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Innocence & Guilt

INNOCENCE, as its defined,
Is a state of being free.
Freedom from evil deeds,
A life of purity.

It doesn’t cause another pain,
Nor strive to offend.
Innocence is blameless,
No harm does it intend.

In it there is no malice,
Within no darkness hides.
Sin has never breached it,
No evil there resides.

GUILT is more than acquainted
With causing an offence.
Its where the blame is found,
For it has no defense.

Its selfish in it’s actions,
Caring not for consequence.
While every word of flattery
Is simply a pretense.

It enjoys creating trouble,
Where there’s crime, you’ll find it there.
It is searching for a victim,
Let the innocent beware.

© S.E.S

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Related quotes

Thoughts Deeds Life Lived Values

who are we
what have we
life become

if still beautiful
both in and out
of our seal skin

beauty is skin deep
or beauty is deep skin
penetrates to heart

of matter we are
thoughts deeds
life lived values

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V. Count Guido Franceschini

Thanks, Sir, but, should it please the reverend Court,
I feel I can stand somehow, half sit down
Without help, make shift to even speak, you see,
Fortified by the sip of … why, 't is wine,
Velletri,—and not vinegar and gall,
So changed and good the times grow! Thanks, kind Sir!
Oh, but one sip's enough! I want my head
To save my neck, there's work awaits me still.
How cautious and considerate … aie, aie, aie,
Nor your fault, sweet Sir! Come, you take to heart
An ordinary matter. Law is law.
Noblemen were exempt, the vulgar thought,
From racking; but, since law thinks otherwise,
I have been put to the rack: all's over now,
And neither wrist—what men style, out of joint:
If any harm be, 't is the shoulder-blade,
The left one, that seems wrong i' the socket,—Sirs,
Much could not happen, I was quick to faint,
Being past my prime of life, and out of health.
In short, I thank you,—yes, and mean the word.
Needs must the Court be slow to understand
How this quite novel form of taking pain,
This getting tortured merely in the flesh,
Amounts to almost an agreeable change
In my case, me fastidious, plied too much
With opposite treatment, used (forgive the joke)
To the rasp-tooth toying with this brain of mine,
And, in and out my heart, the play o' the probe.
Four years have I been operated on
I' the soul, do you see—its tense or tremulous part—
My self-respect, my care for a good name,
Pride in an old one, love of kindred—just
A mother, brothers, sisters, and the like,
That looked up to my face when days were dim,
And fancied they found light thereno one spot,
Foppishly sensitive, but has paid its pang.
That, and not this you now oblige me with,
That was the Vigil-torment, if you please!
The poor old noble House that drew the rags
O' the Franceschini's once superb array
Close round her, hoped to slink unchallenged by,—
Pluck off these! Turn the drapery inside out
And teach the tittering town how scarlet wears!
Show men the lucklessness, the improvidence
Of the easy-natured Count before this Count,
The father I have some slight feeling for,
Who let the world slide, nor foresaw that friends
Then proud to cap and kiss their patron's shoe,
Would, when the purse he left held spider-webs,
Properly push his child to wall one day!
Mimic the tetchy humour, furtive glance,
And brow where half was furious, half fatigued,
O' the same son got to be of middle age,
Sour, saturnine,—your humble servant here,—
When things go cross and the young wife, he finds
Take to the window at a whistle's bid,
And yet demurs thereon, preposterous fool!—
Whereat the worthies judge he wants advice
And beg to civilly ask what's evil here,
Perhaps remonstrate on the habit they deem
He's given unduly to, of beating her:
… Oh, sure he beats her—why says John so else,
Who is cousin to George who is sib to Tecla's self
Who cooks the meal and combs the lady's hair?
What! 'T is my wrist you merely dislocate
For the future when you mean me martyrdom?
Let the old mother's economy alone,
How the brocade-strips saved o' the seamy side
O' the wedding-grown buy raiment for a year?
—How she can dress and dish up—lordly dish
Fit for a duke, lamb's head and purtenance—
With her proud hands, feast household so a week?
No word o' the wine rejoicing God and man
The less when three-parts water? Then, I say,
A trifle of torture to the flesh, like yours,
While soul is spared such foretaste of hell-fire,
Is naught. But I curtail the catalogue
Through policy,—a rhetorician's trick,—
Because I would reserve some choicer points
O' the practice, more exactly parallel
(Having an eye to climax) with what gift,
Eventual grace the Court may have in store
I' the way of plague—what crown of punishments.
When I am hanged or headed, time enough
To prove the tenderness of only that,
Mere heading, hanging,—not their counterpart,
Not demonstration public and precise
That I, having married the mongrel of a drab,
Am bound to grant that mongrel-brat, my wife,
Her mother's birthright-license as is just,—
Let her sleep undisturbed, i' the family style,
Her sleep out in the embraces of a priest,
Nor disallow their bastard as my heir!
Your sole mistake,—dare I submit so much
To the reverend Court?—has been in all this pains
To make a stone roll down hill,—rack and wrench
And rend a man to pieces, all for what?
Why—make him ope mouth in his own defence,
Show cause for what he has done, the irregular deed,
(Since that he did it, scarce dispute can be)
And clear his fame a little, beside the luck
Of stopping even yet, if possible,
Discomfort to his flesh from noose or axe—
For that, out come the implements of law!
May it content my lords the gracious Court
To listen only half so patient-long
As I will in that sense profusely speak,
And—fie, they shall not call in screws to help!
I killed Pompilia Franceschini, Sirs;
Killed too the Comparini, husband, wife,
Who called themselves, by a notorious lie,
Her father and her mother to ruin me.
There's the irregular deed: you want no more
Than right interpretation of the same,
And truth so far—am I to understand?
To that then, with convenient speed,—because
Now I consider,—yes, despite my boast,
There is an ailing in this omoplat
May clip my speech all too abruptly short,
Whatever the good-will in me. Now for truth!

I' the name of the indivisible Trinity!
Will my lords, in the plenitude of their light,
Weigh well that all this trouble has come on me
Through my persistent treading in the paths
Where I was trained to go,—wearing that yoke
My shoulder was predestined to receive,
Born to the hereditary stoop and crease?
Noble, I recognized my nobler still,
The Church, my suzerain; no mock-mistress, she;
The secular owned the spiritual: mates of mine
Have thrown their careless hoofs up at her call
"Forsake the clover and come drag my wain!"
There they go cropping: I protruded nose
To halter, bent my back of docile beast,
And now am whealed, one wide wound all of me,
For being found at the eleventh hour o' the day
Padding the mill-track, not neck-deep in grass:
—My one fault, I am stiffened by my work,
—My one reward, I help the Court to smile!

I am representative of a great line,
One of the first of the old families
In Arezzo, ancientest of Tuscan towns.
When my worst foe is fain to challenge this,
His worst exception runs—not first in rank
But second, noble in the next degree
Only; not malice' self maligns me more.
So, my lord opposite has composed, we know,
A marvel of a book, sustains the point
That Francis boasts the primacy 'mid saints;
Yet not inaptly hath his argument
Obtained response from yon my other lord
In thesis published with the world's applause
—Rather 't is Dominic such post befits:
Why, at the worst, Francis stays Francis still,
Second in rank to Dominic it may be,
Still, very saintly, very like our Lord;
And I at least descend from Guido once
Homager to the Empire, nought below—
Of which account as proof that, none o' the line
Having a single gift beyond brave blood,
Or able to do aught but give, give, give
In blood and brain, in house and land and cash,
Not get and garner as the vulgar may,
We became poor as Francis or our Lord.
Be that as it likes you, Sirs,—whenever it chanced
Myself grew capable anyway of remark,
(Which was soon—penury makes wit premature)
This struck me, I was poor who should be rich
Or pay that fault to the world which trifles not
When lineage lacks the flag yet lifts the pole:
On, therefore, I must move forthwith, transfer
My stranded self, born fish with gill and fin
Fit for the deep sea, now left flap bare-backed
In slush and sand, a show to crawlers vile
Reared of the low-tide and aright therein.
The enviable youth with the old name,
Wide chest, stout arms, sound brow and pricking veins,
A heartful of desire, man's natural load,
A brainful of belief, the noble's lot,—
All this life, cramped and gasping, high and dry
I' the wave's retreat,—the misery, good my lords,
Which made you merriment at Rome of late,—
It made me reason, rather—muse, demand
—Why our bare dropping palace, in the street
Where such-an-one whose grandfather sold tripe
Was adding to his purchased pile a fourth
Tall tower, could hardly show a turret sound?
Why Countess Beatrice, whose son I am,
Cowered in the winter-time as she spun flax,
Blew on the earthen basket of live ash,
Instead of jaunting forth in coach and six
Like such-another widow who ne'er was wed?
I asked my fellows, how came this about?
"Why, Jack, the suttler's child, perhaps the camp's,
"Went to the wars, fought sturdily, took a town
"And got rewarded as was natural.
"She of the coach and six—excuse me there!
"Why, don't you know the story of her friend?
"A clown dressed vines on somebody's estate,
"His boy recoiled from muck, liked Latin more,
"Stuck to his pen and got to be a priest,
"Till one day … don't you mind that telling tract
"Against Molinos, the old Cardinal wrote?
"He penned and dropped it in the patron's desk
"Who, deep in thought and absent much of mind,
"Licensed the thing, allowed it for his own;
"Quick came promotion,—suum cuique, Count!
"Oh, he can pay for coach and six, be sure!"
"—Well, let me go, do likewise: war's the word
"That way the Franceschini worked at first,
"I'll take my turn, try soldiership."—"What, you?
"The eldest son and heir and prop o' the house,
"So do you see your duty? Here's your post,
"Hard by the hearth and altar. (Roam from roof,
"This youngster, play the gipsy out of doors,
"And who keeps kith and kin that fall on us?)
"Stand fast, stick tight, conserve your gods at home!"
"—Well then, the quiet course, the contrary trade!
"We had a cousin amongst us once was Pope,
"And minor glories manifold. Try the Church,
"The tonsure, and,—since heresy's but half-slain
"Even by the Cardinal's tract he thought he wrote,—
"Have at Molinos!"—"Have at a fool's head!
"You a priest? How were marriage possible?
"There must be Franceschini till time ends—
"That's your vocation. Make your brothers priests,
"Paul shall be porporate, and Girolamo step
"Red-stockinged in the presence when you choose,
"But save one Franceschini for the age!
"Be not the vine but dig and dung its root,
"Be not a priest but gird up priesthood's loins,
"With one foot in Arezzo stride to Rome,
"Spend yourself there and bring the purchase back!
"Go hence to Rome, be guided!"

So I was.
I turned alike from the hill-side zig-zag thread
Of way to the table-land a soldier takes,
Alike from the low-lying pasture-place
Where churchmen graze, recline and ruminate,
—Ventured to mount no platform like my lords
Who judge the world, bear brain I dare not brag—
But stationed me, might thus the expression serve,
As who should fetch and carry, come and go,
Meddle and make i' the cause my lords love most—
The public weal, which hangs to the law, which holds
By the Church, which happens to be through God himself.
Humbly I helped the Church till here I stand,—
Or would stand but for the omoplat, you see!
Bidden qualify for Rome, I, having a field,
Went, sold it, laid the sum at Peter's foot:
Which means—I settled home-accounts with speed,
Set apart just a modicum should suffice
To hold the villa's head above the waves
Of weed inundating its oil and wine,
And prop roof, stanchion wall o' the palace so
As to keep breath i' the body, out of heart
Amid the advance of neighbouring loftiness—
(People like building where they used to beg)—
Till succoured one day,—shared the residue
Between my mother and brothers and sisters there,
Black-eyed babe Donna This and Donna That,
As near to starving as might decently be,
—Left myself journey-charges, change of suit,
A purse to put i' the pocket of the Groom
O' the Chamber of the patron, and a glove
With a ring to it for the digits of the niece
Sure to be helpful in his household,—then
Started for Rome, and led the life prescribed.
Close to the Church, though clean of it, I assumed
Three or four orders of no consequence,
—They cast out evil spirits and exorcise,
For example; bind a man to nothing more,
Give clerical savour to his layman's-salt,
Facilitate his claim to loaf and fish
Should miracle leave, beyond what feeds the flock,
Fragments to brim the basket of a friend—
While, for the world's sake, I rode, danced and gamed,
Quitted me like a courtier, measured mine
With whatsoever blade had fame in fence,
—Ready to let the basket go its round
Even though my turn was come to help myself,
Should Dives count on me at dinner-time
As just the understander of a joke
And not immoderate in repartee.
Utrique sic paratus, Sirs, I said,
"Here," (in the fortitude of years fifteen,
So good a pedagogue is penury)
"Here wait, do service,—serving and to serve!
"And, in due time, I nowise doubt at all,
"The recognition of my service comes.
"Next year I'm only sixteen. I can wait."

I waited thirty years, may it please the Court:
Saw meanwhile many a denizen o' the dung
Hop, skip, jump o'er my shoulder, make him wings
And fly aloft,—succeed, in the usual phrase.
Everyone soon or late comes round by Rome:
Stand still here, you'll see all in turn succeed.
Why, look you, so and so, the physician here,
My father's lacquey's son we sent to school,
Doctored and dosed this Eminence and that,
Salved the last Pope his certain obstinate sore,
Soon bought land as became him, names it now:
I grasp bell at his griffin-guarded gate,
Traverse the half-mile avenue,—a term,
A cypress, and a statue, three and three,—
Deliver message from my Monsignor,
With varletry at lounge i' the vestibule
I'm barred from who bear mud upon my shoe.
My father's chaplain's nephew, Chamberlain,—
Nothing less, please you!—courteous all the same,
—He does not see me though I wait an hour
At his staircase-landing 'twixt the brace of busts,
A noseless Sylla, Marius maimed to match,
My father gave him for a hexastich
Made on my birthday,—but he sends me down,
To make amends, that relic I prize most—
The unburnt end o' the very candle, Sirs,
Purfled with paint so prettily round and round,
He carried in such state last Peter's-day,—
In token I, his gentleman and squire,
Had held the bridle, walked his managed mule
Without a tittup the procession through.
Nay, the official,—one you know, sweet lords!—
Who drew the warrant for my transfer late
To the New Prisons from Tordinona,—he
Graciously had remembrance—"Francesc … ha?
"His sire, now—how a thing shall come about!—
"Paid me a dozen florins above the fee,
"For drawing deftly up a deed of sale
"When troubles fell so thick on him, good heart,
"And I was prompt and pushing! By all means!
"At the New Prisons be it his son shall lie,—
"Anything for an old friend!" and thereat
Signed name with triple flourish underneath.
These were my fellows, such their fortunes now,
While I—kept fasts and feasts innumerable,
Matins and vespers, functions to no end
I' the train of Monsignor and Eminence,
As gentleman-squire, and for my zeal's reward
Have rarely missed a place at the table-foot
Except when some Ambassador, or such like,
Brought his own people. Brief, one day I felt
The tick of time inside me, turning-point
And slight sense there was now enough of this:
That I was near my seventh climacteric,
Hard upon, if not over, the middle life,
And, although fed by the east-wind, fulsome-fine
With foretaste of the Land of Promise, still
My gorge gave symptom it might play me false;
Better not press it further,—be content
With living and dying only a nobleman,
Who merely had a father great and rich,
Who simply had one greater and richer yet,
And so on back and back till first and best
Began i' the night; I finish in the day.
"The mother must be getting old," I said;
"The sisters are well wedded away, our name
"Can manage to pass a sister off, at need,
"And do for dowry: both my brothers thrive—
"Regular priests they are, nor, bat-like, 'bide
"'Twixt flesh and fowl with neither privilege.
"My spare revenue must keep me and mine.
"I am tired: Arezzo's air is good to breathe;
"Vittiano,—one limes flocks of thrushes there;
"A leathern coat costs little and lasts long:
"Let me bid hope good-bye, content at home!"
Thus, one day, I disbosomed me and bowed.
Whereat began the little buzz and thrill
O' the gazers round me; each face brightened up:
As when at your Casino, deep in dawn,
A gamester says at last, "I play no more,
"Forego gain, acquiesce in loss, withdraw
"Anyhow:" and the watchers of his ways,
A trifle struck compunctious at the word,
Yet sensible of relief, breathe free once more,
Break up the ring, venture polite advice—
"How, Sir? So scant of heart and hope indeed?
"Retire with neither cross nor pile from play?—
"So incurious, so short-casting?—give your chance
"To a younger, stronger, bolder spirit belike,
"Just when luck turns and the fine throw sweeps all?"
Such was the chorus: and its goodwill meant—
"See that the loser leave door handsomely!
"There's an ill look,—it's sinister, spoils sport,
"When an old bruised and battered year-by-year
"Fighter with fortune, not a penny in poke,
"Reels down the steps of our establishment
"And staggers on broad daylight and the world,
"In shagrag beard and doleful doublet, drops
"And breaks his heart on the outside: people prate
"'Such is the profit of a trip upstairs!'
"Contrive he sidle forth, baulked of the blow
"Best dealt by way of moral, bidding down
"No curse but blessings rather on our heads
"For some poor prize he bears at tattered breast,
"Some palpable sort of kind of good to set
"Over and against the grievance: give him quick!"
Whereon protested Paul, "Go hang yourselves!
"Leave him to me. Count Guido and brother of mine,
"A word in your ear! Take courage, since faint heart
"Ne'er won … aha, fair lady, don't men say?
"There's a sors, there's a right Virgilian dip!
"Do you see the happiness o' the hint? At worst,
"If the Church want no more of you, the Court
"No more, and the Camp as little, the ingrates,—come,
"Count you are counted: still you've coat to back,
"Not cloth of gold and tissue, as we hoped,
"But cloth with sparks and spangles on its frieze
"From Camp, Court, Church, enough to make a shine,
"Entitle you to carry home a wife
"With the proper dowry, let the worst betide!
"Why, it was just a wife you meant to take!"

Now, Paul's advice was weighty: priests should know:
And Paul apprised me, ere the week was out,
That Pietro and Violante, the easy pair,
The cits enough, with stomach to be more,
Had just the daughter and exact the sum
To truck for the quality of myself: "She's young,
"Pretty and rich: you're noble, classic, choice.
"Is it to be a match?" "A match," said I.
Done! He proposed all, I accepted all,
And we performed all. So I said and did
Simply. As simply followed, not at first
But with the outbreak of misfortune, still
One comment on the saying and doing—"What?
"No blush at the avowal you dared buy
"A girl of age beseems your granddaughter,
"Like ox or ass? Are flesh and blood a ware?
"Are heart and soul a chattel?"

Softly, Sirs!
Will the Court of its charity teach poor me
Anxious to learn, of any way i' the world,
Allowed by custom and convenience, save
This same which, taught from my youth up, I trod?
Take me along with you; where was the wrong step?
If what I gave in barter, style and state
And all that hangs to Franceschinihood,
Were worthless,—why, society goes to ground,
Its rules are idiot's-rambling. Honour of birth,—
If that thing has no value, cannot buy
Something with value of another sort,
You've no reward nor punishment to give
I' the giving or the taking honour; straight
Your social fabric, pinnacle to base,
Comes down a-clatter like a house of cards.
Get honour, and keep honour free from flaw,
Aim at still higher honour,—gabble o' the goose!
Go bid a second blockhead like myself
Spend fifty years in guarding bubbles of breath,
Soapsuds with air i' the belly, gilded brave,
Guarded and guided, all to break at touch
O' the first young girl's hand and first old fool's purse!
All my privation and endurance, all
Love, loyalty and labour dared and did,
Fiddle-de-dee!—why, doer and darer both,—
Count Guido Franceschini had hit the mark
Far better, spent his life with more effect,
As a dancer or a prizer, trades that pay!
On the other hand, bid this buffoonery cease,
Admit that honour is a privilege,
The question follows, privilege worth what?
Why, worth the market-price,—now up, now down,
Just so with this as with all other ware:
Therefore essay the market, sell your name,
Style and condition to who buys them best!
"Does my name purchase," had I dared inquire,
"Your niece, my lord?" there would have been rebuff
Though courtesy, your Lordship cannot else—
"Not altogether! Rank for rank may stand:
"But I have wealth beside, you—poverty;
"Your scale flies up there: bid a second bid
"Rank too and wealth too!" Reasoned like yourself!
But was it to you I went with goods to sell?
This time 't was my scale quietly kissed the ground,
Mere rank against mere wealth—some youth beside,
Some beauty too, thrown into the bargain, just
As the buyer likes or lets alone. I thought
To deal o' the square: others find fault, it seems:
The thing is, those my offer most concerned,
Pietro, Violante, cried they fair or foul?
What did they make o' the terms? Preposterous terms?
Why then accede so promptly, close with such
Nor take a minute to chaffer? Bargain struck,
They straight grew bilious, wished their money back,
Repented them, no doubt: why, so did I,
So did your Lordship, if town-talk be true,
Of paying a full farm's worth for that piece
By Pietro of Cortona—probably
His scholar Ciro Ferri may have retouched—
You caring more for colour than design—
Getting a little tired of cupids too.
That's incident to all the folk who buy!
I am charged, I know, with gilding fact by fraud;
I falsified and fabricated, wrote
Myself down roughly richer than I prove,
Rendered a wrong revenue,—grant it all!
Mere grace, mere coquetry such fraud, I say:
A flourish round the figures of a sum
For fashion's sake, that deceives nobody.
The veritable back-bone, understood
Essence of this same bargain, blank and bare,
Being the exchange of quality for wealth,—
What may such fancy-flights be? Flecks of oil
Flirted by chapmen where plain dealing grates.
I may have dripped a drop—"My name I sell;
"Not but that I too boast my wealth"—as they,
"—We bring you riches; still our ancestor
"Was hardly the rapscallion folk saw flogged,
"But heir to we know who, were rights of force!"
They knew and I knew where the backbone lurked
I' the writhings of the bargain, lords, believe!
I paid down all engaged for, to a doit,
Delivered them just that which, their life long,
They hungered in the hearts of them to gain—
Incorporation with nobility thus
In word and deed: for that they gave me wealth.
But when they came to try their gain, my gift,
Quit Rome and qualify for Arezzo, take
The tone o' the new sphere that absorbed the old,
Put away gossip Jack and goody Joan
And go become familiar with the Great,
Greatness to touch and taste and handle now,—
Why then,—they found that all was vanity,
Vexation, and what Solomon describes!
The old abundant city-fare was best,
The kindly warmth o' the commons, the glad clap
Of the equal on the shoulder, the frank grin
Of the underling at all so many spoons
Fire-new at neighbourly treat,—best, best and best
Beyond compare!—down to the loll itself
O' the pot-house settle,—better such a bench
Than the stiff crucifixion by my dais
Under the piecemeal damask canopy
With the coroneted coat of arms a-top!
Poverty and privation for pride's sake,
All they engaged to easily brave and bear,—
With the fit upon them and their brains a-work,—
Proved unendurable to the sobered sots.
A banished prince, now, will exude a juice
And salamander-like support the flame:
He dines on chestnuts, chucks the husks to help
The broil o' the brazier, pays the due baioc,
Goes off light-hearted: his grimace begins
At the funny humours of the christening-feast
Of friend the money-lender,—then he's touched
By the flame and frizzles at the babe to kiss!
Here was the converse trial, opposite mind:
Here did a petty nature split on rock
Of vulgar wants predestinate for such—
One dish at supper and weak wine to boot!
The prince had grinned and borne: the citizen shrieked,
Summoned the neighbourhood to attest the wrong,
Made noisy protest he was murdered,—stoned
And burned and drowned and hanged,—then broke away,
He and his wife, to tell their Rome the rest.
And this you admire, you men o' the world, my lords?
This moves compassion, makes you doubt my faith?
Why, I appeal to … sun and moon? Not I!
Rather to Plautus, Terence, Boccaccio's Book,
My townsman, frank Ser Franco's merry Tales.—
To all who strip a vizard from a face,
A body from its padding, and a soul
From froth and ignorance it styles itself,—
If this be other than the daily hap
Of purblind greed that dog-like still drops bone,
Grasps shadow, and then howls the case is hard!

So much for them so far: now for myself,
My profit or loss i' the matter: married am I:
Text whereon friendly censors burst to preach.
Ay, at Rome even, long ere I was left
To regulate her life for my young bride
Alone at Arezzo, friendliness outbroke
(Sifting my future to predict its fault)
"Purchase and sale being thus so plain a point,
"How of a certain soul bound up, may-be,
"I' the barter with the body and money-bags?
"From the bride's soul what is it you expect?"
Why, loyalty and obedience,—wish and will
To settle and suit her fresh and plastic mind
To the novel, not disadvantageous mould!
Father and mother shall the woman leave,
Cleave to the husband, be it for weal or woe:
There is the law: what sets this law aside
In my particular case? My friends submit
"Guide, guardian, benefactor,—fee, faw, fum,
"The fact is you are forty-five years old,
"Nor very comely even for that age:
"Girls must have boys." Why, let girls say so then,
Nor call the boys and men, who say the same,
Brute this and beast the other as they do!
Come, cards on table! When you chaunt us next
Epithalamium full to overflow
With praise and glory of white womanhood,
The chaste and pure—troll no such lies o'er lip!
Put in their stead a crudity or two,
Such short and simple statement of the case
As youth chalks on our walls at spring of year!
No! I shall still think nobler of the sex,
Believe a woman still may take a man
For the short period that his soul wears flesh,
And, for the soul's sake, understand the fault
Of armour frayed by fighting. Tush, it tempts
One's tongue too much! I'll say—the law's the law:
With a wife I look to find all wifeliness,
As when I buy, timber and twig, a tree—
I buy the song o' the nightingale inside.

Such was the pact: Pompilia from the first
Broke it, refused from the beginning day
Either in body or soul to cleave to mine,
And published it forthwith to all the world.
No rupture,—you must join ere you can break,—
Before we had cohabited a month
She found I was a devil and no man,—
Made common cause with those who found as much,
Her parents, Pietro and Violante,—moved
Heaven and earth to the rescue of all three.
In four months' time, the time o' the parents' stay,
Arezzo was a-ringing, bells in a blaze,
With the unimaginable story rife
I' the mouth of man, woman and child—to-wit
My misdemeanour. First the lighter side,
Ludicrous face of things,—how very poor
The Franceschini had become at last,
The meanness and the misery of each shift
To save a soldo, stretch and make ends meet.
Next, the more hateful aspect,—how myself
With cruelty beyond Caligula's
Had stripped and beaten, robbed and murdered them,
The good old couple, I decoyed, abused,
Plundered and then cast out, and happily so,
Since,—in due course the abominable comes,—
Woe worth the poor young wife left lonely here!
Repugnant in my person as my mind,
I sought,—was ever heard of such revenge?
To lure and bind her to so cursed a couch,
Such co-embrace with sulphur, snake and toad,
That she was fain to rush forth, call the stones
O' the common street to save her, not from hate
Of mine merely, but … must I burn my lips
With the blister of the lie? … the satyr-love
Of who but my own brother, the young priest,
Too long enforced to lenten fare belike,
Now tempted by the morsel tossed him full
I' the trencher where lay bread and herbs at best.
Mark, this yourselves say!—this, none disallows,
Was charged to me by the universal voice
At the instigation of my four-months' wife!—
And then you ask "Such charges so preferred,
"(Truly or falsely, here concerns us not)
"Pricked you to punish now if not before?—
"Did not the harshness double itself, the hate
"Harden?" I answer "Have it your way and will!"
Say my resentment grew apace: what then?
Do you cry out on the marvel? When I find
That pure smooth egg which, laid within my nest,
Could not but hatch a comfort to us all,
Issues a cockatrice for me and mine,
Do you stare to see me stamp on it? Swans are soft:
Is it not clear that she you call my wife,
That any wife of any husband, caught
Whetting a sting like this against his breast,—
Speckled with fragments of the fresh-broke shell,
Married a month and making outcry thus,—
Proves a plague-prodigy to God and man?
She married: what was it she married for,
Counted upon and meant to meet thereby?
"Love" suggests some one, "love, a little word
"Whereof we have not heard one syllable."
So, the Pompilia, child, girl, wife, in one,
Wanted the beating pulse, the rolling eye,
The frantic gesture, the devotion due
From Thyrsis to Neæra! Guido's love—
Why not Provencal roses in his shoe,
Plume to his cap, and trio of guitars
At casement, with a bravo close beside?
Good things all these are, clearly claimable
When the fit price is paid the proper way.
Had it been some friend's wife, now, threw her fan
At my foot, with just this pretty scrap attached,
"Shame, death, damnation—fall these as they may,
"So I find you, for a minute! Come this eve!"
—Why, at such sweet self-sacrifice,—who knows?
I might have fired up, found me at my post,
Ardent from head to heel, nor feared catch cough.
Nay, had some other friend's … say, daughter, tripped
Upstairs and tumbled flat and frank on me,
Bareheaded and barefooted, with loose hair
And garments all at large,—cried "Take me thus!
"Duke So-and-So, the greatest man in Rome—
"To escape his hand and heart have I broke bounds,
"Traversed the town and reached you!"—then, indeed,
The lady had not reached a man of ice!
I would have rummaged, ransacked at the word
Those old odd corners of an empty heart
For remnants of dim love the long disused,
And dusty crumblings of romance! But here,
We talk of just a marriage, if you please—
The every-day conditions and no more;
Where do these bind me to bestow one drop
Of blood shall dye my wife's true-love-knot pink?
Pompilia was no pigeon, Venus' pet,
That shuffled from between her pressing paps
To sit on my rough shoulder,—but a hawk,
I bought at a hawk's price and carried home
To do hawk's service—at the Rotunda, say,
Where, six o' the callow nestlings in a row,
You pick and choose and pay the price for such.
I have paid my pound, await my penny's worth,
So, hoodwink, starve and properly train my bird,
And, should she prove a haggard,—twist her neck!
Did I not pay my name and style, my hope
And trust, my all? Through spending these amiss
I am here! 'T is scarce the gravity of the Court
Will blame me that I never piped a tune,
Treated my falcon-gentle like my finch.
The obligation I incurred was just
To practise mastery, prove my mastership:—
Pompilia's duty was—submit herself,
Afford me pleasure, perhaps cure my bile.
Am I to teach my lords what marriage means,
What God ordains thereby and man fulfils
Who, docile to the dictate, treads the house?
My lords have chosen the happier part with Paul
And neither marry nor burn,—yet priestliness
Can find a parallel to the marriage-bond
In its own blessed special ordinance
Whereof indeed was marriage made the type:
The Church may show her insubordinate,
As marriage her refractory. How of the Monk
Who finds the claustral regimen too sharp
After the first month's essay? What's the mode
With the Deacon who supports indifferently
The rod o' the Bishop when he tastes its smart
Full four weeks? Do you straightway slacken hold
Of the innocents, the all-unwary ones
Who, eager to profess, mistook their mind?—
Remit a fast-day's rigour to the Monk
Who fancied Francis' manna meant roast quails,—
Concede the Deacon sweet society,
He never thought the Levite-rule renounced,—
Or rather prescribe short chain and sharp scourge
Corrective of such peccant humours? This—
I take to be the Church's mode, and mine.
If I was over-harsh,—the worse i' the wife
Who did not win from harshness as she ought,
Wanted the patience and persuasion, lore
Of love, should cure me and console herself.
Put case that I mishandle, flurry and fright
My hawk through clumsiness in sportsmanship,
Twitch out five pens where plucking one would serve—
What, shall she bite and claw to mend the case?
And, if you find I pluck five more for that,
Shall you weep "How he roughs the turtle there"?

Such was the starting; now of the further step.
In lieu of taking penance in good part,
The Monk, with hue and cry, summons a mob
To make a bonfire of the convent, say,—
And the Deacon's pretty piece of virtue (save
The ears o' the Court! I try to save my head)
Instructed by the ingenuous postulant,
Taxes the Bishop with adultery, (mud
Needs must pair off with mud, and filth with filth)—
Such being my next experience. Who knows not
The couple, father and mother of my wife,
Returned to Rome, published before my lords,
Put into print, made circulate far and wide
That they had cheated me who cheated them?
Pompilia, I supposed their daughter, drew
Breath first 'mid Rome's worst rankness, through the deed
Of a drab and a rogue, was by-blow bastard-babe
Of a nameless strumpet, passed off, palmed on me
As the daughter with the dowry. Daughter? Dirt
O' the kennel! Dowry? Dust o' the street! Nought more,
Nought less, nought else but—oh—ah—assuredly
A Franceschini and my very wife!
Now take this charge as you will, for false or true,—
This charge, preferred before your very selves
Who judge me now,—I pray you, adjudge again,
Classing it with the cheats or with the lies,
By which category I suffer most!
But of their reckoning, theirs who dealt with me
In either fashion,—I reserve my word,
Justify that in its place; I am now to say,
Whichever point o' the charge might poison most,
Pompilia's duty was no doubtful one.
You put the protestation in her mouth
"Henceforward and forevermore, avaunt
"Ye fiends, who drop disguise and glare revealed
"In your own shape, no longer father mine
"Nor mother mine! Too nakedly you hate
"Me whom you looked as if you loved once,—me
"Whom, whether true or false, your tale now damns,
"Divulged thus to my public infamy,
"Private perdition, absolute overthrow.
"For, hate my husband to your hearts' content,
"I, spoil and prey of you from first to last,
"I who have done you the blind service, lured
"The lion to your pitfall,—I, thus left
"To answer for my ignorant bleating there,
"I should have been remembered and withdrawn
"From the first o' the natural fury, not flung loose
"A proverb and a by-word men will mouth
"At the cross-way, in the corner, up and down
"Rome and Arezzo,—there, full in my face,
"If my lord, missing them and finding me,
"Content himself with casting his reproach
"To drop i' the street where such impostors die.
"Ah, but—that husband, what the wonder were!—
"If, far from casting thus away the rag
"Smeared with the plague his hand had chanced upon,
"Sewn to his pillow by Locusta's wile,—
"Far from abolishing, root, stem and branch,
"The misgrowth of infectious mistletoe
"Foisted into his stock for honest graft,—
"If he repudiate not, renounce nowise,
"But, guarding, guiding me, maintain my cause
"By making it his own, (what other way?)
"—To keep my name for me, he call it his,
"Claim it of who would take it by their lie,—
"To save my wealth for me—or babe of mine
"Their lie was framed to beggar at the birth—
"He bid them loose grasp, give our gold again:
"If he become no partner with the pair
"Even in a game which, played adroitly, gives
"Its winner life's great wonderful new chance,—
"Of marrying, to-wit, a second time,—
"Ah, if he did thus, what a friend were he!
"Anger he might show,—who can stamp out flame
"Yet spread no black o' the brand?—yet, rough albeit
"In the act, as whose bare feet feel embers scorch,
"What grace were his, what gratitude were mine!"
Such protestation should have been my wife's.
Looking for this, do I exact too much?
Why, here's the,—word for word, so much, no more,—
Avowal she made, her pure spontaneous speech
To my brother the Abate at first blush,
Ere the good impulse had begun to fade:
So did she make confession for the pair,
So pour forth praises in her own behalf.
"Ay, the false letter," interpose my lords—
"The simulated writing,—'t was a trick:
"You traced the signs, she merely marked the same,
"The product was not hers but yours." Alack,
I want no more impulsion to tell truth
From the other trick, the torture inside there!
I confess all—let it be understood—
And deny nothing! If I baffle you so,
Can so fence, in the plenitude of right,
That my poor lathen dagger puts aside
Each pass o' the Bilboa, beats you all the same,—
What matters inefficiency of blade?
Mine and not hers the letter,—conceded, lords!
Impute to me that practice!—take as proved
I taught my wife her duty, made her see
What it behoved her see and say and do,
Feel in her heart and with her tongue declare,
And, whether sluggish or recalcitrant,
Forced her to take the right step, I myself
Was marching in marital rectitude!
Why who finds fault here, say the tale be true?
Would not my lords commend the priest whose zeal
Seized on the sick, morose or moribund,
By the palsy-smitten finger, made it cross
His brow correctly at the critical time?
—Or answered for the inarticulate babe
At baptism, in its stead declared the faith,
And saved what else would perish unprofessed?
True, the incapable hand may rally yet,
Renounce the sign with renovated strength,—
The babe may grow up man and Molinist,—
And so Pompilia, set in the good path
And left to go alone there, soon might see
That too frank-forward, all too simple-straight
Her step was, and decline to tread the rough,
When here lay, tempting foot, the meadow-side,
And there the coppice rang with singing-birds!
Soon she discovered she was young and fair,
That many in Arezzo knew as much.
Yes, this next cup of bitterness, my lords,
Had to begin go filling, drop by drop,
Its measure up of full disgust for me,
Filtered into by every noisome drain—
Society's sink toward which all moisture runs.
Would not you prophesy—"She on whose brow is stamped
"The note of the imputation that we know,—
"Rightly or wrongly mothered with a whore,—
"Such an one, to disprove the frightful charge,
"What will she but exaggerate chastity,
"Err in excess of wifehood, as it were,
"Renounce even levities permitted youth,
"Though not youth struck to age by a thunderbolt?
"Cry 'wolf' i' the sheepfold, where's the sheep dares bleat,
"Knowing the shepherd listens for a growl?"
So you expect. How did the devil decree?
Why, my lords, just the contrary of course!
It was in the house from the window, at the church
From the hassock,—where the theatre lent its lodge,
Or staging for the public show left space,—
That still Pompilia needs must find herself
Launching her looks forth, letting looks reply
As arrows to a challenge; on all sides
Ever new contribution to her lap,
Till one day, what is it knocks at my clenched teeth
But the cup full, curse-collected all for me?
And I must needs drink, drink this gallant's praise,
That minion's prayer, the other fop's reproach,
And come at the dregs to—Caponsacchi! Sirs,
I,—chin-deep in a marsh of misery,
Struggling to extricate my name and fame
And fortune from the marsh would drown them all,
My face the sole unstrangled part of me,—
I must have this new gad-fly in that face,
Must free me from the attacking lover too!
Men say I battled ungracefully enough—
Was harsh, uncouth and ludicrous beyond
The proper part o' the husband: have it so!
Your lordships are considerate at least—
You order me to speak in my defence
Plainly, expect no quavering tuneful trills
As when you bid a singer solace you,—
Nor look that I shall give it, for a grace,
Stans pede in uno:—you remember well
In the one case, 't is a plainsong too severe,
This story of my wrongs,—and that I ache
And need a chair, in the other. Ask you me
Why, when I felt this trouble flap my face,
Already pricked with every shame could perch,—
When, with her parents, my wife plagued me too,—
Why I enforced not exhortation mild
To leave whore's-tricks and let my brows alone,
With mulct of comfits, promise of perfume?

"Far from that! No, you took the opposite course,
"Breathed threatenings, rage and slaughter!" What you will!
And the end has come, the doom is verily here,
Unhindered by the threatening. See fate's flare
Full on each face of the dead guilty three!
Look at them well, and now, lords, look at this!
Tell me: if on that day when I found first
That Caponsacchi thought the nearest way
To his church was some half-mile round by my door,
And that he so admired, shall I suppose,
The manner of the swallows' come-and-go
Between the props o' the window over-head,—
That window happening to be my wife's,—
As to stand gazing by the hour on high,
Of May-eves, while she sat and let him smile,—
If I,—instead of threatening, talking big,
Showing hair-powder, a prodigious pinch,
For poison in a bottle,—making believe
At desperate doings with a bauble-sword,
And other bugaboo-and-baby-work,—
Had, with the vulgarest household implement,
Calmly and quietly cut off, clean thro' bone
But one joint of one finger of my wife,
Saying "For listening to the serenade,
"Here's your ring-finger shorter a full third:
"Be certain I will slice away next joint,
"Next time that anybody underneath
"Seems somehow to be sauntering as he hoped
"A flower would eddy out of your hand to his
"While you please fidget with the branch above
"O' the rose-tree in the terrace!"—had I done so,
Why, there had followed a quick sharp scream, some pain,
Much calling for plaister, damage to the dress,
A somewhat sulky countenance next day,
Perhaps reproaches,—but reflections too!
I don't hear much of harm that Malchus did
After the incident of the ear, my lords!
Saint Peter took the efficacious way;
Malchus was sore but silenced for his life:
He did not hang himself i' the Potter's Field
Like Judas, who was trusted with the bag
And treated to sops after he proved a thief.
So, by this time, my true and obedient wife
Might have been telling beads with a gloved hand;
Awkward a little at pricking hearts and darts
On sampler possibly, but well otherwise:
Not where Rome shudders now to see her lie.
I give that for the course a wise man takes;
I took the other however, tried the fool's,
The lighter remedy, brandished rapier dread
With cork-ball at the tip, boxed Malchus' ear
Instead of severing the cartilage,
Called her a terrible nickname, and the like,
And there an end: and what was the end of that?
What was the good effect o' the gentle course?
Why, one night I went drowsily to bed,
Dropped asleep suddenly, not suddenly woke,
But did wake with rough rousing and loud cry,
To find noon in my face, a crowd in my room,
Fumes in my brain, fire in my thoat, my wife
Gone God knows whither,—rifled vesture-chest,
And ransacked money-coffer. "What does it mean?"
The servants had been drugged too, stared and yawned
"It must be that our lady has eloped!"
—"Whither and with whom?"—"With whom but the Canon's self?
"One recognizes Caponsacchi there!"—
(By this time the admiring neighbourhood
Joined chorus round me while I rubbed my eyes)
"'T is months since their intelligence began,—
"A comedy the town was privy to,—
"He wrote and she wrote, she spoke, he replied,
"And going in and out your house last night
"Was easy work for one … to be plain with you
"Accustomed to do both, at dusk and dawn
"When you were absent,—at the villa, you know,
"Where husbandry required the master-mind.
"Did not you know? Why, we all knew, you see!"
And presently, bit by bit, the full and true
Particulars of the tale were volunteered
With all the breathless zeal of friendship—"Thus
"Matters were managed: at the seventh hour of night" . .
—"Later, at daybreak" … "Caponsacchi came" …
—"While you and all your household slept like death,
"Drugged as your supper was with drowsy stuff" …
—"And your own cousin Guillichini too—
"Either or both entered your dwelling-place,
"Plundered it at their pleasure, made prize of all,
"Including your wife …"—"Oh, your wife led the way,
"Out of doors, on to the gate …"—"But gates are shut,
"In a decent town, to darkness and such deeds:
"They climbed the wall—your lady must be lithe—
"At the gap, the broken bit …" —"Torrione, true!
"To escape the questioning guard at the proper gate,
"Clemente, where at the inn, hard by, 'the Horse,'
"Just outside, a calash in readiness
"Took the two principals, all alone at last,
"To gate San Spirito, which o'erlooks the road,
"Leads to Perugia, Rome and liberty."
Bit by bit thus made-up mosaic-wise,
Flat lay my fortune,—tesselated floor,
Imperishable tracery devils should foot
And frolic it on, around my broken gods,
Over my desecrated hearth.

So much
For the terrible effect of threatening, Sirs!
Well, this way I was shaken wide awake,
Doctored and drenched, somewhat unpoisoned so.
Then, set on horseback and bid seek the lost,
I started alone, head of me, heart of me
Fire, and eaeh limb as languid … ah, sweet lords,
Bethink you!—poison-torture, try persuade
The next refractory Molinist with that! …
Floundered thro' day and night, another day
And yet another night, and so at last,
As Lucifer kept falling to find hell,
Tumbled into the court-yard of an inn
At the end, and fell on whom I thought to find,
Even Caponsacchi,—what part once was priest,
Cast to the winds now with the cassock-rags.
In cape and sword a cavalier confessed,
There stood he chiding dilatory grooms,
Chafing that only horseflesh and no team
Of eagles would supply the last relay,
Whirl him along the league, the one post more
Between the couple and Rome and liberty.
'T was dawn, the couple were rested in a sort,
And though the lady, tired,—the tenderer sex,—
Still lingered in her chamber,—to adjust
The limp hair, look for any blush astray,—
She would descend in a twinkling,—"Have you out
"The horses therefore!"

So did I find my wife.
Is the case complete? Do your eyes here see with mine?
Even the parties dared deny no one
Point out of all these points.

What follows next?
"Why, that then was the time," you interpose,
"Or then or never, while the fact was fresh,
"To take the natural vengeance: there and thus
"They and you,—somebody had stuck a sword
"Beside you while he pushed you on your horse,—
"'T was requisite to slay the couple, Count!"
Just so my friends say. "Kill!" they cry in a breath,
Who presently, when matters grow to a head
And I do kill the offending ones indeed,—
When crime of theirs, only surmised before,
Is patent, proved indisputably now,—
When remedy for wrong, untried at the time,
Which law professes shall not fail a friend,
Is thrice tried now, found threefold worse than null,—
When what might turn to transient shade, who knows?
Solidifies into a blot which breaks
Hell's black off in pale flakes for fear of mine,—
Then, when I claim and take revenge—"So rash?"
They cry—"so little reverence for the law?"

Listen, my masters, and distinguish here!
At first, I called in law to act and help:
Seeing I did so, "Why, 't is clear," they cry,
"You shrank from gallant readiness and risk,
"Were coward: the thing's inexplicable else."
Sweet my lords, let the thing be! I fall flat,
Play the reed, not the oak, to breath of man.
Only inform my ignorance! Say I stand
Convicted of the having been afraid,
Proved a poltroon, no lion but a lamb,—
Does that deprive me of my right of lamb
And give my fleece and flesh to the first wolf?
Are eunuchs, women, children, shieldless quite
Against attack their own timidity tempts?
Cowardice were misfortune and no crime!
—Take it that way, since I am fallen so low
I scarce dare brush the fly that blows my face,
And thank the man who simply spits not there,—
Unless the Court be generous, comprehend
How one brought up at the very feet of law
As I, awaits the grave Gamaliel's nod
Ere he clench fist at outrage,—much less, stab!
—How, ready enough to rise at the right time,
I still could recognise no time mature
Unsanctioned by a move o' the judgment-seat,
So, mute in misery, eyed my masters here
Motionless till the authoritative word
Pronounced amercement. There's the riddle solved:
This is just why I slew nor her nor him,
But called in law, law's delegate in the place,
And bade arrest the guilty couple, Sirs!
We had some trouble to do so—you have heard
They braved me,—he with arrogance and scorn,
She, with a volubility of curse,
A conversancy in the skill of tooth
And claw to make suspicion seem absurd,
Nay, an alacrity to put to proof
At my own throat my own sword, teach me so
To try conclusions better the next time,—
Which did the proper service with the mob.
They never tried to put on mask at all:
Two avowed lovers forcibly torn apart,
Upbraid the tyrant as in a playhouse scene,
Ay, and with proper clapping and applause
From the audience that enjoys the bold and free.
I kept still, said to myself, "There's law!" Anon
We searched the chamber where they passed the night,
Found what confirmed the worst was feared before,
However needless confirmation now—
The witches' circle intact, charms undisturbed
That raised the spirit and succubus,—letters, to-wit,
Love-laden, each the bag o' the bee that bore
Honey from lily and rose to Cupid's hive,—
Now, poetry in some rank blossom-burst,
Now, prose,—"Come here, go there, wait such a while,
"He's at the villa, now he's back again:
"We are saved, we are lost, we are lovers all the same!"
All in order, all complete,—even to a clue
To the drowsiness that happed so opportune—
No mystery, when I read "Of all things, find
"What wine Sir Jealousy decides to drink—
"Red wine? Because a sleeping-potion, dust
"Dropped into white, discolours wine and shows."

—"Oh, but we did not write a single word!
"Somebody forged the letters in our name!—"
Both in a breath protested presently.
Aha, Sacchetti again!—"Dame,"—quoth the Duke,
"What meaneth this epistle, counsel me,
"I pick from out thy placket and peruse,
"Wherein my page averreth thou art white
"And warm and wonderful 'twixt pap and pap?"
"Sir," laughed the Lady, " 't is a counterfeit!
"Thy page did never stroke but Dian's breast,
"The pretty hound I nurture for thy sake:
"To lie were losel,—by my fay, no more!"
And no more say I too, and spare the Court.

Ah, the Court! yes, I come to the Court's self;
Such the case, so complete in fact and proof,
I laid at the feet of law,—there sat my lords,
Here sit they now, so may they ever sit
In easier attitude than suits my haunch!
In this same chamber did I bare my sores
O' the soul and not the body,—shun no shame,
Shrink from no probing of the ulcerous part,
Since confident in Nature,—which is God,—
That she who, for wise ends, concocts a plague,
Curbs, at the right time, the plague's virulence too:
Law renovates even Lazarus,—cures me!
Cæsar thou seekest? To Cæsar thou shalt go!
Cæsar's at Rome: to Rome accordingly!

The case was soon decided: both weights, cast
I' the balance, vibrate, neither kicks the beam,
Here away, there away, this now and now that.
To every one o' my grievances law gave
Redress, could purblind eye but see the point.
The wife stood a convicted runagate
From house and husband,—driven to such a course
By what she somehow took for cruelty,
Oppression and imperilment of life
Not that such things were, but that so they seemed:
Therefore, the end conceded lawful, (since
To save life there's no risk should stay our leap)
It follows that all means to the lawful end
Are lawful likewise,—poison, theft and flight.
As for the priest's part, did he meddle or make,
Enough that he too thought life jeopardized;
Concede him then the colour charity
Casts on a doubtful course,—if blackish white
Or whitish black, will charity hesitate?
What did he else but act the precept out,
Leave, like a provident shepherd, his safe flock
To follow the single lamb and strayaway?
Best hope so and think so,—that the ticklish time
I' the carriage, the tempting privacy, the last
Somewhat ambiguous accident at the inn,
—All may bear explanation: may? then, must!
The letters,—do they so incriminate?
But what if the whole prove a prank o' the pen,
Flight of the fancy, none of theirs at all,
Bred of the vapours of my brain belike,
Or at worst mere exercise of scholar's-wit
In the courtly Caponsacchi: verse, convict?
Did not Catullus write less seemly once?
Yet doctus and unblemished he abides.
Wherefore so ready to infer the worst?
Still, I did righteously in bringing doubts
For the law to solve,—take the solution now!
"Seeing that the said associates, wife and priest,
"Bear themselves not without some touch of blame
"—Else why the pother, scandal and outcry
"Which trouble our peace and require chastisement?
"We, for complicity in Pompilia's flight
"And deviation, and carnal intercourse
"With the same, do set aside and relegate
"The Canon Caponsacchi for three years
"At Civita in the neighbourhood of Rome:
"And we consign Pompilia to the care
"Of a certain Sisterhood of penitents
"I' the city's self, expert to deal with such."
Word for word, there's your judgment! Read it, lords,
Re-utter your deliberate penalty
For the crime yourselves establish! Your award—
Who chop a man's right-hand off at the wrist
For tracing with forefinger words in wine
O' the table of a drinking-booth that bear
Interpretation as they mocked the Church!
—Who brand a woman black between the breasts
For sinning by connection with a Jew:
While for the Jew's self—pudency be dumb!
You mete out punishment such and such, yet so
Punish the adultery of wife and priest!
Take note of that, before the Molinists do,
And read me right the riddle, since right must be!
While I stood rapt away with wonderment,
Voices broke in upon my mood and muse.
"Do you sleep?" began the friends at either ear,
"The case is settled,—you willed it should be so—
"None of our counsel, always recollect!
"With law's award, budge! Back into your place!
"Your betters shall arrange the rest for you.
"We'll enter a new action, claim divorce:
"Your marriage was a cheat themselves allow:
"You erred i' the person,—might have married thus
"Your sister or your daughter unaware.
"We'll gain you, that way, liberty at least,
"Sure of so much by law's own showing. Up
"And off with you and your unluckiness—
"Leave us to bury the blunder, sweep things smooth!"
I was in humble frame of mind, be sure!
I bowed, betook me to my place again.
Station by station I retraced the road,
Touched at this hostel, passed this post-house by,
Where, fresh-remembered yet, the fugitives
Had risen to the heroic stature: still—
"That was the bench they sat on,—there's the board
"They took the meal at,—yonder garden-ground
"They leaned across the gate of,"—ever a word
O' the Helen and the Paris, with "Ha! you're he,
"The … much-commiserated husband?" Step
By step, across the pelting, did I reach
Arezzo, underwent the archway's grin,
Traversed the length of sarcasm in the street,
Found myself in my horrible house once more,
And after a colloquy … no word assists!
With the mother and the brothers, stiffened me
Straight out from head to foot as dead man does,
And, thus prepared for life as he for hell,
Marched to the public Square and met the world.
Apologize for the pincers, palliate screws?
Ply me with such toy-trifles, I entreat!
Trust who has tried both sulphur and sops-in-wine!

I played the man as I best might, bade friends
Put non-essentials by and face the fact.
"What need to hang myself as you advise?
"The paramour is banished,—the ocean's width,
"Or the suburb's length,—to Ultima Thule, say,
"Or Proxima Civitas, what's the odds of name
"And place? He's banished, and the fact's the thing.
"Why should law banish innocence an inch?
"Here's guilt then, what else do I care to know?
"The adulteress lies imprisoned,—whether in a well
"With bricks above and a snake for company,
"Or tied by a garter to a bed-post,—much
"I mind what's little,—least's enough and to spare!
"The little fillip on the coward's cheek
"Serves as though crab-tree cudgel broke his pate.
"Law has pronounced there's punishment, less or more:
"And I take note o' the fact and use it thus—
"For the first flaw in the original bond,
"I claim release. My contract was to wed
"The daughter of Pietro and Violante. Both
"Protest they never had a child at all.
"Then I have never made a contract: good!
"Cancel me quick the thing pretended one.
"I shall be free. What matter if hurried over
"The harbour-boom by a great favouring tide,
"Or the last of a spent ripple that lifts and leaves?
"The Abate is about it. Laugh who wins!
"You shall not laugh me out of faith in law!
"I listen, through all your noise, to Rome!"

Rome spoke.
In three months letters thence admonished me,
"Your plan for the divorce is all mistake.
"It would hold, now, had you, taking thought to wed
"Rachel of the blue eye and golden hair,
"Found swarth-skinned Leah cumber couch next day:
"But Rachel, blue-eyed golden-haired aright,
"Proving to be only Laban's child, not Lot's,
"Remains yours all the same for ever more.
"No whit to the purpose is your plea: you err
"I' the person and the quality—nowise
"In the individual,—that's the case in point!
"You go to the ground,—are met by a cross-suit
"For separation, of the Rachel here,
"From bed and board,—she is the injured one,
"You did the wrong and have to answer it.
"As for the circumstance of imprisonment
"And colour it lends to this your new attack,
"Never fear, that point is considered too!
"The durance is already at an end;
"The convent-quiet preyed upon her health,
"She is transferred now to her parents' house
"—No-parents, when that cheats and plunders you,
"But parentage again confessed in full,
"When such confession pricks and plagues you more
"As now—for, this their house is not the house
"In Via Vittoria wherein neighbours' watch
"Might incommode the freedom of your wife,
"But a certain villa smothered up in vines
"At the town's edge by the gate i' the Pauline Way,
"Out of eye-reach, out of ear-shot, little and lone,
"Whither a friend,—at Civita, we hope,
"A good half-dozen-hours' ride off,—might, some eve,
"Betake himself, and whence ride back, some morn,
"Nobody the wiser: but be that as it may,
"Do not afflict your brains with trifles now.
"You have still three suits to manage, all and each
"Ruinous truly should the event play false.
"It is indeed the likelier so to do,
"That brother Paul, your single prop and stay,
"After a vain attempt to bring the Pope
"To set aside procedures, sit himself
"And summarily use prerogative,
"Afford us the infallible finger's tact
"To disentwine your tangle of affairs,
"Paul,—finding it moreover past his strength
"To stem the irruption, bear Rome's ridicule
"Of … since friends must speak … to be round with you
"Of the old outwitted husband, wronged and wroth,
"Pitted against a brace of juveniles—
"A brisk priest who is versed in Ovid's art
"More than his Summa, and a gamesome wife
"Able to act Corinna without book,
"Beside the waggish parents who played dupes
"To dupe the duper—(and truly divers scenes
"Of the Arezzo palace, tickle rib
"And tease eye till the tears come, so we laugh;
"Nor wants the shock at the inn its comic force,
"And then the letters and poetry—merum sal!)
"—Paul, finally, in such a state of things,
"After a brief temptation to go jump
"And join the fishes in the Tiber, drowns
"Sorrow another and a wiser way:
"House and goods, he has sold all off, is gone,
"Leaves Rome,—whether for France or Spain, who knows?
"Or Britain almost divided from our orb.
"You have lost him anyhow."

Now,—I see my lords
Shift in their seat,—would I could do the same!
They probably please expect my bile was moved
To purpose, nor much blame me: now, they judge,
The fiery titillation urged my flesh
Break through the bonds. By your pardon, no, sweet Sirs!
I got such missives in the public place;
When I sought home,—with such news, mounted stair
And sat at last in the sombre gallery,
('T was Autumn, the old mother in bed betimes,
Having to bear that cold, the finer frame
Of her daughter-in-law had found intolerable—
The brother, walking misery away
O' the mountain-side with dog and gun belike)
As I supped, ate the coarse bread, drank the wine
Weak once, now acrid with the toad's-head-squeeze,
My wife's bestowment,—I broke silence thus:
"Let me, a man, manfully meet the fact,
"Confront the worst o' the truth, end, and have peace!
"I am irremediably beaten here,—
"The gross illiterate vulgar couple,—bah!
"Why, they have measured forces, mastered mine,
"Made me their spoil and prey from first to last.
"They have got my name,—'t is nailed now fast to theirs,
"The child or changeling is anyway my wife;
"Point by point as they plan they execute,
"They gain all, and I lose all—even to the lure
"That led to loss,—they have the wealth again
"They hazarded awhile to hook me with,
"Have caught the fish and find the bait entire:
"They even have their child or changeling back
"To trade with, turn to account a second time.
"The brother presumably might tell a tale
"Or give a warning,—he, too, flies the field,
"And with him vanish help and hope of help.
"They have caught me in the cavern where I fell,
"Covered my loudest cry for human aid
"With this enormous paving-stone of shame.
"Well, are we demigods or merely clay?
"Is success still attendant on desert?
"Is this, we live on, heaven and the final state,
"Or earth which means probation to the end?
"Why claim escape from man's predestined lot
"Of being beaten and baffled?—God's decree,
"In which I, bowing bruised head, acquiesce.
"One of us Franceschini fell long since
"I' the Holy Land, betrayed, tradition runs,
"To Paynims by the feigning of a girl
"He rushed to free from ravisher, and found
"Lay safe enough with friends in ambuscade
"Who flayed him while she clapped her hands and laughed:
"Let me end, falling by a like device.
"It will not be so hard. I am the last
"O' my line which will not suffer any more.
"I have attained to my full fifty years,
"(About the average of us all, 't is said,
"Though it seems longer to the unlucky man)
"—Lived through my share of life; let all end here,
"Me and the house and grief and shame at once.
"Friends my informants,—I can bear your blow!"
And I believe 't was in no unmeet match
For the stoic's mood, with something like a smile,
That, when morose December roused me next,
I took into my hand, broke seal to read
The new epistle from Rome. "All to no use!
"Whate'er the turn next injury take," smiled I,
"Here's one has chosen his part and knows his cue.
"I am done with, dead now; strike away, good friends!
"Are the three suits decided in a trice?
"Against me,—there's no question! How does it go?
"Is the parentage of my wife demonstrated
"Infamous to her wish? Parades she now
"Loosed of the cincture that so irked the loin?
"Is the last penny extracted from my purse
"To mulct me for demanding the first pound
"Was promised in return for value paid?
"Has the priest, with nobody to court beside,
"Courted the Muse in exile, hitched my hap
"Into a rattling ballad-rhyme which, bawled
"At tavern-doors, wakes rapture everywhere,
"And helps cheap wine down throat this Christmas time,
"Beating the bagpipes? Any or all of these!
"As well, good friends, you cursed my palace here
"To its old cold stone face,—stuck your cap for crest
"Over the shield that's extant in the Square,—
"Or spat on the statue's cheek, the impatient world
"Sees cumber tomb-top in our family church:
"Let him creep under covert as I shall do,
"Half below-ground already indeed. Good-bye!
"My brothers are priests, and childless so; that's well—
"And, thank God most for this, no child leave I—
"None after me to bear till his heart break
"The being a Franceschini and my son!"

"Nay," said the letter, "but you have just that!
"A babe, your veritable son and heir—
"Lawful,—'t is only eight months since your wife
"Left you,—so, son and heir, your babe was born
"Last Wednesday in the villa,—you see the cause
"For quitting Convent without beat of drum,
"Stealing a hurried march to this retreat
"That's not so savage as the Sisterhood
"To slips and stumbles: Pietro's heart is soft,
"Violante leans to pity's side,—the pair
"Ushered you into life a bouncing boy:
"And he's already hidden away and safe
"From any claim on him you mean to make—
"They need him for themselves,—don't fear, they know
"The use o' the bantling,—the nerve thus laid bare
"To nip at, new and nice, with finger-nail!"

Then I rose up like fire, and fire-like roared.
What, all is only beginning not ending now?
The worm which wormed its way from skin through flesh
To the bone and there lay biting, did its best,—
What, it goes on to scrape at the bone's self,
Will wind to inmost marrow and madden me?
There's to be yet my representative,
Another of the name shall keep displayed
The flag with the ordure on it, brandish still
The broken sword has served to stir a jakes?
Who will he be, how will you call the man?
A Franceschini,—when who cut my purse,
Filched my name, hemmed me round, hustled me hard
As rogues at a fair some fool they strip i' the midst,
When these count gains, vaunt pillage presently:—
But a Caponsacchi, oh, be very sure!
When what demands its tribute of applause
Is the cunning and impudence o' the pair of cheats,
The lies and lust o' the mother, and the brave
Bold carriage of the priest, worthily crowned
By a witness to his feat i' the following age,—
And how this three-fold cord could hook and fetch
And land leviathan that king of pride!
Or say, by some mad miracle of chance,
Is he indeed my flesh and blood, this babe?
Was it because fate forged a link at last
Betwixt my wife and me, and both alike
Found we had henceforth some one thing to love,
Was it when she could damn my soul indeed
She unlatched door, let all the devils o' the dark
Dance in on me to cover her escape?
Why then, the surplusage of disgrace, the spilth
Over and above the measure of infamy,
Failing to take effect on my coarse flesh
Seasoned with scorn now, saturate with shame,—
Is saved to instil on and corrode the brow,
The baby-softness of my first-born child—
The child I had died to see though in a dream,
The child I was bid strike out for, beat the wave
And baffle the tide of troubles where I swam,
So I might touch shore, lay down life at last
At the feet so dim and distant and divine
Of the apparition, as 't were Mary's Babe
Had held, through night and storm, the torch aloft,—
Born now in very deed to bear this brand
On forehead and curse me who could not save!
Rather be the town talk true, square's jest, street's jeer
True, my own inmost heart's confession true,
And he the priest's bastard and none of mine!
Ay, there was cause for flight, swift flight and sure!
The husband gets unruly, breaks all bounds
When he encounters some familiar face,
Fashion of feature, brow and eyes and lips
Where he least looked to find them,—time to fly!
This bastard then, a nest for him is made,
As the manner is of vermin, in my flesh:
Shall I let the filthy pest buzz, flap and sting,
Busy at my vitals and, nor hand nor foot
Lift, but let be, lie still and rot resigned?
No, I appeal to God,—what says Himself,
How lessons Nature when I look to learn?
Why, that I am alive, am still a man
With brain and heart and tongue and right-hand too—
Nay, even with friends, in such a cause as this,
To right me if I fail to take my right.
No more of law; a voice beyond the law
Enters my heart, Quis est pro Domino?

Myself, in my own Vittiano, told the tale
To my own serving-people summoned there:
Told the first half of it, scarce heard to end
By judges who got done with judgment quick
And clamoured to go execute her 'hest—
Who cried "Not one of us that dig your soil
"And dress your vineyard, prune your olive-trees,
"But would have brained the man debauched our wife,
"And staked the wife whose lust allured the man,
"And paunched the Duke, had it been possible,
"Who ruled the land yet barred us such revenge!"
I fixed on the first whose eyes caught mine, some four
Resolute youngsters with the heart still fresh,
Filled my purse with the residue o' the coin
Uncaught-up by my wife whom haste made blind,
Donned the first rough and rural garb I found,
Took whatsoever weapon came to hand,
And out we flung and on we ran or reeled
Romeward. I have no memory of our way,
Only that, when at intervals the cloud
Of horror about me opened to let in life,
I listened to some song in the ear, some snatch
Of a legend, relic of religion, stray
Fragment of record very strong and old
Of the first conscience, the anterior right,
The God's-gift to mankind, impulse to quench
The antagonistic spark of hell and tread
Satan and all his malice into dust,
Declare to the world the one law, right is right.
Then the cloud re-encompassed me, and so
I found myself, as on the wings of winds,
Arrived: I was at Rome on Christmas Eve.

