How Beautiful U R
How Beautiful u r
You r beautiful
Not only because of the curve of your hips
Or the shape of your body
Not only because of the fullness of your lips
Or the curl of your eye lashes
You r beautiful because you want to be
You r beautiful because God made you that way
You r beautiful in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than you
You r beautiful because you have a heart
And that is a beautiful thing
You r beautiful because you have a brain
And that is a beautiful thing
You r beautiful because you give advice
And that is a beautiful thing
You r beautiful because you want to be
You r beautiful because God made you that way
You r beautiful in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than you
You r beautiful because you have confidence
You r beautiful because you have determination and wit
You r beautiful because you have goals and you plan to reach them
You r beautiful because you always there to lend a helping hand
You r beautiful because you want to be
You r beautiful because God made you that way
You r beautiful in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than You
Dats y u r de beautiful one in dis world?
Dats y u r my friend? ?
Thanks for being my friend...
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about independence
- quotes about eyes
- quotes about humor
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about friendship
- quotes about divine
- quotes about heart
VI. Giuseppe Caponsacchi
Answer you, Sirs? Do I understand aright?
Have patience! In this sudden smoke from hell,—
So things disguise themselves,—I cannot see
My own hand held thus broad before my face
And know it again. Answer you? Then that means
Tell over twice what I, the first time, told
Six months ago: 't was here, I do believe,
Fronting you same three in this very room,
I stood and told you: yet now no one laughs,
Who then … nay, dear my lords, but laugh you did,
As good as laugh, what in a judge we style
Laughter—no levity, nothing indecorous, lords!
Only,—I think I apprehend the mood:
There was the blameless shrug, permissible smirk,
The pen's pretence at play with the pursed mouth,
The titter stifled in the hollow palm
Which rubbed the eyebrow and caressed the nose,
When I first told my tale: they meant, you know,
"The sly one, all this we are bound believe!
"Well, he can say no other than what he says.
"We have been young, too,—come, there's greater guilt!
"Let him but decently disembroil himself,
"Scramble from out the scrape nor move the mud,—
"We solid ones may risk a finger-stretch!
And now you sit as grave, stare as aghast
As if I were a phantom: now 't is—"Friend,
"Collect yourself!"—no laughing matter more—
"Counsel the Court in this extremity,
"Tell us again!"—tell that, for telling which,
I got the jocular piece of punishment,
Was sent to lounge a little in the place
Whence now of a sudden here you summon me
To take the intelligence from just—your lips!
You, Judge Tommati, who then tittered most,—
That she I helped eight months since to escape
Her husband, was retaken by the same,
Three days ago, if I have seized your sense,—
(I being disallowed to interfere,
Meddle or make in a matter none of mine,
For you and law were guardians quite enough
O' the innocent, without a pert priest's help)—
And that he has butchered her accordingly,
As she foretold and as myself believed,—
And, so foretelling and believing so,
We were punished, both of us, the merry way:
Therefore, tell once again the tale! For what?
Pompilia is only dying while I speak!
Why does the mirth hang fire and miss the smile?
My masters, there's an old book, you should con
For strange adventures, applicable yet,
'T is stuffed with. Do you know that there was once
This thing: a multitude of worthy folk
Took recreation, watched a certain group
Of soldiery intent upon a game,—
How first they wrangled, but soon fell to play,
Threw dice,—the best diversion in the world.
A word in your ear,—they are now casting lots,
Ay, with that gesture quaint and cry uncouth,
For the coat of One murdered an hour ago!
I am a priest,—talk of what I have learned.
Pompilia is bleeding out her life belike,
Gasping away the latest breath of all,
This minute, while I talk—not while you laugh?
Yet, being sobered now, what is it you ask
By way of explanation? There's the fact!
It seems to fill the universe with sight
And sound,—from the four corners of this earth
Tells itself over, to my sense at least.
But you may want it lower set i' the scale,—
Too vast, too close it clangs in the ear, perhaps;
You'd stand back just to comprehend it more.
Well then, let me, the hollow rock, condense
The voice o' the sea and wind, interpret you
The mystery of this murder. God above!
It is too paltry, such a transference
O' the storm's roar to the cranny of the stone!
This deed, you saw begin—why does its end
Surprise you? Why should the event enforce
The lesson, we ourselves learned, she and I,
From the first o' the fact, and taught you, all in vain?
This Guido from whose throat you took my grasp,
Was this man to be favoured, now or feared,
Let do his will, or have his will restrained,
In the relation with Pompilia? Say!
Did any other man need interpose
—Oh, though first comer, though as strange at the work
As fribble must be, coxcomb, fool that's near
To knave as, say, a priest who fears the world—
Was he bound brave the peril, save the doomed,
Or go on, sing his snatch and pluck his flower,
Keep the straight path and let the victim die?
I held so; you decided otherwise,
Saw no such peril, therefore no such need
To stop song, loosen flower, and leave path. Law,
Law was aware and watching, would suffice,
Wanted no priest's intrusion, palpably
Pretence, too manifest a subterfuge!
Whereupon I, priest, coxcomb, fribble and fool,
Ensconced me in my corner, thus rebuked,
A kind of culprit, over-zealous hound
Kicked for his pains to kennel; I gave place,
To you, and let the law reign paramount:
I left Pompilia to your watch and ward,
And now you point me—there and thus she lies!
Men, for the last time, what do you want with me?
Is it,—you acknowledge, as it were, a use,
A profit in employing me?—at length
I may conceivably help the august law?
I am free to break the blow, next hawk that swoops
On next dove, nor miss much of good repute?
Or what if this your summons, after all,
Be but the form of mere release, no more,
Which turns the key and lets the captive go?
I have paid enough in person at Civita,
Am free,—what more need I concern me with?
Thank you! I am rehabilitated then,
A very reputable priest. But she—
The glory of life, the beauty of the world,
The splendour of heaven, … well, Sirs, does no one move?
Do I speak ambiguously? The glory, I say,
And the beauty, I say, and splendour, still say I,
Who, priest and trained to live my whole life long
On beauty and splendour, solely at their source,
God,—have thus recognized my food in her,
You tell me, that's fast dying while we talk,
Pompilia! How does lenity to me,
Remit one death-bed pang to her? Come, smile!
The proper wink at the hot-headed youth
Who lets his soul show, through transparent words,
The mundane love that's sin and scandal too!
You are all struck acquiescent now, it seems:
It seems the oldest, gravest signor here,
Even the redoubtable Tommati, sits
Chop-fallen,—understands how law might take
Service like mine, of brain and heart and hand,
In good part. Better late than never, law
You understand of a sudden, gospel too
Has a claim here, may possibly pronounce
Consistent with my priesthood, worthy Christ,
That I endeavoured to save Pompilia?
You were wrong, you see: that's well to see, though late:
That's all we may expect of man, this side
The grave: his good is—knowing he is bad:
Thus will it be with us when the books ope
And we stand at the bar on judgment-day.
Well then, I have a mind to speak, see cause
To relume the quenched flax by this dreadful light,
Burn my soul out in showing you the truth.
I heard, last time I stood here to be judged,
What is priest's-duty,—labour to pluck tares
And weed the corn of Molinism; let me
Make you hear, this time, how, in such a case,
Man, be he in the priesthood or at plough,
Mindful of Christ or marching step by step
With … what's his style, the other potentate
Who bids have courage and keep honour safe,
Nor let minuter admonition tease?—
How he is bound, better or worse, to act.
Earth will not end through this misjudgment, no!
For you and the others like you sure to come,
Fresh work is sure to follow,—wickedness
That wants withstanding. Many a man of blood,
Many a man of guile will clamour yet,
Bid you redress his grievance,—as he clutched
The prey, forsooth a stranger stepped between,
And there's the good gripe in pure waste! My part
Is done; i' the doing it, I pass away
Out of the world. I want no more with earth.
Let me, in heaven's name, use the very snuff
O' the taper in one last spark shall show truth
For a moment, show Pompilia who was true!
Not for her sake, but yours: if she is dead,
Oh, Sirs, she can be loved by none of you
Most or least priestly! Saints, to do us good,
Must be in heaven, I seem to understand:
We never find them saints before, at least.
Be her first prayer then presently for you—
She has done the good to me …
What is all this?
There, I was born, have lived, shall die, a fool!
This is a foolish outset:—might with cause
Give colour to the very lie o' the man,
The murderer,—make as if I loved his wife,
In the way he called love. He is the fool there!
Why, had there been in me the touch of taint,
I had picked up so much of knaves'-policy
As hide it, keep one hand pressed on the place
Suspected of a spot would damn us both.
Or no, not her!—not even if any of you
Dares think that I, i' the face of death, her death
That's in my eyes and ears and brain and heart,
Lie,—if he does, let him! I mean to say,
So he stop there, stay thought from smirching her
The snow-white soul that angels fear to take
Untenderly. But, all the same, I know
I too am taintless, and I bare my breast.
You can't think, men as you are, all of you,
But that, to hear thus suddenly such an end
Of such a wonderful white soul, that comes
Of a man and murderer calling the white black,
Must shake me, trouble and disadvantage. Sirs,
Why, good and wise you are!
You might at the beginning stop my mouth:
So, none would be to speak for her, that knew.
I talk impertinently, and you bear,
All the same. This it is to have to do
With honest hearts: they easily may err,
But in the main they wish well to the truth.
You are Christians; somehow, no one ever plucked
A rag, even, from the body of the Lord,
To wear and mock with, but, despite himself,
He looked the greater and was the better. Yes,
I shall go on now. Does she need or not
I keep calm? Calm I'll keep as monk that croons
Transcribing battle, earthquake, famine, plague,
From parchment to his cloister's chronicle.
Not one word more from the point now!
Yes, I am one of your body and a priest.
Also I am a younger son o' the House
Oldest now, greatest once, in my birth-town
Arezzo, I recognize no equal there—
(I want all arguments, all sorts of arms
That seem to serve,—use this for a reason, wait!)
Not therefore thrust into the Church, because
O' the piece of bread one gets there. We were first
Of Fiesole, that rings still with the fame
Of Capo-in-Sacco our progenitor:
When Florence ruined Fiesole, our folk
Migrated to the victor-city, and there
Flourished,—our palace and our tower attest,
In the Old Mercato,—this was years ago,
Four hundred, full,—no, it wants fourteen just.
Our arms are those of Fiesole itself,
The shield quartered with white and red: a branch
Are the Salviati of us, nothing more.
That were good help to the Church? But better still—
Not simply for the advantage of my birth
I' the way of the world, was I proposed for priest;
But because there's an illustration, late
I' the day, that's loved and looked to as a saint
Still in Arezzo, he was bishop of,
Sixty years since: he spent to the last doit
His bishop's-revenue among the poor,
And used to tend the needy and the sick,
Barefoot, because of his humility.
He it was,—when the Granduke Ferdinand
Swore he would raze our city, plough the place
And sow it with salt, because we Aretines
Had tied a rope about the neck, to hale
The statue of his father from its base
For hate's sake,—he availed by prayers and tears
To pacify the Duke and save the town.
This was my father's father's brother. You see,
For his sake, how it was I had a right
To the self-same office, bishop in the egg,
So, grew i' the garb and prattled in the school,
Was made expect, from infancy almost,
The proper mood o' the priest; till time ran by
And brought the day when I must read the vows,
Declare the world renounced and undertake
To become priest and leave probation,—leap
Over the ledge into the other life,
Having gone trippingly hitherto up to the height
O'er the wan water. Just a vow to read!
I stopped short awe-struck. "How shall holiest flesh
"Engage to keep such vow inviolate,
"How much less mine? I know myself too weak,
"Unworthy! Choose a worthier stronger man!"
And the very Bishop smiled and stopped my mouth
In its mid-protestation. "Incapable?
"Qualmish of conscience? Thou ingenuous boy!
"Clear up the clouds and cast thy scruples far!
"I satisfy thee there's an easier sense
"Wherein to take such vow than suits the first
"Rough rigid reading. Mark what makes all smooth,
"Nay, has been even a solace to myself!
"The Jews who needs must, in their synagogue,
"Utter sometimes the holy name of God,
"A thing their superstition boggles at,
"Pronounce aloud the ineffable sacrosanct,—
"How does their shrewdness help them? In this wise;
"Another set of sounds they substitute,
"Jumble so consonants and vowels—how
"Should I know?—that there grows from out the old
"Quite a new word that means the very same—
"And o'er the hard place slide they with a smile.
"Giuseppe Maria Caponsacchi mine,
"Nobody wants you in these latter days
"To prop the Church by breaking your back-bone,—
"As the necessary way was once, we know,
"When Diocletian flourished and his like.
"That building of the buttress-work was done
"By martyrs and confessors: let it bide,
"Add not a brick, but, where you see a chink,
"Stick in a sprig of ivy or root a rose
"Shall make amends and beautify the pile!
"We profit as you were the painfullest
"O' the martyrs, and you prove yourself a match
"For the cruelest confessor ever was,
"If you march boldly up and take your stand
"Where their blood soaks, their bones yet strew the soil,
"And cry 'Take notice, I the young and free
"'And well-to-do i' the world, thus leave the world,
"'Cast in my lot thus with no gay young world
"'But the grand old Church: she tempts me of the two!'
"Renounce the world? Nay, keep and give it us!
"Let us have you, and boast of what you bring.
"We want the pick o' the earth to practise with,
"Not its offscouring, halt and deaf and blind
"In soul and body. There's a rubble-stone
"Unfit for the front o' the building, stuff to stow
"In a gap behind and keep us weather-tight;
"There's porphyry for the prominent place. Good lack!
"Saint Paul has had enough and to spare, I trow,
"Of ragged run-away Onesimus:
"He wants the right-hand with the signet-ring
"Of King Agrippa, now, to shake and use.
"I have a heavy scholar cloistered up,
"Close under lock and key, kept at his task
"Of letting Fénelon know the fool he is,
"In a book I promise Christendom next Spring.
"Why, if he covets so much meat, the clown,
"As a lark's wing next Friday, or, any day,
"Diversion beyond catching his own fleas,
"He shall be properly swinged, I promise him.
"But you, who are so quite another paste
"Of a man,—do you obey me? Cultivate
"Assiduous that superior gift you have
"Of making madrigals—(who told me? Ah!)
"Get done a Marinesque Adoniad straight
"With a pulse o' the blood a-pricking, here and there,
"That I may tell the lady 'And he's ours!'"
So I became a priest: those terms changed all,
I was good enough for that, nor cheated so;
I could live thus and still hold head erect.
Now you see why I may have been before
A fribble and coxcomb, yet, as priest, break word
Nowise, to make you disbelieve me now.
I need that you should know my truth. Well, then,
According to prescription did I live,
—Conformed myself, both read the breviary
And wrote the rhymes, was punctual to my place
I' the Pieve, and as diligent at my post
Where beauty and fashion rule. I throve apace,
Sub-deacon, Canon, the authority
For delicate play at tarocs, and arbiter
O' the magnitude of fan-mounts: all the while
Wanting no whit the advantage of a hint
Benignant to the promising pupil,—thus:
"Enough attention to the Countess now,
"The young one; 't is her mother rules the roast,
"We know where, and puts in a word: go pay
"Devoir to-morrow morning after mass!
"Break that rash promise to preach, Passion-week!
"Has it escaped you the Archbishop grunts
"And snuffles when one grieves to tell his Grace
"No soul dares treat the subject of the day
"Since his own masterly handling it (ha, ha!)
"Five years ago,—when somebody could help
"And touch up an odd phrase in time of need,
"(He, he!)—and somebody helps you, my son!
"Therefore, don't prove so indispensable
"At the Pieve, sit more loose i' the seat, nor grow
"A fixture by attendance morn and eve!
"Arezzo's just a haven midway Rome—
"Rome's the eventual harbour,—make for port,
"Crowd sail, crack cordage! And your cargo be
"A polished presence, a genteel manner, wit
"At will, and tact at every pore of you!
"I sent our lump of learning, Brother Clout,
"And Father Slouch, our piece of piety,
"To see Rome and try suit the Cardinal.
"Thither they clump-clumped, beads and book in hand,
"And ever since 't is meat for man and maid
"How both flopped down, prayed blessing on bent pate
"Bald many an inch beyond the tonsure's need,
"Never once dreaming, the two moony dolts,
"There's nothing moves his Eminence so much
"As—far from all this awe at sanctitude—
"Heads that wag, eyes that twinkle, modified mirth
"At the closet-lectures on the Latin tongue
"A lady learns so much by, we know where.
"Why, body o' Bacchus, you should crave his rule
"For pauses in the elegiac couplet, chasms
"Permissible only to Catullus! There!
"Now go to duty: brisk, break Priscian's head
"By reading the day's office—there's no help.
"You've Ovid in your poke to plaster that;
"Amen's at the end of all: then sup with me!"
Well, after three or four years of this life,
In prosecution of my calling, I
Found myself at the theatre one night
With a brother Canon, in a mood and mind
Proper enough for the place, amused or no:
When I saw enter, stand, and seat herself
A lady, young, tall, beautiful, strange and sad.
It was as when, in our cathedral once,
As I got yawningly through matin-song,
I saw facchini bear a burden up,
Base it on the high-altar, break away
A board or two, and leave the thing inside
Lofty and lone: and lo, when next I looked,
There was the Rafael! I was still one stare,
When—"Nay, I'll make her give you back your gaze"—
Said Canon Conti; and at the word he tossed
A paper-twist of comfits to her lap,
And dodged and in a trice was at my back
Nodding from over my shoulder. Then she turned,
Looked our way, smiled the beautiful sad strange smile.
"Is not she fair? 'T is my new cousin," said he:
"The fellow lurking there i' the black o' the box
"Is Guido, the old scapegrace: she's his wife,
"Married three years since: how his Countship sulks!
"He has brought little back from Rome beside,
"After the bragging, bullying. A fair face,
"And—they do say—a pocketful of gold
"When he can worry both her parents dead.
"I don't go much there, for the chamber's cold
"And the coffee pale. I got a turn at first
"Paying my duty: I observed they crouched
"—The two old frightened family spectres—close
"In a corner, each on each like mouse on mouse
"I' the cat's cage: ever since, I stay at home.
"Hallo, there's Guido, the black, mean and small,
"Bends his brows on us—please to bend your own
"On the shapely nether limbs of Light-skirts there
"By way of a diversion! I was a fool
"To fling the sweetmeats. Prudence, for God's love!
"To-morrow I'll make my peace, e'en tell some fib,
"Try if I can't find means to take you there."
That night and next day did the gaze endure,
Burnt to my brain, as sunbeam thro' shut eyes,
And not once changed the beautiful sad strange smile.
At vespers Conti leaned beside my seat
I' the choir,—part said, part sung—"In ex-cel-sis—
"All's to no purpose; I have louted low,
"But he saw you staring—quia sub—don't incline
"To know you nearer: him we would not hold
"For Hercules,—the man would lick your shoe
"If you and certain efficacious friends
"Managed him warily,—but there's the wife:
"Spare her, because he beats her, as it is,
"She's breaking her heart quite fast enough—jam tu—
"So, be you rational and make amends
"With little Light-skirts yonder—in secula
"Secu-lo-o-o-o-rum. Ah, you rogue! Every one knows
"What great dame she makes jealous: one against one,
"Play, and win both!"
Sirs, ere the week was out,
I saw and said to myself "Light-skirts hides teeth
"Would make a dog sick,—the great dame shows spite
"Should drive a cat mad: 't is but poor work this—
"Counting one's fingers till the sonnet's crowned.
"I doubt much if Marino really be
"A better bard than Dante after all.
"'T is more amusing to go pace at eve
"I' the Duomo,—watch the day's last gleam outside
"Turn, as into a skirt of God's own robe,
"Those lancet-windows' jewelled miracle,—
"Than go eat the Archbishop's ortolans,
"Digest his jokes. Luckily Lent is near:
"Who cares to look will find me in my stall
"At the Pieve, constant to this faith at least—
"Never to write a canzonet any more."
So, next week, 't was my patron spoke abrupt,
In altered guise. "Young man, can it be true
"That after all your promise of sound fruit,
"You have kept away from Countess young or old
"And gone play truant in church all day long?
"Are you turning Molinist?" I answered quick:
"Sir, what if I turned Christian? It might be.
"The fact is, I am troubled in my mind,
"Beset and pressed hard by some novel thoughts.
"This your Arezzo is a limited world;
"There's a strange Pope,—'t is said, a priest who thinks.
"Rome is the port, you say: to Rome I go.
"I will live alone, one does so in a crowd,
"And look into my heart a little." "Lent
"Ended,"—I told friends—"I shall go to Rome."
One evening I was sitting in a muse
Over the opened "Summa," darkened round
By the mid-March twilight, thinking how my life
Had shaken under me,—broke short indeed
And showed the gap 'twixt what is, what should be,—
And into what abysm the soul may slip,
Leave aspiration here, achievement there,
Lacking omnipotence to connect extremes—
Thinking moreover … oh, thinking, if you like,
How utterly dissociated was I
A priest and celibate, from the sad strange wife
Of Guido,—just as an instance to the point,
Nought more,—how I had a whole store of strengths
Eating into my heart, which craved employ,
And she, perhaps, need of a finger's help,—
And yet there was no way in the wide world
To stretch out mine and so relieve myself,—
How when the page o' the Summa preached its best,
Her smile kept glowing out of it, as to mock
The silence we could break by no one word,—
There came a tap without the chamber-door,
And a whisper; when I bade who tapped speak out.
And, in obedience to my summons, last
In glided a masked muffled mystery,
Laid lightly a letter on the opened book,
Then stood with folded arms and foot demure,
Pointing as if to mark the minutes' flight.
I took the letter, read to the effect
That she, I lately flung the comfits to,
Had a warm heart to give me in exchange,
And gave it,—loved me and confessed it thus,
And bade me render thanks by word of mouth,
Going that night to such a side o' the house
Where the small terrace overhangs a street
Blind and deserted, not the street in front:
Her husband being away, the surly patch,
At his villa of Vittiano.
"And you?"—I asked:
"What may you be?" "Count Guido's kind of maid—
"Most of us have two functions in his house.
"We all hate him, the lady suffers much,
"'T is just we show compassion, furnish help,
"Specially since her choice is fixed so well.
"What answer may I bring to cheer the sweet
Then I took a pen and wrote
"No more of this! That you are fair, I know:
"But other thoughts now occupy my mind.
"I should not thus have played the insensible
"Once on a time. What made you,—may one ask,—
"Marry your hideous husband? 'T was a fault,
"And now you taste the fruit of it. Farewell."
"There!" smiled I as she snatched it and was gone—
"There, let the jealous miscreant,—Guido's self,
"Whose mean soul grins through this transparent trick,—
"Be baulked so far, defrauded of his aim!
"What fund of satisfaction to the knave,
"Had I kicked this his messenger down stairs,
"Trussed to the middle of her impudence,
"And set his heart at ease so! No, indeed!
"There's the reply which he shall turn and twist
"At pleasure, snuff at till his brain grow drunk,
"As the bear does when he finds a scented glove
"That puzzles him,—a hand and yet no hand,
"Of other perfume than his own foul paw!
"Last month, I had doubtless chosen to play the dupe,
"Accepted the mock-invitation, kept
"The sham appointment, cudgel beneath cloak,
"Prepared myself to pull the appointer's self
"Out of the window from his hiding-place
"Behind the gown of this part-messenger
"Part-mistress who would personate the wife.
"Such had seemed once a jest permissible:
"Now I am not i' the mood."
Back next morn brought
The messenger, a second letter in hand.
"You are cruel, Thyrsis, and Myrtilla moans
"Neglected but adores you, makes request
"For mercy: why is it you dare not come?
"Such virtue is scarce natural to your age.
"You must love someone else; I hear you do,
"The Baron's daughter or the Advocate's wife,
"Or both,—all's one, would you make me the third—
"I take the crumbs from table gratefully
"Nor grudge who feasts there. 'Faith, I blush and blaze!
"Yet if I break all bounds, there's reason sure.
"Are you determinedly bent on Rome?
"I am wretched here, a monster tortures me:
"Carry me with you! Come and say you will!
"Concert this very evening! Do not write!
"I am ever at the window of my room
"Over the terrace, at the Ave. Come!"
I questioned—lifting half the woman's mask
To let her smile loose. "So, you gave my line
"To the merry lady?" "She kissed off the wax,
"And put what paper was not kissed away,
"In her bosom to go burn: but merry, no!
"She wept all night when evening brought no friend,
"Alone, the unkind missive at her breast;
"Thus Philomel, the thorn at her breast too,
"Sings" … "Writes this second letter?" "Even so!
"Then she may peep at vespers forth?"—"What risk
"Do we run o' the husband?"—"Ah,—no risk at all!
"He is more stupid even than jealous. Ah—
"That was the reason? Why, the man's away!
"Beside, his bugbear is that friend of yours,
"Fat little Canon Conti. He fears him,
"How should he dream of you? I told you truth:
"He goes to the villa at Vittiano—'t is
"The time when Spring-sap rises in the vine—
"Spends the night there. And then his wife's a child:
"Does he think a child outwits him? A mere child:
"Yet so full grown, a dish for any duke.
"Don't quarrel longer with such cates, but come!"
I wrote "In vain do you solicit me.
"I am a priest: and you are wedded wife,
"Whatever kind of brute your husband prove.
"I have scruples, in short. Yet should you really show
"Sign at the window … but nay, best be good!
"My thoughts are elsewhere," "Take her that!"
"Let the incarnate meanness, cheat and spy,
"Mean to the marrow of him, make his heart
"His food, anticipate hell's worm once more!
"Let him watch shivering at the window—ay,
"And let this hybrid, this his light-of-love
"And lackey-of-lies,—a sage economy,—
"Paid with embracings for the rank brass coin,—
"Let her report and make him chuckle o'er
"The break-down of my resolution now,
"And lour at disappointment in good time!
"—So tantalize and so enrage by turns,
"Until the two fall each on the other like
"Two famished spiders, as the coveted fly
"That toys long, leaves their net and them at last!"
And so the missives followed thick and fast
For a month, say,—I still came at every turn
On the soft sly adder, endlong 'neath my tread.
I was met i' the street, made sign to in the church,
A slip was found i' the door-sill, scribbled word
'Twixt page and page o' the prayer-book in my place.
A crumpled thing dropped even before my feet,
Pushed through the blind, above the terrace-rail,
As I passed, by day, the very window once.
And ever from corners would be peering up
The messenger, with the self-same demand
"Obdurate still, no flesh but adamant?
"Nothing to cure the wound, assuage the throe
"O' the sweetest lamb that ever loved a bear?"
And ever my one answer in one tone—
"Go your ways, temptress! Let a priest read, pray,
"Unplagued of vain talk, visions not for him!
"In the end, you'll have your will and ruin me!"
One day, a variation: thus I read:
"You have gained little by timidity.
"My husband has found out my love at length,
"Sees cousin Conti was the stalking-horse,
"And you the game he covered, poor fat soul!
"My husband is a formidable foe,
"Will stick at nothing to destroy you. Stand
"Prepared, or better, run till you reach Rome!
"I bade you visit me, when the last place
"My tyrant would have turned suspicious at,
"Or cared to seek you in, was … why say, where?
"But now all's changed: beside, the season's past
"At the villa,—wants the master's eye no more.
"Anyhow, I beseech you, stay away
"From the window! He might well be posted there."
I wrote—"You raise my courage, or call up
"My curiosity, who am but man.
"Tell him he owns the palace, not the street
"Under—that's his and yours and mine alike.
"If it should please me pad the path this eve,
"Guido will have two troubles, first to get
"Into a rage and then get out again.
"Be cautious, though: at the Ave!"
You of the Court!
When I stood question here and reached this point
O' the narrative,—search notes and see and say
If someone did not interpose with smile
And sneer, "And prithee why so confident
"That the husband must, of all needs, not the wife,
"Fabricate thus,—what if the lady loved?
"What if she wrote the letters?"
I told you there's a picture in our church.
Well, if a low-browed verger sidled up
Bringing me, like a blotch, on his prod's point,
A transfixed scorpion, let the reptile writhe,
And then said "See a thing that Rafael made—
"This venom issued from Madonna's mouth!"
I should reply, "Rather, the soul of you
"Has issued from your body, like from like,
"By way of the ordure-corner!"
But no less,
I tired of the same long black teasing lie
Obtruded thus at every turn; the pest
Was far too near the picture, anyhow:
One does Madonna service, making clowns
Remove their dung-heap from the sacristy.
"I will to the window, as he tempts," said I:
"Yes, whom the easy love has failed allure,
"This new bait of adventure tempts,—thinks he.
"Though the imprisoned lady keeps afar,
"There will they lie in ambush, heads alert,
"Kith, kin, and Count mustered to bite my heel.
"No mother nor brother viper of the brood
"Shall scuttle off without the instructive bruise!"
So I went: crossed street and street: "The next street's turn,
"I stand beneath the terrace, see, above,
"The black of the ambush-window. Then, in place
"Of hand's throw of soft prelude over lute,
"And cough that clears way for the ditty last,"—
I began to laugh already—"he will have
"'Out of the hole you hide in, on to the front,
"'Count Guido Franceschini, show yourself!
"'Hear what a man thinks of a thing like you,
"'And after, take this foulness in your face!'"
The words lay living on my lip, I made
The one-turn more—and there at the window stood,
Framed in its black square length, with lamp in hand,
Pompilia; the same great, grave, griefful air
As stands i' the dusk, on altar that I know,
Left alone with one moonbeam in her cell,
Our Lady of all the Sorrows. Ere I knelt—
Assured myself that she was flesh and blood—
She had looked one look and vanished.
I thought—"Just so:
"It was herself, they have set her there to watch—
"Stationed to see some wedding band go by,
"On fair pretence that she must bless the bride,
"Or wait some funeral with friends wind past,
"And crave peace for the corpse that claims its due.
"She never dreams they used her for a snare,
"And now withdraw the bait has served its turn.
"Well done, the husband, who shall fare the worse!"
And on my lip again was—"Out with thee,
"Guido!" When all at once she re-appeared;
But, this time, on the terrace overhead,
So close above me, she could almost touch
My head if she bent down; and she did bend,
While I stood still as stone, all eye, all ear.
She began—"You have sent me letters, Sir:
"I have read none, I can neither read nor write;
"But she you gave them to, a woman here,
"One of the people in whose power I am,
"Partly explained their sense, I think, to me
"Obliged to listen while she inculcates
"That you, a priest, can dare love me, a wife,
"Desire to live or die as I shall bid,
"(She makes me listen if I will or no)
"Because you saw my face a single time.
"It cannot be she says the thing you mean;
"Such wickedness were deadly to us both:
"But good true love would help me now so much—
"I tell myself, you may mean good and true.
"You offer me, I seem to understand,
"Because I am in poverty and starve,
"Much money, where one piece would save my life.
"The silver cup upon the altar-cloth
"Is neither yours to give nor mine to take;
"But I might take one bit of bread therefrom,
"Since I am starving, and return the rest,
"Yet do no harm: this is my very case.
"I am in that strait, I may not dare abstain
"From so much of assistance as would bring
"The guilt of theft on neither you nor me;
"But no superfluous particle of aid.
"I think, if you will let me state my case,
"Even had you been so fancy-fevered here,
"Not your sound self, you must grow healthy now—
"Care only to bestow what I can take.
"That it is only you in the wide world,
"Knowing me nor in thought nor word nor deed,
"Who, all unprompted save by your own heart,
"Come proffering assistance now,—were strange
"But that my whole life is so strange: as strange
"It is, my husband whom I have not wronged
"Should hate and harm me. For his own soul's sake,
"Hinder the harm! But there is something more,
"And that the strangest: it has got to be
"Somehow for my sake too, and yet not mine,
"—This is a riddle—for some kind of sake
"Not any clearer to myself than you,
"And yet as certain as that I draw breath,—
"I would fain live, not die—oh no, not die!
"My case is, I was dwelling happily
"At Rome with those dear Comparini, called
"Father and mother to me; when at once
"I found I had become Count Guido's wife:
"Who then, not waiting for a moment, changed
"Into a fury of fire, if once he was
"Merely a man: his face threw fire at mine,
"He laid a hand on me that burned all peace,
"All joy, all hope, and last all fear away,
"Dipping the bough of life, so pleasant once,
"In fire which shrivelled leaf and bud alike,
"Burning not only present life but past,
"Which you might think was safe beyond his reach.
"He reached it, though, since that beloved pair,
"My father once, my mother all those years,
"That loved me so, now say I dreamed a dream
"And bid me wake, henceforth no child of theirs,
"Never in all the time their child at all.
"Do you understand? I cannot: yet so it is.
"Just so I say of you that proffer help:
"I cannot understand what prompts your soul,
"I simply needs must see that it is so,
"Only one strange and wonderful thing more.
"They came here with me, those two dear ones, kept
"All the old love up, till my husband, till
"His people here so tortured them, they fled.
"And now, is it because I grow in flesh
"And spirit one with him their torturer,
"That they, renouncing him, must cast off me?
"If I were graced by God to have a child,
"Could I one day deny God graced me so?
"Then, since my husband hates me, I shall break
"No law that reigns in this fell house of hate,
"By using—letting have effect so much
"Of hate as hides me from that whole of hate
"Would take my life which I want and must have—
"Just as I take from your excess of love
"Enough to save my life with, all I need.
"The Archbishop said to murder me were sin:
"My leaving Guido were a kind of death
"With no sin,—more death, he must answer for.
"Hear now what death to him and life to you
"I wish to pay and owe. Take me to Rome!
"You go to Rome, the servant makes me hear.
"Take me as you would take a dog, I think,
"Masterless left for strangers to maltreat:
"Take me home like that—leave me in the house
"Where the father and the mother are; and soon
"They'll come to know and call me by my name,
"Their child once more, since child I am, for all
"They now forget me, which is the worst o' the dream—
"And the way to end dreams is to break them, stand,
"Walk, go: then help me to stand, walk and go!
"The Governor said the strong should help the weak:
"You know how weak the strongest women are.
"How could I find my way there by myself?
"I cannot even call out, make them hear—
"Just as in dreams: I have tried and proved the fact.
"I have told this story and more to good great men,
"The Archbishop and the Governor: they smiled.
"'Stop your mouth, fair one!'—presently they frowned,
"'Get you gone, disengage you from our feet!'
"I went in my despair to an old priest,
"Only a friar, no great man like these two,
"But good, the Augustinian, people name
"Romano,—he confessed me two months since:
"He fears God, why then needs he fear the world?
"And when he questioned how it came about
"That I was found in danger of a sin—
"Despair of any help from providence,—
"'Since, though your husband outrage you,' said he,
"'That is a case too common, the wives die
"'Or live, but do not sin so deep as this'—
"Then I told—what I never will tell you—
"How, worse than husband's hate, I had to bear
"The love,—soliciting to shame called love,—
"Of his brother,—the young idle priest i' the house
"With only the devil to meet there. 'This is grave—
"'Yes, we must interfere: I counsel,—write
"'To those who used to be your parents once,
"'Of dangers here, bid them convey you hence!'
"'But,' said I, 'when I neither read nor write?'
"Then he took pity and promised 'I will write.'
"If he did so,—why, they are dumb or dead:
"Either they give no credit to the tale,
"Or else, wrapped wholly up in their own joy
"Of such escape, they care not who cries, still
"I' the clutches. Anyhow, no word arrives.
"All such extravagance and dreadfulness
"Seems incident to dreaming, cured one way,—
"Wake me! The letter I received this morn,
"Said—if the woman spoke your very sense—
"'You would die for me:' I can believe it now:
"For now the dream gets to involve yourself.
"First of all, you seemed wicked and not good,
"In writing me those letters: you came in
"Like a thief upon me. I this morning said
"In my extremity, entreat the thief!
"Try if he have in him no honest touch!
"A thief might save me from a murderer.
"'T was a thief said the last kind word to Christ:
"Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft:
"And so did I prepare what I now say.
"But now, that you stand and I see your face,
"Though you have never uttered word yet,—well, I know,
"Here too has been dream-work, delusion too,
"And that at no time, you with the eyes here,
"Ever intended to do wrong by me,
"Nor wrote such letters therefore. It is false,
"And you are true, have been true, will be true.
"To Rome then,—when is it you take me there?
"Each minute lost is mortal. When?—I ask."
I answered "It shall be when it can be.
"I will go hence and do your pleasure, find
"The sure and speedy means of travel, then
"Come back and take you to your friends in Rome.
"There wants a carriage, money and the rest,—
"A day's work by to-morrow at this time.
"How shall I see you and assure escape?"
She replied, "Pass, to-morrow at this hour.
"If I am at the open window, well:
"If I am absent, drop a handkerchief
"And walk by! I shall see from where I watch,
"And know that all is done. Return next eve,
"And next, and so till we can meet and speak!"
"To-morrow at this hour I pass," said I.
She was withdrawn.
Here is another point
I bid you pause at. When I told thus far,
Someone said, subtly, "Here at least was found
"Your confidence in error,—you perceived
"The spirit of the letters, in a sort,
"Had been the lady's, if the body should be
"Supplied by Guido: say, he forged them all!
"Here was the unforged fact—she sent for you,
"Spontaneously elected you to help,
"—What men call, loved you: Guido read her mind,
"Gave it expression to assure the world
"The case was just as he foresaw: he wrote,
Sirs, that first simile serves still,—
That falsehood of a scorpion hatched, I say,
Nowhere i' the world but in Madonna's mouth.
Go on! Suppose, that falsehood foiled, next eve
Pictured Madonna raised her painted hand,
Fixed the face Rafael bent above the Babe,
On my face as I flung me at her feet:
Such miracle vouchsafed and manifest,
Would that prove the first lying tale was true?
Pompilia spoke, and I at once received,
Accepted my own fact, my miracle
Self-authorized and self-explained,—she chose
To summon me and signify her choice.
Afterward,—oh! I gave a passing glance
To a certain ugly cloud-shape, goblin-shred
Of hell-smoke hurrying past the splendid moon
Out now to tolerate no darkness more,
And saw right through the thing that tried to pass
For truth and solid, not an empty lie:
"So, he not only forged the words for her
"But words for me, made letters he called mine:
"What I sent, he retained, gave these in place,
"All by the mistress-messenger! As I
"Recognized her, at potency of truth,
"So she, by the crystalline soul, knew me,
"Never mistook the signs. Enough of this—
"Let the wraith go to nothingness again,
"Here is the orb, have only thought for her!"
"Thought?" nay, Sirs, what shall follow was not thought:
I have thought sometimes, and thought long and hard.
I have stood before, gone round a serious thing,
Tasked my whole mind to touch and clasp it close,
As I stretch forth my arm to touch this bar.
God and man, and what duty I owe both,—
I dare to say I have confronted these
In thought: but no such faculty helped here.
I put forth no thought,—powerless, all that night
I paced the city: it was the first Spring.
By the invasion I lay passive to,
In rushed new things, the old were rapt away;
Alike abolished—the imprisonment
Of the outside air, the inside weight o' the world
That pulled me down. Death meant, to spurn the ground.
Soar to the sky,—die well and you do that.
The very immolation made the bliss;
Death was the heart of life, and all the harm
My folly had crouched to avoid, now proved a veil
Hiding all gain my wisdom strove to grasp:
As if the intense centre of the flame
Should turn a heaven to that devoted fly
Which hitherto, sophist alike and sage,
Saint Thomas with his sober grey goose-quill,
And sinner Plato by Cephisian reed,
Would fain, pretending just the insect's good,
Whisk off, drive back, consign to shade again.
Into another state, under new rule
I knew myself was passing swift and sure;
Whereof the initiatory pang approached,
Felicitous annoy, as bitter-sweet
As when the virgin-band, the victors chaste,
Feel at the end the earthly garments drop,
And rise with something of a rosy shame
Into immortal nakedness: so I
Lay, and let come the proper throe would thrill
Into the ecstasy and outthrob pain.
I' the grey of dawn it was I found myself
Facing the pillared front o' the Pieve—mine,
My church: it seemed to say for the first time
"But am not I the Bride, the mystic love
"O' the Lamb, who took thy plighted troth, my priest,
"To fold thy warm heart on my heart of stone
"And freeze thee nor unfasten any more?
"This is a fleshly woman,—let the free
"Bestow their life-blood, thou art pulseless now!"
See! Day by day I had risen and left this church
At the signal waved me by some foolish fan,
With half a curse and half a pitying smile
For the monk I stumbled over in my haste,
Prostrate and corpse-like at the altar-foot
Intent on his corona: then the church
Was ready with her quip, if word conduced,
To quicken my pace nor stop for prating—"There!
"Be thankful you are no such ninny, go
"Rather to teach a black-eyed novice cards
"Than gabble Latin and protrude that nose
"Smoothed to a sheep's through no brains and much faith!"
That sort of incentive! Now the church changed tone—
Now, when I found out first that life and death
Are means to an end, that passion uses both,
Indisputably mistress of the man
Whose form of worship is self-sacrifice:
Now, from the stone lungs sighed the scrannel voice
"Leave that live passion, come be dead with me!"
As if, i' the fabled garden, I had gone
On great adventure, plucked in ignorance
Hedge-fruit, and feasted to satiety,
Laughing at such high fame for hips and haws,
And scorned the achievement: then come all at once
O' the prize o' the place, the thing of perfect gold,
The apple's self: and, scarce my eye on that,
Was 'ware as well o' the seven-fold dragon's watch.
Sirs, I obeyed. Obedience was too strange,—
This new thing that had been struck into me
By the look o' the lady,—to dare disobey
The first authoritative word. 'T was God's.
I had been lifted to the level of her,
Could take such sounds into my sense. I said
"We two are cognisant o' the Master now;
"She it is bids me bow the head: how true,
"I am a priest! I see the function here;
"I thought the other way self-sacrifice:
"This is the true, seals up the perfect sum.
"I pay it, sit down, silently obey."
So, I went home. Dawn broke, noon broadened, I—
I sat stone-still, let time run over me.
The sun slanted into my room, had reached
The west. I opened book,—Aquinas blazed
With one black name only on the white page.
