,
And gazes on the face of nature there--
Longing for fresh wild flowers and verdant fields,
And all the joys the open sunshine yields:
Then turning, he doth rest his heavy eye
Where his torn papers in confusion lie,
And raves awhile, and seats himself again,
To toil and strive for thoughts and words, in vain:
Till he can bid his drooping fancy feel,
And barter genius, for a scanty meal!
'I've been where fell disease a war hath waged
Against young joy,--where pestilence hath raged,
And beauty hath departed from the earth
With none to weep her.--I have seen the birth
Of the lorn infant, greeted but with tears,
And dim forebodings, and remorseful fears,
When to the weary one the grave would show
Less dreadful than a long long life of woe.
I've been in prisons, where in lone despair,
Barr'd from God's precious gifts, the sun and air,
The debtor pines, for a little gold,
His fellow man in iron chains would hold:
There have I seen the bright inquiring eye
Fade into dull and listless vacancy;
There have I seen the meek grow stern and wild;
And the strong man sit weeping like a child;
Till God's poor tortured creatures in their heart
Were fain to Curse their Maker, and depart.
All have I seen--and I have watch'd apart
The fruitless struggles of a breaking heart,
Bruised, crush'd, and wounded by the spoiler's power,
And left to wither like a trodden flower;
Till I have learnt with ease each thought to trace
That flush'd across the fair and fading face,
And known the source of tears, which day by day
Weakness hath shed, and pride hath brush'd away.
'It was in Erin--in the autumn time,
By the broad Shannon's banks of beauty roaming;
I saw a scene of mingled woe and crime--
Oh! ev'n to my sear'd eyes the tears seem'd coming!
It was a mother standing gaunt and wild,
Working her soul to murder her young child,
Who lay unconscious in its soft repose
Upon the breast, that heaved with many woes.
She stood beside the waters, but her eyes
Were not upon the river, nor the skies,
Nor on the fading things of earth. Her soul
Was rapt in bitterness--and evening stole
Chill o'er her form, while yet with nerveless hand
She sought to throw her burden from the land.
'Twas pitiful to see her strive in vain,
Rise sternly up, then melt to love again;
With horrible energy, and lip compress'd,
Hold forth her child--then strain it to her breast
Convulsively; as if some gentle thought
Of all its helpless beauty first was brought
Into her 'wilder'd mind--the soft faint smiles,
Whose charm the mother of her tears beguiles,
Which speak not aught of mirth or merriment,
But of full confidence, and deep content,
And ignorance of woe:--the murmur'd sounds
Which were to her a language, rise up now--
And, like a torrent bursting from its bounds,
Swell in her heart, and shoot across her brow.
Oh! she who plans its death in her despair,
Hath tended it with fond and watchful care;
Hath borne it wearily for many a mile,
Repaid with one fond glance, or gentle smile:
Hath watch'd through long dark nights with patient love,
When some light sickness struck her nestling dove;
And yearn'd to bear its pain, when that meek eye
Turn'd on her, with appealing agony!
Look on her now!--that faint and feverish start
Hath waken'd all the mother in her heart:
That feeble cry hath thrill'd her very frame :--
Was it for murder such a soft heart came?
She will not do it--Fool! the spirit there
Is stronger far than love--it is despair!
Mothers alone may read that mother's woe:
Her heart may break--but she will strike the blow.
Once more she pauses; bending o'er its face,
Calm and unconscious in its timid grace;
Then murmurs to it by the chilly wave,
Ere one strong effort dooms it to the grave:--
'Thou of the sinless breast!
Which passion hath not heaved, nor dark remorse
Swell'd with its full and agonizing curse--
Lo! thou art come to rest!
'Warm is thy guileless heart,
Whose slight quick pulses soon shall beat no more:
Hear'st thou the strong trees rock?--the loud winds roar?
I and my child must part!
'Deep 'neath the sullen sky,
And the dark waters which do boil and foam,
Greedy to take thee to their silent home--
My little one must lie!
'Peace to thy harmless soul!
There is a heaven where thou mayst dwell in peace;
Where the dark howling of the waters cease,
Which o'er thy young head roll.
'There, in the blue still night,
Thou'lt watch, where stars are gleaming from the sky,
O'er the dark spot where thou wert doom'd to die,
And smile, a cherub bright.'
'A plash upon the waves--a low
Half-stifled sob, which seem'd as though
The choked breath fought against the stream--
And all was silent as a dream.
Then rose the shriek that might not stay,
Though much that soul had braved;
And ere its echo died away,
Her little one was saved.
Sudden I plunged, and panting caught
The bright and floating hair,
Which on the waters lustre brought,
As if 'twere sunshine there.
I stood beside that form of want and sin,
That miserable woman in her tears;
Who wept, as though she had not cast it in
To perish with the sorrows of past years.
She thank'd me with a bitter thankfulness,
And thus I spoke: 'Oh! woman, if it is
Sickness and poverty, and lone distress,
That prompted thee to do a deed like this,
Take gold, and wander forth, and let me be
A parent to the child renounced by thee!'
Greedily did she gaze upon the gold,
With a wild avarice in her hollow eye;
And stretch'd her thin damp fingers, clammy cold,
To seize the glittering ore with ecstasy.
But when I claim'd the little helpless thing,
For whose young life that gold had paid the worth;
Close to the breast where it lay shivering,
She strain'd it gaspingly, and then burst forth:--
'I would have slain it! Fool! 'tis true I would;
Because I saw it pine, and had no food:
Because I could not bear its faint frail cry,
Which told my brain such tales of agony:
Because its dumb petitioning glances said,
Am I thy child? and canst not give me bread?
Because, while faint and droopingly it lay
Within my failing arms from day to day,
The tigress rose within my soul--I could
Have slain a man, and bid it lap his blood!
My little one!--my uncomplaining child!
Whose lengthen'd misery drove thy mother wild,
Did they believe that aught but death could part
These nestling limbs from her poor tortured heart?--
No! had the slimy waters gurgled o'er
Thy corpse, and wash'd the slippery reed-grown shore,
Leaving no trace, except in my despair,
Of what had once disturb'd the stillness there--
I could have gazed upon it, and not wept;
For calmly then my little one had slept.
No nightly moans would then have wrung my soul;
No daylight withering bid the tear-drop roll.
In my dark hours of misery and want,
The memory of thy pallid face might haunt,
Not, not to wring my heart with vain regret,
But to remind what thou hadst suffer'd yet,
If from life's wretchedness I had not freed
Thy grateful soul, which thank'd me for the deed.
I lost thee--but I have thee here again,
Close to the heart which now can feel no pain.
Cling to me!--let me feel that velvet cheek--
Look at me, with those eyes so dove-like meek!
Press thy pale lips to mine, and let me be
Repaid for all I have endured for thee.
Part from thee!--never! while this arm hath strength
To hold thee to the bosom where thou liest:
Praise be to God, bright days have dawn'd at length!
I need not watch thy struggles as thou diest.
Part from thee! never--no, my pale sweet flower!
The wealth of worlds would bribe my heart in vain,
Though 'twere to give thee up for one short hour--
Take back thy gold--I have my babe again!
Yet give me food, and I will clasp thy knees,
And night and day will kneel for thee to Heaven;
Else will a lingering death of slow disease,
Or famine gaunt, be all that thou hast given.
And when I die-- then, then be kind'--She ceased:
Her parted lips were tinged with crimson gore,
Her faint hand half, and only half, released
The unconscious form she had been weeping o'er:
Worn nature could not bear the sudden strife;
I look'd upon her--but there was no life!
'That little outcast grew a fairy girl,
A beautiful, a most beloved one.
There was a charm in every separate curl
Whose rings of jet hung glistening in the sun,
Which warm'd her marble brow. There was a grace
Peculiar to herself, ev'n from the first:
Shadows and thoughtfulness you seem'd to trace
Upon that brow, and then a sudden burst
Of sunniness and laughter sparkled out,
And spread their rays of joyfulness about.
Like the wild music of her native land,
Which wakes to joy beneath the minstrel's hand,
Yet at its close gives forth a lingering tone--
Sad, as if mourning that its mirth is gone,
And leaves that note to dwell within your heart,
When all the sounds of joyfulness depart:
So in her heart's full chords there seem'd to be
A strange and wild, but lovely melody:
Half grief--half gladness--but the sadness still
Hanging like shadows on a summer rill.
And when her soul from its deep silence woke,
And from her lip sweet note of answer broke,
Memory in vain would seek the smile that play'd
With her slow words, like one beam in the shade;
Her sorrow hung upon your heart for years--
And all her sweet smiles darken'd into tears.
I loved her, as a father loves his child:
For she was dutiful, and fond, and mild,
As children should be--and she ripen'd on
Like a young rosebud opening to the sun;
Till the full light of womanhood was shed,
Like a soft glory, round about her head.
In all my wanderings, through good and ill,
In storm and sunshine, she was with me still:
Not like a cold sad shadow, forced to glide
Weary--unloved--unnoticed, by my side:
But with her whole heart's worship, ever near,
To love, to smile, to comfort, and to cheer.
Her gentle soul would fear to hurt a worm;
Yet danger found her unappall'd and firm:
Her lip might blanch, but her unalter'd eye
Said, I am ready for thy sake to die.
She stood by me and fear'd not, in that place
When the scared remnant of my wretched race
Gave England's Richard gifts, to let them be
All unmolested in their misery:
And while their jewels sparkled on his hand,
His traitor lips gave forth the dark command
Which, midst a drunken nation's loud carouse,
Sent unexpected death from house to house,
Bade strong arms strike, where none their force withstood,
And woman's wail be quench'd in woman's blood.
She stood by me and fear'd not, when again,
A bloody death cut short a life of pain;
When, with red glaring eyes and desperate force,
Brother laid brother low, a prostrate corse,
Rather than yield their bodies up to those,
In word, in act, and in religion--foes.
She gazed and fainted not, while all around
They lay like slaughter'd cattle on the ground;
With the wide gash in each extended throat,
Calling for vengeance to the God who smote
On Israel's side, ere Israel fell away,
And in her guilt was made the stranger's prey.
