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Heights Of Folly

O crows circling over my head and cawing!
I admit to being, at times,
Suddenly, and without the slightest warning,
Exceedingly happy.

On a morning otherwise sunless,
Strolling arm in arm
Past some gallows-shaped trees
With my dear Helen,
Who is also a strange bird,

With a feeling of being summoned
Urgently, but by a most gracious invitation
To breakfast on slices of watermelon
In the company of naked gods and goddesses
On a patch of last night's snow.

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Its Over My Head

You couldve had anyone you wanted
That just goes to show how crazy love can be
Look at us now baby who would have thought it
I dont know why you chose me
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
You could be riding in a big mercedes
But here you are with me in a pickup truck
I never had a way with the ladies
So howd I fool ol ladyluck
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
Lovin you comes easy girl my heard is in your hands
Its why you take a chance on me that I cant understand
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
Its over my head and Im six feet tall

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Its Over My Head

You couldve had anyone you wanted
That just goes to show how crazy love can be
Look at us now baby who would have thought it
I dont know why you chose me
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
You could be riding in a big mercedes
But here you are with me in a pickup truck
I never had a way with the ladies
So howd I fool ol ladyluck
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
Lovin you comes easy girl my heard is in your hands
Its why you take a chance on me that I cant understand
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
This beats anything I ever saw
Well I dont see what you see in me at all
Its over my head and Im six feet tall
Its over my head and Im six feet tall

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Late Last Night

how can i forget
things that embrace me
not for the last time
i am hooked to you
like a fish, i swallowed all
line and sinker
you caught me last night
i was lovely
and i did not give
any struggle
at all.

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Last Night A DJ Saved My

DJ Clue

Last night a DJ saved my life
Last night a DJ saved my life
Cause I was sittin' there bored to death
And in just one breath he said
You gotta get up
You gotta get on
You gotta get down girl
You know you drive me crazy baby
You've got me turning to another man
Called you on the phone
No one's home
Baby why ya leave me all alone
And if it wasn't for the music
I don't know what I'd do

Last night a DJ saved my life
Last night a DJ saved my life from a broken heart
Last night a DJ saved my life
Last night a DJ saved my life with a song

You know I hopped into my car
Didn't get very far no
Because I had you on my mind
Why be so unkind?
You've got your women all around
All around this town

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Where Were You Last Night

Where were you last night?
You were so uptight
What did you do, who did you see?
Were you with someone
Who reminded you of me?
Where were you last night?
Where were you last week?
Were you up a creek?
Did you stay up pacing the floor?
Got me worried
You ignore me more and more
Where were you last night?
You werent around me
When they found me
Where were you last night?
Youd better stop your messin around
Your name is going round from town to town
Its making me sad
Making me feel bad
Where were you last night?
Where were you last year?
Youre sure as [...]
You werent waiting where you said
You sent someone in your place instead
Where were you last night?
Its getting to me
Making me gloomy
Where were you last night?

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Last Night I Dreamed Of Heaven

LAST NIGHT I DREAMED OF HEAVEN
WRITER HANK WILLIAMS
Last night I dreamed of heaven and I saw my mother there
Standing with all the angels on a golden stair
I thought I heard her whisper welcome home my boy
Last night I dreamed of heaven and it filled my heart with joy
I heard the angels singing songs of peace and rest
And then there was a silence
Each eye looked toward the west
There sat my Saviour on his golden throne
Last night I dreamed of heaven my eternal home sweet home
Last night I dreamed of heaven that land so pure and sweet
And the joy within me made my glad heart weep
I was there with my Saviour free from grief and strife
Last night I dreamed of heaven the land of eternal life
I heard the angels singing songs of peace and rest
And then there was a silence
Each eye looked toward the west
There sat my Saviour on his golden throne
Last night I dreamed of heaven my eternal home sweet home

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Last Night

Orbison/melson
Last night, last night, last night, you loved me, how you loved me
Oh, you made me love you last night
Oh how you teased me like you did it, when you did it last night
Pleased me like you did it, when you did it last night
You stole my heart away from me last night
Holding you tight, did it mean as much to you as it meant to me, last night
Were you just lonely, was i just a friend?, did you want me only, or did you pretend?
Was it just one night to hold you tight? then make tonight just like last night
Come on and love me like you did it, when you did it last night
Hold me like you did it when you did it last night
I want you to stay and love me all the way
Say sweet things to me like you said last night, hang on so tight
Now it's alright, just like last night i feel so fine now, you are mine now
Yeah, just like last night, yeah kiss me like you did it
When you did it last night, yeah, touch me like you did it
When you did it last night, ah love me like you did it
When you did it last night, last night

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(Love Me Like You Did) Last Night

Last night, last night, last night, you loved me, how you loved me
Oh, you made me love you last night
Oh how you teased me like you did it, when you did it last night
Pleased me like you did it, when you did it last night
You stole my heart away from me last night
Holding you tight, did it mean as much to you as it meant to me, last night
Were you just lonely, was I just a friend?, did you want me only, or did you pretend?
Was it just one night to hold you tight? then make tonight just like last night
Come on and love me like you did it, when you did it last night
Hold me like you did it when you did it last night
I want you to stay and love me all the way
Say sweet things to me like you said last night, hang on so tight
Now it's alright, just like last night I feel so fine now, you are mine now
Yeah, just like last night, yeah kiss me like you did it
When you did it last night, yeah, touch me like you did it
When you did it last night, ah love me like you did it
When you did it last night, last night

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Last Night I Was Talking To Myself

last night i was talking to myself
asking and making answers
like the way i make a knot and
then untie them from a cemented
post at the port
so that the wooden boat
may finally be let loose
and be free to sail
to its chosen destination

the sea was so wide
like all seas that you have seen
but the night was so dark
like no other

last night i was formulating solutions
to a very common problem
like how to cure a cold
with just a glass of water
like how to appease the coldness
of a room with nothing but
a piece of a woolen blanket
and curling feet and
hiding hands in my pocket
so i can have the exact warmth
so i may finally have my much
needed sleep and
dream about the peace
between the clouds
and the stars

last night i could not sleep
and you are beside me
last night i opened the window
of our room while you
were there snoring
last night i was silently
talking about the absence of
stars the loss of the moon

and then the rain fell
heavily on the roof of this house
and then i closed the windows
and then i listened to every sound
and then i noticed a faint light coming
from a leak of these walls

i know
another morning has finally
come
it is broken they say.

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William Butler Yeats

A Woman Young And Old

I
FATHER AND CHILD
SHE hears me strike the board and say
That she is under ban
Of all good men and women,
Being mentioned with a man
That has the worst of all bad names;
And thereupon replies
That his hair is beautiful,
Cold as the March wind his eyes.

II
BEFORE THE WORLD WAS MADE

IF I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity's displayed:
I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.
What if I look upon a man
As though on my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I'd have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

III
A FIRST CONFESSION

I ADMIT the briar
Entangled in my hair
Did not injure me;
My blenching and trembling,
Nothing but dissembling,
Nothing but coquetry.
I long for truth, and yet
I cannot stay from that
My better self disowns,
For a man's attention
Brings such satisfaction
To the craving in my bones.
Brightness that I pull back
From the Zodiac,
Why those questioning eyes
That are fixed upon me?
What can they do but shun me
If empty night replies?

IV
HER TRIUMPH

I DID the dragon's will until you came
Because I had fancied love a casual
Improvisation, or a settled game
That followed if I let the kerchief fall:
Those deeds were best that gave the minute wings
And heavenly music if they gave it wit;
And then you stood among the dragon-rings.
I mocked, being crazy, but you mastered it
And broke the chain and set my ankles free,
Saint George or else a pagan Perseus;
And now we stare astonished at the sea,
And a miraculous strange bird shrieks at us.

V

CONSOLATION

O BUT there is wisdom
In what the sages said;
But stretch that body for a while
And lay down that head
Till I have told the sages
Where man is comforted.
How could passion run so deep
Had I never thought
That the crime of being born
Blackens all our lot?
But where the crime's committed
The crime can be forgot.

VI
CHOSEN

THE lot of love is chosen. I learnt that much
Struggling for an image on the track
Of the whirling Zodiac.
Scarce did he my body touch,
Scarce sank he from the west
Or found a subtetranean rest
On the maternal midnight of my breast
Before I had marked him on his northern way,
And seemed to stand although in bed I lay.
I struggled with the horror of daybreak,
I chose it for my lot! If questioned on
My utmost pleasure with a man
By some new-married bride, I take
That stillness for a theme
Where his heart my heart did seem
And both adrift on the miraculous stream
Where -- wrote a learned astrologer --
The Zodiac is changed into a sphere.

VII
PARTING
i{He.} Dear, I must be gone
While night Shuts the eyes
Of the household spies;
That song announces dawn.
i{She.} No, night's bird and love's
Bids all true lovers rest,
While his loud song reproves
The murderous stealth of day.
i{He.} Daylight already flies
From mountain crest to crest
i{She.} That light is from the moom.
i{He.} That bird...
i{She.} Let him sing on,
I offer to love's play
My dark declivities.

VIII
HER VISION IN THE WOOD

DRY timber under that rich foliage,
At wine-dark midnight in the sacred wood,
Too old for a man's love I stood in rage
Imagining men. Imagining that I could
A greater with a lesser pang assuage
Or but to find if withered vein ran blood,
I tore my body that its wine might cover
Whatever could rccall the lip of lover.
And after that I held my fingers up,
Stared at the wine-dark nail, or dark that ran
Down every withered finger from the top;
But the dark changed to red, and torches shone,
And deafening music shook the leaves; a troop
Shouldered a litter with a wounded man,
Or smote upon the string and to the sound
Sang of the beast that gave the fatal wound.
All stately women moving to a song
With loosened hair or foreheads grief-distraught,
It seemed a Quattrocento painter's throng,
A thoughtless image of Mantegna's thought --
Why should they think that are for ever young?
Till suddenly in grief's contagion caught,
I stared upon his blood-bedabbled breast
And sang my malediction with the rest.
That thing all blood and mire, that beast-torn wreck,
Half turned and fixed a glazing eye on mine,
And, though love's bitter-sweet had all come back,
Those bodies from a picture or a coin
Nor saw my body fall nor heard it shriek,
Nor knew, drunken with singing as with wine,
That they had brought no fabulous symbol there
But my heart's victim and its torturer.

IX
A LAST CONFESSION

WHAT lively lad most pleasured me
Of all that with me lay?
I answer that I gave my soul
And loved in misery,
But had great pleasure with a lad
That I loved bodily.
Flinging from his arms I laughed
To think his passion such
He fancied that I gave a soul
Did but our bodies touch,
And laughed upon his breast to think
Beast gave beast as much.
I gave what other women gave
'That stepped out of their clothes.
But when this soul, its body off,
Naked to naked goes,
He it has found shall find therein
What none other knows,
And give his own and take his own
And rule in his own right;
And though it loved in misery
Close and cling so tight,
There's not a bird of day that dare
Extinguish that delight.

X
MEETING

HIDDEN by old age awhile
In masker's cloak and hood,
Each hating what the other loved,
Face to face we stood:
'That I have met with such,' said he,
'Bodes me little good.'
'Let others boast their fill,' said I,
'But never dare to boast
That such as I had such a man
For lover in the past;
Say that of living men I hate
Such a man the most.'
'A loony'd boast of such a love,'
He in his rage declared:
But such as he for such as me --
Could we both discard
This beggarly habiliment --
Had found a sweeter word.

XI
FROM THE 'ANTIGONE'

OVERCOME -- O bitter sweetness,
Inhabitant of the soft cheek of a girl --
The rich man and his affairs,
The fat flocks and the fields' fatness,
Mariners, rough harvesters;
Overcome Gods upon Parnassus;
Overcome the Empyrean; hurl
Heaven and Earth out of their places,
That in the Same calamity
Brother and brother, friend and friend,
Family and family,
City and city may contend,
By that great glory driven wild.
Pray I will and sing I must,
And yet I weep -- Oedipus' child
Descends into the loveless dust.

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Prophecy Of Head And Heel Wounds

Goliath’s head David dragged to Jerusalem
buried under Golgotha Skull Place impaled
Calvary to be place where Adam Eve sinned
David commanded by God Goliath’s head

here buried beneath this spot in Jerusalem
to fulfill God’s prophecy to his bloodline
God’s judgement on shinning one Satan
Moses by Holy Spirit this promise penned

'And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise
you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel'
Genesis 3: 15.

blood of Christ washes over Goliath’s head
at Calvary the messiah bloodline of David
through Mary will this prophecy time be fulfilled

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 6

So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva
went off to the country and city of the Phaecians- a people who used
to live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now
the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered them, so their king
Nausithous moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far from all
other people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses and
temples, and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead and
gone to the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were
inspired of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did
Minerva hie in furtherance of the return of Ulysses.
She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which
there slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa,
daughter to King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her,
both very pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which was
closed with well-made folding doors. Minerva took the form of the
famous sea captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom friend of
Nausicaa and just her own age; then, coming up to the girl's bedside
like a breath of wind, she hovered over her head and said:
"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy
daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are
going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well
dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend
you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your
father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a
washing day, and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so that
you may have everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best
young men among your own people are courting you, and you are not
going to remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to
have a waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,
robes, and girdles; and you can ride, too, which will be much
pleasanter for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are some way
from the town."
When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they
say is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly,
and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting
sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed
gods are illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which
the goddess went when she had given instructions to the girl.
By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering
about her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to
tell her father and mother all about it, and found them in their own
room. Her mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple
yarn with her maids around her, and she happened to catch her father
just as he was going out to attend a meeting of the town council,
which the Phaeacian aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:
"Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I
want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are
the chief man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean
shirt when you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have five
sons at home, two of them married, while the other three are
good-looking bachelors; you know they always like to have clean
linen when they go to a dance, and I have been thinking about all
this."
She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like
to, but her father knew and said, "You shall have the mules, my
love, and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and
the men shall get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will
hold all your clothes."
On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon
out, harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought
the clothes down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon.
Her mother prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of
good things, and a goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the
waggon, and her mother gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she
and her women might anoint themselves. Then she took the whip and
reins and lashed the mules on, whereon they set off, and their hoofs
clattered on the road. They pulled without flagging, and carried not
only Nausicaa and her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were
with her.
When they reached the water side they went to the
washing-cisterns, through which there ran at all times enough pure
water to wash any quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they
unharnessed the mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy
herbage that grew by the water side. They took the clothes out of
the waggon, put them in the water, and vied with one another in
treading them in the pits to get the dirt out. After they had washed
them and got them quite clean, they laid them out by the sea side,
where the waves had raised a high beach of shingle, and set about
washing themselves and anointing themselves with olive oil. Then
they got their dinner by the side of the stream, and waited for the
sun to finish drying the clothes. When they had done dinner they threw
off the veils that covered their heads and began to play at ball,
while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon
the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer,
and the wood-nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport
along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a full
head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole
bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.
When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the
clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider
how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to
conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore,
threw a ball at one of the maids, which missed her and fell into
deep water. On this they all shouted, and the noise they made woke
Ulysses, who sat up in his bed of leaves and began to wonder what it
might all be.
"Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come
amongst? Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilized, or hospitable and
humane? I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound
like those of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of
rivers and meadows of green grass. At any rate I am among a race of
men and women. Let me try if I cannot manage to get a look at them."
As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a
bough covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked
like some lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his
strength and defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls
in quest of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare
break even into a well-fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep-
even such did Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them
all naked as he was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so
unkempt and so begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off
along the spits that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of
Alcinous stood firm, for Minerva put courage into her heart and took
away all fear from her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he
doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and
embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her
to give him some clothes and show him the way to the town. In the
end he deemed it best to entreat her from a distance in case the
girl should take offence at his coming near enough to clasp her knees,
so he addressed her in honeyed and persuasive language.
"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a
goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in
heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana,
for your face and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other
hand you are a mortal and live on earth, thrice happy are your
father and mother- thrice happy, too, are your brothers and sisters;
how proud and delighted they must feel when they see so fair a scion
as yourself going out to a dance; most happy, however, of all will
he be whose wedding gifts have been the richest, and who takes you
to his own home. I never yet saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor
woman, and am lost in admiration as I behold you. I can only compare
you to a young palm tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing
near the altar of Apollo- for I was there, too, with much people after
me, when I was on that journey which has been the source of all my
troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out of the ground
as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as I now
admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your knees, but I am
in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth day that I had been
tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all
the way from the Ogygian island, and now fate has flung me upon this
coast that I may endure still further suffering; for I do not think
that I have yet come to the end of it, but rather that heaven has
still much evil in store for me.
"And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person I
have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way to
your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither
to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your
heart's desire- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for
there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be
of one mind in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the
hearts of their friends glad, and they themselves know more about it
than any one."
To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,
well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives
prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take
what he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now,
however, that you have come to this our country, you shall not want
for clothes nor for anything else that a foreigner in distress may
reasonably look for. I will show you the way to the town, and will
tell you the name of our people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am
daughter to Alcinous, in whom the whole power of the state is vested."
Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you
girls. Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do you
take him for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can
come here to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods,
and live apart on a land's end that juts into the sounding sea, and
have nothing to do with any other people. This is only some poor man
who has lost his way, and we must be kind to him, for strangers and
foreigners in distress are under Jove's protection, and will take what
they can get and be thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow
something to eat and drink, and wash him in the stream at some place
that is sheltered from the wind."
On this the maids left off running away and began calling one
another back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa
had told them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought
him the little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go wash in the
stream. But Ulysses said, "Young women, please to stand a little on
one side that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself
with oil, for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil
upon it. I cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am
ashamed to strip before a number of good-looking young women."
Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses
washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back
and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself,
and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil,
and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made
him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair
grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a
skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and
Minerva enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it- and his work
is full of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon the
beach, looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed on him
with admiration; then she said to her maids:
"Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who
live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first
saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of
the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be
just such another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want to
go away. However, give him something to eat and drink."
They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and
drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.
Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen
folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she
took her seat, she called Ulysses:
"Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the town;
I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I
can tell you that you will meet all the best people among the
Phaecians. But be sure and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a
sensible person. As long as we are going past the fields- and farm
lands, follow briskly behind the waggon along with the maids and I
will lead the way myself. Presently, however, we shall come to the
town, where you will find a high wall running all round it, and a good
harbour on either side with a narrow entrance into the city, and the
ships will be drawn up by the road side, for every one has a place
where his own ship can lie. You will see the market place with a
temple of Neptune in the middle of it, and paved with large stones
bedded in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear of all kinds,
such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars are
made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they know
nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and pride
themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel far
over the sea.
"I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot
against me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and
some low fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this fine-looking
stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she End him? I
suppose she is going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor
whom she has taken from some foreign vessel, for we have no
neighbours; or some god has at last come down from heaven in answer to
her prayers, and she is going to live with him all the rest of her
life. It would be a good thing if she would take herself of I for sh
and find a husband somewhere else, for she will not look at one of the
many excellent young Phaeacians who are in with her.' This is the kind
of disparaging remark that would be made about me, and I could not
complain, for I should myself be scandalized at seeing any other
girl do the like, and go about with men in spite of everybody, while
her father and mother were still alive, and without having been
married in the face of all the world.
"If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help
you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars
by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a
meadow all round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground,
about as far from the town as a man' voice will carry. Sit down
there and wait for a while till the rest of us can get into the town
and reach my father's house. Then, when you think we must have done
this, come into the town and ask the way to the house of my father
Alcinous. You will have no difficulty in finding it; any child will
point it out to you, for no one else in the whole town has anything
like such a fine house as he has. When you have got past the gates and
through the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come
to my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning her
purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as she leans
back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids all ranged behind
her. Close to her seat stands that of my father, on which he sits
and topes like an immortal god. Never mind him, but go up to my
mother, and lay your hands upon her knees if you would get home
quickly. If you can gain her over, you may hope to see your own
country again, no matter how distant it may be."
So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the
river. The mules drew well and their hoofs went up and down upon the
road. She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who
were following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip
with judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred
grove of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the
mighty daughter of Jove.
"Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable,
hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was
wrecking me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may
find friends and be hospitably received by the Phaecians."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not
show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune,
who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting
home.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 22

