Latest quotes | Random quotes | Vote! | Latest comments | Add quote

The Only Day In Existence

The early sun is so pale and shadowy,

I could be looking up at a ghost

in the shape of a window,

a tall, rectangular spirit

looking down at me in bed,

about to demand that I avenge

the murder of my father.

But the morning light is only the first line

in the play of this day-

the only day in existence-

the opening chord of its long song,

or think of what is permeating

the thin bedroom curtains

as the beginning of a lecture

I will listen to until it is dark,

a curious student in a V-neck sweater,

angled into the wooden chair of his life,

ready with notebook and a chewed-up pencil,

quiet as a goldfish in winter,

serious as a compass at sea,

eager to absorb whatever lesson

this damp, overcast Tuesday

has to teach me,

here in the spacious classroom of the world

with its long walls of glass,

its heavy, low-hung ceiling.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Related quotes

The Only Day In Existence

The early sun is so pale and shadowy,
I could be looking up at a ghost
in the shape of a window,
a tall, rectangular spirit
looking down at me in bed,
about to demand that I avenge
the murder of my father.
But the morning light is only the first line
in the play of this day--
the only day in existence--
the opening chord of its long song,
or think of what is permeating
the thin bedroom curtains

as the beginning of a lecture
I will listen to until it is dark,
a curious student in a V-neck sweater,
angled into the wooden chair of his life,
ready with notebook and a chewed-up pencil,
quiet as a goldfish in winter,
serious as a compass at sea,
eager to absorb whatever lesson
this damp, overcast Tuesday
has to teach me,
here in the spacious classroom of the world
with its long walls of glass,
its heavy, low-hung ceiling.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Liberty

New Castle, July 4, 1878

or a hundred years the pulse of time
Has throbbed for Liberty;
For a hundred years the grand old clime
Columbia has been free;
For a hundred years our country's love,
The Stars and Stripes, has waved above.

Away far out on the gulf of years--
Misty and faint and white
Through the fogs of wrong--a sail appears,
And the Mayflower heaves in sight,
And drifts again, with its little flock
Of a hundred souls, on Plymouth Rock.

Do you see them there--as long, long since--
Through the lens of History;
Do you see them there as their chieftain prints
In the snow his bended knee,
And lifts his voice through the wintry blast
In thanks for a peaceful home at last?

Though the skies are dark and the coast is bleak,
And the storm is wild and fierce,
Its frozen flake on the upturned cheek
Of the Pilgrim melts in tears,
And the dawn that springs from the darkness there
Is the morning light of an answered prayer.

The morning light of the day of Peace
That gladdens the aching eyes,
And gives to the soul that sweet release
That the present verifies,--
Nor a snow so deep, nor a wind so chill
To quench the flame of a freeman's will!

II

Days of toil when the bleeding hand
Of the pioneer grew numb,
When the untilled tracts of the barren land
Where the weary ones had come
Could offer nought from a fruitful soil
To stay the strength of the stranger's toil.

Days of pain, when the heart beat low,
And the empty hours went by
Pitiless, with the wail of woe
And the moan of Hunger's cry--
When the trembling hands upraised in prayer
Had only the strength to hold them there.

Days when the voice of hope had fled--
Days when the eyes grown weak
Were folded to, and the tears they shed
Were frost on a frozen cheek--
When the storm bent down from the skies and gave
A shroud of snow for the Pilgrim's grave.

Days at last when the smiling sun
Glanced down from a summer sky,
And a music rang where the rivers run,
And the waves went laughing by;
And the rose peeped over the mossy bank
While the wild deer stood in the stream and drank.

And the birds sang out so loud and good,
In a symphony so clear
And pure and sweet that the woodman stood
With his ax upraised to hear,
And to shape the words of the tongue unknown
Into a language all his own--


1

'Sing! every bird, to-day!
Sing for the sky so clear,
And the gracious breath of the atmosphere
Shall waft our cares away.
Sing! sing! for the sunshine free;
Sing through the land from sea to sea;
Lift each voice in the highest key
And sing for Liberty!'


2

'Sing for the arms that fling
Their fetters in the dust
And lift their hands in higher trust
Unto the one Great King;
Sing for the patriot heart and hand;
Sing for the country they have planned;
Sing that the world may understand
This is Freedom's land!'


3

'Sing in the tones of prayer,
Sing till the soaring soul
Shall float above the world's control
In freedom everywhere!
Sing for the good that is to be,
Sing for the eyes that are to see
The land where man at last is free,
O sing for liberty!'

III

A holy quiet reigned, save where the hand
Of labor sent a murmur through the land,
And happy voices in a harmony
Taught every lisping breeze a melody.
A nest of cabins, where the smoke upcurled
A breathing incense to the other world.
A land of languor from the sun of noon,
That fainted slowly to the pallid moon,
Till stars, thick-scattered in the garden-land
Of Heaven by the great Jehovah's hand,
Had blossomed into light to look upon
The dusky warrior with his arrow drawn,
As skulking from the covert of the night
With serpent cunning and a fiend's delight,
With murderous spirit, and a yell of hate
The voice of Hell might tremble to translate:
When the fond mother's tender lullaby
Went quavering in shrieks all suddenly,
And baby-lips were dabbled with the stain
Of crimson at the bosom of the slain,
And peaceful homes and fortunes ruined--lost
In smoldering embers of the holocaust.
Yet on and on, through years of gloom and strife,
Our country struggled into stronger life;
Till colonies, like footprints in the sand,
Marked Freedom's pathway winding through the land--
And not the footprints to be swept away
Before the storm we hatched in Boston Bay,--
But footprints where the path of war begun
That led to Bunker Hill and Lexington,--
For he who "dared to lead where others dared
To follow" found the promise there declared
Of Liberty, in blood of Freedom's host
Baptized to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Oh, there were times when every patriot breast
Was riotous with sentiments expressed
In tones that swelled in volume till the sound
Of lusty war itself was well-nigh drowned.
Oh, those were times when happy eyes with tears
Brimmed o'er as all the misty doubts and fears
Were washed away, and Hope with gracious mien,
Reigned from her throne again a sovereign queen.
Until at last, upon a day like this
When flowers were blushing at the summer's kiss,
And when the sky was cloudless as the face
Of some sweet infant in its angel grace,--
There came a sound of music, thrown afloat
Upon the balmy air--a clanging note
Reiterated from the brazen throat
Of Independence Bell: A sound so sweet,
The clamoring throngs of people in the streets
Were stilled as at the solemn voice of prayer,
And heads were bowed, and lips were moving there
That made no sound--until the spell had passed,
And then, as when all sudden comes the blast
Of some tornado, came the cheer on cheer
Of every eager voice, while far and near
The echoing bells upon the atmosphere
Set glorious rumors floating, till the ear
Of every listening patriot tingled clear,
And thrilled with joy and jubilee to hear.

I

'Stir all your echoes up,
O Independence Bell,
And pour from your inverted cup
The song we love so well.

'Lift high your happy voice,
And swing your iron tongue
Till syllables of praise rejoice
That never yet were sung.

'Ring in the gleaming dawn
Of Freedom--Toll the knell
Of Tyranny, and then ring on,
O Independence Bell.--

'Ring on, and drown the moan,
Above the patriot slain,
Till sorrow's voice shall catch the tone
And join the glad refrain.

'Ring out the wounds of wrong
And rankle in the breast;
Your music like a slumber-song
Will lull revenge to rest.

'Ring out from Occident
To Orient, and peal
From continent to continent
The mighty joy you feel.

'Ring! Independence Bell!
Ring on till worlds to be
Shall listen to the tale you tell
Of love and Liberty!'

IV

O Liberty--the dearest word
A bleeding country ever heard,--
We lay our hopes upon thy shrine
And offer up our lives for thine.
You gave us many happy years
Of peace and plenty ere the tears
A mourning country wept were dried
Above the graves of those who died
Upon thy threshold. And again
When newer wars were bred, and men
Went marching in the cannon's breath
And died for thee and loved the death,
While, high above them, gleaming bright,
The dear old flag remained in sight,
And lighted up their dying eyes
With smiles that brightened paradise.
O Liberty, it is thy power
To gladden us in every hour
Of gloom, and lead us by thy hand
As little children through a land
Of bud and blossom; while the days
Are filled with sunshine, and thy praise
Is warbled in the roundelays
Of joyous birds, and in the song
Of waters, murmuring along
The paths of peace, whose flowery fringe
Has roses finding deeper tinge
Of crimson, looking on themselves
Reflected--leaning from the shelves
Of cliff and crag and mossy mound
Of emerald splendor shadow-drowned.--
We hail thy presence, as you come
With bugle blast and rolling drum,
And booming guns and shouts of glee
Commingled in a symphony
That thrills the worlds that throng to see
The glory of thy pageantry.
0And with thy praise, we breathe a prayer
That God who leaves you in our care
May favor us from this day on
With thy dear presence--till the dawn
Of Heaven, breaking on thy face,
Lights up thy first abiding place.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Time is Running Out

Pale as a sheet of ice upon the wooded trail
Early in the morning on a winter’s day at sunrise
You are lying lifeless, your eyes closed to the world around you;
If you were to come to life you would be
Looking into my eyes wide open,
My mind being your tragic literature-
The sun rests low behind the mountains,
The grass is greener than a polished emerald
Reflecting light so frighteningly bright that
It has become a mirror in which I can see my own eyes
Stunningly terrified echoed in the dewdrops-
Time is running out for me-
I believe that the end is near-
Time is running out as my tears hit the ground
In staccato rhythm as I am trying to figure
Why life has been a catastrophic musical - once hope gave me reason to persevere-
The imaginary clock only I can see tells me it is early morning and
All I can see is bleeding flesh through a multitude of tears-
My time is running out and the cold wind blows
The leaves upon the trees surrounding-
God’s eyes are upon me and all I can do is ask
Will I go to heaven when my heart
Makes its final beat and will my shadow remain by my side?
Hell is here on earth and I have lived a life of persecution,
Terror and dismay as I am constantly standing upon a cliff
On the brink of disaster- I am none but a lost soul and I still see my reflection
Through my tears as I cry out in fear- if I were a bird I would
Spread my wings and fly away from this planet earth to
A safer haven if one exists- I realize now that the lifeless figure before me is
None but an image of the angry, suspicious person I truly am-
The sun shows its face above the mountaintops as the trees shiver in the wind-
Time is running out and I am at death’s door-
Time is running out for me and I have been robbed of my spirit-
Hope has been snuffed out and time is running out-
As I listen to the voices only I can hear and as I look into the eyes of a ghost-
I see the hands upon that phantasmal clock spinning out of control-
Time is running out today but I can still see the sun-
Time is running out, and the sun will fall behind the mountains when dusk sets in
Leaving me in the darkness- time shall run out but tomorrow-well-
Tomorrow is another day

Claudia Krizay

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Statues in the Block

“LOVE is the secret of the world,' he said;
'The cup we drain and still desire to drink.
The loadstone hungers for the steel; the steel,
Inert amid a million stones, responds to this.
So yearn and answer hearts that truly love:
Once touch their life-spring, it vibrates to death;
And twain athrill as one are nature-wed.'

But silent stood the three who heard, nor smiled
Nor looked agreement. Strangers these who stood
Within a Roman studio—still young,
But sobered each with that which follows joy
At life's fresh forenoon, and the eye of each
Held deep within a restless eager light,
As gleams a diamond in a darkened room
With radiance hoarded from the vanished sun.

'The meteor-stone is dense and dark in space,
But bursts in flame when through the air it rushes,
And our dull life is like an aerolite
That leaps to fire within the sphere of love.'
Unchecked his mood ran on: 'Sweet amorous hours
That lie in years as isles in tropic seas,
You spring to view as Art is born of Love,
And shape rich beauties in this marble block!'