I looked up, saw the sunset: vespers rang:
"She counts the minutes till I keep my word
"And come say all is ready. I am a priest.
"Duty to God is duty to her: I think
"God, who created her, will save her too
"Some new way, by one miracle the more,
"Without me. Then, prayer may avail perhaps."
I went to my own place i' the Pieve, read
The office: I was back at home again
Sitting i' the dark. "Could she but know—but know
"That, were there good in this distinct from God's,
"Really good as it reached her, though procured
"By a sin of mine,—I should sin: God forgives.
"She knows it is no fear withholds me: fear?
"Of what? Suspense here is the terrible thing.
"If she should, as she counts the minutes, come
"On the fantastic notion that I fear
"The world now, fear the Archbishop, fear perhaps
"Count Guido, he who, having forged the lies,
"May wait the work, attend the effect,—I fear
"The sword of Guido! Let God see to that—
"Hating lies, let not her believe a lie!"
Again the morning found me. "I will work,
"Tie down my foolish thoughts. Thank God so far!
"I have saved her from a scandal, stopped the tongues
"Had broken else into a cackle and hiss
"Around the noble name. Duty is still
"Wisdom: I have been wise." So the day wore.
At evening—"But, achieving victory,
"I must not blink the priest's peculiar part,
"Nor shrink to counsel, comfort: priest and friend—
"How do we discontinue to be friends?
"I will go minister, advise her seek
"Help at the source,—above all, not despair:
"There may be other happier help at hand.
"I hope it,—wherefore then neglect to say?"
There she stood—leaned there, for the second time,
Over the terrace, looked at me, then spoke:
"Why is it you have suffered me to stay
"Breaking my heart two days more than was need?
"Why delay help, your own heart yearns to give?
"You are again here, in the self-same mind,
"I see here, steadfast in the face of you,—
"You grudge to do no one thing that I ask.
"Why then is nothing done? You know my need.
"Still, through God's pity on me, there is time
"And one day more: shall I be saved or no?"
I answered—"Lady, waste no thought, no word
"Even to forgive me! Care for what I care—
"Only! Now follow me as I were fate!
"Leave this house in the dark to-morrow night,
"Just before daybreak:—there's new moon this eve—
"It sets, and then begins the solid black.
"Descend, proceed to the Torrione, step
"Over the low dilapidated wall,
"Take San Clemente, there's no other gate
"Unguarded at the hour: some paces thence
"An inn stands; cross to it; I shall be there."
She answered, "If I can but find the way.
"But I shall find it. Go now!"
I did go,
Took rapidly the route myself prescribed,
Stopped at Torrione, climbed the ruined place,
Proved that the gate was practicable, reached
The inn, no eye, despite the dark, could miss,
Knocked there and entered, made the host secure:
"With Caponsacchi it is ask and have;
"I know my betters. Are you bound for Rome?
"I get swift horse and trusty man," said he.
Then I retraced my steps, was found once more
In my own house for the last time: there lay
The broad pale opened Summa. "Shut his book,
"There's other showing! 'T was a Thomas too
"Obtained,—more favoured than his namesake here,—
"A gift, tied faith fast, foiled the tug of doubt,—
"Our Lady's girdle; down he saw it drop
"As she ascended into heaven, they say:
"He kept that safe and bade all doubt adieu.
"I too have seen a lady and hold a grace."
I know not how the night passed: morning broke;
Presently came my servant. "Sir, this eve—
"Do you forget?" I started. "How forget?
"What is it you know?" "With due submission, Sir,
"This being last Monday in the month but one
"And a vigil, since to-morrow is Saint George,
"And feast day, and moreover day for copes,
"And Canon Conti now away a month,
"And Canon Crispi sour because, forsooth,
"You let him sulk in stall and bear the brunt
"Of the octave … Well, Sir, 't is important!"
"Hearken, I have to start for Rome this night.
"No word, lest Crispi overboil and burst!
"Provide me with a laic dress! Throw dust
"I' the Canon's eye, stop his tongue's scandal so!
"See there's a sword in case of accident."
I knew the knave, the knave knew me.
Through each familiar hindrance of the day
Did I make steadily for its hour and end,—
Felt time's old barrier-growth of right and fit
Give way through all its twines, and let me go.
Use and wont recognized the excepted man,
Let speed the special service,—and I sped
Till, at the dead between midnight and morn,
There was I at the goal, before the gate,
With a tune in the ears, low leading up to loud,
A light in the eyes, faint that would soon be flare,
Ever some spiritual witness new and new
In faster frequence, crowding solitude
To watch the way o' the warfare,—till, at last,
When the ecstatic minute must bring birth,
Began a whiteness in the distance, waxed
Whiter and whiter, near grew and more near,
Till it was she: there did Pompilia come:
The white I saw shine through her was her soul's,
Certainly, for the body was one black,
Black from head down to foot. She did not speak,
Glided into the carriage,—so a cloud
Gathers the moon up. "By San Spirito,
"To Rome, as if the road burned underneath!
"Reach Rome, then hold my head in pledge, I pay
"The run and the risk to heart's content!" Just that
I said,—then, in another tick of time,
Sprang, was beside her, she and I alone.
So it began, our flight thro' dusk to clear,
Through day and night and day again to night
Once more, and to last dreadful dawn of all.
Sirs, how should I lie quiet in my grave
Unless you suffer me wring, drop by drop,
My brain dry, make a riddance of the drench
Of minutes with a memory in each,
Recorded motion, breath or look of hers,
Which poured forth would present you one pure glass,
Mirror you plain,—as God's sea, glassed in gold,
His saints,—the perfect soul Pompilia? Men,
You must know that a man gets drunk with truth
Stagnant inside him! Oh, they've killed her, Sirs!
Can I be calm?
Calmly! Each incident
Proves, I maintain, that action of the flight
For the true thing it was. The first faint scratch
O' the stone will test its nature, teach its worth
To idiots who name Parian—coprolite.
After all, I shall give no glare—at best
Only display you certain scattered lights
Lamping the rush and roll of the abyss:
Nothing but here and there a fire-point pricks
Wavelet from wavelet: well!
For the first hour
We both were silent in the night, I know:
Sometimes I did not see nor understand.
Blackness engulphed me,—partial stupor, say—
Then I would break way, breathe through the surprise,
And be aware again, and see who sat
In the dark vest with the white face and hands.
I said to myself—"I have caught it, I conceive
"The mind o' the mystery: 't is the way they wake
"And wait, two martyrs somewhere in a tomb
"Each by each as their blessing was to die;
"Some signal they are promised and expect,—
"When to arise before the trumpet scares:
"So, through the whole course of the world they wait
"The last day, but so fearless and so safe!
"No otherwise, in safety and not fear,
"I lie, because she lies too by my side."
You know this is not love, Sirs,—it is faith,
The feeling that there's God, he reigns and rules
Out of this low world: that is all; no harm!
At times she drew a soft sigh—music seemed
Always to hover just above her lips,
Not settle,—break a silence music too.
In the determined morning, I first found
Her head erect, her face turned full to me,
Her soul intent on mine through two wide eyes.
I answered them. "You are saved hitherto.
"We have passed Perugia,—gone round by the wood,
"Not through, I seem to think,—and opposite
"I know Assisi; this is holy ground."
Then she resumed. "How long since we both left
"Arezzo?" "Years—and certain hours beside."
It was at … ah, but I forget the names!
'T is a mere post-house and a hovel or two;
I left the carriage and got bread and wine
And brought it her. "Does it detain to eat?"
"They stay perforce, change horses,—therefore eat!
"We lose no minute: we arrive, be sure!"
This was—I know not where—there's a great hill
Close over, and the stream has lost its bridge,
One fords it. She began—"I have heard say
"Of some sick body that my mother knew,
"'T was no good sign when in a limb diseased
"All the pain suddenly departs,—as if
"The guardian angel discontinued pain
"Because the hope of cure was gone at last:
"The limb will not again exert itself,
"It needs be pained no longer: so with me,
"—My soul whence all the pain is past at once:
"All pain must be to work some good in the end.
"True, this I feel now, this may be that good,
"Pain was because of,—otherwise, I fear!"
She said,—a long while later in the day,
When I had let the silence be,—abrupt—
"Have you a mother?" "She died, I was born."
"A sister then?" "No sister." "Who was it—
"What woman were you used to serve this way,
"Be kind to, till I called you and you came?"
I did not like that word. Soon afterward—
"Tell me, are men unhappy, in some kind
"Of mere unhappiness at being men,
"As women suffer, being womanish?
"Have you, now, some unhappiness, I mean,
"Born of what may be man's strength overmuch,
"To match the undue susceptibility,
"The sense at every pore when hate is close?
"It hurts us if a baby hides its face
"Or child strikes at us punily, calls names
"Or makes a mouth,—much more if stranger men
"Laugh or frown,—just as that were much to bear!
"Yet rocks split,—and the blow-ball does no more,
"Quivers to feathery nothing at a touch;
"And strength may have its drawback weakness scapes."
Once she asked "What is it that made you smile,
"At the great gate with the eagles and the snakes,
"Where the company entered, 't is a long time since?"
"—Forgive—I think you would not understand:
"Ah, but you ask me,—therefore, it was this.
"That was a certain bishop's villa-gate,
"I knew it by the eagles,—and at once
"Remembered this same bishop was just he
"People of old were wont to bid me please
"If I would catch preferment: so, I smiled
"Because an impulse came to me, a whim—
"What if I prayed the prelate leave to speak,
"Began upon him in his presence-hall
"—'What, still at work so grey and obsolete?
"'Still rocheted and mitred more or less?
"'Don't you feel all that out of fashion now?
"'I find out when the day of things is done!'"
At eve we heard the angelus: she turned—
"I told you I can neither read nor write.
"My life stopped with the play-time; I will learn,
"If I begin to live again: but you—
"Who are a priest—wherefore do you not read
"The service at this hour? Read Gabriel's song,
"The lesson, and then read the little prayer
"To Raphael, proper for us travellers!"
I did not like that, neither, but I read.
When we stopped at Foligno it was dark.
The people of the post came out with lights:
The driver said, "This time to-morrow, may
"Saints only help, relays continue good,
"Nor robbers hinder, we arrive at Rome."
I urged, "Why tax your strength a second night?
"Trust me, alight here and take brief repose!
"We are out of harm's reach, past pursuit: go sleep
"If but an hour! I keep watch, guard the while
"Here in the doorway." But her whole face changed,
The misery grew again about her mouth,
The eyes burned up from faintness, like the fawn's
Tired to death in the thicket, when she feels
The probing spear o' the huntsman. "Oh, no stay!"
She cried, in the fawn's cry, "On to Rome, on, on—
"Unless 't is you who fear,—which cannot be!"
We did go on all night; but at its close
She was troubled, restless, moaned low, talked at whiles
To herself, her brow on quiver with the dream:
Once, wide awake, she menaced, at arms' length
Waved away something—"Never again with you!
"My soul is mine, my body is my soul's:
"You and I are divided ever more
"In soul and body: get you gone!" Then I—
"Why, in my whole life I have never prayed!
"Oh, if the God, that only can, would help!
"Am I his priest with power to cast out fiends?
"Let God arise and all his enemies
"Be scattered!" By morn, there was peace, no sigh
Out of the deep sleep.
When she woke at last,
I answered the first look—"Scarce twelve hours more,
"Then, Rome! There probably was no pursuit,
"There cannot now be peril: bear up brave!
"Just some twelve hours to press through to the prize:
"Then, no more of the terrible journey!" "Then,
"No more o' the journey: if it might but last!
"Always, my life-long, thus to journey still!
"It is the interruption that I dread,—
"With no dread, ever to be here and thus!
"Never to see a face nor hear a voice!
"Yours is no voice; you speak when you are dumb;
"Nor face, I see it in the dark. I want
"No face nor voice that change and grow unkind."
That I liked, that was the best thing she said.
In the broad day, I dared entreat, "Descend!"
I told a woman, at the garden-gate
By the post-house, white and pleasant in the sun,
"It is my sister,—talk with her apart!
"She is married and unhappy, you perceive;
"I take her home because her head is hurt;
"Comfort her as you women understand!"
So, there I left them by the garden-wall,
Paced the road, then bade put the horses to,
Came back, and there she sat: close to her knee,
A black-eyed child still held the bowl of milk,
Wondered to see how little she could drink,
And in her arms the woman's infant lay.
She smiled at me "How much good this has done!
"This is a whole night's rest and how much more!
"I can proceed now, though I wish to stay.
"How do you call that tree with the thick top
"That holds in all its leafy green and gold
"The sun now like an immense egg of fire?"
(It was a million-leaved mimosa.) "Take
"The babe away from me and let me go!"
And in the carriage "Still a day, my friend!
"And perhaps half a night, the woman fears.
"I pray it finish since it cannot last
"There may be more misfortune at the close,
"And where will you be? God suffice me then!"
And presently—for there was a roadside-shrine—
"When I was taken first to my own church
"Lorenzo in Lucina, being a girl,
"And bid confess my faults, I interposed
"'But teach me what fault to confess and know!'
"So, the priest said—'You should bethink yourself:
"'Each human being needs must have done wrong!'
"Now, be you candid and no priest but friend—
"Were I surprised and killed here on the spot,
"A runaway from husband and his home,
"Do you account it were in sin I died?
"My husband used to seem to harm me, not …
"Not on pretence he punished sin of mine,
"Nor for sin's sake and lust of cruelty,
"But as I heard him bid a farming-man
"At the villa take a lamb once to the wood
"And there ill-treat it, meaning that the wolf
"Should hear its cries, and so come, quick be caught,
"Enticed to the trap: he practised thus with me
"That so, whatever were his gain thereby,
"Others than I might become prey and spoil.
"Had it been only between our two selves,—
"His pleasure and my pain,—why, pleasure him
"By dying, nor such need to make a coil!
"But this was worth an effort, that my pain
"Should not become a snare, prove pain threefold
"To other people—strangers—or unborn—
"How should I know? I sought release from that—
"I think, or else from,—dare I say, some cause
"Such as is put into a tree, which turns
"Away from the north wind with what nest it holds,—
"The woman said that trees so turn: now, friend,
"Tell me, because I cannot trust myself!
"You are a man: what have I done amiss?"
You must conceive my answer,—I forget—
Taken up wholly with the thought, perhaps,
This time she might have said,—might, did not say—
"You are a priest." She said, "my friend."
We passed the places, somehow the calm went,
Again the restless eyes began to rove
In new fear of the foe mine could not see.
She wandered in her mind,—addressed me once
"Gaetano!"—that is not my name: whose name?
I grew alarmed, my head seemed turning too.
I quickened pace with promise now, now threat:
Bade drive and drive, nor any stopping more.
"Too deep i' the thick of the struggle, struggle through!
"Then drench her in repose though death's self pour
"The plenitude of quiet,—help us, God,
"Whom the winds carry!"
Suddenly I saw
The old tower, and the little white-walled clump
Of buildings and the cypress-tree or two,—
"Already Castelnuovo—Rome!" I cried,
"As good as Rome,—Rome is the next stage, think!
"This is where travellers' hearts are wont to beat.
"Say you are saved, sweet lady!" Up she woke.
The sky was fierce with colour from the sun
Setting. She screamed out "No, I must not die!
"Take me no farther, I should die: stay here!
"I have more life to save than mine!"
We seemed safe: what was it foreboded so?
Out of the coach into the inn I bore
The motionless and breathless pure and pale
Pompilia,—bore her through a pitying group
And laid her on a couch, still calm and cured
By deep sleep of all woes at once. The host
Was urgent "Let her stay an hour or two!
"Leave her to us, all will be right by morn!"
Oh, my foreboding! But I could not choose.
I paced the passage, kept watch all night long.
I listened,—not one movement, not one sigh.
"Fear not: she sleeps so sound!" they said: but I
Feared, all the same, kept fearing more and more,
Found myself throb with fear from head to foot,
Filled with a sense of such impending woe,
That, at first pause of night, pretence of gray,
I made my mind up it was morn.—"Reach Rome,
"Lest hell reach her! A dozen miles to make,
"Another long breath, and we emerge!" I stood
I' the court-yard, roused the sleepy grooms. "Have out
"Carriage and horse, give haste, take gold!" said I.
While they made ready in the doubtful morn,—
'T was the last minute,—needs must I ascend
And break her sleep; I turned to go.
Faced me Count Guido, there posed the mean man
As master,—took the field, encamped his rights,
Challenged the world: there leered new triumph, there
Scowled the old malice in the visage bad
And black o' the scamp. Soon triumph suppled the tongue
A little, malice glued to his dry throat,
And he part howled, part hissed … oh, how he kept
Well out o' the way, at arm's length and to spare!—
"My salutation to your priestship! What?
"Matutinal, busy with book so soon
"Of an April day that's damp as tears that now
"Deluge Arezzo at its darling's flight?—
"'T is unfair, wrongs feminity at large,
"To let a single dame monopolize
"A heart the whole sex claims, should share alike:
"Therefore I overtake you, Canon! Come!
"The lady,—could you leave her side so soon?
"You have not yet experienced at her hands
"My treatment, you lay down undrugged, I see!
"Hence this alertness—hence no death-in-life
"Like what held arms fast when she stole from mine.
"To be sure, you took the solace and repose
"That first night at Foligno!—news abound
"O' the road by this time,—men regaled me much,
"As past them I came halting after you,
"Vulcan pursuing Mars, as poets sing,—
"Still at the last here pant I, but arrive,
"Vulcan—and not without my Cyclops too,
"The Commissary and the unpoisoned arm
"O' the Civil Force, should Mars turn mutineer.
"Enough of fooling: capture the culprits, friend!
"Here is the lover in the smart disguise
"With the sword,—he is a priest, so mine lies still.
"There upstairs hides my wife the runaway,
"His leman: the two plotted, poisoned first,
"Plundered me after, and eloped thus far
"Where now you find them. Do your duty quick!
"Arrest and hold him! That's done: now catch her!"
During this speech of that man,—well, I stood
Away, as he managed,—still, I stood as near
The throat of him,—with these two hands, my own,—
As now I stand near yours, Sir,—one quick spring,
One great good satisfying gripe, and lo!
There had he lain abolished with his lie,
Creation purged o' the miscreate, man redeemed,
A spittle wiped off from the face of God!
I, in some measure, seek a poor excuse
For what I left undone, in just this fact
That my first feeling at the speech I quote
Was—not of what a blasphemy was dared,
Not what a bag of venomed purulence
Was split and noisome,—but how splendidly
Mirthful, how ludicrous a lie was launched!
Would Molière's self wish more than hear such man
Call, claim such woman for his own, his wife
Even though, in due amazement at the boast,
He had stammered, she moreover was divine?
She to be his,—were hardly less absurd
Than that he took her name into his mouth,
Licked, and then let it go again, the beast,
Signed with his slaver. Oh, she poisoned him,
Plundered him, and the rest! Well, what I wished
Was, that he would but go on, say once more
So to the world, and get his meed of men,
The fist's reply to the filth. And while I mused,
The minute, oh the misery, was gone!
On either idle hand of me there stood
Really an officer, nor laughed i' the least:
Nay, rendered justice to his reason, laid
Logic to heart, as 't were submitted them
"Twice two makes four."
"And now, catch her!" he cried.
That sobered me. "Let myself lead the way—
"Ere you arrest me, who am somebody,
"Being, as you hear, a priest and privileged,—
"To the lady's chamber! I presume you—men
"Expert, instructed how to find out truth,
"Familiar with the guise of guilt. Detect
"Guilt on her face when it meets mine, then judge
"Between us and the mad dog howling there!"
Up we all went together, in they broke
O' the chamber late my chapel. There she lay,
Composed as when I laid her, that last eve,
O' the couch, still breathless, motionless, sleep's self,
Wax-white, seraphic, saturate with the sun
O' the morning that now flooded from the front
And filled the window with a light like blood.
"Behold the poisoner, the adulteress,
"—And feigning sleep too! Seize, bind!" Guido hissed.
She started up, stood erect, face to face
With the husband: back he fell, was buttressed there
By the window all a flame with morning-red,
He the black figure, the opprobrious blur
Against all peace and joy and light and life.
"Away from between me and hell!" she cried:
"Hell for me, no embracing any more!
"I am God's, I love God, God—whose knees I clasp,
"Whose utterly most just award I take,
"But bear no more love-making devils: hence!"
I may have made an effort to reach her side
From where I stood i' the door-way,—anyhow
I found the arms, I wanted, pinioned fast,
Was powerless in the clutch to left and right
O' the rabble pouring in, rascality
Enlisted, rampant on the side of hearth
Home and the husband,—pay in prospect too!
They heaped themselves upon me. "Ha!—and him
"Also you outrage? Him, too, my sole friend,
"Guardian and saviour? That I baulk you of,
"Since—see how God can help at last and worst!"
She sprang at the sword that hung beside him, seized,
Drew, brandished it, the sunrise burned for joy
O' the blade, "Die," cried she, "devil, in God's name!"
Ah, but they all closed round her, twelve to one
—The unmanly men, no woman-mother made,
Spawned somehow! Dead-white and disarmed she lay
No matter for the sword, her word sufficed
To spike the coward through and through: he shook,
Could only spit between the teeth—"You see?
"You hear? Bear witness, then! Write down . . but no—
"Carry these criminals to the prison-house,
"For first thing! I begin my search meanwhile
"After the stolen effects, gold, jewels, plate,
"Money and clothes, they robbed me of and fled,
"With no few amorous pieces, verse and prose,
"I have much reason to expect to find."
When I saw that—no more than the first mad speech,
Made out the speaker mad and a laughing-stock,
So neither did this next device explode
One listener's indignation,—that a scribe
Did sit down, set himself to write indeed,
While sundry knaves began to peer and pry
In corner and hole,—that Guido, wiping brow
And getting him a countenance, was fast
Losing his fear, beginning to strut free
O' the stage of his exploit, snuff here, sniff there,—
Then I took truth in, guessed sufficiently
The service for the moment. "What I say,
"Slight at your peril! We are aliens here,
"My adversary and I, called noble both;
"I am the nobler, and a name men know.
"I could refer our cause to our own Court
"In our own country, but prefer appeal
"To the nearer jurisdiction. Being a priest,
"Though in a secular garb,—for reasons good
"I shall adduce in due time to my peers,—
"I demand that the Church I serve, decide
"Between us, right the slandered lady there.
"A Tuscan noble, I might claim the Duke:
"A priest, I rather choose the Church,—bid Rome
"Cover the wronged with her inviolate shield."
There was no refusing this: they bore me off,
They bore her off, to separate cells o' the same
Ignoble prison, and, separate, thence to Rome.
Pompilia's face, then and thus, looked on me
The last time in this life: not one sight since,
Never another sight to be! And yet
I thought I had saved her. I appealed to Rome:
It seems I simply sent her to her death.
You tell me she is dying now, or dead;
I cannot bring myself to quite believe
This is a place you torture people in:
What if this your intelligence were just
A subtlety, an honest wile to work
On a man at unawares? 'T were worthy you.
No, Sirs, I cannot have the lady dead!
That erect form, flashing brow, fulgurant eye,
That voice immortal (oh, that voice of hers!)
That vision in the blood-red day-break—that
Leap to life of the pale electric sword
Angels go armed with,—that was not the last
O' the lady! Come, I see through it, you find—
Know the manoeuvre! Also herself said
I had saved her: do you dare say she spoke false?
Let me see for myself if it be so!
Though she were dying, a Priest might be of use,
The more when he's a friend too,—she called me
Far beyond "friend." Come, let me see her—indeed
It is my duty, being a priest: I hope
I stand confessed, established, proved a priest?
My punishment had motive that, a priest
I, in a laic garb, a mundane mode,
Did what were harmlessly done otherwise.
I never touched her with my finger-tip
Except to carry her to the couch, that eve,
Against my heart, beneath my head, bowed low,
As we priests carry the paten: that is why
—To get leave and go see her of your grace—
I have told you this whole story over again.
Do I deserve grace? For I might lock lips,
Laugh at your jurisdiction: what have you
To do with me in the matter? I suppose
You hardly think I donned a bravo's dress
To have a hand in the new crime; on the old,
Judgment's delivered, penalty imposed,
I was chained fast at Civita hand and foot—
She had only you to trust to, you and Rome,
Rome and the Church, and no pert meddling priest
Two days ago, when Guido, with the right,
Hacked her to pieces. One might well be wroth;
I have been patient, done my best to help:
I come from Civita and punishment
As friend of the Court—and for pure friendship's sake
Have told my tale to the end,—nay, not the end—
For, wait—I'll end—not leave you that excuse!
When we were parted,—shall I go on there?
I was presently brought to Rome—yes, here I stood
Opposite yonder very crucifix—
And there sat you and you, Sirs, quite the same.
I heard charge, and bore question, and told tale
Noted down in the book there,—turn and see
If, by one jot or tittle, I vary now!
I' the colour the tale takes, there's change perhaps;
'T is natural, since the sky is different,
Eclipse in the air now; still, the outline stays.
I showed you how it came to be my part
To save the lady. Then your clerk produced
Papers, a pack of stupid and impure
Banalities called letters about love—
Love, indeed,—I could teach who styled them so,
Better, I think, though priest and loveless both!
"—How was it that a wife, young, innocent,
"And stranger to your person, wrote this page?"—
"—She wrote it when the Holy Father wrote
"The bestiality that posts thro' Rome,
"Put in his mouth by Pasquin." "Nor perhaps
"Did you return these answers, verse and prose,
"Signed, sealed and sent the lady? There's your hand!"
"—This precious piece of verse, I really judge,
"Is meant to copy my own character,
"A clumsy mimic; and this other prose,
"Not so much even; both rank forgery:
"Verse, quotha? Bembo's verse! When Saint John wrote
"The tract 'De Tribus,' I wrote this to match."
"—How came it, then, the documents were found
"At the inn on your departure?"—"I opine,
"Because there were no documents to find
"In my presence,—you must hide before you find.
"Who forged them hardly practised in my view;
"Who found them waited till I turned my back."
"—And what of the clandestine visits paid,
"Nocturnal passage in and out the house
"With its lord absent? 'T is alleged you climbed …"
"—Flew on a broomstick to the man i' the moon!
"Who witnessed or will testify this trash?"
"—The trusty servant, Margherita's self,
"Even she who brought you letters, you confess,
"And, you confess, took letters in reply:
"Forget not we have knowledge of the facts!"
"—Sirs, who have knowledge of the facts, defray
"The expenditure of wit I waste in vain,
"Trying to find out just one fact of all!
"She who brought letters from who could not write,
"And took back letters to who could not read,—
"Who was that messenger, of your charity?"
"—Well, so far favours you the circumstance
"That this same messenger … how shall we say? …
"Sub imputatione meretricis
"Laborat,—which makes accusation null:
"We waive this woman's: nought makes void the next.
"Borsi, called Venerino, he who drove,
"O' the first night when you fled away, at length
"Deposes to your kissings in the coach,
"—Frequent, frenetic …" "When deposed he so?"
"After some weeks of sharp imprisonment …"
"—Granted by friend the Governor, I engage—"
"—For his participation in your flight!
"At length his obduracy melting made
"The avowal mentioned . ." "Was dismissed forthwith
"To liberty, poor knave, for recompense.
"Sirs, give what credit to the lie you can!
"For me, no word in my defence I speak,
"And God shall argue for the lady!"
Did I stand question, and make answer, still
With the same result of smiling disbelief,
Polite impossibility of faith
In such affected virtue in a priest;
But a showing fair play, an indulgence, even,
To one no worse than others after all—
Who had not brought disgrace to the order, played
Discreetly, ruffled gown nor ripped the cloth
In a bungling game at romps: I have told you, Sirs—
If I pretended simply to be pure
Honest and Christian in the case,—absurd!
As well go boast myself above the needs
O' the human nature, careless how meat smells,
Wine tastes,—a saint above the smack! But once
Abate my crest, own flaws i' the flesh, agree
To go with the herd, be hog no more nor less,
Why, hogs in common herd have common rights:
I must not be unduly borne upon,
Who just romanced a little, sowed wild oats,
But 'scaped without a scandal, flagrant fault.
My name helped to a mirthful circumstance:
"Joseph" would do well to amend his plea:
Undoubtedly—some toying with the wife,
But as for ruffian violence and rape,
Potiphar pressed too much on the other side!
The intrigue, the elopement, the disguise,—well charged!
The letters and verse looked hardly like the truth.
Your apprehension was—of guilt enough
To be compatible with innocence,
So, punished best a little and not too much.
Had I struck Guido Franceschini's face,
You had counselled me withdraw for my own sake,
Baulk him of bravo-hiring. Friends came round,
Congratulated, "Nobody mistakes!
"The pettiness o' the forfeiture defines
"The peccadillo: Guido gets his share:
"His wife is free of husband and hook-nose,
"The mouldy viands and the mother-in-law.
"To Civita with you and amuse the time,
"Travesty us 'De Raptu Helenoe!'
"A funny figure must the husband cut
"When the wife makes him skip,—too ticklish, eh?
"Do it in Latin, not the Vulgar, then!
"Scazons—we'll copy and send his Eminence.
"Mind—one iambus in the final foot!
"He'll rectity it, be your friend for life!"
Oh, Sirs, depend on me for much new light
Thrown on the justice and religion here
By this proceeding, much fresh food for thought!
And I was just set down to study these
In relegation, two short days ago,
Admiring how you read the rules, when, clap,
A thunder comes into my solitude—
I am caught up in a whirlwind and cast here,
Told of a sudden, in this room where so late
You dealt out law adroitly, that those scales,
I meekly bowed to, took my allotment from,
Guido has snatched at, broken in your hands,
Metes to himself the murder of his wife,
Full measure, pressed down, running over now!
Can I assist to an explanation?—Yes,
I rise in your esteem, sagacious Sirs,
Stand up a renderer of reasons, not
The officious priest would personate Saint George
For a mock Princess in undragoned days.
What, the blood startles you? What, after all
The priest who needs must carry sword on thigh
May find imperative use for it? Then, there was
A Princess, was a dragon belching flame,
And should have been a Saint George also? Then,
There might be worse schemes than to break the bonds
At Arezzo, lead her by the little hand,
Till she reached Rome, and let her try to live?
But you were law and gospel,—would one please
Stand back, allow your faculty elbow-room?
You blind guides who must needs lead eyes that see!
Fools, alike ignorant of man and God!
What was there here should have perplexed your wit
For a wink of the owl-eyes of you? How miss, then,
What's now forced on you by this flare of fact—
As if Saint Peter failed to recognize
Nero as no apostle, John or James,
Till someone burned a martyr, made a torch
O' the blood and fat to show his features by!
Could you fail read this cartulary aright
On head and front of Franceschini there,
Large-lettered like hell's masterpiece of print,—
That he, from the beginning pricked at heart
By some lust, letch of hate against his wife,
Plotted to plague her into overt sin
And shame, would slay Pompilia body and soul,
And save his mean self—miserably caught
I' the quagmire of his own tricks, cheats and lies?
—That himself wrote those papers,—from himself
To himself,—which, i' the name of me and her,
His mistress-messenger gave her and me,
Touching us with such pustules of the soul
That she and I might take the taint, be shown
To the world and shuddered over, speckled so?
—That the agent put her sense into my words,
Made substitution of the thing she hoped,
For the thing she had and held, its opposite,
While the husband in the background bit his lips
At each fresh failure of his precious plot?
—That when at the last we did rush each on each,
By no chance but because God willed it so—
The spark of truth was struck from out our souls—
Made all of me, descried in the first glance,
Seem fair and honest and permissible love
O' the good and true—as the first glance told me
There was no duty patent in the world
Like daring try be good and true myself,
Leaving the shows of things to the Lord of Show
And Prince o' the Power of the Air. Our very flight,
Even to its most ambiguous circumstance,
Irrefragably proved how futile, false …
Why, men—men and not boys—boys and not babes—
Babes and not beasts—beasts and not stocks and stones!—
Had the liar's lie been true one pin-point speck,
Were I the accepted suitor, free o' the place,
Disposer of the time, to come at a call
And go at a wink as who should say me nay,—
What need of flight, what were the gain therefrom
But just damnation, failure or success?
Damnation pure and simple to her the wife
And me the priest—who bartered private bliss
For public reprobation, the safe shade
For the sunshine which men see to pelt me by:
What other advantage,—we who led the days
And nights alone i' the house,—was flight to find?
In our whole journey did we stop an hour,
Diverge a foot from straight road till we reached
Or would have reached—but for that fate of ours—
The father and mother, in the eye of Rome,
The eye of yourselves we made aware of us
At the first fall of misfortune? And indeed
You did so far give sanction to our flight,
Confirm its purpose, as lend helping hand,
Deliver up Pompilia not to him
She fled, but those the flight was ventured for.
Why then could you, who stopped short, not go on
One poor step more, and justify the means,
Having allowed the end?—not see and say
"Here's the exceptional conduct that should claim
"To be exceptionally judged on rules
"Which, understood, make no exception here"—
Why play instead into the devil's hands
By dealing so ambiguously as gave
Guido the power to intervene like me,
Prove one exception more? I saved his wife
Against law: against law he slays her now:
Deal with him!
I have done with being judged.
I stand here guiltless in thought, word and deed,
To the point that I apprise you,—in contempt
For all misapprehending ignorance
O' the human heart, much more the mind of Christ,—
That I assuredly did bow, was blessed
By the revelation of Pompilia. There!
Such is the final fact I fling you, Sirs,
To mouth and mumble and misinterpret: there!
"The priest's in love," have it the vulgar way!
Unpriest me, rend the rags o' the vestment, do—
Degrade deep, disenfranchise all you dare—
Remove me from the midst, no longer priest
And fit companion for the like of you—
Your gay Abati with the well-turned leg
And rose i' the hat-rim, Canons, cross at neck
And silk mask in the pocket of the gown,
Brisk Bishops with the world's musk still unbrushed
From the rochet; I'll no more of these good things:
There's a crack somewhere, something that's unsound
I' the rattle!
For Pompilia—be advised,
Build churches, go pray! You will find me there,
I know, if you come,—and you will come, I know.
Why, there's a Judge weeping! Did not I say
You were good and true at bottom? You see the truth—
I am glad I helped you: she helped me just so.
But for Count Guido,—you must counsel there!
I bow my head, bend to the very dust,
Break myself up in shame of faultiness.
I had him one whole moment, as I said—
As I remember, as will never out
O' the thoughts of me,—I had him in arm's reach
There,—as you stand, Sir, now you cease to sit,—
I could have killed him ere he killed his wife,
And did not: he went off alive and well
And then effected this last feat—through me!
Me—not through you—dsimiss that fear! 'T was you
Hindered me staying here to save her,—not
From leaving you and going back to him
And doing service in Arezzo. Come,
Instruct me in procedure! I conceive—
In all due self-abasement might I speak—
How you will deal with Guido: oh, not death!
Death, if it let her life be: otherwise
Not death,—your lights will teach you clearer! I
Certainly have an instinct of my own
I' the matter: bear with me and weigh its worth!
Let us go away—leave Guido all alone
Back on the world again that knows him now!
I think he will be found (indulge so far!)
Not to die so much as slide out of life,
Pushed by the general horror and common hate
Low, lower,—left o' the very ledge of things,
I seem to see him catch convulsively
One by one at all honest forms of life,
At reason, order, decency and use—
To cramp him and get foothold by at least;
And still they disengage them from his clutch.
"What, you are he, then, had Pompilia once
"And so forwent her? Take not up with us!"
And thus I see him slowly and surely edged
Off all the table-land whence life upsprings
Aspiring to be immortality,
As the snake, hatched on hill-top by mischance,
Despite his wriggling, slips, slides, slidders down
Hill-side, lies low and prostrate on the smooth
Level of the outer place, lapsed in the vale:
So I lose Guido in the loneliness,
Silence and dusk, till at the doleful end,
At the horizontal line, creation's verge,
From what just is to absolute nothingness—
Whom is it, straining onward still, he meets?
What other man deep further in the fate,
Who, turning at the prize of a footfall
To flatter him and promise fellowship,
Discovers in the act a frightful face—
Judas, made monstrous by much solitude!
The two are at one now! Let them love their love
That bites and claws like hate, or hate their hate
That mops and mows and makes as it were love!
There, let them each tear each in devil's-fun,
Or fondle this the other while malice aches—
Both teach, both learn detestability!
Kiss him the kiss, Iscariot! Pay that back,
That smatch o' the slaver blistering on your lip,
By the better trick, the insult he spared Christ—
Lure him the lure o' the letters, Aretine!
Lick him o'er slimy-smooth with jelly-filth
O' the verse-and-prose pollution in love's guise!
The cockatrice is with the basilisk!
There let them grapple, denizens o' the dark,
Foes or friends, but indissolubly bound,
In their one spot out of the ken of God
Or care of man, for ever and ever more!
Why, Sirs, what's this? Why, this is sorry and strange!
Futility, divagation: this from me
Bound to be rational, justify an act
Of sober man!—whereas, being moved so much,
I give you cause to doubt the lady's mind:
A pretty sarcasm for the world! I fear
You do her wit injustice,—all through me!
Like my fate all through,—ineffective help!
A poor rash advocate I prove myself.
You might be angry with good cause: but sure
At the advocate,—only at the undue zeal
That spoils the force of his own plea, I think?
My part was just to tell you how things stand,
State facts and not be flustered at their fume.
But then 't is a priest speaks: as for love,—no!
If you let buzz a vulgar fly like that
About your brains, as if I loved, forsooth,
Indeed, Sirs, you do wrong! We had no thought
Of such infatuation, she and I:
There are many points that prove it: do be just!
I told you,—at one little roadside-place
I spent a good half-hour, paced to and fro
The garden; just to leave her free awhile,
I plucked a handful of Spring herb and bloom:
I might have sat beside her on the bench
Where the children were: I wish the thing had been,
Indeed: the event could not be worse, you know:
One more half-hour of her saved! She's dead now, Sirs!
While I was running on at such a rate,
Friends should have plucked me by the sleeve: I went
Too much o' the trivial outside of her face
And the purity that shone there—plain to me,
Not to you, what more natural? Nor am I
Infatuated,—oh, I saw, be sure!
Her brow had not the right line, leaned too much,
Painters would say; they like the straight-up Greek:
This seemed bent somewhat with an invisible crown
Of martyr and saint, not such as art approves.
And how the dark orbs dwelt deep underneath,
Looked out of such a sad sweet heaven on me!
The lips, compressed a little, came forward too,
Careful for a whole world of sin and pain.
That was the face, her husband makes his plea,
He sought just to disfigure,—no offence
Beyond that! Sirs, let us be rational!
He needs must vindicate his honour,—ay,
Yet shirks, the coward, in a clown's disguise,
Away from the scene, endeavours to escape.
Now, had he done so, slain and left no trace
O' the slayer,—what were vindicated, pray?
You had found his wife disfigured or a corpse,
For what and by whom? It is too palpable!
Then, here's another point involving law:
I use this argument to show you meant
No calumny against us by that title
O' the sentence,—liars try to twist it so:
What penalty it bore, I had to pay
Till further proof should follow of innocence—
Probationis ob defectum,—proof?
How could you get proof without trying us?
You went through the preliminary form,
Stopped there, contrived this sentence to amuse
The adversary. If the title ran
For more than fault imputed and not proved,
That was a simple penman's error, else
A slip i' the phrase,—as when we say of you
"Charged with injustice"—which may either be
Or not be,—'t is a name that sticks meanwhile.
Another relevant matter: fool that I am!
Not what I wish true, yet a point friends urge:
It is not true,—yet, since friends think it helps,—
She only tried me when some others failed—
Began with Conti, whom I told you of,
And Guillichini, Guido's kinsfolk both,
And when abandoned by them, not before,
Turned to me. That's conclusive why she turned.
Much good they got by the happy cowardice!
Conti is dead, poisoned a month ago:
Does that much strike you as a sin? Not much,
After the present murder,—one mark more
On the Moor's skin,—what is black by blacker still?
Conti had come here and told truth. And so
With Guillichini; he's condemned of course
To the galleys, as a friend in this affair,
Tried and condemned for no one thing i' the world,
A fortnight since by who but the Governor?—
The just judge, who refused Pompilia help
At first blush, being her husband's friend, you know.
There are two tales to suit the separate courts,
Arezzo and Rome: he tells you here, we fled
Alone, unhelped,—lays stress on the main fault,
The spiritual sin, Rome looks to: but elsewhere
He likes best we should break in, steal, bear off,
Be fit to brand and pillory and flog—
That's the charge goes to the heart of the Governor:
If these unpriest me, you and I may yet
Converse, Vincenzo Marzi-Medici!
Oh, Sirs, there are worse men than you, I say!
More easily duped, I mean; this stupid lie,
Its liar never dared propound in Rome,
He gets Arezzo to receive,—nay more,
Gets Florence and the Duke to authorize!
This is their Rota's sentence, their Granduke
Signs and seals! Rome for me henceforward—Rome,
Where better men are,—most of all, that man
The Augustinian of the Hospital,
Who writes the letter,—he confessed, he says,
Many a dying person, never one
So sweet and true and pure and beautiful.
A good man! Will you make him Pope one day?
Not that he is not good too, this we have—
But old,—else he would have his word to speak,
His truth to teach the world: I thirst for truth,
But shall not drink it till I reach the source.
Sirs, I am quiet again. You see, we are
So very pitiable, she and I,
Who had conceivably been otherwise.
Forget distemperature and idle heat!
Apart from truth's sake, what's to move so much?
Pompilia will be presently with God;
I am, on earth, as good as out of it,
A relegated priest; when exile ends,
I mean to do my duty and live long.
She and I are mere strangers now: but priests
Should study passion; how else cure mankind,
Who come for help in passionate extremes?
I do but play with an imagined life
Of who, unfettered by a vow, unblessed
By the higher call,—since you will have it so,—
Leads it companioned by the woman there.
