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

La Rana (The Frog)

I sit on a boulder in the Trinity River and make peace with my fear
of the bear. I will leave it here with the tadpoles around my ankles,
speckled stones, tall grass and the frog’s eyes just above the surface.

I will try to sit in stillness like that frog and watch water rush over fallen firs,
duck my head to avoid a swallowtail flying into me. One eye
is on a garter snake swimming S’s and the other on a lizard

beneath the coolness of a redwood shadow. There are greater
fears out there, a parent’s death, a terrorist’s threat. The river deafens
all sounds save the truth of rapids, the croak of a frog, the splash of a foot.

Maria Garcia Teutsch

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

Share

Related quotes

See And Feel The Wonder

Leave me in the cool tall grass
With my back against a tree

Tilt my head back a bit
Put soft brush beneath my knee

Put my hands atop one another
For I have the need, you see

To see and feel the wonder
To repose beneath the tree

So journey on…Don’t look back
Think no more of me

Just leave me in the cool tall grass
With my back against a tree

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

Share

Sit Back and Watch the Circus! It's Free

Wait a cotton picking minute!
Billions are being spent on a monthly basis,
To protect us from 'identified' terrorists!
And yet mass murderers are walking amongst us,
Freely?
To do to us as they please?
And there is more of an interest,
To analyze their psychological adjustments...
As to why they can not live 'normal' lives,
In an approved and accepting society?

Am I NUTS?

'Ssssshhh...
You don't want anyone to believe,
You are 'not' patriotic...
Do you? '
Keep your voice down.
We are surrounded by rumor mongers,
And gossipers.'

OH!
You are right.
I have forgotten.
It is okay to tolerate our dysfunctions.
Just as long as we conform to them.
And they are not mentioned!

'Right.
Pretend these are the values others threaten.
But for us...
They are normally condoned.
And besides...
Some of these fanatics,
Are prone to receive flowering testimonies.'

Geeessshhh.
I am glad you are here to remind me of that.
Let's continue to observe the baring of the butts.
And people strutting around deranged.

'Hey...
That's what I say.
None of this we have to pay for.
Let us just sit back and watch the circus.
It's free! '

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

Share

Georgic 4

Of air-born honey, gift of heaven, I now
Take up the tale. Upon this theme no less
Look thou, Maecenas, with indulgent eye.
A marvellous display of puny powers,
High-hearted chiefs, a nation's history,
Its traits, its bent, its battles and its clans,
All, each, shall pass before you, while I sing.
Slight though the poet's theme, not slight the praise,
So frown not heaven, and Phoebus hear his call.
First find your bees a settled sure abode,
Where neither winds can enter (winds blow back
The foragers with food returning home)
Nor sheep and butting kids tread down the flowers,
Nor heifer wandering wide upon the plain
Dash off the dew, and bruise the springing blades.
Let the gay lizard too keep far aloof
His scale-clad body from their honied stalls,
And the bee-eater, and what birds beside,
And Procne smirched with blood upon the breast
From her own murderous hands. For these roam wide
Wasting all substance, or the bees themselves
Strike flying, and in their beaks bear home, to glut
Those savage nestlings with the dainty prey.
But let clear springs and moss-green pools be near,
And through the grass a streamlet hurrying run,
Some palm-tree o'er the porch extend its shade,
Or huge-grown oleaster, that in Spring,
Their own sweet Spring-tide, when the new-made chiefs
Lead forth the young swarms, and, escaped their comb,
The colony comes forth to sport and play,
The neighbouring bank may lure them from the heat,
Or bough befriend with hospitable shade.
O'er the mid-waters, whether swift or still,
Cast willow-branches and big stones enow,
Bridge after bridge, where they may footing find
And spread their wide wings to the summer sun,
If haply Eurus, swooping as they pause,
Have dashed with spray or plunged them in the deep.
And let green cassias and far-scented thymes,
And savory with its heavy-laden breath
Bloom round about, and violet-beds hard by
Sip sweetness from the fertilizing springs.
For the hive's self, or stitched of hollow bark,
Or from tough osier woven, let the doors
Be strait of entrance; for stiff winter's cold
Congeals the honey, and heat resolves and thaws,
To bees alike disastrous; not for naught
So haste they to cement the tiny pores
That pierce their walls, and fill the crevices
With pollen from the flowers, and glean and keep
To this same end the glue, that binds more fast
Than bird-lime or the pitch from Ida's pines.
Oft too in burrowed holes, if fame be true,
They make their cosy subterranean home,
And deeply lodged in hollow rocks are found,
Or in the cavern of an age-hewn tree.
Thou not the less smear round their crannied cribs
With warm smooth mud-coat, and strew leaves above;
But near their home let neither yew-tree grow,
Nor reddening crabs be roasted, and mistrust
Deep marish-ground and mire with noisome smell,
Or where the hollow rocks sonorous ring,
And the word spoken buffets and rebounds.
What more? When now the golden sun has put
Winter to headlong flight beneath the world,
And oped the doors of heaven with summer ray,
Forthwith they roam the glades and forests o'er,
Rifle the painted flowers, or sip the streams,
Light-hovering on the surface. Hence it is
With some sweet rapture, that we know not of,
Their little ones they foster, hence with skill
Work out new wax or clinging honey mould.
So when the cage-escaped hosts you see
Float heavenward through the hot clear air, until
You marvel at yon dusky cloud that spreads
And lengthens on the wind, then mark them well;
For then 'tis ever the fresh springs they seek
And bowery shelter: hither must you bring
The savoury sweets I bid, and sprinkle them,
Bruised balsam and the wax-flower's lowly weed,
And wake and shake the tinkling cymbals heard
By the great Mother: on the anointed spots
Themselves will settle, and in wonted wise
Seek of themselves the cradle's inmost depth.
But if to battle they have hied them forth-
For oft 'twixt king and king with uproar dire
Fierce feud arises, and at once from far
You may discern what passion sways the mob,
And how their hearts are throbbing for the strife;
Hark! the hoarse brazen note that warriors know
Chides on the loiterers, and the ear may catch
A sound that mocks the war-trump's broken blasts;
Then in hot haste they muster, then flash wings,
Sharpen their pointed beaks and knit their thews,
And round the king, even to his royal tent,
Throng rallying, and with shouts defy the foe.
So, when a dry Spring and clear space is given,
Forth from the gates they burst, they clash on high;
A din arises; they are heaped and rolled
Into one mighty mass, and headlong fall,
Not denselier hail through heaven, nor pelting so
Rains from the shaken oak its acorn-shower.
Conspicuous by their wings the chiefs themselves
Press through the heart of battle, and display
A giant's spirit in each pigmy frame,
Steadfast no inch to yield till these or those
The victor's ponderous arm has turned to flight.
Such fiery passions and such fierce assaults
A little sprinkled dust controls and quells.
And now, both leaders from the field recalled,
Who hath the worser seeming, do to death,
Lest royal waste wax burdensome, but let
His better lord it on the empty throne.
One with gold-burnished flakes will shine like fire,
For twofold are their kinds, the nobler he,
Of peerless front and lit with flashing scales;
That other, from neglect and squalor foul,
Drags slow a cumbrous belly. As with kings,
So too with people, diverse is their mould,
Some rough and loathly, as when the wayfarer
Scapes from a whirl of dust, and scorched with heat
Spits forth the dry grit from his parched mouth:
The others shine forth and flash with lightning-gleam,
Their backs all blazoned with bright drops of gold
Symmetric: this the likelier breed; from these,
When heaven brings round the season, thou shalt strain
Sweet honey, nor yet so sweet as passing clear,
And mellowing on the tongue the wine-god's fire.
But when the swarms fly aimlessly abroad,
Disport themselves in heaven and spurn their cells,
Leaving the hive unwarmed, from such vain play
Must you refrain their volatile desires,
Nor hard the task: tear off the monarchs' wings;
While these prove loiterers, none beside will dare
Mount heaven, or pluck the standards from the camp.
Let gardens with the breath of saffron flowers
Allure them, and the lord of Hellespont,
Priapus, wielder of the willow-scythe,
Safe in his keeping hold from birds and thieves.
And let the man to whom such cares are dear
Himself bring thyme and pine-trees from the heights,
And strew them in broad belts about their home;
No hand but his the blistering task should ply,
Plant the young slips, or shed the genial showers.
And I myself, were I not even now
Furling my sails, and, nigh the journey's end,
Eager to turn my vessel's prow to shore,
Perchance would sing what careful husbandry
Makes the trim garden smile; of Paestum too,
Whose roses bloom and fade and bloom again;
How endives glory in the streams they drink,
And green banks in their parsley, and how the gourd
Twists through the grass and rounds him to paunch;
Nor of Narcissus had my lips been dumb,
That loiterer of the flowers, nor supple-stemmed
Acanthus, with the praise of ivies pale,
And myrtles clinging to the shores they love.
For 'neath the shade of tall Oebalia's towers,
Where dark Galaesus laves the yellowing fields,
An old man once I mind me to have seen-
From Corycus he came- to whom had fallen
Some few poor acres of neglected land,
And they nor fruitful' neath the plodding steer,
Meet for the grazing herd, nor good for vines.
Yet he, the while his meagre garden-herbs
Among the thorns he planted, and all round
White lilies, vervains, and lean poppy set,
In pride of spirit matched the wealth of kings,
And home returning not till night was late,
With unbought plenty heaped his board on high.
He was the first to cull the rose in spring,
He the ripe fruits in autumn; and ere yet
Winter had ceased in sullen ire to rive
The rocks with frost, and with her icy bit
Curb in the running waters, there was he
Plucking the rathe faint hyacinth, while he chid
Summer's slow footsteps and the lagging West.
Therefore he too with earliest brooding bees
And their full swarms o'erflowed, and first was he
To press the bubbling honey from the comb;
Lime-trees were his, and many a branching pine;
And all the fruits wherewith in early bloom
The orchard-tree had clothed her, in full tale
Hung there, by mellowing autumn perfected.
He too transplanted tall-grown elms a-row,
Time-toughened pear, thorns bursting with the plum
And plane now yielding serviceable shade
For dry lips to drink under: but these things,
Shut off by rigorous limits, I pass by,
And leave for others to sing after me.
Come, then, I will unfold the natural powers
Great Jove himself upon the bees bestowed,
The boon for which, led by the shrill sweet strains
Of the Curetes and their clashing brass,
They fed the King of heaven in Dicte's cave.
Alone of all things they receive and hold
Community of offspring, and they house
Together in one city, and beneath
The shelter of majestic laws they live;
And they alone fixed home and country know,
And in the summer, warned of coming cold,
Make proof of toil, and for the general store
Hoard up their gathered harvesting. For some
Watch o'er the victualling of the hive, and these
By settled order ply their tasks afield;
And some within the confines of their home
Plant firm the comb's first layer, Narcissus' tear,
And sticky gum oozed from the bark of trees,
Then set the clinging wax to hang therefrom.
Others the while lead forth the full-grown young,
Their country's hope, and others press and pack
The thrice repured honey, and stretch their cells
To bursting with the clear-strained nectar sweet.
Some, too, the wardship of the gates befalls,
Who watch in turn for showers and cloudy skies,
Or ease returning labourers of their load,
Or form a band and from their precincts drive
The drones, a lazy herd. How glows the work!
How sweet the honey smells of perfumed thyme
Like the Cyclopes, when in haste they forge
From the slow-yielding ore the thunderbolts,
Some from the bull's-hide bellows in and out
Let the blasts drive, some dip i' the water-trough
The sputtering metal: with the anvil's weight
Groans Etna: they alternately in time
With giant strength uplift their sinewy arms,
Or twist the iron with the forceps' grip-
Not otherwise, to measure small with great,
The love of getting planted in their breasts
Goads on the bees, that haunt old Cecrops' heights,
Each in his sphere to labour. The old have charge
To keep the town, and build the walled combs,
And mould the cunning chambers; but the youth,
Their tired legs packed with thyme, come labouring home
Belated, for afar they range to feed
On arbutes and the grey-green willow-leaves,
And cassia and the crocus blushing red,
Glue-yielding limes, and hyacinths dusky-eyed.
One hour for rest have all, and one for toil:
With dawn they hurry from the gates- no room
For loiterers there: and once again, when even
Now bids them quit their pasturing on the plain,
Then homeward make they, then refresh their strength:
A hum arises: hark! they buzz and buzz
About the doors and threshold; till at length
Safe laid to rest they hush them for the night,
And welcome slumber laps their weary limbs.
But from the homestead not too far they fare,
When showers hang like to fall, nor, east winds nigh,
Confide in heaven, but 'neath the city walls
Safe-circling fetch them water, or essay
Brief out-goings, and oft weigh-up tiny stones,
As light craft ballast in the tossing tide,
Wherewith they poise them through the cloudy vast.
This law of life, too, by the bees obeyed,
Will move thy wonder, that nor sex with sex
Yoke they in marriage, nor yield their limbs to love,
Nor know the pangs of labour, but alone
From leaves and honied herbs, the mothers, each,
Gather their offspring in their mouths, alone
Supply new kings and pigmy commonwealth,
And their old court and waxen realm repair.
Oft, too, while wandering, against jagged stones
Their wings they fray, and 'neath the burden yield
Their liberal lives: so deep their love of flowers,
So glorious deem they honey's proud acquist.
Therefore, though each a life of narrow span,
Ne'er stretched to summers more than seven, befalls,
Yet deathless doth the race endure, and still
Perennial stands the fortune of their line,
From grandsire unto grandsire backward told.
Moreover, not Aegyptus, nor the realm
Of boundless Lydia, no, nor Parthia's hordes,
Nor Median Hydaspes, to their king
Do such obeisance: lives the king unscathed,
One will inspires the million: is he dead,
Snapt is the bond of fealty; they themselves
Ravage their toil-wrought honey, and rend amain
Their own comb's waxen trellis. He is the lord
Of all their labour; him with awful eye
They reverence, and with murmuring throngs surround,
In crowds attend, oft shoulder him on high,
Or with their bodies shield him in the fight,
And seek through showering wounds a glorious death.
Led by these tokens, and with such traits to guide,
Some say that unto bees a share is given
Of the Divine Intelligence, and to drink
Pure draughts of ether; for God permeates all-
Earth, and wide ocean, and the vault of heaven-
From whom flocks, herds, men, beasts of every kind,
Draw each at birth the fine essential flame;
Yea, and that all things hence to Him return,
Brought back by dissolution, nor can death
Find place: but, each into his starry rank,
Alive they soar, and mount the heights of heaven.
If now their narrow home thou wouldst unseal,
And broach the treasures of the honey-house,
With draught of water first toment thy lips,
And spread before thee fumes of trailing smoke.
Twice is the teeming produce gathered in,
Twofold their time of harvest year by year,
Once when Taygete the Pleiad uplifts
Her comely forehead for the earth to see,
With foot of scorn spurning the ocean-streams,
Once when in gloom she flies the watery Fish,
And dips from heaven into the wintry wave.
Unbounded then their wrath; if hurt, they breathe
Venom into their bite, cleave to the veins
And let the sting lie buried, and leave their lives
Behind them in the wound. But if you dread
Too rigorous a winter, and would fain
Temper the coming time, and their bruised hearts
And broken estate to pity move thy soul,
Yet who would fear to fumigate with thyme,
Or cut the empty wax away? for oft
Into their comb the newt has gnawed unseen,
And the light-loathing beetles crammed their bed,
And he that sits at others' board to feast,
The do-naught drone; or 'gainst the unequal foe
Swoops the fierce hornet, or the moth's fell tribe;
Or spider, victim of Minerva's spite,
Athwart the doorway hangs her swaying net.
The more impoverished they, the keenlier all
To mend the fallen fortunes of their race
Will nerve them, fill the cells up, tier on tier,
And weave their granaries from the rifled flowers.
Now, seeing that life doth even to bee-folk bring
Our human chances, if in dire disease
Their bodies' strength should languish- which anon
By no uncertain tokens may be told-
Forthwith the sick change hue; grim leanness mars
Their visage; then from out the cells they bear
Forms reft of light, and lead the mournful pomp;
Or foot to foot about the porch they hang,
Or within closed doors loiter, listless all
From famine, and benumbed with shrivelling cold.
Then is a deep note heard, a long-drawn hum,
As when the chill South through the forests sighs,
As when the troubled ocean hoarsely booms
With back-swung billow, as ravening tide of fire
Surges, shut fast within the furnace-walls.
Then do I bid burn scented galbanum,
And, honey-streams through reeden troughs instilled,
Challenge and cheer their flagging appetite
To taste the well-known food; and it shall boot
To mix therewith the savour bruised from gall,
And rose-leaves dried, or must to thickness boiled
By a fierce fire, or juice of raisin-grapes
From Psithian vine, and with its bitter smell
Centaury, and the famed Cecropian thyme.
There is a meadow-flower by country folk
Hight star-wort; 'tis a plant not far to seek;
For from one sod an ample growth it rears,
Itself all golden, but girt with plenteous leaves,
Where glory of purple shines through violet gloom.
With chaplets woven hereof full oft are decked
Heaven's altars: harsh its taste upon the tongue;
Shepherds in vales smooth-shorn of nibbling flocks
By Mella's winding waters gather it.
The roots of this, well seethed in fragrant wine,
Set in brimmed baskets at their doors for food.
But if one's whole stock fail him at a stroke,
Nor hath he whence to breed the race anew,
'Tis time the wondrous secret to disclose
Taught by the swain of Arcady, even how
The blood of slaughtered bullocks oft has borne
Bees from corruption. I will trace me back
To its prime source the story's tangled thread,
And thence unravel. For where thy happy folk,
Canopus, city of Pellaean fame,
Dwell by the Nile's lagoon-like overflow,
And high o'er furrows they have called their own
Skim in their painted wherries; where, hard by,
The quivered Persian presses, and that flood
Which from the swart-skinned Aethiop bears him down,
Swift-parted into sevenfold branching mouths
With black mud fattens and makes Aegypt green,
That whole domain its welfare's hope secure
Rests on this art alone. And first is chosen
A strait recess, cramped closer to this end,
Which next with narrow roof of tiles atop
'Twixt prisoning walls they pinch, and add hereto
From the four winds four slanting window-slits.
Then seek they from the herd a steer, whose horns
With two years' growth are curling, and stop fast,
Plunge madly as he may, the panting mouth
And nostrils twain, and done with blows to death,
Batter his flesh to pulp i' the hide yet whole,
And shut the doors, and leave him there to lie.
But 'neath his ribs they scatter broken boughs,
With thyme and fresh-pulled cassias: this is done
When first the west winds bid the waters flow,
Ere flush the meadows with new tints, and ere
The twittering swallow buildeth from the beams.
Meanwhile the juice within his softened bones
Heats and ferments, and things of wondrous birth,
Footless at first, anon with feet and wings,
Swarm there and buzz, a marvel to behold;
And more and more the fleeting breeze they take,
Till, like a shower that pours from summer-clouds,
Forth burst they, or like shafts from quivering string
When Parthia's flying hosts provoke the fray.
Say what was he, what God, that fashioned forth
This art for us, O Muses? of man's skill
Whence came the new adventure? From thy vale,
Peneian Tempe, turning, bee-bereft,
So runs the tale, by famine and disease,
Mournful the shepherd Aristaeus stood
Fast by the haunted river-head, and thus
With many a plaint to her that bare him cried:
'Mother, Cyrene, mother, who hast thy home
Beneath this whirling flood, if he thou sayest,
Apollo, lord of Thymbra, be my sire,
Sprung from the Gods' high line, why barest thou me
With fortune's ban for birthright? Where is now
Thy love to me-ward banished from thy breast?
O! wherefore didst thou bid me hope for heaven?
Lo! even the crown of this poor mortal life,
Which all my skilful care by field and fold,
No art neglected, scarce had fashioned forth,
Even this falls from me, yet thou call'st me son.
Nay, then, arise! With thine own hands pluck up
My fruit-plantations: on the homestead fling
Pitiless fire; make havoc of my crops;
Burn the young plants, and wield the stubborn axe
Against my vines, if there hath taken the
Such loathing of my greatness.' But that cry,
Even from her chamber in the river-deeps,
His mother heard: around her spun the nymphs
Milesian wool stained through with hyaline dye,
Drymo, Xantho, Ligea, Phyllodoce,
Their glossy locks o'er snowy shoulders shed,
Cydippe and Lycorias yellow-haired,
A maiden one, one newly learned even then
To bear Lucina's birth-pang. Clio, too,
And Beroe, sisters, ocean-children both,
Both zoned with gold and girt with dappled fell,
Ephyre and Opis, and from Asian meads
Deiopea, and, bow at length laid by,
Fleet-footed Arethusa. But in their midst
Fair Clymene was telling o'er the tale
Of Vulcan's idle vigilance and the stealth
Of Mars' sweet rapine, and from Chaos old
Counted the jostling love-joys of the Gods.
Charmed by whose lay, the while their woolly tasks
With spindles down they drew, yet once again
Smote on his mother's ears the mournful plaint
Of Aristaeus; on their glassy thrones
Amazement held them all; but Arethuse
Before the rest put forth her auburn head,
Peering above the wave-top, and from far
Exclaimed, 'Cyrene, sister, not for naught
Scared by a groan so deep, behold! 'tis he,
Even Aristaeus, thy heart's fondest care,
Here by the brink of the Peneian sire
Stands woebegone and weeping, and by name
Cries out upon thee for thy cruelty.'
To whom, strange terror knocking at her heart,
'Bring, bring him to our sight,' the mother cried;
'His feet may tread the threshold even of Gods.'
So saying, she bids the flood yawn wide and yield
A pathway for his footsteps; but the wave
Arched mountain-wise closed round him, and within
Its mighty bosom welcomed, and let speed
To the deep river-bed. And now, with eyes
Of wonder gazing on his mother's hall
And watery kingdom and cave-prisoned pools
And echoing groves, he went, and, stunned by that
Stupendous whirl of waters, separate saw
All streams beneath the mighty earth that glide,
Phasis and Lycus, and that fountain-head
Whence first the deep Enipeus leaps to light,
Whence father Tiber, and whence Anio's flood,
And Hypanis that roars amid his rocks,
And Mysian Caicus, and, bull-browed
'Twixt either gilded horn, Eridanus,
Than whom none other through the laughing plains
More furious pours into the purple sea.
Soon as the chamber's hanging roof of stone
Was gained, and now Cyrene from her son
Had heard his idle weeping, in due course
Clear water for his hands the sisters bring,
With napkins of shorn pile, while others heap
The board with dainties, and set on afresh
The brimming goblets; with Panchaian fires
Upleap the altars; then the mother spake,
'Take beakers of Maconian wine,' she said,
'Pour we to Ocean.' Ocean, sire of all,
She worships, and the sister-nymphs who guard
The hundred forests and the hundred streams;
Thrice Vesta's fire with nectar clear she dashed,
Thrice to the roof-top shot the flame and shone:
Armed with which omen she essayed to speak:
'In Neptune's gulf Carpathian dwells a seer,
Caerulean Proteus, he who metes the main
With fish-drawn chariot of two-footed steeds;
Now visits he his native home once more,
Pallene and the Emathian ports; to him
We nymphs do reverence, ay, and Nereus old;
For all things knows the seer, both those which are
And have been, or which time hath yet to bring;
So willed it Neptune, whose portentous flocks,
And loathly sea-calves 'neath the surge he feeds.
Him first, my son, behoves thee seize and bind
That he may all the cause of sickness show,
And grant a prosperous end. For save by force
No rede will he vouchsafe, nor shalt thou bend
His soul by praying; whom once made captive, ply
With rigorous force and fetters; against these
His wiles will break and spend themselves in vain.
I, when the sun has lit his noontide fires,
When the blades thirst, and cattle love the shade,
Myself will guide thee to the old man's haunt,
Whither he hies him weary from the waves,
That thou mayst safelier steal upon his sleep.
But when thou hast gripped him fast with hand and gyve,
Then divers forms and bestial semblances
Shall mock thy grasp; for sudden he will change
To bristly boar, fell tigress, dragon scaled,
And tawny-tufted lioness, or send forth
A crackling sound of fire, and so shake of
The fetters, or in showery drops anon
Dissolve and vanish. But the more he shifts
His endless transformations, thou, my son,
More straitlier clench the clinging bands, until
His body's shape return to that thou sawest,
When with closed eyelids first he sank to sleep.'
So saying, an odour of ambrosial dew
She sheds around, and all his frame therewith
Steeps throughly; forth from his trim-combed locks
Breathed effluence sweet, and a lithe vigour leapt
Into his limbs. There is a cavern vast
Scooped in the mountain-side, where wave on wave
By the wind's stress is driven, and breaks far up
Its inmost creeks- safe anchorage from of old
For tempest-taken mariners: therewithin,
Behind a rock's huge barrier, Proteus hides.
Here in close covert out of the sun's eye
The youth she places, and herself the while
Swathed in a shadowy mist stands far aloof.
And now the ravening dog-star that burns up
The thirsty Indians blazed in heaven; his course
The fiery sun had half devoured: the blades
Were parched, and the void streams with droughty jaws
Baked to their mud-beds by the scorching ray,
When Proteus seeking his accustomed cave
Strode from the billows: round him frolicking
The watery folk that people the waste sea
Sprinkled the bitter brine-dew far and wide.
Along the shore in scattered groups to feed
The sea-calves stretch them: while the seer himself,
Like herdsman on the hills when evening bids
The steers from pasture to their stall repair,
And the lambs' bleating whets the listening wolves,
Sits midmost on the rock and tells his tale.
But Aristaeus, the foe within his clutch,
Scarce suffering him compose his aged limbs,
With a great cry leapt on him, and ere he rose
Forestalled him with the fetters; he nathless,
All unforgetful of his ancient craft,
Transforms himself to every wondrous thing,
Fire and a fearful beast, and flowing stream.
But when no trickery found a path for flight,
Baffled at length, to his own shape returned,
With human lips he spake, 'Who bade thee, then,
So reckless in youth's hardihood, affront
Our portals? or what wouldst thou hence?'- But he,
'Proteus, thou knowest, of thine own heart thou knowest;
For thee there is no cheating, but cease thou
To practise upon me: at heaven's behest
I for my fainting fortunes hither come
An oracle to ask thee.' There he ceased.
Whereat the seer, by stubborn force constrained,
Shot forth the grey light of his gleaming eyes
Upon him, and with fiercely gnashing teeth
Unlocks his lips to spell the fates of heaven:
'Doubt not 'tis wrath divine that plagues thee thus,
Nor light the debt thou payest; 'tis Orpheus' self,
Orpheus unhappy by no fault of his,
So fates prevent not, fans thy penal fires,
Yet madly raging for his ravished bride.
She in her haste to shun thy hot pursuit
Along the stream, saw not the coming death,
Where at her feet kept ward upon the bank
In the tall grass a monstrous water-snake.
But with their cries the Dryad-band her peers
Filled up the mountains to their proudest peaks:
Wailed for her fate the heights of Rhodope,
And tall Pangaea, and, beloved of Mars,
The land that bowed to Rhesus, Thrace no less
With Hebrus' stream; and Orithyia wept,
Daughter of Acte old. But Orpheus' self,
Soothing his love-pain with the hollow shell,
Thee his sweet wife on the lone shore alone,
Thee when day dawned and when it died he sang.
Nay to the jaws of Taenarus too he came,
Of Dis the infernal palace, and the grove
Grim with a horror of great darkness- came,
Entered, and faced the Manes and the King
Of terrors, the stone heart no prayer can tame.
Then from the deepest deeps of Erebus,
Wrung by his minstrelsy, the hollow shades
Came trooping, ghostly semblances of forms
Lost to the light, as birds by myriads hie
To greenwood boughs for cover, when twilight-hour
Or storms of winter chase them from the hills;
Matrons and men, and great heroic frames
Done with life's service, boys, unwedded girls,
Youths placed on pyre before their fathers' eyes.
Round them, with black slime choked and hideous weed,
Cocytus winds; there lies the unlovely swamp
Of dull dead water, and, to pen them fast,
Styx with her ninefold barrier poured between.
Nay, even the deep Tartarean Halls of death
Stood lost in wonderment, and the Eumenides,
Their brows with livid locks of serpents twined;
Even Cerberus held his triple jaws agape,
And, the wind hushed, Ixion's wheel stood still.
And now with homeward footstep he had passed
All perils scathless, and, at length restored,
Eurydice to realms of upper air
Had well-nigh won, behind him following-
So Proserpine had ruled it- when his heart
A sudden mad desire surprised and seized-
Meet fault to be forgiven, might Hell forgive.
For at the very threshold of the day,
Heedless, alas! and vanquished of resolve,
He stopped, turned, looked upon Eurydice
His own once more. But even with the look,
Poured out was all his labour, broken the bond
Of that fell tyrant, and a crash was heard
Three times like thunder in the meres of hell.
'Orpheus! what ruin hath thy frenzy wrought
On me, alas! and thee? Lo! once again
The unpitying fates recall me, and dark sleep
Closes my swimming eyes. And now farewell:
Girt with enormous night I am borne away,
Outstretching toward thee, thine, alas! no more,
These helpless hands.' She spake, and suddenly,
Like smoke dissolving into empty air,
Passed and was sundered from his sight; nor him
Clutching vain shadows, yearning sore to speak,
Thenceforth beheld she, nor no second time
Hell's boatman brooks he pass the watery bar.
What should he do? fly whither, twice bereaved?
Move with what tears the Manes, with what voice
The Powers of darkness? She indeed even now
Death-cold was floating on the Stygian barge!
For seven whole months unceasingly, men say,
Beneath a skyey crag, by thy lone wave,
Strymon, he wept, and in the caverns chill
Unrolled his story, melting tigers' hearts,
And leading with his lay the oaks along.
As in the poplar-shade a nightingale
Mourns her lost young, which some relentless swain,
Spying, from the nest has torn unfledged, but she
Wails the long night, and perched upon a spray
With sad insistence pipes her dolorous strain,
Till all the region with her wrongs o'erflows.
No love, no new desire, constrained his soul:
By snow-bound Tanais and the icy north,
Far steppes to frost Rhipaean forever wed,
Alone he wandered, lost Eurydice
Lamenting, and the gifts of Dis ungiven.
Scorned by which tribute the Ciconian dames,
Amid their awful Bacchanalian rites
And midnight revellings, tore him limb from limb,
And strewed his fragments over the wide fields.
Then too, even then, what time the Hebrus stream,
Oeagrian Hebrus, down mid-current rolled,
Rent from the marble neck, his drifting head,
The death-chilled tongue found yet a voice to cry
'Eurydice! ah! poor Eurydice!'
With parting breath he called her, and the banks
From the broad stream caught up 'Eurydice!''
So Proteus ending plunged into the deep,
And, where he plunged, beneath the eddying whirl
Churned into foam the water, and was gone;
But not Cyrene, who unquestioned thus
Bespake the trembling listener: 'Nay, my son,
From that sad bosom thou mayst banish care:
Hence came that plague of sickness, hence the nymphs,
With whom in the tall woods the dance she wove,
Wrought on thy bees, alas! this deadly bane.
Bend thou before the Dell-nymphs, gracious powers:
Bring gifts, and sue for pardon: they will grant
Peace to thine asking, and an end of wrath.
But how to approach them will I first unfold-
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
That browse to-day the green Lycaean heights,
Pick from thy herds, as many kine to match,
Whose necks the yoke pressed never: then for these
Build up four altars by the lofty fanes,
And from their throats let gush the victims' blood,
And in the greenwood leave their bodies lone.
Then, when the ninth dawn hath displayed its beams,
To Orpheus shalt thou send his funeral dues,
Poppies of Lethe, and let slay a sheep
Coal-black, then seek the grove again, and soon
For pardon found adore Eurydice
With a slain calf for victim.'
No delay:
The self-same hour he hies him forth to do
His mother's bidding: to the shrine he came,
The appointed altars reared, and thither led
Four chosen bulls of peerless form and bulk,
With kine to match, that never yoke had known;
Then, when the ninth dawn had led in the day,
To Orpheus sent his funeral dues, and sought
The grove once more. But sudden, strange to tell
A portent they espy: through the oxen's flesh,
Waxed soft in dissolution, hark! there hum
Bees from the belly; the rent ribs overboil
In endless clouds they spread them, till at last
On yon tree-top together fused they cling,
And drop their cluster from the bending boughs.
So sang I of the tilth of furrowed fields,
Of flocks and trees, while Caesar's majesty
Launched forth the levin-bolts of war by deep
Euphrates, and bare rule o'er willing folk
Though vanquished, and essayed the heights of heaven.
I Virgil then, of sweet Parthenope
The nursling, wooed the flowery walks of peace
Inglorious, who erst trilled for shepherd-wights
The wanton ditty, and sang in saucy youth
Thee, Tityrus, 'neath the spreading beech tree's shade.

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

Share

Orlando Furioso Canto 8

ARGUMENT
Rogero flies; Astolpho with the rest,
To their true shape Melissa does restore;
Rinaldo levies knights and squadrons, pressed
In aid of Charles assaulted by the Moor:
Angelica, by ruffians found at rest,
Is offered to a monster on the shore.
Orlando, warned in visions of his ill,
Departs from Paris sore against his will.

I
How many enchantresses among us! oh,
How many enchanters are there, though unknown!
Who for their love make man or woman glow,
Changing them into figures not their own.
Nor this by help of spirits from below,
Nor observation of the stars is done:
But these on hearts with fraud and falsehood plot,
Binding them with indissoluble knot.

II
Who with Angelica's, or rather who
Were fortified with Reason's ring, would see
Each countenance, exposed to open view,
Unchanged by art or by hypocrisy.
This now seems fair and good, whose borrowed hue
Removed, would haply foul and evil be.
Well was it for Rogero that he wore
The virtuous ring which served the truth to explore!

III
Rogero, still dissembling, as I said,
Armed, to the gate on Rabican did ride;
Found the guard unprepared, not let his blade,
Amid that crowd, hang idle at his side:
He passed the bridge, and broke the palisade,
Some slain, some maimed; then t'wards the forest hied;
But on that road small space had measured yet,
When he a servant of the fairy met.

IV
He on his fist a ravening falcon bore,
Which he made fly for pastime every day;
Now on the champaign, now upon the shore
Of neighbouring pool, which teemed with certain prey;
And rode a hack which simple housings wore,
His faithful dog, companion of his way.
He, marking well the haste with which he hies,
Conjectures truly what Rogero flies.

V
Towards him came the knave, with semblance haught,
Demanding whither in such haste he sped:
To him the good Rogero answers naught.
He hence assured more clearly that he fled,
Within himself to stop the warrior thought,
And thus, with his left arm extended, said:
'What, if I suddenly thy purpose balk,
And thou find no defence against this hawk?'

VI
Then flies his bird, who works so well his wing,
Rabican cannot distance him in flight:
The falconer from his back to ground did spring,
And freed him from the bit which held him tight;
Who seemed an arrow parted from the string,
And terrible to foe, with kick and bite;
While with such haste behind the servant came,
He sped as moved by wind, or rather flame.

VII
Nor will the falconer's dog appear more slow;
But hunts Rogero's courser, as in chace
Of timid hare the pard is wont to go.
Not to stand fast the warrior deems disgrace,
And turns towards the swiftly-footed foe,
Whom he sees wield a riding-wand, place
Of other arms, to make his dog obey.
Rogero scorns his faulchion to display.

VIII
The servant made at him, and smote him sore;
The dog his left foot worried; while untied
From rein, the lightened horse three times and more
Lashed from the croup, nor missed his better side.
The hawk, oft wheeling, with her talons tore
The stripling, and his horse so terrified,
The courser, by the whizzing sound dismayed,
Little the guiding hand or spur obeyed.

IX
Constrained at length, his sword Rogero drew
To clear the rabble, who his course delay;
And in the animals' or villain's view
Did now its point, and now its edge display.
But with more hinderance and vexatious crew
Swarm here and there, and wholly block the way;
And that dishonour will ensue and loss,
Rogero sees, if him they longer cross.

X
He knew each little that he longer stayed,
Would bring the fay and followers on the trail;
Already drums were beat, and trumpets brayed,
And larum-bells rang loud in every vale.
An act too foul it seemed to use his blade
On dog, and knave unfenced with arms or mail:
A better and shorter way it were
The buckler, old Atlantes' work, to bare.

XI
He raised the crimson cloth in which he wore
The wondrous shield, enclosed for many a day;
Its beams, as proved a thousand times before,
Work as they wont, when on the sight they play;
Senseless the falconer tumbles on the moor;
Drop dog and hackney; drop the pinions gay,
Which poised in air the bird no longer keep:
Then glad Rogero leaves a prey to sleep.

XII
In the mean time, Alcina, who had heard
How he had forced the gate, and, in the press,
Slaughtered a mighty number of her guard,
Remained nigh dead, o'erwhelmed with her distress;
She tore her vesture, and her visage marred,
And cursed her want of wit and wariness.
Then made forthwith her meiny sound to arms,
And round herself arrayed her martial swarms.