Before them rose within the shaded light
A tall and shapely mass of Alp-white crystal
Fresh from the heart of a Carrara quarry.
'Opaque to you this marble; but to me,
Whose eyes the chrism of passion has anointed,
The stone is pregnant with a life of love.
Within this monolith there lives a form
Which I can see and would reveal to you,
Could hand and chisel swiftly follow sight.
From brow to foot her lissome form stands forth—
The ripe lips smiling reached; with nestling press,
As round the sailor frozen in the berg
The clear ice closes on the still dead face,
The marble, grown translucent, touches soft
Each comely feature—rippled hair, and chin,
And lily sweep of bust and hip and limb—
Ah, sweet mouth pouting for the lips that cling,
And white arms raised all quivering to the clasp—
Ah, rich throat made for .burning lover's kiss,
And reckless bodice open to the swell,
And deep eyes soft with love's suffusion—Love!
O Love! still living, memory and hope,
Beyond all sweets thy bosom, breath, and lips—
My jewel and the jewel of the world!'

They stood in silence, each one rapt and still,
As if the lovely form were theirs as his,
Till one began—harsh voice and clouded face—
With other presence in his eye—and said:
'Opaque to me with such a glow-worm ray
As Love's torch flings—but, mark, the dense rock melts
When from my soul on fire the fiercer beam,
The mighty calcium-glare of hate leaps out
And eats the circumambient marble—See!
Laid bare as corpse to keen anatomist,
With every sinuous muscle picked with shadow,
And every feature tense with livid passion,
And all the frame aheave with sanguine throbs—
The ecstasy of agonized Revenge!
0 stone, reveal it—how my parting kiss
Was wet upon her mouth when other lips
Drank deep the cursed fountain; how the coin
1 hung with rapture 'tween her glowing breasts,
And fondly thought if I should die and she
Should live till age had blanched her hair and flesh,
This golden medal's touch would still have power
To light the love-fire in the faded eyes
And swell the shriveled breast to maiden roundness—
This thought I nursed—O Stygian abyss!—
Away thy picture of the rippled hair!
Her hair was rippled and her eyes were deep,
Her breasts and limbs were white and lily-curved,
But all the woman, soul and wondrous flesh,
Was poison-steeped and veined with vicious fire;
And I, blind fool who trusted, was but one
Who swooned with love beside her—But I drank
The wine she filled, and made her eat the dregs—
I drenched her honey with my sea of gall.
I see her in the marble where she shrinks
In shuddered fear, as if my face were fire—
Her cowering shadow making whiter still
The face of him that writhes beside her feet.
I see him breathe, the last deep breath, and turn
His eyes upon me horror-filled—his hand,
Still hot with wanton dalliance, clutched hard
Across the burning murder in his side—
And now he sinks still glaring—And my heart
Is there between them, petrified, O God!
And pierced by that red blow that struck their guilt.
O balm and torture! he must hate who loves,
And bleed who strikes to see thy face, Revenge!'

Grown deep the silence for the words that died,
And paler still the marble for its grief.

'Ah, myrrh and honey!' spake a third, whose eyes
Were deep with sorrow for the woe; ' blind hands
That grope for flowers and pierce the flesh with thorns!
All love of woman still may turn to hate,
As wine to bitterness, as noon to night.
But sweeter far and deeper than the love
Of flesh for flesh, is the strong bond of hearts
For suffering Motherland—to make her free!
Love's joy is short, and Hate's black triumph bitter,
And loves and hates are selfish—save for thee,
0 chained and weeping at thy pillar's foot,
Thy white flesh eaten by accursed bands.
No love but thine can satisfy the heart,
For love of thee holds in it hate of wrong,
And shapes the hope that molds humanity!
Not mine your passions, yet I weigh them well—
Who loves a greater sinks all lesser love,
Who hates a tyrant loses -lesser hate.
My Land! I see thee Id the marble, bowed
Before thy tyrant, bound at foot and wrist—
Thy garments rent—thy wounded shoulder bare—
Thy chained hand raised to ward the cruel blow—
My poor love round thee scarf-like, weak to hide
And powerless to shield thee—but a boy
1 wound it round thee, dearest, and a man
I drew it close and kissed thee—Mother, wife!
For thee the past and future days; for thee
The will to trample wrong and strike for slaves;
For thee the hope that ere mine arm be weak
And ere my heart be dry may close the strife
In which thy colors shall be borne through fire,
And all thy griefs washed out in manly blood—
And I shall see thee crowned and bound with love,
Thy strong sons round thee guarding thee. O star
That lightens desolation, o'er her beam,
Nor let the shadow of the pillar sink
Too deep within her, till the dawn is red
Of that white noon when men shall call her Queen!'

The deep voice quivering with affection ceased,
And silent each they saw within the stone
The captive nation and the mother's woe.
Yet while their hearts the fine emotion warmed,
Ere ebbed the deep-pulsed throb of brotherhood,
The last one spoke, and held the wave at full:—

'Yea, brothers, his the noblest for its grief;
Your love was loss—but his was sacrifice.
Your light was sunlight, for the shallow sense
That bends the eyes on earth and thinks it sees;
His love was nightlike, when we see the stars,
Forgetting petty things around our feet.
Yet here, too, find his weakness, for his hope
Is still for sunlight, and your shallow sense,
And golden crowns and queendom for his love.
I, too, within the stone behold a statue,
Far less than yours, but greater, for I know
My symbol a beginning, not an end.
O, Grief, with Hope! The marble fades—behold!
The little hands still crossed—a child in death.
My link with love—my dying gift from her
Whose last look smiled on both, when I was left
A loveless man, save this poor gift, alone.
My heart had wound its tendrils round one life,
But when my joy was deepest, she was stricken,
And I was powerless to save. My prayers
And piteous cries were flung against my face—
My life was blighted by the curse of Heaven!
But from the depths her love returned to soothe:
Her dear hand readied from death and placed her child
Where she had lived, within the riven tendrils,
And firmly these closed round their second treasure.
And she, my new love, in her infant hold
Took every heart-string as her mother's gift,
And touched such tender fine-strung chords, and played
Such music in my heart as filled my life
With trembling joy and fondness for the child.
I feared to be so blest—her baby cheek,
When laid on mine, was Heaven's sweetest touch;
And when she looked me in the eyes, I saw
Her mother look at me from deep within,
And bless me for the love I gave and won.
Yet, when I loved her most she, too, was doomed:
I saw it come upon her like a shadow,
And watched the change, appalled at first, but
To ward the danger from my darling. She,
As day by day still failing, grew so tender
And crept so often to my heart, as if,
Though but a babe who could not speak a word,
She knew full well my life would soon be shattered.
But all my love was fruitless, and my prayers
To leave her with me beat the gates in vain.
I thought my love must hold her, till at last
I held the tiny body like a leaf
All day and night within my arms; and so,
Close nestled to my yearning heart, Death passed,
As merciless as God, but left that look
Of two dead loves, as if Death's self knew pity.
And I was lost heart-withered in a night
That knew no star and held no ray of hope,
And heard no word but my despairing curse
With lifted hands, at life and Him who gave it!
My graves were all. I had—the little mound
Where my hands laid her, with the sweet young grass—
The tiny hill that, grew until the sun
Was hid behind it, and I sat below
And gnawed my heart in grief within its shadow.
So one day bowed in woe beside the grave
The weight grew deadly, and I called aloud
That God should witness to my life in ruin.
And God's word reached me through the little grave
Where in the grass my face was buried weeping—
His peace came through it like a pent-up breath
That rolled from some great world whose gates had oped,
And blew upon my wild and hardened heart,
And swept my woe before it like a leaf.
My dried heart drank the meaning of the peace:
True love shall trust, and selfish love must die,
For trust is peace, and self is full of pain;
Arise, and heal thy brother's grief; his tears
Shall wash thy love and it will live again.
O little grave, I thought 'twas love had died,
But in thy bosom only lies my sorrow.
I see my darling in the marble now—
My wasted leaf—her kind eyes smiling fondly,
And through her eyes I see the love beyond,
The biding light that moves not—and I know
That when God gives to us the clearest sight
He does not touch our eyes with Love, but Sorrow.'

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

At The First Sign Of Early Morning Light (Sicilian Septet)

At the first sign of early morning light
there is something strange and incandescent
that is disposing of the darkest night
and when it is over, suddenly spent,
my very own eyes have got the first sight
of a new day that is from heaven sent
and everything is crystal clear and bright.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

When the Buzz Stops

When the buzz stops, remember the bees will be gone
When the buzz stops, remember the petals will be torn
When the buzz stops, remember the summer will be over
When the buzz stops, remember the fall will be near

Oh smile and smile and smile
Lets have a good time
Forget about the winter
Forget about the cold
Lets have a good time a really good time...

When the sun dips
In the lake edge
See the moon rise
From the forest edge
It does not matter
Whether its day or night
As long as you
Yeah you my girl you
Keep my world bright

Oh smile and smile and smile
Lets have a good time
Forget about the winter
Forget about the cold
Lets have a good time a really good time...

When the time is over
Let the sorrows begin
When the moon is dark
Let the clouds cry
Naah there is more time
So light up your smile
Lets have a good time my girl lets have a good time...!

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

How Do You Sleep At Night

(jim mcbride/jerry salley)
I havent had a good nights sleep
In weeks now thanks to you
The ghost of broken promises you made
Haunts every room
A hurtin heart cant get no rest round here
I lie awake and wonder how
Your conscience could be clear
How do you sleep at night
Do you toss and turn till the morning light
Does the darkness help
When you lie down with the truth?
How do you sleep at night?
Are you all alone or do you hold someone tight
Do you see me
When you close your eyes?
How do you sleep at night?
Now your side of the beds as cold
As the lies that I believed
Im at the point when I cant even
Trust you in my dreams
Did the way you left me leave you feelin proud?
Or does the loneliness come callin
When the sun goes down?
How do you sleep at night
Do you toss and turn till the morning light
Does the darkness help
When you lie down with the truth
How do you sleep at night
Are you all alone or do you hold someone tight
Do you see me
When you close your eyes
How do you sleep at night

song performed by Wade HayesReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

How Do You Sleep At Night

(jim mcbride/jerry salley)
I havent had a good nights sleep
In weeks now thanks to you
The ghost of broken promises you made
Haunts every room
A hurtin heart cant get no rest round here
I lie awake and wonder how
Your conscience could be clear
How do you sleep at night
Do you toss and turn till the morning light
Does the darkness help
When you lie down with the truth?
How do you sleep at night?
Are you all alone or do you hold someone tight
Do you see me
When you close your eyes?
How do you sleep at night?
Now your side of the beds as cold
As the lies that I believed
Im at the point when I cant even
Trust you in my dreams
Did the way you left me leave you feelin proud?
Or does the loneliness come callin
When the sun goes down?
How do you sleep at night
Do you toss and turn till the morning light
Does the darkness help
When you lie down with the truth
How do you sleep at night
Are you all alone or do you hold someone tight
Do you see me
When you close your eyes
How do you sleep at night

song performed by Wade HayesReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Ghasta Or, The Avenging Demon!!!

Hark! the owlet flaps her wing,
In the pathless dell beneath,
Hark! night ravens loudly sing,
Tidings of despair and death.--

Horror covers all the sky,
Clouds of darkness blot the moon,
Prepare! for mortal thou must die,
Prepare to yield thy soul up soon--

Fierce the tempest raves around,
Fierce the volleyed lightnings fly,
Crashing thunder shakes the ground,
Fire and tumult fill the sky.—

Hark! the tolling village bell,
Tells the hour of midnight come,
Now can blast the powers of Hell,
Fiend-like goblins now can roam--

See! his crest all stained with rain,
A warrior hastening speeds his way,
He starts, looks round him, starts again,
And sighs for the approach of day.

See! his frantic steed he reins,
See! he lifts his hands on high,
Implores a respite to his pains,
From the powers of the sky.--

He seeks an Inn, for faint from toil,
Fatigue had bent his lofty form,
To rest his wearied limbs awhile,
Fatigued with wandering and the storm.

...
...

Slow the door is opened wide--
With trackless tread a stranger came,
His form Majestic, slow his stride,
He sate, nor spake,--nor told his name--

Terror blanched the warrior's cheek,
Cold sweat from his forehead ran,
In vain his tongue essayed to speak,--
At last the stranger thus began:

'Mortal! thou that saw'st the sprite,
Tell me what I wish to know,
Or come with me before 'tis light,
Where cypress trees and mandrakes grow.

'Fierce the avenging Demon's ire,
Fiercer than the wintry blast,
Fiercer than the lightning's fire,
When the hour of twilight's past'--

The warrior raised his sunken eye.
It met the stranger's sullen scowl,
'Mortal! Mortal! thou must die,'
In burning letters chilled his soul.