To live, and see her learn, and learn by her,
Out of the low obscure and petty world—
Or only see one purpose and one will
Evolve themselves i' the world, change wrong to right:
To have to do with nothing but the true,
The good, the eternal—and these, not alone
In the main current of the general life,
But small experiences of every day,
Concerns of the particular hearth and home:
To learn not only by a comet's rush
But a rose's birth,—not by the grandeur, God—
But the comfort, Christ. All this, how far away!
Mere delectation, meet for a minute's dream!—
Just as a drudging student trims his lamp,
Opens his Plutarch, puts him in the place
Of Roman, Grecian; draws the patched gown close,
Dreams, "Thus should I fight, save or rule the world!"—
Then smilingly, contentedly, awakes
To the old solitary nothingness.
So I, from such communion, pass content …
O great, just, good God! Miserable me!
- quotes about Rome
- quotes about saint
- quotes about paying
- quotes about students
- quotes about monsters
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about receiving
Words, Reasons, Even Purposes My Dear
how beautiful it is to have a mastery of words to just be able
to talk so sophisticated at to inspire or so simple as to convey a simple fable
tis a state of being i wish to achieve
and i wish to receive more knowledge...
yet in such a quest
i may not be the best
at it or even my poetry shall i stick to prose?
by no means i dare to stay here in my rhyme
for quite some time
as i write of intrigue, purpose, and the nature of the rose
there's a reason o yes there is
why all my thoughts even intents seem to fizz
and boil over flood out of my mind and stain the page
like carefully crafted words of a pensive and amiable sage
i do not profess to be him... though i may wish it
alas but i must continue to rant about this very dark pit
sorry that i digressed, but the reason is this mission,
and the mission is my purpose and job
my mission is not only to be in submission
but also not to sob
to profess what i know true
to dream dream yet even in trail and tribulation not be blue
my purpose simple yet vague and ambiguous hiding from me
i think it is help others happily
i seem to focus much on 'me' and not on who
i should be focused on, sometime i count my problems one, two
and forget my duty
to serve and most of all to save or at the very least plant a seed, its so sooty
when facing a problem alone i know the feeling therefore i will help
i will do it all stolidly ignoring pain as to not let out a yelp
yet i happily do it showing all empathy, and understanding and consoling
the one that i reach out my helping hand to
if you call upon me it may even extend to you...
I'm sorry i truly am i need to truly fix myself now
there is not time to ask how
i will do it i won't forget my duty again yes sir yes maim, i will follow it to the letter
i will follow it and even pass this fetter placed on me i will follow it past the pain
past the temptation to let endurance wain!
i will not forget my job and hopefully
i can do just a little good just a little purpose just for me
Goals To Reach
Goals to reach,
Are only known and satisfied...
By those giving up something,
That is sacrificed.
And usually not identified,
By a group effort applied.
If goals to reach,
I am beautiful
Not only because of the curve of my hips
Or the shape of my body
Not only because of the fullness of my lips
Or the curl of my eye lashes
I am beautiful because I want to be
I am beautiful because God made me that way
I am beautiful because in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than me
I am beautiful because I have a heart
And that is a beautiful thing
I am beautiful because I have a brain
And that is a beautiful thing
I am beautiful because I give advice
And that is a beautiful thing
I am beautiful because I want to be
I am beautiful because God made me that way
I am beautiful because in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than me
I am beautiful because I have confidence
I am beautiful because I have determination and wit
I am beautiful because I have goals and I plan to reach them
I am beautiful because I am always there to lend a helping hand
I am beautiful because I want to be
I am beautiful because God made me that way
I am beautiful because in my eyes
There is no one more beautiful than me
My Beautiful Darling! !
You are beautiful
Not only because of the curve of your hips
Or the shape of your body
Not only because of the fullness of your lips
Or the curl of your eye lashes
You are beautiful because you want to be
You are beautiful because God made you that way
You are beautiful because in your eyes
There is no one more beautiful than you.
You are beautiful because you have a heart
And that is a beautiful thing
You are beautiful because you have a brain
And that is a beautiful thing
You are beautiful because you give advice
And that is a beautiful thing
You are beautiful because you want to be
You are beautiful because God made you that way
You are beautiful because in your eyes
There is no one more beautiful than you.
You are beautiful because you have confidence
You are beautiful because you have determination and wit
You are beautiful because you have goals and you plan to reach them
You are beautiful because you are always there to lend a helping hand
You are beautiful because you want to be
You are beautiful because God made you that way
You are beautiful because in your eyes
There is no one more beautiful than you..
Life Is Beautiful
Soaking my feet in Rose petal
Listening to the rain fall down
A chilled glass of White wine
Tonight We'll paint the town
Life Is Beautiful
Rest by the roaring warm fire
The scent of Jasmine in the air
Sharing sweet little treats
Your love is beyond compare
Life Is Beautiful
Take dinner by candle light
The music is soft as your kiss
You reach and take my hand
A sweet touch of your lips
Life Is Beautiful
You Are Indeed Beautiful
Beautiful, are you, as the flowers of the field.
Beautiful, is the sound of your voice.
Beautiful, is the touch of your hand.
Beautiful, are the eyes that speak of love.
Beautiful, is your understanding and kindness.
Beautiful, is the way you always consider others.
Beautiful, are the courage of your convictions.
Beautiful, are the silent, countless words of, I love you.
Beautiful, is the softness of your touch.
Beautiful, are the children that you hold dear.
Beautiful, is your faith, honesty and loyalty.
Beautiful, are the people, you bless with your love.
Beautiful, are you secret acts of charity.
Beautiful, is the goodness, you give to all.
Beautiful, is the way your never judge anyone.
Beautiful, is your never dreaming...that you are indeed so beautiful.
Beautiful, is your heart...your very soul.
Beautiful, is the way you have made this a better world.
Beautiful, is the helping hand, you extend to all.
Have I told you, you are beautiful in every way?
Have I told you, my beautiful one, that I love you?
Beautiful Are You...
Beautiful, are you, as the flowers of the field.
Beautiful, is the sound of your voice.
Beautiful, is the touch of your hand.
Beautiful, are the eyes that speak of love.
Beautiful, is your understanding and kindness.
Beautiful, is the way you always consider others.
Beautiful, are the courage of your convictions.
Beautiful, are the silent, countless words of, I love you.
Beautiful, is the softness of your touch.
Beautiful, are the children that you hold dear.
Beautiful, is your faith, honesty and loyalty.
Beautiful, are the people, you bless with your love.
Beautiful, are you secret acts of charity.
Beautiful, is the goodness, you give to all.
Beautiful, is the way your never judge anyone.
Beautiful, is your never dreaming...that you are indeed so beautiful.
Beautiful, is your heart...your very soul.
Beautiful, is the way you have made this a better world.
Beautiful, is the helping hand, you extend to all.
Have I told you, you are beautiful in every way?
Have I told you, my beautiful one, that I love you?
We are blessed to know, one who is as beautiful
as you, in so many ways.
I love you.
The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town
You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere
You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination
You love this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day
Take me to that other place
I know I'm not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Take me to that other place
I know I'm not a hopeless case
What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel it somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
Was a beautiful day
THREE months had passed since she had knelt before
The grate of the confessional, and he,
--The priest--had wondered why she came no more
To tell her sinless sins--the vanity
Whose valid reason graced her simple dress--
The prayers forgotten, or the untold beads--
The little thoughtless words, the slight misdeeds,
Which made the sum of her unrighteousness.
She was the fairest maiden in his fold,
With her sweet mouth and musical pure voice,
Her deep grey eyes, her hair's tempestuous gold,
Her gracious graceful figure's perfect poise.
Her happy laugh, her wild unconscious grace,
Her gentle ways to old, or sick, or sad,
The comprehending sympathy she had,
Had made of her the idol of the place.
And when she grew so silent and so sad,
So thin and quiet, pale and hollow-eyed,
And cared no more to laugh and to be glad
With other maidens by the waterside--
All wondered, kindly grieved the elders were,
And some few girls went whispering about,
'She loves--who is it? Let us find it out!'
But never dared to speak of it to her.
But the priest's duty bade him seek her out
And say, 'My child, why dost thou sit apart?
Hast thou some grief? Hast thou some secret doubt?
Come and unfold to me thine inmost heart.
God's absolution can assuage all grief
And all remorse and woe beneath the sun.
Whatever thou hast said, or thought, or done,
The Holy Church can give thy soul relief.'
He stood beside her, young and strong, and swayed
With pity for the sorrow in her eyes--
Which, as she raised them to his own, conveyed
Into his soul a sort of sad surprise--
For in those grey eyes had a new light grown,
The light that only bitter love can bring,
And he had fancied her too pure a thing
For even happy love to dare to own.
Yet all the more he urged on her--'Confess,
And do not doubt some comfort will be lent
By Holy Church thy penitence to bless.
Trust her, my child.' With unconvinced consent
She answered, 'I will come;' and so at last
Out of the summer evening's crimson glow,
With heart reluctant and with footsteps slow
Into the cool great empty church she passed.
'By my own fault, my own most grievous fault,
I cannot say, for it is not!' she said,
Kneeling within the grey stone chapel's vault;
And on the ledge her golden hair was spread
Over the clasping hands that still increased
Their nervous pressure, poor white hands and thin,
While with hot lips she poured her tale of sin
Into the cold ear of the patient priest.
'Love broke upon me in a dream; it came
Without beginning, for to me it seemed
That all my life this thing had been the same,
And never otherwise than as I dreamed.
I only knew my heart, entire, complete,
Was given to my other self, my love--
That I through all the world would gladly move
So I might follow his adorèd feet.
'I dreamed my soul saw suddenly appear
Immense abysses, infinite heights unknown;
Possessed new worlds, new earths, sphere after sphere,
New sceptres, kingdoms, crowns, became my own.
When I had all, all earth, all time, all space,
And every blessing, human and divine,
I hated the possessions that were mine,
And only cared for his belovèd face.
'I dreamed that in unmeasured harmony,
Rain of sweet sounds fell on my ravished sense,
And thrilled my soul with swelling ecstasy,
And rose to unimagined excellence.
And while the music bade my heart rejoice,
And on my senses thrust delicious sway,
I wished the perfect melody away,
And in its place longed for his worshipped voice.
'And at the last I felt his arms enfold,
His kisses crown my life--his whispered sighs
Echo my own unrest--his spirit hold
My spirit powerless underneath his eyes,
My face flushed with new joy, and felt more fair:
He clasped me close, and cried, 'My own, my own!'
And then I woke in dawn's chill light, alone,
With empty arms held out to empty air.
'I never knew I loved him till that dream
Drew from my eyes the veil and left me wise.
What I had thought was reverence grew to seem
Only my lifelong love in thin disguise.
And in my dream it looked so sinless too,
So beautiful, harmonious, and right;
The vision faded with the morning light,
The love will last as long as I shall do.
'But in the world where I have wept my tears,
My love is sinful and a bitter shame.
How can I bear the never-ending years,
When every night I hear him call my name?
For though that first dream's dear delight is past,
Yet since that night each night I dream him there
With lips caressing on my brow and hair,
And in my arms I hold my heaven fast!'
'Child, have you prayed against it?' 'Have I prayed?
Have I not clogged my very soul with prayer;
Stopped up my ears with sound of praying, made
My very body faint with kneeling there
Before the sculptured Christ, and all for this,
That when my lips can pray no more, and sleep
Shuts my unwilling eyes, my love will leap
To dreamland's bounds, to meet me with his kiss?
'Strive against this?--what profit is the strife?
If through the day a little strength I gain,
At night he comes and calls me 'love' and 'wife,'
And straightway I am all his own again.
And if from love's besieging force my fight
Some little victory have hardly won,
What do I gain? As soon as day is done,
I yield once more to love's delicious might.'
'Avoid him!' 'Ay, in dewy garden walk
How often have I strayed, avoiding him.
And heard his voice mix with the common talk,
Yet never turned his way. My eyes grow dim
With weeping over what I lose by day
And find by night, yet never have to call
My own. O God! is there no help at all--
No hope, no chance, and no escapeful way?'
'And who is he to whom thy love is given?'
'What? Holy Church demands to know his name?
No rest for me on earth, no hope of heaven
Unless I tell it? Ah, for very shame
I cannot--yet why not?--I will--I can!
I have grown mad with brooding on my curse.
Here! Take the name, no better and no worse
My case will be. Father, thou art the man!'
An icy shock shivered through all his frame--
An overwhelming cold astonishment;
But on the instant the revulsion came,
His blood felt what her revelation meant,
And madly rushed along his veins and cried:
'For you too life is possible, and love
No more a word you miss the meaning of,
But all your life's desire unsatisfied.'
Then through his being crept a new strange fear--
Fear of himself, and through himself, for her;
His every fibre felt her presence near,
Disquiet in his breast began to stir.
'Lord Christ,' his soul cried, while his heart beat fast,
'Give strength in this, my hour of utmost need.'
And with the prayer strength came to him indeed,
And with calm voice he answered her at last.
'Child, go in peace! Wrestle, and watch, and pray,
And I will spend this night in prayer for thee,
That God will take thy strange great grief away.
Thou hast confessed thy sin. Absolvo te.'
Silence most absolute a little while,
Then passed the whisper of her trailing gown
Over the knee-worn stones, and soft died down
The dim deserted incense-memoried aisle.
She passed away, and yet, when she was gone,
His heart still echoed her remembered sighs:
What sin unpardonable had he done
That evermore those grey unquiet eyes
Floated between him and the dying day?
How had she grown so desperately dear?
Why did her love-words echo in his ear
Through all the prayers he forced his lips to say?
All night he lay upon the chancel floor,
And coined his heart in tears and prayers, and new
Strange longings he had never known before.
Her very memory so thrilled him through,
That to his being's core a shiver stole
Of utter, boundless, measureless delight,
Even while with unceasing desperate might
His lips prayed for God's armour for his soul!
The moon had bathed the chancel with her light,
But now she crept into a cloud. No ray
Was left to break the funeral black of night
That closely hung around the form that lay
So tempest-tossed within, so still without.
'God! I love her, love her, love her so!
Oh, for one spark of heaven's fire to show
Some way to cast this devil's passion out!
'I cannot choose but love--Thou knowest, Lord--
Yet is my spirit strong to fly from sin,
But oh, my flesh is weak, too weak the word
I have to clothe its utter weakness in!
I am Thy priest, vowed to be Thine alone,
Yet if she came here with those love-dimmed eyes,
How could I turn away from Paradise?
Should I not wreck her soul, and blast my own?
'Christ, by Thy passion, by Thy death for men,
Oh, save me from myself, save her from me!'
And at the word the moon came out again
From her cloud-palace, and threw suddenly
A shadow from the great cross overhead
Upon the priest; and with it came a sense
Of strength renewed, of perfect confidence
In Him who on that cross for men hung dead.
Beneath that shadow safety seemed to lie;
And as he knelt before the altar there,
Beside the King of Heaven's agony
Light seemed all pangs His priest might have to bear--
His grief, his love, his bitter wild regret,
Would they not be a fitting sacrifice,
A well-loved offering, blessed in the eyes
That never scorned a sad heart's offering yet?
But as the ghostly moon began to fade,
And moonlight glimmered into ghostlier dawn,
The shadow that the crucifix had made
With twilight mixed; and with it seemed withdrawn
The peace that with its shadowy shape began,
And as the dim east brightened, slowly ceased
The wild devotion that had filled the priest--
And with full sunlight he sprang up--a man!
'Ten thousand curses on my priestly vow--
The hated vow that held me back from thee!
Down with the cross! no death-dark emblems now!
I have done with death: life wakes for thee and me!'
He tore the cross from out his breast, and trod
The sacred symbol underfoot and cried,
'I am set free, unbound, unsanctified!
I am thy lover--not the priest of God!'
He strode straight down the church and passed along
The grave-set garden's dewy grass-grown slope:
The woods about were musical with song,
The world was bright with youth, and love, and hope;
The flowers were sweet, and sweet his visions were,
The sunlight glittered on the lily's head
And on the royal roses, rich and red,
And never had the earth seemed half so fair.
Soon would he see her--soon would kneel before
Her worshipped feet, and cry, 'I am thine own,
As thou art mine, now, and for evermore!'
And she should kiss the lips that had not known
The kiss of love in any vanished year.
And as he dreamed of his secured delight,
Round the curved road there slowly came in sight
A mourning band, and in their midst a bier.
He hastened to pass on. Why should he heed
A bier--a blot on earth's awakened face?
For to his love-warm heart it seemed indeed
That in sweet summer's bloom death had no place.
Yet still he glanced--a pale concealing fold
Veiled the dead, quiet face--and yet--and yet--
Did he not know that hand, so white and wet?
Did he not know those dripping curls of gold?
'We came to you to know what we should do,
Father: we found her body in the stream,
And how it happed, God knows!' One other knew--
Knew that of him had been her last wild dream--
Knew the full reason of that life-disdain--
Knew how the shame of hopeless love confessed
And unreturned had seemed to stain her breast,
Till only death could make her clean again.
They left her in the church where sunbeams bright
Gilded the wreathèd oak and carven stone
With golden floods of consecrating light;
And here at last, together and alone,
The lovers met, and here upon her hair
He set his lips, and dry-eyed kissed her face,
And in the stillness of the holy place
He spoke in tones of bitter blank despair:
'Oh, lips so quiet, eyes that will not see!
Oh, clinging hands that not again will cling!
This last poor sin may well be pardoned thee,
Since for the right's sake thou hast done this thing.
Oh, poor weak heart, for ever laid to rest,
That could no longer strive against its fate,
For thee high heaven will unbar its gate,
And thou shalt enter in and shalt be blessed.
'The chances were the same for us,' he said,
'Yet thou hast won, and I have lost, the whole;
Thou wouldst not live in sin, and thou art dead--
But I--against thee I have weighed my soul,
And, losing thee, have lost my soul as well.
I have cursed God, and trampled on His cross;
Earth has no measurement for all my loss,
But I shall learn to measure it in hell!'
I Sing The Body Electric
I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account--the body itself
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. 10
The expression of the face balks account;
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
and knees--dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the
transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up, and rolls
silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats--the horseman
in his saddle, 20
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-
kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child--the farmer's daughter in the garden or
The young fellow hoeing corn--the sleigh-driver guiding his six
horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and the under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes--the bent head, the curv'd
neck, and the counting; 30
Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's
breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
the firemen, and pause, listen, and count.
I know a man, a common farmer--the father of five sons;
And in them were the fathers of sons--and in them were the fathers of
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person;
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
beard, and the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes--the
richness and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see--he was wise also;
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old--his sons were
massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome;
They and his daughters loved him--all who saw him loved him;
They did not love him by allowance--they loved him with personal
He drank water only--the blood show'd like scarlet through the clear-
brown skin of his face;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher--he sail'd his boat himself--he
had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner--he had
fowling-pieces, presented to him by men that loved him;
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
You would wish long and long to be with him--you would wish to sit by
him in the boat, that you and he might touch each other.
I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
round his or her neck for a moment--what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight--I swim in it, as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on
them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the
soul well; 50
All things please the soul--but these please the soul well.
This is the female form;
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot;
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction!
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor--
all falls aside but myself and it;
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, the
atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or
fear'd of hell, are now consumed;
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it--the response
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands, all
diffused--mine too diffused;
Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb--love-flesh swelling
and deliciously aching;
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
love, white-blow and delirious juice; 60
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly into the
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.
This is the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, the man is
born of woman;
This is the bath of birth--this is the merge of small and large, and
the outlet again.
Be not ashamed, women--your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
exit of the rest;
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities, and tempers them--she is in her
place, and moves with perfect balance;
She is all things duly veil'd--she is both passive and active;
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
As I see my soul reflected in nature;
As I see through a mist, one with inexpressible completeness and
See the bent head, and arms folded over the breast--the female I see.
The male is not less the soul, nor more--he too is in his place;
He too is all qualities--he is action and power;
The flush of the known universe is in him;
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well;
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
utmost, become him well--pride is for him;
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul;
Knowledge becomes him--he likes it always--he brings everything to
the test of himself; 80
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail, he strikes
soundings at last only here;
(Where else does he strike soundings, except here?)
The man's body is sacred, and the woman's body is sacred;
No matter who it is, it is sacred;
Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the well-off--just as
much as you;
Each has his or her place in the procession.
(All is a procession;
The universe is a procession, with measured and beautiful motion.)
Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave or the dull-
face ignorant? 90
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no
right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float--and
the soil is on the surface, and water runs, and vegetation
For you only, and not for him and her?
A man's Body at auction;
I help the auctioneer--the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen, look on this wonder!
Whatever the bids of the bidders, they cannot be high enough for it;
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years, without one
animal or plant;
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.
In this head the all-baffling brain; 100
In it and below it, the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white--they are so cunning in
tendon and nerve;
They shall be stript, that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant back-bone and neck, flesh not flabby,
good-sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood,
The same old blood!
The same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart--there all passions, desires,
reachings, aspirations; 110
Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in
parlors and lecture-rooms?
This is not only one man--this is the father of those who shall be
fathers in their turns;
In him the start of populous states and rich republics;
Of him countless immortal lives, with countless embodiments and
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
through the centuries?
Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
back through the centuries?
A woman's Body at auction!
She too is not only herself--she is the teeming mother of mothers;
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the
Have you ever loved the Body of a woman? 120
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father--where is your father?
Your mother--is she living? have you been much with her? and has she
been much with you?
--Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all, in all
nations and times, all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is beautiful
as the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
nor the likes of the parts of you; 130
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
Soul, (and that they are the Soul;)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems--and
that they are poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's,
father's, young man's, young woman's poems;
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample
side-round of the chest.
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, fore-finger,
finger-balls, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-
Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
body, or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, 150
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman--and the man that comes from
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked
meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out, 160
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me--the bones, and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of
O I say now these are the Soul!
Sister Songs-An Offering To Two Sisters - Part The Second
And now, thou elder nursling of the nest;
Ere all the intertangled west
Be one magnificence
Of multitudinous blossoms that o'errun
The flaming brazen bowl o' the burnished sun
Which they do flower from,
How shall I 'stablish THY memorial?
Nay, how or with what countenance shall I come
To plead in my defence
For loving thee at all?
I who can scarcely speak my fellows' speech,
Love their love, or mine own love to them teach;
A bastard barred from their inheritance,
Who seem, in this dim shape's uneasy nook,
Some sun-flower's spirit which by luckless chance
Has mournfully its tenement mistook;
When it were better in its right abode,
Heartless and happy lackeying its god.
How com'st thou, little tender thing of white,
Whose very touch full scantly me beseems,
How com'st thou resting on my vaporous dreams,
Kindling a wraith there of earth's vernal green?
Even so as I have seen,
In night's aerial sea with no wind blust'rous,
A ribbed tract of cloudy malachite
Curve a shored crescent wide;
And on its slope marge shelving to the night
The stranded moon lay quivering like a lustrous
Medusa newly washed up from the tide,
Lay in an oozy pool of its own deliquious light.
Yet hear how my excuses may prevail,
Nor, tender white orb, be thou opposite!
Life and life's beauty only hold their revels
In the abysmal ocean's luminous levels.
There, like the phantasms of a poet pale,
The exquisite marvels sail:
Clarified silver; greens and azures frail
As if the colours sighed themselves away,
And blent in supersubtile interplay
As if they swooned into each other's arms;
Like ear-tips 'gainst the sun;
And beings that, under night's swart pinion,
Make every wave upon the harbour-bars
A beaten yolk of stars.
But where day's glance turns baffled from the deeps,
Die out those lovely swarms;
And in the immense profound no creature glides or creeps.
Love and love's beauty only hold their revels
In life's familiar, penetrable levels:
What of its ocean-floor?
I dwell there evermore.
From almost earliest youth
I raised the lids o' the truth,
And forced her bend on me her shrinking sight;
Ever I knew me Beauty's eremite,
In antre of this lowly body set.
Girt with a thirsty solitude of soul.
Nathless I not forget
How I have, even as the anchorite,
I too, imperishing essences that console.
Under my ruined passions, fallen and sere,
The wild dreams stir like little radiant girls,
Whom in the moulted plumage of the year
Their comrades sweet have buried to the curls.
Yet, though their dedicated amorist,
How often do I bid my visions hist,
Deaf to them, pleading all their piteous fills;
Who weep, as weep the maidens of the mist
Clinging the necks of the unheeding hills:
And their tears wash them lovelier than before,
That from grief's self our sad delight grows more,
Fair are the soul's uncrisped calms, indeed,
Endiapered with many a spiritual form
Of blosmy-tinctured weed;
But scarce itself is conscious of the store
Suckled by it, and only after storm
Casts up its loosened thoughts upon the shore.
To this end my deeps are stirred;
And I deem well why life unshared
Was ordained me of yore.
In pairing-time, we know, the bird
Kindles to its deepmost splendour,
And the tender
Voice is tenderest in its throat;
Were its love, for ever nigh it,
Never by it,
It might keep a vernal note,
The crocean and amethystine
In their pristine
Lustre linger on its coat.
Therefore must my song-bower lone be,
That my tone be
Fresh with dewy pain alway;
She, who scorns my dearest care ta'en,
Shadow of the sprite of May.
And is my song sweet, as they say?
Tis sweet for one whose voice has no reply,
Save silence's sad cry:
And are its plumes a burning bright array?
They burn for an unincarnated eye
A bubble, charioteered by the inward breath
Which, ardorous for its own invisible lure,
Urges me glittering to aerial death,
I am rapt towards that bodiless paramour;
Blindly the uncomprehended tyranny
Obeying of my heart's impetuous might.
The earth and all its planetary kin,
Starry buds tangled in the whirling hair
That flames round the Phoebean wassailer,
Speed no more ignorant, more predestined flight,
Than I, HER viewless tresses netted in.
As some most beautiful one, with lovely taunting,
Her eyes of guileless guile o'ercanopies,
Does her hid visage bow,
And miserly your covetous gaze allow,
By inchmeal, coy degrees,
Saying--'Can you see me now?'
Yet from the mouth's reflex you guess the wanting
Smile of the coming eyes
In all their upturned grievous witcheries,
Before that sunbreak rise;
And each still hidden feature view within
Your mind, as eager scrutinies detail
The moon's young rondure through the shamefast veil
Drawn to her gleaming chin:
After this wise,
From the enticing smile of earth and skies
I dream my unknown Fair's refused gaze;
And guessingly her love's close traits devise,
Which she with subtile coquetries
Through little human glimpses slow displays,
Cozening my mateless days
By sick, intolerable delays.
And so I keep mine uncompanioned ways;
And so my touch, to golden poesies
Turning love's bread, is bought at hunger's price.
So,--in the inextinguishable wars
Which roll song's Orient on the sullen night
Whose ragged banners in their own despite
Take on the tinges of the hated light, -
So Sultan Phoebus has his Janizars.
But if mine unappeased cicatrices
Might get them lawful ease;
Were any gentle passion hallowed me,
Who must none other breath of passion feel
Save such as winnows to the fledged heel
The tremulous Paradisal plumages;
The conscious sacramental trees
Which ever be
Consentient with enamoured wings, might know my love for thee.
Yet is there more, whereat none guesseth, love!
Upon the ending of my deadly night
(Whereof thou hast not the surmise, and slight
Is all that any mortal knows thereof),
Thou wert to me that earnest of day's light,
When, like the back of a gold-mailed saurian
Heaving its slow length from Nilotic slime,
The first long gleaming fissure runs Aurorian
Athwart the yet dun firmament of prime.
Stretched on the margin of the cruel sea
Whence they had rescued me,
With faint and painful pulses was I lying;
Not yet discerning well
If I had 'scaped, or were an icicle,
Whose thawing is its dying.
Like one who sweats before a despot's gate,
Summoned by some presaging scroll of fate,
And knows not whether kiss or dagger wait;
And all so sickened is his countenance,
The courtiers buzz, 'Lo, doomed!' and look at him askance:-
At Fate's dread portal then
Even so stood I, I ken,
Even so stood I, between a joy and fear,
And said to mine own heart, 'Now if the end be here!'
They say, Earth's beauty seems completest
To them that on their death-beds rest;
Gentle lady! she smiles sweetest
Just ere she clasp us to her breast.
And I,--now MY Earth's countenance grew bright,
Did she but smile me towards that nuptial-night?
But whileas on such dubious bed I lay,
One unforgotten day,
As a sick child waking sees
Gazing on it from its hand,
Slipped there for its dear amazes;
So between thy father's knees
I saw THEE stand,
And through my hazes
Of pain and fear thine eyes' young wonder shone.
Then, as flies scatter from a carrion,
Or rooks in spreading gyres like broken smoke
Wheel, when some sound their quietude has broke,
Fled, at thy countenance, all that doubting spawn:
The heart which I had questioned spoke,
A cry impetuous from its depths was drawn, -
'I take the omen of this face of dawn!'
And with the omen to my heart cam'st thou.
Even with a spray of tears
That one light draft was fixed there for the years.
And now? -
The hours I tread ooze memories of thee, Sweet!
Beneath my casual feet.
With rainfall as the lea,
The day is drenched with thee;
In little exquisite surprises
Bubbling deliciousness of thee arises
From sudden places,
Under the common traces
Of my most lethargied and customed paces.
As an Arab journeyeth
Through a sand of Ayaman,
Lean Thirst, lolling its cracked tongue,
Lagging by his side along;
And a rusty-winged Death
Grating its low flight before,
Casting ribbed shadows o'er
The blank desert, blank and tan:
He lifts by hap toward where the morning's roots are
His weary stare, -
Sees, although they plashless mutes are,
Set in a silver air
Fountains of gelid shoots are,
Making the daylight fairest fair;
Sees the palm and tamarind
Tangle the tresses of a phantom wind; -
A sight like innocence when one has sinned!
A green and maiden freshness smiling there,
While with unblinking glare
The tawny-hided desert crouches watching her.
'Tis a vision:
Yet the greeneries Elysian
He has known in tracts afar;
Thus the enamouring fountains flow,
Those the very palms that grow,
By rare-gummed Sava, or Herbalimar. -
Such a watered dream has tarried
Trembling on my desert arid;
Its lovely gleamings
Of things not seemings;
And I gaze,
Knowing that, beyond my ways,
All these ARE, for these are she.
Eve no gentlier lays her cooling cheek
On the burning brow of the sick earth,
Sick with death, and sick with birth,
Aeon to aeon, in secular fever twirled,
Than thy shadow soothes this weak
And distempered being of mine.
In all I work, my hand includeth thine;
Thou rushest down in every stream
Whose passion frets my spirit's deepening gorge;
Unhood'st mine eyas-heart, and fliest my dream;
Thou swing'st the hammers of my forge;
As the innocent moon, that nothing does but shine,
Moves all the labouring surges of the world.
Pierce where thou wilt the springing thought in me,
And there thy pictured countenance lies enfurled,
As in the cut fern lies the imaged tree.
This poor song that sings of thee,
This fragile song, is but a curled
Shell outgathered from thy sea,
And murmurous still of its nativity.
Princess of Smiles!
Sorceress of most unlawful-lawful wiles!
Cunning pit for gazers' senses,
Overstrewn with innocences!
Purities gleam white like statues
In the fair lakes of thine eyes,
And I watch the sparkles that use
There to rise,
Are bubbles from the calyces
Of the lovely thoughts that breathe
Paving, like water-flowers, thy spirit's floor beneath.
O thou most dear!
Who art thy sex's complex harmony
God-set more facilely;
To thee may love draw near
Without one blame or fear,
Unchidden save by his humility:
Thou Perseus' Shield! wherein I view secure
The mirrored Woman's fateful-fair allure!
Whom Heaven still leaves a twofold dignity,
As girlhood gentle, and as boyhood free;
With whom no most diaphanous webs enwind
The bared limbs of the rebukeless mind.
Wild Dryad! all unconscious of thy tree,
With which indissolubly
The tyrannous time shall one day make thee whole;
Whose frank arms pass unfretted through its bole:
Who wear'st thy femineity
Light as entrailed blossoms, that shalt find
It erelong silver shackles unto thee.
Thou whose young sex is yet but in thy soul; -
As hoarded in the vine
Hang the gold skins of undelirious wine,
As air sleeps, till it toss its limbs in breeze:-
In whom the mystery which lures and sunders,
Grapples and thrusts apart; endears, estranges;
- The dragon to its own Hesperides -
Is gated under slow-revolving changes,
Manifold doors of heavy-hinged years.
So once, ere Heaven's eyes were filled with wonders
To see Laughter rise from Tears,
Lay in beauty not yet mighty,
Conched in translucencies,
The antenatal Aphrodite,
Caved magically under magic seas;
Caved dreamlessly beneath the dreamful seas.
'Whose sex is in thy soul!'
What think we of thy soul?
Which has no parts, and cannot grow,
Unfurled not from an embryo;
Born of full stature, lineal to control;
And yet a pigmy's yoke must undergo.
Yet must keep pace and tarry, patient, kind,
With its unwilling scholar, the dull, tardy mind;
Must be obsequious to the body's powers,
Whose low hands mete its paths, set ope and close its ways;
Must do obeisance to the days,
And wait the little pleasure of the hours;
Yea, ripe for kingship, yet must be
Captive in statuted minority!
So is all power fulfilled, as soul in thee.
So still the ruler by the ruled takes rule,
And wisdom weaves itself i' the loom o' the fool.
The splendent sun no splendour can display,
Till on gross things he dash his broken ray,
From cloud and tree and flower re-tossed in prismy spray.
Did not obstruction's vessel hem it in,
Force were not force, would spill itself in vain
We know the Titan by his champed chain.
Stay is heat's cradle, it is rocked therein,
And by check's hand is burnished into light;
If hate were none, would love burn lowlier bright?
God's Fair were guessed scarce but for opposite sin;
Yea, and His Mercy, I do think it well,
Is flashed back from the brazen gates of Hell.
The heavens decree
All power fulfil itself as soul in thee.
For supreme Spirit subject was to clay,
And Law from its own servants learned a law,
And Light besought a lamp unto its way,
And Awe was reined in awe,
At one small house of Nazareth;
Saw Breath to breathlessness resign its breath,
And Life do homage for its crown to death.
So is all power, as soul in thee increased!
But, knowing this, in knowledge's despite
I fret against the law severe that stains
Thy spirit with eclipse;
When--as a nymph's carven head sweet water drips,
For others oozing so the cool delight
Which cannot steep her stiffened mouth of stone -
Thy nescient lips repeat maternal strains.
Smitten with singing from thy mother's east,
And murmurous with music not their own:
Nay, the lips flexile, while the mind alone
A passionless statue stands.
Oh, pardon, innocent one!
Pardon at thine unconscious hands!
'Murmurous with music not their own,' I say?
And in that saying how do I missay,
When from the common sands
Of poorest common speech of common day
Thine accents sift the golden musics out!
And ah, we poets, I misdoubt,
Are little more than thou!
We speak a lesson taught we know not how,
And what it is that from us flows
The hearer better than the utterer knows.
Thou canst foreshape thy word;
The poet is not lord
Of the next syllable may come
With the returning pendulum;
And what he plans to-day in song,
To-morrow sings it in another tongue.
Where the last leaf fell from his bough,
He knows not if a leaf shall grow,
Where he sows he doth not reap,
He reapeth where he did not sow;
He sleeps, and dreams forsake his sleep
To meet him on his waking way.
Vision will mate him not by law and vow:
Disguised in life's most hodden-grey,
By the most beaten road of everyday
She waits him, unsuspected and unknown.
The hardest pang whereon
He lays his mutinous head may be a Jacob's stone.
In the most iron crag his foot can tread
A Dream may strew her bed,
And suddenly his limbs entwine,
And draw him down through rock as sea-nymphs might through brine.
But, unlike those feigned temptress-ladies who
In guerdon of a night the lover slew,
When the embrace has failed, the rapture fled,
Not he, not he, the wild sweet witch is dead!
And, though he cherisheth
The babe most strangely born from out her death,
Some tender trick of her it hath, maybe, -
It is not she!
Yet, even as the air is rumorous of fray
Before the first shafts of the sun's onslaught
From gloom's black harness splinter,
And Summer move on Winter
With the trumpet of the March, and the pennon of the May;
As gesture outstrips thought;
So, haply, toyer with ethereal strings!
Are thy blind repetitions of high things
The murmurous gnats whose aimless hoverings
Reveal song's summer in the air;
The outstretched hand, which cannot thought declare,
Yet is thought's harbinger.
These strains the way for thine own strains prepare;
We feel the music moist upon this breeze,
And hope the congregating poesies.
Sundered yet by thee from us
Wait, with wild eyes luminous,
All thy winged things that are to be;
They flit against thee, Gate of Ivory!
They clamour on the portress Destiny, -
'Set her wide, so we may issue through!
Our vans are quick for that they have to do
Suffer still your young desire;
Your plumes but bicker at the tips with fire,
Tarry their kindling; they will beat the higher.
And thou, bright girl, not long shalt thou repeat
Idly the music from thy mother caught;
Not vainly has she wrought,
Not vainly from the cloudward-jetting turret
Of her aerial mind, for thy weak feet,
Let down the silken ladder of her thought.
She bare thee with a double pain,
Of the body and the spirit;
Thou thy fleshly weeds hast ta'en,
Thy diviner weeds inherit!
The precious streams which through thy young lips roll
Shall leave their lovely delta in thy soul:
Where sprites of so essential kind
Set their paces,
Surely they shall leave behind
The green traces
Of their sportance in the mind,
And thou shalt, ere we well may know it,
Turn that daintiness, a poet, -
Where sweet fancies foot and sing.
So it may be, so it SHALL be, -
Oh, take the prophecy from me!
What if the old fastidious sculptor, Time,
This crescent marvel of his hands
Carveth all too painfully,
And I who prophesy shall never see?
What if the niche of its predestined rhyme,
Its aching niche, too long expectant stands?
Yet shall he after sore delays
On some exultant day of days
The white enshrouding childhood raise
From thy fair spirit, finished for our gaze;
While we (but 'mongst that happy 'we'
The prophet cannot be!)
While we behold with no astonishments,
With that serene fulfilment of delight
Wherewith we view the sight
When the stars pitch the golden tents
Of their high campment on the plains of night.
Why should amazement be our satellite?
What wonder in such things?
If angels have hereditary wings,
If not by Salic law is handed down
The poet's crown,
To thee, born in the purple of the throne,
The laurel must belong:
Thou, in thy mother's right
Descendant of Castalian-chrismed kings -
O Princess of the Blood of Song!
Peace; too impetuously have I been winging
Toward vaporous heights which beckon and beguile
I sink back, saddened to my inmost mind;
Even as I list a-dream that mother singing
The poesy of sweet tone, and sadden, while
Her voice is cast in troubled wake behind
The keel of her keen spirit. Thou art enshrined
In a too primal innocence for this eye -
Intent on such untempered radiancy -
Not to be pained; my clay can scarce endure
Ungrieved the effluence near of essences so pure.
Therefore, little, tender maiden,
Never be thou overshaden
With a mind whose canopy
Would shut out the sky from thee;
Whose tangled branches intercept Heaven's light:
I will not feed my unpastured heart
On thee, green pleasaunce as thou art,
To lessen by one flower thy happy daisies white.
The water-rat is earth-hued like the runlet
Whereon he swims; and how in me should lurk
Thoughts apt to neighbour thine, thou creature sunlit?
If through long fret and irk
Thine eyes within their browed recesses were
Worn caves where thought lay couchant in its lair;
Wert thou a spark among dank leaves, ah ruth!
With age in all thy veins, while all thy heart was youth;
Our contact might run smooth.
But life's Eoan dews still moist thy ringed hair;
Dian's chill finger-tips
Thaw if at night they happen on thy lips;
The flying fringes of the sun's cloak frush
The fragile leaves which on those warm lips blush;
And joy only lurks retired
In the dim gloaming of thine irid.
Then since my love drags this poor shadow, me,
And one without the other may not be,
From both I guard thee free.
It still is much, yes, it is much,
Only--my dream!--to love my love of thee;
And it is much, yes, it is much,
In hands which thou hast touched to feel thy touch
In voices which have mingled with thine own
To hear a double tone.
As anguish, for supreme expression prest,
Borrows its saddest tongue from jest,
Thou hast of absence so create
A presence more importunate;
And thy voice pleads its sweetest suit
When it is mute.
I thank the once accursed star
Which did me teach
To make of Silence my familiar,
Who hath the rich reversion of thy speech,
Since the most charming sounds thy thought can wear,
Cast off, fall to that pale attendant's share;
And thank the gift which made my mind
A shadow-world, wherethrough the shadows wind
Of all the loved and lovely of my kind.
Like a maiden Saxon, folden,
As she flits, in moon-drenched mist;
Whose curls streaming flaxen-golden,
By the misted moonbeams kist,
Dispread their filmy floating silk
Like honey steeped in milk:
So, vague goldenness remote,
Through my thoughts I watch thee float.
When the snake summer casts her blazoned skin
We find it at the turn of autumn's path,
And think it summer that rewinded hath,
And this enamouring slough of thee, mine elf,
I take it for thyself;
Content. Content? Yea, title it content.
The very loves that belt thee must prevent
My love, I know, with their legitimacy:
As the metallic vapours, that are swept
Athwart the sun, in his light intercept
The very hues
Which THEIR conflagrant elements effuse.
But, my love, my heart, my fair,
That only I should see thee rare,
Or tent to the hid core thy rarity, -
This were a mournfulness more piercing far
Than that those other loves my own must bar,
Or thine for others leave thee none for me.
But on a day whereof I think,
One shall dip his hand to drink
In that still water of thy soul,
And its imaged tremors race
Over thy joy-troubled face,
As the intervolved reflections roll
From a shaken fountain's brink,
With swift light wrinkling its alcove.
From the hovering wing of Love
The warm stain shall flit roseal on thy cheek,
Then, sweet blushet! whenas he,
The destined paramount of thy universe,
Who has no worlds to sigh for, ruling thee,
Ascends his vermeil throne of empery,
One grace alone I seek.