XIII
Divided next, one squadron by the way
Rogero took, she sent; the bands were two:
She at the port embarked the next array,
And straight to sea dispatched the warlike crew.
With this good squadron went the desperate fay,
And darked by loosened sails the billows grew;
For so desire upon her bosom preyed,
Of troops she left her city unpurveyed.

XIV
Without a guard she left her palace there,
Which to Melissa, prompt her time to seize,
To loose her vassals that in misery were,
Afforded all convenience and full ease;
- To range, at leisure, through the palace fair,
And so examine all her witcheries;
To raze the seal, burn images, and loose
Or cancel hag-knot, rhomb, or magic noose.

XV
Thence, through the fields, fast hurrying from that dome,
The former lovers changed, a mighty train,
Some into rock or tree, to fountain some,
Or beast, she made assume their shapes again:
And these, when they anew are free to roam,
Follow Rogero's footsteps to the reign
Of Logistilla's sage; and from that bourn
To Scythia, Persia, Greece, and Ind return.

XVI
They to their several homes dispatched, repair,
Bound by a debt which never can be paid:
The English duke, above the rest her care,
Of these, was first in human form arrayed:
For much his kindred and the courteous prayer
Of good Rogero with Melissa weighed.
Beside his prayers, the ring Rogero gave;
That him she by its aid might better save.

XVII
Thus by Rogero's suit the enchantress won,
To his first shape transformed the youthful peer;
But good Melissa deemed that nought was done
Save she restored his armour, and that spear
Of gold, which whensoe'er at tilt he run,
At the first touch unseated cavalier;
Once Argalia's, next Astolpho's lance,
And source of mighty fame to both in France.

XVIII
The sage Melissa found this spear of gold,
Which now Alcina's magic palace graced,
And other armour of the warrior bold,
Of which he was in that ill dome uncased.
She climbed the courser of the wizard old,
And on the croup, at ease, Astolpho placed:
And thus, an hour before Rogero came,
Repaired to Logistilla, knight and dame.

XIX
Meantime, through rugged rocks, and shagged with thorn,
Rogero wends, to seek the sober fay;
From cliff to cliff, from path to path forlorn,
A rugged, lone, inhospitable way:
Till he, with labour huge oppressed and worn,
Issued at noon upon a beach, that lay
'Twixt sea and mountain, open to the south,
Deserted, barren, bare, and parched with drouth.

XX
The sunbeams on the neighbouring mountain beat
And glare, reflected from the glowing mass
So fiercely, sand and air both boil with heat,
In mode that might have more than melted glass.
The birds are silent in their dim retreat,
Nor any note is heard in wood or grass,
Save the bough perched Cicala's wearying cry,
Which deafens hill and dale, and sea and sky.

XXI
The heat and thirst and labour which he bore
By that drear sandy way beside the sea,
Along the unhabited and sunny shore,
Were to Rogero grievous company:
Bur for I may not still pursue this lore,
Nor should you busied with one matter be,
Rogero I abandon in this heat,
For Scotland; to pursue Rinaldo's beat.

XXII
By king, by daughter, and by all degrees,
To Sir Rinaldo was large welcome paid;
And next the warrior, at his better ease,
The occasion of his embassy displayed:
That he from thence and England, subsidies
Of men was seeking, for his monarch's aid,
In Charles's name; and added, in his care,
The justest reasons to support his prayer.

XXIII
The king made answer, that `without delay,
Taxed to the utmost of his powers and might,
His means at Charlemagne's disposal lay,
For the honour of the empire and the right.
And that, within few days, he in array
Such horsemen, as he had in arms, would dight;
And, save that he was now waxed old, would lead
The expedition he was prayed to speed.

XXIV
`Nor like consideration would appear
Worthy to stop him, but that he possessed
A son, and for such charge that cavalier,
Measured by wit and force, was worthiest.
Though not within the kingdom was the peer,
It was his hope (as he assured his guest)
He would, while yet preparing was the band,
Return, and find it mustered to his hand.'

XXV
So sent through all his realm, with expedition,
His treasures, to levy men and steeds;
And ships prepared, and warlike ammunition,
And money, stores and victual for their needs.
Meantime the good Rinaldo on his mission,
Leaving the courteous king, to England speeds;
He brought him on his way to Berwick's town,
And was observed to weep when he was gone.

XXVI
The wind sat in the poop; Rinaldo good
Embarked and bade farewell to all; the sheet
Still loosening to the breeze, the skipper stood,
Till where Thames' waters, waxing bitter, meet
Salt ocean: wafted thence by tide of flood,
Through a sure channel to fair London's seat,
Safely the mariners their course explore,
Making their way, with aid of sail and oar.

XXVII
The Emperor Charles, and he, King Otho grave,
Who was with Charles, by siege in Paris pressed,
A broad commission to Rinaldo brave,
With letters to the Prince of Wales addressed,
And countersigns had given, dispatched to crave
What foot and horse were by the land possessed.
The whole to be to Calais' port conveyed;
That it to France and Charles might furnish aid.

XXVIII
The prince I speak of, who on Otho's throne
Sate in his stead, the vacant helm to guide,
Such honor did to Aymon's valiant son,
He not with such his king had gratified.
Next, all to good Rinaldo's wish, was done:
Since for his martial bands on every side,
In Britain, or the isles which round her lay,
To assemble near the sea he fixed a day.

XXIX
But here, sir, it behoves me shift my ground,
Like him that makes the sprightly viol ring,
Who often changes chord and varies sound,
And now a graver strikes, now sharper string:
Thus I: - who did to good Rinaldo bound
My tale, Angelica remembering;
Late left, where saved from him by hasty flight,
She had encountered with an anchorite.

XXX
Awhile I will pursue her story: I
Told how the maid of him with earnest care,
Enquired, how she towards the shore might fly:
Who of the loathed Rinaldo has such fear,
She dreads, unless she pass the sea, to die,
As insecure in Europe, far or near,
But she was by the hermit kept in play,
Because he pleasure took with her to stay.

XXXI
His heart with love of that rare beauty glowed,
And to his frozen marrow pierced the heat;
Who, after, when he saw that she bestowed
Small care on him, and thought but of retreat,
His sluggish courser stung with many a goad;
But with no better speed he plied his feet.
Ill was his walk, and worse his trot; nor spur
Could that dull beast to quicker motion stir:

XXXII
And for the flying maid was far before,
And he would soon have ceased to track her steed,
To the dark cave recurred the hermit hoar,
And conjured up of fiends a grisly breed:
One he selected out of many more,
And first informed the demon of his need;
Then in the palfrey bade him play his part,
Who with the lady bore away his heart:

XXXIII
And as sagacious dog on mountain tried
Before, accustomed fox and hare to chase,
If he behold the quarry choose one side,
The other takes, and seems to slight the trace:
But at the turn arriving, is espied,
Already tearing what he crossed to face;
So her the hermit by a different road
Will meet, wherever she her palfrey goad.

XXXIV
What was the friar's design I well surmise;
And you shall know; but in another page.
Angelica now slow, now faster, flies,
Nought fearing this: while conjured by the sage,
The demon covered in the courser lies;
As fire sometimes will hide its smothered rage:
Then blazes with devouring flame and heat,
Unquenchable, and scarce allows retreat.

XXXV
After the flying maid had shaped her course
By the great sea which laves the Gascon shore,
Still keeping to the rippling waves her horse,
Where best the moistened sand the palfrey bore,
Him, plunged into the brine, the fiend perforce
Dragged, till he swam amid the watery roar.
Nor what to do the timid damsel knew,
Save that she closer to her saddle grew.

XXXVI
She cannot, howsoe'er the rein she ply,
Govern the horse, who swims the surge to meet:
Her raiment she collects and holds it high;
And, not to wet them, gathers up her feet.
Her tresses, which the breeze still wantonly
Assaults, dishevelled on her shoulders beat.
The louder winds are hushed, perchance in duty,
Intent, like ocean, on such sovereign beauty.

XXXVII
Landward in vain her eyes the damsel bright
Directs, which water face and breast with tears,
And ever sees, decreasing to her sight,
The beach she left, which less and less appears.
The courser, who was swimming to the right,
After a mighty sweep, the lady bears
To shore, where rock and cavern shag the brink,
As night upon the land begins to sink.

XXXVIII
When in that desert, which but to descry
Bred fear in the beholder, stood the maid
Alone, as Phoebus, plunged in ocean, sky
And nether earth had left obscured in shade;
She paused in guise, which in uncertainty
Might leave whoever had the form surveyed,
If she were real woman, or some mock
Resemblance, coloured in the living rock.

XXXIX
She, fixed and stupid in her wretchedness,
Stood on the shifting sand, with ruffled hair:
Her hands were joined, her lips were motionless,
Her languid eyes upturned, as in despair,
Accusing Him on high, that to distress
And whelm her, all the fates united were.
Astound she stood awhile; when grief found vent
Through eyes and tongue, in tears and in lament.

XL
'Fortune what more remains, that thou on me
Shouldst not now satiate thy revengeful thirst?
What more (she said) can I bestow on thee
Than, what thou seekest not, this life accurst?
Thou wast in haste to snatch me from the sea,
Where I had ended its sad days, immersed;
Because to torture me with further ill
Before I die, is yet thy cruel will.

XLI
'But what worse torment yet remains in store
Beyond, I am unable to descry:
By thee from my fair throne, which nevermore
I hope to repossess, compelled to fly;
I, what is worse, my honour lost deplore;
For if I sinned not in effect, yet I
Give matter by my wanderings to be stung
For wantonness of every carping tongue.

XLII
'What other good is left to woman, who
Has lost her honour, in this earthly ball?
What profits it that, whether false or true,
I am deemed beauteous, and am young withal?
No thanks to heaven for such a gift are due,
Whence on my head does every mischief fall.
For this my brother Argalia died;
To whom small help enchanted arms supplied:

XLIII
'For this the Tartar king, Sir Agrican,
Subdued my sire, who Galaphron was hight,
And of Catay in India was great khan;
'Tis hence I am reduced to such a plight,
That wandering evermore, I cannot scan
At morn, where I shall lay my head at night.
If thou hast ravished what thou couldst, wealth, friends,
And honour; say what more thy wrath intends.

XLIV
'If death by drowning in the foaming sea
Was not enough thy wrath to satiate,
Send, if thou wilt, some beast to swallow me,
So that he keep me not in pain! Thy hate
Cannot devise a torment, so it be
My death, but I shall thank thee for my fate!'
Thus, with loud sobs, the weeping lady cried,
When she beheld the hermit at her side.

XLV
From the extremest height the hermit hoar
Of that high rock above her, had surveyed
Angelica, arrived upon the shore,
Beneath the cliff, afflicted and dismayed.
He to that place had come six days before;
For him by path untrod had fiend conveyed:
And he approached her, feigning such a call
As e'er Hilarion might have had, or Paul.

XLVI
When him, yet unagnized, she saw appear,
The lady took some comfort, and laid by,
Emboldened by degrees, her former fear:
Though still her visage was of death-like dye.
'Misericord! father,' when the friar was near
(She said), 'for brought to evil pass am I.'
And told, still broke by sobs, in doleful tone,
The story, to her hearer not unknown.

XLVII
To comfort her, some reasons full of grace,
Sage and devout the approaching hermit cites:
And, now his hand upon her moistened face,
In speaking, now upon her bosom lights:
As her, securer, next he would embrace:
Him, kindling into pretty scorn, she smites
With one hand on his breast, and backward throws,
Then flushed with honest red, all over glows.

XLVIII
A pocket at the ancient's side was dight,
Where he a cruise of virtuous liquor wore;
And at those puissant eyes, whence flashed the light
Of the most radiant torch Love ever bore,
Threw from the flask a little drop, of might
To make her sleep: upon the sandy shore
Already the recumbent damsel lay,
The greedy elder's unresisting prey.

XLIX
(Stanza XLIX untranslated by Rose)

L
(Lines 1-2 untranslated by Rose)
Hopeless, at length upon the beach he lies,
And by the maid, exhausted, falls asleep.
When to torment him new misfortunes rise:
Fortune does seldom any measure keep;
Unused to cut her cruel pastime short,
If she with mortal man is pleased to sport.

LI
It here behoves me, from the path I pressed,
To turn awhile, ere I this case relate:
In the great northern sea, towards the west,
Green Ireland past, an isle is situate.
Ebuda is its name, whose shores infest,
(Its people wasted through the Godhead's hate)
The hideous orc, and Proteus' other herd,
By him against that race in vengeance stirred.

LII
Old stories, speak they falsely or aright,
Tell how a puissant king this country swayed;
Who had a daughter fair, so passing bright
And lovely, 'twas no wonder if the maid,
When on the beach she stood in Proteus' sight,
Left him to burn amid the waves: surveyed,
One day alone, upon that shore in-isled,
Her he compressed, and quitted great with child.

LIII
This was sore torment to the sire, severe
And impious more than all mankind; nor he,
Such is the force of wrath, was moved to spare
The maid, for reason or for piety.
Nor, though he saw her pregnant, would forbear
To execute his sentence suddenly;
But bade together with the mother kill,
Ere born, his grandchild, who had done no ill.

LIV
Sea-Proteus to his flocks' wide charge preferred
By Neptune, of all ocean's rule possessed,
Inflamed with ire, his lady's torment heard,
And, against law and usage, to molest
The land (no sluggard in his anger) stirred
His monsters, orc and sea-calf, with the rest;
Who waste not only herds, but human haunts,
Farm-house and town, with their inhabitants:

LV
And girding them on every side, the rout
Will often siege to walled cities lay;
Where in long weariness and fearful doubt,
The townsmen keep their watch by night and day.
The fields they have abandoned all about,
And for a remedy, their last assay,
To the oracle, demanding counsel, fly,
Which to the suppliant's prayer made this reply:

LVI
`That it behoved them find a damsel, who
A form as beauteous as that other wore,
To be to Proteus offered up, in lieu
Of the fair lady, slain upon the shore:
He, if he deems her an atonement due,
Will keep the damsel, not disturb them more:
If not, another they must still present,
And so, till they the deity content.'

LVII
And this it was the cruel usage bred;
That of the damsels held most fair of face,
To Proteus every day should one be led.
Till one should in the Godhead's sight find grace.
The first and all those others slain, who fed,
All a devouring orc, that kept his place
Beside the port, what time into the main
The remnant of the herd retired again.

LVIII
Were the old tale of Proteus' false or true,
(For this, in sooth, I know not who can read)
With such a clause was kept by that foul crew
The savage, ancient statute, which decreed
That woman's flesh the ravening monster, who
For this came every day to land, should feed.
Though to be woman is a crying ill
In every place, 'tis here a greater still.

LIX
O wretched maids! whom 'mid that barbarous rout
Ill-fortune on that wretched shore has tost!
Who for the stranger damsel prowl about,
Of her to make an impious holocaust;
In that the more they slaughter from without,
They less the number of their own exhaust.
But since not always wind and waves convey
Like plunder, upon every strand they prey.

LX
With frigate and with galley wont to roam,
And other sort of barks they range the sea,
And, as a solace to their martyrdom,
From far, or from their isle's vicinity,
Bear women off; with open rapine some,
These bought by gold, and those by flattery:
And, plundered from the different lands they scower,
Crowd with their captives dungeon-cell and tower.

LXI
Keeping that region close aboard, to explore
The island's lonely bank, a gallery creeps;
Where, amid stubs upon the grassy shore,
Angelica, unhappy damsel, sleeps.
To wood and water there the sailor's moor,
And from the bark, for this, a party leaps;
And there that matchless flower of earthly charms
Discovers in the holy father's arms.

LXII
Oh! prize too dear, oh! too illustrious prey!
To glut so barbarous and so base a foe!
Oh! cruel Fortune! who believed thy sway
Was of such passing power in things below?
That thou shouldst make a hideous monster's prey
The beauty, for which Agrican did glow,
Brought with half Scythia's people from the gates
Of Caucasus, in Ind, to find their fates.

LXIII
The beauty, by Circassian Sacripant
Preferred before his honour and his crown,
The beauty which made Roland, Brava's vaunt,
Sully his wholesome judgment and renown,
The beauty which had moved the wide Levant,
And awed, and turned its kingdom upside down,
Now has not (thus deserted and unheard)
One to assist it even with a word.

LXIV
Oppressed with heavy sleep upon the shore,
The lovely virgin, ere awake, they chain:
With her, the enchanter friar the pirates bore
On board their ship, a sad, afflicted train.
This done, they hoisted up their sail once more,
And the bark made the fatal isle again,
Where, till the lot shall of their prey dispose,
Her prisoned in a castle they enclose.

LXV
But such her matchless beauty's power, the maid
Was able that fierce crew to mollify,
Who many days her cruel death delayed,
Preserved until their last necessity;
And while they damsels from without purveyed,
Spared such angelic beauty: finally,
The damsel to the monstrous orc they bring,
The people all behind her sorrowing.

LXVI
Who shall relate the anguish, the lament
And outcry which against the welkin knock?
I marvel that the sea-shore was not rent,
When she was placed upon the rugged block,
Where, chained and void of help, the punishment
Of loathsome death awaits her on the rock.
This will not I, so sorrow moves me, say,
Which makes me turn my rhymes another way;

LXVII
To find a verse of less lugubrious strain,
Till I my wearied spirit shall restore:
For not the squalid snake of mottled stain,
Nor wild and whelpless tiger, angered more,
Nor what of venomous, on burning plain,
Creeps 'twixt the Red and the Atlantic shore,
Could see the grisly sight, and choose but moan
The damsel bound upon the naked stone.

LXVIII
Oh! if this chance to her Orlando, who
Was gone to Paris-town to seek the maid,
Had been reported! or those other two,
Duped by a post, dispatched from Stygian shade,
They would have tracked her heavenly footsteps through
A thousand deaths, to bear the damsel aid.
But had the warriors of her peril known.
So far removed, for what would that have done?

LXIX
This while round Paris-walls the leaguer lay
Of famed Troyano's son's besieging band,
Reduced to such extremity one day,
That it nigh fell into the foeman's hand;
And, but that vows had virtue to allay
The wrath of Heaven, whose waters drenched the land,
That day had perished by the Moorish lance
The holy empire and great name of France.

LXX
To the just plaint of aged Charlemagne
The great Creator turned his eyes, and stayed
The conflagration with a sudden rain,
Which haply human art had not allayed.
Wise whosoever seeketh, not in vain,
His help, than whose there is no better aid!
Well the religious king, to whom 'twas given,
Knew that the saving succour was from Heaven.

LXXI
All night long counsel of his weary bed,
Vexed with a ceaseless care, Orlando sought;
Now here, now there, the restless fancy sped,
Now turned, now seized, but never held the thought:
As when, from sun or nightly planet shed,
Clear water has the quivering radiance caught,
The flashes through the spacious mansion fly,
With reaching leap, right, left, and low, and high.

LXXII
To memory now returned his lady gay,
She rather ne'er was banished from his breast;
And fanned the secret fire, which through the day
(Now kindled into flame) had seemed at rest;
That in his escort even from Catay
Or farthest Ind, had journeyed to the west;
There lost: Of whom he had discerned no token
Since Charles's power near Bordeaux-town was broken.

LXXIII
This in Orlando moved great grief, and he
Lay thinking on his folly past in vain:
'My heart,' he said, 'oh! how unworthily
I bore myself! and out, alas! what pain,
(When night and day I might have dwelt with thee,
Since this thou didst not in thy grace disdain.)
To have let them place thee in old Namus' hand!
Witless a wrong so crying to withstand.

LXXIV
'Might I not have excused myself? - The king
Had not perchance gainsaid my better right -
Of if he had gainsaid my reasoning,
Who would have taken thee in my despite?
Why not have armed, and rather let them wring
My heart out of my breast? But not the might
Of Charles or all his host, had they been tried,
Could have availed to tear thee from my side.

LXXV
'Oh! had he placed her but in strong repair,
Guarded in some good fort, or Paris-town!
- Since he would trust her to Duke Namus' care,
That he should lose her in this way, alone
Sorts with my wish. - Who would have kept the fair
Like me, that would for her to death have gone?
Have kept her better than my heart or sight:
Who should and could, yet did not what I might.

LXXVI
'Without me, my sweet life, beshrew me, where
Art thou bestowed, so beautiful and young!
As some lost lamb, what time the daylight fair
Shuts in, remains the wildering woods among,
And goes about lamenting here and there,
Hoping to warn the shepherd with her tongue;
Till the wolf hear from far the mournful strain,
And the sad shepherd weep for her in vain.

LXXVII
'My hope, where are thou, where? In doleful wise
Dost thou, perchance, yet rove thy lonely round?
Art thou, indeed, to ravening wolf a prize,
Without thy faithful Roland's succour found?
And is the flower, which, with the deities,
Me, in mid heaven had placed, which, not to wound,
(So reverent was my love) thy feelings chaste,
I kept untouched, alas! now plucked and waste?

LXXVIII
'If this fair flower be plucked, oh, misery! oh,
Despair! what more is left me but to die?
Almighty God, with every other woe
Rather than this, thy wretched suppliant try.
If this be true, these hands the fatal blow
Shall deal, and doom me to eternity.'
Mixing his plaint with bitter tears and sighs,
So to himself the grieved Orlando cries.

LXXIX
Already every where, with due repose,
Creatures restored their weary spirits; laid
These upon stones and upon feathers those,
Or greensward, in the beech or myrtle's shade:
But scarcely did thine eyes, Orlando close,
So on thy mind tormenting fancies preyed.
Nor would the vexing thoughts which bred annoy,
Let thee in peace that fleeting sleep enjoy.

LXXX
To good Orlando it appeared as he,
Mid odorous flowers, upon a grassy bed,
Were gazing on that beauteous ivory,
Which Love's own hand had tinged with native red;
And those two stars of pure transparency,
With which he in Love's toils his fancy fed:
Of those bright eyes, and that bright face, I say,
Which from his breast had torn his heart away.

LXXXI
He with the fullest pleasure overflows,
That ever happy lover did content:
But, lo! this time a mighty tempest rose,
And wasted flowers, and trees uptore and rent.
Not with the rage with which this whirlwind blows,
Joust warring winds, north, south, and east, unpent.
It seemed, as if in search of covering shade,
He, vainly wandering, through a desert strayed.

LXXXII
Meanwhile the unhappy lover lost the dame
In that dim air, nor how he lost her, weets;
And, roving far and near, her beauteous name
Through every sounding wood and plain repeats.
And while, 'Oh wretched me!' is his exclaim,
'Who has to poison changed my promised sweets?'
He of his sovereign lady who with tears
Demands his aid, the lamentation hears.

LXXXIII
Thither, whence comes the sound, he swiftly hies,
And toils, now here, now there, with labour sore:
Oh! what tormenting grief, to think his eyes
Cannot again the lovely rays explore!
- Lo! other voice from other quarter cries -
'Hope not on earth to enjoy the blessing more.'
At that alarming cry he woke, and found
Himself in tears of bitter sorrow drowned.

LXXXIV
Not thinking that like images are vain,
When fear, or when desire disturbs our rest,
The thought of her, exposed to shame and pain,
In such a mode upon his fancy pressed,
He, thundering, leaped from bed, and with what chain
And plate behoved, his limbs all over dressed;
Took Brigliadoro from the stall he filled,
Nor any squire attendant's service willed.

LXXXV
And to pass every where, yet not expose
By this his dignity to stain or slight,
The old and honoured ensign he foregoes,
His ancient bearing, quartered red and white.
And in its place a sable ensign shows,
Perhaps as suited to his mournful plight,
That erst he from an Amostantes bore,
Whom he had slain in fight some time before.

LXXXVI
At midnight he departed silently,
Not to his uncle spake, not to his true
And faithful comrade Brandimart, whom he
So dearly cherished, even bade adieu;
But when, with golden tresses streaming-free,
The sun from rich Tithonus' inn withdrew,
And chased the shades, and cleared the humid air,
The king perceived Orlando was not there.

LXXXVII
To Charles, to his displeasure, were conveyed
News that his nephew had withdrawn at night,
When most he lacked his presence and his aid;
Nor could he curb his choler at the flight,
But that with foul reproach he overlaid,
And sorely threatened the departed knight,
By him so foul a fault should be repented,
Save he, returning home, his wrath prevented.

LXXXVIII
Nor would Orlando's faithful Brandimart,
Who loved him as himself, behind him stay;
Whether to bring him back he in his heart
Hoped, or of him ill brooked injurious say:
And scarce, in his impatience to depart,
Till fall of eve his sally would delay.
Lest she should hinder his design, of this
He nought imparted to his Flordelis:

LXXXIX
To him this was a lady passing dear,
And from whose side he unwont to stray;
Endowed with manners, grace, and beauteous cheer,
Wisdom and wit: if now he went away
And took no leave, it was because the peer
Hoped to revisit her that very day.
But that befel him after, as he strayed,
Which him beyond his own intent delayed.

XC
She when she has expected him in vain
Well nigh a month, and nought of him discerns,
Sallies without a guide or faithful train,
So with desire of him her bosom yearns:
And many a country seeks for him in vain;
To whom the story in due place returns.
No more I now shall tell you of these two,
More bent Anglantes' champion to pursue;

XCI
Who having old Almontes' blazonry
So changed, drew nigh the gate; and there the peer
Approached a captain of the guard, when he;
'I am the County,' whispered in his ear,
And (the bridge quickly lowered, and passage free
At his commandment) by the way most near
Went straight towards the foe: but what befell
Him next, the canto which ensues shall tell.

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

Share

A Day At Tivoli - Prologue

Fair blows the breeze—depart—depart—
And tread with me th' Italian shore;
And feed thy soul with glorious art;
And drink again of classic lore.
Nor sometime shalt thou deem it wrong,
When not in mood too gravely wise,
At idle length to lie along,
And quaff a bliss from bluest skies.

Or, pleased more pensive joy to woo,
At twilight eve, by ruin grey,
Muse o'er the generations, who
Have passed, as we must pass, away.
Or mark o'er olive tree and vine
Steep towns uphung; to win from them
Some thought of Southern Palestine;
Some dream of old Jerusalem.

Come, Pilgrim-Friend! At last our sun outbreaks,
And chases, one by one, dawn's lingering flakes.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! and downward let us rove
(Thy long-vow'd vow) this old Tiburtian grove.
See where, beneath, the jocund runnels play,
All cheerly brighten'd in the brightening day.
E'en in the far-off years when Flaccus wrote,
('Tis here, I ween, no pedantry to quote,)
Thus led, they gurgled thro' those orchard-bowers
To feed the herb—the fruitage—and the flowers.

Come, then, and snatch Occasion; transient boon!
And sliding into Future all too soon.
That Future's self possession just as brief,
And stolen, soon as given, by Time—the Thief.
Well! if such filching knave we needs must meet,
Let us, as best we may, the Cheater cheat;
And, since the Then, the Now, will flit so fast,
Look back, and lengthen life into the Past.

That Past is here; where old Tiburtus found
Mere mountain-brow, and fenc'd with walls around;
And for his wearied Argives reared a home
Long ere yon seven proud hills had dream'd of Rome.
'Tis here, amid these patriarch olive trees,
Which Flaccus saw, or ancestry of these;
Oft musing, as he slowly strayed him past,
How here his quiet age should close at last.

And here behold them, still! Like ancient seers
They stand; the dwellers of a thousand years.
Deep-furrow'd, strangely crook'd, and ashy-grey,
As ghost might gleam beneath the touch of day.
All strangely perforate too; with rounded eyes,
That ever scan the traveller as he hies:
Fit guardians of the spot they seem to be,
With centuries seen, and centuries yet to see.

Who treads this pallid grove, by moonlight pale,
Might half believe the peasant's spectre tale
Of Latian heroes old, that come to glide
Along these silent paths at even-tide;
Or Sibyl, wan with ghastly prophecy,
From her near fane, as whilom, wandering by.
But Morning, now, and sunny vines are here,
From tree to tree gay-gadding without fear;

Or else in verdant rope their fibres string,
As if to tempt the little Loves to swing;
Or, tricking silvery head and wrinkled stem
With tendril-curl, or leafy diadem;
A sportive war of graceful contrast wage,
The Grave and Gay—green Youth and hoary Age.
Hence we may feel Resounding Anio's shock,
As his full river thunders from his rock.
Yet mark! meanwhile adown its own small dell
How falls or winds each little cascatelle.

With no rude sound—with no impetuous rush;
But blandly—fondly—or by bank or bush.
Or floats in air; as when mild mermaid frees
(Or so they feign) her tresses to the breeze;
And careless, for a while, of coral bower,
Basks on the sunny sands till noontide's scorching hour.
How sweet! to have such gentle waters near;
Just soothing, ne'er disturbing eye nor ear.
Nor deem I those unblest, whom choice—or fate—
Leads to prefer the Lesser to the Great.

'Repose, thou better privilege than fame.'—
So felt, we know, the great historic name,
Mecænas; he who owned those villa-halls,
All stately once, tho' now but rifted walls.
And hither, wisely truant, oft would come,
Forth from the smokes, the toils, the strifes of Rome.
For, tho' defaced, discolour'd, broken, bow'd,
Yet were they then of gold and ivory proud.
Or far beyond what proudest wealth might do,
From thoughtful art a nobler triumph drew.

There, dark-hued urns, with mythic picture fraught,
Time's treasures! stood, from old Etruria brought;
Which even then had claim'd uncounted date,
When you great Rome was yet a struggling state.
Or marble vases there, in white array,
Beam'd back an added lustre to the day.
Or, better, when the gladly-welcom'd guest
Came to the banquet, rich with every zest,
From lamp of chisell'd bronze, adjusted light
Threw out some Phidian marvel on the night;
Evoking, heightening thus, in form or face,
Each subtler beauty or diviner grace.

Nor yet, when hours of feast had found their close,
Or jaded statesman sighed for short repose,
Was wanting, there, some well-befitting room,
Nor all-too bright, nor quite subdued to gloom,
Whose odoriferous cedar-shelves along
Fair scrolls were ranged; philosophy or song.
There, all our Lost might be. All Livy told,
(Where now?) and all Menander limned of old,
Fresh from the life; with sweet Simonides;
And glorious Sappho, —greater yet than These.

And then, perchance, you small and sinuous rill,
In open day now glittering down the hill,
Slid underground its tube-directed path,
To feed or sculptured fount or perfumed bath.
Their graceful rites, their gorgeous prides are gone;
Their proudest monument a crumbled stone!
Yet if the marble and the bronze decay,
Their storied memories fade not thus away;
But cluster still, tho' dying centuries toll,
Beadrolls for thought, and relics for the soul.

Hence here have bowed, thro' farthest tracts of time,
Genius and Lore, from every cultured clime.
And hence, no less, thro' many a countless year,
Like us, shall unborn pilgrims worship here.
And how may pilgrim stand on spot like this,
Nor feel what flitting wayfarer he is?
Here, where the joys, the griefs, the hopes, the fears,
The busy doings of three thousand years,
Since first Tiburtus made these hills his hold,
Have dreamed their dream, and mingle with the mould.
Men pass like cloud, or wave, or morning dew:
A thought nor very deep, nor very new.
Yet who, as here, shall find him, face to face,
In presence of that Mighty Commonplace,
And not imbibe the moral of the spot,
Accept the general doom—and murmur not?

Yet, if All die, there are who die not All;
(So Flaccus hoped), and half escape the pall.
The Sacred Few! whom love of glory binds,
'That last infirmity of noble minds,
'To scorn delights, and live laborious days,'

And win thro' lofty toil undying praise.
What if for These, now verging to the tomb,
As yet, nor laurels spread nor myrtles bloom;
Proud mortgagees they stand of Fame's estate,
And for the brave reversion bear to wait.
Nay, what tho' never from th' ungrateful soil
Green chaplets spring, for guerdon of the toil;
In calm content their avarice sublime
May well forego those unpaid debts of Time;
Who, e'en while clutching at the generous pelf,
Priz'd ever, most, the virtue for itself.

So go we musing on. But, as we go,
Just glimpse yon lizard frisking to and fro.
Now here—now there—now straightly fixed he lies;
Then turns him sudden in a mock surprise.
Give him this southern wall, this sprightly sun,
And Past and Future are to him as One.
Tell him of either, (for he loves to talk
With loiterer, pausing on his easy walk,)
Tell him of either, and, with eyes that glisten,
And head aslant, awhile he seems to listen,
Then jerks him merry off, as if to say,
'Good Sirs! for me sufficient is the day.'
So, should grave memories ever come to press
Life's present hour with thought of past distress;
Or future years o'erhang us, vague or dim,
Why, we may come and take a hint from him.
And who not thus delights him, who or what,
In such a clime, or animate or not?

These hill-side vines; this wide expanding plain;
These fields—of pasture, here; and there, of grain;
These twisted chesnuts, with their cheery green;
Yon darker cypress, spired above them seen;
Which, many a century, land-mark, there, hath stood,
Self-lifted obelisk, immortal wood;
Those aloes, that with sworded panoply
Still warn the pilgrim, who would dare too nigh;
Yon steeply climbing town; that rocky height;
Seem they not living in the living light?
For each grey flake hath faded from the view,
And all around is one Ausonian Blue.
Not the fresh dawn, not evening's tenderest hour,
Speak to the spirit with a deeper power.
As eye and heart strain up that azure air,
What light—what love—what fixedness is there!
Transient—we know—Eternal—let it seem!
With such blue sky we only ask to dream.

E'en he, (behold! him in that shaggy coat)—
Yon goat-herd, with his only browsing goat,
On the hill-slope; beside that humming stream;
This heaven above; how can he help but dream!
He ne'er was train'd in thronging city vast,
For some huge deck to shape the mighty mast;
To face, in ship, the deadly Afran breeze;

Or drop the anchor deep in Arctic seas,
Like our stern sons. Yet not for this despise,
Albeit in seeming vacancy he lies.
Not idle they the most, who idlest seem;
Nor lost are all the hours in which we dream.
In trade's dim workshops all unused to moil,
Small share is his of luxuries won by toil.
But luxuries he hath not unrefin'd,
That please, perchance, yet more his southern mind.

Mere idlesse pleases; as supine he lies,
And gazing upward thro' the blazing skies,
Wins shifting colours to his dazzl'd eyes;
Or red or azure. And delights to see
The brilliant mockeries as they come and flee;
And wonders, why? Or makes of each a gem,
Such as might grace a pontiff's diadem;
Ruby or sapphire. Strange to me—or you;
But, here, All love this dreamy 'Nought-to-do.'
Or by tradition's tongue, or ruin old,
Of his own land's great deeds hath he been told;
And asks himself, erewhile, with wishful pain,
Why may not those brave days return again?
And tho' still mingling in confusion quaint
Profane and Sacred; Warrior and Saint;
Yet each in turn hath taught him, if need were,
Like This, to suffer—or, like That, to dare.

Think too that These were they, whose flags, unfurl'd
Beneath Rome's eagle crest, once shook the world.
Yon peasant-girl, —you mark'd her where she stood,
In her just pride of conscious womanhood—
(Against yon column now she leans awhile,
Graceful, you'll own, as milkmaid by a stile.)
Behold her in her country's old costume;
Is lady statelier in a palace room?
Too poor, we know; perchance, too inly great,
The town's last mode to wish to imitate.
Barefooted—but with no submissive mien;
In beauty's regal right—a lawful queen.
Such type to Michael's chisel had given a law;
And Raphael's self but painted what he saw.
In region, where not oft the Dryad charms
Town-loving Signor to his woods and farms;

And palaces, within proud city shut,
But rarely neighbour on the peasant's hut;
(He'privileg'd—or doom'd—by lot of birth
To see, but seldom, these the Lords of earth
'Mid equals rear'd, what other should he be
But equal too—a freeman 'mid the free?
Our nobler civil rights to him unknown,
Yet all his social freedom—all his own.
But where wealth's stringent or out-doling hand
From point to point wide stretches o'er a land;
In power or bounty ever seen or felt,
Like lictor's fasces or an almsman's belt;
Tho' order hence, with all its blessings, flow, —
As fertilizing waters guided go—
Yet as, henceforth, we lose the stream that played
Thro' its own runnels, free and not afraid;

So there, by wealth or purchased or controlled,
Word—gesture—look—in native frankness bold—
Are quelled, like sprite, beneath the Wand of Gold.
Again—(prolix beyond the thing I ought,
You kindly bear, and let me speak my thought)
In land—where from the plough men rushed to arms,
Just saved a state, and then re-sought their farms—
I love these breathings free; these heads erect;
I love, in look and speech, this brave neglect.
With ancient memories they better suit
Than balanced phrases or observance mute.
Nay, for a spot like this seem least unmeet,
As in high natures Grand and Simple greet.
Is this the race down-dwindled to a weed?
A rotted trunk? or but a buried seed?