WARRIOR:
Stranger! whoso'er you are,
I feel impelled my tale to tell--
Horrors stranger shalt thou hear,
Horrors drear as those of Hell.

O'er my Castle silence reigned,
Late the night and drear the hour,
When on the terrace I observed,
A fleeting shadowy mist to lower.--

Light the cloud as summer fog,
Which transient shuns the morning beam;
Fleeting as the cloud on bog,
That hangs or on the mountain stream.--

Horror seized my shuddering brain,
Horror dimmed my starting eye.
In vain I tried to speak,--In vain
My limbs essayed the spot to fly--

At last the thin and shadowy form,
With noiseless, trackless footsteps came,--
Its light robe floated on the storm,
Its head was bound with lambent flame.

In chilling voice drear as the breeze
Which sweeps along th' autumnal ground,
Which wanders through the leafless trees,
Or the mandrake's groan which floats around.

'Thou art mine and I am thine,
'Till the sinking of the world,
I am thine and thou art mine,
'Till in ruin death is hurled--

'Strong the power and dire the fate,
Which drags me from the depths of Hell,
Breaks the tomb's eternal gate,
Where fiendish shapes and dead men yell,

'Haply I might ne'er have shrank
From flames that rack the guilty dead,
Haply I might ne'er have sank
On pleasure's flowery, thorny bed--

--'But stay! no more I dare disclose,
Of the tale I wish to tell,
On Earth relentless were my woes,
But fiercer are my pangs in Hell--

'Now I claim thee as my love,
Lay aside all chilling fear,
My affection will I prove,
Where sheeted ghosts and spectres are!

'For thou art mine, and I am thine,
'Till the dreaded judgement day,
I am thine, and thou art mine--
Night is past--I must away.'

Still I gazed, and still the form
Pressed upon my aching sight,
Still I braved the howling storm,
When the ghost dissolved in night.--

Restless, sleepless fled the night,
Sleepless as a sick man’s bed,
When he sighs for morning light,
When he turns his aching head,--

Slow and painful passed the day.
Melancholy seized my brain,
Lingering fled the hours away,
Lingering to a wretch in pain.--

At last came night, ah! horrid hour,
Ah! chilling time that wakes the dead,
When demons ride the clouds that lower,
--The phantom sat upon my bed.

In hollow voice, low as the sound
Which in some charnel makes its moan,
What floats along the burying ground,
The phantom claimed me as her own.

Her chilling finger on my head,
With coldest touch congealed my soul--
Cold as the finger of the dead,
Or damps which round a tombstone roll--

Months are passed in lingering round,
Every night the spectre comes,
With thrilling step it shakes the ground,
With thrilling step it round me roams--

Stranger! I have told to thee,
All the tale I have to tell--
Stranger! canst thou tell to me,
How to ‘scape the powers of Hell?--

STRANGER:
Warrior! I can ease thy woes,
Wilt thou, wilt thou, come with me--
Warrior! I can all disclose,
Follow, follow, follow me.

Yet the tempest's duskiest wing,
Its mantle stretches o'er the sky,
Yet the midnight ravens sing,
'Mortal! Mortal! thou must die.'

At last they saw a river clear,
That crossed the heathy path they trod,
The Stranger’s look was wild and drear,
The firm Earth shook beneath his nod--

He raised a wand above his head,
He traced a circle on the plain,
In a wild verse he called the dead,
The dead with silent footsteps came.

A burning brilliance on his head,
Flaming filled the stormy air,
In a wild verse he called the dead,
The dead in motley crowd were there.--

'Ghasta! Ghasta! come along,
Bring thy fiendish crowd with thee,
Quickly raise th' avenging Song,
Ghasta! Ghasta! come to me.'

Horrid shapes in mantles gray,
Flit athwart the stormy night,
'Ghasta! Ghasta! come away,
Come away before 'tis light.'

See! the sheeted Ghost they bring,
Yelling dreadful o’er the heath,
Hark! the deadly verse they sing,
Tidings of despair and death!

The yelling Ghost before him stands,
See! she rolls her eyes around,
Now she lifts her bony hands,
Now her footsteps shake the ground.

STRANGER:
Phantom of Theresa say,
Why to earth again you came,
Quickly speak, I must away!
Or you must bleach for aye in flame,--

PHANTOM:
Mighty one I know thee now,
Mightiest power of the sky,
Know thee by thy flaming brow,
Know thee by thy sparkling eye.

That fire is scorching! Oh! I came,
From the caverned depth of Hell,
My fleeting false Rodolph to claim,
Mighty one! I know thee well.--

STRANGER:
Ghasta! seize yon wandering sprite,
Drag her to the depth beneath,
Take her swift, before 'tis light,
Take her to the cells of death!

Thou that heardst the trackless dead,
In the mouldering tomb must lie,
Mortal! look upon my head,
Mortal! Mortal! thou must die.

Of glowing flame a cross was there,
Which threw a light around his form,
Whilst his lank and raven hair,
Floated wild upon the storm.--

The warrior upwards turned his eyes,
Gazed upon the cross of fire,
There sat horror and surprise,
There sat God’s eternal ire.--

A shivering through the Warrior flew,
Colder than the nightly blast,
Colder than the evening dew,
When the hour of twilight’s past.--

Thunder shakes th' expansive sky,
Shakes the bosom of the heath,
'Mortal! Mortal! thou must die'--
The warrior sank convulsed in death.

JANUARY, 1810.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Fishing in Winter

A man staring at a small lake sees
His father cast light line out over
The willows.He's forgotten his
Father has been dead for two years
And the lake is where a blue fog
Rolls, and the sky could be, if it
Were black or blue or white,
The backdrop of all attention.

He wades out to join the father,
Following where the good strikes
Seem to lead.It's cold.The shape
Breath takes on a cold day is like
Anything else--a rise on a small lake,
The Oklahoma hills, blue scrub--
A shape already inside a shape,
Two songs, two breaths on the water.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

The Hidden Pond

There's a little ribbon snake,
Swimming in the hidden pond.
To him it's one of the Great Lakes,
Of his watery home he is so fond.

He's swimming towards a lilly pad,
Where sits a sleeping leopard frog.
Dozing on her spongy bed,
In the early morning fog.

Dragonflys buzz all around,
In the early morning light.
They never get close to the ground,
Once their gossamer wings take flight.

Crickets chirp, and minnows swim,
The hidden pond is full of life.
Long legged spiders skip and skim,
Perch cut the water like a knife.

Another day on hidden pond,
Grasshoppers leaping to and fro.
Clinging to the cattails and the fronds,
As the perch keep hoping, down below.

8/25/10 Alton Texas

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Hired Gun

Morning light meet the day
Nervous eyes look both ways
And it just wont matter, spring or fall
Theres bread to win and shots to call
And there aint nobody out there
Just a wild uncertainty
Its in your stride but it aint no fun
Sometimes I feel just like a hired gun
I feel just like a hired gun
Always on the run
And how it started, well you cant recall
Did someone push you, did someone stall
Whatever the reasons there was lots to learn
To get home safely and not get burned
And its all so cold and empty
As you watch the setting sun
Youve picked up every dirty trick
Just to keep yourself always on the run
And I feel just like a hired gun
Always on the run
I dream of comfort and friendship long
But I cant trust you or anyone
The scars still hurt me and I dont let them heal
Each ones a lesson, each ones a shield
And I may even love you dearly
And I loathe what I have to do
You see Ive picked up every dirty trick
In my fear of you
cos you make me feel just like a hired gun
Always on the run

song performed by Chris ReaReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

In My Dreams

There was a time some time ago
When every sunrise meant a sunny day, oh a sunny day
But now when the morning light shines in
It only disturbs the dreamland where I lay, oh where I lay
I used to thank the lord when Id wake
For life and love and the golden sky above me
But now I pray the stars will go on shinin, you see in my dreams you love me
Daybreak is a joyful time
Just listen to the songbird harmonies, oh the harmonies
But I wish the dawn would never come
I wish there was silence in the trees, oh the trees
If only I could stay asleep, at least I could pretend youre thinkin of me
cause nighttime is the one time I am happy, you see in my dreams
Chorus:
We climb and climb and at the top we fly
Let the world go on below us, we are lost in time
And I dont know really what it means
All I know is that you love me, in my dreams
(solo)
I keep hopin one day Ill awaken, and somehow shell be lying by my side
And as I wonder if the dawn is really breakin
She touches me and suddenly Im alive
Chorus repeats 2x
Oho, in my dreams

song performed by Reo SpeedwagonReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

One morning

one morning it will come that i may have a
wagon of carpentry tools and let my friends
build houses for our neighbor, who just live
in shanty shelter

one morning i may have lots of books and
pens, for i may have a library in our barrio,
so that those little kids can learn and can
have research as other do

one morning those sky be filled with
confetti, reaching everybody hand, for
a dream of graduate be in the air; as
other are send to school, with confident
of financially free

one morning i may see, that every food
in the table be tasted and beautiful dresses
be wear by every child, living no pain in
the stomach that is hungry, closing their eye
with a dream and a hope that next day be
awaked in the bed they are safe

one morning i can ride in an airplane,
sharing my great ideas, to every heart and
soul that listen to the plea of our people, in a
country that everybody call and nobody dare
to fall

that is my story; please help us to pray.....help
us, and never give up, it is still the eye of the
iceberg..........

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Turn Around

Jimmy saw the sun chase away the night
It was a quarter past seven
His body warm like the morning light
Had to be in school by eleven

He told himself what they had done to him
That's why Jimmy never felt real sad
If only someone could have lent a hand
Things would have never turned out so bad

Who knows why black flies just live for one day
Who knows why
Hey turn around
It's time to wake up and go back to tell the story
Hey turn around
It's time to wake up and go back to tell the story now

Always sat alone in the back of the class
Because no one would take him
Today he stood in front of the rest
His hands were shaking

Who could have known what Jimmy thought
Never had a chance to speak his words out loud
The flies were burning in his head till
Jimmy let them all out

Who knows why black flies just live for one day
Who knows why

Hey turn around
It's time to wake up and go back to tell the story
Hey turn around
It's time to wake up and go back to tell the story now

It didn't pay to make fun of him
Too late to say

song performed by Green Lizard from IdentityReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Whos That Man

(toby keith)
Turn left at the old hotel
I know this boulevard much too well
It hasnt changed since I been gone
Oh, this used to be my way home
They paved the road thru the neighborhood
I guess the county finally fixed good
It was gettin rough
Someone finally complained eneogh
Fight the tears back with a smile
Stop and look for a little while
Oh its plain to see
The only thing missing is me
Thats my house & thats my car
Thats my dog in my back yard
Theres the window to the room
Where she lays her pretty head
I planted that tree out by the fence
Not long after we moved in
Thats my kids and thats my wife
Whose that man, runnin my life
If I pulled in would it cause a seen
There not really expectin me
Those kids have been thru hell
I hear they adjusted well
Turn around in the neigbors drive
Id be hard to recognise
In this pick-up truck
Its just an old fixer up
Drive away one more time
Lot of things going thru my mind
I guess the less things change
The more they never seem the same
Thats my house & thats my car
Thats my dog in my back yard
Theres the window to the room
Where she lays her pretty head
I planted that tree out by the fence
Not long after we moved in
Thats my kids and thats my wife
Whose that man, runnin my life

song performed by Toby KeithReport problemRelated quotes
Added by Lucian Velea
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Walt Whitman

So Long

TO conclude--I announce what comes after me;
I announce mightier offspring, orators, days, and then, for the
present, depart.

I remember I said, before my leaves sprang at all,
I would raise my voice jocund and strong, with reference to
consummations.

When America does what was promis'd,
When there are plentiful athletic bards, inland and seaboard,
When through These States walk a hundred millions of superb persons,
When the rest part away for superb persons, and contribute to them,
When breeds of the most perfect mothers denote America,
Then to me and mine our due fruition. 10

I have press'd through in my own right,
I have sung the Body and the Soul--War and Peace have I sung,
And the songs of Life and of Birth--and shown that there are many
births:
I have offer'd my style to everyone--I have journey'd with confident
step;
While my pleasure is yet at the full, I whisper, So long!
And take the young woman's hand, and the young man's hand, for the
last time.