'And after that, we dwelt in many lands,
And wander'd through the desert's burning sands;
Where, strange to say, young Miriam sigh'd to be:
Where nature lay stretch'd out so silently
Beneath the glorious sun, and here and there
The fountains bubbled up, as fresh and fair
As if the earth were fill'd with them, and none
In their last agonizing thirst sank down,
With eyes turn'd sadly to far distant dreams
Of unseen gushing waters, and cool streams.
'There is a little island all alone
In the blue Mediterranean; and we went
Where never yet a human foot had gone,
And dwelt there, and young Miriam was content.
There was a natural fountain, where no ray
Of light or warmth had ever found its way,
Thick clustered o'er with flowers; and there she made
A bower of deep retirement and shade;
And proud she was, when, rosy with the glow
Of triumph and exertion, she could show
Her palace of green leaves,--and watch my eyes
For the expected glance of pleased surprise.
Oh! she was beautiful!--if ever earth
To aught of breathing loveliness gave birth.
'One evening--one sweet evening, as we stood,
Silently gazing on the silent flood:
A sudden thought rose swelling in my heart:
Ought my sweet Miriam thus to dwell apart
From human kind? So good, so pure, so bright,
So form'd to be a fervent heart's delight;
Was she to waste the power and will to bless
In ministering to my loneliness?
And then a moment's glance took in her life--
I saw my Miriam a blessed wife;
I saw her with fair children round her knee,
I heard their voices in that home of glee,
And turn'd to gaze on her:--if ever yet,
Turning with shadowy hope, and vain regret,
And consciousness of secret guilt or woe,
Thine eyes have rested on the open brow
Of sinless childhood--thou hast known what I
Felt, when my glance met Miriam's cloudless eye.
Oh! Thought, thou mould where misery is cast--
Thou joiner of the present with the past--
Eternal torturer! wherefore can we not
Through all our life be careless of our lot
As in our early years?--No cares to come
Threw their vain shadow o'er her bosom's home;
No bitter sorrow, with its vain recall,
Poison'd her hope--the present hour was all.
I gazed on her--and as a slow smile broke
Of meek affection round her rosy mouth,
I thought the simple words my heart would choke,
'Would Miriam weep to leave the sunny south?'
Silent she stood--then, in a tone scarce heard,
Faulter'd forth, 'father!' Oh! it wrung, that word;
And snatching her with haste unto my breast,
Where in her childhood's hour of sunny rest
Calmly her innocent head had often slept,
With a strange sense of misery--I wept.
'Oh! weary days, oh! weary days,
Of flattery and empty praise,
When in the tainted haunts of men
My Miriam was brought again.
With vacant gaze and gentle sigh,
She turned her from them mournfully;
As if she rather felt, than saw,
That they were near:--they scarce could draw
A word of answer from her tongue,
Where once such merry music rung,
Save when the island was their theme--
And then, as waking from a dream,
Her soft eye lighted for a while,
And round her mouth a playful smile
Stole for a moment, and then fled,
As if the hope within were dead.
Where'er I gazed, where'er I went,
Her earnest look was on me bent
Stealthily, as she wish'd to trace
Her term of exile on my face.
And many sought her hand in vain.
With pleading voice, and look of pain.
Weepingly she would turn away
When I besought her to be gay;
And resolutely firm, withstood
The noble and the great of blood;
Though they woo'd humbly, as they woo
Who scarcely hope for what they sue.
Oh! glad was Miriam, when at last
I deem'd our term of absence past:
And as her light foot quickly sprang
From out our bark, 'twas thus she sang:--
'The world! the sunny world! I love
To roam untired, till evening throws
Sweet shadows through the pleasant grove,
And bees are murmuring on the rose.
I love to see the changeful flowers
Lie blushing in the glowing day--
Bend down their heads to 'scape the showers,
Then shake the chilly drops away.
'The world! the sunny world! oh bright
And beautiful indeed thou art--
The brilliant day, the dark-blue night,
Bring joy--but not to every heart.
No! till, like flowers, those hearts can fling
Grief's drops from off their folded leaves,
'Twill only smile in hope's bright spring,
And darken when the spirit grieves.'
'She was return'd; but yet she grew not glad;
Her cheek wore not the freshness which it had.
The withering of the world, like the wild storm
Over a tender blossom, left her form
With traces of the havoc that had been,
Ev'n in the sunny calm, and placid scene.
Her brow was darken'd with a gentle cloud;
Her step was slower, and her laugh less loud;
And oft her sweet voice faulter'd, though she said
Nothing in which deep meaning could be read.
I watch'd her gestures when she saw me not,
And once--(oh! will that evening be forgot?)
I stole upon her, when she little thought
Aught but the moaning wind her whispers caught.
'She sat within her bower, where the sun
Linger'd, as loth to think his task was done:
And languidly she raised her heavy gaze,
To meet the splendour of his parting rays.
O'er the smooth cheek which rested on her hand;
Down the rich curls by evening breezes fann'd;
Upon the full red lip, and rounded arm,
The swan-like neck, so snowy, yet so warm--
Each charm the rosy light was wandering o'er,
Brightening what seem'd all-beautiful before.
I paused a moment, gazing yet unseen
Beneath the sleeping shadows dark and green;
And thought, how strange that one so form'd to bless
Should better love to live in loneliness.
Pure, but not passionless, was that soft brow
So warmly gilded by the sunset now;
And in her glistening eye there shone a tear,
Like those we shed when dreaming--for some dear
But lost illusion, which returns awhile
Our nights to brighten with remember'd smile,
And yet we feel is lost, though sleep, strong sleep,
Chains the swoln lid, that fain would wake and weep.
I sat me down beside her; round the zone
That clasp'd her slender waist my arm was thrown:
And the bright ringlets of her shining hair
My fond hand parted on her forehead fair;
And thus I spoke, as with a smile and sigh
She murmur'd forth a welcome timidly:
'Again within the desert and at rest,
Say, does my Miriam find herself more blest,
Than when gay throngs in fond devotion hung
Upon the sportive accents of her tongue?
Is all which made the city seem so gay,
The song, the dance, all dream-like pass'd away?
The sighs, the vows, the worshipping forgot?
And art thou happier in this lonely spot?
Is there no form, all vision-like enshrined
Deep 'mid the treasures of thy guileless mind?
And, deaf to every pure and faithful sigh,
Say, would my desert rose-bud lonely die?'
High, 'neath the arm which carelessly caress'd,
Rose the quick beatings of that gentle breast;
And the slight pulses of her fair young hand,
Which lay so stirlessly within my own,
Trembled and stopp'd, and trembled, as I scann'd
The flushing cheek on which my glance was thrown.
'She loves,' said I; while selfish bitter grief
Swell'd in my soul;--'she loves, and I must live
Alone again, more wretched for the brief
Bright sunshine which her presence used to give.'
And then with sadden'd tones, (which, though I strove
To make them playful, tremulously came)
I murmur'd:'Yes! he lives, whom thou canst love.
His name, dear Miriam--whisper me his name.'
There was a pause, and audibly she drew
Her heaving breath; and faint and fainter grew
The hand that lay in mine; and o'er her brow
Flush'd shadows chased each other to and fro:
Till like a scorch'd-up flower, with languid grace
That young head droop'd, but sought no resting-place.
'Dreams pass'd across my soul--dreams of old days--
Of forms which in the quiet grave lay sleeping;
Of eyes which death had stripp'd of all their rays,
And weary life had quench'd with bitter weeping:
Dreams of the days when, human still, my heart
Refused to feel immortal, and kept clinging
To transient joys, which came and did depart
As fresh flowers wither, which young hands are flinging.
Dreams of the days I loved, and was beloved--
When some young heart for me its sighs was giving,
And fond lips murmur'd forth the vow that proved
Its truth in death, its tenderness when living:
And dreaming thus, I sigh'd. Answering, there came
A deep, low, tremulous sob, which thrill'd my frame.
A moment, that young form shrunk back abash'd
At its own feelings; and all vainly dash'd
The tear aside, which speedily return'd
To quench the cheek where fleeting blushes burn'd.
A moment, while I sought her fears to stay,
The timid girl in silence shrank away--
A moment, from my grasp her hand withdrew--
A moment, hid her features from my view--
Then rising, sank with tears upon my breast,
Her struggles and her love at once confess'd.
'Years--sorrow--death--the hopes that leave me lone,
All I have suffer'd, and must suffer on;
The love of other bright things which may pass
In half eclipse, beyond the darken'd glass
Through which my tearful soul hath learnt to gaze--
The fond delusions of all future days:--
All that this world can bring, hath not the power
To blot from memory that delicious hour.
She, who I thought would leave me desolate--
For whom I brooded o'er a future fate;
She, who had wander'd through each sunny land,
Yet found no heart that could her love command--
She lay within my arms, my own--my own--
Unsought, unwoo'd, but oh! too surely won.
'She was not one of many words and vows,
And breathings of her love, and eager shows
Of warm affection;--in her quiet eye,
Which gazed on all she worshipp'd silently,
There dwelt deep confidence in what she loved,
And nothing more--till some slight action proved
My ceaseless thought of her: then her heart woke,
And fervent feeling like a sunrise broke
O'er her illumined face. Her love for me
Was pure and deep, and hidden as the fount
Which floweth 'neath our footsteps gushingly,
And of whose wanderings none may take account;
And like those waters, when the fountain burst
To light and sunshine, which lay dark at first,
Quietly deep, it still kept flowing on--
Not the less pure for being look'd upon.
'And then she loved all things, and all loved her.
Each sound that mingleth in the busy stir
Of nature, was to her young bosom rife
With the intelligence of human life.
Edith, my playful Edith, when her heart
Tenderly woke to do its woman's part,
Fill'd with a sentiment so strong and new,
Each childish passion from her mind withdrew,
And looking round upon the world beheld
Her Isbal only. By deep sorrow quell'd,
Xarifa's was a melancholy love.