Which, if the storm should rise and floods up-tear
The shrouding soil, and give it back to air,
Shall sprout again; no longer matter brute;
But gladden'd with green leaves and its own glorious fruit.
Oh Italy! if fallen (as some delight
To say thou art), yet fallen from what vast height;
Oh Italy! thou land of memories dear,
Yet not for these alone we prize thee here;
But gladly take thee, with acceptive heart,
Not for thy 'hast been,' but for what thou art.
For who that knows thy seas of brightest wave,
Their shelving shores or rocky steeps that lave;
Thy lakes, 'mid mountains laid, in soft blue length,
Like Beauty guarded at the feet of Strength;
Thy landscape, seen at morn or evening hour,
Town—village—cresting chapel—arch or tower;

Rich art—rich nature—each on each that press,
Till the sense aches with very loveliness;
Thy corn with fruitage mixed; thy realms of vine,
For ever beauteous—if they droop, or twine;
Thy balmiest clime, which daily tasks can leaven
With bliss, from out the common air of heaven;
Man's natural bearing; woman's easy grace;
From very rags—in gesture and in face;
Thy dark-eyed childhood's ever-ready smile
Of playful innocence or playful wile;
Or knows thy human nature's better part,
Swift thought, swift feeling, and the kindly heart;
And knows, beside, what thousand pulses beat
To win thy glories back, with generous heat;
Who but for thee must fervent vows forecast,
And hope thy Future, while he dreams thy Past?
But now 'tis Mid-day! and the deep retreat
Of Anio's grot must shield us from the heat.

'Twas in such deep recess Salvator's touch
Won its dark truth, and Gaspar fed on such.
Lo! the rapt river along its channel'd ledge
Precipitous hurrying to that dizzy edge.
Now, for one breathless moment, high uphung,
Like curled sea-wave; then—forth, as foamy, flung.
Herein long lance-like flakes—straight down; while, there
As if were all uncoiled Medusa's hair,
The serpent-waters twirl and hiss in air.
Or else, in black and rocky cauldron bound,
For ever eddy round and round and round;
Wakening the thought, or sadden'd or sublime,
Of endless toil, or never-ending time.
All types from clashing waters—all are here;
All types and all emotions; sound and fear;

Pent agonies, that struggle for relief;
Free gushing tears; dishevelled locks of grief;
Mad angers; sullen pause; re-bursting ire;
With flood still swifter than pursuing fire.

Yet beauty too. But such as poets shed
Round the great vision of that snake-tress'd head,
Perplexing beauty—beauty wreathed with dread.
'Tis a great scene! Yet, not by it opprest,
We feel its greatness in a buoyant breast.
For (not as when some wild Helvetian flood
Dives down its sombre depth of piny wood)
Here, all around, hath Gladness flung her braid
Of green festoons, and scattered light and shade.

Or rather—if the word were fitlier won—
Not shade, but shadow—playmate of the sun.
Gloom glorified! as suits a southern clime;
And (bear the phrase) a Cheerfuller Sublime.
E'en far within the grot Light sports with Dark;
Herea long arrowy streak; and therea spark.
If disappearing, soon to re-illume;
Like festive fire-fly, glancing thro' the gloom;
Or old Venetian masquer, richly dight,
Who, 'neath his waxen torches' orange light,
With gems and spangles glitters on the night.
Who, Anio! that hath come, or soon or late,
To this thy shrine, but deems the day—a date;
Whence to recal at will, his whole life's length,
Thy voice—thy speed—thy beauty and thy strength?

Whether thou tinklest from some mountain-rest,—
Thy birth-place—where the eagle builds his nest;
Or cruel bandit plants him; thence to strain

His greedy vision o'er the cowering plain;
Or whether, wandered from thy native hills,
(As strong and stronger grown from clustering rills)
Thou pausest for a while in silent lake,

Where that she-wolf her passing thirst might slake,
Who (prowled to Tiber down and destined thus)
Suckled great Rome in infant Romulus;
Or holdest on by feudal tower, or hall
From Cæsars named, or nameless ruined wall;
Or by quaint villa; such as after days
For Este's princely line made pride to raise;
Where, many a time, thy rushing wave would roll
Intenser power o'er Ariosto's soul;
Brightening, thro' secret sympathies, the lay,
Which here he loved to weave (or so they say);

And which for aye—like thee—shall flow along
As wild—as smooth—as playful and as strong;
Whether thou speak of simple Sabine farms,
Or call, as now, to song—or art—or arms;
Be welcome every dream thou waftest down,
And every tale; but most of old renown.
Tell us of statesman—warrior—bard—or sage—
Wonder or love of many a famous age—
What time, by seas shut in and rocky strand,

And all-undreaming of the Roman brand,
Our Britain lay, a yet unhistoried land.
Hail and Farewell! Resounding Anio!
And now, Fair Stream! with milder current flow
On 'mid thy vines and pasture; till thou come
'Neath the proud walls of twice Imperial Rome.

Thence, with old Tiber, soon to sport thee free
'Mid the blue waters of the Tyrrhene sea.
Thou, Pilgrim-Friend! (we know) wert never one,
Mere idle praiser of the days foregone;

Nor striving still to shroud with poor pretence
Of classic feeling gap of week-day sense;
But ever, in thy wisdom, taking heed
That worthy life is made of daily deed.
And tho' (by shrewd Saint Stephen stolen, of late,
From converse of thy friends—to serve the state)
It thee befits to pay thy studious vow
To Hansard rather than to Livy—now;
Yet hence, methinks, 'tis joyance doubly sweet
In this, the dream-land of our youth to meet;
Together turn again the classic page,
And win us back our boyhood's loftier age;
And church and state for some brief weeks eschew;
And make again this Ancient World our New.
But, here, far back the scroll must be unroll'd;
Here, where ten centuries do not make the Old.

Where old they deem in antiquarian thought
Some work by Ancus or by Tarquin wrought.
That tunnel huge, or prison Mammertine;
Or old may grant the Fabian—Julian—line;
But half a Modern make our Constantine;
And, as they pass his structures, on their way,
Scarce note them—as but things of yesterday.
Small matter! Old or new, we'll list the while,
As Ciceroni teach us—or beguile.
And, if some tales for question seem to call,
In sifting Niebuhr's spite, accept them all.
Where Curtius leapt, believe the very spot;
Or muse with Numa in th' Egerian grot.
Yea—sweet for him, by parent doomed to court—
Unwilling suitor—ancient law-report;
Awhile to snatch him from the hated thrall
Of pleader's desk, or point-contesting hall;
And sweet, not less, for thee, who legislate,
To 'scape committee-room and dull debate;
Corn question—currency—and funded debt;
French marriage—and the treaty of Utretcht;
And leaving—not too long—our own dear land,
To hail—as we of late—the Belgic strand;
Thence, o'er their ill-laid rail, right glad to roll,—
Tho' shaken sore—to this Ausonian Goal.
Not stately Bruges might detain us, now,
Nor Meuse, soft-gliding 'neath her fortress'd brow;

More pleased some while to thrust from off the scene
Battles and sieges, Marlborough and Eugene.
Nay, prizing thee, old Legendary Rhine!
Less for thy legends than thy climbing vine.
Nor yet in famed Helvetia tarrying long,
Tho' there green vales and glittering mountains throng;
And We aye pleased to feel the bosom swell,
By Uris rock, at thought of William Tell.
But onward still our purposed way we take
O'er tall Gothard and by Locarno's lake;
Or climbing slow, or if in full career,
With Rome! Rome! Rome! in heart and eye and ear.
Still thirsting; till at last we came to stand,
Glad Exodites! in it—our Promised Land.

And what our Pisgah view? Crushed piles of state
The walls within; and dun and desolate
Campagna round; with bridge and tower destruct
By age or war; and ruined aqueduct
Athwart the fading twilight. And is this
A Forum? or a vast Necropolis?
Temples—for tombs; a nation's dust beneath;
With silence round, that fears almost to breathe;
And city-solitude, so strangely drear,
The Living seem to have no business—here.
If in some vineyard ground our step be stayed,
Awhile, beside the peasant's delving spade;
(Now—vineyard; once—Patrician's client court,
When that near Forum was a world's resort)
As up and up the rank black mould is cast,
The very earth seems odorous of the Past.

Each after each, behold in turn out-thrown
Tile—faded stucco—scrap of sculptured stone.
Anon—some shattered urn, or broken frieze;
Power—turned to skeleton! His fragments—These.
Ruins and fragments! Is it these that Ye
From your own thriving land come forth to see?
We answer, 'Yea;' these are the things that We
From our own thriving land come forth to see.
We come to see how ancient power may die,
And ponder on a realm's mortality.
Yet, seeing how survive the Good—the Just;
In goodness and in justice learn to trust.
We come, as in fond youth, to sympathize,
Thro' backward ages, with the Great and Wise;

And feel—as then—some throb thro' inner heart,
Where life's low interests claim no smallest part.
We come from restless plan and restless deed,
Ambition's instrument, or habit's need,
To find the Calm which generous leisures give,
And less in act than meditation live.
We come from wit's and jest's enlivening strife,
And all the dearer bliss of household life,
To feed on pensive thoughts; yet not the less
To win a pleasure from our pensiveness.
And if those grave and pensive thoughts (and such
Our case may be) should press the heart too much;
'Twere not so very far to find our way
Mid glorious art, that tells of no decay.
Where beams each high conception just the same
As when from Grecian chisel first it came.

Tho' mortal-born, of beauty that might mate
With archetype celestial increate.
Nay, beauteous more than in their glittering prime,
Tinged softly by the sun-set hues of Time.
Then, if some friend should come, with best intent,
To warn of hours all uselessly misspent;
He too may learn (nor is the lore abstruse)
That uselessness, like this, is noblest use.
That while the busy serfs of wealth and power
Fawn only on the Present's sordid hour,
(No lofty thought or back—or forward—cast)
We pluck our nobler Present from the Past.
Nor pause we there, but, starting forth anew,
From thence shape out a nobler Future too.
This long discourse hath led us far away
'Mid other themes from our Tiburtian day,

But now again, with renovated grace,
We bow before the Genius of the Place,
Full of the scene around; and all-intent,
As slow we travel up this steep ascent,
To win the passing pictures, as they rise
From present hour, or ancient memories.
For here, glance where eye may, or footstep fall,
Or new or old, 'tis picture—picture—All.
This structure near, mere peasant's dwelling-place,
Is not itself without some claim of grace.
Its terraced roof, square tower, and arching gate
To Art, long since, thro' picture consecrate.
For Creed of Art hath not alone to do
With reason'd faith, but with tradition too;
And Beauty's self we hold for most divine,
When Memory stands Priestess at her shrine.

Behold! its sunward wall. How all-ablaze
With one full glow of ripest, yellowest maize;
Whose rich-ribbed cylinders, in order strung,
Seem tassels, for some festal rite uphung.
Or each might be fit cresting ornament
For regal canopy, or warrior-tent.
No brighter hues hath Ceres in her horn;
No cheerier ever broke from saffron morn.
More golden—ne'er from furnace-fires were rolled
Than these, sun-wrought in vegetable gold.
Which almost might requite his absent ray,
Themselves a sun-shine for each clouded day.
While yon ripe gourds, that strew the court-yard floor,
Beam upward, each a mass of glittering ore.
But now, with these our rural splendours done,
And we, like them, full-saturate with sun;
How fresh it is, as, step by step, we mount,
To watch the gushings of that marble fount.

Its cistern—some antique sarcophagus;
(Here, Old and New for ever mingle—thus)
While its raised cup, whenceforth the Naiads toss
O'erbrimming wave, is fringed with greenest moss.
(For, in these lands comes oft from mere neglect,
What art long while might ponder to effect.)
Each pendent tuft, with sparkling spray bedript,
Seems it not emerald, with diamond tipt?
And then those female forms, with braided hair,
And heads erect, that classic urns up-bear;
(From forth whose shapely rims dewed vine-leaves drop;—
Thrust partly in, escaping lymph to stop.)
These, as around the cistern's edge they throng,
Say, might not These to Grecian Art belong?

Whoe'er from life's mere prose awhile would flee,
Should roam with us this land of reverie.
Where museful fancy needeth not the aid
Of cloister dim, or silent colonnade,
Or solitary shore, or moonlight glen,
But meets her visions 'mid the haunts of men;
And feels in broadest sun-light round her stream
From every waking fact some answering dream.
And how that lofty Past exalts the Now!
That churl—a Cincinnatus at the plough!
Yon kite, slow circling up the Blue—afar—
An augury! or be it peace or war.
Those very geese, out clamouring, one and all,
The Sacred Birds that saved the Capitol!
And lo! thro' yonder arch those oxen twain;
On slowly swaying that grape-loaded wain.

Right goodly creatures, beautiful to view!
Dark-hoofed—dark-maned—the rest of creamy hue;
With large soft eyes. All soft as Here's were,
('Tis Homer's simile, so we may dare)—
When their pride slept, and love alone was there.
Now, thro' the spacious court behold they go;
Now, pause beside the pillared portico.
With foliage drest, and that rich ruby freight,
Nay—draw they not, in sacrificial state,
A Bacchic offering to some temple's gate?
Mark the broad wheels—but two! That yoking bar,
Just as of old! No wain—but ancient car!
And they, above the piled up grapes who ride,
Their naked limbs with purpling vintage dyed,
The Fauns! And here, ere long, the rest shall be:
Look with poetic eyes and thou shalt see

Bacchante lithe; and jesting Satyr near;
With broad Silenus, staggering in the rear,
Tho' doubly propped; while gay goat-footed Pan
'Mid pipe and cymbal triumphs in the van.
Then that old Crone, with lifted tambourine,
Which still she smites; and some strange rhythm between,
Or, rather, mixed; while to the double sound
A dark-tress'd girl is dancing round and round,
That Crone, with hair unkempt, yet scarce uncouth,
(So well it suits) and that fore-thrusting tooth,
Keen—almost prescient—tooth of prophetess;
(A flitting fancy, which I may not press)
That Crone shall be our Sibyl! And that Girl,
Still hurried round and round in dizzier whirl;
With her wild eye almost to frenzy fired,
(Such look in Delphi had been held inspired)

And flashing locks, and every flashing limb,
She shall be Priestess! and that Song—the Hymn!
And wherefore, 'No?' Why may not this be chaunt
From Pythian tripod or Dodona's haunt?
For, as some stream, by ancient fragments hid,
From earthquake—flung; or mighty hill—down slid;
(That cumber, many a league, the valleys round

With huge grey rock or grass-grown earthy mound
Still holds its silent way 'neath all that hides,
Then at some far-off point once more outglides,
Another stream; another, yet the same;
E'en those, who quaff, may guess not whence it came;
No otherwise this mystic rhythm may flow,
Far winding on, from ages long ago;
Some Grecian chaunt, its secret course unknown,
And heard, at last, in region not its own.

Old customs die not, but sprout forth again;
The names distorted, while the things remain.
Fane, 'Church' baptized, sees new-named votaries vow,
And old Chief Augur is Prime Pontiff, now.
E'en Jove himself, Great Jove Capitoline,

Rules in strange semblance o'er a later shrine.
His twice-fused bronze transformed, by pious feint,
From Pagan Deity to Christian Saint.
At this you smile; and who would smile refuse?
But when the smile is o'er, 'twere well to muse.
Olympian Zeus, upon his golden throne;
Calm Pallas, glorious in her Parthenon;
Or rudest Sibyl, from her rocky cave,
Mid spiky aloes, issued forth to rave;
Or curling smokes, o'er Judah wont to rise
From bull or goat, in barbarous sacrifice;

These, for rank falsehoods, while the most eschew,
In stern contempt for Gentile and for Jew;
These, for imperfect truths, let us accept;
Instalments of the universal debt;
Acknowledgment, we know, far off and dim;
Yet, not the less, acknowledgment of Him,
'In every age, in every clime adored;
(So sang the bard,) Jehovah—Jove—or Lord.'
This preachment o'er, (which yet you mildly bear,
Of preachments all-impatient as you are),
Yon church, whence now intones the holy mass,
If so you please, we'll enter as we pass.
For churches here (with reverence be it said)
Are not too holy held for week-day tread.
But each, at will and unrebuked for wrong,
May come and muse their column'd aisles along:

And some high influence win, or grave delight
From picture, incense, or the chaunted rite;
Or find fit hour, as every passing day
Its joy or sorrow brings—to praise or pray.
But now with festal silks the shafts are bound,
And glittering fringes edge the arches round.
Of granites red, or cippolino grey,
Or carvings quaint, small sight for us—to-day.
We quarrel not. There are, we know, who hate,
Or half unchristian deem such pious fête.
Yet silvered Saints, and Virgin fancy-drest
For peasant-worshipper may be the best.
Rare entrance his, or none, thro' palace gate;
Be this his palace hall—his room of state.
Or let him bring his humble sorrows here,
Secure, at least, of one Great Listener's ear.

These types, so falsified, from earliest youth
Have been to him the very types of truth;
And his own toil hath helped the monthly dole
That gilds the shrine, and bids the organ roll.
Worships—like tastes—have each their power and tone;
Church ne'er was meant for Dilletant' alone.
And Christians, such as would all rites confine
To their own forms, are Christians none of mine.
Then spare him, Critic! as he kneels in this
His ill-drest fane, and loves for God'sand his.
'Of all the ills unhappy mortals know,
A life of wandering is the greatest woe.'
So thought Ulysses; but we think not so.
And blest it is, with pilgrim-staff in hand,
At our own will to roam each ancient land,

(Of which in school-boy volume first we read,
Yet never dared to hope our feet should tread)
And test with manhood's sense the dreams of youth,
Nor lose the vision, and yet win the truth.
If nature-led; to track with pleasant pains
Their mountain-wilds and cultivated plains.
If student; in some shy monastic crypt,
To try old text by new found manuscript.
If vowed to art; its each attempt explore,
From primal Ægypt, or the Xanthian shore,
To where in Greece it triumphed; deified
And deifying; then like mortal died.
In this bright land again to spring to life,
And strive again; scarce conquered in the strife.
But he who to the land, that sent him forth,
Brings back but this, brings product little worth.
Huge virtuoso—true! But driveller blind

Beside the larger soul—the deeper mind—
Which, learning man, hath learnt to love mankind.
Our hostel hold us now; not undistrest
By pleasant toil; for pleasures must have rest.
Here, sit—or sleep—or scrawl the pane—your fill;
Or rhyme—like me, (against Minerva's will!)
Who for sublimer flight nor bold nor strong,
May just achieve to journalize in song.
Yet for brief space. For now, it seems, we dine:
Lo! here, wild boar—and, here, Falernian wine;
With figs—ripe grapes—and rarest wheaten bread.
And who may tell but here the board was spread
For genial Flaccus and for Maro—thus—
Two thousand years ago, as now for us?
Just fancy! when they sat, as here we sit,
The frolic—and the wisdom—and the wit.

And here came he, the blood of ancient kings,
To find the joyance equal converse brings.
With them gay chatting, as the whim might be,
Of one's arch Phillis, one's sweet Lalage.
Or last year's visit to Bandusia's fount;
Or journey planned to yon Soractes' mount.
Or laughing back, with still-recurring glee,
Those sparkling days from Rome to Brindisi.
Here too the Cæsar might consort with them;—
His Purple laid aside and Diadem—
Well-pleased, amid their talk and easy cheer,
To glimpse his own great Rome—yet feel it not too near.
What glimpse (had glimpse been given) of years to come!
The conquering Goth; and that twice pillaged Rome.

Gone! eagles—banners—lances—lictors' rods;
The temples crumbling o'er their crumbled Gods.
All steadfast as they seemed, his ancient stock
Uprooted from their Capitolian rock.
The far-off realms, they swayed but with the sword,
Crouched at a swordless pontiff's slightest word.
Their mighty palace (of each glory reft,
Nor marble frieze, nor porphyry pillar left;
Nor floor, as once, with rich mosaic spread;
Nor hues cerulean arching overhead)
Roofless and void; and only, now, renowned
As larger ruin 'mid the ruins round.
The baths with rubbish choked; the fountains dry;
The green acanthus, as in mockery,
(And wild, as when by chance in wicker sown,
It gave, of old, its graceful hint to stone)
Wandering, at will, amid those very halls,
Where once 'twas carved for golden capitals.

Some lingering terrace but a loftier spot,
Whence to discern that his own Rome was not.
Thee, Flaccus! the self-promised not to die,
A kindlier star hath sped thy prophecy.
Or song itself fulfils its own desire;
Realms fade away, and dynasties expire;
Yet on from age to age sounds thine—with Maro's lyre.
But here, by rightful and peculiar lot,
Ye hover most, the Genii of the spot.
Of memory—vision—feeling—thought—a part;
Heard from each lip, or borne in every heart.
Brave bliss! What braver may to bard belong?
Save its own joy from self-requiting song.
Diverse the strains. Yet would we figure how
Together oft ye trod this favorite brow.

Not now in jocund converse, as of late,
But each his inner theme to meditate.
Thou, it might be, some polished lyric verse;
Now, fondly dallying; now, brightly terse.
Or precept, each with its own wisdom rife,
That models—herea poem; therea life.
Or else wouldst hie thee to the busy street,
To sketch some silly pride or grave conceit.
Then round to us the playful picture turn,
And bid us in that glass ourselves re-learn.
Meanwhile (so dream we on) the Mantuan Bard
To yon tall peak hath paced the silent sward.
Thenceforth to scan, in prospect calm and free,
The various plain, from hill to circling sea.

Pale region, now; with culture ill be-sped;
Then, one wide Georgic, bright beneath him spread.
Or, not unprompted by that far sea-line,
Would ponder o'er th' Eneian tale divine;
Till clear before him, and in perfect plan,
The Heroic Vision stood — 'Arms and the Man.'
Once more I move you (our third flask is done,
And lo! the shadows lengthen in the sun)
To view yon time-hued fane, at this soft hour,
When eye and spirit best may feel its power.
Laud we the Gods! No connoisseur is near,
With his clipp'd talk our frank delight to sear.
Who, while a thousand admirations crave,
Still harps and harps on arch and architrave;
And, vowed to his five orders, fain would school
Our kindling spirits with his three-foot rule.

Scarce more, if we might choose our time and place,
Here would we wish that nobler critic race,
Esthetical; who stand on tiptoe still,
And see far less with eyesight than with will.
Would-be discoverers, on vague voyage bent;
Interpreters 'of meanings never meant;'

Of the true creed, but whose ecstatic faith
O'erpasseth ever what the Gospel saith;
These, while the smaller critics tease or vex,
With their dim dreams disturb us—or perplex;
Or, if such comment sound not civil quite,
Daze out our clearness with their too much light.

Digressive thus, ere passing thoughts be gone,
I crave your leave, and idly ramble on,
(You still indulging) till I bring you near
Our famous temple—and behold it!—here.

Amid these varying tales of ruin old,—
Some, scantly gathered up; some, falsely told—
Sibyl's or Vesta's we may hardly tell:
But he, who first devised, devised it well,
Here, where it stands, with circling columns bound,
And placed—how calm! above the gulf profound,
To tame these rugged rocks—this torrent's stress—
With power of Beauty and of Gentleness.
So might we feign, some fair high-lineaged queen
Rules o'er a raging crowd with look serene.
So too, when some great Master hath designed
To paint in human form th' Eternal Mind;
And humbly dares essay that lofty brow,
Which holds the Past—the Future—and the Now;
Awhile we pause before his art severe;
Then, reverent bend; yet less in love than fear.

But when, ere long, around those awful brows
In graceful curve his cherub-group he throws;
Each with its little arms—beneathabove
Outstretch'd to clasp, and childhood's look of love;
Behold! those awful brows no longer lower,
But Sense of Love hath soothed the Sense of Power.
So—Pilgrim-Friend! our pleasant day is sped:
'To-morrow, to fresh woods;' to-night, to bed.
Yet from these heights throw one more glance abroad,
And some few moments dream with dreamy Claude.
Beneathare field and stream and lake and wood,
And site, where ancient city stands—or stood.
Aroundthe hills. Thatherein bay recede,
As if for nestling culture taking heed;
Or boldly—there—indent the level plain,
Like promontory pronged into the main.

As parts for other clime th' unwilling day,
See! how that far Campagna sinks away.
A sea of purpled land, now, seems to be;
Now, scarce distinguished from the purple sea.
E'en while we gaze, how vanish on the view
Each bright—each fair—each fading—faded—hue!
A pensive light, while aught of light remains;
Then—pensive veil for these Deserted Plains!

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

Share
Byron

Don Juan: Canto The Fourth

Nothing so difficult as a beginning
In poesy, unless perhaps the end;
For oftentimes when Pegasus seems winning
The race, he sprains a wing, and down we tend,
Like Lucifer when hurl'd from heaven for sinning;
Our sin the same, and hard as his to mend,
Being pride, which leads the mind to soar too far,
Till our own weakness shows us what we are.

But Time, which brings all beings to their level,
And sharp Adversity, will teach at last
Man,- and, as we would hope,- perhaps the devil,
That neither of their intellects are vast:
While youth's hot wishes in our red veins revel,
We know not this- the blood flows on too fast;
But as the torrent widens towards the ocean,
We ponder deeply on each past emotion.

As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow,
And wish'd that others held the same opinion;
They took it up when my days grew more mellow,
And other minds acknowledged my dominion:
Now my sere fancy 'falls into the yellow
Leaf,' and Imagination droops her pinion,
And the sad truth which hovers o'er my desk
Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.

And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
'T is that I may not weep; and if I weep,
'T is that our nature cannot always bring
Itself to apathy, for we must steep
Our hearts first in the depths of Lethe's spring,
Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep:
Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx;
A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.

Some have accused me of a strange design
Against the creed and morals of the land,
And trace it in this poem every line:
I don't pretend that I quite understand
My own meaning when I would be very fine;
But the fact is that I have nothing plann'd,
Unless it were to be a moment merry,
A novel word in my vocabulary.

To the kind reader of our sober clime
This way of writing will appear exotic;
Pulci was sire of the half-serious rhyme,
Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic,
And revell'd in the fancies of the time,
True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings despotic:
But all these, save the last, being obsolete,
I chose a modern subject as more meet.

How I have treated it, I do not know;
Perhaps no better than they have treated me
Who have imputed such designs as show
Not what they saw, but what they wish'd to see:
But if it gives them pleasure, be it so;
This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free:
Meantime Apollo plucks me by the ear,
And tells me to resume my story here.

Young Juan and his lady-love were left
To their own hearts' most sweet society;
Even Time the pitiless in sorrow cleft
With his rude scythe such gentle bosoms; he
Sigh'd to behold them of their hours bereft,
Though foe to love; and yet they could not be
Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring,
Before one charm or hope had taken wing.

Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail;
The blank grey was not made to blast their hair,
But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail
They were all summer: lightning might assail
And shiver them to ashes, but to trail
A long and snake-like life of dull decay
Was not for them- they had too little day.

They were alone once more; for them to be
Thus was another Eden; they were never
Weary, unless when separate: the tree
Cut from its forest root of years- the river
Damm'd from its fountain- the child from the knee
And breast maternal wean'd at once for ever,-
Would wither less than these two torn apart;
Alas! there is no instinct like the heart-

The heart- which may be broken: happy they!
Thrice fortunate! who of that fragile mould,
The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne'er behold
The long year link'd with heavy day on day,
And all which must be borne, and never told;
While life's strange principle will often lie
Deepest in those who long the most to die.

'Whom the gods love die young,' was said of yore,
And many deaths do they escape by this:
The death of friends, and that which slays even more-
The death of friendship, love, youth, all that is,
Except mere breath; and since the silent shore
Awaits at last even those who longest miss
The old archer's shafts, perhaps the early grave
Which men weep over may be meant to save.

Haidee and Juan thought not of the dead-
The heavens, and earth, and air, seem'd made for them:
They found no fault with Time, save that he fled;
They saw not in themselves aught to condemn:
Each was the other's mirror, and but read
Joy sparkling in their dark eyes like a gem,
And knew such brightness was but the reflection
Of their exchanging glances of affection.

The gentle pressure, and the thrilling touch,
The least glance better understood than words,
Which still said all, and ne'er could say too much;
A language, too, but like to that of birds,
Known but to them, at least appearing such
As but to lovers a true sense affords;
Sweet playful phrases, which would seem absurd
To those who have ceased to hear such, or ne'er heard,-

All these were theirs, for they were children still,
And children still they should have ever been;
They were not made in the real world to fill
A busy character in the dull scene,
But like two beings born from out a rill,
A nymph and her beloved, all unseen
To pass their lives in fountains and on flowers,
And never know the weight of human hours.

Moons changing had roll'd on, and changeless found
Those their bright rise had lighted to such joys
As rarely they beheld throughout their round;
And these were not of the vain kind which cloys,
For theirs were buoyant spirits, never bound
By the mere senses; and that which destroys
Most love, possession, unto them appear'd
A thing which each endearment more endear'd.

Oh beautiful! and rare as beautiful
But theirs was love in which the mind delights
To lose itself when the old world grows dull,
And we are sick of its hack sounds and sights,
Intrigues, adventures of the common school,
Its petty passions, marriages, and flights,
Where Hymen's torch but brands one strumpet more,
Whose husband only knows her not a wh- re.

Hard words; harsh truth; a truth which many know.
Enough.- The faithful and the fairy pair,
Who never found a single hour too slow,
What was it made them thus exempt from care?
Young innate feelings all have felt below,
Which perish in the rest, but in them were
Inherent- what we mortals call romantic,
And always envy, though we deem it frantic.

This is in others a factitious state,
An opium dream of too much youth and reading,
But was in them their nature or their fate:
No novels e'er had set their young hearts bleeding,
For Haidee's knowledge was by no means great,
And Juan was a boy of saintly breeding;
So that there was no reason for their loves
More than for those of nightingales or doves.

They gazed upon the sunset; 't is an hour
Dear unto all, but dearest to their eyes,
For it had made them what they were: the power
Of love had first o'erwhelm'd them from such skies,
When happiness had been their only dower,
And twilight saw them link'd in passion's ties;
Charm'd with each other, all things charm'd that brought
The past still welcome as the present thought.

I know not why, but in that hour to-night,
Even as they gazed, a sudden tremor came,
And swept, as 't were, across their hearts' delight,
Like the wind o'er a harp-string, or a flame,
When one is shook in sound, and one in sight;
And thus some boding flash'd through either frame,
And call'd from Juan's breast a faint low sigh,
While one new tear arose in Haidee's eye.

That large black prophet eye seem'd to dilate
And follow far the disappearing sun,
As if their last day! of a happy date
With his broad, bright, and dropping orb were gone;
Juan gazed on her as to ask his fate-
He felt a grief, but knowing cause for none,
His glance inquired of hers for some excuse
For feelings causeless, or at least abstruse.

She turn'd to him, and smiled, but in that sort
Which makes not others smile; then turn'd aside:
Whatever feeling shook her, it seem'd short,
And master'd by her wisdom or her pride;
When Juan spoke, too- it might be in sport-
Of this their mutual feeling, she replied-
'If it should be so,- but- it cannot be-
Or I at least shall not survive to see.'

Juan would question further, but she press'd
His lip to hers, and silenced him with this,
And then dismiss'd the omen from her breast,
Defying augury with that fond kiss;
And no doubt of all methods 't is the best:
Some people prefer wine- 't is not amiss;
I have tried both; so those who would a part take
May choose between the headache and the heartache.

One of the two, according to your choice,
Woman or wine, you 'll have to undergo;
Both maladies are taxes on our joys:
But which to choose, I really hardly know;
And if I had to give a casting voice,
For both sides I could many reasons show,
And then decide, without great wrong to either,
It were much better to have both than neither.

Juan and Haidee gazed upon each other
With swimming looks of speechless tenderness,
Which mix'd all feelings, friend, child, lover, brother,
All that the best can mingle and express
When two pure hearts are pour'd in one another,
And love too much, and yet can not love less;
But almost sanctify the sweet excess
By the immortal wish and power to bless.

Mix'd in each other's arms, and heart in heart,
Why did they not then die?- they had lived too long
Should an hour come to bid them breathe apart;
Years could but bring them cruel things or wrong;
The world was not for them, nor the world's art
For beings passionate as Sappho's song;
Love was born with them, in them, so intense,
It was their very spirit- not a sense.

They should have lived together deep in woods,
Unseen as sings the nightingale; they were
Unfit to mix in these thick solitudes
Call'd social, haunts of Hate, and Vice, and Care:
How lonely every freeborn creature broods!
The sweetest song-birds nestle in a pair;
The eagle soars alone; the gull and crow
Flock o'er their carrion, just like men below.

Now pillow'd cheek to cheek, in loving sleep,
Haidee and Juan their siesta took,
A gentle slumber, but it was not deep,
For ever and anon a something shook
Juan, and shuddering o'er his frame would creep;
And Haidee's sweet lips murmur'd like a brook
A wordless music, and her face so fair
Stirr'd with her dream, as rose-leaves with the air.

Or as the stirring of a deep dear stream
Within an Alpine hollow, when the wind
Walks o'er it, was she shaken by the dream,
The mystical usurper of the mind-
O'erpowering us to be whate'er may seem
Good to the soul which we no more can bind;
Strange state of being! (for 't is still to be)
Senseless to feel, and with seal'd eyes to see.

She dream'd of being alone on the sea-shore,
Chain'd to a rock; she knew not how, but stir
She could not from the spot, and the loud roar
Grew, and each wave rose roughly, threatening her;
And o'er her upper lip they seem'd to pour,
Until she sobb'd for breath, and soon they were
Foaming o'er her lone head, so fierce and high-
Each broke to drown her, yet she could not die.

Anon- she was released, and then she stray'd
O'er the sharp shingles with her bleeding feet,
And stumbled almost every step she made;
And something roll'd before her in a sheet,
Which she must still pursue howe'er afraid:
'T was white and indistinct, nor stopp'd to meet
Her glance nor grasp, for still she gazed, and grasp'd,
And ran, but it escaped her as she clasp'd.

The dream changed:- in a cave she stood, its walls
Were hung with marble icicles, the work
Of ages on its water-fretted halls,
Where waves might wash, and seals might breed and lurk;
Her hair was dripping, and the very balls
Of her black eyes seem'd turn'd to tears, and mirk
The sharp rocks look'd below each drop they caught,
Which froze to marble as it fell,- she thought.

And wet, and cold, and lifeless at her feet,
Pale as the foam that froth'd on his dead brow,
Which she essay'd in vain to clear (how sweet
Were once her cares, how idle seem'd they now!),
Lay Juan, nor could aught renew the beat
Of his quench'd heart; and the sea dirges low
Rang in her sad ears like a mermaid's song,
And that brief dream appear'd a life too long.

And gazing on the dead, she thought his face
Faded, or alter'd into something new-
Like to her father's features, till each trace-
More like and like to Lambro's aspect grew-
With all his keen worn look and Grecian grace;
And starting, she awoke, and what to view?
Oh! Powers of Heaven! what dark eye meets she there?
'T is- 't is her father's- fix'd upon the pair!

Then shrieking, she arose, and shrieking fell,
With joy and sorrow, hope and fear, to see
Him whom she deem'd a habitant where dwell
The ocean-buried, risen from death, to be
Perchance the death of one she loved too well:
Dear as her father had been to Haidee,
It was a moment of that awful kind-
I have seen such- but must not call to mind.

Up Juan sprung to Haidee's bitter shriek,
And caught her falling, and from off the wall
Snatch'd down his sabre, in hot haste to wreak
Vengeance on him who was the cause of all:
Then Lambro, who till now forbore to speak,
Smiled scornfully, and said, 'Within my call,
A thousand scimitars await the word;
Put up, young man, put up your silly sword.'

And Haidee clung around him; 'Juan, 't is-
'T is Lambro- 't is my father! Kneel with me-
He will forgive us- yes- it must be- yes.
Oh! dearest father, in this agony
Of pleasure and of pain- even while I kiss
Thy garment's hem with transport, can it be
That doubt should mingle with my filial joy?
Deal with me as thou wilt, but spare this boy.'

High and inscrutable the old man stood,
Calm in his voice, and calm within his eye-
Not always signs with him of calmest mood:
He look'd upon her, but gave no reply;
Then turn'd to Juan, in whose cheek the blood
Oft came and went, as there resolved to die;
In arms, at least, he stood, in act to spring
On the first foe whom Lambro's call might bring.

'Young man, your sword;' so Lambro once more said:
Juan replied, 'Not while this arm is free.'
The old man's cheek grew pale, but not with dread,
And drawing from his belt a pistol, he
Replied, 'Your blood be then on your own head.'
Then look'd dose at the flint, as if to see
'T was fresh- for he had lately used the lock-
And next proceeded quietly to cock.

It has a strange quick jar upon the ear,
That cocking of a pistol, when you know
A moment more will bring the sight to bear
Upon your person, twelve yards off, or so;
A gentlemanly distance, not too near,
If you have got a former friend for foe;
But after being fired at once or twice,
The ear becomes more Irish, and less nice.

Lambro presented, and one instant more
Had stopp'd this Canto, and Don Juan's breath,
When Haidee threw herself her boy before;
Stern as her sire: 'On me,' she cried, 'let death
Descend- the fault is mine; this fatal shore
He found- but sought not. I have pledged my faith;
I love him- I will die with him: I knew
Your nature's firmness- know your daughter's too.'

A minute past, and she had been all tears,
And tenderness, and infancy; but now
She stood as one who champion'd human fears-
Pale, statue-like, and stern, she woo'd the blow;
And tall beyond her sex, and their compeers,
She drew up to her height, as if to show
A fairer mark; and with a fix'd eye scann'd
Her father's face- but never stopp'd his hand.