Thus the Trojans in the city, scared like fawns, wiped the sweat
from off them and drank to quench their thirst, leaning against the
goodly battlements, while the Achaeans with their shields laid upon
their shoulders drew close up to the walls. But stern fate bade Hector
stay where he was before Ilius and the Scaean gates. Then Phoebus
Apollo spoke to the son of Peleus saying, "Why, son of Peleus, do you,
who are but man, give chase to me who am immortal? Have you not yet
found out that it is a god whom you pursue so furiously? You did not
harass the Trojans whom you had routed, and now they are within
their walls, while you have been decoyed hither away from them. Me you
cannot kill, for death can take no hold upon me."
Achilles was greatly angered and said, "You have baulked me,
Far-Darter, most malicious of all gods, and have drawn me away from
the wall, where many another man would have bitten the dust ere he got
within Ilius; you have robbed me of great glory and have saved the
Trojans at no risk to yourself, for you have nothing to fear, but I
would indeed have my revenge if it were in my power to do so."
On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the
winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is
flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs of
Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as he
scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call Orion's
Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest more brilliantly
than those of any other that shines by night; brightest of them all
though he be, he yet bodes ill for mortals, for he brings fire and
fever in his train- even so did Achilles' armour gleam on his breast
as he sped onwards. Priam raised a cry and beat his head with his
hands as he lifted them up and shouted out to his dear son,
imploring him to return; but Hector still stayed before the gates, for
his heart was set upon doing battle with Achilles. The old man reached
out his arms towards him and bade him for pity's sake come within
the walls. "Hector," he cried, "my son, stay not to face this man
alone and unsupported, or you will meet death at the hands of the
son of Peleus, for he is mightier than you. Monster that he is;
would indeed that the gods loved him no better than I do, for so, dogs
and vultures would soon devour him as he lay stretched on earth, and a
load of grief would be lifted from my heart, for many a brave son
has he reft from me, either by killing them or selling them away in
the islands that are beyond the sea: even now I miss two sons from
among the Trojans who have thronged within the city, Lycaon and
Polydorus, whom Laothoe peeress among women bore me. Should they be
still alive and in the hands of the Achaeans, we will ransom them with
gold and bronze, of which we have store, for the old man Altes endowed
his daughter richly; but if they are already dead and in the house
of Hades, sorrow will it be to us two who were their parents; albeit
the grief of others will be more short-lived unless you too perish
at the hands of Achilles. Come, then, my son, within the city, to be
the guardian of Trojan men and Trojan women, or you will both lose
your own life and afford a mighty triumph to the son of Peleus. Have
pity also on your unhappy father while life yet remains to him- on me,
whom the son of Saturn will destroy by a terrible doom on the
threshold of old age, after I have seen my sons slain and my daughters
haled away as captives, my bridal chambers pillaged, little children
dashed to earth amid the rage of battle, and my sons' wives dragged
away by the cruel hands of the Achaeans; in the end fierce hounds will
tear me in pieces at my own gates after some one has beaten the life
out of my body with sword or spear-hounds that I myself reared and fed
at my own table to guard my gates, but who will yet lap my blood and
then lie all distraught at my doors. When a young man falls by the
sword in battle, he may lie where he is and there is nothing unseemly;
let what will be seen, all is honourable in death, but when an old man
is slain there is nothing in this world more pitiable than that dogs
should defile his grey hair and beard and all that men hide for
shame."
The old man tore his grey hair as he spoke, but he moved not the
heart of Hector. His mother hard by wept and moaned aloud as she bared
her bosom and pointed to the breast which had suckled him. "Hector,"
she cried, weeping bitterly the while, "Hector, my son, spurn not this
breast, but have pity upon me too: if I have ever given you comfort
from my own bosom, think on it now, dear son, and come within the wall
to protect us from this man; stand not without to meet him. Should the
wretch kill you, neither I nor your richly dowered wife shall ever
weep, dear offshoot of myself, over the bed on which you lie, for dogs
will devour you at the ships of the Achaeans."
Thus did the two with many tears implore their son, but they moved
not the heart of Hector, and he stood his ground awaiting huge
Achilles as he drew nearer towards him. As serpent in its den upon the
mountains, full fed with deadly poisons, waits for the approach of
man- he is filled with fury and his eyes glare terribly as he goes
writhing round his den- even so Hector leaned his shield against a
tower that jutted out from the wall and stood where he was, undaunted.
"Alas," said he to himself in the heaviness of his heart, "if I go
within the gates, Polydamas will be the first to heap reproach upon
me, for it was he that urged me to lead the Trojans back to the city
on that awful night when Achilles again came forth against us. I would
not listen, but it would have been indeed better if I had done so. Now
that my folly has destroyed the host, I dare not look Trojan men and
Trojan women in the face, lest a worse man should say, 'Hector has
ruined us by his self-confidence.' Surely it would be better for me to
return after having fought Achilles and slain him, or to die
gloriously here before the city. What, again, if were to lay down my
shield and helmet, lean my spear against the wall and go straight up
to noble Achilles? What if I were to promise to give up Helen, who was
the fountainhead of all this war, and all the treasure that Alexandrus
brought with him in his ships to Troy, aye, and to let the Achaeans
divide the half of everything that the city contains among themselves?
I might make the Trojans, by the mouths of their princes, take a
solemn oath that they would hide nothing, but would divide into two
shares all that is within the city- but why argue with myself in
this way? Were I to go up to him he would show me no kind of mercy; he
would kill me then and there as easily as though I were a woman,
when I had off my armour. There is no parleying with him from some
rock or oak tree as young men and maidens prattle with one another.
Better fight him at once, and learn to which of us Jove will vouchsafe
victory."
Thus did he stand and ponder, but Achilles came up to him as it were
Mars himself, plumed lord of battle. From his right shoulder he
brandished his terrible spear of Pelian ash, and the bronze gleamed
around him like flashing fire or the rays of the rising sun. Fear fell
upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he
was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted
after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all
birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before
him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after,
resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector
with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as
his limbs could take him.
On they flew along the waggon-road that ran hard by under the
wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild
fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river
Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it
as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as
cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here, hard by
the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone, where in the
time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the wives and fair
daughters of the Trojans used to wash their clothes. Past these did
they fly, the one in front and the other giving ha. behind him: good
was the man that fled, but better far was he that followed after,
and swiftly indeed did they run, for the prize was no mere beast for
sacrifice or bullock's hide, as it might be for a common foot-race,
but they ran for the life of Hector. As horses in a chariot race speed
round the turning-posts when they are running for some great prize-
a tripod or woman- at the games in honour of some dead hero, so did
these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam. All
the gods watched them, and the sire of gods and men was the first to
speak.
"Alas," said he, "my eyes behold a man who is dear to me being
pursued round the walls of Troy; my heart is full of pity for
Hector, who has burned the thigh-bones of many a heifer in my
honour, at one while on the of many-valleyed Ida, and again on the
citadel of Troy; and now I see noble Achilles in full pursuit of him
round the city of Priam. What say you? Consider among yourselves and
decide whether we shall now save him or let him fall, valiant though
he be, before Achilles, son of Peleus."
Then Minerva said, "Father, wielder of the lightning, lord of
cloud and storm, what mean you? Would you pluck this mortal whose doom
has long been decreed out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we
others shall not be of a mind with you."
And Jove answered, "My child, Trito-born, take heart. I did not
speak in full earnest, and I will let you have your way. Do without
let or hindrance as you are minded."
Thus did he urge Minerva who was already eager, and down she
darted from the topmost summits of Olympus.
Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing a
fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and
hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by
crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and
follow her up until he gets her- even so there was no escape for
Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to get
near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people might
help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles would gain
on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping himself always
on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to lay hands upon
another whom he is pursuing- the one cannot escape nor the other
overtake- even so neither could Achilles come up with Hector, nor
Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he might even yet have
escaped death had not the time come when Apollo, who thus far had
sustained his strength and nerved his running, was now no longer to
stay by him. Achilles made signs to the Achaean host, and shook his
head to show that no man was to aim a dart at Hector, lest another
might win the glory of having hit him and he might himself come in
second. Then, at last, as they were nearing the fountains for the
fourth time, the father of all balanced his golden scales and placed a
doom in each of them, one for Achilles and the other for Hector. As he
held the scales by the middle, the doom of Hector fell down deep
into the house of Hades- and then Phoebus Apollo left him. Thereon
Minerva went close up to the son of Peleus and said, "Noble
Achilles, favoured of heaven, we two shall surely take back to the
ships a triumph for the Achaeans by slaying Hector, for all his lust
of battle. Do what Apollo may as he lies grovelling before his father,
aegis-bearing Jove, Hector cannot escape us longer. Stay here and take
breath, while I go up to him and persuade him to make a stand and
fight you."
Thus spoke Minerva. Achilles obeyed her gladly, and stood still,
leaning on his bronze-pointed ashen spear, while Minerva left him
and went after Hector in the form and with the voice of Deiphobus. She
came close up to him and said, "Dear brother, I see you are hard
pressed by Achilles who is chasing you at full speed round the city of
Priam, let us await his onset and stand on our defence."
And Hector answered, "Deiphobus, you have always been dearest to
me of all my brothers, children of Hecuba and Priam, but henceforth
I shall rate you yet more highly, inasmuch as you have ventured
outside the wall for my sake when all the others remain inside."
Then Minerva said, "Dear brother, my father and mother went down
on their knees and implored me, as did all my comrades, to remain
inside, so great a fear has fallen upon them all; but I was in an
agony of grief when I beheld you; now, therefore, let us two make a
stand and fight, and let there be no keeping our spears in reserve,
that we may learn whether Achilles shall kill us and bear off our
spoils to the ships, or whether he shall fall before you."
Thus did Minerva inveigle him by her cunning, and when the two
were now close to one another great Hector was first to speak. "I
will-no longer fly you, son of Peleus," said he, "as I have been doing
hitherto. Three times have I fled round the mighty city of Priam,
without daring to withstand you, but now, let me either slay or be
slain, for I am in the mind to face you. Let us, then, give pledges to
one another by our gods, who are the fittest witnesses and guardians
of all covenants; let it be agreed between us that if Jove
vouchsafes me the longer stay and I take your life, I am not to
treat your dead body in any unseemly fashion, but when I have stripped
you of your armour, I am to give up your body to the Achaeans. And
do you likewise."
Achilles glared at him and answered, "Fool, prate not to me about
covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and
lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an
through. Therefore there can be no understanding between you and me,
nor may there be any covenants between us, till one or other shall
fall and glut grim Mars with his life's blood. Put forth all your
strength; you have need now to prove yourself indeed a bold soldier
and man of war. You have no more chance, and Pallas Minerva will
forthwith vanquish you by my spear: you shall now pay me in full for
the grief you have caused me on account of my comrades whom you have
killed in battle."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. Hector saw it
coming and avoided it; he watched it and crouched down so that it flew
over his head and stuck in the ground beyond; Minerva then snatched it
up and gave it back to Achilles without Hector's seeing her; Hector
thereon said to the son of Peleus, "You have missed your aim,
Achilles, peer of the gods, and Jove has not yet revealed to you the
hour of my doom, though you made sure that he had done so. You were
a false-tongued liar when you deemed that I should forget my valour
and quail before you. You shall not drive spear into the back of a
runaway- drive it, should heaven so grant you power, drive it into
me as I make straight towards you; and now for your own part avoid
my spear if you can- would that you might receive the whole of it into
your body; if you were once dead the Trojans would find the war an
easier matter, for it is you who have harmed them most."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. His aim was true
for he hit the middle of Achilles' shield, but the spear rebounded
from it, and did not pierce it. Hector was angry when he saw that
the weapon had sped from his hand in vain, and stood there in dismay
for he had no second spear. With a loud cry he called Diphobus and
asked him for one, but there was no man; then he saw the truth and
said to himself, "Alas! the gods have lured me on to my destruction. I
deemed that the hero Deiphobus was by my side, but he is within the
wall, and Minerva has inveigled me; death is now indeed exceedingly
near at hand and there is no way out of it- for so Jove and his son
Apollo the far-darter have willed it, though heretofore they have been
ever ready to protect me. My doom has come upon me; let me not then
die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some
great thing that shall be told among men hereafter."
As he spoke he drew the keen blade that hung so great and strong
by his side, and gathering himself together be sprang on Achilles like
a soaring eagle which swoops down from the clouds on to some lamb or
timid hare- even so did Hector brandish his sword and spring upon
Achilles. Achilles mad with rage darted towards him, with his wondrous
shield before his breast, and his gleaming helmet, made with four
layers of metal, nodding fiercely forward. The thick tresses of gold
wi which Vulcan had crested the helmet floated round it, and as the
evening star that shines brighter than all others through the
stillness of night, even such was the gleam of the spear which
Achilles poised in his right hand, fraught with the death of noble
Hector. He eyed his fair flesh over and over to see where he could
best wound it, but all was protected by the goodly armour of which
Hector had spoiled Patroclus after he had slain him, save only the
throat where the collar-bones divide the neck from the shoulders,
and this is a most deadly place: here then did Achilles strike him
as he was coming on towards him, and the point of his spear went right
through the fleshy part of the neck, but it did not sever his windpipe
so that he could still speak. Hector fell headlong, and Achilles
vaunted over him saying, "Hector, you deemed that you should come
off scatheless when you were spoiling Patroclus, and recked not of
myself who was not with him. Fool that you were: for I, his comrade,
mightier far than he, was still left behind him at the ships, and
now I have laid you low. The Achaeans shall give him all due funeral
rites, while dogs and vultures shall work their will upon yourself."
Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, "I pray you by
your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at
the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and
bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body
home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire
when I am dead."
Achilles glared at him and answered, "Dog, talk not to me neither of
knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to
cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me,
as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be,
though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on
the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of
Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your
mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she
bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up."
Hector with his dying breath then said, "I know you what you are,
and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as
iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on the day
when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you
at the Scaean gates."
When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his
soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades, lamenting
its sad fate that it should en' youth and strength no longer. But
Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, "Die; for my part I will
accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods see fit to send it."
As he spoke he drew his spear from the body and set it on one
side; then he stripped the blood-stained armour from Hector's
shoulders while the other Achaeans came running up to view his
wondrous strength and beauty; and no one came near him without
giving him a fresh wound. Then would one turn to his neighbour and
say, "It is easier to handle Hector now than when he was flinging fire
on to our ships" and as he spoke he would thrust his spear into him
anew.
When Achilles had done spoiling Hector of his armour, he stood among
the Argives and said, "My friends, princes and counsellors of the
Argives, now that heaven has vouchsafed us to overcome this man, who
has done us more hurt than all the others together, consider whether
we should not attack the city in force, and discover in what mind
the Trojans may be. We should thus learn whether they will desert
their city now that Hector has fallen, or will still hold out even
though he is no longer living. But why argue with myself in this
way, while Patroclus is still lying at the ships unburied, and
unmourned- he Whom I can never forget so long as I am alive and my
strength fails not? Though men forget their dead when once they are
within the house of Hades, yet not even there will I forget the
comrade whom I have lost. Now, therefore, Achaean youths, let us raise
the song of victory and go back to the ships taking this man along
with us; for we have achieved a mighty triumph and have slain noble
Hector to whom the Trojans prayed throughout their city as though he
were a god."
On this he treated the body of Hector with contumely: he pierced the
sinews at the back of both his feet from heel to ancle and passed
thongs of ox-hide through the slits he had made: thus he made the body
fast to his chariot, letting the head trail upon the ground. Then when
he had put the goodly armour on the chariot and had himself mounted,
he lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing loth. The dust
rose from Hector as he was being dragged along, his dark hair flew all
abroad, and his head once so comely was laid low on earth, for Jove
had now delivered him into the hands of his foes to do him outrage
in his own land.
Thus was the head of Hector being dishonoured in the dust. His
mother tore her hair, and flung her veil from her with a loud cry as
she looked upon her son. His father made piteous moan, and
throughout the city the people fell to weeping and wailing. It was
as though the whole of frowning Ilius was being smirched with fire.
Hardly could the people hold Priam back in his hot haste to rush
without the gates of the city. He grovelled in the mire and besought
them, calling each one of them by his name. "Let be, my friends," he
cried, "and for all your sorrow, suffer me to go single-handed to
the ships of the Achaeans. Let me beseech this cruel and terrible man,
if maybe he will respect the feeling of his fellow-men, and have
compassion on my old age. His own father is even such another as
myself- Peleus, who bred him and reared him to- be the bane of us
Trojans, and of myself more than of all others. Many a son of mine has
he slain in the flower of his youth, and yet, grieve for these as I
may, I do so for one- Hector- more than for them all, and the
bitterness of my sorrow will bring me down to the house of Hades.
Would that he had died in my arms, for so both his ill-starred
mother who bore him, and myself, should have had the comfort of
weeping and mourning over him."
Thus did he speak with many tears, and all the people of the city
joined in his lament. Hecuba then raised the cry of wailing among
the Trojans. "Alas, my son," she cried, "what have I left to live
for now that you are no more? Night and day did I glory in. you
throughout the city, for you were a tower of strength to all in
Troy, and both men and women alike hailed you as a god. So long as you
lived you were their pride, but now death and destruction have
fallen upon you."
Hector's wife had as yet heard nothing, for no one had come to
tell her that her husband had remained without the gates. She was at
her loom in an inner part of the house, weaving a double purple web,
and embroidering it with many flowers. She told her maids to set a
large tripod on the fire, so as to have a warm bath ready for Hector
when he came out of battle; poor woman, she knew not that he was now
beyond the reach of baths, and that Minerva had laid him low by the
hands of Achilles. She heard the cry coming as from the wall, and
trembled in every limb; the shuttle fell from her hands, and again she
spoke to her waiting-women. "Two of you," she said, "come with me that
I may learn what it is that has befallen; I heard the voice of my
husband's honoured mother; my own heart beats as though it would
come into my mouth and my limbs refuse to carry me; some great
misfortune for Priam's children must be at hand. May I never live to
hear it, but I greatly fear that Achilles has cut off the retreat of
brave Hector and has chased him on to the plain where he was
singlehanded; I fear he may have put an end to the reckless daring
which possessed my husband, who would never remain with the body of
his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in
valour."
Her heart beat fast, and as she spoke she flew from the house like a
maniac, with her waiting-women following after. When she reached the
battlements and the crowd of people, she stood looking out upon the
wall, and saw Hector being borne away in front of the city- the horses
dragging him without heed or care over the ground towards the ships of
the Achaeans. Her eyes were then shrouded as with the darkness of
night and she fell fainting backwards. She tore the tiring from her
head and flung it from her, the frontlet and net with its plaited
band, and the veil which golden Venus had given her on the day when
Hector took her with him from the house of Eetion, after having
given countless gifts of wooing for her sake. Her husband's sisters
and the wives of his brothers crowded round her and supported her, for
she was fain to die in her distraction; when she again presently
breathed and came to herself, she sobbed and made lament among the
Trojans saying, 'Woe is me, O Hector; woe, indeed, that to share a
common lot we were born, you at Troy in the house of Priam, and I at
Thebes under the wooded mountain of Placus in the house of Eetion
who brought me up when I was a child- ill-starred sire of an
ill-starred daughter- would that he had never begotten me. You are now
going into the house of Hades under the secret places of the earth,
and you leave me a sorrowing widow in your house. The child, of whom
you and I are the unhappy parents, is as yet a mere infant. Now that
you are gone, O Hector, you can do nothing for him nor he for you.
Even though he escape the horrors of this woful war with the Achaeans,
yet shall his life henceforth be one of labour and sorrow, for
others will seize his lands. The day that robs a child of his
parents severs him from his own kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks
are wet with tears, and he will go about destitute among the friends
of his father, plucking one by the cloak and another by the shirt.
Some one or other of these may so far pity him as to hold the cup
for a moment towards him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not
drink enough to wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents
are alive will drive him from the table with blows and angry words.
'Out with you,' he will say, 'you have no father here,' and the
child will go crying back to his widowed mother- he, Astyanax, who
erewhile would sit upon his father's knees, and have none but the
daintiest and choicest morsels set before him. When he had played till
he was tired and went to sleep, he would lie in a bed, in the arms
of his nurse, on a soft couch, knowing neither want nor care,
whereas now that he has lost his father his lot will be full of
hardship- he, whom the Trojans name Astyanax, because you, O Hector,
were the only defence of their gates and battlements. The wriggling
writhing worms will now eat you at the ships, far from your parents,
when the dogs have glutted themselves upon you. You will lie naked,
although in your house you have fine and goodly raiment made by
hands of women. This will I now burn; it is of no use to you, for
you can never again wear it, and thus you will have respect shown
you by the Trojans both men and women."
In such wise did she cry aloud amid her tears, and the women
joined in her lament.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 2