Festive bells—everywhere the Feast o' the Babe,
Joy upon earth, peace and good will to man!
I am baptized. I started and let drop
The dagger. "Where is it, His promised peace?"
Nine days o' the Birth-Feast did I pause and pray
To enter into no temptation more.
I bore the hateful house, my brother's once,
Deserted,—let the ghost of social joy
Mock and make mouths at me from empty room
And idle door that missed the master's step,—
Bore the frank wonder of incredulous eyes,
As my own people watched without a word,
Waited, from where they huddled round the hearth
Black like all else, that nod so slow to come.
I stopped my ears even to the inner call
Of the dread duty, only heard the song
"Peace upon earth," saw nothing but the face
O' the Holy Infant and the halo there
Able to cover yet another face
Behind it, Satan's which I else should see.
But, day by day, joy waned and withered off:
The Babe's face, premature with peak and pine,
Sank into wrinkled ruinous old age,
Suffering and death, then mist-like disappeared,
And showed only the Cross at end of all,
Left nothing more to interpose 'twixt me
And the dread duty: for the angels' song,
"Peace upon earth," louder and louder pealed
"O Lord, how long, how long be unavenged?"
On the ninth day, this grew too much for man.
I started up—"Some end must be!" At once,
Silence: then, scratching like a death-watch-tick,
Slowly within my brain was syllabled,
"One more concession, one decisive way
"And but one, to determine thee the truth,—
"This way, in fine, I whisper in thy ear:
"Now doubt, anon decide, thereupon act!"

"That is a way, thou whisperest in my ear!
"I doubt, I will decide, then act," said I—
Then beckoned my companions: "Time is come!"

And so, all yet uncertain save the will
To do right, and the daring aught save leave
Right undone, I did find myself at last
I' the dark before the villa with my friends,
And made the experiment, the final test,
Ultimate chance that ever was to be
For the wretchedness inside. I knocked, pronounced
The name, the predetermined touch for truth,
"What welcome for the wanderer? Open straight—"
To the friend, physician, friar upon his rounds,
Traveller belated, beggar lame and blind?
No, but—"to Caponsacchi!" And the door
Opened.

And then,—why, even then, I think,
I' the minute that confirmed my worst of fears,
Surely,—I pray God that I think aright!—
Had but Pompilia's self, the tender thing
Who once was good and pure, was once my lamb
And lay in my bosom, had the well-known shape
Fronted me in the door-way,—stood there faint
With the recent pang perhaps of giving birth
To what might, though by miracle, seem my child,—
Nay more, I will say, had even the aged fool
Pietro, the dotard, in whom folly and age
Wrought, more than enmity or malevolence,
To practise and conspire against my peace,—
Had either of these but opened, I had paused.
But it was she the hag, she that brought hell
For a dowry with her to her husband's house,
She the mock-mother, she that made the match
And married me to perdition, spring and source
O' the fire inside me that boiled up from heart
To brain and hailed the Fury gave it birth,—
Violante Comparini, she it was,
With the old grin amid the wrinkles yet,
Opened: as if in turning from the Cross,
With trust to keep the sight and save my soul,
I had stumbled, first thing, on the serpent's head
Coiled with a leer at foot of it.

There was the end!
Then was I rapt away by the impulse, one
Immeasurable everlasting wave of a need
To abolish that detested life. 'T was done:
You know the rest and how the folds o' the thing,
Twisting for help, involved the other two
More or less serpent-like: how I was mad,
Blind, stamped on all, the earth-worms with the asp,
And ended so.

You came on me that night,
Your officers of justice,—caught the crime
In the first natural frenzy of remorse?
Twenty miles off, sound sleeping as a child
On a cloak i' the straw which promised shelter first,
With the bloody arms beside me,—was it not so?
Wherefore not? Why, how else should I be found?
I was my own self, had my sense again,
My soul safe from the serpents. I could sleep:
Indeed and, dear my lords, I shall sleep now,
Spite of my shoulder, in five minutes' space,
When you dismiss me, having truth enough!
It is but a few days are passed, I find,
Since this adventure. Do you tell me, four?
Then the dead are scarce quiet where they lie,
Old Pietro, old Violante, side by side
At the church Lorenzo,—oh, they know it well!
So do I. But my wife is still alive,
Has breath enough to tell her story yet,
Her way, which is not mine, no doubt at all.
And Caponsacchi, you have summoned him,—
Was he so far to send for? Not at hand?
I thought some few o' the stabs were in his heart,
Or had not been so lavish: less had served.
Well, he too tells his story,—florid prose
As smooth as mine is rough. You see, my lords,
There will be a lying intoxicating smoke
Born of the blood,—confusion probably,—
For lies breed lies—but all that rests with you!
The trial is no concern of mine; with me
The main of the care is over: I at least
Recognize who took that huge burthen off,
Let me begin to live again. I did
God's bidding and man's duty, so, breathe free;
Look you to the rest! I heard Himself prescribe,
That great Physician, and dared lance the core
Of the bad ulcer; and the rage abates,
I am myself and whole now: I prove cured
By the eyes that see, the ears that hear again,
The limbs that have relearned their youthful play,
The healthy taste of food and feel of clothes
And taking to our common life once more,
All that now urges my defence from death.
The willingness to live, what means it else?
Before,—but let the very action speak!
Judge for yourselves, what life seemed worth to me
Who, not by proxy but in person, pitched
Head-foremost into danger as a fool
That never cares if he can swim or no
So he but find the bottom, braves the brook.
No man omits precaution, quite neglects
Secresy, safety, schemes not how retreat,
Having schemed he might advance. Did I so scheme?
Why, with a warrant which 't is ask and have,
With horse thereby made mine without a word,
I had gained the frontier and slept safe that night.
Then, my companions,—call them what you please,
Slave or stipendiary,—what need of one
To me whose right-hand did its owner's work?
Hire an assassin yet expose yourself?
As well buy glove and then thrust naked hand
I' the thorn-bush. No, the wise man stays at home,
Send, only agents out, with pay to earn:
At home, when they come back,—he straight discards
Or else disowns. Why use such tools at all
When a man's foes are of his house, like mine,
Sit at his board, sleep in his bed? Why noise,
When there's the acquetta and the silent way?
Clearly my life was valueless.

But now
Health is returned, and sanity of soul
Nowise indifferent to the body's harm.
I find the instinct bids me save my life;
My wits, too, rally round me; I pick up
And use the arms that strewed the ground before,
Unnoticed or spurned aside: I take my stand,
Make my defence. God shall not lose a life
May do Him further service, while I speak
And you hear, you my judges and last hope!
You are the law: 't is to the law I look.
I began life by hanging to the law,
To the law it is I hang till life shall end.
My brother made appeal to the Pope, 't is true,
To stay proceedings, judge my cause himself
Nor trouble law,—some fondness of conceit
That rectitude, sagacity sufficed
The investigator in a case like mine,
Dispensed with the machine of law. The Pope
Knew better, set aside my brother's plea
And put me back to law,—referred the cause
Ad judices meos,—doubtlessly did well.
Here, then, I clutch my judges,—I claim law—
Cry, by the higher law whereof your law
O' the land is humbly representative,—
Cry, on what point is it, where either accuse,
I fail to furnish you defence? I stand
Acquitted, actually or virtually,
By every intermediate kind of court
That takes account of right or wrong in man,
Each unit in the series that begins
With God's throne, ends with the tribunal here.
God breathes, not speaks, his verdicts, felt not heard,
Passed on successively to each court I call
Man's conscience, custom, manners, all that make
More and more effort to promulgate, mark
God's verdict in determinable words,
Till last come human jurists—solidify
Fluid result,—what's fixable lies forged,
Statute,—the residue escapes in fume,
Yet hangs aloft, a cloud, as palpable
To the finer sense as word the legist welds.
Justinian's Pandects only make precise
What simply sparkled in men's eyes before,
Twitched in their brow or quivered on their lip,
Waited the speech they called but would not come.
These courts then, whose decree your own confirms,—
Take my whole life, not this last act alone,
Look on it by the light reflected thence!
What has Society to charge me with?
Come, unreservedly,—favour none nor fear,—
I am Guido Franceschini, am I not?
You know the courses I was free to take?
I took just that which let me serve the Church,
I gave it all my labour in body and soul
Till these broke down i' the service. "Specify?"
Well, my last patron was a Cardinal.
I left him unconvicted of a fault—
Was even helped, by was of gratitude,
Into the new life that I left him for,
This very misery of the marriage,—he
Made it, kind soul, so far as in him lay—
Signed the deed where you yet may see his name.
He is gone to his reward,—dead, being my friend
Who could have helped here also,—that, of course!
So far, there's my acquittal, I suppose.
Then comes the marriage itself—no question, lords,
Of the entire validity of that!
In the extremity of distress, 't is true,
For after-reasons, furnished abundantly,
I wished the thing invalid, went to you
Only some months since, set you duly forth
My wrong and prayed your remedy, that a cheat
Should not have force to cheat my whole life long.
"Annul a marriage? 'T is impossible!
"Though ring about your neck be brass not gold,
"Needs must it clasp, gangrene you all the same!"
Well, let me have the benefit, just so far,
O' the fact announced,—my wife then is my wife,
I have allowance for a husband's right.
I am charged with passing right's due bound,—such acts
As I thought just, my wife called cruelty,
Complained of in due form,—convoked no court
Of common gossipry, but took her wrongs—
And not once, but so long as patience served—
To the town's top, jurisdiction's pride of place,
To the Archbishop and the Governor.
These heard her charge with my reply, and found
That futile, this sufficient: they dismissed
The hysteric querulous rebel, and confirmed
Authority in its wholesome exercise,
They, with directest access to the facts.
"—Ay, for it was their friendship favoured you,
"Hereditary alliance against a breach
"I' the social order: prejudice for the name
"Of Franceschini!"—So I hear it said:
But not here. You, lords, never will you say
"Such is the nullity of grace and truth,
"Such the corruption of the faith, such lapse
"Of law, such warrant have the Molinists
"For daring reprehend us as they do,—
"That we pronounce it just a common case,
"Two dignitaries, each in his degree
"First, foremost, this the spiritual head, and that
"The secular arm o' the body politic,
"Should, for mere wrongs' love and injustice' sake,
"Side with, aid and abet in cruelty
"This broken beggarly noble,—bribed perhaps
"By his watered wine and mouldy crust of bread—
"Rather than that sweet tremulous flower-like wife
"Who kissed their hands and curled about their feet
"Looking the irresistible loveliness
"In tears that takes man captive, turns" … enough!
Do you blast your predecessors? What forbids
Posterity to trebly blast yourselves
Who set the example and instruct their tongue?
You dreaded the crowd, succumbed to the popular cry,
Or else, would nowise seem defer thereto
And yield to public clamour though i' the right!
You ridded your eye of my unseemliness,
The noble whose misfortune wearied you,—
Or, what's more probable, made common cause
With the cleric section, punished in myself
Maladroit uncomplaisant laity,
Defective in behaviour to a priest
Who claimed the customary partnership
I' the house and the wife. Lords, any lie will serve!
Look to it,—or allow me freed so far!

Then I proceed a step, come with clean hands
Thus far, re-tell the tale told eight months since.
The wife, you allow so far, I have not wronged,
Has fled my roof, plundered me and decamped
In company with the priest her paramour:
And I gave chase, came up with, caught the two
At the wayside inn where both had spent the night,
Found them in flagrant fault, and found as well,
By documents with name and plan and date,
The fault was furtive then that's flagrant now,
Their intercourse a long established crime.
I did not take the license law's self gives
To slay both criminals o' the spot at the time,
But held my hand,—preferred play prodigy
Of patience which the world calls cowardice,
Rather than seem anticipate the law
And cast discredit on its organs,—you.
So, to your bar I brought both criminals,
And made my statement: heard their counter-charge,
Nay,—their corroboration of my tale,
Nowise disputing its allegements, not
I' the main, not more than nature's decency
Compels men to keep silence in this kind,—
Only contending that the deeds avowed
Would take another colour and bear excuse.
You were to judge between us; so you did.
You disregard the excuse, you breathe away
The colour of innocence and leave guilt black,
"Guilty" is the decision of the court,
And that I stand in consequence untouched,
One white integrity from head to heel.
Not guilty? Why then did you punish them?
True, punishment has been inadequate—
'T is not I only, not my friends that joke,
My foes that jeer, who echo "inadequate"—
For, by a chance that comes to help for once,
The same case simultaneously was judged
At Arezzo, in the province of the Court
Where the crime had its beginning but not end.
They then, deciding on but half o' the crime,
The effraction, robbery,—features of the fault
I never cared to dwell upon at Rome,—
What was it they adjudged as penalty
To Pompilia,—the one criminal o' the pair
Amenable to their judgment, not the priest
Who is Rome's? Why, just imprisonment for life
I' the Stinche. There was Tuscany's award
To a wife that robs her husband: you at Rome—
Having to deal with adultery in a wife
And, in a priest, breach of the priestly vow—
Give gentle sequestration for a month
In a manageable Convent, then release,
You call imprisonment, in the very house
O' the very couple, which the aim and end
Of the culprits' crime was—just to reach and rest
And there take solace and defy me: well,—
This difference 'twixt their penalty and yours
Is immaterial: make your penalty less—
Merely that she should henceforth wear black gloves
And white fan, she who wore the opposite—
Why, all the same the fact o' the thing subsists.
Reconcile to your conscience as you may,
Be it on your own heads, you pronounced but half
O' the penalty for heinousness like hers
And his, that pays a fault at Carnival
Of comfit-pelting past discretion's law,
Or accident to handkerchief in Lent
Which falls perversely as a lady kneels
Abruptly, and but half conceals her neck!
I acquiesce for my part: punished, though
By a pin-point scratch, means guilty: guilty means
—What have I been but innocent hitherto?
Anyhow, here the offence, being punished, ends.

Ends?—for you deemed so, did you not, sweet lords?
That was throughout the veritable aim
O' the sentence light or heavy,—to redress
Recognized wrong? You righted me, I think?
Well then,—what if I, at this last of all,
Demonstrate you, as my whole pleading proves,
No particle of wrong received thereby
One atom of right?—that cure grew worse disease?
That in the process you call "justice done"
All along you have nipped away just inch
By inch the creeping climbing length of plague
Breaking my tree of life from root to branch,
And left me, after all and every act
Of your interference,—lightened of what load?
At liberty wherein? Mere words and wind!
"Now I was saved, now I should feel no more
"The hot breath, find a respite from fixed eye
"And vibrant tongue!" Why, scarce your back was turned,
There was the reptile, that feigned death at first,
Renewing its detested spire and spire
Around me, rising to such heights of hate
That, so far from mere purpose now to crush
And coil itself on the remains of me,
Body and mind, and there flesh fang content,
Its aim is now to evoke life from death,
Make me anew, satisfy in my son
The hunger I may feed but never sate,
Tormented on to perpetuity,—
My son, whom, dead, I shall know, understand,
Feel, hear, see, never more escape the sight
In heaven that's turned to hell, or hell returned
(So rather say) to this same earth again,—
Moulded into the image and made one,
Fashioned of soul as featured like in face,
First taught to laugh and lisp and stand and go
By that thief, poisoner and adulteress
I call Pompilia, he calls … sacred name,
Be unpronounced, be unpolluted here!
And last led up to the glory and prize of hate
By his … foster-father, Caponsacchi's self,
The perjured priest, pink of conspirators,
Tricksters and knaves, yet polished, superfine,
Manhood to model adolescence by!
Lords, look on me, declare,—when, what I show,
Is nothing more nor less than what you deemed
And doled me out for justice,—what did you say?
For reparation, restitution and more,—
Will you not thank, praise, bid me to your breasts
For having done the thing you thought to do,
And thoroughly trampled out sin's life at last?
I have heightened phrase to make your soft speech serve,
Doubled the blow you but essayed to strike,
Carried into effect your mandate here
That else had fallen to ground: mere duty done,
Oversight of the master just supplied
By zeal i' the servant. I, being used to serve,
Have simply … what is it they charge me with?
Blackened again, made legible once more
Your own decree, not permanently writ,
Rightly conceived but all too faintly traced.
It reads efficient, now, comminatory,
A terror to the wicked, answers so
The mood o' the magistrate, the mind of law.
Absolve, then, me, law's mere executant!
Protect your own defender,—save me, Sirs!
Give me my life, give me my liberty,
My good name and my civic rights again!
It would be too fond, too complacent play
Into the hands o' the devil, should we lose
The game here, I for God: a soldier-bee
That yields his life, exenterate with the stroke
O' the sting that saves the hive. I need that life.
Oh, never fear! I'll find life plenty use
Though it should last five years more, aches and all!
For, first thing, there's the mother's age to help—
Let her come break her heart upon my breast,
Not on the blank stone of my nameless tomb!
The fugitive brother has to be bidden back
To the old routine, repugnant to the tread,
Of daily suit and service to the Church,—
Thro' gibe and jest, those stones that Shimei flung!
Ay, and the spirit-broken youth at home,
The awe-struck altar-ministrant, shall make
Amends for faith now palsied at the source,
Shall see truth yet triumphant, justice yet
A victor in the battle of this world!
Give me—for last, best gift—my son again,
Whom law makes mine,—I take him at your word,
Mine be he, by miraculous mercy, lords!
Let me lift up his youth and innocence
To purify my palace, room by room
Purged of the memories, land from his bright brow
Light to the old proud paladin my sire
Shrunk now for shame into the darkest shade
O' the tapestry, showed him once and shrouds him now!
Then may we,—strong from that rekindled smile,—
Go forward, face new times, the better day.
And when, in times made better through your brave
Decision now,—might but Utopia be!—
Rome rife with honest women and strong men,
Manners reformed, old habits back once more,
Customs that recognize the standard worth,—
The wholesome household rule in force again,
Husbands once more God's representative,
Wives like the typical Spouse once more, and Priests
No longer men of Belial, with no aim
At leading silly women captive, but
Of rising to such duties as yours now,—
Then will I set my son at my right-hand
And tell his father's story to this point,
Adding "The task seemed superhuman, still
"I dared and did it, trusting God and law:
"And they approved of me: give praise to both!"
And if, for answer, he shall stoop to kiss
My hand, and peradventure start thereat,—
I engage to smile "That was an accident
"I' the necessary process,—just a trip
"O' the torture-irons in their search for truth,—
"Hardly misfortune, and no fault at all."

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The Borough. Letter XXIII: Prisons

'TIS well--that Man to all the varying states
Of good and ill his mind accommodates;
He not alone progressive grief sustains,
But soon submits to unexperienced pains:
Change after change, all climes his body bears;
His mind repeated shocks of changing cares:
Faith and fair Virtue arm the nobler breast;
Hope and mere want of feeling aid the rest.
Or who could bear to lose the balmy air
Of summer's breath, from all things fresh and fair,
With all that man admires or loves below;
All earth and water, wood and vale bestow,
Where rosy pleasures smile, whence real blessings

flow;
With sight and sound of every kind that lives,
And crowning all with joy that freedom gives?
Who could from these, in some unhappy day,
Bear to be drawn by ruthless arms away,
To the vile nuisance of a noisome room,
Where only insolence and misery come?
(Save that the curious will by chance appear,
Or some in pity drop a fruitless tear);
To a damp Prison, where the very sight
Of the warm sun is favour and not right;
Where all we hear or see the feelings shock,
The oath and groan, the fetter and the lock?
Who could bear this and live?--Oh! many a year
All this is borne, and miseries more severe;
And some there are, familiar with the scene,
Who live in mirth, though few become serene.
Far as I might the inward man perceive,
There was a constant effort--not to grieve:
Not to despair, for better days would come,
And the freed debtor smile again at home:
Subdued his habits, he may peace regain,
And bless the woes that were not sent in vain.
Thus might we class the Debtors here confined,
The more deceived, the more deceitful kind;
Here are the guilty race, who mean to live
On credit, that credulity will give;
Who purchase, conscious they can never pay;
Who know their fate, and traffic to betray;
On whom no pity, fear, remorse, prevail.
Their aim a statute, their resource a jail; -
These are the public spoilers we regard,
No dun so harsh, no creditor so hard.
A second kind are they, who truly strive
To keep their sinking credit long alive;
Success, nay prudence, they may want, but yet
They would be solvent, and deplore a debt;
All means they use, to all expedients run,
And are by slow, sad steps, at last undone:
Justly, perhaps, you blame their want of skill,
But mourn their feelings and absolve their will.
There is a Debtor, who his trifling all
Spreads in a shop; it would not fill a stall:
There at one window his temptation lays,
And in new modes disposes and displays:
Above the door you shall his name behold,
And what he vends in ample letters told,
The words 'Repository,' 'Warehouse,' all
He uses to enlarge concerns so small:
He to his goods assigns some beauty's name,
Then in her reign, and hopes they'll share her

fame,
And talks of credit, commerce, traffic, trade,
As one important by their profit made;
But who can paint the vacancy, the gloom,
And spare dimensions of one backward room?
Wherein he dines, if so 'tis fit to speak
Of one day's herring and the morrow's steak:
An anchorite in diet, all his care
Is to display his stock and vend his ware.
Long waiting hopeless, then he tries to meet
A kinder fortune in a distant street;
There he again displays, increasing yet
Corroding sorrow and consuming debt:
Alas! he wants the requisites to rise -
The true connections, the availing ties:
They who proceed on certainties advance,
These are not times when men prevail by chance;
But still he tries, till, after years of pain,
He finds, with anguish, he has tried in vain.
Debtors are these on whom 'tis hard to press,
'Tis base, impolitic, and merciless.
To these we add a miscellaneous kind,
By pleasure, pride, and indolence confined;
Those whom no calls, no warnings could divert,
The unexperienced, and the inexpert;
The builder, idler, schemer, gamester, sot, -
The follies different, but the same their lot;
Victims of horses, lasses, drinking, dice,
Of every passion, humour, whim, and vice.
See! that sad Merchant, who but yesterday
Had a vast household in command and pay;
He now entreats permission to employ
A boy he needs, and then entreats the boy.
And there sits one improvident but kind,
Bound for a friend, whom honour could not bind;
Sighing, he speaks to any who appear,
'A treach'rous friend--'twas that which sent me

here:
I was too kind,--I thought I could depend
On his bare word--he was a treach'rous friend.'
A Female too!--it is to her a home,
She came before--and she again will come:
Her friends have pity; when their anger drops,
They take her home;--she's tried her schools and

shops -
Plan after plan;--but fortune would not mend,
She to herself was still the treach'rous friend;
And wheresoe'er began, all here was sure to end:
And there she sits, as thoughtless and as gay
As if she'd means, or not a debt to pay -
Or knew to-morrow she'd be call'd away -
Or felt a shilling and could dine to-day.
While thus observing, I began to trace
The sober'd features of a well-known face -
Looks once familiar, manners form'd to please,
And all illumined by a heart at ease:
But fraud and flattery ever claim'd a part
(Still unresisted) of that easy heart;
But he at length beholds me--'Ah! my friend!
'And have thy pleasures this unlucky end?'
'Too sure,' he said, and smiling as he sigh'd;
'I went astray, though Prudence seem'd my guide;
All she proposed I in my heart approved,
And she was honour'd, but my pleasure loved -
Pleasure, the mistress to whose arms I fled,
From wife-like lectures angry Prudence read.
'Why speak the madness of a life like mine,
The powers of beauty, novelty, and wine?
Why paint the wanton smile, the venal vow,
Or friends whose worth I can appreciate now;
Oft I perceived my fate, and then could say,
I'll think to-morrow, I must live to-day:
So am I here--I own the laws are just -
And here, where thought is painful, think I must:
But speech is pleasant; this discourse with thee
Brings to my mind the sweets of liberty,
Breaks on the sameness of the place, and gives
The doubtful heart conviction that it lives.
'Let me describe my anguish in the hour
When law detain'd me and I felt its power.
'When, in that shipwreck, this I found my shore,
And join'd the wretched, who were wreck'd before;
When I perceived each feature in the face,
Pinch'd through neglect or turbid by disgrace;
When in these wasting forms affliction stood
In my afiiicted view, it chill'd my blood; -
And forth I rush'd, a quick retreat to make,
Till a loud laugh proclaim'd the dire mistake:
But when the groan had settled to a sigh,
When gloom became familiar to the eye,
When I perceive how others seem to rest,
With every evil rankling in my breast, -
Led by example, I put on the man,
Sing off my sighs, and trifle as I can.
'Homer! nay Pope! (for never will I seek
Applause for learning--nought have I with Greek)
Gives us the secrets of his pagan hell,
Where ghost with ghost in sad communion dwell;
Where shade meets shade, and round the gloomy meads
They glide, and speak of old heroic deeds, -
What fields they conquer'd, and what foes they

slew,
And sent to join the melancholy crew.
When a new spirit in that world was found,
A thousand shadowy forms came flitting round:
Those who had known him, fond inquiries made, -
'Of all we left, inform us, gentle shade,
Now as we lead thee in our realms to dwell,
Our twilight groves, and meads of asphodel.'
'What paints the poet, is our station here,
Where we like ghosts and flitting shades appear:
This is the hell he sings, and here we meet,
And former deeds to new-made friends repeat;
Heroic deeds, which here obtain us fame,
And are in fact the causes why we came:
Yes! this dim region is old Homer's hell,
Abate but groves and meads of asphodel.
Here, when a stranger from your world we spy,
We gather round him and for news apply;
He hears unheeding, nor can speech endure,
But shivering gazes on the vast obscure:
We smiling pity, and by kindness show
We felt his feelings and his terrors know;
Then speak of comfort--time will give him sight,
Where now 'tis dark; where now 'tis woe--delight.
'Have hope,' we say, 'and soon the place to thee
Shall not a prison but a castle be:
When to the wretch whom care and guilt confound,
The world's a prison, with a wider bound;
Go where he may, he feels himself confined,
And wears the fetters of an abject mind.'
'But now adieu! those giant-keys appear,
Thou art not worthy to be inmate here:
Go to thy world, and to the young declare
What we, our spirits and employments, are;
Tell them how we the ills of life endure,
Our empire stable, and our state secure;
Our dress, our diet, for their use describe,
And bid them haste to join the gen'rous tribe:
Go to thy world, and leave us here to dwell,
Who to its joys and comforts bid farewell.'
Farewell to these; but other scenes I view,
And other griefs, and guilt of deeper hue;
Where Conscience gives to outward ills her pain,
Gloom to the night, and pressure to the chain:
Here separate cells awhile in misery keep
Two doom'd to suffer: there they strive for sleep;
By day indulged, in larger space they range,
Their bondage certain, but their bounds have

change.
One was a female, who had grievous ill
Wrought in revenge, and she enjoy'd it still:
With death before her, and her fate in view,
Unsated vengeance in her bosom grew:
Sullen she was and threat'ning; in her eye
Glared the stern triumph that she dared to die:
But first a being in the world must leave -
'Twas once reproach; 'twas now a short reprieve.
She was a pauper bound, who early gave
Her mind to vice and doubly was a slave:
Upbraided, beaten, held by rough control,
Revenge sustain'd, inspired, and fill'd her soul:
She fired a full-stored barn, confess'd the fact,
And laugh'd at law and justified the act:
Our gentle Vicar tried his powers in vain,
She answer'd not, or answer'd with disdain;
Th' approaching fate she heard without a sigh,
And neither cared to live nor fear'd to die.
Not so he felt, who with her was to pay
The forfeit, life--with dread he view'd the day,
And that short space which yet for him remain'd,
Till with his limbs his faculties were chain'd:
He paced his narrow bounds some ease to find,
But found it not,--no comfort reach'd his mind:
Each sense was palsied; when he tasted food,
He sigh'd and said, 'Enough--'tis very good.'
Since his dread sentence, nothing seem'd to be
As once it was--he seeing could not see,
Nor hearing, hear aright;--when first I came
Within his view, I fancied there was shame,
I judged resentment; I mistook the air, -
These fainter passions live not with despair;
Or but exist and die: --Hope, fear, and love,
Joy, doubt, and hate, may other spirits move,
But touch not his, who every waking hour
Has one fix'd dread, and always feels its power.
'But will not mercy?'--No! she cannot plead
For such an outrage;--'twas a cruel deed:
He stopp'd a timid traveller;--to his breast,
With oaths and curses, was the danger press'd: -
No! he must suffer: pity we may find
For one man's pangs, but must not wrong mankind.
Still I behold him, every thought employ'd
On one dire view!--all others are destroy'd;
This makes his features ghastly, gives the tone
Of his few words resemblance to a groan;
He takes his tasteless food, and when 'tis done,
Counts up his meals, now lessen'd by that one;
For expectation is on time intent,
Whether he brings us joy or punishment.
Yes! e'en in sleep the impressions all remain,
He hears the sentence and he feels the chain;
He sees the judge and jury, when he shakes,
And loudly cries, 'Not guilty,' and awakes:
Then chilling tremblings o'er his body creep,
Till worn-out nature is compell'd to sleep.
Now comes the dream again: it shows each scene,
With each small circumstance that comes between -
The call to suffering and the very deed -
There crowds go with him, follow, and precede;
Some heartless shout, some pity, all condemn,
While he in fancied envy looks at them:
He seems the place for that sad act to see,
And dreams the very thirst which then will be:
A priest attends--it seems, the one he knew
In his best days, beneath whose care he grew.
At this his terrors take a sudden flight,
He sees his native village with delight;
The house, the chamber, where he once array'd
His youthful person; where he knelt and pray'd:
Then too the comforts he enjoy'd at home,
The days of joy; the joys themselves are come; -
The hours of innocence;--the timid look
Of his loved maid, when first her hand he took,
And told his hope; her trembling joy appears,
Her forced reserve and his retreating fears.
All now is present;--'tis a moment's gleam
Of former sunshine--stay, delightful dream!
Let him within his pleasant garden walk,
Give him her arm, of blessings let them talk.
Yes! all are with him now, and all the while
Life's early prospects and his Fanny's smile:
Then come his sister and his village-friend,
And he will now the sweetest moments spend
Life has to yield;--No! never will he find
Again on earth such pleasure in his mind:
He goes through shrubby walks these friends among,
Love in their looks and honour on the tongue:
Nay, there's a charm beyond what nature shows,
The bloom is softer and more sweetly glows; -
Pierced by no crime, and urged by no desire
For more than true and honest hearts require,
They feel the calm delight, and thus proceed
Through the green lane,--then linger in the mead, -
Stray o'er the heath in all its purple bloom, -
And pluck the blossom where the wild bees hum;
Then through the broomy bound with ease they pass,
And press the sandy sheep-walk's slender grass,
Where dwarfish flowers among the gorse are spread,
And the lamb browses by the linnet's bed;
Then 'cross the bounding brook they make their way
O'er its rough bridge--and there behold the bay! -
The ocean smiling to the fervid sun -
The waves that faintly fall and slowly run -
The ships at distance and the boats at hand;
And now they walk upon the sea-side sand,
Counting the number and what kind they be,
Ships softly sinking in the sleepy sea:
Now arm in arm, now parted, they behold
The glitt'ring waters on the shingles roll'd:
The timid girls, half dreading their design,
Dip the small foot in the retarded brine,
And search for crimson weeds, which spreading flow,
Or lie like pictures on the sand below;
With all those bright red pebbles, that the sun
Through the small waves so softly shines upon;
And those live lucid jellies which the eye
Delights to trace as they swim glittering by:
Pearl-shells and rubied star-fish they admire,
And will arrange above the parlour fire, -
Tokens of bliss!--'Oh! horrible! a wave
Roars as it rises--save me, Edward! save!'
She cries: --Alas! the watchman on his way
Calls, and lets in--truth, terror, and the day!

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John Milton

Paradise Lost: Book X

Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood
Praying, for from the Mercie-seat above
Prevenient Grace descending had remov'd
The stonie from thir hearts, and made new flesh
Regenerat grow instead, that sighs now breath'd
Unutterable, which the Spirit of prayer
Inspir'd, and wing'd for Heav'n with speedier flight
Then loudest Oratorie: yet thir port
Not of mean suiters, nor important less
Seem'd thir Petition, then when th' ancient Pair
In Fables old, less ancient yet then these,
Deucalion and chaste Pyrrha to restore
The Race of Mankind drownd, before the Shrine
Of Themis stood devout. To Heav'n thir prayers
Flew up, nor missed the way, by envious windes
Blow'n vagabond or frustrate: in they passd
Dimentionless through Heav'nly dores; then clad
With incense, where the Golden Altar fum'd,
By thir great Intercessor, came in sight
Before the Fathers Throne: Them the glad Son
Presenting, thus to intercede began.
See Father, what first fruits on Earth are sprung
From thy implanted Grace in Man, these Sighs
And Prayers, which in this Golden Censer, mixt
With Incense, I thy Priest before thee bring,
Fruits of more pleasing savour from thy seed
Sow'n with contrition in his heart, then those
Which his own hand manuring all the Trees
Of Paradise could have produc't, ere fall'n
From innocence. Now therefore bend thine eare
To supplication, heare his sighs though mute;
Unskilful with what words to pray, let mee
Interpret for him, mee his Advocate
And propitiation, all his works on mee
Good or not good ingraft, my Merit those
Shall perfet, and for these my Death shall pay.
Accept me, and in mee from these receave
The smell of peace toward Mankinde, let him live
Before thee reconcil'd, at least his days
Numberd, though sad, till Death, his doom (which I
To mitigate thus plead, not to reverse)
To better life shall yeeld him, where with mee
All my redeemd may dwell in joy and bliss,
Made one with me as I with thee am one.
To whom the Father, without Cloud, serene.
All thy request for Man, accepted Son,
Obtain, all thy request was my Decree:
But longer in that Paradise to dwell,
The Law I gave to Nature him forbids:
Those pure immortal Elements that know
No gross, no unharmoneous mixture foule,
Eject him tainted now, and purge him off
As a distemper, gross to aire as gross,
And mortal food, as may dispose him best
For dissolution wrought by Sin, that first
Distemperd all things, and of incorrupt
Corrupted. I at first with two fair gifts
Created him endowd, with Happiness
And Immortalitie: that fondly lost,
This other serv'd but to eternize woe;
Till I provided Death; so Death becomes
His final remedie, and after Life
Tri'd in sharp tribulation, and refin'd
By Faith and faithful works, to second Life,
Wak't in the renovation of the just,
Resignes him up with Heav'n and Earth renewd.
But let us call to Synod all the Blest
Through Heav'ns wide bounds; from them I will not hide
My judgments, how with Mankind I proceed,
As how with peccant Angels late they saw;
And in thir state, though firm, stood more confirmd.
He ended, and the Son gave signal high
To the bright Minister that watchd, hee blew
His Trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended, and perhaps once more
To sound at general Doom. Th' Angelic blast
Filld all the Regions: from thir blissful Bowrs
Of Amarantin Shade, Fountain or Spring,
By the waters of Life, where ere they sate
In fellowships of joy: the Sons of Light
Hasted, resorting to the Summons high,
And took thir Seats; till from his Throne supream
Th' Almighty thus pronounced his sovran Will.
O Sons, like one of us Man is become
To know both Good and Evil, since his taste
Of that defended Fruit; but let him boast
His knowledge of Good lost, and Evil got,
Happier, had it suffic'd him to have known
Good by it self, and Evil not at all.
He sorrows now, repents, and prayes contrite,
My motions in him, longer then they move,
His heart I know, how variable and vain
Self-left. Least therefore his now bolder hand
Reach also of the Tree of Life, and eat,
And live for ever, dream at least to live
Forever, to remove him I decree,
And send him from the Garden forth to Till
The Ground whence he was taken, fitter soile.
Michael, this my behest have thou in charge,
Take to thee from among the Cherubim
Thy choice of flaming Warriours, least the Fiend
Or in behalf of Man, or to invade
Vacant possession som new trouble raise:
Hast thee, and from the Paradise of God
Without remorse drive out the sinful Pair,
From hallowd ground th' unholie, and denounce
To them and to thir Progenie from thence
Perpetual banishment. Yet least they faint
At the sad Sentence rigorously urg'd,
For I behold them soft'nd and with tears
Bewailing thir excess, all terror hide.
If patiently thy bidding they obey,
Dismiss them not disconsolate; reveale
To Adam what shall come in future dayes,
As I shall thee enlighten, intermix
My Cov'nant in the Womans seed renewd;
So send them forth, though sorrowing, yet in peace:
And on the East side of the Garden place,
Where entrance up from Eden easiest climbes,
Cherubic watch, and of a Sword the flame
Wide waving, all approach farr off to fright,
And guard all passage to the Tree of Life:
Least Paradise a receptacle prove
To Spirits foule, and all my Trees thir prey,
With whose stol'n Fruit Man once more to delude.
He ceas'd; and th' Archangelic Power prepar'd
For swift descent, with him the Cohort bright
Of watchful Cherubim; four faces each
Had, like a double Janus, all thir shape
Spangl'd with eyes more numerous then those
Of Argus, and more wakeful then to drouze,
Charm'd with Arcadian Pipe, the Pastoral Reed
Of Hermes, or his opiate Rod. Meanwhile
To resalute the World with sacred Light
Leucothia wak'd, and with fresh dews imbalmd
The Earth, when Adam and first Matron Eve
Had ended now thir Orisons, and found,
Strength added from above, new hope to spring
Out of despaire, joy, but with fear yet linkt;
Which thus to Eve his welcome words renewd.
Eve, easily may Faith admit, that all
The good which we enjoy, from Heav'n descends
But that from us ought should ascend to Heav'n
So prevalent as to concerne the mind
Of God high blest, or to incline his will,
Hard to belief may seem; yet this will Prayer,
Or one short sigh of humane breath, up-borne
Ev'n to the Seat of God. For since I saught
By Prayer th' offended Deitie to appease,
Kneel'd and before him humbl'd all my heart,
Methought I saw him placable and mild,
Bending his eare; perswasion in me grew
That I was heard with favour; peace returnd
Home to my brest, and to my memorie
His promise, that thy Seed shall bruise our Foe;
Which then not minded in dismay, yet now
Assures me that the bitterness of death
Is past, and we shall live. Whence Haile to thee,
Eve rightly call'd, Mother of all Mankind,
Mother of all things living, since by thee
Man is to live, and all things live for Man.
To whom thus Eve with sad demeanour meek.
Ill worthie I such title should belong
To me transgressour, who for thee ordaind
A help, became thy snare; to mee reproach
Rather belongs, distrust and all dispraise:
But infinite in pardon was my Judge,
That I who first brought Death on all, am grac't
The sourse of life; next favourable thou,
Who highly thus to entitle me voutsaf't,
Farr other name deserving. But the Field
To labour calls us now with sweat impos'd,
Though after sleepless Night; for see the Morn,
All unconcern'd with our unrest, begins
Her rosie progress smiling; let us forth,
I never from thy side henceforth to stray,
Wherere our days work lies, though now enjoind
Laborious, till day droop; while here we dwell,
What can be toilsom in these pleasant Walkes?
Here let us live, though in fall'n state, content.
So spake, so wish'd much-humbl'd Eve, but Fate
Subscrib'd not; Nature first gave Signs, imprest
On Bird, Beast, Aire, Aire suddenly eclips'd
After short blush of Morn; nigh in her sight
The Bird of Jove, stoopt from his aerie tour,
Two Birds of gayest plume before him drove:
Down from a Hill the Beast that reigns in Woods,
First Hunter then, pursu'd a gentle brace,
Goodliest of all the Forrest, Hart and Hinde;
Direct to th' Eastern Gate was bent thir flight.
Adam observ'd, and with his Eye the chase
Pursuing, not unmov'd to Eve thus spake.
O Eve, some furder change awaits us nigh,
Which Heav'n by these mute signs in Nature shews
Forerunners of his purpose, or to warn
Us haply too secure of our discharge
From penaltie, because from death releast
Some days; how long, and what till then our life,
Who knows, or more then this, that we are dust,
And thither must return and be no more.
VVhy else this double object in our sight
Of flight pursu'd in th' Air and ore the ground
One way the self-same hour? why in the East
Darkness ere Dayes mid-course, and Morning light
More orient in yon VVestern Cloud that draws
O're the blew Firmament a radiant white,
And slow descends, with somthing heav'nly fraught.
He err'd not, for by this the heav'nly Bands
Down from a Skie of Jasper lighted now
In Paradise, and on a Hill made alt,
A glorious Apparition, had not doubt
And carnal fear that day dimm'd Adams eye.
Not that more glorious, when the Angels met
Jacob in Mahanaim, where he saw
The field Pavilion'd with his Guardians bright;
Nor that which on the flaming Mount appeerd
In Dothan, cover'd with a Camp of Fire,
Against the Syrian King, who to surprize
One man, Assassin-like had levied Warr,
Warr unproclam'd. The Princely Hierarch
In thir bright stand, there left his Powers to seise
Possession of the Garden; hee alone,
To finde where Adam shelterd, took his way,
Not unperceav'd of Adam, who to Eve,
While the great Visitant approachd, thus spake.
Eve, now expect great tidings, which perhaps
Of us will soon determin, or impose
New Laws to be observ'd; for I descrie
From yonder blazing Cloud that veils the Hill
One of the heav'nly Host, and by his Gate
None of the meanest, some great Potentate
Or of the Thrones above, such Majestie
Invests him coming; yet not terrible,
That I should fear, nor sociably mild,
As Raphael, that I should much confide,
But solemn and sublime, whom not to offend,
With reverence I must meet, and thou retire.
He ended; and th' Arch-Angel soon drew nigh,
Not in his shape Celestial, but as Man
Clad to meet Man; over his lucid Armes
A militarie Vest of purple flowd
Livelier then Meliboean or the graine
Of Sarra, worn by Kings and Hero's old
In time of Truce; Iris had dipt the wooff;
His starrie Helme unbuckl'd shew'd him prime
In Manhood where Youth ended; by his side
As in a glistering Zodiac hung the Sword,
Satans dire dread, and in his hand the Spear.
Adam bowd low, hee Kingly from his State
Inclin'd not, but his coming thus declar'd.
Adam, Heav'ns high behest no Preface needs:
Sufficient that thy Prayers are heard, and Death,
Then due by sentence when thou didst transgress,
Defeated of his seisure many dayes
Giv'n thee of Grace, wherein thou may'st repent,
And one bad act with many deeds well done
Mayst cover: well may then thy Lord appeas'd
Redeem thee quite from Deaths rapacious claimes;
But longer in this Paradise to dwell
Permits not; to remove thee I am come,
And send thee from the Garden forth to till
The ground whence thou wast tak'n, fitter Soile.
He added not, for Adam at the newes
Heart-strook with chilling gripe of sorrow stood,
That all his senses bound; Eve, who unseen
Yet all had heard, with audible lament
Discover'd soon the place of her retire.
O unexpected stroke, worse then of Death!
Must I thus leave thee Paradise? thus leave
Thee Native Soile, these happie Walks and Shades,
Fit haunt of Gods? where I had hope to spend,
Quiet though sad, the respit of that day
That must be mortal to us both. O flours,
That never will in other Climate grow,
My early visitation, and my last
At Eev'n, which I bred up with tender hand
From the first op'ning bud, and gave ye Names,
Who now shall reare ye to the Sun, or ranke
Your Tribes, and water from th' ambrosial Fount?
Thee lastly nuptial Bowre, by mee adornd
With what to sight or smell was sweet; from thee
How shall I part, and whither wander down
Into a lower World, to this obscure
And wilde, how shall we breath in other Aire
Less pure, accustomd to immortal Fruits?
Whom thus the Angel interrupted milde.
Lament not Eve, but patiently resigne
What justly thou hast lost; nor set thy heart,
Thus over fond, on that which is not thine;
Thy going is not lonely, with thee goes
Thy Husband, him to follow thou art bound;
Where he abides, think there thy native soile.
Adam by this from the cold sudden damp
Recovering, and his scatterd spirits returnd,
To Michael thus his humble words addressd.
Celestial, whether among the Thrones, or nam'd
Of them the Highest, for such of shape may seem
Prince above Princes, gently hast thou tould
Thy message, which might else in telling wound,
And in performing end us; what besides
Of sorrow and dejection and despair
Our frailtie can sustain, thy tidings bring,
Departure from this happy place, our sweet
Recess, and onely consolation left
Familiar to our eyes, all places else
Inhospitable appeer and desolate,
Nor knowing us nor known: and if by prayer
Incessant I could hope to change the will
Of him who all things can, I would not cease
To wearie him with my assiduous cries:
But prayer against his absolute Decree
No more availes then breath against the winde,
Blown stifling back on him that breaths it forth:
Therefore to his great bidding I submit.
This most afflicts me, that departing hence,
As from his face I shall be hid, deprivd
His blessed count'nance; here I could frequent,
With worship, place by place where he voutsaf'd
Presence Divine, and to my Sons relate;
On this Mount he appeerd, under this Tree
Stood visible, among these Pines his voice
I heard, here with him at this Fountain talk'd:
So many grateful Altars I would reare
Of grassie Terfe, and pile up every Stone
Of lustre from the brook, in memorie,
Or monument to Ages, and thereon
Offer sweet smelling Gumms & Fruits and Flours:
In yonder nether World where shall I seek
His bright appearances, or footstep trace?
For though I fled him angrie, yet recall'd
To life prolongd and promisd Race, I now
Gladly behold though but his utmost skirts
Of glory, and farr off his steps adore.
To whom thus Michael with regard benigne.
Adam, thou know'st Heav'n his, and all the Earth
Not this Rock onely; his Omnipresence fills
Land, Sea, and Aire, and every kinde that lives,
Fomented by his virtual power and warmd:
All th' Earth he gave thee to possess and rule,
No despicable gift; surmise not then
His presence to these narrow bounds confin'd
Of Paradise or Eden: this had been
Perhaps thy Capital Seate, from whence had spred
All generations, and had hither come
From all the ends of th' Earth, to celebrate
And reverence thee thir great Progenitor.
But this præeminence thou hast lost, brought down
To dwell on eeven ground now with thy Sons:
Yet doubt not but in Vallie and in Plaine
God is as here, and will be found alike
Present, and of his presence many a signe
Still following thee, still compassing thee round
With goodness and paternal Love, his Face
Express, and of his steps the track Divine.
Which that thou mayst beleeve, and be confirmd,
Ere thou from hence depart, know I am sent
To shew thee what shall come in future dayes
To thee and to thy Ofspring; good with bad
Expect to hear, supernal Grace contending
With sinfulness of Men; thereby to learn
True patience, and to temper joy with fear
And pious sorrow, equally enur'd
By moderation either state to beare,
Prosperous or adverse: so shalt thou lead
Safest thy life, and best prepar'd endure
Thy mortal passage when it comes. Ascend
This Hill; let Eve (for I have drencht her eyes)
Here sleep below while thou to foresight wak'st,
As once thou slepst, while Shee to life was formd.
To whom thus Adam gratefully repli'd.
Ascend, I follow thee, safe Guide, the path
Thou lead'st me, and to the hand of Heav'n submit,
However chast'ning, to the evil turne
My obvious breast, arming to overcom
By suffering, and earne rest from labour won,
If so I may attain. So both ascend
In the Visions of God: It was a Hill
Of Paradise the highest, from whose top
The Hemisphere of Earth in cleerest Ken
Stretcht out to amplest reach of prospect lay.
Not higher that Hill nor wider looking round,
Whereon for different cause the Tempter set
Our second Adam in the Wilderness,
To shew him all Earths Kingdomes and thir Glory.
His Eye might there command wherever stood
City of old or modern Fame, the Seat
Of mightiest Empire, from the destind Walls
Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can
And Samarchand by Oxus, Temirs Throne,
To Paquin of Sinæan Kings, and thence
To Agra and Lahor of great Mogul
Down to the golden Chersonese, or where
The Persian in Ecbatan sate, or since
In Hispahan, or where the Russian Ksar
In Mosco, or the Sultan in Bizance,
Turchestan-born; nor could his eye not ken
Th' Empire of Negus to his utmost Port
Ercoco and the less Maritine Kings
Mombaza, and Quiloa, and Melind,
And Sofala thought Ophir, to the Realme
Of Congo, and Angola fardest South;
Or thence from Niger Flood to Atlas Mount
The Kingdoms of Almansor, Fez, and Sus,
Marocco and Algiers, and Tremisen;
On Europe thence, and where Rome was to sway
The VVorld: in Spirit perhaps he also saw
Rich Mexico the seat of Motezume,
And Cusco in Peru, the richer seat
Of Atabalipa, and yet unspoil'd
Guiana, whose great Citie Geryons Sons
Call El Dorado: but to nobler sights
Michael from Adams eyes the Filme remov'd
VVhich that false Fruit that promis'd clearer sight
Had bred; then purg'd with Euphrasie and Rue
The visual Nerve, for he had much to see;
And from the VVell of Life three drops instill'd.
So deep the power of these Ingredients pierc'd,
Eevn to the inmost seat of mental sight,
That Adam now enforc't to close his eyes,
Sunk down and all his Spirits became intranst:
But him the gentle Angel by the hand
Soon rais'd, and his attention thus recall'd.
Adam, now ope thine eyes, and first behold
Th' effects which thy original crime hath wrought
In some to spring from thee, who never touch'd
Th' excepted Tree, nor with the Snake conspir'd,
Nor sinn'd thy sin, yet from that sin derive
Corruption to bring forth more violent deeds.
His eyes he op'nd, and beheld a field,
Part arable and tilth, whereon were Sheaves
New reapt, the other part sheep-walks and foulds;
Ith' midst an Altar as the Land-mark stood
Rustic, of grassie sord; thither anon
A sweatie Reaper from his Tillage brought
First Fruits, the green Eare, and the yellow Sheaf,
Uncull'd, as came to hand; a Shepherd next
More meek came with the Firstlings of his Flock
Choicest and best; then sacrificing, laid
The Inwards and thir Fat, with Incense strew'd,
On the cleft Wood, and all due Rites perform'd.
His Offring soon propitious Fire from Heav'n
Consum'd with nimble glance, and grateful steame;
The others not, for his was not sincere;
Whereat hee inlie rag'd, and as they talk'd,
Smote him into the Midriff with a stone
That beat out life; he fell, and deadly pale
Groand out his Soul with gushing bloud effus'd.
Much at that sight was Adam in his heart
Dismai'd, and thus in haste to th' Angel cri'd.
O Teacher, some great mischief hath befall'n
To that meek man, who well had sacrific'd;
Is Pietie thus and pure Devotion paid?
T' whom Michael thus, hee also mov'd, repli'd.
These two are Brethren, Adam, and to come
Out of thy loyns; th' unjust the just hath slain,
For envie that his Brothers Offering found
From Heav'n acceptance; but the bloodie Fact
Will be aveng'd, and th' others Faith approv'd
Loose no reward, though here thou see him die,
Rowling in dust and gore. To which our Sire.
Alas, both for the deed and for the cause!
But have I now seen Death? Is this the way
I must return to native dust? O sight
Of terrour, foul and ugly to behold,
Horrid to think, how horrible to feel!
To whom thus Michael. Death thou hast seen
In his first shape on man; but many shapes
Of Death, and many are the wayes that lead
To his grim Cave, all dismal; yet to sense
More terrible at th' entrance then within.
Some, as thou saw'st, by violent stroke shall die,
By Fire, Flood, Famin, by Intemperance more
In Meats and Drinks, which on the Earth shal bring
Diseases dire, of which a monstrous crew
Before thee shall appear; that thou mayst know
What miserie th' inabstinence of Eve
Shall bring on men. Immediately a place
Before his eyes appeard, sad, noysom, dark,
A Lazar-house it seemd, wherein were laid
Numbers of all diseas'd, all maladies
Of gastly Spasm, or racking torture, qualmes
Of heart-sick Agonie, all feavorous kinds,
Convulsions, Epilepsies, fierce Catarrhs,
Intestin Stone and Ulcer, Colic pangs,
Dropsies, and Asthma's, and Joint-racking Rheums.
Dire was the tossing, deep the groans, despair
Tended the sick busiest from Couch to Couch;
And over them triumphant Death his Dart
Shook, but delaid to strike, though oft invok't
With vows, as thir chief good, and final hope.
Sight so deform what heart of Rock could long
Drie-ey'd behold? Adam could not, but wept,
Though not of Woman born; compassion quell'd
His best of Man, and gave him up to tears
A space, till firmer thoughts restraind excess,
And scarce recovering words his plaint renew'd.
O miserable Mankind, to what fall
Degraded, to what wretched state reserv'd?
Better end heer unborn. Why is life giv'n
To be thus wrested from us? rather why
Obtruded on us thus? who if we knew
What we receive, would either not accept
Life offer'd, or soon beg to lay it down,
Glad to be so dismist in peace. Can thus
Th' Image of God in man created once
So goodly and erect, though faultie since,
To such unsightly sufferings be debas't
Under inhuman pains? Why should not Man,
Retaining still Divine similitude
In part, from such deformities be free,
And for his Makers Image sake exempt?
Thir Makers Image, answerd Michael, then
Forsook them, when themselves they villifi'd
To serve ungovern'd appetite, and took
His Image whom they serv'd, a brutish vice,
Inductive mainly to the sin of Eve.
Therefore so abject is thir punishment,
Disfiguring not Gods likeness, but thir own,
Or if his likeness, by themselves defac't
While they pervert pure Natures healthful rules
To loathsom sickness, worthily, since they
Gods Image did not reverence in themselves.
I yeild it just, said Adam, and submit.
But is there yet no other way, besides
These painful passages, how we may come
To Death, and mix with our connatural dust?
There is, said Michael, if thou well observe
The rule of not too much, by temperance taught
In what thou eatst and drinkst, seeking from thence
Due nourishment, not gluttonous delight,
Till many years over thy head return:
So maist thou live, till like ripe Fruit thou drop
Into thy Mothers lap, or be with ease
Gatherd, not harshly pluckt, for death mature:
This is old age; but then thou must outlive
Thy youth, thy strength, thy beauty, which will change
To witherd weak & gray; thy Senses then
Obtuse, all taste of pleasure must forgoe,
To what thou hast, and for the Aire of youth
Hopeful and cheerful, in thy blood will reigne
A melancholly damp of cold and dry
To waigh thy spirits down, and last consume
The Balme of Life. To whom our Ancestor.
Henceforth I flie not Death, nor would prolong
Life much, bent rather how I may be quit
Fairest and easiest of this combrous charge,
Which I must keep till my appointed day
Of rendring up. Michael to him repli'd.
Nor love thy Life, nor hate; but what thou livst
Live well, how long or short permit to Heav'n:
And now prepare thee for another sight.
He lookd and saw a spacious Plaine, whereon
Were Tents of various hue; by some were herds
Of Cattel grazing: others, whence the sound
Of Instruments that made melodious chime
Was heard, of Harp and Organ; and who moovd
Thir stops and chords was seen: his volant touch
Instinct through all proportions low and high
Fled and pursu'd transverse the resonant fugue.
In other part stood one who at the Forge
Labouring, two massie clods of Iron and Brass
Had melted (whether found where casual fire
Had wasted woods on Mountain or in Vale,
Down to the veins of Earth, thence gliding hot
To som Caves mouth, or whether washt by stream
From underground) the liquid Ore he dreind
Into fit moulds prepar'd; from which he formd
First his own Tooles; then, what might else be wrought
Fulfil or grav'n in mettle. After these,
But on the hether side a different sort
From the high neighbouring Hills, which was thir Seat,
Down to the Plain descended: by thir guise
Just men they seemd, and all thir study bent
To worship God aright, and know his works
Not hid, nor those things lost which might preserve
Freedom and Peace to men: they on the Plain
Long had not walkt, when from the Tents behold
A Beavie of fair Women, richly gay
In Gems and wanton dress; to the Harp they sung
Soft amorous Ditties, and in dance came on:
The Men though grave, ey'd them, and let thir eyes
Rove without rein, till in the amorous Net
Fast caught, they lik'd, and each his liking chose;
And now of love they treat till th' Eevning Star
Loves Harbinger appeerd; then all in heat
They light the Nuptial Torch, and bid invoke
Hymen, then first to marriage Rites invok't;
With Feast and Musick all the Tents resound.
Such happy interview and fair event
Of love & youth not lost, Songs, Garlands, Flours,
And charming Symphonies attach'd the heart
Of Adam, soon enclin'd to admit delight,
The bent of Nature; which he thus express'd.
True opener of mine eyes, prime Angel blest,
Much better seems this Vision, and more hope
Of peaceful dayes portends, then those two past;
Those were of hate and death, or pain much worse,
Here Nature seems fulfilld in all her ends.
To whom thus Michael. Judg not what is best
By pleasure, though to Nature seeming meet,
Created, as thou art, to nobler end
Holie and pure, conformitie divine.
Those Tents thou sawst so pleasant, were the Tents
Of wickedness, wherein shall dwell his Race
Who slew his Brother; studious they appere
Of Arts that polish Life, Inventers rare,
Unmindful of thir Maker, though his Spirit
Taught them, but they his gifts acknowledg'd none.
Yet they a beauteous ofspring shall beget;
For that fair femal Troop thou sawst, that seemd
Of Goddesses, so blithe, so smooth, so gay,
Yet empty of all good wherein consists
Womans domestic honour and chief praise;
Bred onely and completed to the taste
Of lustful apperence, to sing, to dance,
To dress, and troule the Tongue, and roule the Eye.
To these that sober Race of Men, whose lives
Religious titl'd them the Sons of God,
Shall yeild up all thir vertue, all thir fame
Ignobly, to the trains and to the smiles
Of these fair Atheists, and now swim in joy,
(Erelong to swim at larg) and laugh; for which
The world erelong a world of tears must weepe.
To whom thus Adam of short joy bereft.
O pittie and shame, that they who to live well
Enterd so faire, should turn aside to tread
Paths indirect, or in the mid way faint!
But still I see the tenor of Mans woe
Holds on the same, from Woman to begin.
From Mans effeminate slackness it begins,
Said th' Angel, who should better hold his place
By wisdome, and superiour gifts receavd.
But now prepare thee for another Scene.
He lookd and saw wide Territorie spred
Before him, Towns, and rural works between,
Cities of Men with lofty Gates and Towrs,
Concours in Arms, fierce Faces threatning Warr,
Giants of mightie Bone, and bould emprise;
Part wield thir Arms, part courb the foaming Steed,
Single or in Array of Battel rang'd
Both Horse and Foot, nor idely mustring stood;
One way a Band select from forage drives
A herd of Beeves, faire Oxen and faire Kine
From a fat Meddow ground; or fleecy Flock,
Ewes and thir bleating Lambs over the Plaine,
Thir Bootie; scarce with Life the Shepherds flye,
But call in aide, which tacks a bloody Fray;
With cruel Tournament the Squadrons joine;
Where Cattel pastur'd late, now scatterd lies
With Carcasses and Arms th' ensanguind Field
Deserted: Others to a Citie strong
Lay Siege, encampt; by Batterie, Scale, and Mine,
Assaulting; others from the Wall defend
With Dart and Jav'lin, Stones and sulfurous Fire;
On each hand slaughter and gigantic deeds.
In other part the scepter'd Haralds call
To Council in the Citie Gates: anon
Grey-headed men and grave, with Warriours mixt,
Assemble, and Harangues are heard, but soon
In factious opposition, till at last
Of middle Age one rising, eminent
In wise deport, spake much of Right and Wrong,
Of Justice, of Religion, Truth and Peace,
And Judgement from above: him old and young
Exploded, and had seiz'd with violent hands,
Had not a Cloud descending snatch'd him thence
Unseen amid the throng: so violence
Proceeded, and Oppression, and Sword-Law
Through all the Plain, and refuge none was found.
Adam was all in tears, and to his guide
Lamenting turnd full sad; O what are these,
Deaths Ministers, not Men, who thus deal Death
Inhumanly to men, and multiply
Ten thousand fould the sin of him who slew
His Brother; for of whom such massacher
Make they but of thir Brethren, men of men?
But who was that Just Man, whom had not Heav'n
Rescu'd, had in his Righteousness bin lost?
To whom thus Michael: These are the product
Of those ill-mated Marriages thou saw'st;
Where good with bad were matcht, who of themselves
Abhor to joyn; and by imprudence mixt,
Produce prodigious Births of bodie or mind.
Such were these Giants, men of high renown;
For in those dayes Might onely shall be admir'd,
And Valour and Heroic Vertu call'd;
To overcome in Battel, and subdue
Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Man-slaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human Glorie, and for Glorie done
Of triumph, to be styl'd great Conquerours,
Patrons of Mankind, Gods, and Sons of Gods,
Destroyers rightlier call'd and Plagues of men.
Thus Fame shall be achiev'd, renown on Earth,
And what most merits fame in silence hid.
But hee the seventh from thee, whom thou beheldst
The onely righteous in a World perverse,
And therefore hated, therefore so beset
With Foes for daring single to be just,
And utter odious Truth, that God would come
To judge them with his Saints: Him the most High
Rapt in a balmie Cloud with winged Steeds
Did, as thou sawst, receave, to walk with God
High in Salvation and the Climes of bliss,
Exempt from Death; to shew thee what reward
Awaits the good, the rest what punishment;
Which now direct thine eyes and soon behold.
He look'd, & saw the face of things quite chang'd;
The brazen Throat of Warr had ceast to roar,
All now was turn'd to jollitie and game,
To luxurie and riot, feast and dance,
Marrying or prostituting, as befell,
Rape or Adulterie, where passing faire
Allurd them; thence from Cups to civil Broiles.
At length a Reverend Sire among them came,
And of thir doings great dislike declar'd,
And testifi'd against thir wayes; hee oft
Frequented thir Assemblies, whereso met,
Triumphs or Festivals, and to them preachd
Conversion and Repentance, as to Souls
In prison under Judgements imminent:
But all in vain: which when he saw, he ceas'd
Contending, and remov'd his Tents farr off;
Then from the Mountain hewing Timber tall,
Began to build a Vessel of huge bulk,
Measur'd by Cubit, length, & breadth, and highth,
Smeard round with Pitch, and in the side a dore
Contriv'd, and of provisions laid in large
For Man and Beast: when loe a wonder strange!
Of everie Beast, and Bird, and Insect small
Came seavens, and pairs, and enterd in, as taught
Thir order; last the Sire, and his three Sons
With thir four Wives, and God made fast the dore.
Meanwhile the Southwind rose, & with black wings
Wide hovering, all the Clouds together drove
From under Heav'n; the Hills to their supplie
Vapour, and Exhalation dusk and moist,
Sent up amain; and now the thick'nd Skie
Like a dark Ceeling stood; down rush'd the Rain
Impetuous, and continu'd till the Earth
No more was seen; the floating Vessel swum
Uplifted; and secure with beaked prow
Rode tilting o're the Waves, all dwellings else
Flood overwhelmd, and them with all thir pomp
Deep under water rould; Sea cover'd Sea,
Sea without shoar; and in thir Palaces
Where luxurie late reign'd, Sea-monsters whelp'd
And stabl'd; of Mankind, so numerous late,
All left, in one small bottom swum imbark't.
How didst thou grieve then, Adam, to behold
The end of all thy Ofspring, end so sad,
Depopulation; thee another Floud,
Of tears and sorrow a Floud thee also drown'd,
And sunk thee as thy Sons; till gently reard
By th' Angel, on thy feet thou stoodst at last,
Though comfortless, as when a Father mourns
His Childern, all in view destroyd at once;
And scarce to th' Angel utterdst thus thy plaint.
O Visions ill foreseen! better had I
Liv'd ignorant of future, so had borne
My part of evil onely, each dayes lot
Anough to bear; those now, that were dispenst
The burd'n of many Ages, on me light
At once, by my foreknowledge gaining Birth
Abortive, to torment me ere thir being,
With thought that they must be. Let no man seek
Henceforth to be foretold what shall befall
Him or his Childern, evil he may be sure,
Which neither his foreknowing can prevent,
And hee the future evil shall no less
In apprehension then in substance feel
Grievous to bear: but that care now is past,
Man is not whom to warne: those few escap't
Famin and anguish will at last consume
Wandring that watrie Desert: I had hope
When violence was ceas't, and Warr on Earth,
All would have then gon well, peace would have crownd
With length of happy days the race of man;
But I was farr deceav'd; for now I see
Peace to corrupt no less then Warr to waste.
How comes it thus? unfould, Celestial Guide,
And whether here the Race of man will end.
To whom thus Michael. Those whom last thou sawst
In triumph and luxurious wealth, are they
First seen in acts of prowess eminent
And great exploits, but of true vertu void;
Who having spilt much blood, and don much waste
Subduing Nations, and achievd thereby
Fame in the World, high titles, and rich prey,
Shall change thir course to pleasure, ease, and sloth,
Surfet, and lust, till wantonness and pride
Raise out of friendship hostil deeds in Peace.
The conquerd also, and enslav'd by Warr
Shall with thir freedom lost all vertu loose
And feare of God, from whom thir pietie feign'd
In sharp contest of Battel found no aide
Against invaders; therefore coold in zeale
Thenceforth shall practice how to live secure,
Worldlie or dissolute, on what thir Lords
Shall leave them to enjoy; for th' Earth shall bear
More then anough, that temperance may be tri'd:
So all shall turn degenerate, all deprav'd,
Justice and Temperance, Truth and Faith forgot;
One Man except, the onely Son of light
In a dark Age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a World
Offended; fearless of reproach and scorn,
Or violence, hee of thir wicked wayes
Shall them admonish, and before them set
The paths of righteousness, how much more safe,
And full of peace, denouncing wrauth to come
On thir impenitence; and shall returne
Of them derided, but of God observd
The one just Man alive; by his command
Shall build a wondrous Ark, as thou beheldst,
To save himself and houshold from amidst
A World devote to universal rack.
No sooner hee with them of Man and Beast
Select for life shall in the Ark be lodg'd,
And shelterd round, but all the Cataracts
Of Heav'n set open on the Earth shall powre
Raine day and night, all fountaines of the Deep
Broke up, shall heave the Ocean to usurp
Beyond all bounds, till inundation rise
Above the highest Hills: then shall this Mount
Of Paradise by might of Waves be moovd
Out of his place, pushd by the horned floud,
With all his verdure spoil'd, and Trees adrift
Down the great River to the op'ning Gulf,
And there take root an Iland salt and bare,
The haunt of Seales and Orcs, and Sea-mews clang.
To teach thee that God attributes to place
No sanctitie, if none be thither brought
By Men who there frequent, or therein dwell.
And now what further shall ensue, behold.
He lookd, and saw the Ark hull on the floud,
Which now abated, for the Clouds were fled,
Drivn by a keen North-winde, that blowing drie
Wrinkl'd the face of Deluge, as decai'd;
And the cleer Sun on his wide watrie Glass
Gaz'd hot, and of the fresh Wave largely drew,
As after thirst, which made thir flowing shrink
From standing lake to tripping ebbe, that stole
With soft foot towards the deep, who now had stopt
His Sluces, as the Heav'n his windows shut.
The Ark no more now flotes, but seems on ground
Fast on the top of som high mountain fixt.
And now the tops of Hills as Rocks appeer;
With clamor thence the rapid Currents drive
Towards the retreating Sea thir furious tyde.
Forthwith from out the Arke a Raven flies,
And after him, the surer messenger,
A Dove sent forth once and agen to spie
Green Tree or ground whereon his foot may light;
The second time returning, in his Bill
An Olive leafe he brings, pacific signe:
Anon drie ground appeers, and from his Arke
The ancient Sire descends with all his Train;
Then with uplifted hands, and eyes devout,
Grateful to Heav'n, over his head beholds
A dewie Cloud, and in the Cloud a Bow
Conspicuous with three lifted colours gay,
Betok'ning peace from God, and Cov'nant new.
Whereat the heart of Adam erst so sad
Greatly rejoyc'd, and thus his joy broke forth.
O thou that future things canst represent
As present, Heav'nly instructer, I revive
At this last sight, assur'd that Man shall live
With all the Creatures, and thir seed preserve.
Farr less I now lament for one whole World
Of wicked Sons destroyd, then I rejoyce
For one Man found so perfet and so just,
That God voutsafes to raise another World
From him, and all his anger to forget.
But say, what mean those colourd streaks in Heavn,
Distended as the Brow of God appeas'd,
Or serve they as a flourie verge to binde
The fluid skirts of that same watrie Cloud,
Least it again dissolve and showr the Earth?
To whom th' Archangel. Dextrously thou aim'st;
So willingly doth God remit his Ire,
Though late repenting him of Man deprav'd,
Griev'd at his heart, when looking down he saw
The whole Earth fill'd with violence, and all flesh
Corrupting each thir way; yet those remoov'd,
Such grace shall one just Man find in his sight,
That he relents, not to blot out mankind,
And makes a Covenant never to destroy
The Earth again by flood, nor let the Sea
Surpass his bounds, nor Rain to drown the World
With Man therein or Beast; but when he brings
Over the Earth a Cloud, will therein set
His triple-colour'd Bow, whereon to look
And call to mind his Cov'nant: Day and Night,
Seed time and Harvest, Heat and hoary Frost
Shall hold thir course, till fire purge all things new,
Both Heav'n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell.
Thus thou hast seen one World begin and end;
And Man as from a second stock proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see, but I perceave
Thy mortal sight to faile; objects divine
Must needs impaire and wearie human sense:
Henceforth what is to com I will relate,
Thou therefore give due audience, and attend.
This second sours of Men, while yet but few,
And while the dread of judgement past remains
Fresh in thir mindes, fearing the Deitie,
With some regard to what is just and right
Shall lead thir lives, and multiplie apace,
Labouring the soile, and reaping plenteous crop,
Corn wine and oyle; and from the herd or flock,
Oft sacrificing Bullock, Lamb, or Kid,
With large Wine-offerings pour'd, and sacred Feast
Shal spend thir dayes in joy unblam'd, and dwell
Long time in peace by Families and Tribes
Under paternal rule; till one shall rise
Of proud ambitious heart, who not content
With fair equalitie, fraternal state,
Will arrogate Dominion undeserv'd
Over his brethren, and quite dispossess
Concord and law of Nature from the Earth;
Hunting (and Men not Beasts shall be his game)
With Warr and hostile snare such as refuse
Subjection to his Empire tyrannous:
A mightie Hunter thence he shall be styl'd
Before the Lord, as in despite of Heav'n,
Or from Heav'n claming second Sovrantie;
And from Rebellion shall derive his name,
Though of Rebellion others he accuse.
Hee with a crew, whom like Ambition joyns
With him or under him to tyrannize,
Marching from Eden towards the West, shall finde
The Plain, wherein a black bituminous gurge
Boiles out from under ground, the mouth of Hell;
Of Brick, and of that stuff they cast to build
A Citie & Towre, whose top may reach to Heav'n;
And get themselves a name, least far disperst
In foraign Lands thir memorie be lost,
Regardless whether good or evil fame.
But God who oft descends to visit men
Unseen, and through thir habitations walks
To mark thir doings, them beholding soon,
Comes down to see thir Citie, ere the Tower
Obstruct Heav'n Towrs, and in derision sets
Upon thir Tongues a various Spirit to rase
Quite out thir Native Language, and instead
To sow a jangling noise of words unknown:
Forthwith a hideous gabble rises loud
Among the Builders; each to other calls
Not understood, till hoarse, and all in rage,
As mockt they storm; great laughter was in Heav'n
And looking down, to see the hubbub strange
And hear the din; thus was the building left
Ridiculous, and the work Confusion nam'd.
Whereto thus Adam fatherly displeas'd.
O execrable Son so to aspire
Above his Brethren, to himself affirming
Authoritie usurpt, from God not giv'n:
He gave us onely over Beast, Fish, Fowl
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his donation; but Man over men
He made not Lord; such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free.
But this Usurper his encroachment proud
Stayes not on Man; to God his Tower intends
Siege and defiance: Wretched man! what food
Will he convey up thither to sustain
Himself and his rash Armie, where thin Aire
Above the Clouds will pine his entrails gross,
And famish him of Breath, if not of Bread?
To whom thus Michael. Justly thou abhorr'st
That Son, who on the quiet state of men
Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue
Rational Libertie; yet know withall,
Since thy original lapse, true Libertie
Is lost, which alwayes with right Reason dwells
Twinn'd, and from her hath no dividual being:
Reason in man obscur'd, or not obeyd,
Immediately inordinate desires
And upstart Passions catch the Government
From Reason, and to servitude reduce
Man till then free. Therefore since hee permits
Within himself unworthie Powers to reign
Over free Reason, God in Judgement just
Subjects him from without to violent Lords;
Who oft as undeservedly enthrall
His outward freedom: Tyrannie must be,
Though to the Tyrant thereby no excuse.
Yet somtimes Nations will decline so low
From vertue, which is reason, that no wrong,
But Justice, and some fatal curse annext
Deprives them of thir outward libertie,
Thir inward lost: Witness th' irreverent Son
Of him who built the Ark, who for the shame
Don to his Father, heard this heavie curse,
Servant of servants, on his vitious Race.
Thus will this latter, as the former World,
Still tend from bad to worse, till God at last
Wearied with their iniquities, withdraw
His presence from among them, and avert
His holy Eyes; resolving from thenceforth
To leave them to thir own polluted wayes;
And one peculiar Nation to select
From all the rest, of whom to be invok'd,
A Nation from one faithful man to spring:
Him on this side Euphrates yet residing,
Bred up in Idol-worship; O that men
(Canst thou believe?) should be so stupid grown,
While yet the Patriark liv'd, who scap'd the Flood,
As to forsake the living God, and fall
To-worship thir own work in Wood and Stone
For Gods! yet him God the most High voutsafes
To call by Vision from his Fathers house,
His kindred and false Gods, into a Land
Which he will shew him, and from him will raise
A mightie Nation, and upon him showre
His benediction so, that in his Seed
All Nations shall be blest; hee straight obeys,
Not knowing to what Land, yet firm believes:
I see him, but thou canst not, with what Faith
He leaves his Gods, his Friends, and native Soile
Ur of Chaldæa, passing now the Ford
To Haran, after him a cumbrous Train
Of Herds and Flocks, and numerous servitude;
Not wandring poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who call'd him, in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains, I see his Tents
Pitcht about Sechem, and the neighbouring Plaine
Of Moreb; there by promise he receaves
Gift to his Progenie of all that Land;
From Hamath Northward to the Desert South
(Things by thir names I call, though yet unnam'd)
From Hermon East to the great Western Sea,
Mount Hermon, yonder Sea, each place behold
In prospect, as I point them; on the shoare
Mount Carmel; here the double-founted stream
Jordan, true limit Eastward; but his Sons
Shall dwell to Senir; that long ridge of Hills.
This ponder, that all Nations of the Earth
Shall in his Seed be blessed; by that Seed
Is meant thy great deliverer, who shall bruise
The Serpents head; whereof to thee anon
Plainlier shall be reveald. This Patriarch blest,
Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call,
A Son, and of his Son a Grand-childe leaves,
Like him in faith, in wisdom, and renown;
The Grandchilde with twelve Sons increast, departs
From Canaan, to a Land hereafter call'd
Egypt, divided by the River Nile;
See where it flows, disgorging at seaven mouthes
Into the Sea: to sojourn in that Land
He comes invited by a yonger Son
In time of dearth, a Son whose worthy deeds
Raise him to be the second in that Realme
Of Pharao: there he dies, and leaves his Race
Growing into a Nation, and now grown
Suspected to a sequent King, who seeks
To stop their overgrowth, as inmate guests
Too numerous; whence of guests he makes them slaves
Inhospitably, and kills thir infant Males:
Till by two brethren (those two brethren call
Moses and Aaron) sent from God to claime
His people from enthralment, they return
With glory and spoile back to thir promis'd Land.
But first the lawless Tyrant, who denies
To know thir God, or message to regard,
Must be compelld by Signes and Judgements dire;
To blood unshed the Rivers must be turnd,
Frogs, Lice and Flies must all his Palace fill
With loath'd intrusion, and fill all the land;
His Cattel must of Rot and Murren die,
Botches and blaines must all his flesh imboss,
And all his people; Thunder mixt with Haile,
Haile mixt with fire must rend th' Egyptian Skie
And wheel on th' Earth, devouring where it rouls;
What it devours not, Herb, or Fruit, or Graine,
A darksom Cloud of Locusts swarming down
Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green:
Darkness must overshadow all his bounds,
Palpable darkness, and blot out three dayes;
Last with one midnight stroke all the first-born
Of Egypt must lie dead. Thus with ten wounds
This River-dragon tam'd at length submits
To let his sojourners depart, and oft
Humbles his stubborn heart, but still as Ice
More hard'nd after thaw, till in his rage
Pursuing whom he late dismissd, the Sea
Swallows him with his Host, but them lets pass
As on drie land between two christal walls,
Aw'd by the rod of Moses so to stand
Divided, till his rescu'd gain thir shoar:
Such wondrous power God to his Saint will lend,
Though present in his Angel, who shall goe
Before them in a Cloud, and Pillar of Fire,
By day a Cloud, by night a pillar of Fire,
To guide them in thir journey, and remove
Behinde them, while th' obdurat King pursues:
All night he will pursue, but his approach
Darkness defends between till morning Watch;
Then through the Firey Pillar and the Cloud
God looking forth will trouble all his Host
And craze thir Chariot wheels: when by command
Moses once more his potent Rod extends
Over the Sea; the Sea his Rod obeys;
On thir imbattelld ranks the Waves return,
And overwhelm thir Warr: the Race elect
Safe towards Canaan from the shoar advance
Through the wilde Desert, not the readiest way,
Least entring on the Canaanite allarmd
Warr terrifie them inexpert, and feare
Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather
Inglorious life with servitude; for life
To noble and ignoble is more sweet
Untraind in Armes, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by thir delay
In the wide Wilderness, there they shall found
Thir government, and thir great Senate choose
Through the twelve Tribes, to rule by Laws ordaind:
God from the Mount of Sinai, whose gray top
Shall tremble, he descending, will himself
In Thunder Lightning and loud Trumpets sound
Ordaine them Lawes; part such as appertaine
To civil Justice, part religious Rites
Of sacrifice, informing them, by types
And shadowes, of that destind Seed to bruise
The Serpent, by what meanes he shall achieve
Mankinds deliverance. But the voice of God
To mortal eare is dreadful; they beseech
That Moses might report to them his will,
And terror cease; he grants them thir desire,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without Mediator, whose high Office now
Moses in figure beares, to introduce
One greater, of whose day he shall foretell,
And all the Prophets in thir Age the times
Of great Messiah shall sing. Thus Laws and Rites
Establisht, such delight hath God in Men
Obedient to his will, that he voutsafes
Among them to set up his Tabernacle,
The holy One with mortal Men to dwell:
By his prescript a Sanctuary is fram'd
Of Cedar, overlaid with Gold, therein
An Ark, and in the Ark his Testimony,
The Records of his Cov'nant, over these
A Mercie-seat of Gold between the wings
Of two bright Cherubim, before him burn
Seaven Lamps as in a Zodiac representing
The Heav'nly fires; over the Tent a Cloud
Shall rest by Day, a fierie gleame by Night,
Save when they journie, and at length they come,
Conducted by his Angel to the Land
Promisd to Abraham and his Seed: the rest
Were long to tell, how many Battels fought,
How many Kings destroyd, and Kingdoms won,
Or how the Sun shall in mid Heav'n stand still
A day entire, and Nights due course adjourne,
Mans voice commanding, Sun in Gibeon stand,
And thou Moon in the vale of Aialon
Till Israel overcome; so call the third
From Abraham, Son of Isaac, and from him
His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.
Here Adam interpos'd. O sent from Heav'n,
Enlightner of my darkness, gracious things
Thou hast reveald, those chiefly which concerne
Just Abraham and his Seed: now first I finde
Mine eyes true op'ning, and my heart much eas'd,
Erwhile perplext with thoughts what would becom
Of mee and all Mankind; but now I see
His day, in whom all Nations shall be blest,
Favour unmerited by me, who sought
Forbidd'n knowledge by forbidd'n means.
This yet I apprehend not, why to those
Among whom God will deigne to dwell on Earth
So many and so various Laws are giv'n;
So many Laws argue so many sins
Among them; how can God with such reside?
To whom thus Michael. Doubt not but that sin
Will reign among them, as of thee begot;
And therefore was Law given them to evince
Thir natural pravitie, by stirring up
Sin against Law to fight; that when they see
Law can discover sin, but not remove,
Save by those shadowie expiations weak,
The bloud of Bulls and Goats, they may conclude
Some bloud more precious must be paid for Man,
Just for unjust, that in such righteousness
To them by Faith imputed, they may finde
Justification towards God, and peace
Of Conscience, which the Law by Ceremonies
Cannot appease, nor Man the moral part
Perform, and not performing cannot live.
So Law appears imperfet, and but giv'n
With purpose to resign them in full time
Up to a better Cov'nant, disciplin'd
From shadowie Types to Truth, from Flesh to Spirit,
From imposition of strict Laws, to free
Acceptance of large Grace, from servil fear
To filial, works of Law to works of Faith.
And therefore shall not Moses, though of God
Highly belov'd, being but the Minister
Of Law, his people into Canaan lead;
But Joshua whom the Gentiles Jesus call,
His Name and Office bearing, who shall quell
The adversarie Serpent, and bring back
Through the worlds wilderness long wanderd man
Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.
Meanwhile they in thir earthly Canaan plac't
Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins
National interrupt thir public peace,
Provoking God to raise them enemies:
From whom as oft he saves them penitent
By Judges first, then under Kings; of whom
The second, both for pietie renownd
And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive
Irrevocable, that his Regal Throne
For ever shall endure; the like shall sing
All Prophecie, [t]hat of the Royal Stock
Of David (so I name this King) shall rise
A Son, the Womans Seed to thee foretold,
Foretold to Abraham, as in whom shall trust
All Nations, and to Kings foretold, of Kings
The last, for of his Reign shall be no end.
But first a long succession must ensue,
And his next Son for Wealth and Wisdom fam'd,
The clouded Ark of God till then in Tents
Wandring, shall in a glorious Temple enshrine.
Such follow him, as shall be registerd
Part good, part bad, of bad the longer scrowle,
Whose foul Idolatries, and other faults
Heapt to the popular summe, will so incense
God, as to leave them, and expose thir Land,
Thir Citie, his Temple, and his holy Ark
With all his sacred things, a scorn and prey
To that proud Citie, whose high Walls thou saw'st
Left in confusion, Babylon thence call'd.
There in captivitie he lets them dwell
The space of seventie years, then brings them back,
Remembring mercie, and his Cov'nant sworn
To David, stablisht as the dayes of Heav'n.
Returnd from Babylon by leave of Kings
Thir Lords, whom God dispos'd, the house of God
They first re-edifie, and for a while
In mean estate live moderate, till grown
In wealth and multitude, factious they grow;
But first among the Priests dissension springs,
Men who attend the Altar, and should most
Endeavour Peace: thir strife pollution brings
Upon the Temple it self: at last they seise
The Scepter, and regard not Davids Sons,
Then loose it to a stranger, that the true
Anointed King Messiah might be born
Barr'd of his right; yet at his Birth a Starr
Unseen before in Heav'n proclaims him com,
And guides the Eastern Sages, who enquire
His place, to offer Incense, Myrrh, and Gold;
His place of birth a solemn Angel tells
To simple Shepherds, keeping watch by night;
They gladly thither haste, and by a Quire
Of squadrond Angels hear his Carol sung.
A Virgin is his Mother, but his Sire
The Power of the most High; he shall ascend
The Throne hereditarie, and bound his Reign
With earths wide bounds, his glory with the Heav'ns.
He ceas'd, discerning Adam with such joy
Surcharg'd, as had like grief bin dew'd in tears,
Without the vent of words, which these he breathd.
O Prophet of glad tidings, finisher
Of utmost hope! now clear I understand
What oft my steddiest thoughts have searcht in vain,
Why our great expectation should be call'd
The seed of Woman: Virgin Mother, Haile,
High in the love of Heav'n, yet from my Loynes
Thou shalt proceed, and from thy Womb the Son
Of God most High; So God with man unites.
Needs must the Serpent now his capital bruise
Expect with mortal paine: say where and when
Thir fight, what stroke shall bruise the Victors heel.
To whom thus Michael. Dream not of thir fight,
As of a Duel, or the local wounds
Of head or heel: not therefore joynes the Son
Manhood to God-head, with more strength to foil
Thy enemie; nor so is overcome
Satan, whose fall from Heav'n, a deadlier bruise,
Disabl'd not to give thee thy deaths wound:
Which hee, who comes thy Saviour, shall recure,
Not by destroying Satan, but his works
In thee and in thy Seed: nor can this be,
But by fulfilling that which thou didst want,
Obedience to the Law of God, impos'd
On penaltie of death, and suffering death,
The penaltie to thy transgression due,
And due to theirs which out of thine will grow:
So onely can high Justice rest appaid.
The Law of God exact he shall fulfill
Both by obedience and by love, though love
Alone fulfill the Law; thy punishment
He shall endure by coming in the Flesh
To a reproachful life and cursed death,
Proclaiming Life to all who shall believe
In his redemption, and that his obedience
Imputed becomes theirs by Faith, his merits
To save them, not thir own, though legal works.
For this he shall live hated, be blasphem'd,
Seis'd on by force, judg'd, and to death condemnd
A shameful and accurst, naild to the Cross
By his own Nation, slaine for bringing Life;
But to the Cross he nailes thy Enemies,
The Law that is against thee, and the sins
Of all mankinde, with him there crucifi'd,
Never to hurt them more who rightly trust
In this his satisfaction; so he dies,
But soon revives, Death over him no power
Shall long usurp; ere the third dawning light
Returne, the Starres of Morn shall see him rise
Out of his grave, fresh as the dawning light,
Thy ransom paid, which Man from death redeems,
His death for Man, as many as offerd Life
Neglect not, and the benefit imbrace
By Faith not void of works: this God-like act
Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldst have dy'd,
In sin for ever lost from life; this act
Shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength
Defeating Sin and Death, his two maine armes,
And fix farr deeper in his head thir stings
Then temporal death shall bruise the Victors heel,
Or theirs whom he redeems, a death like sleep,
A gentle wafting to immortal Life.
Nor after resurrection shall he stay
Longer on Earth then certaine times to appeer
To his Disciples, Men who in his Life
Still follow'd him; to them shall leave in charge
To teach all nations what of him they learn'd
And his Salvation, them who shall beleeve
Baptizing in the profluent streame, the signe
Of washing them from guilt of sin to Life
Pure, and in mind prepar'd, if so befall,
For death, like that which the redeemer dy'd.
All Nations they shall teach; for from that day
Not onely to the Sons of Abrahams Loines
Salvation shall be Preacht, but to the Sons
Of Abrahams Faith wherever through the world;
So in his seed all Nations shall be blest.
Then to the Heav'n of Heav'ns he shall ascend
With victory, triumphing through the aire
Over his foes and thine; there shall surprise
The Serpent, Prince of aire, and drag in Chaines
Through all his realme, & there confounded leave;
Then enter into glory, and resume
His Seat at Gods right hand, exalted high
Above all names in Heav'n; and thence shall come,
When this worlds dissolution shall be ripe,
With glory and power to judge both quick & dead,
To judge th' unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receave them into bliss,
Whether in Heav'n or Earth, for then the Earth
Shall all be Paradise, far happier place
Then this of Eden, and far happier daies.
So spake th' Archangel Michael, then paus'd,
As at the Worlds great period; and our Sire
Replete with joy and wonder thus repli'd.
O goodness infinite, goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Then that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of da