I announce natural persons to arise;
I announce justice triumphant;
I announce uncompromising liberty and equality;
I announce the justification of candor, and the justification of
pride. 20

I announce that the identity of These States is a single identity
only;
I announce the Union more and more compact, indissoluble;
I announce splendors and majesties to make all the previous politics
of the earth insignificant.

I announce adhesiveness--I say it shall be limitless, unloosen'd;
I say you shall yet find the friend you were looking for.

I announce a man or woman coming--perhaps you are the one, (So long!)
I announce the great individual, fluid as Nature, chaste,
affectionate, compassionate, fully armed.

I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold;
I announce an end that shall lightly and joyfully meet its
translation;
I announce myriads of youths, beautiful, gigantic, sweet-blooded; 30
I announce a race of splendid and savage old men.


O thicker and faster! (So long!)
O crowding too close upon me;
I foresee too much--it means more than I thought;
It appears to me I am dying.

Hasten throat, and sound your last!
Salute me--salute the days once more. Peal the old cry once more.

Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,
At random glancing, each as I notice absorbing,
Swiftly on, but a little while alighting, 40
Curious envelop'd messages delivering,
Sparkles hot, seed ethereal, down in the dirt dropping,
Myself unknowing, my commission obeying, to question it never daring,
To ages, and ages yet, the growth of the seed leaving,
To troops out of me, out of the army, the war arising--they the tasks
I have set promulging,
To women certain whispers of myself bequeathing--their affection me
more clearly explaining,
To young men my problems offering--no dallier I--I the muscle of
their brains trying,
So I pass--a little time vocal, visible, contrary;
Afterward, a melodious echo, passionately bent for--(death making me
really undying;)
The best of me then when no longer visible--for toward that I have
been incessantly preparing. 50

What is there more, that I lag and pause, and crouch extended with
unshut mouth?
Is there a single final farewell?


My songs cease--I abandon them;
From behind the screen where I hid I advance personally, solely to
you.

Camerado! This is no book;
Who touches this, touches a man;
(Is it night? Are we here alone?)
It is I you hold, and who holds you;
I spring from the pages into your arms--decease calls me forth.

O how your fingers drowse me! 60
Your breath falls around me like dew--your pulse lulls the tympans of
my ears;
I feel immerged from head to foot;
Delicious--enough.

Enough, O deed impromptu and secret!
Enough, O gliding present! Enough, O summ'd-up past!


Dear friend, whoever you are, take this kiss,
I give it especially to you--Do not forget me;
I feel like one who has done work for the day, to retire awhile;
I receive now again of my many translations--from my avataras
ascending--while others doubtless await me; 70
An unknown sphere, more real than I dream'd, more direct, darts
awakening rays about me--So long!
Remember my words--I may again return,
I love you--I depart from materials;
I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