Now the other gods and the armed warriors on the plain slept
soundly, but Jove was wakeful, for he was thinking how to do honour to
Achilles, and destroyed much people at the ships of the Achaeans. In
the end he deemed it would be best to send a lying dream to King
Agamemnon; so he called one to him and said to it, "Lying Dream, go to
the ships of the Achaeans, into the tent of Agamemnon, and say to
him word to word as I now bid you. Tell him to get the Achaeans
instantly under arms, for he shall take Troy. There are no longer
divided counsels among the gods; Juno has brought them to her own
mind, and woe betides the Trojans."
The dream went when it had heard its message, and soon reached the
ships of the Achaeans. It sought Agamemnon son of Atreus and found him
in his tent, wrapped in a profound slumber. It hovered over his head
in the likeness of Nestor, son of Neleus, whom Agamemnon honoured
above all his councillors, and said:-
"You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one who has the welfare of his
host and so much other care upon his shoulders should dock his
sleep. Hear me at once, for I come as a messenger from Jove, who,
though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and pities you. He
bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you shall take
Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the gods; Juno has
brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides the Trojans at
the hands of Jove. Remember this, and when you wake see that it does
not escape you."
The dream then left him, and he thought of things that were,
surely not to be accomplished. He thought that on that same day he was
to take the city of Priam, but he little knew what was in the mind
of Jove, who had many another hard-fought fight in store alike for
Danaans and Trojans. Then presently he woke, with the divine message
still ringing in his ears; so he sat upright, and put on his soft
shirt so fair and new, and over this his heavy cloak. He bound his
sandals on to his comely feet, and slung his silver-studded sword
about his shoulders; then he took the imperishable staff of his
father, and sallied forth to the ships of the Achaeans.
The goddess Dawn now wended her way to vast Olympus that she might
herald day to Jove and to the other immortals, and Agamemnon sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly; so they called them
and the people gathered thereon. But first he summoned a meeting of
the elders at the ship of Nestor king of Pylos, and when they were
assembled he laid a cunning counsel before them.
"My friends," said he, "I have had a dream from heaven in the dead
of night, and its face and figure resembled none but Nestor's. It
hovered over my head and said, 'You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one
who has the welfare of his host and so much other care upon his
shoulders should dock his sleep. Hear me at once, for I am a messenger
from Jove, who, though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and
pities you. He bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you
shall take Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the
gods; Juno has brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides
the Trojans at the hands of Jove. Remember this.' The dream then
vanished and I awoke. Let us now, therefore, arm the sons of the
Achaeans. But it will be well that I should first sound them, and to
this end I will tell them to fly with their ships; but do you others
go about among the host and prevent their doing so."
He then sat down, and Nestor the prince of Pylos with all
sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "My friends," said he,
"princes and councillors of the Argives, if any other man of the
Achaeans had told us of this dream we should have declared it false,
and would have had nothing to do with it. But he who has seen it is
the foremost man among us; we must therefore set about getting the
people under arms."
With this he led the way from the assembly, and the other sceptred
kings rose with him in obedience to the word of Agamemnon; but the
people pressed forward to hear. They swarmed like bees that sally from
some hollow cave and flit in countless throng among the spring
flowers, bunched in knots and clusters; even so did the mighty
multitude pour from ships and tents to the assembly, and range
themselves upon the wide-watered shore, while among them ran
Wildfire Rumour, messenger of Jove, urging them ever to the fore. Thus
they gathered in a pell-mell of mad confusion, and the earth groaned
under the tramp of men as the people sought their places. Nine heralds
went crying about among them to stay their tumult and bid them
listen to the kings, till at last they were got into their several
places and ceased their clamour. Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his
sceptre. This was the work of Vulcan, who gave it to Jove the son of
Saturn. Jove gave it to Mercury, slayer of Argus, guide and
guardian. King Mercury gave it to Pelops, the mighty charioteer, and
Pelops to Atreus, shepherd of his people. Atreus, when he died, left
it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes in his turn left it to be
borne by Agamemnon, that he might be lord of all Argos and of the
isles. Leaning, then, on his sceptre, he addressed the Argives.
"My friends," he said, "heroes, servants of Mars, the hand of heaven
has been laid heavily upon me. Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise
that I should sack the city of Priam before returning, but he has
played me false, and is now bidding me go ingloriously back to Argos
with the loss of much people. Such is the will of Jove, who has laid
many a proud city in the dust, as he will yet lay others, for his
power is above all. It will be a sorry tale hereafter that an
Achaean host, at once so great and valiant, battled in vain against
men fewer in number than themselves; but as yet the end is not in
sight. Think that the Achaeans and Trojans have sworn to a solemn
covenant, and that they have each been numbered- the Trojans by the
roll of their householders, and we by companies of ten; think
further that each of our companies desired to have a Trojan
householder to pour out their wine; we are so greatly more in number
that full many a company would have to go without its cup-bearer.
But they have in the town allies from other places, and it is these
that hinder me from being able to sack the rich city of Ilius. Nine of
Jove years are gone; the timbers of our ships have rotted; their
tackling is sound no longer. Our wives and little ones at home look
anxiously for our coming, but the work that we came hither to do has
not been done. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say: let us sail
back to our own land, for we shall not take Troy."
With these words he moved the hearts of the multitude, so many of
them as knew not the cunning counsel of Agamemnon. They surged to
and fro like the waves of the Icarian Sea, when the east and south
winds break from heaven's clouds to lash them; or as when the west
wind sweeps over a field of corn and the ears bow beneath the blast,
even so were they swayed as they flew with loud cries towards the
ships, and the dust from under their feet rose heavenward. They
cheered each other on to draw the ships into the sea; they cleared the
channels in front of them; they began taking away the stays from
underneath them, and the welkin rang with their glad cries, so eager
were they to return.
Then surely the Argives would have returned after a fashion that was
not fated. But Juno said to Minerva, "Alas, daughter of
aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, shall the Argives fly home to their
own land over the broad sea, and leave Priam and the Trojans the glory
of still keeping Helen, for whose sake so many of the Achaeans have
died at Troy, far from their homes? Go about at once among the host,
and speak fairly to them, man by man, that they draw not their ships
into the sea."
Minerva was not slack to do her bidding. Down she darted from the
topmost summits of Olympus, and in a moment she was at the ships of
the Achaeans. There she found Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel,
standing alone. He had not as yet laid a hand upon his ship, for he
was grieved and sorry; so she went close up to him and said, "Ulysses,
noble son of Laertes, are you going to fling yourselves into your
ships and be off home to your own land in this way? Will you leave
Priam and the Trojans the glory of still keeping Helen, for whose sake
so many of the Achaeans have died at Troy, far from their homes? Go
about at once among the host, and speak fairly to them, man by man,
that they draw not their ships into the sea."
Ulysses knew the voice as that of the goddess: he flung his cloak
from him and set off to run. His servant Eurybates, a man of Ithaca,
who waited on him, took charge of the cloak, whereon Ulysses went
straight up to Agamemnon and received from him his ancestral,
imperishable staff. With this he went about among the ships of the
Achaeans.
Whenever he met a king or chieftain, he stood by him and spoke him
fairly. "Sir," said he, "this flight is cowardly and unworthy. Stand
to your post, and bid your people also keep their places. You do not
yet know the full mind of Agamemnon; he was sounding us, and ere
long will visit the Achaeans with his displeasure. We were not all
of us at the council to hear what he then said; see to it lest he be
angry and do us a mischief; for the pride of kings is great, and the
hand of Jove is with them."
But when he came across any common man who was making a noise, he
struck him with his staff and rebuked him, saying, "Sirrah, hold
your peace, and listen to better men than yourself. You are a coward
and no soldier; you are nobody either in fight or council; we cannot
all be kings; it is not well that there should be many masters; one
man must be supreme- one king to whom the son of scheming Saturn has
given the sceptre of sovereignty over you all."
Thus masterfully did he go about among the host, and the people
hurried back to the council from their tents and ships with a sound as
the thunder of surf when it comes crashing down upon the shore, and
all the sea is in an uproar.
The rest now took their seats and kept to their own several
places, but Thersites still went on wagging his unbridled tongue- a
man of many words, and those unseemly; a monger of sedition, a
railer against all who were in authority, who cared not what he
said, so that he might set the Achaeans in a laugh. He was the ugliest
man of all those that came before Troy- bandy-legged, lame of one
foot, with his two shoulders rounded and hunched over his chest. His
head ran up to a point, but there was little hair on the top of it.
Achilles and Ulysses hated him worst of all, for it was with them that
he was most wont to wrangle; now, however, with a shrill squeaky voice
he began heaping his abuse on Agamemnon. The Achaeans were angry and
disgusted, yet none the less he kept on brawling and bawling at the
son of Atreus.
"Agamemnon," he cried, "what ails you now, and what more do you
want? Your tents are filled with bronze and with fair women, for
whenever we take a town we give you the pick of them. Would you have
yet more gold, which some Trojan is to give you as a ransom for his
son, when I or another Achaean has taken him prisoner? or is it some
young girl to hide and lie with? It is not well that you, the ruler of
the Achaeans, should bring them into such misery. Weakling cowards,
women rather than men, let us sail home, and leave this fellow here at
Troy to stew in his own meeds of honour, and discover whether we
were of any service to him or no. Achilles is a much better man than
he is, and see how he has treated him- robbing him of his prize and
keeping it himself. Achilles takes it meekly and shows no fight; if he
did, son of Atreus, you would never again insult him."
Thus railed Thersites, but Ulysses at once went up to him and
rebuked him sternly. "Check your glib tongue, Thersites," said be,
"and babble not a word further. Chide not with princes when you have
none to back you. There is no viler creature come before Troy with the
sons of Atreus. Drop this chatter about kings, and neither revile them
nor keep harping about going home. We do not yet know how things are
going to be, nor whether the Achaeans are to return with good
success or evil. How dare you gibe at Agamemnon because the Danaans
have awarded him so many prizes? I tell you, therefore- and it shall
surely be- that if I again catch you talking such nonsense, I will
either forfeit my own head and be no more called father of Telemachus,
or I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the
assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships."
On this he beat him with his staff about the back and shoulders till
he dropped and fell a-weeping. The golden sceptre raised a bloody weal
on his back, so he sat down frightened and in pain, looking foolish as
he wiped the tears from his eyes. The people were sorry for him, yet
they laughed heartily, and one would turn to his neighbour saying,
"Ulysses has done many a good thing ere now in fight and council,
but he never did the Argives a better turn than when he stopped this
fellow's mouth from prating further. He will give the kings no more of
his insolence."
Thus said the people. Then Ulysses rose, sceptre in hand, and
Minerva in the likeness of a herald bade the people be still, that
those who were far off might hear him and consider his council. He
therefore with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus:-
"King Agamemnon, the Achaeans are for making you a by-word among all
mankind. They forget the promise they made you when they set out
from Argos, that you should not return till you had sacked the town of
Troy, and, like children or widowed women, they murmur and would set
off homeward. True it is that they have had toil enough to be
disheartened. A man chafes at having to stay away from his wife even
for a single month, when he is on shipboard, at the mercy of wind
and sea, but it is now nine long years that we have been kept here;
I cannot, therefore, blame the Achaeans if they turn restive; still we
shall be shamed if we go home empty after so long a stay- therefore,
my friends, be patient yet a little longer that we may learn whether
the prophesyings of Calchas were false or true.
"All who have not since perished must remember as though it were
yesterday or the day before, how the ships of the Achaeans were
detained in Aulis when we were on our way hither to make war on
Priam and the Trojans. We were ranged round about a fountain
offering hecatombs to the gods upon their holy altars, and there was a
fine plane-tree from beneath which there welled a stream of pure
water. Then we saw a prodigy; for Jove sent a fearful serpent out of
the ground, with blood-red stains upon its back, and it darted from
under the altar on to the plane-tree. Now there was a brood of young
sparrows, quite small, upon the topmost bough, peeping out from
under the leaves, eight in all, and their mother that hatched them
made nine. The serpent ate the poor cheeping things, while the old
bird flew about lamenting her little ones; but the serpent threw his
coils about her and caught her by the wing as she was screaming. Then,
when he had eaten both the sparrow and her young, the god who had sent
him made him become a sign; for the son of scheming Saturn turned
him into stone, and we stood there wondering at that which had come to
pass. Seeing, then, that such a fearful portent had broken in upon our
hecatombs, Calchas forthwith declared to us the oracles of heaven.
'Why, Achaeans,' said he, 'are you thus speechless? Jove has sent us
this sign, long in coming, and long ere it be fulfilled, though its
fame shall last for ever. As the serpent ate the eight fledglings
and the sparrow that hatched them, which makes nine, so shall we fight
nine years at Troy, but in the tenth shall take the town.' This was
what he said, and now it is all coming true. Stay here, therefore, all
of you, till we take the city of Priam."
On this the Argives raised a shout, till the ships rang again with
the uproar. Nestor, knight of Gerene, then addressed them. "Shame on
you," he cried, "to stay talking here like children, when you should
fight like men. Where are our covenants now, and where the oaths
that we have taken? Shall our counsels be flung into the fire, with
our drink-offerings and the right hands of fellowship wherein we
have put our trust? We waste our time in words, and for all our
talking here shall be no further forward. Stand, therefore, son of
Atreus, by your own steadfast purpose; lead the Argives on to
battle, and leave this handful of men to rot, who scheme, and scheme
in vain, to get back to Argos ere they have learned whether Jove be
true or a liar. For the mighty son of Saturn surely promised that we
should succeed, when we Argives set sail to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. He showed us favourable signs by
flashing his lightning on our right hands; therefore let none make
haste to go till he has first lain with the wife of some Trojan, and
avenged the toil and sorrow that he has suffered for the sake of
Helen. Nevertheless, if any man is in such haste to be at home
again, let him lay his hand to his ship that he may meet his doom in
the sight of all. But, O king, consider and give ear to my counsel,
for the word that I say may not be neglected lightly. Divide your men,
Agamemnon, into their several tribes and clans, that clans and
tribes may stand by and help one another. If you do this, and if the
Achaeans obey you, you will find out who, both chiefs and peoples, are
brave, and who are cowards; for they will vie against the other.
Thus you shall also learn whether it is through the counsel of
heaven or the cowardice of man that you shall fail to take the town."
And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, you have again outdone the sons
of the Achaeans in counsel. Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo, that I had among them ten more such councillors, for the
city of King Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we
should sack it. But the son of Saturn afflicts me with bootless
wranglings and strife. Achilles and I are quarrelling about this girl,
in which matter I was the first to offend; if we can be of one mind
again, the Trojans will not stave off destruction for a day. Now,
therefore, get your morning meal, that our hosts join in fight. Whet
well your spears; see well to the ordering of your shields; give
good feeds to your horses, and look your chariots carefully over, that
we may do battle the livelong day; for we shall have no rest, not
for a moment, till night falls to part us. The bands that bear your
shields shall be wet with the sweat upon your shoulders, your hands
shall weary upon your spears, your horses shall steam in front of your
chariots, and if I see any man shirking the fight, or trying to keep
out of it at the ships, there shall be no help for him, but he shall
be a prey to dogs and vultures."
Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans roared applause. As when the waves
run high before the blast of the south wind and break on some lofty
headland, dashing against it and buffeting it without ceasing, as
the storms from every quarter drive them, even so did the Achaeans
rise and hurry in all directions to their ships. There they lighted
their fires at their tents and got dinner, offering sacrifice every
man to one or other of the gods, and praying each one of them that
he might live to come out of the fight. Agamemnon, king of men,
sacrificed a fat five-year-old bull to the mighty son of Saturn, and
invited the princes and elders of his host. First he asked Nestor
and King Idomeneus, then the two Ajaxes and the son of Tydeus, and
sixthly Ulysses, peer of gods in counsel; but Menelaus came of his own
accord, for he knew how busy his brother then was. They stood round
the bull with the barley-meal in their hands, and Agamemnon prayed,
saying, "Jove, most glorious, supreme, that dwellest in heaven, and
ridest upon the storm-cloud, grant that the sun may not go down, nor
the night fall, till the palace of Priam is laid low, and its gates
are consumed with fire. Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of
Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite
the dust as they fall dying round him."
Thus he prayed, but the son of Saturn would not fulfil his prayer.
He accepted the sacrifice, yet none the less increased their toil
continually. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal
upon the victim, they drew back its head, killed it, and then flayed
it. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers
of fat, and set pieces of raw meat on the top of them. These they
burned upon the split logs of firewood, but they spitted the inward
meats, and held them in the flames to cook. When the thigh-bones
were burned, and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest
up small, put the pieces upon spits, roasted them till they were done,
and drew them off; then, when they had finished their work and the
feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and
drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak. "King Agamemnon,"
said he, "let us not stay talking here, nor be slack in the work
that heaven has put into our hands. Let the heralds summon the
people to gather at their several ships; we will then go about among
the host, that we may begin fighting at once."
Thus did he speak, and Agamemnon heeded his words. He at once sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly. So they called
them, and the people gathered thereon. The chiefs about the son of
Atreus chose their men and marshalled them, while Minerva went among
them holding her priceless aegis that knows neither age nor death.
From it there waved a hundred tassels of pure gold, all deftly
woven, and each one of them worth a hundred oxen. With this she darted
furiously everywhere among the hosts of the Achaeans, urging them
forward, and putting courage into the heart of each, so that he
might fight and do battle without ceasing. Thus war became sweeter
in their eyes even than returning home in their ships. As when some
great forest fire is raging upon a mountain top and its light is
seen afar, even so as they marched the gleam of their armour flashed
up into the firmament of heaven.
They were like great flocks of geese, or cranes, or swans on the
plain about the waters of Cayster, that wing their way hither and
thither, glorying in the pride of flight, and crying as they settle
till the fen is alive with their screaming. Even thus did their tribes
pour from ships and tents on to the plain of the Scamander, and the
ground rang as brass under the feet of men and horses. They stood as
thick upon the flower-bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer.
As countless swarms of flies buzz around a herdsman's homestead in
the time of spring when the pails are drenched with milk, even so
did the Achaeans swarm on to the plain to charge the Trojans and
destroy them.
The chiefs disposed their men this way and that before the fight
began, drafting them out as easily as goatherds draft their flocks
when they have got mixed while feeding; and among them went King
Agamemnon, with a head and face like Jove the lord of thunder, a waist
like Mars, and a chest like that of Neptune. As some great bull that
lords it over the herds upon the plain, even so did Jove make the
son of Atreus stand peerless among the multitude of heroes.
And now, O Muses, dwellers in the mansions of Olympus, tell me-
for you are goddesses and are in all places so that you see all
things, while we know nothing but by report- who were the chiefs and
princes of the Danaans? As for the common soldiers, they were so
that I could not name every single one of them though I had ten
tongues, and though my voice failed not and my heart were of bronze
within me, unless you, O Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing
Jove, were to recount them to me. Nevertheless, I will tell the
captains of the ships and all the fleet together.
Peneleos, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothoenor, and Clonius were
captains of the Boeotians. These were they that dwelt in Hyria and
rocky Aulis, and who held Schoenus, Scolus, and the highlands of
Eteonus, with Thespeia, Graia, and the fair city of Mycalessus. They
also held Harma, Eilesium, and Erythrae; and they had Eleon, Hyle, and
Peteon; Ocalea and the strong fortress of Medeon; Copae, Eutresis, and
Thisbe the haunt of doves; Coronea, and the pastures of Haliartus;
Plataea and Glisas; the fortress of Thebes the less; holy Onchestus
with its famous grove of Neptune; Arne rich in vineyards; Midea,
sacred Nisa, and Anthedon upon the sea. From these there came fifty
ships, and in each there were a hundred and twenty young men of the
Boeotians.
Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt
in Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche a noble
maiden bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had
gone with Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with
her. With these there came thirty ships.
The Phoceans were led by Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of mighty
Iphitus the son of Naubolus. These were they that held Cyparissus,
rocky Pytho, holy Crisa, Daulis, and Panopeus; they also that dwelt in
Anemorea and Hyampolis, and about the waters of the river Cephissus,
and Lilaea by the springs of the Cephissus; with their chieftains came
forty ships, and they marshalled the forces of the Phoceans, which
were stationed next to the Boeotians, on their left.
Ajax, the fleet son of Oileus, commanded the Locrians. He was not so
great, nor nearly so great, as Ajax the son of Telamon. He was a
little man, and his breastplate was made of linen, but in use of the
spear he excelled all the Hellenes and the Achaeans. These dwelt in
Cynus, Opous, Calliarus, Bessa, Scarphe, fair Augeae, Tarphe, and
Thronium about the river Boagrius. With him there came forty ships
of the Locrians who dwell beyond Euboea.
The fierce Abantes held Euboea with its cities, Chalcis, Eretria,
Histiaea rich in vines, Cerinthus upon the sea, and the rock-perched
town of Dium; with them were also the men of Carystus and Styra;
Elephenor of the race of Mars was in command of these; he was son of
Chalcodon, and chief over all the Abantes. With him they came, fleet
of foot and wearing their hair long behind, brave warriors, who
would ever strive to tear open the corslets of their foes with their
long ashen spears. Of these there came fifty ships.
And they that held the strong city of Athens, the people of great
Erechtheus, who was born of the soil itself, but Jove's daughter,
Minerva, fostered him, and established him at Athens in her own rich
sanctuary. There, year by year, the Athenian youths worship him with
sacrifices of bulls and rams. These were commanded by Menestheus,
son of Peteos. No man living could equal him in the marshalling of
chariots and foot soldiers. Nestor could alone rival him, for he was
older. With him there came fifty ships.
Ajax brought twelve ships from Salamis, and stationed them alongside
those of the Athenians.
The men of Argos, again, and those who held the walls of Tiryns,
with Hermione, and Asine upon the gulf; Troezene, Eionae, and the
vineyard lands of Epidaurus; the Achaean youths, moreover, who came
from Aegina and Mases; these were led by Diomed of the loud
battle-cry, and Sthenelus son of famed Capaneus. With them in
command was Euryalus, son of king Mecisteus, son of Talaus; but Diomed
was chief over them all. With these there came eighty ships.
Those who held the strong city of Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae;
Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old;
Hyperesia, high Gonoessa, and Pellene; Aegium and all the coast-land
round about Helice; these sent a hundred ships under the command of
King Agamemnon, son of Atreus. His force was far both finest and
most numerous, and in their midst was the king himself, all glorious
in his armour of gleaming bronze- foremost among the heroes, for he
was the greatest king, and had most men under him.
And those that dwelt in Lacedaemon, lying low among the hills,
Pharis, Sparta, with Messe the haunt of doves; Bryseae, Augeae,
Amyclae, and Helos upon the sea; Laas, moreover, and Oetylus; these
were led by Menelaus of the loud battle-cry, brother to Agamemnon, and
of them there were sixty ships, drawn up apart from the others.
Among them went Menelaus himself, strong in zeal, urging his men to
fight; for he longed to avenge the toil and sorrow that he had
suffered for the sake of Helen.
The men of Pylos and Arene, and Thryum where is the ford of the
river Alpheus; strong Aipy, Cyparisseis, and Amphigenea; Pteleum,
Helos, and Dorium, where the Muses met Thamyris, and stilled his
minstrelsy for ever. He was returning from Oechalia, where Eurytus
lived and reigned, and boasted that he would surpass even the Muses,
daughters of aegis-bearing Jove, if they should sing against him;
whereon they were angry, and maimed him. They robbed him of his divine
power of song, and thenceforth he could strike the lyre no more. These
were commanded by Nestor, knight of Gerene, and with him there came
ninety ships.
And those that held Arcadia, under the high mountain of Cyllene,
near the tomb of Aepytus, where the people fight hand to hand; the men
of Pheneus also, and Orchomenus rich in flocks; of Rhipae, Stratie,
and bleak Enispe; of Tegea and fair Mantinea; of Stymphelus and
Parrhasia; of these King Agapenor son of Ancaeus was commander, and
they had sixty ships. Many Arcadians, good soldiers, came in each
one of them, but Agamemnon found them the ships in which to cross
the sea, for they were not a people that occupied their business
upon the waters.
The men, moreover, of Buprasium and of Elis, so much of it as is
enclosed between Hyrmine, Myrsinus upon the sea-shore, the rock
Olene and Alesium. These had four leaders, and each of them had ten
ships, with many Epeans on board. Their captains were Amphimachus
and Thalpius- the one, son of Cteatus, and the other, of Eurytus- both
of the race of Actor. The two others were Diores, son of Amarynces,
and Polyxenus, son of King Agasthenes, son of Augeas.
And those of Dulichium with the sacred Echinean islands, who dwelt
beyond the sea off Elis; these were led by Meges, peer of Mars, and
the son of valiant Phyleus, dear to Jove, who quarrelled with his
father, and went to settle in Dulichium. With him there came forty
ships.
Ulysses led the brave Cephallenians, who held Ithaca, Neritum with
its forests, Crocylea, rugged Aegilips, Samos and Zacynthus, with
the mainland also that was over against the islands. These were led by
Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel, and with him there came twelve
ships.
Thoas, son of Andraemon, commanded the Aetolians, who dwelt in
Pleuron, Olenus, Pylene, Chalcis by the sea, and rocky Calydon, for
the great king Oeneus had now no sons living, and was himself dead, as
was also golden-haired Meleager, who had been set over the Aetolians
to be their king. And with Thoas there came forty ships.
The famous spearsman Idomeneus led the Cretans, who held Cnossus,
and the well-walled city of Gortys; Lyctus also, Miletus and
Lycastus that lies upon the chalk; the populous towns of Phaestus
and Rhytium, with the other peoples that dwelt in the hundred cities
of Crete. All these were led by Idomeneus, and by Meriones, peer of
murderous Mars. And with these there came eighty ships.
Tlepolemus, son of Hercules, a man both brave and large of
stature, brought nine ships of lordly warriors from Rhodes. These
dwelt in Rhodes which is divided among the three cities of Lindus,
Ielysus, and Cameirus, that lies upon the chalk. These were
commanded by Tlepolemus, son of Hercules by Astyochea, whom he had
carried off from Ephyra, on the river Selleis, after sacking many
cities of valiant warriors. When Tlepolemus grew up, he killed his
father's uncle Licymnius, who had been a famous warrior in his time,
but was then grown old. On this he built himself a fleet, gathered a
great following, and fled beyond the sea, for he was menaced by the
other sons and grandsons of Hercules. After a voyage. during which
he suffered great hardship, he came to Rhodes, where the people
divided into three communities, according to their tribes, and were
dearly loved by Jove, the lord, of gods and men; wherefore the son
of Saturn showered down great riches upon them.
And Nireus brought three ships from Syme- Nireus, who was the
handsomest man that came up under Ilius of all the Danaans after the
son of Peleus- but he was a man of no substance, and had but a small
following.
And those that held Nisyrus, Crapathus, and Casus, with Cos, the
city of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian islands, these were commanded
by Pheidippus and Antiphus, two sons of King Thessalus the son of
Hercules. And with them there came thirty ships.
Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis; and
those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called
Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over which
Achilles was in command. But they now took no part in the war,
inasmuch as there was no one to marshal them; for Achilles stayed by
his ships, furious about the loss of the girl Briseis, whom he had
taken from Lyrnessus at his own great peril, when he had sacked
Lyrnessus and Thebe, and had overthrown Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of
king Evenor, son of Selepus. For her sake Achilles was still grieving,
but ere long he was again to join them.
And those that held Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus,
sanctuary of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea,
and Pteleum that lies upon the grass lands. Of these brave Protesilaus
had been captain while he was yet alive, but he was now lying under
the earth. He had left a wife behind him in Phylace to tear her cheeks
in sorrow, and his house was only half finished, for he was slain by a
Dardanian warrior while leaping foremost of the Achaeans upon the soil
of Troy. Still, though his people mourned their chieftain, they were
not without a leader, for Podarces, of the race of Mars, marshalled
them; he was son of Iphiclus, rich in sheep, who was the son of
Phylacus, and he was own brother to Protesilaus, only younger,
Protesilaus being at once the elder and the more valiant. So the
people were not without a leader, though they mourned him whom they
had lost. With him there came forty ships.
And those that held Pherae by the Boebean lake, with Boebe,
Glaphyrae, and the populous city of Iolcus, these with their eleven
ships were led by Eumelus, son of Admetus, whom Alcestis bore to
him, loveliest of the daughters of Pelias.
And those that held Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and
rugged Olizon, these were led by the skilful archer Philoctetes, and
they had seven ships, each with fifty oarsmen all of them good
archers; but Philoctetes was lying in great pain in the Island of
Lemnos, where the sons of the Achaeans left him, for he had been
bitten by a poisonous water snake. There he lay sick and sorry, and
full soon did the Argives come to miss him. But his people, though
they felt his loss were not leaderless, for Medon, the bastard son
of Oileus by Rhene, set them in array.
Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they
that held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were
commanded by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of
healing, Podalirius and Machaon. And with them there came thirty
ships.
The men, moreover, of Ormenius, and by the fountain of Hypereia,
with those that held Asterius, and the white crests of Titanus,
these were led by Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon, and with them there
came forty ships.
Those that held Argissa and Gyrtone, Orthe, Elone, and the white
city of Oloosson, of these brave Polypoetes was leader. He was son
of Pirithous, who was son of Jove himself, for Hippodameia bore him to
Pirithous on the day when he took his revenge on the shaggy mountain
savages and drove them from Mt. Pelion to the Aithices. But Polypoetes
was not sole in command, for with him was Leonteus, of the race of
Mars, who was son of Coronus, the son of Caeneus. And with these there
came forty ships.
Guneus brought two and twenty ships from Cyphus, and he was followed
by the Enienes and the valiant Peraebi, who dwelt about wintry Dodona,
and held the lands round the lovely river Titaresius, which sends
its waters into the Peneus. They do not mingle with the silver
eddies of the Peneus, but flow on the top of them like oil; for the
Titaresius is a branch of dread Orcus and of the river Styx.
Of the Magnetes, Prothous son of Tenthredon was commander. They were
they that dwelt about the river Peneus and Mt. Pelion. Prothous, fleet
of foot, was their leader, and with him there came forty ships.
Such were the chiefs and princes of the Danaans. Who, then, O
Muse, was the foremost, whether man or horse, among those that
followed after the sons of Atreus?
Of the horses, those of the son of Pheres were by far the finest.
They were driven by Eumelus, and were as fleet as birds. They were
of the same age and colour, and perfectly matched in height. Apollo,
of the silver bow, had bred them in Perea- both of them mares, and
terrible as Mars in battle. Of the men, Ajax, son of Telamon, was much
the foremost so long as Achilles' anger lasted, for Achilles
excelled him greatly and he had also better horses; but Achilles was
now holding aloof at his ships by reason of his quarrel with
Agamemnon, and his people passed their time upon the sea shore,
throwing discs or aiming with spears at a mark, and in archery.
Their horses stood each by his own chariot, champing lotus and wild
celery. The chariots were housed under cover, but their owners, for
lack of leadership, wandered hither and thither about the host and
went not forth to fight.
Thus marched the host like a consuming fire, and the earth groaned
beneath them when the lord of thunder is angry and lashes the land
about Typhoeus among the Arimi, where they say Typhoeus lies. Even
so did the earth groan beneath them as they sped over the plain.
And now Iris, fleet as the wind, was sent by Jove to tell the bad
news among the Trojans. They were gathered in assembly, old and young,
at Priam's gates, and Iris came close up to Priam, speaking with the
voice of Priam's son Polites, who, being fleet of foot, was
stationed as watchman for the Trojans on the tomb of old Aesyetes,
to look out for any sally of the Achaeans. In his likeness Iris spoke,
saying, "Old man, you talk idly, as in time of peace, while war is
at hand. I have been in many a battle, but never yet saw such a host
as is now advancing. They are crossing the plain to attack the city as
thick as leaves or as the sands of the sea. Hector, I charge you above
all others, do as I say. There are many allies dispersed about the
city of Priam from distant places and speaking divers tongues.
Therefore, let each chief give orders to his own people, setting
them severally in array and leading them forth to battle."
Thus she spoke, but Hector knew that it was the goddess, and at once
broke up the assembly. The men flew to arms; all the gates were
opened, and the people thronged through them, horse and foot, with the
tramp as of a great multitude.
Now there is a high mound before the city, rising by itself upon the
plain. Men call it Batieia, but the gods know that it is the tomb of
lithe Myrine. Here the Trojans and their allies divided their forces.
Priam's son, great Hector of the gleaming helmet, commanded the
Trojans, and with him were arrayed by far the greater number and
most valiant of those who were longing for the fray.
The Dardanians were led by brave Aeneas, whom Venus bore to
Anchises, when she, goddess though she was, had lain with him upon the
mountain slopes of Ida. He was not alone, for with him were the two
sons of Antenor, Archilochus and Acamas, both skilled in all the
arts of war.
They that dwelt in Telea under the lowest spurs of Mt. Ida, men of
substance, who drink the limpid waters of the Aesepus, and are of
Trojan blood- these were led by Pandarus son of Lycaon, whom Apollo
had taught to use the bow.
They that held Adresteia and the land of Apaesus, with Pityeia,
and the high mountain of Tereia- these were led by Adrestus and
Amphius, whose breastplate was of linen. These were the sons of Merops
of Percote, who excelled in all kinds of divination. He told them
not to take part in the war, but they gave him no heed, for fate lured
them to destruction.
They that dwelt about Percote and Practius, with Sestos, Abydos, and
Arisbe- these were led by Asius, son of Hyrtacus, a brave commander-
Asius, the son of Hyrtacus, whom his powerful dark bay steeds, of
the breed that comes from the river Selleis, had brought from Arisbe.
Hippothous led the tribes of Pelasgian spearsmen, who dwelt in
fertile Larissa- Hippothous, and Pylaeus of the race of Mars, two sons
of the Pelasgian Lethus, son of Teutamus.
Acamas and the warrior Peirous commanded the Thracians and those
that came from beyond the mighty stream of the Hellespont.
Euphemus, son of Troezenus, the son of Ceos, was captain of the
Ciconian spearsmen.
Pyraechmes led the Paeonian archers from distant Amydon, by the
broad waters of the river Axius, the fairest that flow upon the earth.
The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from
Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held
Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river
Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini.
Odius and Epistrophus were captains over the Halizoni from distant
Alybe, where there are mines of silver.
Chromis, and Ennomus the augur, led the Mysians, but his skill in
augury availed not to save him from destruction, for he fell by the
hand of the fleet descendant of Aeacus in the river, where he slew
others also of the Trojans.
Phorcys, again, and noble Ascanius led the Phrygians from the far
country of Ascania, and both were eager for the fray.
Mesthles and Antiphus commanded the Meonians, sons of Talaemenes,
born to him of the Gygaean lake. These led the Meonians, who dwelt
under Mt. Tmolus.
Nastes led the Carians, men of a strange speech. These held
Miletus and the wooded mountain of Phthires, with the water of the
river Maeander and the lofty crests of Mt. Mycale. These were
commanded by Nastes and Amphimachus, the brave sons of Nomion. He came
into the fight with gold about him, like a girl; fool that he was, his
gold was of no avail to save him, for he fell in the river by the hand
of the fleet descendant of Aeacus, and Achilles bore away his gold.
Sarpedon and Glaucus led the Lycians from their distant land, by the
eddying waters of the Xanthus.

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Last Night-- And This

Last night-- how deep the darkness was!
And well I knew its depths, because
I waded it from shore to shore,
Thinking to reach the light no more.

She would not even touch my hand---.
The winds rose and the cedars fanned
The moon out, and the stars fled back
In heaven and hid-- and all was black!

But ah! To-night a summons came,
Signed with a tear-drop for a name,
For as I wondering kissed it, lo
A line beneath it told me so.

And now-- the moon hangs over me
A disk of dazzling brilliancy,
And every star-tip stabs my sights
With splintered glitterings of light!

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Patrick White

I Want To Make A Contribution

I want to make a contribution.
I want to leave something on the stairs of the temple
in the dead of the night and steal away like a shadow,
hoping my small gift of a gift is well-received.
That the stars don't think they're wasting their light
to shine down upon it. Nor the wind resent the seeds it carries.
Fifty years of poetry. Painting the picture-music
the darkness pours into my heart and my heart conveys to my ears.
I can taste thousands of wildflowers like eyes in my blood.
I can taste the homelessness of the rogue stars in my tears,
and pull the wounded swords I cull like thorns of the rose
from the stone of my brain that fell in the farmer's field
like a rock through the window of the abyss
and make it clear as Merlin locked in his tower of glass,
that the stars only look fixed from a distance,
up close and intimate as atoms they're in a frenzy of creation
like a cloud of gnats in the last rapture of the sunset
radioactive with the bliss of being alive to know this.
That we're all longing for home in the lap of an expansive awareness
that threw the starmaps away the moment we were born
into the radiance of things that let go of the light
as if they knew something they just couldn't keep to themselves
without doing great injury to the flowers of life
that space was mind, and time was its emotional life
and as the dark mother said to her last incarnation
as it was stepping through the doorway into a stranger,
we're just going to wing it from here on end.

I want to be a strong storm tree twisted and bent by the wind
like the last letter of a sacred alphabet with no alpha or omega
to mark where things begin and end like death in life.
And wind up like a windfall of sweet fruit without end.
I want to make something of my falling, I want to honour
the table I eat at like iron and carbon and oxygen
by bringing something back for what I have received
without asking, or making a decision when I was not aware
of some unimaginable god that holds me personally responsible for it.
What a sleight to humans everywhere matter enjoins them
in a common labour to resonate so perfectly with the light
that lucidity isn't the exclusive property of the unknown,
and just because it's dark, the new moon of the black swan
shedding the feathers of the white, doesn't mean, it's not enlightened.

Though I come like a bird to a windowsill, though I pass
like a star from the window, though I sing of death
on the green bough, though I sing of life on the dead,
though I have been a dragon, a kitten, and a bee,
though I have floundered in sorrows like a lifeboat
way over my head, and lived through starless nights of fear
pulled down like executioners hoods over my eyes,
waiting to see what the morning brings that's vital,
I have not trafficked with my life like a pimp in a flower bed.
I have endured whatever excruciating transfigurations
I've ever had to go through, naked as a knife of light
unsheathed from the ore of this body that can no more
be cast off on the slag heap, than my spirit can paint in blood
a mural of all the changes we've been through like stars and mud.

I want to deepen the roots of the flowering night.
I want to beseech the poppies with my eyes
for more luminous experiences of cadmium red light
for more mystery among the stars than even they're aware of,
for more moons in the apple, more suns in the bread,
for more crazy wisdom than there is the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
I want to show the pine-cones they're pagodas as well
and point out where the mourning doves nest under their eyelids
and the shamans dwell in the upper branches of their evergreens
waiting to see if down will come cradle, baby and all,
or the next ascent is a red-tailed hawk at liberty
to fall upon whatever it likes, raising the snake of the lowest
up into the mystic delirium of the highest
to feather its scales in boas of oxymoronic light.

I want to intensify the dark until people can find
their way home by it, stars that broke into themselves
like morning glory tangled in an old bicycle wheel.
A pine-cone would do, a locket of sky, a piece of straw,
I could offer anything I wanted to, all those nests and pockets
I made in my pillow for years like a cat with a catcher's mitt
trying to find the perfect spot for its nightmare to sleep.
Or any one of a hundred cornerstones that were never built upon
or were torn down before the first brick laid.
Or I could lay my life down like a grain of wheat
among millions, at the feet of a silo so immaculately empty
it's never needed a single one of us, or all the animals
that bleated and bellowed and bled upon the earth
because we started drinking blood long before
we turned to bread like a better body to sacrifice.
Or my eyes like little thumb-drives of everything they've seen.

A gift of a gift as was given to me without a giver,
the ashes of a dead butterfly on a pyre of autumn leaves,
without ritual, celestial spin, I just want to come by myself
like a human in confusion we make the labour of our lives
as if I were stepping out of the trees like a white-tailed buck
come down to the river to drink from the moonlight
and add my reflection to the water that gave it to me,
with my head bowed toward the earth like a broken branch
heavy with the scarred fruits of life that have sweetened
like the moon over the years, poems I can recite by heart,
like the names of the stars and the flowers and the birds
and the ghosts of all those sad, passionate women who
tried so hard to be happy their tears clung like eyes
to the mystery of the windows they kept looking through
as if they were resilvering the mirrors of old telescopes
with the dew of a morning from a long time ago
witching in the dark for stars to explain their loss.

I want to bring a word that's been so deeply hidden in the open
like the flower of a rootless tree, it's got no colour of its own,
no seed, no leaf, no humming bird or bee, the tuning fork
of the nightbird, but no song, no honey, no nectar,
no likeness anywhere to compare it with, demonic or benign,
no meaning no mouth has ever wrapped itself around
like the atmosphere of a habitable planet, though the wind has tried,
a word so indelibly original it can't be washed out
like the whisper of a watercolour in the ear of a solar flare,
a word so private it gets said over the graves of the sacred syllables
that died in the mouths of men like the names of their gods,
not a prayer, not a mantra, not the shriek of a war-cry,
not a curse, not a blessing, not the answer to anything,
and I want to say the unsayable so unsayably free of veils
no junkie in the snakepit of a burning spoon, no lover
thawing virgin watersheds in the nunnery of Madame Moon
has ever stood so naked in their own eyes
even the emptiness inside felt overdressed for the occasion.

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The Witch of Wenham

I.
Along Crane River's sunny slopes
Blew warm the winds of May,
And over Naumkeag's ancient oaks
The green outgrew the gray.

The grass was green on Rial-side,
The early birds at will
Waked up the violet in its dell,
The wind-flower on its hill.

'Where go you, in your Sunday coat,
Son Andrew, tell me, pray.'
For striped perch in Wenham Lake
I go to fish to-day.'

'Unharmed of thee in Wenham Lake
The mottled perch shall be
A blue-eyed witch sits on the bank
And weaves her net for thee.

'She weaves her golden hair; she sings
Her spell-song low and faint;
The wickedest witch in Salem jail
Is to that girl a saint.'

'Nay, mother, hold thy cruel tongue;
God knows,' the young man cried,
'He never made a whiter soul
Than hers by Wenham side.

'She tends her mother sick and blind,
And every want supplies;
To her above the blessed Book
She lends her soft blue eyes.

'Her voice is glad with holy songs,
Her lips are sweet with prayer;
Go where you will, in ten miles round
Is none more good and fair.'

'Son Andrew, for the love of God
And of thy mother, stay!'
She clasped her hands, she wept aloud,
But Andrew rode away.

'O reverend sir, my Andrew's soul
The Wenham witch has caught;
She holds him with the curled gold
Whereof her snare is wrought.

'She charms him with her great blue eyes,
She binds him with her hair;
Oh, break the spell with holy words,
Unbind him with a prayer!'

'Take heart,' the painful preacher said,
'This mischief shall not be;
The witch shall perish in her sins
And Andrew shall go free.

'Our poor Ann Putnam testifies
She saw her weave a spell,
Bare-armed, loose-haired, at full of moon,
Around a dried-up well.

''Spring up, O well!' she softly sang
The Hebrew's old refrain
(For Satan uses Bible words),
Till water flowed a-main.

'And many a goodwife heard her speak
By Wenham water words
That made the buttercups take wings
And turn to yellow birds.

'They say that swarming wild bees seek
The hive at her command;
And fishes swim to take their food
From out her dainty hand.

'Meek as she sits in meeting-time,
The godly minister
Notes well the spell that doth compel
The young men's eyes to her.

'The mole upon her dimpled chin
Is Satan's seal and sign;
Her lips are red with evil bread
And stain of unblest wine.