He gazed on her, and she on him; 't was strange
How like they look'd! the expression was the same;
Serenely savage, with a little change
In the large dark eye's mutual-darted flame;
For she, too, was as one who could avenge,
If cause should be- a lioness, though tame.
Her father's blood before her father's face
Boil'd up, and proved her truly of his race.

I said they were alike, their features and
Their stature, differing but in sex and years;
Even to the delicacy of their hand
There was resemblance, such as true blood wears;
And now to see them, thus divided, stand
In fix'd ferocity, when joyous tears
And sweet sensations should have welcomed both,
Show what the passions are in their full growth.

The father paused a moment, then withdrew
His weapon, and replaced it; but stood still,
And looking on her, as to look her through,
'Not I,' he said, 'have sought this stranger's ill;
Not I have made this desolation: few
Would bear such outrage, and forbear to kill;
But I must do my duty- how thou hast
Done thine, the present vouches for the past.

'Let him disarm; or, by my father's head,
His own shall roll before you like a ball!'
He raised his whistle, as the word he said,
And blew; another answer'd to the call,
And rushing in disorderly, though led,
And arm'd from boot to turban, one and all,
Some twenty of his train came, rank on rank;
He gave the word,- 'Arrest or slay the Frank.'

Then, with a sudden movement, he withdrew
His daughter; while compress'd within his clasp,
'Twixt her and Juan interposed the crew;
In vain she struggled in her father's grasp-
His arms were like a serpent's coil: then flew
Upon their prey, as darts an angry asp,
The file of pirates; save the foremost, who
Had fallen, with his right shoulder half cut through.

The second had his cheek laid open; but
The third, a wary, cool old sworder, took
The blows upon his cutlass, and then put
His own well in; so well, ere you could look,
His man was floor'd, and helpless at his foot,
With the blood running like a little brook
From two smart sabre gashes, deep and red-
One on the arm, the other on the head.

And then they bound him where he fell, and bore
Juan from the apartment: with a sign
Old Lambro bade them take him to the shore,
Where lay some ships which were to sail at nine.
They laid him in a boat, and plied the oar
Until they reach'd some galliots, placed in line;
On board of one of these, and under hatches,
They stow'd him, with strict orders to the watches.

The world is full of strange vicissitudes,
And here was one exceedingly unpleasant:
A gentleman so rich in the world's goods,
Handsome and young, enjoying all the present,
Just at the very time when he least broods
On such a thing is suddenly to sea sent,
Wounded and chain'd, so that he cannot move,
And all because a lady fell in love.

Here I must leave him, for I grow pathetic,
Moved by the Chinese nymph of tears, green tea!
Than whom Cassandra was not more prophetic;
For if my pure libations exceed three,
I feel my heart become so sympathetic,
That I must have recourse to black Bohea:
'T is pity wine should be so deleterious,
For tea and coffee leave us much more serious,

Unless when qualified with thee, Cogniac!
Sweet Naiad of the Phlegethontic rill!
Ah! why the liver wilt thou thus attack,
And make, like other nymphs, thy lovers ill?
I would take refuge in weak punch, but rack
(In each sense of the word), whene'er I fill
My mild and midnight beakers to the brim,
Wakes me next morning with its synonym.

I leave Don Juan for the present, safe-
Not sound, poor fellow, but severely wounded;
Yet could his corporal pangs amount to half
Of those with which his Haidee's bosom bounded?
She was not one to weep, and rave, and chafe,
And then give way, subdued because surrounded;
Her mother was a Moorish maid, from Fez,
Where all is Eden, or a wilderness.

There the large olive rains its amber store
In marble fonts; there grain, and flower, and fruit,
Gush from the earth until the land runs o'er;
But there, too, many a poison-tree has root,
And midnight listens to the lion's roar,
And long, long deserts scorch the camel's foot,
Or heaving whelm the helpless caravan;
And as the soil is, so the heart of man.

Afric is all the sun's, and as her earth
Her human day is kindled; full of power
For good or evil, burning from its birth,
The Moorish blood partakes the planet's hour,
And like the soil beneath it will bring forth:
Beauty and love were Haidee's mother's dower;
But her large dark eye show'd deep Passion's force,
Though sleeping like a lion near a source.

Her daughter, temper'd with a milder ray,
Like summer clouds all silvery, smooth, and fair,
Till slowly charged with thunder they display
Terror to earth, and tempest to the air,
Had held till now her soft and milky way;
But overwrought with passion and despair,
The fire burst forth from her Numidian veins,
Even as the Simoom sweeps the blasted plains.

The last sight which she saw was Juan's gore,
And he himself o'ermaster'd and cut down;
His blood was running on the very floor
Where late he trod, her beautiful, her own;
Thus much she view'd an instant and no more,-
Her struggles ceased with one convulsive groan;
On her sire's arm, which until now scarce held
Her writhing, fell she like a cedar fell'd.

A vein had burst, and her sweet lips' pure dyes
Were dabbled with the deep blood which ran o'er;
And her head droop'd as when the lily lies
O'ercharged with rain: her summon'd handmaids bore
Their lady to her couch with gushing eyes;
Of herbs and cordials they produced their store,
But she defied all means they could employ,
Like one life could not hold, nor death destroy.

Days lay she in that state unchanged, though chill-
With nothing livid, still her lips were red;
She had no pulse, but death seem'd absent still;
No hideous sign proclaim'd her surely dead;
Corruption came not in each mind to kill
All hope; to look upon her sweet face bred
New thoughts of life, for it seem'd full of soul-
She had so much, earth could not claim the whole.

The ruling passion, such as marble shows
When exquisitely chisell'd, still lay there,
But fix'd as marble's unchanged aspect throws
O'er the fair Venus, but for ever fair;
O'er the Laocoon's all eternal throes,
And ever-dying Gladiator's air,
Their energy like life forms all their fame,
Yet looks not life, for they are still the same.

She woke at length, but not as sleepers wake,
Rather the dead, for life seem'd something new,
A strange sensation which she must partake
Perforce, since whatsoever met her view
Struck not on memory, though a heavy ache
Lay at her heart, whose earliest beat still true
Brought back the sense of pain without the cause,
For, for a while, the furies made a pause.

She look'd on many a face with vacant eye,
On many a token without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
And reck'd not who around her pillow sat;
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
Relieved her thoughts; dull silence and quick chat
Were tried in vain by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave.

Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;
Her father watch'd, she turn'd her eyes away;
She recognized no being, and no spot,
However dear or cherish'd in their day;
They changed from room to room- but all forgot-
Gentle, but without memory she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be weaning
Back to old thoughts, wax'd full of fearful meaning.

And then a slave bethought her of a harp;
The harper came, and tuned his instrument;
At the first notes, irregular and sharp,
On him her flashing eyes a moment bent,
Then to the wall she turn'd as if to warp
Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart re-sent;
And he begun a long low island song
Of ancient days, ere tyranny grew strong.

Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall
In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of love; the fierce name struck through all
Her recollection; on her flash'd the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call
To be so being; in a gushing stream
The tears rush'd forth from her o'erclouded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.

Short solace, vain relief!- thought came too quick,
And whirl'd her brain to madness; she arose
As one who ne'er had dwelt among the sick,
And flew at all she met, as on her foes;
But no one ever heard her speak or shriek,
Although her paroxysm drew towards its dose;-
Hers was a phrensy which disdain'd to rave,
Even when they smote her, in the hope to save.

Yet she betray'd at times a gleam of sense;
Nothing could make her meet her father's face,
Though on all other things with looks intense
She gazed, but none she ever could retrace;
Food she refused, and raiment; no pretence
Avail'd for either; neither change of place,
Nor time, nor skill, nor remedy, could give her
Senses to sleep- the power seem'd gone for ever.

Twelve days and nights she wither'd thus; at last,
Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to show
A parting pang, the spirit from her past:
And they who watch'd her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast
Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o'er her eyes- the beautiful, the black-
Oh! to possess such lustre- and then lack!

She died, but not alone; she held within
A second principle of life, which might
Have dawn'd a fair and sinless child of sin;
But closed its little being without light,
And went down to the grave unborn, wherein
Blossom and bough lie wither'd with one blight;
In vain the dews of Heaven descend above
The bleeding flower and blasted fruit of love.

Thus lived- thus died she; never more on her
Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were
Brief, but delightful- such as had not staid
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore, whereon she loved to dwell.

That isle is now all desolate and bare,
Its dwellings down, its tenants pass'd away;
None but her own and father's grave is there,
And nothing outward tells of human clay;
Ye could not know where lies a thing so fair,
No stone is there to show, no tongue to say
What was; no dirge, except the hollow sea's,
Mourns o'er the beauty of the Cyclades.

But many a Greek maid in a loving song
Sighs o'er her name; and many an islander
With her sire's story makes the night less long;
Valour was his, and beauty dwelt with her:
If she loved rashly, her life paid for wrong-
A heavy price must all pay who thus err,
In some shape; let none think to fly the danger,
For soon or late Love is his own avenger.

But let me change this theme which grows too sad,
And lay this sheet of sorrows on the shelf;
I don't much like describing people mad,
For fear of seeming rather touch'd myself-
Besides, I 've no more on this head to add;
And as my Muse is a capricious elf,
We 'll put about, and try another tack
With Juan, left half-kill'd some stanzas back.

Wounded and fetter'd, 'cabin'd, cribb'd, confined,'
Some days and nights elapsed before that he
Could altogether call the past to mind;
And when he did, he found himself at sea,
Sailing six knots an hour before the wind;
The shores of Ilion lay beneath their lee-
Another time he might have liked to see 'em,
But now was not much pleased with Cape Sigaeum.

There, on the green and village-cotted hill, is
(Flank'd by the Hellespont and by the sea)
Entomb'd the bravest of the brave, Achilles;
They say so (Bryant says the contrary):
And further downward, tall and towering still, is
The tumulus- of whom? Heaven knows! 't may be
Patroclus, Ajax, or Protesilaus-
All heroes, who if living still would slay us.

High barrows, without marble or a name,
A vast, untill'd, and mountain-skirted plain,
And Ida in the distance, still the same,
And old Scamander (if 't is he) remain;
The situation seems still form'd for fame-
A hundred thousand men might fight again
With case; but where I sought for Ilion's walls,
The quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls;

Troops of untended horses; here and there
Some little hamlets, with new names uncouth;
Some shepherds (unlike Paris) led to stare
A moment at the European youth
Whom to the spot their school-boy feelings bear;
A turk, with beads in hand and pipe in mouth,
Extremely taken with his own religion,
Are what I found there- but the devil a Phrygian.

Don Juan, here permitted to emerge
From his dull cabin, found himself a slave;
Forlorn, and gazing on the deep blue surge,
O'ershadow'd there by many a hero's grave;
Weak still with loss of blood, he scarce could urge
A few brief questions; and the answers gave
No very satisfactory information
About his past or present situation.

He saw some fellow captives, who appear'd
To be Italians, as they were in fact;
From them, at least, their destiny he heard,
Which was an odd one; a troop going to act
In Sicily (all singers, duly rear'd
In their vocation) had not been attack'd
In sailing from Livorno by the pirate,
But sold by the impresario at no high rate.

By one of these, the buffo of the party,
Juan was told about their curious case;
For although destined to the Turkish mart, he
Still kept his spirits up- at least his face;
The little fellow really look'd quite hearty,
And bore him with some gaiety and grace,
Showing a much more reconciled demeanour,
Than did the prima donna and the tenor.

In a few words he told their hapless story,
Saying, 'Our Machiavellian impresario,
Making a signal off some promontory,
Hail'd a strange brig- Corpo di Caio Mario!
We were transferr'd on board her in a hurry,
Without a Single scudo of salario;
But if the Sultan has a taste for song,
We will revive our fortunes before long.

'The prima donna, though a little old,
And haggard with a dissipated life,
And subject, when the house is thin, to cold,
Has some good notes; and then the tenor's wife,
With no great voice, is pleasing to behold;
Last carnival she made a deal of strife
By carrying off Count Cesare Cicogna
From an old Roman princess at Bologna.

'And then there are the dancers; there 's the Nini,
With more than one profession, gains by all;
Then there 's that laughing slut the Pelegrini,
She, too, was fortunate last carnival,
And made at least five hundred good zecchini,
But spends so fast, she has not now a paul;
And then there 's the Grotesca- such a dancer!
Where men have souls or bodies she must answer.

'As for the figuranti, they are like
The rest of all that tribe; with here and there
A pretty person, which perhaps may strike,
The rest are hardly fitted for a fair;
There 's one, though tall and stiffer than a pike,
Yet has a sentimental kind of air
Which might go far, but she don't dance with vigour;
The more 's the pity, with her face and figure.

'As for the men, they are a middling set;
The musico is but a crack'd old basin,
But being qualified in one way yet,
May the seraglio do to set his face in,
And as a servant some preferment get;
His singing I no further trust can place in:
From all the Pope makes yearly 't would perplex
To find three perfect pipes of the third sex.

'The tenor's voice is spoilt by affectation,
And for the bass, the beast can only bellow;
In fact, he had no singing education,
An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow;
But being the prima donna's near relation,
Who swore his voice was very rich and mellow,
They hired him, though to hear him you 'd believe
An ass was practising recitative.

''T would not become myself to dwell upon
My own merits, and though young- I see, Sir- you
Have got a travell'd air, which speaks you one
To whom the opera is by no means new:
You 've heard of Raucocanti?- I 'm the man;
The time may come when you may hear me too;
You was not last year at the fair of Lugo,
But next, when I 'm engaged to sing there- do go.

'Our baritone I almost had forgot,
A pretty lad, but bursting with conceit;
With graceful action, science not a jot,
A voice of no great compass, and not sweet,
He always is complaining of his lot,
Forsooth, scarce fit for ballads in the street;
In lovers' parts his passion more to breathe,
Having no heart to show, he shows his teeth.'

Here Raucocanti's eloquent recital
Was interrupted by the pirate crew,
Who came at stated moments to invite all
The captives back to their sad berths; each threw
A rueful glance upon the waves (which bright all
From the blue skies derived a double blue,
Dancing all free and happy in the sun),
And then went down the hatchway one by one.

They heard next day- that in the Dardanelles,
Waiting for his Sublimity's firman,
The most imperative of sovereign spells,
Which every body does without who can,
More to secure them in their naval cells,
Lady to lady, well as man to man,
Were to be chain'd and lotted out per couple,
For the slave market of Constantinople.

It seems when this allotment was made out,
There chanced to be an odd male, and odd female,
Who (after some discussion and some doubt,
If the soprano might be deem'd to be male,
They placed him o'er the women as a scout)
Were link'd together, and it happen'd the male
Was Juan,- who, an awkward thing at his age,
Pair'd off with a Bacchante blooming visage.

With Raucocanti lucklessly was chain'd
The tenor; these two hated with a hate
Found only on the stage, and each more pain'd
With this his tuneful neighbour than his fate;
Sad strife arose, for they were so cross-grain'd,
Instead of bearing up without debate,
That each pull'd different ways with many an oath,
'Arcades ambo,' id est- blackguards both.

Juan's companion was a Romagnole,
But bred within the March of old Ancona,
With eyes that look'd into the very soul
(And other chief points of a 'bella donna'),
Bright- and as black and burning as a coal;
And through her dear brunette complexion shone
Great wish to please- a most attractive dower,
Especially when added to the power.

But all that power was wasted upon him,
For sorrow o'er each sense held stern command;
Her eye might flash on his, but found it dim;
And though thus chain'd, as natural her hand
Touch'd his, nor that- nor any handsome limb
(And she had some not easy to withstand)
Could stir his pulse, or make his faith feel brittle;
Perhaps his recent wounds might help a little.

No matter; we should ne'er too much enquire,
But facts are facts: no knight could be more true,
And firmer faith no ladye-love desire;
We will omit the proofs, save one or two:
'T is said no one in hand 'can hold a fire
By thought of frosty Caucasus;' but few,
I really think; yet Juan's then ordeal
Was more triumphant, and not much less real.

Here I might enter on a chaste description,
Having withstood temptation in my youth,
But hear that several people take exception
At the first two books having too much truth;
Therefore I 'll make Don Juan leave the ship soon,
Because the publisher declares, in sooth,
Through needles' eyes it easier for the camel is
To pass, than those two cantos into families.

'T is all the same to me; I 'm fond of yielding,
And therefore leave them to the purer page
Of Smollett, Prior, Ariosto, Fielding,
Who say strange things for so correct an age;
I once had great alacrity in wielding
My pen, and liked poetic war to wage,
And recollect the time when all this cant
Would have provoked remarks which now it shan't.

As boys love rows, my boyhood liked a squabble;
But at this hour I wish to part in peace,
Leaving such to the literary rabble:
Whether my verse's fame be doom'd to cease
While the right hand which wrote it still is able,
Or of some centuries to take a lease,
The grass upon my grave will grow as long,
And sigh to midnight winds, but not to song.

Of poets who come down to us through distance
Of time and tongues, the foster-babes of Fame,
Life seems the smallest portion of existence;
Where twenty ages gather o'er a name,
'T is as a snowball which derives assistance
From every flake, and yet rolls on the same,
Even till an iceberg it may chance to grow;
But, after all, 't is nothing but cold snow.

And so great names are nothing more than nominal,
And love of glory 's but an airy lust,
Too often in its fury overcoming all
Who would as 't were identify their dust
From out the wide destruction, which, entombing all,
Leaves nothing till 'the coming of the just'-
Save change: I 've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
And heard Troy doubted; time will doubt of Rome.

The very generations of the dead
Are swept away, and tomb inherits tomb,
Until the memory of an age is fled,
And, buried, sinks beneath its offspring's doom:
Where are the epitaphs our fathers read?
Save a few glean'd from the sepulchral gloom
Which once-named myriads nameless lie beneath,
And lose their own in universal death.

I canter by the spot each afternoon
Where perish'd in his fame the hero-boy,
Who lived too long for men, but died too soon
For human vanity, the young De Foix!
A broken pillar, not uncouthly hewn,
But which neglect is hastening to destroy,
Records Ravenna's carnage on its face,
While weeds and ordure rankle round the base.

I pass each day where Dante's bones are laid:
A little cupola, more neat than solemn,
Protects his dust, but reverence here is paid
To the bard's tomb, and not the warrior's column.
The time must come, when both alike decay'd,
The chieftain's trophy, and the poet's volume,
Will sink where lie the songs and wars of earth,
Before Pelides' death, or Homer's birth.

With human blood that column was cemented,
With human filth that column is defiled,
As if the peasant's coarse contempt were vented
To show his loathing of the spot he soil'd:
Thus is the trophy used, and thus lamented
Should ever be those blood-hounds, from whose wild
Instinct of gore and glory earth has known
Those sufferings Dante saw in hell alone.

Yet there will still be bards: though fame is smoke,
Its fumes are frankincense to human thought;
And the unquiet feelings, which first woke
Song in the world, will seek what then they sought;
As on the beach the waves at last are broke,
Thus to their extreme verge the passions brought
Dash into poetry, which is but passion,
Or at least was so ere it grew a fashion.

If in the course of such a life as was
At once adventurous and contemplative,
Men, who partake all passions as they pass,
Acquire the deep and bitter power to give
Their images again as in a glass,
And in such colours that they seem to live;
You may do right forbidding them to show 'em,
But spoil (I think) a very pretty poem.

Oh! ye, who make the fortunes of all books!
Benign Ceruleans of the second sex!
Who advertise new poems by your looks,
Your 'imprimatur' will ye not annex?
What! must I go to the oblivious cooks,
Those Cornish plunderers of Parnassian wrecks?
Ah! must I then the only minstrel be,
Proscribed from tasting your Castalian tea!

What! can I prove 'a lion' then no more?
A ball-room bard, a foolscap, hot-press darling?
To bear the compliments of many a bore,
And sigh, 'I can't get out,' like Yorick's starling;
Why then I 'll swear, as poet Wordy swore
(Because the world won't read him, always snarling),
That taste is gone, that fame is but a lottery,
Drawn by the blue-coat misses of a coterie.

Oh! 'darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,'
As some one somewhere sings about the sky,
And I, ye learned ladies, say of you;
They say your stockings are so (Heaven knows why,
I have examined few pair of that hue);
Blue as the garters which serenely lie
Round the Patrician left-legs, which adorn
The festal midnight, and the levee morn.

Yet some of you are most seraphic creatures-
But times are alter'd since, a rhyming lover,
You read my stanzas, and I read your features:
And- but no matter, all those things are over;
Still I have no dislike to learned natures,
For sometimes such a world of virtues cover;
I knew one woman of that purple school,
The loveliest, chastest, best, but- quite a fool.

Humboldt, 'the first of travellers,' but not
The last, if late accounts be accurate,
Invented, by some name I have forgot,
As well as the sublime discovery's date,
An airy instrument, with which he sought
To ascertain the atmospheric state,
By measuring 'the intensity of blue:'
Oh, Lady Daphne! let me measure you!

But to the narrative:- The vessel bound
With slaves to sell off in the capital,
After the usual process, might be found
At anchor under the seraglio wall;
Her cargo, from the plague being safe and sound,
Were landed in the market, one and all,
And there with Georgians, Russians, and Circassians,
Bought up for different purposes and passions.

Some went off dearly; fifteen hundred dollars
For one Circassian, a sweet girl, were given,
Warranted virgin; beauty's brightest colours
Had deck'd her out in all the hues of heaven:
Her sale sent home some disappointed bawlers,
Who bade on till the hundreds reach'd eleven;
But when the offer went beyond, they knew
'T was for the Sultan, and at once withdrew.

Twelve negresses from Nubia brought a price
Which the West Indian market scarce would bring;
Though Wilberforce, at last, has made it twice
What 't was ere Abolition; and the thing
Need not seem very wonderful, for vice
Is always much more splendid than a king:
The virtues, even the most exalted, Charity,
Are saving- vice spares nothing for a rarity.

But for the destiny of this young troop,
How some were bought by pachas, some by Jews,
How some to burdens were obliged to stoop,
And others rose to the command of crews
As renegadoes; while in hapless group,
Hoping no very old vizier might choose,
The females stood, as one by one they pick'd 'em,
To make a mistress, or fourth wife, or victim:

All this must be reserved for further song;
Also our hero's lot, howe'er unpleasant
(Because this Canto has become too long),
Must be postponed discreetly for the present;
I 'm sensible redundancy is wrong,
But could not for the muse of me put less in 't:
And now delay the progress of Don Juan,
Till what is call'd in Ossian the fifth Juan.

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

Share
Byron

Canto the Fourth

I
Nothing so difficult as a beginning
In poesy, unless perhaps the end;
For oftentimes when Pegasus seems winning
The race, he sprains a wing, and down we tend,
Like Lucifer when hurl'd from heaven for sinning;
Our sin the same, and hard as his to mend,
Being pride, which leads the mind to soar too far,
Till our own weakness shows us what we are.

II
But Time, which brings all beings to their level,
And sharp Adversity, will teach at last
Man, -- and, as we would hope, -- perhaps the devil,
That neither of their intellects are vast:
While youth's hot wishes in our red veins revel,
We know not this -- the blood flows on too fast;
But as the torrent widens towards the ocean,
We ponder deeply on each past emotion.

III
As boy, I thought myself a clever fellow,
And wish'd that others held the same opinion;
They took it up when my days grew more mellow,
And other minds acknowledged my dominion:
Now my sere fancy "falls into the yellow
Leaf," and Imagination droops her pinion,
And the sad truth which hovers o'er my desk
Turns what was once romantic to burlesque.

IV
And if I laugh at any mortal thing,
'T is that I may not weep; and if I weep,
'T is that our nature cannot always bring
Itself to apathy, for we must steep
Our hearts first in the depths of Lethe's spring,
Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep:
Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx;
A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.

V
Some have accused me of a strange design
Against the creed and morals of the land,
And trace it in this poem every line:
I don't pretend that I quite understand
My own meaning when I would be very fine;
But the fact is that I have nothing plann'd,
Unless it were to be a moment merry,
A novel word in my vocabulary.

VI
To the kind reader of our sober clime
This way of writing will appear exotic;
Pulci was sire of the half-serious rhyme,
Who sang when chivalry was more Quixotic,
And revell'd in the fancies of the time,
True knights, chaste dames, huge giants, kings despotic:
But all these, save the last, being obsolete,
I chose a modern subject as more meet.

VII
How I have treated it, I do not know;
Perhaps no better than they have treated me
Who have imputed such designs as show
Not what they saw, but what they wish'd to see:
But if it gives them pleasure, be it so;
This is a liberal age, and thoughts are free:
Meantime Apollo plucks me by the ear,
And tells me to resume my story here.

VIII
Young Juan and his lady-love were left
To their own hearts' most sweet society;
Even Time the pitiless in sorrow cleft
With his rude scythe such gentle bosoms; he
Sigh'd to behold them of their hours bereft,
Though foe to love; and yet they could not be
Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring,
Before one charm or hope had taken wing.

IX
Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail;
The blank grey was not made to blast their hair,
But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail
They were all summer: lightning might assail
And shiver them to ashes, but to trail
A long and snake-like life of dull decay
Was not for them -- they had too little day.

X
They were alone once more; for them to be
Thus was another Eden; they were never
Weary, unless when separate: the tree
Cut from its forest root of years -- the river
Damm'd from its fountain -- the child from the knee
And breast maternal wean'd at once for ever, --
Would wither less than these two torn apart;
Alas! there is no instinct like the heart --

XI
The heart -- which may be broken: happy they!
Thrice fortunate! who of that fragile mould,
The precious porcelain of human clay,
Break with the first fall: they can ne'er behold
The long year link'd with heavy day on day,
And all which must be borne, and never told;
While life's strange principle will often lie
Deepest in those who long the most to die.

XII
'Whom the gods love die young,' was said of yore,
And many deaths do they escape by this:
The death of friends, and that which slays even more --
The death of friendship, love, youth, all that is,
Except mere breath; and since the silent shore
Awaits at last even those who longest miss
The old archer's shafts, perhaps the early grave
Which men weep over may be meant to save.

XIII
Haidée and Juan thought not of the dead --
The heavens, and earth, and air, seem'd made for them:
They found no fault with Time, save that he fled;
They saw not in themselves aught to condemn:
Each was the other's mirror, and but read
Joy sparkling in their dark eyes like a gem,
And knew such brightness was but the reflection
Of their exchanging glances of affection.

XIV
The gentle pressure, and the thrilling touch,
The least glance better understood than words,
Which still said all, and ne'er could say too much;
A language, too, but like to that of birds,
Known but to them, at least appearing such
As but to lovers a true sense affords;
Sweet playful phrases, which would seem absurd
To those who have ceased to hear such, or ne'er heard:

XV
All these were theirs, for they were children still,
And children still they should have ever been;
They were not made in the real world to fill
A busy character in the dull scene,
But like two beings born from out a rill,
A nymph and her beloved, all unseen
To pass their lives in fountains and on flowers,
And never know the weight of human hours.

XVI
Moons changing had roll'd on, and changeless found
Those their bright rise had lighted to such joys
As rarely they beheld throughout their round;
And these were not of the vain kind which cloys,
For theirs were buoyant spirits, never bound
By the mere senses; and that which destroys
Most love, possession, unto them appear'd
A thing which each endearment more endear'd.

XVII
Oh beautiful! and rare as beautiful
But theirs was love in which the mind delights
To lose itself when the old world grows dull,
And we are sick of its hack sounds and sights,
Intrigues, adventures of the common school,
Its petty passions, marriages, and flights,
Where Hymen's torch but brands one strumpet more,
Whose husband only knows her not a wh-re.

XVIII
Hard words; harsh truth; a truth which many know.
Enough. -- The faithful and the fairy pair,
Who never found a single hour too slow,
What was it made them thus exempt from care?
Young innate feelings all have felt below,
Which perish in the rest, but in them were
Inherent -- what we mortals call romantic,
And always envy, though we deem it frantic.

XIX
This is in others a factitious state,
An opium dream of too much youth and reading,
But was in them their nature or their fate:
No novels e'er had set their young hearts bleeding,
For Haidée's knowledge was by no means great,
And Juan was a boy of saintly breeding;
So that there was no reason for their loves
More than for those of nightingales or doves.

XX
They gazed upon the sunset; 't is an hour
Dear unto all, but dearest to their eyes,
For it had made them what they were: the power
Of love had first o'erwhelm'd them from such skies,
When happiness had been their only dower,
And twilight saw them link'd in passion's ties;
Charm'd with each other, all things charm'd that brought
The past still welcome as the present thought.

XXI
I know not why, but in that hour to-night,
Even as they gazed, a sudden tremor came,
And swept, as 't were, across their hearts' delight,
Like the wind o'er a harp-string, or a flame,
When one is shook in sound, and one in sight;
And thus some boding flash'd through either frame,
And call'd from Juan's breast a faint low sigh,
While one new tear arose in Haidée's eye.

XXII
That large black prophet eye seem'd to dilate
And follow far the disappearing sun,
As if their last day of a happy date
With his broad, bright, and dropping orb were gone;
Juan gazed on her as to ask his fate --
He felt a grief, but knowing cause for none,
His glance inquired of hers for some excuse
For feelings causeless, or at least abstruse.

XXIII
She turn'd to him, and smiled, but in that sort
Which makes not others smile; then turn'd aside:
Whatever feeling shook her, it seem'd short,
And master'd by her wisdom or her pride;
When Juan spoke, too -- it might be in sport --
Of this their mutual feeling, she replied --
"If it should be so, -- but -- it cannot be --
Or I at least shall not survive to see."

XXIV
Juan would question further, but she press'd
His lip to hers, and silenced him with this,
And then dismiss'd the omen from her breast,
Defying augury with that fond kiss;
And no doubt of all methods 't is the best:
Some people prefer wine -- 't is not amiss;
I have tried both; so those who would a part take
May choose between the headache and the heartache.

XXV
One of the two, according to your choice,
Woman or wine, you'll have to undergo;
Both maladies are taxes on our joys:
But which to choose, I really hardly know;
And if I had to give a casting voice,
For both sides I could many reasons show,
And then decide, without great wrong to either,
It were much better to have both than neither.

XXVI
Juan and Haidée gazed upon each other
With swimming looks of speechless tenderness,
Which mix'd all feelings, friend, child, lover, brother,
All that the best can mingle and express
When two pure hearts are pour'd in one another,
And love too much, and yet can not love less;
But almost sanctify the sweet excess
By the immortal wish and power to bless.

XXVII
Mix'd in each other's arms, and heart in heart,
Why did they not then die? -- they had lived too long
Should an hour come to bid them breathe apart;
Years could but bring them cruel things or wrong;
The world was not for them, nor the world's art
For beings passionate as Sappho's song;
Love was born with them, in them, so intense,
It was their very spirit -- not a sense.

XXVIII
They should have lived together deep in woods,
Unseen as sings the nightingale; they were
Unfit to mix in these thick solitudes
Call'd social, haunts of Hate, and Vice, and Care:
How lonely every freeborn creature broods!
The sweetest song-birds nestle in a pair;
The eagle soars alone; the gull and crow
Flock o'er their carrion, just like men below.

XXIX
Now pillow'd cheek to cheek, in loving sleep,
Haidée and Juan their siesta took,
A gentle slumber, but it was not deep,
For ever and anon a something shook
Juan, and shuddering o'er his frame would creep;
And Haidée's sweet lips murmur'd like a brook
A wordless music, and her face so fair
Stirr'd with her dream, as rose-leaves with the air.

XXX
Or as the stirring of a deep dear stream
Within an Alpine hollow, when the wind
Walks o'er it, was she shaken by the dream,
The mystical usurper of the mind --
O'erpowering us to be whate'er may seem
Good to the soul which we no more can bind;
Strange state of being! (for 't is still to be)
Senseless to feel, and with seal'd eyes to see.

XXXI
She dream'd of being alone on the sea-shore,
Chain'd to a rock; she knew not how, but stir
She could not from the spot, and the loud roar
Grew, and each wave rose roughly, threatening her;
And o'er her upper lip they seem'd to pour,
Until she sobb'd for breath, and soon they were
Foaming o'er her lone head, so fierce and high
Each broke to drown her, yet she could not die.

XXXII
Anon -- she was released, and then she stray'd
O'er the sharp shingles with her bleeding feet,
And stumbled almost every step she made;
And something roll'd before her in a sheet,
Which she must still pursue howe'er afraid:
'T was white and indistinct, nor stopp'd to meet
Her glance nor grasp, for still she gazed, and grasp'd,
And ran, but it escaped her as she clasp'd.

XXXIII
The dream changed; in a cave she stood, its walls
Were hung with marble icicles, the work
Of ages on its water-fretted halls,
Where waves might wash, and seals might breed and lurk;
Her hair was dripping, and the very balls
Of her black eyes seem'd turn'd to tears, and mirk
The sharp rocks look'd below each drop they caught,
Which froze to marble as it fell, she thought.

XXXIV
And wet, and cold, and lifeless at her feet,
Pale as the foam that froth'd on his dead brow,
Which she essay'd in vain to clear (how sweet
Were once her cares, how idle seem'd they now!),
Lay Juan, nor could aught renew the beat
Of his quench'd heart; and the sea dirges low
Rang in her sad ears like a mermaid's song,
And that brief dream appear'd a life too long.

XXXV
And gazing on the dead, she thought his face
Faded, or alter'd into something new --
Like to her father's features, till each trace --
More like and like to Lambro's aspect grew --
With all his keen worn look and Grecian grace;
And starting, she awoke, and what to view?
Oh! Powers of Heaven! what dark eye meets she there?
'T is -- 't is her father's -- fix'd upon the pair!

XXXVI
Then shrieking, she arose, and shrieking fell,
With joy and sorrow, hope and fear, to see
Him whom she deem'd a habitant where dwell
The ocean-buried, risen from death, to be
Perchance the death of one she loved too well:
Dear as her father had been to Haidée,
It was a moment of that awful kind --
I have seen such -- but must not call to mind.

XXXVII
Up Juan sprung to Haidée's bitter shriek,
And caught her falling, and from off the wall
Snatch'd down his sabre, in hot haste to wreak
Vengeance on him who was the cause of all:
Then Lambro, who till now forbore to speak,
Smiled scornfully, and said, "Within my call,
A thousand scimitars await the word;
Put up, young man, put up your silly sword."

XXXVIII
And Haidée clung around him; "Juan, 't is --
'T is Lambro -- 't is my father! Kneel with me --
He will forgive us -- yes -- it must be -- yes.
Oh! dearest father, in this agony
Of pleasure and of pain -- even while I kiss
Thy garment's hem with transport, can it be
That doubt should mingle with my filial joy?
Deal with me as thou wilt, but spare this boy."

XXXIX
High and inscrutable the old man stood,
Calm in his voice, and calm within his eye --
Not always signs with him of calmest mood:
He look'd upon her, but gave no reply;
Then turn'd to Juan, in whose cheek the blood
Oft came and went, as there resolved to die;
In arms, at least, he stood, in act to spring
On the first foe whom Lambro's call might bring.

XL
"Young man, your sword;" so Lambro once more said:
Juan replied, "Not while this arm is free."
The old man's cheek grew pale, but not with dread,
And drawing from his belt a pistol, he
Replied, "Your blood be then on your own head."
Then look'd close at the flint, as if to see
'T was fresh -- for he had lately used the lock --
And next proceeded quietly to cock.

XLI
It has a strange quick jar upon the ear,
That cocking of a pistol, when you know
A moment more will bring the sight to bear
Upon your person, twelve yards off, or so;
A gentlemanly distance, not too near,
If you have got a former friend for foe;
But after being fired at once or twice,
The ear becomes more Irish, and less nice.

XLII
Lambro presented, and one instant more
Had stopp'd this Canto, and Don Juan's breath,
When Haidée threw herself her boy before;
Stern as her sire: "On me," she cried, "let death
Descend -- the fault is mine; this fatal shore
He found -- but sought not. I have pledged my faith;
I love him -- I will die with him: I knew
Your nature's firmness -- know your daughter's too."

XLIII
A minute past, and she had been all tears,
And tenderness, and infancy; but now
She stood as one who champion'd human fears --
Pale, statue-like, and stern, she woo'd the blow;
And tall beyond her sex, and their compeers,
She drew up to her height, as if to show
A fairer mark; and with a fix'd eye scann'd
Her father's face -- but never stopp'd his hand.

XLIV
He gazed on her, and she on him; 't was strange
How like they look'd! the expression was the same;
Serenely savage, with a little change
In the large dark eye's mutual-darted flame;
For she, too, was as one who could avenge,
If cause should be -- a lioness, though tame.
Her father's blood before her father's face
Boil'd up, and proved her truly of his race.

XLV
I said they were alike, their features and
Their stature, differing but in sex and years;
Even to the delicacy of their hand
There was resemblance, such as true blood wears;
And now to see them, thus divided, stand
In fix'd ferocity, when joyous tears
And sweet sensations should have welcomed both,
Show what the passions are in their full growth.