The plashing waters, the blue sky above,
The echo speaking from the distant hill,
The murmurs indistinct which sweetly fill
The evening air--all had for her a tone
Of mournful music--and I stood alone
The one thing that could bid her heart rejoice
With the deep comfort of a human voice.
Not so, young Miriam. Love, within her breast,
Had been a welcome and familiar guest
Ev'n from her childhood:--I was link'd with all
The sunny things that to her lot might fall;
The past--the present--and the future, were
Replete with joys in which I had my share.
Nothing had been, or ever could be, felt
Singly, within the heart where such love dwelt--
Her birds, her trees, her favourite walks, her flowers,
She knew them not as hers--they were all ours.
And thus she loved in her imaginings
Our earth, and all its dumb and living things;
Oft whispering in her momentary glee,
It was the world I dwelt in; part of me:
And, bound by a sweet charm she might not break,
She look'd upon that world, and loved it for my sake.
'How shall I tell it? Linda, a dark pain
Is in my heart, and in my burning brain.--
Where is she?--where is Miriam?--who art thou?
Oh! wipe the death-dew from her pallid brow;
I dare not touch her! See, how still she lies,
Closing in weakness her averted eyes:
Gaspingly struggling for her gentle breath--
And stretching out her quivering limbs in death!
Will no one save her? Fool!--the shadow there
Is the creation of thine own despair.
No love, no agony, is in her heart:
In sin, in suffering, she hath now no part.
She is gone from thee--sooner doom'd to go
Than Nature meant; but thou didst will it so.
'Oh, Linda! the remembrance of that day,
When sad Xarifa's spirit pass'd away,
Haunted me ever with a power that thou,
Who hast not sinn'd or suffer'd, canst not know.
My joys were turn'd to miseries, and wrought
My heart into delirium; I thought
That, as she wept, so Miriam would weep,
And start and murmur in her troubled sleep:
That, as she doubted, Miriam too would find
A dark suspicion steal across her mind:
That, as she faded, Miriam too would fade,
And lose the smile that round her full lips play'd:
That as she perish'd--Miriam too would die,
And chide me with her last reproachful sigh.
Often when gazing on her open brow,
And the pure crimson of her soft cheek's glow--
Sudden, a dark unhappy change would seem
To fall upon her features like a dream.
In vain her merry voice, with laughing tone,
Bade the dim shadow from my heart begone:
Pale--pale and sorrowful--she seem'd to rise,
Death on her cheek, and darkness in her eyes;
The roundness of her form was gone, and care
Had blanch'd the tresses of her glossy hair.
Wan and reproachful, mournfully and mild
Her thin lips moved, and with an effort smiled.
And when with writhing agony I woke
From the delusion, and the dark spell broke;
And Miriam stood there, smiling brilliantly,
Shuddering, I said, 'And yet these things must be.'
Must be;--that young confiding heart must shrink
From my caress; the joyous eyes which drink
Light from the sunshine that doth play within,
Must grovel downcast with a sense of sin;
Or, startled into consciousness, will gaze
Bewilderingly upon the sunset rays;
And, meeting mine, with sorrow wild and deep,
Heart and eyes sinking, turn again to weep.
Yes, these things must be: if, when years have pass'd,
Each leaving her more fading than the last,
She turns to the companion of her track,
And, while her wandering thoughts roam sadly back,
Seeks in her soul the reason why his form
Laughs at the slow decay or ruffling storm,
That hath wreck'd better things;--while on her sight,
With the deep horrible glare, and certain light
Of hell to a lost soul, the slow truth breaks;
Till, as one wounded in his sleep, awakes
To writhe, and shriek, and perish--silently:
Her heart is roused--to comprehend and die.
'To die!--and wherefore should she not depart
Ere doubt hath agonized the trusting heart?
Wherefore not pass away from earth, ere yet
Its mossy bosom with her tears is wet?--
It was a summer's morning, when the first
Glance of that dreadful haunting vision burst
Upon my mind:--I doom'd her then to die,
For then I pictured to my heart and eye
A world where Miriam was not:--often after,
Amid the joyous ringing of her laughter,
In sunshine and in shade, those thoughts return'd,
Madden'd my brain, and in my bosom burn'd.
Oh, God! how bitter were those idle hours,
When softly bending o'er her fragrant flowers,
She form'd her innocent plans, and playfully
Spoke of that future which was not to be!
How bitter were her smiles--her perfect love--
Her deep reliance, which no frowns could move,
On the affections of my murderous heart,
Where the thought brooded,--when shall she depart?
As Jephthah gazed upon her smiling face,
Who bounded forth to claim his first embrace;
And felt, with breathless and bewilder'd pause,
Her early death foredoom'd--her love the cause:
As Jephthah struggled with the vow that still
Bound his pain'd soul against his own free will;
And heard her fond and meekly-worded prayer,
To climb the well-known hills, and wander there,
Weeping to think that in her virgin pride
The beautiful must perish--no man's bride;
And that her name must die away from earth;
And that her voice must leave the halls of mirth,
And they be not less mirthful: so to me
It was to gaze on Miriam silently:
Miriam, who loved me; who, if I had said,
'Lo! thou must perish--bow thy gentle head,'--
Would have repress'd each faint life-longing sigh,
Bared her white bosom, and knelt down to die,
Without a murmur.--So when she upraised
Her quiet eyes, and on my features gazed,
Asking me to come forth and roam with her
Around her favourite haunts, the maddening stir
Of agony and vain resolve would rend
My bosom, and to earth my proud head bend.
It seem'd to me as if that gentle prayer
She breathed--to bid farewell to all her share
Of life and sunshine; to behold again
The high bright happy hills and outstretch'd plain;
And then--come back and die. I left that isle,
And Miriam follow'd with a tearful smile,
Glad to be with me, sorrowful to go
From the dear scene of joy and transient woe.
As Eve to Eden--towards that land of rest
She gazed, then turn'd, and wept upon my breast.
To Italy's sweet shores we bent our course;
And for a while my grief and my remorse,
And all my fearful thoughts, forsook me, when
We mingled in the busy haunts of men.
But oh! the hour was fix'd--though long delay'd;
Like the poor felon's doom, which some reprieve hath stay'd.
'One night a dream disturb'd my frenzied soul.
Methought, to Miriam I confess'd the whole
Of what thou know'st, and watch'd her young glad face,
That on her brow her feelings I might trace.
Methought that, as I gazed, the flushing red
Once more upon her cheek and bosom spread,
As when she told her love; and then--and then--
(How strongly does that vision rise again!)
Each hue of life by gradual shades withdrew,
Till ev'n her dark blue eyes seem'd fading too.
Paler and paler--whiter and more white--
Gazing upon me in the ghastly light,
Her features grew; till all at length did seem
Like moving marble, in that sickly dream,
Except the faded eyes; they faintly kept
The hue of life, and look'd on me, and wept.
And still she spoke not, but stood weeping there,
Till I was madden'd with mine own despair--
And woke. She lay beside me, who was soon
To perish by my hand: the pale clear moon
O'er her fair form a marble whiteness threw,
And wild within my heart the madness grew.
I rush'd from out that chamber, and I stood
By the dim waters of the moon-lit flood;
And in that hour of frantic misery,
I thought my vision told how she would die,
Pining and weeping.--I return'd again,
And gazed upon her with a sickening pain.
Her fair soft arms were flung above her head,
And the deep rose of sleep her cheek was tinging:
The tear which all who follow me must shed,
Slept 'neath the lashes which those orbs were fringing.
And there she lay--so still, so statue-like--
I stagger'd to her--
I lifted up my desperate arm to strike--
Linda--I slew her!
Once--only once--she faintly strove to rise;
Once--only once--she call'd upon my name;
And o'er the dark blue heaven of those eyes,
Death, with its midnight shadows, slowly came.
That tone's despairing echo died away;
The last faint quivering pulsation ceased
To thrill that form of beauty, as it lay
From all the storms and cares of life released:
And I sat by the dead. Fast o'er my soul
A dream of memory's treasured relics stole.
And the day rose before me, and the hour,
When Miriam sat within her own sweet bower,
The red rich sunset lighting on her cheek;
Afraid to trust herself to move or speak,
Conscious and shrinking--while I strove to trace
Her bosom's secret on her guileless face.
I turn'd to press her to my burning heart--
I that had slain her--Wherefore did I start?
Cold, pure, and pale, that glowing cheek was laid,
And motionless each marble limb was lying;
Closed were those eyes which tears of passion shed,
And hush'd the voice that call'd on me in dying.
Gone!--gone!--that frozen bosom never more,
Press'd to mine own, in rapture shall be beating:
Gone!--gone!--her love, her struggles--all was o'er,
Life--weary life, would bring for us no meeting!
'They bore her from me, and they laid her low,
With all her beauty, in the cheerless tomb;
And dragg'd me forth, all weak with pain and woe,
Heedless of death, to meet a murderer's doom.
The wheel--the torturing wheel--was placed to tear
Each quivering limb, and wring forth drops of pain;
And they did mock me in my mute despair,
And point to it, and frown--but all in vain.
The hour at length arrived--a bright sweet day
Rose o'er the world of torture, and of crime;
And human blood-hounds and wild birds of prey
Waited with eagerness their feasting time.
And as I gazed, a wild hope sprang within
My feverish breast:--perchance this dreadful death
And my past sufferings might efface my sin;
And I might now resign my weary breath.
And as the blessed thought flash'd o'er my mind,
I gazed around, and smiled.--To die--to die--
Oh little thought those wolves of human kind,
What rapture in that word may sometimes lie!
They stripp'd my unresisting limbs, and bound;
And the huge ponderous engine gave a sound
Like a dull heavy echo of the moans,
The exhausted cries, the deep and sullen groans,
Of all its many victims. Through each vein
Thrill'd the strange sense of swift and certain pain;
And each strong muscle from the blood-stain'd rack,
Conscious of suffering, quiveringly shrank back.