'For Tituba, my Indian, saith
At Quasycung she took
The Black Man's godless sacrament
And signed his dreadful book.

'Last night my sore-afflicted child
Against the young witch cried.
To take her Marshal Herrick rides
Even now to Wenham side.'

The marshal in his saddle sat,
His daughter at his knee;
'I go to fetch that arrant witch,
Thy fair playmate,' quoth he.

'Her spectre walks the parsonage,
And haunts both hall and stair;
They know her by the great blue eyes
And floating gold of hair.'

'They lie, they lie, my father dear!
No foul old witch is she,
But sweet and good and crystal-pure
As Wenham waters be.'

'I tell thee, child, the Lord hath set
Before us good and ill,
And woe to all whose carnal loves
Oppose His righteous will.

'Between Him and the powers of hell
Choose thou, my child, to-day
No sparing hand, no pitying eye,
When God commands to slay!'

He went his way; the old wives shook
With fear as he drew nigh;
The children in the dooryards held
Their breath as he passed by.

Too well they knew the gaunt gray horse
The grim witch-hunter rode
The pale Apocalyptic beast
By grisly Death bestrode.

II.
Oh, fair the face of Wenham Lake
Upon the young girl's shone,
Her tender mouth, her dreaming eyes,
Her yellow hair outblown.

By happy youth and love attuned
To natural harmonies,
The singing birds, the whispering wind,
She sat beneath the trees.

Sat shaping for her bridal dress
Her mother's wedding gown,
When lo! the marshal, writ in hand,
From Alford hill rode down.

His face was hard with cruel fear,
He grasped the maiden's hands
'Come with me unto Salem town,
For so the law commands!'

'Oh, let me to my mother say
Farewell before I go!'
He closer tied her little hands
Unto his saddle bow.

'Unhand me,' cried she piteously,
'For thy sweet daughter's sake.'
'I'll keep my daughter safe,' he said,
'From the witch of Wenham Lake.'

'Oh, leave me for my mother's sake,
She needs my eyes to see.'
'Those eyes, young witch, the crows shall peck
From off the gallows-tree.'

He bore her to a farm-house old,
And up its stairway long,
And closed on her the garret-door
With iron bolted strong.

The day died out, the night came down
Her evening prayer she said,
While, through the dark, strange faces seemed
To mock her as she prayed.

The present horror deepened all
The fears her childhood knew;
The awe wherewith the air was filled
With every breath she drew.

And could it be, she trembling asked,
Some secret thought or sin
Had shut good angels from her heart
And let the bad ones in?

Had she in some forgotten dream
Let go her hold on Heaven,
And sold herself unwittingly
To spirits unforgiven?

Oh, weird and still the dark hours passed;
No human sound she heard,
But up and down the chimney stack
The swallows moaned and stirred.

And o'er her, with a dread surmise
Of evil sight and sound,
The blind bats on their leathern wings
Went wheeling round and round.

Low hanging in the midnight sky
Looked in a half-faced moon.
Was it a dream, or did she hear
Her lover's whistled tune?

She forced the oaken scuttle back;
A whisper reached her ear
'Slide down the roof to me,' it said,
'So softly none may hear.'

She slid along the sloping roof
Till from its eaves she hung,
And felt the loosened shingles yield
To which her fingers clung.

Below, her lover stretched his hands
And touched her feet so small;
'Drop down to me, dear heart,' he said,
'My arms shall break the fall.'

He set her on his pillion soft,
Her arms about him twined;
And, noiseless as if velvet-shod,
They left the house behind.

But when they reached the open way,
Full free the rein he cast;
Oh, never through the mirk midnight
Rode man and maid more fast.

Along the wild wood-paths they sped,
The bridgeless streams they swam;
At set of moon they passed the Bass,
At sunrise Agawam.

At high noon on the Merrimac
The ancient ferryman
Forgot, at times, his idle oars,
So fair a freight to scan.

And when from off his grounded boat
He saw them mount and ride,
'God keep her from the evil eye,
And harm of witch!' he cried.

The maiden laughed, as youth will laugh
At all its fears gone by;
'He does not know,' she whispered low,
'A little witch am I.'

All day he urged his weary horse,
And, in the red sundown,
Drew rein before a friendly door
In distant Berwick town.

A fellow-feeling for the wronged
The Quaker people felt;
And safe beside their kindly hearths
The hunted maiden dwelt,

Until from off its breast the land
The haunting horror threw,
And hatred, born of ghastly dreams,
To shame and pity grew.

Sad were the year's spring morns, and sad
Its golden summer day,
But blithe and glad its withered fields,
And skies of ashen gray;

For spell and charm had power no more,
The spectres ceased to roam,
And scattered households knelt again
Around the hearths of home.

And when once more by Beaver Dam
The meadow-lark outsang,
And once again on all the hills
The early violets sprang,

And all the windy pasture slopes
Lay green within the arms
Of creeks that bore the salted sea
To pleasant inland farms,

The smith filed off the chains he forged,
The jail-bolts backward fell;
And youth and hoary age came forth
Like souls escaped from hell.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 23

Thus did they make their moan throughout the city, while the
Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to his
own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and spoke to
his brave comrades saying, "Myrmidons, famed horsemen and my own
trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but with horse
and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus, in due honour
to the dead. When we have had full comfort of lamentation we will
unyoke our horses and take supper all of us here."
On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them in
their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all sorrowing round
the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still deeper yearning.
The sands of the seashore and the men's armour were wet with their
weeping, so great a minister of fear was he whom they had lost.
Chief in all their mourning was the son of Peleus: he laid his
bloodstained hand on the breast of his friend. "Fare well," he
cried, "Patroclus, even in the house of Hades. I will now do all
that I erewhile promised you; I will drag Hector hither and let dogs
devour him raw; twelve noble sons of Trojans will I also slay before
your pyre to avenge you."
As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,
laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of Patroclus. The
others then put off every man his armour, took the horses from their
chariots, and seated themselves in great multitude by the ship of
the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who thereon feasted them with an
abundant funeral banquet. Many a goodly ox, with many a sheep and
bleating goat did they butcher and cut up; many a tusked boar
moreover, fat and well-fed, did they singe and set to roast in the
flames of Vulcan; and rivulets of blood flowed all round the place
where the body was lying.
Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to
Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them, so
wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they reached
Agamemnon's tent they told the serving-men to set a large tripod
over the fire in case they might persuade the son of Peleus 'to wash
the clotted gore from this body, but he denied them sternly, and swore
it with a solemn oath, saying, "Nay, by King Jove, first and mightiest
of all gods, it is not meet that water should touch my body, till I
have laid Patroclus on the flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved
my head- for so long as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw
nigh me. Now, therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands,
but at break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and
provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of
darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the sooner,
and the people shall turn again to their own labours."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made haste
to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full share so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had had enough to eat and
drink, the others went to their rest each in his own tent, but the son
of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by the shore of the
sounding sea, in an open place where the waves came surging in one
after another. Here a very deep slumber took hold upon him and eased
the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs were weary with chasing
Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the sad spirit of Patroclus drew
near him, like what he had been in stature, voice, and the light of
his beaming eyes, clad, too, as he had been clad in life. The spirit
hovered over his head and said-
"You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,
but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with all
speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain shadows
of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them; they will not
yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the river, and I wander
all desolate by the wide gates of the house of Hades. Give me now your
hand I pray you, for when you have once given me my dues of fire,
never shall I again come forth out of the house of Hades. Nevermore
shall we sit apart and take sweet counsel among the living; the
cruel fate which was my birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around
me- nay, you too Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the
wall of the noble Trojans.
"One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not my
bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even as we
were brought up together in your own home, what time Menoetius brought
me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a sad spite I had killed
the son of Amphidamas- not of set purpose, but in childish quarrel
over the dice. The knight Peleus took me into his house, entreated
me kindly, and named me to be your squire; therefore let our bones lie
in but a single urn, the two-handled golden vase given to you by
your mother."
And Achilles answered, "Why, true heart, are you come hither to
lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have
bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms around
one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows."
He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped
him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a
vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to his
feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, "Of a truth
even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms that have
no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of Patroclus has
hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me what I am to do
for him, and looking wondrously like himself."
Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning
about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then
King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to bring
wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over them. They
went out with woodmen's axes and strong ropes in their hands, and
before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did they go, by
straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the heights of
many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots of many a
tall branching oak that came thundering down as they felled it. They
split the trees and bound them behind the mules, which then wended
their way as they best could through the thick brushwood on to the
plain. All who had been cutting wood bore logs, for so Meriones squire
to Idomeneus had bidden them, and they threw them down in a line
upon the seashore at the place where Achilles would make a mighty
monument for Patroclus and for himself.
When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole
ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles
ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke
each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour and
mounted each his chariot- they and their charioteers with them. The
chariots went before, and they that were on foot followed as a cloud
in their tens of thousands after. In the midst of them his comrades
bore Patroclus and covered him with the locks of their hair which they
cut off and threw upon his body. Last came Achilles with his head
bowed for sorrow, so noble a comrade was he taking to the house of
Hades.
When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they
laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought
him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and cut off
the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river Spercheius. He
looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and said, "Spercheius,
in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that when I returned home to
my loved native land I should cut off this lock and offer you a holy
hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to sacrifice to you there at your
springs, where is your grove and your altar fragrant with
burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow, but you have not fulfilled
his prayer; now, therefore, that I shall see my home no more, I give
this lock as a keepsake to the hero Patroclus."
As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade, and
all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation. The sun
would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles presently
said to Agamemnon, "Son of Atreus, for it is to you that the people
will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a time to cease from
mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre and set about getting
their dinners: we, to whom the dead is dearest, will see to what is
wanted here, and let the other princes also stay by me."
When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their
ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built a
pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead all
sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many fat sheep
and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from all of them and
wrapped the body therein from head to foot, heaping the flayed
carcases all round it. Against the bier he leaned two-handled jars
of honey and unguents; four proud horses did he then cast upon the
pyre, groaning the while he did so. The dead hero had had
house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and threw upon the pyre;
he also put twelve brave sons of noble Trojans to the sword and laid
them with the rest, for he was full of bitterness and fury. Then he
committed all to the resistless and devouring might of the fire; he
groaned aloud and callid on his dead comrade by name. "Fare well,"
he cried, "Patroclus, even in the house of Hades; I am now doing all
that I have promised you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the
flames consume along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour
the flesh of Hector son of Priam."
Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of Hector,
for Jove's daughter Venus kept them off him night and day, and
anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh might not be
torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus Apollo moreover
sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which gave shade to the
whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of the sun might not parch
his body.
Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles
therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and prayed to
the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly offerings. He
made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup and besought them
to come and help him that the wood might make haste to kindle and
the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard him praying and
started off to fetch the winds. They were holding high feast in the
house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came running up to the stone
threshold of the house and stood there, but as soon as they set eyes
on her they all came towards her and each of them called her to him,
but Iris would not sit down. "I cannot stay," she said, "I must go
back to the streams of Oceanus and the land of the Ethiopians who
are offering hecatombs to the immortals, and I would have my share;
but Achilles prays that Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him,
and he vows them goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the
pyre of Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting."
With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that rent
the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and on until
they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath them, but when
they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the mighty flames
roared under the blast that they blew. All night long did they blow
hard and beat upon the fire, and all night long did Achilles grasp his
double cup, drawing wine from a mixing-bowl of gold, and calling
upon the spirit of dead Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground
until the earth was drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning
the bones of his bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of
his parents, even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of
his comrade, pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and
lamentation.
At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light
which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the
flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home beyond
the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept over it. The
son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay down, overcome
with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber. Presently they who
were about the son of Atreus drew near in a body, and roused him
with the noise and tramp of their coming. He sat upright and said,
"Son of Atreus, and all other princes of the Achaeans, first pour
red wine everywhere upon the fire and quench it; let us then gather
the bones of Patroclus son of Menoetius, singling them out with
care; they are easily found, for they lie in the middle of the pyre,
while all else, both men and horses, has been thrown in a heap and
burned at the outer edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in
two layers of fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into
the house of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one
now, but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may
be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and high."
Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus. First
they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and quenched the
fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened bones of their
loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in two layers of
fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth and took it inside
the tent. They marked off the circle where the barrow should be,
made a foundation for it about the pyre, and forthwith heaped up the
earth. When they had thus raised a mound they were going away, but
Achilles stayed the people and made them sit in assembly. He brought
prizes from the ships-cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble
oxen, women with fair girdles, and swart iron.
The first prize he offered was for the chariot races- a woman
skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had
ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was for the
man who came in first. For the second there was a six-year old mare,
unbroken, and in foal to a he-ass; the third was to have a goodly
cauldron that had never yet been on the fire; it was still bright as
when it left the maker, and would hold four measures. The fourth prize
was two talents of gold, and the fifth a two-handled urn as yet
unsoiled by smoke. Then he stood up and spoke among the Argives
saying-
"Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that
lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I
should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you
know how far my steeds excel all others- for they are immortal;
Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them to
myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost their
brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in clear
water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand weeping
here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the extremity of
their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in order throughout the
host, whosoever has confidence in his horses and in the strength of
his chariot."
Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots bestirred
themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king of men, son of
Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to him rose mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken
from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the fight. Next to him,
yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and yoked his fleet
horses, Agamemnon's mare Aethe, and his own horse Podargus. The mare
had been given to Agamemnon by echepolus son of Anchises, that he
might not have to follow him to Ilius, but might stay at home and take
his ease; for Jove had endowed him with great wealth and he lived in
spacious Sicyon. This mare, all eager for the race, did Menelaus put
under the yoke.
Fourth in order Antilochus, son to noble Nestor son of Neleus,
made ready his horses. These were bred in Pylos, and his father came
up to him to give him good advice of which, however, he stood in but
little need. "Antilochus," said Nestor, "you are young, but Jove and
Neptune have loved you well, and have made you an excellent
horseman. I need not therefore say much by way of instruction. You are
skilful at wheeling your horses round the post, but the horses
themselves are very slow, and it is this that will, I fear, mar your
chances. The other drivers know less than you do, but their horses are
fleeter; therefore, my dear son, see if you cannot hit upon some
artifice whereby you may insure that the prize shall not slip
through your fingers. The woodman does more by skill than by brute
force; by skill the pilot guides his storm-tossed barque over the sea,
and so by skill one driver can beat another. If a man go wide in
rounding this way and that, whereas a man who knows what he is doing
may have worse horses, but he will keep them well in hand when he sees
the doubling-post; he knows the precise moment at which to pull the
rein, and keeps his eye well on the man in front of him. I will give
you this certain token which cannot escape your notice. There is a
stump of a dead tree-oak or pine as it may be- some six feet above the
ground, and not yet rotted away by rain; it stands at the fork of
the road; it has two white stones set one on each side, and there is a
clear course all round it. It may have been a monument to some one
long since dead, or it may have been used as a doubling-post in days
gone by; now, however, it has been fixed on by Achilles as the mark
round which the chariots shall turn; hug it as close as you can, but
as you stand in your chariot lean over a little to the left; urge on
your right-hand horse with voice and lash, and give him a loose
rein, but let the left-hand horse keep so close in, that the nave of
your wheel shall almost graze the post; but mind the stone, or you
will wound your horses and break your chariot in pieces, which would
be sport for others but confusion for yourself. Therefore, my dear
son, mind well what you are about, for if you can be first to round
the post there is no chance of any one giving you the goby later,
not even though you had Adrestus's horse Arion behind you horse
which is of divine race- or those of Laomedon, which are the noblest
in this country."
When Nestor had made an end of counselling his son he sat down in
his place, and fifth in order Meriones got ready his horses. They then
all mounted their chariots and cast lots.- Achilles shook the
helmet, and the lot of Antilochus son of Nestor fell out first; next
came that of King Eumelus, and after his, those of Menelaus son of
Atreus and of Meriones. The last place fell to the lot of Diomed son
of Tydeus, who was the best man of them all. They took their places in
line; Achilles showed them the doubling-post round which they were
to turn, some way off upon the plain; here he stationed his father's
follower Phoenix as umpire, to note the running, and report truly.
At the same instant they all of them lashed their horses, struck
them with the reins, and shouted at them with all their might. They
flew full speed over the plain away from the ships, the dust rose from
under them as it were a cloud or whirlwind, and their manes were all
flying in the wind. At one moment the chariots seemed to touch the
ground, and then again they bounded into the air; the drivers stood
erect, and their hearts beat fast and furious in their lust of
victory. Each kept calling on his horses, and the horses scoured the
plain amid the clouds of dust that they raised.
It was when they were doing the last part of the course on their way
back towards the sea that their pace was strained to the utmost and it
was seen what each could do. The horses of the descendant of Pheres
now took the lead, and close behind them came the Trojan stallions
of Diomed. They seemed as if about to mount Eumelus's chariot, and
he could feel their warm breath on his back and on his broad
shoulders, for their heads were close to him as they flew over the
course. Diomed would have now passed him, or there would have been a
dead heat, but Phoebus Apollo to spite him made him drop his whip.
Tears of anger fell from his eyes as he saw the mares going on
faster than ever, while his own horses lost ground through his
having no whip. Minerva saw the trick which Apollo had played the
son of Tydeus, so she brought him his whip and put spirit into his
horses; moreover she went after the son of Admetus in a rage and broke
his yoke for him; the mares went one to one side the course, and the
other to the other, and the pole was broken against the ground.
Eumelus was thrown from his chariot close to the wheel; his elbows,
mouth, and nostrils were all torn, and his forehead was bruised
above his eyebrows; his eyes filled with tears and he could find no
utterance. But the son of Tydeus turned his horses aside and shot
far ahead, for Minerva put fresh strength into them and covered Diomed
himself with glory.
Menelaus son of Atreus came next behind him, but Antilochus called
to his father's horses. "On with you both," he cried, "and do your
very utmost. I do not bid you try to beat the steeds of the son of
Tydeus, for Minerva has put running into them, and has covered
Diomed with glory; but you must overtake the horses of the son of
Atreus and not be left behind, or Aethe who is so fleet will taunt
you. Why, my good fellows, are you lagging? I tell you, and it shall
surely be- Nestor will keep neither of you, but will put both of you
to the sword, if we win any the worse a prize through your
carelessness, fly after them at your utmost speed; I will hit on a
plan for passing them in a narrow part of the way, and it shall not
fail me."
They feared the rebuke of their master, and for a short space went
quicker. Presently Antilochus saw a narrow place where the road had
sunk. The ground was broken, for the winter's rain had gathered and
had worn the road so that the whole place was deepened. Menelaus was
making towards it so as to get there first, for fear of a foul, but
Antilochus turned his horses out of the way, and followed him a little
on one side. The son of Atreus was afraid and shouted out,
"Antilochus, you are driving recklessly; rein in your horses; the road
is too narrow here, it will be wider soon, and you can pass me then;
if you foul my chariot you may bring both of us to a mischief."
But Antilochus plied his whip, and drove faster, as though he had
not heard him. They went side by side for about as far as a young
man can hurl a disc from his shoulder when he is trying his
strength, and then Menelaus's mares drew behind, for he left off
driving for fear the horses should foul one another and upset the
chariots; thus, while pressing on in quest of victory, they might both
come headlong to the ground. Menelaus then upbraided Antilochus and
said, "There is no greater trickster living than you are; go, and
bad luck go with you; the Achaeans say not well that you have
understanding, and come what may you shall not bear away the prize
without sworn protest on my part."
Then he called on his horses and said to them, "Keep your pace,
and slacken not; the limbs of the other horses will weary sooner
than yours, for they are neither of them young."
The horses feared the rebuke of their master, and went faster, so
that they were soon nearly up with the others.
Meanwhile the Achaeans from their seats were watching how the horses
went, as they scoured the plain amid clouds of their own dust.
Idomeneus captain of the Cretans was first to make out the running,
for he was not in the thick of the crowd, but stood on the most
commanding part of the ground. The driver was a long way off, but
Idomeneus could hear him shouting, and could see the foremost horse
quite plainly- a chestnut with a round white star, like the moon, on
its forehead. He stood up and said among the Argives, "My friends,
princes and counsellors of the Argives, can you see the running as
well as I can? There seems to be another pair in front now, and
another driver; those that led off at the start must have been
disabled out on the plain. I saw them at first making their way
round the doubling-post, but now, though I search the plain of Troy, I
cannot find them. Perhaps the reins fell from the driver's hand so
that he lost command of his horses at the doubling-post, and could not
turn it. I suppose he must have been thrown out there, and broken
his chariot, while his mares have left the course and gone off
wildly in a panic. Come up and see for yourselves, I cannot make out
for certain, but the driver seems an Aetolian by descent, ruler over
the Argives, brave Diomed the son of Tydeus."
Ajax the son of Oileus took him up rudely and said, "Idomeneus,
why should you be in such a hurry to tell us all about it, when the
mares are still so far out upon the plain? You are none of the
youngest, nor your eyes none of the sharpest, but you are always
laying down the law. You have no right to do so, for there are
better men here than you are. Eumelus's horses are in front now, as
they always have been, and he is on the chariot holding the reins."
The captain of the Cretans was angry, and answered, "Ajax you are an
excellent railer, but you have no judgement, and are wanting in much
else as well, for you have a vile temper. I will wager you a tripod or
cauldron, and Agamemnon son of Atreus shall decide whose horses are
first. You will then know to your cost."
Ajax son of Oileus was for making him an angry answer, and there
would have been yet further brawling between them, had not Achilles
risen in his place and said, "Cease your railing Ajax and Idomeneus;
it is not you would be scandalised if you saw any one else do the
like: sit down and keep your eyes on the horses; they are speeding
towards the winning-post and will be bere directly. You will then both
of you know whose horses are first, and whose come after."
As he was speaking, the son of Tydeus came driving in, plying his
whip lustily from his shoulder, and his horses stepping high as they
flew over the course. The sand and grit rained thick on the driver,
and the chariot inlaid with gold and tin ran close behind his fleet
horses. There was little trace of wheel-marks in the fine dust, and
the horses came flying in at their utmost speed. Diomed stayed them in
the middle of the crowd, and the sweat from their manes and chests
fell in streams on to the ground. Forthwith he sprang from his
goodly chariot, and leaned his whip against his horses' yoke; brave
Sthenelus now lost no time, but at once brought on the prize, and gave
the woman and the ear-handled cauldron to his comrades to take away.
Then he unyoked the horses.
Next after him came in Antilochus of the race of Neleus, who had
passed Menelaus by a trick and not by the fleetness of his horses; but
even so Menelaus came in as close behind him as the wheel is to the
horse that draws both the chariot and its master. The end hairs of a
horse's tail touch the tyre of the wheel, and there is never much
space between wheel and horse when the chariot is going; Menelaus
was no further than this behind Antilochus, though at first he had
been a full disc's throw behind him. He had soon caught him up
again, for Agamemnon's mare Aethe kept pulling stronger and
stronger, so that if the course had been longer he would have passed
him, and there would not even have been a dead heat. Idomeneus's brave
squire Meriones was about a spear's cast behind Menelaus. His horses
were slowest of all, and he was the worst driver. Last of them all
came the son of Admetus, dragging his chariot and driving his horses
on in front. When Achilles saw him he was sorry, and stood up among
the Argives saying, "The best man is coming in last. Let us give him a
prize for it is reasonable. He shall have the second, but the first
must go to the son of Tydeus."
Thus did he speak and the others all of them applauded his saying,
and were for doing as he had said, but Nestor's son Antilochus stood
up and claimed his rights from the son of Peleus. "Achilles," said he,
"I shall take it much amiss if you do this thing; you would rob me
of my prize, because you think Eumelus's chariot and horses were
thrown out, and himself too, good man that he is. He should have
prayed duly to the immortals; he would not have come in fast if he had
done so. If you are sorry for him and so choose, you have much gold in
your tents, with bronze, sheep, cattle and horses. Take something from
this store if you would have the Achaeans speak well of you, and
give him a better prize even than that which you have now offered; but
I will not give up the mare, and he that will fight me for her, let
him come on."
Achilles smiled as he heard this, and was pleased with Antilochus,
who was one of his dearest comrades. So he said-
"Antilochus, if you would have me find Eumelus another prize, I will
give him the bronze breastplate with a rim of tin running all round it
which I took from Asteropaeus. It will be worth much money to him."
He bade his comrade Automedon bring the breastplate from his tent,
and he did so. Achilles then gave it over to Eumelus, who received
it gladly.
But Menelaus got up in a rage, furiously angry with Antilochus. An
attendant placed his staff in his hands and bade the Argives keep
silence: the hero then addressed them. "Antilochus," said he, "what is
this from you who have been so far blameless? You have made me cut a
poor figure and baulked my horses by flinging your own in front of
them, though yours are much worse than mine are; therefore, O
princes and counsellors of the Argives, judge between us and show no
favour, lest one of the Achaeans say, 'Menelaus has got the mare
through lying and corruption; his horses were far inferior to
Antilochus's, but he has greater weight and influence.' Nay, I will
determine the matter myself, and no man will blame me, for I shall
do what is just. Come here, Antilochus, and stand, as our custom is,
whip in hand before your chariot and horses; lay your hand on your
steeds, and swear by earth-encircling Neptune that you did not
purposely and guilefully get in the way of my horses."
And Antilochus answered, "Forgive me; I am much younger, King
Menelaus, than you are; you stand higher than I do and are the
better man of the two; you know how easily young men are betrayed into
indiscretion; their tempers are more hasty and they have less
judgement; make due allowances therefore, and bear with me; I will
of my own accord give up the mare that I have won, and if you claim
any further chattel from my own possessions, I would rather yield it
to you, at once, than fall from your good graces henceforth, and do
wrong in the sight of heaven."
The son of Nestor then took the mare and gave her over to
Menelaus, whose anger was thus appeased; as when dew falls upon a
field of ripening corn, and the lands are bristling with the
harvest- even so, O Menelaus, was your heart made glad within you.
He turned to Antilochus and said, "Now, Antilochus, angry though I
have been, I can give way to you of my own free will; you have never
been headstrong nor ill-disposed hitherto, but this time your youth
has got the better of your judgement; be careful how you outwit your
betters in future; no one else could have brought me round so
easily, but your good father, your brother, and yourself have all of
you had infinite trouble on my behalf; I therefore yield to your
entreaty, and will give up the mare to you, mine though it indeed
be; the people will thus see that I am neither harsh nor vindictive."
With this he gave the mare over to Antilochus's comrade Noemon,
and then took the cauldron. Meriones, who had come in fourth,
carried off the two talents of gold, and the fifth prize, the
two-handled urn, being unawarded, Achilles gave it to Nestor, going up
to him among the assembled Argives and saying, "Take this, my good old
friend, as an heirloom and memorial of the funeral of Patroclus- for
you shall see him no more among the Argives. I give you this prize
though you cannot win one; you can now neither wrestle nor fight,
and cannot enter for the javelin-match nor foot-races, for the hand of
age has been laid heavily upon you."
So saying he gave the urn over to Nestor, who received it gladly and
answered, "My son, all that you have said is true; there is no
strength now in my legs and feet, nor can I hit out with my hands from
either shoulder. Would that I were still young and strong as when
the Epeans were burying King Amarynceus in Buprasium, and his sons
offered prizes in his honour. There was then none that could vie
with me neither of the Epeans nor the Pylians themselves nor the
Aetolians. In boxing I overcame Clytomedes son of Enops, and in
wrestling, Ancaeus of Pleuron who had come forward against me.
Iphiclus was a good runner, but I beat him, and threw farther with
my spear than either Phyleus or Polydorus. In chariot-racing alone did
the two sons of Actor surpass me by crowding their horses in front
of me, for they were angry at the way victory had gone, and at the
greater part of the prizes remaining in the place in which they had
been offered. They were twins, and the one kept on holding the
reins, and holding the reins, while the other plied the whip. Such was
I then, but now I must leave these matters to younger men; I must
bow before the weight of years, but in those days I was eminent
among heroes. And now, sir, go on with the funeral contests in
honour of your comrade: gladly do I accept this urn, and my heart
rejoices that you do not forget me but are ever mindful of my goodwill
towards you, and of the respect due to me from the Achaeans. For all
which may the grace of heaven be vouchsafed you in great abundance."
Thereon the son of Peleus, when he had listened to all the thanks of
Nestor, went about among the concourse of the Achaeans, and
presently offered prizes for skill in the painful art of boxing. He
brought out a strong mule, and made it fast in the middle of the
crowd- a she-mule never yet broken, but six years old- when it is
hardest of all to break them: this was for the victor, and for the
vanquished he offered a double cup. Then he stood up and said among
the Argives, "Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, I invite our
two champion boxers to lay about them lustily and compete for these
prizes. He to whom Apollo vouchsafes the greater endurance, and whom
the Achaeans acknowledge as victor, shall take the mule back with
him to his own tent, while he that is vanquished shall have the double
cup."
As he spoke there stood up a champion both brave and great
stature, a skilful boxer, Epeus, son of Panopeus. He laid his hand
on the mule and said, "Let the man who is to have the cup come hither,
for none but myself will take the mule. I am the best boxer of all
here present, and none can beat me. Is it not enough that I should
fall short of you in actual fighting? Still, no man can be good at
everything. I tell you plainly, and it shall come true; if any man
will box with me I will bruise his body and break his bones; therefore
let his friends stay here in a body and be at hand to take him away
when I have done with him."
They all held their peace, and no man rose save Euryalus son of
Mecisteus, who was son of Talaus. Mecisteus went once to Thebes
after the fall of Oedipus, to attend his funeral, and he beat all
the people of Cadmus. The son of Tydeus was Euryalus's second,
cheering him on and hoping heartily that he would win. First he put
a waistband round him and then he gave him some well-cut thongs of
ox-hide; the two men being now girt went into the middle of the
ring, and immediately fell to; heavily indeed did they punish one
another and lay about them with their brawny fists. One could hear the
horrid crashing of their jaws, and they sweated from every pore of
their skin. Presently Epeus came on and gave Euryalus a blow on the
jaw as he was looking round; Euryalus could not keep his legs; they
gave way under him in a moment and he sprang up with a bound, as a
fish leaps into the air near some shore that is all bestrewn with
sea-wrack, when Boreas furs the top of the waves, and then falls
back into deep water. But noble Epeus caught hold of him and raised
him up; his comrades also came round him and led him from the ring,
unsteady in his gait, his head hanging on one side, and spitting great
clots of gore. They set him down in a swoon and then went to fetch the
double cup.
The son of Peleus now brought out the prizes for the third contest
and showed them to the Argives. These were for the painful art of
wrestling. For the winner there was a great tripod ready for setting
upon the fire, and the Achaeans valued it among themselves at twelve
oxen. For the loser he brought out a woman skilled in all manner of
arts, and they valued her at four oxen. He rose and said among the
Argives, "Stand forward, you who will essay this contest."
Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, and crafty
Ulysses, full of wiles rose also. The two girded themselves and went
into the middle of the ring. They gripped each other in their strong
hands like the rafters which some master-builder frames for the roof
of a high house to keep the wind out. Their backbones cracked as
they tugged at one another with their mighty arms- and sweat rained
from them in torrents. Many a bloody weal sprang up on their sides and
shoulders, but they kept on striving with might and main for victory
and to win the tripod. Ulysses could not throw Ajax, nor Ajax him;
Ulysses was too strong for him; but when the Achaeans began to tire of
watching them, Ajax said to ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,
you shall either lift me, or I you, and let Jove settle it between
us."
He lifted him from the ground as he spoke, but Ulysses did not
forget his cunning. He hit Ajax in the hollow at back of his knee,
so that he could not keep his feet, but fell on his back with
Ulysses lying upon his chest, and all who saw it marvelled. Then
Ulysses in turn lifted Ajax and stirred him a little from the ground
but could not lift him right off it, his knee sank under him, and
the two fell side by side on the ground and were all begrimed with
dust. They now sprang towards one another and were for wrestling yet a
third time, but Achilles rose and stayed them. "Put not each other
further," said he, "to such cruel suffering; the victory is with
both alike, take each of you an equal prize, and let the other
Achaeans now compete."
Thus did he speak and they did even as he had said, and put on their
shirts again after wiping the dust from off their bodies.
The son of Peleus then offered prizes for speed in running- a
mixing-bowl beautifully wrought, of pure silver. It would hold six
measures, and far exceeded all others in the whole world for beauty;
it was the work of cunning artificers in Sidon, and had been brought
into port by Phoenicians from beyond the sea, who had made a present
of it to Thoas. Eueneus son of jason had given it to Patroclus in
ransom of Priam's son Lycaon, and Achilles now offered it as a prize
in honour of his comrade to him who should be the swiftest runner. For
the second prize he offered a large ox, well fattened, while for the
last there was to be half a talent of gold. He then rose and said
among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who will essay this contest."
Forthwith uprose fleet Ajax son of Oileus, with cunning Ulysses, and
Nestor's son Antilochus, the fastest runner among all the youth of his
time. They stood side by side and Achilles showed them the goal. The
course was set out for them from the starting-post, and the son of
Oileus took the lead at once, with Ulysses as close behind him as
the shuttle is to a woman's bosom when she throws the woof across
the warp and holds it close up to her; even so close behind him was
Ulysses- treading in his footprints before the dust could settle
there, and Ajax could feel his breath on the back of his head as he
ran swiftly on. The Achaeans all shouted applause as they saw him
straining his utmost, and cheered him as he shot past them; but when
they were now nearing the end of the course Ulysses prayed inwardly to
Minerva. "Hear me," he cried, "and help my feet, O goddess." Thus
did he pray, and Pallas Minerva heard his prayer; she made his hands
and his feet feel light, and when the runners were at the point of
pouncing upon the prize, Ajax, through Minerva's spite slipped upon
some offal that was lying there from the cattle which Achilles had
slaughtered in honour of Patroclus, and his mouth and nostrils were
all filled with cow dung. Ulysses therefore carried off the
mixing-bowl, for he got before Ajax and came in first. But Ajax took
the ox and stood with his hand on one of its horns, spitting the
dung out of his mouth. Then he said to the Argives, "Alas, the goddess
has spoiled my running; she watches over Ulysses and stands by him
as though she were his own mother." Thus did he speak and they all
of them laughed heartily.
Antilochus carried off the last prize and smiled as he said to the
bystanders, "You all see, my friends, that now too the gods have shown
their respect for seniority. Ajax is somewhat older than I am, and
as for Ulysses, he belongs to an earlier generation, but he is hale in
spite of his years, and no man of the Achaeans can run against him
save only Achilles."
He said this to pay a compliment to the son of Peleus, and
Achilles answered, "Antilochus, you shall not have praised me to no
purpose; I shall give you an additional half talent of gold." He
then gave the half talent to Antilochus, who received it gladly.
Then the son of Peleus brought out the spear, helmet and shield that
had been borne by Sarpedon, and were taken from him by Patroclus. He
stood up and said among the Argives, "We bid two champions put on
their armour, take their keen blades, and make trial of one another in
the presence of the multitude; whichever of them can first wound the
flesh of the other, cut through his armour, and draw blood, to him
will I give this goodly Thracian sword inlaid with silver, which I
took from Asteropaeus, but the armour let both hold in partnership,
and I will give each of them a hearty meal in my own tent."
Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, as also mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus. When they had put on their armour each on his
own side of the ring, they both went into the middle eager to
engage, and with fire flashing from their eyes. The Achaeans marvelled
as they beheld them, and when the two were now close up with one
another, thrice did they spring forward and thrice try to strike
each other in close combat. Ajax pierced Diomed's round shield, but
did not draw blood, for the cuirass beneath the shield protected
him; thereon the son of Tydeus from over his huge shield kept aiming
continually at Ajax's neck with the point of his spear, and the
Achaeans alarmed for his safety bade them leave off fighting and
divide the prize between them. Achilles then gave the great sword to
the son of Tydeus, with its scabbard, and the leathern belt with which
to hang it.
Achilles next offered the massive iron quoit which mighty Eetion had
erewhile been used to hurl, until Achilles had slain him and carried
it off in his ships along with other spoils. He stood up and said
among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who would essay this contest.
He who wins it will have a store of iron that will last him five years
as they go rolling round, and if his fair fields lie far from a town
his shepherd or ploughman will not have to make a journey to buy iron,
for he will have a stock of it on his own premises."
Then uprose the two mighty men Polypoetes and Leonteus, with Ajax
son of Telamon and noble Epeus. They stood up one after the other
and Epeus took the quoit, whirled it, and flung it from him, which set
all the Achaeans laughing. After him threw Leonteus of the race of
Mars. Ajax son of Telamon threw third, and sent the quoit beyond any
mark that had been made yet, but when mighty Polypoetes took the quoit
he hurled it as though it had been a stockman's stick which he sends
flying about among his cattle when he is driving them, so far did
his throw out-distance those of the others. All who saw it roared
applause, and his comrades carried the prize for him and set it on
board his ship.
Achilles next offered a prize of iron for archery- ten
double-edged axes and ten with single eddies: he set up a ship's mast,
some way off upon the sands, and with a fine string tied a pigeon to
it by the foot; this was what they were to aim at. "Whoever," he said,
"can hit the pigeon shall have all the axes and take them away with
him; he who hits the string without hitting the bird will have taken a
worse aim and shall have the single-edged axes."
Then uprose King Teucer, and Meriones the stalwart squire of
Idomeneus rose also, They cast lots in a bronze helmet and the lot
of Teucer fell first. He let fly with his arrow forthwith, but he
did not promise hecatombs of firstling lambs to King Apollo, and
missed his bird, for Apollo foiled his aim; but he hit the string with
which the bird was tied, near its foot; the arrow cut the string clean
through so that it hung down towards the ground, while the bird flew
up into the sky, and the Achaeans shouted applause. Meriones, who
had his arrow ready while Teucer was aiming, snatched the bow out of
his hand, and at once promised that he would sacrifice a hecatomb of
firstling lambs to Apollo lord of the bow; then espying the pigeon
high up under the clouds, he hit her in the middle of the wing as
she was circling upwards; the arrow went clean through the wing and
fixed itself in the ground at Meriones' feet, but the bird perched
on the ship's mast hanging her head and with all her feathers
drooping; the life went out of her, and she fell heavily from the
mast. Meriones, therefore, took all ten double-edged axes, while
Teucer bore off the single-edged ones to his ships.
Then the son of Peleus brought in a spear and a cauldron that had
never been on the fire; it was worth an ox, and was chased with a
pattern of flowers; and those that throw the javelin stood up- to
wit the son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, and Meriones, stalwart
squire of Idomeneus. But Achilles spoke saying, "Son of Atreus, we
know how far you excel all others both in power and in throwing the
javelin; take the cauldron back with you to your ships, but if it so
please you, let us give the spear to Meriones; this at least is what I
should myself wish."
King Agamemnon assented. So he gave the bronze spear to Meriones,
and handed the goodly cauldron to Talthybius his esquire.