Oh! may this treasure-galleon of my verse,
Fraught with its golden passion, oared with cadent rhyme,
Set with a towering press of fantasies,
Drop safely down the time,
Leaving mine isled self behind it far
Soon to be sunken in the abysm of seas,
(As down the years the splendour voyages
From some long ruined and night-submerged star),
And in thy subject sovereign's havening heart
Anchor the freightage of its virgin ore;
Adding its wasteful more
To his own overflowing treasury.
So through his river mine shall reach thy sea,
Bearing its confluent part;
In his pulse mine shall thrill;
And the quick heart shall quicken from the heart that's still.
Ah! help, my Daemon that hast served me well!
Not at this last, oh, do not me disgrace!
I faint, I sicken, darkens all my sight,
As, poised upon this unprevisioned height,
I lift into its place
The utmost aery traceried pinnacle.
So; it is builded, the high tenement,
- God grant--to mine intent!
Most like a palace of the Occident,
Up-thrusting, toppling maze on maze,
Its mounded blaze,
And washed by the sunset's rosy waves,
Whose sea drinks rarer hue from those rare walls it laves.
Yet wail, my spirits, wail!
So few therein to enter shall prevail!
Scarce fewer could win way, if their desire
A dragon baulked, with involuted spire,
And writhen snout spattered with yeasty fire.
For at the elfin portal hangs a horn
Which none can wind aright
Save the appointed knight
Whose lids the fay-wings brushed when he was born.
All others stray forlorn,
Or glimpsing, through the blazoned windows scrolled
Receding labyrinths lessening tortuously
In half obscurity;
With mystic images, inhuman, cold,
That flameless torches hold.
But who can wind that horn of might
(The horn of dead Heliades) aright, -
Open for him shall roll the conscious gate;
And light leap up from all the torches there,
And life leap up in every torchbearer,
And the stone faces kindle in the glow,
And into the blank eyes the irids grow,
And through the dawning irids ambushed meanings show.
Illumined this wise on,
He threads securely the far intricacies,
With brede from Heaven's wrought vesture overstrewn;
Swift Tellus' purfled tunic, girt upon
With the blown chlamys of her fluttering seas;
And the freaked kirtle of the pearled moon:
Until he gain the structure's core, where stands -
A toil of magic hands -
The unbodied spirit of the sorcerer,
Most strangely rare,
As is a vision remembered in the noon;
Unbodied, yet to mortal seeing clear,
Like sighs exhaled in eager atmosphere.
From human haps and mutabilities
It rests exempt, beneath the edifice
To which itself gave rise;
Sustaining centre to the bubble of stone
Which, breathed from it, exists by it alone.
Yea, ere Saturnian earth her child consumes,
And I lie down with outworn ossuaries,
Ere death's grim tongue anticipates the tomb's
Siste viator, in this storied urn
My living heart is laid to throb and burn,
Till end be ended, and till ceasing cease.
And thou by whom this strain hath parentage;
Wantoner between the yet untreacherous claws
Of newly-whelped existence! ere he pause,
What gift to thee can yield the archimage?
For coming seasons' frets
What aids, what amulets,
What softenings, or what brightenings?
As Thunder writhes the lash of his long lightnings
About the growling heads of the brute main
Foaming at mouth, until it wallow again
In the scooped oozes of its bed of pain;
So all the gnashing jaws, the leaping heads
Of hungry menaces, and of ravening dreads,
Twitch-lipped, with quivering nostrils and immitigate fangs,
I scourge beneath the torment of my charms
That their repentless nature fear to work thee harms.
And as yon Apollonian harp-player,
Yon wandering psalterist of the sky,
With flickering strings which scatter melody,
The silver-stoled damsels of the sea,
Or lake, or fount, or stream,
Enchants from their ancestral heaven of waters
To Naiad it through the unfrothing air;
My song enchants so out of undulous dream
The glimmering shapes of its dim-tressed daughters,
And missions each to be thy minister.
Saying; 'O ye,
The organ-stops of being's harmony;
The blushes on existence's pale face,
Lending it sudden grace;
Without whom we should but guess Heaven's worth
By blank negations of this sordid earth,
(So haply to the blind may light
Be but gloom's undetermined opposite);
Ye who are thus as the refracting air
Whereby we see Heaven's sun before it rise
Above the dull line of our mortal skies;
As breathing on the strained ear that sighs
From comrades viewless unto strained eyes,
Soothing our terrors in the lampless night;
Ye who can make this world where all is deeming
What world ye list, being arbiters of seeming;
Attend upon her ways, benignant powers!
Unroll ye life a carpet for her feet,
And cast ye down before them blossomy hours,
Until her going shall be clogged with sweet!
All dear emotions whose new-bathed hair,
Still streaming from the soul, in love's warm air
Smokes with a mist of tender fantasies;
And all the heart's wild growths which, swiftly bright,
Spring up the crimson agarics of a night,
No pain in withering, yet a joy arisen;
And all thin shapes more exquisitely rare,
More subtly fair,
Than these weak ministering words have spell to prison
Within the magic circle of this rhyme;
And all the fays who in our creedless clime
Have sadly ceased
Bearing to other children childhood's proper feast;
Whose robes are fluent crystal, crocus-hued,
Whose wings are wind a-fire, whose mantles wrought
From spray that falling rainbows shake
These, ye familiars to my wizard thought,
Make things of journal custom unto her;
With lucent feet imbrued,
If young Day tread, a glorious vintager,
The wine-press of the purple-foamed east;
Or round the nodding sun, flush-faced and sunken,
His wild bacchantes drunken
Reel, with rent woofs a-flaunt, their westering rout.
- But lo! at length the day is lingered out,
At length my Ariel lays his viol by;
We sing no more to thee, child, he and I;
The day is lingered out:
In slow wreaths folden
Around yon censer, sphered, golden,
Vague Vesper's fumes aspire;
And glimmering to eclipse
The long laburnum drips
Its honey of wild flame, its jocund spilth of fire.
Now pass your ways, fair bird, and pass your ways,
If you will;
I have you through the days!
A flit or hold you still,
And perch you where you list
On what wrist, -
You are mine through the times!
I have caught you fast for ever in a tangle of sweet rhymes.
And in your young maiden morn,
You may scorn,
But you must be
Bound and sociate to me;
With this thread from out the tomb my dead hand shall tether thee!
Go, sister-songs, to that sweet sister-pair
For whom I have your frail limbs fashioned,
And framed feateously; -
For whom I have your frail limbs fashioned
With how great shamefastness and how great dread,
Knowing you frail, but not if you be fair,
Though framed feateously;
Go unto them from me.
Go from my shadow to their sunshine sight,
Made for all sights' delight;
Go like twin swans that oar the surgy storms
To bate with pennoned snows in candent air:
Nigh with abased head,
Yourselves linked sisterly, that sister-pair,
And go in presence there;
Saying--'Your young eyes cannot see our forms,
Nor read the yearning of our looks aright;
But time shall trail the veilings from our hair,
And cleanse your seeing with his euphrasy,
(Yea, even your bright seeing make more bright,
Which is all sights' delight),
And ye shall know us for what things we be.
'Whilom, within a poet's calyxed heart,
A dewy love we trembled all apart;
Whence it took rise
Beneath your radiant eyes,
Which misted it to music. We must long,
A floating haze of silver subtile song,
Above each maiden
The appointed hour that o'er the hearts of you -
As vapours into dew
Unweave, whence they were wove, -
Shall turn our loosening musics back to love.'
Rosalind and Helen: a Modern Eclogue
ROSALIND, HELEN, and her Child.
SCENE. The Shore of the Lake of Como.
Come hither, my sweet Rosalind.
'T is long since thou and I have met;
And yet methinks it were unkind
Those moments to forget.
Come, sit by me. I see thee stand
By this lone lake, in this far land,
Thy loose hair in the light wind flying,
Thy sweet voice to each tone of even
United, and thine eyes replying
To the hues of yon fair heaven.
Come, gentle friend! wilt sit by me?
And be as thou wert wont to be
Ere we were disunited?
None doth behold us now; the power
That led us forth at this lone hour
Will be but ill requited
If thou depart in scorn. Oh, come,
And talk of our abandoned home!
Remember, this is Italy,
And we are exiles. Talk with me
Of that our land, whose wilds and floods,
Barren and dark although they be,
Were dearer than these chestnut woods;
Those heathy paths, that inland stream,
And the blue mountains, shapes which seem
Like wrecks of childhood's sunny dream;
Which that we have abandoned now,
Weighs on the heart like that remorse
Which altered friendship leaves. I seek
No more our youthful intercourse.
That cannot be! Rosalind, speak,
Speak to me! Leave me not! When morn did come,
When evening fell upon our common home,
When for one hour we parted,--do not frown;
I would not chide thee, though thy faith is broken;
But turn to me. Oh! by this cherished token
Of woven hair, which thou wilt not disown,
Turn, as 't were but the memory of me,
And not my scornèd self who prayed to thee!
Is it a dream, or do I see
And hear frail Helen? I would flee
Thy tainting touch; but former years
Arise, and bring forbidden tears;
And my o'erburdened memory
Seeks yet its lost repose in thee.
I share thy crime. I cannot choose
But weep for thee; mine own strange grief
But seldom stoops to such relief;
Nor ever did I love thee less,
Though mourning o'er thy wickedness
Even with a sister's woe. I knew
What to the evil world is due,
And therefore sternly did refuse
To link me with the infamy
Of one so lost as Helen. Now,
Bewildered by my dire despair,
Wondering I blush, and weep that thou
Shouldst love me still--thou only!--There,
Let us sit on that gray stone
Till our mournful talk be done.
Alas! not there; I cannot bear
The murmur of this lake to hear.
A sound from there, Rosalind dear,
Which never yet I heard elsewhere
But in our native land, recurs,
Even here where now we meet. It stirs
Too much of suffocating sorrow!
In the dell of yon dark chestnut wood
Is a stone seat, a solitude
Less like our own. The ghost of peace
Will not desert this spot. To-morrow,
If thy kind feelings should not cease,
We may sit here.
Thou lead, my sweet,
And I will follow.
'T is Fenici's seat
Where you are going? This is not the way,
Mamma; it leads behind those trees that grow
Close to the little river.
Yes, I know;
I was bewildered. Kiss me and be gay,
Dear boy; why do you sob?
I do not know;
But it might break any one's heart to see
You and the lady cry so bitterly.
It is a gentle child, my friend. Go home,
Henry, and play with Lilla till I come.
We only cried with joy to see each other;
We are quite merry now. Good night.
Lifted a sudden look upon his mother,
And, in the gleam of forced and hollow joy
Which lightened o'er her face, laughed with the glee
Of light and unsuspecting infancy,
And whispered in her ear, 'Bring home with you
That sweet strange lady-friend.' Then off he flew,
But stopped, and beckoned with a meaning smile,
Where the road turned. Pale Rosalind the while,
Hiding her face, stood weeping silently.
In silence then they took the way
Beneath the forest's solitude.
It was a vast and antique wood,
Through which they took their way;
And the gray shades of evening
O'er that green wilderness did fling
Still deeper solitude.
Pursuing still the path that wound
The vast and knotted trees around,
Through which slow shades were wandering,
To a deep lawny dell they came,
To a stone seat beside a spring,
O'er which the columned wood did frame
A roofless temple, like the fane
Where, ere new creeds could faith obtain,
Man's early race once knelt beneath
The overhanging deity.
O'er this fair fountain hung the sky,
Now spangled with rare stars. The snake,
The pale snake, that with eager breath
Creeps here his noontide thirst to slake,
Is beaming with many a mingled hue,
Shed from yon dome's eternal blue,
When he floats on that dark and lucid flood
In the light of his own loveliness;
And the birds, that in the fountain dip
Their plumes, with fearless fellowship
Above and round him wheel and hover.
The fitful wind is heard to stir
One solitary leaf on high;
The chirping of the grasshopper
Fills every pause. There is emotion
In all that dwells at noontide here;
Then through the intricate wild wood
A maze of life and light and motion
Is woven. But there is stillness now--
Gloom, and the trance of Nature now.
The snake is in his cave asleep;
The birds are on the branches dreaming;
Only the shadows creep;
Only the glow-worm is gleaming;
Only the owls and the nightingales
Wake in this dell when daylight fails,
And gray shades gather in the woods;
And the owls have all fled far away
In a merrier glen to hoot and play,
For the moon is veiled and sleeping now.
The accustomed nightingale still broods
On her accustomed bough,
But she is mute; for her false mate
Has fled and left her desolate.
This silent spot tradition old
Had peopled with the spectral dead.
For the roots of the speaker's hair felt cold
And stiff, as with tremulous lips he told
That a hellish shape at midnight led
The ghost of a youth with hoary hair,
And sate on the seat beside him there,
Till a naked child came wandering by,
When the fiend would change to a lady fair!
A fearful tale! the truth was worse;
For here a sister and a brother
Had solemnized a monstrous curse,
Meeting in this fair solitude;
For beneath yon very sky,
Had they resigned to one another
Body and soul. The multitude,
Tracking them to the secret wood,
Tore limb from limb their innocent child,
And stabbed and trampled on its mother;
But the youth, for God's most holy grace,
A priest saved to burn in the market-place.
Duly at evening Helen came
To this lone silent spot,
From the wrecks of a tale of wilder sorrow
So much of sympathy to borrow
As soothed her own dark lot.
Duly each evening from her home,
With her fair child would Helen come
To sit upon that antique seat,
While the hues of day were pale;
And the bright boy beside her feet
Now lay, lifting at intervals
His broad blue eyes on her;
Now, where some sudden impulse calls,
Following. He was a gentle boy
And in all gentle sorts took joy.
Oft in a dry leaf for a boat,
With a small feather for a sail,
His fancy on that spring would float,
If some invisible breeze might stir
Its marble calm; and Helen smiled
Through tears of awe on the gay child,
To think that a boy as fair as he,
In years which never more may be,
By that same fount, in that same wood,
The like sweet fancies had pursued;
And that a mother, lost like her,
Had mournfully sate watching him.
Then all the scene was wont to swim
Through the mist of a burning tear.
For many months had Helen known
This scene; and now she thither turned
Her footsteps, not alone.
The friend whose falsehood she had mourned
Sate with her on that seat of stone.
Silent they sate; for evening,
And the power its glimpses bring,
Had with one awful shadow quelled
The passion of their grief. They sate
With linkèd hands, for unrepelled
Had Helen taken Rosalind's.
Like the autumn wind, when it unbinds
The tangled locks of the nightshade's hair
Which is twined in the sultry summer air
Round the walls of an outworn sepulchre,
Did the voice of Helen, sad and sweet,
And the sound of her heart that ever beat
As with sighs and words she breathed on her,
Unbind the knots of her friend's despair,
Till her thoughts were free to float and flow;
And from her laboring bosom now,
Like the bursting of a prisoned flame,
The voice of a long-pent sorrow came.
I saw the dark earth fall upon
The coffin; and I saw the stone
Laid over him whom this cold breast
Had pillowed to his nightly rest!
Thou knowest not, thou canst not know
My agony. Oh! I could not weep.
The sources whence such blessings flow
Were not to be approached by me!
But I could smile, and I could sleep,
Though with a self-accusing heart.
In morning's light, in evening's gloom,
I watched--and would not thence depart--
My husband's unlamented tomb.
My children knew their sire was gone;
But when I told them, 'He is dead,'
They laughed aloud in frantic glee,
They clapped their hands and leaped about,
Answering each other's ecstasy
With many a prank and merry shout.
But I sate silent and alone,
Wrapped in the mock of mourning weed.
They laughed, for he was dead; but I
Sate with a hard and tearless eye,
And with a heart which would deny
The secret joy it could not quell,
Low muttering o'er his loathèd name;
Till from that self-contention came
Remorse where sin was none; a hell
Which in pure spirits should not dwell.
I 'll tell thee truth. He was a man
Hard, selfish, loving only gold,
Yet full of guile; his pale eyes ran
With tears which each some falsehood told,
And oft his smooth and bridled tongue
Would give the lie to his flushing cheek;
He was a coward to the strong;
He was a tyrant to the weak,
On whom his vengeance he would wreak;
For scorn, whose arrows search the heart,
From many a stranger's eye would dart,
And on his memory cling, and follow
His soul to its home so cold and hollow.
He was a tyrant to the weak,
And we were such, alas the day!
Oft, when my little ones at play
Were in youth's natural lightness gay,
Or if they listened to some tale
Of travellers, or of fairyland,
When the light from the wood-fire's dying brand
Flashed on their faces,--if they heard
Or thought they heard upon the stair
His footstep, the suspended word
Died on my lips; we all grew pale;
The babe at my bosom was hushed with fear
If it thought it heard its father near;
And my two wild boys would near my knee
Cling, cowed and cowering fearfully.
I 'll tell thee truth: I loved another.
His name in my ear was ever ringing,
His form to my brain was ever clinging;
Yet, if some stranger breathed that name,
My lips turned white, and my heart beat fast.
My nights were once haunted by dreams of flame,
My days were dim in the shadow cast
By the memory of the same!
Day and night, day and night,
He was my breath and life and light,
For three short years, which soon were passed.
On the fourth, my gentle mother
Led me to the shrine, to be
His sworn bride eternally.
And now we stood on the altar stair,
When my father came from a distant land,
And with a loud and fearful cry
Rushed between us suddenly.
I saw the stream of his thin gray hair,
I saw his lean and lifted hand,
And heard his words--and live! O God!
Wherefore do I live?--'Hold, hold!'
He cried, 'I tell thee 't is her brother!
Thy mother, boy, beneath the sod
Of yon churchyard rests in her shroud so cold;
I am now weak, and pale, and old;
We were once dear to one another,
I and that corpse! Thou art our child!'
Then with a laugh both long and wild
The youth upon the pavement fell.
They found him dead! All looked on me,
The spasms of my despair to see;
But I was calm. I went away;
I was clammy-cold like clay.
I did not weep; I did not speak;
But day by day, week after week,
I walked about like a corpse alive.
Alas! sweet friend, you must believe
This heart is stone--it did not break.
My father lived a little while,
But all might see that he was dying,
He smiled with such a woful smile.
When he was in the churchyard lying
Among the worms, we grew quite poor,
So that no one would give us bread;
My mother looked at me, and said
Faint words of cheer, which only meant
That she could die and be content;
So I went forth from the same church door
To another husband's bed.
And this was he who died at last,
When weeks and months and years had passed,
Through which I firmly did fulfil
My duties, a devoted wife,
With the stern step of vanquished will
Walking beneath the night of life,
Whose hours extinguished, like slow rain
Falling forever, pain by pain,
The very hope of death's dear rest;
Which, since the heart within my breast
Of natural life was dispossessed,
Its strange sustainer there had been.
When flowers were dead, and grass was green
Upon my mother's grave--that mother
Whom to outlive, and cheer, and make
My wan eyes glitter for her sake,
Was my vowed task, the single care
Which once gave life to my despair--
When she was a thing that did not stir,
And the crawling worms were cradling her
To a sleep more deep and so more sweet
Than a baby's rocked on its nurse's knee,
I lived; a living pulse then beat
Beneath my heart that awakened me.
What was this pulse so warm and free?
Alas! I knew it could not be
My own dull blood. 'T was like a thought
Of liquid love, that spread and wrought
Under my bosom and in my brain,
And crept with the blood through every vein,
And hour by hour, day after day,
The wonder could not charm away
But laid in sleep my wakeful pain,
Until I knew it was a child,
And then I wept. For long, long years
These frozen eyes had shed no tears;
But now--'t was the season fair and mild
When April has wept itself to May;
I sate through the sweet sunny day
By my window bowered round with leaves,
And down my cheeks the quick tears ran
Like twinkling rain-drops from the eaves,
When warm spring showers are passing o'er.
O Helen, none can ever tell
The joy it was to weep once more!
I wept to think how hard it were
To kill my babe, and take from it
The sense of light, and the warm air,
And my own fond and tender care,
And love and smiles; ere I knew yet
That these for it might, as for me,
Be the masks of a grinning mockery.
And haply, I would dream, 't were sweet
To feed it from my faded breast,
Or mark my own heart's restless beat
And watch the growing soul beneath
Dawn in faint smiles; and hear its breath,
Half interrupted by calm sighs,
And search the depth of its fair eyes
For long departed memories!
And so I lived till that sweet load
Was lightened. Darkly forward flowed
The stream of years, and on it bore
Two shapes of gladness to my sight;
Two other babes, delightful more,
In my lost soul's abandoned night,
Than their own country ships may be
Sailing towards wrecked mariners
Who cling to the rock of a wintry sea.
For each, as it came, brought soothing tears;
And a loosening warmth, as each one lay
Sucking the sullen milk away,
About my frozen heart did play,
And weaned it, oh, how painfully--
As they themselves were weaned each one
From that sweet food--even from the thirst
Of death, and nothingness, and rest,
Strange inmate of a living breast,
Which all that I had undergone
Of grief and shame, since she who first
The gates of that dark refuge closed
Came to my sight, and almost burst
The seal of that Lethean spring--
But these fair shadows interposed.
For all delights are shadows now!
And from my brain to my dull brow
The heavy tears gather and flow.
I cannot speak--oh, let me weep!
The tears which fell from her wan eyes
Glimmered among the moonlight dew.
Her deep hard sobs and heavy sighs
Their echoes in the darkness threw.
When she grew calm, she thus did keep
The tenor of her tale:--
I know not how; he was not old,
If age be numbered by its years;
But he was bowed and bent with fears,
Pale with the quenchless thirst of gold,
Which, like fierce fever, left him weak;
And his strait lip and bloated cheek
Were warped in spasms by hollow sneers;
And selfish cares with barren plough,
Not age, had lined his narrow brow,
And foul and cruel thoughts, which feed
Upon the withering life within,
Like vipers on some poisonous weed.
Whether his ill were death or sin
None knew, until he died indeed,
And then men owned they were the same.
Seven days within my chamber lay
That corse, and my babes made holiday.
At last, I told them what is death.
The eldest, with a kind of shame,
Came to my knees with silent breath,
And sate awe-stricken at my feet;
And soon the others left their play,
And sate there too. It is unmeet
To shed on the brief flower of youth
The withering knowledge of the grave.
From me remorse then wrung that truth.
I could not bear the joy which gave
Too just a response to mine own.
In vain. I dared not feign a groan;
And in their artless looks I saw,
Between the mists of fear and awe,
That my own thought was theirs; and they
Expressed it not in words, but said,
Each in its heart, how every day
Will pass in happy work and play,
Now he is dead and gone away!
After the funeral all our kin
Assembled, and the will was read.
My friend, I tell thee, even the dead
Have strength, their putrid shrouds within,
To blast and torture. Those who live
Still fear the living, but a corse
Is merciless, and Power doth give
To such pale tyrants half the spoil
He rends from those who groan and toil,
Because they blush not with remorse
Among their crawling worms. Behold,
I have no child! my tale grows old
With grief, and staggers; let it reach
The limits of my feeble speech,
And languidly at length recline
On the brink of its own grave and mine.
Thou knowest what a thing is Poverty
Among the fallen on evil days.
'T is Crime, and Fear, and Infamy,
And houseless Want in frozen ways
Wandering ungarmented, and Pain,
And, worse than all, that inward stain,
Foul Self-contempt, which drowns in sneers
Youth's starlight smile, and makes its tears
First like hot gall, then dry forever!
And well thou knowest a mother never
Could doom her children to this ill,
And well he knew the same. The will
Imported that, if e'er again
I sought my children to behold,
Or in my birthplace did remain
Beyond three days, whose hours were told,
They should inherit nought; and he,
To whom next came their patrimony,
A sallow lawyer, cruel and cold,
Aye watched me, as the will was read,
With eyes askance, which sought to see
The secrets of my agony;
And with close lips and anxious brow
Stood canvassing still to and fro
The chance of my resolve, and all
The dead man's caution just did call;
For in that killing lie 't was said--
'She is adulterous, and doth hold
In secret that the Christian creed
Is false, and therefore is much need
That I should have a care to save
My children from eternal fire.'
Friend, he was sheltered by the grave,
And therefore dared to be a liar!
In truth, the Indian on the pyre
Of her dead husband, half consumed,
As well might there be false as I
To those abhorred embraces doomed,
Far worse than fire's brief agony.
As to the Christian creed, if true
Or false, I never questioned it;
I took it as the vulgar do;
Nor my vexed soul had leisure yet
To doubt the things men say, or deem
That they are other than they seem.
All present who those crimes did hear,
In feigned or actual scorn and fear,
Men, women, children, slunk away,
Whispering with self-contented pride
Which half suspects its own base lie.
I spoke to none, nor did abide,
But silently I went my way,
Nor noticed I where joyously
Sate my two younger babes at play
In the courtyard through which I passed;
But went with footsteps firm and fast
Till I came to the brink of the ocean green,
And there, a woman with gray hairs,
Who had my mother's servant been,
Kneeling, with many tears and prayers,
Made me accept a purse of gold,
Half of the earnings she had kept
To refuge her when weak and old.
With woe, which never sleeps or slept,
I wander now. 'T is a vain thought--
But on yon Alp, whose snowy head
'Mid the azure air is islanded,
(We see it--o'er the flood of cloud,
Which sunrise from its eastern caves
Drives, wrinkling into golden waves,
Hung with its precipices proud--
From that gray stone where first we met)
There--now who knows the dead feel nought?--
Should be my grave; for he who yet
Is my soul's soul once said: ''T were sweet
'Mid stars and lightnings to abide,
And winds, and lulling snows that beat
With their soft flakes the mountain wide,
Where weary meteor lamps repose,
And languid storms their pinions close,
And all things strong and bright and pure,
And ever during, aye endure.
Who knows, if one were buried there,
But these things might our spirits make,
Amid the all-surrounding air,
Their own eternity partake?'
Then 't was a wild and playful saying
At which I laughed or seemed to laugh.
They were his words--now heed my praying,
And let them be my epitaph.
Thy memory for a term may be
My monument. Wilt remember me?
I know thou wilt; and canst forgive,
Whilst in this erring world to live
My soul disdained not, that I thought
Its lying forms were worthy aught,
And much less thee.
Oh, speak not so!
But come to me and pour thy woe
Into this heart, full though it be,
Aye overflowing with its own.
I thought that grief had severed me
From all beside who weep and groan,
Its likeness upon earth to be--
Its express image; but thou art
More wretched. Sweet, we will not part
Henceforth, if death be not division;
If so, the dead feel no contrition.
But wilt thou hear, since last we parted,
All that has left me broken-hearted?
Yes, speak. The faintest stars are scarcely shorn
Of their thin beams by that delusive morn
Which sinks again in darkness, like the light
Of early love, soon lost in total night.
Alas! Italian winds are mild,
But my bosom is cold--wintry cold;
When the warm air weaves, among the fresh leaves,
Soft music, my poor brain is wild,
And I am weak like a nursling child,
Though my soul with grief is gray and old.
Weep not at thine own words, though they must make
Me weep. What is thy tale?
I fear 't will shake
Thy gentle heart with tears. Thou well
Rememberest when we met no more;
And, though I dwelt with Lionel,
That friendless caution pierced me sore
With grief; a wound my spirit bore
Indignantly--but when he died,
With him lay dead both hope and pride.
Alas! all hope is buried now.
But then men dreamed the aged earth
Was laboring in that mighty birth
Which many a poet and a sage
Has aye foreseen--the happy age
When truth and love shall dwell below
Among the works and ways of men;
Which on this world not power but will
Even now is wanting to fulfil.
Among mankind what thence befell
Of strife, how vain, is known too well;
When Liberty's dear pæan fell
'Mid murderous howls. To Lionel,
Though of great wealth and lineage high,
Yet through those dungeon walls there came
Thy thrilling light, O Liberty!
And as the meteor's midnight flame
Startles the dreamer, sun-like truth
Flashed on his visionary youth,
And filled him, not with love, but faith,
And hope, and courage mute in death;
For love and life in him were twins,
Born at one birth. In every other
First life, then love, its course begins,
Though they be children of one mother;
And so through this dark world they fleet
Divided, till in death they meet;
But he loved all things ever. Then
He passed amid the strife of men,
And stood at the throne of armèd power
Pleading for a world of woe.
Secure as one on a rock-built tower
O'er the wrecks which the surge trails to and fro,
'Mid the passions wild of humankind
He stood, like a spirit calming them;
For, it was said, his words could bind
Like music the lulled crowd, and stem
That torrent of unquiet dream
Which mortals truth and reason deem,
But is revenge and fear and pride.
Joyous he was; and hope and peace
On all who heard him did abide,
Raining like dew from his sweet talk,
As where the evening star may walk
Along the brink of the gloomy seas,
Liquid mists of splendor quiver.
His very gestures touched to tears
The unpersuaded tyrant, never
So moved before; his presence stung
The torturers with their victim's pain,
And none knew how; and through their ears
The subtle witchcraft of his tongue
Unlocked the hearts of those who keep
Gold, the world's bond of slavery.
Men wondered, and some sneered to see
One sow what he could never reap;
For he is rich, they said, and young,
And might drink from the depths of luxury.
If he seeks fame, fame never crowned
The champion of a trampled creed;
If he seeks power, power is enthroned
'Mid ancient rights and wrongs, to feed
Which hungry wolves with praise and spoil
Those who would sit near power must toil;
And such, there sitting, all may see.
What seeks he? All that others seek
He casts away, like a vile weed
Which the sea casts unreturningly.
That poor and hungry men should break
The laws which wreak them toil and scorn
We understand; but Lionel,
We know, is rich and nobly born.
So wondered they; yet all men loved
Young Lionel, though few approved;
All but the priests, whose hatred fell
Like the unseen blight of a smiling day,
The withering honey-dew which clings
Under the bright green buds of May
Whilst they unfold their emerald wings;
For he made verses wild and queer
On the strange creeds priests hold so dear
Because they bring them land and gold.
Of devils and saints and all such gear
He made tales which whoso heard or read
Would laugh till he were almost dead.
So this grew a proverb: 'Don't get old
Till Lionel's Banquet in Hell you hear,
And then you will laugh yourself young again.'
So the priests hated him, and he
Repaid their hate with cheerful glee.
Ah, smiles and joyance quickly died,
For public hope grew pale and dim
In an altered time and tide,
And in its wasting withered him,
As a summer flower that blows too soon
Droops in the smile of the waning moon,
When it scatters through an April night
The frozen dews of wrinkling blight.
None now hoped more. Gray Power was seated
Safely on her ancestral throne;
And Faith, the Python, undefeated
Even to its blood-stained steps dragged on
Her foul and wounded train; and men
Were trampled and deceived again,
And words and shows again could bind
The wailing tribes of humankind
In scorn and famine. Fire and blood
Raged round the raging multitude,
To fields remote by tyrants sent
To be the scornèd instrument
With which they drag from mines of gore
The chains their slaves yet ever wore;
And in the streets men met each other,
And by old altars and in halls,
And smiled again at festivals.
But each man found in his heart's brother
Cold cheer; for all, though half deceived,
The outworn creeds again believed,
And the same round anew began
Which the weary world yet ever ran.
Many then wept, not tears, but gall,
Within their hearts, like drops which fall
Wasting the fountain-stone away.
And in that dark and evil day
Did all desires and thoughts that claim
Men's care--ambition, friendship, fame,
Love, hope, though hope was now despair--
Indue the colors of this change,
As from the all-surrounding air
The earth takes hues obscure and strange,
When storm and earthquake linger there.
And so, my friend, it then befell
To many,--most to Lionel,
Whose hope was like the life of youth
Within him, and when dead became
A spirit of unresting flame,
Which goaded him in his distress
Over the world's vast wilderness.
Three years he left his native land,
And on the fourth, when he returned,
None knew him; he was stricken deep
With some disease of mind, and turned
Into aught unlike Lionel.
On him--on whom, did he pause in sleep,
Serenest smiles were wont to keep,
And, did he wake, a wingèd band
Of bright Persuasions, which had fed
On his sweet lips and liquid eyes,
Kept their swift pinions half outspread
To do on men his least command--
On him, whom once 't was paradise
Even to behold, now misery lay.
In his own heart 't was merciless--
To all things else none may express
Its innocence and tenderness.
'T was said that he had refuge sought
In love from his unquiet thought
In distant lands, and been deceived
By some strange show; for there were found,
Blotted with tears--as those relieved
By their own words are wont to do--
These mournful verses on the ground,
By all who read them blotted too.
'How am I changed! my hopes were once like fire;
I loved, and I believed that life was love.
How am I lost! on wings of swift desire
Among Heaven's winds my spirit once did move.
I slept, and silver dreams did aye inspire
My liquid sleep; I woke, and did approve
All Nature to my heart, and thought to make
A paradise of earth for one sweet sake.
'I love, but I believe in love no more.
I feel desire, but hope not. Oh, from sleep
Most vainly must my weary brain implore
Its long lost flattery now! I wake to weep,
And sit through the long day gnawing the core
Of my bitter heart, and, like a miser, keep--
Since none in what I feel take pain or pleasure--
To my own soul its self-consuming treasure.'
He dwelt beside me near the sea;
And oft in evening did we meet,
When the waves, beneath the starlight, flee
O'er the yellow sands with silver feet,
And talked. Our talk was sad and sweet,
Till slowly from his mien there passed
The desolation which it spoke;
And smiles--as when the lightning's blast
Has parched some heaven-delighting oak,
The next spring shows leaves pale and rare,
But like flowers delicate and fair,
On its rent boughs--again arrayed
His countenance in tender light;
His words grew subtle fire, which made
The air his hearers breathed delight;
His motions, like the winds, were free,
Which bend the bright grass gracefully,
Then fade away in circlets faint;
And wingèd Hope--on which upborne
His soul seemed hovering in his eyes,
Like some bright spirit newly born
Floating amid the sunny skies--
Sprang forth from his rent heart anew.
Yet o'er his talk, and looks, and mien,
Tempering their loveliness too keen,
Past woe its shadow backward threw;
Till, like an exhalation spread
From flowers half drunk with evening dew,
They did become infectious--sweet
And subtle mists of sense and thought,
Which wrapped us soon, when we might meet,
Almost from our own looks and aught
The wild world holds. And so his mind
Was healed, while mine grew sick with fear;
For ever now his health declined,
Like some frail bark which cannot bear
The impulse of an altered wind,
Though prosperous; and my heart grew full,
'Mid its new joy, of a new care;
For his cheek became, not pale, but fair,
As rose-o'ershadowed lilies are;
And soon his deep and sunny hair,
In this alone less beautiful,
Like grass in tombs grew wild and rare.
The blood in his translucent veins
Beat, not like animal life, but love
Seemed now its sullen springs to move,
When life had failed, and all its pains;
And sudden sleep would seize him oft
Like death, so calm,--but that a tear,
His pointed eye-lashes between,
Would gather in the light serene
Of smiles whose lustre bright and soft
Beneath lay undulating there.
His breath was like inconstant flame
As eagerly it went and came;
And I hung o'er him in his sleep,
Till, like an image in the lake
Which rains disturb, my tears would break
The shadow of that slumber deep.
Then he would bid me not to weep,
And say, with flattery false yet sweet,
That death and he could never meet,
If I would never part with him.
And so we loved, and did unite
All that in us was yet divided;
For when he said, that many a rite,
By men to bind but once provided,
Could not be shared by him and me,
Or they would kill him in their glee,
I shuddered, and then laughing said--
'We will have rites our faith to bind,
But our church shall be the starry night,
Our altar the grassy earth outspread,
And our priest the muttering wind.'
'T was sunset as I spoke. One star
Had scarce burst forth, when from afar
The ministers of misrule sent
Seized upon Lionel, and bore
His chained limbs to a dreary tower,
In the midst of a city vast and wide.
For he, they said, from his mind had bent
Against their gods keen blasphemy,
For which, though his soul must roasted be
In hell's red lakes immortally,
Yet even on earth must he abide
The vengeance of their slaves: a trial,
I think, men call it. What avail
Are prayers and tears, which chase denial
From the fierce savage nursed in hate?
What the knit soul that pleading and pale
Makes wan the quivering cheek which late
It painted with its own delight?
We were divided. As I could,
I stilled the tingling of my blood,
And followed him in their despite,
As a widow follows, pale and wild,
The murderers and corse of her only child;
And when we came to the prison door,
And I prayed to share his dungeon floor
With prayers which rarely have been spurned,
And when men drove me forth, and I
Stared with blank frenzy on the sky,--
A farewell look of love he turned,
Half calming me; then gazed awhile,
As if through that black and massy pile,
And through the crowd around him there,
And through the dense and murky air,
And the thronged streets, he did espy
What poets know and prophesy;
And said, with voice that made them shiver
And clung like music in my brain,
And which the mute walls spoke again
Prolonging it with deepened strain--
'Fear not the tyrants shall rule forever,
Or the priests of the bloody faith;
They stand on the brink of that mighty river,
Whose waves they have tainted with death;
It is fed from the depths of a thousand dells,
Around them it foams, and rages, and swells,
And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,
Like wrecks, in the surge of eternity.'
I dwelt beside the prison gate;
And the strange crowd that out and in
Passed, some, no doubt, with mine own fate,
Might have fretted me with its ceaseless din,
But the fever of care was louder within.
Soon but too late, in penitence
Or fear, his foes released him thence.
I saw his thin and languid form,
As leaning on the jailor's arm,
Whose hardened eyes grew moist the while
To meet his mute and faded smile
And hear his words of kind farewell,
He tottered forth from his damp cell.
Many had never wept before,
From whom fast tears then gushed and fell;
Many will relent no more,
Who sobbed like infants then; ay, all
Who thronged the prison's stony hall,
The rulers or the slaves of law,
Felt with a new surprise and awe
That they were human, till strong shame
Made them again become the same.
The prison bloodhounds, huge and grim,
From human looks the infection caught,
And fondly crouched and fawned on him;
And men have heard the prisoners say,
Who in their rotting dungeons lay,
That from that hour, throughout one day,
The fierce despair and hate which kept
Their trampled bosoms almost slept,
Where, like twin vultures, they hung feeding
On each heart's wound, wide torn and bleeding,--
Because their jailors' rule, they thought,
Grew merciful, like a parent's sway.
I know not how, but we were free;
And Lionel sate alone with me,
As the carriage drove through the streets apace;
And we looked upon each other's face;
And the blood in our fingers intertwined
Ran like the thoughts of a single mind,
As the swift emotions went and came
Through the veins of each united frame.
So through the long, long streets we passed
Of the million-peopled City vast;
Which is that desert, where each one
Seeks his mate yet is alone,
Beloved and sought and mourned of none;
Until the clear blue sky was seen,
And the grassy meadows bright and green.
And then I sunk in his embrace
Enclosing there a mighty space
Of love; and so we travelled on
By woods, and fields of yellow flowers,
And towns, and villages, and towers,
Day after day of happy hours.
It was the azure time of June,
When the skies are deep in the stainless noon,
And the warm and fitful breezes shake
The fresh green leaves of the hedge-row briar;
And there were odors then to make
The very breath we did respire
A liquid element, whereon
Our spirits, like delighted things
That walk the air on subtle wings,
Floated and mingled far away
'Mid the warm winds of the sunny day.
And when the evening star came forth
Above the curve of the new bent moon,
And light and sound ebbed from the earth,
Like the tide of the full and the weary sea
To the depths of its own tranquillity,
Our natures to its own repose
Did the earth's breathless sleep attune;
Like flowers, which on each other close
Their languid leaves when daylight's gone,
We lay, till new emotions came,
Which seemed to make each mortal frame
One soul of interwoven flame,
A life in life, a second birth
In worlds diviner far than earth;--
Which, like two strains of harmony
That mingle in the silent sky,
Then slowly disunite, passed by
And left the tenderness of tears,
A soft oblivion of all fears,
A sweet sleep:--so we travelled on
Till we came to the home of Lionel,
Among the mountains wild and lone,
Beside the hoary western sea,
Which near the verge of the echoing shore
The massy forest shadowed o'er.
The ancient steward with hair all hoar,
As we alighted, wept to see
His master changed so fearfully;
And the old man's sobs did waken me
From my dream of unremaining gladness;
The truth flashed o'er me like quick madness
When I looked, and saw that there was death
On Lionel. Yet day by day
He lived, till fear grew hope and faith,
And in my soul I dared to say,
Nothing so bright can pass away;
Death is dark, and foul, and dull,
But he is--oh, how beautiful!
Yet day by day he grew more weak,
And his sweet voice, when he might speak,
Which ne'er was loud, became more low;
And the light which flashed through his waxen cheek
Grew faint, as the rose-like hues which flow
From sunset o'er the Alpine snow;
And death seemed not like death in him,
For the spirit of life o'er every limb
Lingered, a mist of sense and thought.
When the summer wind faint odors brought
From mountain flowers, even as it passed,
His cheek would change, as the noonday sea
Which the dying breeze sweeps fitfully.
If but a cloud the sky o'ercast,
You might see his color come and go,
And the softest strain of music made
Sweet smiles, yet sad, arise and fade
Amid the dew of his tender eyes;
And the breath, with intermitting flow,
Made his pale lips quiver and part.
You might hear the beatings of his heart,
Quick but not strong; and with my tresses
When oft he playfully would bind
In the bowers of mossy lonelinesses
His neck, and win me so to mingle
In the sweet depth of woven caresses,
And our faint limbs were intertwined,--
Alas! the unquiet life did tingle
From mine own heart through every vein,
Like a captive in dreams of liberty,
Who beats the walls of his stony cell.
But his, it seemed already free,
Like the shadow of fire surrounding me!
On my faint eyes and limbs did dwell
That spirit as it passed, till soon--
As a frail cloud wandering o'er the moon,
Beneath its light invisible,
Is seen when it folds its gray wings again
To alight on midnight's dusky plain--
I lived and saw, and the gathering soul
Passed from beneath that strong control,
And I fell on a life which was sick with fear
Of all the woe that now I bear.