But I rejoiced--I say I did rejoice:
And when from the loud multitude a voice
Cried 'Death!' I wildly echoed it, and said
'Death! Death! oh, lay me soon among the dead.'
And they did gaze on me with fiendish stare,
Half curiosity, and half the glare
Of bloody appetite; while to and fro,
Nearer and nearer, wheel'd the carrion crow,
As seeking where to strike.--A pause, and hark!
The signal sound!
When sudden as a dream, the heavens grew dark
On all around:
And the loud blast came sweeping in its wrath,
Scattering wide desolation o'er its path:
And the hoarse thunder struggled on its way;
And livid lightning mock'd the darken'd day
With its faint hellish lights.--They fled, that crowd,
With fearful shrieks, and cries, and murmurs loud,
And left me bound. The awful thunder crash'd
Above my head; and in my up-turn'd eyes
The gleams of forked fire brightly flash'd,
Then died along the dark and threatening skies:
And the wild howling of the fearful wind
Madden'd my ringing brain; while, swiftly driven,
The torrent showers fell all thick and blind,
Till mingling seem'd the earth and angry heaven,
A flash--a sound--a shock--and I was free--
Prostrate beside me lay the shiver'd wheel
In broken fragments--I groan'd heavily,
And for a while I ceased to breathe or feel.
'And I arose again, to know that death
Was not yet granted--that the feverish hope
Of yielding up in torture my cursed breath
Was quench'd for ever; and the boundless scope
Of weary life burst on my soul again,
Like the dim distance of the heaving main
On some lost mariner's faint failing eyes;
Who, fondly dreaming of his native shore,
(While in his throat the gurgling waters rise)
Fancies he breathes that welcome air once more,
And far across the bleak lone billows sees
Its blue cool rivers, and its shady trees;
Till when, upraised a moment by the wave,
He views the watery waste, and sickening draws
One long last gasping sigh for a green grave,
Ere helplessly he sinks in Ocean's yawning jaws.
'Night fell around. The quiet dews were weeping
Silently on the dark and mournful earth;
And Sorrow pale its sleepless watch was keeping,
And slumber weigh'd the closing lid of mirth;
While the full round-orb'd moon look'd calmly down
From her thin cloud, as from a light-wreathed crown:
And I went out beneath her silver beams;
And through my 'wilder'd brain there pass'd dark dreams
Of Miriam, and of misery, and death;
And of that tomb, and what lay hid beneath:
And I did lay my head upon that grave,
Weepingly calling on her gentle name;
And to the winds my grieving spirit gave
In words which half without my knowledge came:--
'Thou art gone, with all thy loveliness,
To the silence of the tomb,
Where the voice of friends can never bless,
Nor the cool sweet breezes come;
Deep, deep beneath the flowers bright,
Beneath the dark blue sky,
Which may not send its joyous light
To gladden those who die.
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone, and gone for ever--thou
In whom my life was bound:
The seal of death is on thy brow,
And in thy breast a wound.
Who could have slain thee, thou who wert
So helpless and so fair?
When strong arms rose to do thee hurt,
Why was not Isbal there?
Didst thou not call upon him in thy woe?
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Thou art gone!--Oh! fain my heart would rest,
And dream--but thou art gone;
The head that lay upon my breast
Is hid beneath that stone.
And art thou there? and wilt thou ne'er
Rise up from that dark place,
And, shaking back thy glossy hair,
Laugh gladly in my face?
This world to thee was not a world of woe:
I loved thee--wherefore, wherefore didst thou go?
'Return, return! Oh! if the rack--
If nature's death-like strife,
Borne silently, could bring thee back
Once more to light, and life:
Ev'n if those lips that used to wreathe
Smiles that a glory shed,
Ne'er parted but in scorn, to breathe
Dark curses on my head:--
Oh! I could bear it all, nor think it woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?
'Once more--once more--oh! yet once more!
If I could see thee stand,
A breathing creature, as before
I smote thee with this hand.
If that dear voice--oh! must these groans,
This agony be vain?
Will no one lift the ponderous stones,
And let thee rise again?
Thou wert not wont in life to work me woe:
My bird of beauty! wherefore didst thou go?'
'And then I reason'd--Wherefore should the sod
Hold all of her, which hath not gone to God?
I have the power again that form to see--
I have the wish once more with her to be:
And wherefore should we fear to look upon
What, from our sight, some few short hours is gone?
Wherefore the thrill our senses which comes o'er
At sight of what shall breathe and feel no more?
Oh! Miriam, can there be indeed a place
Where I must dread to look upon thy face?--
And then I knelt, and desperately did tear
Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers,--
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
PART THE FIRST
In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pre
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o'er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields
Spreading afar and unfenced o'er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne'er from their station descended
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.
Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of hemlock,
Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries.
Thatched were the roofs, with dormer-windows; and gables projecting
Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway.
There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sunset
Lighted the village street and gilded the vanes on the chimneys,
Matrons and maidens sat in snow-white caps and in kirtles
Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden
Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within doors
Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of the maidens,
Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children
Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them.
Reverend walked he among them; and up rose matrons and maidens,
Hailing his slow approach with words of affectionate welcome.
Then came the laborers home from the field, and serenely the sun sank
Down to his rest, and twilight prevailed. Anon from the belfry
Softly the Angelus sounded, and over the roofs of the village
Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending,
Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment.
Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers,--
Dwelt in the love of God and of man. Alike were they free from
Fear, that reigns with the tyrant, and envy, the vice of republics.
Neither locks had they to their doors, nor bars to their windows;
But their dwellings were open as day and the hearts of their owners;
There the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance.
Somewhat apart from the village, and nearer the Basin of Minas,
Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pre,
Dwelt on his goodly acres: and with him, directing his household,
Gentle Evangeline lived, his child, and the pride of the village.
Stalworth and stately in form was the man of seventy winters;
Hearty and hale was he, an oak that is covered with snow-flakes;
White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the oak-leaves.
Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!
Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows.
When in the harvest heat she bore to the reapers at noontide
Flagons of home-brewed ale, ah! fair in sooth was the maiden,
Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its turret
Sprinkled with holy sounds the air, as the priest with his hyssop
Sprinkles the congregation, and scatters blessings upon them,
Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her missal,
Wearing her Norman cap and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings,
Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heirloom,
Handed down from mother to child, through long generations.
But a celestial brightness--a more ethereal beauty--
Shone on her face and encircled her form, when, after confession,
Homeward serenely she walked with God's benediction upon her.
When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
Firmly builded with rafters of oak, the house of the farmer
Stood on the side of a hill commanding the sea; and a shady
Sycamore grew by the door, with a woodbine wreathing around it.
Rudely carved was the porch, with seats beneath; and a footpath
Led through an orchard wide, and disappeared in the meadow.
Under the sycamore-tree were hives overhung by a penthouse,
Such as the traveller sees in regions remote by the roadside,
Built o'er a box for the poor, or the blessed image of Mary.
Farther down, on the slope of the hill, was the well with its moss-grown
Bucket, fastened with iron, and near it a trough for the horses.
Shielding the house from storms, on the north, were the barns and the farm-yard,
There stood the broad-wheeled wains and the antique ploughs and the harrows;
There were the folds for the sheep; and there, in his feathered seraglio,
Strutted the lordly turkey, and crowed the cock, with the selfsame
Voice that in ages of old had startled the penitent Peter.
Bursting with hay were the barns, themselves a village. In each one
Far o'er the gable projected a roof of thatch; and a staircase,
Under the sheltering eaves, led up to the odorous corn-loft.
There too the dove-cot stood, with its meek and innocent inmates
Murmuring ever of love; while above in the variant breezes
Numberless noisy weathercocks rattled and sang of mutation.
Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand-Pre
Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household.
Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal,
Fixed his eyes upon her as the saint of his deepest devotion;
Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment!
Many a suitor came to her door, by the darkness befriended,
And, as he knocked and waited to hear the sound of her footsteps,
Knew not which beat the louder, his heart or the knocker of iron;
Or at the joyous feast of the Patron Saint of the village,
Bolder grew, and pressed her hand in the dance as he whispered
Hurried words of love, that seemed a part of the music.
But, among all who came, young Gabriel only was welcome;
Gabriel Lajeunesse, the son of Basil the blacksmith,
Who was a mighty man in the village, and honored of all men;
For, since the birth of time, throughout all ages and nations,
Has the craft of the smith been held in repute by the people.
Basil was Benedict's friend. Their children from earliest childhood
Grew up together as brother and sister; and Father Felician,
Priest and pedagogue both in the village, had taught them their letters
Out of the selfsame book, with the hymns of the church and the plain-song.
But when the hymn was sung, and the daily lesson completed,
Swiftly they hurried away to the forge of Basil the blacksmith.
There at the door they stood, with wondering eyes to behold him
Take in his leathern lap the hoof of the horse as a plaything,
Nailing the shoe in its place; while near him the tire of the cart-wheel
Lay like a fiery snake, coiled round in a circle of cinders.
Oft on autumnal eves, when without in the gathering darkness
Bursting with light seemed the smithy, through every cranny and crevice,
Warm by the forge within they watched the laboring bellows,
And as its panting ceased, and the sparks expired in the ashes,
Merrily laughed, and said they were nuns going into the chapel.
Oft on sledges in winter, as swift as the swoop of the eagle,
Down the hillside hounding, they glided away o'er the meadow.
Oft in the barns they climbed to the populous nests on the rafters,
Seeking with eager eyes that wondrous stone, which the swallow
Brings from the shore of the sea to restore the sight of its fledglings;
Lucky was he who found that stone in the nest of the swallow!
Thus passed a few swift years, and they no longer were children.
He was a valiant youth, and his face, like the face of the morning,
Gladdened the earth with its light, and ripened thought into action.
She was a woman now, with the heart and hopes of a woman.
"Sunshine of Saint Eulalie" was she called; for that was the sunshine
Which, as the farmers believed, would load their orchards with apples
She, too, would bring to her husband's house delight and abundance,
Filling it full of love and the ruddy faces of children.
Now had the season returned, when the nights grow colder and longer,
And the retreating sun the sign of the Scorpion enters.