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I. The Ring and the Book

Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.

Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.

Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.

That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
"Romana Homicidiorum"—nay,
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."

Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.

Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"

So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"

A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.

But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"

So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.

This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?


Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"


Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.

This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?

Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.

I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.

Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?

Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.

Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?

Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.

Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!

Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.

So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.

Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.

Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.

Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.

Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.

Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.

Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!

A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names

Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.

A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?

O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!

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IV. Tertium Quid

True, Excellency—as his Highness says,
Though she's not dead yet, she's as good as stretched
Symmetrical beside the other two;
Though he's not judged yet, he's the same as judged,
So do the facts abound and superabound:
And nothing hinders that we lift the case
Out of the shade into the shine, allow
Qualified persons to pronounce at last,
Nay, edge in an authoritative word
Between this rabble's-brabble of dolts and fools
Who make up reasonless unreasoning Rome.
"Now for the Trial!" they roar: "the Trial to test
"The truth, weigh husband and weigh wife alike
"I' the scales of law, make one scale kick the beam!"
Law's a machine from which, to please the mob,
Truth the divinity must needs descend
And clear things at the play's fifth act—aha!
Hammer into their noddles who was who
And what was what. I tell the simpletons
"Could law be competent to such a feat
"'T were done already: what begins next week
"Is end o' the Trial, last link of a chain
"Whereof the first was forged three years ago
"When law addressed herself to set wrong right,
"And proved so slow in taking the first step
"That ever some new grievance,—tort, retort,
"On one or the other side,—o'ertook i' the game,
"Retarded sentence, till this deed of death
"Is thrown in, as it were, last bale to boat
"Crammed to the edge with cargo—or passengers?
"'Trecentos inseris: ohe, jam satis est!
"'Huc appelle!'—passengers, the word must be."
Long since, the boat was loaded to my eyes.
To hear the rabble and brabble, you'd call the case
Fused and confused past human finding out.
One calls the square round, t' other the round square—
And pardonably in that first surprise
O' the blood that fell and splashed the diagram:
But now we've used our eyes to the violent hue
Can't we look through the crimson and trace lines?
It makes a man despair of history,
Eusebius and the established fact—fig's end!
Oh, give the fools their Trial, rattle away
With the leash of lawyers, two on either side—
One barks, one bites,—Masters Arcangeli
And Spreti,—that's the husband's ultimate hope
Against the Fisc and the other kind of Fisc,
Bound to do barking for the wife: bow—wow!
Why, Excellency, we and his Highness here
Would settle the matter as sufficiently
As ever will Advocate This and Fiscal That
And Judge the Other, with even—a word and a wink—
We well know who for ultimate arbiter.
Let us beware o' the basset-table—lest
We jog the elbow of Her Eminence,
Jostle his cards,—he'll rap you out a … st!
By the window-seat! And here's the Marquis too!
Indulge me but a moment: if I fail
—Favoured with such an audience, understand!—
To set things right, why, class me with the mob
As understander of the mind of man!

The mob,—now, that's just how the error comes!
Bethink you that you have to deal with plebs,
The commonalty; this is an episode
In burgess-life,—why seek to aggrandize,
Idealize, denaturalize the class?
People talk just as if they had to do
With a noble pair that … Excellency, your ear!
Stoop to me, Highness,—listen and look yourselves!
This Pietro, this Violante, live their life
At Rome in the easy way that's far from worst
Even for their betters,—themselves love themselves,
Spend their own oil in feeding their own lamp
That their own faces may grow bright thereby.
They get to fifty and over: how's the lamp?
Full to the depth o' the wick,—moneys so much;
And also with a remnant,—so much more
Of moneys,—which there's no consuming now,
But, when the wick shall moulder out some day,
Failing fresh twist of tow to use up dregs,
Will lie a prize for the passer-by,—to-wit
Anyone that can prove himself the heir,
Seeing, the couple are wanting in a child:
Meantime their wick swims in the safe broad bowl
O' the middle rank,—not raised a beacon's height
For wind to ravage, nor dropped till lamp graze ground
Like cresset, mudlarks poke now here now there,
Going their rounds to probe the ruts i' the road
Or fish the luck o' the puddle. Pietro's soul
Was satisfied when cronies smirked, "No wine
"Like Pietro's, and he drinks it every day!"
His wife's heart swelled her boddice, joyed its fill
When neighbours turned heads wistfully at church,
Sighed at the load of lace that came to pray.
Well, having got through fifty years of flare,
They burn out so, indulge so their dear selves,
That Pietro finds himself in debt at last,
As he were any lordling of us all:
And, now that dark begins to creep on day,
Creditors grow uneasy, talk aside,
Take counsel, then importune all at once.
For if the good fat rosy careless man,
Who has not laid a ducat by, decease—
Let the lamp fall, no heir at hand to catch—
Why, being childless, there's a spilth i' the street
O' the remnant, there's a scramble for the dregs
By the stranger: so, they grant him no long day
But come in a body, clamour to be paid.

What's his resource? He asks and straight obtains
The customary largess, dole dealt out
To, what we call our "poor dear shame-faced ones,"
In secret once a month to spare the shame
O' the slothful and the spendthrift,—pauper-saints
The Pope puts meat i' the mouth of, ravens they,
And providence he—just what the mob admires!
That is, instead of putting a prompt foot
On selfish worthless human slugs whose slime
Has failed to lubricate their path in life,
Why, the Pope picks the first ripe fruit that falls
And gracious puts it in the vermin's way.
Pietro could never save a dollar? Straight
He must be subsidized at our expense:
And for his wife—the harmless household sheep
One ought not to see harassed in her age—
Judge, by the way she bore adversity,
O' the patient nature you ask pity for!
How long, now, would the roughest marketman,
Handling the creatures huddled to the knife,
Harass a mutton ere she made a mouth
Or menaced biting? Yet the poor sheep here,
Violante, the old innocent burgess-wife,
In her first difficulty showed great teeth
Fit to crunch up and swallow a good round crime.
She meditates the tenure of the Trust,
Fidei commissum is the lawyer-phrase,
These funds that only want an heir to take—
Goes o'er the gamut o' the creditor's cry
By semitones from whine to snarl high up
And growl down low, one scale in sundry keys,—
Pauses with a little compunction for the face
Of Pietro frustrate of its ancient cheer,—
Never a bottle now for friend at need,—
Comes to a stop on her own frittered lace
And neighbourly condolences thereat,
Then makes her mind up, sees the thing to do:
And so, deliberate, snaps house-book clasp,
Posts off to vespers, missal beneath arm,
Passes the proper San Lorenzo by,
Dives down a little lane to the left, is lost
In a labyrinth of dwellings best unnamed,
Selects a certain blind one, black at base,
Blinking at top,—the sign of we know what,—
One candle in a casement set to wink
Streetward, do service to no shrine inside,—
Mounts thither by the filthy flight of stairs,
Holding the cord by the wall, to the tip-top,
Gropes for the door i' the dark, ajar of course,
Raps, opens, enters in: up starts a thing
Naked as needs be—"What, you rogue, 't is you?
"Back,—how can I have taken a farthing yet?
"Mercy on me, poor sinner that I am!
"Here's … why, I took you for Madonna's self
"With all that sudden swirl of silk i' the place!
"What may your pleasure be, my bonny dame?"
Your Excellency supplies aught left obscure?
One of those women that abound in Rome,
Whose needs oblige them eke out one poor trade
By another vile one: her ostensible work
Was washing clothes, out in the open air
At the cistern by Citorio; her true trade—
Whispering to idlers, when they stopped and praised
The ankles she let liberally shine
In kneeling at the slab by the fountain-side,
That there was plenty more to criticize
At home, that eve, i' the house where candle blinked
Decorously above, and all was done
I' the holy fear of God and cheap beside.
Violante, now, had seen this woman wash,
Noticed and envied her propitious shape,
Tracked her home to her house-top, noted too,
And now was come to tempt her and propose
A bargain far more shameful than the first
Which trafficked her virginity away
For a melon and three pauls at twelve years old.
Five minutes' talk with this poor child of Eve,
Struck was the bargain, business at an end—
"Then, six months hence, that person whom you trust,
"Comes, fetches whatsoever babe it be;
"I keep the price and secret, you the babe,
"Paying beside for mass to make all straight:
"Meantime, I pouch the earnest-money-piece."

Down stairs again goes fumbling by the rope
Violante, triumphing in a flourish of fire
From her own brain, self-lit by such success,—
Gains church in time for the "Magnificat"
And gives forth "My reproof is taken away,
"And blessed shall mankind proclaim me now,"
So that the officiating priest turns round
To see who proffers the obstreperous praise:
Then home to Pietro, the enraptured-much
But puzzled-more when told the wondrous news—
How orisons and works of charity,
(Beside that pair of pinners and a coif,
Birth-day surprise last Wednesday was five weeks)
Had borne fruit in the autumn of his life,—
They, or the Orvieto in a double dose.
Anyhow, she must keep house next six months,
Lie on the settle, avoid the three-legged stool,
And, chiefly, not be crossed in wish or whim,
And the result was like to be an heir.

Accordingly, when time was come about,
He found himself the sire indeed of this
Francesca Vittoria Pompilia and the rest
O' the names whereby he sealed her his, next day.
A crime complete in its way is here, I hope?
Lies to God, lies to man, every way lies
To nature and civility and the mode:
Flat robbery of the proper heirs thus foiled
O' the due succession,—and, what followed thence,
Robbery of God, through the confessor's ear
Debarred the most note-worthy incident
When all else done and undone twelve-month through
Was put in evidence at Easter-time.
All other peccadillos!—but this one
To the priest who comes next day to dine with us?
'T were inexpedient; decency forbade.

Is so far clear? You know Violante now,
Compute her capability of crime
By this authentic instance? Black hard cold
Crime like a stone you kick up with your foot
I' the middle of a field?

I thought as much.
But now, a question,—how long does it lie,
The bad and barren bit of stuff you kick,
Before encroached on and encompassed round
With minute moss, weed, wild-flower—made alive
By worm, and fly, and foot of the free bird?
Your Highness,—healthy minds let bygones be,
Leave old crimes to grow young and virtuous-like
I' the sun and air; so time treats ugly deeds:
They take the natural blessing of all change.
There was the joy o' the husband silly-sooth,
The softening of the wife's old wicked heart,
Virtues to right and left, profusely paid
If so they might compensate the saved sin.
And then the sudden existence, dewy-dear,
O' the rose above the dungheap, the pure child
As good as new created, since withdrawn
From the horror of the pre-appointed lot
With the unknown father and the mother known
Too well,—some fourteen years of squalid youth,
And then libertinage, disease, the grave—
Hell in life here, hereafter life in hell:
Look at that horror and this soft repose!
Why, moralist, the sin has saved a soul!
Then, even the palpable grievance to the heirs—
'Faith, this was no frank setting hand to throat
And robbing a man, but … Excellency, by your leave,
How did you get that marvel of a gem,
The sapphire with the Graces grand and Greek?
The story is, stooping to pick a stone
From the pathway through a vineyard—no-man's-land—
To pelt a sparrow with, you chanced on this:
Why now, do those five clowns o' the family
O' the vinedresser digest their porridge worse
That not one keeps it in his goatskin pouch
To do flint's-service with the tinder-box?
Don't cheat me, don't cheat you, don't cheat a friend
But are you so hard on who jostles just
A stranger with no natural sort of claim
To the havings and the holdings (here's the point)
Unless by misadventure, and defect
Of that which ought to be—nay, which there's none
Would dare so much as wish to profit by—
Since who dares put in just so many words
"May Pietro fail to have a child, please God!
"So shall his house and goods belong to me,
"The sooner that his heart will pine betimes"?
Well then, God doesn't please, nor heart shall pine!
Because he has a child at last, you see,
Or selfsame thing as though a child it were,
He thinks, whose sole concern it is to think:
If he accepts it why should you demur?

Moreover, say that certain sin there seem,
The proper process of unsinning sin
Is to begin well-doing somehow else.
Pietro,—remember, with no sin at all
I' the substitution,—why, this gift of God
Flung in his lap from over Paradise
Steadied him in a moment, set him straight
On the good path he had been straying from.
Henceforward no more wilfulness and waste,
Cuppings, carousings,—these a sponge wiped out.
All sort of self-denial was easy now
For the child's sake, the chatelaine to be,
Who must want much and might want who knows what?
And so, the debts were paid, habits reformed,
Expense curtailed, the dowry set to grow.
As for the wife,—I said, hers the whole sin:
So, hers the exemplary penance. 'T was a text
Whereon folk preached and praised, the district through:
"Oh, make us happy and you make us good!
"It all comes of God giving her a child:
"Such graces follow God's best earthly gift!"

Here you put by my guard, pass to my heart
By the home-thrust—"There's a lie at base of all."
Why, thou exact Prince, is it a pearl or no,
Yon globe upon the Principessa's neck?
That great round glory of pellucid stuff,
A fish secreted round a grain of grit!
Do you call it worthless for the worthless core?
(She doesn't, who well knows what she changed for it.)
So, to our brace of burgesses again!
You see so far i' the story, who was right,
Who wrong, who neither, don't you? What, you don't?
Eh? Well, admit there's somewhat dark i' the case,
Let's on—the rest shall clear, I promise you.
Leap over a dozen years: you find, these past,
An old good easy creditable sire,
A careful housewife's beaming bustling face,
Both wrapped up in the love of their one child,
The strange tall pale beautiful creature grown
Lily-like out o' the cleft i' the sun-smit rock
To bow its white miraculous birth of buds
I' the way of wandering Joseph and his spouse,—
So painters fancy: here it was a fact.
And this their lily,—could they but transplant
And set in vase to stand by Solomon's porch
'T wixt lion and lion!—this Pompilia of theirs,
Could they see worthily married, well bestowed,
In house and home! And why despair of this
With Rome to choose from, save the topmost rank?
Themselves would help the choice with heart and soul,
Throw their late savings in a common heap
To go with the dowry, and be followed in time
By the heritage legitimately hers:
And when such paragon was found and fixed,
Why, they might chant their "Nunc dimittis" straight.

Indeed the prize was simply full to a fault,
Exorbitant for the suitor they should seek,
And social class should choose among, these cits.
Yet there's a latitude: exceptional white
Amid the general brown o' the species, lurks
A burgess nearly an aristocrat,
Legitimately in reach: look out for him!
What banker, merchant, has seen better days,
What second-rate painter a-pushing up,
Poet a-slipping down, shall bid the best
For this young beauty with the thumping purse?
Alack, were it but one of such as these
So like the real thing that they pass for it,
All had gone well! Unluckily, poor souls,
It proved to be the impossible thing itself,
Truth and not sham: hence ruin to them all.

For, Guido Franceschini was the head
Of an old family in Arezzo, old
To that degree they could afford be poor
Better than most: the case is common too.
Out of the vast door 'scutcheoned overhead,
Creeps out a serving-man on Saturdays
To cater for the week,—turns up anon
I' the market, chaffering for the lamb's least leg,
Or the quarter-fowl, less entrails, claws and comb
Then back again with prize,—a liver begged
Into the bargain, gizzard overlooked.
He's mincing these to give the beans a taste,
When, at your knock, he leaves the simmering soup,
Waits on the curious stranger-visitant,
Napkin in half-wiped hand, to show the rooms,
Point pictures out have hung their hundred years,
"Priceless," he tells you,—puts in his place at once
The man of money: yes, you're banker-king
Or merchant-kaiser, wallow in your wealth
While patron, the house-master, can't afford
To stop our ceiling-hole that rain so rots:
But he's the man of mark, and there's his shield,
And yonder's the famed Rafael, first in kind,
The painter painted for his grandfather,
And you have paid to see: "Good morning, Sir!
Such is the law of compensation. Still
The poverty was getting nigh acute;
There gaped so many noble mouths to feed,
Beans must suffice unflavoured of the fowl.
The mother,—hers would be a spun-out life
I' the nature of things; the sisters had done well
And married men of reasonable rank:
But that sort of illumination stops,
Throws back no heat upon the parent-hearth.
The family instinct felt out for its fire
To the Church,—the Church traditionally helps
A second son: and such was Paolo,
Established here at Rome these thirty years,
Who played the regular game,—priest and Abate,
Made friends, owned house and land, became of use
To a personage: his course lay clear enough.
The youngest caught the sympathetic flame,
And, though unfledged wings kept him still i' the cage,
Yet he shot up to be a Canon, so
Clung to the higher perch and crowed in hope.
Even our Guido, eldest brother, went
As far i' the way o' the Church as safety seemed,
He being Head o' the House, ordained to wive,—
So, could but dally with an Order or two
And testify good-will i' the cause: he clipped
His top-hair and thus far affected Christ.
But main promotion must fall otherwise,
Though still from the side o' the Church: and here was he
At Rome, since first youth, worn threadbare of soul
By forty-six years' rubbing on hard life,
Getting fast tired o' the game whose word is—"Wait!"
When one day,—he too having his Cardinal
To serve in some ambiguous sort, as serve
To draw the coach the plumes o' the horses' heads,—
The Cardinal saw fit to dispense with him,
Ride with one plume the less; and off it dropped.

Guido thus left,—with a youth spent in vain
And not a penny in purse to show for it,—
Advised with Paolo, bent no doubt in chafe
The black brows somewhat formidably, growled
"Where is the good I came to get at Rome?
"Where the repayment of the servitude
"To a purple popinjay, whose feet I kiss,
"Knowing his father wiped the shoes of mine?"
"Patience," pats Paolo the recalcitrant—
"You have not had, so far, the proper luck,
"Nor do my gains suffice to keep us both:
"A modest competency is mine, not more.
"You are the Count however, yours the style,
"Heirdom and state,—you can't expect all good.
"Had I, now, held your hand of cards … well, well—
"What's yet unplayed, I'll look at, by your leave,
"Over your shoulder,—I who made my game,
"Let's see, if I can't help to handle yours.
"Fie on you, all the Honours in your fist,
"Countship, Househeadship,—how have you misdealt!
"Why, in the first place, these will marry a man!
"Notum tonsoribus! To the Tonsor then!
"Come, clear your looks, and choose your freshest suit,
"And, after function's done with, down we go
"To the woman-dealer in perukes, a wench
"I and some others settled in the shop
"At Place Colonna: she's an oracle. Hmm!
"'Dear, 't is my brother: brother 't is my dear.
"'Dear, give us counsel! Whom do you suggest
"'As properest party in the quarter round
"'For the Count here?—he is minded to take wife,
"'And further tells me he intends to slip
"'Twenty zecchines under the bottom-scalp
"'Of his old wig when he sends it to revive
"'For the wedding: and I add a trifle too.
"'You know what personage I'm potent with.'"
And so plumped out Pompilia's name the first.
She told them of the household and its ways,
The easy husband and the shrewder wife
In Via Vittoria,—how the tall young girl,
With hair black as yon patch and eyes as big
As yon pomander to make freckles fly,
Would have so much for certain, and so much more
In likelihood,—why, it suited, slipped as smooth
As the Pope's pantoufle does on the Pope's foot.
"I'll to the husband!" Guido ups and cries.
"Ay, so you'd play your last court-card, no doubt!"
Puts Paolo in with a groan—"Only, you see,
"'T is I, this time, that supervise your lead.
"Priests play with women, maids, wives, mothers—why?
"These play with men and take them off our hands.
"Did I come, counsel with some cut-beard gruff
"Or rather this sleek young-old barberess?
"Go, brother, stand you rapt in the ante-room
"Of Her Efficacity my Cardinal
"For an hour,—he likes to have lord-suitors lounge,—
"While I betake myself to the grey mare,
"The better horse,—how wise the people's word!—
"And wait on Madam Violante."
Said and done.
He was at Via Vittoria in three skips:
Proposed at once to fill up the one want
O' the burgess-family which, wealthy enough,
And comfortable to heart's desire, yet crouched
Outside a gate to heaven,—locked, bolted, barred,
Whereof Count Guido had a key he kept
Under his pillow, but Pompilia's hand
Might slide behind his neck and pilfer thence.
The key was fairy; its mere mention made
Violante feel the thing shoot one sharp ray
That reached the womanly heart: so—"I assent!
"Yours be Pompilia, hers and ours that key
"To all the glories of the greater life!
"There's Pietro to convince: leave that to me!"

Then was the matter broached to Pietro; then
Did Pietro make demand and get response
That in the Countship was a truth, but in
The counting up of the Count's cash, a lie.
He thereupon stroked grave his chin, looked great,
Declined the honour. Then the wife wiped tear,
Winked with the other eye turned Paolo-ward,
Whispered Pompilia, stole to church at eve,
Found Guido there and got the marriage done,
And finally begged pardon at the feet
Of her dear lord and master. Whereupon
Quoth Pietro—"Let us make the best of things!"
"I knew your love would license us," quoth she:
Quoth Paolo once more, "Mothers, wives and maids,
"These be the tools wherewith priests manage men."

Now, here take breath and ask,—which bird o' the brace
Decoyed the other into clapnet? Who
Was fool, who knave? Neither and both, perchance.
There was a bargain mentally proposed
On each side, straight and plain and fair enough;
Mind knew its own mind: but when mind must speak,
The bargain have expression in plain terms,
There came the blunder incident to words,
And in the clumsy process, fair turned foul.
The straight backbone-thought of the crooked speech
Were just—"I Guido truck my name and rank
"For so much money and youth and female charms.—
'We Pietro and Violante give our child
"And wealth to you for a rise i' the world thereby."
Such naked truth while chambered in the brain
Shocks nowise: walk it forth by way of tongue,—
Out on the cynical unseemliness!
Hence was the need, on either side, of a lie
To serve as decent wrappage: so, Guido gives
Money for money,—and they, bride for groom,
Having, he, not a doit, they, not a child
Honestly theirs, but this poor waif and stray.
According to the words, each cheated each;
But in the inexpressive barter of thoughts,
Each did give and did take the thing designed,
The rank on this side and the cash on that—
Attained the object of the traffic, so.
The way of the world, the daily bargain struck
In the first market! Why sells Jack his ware?
"For the sake of serving an old customer."
Why does Jill buy it? "Simply not to break
"A custom, pass the old stall the first time."
Why, you know where the gist is of the exchange:
Each sees a profit, throws the fine words in.
Don't be too hard o' the pair! Had each pretence
Been simultaneously discovered, stript
From off the body o' the transaction, just
As when a cook (will Excellency forgive?)
Strips away those long rough superfluous legs
From either side the crayfish, leaving folk
A meal all meat henceforth, no garnishry,
(With your respect, Prince!)—balance had been kept,
No party blamed the other,—so, starting fair,
All subsequent fence of wrong returned by wrong
I' the matrimonial thrust and parry, at least
Had followed on equal terms. But, as it chanced,
One party had the advantage, saw the cheat
Of the other first and kept its own concealed:
And the luck o' the first discovery fell, beside,
To the least adroit and self-possessed o' the pair.
'T was foolish Pietro and his wife saw first
The nobleman was penniless, and screamed
"We are cheated!"

Such unprofitable noise
Angers at all times: but when those who plague,
Do it from inside your own house and home,
Gnats which yourself have closed the curtain round,
Noise goes too near the brain and makes you mad.
The gnats say, Guido used the candle-flame
Unfairly,—worsened that first bad of his,
By practising all kinds of cruelty
To oust them and suppress the wail and whine,—
That speedily he so scared and bullied them,
Fain were they, long before five months had passed,
To beg him grant, from what was once their wealth,
Just so much as would help them back to Rome
Where, when they finished paying the last doit
O' the dowry, they might beg from door to door.
So say the Comparini—as if it came
Of pure resentment for this worse than bad,
That then Violante, feeling conscience prick,
Confessed her substitution of the child
Whence all the harm came,—and that Pietro first
Bethought him of advantage to himself
I' the deed, as part revenge, part remedy
For all miscalculation in the pact.

On the other hand "Not so!" Guido retorts—
"I am the wronged, solely, from first to last,
"Who gave the dignity I engaged to give,
"Which was, is, cannot but continue gain.
"My being poor was a bye-circumstance,
"Miscalculated piece of untowardness,
"Might end to-morrow did heaven's windows ope,
"Or uncle die and leave me his estate.
"You should have put up with the minor flaw,
"Getting the main prize of the jewel. If wealth,
"Not rank, had been prime object in your thoughts,
"Why not have taken the butcher's son, the boy
"O' the baker or candlestick-maker? In all the rest,
"It was yourselves broke compact and played false,
"And made a life in common impossible.
"Show me the stipulation of our bond
"That you should make your profit of being inside
"My house, to hustle and edge me out o' the same,
"First make a laughing-stock of mine and me,
"Then round us in the ears from morn to night
"(Because we show wry faces at your mirth)
"That you are robbed, starved, beaten and what not!
"You fled a hell of your own lighting-up,
"Pay for your own miscalculation too:
"You thought nobility, gained at any price,
"Would suit and satisfy,—find the mistake,
"And now retaliate, not on yourselves, but me.
"And how? By telling me, i' the face of the world,
"I it is have been cheated all this while,
"Abominably and irreparably,—my name
"Given to a cur-cast mongrel, a drab's brat,
"A beggar's bye-blow,—thus depriving me
"Of what yourselves allege the whole and sole
'Aim on my part i' the marriage,—money to-wit.
"This thrust I have to parry by a guard
"Which leaves me open to a counter-thrust
"On the other side,—no way but there's a pass
"Clean through me. If I prove, as I hope to do,
"There's not one truth in this your odious tale
"O' the buying, selling, substituting—prove
"Your daughter was and is your daughter,—well,
"And her dowry hers and therefore mine,—what then?
"Why, where's the appropriate punishment for this
"Enormous lie hatched for mere malice' sake
"To ruin me? Is that a wrong or no?
"And if I try revenge for remedy,
"Can I well make it strong and bitter enough?"

I anticipate however—only ask,
Which of the two here sinned most? A nice point!
Which brownness is least black,—decide who can,
Wager-by-battle-of-cheating! What do you say,
Highness? Suppose, your Excellency, we leave
The question at this stage, proceed to the next,
Both parties step out, fight their prize upon,
In the eye o' the world?

They brandish law 'gainst law;
The grinding of such blades, each parry of each,
Throws terrible sparks off, over and above the thrusts,
And makes more sinister the fight, to the eye,
Than the very wounds that follow. Beside the tale
Which the Comparini have to re-assert,
They needs must write, print, publish all abroad
The straitnesses of Guido's household life
The petty nothings we bear privately
But break down under when fools flock to jeer.
What is it all to the facts o' the couple's case,
How helps it prove Pompilia not their child,
If Guido's mother, brother, kith and kin
Fare ill, lie hard, lack clothes, lack fire, lack food?
That's one more wrong than needs.
On the other hand,
Guido,—whose cue is to dispute the truth
O' the tale, reject the shame it throws on him,—
He may retaliate, fight his foe in turn
And welcome, we allow. Ay, but he can't!
He's at home, only acts by proxy here:
Law may meet law,—but all the gibes and jeers,
The superfluity of naughtiness,
Those libels on his House,—how reach at them?
Two hateful faces, grinning all a-glow,
Not only make parade of spoil they filched,
But foul him from the height of a tower, you see.
Unluckily temptation is at hand—
To take revenge on a trifle overlooked,
A pet lamb they have left in reach outside,
Whose first bleat, when he plucks the wool away,
Will strike the grinners grave: his wife remains
Who, four months earlier, some thirteen years old,
Never a mile away from mother's house
And petted to the height of her desire,
Was told one morning that her fate had come,
She must be married—just as, a month before,
Her mother told her she must comb her hair
And twist her curls into one knot behind.
These fools forgot their pet lamb, fed with flowers,
Then 'ticed as usual by the bit of cake,
Out of the bower into the butchery.
Plague her, he plagues them threefold: but how plague?
The world may have its word to say to that:
You can't do some things with impunity.
What remains … well, it is an ugly thought …
But that he drive herself to plague herself—
Herself disgrace herself and so disgrace
Who seek to disgrace Guido?

There's the clue
To what else seems gratuitously vile,
If, as is said, from this time forth the rack
Was tried upon Pompilia: 't was to wrench
Her limbs into exposure that brings shame.
The aim o' the cruelty being so crueller still,
That cruelty almost grows compassion's self
Could one attribute it to mere return
O' the parents' outrage, wrong avenging wrong.
They see in this a deeper deadlier aim,
Not to vex just a body they held dear,
But blacken too a soul they boasted white,
And show the world their saint in a lover's arms,
No matter how driven thither,—so they say.

On the other hand, so much is easily said,
And Guido lacks not an apologist.
The pair had nobody but themselves to blame,
Being selfish beasts throughout, no less, no more:
—Cared for themselves, their supposed good, nought else,
And brought about the marriage; good proved bad,
As little they cared for her its victim—nay,
Meant she should stay behind and take the chance,
If haply they might wriggle themselves free.
They baited their own hook to catch a fish
With this poor worm, failed o' the prize, and then
Sought how to unbait tackle, let worm float
Or sink, amuse the monster while they 'scaped.
Under the best stars Hymen brings above,
Had all been honesty on either side,
A common sincere effort to good end,
Still, this would prove a difficult problem, Prince!
—Given, a fair wife, aged thirteen years,
A husband poor, care-bitten, sorrow-sunk,
Little, long-nosed, bush-bearded, lantern-jawed,
Forty-six years old,—place the two grown one,
She, cut off sheer from every natural aid,
In a strange town with no familiar face—
He, in his own parade-ground or retreat
If need were, free from challenge, much less check
To an irritated, disappointed will—
How evolve happiness from such a match?
'T were hard to serve up a congenial dish
Out of these ill-agreeing morsels, Duke,
By the best exercise of the cook's craft,
Best interspersion of spice, salt and sweet!
But let two ghastly scullions concoct mess
With brimstone, pitch, vitriol and devil's-dung—
Throw in abuse o' the man, his body and soul,
Kith, kin and generation shake all slab
At Rome, Arezzo, for the world to nose,
Then end by publishing, for fiend's arch-prank,
That, over and above sauce to the meat's self,
Why, even the meat, bedevilled thus in dish,
Was never a pheasant but a carrion-crow—
Prince, what will then the natural loathing be?
What wonder if this?—the compound plague o' the pair
Pricked Guido,—not to take the course they hoped,
That is, submit him to their statement's truth,
Accept its obvious promise of relief,
And thrust them out of doors the girl again
Since the girl's dowry would not enter there,
—Quit of the one if baulked of the other: no!
Rather did rage and hate so work in him,
Their product proved the horrible conceit
That he should plot and plan and bring to pass
His wife might, of her own free will and deed,
Relieve him of her presence, get her gone,
And yet leave all the dowry safe behind,
Confirmed his own henceforward past dispute,
While blotting out, as by a belch of hell,
Their triumph in her misery and death.

You see, the man was Aretine, had touch
O' the subtle air that breeds the subtle wit;
Was noble too, of old blood thrice-refined
That shrinks from clownish coarseness in disgust:
Allow that such an one may take revenge,
You don't expect he'll catch up stone and fling,
Or try cross-buttock, or whirl quarter-staff?
Instead of the honest drubbing clowns bestow,
When out of temper at the dinner spoilt,
On meddling mother-in-law and tiresome wife,—
Substitute for the clown a nobleman,
And you have Guido, practising, 't is said,
Immitigably from the very first,
The finer vengeance: this, they say, the fact
O' the famous letter shows—the writing traced
At Guido's instance by the timid wife
Over the pencilled words himself writ first—
Wherein she, who could neither write nor read,
Was made unblushingly declare a tale
To the brother, the Abate then in Rome,
How her putative parents had impressed,
On their departure, their enjoinment; bade
"We being safely arrived here, follow, you!
"Poison your husband, rob, set fire to all,
"And then by means o' the gallant you procure
"With ease, by helpful eye and ready tongue,
"Some brave youth ready to dare, do and die,
"You shall run off and merrily reach Rome
"Where we may live like flies in honey-pot:"—
Such being exact the programme of the course
Imputed her as carried to effect.

They also say,—to keep her straight therein,
All sort of torture was piled, pain on pain,
On either side Pompilia's path of life,
Built round about and over against by fear,
Circumvallated month by month, and week
By week, and day by day, and hour by hour,
Close, closer and yet closer still with pain,
No outlet from the encroaching pain save just
Where stood one saviour like a piece of heaven,
Hell's arms would strain round but for this blue gap.
She, they say further, first tried every chink,
Every imaginable break i' the fire,
As way of escape: ran to the Commissary,
Who bade her not malign his friend her spouse;
Flung herself thrice at the Archbishop's feet,
Where three times the Archbishop let her lie,
Spend her whole sorrow and sob full heart forth,
And then took up the slight load from the ground
And bore it back for husband to chastise,—
Mildly of course,—but natural right is right.
So went she slipping ever yet catching at help,
Missing the high till come to lowest and last,
To-wit a certain friar of mean degree,
Who heard her story in confession, wept,
Crossed himself, showed the man within the monk.
"Then, will you save me, you the one i' the world?
"I cannot even write my woes, nor put
"My prayer for help in words a friend may read,—
"I no more own a coin than have an hour
"Free of observance,—I was watched to church,
"Am watched now, shall be watched back presently,—
"How buy the skill of scribe i' the market-place?
"Pray you, write down and send whatever I say
"O' the need I have my parents take me hence!"
The good man rubbed his eyes and could not choose—
Let her dictate her letter in such a sense
That parents, to save breaking down a wall,
Might lift her over: she went back, heaven in heart.
Then the good man took counsel of his couch,
Woke and thought twice, the second thought the best:
"Here am I, foolish body that I be,
"Caught all but pushing, teaching, who but I,
"My betters their plain duty,—what, I dare
"Help a case the Archbishop would not help,
"Mend matters, peradventure, God loves mar?
"What hath the married life but strifes and plagues
"For proper dispensation? So a fool
"Once touched the ark,—poor Uzzah that I am!
"Oh married ones, much rather should I bid,
"In patience all of ye possess your souls!
"This life is brief and troubles die with it:
"Where were the prick to soar up homeward else?"
So saying, he burnt the letter he had writ,
Said Ave for her intention, in its place,
Took snuff and comfort, and had done with all.
Then the grim arms stretched yet a little more
And each touched each, all but one streak i' the midst,
Whereat stood Caponsacchi, who cried, "This way,
"Out by me! Hesitate one moment more
"And the fire shuts out me and shuts in you!
"Here my hand holds you life out!" Whereupon
She clasped the hand, which closed on hers and drew
Pompilia out o' the circle now complete.
Whose fault or shame but Guido's?—ask her friends.

But then this is the wife's—Pompilia's tale—
Eve'sno, not Eve's, since Eve, to speak the truth,
Was hardly fallen (our candour might pronounce)
When simply saying in her own defence
"The serpent tempted me and I did eat."
So much of paradisal nature, Eve's!
Her daughters ever since prefer to urge
"Adam so starved me I was fain accept
"The apple any serpent pushed my way."
What an elaborate theory have we here,
Ingeniously nursed up, pretentiously
Brought forth, pushed forward amid trumpet-blast,
To account for the thawing of an icicle,
Show us there needed Ætna vomit flame
Ere run the crystal into dew-drops! Else,
How, unless hell broke loose to cause the step,
How could a married lady go astray?
Bless the fools! And 't is just this way they are blessed,
And the world wags still,—because fools are sure
—Oh, not of my wife nor your daughter! No!
But of their own: the case is altered quite.
Look now,—last week, the lady we all love,—
Daughter o' the couple we all venerate,
Wife of the husband we all cap before,
Mother o' the babes we all breathe blessings on,—
Was caught in converse with a negro page.
Hell thawed that icicle, else "Why was it
"Why?" asked and echoed the fools. "Because, you fools,—"
So did the dame's self answer, she who could,
With that fine candour only forthcoming
When 't is no odds whether withheld or no
"Because my husband was the saint you say,
"And,—with that childish goodness, absurd faith,
"Stupid self-satisfaction, you so praise,—
"Saint to you, insupportable to me.
"Had he,—instead of calling me fine names,
"Lucretia and Susanna and so forth,
"And curtaining Correggio carefully
"Lest I be taught that Leda had two legs,—
"—But once never so little tweaked my nose
"For peeping through my fan at Carnival,
"Confessing thereby 'I have no easy task—
"'I need use all my powers to hold you mine,
"'And then,—why 't is so doubtful if they serve,
"'That—take this, as an earnest of despair!'
"Why, we were quits: I had wiped the harm away,
"Thought 'The man fears me!' and foregone revenge."
We must not want all this elaborate work
To solve the problem why young Fancy-and-flesh
Slips from the dull side of a spouse in years,
Betakes it to the breast of Brisk-and-bold
Whose love-scrapes furnish talk for all the town!
Accordingly one word on the other side
Tips over the piled-up fabric of a tale.
Guido says—that is, always, his friends say—
It is unlikely from the wickedness,
That any man treat any woman so.
The letter in question was her very own,
Unprompted and unaided: she could write-
As able to write as ready to sin, or free,
When there was danger, to deny both facts.
He bids you mark, herself from first to last
Attributes all the so-styled torture just
To jealousy,—jealousy of whom but just
This very Caponsacchi! How suits here
This with the other alleged motive, Prince?
Would Guido make a terror of the man
He meant should tempt the woman, as they charge?
Do you fright your hare that you may catch your hare?
Consider too, the charge was made and met
At the proper time and place where proofs were plain—
Heard patiently and disposed of thoroughly
By the highest powers, possessors of most light,
The Governor for the law, and the Archbishop
For the gospel: which acknowledged primacies,
'T is impudently pleaded, he could warp
Into a tacit partnership with crime
He being the while, believe their own account,
Impotent, penniless and miserable!
He further asks—Duke, note the knotty point!—
How he,—concede him skill to play such part
And drive his wife into a gallant's arms,—
Could bring the gallant to play his part too
And stand with arms so opportunely wide?
How bring this Caponsacchi,—with whom, friends
And foes alike agree, throughout his life
He never interchanged a civil word
Nor lifted courteous cap to—him how bend
To such observancy of beck and call,
To undertake this strange and perilous feat
For the good of Guido, using, as the lure,
Pompilia whom, himself and she avouch,
He had nor spoken with nor seen, indeed,
Beyond sight in a public theatre,
When she wrote letters (she that could not write!)
The importunate shamelessly-protested love
Which brought him, though reluctant, to her feet,
And forced on him the plunge which, howsoe'er
She might swim up i' the whirl, must bury him
Under abysmal black: a priest contrive
No better, no amour to be hushed up,
But open flight and noon-day infamy?
Try and concoct defence for such revolt!
Take the wife's tale as true, say she was wronged,—
Pray, in what rubric of the breviary
Do you find it registered—the part of a priest
Is—that to right wrongs from the church he skip,
Go journeying with a woman that's a wife,
And be pursued, o'ertaken and captured … how?
In a lay-dress, playing the kind sentinel
Where the wife sleeps (says he who best should know)
And sleeping, sleepless, both have spent the night!
Could no one else be found to serve at need—
No woman—or if man, no safer sort
Than this not well-reputed turbulence?

Then, look into his own account o' the case!
He, being the stranger and astonished one,
Yet received protestations of her love
From lady neither known nor cared about:
Love, so protested, bred in him disgust
After the wonder,—or incredulity,
Such impudence seeming impossible.
But, soon assured such impudence might be,
When he had seen with his own eyes at last
Letters thrown down to him i' the very street
From behind lattice where the lady lurked,
And read their passionate summons to her side—
Why then, a thousand thoughts swarmed up and in,—
How he had seen her once, a moment's space,
Observed she was both young and beautiful,
Heard everywhere report she suffered much
From a jealous husband thrice her age,—in short
There flashed the propriety, expediency
Of treating, trying might they come to terms,
—At all events, granting the interview
Prayed for, one so adapted to assist
Decision as to whether he advance,
Stand or retire, in his benevolent mood!
Therefore the interview befell at length;
And at this one and only interview,
He saw the sole and single course to take—
Bade her dispose of him, head, heart and hand,
Did her behest and braved the consequence,
Not for the natural end, the love of man
For woman whether love be virtue or vice,
But, please you, altogether for pity's sake—
Pity of innocence and helplessness!
And how did he assure himself of both?
Had he been the house-inmate, visitor,
Eye-witness of the described martyrdom,
So, competent to pronounce its remedy
Ere rush on such extreme and desperate course—
Involving such enormity of harm,
Moreover, to the husband judged thus, doomed
And damned without a word in his defence?
Not he! the truth was felt by instinct here,
—Process which saves a world of trouble and time.
There's the priest's story: what do you say to it,
Trying its truth by your own instinct too,
Since that's to be the expeditious mode?
"And now, do hear my version," Guido cries:
"I accept argument and inference both.
"It would indeed have been miraculous
"Had such a confidency sprung to birth
"With no more fanning from acquaintanceship
"Than here avowed by my wife and this priest.
"Only, it did not: you must substitute
"The old stale unromantic way of fault,
"The commonplace adventure, mere intrigue
"In prose form with the unpoetic tricks,
"Cheatings and lies: they used the hackney chair
"Satan jaunts forth with, shabby and serviceable,
"No gilded gimcrack-novelty from below,
"To bowl you along thither, swift and sure.
"That same officious go-between, the wench
"Who gave and took the letters of the two,
"Now offers self and service back to me:
"Bears testimony to visits night by night
"When all was safe, the husband far and away,—
"To many a timely slipping out at large
"By light o' the morning-star, ere he should wake.
"And when the fugitives were found at last,
"Why, with them were found also, to belie
"What protest they might make of innocence,
"All documents yet wanting, if need were,
"To establish guilt in them, disgrace in me—
"The chronicle o' the converse from its rise
"To culmination in this outrage: read!
"Letters from wife to priest, from priest to wife,—
"Here they are, read and say where they chime in
"With the other tale, superlative purity
"O' the pair of saints! I stand or fall by these."

But then on the other side again,—how say
The pair of saints? That not one word is theirs—
No syllable o' the batch or writ or sent
Or yet received by either of the two.
"Found," says the priest, "because he needed them,
"Failing all other proofs, to prove our fault
"So, here they are, just as is natural.
"Oh yes—we had our missives, each of us!
"Not these, but to the full as vile, no doubt:
"Hers as from me,—she could not read, so burnt,—
"Mine as from her,—I burnt because I read.
"Who forged and found them? Cui profuerint!"
(I take the phrase out of your Highness' mouth)
"He who would gain by her fault and my fall,
"The trickster, schemer and pretender—he
"Whose whole career was lie entailing lie
"Sought to be sealed truth by the worst lie last!"

Guido rejoins—"Did the other end o' the tale
"Match this beginning! 'T is alleged I prove
"A murderer at the end, a man of force
"Prompt, indiscriminate, effectual: good!
"Then what need all this trifling woman's-work,
"Letters and embassies and weak intrigue,
"When will and power were mine to end at once
"Safely and surely? Murder had come first
"Not last with such a man, assure yourselves!
"The silent acquetta, stilling at command—
"A drop a day i' the wine or soup, the dose,—
"The shattering beam that breaks above the bed
"And beats out brains, with nobody to blame
"Except the wormy age which eats even oak,—
"Nay, the staunch steel or trusty cord,—who cares
"I' the blind old palace, a pitfall at each step,
"With none to see, much more to interpose
"O' the two, three, creeping house-dog-servant-things
"Born mine and bred mine? Had I willed gross death,
"I had found nearer paths to thrust him prey
"Than this that goes meandering here and there
"Through half the world and calls down in its course
"Notice and noise,—hate, vengeance, should it fail,
"Derision and contempt though it succeed!
"Moreover, what o' the future son and heir?
"The unborn babe about to be called mine,—
"What end in heaping all this shame on him,
"Were I indifferent to my own black share?
"Would I have tried these crookednesses, say,
"Willing and able to effect the straight?"