Amid a bloomless myrtle wood,
On a green and sea-girt promontory
Not far from where we dwelt, there stood,
In record of a sweet sad story,
An altar and a temple bright
Circled by steps, and o'er the gate
Was sculptured, 'To Fidelity;'
And in the shrine an image sate
All veiled; but there was seen the light
Of smiles which faintly could express
A mingled pain and tenderness
Through that ethereal drapery.
The left hand held the head, the right--
Beyond the veil, beneath the skin,
You might see the nerves quivering within--
Was forcing the point of a barbèd dart
Into its side-convulsing heart.
An unskilled hand, yet one informed
With genius, had the marble warmed
With that pathetic life. This tale
It told: A dog had from the sea,
When the tide was raging fearfully,
Dragged Lionel's mother, weak and pale,
Then died beside her on the sand,
And she that temple thence had planned;
But it was Lionel's own hand
Had wrought the image. Each new moon
That lady did, in this lone fane,
The rites of a religion sweet
Whose god was in her heart and brain.
The seasons' loveliest flowers were strewn
On the marble floor beneath her feet,
And she brought crowns of sea-buds white
Whose odor is so sweet and faint,
And weeds, like branching chrysolite,
Woven in devices fine and quaint;
And tears from her brown eyes did stain
The altar; need but look upon
That dying statue, fair and wan,
If tears should cease, to weep again;
And rare Arabian odors came,
Through the myrtle copses, steaming thence
From the hissing frankincense,
Whose smoke, wool-white as ocean foam,
Hung in dense flocks beneath the dome--
That ivory dome, whose azure night
With golden stars, like heaven, was bright
O'er the split cedar's pointed flame;
And the lady's harp would kindle there
The melody of an old air,
Softer than sleep; the villagers
Mixed their religion up with hers,
And, as they listened round, shed tears.
One eve he led me to this fane.
Daylight on its last purple cloud
Was lingering gray, and soon her strain
The nightingale began; now loud,
Climbing in circles the windless sky,
Now dying music; suddenly
'T is scattered in a thousand notes;
And now to the hushed ear it floats
Like field-smells known in infancy,
Then, failing, soothes the air again.
We sate within that temple lone,
Pavilioned round with Parian stone;
His mother's harp stood near, and oft
I had awakened music soft
Amid its wires; the nightingale
Was pausing in her heaven-taught tale.
'Now drain the cup,' said Lionel,
'Which the poet-bird has crowned so well
With the wine of her bright and liquid song!
Heard'st thou not sweet words among
That heaven-resounding minstrelsy?
Heard'st thou not that those who die
Awake in a world of ecstasy?
That love, when limbs are interwoven,
And sleep, when the night of life is cloven,
And thought, to the world's dim boundaries clinging,
And music, when one beloved is singing,
Is death? Let us drain right joyously
The cup which the sweet bird fills for me.'
He paused, and to my lips he bent
His own; like spirit his words went
Through all my limbs with the speed of fire;
And his keen eyes, glittering through mine,
Filled me with the flame divine
Which in their orbs was burning far,
Like the light of an unmeasured star
In the sky of midnight dark and deep;
Yes, 't was his soul that did inspire
Sounds which my skill could ne'er awaken;
And first, I felt my fingers sweep
The harp, and a long quivering cry
Burst from my lips in symphony;
The dusk and solid air was shaken,
As swift and swifter the notes came
From my touch, that wandered like quick flame,
And from my bosom, laboring
With some unutterable thing.
The awful sound of my own voice made
My faint lips tremble; in some mood
Of wordless thought Lionel stood
So pale, that even beside his cheek
The snowy column from its shade
Caught whiteness; yet his countenance,
Raised upward, burned with radiance
Of spirit-piercing joy whose light,
Like the moon struggling through the night
Of whirlwind-rifted clouds, did break
With beams that might not be confined.
I paused, but soon his gestures kindled
New power, as by the moving wind
The waves are lifted; and my song
To low soft notes now changed and dwindled,
And, from the twinkling wires among,
My languid fingers drew and flung
Circles of life-dissolving sound,
Yet faint; in aëry rings they bound
My Lionel, who, as every strain
Grew fainter but more sweet, his mien
Sunk with the sound relaxedly;
And slowly now he turned to me,
As slowly faded from his face
That awful joy; with look serene
He was soon drawn to my embrace,
And my wild song then died away
In murmurs; words I dare not say
We mixed, and on his lips mine fed
Till they methought felt still and cold.
'What is it with thee, love?' I said;
No word, no look, no motion! yes,
There was a change, but spare to guess,
Nor let that moment's hope be told.
I looked,--and knew that he was dead;
And fell, as the eagle on the plain
Falls when life deserts her brain,
And the mortal lightning is veiled again.
Oh, that I were now dead! but such--
Did they not, love, demand too much,
Those dying murmurs?--he forbade.
Oh, that I once again were mad!
And yet, dear Rosalind, not so,
For I would live to share thy woe.
Sweet boy! did I forget thee too?
Alas, we know not what we do
When we speak words.
No memory more
Is in my mind of that sea-shore.
Madness came on me, and a troop
Of misty shapes did seem to sit
Beside me, on a vessel's poop,
And the clear north wind was driving it.
Then I heard strange tongues, and saw strange flowers,
And the stars methought grew unlike ours,
And the azure sky and the stormless sea
Made me believe that I had died
And waked in a world which was to me
Drear hell, though heaven to all beside.
Then a dead sleep fell on my mind,
Whilst animal life many long years
Had rescued from a chasm of tears;
And, when I woke, I wept to find
That the same lady, bright and wise,
With silver locks and quick brown eyes,
The mother of my Lionel,
Had tended me in my distress,
And died some months before. Nor less
Wonder, but far more peace and joy,
Brought in that hour my lovely boy.
For through that trance my soul had well
The impress of thy being kept;
And if I waked or if I slept,
No doubt, though memory faithless be,
Thy image ever dwelt on me;
And thus, O Lionel, like thee
Is our sweet child. 'T is sure most strange
I knew not of so great a change
As that which gave him birth, who now
Is all the solace of my woe.
That Lionel great wealth had left
By will to me, and that of all
The ready lies of law bereft
My child and me,--might well befall.
But let me think not of the scorn
Which from the meanest I have borne,
When, for my child's belovèd sake,
I mixed with slaves, to vindicate
The very laws themselves do make;
Let me not say scorn is my fate,
Lest I be proud, suffering the same
With those who live in deathless fame.
She ceased.--'Lo, where red morning through the woods
Is burning o'er the dew!' said Rosalind.
And with these words they rose, and towards the flood
Of the blue lake, beneath the leaves, now wind
With equal steps and fingers intertwined.
Thence to a lonely dwelling, where the shore
Is shadowed with steep rocks, and cypresses
Cleave with their dark green cones the silent skies
And with their shadows the clear depths below,
And where a little terrace from its bowers
Of blooming myrtle and faint lemon flowers
Scatters its sense-dissolving fragrance o'er
The liquid marble of the windless lake;
And where the aged forest's limbs look hoar
Under the leaves which their green garments make,
They come. 'T is Helen's home, and clean and white,
Like one which tyrants spare on our own land
In some such solitude; its casements bright
Shone through their vine-leaves in the morning sun,
And even within 't was scarce like Italy.
And when she saw how all things there were planned
As in an English home, dim memory
Disturbed poor Rosalind; she stood as one
Whose mind is where his body cannot be,
Till Helen led her where her child yet slept,
And said, 'Observe, that brow was Lionel's,
Those lips were his, and so he ever kept
One arm in sleep, pillowing his head with it.
You cannot see his eyes--they are two wells
Of liquid love. Let us not wake him yet.'
But Rosalind could bear no more, and wept
A shower of burning tears which fell upon
His face, and so his opening lashes shone
With tears unlike his own, as he did leap
In sudden wonder from his innocent sleep.
So Rosalind and Helen lived together
Thenceforth--changed in all else, yet friends again,
Such as they were, when o'er the mountain heather
They wandered in their youth through sun and rain.
And after many years, for human things
Change even like the ocean and the wind,
Her daughter was restored to Rosalind,
And in their circle thence some visitings
Of joy 'mid their new calm would intervene.
A lovely child she was, of looks serene,
And motions which o'er things indifferent shed
The grace and gentleness from whence they came.
And Helen's boy grew with her, and they fed
From the same flowers of thought, until each mind
Like springs which mingle in one flood became;
And in their union soon their parents saw
The shadow of the peace denied to them.
And Rosalind--for when the living stem
Is cankered in its heart, the tree must fall--
Died ere her time; and with deep grief and awe
The pale survivors followed her remains
Beyond the region of dissolving rains,
Up the cold mountain she was wont to call
Her tomb; and on Chiavenna's precipice
They raised a pyramid of lasting ice,
Whose polished sides, ere day had yet begun,
Caught the first glow of the unrisen sun,
The last, when it had sunk; and through the night
The charioteers of Arctos wheelèd round
Its glittering point, as seen from Helen's home,
Whose sad inhabitants each year would come,
With willing steps climbing that rugged height,
And hang long locks of hair, and garlands bound
With amaranth flowers, which, in the clime's despite,
Filled the frore air with unaccustomed light;
Such flowers as in the wintry memory bloom
Of one friend left adorned that frozen tomb.
Helen, whose spirit was of softer mould,
Whose sufferings too were less, death slowlier led
Into the peace of his dominion cold.
She died among her kindred, being old.
And know, that if love die not in the dead
As in the living, none of mortal kind
Are blessed as now Helen and Rosalind.
Quatrains Of Life
What has my youth been that I love it thus,
Sad youth, to all but one grown tedious,
Stale as the news which last week wearied us,
Or a tired actor's tale told to an empty house?
What did it bring me that I loved it, even
With joy before it and that dream of Heaven,
Boyhood's first rapture of requited bliss,
What did it give? What ever has it given?
'Let me recount the value of my days,
Call up each witness, mete out blame and praise,
Set life itself before me as it was,
And--for I love it--list to what it says.
Oh, I will judge it fairly. Each old pleasure
Shared with dead lips shall stand a separate treasure.
Each untold grief, which now seems lesser pain,
Shall here be weighed and argued of at leisure.
I will not mark mere follies. These would make
The count too large and in the telling take
More tears than I can spare from seemlier themes
To cure its laughter when my heart should ache.
Only the griefs which are essential things,
The bitter fruit which all experience brings;
Nor only of crossed pleasures, but the creed
Men learn who deal with nations and with kings.
All shall be counted fairly, griefs and joys,
Solely distinguishing 'twixt mirth and noise,
The thing which was and that which falsely seemed,
Pleasure and vanity, man's bliss and boy's.
So I shall learn the reason of my trust
In this poor life, these particles of dust
Made sentient for a little while with tears,
Till the great ``may--be'' ends for me in ``must.''
My childhood? Ah, my childhood! What of it
Stripped of all fancy, bare of all conceit?
Where is the infancy the poets sang?
Which was the true and which the counterfeit?
I see it now, alas, with eyes unsealed,
That age of innocence too well revealed.
The flowers I gathered--for I gathered flowers--
Were not more vain than I in that far field.
Self was my god, the self I most despise,
Blind in its joys and swine--like gluttonies,
The rule of the brute beast that in us is,
Its heaven a kitchen and a gorge its prize.
No other pleasures knew I but of sense,
No other loves but lusts without pretence.
Oh, childhood is but Nature unredeemed,
Blind in desire, unshamed in ignorance.
I was all vanity and greed, my hand
Uncaring, as a panther's, whom it pained,
My nurse, my sisters, the young birds my prey.
I saw them grieve nor stopped to understand.
My mother loved me. Did I love her? Yes,
When I had need of her to soothe distress
Or serve my wants. But when the need was by,
Others were there more dear in idleness.
These coaxed and flattered me. Their wit afforded
Edge to my wit, and I would strut and lord it
Among them a young god--for god I seemed--
Or goose--for goose I was--they still encored it.
Alas, poor mother! What a love was yours!
How little profit of it all endures!
What wasted vigils, what ill--omened prayers;
What thankless thanks for what disastrous cures!
Why did you bind yourself in such harsh fetter,
To serve a heart so hard? It had been better
Surely to take your rest through those long nights,
Than watching on to leave me thus your debtor.
I heard but heeded not her warning voice;
I grudged her face its sadness in my joys,
And when she looked at me I did not guess
The secret of her sorrow and my loss.
They told me she was dying, but my eyes
Brimmed not with tears. I hardly felt surprise,
Nay, rather anger at their trouble when
I asked them ``what it was one does who dies.''
She threw her weak arms round me, and my face
Pressed to her own in one supreme embrace;
I felt her tears upon my cheeks all wet,
And I was carried frightened from the place.
I lost her thus who was indeed my all,
Lost her with scarce a pang whom now I call
Aloud to in the night a grieving man,
Hoar in his sins, and only clasp the wall.
This the beginning. Next my boyhood came,
Childhood embittered, its brute joys the same,
Only in place of kindness cruelty,
For courage fear, and for vain--glory shame.
Here now was none to flatter or to sue.
My lords were of the many, I the few;
These gave command nor heeded my vain prayers.
It was their will, not mine, my hands must do.
I was their slave. My body was the prey
Of their rude sports, more savage still than they,
My every sense the pastime of their whim,
My soul a hunted thing by night and day.
Pain was my portion, hunger, wakefulness,
And cold more bitter still, and that distress
Which is unnamed of tears that dare not fall,
When the weak body grieves and none may guess.
There was no place where I might lay my head,
No refuge from the world which was my dread,
No shrine inviolate for me from my foes,
No corner quite my own, not even my bed.
I would have changed then with the meanest thing
Which has its home in the free fields in Spring,
And makes its lair in the Earth's secret dells,
Or hides in her dark womb by burrowing.
I used to gaze into the depths of Earth,
And watch the worms and beetles that have birth
Under the stones secure from outer ills,
And envy them their loneliness in mirth.
One treasure had I, one thing that I loved,
A snail with shell most delicately grooved,
And a mute patient face which seemed to see,
And horns which moved towards me as I moved.
It was like me a creature full of fear,
But happier far for its strong household gear,
The living fortress on its back wherein
Its griefs could shrink away and disappear.
I kept it in a nest, the hollow bole
Of a dead elm, and for its daily dole,
And my own comfort in its luckier state,
Brought it a lettuce I in secret stole.
It waited for my coming each new noon,
When from my fellows I could steal so soon,
And there I fed it and arranged its cell,
All through a single happy month of June.
And then--ah, then--who even now shall tell,
The terror of that moment, when with yell
Of triumph on their prize they broke and me,
And crushed it 'neath their heels, those hounds of Hell!
Even yet the thought of it makes my blood rush
Back to my temples with an angry flush;
And for an instant, if Man's race could be
Crushed with it, God forgive me, I would crush.
Ay, God forgive me! 'Tis an evil thought,
And thus it is that wrong on wrong is wrought,
Vengeance on vengeance by a single deed
Of violent ill or idleness untaught.
Nay, rather let me love. I will not be
Partner with Man even thus in cruelty
For one least instant, though the prize should stand,
Hate slain for ever and the Nations free.
Thus for four years I lived of slaves the slave,
Too weak to fight, too beaten to be brave.
Who mocks at impotence and coward fear
Knows little of the pangs mute creatures have.
Yet wherefore grieve? Perhaps of all my days
This is the thing I mostly need to praise,
My chiefest treasure to have suffered wrong,
For God is cunning in His works and ways.
The sense of justice which He gives to Man
Is his own suffering, and His pity's plan
Man's own great need of pity which brims o'er
In alms to Africa and Hindostan.
And he who has not suffered nothing knows;
Therefore I chide not at these ancient woes,
But keep them as a lesson to my pride,
Lest I should smite the meanest of my foes.
And it is ended. Kindly Death drew near
And warned them from me with his face of fear.
I did not fear him, but the rest stood awed,
As at the frown of some dread minister.
I passed out of their sight, one living still,
But dead to sense who knows not good or ill,
Their blessings were the last thing that I heard
In that dark house. I wish them only well.
What next befell me was as some have found,
Peace to their wounds upon a battle ground,
Who sleep through days of pain and nights of fear,
Conscious of nothing but their dream profound.
My dream was of a convent with smooth floors,
And whitewashed walls, a place of corridors,
Where the wind blew in summer all day long,
And a shut garden filled with altar flowers.
Here lived in piety a score of men,
Who, having found the world a place of pain,
Or fearing it ere yet they knew it well,
Sought in God's service their eternal gain.
With these it was my privilege to be
The pensioner of their great pity's fee,
Nor favoured less for my dim soul's dark ways,
Awhile 'twixt boyhood and maturity.
My sorrow to their zeal was fruitful soil,
My wounds their pride as needing wine and oil;
All knowledge had they to redeem and save,
Mirth, silence, prayer, and that best opiate, toil.
The garden was my task. I learned to dig,
To nail the fruit--trees, pear, and peach, and fig;
To trim the grass plots and the box make good,
And keep the gravel smooth from leaf or twig.
Dear blessed garden! In this night of days
I see it still with its fair formal face,
Where even the flowers looked prim, as who should ask
Pardon for beauty in so pure a place.
This for the summer. But when winter fell,
A gentler service called me from my cell,
As suited to the frailty of my needs,
To serve the mass and ring the chapel bell.
Mine was the sacristy, the care of copes,
Albs, censers, pyxes, gifts of kings and popes,
Of lace and linen and the lamps which hung
For ever lit with oil of human hopes.
There on the altar steps, as one at home,
I hourly knelt the servant of old Rome,
And learned her ritual, and assuaged my soul
With the high lessons of her martyrdom.
Not seldom in those hours the dream was mine
Of voices speaking and a call divine.
God in all ages thus has shown to men
His secret will, and I too sought a sign.
The voice that called me was a voice of good.
It spoke of feasts less vain than the world's food,
And showed me my place set a guest for aye
Of heavenly things in that calm brotherhood.
Why did I shrink? What profit to my soul
Has the world proved that I must yield it toll?
What its ambitions that for these my zeal
Turned backward then from its eternal goal?
Yet thus it is. Our fallen human blood
Is ever a mixed stream 'twixt bad and good;
And mine, perhaps, worse mingled than the rest,
Flowed in a baser, a more prurient flood.
And so it might not be. There came a day
When I must grasp my fate and choose my way,
And when my will was weaker than a child's,
And pride stood in rebellion and said nay.
There in the garden, while the thrushes sang,
I listened to his prayer with a mute pang.
That man of God who argued with my soul,
And still the vesper chorus rang and rang.
Below us a pool lay with depths profound,
And in its face I gazed as if to sound
His reason's meaning, while the rain of grace
Was shed on all things but my heart around.
``For lo,'' he said, ``thus near us lies the end;
A step--no more--may mar our lives or mend.
This side a little, and Hell gapes for us;
On that side Heaven holds out strong hands, a friend.
``And he who fears is wise. Oh look,'' he cried,
``Here in this pool lies Death with its arms wide.
Speak. Shall I buy you life at cost of mine?
Nay; I would drown, though in my sin I died.''
Thus Moses argued with his people, these
Than I less stubborn and less hard to please.
God on that night spoke loudly to my soul,
And I refused Him--weeping--on my knees.
Here my dream ended. From that hidden life
I went out hungry to a world of strife,
The world of pleasure, and with heart keen set
For human joy as having felt the knife.
What is the root of pleasure in Man's heart?
The need to know made practical in part,
The shaping of the thing the soul has dreamed,
In gold or clay, with art or little art.
Youth knows not how to fashion its own pleasure;
It deals with Fortune without scale or measure.
And so is cheated of the gold life holds,
A treasure house of hope without the treasure.
The need is there, as swallows need to fly,
The strength of wing which longs for liberty;
The courage of the soul which upward tends,
And the eye's light, a truth which is no lie.
Behind us the past sinks, too tedious night,
Whose shadows brighter show the world of light.
And who shall say that laughter is not good,
When the blood pulses in the veins aright?
An April morning with the birds awake;
The sound of waters lapping by a lake;
The scent of flowers, the rhyme of dancing feet;
The breath of midnight with the heart aquake.
These are the moods of pleasure. And no less
The soul itself has need of wantonness.
The thirst of knowledge fired not only Eve,
And youth grieves still to guess and only guess.
We ask for wisdom. Knowledge first of all
Demands our vows from her high pedestal.
We wish ourselves in act as wise as gods,
Nor even in age dare quite our oath recall.
The truth !--to hold the actual thing and be
Bound by no law but hers and liberty.
Such was my youth's ambition, the fruit fair
And good for food of the forbidden tree.
Two things I was resolved my soul should know;
The physical meaning of the Earth below,
With its dumb forces armed for good and ill,
And its blind fires which in their cycles go;
This, and the power of Love. Here doubly set,
The riddle stood which holds life's alphabet.
What of a very truth were God and Man?
I dared not die till I had answered it.
And first of God. What Quixote on what steed
Of foundered folly urged to headlong speed,
Ere chose his path more madly, or fell down
Proner on life's least lenient stones to bleed?
Striding my horse of reason with loose rein,
I tilted at all shadows in disdain.
To each eternal I my question put,
``What art thou, for Man's pleasure or his pain?''
The Maker I had worshipped, where was He,
In the Earth's fields, or the circumfluent sea?
The footsteps of His presence on the wind,
How should I trace them through infinity?
The huge world in its naked shape unclad,
Mocked me with silence, as a thing gone mad.
A brainless virgin, passionless and blind,
Reeling through space, unsentient--yet how sad!
The stars of heaven! Their voices once went out
Through all a firmament in psalm and shout.
What word have they to--night? Nay, Jesse's son
Had only mocked in our new world of doubt.
I searched them, and I numbered, and I came
To numbers only, flame evolved of flame,
Orb wheeled on orb, a meaningless machine,
A handless clock without the maker's name.
Where was my God the Father? Not in space,
Which needs no god for glory or disgrace,
Being itself eternal. He I sought
Knew not the stars but smiled with human face.
Darkly the night looked at me; darker still
The inner Earth with its tumultuous will,
Its legion of destroyers and destroyed,
Its law of hunger and the need to kill.
In this too was no god, or--monstrous thought--
A god of endless wrong, of treason wrought
Through countless ages still against the weak.
Out on such truth if this be all it taught!
Out on such reason! From that cave of dread
Like one despoiled of thieves I naked fled,
My thirst for knowledge slaked in bitterness,
And Earth's blank riddle all too sternly read.
What has my youth been that I love it thus?
The love of Woman? Ah, thou virtuous
Dear face of wisdom which first filled my heaven,
How art thou fled from life's deserted house!
I see thee pure and noble as a vision,
Rapt in the joy of thy sublime derision
Of all things base, yet tender to the pain
Of him that loved thee spite of love's misprision.
Joyous thou wert as a Spring morning filled
With mirth of birds which strive and wive and build,
A presence of all pleasure on the Earth
Transformed through thee and with thy laughter thrilled.
True were thy eyes and pitiful thy voice,
The colour of thy cheeks how rare a choice,
The smiling of thy lips how strangely dear
When thy wit moved and made our souls rejoice!
Few years thou countedst to thy wisdom's score,
But more than mine and than thy pleasure more
I deemed thee roof and crown of womanhood,
Framed for all fame to blazon and adore.
Why wert thou fashioned thus for Earth and Man,
If only Heaven was to possess thy plan?
Why wert thou beautiful as God to me,
If only God should see thee and should scan?
Oh, thou wert cruel in thy ignorance,
Thou first beloved of my time's romance.
The love within thee was a light of death,
Set for a snare and luring to mischance.
What didst thou think of him, the boy untried,
To whom thou spakest of Heaven as speaks a bride?
The love of Heaven! Alas, thou couldst not guess
The fires he nursed or surely thou hadst lied.
His secret springs of passion had no art,
Nor loosed his tongue to any counterpart
Of mastering words. You neither feared nor knew
The rage of cursing hidden in his heart.
If thou hadst seen it, wouldst thou not have said
A soul by Satan tortured and misled?
Thou didst not guess the truth, that in thy hand
The scourges lay, the pincers, and the lead.
Or haply didst thou love me? Not so heaven
Possessed thee then but sometimes there were given
Glimpses which, to my later eyes of light,
Have shown new worlds as if by lightnings riven.
How had it been if I had ventured quite
That first enchanted, unforgotten night,
When I surprised thee weeping and in fear
Forbore the wrong that should have proved me right?
How had it been if youth had been less weak,
And love's mute hand had found the wit to speak.
If thou hadst been less valiant in thy tears,
And I had touched the heaven which was thy cheek?
Would life have been to me what now it is,
A thing of dreams half wise and half unwise,
A web unpatterned where each idler's hand
Has woven his thoughts, flowers, scrolls, and butterflies?
Or rather, had it not, redeemed of bliss,
Grasped at new worlds less impotent than this,
And made of love a heaven? for depths of fate
Lie in the issue of a woman's kiss.
Alas, it was not, and it may not be
Now, though the sun were melted in the sea,
And though thou livedst, and though I still should live,
Searching thy soul through all Eternity.
The ideal love, how fondly it gives place
To loves all real--alas, and flavourless.
The heart in hunger needs its meat to live,
And takes what dole it finds of happiness.
Then are strange spectacles of treason seen,
Earthquakes and tempests and the wars of men,
Shipwrecks of faith, ungodly interludes
And pagan rites to Moloch on the green.
Lust travestied as love goes nightly forth,
Preaching its creed unclean from South to North,
Using the very gestures of true love,
Its words, its prayers, its vows--how little worth!
Where are ye now, ye poor unfortunates,
Who once my partners were in these mad gaits,
Sad souls of women half unsexed by shame,
In what dire clutches of what felon fates?
Dark--eyed I see her, her who caused my fall,
Nay, caused it not who knew it not at all.
I hear her babble her fool's creed of bliss,
While I lie mute, a swine--like prodigal.
Her chamber redolent of unctuous glooms
Prisons me yet with its profane perfumes,
A cell of follies used and cast aside,
Painted in pleasure's likeness--and a tomb's.
Oh, those dead flowers upon her table set,
How loud they preach to me of wisdom yet,
Poor slaughtered innocents there parched in Hell,
Which Heaven had seen at dawn with dewdrops wet!
Littered they lay, those maidenheads of saints,
Mid pots of fard and powder--puffs and paints,
Egregious relics of lost purity
Tortured on wires with all that mars and taints.
Beneath, upon the floor her slippers lay
Who was the queen of all that disarray,
Left where she dropped them when she fled the room
To speed her latest gallant on his way.
The pictures on the wall--by what strange chance--
Showed sacred scenes of Biblical romance;
Among them Pilate on his judgment--seat
Washing before the multitude his hands.
Smiling he sat while in reproachful mood
He they led forth to crucifixion stood.
``Innocent am I,'' thus the legend ran
Inscribed beneath it, ``of this just One's blood.''
Innocent! Ah, the sad forgotten thought
Of that mute face my convent dreams had sought.
And while I sighed, behold the arms of sin
In my own arms enlatticed and enwrought.
A life of pleasure is a misnamed thing,
Soulless at best, an insect on the wing,
But mostly sad with its unconquered griefs,
The noise that frets, the vanities that sting.
The weapons of youth's armoury are these--
The chase, the dance, the gambler's ecstasies.
Each in its turn I handled with the rest,
And drained my cup of folly to the lees.
What days I murdered thus without design,
What nights deflowered in madness and lewd wine!
The ghosts of those lost hours are with me still,
Crying, ``Give back my life, and mine, and mine!''
Yet was it glorious on the scented morn
To wake the woods with clamouring hound and horn,
To ride red--coated where the red fox ran,
And shout with those who laughed to see him torn.
Glorious to lie 'neath the tall reeds in wait
For the swift fowl at flight returning late,
And pull them from their path with lightning shot,
The bolt of Jove less certain in its fate.
Glorious to battle with the crested wave
For the full nets engulphed in the sea's grave,
And see the fishes flash entangled there,
With only courage and strong arms to save.
And glorious more, with sword high--poised and still,
To meet the bull's rush with o'ermastering skill,
And watch the stricken mass in anger die,
Tamed by the potency of human will.
All glorious and vain--glorious and most sad,
Because of the dark death their doing made,
And of the nothingness that swept the track,
Leaving no footprint or of good or bad.
The light--heeled love of laughter and the dance
Held me, yet held not, in its transient trance.
The hours were few when, fired with love and wine,
I trod the Bacchanalian maze of France.
Yet do I mind me of one afternoon
In Meudon wood, when night came all too soon;
And then again the morning, and unstayed
We pranced our measure out from noon to noon.
That day of dancing in my memory stands
A thing apart and almost of romance,
A day of pleasure physical and strong,
Unwearied and unwearying, feet, lips, hands.
The ``Coq de Bruyère'' was the fortunate sign
Of the lone inn where we had met to dine,
And found a score companions light as we
To turn our rustic hostel to a shrine.
If it still stands, how strangely it must view
This older world with hopes of paler hue!
Or was it youth so painted the grass green,
The apple--blossoms pink, the heavens blue?
Alas! I know not, nor remember yet
Her name with whom those foolish hours seemed sweet,
Only that she laughed on and danced with me,
And that my fingers just could span her feet.
How far away! And Meudon, too, how far!
And all those souls of women lost in care,
And even fair France herself how merged in pain!
It was the Spring before the Prussian war.
One day, one only day, and then the light
Waned in the place and hid our faces white,
And, our score paid, we left the empty room
And met no more on this side of the night.
Who speaks of play speaks treason to youth's state.
Youth is the heir to passion, love and hate,
The passion of the body in its strength,
The passion of the soul commensurate.
Nought needs it in its force of whip or goad,
Say rather a strong bridle for the road.
He who would spur it to a fiercer heat
Is an ill rider whom no fortunes bode.
Shame is it that the glory of youth's eyes
Should be lack--lustred with the grape's disguise,
And doubly shame its vast desires should swoon
In maniac clutchings at a vagrant prize.
Gold is the last least noble stake of life,
When all is gone, friends, fashion, fame, love's strife,
The thing men still can chase when dotage stings
And joy is dead and gout is as the knife.
Youth, seeking gold at Fortune's hand, goes bare
Of its best weapons with the humblest there,
As impotent to win a smile from fate
As the least valiant, the most cursed with care.
Watch well the doors of Fortune. Who goes in?
The prince, the peasant, the gay child of sin,
The red--cheeked soldier, the mad crook--backed crone,
Which shall prevail with Fortune? Which shall win?
Nay, who shall tell? Luck levels all pretence,
Manhood's high pride, youth's first concupiscence.
The arbiter of fame it stands and wit,
The judge supreme of sense and lack of sense.
The gambler's heaven is Youth's untimely Hell.
And I, who dwelt there as lost spirits dwell,
There touched the bottom of the pit. Even yet
I dare not nakedly its secrets tell.
What saved me from the gulf? All ye who preach
Art the physician and consoling leech
Of fallen souls, if but a single spark
Of genius lives, behold the text you teach.
In Art's high hall for whoso holds the key
Honour does service on a suppliant knee,
Virtue his handmaid is, to work his will,
And beauty crowns him, be he bond or free.
His sad soul's raiment from his shoulders fall,
Light pure is given, and he is clothed withal,
His eye grows single and his madness parts
As once in song the raging mood of Saul.
What saved me from the gulf? Thrice generous hand,
A king's in gifts, a prophet's in command,
All potent intellect designed to guide,
Transforming grief as with a master's wand!
This life, if it be worthy grown, is thine;
These tears made sweet once bitter with such brine,
This impotence of will to purpose fired,
This death fenced out with mine and countermine.
For I insensate had resolved to fly
From life's despairs and sick pride's misery,
A craven braggart to the arms of death,
And die dishonoured as the wretched die.
Thou stoodst, how oft, between me and my fate,
Bidding me cheer, or, if I dared not, wait,
From morn to night and then from night to morn
Pointing to Fame as to an open gate;
Till Time, the healer, had half closed the wound,
And Spring in the year's mercy came back crowned
With leaves and blossoms, and I could not choose
To lie unknown forgotten underground.
If there be aught of pleasure worth the living
'Tis to be loved when trouble has done grieving,
And the sick soul, resigned to her mute state,
Forgets the pain forgiven and forgiving.
With wan eyes set upon life's door ajar
She waits half conscious of the rising star,
And lo! 'tis Happiness on tip--toe comes
With fruits and flowers and incense from afar.
Scarcely she heeds him as he stops and smiles.
She does not doubt his innocent lips' wiles.
She lies in weakness wondering and half won,
While beauty cunningly her sense beguiles.
Then at her feet he sets his stores unrolled
Of spice and gums and treasure manifold.
All kingdoms of the Earth have tribute paid
To heap the myrrh and frankincense and gold.
These are his gifts, and tenderly he stands
With eyes of reverence and mute folded hands,
Pleading her grace, and lo! her heaven is filled
With music as of archangelic bands.
What saved me from the gulf? A woman's prayer
Sublimely venturing all a soul might dare,
A saint's high constancy outwitting Fate
And dowered with love supreme in its despair.
I had done naught to merit such high lot,
Given naught in hostage and adventured naught.
The gift was free as heaven's own copious rains,
And came like these unseeking and unsought.
O noble heart of woman! On life's sea
Thou sailedst bravely, a proud argosy,
Freighted with wisdom's wealth and ordered well,
Defiant of all storms--since storms must be.
On thy high way thou passedst pursuant only
Of Virtue's purpose and Truth's instinct thronely.
Strength's symbol wert thou, self--contained and free,
Lone in thy path of good but never lonely.
What glory of the morning lit thy shrouds!
What pure thought limned thee white on thunder--clouds!
I from my shattered raft afar in pain
Kneeled to thy form and prayed across the floods.
In godlike patience, to my soul's surprise,
Thou paused and parleyed wise with me unwise.
Ah, dearest soul seraphic! Who shall paint
The heaven revealed of pity in thine eyes?
She took me to her riches. All the gladness
Of her great joy she gave to cure my sadness,
All her soul's garment of unearthly hopes
To ease the ache which fructified to madness.
She took me to her pleasure, wealth long stored
Of silent thought and fancy in full hoard,
Treasures of wisdom and discerning wit,
And dreams of beauty chaste and unexplored.
She took me to her heart,--and what a heart,
Vast as all heaven and love itself and art!
She gave it royally as monarchs give
Who hold back nothing when they give a part.
A king I rose who had knelt down a slave,
A soul new born who only sought a grave,
A victor from the fight whence I had fled,
A hero crowned with bays who was not brave.
Blest transformation! Circe's ancient curse
See here interpreted in plain reverse.
Love, generous love, in me devised a spell
Ennobling all and subtler far than hers.
Thus was I saved. Yet, mark how hardly Fate
Deals with its victors vanquished soon or late.
The ransomed captive of his chains goes free.
She pines in durance who has paid the debt.
Behold this woman of all joy the heir,
Robed in high virtue and worth's worthiest wear,
A saint by saints esteemed, a matron wise
As Rome's Cornelia chastely debonnaire.
Behold her touched with my own soul's disease,
Grieving in joy and easeless still in ease,
The gall of sorrow and the thorn of shame
Twined ever in the wreaths love framed to please.
Behold her languishing for honour's loss,
Her pride nailed daily to a nameless cross,
Her vesture sullied with the dust of sin,
Her gold of purity transfused with dross.
The echo of her voice has tones that thrill:
I hear her weeping with a blind wild will.
A name she speaks to the dim night, his name
Her virtue spared not yet remembered still.
``Say, shall I comfort thee?'' ``O soul of mine,
Thy comfort slays me with its joys like wine.
Thy love is dear to me--then let me go.
Bid me fare forth for aye from thee and thine.''
``Is there no pleasure?'' ``Pleasure is not sweet
When doors are shut and veiled Man's mercy--seat.
My heaven thou wert, but heaven itself is pain
When God is dumb and angels turn their feet.''
``Is there no beauty? See, the sun is fair
And the world laughs because the Spring is there.
Hast thou no laughter?'' ``Ay, I laugh as Eve
Laughed with her lord the night of their despair.''
``The past is passed.'' ``Nay, 'tis a ghost that lives.''
``Grief dies.'' ``We slew it truly and it thrives.
Pain walks behind us like a murdered man
Asking an alms of joy which vainly gives.
``Give me thy tears: their bitterness is true.
Give me thy patience: it is all my due.
Give me thy silence, if thou wilt thy scorn,
But spare thy kisses, for they pierce me through.''
I saw her perish, not at once by death,
Which has an edge of mercy in its sheath.
No bodily pleadings heralded decay;
No violence of pity stopped her breath.
Only the eternal part which was her mind
Had withered there as by a breath unkind.
Only the reason of her eyes was mute;
Their meaning vanished, leaving naught behind.
``No bells shall ring my burial hour,'' she said.
``No prayers be sung, no requiem for the dead.
Only the wind shall chaunt in its wild way,
And be thou there to lay flowers on my head.''
I laid them on her grave. Alas! dear heart,
What love can follow thee where now thou art?
Sleep on. My youth sleeps with thee--and the rest
Would but disturb. We are too far apart.
What has my life been? What life has the wind
Wandering for ever on in change of mind
Winter and summer, chasing hopes as vain
And seeking still the rest it may not find?
When she was dead I rose up in my place,
Like Israel's king, and smiled and washed my face.
My grief had died in me with her long tears,
And I was changed and maimed and passionless.
I said, ``There are griefs wider than this grief,
Hopes broader harvested, of ampler sheaf.
Man may not live the caged bird of his pride,
And he who wends afar shall win relief.''
The world of sea and mountain shape high browed
Lured me to dreams of nobler solitude,
Fair plains beyond the limits of the dawn,
And desert places lawless and untrod.
Beyond youth's lamp of bitter--sweet desires
And manhood's kindling of less lawful fires
A star I sought should lead me to my dream
Of a new Bethlehem and angelic choirs.
This passionate England with its wild unrest,
How has it straitened us to needs unblest!
Need is that somewhere in the world there be
A better wisdom, seek it East or West.
I sought it first on that great Continent
Which is the eldest born of man's intent.
All that the race of Japhet has devised
Of wit to live lives there pre--eminent.
The record of the ages proudly stand
Revealed in constancy and close at hand,
Man's march triumphant against natural foes,
His conquest of the air and sea and land,
From that far day when, wielding shafts of stone,
He drove the bear back from the banks of Rhone,
And built his dwelling on the fair lake's shore
He earliest learned to love and call his own,
On thro' the generations of wild men,
The skin--clad hunters of the field and fen,
At war with life, all life than theirs less strong
Less fenced with cunning in its lawless den,
Until the dawn broke of a larger age,
With milder fortunes and designs more sage,
And men raised cities on the naked plains
With wine and corn and oil for heritage.
Etruscan Italy! Pelasgic Greece!
How did they labour in the arts of peace!
If strong men were before the time of Troy,
What of the wise who planned their palaces?
The men of cunning who, ere letters came
To hand their learning down from fame to fame,
Dealt with Titanic square and basalt slab
And found the law of parallelogram?
Unnamed discoverers, or of those who gave
Its rule to beauty, line and curve and wave,
Smelters of bronze, artificers in gold,
Painters of tear--cups for the hero's grave?
Or those, the last, who of Man's social state
Devised the code his lusts to mitigate,
Who set a bridle on his jaws of pride,
And manacled with law his limbs of hate,
Till each fair town its separate polity
Enjoyed in its own walls well--fenced and free,
With king and court and poet and buffoon
And burgess roll inscribed of chivalry?
This was the old world's golden age renowned
Shown thro' dim glimpses of a past spell--bound.
Some shadow of it lives in Homer's story.
In vain we search. Its like shall not be found.
It vanished in the impatient march of Man
When Empires rose, with Cyrus in the van,
The Assyrian tyranny, the Persian scourge,
And his the all--conquering boy of Macedon.
Then were the little freedoms swept aside,
The household industries for fields more wide.
With heavy hand Rome weighed upon the world
A blind Colossus, order classified.
And what of the new world, the world that is?
Ah, Europe! What a tragedy there lies!
Thy faiths forgotten and thy laws made void,
Hunger and toil thy sole known destinies.
The sombre livery of thy bastard races
Proclaims thee slave and their ignoble faces,
Gaul, Teuton, Serb, all fortunes merged in one,
All bloods commingled in thy frail embraces.
No type, no image of the God in thee,
No form survives of nobler ancestry,
No mark is on thy brow, even that of Cain,
By which to learn thy soul's lost pedigree.
Thou toilest blindly in thy central hive
Of the world's hopes impatient and alive,
Waiting the reason which shall light thy years
To a new gospel of initiative,
Rueful, unconscious, to thy labour bound
And dumb to love, above or underground.
He were the Sage of the new discipline
Who first should wake thy silence into sound.
Where is the poet who shall sing of Man
In his new world, a better Caliban,
And show him Heaven? What nobler Prospero
To cure his ache on an Eternal plan?
The voice that should arouse that slumbering clod
Must echo boldly as to steps unshod
Of angels heralding the advent day
Of a new Saviour and a latest God.
But whose the voice? And where the listeners?
I sought and found not. Rather in my ears
The discord grew of that ungodly host
Whose laughter mocks the music of the Spheres.
``Glory of glories!'' Thus it was they chaunted,
But not to Heaven for which men blindly panted,
Rather to that Hell's master who hath held
Their backs to pain in labour covenanted.
To him the honour and obedience due
Of their lost Moab where the bluebells blew,
Now the sad washpot of his engines' slime,
Their childhood's Edom darkened by his shoe.
Through that dim murk no glimpse of the Divine
Shall pierce with song where the sun dares not shine,
No praise of beauty in a land all bleared
With poison--smoke and waters aniline?
Better they died unchronicled. Their room
Would then be for each weed that wreathed their tomb,
More beautiful than they with all their love
It is not worth a spray of butcher's broom.
All this I read as in an open book
Wandering in bye paths with my pilgrim's crook,
Through Alp and Apennine and Eastward on
To where the Balkans on the Danube look.
On Trajan's wall I lay in the tall grass
And watched the Tartar shepherds wandering pass.
A boy was blowing in his flute below;
Afar the river shone, a sea of glass.
This was the world's once boundary; and beyond
What terrors reigned for fearful hearts and fond,
The Scythian wilderness, where were--wolves were
And night for ever lay in frozen bond!