Birds of passage sailed through the leaden air, from the ice-bound,
Desolate northern bays to the shores of tropical islands,
Harvests were gathered in; and wild with the winds of September
Wrestled the trees of the forest, as Jacob of old with the angel.
All the signs foretold a winter long and inclement.
Bees, with prophetic instinct of want, had hoarded their honey
Till the hives overflowed; and the Indian bunters asserted
Cold would the winter be, for thick was the fur of the foxes.
Such was the advent of autumn. Then followed that beautiful season,
Called by the pious Acadian peasants the Summer of All-Saints!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new-created in all the freshness of childhood.
Peace seemed to reign upon earth, and the restless heart of the ocean
Was for a moment consoled. All sounds were in harmony blended.
Voices of children at play, the crowing of cocks in the farm-yards,
Whir of wings in the drowsy air, and the cooing of pigeons,
All were subdued and low as the murmurs of love, and the great sun
Looked with the eye of love through the golden vapors around him;
While arrayed in its robes of russet and scarlet and yellow,
Bright with the sheen of the dew, each glittering tree of the forest
Flashed like the plane-tree the Persian adorned with mantles and jewels.
Now recommenced the reign of rest and affection and stillness.
Day with its burden and heat had departed, and twilight descending
Brought back the evening star to the sky, and the herds to the homestead.
Pawing the ground they came, and resting their necks on each other,
And with their nostrils distended inhaling the freshness of evening.
Foremost, bearing the bell, Evangeline's beautiful heifer,
Proud of her snow-white hide, and the ribbon that waved from her collar,
Quietly paced and slow, as if conscious of human affection.
Then came the shepherd back with his bleating flocks from the seaside,
Where was their favorite pasture. Behind them followed the watch-dog,
Patient, full of importance, and grand in the pride of his instinct,
Walking from side to side with a lordly air, and superbly
Waving his bushy tail, and urging forward the stragglers;
Regent of flocks was he when the shepherd slept; their protector,
When from the forest at night, through the starry silence, the wolves howled.
Late, with the rising moon, returned the wains from the marshes,
Laden with briny hay, that filled the air with its odor.
Cheerily neighed the steeds, with dew on their manes and their fetlocks,
While aloft on their shoulders the wooden and ponderous saddles,
Painted with brilliant dyes, and adorned with tassels of crimson,
Nodded in bright array, like hollyhocks heavy with blossoms.
Patiently stood the cows meanwhile, and yielded their udders
Unto the milkmaid's hand; whilst loud and in regular cadence
Into the sounding pails the foaming streamlets descended.
Lowing of cattle and peals of laughter were heard in the farm-yard,
Echoed back by the barns. Anon they sank into stillness;
Heavily closed, with a jarring sound, the valves of the barn-doors,
Rattled the wooden bars, and all for a season was silent.
In-doors, warm by the wide-mouthed fireplace, idly the farmer
Sat in his elbow-chair, and watched how the flames and the smoke-wreaths
Struggled together like foes in a burning city. Behind him,
Nodding and mocking along the wall, with gestures fantastic,
Darted his own huge shadow, and vanished away into darkness.
Faces, clumsily carved in oak, on the back of his arm-chair
Laughed in the flickering light, and the pewter plates on the dresser
Caught and reflected the flame, as shields of armies the sunshine.
Fragments of song the old man sang, and carols of Christmas,
Such as at home, in the olden time, his fathers before him
Sang in their Norman orchards and bright Burgundian vineyards.
Close at her father's side was the gentle Evangeline seated,
Spinning flax for the loom, that stood in the corner behind her.
Silent awhile were its treadles, at rest was its diligent shuttle,
While the monotonous drone of the wheel, like the drone of a bagpipe,
Followed the old man's songs and united the fragments together.
As in a church, when the chant of the choir at intervals ceases,
Footfalls are heard in the aisles, or words of the priest at the altar,
So, in each pause of the song, with measured motion the clock clicked.
Thus as they sat, there were footsteps heard, and, suddenly lifted,
Sounded the wooden latch, and the door swung back on its hinges.
Benedict knew by the hob-nailed shoes it was Basil the blacksmith,
And by her beating heart Evangeline knew who was with him.
"Welcome!" the farmer exclaimed, as their footsteps paused of the threshold.
"Welcome, Basil, my friend! Come, take thy place on the settle
Close by the chimney-side, which is always empty without thee;
Take from the shelf overhead thy pipe and the box of tobacco;
Never so much thyself art thou as when through the curling
Smoke of the pipe or the forge thy friendly and jovial face gleams
Round and red as the harvest moon through the mist of the marshes."
Then, with a smile of content, thus answered Basil the blacksmith,
Taking with easy air the accustomed seat by the fireside:--
"Benedict Bellefontaine, thou hast ever thy jest and thy ballad!
Ever in cheerfullest mood art thou, when others are filled with
Gloomy forebodings of ill, and see only ruin before them.
Happy art thou, as if every day thou hadst picked up a horseshoe."
Pausing a moment, to take the pipe that Evangeline brought him,
And with a coal from the embers had lighted, he slowly continued:--
"Four days now are passed since the English ships at their anchors
Ride in the Gaspereau's mouth, with their cannon pointed against us.
What their design may be is unknown; but all are commanded
On the morrow to meet in the church, where his Majesty's mandate
Will be proclaimed as law in the land. Alas! in the mean time
Many surmises of evil alarm the hearts of the people."
Then made answer the farmer:--"Perhaps some friendlier purpose
Brings these ships to our shores. Perhaps the harvests in England
By untimely rains or untimelier heat have been blighted,
And from our bursting barns they would feed their cattle and children."
"Not so thinketh the folk in the village," said, warmly, the blacksmith,
Shaking his head, as in doubt; then, heaving a sigh, he continued:--
"Louisburg is not forgotten, nor Beau Sejour, nor Port Royal.
Many already have fled to the forest, and lurk on its outskirts,
Waiting with anxious hearts the dubious fate of to-morrow.
Arms have been taken from us, and warlike weapons of all kinds;
Nothing is left but the blacksmith's sledge and the scythe of the mower."
Then with a pleasant smile made answer the jovial farmer:--
"Safer are we unarmed, in the midst of our flocks and our cornfields,
Safer within these peaceful dikes, besieged by the ocean,
Than our fathers in forts, besieged by the enemy's cannon.
Fear no evil, my friend, and to-night may no shadow of sorrow
Fall on this house and hearth; for this is the night of the contract.
Built are the house and the barn. The merry lads of the village
Strongly have built them and well; and, breaking the glebe round about them,
Filled the barn with hay, and the house with food for a twelvemonth.
Rene Leblanc will be here anon, with his papers and inkhorn.
Shall we not then be glad, and rejoice in the joy of our children?"
As apart by the window she stood, with her hand in her lover's,
Blushing Evangeline heard the words that her father had spoken,
And, as they died on his lips, the worthy notary entered.
Bent like a laboring oar, that toils in the surf of the ocean,
Bent, but not broken, by age was the form of the notary public;
Shocks of yellow hair, like the silken floss of the maize, hung
Over his shoulders; his forehead was high; and glasses with horn bows
Sat astride on his nose, with a look of wisdom supernal.
Father of twenty children was he, and more than a hundred
Children's children rode on his knee, and heard his great watch tick.
Four long years in the times of the war had he languished a captive,
Suffering much in an old French fort as the friend of the English.
Now, though warier grown, without all guile or suspicion,
Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike.
He was beloved by all, and most of all by the children;
For he told them tales of the Loup-garou in the forest,
And of the goblin that came in the night to water the horses,
And of the white Letiche, the ghost of a child who unchristened
Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers of children;
And how on Christmas eve the oxen talked in the stable,
And how the fever was cured by a spider shut up in a nutshell,
And of the marvellous powers of four-leaved clover and horseshoes,
With whatsoever else was writ in the lore of the village.
Then up rose from his seat by the fireside Basil the blacksmith,
Knocked from his pipe the ashes, and slowly extending his right hand,
"Father Leblanc," he exclaimed, "thou hast heard the talk in the village,
And, perchance, canst tell us some news of these ships and their errand."
Then with modest demeanor made answer the notary public,--
"Gossip enough have I heard, in sooth, yet am never the wiser;
And what their errand may be I know not better than others.
Yet am I not of those who imagine some evil intention
Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then molest us?"
"God's name!" shouted the hasty and somewhat irascible blacksmith;
"Must we in all things look for the how, and the why, and the wherefore?
Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!"
But, without heeding his warmth, continued the notary public,--
"Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice
Triumphs; and well I remember a story, that often consoled me,
When as a captive I lay in the old French fort at Port Royal."
This was the old man's favorite tale, and he loved to repeat it
When his neighbors complained that any injustice was done them.
"Once in an ancient city, whose name I no longer remember,
Raised aloft on a column, a brazen statue of Justice
Stood in the public square, upholding the scales in its left hand,
And in its right a sword, as an emblem that justice presided
Over the laws of the land, and the hearts and homes of the people.
Even the birds had built their nests in the scales of the balance,
Having no fear of the sword that flashed in the sunshine above them.
But in the course of time the laws of the land were corrupted;
Might took the place of right, and the weak were oppressed, and the mighty
Ruled with an iron rod. Then it chanced in a nobleman's palace
That a necklace of pearls was lost, and erelong a suspicion
Fell on an orphan girl who lived as maid in the household.
She, after form of trial condemned to die on the scaffold,
Patiently met her doom at the foot of the statue of Justice.
As to her Father in heaven her innocent spirit ascended,
Lo! o'er the city a tempest rose; and the bolts of the thunder
Smote the statue of bronze, and hurled in wrath from its left hand
Down on the pavement below the clattering scales of the balance,
And in the hollow thereof was found the nest of a magpie,
Into whose clay-built walls the necklace of pearls was inwoven."
Silenced, but not convinced, when the story was ended, the blacksmith
Stood like a man who fain would speak, but findeth no language;
All his thoughts were congealed into lines on his face, as the vapors
Freeze in fantastic shapes on the window-panes in the winter.