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The Victories Of Love. Book II

I
From Jane To Her Mother

Thank Heaven, the burthens on the heart
Are not half known till they depart!
Although I long'd, for many a year,
To love with love that casts out fear,
My Frederick's kindness frighten'd me,
And heaven seem'd less far off than he;
And in my fancy I would trace
A lady with an angel's face,
That made devotion simply debt,
Till sick with envy and regret,
And wicked grief that God should e'er
Make women, and not make them fair.
That he might love me more because
Another in his memory was,
And that my indigence might be
To him what Baby's was to me,
The chief of charms, who could have thought?
But God's wise way is to give nought
Till we with asking it are tired;
And when, indeed, the change desired
Comes, lest we give ourselves the praise,
It comes by Providence, not Grace;
And mostly our thanks for granted pray'rs
Are groans at unexpected cares.
First Baby went to heaven, you know,
And, five weeks after, Grace went, too.
Then he became more talkative,
And, stooping to my heart, would give
Signs of his love, which pleased me more
Than all the proofs he gave before;
And, in that time of our great grief,
We talk'd religion for relief;
For, though we very seldom name
Religion, we now think the same!
Oh, what a bar is thus removed
To loving and to being loved!
For no agreement really is
In anything when none's in this.
Why, Mother, once, if Frederick press'd
His wife against his hearty breast,
The interior difference seem'd to tear
My own, until I could not bear
The trouble. 'Twas a dreadful strife,
And show'd, indeed, that faith is life.
He never felt this. If he did,
I'm sure it could not have been hid;
For wives, I need not say to you,
Can feel just what their husbands do,
Without a word or look; but then
It is not so, you know, with men.

From that time many a Scripture text
Help'd me, which had, before, perplex'd.
Oh, what a wond'rous word seem'd this:
He is my head, as Christ is his!
None ever could have dared to see
In marriage such a dignity
For man, and for his wife, still less,
Such happy, happy lowliness,
Had God Himself not made it plain!
This revelation lays the rein—

If I may speak so—on the neck
Of a wife's love, takes thence the check
Of conscience, and forbids to doubt
Its measure is to be without
All measure, and a fond excess
Is here her rule of godliness.

I took him not for love but fright;
He did but ask a dreadful right.
In this was love, that he loved me
The first, who was mere poverty.
All that I know of love he taught;
And love is all I know of aught.
My merit is so small by his,
That my demerit is my bliss.
My life is hid with him in Christ,
Never thencefrom to be enticed;
And in his strength have I such rest
As when the baby on my breast
Finds what it knows not how to seek,
And, very happy, very weak,
Lies, only knowing all is well,
Pillow'd on kindness palpable.


II
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill

Dear Saint, I'm still at High-Hurst Park.
The house is fill'd with folks of mark.
Honoria suits a good estate
Much better than I hoped. How fate
Loads her with happiness and pride!
And such a loving lord, beside!
But between us, Sweet, everything
Has limits, and to build a wing
To this old house, when Courtholm stands
Empty upon his Berkshire lands,
And all that Honor might be near
Papa, was buying love too dear.

With twenty others, there are two
Guests here, whose names will startle you:
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Graham!
I thought he stay'd away for shame.
He and his wife were ask'd, you know,
And would not come, four years ago.
You recollect Miss Smythe found out
Who she had been, and all about
Her people at the Powder-mill;
And how the fine Aunt tried to instil
Haut ton, and how, at last poor Jane
Had got so shy and gauche that, when
The Dockyard gentry came to sup,
She always had to be lock'd up;
And some one wrote to us and said
Her mother was a kitchen-maid.
Dear Mary, you'll be charm'd to know
It must be all a fib. But, oh,
She is the oddest little Pet
On which my eyes were ever set!
She's so outrée and natural
That, when she first arrived, we all
Wonder'd, as when a robin comes
In through the window to eat crumbs
At breakfast with us. She has sense,
Humility, and confidence;
And, save in dressing just a thought
Gayer in colours than she ought,
(To-day she looks a cross between
Gipsy and Fairy, red and green,)
She always happens to do well.
And yet one never quite can tell
What she might do or utter next.
Lord Clitheroe is much perplex'd.
Her husband, every now and then,
Looks nervous; all the other men
Are charm'd. Yet she has neither grace,
Nor one good feature in her face.
Her eyes, indeed, flame in her head,
Like very altar-fires to Fred,
Whose steps she follows everywhere
Like a tame duck, to the despair
Of Colonel Holmes, who does his part
To break her funny little heart.
Honor's enchanted. 'Tis her view
That people, if they're good and true,
And treated well, and let alone,
Will kindly take to what's their own,
And always be original,
Like children. Honor's just like all
The rest of us! But, thinking so,
'Tis well she miss'd Lord Clitheroe,
Who hates originality,
Though he puts up with it in me.

Poor Mrs. Graham has never been
To the Opera! You should have seen
The innocent way she told the Earl
She thought Plays sinful when a girl,
And now she never had a chance!
Frederick's complacent smile and glance
Towards her, show'd me, past a doubt,
Honoria had been quite cut out.
'Tis very strange; for Mrs. Graham,
Though Frederick's fancy none can blame,
Seems the last woman you'd have thought
Her lover would have ever sought.
She never reads, I find, nor goes
Anywhere; so that I suppose
She got at all she ever knew
By growing up, as kittens do.

Talking of kittens, by-the-bye,
You have more influence than I
With dear Honoria. Get her, Dear,
To be a little more severe
With those sweet Children. They've the run
Of all the place. When school was done,
Maud burst in, while the Earl was there,
With ‘Oh, Mama, do be a bear!’

Do you know, Dear, this odd wife of Fred
Adores his old Love in his stead!
She is so nice, yet, I should say,
Not quite the thing for every day.
Wonders are wearying! Felix goes
Next Sunday with her to the Close,
And you will judge.

Honoria asks
All Wiltshire Belles here; Felix basks
Like Puss in fire-shine, when the room
Is thus aflame with female bloom.
But then she smiles when most would pout;
And so his lawless loves go out
With the last brocade. 'Tis not the same,
I fear, with Mrs. Frederick Graham.
Honoria should not have her here,—
And this you might just hint, my Dear,—
For Felix says he never saw
Such proof of what he holds for law,
That ‘beauty is love which can be seen.’
Whatever he by this may mean,
Were it not dreadful if he fell
In love with her on principle!


III
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Mother, I told you how, at first,
I fear'd this visit to the Hurst.
Fred must, I felt, be so distress'd
By aught in me unlike the rest
Who come here. But I find the place
Delightful; there's such ease, and grace,
And kindness, and all seem to be
On such a high equality.
They have not got to think, you know,
How far to make the money go.
But Frederick says it's less the expense
Of money, than of sound good-sense,
Quickness to care what others feel,
And thoughts with nothing to conceal;
Which I'll teach Johnny. Mrs. Vaughan
Was waiting for us on the Lawn,
And kiss'd and call'd me ‘Cousin.’ Fred
Neglected his old friends, she said.
He laugh'd, and colour'd up at this.
She was, you know, a flame of his;
But I'm not jealous! Luncheon done,
I left him, who had just begun
To talk about the Russian War
With an old Lady, Lady Carr,—
A Countess, but I'm more afraid,
A great deal, of the Lady's Maid,—
And went with Mrs. Vaughan to see
The pictures, which appear'd to be
Of sorts of horses, clowns, and cows
Call'd Wouvermans and Cuyps and Dows.
And then she took me up, to show
Her bedroom, where, long years ago,
A Queen slept. 'Tis all tapestries
Of Cupids, Gods, and Goddesses,
And black, carved oak. A curtain'd door
Leads thence into her soft Boudoir,
Where even her husband may but come
By favour. He, too, has his room,
Kept sacred to his solitude.
Did I not think the plan was good?
She ask'd me; but I said how small
Our house was, and that, after all,
Though Frederick would not say his prayers
At night till I was safe upstairs,
I thought it wrong to be so shy
Of being good when I was by.
‘Oh, you should humour him!’ she said,
With her sweet voice and smile; and led
The way to where the children ate
Their dinner, and Miss Williams sate.
She's only Nursery-Governess,
Yet they consider her no less
Than Lord or Lady Carr, or me.
Just think how happy she must be!
The Ball-Room, with its painted sky
Where heavy angels seem to fly,
Is a dull place; its size and gloom
Make them prefer, for drawing-room,
The Library, all done up new
And comfortable, with a view
Of Salisbury Spire between the boughs.

When she had shown me through the house,
(I wish I could have let her know
That she herself was half the show;
She is so handsome, and so kind!)
She fetch'd the children, who had dined;
And, taking one in either hand,
Show'd me how all the grounds were plann'd.
The lovely garden gently slopes
To where a curious bridge of ropes
Crosses the Avon to the Park.
We rested by the stream, to mark
The brown backs of the hovering trout.
Frank tickled one, and took it out
From under a stone. We saw his owls,
And awkward Cochin-China fowls,
And shaggy pony in the croft;
And then he dragg'd us to a loft,
Where pigeons, as he push'd the door,
Fann'd clear a breadth of dusty floor,
And set us coughing. I confess
I trembled for my nice silk dress.
I cannot think how Mrs. Vaughan
Ventured with that which she had on,—
A mere white wrapper, with a few
Plain trimmings of a quiet blue,
But, oh, so pretty! Then the bell
For dinner rang. I look'd quite well
(‘Quite charming,’ were the words Fred said,)
With the new gown that I've had made.

I am so proud of Frederick.
He's so high-bred and lordly-like
With Mrs. Vaughan! He's not quite so
At home with me; but that, you know,
I can't expect, or wish. 'Twould hurt,
And seem to mock at my desert.
Not but that I'm a duteous wife
To Fred; but, in another life,
Where all are fair that have been true
I hope I shall be graceful too,
Like Mrs. Vaughan. And, now, good-bye!
That happy thought has made me cry,
And feel half sorry that my cough,
In this fine air, is leaving off.


IV
From Frederick To Mrs. Graham

Honoria, trebly fair and mild
With added loves of lord and child,
Is else unalter'd. Years, which wrong
The rest, touch not her beauty, young
With youth which rather seems her clime,
Than aught that's relative to time.
How beyond hope was heard the prayer
I offer'd in my love's despair!
Could any, whilst there's any woe,
Be wholly blest, then she were so.
She is, and is aware of it,
Her husband's endless benefit;
But, though their daily ways reveal
The depth of private joy they feel,
'Tis not their bearing each to each
That does abroad their secret preach,
But such a lovely good-intent
To all within their government
And friendship as, 'tis well discern'd,
Each of the other must have learn'd;
For no mere dues of neighbourhood
Ever begot so blest a mood.

And fair, indeed, should be the few
God dowers with nothing else to do,
And liberal of their light, and free
To show themselves, that all may see!
For alms let poor men poorly give
The meat whereby men's bodies live;
But they of wealth are stewards wise
Whose graces are their charities.

The sunny charm about this home
Makes all to shine who thither come.
My own dear Jane has caught its grace,
And, honour'd, honours too the place.
Across the lawn I lately walk'd
Alone, and watch'd where mov'd and talk'd,
Gentle and goddess-like of air,
Honoria and some Stranger fair.
I chose a path unblest by these;
When one of the two Goddesses,
With my Wife's voice, but softer, said,
‘Will you not walk with us, dear Fred?’

She moves, indeed, the modest peer
Of all the proudest ladies here.
Unawed she talks with men who stand
Among the leaders of the land,
And women beautiful and wise,
With England's greatness in their eyes.
To high, traditional good-sense,
And knowledge ripe without pretence,
And human truth exactly hit
By quiet and conclusive wit,
Listens my little, homely Dove,
Mistakes the points and laughs for love;
And, after, stands and combs her hair,
And calls me much the wittiest there!

With reckless loyalty, dear Wife,
She lays herself about my life!
The joy I might have had of yore
I have not; for 'tis now no more,
With me, the lyric time of youth,
And sweet sensation of the truth.
Yet, past my hope or purpose bless'd,
In my chance choice let be confess'd
The tenderer Providence that rules
The fates of children and of fools!

I kiss'd the kind, warm neck that slept,
And from her side this morning stepp'd,
To bathe my brain from drowsy night
In the sharp air and golden light.
The dew, like frost, was on the pane.
The year begins, though fair, to wane.
There is a fragrance in its breath
Which is not of the flowers, but death;
And green above the ground appear
The lilies of another year.
I wander'd forth, and took my path
Among the bloomless aftermath;
And heard the steadfast robin sing
As if his own warm heart were Spring,
And watch'd him feed where, on the yew,
Hung honey'd drops of crimson dew;
And then return'd, by walls of peach,
And pear-trees bending to my reach,
And rose-beds with the roses gone,
To bright-laid breakfast. Mrs. Vaughan
Was there, none with her. I confess
I love her than of yore no less!
But she alone was loved of old;
Now love is twain, nay, manifold;
For, somehow, he whose daily life
Adjusts itself to one true wife,
Grows to a nuptial, near degree
With all that's fair and womanly.
Therefore, as more than friends, we met,
Without constraint, without regret;
The wedded yoke that each had donn'd
Seeming a sanction, not a bond.


V
From Mrs. Graham

Your love lacks joy, your letter says.
Yes; love requires the focal space
Of recollection or of hope,
Ere it can measure its own scope.
Too soon, too soon comes Death to show
We love more deeply than we know!
The rain, that fell upon the height
Too gently to be call'd delight,
Within the dark vale reappears
As a wild cataract of tears;
And love in life should strive to see
Sometimes what love in death would be!
Easier to love, we so should find,
It is than to be just and kind.

She's gone: shut close the coffin-lid:
What distance for another did
That death has done for her! The good,
Once gazed upon with heedless mood,
Now fills with tears the famish'd eye,
And turns all else to vanity.
'Tis sad to see, with death between,
The good we have pass'd and have not seen!
How strange appear the words of all!
The looks of those that live appal.
They are the ghosts, and check the breath:
There's no reality but death,
And hunger for some signal given
That we shall have our own in heaven.
But this the God of love lets be
A horrible uncertainty.

How great her smallest virtue seems,
How small her greatest fault! Ill dreams
Were those that foil'd with loftier grace
The homely kindness of her face.
'Twas here she sat and work'd, and there
She comb'd and kiss'd the children's hair;
Or, with one baby at her breast,
Another taught, or hush'd to rest.
Praise does the heart no more refuse
To the chief loveliness of use.
Her humblest good is hence most high
In the heavens of fond memory;
And Love says Amen to the word,
A prudent wife is from the Lord.
Her worst gown's kept, ('tis now the best,
As that in which she oftenest dress'd,)
For memory's sake more precious grown
Than she herself was for her own.
Poor child! foolish it seem'd to fly
To sobs instead of dignity,
When she was hurt. Now, more than all,
Heart-rending and angelical
That ignorance of what to do,
Bewilder'd still by wrong from you:
For what man ever yet had grace
Ne'er to abuse his power and place?

No magic of her voice or smile
Suddenly raised a fairy isle,
But fondness for her underwent
An unregarded increment,
Like that which lifts, through centuries,
The coral-reef within the seas,
Till, lo! the land where was the wave,
Alas! 'tis everywhere her grave.


VI
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Dear Mother, I can surely tell,
Now, that I never shall get well.
Besides the warning in my mind,
All suddenly are grown so kind.
Fred stopp'd the Doctor, yesterday,
Downstairs, and, when he went away,
Came smiling back, and sat with me,
Pale, and conversing cheerfully
About the Spring, and how my cough,
In finer weather, would leave off.
I saw it all, and told him plain
I felt no hope of Spring again.
Then he, after a word of jest,
Burst into tears upon my breast,
And own'd, when he could speak, he knew
There was a little danger, too.
This made me very weak and ill,
And while, last night, I lay quite still,
And, as he fancied, in the deep,
Exhausted rest of my short sleep,
I heard, or dream'd I heard him pray:
‘Oh, Father, take her not away!
‘Let not life's dear assurance lapse
‘Into death's agonised 'Perhaps,'

A hope without Thy promise, where
‘Less than assurance is despair!
‘Give me some sign, if go she must,
‘That death's not worse than dust to dust,
‘Not heaven, on whose oblivious shore
‘Joy I may have, but her no more!
The bitterest cross, it seems to me,
Of all is infidelity;
And so, if I may choose, I'll miss
The kind of heaven which comes to this.
‘If doom'd, indeed, this fever ceased,
To die out wholly, like a beast,
‘Forgetting all life's ill success
In dark and peaceful nothingness,
I could but say, Thy will be done;
‘For, dying thus, I were but one
Of seed innumerable which ne'er
In all the worlds shall bloom or bear.
I've put life past to so poor use
‘Well may'st Thou life to come refuse;
And justice, which the spirit contents,
‘Shall still in me all vain laments;
‘Nay, pleased, I will, while yet I live,
‘Think Thou my forfeit joy may'st give
To some fresh life, else unelect,
And heaven not feel my poor defect!
‘Only let not Thy method be
To make that life, and call it me;
‘Still less to sever mine in twain,
And tell each half to live again,
And count itself the whole! To die,
Is it love's disintegrity?
‘Answer me, 'No,' and I, with grace,
‘Will life's brief desolation face,
My ways, as native to the clime,
‘Adjusting to the wintry time,
‘Ev'n with a patient cheer thereof—’

He started up, hearing me cough.
Oh, Mother, now my last doubt's gone!
He likes me more than Mrs. Vaughan;
And death, which takes me from his side,
Shows me, in very deed, his bride!