"Ay, would you!"—one may hear the priest retort,
"Being as you are, i' the stock, a man of guile,
"And ruffianism but an added graft.
"You, a born coward, try a coward's arms,
"Trick and chicane,—and only when these fail
"Does violence follow, and like fox you bite
"Caught out in stealing. Also, the disgrace
"You hardly shrunk at, wholly shrivelled her:
"You plunged her thin white delicate hand i' the flame
"Along with your coarse horny brutish fist,
"Held them a second there, then drew out both
"—Yours roughed a little, hers ruined through and through.
"Your hurt would heal forthwith at ointment's touch—
"Namely, succession to the inheritance
"Which bolder crime had lost you: let things change,
"The birth o' the boy warrant the bolder crime,
"Why, murder was determined, dared and done.
"For me," the priest proceeds with his reply,
"The look o' the thing, the chances of mistake,
"All were against me,—that, I knew the first:
"But, knowing also what my duty was,
"I did it: I must look to men more skilled
"In reading hearts than ever was the world."

Highness, decide! Pronounce, Her Excellency!
Or … even leave this argument in doubt,
Account it a fit matter, taken up
With all its faces, manifold enough,
To ponder on—what fronts us, the next stage,
Next legal process? Guido, in pursuit,
Coming up with the fugitives at the inn,
Caused both to be arrested then and there
And sent to Rome for judgment on the case—
Thither, with all his armoury of proofs,
Betook himself: 't is there we'll meet him now,
Waiting the further issue.

Here you smile
"And never let him henceforth dare to plead,—
"Of all pleas and excuses in the world
"For any deed hereafter to be done,—
"His irrepressible wrath at honour's wound!
"Passion and madness irrepressible?
"Why, Count and cavalier, the husband comes
"And catches foe i' the very act of shame!
"There's man to man,—nature must have her way,—
"We look he should have cleared things on the spot.
"Yes, then, indeed—even tho' it prove he erred—
"Though the ambiguous first appearance, mount
"Of solid injury, melt soon to mist,
"Still,—had he slain the lover and the wife—
"Or, since she was a woman and his wife,
"Slain him, but stript her naked to the skin
"Or at best left no more of an attire
"Than patch sufficient to pin paper to,
"Some one love-letter, infamy and all,
"As passport to the Paphos fit for such,
"Safe-conduct to her natural home the stews,—
"Good! One had recognized the power o' the pulse.
"But when he stands, the stock-fish,—sticks to law—
"Offers the hole in his heart, all fresh and warm,
"For scrivener's pen to poke and play about—
"Can stand, can stare, can tell his beads perhaps,
"Oh, let us hear no syllable o' the rage!
"Such rage were a convenient afterthought
"For one who would have shown his teeth belike,
"Exhibited unbridled rage enough,
"Had but the priest been found, as was to hope,
"In serge, not silk, with crucifix, not sword:
"Whereas the grey innocuous grub, of yore,
"Had hatched a hornet, tickle to the touch,
"The priest was metamorphosed into knight.
"And even the timid wife, whose cue was—shriek,
"Bury her brow beneath his trampling foot,—
"She too sprang at him like a pythoness:
"So, gulp down rage, passion must be postponed,
"Calm be the word! Well, our word is—we brand
"This part o' the business, howsoever the rest
"Befall."

"Nay," interpose as prompt his friends—
"This is the world's way! So you adjudge reward
"To the forbearance and legality
"Yourselves begin by inculcating—ay,
"Exacting from us all with knife at throat!
"This one wrong more you add to wrong's amount,—
"You publish all, with the kind comment here,
"'Its victim was too cowardly for revenge.'"
Make it your own case,—you who stand apart!
The husband wakes one morn from heavy sleep,
With a taste of poppy in his mouth,—rubs eyes,
Finds his wife flown, his strong box ransacked too,
Follows as he best can, overtakes i' the end.
You bid him use his privilege: well, it seems
He's scarce cool-blooded enough for the right move—
Does not shoot when the game were sure, but stands
Bewildered at the critical minute,—since
He has the first flash of the fact alone
To judge from, act with, not the steady lights
Of after-knowledge,—yours who stand at ease
To try conclusions: he's in smother and smoke,
You outside, with explosion at an end:
The sulphur may be lightning or a squib—
He'll know in a minute, but till then, he doubts.
Back from what you know to what he knew not!
Hear the priest's lofty "I am innocent,"
The wife's as resolute "You are guilty!" Come!
Are you not staggered?—pause, and you lose the move!
Nought left you but a low appeal to law,
"Coward" tied to your tail for compliment!
Another consideration: have it your way!
Admit the worst: his courage failed the Count,
He's cowardly like the best o' the burgesses
He's grown incorporate with,—a very cur,
Kick him from out your circle by all means!
Why, trundled down this reputable stair,
Still, the Church-door lies wide to take him in,
And the Court-porch also: in he sneaks to each,—
"Yes, I have lost my honour and my wife,
"And, being moreover an ignoble hound,
"I dare not jeopardize my life for them!"
Religion and Law lean forward from their chairs,
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" Ay,
Not only applaud him that he scorned the world,
But punish should he dare do otherwise.
If the case be clear or turbid,—you must say!

Thus, anyhow, it mounted to the stage
In the law-courts,—let's see clearly from this point!—
Where the priest tells his story true or false,
And the wife her story, and the husband his,
All with result as happy as before.
The courts would nor condemn nor yet acquit
This, that or the other, in so distinct a sense
As end the strife to either's absolute loss:
Pronounced, in place of something definite,
"Each of the parties, whether goat or sheep
"I' the main, has wool to show and hair to hide.
"Each has brought somehow trouble, is somehow cause
"Of pains enough,—even though no worse were proved.
"Here is a husband, cannot rule his wife
"Without provoking her to scream and scratch
"And scour the fields,—causelessly, it may be:
"Here is that wife,—who makes her sex our plague,
"Wedlock, our bugbear,—perhaps with cause enough:
"And here is the truant priest o' the trio, worst
"Or best—each quality being conceivable.
"Let us impose a little mulct on each.
"We punish youth in state of pupilage
"Who talk at hours when youth is bound to sleep,
"Whether the prattle turn upon Saint Rose
"Or Donna Olimpia of the Vatican:
"'T is talk, talked wisely or unwisely talked,
"I' the dormitory where to talk at all,
"Transgresses, and is mulct: as here we mean.
"For the wife,—let her betake herself, for rest,
"After her run, to a House of Convertites—
"Keep there, as good as real imprisonment:
"Being sick and tired, she will recover so.
"For the priest, spritely strayer out of bounds,
"Who made Arezzo hot to hold him,—Rome
"Profits by his withdrawal from the scene.
"Let him be relegate to Civita,
"Circumscribed by its bounds till matters mend:
"There he at least lies out o' the way of harm
"From foes—perhaps from the too friendly fair.
"And finally for the husband, whose rash rule
"Has but itself to blame for this ado,—
"If he be vexed that, in our judgments dealt,
"He fails obtain what he accounts his right,
"Let him go comforted with the thought, no less,
"That, turn each sentence howsoever he may,
"There's satisfaction to extract therefrom.
"For, does he wish his wife proved innocent?
"Well, she's not guilty, he may safely urge,
"Has missed the stripes dishonest wives endure—
"This being a fatherly pat o' the cheek, no more.
"Does he wish her guilty? Were she otherwise
"Would she be locked up, set to say her prayers,
"Prevented intercourse with the outside world,
"And that suspected priest in banishment,
"Whose portion is a further help i' the case?
"Oh, ay, you all of you want the other thing,
"The extreme of law, some verdict neat, complete,—
"Either, the whole o' the dowry in your poke
"With full release from the false wife, to boot,
"And heading, hanging for the priest, beside—
"Or, contrary, claim freedom for the wife,
"Repayment of each penny paid her spouse,
"Amends for the past, release for the future! Such
"Is wisdom to the children of this world;
"But we've no mind, we children of the light,
"To miss the advantage of the golden mean,
"And push things to the steel point." Thus the courts.

Is it settled so far? Settled or disturbed,
Console yourselves: 't is like … an instance, now!
You've seen the puppets, of Place Navona, play,—
Punch and his mate,—how threats pass, blows are dealt,
And a crisis comes: the crowd or clap or hiss
Accordingly as disposed for man or wife—
When down the actors duck awhile perdue,
Donning what novel rag-and-feather trim
Best suits the next adventure, new effect:
And,—by the time the mob is on the move,
With something like a judgment pro and con,—
There's a whistle, up again the actors pop
In t' other tatter with fresh-tinseled staves,
To re-engage in one last worst fight more
Shall show, what you thought tragedy was farce.
Note, that the climax and the crown of things
Invariably is, the devil appears himself,
Armed and accoutred, horns and hoofs and tail!
Just so, nor otherwise it proved—you'll see:
Move to the murder, never mind the rest!

Guido, at such a general duck-down,
I' the breathing-space,—of wife to convent here,
Priest to his relegation, and himself
To Arezzo,—had resigned his part perforce
To brother Abate, who bustled, did his best,
Retrieved things somewhat, managed the three suits—
Since, it should seem, there were three suits-at-law
Behoved him look to, still, lest bad grow worse:
First civil suit,—the one the parents brought,
Impugning the legitimacy of his wife,
Affirming thence the nullity of her rights:
This was before the Rota,—Molinès,
That's judge there, made that notable decree
Which partly leaned to Guido, as I said,—
But Pietro had appealed against the same
To the very court will judge what we judge now—
Tommati and his fellows,—Suit the first.
Next civil suit,—demand on the wife's part
Of separation from the husband's bed
On plea of cruelty and risk to life
Claims restitution of the dowry paid,
Immunity from paying any more:
This second, the Vicegerent has to judge.
Third and last suit,—this time, a criminal one,—
Answer to, and protection from, both these,—
Guido's complaint of guilt against his wife
In the Tribunal of the Governor,
Venturini, also judge of the present cause.
Three suits of all importance plaguing him,
Beside a little private enterprise
Of Guido's,—essay at a shorter cut.
For Paolo, knowing the right way at Rome,
Had, even while superintending these three suits
I' the regular way, each at its proper court,
Ingeniously made interest with the Pope
To set such tedious regular forms aside,
And, acting the supreme and ultimate judge,
Declare for the husband and against the wife.
Well, at such crisis and extreme of straits,—
The man at bay, buffeted in this wise,—
Happened the strangest accident of all.
"Then," sigh friends, "the last feather broke his back,
"Made him forget all possible remedies
"Save one—he rushed to, as the sole relief
"From horror and the abominable thing."
"Or rather," laugh foes, "then did there befall
"The luckiest of conceivable events,
"Most pregnant with impunity for him,
"Which henceforth turned the flank of all attack,
"And bade him do his wickedest and worst."
The wife's withdrawal from the Convertites,
Visit to the villa where her parents lived,
And birth there of his babe. Divergence here!
I simply take the facts, ask what they show.

First comes this thunderclap of a surprise:
Then follow all the signs and silences
Premonitory of earthquake. Paolo first
Vanished, was swept off somewhere, lost to Rome:
(Wells dry up, while the sky is sunny and blue.)
Then Guido girds himself for enterprise,
Hies to Vittiano, counsels with his steward,
Comes to terms with four peasants young and bold,
And starts for Rome the Holy, reaches her
At very holiest, for 't is Christmas Eve,
And makes straight for the Abate's dried-up font,
The lodge where Paolo ceased to work the pipes.
And then, rest taken, observation made
And plan completed, all in a grim week,
The five proceed in a body, reach the place,
—Pietro's, at the Paolina, silent, lone,
And stupefied by the propitious snow.
'T is one i' the evening: knock: a voice "Who's there?"
"Friends with a letter from the priest your friend."
At the door, straight smiles old Violante's self.
She falls,—her son-in-law stabs through and through,
Reaches through her at Pietro—"With your son
"This is the way to settle suits, good sire!"
He bellows "Mercy for heaven, not for earth!
"Leave to confess and save my sinful soul,
"Then do your pleasure on the body of me!"
—"Nay, father, soul with body must take its chance!"
He presently got his portion and lay still.
And last, Pompilia rushes here and there
Like a dove among the lightnings in her brake
Falls also: Guido's, this last husband's-act.
He lifts her by the long dishevelled hair,
Holds her away at arm's length with one hand,
While the other tries if life come from the mouth-
Looks out his whole heart's hate on the shut eyes,
Draws a deep satisfied breath, "So—dead at last!"
Throws down the burden on dead Pietro's knees,
And ends all with "Let us away, my boys!"

And, as they left by one door, in at the other
Tumbled the neighbours—for the shrieks had pierced
To the mill and the grange, this cottage and that shed.
Soon followed the Public Force; pursuit began
Though Guido had the start and chose the road:
So, that same night was he, with the other four,
Overtaken near Baccano,—where they sank
By the way-side, in some shelter meant for beasts,
And now lay heaped together, nuzzling swine,
Each wrapped in bloody cloak, each grasping still
His unwiped weapon, sleeping all the same
The sleep o' the just,—a journey of twenty miles
Brought just and unjust to a level, you see.
The only one i' the world that suffered aught
By the whole night's toil and trouble, flight and chase,
Was just the officer who took them, Head
O' the Public Force,—Patrizj, zealous soul,
Who, having but duty to sustain weak flesh,
Got heated, caught a fever and so died:
A warning to the over-vigilant,
—Virtue in a chafe should change her linen quick,
Lest pleurisy get start of providence.
(That's for the Cardinal, and told, I think!)

Well, they bring back the company to Rome.
Says Guido, "By your leave, I fain would ask
"How you found out 't was I who did the deed?
"What put you on my trace, a foreigner,
"Supposed in Arezzo,—and assuredly safe
"Except for an oversight: who told you, pray?"
"Why, naturally your wife!" Down Guido drops
O' the horse he rode,—they have to steady and stay,
At either side the brute that bore him, bound,
So strange it seemed his wife should live and speak!
She had prayed—at least so people tell you now—
For but one thing to the Virgin for herself,
Not simply, as did Pietro 'mid the stabs,—
Time to confess and get her own soul saved—
But time to make the truth apparent, truth
For God's sake, lest men should believe a lie:
Which seems to have been about the single prayer
She ever put up, that was granted her.
With this hope in her head, of telling truth,—
Being familiarized with pain, beside,—
She bore the stabbing to a certain pitch
Without a useless cry, was flung for dead
On Pietro's lap, and so attained her point.
Her friends subjoin this—have I done with them?—
And cite the miracle of continued life
(She was not dead when I arrived just now)
As attestation to her probity.

Does it strike your Excellency? Why, your Highness,
The self-command and even the final prayer,
Our candour must acknowledge explicable
As easily by the consciousness of guilt.
So, when they add that her confession runs
She was of wifehood one white innocence
In thought, word, act, from first of her short life
To last of it; praying, i' the face of death,
That God forgive her other sins—not this,
She is charged with and must die for, that she failed
Anyway to her husband: while thereon
Comments the old Religious—"So much good
"Patience beneath enormity of ill,
"I hear to my confusion, woe is me,
"Sinner that I stand, shamed in the walk and gait
"I have practised and grown old in, by a child!"—
Guido's friends shrug the shoulder, "Just this same
"Prodigious absolute calm in the last hour
"Confirms us,—being the natural result
"Of a life which proves consistent to the close.
"Having braved heaven and deceived earth throughout,
"She braves still and deceives still, gains thereby
"Two ends, she prizes beyond earth or heaven:
"First sets her lover free, imperilled sore
"By the new turn things take: he answers yet
"For the part he played: they have summoned him indeed:
"The past ripped up, he may be punished still:
"What better way of saving him than this?
"Then,—thus she dies revenged to the uttermost
"On Guido, drags him with her in the dark,
"The lower still the better, do you doubt?
"Thus, two ways, does she love her love to the end,
"And hate her hate,—death, hell is no such price
"To pay for these,—lovers and haters hold."
But there's another parry for the thrust.
"Confession," cry folks—"a confession, think!
"Confession of the moribund is true!"
Which of them, my wise friends? This public one,
Or the private other we shall never know?
The private may contain,—your casuists teach,-
The acknowledgment of, and the penitence for,
That other public one, so people say.
However it be,—we trench on delicate ground,
Her Eminence is peeping o'er the cards,—
Can one find nothing in behalf of this
Catastrophe? Deaf folks accuse the dumb!
You criticize the drunken reel, fool's speech,
Maniacal gesture of the man,—we grant!
But who poured poison in his cup, we ask?
Recall the list of his excessive wrongs,
First cheated in his wife, robbed by her kin,
Rendered anon the laughing-stock o' the world
By the story, true or false, of his wife's birth,—
The last seal publicly apposed to shame
By the open flight of wife and priest,—why, Sirs,
Step out of Rome a furlong, would you know
What anotherguess tribunal than ours here,
Mere worldly Court without the help of grace,
Thinks of just that one incident o' the flight?
Guido preferred the same complaint before
The court at Arezzo, bar of the Granduke,—
In virtue of it being Tuscany
Where the offence had rise and flight began,—
Self-same complaint he made in the sequel here
Where the offence grew to the full, the flight
Ended: offence and flight, one fact judged twice
By two distinct tribunals,—what result?
There was a sentence passed at the same time
By Arezzo and confirmed by the Granduke,
Which nothing baulks of swift and sure effect
But absence of the guilty, (flight to Rome
Frees them from Tuscan jurisdiction now)
—Condemns the wife to the opprobrious doom
Of all whom law just lets escape from death.
The Stinche, House of Punishment, for life,—
That's what the wife deserves in Tuscany:
Here, she deserves—remitting with a smile
To her father's house, main object of the flight!
The thief presented with the thing he steals!

At this discrepancy of judgments—mad,
The man took on himself the office, judged;
And the only argument against the use
O' the law he thus took into his own hands
Is … what, I ask you?—that, revenging wrong,
He did not revenge sooner, kill at first
Whom he killed last! That is the final charge.
Sooner? What's soon or late i' the case?—ask we.
A wound i' the flesh no doubt wants prompt redress;
It smarts a little to-day, well in a week,
Forgotten in a month; or never, or now, revenge!
But a wound to the soul? That rankles worse and worse.
Shall I comfort you, explaining—"Not this once
"But now it may be some five hundred times
"I called you ruffian, pandar, liar and rogue:
"The injury must be less by lapse of time?"
The wrong is a wrong, one and immortal too,
And that you bore it those five hundred times,
Let it rankle unrevenged five hundred years,
Is just five hundred wrongs the more and worse!
Men, plagued this fashion, get to explode this way,
If left no other.

"But we left this man
"Many another way, and there's his fault,"
'T is answered—"He himself preferred our arm
"O' the law to fight his battle with. No doubt
"We did not open him an armoury
"To pick and choose from, use, and then reject.
"He tries one weapon and fails,—he tries the next
"And next: he flourishes wit and common sense,
"They fail him,—he plies logic doughtily,
"It fails him too,—thereon, discovers last
"He has been blind to the combustibles—
"That all the while he is a-glow with ire,
"Boiling with irrepressible rage, and so
"May try explosives and discard cold steel,—
"So hires assassins, plots, plans, executes!
"Is this the honest self-forgetting rage
"We are called to pardon? Does the furious bull
"Pick out four help-mates from the grazing herd
"And journey with them over hill and dale
"Till he find his enemy?"

What rejoinder? save
That friends accept our bull-similitude.
Bull-like,—the indiscriminate slaughter, rude
And reckless aggravation of revenge,
Were all i' the way o' the brute who never once
Ceases, amid all provocation more,
To bear in mind the first tormentor, first
Giver o' the wound that goaded him to fight:
And, though a dozen follow and reinforce
The aggressor, wound in front and wound in flank,
Continues undisturbedly pursuit,
And only after prostrating his prize
Turns on the pettier, makes a general prey.
So Guido rushed against Violante, first
Author of all his wrongs, fons et origo
Malorum—drops first, deluge since,—which done,
He finished with the rest. Do you blame a bull?

In truth you look as puzzled as ere I preached!
How is that? There are difficulties perhaps
On any supposition, and either side.
Each party wants too much, claims sympathy
For its object of compassion, more than just.
Cry the wife's friends, "O the enormous crime
"Caused by no provocation in the world!"
"Was not the wife a little weak?"—inquire—
"Punished extravagantly, if you please,
"But meriting a little punishment?
"One treated inconsiderately, say,
"Rather than one deserving not at all
"Treatment and discipline o' the harsher sort?"
No, they must have her purity itself,
Quite angel,—and her parents angels too
Of an aged sort, immaculate, word and deed:
At all events, so seeming, till the fiend,
Even Guido, by his folly, forced from them
The untoward avowal of the trick o' the birth,
Which otherwise were safe and secret now.
Why, here you have the awfulest of crimes
For nothing! Hell broke loose on a butterfly!
A dragon born of rose-dew and the moon!
Yet here is the monster! Why he's a mere man—
Born, bred and brought up in the usual way.
His mother loves him, still his brothers stick
To the good fellow of the boyish games;
The Governor of his town knows and approves,
The Archbishop of the place knows and assists:
Here he has Cardinal This to vouch for the past,
Cardinal That to trust for the future,—match
And marriage were a Cardinal's making,—in short,
What if a tragedy be acted here
Impossible for malice to improve,
And innocent Guido with his innocent four
Be added, all five, to the guilty three,
That we of these last days be edified
With one full taste o' the justice of the world?

The long and the short is, truth seems what I show:—
Undoubtedly no pains ought to be spared
To give the mob an inkling of our lights.
It seems unduly harsh to put the man
To the torture, as I hear the court intends,
Though readiest way of twisting out the truth;
He is noble, and he may be innocent.
On the other hand, if they exempt the man
(As it is also said they hesitate
On the fair ground, presumptive guilt is weak
I' the case of nobility and privilege),—
What crime that ever was, ever will be,
Deserves the torture? Then abolish it!
You see the reduction ad absurdum, Sirs?

Her Excellency must pronounce, in fine!
What, she prefers going and joining play?
Her Highness finds it late, intends retire?
I am of their mind: only, all this talk talked,
'T was not for nothing that we talked, I hope?
Both know as much about it, now, at least,
As all Rome: no particular thanks, I beg!
(You'll see, I have not so advanced myself,
After my teaching the two idiots here!)

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VII. Pompilia

I am just seventeen years and five months old,
And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
'T is writ so in the church's register,
Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
At length, so many names for one poor child,
—Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
Pompilia Comparini,—laughable!
Also 't is writ that I was married there
Four years ago: and they will add, I hope,
When they insert my death, a word or two,—
Omitting all about the mode of death,—
This, in its place, this which one cares to know,
That I had been a mother of a son
Exactly two weeks. It will be through grace
O' the Curate, not through any claim I have;
Because the boy was born at, so baptized
Close to, the Villa, in the proper church:
A pretty church, I say no word against,
Yet stranger-like,—while this Lorenzo seems
My own particular place, I always say.
I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high
As the bed here, what the marble lion meant,
With half his body rushing from the wall,
Eating the figure of a prostrate man—
(To the right, it is, of entry by the door)
An ominous sign to one baptized like me,
Married, and to be buried there, I hope.
And they should add, to have my life complete,
He is a boy and Gaetan by name—
Gaetano, for a reason,—if the friar
Don Celestine will ask this grace for me
Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was
Baptized me: he remembers my whole life
As I do his grey hair.

All these few things
I know are true,—will you remember them?
Because time flies. The surgeon cared for me,
To count my wounds,—twenty-two dagger-wounds,
Five deadly, but I do not suffer much—
Or too much pain,—and am to die to-night.

Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
—Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—
The country-woman, used to nursing babes,
Said "Why take on so? where is the great loss?
"These next three weeks he will but sleep and feed,
"Only begin to smile at the month's end;
"He would not know you, if you kept him here,
"Sooner than that; so, spend three merry weeks
"Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout,
"And then I bring him back to be your own,
"And both of you may steal to—we know where!"
The month—there wants of it two weeks this day!
Still, I half fancied when I heard the knock
At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove she—
Come to say "Since he smiles before the time,
"Why should I cheat you out of one good hour?
"Back I have brought him; speak to him and judge!"
Now I shall never see him; what is worse,
When he grows up and gets to be my age,
He will seem hardly more than a great boy;
And if he asks "What was my mother like?"
People may answer "Like girls of seventeen"—
And how can he but think of this and that,
Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush
When he regards them as such boys may do?
Therefore I wish someone will please to say
I looked already old though I was young;
Do I not … say, if you are by to speak …
Look nearer twenty? No more like, at least,
Girls who look arch or redden when boys laugh,
Than the poor Virgin that I used to know
At our street-corner in a lonely niche,—
The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke off,—
Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the more:
She, not the gay ones, always got my rose.

How happy those are who know how to write!
Such could write what their son should read in time,
Had they a whole day to live out like me.
Also my name is not a common name,
"Pompilia," and may help to keep apart
A little the thing I am from what girls are.
But then how far away, how hard to find
Will anything about me have become,
Even if the boy bethink himself and ask!
No father that he ever knew at all,
Nor ever had—no, never had, I say!
That is the truth,—nor any mother left,
Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
Fit for such memory as might assist:
As good to as no family, no name,
Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers,
Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems
They must not be my parents any more.
That is why something put it in my head
To call the boy "Gaetano"—no old name
For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky
And took a new saint to begin anew.
One who has only been made saint—how long?
Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps,
To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
Tired out by this time,—see my own five saints!

On second thoughts, I hope he will regard
The history of me as what someone dreamed,
And get to disbelieve it at the last:
Since to myself it dwindles fast to that,
Sheer dreaming and impossibility,—
Just in four days too! All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman's in the world.
The reason must be, 't was by step and step
It got to grow so terrible and strange.
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarised with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
"Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,
"How comes that arm of yours about a wolf?
"And the soft length,—lies in and out your feet
"And laps you round the knee,—a snake it is!"
And so on.

Well, and they are right enough,
By the torch they hold up now: for first, observe,
I never had a father,—no, nor yet
A mother: my own boy can say at least
"I had a mother whom I kept two weeks!"
Not I, who little used to doubt … I doubt
Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?
They loved me always as I love my babe
(—Nearly so, that is—quite so could not be—)
Did for me all I meant to do for him,
Till one surprising day, three years ago,
They both declared, at Rome, before some judge
In some Court where the people flocked to hear,
That really I had never been their child,
Was a mere castaway, the careless crime
Of an unknown man, the crime and care too much
Of a woman known too well,—little to these,
Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and blood:
What then to Pietro and Violante, both
No more my relatives than you or you?
Nothing to them! You know what they declared.

So with my husband,—just such a surprise,
Such a mistake, in that relationship!
Everyone says that husbands love their wives,
Guard them and guide them, give them happiness;
'T is duty, law, pleasure, religion: well,
You see how much of this comes true in mine!
People indeed would fain have somehow proved
He was no husband: but he did not hear,
Or would not wait, and so has killed us all.
Then there is … only let me name one more!
There is the friend,—men will not ask about,
But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to,
And think my lover, most surprise of all!
Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest—love,
And love me! Well, yet people think he did.
I am married, he has taken priestly vows,
They know that, and yet go on, say, the same,
"Yes, how he loves you!" "That was love"—they say,
When anything is answered that they ask:
Or else "No wonder you love him"—they say.
Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely blame
As if we neither of us lacked excuse,
And anyhow are punished to the full,
And downright love atones for everything!
Nay, I heard read out in the public Court
Before the judge, in presence of my friends,
Letters't was said the priest had sent to me,
And other letters sent him by myself,
We being lovers!

Listen what this is like!
When I was a mere child, my mother … that's
Violante, you must let me call her so
Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the word
She brought a neighbour's child of my own age
To play with me of rainy afternoons;
And, since there hung a tapestry on the wall,
We two agreed to find each other out
Among the figures. "Tisbe, that is you,
"With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in hand,
"Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf
"Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back:
"Call off your hound and leave the stag alone!"
"—And there are you, Pompilia, such green leaves
"Flourishing out of your five finger-ends,
"And all the rest of you so brown and rough:
"Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?"
You know the figures never were ourselves
Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all my life,—
As well what was, as what, like this, was not,—
Looks old, fantastic and impossible:
I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
—Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
Something began for once that would not end,
Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
For evermore, eternally quite mine.
Well, so he is,—but yet they bore him off,
The third day, lest my husband should lay traps
And catch him, and by means of him catch me.
Since they have saved him so, it was well done:
Yet thence comes such confusion of what was
With what will be,—that late seems long ago,
And, what years should bring round, already come,
Till even he withdraws into a dream
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great,
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors me,
Frowns with the others "Poor imprudent child!
"Why did you venture out of the safe street?
"Why go so far from help to that lone house?
"Why open at the whisper and the knock?"
Six days ago when it was New Year's-day,
We bent above the fire and talked of him,
What he should do when he was grown and great.
Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm
I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair
And fireside,—laughed, as I lay safe at last,
"Pompilia's march from bed to board is made,
"Pompilia back again and with a babe,
"Shall one day lend his arm and help her walk!"
Then we all wished each other more New Years.
Pietro began to scheme—"Our cause is gained;
"The law is stronger than a wicked man:
"Let him henceforth go his way, leave us ours!
"We will avoid the city, tempt no more
"The greedy ones by feasting and parade,—
"Live at the other villa, we know where,
"Still farther off, and we can watch the babe
"Grow fast in the good air; and wood is cheap
"And wine sincere outside the city gate.
"I still have two or three old friends will grope
"Their way along the mere half-mile of road,
"With staff and lantern on a moonless night
"When one needs talk: they'll find me, never fear,
"And I'll find them a flask of the old sort yet!"
Violante said "You chatter like a crow:
"Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and shall to bed:
"Do not too much the first day,—somewhat more
"To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape
"And hood and coat! I have spun wool enough."
Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!

And, next day, about noon, out Pietro went—
He was so happy and would talk so much,
Until Violante pushed and laughed him forth
Sight-seeing in the cold,—"So much to see
"I' the churches! Swathe your throat three times!" she cried,
"And, above all, beware the slippery ways,
"And bring us all the news by supper-time!"
He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and hat,
Powdered so thick with snow it made us laugh,
Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the hearth,
And bade Violante treat us to a flask,
Because he had obeyed her faithfully,
Gone sight-see through the seven, and found no church
To his mind like San Giovanni—"There's the fold,
"And all the sheep together, big as cats!
"And such a shepherd, half the size of life,
"Starts up and hears the angel"—when, at the door,
A tap: we started up: you know the rest.

Pietro at least had done no harm, I know;
Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes
Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred—
Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherwise?—
In telling that first falsehood, buying me
From my poor faulty mother at a price,
To pass off upon Pietro as his child.
If one should take my babe, give him a name,
Say he was not Gaetano and my own,
But that some other woman made his mouth
And hands and feet,—how very false were that!
No good could come of that; and all harm did.
Yet if a stranger were to represent
"Needs must you either give your babe to me
"And let me call him mine for evermore,
"Or let your husband get him"—ah, my God,
That were a trial I refuse to face!
Well, just so here: it proved wrong but seemed right
To poor Violante—for there lay, she said,
My poor real dying mother in her rags,
Who put me from her with the life and all,
Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once,
To die the easier by what price I fetched—
Also (I hope) because I should be spared
Sorrow and sin,—why may not that have helped?
My father,—he was no one, any one,—
The worse, the likelier,—call him—he who came,
Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way,
And left no trace to track by; there remained
Nothing but me, the unnecessary life,
To catch up or let fall,—and yet a thing
She could make happy, be made happy with,
This poor Violante,—who would frown thereat?

Well, God, you see! God plants us where we grow.
It is not that because a bud is born
At a wild briar's end, full i' the wild beast's way,
We ought to pluck and put it out of reach
On the oak-tree top,—say "There the bud belongs!"
She thought, moreover, real lies were lies told
For harm's sake; whereas this had good at heart,
Good for my mother, good for me, and good
For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,
And needed one to make his life of use,
Receive his house and land when he should die.
Wrong, wrong and always wrong! how plainly wrong:
For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults do,
All the same at her heart: this falsehood hatched,
She could not let it go nor keep it fast.
She told me so,—the first time I was found
Locked in her arms once more after the pain,
When the nuns let me leave them and go home,
And both of us cried all the cares away,—
This it was set her on to make amends,
This brought about the marriage—simply this!
Do let me speak for her you blame so much!
When Paul, my husband's brother, found me out,
Heard there was wealth for who should marry me,
So, came and made a speech to ask my hand
For Guido,—she, instead of piercing straight
Through the pretence to the ignoble truth,
Fancied she saw God's very finger point,
Designate just the time for planting me
(The wild-briar slip she plucked to love and wear)
In soil where I could strike real root, and grow,
And get to be the thing I called myself:
For, wife and husband are one flesh, God says,
And I, whose parents seemed such and were none,
Should in a husband have a husband now,
Find nothing, this time, but was what it seemed,
—All truth and no confusion any more.
I know she meant all good to me, all pain
To herself,—since how could it be aught but pain,
To give me up, so, from her very breast,
The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all those years,
She had got used to feel for and find fixed?
She meant well: has it been so ill i' the main?
That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge
Of what has been the ill or well of life,
The day that one is dying,—sorrows change
Into not altogether sorrow-like;
I do see strangeness but scarce misery,
Now it is over, and no danger more.
My child is safe; there seems not so much pain.
It comes, most like, that I am just absolved,
Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed fair,—
One cannot both have and not have, you know,—
Being right now, I am happy and colour things.
Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all
Softened and bettered: so with other sights:
To me at least was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
For past is past.

There was a fancy came,
When somewhere, in the journey with my friend,
We stepped into a hovel to get food;
And there began a yelp here, a bark there,—
Misunderstanding creatures that were wroth
And vexed themselves and us till we retired.
The hovel is life: no matter what dogs bit
Or cats scratched in the hovel I break from,
All outside is lone field, moon and such peace—
Flowing in, filling up as with a sea
Whereon comes Someone, walks fast on the white,
Jesus Christ's self, Don Celestine declares,
To meet me and calm all things back again.

Beside, up to my marriage, thirteen years
Were, each day, happy as the day was long:
This may have made the change too terrible.
I know that when Violante told me first
The cavalier—she meant to bring next morn,
Whom I must also let take, kiss my hand—
Would be at San Lorenzo the same eve
And marry me,—which over, we should go
Home both of us without him as before,
And, till she bade speak, I must hold my tongue,
Such being the correct way with girl-brides,
From whom one word would make a father blush,—
I know, I say, that when she told me this,
—Well, I no more saw sense in what she said
Than a lamb does in people clipping wool;
Only lay down and let myself be clipped.
And when next day the cavalier who came—
(Tisbe had told me that the slim young man
With wings at head, and wings at feet, and sword
Threatening a monster, in our tapestry,
Would eat a girl else,—was a cavalier)
When he proved Guido Franceschini,—old
And nothing like so tall as I myself
Hook-nosed and yellow in a bush of beard,
Much like a thing I saw on a boy's wrist,
He called an owl and used for catching birds,—
And when he took my hand and made a smile—
Why, the uncomfortableness of it all
Seemed hardly more important in the case
Than,—when one gives you, say, a coin to spend,—
Its newness or its oldness; if the piece
Weigh properly and buy you what you wish,
No matter whether you get grime or glare!
Men take the coin, return you grapes and figs.
Here, marriage was the coin, a dirty piece
Would purchase me the praise of those I loved:
About what else should I concern myself?

So, hardly knowing what a husband meant,
I supposed this or any man would serve,
No whit the worse for being so uncouth:
For I was ill once and a doctor came
With a great ugly hat, no plume thereto,
Black jerkin and black buckles and black sword,
And white sharp beard over the ruff in front,
And oh so lean, so sour-faced and austere!—
Who felt my pulse, made me put out my tongue,
Then oped a phial, dripped a drop or two
Of a black bitter something,—I was cured!
What mattered the fierce beard or the grim face?
It was the physic beautified the man,
Master Malpichi,—never met his match
In Rome, they said,—so ugly all the same!

However, I was hurried through a storm,
Next dark eve of December's deadest day—
How it rained!—through our street and the Lion's-mouth
And the bit of Corso,—cloaked round, covered close,
I was like something strange or contraband,—
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
My mother keeping hold of me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend,
But one with mischief-making mouth and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And then
I heard the heavy church-door lock out help
Behind us: for the customary warmth,
Two tapers shivered on the altar. "Quick—
"Lose no time!" cried the priest. And straightway down
From … what's behind the altar where he hid—
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all,
Stepped Guido, caught my hand, and there was I
O' the chancel, and the priest had opened book,
Read here and there, made me say that and this,
And after, told me I was now a wife,
Honoured indeed, since Christ thus weds the Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped aside and talked apart,
And I, silent and scared, got down again
And joined my mother who was weeping now.
Nobody seemed to mind us any more,
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had stopped,
All things looked better. At out own house-door,
Violante whispered "No one syllable
"To Pietro! Girl-brides never breathe a word!"
"—Well treated to a wetting, draggle-tails!"
Laughed Pietro as he opened—"Very near
"You made me brave the gutter's roaring sea
"To carry off from roost old dove and young,
"Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite!
"What do these priests mean, praying folk to death
"On stormy afternoons, with Christmas close
"To wash our sins off nor require the rain?"
Violante gave my hand a timely squeeze,
Madonna saved me from immodest speech,
I kissed him and was quiet, being a bride.
When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido—"Nor the Church sees Christ" thought I:
"Nothing is changed however, wine is wine
"And water only water in our house.
"Nor did I see that ugly doctor since
"That cure of the illness: just as I was cured,
"I am married,—neither scarecrow will return."

Three weeks, I chuckled—"How would Giulia stare,
"And Tecla smile and Tisbe laugh outright,
"Were it not impudent for brides to talk!"—
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-frame alone i' the chamber,—loud
Voices, two, three together, sobbings too,
And my name, "Guido," "Paolo," flung like stones
From each to the other! In I ran to see.
There stood the very Guido and the priest
With sly face,—formal but nowise afraid,—
While Pietro seemed all red and angry, scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words;
And this it was that made my mother sob,
As he reproached her—"You have murdered us,
"Me and yourself and this our child beside!"
Then Guido interposed "Murdered or not,
"Be it enough your child is now my wife!
"I claim and come to take her." Paul put in,
"Consider—kinsman, dare I term you so?—
"What is the good of your sagacity
"Except to counsel in a strait like this?
"I guarantee the parties man and wife
"Whether you like or loathe it, bless or ban.
"May spilt milk be put back within the bowl—
"The done thing, undone? You, it is, we look
"For counsel to, you fitliest will advise!
"Since milk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble good,
"Better we down on knees and scrub the floor,
"Than sigh, 'the waste would make a syllabub!'
"Help us so turn disaster to account,
"So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
"The bride with favour from the very first,
"Not begin marriage an embittered man!"
He smiled,—the game so wholly in his hands!
While fast and faster sobbed Violante—"Ay,
"All of us murdered, past averting now!
"O my sin, O my secret!" and such like.

Then I began to half surmise the truth;
Something had happened, low, mean, underhand,
False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed:
I was the chattel that had caused a crime.
I stood mute,—those who tangled must untie
The embroilment. Pietro cried "Withdraw, my child!
"She is not helpful to the sacrifice
"At this stage,—do you want the victim by
"While you discuss the value of her blood?
"For her sake, I consent to hear you talk:
"Go, child, and pray God help the innocent!

I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough,
But movement on her mouth for make-believe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down by her side and hear.
"You are too young and cannot understand,
"Nor did your father understand at first.
"I wished to benefit all three of us,
"And when he failed to take my meaning,—why,
"I tried to have my way at unaware—
"Obtained him the advantage he refused.
"As if I put before him wholesome food
"Instead of broken victual,—he finds change
"I' the viands, never cares to reason why,
"But falls to blaming me, would fling the plate
"From window, scandalize the neighbourhood,
"Even while he smacks his lips,—men's way, my child!
"But either you have prayed him unperverse
"Or I have talked him back into his wits:
"And Paolo was a help in time of need,—
"Guido, not much—my child, the way of men!
"A priest is more a woman than a man,
"And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short,
"Yes, he was wrong, your father sees and says;
"My scheme was worth attempting: and bears fruit,
"Gives you a husband and a noble name,
"A palace and no end of pleasant things.
"What do you care about a handsome youth?
"They are so volatile, and tease their wives!
"This is the kind of man to keep the house.
"We lose no daughter,—gain a son, that's all:
"For 't is arranged we never separate,
"Nor miss, in our grey time of life, the tints
"Of you that colour eve to match with morn.
"In good or ill, we share and share alike,
"And cast our lots into a common lap,
"And all three die together as we lived!
"Only, at Arezzo,—that's a Tuscan town,
"Not so large as this noisy Rome, no doubt,
"But older far and finer much, say folk,—
"In a great palace where you will be queen,
"Know the Archbishop and the Governor,
"And we see homage done you ere we die.
"Therefore, be good and pardon!"—"Pardon what?
"You know things, I am very ignorant:
"All is right if you only will not cry!"

And so an end! Because a blank begins
From when, at the word, she kissed me hard and hot,
And took me back to where my father leaned
Opposite Guido—who stood eyeing him,
As eyes the butcher the cast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles more,—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at whiles
With the pen-point as to punish triumph there,—
And said "Count Guido, take your lawful wife
"Until death part you!"

All since is one blank,
Over and ended; a terrific dream.
It is the good of dreams—so soon they go!
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, you may—
Cry "The dread thing will never from my thoughts!"
Still, a few daylight doses of plain life,
Cock-crow and sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkling, to be milked;
And when you rub your eyes awake and wide,
Where is the harm o' the horror? Gone! So here.
I know I wake,—but from what? Blank, I say!
This is the note of evil: for good lasts.
Even when Don Celestine bade "Search and find!
"For your soul's sake, remember what is past,
"The better to forgive it,"—all in vain!
What was fast getting indistinct before,
Vanished outright. By special grace perhaps,
Between that first calm and this last, four years
Vanish,—one quarter of my life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only—thence I hang,
And there I live,—the rest is death or dream,
All but those points of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once in the Square
O' the Spaniards, opposite the Spanish House:
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gave the creature room enough:
When she was settled there he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest,
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to God,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and save me—hand
Which proved to be my friend's hand: and,—blest bliss,—
That fancy which began so faint at first,
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my dark,
Which I perceive was promise of my child,
The light his unborn face sent long before,—
God's way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now of those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged "But remember more!
"Other men's faults may help me find your own.
"I need the cruelty exposed, explained,
"Or how can I advise you to forgive?"
He thought I could not properly forgive
Unless I ceased forgetting,—which is true:
For, bringing back reluctantly to mind
My husband's treatment of me,—by a light
That's later than my life-time, I review
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And have but little to forgive at last.
For now,—be fair and say,—is it not true
He was ill-used and cheated of his hope
To get enriched by marriage? Marriage gave
Me and no money, broke the compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietro and Violante to declare
They would not give me: so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself aggrieved,
Became unkind with me to punish them.
They said 't was he began deception first,
Nor, in one point whereto he pledged himself,
Kept promise: what of that, suppose it were?
Echoes die off, scarcely reverberate
For ever,—why should ill keep echoing ill,
And never let our ears have done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the violent way
To thwart him,—he must needs retaliate,—wrong,
Wrong, and all wrong,—better say, all blind!
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery: for his wife
Was bound in some sort to help somehow there.
It seems as if I might have interposed,
Blunted the edge of their resentment so,
Since he vexed me because they first vexed him;
"I will entreat them to desist, submit,
"Give him the money and be poor in peace,—
"Certainly not go tell the world: perhaps
"He will grow quiet with his gains."

Yes, say
Something to this effect and you do well!
But then you have to see first: I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy ways,
The indirect, the unapproved of God:
You cannot find their author's end and aim,
Not even to substitute your good for bad,
Your straight for the irregular; you stand
Stupefied, profitless, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind, anger him just twice
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, "You are a coquette,
"A lure-owl posturing to attract birds,
"You look love-lures at theatre and church,
"In walk, at window!"—that, I knew, was false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To drive me by such charge,—how could I know?
So, unaware, I only made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk,
Window, church, theatre, for good and all,
As if he had been in earnest: that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though I could read no word of,—he should cease
Writing,—nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease from so much as even pass the street
Whereon our house looked,—in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Guido's true intent;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoughtless man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more,
Till both of us were taken in a crime.
He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,
Simulate folly: but,—wrong or right, the wish,—
I failed to apprehend its drift. How plain
It follows,—if I fell into such fault,
He also may have overreached the mark,
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I' the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque intrigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselves,
Be other man and woman than we were!
Think it out, you who have the time! for me,—
I cannot say less; more I will not say.
Leave it to God to cover and undo!
Only, my dulness should not prove too much!
Not prove that in a certain other point
Wherein my husband blamed me,—and you blame,
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head,—
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak!
Must I speak? I am blamed that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favour come.
That is true: I was firm, withstood, refused …
—Women as you are, how can I find the words?

I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul:
Till, when I sought help, the Archbishop smiled,
Inquiring into privacies of life,
—Said I was blameable—(he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed,—as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction "Since your husband bids,
"Swallow the burning coal he proffers you!"
But I did wrong, and he gave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Archbishop,—that, I know!—
Now I have got to die and see things clear.
Remember I was barely twelve years old—
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life still
Even at Arezzo, when I woke and found
First … but I need not think of that again—
Over and ended! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake,
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
"We have been man and wife six months almost:
"How long is this your comedy to last?
"Go this night to my chamber, not your own!"
At which word, I did rush—most true the charge—
And gain the Archbishop's house—he stands for God—
And fall upon my knees and clasp his feet,
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest:
"Place me within a convent," I implored—
"Let me henceforward lead the virgin life
"You praise in Her you bid me imitate!"
What did he answer? "Folly of ignorance!
"Know, daughter, circumstances make or mar
"Virginity,—'t is virtue or 't is vice.
"That which was glory in the Mother of God
"Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
"Created to be mother of mankind.
"Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
"'Be fruitful, multiply, replenish earth'—
"Pouted 'But I choose rather to remain
"'Single'—why, she had spared herself forthwith
"Further probation by the apple and snake,
"Been pushed straight out of Paradise! For see—
"If motherhood be qualified impure,
"I catch you making God command Eve sin!
"—A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
"I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued "'T was in your covenant!"

No! There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
"Because of our souls' yearning that we meet
"And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and mine
"Wear and impress, and make their visible selves,
"—All which means, for the love of you and me,
"Let us become one flesh, being one soul!"
He only stipulated for the wealth;
Honest so far. But when he spoke as plain—
Dreadfully honest also—"Since our souls
"Stand each from each, a whole world's width between,
"Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
"And rend and leave just fit for hell to burn!"—
Why, in God's name, for Guido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine,—I say,
I did resist; would I had overcome!

My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile;
It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the world,
As though 't were nature frowning—"Here is Spring,
"The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall,
"The earth requires that warmth reach everywhere:
"What, must your patch of snow be saved forsooth
"Because you rather fancy snow than flowers?"
Something in this style he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
"This explains why you call your husband harsh,
"Harsh to you, harsh to whom you love. God's Bread!
"The poor Count has to manage a mere child
"Whose parents leave untaught the simplest things
"Their duty was and privilege to teach,—
"Good wives' instruction, gossips' lore: they laugh
"And leave the Count the task,—or leave it me!"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
"I am not ignorant,—know what I say,
"Declaring this is sought for hate, not love.
"Sir, you may hear things like almighty God.
"I tell you that my housemate, yes—the priest
"My husband's brother, Canon Girolamo—
"Has taught me what depraved and misnamed love
"Means, and what outward signs denote the sin,
"For he solicits me and says he loves,
"The idle young priest with nought else to do.
"My husband sees this, knows this, and lets be.
"Is it your counsel I bear this beside?"
"—More scandal, and against a priest this time!
"What, 't is the Canon now?"—less snappishly—
"Rise up, my child, for such a child you are,
"The rod were too advanced a punishment!
"Let's try the honeyed cake. A parable!
"'Without a parable spake He not to them.'
"There was a ripe round long black toothsome fruit,
"Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May:
"And, to the tree, said … either the spirit o' the fig,
"Or, if we bring in men, the gardener,
"Archbishop of the orchard—had I time
"To try o' the two which fits in best: indeed
"It might be the Creator's self, but then
"The tree should bear an apple, I suppose,—
"Well, anyhow, one with authority said
"'Ripe fig, burst skin, regale the fig-pecker—
"'The bird whereof thou art a perquisite!'
"'Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif fig,
"'I much prefer to keep my pulp myself:
"'He may go breakfastless and dinnerless,
"'Supperless of one crimson seed, for me!'
"So, back she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
"He flew off, left her,—did the natural lord,—
"And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
"Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck:
"Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite!
"The moral,—fools elude their proper lot,
"Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
"Therefore go home, embrace your husband quick!
"Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
"He will the sooner back to book again."

So, home I did go; so, the worst befell:
So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,
And hardly that, and certainly no more.
For, miserable consequence to me,
My husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,
His brother's boldness grew effrontery soon,
And my last stay and comfort in myself
Was forced from me: henceforth I looked to God
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the world.
God's glimmer, that came through the ruin-top,
Was witness why all lights were quenched inside:
Henceforth I asked God counsel, not mankind.

So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said—"No care to save appearance here!
"How cynic,—when, how wanton, were enough!"
—Adding, it all came of my mother's life
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years,
At mercy of the hateful: every beast
O' the field was wont to break that fountain-fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now they cry "Out on her, who, plashy pool,
"Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
"To the daughter-stream where Guido dipt and drank!"
Well, since she had to bear this brand—let me!
The rather do I understand her now,
From my experience of what hate calls love,—
Much love might be in what their love called hate.
If she sold … what they call, sold … me her child—
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least might try be good and pure,
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she.
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of you,
When I mistrust who speaks even well of them?
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm,
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most,
Have meant to do most good—and feed your child
From bramble-bush, whom not one orchard-tree
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit fall?
This it was for you sacrificed your babe?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, loving it as you,
If … but that never could be asked of me!

There, enough! I have my support again,
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is,
Will be mine only. Him, by death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care,—
But not to any parent in the world,—
So to be safe: why is it we repine?
What guardianship were safer could we choose?
All human plans and projects come to nought:
My life, and what I know of other lives,
Prove that: no plan nor project! God shall care!

And now you are not tired? How patient then
All of you,—Oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am sure!
Four days ago, when I was sound and well
And like to live, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled "And what of him,
"Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown hides?
"There, there!—your lover, do we dream he was?
"A priest too—never were such naughtiness!
"Still, he thinks many a long think, never fear,
"After the shy pale lady,—lay so light
"For a moment in his arms, the lucky one!"
And so on: wherefore should I blame you much?
So we are made, such difference in minds,
Such difference too in eyes that see the minds!
That man, you misinterpret and misprise—
The glory of his nature, I had thought,
Shot itself out in white light, blazed the truth
Through every atom of his act with me:
Yet where I point you, through the crystal shrine,
Purity in quintessence, one dew-drop,
You all descry a spider in the midst.
One says "The head of it is plain to see,"
And one, "They are the feet by which I judge,"
All say, "Those films were spun by nothing else."

Then, I must lay my babe away with God,
Nor think of him again, for gratitude.
Yes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In one attempt more to disperse the stain,
The mist from other breath fond mouths have made,
About a lustrous and pellucid soul:
So that, when I am gone but sorrow stays,
And people need assurance in their doubt
If God yet have a servant, man a friend,
The weak a saviour and the vile a foe,—
Let him be present, by the name invoked,
Giuseppe-Maria Caponsacchi!

There,
Strength comes already with the utterance!
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow: for he lives and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me!
I had been miserable three drear years
In that dread palace and lay passive now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell: I was at a public play,
In the last days of Carnival last March,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know well.
My husband put me where I sat, in front;
Then crouched down, breathed cold through me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow,—none in front could see,—
I, it was, faced the stranger-throng beneath,
The crowd with upturned faces, eyes one stare,
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage,
Whereon two lovers sang and interchanged
"True life is only love, love only bliss:
"I love thee—thee I love!" then they embraced.
I looked thence to the ceiling and the walls,—
Over the crowd, those voices and those eyes,—
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words,—
Set me down there, a happy child again
Sure that to-morrow would be festa-day,
Hearing my parents praise past festas more,
And seeing they were old if I was young,
Yet wondering why they still would end discourse
With "We must soon go, you abide your time,
"And,—might we haply see the proper friend
"Throw his arm over you and make you safe!"

Sudden I saw him; into my lap there fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream
And brought me from the air and laid me low,
As ruined as the soaring bee that's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
By the dust-handful. There the comfits lay:
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Caponsacchi, looking up in turn.
Ere I could reason out why, I felt sure,
Whoever flung them, his was not the hand,—
Up rose the round face and good-natured grin
Of one who, in effect, had played the prank,
From covert close beside the earnest face,—
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband's cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave,
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.

There is a psalm Don Celestine recites,
"Had I a dove's wings, how I fain would flee!"
The psalm runs not "I hope, I pray for wings,"—
Not "If wings fall from heaven, I fix them fast,"—
Simply "How good it were to fly and rest,
"Have hope now, and one day expect content!
"How well to do what I shall never do!"
So I said "Had there been a man like that,
"To lift me with his strength out of all strife
"Into the calm, how I could fly and rest!
"I have a keeper in the garden here
"Whose sole employment is to strike me low
"If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
"Life means with me successful feigning death,
"Lying stone-like, eluding notice so,
"Forgoing here the turf and there the sky.
"Suppose that man had been instead of this!"

Presently Conti laughed into my ear,
—Had tripped up to the raised place where I sat—
"Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard!
"Because you must be hurt, to look austere
"As Caponsacchi yonder, my tall friend
"A-gazing now. Ah, Guido, you so close?
"Keep on your knees, do! Beg her to forgive!
"My cornet battered like a cannon-ball.
"Good-bye, I'm gone!"—nor waited the reply.

That night at supper, out my husband broke,
"Why was that throwing, that buffoonery?
"Do you think I am your dupe? What man would dare
"Throw comfits in a stranger lady's lap?
"'T was knowledge of you bred such insolence
"In Caponsacchi; he dared shoot the bolt,
"Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
"How could you see him this once and no more,
"When he is always haunting hereabout
"At the street-corner or the palace-side,
"Publishing my shame and your impudence?
"You are a wanton,—I a dupe, you think?
"O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick?"
Whereat he drew his sword and feigned a thrust.

All this, now,—being not so strange to me,
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear,—I bore, this time,
More quietly than woman should perhaps;
Repeated the mere truth and held my tongue.

Then he said, "Since you play the ignorant,
"I shall instruct you. This amour,—commenced
"Or finished or midway in act, all's one,—
"'T is the town-talk; so my revenge shall be.
"Does he presume because he is a priest?
"I warn him that the sword I wear shall pink
"His lily-scented cassock through and through,
"Next time I catch him underneath your eaves!"
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after all, not kept his promise. All
I said was "Let God save the innocent!
"Moreover death is far from a bad fate.
"I shall go pray for you and me, not him;
"And then I look to sleep, come death or, worse,
"Life." So, I slept.

There may have elapsed a week,
When Margherita,—called my waiting-maid,
Whom it is said my husband found too fair—
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Good cause for jealousy cures jealous fools,
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears,—
She said, "A week is gone; you comb your hair,
"Then go mope in a corner, cheek on palm,
"Till night comes round again,—so, waste a week
"As if your husband menaced you in sport.
"Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks?
"Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
"Who made and sang the rhymes about me once!
"For why? They sent him to the wars next day.
"Nor poisoned he the foreigner, my friend
"Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast,—
"The swarth skins of our city in dispute:
"For, though he paid me proper compliment,
"The Count well knew he was besotted with
"Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
"(As all the town knew save my foreigner)
"He found and wedded presently,—'Why need
"'Better revenge?'—the Count asked. But what's here?
"A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed,
"Yet must be dealt with! If the Count took fire
"For the poor pastime of a minute,—me—
"What were the conflagration for yourself,
"Countess and lady-wife and all the rest?
"The priest will perish; you will grieve too late:
"So shall the city-ladies' handsomest
"Frankest and liberalest gentleman
"Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
"Hanging's too good for. Is there no escape?
"Were it not simple Christian charity
"To warn the priest be on his guard,—save him
"Assured death, save yourself from causing it?
"I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
"A ring to show for token! Mum's the word!"

I answered "If you were, as styled, my maid,
"I would command you: as you are, you say,
"My husband's intimate,—assist his wife
"Who can do nothing but entreat 'Be still!'
"Even if you speak truth and a crime is planned,
"Leave help to God as I am forced to do!
"There is no other help, or we should craze,
"Seeing such evil with no human cure.
"Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist,
"Can make an angry violent heart subside.
"Why should we venture teach Him governance?
"Never address me on this subject more!"

Next night she said "But I went, all the same,
"—Ay, saw your Caponsacchi in his house,
"And come back stuffed with news I must outpour.
"I told him 'Sir, my mistress is a stone:
"'Why should you harm her for no good you get?
"'For you do harm her—prowl about our place
"'With the Count never distant half the street,
"'Lurking at every corner, would you look!
"T is certain she has witched you with a spell.
"'Are there not other beauties at your beck?
"'We all know, Donna This and Monna That
"'Die for a glance of yours, yet here you gaze!
"'Go make them grateful, leave the stone its cold!'
"And he—oh, he turned first white and then red,
"And then—'To her behest I bow myself,
"'Whom I love with my body and my soul:
"'Only a word i' the bowing! See, I write
"'One little word, no harm to see or hear!
"'Then, fear no further!' This is what he wrote.
"I know you cannot read,—therefore, let me!
"'My idol!'" …

But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. "Why, join the rest
"Who harm me? Have I ever done you wrong?
"People have told me 't is you wrong myself:
"Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
"Or else forgive it,—yet you turn my foe!
"The others hunt me and you throw a noose!"

She muttered "Have your wilful way!" I slept.

Whereupon … no, I leave my husband out
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most,
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace,
And whispered—"Caponsacchi!"

If I drowned,
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned eyes,
And found their first sight was a star! I turned—
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively,—"The imposthume at such head,
"One touch, one lancet-puncture would relieve,—
"And still no glance the good physician's way
"Who rids you of the torment in a trice!
"Still he writes letters you refuse to hear.
"He may prevent your husband, kill himself,
"So desperate and all fordone is he!
"Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day!
"A sonnet from Mirtillo. 'Peerless fair …'
"All poetry is difficult to read,
"—The sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
"Leave to contrive you an escape from hell,
"And for that purpose asks an interview.
"I can write, I can grant it in your name,
"Or, what is better, lead you to his house.
"Your husband dashes you against the stones;
"This man would place each fragment in a shrine:
"You hate him, love your husband!"

I returned
"It is not true I love my husband,—no,
"Nor hate this man. I listen while you speak,
"—Assured that what you say is false, the same:
"Much as when once, to me a little child,
"A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
"A crowd of boys and idlers at his heels,
"Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my head
"In his two hands, 'Here's she will let me speak!
"'You little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
"'I am the Pope, am Sextus, now the Sixth;
"'And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
"'Is Lucifer disguised in human flesh!
"'The angels, met in conclave, crowned me!'—thus
"He gibbered and I listened; but I knew
"All was delusion, ere folk interposed
"'Unfasten him, the maniac!' Thus I know
"All your report of Caponsacchi false,
"Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much
"By that adventure at the spectacle,
"The face I fronted that one first, last time:
"He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
"Therefore while you profess to show him me,
"I ever see his own face. Get you gone!"

"—That will I, nor once open mouth again,—
"No, by Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost!
"On your head be the damage, so adieu!"
And so more days, more deeds I must forget,
Till … what a strange thing now is to declare!
Since I say anything, say all if true!
And how my life seems lengthened as to serve!
It may be idle or inopportune,
But, true?—why, what was all I said but truth,
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in through a lie?
Now—I am speaking truth to the Truth's self:
God will lend credit to my words this time.

It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak,—who had gone to bed
In the old way my wont those last three years,
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night,
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle by Margherita, "Soon enough
"Gaieties end, now Easter's past: a week,
"And the Archbishop gets him back to Rome,—
"Everyone leaves the town for Rome, this Spring,—
"Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope,
"Resigns himself and follows with the flock."
I heard this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
"And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
"At Rome, to introduce the company,
"And bear him from our picture where he fights
"Satan,—expect to have that dragon loose
"And never a defender!"—my sole thought
Being still, as night came, "Done, another day!
"How good to sleep and so get nearer death!"—
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced the sleep
With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
Light in me, light without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let fall
From heaven to earth,—a sudden drawbridge lay,
Along which marched a myriad merry motes,
Mocking the flies that crossed them and recrossed
In rival dance, companions new-born too.
On the house-eaves, a dripping shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull grey lattice-square,
As first one, then another bird leapt by,
And light was off, and lo was back again,
Always with one voice,—where are two such joys?—
The blessed building-sparrow! I stepped forth,
Stood on the terrace,—o'er the roofs, such sky!
My heart sang, "I too am to go away,
"I too have something I must care about,
"Carry away with me to Rome, to Rome!
"The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and wool,
"And nowhere else i' the world; what fly breaks rank,
"Falls out of the procession that befits,
"From window here to window there, with all
"The world to choose,—so well he knows his course?
"I have my purpose and my motive too,
"My march to Rome, like any bird or fly!
"Had I been dead! How right to be alive!
"Last night I almost prayed for leave to die,
"Wished Guido all his pleasure with the sword
"Or the poison,—poison, sword, was but a trick,
"Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest!
"My life is charmed, will last till I reach Rome!
"Yesterday, but for the sin,—ah, nameless be
"The deed I could have dared against myself!
"Now—see if I will touch an unripe fruit,
"And risk the health I want to have and use!
"Not to live, now, would be the wickedness,—
"For life means to make haste and go to Rome
"And leave Arezzo, leave all woes at once!"

Now, understand here, by no means mistake!
Long ago had I tried to leave that house
When it seemed such procedure would stop sin;
And still failed more the more I tried—at first
The Archbishop, as I told you,—next, our lord
The Governor,—indeed I found my way,
I went to the great palace where he rules,
Though I knew well 't was he who,—when I gave
A jewel or two, themselves had given me,
Back to my parents,—since they wanted bread,
They who had never let me want a nosegay,—he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly theirs,
Though all the while my husband's most of all!
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Governor, as I say,—scarce opened lip
When—the cold cruel snicker close behind—
Guido was on my trace, already there,
Exchanging nod and wink for shrug and smile,
And I—pushed back to him and, for my pains
Paid with … but why remember what is past?
I sought out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sin which came
Of their sin,—that fact could not be repressed,—
The frightfulness of my despair in God:
And, feeling, through the grate, his horror shake,
Implored him, "Write for me who cannot write,
"Apprise my parents, make them rescue me!
"You bid me be courageous and trust God:
"Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and write
"'Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
"'And now declare you have no part in me,
"'This is some riddle I want wit to solve,
"'Since you must love me with no difference.
"'Even suppose you altered,—there's your hate,
"'To ask for: hate of you two dearest ones
"'I shall find liker love than love found here,
"'If husbands love their wives. Take me away
"'And hate me as you do the gnats and fleas,
"'Even the scorpions! How I shall rejoice!'
"Write that and save me!" And he promised—wrote
Or did not write; things never changed at all:
He was not like the Augustinian here!
Last, in a desperation I appealed
To friends, whoever wished me better days,
To Guillichini, that's of kin,—"What, I—
"Travel to Rome with you? A flying gout
"Bids me deny my heart and mind my leg!"
Then I tried Conti, used to brave—laugh back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence: "You
"Who well know what you cannot save me from,—
"Carry me off! What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave—"Above my strength!
"Guido has claws that scratch, shows feline teeth;
"A formidabler foe than I dare fret:
"Give me a dog to deal with, twice the size!
"Of course I am a priest and Canon too,
"But . . by the bye . . though both, not quite so bold
"As he, my fellow-Canon, brother-priest,
"The personage in such ill odour here
"Because of the reports—pure birth o' the brain!
"Our Caponsacchi, he's your true Saint George
"To slay the monster, set the Princess free,
"And have the whole High-Altar to himself:
'I always think so when I see that piece
"I' the Pieve, that's his church and mine, you know:
"Though you drop eyes at mention of his name!"

That name had got to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
Like any by-word, broken bit of song
Born with a meaning, changed by mouth and mouth
That mix it in a sneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means nought but ugliness
And perhaps shame.

—All this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the name,—
Not the man, but the name of him, thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace,—why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
"I name his name, and there you start and wince
"As criminal from the red tongs' touch!"—yet now,
Now, as I stood letting morn bathe me bright,
Choosing which butterfly should bear my news,—
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue,—
The Margherita, I detested so,
In she came—"The fine day, the good Spring time!
"What, up and out at window? That is best.
"No thought of Caponsacchi?—who stood there
"All night on one leg, like the sentry crane,
"Under the pelting of your water-spout—
"Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
"Our city, bury his dead hope at Rome.
"Ay, go to looking-glass and make you fine,
"While he may die ere touch one least loose hair
"You drag at with the comb in such a rage!"

I turned—"Tell Caponsacchi he may come!"

"Tell him to come? Ah, but, for charity,
"A truce to fooling! Come? What,—come this eve?
"Peter and Paul! But I see through the trick!
"Yes, come, and take a flower-pot on his head,
"Flung from your terrace! No joke, sincere truth?"

How plainly I perceived hell flash and fade
O' the face of her,—the doubt that first paled joy,
Then, final reassurance I indeed
Was caught now, never to be free again!
What did I care?—who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsehair-springe.

"But—do you know that I have bade him come,
"And in your own name? I presumed so much,
"Knowing the thing you needed in your heart.
"But somehow—what had I to show in proof?
"He would not come: half-promised, that was all,
"And wrote the letters you refused to read.
"What is the message that shall move him now?"