Then Evangeline lighted the brazen lamp on the table,
Filled, till it overflowed, the pewter tankard with home-brewed
Nut-brown ale, that was famed for its strength in the village of Grand-Pre;
While from his pocket the notary drew his papers and inkhorn,
Wrote with a steady hand the date and the age of the parties,
Naming the dower of the bride in flocks of sheep and in cattle.
Orderly all things proceeded, and duly and well were completed,
And the great seal of the law was set like a sun on the margin.
Then from his leathern pouch the farmer threw on the table
Three times the old man's fee in solid pieces of silver;
And the notary rising, and blessing the bride and the bridegroom,
Lifted aloft the tankard of ale and drank to their welfare.
Wiping the foam from his lip, he solemnly bowed and departed,
While in silence the others sat and mused by the fireside,
Till Evangeline brought the draught-board out of its corner.
Soon was the game begun. In friendly contention the old men
Laughed at each lucky hit, or unsuccessful manoeuver,
Laughed when a man was crowned, or a breach was made in the king-row
Meanwhile apart, in the twilight gloom of a window's embrasure,
Sat the lovers, and whispered together, beholding the moon rise
Over the pallid sea and the silvery mist of the meadows.
Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
Thus was the evening passed. Anon the bell from the belfry
Rang out the hour of nine, the village curfew, and straightway
Rose the guests and departed; and silence reigned in the household.
Many a farewell word and sweet good-night on the door-step
Lingered long in Evangeline's heart, and filled it with gladness.
Carefully then were covered the embers that glowed on the hearth-stone,
And on the oaken stairs resounded the tread of the farmer.
Soon with a soundless step the foot of Evangeline followed.
Up the staircase moved a luminous space in the darkness,
Lighted less by the lamp than the shining face of the maiden.
Silent she passed the hall, and entered the door of her chamber.
Simple that chamber was, with its curtains of white, and its clothes-press
Ample and high, on whose spacious shelves were carefully folded
Linen and woollen stuffs, by the hand of Evangeline woven.
This was the precious dower she would bring to her husband in marriage,
Better than flocks and herds, being proofs of her skill as a housewife.
Soon she extinguished her lamp, for the mellow and radiant moonlight
Streamed through the windows, and lighted the room, till the heart of the maiden
Swelled and obeyed its power, like the tremulous tides of the ocean.
Ah! she was fair, exceeding fair to behold, as she stood with
Naked snow-white feet on the gleaming floor of her chamber!
Little she dreamed that below, among the trees of the orchard,
Waited her lover and watched for the gleam of her lamp and her shadow.
Yet were her thoughts of him, and at times a feeling of sadness
Passed o'er her soul, as the sailing shade of clouds in the moonlight
Flitted across the floor and darkened the room for a moment.
And, as she gazed from the window, she saw serenely the moon pass
Forth from the folds of a cloud, and one star follow her footsteps,
As out of Abraham's tent young Ishmael wandered with Hagar!
Pleasantly rose next morn the sun on the village of Grand-Pre.
Pleasantly gleamed in the soft, sweet air the Basin of Minas,
Where the ships, with their wavering shadows, were riding at anchor.
Life had long been astir in the village, and clamorous labor
Knocked with its hundred hands at the golden gates of the morning.
Now from the country around, from the farms and neighboring hamlets,
Came in their holiday dresses the blithe Acadian peasants.
Many a glad good-morrow and jocund laugh from the young folk
Made the bright air brighter, as up from the numerous meadows,
Where no path could be seen but the track of wheels in the greensward,
Group after group appeared, and joined, or passed on the highway.
Long ere noon, in the village all sounds of labor were silenced.
Thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups at the house-doors
Sat in the cheerful sun, and rejoiced and gossiped together.
Every house was an inn, where all were welcomed and feasted;
For with this simple people, who lived like brothers together,
All things were held in common, and what one had was another's.
Yet under Benedict's roof hospitality seemed more abundant:
For Evangeline stood among the guests of her father;
Bright was her face with smiles, and words of welcome and gladness
Fell from her beautiful lips, and blessed the cup as she gave it.
Under the open sky, in the odorous air of the orchard,
Stript of its golden fruit, was spread the feast of betrothal.
There in the shade of the porch were the priest and the notary seated;
There good Benedict sat, and sturdy Basil the blacksmith.
Not far withdrawn from these, by the cider-press and the beehives,
Michael the fiddler was placed, with the gayest of hearts and of waistcoats.
Shadow and light from the leaves alternately played on his snow-white
Hair, as it waved in the wind; and the jolly face of the fiddler
Glowed like a living coal when the ashes are blown from the embers.
Gayly the old man sang to the vibrant sound of his fiddle,
Tous les Bourgeois de Chartres, and Le Carillon de Dunkerque,
And anon with his wooden shoes beat time to the music.
Merrily, merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances
Under the orchard-trees and down the path to the meadows;
Old folk and young together, and children mingled among them.
Fairest of all the maids was Evangeline, Benedict's daughter!
Noblest of all the youths was Gabriel, son of the blacksmith!
So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous
Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat.
Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,
Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones
Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.
Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them
Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,--
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.
Then uprose their commander, and spoke from the steps of the altar,
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.
"You are convened this day," he said, "by his Majesty's orders.
Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;
Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province
Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there
Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!
Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty's pleasure!"
As, when the air is serene in the sultry solstice of summer,
Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones
Beats down the farmer's corn in the field and shatters his windows,
Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the house-roofs,
Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their enclosures;
So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker.
Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose
Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger,
And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the door-way.
Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations
Rang through the house of prayer; and high o'er the heads of the others
Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith,
As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows.
Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,--
"Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance!
Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!"
More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier
Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.
In the midst of the strife and tumult of angry contention,
Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician
Entered, with serious mien, and ascended the steps of the altar.
Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence
All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people;
Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful
Spake he, as, after the tocsin's alarum, distinctly the clock strikes.
"What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you?
Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,
Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!
Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations?
Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness?
This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane
Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred?
Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you!
See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion!
Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, 'O Father, forgive them!'
Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us,
Let us repeat it now, and say, 'O Father, forgive them!'"
Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people
Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak,
While they repeated his prayer, and said, "O Father, forgive them!"
Then came the evening service. The tapers gleamed from the altar.
Fervent and deep was the voice of the priest and the people responded,
Not with their lips alone, but their hearts; and the Ave Maria
Sang they, and fell on their knees, and their souls, with devotion translated,
Rose on the ardor of prayer, like Elijah ascending to heaven.
Meanwhile had spread in the village the tidings of ill, and on all sides
Wandered, wailing, from house to house the women and children.
Long at her father's door Evangeline stood, with her right hand
Shielding her eyes from the level rays of the sun, that, descending,
Lighted the village street with mysterious splendor, and roofed each
Peasant's cottage with golden thatch, and emblazoned its windows.
Long within had been spread the snow-white cloth on the table;
There stood the wheaten loaf, and the honey fragrant with wild-flowers;
There stood the tankard of ale, and the cheese fresh brought from the dairy;
And, at the head of the board, the great arm-chair of the farmer.
Thus did Evangeline wait at her father's door, as the sunset
Threw the long shadows of trees o'er the broad ambrosial meadows.
Ah! on her spirit within a deeper shadow had fallen,
And from the fields of her soul a fragrance celestial ascended,--
Charity, meekness, love, and hope, and forgiveness, and patience!
Then, all-forgetful of self, she wandered into the village,
Cheering with looks and words the mournful hearts of the women,
As o'er the darkening fields with lingering steps they departed,
Urged by their household cares, and the weary feet of their children.
Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors
Veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai.
Sweetly over the village the bell of the Angelus sounded.
Meanwhile, amid the gloom, by the church Evangeline lingered.
All was silent within; and in vain at the door and the windows
Stood she, and listened and looked, till, overcome by emotion,
"Gabriel!" cried she aloud with tremulous voice; but no answer
Came from the graves of the dead, nor the gloomier grave of the living.
Slowly at length she returned to the tenantless house of her father.
Smouldered the fire on the hearth, on the board was the supper untasted,
Empty and drear was each room, and haunted with phantoms of terror.
Sadly echoed her step on the stair and the floor of her chamber.
In the dead of the night she heard the disconsolate rain fall
Loud on the withered leaves of the sycamore-tree by the window.
Keenly the lightning flashed; and the voice of the echoing thunder
Told her that God was in heaven, and governed the world he created!
Then she remembered the tale she had heard of the justice of Heaven;
Soothed was her troubled soul, and she peacefully slumbered till
Four times the sun had risen and set; and now on the fifth day
Cheerily called the cock to the sleeping maids of the farm-house.
Soon o'er the yellow fields, in silent and mournful procession,
Came from the neighboring hamlets and farms the Acadian women,
Driving in ponderous wains their household goods to the sea-shore,
Pausing and looking back to gaze once more on their dwellings,
Ere they were shut from sight by the winding road and the woodland.
Close at their sides their children ran, and urged on the oxen,
While in their little hands they clasped some fragments of playthings.
Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth they hurried; and there on the sea-beach
Piled in confusion lay the household goods of the peasants.
All day long between the shore and the ships did the boats ply;
All day long the wains came laboring down from the village.
Late in the afternoon, when the sun was near to his setting,
Echoed far o'er the fields came the roll of drums from the churchyard.
Thither the women and children thronged. On a sudden the church-doors
Opened, and forth came the guard, and marching in gloomy procession
Followed the long-imprisoned, but patient, Acadian farmers.
Even as pilgrims, who journey afar from their homes and their country,
Sing as they go, and in singing forget they are weary and wayworn,
So with songs on their lips the Acadian peasants descended
Down from the church to the shore, amid their wives and their daughters.
Foremost the young men came; and, raising together their voices,
Sang with tremulous lips a chant of the Catholic Missions:--
"Sacred heart of the Saviour! O inexhaustible fountain!
Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!"
Then the old men, as they marched, and the women that stood by the wayside
Joined in the sacred psalm, and the birds in the sunshine above them
Mingled their notes therewith, like voices of spirits departed.