A Last Confession

Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
Wear daggers in their garters: for they know
That they might hate another girl to death
Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.
Father, you cannot know of all my thoughts
That day in going to meet her,—that last day
For the last time, she said;—of all the love
And all the hopeless hope that she might change
And go back with me. Ah! and everywhere,
At places we both knew along the road,
Some fresh shape of herself as once she was
Grew present at my side; until it seemed—
So close they gathered round me—they would all
Be with me when I reached the spot at last,
To plead my cause with her against herself
So changed. O Father, if you knew all this
You cannot know, then you would know too, Father,
And only then, if God can pardon me.
What can be told I'll tell, if you will hear.
I passed a village-fair upon my road,
And thought, being empty-handed, I would take
Some little present: such might prove, I said,
Either a pledge between us, or (God help me!)
A parting gift. And there it was I bought
The knife I spoke of, such as women wear.
That day, some three hours afterwards, I found
For certain, it must be a parting gift.
And, standing silent now at last, I looked
Into her scornful face; and heard the sea
Still trying hard to din into my ears
Some speech it knew which still might change her heart,
If only it could make me understand.
One moment thus. Another, and her face
Seemed further off than the last line of sea,
So that I thought, if now she were to speak
I could not hear her. Then again I knew
All, as we stood together on the sand
At Iglio, in the first thin shade o' the hills.
“Take it,” I said, and held it out to her,
While the hilt glanced within my trembling hold;
“Take it and keep it for my sake,” I said.
Her neck unbent not, neither did her eyes
Move, nor her foot left beating of the sand;
Only she put it by from her and laughed.
Father, you hear my speech and not her laugh;
But God heard that. Will God remember all?
It was another laugh than the sweet sound
Which rose from her sweet childish heart, that day
Eleven years before, when first I found her
Alone upon the hill-side; and her curls
Shook down in the warm grass as she looked up
Out of her curls in my eyes bent to hers.
She might have served a painter to pourtray
That heavenly child which in the latter days
Shall walk between the lion and the lamb.
I had been for nights in hiding, worn and sick
And hardly fed; and so her words at first
Seemed fiftul like the talking of the trees
And voices in the air that knew my name.
And I remember that I sat me down
Upon the slope with her, and thought the world
Must be all over or had never been,
We seemed there so alone. And soon she told me
Her parents both were gone away from her.
I thought perhaps she meant that they had died;
But when I asked her this, she looked again
Into my face and said that yestereve
They kissed her long, and wept and made her weep,
And gave her all the bread they had with them,
And then had gone together up the hill
Where we were sitting now, and had walked on
Into the great red light; “and so,” she said,
I have come up here too; and when this evening
They step out of the light as they stepped in,
I shall be here to kiss them.” And she laughed.
Then I bethought me suddenly of the famine;
And how the church-steps throughout all the town,
When last I had been there a month ago,
Swarmed with starved folk; and how the bread was weighed
By Austrians armed; and women that I knew
For wives and mothers walked the public street,
Saying aloud that if their husbands feared
To snatch the children's food, themselves would stay
Till they had earned it there. So then this child
Was piteous to me; for all told me then
Her parents must have left her to God's chance,
To man's or to the Church's charity,
Because of the great famine, rather than
To watch her growing thin between their knees.
With that, God took my mother's voice and spoke,
And sights and sounds came back and things long since,
And all my childhood found me on the hills;
And so I took her with me.
I was young.
Scarce man then, Father: but the cause which gave
The wounds I die of now had brought me then
Some wounds already; and I lived alone,
As any hiding hunted man must live.
It was no easy thing to keep a child
In safety; for herself it was not safe,
And doubled my own danger: but I knew
That God would help me.
Yet a little while
Pardon me, Father, if I pause. I think
I have been speaking to you of some matters
There was no need to speak of, have I not?
You do not know how clearly those things stood
Within my mind, which I have spoken of,
Nor how they strove for utterance. Life all past
Is like the sky when the sun sets in it,
Clearest where furthest off.
I told you how
She scorned my parting gift and laughed. And yet
A woman's laugh's another thing sometimes:
I think they laugh in Heaven. I know last night
I dreamed I saw into the garden of God,
Where women walked whose painted images
I have seen with candles round them in the church.
They bent this way and that, one to another,
Playing: and over the long golden hair
Of each there floated like a ring of fire
Which when she stooped stooped with her, and when she rose
Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them,
As if a window had been opened in heaven
For God to give His blessing from, before
This world of ours should set; (for in my dream
I thought our world was setting, and the sun
Flared, a spent taper; ) and beneath that gust
The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
Then all the blessed maidens who were there
Stood up together, as it were a voice
That called them; and they threw their tresses back,
And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once,
For the strong heavenly joy they had in them
To hear God bless the world. Wherewith I woke:
And looking round, I saw as usual
That she was standing there with her long locks
Pressed to her side; and her laugh ended theirs.
For always when I see her now, she laughs.
And yet her childish laughter haunts me too,
The life of this dead terror; as in days
When she, a child, dwelt with me. I must tell
Something of those days yet before the end.
I brought her from the city—one such day
When she was still a merry loving child,—
The earliest gift I mind my giving her;
A little image of a flying Love
Made of our coloured glass-ware, in his hands
A dart of gilded metal and a torch.
And him she kissed and me, and fain would know
Why were his poor eyes blindfold, why the wings
And why the arrow. What I knew I told
Of Venus and of Cupid,—strange old tales.
And when she heard that he could rule the loves
Of men and women, still she shook her head
And wondered; and, “Nay, nay,” she murmured still,
So strong, and he a younger child than I!”
And then she'd have me fix him on the wall
Fronting her little bed; and then again
She needs must fix him there herself, because
I gave him to her and she loved him so,
And he should make her love me better yet,
If women loved the more, the more they grew.
But the fit place upon the wall was high
For her, and so I held her in my arms:
And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
I gave her for a hammer slipped away
As it would often, still she laughed and laughed
And kissed and kissed me. But amid her mirth,
Just as she hung the image on the nail,
It slipped and all its fragments strewed the ground:
And as it fell she screamed, for in her hand
The dart had entered deeply and drawn blood.
And so her laughter turned to tears: and “Oh!”
I said, the while I bandaged the small hand,—
That I should be the first to make you bleed,
Who love and love and love you!”—kissing still
The fingers till I got her safe to bed.
And still she sobbed,—“not for the pain at all,”
She said, “but for the Love, the poor good Love
You gave me.” So she cried herself to sleep.
Another later thing comes back to me.
'Twas in those hardest foulest days of all,
When still from his shut palace, sitting clean
Above the splash of blood, old Metternich
(May his soul die, and never-dying worms
Feast on its pain for ever! ) used to thin
His year's doomed hundreds daintily, each month
Thirties and fifties. This time, as I think,
Was when his thrift forbad the poor to take
That evil brackish salt which the dry rocks
Keep all through winter when the sea draws in.
The first I heard of it was a chance shot
In the street here and there, and on the stones
A stumbling clatter as of horse hemmed round.
Then, when she saw me hurry out of doors,
My gun slung at my shoulder and my knife
Stuck in my girdle, she smoothed down my hair
And laughed to see me look so brave, and leaped
Up to my neck and kissed me. She was still
A child; and yet that kiss was on my lips
So hot all day where the smoke shut us in.
For now, being always with her, the first love
I had—the father's, brother's love—was changed,
I think, in somewise; like a holy thought
Which is a prayer before one knows of it.
The first time I perceived this, I remember,
Was once when after hunting I came home
Weary, and she brought food and fruit for me,
And sat down at my feet upon the floor
Leaning against my side. But when I felt
Her sweet head reach from that low seat of hers
So high as to be laid upon my heart,
I turned and looked upon my darling there
And marked for the first time how tall she was;
And my heart beat with so much violence
Under her cheek, I thought she could not choose
But wonder at it soon and ask me why;
And so I bade her rise and eat with me.
And when, remembering all and counting back
The time, I made out fourteen years for her
And told her so, she gazed at me with eyes
As of the sky and sea on a grey day,
And drew her long hands through her hair, and asked me
If she was not a woman; and then laughed:
And as she stooped in laughing, I could see
Beneath the growing throat the breasts half-globed
Like folded lilies deepset in the stream.
Yes, let me think of her as then; for so
Her image, Father, is not like the sights
Which come when you are gone. She had a mouth
Made to bring death to life,—the underlip
Sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.
Her face was pearly pale, as when one stoops
Over wan water; and the dark crisped hair
And the hair's shadow made it paler still:—
Deep-serried locks, the dimness of the cloud
Where the moon's gaze is set in eddying gloom.
Her body bore her neck as the tree's stem
Bears the top branch; and as the branch sustains
The flower of the year's pride, her high neck bore
That face made wonderful with night and day.
Her voice was swift, yet ever the last words
Fell lingeringly; and rounded finger-tips
She had, that clung a little where they touched
And then were gone o' the instant. Her great eyes,
That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak,
Had also in them hidden springs of mirth,
Which under the dark lashes evermore
Shook to her laugh, as when a bird flies low
Between the water and the willow-leaves,
And the shade quivers till he wins the light.
I was a moody comrade to her then,
For all the love I bore her. Italy,
The weeping desolate mother, long has claimed
Her sons' strong arms to lean on, and their hands
To lop the poisonous thicket from her path,
Cleaving her way to light. And from her need
Had grown the fashion of my whole poor life
Which I was proud to yield her, as my father
Had yielded his. And this had come to be
A game to play, a love to clasp, a hate
To wreak, all things together that a man
Needs for his blood to ripen; till at times
All else seemed shadows, and I wondered still
To see such life pass muster and be deemed
Time's bodily substance. In those hours, no doubt,
To the young girl my eyes were like my soul,—
Dark wells of death-in-life that yearned for day.
Sig.
And though she ruled me always, I remember
That once when I was thus and she still kept
Leaping about the place and laughing, I
Did almost chide her; whereupon she knelt
And putting her two hands into my breast
Sang me a song. Are these tears in my eyes?
'Tis long since I have wept for anything.
I thought that song forgotten out of mind;
And now, just as I spoke of it, it came
All back. It is but a rude thing, ill rhymed,
Such as a blind man chaunts and his dog hears
Holding the platter, when the children run
To merrier sport and leave him. Thus it goes:—
La bella donna*
Piangendo disse:
“Come son fisse
Le stelle in cielo!
Quel fiato anelo
Dello stanco sole,
Quanto m' assonna!
E la luna, macchiata
Come uno specchio
Logoro e vecchio,—
Faccia affannata,
Che cosa vuole?
“Chè stelle, luna, e sole,
Ciascun m' annoja
E m' annojano insieme;
Non me ne preme
Nè ci prendo gioja.
E veramente,
Che le spalle sien franche
E la braccia bianche
She wept, sweet lady,
And said in weeping:
What spell is keeping
The stars so steady?
Why does the power
Of the sun's noon-hour
To sleep so move me?
And the moon in heaven,
Stained where she passes
As a worn-out glass is,—
Wearily driven,
Why walks she above me?
“Stars, moon, and sun too,
I'm tired of either
And all together!
Whom speak they unto
That I should listen?
For very surely,
Though my arms and shoulders
Dazzle beholders,
And my eyes glisten,
All's nothing purely!
What are words said for
At all about them,
If he they are made for
Can do without them?”
She laughed, sweet lady,
And said in laughing:
His hand clings half in
My own already!
Oh! do you love me?
Oh! speak of passion
In no new fashion,
No loud inveighings,
But the old sayings
You once said of me.
“You said: ‘As summer,
Through boughs grown brittle,
Comes back a little
Ere frosts benumb her,—
So bring'st thou to me
All leaves and flowers,
Though autumn's gloomy
To-day in the bowers.’
“Oh! does he love me,
When my voice teaches
The very speeches
He then spoke of me?
Alas! what flavour
Still with me lingers?”
(But she laughed as my kisses
Glowed in her fingers
With love's old blisses.)
“Oh! what one favour
Remains to woo him,
Whose whole poor savour
Belongs not to him?”
E il seno caldo e tondo,
Non mi fa niente.
Che cosa al mondo
Posso più far di questi
Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?”
La donna rise
E riprese ridendo:—
“Questa mano che prendo
È dunque mia?
Tu m' ami dunque?
Dimmelo ancora,
Non in modo qualunque,
Ma le parole
Belle e precise
Che dicesti pria.
‘Siccome suole
La state talora
(Dicesti) un qualche istante
Tornare innanzi inverno,
Così tu fai ch' io scerno
Le foglie tutte quante,
Ben ch' io certo tenessi
Per passato l' autunno.’
“Eccolo il mio alunno!
Io debbo insegnargli
Quei cari detti istessi
Ch' ei mi disse una volta!
Oimè! Che cosa dargli,”
(Ma ridea piano piano
Dei baci in sulla mano,)
“Ch' ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?”
That I should sing upon this bed!—with you
To listen, and such words still left to say!
Yet was it I that sang? The voice seemed hers,
As on the very day she sang to me;
When, having done, she took out of my hand
Something that I had played with all the while
And laid it down beyond my reach; and so
Turning my face round till it fronted hers,—
“Weeping or laughing, which was best?” she said.
But these are foolish tales. How should I show
The heart that glowed then with love's heat, each day
More and more brightly?—when for long years now
The very flame that flew about the heart,
And gave it fiery wings, has come to be
The lapping blaze of hell's environment
Whose tongues all bid the molten heart despair.
Yet one more thing comes back on me to-night
Which I may tell you: for it bore my soul
Dread firstlings of the brood that rend it now.
It chanced that in our last year's wanderings
We dwelt at Monza, far away from home,
If home we had: and in the Duomo there
I sometimes entered with her when she prayed.
An image of Our Lady stands there, wrought
In marble by some great Italian hand
In the great days when she and Italy
Sat on one throne together: and to her
And to none else my loved one told her heart.
She was a woman then; and as she knelt,—
Her sweet brow in the sweet brow's shadow there,—
They seemed two kindred forms whereby our land
(Whose work still serves the world for miracle)
Made manifest herself in womanhood.
Father, the day I speak of was the first
For weeks that I had borne her company
Into the Duomo; and those weeks had been
Much troubled, for then first the glimpses came
Of some impenetrable restlessness
Growing in her to make her changed and cold.
And as we entered there that day, I bent
My eyes on the fair Image, and I said
Within my heart, “Oh turn her heart to me!”
And so I left her to her prayers, and went
To gaze upon the pride of Monza's shrine,
Where in the sacristy the light still falls
Upon the Iron Crown of Italy,
On whose crowned heads the day has closed, nor yet
The daybreak gilds another head to crown.
But coming back, I wondered when I saw
That the sweet Lady of her prayers now stood
Alone without her; until further off,
Before some new Madonna gaily decked,
Tinselled and gewgawed, a slight German toy,
I saw her kneel, still praying. At my step
She rose, and side by side we left the church.
I was much moved, and sharply questioned her
Of her transferred devotion; but she seemed
Stubborn and heedless; till she lightly laughed
And said: “The old Madonna? Aye indeed,
She had my old thoughts,—this one has my new.”
Then silent to the soul I held my way:
And from the fountains of the public place
Unto the pigeon-haunted pinnacles,
Bright wings and water winnowed the bright air;
And stately with her laugh's subsiding smile
She went, with clear-swayed waist and towering neck
And hands held light before her; and the face
Which long had made a day in my life's night
Was night in day to me; as all men's eyes
Turned on her beauty, and she seemed to tread
Beyond my heart to the world made for her.
Ah there! my wounds will snatch my sense again:
The pain comes billowing on like a full cloud
Of thunder, and the flash that breaks from it
Leaves my brain burning. That's the wound he gave,
The Austrian whose white coat I still made match
With his white face, only the two grew red
As suits his trade. The devil makes them wear
White for a livery, that the blood may show
Braver that brings them to him. So he looks
Sheer o'er the field and knows his own at once.
Give me a draught of water in that cup;
My voice feels thick; perhaps you do not hear;
But you must hear. If you mistake my words
And so absolve me, I am sure the blessing
Will burn my soul. If you mistake my words
And so absolve me, Father, the great sin
Is yours, not mine: mark this: your soul shall burn
With mine for it. I have seen pictures where
Souls burned with Latin shriekings in their mouths:
Shall my end be as theirs? Nay, but I know
'Tis you shall shriek in Latin. Some bell rings,
Rings through my brain: it strikes the hour in hell.
You see I cannot, Father; I have tried,
But cannot, as you see. These twenty times
Beginning, I have come to the same point
And stopped. Beyond, there are but broken words
Which will not let you understand my tale.
It is that then we have her with us here,
As when she wrung her hair out in my dream
To-night, till all the darkness reeked of it.
Her hair is always wet, for she has kept
Its tresses wrapped about her side for years;
And when she wrung them round over the floor,
I heard the blood between her fingers hiss;
So that I sat up in my bed and screamed
Once and again; and once to once, she laughed.
Look that you turn not now,—she's at your back:
Gather your robe up, Father, and keep close,
Or she'll sit down on it and send you mad.
At Iglio in the first thin shade o' the hills
The sand is black and red. The black was black
When what was spilt that day sank into it,
And the red scarcely darkened. There I stood
This night with her, and saw the sand the same.
What would you have me tell you? Father, father,
How shall I make you know? You have not known
The dreadful soul of woman, who one day
Forgets the old and takes the new to heart,
Forgets what man remembers, and therewith
Forgets the man. Nor can I clearly tell
How the change happened between her and me.
Her eyes looked on me from an emptied heart
When most my heart was full of her; and still
In every corner of myself I sought
To find what service failed her; and no less
Than in the good time past, there all was hers.
What do you love? Your Heaven? Conceive it spread
For one first year of all eternity
All round you with all joys and gifts of God;
And then when most your soul is blent with it
And all yields song together,—then it stands
O' the sudden like a pool that once gave back
Your image, but now drowns it and is clear
Again,—or like a sun bewitched, that burns
Your shadow from you, and still shines in sight.
How could you bear it? Would you not cry out,
Among those eyes grown blind to you, those ears
That hear no more your voice you hear the same,—
“God! what is left but hell for company,
But hell, hell, hell?”—until the name so breathed
Whirled with hot wind and sucked you down in fire?
Even so I stood the day her empty heart
Left her place empty in our home, while yet
I knew not why she went nor where she went
Nor how to reach her: so I stood the day
When to my prayers at last one sight of her
Was granted, and I looked on heaven made pale
With scorn, and heard heaven mock me in that laugh.
O sweet, long sweet! Was that some ghost of you,
Even as your ghost that haunts me now,—twin shapes
Of fear and hatred? May I find you yet
Mine when death wakes? Ah! be it even in flame,
We may have sweetness yet, if you but say
As once in childish sorrow: “Not my pain,
My pain was nothing: oh your poor poor love,
Your broken love!”
My Father, have I not
Yet told you the last things of that last day
On which I went to meet her by the sea?
O God, O God! but I must tell you all.
Midway upon my journey, when I stopped
To buy the dagger at the village fair,
I saw two cursed rats about the place
I knew for spies—blood-sellers both. That day
Was not yet over; for three hours to come
I prized my life: and so I looked around
For safety. A poor painted mountebank
Was playing tricks and shouting in a crowd.
I knew he must have heard my name, so I
Pushed past and whispered to him who I was,
And of my danger. Straight he hustled me
Into his booth, as it were in the trick,
And brought me out next minute with my face
All smeared in patches and a zany's gown;
And there I handed him his cups and balls
And swung the sand-bags round to clear the ring
For half an hour. The spies came once and looked;
And while they stopped, and made all sights and sounds
Sharp to my startled senses, I remember
A woman laughed above me. I looked up
And saw where a brown-shouldered harlot leaned
Half through a tavern window thick with vine.
Some man had come behind her in the room
And caught her by her arms, and she had turned
With that coarse empty laugh on him, as now
He munched her neck with kisses, while the vine
Crawled in her back.
And three hours afterwards,
When she that I had run all risks to meet
Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
Heard at the fair. She had not left me long;
But all she might have changed to, or might change to,
(I know nought since—she never speaks a word—)
Seemed in that laugh. Have I not told you yet,
Not told you all this time what happened, Father,
When I had offered her the little knife,
And bade her keep it for my sake that loved her,
And she had laughed? Have I not told you yet?
“Take it,” I said to her the second time,
“Take it and keep it.” And then came a fire
That burnt my hand; and then the fire was blood,
And sea and sky were blood and fire, and all
The day was one red blindness; till it seemed,
Within the whirling brain's eclipse, that she
Or I or all things bled or burned to death.
And then I found her laid against my feet
And knew that I had stabbed her, and saw still
Her look in falling. For she took the knife
Deep in her heart, even as I bade her then,
And fell; and her stiff bodice scooped the sand
Into her bosom.
And she keeps it, see,
Do you not see she keeps it?—there, beneath
Wet fingers and wet tresses, in her heart.
For look you, when she stirs her hand, it shows
The little hilt of horn and pearl,—even such
A dagger as our women of the coast
Twist in their garters.
Father, I have done:
And from her side now she unwinds the thick
Dark hair; all round her side it is wet through,
But, like the sand at Iglio, does not change.
Now you may see the dagger clearly. Father,
I have told all: tell me at once what hope
Can reach me still. For now she draws it out
Slowly, and only smiles as yet: look, Father,
She scarcely smiles: but I shall hear her laugh
Soon, when she shows the crimson steel to God.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Peter Bell, A Tale

PROLOGUE

There's something in a flying horse,
There's something in a huge balloon;
But through the clouds I'll never float
Until I have a little Boat,
Shaped like the crescent-moon.