"After the Ave Maria, at first dark,
"I will be standing on the terrace, say!"

"I would I had a good long lock of hair
"Should prove I was not lying! Never mind!"

Off she went—"May he not refuse, that's all—
"Fearing a trick!"

I answered, "He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To God the strong, God the beneficent,
God ever mindful in all strife and strait,
Who, for our own good, makes the need extreme,
Till at the last He puts forth might and saves.
An old rhyme came into my head and rang
Of how a virgin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued,
In a cave's heart; until a thunderstone,
Wrapped in a flame, revealed the couch and prey
And they laughed—"Thanks to lightning, ours at last!"
And she cried "Wrath of God, assert His love!
"Servant of God, thou fire, befriend His child!"
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its flash,
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the ground,
So did the souls within them die away,
As o'er the prostrate bodies, sworded, safe,
She walked forth to the solitudes and Christ:
So should I grasp the lightning and be saved!

And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star,
Until at an intense throe of the dusk,
I started up, was pushed, I dare to say,
Out on the terrace, leaned and looked at last
Where the deliverer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I first descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine once more.

So was that minute twice vouchsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To save me yet a second time: no change
Here, though all else changed in the changing world!

I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,
In some such sense as this, whatever the phrase.

"Friend, foolish words were borne from you to me;
"Your soul behind them is the pure strong wind,
"Not dust and feathers which its breath may bear:
"These to the witless seem the wind itself,
"Since proving thus the first of it they feel.
"If by mischance you blew offence my way,
"The straws are dropt, the wind desists no whit,
"And how such strays were caught up in the street
"And took a motion from you, why inquire?
"I speak to the strong soul, no weak disguise.
"If it be truth,—why should I doubt it truth?—
"You serve God specially, as priests are bound,
"And care about me, stranger as I am,
"So far as wish my good,—that miracle
"I take to intimate He wills you serve
"By saving me,—what else can He direct?
"Here is the service. Since a long while now,
"I am in course of being put to death:
"While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
"The head and bade, in heart, my husband strike.
"Now I imperil something more, it seems,
"Something that's truelier me than this myself,
"Something I trust in God and you to save.
"You go to Rome, they tell me: take me there,
"Put me back with my people!"

He replied—
The first word I heard ever from his lips,
All himself in it,—an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' the soul that then broke silence—"I am yours."

So did the star rise, soon to lead my step,
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Above the House o' the Babe,—my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus made me know him,
That had his right of life and claim on mine,
And would not let me die till he was born,
But pricked me at the heart to save us both,
Saying "Have you the will? Leave God the way!"
And the way was Caponsacchi—"mine," thank God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.

No pause i' the leading and the light! I know,
Next night there was a cloud came, and not he:
But I prayed through the darkness till it broke
And let him shine. The second night, he came.

"The plan is rash; the project desperate:
"In such a flight needs must I risk your life,
"Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
"Ground for your husband's rancour and revenge"—
So he began again, with the same face.
I felt that, the same loyalty—one star
Turning now red that was so white before—
One service apprehended newly: just
A word of mine and there the white was back!

"No, friend, for you will take me! 'T is yourself
"Risk all, not I,—who let you, for I trust
"In the compensating great God: enough!
"I know you: when is it that you will come?"

"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do: how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.

That night my husband bade
"—You, whom I loathe, beware you break my sleep
"This whole night! Couch beside me like the corpse
"I would you were!" The rest you know, I think—
How I found Caponsacchi and escaped.

And this man, men call sinner? Jesus Christ!
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself mad'st once,
"He hath a devil"—say he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi! Shield and show—unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure,—if ink-spot, from vile pens
Scribbling a charge against him—(I was glad
Then, for the first time, that I could not write)—
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze!

For me,
'T is otherwise: let men take, sift my thoughts
—Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!"
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world,—a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should—shall peradventure—be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see,
Not this man sees,—who from his soul, re-writes
The obliterated charter,—love and strength
Mending what's marred. "So kneels a votarist,
"Weeds some poor waste traditionary plot
"Where shrine once was, where temple yet may be,
"Purging the place but worshipping the while,
"By faith and not by sight, sight clearest so,—
"Such way the saints work,"—says Don Celestine.
But I, not privileged to see a saint
Of old when such walked earth with crown and palm,
If I call "saint" what saints call something else—
The saints must bear with me, impute the fault
To a soul i' the bud, so starved by ignorance,
Stinted of warmth, it will not blow this year
Nor recognize the orb which Spring-flowers know.
But if meanwhile some insect with a heart
Worth floods of lazy music, spendthrift joy—
Some fire-fly renounced Spring for my dwarfed cup,
Crept close to me, brought lustre for the dark,
Comfort against the cold,—what though excess
Of comfort should miscall the creature—sun?
What did the sun to hinder while harsh hands
Petal by petal, crude and colourless,
Tore me? This one heart gave me all the Spring!
Is all told? There's the journey: and where's time
To tell you how that heart burst out in shine?
Yet certain points do press on me too hard.
Each place must have a name, though I forget:
How strange it was—there where the plain begins
And the small river mitigates its flow—
When eve was fading fast, and my soul sank,
And he divined what surge of bitterness,
In overtaking me, would float me back
Whence I was carried by the striding day—
So,—"This grey place was famous once," said he—
And he began that legend of the place
As if in answer to the unspoken fear,
And told me all about a brave man dead,
Which lifted me and let my soul go on!
How did he know too,—at that town's approach
By the rock-side,—that in coming near the signs
Of life, the house-roofs and the church and tower,
I saw the old boundary and wall o' the world
Rise plain as ever round me, hard and cold,
As if the broken circlet joined again,
Tightened itself about me with no break,—
As if the town would turn Arezzo's self,—
The husband there,—the friends my enemies,
All ranged against me, not an avenue
To try, but would be blocked and drive me back
On him,—this other, … oh the heart in that!
Did not he find, bring, put into my arms
A new-born babe?—and I saw faces beam
Of the young mother proud to teach me joy,
And gossips round expecting my surprise
At the sudden hole through earth that lets in heaven.
I could believe himself by his strong will
Had woven around me what I thought the world
We went along in, every circumstance,
Towns, flowers and faces, all things helped so well!
For, through the journey, was it natural
Such comfort should arise from first to last?
As I look back, all is one milky way;
Still bettered more, the more remembered, so
Do new stars bud while I but search for old,
And fill all gaps i' the glory, and grow him—
Him I now see make the shine everywhere.
Even at the last when the bewildered flesh,
The cloud of weariness about my soul
Clogging too heavily, sucked down all sense,—
Still its last voice was, "He will watch and care;
"Let the strength go, I am content: he stays!"
I doubt not he did stay and care for all—
From that sick minute when the head swam round,
And the eyes looked their last and died on him,
As in his arms he caught me, and, you say,
Carried me in, that tragical red eve,
And laid me where I next returned to life
In the other red of morning, two red plates
That crushed together, crushed the time between,
And are since then a solid fire to me,—
When in, my dreadful husband and the world
Broke,—and I saw him, master, by hell's right,
And saw my angel helplessly held back
By guards that helped the malicethe lamb prone,
The serpent towering and triumphant—then
Came all the strength back in a sudden swell,
I did for once see right, do right, give tongue
The adequate protest: for a worm must turn
If it would have its wrong observed by God.
I did spring up, attempt to thrust aside
That ice-block 'twixt the sun and me, lay low
The neutralizer of all good and truth.
If I sinned so,—never obey voice more
O' the Just and Terrible, who bids us—"Bear!"
Not—"Stand by, bear to see my angels bear!"
I am clear it was on impulse to serve God
Not save myself,—nonor my child unborn!
Had I else waited patiently till now?—
Who saw my old kind parents, silly-sooth
And too much trustful, for their worst of faults,
Cheated, brow-beaten, stripped and starved, cast out
Into the kennel: I remonstrated,
Then sank to silence, for,—their woes at end,
Themselves gone,—only I was left to plague.
If only I was threatened and belied,
What matter? I could bear it and did bear;
It was a comfort, still one lot for all:
They were not persecuted for my sake
And I, estranged, the single happy one.
But when at last, all by myself I stood
Obeying the clear voice which bade me rise,
Not for my own sake but my babe unborn,
And take the angel's hand was sent to help—
And found the old adversary athwart the path—
Not my hand simply struck from the angel's, but
The very angel's self made foul i' the face
By the fiend who struck there,—that I would not bear,
That only I resisted! So, my first
And last resistance was invincible.
Prayers move God; threats, and nothing else, move men!
I must have prayed a man as he were God
When I implored the Governor to right
My parents' wrongs: the answer was a smile.
The Archbishop,—did I clasp his feet enough,
Hide my face hotly on them, while I told
More than I dared make my own mother know?
The profit was—compassion and a jest.
This time, the foolish prayers were done with, right
Used might, and solemnized the sport at once.
All was against the combat: vantage, mine?
The runaway avowed, the accomplice-wife,
In company with the plan-contriving priest?
Yet, shame thus rank and patent, I struck, bare,
At foe from head to foot in magic mail,
And off it withered, cobweb-armoury
Against the lightning! 'T was truth singed the lies
And saved me, not the vain sword nor weak speech!

You see, I will not have the service fail!
I say, the angel saved me: I am safe!
Others may want and wish, I wish nor want
One point o' the circle plainer, where I stand
Traced round about with white to front the world.
What of the calumny I came across,
What o' the way to the end?—the end crowns all.
The judges judged aright i' the main, gave me
The uttermost of my heart's desire, a truce
From torture and Arezzo, balm for hurt,
With the quiet nuns,—God recompense the good!
Who said and sang away the ugly past.
And, when my final fortune was revealed,
What safety while, amid my parents' arms,
My babe was given me! Yes, he saved my babe:
It would not have peeped forth, the bird-like thing,
Through that Arezzo noise and trouble: back
Had it returned nor ever let me see!
But the sweet peace cured all, and let me live
And give my bird the life among the leaves
God meant him! Weeks and months of quietude,
I could lie in such peace and learn so much—
Begin the task, I see how needful now,
Of understanding somewhat of my past,—
Know life a little, I should leave so soon.
Therefore, because this man restored my soul,
All has been right; I have gained my gain, enjoyed
As well as suffered,—nay, got foretaste too
Of better life beginning where this ends—
All through the breathing-while allowed me thus,
Which let good premonitions reach my soul
Unthwarted, and benignant influence flow
And interpenetrate and change my heart,
Uncrossed by what was wicked,—nay, unkind.
For, as the weakness of my time drew nigh,
Nobody did me one disservice more,
Spoke coldly or looked strangely, broke the love
I lay in the arms of, till my boy was born,
Born all in love, with nought to spoil the bliss
A whole long fortnight: in a life like mine
A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
All women are not mothers of a boy,
Though they live twice the length of my whole life,
And, as they fancy, happily all the same.
There I lay, then, all my great fortnight long,
As if it would continue, broaden out
Happily more and more, and lead to heaven:
Christmas before me,—was not that a chance?
I never realized God's birth before—
How He grew likest God in being born.
This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
Lying a little on my breast like hers.
So all went on till, just four days ago—
The night and the tap.

Oh it shall be success
To the whole of our poor family! My friends
… Nay, father and mother,—give me back my word!
They have been rudely stripped of life, disgraced
Like children who must needs go clothed too fine,
Carry the garb of Carnival in Lent.
If they too much affected frippery,
They have been punished and submit themselves,
Say no word: all is over, they see God
Who will not be extreme to mark their fault
Or He had granted respite: they are safe.
For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I—pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends,—none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage-bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow.
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,—
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,—
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me,—somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,—
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul
But for the unresisting body.—thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to him—thanks and farewell!

Even for my babe, my boy, there's safety thence—
From the sudden death of me, I mean: we poor
Weak souls, how we endeavour to be strong!
I was already using up my life,—
This portion, now, should do him such a good,
This other go to keep off such an ill!
The great life; see, a breath and it is gone!
So is detached, so left all by itself
The little life, the fact which means so much.
Shall not God stoop the kindlier to His work,
His marvel of creation, foot would crush,
Now that the hand He trusted to receive
And hold it, lets the treasure fall perforce?
The better; He shall have in orphanage
His own way all the clearlier: if my babe
Outlived the hour—and he has lived two weeks—
It is through God who knows I am not by.
Who is it makes the soft gold hair turn black,
And sets the tongue, might lie so long at rest,
Trying to talk? Let us leave God alone!
Why should I doubt He will explain in time
What I feel now, but fail to find the words?
My babe nor was, nor is, nor yet shall be
Count Guido Franceschini's child at all—
Only his mother's, born of love not hate!
So shall I have my rights in after-time.
It seems absurd, impossible to-day;
So seems so much else, not explained but known!

Ah! Friends, I thank and bless you every one!
No more now: I withdraw from earth and man
To my own soul, compose myself for God.

Well, and there is more! Yes, my end of breath
Shall bear away my soul in being true!
He is still here, not outside with the world,
Here, here, I have him in his rightful place!
'T is now, when I am most upon the move,
I feel for what I verily find—again
The face, again the eyes, again, through all,
The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! Otherwise
Here alone would be failure, loss to me—
How much more loss to him, with life debarred
From giving life, love locked from love's display,
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier-saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!
Love will be helpful to me more and more
I' the coming course, the new path I must tread—
My weak hand in thy strong hand, strong for that!
Tell him that if I seem without him now,
That's the world's insight! Oh, he understands!
He is at Civita—do I once doubt
The world again is holding us apart?
He had been here, displayed in my behalf
The broad brow that reverberates the truth,
And flashed the word God gave him, back to man!
I know where the free soul is flown! My fate
Will have been hard for even him to bear:
Let it confirm him in the trust of God,
Showing how holily he dared the deed!
And, for the rest,—say, from the deed, no touch
Of harm came, but all good, all happiness,
Not one faint fleck of failure! Why explain?
What I see, oh, he sees and how much more!
Tell him,—I know not wherefore the true word
Should fade and fall unuttered at the last—
It was the name of him I sprang to meet
When came the knock, the summons and the end.
"My great heart, my strong hand are back again!"
I would have sprung to these, beckoning across
Murder and hell gigantic and distinct
O' the threshold, posted to exclude me heaven:
He is ordained to call and I to come!
Do not the dead wear flowers when dressed for God?
Say,—I am all in flowers from head to foot!
Say,—not one flower of all he said and did,
Might seem to flit unnoticed, fade unknown,
But dropped a seed, has grown a balsam-tree
Whereof the blossoming perfumes the place
At this supreme of moments! He is a priest;
He cannot marry therefore, which is right:
I think he would not marry if he could.
Marriage on earth seems such a counterfeit,
Mere imitation of the inimitable:
In heaven we have the real and true and sure.
'T is there they neither marry nor are given
In marriage but are as the angels: right,
Oh how right that is, how like Jesus Christ
To say that! Marriage-making for the earth,
With gold so much,—birth, power, repute so much,
Or beauty, youth so much, in lack of these!
Be as the angels rather, who, apart,
Know themselves into one, are found at length
Married, but marry never, no, nor give
In marriage; they are man and wife at once
When the true time is: here we have to wait
Not so long neither! Could we by a wish
Have what we will and get the future now,
Would we wish aught done undone in the past?
So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
God stooping shows sufficient of His light
For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise.

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VIII. Dominus Hyacinthus de Archangelis, Pauperum Procurator

Ah, my Giacinto, he's no ruddy rogue,
Is not Cinone? What, to-day we're eight?
Seven and one's eight, I hope, old curly-pate!
—Branches me out his verb-tree on the slate,
Amo-as-avi-atum-are-ans,
Up to -aturus, person, tense, and mood,
Quies me cum subjunctivo (I could cry)
And chews Corderius with his morning crust!
Look eight years onward, and he's perched, he's perched
Dapper and deft on stool beside this chair,
Cinozzo, Cinoncello, who but he?
—Trying his milk-teeth on some crusty case
Like this, papa shall triturate full soon
To smooth Papinianian pulp!

It trots
Already through my head, though noon be now,
Does supper-time and what belongs to eve.
Dispose, O Don, o' the day, first work then play!
The proverb bids. And "then" means, won't we hold
Our little yearly lovesome frolic feast,
Cinuolo's birth-night, Cinicello's own,
That makes gruff January grin perforce!
For too contagious grows the mirth, the warmth
Escaping from so many hearts at once—
When the good wife, buxom and bonny yet,
Jokes the hale grandsire,—such are just the sort
To go off suddenly,—he who hides the key
O' the box beneath his pillow every night,—
Which box may hold a parchment (someone thinks)
Will show a scribbled something like a name
"Cinino, Ciniccino," near the end,
"To whom I give and I bequeath my lands,
"Estates, tenements, hereditaments,
"When I decease as honest grandsire ought."
Wherefore—yet this one time again perhaps—
Shan't my Orvieto fuddle his old nose!
Then, uncles, one or the other, well i' the world,
May—drop in, merely?—trudge through rain and wind,
Rather! The smell-feasts rouse them at the hint
There's cookery in a certain dwelling-place!
Gossips, too, each with keepsake in his poke,
Will pick the way, thrid lane by lantern-light,
And so find door, put galligaskin off
At entry of a decent domicile
Cornered in snug Condotti,—all for love,
All to crush cup with Cinucciatolo!

Well,
Let others climb the heights o' the court, the camp!
How vain are chambering and wantonness,
Revel and rout and pleasures that make mad!
Commend me to home-joy, the family board,
Altar and hearth! These, with a brisk career,
A source of honest profit and good fame,
Just so much work as keeps the brain from rust,
Just so much play as lets the heart expand,
Honouring God and serving man,—I say,
These are reality, and all else,—fluff,
Nutshell and naught,—thank Flaccus for the phrase!
Suppose I had been Fisc, yet bachelor!

Why, work with a will, then! Wherefore lazy now?
Turn up the hour-glass, whence no sand-grain slips
But should have done its duty to the saint
O' the day, the son and heir that's eight years old!
Let law come dimple Cinoncino's cheek,
And Latin dumple Cinarello's chin,
The while we spread him fine and toss him flat
This pulp that makes the pancake, trim our mass
Of matter into Argument the First,
Prime Pleading in defence of our accused,
Which, once a-waft on paper wing, shall soar,
Shall signalize before applausive Rome
What study, and mayhap some mother-wit,
Can do toward making Master fop and Fisc
Old bachelor Bottinius bite his thumb.
Now, how good God is! How falls plumb to point
This murder, gives me Guido to defend
Now, of all days i' the year, just when the boy
Verges on Virgil, reaches the right age
For some such illustration from his sire,
Stimulus to himself! One might wait years
And never find the chance which now finds me!
The fact is, there's a blessing on the hearth,
A special providence for fatherhood!
Here's a man, and what's more, a noble, kills
Not sneakingly but almost with parade—
Wife's father and wife's mother and wife's self
That's mother's self of son and heir (like mine!)
—And here stand I, the favoured advocate,
Who pluck this flower o' the field, no Solomon
Was ever clothed in glorious gold to match,
And set the same in Cinoncino's cap!
I defend Guido and his comrades—I!
Pray God, I keep me humble: not to me—
Non nobis, Domine, sed tibi laus!
How the fop chuckled when they made him Fisc!
We'll beat you, my Bottinius, all for love,
All for our tribute to Cinotto's day.
Why, 'sbuddikins, old Innocent himself
May rub his eyes at the bustle,—ask "What's this
"Rolling from out the rostrum, as a gust
"O' the Pro Milone had been prisoned there,
"And rattled Rome awake?" Awaken Rome,
How can the Pope doze on in decency?
He needs must wake up also, speak his word,
Have his opinion like the rest of Rome,
About this huge, this hurly-burly case:
He wants who can excogitate the truth,
Give the result in speech, plain black and white,
To mumble in the mouth and make his own
A little changed, good man, a little changed!
No matter, so his gratitude be moved,
By when my Giacintino gets of age,
Mindful of who thus helped him at a pinch,
Archangelus Procurator Pauperum—
And proved Hortensius Redivivus!

Whew!
To earn the Est-est, merit the minced herb
That mollifies the liver's leathery slice,
With here a goose-foot, there a cock's-comb stuck,
Cemented in an element of cheese!
I doubt if dainties do the grandsire good:
Last June he had a sort of strangling … bah!
He's his own master, and his will is made.
So, liver fizz, law flit and Latin fly
As we rub hands o'er dish by way of grace!
May I lose cause if I vent one word more
Except,—with fresh-cut quill we ink the white,—
P-r-o-pro Guidone et Sociis. There!

Count Guido married—or, in Latin due,
What? Duxit in uxorem?—commonplace!
Toedas jugales iniit, subiit,—ha!
He underwent the matrimonial torch?
Connubio stabili sibi junxit,—hum!
In stable bond of marriage bound his own?
That's clear of any modern taint: and yet …

Virgil is little help to who writes prose.
He shall attack me Terence with the dawn,
Shall Cinuccino! Mum, mind business, Sir!
Thus circumstantially evolve we facts,
Ita se habet ideo series facti:
He wedded,—ah, with owls for augury!
Nupserat, heu sinistris avibus,
One of the blood Arezzo boasts her best,
Dominus Guido, nobili genere ortus,
Pompilioe …

But the version afterward!
Curb we this ardour! Notes alone, to-day,
The speech to-morrow and the Latin last:
Such was the rule in Farinacci's time.
Indeed I hitched it into verse and good.
Unluckily, law quite absorbs a man,
Or else I think I too had poetized.
"Law is the pork substratum of the fry,
"Goose-foot and cock's-comb are Latinity,"—
And in this case, if circumstance assist,
We'll garnish law with idiom, never fear!
Out-of-the-way events extend our scope:
For instance, when Bottini brings his charge,
"That letter which you say Pompilia wrote,—
"To criminate her parents and herself
"And disengage her husband from the coil,—
"That, Guido Franceschini wrote, say we:
"Because Pompilia could nor read nor write,
"Therefore he pencilled her such letter first,
"Then made her trace in ink the same again."
—Ha, my Bottini, have I thee on hip?
How will he turn this and break Tully's pate?
"Existimandum" (don't I hear the dog!)
"Quod Guido designaverit elementa
"Dictoe epistoloe, quoe fuerint
"(Superinducto ab ea calamo)
"Notata atramento"—there's a style!—
"Quia ipsa scribere nesciebat" Boh!
Now, my turn! Either, Insulse! (I outburst)
Stupidly put! Inane is the response,
Inanis est responsio, or the like—
To-wit, that each of all those characters,
Quod singula elementa epistoloe,
Had first of all been traced for her by him,
Fuerant per eum prius designata,
And then, the ink applied a-top of that,
Et deinde, superinducto calamo,
The piece, she says, became her handiwork,
Per eam, efformata, ut ipsa asserit.
Inane were such response! (a second time:)
Her husband outlined her the whole, forsooth?
Vir ejus lineabat epistolam?
What, she confesses that she wrote the thing,
Fatetur eam scripsisse, (scorn that scathes!)
That she might pay obedience to her lord?
Ut viro obtemperaret, apices
(Here repeat charge with proper varied phrase)
Eo designante, ipsaque calamum
Super inducente? By such argument,
Ita pariter, she seeks to show the same,
(Ay, by Saint Joseph and what saints you please)
Epistolam ostendit, medius fidius,
No voluntary deed but fruit of force!
Non voluntarie sed coacte scriptam!
That's the way to write Latin, friend my Fisc!
Bottini is a beast, one barbarous:
Look out for him when he attempts to say
"Armed with a pistol, Guido followed her!"
Will not I be beforehand with my Fisc,
Cut away phrase by phrase from underfoot!
Guido Pompiliam—Guido thus his wife
Following with igneous engine, shall I have?
Armis munitus igneis persequens—
Arma sulphurea gestans, sulphury arms,
Or, might one style a pistol—popping-piece?
Armatus breviori sclopulo?
We'll let him have been armed so, though it make
Somewhat against us: I had thought to own—
Provided with a simple travelling-sword,
Ense solummodo viatorio
Instructus: but we'll grant the pistol here:
Better we lost the cause than lacked the gird
At the Fisc's Latin, lost the Judge's laugh!
It's Venturini that decides for style.
Tommati rather goes upon the law.
So, as to law,—

Ah, but with law ne'er hope
To level the fellow,—don't I know his trick!
How he draws up, ducks under, twists aside!
He's a lean-gutted hectic rascal, fine
As pale-haired red-eyed ferret which pretends
'T is ermine, pure soft snow from tail to snout.
He eludes law by piteous looks aloft,
Lets Latin glance off as he makes appeal
To saint that's somewhere in the ceiling-top:
Do you suppose I don't conceive the beast?
Plague of the ermine-vermin! For it takes,
It takes, and here's the fellow Fisc, you see,
And Judge, you'll not be long in seeing next!
Confound the fop—he's now at work like me:
Enter his study, as I seem to do,
Hear him read out his writing to himself!
I know he writes as if he spoke: I hear
The hoarse shrill throat, see shut eyes, neck shot-forth,
—I see him strain on tiptoe, soar and pour
Eloquence out, nor stay nor stint at all—
Perorate in the air, then quick to press
With the product! What abuse of type and sheet!
He'll keep clear of my cast, my logic-throw,
Let argument slide, and then deliver swift
Some bowl from quite an unguessed point of stand—
Having the luck o' the last word, the reply!
A plaguy cast, a mortifying stroke:
You face a fellow—cries "So, there you stand?
"But I discourteous jump clean o'er your head!
"You take ship-carpentry for pilotage,
"Stop rat-holes, while a sea sweeps through the breach,—
"Hammer and fortify at puny points?
"Do, clamp and tenon, make all tight and safe!
"'T is here and here and here you ship a sea,
"No good of your stopped leaks and littleness!"

Yet what do I name "little and a leak"?
The main defence o' the murder's used to death,
By this time, dry bare bones, no scrap we pick:
Safer I worked the new, the unforeseen,
The nice by-stroke, the fine and improvised
Point that can titillate the brain o' the Bench
Torpid with over-teaching, long ago!
As if Tommati (that has heard, reheard
And heard again, first this side and then that—
Guido and Pietro, Pietro and Guido, din
And deafen, full three years, at each long ear)
Don't want amusement for instruction now,
Won't rather feel a flea run o'er his ribs,
Than a daw settle heavily on his head!
Oh I was young and had the trick of fence,
Knew subtle pass and push with careless right—
My left arm ever quiet behind back,
With dagger ready: not both hands to blade!
Puff and blow, put the strength out, Blunderbore!
There's my subordinate, young Spreti, now,
Pedant and prig,—he'll pant away at proof,
That's his way!

Now for mine—to rub some life
Into one's choppy fingers this cold day!
I trust Cinuzzo ties on tippet, guards
The precious throat on which so much depends!
Guido must be all goose-flesh in his hole,
Despite the prison-straw: bad Carnival
For captives! no sliced fry for him, poor Count!

Carnival-time,—another providence!
The town a-swarm with strangers to amuse,
To edify, to give one's name and fame
In charge of, till they find, some future day,
Cintino come and claim it, his name too,
Pledge of the pleasantness they owe papa—
Who else was it cured Rome of her great qualms,
When she must needs have her own judgment?—ay,
When all her topping wits had set to work,
Pronounced already on the case: mere boys,
Twice Cineruggiolo's age with half his sense,
As good as tell me, when I cross the court,
"Master Arcangeli!" (plucking at my gown)
"We can predict, we comprehend your play,
"We'll help you save your client." Tra-la-la!
I've travelled ground, from childhood to this hour,
To have the town anticipate my track?
The old fox takes the plain and velvet path,
The young hound's predilection,—prints the dew,
Don't he, to suit their pulpy pads of paw?
No! Burying nose deep down i' the briery bush,
Thus I defend Count Guido.

Where are we weak?
First, which is foremost in advantage too,
Our murder,—we call, killing,—is a fact
Confessed, defended, made a boast of: good!
To think the Fisc claimed use of torture here,
And got thereby avowal plump and plain
That gives me just the chance I wanted,—scope
Not for brute-force but ingenuity,
Explaining matters, not denying them!
One may dispute,—as I am bound to do,
And shall,—validity of process here:
Inasmuch as a noble is exempt
From torture which plebeians undergo
In such a case: for law is lenient, lax,
Remits the torture to a nobleman
Unless suspicion be of twice the strength
Attaches to a man born vulgarly:
We don't card silk with comb that dresses wool.
Moreover 't was severity undue
In this case, even had the lord been lout.
What utters, on this head, our oracle,
Our Farinacci, my Gamaliel erst,
In those immortal "Questions"? This I quote:
"Of all the tools at Law's disposal, sure
"That named Vigiliarum is the best—
"That is, the worst—to whoso needs must bear:
"Lasting, as it may do, from some seven hours
"To ten; (beyond ten, we've no precedent;
"Certain have touched their ten, but, bah, they died!)
"It does so efficaciously convince,
"That,—speaking by much observation here,—
"Out of each hundred cases, by my count,
"Never I knew of patients beyond four
"Withstand its taste, or less than ninety-six
"End by succumbing: only martyrs four,
"Of obstinate silence, guilty or no,—against
"Ninety-six full confessors, innocent
"Or otherwise,—so shrewd a tool have we!"
No marvel either: in unwary hands,
Death on the spot is no rare consequence:
As indeed all but happened in this case
To one of ourselves, our young tough peasant-friend
The accomplice called Baldeschi: they were rough,
Dosed him with torture as you drench a horse,
Not modify your treatment to a man:
So, two successive days he fainted dead,
And only on the third essay, gave up,
Confessed like flesh and blood. We could reclaim,—
Blockhead Bottini giving cause enough!
But no,—we'll take it as spontaneously
Confessed: we'll have the murder beyond doubt.
Ah, fortunate (the poet's word reversed)
Inasmuch as we know our happiness!
Had the antagonist left dubiety,
Here were we proving murder a mere myth,
And Guido innocent, ignorant, absent,—ay,
Absent! He was—why, where should Christian be?—
Engaged in visiting his proper church,
The duty of us all at Christmas-time,
When Caponsacchi, the seducer, stung
To madness by his relegation, cast
About him and contrived a remedy
In murder: since opprobrium broke afresh,
By birth o' the babe, on him the imputed sire,
He it was quietly sought to smother up
His shame and theirs together,—killed the three,
And fled—(go seek him where you please to search)—
Just at the time when Guido, touched by grace,
Devotions ended, hastened to the spot,
Meaning to pardon his convicted wife,
"Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace!"—
And thus arrived i' the nick of time to catch
The charge o' the killing, though great-heartedly
He came but to forgive and bring to life.
Doubt ye the force of Christmas on the soul?
"Is thine eye evil because mine is good?"

So, doubtless, had I needed argue here
But for the full confession round and sound!
Thus might you wrong some kingly alchemist,—
Whose concern should not be with showing brass
Transmuted into gold, but triumphing,
Rather, about his gold changed out of brass,
Not vulgarly to the mere sight and touch,
But in the idea, the spiritual display,
The apparition buoyed by winged words
Hovering above its birth-place in the brain,—
Thus would you wrong this excellent personage
Forced, by the gross need, to gird apron round,
Plant forge, light fire, ply bellows,—in a word,
Demonstrate: when a faulty pipkin's crack
May disconcert you his presumptive truth!
Here were I hanging to the testimony
Of one of these poor rustics—four, ye gods!
Whom the first taste of friend the Fiscal's cord
May drive into undoing my whole speech,
Undoing, on his birthday,—what is worse,—
My son and heir!

I wonder, all the same,
Not so much at those peasants' lack of heart;
But—Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
Bear pain no better! Everybody knows
It used once, when my father was a boy,
To form a proper, nay, important point
I' the education of our well-born youth,
That they took torture handsomely at need,
Without confessing in this clownish guise.
Each noble had his rack for private use,
And would, for the diversion of a guest,
Bid it be set up in the yard of arms,
And take thereon his hour of exercise,—
Command the varletry stretch, strain their best,
While friends looked on, admired my lord could smile
'Mid tugging which had caused an ox to roar.
Men are no longer men!

—And advocates
No longer Farinacci, let us add,
If I one more time fly from point proposed!
So, Vindicatio,—here begins the speech!—
Honoris causa; thus we make our stand:
Honour in us had injury, we prove.
Or if we fail to prove such injury
More than misprision of the fact,—what then?
It is enough, authorities declare,
If the result, the deed in question now,
Be caused by confidence that injury
Is veritable and no figment: since,
What, though proved fancy afterward, seemed fact
At the time, they argue shall excuse result.
That which we do, persuaded of good cause
For what we do, hold justifiable!—
So casuists bid: man, bound to do his best,
They would not have him leave that best undone
And mean to do his worst,—though fuller light
Show best was worst and worst would have been best.
Act by the present light!—they ask of man.
Ultra quod hic non agitur, besides
It is not anyway our business here,
De probatione adulterii,
To prove what we thought crime was crime indeed,
Ad irrogandam poenam, and require
Its punishment: such nowise do we seek:
Sed ad effectum, but 't is our concern,
Excusandi, here to simply find excuse,
Occisorem, for who did the killing-work,
Et ad illius defensionem, (mark
The difference) and defend the man, just that!
Quo casu levior probatio
Exuberaret, to which end far lighter proof
Suffices than the prior case would claim:
It should be always harder to convict,
In short, than to establish innocence.
Therefore we shall demonstrate first of all
That Honour is a gift of God to man
Precious beyond compare: which natural sense
Of human rectitude and purity,—
Which white, man's soul is born with,—brooks no touch:
Therefore, the sensitivest spot of all,
Wounded by any wafture breathed from black,
Is,—honour within honour, like the eye
Centred i' the ball,—the honour of our wife.
Touch us o' the pupil of our honour, then,
Not actually,—since so you slay outright,—
But by a gesture simulating touch,
Presumable mere menace of such taint,—
This were our warrant for eruptive ire
"To whose dominion I impose no end."
(Virgil, now, should not be too difficult
To Cinoncino,—say, the early books.
Pen, truce to further gambols! Poscimur!)

Nor can revenge of injury done here
To the honour proved the life and soul of us,
Be too excessive, too extravagant:
Such wrong seeks and must have complete revenge.
Show we this, first, on the mere natural ground:
Begin at the beginning, and proceed
Incontrovertibly. Theodoric,
In an apt sentence Cassiodorus cites,
Propounds for basis of all household law—
I hardly recollect it, but it ends,
"Bird mates with bird, beast genders with his like,
"And brooks no interference." Bird and beast?
The very insects … if they wive or no,
How dare I say when Aristotle doubts?
But the presumption is they likewise wive,
At least the nobler sorts; for take the bee
As instance,—copying King Solomon,—
Why that displeasure of the bee to aught
Which savours of incontinency, makes
The unchaste a very horror to the hive?
Whence comes it bees obtain their epithet
Of castoe apes, notably "the chaste"?
Because, ingeniously saith Scaliger,
(The young sage,—see his book of Table-talk)
"Such is their hatred of immodest act,
"They fall upon the offender, sting to death."
I mind a passage much confirmative
I' the Idyllist (though I read him Latinized)
"Why" asks a shepherd, "is this bank unfit
"For celebration of our vernal loves?"
"Oh swain," returns the instructed shepherdess,
"Bees swarm here, and would quick resent our warmth!"
Only cold-blooded fish lack instinct here,
Nor gain nor guard connubiality:
But beasts, quadrupedal, mammiferous,
Do credit to their beasthood: witness him
That Ælian cites, the noble elephant,
(Or if not Ælian, somebody as sage)
Who seeing, much offence beneath his nose,
His master's friend exceed in courtesy
The due allowance to his master's wife,
Taught them good manners and killed both at once,
Making his master and the world admire.
Indubitably, then, that master's self,
Favoured by circumstance, had done the same
Or else stood clear rebuked by his own beast.
Adeo, ut qui honorem spernit, thus,
Who values his own honour not a straw,—
Et non recuperare curat, nor
Labours by might and main to salve its wound,
Se ulciscendo, by revenging him,
Nil differat a belluis, is a brute,
Quinimo irrationabilior
Ipsismet belluis, nay, contrariwise,
Much more irrational than brutes themselves,
Should be considered, reputetur! How?
If a poor animal feel honour smart,
Taught by blind instinct nature plants in him,
Shall man,—confessed creation's master-stroke,
Nay, intellectual glory, nay, a god,
Nay, of the nature of my Judges here,—
Shall man prove the insensible, the block,
The blot o' the earth he crawls on to disgrace?
(Come, that's both solid and poetic!) Man
Derogate, live for the low tastes alone,
Mean creeping cares about the animal life?
Absit such homage to vile flesh and blood!

(May Gigia have remembered, nothing stings
Fried liver out of its monotony
Of richness, like a root of fennel, chopped
Fine with the parsley: parsley-sprigs, I said—
Was there need I should say "and fennel too"?
But no, she cannot have been so obtuse!
To our argument! The fennel will be chopped.)

From beast to man next mount we—ay, but, mind,
Still mere man, not yet Christian,—that, in time!
Not too fast, mark you! 'T is on Heathen grounds
We next defend our act: then, fairly urge—
If this were done of old, in a green tree,
Allowed in the Spring rawness of our kind,
What may be licensed in the Autumn dry
And ripe, the latter harvest-tide of man?
If, with his poor and primitive half-lights,
The Pagan, whom our devils served for gods,
Could stigmatise the breach of marriage-vow
As that which blood, blood only might efface,—
Absolve the husband, outraged, whose revenge
Anticipated law, plied sword himself,—
How with the Christian in full blaze of noon?
Shall not he rather double penalty,
Multiply vengeance, than, degenerate,
Let privilege be minished, droop, decay?
Therefore set forth at large the ancient law!
Superabundant the examples be
To pick and choose from. The Athenian Code,
Solon's, the name is serviceable,—then,
The Laws of the Twelve Tables, that fifteenth,—
"Romulus" likewise rolls out round and large
The Julian; the Cornelian; Gracchus' Law:
So old a chime, the bells ring of themselves!
Spreti can set that going if he please,
I point you, for my part, the belfry plain,
Intent to rise from dusk, diluculum,
Into the Christian day shall broaden next.

First, the fit compliment to His Holiness
Happily reigning: then sustain the point—
All that was long ago declared as law
By the natural revelation, stands confirmed
By Apostle and Evangelist and Saint,—
To-wit—that Honour is man's supreme good.
Why should I baulk Saint Jerome of his phrase?
Ubi honor non est, where no honour is,
Ibi contemptus est; and where contempt,
Ibi injuria frequens; and where that,
The frequent injury, ibi et indignatio;
And where the indignation, ibi quies
Nulla: and where there is no quietude
Why, ibi, there, the mind is often cast
Down from the heights where it proposed to dwell,
Mens a proposito soepe dejicitur.
And naturally the mind is so cast down,
Since harder't is, quum difficilius sit,
Iram cohibere, to coerce one's wrath,
Quam miracula facere, than work miracles,—
So Gregory smiles in his First Dialogue.
Whence we infer, the ingenuous soul, the man
Who makes esteem of honour and repute,
Whenever honour and repute are touched,
Arrives at term of fury and despair,
Loses all guidance from the reason-check:
As in delirium or a frenzy-fit,
Nor fury nor despair he satiates,—no,
Not even if he attain the impossible,
O'erturn the hinges of the universe
To annihilate—not whoso caused the smart
Solely, the author simply of his pain,
But the place, the memory, vituperii,
O' the shame and scorn: quia,—says Solomon,
(The Holy Spirit speaking by his mouth
In Proverbs, the sixth chapter near the end)
—Because, the zeal and fury of a man,
Zelus et furor viri, will not spare,
Non parcet, in the day of his revenge,
In die vindictoe, nor will acquiesce,
Nec acquiescet, through a person's prayers,
Cujusdam precibus,—nec suscipiet,
Nor yet take, pro redemptione, for
Redemption, dona plurium, gifts of friends,
Mere money-payment to compound for ache.
Who recognizes not my client's case?
Whereto, as strangely consentaneous here,
Adduce Saint Bernard in the Epistle writ
To Robertulus, his nephew: "Too much grief,
"Dolor quippe nimius non deliberat,
"Does not excogitate propriety,
"Non verecundatur, nor knows shame at all,
"Non consulit rationem, nor consults
"Reason, non dignitatis metuit
"Damnum, nor dreads the loss of dignity;
"Modum et ordinem, order and the mode,
"Ignorat, it ignores:" why, trait for trait,
Was ever portrait limned so like the life?
(By Cavalier Maratta, shall I say?
I hear he's first in reputation now.)
Yes, that of Samson in the Sacred Text
That's not so much the portrait as the man!
Samson in Gaza was the antetype
Of Guido at Rome: observe the Nazarite!
Blinded he was,—an easy thing to bear:
Intrepidly he took imprisonment,
Gyves, stripes and daily labour at the mill:
But when he found himself, i' the public place,
Destined to make the common people sport,
Disdain burned up with such an impetus
I' the breast of him that, all the man one fire,
Moriatur, roared he, let my soul's self die,
Anima mea, with the Philistines!
So, pulled down pillar, roof, and death and all,
Multosque plures interfecit, ay,
And many more he killed thus, moriens,
Dying, quam vivus, than in his whole life,
Occiderat, he ever killed before.
Are these things writ for no example, Sirs?
One instance more, and let me see who doubts!
Our Lord Himself, made all of mansuetude,
Sealing the sum of sufferance up, received
Opprobrium, contumely and buffeting
Without complaint: but when He found Himself
Touched in His honour never so little for once,
Then outbroke indignation pent before—
"Honorem meum nemini dabo!" "No,
"My honour I to nobody will give!"
And certainly the example so hath wrought,
That whosoever, at the proper worth,
Apprises worldly honour and repute,
Esteems it nobler to die honoured man
Beneath Mannaia, than live centuries
Disgraced in the eye o' the world. We find Saint Paul
No recreant to this faith delivered once:
"Far worthier were it that I died," cries he,
Expedit mihi magis mori, "than
"That anyone should make my glory void,"
Quam ut gloriam meam quis evacuet!
See, ad Corinthienses: whereupon
Saint Ambrose makes a comment with much fruit,
Doubtless my Judges long since laid to heart,
So I desist from bringing forward here.
(I can't quite recollect it.)

Have I proved
Satis superque, both enough and to spare,
That Revelation old and new admits
The natural man may effervesce in ire,
O'erflood earth, o'erfroth heaven with foamy rage,
At the first puncture to his self-respect?
Then, Sirs, this Christian dogma, this law-bud
Full-blown now, soon to bask the absolute flower
Of Papal doctrine in our blaze of day,—
Bethink you, shall we miss one promise-streak,
One doubtful birth of dawn crepuscular,
One dew-drop comfort to humanity,
Now that the chalice teems with noonday wine?
Yea, argue Molinists who bar revenge—
Referring just to what makes out our case!
Under old dispensation, argue they,
The doom of the adulterous wife was death,
Stoning by Moses' law. "Nay, stone her not,
"Put her away!" next legislates our Lord;
And last of all, "Nor yet divorce a wife!"
Ordains the Church, "she typifies ourself,
The Bride no fault shall cause to fall from Christ."
Then, as no jot nor tittle of the Law
Has passed away—which who presumes to doubt?
As not one word of Christ is rendered vain—
Which, could it be though heaven and earth should pass?
Where do I find my proper punishment
For my adulterous wife, I humbly ask
Of my infallible Pope,—who now remits
Even the divorce allowed by Christ in lieu
Of lapidation Moses licensed me?
The Gospel checks the Law which throws the stone,
The Church tears the divorce-bill Gospel grants:
Shall wives sin and enjoy impunity?
What profits me the fulness of the days,
The final dispensation, I demand,
Unless Law, Gospel and the Church subjoin
"But who hath barred thee primitive revenge,
"Which, like fire damped and dammed up, burns more fierce?
"Use thou thy natural privilege of man,
"Else wert thou found like those old ingrate Jews,
"Despite the manna-banquet on the board,
"A-longing after melons, cucumbers,
"And such like trash of Egypt left behind!"

(There was one melon had improved our soup:
But did not Cinoncino need the rind
To make a boat with? So I seem to think.)

Law, Gospel and the Church—from these we leap
To the very last revealment, easy rule
Befitting the well-born and thorough-bred
O' the happy day we live in, not the dark
O' the early rude and acorn-eating race.
"Behold," quoth James, "we bridle in a horse
"And turn his body as we would thereby!"
Yea, but we change the bit to suit the growth,
And rasp our colt's jaw with a rugged spike
We hasten to remit our managed steed
Who wheels round at persuasion of a touch.
Civilization bows to decency,
The acknowledged use and wont: 't is manners,—mild
But yet imperative law,—which make the man.
Thus do we pay the proper compliment
To rank, and that society of Rome,
Hath so obliged us by its interest,
Taken our client's part instinctively,
As unaware defending its own cause.
What dictum doth Society lay down
I' the case of one who hath a faithless wife?
Wherewithal should the husband cleanse his way?
Be patient and forgive? Oh, language fails,—
Shrinks from depicturing his turpitude!
For if wronged husband raise not hue and cry,
Quod si maritus de adulterio non
Conquereretur, he's presumed a—foh!
Presumitur leno: so, complain he must.
But how complain? At your tribunal, lords?
Far weightier challenge suits your sense, I wot!
You sit not to have gentlemen propose
Questions gentility can itself discuss.
Did not you prove that to our brother Paul?
The Abate, quum judicialiter
Prosequeretur, when he tried the law,
Guidonis causam, in Count Guido's case,
Accidit ipsi, this befell himself,
Quod risum moverit et cachinnos, that
He moved to mirth and cachinnation, all
Or nearly all, fere in omnibus
Etiam sensatis et cordatis, men
Strong-sensed, sound-hearted, nay, the very Court,
Ipsismet in judicibus, I might add,
Non tamen dicam. In a cause like this,
So multiplied were reasons pro and con,
Delicate, intertwisted and obscure,
That Law refused loan of a finger-tip
To unravel, re-adjust the hopeless twine,
Since, half-a-dozen steps outside Law's seat,
There stood a foolish trifler with a tool
A-dangle to no purpose by his side,
Had clearly cut the embroilment in a trice.
Asserunt enim unanimiter
Doctores, for the Doctors all assert,
That husbands, quod mariti, must be held
Viles, cornuti reputantur, vile,
Fronts branching forth a florid infamy,
Si propriis manibus, if with their own hands,
Non sumunt, they fail straight to take revenge,
Vindictam, but expect the deed be done
By the Court—expectant illam fieri
Per judices, qui summopere rident, which
Gives an enormous guffaw for reply,
Et cachinnantur. For he ran away,
Deliquit enim, just that he might 'scape
The censure of both counsellors and crowd,
Ut vulgi et doctorum evitaret
Censuram, and lest so he superadd
To loss of honour ignominy too,
Et sic ne istam quoque ignominiam
Amisso honori superadderet.
My lords, my lords, the inconsiderate step
Was—we referred ourselves to Law at all!
Twit me not with "Law else had punished you!"
Each punishment of the extra-legal step,
To which the high-born preferably revert,
Is ever for some oversight, some slip
I' the taking vengeance, not for vengeance' self.
A good thing, done unhandsomely, turns ill;
And never yet lacked ill the law's rebuke.
For pregnant instance, let us contemplate
The luck of Leonardus,—see at large
Of Sicily's Decisions sixty-first.
This Leonard finds his wife is false: what then?
He makes her own son snare her, and entice
Out of the town walls to a private walk
Wherein he slays her with commodity.
They find her body half-devoured by dogs:
Leonard is tried, convicted, punished, sent
To labour in the galleys seven years long:
Why? For the murder? Nay, but for the mode!
Malus modus occidendi, ruled the Court,
An ugly mode of killing, nothing more!
Another fructuous sample,—see "De Re
"Criminali," in Matthæus' divine piece.
Another husband, in no better plight,
Simulates absence, thereby tempts his wife;
On whom he falls, out of sly ambuscade,
Backed by a brother of his, and both of them
Armed to the teeth with arms that law had blamed.
Nimis dolose, overwilily,
Fuisse operatum, did they work,
Pronounced the law: had all been fairly done
Law had not found him worthy, as she did,
Of four years' exile. Why cite more? Enough
Is good as a feast—(unless a birthday-feast
For one's Cinuccio) so, we finish here.
My lords, we rather need defend ourselves
Inasmuch as, for a twinkling of an eye,
We hesitatingly appealed to law,—
Than need deny that, on mature advice,
We blushingly bethought us, bade revenge
Back to its simple proper private way
Of decent self-dealt gentlemanly death.
Judges, here is the law, and here beside,
The testimony! Look to it!

Pause and breathe!
So far is only too plain; we must watch:
Bottini will scarce hazard an attack
Here: best anticipate the fellow's play,
And guard the weaker places—warily ask,
What if considerations of a sort,
Reasons of a kind, arise from out the strange
Peculiar unforeseen new circumstance
Of this our (candour owns) abnormal act,
To bar the right of us revenging so?
"Impunity were otherwise your meed:
"Go slay your wife and welcome,"—may be urged,—
"But why the innocent old couple slay,
"Pietro, Violante? You may do enough,
"Not too much, not exceed the golden mean:
"Neither brute-beast nor Pagan, Gentile, Jew,
"Nor Christian, no nor votarist of the mode,
"Is justified to push revenge so far."

No, indeed? Why, thou very sciolist!
The actual wrong, Pompilia seemed to do,
Was virtual wrong done by the parents here—
Imposing her upon us as their child—
Themselves allow: then, her fault was their fault,
Her punishment be theirs accordingly!
But wait a little, sneak not off so soon!
Was this cheat solely harm to Guido, pray?
The precious couple you call innocent,—
Why, they were felons that Law failed to clutch,
Qui ut fraudarent, who that they might rob,
Legitime vocatos, folk law called,
Ad fidei commissum, true heirs to the Trust,
Partum supposuerunt, feigned this birth,
Immemores reos factos esse, blind
To the fact that, guilty, they incurred thereby,
Ultimi supplicii, hanging or what's worse.
Do you blame us that we turn Law's instruments,
Not mere self-seekers,—mind the public weal,
Nor make the private good our sole concern?
That having—shall I say—secured a thief,
Not simply we recover from his pouch
The stolen article our property,
But also pounce upon our neighbour's purse
We opportunely find reposing there,
And do him justice while we right ourselves?
He owes us, for our part, a drubbing say,
But owes our neighbour just a dance i' the air
Under the gallows: so, we throttle him.
That neighbour's Law, that couple are the Thief,
We are the over ready to help Law—
Zeal of her house hath eaten us up: for which,
Can it be, Law intends to eat up us,
Crudum Priamum, devour poor Priam raw,
('T was Jupiter's own joke) with babes to boot,
Priamique pisinnos, in Homeric phrase?
Shame!—and so ends my period prettily.

But even,—prove the pair not culpable,
Free as unborn babe from connivance at,
Participation in, their daughter's fault:
Ours the mistake. Is that a rare event?
Non semel, it is anything but rare,
In contingentia facti, that by chance,
Impunes evaserunt, go scot-free,
Qui, such well-meaning people as ourselves,
Justo dolore moti, who aggrieved
With cause, apposuerunt manus, lay
Rough hands, in innocentes, on wrong heads.
Cite we an illustrative case in point:
Mulier Smirnea quoedam, good my lords,
A gentlewoman lived in Smyrna once,
Virum et filium ex eo conceptum, who
Both husband and her son begot by him
Killed, interfecerat, ex quo, because,
Vir filium suum perdiderat, her spouse
Had been beforehand with her, killed her son,
Matrimonii primi, of a previous bed.
Deinde accusata, then accused,
Apud Dolabellam, before him that sat
Proconsul, nec duabus coedibus
Contaminatam liberare, nor
To liberate a woman doubly-dyed
With murder, voluit, made he up his mind,
Nec condeminare, nor to doom to death,
Justo dolore impulsam, one impelled
By just grief; sed remisit, but sent her up
Ad Areopagum, to the Hill of Mars,
Sapientissimorum judicum
Coetum, to that assembly of the sage
Paralleled only by my judges here;
Ubi, cognito de causa, where, the cause
Well weighed, responsum est, they gave reply,
Ut ipsa et accusator, that both sides
O' the suit, redirent, should come back again,
Post centum annos, after a hundred years,
For judgment; et sic, by which sage decree,
Duplici parricidio rea, one
Convicted of a double parricide,
Quamvis etiam innocentem, though in truth
Out of the pair, one innocent at least
She, occidisset, plainly had put to death,
Undequaque, yet she altogether 'scaped,
Evasit impunis. See the case at length
In Valerius, fittingly styled Maximus,
That eighth book of his Memorable Facts.
Nor Cyriacus cities beside the mark:
Similiter uxor quoe mandaverat,
Just so, a lady who had taken care,
Homicidium viri, that her lord be killed,
Ex denegatione debiti,
For denegation of a certain debt,
Matrimonialis, he was loth to pay,
Fuit pecuniaria mulcta, was
Amerced in a pecuniary mulct,
Punita, et ad poenam, and to pains,
Temporalem, for a certain space of time,
In monasterio, in a convent.

(Ay,
In monasterio! He mismanages
In with the ablative, the accusative!
I had hoped to have hitched the villain into verse
For a gift, this very day, a complete list
O' the prepositions each with proper case,
Telling a story, long was in my head.
"What prepositions take the accusative?
Ad to or at—who saw the cat?—down to
Ob, for, because of, keep her claws off!" Tush!
Law in a man takes the whole liberty:
The muse is fettered: just as Ovid found!)

And now, sea widens and the coast is clear.
What of the dubious act you bade excuse?
Surely things broaden, brighten, till at length
Remains—so far from act that needs defence—
Apology to make for act delayed
One minute, let alone eight mortal months
Of hesitation! "Why procrastinate?"
(Out with it my Bottinius, ease thyself!)
"Right, promptly done, is twice right: right delayed
"Turns wrong. We grant you should have killed your wife,
"But killed o' the moment, at the meeting her
"In company with the priest: then did the tongue
"O' the Brazen Head give license, 'Time is now!'
"Wait to make mind up? 'Time is past' it peals.
"Friend, you are competent to mastery
"O' the passions that confessedly explain
"An outbreak: you allow an interval,
"And then break out as if time's clock still clanged.
"You have forfeited your chance, and flat you fall
"Into the commonplace category
"Of men bound to go softly all their days,
"Obeying Law."

Now, which way make response?
What was the answer Guido gave, himself?
—That so to argue came of ignorance
How honour bears a wound. "For, wound," said he,
"My body, and the smart soon mends and ends:
"While, wound my soul where honour sits and rules,
"Longer the sufferance, stronger grows the pain,
"Being ex incontinenti, fresh as first."
But try another tack, urge common sense
By way of contrast: say—Too true, my lords!
We did demur, awhile did hesitate:
Since husband sure should let a scruple speak
Ere he slay wife,—for his own safety, lords!
Carpers abound in this misjudging world:
Moreover, there's a nicety in law
That seems to justify them should they carp.
Suppose the source of injury a son,—
Father may slay such son yet run no risk:
Why graced with such a privilege? Because
A father so incensed with his own child,
Or must have reason, or believe he has:
Quia semper, seeing that in such event,
Presumitur, the law is bound suppose,
Quod capiat pater, that the sire must take,
Bonum consilium pro filio,
The best course as to what befits his boy,
Through instinct, ex instinctu, of mere love,
Amoris, and, paterni, fatherhood;
Quam confidentiam, which confidence,
Non habet, law declines to entertain,
De viro, of the husband: where finds he
An instinct that compels him love his wife?
Rather is he presumably her foe.
So, let him ponder long in this bad world
Ere do the simplest act of justice.

But
Again—and here we brush Bottini's breast—
Object you, "See the danger of delay!
"Suppose a man murdered my friend last month:
"Had I come up and killed him for his pains
"In rage, I had done right, allows the law:
"I meet him now and kill him in cold blood,
"I do wrong, equally allows the law:
"Wherein do actions differ, yours and mine?"
In plenitudine intellectus es?
Hast thy wits, Fisc? To take such slayer's life,
Returns it life to thy slain friend at all?
Had he stolen ring instead of stabbing friend,—
To-day, to-morrow or next century,
Meeting the thief, thy ring upon his thumb,
Thou justifiably hadst wrung it thence:
So, couldst thou wrench thy friend's life back again,
Though prisoned in the bosom of his foe.
Why, law would look complacent on thy wrath.
Our case is, that the thing we lost, we found:
The honour, we were robbed of eight months since,
Being recoverable at any day
By death of the delinquent. Go thy ways!
Ere thou hast learned law, will be much to do,
As said the gaby while he shod the goose.
Nay, if you urge me, interval was none!
From the inn to the villa—blank or else a bar
Of adverse and contrarious incident
Solid between us and our just revenge!
What with the priest who flourishes his blade,
The wife who like a fury flings at us,
The crowd—and then the capture, the appeal
To Rome, the journey there, the jaunting thence
To shelter at the House of Convertites,
The visits to the Villa, and so forth,
Where was one minute left us all this while
To put in execution that revenge
We planned o' the instant?—as it were, plumped down
O' the spot, some eight months since, which round sound egg,
Rome, more propitious than our nest, should hatch!
Object not, "You reached Rome on Christmas-eve,
"And, despite liberty to act at once,
"Waited a whole and indecorous week!"
Hath so the Molinism, the canker, lords,
Eaten to our bone? Is no religion left?
No care for aught held holy by the Church?
What, would you have us skip and miss those Feasts
O' the Natal Time, must we go prosecute
Secular business on a sacred day?
Should not the merest charity expect,
Setting our poor concerns aside for once,
We hurried to the song matutinal
I' the Sistine, and pressed forward for the Mass
The Cardinal that's Camerlengo chaunts,
Then rushed on to the blessing of the Hat
And Rapier, which the Pope sends to what prince
Has done most detriment to the Infidel—
And thereby whetted courage if 't were blunt?
Meantime, allow we kept the house a week,
Suppose not we were idle in our mew!
Picture us raging here and raving there
"'Money?' I need none. 'Friends?' The word is null.
"Restore the white was on that shield of mine
"Borne at" … wherever might be shield to bear.
"I see my grandsire, he who fought so well
"At" … here find out and put in time and place,
Or else invent the fight his grandsire fought:
"I see this! I see that!"

(See nothing else,
Or I shall scarce see lamb's fry in an hour!
What to the uncle, as I bid advance
The smoking dish? "Fry suits a tender tooth!
"Behoves we care a little for our kin—
"You, Sir,—who care so much for cousinship
"As come to your poor loving nephew's feast!"
He has the reversion of a long lease yet—
Land to bequeath! He loves lamb's fry, I know!)

Here fall to be considered those same six
Qualities; what Bottini needs must call
So many aggravations of our crime,
Parasite-growth upon mere murder's back.
We summarily might dispose of such
By some off-hand and jaunty fling, some skit—
"So, since there's proved no crime to aggravate,
"A fico for your aggravations, Fisc!"
No,—handle mischief rather,—play with spells
Were meant to raise a spirit, and laugh the while
We show that did he rise we stand his match!
Therefore, first aggravation: we made up—
Over and above our simple murderous selves—
A regular assemblage of armed men,
Coadunatio armatorum,—ay,
Unluckily it was the very judge
That sits in judgment on our cause to-day
Who passed the law as Governor of Rome:
"Four men armed,"—though for lawful purpose, mark!
Much more for an acknowledged crime,—"shall die."
We five were armed to the teeth, meant murder too?
Why, that's the very point that saves us, Fisc!
Let me instruct you. Crime nor done nor meant,—
You punish still who arm and congregate:
For wherefore use bad means to a good end?
Crime being meant not done,—you punish still
The means to crime, whereon you haply pounce,
Though accident have baulked them of effect.
But crime not only compassed but complete,
Meant and done too? Why, since you have the end,
Be that your sole concern, nor mind those means
No longer to the purpose! Murdered we?
(—Which, that our luck was in the present case,
Quod contigisse in prasenti casu,
Is palpable, manibus palpatum est—)
Make murder out against us, nothing else!
Of many crimes committed with a view
To one main crime, Law overlooks the less,
Intent upon the large. Suppose a man
Having in view commission of a theft,
Climbs the town-wall: 't is for the theft he hangs,
In case he stands convicted of such theft:
Law remits whipping, due to who clomb wall
Through bravery or wantonness alone,
Just to dislodge a daw's nest, plant a flag.
So I interpret you the manly mind
Of him about to judge both you and me,—
Our Governor, who, being no Fisc, my Fisc,
Cannot have blundered on ineptitude!
Next aggravation,—that the arms themselves
Were specially of such forbidden sort
Through shape or length or breadth, as, prompt, Law plucks
From single hand of solitary man,
Making him pay the carriage with his life:
Delatio armorum, arms against the rule,
Contra formam constitutionis, of
Pope Alexander's blessed memory.
Such are the poignards with the double prong,
Horn-like, when tines make bold the antlered buck,
Each prong of brittle glass—wherewith to stab
And break off short and so let fragment stick
Fast in the flesh to baffle surgery:
Such being the Genoese blade with hooked edge
That did us service at the villa here.
Sed parcat mihi tam eximius vir,
But,—let so rare a personage forgive,—
Fisc, thy objection is a foppery!
Thy charge runs that we killed three innocents:
Killed, dost see? Then, if killed, what matter how?
By stick or stone, by sword or dagger, tool
Long or tool short, round or triangular—
Poor slain folk find small comfort in the choice!
Means to an end, means to an end, my Fisc!
Nature cries out, "Take the first arms you find!"
Furor ministrat arma: where's a stone?
Unde mî lapidem, where darts for me?
Unde sagittas? But subdue the bard
And rationalize a little. Eight months since,
Had we, or had we not, incurred your blame
For letting 'scape unpunished this bad pair?
I think I proved that in last paragraph!
Why did we so? Because our courage failed.
Wherefore? Through lack of arms to fight the foe:
We had no arms or merely lawful ones,
An unimportant sword and blunderbuss,
Against a foe, pollent in potency,
The amasius, and our vixen of a wife.
Well then, how culpably do we gird loin
And once more undertake the high emprise,
Unless we load ourselves this second time
With handsome superfluity of arms,
Since better is "too much" than "not enough,"
And "plus non vitiat," too much does no harm,
Except in mathematics, sages say.
Gather instruction from the parable!
At first we are advised—"A lad hath here
"Seven barley loaves and two small fishes: what
"Is that among so many?" Aptly asked:
But put that question twice and, quite as apt,
The answer is "Fragments, twelve baskets full!"
And, while we speak of superabundance, fling
We word by the way to fools who cast their flout
On Guido—"Punishment were pardoned him,
"But here the punishment exceeds offence:
"He might be just, but he was cruel too!"
Why, grant there seems a kind of cruelty
In downright stabbing people he could maim,
(If so you stigmatize the stern and strict)
Still, Guido meant no cruelty—may plead
Transgression of his mandate, over-zeal
O' the part of his companions: all he craved
Was, they should fray the faces of the folk,
Merely disfigure, nowise make them die.
Solummodo fassus est, he owns no more,
Dedisse mandatum, than that he desired,
Ad sfrisiandum, dicam, that they hack
And hew, i' the customary phrase, his wife,
Uxorem tantum, and no harm beside.
If his instructions then be misconceived,
Nay, disobeyed, impute you blame to him?
Cite me no Panicollus to the point,
As adverse! Oh, I quite expect his case—
How certain noble youths of Sicily
Having good reason to mistrust their wives,
Killed them and were absolved in consequence:
While others who had gone beyond the need
By mutilation of each paramour—
As Galba in the Horatian satire grieved
—These were condemned to the galleys, cast for guilt
Exceeding simple murder of a wife.
But why? Because of ugliness, and not
Cruelty, in the said revenge, I trow!
Ex causa abscissionis partium;
Qui nempe id facientes reputantur
Naturoe inimici, man revolts
Against them as the natural enemy.
Pray, grant to one who meant to slit the nose
And slash the cheek and slur the mouth, at most,
A somewhat more humane award than these
Obtained, these natural enemies of man!
Objectum funditus corruit, flat you fall,
My Fisc! I waste no kick on you, but pass.

Third aggravation: that our act was done—
Not in the public street, where safety lies,
Not in the bye-place, caution may avoid,
Wood, cavern, desert, spots contrived for crime,—
But in the very house, home; nook and nest,
O' the victims, murdered in their dwelling-place,
In domo ac habitatione propria,
Where all presumably is peace and joy.
The spider, crime, pronounce we twice a pest
When, creeping from congenial cottage, she
Taketh hold with her hands, to horrify
His household more, i' the palace of the king.
All three were housed and safe and confident.
Moreover, the permission that our wife
Should have at length domum pro carcere,
Her own abode in place of prison—why,
We ourselves granted, by our other self
And proxy Paolo: did we make such grant,
Meaning a lure?—elude the vigilance
O' the jailor, lead her to commodious death,
While we ostensibly relented?