Half-way down to the shore Evangeline waited in silence,
Not overcome with grief, but strong in the hour of affliction,--
Calmly and sadly she waited, until the procession approached her,
And she beheld the face of Gabriel pale with emotion.
Team then filled her eyes, and, eagerly running to meet him,
Clasped she his hands, and laid her head on his shoulder, and whispered,--
"Gabriel! be of good cheer! for if we love one another
Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!"
Smiling she spake these words; then suddenly paused, for her father
Saw she slowly advancing. Alas! how changed was his aspect!
Gone was the glow from his cheek, and the fire from his eye, and his footstep
Heavier seemed with the weight of the heavy heart in his bosom.
But with a smile and a sigh, she clasped his neck and embraced him,
Speaking words of endearment where words of comfort availed not.
Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth moved on that mournful procession.
There disorder prevailed, and the tumult and stir of embarking.
Busily plied the freighted boats; and in the confusion
Wives were torn from their husbands, and mothers, too late, saw their children
Left on the land, extending their arms, with wildest entreaties.
So unto separate ships were Basil and Gabriel carried,
While in despair on the shore Evangeline stood with her father.
Half the task was not done when the sun went down, and the twilight
Deepened and darkened around; and in haste the refluent ocean
Fled away from the shore, and left the line of the sand-beach
Covered with waifs of the tide, with kelp and the slippery sea-weed.
Farther back in the midst of the household goods and the wagons,
Like to a gypsy camp, or a leaguer after a battle,
All escape cut off by the sea, and the sentinels near them,
Lay encamped for the night the houseless Acadian farmers.
Back to its nethermost caves retreated the bellowing ocean,
Dragging adown the beach the rattling pebbles, and leaving
Inland and far up the shore the stranded boats of the sailors.
Then, as the night descended, the herds returned from their pastures;
Sweet was the moist still air with the odor of milk from their udders;
Lowing they waited, and long, at the well-known bars of the farm-yard,--
Waited and looked in vain for the voice and the hand of the milkmaid.
Silence reigned in the streets; from the church no Angelus sounded,
Rose no smoke from the roofs, and gleamed no lights from the windows.
But on the shores meanwhile the evening fires had been kindled,
Built of the drift-wood thrown on the sands from wrecks in the tempest.
Round them shapes of gloom and sorrowful faces were gathered,
Voices of women were heard, and of men, and the crying of children.
Onward from fire to fire, as from hearth to hearth in his parish,
Wandered the faithful priest, consoling and blessing and cheering,
Like unto shipwrecked Paul on Melita's desolate sea-shore.
Thus he approached the place where Evangeline sat with her father,
And in the flickering light beheld the face of the old man,
Haggard and hollow and wan, and without either thought or emotion,
E'en as the face of a clock from which the hands have been taken.
Vainly Evangeline strove with words and caresses to cheer him,
Vainly offered him food; yet he moved not, he looked not, he spake not
But, with a vacant stare, ever gazed at the flickering fire-light.
"Benedicite!" murmured the priest, in tones of compassion.
More he fain would have said, but his heart was full, and his accents
Faltered and paused on his lips, as the feet of a child on a threshold,
Hushed by the scene he beholds, and the awful presence of sorrow.
Silently, therefore, he laid his hand on the head of the maiden,
Raising his tearful eyes to the silent stars that above them
Moved on their way, unperturbed by the wrongs and sorrows of mortals.
Then sat he down at her side, and they wept together in silence.
Suddenly rose from the south a light, as in autumn the blood-red
Moon climbs the crystal walls of heaven, and o'er the horizon
Titan-like stretches its hundred hands upon mountain and meadow,
Seizing the rocks and the rivers, and piling huge shadows together.
Broader and ever broader it gleamed on the roofs of the village,
Gleamed on the sky and the sea, and the ships that lay in the roadstead.
Columns of shining smoke uprose, and flashes of flame were
Thrust through their folds and withdrawn, like the quivering hands of a martyr.
Then as the wind seized the gleeds and the burning thatch, and, uplifting,
Whirled them aloft through the air, at once from a hundred house-tops
Started the sheeted smoke with flashes of flame intermingled.
These things beheld in dismay the crowd on the shore and on shipboard.
Speechless at first they stood, then cried aloud in their anguish,
"We shall behold no more our homes in the village of Grand-Pre!"
Loud on a sudden the cocks began to crow in the farm-yards,
Thinking the day had dawned; and anon the lowing of cattle
Came on the evening breeze, by the barking of dogs interrupted.
Then rose a sound of dread, such as startles the sleeping encampments
Far in the western prairies or forests that skirt the Nebraska,
When the wild horses affrighted sweep by with the speed of the whirlwind,
Or the loud bellowing herds of buffaloes rush to the river.
Such was the sound that arose on the night, as the herds and the horses
Broke through their folds and fences, and madly rushed o'er the meadows.
Overwhelmed with the sight, yet speechless, the priest and the maiden
Gazed on the scene of terror that reddened and widened before them;
And as they turned at length to speak to their silent companion,
Lo! from his seat he had fallen, and stretched abroad on the sea-shore
Motionless lay his form, from which the soul had departed.
Slowly the priest uplifted the lifeless head, and the maiden
Knelt at her father's side, and wailed aloud in her terror.
Then in a swoon she sank, and lay with her head on his bosom.
Through the long night she lay in deep, oblivious slumber;
And when she woke from the trance, she beheld a multitude near her.
Faces of friends she beheld, that were mournfully gazing upon her,
Pallid, with tearful eyes, and looks of saddest compassion.
Still the blaze of the burning village illumined the landscape,
Reddened the sky overhead, and gleamed on the faces around her,
And like the day of doom it seemed to her wavering senses.
Then a familiar voice she heard, as it said to the people,--
"Let us bury him here by the sea. When a happier season
Brings us again to our homes from the unknown land of our exile,
Then shall his sacred dust be piously laid in the churchyard."
Such were the words of the priest. And there in haste by the sea-side,
Having the glare of the burning village for funeral torches,
But without bell or book, they buried the farmer of Grand-Pre.
And as the voice of the priest repeated the service of sorrow,
Lo! with a mournful sound, like the voice of a vast congregation,
Solemnly answered the sea, and mingled its roar with the dirges.
'T was the returning tide, that afar from the waste of the ocean,
With the first dawn of the day, came heaving and hurrying landward.
Then recommenced once more the stir and noise of embarking;
And with the ebb of the tide the ships sailed out of the harbor,
Leaving behind them the dead on the shore, and the village in
PART THE SECOND
Many a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pre,
When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,
Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile.
Exile without an end, and without an example in story.
Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed;
Scattered were they, like flakes of snow, when the wind from the northeast
Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the Banks of Newfoundland.
Friendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city,
From the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannas,--
From the bleak shores of the sea to the lands where the Father of Waters
Seizes the hills in his hands, and drags them down to the ocean,
Deep in their sands to bury the scattered bones of the mammoth.
Friends they sought and homes; and many, despairing, heart-broken,
Asked of the earth but a grave, and no longer a friend nor a fireside.
Written their history stands on tablets of stone in the churchyards.
Long among them was seen a maiden who waited and wandered,
Lowly and meek in spirit, and patiently suffering all things.
Fair was she and young; but, alas! before her extended,
Dreary and vast and silent, the desert of life, with its pathway
Marked by the graves of those who had sorrowed and suffered before her,
Passions long extinguished, and hopes long dead and abandoned,
As the emigrant's way o'er the Western desert is marked by
Camp-fires long consumed, and bones that bleach in the sunshine.
Something there was in her life incomplete, imperfect, unfinished;
As if a morning of June, with all its music and sunshine,
Suddenly paused in the sky, and, fading, slowly descended
Into the east again, from whence it late had arisen.
Sometimes she lingered in towns, till, urged by the fever within her,
Urged by a restless longing, the hunger and thirst of the spirit,
She would commence again her endless search and endeavor;
Sometimes in churchyards strayed, and gazed on the crosses and tombstones,
Sat by some nameless grave, and thought that perhaps in its bosom
He was already at rest, and she longed to slumber beside him.
Sometimes a rumor, a hearsay, an inarticulate whisper,
Came with its airy hand to point and beckon her forward.
Sometimes she spake with those who had seen her beloved and known him,
But it was long ago, in some far-off place or forgotten.
"Gabriel Lajeunesse!" they said; yes! we have seen him.
He was with Basil the blacksmith, and both have gone to the prairies;
Coureurs-des-Bois are they, and famous hunters and trappers."
"Gabriel Lajeunesse!" said others; "O yes! we have seen him.
He is a Voyageur in the lowlands of Louisiana."
Then would they say, "Dear child! why dream and wait for him longer?
Are there not other youths as fair as Gabriel? others
Who have hearts as tender and true, and spirits as loyal?
Here is Baptiste Leblanc, the notary's son, who has loved thee
Many a tedious year; come, give him thy hand and be happy!
Thou art too fair to be left to braid St. Catherine's tresses."
Then would Evangeline answer, serenely but sadly, "I cannot!
Whither my heart has gone, there follows my hand, and not elsewhere.
For when the heart goes before, like a lamp, and illumines the pathway,
Many things are made clear, that else lie hidden in darkness."
Thereupon the priest, her friend and father-confessor,
Said, with a smile, "O daughter! thy God thus speaketh within thee!
Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.
Patience; accomplish thy labor; accomplish thy work of affection!
Sorrow and silence are strong, and patient endurance is godlike.
Therefore accomplish thy labor of love, till the heart is made godlike,
Purified, strengthened, perfected, and rendered more worthy of heaven!"
Cheered by the good man's words, Evangeline labored and waited.
Still in her heart she heard the funeral dirge of the ocean,
But with its sound there was mingled a voice that whispered, "Despair not?"
Thus did that poor soul wander in want and cheerless discomfort
Bleeding, barefooted, over the shards and thorns of existence.