XLVI
The father paused a moment, then withdrew
His weapon, and replaced it; but stood still,
And looking on her, as to look her through,
"Not I," he said, "have sought this stranger's ill;
Not I have made this desolation: few
Would bear such outrage, and forbear to kill;
But I must do my duty -- how thou hast
Done thine, the present vouches for the past.

XLVII
"Let him disarm; or, by my father's head,
His own shall roll before you like a ball!"
He raised his whistle, as the word he said,
And blew; another answer'd to the call,
And rushing in disorderly, though led,
And arm'd from boot to turban, one and all,
Some twenty of his train came, rank on rank;
He gave the word, -- "Arrest or slay the Frank."

XLVIII
Then, with a sudden movement, he withdrew
His daughter; while compress'd within his clasp,
'Twixt her and Juan interposed the crew;
In vain she struggled in her father's grasp --
His arms were like a serpent's coil: then flew
Upon their prey, as darts an angry asp,
The file of pirates; save the foremost, who
Had fallen, with his right shoulder half cut through.

XLIX
The second had his cheek laid open; but
The third, a wary, cool old sworder, took
The blows upon his cutlass, and then put
His own well in; so well, ere you could look,
His man was floor'd, and helpless at his foot,
With the blood running like a little brook
From two smart sabre gashes, deep and red --
One on the arm, the other on the head.

L
And then they bound him where he fell, and bore
Juan from the apartment: with a sign
Old Lambro bade them take him to the shore,
Where lay some ships which were to sail at nine.
They laid him in a boat, and plied the oar
Until they reach'd some galliots, placed in line;
On board of one of these, and under hatches,
They stow'd him, with strict orders to the watches.

LI
The world is full of strange vicissitudes,
And here was one exceedingly unpleasant:
A gentleman so rich in the world's goods,
Handsome and young, enjoying all the present,
Just at the very time when he least broods
On such a thing is suddenly to sea sent,
Wounded and chain'd, so that he cannot move,
And all because a lady fell in love.

LII
Here I must leave him, for I grow pathetic,
Moved by the Chinese nymph of tears, green tea!
Than whom Cassandra was not more prophetic;
For if my pure libations exceed three,
I feel my heart become so sympathetic,
That I must have recourse to black Bohea:
'T is pity wine should be so deleterious,
For tea and coffee leave us much more serious,

LIII
Unless when qualified with thee, Cogniac!
Sweet Naiad of the Phlegethontic rill!
Ah! why the liver wilt thou thus attack,
And make, like other nymphs, thy lovers ill?
I would take refuge in weak punch, but rack
(In each sense of the word), whene'er I fill
My mild and midnight beakers to the brim,
Wakes me next morning with its synonym.

LIV
I leave Don Juan for the present, safe --
Not sound, poor fellow, but severely wounded;
Yet could his corporal pangs amount to half
Of those with which his Haidée's bosom bounded?
She was not one to weep, and rave, and chafe,
And then give way, subdued because surrounded;
Her mother was a Moorish maid, from Fez,
Where all is Eden, or a wilderness.

LV
There the large olive rains its amber store
In marble fonts; there grain, and flower, and fruit,
Gush from the earth until the land runs o'er;
But there, too, many a poison-tree has root,
And midnight listens to the lion's roar,
And long, long deserts scorch the camel's foot,
Or heaving whelm the helpless caravan;
And as the soil is, so the heart of man.

LVI
Afric is all the sun's, and as her earth
Her human day is kindled; full of power
For good or evil, burning from its birth,
The Moorish blood partakes the planet's hour,
And like the soil beneath it will bring forth:
Beauty and love were Haidée's mother's dower;
But her large dark eye show'd deep Passion's force,
Though sleeping like a lion near a source.

LVII
Her daughter, temper'd with a milder ray,
Like summer clouds all silvery, smooth, and fair,
Till slowly charged with thunder they display
Terror to earth, and tempest to the air,
Had held till now her soft and milky way;
But overwrought with passion and despair,
The fire burst forth from her Numidian veins,
Even as the Simoom sweeps the blasted plains.

LVIII
The last sight which she saw was Juan's gore,
And he himself o'ermaster'd and cut down;
His blood was running on the very floor
Where late he trod, her beautiful, her own;
Thus much she view'd an instant and no more, --
Her struggles ceased with one convulsive groan;
On her sire's arm, which until now scarce held
Her writhing, fell she like a cedar fell'd.

LIX
A vein had burst, and her sweet lips' pure dyes
Were dabbled with the deep blood which ran o'er;
And her head droop'd as when the lily lies
O'ercharged with rain: her summon'd handmaids bore
Their lady to her couch with gushing eyes;
Of herbs and cordials they produced their store,
But she defied all means they could employ,
Like one life could not hold, nor death destroy.

LX
Days lay she in that state unchanged, though chill --
With nothing livid, still her lips were red;
She had no pulse, but death seem'd absent still;
No hideous sign proclaim'd her surely dead;
Corruption came not in each mind to kill
All hope; to look upon her sweet face bred
New thoughts of life, for it seem'd full of soul --
She had so much, earth could not claim the whole.

LXI
The ruling passion, such as marble shows
When exquisitely chisell'd, still lay there,
But fix'd as marble's unchanged aspect throws
O'er the fair Venus, but for ever fair;
O'er the Laocoon's all eternal throes,
And ever-dying Gladiator's air,
Their energy like life forms all their fame,
Yet looks not life, for they are still the same.

LXII
She woke at length, but not as sleepers wake,
Rather the dead, for life seem'd something new,
A strange sensation which she must partake
Perforce, since whatsoever met her view
Struck not on memory, though a heavy ache
Lay at her heart, whose earliest beat still true
Brought back the sense of pain without the cause,
For, for a while, the furies made a pause.

LXIII
She look'd on many a face with vacant eye,
On many a token without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
And reck'd not who around her pillow sat;
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
Relieved her thoughts; dull silence and quick chat
Were tried in vain by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave.

LXIV
Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;
Her father watch'd, she turn'd her eyes away;
She recognized no being, and no spot,
However dear or cherish'd in their day;
They changed from room to room -- but all forgot --
Gentle, but without memory she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be weaning
Back to old thoughts, wax'd full of fearful meaning.

LXV
And then a slave bethought her of a harp;
The harper came, and tuned his instrument;
At the first notes, irregular and sharp,
On him her flashing eyes a moment bent,
Then to the wall she turn'd as if to warp
Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart re-sent;
And he begun a long low island song
Of ancient days, ere tyranny grew strong.

LXVI
Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall
In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of love; the fierce name struck through all
Her recollection; on her flash'd the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call
To be so being; in a gushing stream
The tears rush'd forth from her o'erclouded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.

LXVII
Short solace, vain relief! -- thought came too quick,
And whirl'd her brain to madness; she arose
As one who ne'er had dwelt among the sick,
And flew at all she met, as on her foes;
But no one ever heard her speak or shriek,
Although her paroxysm drew towards its dose; --
Hers was a phrensy which disdain'd to rave,
Even when they smote her, in the hope to save.

LXVIII
Yet she betray'd at times a gleam of sense;
Nothing could make her meet her father's face,
Though on all other things with looks intense
She gazed, but none she ever could retrace;
Food she refused, and raiment; no pretence
Avail'd for either; neither change of place,
Nor time, nor skill, nor remedy, could give her
Senses to sleep -- the power seem'd gone for ever.

LXIX
Twelve days and nights she wither'd thus; at last,
Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to show
A parting pang, the spirit from her past:
And they who watch'd her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast
Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o'er her eyes -- the beautiful, the black --
Oh! to possess such lustre -- and then lack!

LXX
She died, but not alone; she held within
A second principle of life, which might
Have dawn'd a fair and sinless child of sin;
But closed its little being without light,
And went down to the grave unborn, wherein
Blossom and bough lie wither'd with one blight;
In vain the dews of Heaven descend above
The bleeding flower and blasted fruit of love.

LXXI
Thus lived -- thus died she; never more on her
Shall sorrow light, or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were
Brief, but delightful -- such as had not staid
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore, whereon she loved to dwell.

LXXII
That isle is now all desolate and bare,
Its dwellings down, its tenants pass'd away;
None but her own and father's grave is there,
And nothing outward tells of human clay;
Ye could not know where lies a thing so fair,
No stone is there to show, no tongue to say
What was; no dirge, except the hollow sea's,
Mourns o'er the beauty of the Cyclades.

LXXIII
But many a Greek maid in a loving song
Sighs o'er her name; and many an islander
With her sire's story makes the night less long;
Valour was his, and beauty dwelt with her:
If she loved rashly, her life paid for wrong --
A heavy price must all pay who thus err,
In some shape; let none think to fly the danger,
For soon or late Love is his own avenger.

LXXIV
But let me change this theme which grows too sad,
And lay this sheet of sorrows on the shelf;
I don't much like describing people mad,
For fear of seeming rather touch'd myself --
Besides, I've no more on this head to add;
And as my Muse is a capricious elf,
We'll put about, and try another tack
With Juan, left half-kill'd some stanzas back.

LXXV
Wounded and fetter'd, "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined,"
Some days and nights elapsed before that he
Could altogether call the past to mind;
And when he did, he found himself at sea,
Sailing six knots an hour before the wind;
The shores of Ilion lay beneath their lee --
Another time he might have liked to see 'em,
But now was not much pleased with Cape Sigaeum.

LXXVI
There, on the green and village-cotted hill, is
(Flank'd by the Hellespont and by the sea)
Entomb'd the bravest of the brave, Achilles;
They say so (Bryant says the contrary):
And further downward, tall and towering still, is
The tumulus -- of whom? Heaven knows! 't may be
Patroclus, Ajax, or Protesilaus --
All heroes, who if living still would slay us.

LXXVII
High barrows, without marble or a name,
A vast, untill'd, and mountain-skirted plain,
And Ida in the distance, still the same,
And old Scamander (if 't is he) remain;
The situation seems still form'd for fame --
A hundred thousand men might fight again
With case; but where I sought for Ilion's walls,
The quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls;

LXXVIII
Troops of untended horses; here and there
Some little hamlets, with new names uncouth;
Some shepherds (unlike Paris) led to stare
A moment at the European youth
Whom to the spot their school-boy feelings bear.
A Turk, with beads in hand and pipe in mouth,
Extremely taken with his own religion,
Are what I found there -- but the devil a Phrygian.

LXXIX
Don Juan, here permitted to emerge
From his dull cabin, found himself a slave;
Forlorn, and gazing on the deep blue surge,
O'ershadow'd there by many a hero's grave;
Weak still with loss of blood, he scarce could urge
A few brief questions; and the answers gave
No very satisfactory information
About his past or present situation.

LXXX
He saw some fellow captives, who appear'd
To be Italians, as they were in fact;
From them, at least, their destiny he heard,
Which was an odd one; a troop going to act
In Sicily (all singers, duly rear'd
In their vocation) had not been attack'd
In sailing from Livorno by the pirate,
But sold by the impresario at no high rate.

LXXXI
By one of these, the buffo of the party,
Juan was told about their curious case;
For although destined to the Turkish mart, he
Still kept his spirits up -- at least his face;
The little fellow really look'd quite hearty,
And bore him with some gaiety and grace,
Showing a much more reconciled demeanour,
Than did the prima donna and the tenor.

LXXXII
In a few words he told their hapless story,
Saying, "Our Machiavellian impresario,
Making a signal off some promontory,
Hail'd a strange brig -- Corpo di Caio Mario!
We were transferr'd on board her in a hurry,
Without a single scudo of salario;
But if the Sultan has a taste for song,
We will revive our fortunes before long.

LXXXIII
"The prima donna, though a little old,
And haggard with a dissipated life,
And subject, when the house is thin, to cold,
Has some good notes; and then the tenor's wife,
With no great voice, is pleasing to behold;
Last carnival she made a deal of strife
By carrying off Count Cesare Cicogna
From an old Roman princess at Bologna.

LXXXIV
"And then there are the dancers; there's the Nini,
With more than one profession, gains by all;
Then there's that laughing slut the Pelegrini,
She, too, was fortunate last carnival,
And made at least five hundred good zecchini,
But spends so fast, she has not now a paul;
And then there's the Grotesca -- such a dancer!
Where men have souls or bodies she must answer.

LXXXV
"As for the figuranti, they are like
The rest of all that tribe; with here and there
A pretty person, which perhaps may strike,
The rest are hardly fitted for a fair;
There's one, though tall and stiffer than a pike,
Yet has a sentimental kind of air
Which might go far, but she don't dance with vigour;
The more's the pity, with her face and figure.

LXXXVI
"As for the men, they are a middling set;
The Musico is but a crack'd old basin,
But being qualified in one way yet,
May the seraglio do to set his face in,
And as a servant some preferment get;
His singing I no further trust can place in:
From all the Pope makes yearly 't would perplex
To find three perfect pipes of the third sex.

LXXXVII
"The tenor's voice is spoilt by affectation,
And for the bass, the beast can only bellow;
In fact, he had no singing education,
An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow;
But being the prima donna's near relation,
Who swore his voice was very rich and mellow,
They hired him, though to hear him you'd believe
An ass was practising recitative.

LXXXVIII
"'T would not become myself to dwell upon
My own merits, and though young -- I see, Sir -- you
Have got a travell'd air, which speaks you one
To whom the opera is by no means new:
You've heard of Raucocanti? -- I'm the man;
The time may come when you may hear me too;
You was not last year at the fair of Lugo,
But next, when I'm engaged to sing there -- do go.

LXXXIX
"Our baritone I almost had forgot,
A pretty lad, but bursting with conceit;
With graceful action, science not a jot,
A voice of no great compass, and not sweet,
He always is complaining of his lot,
Forsooth, scarce fit for ballads in the street;
In lovers' parts his passion more to breathe,
Having no heart to show, he shows his teeth."

XC
Here Raucocanti's eloquent recital
Was interrupted by the pirate crew,
Who came at stated moments to invite all
The captives back to their sad berths; each threw
A rueful glance upon the waves (which bright all
From the blue skies derived a double blue,
Dancing all free and happy in the sun),
And then went down the hatchway one by one.

XCI
They heard next day -- that in the Dardanelles,
Waiting for his Sublimity's firmän,
The most imperative of sovereign spells,
Which every body does without who can,
More to secure them in their naval cells,
Lady to lady, well as man to man,
Were to be chain'd and lotted out per couple,
For the slave market of Constantinople.

XCII
It seems when this allotment was made out,
There chanced to be an odd male, and odd female,
Who (after some discussion and some doubt,
If the soprano might be deem'd to be male,
They placed him o'er the women as a scout)
Were link'd together, and it happen'd the male
Was Juan, -- who, an awkward thing at his age,
Pair'd off with a Bacchante blooming visage.

XCIII
With Raucocanti lucklessly was chain'd
The tenor; these two hated with a hate
Found only on the stage, and each more pain'd
With this his tuneful neighbour than his fate;
Sad strife arose, for they were so cross-grain'd,
Instead of bearing up without debate,
That each pull'd different ways with many an oath,
"Arcades ambo," id est -- blackguards both.

XCIV
Juan's companion was a Romagnole,
But bred within the March of old Ancona,
With eyes that look'd into the very soul
(And other chief points of a "bella donna"),
Bright -- and as black and burning as a coal;
And through her dear brunette complexion shone
Great wish to please -- a most attractive dower,
Especially when added to the power.

XCV
But all that power was wasted upon him,
For sorrow o'er each sense held stern command;
Her eye might flash on his, but found it dim;
And though thus chain'd, as natural her hand
Touch'd his, nor that -- nor any handsome limb
(And she had some not easy to withstand)
Could stir his pulse, or make his faith feel brittle;
Perhaps his recent wounds might help a little.

XCVI
No matter; we should ne'er too much enquire,
But facts are facts: no knight could be more true,
And firmer faith no Ladye-love desire;
We will omit the proofs, save one or two:
'T is said no one in hand "can hold a fire
By thought of frosty Caucasus" -- but few,
I really think -- yet Juan's then ordeal
Was more triumphant, and not much less real.

XCVII
Here I might enter on a chaste description,
Having withstood temptation in my youth,
But hear that several people take exception
At the first two books having too much truth;
Therefore I'll make Don Juan leave the ship soon,
Because the publisher declares, in sooth,
Through needles' eyes it easier for the camel is
To pass, than those two cantos into families.

XCVIII
'T is all the same to me; I'm fond of yielding,
And therefore leave them to the purer page
Of Smollett, Prior, Ariosto, Fielding,
Who say strange things for so correct an age;
I once had great alacrity in wielding
My pen, and liked poetic war to wage,
And recollect the time when all this cant
Would have provoked remarks which now it shan't.

XCIX
As boys love rows, my boyhood liked a squabble;
But at this hour I wish to part in peace,
Leaving such to the literary rabble:
Whether my verse's fame be doom'd to cease
While the right hand which wrote it still is able,
Or of some centuries to take a lease,
The grass upon my grave will grow as long,
And sigh to midnight winds, but not to song.

C
Of poets who come down to us through distance
Of time and tongues, the foster-babes of Fame,
Life seems the smallest portion of existence;
Where twenty ages gather o'er a name,
'T is as a snowball which derives assistance
From every flake, and yet rolls on the same,
Even till an iceberg it may chance to grow;
But, after all, 't is nothing but cold snow.

CI
And so great names are nothing more than nominal,
And love of glory's but an airy lust,
Too often in its fury overcoming all
Who would as 't were identify their dust
From out the wide destruction, which, entombing all,
Leaves nothing till "the coming of the just" --
Save change: I've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
And heard Troy doubted; time will doubt of Rome.

CII
The very generations of the dead
Are swept away, and tomb inherits tomb,
Until the memory of an age is fled,
And, buried, sinks beneath its offspring's doom:
Where are the epitaphs our fathers read?
Save a few glean'd from the sepulchral gloom
Which once-named myriads nameless lie beneath,
And lose their own in universal death.

CIII
I canter by the spot each afternoon
Where perish'd in his fame the hero-boy,
Who lived too long for men, but died too soon
For human vanity, the young De Foix!
A broken pillar, not uncouthly hewn,
But which neglect is hastening to destroy,
Records Ravenna's carnage on its face,
While weeds and ordure rankle round the base.

CIV
I pass each day where Dante's bones are laid:
A little cupola, more neat than solemn,
Protects his dust, but reverence here is paid
To the bard's tomb, and not the warrior's column.
The time must come, when both alike decay'd,
The chieftain's trophy, and the poet's volume,
Will sink where lie the songs and wars of earth,
Before Pelides' death, or Homer's birth.

CV
With human blood that column was cemented,
With human filth that column is defiled,
As if the peasant's coarse contempt were vented
To show his loathing of the spot he soil'd:
Thus is the trophy used, and thus lamented
Should ever be those blood-hounds, from whose wild
Instinct of gore and glory earth has known
Those sufferings Dante saw in hell alone.

CVI
Yet there will still be bards: though fame is smoke,
Its fumes are frankincense to human thought;
And the unquiet feelings, which first woke
Song in the world, will seek what then they sought;
As on the beach the waves at last are broke,
Thus to their extreme verge the passions brought
Dash into poetry, which is but passion,
Or at least was so ere it grew a fashion.

CVII
If in the course of such a life as was
At once adventurous and contemplative,
Men, who partake all passions as they pass,
Acquire the deep and bitter power to give
Their images again as in a glass,
And in such colours that they seem to live;
You may do right forbidding them to show 'em,
But spoil (I think) a very pretty poem.

CVIII
Oh! ye, who make the fortunes of all books!
Benign Ceruleans of the second sex!
Who advertise new poems by your looks,
Your "imprimatur" will ye not annex?
What! must I go to the oblivious cooks,
Those Cornish plunderers of Parnassian wrecks?
Ah! must I then the only minstrel be,
Proscribed from tasting your Castalian tea!

CIX
What! can I prove "a lion" then no more?
A ball-room bard, a foolscap, hot-press darling?
To bear the compliments of many a bore,
And sigh, "I can't get out," like Yorick's starling;
Why then I'll swear, as poet Wordy swore
(Because the world won't read him, always snarling),
That taste is gone, that fame is but a lottery,
Drawn by the blue-coat misses of a coterie.

CX
Oh! "darkly, deeply, beautifully blue,"
As some one somewhere sings about the sky,
And I, ye learned ladies, say of you;
They say your stockings are so (Heaven knows why,
I have examined few pair of that hue);
Blue as the garters which serenely lie
Round the Patrician left-legs, which adorn
The festal midnight, and the levee morn.

CXI
Yet some of you are most seraphic creatures --
But times are alter'd since, a rhyming lover,
You read my stanzas, and I read your features:
And -- but no matter, all those things are over;
Still I have no dislike to learnéd natures,
For sometimes such a world of virtues cover;
I knew one woman of that purple school,
The loveliest, chastest, best, but -- quite a fool.

CXII
Humboldt, "the first of travellers," but not
The last, if late accounts be accurate,
Invented, by some name I have forgot,
As well as the sublime discovery's date,
An airy instrument, with which he sought
To ascertain the atmospheric state,
By measuring "the intensity of blue:"
Oh, Lady Daphne! let me measure you!

CXIII
But to the narrative: -- The vessel bound
With slaves to sell off in the capital,
After the usual process, might be found
At anchor under the seraglio wall;
Her cargo, from the plague being safe and sound,
Were landed in the market, one and all,
And there with Georgians, Russians, and Circassians,
Bought up for different purposes and passions.

CXIV
Some went off dearly; fifteen hundred dollars
For one Circassian, a sweet girl, were given,
Warranted virgin; beauty's brightest colours
Had deck'd her out in all the hues of heaven:
Her sale sent home some disappointed bawlers,
Who bade on till the hundreds reach'd eleven;
But when the offer went beyond, they knew
'T was for the Sultan, and at once withdrew.

CXV
Twelve negresses from Nubia brought a price
Which the West Indian market scarce would bring;
Though Wilberforce, at last, has made it twice
What 't was ere Abolition; and the thing
Need not seem very wonderful, for vice
Is always much more splendid than a king:
The virtues, even the most exalted, Charity,
Are saving -- Vice spares nothing for a rarity.

CXVI
But for the destiny of this young troop,
How some were bought by pachas, some by Jews,
How some to burdens were obliged to stoop,
And others rose to the command of crews
As renegadoes; while in hapless group,
Hoping no very old vizier might choose,
The females stood, as one by one they pick'd 'em,
To make a mistress, or fourth wife, or victim:

CXVII
All this must be reserved for further song;
Also our hero's lot, howe'er unpleasant
(Because this Canto has become too long),
Must be postponed discreetly for the present;
I'm sensible redundancy is wrong,
But could not for the muse of me put less in 't:
And now delay the progress of Don Juan,
Till what is call'd in Ossian the fifth Duan.

poem by from Don Juan (1824)Report problemRelated quotes
Added by Veronica Serbanoiu
Comment! | Vote! | Copy!

Share

Orlando Furioso Canto 17

ARGUMENT
Charles goes, with his, against King Rodomont.
Gryphon in Norandino's tournament
Does mighty deeds; Martano turns his front,
Showing how recreant is his natural bent;
And next, on Gryphon to bring down affront,
Stole from the knight the arms in which he went;
Hence by the kindly monarch much esteemed,
And Gryphon scorned, whom he Martano deemed.

I
God, outraged by our rank iniquity,
Whenever crimes have past remission's bound,
That mercy may with justice mingled be,
Has monstrous and destructive tyrants crowned;
And gifted them with force and subtlety,
A sinful world to punish and confound.
Marius and Sylla to this end were nursed,
Rome with two Neros and a Caius cursed;

II
Domitian and the latter Antonine;
And, lifted from the lowest rabble's lees,
To imperial place and puissance, Maximine:
Hence Thebes to cruel Creon bent her knees,
Mezentius ruled the subject Agiline,
Fattening his fields with blood. To pests like these
Our Italy was given in later day,
To Lombard, Goth, and Hun a bleeding prey.

III
What shall I of fierce Attila, what say
Of wicked Ezzeline, and hundreds more?
Whom, because men still trod the crooked way,
God sent them for their pain and torment sore.
Of this ourselves have made a clear assay,
As well as those who lived in days of yore;
Consigned to ravening wolves, ordained to keep
Us, his ill-nurturing and unuseful sheep;

IV
Who, as if having more than served to fill
Their hungry maw, invite from foreign wood
Beyond the mountain, wolves of greedier will,
With them to be partakers of their food.
The bones which Thrasymene and Trebbia fill,
And Cannae, seem but few to what are strewed
On fattened field and bank, where on their way
Adda and Mella, Ronco and Tarro stray.

V
Now God permits that we should feel the spite
Of people, who are haply worse than we,
For errors multiplied and infinite,
And foul and pestilent iniquity.
The time will come we may such ill requite
Upon their shores, if we shall better be,
And their transgressions ever prove above
The long endurance of AETERNAL LOVE.

VI
The Christian people then God's placid front
Must have disturbed with their excesses sore;
Since them with slaughter, rape, and rapine hunt,
Through all their quarters, plundering Turk and Moor:
But the unsparing rage of Rodomont
Proves worse than all the ills endured before.
I said that Charlemagne had made repair
In search of him towards the city square.

VII
Charles, by the way, his people's butchery
Beholds - burnt palaces and ruined fanes -
And sees large portion of the city lie
In unexampled wreck. - 'Ye coward trains,
Whither in heartless panic would ye fly?
Will none his loss contemplate? what remains
To you, - what place of refuge, say, is left,
If this from you so shamefully be reft?

VIII
'Then shall one man alone, a prisoned foe,
Who cannot scale the walls which round him spread,
Unscathed, unquestioned, from your city go,
When all are by his vengeful arm laid dead?'
Thus Charlemagne, whose veins with anger glow,
And shame, too strong to brook, in fury said;
And to the spacious square made good his way,
Where he beheld the foe his people slay.

IX
Thither large portion of the populace,
Climbing the palace roof, had made resort;
For strongly walled, and furnished was the place
With ammunition, for their long support.
Rodomont, mad with pride, had, in his chace
Of the scared burghers, singly cleared the court,
He with one daring hand, which scorned the world,
Brandished the sword; - his other wildfire hurled;

X
And smote and thundered, 'mid a fearful shower,
At the sublime and royal house's gate.
To their life's peril, crumbling roof and tower
Is tost by them that on the summit wait:
Nor any fears to ruin hall or bower;
But wood and stone endure one common fate,
And marbled column, slab, and gilded beam,
By sire and grandsire held in high esteem.

XI
Rodomont stands before the portal, bright
With steel, his head and bust secured in mail,
Like to a serpent, issued into light,
Having cast off his slough, diseased and stale:
Who more than ever joying in his might,
Renewed in youth, and proud of polished scale,
Darts his three tongues, fire flashing from his eyes;
While every frighted beast before him flies.

XII
Nor bulwark, stone, nor arbalest, nor bow,
Nor what upon the paynim smote beside,
Sufficed to arrest the sanguinary foe;
Who broke and hewed, and shook that portal wide,
And in his fury let such day-light through,
'Twas easy to espy - and might be spied -
In visages o'ercast in death-like sort,
That full of people was the palace court.

XIII
Through those fair chambers echoed shouts of dread,
And feminine lament from dame distrest;
And grieving, through the house, pale women fled,
Who wept, afflicted sore, and beat their breast.
And hugged the door-post and the genial bed,
Too soon to be by stranger lords possest.
The matter in this state of peril hung
When thither came the king, his peers among.

XIV
Charles turned him round to these, of vigorous hand,
Whom he had found in former peril true.
'Are you not those that erst with me did stand
'Gainst Agolant in Aspramont? In you
Is vigour now so spent, (he said), the band,
Who him, Troyano, and Almontes slew,
With hundreds more, that you now fear to face
One of that very blood, that very race?

XV
'Why should I now in contest with the foe
Less strength in you behold than them? Your might
Upon this hound (pursued the monarch) show;
This hound who preys on man. - A generous sprite
The thought of death - approach he fast or slow -
So that he dies but well, holds cheap and light.
But where you are, I doubt my fortune ill,
For by your succour, have I conquered still.'

XVI
This said, he spurred his courser, couched his spear,
And charged the paynim; nor of life less free,
Sir Ogier joined the king in his career;
Namus and Oliver; and, with the three,
Avino, Avolio, Otho, and Berlinghier:
(For one without the rest I never see)
And on the bosom, flanks, and on the front,
All smote together at King Rodomont.

XVII
But let us, sir, for love of Heaven, forego
Of anger and of death the noisome lore;
And be it deemed that I have said enow,
For this while, of that Saracen, not more
Cruel than strong; 'tis time in trace to go
Of Gryphon, left with Origille, before
Damascus' gate, and him who with her came,
The adulterer, not the brother of the dame.

XVIII
Of all the cities under eastern skies,
Most wealthy, populous, and fairly dight,
'Tis said, Damascus is; which distant lies
From Salem seven days' journey; its fair site,
A fertile plain, abundant fruits supplies,
Winter and summer, sojourn of delight.
Shading the city from the dawning day,
A mountain intercepts its early ray.

XIX
Two crystal streams the wealthy city scower;
Whose currents, parted into many a rill,
Infinite gardens, never bare of flower,
Or stript of leaf, with grateful murmur fill:
'Tis said the perfumed waters are of power
(So plenteously they swell) to turn a mill;
And that whoever wander through the streets,
Scent, issuing from each home, a cloud of sweets.

XX
Then the high-street gay signs of triumph wore,
Covered with showy cloths of different dye,
Which deck the walls, while sylvan leaves in store,
And scented herbs upon the pavement lie.
Adorned is every window, every door,
With carpeting and finest drapery;
But more with ladies fair, and richly drest,
In costly jewels and in gorgeous vest.

XXI
Within the city gates in frolic sport,
Many are seen to ply the festive dance;
And here the burghers of the better sort
Upon their gay and well-trapt coursers prance.
A fairer show remains; the sumptuous court
Of barons bold and vassals, who advance,
Garnished with what could be procured, of ore
And pearl, from Ind and Erythraean shore.

XXII
Forward Sir Gryphon pricked, with his array,
Surveying, here and there, the whole at ease;
When them a knight arrested by the way,
And (such his wont and natural courtesies)
Obliged beneath his palace-roof to stay;
Where he let nought be wanting which might please;
And chearfully the guests, with bath restored,
Next welcomed at his costly supper-board;

XXIII
And told how he, who, Norandino hight,
Damascus and all Syria's kingdom swayed,
Native and foreigner had bade invite,
On whom the sword of knighthood had been laid,
To a fair joust, which at the morrow's light,
Ensuing, in the square was to be made.
Where they might show, and without further faring,
If they had valour equal to their bearing.

XXIV
Gryphon, though he came not that joust to see,
Accepts the challenge of the cavalier;
For when occasion serves, it cannot be
An evil use to make our worth appear:
Then questioned more of that solemnity;
- If 'twere a wonted feast, held every year,
Or new emprise; by which, in martial course,
The monarch would assay his warriors' force. -

XXV
'The gorgeous feast our monarch will display
Each fourth succeeding moon,' the baron said;
'This is the first that you will now survey;
None have been held beside. The cause which bred
The solemn usage is, that on such day
The king from sovereign peril saved his head,
After four months, consumed in doleful wise,
'Mid tears and groans, with death before his eyes.

XXVI
'Our monarch, who is named king Norandine
(Fully to you the matter to recite),
Through many and many a year for her did pine,
Above all other damsels fair and bright,
The king of Cyprus' daughter; whom, in fine,
Espoused, he, with his bride, and dame, and knight,
To wait upon her home, a fair array,
Towards his Syrian realm had shaped his way.

XXVII
'But as we scoured the fell Carpathian sea,
With flowing sheet, at distance from the shore,
A storm assailed us, of such cruelty,
The tempest even scared our pilot hoar.
Drifting three days and nights at random, we
Our devious course 'mid threatening waves explore;
Then, wet and weary, land 'mid verdant hills,
Between well-shaded and refreshing rills.

XXVIII
'We our pavilions pitch, and, 'mid those groves,
Joyfully strain our awnings overhead;
And kitchens there construct, and rustic stoves,
And carpets for the intended banquet spread.
Meanwhile through neighbouring vale the monarch roves,
And secret wood, scarce pervious to the tread,
Seeking red deer, goat, fallow-buck, and doe;
And, following him, two servants bear his bow.

XXIX
'While, with much solace, seated in a round,
We from the chace expect our lord's return,
Approaching us along the shore, astound,
The orc, that fearful monster, we discern.
God grant, fair sir, he never may confound
Your eyesight with his semblance foul and stern!
Better it is of him by fame to hear,
Than to behold him by approaching near.

XXX
'To calculate the griesly monster's height,
(So measureless is he) exceeds all skill;
Of fungus-hue, in place of orbs of sight,
Their sockets two small bones like berries fill.
Towards us, as I say, he speeds outright
Along the shore, and seems a moving hill.
Tusks jutting out like savage swine he shows,
A breast with drivel foul, and pointed nose.

XXXI
'Running, the monster comes, and bears his snout
In guise of brach, who enters on the trail.
We who behold him fly (a helpless rout),
Wherever terror drives, with visage pale.
'Tis little comfort, that he is without
Eye-sight, who winds his plunder in the gale,
Better than aught possest of scent and sight:
And wing and plume were needed for our flight.

XXXII
'Some here, some there make off, but little gain
By flying him; for swifter is the pest
Than the south wind. Of forty, ten, with pain,
Swimming aboard the bark in safety rest.
Under his arm some wretches of our train
He packed, nor empty left his lap or breast:
And loaded a capacious scrip beside,
Which, like a shepherd's, to his waist was tied.

XXXIII
'Us to his den the sightless monster carried,
Hollowed within a rock, upon the shore;
Of snowy marble was that cavern quarried,
As white as leaf, unstained by inky score.
With him within the cave a matron tarried,
Who marked by grief and pain a visage wore.
With her were wife and maid, a numerous court,
Both fair and foul, of every age and sort.

XXXIV
'Large as the other, and that grotto near,
Almost upon the summit of the rock,
Another cavern was contrived, to rear,
And from the weather fend his woolly flock,
Which he still herded through the changeful year;
So numerous, it were hard to count his stock:
Wont in due season these to pen or loose,
And play the shepherd more for sport than use.

XXXV
'The flesh of man he savoured more than sheep,
And this, before he reached the cave, was seen.
Three youths of ours, ere yet he climbed the steep,
He are alive, or rather swallowed clean;
Then moved the stone, which closed that cavern deep,
And lodged us there. With that, to pasture green
His flock he led, as wont, the meads among,
Sounding the pipe which at his neck was hung.

XXXVI
'Our lord, meanwhile, returning to the strand,
The loss which he had suffered comprehends;
For in deep silence, upon every hand,
Through empty tent and hut the monarch wends:
Nor who has robbed him can be understand;
And full of terror to the beach descends;
Whence he his sailors in the offing sees
Unmoor and spread their canvas to the breeze.

XXXVII
'As soon as Norandino was in view,
They launched and sent their pinnace to convey
The monarch thence: but he no sooner knew
Of the fell orc, and those he made his prey,
Then he, without more thought, would him pursue
And follow, wheresoe'er he bent his way.
To lose Lucina is such cruel pain,
That life is loathsome save he her regain.

XXXVIII
'When on the newly printed sand his eyes
Norandine fixt, he with the swiftness sped
With which the rage of love a man supplies,
Until he reached the cave of which I said,
Where we, enduring greater agonies
Than e'er were suffered, there await in dread
The orc, and deem at every sound we hear,
The famished brute about to re-appear.

XXXIX
'The monarch to the cave did Fortune guide,
When the orc's wife alone was in the lair.
Seeing the king: `Fly! - Woe to thee!' (she cried)
`Should the orc take thee!' - `Woeful every where
I cannot choose but be,' (the king replied)
`Whether be take or miss me, kill or spare.
Not hither I by chance have wandered, I
Come with desire beside my wife to die.'

XXX
'He afterwards the dame for tidings pressed
Of those the orc had taken on the shore;
And of Lucina above all the rest;
If slain or prisoner kept. With kindly lore,
She Norandino, in return, addressed;
And said Lucina lived, nor need he more
Have of her future safety any dread,
For the orc on flesh of woman never fed.

XLI
' `Of this you may behold the proof in me,
And all these other dames who with me dwell;
Nor me, nor them the orc offends, so we
Depart not ever from this caverned cell.
But vainly who would from her prison flee,
Hopes peace or pardon from our tyrant fell:
Buried alive, or bound with griding band,
Of, in the sun, stript naked on the sand.

XLII
' `When hither he to-day conveyed your crew,
The females from the males he severed not;
But, as he took them, in confusion threw
All he had captive made, into that grot.
He will scent out their sex; not tremble, you,
Lest he the women slay: the others' lot
Is fixt; and, of four men or six a-day,
Be sure the greedy orc will make his prey.

XLIII
' `I have no counsel for you how to free
The lady; but content thyself to hear,
She in no danger of her life will be,
Who will our lot, in good or evil, share.
But go, for love of Heaven, my son, lest thee
The monster smell, and on thy body fare;
For when arrived, he sniffs about the house,
And, such his subtle scent, can wind a mouse.'