Ay,
Just so did we, nor otherwise, my Fisc!
Is vengeance lawful? We demand our right,
But find it will be questioned or refused
By jailor, turnkey, hangdog,—what know we?
Pray, how is it we should conduct ourselves?
To gain our private right—break public peace,
Do you bid us?—trouble order with our broils?
Endanger . . shall I shrink to own . . ourselves?—
Who want no broken head nor bloody nose
(While busied slitting noses, breaking heads)
From the first tipstaff that may interfere!
Nam quicquid sit, for howsoever it be,
An de consensu nostro, if with leave
Or not, a monasterio, from the nuns,
Educta esset, she had been led forth,
Potuimus id dissimulare, we
May well have granted leave in pure pretence,
Ut aditum habere, that thereby
An entry we might compass, a free move
Potuissemus, to her easy death,
Ad eam occidendam. Privacy
O' the hearth, and sanctitude of home, say you?
Shall we give man's abode more privilege
That God's?—for in the churches where He dwells,
In quibus assistit Regum Rex, by means
Of His essence, per essentiam, all the same,
Et nihilominus, therein, in eis,
Ex justa via delinquens, whoso dares
To take a liberty on ground enough,
Is pardoned, excusatur: that's our case—
Delinquent through befitting cause. You hold,
To punish a false wife in her own house
Is graver than, what happens every day,
To hale a debtor from his hiding-place
In church protected by the Sacrament?
To this conclusion have I brought my Fisc?
Foxes have holes, and fowls o' the air their nests;
Praise you the impiety that follows, Fisc?
Shall false wife yet have where to lay her head?
"Contra Fiscum definitum est!" He's done!
"Surge et scribe," make a note of it!
—If I may dally with Aquinas' word.

Or in the death-throe does he mutter still,
Fourth aggravation, that we changed our garb,
And rusticized ourselves with uncouth hat,
Rough vest and goatskin wrappage; murdered thus
Mutatione vestium, in disguise,
Whereby mere murder got complexed with wile,
Turned homicidium ex insidiis? Fisc,
How often must I round the in the ears—
All means are lawful to a lawful end?
Concede he had the right to kill his wife:
The Count indulged in a travesty; why?
De illa ut vindictam sumeret,
That on her he might lawful vengeance take,
Commodius, with more ease, et tutius,
And safelier: wants he warrant for the step?
Read to thy profit how the Apostle once
For ease and safety, when Damascus raged,
Was let down in a basket by the wall
To 'scape the malice of the governor
(Another sort of Governor boasts Rome!)
—Many are of opinion,—covered close,
Concealed with—what except that very cloak
He left behind at Troas afterward?
I shall not add a syllable: Molinists may!
Well, have we more to manage? Ay, indeed!
Fifth aggravation, that our wife reposed
Sub potestate judicis, beneath
Protection of the judge,—her house was styled
A prison, and his power became its guard
In lieu of wall and gate and bolt and bar.
This is a tough point, shrewd, redoubtable:
Because we have to supplicate that judge
Shall overlook wrong done the judgment-seat.
Now, I might suffer my own nose be pulled,
As man: but then as father … if the Fisc
Touched one hair of my boy who held my hand
In confidence he could not come to harm
Crossing the Corso, at my own desire,
Going to see those bodies in the church—
What would you say to that, Don Hyacinth?
This is the sole and single knotty point:
For, bid Tommati blink his interest,
You laud his magnanimity the while:
But baulk Tommati's office,—he talks big!
"My predecessors in the place,—those sons
"O' the prophets that may hope succeed me here,—
"Shall I diminish their prerogative?
"Count Guido Franceschini's honour!—well,
"Has the Governor of Rome none?"

You perceive,
The cards are all against us. Make a push,
Kick over table, as shrewd gamesters do!
We, do you say, encroach upon the rights,
Deny the omnipotence o' the Judge forsooth?
We, who have only been from first to last
Intending that his purpose should prevail,
Nay more, at times, anticipating it
At risk of his rebuke?

But wait awhile!
Cannot we lump this with the sixth and last
Of the aggravations—that the Majesty
O' the Sovereign here received a wound? to-wit,
Loesa Majestas, since our violence
Was out of envy to the course of law,
In odium litis? We cut short thereby
Three pending suits, promoted by ourselves
I' the main,—which worsens crime, accedit ad
Exasperationem criminis!

Yes, here the eruptive wrath with full effect!
How, did not indignation chain my tongue,
Could I repel this last, worst charge of all!
(There is a porcupine to barbacue;
Gigia can jug a rabbit well enough,
With sour-sweet sauce and pine-pips; but, good Lord,
Suppose the devil instigate the wench
To stew, not roast him? Stew my porcupine?
If she does, I know where his quills shall stick!
Come, I must go myself and see to things:
I cannot stay much longer stewing here.)
Our stomach … I mean, our soul is stirred within,
And we want words. We wounded Majesty?
Fall under such a censure, we?—who yearned
So much that Majesty dispel the cloud
And shine on us with healing on her wings,
That we prayed Pope Majestas' very self
To anticipate a little the tardy pack,
Bell us forth deep the authoritative bay
Should start the beagles into sudden yelp
Unisonous,—and, Gospel leading Law,
Grant there assemble in our own behoof
A Congregation, a particular Court,
A few picked friends of quality and place,
To hear the several matters in dispute,—
Causes big, little and indifferent,
Bred of our marriage like a mushroom-growth,—
All at once (can one brush off such too soon?)
And so with laudable despatch decide
Whether we, in the main (to sink detail)
Were one the Pope should hold fast or let go.
"What, take the credit from the Law?" you ask?
Indeed, we did! Law ducks to Gospel here:
Why should Law gain the glory and pronounce
A judgment shall immortalize the Pope?
Yes: our self-abnegating policy
Was Joab's—we would rouse our David's sloth,
Bid him encamp against a city, sack
A place whereto ourselves had long laid siege,
Lest, taking it at last, it take our name
Nor be styled Innocentinopolis.
But no! The modesty was in alarm,
The temperance refused to interfere,
Returned us our petition with the word
"Ad judices suos," "Leave him to his Judge!"
As who should say "Why trouble my repose?
"Why consult Peter in a simple case,
"Peter's wife's sister in her fever-fit
"Might solve as readily as the Apostle's self?
"Are my Tribunals posed by aught so plain?
"Hath not my Court a conscience? It is of age,
"Ask it!"

We do ask,—but, inspire reply
To the Court thou bidst me ask, as I have asked—
Oh thou, who vigilantly dost attend
To even the few, the ineffectual words
Which rise from this our low and mundane sphere
Up to thy region out of smoke and noise,
Seeking corroboration from thy nod
Who art all justice—which means mercy too,
In a low noisy smoky world like ours
Where Adam's sin made peccable his seed!
We venerate the father of the flock,
Whose last faint sands of life, the frittered gold,
Fall noiselessly, yet all too fast, o' the cone
And tapering heap of those collected years:
Never have these been hurried in their flow,
Though justice fain would jog reluctant arm,
In eagerness to take the forfeiture
Of guilty life: much less shall mercy sue
In vain that thou let innocence survive,
Precipitate no minim of the mass
O' the all-so precious moments of thy life,
By pushing Guido into death and doom!

(Our Cardinal engages to go read
The Pope my speech, and point its beauties out.
They say, the Pope has one half-hour, in twelve,
Of something like a moderate return
Of the intellectuals,—never much to lose!
If I adroitly plant this passage there,
The Fisc will find himself forestalled, I think,
Though he stand, beat till the old ear-drum break!
—Ah, boy of my own bowels, Hyacinth,
Wilt ever catch the knack, requite the pains
Of poor papa, become proficient too
I' the how and why and when, the time to laugh,
The time to weep, the time, again, to pray,
And all the times prescribed by Holy Writ?
Well, well, we fathers can but care, but cast
Our bread upon the waters!)

In a word,
These secondary charges go to ground,
Since secondary, and superfluous,—motes
Quite from the main point: we did all and some,
Little and much, adjunct and principal,
Causa honoris. Is there such a cause
As the sake of honour? By that sole test try
Our action, nor demand if more or less,
Because of the action's mode, we merit blame
Or may-be deserve praise! The Court decides.
Is the end lawful? It allows the means:
What we may do, we may with safety do,
And what means "safety" we ourselves must judge.
Put case a person wrongs me past dispute:
If my legitimate vengeance be a blow,
Mistrusting my bare arm can deal that blow,
I claim co-operation of a stick;
Doubtful if stick be tough, I crave a sword;
Diffident of ability in fence,
I fee a friend, a swordsman to assist:
Take one—he may be coward, fool or knave:
Why not take fifty?—and if these exceed
I' the due degree of drubbing, whom accuse
But the first author of the aforesaid wrong
Who put poor me to such a world of pains?
Surgery would have just excised a wart;
The patient made such pother, struggled so
That the sharp instrument sliced nose and all.
Taunt us not that our friends performed for pay!
Ourselves had toiled for simple honour's sake:
But country clowns want dirt they comprehend,
The piece of gold! Our reasons, which suffice
Ourselves, be ours alone; our piece of gold
Be, to the rustic, reason he approves!
We must translate our motives like our speech,
Into the lower phrase that suits the sense
O' the limitedly apprehensive. Let
Each level have its language! Heaven speaks first
To the angel, then the angel tames the word
Down to the ear of Tobit: he, in turn,
Diminishes the message to his dog,
And finally that dog finds how the flea
(Which else, importunate, might check his speed)
Shall learn its hunger must have holiday,
By application of his tongue or paw:
So many varied sorts of language here,
Each following each with pace to match the step,
Haud passibus oequis!

Talking of which flea,
Reminds me I must put in special word
For the poor humble following,—the four friends,
Sicarii, our assassins caught and caged.
Ourselves are safe in your approval now:
Yet must we care for our companions, plead
The cause o' the poor, the friends (of old-world faith)
Who lie in tribulation for our sake.
Pauperum Procurator is my style:
I stand forth as the poor man's advocate:
And when we treat of what concerns the poor,
Et cum agatur de pauperibus,
In bondage, carceratis, for their sake,
In eorum causis, natural piety,
Pietas, ever ought to win the day,
Triumphare debet, quia ipsi sunt,
Because those very paupers constitute,
Thesaurus Christi, all the wealth of Christ.
Nevertheless I shall not hold you long
With multiplicity of proofs, nor burn
Candle at noon-tide, clarify the clear.
There beams a case refulgent from our books—
Castrensis, Butringarius, everywhere
I find it burn to dissipate the dark.
'T is this: a husband had a friend, which friend
Seemed to him over-friendly with his wife
In thought and purpose,—I pretend no more.
To justify suspicion or dispel,
He bids his wife make show of giving heed,
Semblance of sympathy—propose, in fine,
A secret meeting in a private place.
The friend, enticed thus, finds an ambuscade,
To-wit, the husband posted with a pack
Of other friends, who fall upon the first
And beat his love and life out both at once.
These friends were brought to question for their help;
Law ruled "The husband being in the right,
"Who helped him in the right can scarce be wrong"—
Opinio, an opinion every way,
Multum tenenda cordi, heart should hold!
When the inferiors follow as befits
The lead o' the principal, they change their name,
And, non dicuntur, are no longer called
His mandatories, mandatorii,
But helpmates, sed auxiliatores; since
To that degree does honour' sake lend aid,
Adeo honoris causa est efficax,
That not alone, non solum, does it pour
Itself out, se diffundat, on mere friends,
We bring to do our bidding of this sort,
In mandatorios simplices, but sucks
Along with it in wide and generous whirl,
Sed etiam assassinii qualitate
Qualificatos, people qualified
By the quality of assassination's self,
Dare I make use of such neologism,
Ut utar verbo.

Haste we to conclude.
Of the other points that favour, leave some few
For Spreti; such as the delinquents' youth.
One of them falls short, by some months, of age
Fit to be managed by the gallows; two
May plead exemption from our law's award,
Being foreigners, subjects of the Granduke—
I spare that bone to Spreti, and reserve
Myself the juicier breast of argument—
Flinging the breast-blade i' the face o' the Fisc,
Who furnished me the tid-bit: he must needs
Play off his privilege and rack the clowns,—
And they, at instance of the rack, confess
All four unanimously made resolve,—
The night o' the murder, in brief minute snatched
Behind the back of Guido as he fled,—
That, since he had not kept his promise, paid
The money for the murder on the spot,
So, reaching home again, might please ignore
The pact or pay them in improper coin,—
They one and all resolved, these hopeful friends,
'T were best inaugurate the morrow's light,
Nature recruited with her due repose,
By killing Guido as he lay asleep
Pillowed on wallet which contained their fee.

I thank the Fisc for knowledge of this fact:
What fact could hope to make more manifest
Their rectitude, Guido's integrity?
For who fails recognize the touching truth
That these poor rustics bore no envy, hate,
Malice nor yet uncharitableness
Against the people they had put to death?
In them, did such an act reward itself?
All done was to deserve the simple pay,
Obtain the bread clowns earn by sweat of brow,
And missing which, they missed of everything—
Hence claimed pay, even at expense of life
To their own lord, so little warped (admire!)
By prepossession, such the absolute
Instinct of equity in rustic souls!
Whereas our Count, the cultivated mind,
He, wholly rapt in his serene regard
Of honour, he contemplating the sun
Who hardly marks if taper blink below,—
He, dreaming of no argument for death
Except a vengeance worthy noble hearts,—
Dared not so desecrate the deed, forsooth,
Vulgarize vengeance, as defray its cost
By money dug from out the dirty earth,
Irritant mere, in Ovid's phrase, to ill.
What though he lured base hinds by lucre's hope,—
The only motive they could masticate,
Milk for babes, not strong meat which men require?
The deed done, those coarse hands were soiled enough,
He spared them the pollution of the pay.
So much for the allegement, thine, my Fisc,
Quo nil absurdius, than which nought more mad,
Excogitari potest, may be squeezed
From out the cogitative brain of thee!
And now, thou excellent the Governor!
(Push to the peroration) coeterum
Enixe supplico, I strive in prayer,
Ut dominis meis, that unto the Court,
Benigna fronte, with a gracious brow,
Et oculis serenis, and mild eyes,
Perpendere placeat, it may please them weigh,
Quod dominus Guido, that our noble Count,
Occidit, did the killing in dispute,
Ut ejus honor tumulatus, that
The honour of him buried fathom-deep
In infamy, in infamia, might arise,
Resurgeret, as ghost breaks sepulchre!
Occidit, for he killed, uxorem, wife,
Quia illi fuit, since she was to him,
Opprobrio, a disgrace and nothing more!
Et genitores, killed her parents too,
Qui, who, postposita verecundia,
Having thrown off all sort of decency,
Filiam repudiarunt, had renounced
Their daughter, atque declarare non
Erubuerunt, nor felt blush tinge cheek,
Declaring, meretricis genitam
Esse, she was the offspring of a drab,
Ut ipse dehonestaretur, just
That so himself might lose his social rank!
Cujus mentem, and which daughter's heart and soul,
They, perverterunt, turned from the right course,
Et ad illicitos amores non
Dumtaxat pellexerunt, and to love
Not simply did alluringly incite,
Sed vi obedientioe, but by force
O' the duty, filialis, daughters owe,
Coegerunt, forced and drove her to the deed:
Occidit, I repeat he killed the clan,
Ne scilicet amplius in dedecore,
Lest peradventure longer life might trail,
Viveret, link by link his turpitude,
Invisus consanguineis, hateful so
To kith and kindred, a nobilibus
Notatus, shunned by men of quality,
Relictus ab amicis, left i' the lurch
By friends, ab omnibus derisus, turned
A common hack-block to try edge of jokes.
Occidit, and he killed them here in Rome,
In Urbe, the Eternal City, Sirs,
Nempe quoe alias spectata est,
The appropriate theatre which witnessed once,
Matronam nobilem, Lucretia's self,
Abluere pudicitioe maculas,
Wash off the spots of her pudicity,
Sanguine proprio, with her own pure blood;
Quoe vidit, and which city also saw,
Patrem, Virginius, undequaque, quite,
Impunem, with no sort of punishment,
Nor, et non illaudatum, lacking praise,
Sed polluentem parricidio,
Imbrue his hands with butchery, filioe,
Of chaste Virginia, to avoid a rape,
Ne raperetur ad stupra; so to heart,
Tanti illi cordi fuit, did he take,
Suspicio, the mere fancy men might have,
Honoris amittendi, of fame's loss,
Ut potius voluerit filia
Orbari, he preferred to lose his child,
Quam illa incederet, rather than she walk
The ways an, inhonesta, child disgraced,
Licet non sponte, though against her will.
Occidit—killed them, I reiterate—
In propria domo, in their own abode,
Ut adultera et parentes, that each wretch,
Conscii agnoscerent, might both see and say,
Nullum locum, there's no place, nullumque esse
Asylum, nor yet refuge of escape,
Impenetrabilem, shall serve as bar,
Honori loeso, to the wounded one
In honour; neve ibi opprobria
Continuarentur, killed them on the spot,
Moreover, dreading lest within those walls
The opprobrium peradventure be prolonged,
Et domus quoe testis fuit turpium,
And that the domicile which witnessed crime,
Esset et poenoe, might watch punishment:
Occidit, killed, I round you in the ears,
Quia alio modo, since by other mode,
Non poterat ejus existimatio,
There was no possibility his fame,
Loesa, gashed griesly, tam enormiter,
Ducere cicatrices, might be healed:
Occidit ut exemplum proeberet
Uxoribus, killed her, so to lesson wives
Jura conjugii, that the marriage-oath,
Esse servanda, must be kept henceforth:
Occidit denique, killed her, in a word,
Ut pro posse honestus viveret,
That he, please God, might creditably live,
Sin minus, but if fate willed otherwise,
Proprii honoris, of his outraged fame,
Offensi, by Mannaia, if you please,
Commiseranda victima caderet,
The pitiable victim he should fall!

Done! I' the rough, i' the rough! But done! And, lo,
Landed and stranded lies my very speech,
My miracle, my monster of defence—
Leviathan into the nose whereof
I have put fish-hook, pierced his jaw with thorn,
And given him to my maidens for a play!
I' the rough: to-morrow I review my piece,
Tame here and there undue floridity.
It's hard: you have to plead before these priests
And poke at them with Scripture, or you pass
For heathen and, what's worse, for ignorant
O' the quality o' the Court and what it likes
By way of illustration of the law.
To-morrow stick in this, and throw out that,
And, having first ecclesiasticized,
Regularize the whole, next emphasize,
Then latinize, and lastly Cicero-ize,
Giving my Fisc his finish. There's my speech!
And where's my fry, and family and friends?
Where's that huge Hyacinth I mean to hug
Till he cries out, "Jam satis! Let me breathe!"
Now, what an evening have I earned to-day!
Hail, ye true pleasures, all the rest are false!
Oh the old mother, oh the fattish wife!
Rogue Hyacinth shall put on paper toque,
And wrap himself around with mamma's veil
Done up to imitate papa's black robe,
(I'm in the secret of the comedy,—
Part of the program leaked out long ago!)
And call himself the Advocate o' the Poor,
Mimic Don father that defends the Count:
And for reward shall have a small full glass
Of manly red rosolio to himself,
—Always provided that he conjugate
Bibo, I drink, correctly—nor be found
Make the perfectum, bipsi, as last year!
How the ambitious do so harden heart
As lightly hold by these home-sanctitudes,
To me is matter of bewilderment—
Bewilderment! Because ambition's range
Is nowise tethered by domestic tie.
Am I refused an outlet from my home
To the world's stage?—whereon a man should play
The man in public, vigilant for law,
Zealous for truth, a credit to his kind,
Nay,—since, employing talent so, I yield
The Lord His own again with usury,—
A satisfaction, yea, to God Himself!
Well, I have modelled me by Agur's wish,
"Remove far from me vanity and lies,
"Feed me with food convenient for me!" What
I' the world should a wise man require beyond?
Can I but coax the good fat little wife
To tell her fool of a father the mad prank
His scrapegrace nephew played this time last year
At Carnival! He could not choose, I think,
But modify that inconsiderate gift
O' the cup and cover (somewhere in the will
Under the pillow, someone seems to guess)
—Correct that clause in favour of a boy
The trifle ought to grace, with name engraved,
Would look so well, produced in future years
To pledge a memory, when poor papa
Latin and law are long since laid at rest—
Hyacintho dono dedit avus! Why,
The wife should get a necklace for her pains,
The very pearls that made Violante proud,
And Pietro pawned for half their value once,—
Redeemable by somebody, ne sit
Marita quoe rotundioribus
Onusta mammis … baccis ambulet:
Her bosom shall display the big round balls,
No braver proudly borne by wedded wife!
With which Horatian promise I conclude.

Into the pigeon-hole with thee, my speech!
Off and away, first work then play, play, play!
Bottini, burn thy books, thou blazing ass!
Sing "Tra-la-la, for, lambkins, we must live!"

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XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I—
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"

Life!
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?

How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!

Fool!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Felice Whatsoever-was-the-name
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.

That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
Behind him!

And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!

Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!

I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!

Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!

You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.

Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind—
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!

Panciatichi!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!

Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?

"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!

'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I findno child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I—
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!

And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!

And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little lifefrom one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
—Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
You know—the tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I—
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.

Thus
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!

Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"

So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart—
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!

You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!

Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die—
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!

Till when,
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.

Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke'sno, I am the Pope's!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, …
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?

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The Author

Accursed the man, whom Fate ordains, in spite,
And cruel parents teach, to read and write!
What need of letters? wherefore should we spell?
Why write our names? A mark will do as well.
Much are the precious hours of youth misspent,
In climbing Learning's rugged, steep ascent;
When to the top the bold adventurer's got,
He reigns, vain monarch, o'er a barren spot;
Whilst in the vale of Ignorance below,
Folly and Vice to rank luxuriance grow;
Honours and wealth pour in on every side,
And proud Preferment rolls her golden tide.
O'er crabbed authors life's gay prime to waste,
To cramp wild genius in the chains of taste,
To bear the slavish drudgery of schools,
And tamely stoop to every pedant's rules;
For seven long years debarr'd of liberal ease,
To plod in college trammels to degrees;
Beneath the weight of solemn toys to groan,
Sleep over books, and leave mankind unknown;
To praise each senior blockhead's threadbare tale,
And laugh till reason blush, and spirits fail;
Manhood with vile submission to disgrace,
And cap the fool, whose merit is his place,
Vice-Chancellors, whose knowledge is but small,
And Chancellors, who nothing know at all:
Ill-brook'd the generous spirit in those days
When learning was the certain road to praise,
When nobles, with a love of science bless'd,
Approved in others what themselves possess'd.
But now, when Dulness rears aloft her throne,
When lordly vassals her wide empire own;
When Wit, seduced by Envy, starts aside,
And basely leagues with Ignorance and Pride;
What, now, should tempt us, by false hopes misled,
Learning's unfashionable paths to tread;
To bear those labours which our fathers bore,
That crown withheld, which they in triumph wore?
When with much pains this boasted learning's got,
'Tis an affront to those who have it not:
In some it causes hate, in others fear,
Instructs our foes to rail, our friends to sneer.
With prudent haste the worldly-minded fool
Forgets the little which he learn'd at school:
The elder brother, to vast fortunes born,
Looks on all science with an eye of scorn;
Dependent brethren the same features wear,
And younger sons are stupid as the heir.
In senates, at the bar, in church and state,
Genius is vile, and learning out of date.
Is this--oh, death to think!--is this the land
Where Merit and Reward went hand in hand?
Where heroes, parent-like, the poet view'd,
By whom they saw their glorious deeds renew'd?
Where poets, true to honour, tuned their lays,
And by their patrons sanctified their praise?
Is this the land, where, on our Spenser's tongue,
Enamour'd of his voice, Description hung?
Where Jonson rigid Gravity beguiled,
Whilst Reason through her critic fences smiled?
Where Nature listening stood whilst Shakspeare play'd,
And wonder'd at the work herself had made?
Is this the land, where, mindful of her charge
And office high, fair Freedom walk'd at large?
Where, finding in our laws a sure defence,
She mock'd at all restraints, but those of sense?
Where, Health and Honour trooping by her side,
She spread her sacred empire far and wide;
Pointed the way, Affliction to beguile,
And bade the face of Sorrow wear a smile;
Bade those, who dare obey the generous call,
Enjoy her blessings, which God meant for all?
Is this the land, where, in some tyrant's reign,
When a weak, wicked, ministerial train,
The tools of power, the slaves of interest, plann'd
Their country's ruin, and with bribes unmann'd
Those wretches, who, ordain'd in Freedom's cause,
Gave up our liberties, and sold our laws;
When Power was taught by Meanness where to go,
Nor dared to love the virtue of a foe;
When, like a leprous plague, from the foul head
To the foul heart her sores Corruption spread;
Her iron arm when stern Oppression rear'd;
And Virtue, from her broad base shaken, fear'd
The scourge of Vice; when, impotent and vain,
Poor Freedom bow'd the neck to Slavery's chain?
Is this the land, where, in those worst of times,
The hardy poet raised his honest rhymes
To dread rebuke, and bade Controlment speak
In guilty blushes on the villain's cheek;
Bade Power turn pale, kept mighty rogues in awe,
And made them fear the Muse, who fear'd not law?
How do I laugh, when men of narrow souls,
Whom Folly guides, and Prejudice controls;
Who, one dull drowsy track of business trod,
Worship their Mammon, and neglect their God;
Who, breathing by one musty set of rules,
Dote from their birth, and are by system fools;
Who, form'd to dulness from their very youth,
Lies of the day prefer to gospel truth;
Pick up their little knowledge from Reviews,
And lay out all their stock of faith in news;
How do I laugh, when creatures, form'd like these,
Whom Reason scorns, and I should blush to please,
Rail at all liberal arts, deem verse a crime,
And hold not truth, as truth, if told in rhyme!
How do I laugh, when Publius, hoary grown
In zeal for Scotland's welfare, and his own,
By slow degrees, and course of office, drawn
In mood and figure at the helm to yawn,
Too mean (the worst of curses Heaven can send)
To have a foe, too proud to have a friend;
Erring by form, which blockheads sacred hold,
Ne'er making new faults, and ne'er mending old,
Rebukes my spirit, bids the daring Muse
Subjects more equal to her weakness choose;
Bids her frequent the haunts of humble swains,
Nor dare to traffic in ambitious strains;
Bids her, indulging the poetic whim
In quaint-wrought ode, or sonnet pertly trim,
Along the church-way path complain with Gray,
Or dance with Mason on the first of May!
'All sacred is the name and power of kings;
All states and statesmen are those mighty things
Which, howsoe'er they out of course may roll,
Were never made for poets to control.'
Peace, peace, thou dotard! nor thus vilely deem
Of sacred numbers, and their power blaspheme.
I tell thee, wretch, search all creation round,
In earth, in heaven, no subject can be found:
(Our God alone except) above whose height
The poet cannot rise, and hold his state.
The blessed saints above in numbers speak
The praise of God, though there all praise is weak;
In numbers here below the bard shall teach
Virtue to soar beyond the villain's reach;
Shall tear his labouring lungs, strain his hoarse throat,
And raise his voice beyond the trumpet's note,
Should an afflicted country, awed by men
Of slavish principles, demand his pen.
This is a great, a glorious point of view,
Fit for an English poet to pursue;
Undaunted to pursue, though, in return,
His writings by the common hangman burn
How do I laugh, when men, by fortune placed
Above their betters, and by rank disgraced,
Who found their pride on titles which they stain,
And, mean themselves, are of their fathers vain;
Who would a bill of privilege prefer,
And treat a poet like a creditor;
The generous ardour of the Muse condemn,
And curse the storm they know must break on them!
'What! shall a reptile bard, a wretch unknown,
Without one badge of merit but his own,
Great nobles lash, and lords, like common men,
Smart from the vengeance of a scribbler's pen?'
What's in this name of lord, that I should fear
To bring their vices to the public ear?
Flows not the honest blood of humble swains
Quick as the tide which swells a monarch's veins?
Monarchs, who wealth and titles can bestow,
Cannot make virtues in succession flow.
Wouldst thou, proud man! be safely placed above
The censure of the Muse? Deserve her love:
Act as thy birth demands, as nobles ought;
Look back, and, by thy worthy father taught,
Who earn'd those honours thou wert born to wear,
Follow his steps, and be his virtue's heir.
But if, regardless of the road to fame,
You start aside, and tread the paths of shame;
If such thy life, that should thy sire arise,
The sight of such a son would blast his eyes,
Would make him curse the hour which gave thee birth,
Would drive him shuddering from the face of earth,
Once more, with shame and sorrow, 'mongst the dead
In endless night to hide his reverend head;
If such thy life, though kings had made thee more
Than ever king a scoundrel made before;
Nay, to allow thy pride a deeper spring,
Though God in vengeance had made thee a king,
Taking on Virtue's wing her daring flight,
The Muse should drag thee, trembling, to the light,
Probe thy foul wounds, and lay thy bosom bare
To the keen question of the searching air.
Gods! with what pride I see the titled slave,
Who smarts beneath the stroke which Satire gave,
Aiming at ease, and with dishonest art
Striving to hide the feelings of his heart!
How do I laugh, when, with affected air,
(Scarce able through despite to keep his chair,
Whilst on his trembling lip pale Anger speaks,
And the chafed blood flies mounting to his cheeks)
He talks of Conscience, which good men secures
From all those evil moments Guilt endures,
And seems to laugh at those who pay regard
To the wild ravings of a frantic bard.
'Satire, whilst envy and ill-humour sway
The mind of man, must always make her way;
Nor to a bosom, with discretion fraught,
Is all her malice worth a single thought.
The wise have not the will, nor fools the power,
To stop her headstrong course; within the hour,
Left to herself, she dies; opposing strife
Gives her fresh vigour, and prolongs her life.
All things her prey, and every man her aim,
I can no patent for exemption claim,
Nor would I wish to stop that harmless dart
Which plays around, but cannot wound my heart;
Though pointed at myself, be Satire free;
To her 'tis pleasure, and no pain to me.'
Dissembling wretch! hence to the Stoic school,
And there amongst thy brethren play the fool;
There, unrebuked, these wild, vain doctrines preach.
Lives there a man whom Satire cannot reach?
Lives there a man who calmly can stand by,
And see his conscience ripp'd with steady eye?
When Satire flies abroad on Falsehood's wing,
Short is her life, and impotent her sting;
But when to Truth allied, the wound she gives
Sinks deep, and to remotest ages lives.
When in the tomb thy pamper'd flesh shall rot,
And e'en by friends thy memory be forgot,
Still shalt thou live, recorded for thy crimes,
Live in her page, and stink to after-times.
Hast thou no feeling yet? Come, throw off pride,
And own those passions which thou shalt not hide.
Sandwich, who, from the moment of his birth,
Made human nature a reproach on earth,
Who never dared, nor wish'd, behind to stay,
When Folly, Vice, and Meanness led the way,
Would blush, should he be told, by Truth and Wit,
Those actions which he blush'd not to commit.
Men the most infamous are fond of fame,
And those who fear not guilt, yet start at shame.
But whither runs my zeal, whose rapid force,
Turning the brain, bears Reason from her course;
Carries me back to times, when poets, bless'd
With courage, graced the science they profess'd;
When they, in honour rooted, firmly stood,
The bad to punish, and reward the good;
When, to a flame by public virtue wrought,
The foes of freedom they to justice brought,
And dared expose those slaves who dared support
A tyrant plan, and call'd themselves a Court?
Ah! what are poets now? As slavish those
Who deal in verse, as those who deal in prose.
Is there an Author, search the kingdom round,
In whom true worth and real spirit's found?
The slaves of booksellers, or (doom'd by Fate
To baser chains) vile pensioners of state;
Some, dead to shame, and of those shackles proud
Which Honour scorns, for slavery roar aloud;
Others, half-palsied only, mutes become,
And what makes Smollett write, makes Johnson dumb.
Why turns yon villain pale? Why bends his eye
Inward, abash'd, when Murphy passes by?
Dost thou sage Murphy for a blockhead take,
Who wages war with Vice for Virtue's sake?
No, no, like other worldlings, you will find
He shifts his sails and catches every wind.
His soul the shock of Interest can't endure:
Give him a pension then, and sin secure.
With laurell'd wreaths the flatterer's brows adorn:
Bid Virtue crouch, bid Vice exalt her horn;
Bid cowards thrive, put Honesty to flight,
Murphy shall prove, or try to prove it right.
Try, thou state-juggler, every paltry art;
Ransack the inmost closet of my heart;
Swear thou'rt my friend; by that base oath make way
Into my breast, and flatter to betray.
Or, if those tricks are vain; if wholesome doubt
Detects the fraud, and points the villain out;
Bribe those who daily at my board are fed,
And make them take my life who eat my bread.
On Authors for defence, for praise depend;
Pay him but well, and Murphy is thy friend:
He, he shall ready stand with venal rhymes,
To varnish guilt, and consecrate thy crimes;
To make Corruption in false colours shine,
And damn his own good name, to rescue thine.
But, if thy niggard hands their gifts withhold,
And Vice no longer rains down showers of gold,
Expect no mercy; facts, well-grounded, teach,
Murphy, if not rewarded, will impeach.
What though each man of nice and juster thought,
Shunning his steps, decrees, by Honour taught,
He ne'er can be a friend, who stoops so low
To be the base betrayer of a foe?
What though, with thine together link'd, his name
Must be with thine transmitted down to shame?
To every manly feeling callous grown,
Rather than not blast thine, he 'll blast his own.
To ope the fountain whence sedition springs,
To slander government, and libel kings;
With Freedom's name to serve a present hour,
Though born and bred to arbitrary power;
To talk of William with insidious art,
Whilst a vile Stuart's lurking in his heart;
And, whilst mean Envy rears her loathsome head,
Flattering the living, to abuse the dead,
Where is Shebbeare? Oh, let not foul reproach,
Travelling thither in a city-coach,
The pillory dare to name: the whole intent
Of that parade was fame, not punishment;
And that old staunch Whig, Beardmore, standing by,
Can in full court give that report the lie.
With rude unnatural jargon to support,
Half-Scotch, half-English, a declining court;
To make most glaring contraries unite,
And prove beyond dispute that black is white;
To make firm Honour tamely league with Shame,
Make Vice and Virtue differ but in name;
To prove that chains and freedom are but one,
That to be saved must mean to be undone,
Is there not Guthrie? Who, like him, can call
All opposites to proof, and conquer all?
He calls forth living waters from the rock;
He calls forth children from the barren stock;
He, far beyond the springs of Nature led,
Makes women bring forth after they are dead;
He, on a curious, new, and happy plan,
In wedlock's sacred bands joins man to man;
And to complete the whole, most strange, but true,
By some rare magic, makes them fruitful too;
Whilst from their loins, in the due course of years,
Flows the rich blood of Guthrie's 'English Peers.'
Dost thou contrive some blacker deed of shame,
Something which Nature shudders but to name,
Something which makes the soul of man retreat,
And the life-blood run backward to her seat?
Dost thou contrive, for some base private end,
Some selfish view, to hang a trusting friend;
To lure him on, e'en to his parting breath,
And promise life, to work him surer death?
Grown old in villany, and dead to grace,
Hell in his heart, and Tyburn in his face,
Behold, a parson at thy elbow stands,
Lowering damnation, and with open hands,
Ripe to betray his Saviour for reward,
The Atheist chaplain of an Atheist lord!
Bred to the church, and for the gown decreed,
Ere it was known that I should learn to read;
Though that was nothing, for my friends, who knew
What mighty Dulness of itself could do,
Never design'd me for a working priest,
But hoped I should have been a Dean at least:
Condemn'd, (like many more, and worthier men,
To whom I pledge the service of my pen)
Condemn'd (whilst proud and pamper'd sons of lawn,
Cramm'd to the throat, in lazy plenty yawn)
In pomp of reverend beggary to appear,
To pray, and starve on forty pounds a-year:
My friends, who never felt the galling load,
Lament that I forsook the packhorse road,
Whilst Virtue to my conduct witness bears,
In throwing off that gown which Francis wears.
What creature's that, so very pert and prim,
So very full of foppery, and whim,
So gentle, yet so brisk; so wondrous sweet,
So fit to prattle at a lady's feet;
Who looks as he the Lord's rich vineyard trod,
And by his garb appears a man of God?
Trust not to looks, nor credit outward show;
The villain lurks beneath the cassock'd beau;
That's an informer; what avails the name?
Suffice it that the wretch from Sodom came.
His tongue is deadly--from his presence run,
Unless thy rage would wish to be undone.
No ties can hold him, no affection bind,
And fear alone restrains his coward mind;
Free him from that, no monster is so fell,
Nor is so sure a blood-hound found in Hell.
His silken smiles, his hypocritic air,
His meek demeanour, plausible and fair,
Are only worn to pave Fraud's easier way,
And make gull'd Virtue fall a surer prey.
Attend his church--his plan of doctrine view--
The preacher is a Christian, dull, but true;
But when the hallow'd hour of preaching's o'er,
That plan of doctrine's never thought of more;
Christ is laid by neglected on the shelf,
And the vile priest is gospel to himself.
By Cleland tutor'd, and with Blacow bred,
(Blacow, whom, by a brave resentment led,
Oxford, if Oxford had not sunk in fame,
Ere this, had damn'd to everlasting shame)
Their steps he follows, and their crimes partakes;
To virtue lost, to vice alone he wakes,
Most lusciously declaims 'gainst luscious themes,
And whilst he rails at blasphemy, blasphemes.
Are these the arts which policy supplies?
Are these the steps by which grave churchmen rise?
Forbid it, Heaven; or, should it turn out so,
Let me and mine continue mean and low.
Such be their arts whom interest controls;
Kidgell and I have free and modest souls:
We scorn preferment which is gain'd by sin,
And will, though poor without, have peace within.

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John Milton

Paradise Lost: Book 12

As one who in his journey bates at noon,
Though bent on speed; so here the Arch-Angel paused
Betwixt the world destroyed and world restored,
If Adam aught perhaps might interpose;
Then, with transition sweet, new speech resumes.
Thus thou hast seen one world begin, and end;
And Man, as from a second stock, proceed.
Much thou hast yet to see; but I perceive
Thy mortal sight to fail; objects divine
Must needs impair and weary human sense:
Henceforth what is to come I will relate;
Thou therefore give due audience, and attend.
This second source of Men, while yet but few,
And while the dread of judgement past remains
Fresh in their minds, fearing the Deity,
With some regard to what is just and right
Shall lead their lives, and multiply apace;
Labouring the soil, and reaping plenteous crop,
Corn, wine, and oil; and, from the herd or flock,
Oft sacrificing bullock, lamb, or kid,
With large wine-offerings poured, and sacred feast,
Shall spend their days in joy unblamed; and dwell
Long time in peace, by families and tribes,
Under paternal rule: till one shall rise
Of proud ambitious heart; who, not content
With fair equality, fraternal state,
Will arrogate dominion undeserved
Over his brethren, and quite dispossess
Concord and law of nature from the earth;
Hunting (and men not beasts shall be his game)
With war, and hostile snare, such as refuse
Subjection to his empire tyrannous:
A mighty hunter thence he shall be styled
Before the Lord; as in despite of Heaven,
Or from Heaven, claiming second sovranty;
And from rebellion shall derive his name,
Though of rebellion others he accuse.
He with a crew, whom like ambition joins
With him or under him to tyrannize,
Marching from Eden towards the west, shall find
The plain, wherein a black bituminous gurge
Boils out from under ground, the mouth of Hell:
Of brick, and of that stuff, they cast to build
A city and tower, whose top may reach to Heaven;
And get themselves a name; lest, far dispersed
In foreign lands, their memory be lost;
Regardless whether good or evil fame.
But God, who oft descends to visit men
Unseen, and through their habitations walks
To mark their doings, them beholding soon,
Comes down to see their city, ere the tower
Obstruct Heaven-towers, and in derision sets
Upon their tongues a various spirit, to rase
Quite out their native language; and, instead,
To sow a jangling noise of words unknown:
Forthwith a hideous gabble rises loud,
Among the builders; each to other calls
Not understood; till hoarse, and all in rage,
As mocked they storm: great laughter was in Heaven,
And looking down, to see the hubbub strange,
And hear the din: Thus was the building left
Ridiculous, and the work Confusion named.
Whereto thus Adam, fatherly displeased.
O execrable son! so to aspire
Above his brethren; to himself assuming
Authority usurped, from God not given:
He gave us only over beast, fish, fowl,
Dominion absolute; that right we hold
By his donation; but man over men
He made not lord; such title to himself
Reserving, human left from human free.
But this usurper his encroachment proud
Stays not on Man; to God his tower intends
Siege and defiance: Wretched man!what food
Will he convey up thither, to sustain
Himself and his rash army; where thin air
Above the clouds will pine his entrails gross,
And famish him of breath, if not of bread?
To whom thus Michael. Justly thou abhorrest
That son, who on the quiet state of men
Such trouble brought, affecting to subdue
Rational liberty; yet know withal,
Since thy original lapse, true liberty
Is lost, which always with right reason dwells
Twinned, and from her hath no dividual being:
Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed,
Immediately inordinate desires,
And upstart passions, catch the government
From reason; and to servitude reduce
Man, till then free. Therefore, since he permits
Within himself unworthy powers to reign
Over free reason, God, in judgement just,
Subjects him from without to violent lords;
Who oft as undeservedly enthrall
His outward freedom: Tyranny must be;
Though to the tyrant thereby no excuse.
Yet sometimes nations will decline so low
From virtue, which is reason, that no wrong,
But justice, and some fatal curse annexed,
Deprives them of their outward liberty;
Their inward lost: Witness the irreverent son
Of him who built the ark; who, for the shame
Done to his father, heard this heavy curse,
Servant of servants, on his vicious race.
Thus will this latter, as the former world,
Still tend from bad to worse; till God at last,
Wearied with their iniquities, withdraw
His presence from among them, and avert
His holy eyes; resolving from thenceforth
To leave them to their own polluted ways;
And one peculiar nation to select
From all the rest, of whom to be invoked,
A nation from one faithful man to spring:
Him on this side Euphrates yet residing,
Bred up in idol-worship: O, that men
(Canst thou believe?) should be so stupid grown,
While yet the patriarch lived, who 'scaped the flood,
As to forsake the living God, and fall
To worship their own work in wood and stone
For Gods! Yet him God the Most High vouchsafes
To call by vision, from his father's house,
His kindred, and false Gods, into a land
Which he will show him; and from him will raise
A mighty nation; and upon him shower
His benediction so, that in his seed
All nations shall be blest: he straight obeys;
Not knowing to what land, yet firm believes:
I see him, but thou canst not, with what faith
He leaves his Gods, his friends, and native soil,
Ur of Chaldaea, passing now the ford
To Haran; after him a cumbrous train
Of herds and flocks, and numerous servitude;
Not wandering poor, but trusting all his wealth
With God, who called him, in a land unknown.
Canaan he now attains; I see his tents
Pitched about Sechem, and the neighbouring plain
Of Moreh; there by promise he receives
Gift to his progeny of all that land,
From Hameth northward to the Desart south;
(Things by their names I call, though yet unnamed;)
From Hermon east to the great western Sea;
Mount Hermon, yonder sea; each place behold
In prospect, as I point them; on the shore
Mount Carmel; here, the double-founted stream,
Jordan, true limit eastward; but his sons
Shall dwell to Senir, that long ridge of hills.
This ponder, that all nations of the earth
Shall in his seed be blessed: By that seed
Is meant thy great Deliverer, who shall bruise
The Serpent's head; whereof to thee anon
Plainlier shall be revealed. This patriarch blest,
Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call,
A son, and of his son a grand-child, leaves;
Like him in faith, in wisdom, and renown:
The grandchild, with twelve sons increased, departs
From Canaan to a land hereafter called
Egypt, divided by the river Nile
See where it flows, disgorging at seven mouths
Into the sea. To sojourn in that land
He comes, invited by a younger son
In time of dearth, a son whose worthy deeds
Raise him to be the second in that realm
Of Pharaoh. There he dies, and leaves his race
Growing into a nation, and now grown
Suspected to a sequent king, who seeks
To stop their overgrowth, as inmate guests
Too numerous; whence of guests he makes them slaves
Inhospitably, and kills their infant males:
Till by two brethren (these two brethren call
Moses and Aaron) sent from God to claim
His people from enthralment, they return,
With glory and spoil, back to their promised land.
But first, the lawless tyrant, who denies
To know their God, or message to regard,
Must be compelled by signs and judgements dire;
To blood unshed the rivers must be turned;
Frogs, lice, and flies, must all his palace fill
With loathed intrusion, and fill all the land;
His cattle must of rot and murren die;
Botches and blains must all his flesh emboss,
And all his people; thunder mixed with hail,
Hail mixed with fire, must rend the Egyptians sky,
And wheel on the earth, devouring where it rolls;
What it devours not, herb, or fruit, or grain,
A darksome cloud of locusts swarming down
Must eat, and on the ground leave nothing green;
Darkness must overshadow all his bounds,
Palpable darkness, and blot out three days;
Last, with one midnight stroke, all the first-born
Of Egypt must lie dead. Thus with ten wounds
The river-dragon tamed at length submits
To let his sojourners depart, and oft
Humbles his stubborn heart; but still, as ice
More hardened after thaw; till, in his rage
Pursuing whom he late dismissed, the sea
Swallows him with his host; but them lets pass,
As on dry land, between two crystal walls;
Awed by the rod of Moses so to stand
Divided, till his rescued gain their shore:
Such wondrous power God to his saint will lend,
Though present in his Angel; who shall go
Before them in a cloud, and pillar of fire;
By day a cloud, by night a pillar of fire;
To guide them in their journey, and remove
Behind them, while the obdurate king pursues:
All night he will pursue; but his approach
Darkness defends between till morning watch;
Then through the fiery pillar, and the cloud,
God looking forth will trouble all his host,
And craze their chariot-wheels: when by command
Moses once more his potent rod extends
Over the sea; the sea his rod obeys;
On their embattled ranks the waves return,
And overwhelm their war: The race elect
Safe toward Canaan from the shore advance
Through the wild Desart, not the readiest way;
Lest, entering on the Canaanite alarmed,
War terrify them inexpert, and fear
Return them back to Egypt, choosing rather
Inglorious life with servitude; for life
To noble and ignoble is more sweet
Untrained in arms, where rashness leads not on.
This also shall they gain by their delay
In the wide wilderness; there they shall found
Their government, and their great senate choose
Through the twelve tribes, to rule by laws ordained:
God from the mount of Sinai, whose gray top
Shall tremble, he descending, will himself
In thunder, lightning, and loud trumpets' sound,
Ordain them laws; part, such as appertain
To civil justice; part, religious rites
Of sacrifice; informing them, by types
And shadows, of that destined Seed to bruise
The Serpent, by what means he shall achieve
Mankind's deliverance. But the voice of God
To mortal ear is dreadful: They beseech
That Moses might report to them his will,
And terrour cease; he grants what they besought,
Instructed that to God is no access
Without Mediator, whose high office now
Moses in figure bears; to introduce
One greater, of whose day he shall foretel,
And all the Prophets in their age the times
Of great Messiah shall sing. Thus, laws and rites
Established, such delight hath God in Men
Obedient to his will, that he vouchsafes
Among them to set up his tabernacle;
The Holy One with mortal Men to dwell:
By his prescript a sanctuary is framed
Of cedar, overlaid with gold; therein
An ark, and in the ark his testimony,
The records of his covenant; over these
A mercy-seat of gold, between the wings
Of two bright Cherubim; before him burn
Seven lamps as in a zodiack representing
The heavenly fires; over the tent a cloud
Shall rest by day, a fiery gleam by night;
Save when they journey, and at length they come,
Conducted by his Angel, to the land
Promised to Abraham and his seed:--The rest
Were long to tell; how many battles fought
How many kings destroyed; and kingdoms won;
Or how the sun shall in mid Heaven stand still
A day entire, and night's due course adjourn,
Man's voice commanding, 'Sun, in Gibeon stand,
'And thou moon in the vale of Aialon,
'Till Israel overcome! so call the third
From Abraham, son of Isaac; and from him
His whole descent, who thus shall Canaan win.
Here Adam interposed. O sent from Heaven,
Enlightener of my darkness, gracious things
Thou hast revealed; those chiefly, which concern
Just Abraham and his seed: now first I find
Mine eyes true-opening, and my heart much eased;
Erewhile perplexed with thoughts, what would become
Of me and all mankind: But now I see
His day, in whom all nations shall be blest;
Favour unmerited by me, who sought
Forbidden knowledge by forbidden means.
This yet I apprehend not, why to those
Among whom God will deign to dwell on earth
So many and so various laws are given;
So many laws argue so many sins
Among them; how can God with such reside?
To whom thus Michael. Doubt not but that sin
Will reign among them, as of thee begot;
And therefore was law given them, to evince
Their natural pravity, by stirring up
Sin against law to fight: that when they see
Law can discover sin, but not remove,
Save by those shadowy expiations weak,
The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude
Some blood more precious must be paid for Man;
Just for unjust; that, in such righteousness
To them by faith imputed, they may find
Justification towards God, and peace
Of conscience; which the law by ceremonies
Cannot appease; nor Man the mortal part
Perform; and, not performing, cannot live.
So law appears imperfect; and but given
With purpose to resign them, in full time,
Up to a better covenant; disciplined
From shadowy types to truth; from flesh to spirit;
From imposition of strict laws to free
Acceptance of large grace; from servile fear
To filial; works of law to works of faith.
And therefore shall not Moses, though of God
Highly beloved, being but the minister
Of law, his people into Canaan lead;
But Joshua, whom the Gentiles Jesus call,
His name and office bearing, who shall quell
The adversary-Serpent, and bring back
Through the world's wilderness long-wandered Man
Safe to eternal Paradise of rest.
Mean while they, in their earthly Canaan placed,
Long time shall dwell and prosper, but when sins
National interrupt their publick peace,
Provoking God to raise them enemies;
From whom as oft he saves them penitent
By Judges first, then under Kings; of whom
The second, both for piety renowned
And puissant deeds, a promise shall receive
Irrevocable, that his regal throne
For ever shall endure; the like shall sing
All Prophecy, that of the royal stock
Of David (so I name this king) shall rise
A Son, the Woman's seed to thee foretold,
Foretold to Abraham, as in whom shall trust
All nations; and to kings foretold, of kings
The last; for of his reign shall be no end.
But first, a long succession must ensue;
And his next son, for wealth and wisdom famed,
The clouded ark of God, till then in tents
Wandering, shall in a glorious temple enshrine.
Such follow him, as shall be registered
Part good, part bad; of bad the longer scroll;
Whose foul idolatries, and other faults
Heaped to the popular sum, will so incense
God, as to leave them, and expose their land,
Their city, his temple, and his holy ark,
With all his sacred things, a scorn and prey
To that proud city, whose high walls thou sawest
Left in confusion; Babylon thence called.
There in captivity he lets them dwell
The space of seventy years; then brings them back,
Remembering mercy, and his covenant sworn
To David, stablished as the days of Heaven.
Returned from Babylon by leave of kings
Their lords, whom God disposed, the house of God
They first re-edify; and for a while
In mean estate live moderate; till, grown
In wealth and multitude, factious they grow;
But first among the priests dissention springs,
Men who attend the altar, and should most
Endeavour peace: their strife pollution brings
Upon the temple itself: at last they seise
The scepter, and regard not David's sons;
Then lose it to a stranger, that the true
Anointed King Messiah might be born
Barred of his right; yet at his birth a star,
Unseen before in Heaven, proclaims him come;
And guides the eastern sages, who inquire
His place, to offer incense, myrrh, and gold:
His place of birth a solemn Angel tells
To simple shepherds, keeping watch by night;
They gladly thither haste, and by a quire
Of squadroned Angels hear his carol sung.
A virgin is his mother, but his sire
The power of the Most High: He shall ascend
The throne hereditary, and bound his reign
With Earth's wide bounds, his glory with the Heavens.
He ceased, discerning Adam with such joy
Surcharged, as had like grief been dewed in tears,
Without the vent of words; which these he breathed.
O prophet of glad tidings, finisher
Of utmost hope! now clear I understand
What oft my steadiest thoughts have searched in vain;
Why our great Expectation should be called
The seed of Woman: Virgin Mother, hail,
High in the love of Heaven; yet from my loins
Thou shalt proceed, and from thy womb the Son
Of God Most High: so God with Man unites!
Needs must the Serpent now his capital bruise
Expect with mortal pain: Say where and when
Their fight, what stroke shall bruise the victor's heel.
To whom thus Michael. Dream not of their fight,
As of a duel, or the local wounds
Of head or heel: Not therefore joins the Son
Manhood to Godhead, with more strength to foil
Thy enemy; nor so is overcome
Satan, whose fall from Heaven, a deadlier bruise,
Disabled, not to give thee thy death's wound:
Which he, who comes thy Saviour, shall recure,
Not by destroying Satan, but his works
In thee, and in thy seed: Nor can this be,
But by fulfilling that which thou didst want,
Obedience to the law of God, imposed
On penalty of death, and suffering death;
The penalty to thy transgression due,
And due to theirs which out of thine will grow:
So only can high Justice rest appaid.
The law of God exact he shall fulfil
Both by obedience and by love, though love
Alone fulfil the law; thy punishment
He shall endure, by coming in the flesh
To a reproachful life, and cursed death;
Proclaiming life to all who shall believe
In his redemption; and that his obedience,
Imputed, becomes theirs by faith; his merits
To save them, not their own, though legal, works.
For this he shall live hated, be blasphemed,
Seised on by force, judged, and to death condemned
A shameful and accursed, nailed to the cross
By his own nation; slain for bringing life:
But to the cross he nails thy enemies,
The law that is against thee, and the sins
Of all mankind, with him there crucified,
Never to hurt them more who rightly trust
In this his satisfaction; so he dies,
But soon revives; Death over him no power
Shall long usurp; ere the third dawning light
Return, the stars of morn shall see him rise
Out of his grave, fresh as the dawning light,
Thy ransom paid, which Man from death redeems,
His death for Man, as many as offered life
Neglect not, and the benefit embrace
By faith not void of works: This God-like act
Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldest have died,
In sin for ever lost from life; this act
Shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength,
Defeating Sin and Death, his two main arms;
And fix far deeper in his head their stings
Than temporal death shall bruise the victor's heel,
Or theirs whom he redeems; a death, like sleep,
A gentle wafting to immortal life.
Nor after resurrection shall he stay
Longer on earth, than certain times to appear
To his disciples, men who in his life
Still followed him; to them shall leave in charge
To teach all nations what of him they learned
And his salvation; them who shall believe
Baptizing in the profluent stream, the sign
Of washing them from guilt of sin to life
Pure, and in mind prepared, if so befall,
For death, like that which the Redeemer died.
All nations they shall teach; for, from that day,
Not only to the sons of Abraham's loins
Salvation shall be preached, but to the sons
Of Abraham's faith wherever through the world;
So in his seed all nations shall be blest.
Then to the Heaven of Heavens he shall ascend
With victory, triumphing through the air
Over his foes and thine; there shall surprise
The Serpent, prince of air, and drag in chains
Through all his realm, and there confounded leave;
Then enter into glory, and resume
His seat at God's right hand, exalted high
Above all names in Heaven; and thence shall come,
When this world's dissolution shall be ripe,
With glory and power to judge both quick and dead;
To judge the unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receive them into bliss,
Whether in Heaven or Earth; for then the Earth
Shall all be Paradise, far happier place
Than this of Eden, and far happier days.
So spake the Arch-Angel Michael; then paused,
As at the world's great period; and our sire,
Replete with joy and wonder, thus replied.
O Goodness infinite, Goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! Full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By me done, and occasioned; or rejoice
Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring;
To God more glory, more good-will to Men
From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.
But say, if our Deliverer up to Heaven
Must re-ascend, what will betide the few
His faithful, left among the unfaithful herd,
The enemies of truth? Who then shall guide
His people, who defend? Will they not deal
Worse with his followers than with him they dealt?
Be sure they will, said the Angel; but from Heaven
He to his own a Comforter will send,
The promise of the Father, who shall dwell
His Spirit within them; and the law of faith,
Working through love, upon their hearts shall write,
To guide them in all truth; and also arm
With spiritual armour, able to resist
Satan's assaults, and quench his fiery darts;
What man can do against them, not afraid,
Though to the death; against such cruelties
With inward consolations recompensed,
And oft supported so as shall amaze
Their proudest persecutors: For the Spirit,
Poured first on his Apostles, whom he sends
To evangelize the nations, then on all
Baptized, shall them with wonderous gifts endue
To speak all tongues, and do all miracles,
As did their Lord before them. Thus they win
Great numbers of each nation to receive
With joy the tidings brought from Heaven: At length
Their ministry performed, and race well run,
Their doctrine and their story written left,
They die; but in their room, as they forewarn,
Wolves shall succeed for teachers, grievous wolves,
Who all the sacred mysteries of Heaven
To their own vile advantages shall turn
Of lucre and ambition; and the truth
With superstitions and traditions taint,
Left only in those written records pure,
Though not but by the Spirit understood.
Then shall they seek to avail themselves of names,
Places, and titles, and with these to join
Secular power; though feigning still to act
By spiritual, to themselves appropriating
The Spirit of God, promised alike and given
To all believers; and, from that pretence,
Spiritual laws by carnal power shall force
On every conscience; laws which none shall find
Left them inrolled, or what the Spirit within
Shall on the heart engrave. What will they then
But force the Spirit of Grace itself, and bind
His consort Liberty? what, but unbuild
His living temples, built by faith to stand,
Their own faith, not another's? for, on earth,
Who against faith and conscience can be heard
Infallible? yet many will presume:
Whence heavy persecution shall arise
On all, who in the worship persevere
Of spirit and truth; the rest, far greater part,
Will deem in outward rites and specious forms
Religion satisfied; Truth shall retire
Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith
Rarely be found: So shall the world go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign;
Under her own weight groaning; till the day
Appear of respiration to the just,
And vengeance to the wicked, at return
Of him so lately promised to thy aid,
The Woman's Seed; obscurely then foretold,
Now ampler known thy Saviour and thy Lord;
Last, in the clouds, from Heaven to be revealed
In glory of the Father, to dissolve
Satan with his perverted world; then raise
From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined,
New Heavens, new Earth, ages of endless date,
Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love;
To bring forth fruits, joy and eternal bliss.
He ended; and thus Adam last replied.
How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest,
Measured this transient world, the race of time,
Till time stand fixed! Beyond is all abyss,
Eternity, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly-instructed I shall hence depart;
Greatly in peace of thought; and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best,
And love with fear the only God; to walk
As in his presence; ever to observe
His providence; and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small
Accomplishing great things, by things deemed weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise
By simply meek: that suffering for truth's sake
Is fortitude to highest victory,
And, to the faithful, death the gate of life;
Taught this by his example, whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.
To whom thus also the Angel last replied.
This having learned, thou hast attained the sum
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars
Thou knewest by name, and all the ethereal powers,
All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
Or works of God in Heaven, air, earth, or sea,
And all the riches of this world enjoyedst,
And all the rule, one empire; only add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith,
Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
By name to come called charity, the soul
Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loth
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A Paradise within thee, happier far.--
Let us descend now therefore from this top
Of speculation; for the hour precise
Exacts our parting hence; and see!the guards,
By me encamped on yonder hill, expect
Their motion; at whose front a flaming sword,
In signal of remove, waves fiercely round:
We may no longer stay: go, waken Eve;
Her also I with gentle dreams have calmed
Portending good, and all her spirits composed
To meek submission: thou, at season fit,
Let her with thee partake what thou hast heard;
Chiefly what may concern her faith to know,
The great deliverance by her seed to come
(For by the Woman's seed) on all mankind:
That ye may live, which will be many days,
Both in one faith unanimous, though sad,
With cause, for evils past; yet much more cheered
With meditation on the happy end.
He ended, and they both descend the hill;
Descended, Adam to the bower, where Eve
Lay sleeping, ran before; but found her waked;
And thus with words not sad she him received.
Whence thou returnest, and whither wentest, I know;
For God is also in sleep; and dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and heart's distress
Wearied I fell asleep: But now lead on;
In me is no delay; with thee to go,
Is to stay here; without thee here to stay,
Is to go hence unwilling; thou to me
Art all things under $Heaven, all places thou,
Who for my wilful crime art banished hence.
This further consolation yet secure
I carry hence; though all by me is lost,
Such favour I unworthy am vouchsafed,
By me the Promised Seed shall all restore.
So spake our mother Eve; and Adam heard
Well pleased, but answered not: For now, too nigh
The Arch-Angel stood; and, from the other hill
To their fixed station, all in bright array
The Cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as evening-mist
Risen from a river o'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanced,
The brandished sword of God before them blazed,
Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
And vapour as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat
In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.


THE END

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Part IV

Occupied by the elm; and, as its shade
Has crept clock-hand-wise till it ticks at fern
Five inches further to the South,—the door
Opens abruptly, someone enters sharp,
The elder man returned to wait the youth—
Never observes the room's new occupant,
Throws hat on table, stoops quick, elbow-propped
Over the Album wide there, bends down brow
A cogitative minute, whistles shrill,
Then,—with a cheery-hopeless laugh-and-lose
Air of defiance to fate visibly
Casting the toils about him,—mouths once more
"Hail, calm acclivity, salubrious spot!"
Then clasps-to cover, sends book spinning off
T'other side table, looks up, starts erect
Full-face with her who,—roused from that abstruse
Question, "Will next tick tip the fern or no?",—
Fronts him as fully.

All her languor breaks,
Away withers at once the weariness
From the black-blooded brow, anger and hate
Convulse. Speech follows slowlier, but at last—

"You here! I felt, I knew it would befall!
Knew, by some subtle undivinable
Trick of the trickster, I should, silly-sooth,
Late of soon, somehow be allured to leave
Safe hiding and come take of him arrears,
My torment due on four years' respite! Time
To pluck the bird's healed breast of down o'er wound!
Have your success! Be satisfied this sole
Seeing you has undone all heaven could do
These four years, puts me back to you and hell!
What will next trick be, next success? No doubt
When I shall think to glide into the grave,
There will you wait disguised as beckoning Death,
And catch and capture me for evermore!
But, God, though I am nothing, be thou all!
Contest him for me! Strive, for he is strong!"

Already his surprise dies palely out
In laugh of acquiescing impotence.
He neither gasps nor hisses: calm and plain—

"I also felt and knew—but otherwise!
You out of hand and sight and care of me
These four years, whom I felt, knew, all the while ...
Oh, it's no superstition! It's a gift
O' the gamester that he snuffs the unseen powers
Which help or harm him! Well I knew what lurked,
Lay perdue paralysing me,—drugged, drowsed
And damnified my soul and body both!
Down and down, see where you have dragged me to,
You and your malice! I was, four years since,
—Well, a poor creature! I become a knave.
I squandered my own pence: I plump my purse
With other people's pounds. I practised play
Because I liked it: play turns labour now
Because there's profit also in the sport.
I gamed with men of equal age and craft:
I steal here with a boy as green as grass
Whom I have tightened hold on slow and sure
This long while, just to bring about to-day
When the boy beats me hollow, buries me
In ruin who was sure to beggar him.
O time indeed I should look up and laugh
'Surely she closes on me!' Here you stand!"

And stand she does: while volubility,
With him, keeps on the increase, for his tongue
After long locking-up is loosed for once.

"Certain the taunt is happy!" he resumes:
"So, I it was allured you—only I
— I, and none other—to this spectacle—
Your triumph, my despair—you woman-fiend
That front me! Well, I have my wish, then! See
The low wide brow oppressed by sweeps of hair
Darker and darker as they coil and swathe
The crowned corpse-wanness whence the eyes burn black
Not asleep now! not pin-points dwarfed beneath
Either great bridging eyebrow—poor blank beads—
Babies, I've pleased to pity in my time:
How they protrude and glow immense with hate!
The long triumphant nose attains—retains
Just the perfection; and there's scarlet-skein
My ancient enemy, her lip and lip,
Sense-free, sense-frighting lips clenched cold and bold
Because of chin, that based resolve beneath!
Then the columnar neck completes the whole
Greek-sculpture-baffling body! Do I see?
Can I observe? You wait next word to come?
Well, wait and want! since no one blight I bid
Consume one least perfection. Each and all,
As they are rightly shocking now to me,
So may they still continue! Value them?
Ay, as the vendor knows the money-worth
Of his Greek statue, fools aspire to buy,
And he to see the back of! Let us laugh!
You have absolved me from my sin at least!
You stand stout, strong, in the rude health of hate,
No touch of the tame timid nullity
My cowardice, forsooth, has practised on!
Ay, while you seemed to hint some fine fifth act
Of tragedy should freeze blood, end the farce,
I never doubted all was joke. I kept,
May be, an eye alert on paragraphs,
Newspaper-notice,—let no inquest slip,
Accident, disappearance: sound and safe
Were you, my victim, not of mind to die!
So, my worst fancy that could spoil the smooth
Of pillow, and arrest descent of sleep
Was 'Into what dim hole can she have dived,
She and her wrongs, her woe that's wearing flesh
And blood away?' Whereas, see, sorrow swells!
Or, fattened, fulsome, have you fed on me,
Sucked out my substance? How much gloss, I pray,
O'erbloomed those hair-swathes when there crept from you
To me that craze, else unaccountable,
Which urged me to contest our county-seat
With whom but my own brother's nominee?
Did that mouth's pulp glow ruby from carmine
While I misused my moment, pushed,—one word,—
One hair's breadth more of gesture,—idiot-like
Past passion, floundered on to the grotesque,
And lost the heiress in a grin? At least,
You made no such mistake! You tickled fish,
Landed your prize the true artistic way!
How did the smug young curate rise to tune
Of 'Friend, a fatal fact divides us! Love
Suits me no longer! I have suffered shame,
Betrayal: past is past; the future—yours—
Shall never be contaminate by mine!
I might have spared me this confession, not
—O, never by some hideousest of lies,
Easy, impenetrable! No! but say,
By just the quiet answer—"I am cold."
Falsehood avaunt, each shadow of thee, hence!
Had happier fortune willed ... but dreams are vain!
Now, leave me—yes, for pity's sake!' Aha,
Who fails to see the curate as his face
Reddened and whitened, wanted handkerchief
At wrinkling brow and twinkling eye, until
Out burst the proper 'Angel, whom the fiend
Has thought to smirch,—thy whiteness, at one wipe
Of holy cambric, shall disgrace the swan!
Mine be the task' ... and so forth! Fool? not he!
Cunning in flavours, rather! What but sour
Suspected makes the sweetness doubly sweet?
And what stings love from faint to flamboyant
But the fear-sprinkle? Even horror helps—
'Love's flame in me by such recited wrong
Drenched, quenched, indeed? It burns the fiercelier thence!'
Why, I have known men never love their wives
Till somebody—myself, suppose—had 'drenched
And quenched love,' so the blockheads whined: as if
The fluid fire that lifts the torpid limb
Were a wrong done to palsy. But I thrilled
No palsied person: half my age, or less
The curate was, I'll wager: o'er young blood
Your beauty triumphed! Eh, but—was it he?
Then, it was he, I heard of! None beside!
How frank you were about the audacious boy
Who fell upon you like a thunderbolt—
Passion and protestation! He it was
Reserved in petto! Ay, and 'rich' beside
'Rich'—how supremely did disdain curl nose!
All that I heard was—'wedded to a priest;'
Informants sunk youth, riches and the rest.
And so my lawless love disparted loves,
That loves might come together with a rush!
Surely this last achievement sucked me dry:
Indeed, that way my wits went! Mistress-queen,
Be merciful and let your subject slink
Into dark safety! He's a beggar, see—
Do not turn back his ship, Australia-bound,
And bid her land him right amid some crowd
Of creditors, assembled by your curse!
Don't cause the very rope to crack (you can!)
Whereon he spends his last (friend's) sixpence, just
The moment when he hoped to hang himself!
Be satisfied you beat him!"