VII
From Jane To Frederick

I leave this, Dear, for you to read,
For strength and hope, when I am dead.
When Grace died, I was so perplex'd,
I could not find one helpful text;
And when, a little while before,
I saw her sobbing on the floor,
Because I told her that in heaven
She would be as the angels even,
And would not want her doll, 'tis true
A horrible fear within me grew,
That, since the preciousness of love
Went thus for nothing, mine might prove
To be no more, and heaven's bliss
Some dreadful good which is not this.

But being about to die makes clear
Many dark things. I have no fear,
Now, that my love, my grief, my joy
Is but a passion for a toy.
I cannot speak at all, I find,
The shining something in my mind,
That shows so much that, if I took
My thoughts all down, 'twould make a book.
God's Word, which lately seem'd above
The simpleness of human love,
To my death-sharpen'd hearing tells
Of little or of nothing else;
And many things I hoped were true,
When first they came, like songs, from you,
Now rise with witness past the reach
Of doubt, and I to you can teach,
As if with felt authority
And as things seen, what you taught me.

Yet how? I have no words but those
Which every one already knows:
As, ‘No man hath at any time
‘Seen God, but 'tis the love of Him
‘Made perfect, and He dwells in us,
‘If we each other love.’ Or thus,
My goodness misseth in extent
Of Thee, Lord! In the excellent
I know Thee; and the Saints on Earth
‘Make all my love and holy mirth.’
And further, ‘Inasmuch as ye
‘Did it to one of these, to Me
‘Ye did it, though ye nothing thought
‘Nor knew of Me, in that ye wrought.’

What shall I dread? Will God undo
Our bond, which is all others too?
And when I meet you will you say
To my reclaiming looks, ‘Away!
A dearer love my bosom warms
With higher rights and holier charms.
The children, whom thou here may'st see,
‘Neighbours that mingle thee and me,
And gaily on impartial lyres
‘Renounce the foolish filial fires
‘They felt, with 'Praise to God on high,
‘'Goodwill to all else equally;'

The trials, duties, service, tears;
The many fond, confiding years
Of nearness sweet with thee apart;
The joy of body, mind, and heart;
The love that grew a reckless growth,
‘Unmindful that the marriage-oath
To love in an eternal style
‘Meant—only for a little while:
‘Sever'd are now those bonds earth-wrought:
‘All love, not new, stands here for nought!’

Why, it seems almost wicked, Dear,
Even to utter such a fear!
Are we not ‘heirs,’ as man and wife,
‘Together of eternal life?’
Was Paradise e'er meant to fade,
To make which marriage first was made?
Neither beneath him nor above
Could man in Eden find his Love;
Yet with him in the garden walk'd
His God, and with Him mildly talk'd!
Shall the humble preference offend
In heaven, which God did there commend?
Are ‘honourable and undefiled’
The names of aught from heaven exiled?
And are we not forbid to grieve
As without hope? Does God deceive,
And call that hope which is despair,
Namely, the heaven we should not share?
Image and glory of the man,
As he of God, is woman. Can
This holy, sweet proportion die
Into a dull equality?
Are we not one flesh, yea, so far
More than the babe and mother are,
That sons are bid mothers to leave
And to their wives alone to cleave,
‘For they two are one flesh?’ But 'tis
In the flesh we rise. Our union is,
You know 'tis said, ‘great mystery.’
Great mockery, it appears to me;
Poor image of the spousal bond
Of Christ and Church, if loosed beyond
This life!—'Gainst which, and much more yet,
There's not a single word to set.
The speech to the scoffing Sadducee
Is not in point to you and me;
For how could Christ have taught such clods
That Cæsar's things are also God's?
The sort of Wife the Law could make
Might well be ‘hated’ for Love's sake,
And left, like money, land, or house;
For out of Christ is no true spouse.

I used to think it strange of Him
To make love's after-life so dim,
Or only clear by inference:
But God trusts much to common sense,
And only tells us what, without
His Word, we could not have found out.
On fleshly tables of the heart
He penn'd truth's feeling counterpart
In hopes that come to all: so, Dear,
Trust these, and be of happy cheer,
Nor think that he who has loved well
Is of all men most miserable.

There's much more yet I want to say,
But cannot now. You know my way
Of feeling strong from Twelve till Two
After my wine. I'll write to you
Daily some words, which you shall have
To break the silence of the grave.


VIII
From Jane To Frederick

You think, perhaps, ‘Ah, could she know
How much I loved her!’ Dear, I do!
And you may say, ‘Of this new awe
Of heart which makes her fancies law,
‘These watchful duties of despair,
‘She does not dream, she cannot care!’
Frederick, you see how false that is,
Or how could I have written this?
And, should it ever cross your mind
That, now and then, you were unkind,
You never, never were at all!
Remember that! It's natural
For one like Mr. Vaughan to come,
From a morning's useful pastime, home,
And greet, with such a courteous zest,
His handsome wife, still newly dress'd,
As if the Bird of Paradise
Should daily change her plumage thrice.
He's always well, she's always gay.
Of course! But he who toils all day,
And comes home hungry, tired, or cold,
And feels 'twould do him good to scold
His wife a little, let him trust
Her love, and say the things he must,
Till sooth'd in mind by meat and rest.
If, after that, she's well caress'd,
And told how good she is, to bear
His humour, fortune makes it fair.
Women like men to be like men;
That is, at least, just now and then.
Thus, I have nothing to forgive,
But those first years, (how could I live!)
When, though I really did behave
So stupidly, you never gave
One unkind word or look at all:
As if I was some animal
You pitied! Now, in later life,
You used me like a proper Wife.

You feel, Dear, in your present mood,
Your Jane, since she was kind and good,
A child of God, a living soul,
Was not so different, on the whole,
From Her who had a little more
Of God's best gifts: but, oh, be sure,
My dear, dear Love, to take no blame
Because you could not feel the same
Towards me, living, as when dead.
A hungry man must needs think bread
So sweet! and, only at their rise
And setting, blessings, to the eyes,
Like the sun's course, grow visible.
If you are sad, remember well,
Against delusions of despair,
That memory sees things as they were,
And not as they were misenjoy'd,
And would be still, if ought destroy'd
The glory of their hopelessness:
So that, in truth, you had me less
In days when necessary zeal
For my perfection made you feel
My faults the most, than now your love
Forgets but where it can approve.
You gain by loss, if that seem'd small
Possess'd, which, being gone, turns all
Surviving good to vanity.
Oh, Fred, this makes it sweet to die!

Say to yourself: ‘'Tis comfort yet
I made her that which I regret;
And parting might have come to pass
In a worse season; as it was,
‘Love an eternal temper took,
‘Dipp'd, glowing, in Death's icy brook!’
Or say, ‘On her poor feeble head
‘This might have fallen: 'tis mine instead!
And so great evil sets me free
‘Henceforward from calamity.
And, in her little children, too,
‘How much for her I yet can do!’
And grieve not for these orphans even;
For central to the love of Heaven
Is each child as each star to space.
This truth my dying love has grace
To trust with a so sure content,
I fear I seem indifferent.

You must not think a child's small heart
Cold, because it and grief soon part.
Fanny will keep them all away,
Lest you should hear them laugh and play,
Before the funeral's over. Then
I hope you'll be yourself again,
And glad, with all your soul, to find
How God thus to the sharpest wind
Suits the shorn lambs. Instruct them, Dear,
For my sake, in His love and fear.
And show how, till their journey's done,
Not to be weary they must run.

Strive not to dissipate your grief
By any lightness. True relief
Of sorrow is by sorrow brought.
And yet for sorrow's sake, you ought
To grieve with measure. Do not spend
So good a power to no good end!
Would you, indeed, have memory stay
In the heart, lock up and put away
Relics and likenesses and all
Musings, which waste what they recall.
True comfort, and the only thing
To soothe without diminishing
A prized regret, is to match here,
By a strict life, God's love severe.
Yet, after all, by nature's course,
Feeling must lose its edge and force.
Again you'll reach the desert tracts
Where only sin or duty acts.
But, if love always lit our path,
Where were the trial of our faith?

Oh, should the mournful honeymoon
Of death be over strangely soon,
And life-long resolutions, made
In grievous haste, as quickly fade,
Seeming the truth of grief to mock,
Think, Dearest, 'tis not by the clock
That sorrow goes! A month of tears
Is more than many, many years
Of common time. Shun, if you can,
However, any passionate plan.
Grieve with the heart; let not the head
Grieve on, when grief of heart is dead;
For all the powers of life defy
A superstitious constancy.

The only bond I hold you to
Is that which nothing can undo.
A man is not a young man twice;
And if, of his young years, he lies
A faithful score in one wife's breast,
She need not mind who has the rest.
In this do what you will, dear Love,
And feel quite sure that I approve.
And, should it chance as it may be,
Give her my wedding-ring from me;
And never dream that you can err
T'wards me by being good to her;
Nor let remorseful thoughts destroy
In you the kindly flowering joy
And pleasure of the natural life.

But don't forget your fond, dead Wife.
And, Frederick, should you ever be
Tempted to think your love of me
All fancy, since it drew its breath
So much more sweetly after death,
Remember that I never did
A single thing you once forbid;
All poor folk liked me; and, at the end,
Your Cousin call'd me ‘Dearest Friend!’

And, now, 'twill calm your grief to know,—
You, who once loved Honoria so,—
There's kindness, that's look'd kindly on,
Between her Emily and John.
Thus, in your children, you will wed!
And John seems so much comforted,
(Like Isaac when his mother died
And fair Rebekah was his bride),
By his new hope, for losing me!
So all is happiness, you see.
And that reminds me how, last night,
I dreamt of heaven, with great delight.
A strange, kind Lady watch'd my face,
Kiss'd me, and cried, ‘His hope found grace!’
She bade me then, in the crystal floor,
Look at myself, myself no more;
And bright within the mirror shone
Honoria's smile, and yet my own!
And, when you talk, I hear,’ she sigh'd,
‘How much he loved her! Many a bride
In heaven such countersemblance wears
‘Through what Love deem'd rejected prayers.’
She would have spoken still; but, lo,
One of a glorious troop, aglow
From some great work, towards her came,
And she so laugh'd, 'twas such a flame,
Aaron's twelve jewels seem'd to mix
With the lights of the Seven Candlesticks.


IX
From Lady Clitheroe To Mrs. Graham

My dearest Aunt, the Wedding-day,
But for Jane's loss, and you away,
Was all a Bride from heaven could beg!
Skies bluer than the sparrow's egg,
And clearer than the cuckoo's call;
And such a sun! the flowers all
With double ardour seem'd to blow!
The very daisies were a show,
Expanded with uncommon pride,
Like little pictures of the Bride.

Your Great-Niece and your Grandson were
Perfection of a pretty pair.
How well Honoria's girls turn out,
Although they never go about!
Dear me, what trouble and expense
It took to teach mine confidence!
Hers greet mankind as I've heard say
That wild things do, where beasts of prey
Were never known, nor any men
Have met their fearless eyes till then.
Their grave, inquiring trust to find
All creatures of their simple kind
Quite disconcerts bold coxcombry,
And makes less perfect candour shy.
Ah, Mrs. Graham! people may scoff,
But how your home-kept girls go off!
How Hymen hastens to unband
The waist that ne'er felt waltzer's hand!
At last I see my Sister's right,
And I've told Maud this very night,
(But, oh, my daughters have such wills!)
To knit, and only dance quadrilles.

You say Fred never writes to you
Frankly, as once he used to do,
About himself; and you complain
He shared with none his grief for Jane.
It all comes of the foolish fright
Men feel at the word, hypocrite.
Although, when first in love, sometimes
They rave in letters, talk, and rhymes,
When once they find, as find they must.
How hard 'tis to be hourly just
To those they love, they are dumb for shame,
Where we, you see, talk on the same.

Honoria, to whose heart alone
He seems to open all his own,
At times has tears in her kind eyes,
After their private colloquies.
He's her most favour'd guest, and moves
My spleen by his impartial loves.
His pleasure has some inner spring
Depending not on anything.
Petting our Polly, none e'er smiled
More fondly on his favourite child;
Yet, playing with his own, it is
Somehow as if it were not his.
He means to go again to sea,
Now that the wedding's over. He
Will leave to Emily and John
The little ones to practise on;
And Major-domo, Mrs. Rouse,
A deal old soul from Wilton House,
Will scold the housemaids and the cook,
Till Emily has learn'd to look
A little braver than a lamb
Surprised by dogs without its dam!

Do, dear Aunt, use your influence,
And try to teach some plain good sense
To Mary. 'Tis not yet too late
To make her change her chosen state
Of single silliness. In truth,
I fancy that, with fading youth,
Her will now wavers. Yesterday,
Though, till the Bride was gone away,
Joy shone from Mary's loving heart,
I found her afterwards apart,
Hysterically sobbing. I
Knew much too well to ask her why.
This marrying of Nieces daunts
The bravest souls of maiden Aunts.
Though Sisters' children often blend
Sweetly the bonds of child and friend,
They are but reeds to rest upon.
When Emily comes back with John,
Her right to go downstairs before
Aunt Mary will but be the more
Observed if kindly waived, and how
Shall these be as they were, when now
Niece has her John, and Aunt the sense
Of her superior innocence?
Somehow, all loves, however fond,
Prove lieges of the nuptial bond;
And she who dares at this to scoff,
Finds all the rest in time drop off;
While marriage, like a mushroom-ring,
Spreads its sure circle every Spring.

She twice refused George Vane, you know;
Yet, when he died three years ago
In the Indian war, she put on gray,
And wears no colours to this day.
And she it is who charges me,
Dear Aunt, with ‘inconsistency!’


X
From Frederick To Honoria

Cousin, my thoughts no longer try
To cast the fashion of the sky.
Imagination can extend
Scarcely in part to comprehend
The sweetness of our common food
Ambrosial, which ingratitude
And impious inadvertence waste,
Studious to eat but not to taste.
And who can tell what's yet in store
There, but that earthly things have more
Of all that makes their inmost bliss,
And life's an image still of this,
But haply such a glorious one
As is the rainbow of the sun?
Sweet are your words, but, after all
Their mere reversal may befall
The partners of His glories who
Daily is crucified anew:
Splendid privations, martyrdoms
To which no weak remission comes,
Perpetual passion for the good
Of them that feel no gratitude,
Far circlings, as of planets' fires,
Round never-to-be-reach'd desires,
Whatever rapturously sighs
That life is love, love sacrifice.
All I am sure of heaven is this:
Howe'er the mode, I shall not miss
One true delight which I have known.
Not on the changeful earth alone
Shall loyalty remain unmoved
T'wards everything I ever loved.
So Heaven's voice calls, like Rachel's voice
To Jacob in the field, ‘Rejoice!
‘Serve on some seven more sordid years,
‘Too short for weariness or tears;
‘Serve on; then, oh, Beloved, well-tried,
‘Take me for ever as thy Bride!’


XI
From Mary Churchill To The Dean

Charles does me honour, but 'twere vain
To reconsider now again,
And so to doubt the clear-shown truth
I sought for, and received, when youth,
Being fair, and woo'd by one whose love
Was lovely, fail'd my mind to move.
God bids them by their own will go,
Who ask again the things they know!
I grieve for my infirmity,
And ignorance of how to be
Faithful, at once, to the heavenly life,
And the fond duties of a wife.
Narrow am I and want the art
To love two things with all my heart.
Occupied singly in His search,
Who, in the Mysteries of the Church,
Returns, and calls them Clouds of Heaven,
I tread a road, straight, hard, and even;
But fear to wander all confused,
By two-fold fealty abused.
Either should I the one forget,
Or scantly pay the other's debt.

You bid me, Father, count the cost.
I have; and all that must be lost
I feel as only woman can.
To make the heart's wealth of some man,
And through the untender world to move,
Wrapt safe in his superior love,
How sweet! How sweet the household round
Of duties, and their narrow bound,
So plain, that to transgress were hard,
Yet full of manifest reward!
The charities not marr'd, like mine,
With chance of thwarting laws divine;
The world's regards and just delight
In one that's clearly, kindly right,
How sweet! Dear Father, I endure,
Not without sharp regret, be sure,
To give up such glad certainty,
For what, perhaps, may never be.
For nothing of my state I know,
But that t'ward heaven I seem to go,
As one who fondly landward hies
Along a deck that seaward flies.
With every year, meantime, some grace
Of earthly happiness gives place
To humbling ills, the very charms
Of youth being counted, henceforth, harms:
To blush already seems absurd;
Nor know I whether I should herd
With girls or wives, or sadlier balk
Maids' merriment or matrons' talk.

But strait's the gate of life! O'er late,
Besides, 'twere now to change my fate:
For flowers and fruit of love to form,
It must be Spring as well as warm.
The world's delight my soul dejects,
Revenging all my disrespects
Of old, with incapacity
To chime with even its harmless glee,
Which sounds, from fields beyond my range,
Like fairies' music, thin and strange.
With something like remorse, I grant
The world has beauty which I want;
And if, instead of judging it,
I at its Council chance to sit,
Or at its gay and order'd Feast,
My place seems lower than the least.
The conscience of the life to be
Smites me with inefficiency,
And makes me all unfit to bless
With comfortable earthliness
The rest-desiring brain of man.
Finally, then, I fix my plan
To dwell with Him that dwells apart
In the highest heaven and lowliest heart;
Nor will I, to my utter loss,
Look to pluck roses from the Cross.
As for the good of human love,
'Twere countercheck almost enough
To think that one must die before
The other; and perhaps 'tis more
In love's last interest to do
Nought the least contrary thereto,
Than to be blest, and be unjust,
Or suffer injustice; as they must,
Without a miracle, whose pact
Compels to mutual life and act,
Whether love shines, or darkness sleeps
Cold on the spirit's changeful deeps.

Enough if, to my earthly share,
Fall gleams that keep me from despair.
Happy the things we here discern;
More happy those for which we yearn;
But measurelessly happy above
All else are those we guess not of!


XII
From Felix To Honoria

Dearest, my Love and Wife, 'tis long
Ago I closed the unfinish'd song
Which never could be finish'd; nor
Will ever Poet utter more
Of love than I did, watching well
To lure to speech the unspeakable!
‘Why, having won her, do I woo?’
That final strain to the last height flew
Of written joy, which wants the smile
And voice that are, indeed, the while
They last, the very things you speak,
Honoria, who mak'st music weak
With ways that say, ‘Shall I not be
‘As kind to all as Heaven to me?’
And yet, ah, twenty-fold my Bride!
Rising, this twentieth festal-tide,
You still soft sleeping, on this day
Of days, some words I long to say,
Some words superfluously sweet
Of fresh assurance, thus to greet
Your waking eyes, which never grow
Weary of telling what I know
So well, yet only well enough
To wish for further news thereof.

Here, in this early autumn dawn,
By windows opening on the lawn,
Where sunshine seems asleep, though bright,
And shadows yet are sharp with night,
And, further on, the wealthy wheat
Bends in a golden drowse, how sweet
To sit and cast my careless looks
Around my walls of well-read books,
Wherein is all that stands redeem'd
From time's huge wreck, all men have dream'd
Of truth, and all by poets known
Of feeling, and in weak sort shown,
And, turning to my heart again,
To find I have what makes them vain,
The thanksgiving mind, which wisdom sums,
And you, whereby it freshly comes
As on that morning, (can there be
Twenty-two years 'twixt it and me?)
When, thrill'd with hopeful love I rose
And came in haste to Sarum Close,
Past many a homestead slumbering white
In lonely and pathetic light,
Merely to fancy which drawn blind
Of thirteen had my Love behind,
And in her sacred neighbourhood
To feel that sweet scorn of all good
But her, which let the wise forfend
When wisdom learns to comprehend!

Dearest, as each returning May
I see the season new and gay
With new joy and astonishment,
And Nature's infinite ostent
Of lovely flowers in wood and mead,
That weet not whether any heed,
So see I, daily wondering, you,
And worship with a passion new
The Heaven that visibly allows
Its grace to go about my house,
The partial Heaven, that, though I err
And mortal am, gave all to her
Who gave herself to me. Yet I
Boldly thank Heaven, (and so defy
The beggarly soul'd humbleness
Which fears God's bounty to confess,)
That I was fashion'd with a mind
Seeming for this great gift design'd,
So naturally it moved above
All sordid contraries of love,
Strengthen'd in youth with discipline
Of light, to follow the divine
Vision, (which ever to the dark
Is such a plague as was the ark
In Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron,) still
Discerning with the docile will
Which comes of full persuaded thought,
That intimacy in love is nought
Without pure reverence, whereas this,
In tearfullest banishment, is bliss.

And so, dearest Honoria, I
Have never learn'd the weary sigh
Of those that to their love-feasts went,
Fed, and forgot the Sacrament;
And not a trifle now occurs
But sweet initiation stirs
Of new-discover'd joy, and lends
To feeling change that never ends;
And duties, which the many irk,
Are made all wages and no work.

How sing of such things save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How the supreme rewards confess
Which crown the austere voluptuousness
Of heart, that earns, in midst of wealth,
The appetite of want and health,
Relinquishes the pomp of life
And beauty to the pleasant Wife
At home, and does all joy despise
As out of place but in her eyes?
How praise the years and gravity
That make each favour seem to be
A lovelier weakness for her lord?
And, ah, how find the tender word
To tell aright of love that glows
The fairer for the fading rose?
Of frailty which can weight the arm
To lean with thrice its girlish charm?
Of grace which, like this autumn day,
Is not the sad one of decay,
Yet one whose pale brow pondereth
The far-off majesty of death?
How tell the crowd, whom passion rends,
That love grows mild as it ascends?
That joy's most high and distant mood
Is lost, not found in dancing blood;
Albeit kind acts and smiling eyes,
And all those fond realities
Which are love's words, in us mean more
Delight than twenty years before?

How, Dearest, finish, without wrong
To the speechless heart, the unfinish'd song,
Its high, eventful passages
Consisting, say, of things like these:—

One morning, contrary to law,
Which, for the most, we held in awe,
Commanding either not to intrude
On the other's place of solitude
Or solitary mind, for fear
Of coming there when God was near,
And finding so what should be known
To Him who is merciful alone,
And views the working ferment base
Of waking flesh and sleeping grace,
Not as we view, our kindness check'd
By likeness of our own defect,
I, venturing to her room, because
(Mark the excuse!) my Birthday 'twas,
Saw, here across a careless chair,
A ball-dress flung, as light as air,
And, here, beside a silken couch,
Pillows which did the pressure vouch
Of pious knees, (sweet piety!
Of goodness made and charity,
If gay looks told the heart's glad sense,
Much rather than of penitence,)
And, on the couch, an open book,
And written list—I did not look,
Yet just in her clear writing caught:—
‘Habitual faults of life and thought
‘Which most I need deliverance from.’
I turn'd aside, and saw her come
Adown the filbert-shaded way,
Beautified with her usual gay
Hypocrisy of perfectness,
Which made her heart, and mine no less,
So happy! And she cried to me,
‘You lose by breaking rules, you see!
‘Your Birthday treat is now half-gone
Of seeing my new ball-dress on.’
And, meeting so my lovely Wife,
A passing pang, to think that life
Was mortal, when I saw her laugh,
Shaped in my mind this epitaph:
‘Faults had she, child of Adam's stem,
But only Heaven knew of them.’

Or thus:

For many a dreadful day,
In sea-side lodgings sick she lay,
Noteless of love, nor seem'd to hear
The sea, on one side, thundering near,
Nor, on the other, the loud Ball
Held nightly in the public hall;
Nor vex'd they my short slumbers, though
I woke up if she breathed too low.
Thus, for three months, with terrors rife,
The pending of her precious life
I watch'd o'er; and the danger, at last,
The kind Physician said, was past.
Howbeit, for seven harsh weeks the East
Breathed witheringly, and Spring's growth ceased,
And so she only did not die;
Until the bright and blighting sky
Changed into cloud, and the sick flowers
Remember'd their perfumes, and showers
Of warm, small rain refreshing flew
Before the South, and the Park grew,
In three nights, thick with green. Then she
Revived, no less than flower and tree,
In the mild air, and, the fourth day,
Look'd supernaturally gay
With large, thanksgiving eyes, that shone,
The while I tied her bonnet on,
So that I led her to the glass,
And bade her see how fair she was,
And how love visibly could shine.
Profuse of hers, desiring mine,
And mindful I had loved her most
When beauty seem'd a vanish'd boast,
She laugh'd. I press'd her then to me,
Nothing but soft humility;
Nor e'er enhanced she with such charms
Her acquiescence in my arms.
And, by her sweet love-weakness made
Courageous, powerful, and glad,
In a clear illustration high
Of heavenly affection, I
Perceived that utter love is all
The same as to be rational,
And that the mind and heart of love,
Which think they cannot do enough,
Are truly the everlasting doors
Wherethrough, all unpetition'd, pours
The eternal pleasance. Wherefore we
Had innermost tranquillity,
And breathed one life with such a sense
Of friendship and of confidence,
That, recollecting the sure word:
‘If two of you are in accord,
On earth, as touching any boon
‘Which ye shall ask, it shall be done
In heaven,’ we ask'd that heaven's bliss
Might ne'er be any less than this;
And, for that hour, we seem'd to have
The secret of the joy we gave.

How sing of such things, save to her,
Love's self, so love's interpreter?
How read from such a homely page
In the ear of this unhomely age?
'Tis now as when the Prophet cried:
The nation hast Thou multiplied,
But Thou hast not increased the joy!’
And yet, ere wrath or rot destroy
Of England's state the ruin fair,
Oh, might I so its charm declare,
That, in new Lands, in far-off years,
Delighted he should cry that hears:
‘Great is the Land that somewhat best
‘Works, to the wonder of the rest!
‘We, in our day, have better done
‘This thing or that than any one;
And who but, still admiring, sees
‘How excellent for images
‘Was Greece, for laws how wise was Rome;
But read this Poet, and say if home
And private love did e'er so smile
‘As in that ancient English isle!’


XIII
From Lady Clitheroe To Emily Graham

My dearest Niece, I'm charm'd to hear
The scenery's fine at Windermere,
And glad a six-weeks' wife defers
In the least to wisdom not yet hers.
But, Child, I've no advice to give!
Rules only make it hard to live.
And where's the good of having been
Well taught from seven to seventeen,
If, married, you may not leave off,
And say, at last, ‘I'm good enough!’
Weeding out folly, still leave some.
It gives both lightness and aplomb.
We know, however wise by rule,
Woman is still by nature fool;
And men have sense to like her all
The more when she is natural.
'Tis true that, if we choose, we can
Mock to a miracle the man;
But iron in the fire red hot,
Though 'tis the heat, the fire 'tis not:
And who, for such a feint, would pledge
The babe's and woman's privilege,
No duties and a thousand rights?
Besides, defect love's flow incites,
As water in a well will run
Only the while 'tis drawn upon.

‘Point de culte sans mystère,’ you say,
And what if that should die away?’
Child, never fear that either could
Pull from Saint Cupid's face the hood.
The follies natural to each
Surpass the other's moral reach.
Just think how men, with sword and gun,
Will really fight, and never run;
And all in sport: they would have died,
For sixpence more, on the other side!
A woman's heart must ever warm
At such odd ways: and so we charm
By strangeness which, the more they mark,
The more men get into the dark.
The marvel, by familiar life,
Grows, and attaches to the wife
By whom it grows. Thus, silly Girl,
To John you'll always be the pearl
In the oyster of the universe;
And, though in time he'll treat you worse,
He'll love you more, you need not doubt,
And never, never find you out!

My Dear, I know that dreadful thought
That you've been kinder than you ought.
It almost makes you hate him! Yet
'Tis wonderful how men forget,
And how a merciful Providence
Deprives our husbands of all sense
Of kindness past, and makes them deem
We always were what now we seem.
For their own good we must, you know,
However plain the way we go,
Still make it strange with stratagem;
And instinct tells us that, to them,
'Tis always right to bate their price.
Yet I must say they're rather nice,
And, oh, so easily taken in
To cheat them almost seems a sin!
And, Dearest, 'twould be most unfair
To John your feelings to compare
With his, or any man's; for she
Who loves at all loves always; he,
Who loves far more, loves yet by fits,
And when the wayward wind remits
To blow, his feelings faint and drop
Like forge-flames when the bellows stop.
Such things don't trouble you at all
When once you know they're natural.