And now I 'have' a little Boat,
In shape a very crescent-moon
Fast through the clouds my boat can sail;
But if perchance your faith should fail,
Look up--and you shall see me soon!

The woods, my Friends, are round you roaring,
Rocking and roaring like a sea;
The noise of danger's in your ears,
And ye have all a thousand fears
Both for my little Boat and me!

Meanwhile untroubled I admire
The pointed horns of my canoe;
And, did not pity touch my breast,
To see how ye are all distrest,
Till my ribs ached, I'd laugh at you!

Away we go, my Boat and I--
Frail man ne'er sate in such another;
Whether among the winds we strive,
Or deep into the clouds we dive,
Each is contented with the other.

Away we go--and what care we
For treasons, tumults, and for wars?
We are as calm in our delight
As is the crescent-moon so bright
Among the scattered stars.

Up goes my Boat among the stars
Through many a breathless field of light,
Through many a long blue field of ether,
Leaving ten thousand stars beneath her:
Up goes my little Boat so bright!

The Crab, the Scorpion, and the Bull--
We pry among them all; have shot
High o'er the red-haired race of Mars,
Covered from top to toe with scars;
Such company I like it not!

The towns in Saturn are decayed,
And melancholy Spectres throng them;--
The Pleiads, that appear to kiss
Each other in the vast abyss,
With joy I sail among them.

Swift Mercury resounds with mirth,
Great Jove is full of stately bowers;
But these, and all that they contain,
What are they to that tiny grain,
That little Earth of ours?

Then back to Earth, the dear green Earth:--
Whole ages if I here should roam,
The world for my remarks and me
Would not a whit the better be;
I've left my heart at home.

See! there she is, the matchless Earth!
There spreads the famed Pacific Ocean!
Old Andes thrusts yon craggy spear
Through the grey clouds; the Alps are here,
Like waters in commotion!

Yon tawny slip is Libya's sands;
That silver thread the river Dnieper!
And look, where clothed in brightest green
Is a sweet Isle, of isles the Queen;
Ye fairies, from all evil keep her!

And see the town where I was born!
Around those happy fields we span
In boyish gambols;--I was lost
Where I have been, but on this coast
I feel I am a man.

Never did fifty things at once
Appear so lovely, never, never;--
How tunefully the forests ring!
To hear the earth's soft murmuring
Thus could I hang for ever!

"Shame on you!" cried my little Boat,
"Was ever such a homesick Loon,
Within a living Boat to sit,
And make no better use of it;
A Boat twin-sister of the crescent-moon!

"Ne'er in the breast of full-grown Poet
Fluttered so faint a heart before;--
Was it the music of the spheres
That overpowered your mortal ears?
--Such din shall trouble them no more.

"These nether precincts do not lack
Charms of their own;--then come with me;
I want a comrade, and for you
There's nothing that I would not do;
Nought is there that you shall not see.

"Haste! and above Siberian snows
We'll sport amid the boreal morning;
Will mingle with her lustres gliding
Among the stars, the stars now hiding,
And now the stars adorning.

"I know the secrets of a land
Where human foot did never stray;
Fair is that land as evening skies,
And cool, though in the depth it lies
Of burning Africa. 0

"Or we'll into the realm of Faery,
Among the lovely shades of things;
The shadowy forms of mountains bare,
And streams, and bowers, and ladies fair,
The shades of palaces and kings!

"Or, if you thirst with hardy zeal
Less quiet regions to explore,
Prompt voyage shall to you reveal
How earth and heaven are taught to feel
The might of magic lore!"

"My little vagrant Form of light,
My gay and beautiful Canoe,
Well have you played your friendly part;
As kindly take what from my heart
Experience forces--then adieu!

"Temptation lurks among your words;
But, while these pleasures you're pursuing
Without impediment or let,
No wonder if you quite forget
What on the earth is doing.

"There was a time when all mankind
Did listen with a faith sincere
To tuneful tongues in mystery versed;
'Then' Poets fearlessly rehearsed
The wonders of a wild career.

"Go--(but the world's a sleepy world,
And 'tis, I fear, an age too late)
Take with you some ambitious Youth!
For, restless Wanderer! I, in truth,
Am all unfit to be your mate.

"Long have I loved what I behold,
The night that calms, the day that cheers;
The common growth of mother-earth
Suffices me--her tears, her mirth,
Her humblest mirth and tears.

"The dragon's wing, the magic ring,
I shall not covet for my dower,
If I along that lowly way
With sympathetic heart may stray,
And with a soul of power.

"These given, what more need I desire
To stir, to soothe, or elevate?
What nobler marvels than the mind
May in life's daily prospect find,
May find or there create?

"A potent wand doth Sorrow wield;
What spell so strong as guilty Fear!
Repentance is a tender Sprite;
If aught on earth have heavenly might,
'Tis lodged within her silent tear.

"But grant my wishes,--let us now
Descend from this ethereal height;
Then take thy way, adventurous Skiff,
More daring far than Hippogriff,
And be thy own delight!

"To the stone-table in my garden,
Loved haunt of many a summer hour,
The Squire is come: his daughter Bess
Beside him in the cool recess
Sits blooming like a flower.

"With these are many more convened;
They know not I have been so far;--
I see them there, in number nine,
Beneath the spreading Weymouth-pine!
I see them--there they are!

"There sits the Vicar and his Dame;
And there my good friend, Stephen Otter;
And, ere the light of evening fail,
To them I must relate the Tale
Of Peter Bell the Potter."

Off flew the Boat--away she flees,
Spurning her freight with indignation!
And I, as well as I was able,
On two poor legs, toward my stone-table
Limped on with sore vexation.

"O, here he is!" cried little Bess--
She saw me at the garden-door;
"We've waited anxiously and long,"
They cried, and all around me throng,
Full nine of them or more!

"Reproach me not--your fears be still--
Be thankful we again have met;--
Resume, my Friends! within the shade
Your seats, and quickly shall be paid
The well-remembered debt."

I spake with faltering voice, like one
Not wholly rescued from the pale
Of a wild dream, or worse illusion;
But, straight, to cover my confusion,
Began the promised Tale.

PART FIRST

ALL by the moonlight river side
Groaned the poor Beast--alas! in vain;
The staff was raised to loftier height,
And the blows fell with heavier weight
As Peter struck--and struck again.

"Hold!" cried the Squire, "against the rules
Of common sense you're surely sinning;
This leap is for us all too bold;
Who Peter was, let that be told,
And start from the beginning." 0

----"A Potter, Sir, he was by trade,"
Said I, becoming quite collected;
"And wheresoever he appeared,
Full twenty times was Peter feared
For once that Peter was respected.

"He, two-and-thirty years or more,
Had been a wild and woodland rover;
Had heard the Atlantic surges roar
On farthest Cornwall's rocky shore,
And trod the cliffs of Dover.

"And he had seen Caernarvon's towers,
And well he knew the spire of Sarum;
And he had been where Lincoln bell
Flings o'er the fen that ponderous knell--
A far-renowned alarum!

"At Doncaster, at York, and Leeds,
And merry Carlisle had be been;
And all along the Lowlands fair,
All through the bonny shire of Ayr
And far as Aberdeen.

"And he had been at Inverness;
And Peter, by the mountain-rills,
Had danced his round with Highland lasses;
And he had lain beside his asses
On lofty Cheviot Hills:

"And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
Among the rocks and winding 'scars',
Where deep and low the hamlets lie
Beneath their little patch of sky
And little lot of stars:

"And all along the indented coast,
Bespattered with the salt-sea foam;
Where'er a knot of houses lay
On headland, or in hollow bay;--
Sure never man like him did roam!

"As well might Peter, in the Fleet,
Have been fast bound, a begging debtor;--
He travelled here, he travelled there,--
But not the value of a hair
Was heart or head the better.

"He roved among the vales and streams,
In the green wood and hollow dell;
They were his dwellings night and day,--
But nature ne'er could find the way
Into the heart of Peter Bell.

"In vain, through every changeful year,
Did Nature lead him as before;
A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.

"Small change it made on Peter's heart
To see his gentle panniered train
With more than vernal pleasure feeding,
Where'er the tender grass was leading
Its earliest green along the lane.

"In vain, through water, earth, and air,
The soul of happy sound was spread,
When Peter on some April morn,
Beneath the broom or budding thorn,
Made the warm earth his lazy bed.

"At noon, when, by the forest's edge
He lay beneath the branches high,
The soft blue shy did never melt
Into his heart; he never felt
The witchery of the soft blue sky!

"On a fair prospect some have looked
And felt, as I have heard them say,
As if the moving time had been
A thing as steadfast as the scene
On which they gazed themselves away.

"Within the breast of Peter Bell
These silent raptures found no place;
He was a Carl as wild and rude
As ever hue-and-cry pursued,
As ever ran a felon's race.

"Of all that lead a lawless life,
Of all that love their lawless lives,
In city or in village small,
He was the wildest far of all;--
He had a dozen wedded wives.

"Nay, start not!--wedded wives--and twelve!
But how one wife could e'er come near him,
In simple truth I cannot tell;
For, be it said of Peter Bell
To see him was to fear him.

"Though Nature could not touch his heart
By lovely forms, and silent weather,
And tender sounds, yet you might see
At once, that Peter Bell and she
Had often been together.

"A savage wildness round him hung
As of a dweller out of doors;
In his whole figure and his mien
A savage character was seen
Of mountains and of dreary moors.

"To all the unshaped half-human thoughts
Which solitary Nature feeds
'Mid summer storms or winter's ice,
Had Peter joined whatever vice
The cruel city breeds. 0

"His face was keen as is the wind
That cuts along the hawthorn-fence;--
Of courage you saw little there,
But, in its stead, a medley air
Of cunning and of impudence.

"He had a dark and sidelong walk,
And long and slouching was his gait;
Beneath his looks so bare and bold,
You might perceive, his spirit cold
Was playing with some inward bait.

"His forehead wrinkled was and furred;
A work, one half of which was done
By thinking of his 'whens' and 'hows;'
And half, by knitting of his brows
Beneath the glaring sun.

"There was a hardness in his cheek,
There was a hardness in his eye,
As if the man had fixed his face,
In many a solitary place,
Against the wind and open sky!"

ONE NIGHT, (and now my little Bess!
We've reached at last the promised Tale:)
One beautiful November night,
When the full moon was shining bright
Upon the rapid river Swale,

Along the river's winding banks
Peter was travelling all alone;--
Whether to buy or sell, or led
By pleasure running in his head,
To me was never known.

He trudged along through copse and brake,
He trudged along o'er hill and dale;
Nor for the moon cared he a tittle,
And for the stars he cared as little,
And for the murmuring river Swale.

But, chancing to espy a path
That promised to cut short the way
As many a wiser man hath done,
He left a trusty guide for one
That might his steps betray.

To a thick wood he soon is brought
Where cheerily his course he weaves,
And whistling loud may yet be heard,
Though often buried, like a bird
Darkling, among the boughs and leaves.

But quickly Peter's mood is changed,
And on he drives with cheeks that burn
In downright fury and in wrath;--
There's little sign the treacherous path
Will to the road return!

The path grows dim, and dimmer still;
Now up, now down, the Rover wends,
With all the sail that he can carry,
Till brought to a deserted quarry--
And there the pathway ends.

He paused--for shadows of strange shape,
Massy and black, before him lay;
But through the dark, and through the cold,
And through the yawning fissures old,
Did Peter boldly press his way

Right through the quarry;--and behold
A scene of soft and lovely hue!
Where blue and grey, and tender green,
Together make as sweet a scene
As ever human eye did view.

Beneath the clear blue sky he saw
A little field of meadow ground;
But field or meadow name it not;
Call it of earth a small green plot,
With rocks encompassed round,

The Swale flowed under the grey rocks,
But he flowed quiet and unseen;--
You need a strong and stormy gale
To bring the noises of the Swale
To that green spot, so calm and green!

And is there no one dwelling here,
No hermit with his beads and glass?
And does no little cottage look
Upon this soft and fertile nook?
Does no one live near this green grass?

Across the deep and quiet spot
Is Peter driving through the grass--
And now has reached the skirting trees;
When, turning round his head, he sees
A solitary Ass.