The subtle wonder of the desert came
And touched my longing with its breath of flame.
I too, methought, sad child of a new age,
Would learn its mystery and inscribe my name,
Clothed in the garments of its ancient past,
My race forgotten and my creed outcast,
On some lone pile whence centuries look down
On days unchanged the earliest with the last.
As Abraham was at Mamre on the leas,
I too would be, or Ur of the Chaldees,
Feeding my flocks in patience at God's hand,
Guided by signs and girt with mysteries.
With staff in hand and wallet for all need,
Footing the goat--tracks or with ass for steed,
Clad in mean raiment, with attendants none,
And fed on locusts as the prophets feed.
Climbing the dunes each morning to behold
The world's last miracle of light enfold
The Eastern heaven, and see the victor sun
Press back the darkness with his spears of gold.
The fair Earth, pure in her sweet nakedness,
Should smile for me each day with a new face,
Her only lover; and her virgin sands
Should be my daily sacrilege to press.
The deep blue shadows of the rocks at noon
My tent should be from a burnt world in swoon,
Rocks scored with what dead names of worshippers,
Of Gods as dead, the sun and stars and moon.
There would I stand in prayer, with unshod feet
And folded arms, at Time's true mercy seat,
Making my vows to the one God of gods
Whose praise the Nations of the East repeat.
Haply some wonder of prophetic kind
My eyes should see to the world's reason blind,
Some ladder to the Heaven, or a face
Speaking in thunder to me from the wind.
I lay in the tall grass, and overhead
The ravens called who once Elisha fed.
It was a message meet for my desires,
And I arose and followed where they led,
Arose and followed;--and behold, at hand,
With tinkling bells and tread as if on sand,
Toward me spectral from the Orient came
The pilgrim camels of that holy Land.
The rock of Horeb is the holiest place
Of all Earth's holies. In the wilderness
It stands with its gaunt head bare to the heaven
As when God spake with Moses face to face.
Red in the eternal sunset of the years,
Crowned with a glory the world's evening wears,
Where evening is with morning a first day
Unchanged in the mute music of the Spheres.
From base to top the boulder crags high thrown
Fortress the plain which Israel camped upon,
A living presence in the unliving waste,
A couchant lion with a mane of stone.
Aloft in the dread shadow of his brows
And shut from summer suns and winter snows,
When snows there be in the parched wilderness,
A cell I found and of it made my house.
A single hewn stone chamber, carved of old
By hermits' hands, of rocks with labour rolled,
Undoored, unwindowed, with the earth for floor,
Within, an altar where their beads they told.
Without, a rood of soil and a scant spring,
Their garden once, where deep in the vast ring
Of those grave granite domes they delved and prayed,
One thorn tree its sole life left blossoming.
There laid I down the burden of my care
And dwelt a space in the clean upper air.
I dwelt, how many days or months or years
I know not, for I owned no calendar;
Only the rising of the winter's sun
Daily more northward as the months moved on,
Only the sun's return along his ways
When summer slackened his first rage outrun;
Only the bee--birds passing overhead
With their Spring twitter and eyes crimson red,
The storks and pelicans in soldier bands,
The purple doves that stayed to coo and wed;
These and the shepherds of the waste, the few
Poor Bedouin clansmen, with their weak flocks, who
Strayed through the valleys at appointed days,
As water failed them or the herbage grew,
Lean hungry--eyed wild sons of Ishmael
Who climbed the rocks and sought me in my cell
With their poor wares of butter, dates and corn
And almond--cake in skins and hydromel,
Unwise in the world's learning, yet with gleams
Of subtler instinct than the vain world deems,
Glimpses of faiths transmitted from afar
In signs and wonders and revealed in dreams.
They taught me their strange knowledge, how to read
The forms celestial ordered to Man's need,
To count on sand the arrow heads of fate
And mark the bird's flight and the grey hare's speed.
The empty waste informed with their keen eyes
Became a scroll close writ with mysteries
Unknown to reason yet compelling awe
With that brave folly which confounds the wise.
Nor less the faith was there of the revealed
God of their fathers, Ishmael's sword and shield,
Their own, the Merciful, the Compassionate,
By martyrs witnessed in the stricken field.
His name was on their lips, a living name.
His law was in their hearts, their pride in shame.
His will their fortitude in hours of ill
When the skies rained not and the locusts came.
I learned their creed in this as in the rest,
Making submission to God's ways as best.
What matter if in truth the ways were His,
So I should abdicate my own unblest!
And thus I might have lived--and died, who knows,
A Moslem saint, on those high mountain brows,
Prayed to by alien lips in alien prayer
As intercessor for their mortal woes,
Lived, died, and been remembered for some good
In the world's chronicle of brotherhood,
Nor yet through strife with his own Bedlam kind,
The Hydra--headed Saxon multitude.
But for the clamour of untimely war,
The sound of Nations marching from afar.
Their voice was on the tongue of winds and men,
Their presaging in sun and moon and star.
I dreamed a dream of our fair mother Earth
In her first beauty, ere mankind had birth,
Peopled with forms how perfect in design,
How rich in purpose, of what varied worth,
Birds, four--foot beasts and fishes of the Sea
Each in its kind and order and degree
Holding their place unchid, her children all,
And none with right to strain her liberty.
Her deep green garment of the forest glade
Held monsters grim, but none was there afraid.
The lion and the antelope lay down
In the same thicket for their noon--day shade.
The tyranny of strength was powerless all
To break her order with unseemly brawl.
No single kind, how stout soe'er of limb,
Might drive her weakest further than the wall.
All was in harmony and all was true
On the green Earth beneath her tent of blue.
When lo, the advent of her first born lie,
The beast with mind from which her bondage grew.
O woeful apparition! what a shape
To set the world's expectancy agape,
To crown its wonders! what lewd naked thing
To wreck its Paradise! The human ape!
Among the forms of dignity and awe
It moved a ribald in the world of law,
In the world's cleanness it alone unclean,
With hairless buttocks and prognathous jaw.
Behold it in that Eden once so fair,
Pirate and wanton, a blind pillager,
With axe and fire and spade among the trees
Blackening a league to build itself a lair.
Behold it marshalling its court,--soft kine,
And foolish sheep and belly--lorded swine,
Striding the horse anon, high--mettled fool,
And fawned on by the dog as one divine.
Outrage on sense and decent Nature's pride!
Feast high of reason--nay of Barmecide,
Where every guest goes hungry but this one,
The Harpy--clawed, too foul to be denied!
I saw it, and I blushed for my Man's race,
And once again when in the foremost place
Of human tyranny its latest born
Stood threatening conquest with an English face.
Chief of the sons of Japhet he, with hand
Hard on the nations of the sea and land,
Intolerant of all, tongues, customs, creeds,
Too dull to spare, too proud to understand.
I saw them shrink abashed before his might,
Like tropic birds before the sparrow's flight.
The world was poorer when they fled. But he
Deemed he had done ``God'' service and ``his right.''
I saw it and I heard it and I rose
With the clear vision of a seer that knows.
I had a message to the powers of wrong
And counted not the number of my foes.
I stood forth in the strength of my soul's rage
And spoke my word of truth to a lewd age.
It was the first blow struck in that mad war,
My last farewell to my fair hermitage.
O God of many battles! Thou that art
Strong to withstand when warriors close and part,
That art or wast the Lord of the right cause!
How has thy hand grown feeble in its smart!
How are the vassals of thy power to--day
Set in rebellion mastering the fray!
Blaspheming Thee they smite with tongues obscene,
While these Thy saints lie slaughtered where they pray.
How is the cauldron of thy wrath the deepest,
Cold on its stones? No fire for it thou heapest.
Thou in the old time wert a jealous God.
Thieves have dishonoured Thee. And lo, Thou sleepest!
Between the camps I passed in the still night,
The breath of heaven how pure, the stars how bright.
On either hand the life impetuous flowed
Waiting the morrow which should crown the fight.
How did they greet it? With what voice, what word,
What mood of preparation for the sword?
On this side and on that a chaunt was borne
Faint on the night--wind from each hostile horde.
Here lay the camps. The sound from one rose clear,
A single voice through the thrilled listening air.
``There is no God but God,'' it cried aloud.
``Arise, ye faithful, 'tis your hour of prayer.''
And from the other? Hark the ignoble chorus,
Strains of the music halls, the slums before us.
Let our last thought be as our lives were there,
Drink and debauchery! The drabs adore us.
And these were proved the victors on that morrow,
And those the vanquished, fools, beneath war's harrow.
And the world laughed applauding what was done,
And if the angels wept none heard their sorrow.
What has my life been in its last best scene
Stripped of Time's violence, its one serene
Experience of things fair without a flaw,
Its grasp of Heaven's own paradisal green?
After the storm the clouds white laughters fly;
After the battle hark the children's cry!
After the stress of pain, if God so will,
We too may taste our honey ere we die.
What little secret 'tis we need discover!
How small a drop to make the cup brim over!
A single word half spoken between two,
And Heaven is there, the loved one and the lover.
Tell me not, thou, of youth as Time's last glory.
Tell not of manhood when it strikes its quarry.
The prime of years is not the prime of pleasure.
Give me life's later love when locks are hoary,
Love, when the hurry and the rush are past,
Love when the soul knows what will fade what last,
The worth of simple joys youth trampled on,
Its pearl of price upon the dunghill cast.
Time was, I mocked, I too, at life's plain blisses,
The rustic treasure of connubial kisses,
The bourgeois wealth of amorous maid and man
Made man and wife in legal tendernesses.
Time was, but is not, since the scales of pride
Fell from my eyes and left me glorified.
Now 'tis the world's turn. Let it laugh at me,
Who care not, having Love's self on my side.
How came I by this jewel, this sweet friend,
This best companion of my lone life's end?
So young she was, so fair, of soul so gay,
And I with only wisdom to commend.
I looked into her eyes and saw them seek
My own with questions, roses on her cheek.
One sign there is of love no words belie,
The soul's wide windows watching where lips speak.
What wouldst thou with me, thou dear wise one, say?
My face is withered, my few locks are grey.
Time has dealt with me like a dolorous Jew.
My gold he holds; in silver now I pay.
How shall I serve thee? Shall I be thy priest,
To read thy dear sins to the last and least?
I have some knowledge of the ways of men,
Some too of women. Wilt thou be confessed?
Nay, but thou lovest? A gay youth and fair?
Is he less kind to thee than lovers are?
Shall I chastise him for his backward ways,
Teach him thy whole worth and his own despair?
Thou dost deny? Thou lovest none? To thee
Youth, sayest thou, is void, mere vanity.
Yet how to build up life and leave out love,
The corner stone of all its joys to be?
Thou wouldst be wise. Thou swearest to me this.
Know then, all wisdom is but happiness.
So thou art happy, there is none more sage
Than thou of the wise seven famed of Greece.
She did not answer me, but heaved a sigh
And raised her eyes, where tears stood, silently.
I kissed her hands, the outside and the in,
``Child, dost thou love me?'' And she whispered ``Ay.''
Thus the thing happened. And between us two
Was now a secret beautiful and new.
We hid it from all eyes as fearing ill,
And cherished it in wonder, and it grew.
Some say that Heaven is but to be with God,
Hell--but without God--the same blest abode.
How wide the difference only those may know
Whose eyes have seen the glory and the cloud.
We two beheld the glory. Every morn
We rose to greet it with the day new born;
No laggards we when Love was in the fields
Waiting to walk there with us in the corn.
O those first hours of the yet folded day,
While Man still sleeps and Nature has its play,
When beast and bird secure from death and him
Wander and wanton in their own wild way.
These were our prize untroubled by the whim
Of slugging fools still wrapped in dreamings dim.
In these we lived a whole life ere their day
And heard the birds chaunt and the seraphim.
How good it was to see her through the grass,
Pressing to meet me with her morning face
Wreathed in new smiles by the sweet thought within
Triumphant o'er the world and worldlings base!
How good to mark her beauty decked anew
With leaf and blossom, crimson, white and blue!
The beechen spray fresh gathered in her hand
Was her queen's sceptre diamonded with dew.
I heard her young voice long ere she was near,
Calling her call--note of the wood dove clear.
It was our signal. And I answered low
In the same note, ``Beloved, I am here.''
And then the meeting. Who shall count the bliss
Of sweet words said and sweeter silences.
It was agreed between us we should wed
Some happy day nor yet forestall a kiss.
Sublime convention by true lovers made
To try their joy more nearly in the shade.
``Not yet, dear love! Thy mad lips take from mine,
Lest thou shouldst harm me and the world upbraid.''
Who says a wedding day is not all white
From dawn to dusk, nay far into the night?
The man who makes not that one day divine
Dullard is he and dastard in Love's sight.
First day of the new month, the honeymoon,
Last of the old life naked and alone.
The apparent heirship come to actual reign,
The entrance in possession of a throne.
Why grudge rejoicings? The vain world is there.
It sees the feast spread that it may not share.
God's angels envy thee; then why not these?
Let them make merry with thy wealth to spare.
Nay, join it thou. The foolish old life waits,
A slave discharged, to see thee to the gates.
Give it thy bounty, though it claim thy all,
Thy clothes, thy bed, thy empty cups and plates.
The world hath loved thee, or it loved thee not,
What matter now! Thou needest raise no doubt.
All smile on thee to--day, the false, the true.
The new king pardons. Shout then with their shout.
Thy friends surround thee, sceptics of thy reason.
They ply thee gaily in and out of season.
Thou in thy heart the while art far away
True to thy god. Thou heedest not their treason.
Proud in the face of all thou vowest thy vow,
Love in thine eyes and glory on thy brow,
Thou hast sworn to cherish her, to have, to hold,
``Till death us twain do part.'' Ah she! Ah thou!
What has my life been? Nay, my life is good.
Dear life, I love thee, now thou art subdued.
Thou hast fled the battle, cast thine arms away,
And so art victor of the multitude.
Thou art forgotten wholly of thy foes,
Of thy friends wholly, these alike with those.
One garden of the world thy kingdom is
Walled from the wicked, and there blooms thy rose.
She that I love lives there and lives with me.
Enough, kind heaven, I make my terms with thee.
Worth, wealth, renown, power, honour--shadows all!
This is the substance, this reality.
O world that I have known! how well, things, men,
Glories of vanity, the sword, the pen!
Fair praise of kings, applause of crowds--nay more,
Saints' pure approval of the loss and gain!
High deeds of fame which made the eyelids brim
With tears of pride grief's anguish could not dim,
The day of triumph crowning all the days,
The harvest of the years brought home by Time!
What are you to Man's heart, his soul, his sense
Prouder than this, more robed in incidence?
The cry of the first babe, his own, and hers,
Thrilling to joy? Ah matchless eloquence!
The wisdom of all Time is in that cry,
The knowledge of Life's whence, at last, and why,
The root of Love new grafted in the tree,
Even as it falls, which shall not wholly die.
To rest in a new being! Here it stands
The science of all ages in all lands,
The joy which makes us kin with the Earth's life,
And knits us with all Nature joining hands,
Till we forget our heritage of gloom,
Our dark humanity how near its doom.
Away! Man's soul was a disease. 'Tis fled
Scared by this infant face of perfect bloom.
And so, farewell, poor passionate Life, the past.
I close thy record with this word, ``Thou wast.''
Why wait upon the Future? Lo To--day
Smiles on our tears, Time's toy, his best and last.
Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society
Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.
I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.
You have seen better days, dear? So have I —
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:
Better to draw than leave undrawn, I think.
Fitter to do than let alone, I hold,
Though better, fitter, by but one degree.
Therefore it was that, rather than sit still
Simply, my right-hand drew it while my left
Pulled smooth and pinched the moustache to a point.
Now I permit your plump lips to unpurse:
So far, one possibly may understand
"Without recourse to witchcraft!" True, my dear.
Thus folks begin with Euclid, — finish, how?
Trying to square the circle! — at any rate,
Solving abstruser problems than this first
"How find the nearest way 'twixt point and point."
Deal but with moral mathematics so —
Master one merest moment's work of mine,
Even this practising with pen and ink, —
Demonstrate why I rather plied the quill
Than left the space a blank, — you gain a fact,
And God knows what a fact's worth! So proceed
By inference from just this moral fact
— I don't say, to that plaguy quadrature
"What the whole man meant, whom you wish you knew,"
But, what meant certain things he did of old,
Which puzzled Europe, — why, you'll find them plain,
This way, not otherwise: I guarantee.
Understand one, you comprehend the rest.
Rays from all round converge to any point:
Study the point then ere you track the rays!
The size o' the circle's nothing; subdivide
Earth, and earth's smallest grain of mustard-seed,
You count as many parts, small matching large,
If you can use the mind's eye: otherwise,
Material optics, being gross at best,
Prefer the large and leave our mind the small —
And pray how many folks have minds can see?
Certainly you — and somebody in Thrace
Whose name escapes me at the moment. You —
Lend me your mind then! Analyse with me
This instance of the line 'twixt blot and blot
I rather chose to draw than leave a blank.
Things else being equal. You are taught thereby
That 't is my nature, when I am at ease,
Rather than idle out my life too long,
To want to do a thing — to put a thought,
Whether a great thought or a little one,
Into an act, as nearly as may be.
Make what is absolutely new — I can't,
Mar what is made already well enough —
I won't: but turn to best account the thing
That 's half-made — that I can. Two blots, you saw
I knew how to extend into a line
Symmetric on the sheet they blurred before —
Such little act sufficed, this time, such thought.
Now, we'll extend rays, widen out the verge,
Describe a larger circle; leave this first
Clod of an instance we began with, rise
To the complete world many clods effect.
Only continue patient while I throw,
Delver-like, spadeful after spadeful up,
Just as truths come, the subsoil of me, mould
Whence spring my moods: your object, — just to find,
Alike from handlift and from barrow-load, 100
What salts and silts may constitute the earth —
If it be proper stuff to blow man glass,
Or bake him pottery, bear him oaks or wheat —
What's born of me, in brief; which found, all's known.
If it were genius did the digging-job,
Logic would speedily sift its product smooth
And leave the crude truths bare for poetry;
But I'm no poet, and am stiff i' the back.
What one spread fails to bring, another may.
In goes the shovel and out comes scoop — as here!
I live to please myself. I recognize
Power passing mine, immeasurable, God —
Above me, whom He made, as heaven beyond
Earth — to use figures which assist our sense.
I know that He is there as I am here.
By the same proof, which seems no proof at all,
It so exceeds familiar forms of proof.
Why "there," not "here"? Because, when I say "there,"
I treat the feeling with distincter shape
That space exists between us: I, — not He, —
Live, think, do human work here — no machine.
His will moves, but a being by myself,
His, and not He who made me for a work,
Watches my working, judges its effect,
But does not interpose. He did so once,
And probably will again some time — not now,
Life being the minute of mankind, not God's,
In a certain sense, like time before and time
After man's earthly life, so far as man
Needs apprehend the matter. Am I clear?
Suppose I bid a courier take to-night
(. . . Once for all, let me talk as if I smoked
Yet in the Residenz, a personage:
I must still represent the thing I was,
Galvanically make dead muscle play.
Or how shall I illustrate muscle's use?)
I could then, last July, bid courier take
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles.
I bid him, since I have the right to bid,
And, my part done so far, his part begins;
He starts with due equipment, will and power,
Means he may use, misuse, not use at all.
At his discretion, at his peril too.
I leave him to himself: but, journey done,
I count the minutes, call for the result
In quickness and the courier quality.
Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward
According to proved service; not before.
Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn.
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path,
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts
Advisers by the wayside, does his best
At his discretion, lags or launches forth,
(He knows and I know) at his peril too.
You see? Exactly thus men stand to God:
I with my courier, God with me. Just so
I have His bidding to perform; but mind
And body, all of me, though made and meant
For that sole service, must consult, concert
With my own self and nobody beside,
How to effect the same: God helps not else.
'T is I who, with my stock of craft and strength,
Choose the directer cut across the hedge,
Or keep the foot-track that respects a crop.
Lie down and rest, rise up and run, — live spare,
Feed free, — all that 's my business: but, arrive,
Deliver message, bring the answer back,
And make my bow, I must: then God will speak,
Praise me or haply blame as service proves.
To other men, to each and everyone,
Another law! what likelier? God, perchance,
Grants each new man, by some as new a mode.
Intercommunication with Himself,
Wreaking on finiteness infinitude;
By such a series of effects, gives each
Last His own imprint: old yet ever new
The process: 't is the way of Deity.
How it succeeds, He knows: I only know
That varied modes of creatureship abound,
Implying just as varied intercourse
For each with the creator of them all.
Each has his own mind and no other's mode.
What mode may yours be? I shall sympathize!
No doubt, you, good young lady that you are,
Despite a natural naughtiness or two,
Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen
And see an outspread providential hand
Above the owl's-wing aigrette — guard and guide —
Visibly o'er your path, about your bed,
Through all your practisings with London-town.
It points, you go; it stays fixed, and you stop;
You quicken its procedure by a word
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise.
Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop,
And such appeals to it may stave off harm,
Pacify the grim guardian of this Square,
And stand you in good stead on quarter-day:
Quite possible in your case; not in mine.
"Ah, but I choose to make the difference,
Find the emancipation?" No, I hope!
If I deceive myself, take noon for night,
Please to become determinedly blind
To the true ordinance of human life.
Through mere presumption — that is my affair.
And truly a grave one; but as grave I think
Your affair, yours, the specially observed, —
Each favoured person that perceives his path
Pointed him, inch by inch, and looks above
For guidance, through the mazes of this world,
In what we call its meanest life-career
— Not how to manage Europe properly.
But how keep open shop, and yet pay rent.
Rear household, and make both ends meet, the same.
I say, such man is no less tasked than I
To duly take the path appointed him
By whatsoever sign he recognize.
Our insincerity on both our heads!
No matter what the object of a life,
Small work or large, — the making thrive a shop,
Or seeing that an empire take no harm, —
There are known fruits to judge obedience by.
You've read a ton's weight, now, of newspaper —
Lives of me, gabble about the kind of prince —
You know my work i' the rough; I ask you, then.
Do I appear subordinated less
To hand-impulsion, one prime push for all.
Than little lives of men, the multitude
That cried out, every quarter of an hour,
For fresh instructions, did or did not work,
And praised in the odd minutes?
Eh, my dear?
Such is the reason why I acquiesced
In doing what seemed best for me to do,
So as to please myself on the great scale,
Having regard to immortality
No less than life — did that which head and heart
Prescribed my hand, in measure with its means
Of doing — used my special stock of power —
Not from the aforesaid head and heart alone,
But every sort of helpful circumstance.
Some problematic and some nondescript:
All regulated by the single care
I' the last resort — that I made thoroughly serve
The when and how, toiled where was need, reposed
As resolutely to the proper point.
Braved sorrow, courted joy, to just one end:
Namely, that just the creature I was bound
To be, I should become, nor thwart at all
God's purpose in creation. I conceive
No other duty possible to man, —
Highest mind, lowest mind, — no other law
By which to judge life failure or success:
What folks call being saved or cast away.
Such was my rule of life; I worked my best
Subject to ultimate judgment, God's not man's.
Well then, this settled, — take your tea, I beg.
And meditate the fact, 'twixt sip and sip, —
This settled — why I pleased myself, you saw,
By turning blot and blot into a line,
O' the little scale, — we'll try now (as your tongue
Tries the concluding sugar-drop) what's meant
To please me most o' the great scale. Why, just now,
With nothing else to do within my reach.
Did I prefer making two blots one line
To making yet another separate
Third blot, and leaving those I found unlinked?
It meant, I like to use the thing I find.
Rather than strive at unfound novelty:
I make the best of the old, nor try for new.
Such will to act, such choice of action's way.
Constitute — when at work on the great scale,
Driven to their farthest natural consequence
By all the help from all the means — my own
Particular faculty of serving God,
Instinct for putting power to exercise
Upon some wish and want o' the time, I prove
Possible to mankind as best I may.
This constitutes my mission, — grant the phrase, —
Namely, to rule men — men within my reach,
To order, influence and dispose them so
As render solid and stabilify
Mankind in particles, the light and loose,
For their good and my pleasure in the act.
Such good accomplished proves twice good to me —
Good for its own sake, as the just and right.
And, in the effecting also, good again
To me its agent, tasked as suits my taste.
Is this much easy to be understood
At first glance? Now begin the steady gaze!
My rank — (if I must tell you simple truth —
Telling were else not worth the whiff o' the weed
I lose for the tale's sake) — dear, my rank i' the world
Is hard to know and name precisely: err
I may, but scarcely over-estimate
My style and title. Do I class with men
Most useful to their fellows? Possibly, —
Therefore, in some sort, best; but, greatest mind
And rarest nature? Evidently no.
A conservator, call me, if you please,
Not a creator nor destroyer: one
Who keeps the world safe. I profess to trace
The broken circle of society,
Dim actual order, I can redescribe
Not only where some segment silver-true
Stays clear, but where the breaks of black commence
Baffling you all who want the eye to probe —
As I make out yon problematic thin
White paring of your thumb-nail outside there,
Above the plaster-monarch on his steed —
See an inch, name an ell, and prophecy
O' the rest that ought to follow, the round moon
Now hiding in the night of things: that round,
I labour to demonstrate moon enough
For the month's purpose, — that society,
Render efficient for the age's need:
Preserving you in either case the old,
Nor aiming at a new and greater thing,
A sun for moon, a future to be made
By first abolishing the present law:
No such proud task for me by any means!
History shows you men whose master-touch
Not so much modifies as makes anew:
Minds that transmute nor need restore at all.
A breath of God made manifest in flesh
Subjects the world to change, from time to time,
Alters the whole conditions of our race
Abruptly, not by unperceived degrees
Nor play of elements already there,
But quite new leaven, leavening the lump,
And liker, so, the natural process. See!
Where winter reigned for ages — by a turn
I' the time, some star-change, (ask geologists)
The ice-tracts split, clash, splinter and disperse.
And there's an end of immobility,
Silence, and all that tinted pageant, base
To pinnacle, one flush from fairy-land
Dead-asleep and deserted somewhere, — see! —
As a fresh sun, wave, spring and joy outburst.
Or else the earth it is, time starts from trance.
Her mountains tremble into fire, her plains
Heave blinded by confusion: what result?
New teeming growth, surprises of strange life
Impossible before, a world broke up
And re-made, order gained by law destroyed.
Not otherwise, in our society
Follow like portents, all as absolute
Regenerations: they have birth at rare
Uncertain unexpected intervals
O' the world, by ministry impossible
Before and after fulness of the days:
Some dervish desert-spectre, swordsman, saint,
Law-giver, lyrist, — Oh, we know the names!
Quite other these than I. Our time requires
No such strange potentate, — who else would dawn, —
No fresh force till the old have spent itself.
Such seems the natural economy.
To shoot a beam into the dark, assists:
To make that beam do fuller service, spread
And utilize such bounty to the height,
That assists also, — and that work is mine.
I recognize, contemplate, and approve
The general compact of society.
Not simply as I see effected good.
But good i' the germ, each chance that's possible
I' the plan traced so far: all results, in short,
For better or worse of the operation due
To those exceptional natures, unlike mine,
Who, helping, thwarting, conscious, unaware.
Did somehow manage to so far describe
This diagram left ready to my hand.
Waiting my turn of trial. I see success.
See failure, see what makes or mars throughout.
How shall I else but help complete this plan
Of which I know the purpose and approve,
By letting stay therein what seems to stand,
And adding good thereto of easier reach
To-day than yesterday?
So much, no more!
Whereon, "No more than that?" — inquire aggrieved
Half of my critics: "nothing new at all?
The old plan saved, instead of a sponged slate
And fresh-drawn figure?" — while, "So much as that?"
Object their fellows of the other faith:
"Leave uneffaced the crazy labyrinth
Of alteration and amendment, lines
Which every dabster felt in duty bound
To signalize his power of pen and ink
By adding to a plan once plain enough?
Why keep each fool's bequeathment, scratch and blurr
Which overscrawl and underscore the piece —
Nay, strengthen them by touches of your own?"
Well, that 's my mission, so I serve the world,
Figure as man o' the moment, — in default
Of somebody inspired to strike such change
Into society — from round to square.
The ellipsis to the rhomboid, how you please,
As suits the size and shape o' the world he finds.
But this I can, — and nobody my peer, —
Do the best with the least change possible:
Carry the incompleteness on, a stage,
Make what was crooked straight, and roughness smooth.
And weakness strong: wherein if I succeed,
It will not prove the worst achievement, sure.
In the eyes at least of one man, one I look
Nowise to catch in critic company:
To-wit, the man inspired, the genius' self
Destined to come and change things thoroughly.
He, at least, finds his business simplified.
Distinguishes the done from undone, reads
Plainly what meant and did not mean this time
We live in, and I work on, and transmit
To such successor: he will operate
On good hard substance, not mere shade and shine.
Let all my critics, born to idleness
And impotency, get their good, and have
Their hooting at the giver: I am deaf —
Who find great good in this society,
Great gain, the purchase of great labour. Touch
The work I may and must, but — reverent
In every fall o' the finger-tip, no doubt.
Perhaps I find all good there's warrant for
I' the world as yet: nay, to the end of time, —
Since evil never means part company
With mankind, only shift side and change shape.
I find advance i' the main, and notably
The Present an improvement on the Past,
And promise for the Future — which shall prove
Only the Present with its rough made smooth,
Its indistinctness emphasized; I hope
No better, nothing newer for mankind,
But something equably smoothed everywhere,
Good, reconciled with hardly-quite-as-good,
Instead of good and bad each jostling each.
"And that's all?" Ay, and quite enough for me!
We have toiled so long to gain what gain I find
I' the Present, — let us keep it! We shall toil
So long before we gain — if gain God grant —
A Future with one touch of difference
I' the heart of things, and not their outside face, —
Let us not risk the whiff of my cigar
For Fourier, Comte and all that ends in smoke!
This I see clearest probably of men
With power to act and influence, now alive:
Juster than they to the true state of things;
In consequence, more tolerant that, side
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike
In the age, the various sorts of happiness
jNIoral, mark! — not material — moods o' the mind
Suited to man and man his opposite:
Say, minor modes of movement — hence to there,
Or thence to here, or simply round about —
So long as each toe spares its neighbour's kibe,
Nor spoils the major march and main advance.
The love of peace, care for the family,
Contentment with what's bad but might be worse —
Good movements these! and good, too, discontent,
So long as that spurs good, which might be best,
Into becoming better, anyhow:
Good — pride of country, putting hearth and home
I' the back-ground, out of undue prominence:
Good — yearning after change, strife, victory,
And triumph. Each shall have its orbit marked,
But no more, — none impede the other's path
In this wide world, — though each and all alike,
Save for me, fain would spread itself through space
And leave its fellow not an inch of way.
I rule and regulate the course, excite,
Restrain: because the whole machine should march
Impelled by those diversely-moving parts,
Each blind to aught beside its little bent.
Out of the turnings round and round inside,
Comes that straightforward world-advance, I want,
And none of them supposes God wants too
And gets through just their hindrance and my help.
I think that to have held the balance straight
For twenty years, say, weighing claim and claim,
And giving each its due, no less no more,
This was good service to humanity,
Right usage of my power in head and heart,
And reasonable piety beside.
Keep those three points in mind while judging me!
You stand, perhaps, for some one man, not men, —
Represent this or the other interest,
Nor mind the general welfare, — so, impugn
My practice and dispute my value: why?
You man of faith, I did not tread the world
Into a paste, and thereof make a smooth
Uniform mound whereon to plant your flag,
The lily-white, above the blood and brains!
Nor yet did I, you man of faithlessness,
So roll things to the level which you love,
That you could stand at ease there and survey
The universal Nothing undisgraced
By pert obtrusion of some old church-spire
I' the distance! Neither friend would I content,
Nor, as the world were simply meant for him.
Thrust out his fellow and mend God's mistake.
Why, you two fools, — my dear friends all the same, —
Is it some change o' the world and nothing else
Contents you? Should whatever was, not be?
How thanklessly you view things! There 's the root
Of the evil, source of the entire mistake:
You see no worth i' the world, nature and life,
Unless we change what is to what may be.
Which means, — may be, i' the brain of one of you!
"Reject what is?" — all capabilities —
Nay, you may style them chances if you choose —
All chances, then, of happiness that lie
Open to anybody that is born,
Tumbles into this life and out again, —
All that may happen, good and evil too,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
"O grandeur of the visible universe
Our human littleness contrasts withal!
O sun, O moon, ye mountains and thou sea,
Thou emblem of immensity, thou this,
That and the other, — what impertinence
In man to eat and drink and walk about
And have his little notions of his own,
The while some wave sheds foam upon the shore!"
First of all, 't is a lie some three-times thick:
The bard, — this sort of speech being poetry, —
The bard puts mankind well outside himself
And then begins instructing them: "This way
I and my friend the sea conceive of you!
What would you give to think such thoughts as ours
Of you and the sea together? "Down they go
On the humbled knees of them: at once they draw
Distinction, recognize no mate of theirs
In one, despite his mock humility,
So plain a match for what he plays with. Next,
The turn of the great ocean-play-fellow,
When the bard, leaving Bond Street very far
From ear-shot, cares not to ventriloquize,
But tells the sea its home-truths: "You, my match?
You, all this terror and inmiensity
And what not? Shall I tell you what you are?
Just fit to hitch into a stanza, so
Wake up and set in motion who's asleep
O' the other side of you, in England, else
Unaware, as folk pace their Bond Street now,
Somebody here despises them so much!
Between us, — they are the ultimate! to them
And their perception go these lordly thoughts:
Since what were ocean — mane and tail, to boot —
Mused I not here, how make thoughts thinkable?
Start forth my stanza and astound the world!
Back, billows, to your insignificance!
Deep, you are done with!"
Learn, my gifted friend,
There are two things i' the world, still wiser folk
Accept — intelligence and sympathy.
You pant about unutterable power
I' the ocean, all you feel but cannot speak?
Why, that's the plainest speech about it all.
You did not feel what was not to be felt.
Well, then, all else but what man feels is naught —
The wash o' the liquor that o'erbrims the cup
Called man, and runs to waste adown his side,
Perhaps to feed a cataract, — who cares?
I'll tell you: all the more I know mankind,
The more I thank God, like my grandmother,
For making me a little lower than
The angels, honour-clothed and glory-crowned:
This is the honour, — that no thing I know,
Feel or conceive, but I can make my own
Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart:
This is the glory, — that in all conceived.
Or felt or known, I recognize a mind
Not mine but like mine, — for the double joy, —
Making all things for me and me for Him.
There's folly for you at this time of day!
So think it! and enjoy your ignorance
Of what — no matter for the worthy's name —
Wisdom set working in a noble heart,
When he, who was earth's best geometer
Up to that time of day, consigned his life
With its results into one matchless book,
The triumph of the human mind so far.
All in geometry man yet could do:
And then wrote on the dedication-page
In place of name the universe applauds,
"But, God, what a geometer art Thou!"
I suppose Heaven is, through Eternity,
The equalizing, ever and anon,
In momentary rapture, great with small,
Omniscience with intelligency, God
With man, — the thunder-glow from pole to pole
Abolishing, a blissful moment-space,
Great cloud alike and small cloud, in one fire —
As sure to ebb as sure again to flow
When the new receptivity deserves
The new completion. There's the Heaven for me.
And I say, therefore, to live out one's life
I' the world here, with the chance, — whether by pain
Or pleasure be the process, long or short
The time, august or mean the circumstance
To human eye, — of learning how set foot
Decidedly on some one path to Heaven,
Touch segment in the circle whence all lines
Lead to the centre equally, red lines
Or black lines, so they but produce themselves —
This, I do say, — and here my sermon ends, —
This makes it worth our while to tenderly
Handle a state of things which mend we might.
Mar we may, but which meanwhile helps so far.
Therefore my end is — save society!
"And that's all?" twangs the never-failing taunt
O' the foe — "No novelty, creativeness,
Mark of the master that renews the age?"
"Nay, all that?" rather will demur my judge
I look to hear some day, nor friend nor foe —
"Did you attain, then, to perceive that God
Knew what He undertook when He made things?"
Ay: that my task was to co-operate
Rather than play the rival, chop and change
The order whence comes all the good we know,
With this, — good's last expression to our sense, —
That there's a further good conceivable
Beyond the utmost earth can realize:
And, therefore, that to change the agency,
The evil whereby good is brought about —
Try to make good do good as evil does —
Were just as if a chemist, wanting white.
And knowing black ingredients bred the dye.
Insisted these too should be white forsooth!
Correct the evil, mitigate your best,
Blend mild with harsh, and soften black to gray
If gray may follow with no detriment
To the eventual perfect purity!
But as for hazarding the main result
By hoping to anticipate one half
In the intermediate process, — no, my friends!
This bad world, I experience and approve;
Your good world, — with no pity, courage, hope.
Fear, sorrow, joy, — devotedness, in short,
Which I account the ultimate of man,
Of which there's not one day nor hour but brings
In flower or fruit, some sample of success,
Out of this same society I save —
None of it for me! That I might have none,
I rapped your tampering knuckles twenty years.
Such was the task imposed me, such my end.
Now for the means thereto. Ah, confidence —
Keep we together or part company?
This is the critical minute! "Such my end?"
Certainly; how could it be otherwise?
Can there be question which was the right task —
To save or to destroy society?
Why, even prove that, by some miracle,
Destruction were the proper work to choose,
And that a torch best remedies what's wrong
I' the temple, whence the long procession wound
Of powers and beauties, earth's achievements all.
The human strength that strove and overthrew, —
The human love that, weak itself, crowned strength,—
The instinct crying "God is whence I came!" —
The reason laying down the law "And such
His will i' the world must be! " — the leap and shout
Of genius "For I hold His very thoughts,
The meaning of the mind of Him!" — nay, more
The ingenuities, each active force
That turning in a circle on itselt
Looks neither up nor down but keeps the spot.
Mere creature-like and, for religion, works,
Works only and works ever, makes and shapes
And changes, still wrings more of good from less,
Still stamps some bad out, where was worst before.
So leaves the handiwork, the act and deed.
Were it but house and land and wealth, to show
Here was a creature perfect in the kind —
Whether as bee, beaver, or behemoth,
What's the importance? he has done his work
For work's sake, worked well, earned a creature's praise; —
I say, concede that same fane, whence deploys
Age after age, all this humanity,
Diverse but ever dear, out of the dark
Behind the altar into the broad day
By the portal — enter, and, concede there mocks
Each lover of free motion and much space
A perplexed length of apse and aisle and nave, —
Pillared roof and carved screen, and what care I?
That irk the movement and impede the march, —
Nay, possibly, bring flat upon his nose
At some odd break-neck angle, by some freak
Of old-world artistry, that personage
Who, could he but have kept his skirts from grief
And catching at the hooks and crooks about,
Had stepped out on the daylight of our time
Plainly the man of the age, — still, still, I bar
Excessive conflagration in the case.
"Shake the flame freely!" shout the multitude:
The architect approves I stuck my torch
Inside a good stout lantern, hung its light
Above the hooks and crooks, and ended so.
To save society was well: the means
Whereby to save it, — there begins the doubt
Permitted you, imperative on me;
Were mine the best means? Did I work aright
With powers appointed me? — since powers denied
Concern me nothing.
Well, my work reviewed
Fairly, leaves more hope than discouragement.
First, there's the deed done: what I found, I leave,-
What tottered, I kept stable: if it stand
One month, without sustainment, still thank me
The twenty years' sustainer! Now, observe,
Sustaining is no brilliant self-display
Like knocking down or even setting up:
Much bustle these necessitate; and still
To vulgar eye, the mightier of the myth
Is Hercules, who substitutes his own
For Atlas' shoulder and supports the globe
A whole day, — not the passive and obscure
Atlas who bore, ere Hercules was born,
And is to go on bearing that same load
When Hercules turns ash on OEta's top.
'T is the transition-stage, the tug and strain.
That strike men: standing still is stupid-like.
My pressure was too constant on the whole
For any part's eruption into space
Mid sparkles, crackling, and much praise of me.
I saw that, in the ordinary life,
Many of the little make a mass of men
Important beyond greatness here and there;
As certainly as, in life exceptional,
When old things terminate and new commence,
A solitary great man's worth the world.
God takes the business into His own hands
At such time: who creates the novel flower
Contrives to guard and give it breathing-room:
I merely tend the corn-field, care for crop,
And weed no acre thin to let emerge
What prodigy may stifle there perchance,
— No, though my eye have noted where he lurks.
Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me —
The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths
That sought the daily bread and nothing more,
The hands that supplicated exercise,
Men that had wives, and women that had babes,
And all these making suit to only live!
Was I to turn aside from husbandry,
Leave hope of harvest for the corn, my care,
To play at horticulture, rear some rose
Or poppy into perfect leaf and bloom
When, mid the furrows, up was pleased to sprout
Some man, cause, system, special interest
I ought to study, stop the world meanwhile?
"But I am Liberty, Philanthropy,
Enhghtenment, or Patriotism, the power
Whereby you are to stand or fall!" cries each:
"Mine and mine only be the flag you flaunt!"
And, when I venture to object "Meantime,
What of yon myriads with no flag at all —
My crop which, who flaunts flag must tread across?"
"Now, this it is to have a puny mind!"
Admire my mental prodigies: "down — down —
Ever at home o' the level and the low.
There bides he brooding! Could he look above,
With less of the owl and more of the eagle eye,
He'd see there's no way helps the little cause
Like the attainment of the great. Dare first
The chief emprise; dispel yon cloud between
The sun and us; nor fear that, though our heads
Find earlier warmth and comfort from his ray,
What Hes about our feet, the multitude,
Will fail of benefaction presently.
Come now, let each of us awhile cry truce
To special interests, make common cause
Against the adversary — or perchance
Mere dullard to his own plain interest!
Which of us will you choose? — since needs must be
Some one o' the warring causes you incline
To hold, i' the main, has right and should prevail;
Why not adopt and give it prevalence?