She replies —

"Beat him! I do. To all that you confess
Of abject failure, I extend belief.
Your very face confirms it: God is just!
Let my face—fix your eyes!—in turn confirm
What I shall say. All-abject's but half truth;
Add to all-abject knave as perfect fool!
So is it you probed human nature, so
Prognosticated of me? Lay these words
To heart then, or where God meant heart should lurk!
That moment when you first revealed yourself,
My simple impulse prompted—end forthwith
The ruin of a life uprooted thus
To surely perish! How should such a tree
Henceforward baulk the wind of its worst sport,
Fail to go falling deeper, falling down

From sin to sin until some depth were reached
Doomed to the weakest by the wickedest
Of weak and wicked human kind? But when,
That self-display made absolute,—behold
A new revealment!—round you pleased to veer,
Propose me what should prompt annul the past,
Make me 'amends by marriage'—in your phrase,
Incorporate me henceforth, body and soul,
With soul and body which mere brushing past
Brought leprosy upon me—'marry' these!
Why, then despair broke, re-assurance dawned,
Clear-sighted was I that who hurled contempt
As I—thank God!—at the contemptible,
Was scarce an utter weakling. Rent away
By treason from my rightful pride of place,
I was not destined to the shame below.
A cleft had caught me: I might perish there,
But thence to be dislodged and whirled at last
Where the black torrent sweeps the sewage—no!
'Bare breast be on hard rock,' laughed out my soul
In gratitude, 'howe'er rock's grip may grind!
The plain, rough, wretched holdfast shall suffice
This wreck of me!' The wind,—I broke in bloom
At passage of,—which stripped me bole and branch,
Twisted me up and tossed me here,—turns back
And, playful ever, would replant the spoil?
Be satisfied, not one least leaf that's mine
Shall henceforth help wind's sport to exercise!
Rather I give such remnant to the rock
Which never dreamed a straw would settle there.
Rock may not thank me, may not feel my breast,
Even: enough that I feel, hard and cold,
Its safety my salvation. Safe and saved,
I lived, live. When the tempter shall persuade
His prey to slip down, slide off, trust the wind,—
Now that I know if God or Satan be
Prince of the Power of the Air,—then, then, indeed,
Let my life end and degradation too!"

"Good!" he smiles, "true Lord Byron! 'Tree and rock:'
'Rock'—there's advancement! He's at first a youth,
Rich, worthless therefore; next he grows a priest:
Youth, riches prove a notable resource,
When to leave me for their possessor gluts
Malice abundantly; and now, last change,
The young rich parson represents a rock
—Bloodstone, no doubt. He's Evangelical?
Your Ritualists prefer the Church for spouse!"

She speaks.

"I have a story to relate.
There was a parish-priest, my father knew,
Elderly, poor: I used to pity him
Before I learned what woes are pity-worth.
Elderly was grown old now, scanty means
Were straitening fast to poverty, beside
The ailments which await in such a case.
Limited every way, a perfect man
Within the bounds built up and up since birth
Breast-high about him till the outside world
Was blank save overhead one blue bit of sky—
Faith: he had faith in dogma, small or great,
As in the fact that if he clave his skull
He'd find a brain there: such a fact who proves
No falsehood by experiment at price
Of soul and body? The one rule of life
Delivered him in childhood was 'Obey!
Labour!' He had obeyed and laboured—tame,
True to the mill-track blinked on from above.
Some scholarship he may have gained in youth:
Gone—dropt or flung behind. Some blossom-flake,
Spring's boon, descends on every vernal head,
I used to think; but January joins
December, as his year had known no May
Trouble its snow-deposit,—cold and old!
I heard it was his will to take a wife,
A helpmate. Duty bade him tend and teach—
How? with experience null, nor sympathy
Abundant,—while himself worked dogma dead,
Who would play ministrant to sickness, age,
Womankind, childhood? These demand a wife.
Supply the want, then! theirs the wife; for him—
No coarsest sample of the proper sex
But would have served his purpose equally
With God's own angel,—let but knowledge match
Her coarseness: zeal does only half the work.
I saw this—knew the purblind honest drudge
Was wearing out his simple blameless life,
And wanted help beneath a burthen—borne
To treasure-house or dust-heap, what cared I?
Partner he needed: I proposed myself,
Nor much surprised him—duty was so clear!
Gratitude? What for? Gain of Paradise—
Escape, perhaps, from the dire penalty
Of who hides talent in a napkin! No,
His scruple was—should I be strong enough
In body? since of weakness in the mind,
Weariness in the heart—no fear of these!
He took me as these Arctic voyagers
Take an aspirant to their toil and pain:
Can he endure them?—that's the point, and not
—Will he? Who would not, rather! Whereupon,
I pleaded far more earnestly for leave
To give myself away, than you to gain
What you called priceless till you gained the heart
And soul and body! which, as beggars serve
Extorted alms, you straightway spat upon.
Not so my husband,—for I gained my suit,
And had my value put at once to proof.
Ask him! These four years I have died away
In village-life. The village? Ugliness
At best and filthiness at worst, inside.
Outside, sterility—earth sown with salt
Or what keeps even grass from growing fresh.
The life? I teach the poor and learn, myself,
That commonplace to such stupidity
Is all-recondite. Being brutalized
Their true need is brute-language, cheery grunts
And kindly cluckings, no articulate
Nonsense that's elsewhere knowledge. Tend the sick,
Sickened myself at pig-perversity,
Cat-craft, dog-snarling,—may be, snapping ..."

"Brief:
You eat that root of bitterness called Man
—Raw: I prefer it cooked, with social sauce!
So, he was not the rich youth after all!
Well, I mistook. But somewhere needs must be
The compensation. If not young nor rich ..."

"You interrupt!"

"Because you've daubed enough
Bistre for background. Play the artist now,
Produce your figure well-relieved in front!
The contrast—do not I anticipate?
Though neither rich nor young—what then? 'Tis all
Forgotten, all this ignobility,
In the dear home, the darling word, the smile,
The something sweeter ..."

"Yes, you interrupt.
I have my purpose and proceed. Who lives
With beasts assumes beast-nature, look and voice,
And, much more, thought,—for beasts think. Selfishness
In us met selfishness in them, deserved
Such answer as it gained. My husband, bent
On saving his own soul by saving theirs,—
They, bent on being saved if saving soul
Included body's getting bread and cheese
Somehow in life and somehow after death,—
Both parties were alike in the same boat,
One danger, therefore one equality.
Safety induces culture: culture seeks
To institute, extend and multiply
The difference between safe man and man,
Able to live alone now; progress means
What but abandonment of fellowship?
We were in common danger, still stuck close.
No new books,—were the old ones mastered yet?
No pictures and no music: these divert
—What from? the staving danger off! You paint
The waterspout above, you set to words
The roaring of the tempest round you? Thanks!
Amusement? Talk at end of the tired day
Of the more tiresome morrow! I transcribed
The page on page of sermon-scrawlings—stopped
My intellectual eye to sense and sound—
Vainly: the sound and sense would penetrate
To brain and plague there in despite of me
Maddened to know more moral good were done
Had we two simply sallied forth and preached
I' the 'Green' they call their grimy,—I with twang
Of long-disused guitar,—with cut and slash
Of much misvalued horsewhip he,—to bid
The peaceable come dance, the peace-breaker
Pay in his person! Whereas—Heaven and Hell,
Excite with that, restrain with this!— so dealt
His drugs my husband; as he dosed himself,
He drenched his cattle: and, for all my part
Was just to dub the mortar, never fear
But drugs, hand pestled at, have poisoned nose!
Heaven he let pass, left wisely undescribed:
As applicable therefore to the sleep
I want, that knows no waking—as to what's
Conceived of as the proper prize to tempt
Souls less world-weary: there, no fault to find!
But Hell he made explicit. After death,
Life: man created new, ingeniously
Perfect for a vindictive purpose now
That man, first fashioned in beneficence,
Was proved a failure; intellect at length
Replacing old obtuseness, memory
Made mindful of delinquent's bygone deeds
Now that remorse was vain, which life-long lay
Dormant when lesson might be laid to heart;
New gift of observation up and down
And round man's self, new power to apprehend
Each necessary consequence of act
In man for well or ill—things obsolete—
Just granted to supplant the idiocy
Man's only guide while act was yet to choose,
And ill or well momentously its fruit;
A faculty of immense suffering
Conferred on mind and body,—mind, erewhile
Unvisited by one compunctious dream
During sin's drunken slumber, startled up,
Stung through and through by sin's significance
Now that the holy was abolished—just
As body which, alive, broke down beneath
Knowledge, lay helpless in the path to good,
Failed to accomplish aught legitimate,
Achieve aught worthy,—which grew old in youth,
And at its longest fell a cut-down flower,—
Dying, this too revived by miracle
To bear no end of burthen now that back
Supported torture to no use at all,
And live imperishably potent—since
Life's potency was impotent to ward
One plague off which made earth a hell before.
This doctrine, which one healthy view of things,
One sane sight of the general ordinance—
Nature,—and its particular object,—man,—
Which one mere eye-cast at the character
Of Who made these and gave man sense to boot,
Had dissipated once and evermore,—
This doctrine I have dosed our flock withal.
Why? Because none believed it. They desire
Such Heaven and dread such Hell, whom everyday
The alehouse tempts from one, a dog-fight bids
Defy the other? All the harm is done
Ourselves—done my poor husband who in youth
Perhaps read Dickens, done myself who still
Could play both Bach and Brahms. Such life I lead—
Thanks to you, knave! You learn its quality—
Thanks to me, fool!"

He eyes her earnestly,
But she continues.

"—Life which, thanks once more
To you, arch-knave as exquisitest fool,
I acquiescingly—I gratefully
Take back again to heart! and hence this speech
Which yesterday had spared you. Four years long
Life—I began to find intolerable,
Only this moment. Ere your entry just,
The leap of heart which answered, spite of me,
A friend's first summons, first provocative
Authoritative, nay, compulsive call
To quit—though for a single day—my house
Of bondage—made return seem horrible.
I heard again a human lucid laugh
All trust, no fear; again saw earth pursue
Its narrow busy way amid small cares,
Smaller contentments, much weeds, some few flowers,—
Never suspicious of a thunderbolt
Avenging presently each daisy's death.
I recognized the beech-tree, knew the thrush
Repeated his old music-phrase,—all right,
How wrong was I, then! But your entry broke
Illusion, bade me back to bounds at once.
I honestly submit my soul: which sprang
At love, and losing love lies signed and sealed
'Failure.' No love more? then, no beauty more
Which tends to breed love! Purify my powers,
Effortless till some other world procure
Some other chance of prize! or, if none be,—
Nor second world nor chance,—undesecrate
Die then this aftergrowth of heart, surmised
Where May's precipitation left June blank!
Better have failed in the high aim, as I,
Than vulgarly in the low aim succeed
As, God be thanked, I do not! Ugliness
Had I called beauty, falsehood—truth, and you
My lover! No—this earth's unchanged for me,
By his enchantment whom God made the Prince
O' the Power o' the Air, into a Heaven: there is
Heaven, since there is Heaven's simulation—earth;
I sit possessed in patience; prison-roof
Shall break one day and Heaven beam overhead!"

His smile is done with; he speaks bitterly.

"Take my congratulations, and permit
I wish myself had proved as teachable!
—Or, no! until you taught me, could I learn
A lesson from experience ne'er till now
Conceded? Please you listen while I show
How thoroughly you estimate my worth
And yours—the immeasurably superior! I
Believed at least in one thing, first to last,—
Your love to me: I was the vile and you
The precious; I abused you, I betrayed,
But doubted—never! Why else go my way
Judas-like plodding to this Potter's Field
Where fate now finds me? What has dinned my ear
And dogged my step? The spectre with the shriek
'Such she was, such were you, whose punishment
Is just!' And such she was not, all the while!
She never owned a love to outrage, faith
To pay with falsehood! For, myself know this—
Love once and you love always. Why, it's down
Here in the Album: every lover knows
Love may use hate but—turn to hate, itself—
Turn even to indifference—no, indeed!
Well, I have been spell-bound, deluded like
The witless negro by the Obeah-man
Who bids him wither: so, his eye grows dim,
His arm slack, arrow misses aim and spear
Goes wandering wide,—and all the woe because
He proved untrue to Fetish, who, he finds,
Was just a feather-phantom! I wronged love,
Am ruined,—and there was no love to wrong!"

"No love? Ah, dead love! I invoke thy ghost
To show the murderer where thy heart poured life
At summons of the stroke he doubts was dealt
On pasteboard and pretence! Not love, my love!
I changed for you the very laws of life:
Made you the standard of all right, all fair.
No genius but you could have been, no sage,
No sufferer—which is grandest—for the truth!
My hero—where the heroic only hid
To burst from hiding, brighten earth one day!
Age and decline were man's maturity;
Face, form were nature's type: more grace, more strength,
What had they been but just superfluous gauds,
Lawless divergence? I have danced through day
On tiptoe at the music of a word,
Have wondered where was darkness gone as night
Burst out in stars at brilliance of a smile!
Lonely, I placed the chair to help me seat
Your fancied presence; in companionship,
I kept my finger constant to your glove
Glued to my breast; then—where was all the world?
I schemed—not dreamed—how I might die some death
Should save your finger aching! Who creates
Destroys, he only: I had laughed to scorn
Whatever angel tried to shake my faith
And make you seem unworthy: you yourself
Only could do that! With a touch 'twas done.
'Give me all, trust me wholly!' At the word,
I did give, I did trust—and thereupon
The touch did follow. Ah, the quiet smile,
The masterfully folded arm in arm,
As trick obtained its triumph one time more!
In turn, my soul too triumphs in defeat:
Treason like faith moves mountains: love is gone!"

He paces to and fro, stops, stands quite close
And calls her by her name. Then—

"God forgives:
Forgive you, delegate of God, brought near
As never priests could bring him to this soul
That prays you both—forgive me! I abase—
Know myself mad and monstrous utterly
In all I did that moment; but as God
Gives me this knowledge—heart to feel and tongue
To testify—so be you gracious too!
Judge no man by the solitary work
Of—well, they do say and I can believe—
The devil in him: his, the moment,—mine
The life—your life!"

He names her name again.

"You were just—merciful as just, you were
In giving me no respite: punishment
Followed offending. Sane and sound once more,
The patient thanks decision, promptitude,
Which flung him prone and fastened him from hurt
Haply to others, surely to himself.
I wake and would not you had spared one pang.
All's well that ends well!"

Yet again her name.

"Had you no fault? Why must you change, forsooth,
Parts, why reverse positions, spoil the play?
Why did your nobleness look up to me,
Not down on the ignoble thing confessed?
Was it your part to stoop, or lift the low?
Wherefore did God exalt you? Who would teach
The brute man's tameness and intelligence
Must never drop the dominating eye:
Wink—and what wonder if the mad fit break,
Followed by stripes and fasting? Sound and sane,
My life, chastised now, couches at your foot.
Accept, redeem me! Do your eyes ask 'How?'
I stand here penniless, a beggar; talk
What idle trash I may, this final blow
Of fortune fells me. I disburse, indeed,
This boy his winnings? when each bubble-scheme
That danced athwart my brain, a minute since,
The worse the better,—of repairing straight
My misadventure by fresh enterprise,
Capture of other boys in foolishness
His fellows,—when these fancies fade away
At first sight of the lost so long, the found
So late, the lady of my life, before
Whose presence I, the lost, am also found
Incapable of one least touch of mean
Expedient, I who teemed with plot and wile—
That family of snakes your eye bids flee!
Listen! Our troublesomest dreams die off
In daylight: I awake and dream iswhere?
I rouse up from the past: one touch dispels
England and all here. I secured long since
A certain refuge, solitary home
To hide in, should the head strike work one day,
The hand forget its cunning, or perhaps
Society grow savage,—there to end
My life's remainder, which, say what fools will,
Is or should be the best of life,—its fruit,
All tends to, root and stem and leaf and flower.
Come with me, love, loved once, loved only, come,
Blend loves there! Let this parenthetic doubt
Of love, in me, have been the trial test
Appointed to all flesh at some one stage
Of soul's achievement,—when the strong man doubts
His strength, the good man whether goodness be,
The artist in the dark seeks, fails to find
Vocation, and the saint forswears his shrine.
What if the lover may elude, no more
Than these, probative dark, must search the sky
Vainly for love, his soul's star? But the orb
Breaks from eclipse: I breathe again: I love!
Tempted, I fell; but fallen—fallen lie
Here at your feet, see! Leave this poor pretence
Of union with a nature and its needs
Repugnant to your needs and nature! Nay,
False, beyond falsity you reprehend
In me, is such mock marriage with such mere
Man-mask as—whom you witless wrong, beside,
By that expenditure of heart and brain
He recks no more of than would yonder tree
If watered with your life-blood: rains and dews
Answer its ends sufficiently, while me
One drop saves—sends to flower and fruit at last
The laggard virtue in the soul wh'ch else
Cumbers the ground! Quicken me! Call me yours—
Yours and the world's—yours and the world's and God's!
Yes, for you can, you only! Think! Confirm
Your instinct! Say, a minute since, I seemed
The castaway you count me,—all the more
Apparent shall the angelic potency
Lift me from out perdition's deep of deeps
To light and life and love!—that's love for you
Love that already dares match might with yours.
You loved one worthy,—in your estimate,—
When time was; you descried the unworthy taint,
And where was love then? No such test could e'er
Try my love: but you hate me and revile;
Hatred, revilement—had you these to bear,
Would you, as I do, nor revile, nor hate,
But simply love on, love the more, perchance?
Abide by your own proof! 'Your love was love:
Its ghost knows no forgetting!' Heart of mine,
Would that I dared remember! Too unwise
Were he who lost a treasure, did himself
Enlarge upon the sparkling catalogue
Of gems to her his queen who trusted late
The keeper of her caskets! Can it be
That I, custodian of such relic still
As your contempt permits me to retain,
All I dare hug to breast is—'How your glove
Burst and displayed the long thin lily-streak!'
What may have followed—that is forfeit now!
I hope the proud man has grown humble! True—
One grace of humbleness absents itself—
Silence! yet love lies deeper than all words,
And not the spoken but the speechless love
Waits answer ere I rise and go my way."

Whereupon, yet one other time the name.

To end she looks the large deliberate look,
Even prolongs it somewhat; then the soul
Bursts forth in a clear laugh that lengthens on,
On, till—thinned, softened, silvered, one might say
The bitter runnel hides itself in sand,
Moistens the hard grey grimly comic speech.

"Ay—give the baffled angler even yet
His supreme triumph as he hales to shore
A second time the fish once 'scaped from hook—
So artfully has new bait hidden old
Blood-imbrued iron! Ay, no barb's beneath
The gilded minnow here! You bid break trust,
This time, with who trusts me,—not simply bid
Me trust you, me who ruined but myself,
In trusting but myself! Since, thanks to you,
I know the feel of sin and shame,—be sure,
I shall obey you and impose them both
On one who happens to be ignorant
Although my husband—for the lure is love,
Your love! Try other tackle, fisher-friend!
Repentance, expiation, hopes and fears,
What you had been, may yet be, would I but
Prove helpmate to my hero—one and all
These silks and worsteds round the hook, seduce
Hardly the late torn throat and mangled tongue.
Pack up, I pray, the whole assortment prompt!
Who wonders at variety of wile
In the Arch-cheat? You are the Adversary!
Your fate is of your choosing: have your choice!
Wander the world,—God has some end to serve,
Ere he suppress you! He waits: I endure,
But interpose no finger-tip, forsooth,
To stop your passage to the pit. Enough
That I am stable, uninvolved by you
In the rush downwards: free I gaze and fixed;
Your smiles, your tears, prayers, curses move alike
My crowned contempt. You kneel? Prostrate yourself!
To earth, and would the whole world saw you there!"

Whereupon—"All right!" carelessly begins
Somebody from outside, who mounts the stair,
And sends his voice for herald of approach:
Half in half out the doorway as the door
Gives way to push.

"Old fellow, all's no good!
The train's your portion! Lay the blame on me
I'm no diplomatist, and Bismarck's self
Had hardly braved the awful Aunt at broach
Of proposition—so has world-repute
Preceded the illustrious stranger! Ah!—"

Quick the voice changes to astonishment,
Then horror, as the youth stops, sees, and knows.

The man who knelt starts up from kneeling, stands
Moving no muscle, and confronts the stare.

One great red outbreak—throat and brow—
The lady's proud pale queenliness of scorn:
Then her great eyes that turned so quick, become
Intenser: quail at gaze, not they indeed!

poem by from The Inn Album (1875)Report problemRelated quotes
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Orlando Furioso Canto 9

ARGUMENT
So far Orlando wends, he comes to where
He of old Proteus' hears the cruel use
But feels such pity for Olympia fair,
Wronged by Cymosco, who in prison mews
Her plighted spouse, that ere he makes repair
Further, he gives her hope to venge the abuse:
He does so, and departs; and with his spouse
Departs Bireno, to repeat his vows.

I
What cannot, when he has a heart possess'd
This false and cruel traitor Love? since he
Can banish from Orlando's faithful breast
Such tried allegiance and due loyalty?
Wise, full of all regards, and of the blest
And glorious church the champion wont to be,
Now, little for himself or uncle, driven
By a vain love, he cares, and less for heaven.

II
But I excuse him well, rejoiced to know
I have like partner in my vice: for still
To seek my good I too am faint and slow,
But sound and nimble in pursuit of ill.
The count departs, disguised in sable show,
Nor for so many friends, with froward will,
Deserted cares; and comes where on the plain
Are camped the hosts of Afric and of Spain;

III
Rather uncamped: for, in less troops or more,
Rains under shed and tree had driven the band.
Here ten, there twenty, seven or eight, or four,
Near or further off, Orlando scanned.
Each sleeps, oppressed with toil and wearied sore;
This stretched on earth, that propped upon his hand:
They sleep, and many might the count have slain,
Yet never bared his puissant Durindane.

IV
So generous is Orlando's heart, he base
Esteems it were to smite a sleeping foe.
Now this he seeks, and now that other place;
Yet cannot track his lady, high or low.
If he finds any one in waking case,
Sighing, to him he paints her form and show;
Then prays him that for courtesy, he where
The damsel is, will reach him to repair.

V
And when the day its shining light displayed,
He wholly searched the Moorish army through.
In that the gentle warrior was arrayed
In Arab weeds, he this might safely do;
And of his purpose came alike in aid
That other tongues beside the French he knew;
And in the African so well was read,
He seemed in Tripoly one born and bred:

VI
He sojourns there three days, the camp to see;
Still seeking nought beside: next up and down,
Within, without, both burgh and city he
Spies; nor surveys the realm of France alone;
But fair Auvergne, and even Gascony
Revisits, to its farthest little town.
Roves from Provence to Brittany's domain,
And from the Picards to the bounds of Spain.

VII
Between October and November's moon,
In that dull season when the leafy vest
Is stript from trembling plant, whose limbs are shown
Of all their mantling foliage dispossess'd
And in close flights the swarming birds are flown,
Orlando enters on his amorous quest:
This he pursues the livelong winter through,
Nor quits when gladsome spring returns anew.

VIII
As (such his wont) from land to land he goes,
A river's side he reaches on a day;
Which to the neighbouring sea in quiet flows.
Bretons and Normans parting on its way:
But, swoln with mountain rain and melted snows,
Then thundered, white with foam and flashing-spray:
And with impetuous stream had overtopt
Its brim, and burst the bridge, and passage stopt.

IX
The paladin this bank and the other eyed,
Along the river's channel, to explore,
Since neither fish nor fowl, if from his side
He could gain footing on the adverse shore;
When, with a damsel in the poop, he spied
A ready pinnace that towards him bore:
She steered, as if she would approach the strand;
But would not let her shallop make the land.

X
Steered not to land; as haply with suspicion
To take a lading, in her own despite.
To her the good Orlando made petition
To put him o'er the stream; and she: 'No knight
Passes this ferry, but upon condition
He shall his faith and promise duly plight,
That he will do a battle, at my prayer,
Upon the justest quarrel and most fair.

XI
'So that if thou on that other shore to land
Dost by my aid, Sir cavalier, desire,
Promise me, ere the month which is at hand'
(The damsel so pursued her speech) 'expire,
That thou wilt join the Hibernian monarch's hand,
Who forms a fair armada, in his ire,
To sack Ebuda's isle; of all compress'd
By ocean's circling waves, the cruellest.

XII
'Know, beyond Ireland, in the briny flood,
An island, amid many others, lies;
Ebuda is its name; whose people rude
(Such is their law), in search of plunder hies;
And all the women that it takes, for food
To a voracious animal supplies;
Which every day to shore for this does speed,
And finds new wife or maid whereon to feed:

XIII
'For of these merchant still and Corsair sell
A large supply, and most of those most fair.
Reckoning one slain a-day, you thus may well
Compute what wives and maids have perished there.
But if compassion in your bosom dwell,
Nor you to Love an utter rebel are,
Be you contented with this band to wend,
United for such profitable end.'

XIV
To hear the whole Orlando scarce could bear,
Ere to be first in that emprize he swore,
As one who evil deed misliked to hear,
And with impatience like relation bore:
Hence first induced to think, and next to fear,
Angelica is captive on that shore:
Since he so long the missing maid pursues,
Nor of the damsel yet can gather news.

XV
Breaking his every scheme, this phantasy
The troubled cavalier did so confound,
That will all speed to that fell island he
Resolved to navigate; nor yet the round
Of a new sun was buried in the sea,
Ere he a vessel at St. Malo's found;
In which, embarking on his quest, the count
Put forth, and cleared that night St. Michael's Mount.

XVI
Breac and Landriglier past on the left hand,
Orlando's vessel skims the Breton shore;
Then shapes her course towards the chalky strand,
Whence England's isle the name of Albion bore:
But the south wind, which had her canvas fanned,
Shifts to north-west, and freshening, blows so sore,
The mariners are fain to strike all sail,
And wear and scud before the boisterous gale.

XVII
A distance traversed in four days, in one
Backwards the ceaseless wind the frigate bore;
The helmsman kept the sea, lest she should run
Aground, and break like glass upon the shore.
The wind upon the fifth day changed its tune,
So loud and furious through the other four;
And let, without more strife, the vessel gain
A port, where Antwerp's river met the main.

XVIII
As soon as harboured there in shattered plight,
The weary mariners their frigate moor,
Out of a city, seated on the right
Of that fair stream, descends upon the shore,
As his gray hairs may warrant him, a wight
Stricken in years; who, full of courteous lore,
Turns to the county, after greetings due,
Reputing him the leader of that crew.

XIX
And prays him, on a damsel's part, `that he
To her would think not irksome to repair;
Whom of unequalled affability
And sweetness, he would find, as well as fair;
Or otherwise would be content, that she
Should to his bark resort, to seek him there,
Nor prove less pliant than had been before
All the knights errant, who had sought that shore:

XX
For hitherto, by land or sea conveyed,
No cavalier had journeyed to that place
That had refused to parlay with the maid,
And give her counsel in a cruel case.'
Orlando, hearing this, no more delayed,
But issued from the bark with hurried pace,
And, in all kind and courteous usage bred,
His way directed where the ancient led.

XXI
With him did Roland to the city go,
And at the bottom of a palace-stair,
Conducted by that elder, full of woe
A lady found, if face may grief declare,
And sable cloth, with which (a mournful show)
Chamber, and hall, and gallery, furnished were;
Who, after honourable welcome paid,
Seated the paladin, and sadly said:

XXII
'The daughter of the Count of Holland,' (cried
The Lady) 'know in me, Sir cavalier.
Though not his only offspring (for beside
Myself two brothers were) to him so dear,
That, for whatever favour I applied,
I never met refusal from the peer.
I living glady in this happy sort,
A duke by chance was guested at our court;

XXIII
'The Duke of Zealand, meaning for Biscay;
With purpose there to war upon the Moor;
His youth and beauty, then in manhood's May,
And force of love, unfelt by me before,
Made me, with little strife, his easy prey:
Persuaded by his outward cheer yet more,
I thought, and think, and still shall think, the peer
Loved me, and loves me yet with heart sincere.

XXIV
'Those days, whenas the wind was contrary,
(Which fair for me, if foul for others blew)
To others forty seemed, an hour to me;
So upon speedy wings the moments flew.
This while, we oftentimes held colloquy,
When, to be given with solemn right and due,
I promised him, and he to me, his hand,
On his return, in wedlock's holy band.

XXV
'Bireno hardly from our court was gone,
For such the name my faithful lover bore,
When Friesland's king, whose realm is from our own
No further than this stream from Ocean's shore,
Designing to bestow me on his son,
Arbantes hight (the monarch had no more),
To Holland sent the worthiest of his land,
Me of the count, my father, to demand.

XXVI
'I without power to falsify that vow,
Which to my gentle lover I had plight;
Nor though I had the power, would Love allow
Me so to play the ingrate, if I might,
(The treaty, well on foot, to overthrow,
And nigh concluded) with afflicted sprite,
Cried to my father, I would rather shed
My very life-blood, than in Friesland wed.

XXVII
'My gracious father, he who took but pleasure
In what pleased me, nor would my will constrain;
Marking my grief, broke off the intended measure,
To give me comfort and relieve my pain.
At this proud Friesland's sovereign such displeasure
Conceived, and entertained such high disdain,
He entered Holland, and the war began,
In which my kin were slaughtered to a man.

XXVIII
'Besides, that both his puissance and his might
Are such, as in our age are matched of few,
Such is in evil deeds his cunning sleight,
He laughs to scorn what wit and force can do.
Strange arms he bears, unknown to any wight,
Save him, of the ancient nations or the new:
A hollow iron, two yards long, whose small
Channel he loads with powder and a ball

XXIX
'He, where 'tis closed behind, in the iron round,
Touches with fire a vent, discerned with pain;
In guise that skilful surgeon tries his ground,
Where need requires that he should breathe a vein.
Whence flies the bullet with such deafening sound,
That bolt and lightening from the hollow cane
Appear to dart, and like the passing thunder,
Burn what they smite, beat-down or rend asunder.

XXX
'Twice broken, he our armies overthrew
With this device, my gentle brethren slain;
The first the shot in our first battle slew,
Reaching his heart, through broken plate and chain;
The other in the other onset, who
Was flying from the fatal field in vain.
The ball his shoulder from a distance tore
Behind, and issued from his breast before.

XXXI
'My father next, defending on a day
The only fortress which he still possessed,
The others taken which about it lay,
Was sent alike to his eternal rest:
Who going and returning, to purvey
What lacked, as this or that occasion pressed,
Was aimed at from afar, in privy wise,
And by the traytour struck between the eyes.

XXXII
'And I remaining, sire and brethren dead,
The isle of Holland's only heir, the king
Of Friesland, who by the desire was led
Of better there his power establishing,
To me, and also to my people said,
I peace and quiet to my state might bring,
Would I (when I before would not accord)
Now take his son Arbantes for my lord.

XXXIII
'I, not so much for deadly hate I bear
To him and all his kindred, by whose spite
My sire and both my brothers slaughtered were,
My country sacked and waste, as that the knight
I would not wrong, to whom I fealty sware,
And had my solemn word already plight
That me to wedlock man should woo in vain,
Till he to Holland should return from Spain.

XXXIV
'For one ill-born, a hundred yet behind,
Will bear (replied) to hazard all content,
- Slain, burnt alive, to let them to the wind
Scatter my ashes, rather than consent. -
My people seek to move my stedfast mind,
By prayer and by protest, from this intent;
And threat to yield my city up and me,
Lest all be lost through my obduracy.

XXXV
'When in my fixt and firm resolve they read,
That prayer and protest are alike in vain;
My town and me, with Friesland's king agreed,
Surrendered, as they vowed, my vassal train.
Not doing by me any shameful deed,
Me he assured of life and of domain,
So I would soften my obdurate mood,
And be to wed with his Arbantes wooed.

XXXVI
'I who would have consented to forego
My life to scape from him, reflection made,
That, save I first avenged myself, all woe
Endured, would be by this regret outweighed.
- Long time I muse, and to my misery know,
'Tis only simulation which can aid.
Not simple willingness, I feign desire,
To win his grace, and have him for my sire.

XXXVII
' Mid many in my father's service, I
Select two brothers fitted for my view,
Of valiant heart and great ability
But more approved for truth, as followers, who
Bred in my father's court, from infancy
Had with myself grown up; the brothers two
So wholly bound to me, they would have thought
My safety with their lives was cheaply bought.

XXXVIII
'To them I tell my project, and the pair
Of brethren promise me their faithful aid:
To Flanders this, a pinnace to prepare,
I sent, and that with me in Holland stayed.
Now, while both foreigners and natives were,
Of Friesland's kingdom, to our nuptials prayed,
Bireno in Biscay (the tidings went)
For Holland had equipt an armament.

XXXIX
'Since on the issue of the earliest fray,
When in the rout one hapless brother fell,
I had dispatched a courier to Biscay,
Who the sad news should to Bireno tell:
While he toils sore his squadron to array,
Proud Friesland's arms our wretched remnant quell.
Bireno, who knew nought of this, had weighed,
And with his barks put forth to bring us aid.

XL
'These tidings told to Friesland's monarch, he
Confiding to his son the wedding's care,
To meet Bireno's squadron puts to sea,
And (so chance willed) burns, sinks, or routs them there,
Leading him off into captivity; -
But none to us as yet the tidings bear.
This while I to the amorous youth am wed,
Who, when the sun sought his, would seek my bed.

XLI
'Behind the curtains, I had hid the tried
And faithful follower, of whom I said,
Who moved not till the bridegroom he descried,
Yet waited not till he in bed was laid:
But raised a hatchet, and so well applied
Behind the stripling's head the ponderous blade,
Of speech and life it reft him; I, who note
The deed, leap lightly up and cut his throat.

XLII
'As falls the bullock upon shamble-sill,
Thus fell the ill-starred stripling, in despite
Of king Cymosco, worst among the ill;
So was the impious king of Friesland hight
Who did my brothers and my father kill,
And, in my state to found a better right;
In wedlock wished to join me with his son,
Haply to slay me when his end was won.

XLIII
'Ere new disturbance interrupt the deed,
Taking what costliest was and lightest weighed,
Me my companion by a chord, with speed,
Drops from a window, where with boat purveyed
In Flanders (as related) for my need,
His brother, watchful of our motions, stayed:
We dip the oar, we loose the sail, and driven
By both, escape, as was the will of Heaven.

XLIV
'The daring feat achieved, I cannot say
If Friesland's king more sorrowed for his son,
Or raged at me: he there arrived, the day
Ensuing, where the dreadful deed was done,
Proud he returned, both he and his array,
Of the duke taken, and the victory won:
And thought to feast and nuptials he was bound,
But in his home all grief and darkness found.

XLV
'His pity for his son, the hate he fed
Towards me, torment the father day and night;
But as lamenting will not raise the dead,
And vengeance is a vent for smothered spite;
That portion of his thoughts, which should have led
The king, to ease by sighs his troubled sprite,
Now willingly takes counsel with his hate,
To seize me, and his vengeance satiate.

XLVI
'All known or said to by my friends, or who
Were friends of those that, chosen from my train,
Had aided me the deadly deed to do,
Their goods and chattels burnt, were doomed or slain:
And he had killed Bireno, since he knew
No other trouble could inflict such pain;
But that he, saving him in malice, thought
He had a net wherewith I might be caught.

XLVII
'Yet him a cruel proposition made,
Granting a year his purpose to complete;
Condemned to privy death, till then delayed,
Save in that time, through force or through deceit,
He by his friends' and kindred's utmost aid,
Doing or plotting, me from my retreat
Conveyed into his prisons; so that he
Can only saved by my destruction be.

XLVIII
'What for his safety could be done, behold,
Short of my own destruction, had been tried.
Six towns I had in Flanders: these I sold,
And (great or small the produce set aside)
A part of it, to wily persons told,
That it to tempt his guards might be applied;
The rest of it dispensed to move and arm
Germans or English, to the miscreant's harm.

XLIX
'My agents, whether they their trust betrayed,
Or that they could in truth perform no more,
Me with vain words instead of help have paid,
And scorn me, having drained my scanty store:
And now the term is nigh expired, when aid,
Whether of open force or treasured ore,
No longer will arrive in time to save
My cherished spouse from torture and the grave.

L
'Through him, from me was my dominion rent;
Through him, my father and my brethren slain;
Through him, the little treasure left me, spent
(What served alone existence to sustain)
To rescue him, in cruel durance pent;
Nor other means to succour him remain;
Save I, to liberate him from prison, go
And yield myself to such a cruel foe.

LI
'If nothing more be left me then to try,
Nor other way for his escape appear,
Than his with this my wretched life to buy,
This life I gladly will lay down: one fear
Alone molests me; and it is that I
Can never my conditions make so clear,
As to assure me, that with new deceit,
Me, when his prey, the tyrant will not cheat.

LII
'I fear, when I shall be in captive plight,
And he has put all tortures upon me,
He may not loose Bireno, and the knight
Have not to thank me for his liberty:
Like perjured king, and full of foul despite,
Who with my murder will not satiate be;
But by Bireno neither less nor more
Will do, than he had done by me before.

LIII
'The occasion now that I confer with you,
And tell my case to all who seek the land,
Both lords and knights, is with the single view,
That taking counsel of so large a band,
Some one may indicate assurance due,
That when before the cruel king I stand,
No longer he Bireno shall detain;
Nor, after I am killed, the duke be slain.

LIV
'Warrior to went with me, I in my need,
When I shall be to Friesland given, have prayed;
But so he promise, that the exchange agreed
Shall be between us in such manner made,
That from his bonds Bireno shall be freed
When I am to the monarch's hands conveyed:
Thus I, when I am slain, shall die content,
Who to my spouse shall life by death have lent.

LV
'Not to this day have chanced upon a wight
Who on his faith will give me warranty,
That if the king refuse to loose the knight,
When I am offered, from captivity,
He will not suffer that in my despite
(So feared those weapons!) I shall taken be.
So feared those weapons, upon every hand!
Which, howsoever thick, no plates withstand.

LVI
'Now, if as strong Herculean port and bold
Appear to vouch, such worth to you belong;
And you believe to give me or withhold
Is in your power, should he intend me wrong;
Be with me, when committed to his hold,
Since I shall fear not, in your convoy strong,
When you are with me, that my lord, though I
Be after slain, shall by his order die.'

LVII
Here her discourse, wherewith were interposed
Loud sobs, the lady ceased, and silent stood:
Orlando, when her lips the damsel closed,
Whose ready will ne'er halts in doing good,
Briefly to her replies, as indisposed
To idle speeches of his natural mood:
But plights his solemn word, that better aid
She should from him receive than that she prayed.

LVIII
'Tis not his scheme to place her in the hand
Of her foul foe, to have Bireno freed;
He will save both the lovers, if his brand
And wonted valour fail him not at need.
Embarked that very day, they put from land
With a clear sky and prosperous wind to speed.
The county hastes in his impatient heat,
Eager to reach that isle, the monster's seat.

LIX
Through the still deeps, on this or the other side,
The skipper veered his canvas to the wind:
This isle, and that of Zealand, they descried,
One seen before, and one shut in behind.
The third day, from the harboured vessel's side,
In Holland, Roland disembarks, not joined
By the complaining dame; whom to descend
He will not till she hear that tyrant's end.

LX
Armed at all points, the county passed ashore,
Borne on a horse 'twixt brown and black, the breed
Of Denmark, but in Flanders nurtured, more
Esteemed for weight and puissance than for speed:
For when the paladin embarked before,
In Brittany he left the gallant steed,
His Brigliador; so nimble and so fair,
That but Bayardo could with him compare.

LXI
Orlando fares to Dordrecht, where he views
A numerous squadron, which the gate maintain;
As well, because suspicion still ensues
On the foundation of a new domain;
As that before they had received the news,
That out of Zealand, backed with armed train,
Was coming with a fleet of many sail,
A cousin of the lord here pent in jail.

LXII
One, good Orlando to the monarch's ear
Bade bear a message, `that an errant knight
Oh him would prove himself, with sword and spear;
But would lay down this pact before the fight: -
That if the king unhorsed the cavalier,
Her who Arbantes slew, he, as his right,
Should have, that, at the cavalier's command,
Was ready for delivery to his hand;

LXIII
`And willed the king should on his side agree,
If him the knight in combat overbore,
Forthwith released from his captivity,
Bireno to full freedom to restore.'
To him the footman does his embassy;
But he, who knightly worth or courteous lore
Had never known, directs his whole intent
The count by treacherous fraud to circumvent.

LXIV
He hopes as well, if he the warrior slay,
To have the dame, whom, so aggrieved, he hates,
If in the knight's disposal, and the say
Of that strange knight, the footman well relates.
Hence thirty men dispatched by other way
Than to the portal led, where Roland waits;
Who with a long and privy circuit wind,
And come upon the paladin behind.

LXV
He all this while had made his guard delay
The knight with words, till horse and foot he spied
Arrived, where he this ambuscade did lay;
When from the gate he with as many hied:
As is the practised hunter's wonted way,
To circle wood and beasts on every side:
As nigh Volana, with his sweeping nets,
The wary fisher fish and pool besets.

LXVI
'Tis thus the king bars every path which lies
Free for the warrior's flight, with armed train:
He him alive, and in no other guise,
Would have, and lightly hopes his end to gain;
Nor for the earthly thunderbolt applies,
That had so many and so many slain:
Which here he deems would serve his purpose ill,
Where he desires to take and not to kill.

LXVII
As wary fowler, bent on greater prey,
Wisely preserves alive the game first caught,
That by the call-bird and his cheating play,
More may within the circling net be brought;
Such cunning art Cymosco would assay:
But Roland would not be so lightly bought;
Like them by the first toil that springs betrayed;
And quickly forced the circle which was made.

LXVIII
Where he perceives the assailants thickest stand,
He rests his lance, and sticks in his career
First one and afterwards another, and
Another, and another, who appear
Of paste; till six he of the circling band
Of foes impales upon a single spear;
A seventh left out, who by the push is slain,
Since the clogged weapon can no more contain.

LXIX
No otherwise, upon the further shore
Of fosse or of canal, the frogs we spy,
By cautious archer, practised in his lore,
Smote and transfixed the one the other nigh;
Upon the shaft, until it hold no more,
From barb to feathers full, allowed to lie.
The heavy lance Orlando from him flung,
And to close combat with his faulchion sprung.

LXX
The lance now broke, his sword the warrior drew,
That sword which never yet was drawn in vain,
And still with cut or thrust some soldier slew;
Now horse, now footman of the tyrant's train.
And, ever where he dealt a stroke, changed blue,
Yellow, green, white and black, to crimson stain.
Cymosco grieves, when most his need require,
Not to have now his hollow cane and fire;

LXXI
And with loud voice and menacing command
Bids these be brought, but ill his followers hear;
For those who have found safety of his band,
To issue from the city are in fear.
He, when he sees them fly on either hand,
Would fly as well from that dread cavalier;
Makes for the gate, and would the drawbridge lift,
But the pursuing county is too swift.

LXXII
The monarch turns his back, and leaves the knight
Lord of the drawbridge and of either gate.
Thanks to his swifter steed, the rest in flight
He passes: good Orlando will not wait
(Intent the felon, not his band, to smite)
Upon the vulgar herd to wreck his hate.
But his slow horse seems restive; while the king's,
More nimble, flies as if equipt with wings.

LXXIII
From street to street, before the count he made;
And vanished clean; but after little stay,
Came with new arms, with tube and fire purveyed;
Which, at his hest, this while his men convey.
And posted at a corner, he waylaid:
His foe, as hunter watches for his prey,
In forest, with armed dogs and spear, attending
The boar in fury from the hill descending,

LXXIV
Who rends the branch and overthrows the stone;
And wheresoe'er he turns his haughty front,
Appears (so loud the deafening crash and groan)
As if he were uprending wood and mount,
Intent to make him his bold deed atone,
Cymosco at the pass expects the count;
As soon as he appears, with ready light
Touches the hole, and fires upon the knight.

LXXV
Behind, the weapon flames in lightning's guise,
And vents the thunder from before; the ground
Shakes under foot and city wall; the skies
The fearful echo all about rebound.
The burning bolt with sudden fury flies,
Not sparing aught which in its course is found.
Hissing and whizzing through the skies it went;
But smote not, to the assassin's foul intent.

LXXVI
Whether it was his great desire to kill
That baron, or his hurry made him fail,
Or trembling heart, like leaf which flutters still,
Made hand and arm together flinch and quail;
Or that it was not the Creator's will
The church so soon her champion should bewail;
The glancing stroke his courser's belly tore,
Outstretched on earth, from thence to rise no more.

LXXVII
To earth fall horse and rider: this the knight
Scarce touched; the other thundering pressed the plain:
For the first rose so ready and so light,
He from the fall seemed breath and force to gain.
As African Anteus, in the fight,
Rose from the sand with prouder might and main;
So when Orlando touched the ground, to view
He rose with doubled force and vigour new.

LXXVIII
He who has seen the thunder, from on high,
Discharged by Jove with such a horrid sound,
Descend where nitre, coal, and sulphur lie,
Stored up for use in magazine profound,
Which scarce has reached - but touched it, ere the sky
Is in a flame, as well as burning ground,
Firm walls are split, and solid marbles riven,
And flying stones cast up as high as heaven;

LXXIX
Let him imagine, when from earth he sprung,
Such was the semblance of the cavalier;
Who moved in mode to frighten Mars among
The Gods, so fierce and horrid was his cheer.
At this dismay'd, the King of Friesland stung
His horse, and turned his rein, to fly the peer:
But fierce Orlando was upon his foe
Faster than arrow flies from bended bow:

LXXX
And, what before he could not, when possest
Of his good courser, now afoot will do.
His speed outgoes all thought in every breast,
Exceeds all credence, save in those who view.
The tyrant shortly joined, he on the crest
Smote at his head so well, he cleft it through;
And to the neck divided by the blow,
Sent it, to shake its last on earth below.

LXXXI
Lo! in the frighted city other sound
Was heard to rise, and other crash of brands,
From troop, who, thither in his guidance bound,
Followed Bireno's cousin from his lands:
Who, since the unguarded gates he open found,
Into the city's heart had poured his bands;
Where the bold paladin had struck such fear,
He without let might scour it far and near.

LXXXII
In rout the people fly, who cannot guess
Who these may be, or what the foes demand:
But, when this man and that by speech and dress
As Zealand-men distinguishes the band,
Carte blanche they proffer, and the chief address,
Bidding him range them under his command;
Against the Frieslanders to lend him aid,
Who have their duke in loathsome prison stayed.

LXXXIII
To Friesland's king that people hatred bore
With all his following: who their ancient lord
Had put to death, and who by them yet more,
As evil and rapacious, was abhorred.
Orlando interposed with kindly lore,
As friend of both, the parties to accord:
By whom, so joined, no Frieslander was left
But was of life or liberty bereft.

LXXXIV
They would not wait to seek the dungeon-key,
But breaking-down the gate, their entrance made;
Bireno to the count with courtesy
And grateful thanks the service done repaid.
Thence they, together with large company,
Went where Olympia in her vessel stayed:
For so was the expecting lady hight,
To whom that island's crown belonged of right.

LXXXV
She who had thither good Orlando brought,
Not hoping that he would have thriven so well;
- Enough for her, if by her misery bought,
Her spouse were rescued from the tyrant's cell! -
Her, full of love and loyal homage, sought
The people one and all: Twere long to tell
How she caressed Bireno, he the maid, -
What thanks both lovers to the county paid.

LXXXVI
The people, throned in her paternal reign,
Replace the injured dame, and fealty swear:
She on the duke, to whom in solid chain
Love with eternal knot had linked the fair,
The empire of herself and her domain
Conferred: He, called away by other care,
Left in the cousin's guardian care this while
His fortresses, and all the subject isle.

LXXXVII
Since he to visit Zealand's duchy planned,
His faithful consort in his company;
And thence, upon the king of Friesland's land,
Would try his fortune (as he said), for he
A pledge, he rated highly, had in hand,
Which seemed of fair success the warranty,
The daughter of the king: who here forsaken,
With many others had been prisoner taken.

LXXXVIII
To a younger brother, her, the duke pretends,
To be conjoined in wedlock, he conveyed.
The Roman senator thence parting wends
Upon the very day Bireno weighed;
But he to nothing else his hand extends
Of all the many, many prized made,
Save to that engine, found amid the plunder,
Which in all points I said resembled thunder.

LXXXIX
Not with intent, in his defence to bear
What he had taken, of the prize possest;
For he still held it an ungenerous care
To go with vantage on whatever quest:
But with design to cast the weapon where
It never more should living wight molest;
And, what was appertaining to it, all
Bore off as well, the powder and the ball.

XC
And thus, when of the tidesway he was clear,
And in the deepest sea his bark descried,
So that no longer distant signs appear
Of either shore on this or the other side,
He seized the tube, and said: 'That cavalier
May never vail through thee his knightly pride,
Nor base be rated with a better foe,
Down with thee to the darkest deep below!

XCI
'O loathed, O cursed piece of enginery,
Cast in Tartarean bottom, by the hand
Of Beelzebub, whose foul malignity
The ruin of this world through thee has planned!
To hell, from whence thou came, I render thee.'
So said, he cast away the weapon: fanned
Meanwhile, with flowing sheet, his frigate goes,
By wind, which for the cruel island blows.

XCII
Such was the paladin's desire to explore
If in the place his missing lady were;
Whom he prefers the united world before,
Nor can an hour of life without her bear.
He fears, if he set foot on Ireland's shore,
Some other chance may interrupt him there:
So that he after have in vain to say,
'Why hasted I no faster on my way?'

XCIII
Nor he in England nor in Ireland port
Will make, nor on the coast that's opposite.
But let him go, the naked archer's sport,
Sore smitten in the heart! - ere I indite
Yet more of him, to Holland I resort,
And you to hear me company invite.
For well I wot that you as well as me
'Twould grieve that bridal should without us be.

XCIV
Sumptuous and fair the bridal there is made;
But neither yet so sumptuous nor so fair
As it will be in Zealand, it is said:
But 'tis not my design you should repair
Thither; since by new accidents delayed
The feast will be, of which be it my care,
In other strain, the tidings to report;
If you to hear that other strain resort.

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Z. Comments

CRYSTAL GLOW

Madhur Veena Comment: Who is she? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ....You write good!

Margaret Alice Comment: Beautiful, it stikes as heartfelt words and touches the heart, beautiful sentiments, sorry, I repeat myself, but I am delighted. Your poem is like the trinkets I collect to adorn my personal space, pure joy to read, wonderful! Only a beautiful mind can harbour such sentiments, you have a beautiful mind. I am glad you have found someone that inspires you to such heights and that you share it with us, you make the world a mroe wonderful place.

Margaret Alice Comment: Within the context set by the previous poem, “Cosmic Probe”, the description of a lover’s adoration for his beloved becomes a universal ode sung to the abstract values of love, joy and hope personified by light, colours, fragrance and beauty, qualities the poet assigns to his beloved, thus elevating her to the status of an uplifting force because she brings all these qualities to his attention. The poet recognises that these personified values brings him fulfilment and chose the image of a love relationship to illustrate how this comes about; thus a love poem becomes the vehicle to convey spiritual epiphany.


FRAGRANT JASMINE

Margaret Alice Comment: Your words seem to be directed to a divine entity, you seem to be addressing your adoration to a divinity, and it is wonderful to read of such sublime sentiments kindled in a human soul. Mankind is always lifted up by their vision and awareness of divinity, thank you for such pure, clear diction and sharing your awareness of the sublime with us, you have uplifted me so much by this vision you have created!

Margaret Alice Comment: The poet’s words seem to be directed to a divine entity, express adoration to a divinity who is the personification of wonderful qualities which awakens a sense of the sublime in the human soul. An uplifting vision and awareness of uplifting qualities of innocence represented by a beautiful person.


I WENT THERE TO BID HER ADIEU

Kente Lucy Comment: wow great writing, what a way to bid farewell

Margaret Alice Comment: Sensory experience is elevated by its symbolical meaning, your description of the scene shows two souls becoming one and your awareness of the importance of tempory experience as a symbol of the eternal duration of love and companionship - were temporary experience only valid for one moment in time, it would be a sad world, but once it is seen as a symbol of eternal things, it becomes enchanting.


I’M INCOMPLETE WITHOUT YOU

Margaret Alice Comment: You elevate the humnan experience of longing for love to a striving for sublimity in uniting with a beloved person, and this poem is stirring, your style of writing is effective, everything flows together perfectly.

Margaret Alice Comment:

'To a resplendent glow of celestial flow
And two split halves unite never to part.'

Reading your fluent poems is a delight, I have to tear myself away and return to the life of a drudge, but what a treasure trove of jewels you made for the weary soul who needs to contemplate higher ideals from time to time!


IN CELESTIAL WINGS

Margaret Alice Comment: When you describe how you are strengthened by your loved one, it is clear that your inner flame is so strong that you need not fear growing old, your spirit seems to become stronger, you manage to convey this impression by your striking poetry. It is a privilege to read your work.

Obed Dela Cruz Comment: wow.... i remembered will shakespeare.... nice poem!

Margaret Alice Comment: The poet has transcended the barriers of time and space by becoming an image of his beloved and being able to find peace in the joy he confers to his beloved.

'You transcend my limits, transcend my soul, I forget my distress in your thoughts And discover my peace in your joy, For, I’m mere image of you, my beloved.'

Margaret Alice Comment: You are my peace and solace, I know, I am, yours too; A mere flash of your thoughts Enlivens my tired soul And fills me with light, peace and solace, A giant in new world, I become, I rise to divine heights in celestial wings. How I desire to reciprocate To fill you with light and inner strength raise you to divine heights; I must cross over nd hold you in arms, light up your soul, Fill you with strength from my inner core, Wipe away your tears burst out in pure joy How I yearn to instill hope and confidence in you we never part And we shall wait, till time comes right. the flame in my soul always seeks you, you transcend my limits, transcend my soul, I forget my distress in your thoughts And discover my peace in your joy, For, I’m mere image of you, my beloved.


RAGING FIRE

Margaret Alice Comment: As usual, it is the symbolism of making love that is important to me, you clearly depicts the sensual delight, which is fleeting, the enduring aspect of temporary sensory experience lies in its symbolism of unity and inifnite love and read within the context of your previous poems, I think the symbolism is present in this poem also.

Margaret Alice Comment: The symbolism of making love is important, the poem depicts sensual delights, which are fleeting, the enduring aspect of temporary experience lies in its symbolical value of unity and infinite love. Read within the context of the previous poems, the symbolism can be read in this poem also.


SHE SPELLS SIMPLICITY

Sarah Loves Comment: this is awesome

Margaret Alice Comment: Once again you weave the tapestry of the symbolical meaning of her presence in your life and create the context within which sensory experience of love is elevated to the sublime. I repeat myself, I know, but I love these themes.

Margaret Alice Comment: Weaving a tapestry, using a description of lovers to symbolise the presence of love in, creating the context within which sensory experience is elevated to the sublime.


WE DISSOLVED IN THE OTHER

Margaret Alice Comment: Still within context, the poet gives description of sensory love as a symbol of souls united in one goal, eternal love. Humanity is always in danger of separating the playful aspect of lovemaking from its deeper significance. When young, love is the best game their is with no strings attached, as people grow older, they discover how lovemaking becomes a symbol for real affection as loyalty and integrity to a loved one.


YOUNG ROMANCE

Margaret Alice Comment: The scene is very evocative, it could also be the description of sensual love without any other significance than momentary joy, the way young people love, abandoning themselves to physical pleasure without emotional involvement, since young people are on a voyage of discovery and making love is one of the stations along the way. Within the context of this series of poems, I assume the poet wishes to assign an emotional significance to the love he depicts, a love relationship that is meant to last. Very well written, you have done a splendid job.


RHYTHMS OF LIFE

Guillermo Veloso Comment: What a wonderful manifesto. I have been thinking lately of life as a see-saw with our goal the fulcrum. your poem adds clarity to my journey. thank
you for sharing Praveen


I LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE

Hasmukh Amathalal Comment: Love sprouts in heart and sits in soul,
Love bounces from the soul to light up loved things,
Love lights steady flame of heavenly bliss
And melts all pride and binds loved ones....ya love bounces from soul to light... truely said... i liked the theme....10


A WALL OF TIME

Rose-marie Mitchell Comment: Nice poem! Nice words! - 'In the womb of deep slumber'.- very poetic.


WE LIVE IN HOPES

Jay greene Comment: amazing is the only word i can think of speechless 10+++++


SHE IS THIRTY, I’M SIXTY

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: This is simple mathematics. Use your lower half (sixty divided by two is equal to thirty) or wait another thirty years for her to become sixty.


BE YOU IN WORDS

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Good advice, worth following. Will take it to my list, for reference. Thanks for sharing Praveen.10


HIS SMILE FLOODS TREASURE

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Lucky guy.....................


STOP COMING

Sumita Datta Comment: But... it's a recurring strokes... It won't stop...


BYGONES ARE BYGONES

Sumita Datta Comment: Actually, bygones are bygones.. liked your piece of work...


ETERNAL SEARCH

Bonnie Shipman Comment: Praveen, this is very beautiful. The words flow smoothly and finely. In it, I see God's search for man. Even when we would hide ourselves from the living God, He finds us and calls to us. We need only to respond.

Margaret Alice Comment:

'I chose words, I created worlds
To impale you in poetry's net; '

Struck me forcibly - to catch and hold through the power of words...


GENTLE LIGHT

Bonnie Shipman Comment: I am glad for the expression of this poem. But one question- what of the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit? It is the spirit which holds the most beauty.

I see music in his hands.
I see eloquence in her mouth.
I see dancing in his feet.
I see understanding in her eyes.
I see prayer in he knees.
I see giving in her arms.
I see compassion in his shoulders.
I see love in their eyes.
I see God in their soul.

Margaret Alice Comment: 'makes sorrow sweet and excess joy bitter
To guide the life through a healthy rich path
Of eternal peace and contentment; '

Eternal, the magic word, take sweetness from joy to sweeten sorrow...


COSMIC PROBE

Margaret Alice Comment: A cosmic scope, the speaker becomes a symbol of the dark earth [body] lying in wait for the power of light [spirit] to find and fill it with life and joy. The reader can find several symbols in the poem, find the image of imprisoned lover waiting to be found by the beloved who seeks him out in his despondency and brings hope and joy to his soul. the soul keeps seeking the physical body because it is home, allowing it to interact with other aspects of reality – or infinity. The lover and his beloved becomes a symbol of the unity between spirit and soul. It is a pleasure to come upon a poem that allows the reader scope to speculate in this way.


HER SWEET SOUL NEVER HURTS ANY

Margaret Alice Comment: The poet personifies the qualities of love, compassion, humility, upliftment, righteousness, as a “queen” that reigns over him and controls his actions. He uses the description of adoration for a beloved as a symbol to illustrate his relationship with these qualities that he admires so much. He assigns these admirable virtues to a powerful being who has the ability to reign over him.


IMPREGNABLE BOND

Margaret Alice Comment: The unity aspired to and attained in embracing a beloved can be seen symbolise the eternity of love – memories and thoughts are important as ties that bind the poet to the beloved – within the context of this series of poems the beloved is the personification of man’s higher aspirations. When memories and thoughts are lost, love remains and love is symbolised by unity.


IN NATURE’S CELESTIAL TIE

Margaret Alice Comment: 'I live in her, and she, in me, indivisible ever, '

A beautiful depiction of love and hope.


MY SELFLESS ANGEL

Margaret Alice Comment: 'She found her joy I could not give her In my barren shadow, sadly bleak and cold.'

What a strange poem, it can be interpreted in so many ways, within the context of these series, it seems that the virtues personified by the angel would not desert the poet even when he refused to embrace them wholly - I think.


SOUL BOUND TO SOUL

Margaret Alice Comment: 'We know we are one and destined to blend.'
'But, comes our time, all is worth of it.'

Now this is positive, what a great exmaple for the discouraged and tired seeker, keep the faith and all is worth it - great words, inspiring, lovely.


SAPNA

Margaret Alice Comment:
'Oh, how a thing of beauty, breeds that much pain!
How gentle love throttles joy, brings misfortunes! '

I always goes with Terry Pratchett's interpretations when confronted with sad tales like these - just as Romeo and Juliet should have checked for pulse before killing themselves, these characters should have acted in a different way - seems like Pratchett and I refuse to accept sad endings as inevitable - I never shall. Quantum physics says the universe splits every time a decision is made and quite the reverse takes place somewhere else - the universe split and in a parallel universe these two lovers are living happily!


SHE IS PURE GOLD

Margaret Alice Comment: “Wisdom” calling to foolish men and women mentioned to in Proverbs, the Bible, seems to be delineated in this description. Wisdom always seemed to be an aspect of beauty, because beauty without wisdom would lack harmony, balance, truth, joy, peace – this description seems to refer to the highest ideals men aspire to. Lovely way to put it.


WHILE TIME COMES RIGHT

Margaret Alice Comment:

'Yet, a distant glimmer deep in my heart
Distinctly whispers that all is not lost,
Everything will be right while time comes right.'

That's it, hope and trust always, it gives meaning to human lives and best of all, it creates a positive ending, if you don't waver, your wishes will be fulfilled.


SHE FLOODS MY SOUL

Margaret Alice Comment: 'She is the precious jewel I sought all my life.'

This reminds the reader of the parable in the New Testament, when a man found a precious jewel in a piece of land, he buried it again and went away and sold all his possessions and bought that piece of land to keep that jewel for himself.


SIMPLY YOURS

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: ‘I’m “Simply Yours”’ a Romantic poem the …vibe spinning tangentially into horizon and picturesque…10

Margaret Alice Comment: You are my world, my light, You are my fulfillment, You are my reason, my meaning, You are my cause and target, Wherefore I move all through life.

Hasmukh Amathalal Comment:
You are my world, my light,
You are my fulfillment,
You are my reason, my meaning,
You are my cause and target,
Wherefore I move all through life............open and frank admission I am yours' so beautifully interwove3nwith clear heart and it has moved me with its words.. lovely sir.....10


GULF OF LIFE AND DEATH

Cyanic Orchid Comment: nice expressions........


DIVINE IS MY STATE

MaKayla Straight Comment: WOW! ! ! GOOD JOB! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Margaret Alice Comment:

You fill me with such wealth that I, whether high or low,
Need no worldly grace or scope unto me ever flow.”

Ooo, wish all love was like this! I am paid to read dark letters of despair and your uplifting lines is taking me on a journey far away into a new universe of light, love, music and verse. You sing beautifully.


LOVE SONG

Margaret Alice Comment: 'With an ocean of emotions churning between.'

The universal human condition, yet we all live on surface, we never probe the ice-floes beneath...


TEMPLE OF WORDS

Margaret Alice Comment:

You bring huge waves in the ocean of soul
That washes the shores of heart and mind
With melodious tunes and passions' foams;
While low tides set on the soul's trough,
All go still and disturbingly calm.

This is striking rhythm and melody, oceans of soul and passion's foams, great imagery...


THE TOUCH OF SPRING

Margaret Alice Comment: Comfort, gentle care, warmth - this is real love, wonderful.


RECOLLECTIONS

Margar et Alice Comment: 'Make life a vaulting heaven, this world, a joy's holy shrine.'

'rousing pleasures' are fleeting, can be a trap, leaves the reveller feeling empty, but the last line is wonderful, the discovery of infinity in the here and now - that is something to dream about.