XLIV
'To her the amorous monarch made reply,
That he the cave would not abandon, ere
He saw Lucina, and near her to die,
Than to live far from her, esteemed more dear.
- Seeing that she can nothing more supply
Fitted to shake the purpose of the peer,
Upon a new design the matron hits.
Pursued with all her pains, with all her wits.

XLV
'With slaughtered sheep and goat was evermore
The cavern filled, the numerous flock's increase,
Which served her and her household as a store;
And from the ceiling dangled many a fleece.
The dame made Norandino from a hoar
And huge he-goat's fat bowels take the grease,
And with the suet all his members pay,
Until he drove his natural scent away.

XLVI
'And when she thought he had imbibed the smell
Which the rank goat exhales, she took the hide,
And made him creep into the shaggy fell;
Who was well covered by that mantle wide.
Him in this strange disguise she from the cell
Crawling (for such was her command) did guide,
Where, prisoned by a stone, in her retreat,
Was hid his beauteous lady's visage sweet.

XLVII
'Kin Norandine, as bid, took up his ground
Before the cavern, on the greensward laid,
That he might enter with the flock who wound
Homeward; and longing sore, till evening stayed.
At eve he hears the hollow elder's sound,
Upon whose pipes the wonted tune was played,
Calling his sheep from pasture to their rock,
By the fell swain who stalked behind his flock.

XLVIII
'Think if his heart is trembling at its core,
When Norandino hears the approaching strains;
And now advancing to the cavern door,
The sight of that terrific face sustains!
But if fear shook him, pity moved him more:
You see if he loves well or only feigns!
The orc removed the stone, unbarred the cote,
And the king entered, amid sheep and goat.

XLIX
'His flock so housed, to us the orc descended,
But first had care the cavern door to close:
Then scented all about, and having ended
His quest, two wretches for his supper chose.
So is remembrance by this meal offended,
It makes me tremble yet: this done, he goes;
And being gone, the king his goatish vest
Casts off, and folds his lady to his breast.

L
'Whereas she him with pleasure should descry,
She, seeing him, but suffers grief and pain.
She sees him thither but arrived to die,
Who cannot hinder her from being slain.
` 'Twas no small joy 'mid all the woes, that.'
To him exclaimed Lucina, 'here sustain.
That thou wert not among us found to-day,
When hither I was brought, the monster's prey.

LI
' `For though to find myself about to leave
This life be bitter and afflict me sore,
Such is our common instinct, I should grieve
But for myself; but whether thee, before
Of after me, the orc of life bereave,
Assure thyself thy death will pain me more
Than mine.' And thus the dame persists to moan
More Norandino's danger than her own.

LII
' `A hope conducts me here,' the monarch said,
`To save thee and thy followers every one;
And, if I cannot, I were better dead,
Than living without light of thee, my sun!
I trust to scape, as hither I have spied;
As ye shall all, if, as ourselves have done,
To compass our design, you do not shrink
To imbue your bodies with the loathsome stink.'

LIII
'The trick he told, wherewith the monster's smell
To cheat, as first to him the wife had told:
In any case to cloathe us in the fell,
That he may feel is issueing from the fold.
As many men as women in the cell,
We slay (persuaded by the monarch bold)
As many goats as with our number square,
Of those which stink the most and oldest are.

LIV
'We smeared our bodies with the fruitful grease
Which round about the fat intestines lay,
And cloathed our bodies with the shaggy fleece:
This while from golden dwelling broke the day.
And now, his flock returning to release,
We viewed the shepherd, with the dawning ray;
Who, giving breath to the sonorous reeds,
Piped forth his prisoned flock to hill and meads.

LV
'He held his hand before the opened lair,
Lest with the herd we issued from the den,
And stopt us short; but feeling wool or hair
Upon our bodies, let us go again.
By such a strange device we rescued were,
Cloathed in our shaggy fleeces, dames and men:
Nor any issuing thence the monster kept,
Till thither, sore alarmed, Lucina crept.

LVI
'Lucina - whether she abhorred the scent,
And, like us others, loathed herself to smear,
- Or whether with a slower gait she went
Than might like the pretended beast's appear,
- Or whether, when the orc her body hent,
Her dread so mastered her, she screamed for fear,
- Or that her hair escaped from neck or brow,
Was known; nor can I well inform you how.

LVII
'So were we all intent on our own case,
We for another's danger had no eyes:
Him, turning at the scream. I saw uncase
Already her whom he had made his prize,
And force her to the cavern to retrace
Her steps: we, couching in our quaint disguise,
Wend with the flock, where us the shepherd leads,
Through verdant mountains, into pleasant meads.

LVIII
'There we awaited, till beneath the shade
Secure, we saw the beaked orc asleep;
When one along the shore of ocean made,
And one betook him to the mountain steep.
King Norandine his love alone delayed;
Who would return disguised among the sheep,
Nor from the place depart, while life remained,
Unless his faithful consort he regained.

LIX
'For when before, on the flock issuing out,
He saw her prisoned in the cave alone,
Into the orc's wide throat he was about
To spring; so grief had reason overthrown,
And he advanced even to the monster's snout,
And, but by little, scaped the grinding stone:
Yet him the hope detained amid the flock,
Trusting to bear Lucina from the rock.

LX
'The orc, at eve, when to the cave again
He brings the herd, nor finds us in the stall,
And knows that he must supperless remain,
Lucina guilty of the whole does call,
Condemned to stand, fast girded with a chain,
In open air, upon the summit tall.
The king who caused her woes, with pitying eye
Looks on, and pines, - and only cannot die.

LXI
'Morning and evening, her, lamenting sore,
Ever the unhappy lover might survey;
What time he grieving went afield before
The issuing flock, or homeward took his way.
She, with sad face, and suppliant evermore,
Signed that for love of Heaven he would not stay;
Since there he tarried at great risk of life.
Nor could in any thing assist his wife.

LXII
'So the orc's wife, as well upon her side,
Implored him to depart, but moved him nought;
To go without Lucina he denied,
And but remained more constant in his thought.
In this sad servitude he long was tried,
By Love and Pity bound: till Fortune brought
A pair of warriors to the rocky won,
Gradasso, and Agrican's redoubted son:

LXIII
'Where, with their arms so wrought the champions brave,
They freed Lucina from the chains she wore,
(Though he Wit less than Fortune served in save)
And running to the sea their burden bore:
Her to her father, who was there, they gave.
This was at morn, when in the cavern hoar,
Mixt with the goats, king Norandino stood,
Which ruminating, chewed their grassy food:

LXIV
'But when, at day-light, 'twas unbarred, and now
He was instructed that his wife was gone;
For the orc's consort told the tale, and how,
In every point, the thing rehearsed was done;
He thanked his God, and begged, with promised vow,
That, since 'twas granted her such ill to shun,
He would direct his wife to some repair,
Whence he might free her, by arms, gold, or prayer.

LXV
'Together with the flat-nosed herd his way
He took, and for green meads rejoicing made.
He here expected, till the monster lay
Extended, underneath the gloomy shade:
Then journeyed all the night and all the day;
Till, of the cruel orc no more afraid,
He climbed a bark on Satalia's strand,
And, three days past, arrived on Syrian land.

LXVI
'In Cyprus, and in Rhodes, by tower and town,
Which in near Egypt, Turkey, or Afric lay,
The king bade seek Lucina up and down,
Nor could hear news of her till the other day.
The other day, his father-in-law made known
He had her safe with him. What caused her stay
In Nicosia was a cruel gale
Which had long time been adverse to her sail.

LXVII
'The king, for pleasure of the tidings true,
Prepares the costly feast in solemn state;
And will on each fourth moon that shall ensue
Make one, resembling this we celebrate.
Pleased of that time the memory to renew,
That he, in the orc's cavern, had to wait,
- For four months and a day - which is to-morrow;
When he was rescued from such cruel sorrow.

LXVIII
'The things related I in part descried,
And from him, present at the whole, heard more;
From Norandine, through calend and through ide,
Pent, till he changed to smiles his anguish sore:
And if from other you hear aught beside,
Say, he is ill instructed in his lore.'
The Syrian gentleman did thus display
The occasion of that feast and fair array.

LXIX
Large portion of the night, in like discourse,
Was by those cavaliers together spent,
Who deemed that Love and Pity's mickle force
Was proved in that so dread experiment;
Then rising, when the supper's sumptuous course
Was cleared, to good and pleasant lodgings went;
And, as the ensuing morning fairly broke,
To sounds of triumph and rejoicing woke.

LXX
The circling drums' and trumpets' echoing strain
Assemble all the town within the square;
And now, when mixt with sound of horse and wain,
Loud outcries through the streets repeated are,
Sir Gryphon dons his glittering arms again,
A panoply of those esteemed most rare;
Whose mail, impassable by spear or brand,
She, the white fay, had tempered with her hand.

LXXI
The man of Antioch in his company,
Armed him (a recreant worse than he was none),
Provided by their landlord's courtesy
With sturdy spears and good, the course to run;
Who with his kindred, a fair chivalry,
To bring the warriors to the square is gone;
With squires afoot and mounted upon steeds,
Whom he bestowed, as aptest for their needs.

LXXII
They in the square arrived and stood aside,
Nor of themselves awhile would make display;
Better to see the martial gallants ride
By twos and threes, or singly, to the fray.
One told, by colours cunningly allied,
His joy or sorrow to his lady gay;
One, with a painted Love on crest or shield,
If she were cruel or were kind, revealed.

LXXIII
It was the Syrians' practise in that age
To arm them in this fashion of the west.
Haply this sprung out of their vicinage
And constant commerce with the Franks, possest
In those days of the sacred heritage,
That God incarnate with his presence blest;
Which now, to them abandoned by the train
Of wretched Christians, heathen hounds profane.

LXXIV
God's worshippers, where they should couch the lance,
For furtherance of his holy faith and true,
Against each other's breast the spear advance,
To the destruction of the faithful few.
You men of Spain, and you, ye men of France,
And Switzers, turn your steps elsewhere , and you,
Ye Germans, worthier empire to acquire;
For that is won for Christ, which you desire.

LXXV
If verily most Christian you would be,
- I speak to you, that catholic are hight -
Why slain by you Christ's people do I see?
Wherefore are they despoiled of their right?
Why seek you not Jerusalem to free
From renegades? By Turkish Moslemite
Impure, why is Byzantium, with the best
And fairest portion of the world, possest?

LXXVI
Thou Spain, hast thou not fruitful Afric nigh?
And has she not in sooth offended more
Than Italy? yet her to scathe, that high,
And noble, enterprize wilt thou give o'er.
Alas! thou sleepest, drunken Italy,
Of every vice and crime the fetid sewer!
Nor grievest, as a hand-maid, to obey,
In turn, the nations that have owned thy sway.

LXXVII
If fear of famishing within thy cave,
Switzer, does thee to Lombardy convey,
And thou, among our people, dost but crave
A hand to give thee daily bread, or slay, -
The Turk has ready wealth; across the wave,
Drive him from Europe or from Greece away:
So shalt thou in those parts have wherewithal
To feed thy hunger, or more nobly fall.

LXXVIII
I to the German neighbour of thy lair
Say what I say to thee; the wealth o' the west,
Which Constantine brought off from Rome, is there -
Brought off the choicest, gave away the rest -
There golden Hermus and Pactolus are,
Mygdonia and Lydia: nor that country blest,
Which many tales for many praises note,
If thou wouldst thither wend, is too remote.

LXXIX
Thou mighty Lion, that art charged to keep
The keys of Paradise, a weighty care,
Oh! let not Italy lie plunged in sleep,
If thy strong hand is planted in her hair.
To thee, his shepherd, God, to guide his sheep,
Has given that wand and furious name to bear;
That thou may'st roar, and wide thine arms extend,
And so from greedy wolves thy flock defend.

LXXX
But whither have I roved! who evermore
So from one topic to the other stray?
Yet think not I the road I kept before
To have missed so far, but I can find my way.
I said, the Syrians then observed the lore
Or arming like the Christians of that day.
So that Damascus' crowded square was bright
With corslet, plate, and helm of belted knight.

LXXXI
The lovely ladies from their scaffolds throw
Upon the jousters yellow flowers and red;
While these, as loud the brazen trumpets blow,
Make their steeds leap and wheel and proudly tread.
Each, rode he well or ill, his art would show,
And with the goring spur his courser bled.
Hence this good cavalier earns fame and praise,
While others scornful hoots and laughter raise.

LXXXII
A suit of arms was prize of the assay,
Presented to the king some days before;
Which late a merchant found upon the way
Returning from Armenia; this the more
To grace, a vest, with noblest tissue gay,
The Syrian king subjoined, so powdered o'er
With jewels, gold, and pearls in rich device,
They made the meed a thing of passing price.

LXXXIII
If the good king had known the panoply,
This he had held above all others dear;
Nor this had given, as full of courtesy,
To be contented for with sword and spear.
'Twere long to tell who so unworthily
Had erst mistreated thus the goodly gear,
That lay the way the harness had been strowed,
A prey to whosoever past the road.

LXXXIV
Of this you more in other place shall hear.
Of Gryphon now I tell, who at the just
Arrived, saw broken many a knightly spear,
And more than one good stroke and one good thrust.
Eight were there who made league together, dear
To Norandine, and held in sovereign trust;
Youths quick in arms and practised in the shock:
All lords, or scions of illustrious stock.

LXXXV
At open barriers, one by one, the place
They kept against all comers for a day;
At first with lance, and next with sword or mace,
While them the king delighted to survey.
Ofttimes they pierce the corslet's iron case,
And every thing in fine perform in play,
Which foemen do that deadly weapons measure,
Save that the king may part them at his pleasure.

LXXXVI
That witless Antiochite, who, worthily,
By name was cowardly Martano hight,
Thinking, because his comrade, he must be
Partaker of the noble Gryphon's might,
Into the martial press rides valiantly,
Then stops; and the issue of a furious fight,
Which had begun between two cavaliers,
To wait, retiring from the strife, appears.

LXXXVII
Seleucia's lord, of those companions one,
Combined in that emprize to keep the place,
Who then a course with bold Ombruno run,
Wounded the unhappy warrior in mid-face,
So that he slew him; mourned by every one,
Who as a worthy knight the warrior grace,
And over and above his worth, before
All others, hold him for his courteous lore.

LXXXVIII
When vile Martano from his place discerned
The fate which might be his with fearful eye,
Into his craven nature be returned,
And straight began to think how he might fly:
But him from flight the watchful Gryphon turned,
And, after much ado, with act and cry,
Urged him against a knight upon the ground,
As at the ravening wolf men slip the hound.

LXXXIX
Who will pursue the brindled beast for ten,
Or twenty yards, and, after, stop to bay;
When he beholds his flashing eyes, and when
He sees the griesly beast his teeth display.
'Twas thus, before those valiant gentlemen
And princes, present there in fair array,
Fearful Martano, seized with panic dread,
Turned to the right his courser's rein and head.

XC
Yet he who would excuse the sudden wheel,
Upon his courser might the blame bestow:
But, after, he so ill his strokes did deal,
Demosthenes his cause might well forego.
With paper armed he seems, and not with steel,
So shrinks he at the wind of every blow:
At length he breaks the ordered champions through,
Amid loud laughter from the circling crew.

XCI
Clapping of hands, and cries, at every turn,
Were heard from all that rubble widely spread.
As a wolf sorely hunted makes return
To earth, to his retreat Martano fled.
Gryphon remained, and sullied with the scorn
Esteemed himself, which on his mate was shed;
And rather than be there, he, in his ire,
Would gladly find himself i' the midst of fire.

XCII
With burning heart, and visage red with shame,
He thinks the knight's disgrace is all his own,
Because by deeds like his with whom he came,
He weens the mob expects to see him known.
So that it now behoves his valour flame
More clear than light, or they, to censure prone,
- Errs he a finger's breadth - an inch - will swell
His fault, and of that inch will make an ell.

XCIII
Already he the lance upon his thigh
Has rested, little used to miss the foe:
Then makes with flowing rein his courser fly,
And next, somedeal advanced, directs the blow;
And, smiting, puts to the last agony
Sidonia's youthful lord, by him laid low.
O'ercome with wonder each assistant rises,
Whom sore the unexpected deed surprises.

XCIV
Gryphon returned, and did the weapon wield.
Whole and recovered, which he couched before,
And in three pieces broke it on the shield
Which bold Laodicea's baron bore.
Thrice of four times about to press the field
He seemed, and lay along the crupper, sore
Astound; yet rose at length, unsheathed his blade,
Wheeled his good courser, and at Gryphon made.

XCV
Gryphon, who in his saddle sees the peer
Advancing towards him, nor unseated by
The encounter, says: 'The failure of the spear
In a few strokes the sabre shall supply;'
And on his temples smote a stroke so shear,
It seemed that it descended from the sky;
And matched it with another, and again
Another, till he stretched him on the plain.

XCVI
Here two good brothers of Apamia were,
In tourney wont to have the upper hand:
Corimbo named and Thyrsis was the pair;
Both overturned by Gryphon on the land.
One at the encounter left his saddle bare,
On the other Gryphon used his trenchant brand:
This valiant knight, was, in the common trust,
Sure to obtain the honours of the just.

XCVII
Bold Salinterno, mid the warlike train,
Was in the lists, vizier and marshal hight,
Who had the government of all that reign,
And was, withal, a puissant man of might:
The tourney's prize he sees, with much disdain,
About to be borne off by foreign knight.
A lance he snatches, and to Gryphon cries,
And him with many menaces defies.

XCVIII
But he makes answer with a massy spear,
Out of ten others chosen as the best;
And levelling at the buckler of the peer,
For greater surety, pierces plate and breast.
'Twixt rib and rib, it bored the cavalier,
Issuing a palm behind. To all the rest,
The king excepted, welcome was the blow:
For each was greedy Salinterno's foe.

XCIX
Two of Damascus next Sir Gryphon sped,
Hermophilo and Carmondo. This, arraid
Under his flag, the king's militia led;
That was as lord high admiral obeyed.
This lightly at the shock on earth was shed,
And that, reversed, upon the ground o'erlaid
By his weak horse, too feeble to withstand
Sir Gryphon's mighty push and puissant hand.

C
Yet in the field remained Seleucia's knight,
The best of all the other seven at need;
And one who well accompanied his might
With perfect armour and a gallant steed.
Both at the helmet, where it locks, take sight,
And with their spears to the encounter speed:
But Gryphon hardest smote, whose paynim foe
Lost his left stirrup, staggered by the blow.

CI
They cast the truncheons down, their coursers wheel,
And, full of daring, with drawn falchions close.
Sir Gryphon was the first a stroke to deal,
Which might have split an anvil; at the blow's
Descent, the shield is splintered - bone and steel -
This had its lord mid thousand others chose;
And, but 'twas double, and the coat as well,
The sword had cleft the thigh on which it fell.

CII
He of Seleucia at Sir Gryphon's casque,
At the same time, so fell a blow addrest,
It would have rent and torn the iron mask,
Had it not been enchanted like the rest.
The paynim's labour is a fruitless task,
Of arms so hard Sir Gryphon is possest;
Who has the foe's already cleft and broke
In many parts, nor thrown away a stroke.

CIII
Each one might see how much Seleucia's lord
Was overmatched by Gryphon, and that day,
The worsted men had perished by the sword,
Had not the monarch quickly stopt the fray.
To his guard king Norandino spake the word,
And bade them enter, and the duel stay:
They part the knight, whom they asunder bear,
And much the king is lauded for his care.

CIV
The eight, who had to keep the field pretended
From all the world, nor yet their part had done
On a sole knight, - their quarrel ill defended, -
Had vanished from the tilt-yard one by one.
The others, who with them should have contended,
Stood idle; for to answer them was none.
Since Gryphon had forestalled, in the debate,
What they should all have done against those eight;

CV
And, for such little time endured the play,
Less than an hour sufficed to finish all.
But Norandine, the pastime to delay,
And to continue it till even-fall,
Descending from his place, bade clear the way;
And the huge squad divided, at his call,
Into two troops, whom, ranked by blood and might,
The monarch formed, and marched for other fight.

CVI
Sir Gryphon, during this, had made return
Homeward, with anger and with fury stung;
Less thinking of his honours that the scorn
Which on the vile Martano had been flung.
Hence, from himself the opprobrious shame to turn,
Martano now employs his lying tongue;
And she, the false and cunning courtezan,
Assists him in his scheme as best she can.

CVII
Whether the youth believed the tale or no,
He the excuse received, like one discreet;
And deemed it best for them at once to go,
And secretly and silently retreat,
For fear, that if the populace should know
Martano base, they him might ill entreat.
So, by short ways and close, they quit the abode,
And issue from the gates upon their road.

CVIII
Sir Gryphon, was he or his horse foredone
With toil, or was it sleep his eyes down weighed,
Ere yet the troop beyond two miles had gone,
At the first inn upon the highway stayed.
He doffed his armour all, and morion,
And had the steeds of trappings disarrayed;
And next alone he to a chamber sped,
Locked himself in, undrest, and went to bed.

CIX
No sooner he his head had rested there,
Than, with deep sleep opprest, he closed his eye:
So heavily, no badgers in their lair,
Or dormice, overcome with slumber, lie.
Martano and Origille, to take the air,
Entered this while a garden which was nigh;
And there the strangest fraud together bred,
Which ever entered into mortal head.

CX
Martano schemed to take away the steed
And gear, in which Sir Gryphon had been dight,
And stand before the monarch, in the weed
Of him who had in joust so proved his might.
As he had shaped in thought, he did the deed:
He took away the warrior's horse, more white
Than milk, his buckler, surcoat, arms, and crest;
In all Sir Gryphon's knightly ensigns drest.

CXI
He, who was clad in trappings not his own,
Like the ass mantled in the lion's hide,
As he expected, to the king, unknown,
Was called in place of Gryphon: when descried
Or Norandine, he rising from his throne,
Embraced and kissed, and placed him by his side:
Nor deems enough to praise and hold him dear,
But wills that all around his praise should hear:

CXII
And bids them the sonorous metal blow,
Proclaiming him the conqueror of that day:
And round about loud voices, high and low,
The unworthy name throughout the lists convey.
He wills that, side by side, with him shall go
The knight, when homeward he shall take his way;
And him such favour shows, intent to please,
As might have honoured Mars or Hercules.

CXIII
Him lodgings fair he gave, wherein to dwell
At court; and she who with the peer did ride
Was honoured by the courteous king as well,
- False Origille, - with knight and page supplied.
But it is time that I of Gryphon tell;
Who unsuspecting, she, or wight beside,
Him would with treacherous stratagem deceive,
Had fallen asleep, nor ever waked till eve.

CXIV
When he how late it was, awaking, knew,
With speed he from the chamber did withdraw;
And hastened where he, with the other crew,
Left Origille and her false brother-in-law:
And when, nor these, nor, upon better view,
His armour nor his wonted clothes he saw,
Suspicious waxed; and more suspicion bred
The ensigns of his comrade left instead.

CXV
The host, arriving, him at full possest
Of every thing, - and how, in white array,
That warrior, with the lady and the rest,
Had to the city measured back their way.
By little and by little, Gryphon guessed
What love from him had hidden till that day;
And knew, to his great sorrow, in the other
Origille's paramour, and not her brother.

CXVI
Now he lamenting for his folly stood,
That having heard the truths the pilgrim said,
He should have let her story change his mood,
Who him before so often had betrayed.
He might have venged himself, nor did: - now wou'd,
Too late, inflict the punishment delaid;
Constrained (a crying error!) in his need
To take that wily treachour's arms and steed.

CXVII
He better would have gone like naked man,
Than braced the unworthy cuirass on his breast;
Or hastened the detested shield to span,
Or place upon his helm the scorned crest.
But of the lover, and that courtezan,
He, passion mastering reason, took the quest:
And bending to Damascus' gate his way,
Arrived an hour before the close of day.

CXVIII
On the left hand a castle richly dight
Stood nigh the gate, to which Sir Gryphon rode.
Besides, that it was strong and armed for fight,
Filled with rare chambers was the rich abode.
The first of Syria, king, and lord, and knight,
And lady, in a gentle group bestowed,
There in an open gallery fairly met,
Were at their glad and costly supper set.

CXIX
With the high tower the beauteous gallery, clear
Beyond the city-wall, projected out,
From whence might be discovered, far and near,
The spacious fields and different roads about.
When Gryphon now, in his opprobrious gear,
And arms, dishonoured by the rabble's flout,
Makes, by ill fortune, to the gate resort,
He by the king is seen, and all his court;

CXX
And, taken for the man whose crest he wears,
In dame and knight moves laughter, through the ring.
The vile Martano, as a man who shares
The royal grace, sits next below the king;
And next, she, whom her love so fitly pairs;
Whom Norandino gaily questioning.
Demands of them, who is the coward knight,
That of his honour makes so passing light;

CXXI
Who, after feat so base and foul, anew
Approaches, with such front and shameless cheer,
- And cries, 'It seems a thing unheard, that you,
An excellent and worthy cavalier,
Should take this man for your companion, who
Has not in all our wide Levant his peer.
Did you with him for contrast-sake combine,
That so your valour might more brightly shine?

CXXII
'- But did not love for you my will restrain,
By the eternal gods, I truly swear,
He should endure such ignominious stain,
As I am wont to make his fellows share:
Him would I make of my long-nursed disdain
Of cowardice perpetual record bear.
To you, by whom he hither was conveyed,
If now unpunished, let his thanks be paid.'

CXXIII
That vessel of all filthy vices, he,
Made answer: 'Mighty sir, I cannot say
Who is the stranger, that fell in with me
Journeying from Antioch hither, by the way:
But him I worthy of my company
Deemed, by his warlike semblance led astray.
I nothing of his deeds have heard or seen,
Save what ill feats to-day have witnessed been;

CXXIV
'Which moved me so, it little lacked but I,
For punishment of his unworthy fear,
Had put him out of case again to ply,
In martial tournament, the sword or spear;
And, but in reverence to your majesty
And presence, I forbore by hand to rear,
Not for his sake: - nor by thy mercy showed
On him, as my companion on the road;

CXXV
'Whose former fellowship appears a stain;
And ever 'twill sit heavy at my heart,
If I, uninjured, see the wretch again
'Scape, to the scandal of the warlike art.
'Twere better he from tower, a worthy pain,
Were gibbeted, than suffered to depart:
Hung as a beacon for the coward's gaze.
Such were a princely deed, and worthy praise.'

CXXVI
A voucher he in Origilla had,
Who well, without a sign, his purpose read.
'I deem not,' cried the king, 'his works so bad,
That they should cost the stranger knight his head:
Enough that he again the people glad,
For penance of his weighty sin.' This said,
He quickly called a baron of his crew,
And him enjoined the deed he was to do.

CXXVII
With many armed men that baron fares,
And to the city-gate descending, here
Collects his troop, and for the attempt prepares,
Waiting the coming of the cavalier;
And him surprises so at unawares,
He, softly, 'twixt two bridges, takes the peer;
And him detains, with mockery and scorn,
In a dark chamber, till returning morn.

CXXVIII
The early sun had scarce his golden hair
Uplifted from his ancient nurse's breast,
Beginning, upon Alpine regions bare,
To chase the shades and gild the mountain-crest,
When Martan', fearing Gryphon might declare
His wrong, and to the king the truth attest,
Retorting upon him the slander cast,
Took leave, and thence upon his journey past.

CXXIX
His ready wit a fit excuse supplies
Why he stays not, to see the recreant shown.
He is with other gifts, beside the prize,
Rewarded for the victory, not his own,
And letters patent, drawn in ample wise,
Wherein his lofty honours wide are blown.
Let him depart; I promise he shall meet
A guerdon worthy of his treacherous feat.

CXXX
Gryphon is brought with shame into the square,
When it is fully thronged with gazing wight,
Whom they of cuirass and of helmet bare,
And leave in simple cassock, meanly dight;
And, as to slaughter he conducted were,
Place on a wain, conspicuous to the sight;
Harnessed to which two sluggish cows are seen,
Weary and weak, and with long hunger lean.

CXXXI
Thronging about the ignoble car, appear
Brazen-faced boy and girl of evil fame,
Who, each in turn, will play the charioteer,
And all assail the knight with bitter blame.
The boys might be a cause of greater fear,
For, joined to mocks and mows, and words of shame,
The warrior they with volleyed stones would slay,
But that the wiser few their fury stay.

CXXXII
That which of his disgrace had been the ground,
Though no true evidence of guilt, his mail
And plate, are dragged in due dishonour round,
Suspended at the shameful waggon's tail.
The wain is stopt, and to the trumpet's sound,
Heralds, in front of a tribunal's pale,
His shame, before his eyes, amid the crowd,
(Another's evil deed) proclaim aloud.

CXXXIII
They take their prisoner thence, and so repair
In front of temple, dwelling-house, and store;
Nor any cruel name of mockery spare,
Nor leave unsaid a word of filthy lore;
And him at last without the city bear:
The foolish rabble, trusting evermore
Their thrall to banish to the sound of blows,
Who passing little of its prisoner knows.

CXXXIV
The warrior's gyves no sooner they undo,
And from their manacles free either hand,
Than Gryphon seizes shield and sword, and, through
The rabble, makes long furrows with his brand.
With pike and spear unfurnished was the crew,
Who without weapons came, a witless band.
The rest for other canto I suspend,
For, sir, 'tis time this song should have an end.

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

Share
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First Book

OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.

I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite
Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
When wondered at for smiling; not so far,
But still I catch my mother at her post
Beside the nursery-door, with finger up,
'Hush, hush–here's too much noise!' while her sweet eyes
Leap forward, taking part against her word
In the child's riot. Still I sit and feel
My father's slow hand, when she had left us both,
Stroke out my childish curls across his knee;
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she knew
He liked it better than a better jest)
Inquire how many golden scudi went
To make such ringlets. O my father's hand,
Stroke the poor hair down, stroke it heavily,–
Draw, press the child's head closer to thy knee!
I'm still too young, too young to sit alone.

I write. My mother was a Florentine,
Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me
When scarcely I was four years old; my life,
A poor spark snatched up from a failing lamp
Which went out therefore. She was weak and frail;
She could not bear the joy of giving life–
The mother's rapture slew her. If her kiss
Had left a longer weight upon my lips,
It might have steadied the uneasy breath,
And reconciled and fraternised my soul
With the new order. As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was born
To make my father sadder, and myself
Not overjoyous, truly. Women know
The way to rear up children, (to be just,)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles: children learn by such,
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play,
And get not over-early solemnised,–
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's Divine,
Which burns and hurts not,–not a single bloom,–
Become aware and unafraid of Love.
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
–Mine did, I know,–but still with heavier brains,
And wills more consciously responsible,
And not as wisely, since less foolishly;
So mothers have God's licence to be missed.

My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right hand–in the alien sun
In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,–
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop's wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.

And thus beloved, she died. I've heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,–his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet 'twas hard,–would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
'Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother'–stops the mirth
To-day, on women's faces when they walk
With rosy children hanging on their gowns,
Under the cloister, to escape the sun
That scorches in the piazza. After which,
He left our Florence, and made haste to hide
Himself, his prattling child, and silent grief,
Among the mountains above Pelago;
Because unmothered babes, he thought, had need
Of mother nature more than others use,
And Pan's white goats, with udders warm and full
Of mystic contemplations, come to feed
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his own–
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've heard from friends,
For even prosaic men, who wear grief long,
Will get to wear it as a hat aside
With a flower stuck in't. Father, then, and child,
We lived among the mountains many years,
God's silence on the outside of the house,
And we, who did not speak too loud, within;
And old Assunta to make up the fire,
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden flame
Which lightened from the firewood, made alive
That picture of my mother on the wall.
The painter drew it after she was dead;
And when the face was finished, throat and hands,
Her cameriera carried him, in hate
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the last brocade
She dressed in at the Pitti. 'He should paint
No sadder thing than that,' she swore, 'to wrong
Her poor signora.' Therefore, very strange
The effect was. I, a little child, would crouch
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up
And gaze across them, half in terror, half
In adoration, at the picture there,–
That swan-like supernatural white life,
Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk
Which seemed to have no part in it, nor power
To keep it from quite breaking out of bounds:
For hours I sate and stared. Asssunta's awe
And my poor father's melancholy eyes
Still pointed that way. That way, went my thoughts
When wandering beyond sight. And as I grew
In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously,
Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed,
Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful,
Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
With still that face . . . which did not therefore change,
But kept the mystic level of all forms
And fears and admirations; was by turn
Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, and sprite,–
A dauntless Muse who eyes a dreadful Fate,
A loving Psyche who loses sight of Love,
A still Medusa, with mild milky brows
All curdled and all clothed upon with snakes
Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; or, anon,
Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed with swords
Where the Babe sucked; or, Lamia in her first
Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk and blinked,
And, shuddering, wriggled down to the unclean;
Or, my own mother, leaving her last smile
In her last kiss, upon the baby-mouth
My father pushed down on the bed for that,–
Or, my dead mother, without smile or kiss,
Buried at Florence. All which images,
Concentred on the picture, glassed themselves
Before my meditative childhood, . . as
The incoherencies of change and death
Are represented fully, mixed and merged,
In the smooth fair mystery of perpetual Life.

And while I stared away my childish wits
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor child!)
My father, who through love had suddenly
Thrown off the old conventions, broken loose
From chin-bands of the soul, like Lazarus,
Yet had no time to learn to talk and walk
Or grow anew familiar with the sun,–
Who had reached to freedom, not to action, lived,
But lived as one entranced, with thoughts, not aims,–
Whom love had unmade from a common man
But not completed to an uncommon man,–
My father taught me what he had learnt the best
Before he died and left me,–grief and love.
And, seeing we had books among the hills,
Strong words of counselling souls, confederate
With vocal pines and waters,–out of books
He taught me all the ignorance of men,
And how God laughs in heaven when any man
Says, 'Here I'm learned; this, I understand;
In that, I am never caught at fault or doubt.'
He sent the schools to school, demonstrating
A fool will pass for such through one mistake,
While a philosopher will pass for such,
Through said mistakes being ventured in the gross
And heaped up to a system.
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features,–paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.

So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains. I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs,–and suddenly awoke
To full life and its needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.

There, ended childhood: what succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurred i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then, at last,
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck; how, with a shriek,
She let me go,–while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharfage where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned!
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which suppliants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more than holy heaven
To which my father went. All new, and strange–
The universe turned stranger, for a child.

Then, land!–then, England! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine,
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,–
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England? the great isle?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Or verdure, field from field, as man from man;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it, they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals; all things, blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here?–not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air!

I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,–once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure,–if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the county squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyreal, to assure their souls
Against chance vulgarisms, and, in the abyss,
The apothecary looked on once a year,
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel, (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality)–and still
The book-club guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets and eat berries!
I, alas,
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love–she was his sister once–
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved.
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall, into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face,–ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm,
And missed it rather,–told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear,–
'She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.

I understood her meaning afterward;
She thought to find my mother in my face,
And questioned it for that. For she, my aunt,
Had loved my father truly, as she could,
And hated, with the gall of gentle souls,
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled away
A wise man from wise courses, a good man
From obvious duties, and, depriving her,
His sister, of the household precedence,
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his native land,
And made him mad, alike by life and death,
In love and sorrow. She had pored for years
What sort of woman could be suitable
To her sort of hate, to entertain it with;
And so, her very curiosity
Became hate too, and all the idealism
She ever used in life, was used for hate,
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at last
The love from which it grew, in strength and heat,
And wrinkled her smooth conscience with a sense
Of disputable virtue (say not, sin)
When Christian doctrine was enforced at church.

And thus my father's sister was to me
My mother's hater. From that day, she did
Her duty to me, (I appreciate it
In her own word as spoken to herself)
Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out,
But measured always. She was generous, bland,
More courteous than was tender, gave me still
The first place,–as if fearful that God's saints
Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein
You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'
Alas, a mother never is afraid
Of speaking angrily to any child,
Since love, she knows, is justified of love.

And I, I was a good child on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live, to have the faults of life:
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave, (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land) I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffer her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words
Which still at any stirring of the heart
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies, (Bene . . or che ch'è ) because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,
The Articles . . the Tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's 'Prick of Love,')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism,)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education,–tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics,–brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, . . by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt,–because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music,–such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished–fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew . . costumes
From French engravings, nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship,–I washed in
From nature, landscapes, (rather say, washed out.)
I danced the polka and Cellarius,
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking, (to a maiden aunt
Or else the author)–books demonstrating
Their right of comprehending husband's talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty 'may it please you,' or 'so it is,'–
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire
And never say 'no' when the world says 'ay,'
For that is fatal,–their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners–their, in brief,
Potential faculty in everything
Of abdicating power in it: she owned
She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands,
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary–or a stool
To tumble over and vex you . . 'curse that stool!'
Or else at best, a cushion where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this . . that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education, (to return)
I wondered if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, . . flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins . .
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light; my own endured:
I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark,
I kept the life, thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life, with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine!
At first,
I felt no life which was not patience,–did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it, sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window, to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message,–ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms,
As if I should not, harkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books,
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh,
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper, when I changed a cup,
(I blushed for joy at that!)–'The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England; she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time; she will die.'