Choose strict Faith or lax Incredulity, —
King, Caste and Cultus — or the Rights of Man,
Sovereignty of each Proudhon o'er himself,
And all that follows in just consequence!
Go free the stranger from a foreign yoke;
Or stay, concentrate energy at home;
Succeed! — when he deserves, the stranger will.
Comply with the Great Nation's impulse, print
By force of arms, — since reason pleads in vain,
And, mid the sweet compulsion, pity weeps, —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau on the universe!
Snub the Great Nation, cure the impulsive itch
With smartest fillip on a restless nose
Was ever launched by thumb and finger! Bid
Hohenstiel-Schwangau first repeal the tax
On pig-tails and pomatum and then mind
Abstruser matters for next century!
Is your choice made? Why then, act up to choice!
Leave the illogical touch now here now there
I' the way of work, the tantalizing help
First to this then the other opposite:
The blowing hot and cold, sham policy,
Sure ague of the mind and nothing more,
Disease of the perception or the Will,
That fain would hide in a fine name! Your choice,
Speak it out and condemn yourself thereby!"
Well, Leicester-square is not the Residenz:
Instead of shrugging shoulder, turning friend
The deaf ear, with a wink to the police —
I'll answer — by a question, wisdom's mode.
How many years, o' the average, do men
Live in this world? Some score, say computists.
Quintuple me that term and give mankind
The likely hundred, and with all my heart
I'll take your task upon me, work your way,
Concentrate energy on some one cause:
Since, counseller, I also have my cause,
My flag, my faith in its effect, my hope
In its eventual triumph for the good
O' the world. And once upon a time, when I
Was like all you, mere voice and nothing more,
Myself took wings, soared sun-ward, and thence sang
"Look where I live i' the loft, come up to me,
Groundlings, nor grovel longer I gain this height.
And prove you breathe here better than below!
Why, what emancipation far and wide
Will follow in a trice! They too can soar,
Each tenant of the earth's circumference
Claiming to elevate humanity,
They also must attain such altitude,
Live in the luminous circle that surrounds
The planet, not the leaden orb itself.
Press out, each point, from surface to yon verge
Which one has gained and guaranteed your realm!"
Ay, still my fragments wander, music-fraught,
Sighs of the soul, mine once, mine now, and mine
For ever! Crumbled arch, crushed aqueduct,
Alive with tremors in the shaggy growth
Of wild-wood, crevice-sown, that triumphs there
Imparting exultation to the hills!
Sweep of the swathe when only the winds walk
And waft my words above the grassy sea
Under the blinding blue that basks o'er Rome, —
Hear ye not still — "Be Italy again?"
And ye, what strikes the panic to your heart?
Decrepit council-chambers, — where some lamp
Drives the unbroken black three paces off
From where the greybeards huddle in debate,
Dim cowls and capes, and midmost glimmers one
Like tarnished gold, and what they say is doubt.
And what they think is fear, and what suspends
The breath in them is not the plaster-patch
Time disengages from the painted wall
Where Rafael moulderingly bids adieu,
Nor tick of the insect turning tapestry
To dust, which a queen's finger traced of old;
But some word, resonant, redoubtable.
Of who once felt upon his head a hand
Whereof the head now apprehends his foot.
"Light in Rome, Law in Rome, and Liberty
O' the soul in Rome — the free Church, the free State!
Stamp out the nature that's best typified
By its embodiment in Peter's Dome,
The scorpion-body with the greedy pair
Of outstretched nippers, either colonnade
Agape for the advance of heads and hearts!"
There's one cause for you! one and only one.
For I am vocal through the universe,
I' the work-shop, manufactory, exchange
And market-place, sea-port and custom-house
O' the frontier: listen if the echoes die —
"Unfettered commerce! Power to speak and hear,
And print and read! The universal vote!
Its rights for labour!" This, with much beside,
I spoke when I was voice and nothing more,
But altogether such an one as you
My censors. "Voice, and nothing more, indeed!"
Re-echoes round me: "that's the censure, there's
Involved the ruin of you soon or late!
Voice, — when its promise beat the empty air:
And nothing more, — when solid earth's your stage.
And we desiderate performance, deed
For word, the realizing all you dreamed
In the old days: now, for deed, we find at door
O' the council-chamber posted, mute as mouse,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, sentry and safeguard
O' the greybeards all a-chuckle, cowl to cape.
Who challenge Judas, — that 's endearment's style, —
To stop their mouths or let escape grimace,
While they keep cursing Italy and him.
The power to speak, hear, print and read is ours?
Ay, we learn where and how, when clapped inside
A convict-transport bound for cool Cayenne!
The universal vote we have: its urn,
We also have where votes drop, fingered-o'er
By the universal Prefect. Say, Trade's free
And Toil turned master out o' the slave it was:
What then? These feed man's stomach, but his soul
Craves finer fare, nor lives by bread alone.
As somebody says somewhere. Hence you stand
Proved and recorded either false or weak,
Faulty in promise or performance: which?"
Neither, I hope. Once pedestalled on earth,
To act not speak, I found earth was not air.
I saw that multitude of mine, and not
The nakedness and nullity of air
Fit only for a voice to float in free.
Such eyes I saw that craved the light alone.
Such mouths that wanted bread and nothing else,
Such hands that supplicated handiwork,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes,
Yet all these pleading just to live, not die!
Did I believe one whit less in belief.
Take truth for falsehood, wish the voice revoked
That told the truth to heaven for earth to hear?
No, this should be, and shall; but when and how?
At what expense to these who average
Your twenty years of life, my computists?
"Not bread alone" but bread before all else
For these: the bodily want serve first, said I;
If earth-space and the life-time help not here,
Where is the good of body having been?
But, helping body, if we somewhat baulk
The soul of finer fare, such food's to find
Elsewhere and afterward — all indicates.
Even this self-same fact that soul can starve
Yet body still exist its twenty years:
While, stint the body, there's an end at once
O' the revel in the fancy that Rome's free.
And superstition's fettered, and one prints
Whate'er one pleases and who pleases reads
The same, and speaks out and is spoken to.
And divers hundred thousand fools may vote
A vote untampered with by one wise man,
And so elect Barabbas deputy
In lieu of his concurrent. I who trace
The purpose written on the face of things,
For my behoof and guidance — (whoso needs
No such sustainment, sees beneath my signs,
Proves, what I take for writing, penmanship,
Scribble and flourish with no sense for me
O' the sort I solemnly go spelling out, —
Let him! there 's certain work of mine to show
Alongside his work: which gives warranty
Of shrewder vision in the workman — judge!)
I who trace Providence without a break
I' the plan of things, drop plumb on this plain print
Of an intention with a view to good,
That man is made in sympathy with man
At outset of existence, so to speak;
But in dissociation, more and more,
Man from his fellow, as their lives advance
In culture; still humanity, that's born
A mass, keeps flying off, fining away
Ever into a multitude of points,
And ends in isolation, each from each:
Peerless above i' the sky, the pinnacle, —
Absolute contact, fusion, all below
At the base of being. How comes this about?
This stamp of God characterizing man
And nothing else but man in the universe —
That, while he feels with man (to use man's speech)
I' the little things of life, its fleshly wants
Of food and rest and health and happiness,
Its simplest spirit-motions, loves and hates,
Hopes, fears, soul-cravings on the ignoblest scale,
O' the fellow-creature, — owns the bond at base, —
He tends to freedom and divergency
In the upward progress, plays the pinnacle
When life's at greatest (grant again the phrase!
Because there's neither great nor small in life.)
"Consult thou for thy kind that have the eyes
To see, the mouths to eat, the hands to work,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes!"
Prompts Nature. "Care thou for thyself alone
I' the conduct of the mind God made thee with!
Think, as if man had never thought before!
Act, as if all creation hung attent
On the acting of such faculty as thine,
To take prime pattern from thy masterpiece!"
Nature prompts also: neither law obeyed
To the uttermost by any heart and soul
We know or have in record: both of them
Acknowledged blindly by whatever man
We ever knew or heard of in this world.
"Will you have why and wherefore, and the fact
Made plain as pikestaff?" modern Science asks.
"That mass man sprung from was a jelly-lump
Once on a time; he kept an after course
Through fish and insect, reptile, bird and beast,
Till he attained to be an ape at last
Or last but one. And if this doctrine shock
In aught the natural pride" . . . Friend, banish fear,
The natural humility replies!
Do you suppose, even I, poor potentate,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, who once ruled the roast, —
I was born able at all points to ply
My tools? or did I have to learn my trade,
Practise as exile ere perform as prince?
The world knows something of my ups and downs:
But grant me time, give me the management
And manufacture of a model me.
Me fifty-fold, a prince without a flaw, —
Why, there's no social grade, the sordidest,
My embryo potentate should blink and scape.
King, all the better he was cobbler once,
He should know, sitting on the throne, how tastes
Life to who sweeps the doorway. But life's hard,
Occasion rare; you cut probation short,
And, being half-instructed, on the stage
You shuffle through your part as best you may,
And bless your stars, as I do. God takes time.
I like the thought He should have lodged me once
I' the hole, the cave, the hut, the tenement.
The mansion and the palace; made me learn
The feel o' the first, before I found myself
Loftier i' the last, not more emancipate
From first to last of lodging, I was I,
And not at all the place that harboured me.
Do I refuse to follow farther yet
I' the backwardness, repine if tree and flower,
Mountain or streamlet were my dwelling-place
Before I gained enlargement, grew mollusc?
As well account that way for many a thrill
Of kinship, I confess to, with the powers
Called Nature: animate, inanimate.
In parts or in the whole, there's something there
Man-like that somehow meets the man in me.
My pulse goes altogether with the heart
O' the Persian, that old Xerxes, when he stayed
His march to conquest of the world, a day
I' the desert, for the sake of one superb
Plane-tree which queened it there in solitude:
Giving her neck its necklace, and each arm
Its armlet, suiting soft waist, snowy side.
With cincture and apparel. Yes, I lodged
In those successive tenements; perchance
Taste yet the straitness of them while I stretch
Limb and enjoy new liberty the more.
And some abodes are lost or ruinous;
Some, patched-up and pieced out, and so transformed
They still accommodate the traveller
His day of life-time. O you count the links,
Descry no bar of the unbroken man?
Yes, — and who welds a lump of ore, suppose
He likes to make a chain and not a bar.
And reach by link on link, link small, link large,
Out to the due length — why, there's forethought still
Outside o' the series, forging at one end.
While at the other there's — no matter what
The kind of critical intelligence
Believing that last link had last but one
For parent, and no link was, first of all,
Fitted to anvil, hammered into shape.
Else, I accept the doctrine, and deduce
This duty, that I recognize mankind,
In all its height and depth and length and breadth.
Mankind i' the main have little wants, not large:
I, being of will and power to help, i' the main,
Mankind, must help the least wants first. My friend,
That is, my foe, without such power and will,
May plausibly concentrate all he wields,
And do his best at helping some large want,
Exceptionally noble cause, that's seen
Subordinate enough from where I stand.
As he helps, I helped once, when like himself.
Unable to help better, work more wide;
And so would work with heart and hand to-day,
Did only computists confess a fault,
And multiply the single score by five,
Five only, give man's life its hundred years.
Change life, in me shall follow change to match!
Time were then, to work here, there, everywhere,
By turns and try experiment at ease!
Full time to mend as well as mar: why wait
The slow and sober uprise all around
O' the building? Let us run up, right to roof.
Some sudden marvel, piece of perfectness,
And testify what we intend the whole!
Is the world losing patience? "Wait!" say we:
"There's time: no generation needs to die
Unsolaced; you Ve a century in store!"
But, no: I sadly let the voices wing
Their way i' the upper vacancy, nor test
Truth on this solid as I promised once.
Well, and what is there to be sad about?
The world's the world, life's life, and nothing else.
'T is part of life, a property to prize.
That those o' the higher sort engaged i' the world,
Should fancy they can change its ill to good.
Wrong to right, ugliness to beauty: find
Enough success in fancy turning fact.
To keep the sanguine kind in countenance
And justify the hope that busies them:
Failure enough, — to who can follow change
Beyond their vision, see new good prove ill
I' the consequence, see blacks and whites of life
Shift square indeed, but leave the chequered face
Unchanged i' the main, — failure enough for such.
To bid ambition keep the whole from change,
As their best service. I hope naught beside.
No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize,
Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense,
All that our world's worth, flower and fruit of man!
Such minds myself award supremacy
Over the common insignificance,
When only Mind's in question, — Body bows
To quite another government, you know.
Be Kant crowned king o' the castle in the air!
Hans Slouch, — his own, and children's mouths to feed
I' the hovel on the ground, — wants meat, nor chews
"The Critique of Pure Reason" in exchange.
But, now, — suppose I could allow your claims
And quite change life to please you, — would it please?
Would life comport with change and still be life?
Ask, now, a doctor for a remedy:
There's his prescription. Bid him point you out
Which of the five or six ingredients saves
The sick man. "Such the efficacity?
Then why not dare and do things in one dose
Simple and pure, all virtue, no alloy
Of the idle drop and powder?" What's his word?
The efficacity, neat, were neutralized:
It wants dispersing and retarding, — nay
Is put upon its mettle, plays its part
Precisely through such hindrance everywhere,
Finds some mysterious give and take i' the case,
Some gain by opposition, he foregoes
Should he unfetter the medicament.
So with this thought of yours that fain would work
Free in the world: it wants just what it finds —
The ignorance, stupidity, the hate,
Envy and malice and uncharitableness
That bar your passage, break the flow of you
Down from those happy heights where many a cloud
Combined to give you birth and bid you be
The royalest of rivers: on you glide
Silverly till you reach the summit-edge,
Then over, on to all that ignorance.
Stupidity, hate, envy, bluffs and blocks.
Posted to fret you into foam and noise.
What of it? Up you mount in minute mist,
And bridge the chasm that crushed your quietude,
A spirit-rainbow, earthborn jewelry
Outsparkling the insipid firmament
Blue above Terni and its orange-trees.
Do not mistake me! You, too, have your rights!
Hans must not burn Kant's house above his head,
Because he cannot understand Kant's book:
And still less must Hans' pastor bum Kant's self
Because Kant understands some books too well.
But, justice seen to on this little point,
Answer me, is it manly, is it sage
To stop and struggle with arrangements here
It took so many lives, so much of toil,
To tinker up into efficiency?
Can't you contrive to operate at once, —
Since time is short and art is long, — to show
Your quality i' the world, whatever you boast,
Without this fractious call on folks to crush
The world together just to set you free,
Admire the capers you will cut perchance,
Nor mind the mischief to your neighbours?
Age and experience bring discouragement,"
You taunt me: I maintain the opposite.
Am I discouraged who, — perceiving health.
Strength, beauty, as they tempt the eye of soul,
Are uncombinable with flesh and blood, —
Resolve to let my body live its best,
And leave my soul what better yet may be
Or not be, in this life or afterward?
— In either fortune, wiser than who waits
Till magic art procure a miracle.
In virtue of my very confidence
Mankind ought to outgrow its babyhood,
I prescribe rocking, deprecate rough hands,
While thus the cradle holds it past mistake.
Indeed, my task's the harder — equable
Sustainment everywhere, all strain, no push —
Whereby friends credit me with indolence,
Apathy, hesitation. "Stand stock-still
If able to move briskly? 'All a-strain' —
So must we compliment your passiveness?
Sound asleep, rather!"
Just the judgment passed
Upon a statue, luckless like myself,
I saw at Rome once! 'T was some artist's whim
To cover all the accessories close
I' the group, and leave you only Laocoön
With neither sons nor serpents to denote
The purpose of his gesture. Then a crowd
Was called to try the question, criticize
Wherefore such energy of legs and arms.
Nay, eyeballs, starting from the socket. One —
I give him leave to write my history —
Only one said "I think the gesture strives
Against some obstacle we cannot see."
All the rest made their minds up. "'T is a yawn
Of sheer fatigue subsiding to repose:
The Statue's 'Somnolency' clear enough!"
There, my arch stranger-friend, my audience both
And arbitress, you have one half your wish,
At least: you know the thing I tried to do!
All, so far, to my praise and glory — all
Told as befits the self-apologist, —
Who ever promises a candid sweep
And clearance of those errors miscalled crimes
None knows more, none laments so much as he,
And ever rises from confession, proved
A god whose fault was — trying to be man.
Just so, fair judge, — if I read smile aright —
I condescend to figure in your eyes
As biggest heart and best of Europe's friends,
And hence my failure. God will estimate
Success one day; and, in the mean time — you!
I daresay there's some fancy of the sort
Frolicking round this final puff I send
To die up yonder in the ceiling-rose, —
Some consolation-stakes, we losers win!
A plague of the return to "I — I — I
Did this, meant that, hoped, feared the other thing!"
Autobiography, adieu! The rest
Shall make amends, be pure blame, history
And falsehood: not the ineffective truth,
But Thiers-and-Victor-Hugo exercise.
Hear what I never was, but might have been
I' the better world where goes tobacco-smoke!
Here lie the dozen volumes of my life:
(Did I say "lie?" the pregnant word will serve.)
Cut on to the concluding chapter, though!
Because the little hours begin to strike.
Hurry Thiers-Hugo to the labour's end!
Something like this the unwritten chapter reads.
Exemplify the situation thus!
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, being, no dispute,
Absolute mistress, chose the Assembly, first,
To serve her: chose this man, its President
Afterward, to serve also, — specially
To see that they did service one and all.
And now the proper term of years was out.
When the Head-servant must vacate his place;
And nothing lay so patent to the world
As that his fellow-servants one and all
Were — mildly make we mention — knaves or fools,
Each of them with his purpose flourished full
I' the face of you by word and impudence,
Or filtered slyly out by nod and wink
And nudge upon your sympathetic rib —
That not one minute more did knave or fool
Mean to keep faith and serve as he had sworn
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, once that Head away.
Why did such swear except to get the chance,
When time should ripen and confusion bloom,
Of putting Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
To the true use of human property?
Restoring souls and bodies, this to Pope,
And that to King, that other to his planned
Perfection of a Share-and-share-alike,
That other still, to Empire absolute
In shape of the Head-servant's very self
Transformed to master whole and sole: each scheme
Discussible, concede one circumstance —
That each scheme's parent were, beside himself,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, not her serving-man
Sworn to do service in the way she chose
Rather than his way: way superlative,
Only, — by some infatuation, — his
And his and his and everyone's but hers
Who stuck to just the Assembly and the Head.
I niake no doubt the Head, too, had his dream
Of doing sudden duty swift and sure
On all that heap of untrustworthiness —
Catching each vaunter of the villany
He meant to perpetrate when time was ripe,
Once the Head-servant fairly out of doors, —
And, caging here a knave and there a fool,
Cry "Mistress of the servants, these and me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! I, their trusty Head,
Pounce on a pretty scheme concocting here
That's stopped, extinguished by my vigilance.
Your property is safe again: but mark!
Safe in these hands, not yours, who lavish trust
Too lightly. Leave my hands their charge awhile!
I know your business better than yourself:
Let me alone about it! Some fine day,
Once we are rid of the embarrassment,
You shall look up and see your longings crowned!"
Such fancy may have tempted to be false,
But this man chose truth and was wiser so.
He recognized that for great minds i' the world
There is no trial like the appropriate one
Of leaving little minds their liberty
Of littleness to blunder on through life,
Now, aiming at right end by foolish means.
Now, at absurd achievement through the aid
Of good and wise means: trial to acquiesce
In folly's life-long privilege — though with power
To do the little minds the good they need,
Despite themselves, by just abolishing
Their right to play the part and fill the place
I' the scheme of things He schemed who made alike
Great minds and little minds, saw use for each.
Could the orb sweep those puny particles
It just half-lights at distance, hardly leads
I' the leash — sweep out each speck of them from space
They anticize in with their days and nights
And whirlings round and dancings off, forsooth,
And all that fruitless individual life
One cannot lend a beam to but they spoil —
Sweep them into itself and so, one star,
Preponderate henceforth i' the heritage
Of heaven! No! in less senatorial phrase.
The man endured to help, not save outright
The multitude by substituting him
For them, his knowledge, will and way, for God's:
Not change the world, such as it is, and was
And will be, for some other, suiting all
Except the purpose of the maker. No!
He saw that weakness, wickedness will be,
And therefore should be: that the perfect man
As we account perfection — at most pure
0' the special gold, whate'er the form it take,
Head-work or heart-work, fined and thrice-refined
I' the crucible of life, whereto the powers
Of the refiner, one and all, were flung
To feed the flame their utmost, — e'en that block.
He holds out breathlessly triumphant, — breaks
Into some poisonous ore, its opposite.
At the very purest, so compensating
The Adversary — what if we believe?
For earlier stern exclusion of his stuff.
See the sage, with the hunger for the truth,
And see his system that's all true, except
The one weak place that's stanchioned by a lie!
The moralist, that walks with head erect
I' the crystal clarity of air so long.
Until a stumble, and the man's one mire!
Philanthropy undoes the social knot
With axe-edge, makes love room 'twixt head and trunk!
Religion — but, enough, the thing's too clear!
Well, if these sparks break out i' the greenest tree.
Our topmost of performance, yours and mine,
AVhat will be done i' the dry ineptitude
Of ordinary mankind, Ipark and bole.
All seems ashamed of but their mother-earth?
Therefore throughout his term of servitude
He did the appointed service, and forbore
Extraneous action that were duty else,
Done by some other servant, idle now
Or mischievous: no matter, each his own —
Own task, and, in the end, own praise or blame!
He suffered them strut, prate and brag their best.
Squabble at odds on every point save one,
And there shake hands, — agree to trifle time,
Obstruct advance with, each, his cricket-cry
"Wait till the Head be off the shoulders here!
Then comes my King, my Pope, my Autocrat,
My Socialist Republic to her own —
To-wit, that property of only me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau who conceits herself
Free, forsooth, and expects I keep her so!"
— Nay, suffered when, perceiving with dismay
His silence paid no tribute to their noise,
They turned on him. "Dumb menace in that mouth,
Malice in that unstridulosity!
He cannot but intend some stroke of state
Shall signalize his passage into peace
Out of the creaking, — hinder transference
O' the Hohenstielers-Schwangauese to king.
Pope, autocrat, or socialist republic! That's
Exact the cause his lips unlocked would cry!
Therefore be stirring: brave, beard, bully him!
Dock, by the million, of its friendly joints,
The electoral body short at once! who did,
May do again, and undo us beside.
Wrest from his hands the sword for self-defence,
The right to parry any thrust in play
We peradventure please to meditate!"
And so forth; creak, creak, creak: and ne'er a line
His locked mouth oped the wider, till at last
O' the long degraded and insulting day,
Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time.
Then he addressed himself to speak indeed
To the fools, not knaves: they saw him walk straight down
Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged,
And stand at last o' the level, — all he swore.
"People, and not the people's varletry,
This is the task you set myself and these!
Thus I performed my part of it, and thus
They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here:
Study each instance! yours the loss, not mine.
What they intend now is demonstrable
As plainly: here's such man, and here's such mode
Of making you some other than the thing
You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be,
And only set him up to keep you so.
Do you approve this? Yours the loss, not mine.
Do you condemn it? There's a remedy.
Take me — who know your mind, and mean your good,
With clearer head and stouter arm than they,
Or you, or haply anybody else —
And make me master for the moment! Choose
What time, what power you trust me with: I too
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself
With time and power: they must be adequate
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours
If means be wanting; once their worth approved,
Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate —
Ponder it well! — to the extremest stretch
0' the power you trust me: if with unsuccess,
God wills it, and there's nobody to blame."
Whereon the people answered with a shout
"The trusty one! no tricksters any more!"
How could they other? He was in his place.
What followed? Just what he foresaw, what proved
The soundness of both judgments, — his, o' the knaves
And fools, each trickster with his dupe, — and theirs
The people, in what head and arm should help.
There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled,
Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith!
Heavily did he let his fist fall plumb
On each perturber of the public peace,
No matter whose the wagging head it broke —
From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence
Of night-hawk at first cliance to prowl and prey
For glory and a little gain beside,
Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age, —
To florid head-top, foamy patriotism
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare
Thro' confidence in rectitude, with hand
On private pistol in the pocket: these
And all the dupes of these, who lent themselves
As dust and feather do, to help offence
O' the wind that whirls them at you, then subsides
In safety somewhere, leaving filth afloat,
Annoyance you may brush from eyes and beard, —
These he stopped: bade the wind's spite howl or whine
Its worst outside the building, wind conceives
Meant to be pulled together and become
Its natural playground so. What foolishness
Of dust or feather proved importunate
And fell 'twixt thumb and finger, found them gripe
To detriment of bulk and buoyancy.
Then followed silence and submission. Next,
The inevitable comment came on work
And work's cost; he was censured as profuse
Of human life and liberty: too swift
And thorough his procedure, who had lagged
At the outset, lost the opportunity
Through timid scruples as to right and wrong.
"There's no such certain mark of a small mind"
(So did Sagacity explain the fault)
"As when it needs must square away and sink
To its own small dimensions, private scale
Of right and wrong, — humanity i' the large,
The right and wrong of the universe, forsooth!
This man addressed himself to guard and guide
Hohenstiel-Schwangau. When the case demands
He frustrate villany in the egg, unhatched,
With easy stamp and minimum of pang
E'en to the punished reptile, 'There's my oath
Restrains my foot,' objects our guide and guard,
'I must leave guardianship and guidance now:
Rather than stretch one handbreadth of the law,
I am bound to see it break from end to end.
First show me death i' the body politic:
Then prescribe pill and potion, what may please
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! all is for her sake:
'T was she ordained my service should be so.
What if the event demonstrate her unwise,
If she unwill the thing she willed before?
I hold to the letter and obey the bond
And leave her to perdition loyally.'
Whence followed thrice the expenditure we blame
Of human life and liberty: for want
O' the by-blow, came deliberate butcher's-work!"
"Elsewhere go carry your complaint!" bade he.
"Least, largest, there's one law for all the minds,
Here or above: be true at any price!
'T is just o' the great scale, that such happy stroke
Of falsehood would be found a failure. Truth
Still stands unshaken at her base by me,
Reigns paramount i' the world, for the large good
O' the long late generations, — I and you
Forgotten like this buried foohshness!
Not so the good I rooted in its grave."
This is why he refused to break his oath,
Rather appealed to the people, gained the power
To act as he thought best, then used it, once
For all, no matter what the consequence
To knaves and fools. As thus began his sway,
So, through its twenty years, one rule of right
Sufficed him: govern for the many first,
The poor mean multitude, all mouths and eyes:
Bid the few, better favoured in the brain,
Be patient, nor presume on privilege.
Help him, or else be quiet, — never crave
That he help them, — increase, forsooth, the gulf
Yawning so terribly 'twixt mind and mind
I' the world here, which his purpose was to block
At bottom, were it by an inch, and bridge,
If by a filament, no more, at top,
Equalize things a little! And the way
He took to work that purpose out, was plain
Enough to intellect and honesty
And — superstition, style it if you please,
So long as you allow there was no lack
O' the quality imperative in man —
Reverence. You see deeper? thus saw he,
And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
Was he to do his part? the man's, with might
And main, and not a faintest touch of fear
Sure he was in the hand of God who comes
Before and after, with a work to do
Which no man helps nor hinders. Thus the man,
So timid when the business was to touch
The uncertain order of humanity,
Imperil, for a problematic cure
Of grievance on the surface, any good
I' the deep of things, dim yet discernible —
This same man, so irresolute before,
Show him a true excrescence to cut sheer,
A devil's-graft on God's foundation-stone,
Then — no complaint of indecision more!
He wrenched out the whole canker, root and branch,
Deaf to who cried the world would tumble in
At its four corners if he touched a twig.
Witness that lie of lies, arch-infamy.
When the Republic, with all life involved
In just this law — "Each people rules itself
Its own way, not as any stranger please" —
Turned, and for first proof she was living, bade
Hohenstiel-Schwangau fasten on the throat
Of the first neighbour that claimed benefit
O' the law herself established: "Hohenstiel
For Hohenstielers! Rome, by parity
Of reasoning, for Romans? That 's a jest
Wants proper treatment, — lancet-puncture suits
The proud flesh: Rome ape Hohenstiel forsooth!"
And so the siege and slaughter and success
Whereof we nothing doubt that Hohenstiel
Will have to pay the price, in God's good time,
Which does not always fall on Saturday
When the world looks for wages. Any how.
He found this infamy triumphant. Well, —
Sagacity suggested, make this speech!
"The work was none of mine: suppose wrong wait,
Stand over for redressing? Mine for me,
My predecessors' work on their own head!
Meantime, there's plain advantage, should we leave
Things as we find them. Keep Rome manacled
Hand and foot: no fear of unruliness!
Her foes consent to even seem our friends
So long, no longer. Then, there's glory got
I' the boldness and bravado to the world.
The disconcerted world must grin and bear
The old saucy writing, — 'Grunt thereat who may,
So shall things be, for such my pleasure is —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau.' How that reads in Rome
I' the Capitol where Brennus broke his pate!
And what a flourish for our journalists!"
Only, it was nor read nor flourished of,
Since, not a moment did such glory stay
Excision of the canker! Out it came,
Root and branch, with much roaring, and some blood,
And plentiful abuse of him from friend
And foe. Who cared? Not Nature, that assuaged
The pain and set the patient on his legs
Promptly: the better! had it been the worse,
'T is Nature you must try conclusions with,
Not he, since nursing canker kills the sick
For certain, while to cut may cure, at least.
"Ah," groaned a second time Sagacity,
"Again the little mind, precipitate,
Rash, rude, when even in the right, as here!
The great mind knows the power of gentleness,
Only tries force because persuasion fails.
Had this man, by prelusive trumpet-blast,
Signified 'Truth and Justice mean to come.
Nay, fast approach your threshold! Ere they knock,
See that the house be set in order, swept
And garnished, windows shut, and doors thrown wide!
The free State comes to visit the free Church:
Receive her! or . . or . . never mind what else!'
Thus moral suasion heralding brute force,
How had he seen the old abuses die,
And new life kindle here, there, everywhere.
Roused simply by that mild yet potent spell —
Beyond or beat of drum or stroke of sword —
"How, indeed?" he asked,
"When all to see, after some twenty years,
Were your own fool-face waiting for the sight.
Faced by as wide a grin from ear to ear
O' the knaves that, while the fools were waiting, worked —
Broke yet another generation's heart —
Twenty years' respite helping! Teach your nurse
'Compliance with, before you suck, the teat!'
Find what that means, and meanwhile hold your tongue!"
Whereof the war came which he knew must be.
Now, this had proved the dry-rot of the race
He ruled o'er, that, in the old day, when was need
They fought for their own liberty and life,
Well did they fight, none better: whence, such love
Of fighting somehow still for fighting's sake
Against no matter whose the liberty
And life, so long as self-conceit should crow
And clap the wing, while justice sheathed her claw, —
That what had been the glory of the world
When thereby came the world's good, grew its plague
Now that the champion-armour, donned to dare
The dragon once, was clattered up and down
Highway and by-path of the world at peace,
Merely to mask marauding, or for sake
O' the shine and rattle that apprized the fields
Hohenstiel-Schwangau was a fighter yet.
And would be, till the weary world suppressed
A peccant humour out of fashion now.
Accordingly the world spoke plain at last.
Promised to punish who next played with fire.
So, at his advent, such discomfiture
Taking its true shape of beneficence,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, half-sad and part-wise,
Sat: if with wistful eye reverting oft
To each pet weapon rusty on its peg,
Yet, with a sigh of satisfaction too
That, peacefulness become the law, herself
Got the due share of godsends in its train,
Cried shame and took advantage quietly.
Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, — clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, —
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday — "War is best,
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will —
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody's expense in life or limb:
Which done, — let peace succeed and last a year!"
Such devil's-doctrine was so judged God's law,
We say, when this man stepped upon the stage,
That it had seemed a venial fault at most
Had he once more obeyed Sagacity.
"You come i' the happy interval of peace,
The favourable weariness from war:
Prolong it! — artfully, as if intent
On ending peace as soon as possible.
Quietly so increase the sweets of ease
And safety, so employ the multitude.
Put hod and trowel so in idle hands.
So stuff and stop the wagging jaws with bread.
That selfishness shall surreptitiously
Do wisdom's office, whisper in the ear
Of Hohenstiel-Schwangau, there's a pleasant feel
In being gently forced down, pinioned fast
To the easy arm-chair by the pleading arms
O' the world beseeching her to there abide
Content with all the harm done hitherto,
And let herself be petted in return,
Free to re-wage, in speech and prose and verse,
The old unjust wars, nay — in verse and prose
And speech, — to vaunt new victories, as vile
A plague o' the future, — so that words suffice
For present comfort, and no deeds denote
That, — tired of illimitable line on line
Of boulevard-building, tired o' the theatre
With the tuneful thousand in their thrones above.
For glory of the male intelligence.
And Nakedness in her due niche below,
For illustration of the female use —
She, 'twixt a yawn and sigh, prepares to slip
Out of the arm-chair, wants some blood again
From over the boundary, to colour-up
The sheeny sameness, keep the world aware
Hohenstiel-Schwangau must have exercise
Despite the petting of the universe!
Come, you're a city-builder: what's the way
Wisdom takes when time needs that she entice
Some fierce tribe, castled on the mountain-peak,
Into the quiet and amenity
O' the meadow-land below? By crying 'Done
With fight now, down with fortress?' Rather — 'Dare
On, dare ever, not a stone displaced!'
Cries Wisdom, 'Cradle of our ancestors.
Be bulwark, give our children safety still!
Who of our children please, may stoop and taste
O' the valley-fatness, unafraid, — for why?
At first alarm, they have thy mother-ribs
To run upon for refuge; foes forget
Scarcely what Terror on her vantage-coigne,
Couchant supreme among the powers of air,
Watches — prepared to pounce — the country wide!
Meanwhile the encouraged valley holds its own,
From the first hut's adventure in descent.
Half home, half hiding place, — to dome and spire
Befitting the assured metropolis:
Nor means offence to the fort which caps the crag,
All undismantled of a turret-stone,
And bears the banner-pole that creaks at times
Embarrassed by the old emblazonment,
When festal days are to commemorate.
Otherwise left untenanted, no doubt,
Since, never fear, our myriads from below
Would rush, if needs were, man the walls once more.
Renew the exploits of the earlier time
At moment's notice! But till notice sound,
Inhabit we in ease and opulence!'
And so, till one day thus a notice sounds,
Not trumpeted, but in a whisper-gust
Fitfully playing through mute city streets
At midnight weary of day's feast and game —
'Friends, your famed fort's a ruin past repair!
Its use is — to proclaim it had a use
Stolen away long since. Climb to study there
How to paint barbican and battlement
I' the scenes of our new theatre! We fight
Now — by forbidding neighbours to sell steel
Or buy wine, not by blowing out their brains!
Moreover, while we let time sap the strength
O' the walls omnipotent in menace once,
Neighbours would seem to have prepared surprise —
Run up defences in a mushroom-growth,
For all the world like what we boasted: brief —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau's policy is peace!' "
Ay, so Sagacity advised him filch
Folly from fools: handsomely substitute
The dagger o' lath, while gay they sang and danced
For that long dangerous sword they liked to feel,
Even at feast-time, clink and make friends start.
No! he said "Hear the truth, and bear the truth,
And bring the truth to bear on all you are
And do, assured that only good comes thence
Whate'er the shape good take! While I have rule.
Understand! — war for war's sake, war for the sake
O' the good war gets you as war's sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, — in this paraded shame, —
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, —
Because there has been silence half-an-hour,
Like Heaven on earth, without a cannon-shot
Are minded to disturb the jubilee, —
Because the loud tradition echoes faint,
And who knows but posterity may doubt
If the great deeds were ever done at all,
Much less believe, were such to do again,
So the event would follow: therefore, prove
The old power, at the expense of somebody!
Oh, Glory, — gilded bubble, bard and sage
So nickname rightly, — would thy dance endure
One moment, would thy mocking make believe
Only one upturned eye thy ball was gold,
Had'st thou less breath to buoy thy vacancy
Than a whole multitude expends in praise,
Less range for roaming than from head to head
Of a whole people? Flit, fall, fly again,
Only, fix never where the resolute hand
May prick thee, prove the lie thou art, at once!
Give me real intellect to reason with,
No multitude, no entity that apes
One wise man, being but a million fools!
How and whence wishest glory, thou wise one?
Would'st get it, — did'st thyself guide Providence, —
By stinting of his due each neighbour round
In strength and knowledge and dexterity
So as to have thy littleness grow large
By all those somethings, once, turned nothings, now,
As children make a molehill mountainous
By scooping out the plain into a trench
And saving so their favourite from approach?
Quite otherwise the cheery game of life.
True yet mimetic warfare, whereby man
Does his best with his utmost, and so ends
The victor most of all in fair defeat.
Who thinks, — would he have no one think beside?
Who knows, who does, — must other learning die
And action perish? Why, our giant proves
No better than a dwarf, with rivalry
Prostrate around him. 'Let the whole race stand
And try conclusions fairly!' he cries first.
Show me the great man would engage his peer
Rather by grinning 'Cheat, thy gold is brass!'
Than granting 'Perfect piece of purest ore!
Still, is it less good mintage, this of mine?'
Well, and these right and sound results of soul
I' the strong and healthy one wise man, — shall such
Be vainly sought for, scornfully renounced
I' the multitude that make the entity —
The people? — to what purpose, if no less.
In power and purity of soul, below
The reach of the unit than, in multiplied
Might of the body, vulgarized the more,
Above, in thick and threefold brutishness?
See! you accept such one wise man, myself:
Wiser or less wise, still I operate
From my own stock of wisdom, nor exact
Of other sort of natures you admire.
That whoso rhymes a sonnet pays a tax,
Who paints a landscape dips brush at his cost,
Who scores a septett true for strings and wind
Mulcted must be — else how should I impose
Properly, attitudinize aright,
Did such conflicting claims as these divert
Hohenstiel-Schwangau from observing me?
Therefore, what I find facile, you be sure,
With effort or without it, you shall dare —
You, I aspire to make my better self
And truly the Great Nation. No more war
For war's sake, then! and, — seeing, wickedness
Springs out of folly, — no more foolish dread
O' the neighbour waxing too inordinate
A rival, through his gain of wealth and ease!
What? — keep me patient, Powers! — the people here,
Earth presses to her heart, nor owns a pride
Above her pride i' the race all flame and air
And aspiration to the boundless Great,
The incommensurably Beautiful —
Whose very faulterings groundward come of flight
Urged by a pinion all too passionate
For heaven and what it holds of gloom and glow:
Bravest of thinkers, bravest of the brave
Doers, exalt in Science, rapturous
In Art, the — more than all — magnetic race
To fascinate their fellows, mould mankind
Hohenstiel-Schwangau-fashion, — these, what? — these
Will have to abdicate their primacy
Should such a nation sell them steel untaxed,
And such another take itself, on hire
For the natural sen'night, somebody for lord
Unpatronized by me whose back was turned?
Or such another yet would fain build bridge,
Lay rail, drive tunnel, busy its poor self
With its appropriate fancy: so there's — flash —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau up in arms at once!
Genius has somewhat of the infantine:
But of the childish, not a touch nor taint
Except through self-will, which, being foolishness,
Is certain, soon or late, of punishment.
Which Providence avert! — and that it may
Avert what both of us would so deserve.
No foolish dread o' the neighbour, I enjoin!
By consequence, no wicked war with him,
While I rule!
Does that mean — no war at all
When just the wickedness I here proscribe
Comes, haply, from the neighbour? Does my speech
Precede the praying that you beat the sword
To plough-share, and the spear to pruning-hook.
And sit down henceforth under your own vine
And fig-tree through the sleepy summer month,
Letting what hurly-burly please explode
On the other side the mountain-frontier? No,
Beloved! I foresee and I announce
Necessity of warfare in one case,
For one cause: one way, I bid broach the blood
O' the world. For truth and right, and only right
And truth, — right, truth, on the absolute scale of God,
No pettiness of man's admeasurement, —
In such case only, and for such one cause,
Fight your hearts out, whatever fate betide
Hands energetic to the uttermost!
Lie not! Endure no lie which needs your heart
And hand to push it out of mankind's path —
No lie that lets the natural forces work
Too long ere lay it plain and pulverized —
Seeing man's life lasts only twenty years!
And such a lie, before both man and God,
Being, at this time present, Austria's rule
O'er Italy, — for Austria's sake the first,
Italy's next, and our sake last of all.
Come with me and deliver Italy!
Smite hip and thigh until the oppressor leave
Free from the Adriatic to the Alps
The oppressed one! We were they who laid her low
In the old bad day when Villany braved Truth
And Right, and laughed 'Henceforward, God deposed,
The Devil is to rule for evermore
I' the world!' — whereof to stop the consequence,
And for atonement of false glory there
Gaped at and gabbled over by the world,
We purpose to get God enthroned again
For what the world will gird at as sheer shame
I' the cost of blood and treasure. 'All for naught —
Not even, say, some patch of province, splice
O' the frontier? — some snug honorarium-fee
Shut into glove and pocketed apace?'
(Questions Sagacity) 'in deference
To the natural susceptibility
Of folks at home, unwitting of that pitch
You soar to, and misdoubting if Truth, Right
And the other such augustnesses repay
Expenditure in coin o' the realm, — but prompt
To recognize the cession of Savoy
And Nice as marketable value!' No,
Sagacity, go preach to Metternich,
And, sermon ended, stay where he resides I
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, you and I must march
The other road! war for the hate of war,
Not love, this once!" So Italy was free.