"A Prize!" cries Peter--but he first
Must spy about him far and near:
There's not a single house in sight,
No woodman's hut, no cottage light--
Peter, you need not fear!

There's nothing to be seen but woods,
And rocks that spread a hoary gleam,
And this one Beast, that from the bed
Of the green meadow hangs his head
Over the silent stream.

His head is with a halter bound;
The halter seizing, Peter leapt
Upon the Creature's back, and plied
With ready heels his shaggy side;
But still the Ass his station kept. 0

Then Peter gave a sudden jerk,
A jerk that from a dungeon-floor
Would have pulled up an iron ring;
But still the heavy-headed Thing
Stood just as he had stood before!

Quoth Peter, leaping from his seat,
"There is some plot against me laid;"
Once more the little meadow-ground
And all the hoary cliffs around
He cautiously surveyed,

All, all is silent--rocks and woods,
All still and silent--far and near!
Only the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turns round his long left ear.

Thought Peter, What can mean all this?
Some ugly witchcraft must be here!
--Once more the Ass, with motion dull,
Upon the pivot of his skull
Turned round his long left ear.

Suspicion ripened into dread;
Yet with deliberate action slow,
His staff high-raising, in the pride
Of skill, upon the sounding hide,
He dealt a sturdy blow.

The poor Ass staggered with the shock;
And then, as if to take his ease,
In quiet uncomplaining mood,
Upon the spot where he had stood,
Dropped gently down upon his knees:

As gently on his side he fell;
And by the river's brink did lie;
And, while he lay like one that mourned,
The patient Beast on Peter turned
His shining hazel eye.

'Twas but one mild, reproachful look,
A look more tender than severe;
And straight in sorrow, not in dread,
He turned the eye-ball in his head
Towards the smooth river deep and clear.

Upon the Beast the sapling rings;
His lank sides heaved, his limbs they stirred;
He gave a groan, and then another,
Of that which went before the brother,
And then he gave a third.

All by the moonlight river side
He gave three miserable groans;
And not till now hath Peter seen
How gaunt the Creature is,--how lean
And sharp his staring bones!

With legs stretched out and stiff he lay:--
No word of kind commiseration
Fell at the sight from Peter's tongue;
With hard contempt his heart was wrung,
With hatred and vexation.

The meagre beast lay still as death;
And Peter's lips with fury quiver;
Quoth he, "You little mulish dog,
I'll fling your carcase like a log
Head-foremost down the river!"

An impious oath confirmed the threat--
Whereat from the earth on which he lay
To all the echoes, south and north,
And east and west, the Ass sent forth
A long and clamorous bray!

This outcry, on the heart of Peter,
Seems like a note of joy to strike,--
Joy at the heart of Peter knocks;
But in the echo of the rocks
Was something Peter did not like.

Whether to cheer his coward breast,
Or that he could not break the chain,
In this serene and solemn hour,
Twined round him by demoniac power,
To the blind work he turned again.

Among the rocks and winding crags;
Among the mountains far away;
Once more the ass did lengthen out
More ruefully a deep-drawn shout,
The hard dry see-saw of his horrible bray!

What is there now in Peter's heart!
Or whence the might of this strange sound?
The moon uneasy looked and dimmer,
The broad blue heavens appeared to glimmer,
And the rocks staggered all around--

From Peter's hand the sapling dropped!
Threat has he none to execute;
"If any one should come and see
That I am here, they'll think," quoth he,
"I'm helping this poor dying brute."

He scans the Ass from limb to limb,
And ventures now to uplift his eyes;
More steady looks the moon, and clear
More like themselves the rocks appear
And touch more quiet skies.

His scorn returns--his hate revives;
He stoops the Ass's neck to seize
With malice--that again takes flight;
For in the pool a startling sight
Meets him, among the inverted trees. 0

Is it the moon's distorted face?
The ghost-like image of a cloud?
Is it a gallows there portrayed?
Is Peter of himself afraid?
Is it a coffin,--or a shroud?

A grisly idol hewn in stone?
Or imp from witch's lap let fall?
Perhaps a ring of shining fairies?
Such as pursue their feared vagaries
In sylvan bower, or haunted hall?

Is it a fiend that to a stake
Of fire his desperate self is tethering?
Or stubborn spirit doomed to yell
In solitary ward or cell,
Ten thousand miles from all his brethren?

Never did pulse so quickly throb,
And never heart so loudly panted;
He looks, he cannot choose but look;
Like some one reading in a book--
A book that is enchanted.

Ah, well-a-day for Peter Bell!
He will be turned to iron soon,
Meet Statue for the court of Fear!
His hat is up--and every hair
Bristles, and whitens in the moon!

He looks, he ponders, looks again;
He sees a motion--hears a groan;
His eyes will burst--his heart will break--
He gives a loud and frightful shriek,
And back he falls, as if his life were flown!

PART SECOND

WE left our Hero in a trance,
Beneath the alders, near the river;
The Ass is by the river-side,
And, where the feeble breezes glide,
Upon the stream the moonbeams quiver.

A happy respite! but at length
He feels the glimmering of the moon;
Wakes with glazed eve. and feebly signing--
To sink, perhaps, where he is lying,
Into a second swoon!

He lifts his head, he sees his staff;
He touches--'tis to him a treasure!
Faint recollection seems to tell
That he is yet where mortals dwell--
A thought received with languid pleasure!

His head upon his elbow propped,
Becoming less and less perplexed,
Sky-ward he looks--to rock and wood--
And then--upon the glassy flood
His wandering eye is fixed.

Thought he, that is the face of one
In his last sleep securely bound!
So toward the stream his head he bent,
And downward thrust his staff, intent
The river's depth to sound.

'Now'--like a tempest-shattered bark,
That overwhelmed and prostrate lies,
And in a moment to the verge
Is lifted of a foaming surge--
Full suddenly the Ass doth rise!

His staring bones all shake with joy,
And close by Peter's side he stands:
While Peter o'er the river bends,
The little Ass his neck extends,
And fondly licks his hands.

Such life is in the Ass's eyes,
Such life is in his limbs and ears;
That Peter Bell, if he had been
The veriest coward ever seen,
Must now have thrown aside his fears.

The Ass looks on--and to his work
Is Peter quietly resigned;
He touches here--he touches there--
And now among the dead man's hair
His sapling Peter has entwined.

He pulls--and looks--and pulls again;
And he whom the poor Ass had lost,
The man who had been four days dead,
Head-foremost from the river's bed
Uprises like a ghost!

And Peter draws him to dry land;
And through the brain of Peter pass
Some poignant twitches, fast and faster,
"No doubt," quoth he, "he is the Master
Of this poor miserable Ass!"

The meagre Shadow that looks on--
What would he now? what is he doing?
His sudden fit of joy is flown,--
He on his knees hath laid him down,
As if he were his grief renewing;

But no--that Peter on his back
Must mount, he shows well as he can:
Thought Peter then, come weal or woe,
I'll do what he would have me do,
In pity to this poor drowned man.

With that resolve he boldly mounts
Upon the pleased and thankful Ass;
And then, without a moment's stay,
That earnest Creature turned away
Leaving the body on the grass. 0

Intent upon his faithful watch,
The Beast four days and nights had past;
A sweeter meadow ne'er was seen,
And there the Ass four days had been,
Nor ever once did break his fast:

Yet firm his step, and stout his heart;
The mead is crossed--the quarry's mouth
Is reached; but there the trusty guide
Into a thicket turns aside,
And deftly ambles towards the south.

When hark a burst of doleful sound!
And Peter honestly might say,
The like came never to his ears,
Though he has been, full thirty years,
A rover--night and day!

'Tis not a plover of the moors,
'Tis not a bittern of the fen;
Nor can it be a barking fox,
Nor night-bird chambered in the rocks,
Nor wild-cat in a woody glen!

The Ass is startled--and stops short
Right in the middle of the thicket;
And Peter, wont to whistle loud
Whether alone or in a crowd,
Is silent as a silent cricket.

What ails you now, my little Bess?
Well may you tremble and look grave!
This cry--that rings along the wood,
This cry--that floats adown the flood,
Comes from the entrance of a cave:

I see a blooming Wood-boy there,
And if I had the power to say
How sorrowful the wanderer is,
Your heart would be as sad as his
Till you had kissed his tears away!

Grasping a hawthorn branch in hand,
All bright with berries ripe and red,
Into the cavern's mouth he peeps;
Thence back into the moonlight creeps;
Whom seeks he--whom?--the silent dead:

His father!--Him doth he require--
Him hath he sought with fruitless pains,
Among the rocks, behind the trees;
Now creeping on his hands and knees,
Now running o'er the open plains.

And hither is he come at last,
When he through such a day has gone,
By this dark cave to be distrest
Like a poor bird--her plundered nest
Hovering around with dolorous moan!

Of that intense and piercing cry
The listening Ass conjectures well;
Wild as it is, he there can read
Some intermingled notes that plead
With touches irresistible.

But Peter--when he saw the Ass
Not only stop but turn, and change
The cherished tenor of his pace
That lamentable cry to chase--
It wrought in him conviction strange;

A faith that, for the dead man's sake
And this poor slave who loved him well,
Vengeance upon his head will fall,
Some visitation worse than all
Which ever till this night befell.

Meanwhile the Ass to reach his home,
Is striving stoutly as he may;
But, while he climbs the woody hill,
The cry grows weak--and weaker still;
And now at last it dies away.

So with his freight the Creature turns
Into a gloomy grove of beech,
Along the shade with footsteps true
Descending slowly, till the two
The open moonlight reach.

And there, along the narrow dell,
A fair smooth pathway you discern,
A length of green and open road--
As if it from a fountain flowed--
Winding away between the fern.

The rocks that tower on either side
Build up a wild fantastic scene;
Temples like those among the Hindoos,
And mosques, and spires, and abbey windows,
And castles all with ivy green!

And, while the Ass pursues his way,
Along this solitary dell,
As pensively his steps advance,
The mosques and spires change countenance
And look at Peter Bell!

That unintelligible cry
Hath left him high in preparation,--
Convinced that he, or soon or late,
This very night will meet his fate--
And so he sits in expectation!

The strenuous Animal hath clomb
With the green path; and now he wends
Where, shining like the smoothest sea,
In undisturbed immensity
A level plain extends. 0

But whence this faintly-rustling sound
By which the journeying pair are chased?
--A withered leaf is close behind,
Light plaything for the sportive wind
Upon that solitary waste.

When Peter spied the moving thing,
It only doubled his distress;
"Where there is not a bush or tree,
The very leaves they follow me--
So huge hath been my wickedness!"

To a close lane they now are come,
Where, as before, the enduring Ass
Moves on without a moment's stop,
Nor once turns round his head to crop
A bramble-leaf or blade of grass.

Between the hedges as they go,
The white dust sleeps upon the lane;
And Peter, ever and anon
Back-looking, sees, upon a stone,
Or in the dust, a crimson stain.

A stain--as of a drop of blood
By moonlight made more faint and wan;
Ha! why these sinkings of despair?
He knows not how the blood comes there--
And Peter is a wicked man.

At length he spies a bleeding wound,
Where he had struck the Ass's head;
He sees the blood, knows what it is,--
A glimpse of sudden joy was his,
But then it quickly fled;

Of him whom sudden death had seized
He thought,--of thee, O faithful Ass!
And once again those ghastly pains,
Shoot to and fro through heart and reins,
And through his brain like lightning pass.

PART THIRD

I'VE heard of one, a gentle Soul,
Though given to sadness and to gloom,
And for the fact will vouch,--one night
It chanced that by a taper's light
This man was reading in his room;

Bending, as you or I might bend
At night o'er any pious book,
When sudden blackness overspread
The snow-white page on which he read,
And made the good man round him look.

The chamber walls were dark all round,--
And to his book he turned again;
--The light had left the lonely taper,
And formed itself upon the paper
Into large letters--bright and plain!

The godly book was in his hand--
And, on the page, more black than coal,
Appeared, set forth in strange array,
A 'word'--which to his dying day
Perplexed the good man's gentle soul.

The ghostly word, thus plainly seen,
Did never from his lips depart;
But he hath said, poor gentle wight!
It brought full many a sin to light
Out of the bottom of his heart.