My love to John; and, pray, my Dear,
Don't let me see you for a year;
Unless, indeed, ere then you've learn'd
That Beauties wed are blossoms turn'd
To unripe codlings, meant to dwell
In modest shadow hidden well,
Till this green stage again permute
To glow of flowers with good of fruit.
I will not have my patience tried
By your absurd new-married pride,
That scorns the world's slow-gather'd sense,
Ties up the hands of Providence,
Rules babes, before there's hope of one,
Better than mothers e'er have done,
And, for your poor particular,
Neglects delights and graces far
Beyond your crude and thin conceit.
Age has romance almost as sweet
And much more generous than this
Of yours and John's. With all the bliss
Of the evenings when you coo'd with him,
And upset home for your sole whim,
You might have envied, were you wise,
The tears within your Mother's eyes,
Which, I dare say, you did not see.
But let that pass! Yours yet will be,
I hope, as happy, kind, and true
As lives which now seem void to you.
Have you not seen shop-painters paste
Their gold in sheets, then rub to waste
Full half, and, lo, you read the name?
Well, Time, my Dear, does much the same
With this unmeaning glare of love.

But, though you yet may much improve,
In marriage, be it still confess'd,
There's little merit at the best.
Some half-a-dozen lives, indeed,
Which else would not have had the need,
Get food and nurture, as the price
Of antedated Paradise;
But what's that to the varied want
Succour'd by Mary, your dear Aunt,
Who put the bridal crown thrice by,
For that of which virginity,
So used, has hope? She sends her love,
As usual with a proof thereof—
Papa's discourse, which you, no doubt,
Heard none of, neatly copied out
Whilst we were dancing. All are well,
Adieu, for there's the Luncheon Bell.


The Wedding Sermon

I
The truths of Love are like the sea
For clearness and for mystery.
Of that sweet love which, startling, wakes
Maiden and Youth, and mostly breaks
The word of promise to the ear,
But keeps it, after many a year,
To the full spirit, how shall I speak?
My memory with age is weak,
And I for hopes do oft suspect
The things I seem to recollect.
Yet who but must remember well
'Twas this made heaven intelligible
As motive, though 'twas small the power
The heart might have, for even an hour,
To hold possession of the height
Of nameless pathos and delight!


II
In Godhead rise, thither flow back
All loves, which, as they keep or lack,
In their return, the course assign'd,
Are virtue or sin. Love's every kind,
Lofty or low, of spirit or sense,
Desire is, or benevolence.
He who is fairer, better, higher
Than all His works, claims all desire,
And in His Poor, His Proxies, asks
Our whole benevolence: He tasks,
Howbeit, His People by their powers;
And if, my Children, you, for hours,
Daily, untortur'd in the heart,
Can worship, and time's other part
Give, without rough recoils of sense,
To the claims ingrate of indigence,
Happy are you, and fit to be
Wrought to rare heights of sanctity,
For the humble to grow humbler at.
But if the flying spirit falls flat,
After the modest spell of prayer
That saves the day from sin and care,
And the upward eye a void descries,
And praises are hypocrisies,
And, in the soul, o'erstrain'd for grace,
A godless anguish grows apace;
Or, if impartial charity
Seems, in the act, a sordid lie,
Do not infer you cannot please
God, or that He His promises
Postpones, but be content to love
No more than He accounts enough.
Account them poor enough who want
Any good thing which you can grant;
And fathom well the depths of life
In loves of Husband and of Wife,
Child, Mother, Father; simple keys
To what cold faith calls mysteries.

III
The love of marriage claims, above
All other kinds, the name of love,
As perfectest, though not so high
As love which Heaven with single eye
Considers. Equal and entire,
Therein benevolence, desire,
Elsewhere ill-join'd or found apart,
Become the pulses of one heart,
Which now contracts, and now dilates,
And, both to the height exalting, mates
Self-seeking to self-sacrifice.
Nay, in its subtle paradise
(When purest) this one love unites
All modes of these two opposites,
All balanced in accord so rich
Who may determine which is which?
Chiefly God's Love does in it live,
And nowhere else so sensitive;
For each is all that the other's eye,
In the vague vast of Deity,
Can comprehend and so contain
As still to touch and ne'er to strain
The fragile nerves of joy. And then
'Tis such a wise goodwill to men
And politic economy
As in a prosperous State we see,
Where every plot of common land
Is yielded to some private hand
To fence about and cultivate.
Does narrowness its praise abate?
Nay, the infinite of man is found
But in the beating of its bound,
And, if a brook its banks o'erpass,
'Tis not a sea, but a morass.

IV
No giddiest hope, no wildest guess
Of Love's most innocent loftiness
Had dared to dream of its own worth,
Till Heaven's bold sun-gleam lit the earth.
Christ's marriage with the Church is more,
My Children, than a metaphor.
The heaven of heavens is symbol'd where
The torch of Psyche flash'd despair.

But here I speak of heights, and heights
Are hardly scaled. The best delights
Of even this homeliest passion, are
In the most perfect souls so rare,
That they who feel them are as men
Sailing the Southern ocean, when,
At midnight, they look up, and eye
The starry Cross, and a strange sky
Of brighter stars; and sad thoughts come
To each how far he is from home.

V
Love's inmost nuptial sweetness see
In the doctrine of virginity!
Could lovers, at their dear wish, blend,
'Twould kill the bliss which they intend;
For joy is love's obedience
Against the law of natural sense;
And those perpetual yearnings sweet
Of lives which dream that they can meet
Are given that lovers never may
Be without sacrifice to lay
On the high altar of true love,
With tears of vestal joy. To move
Frantic, like comets to our bliss,
Forgetting that we always miss,
And so to seek and fly the sun,
By turns, around which love should run,
Perverts the ineffable delight
Of service guerdon'd with full sight
And pathos of a hopeless want,
To an unreal victory's vaunt,
And plaint of an unreal defeat.
Yet no less dangerous misconceit
May also be of the virgin will,
Whose goal is nuptial blessing still,
And whose true being doth subsist,
There where the outward forms are miss'd,
In those who learn and keep the sense
Divine of ‘due benevolence,’
Seeking for aye, without alloy
Of selfish thought, another's joy,
And finding in degrees unknown
That which in act they shunn'd, their own.
For all delights of earthly love
Are shadows of the heavens, and move
As other shadows do; they flee
From him that follows them; and he
Who flies, for ever finds his feet
Embraced by their pursuings sweet.

VI
Then, even in love humane, do I
Not counsel aspirations high,
So much as sweet and regular
Use of the good in which we are.
As when a man along the ways
Walks, and a sudden music plays,
His step unchanged, he steps in time,
So let your Grace with Nature chime.
Her primal forces burst, like straws,
The bonds of uncongenial laws.
Right life is glad as well as just,
And, rooted strong in ‘This I must,’
It bears aloft the blossom gay
And zephyr-toss'd, of ‘This I may;’
Whereby the complex heavens rejoice
In fruits of uncommanded cho

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Eighth Book

ONE eve it happened when I sate alone,
Alone upon the terrace of my tower,
A book upon my knees, to counterfeit
The reading that I never read at all,
While Marian, in the garden down below,
Knelt by the fountain (I could just hear thrill
The drowsy silence of the exhausted day)
And peeled a new fig from that purple heap
In the grass beside her,–turning out the red
To feed her eager child, who sucked at it
With vehement lips across a gap of air
As he stood opposite, face and curls a-flame
With that last sun-ray, crying, 'give me, give,'
And stamping with imperious baby-feet,
(We're all born princes)–something startled me,–
The laugh of sad and innocent souls, that breaks
Abruptly, as if frightened at itself;
'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her glance above
In sudden shame that I should hear her laugh,
And straightway dropped my eyes upon my book,
And knew, the first time, 'twas Boccaccio's tales,
The Falcon's,–of the lover who for love
Destroyed the best that loved him. Some of us
Do it still, and then we sit and laugh no more.
Laugh you, sweet Marian! you've the right to laugh,
Since God himself is for you, and a child!
For me there's somewhat less,–and so, I sigh.

The heavens were making room to hold the night,
The sevenfold heavens unfolding all their gates
To let the stars out slowly (prophesied
In close-approaching advent, not discerned),
While still the cue-owls from the cypresses
Of the Poggio called and counted every pulse
Of the skyey palpitation. Gradually
The purple and transparent shadows slow
Had filled up the whole valley to the brim,
And flooded all the city, which you saw
As some drowned city in some enchanted sea,
Cut off from nature,–drawing you who gaze,
With passionate desire, to leap and plunge,
And find a sea-king with a voice of waves,
And treacherous soft eyes, and slippery locks
You cannot kiss but you shall bring away
Their salt upon your lips. The duomo-bell
Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms down,
So deep; and fifty churches answer it
The same, with fifty various instances.
Some gaslights tremble along squares and streets
The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in fire:
And, past the quays, Maria Novella's Place,
In which the mystic obelisks stand up
Triangular, pyramidal, each based
On a single trine of brazen tortoises,
To guard that fair church, Buonarroti's Bride,
That stares out from her large blind dial-eyes,
Her quadrant and armillary dials, black
With rhythms of many suns and moons, in vain
Enquiry for so rich a soul as his,–
Methinks I have plunged, I see it all so clear . . .
And, oh my heart . . .the sea-king!

In my ears
The sound of waters. There he stood, my king!

I felt him, rather than beheld him. Up
I rose, as if he were my king indeed,
And then sate down, in trouble at myself,
And struggling for my woman's empery.
'Tis pitiful; but women are so made:
We'll die for you, perhaps,–'tis probable:
But we'll not spare you an inch of our full height:
We'll have our whole just stature,–five feet four,
Though laid out in our coffins: pitiful!
–'You, Romney!––Lady Waldemar is here?'

He answered in a voice which was not his,
'I have her letter; you shall read it soon:
But first, I must be heard a little, I,
Who have waited long and travelled far for that,
Although you thought to have shut a tedious book
And farewell. Ah, you dog-eared such a page,
And here you find me.'
Did he touch my hand,
Or but my sleeve? I trembled, hand and foot,–
He must have touched me.–'Will you sit?' I asked,
And motioned to a chair; but down he sate,
A little slowly, as a man in doubt,
Upon the couch beside me,–couch and chair
Being wheeled upon the terrace.
'You are come,
My cousin Romney?–this is wonderful.
But all is wonder on such summer-nights;
And nothing should surprise us any more,
Who see that miracle of stars. Behold.'

I signed above, where all the stars were out,
As if an urgent heat had started there
A secret writing from a sombre page,
A blank last moment, crowded suddenly
With hurrying splendours.
'Then you do not know–
He murmured.
'Yes, I know,' I said, 'I know.
I had the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet I did not think you'd leave the work
In England, for so much even,–though, of course,
You'll make a work-day of your holiday,
And turn it to our Tuscan people's use,–
Who much need helping since the Austrian boar
(So bold to cross the Alp by Lombardy
And dash his brute front unabashed against
The steep snow-bosses of that shield of God,
Who soon shall rise in wrath and shake it clear
Came hither also,–raking up our vines
And olive-gardens with his tyrannous tusks,
And rolling on our maize with all his swine.'

'You had the news from Vincent Carrington,'
He echoed,–picking up the phrase beyond,
As if he knew the rest was merely talk
To fill a gap and keep out a strong wind,–
'You had, then, Vincent's personal news?'
'His own,
I answered, 'All that ruined world of yours
Seems crumbling into marriage. Carrington
Has chosen wisely.'
'Do you take it so?'
He cried, 'and is it possible at last' . .
He paused there,–and then, inward to himself,
'Too much at last, too late!–yet certainly' . .
(And there his voice swayed as an Alpine plank
That feels a passionate torrent underneath)
'The knowledge, if I had known it, first or last,
Had never changed the actual case for me.
And best, for her, at this time.'
Nay, I thought,
He loves Kate Ward, it seems, now, like a man,
Because he has married Lady Waldemar.
Ah, Vincent's letter said how Leigh was moved
To hear that Vincent was betrothed to Kate.
With what cracked pitchers go we to deep wells
In this world! Then I spoke,–'I did not think,
My cousin, you had ever known Kate Ward.'

'In fact I never knew her. 'Tis enough
That Vincent did, before he chose his wife
For other reasons than those topaz eyes
I've heard of. Not to undervalue them,
For all that. One takes up the world with eyes.'

–Including Romney Leigh, I thought again,
Albeit he knows them only by repute.
How vile must all men be, since he's a man.

His deep pathetic voice, as if he guessed
I did not surely love him, took the word;
'You never got a letter from Lord Howe
A month back, dear Aurora?'
'None,' I said.
'I felt it was so,' he replied: 'Yet, strange!
Sir Blaise Delorme has passed through Florence?'
'Ay,
By chance I saw him in Our Lady's church,
(I saw him, mark you, but he saw not me)
Clean-washed in holy-water from the count
Of things terrestrial,–letters and the rest;
He had crossed us out together with his sins.
Ay, strange; but only strange that good Lord Howe
Preferred him to the post because of pauls.
For me I'm sworn never to trust a man–
At least with letters.'

'There were facts to tell,–
To smooth with eye and accent. Howe supposed . .
Well, well, no matter! there was dubious need;
You heard the news from Vincent Carrington.
And yet perhaps you had been startled less
To see me, dear Aurora, if you had read
That letter.'
–Now he sets me down as vexed.
I think I've draped myself in woman's pride
To a perfect purpose. Oh, I'm vexed, it seems!
My friend Lord Howe deputes his friend Sir Blaise
To break as softly as a sparrow's egg
That lets a bird out tenderly, the news
Of Romney's marriage to a certain saint;
To smooth with eye and accent,–indicate
His possible presence. Excellently well
You've played your part, my Lady Waldemar,–
As I've played mine.
'Dear Romney,' I began,
'You did not use, of old, to be so like
A Greek king coming from a taken Troy,
'Twas needful that precursors spread your path
With three-piled carpets, to receive your foot
And dull the sound of't. For myself, be sure
Although it frankly ground the gravel here
I still could bear it. Yet I'm sorry, too,
To lose this famous letter, which Sir Blaise
Has twisted to a lighter absently
To fire some holy taper with: Lord Howe
Writes letters good for all things but to lose;
And many a flower of London gossipry
Has dropt wherever such a stem broke off,–
Of course I know that, lonely among my vines,
Where nothing's talked of, save the blight again,
And no more Chianti! Still the letter's use
As preparation . . . . . Did I start indeed?
Last night I started at a cochchafer,
And shook a half-hour after. Have you learnt
No more of women, 'spite of privilege,
Than still to take account too seriously
Of such weak flutterings? Why, we like it, sir,–
We get our powers and our effects that way.
The trees stand stiff and still at time of frost,
If no wind tears them; but, let summer come,
When trees are happy,–and a breath avails
To set them trembling through a million leaves
In luxury of emotion. Something less
It takes to move a woman: let her start
And shake at pleasure,–nor conclude at yours,
The winter's bitter,–but the summer's green.'

He answered, 'Be the summer ever green
With you, Aurora!–though you sweep your sex
With somewhat bitter gusts from where you live
Above them,–whirling downward from your heights
Your very own pine-cones, in a grand disdain
Of the lowland burrs with which you scatter them.
So high and cold to others and yourself,
A little less to Romney, were unjust,
And thus, I would not have you. Let it pass:
I feel content, so. You can bear indeed
My sudden step beside you: but for me,
'Twould move me sore to hear your softened voice,–
Aurora's voice,–if softened unaware
In pity of what I am.'
Ah friend, I thought,
As husband of the Lady Waldemar
You're granted very sorely pitiable!
And yet Aurora Leigh must guard her voice
From softening in the pity of your case,
As if from lie or licence. Certainly
We'll soak up all the slush and soil of life
With softened voices, ere we come to you.

At which I interrupted my own thought
And spoke out calmly. 'Let us ponder, friend,
Whate'er our state, we must have made it first;
And though the thing displease us, ay, perhaps
Displease us warrantably, never doubt
That other states, thought possible once, and then
Rejected by the instinct of our lives,–
If then adopted, had displeased us more
Than this, in which the choice, the will, the love,
Has stamped the honour of a patent act
From henceforth. What we choose, may not be good;
But, that we choose it, proves it good for us
Potentially, fantastically, now
Or last year, rather than a thing we saw,
And saw no need for choosing. Moths will burn
Their wings,–which proves that light is good for moths,
Or else they had flown not, where they agonise.'

'Ay, light is good,' he echoed, and there paused.
And then abruptly, . . 'Marian. Marian's well?'

I bowed my head but found no word. 'Twas hard
To speak of her to Lady Waldemar's
New husband. How much did he know, at last?
How much? how little?––He would take no sign,
But straight repeated,–'Marian. Is she well?'

'She's well,' I answered.

She was there in sight
An hour back, but the night had drawn her home;
Where still I heard her in an upper room,
Her low voice singing to the child in bed,
Who restless with the summer-heat and play
And slumber snatched at noon, was long sometimes
At falling off, and took a score of songs
And mother-hushes, ere she saw him sound.

'She's well,' I answered.

'Here?' he asked.
'Yes, here.'

He stopped and sighed. 'That shall be presently,
But now this must be. I have words to say,
And would be alone to say them, I with you,
And no third troubling.'

'Speak then,' I returned,
'She will not vex you.'

At which, suddenly
He turned his face upon me with its smile,
As if to crush me. 'I have read your book,
Aurora.'
'You have read it,' I replied,
'And I have writ it,–we have done with it.
And now the rest?'
'The rest is like the first,'
He answered,–'for the book is in my heart,
Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams in me:
My daily bread tastes of it,–and my wine
Which has no smack of it, I pour it out;
It seems unnatural drinking.'
Bitterly
I took the word up; 'Never waste your wine.
The book lived in me ere it lived in you;
I know it closer than another does,
And that it's foolish, feeble, and afraid,
And all unworthy so much compliment.
Beseech you, keep your wine,–and, when you drink,
Still wish some happier fortune to your friend,
Than even to have written a far better book.'

He answered gently, 'That is consequent:
The poet looks beyond the book he has made,
Or else he had not made it. If a man
Could make a man, he'd henceforth be a god
In feeling what a little thing is man:
It is not my case. And this special book,
I did not make it, to make light of it:
It stands above my knowledge, draws me up;
'Tis high to me. It may be that the book
Is not so high, but I so low, instead;
Still high to me. I mean no compliment:
I will not say there are not, young or old,
Male writers, ay, or female,–let it pass,
Who'll write us richer and completer books.
A man may love a woman perfectly,
And yet by no means ignorantly maintain
A thousand women have not larger eyes:
Enough that she alone has looked at him
With eyes that, large or small, have won his soul.
And so, this book, Aurora,–so, your book.'

'Alas,' I answered, 'is it so, indeed?'
And then was silent.

'Is it so, indeed,'
He echoed, 'that alas is all your word?'

I said,–'I'm thinking of a far-off June,
When you and I, upon my birthday once,
Discoursed of life and art, with both untried.
I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas morning then,
And now 'tis night.'

'And now,' he said, tis night.'

'I'm thinking,' I resumed, tis somewhat sad
That if I had known, that morning in the dew,
My cousin Romney would have said such words
On such a night, at close of many years,
In speaking of a future book of mine,
It would have pleased me better as a hope,
Than as an actual grace it can at all.
That's sad, I'm thinking.'
'Ay,' he said, tis night.'

'And there,' I added lightly, 'are the stars!
And here, we'll talk of stars, and not of books.'

'You have the stars,' he murmured,–'it is well.
Be like them! shine, Aurora, on my dark,
Though high and cold and only like star,
And for this short night only,–you, who keep
The same Aurora of the bright June-day
That withered up the flowers before my face,
And turned my from the garden evermore
Because I was not worthy. Oh, deserved,
Deserved! That I, who verily had not learnt
God's lesson half, attaining as a dunce
To obliterate good words with fractious thumbs
And cheat myself of the context,–I should push
Aside, with male ferocious impudence,
The world's Aurora who had conned her part
On the other side the leaf! ignore her so,
Because she was a woman and a queen,
And had no beard to bristle through her song,–
My teacher, who has taught me with a book,
My Miriam, whose sweet mouth, when nearly drowned
I still heard singing on the shore! Deserved,
That here I should look up unto the stars
And miss the glory' . .
'Can I understand?'
I broke in. 'You speak wildly, Romney Leigh,
Or I hear wildly. In that morning-time
We recollect, the roses were too red,
The trees too green, reproach too natural
If one should see not what the other saw:
And now, it's night, remember; we have shades
In place of colours; we are now grown cold,
And old, my cousin Romney. Pardon me,–
I'm very happy that you like my book,
And very sorry that I quoted back
A ten years' birthday; 'twas so mad a thing
In any woman, I scarce marvel much
You took it for a venturous piece of spite,
Provoking such excuses, as indeed
I cannot call you slack in.'
'Understand,'
He answered sadly, 'something, if but so.
This night is softer than an English day,
And men may well come hither when they're sick,
To draw in easier breath from larger air.
'Tis thus with me; I've come to you,–to you,
My Italy of women, just to breathe
My soul out once before you, ere I go,
As humble as God makes me at the last,
(I thank Him) quite out of the way of men,
And yours, Aurora,–like a punished child,
His cheeks all blurred with tears and naughtiness,
To silence in a corner. I am come
To speak, beloved' . .
'Wisely, cousin Leigh,
And worthily of us both!'
'Yes, worthily;
For this time I must speak out and confess
That I, so truculent in assumption once,
So absolute in dogma, proud in aim,
And fierce in expectation,–I, who felt
The whole world tugging at my skirts for help,
As if no other man than I, could pull,
Nor woman, but I led her by the hand,
Nor cloth hold, but I had it in my coat,–
Do know myself to-night for what I was
On that June-day, Aurora. Poor bright day,
Which meant the best . . a woman and a rose, . .
And which I smote upon the cheek with words,
Until it turned and rent me! Young you were,
That birthday, poet, but you talked the right:
While I, . . I built up follies like a wall
To intercept the sunshine and your face.
Your face! that's worse.'
'Speak wisely, cousin Leigh.'

'Yes, wisely, dear Aurora, though too late:
But then, not wisely. I was heavy then,
And stupid, and distracted with the cries
Of tortured prisoners in the polished brass
Of that Phalarian bull, society,–
Which seems to bellow bravely like ten bulls,
But, if you listen, moans and cries instead
Despairingly, like victims tossed and gored
And trampled by their hoofs. I heard the cries
Too close: I could not hear the angels lift
A fold of rustling air, nor what they said
To help my pity. I beheld the world
As one great famishing carnivorous mouth,–
A huge, deserted, callow, black, bird Thing,
With piteous open beak that hurt my heart,
Till down upon the filthy ground I dropped,
And tore the violets up to get the worms.
Worms, worms, was all my cry: an open mouth,
A gross want, bread to fill it to the lips,
No more! That poor men narrowed their demands
To such an end, was virtue, I supposed,
Adjudicating that to see it so
Was reason. Oh, I did not push the case
Up higher, and ponder how it answers, when
The rich take up the same cry for themselves,
Professing equally,–'an open mouth
A gross want, food to fill us, and no more!'
Why that's so far from virtue, only vice
Finds reason for it! That makes libertines:
That slurs our cruel streets from end to end
With eighty thousand women in one smile,
Who only smile at night beneath the gas:
The body's satisfaction and no more,
Being used for argument against the soul's,
Her too! the want, here too, implying the right.
–How dark I stood that morning in the sun,
My best Aurora, though I saw your eyes,–
When first you told me . . oh, I recollect
The words . . and how you lifted your white hand,
And how your white dress and your burnished curls
Went greatening round you in the still blue air,
As if an inspiration from within
Had blown them all out when you spoke the same,
Even these,–'You will not compass your poor ends
'Of barley-feeding and material ease,
'Without the poet's individualism
'To work your universal. It takes a soul,
'To move a body,–it takes a high-souled man,
'To move the masses . . even to a cleaner stye:
'It takes the ideal, to blow an inch inside
'The dust of the actual: and your Fouriers failed
'Because not poets enough to understand
'That life develops from within.' I say
Your words,–I could say other words of yours
For none of all your words has been more lost
Than sweet verbena, which, being brushed against,
Will hold you three hours after by the smell,
In spite of long walks on the windy hills.
But these words dealt in sharper perfume,–these
Were ever on me, stinging through my dreams,
And saying themselves for ever o'er my acts
Like some unhappy verdict. That I failed,
Is certain. Stye or no stye, to contrive
The swine's propulsion toward the precipice,
Proved easy and plain. I subtly organised
And ordered, built the cards up higher and higher,
Till, some one breathing, all fell flat again!
In setting right society's wide wrong,
Mere life's so fatal! So I failed indeed
Once, twice, and oftener,–hearing through the rents
Of obstinate purpose, still those words of yours,
'You will not compass your poor ends, not you! '
But harder than you said them; every time
Still farther from your voice, until they came
To overcrow me with triumphant scorn
Which vexed me to resistance. Set down this
For condemnation,–I was guilty here:
I stood upon my deed and fought my doubt,
As men will,–for I doubted,–till at last
My deed gave way beneath me suddenly,
And left me what I am. The curtain dropped,
My part quite ended, all the footlights quenched.
My own soul hissing at me through the dark,
I, ready for confession,–I was wrong,
I've sorely failed; I've slipped the ends of life,
I yield; you have conquered.'
'Stay,' I answered him;
'I've something for your hearing, also. I
Have failed too.'
'You!' he said, 'you're very great:
The sadness of your greatness fits you well:
As if the plume upon a hero's casque
Should nod a shadow upon his victor face.'

I took him up austerely,–'You have read
My book but not my heart; for recollect,
'Tis writ in Sanscrit, which you bungle at.
I've surely failed, I know; if failure means
To look back sadly on work gladly done,–
To wander on my mountains of Delight,
So called, (I can remember a friend's words
As well as you, sir,) weary and in want
Of even a sheep-path, thinking bitterly . .
Well, well! no matter. I but say so much,
To keep you, Romney Leigh, from saying more,
And let you feel I am not so high indeed,
That I can bear to have you at my foot,–
Or safe, that I can help you. That June-day,
Too deeply sunk in craterous sunsets now
For you or me to dig it up alive;
To pluck it out all bleeding with spent flame
At the roots, before those moralising stars
We have got instead,–that poor lost day, you said
Some words as truthful as the thing of mine
You care to keep in memory: and I hold
If I, that day, and, being the girl I was,
Had shown a gentler spirit, less arrogance,
It had not hurt me. Ah, you'll not mistake
The point here. I but only think, you see,
More justly, that's more humbly, of myself,
Than when I tried a crown on and supposed . . .
Nay, laugh, sir,–I'll laugh with you!–pray you, laugh.
I've had so many birthdays since that day,
I've learnt to prize mirth's opportunities,
Which come too seldom. Was it you who said
I was not changed? the same Aurora? Ah,
We could laugh there, too! Why, Ulysses' dog
Knew him, and wagged his tail and died: but if
I had owned a dog, I too, before my Troy,
And if you brought him here, . . I warrant you
He'd look into my face, bark lustily,
And live on stoutly, as the creatures will
Whose spirits are not troubled by long loves.
A dog would never know me, I'm so changed;
Much less a friend . . except that you're misled
By the colour of the hair, the trick of the voice,
Like that of Aurora Leigh's.'
'Sweet trick of voice
I would be a dog for this, to know it at last,
And die upon the falls of it. O love,
O best Aurora! are you then so sad,
You scarcely had been sadder as my wife?'