MY ELUSIVE PRETTY WIFE

Margaret Alice Comment: 'To seek, search and discover my elusive pretty wife. '

What a delightful ode to your wife! I am reading ice-cold words in official grey documents ashen with meaninglessness, therefore it is a delight to follow a series of poems in which a poet delineates love in spiritual terms and emotions are more important than rational logic.


ON HER

Margaret Alice Comment: What a lovely way to end the official day, words that remind of spiritual truths and joys in feelings and uplifting ideas!


TIMELESS SONG

Margaret Alice Comment: it is very difficult to read grey words after these beautiful visions

Margaret Alice Comment: you know not what you are for me, how deep and wide you fill my self,


I LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE

Margaret Alice Comment: 'Love is pure bliss, Love is pure feel'

thank you for this reminder that life is bigger than the small official space here and now...

Margaret Alice Comment:

'I love you for what you are,
Not for what you ought to be,
Nor for what you some day is;
You, as you are now, here and near, '

Unconditional love and acceptance, no ifs and buts and demands, to love because, not in spite of.


RISE AGAIN IN THE EAST

Margaret Alice Comment: “on immortal mortal face”
I love juxtapositions like this!

“unite in immortal love’s bond”
That is the only kind of love there is, immortal – I agree.


EVERLASTING JOY

Margaret Alice Comment:

'You made this life a dulcet music,
A passionate painting, a sensuous poetry.'

You felt this, or imagined it, the ability to feel so much and dream of such visions, it has me in thrall...

Margaret Alice Comment:

You made this life a dulcet music,
A passionate painting, a sensuous poetry.
You dyed my heart in everlasting beauty,
You dyed my soul in everlasting joy;


PRISTINE WORLD

Margaret Alice Comment: Enormous scope of your visions… bigger than anything I have ever thought about...

Margaret Alice Comment: Shades and hues of infinite joy It is a great world of divine joy Where divinity spreads in fluid opulence, Where love cries in unbound joy, sacred temple Where gods come to worship the queen Who created the world with her pristine charm And lord over it all over since then; The hymns of love and dim temple light Come across to reach only graceful souls. No dusts and smokes of forlorn years Ever ravage her pristine form, Ever disturb her unworldly love, She lives and lives forever and ever in the old world, in all new worlds too.


SHE SMILES FROM A MYSTIC LAND

Margaret Alice Comment: 'Where we dwell in immortal rest.'

Forever and immortal - concepts that give meaning to life.


IN COSMIC CYCLE

Margaret Alice Comment: 'In timeless love that blends our hearts.'

Key word: Timeless - the temporary world is but a window on the eternal timeless spirit that lives forever.


IN CELESTIAL RHYTHM

Margaret Alice Comment: 'She lives in me forever in the shine of my soul, '
'In every streak of love I find anywhere.'

Perfect, love as eternal, every instance of love is one more channel to the infinite source of love, one instance of love opened awareness to all other manifestations of love.


I HEAR ALL DAY YOUR LITTLE WHISPERS

Margaret Alice Comment: ', you are unbound joy, inner peace, sheer harmony, my beauty, my truth and essence.'
'nothing I find harder than knowing you'

So many of us share your quest for mental peace and spiritual joy!


CELESTIAL MUSIC

Margaret Alice Comment: 'find her lurking in all splendid things,
In all noble deeds, trusts and all human needs, '

Once again the theme of finding the constant wonder within changing things, finding the eternal beauty within the stream of life ever-changing - holding the eternal within.


I’M JUST NOUGHT WITHOUT HER

Lady Grace Comment: so nice..this poem talks a lot...well appreciated...very nice dear....smileeee

Margaret Alice Comment: “immortal flame of my soul / timeless together / endless bliss / endless future”

This is a language that stirs the soul, uncovers temporality to show the eternal spirit burning wondrously behind short-lived manifestations, the symbols of eternal consciousness.

Margaret Alice Comment: Sarva Karana Karanam, Cause of all causes, Root of all roots, Source of all sources is she.


HER RESOLVE

Yoonoos Peerbocus Comment: you control each stanza up to the theme/ nice write


ALONG THE VENNELS OF YORE

Margaret Alice Comment: 'And held me fast to her for all ages to come.'

Love enduring forever - that is the only true love, the only reality, it lives forever, it is eternity.


ACROSS THE GULF

Margaret Alice Comment: “endless dance, a world of everlasting love and trust”
“endless” and “everlasting”, words that hold more charm than any other in every universe


LOVE

Margaret Alice Comment: ”Unknown hopes Deepen passions and strengthen bonds.
love does not wait for time's swing, But bides on steadfast patient growth”

Love transcends time’s pendulum and instead of withering, keeps growing, across all intervening space, across the span of time.

Margaret Alice Comment: She sprang from time's tapestry, Like full moon, And streamed soft light all over him; She blew over his heart's barrenness Like the gust of westerly wind do to clouds And poured sprightly rain of joy.A skyward climb discovers descend, ”Unknown hopes Deepen passions and strengthen bonds. love does not wait for time's swing, But bides on steadfast patient growth”

My comment: Yes, love transcends time’s pendulum and instead of withering, keeps growing, across all intervening space.


PARTINGS MEANT TO DEEPEN BOND

Margaret Alice Comment: “While soul is on focus, no labours count, No obstacles haunt, no hurdles mount.”

Having a purpose and led by an ideal, no amount of sacrifice can hold us back, obstacles shrink away under inner power.

“Inseparably we are spliced in endless heavenly field,
Partings we suffer meant perchance to deepen bond.”

When the magnificent effect of temporary pain is understood and meekly submitted to, the pain creates a space for more joy and leaves no scar – we grow stronger at the places where life has broken us, and discover that pain changes us into glowing sticks if we let it!

Margaret Alice Comment: Intense like sun and soft like pure gold,
She stirred my soul to my singular goal


FROM UNKNOWN HORIZONS

Margaret Alice Comment: Perfect description of the soul becoming one with the all, although painful swelling of passion is stilled, the joy of inner experience as oneness is richer with feeling and experience than the physical world ever offered, and giving up the movement of passion is no sacrifice, but the door to a new horizon of celestial joy never experienced before.

“And absorbs me head-on like water on sand;
All passions still, but pure streaks of joy
And I glow as light in communion with light
I see with inner eyes and feel with inner mind;
The soul that drinks the divine glow,
No more sinks back to the hell of black passions.”

Margaret Alice Comment: The reason I love this poem is because it gives hope for transcendence into joy, not away from it. “And absorbs me head-on like water on sand; All passions still, but pure streaks of joy And I glow as light in communion with light I see with inner eyes and feel with inner mind; The soul that drinks the divine glow, No more sinks back to the hell of black passions.”


BLOOMED IN ENDLESS JOY

Margaret Alice Comment: 'Hearts seared in pain for each,
Now bloomed in endless joy; '

Wonderful, the steady, loyal heart recompensed, and even the journey only, the challenge, holds joy indescribable, love is its own recompense, if it also brings the travellers to their beloveds, just so much more beautiful!


IMMORTAL LIGHT

Margaret Alice Comment:

'What an immortal joy, you carried on you!
You came and you went, but the light persists all over.
the streams of immortal light, '

This is true love, when the appearance of the loved one changes the lover forever, the joy that was brought is immortal, the light persists even after the person left - the change is eternal and the lovers will be reunited after death for ever and ever. This is the only vision of love that makes life livable - and beautiful.


I KNOW HER

Margaret Alice Comment:

'For eternal commune of souls,
In ecstatic speck of continual 'now', '

Heidegger - in following Zen-Buddhism - experience wihout interpretation - phenomenology - eternal unity and ecstasy as one big eternal present tense - THIS is the perfect spiritual ideal, love becomes godly, the only kind of love to strive for, the dream and ideal...


THAT DAY

Margaret Alice Comment: An epic tale of cosmic dimensions...

'Her easy marking him shook deep his soul;
Like life to sunshine, soul to sweet notes,
Her heart danced wild in his warm presence; '


PARTING RHYMES

Margaret Alice Comment:

“Trust me”, cried I, “trust the divine designs,
I swear on my lovely Goddess, destiny shall shine bright;
All fears and tears just meant to deepen our mutual bonds;
Nothing shall stop me from bonding to my pretty queen,


IN CAGE

Margaret Alice Comment: Only shallow eyes do see me in cage.


MY MORTAL EYES

Margaret Alice Comment: How much I desire to take you in arms And hold you tight to my yearning heart! Tell me where you hide from my mortal eyes; I reach far worlds and find you there


MY LOVE

Margaret Alice Comment:

She is my rhythm, the perfect rhyme,
The cosmic dance that bounces worth.
The world is a desert without her presence,
A void is life, devoid of essence;
The spin of time, a whine of hollowness,
Cool and dull, whimpers of shallowness.


FREE WORLD

Booklover Tv Lounger Comment: Pretty cool. Sounds epic in my opinion, like it should belong to the beggining of an awesome movie or game. Great job! Keep it up
-SJD


FLOWERS

Abhinav Baruah Comment: Thank you
Beautiful fragrance and positive vibrant.....
10+


COMPROMISE

Abhinav Baruah Comment: 'Man loses to gain,
Falls to rise and bends to standup'

..... Beauty of living.....
Enjoyed..


THE NATURE

Indira Renganathan Comment: The nature is a clean mirror of the soul
Where the soul itself reflects for real,
Bright like the sun, yet soft like the moon
And refreshingly pure like the morning dews.

Amazing observation and study on nature....great


SHINE LIKE THE SUN

Margaret Alice Comment: The poem reminded me of the highest challenge for people who want to shine like the sun: ….. The ideal is to realize one’s full potential without infringing on the rights and happiness of other people. ….. The one who truly shines can love and accept unconditionally without expecting anything in return, ….. – who simply adores and loves the world and its people for the pure reason of the glory of their existence.

Margaret Alice Comment: This exhortation rings beautiful ….. it should be directed to every human being everywhere, …..
“Be different, be the jewel of the crown,
Shine like the sun all over the heaven;
Stand up above the mediocre din
And show how high you are deep within; ”


POETRY

Margaret Alice Comment: ….. the poet approaching the goddess and asking her to be his muse and share herself, her own inspiring mind and feelings with him, to inspire his poetry so that he can write about the sublime. …..

“Lo, poetry surfaces from discontented soul.
The outside world in the inner cauldron
Sublimates to hot soothing vapour
That lingers in soul like poetic notes;
Trivials of the world, while churned in self,
Coagulate soft and sweet precipitates
That raise this world to enlightenment”,

the poet is addressing his own soul and his own muse, …..

What can I hold to impale you in words,
You wait on the side-stage to dance to tunes
To enter centre-stage, to create new realms,
Build bridges to the mind,

….. it is beautifully written containing all the rhythms and rhymes,

You pour live words of myriad hues
In forms and shapes and rhythms and depths” the poet is dreaming about.


WINNOCKS OF BEAUTY

Margaret Alice Comment: “as conceived by a poet in a great epic; ” what an overpowering beholder ….. to write an epic song like this, ….. celestial ideal, ….. style is a lovely, alliterative music and ….. take the reader on a heavenly journey –“where desires and peace rise hand in hand, where the heat and light of enlightenment grips the soul glows in divine passions.”


SELF-RESPECT

Margaret Alice Comment:

The road is wild, but a pleasant pursuit
To walk, head held high, in proud respect,
Though hungry beasts with bloody teeth
Wait to pounce and tear her Self.

…..poem brings all the elements of self-respect together that make life worthwhile. The only beasts who can tear self-respect is the subject’s own vision and decision, nobody else’s criticism, opinions or action can ever touch self-respect – it is a citadel, a safe sanctuary, and the source of love – of self and everything else.


BUDDHA

Margaret Alice Comment:

The Buddha found his final solace in flight and passivity, the end of all change.

In nirvana he found the supreme tool;
He attained awareness, he sought all his life;
Gouthama, the Sakyamuni, found abstinence
The cure for all the pain and sorrow.”

”He suffered for all, sacrificed all,
To find the path of deliverance;
He sought and lit the spiritual light
That illumed and liberated self and world
And cast gentle rays on the human race.”

The Buddha gave his life to help those who need to follow the road of sorrow to its very end and attain sainthood – a wonderful thing.


COSMIC GAME

Margaret Alice Comment:

”We partake in a mysterious game,
Where as mere tools, we play the game,
Though inside it, nowhere belong.”

I have great respect for all who share your sentiments and feel the alienation implied by these statements.


THOSE CAREFREE DAYS

Margaret Alice Comment:

the world was a huge playground then,
but, trust and love filled my world;
the carefree days did light my spirit”

The poet creates a picture of a perfect childhood, an idyllic picture ….


BLUE BEAUTY

Margaret Alice Comment: Inspiration and ideal personified as a woman, which in turn can be read as the personification of the subconscious also –


POETIC INSPIRATION

Margaret Alice Comment: Theme of inspiration personified as a woman: Together “Blue Beauty and “Poetic Inspiration” form a wonderful whole and the personification of ….. Muse, ascribing sensory experience and inner feeling to the experience, makes it exciting and provocative – thank you for wording your ideas in this way!

LIFE AND COSMOS

Margaret Alice Comment: Thank you for writing a poem about life and its meaning.

Life is a speck of light
In the womb of infinite darkness,
Life is a chance movement
In the ocean of ceaseless stillness.
Life is a celestial pinhole,
Where matter rocks in endless cycle”

Thank you for offering an opportunity to ponder these things.


I NEVER REACH YOU

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Indeed your poetic affect will ‘cynosure’ you … weather off … is just wreathing in … Excellent emotive poem... thro’ and thro’ vibe...oscillating…
Ms. Nivedita UK
PS 10


INDIA

Dilwyn Bowen Comment: Excellent piece of writing. Your pride and sadness come through with great skill. Must give this a ten and a favourite read.
Regards,
Dilwyn


UNKNOWN BEAUTY

Margaret Alice Comment: What a lovely way to describe finding an ideal, personifying the ideal as a woman and filling the poem with concrete images and enabling the reader to interact with the poem.


CYCLES

Venkatesh Ram Comment: marvellous.unguided it seems but in reality everything has a cyclic life


LIFE

Milica Franchi de Luri Comment: 'Life is an ocean of infinite waves' What a lovely metaphor...


STRANGE WORLD

Resten Swondo Comment: That befall in grotesque forms
Beyond reason’s confines

beyond reason, there is beauty. for love knows know reason as any man with two good eyes will tell you.

Interesting lyrical power...


THOUGHT

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Rich in metaphor, very elaborate, and thought provoking.10 from me, Kumar.


TO SAIL

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: How far should I sail to touch the shore of dreams?
........Nice opening sentence.


THUNDERBOLTS

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Long reading. The last stanza summs up.


FIGHT

Is It Poetry Comment: These are...
some of the wisest words
i have come to hear...
while here...iip
Fighting is so useless..
fools fight..always..
wise fight for family, child, country
and reward of labors...from thief...


COMMUNISM

Sadiqullah Khan Comment: Thought and knowledge. Well explained.10


MAFIA

Niyas Jamal Comment: jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! ! jai ho! ! ! !


SHE SPELLS SIMPLICITY

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Wonderful portraying of femininity in various tones and tunes ….svelte supple lissome limber…
Yeah we women are like that…and look for cooperation from all….this poem aesthetically sounds like: Glory Unto Women …thanks for this tribute-type poem especially when the aura and aroma of World Woman’s Day still oscillating …spreading noetic message … enjoyed by all heart…
10+


COSMIC CYCLE

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Amazing…spellbound…full of wisdom…gleaming glittering with all noble thoughts… Finish is ‘We ride the tides of ruthless time/In timeless love that blends our hearts. ‘Ruthless time can’t shackle us where Love is the propelling force… We stay anchored in the sanctuary of Love. Finest diction and plenty of food for contemplation and deeply…10+

IN CELESTIAL RHYTHM

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Sir to me it is narrative poem rich in metaphor ambience and spilling vibes of emotions. Who she was? Indeed a poetic riddle poets’ love to keep inside …allow readers to ponder and find the answer…and your crafting is likewise… ‘Lay still and breathless, alas, in endless sleep... ‘gush of gosh… well its a part of poetry…thanks for sharing. Voted 10


COSMIC PROBE

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Magnificent chant soliloquizing with the All Highest. The canvas is unfathomable but your vibe outstretched max to cover in allness and fullness… you’ve made a free to and fro travel withYou and me and I ‘
Finally consecrated yourself ‘And spur you to the probe/By the sheer strength of our bond. ‘ Excellent poetic experience for me and learning …than you very much for such a great poem… Voted 10

SHE IS PURE GOLD

Nivedita Bagchi SPC UK Comment: Your poem reminds me great Swami Vivekananda’s opinion: Unless she [read women] are respected and adored no nation can progress. Here I find you’ve beautifully followed [might be unknowingly] the same thing… being a woman please don’t think its a gender bias I’m favoring forits because of my great country India where I originated…that genotype working subconsciously… Its wonderful poem and enjoyed and cherished thro’ and thru…
10+

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Pharsalia - Book 1

The Crossing of the Rubicon

Wars worse than civil on Emathian plains,
And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race
Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword;
Armies akin embattled, with the force
Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray;
And burst asunder, to the common guilt,
A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met,
Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.

Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust
To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome?
Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still,
Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled,
To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon?
Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home?
What lands, what oceans might have been the prize
Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife!
Where Titan rises, where night hides the stars,
'Neath southern noons all quivering with heat,
Or where keen frost that never yields to spring
In icy fetters binds the Scythian main:
Long since barbarians by the Eastern sea
And far Araxes' stream, and those who know
(If any such there be) the birth of Nile
Had felt our yoke. Then, Rome, upon thyself
With all the world beneath thee, if thou must,
Wage this nefarious war, but not till then.

Now view the houses with half-ruined walls
Throughout Italian cities; stone from stone
Has slipped and lies at length; within the home
No guard is found, and in the ancient streets so
Scarce seen the passer by. The fields in vain,
Rugged with brambles and unploughed for years,
Ask for the hand of man; for man is not.
Nor savage Pyrrhus nor the Punic horde
E'er caused such havoc: to no foe was given
To strike thus deep; but civil strife alone
Dealt the fell wound and left the death behind.
Yet if the fates could find no other way
For Nero coming, nor the gods with ease
Gain thrones in heaven; and if the Thunderer
Prevailed not till the giant's war was done,
Complaint is silent. For this boon supreme
Welcome, ye gods, be wickedness and crime;
Thronged with our dead be dire Pharsalia's fields,
Be Punic ghosts avenged by Roman blood;
Add to these ills the toils of Mutina;
Perusia's dearth; on Munda's final field
The shock of battle joined; let Leucas' Cape
Shatter the routed navies; servile hands
Unsheath the sword on fiery Etna's slopes:
Still Rome is gainer by the civil war.
Thou, Caesar, art her prize. When thou shalt choose,
Thy watch relieved, to seek divine abodes,
All heaven rejoicing; and shalt hold a throne,
Or else elect to govern Phoebus' car
And light a subject world that shall not dread
To owe her brightness to a different Sun;
All shall concede thy right: do what thou wilt,
Select thy Godhead, and the central clime
Whence thou shalt rule the world with power divine.
And yet the Northern or the Southern Pole
We pray thee, choose not; but in rays direct
Vouchsafe thy radiance to thy city Rome.
Press thou on either side, the universe
Should lose its equipoise: take thou the midst,
And weight the scales, and let that part of heaven
Where Caesar sits, be evermore serene
And smile upon us with unclouded blue.
Then may all men lay down their arms, and peace
Through all the nations reign, and shut the gates
That close the temple of the God of War.
Be thou my help, to me e'en now divine!
Let Delphi's steep her own Apollo guard,
And Nysa keep her Bacchus, uninvoked.
Rome is my subject and my muse art thou!

First of such deeds I purpose to unfold
The causes -- task immense -- what drove to arms
A maddened nation, and from all the world
Struck peace away.

By envious fate's decrees
Abide not long the mightiest lords of earth;
Beneath too heavy a burden great the fall.
Thus Rome o'ergrew her strength. So when that hour,
The last in all the centuries, shall sound
The world's disruption, all things shall revert
To that primaeval chaos, stars on stars
Shall crash; and fiery meteors from the sky
Plunge in the ocean. Earth shall then no more
Front with her bulwark the encroaching sea:
The moon, indignant at her path oblique,
Shall drive her chariot 'gainst her brother Sun
And claim the day for hers; and discord huge
Shall rend the spheres asunder.
On themselves
Great powers are dashed: such bounds the gods have placed
Upon the prosperous; nor doth Fortune lend
To any nations, so that they may strike
The sovereign power that rules the earth and sea,
The weapons of her envy. Triple reign
And baleful compact for divided power --
Ne'er without peril separate before --
Made Rome their victim. Oh! Ambition blind,
That stirred the leaders so to join their strength
In peace that ended ill, their prize the world!
For while the Sea on Earth and Earth on Air
Lean for support: while Titan runs his course,
And night with day divides an equal sphere,
No king shall brook his fellow, nor shall power
Endure a rival. Search no foreign lands:
These walls are proof that in their infant days
A hamlet, not the world, was prize enough
To cause the shedding of a brother's blood.

Concord, on discord based, brief time endured,
Unwelcome to the rivals; and alone
Crassus delayed the advent of the war.
Like to the slender neck that separates
The seas of Graecia: should it be engulfed
Then would th' Ionian and Aegean mains
Break each on other: thus when Crassus fell,
Who held apart the chiefs, in piteous death,
And stained Assyria's plains with Latian blood,
Defeat in Parthia loosed the war in Rome.
More in that victory than ye thought was won,
Ye sons of Arsaces; your conquered foes
Took at your hands the rage of civil strife.
The mighty realm that earth and sea contained,
To which all peoples bowed, split by the sword,
Could not find space for two . For Julia bore,
Cut off by fate unpitying, the bond
Of that ill-omened marriage, and the pledge
Of blood united, to the shades below.
Had'st thou but longer stayed, it had been thine
To keep the husband and the sire apart,
And, as the Sabine women did of old,
Dash down the threatening swords and join the hands.
With thee all trust was buried, and the chiefs
Could give their courage vent, and rushed to war.

Lest newer glories triumphs past obscure,
Late conquered Gaul the bays from pirates won,
This, Magnus, was thy fear; thy roll of fame,
Of glorious deeds accomplished for the state
Allows no equal; nor will Caesar's pride
A prior rival in his triumphs brook;
Which had the right 'twere impious to enquire;
Each for his cause can vouch a judge supreme;
The victor, heaven: the vanquished, Cato, thee.
Nor were they like to like: the one in years
Now verging towards decay, in times of peace
Had unlearned war; but thirsting for applause
Had given the people much, and proud of fame
His former glory cared not to renew,
But joyed in plaudits of the theatre,
His gift to Rome: his triumphs in the past,
Himself the shadow of a mighty name.
As when some oak, in fruitful field sublime,
Adorned with venerable spoils, and gifts
Of bygone leaders, by its weight to earth
With feeble roots still clings; its naked arms
And hollow trunk, though leafless, give a shade;
And though condemned beneath the tempest's shock
To speedy fall, amid the sturdier trees
In sacred grandeur rules the forest still.
No such repute had Ceesar won, nor fame;
But energy was his that could not rest --
The only shame he knew was not to win.
Keen and unvanquished, where revenge or hope
Might call, resistless would he strike the blow
With sword unpitying: every victory won
Reaped to the full; the favour of the gods
Pressed to the utmost; all that stayed his course
Aimed at the summit of power, was thrust aside:
Triumph his joy, though ruin marked his track.
As parts the clouds a bolt by winds compelled,
With crack of riven air and crash of worlds,
And veils the light of day, and on mankind,
Blasting their vision with its flames oblique,
Sheds deadly fright; then turning to its home, '
Nought but the air opposing, through its path
Spreads havoc, and collects its scattered fires.

Such were the hidden motives of the chiefs;
But in the public life the seeds of war
Their hold had taken, such as are the doom
Of potent nations: and when fortune poured
Through Roman gates the booty of a world,
The curse of luxury, chief bane of states,
Fell on her sons. Farewell the ancient ways!
Behold the pomp profuse, the houses decked
With ornament; their hunger loathed the food
Of former days; men wore attire for dames
Scarce fitly fashioned; poverty was scorned,
Fruitful of warriors; and from all the world
Came that which ruins nations; while the fields
Furrowed of yore by great Camillus' plough,
Or by the mattock which a Curius held,
Lost their once narrow bounds, and widening tracts
By hinds unknown were tilled. No nation this
To sheathe the sword, with tranquil peace content
And with her liberties; but prone to ire;
Crime holding light as though by want compelled:
And great the glory in the minds of men,
Ambition lawful even at point of sword,
To rise above their country: might their law:
Decrees are forced from Senate and from Plebs:
Consul and Tribune break the laws alike:
Bought are the fasces, and the people sell
For gain their favour: bribery's fatal curse
Corrupts the annual contests of the Field.
Then covetous usury rose, and interest
Was greedier ever as the seasons came;
Faith tottered; thousands saw their gain in war.

Caesar has crossed the Alps, his mighty soul
Great tumults pondering and the coming shock.
Now on the marge of Rubicon, he saw,
In face most sorrowful and ghostly guise,
His trembling country's image; huge it seemed
Through mists of night obscure; and hoary hair
Streamed from the lofty front with turrets crowned:
Torn were her locks and naked were her arms.
Then thus, with broken sighs the Vision spake:
"What seek ye, men of Rome? and whither hence
Bear ye my standards? If by right ye come,
My citizens, stay here; these are the bounds;
No further dare." But Caesar's hair was stiff
With horror as he gazed, and ghastly dread
Restrained his footsteps on the further bank.
Then spake he, "Thunderer, who from the rock
Tarpeian seest the wall of mighty Rome;
Gods of my race who watched o'er Troy of old;
Thou Jove of Alba's height, and Vestal fires,
And rites of Romulus erst rapt to heaven,
And God-like Rome; be friendly to my quest.
Not with offence or hostfie arms I come,
Thy Caesar, conqueror by land and sea,
Thy soldier here and wheresoe'er thou wilt:
No other's; his, his only be the guilt
Whose acts make me thy foe.' He gives the word
And bids his standards cross the swollen stream.
So in the wastes of Afric's burning clime
The lion crouches as his foes draw near,
Feeding his wrath the while, his lashing tail
Provokes his fury; stiff upon his neck
Bristles his mane: deep from his gaping jaws
Resounds a muttered growl, and should a lance
Or javelin reach him from the hunter's ring,
Scorning the puny scratch he bounds afield.

From modest fountain blood-red Rubicon
In summer's heat flows on; his pigmy tide
Creeps through the valleys and with slender marge
Divides the Italian peasant from the Gaul.
Then winter gave him strength, and fraught with rain
The third day's crescent moon; while Eastern winds
Thawed from the Alpine slopes the yielding snow.
The cavalry first form across the stream '
To break the torrent's force; the rest with ease
Beneath their shelter gain the further bank.
When Csesar crossed and trod beneath his feet
The soil of Italy's forbidden fields,
"Here," spake he, "peace, here broken laws be left;
Farewell to treaties. Fortune, lead me on;
War is our judge, and in the fates our trust."
Then in the shades of night he leads the troops
Swifter than Balearic sling or shaft
Winged by retreating Parthian, to the walls
Of threatened Rimini, while fled the stars,
Save Lucifer, before the coming sun,
Whose fires were veiled in clouds, by south wind driven,
Or else at heaven's command: and thus drew on
The first dark morning of the civil war.

Now stand the troops within the captured town,
Their standards planted; and the trumpet clang
Rings forth in harsh alarums, giving note
Of impious strife: roused from their sleep the men
Rush to the hall and snatch the ancient arms
Long hanging through the years of peace; the shield
With crumbling frame; dark with the tooth of rust
Their swords ; and javelins with blunted point.
But when the well-known signs and eagles shone,
And Caesar towering o'er the throng was seen,
They shook for terror, fear possessed their limbs,
And thoughts unuttered stirred within their souls.
"O miserable those to whom their home
Denies the peace that all men else enjoy!
Placed as we are beside the Northern bounds
And scarce a footstep from the restless Gaul,
We fall the first; would that our lot had been
Beneath the Eastern sky, or frozen North,
To lead a wandering life, rather than keep
The gates of Latium. Brennus sacked the town
And Hannibal, and all the Teuton hosts.
For when the fate of Rome is in the scale
By this path war advances." Thus they moan
Their fears but speak them not; no sound is heard
Giving their anguish utterance: as when
In depth of winter all the fields are still,
The birds are voiceless and no sound is heard
To break the silence of the central sea.
But when the day had broken through the shades
Of chilly darkness, lo! the torch of war!
For by the hand of Fate is swift dispersed
All Caesar's shame of battle, and his mind
Scarce doubted more; and Fortune toiled to make
His action just and give him cause for arms.
For while Rome doubted and the tongues of men
Spoke of the chiefs who won them rights of yore,
The hostile Senate, in contempt of right,
Drove out the Tribunes. They to Caesar's camp
With Curio hasten, who of venal tongue,
Bold, prompt, persuasive, had been wont to preach
Of Freedom to the people, and to call
Upon the chiefs to lay their weapons down .
And when he saw how deeply Caesar mused,
"While from the rostrum I had power," he said,
To call the populace to aid thy cause,
By this my voice against the Senate's will
Was thy command prolonged. But silenced now
Are laws in war: we driven from our homes;
Yet is our exile willing; for thine arms
Shall make us citizens of Rome again.
Strike; for no strength as yet the foe hath gained.
Occasion calls, delay shall mar it soon:
Like risk, like labour, thou hast known before,
But never such reward. Could Gallia hold
Thine armies ten long years ere victory came,
That little nook of earth? One paltry fight
Or twain, fought out by thy resistless hand,
And Rome for thee shall have subdued the world:
'Tis true no triumph now would bring thee home;
No captive tribes would grace thy chariot wheels
Winding in pomp around the ancient hill.
Spite gnaws the factions; for thy conquests won
Scarce shalt thou be unpunished. Yet 'tis fate
Thou should'st subdue thy kinsman: share the world
With him thou canst not; rule thou canst, alone."
As when at Elis' festival a horse
In stable pent gnaws at his prison bars
Impatient, and should clamour from without
Strike on his ear, bounds furious at restraint,
So then was Caesar, eager for the fight,
Stirred by the words of Curio. To the ranks
He bids his soldiers; with majestic mien
And hand commanding silence as they come.
"Comrades," he cried, "victorious returned,
Who by my side for ten long years have faced,
'Mid Alpine winters and on Arctic shores,
The thousand dangers of the battle-field --
Is this our country's welcome, this her prize
For death and wounds and Roman blood outpoured?
Rome arms her choicest sons; the sturdy oaks
Are felled to make a fleet; -- what could she more
If from the Alps fierce Hannibal were come
With all his Punic host? By land and sea
Caesar shall fly! Fly? Though in adverse war
Our best had fallen, and the savage Gaul
Were hard upon our track, we would not fly.
And now, when fortune smiles and kindly gods
Beckon us on to glory! -- Let him come
Fresh from his years of peace, with all his crowd
Of conscript burgesses, Marcellus' tongue
And Cato's empty name! We will not fly.
Shall Eastern hordes and greedy hirelings keep
Their loved Pompeius ever at the helm?
Shall chariots of triumph be for him
Though youth and law forbad them? Shall he seize
On Rome's chief honours ne'er to be resigned?
And what of harvests blighted through the world
And ghastly famine made to serve his ends?
Who hath forgotten how Pompeius' bands
Seized on the forum, and with glittering arms
Made outraged justice tremble, while their swords
Hemmed in the judgment-seat where Milo stood?
And now when worn and old and ripe for rest ,
Greedy of power, the impious sword again
He draws. As tigers in Hyrcanian woods
Wandering, or in the caves that saw their birth,
Once having lapped the blood of slaughtered kine,
Shall never cease from rage; e'en so this whelp
Of cruel Sulla, nursed in civil war,
Outstrips his master; and the tongue which licked
That reeking weapon ever thirsts for more.
Stain once the lips with blood, no other meal
They shall enjoy. And shall there be no end
Of these long years of power and of crime?
Nay, this one lesson, e'er it be too late,
Learn of thy gentle Sulla -- to retire!
Of old his victory o'er Cilician thieves
And Pontus' weary monarch gave him fame,
By poison scarce attained. His latest prize
Shall I be, Caesar, I, who would not quit
My conquering eagles at his proud command?
Nay, if no triumph is reserved for me,
Let these at least of long and toilsome war
'Neath other leaders the rewards enjoy.
Where shall the weary soldier find his rest?
What cottage homes their joys, what fields their fruit
Shall to our veterans yield? Will Magnus say
That pirates only till the fields alight?
Unfurl your standards; victory gilds them yet,
As through those glorious years. Deny our rights!
He that denies them makes our quarrel just.
Nay! use the strength that we have made our own.
No booty seek we, nor imperial power.
This would-be ruler of subservient Rome
We force to quit his grasp; and Heaven shall smile
On those who seek to drag the tyrant down."

Thus Caesar spake; but doubtful murmurs ran
Throughout the listening crowd, this way and that
Their wishes urging them; the thoughts of home
And household gods and kindred gave them pause:
But fear of Caesar and the pride of war
Their doubts resolved. Then Laelius, who wore
The well-earned crown for Roman life preserved,
The foremost Captain of the army, spake:
"O greatest leader of the Roman name,
If 'tis thy wish the very truth to hear
'Tis mine to speak it; we complain of this,
That gifted with such strength thou did'st refrain
From using it. Had'st thou no trust in us?
While the hot life-blood fills these glowing veins,
While these strong arms avail to hurl the lance,
Wilt thou make peace and bear the Senate's rule?
Is civil conquest then so base and vile?
Lead us through Scythian deserts, lead us where
The inhospitable Syrtes line the shore
Of Afric's burning sands, or where thou wilt:
This hand, to leave a conquered world behind,
Held firm the oar that tamed the Northern Sea
And Rhine's swift torrent foaming to the main.
To follow thee fate gives me now the power:
The will was mine before. No citizen
I count the man 'gainst whom thy trumpets sound.
By ten campaigns of victory, I swear,
By all thy world-wide triumphs, though with hand
Unwilling, should'st thou now demand the life
Of sire or brother or of faithful spouse,
Caesar, the life were thine. To spoil the gods
And sack great Juno's temple on the hill,
To plant our arms o'er Tiber's yellow stream,
To measure out the camp, against the wall
To drive the fatal ram, and raze the town,
This arm shall not refuse, though Rome the prize."

His comrades swore consent with lifted hands
And vowed to follow wheresoe'er he led.
And such a clamour rent the sky as when
Some Thracian blast on Ossa's pine-clad rocks
Falls headlong, and the loud re-echoing woods,
Or bending, or rebounding from the stroke,
In sounding chorus lift the roar on high.

When Csesar saw them welcome thus the war
And Fortune leading on, and favouring fates,
He seized the moment, called his troops from Gaul,
And breaking up his camp set on for Rome.

The tents are vacant by Lake Leman's side;
The camps upon the beetling crags of Vosges
No longer hold the warlike Lingon down,
Fierce in his painted arms; Isere is left,
Who past his shallows gliding, flows at last
Into the current of more famous Rhone,
To reach the ocean in another name.
The fair-haired people of Cevennes are free:
Soft Aude rejoicing bears no Roman keel,
Nor pleasant Var, since then Italia's bound;
The harbour sacred to Alcides' name
Where hollow crags encroach upon the sea,
Is left in freedom: there nor Zephyr gains
Nor Caurus access, but the Circian blast
Forbids the roadstead by Monaecus' hold.
And others left the doubtful shore, which sea
And land alternate claim, whene'er the tide
Pours in amain or when the wave rolls back --
Be it the wind which thus compels the deep
From furthest pole, and leaves it at the flood;
Or else the moon that makes the tide to swell,
Or else, in search of fuel for his fires,
The sun draws heavenward the ocean wave; --
Whate'er the cause that may control the main
I leave to others; let the gods for me
Lock in their breasts the secrets of the world.

Those who kept watch beside the western shore
Have moved their standards home; the happy Gaul
Rejoices in their absence; fair Garonne
Through peaceful meads glides onward to the sea.
And where the river broadens, neath the cape
Her quiet harbour sleeps. No outstretched arm
Except in mimic war now hurls the lance.
No skilful warrior of Seine directs
The scythed chariot 'gainst his country's foe.
Now rest the Belgians, and the Arvernian race
That boasts our kinship by descent from Troy;
And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands
Were dipped in Cotta's blood, and those who wear
Sarmatian garb. Batavia's warriors fierce
No longer listen for the bugle call,
Nor those who dwell where Rhone's swift eddies sweep
Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain tribes
Who dwell about its source. Thou, too, oh Treves,
Rejoicest that the war has left thy bounds.
Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;
And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Hesus' horrid shrines,
And Taranis' altars cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north;
All these now rest in peace. And you, ye Bards,
Whose martial lays send down to distant times
The fame of valorous deeds in battle done,
Pour forth in safety more abundant song.
While you, ye Druids , when the war was done,
To mysteries strange and hateful rites returned:
To you alone 'tis given the gods and stars
To know or not to know; secluded groves
Your dwelling-place, and forests far remote.
If what ye sing be true, the shades of men
Seek not the dismal homes of Erebus
Or death's pale kingdoms; but the breath of life
Still rules these bodies in another age --
Life on this hand and that, and death between.
Happy the peoples 'neath the Northern Star
In this their false belief; for them no fear
Of that which frights all others: they with hands
And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe
And scorn to spare the life that shall return.
Ye too depart who kept the banks of Rhine
Safe from the foe, and leave the Teuton tribes
Free at their will to march upon the world.

Caesar, with strength increased and gathered troops
New efforts daring, spreads his bands afar
Through Italy, and fills the neighbouring towns.
Then empty rumour to well-grounded fear
Gave strength, and heralding the coming war
In hundred voices 'midst the people spread.
One cries in terror, "Swift the squadrons come
Where Nar with Tiber joins: and where, in meads
By oxen loved, Mevania spreads her walls,
Fierce Caesar hurries his barbarian horse.
Eagles and standards wave above his head,
And broad the march that sweeps across the land."
Nor is he pictured truly; greater far
More fierce and pitiless -- from conquered foes
Advancing; in his rear the peoples march.
Snatched from their homes between the Rhine and Alps,
To pillage Rome while Roman chiefs look on.
Thus each man's panic thought swells rumour's lie:
They fear the phantoms they themselves create.
Nor does the terror seize the crowd alone:
But fled the Fathers, to the Consuls first
Issuing their hated order, as for war;
And doubting of their safety, doubting too
Where lay the peril, through the choking gates,
Each where he would, rushed all the people forth.
Thou would'st believe that blazing to the torch
Were men's abodes, or nodding to their fall.
So streamed they onwards, frenzied with affright,
As though in exile only could they find
Hope for their country. So, when southern blasts
From Libyan whirlpools drive the boundless main,
And mast and sail crash down upon a ship
With ponderous weight, but still the frame is sound,
Her crew and captain leap into the sea,
Each making shipwreck for himself. 'Twas thus
They passed the city gates and fled to war.
No aged parent now could stay his son;
Nor wife her spouse, nor did they pray the gods
To grant the safety of their fatherland.
None linger on the threshold for a look
Of their loved city, though perchance the last.

Ye gods, who lavish priceless gifts on men,
Nor care to guard them, see victorious Rome
Teeming with life, chief city of the world,
With ample walls that all mankind might hold,
To coming Caesar left an easy prey.
The Roman soldier, when in foreign lands
Pressed by the enemy, in narrow trench
And hurried mound finds guard enough to make
His slumber safe; but thou, imperial Rome,
Alone on rumour of advancing foes
Art left a desert, and thy battlements
They trust not for one night. Yet for their fear
This one excuse was left; Pompeius fled.
Nor found they room for hope; for nature gave
Unerring portents of worse ills to come.
The angry gods filled earth and air and sea
With frequent prodigies; in darkest nights
Strange constellations sparkled through the gloom:
The pole was all afire, and torches flew
Across the depths of heaven; with horrid hair
A blazing comet stretched from east to west
And threatened change to kingdoms. From the blue
Pale lightning flashed, and in the murky air
The fire took divers shapes; a lance afar
Would seem to quiver or a misty torch;
A noiseless thunderbolt from cloudless sky
Rushed down, and drawing fire in northern parts
Plunged on the summit of the Alban mount.
The stars that run their courses in the night
Shone in full daylight; and the orbed moon,
Hid by the shade of earth, grew pale and wan.
The sun himself, when poised in mid career,
Shrouded his burning car in blackest gloom
And plunged the world in darkness, so that men
Despaired of day -- like as he veiled his light
From that fell banquet which Mycenae saw
The jaws of Etna were agape with flame
That rose not heavenwards, but headlong fell
In smoking stream upon the Italian flank.
Then black Charybdis, from her boundless depth,
Threw up a gory sea. In piteous tones
Howled the wild dogs; the Vestal fire was snatched
From off the altar; and the flame that crowned
The Latin festival was split in twain,
As on the Theban pyre in ancient days;
Earth tottered on its base: the mighty Alps
From off their summits shook th' eternal snow .
In huge upheaval Ocean raised his waves
O'er Calpe's rock and Atlas' hoary head.
The native gods shed tears, and holy sweat
Dropped from the idols; gifts in temples fell:
Foul birds defiled the day; beasts left the woods
And made their lair among the streets of Rome.
All this we hear; nay more: dumb oxen spake;
Monsters were brought to birth and mothers shrieked
At their own offspring; words of dire import
From Cumae's prophetess were noised abroad.
Bellona's priests with bleeding arms, and slaves
Of Cybele's worship, with ensanguined hair,
Howled chants of havoc and of woe to men.
Arms clashed; and sounding in the pathless woods
Were heard strange voices; spirits walked the earth:
And dead men's ashes muttered from the urn.
Those who live near the walls desert their homes,
For lo! with hissing serpents in her hair,
Waving in downward whirl a blazing pine,
A fiend patrols the town, like that which erst
At Thebes urged on Agave , or which hurled
Lycurgus' bolts, or that which as he came
From Hades seen, at haughty Juno's word,
Brought terror to the soul of Hercules.
Trumpets like those that summon armies forth
Were heard re-echoing in the silent night:
And from the earth arising Sulla's ghost
Sang gloomy oracles, and by Anio's wave
All fled the homesteads, frighted by the shade
Of Marius waking from his broken tomb.

In such dismay they summon, as of yore,
The Tuscan sages to the nation's aid.
Aruns, the eldest, leaving his abode
In desolate Luca, came, well versed in all
The lore of omens; knowing what may mean
The flight of hovering bird, the pulse that beats
In offered victims, and the levin bolt.
All monsters first, by most unnatural birth
Brought into being, in accursd flames
He bids consume.Then round the walls of Rome
Each trembling citizen in turn proceeds.
The priests, chief guardians of the public faith,
With holy sprinkling purge the open space
That borders on the wall; in sacred garb
Follows the lesser crowd: the Vestals come
By priestess led with laurel crown bedecked,
To whom alone is given the right to see
Minerva's effigy that came from Troy
Next come the keepers of the sacred books
And fate's predictions; who from Almo's brook
Bring back Cybebe laved; the augur too
Taught to observe sinister flight of birds;
And those who serve the banquets to the gods;
And Titian brethren; and the priest of Mars,
Proud of the buckler that adorns his neck;
By him the Flamen, on his noble head
The cap of office. While they tread the path
That winds around the walls, the aged seer
Collects the thunderbolts that fell from heaven,
And lays them deep in earth, with muttered words
Naming the spot accursed. Next a steer,
Picked for his swelling neck and beauteous form,
He leads to the altar, and with slanting knife
Spreads on his brow the meal, and pours the wine.
The victim's struggles prove the gods averse;
But when the servers press upon his horns

He bends the knee and yields him to the blow.
No crimson torrent issued at the stroke,
But from the wound a dark empoisoned stream
Ebbed slowly downward. Aruns at the sight
Aghast, upon the entrails of the beast
Essayed to read the anger of the gods.
Their very colour terrified the seer;
Spotted they were and pale, with sable streaks
Of lukewarm gore bespread; the liver damp
With foul disease, and on the hostile part
The angry veins defiant; of the lungs
The fibre hid, and through the vital parts
The membrane small; the heart had ceased to throb;
Blood oozes through the ducts; the caul is split:
And, fatal omen of impending ill,
One lobe o'ergrows the other; of the twain
The one lies flat and sick, the other beats
And keeps the pulse in rapid strokes astir.

Disaster's near approach thus learned, he cries --
"Whate'er may be the purpose of the gods,
'Tis not for me to tell; this offered beast
Not Jove possesses, but the gods below.
We dare not speak our fears, yet fear doth make
The future worse than fact. May all the gods
Prosper the tokens, and the sacrifice
Be void of truth, and Tages
Have vainly taught these mysteries." Such his words
Involved, mysterious. Figulus, to whom
For knowledge of the secret depths of space
And laws harmonious that guide the stars,
Memphis could find no peer, then spake at large:
"Either," he said, "the world and countless orbs
Throughout the ages wander at their will;
Or, if the fates control them, ruin huge
Hangs o'er this city and o'er all mankind.
Shall Earth yawn open and engulph the towns?
Shall scorching heat usurp the temperate air
And fields refuse their timely fruit? The streams
Flow mixed with poison? In what plague, ye gods,
In what destruction shall ye wreak your ire?
Whate'er the truth, the days in which we live
Shall find a doom for many. Had the star
Of baleful Saturn, frigid in the height,
Kindled his lurid fires, the sky had poured
Its torrents forth as in Deucalion's time,
And whelmed the world in waters. Or if thou,
Phoebus, beside the Nemean lion fierce
Wert driving now thy chariot, flames should seize
The universe and set the air ablaze.
These are at peace; but, Mars, why art thou bent
On kindling thus the Scorpion, his tail
Portending evil and his claws aflame?
Deep sunk is kindly Jupiter, and dull
Sweet Venus' star, and rapid Mercury
Stays on his course: Mars only holds the sky.
Why does Orion's sword too brightly shine?
Why planets leave their paths and through the void
Thus journey on obscure? 'Tis war that comes,
Fierce rabid war: the sword shall bear the rule
Confounding justice; hateful crime usurp
The name of virtue; and the havoc spread
Through many a year. But why entreat the gods?
The end Rome longs for and the final peace
Comes with a despot. Draw thou out thy chain
Of lengthening slaughter, and (for such thy fate)
Make good thy liberty through civil war."

The frightened people heard, and as they heard
His words prophetic made them fear the more.
But worse remained; for as on Pindus' slopes
Possessed with fury from the Theban god
Speeds some Bacchante, thus in Roman streets
Behold a matron run, who, in her trance,
Relieves her bosom of the god within.

"Where dost thou snatch me, Paean, to what shore
Through airy regions borne? I see the snows
Of Thracian mountains; and Philippi's plains
Lie broad beneath. But why these battle lines,
No foe to vanquish -- Rome on either hand?
Again I wander 'neath the rosy hues
That paint thine eastern skies, where regal Nile
Meets with his flowing wave the rising tide.
Known to mine eyes that mutilated trunk
That lies upon the sand! Across the seas
By changing whirlpools to the burning climes
Of Libya borne, again I see the hosts
From Thracia brought by fate's command. And now
Thou bear'st me o'er the cloud-compelling Alps
And Pyrenean summits; next to Rome.
There in mid-Senate see the closing scene
Of this foul war in foulest murder done.
Again the factions rise; through all the world
Once more I pass; but give me some new land,
Some other region, Phoebus, to behold!
Washed by the Pontic billows! for these eyes
Already once have seen Philippi's plains!"

The frenzy left her and she speechless fell.

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The Parish Register - Part I: Baptisms

The year revolves, and I again explore
The simple Annals of my Parish poor;
What Infant-members in my flock appear,
What Pairs I bless'd in the departed year;
And who, of Old or Young, or Nymphs or Swains,
Are lost to Life, its pleasures and its pains.
No Muse I ask, before my view to bring
The humble actions of the swains I sing. -
How pass'd the youthful, how the old their days;
Who sank in sloth, and who aspired to praise;
Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts,
What parts they had, and how they 'mploy'd their

parts;
By what elated, soothed, seduced, depress'd,
Full well I know-these Records give the rest.
Is there a place, save one the poet sees,
A land of love, of liberty, and ease;
Where labour wearies not, nor cares suppress
Th' eternal flow of rustic happiness;
Where no proud mansion frowns in awful state,
Or keeps the sunshine from the cottage-gate;
Where young and old, intent on pleasure, throng,
And half man's life is holiday and song?
Vain search for scenes like these! no view appears,
By sighs unruffled or unstain'd by tears;
Since vice the world subdued and waters drown'd,
Auburn and Eden can no more be found.
Hence good and evil mixed, but man has skill
And power to part them, when he feels the will!
Toil, care, and patience bless th' abstemious few,
Fear, shame, and want the thoughtless herd pursue.
Behold the Cot! where thrives th' industrious

swain,
Source of his pride, his pleasure, and his gain;
Screen'd from the winter's wind, the sun's last ray
Smiles on the window and prolongs the day;
Projecting thatch the woodbine's branches stop,
And turn their blossoms to the casement's top:
All need requires is in that cot contain'd,
And much that taste untaught and unrestrain'd
Surveys delighted; there she loves to trace,
In one gay picture, all the royal race;
Around the walls are heroes, lovers, kings;
The print that shows them and the verse that sings.
Here the last Louis on his throne is seen,
And there he stands imprison'd, and his Queen;
To these the mother takes her child, and shows
What grateful duty to his God he owes;
Who gives to him a happy home, where he
Lives and enjoys his freedom with the free;
When kings and queens, dethroned, insulted, tried,
Are all these blessings of the poor denied.
There is King Charles, and all his Golden Rules,
Who proved Misfortune's was the best of schools:
And there his Son, who, tried by years of pain,
Proved that misfortunes may be sent in vain.
The Magic-mill that grinds the gran'nams young,
Close at the side of kind Godiva hung;
She, of her favourite place the pride and joy,
Of charms at once most lavish and most coy,
By wanton act the purest fame could raise,
And give the boldest deed the chastest praise.
There stands the stoutest Ox in England fed;
There fights the boldest Jew, Whitechapel bred;
And here Saint Monday's worthy votaries live,
In all the joys that ale and skittles give.
Now, lo! on Egypt's coast that hostile fleet,
By nations dreaded and by NELSON beat;
And here shall soon another triumph come,
A deed of glory in a deed of gloom;
Distressing glory! grievous boon of fate!
The proudest conquest at the dearest rate.
On shelf of deal beside the cuckoo-clock,
Of cottage reading rests the chosen stock;
Learning we lack, not books, but have a kind
For all our wants, a meat for every mind.
The tale for wonder and the joke for whim,
The half-sung sermon and the half-groan'd hymn.
No need of classing; each within its place,
The feeling finger in the dark can trace;
'First from the corner, farthest from the wall,'
Such all the rules, and they suffice for all.
There pious works for Sunday's use are found;
Companions for that Bible newly bound;
That Bible, bought by sixpence weekly saved,
Has choicest prints by famous hands engraved;
Has choicest notes by many a famous head,
Such as to doubt have rustic readers led;
Have made them stop to reason WHY? and HOW?
And, where they once agreed, to cavil now.
Oh! rather give me commentators plain,
Who with no deep researches vex the brain;
Who from the dark and doubtful love to run,
And hold their glimmering tapers to the sun;
Who simple truth with nine-fold reasons back,
And guard the point no enemies attack.
Bunyan's famed Pilgrim rests that shelf upon;
A genius rare but rude was honest John;
Not one who, early by the Muse beguiled,
Drank from her well the waters undefiled;
Not one who slowly gained the hill sublime,
Then often sipp'd and little at a time;
But one who dabbled in the sacred springs,
And drank them muddy, mix'd with baser things.
Here to interpret dreams we read the rules,
Science our own! and never taught in schools;
In moles and specks we Fortune's gifts discern,
And Fate's fix'd will from Nature's wanderings

learn.
Of Hermit Quarll we read, in island rare,
Far from mankind and seeming far from care;
Safe from all want, and sound in every limb;
Yes! there was he, and there was care with him.
Unbound and heap'd, these valued tomes beside,
Lay humbler works, the pedlar's pack supplied;
Yet these, long since, have all acquired a name:
The Wandering Jew has found his way to fame;
And fame, denied to many a labour'd song,
Crowns Thumb the Great, and Hickathrift the strong.
There too is he, by wizard-power upheld,
Jack, by whose arm the giant-brood were quell'd:
His shoes of swiftness on his feet he placed;
His coat of darkness on his loins he braced;
His sword of sharpness in his hand he took,
And off the heads of doughty giants stroke:
Their glaring eyes beheld no mortal near;
No sound of feet alarm'd the drowsy ear;
No English blood their Pagan sense could smell,
But heads dropt headlong, wondering why they fell.
These are the Peasant's joy, when, placed at

ease,
Half his delighted offspring mount his knees.
To every cot the lord's indulgent mind
Has a small space for garden-ground assign'd;
Here--till return of morn dismiss'd the farm -
The careful peasant plies the sinewy arm,
Warm'd as he works, and casts his look around
On every foot of that improving ground :
It is his own he sees; his master's eye
Peers not about, some secret fault to spy;
Nor voice severe is there, nor censure known; -
Hope, profit, pleasure,--they are all his own.
Here grow the humble cives, and, hard by them,
The leek with crown globose and reedy stem;
High climb his pulse in many an even row,
Deep strike the ponderous roots in soil below;
And herbs of potent smell and pungent taste,
Give a warm relish to the night's repast.
Apples and cherries grafted by his hand,
And cluster'd nuts for neighbouring market stand.
Nor thus concludes his labour; near the cot,
The reed-fence rises round some fav'rite spot;
Where rich carnations, pinks with purple eyes,
Proud hyacinths, the least some florist's prize,
Tulips tall-stemm'd and pounced auriculas rise.
Here on a Sunday-eve, when service ends,
Meet and rejoice a family of friends;
All speak aloud, are happy and are free,
And glad they seem, and gaily they agree.
What, though fastidious ears may shun the speech,
Where all are talkers, and where none can teach;
Where still the welcome and the words are old,
And the same stories are for ever told;
Yet theirs is joy that, bursting from the heart,
Prompts the glad tongue these nothings to impart;
That forms these tones of gladness we despise,
That lifts their steps, that sparkles in their

eyes;
That talks or laughs or runs or shouts or plays,
And speaks in all their looks and all their ways.
Fair scenes of peace! ye might detain us long,
But vice and misery now demand the song;
And turn our view from dwellings simply neat,
To this infected Row, we term our Street.
Here, in cabal, a disputatious crew
Each evening meet; the sot, the cheat, the shrew;
Riots are nightly heard: --the curse, the cries
Of beaten wife, perverse in her replies;
While shrieking children hold each threat'ning

hand,
And sometimes life, and sometimes food demand:
Boys, in their first-stol'n rags, to swear begin,
And girls, who heed not dress, are skill'd in gin:
Snarers and smugglers here their gains divide;
Ensnaring females here their victims hide;
And here is one, the Sibyl of the Row,
Who knows all secrets, or affects to know.
Seeking their fate, to her the simple run,
To her the guilty, theirs awhile to shun;
Mistress of worthless arts, depraved in will,
Her care unblest and unrepaid her skill,
Slave to the tribe, to whose command she stoops,
And poorer than the poorest maid she dupes.
Between the road-way and the walls, offence
Invades all eyes and strikes on every sense;
There lie, obscene, at every open door,
Heaps from the hearth, and sweepings from the

floor,
And day by day the mingled masses grow,
As sinks are disembogued and kennels flow.
There hungry dogs from hungry children steal;
There pigs and chickens quarrel for a meal;
Their dropsied infants wail without redress,
And all is want and woe and wretchedness;
Yet should these boys, with bodies bronzed and

bare,
High-swoln and hard, outlive that lack of care -
Forced on some farm, the unexerted strength,
Though loth to action, is compell'd at length,
When warm'd by health, as serpents in the spring,
Aside their slough of indolence they fling.
Yet, ere they go, a greater evil comes -
See! crowded beds in those contiguous rooms;
Beds but ill parted, by a paltry screen
Of paper'd lath, or curtain dropt between;
Daughters and sons to yon compartments creep,
And parents here beside their children sleep:
Ye who have power, these thoughtless people part,
Nor let the ear be first to taint the heart.
Come! search within, nor sight nor smell regard;
The true physician walks the foulest ward.
See on the floor, where frousy patches rest!
What nauseous fragments on yon fractured chest!
What downy dust beneath yon window-seat!
And round these posts that serve this bed for feet;
This bed where all those tatter'd garments lie,
Worn by each sex, and now perforce thrown by!
See! as we gaze, an infant lifts its head,
Left by neglect and burrow'd in that bed;
The Mother-gossip has the love suppress'd
An infant's cry once waken'd in her breast;
And daily prattles, as her round she takes
(With strong resentment), of the want she makes.
Whence all these woes?--From want of virtuous

will,
Of honest shame, of time-improving skill;
From want of care t'employ the vacant hour,
And want of every kind but want of power.
Here are no wheels for either wool or flax,
But packs of cards--made up of sundry packs;
Here is no clock, nor will they turn the glass,
And see how swift th' important moments pass;
Here are no books, but ballads on the wall,
Are some abusive, and indecent all;
Pistols are here, unpair'd; with nets and hooks,
Of every kind, for rivers, ponds, and brooks;
An ample flask, that nightly rovers fill
With recent poison from the Dutchman's still;
A box of tools, with wires of various size,
Frocks, wigs, and hats, for night or day disguise,
And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a prize.
To every house belongs a space of ground,
Of equal size, once fenced with paling round;
That paling now by slothful waste destroyed,
Dead gorse and stumps of elder fill the void;
Save in the centre-spot, whose walls of clay
Hide sots and striplings at their drink or play:
Within, a board, beneath a tiled retreat,
Allures the bubble and maintains the cheat;
Where heavy ale in spots like varnish shows,
Where chalky tallies yet remain in rows;
Black pipes and broken jugs the seats defile,
The walls and windows, rhymes and reck'nings vile;
Prints of the meanest kind disgrace the door,
And cards, in curses torn, lie fragments on the

floor.
Here his poor bird th' inhuman Cocker brings,
Arms his hard heel and clips his golden wings;
With spicy food th' impatient spirit feeds,
And shouts and curses as the battle bleeds.
Struck through the brain, deprived of both his

eyes,
The vanquished bird must combat till he dies;
Must faintly peck at his victorious foe,
And reel and stagger at each feeble blow:
When fallen, the savage grasps his dabbled plumes,
His blood-stain'd arms, for other deaths assumes;
And damns the craven-fowl, that lost his stake,
And only bled and perished for his sake.
Such are our Peasants, those to whom we yield
Praise with relief, the fathers of the field;
And these who take from our reluctant hands
What Burn advises or the Bench commands.
Our Farmers round, well pleased with constant

gain,
Like other farmers, flourish and complain. -
These are our groups; our Portraits next appear,
And close our Exhibition for the year.

-------------

WITH evil omen we that year begin:
A Child of Shame,--stern Justice adds, of Sin,
Is first recorded;--I would hide the deed,
But vain the wish; I sigh, and I proceed:
And could I well th'instructive truth convey,
'Twould warn the giddy and awake the gay.
Of all the nymphs who gave our village grace,
The Miller's daughter had the fairest face:
Proud was the Miller; money was his pride;
He rode to market, as our farmers ride,
And 'twas his boast, inspired by spirits, there,
His favourite Lucy should be rich as fair;
But she must meek and still obedient prove,
And not presume, without his leave, to love.
A youthful Sailor heard him;--'Ha!' quoth he,
'This Miller's maiden is a prize for me;
Her charms I love, his riches I desire,
And all his threats but fan the kindling fire;
My ebbing purse no more the foe shall fill,
But Love's kind act and Lucy at the mill.'
Thus thought the youth, and soon the chase

began,
Stretch'd all his sail, nor thought of pause or

plan:
His trusty staff in his bold hand he took,
Like him and like his frigate, heart of oak;
Fresh were his features, his attire was new;
Clean was his linen, and his jacket blue:
Of finest jean his trousers, tight and trim,
Brush'd the large buckle at the silver rim.
He soon arrived, he traced the village-green,
There saw the maid, and was with pleasure seen;
Then talk'd of love, till Lucy's yielding heart
Confess'd 'twas painful, though 'twas right to

part.
'For ah! my father has a haughty soul;
Whom best he loves, he loves but to control;
Me to some churl in bargain he'll consign,
And make some tyrant of the parish mine:
Cold is his heart, and he with looks severe
Has often forced but never shed the tear;
Save, when my mother died, some drops expressed
A kind of sorrow for a wife at rest: -
To me a master's stern regard is shown,
I'm like his steed, prized highly as his own;
Stroked but corrected, threatened when supplied,
His slave and boast, his victim and his pride.'
'Cheer up, my lass! I'll to thy father go,
The Miller cannot be the Sailor's foe;
Both live by Heaven's free gale, that plays aloud
In the stretch'd canvass and the piping shroud;
The rush of winds, the flapping sails above,
And rattling planks within, are sounds we love;
Calms are our dread; when tempests plough the deep,
We take a reef, and to the rocking sleep.'
'Ha!' quoth the Miller, moved at speech so rash,
'Art thou like me? then where thy notes and cash?
Away to Wapping, and a wife command,
With all thy wealth, a guinea in thine hand;
There with thy messmates quaff the muddy cheer,
And leave my Lucy for thy betters here.'
'Revenge! revenge!' the angry lover cried,
Then sought the nymph, and 'Be thou now my bride.'
Bride had she been, but they no priest could move
To bind in law the couple bound by love.
What sought these lovers then by day by night?
But stolen moments of disturb'd delight;
Soft trembling tumults, terrors dearly prized,
Transports that pain'd, and joys that agonised;
Till the fond damsel, pleased with lad so trim,
Awed by her parent, and enticed by him,
Her lovely form from savage power to save,
Gave--not her hand--but ALL she could she gave.
Then came the day of shame, the grievous night,
The varying look, the wandering appetite;
The joy assumed, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes,
The forced sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs;
And every art, long used, but used in vain,
To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain.
Too eager caution shows some danger's near,
The bully's bluster proves the coward's fear;
His sober step the drunkard vainly tries,
And nymphs expose the failings they disguise.
First, whispering gossips were in parties seen,
Then louder Scandal walk'd the village--green;
Next babbling Folly told the growing ill,
And busy Malice dropp'd it at the mill.
'Go! to thy curse and mine,' the Father said,
'Strife and confusion stalk around thy bed;
Want and a wailing brat thy portion be,
Plague to thy fondness, as thy fault to me; -
Where skulks the villain?' -
'On the ocean wide
My William seeks a portion for his bride.' -
'Vain be his search; but, till the traitor come,
The higgler's cottage be thy future home;
There with his ancient shrew and care abide,
And hide thy head,--thy shame thou canst not hide.'
Day after day was pass'd in pains and grief;
Week follow'd week,--and still was no relief:
Her boy was born--no lads nor lasses came
To grace the rite or give the child a name;
Nor grave conceited nurse, of office proud,
Bore the young Christian roaring through the crowd:
In a small chamber was my office done,
Where blinks through paper'd panes the setting sun;
Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse near,
Chirp tuneless joy, and mock the frequent tear;
Bats on their webby wings in darkness move,
And feebly shriek their melancholy love.
No Sailor came; the months in terror fled!
Then news arrived--He fought, and he was DEAD!
At the lone cottage Lucy lives, and still
Walks for her weekly pittance to the mill;
A mean seraglio there her father keeps,
Whose mirth insults her, as she stands and weeps;
And sees the plenty, while compell'd to stay,
Her father's pride, become his harlot's prey.
Throughout the lanes she glides, at evening's

close,
And softly lulls her infant to repose;
Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look,
As gilds the moon the rippling of the brook;
And sings her vespers, but in voice so low,
She hears their murmurs as the waters flow:
And she too murmurs, and begins to find
The solemn wanderings of a wounded mind.
Visions of terror, views of woe succeed,
The mind's impatience, to the body's need;
By turns to that, by turns to this a prey,
She knows what reason yields, and dreads what

madness may.
Next, with their boy, a decent couple came,
And call'd him Robert, 'twas his father's name;
Three girls preceded, all by time endear'd,
And future births were neither hoped nor fear'd:
Blest in each other, but to no excess,
Health, quiet, comfort, form'd their happiness;
Love all made up of torture and delight,
Was but mere madness in this couple's sight:
Susan could think, though not without a sigh,
If she were gone, who should her place supply;
And Robert, half in earnest, half in jest,
Talk of her spouse when he should be at rest:
Yet strange would either think it to be told,
Their love was cooling or their hearts were cold.
Few were their acres,--but, with these content,
They were, each pay-day, ready with their rent:
And few their wishes--what their farm denied,
The neighbouring town, at trifling cost, supplied.
If at the draper's window Susan cast
A longing look, as with her goods she pass'd,
And, with the produce of the wheel and churn,
Bought her a Sunday--robe on her return;
True to her maxim, she would take no rest,
Till care repaid that portion to the chest:
Or if, when loitering at the Whitsun-fair,
Her Robert spent some idle shillings there;
Up at the barn, before the break of day,
He made his labour for th' indulgence pay:
Thus both--that waste itself might work in vain -
Wrought double tides, and all was well again.
Yet, though so prudent, there