Let me essay, O Muse! to follow the wanderer's footsteps;--
Not through each devious path, each changeful year of existence;
But as a traveller follows a streamlet's course through the valley:
Far from its margin at times, and seeing the gleam of its water
Here and there, in some open space, and at intervals only;
Then drawing nearer its banks, through sylvan glooms that conceal it,
Though he behold it not, he can hear its continuous murmur;
Happy, at length, if he find the spot where it reaches an outlet.
It was the month of May. Far down the Beautiful River,
Past the Ohio shore and past the mouth of the Wabash,
Into the golden stream of the broad and swift Mississippi,
Floated a cumbrous boat, that was rowed by Acadian boatmen.
It was a band of exiles: a raft, as it were, from the shipwrecked
Nation, scattered along the coast, now floating together,
Bound by the bonds of a common belief and a common misfortune;
Men and women and children, who, guided by hope or by hearsay,
Sought for their kith and their kin among the few-acred farmers
On the Acadian coast, and the prairies of fair Opelousas.
With them Evangeline went, and her guide, the Father Felician.
Onward o'er sunken sands, through a wilderness sombre with forests,
Day after day they glided adown the turbulent river;
Night after night, by their blazing fires, encamped on its borders.
Now through rushing chutes, among green islands, where plumelike
Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they swept with the current,
Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery sand-bars
Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves of their margin,
Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of pelicans waded.
Level the landscape grew, and along the shores of the river,
Shaded by china-trees, in the midst of luxuriant gardens,
Stood the houses of planters, with negro-cabins and dove-cots.
They were approaching the region where reigns perpetual summer,
Where through the Golden Coast, and groves of orange and citron,
Sweeps with majestic curve the river away to the eastward.
They, too, swerved from their course; and, entering the Bayou of Plaquemine,
Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious waters,
Which, like a network of steel, extended in every direction.
Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress
Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air
Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals.
Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken, save by the herons
Home to their roasts in the cedar-trees returning at sunset,
Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with demoniac laughter.
Lovely the moonlight was as it glanced and gleamed on the water,
Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar sustaining the arches,
Down through whose broken vaults it fell as through chinks in a ruin.
Dreamlike, and indistinct, and strange were all things around them;
And o'er their spirits there came a feeling of wonder and sadness,--
Strange forebodings of ill, unseen and that cannot be compassed.
As, at the tramp of a horse's hoof on the turf of the prairies,
Far in advance are closed the leaves of the shrinking mimosa,
So, at the hoof-beats of fate, with sad forebodings of evil,
Shrinks and closes the heart, ere the stroke of doom has attained it.
But Evangeline's heart was sustained by a vision, that faintly
Floated before her eyes, and beckoned her on through the moonlight.
It was the thought of her brain that assumed the shape of a phantom.
Through those shadowy aisles had Gabriel wandered before her,
And every stroke of the oar now brought him nearer and nearer.
Then in his place, at the prow of the boat, rose one of the oarsmen,
And, as a signal sound, if others like them peradventure
Sailed on those gloomy and midnight streams, blew a blast on his bugle.
Wild through the dark colonnades and corridors leafy the blast rang,
Breaking the seal of silence, and giving tongues to the forest.
Soundless above them the banners of moss just stirred to the music.
Multitudinous echoes awoke and died in the distance,
Over the watery floor, and beneath the reverberant branches;
But not a voice replied; no answer came from the darkness;
And, when the echoes had ceased, like a sense of pain was the silence.
Then Evangeline slept; but the boatmen rowed through the midnight,
Silent at times, then singing familiar Canadian boat-songs,
Such as they sang of old on their own Acadian rivers,
While through the night were heard the mysterious sounds of the desert,
Far off,--indistinct,--as of wave or wind in the forest,
Mixed with the whoop of the crane and the roar of the grim alligator.
Thus ere another noon they emerged from the shades; and before them
Lay, in the golden sun, the lakes of the Atchafalaya.
Water-lilies in myriads rocked on the slight undulations
Made by the passing oars, and, resplendent in beauty, the lotus
Lifted her golden crown above the heads of the boatmen.
Faint was the air with the odorous breath of magnolia blossoms,
And with the heat of noon; and numberless sylvan islands,
Fragrant and thickly embowered with blossoming hedges of roses,
Near to whose shores they glided along, invited to slumber.
Soon by the fairest of these their weary oars were suspended.
Under the boughs of Wachita willows, that grew by the margin,
Safely their boat was moored; and scattered about on the greensward,
Tired with their midnight toil, the weary travellers slumbered.
Over them vast and high extended the cope of a cedar.
Swinging from its great arms, the trumpet-flower and the grapevine
Hung their ladder of ropes aloft like the ladder of Jacob,
On whose pendulous stairs the angels ascending, descending,
Were the swift humming-birds, that flitted from blossom to blossom.
Such was the vision Evangeline saw as she slumbered beneath it.
Filled was her heart with love, and the dawn of an opening heaven
Lighted her soul in sleep with the glory of regions celestial.
Nearer, ever nearer, among the numberless islands,
Darted a light, swift boat, that sped away o'er the water,
Urged on its course by the sinewy arms of hunters and trappers.
Northward its prow was turned, to the land of the bison and beaver.
At the helm sat a youth, with countenance thoughtful and careworn.
Dark and neglected locks overshadowed his brow, and a sadness
Somewhat beyond his years on his face was legibly written.
Gabriel was it, who, weary with waiting, unhappy and restless,
Sought in the Western wilds oblivion of self and of sorrow.
Swiftly they glided along, close under the lee of the island,
But by the opposite bank, and behind a screen of palmettos,
So that they saw not the boat, where it lay concealed in the willows,
All undisturbed by the dash of their oars, and unseen, were the sleepers,
Angel of God was there none to awaken the slumbering maiden.
Swiftly they glided away, like the shade of a cloud on the prairie.
After the sound of their oars on the tholes had died in the distance,
As from a magic trance the sleepers awoke, and the maiden
Said with a sigh to the friendly priest, "O Father Felician!
Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders.
Is it a foolish dream, an idle and vague superstition?
Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?"
Then, with a blush, she added, "Alas for my credulous fancy!
Unto ears like thine such words as these have no meaning."
But made answer the reverend man, and he smiled as he answered,--
"Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface
Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden.
Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.
Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward,
On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.
There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom,
There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold.
Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit-trees;
Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens
Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest.
They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana."
With these words of cheer they arose and continued their journey.
Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon
Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape;
Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
Hanging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver,
Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water.
Filled was Evangeline's heart with inexpressible sweetness.
Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of feeling
Glowed with the light of love, as the skies and waters around her.
Then from a neighboring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray that hung o'er the water,
Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen.
Plaintive at first were the tones and sad; then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard, in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all, he flung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain in a crystal shower on the branches.
With such a prelude as this, and hearts that throbbed with emotion,
Slowly they entered the Teche, where it flows through the green Opelousas,
And, through the amber air, above the crest of the woodland,
Saw the column of smoke that arose from a neighboring dwelling;--
Sounds of a horn they heard, and the distant lowing of cattle.
Near to the bank of the river, o'ershadowed by oaks, from whose branches
Garlands of Spanish moss and of mystic mistletoe flaunted,
Such as the Druids cut down with golden hatchets at Yule-tide,
Stood, secluded and still, the house of the herdsman. A garden
Girded it round about with a belt of luxuriant blossoms,
Filling the air with fragrance. The house itself was of timbers
Hewn from the cypress-tree, and carefully fitted together.
Large and low was the roof; and on slender columns supported,
Rose-wreathed, vine-encircled, a broad and spacious veranda,
Haunt of the humming-bird and the bee, extended around it.
At each end of the house, amid the flowers of the garden,
Stationed the dove-cots were, as love's perpetual symbol,
Scenes of endless wooing, and endless contentions of rivals.
Silence reigned o'er the place. The line of shadow and sunshine
Ran near the tops of the trees; but the house itself was in shadow,
And from its chimney-top, ascending and slowly expanding
Into the evening air, a thin blue column of smoke rose.
In the rear of the house, from the garden gate, ran a pathway
Through the great groves of oak to the skirts of the limitless prairie,
Into whose sea of flowers the sun was slowly descending.
Full in his track of light, like ships with shadowy canvas
Hanging loose from their spars in a motionless calm in the tropics,
Stood a cluster of trees, with tangled cordage of grapevines.
Just where the woodlands met the flowery surf of the prairie,
Mounted upon his horse, with Spanish saddle and stirrups,
Sat a herdsman, arrayed in gaiters and doublet of deerskin.
Broad and brown was the face that from under the Spanish sombrero
Gazed on the peaceful scene, with the lordly look of its master.
Round about him were numberless herds of kine, that were grazing
Quietly in the meadows, and breathing the vapory freshness
That uprose from the river, and spread itself over the landscape.
Slowly lifting the horn that hung at his side, and expanding
Fully his broad, deep chest, he blew a blast, that resounded
Wildly and sweet and far, through the still damp air of the evening.
Suddenly out of the grass the long white horns of the cattle
Rose like flakes of foam on the adverse currents of ocean.
Silent a moment they gazed, then bellowing rushed o'er the prairie,
And the whole mass became a cloud, a shade in the distance.
Then, as the herdsman turned to the house, through the gate of the garden
Saw he the forms of the priest and the maiden advancing to meet him.
Suddenly down from his horse he sprang in amazement, and forward
Rushed with extended arms and exclamations of wonder;
When they beheld his face, they recognized Basil the blacksmith.
Hearty his welcome was, as he led his guests to the garden.
There in an arbor of roses with endless question and answer
III. The Other Half-Rome
Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
And—with best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"
Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.
Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"
Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.
For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"
Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.
Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.
To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.
Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.
So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her—
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
—The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.
Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with—
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.
Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"
Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.
The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.
But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.
Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."
So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.
Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"
Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!
Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.
Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.
So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.
Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph to—her lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"
In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about—
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.
Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"
So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house—
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with her—I don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?
This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
—I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?
When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.
If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.
Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.
All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.
The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.
"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"
Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.
Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"
Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.
And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her—
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?
So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.
Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.
The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.
Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!
So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.
"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.
Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.
All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"
That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!