'Will die.' My cousin, Romney Leigh, blushed too,
With sudden anger, and approaching me
Said low between his teeth–'You're wicked now?
You wish to die and leave the world a-dusk
For others, with your naughty light blown out?'
I looked into his face defyingly.
He might have known, that, being what I was,
'Twas natural to like to get away
As far as dead folk can; and then indeed
Some people make no trouble when they die.
He turned and went abruptly, slammed the door
And shut his dog out.
Romney, Romney Leigh.
I have not named my cousin hitherto,
And yet I used him as a sort of friend;
My elder by few years, but cold and shy
And absent . . tender when he thought of it,
Which scarcely was imperative, grave betimes,
As well as early master of Leigh Hall,
Whereof the nightmare sate upon his youth
Repressing all its seasonable delights,
And agonising with a ghastly sense
Of universal hideous want and wrong
To incriminate possession. When he came
From college to the country, very oft
He crossed the hills on visits to my aunt,
With gifts of blue grapes from the hothouses,
A book in one hand,–mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose beards are sprouting down toward hell.
Against God's separating judgment-hour.
And she, she almost loved him,–even allowed
That sometimes he should seem to sigh my way;
It made him easier to be pitiful,
And sighing was his gift. So, undisturbed
At whiles she let him shut my music up
And push my needles down, and lead me out
To see in that south angle of the house
The figs grow black as if by a Tuscan rock.
On some light pretext. She would turn her head
At other moments, go to fetch a thing,
And leave me breath enough to speak with him,
For his sake; it was simple.
Sometimes too
He would have saved me utterly, it seemed,
He stood and looked so.
Once, he stood so near
He dropped a sudden hand upon my head
Bent down on woman's work, as soft as rain–
But then I rose and shook it off as fire,
The stranger's touch that took my father's place,
Yet dared seem soft.
I used him for a friend
Before I ever knew him for a friend.
'Twas better, 'twas worse also, afterward:
We came so close, we saw our differences
Too intimately. Always Romney Leigh
Was looking for the worms, I for the gods.
A godlike nature his; the gods look down,
Incurious of themselves; and certainly
'Tis well I should remember, how, those days
I was a worm too, and he looked on me.

A little by his act perhaps, yet more
By something in me, surely not my will,
I did not die. But slowly, as one in swoon,
To whom life creeps back in the form of death
With a sense of separation, a blind pain
Of blank obstruction, and a roar i' the ears
Of visionary chariots which retreat
As earth grows clearer . . slowly, by degrees,
I woke, rose up . . where was I? in the world:
For uses, therefore, I must count worth while.

I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,–
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's lodge
Ddispensed such odours,–though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall. Behind the elms,
And through their tops, you saw the folded hills
Striped up and down with hedges, (burley oaks
Projecting from the lines to show themselves)
Thro' which my cousin Romney's chimneys smoked
As still as when a silent mouth in frost
Breathes–showing where the woodlands hid Leigh Hall;
While far above, a jut of table-land,
A promontory without water, stretched,–
You could not catch it if the days were thick,
Or took it for a cloud; but, otherwise
The vigorous sun would catch it up at eve
And use it for an anvil till he had filled
The shelves of heaven with burning thunderbolts,
And proved he need not rest so early;–then
When all his setting trouble was resolved
Toa trance of passive glory, you might see
In apparition on the golden sky
(Alas, my Giotto's background!) the sheep run
Along the fine clear outline, small as mice
That run along a witch's scarlet thread.

Not a grand nature. Not my chestnut-woods
Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the spurs
To the precipices. Not my headlong leaps
Of waters, that cry out for joy or fear
In leaping through the palpitating pines,
Like a white soul tossed out to eternity
With thrills of time upon it. Not indeed
My multitudinous mountains, sitting in
The magic circle, with the mutual touch
Electric, panting from their full deep hearts
Beneath the influent heavens, and waiting for
Communion and commission. Italy
Is one thing, England one.
On English ground
You understand the letter . . ere the fall,
How Adam lived in a garden. All the fields
Are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like;
The hills are crumpled plains–the plains, parterres–
The trees, round, woolly, ready to be clipped;
And if you seek for any wilderness
You find, at best, a park. A nature tamed
And grown domestic like a barn-door fowl,
Which does not awe you with its claws and beak,
Nor tempt you to an eyrie too high up,
But which, in cackling, sets you thinking of
Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast, in the pause
Of finer meditation.
Rather say
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.

I could not be unthankful, I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts
The sun came, saying, 'Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look?
I make the birds sing–listen! . . but, for you.
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights and weep.'

Then, something moved me. Then, I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now,
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs .
And out-door sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think,–'Enough,
Enough of life in so much!–here's a cause
For rupture; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration; farewell Life!'
And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.–Then, Life calls to us,
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice,
Above us, or below us, or around . .
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves, because we are more ashamed
So own our compensations than our griefs:
Still, Life's voice!–still, we make our peace with Life.

And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the grey,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf,–and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware: whereat I smiled,–
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.
Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape
As a soul from the body, out of doors,–
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.

Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits . . so much help
By so much rending. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.

I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasised
Upon the self-same pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes,
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin, he had taught me, as he would
Have taught me wrestling or the game of fives
If such he had known.–most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus, my father gave;
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles, when they pinned the veil
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.

But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope. The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off,
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh
And passed) alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i' the wood, without a brother-babe!
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.

Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!–you think it fine,
You clap hands–'A fair day!'–you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!–the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and undiscomfited
Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdom,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay!–who judges?–who distinguishes
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves king Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve king David? who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne?
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in the catacombs, . . his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-mutter round him? not a child!

I read books bad and good–some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made Atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines,–ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.

The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps–I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God.'
But even so, God save me; and, being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.

I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions . . press and counterpress
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent . . all the best of it perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct,–merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it,–fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of high logic–mount
Step by step!–Sight goes faster; that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how, you cannot tell,
And why, you know not–(did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyse?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.

The cygnet finds the water: but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganised
By sin i' the blood,–his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes;
Then mark, be reverent, be obedient,–
For those dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says
'The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophets holograph
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's,–
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large,–where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom–thus, my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
What's this, Aurora Leigh,
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup?
I write so
Of the only truth-tellers, now left to God,–
The only speakers of essential truth,
Posed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime,–the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder. . 'This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us! what are you about?
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,
That carpet-dusting, though a pretty trade,
Is not the imperative labour after all.

My own best poets, am I one with you,
That thus I love you,–or but one through love?
Does all this smell of thyme about my feet
Conclude my visit to your holy hill
In personal presence, or but testify
The rustling of your vesture through my dreams
With influent odours? When my joy and pain,
My thought and aspiration, like the stops
Of pipe or flute, are absolutely dumb
If not melodious, do you play on me,
My pipers,–and if, sooth, you did not blow,
Would not sound come? or is the music mine,
As a man's voice or breath is called his own,
In breathed by the Life-breather? There's a doubt
For cloudy seasons!
But the sun was high
When first I felt my pulses set themselves
For concords; when the rhythmic turbulence
Of blood and brain swept outward upon words,
As wind upon the alders blanching them
By turning up their under-natures till
They trembled in dilation. O delight
And triumph of the poet,–who would say
A man's mere 'yes,' a woman's common 'no,'
A little human hope of that or this,
And says the word so that it burns you through
With a special revelation, shakes the heart
Of all the men and women in the world,
As if one came back from the dead and spoke,
With eyes too happy, a familiar thing
Become divine i' the utterance! while for him
The poet, the speaker, he expands with joy;
The palpitating angel in his flesh
Thrills inly with consenting fellowship
To those innumerous spirits who sun themselves
Outside of time.
O life, O poetry,
Which means life in life! cognisant of life
Beyond this blood-beat,–passionate for truth
Beyond these senses, –poetry, my life,–
My eagle, with both grappling feet still hot
From Zeus's thunder, who has ravished me
Away from all the shepherds, sheep, and dogs,
And set me in the Olympian roar and round
Of luminous faces, for a cup-bearer,
To keep the mouths of all the godheads moist
For everlasting laughters,–I, myself,
Half drunk across the beaker, with their eyes!
How those gods look!
Enough so, Ganymede.
We shall not bear above a round or two–
We drop the golden cup at Heré's foot
And swoon back to the earth,–and find ourselves
Face-down among the pine-cones, cold with dew,
While the dogs bark, and many a shepherd scoffs,
'What's come now to the youth?' Such ups and downs
Have poets.
Am I such indeed? The name
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen,
Is what I dare not,–though some royal blood
Would seem to tingle in me now and then,
With sense of power and ache,–with imposthumes
And manias usual to the race. Howbeit
I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad,
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of straws;
The thing's too common.
Many fervent souls
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel
If steel had offered, in a restless heat
Of doing something. Many tender souls
Have strung their losses on a rhyming thread.
As children, cowslips:–the more pains they take,
The work more withers. Young men, ay, and maids,
Too often sow their wild oats in tame verse.
Before they sit down under their own vine
And live for use. Alas, near all the birds
Will sing at dawn,–and yet we do not take
The chaffering swallow for the holy lark.

In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of 't; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. Life's violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour's field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
Being acted on and acting seem the same:
In that first onrush of life's chariot-wheels,
We know not if the forests move or we.

And so, like most young poets, in a flush
Of individual life, I poured myself
Along the veins of others, and achieved
Mere lifeless imitations of life verse,
And made the living answer for the dead,
Profaning nature. 'Touch not, do not taste,
Nor handle,'–we're too legal, who write young:
We beat the phorminx till we hurt our thumbs,
As if still ignorant of counterpoint;
We call the Muse . . 'O Muse, benignant Muse!'–
As if we had seen her purple-braided head .
With the eyes in it start between the boughs
As often as a stag's. What make-believe,
With so much earnest! what effete results,
From virile efforts! what cold wire-drawn odes
From such white heats!–bucolics, where the cows
Would scare the writer if they splashed the mud
In lashing off the flies,–didactics, driven
Against the heels of what the master said;
And counterfeiting epics, shrill with trumps
A babe might blow between two straining cheeks
Of bubbled rose, to make his mother laugh;
And elegiac griefs, and songs of love,
Like cast-off nosegays picked up on the road,
The worse for being warm: all these things, writ
On happy mornings, with a morning heart,
That leaps for love, is active for resolve,
Weak for art only. Oft, the ancient forms
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the young blood.
The wine-skins, now and then, a little warped,
Will crack even, as the new wine gurgles in.
Spare the old bottles!–spill not the new wine.

By Keats's soul, the man who never stepped
In gradual progress like another man,
But, turning grandly on his central self,
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
And died, not young,–(the life of a long life,
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a tear
Upon the world's cold cheek to make it burn
For ever;) by that strong excepted soul,
I count it strange, and hard to understand,
That nearly all young poets should write old;
That Pope was sexagenarian at sixteen,
And beardless Byron academical,
And so with others. It may be, perhaps,
Such have not settled long and deep enough
In trance, to attain to clairvoyance,–and still
The memory mixes with the vision, spoils,
And works it turbid.
Or perhaps, again,
In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx,
The melancholy desert must sweep round,
Behind you, as before.–
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence.
But I could not hide
My quickening inner life from those at watch.
They saw a light at a window now and then,
They had not set there. Who had set it there?
My father's sister started when she caught
My soul agaze in my eyes. She could not say
I had no business with a sort of soul,
But plainly she objected,–and demurred,
That souls were dangerous things to carry straight
Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world.

She said sometimes, 'Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning?–have you read that book?
And are you ready for the crochet here?'–
As if she said, 'I know there's something wrong,
I know I have not ground you down enough
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust
For household uses and proprieties,
Before the rain has got into my barn
And set the grains a-sprouting. What, you're green
With out-door impudence? you almost grow?'
To which I answered, 'Would she hear my task,
And verify my abstract of the book?
And should I sit down to the crochet work?
Was such her pleasure?' . . Then I sate and teased
The patient needle til it split the thread,
Which oozed off from it in meandering lace
From hour to hour. I was not, therefore, sad;
My soul was singing at a work apart
Behind the wall of sense, as safe from harm
As sings the lark when sucked up out of sight,
In vortices of glory and blue air.

And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on us–but we will not die.'

Whoever lives true life, will love true love.
I learnt to love that England. Very oft,
Before the day was born, or otherwise
Through secret windings of the afternoons,
I threw my hunters off and plunged myself
Among the deep hills, as a hunted stag
Will take the waters, shivering with the fear
And passion of the course. And when, at last
Escaped,–so many a green slope built on slope
Betwixt me and the enemy's house behind,
I dared to rest, or wander,–like a rest
Made sweeter for the step upon the grass,–
And view the ground's most gentle dimplement,
(As if God's finger touched but did not press
In making England!) such an up and down
Of verdure,–nothing too much up or down,
A ripple of land; such little hills, the sky
Can stoop to tenderly and the wheatfields climb;
Such nooks of valleys, lined with orchises,
Fed full of noises by invisible streams;
And open pastures, where you scarcely tell
White daisies from white dew,–at intervals
The mythic oaks and elm-trees standing out
Self-poised upon their prodigy of shade,–
I thought my father's land was worthy too
Of being my Shakspeare's.
Very oft alone,
Unlicensed; not unfrequently with leave
To walk the third with Romney and his friend
The rising painter, Vincent Carrington,
Whom men judge hardly, as bee-bonneted,
Because he holds that, paint a body well,
You paint a soul by implication, like
The grand first Master. Pleasant walks! for if
He said . . 'When I was last in Italy' . .
It sounded as an instrument that's played
Too far off for the tune–and yet it's fine
To listen.
Often we walked only two,
If cousin Romney pleased to walk with me.
We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as it chanced;
We were not lovers, nor even friends well-matched–
Say rather, scholars upon different tracks,
And thinkers disagreed; he, overfull
Of what is, and I, haply, overbold
For what might be.
But then the thrushes sang,
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves,–
And then I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it.–At which word
His brow would soften,–and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While, breaking into voluble ecstasy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use . . .the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold,–
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,–hedgerows all alive
With birds and gnats and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had sought life
And palpitated forth upon the wind,–
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
'And see! is God not with us on the earth?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness? behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.

In the beginning when God called all good,
Even then, was evil near us, it is writ.
But we, indeed, who call things good and fair,
The evil is upon us while we speak;
Deliver us from evil, let us pray.

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

Share

Give Your Heart To The Hawks

1 he apples hung until a wind at the equinox,

That heaped the beach with black weed, filled the dry grass

Under the old trees with rosy fruit.

In the morning Fayne Fraser gathered the sound ones into a

basket,

The bruised ones into a pan. One place they lay so thickly
She knelt to reach them.

Her husband's brother passing
Along the broken fence of the stubble-field,
His quick brown eyes took in one moving glance
A little gopher-snake at his feet flowing through the stubble
To gain the fence, and Fayne crouched after apples
With her mop of red hair like a glowing coal
Against the shadow in the garden. The small shapely reptile
Flowed into a thicket of dead thistle-stalks
Around a fence-post, but its tail was not hidden.
The young man drew it all out, and as the coil
Whipped over his wrist, smiled at it; he stepped carefully
Across the sag of the wire. When Fayne looked up
His hand was hidden; she looked over her shoulder
And twitched her sunburnt lips from small white teeth
To answer the spark of malice in his eyes, but turned
To the apples, intent again. Michael looked down
At her white neck, rarely touched by the sun,
But now the cinnabar-colored hair fell off from it;
And her shoulders in the light-blue shirt, and long legs like a boy's
Bare-ankled in blue-jean trousers, the country wear;
He stooped quietly and slipped the small cool snake
Up the blue-denim leg. Fayne screamed and writhed,
Clutching her thigh. 'Michael, you beast.' She stood up
And stroked her leg, with little sharp cries, the slender invader
Fell down her ankle.

Fayne snatched for it and missed;


Michael stood by rejoicing, his rather small

Finely cut features in a dance of delight;

Fayne with one sweep flung at his face

All the bruised and half-spoiled apples in the pan,

A fragrant volley, and while he staggered under it,

The hat fallen from his head, she found one thoroughly

Soft-rotten, brown in the long white grass, and threw

For the crown of his dark head but perfectly missed,

Crying 'Quits. We're even.' They stood and warily smiled at each

other
In the heavy-sweet apple air.

The garden was sunken lower than

the little fields; it had many fragrances
And its own shadow, while the cows lay in the stream-bed, large

sycamore leaves dropped on their flanks; the yellow
Heads of the hills quivered with sun and the straining sea-glare.

Fayne said, 'Where did it go, poor thing?'
Looking for the little serpent. Michael said gravely, 'That's to

remember me by. I wish I could do worse.
I'm going away.' 'What?' 'From here again.'
'Oh, no.' 'I am, though.' 'No, Michael.'
'Freckles,' he answered, 'didn't it ever occur to you
That it's fairly dull here? I'm going up to town again.
I've got to earn money and spend it and hear the motors.'
She said dismally, 'What about me? Who'll there be to talk to?'
'Lance, of course.' 'I love him dearly; he's not fun exactly.
He wouldn't stick a rattlesnake up my leg.'
'Gopher-snake,' he shouted. They stood and laughed at each

other,

And Michael: 'I was over the ridge to Drunken Charlie's,
Fixing up a little party for Saturday.
There'll be a moon in the evening. I leave Monday.'
Fayne said unhappily, 'Help me pick up the apples
I poured on you.'

II

Michael was taking Mary Abbey;
The Dolmans came, and Will Howard with two girls,


And Leo Ramirez with his sister Nell, so that the youth

Of the coast was all there. They met at Erasers'

And crossed the ridge; and were picketing the horses

Where they could ride no farther, on the airy brink

Above the great slides of the thousand-foot cliff.

They were very gay, colorful mites on the edge of the world.

The men divided the pack to carry;
Lance Eraser, being strongest, took most.

Far down below, the

broad ocean burned like a vast cat's eye

Pupilled by the track of sun; but eastward, beyond the white-
grassed hump of the ridge, the day moon stood bleak
And badly shaped, face of stained clay, above the limestone fang

of one of the Ventana mountains
Just its own color. Lance, looking back, saw his wife talking to

Michael, her cinnabar-colored hair
Like a flag of life against the pale east. That moment he saw the

horses plunging against the sky
And heard a noise like a sharp head of water from a narrow pipe;

a girl cried out,
Lance dropped his pack and returned. Will Howard was looking

for stones
But found none, but Lance found a burnt fence-post, relic of an

ancient fire. The snake lay with raised head,
The rattle of its tail making that noise of sharp water running; a

big rattler, but very small
At bay in the circle of the laughing men. Lance struck for its head,

but the snake that moment struck at the rope's end
That Michael was flicking at it, so that Lance's blow failed, the

fence-post broke to bits in his hand,
The snake not harmed; then Michael laughing with pleasure

whipped the creature to death with the doubled rope
And set his heel on the head; Lance damned all rotten wood, his

blond face flushing

Dark through the sunburn. Michael cut off the victim's
Tail with the ten rattles to give to Mary;
The other young men quieted the horses, and caught
One that had dragged away the bush it was tied to.


Lance would not wait, he picked up his pack and went
Alone down the zigzag path; but after a moment
His temper cleared.

Far down, short of the cat's-eye ocean, they

saw like a brown pebble
Drunken Charlie's hut in a gorge of the cliff, a feather of smoke,

and his boat like a split berry
Of bladdery seaweed up the thin strand; and Lance stood waiting

down the wild cliff side, his light-brown hair
Golden with sun, his hat and the pack laid down. The warm wind

up the mountain was wild with fragrance,
Chiefly the scent of the chiya bushes, that wear rosettes of seed
Strung on the stem. The girls squealed as they scrambled down,

when the brittle trap-rock broke underfoot,
Small fragments ran over on the next below. When they came to

the foot of the cliff Michael said, 'Now,' and offered
A bottle hot from his pocket. 'It's time.' Mary Abbey refused

it but the others drank, from mouth to mouth,
Stinging fire from the slobbered bottle-neck.

The sun was low

But had played all day on this southwestward
Cliff over the burning-glass water and the air
Still swirled with heat; the headland of Eraser's Point
Stopped off the trade-wind here. Fayne Fraser a little dizzily
Looked seaward, left of the blazing sun-track, and saw the track

of the northwest gale and the running waves
Like an endless army of horse with banners going by offshore;

her eyes followed them, a ruled line southward
Of violent water, converging toward the bronze headland beyond

headland of the mountain coast; and someone was saying,
'It's hot, we'll swim.' 'Before we eat,' someone said.
The girls twittered together and clustered northward
To a little cove beyond a fair spit of rock;
The men remained on this side.

Fayne undressed beside Mary

Abbey,
And was careful of words, because she'd sucked from the bottle

more than she meant to, and had small experience of drinking.


She said carefully, 'Where did those girls of Will Howard's

come from?' 'Nina told me,' she answered; 'waitresses
Down from the city on their vacation.' 'Honestly are they? I

guessed it.' 'No,' Mary said, 'they're nice girls.'
'That yellow-haired one, she's bad.' 'No,' Mary said. Fayne

said, 'Did you see her face when she looked at Michael
Across that bottle?' 'Oh, no,' Mary answered. '. . . Well. Are

you ready, Mary? Let's go.'

They limped down to the waves, giggling and wincing.
Fayne had tied a broad handkerchief around her hair
To shed the spray; she swam out farther than others,
Mary remained along shore.

The other side of the rock-spit
The men had bathed, and had come up strand again
To dry by the driftwood fire; all except Michael,
Who loved to swim. Lance Fraser stood by the fire, his broad

smooth chest, grooved between the square plates
Of heavy muscle, steamed and was ruddy in the glowing heat. He

narrowed his eyes to look seaward
And saw Michael's left arm, over the speck of his head, lift, reach

and dip,
Swimming side-stroke; two white arms flashing swanlike on either

side of a handkerchief-hooded head
Emerged from the scales of light on the edge of the sun-dazzle.

The swimmers approached each other,
And met this side the long brown stain of the breathing kelp-bed.

Lance frowned,

But only thinking that they were too far out
And making a show of themselves.

On the pleasant water

Michael had called to Fayne, 'I've something for you.
Come here a minute.' She hardly dared, and thought
In the flashing joy of the sea, 'Oh, the water covers us.
What have you got?' 'Gin for girls.
We've got a fire on this side.' They met laughing,
And reached the bottle from hand to hand and floated decorously
Separate again. Fayne looked toward shore, and saw the vast

cliff in the flare of sundown soaring above


Like beaten gold, the imperfect moon-disk gold on its brow; the

tiny distinct white shapes of men
Around their spot of fire in the flat blue sea-shadow. She breathed

hard and said,

'My God, how beautiful. Oh, Michael, stay here at home.'
He answered with a watery yell of pleasure, submerging his

mouth
To roar as the sea-lions do.

Fayne trailed the bottle

And swam ashore. There was nothing to dry herself with;
The chill of the water had touched her blood, she sucked breath

gustily

Through clicking teeth. She sipped from the salted bottle,
And dressed, but shivered still.

She sunned herself by the fire,
Watching with fascinated speculation of pain
The antennae of lobsters like spikes of jointed grass
Above the heating water in a five-gallon tin
Writhe at the sky, lives unable to scream.

Ill
Under the vast calm vaulting glory of the afterglow, low smoky

rose and delicately
Stratified amber, soaring purple; then rose again, luminous and

virginal, floating the moon,
High up a scoured hollow of the cliff
Cormorants were settling to roost on the jags and ledges.
They writhed long Negro snake-throats and shot
Sharp heads at each other, shaking out sooty wings
And angry complaining cries.

Below, on the thread of beach,

The lonely fisherman who was called Drunken Charlie,
Fire glowing on his drugged eyes, wide beard and lank hair,
Turned meat on the grid over the barbecue-pit
And talked to himself all the time. Michael Fraser knelt
By a turned chest that served for table and poured
From a jug into cups, fierce new distillate
From Charlie's cliff -hidden kettle.


Faync Eraser shook half-dried

hair,

The color of the coals at the heart of the fire
But darkening as light decreased, and went to Lance
Who stood alone at the waves' edge, turning his back on the

world, and the wet sand
Raised by his weight on either side of his foot-soles ran water and

glistened in the still light. Fayne said
'Are you cross, dear?' She pushed up his rolled sleeve and clasped

her fingers on the broad trunk of his arm
Above the elbow, 'Dear, are you sad?' 'I? No,' he said, 'What

about?' 'You haven't spoken to anyone
Since we were swimming.' 'Why should I? You were out too

far, though.' 'Oh, I can swim.
And Michael was there to help me if I'd got tired.' 'By God, no,'

Lance said, with a sharp vision in his mind
Of her bright nakedness, the shining whiteness and the red hair.

She understood and said softly, 'Well,
I didn't need help. But he's our brother.' 'Certainly; I didn't

mind him,' he answered. 'But I did hate
To think that rabble of girls could look at you; it isn't decent.'

She said, 'They didn't seem interested.
Come, drink and eat. Those waitress women are passing the paper

plates.' He saw that vision once more,
The form and whiteness, the little gay-colored flower of the

pubic hair, and groaned, as a thick bull
Alone in the field groans to himself, not knowing why the hot

brow and the hooves itch for destruction.
Fayne to cure his unhappiness hasted and returned
Fetching two cups of the fire Michael was pouring.

After they had

eaten, twilight and moonlight came;
The fire burned smaller and brighter; they were twelve around

it; and drinks were poured. The bearded fisherman seemed
Stiffly asleep, with open eyes like a drowned man's
Glazed by the yellow firelight. Tom Dolman and Leo Ramirez
Roughed at each other, and Nina Dolman
Sitting between them cried out; then Michael said,


'Get up and wrestle.' All but the fisherman turned

To watch them circle clumsily on the damp sand

And suddenly lock, into one quadruped body reeling

Against the dark band of ocean and the low sky.

Ramirez had the low hold but Dolman was the heavier man;

They tugged and sobbed; Ramirez was lifted high

And writhed on the other's shoulder by the evening star,

But the strained column staggered and crumbled, the Spaniard

Fell uppermost and was the first to rise up.

Michael asked very gravely, 'Who was the winner?

The winner may challenge Lance.' Ramirez gasping and laughing

Said, 'Drunk; not to that extent.' 'Then gather firewood.

The fire's got low.'

The yellow-haired one of the two girls Will

Howard had brought
Sat in the sand beside Lance Fraser; she leaned on his shoulder

and held a cup to his mouth and said
'Please drink it for me: things are beginning to go 'round in

circles.' He drank; then Fayne on his other side
Grew suddenly cool and quite clear; she leaned across him and

said, 'That hair in the cup! Well, you drank it.
Her bleaches have made it brittle so it keeps falling.' 'Oh,' the

other gasped, 'that's not true.' 'It's pretty,' Fayne said,
'Only the black half inch at the roots. Is your name Lois? What's

your name?' 'Lois.' 'Lean the other way,
Lois.' Then Lance said angrily, 'Be quiet, will you,' and got up
To fetch more firewood.

A timber from one of the four ships
That have broken in half a century off Fraser's Point
Lay near and dry; Ramirez and Howard had brought it,
But the axe was lost in the sand. Lance up-ended it,
An ivory-white pillar under the moon,
Garnished with great iron bolts. He wedged his fingers
Into a crack and suddenly straining tore it in two;
The splitting made a great noise under the cliff,
The sea being quiet. Lance felt himself curiously
Numbed, as if the sharp effort had strained the whiskey
Out of his blood through the sheathes of his nerves;


His body obeyed as ever but felt a distance

Blocked off and alien. He took the halves of the timber

Under each arm and a bolt in his hand,

For two or three had fallen out of the wood,

This one straight, long and heavy. After he had laid

His logs on the fire he saw the fisherman's

Firelight-discolored eyes, and called 'Hey! Charlie.'

Still the man slept. Lance, wavering a little, reached

Over Will Howard's shoulder and took the cup from his hand,

Drank half, poured the other half on Charlie's long hair;

It dribbled into his beard; he coughed and awoke.

Lance said 'D'you ever have rattlesnakes down here?

I snicked at one up the cliff with a rotten stick;

But this'd fix 'em.' He gave him the iron bar;

Charlie posted it carefully up in the sand

Between his feet and answered, 'Mm; but there's Injuns.'

'What?' 'All that was cleared out of the country.

Where did you think they got to? They ain't got ships.

Down here they are.' The dark-haired girl that Will Howard

had brought
Suddenly stood up from the fire, she went toward the sea and

was heard vomiting. Charlie nodded and said,
'There's one o' them now. Most nights I see their fires away

down the beach.' Mary Abbey whispered to Michael,
'Don't take any more. Time to go home.' 'Ah no,' he said,

'dear, we just got here.' Fayne came to Lance
And said, 'Don't drink any more. Time to go home.' He an-
swered briskly, 'Since when are you giving orders?'
'Since you're not fit to.' She knew while the words made in her

throat, 'Now he'll be angry,' a pale rush of anger
Ran to meet his; the memory of all his bad-tempered times, his

heavy earnestness and lack of laughter,
Pierced like a mountain-peak the cloud in her mind, 'Oh, I do

hate you.'

He stared, more astonished than angry, and saw her face
Lean, sharp, bled white, each freckle black as a mole
Against its moon-gleam pallor. 'That's how you feel, ah?'
He turned his back. She thought, 'He'll never forgive me:


Let him not,' and saw the Dolmans, Nina and Tom,

Seeking the way up the cliff, Mary Abbey with them,

Fayne went and said, 'Michael, I've lost my cup,

Aren't there any more cups?' 'I'll hold the jug:

You hold your mouth.' 'Oo, I need water with it.'

'No, you don't.' Half of the sip went strangling

Into her throat, half ran by her little chin

And trickled between her breasts. She looked at the fire,

Then at the moon, both blurred fantastically,

Red burrowed, white wavered high. Michael said, 'My girl's

gone.'
Fayne said, 'Oh, and yours?' He said 'That's no sense. That's

very.'
She laughed and answered, 'They don't.'

The moon suspended

in her great antelope-leap from the head of the cliff
Hung pouring whiteness along the narrow runway of sand and

slide-rock under the continent's foot,
A watery glittering and secret place, walled from the world,

closed by the cliff, ditched by the ocean.
Drunken Charlie dreamed by the dying fire;
Will Howard and Nell Ramirez were one slight point
Far down the white beach. Yellow-haired Lois
Spilled her drink and said, 'Seeing is believing.
Come on, I'll show you.' She smiled at Lance, 'Come, dear.
Sadie's passed out; it's all right wi' Sadie,'
And to Leo Ramirez, 'Come if you like, dark boy.'
He swayed and stammered, 'Responsible; Sister Nell.
Keep an eye on young sister.' 'Ah, go and find her.'
'Not till I see the picture on Sadie's stomach.'
They wandered toward Drunken Charlie's little hollow skiff
And its black shadow, drawn up the moonlight strand.
Lance thought, 'Here's a boat, let's break it,' and thought with

an ache of shame,
'I wouldn't think that, only being drunk.' The center of his

mind made savage war on rebellious out-liers
In breathless darkness behind the sweating forehead; while Leo

Ramirez, seeing the bright fish-scales glued


With blood and slime to the boat-thwarts glitter like a night of
stars, began to sing a stale song: 'We'll always,

Be young and gay. We'll always, feel that way.' Lois said 'Shut
up,' and led them around the boat,

Her friend lay in the moonlight nestled against it. Lois knelt
down and gently drew her by the shoulder;

She groaned in her sleep, resisting. Lois laughed, 'The boys want
to see it, Sadie,' and tugged, and turned her

Onto her back, the stained pale face up to the moonlight; the
teeth in the opened mouth glittered,

And sour breath crossed them, while Lois turned up the blouse,
loosened the band and jerked up the linen shift

To show a three-masted sailing-ship tattooed with black and red
inks on the soft white belly

Below the breasts. 'My God,' Ramirez said, 'there it is.'

Lois answered, 'A fellow dared her,' and looked for Lance,

Who trembled and said, 'Cover her up, damn you.'

Lois blinking drew down the blouse. Ramirez giggled,

'My God, a U. S. flag at the peak,' and reached

Over Lois's shoulder to raise the cloth;

Lance struck and felled him, and stepping across him fallen

Leaned and strode toward the cliff and the red coals

That had been the fire.

Drunken Charlie lay on the sand,

The iron bolt erect by his feet; Lance caught it up

And smashed the jug, and saw the remnant of whiskey

Glitter among the shards to sink into sand.

He ground his teeth; he saw in his mind in the stream of images

A second jug, and began to search for it.

The tide had fallen, the
steep ribbon of beach was but little wider,

But the sea was become so flattened that no waves flashed. Enor-
mous peace of the sea, white quiet of the cliff,

And at their angle and focus a few faint specks of humanity
happy in liquor or released in sleep,

But Lance alone. Then noises like the cries of a woman scream-
ing, bird after bird of sharp-colored sound


Flew on the face of the cliff, tattered wild wings against jagged

rocks. On the cliff head the patient horses
Turned their ears, grooving small wrinkles about the roots of the

cartilage, but did not lift up their heads;
And the sea was not moved, nor the moonlight quivered. Will

Howard was lying beside Nell Ramirez; they'd fallen asleep
Before he had his desire; they sighed and stirred in the sand. He

murmured 'Oh, somebody's got hysterics,'
And wriggled his fingers, which had grown painfully numb

between her plump knees. But Lois, Leo Ramirez
And Drunken Charlie heard the sounds nearer; they went in a

wind of fear to find out their fountain,
And Sadie awoke in the sand and followed heavily,
Falling but once, catching her clothes that slipped,
Whining at the hollow pain in her skull.

Beyond a rock
Stood Lance, high white in the moon-glaze, distorted, taller than

human;
Lois said, 'Dearie?' He babbled, 'Oh Jesus Christ Oh Jesus

Christ Oh Jesus Christ,'

Behind him in a great shadow of her hair darkened
By the rock-shadow Fayne turned her white wedge of face
With three holes in it. She was kneeling, bent S-shape,
And seemed to stare up from the very ground. She said, 'I think
It is finished. Water please. Water please.
He fell down from the cliff.' Then Michael's feet were seen,
And thence the prone extended ridge of his body
Ending indefinitely under Fayne's face.
Lois cried, 'He's hurt.' But they dared not approach
For Lance standing between, high and twisted
Like a dead tree. Lance said, 'I . . .' Fayne cried,
'He fell down from the cliff.' They all stood silent,
Lois's mouth opened and closed on silence

Three times, then asked, 'Is he hurt?' Lance said, 'Oh Christ.
I ...' Fayne cried so that his words were hidden,
And stood up and said, 'He has died. Michael.
He was climbing the cliff and fell, his foot caught on that bush;
He struck his head on that rock, on that edge of rock.


It is all broken in. Oh, we loved him.'

Ramirez said, 'What for did he climb up there?'

'Have we drunk waterY* Fayne said. But Lance began

To shake, like a tall dead mast of redwood that men are felling,

It is half cut through, each dip of the axe the sonorous timber

quivers from the root up to the cloud,
He said 'I caught them . . .' 'He caught him,' Fayne cried,

'when he fell but he could not save him.' 'I killed . . .'

'You are wild with sorrow
He fell head down whether you'd tried to catch him or not.

You are not to blame.' He said, 'It is horrible
To hear the lies from her mouth like bees from a hot hive: I am

the one,' but Fayne running to him
Made an animal moan in her throat in time to hide what he said.

She came to Lance, and her face
Like a held spear, and said, 'Drunkard.
Too drunk to be understood. Keep still until you can talk and be

understood.' He drew backward from her,
Shuddering like a horse from a snake, but when his back was

against the rock he stammered, 'I

Will find my time.' 'Yes,' she answered, 'be quiet now. To-
morrow when you are better they'll understand you.'
'Is he dead?' 'Keep still. Will you shame his end
With drunkard babbling? For he was the dearest,' she said, 'in

the world to all of us. Lovelier than morning light
On the mountain before the morning. There is not one of us

would not have died for him: / would, / would, / would,'
She cried writhing, 'but not lose Lance too. How can I plan to

save him, I've got what I can't bear?
You are all our friends.'
She set her hands in the masses of red-dark hair, dark in the

moonlight, and tearing it, with her white face
To the white moon: 'That eye's blind. Like Juan Arriba's old

mare he used to beat on the face,
Her eyes froze white like that. He was larking on the cliff and

fell.' She seemed to be treading a tragic dance,
She was scuffling sand to cover the bolt of shipwreck that lay in

the shadow of the rock; she wrung her hands


And knelt moaning by Michael's head; she rose with blood on her
hand and fibers of hair, and ran

To the rock under the cliff. 'This rock killed him. He fell on this
edge,' she drew her hand on the edge

And the rock was stained. Then Sadie was heard gasping from
her poor stained face. One or two looked at her. 'O-uh,'

She whispered hoarsely, 'we was having fun!'

Lance moved at
length, like a dead man walking, toward his dead brother,

And stooped as one stoops to gather a sleeping child. Fayne ran
and said, 'No, the man. No, the man.