Dread Spirits! to confound the meek
Why wander from your course so far,
Disordering colour, form, and stature!
--Let good men feel the soul of nature,
And see things as they are.

Yet, potent Spirits! well I know,
How ye, that play with soul and sense,
Are not unused to trouble friends
Of goodness, for most gracious ends--
And this I speak in reverence!

But might I give advice to you,
Whom in my fear I love so well;
From men of pensive virtue go,
Dread Beings! and your empire show
On hearts like that of Peter Bell.

Your presence often have I felt
In darkness and the stormy night;
And, with like force, if need there be,
Ye can put forth your agency
When earth is calm, and heaven is bright.

Then, coming from the wayward world,
That powerful world in which ye dwell,
Come, Spirits of the Mind! and try
To-night, beneath the moonlight sky,
What may be done with Peter Bell!

--O, would that some more skilful voice
My further labour might prevent!
Kind Listeners, that around me sit,
I feel that I am all unfit
For such high argument.

I've played, I've danced, with my narration;
I loitered long ere I began:
Ye waited then on my good pleasure;
Pour out indulgence still, in measure
As liberal as ye can!

Our Travellers, ye remember well,
Are thridding a sequestered lane;
And Peter many tricks is trying,
And many anodynes applying,
To ease his conscience of its pain. 0

By this his heart is lighter far;
And, finding that he can account
So snugly for that crimson stain,
His evil spirit up again
Does like an empty bucket mount.

And Peter is a deep logician
Who hath no lack of wit mercurial;
"Blood drops--leaves rustle--yet," quoth he,
"This poor man never, but for me,
Could have had Christian burial.

"And, say the best you can, 'tis plain,
That here has been some wicked dealing;
No doubt the devil in me wrought;
I'm not the man who could have thought
An Ass like this was worth the stealing!"

So from his pocket Peter takes
His shining horn tobacco-box;
And, in a light and careless way,
As men who with their purpose play,
Upon the lid he knocks.

Let them whose voice can stop the clouds,
Whose cunning eye can see the wind,
Tell to a curious world the cause
Why, making here a sudden pause,
The Ass turned round his head, and 'grinned'.

Appalling process! I have marked
The like on heath, in lonely wood;
And, verily, have seldom met
A spectacle more hideous--yet
It suited Peter's present mood.

And, grinning in his turn, his teeth
He in jocose defiance showed--
When, to upset his spiteful mirth,
A murmur, pent within the earth,
In the dead earth beneath the road

Rolled audibly! it swept along,
A muffled noise--a rumbling sound!--
'Twas by a troop of miners made,
Plying with gunpowder their trade,
Some twenty fathoms under ground.

Small cause of dire effect! for, surely,
If ever mortal, King or Cotter,
Believed that earth was charged to quake
And yawn for his unworthy sake,
'Twas Peter Bell the Potter.

But, as an oak in breathless air
Will stand though to the centre hewn;
Or as the weakest things, if frost
Have stiffened them, maintain their post;
So he, beneath the gazing moon!--

The Beast bestriding thus, he reached
A spot where, in a sheltering cove,
A little chapel stands alone,
With greenest ivy overgrown,
And tufted with an ivy grove;

Dying insensibly away
From human thoughts and purposes,
It seemed--wall, window, roof and tower--
To bow to some transforming power,
And blend with the surrounding trees.

As ruinous a place it was,
Thought Peter, in the shire of Fife
That served my turn, when following still
From land to land a reckless will
I married my sixth wife!

The unheeding Ass moves slowly on,
And now is passing by an inn
Brim-full of a carousing crew,
That make, with curses not a few,
An uproar and a drunken din.

I cannot well express the thoughts
Which Peter in those noises found;--
A stifling power compressed his frame,
While-as a swimming darkness came
Over that dull and dreary sound.

For well did Peter know the sound;
The language of those drunken joys
To him, a jovial soul, I ween,
But a few hours ago, had been
A gladsome and a welcome noise.

'Now', turned adrift into the past,
He finds no solace in his course;
Like planet-stricken men of yore,
He trembles, smitten to the core
By strong compunction and remorse.

But, more than all, his heart is stung
To think of one, almost a child;
A sweet and playful Highland girl,
As light and beauteous as a squirrel,
As beauteous and as wild!

Her dwelling was a lonely house,
A cottage in a heathy dell;
And she put on her gown of green,
And left her mother at sixteen,
And followed Peter Bell.

But many good and pious thoughts
Had she; and, in the kirk to pray,
Two long Scotch miles, through rain or snow
To kirk she had been used to go,
Twice every Sabbath-day. 0

And, when she followed Peter Bell,
It was to lead an honest life;
For he, with tongue not used to falter,
Had pledged his troth before the altar
To love her as his wedded wife.

A mother's hope is hers;--but soon
She drooped and pined like one forlorn;
From Scripture she a name did borrow;
Benoni, or the child of sorrow,
She called her babe unborn.

For she had learned how Peter lived,
And took it in most grievous part;
She to the very bone was worn,
And, ere that little child was born,
Died of a broken heart.

And now the Spirits of the Mind
Are busy with poor Peter Bell;
Upon the rights of visual sense
Usurping, with a prevalence
More terrible than magic spell.

Close by a brake of flowering furze
(Above it shivering aspens play)
He sees an unsubstantial creature,
His very self in form and feature,
Not four yards from the broad highway:

And stretched beneath the furze he sees
The Highland girl--it is no other;
And hears her crying as she cried,
The very moment that she died,
"My mother! oh my mother!"

The sweat pours down from Peter's face,
So grievous is his heart's contrition;
With agony his eye-balls ache
While he beholds by the furze-brake
This miserable vision!

Calm is the well-deserving brute,
'His' peace hath no offence betrayed;
But now, while down that slope he wends,
A voice to Peter's ear ascends,
Resounding from the woody glade:

The voice, though clamorous as a horn
Re-echoed by a naked rock,
Comes from that tabernacle--List!
Within, a fervent Methodist
Is preaching to no heedless flock!

"Repent! repent!" he cries aloud,
"While yet ye may find mercy;--strive
To love the Lord with all your might;
Turn to him, seek him day and night,
And save your souls alive!

"Repent! repent! though ye have gone,
Through paths of wickedness and woe,
After the Babylonian harlot;
And, though your sins be red as scarlet,
They shall be white as snow!"

Even as he passed the door, these words
Did plainly come to Peter's ears;
And they such joyful tidings were,
The joy was more than he could bear!--
He melted into tears.

Sweet tears of hope and tenderness!
And fast they fell, a plenteous shower!
His nerves, his sinews seemed to melt;
Through all his iron frame was felt
A gentle, a relaxing, power!

Each fibre of his frame was weak;
Weak all the animal within;
But, in its helplessness, grew mild
And gentle as an infant child,
An infant that has known no sin.

'Tis said, meek Beast! that, through Heaven's grace,
He not unmoved did notice now
The cross upon thy shoulder scored,
For lasting impress, by the Lord
To whom all human-kind shall bow;

Memorial of his touch--that day
When Jesus humbly deigned to ride,
Entering the proud Jerusalem,
By an immeasurable stream
Of shouting people deified!

Meanwhile the persevering Ass,
Turned towards a gate that hung in view
Across a shady lane; his chest
Against the yielding gate he pressed
And quietly passed through.

And up the stony lane he goes;
No ghost more softly ever trod;
Among the stones and pebbles, he
Sets down his hoofs inaudibly,
As if with felt his hoofs were shod.

Along the lane the trusty Ass
Went twice two hundred yards or more,
And no one could have guessed his aim,--
Till to a lonely house he came,
And stopped beside the door.

Thought Peter, 'tis the poor man's home!
He listens--not a sound is heard
Save from the trickling household rill;
But, stepping o'er the cottage-sill,
Forthwith a little Girl appeared. 00

She to the Meeting-house was bound
In hopes some tidings there to gather:
No glimpse it is, no doubtful gleam;
She saw--and uttered with a scream,
"My father! here's my father!"

The very word was plainly heard,
Heard plainly by the wretched Mother--
Her joy was like a deep affright:
And forth she rushed into the light,
And saw it was another! 10

And, instantly, upon the earth,
Beneath the full moon shining bright,
Close to the Ass's feet she fell;
At the same moment Peter Bell
Dismounts in most unhappy plight.

As he beheld the Woman lie
Breathless and motionless, the mind
Of Peter sadly was confused;
But, though to such demands unused,
And helpless almost as the blind,

He raised her up; and, while he held
Her body propped against his knee,
The Woman waked--and when she spied
The poor Ass standing by her side,
She moaned most bitterly.

"Oh! God be praised--my heart's at ease--
For he is dead--I know it well!"
--At this she wept a bitter flood;
And, in the best way that he could,
His tale did Peter tell.

He trembles--he is pale as death;
His voice is weak with perturbation;
He turns aside his head, he pauses;
Poor Peter, from a thousand causes,
Is crippled sore in his narration.

At length she learned how he espied
The Ass in that small meadow-ground;
And that her Husband now lay dead,
Beside that luckless river's bed
In which he had been drowned.

A piercing look the Widow cast
Upon the Beast that near her stands;
She sees 'tis he, that 'tis the same;
She calls the poor Ass by his name,
And wrings, and wrings her hands.

"O wretched loss--untimely stroke!
If he had died upon his bed!
He knew not one forewarning pain;
He never will come home again--
Is dead, for ever dead!"

Beside the woman Peter stands;
His heart is opening more and more;
A holy sense pervades his mind;
He feels what he for human kind
Had never felt before.

At length, by Peter's arm sustained,
The Woman rises from the ground--
"Oh, mercy! something must be done,
My little Rachel, you must run,--
Some willing neighbour must be found.

"Make haste--my little Rachel--do,
The first you meet with--bid him come,
Ask him to lend his horse to-night,
And this good Man, whom Heaven requite,
Will help to bring the body home."

Away goes Rachel weeping loud;--
An Infant, waked by her distress,
Makes in the house a piteous cry;
And Peter hears the Mother sigh,
"Seven are they, and all fatherless!"

And now is Peter taught to feel
That man's heart is a holy thing;
And Nature, through a world of death,
Breathes into him a second breath,
More searching than the breath of spring.

Upon a stone the Woman sits
In agony of silent grief--
From his own thoughts did Peter start;
He longs to press her to his heart,
From love that cannot find relief.

But roused, as if through every limb
Had past a sudden shock of dread,
The Mother o'er the threshold flies,
And up the cottage stairs she hies,
And on the pillow lays her burning head.

And Peter turns his steps aside
Into a shade of darksome trees,
Where he sits down, he knows not how,
With his hands pressed against his brow,
His elbows on his tremulous knees.

There, self-involved, does Peter sit
Until no sign of life he makes,
As if his mind were sinking deep
Through years that have been long asleep
The trance is passed away--he wakes;

He lifts his head--and sees the Ass
Yet standing in the clear moonshine;
"When shall I be as good as thou?
Oh! would, poor beast, that I had now
A heart but half as good as thine!" 0

But 'He'--who deviously hath sought
His Father through the lonesome woods,
Hath sought, proclaiming to the ear
Of night his grief and sorrowful fear--
He comes, escaped from fields and floods;--

With weary pace is drawing nigh;
He sees the Ass--and nothing living
Had ever such a fit of joy
As hath this little orphan Boy,
For he has no misgiving!

Forth to the gentle Ass he springs,
And up about his neck he climbs;
In loving words he talks to him,
He kisses, kisses face and limb,--
He kisses him a thousand times!

This Peter sees, while in the shade
He stood beside the cottage-door;
And Peter Bell, the ruffian wild,
Sobs loud, he sobs even like a child,
"O God! I can endure no more!"

--Here ends my Tale: for in a trice
Arrived a neighbour with his horse;
Peter went forth with him straightway;
And, with due care, ere break of day,
Together they brought back the Corse.

And many years did this poor Ass,
Whom once it was my luck to see
Cropping the shrubs of Leming-Lane,
Help by his labour to maintain
The Widow and her family.

And Peter Bell, who, till that night,
Had been the wildest of his clan,
Forsook his crimes, renounced his folly,
And, after ten months' melancholy,
Became a good and honest man.

poem by Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Poetry Lover
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Fourth Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Lady Waldemar is good.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share
 

Search


Recent searches | Top searches