'Your wife, sir! I must certainly be changed,
If I, Aurora, can have said a thing
So light, it catches at the knightly spurs
Of a noble gentleman like Romney Leigh,
And trips him from his honourable sense
Of what befits' . .
'You wholly misconceive,'
He answered.
I returned,–'I'm glad of it:
But keep from misconception, too, yourself:
I am not humbled to so low a point,
Nor so far saddened. If I am sad at all,
Ten layers of birthdays on a woman's head,
Are apt to fossilise her girlish mirth,
Though ne'er so merry: I'm perforce more wise,
And that, in truth, means sadder. For the rest,
Look here, sir: I was right upon the whole,
That birthday morning. 'Tis impossible
To get at men excepting through their souls,
However open their carnivorous jaws;
And poets get directlier at the soul,
Than any of you oeconomists:–for which,
You must not overlook the poet's work
When scheming for the world's necessities.
The soul's the way. Not even Christ himself
Can save man else than as He hold man's soul;
And therefore did He come into our flesh,
As some wise hunter creeping on his knees
With a torch, into the blackness of some cave,
To face and quell the beast there,–take the soul,
And so possess the whole man, body and soul.
I said, so far, right, yes; not farther, though:
We both were wrong that June-day,–both as wrong
As an east wind had been. I who talked of art,
And you who grieved for all men's griefs . . . what then?
We surely made too small a part for God
In these things. What we are, imports us more
Than what we eat; and life you've granted me,
Develops from within. But innermost
Of the inmost, most interior of the interne,
God claims his own, Divine humanity
Renewing nature,–or the piercingest verse,
Prest in by subtlest poet, still must keep
As much upon the outside of a man,
As the very bowl, in which he dips his beard.
And then, . . the rest. I cannot surely speak.
Perhaps I doubt more than you doubted then,
If I, the poet's veritable charge,
Have borne upon my forehead. If I have,
It might feel somewhat liker to a crown,
The foolish green one even.–Ah, I think,
And chiefly when the sun shines, that I've failed.
But what then, Romney? Though we fail indeed,
You . . I . . a score of such weak workers, . . He
Fails never. If He cannot work by us,
He will work over us. Does he want a man,
Much less a woman, think you? Every time
The star winks there, so many souls are born,
Who shall work too. Let our own be calm:
We should be ashamed to sit beneath those stars,
Impatient that we're nothing.'
'Could we sit
Just so for ever, sweetest friend,' he said,
'My failure would seem better than success.
And yet, indeed, your book has dealt with me
More gently, cousin, than you ever will!
The book brought down entire the bright June-day,
And set me wandering in the garden-walks,
And let me watch the garland in a place,
You blushed so . . nay, forgive me; do not stir:
I only thank the book for what it taught,
And what, permitted. Poet, doubt yourself;
But never doubt that you're a poet to me
From henceforth. Ah, you've written poems, sweet,
Which moved me in secret as the sap is moved
In still March branches, signless as a stone:
But this last book o'ercame me like soft rain
Which falls at midnight, when the tightened bark
Breaks out into unhesitating buds,
And sudden protestations of the spring.
In all your other books I saw but you:
A man may see the moon so, in a pond,
And not the nearer therefore to the moon,
Nor use the sight . . except to drown himself
And so I forced my heart back from the sigh
For what had I, I thought, to do with her,–
Aurora . . Romney? But, in this last book,
You showed me something separate from yourself,
Beyond you; and I bore to take it in,
And let it draw me. You have shown me truths,
O June-day friend, that help me now at night,
When June is over! truths not yours, indeed,
But set within my reach by means of you:
Presented by your voice and verse the way
To take them clearest. Verily I was wrong;
And verily, many thinkers of this age,
Ay, many Christian teachers, half in heaven,
Are wrong in just my sense, who understood
Our natural world too insularly, as if
No spiritual counterpart completed it
Consummating its meaning, rounding all
To justice and perfection, line by line,
Form by form, nothing single, nor alone,–
The great below clenched by the great above;
Shade here authenticating substance there;
The body proving spirit, as the effect
The cause: we, meantime, being too grossly apt
To hold the natural, as dogs a bone,
(Though reason and nature beat us in the face),
So obstinately, that we'll break our teeth
Or ever we let go. For everywhere
We're too materialistic,–eating clay,
(Like men of the west) instead of Adam's corn
And Noah's wine; clay by handfuls, clay by lumps,
Until we're filled up to the throat with clay,
And grow the grimy colour of the ground
On which we are feeding. Ay, materialist
The age's name is. God himself, with some,
Is apprehended as the bare result
Of what his hand materially has made,
Expressed in such an algebraic sign,
Called God;–that is, to put it otherwise,
They add up nature to a naught of God
And cross the quotient. There are many, even,
Whose names are written in the Christian church
To no dishonour,–diet still on mud,
And splash the altars with it. You might think
The clay, Christ laid upon their eyelids when,
Still blind, he called them to the use of sight,
Remained there to retard its exercise
With clogging incrustations. Close to heaven,
They see, for mysteries, through the open doors,
Vague puffs of smoke from pots of earthenware;
And fain would enter, when their time shall come,
With quite a different body than St. Paul
Has promised,–husk and chaff, the whole barley-corn,
Or where's the resurrection?'
'Thus it is,'
I sighed. And he resumed with mournful face.
'Beginning so, and filling up with clay
The wards of this great key, the natural world,
And fumbling vainly therefore at the lock
Of the spiritual,–we feel ourselves shut in
With all the wild-beast roar of struggling life,
The terrors and compunctions of our souls,
As saints with lions,–we who are not saints,
And have no heavenly lordship in our stare
To awe them backward! Ay, we are forced so pent
To judge the whole too partially, . . confound
Conclusions. Is there any common phrase
Significant, when the adverb's heard alone,
The verb being absent, and the pronoun out?
But we distracted in the roar of life,
Still insolently at God's adverb snatch,
And bruit against Him that his thought is void,
His meaning hopeless;–cry, that everywhere
The government is slipping from his hand,
Unless some other Christ . . say Romney Leigh . .
Come up, and toil and moil, and change the world,
For which the First has proved inadequate,
However we talk bigly of His work
And piously of His person. We blaspheme
At last, to finish that doxology,
Despairing on the earth for which He died.'

'So now,' I asked, 'you have more hope of men?'

'I hope,' he answered: 'I am come to think
That God will have his work done, as you said,
And that we need not be disturbed too much
For Romney Leigh or others having failed
With this or that quack nostrum,–recipes
For keeping summits by annulling depths,
For learning wrestling with long lounging sleeves,
And perfect heroism without a scratch.
We fail,–what then? Aurora, if I smiled
To see you, in your lovely morning-pride,
Try on the poet's wreath which suits the noon,–
(Sweet cousin, walls must get the weather-stain
Before they grow the ivy!) certainly
I stood myself there worthier of contempt,
Self-rated, in disastrous arrogance,
As competent to sorrow for mankind
And even their odds. A man may well despair,
Who counts himself so needful to success.
I failed. I throw the remedy back on God,
And sit down here beside you, in good hope.'
'And yet, take heed,' I answered, 'lest we lean
Too dangerously on the other side,
And so fail twice. Be sure, no earnest work
Of any honest creature, howbeit weak,
Imperfect, ill-adapted, fails so much,
It is not gathered as a grain of sand
To enlarge the sum of human action used
For carrying out God's end. No creature works
So ill, observe, that therefore he's cashiered.
The honest earnest man must stand and work:
The woman also; otherwise she drops
At once below the dignity of man,
Accepting serfdom. Free men freely work:
Whoever fears God, fears to sit at ease.'

He cried, 'True. After Adam, work was curse;
The natural creature labours, sweats and frets.
But, after Christ, work turns to privilege;
And henceforth one with our humanity,
The Six-day Worker, working still in us,
Has called us freely to work on with Him
In high companionship. So happiest!
I count that Heaven itself is only work
To a surer issue. Let us work, indeed,–
But, no more, work as Adam . . nor as Leigh
Erewhile, as if the only man on earth,
Responsible for all the thistles blown
And tigers couchant,–struggling in amaze
Against disease and winter,–snarling on
For ever, that the world's not paradise.
Oh cousin, let us be content, in work,
To do the thing we can, and not presume
To fret because it's little. 'Twill employ
Seven men, they say, to make a perfect pin!
Who makes the head, content to miss the point,–
Who makes the point, agreed to leave the join:
And if a man should cry, 'I want a pin,
'And I must make it straightway, head and point,'–
His wisdom is not worth the pin he wants.
Seven men to a pin,–and not a man too much!
Seven generations, haply, to this world,
To right it visibly, a finger's breadth,
And mend its rents a little. Oh, to storm
And say,–'This world here is intolerable;
'I will not eat this corn, nor drink this wine,
'Nor love this woman, flinging her my soul
'Without a bond for't, as a lover should,
'Nor use the generous leave of happiness
'As not too good for using generously'–
(Since virtue kindles at the touch of joy,
Like a man's cheek laid on a woman's hand;
And God, who knows it, looks for quick returns
From joys)!–to stand and claim to have a life
Beyond the bounds of the individual man,
And raise all personal cloisters of the soul
To build up public stores and magazines,
As if God's creatures otherwise were lost,
The builder surely saved by any means!
To think,–I have a pattern on my nail,
And I will carve the world new after it,
And solve so, these hard social questions,–nay,
Impossible social questions,–since their roots
Strike deep in Evil's own existence here,
Which God permits because the question's hard
To abolish evil nor attaint free-will.
Ay, hard to God, but not to Romney Leigh!
For Romney has a pattern on his nail,
(Whatever may be lacking on the Mount)
And not being overnice to separate
What's element from what's convention, hastes
By line on line, to draw you out a world,
Without your help indeed, unless you take
His yoke upon you and will learn of him,–
So much he has to teach! so good a world!
The same, the whole creation's groaning for!
No rich nor poor, no gain nor loss nor stint,
No potage in it able to exclude
A brother's birthright, and no right of birth,
The potage,–both secured to every man;
And perfect virtue dealt out like the rest,
Gratuitously, with the soup at six,
To whoso does not seek it.'
'Softly, sir,'
I interrupted,–'I had a cousin once
I held in reverence. If he strained too wide,
It was not to take honour, but give help;
The gesture was heroic. If his hand
Accomplished nothing . . (well, it is not proved)
That empty hand thrown impotently out
Were sooner caught, I think, by One in heaven,
Than many a hand that reaped a harvest in
And keeps the scythe's glow on it. Pray you, then,
For my sake merely, use less bitterness
In speaking of my cousin.'
'Ah,' he said,
'Aurora! when the prophet beats the ass,
The angel intercedes.' He shook his head
'And yet to mean so well, and fail so foul,
Expresses ne'er another beast than man;
The antithesis is human. Harken, dear;
There's too much abstract willing, purposing,
In this poor world. We talk by aggregates,
And think by systems; and, being used to face
Our evils in statistics, are inclined
To cap them with unreal remedies
Drawn out in haste on the other side the slate.'

'That's true,' I answered, fain to throw up thought
And make a game of't; 'Oh, we generalise
Enough to please you. If we pray at all,
We pray no longer for our daily bread,
But next centenary's harvests. If we give,
Our cup of water is not tendered till
We lay down pipes and found a Company
With Branches. Ass or angel, 'tis the same:
A woman cannot do the thing she ought,
Which means whatever perfect thing she can,
In life, in art, in science, but she fears
To let the perfect action take her part
And rest there: she must prove what she can do
Before she does it,–prate of woman's rights,
Of woman's mission, woman's function, till
The men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry,
'A woman's function plainly is . . to talk.
Poor souls, they are very reasonably vexed!
They cannot hear each other speak.'
'And you,
An artist, judge so?'
'I, an artist,–yes,
Because, precisely, I'm an artist, sir,
And woman,–if another sate in sight,
I'd whisper,–soft, my sister! not a word!
By speaking we prove only we can speak:
Which he, the man here, never doubted. What
He doubts, is whether we can do the thing
With decent grace, we've not yet done at all:
Now, do it; bring your statue,–you have room!
He'll see it even by the starlight here;
And if 'tis e'er so little like the god
Who looks out from the marble silently
Along the track of his own shining dart
Through the dusk of ages,–there's no need to speak;
The universe shall henceforth speak for you,
And witness, 'She who did this thing, was born
To do it,–claims her license in her work.'
And so with more works. Whoso cures the plague,
Though twice a woman, shall be called a leech:
Who rights a land's finances, is excused
For touching coppers, though her hands be white,–
But we, we talk!'
'It is the age's mood,'
He said; 'we boast, and do not. We put up
Hostelry signs where'er we lodge a day,–
Some red colossal cow, with mighty paps
A Cyclops' fingers could not strain to milk;
Then bring out presently our saucer-full
of curds. We want more quiet in our works,
More knowledge of the bounds in which we work;
More knowledge that each individual man
Remains an Adam to the general race,
Constrained to see, like Adam, that he keep
His personal state's condition honestly,
Or vain all thoughts of his to help the world,
Which still must be developed from its one,
If bettered in its many. We, indeed,
Who think to lay it out new like a park,
We take a work on us which is not man's;
For God alone sits far enough above,
To speculate so largely. None of us
(Not Romney Leigh) is mad enough to say,
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that slope
And sink the need of acorns. Government,
If veritable and lawful, is not given
By imposition of the foreign hand,–
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book
Of some domestic idealogue, who sits
And coldly chooses empire, where as well
He might republic. Genuine government
Is but the expression of a nation, good
Or less good,–even as all society,
Howe'er unequal, monstrous, crazed and cursed,
Is but the expression of men's single lives,
The loud sum of the silent units. What,
We'd change the aggregate and yet retain
Each separate figure? Whom do we cheat by that?
Now, not even Romney.'
'Cousin, you are sad.
Did all your social labour at Leigh Hall
And elsewhere, come to nought then?'
'It was nought,'
He answered mildly. 'There is room indeed,
For statues still, in this large world of God's,
But not for vacuums,–so I am not sad:
Not sadder than is good for what I am.
My vain phalanstery dissolved itself;
My men and women of disordered lives,
I brought in orderly to dine and sleep,
Broke up those waxen masks I made them wear,
With fierce contortions of the natural face;
And cursed me for my tyrannous constraint
In forcing crooked creatures to live straight;
And set the country hounds upon my back
To bite and tear me for my wicked deed
Of trying to do good without the church
Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you mind
Your ancient neighbours? The great book-club teems
With 'sketches,' 'summaries,' and 'last tracts' but twelve,
On socialistic troublers of close bonds
Betwixt the generous rich and grateful poor.
The vicar preached from 'Revelations,' (till
The doctor woke) and found me with 'the frogs'
On three successive Sundays; ay, and stopped
To weep a little (for he's getting old)
That such perdition should o'ertake a man
Of such fair acres,–in the parish, too!
He printed his discourses 'by request;'
And if your book shall sell as his did, then
Your verses are less good than I suppose.
The women of the neighbourhood subscribed,
And sent me a copy bound in scarlet silk,
Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms of Leigh:
I own that touched me.'
'What, the pretty ones?
Poor Romney!'
'Otherwise the effect was small.
I had my windows broken once or twice
By liberal peasants, naturally incensed
At such a vexer of Arcadian peace,
Who would not let men call their wives their own
To kick like Britons,–and made obstacles
When things went smoothly as a baby drugged,
Toward freedom and starvation; bringing down
The wicked London tavern-thieves and drabs,
To affront the blessed hillside drabs and thieves
With mended morals, quotha,–fine new lives!–
My windows paid for't. I was shot at, once,
By an active poacher who had hit a hare
From the other barrel, tired of springeing game
So long upon my acres, undisturbed,
And restless for the country's virtue, (yet
He missed me)–ay, and pelted very oft
In riding through the village. 'There he goes,
'Who'd drive away our Christian gentlefolks,
'To catch us undefended in the trap
'He baits with poisonous cheese, and locks us up
'In that pernicious prison of Leigh Hall
'With all his murderers! Give another name,
'And say Leigh Hell, and burn it up with fire.'
And so they did at last, Aurora.'
'Did?'
'You never heard it, cousin? Vincent's news
Came stinted, then.'
'They did? they burnt Leigh Hall?'

'You're sorry, dear Aurora? Yes indeed,
They did it perfectly: a thorough work,
And not a failure, this time. Let us grant
'Tis somewhat easier, though, to burn a house
Than build a system:–yet that's easy, too,
In a dream. Books, pictures,–ay, the pictures what,
You think your dear Vandykes would give them pause?
Our proud ancestral Leighs with those peaked beards,
Or bosoms white as foam thrown up on rocks
From the old-spent wave. Such calm defiant looks
They flared up with! now, nevermore they'll twit
The bones in the family-vault with ugly death.
Not one was rescued, save the Lady Maud,
Who threw you down, that morning you were born,
The undeniable lineal mouth and chin,
To wear for ever for her gracious sake;
For which good deed I saved her: the rest went:
And you, your sorry, cousin. Well, for me,
With all my phalansterians safely out,
(Poor hearts, they helped the burners, it was said,
And certainly a few clapped hands and yelled)
The ruin did not hurt me as it might,–
As when for instance I was hurt one day,
A certain letter being destroyed. In fact,
To see the great house flare so . . oaken floors,
Our fathers made so fine with rushes once,
Before our mothers furbished them with trains,–
Carved wainscots, panelled walls, the favourite slide
For draining off a martyr, (or a rogue)
The echoing galleries, half a half-mile long,
And all the various stairs that took you up
And took you down, and took you round about
Upon their slippery darkness, recollect,
All helping to keep up one blazing jest;
The flames through all the casements pushing forth,
Like red-hot devils crinkled into snakes,
All signifying,–'Look you, Romney Leigh,
'We save the people from your saving, here,
'Yet so as by fire! we make a pretty show
'Besides,–and that's the best you've ever done.'–
To see this, almost moved myself to clap!
The 'vale et plaude' came, too, with effect,
When, in the roof fell, and the fire, that paused,
Stunned momently beneath the stroke of slates
And tumbling rafters, rose at once and roared,
And wrapping the whole house, (which disappeared
In a mounting whirlwind of dilated flame,)
Blew upward, straight, its drift of fiery chaff
In the face of heaven, . . which blenched and ran up higher.'

'Poor Romney!'
'Sometimes when I dream,' he said,
'I hear the silence after; 'twas so still.
For all those wild beasts, yelling, cursing round,
Were suddenly silent, while you counted five!
So silent, that you heard a young bird fall
From the top-nest in the neighbouring rookery
Through edging over-rashly toward the light.
The old rooks had already fled too far,
To hear the screech they fled with, though you saw
Some flying on still, like scatterings of dead leaves
In autumn-gusts, seen dark against the sky:
All flying,–ousted, like the house of Leigh.'

'Dear Romney!'
'Evidently 'twould have been
A fine sight for a poet, sweet, like you,
To make the verse blaze after. I myself,
Even I, felt something in the grand old trees,
Which stood that moment like brute Druid gods,
Amazed upon the rim of ruin, where,
As into a blackened socket, the great fire
Had dropped,–still throwing up splinters now and then,
To show them grey with all their centuries,
Left there to witness that on such a day
The house went out.'
'Ah!'
'While you counted five
I seemed to feel a little like a Leigh,–
But then it passed, Aurora. A child cried;
And I had enough to think of what to do
With all those houseless wretches in the dark,
And ponder where they'd dance the next time, they
Who had burnt the viol.'
'Did you think of that?
Who burns his viol will not dance, I know,
To cymbals, Romney.'
'O my sweet sad voice,'
He cried,–'O voice that speaks and overcomes!
The sun is silent, but Aurora speaks.'

'Alas,' I said; 'I speak I know not what:
I'm back in childhood, thinking as a child,
A foolish fancy–will it make you smile?
I shall not from the window of my room
Catch sight of those old chimneys any more.'

'No more,' he answered. 'If you pushed one day
Through all the green hills to our father's house,
You'd come upon a great charred circle where
The patient earth was singed an acre round;
With one stone-stair, symbolic of my life,
Ascending, winding, leading up to nought!
'Tis worth a poet's seeing. Will you go?'

I made no answer. Had I any right
To weep with this man, that I dared to speak!
A woman stood between his soul and mine,
And waved us off from touching evermore
With those unclean white hands of hers. Enough.
We had burnt our viols and were silent.
So,
The silence lengthened till it pressed. I spoke,
To breathe: 'I think you were ill afterward.'

'More ill,' he answered, 'had been scarcely ill.
I hoped this feeble fumbling at life's knot
Might end concisely,–but I failed to die,
As formerly I failed to live,–and thus
Grew willing, having tried all other ways,
To try just God's. Humility's so good,
When pride's impossible. Mark us, how we make
Our virtues, cousin, from our worn-out sins,
Which smack of them from henceforth. Is it right,
For instance, to wed here, while you love there?
And yet because a man sins once, the sin
Cleaves to him, in necessity to sin;
That if he sin not so, to damn himself,
He sins so, to damn others with himself:
And thus, to wed here, loving there, becomes
A duty. Virtue buds a dubious leaf
Round mortal brows; your ivy's better, dear.
–Yet she, 'tis certain, is my very wife;
The very lamb left mangled by the wolves
Through my own bad shepherding: and could I choose
But take her on my shoulder past this stretch
Of rough, uneasy wilderness, poor lamb,
Poor child, poor child?–Aurora, my beloved,
I will not vex you any more to-night;
But, having spoken what I came to say,
The rest shall please you. What she can, in me,–
Protection, tender liking, freedom, ease,
She shall have surely, liberally, for her
And hers, Aurora. Small amends they'll make
For hideous evils (which she had not known
Except by me) and for this imminent loss,
This forfeit presence of a gracious friend,
Which also she must forfeit for my sake,
Since, . . . drop your hand in mine a moment, sweet,
We're parting!–Ah, my snowdrop, what a touch,
As if the wind had swept it off! you grudge
Your gelid sweetness on my palm but so,
A moment? angry, that I could not bear
You . . speaking, breathing, living, side by side
With some one called my wife . . and live, myself?
Nay, be not cruel–you must understand!
Your lightest footfall on a floor of mine
Would shake the house, my lintel being uncrossed
'Gainst angels: henceforth it is night with me,
And so, henceforth, I put the shutters up;
Auroras must not come to spoil my dark.'

He smiled so feebly, with an empty hand
Stretched sideway from me,–as indeed he looked
To any one but me to give him help,–
And, while the moon came suddenly out full,
The double rose of our Italian moons,
Sufficient, plainly, for the heaven and earth,
(The stars, struck dumb and washed away in dews
Of golden glory, and the mountains steeped
In divine languor) he, the man, appeared
So pale and patient, like the marble man
A sculptor puts his personal sadness in
To join his grandeur of ideal thought,–
As if his mallet struck me from my height
Of passionate indignation, I who had risen
Pale,–doubting, paused, . . . . Was Romney mad indeed?
Had all this wrong of heart made sick the brain?

Then quiet, with a sort of tremulous pride,
'Go, cousin,' I said coldly. 'A farewell
Was sooner spoken 'twixt a pair of friends
In those old days, than seems to suit you now:
And if, since then, I've writ a book or two,
I'm somewhat dull still in the manly art
Of phrase and metaphrase. Why, any man
Can carve a score of white Loves out of snow,
As Buonarroti down in Florence there,
And set them on the wall in some safe shade,
As safe, sir, as your marriage! very good;
Though if a woman took one from the ledge
To put it on the table by her flowers,
And let it mind her of a certain friend,
'Twould drop at once, (so better,) would not bear
Her nail-mark even, where she took it up
A little tenderly; so best, I say:
For me, I would not touch so light a thing,
And risk to spoil it half an hour before
The sun shall shine to melt it; leave it there.
I'm plain at speech, direct in purpose: when
I speak, you'll take the meaning as it is,
And not allow for puckerings in the silks
By clever stitches. I'm a woman, sir,
And use the woman's figures naturally,
As you, the male license. So, I wish you well.
I'm simply sorry for the griefs you've had–
And not for your sake only, but mankind's.
This race is never grateful: from the first,
One fills their cup at supper with pure wine,
Which back they give at cross-time on a sponge,
In bitter vinegar.'
'If gratefuller,'
He murmured,–'by so much less pitiable!
God's self would never have come down to die,
Could man have thanked him for it.'
'Happily
'Tis patent that, whatever,' I resumed,
'You suffered from this thanklessness of men,
You sink no more than Moses' bulrush-boat,
When once relieved of Moses; for you're light,
You're light, my cousin! which is well for you,
And manly. For myself,–now mark me, sir,
They burnt Leigh Hall; but if, consummated
To devils, heightened beyond Lucifers,
They had burnt instead a star or two, of those
We saw above there just a moment back,
Before the moon abolished them,–destroyed
And riddled them in ashes through a sieve
On the head of the foundering universe,–what then?
If you and I remained still you and I,
It would not shift our places as mere friends,
Nor render decent you should toss a phrase
Beyond the point of actual feeling!–nay
You shall not interrupt me: as you said,
We're parting. Certainly, not once or twice,
To-night you've mocked me somewhat, or yourself,
And I, at least, have not deserved it so
That I should meet it unsurprised. But now,
Enough: we're parting . . parting. Cousin Leigh,
I wish you well through all the acts of life
And life's relation, wedlock, not the least;
And it shall 'please me,' in your words, to know
You yield your wife, protection, freedom, ease,
And very tender liking. May you live
So happy with her, Romney, that your friends
May praise her for it. Meantime, some of us
Are wholly dull in keeping ignorant
Of what she has suffered by you, and what debt
Of sorrow your rich love sits down to pay:
But if 'tis sweet for love to pay its debt,
'Tis sweeter still for love to give its gift;
and you, be liberal in the sweeter way,–
You can, I think. At least, as touches me,
You owe her, cousin Romney, no amends;
She is not used to hold my gown so fast,
You need entreat her now to let it go:
The lady never was a friend of mine,
Nor capable,–I thought you knew as much,–
Of losing for your sake so poor a prize
As such a worthless friendship. Be content,
Good cousin, therefore, both for her and you!
I'll never spoil your dark, nor dull your noon,
Nor vex you when you're merry, nor when you rest:
You shall not need to put a shutter up
To keep out this Aurora. Ah, your north
Can make Auroras which vex nobody,
Scarce known from evenings! also, let me say,
My larks fly higher than some windows. Right;
You've read your Leighs. Indeed 'twould shake a house,
If such as I came in with outstretched hand,
Still warm and thrilling from the clasp of one . .
Of one we know, . . to acknowledge, palm to palm,
As mistress there . . the Lady Waldemar.'
'Now God be with us' . . with a sudden clash
Of voice he interrupted–'what name's that?
You spoke a name, Aurora.'
'Pardon me;
I would that, Romney, I could name your wife
Nor wound you, yet be worthy.'
'Are we mad?'
He echoed–'wife! mine! Lady Waldemar!
I think you said my wife.' He sprang to his feet,
And threw his noble head back toward the moon
As one who swims against a stormy sea,
And laughed with such a helpless, hopeless scorn,
I stood and trembled.
'May God judge me so,'
He said at last,–'I came convicted here,
And humbled sorely if not enough. I came,
Because this woman from her crystal soul
Had shown me something which a man calls light:
Because too, formerly, I sinned by her
As, then and ever since, I have, by God,
Through arrogance of nature,–though I loved . .
Whom best, I need not say, . . since that is writ
Too plainly in the book of my misdeeds;
And thus I came here to abase myself,
And fasten, kneeling, on her regent brows
A garland which I startled thence one day
Of her beautiful June-youth. But here again
I'm baffled!–fail in my abasement as
My aggrandisement: there's no room left for me,
At any woman's foot, who misconceives
My nature, purpose, possible actions. What!
Are you the Aurora who made large my dreams
To frame your greatness? you conceive so small?
You stand so less than woman, through being more,
And lose your natural instinct, like a beast,
Through intellectual culture? since indeed
I do not think that any common she
Would dare adopt such fancy-forgeries
For the legible life-signature of such
As I, with all my blots: with all my blots!
At last then, peerless cousin, we are peers–
At last we're even. Ah, you've left your height:
And here upon my level we take hands,
And here I reach you to forgive you, sweet,
And that's a fall, Aurora. Long ago
You seldom understood me,–but, before,
I could not blame you. Then you only seemed
So high above, you could not see below;
But now I breathe,–but now I pardon!–nay,
We're parting. Dearest, men have burnt my house,
Maligned my motives,–but not one, I swear,
Has wronged my soul as this Aurora has,
Who called the Lady Waldemar my wife.'

'Not married to her! yet you said' . .
'Again?
Nay, read the lines' (he held a letter out)
'She sent you through me.'
By the moonlight there,
I tore the meaning out with passionate haste
Much rather than I read it. Thus it ran.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
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