What else noteworthy and commendable
I' the man's career? — that he was resolute
No trepidation, much less treachery
On his part, should imperil from its poise
The ball o' the world, heaved up at such expense
Of pains so far, and ready to rebound,
Let but a finger maladroitly fall,
Under pretence of making fast and sure
The inch gained by late volubility,
And run itself back to the ancient rest
At foot o' the mountain. Thus he ruled, gave proof
The world had gained a point, progressive so,
By choice, this time, as will and power concurred,
0' the fittest man to rule; not chance of birth,
Or such-like dice-throw. Oft Sagacity
Was at his ear: "Confirm this clear advance,
Support this wise procedure! You, elect
O' the people, mean to justify their choice
And out-king all the kingly imbeciles;
But that's just half the enterprise: remains
You find them a successor like yourself,
In head and heart and eye and hand and aim,
Or all done's undone; and whom hope to mould
So like you as the pupil Nature sends,
The son and heir's completeness which you lack?
Lack it no longer! Wed the pick o' the world,
Where'er you think you find it. Should she be
A queen, — tell Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
'So do the old enthroned decrepitudes
Acknowledge, in the rotten hearts of them,
Their knell is knolled, they hasten to make peace
With the new order, recognize in me
Your right to constitute what king you will.
Cringe therefore crown in hand and bride on arm,
To both of us: we triumph, I suppose!'
Is it the other sort of rank? — bright eye,
Soft smile, and so forth, all her queenly boast?
Undaunted the exordium — 'I, the man
O' the people, with the people mate myself:
So stand, so fall. Kings, keep your crowns and brides!
Our progeny (if Providence agree)
Shall live to tread the baubles underfoot
And bid the scarecrows consort with their kin.
For son, as for his sire, be the free wife
In the free state!' "
That is. Sagacity
Would prop up one more lie, the most of all
Pernicious fancy that the son and heir
Receives the genius from the sire, himself
Transmits as surely, — ask experience else!
Which answers, — never was so plain a truth
As that God drops his seed of heavenly flame
Just where He wills on earth: sometimes where man
Seems to tempt — such the accumulated store
Of faculties — one spark to fire the heap;
Sometimes where, fire-ball-like, it falls upon
The naked unpreparedness of rock,
Burns, beaconing the nations through their night.
Faculties, fuel for the flame? All helps
Come, ought to come, or come not, crossed by chance,
From culture and transmission. What's your want
I' the son and heir? Sympathy, aptitude.
Teachableness, the fuel for the flame?
You'll have them for your pains: but the flame's self,
The novel thought of God shall light the world?
No, poet, though your offspring rhyme and chime
I' the cradle, — painter, no, for all your pet
Draws his first eye, beats Salvatore's boy, —
And thrice no, statesman, should your progeny
Tie bib and tucker with no tape but red,
And make a foolscap-kite of protocols!
Critic and copyist and bureaucrat
To heart's content! The seed o' the apple-tree
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
'T is the great gardener grafts the excellence
On wildings where he will.
"How plain I view,
Across those misty years 'twixt me and Rome " —
(Such the man's answer to Sagacity)
The little wayside temple, halfway down
To a mild river that makes oxen white
Miraculously, un-mouse-colours hide,
Or so the Roman country people dream!
I view that sweet small shrub-embedded shrine
On the declivity, was sacred once
To a transmuting Genius of the land,
Could touch and turn its dunnest natures bright,
— Since Italy means the Land of the Ox, we know.
Well, how was it the due succession fell
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool
Calm fane o' the Clitumnian god? The sire
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout,
Endowed instinctively with good and grace
To suit the gliding gentleness below —
Did he? Tradition tells another tale.
Each priest obtained his predecessor's staff,
Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly.
By springing out of ambush, soon or late.
And slaying him: the initiative rite
Simply was murder, save that murder took,
I' the case, another and religious name.
So it was once, is now, shall ever be
With genius and its priesthood in this world:
The new power slays the old — but handsomely.
There he lies, not diminished by an inch
Of stature that he graced the altar with.
Though somebody of other bulk and build
Cries 'What a goodly personage lies here
Reddening the water where the bulrush roots!
May I conduct the service in his place.
Decently and in order, as did he,
And, as he did not, keep a wary watch
When meditating 'neath a willow shade!'
Find out your best man, sure the son of him,
Will prove best man again, and, better still
Somehow than best, the grandson-prodigy!
You think the world would last another day
Did we so make us masters of the trick
Whereby the works go, we could pre-arrange
Their play and reach perfection when we please?
Depend on it, the change and the surprise
Are part o' the plan: 't is we wish steadiness;
Nature prefers a motion by unrest,
Advancement through this force that jostles that.
And so, since much remains i' the world to see.
Here is it still, affording God the sight."
Thus did the man refute Sagacity,
Ever at this one whisper in his ear:
"Here are you picked out, by a miracle,
And placed conspicuously enough, folks say
And you believe, by Providence outright
Taking a new way — nor without success —
To put the world upon its mettle: good!
But Fortune alternates with Providence;
Resource is soon exhausted. Never count
On such a happy hit occurring twice!
Try the old method next time!"
(At whisper in his ear, the laugh outbroke)
"And most discredited of all the modes
By just the men and women who make boast
They are kings and queens thereby! Mere self-defence
Should teach them, on one chapter of the law
Must be no sort of trifling — chastity:
They stand or fall, as their progenitors
Were chaste or unchaste. Now, run eye around
My crowned acquaintance, give each life its look
And no more, — why, you'd think each life was led
Purposely for example of what pains
Who leads it took to cure the prejudice.
And prove there's nothing so unproveable
As who is who, what son of what a sire,
And, — inferentially, — how faint the chance
That the next generation needs to fear
Another fool o' the selfsame type as he
Happily regnant now by right divine
And luck o' the pillow! No: select your lord
By the direct employment of your brains
As best you may, — bad as the blunder prove,
A far worse evil stank beneath the sun
When some legitimate blockhead managed so
Matters that high time was to interfere,
Though interference came from hell itself
And not the blind mad miserable mob
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck
And divine right, — by lies in short, not truth.
And meanwhile use the allotted minute . . . "
Two, three, four, five — yes, five the pendule warns!
Eh? Why, this wild work wanders past all bound
And bearing! Exile, Leicester-square, the life
I' the old gay miserable time, rehearsed,
Tried on again like cast clothes, still to serve
At a pinch, perhaps? "Who's who?" was aptly asked,
Since certainly I am not I! since when?
Where is the bud-mouthed arbitress? A nod
Out-Homering Homer! Stay — there flits the clue
I fain would find the end of! Yes, — "Meanwhile,
Use the allotted minute!" Well, you see,
(Veracious and imaginary Thiers,
Who map out thus the life I might have led,
But did not, — all the worse for earth and me —
Doff spectacles, wipe pen, shut book, decamp!)
You see 't is easy in heroics! Plain
Pedestrian speech shall help me perorate.
Ah, if one had no need to use the tongue!
How obvious and how easy 't is to talk
Inside the soul, a ghostly dialogue —
Instincts with guesses, — instinct, guess, again
With dubious knowledge, half-experience: each
And all the interlocutors alike
Subordinating, — as decorum bids,
Oh, never fear! but still decisively, —
Claims from without that take too high a tone,
— ("God wills this, man wants that, the dignity
Prescribed a prince would wish the other thing") —
Putting them back to insignificance
Beside one intimatest fact — myself
Am first to be considered, since I live
Twenty years longer and then end, perhaps!
But, where one ceases to soliloquize,
Somehow the motives, that did well enough
I' the darkness, when you bring them into light
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye
And organ for the upper magnitudes.
The other common creatures, of less fine
Existence, that acknowledge earth and heaven,
Have it their own way in the argument.
Yes, forced to speak, one stoops to say — one's aim
Was — what it peradventure should have been; —
To renovate a people, mend or end
That bane come of a blessing meant the world —
Inordinate culture of the sense made quick
By soul, — the lust o' the flesh, lust of the eye,
And pride of life, — and, consequent on these,
The worship of that prince o' the power o' the air
Who paints the cloud and fills the emptiness
And bids his votaries, famishing for truth.
Feed on a lie.
Alack, one lies oneself
Even in the stating that one's end was truth,
Truth only, if one states as much in words!
Give me the inner chamber of the soul
For obvious easy argument! 't is there
One pits the silent truth against a lie —
Truth which breaks shell a careless simple bird,
Nor wants a gorget nor a beak filed fine,
Steel spurs and the whole armoury o' the tongue,
To equalize the odds. But, do your best,
Words have to come: and somehow words deflect
As the best cannon ever rifled will.
"Deflect" indeed! nor merely words from thoughts
But names from facts: "Clitumnus" did I say?
As if it had been his ox-whitening wave
Whereby folk practised that grim cult of old —
The murder of their temple's priest by who
Would qualify for his succession. Sure —
Nemi was the true lake's style. Dream had need
Of the ox-whitening piece of prettiness
And so confused names, well known once awake.
So, i' the Residenz yet, not Leicester-square,
Alone, — no such congenial intercourse! —
My reverie concludes, as dreaming should,
With daybreak: nothing done and over yet,
Except cigars! The adventure thus may be,
Or never needs to be at all: who knows?
My Cousin-Duke, perhaps, at whose hard head
— Is it, now — is this letter to be launched,
The sight of whose grey oblong, whose grim seal,
Set all these fancies floating for an hour?
Twenty years are good gain, come what come will!
Double or quits! The letter goes! Or stays?
A Small Butterfly To The Size And Shape Of Your Lips
there is this faint
red butterfly fluttering
hopping from one petal to another
in my garden
it is so beautiful and so soft to the sight
so fragile and so tender
lighter than a feather
as gentle as a baby's breath
it lands on my hand and then on my lips
i stand still
close my eyes
and wish that this moment shall last forever.
i am thinking of you.
The Fog (Story)
The fog moved slowly across the ground
Like a cat on the prowl.
Everything was as quiet as can be
Not even a rustle in the trees.
Out of the mist she walked slowly towards me
Her eyes was the only thing that I could see.
They glowed like lanterns in the night
My heart jumped - my mind took flight.
So many thoughts going thru my head
Am I alive or am I dead?
What is this that I am seeing
Or is my mind playing tricks
And having me believe it.
As she came closer she started to take
An hour glass shape, and all dressed
Up in black pants, blouse, boots
And black cape.
Was I to die? Was this my fate?
Her eyes black as her outfit and hypnotic
As can be, and the softness of her voice
'You look like you've seen a ghost' she said
I looked at her eyes then bowed my head.
She was the most beautiful woman that
I had ever seen or ever met
But something about her that I couldn't
Figure out yet.
Then the thought came to me ' vampire diary'.
I knew that this was only a movie, and no such
Thing exists. 'but' - what if?
I did not hear her heels as she walked up to me
And her eyes as big as can be, taking full control of me.
I felt my body go limp as I lost my self in her eyes
Then she licked her lips, and I felt I was paralyzed.
She took my face in her hands and kissed me OH SO TENDERLY
And in her arms was where I wanted to be.
Her lips like the taste of wine warming my every being
This was all that I was seeing.
She unbuttoned my shirt and started kissing my chest
Then I felt her climb up to my neck.
Her breath so hot that it sent chills down my spine
To last me till the ends of time.
She kissed me again and her tongue went deep inside
To a point that I wanted to cry,
She pulled away then looked at me
And opened her mouth very wide
AND THEN IT HAPPENED! I woke up!
Ha Ha hope you liked the ending.
Never Alone With A Candle
Never alone with a candle
a firefly in a valley,
a star above the hill,
is your seeing less beautiful
than that stranger in the mirror
who takes you by surprise?
Can you hear your eyes
your eyes your eyes your eyes
falling like rain
on the plectra of the flowers?
Is that a coffin or a harpsichord?
Scarlatti playing the columbine
or the midnight requiem
of a dolorous pine longing
for a nightbird that never comes?
I can sense you count yourself
a dandelion among delphiniums,
a brown star without solar flare,
a moon with a complexion of coral,
and even from here I can hear
that happy bell you wear
like your heart on your sleeve
to let people know you’re coming,
and either fake it or leave.
Fashionable mirages of make-believe.
Black roses of mascara
with comets for eyebrows,
their noses stuck up in the air
like the wrong end of a telescope.
Born this crude ore of a man
what can I know of a woman’s feelings
moving around inside of me at night
like underground rivers of gold?
But, sweetness, if I were to guess,
there are stones much more lustrous,
more polished, more shapely
than even the linghams and yonis,
unenlightened cosmic eggs
with nothing inside to reveal,
no stars, no jewels, no chandeliers
of sad insights into dark mirrors
of what’s inconceivably real
and what’s merely the fossil
of an extinct species of fish
trying to swim through brimstone.
Does the sea envy its waves
because its ambient eyelashes
aren’t long enough to paint
a black velvet masterpiece
signed by a cosmetic line
of flash in the pan movie stars?
Isn’t it enough the moonlight
adorns your eyelids like a lake?
I haven’t touched a woman’s breasts yet
when I didn’t feel like a sailor
lost at sea without a lifeboat
in an ocean of heaving roses.
And I’ve slept with enough women
to know beauty isn’t only skin deep.
Sometimes it’s a shipwreck on the bottom.
Sometimes it’s a blood diamond
on the black market of a cheap eclipse
that bleeds out like haemorrhaging slaves.
Sometimes it raves like Medusa
at the snakepit of a hairdo in the mirror
that turns her reluctant heroes into stone.
You weep for this? You curse your body
your lips, your nose, your legs, your thighs,
the white-out of your smile, your eyes,
your hands for not being doves,
your hair because it doesn’t flow
like long blonde tresses of honey
from a hive of killer bees,
because you don’t think
you can please Adam well enough
with the apple you hold out to tempt him?
Ask Majnun about Laila,
it’s not the goblet, it’s the wine inside,
and from what I know of night and desire,
I’ve never met a man
who wouldn’t drink from his own skull
just to taste it like a mirage in an hourglass
or a message in a bottle on the moon.
Don’t judge the potency of the elixir
by the popularity of the flower
it’s taken from like a love potion
nor the strength of the poison
by the dowdiness of the snake.
And I don’t say this waxing insincerely
like the false dawn of a consolation
for something you’re austerely missing.
You’re not a nun among flowers
about to take vows
of silence and celibacy
because you don’t know how
to attract bees to your cult of one.
You’re not a black mass
with a rose petal on your tongue
instead of the thorn of the moon.
Why do you desecrate
the vases and urns of the wildflowers
that bloom like New England asters
in the starfields of your windowless room
like the prophetic heads of the dead
because they’re not sunflowers
or waterlilies and wild irises
in full bloom along the banks
of your cresting mindstream?
Why do you pass the hours
snuffing fireflies out in your tears
like a constellation of match heads
on the sill of a broken windowpane
in a misbegotten house
of a wayward zodiac for rogue stars?
You’re not a calendar of scars
marking time with razorblades
on the bone of your wrist
like some Neanderthal
who’s just discovered time
because there’s no view of you
scenic enough to cut out and save
that isn’t nicked by crescent moons.
Have you not seen the envy
in the eyes of those first magnitude
fixed stars showcased
on a starmap, jewels under glass,
butterflies pierced through the thorax
for the garishness of their wings?
Take a look for yourself.
Do you not see
how deeply they envy
the beauty and freedom of fireflies
who’ve gotten off the grid?
It’s not just the light that’s beautiful,
it’s what it shines upon as well.
That’s how the flowers talk to the stars
in the same universal language.
Not as lesser avatars of shining
but as one beauty to another
in an alphabet of loveletters
they leave unsigned, unaddressed,
for anyone who wants
to walk in the moonlight awhile
neither in nor out of style,
as beautiful in their own skin
as the auroral silks of the northern lights
or the moon a vaudeville stripper peeping
through the boas of the clouds
when that’s all she’s wearing
like a changeable wind, a radiant sky
revealing and veiling simultaneously
the bright vacancy of one side
and the dark abundance of the other
more intriguing face
she’s turned away from.
The one you can easily see
on the other side of your own eyes
when you turn the light around
and let the mirrors labour to perfect
the artless beauty of their reflections
by imitating you like a ballet
in the feathered death mask of a swan
learning to move with the beauty and grace
of someone flowing
like a river on the moon,
a white Taj Mahal reflecting
the pale towers of a torch
that burns like stars and lilies
in the black waters of its dark opposite.
Ask any Luna moth at the window.
it’s not the shape, colour, scent
of the votive candles or fragrant lamps
you’ve devoted to your solitude
that draws them in out of the night.
It’s the intensity of the light
that summons them to you like seance.
Ghosts, poets, lovers, artists all alike.
The way things are here, not
as they seem to appear and disappear
like fireflies in a mirror
but as they are and will ever be
the translucency of stars by night
the clarity of flowers by day,
the sun shining at midnight,
the moon keeping its shadows a secret
from the occult powers of noon,
all the beautiful shapeshifters,
all the moody chameleons,
each with a face of their own
as unique and revealing as the universe.
In every dropp of water
the depth of the sky
as in every tear an eye
that can see straight through you
to the beauty within
when you’re as easy on yourself
as a starfish on the moon
a dolphin with stage fright
on the catwalk of the stars
changing wardrobes like weather,
night seas of habitable planets
wholly at home in the mindscapes
of their luminous atmospheres,
their immaculate waterskins,
as they are in the rags of those mirages
you keep drowning your radiance in.
A constellation in the desert
that’s underwhelming itself
by forgetting that fire knows
how to swim in the deep end
of shadows on the moon
like the flame of a candle or a goldfish
even you for all your tears,
your weeping willow chandeliers,
your wishing wells, your watersheds,
your shaded windows, your broken mirrors,
the torn nets of those dreamcatchers
you gouged the eyes out of
like semi-precious jewels
that didn’t measure up to diamonds.
Even you, for all you relinquish
of your native beauty to comparisons
with the costume jewellery of other eyes
than your own, try as you might
to unfeather the plumage of the moon
you could never extinguish,
you could never eclipse or blow out,
no more than you can hold a mirror
up to the dead like a portrait of smoke
and convince them beyond
the shadow of an unreasonable doubt
it’s a simulacrum of your solitude,
though it looks nothing like you
sitting alone by a candle in the nude.
Going Through A Dark Time
Going through a dark time. Antares, the red ant,
the bitter berry in the heart of Scorpio. Why not
blame it on the stars? How could they deny it?
Living penumbrally in the eclipse of a celestial body.
I want to paint my first old rusty bike that I found
languishing under the neighbour's stairs, its
deflated tires, spider looms and jinxed prayer wheels
that hadn't turned for years, want to paint it
with model airplane enamels again and run
a perfect red stripe down the middle of a black fender
gleaming like anthracite in the blue-yellow sun.
How many worlds away I am from that pure moment.
Dark in my heart, gnawing on the skulls of dragons
that have finally become like the moon
that's never known rain, a frozen watershed
in a locket of ice and no light bulb in the well.
I'm striding down the corridors of a well-polished hell
and I'm turning the portraits of my heroes toward the wall.
Why not? I've got no use for their eyes anymore.
I've drained the lies out of the samples of their deaths.
I've chewed the flavour out of what it was they had to teach.
I've trashed my best features in dangerous neighbourhoods.
I've broken my own brain like bread with them,
offered them my blood like a rose with teeth
and watched them evaporate like stars in the sun
as if they never really knew they had my devotion.
What I made of them to set my own potential an example.
Something unattainable to aspire to
so I would be sure to lose as they did
preferring a brilliant failure to a mediocre triumph.
I think the quality of a human is a direct function
of the depth of their suffering. And I loved the ones
who cried out so beautifully in their agony
the night birds didn't dare lift their tiny voices
up again for fear of being put to shame
for the pettiness of their desire. Or the wolves
ever howl at the moon again without being aware
of the absurdity of their longing for an old stone.
I have danced barefoot on the splinters
of the winter chandeliers that brought the trees down
like a palace of tears in a brutal ice storm.
I've heard the Pleiades crash like silverware
all over the ground of a botched burglary
and seen the junkies run like collapsed veins
to pick the spoons up like fences and crows.
Going through a dark time. The shamans
are dying in the treetops from the shock
of what they had to see and live to be
if they wanted to die thoroughly back into life again,
apprenticed to their own foreseeable pain like savage healers.
Winged serpents angered by the humiliation of the flesh
like a rose too beautiful not to be abused
by those who desecrate life out of their own self-hatred
that they are possessed by what they despise the most
and beauty will have nothing to do with their power
that isn't forced, or broken, or garbaged.
The mirrors of the spirit freak and flake away
from the ideals of their silver lining in horror.
Funny how you can come to look upon
even the most passionate of loveletters
with the eyes of a three hundred million year old reptile
as if life could not be borne any other way than as a thorn
through the heart of a voodoo doll
that cursed the good in life for the passing of it.
What have I not buried in this desert of stars
as if one night I would be able to come back to it
and ask it what it dreamed of in my absence?
To see if the afterlife of a mirage tasted
like water, blood, or wine, or more real than death,
the tears of someone who had aged into understanding
when the windows that looked out on life
like a valence of silicon dioxide slow down
like glaciers of glass, and the mirrors speed up
as if they were running out of time for reflection.
Ask a man what he misses the most and listen to the echo
of how long it takes to reach his ears and if
there's an ocean in his eyes he drowns in
and I'll reintroduce you to someone you already know
talking to themselves in the dark to keep from going mad.
Who toys with the smiles of their approaching assassins
like the slash of a snake's mouth breaking into blossom?
Life is the puncture wound of the staple
that was meant to mend it like a bridge
that sat cross-legged on a lotus in meditation.
And it's easy enough to look at the fireflies after a storm
and the stars so out of touch with the world as it is
you long for the innocence of the childhood distances
you traversed every night you crawled out of your sleep
to approach the mystery of your own solitude
like an estranged familiar calling you to come alone
to the furthest extremes of the night and beyond.
Going through a dark time. Too many gates.
Too many doors. Too many worn thresholds
Too many threadbare carpets under the one-sided window.
Too many dead birds killed by a lack of transparency.
And still, I refuse the blindfold when I'm standing
in front of a firing squad of stars
armed with the latest telescopes.
I've always been one of those who prided myself
upon my strength to see it coming from afar off
and stare at my own death in the third eye of it.
And what monument could you possibly raise
befitting someone who made exile and rebellion
the two monolithic cornerstones of their life
if not a rogue planet beyond the reach of gravity
looking for a star they could thrive in the light of
without the slightest shadow of ulterior spontaneity?
Going through a dark time. I will not put my eyes out
by turning up the light on what befalls me,
as if there were something I could save myself from.
I will eat every detail of the pain and not waste
one unmarrowed bone of it. I will consume it whole
like a prophet in the belly of the whale, make the message
flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, and then
I'll spit it out like a bullet I pulled out of my heart
with my teeth, my soul, the elegance of my desolation.
I'll make key chains for the blind out of spite
and striate the rocks of this cold prison with the runes
of the horned ones who linger here with me.
I'll be a mile-high corrective lens of ice
and putting one hand over my third eye
I'll read the writing on the wall from memory
and renounce every sacred syllable of it like heretic
that thrives on fire, that scatters his ashes in triumph
and feathers the wind like a gnostic phoenix
with gospels of my own where there's not one imperative.
Pain demands my obedience, threatens to break me.
I smash myself on the rocks like an empty wine goblet
and say, you can break what remains. You can grind
me down to dust, if you like, you can step over me
like Spinoza lying down in the threshold of the synagogue
to atone for what he opened the world's eyes up to,
but my vision of life, though a squall of stars, remains my own
and the seeing isn't in my eyes, and the one who suffers
isn't in chains, nor the door locked on my heart
for fear of the night, for fear of turning to stone
when I look the snake pit in the eye with a microscope,
and observe the minutiae of the heart's addictive attention to detail.
Though every word be a thorn through my tongue,
Yet will I sing of the agony of lemons and roses
bleeding on the razorwire in No Man's Land for mercy,
and those compelled by the whips of circumstance
to dance themselves to death because it amuses the cripples,
and the little, amoebic man who never amounted to anything
and his wife who has aged like salt in a conquered city
still thinking she's a garden ornament, I will sing
in the name of what even the worst must endure,
just to set this methane moon afire in the darkness
like a furnace in an abandoned school of unregenerate clowns.
Going through a dark time. A rite of ordeals,
the brutal pit of the mystery you can break your teeth on
like a koan or an iron-nickel tektite in Antarctica
to get at the life inside your own panspermic mind.
I should happily break my flesh like bread upon the waters
for the fish and the birds, and save the life
of an unworthy man from drowning
like bad meat in a well, or lose
my own precarious foothold on the precipice of an abyss
that humbles me to the point of no return. I should do this
for the thought-trains of the birds that shall come after me
high and late at night through the bars of my longing,
yearning to return to my ancestral homelessness
like a wandering planet that doesn't give off any light of its own
but shines with life, despite the odds, shines
tenaciously with life through all these transformations
I take on like a river in its own running,
pouring myself out of one life wholly into another
like an igneous fireclock on the nightshift
that keeps adding more carbon to my steel.
Going through a dark time, I will not suffer
this passage passively like smoke, I will not plead
to abstract my senses from reality to deaden the pain
or thin my blood with holy water from a dirty fountain.
This dark child of my life shall not be an orphan.
I will not disown the pain, I will not drive
myself out into the wilderness like a scapegoat
to wash the soot off the temple I cry in
though they were my doves that were stained
in their own blood in the name of a useless sacrifice
to a unity that includes as much of separation
as of love that welds a stronger bond
that doesn't scar the spirit, or dull the eyes,
or deaden the tongue to the taste of the stars
on the lips of the people who pass through our lives
like thresholds on their way to somewhere else
than this palatial homelessness we dwell in alone
throwing boundary stones like asteroids through the mirrors
just to keep things abundantly clear and open between us.
Going through a dark time. Swimming through a tar pit.
Another doorway without an exit or an entrance.
Another keel-hauling on the hull of the moon
trying to maintain discipline aboard a shipwreck.
And the unbearable sadness that crushes your heart
like a pop can in the depths of an unrevealing ocean.
Your face is a skin graft on a burn victim.
People reach out for you, but only with their hands
when there's nothing at all, nothing at all to grasp
of what has already come and gone for good or bad,
who can tell? I'm centered like rain in my falling.
And there's something vaguely radioactive about the way
I glow in the dark, though there are dozens of dead fireflies
on my windowsill that dropped like exhausted stars.
I move into the available dimension of a future
that hasn't won my confidence, and the past
is the burnt foundation of a crack house in the zodiac
cooking rocks like a meteor shower with its radiant
in the eyes of everyone I meet who's trying to shoot the stars out.
Going through a dark time. A bardo state. Nirvanic doubt.
The new moon no brighter than the last eclipse.
I hear the disembodied thunder of my amplified heart
making its way toward me like an enlightened storm front.
I've always chosen the hardest teachers to ignore
and where the road divides, I've gone both ways at once
just to give my earthbound guides a chance of a wishbone
to find their way back on their own by following
the choices they made to get here like an avalanche.
I'm as effortless about my despair as I am about bliss.
I treat them both as if they were none of my business.
The birds and apples come to this rootless tree
of their own accord and the tree does not protest
the unleaving of an earthly excellence
that blossomed awhile in the human heart and was gone.
A windfall of loss. The dead flower frosted with winter stars
in a dream where the waterclocks are frozen in time
and this is perfect and that is perfect and if you take
perfect from perfect, it's still as perfect as it was then
and as it is now and shall be tomorrow.
I watch the moonrise without breathless aspirations.
I observe the sunset without lingering disappointments.
What I have received in joy, I will not deceive in sorrow.
Now being on the eve of death, discharged
From every mortal hope and earthly care,
I questioned how my soul might best employ
This hand, and this still wakeful flame of mind,
In the brief hours yet left me for their use;
Wherefore have I bethought me of my friend,
Of you, Philarchus, and your company,
Yet wavering in the faith and unconfirmed;
Perchance that I may break into thine heart
Some sorrowful channel for the love divine,
I make this simple record of our proof
In diverse sufferings for the name of Christ,
Whereof the end already for the most
Is death this day with steadfast faith endured.
We were in prison many days, close-pent
In the black lower dungeon, housed with thieves
And murderers and divers evil men;
So foul a pressure, we had almost died,
Even there, in struggle for the breath of life
Amid the stench and unendurable heat;
Nor could we find each other save by voice
Or touch, to know that we were yet alive,
So terrible was the darkness. Yea, 'twas hard
To keep the sacred courage in our hearts,
When all was blind with that unchanging night,
And foul with death, and on our ears the taunts
And ribald curses of the soldiery
Fell mingled with the prisoners' cries, a load
Sharper to bear, more bitter than their blows.
At first, what with that dread of our abode,
Our sudden apprehension, and the threats
Ringing perpetually in our ears, we lost
The living fire of faith, and like poor hinds
Would have denied our Lord and fallen away.
Even Perpetua, whose joyous faith
Was in the later holier days to be
The stay and comfort of our weaker ones,
Was silent for long whiles. Perchance she shrank
In the mere sickness of the flesh, confused
And shaken by our new and horrible plight--
The tender flesh, untempered and untried,
Not quickened yet nor mastered by the soul;
For she was of a fair and delicate make,
Most gently nurtured, to whom stripes and threats
And our foul prison-house were things undreamed.
But little by little as our spirits grew
Inured to suffering, with clasped hands, and tongues
That cheered each other to incessant prayer,
We rose and faced our trouble: we recalled
Our Master's sacred agony and death,
Setting before our eyes the high reward
Of steadfast faith, the martyr's deathless crown.
So passed some days whose length and count we lost,
Our bitterest trial. Then a respite came.
One who had interest with the governor
Wrought our removal daily for some hours
Into an upper chamber, where we sat
And held each other's hands in childish joy,
Receiving the sweet gift of light and air
With wonder and exceeding thankfulness.
And then began that life of daily growth
In mutual exaltation and sweet help
That bore us as a gently widening stream
Unto the ocean of our martyrdom.
Uniting all our feebler souls in one--
A mightier--we reached forth with this to God.
Perpetua had been troubled for her babe,
Robbed of the breast and now these many days
Wasting for want of food; but when that change
Whereof I spake, of light and liberty
Relieved the horror of our prison gloom,
They brought it to her, and she sat apart,
And nursed and tended it, and soon the child
Would not be parted from her arms, but throve
And fattened, and she kept it night and day.
And always at her side with sleepless care
Hovered the young Felicitas--a slight
And spiritual figure--every touch and tone
Charged with premonitory tenderness,
Herself so near to her own motherhood.
Thus lightened and relieved, Perpetua
Recovered from her silent fit. Her eyes
Regained their former deep serenity,
Her tongue its gentle daring; for she knew
Her life should not be taken till her babe
Had strengthened and outgrown the need of her.
Daily we were amazed at her soft strength,
Her pliant and untroubled constancy,
Her smiling, soldierly contempt of death,
Her beauty and the sweetness of her voice.
Her father, when our first few bitterest days
Were over, like a gust of grief and rage,
Came to her in the prison with wild eyes,
And cried: 'How mean you, daughter, when you say
You are a Christian? How can any one
Of honoured blood, the child of such as me,
Be Christian? 'Tis an odious name, the badge
Only of outcasts and rebellious slaves!'
And she, grief-touched, but with unyielding gaze,
Showing the fulness of her slender height:
'This vessel, father, being what it is,
An earthen pitcher, would you call it thus?
Or would you name it by some other name?'
'Nay, surely,' said the old man, catching breath,
And pausing, and she answered: 'Nor can I
Call myself aught but what I surely am--
A Christian!' and her father, flashing back
In silent anger, left her for that time.
A special favour to Perpetua
Seemed daily to be given, and her soul
Was made the frequent vessel of God's grace,
Wherefrom we all, less gifted, sore athirst,
Drank courage and fresh joy; for glowing dreams
Were sent her, full of forms august, and fraught
With signs and symbols of the glorious end
Whereto God's love hath aimed us for Christ's sake.
Once--at what hour I know not, for we lay
In that foul dungeon, where all hours were lost,
And day and night were indistinguishable--
We had been sitting a long silent while,
Some lightly sleeping, others bowed in prayer,
When on a sudden, like a voice from God,
Perpetua spake to us and all were roused.
Her voice was rapt and solemn: 'Friends,' she said,
'Some word hath come to me in a dream. I saw
A ladder leading to heaven, all of gold,
Hung up with lances, swords, and hooks. A land
Of darkness and exceeding peril lay
Around it, and a dragon fierce as hell
Guarded its foot. We doubted who should first
Essay it, but you, Saturus, at last--
So God hath marked you for especial grace--
Advancing and against the cruel beast
Aiming the potent weapon of Christ's name--
Mounted, and took me by the hand, and I
The next one following, and so the rest
In order, and we entered with great joy
Into a spacious garden filled with light
And balmy presences of love and rest;
And there an old man sat, smooth-browed, white-haired,
Surrounded by unnumbered myriads
Of spiritual shapes and faces angel-eyed,
Milking his sheep; and lifting up his eyes
He welcomed us in strange and beautiful speech,
Unknown yet comprehended, for it flowed
Not through the ears, but forth-right to the soul,
God's language of pure love. Between the lips
Of each he placed a morsel of sweet curd;
And while the curd was yet within my mouth,
I woke, and still the taste of it remains,
Through all my body flowing like white flame,
Sweet as of some immaculate spiritual thing.'
And when Perpetua had spoken, all
Were silent in the darkness, pondering,
But Saturus spake gently for the rest:
'How perfect and acceptable must be
Your soul to God, Perpetua, that thus
He bends to you, and through you speaks his will.
We know now that our martyrdom is fixed,
Nor need we vex us further for this life.'
While yet these thoughts were bright upon our souls,
There came the rumour that a day was set
To hear us. Many of our former friends,
Some with entreaties, some with taunts and threats,
Came to us to pervert us; with the rest
Again Perpetua's father, worn with care;
Nor could we choose but pity his distress,
So miserably, with abject cries and tears,
He fondled her and called her 'Domina,'
And bowed his aged body at her feet,
Beseeching her by all the names she loved
To think of him, his fostering care, his years,
And also of her babe, whose life, he said,
Would fail without her; but Perpetua,
Sustaining by a gift of strength divine
The fulness of her noble fortitude,
Answered him tenderly: 'Both you and I,
And all of us, my father, at this hour
Are equally in God's hands, and what he wills
Must be'; but when the poor old man was gone
She wept, and knelt for many hours in prayer,
Sore tried and troubled by her tender heart.
One day, while we were at our midday meal,
Our cell was entered by the soldiery,
And we were seized and borne away for trial.
A surging crowd had gathered, and we passed
From street to street, hemmed in by tossing heads
And faces cold or cruel; yet we caught
At moments from masked lips and furtive eyes
Of friends--some known to as and some unknown--
Many veiled messages of love and praise.
The floorways of the long basilica
Fronted us with an angry multitude;
And scornful eyes and threatening foreheads frowned
In hundreds from the columned galleries.
We were placed all together at the bar,
And though at first unsteadied and confused
By the imperial presence of the law,
The pomp of judgment and the staring crowd,
None failed or faltered; with unshaken tongue
Each met the stern Proconsul's brief demand
In clear profession. Rapt as in a dream,
Scarce conscious of my turn, nor how I spake,
I watched with wondering eyes the delicate face
And figure of Perpetua; for her
We that were youngest of our company
Loved with a sacred and absorbing love,
A passion that our martyr's brotherly vow
Had purified and made divine. She stood
In dreamy contemplation, slightly bowed,
A glowing stillness that was near a smile
Upon her soft closed lips. Her turn had come,
When, like a puppet struggling up the steps,
Her father from the pierced and swaying crowd
Appeared, unveiling in his aged arms
The smiling visage of her babe. He grasped
Her robe, and strove to draw her down. All eyes
Were bent upon her. With a softening glance,
And voice less cold and heavy with death's doom,
The old Proconsul turned to her and said:
'Lady, have pity on your father's age;
Be mindful of your tender babe; this grain
Of harmless incense offer for the peace
And welfare of the Emperor'; but she,
Lifting far forth her large and noteless eyes,
As one that saw a vision, only said:
'I cannot sacrifice'; and he, harsh tongued,
Bending a brow upon her rough as rock,
With eyes that struck like steel, seeking to break
Or snare her with a sudden stroke of fear:
'Art thou a Christian?' and she answered, 'Yea,
I am a Christian!' In brow-blackening wrath
He motioned a contemptuous hand and bade
The lictors scourge the old man down and forth
With rods, and as the cruel deed was done,
Perpetua stood white with quivering lips,
And her eyes filled with tears. While yet his cries
Were mingling with the curses of the crowd,
Hilarianus, calling name by name,
Gave sentence, and in cold and formal phrase
Condemned us to the beasts, and we returned
Rejoicing to our prison. Then we wished
Our martyrdom could soon have followed, not
As doubting for our constancy, but some
Grew sick under the anxious long suspense.
Perpetua again was weighed upon
By grief and trouble for her babe, whom now
Her father, seeking to depress her will,
Withheld and would not send it; but at length
Word being brought her that the child indeed
No longer suffered, nor desired the breast,
Her peace returned, and, giving thanks to God,
All were united in new bonds of hope.
Now being fixed in certitude of death,
We stripped our souls of all their earthly gear,
The useless raiment of this world; and thus,
Striving together with a single will,
In daily increment of faith and power,
We were much comforted by heavenly dreams,
And waking visitations of God's grace.
Visions of light and glory infinite
Were frequent with us, and by night or day
Woke at the very name of Christ the Lord,
Taken at any moment on our lips;
So that we had no longer thought or care
Of life or of the living, but became
As spirits from this earth already freed,
Scarce conscious of the dwindling weight of flesh.
To Saturus appeared in dreams the space
And splendour of the heavenly house of God,
The glowing gardens of eternal joy,
The halls and chambers of the cherubim,
In wreaths of endless myriads involved
The blinding glory of the angel choir,
Rolling through deeps of wheeling cloud and light
The thunder of their vast antiphonies.
The visions of Perpetua not less
Possessed us with their homely tenderness--
As one, wherein she saw a rock-set pool
And weeping o'er its rim a little child,
Her brother, long since dead, Dinocrates:
Though sore athirst, he could not reach the stream,
Being so small, and her heart grieved thereat.
She looked again, and lo! the pool had risen,
And the child filled his goblet, and drank deep,
And prattling in a tender childish joy
Ran gaily off, as infants do, to play.
By this she knew his soul had found release
From torment, and had entered into bliss.
Quickly as by a merciful gift of God,
Our vigil passed unbroken. Yesternight
They moved us to the amphitheatre,
Our final lodging-place on earth, and there
We sat together at our agape
For the last time. In silence, rapt and pale,
We hearkened to the aged Saturus,
Whose speech, touched with a ghostly eloquence,
Canvassed the fraud and littleness of life,
God's goodness and the solemn joy of death.
Perpetua was silent, but her eyes
Fell gently upon each of us, suffused
With inward and eradiant light; a smile
Played often upon her lips.
While yet we sat,
A tribune with a band of soldiery
Entered our cell, and would have had us bound
In harsher durance, fearing our escape
By fraud or witchcraft; but Perpetua,
Facing him gently with a noble note
Of wonder in her voice, and on her lips
A lingering smile of mournful irony:
'Sir, are ye not unwise to harass us,
And rob us of our natural food and rest?
Should ye not rather tend us with soft care,
And so provide a comely spectacle?
We shall not honour Caesar's birthday well,
If we be waste and weak, a piteous crew,
Poor playthings for your proud and pampered beasts.'
The noisy tribune, whether touched indeed,
Or by her grave and tender grace abashed,
Muttered and stormed a while, and then withdrew.
The short night passed in wakeful prayer for some,
For others in brief sleep, broken by dreams
And spiritual visitations. Earliest dawn
Found us arisen, and Perpetua,
Moving about with smiling lips, soft-tongued,
Besought us to take food; lest so, she said,
For all the strength and courage of our hearts,
Our bodies should fall faint. We heard without,
Already ere the morning light was full,
The din of preparation, and the hum
Of voices gathering in the upper tiers;
Yet had we seen so often in our thoughts
The picture of this strange and cruel death,
Its festal horror, and its bloody pomp,
The nearness scarcely moved us, and our hands
Met in a steadfast and unshaken clasp.
The day is over. Ah, my friend, how long
With its wild sounds and bloody sights it seemed!
Night comes, and I am still alive--even I,
The least and last--with other two, reserved
To grace to-morrow's second day. The rest
Have suffered and with holy rapture passed
Into their glory. Saturus and the men
Were given to bears and leopards, but the crowd
Feasted their eyes upon no cowering shape,
Nor hue of fear, nor painful cry. They died
Like armed men, face foremost to the beasts,
With prayers and sacred songs upon their lips.
Perpetua and the frail Felicitas
Were seized before our eyes and roughly stripped,
And shrinking and entreating, not for fear,
Nor hurt, but bitter shame, were borne away
Into the vast arena, and hung up
In nets, naked before the multitude,
For a fierce bull, maddened by goads, to toss.
Some sudden tumult of compassion seized
The crowd, and a great murmur like a wave
Rose at the sight, and grew, and thundered up
From tier to tier, deep and imperious:
So white, so innocent they were, so pure:
Their tender limbs so eloquent of shame;
And so our loved ones were brought back, all faint,
And covered with light raiment, and again
Led forth, and now with smiling lips they passed
Pale, but unbowed, into the awful ring,
Holding each other proudly by the hand.
Perpetua first was tossed, and her robe rent,
But, conscious only of the glaring eyes,
She strove to hide herself as best she could
In the torn remnants of her flimsy robe,
And putting up her hands clasped back her hair,
So that she might not die as one in grief,
Unseemly and dishevelled. Then she turned,
And in her loving arms caressed and raised
The dying, bruised Felicitas. Once more
Gored by the cruel beast, they both were borne
Swooning and mortally stricken from the field.
Perpetua, pale and beautiful, her lips
Parted as in a lingering ecstasy,
Could not believe the end had come, but asked
When they were to be given to the beasts.
The keepers gathered round her--even they--
In wondering pity--while with fearless hand,
Bidding us all be faithful and stand firm,
She bared her breast, and guided to its goal
The gladiator's sword that pierced her heart.
The night is passing. In a few short hours
I too shall suffer for the name of Christ.
A boundless exaltation lifts my soul!
I know that they who left us, Saturus,
Perpetua, and the other blessed ones,
Await me at the opening gates of heaven.