He has to come.' Lance turned toward her his face like a para-
lyzed man's

Slack with peace, and said softly, 'The man.'

'He'd think wrong has been done. I can't think . . . coroner.

Don't take him up.' 'Home?' he said,

Seeming gently surprised; he gathered the body

Into his arms and walked along the foot of the cliff.

Fayne stayed behind a moment, the others following.

She cast quick looks over the rocks and sand;

One end of the rusty bolt was visible still;

She leaned toward it and fell on her face. She labored up

And went ten steps to the ebb and flung the iron

To the water edge.

Lance walked along the foot of the cliff.

He turned, not where the path went up, and walked

Into the face of the cliff, and stood there walking

Like an ox in a tread-mill, until Ramirez

Showed him the path. Fayne went up behind him.

Half way up

He awoke a moment out of his automatism

To feel failure and pain, his breathing like knives, and the failure

Of his eyes; it was impossible to see the path;

He checked a step and fell forward.

Fayne came up to him

And stood; there was nothing that she could do. They lay

Very peacefully together, Lance's face

On his brother's breast. She looked across them;


Terribly far down the moonlight cliff crouched the dark sea.
Ramirez came up and stood. Fayne said they had not the strength

to carry up either of the fallen, and so
They had to wait. They heard a faint breeze through the dry

bushes; and the crying of sea-lions far down below,
Where eight or ten were lying in a circle by the softly heaving

kelp-bed, as their custom is, and gazed
With great mild eyes at the sky and the night of water. Then

they sing in their manner, lifting up sleek
Dark-shining muzzles to the white moon, making a watery noise

of roaring and a lonely crying
For joy of life and the night.

At length Lance

Began to paw with his feet like a dreaming hound,
And some stones fell. He knelt and stood up
And took his burden and went up.

When they entered the sleep-
ing farmstead,

Fayne led the horse; Lance held his brother and rode behind him,
It would be hard to tell which one was slain
If the moon shone on their faces. The horse stopped and sighed
By the garden-gate; Lance did not move to dismount,
But sat and held up his brother. Fayne came beside,
Reaching to help; Lance whispered 'Ah, ah, thank God.'
'What?' 'He may be saved, Fayne.
He is hot under the arms and I heard him breathe.'
'You heard the horse breathe,' she said. They lifted down
The unmanageable weight.

Oh, ignorant penitents,

For surely the cause is too small for so much anguish.
To be drunk is a folly, to kill may call judgment down,
But these are not enormous evils,
And as for your brother, he has not been hurt.
For all the delights he has lost, pain has been saved him;
And the balance is strangely perfect,
And why are you pale with misery?
Because you have saved him from foolish labors and all the vain

days?


From desires denied, and desires staled with attaining,

And from fear of want, and from all diseases, and from fear of

death?

Or because you have kept him from becoming old,
When the teeth dropp and the eyes dim and the ears grow dull,
And the man is ashamed?

Surely it is nothing worse to be slain in the overflowing
Than to fall in the emptiness;
And though this moon blisters the night,
Darkness has not died, good darkness will come again;
Sometimes a fog will come in from sea,
Sometimes a cloud will crop all the stars.

IV

The moonlight from the west window was a square cloth

Laid on the floor, with one corner on the bed,

Lying over Michael's hand; they had taken him

To his own room. Fayne whispered: 'Now we must tell them.

Your mother may dieher sick heart.

Don't let her die too bitterly. For this one night, dear,

Say nothing worse than 'Michael's gone.' Spare her something

Until she has cried. Four hours' mercy. By morning

That heart of hers will be seasoned.' Fayne strained in the dark

To see his face. He answered in a short while,

'How many mornings I've come in here

And routed him out of bed. He always was a late sleeper.

Sound asleep, Mother.' Fayne caught his arm. 'Can't you hear
me?'

'You,' he said, 'keep your hands off! . . . Until morning

I'll say he fell.'

It was not morning, but the moon was down.

The old mother sat by the bed with her hand on Michael's, regu-
larly her great fat-swollen body

Jerked with a sob, and tears were spurted from her closed eyes.
Old Fraser sat with his fists evenly

Together on his knees, his bony face held erect, the brown eyes in
their hollows red with lamplight.

Fayne heard the noise of a motor starting and left the room.


He was backing out the big truck,

The shed was full of the headlight glare, the ruby tail-light

glowed by the axle. Before she could come
It had crept out; its light swung up the driveway by the stooping

sycamore
And picked from darkness the heavy timbers of the high corrals

and the white beehives remote on the hill;
Fayne ran down the river of light to the gate and closed it, and

stood in the gate for fear he might smash through;
But Lance came wearily to open; stooping, tall,
Black on the light. She said, 'Oh, where?' 'You know.
Tell dad to come to Salinas and get the truck;
There wasn't enough gas in the little one.'
She answered, 'Can the sheriff make us happy again?
Or the judge make Michael alive again?' 'Open the gate.'
'Yes, dear. Listen to me. When Arriba and his boys
Stole cows of ours, did you run to the courthouse?
We take care of ourselves down here. What we have done
Has to be borne. It's in ourselves and there's no escaping,
The state of California can't help you bear it.
That's only a herd of people, the state.
Oh, give your heart to the hawks for a snack o' meat
But not to men.' When she touched him with her hands,
Pleading, he sighed and said, 'If I'd been nearer
My decent mind, it would have been you, not Michael.
Did y' love him? Or was it only because you're female
And were drunk, female and drunk?' 'Oh. Hush. I was begging

him

Not to leave us, as I'm begging you. He promised me, dear.
He said he'd not go away. I kissed him for that; he was our

brother;

And you came behind.' Lance's blackness of his leaning bulk
Vibrated in the light-beam. 'It'd be a pity for me then.
I can't see clear, in the dirty streaming memories . . .
Don't be afraid; your part will be secret.
I'll say I killed him for nothing, a flea-bite quarrel,
Being beastly drunk.' 'He was killed,' she answered, 'for

nothing.'


'It's a great pity for me then.

Open the gate.' She clung to the timber bolt

To hold it home in the slot, and felt his mind

Tearing itself. 'Lance. Lance? Sweetheart:

Believe . . . whatever you need to save you.

I won't give you up. You can't remember what happened;

I tell you he fell from the cliff. But if your dreadful

Dream were true, I know you are strong enough

To give your heart to the hawks without a cry

And bear it in lonely silence to the end of life.

What else do you want? Ah. Confession's a coward

Running to officers, begging help. Not you.'

She heard

The scrape of slow boots on gravel outside the light-stream,
Across the pulses of the idling motor, and suddenly cried,
'He fell from the cliff.' An old man said in the dark,
'They ain't got consideration. Where was you going
This time o' night, after what's happened? Your dad wants you.
Your ma's took bad.' Lance moaned and stood still.
Fayne said, 'He was going to Lobos to telephone
The doct . . . the coroner. Dearest, you ought to go in.
She suffered great pain before, she was near death.
Old Davie will drive up the coast for you
When daylight comes.' 'Oh,' he said stilly, and turned
His face to the fountains of light; it gleamed without meaning
In the stream of radiance like a stake in a stream,
Except that from exhaustion the pupils of the eyes
Failed to contract, so that their secret interiors
Of their chambers returned the light all sanguine.
At length he kneaded them with his fists and said,
'I can't see well. You'll have to help me find the way in.
It's not a trick of yours, uh?'

V

His mother lay on the floor,

For Michael's body lay on the bed. The sun of pain at her heart
had rays like skewers of anguish


Along the left arm and up by the jugular arteries. She dared

not move; her face stood wet-white and still,
With live blue eyes; but the clay-pale lips opened and closed.

Old Eraser had swathed her in hasty blankets.
Fayne entered; Lance behind her stood swaying and stooping

in the door and saw his father
Crouched beside the great cocoon of the blankets; and Michael in

the bed above, and trinkets of Michael's
That hung on the wall, gleam in the lamplight. The violence of

pain was brief; she whispered 'better/* and breathed
With greedy shallow passion; her eyes found Lance.

Daylight

grayed slowly into the room;
The lamp ran dry unnoticed. Lance and his father
Labored and carried the heavy old woman to bed.
Fayne brought them food, but Lance refused it. In the afternoon
He walked outdoors for a time, but nothing farther
Than the cattle-pens. Fayne must have been watching for him,
Because she went and walked by his side, and said,
When they were turned from the house, 'Mary Abbey was here.
It seems she expected to marry Michael, though he never told us.
She cried a lot.' Lance made no sign of hearing her.
Fayne said, looking up sidelong at his cheek and jaw,
Where the flesh hung thin on the bone: 'Her griefs not
Like ours, forever; but sharp at present. If she ever
Imagined that you . . . how could we bear her looks? You are

too strong, dear,

To lay on weaker persons a burden
That you alone ought to bear.' He strode faster
And stopped, muttering, 'He lies up there, like that.
And my mother, like that; and I have done it;
And you talk about Mary Abbey.' Fayne said, 'I have no time
To choose names, for a man is coming to-day
To question us. He's sent for. I have to tell you that you must

choose whether to relieve

Your own weakness , . . conscience I mean ... by easy con-
fession,


Or bear the whole weight unhelped. The first way's easy; you'll

be acquitted; you'll be left humbled and soiled,
But free; for confession is not enough; and you were too lost to

remember anything clearly; and I
Am the one witness. I saw him climb on the cliff and fall. So your

conscience will be well comforted,
And fairly cheap. Only your mother perhaps will die of it; your

father and I will swallow our portion;
And the crowd at Salinas
Will have had a good time watching your face in court. It would

be harder, if youVe a snake in your heart,
To keep it shut there.'

He was silent, and drew sharp breath and

said, 'A red-haired one. Ah.

A white one with a red brush. Did you do it with him
Or not?' 'Leave that,' she said stilly; 'this choice is now?
He groaned and answered, 'My mind's not quick like yours.
. . . I'll not lie to them.' 'Let me show your mind to you;
Be patient a moment still; if I seem cruel,
That's to save, all that's left. Look at yourself:
A man who believes his own sweet brother's blood
Lies on his hands: yet

Too scrupulous to tell a lie, for his mother's life.
Our minds are wonderful.' He meditated, and answered
Heavily, 'The sunlight seems dull but red.
What makes it red?' 'Your eyes are sick of not sleeping;
Or there's a forest-fire in the south.' 'Our minds? Little bottles
That hold all hell. I seem too tired to feel it, though.
I'll think, I'll think.'

'You have no time for thinking. He will come probably
Within this hour.' 'Who? Let him come. I'll tell him
God made them male and female but men have made
So-and-so ... I fall asleep while I talk . . . whiskey eh?
Lighted the sticky fire. It's not possible
I'd ever done it except that I stumbled on you
In the heart of guilt. I know that.' 'Believe it then,'
She answered shrilly, and stood twitching her lips
In the white freckled face, in the reddish light of her hair,


'If that will help.' 'Oh,' he said.

'... I wish you had picked from another tree.'

She answered: 'You are to say that you found him dying.

You heard me cry, and he was down by the rock.

Isn't that the truth exactly, because you remember

No previous thing? You heard me cry out; you came;

Michael was dying or had died. That's all. You carried him home.

. . , I wish he'd come.'

But the man did not come
Until afternoon the next day. Dark weather, for a stagnant ocean

of cloud was hung on the sky,
And what light shone came colored like the taste of metal through

smoke of burning forests far to the south,
That veiled the coast, so that it seemed brown twilight
In the house, in Michael's room. A lamp was lighted,
The death-wound viewed. 'Who saw him fall?' 'I alone.
My husband and others came when I cried.' 'Where is your

husband?'

'With his mother,' she answered faintly. 'She had an attack,
Her heart, angina, and has to lie still. Shall I
Call him, sir?' her voice hardening, her eyes
Growing hard and narrow. 'Pretty soon. Was this young man
In trouble about anything?' 'No.' 'A girl?' 'He was engaged
To Miss Abbey.' 'They had a quarrel, ah?' 'No.'
'Did he seem cheerful?' 'Very.' 'They always do.
Yesterday I had to drive by Elkhorn Slough
Because a very cheerful old man opened his throat
With his nephew T s pen-knife. I was two hours
Finding that place; the farmers around there they couldn't tell

you

Whether Jesus Christ died on the cross
Or at the battle of Bull Run.'

Old Eraser had stood
Nerveless and dreaming over the livid face
Since they uncovered it; abruptly he turned his head
Above his bowed shoulder, saying 'It's enough.
Dog, blaspheme not. Go to your own place.
My son found death in recklessness, I fear in folly;


Write that and leave us alone; go hence and leave us

To mourn and hope.' 'Well, Mr. Fraser. You understand . . .'

'I am very patient,' the old man said, thrusting

His hollowed face toward the other, the closely set

Inflamed brown eyes pushing like the burnt end of a stick

That has been used to stir fire; the man stepped backward.

'Did he say patient! . . . Well, is your husband here?'

Payne's mouth jerked and froze hard, her hands quieted.

'I will call him. Come to the room downstairs.'

She said at the foot of the stair, 'This way, sir. It's dark.

Will you have to go ... to see the cliff, to see

The cliff?' 'Hm, what's that?' 'Where he fell.'

'Can we drive there?' 'No, ride and walk.' 'Look here,'

He said, 'I've come sixty-five miles already.

You're sure it was accidental?' 'Yes.' 'Well.

I always try to save the family feelings

When the case is not clear.' He tried his pen,

Shook it, and wrote. Fayne watched, quiet and cold, thinking that

Lance

Would not have to be questioned; he was saved now;
And saw the man to his car. When he had gone
She thought that now she could laugh or cry if she wanted to,
Now Lance was saved, but her nerves and her mind stood quiet.

She looked at the dusty gate and the dark house-gable
In the stagnant air against the black cloud, and perceived that all

events are exact and were shaped beforehand,
And spaced in a steel frame; when they come up we know them;

there is nothing for excitement.

She went in,

And found Lance in the dark at the head of the stair, bent for-
ward like a great bird. 'Has he gone, Fayne?'
'Did you know he was here?' 'I will live on,' he answered,

'seems to be best. I loved him well; he died instantly,
No anger nor pain. Davis has dug a place by the children's

graves.'

On account of the dull weather
And closing twilight the group on the hilltop was hardly visible

in their vast scene. It was quite evident


That not only Pico Blanco against the north, and the gray Ven-

tanas, but even every dry fold
And gully of the humbler hills was almost by an infinite measure

of more importance

Than the few faint figures on the bare height,
The truck, and three saddled horses,
And some persons.

The old man swayed and shook, standing praying
At the head of a dug slot
Beside the pile of pale earth.
The heavy great brown-furred sky that covered all things made

a red point in the west, lost it and darkened,
And the Point Sur lighthouse made a thin stabbing from the

northwest.

Swaying on his heels and toes the old man prayed:

'Oh Lord our God, when thy churches fell off from thee

To go awhoring after organ music,

Singing-women and lecturers, then my people

Came out from among them; and when thy last church,

Thy little band, thy chosen, was turned at length

To lust for wealth and amusement and worldly vanities,

I cried against them and I came forth from among them.

I promised thee in that day that I and my house

Would remain faithful, thou must never despair;

I said, though all men forget thee thou hast a fort

Here in these hills, one candle burning in the infidel world,

And my house is thy people.

My children died,

And I laid them in this place and begot more children
To be thy servants, and I taught them thy ways, but they fell

away from thee.

They found their pleasure among the ungodly, and I believe
They made themselves drunk with wine, and my dear son is

fallen.
He died on the shore. One half of the curse of Eli has fallen

upon me.'
He covered his face with his knotted hands and stood gasping,


And said, 'I loved him. Here he is, Lord.

Surely thou hast forgiven his sins as I have forgiven them,

And wilt lift him to thy glory on the last day.'

The old man stood silent, lifting his face, and fixed his deep

close-set eyes, like the eyes of an old ape,
Small, dark and melancholy under the bar of the brow, between

the wide cheek-bones, fixed them far off
Across the darkening ridges and ocean upon that single red spot

that waned in the western sky,
And said 'The world darkens and the end is coming.
I cannot beget more children; I am old and empty,
And my wife is old. All men have turned their faces away from

thee;

I alone am thy church. Lord God, I beseech thee not to despair,
But remember thine ancient power, and smite the ungodly on

their mouths
And the faithless churches with utter destruction. For Jesus'

sake, amen.' While he prayed, Fayne watched Lance
With pity and fear; and Mary Abbey, who was there with her

father,

Kept stealing glances at Lance through her wet eyelashes.
She whispered to Fayne: 'Oh, Lance looks dreadfully.
I never knew he loved him so dreadfully.'
Fayne answered, 'Yes, he did'; and looked up at Lance
With pity and fear. 'He looks as if he'd fall sick,'
Mary said. Fayne answered, 'No, he is strong.
He hasn't eaten since Michael died; maybe
He hasn't slept.' Mary said, wiping her eyes,
'His face is so sad and fine, like carved marble.
They say he carried him all the way home, up that cliff.'
The old man ended his prayer, the redwood box
Was lowered with ropes; Lance had the weight at one end,
Old Fraser and Davis at the other. The ropes cut grooves
In the earth edges. While they were shovelling earth,
Mary Abbey, with a sudden abandoned gesture
Of the hand that had the handkerchief in it, ran up to Lance
On the scraped ground. 'Don't grieve so.' She reached and

touched

His hand on the spade-handle. 'It makes me afraid for you.

We all loved him; life has to go on.' He jerked his hand,

And looked down at her face with startled eyes

So pale gray-blue that all the light that remained in the world

Under the low black sky seemed to live in them,

Stammering, 'No. No. He fell from the cliff.' She said, 'I know,

Lance.
We have to bear it. I loved him too.' He gathered his dreaming

nerves
Into the bundle again and said, 'Oh. All right. Please keep out of

the way for the time.

We have this to do.' 'Good-bye,' she answered patiently. 'Fa-
ther's calling me.'

The pit was filled full and mounded;
Fayne came and said, 'What was she saying to you?' 'Nothing.

Who?' 'Mary Abbey.' 'I didn't see her.'
'What, Lance? She came and spoke to you.' 'I'd rather be there

with Michael,' he answered. 'Dear, you must rouse yourself.
Life has to go on.' 'Somebody was saying so, I think.
There's not a hawk in the sky.' She answered from a hoarse

throat, 'After dark? What are you dreaming?
See, Davie's turned on the headlights.' 'I hate them,' he said,

'killers, dirty chicken-thieves.'

The farm-truck headlights
Shone on the mounded earth, and cast its enormously lengthened

shadow and the shadows of a few moving
Persons across the world, with the beam of light, over mound

beyond mound of bare autumn hills, and black
Ocean under the black-roofed evening.

VI

That night he returned

To lie with Fayne in their bed, but like two strangers
Lying in one bed in a crowded inn, who avoid
Touching each other; but the fifth night
She laid her hand on the smooth strength of his breast,
He pretended to be asleep, she moved against him,
Plucking his throat with her lips. He answered, 'After all?

You're right. If we're to live in this life

We'll keep its customs.' He approached her confidently,

And had no power. The little irrational anger

At finding himself ridiculous brought to his mind

That worse rage, never before clearly remembered,

But now to the last moment; or imagined. He drew

His limbs from Payne's without thinking of her, and lay still,
with shut fists,

Sweating, staring up spirals of awful darkness, that spun away up
and wound over his eyes

Around a hollow gray core with flecks in it. 'I am damned un-
justly. I did it in a moment.'

But Fayne knew nothing

Of the shut agony beside her; only she was troubled at heart, and
wondering

Whether he had ceased to love her said tenderly, 'Sleep,

Darling. I didn't mean. I didn't want.

Only I love you.' He felt her instinctive hand

Move downward fondling along the flat of his belly.

He set it aside and spoke, so low that her ears

Lost every word between the hair and the pillow.

'What, dearest?' 'I know it,' he said, 'they're dogs: that was
exactly

Fit to tell dogs. I can be damned

At home as well.' 'Hush, dear.' 'I don't make a good murderer,'

He said, 'I sweat.' She was silent and heard him breathing,

And mourned, 'Oh, cover your mind with quietness to-night.

In the morning you'll face it down again. This will get well with
time.

It was really only a dreadful accident.' 'Very damnable,' he said,

'Very true.' Fayne said, 'We'll live, sweetheart, to feel it

Only a dreadful accident, and the sad death

Of one we loved.' 'That's your smooth skin.

The fires fester on mine. Will you do something

For me?' 'Dearest, with all my heart.' 'An easy kindness:

Shut up your mouth.'

He got up after a time;


When he went out she followed, trembling. He turned on her

Outside the door. 'I'm not going to Salinas,'

He whispered, 'nor bump myself off either.

I'll not starve your hawks of their snatch o' meat.

Now let me alone for Christ's sake.' She stood and saw him

Against the starlit window at the end steal down

The hallway, go past the stairhead, and enter the empty

Room of his brother. He slept there from that night on,

And seemed to regain calm strength.

VII

In the course of a month
Rain seemed at hand, the south wind whetting his knife on the

long mountain and wild clouds flying;
Lance and his father set out to burn the hill to make pasture. They

carried fire in forkfuls of straw
Along the base of the south wall of their valley; the horses they

rode snorted against it, and smoke
Boiled, but the seaward end of the hill would only be burnt in

patches. Inland, at the parched end,
A reach of high grass and sage might have led out the fire to the

forest, and Lance rode up

To watch a flame down the wind to black out the danger.
He carried two barley-sacks and went to the Abbeys' trough
At the hill spring to dip them, to beat down the fire's
Creepings up wind. From that spur of the mountain
He saw the planted pine trees at Abbey's place,
And riding back with the dipped sacks, the vale
Of his own place, the smoke-mist, and Sycamore Creek
Wound like a long serpent down the small fields.
He set his fires and watched them rage with the wind,
Easily stifling their returns, riding herd
On the black line; then from the base of the hill
Red surf, and the dark spray rolled back by the wind,
Of the other fire came up roaring. The lines met
On the fall of the hill like waves at a river's mouth
That spout up and kill each other, and hang white spray
On cold clear wind.

A rabbit with blazing fur broke through the back-fire,

Bounding and falling, it passed by Lance and ran

Straight into the stem of a wild lilac bush,

He saw it was blind from the fire, and watching it struggle away

Up its dark pain, saw Mary Abbey coming down the black hill
against the white sky,

Treading on embers. Lance turned and hardened in the saddle,
and saw the vale below him a long trough of smoke

Spilled northward, then Mary came near and said, 'I wanted to
talk to you. I saw you ride by the water-trough.'

He shuddered and said, 'What? I'll watch the fire.' 'Fayne
doesn't like me so well I think

Since Michael . . . indeed I'm ashamed to be always around your
house.'

'I noticed you there,' he said, carefully regarding

The dark braids of her hair, and the pale brown face

Seen from above. 'I don't know,' she said.

'My father says to go away for a time,

His sister lives on a place in Idaho.

But I wouldn't want to forget. But I told Fayne . . .

So I don't know. We could see that you grieved for him

More deeply than anyone else, and all these great hills are empty.'

He said, 'Is that all?' 'Ah . . . ? Yes,' she answered,

And turned away and looked back. Lance found that the bridle-
leather

Had broken suddenly between his hands, and said 'You won't get
anything from Fayne; she's hard as iron.

Why do you follow us around? What do you think you'll find
out?' She said, 'Your grief is greater perhaps,

For you knew him longer. But you have Fayne and I have no-
body: speak kindly to me. As I remember,

At first it came from seeing you and Fayne so happy in each
other,

I wanted to be like that. I can't talk well, like Fayne,

But I read a great deal.' He stared at her face and began to knot
the bridle, his hands relaxing,

And said, 'I must ride around by the oak-scrub and see that the
fire has checked. I've got to be watchful always.


Will you stay here?' He went and returned and said, 'Come

down to our place whenever you are lonely, Mary.
My mother's quite well again. His death was ... do people talk

much about it?' She looked in wonder at his face,
And he with numbed lips: 'What lies do they . . . can't you

speak out?' 'I never

Talked about it with anyone, since Nina Dolman
Told us that day. Truly there's nothing to be said by anyone
Except, he was bright with life and suddenly nothing, nothing,

nothing, darkness.'

Lance breathed and said sharply, 'I wouldn't bet on it
If I were you. Mary, you are tender and merciful:
Don't come to the house; Fayne is like iron. You'd better
Run home and forget about us. Unless you should hear something
I ought to know.' 'What do you mean?' 'Good-bye.'
She saw his bridle-hand lift, she said 'I've no pride,
I pray you not to leave me yet, Lance.
I loved him greatly, and now that bond hangs cut,
Bleeding on the empty world, it reaches after
You that were near him, Fayne and you. I was always
Without companions, and now I'd give anything
To be in your friendship a little.' 'Anything?' he said.
'You faithful women.

Fayne was five days. Mmhm, I have seen a vision.
My eyes are opened I believe.'

He rode across the burnt hill,
Watching the wind swirl up the ashes and flatten
The spits of smoke. Past the singed oak-scrub he began to wonder,
If there was honey in the little tree, had . . . the dead
Tasted it before he died? 'You'd better be off to Idaho.
... I shy from his name like a scared horse.
By God, I'd better get used to it; I've got to live with it.'
He looked sharply all about the burnt solitude
To be sure of no hearers, and recited aloud:
'I killed Michael. My name is Lance Fraser.
I murdered my brother Michael. I was plastered,
But I caught 'em at it. I killed my brother Michael.
I'm not afraid to sleep in his room or even


Take over his girl if I choose. I am a dog,

But so are all.'

The tall man riding the little bay horse

Along the burnt ridge, talking loudly to nothing but the ash-
drifting wind; a shadow passed his right shoulder;

He turned on it with slitted eyes, and saw through the strained
lashes against the gray wind a ghastly old woman

Pursuing him, bent double with age and fury, her brown cloak
wild on the wind, but when she turned up the wind

It was only a redtail hawk that hunted

On the burnt borders, making her profit in the trouble of field-
mice. Lance groaned in his throat 'Go up you devil.

Ask your high places whether they can save you next time.'

VIII

Leo Ramirez rode down on business
About redwood for fence-posts; he asked in vain
For Lance, and had to deal with old Eraser. When he went out
He saw red hair around the corner of the house
And found Fayne in the garden, and asked for Lance.
'I couldn't tell you. I saw him ride to the south.
He'll be home soon for supper.' Ramirez stood
In troubled silence, looking at the earth, and said
'I wonder ought I to tell him . . .' Payne's body quivered
Ever so slightly, her face grew carefully blank.
'What, Leo?' 'Will Howard, for instance. Mouths that can't
Shut up for the love of God.' 'He drives the coast-stage,'
Fayne answered carefully. Ramirez looked over the creek
At the branded flanks of the south hill, and no rain had come
To streak them with gray relentings. 'He didn't see it,'
He said; 'and those two janes on vacation
Went back to town the next day.' He giggled, remembering
The sailing-ship stippled on the white skin,
And fixed his mind smooth again. Fayne said, 'How dares he
Lie about us?' Ramirez's brown soft eyes
Regarded her with mournful wonder and slid away.
He said, 'You was very quick-thinking.' 'What?' she said, 'You
were there.


And when I cried to him to be careful you looked
And saw him larking on the rock, and you saw him fall,
You could see very plainly in the awful moonlight.
These are things, Leo, that you could swear to.' He nodded,
And slid his red tongue along his dry lips and answered,
'Yes'm.' 'So Howard's a liar,' she said. 'But don't tell Lance;
He'd break him in two. We'll all do very well,
All wicked stories will die, long long before
Our ache of loss.' 'Yes'm.' She walked beside him
To his tethered horse, and charmed him with an impulsive hand-
clasp
After he was in the saddle.

She stood with her face high, the

great sponge of red hair
Lying like a helmet-plume on her shoulders, and thought she was

sure of conquering security but she was tired;
She was not afraid of the enemy world, but Michael would never

be here laughing again. On the hill,
In the hill he lay; it was stranger than that, and sharper. And his

killer
Ought to be hated a little in the much love. The smells in the

wind were of ocean, the reedy creek-mouth,
Cows, and wood-smoke, and chile-con-carne on the kitchen stove;

it was harder to analyze thoughts in the mind.
She looked at the dear house and its gables
Darkening so low against the hill and wide sky and the evening

color commencing; it was Lance's nest
Where he was born, and h

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

Share
Byron

The Bride of Abydos

"Had we never loved so kindly,
Had we never loved so blindly,
Never met or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted." — Burns

TO
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD HOLLAND,
THIS TALE IS INSCRIBED,
WITH EVERY SENTIMENT OF REGARD AND RESPECT,
BY HIS GRATEFULLY OBLIGED AND SINCERE FRIEND,

BYRON.

THE BRIDE OF ABYDOS

CANTO THE FIRST.

I.

Know ye the land where cypress and myrtle
Are emblems of deeds that are done in their clime,
Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,
Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime?
Know ye the land of the cedar and vine,
Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine;
Where the light wings of Zephyr, oppress'd with perfume,
Wax faint o'er the gardens of Gúl in her bloom; [1]
Where the citron and olive are fairest of fruit,
And the voice of the nightingale never is mute;
Where the tints of the earth, and the hues of the sky,
In colour though varied, in beauty may vie,
And the purple of Ocean is deepest in dye;
Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
And all, save the spirit of man, is divine?
'Tis the clime of the East; 'tis the land of the Sun —
Can he smile on such deeds as his children have done? [2]
Oh! wild as the accents of lovers' farewell
Are the hearts which they bear, and the tales which they tell.

II.

Begirt with many a gallant slave,
Apparell'd as becomes the brave,
Awaiting each his lord's behest
To guide his steps, or guard his rest,
Old Giaffir sate in his Divan:
Deep thought was in his aged eye;
And though the face of Mussulman
Not oft betrays to standers by
The mind within, well skill'd to hide
All but unconquerable pride,
His pensive cheek and pondering brow
Did more than he wont avow.

III.

"Let the chamber be clear'd." — The train disappear'd —
"Now call me the chief of the Haram guard."
With Giaffir is none but his only son,
And the Nubian awaiting the sire's award.
"Haroun — when all the crowd that wait
Are pass'd beyond the outer gate,
(Woe to the head whose eye beheld
My child Zuleika's face unveil'd!)
Hence, lead my daughter from her tower:
Her fate is fix'd this very hour:
Yet not to her repeat my thought;
By me alone be duty taught!"
"Pacha! to hear is to obey."
No more must slave to despot say —
Then to the tower had ta'en his way,
But here young Selim silence brake,
First lowly rendering reverence meet!
And downcast look'd, and gently spake,
Still standing at the Pacha's feet:
For son of Moslem must expire,
Ere dare to sit before his sire!

"Father! for fear that thou shouldst chide
My sister, or her sable guide,
Know — for the fault, if fault there be,
Was mine — then fall thy frowns on me
So lovelily the morning shone,
That — let the old and weary sleep —
I could not; and to view alone
The fairest scenes of land and deep,
With none to listen and reply
To thoughts with which my heart beat high
Were irksome — for whate'er my mood,
In sooth I love not solitude;
I on Zuleika's slumber broke,
And as thou knowest that for me
Soon turns the Haram's grating key,
Before the guardian slaves awoke
We to the cypress groves had flown,
And made earth, main, and heaven our own!
There linger'd we, beguil'd too long
With Mejnoun's tale, or Sadi's song, [3]
Till I, who heard the deep tambour [4]
Beat thy Divan's approaching hour,
To thee, and to my duty true,
Warn'd by the sound, to greet thee flew:
But there Zuleika wanders yet —
Nay, father, rage not — nor forget
That none can pierce that secret bower
But those who watch the women's tower."

IV.

"Son of a slave" — the Pacha said —
"From unbelieving mother bred,
Vain were a father's hope to see
Aught that beseems a man in thee.
Thou, when thine arm should bend the bow,
And hurl the dart, and curb the steed,
Thou, Greek in soul if not in creed,
Must pore where babbling waters flow,
And watch unfolding roses blow.
Would that yon orb, whose matin glow
Thy listless eyes so much admire,
Would lend thee something of his fire!
Thou, who wouldst see this battlement
By Christian cannon piecemeal rent;
Nay, tamely view old Stamboul's wall
Before the dogs of Moscow fall,
Nor strike one stroke for life or death
Against the curs of Nazareth!
Go — let thy less than woman's hand
Assume the distaff — not the brand.
But, Haroun! — to my daughter speed:
And hark — of thine own head take heed —
If thus Zuleika oft takes wing —
Thou see'st yon bow — it hath a string!"

V.

No sound from Selim's lip was heard,
At least that met old Giaffir's ear,
But every frown and every word
Pierced keener than a Christian's sword.
"Son of a slave! — reproach'd with fear!
Those gibes had cost another dear.
Son of a slave! and who my sire?"
Thus held his thoughts their dark career,
And glances ev'n of more than ire
Flash forth, then faintly disappear.
Old Giaffir gazed upon his son
And started; for within his eye
He read how much his wrath had done;
He saw rebellion there begun:
"Come hither, boy — what, no reply?
I mark thee — and I know thee too;
But there be deeds thou dar'st not do:
But if thy beard had manlier length,
And if thy hand had skill and strength,
I'd joy to see thee break a lance,
Albeit against my own perchance."

As sneeringly these accents fell,
On Selim's eye he fiercely gazed:
That eye return'd him glance for glance,
And proudly to his sire's was raised,
Till Giaffir's quail'd and shrunk askance —
And why — he felt, but durst not tell.
"Much I misdoubt this wayward boy
Will one day work me more annoy:
I never loved him from his birth,
And — but his arm is little worth,
And scarcely in the chase could cope
With timid fawn or antelope,
Far less would venture into strife
Where man contends for fame and life —
I would not trust that look or tone:
No — nor the blood so near my own.

That blood — he hath not heard — no more —
I'll watch him closer than before.
He is an Arab to my sight, [5]
Or Christian crouching in the fight —
But hark! — I hear Zuleika's voice;
Like Houris' hymn it meets mine ear:
She is the offspring of my choice;
Oh! more than ev'n her mother dear,
With all to hope, and nought to fear
My Peri! — ever welcome here!
Sweet, as the desert fountain's wave,
To lips just cool'd in time to save
Such to my longing sight art thou;
Nor can they waft to Mecca's shrine
More thanks for life, than I for thine,
Who blest thy birth, and bless thee now."

VI.

Fair, as the first that fell of womankind,
When on that dread yet lovely serpent smiling,
Whose image then was stamp'd upon her mind —
But once beguiled — and evermore beguiling;
Dazzling, as that, oh! too transcendent vision
To Sorrow's phantom-peopled slumber given,
When heart meets heart again in dreams Elysian,
And paints the lost on Earth revived in Heaven;
Soft, as the memory of buried love;
Pure as the prayer which Childhood wafts above,
Was she — the daughter of that rude old Chief,
Who met the maid with tears — but not of grief.

Who hath not proved how feebly words essay
To fix one spark of Beauty's heavenly ray?
Who doth not feel, until his failing sight
Faints into dimness with its own delight,
His changing cheek, his sinking heart confess
The might — the majesty of Loveliness?
Such was Zuleika — such around her shone
The nameless charms unmark'd by her alone;
The light of love, the purity of grace,
The mind, the Music breathing from her face, [6]
The heart whose softness harmonised the whole —
And, oh! that eye was in itself a Soul!

Her graceful arms in meekness bending
Across her gently-budding breast;
At one kind word those arms extending
To clasp the neck of him who blest
His child caressing and carest,
Zuleika came — Giaffir felt
His purpose half within him melt;
Not that against her fancied weal
His heart though stern could ever feel;
Affection chain'd her to that heart;
Ambition tore the links apart.

VII.

"Zuleika! child of gentleness!
How dear this very day must tell,
When I forget my own distress,
In losing what I love so well,
To bid thee with another dwell:
Another! and a braver man
Was never seen in battle's van.
We Moslems reck not much of blood;
But yet the line of Carasman [7]
Unchanged, unchangeable, hath stood
First of the bold Timariot bands
That won and well can keep their lands.
Enough that he who comes to woo
Is kinsman of the Bey Oglou:
His years need scarce a thought employ:
I would not have thee wed a boy.
And thou shalt have a noble dower:
And his and my united power
Will laugh to scorn the death-firman,
Which others tremble but to scan,
And teach the messenger what fate
The bearer of such boon may wait, [8]
And now thy know'st thy father's will;
All that thy sex hath need to know:
'Twas mine to teach obedience still —
The way to love, thy lord may show."

VIII.

In silence bow'd the virgin's head;
And if her eye was fill'd with tears
That stifled feeling dare not shed,
And changed her cheek to pale to red,
And red to pale, as through her ears
Those winged words like arrows sped,
What could such be but maiden fears?
So bright the tear in Beauty's eye,
Love half regrets to kiss it dry;
So sweet the blush of Bashfulness,
Even Pity scarce can wish it less!

Whate'er it was the sire forgot;
Or if remember'd, mark'd it not;
Thrice clapp'd his hands, and call'd his steed, [9]
Resign'd his gem-adorn'd chibouque, [10]
And mounting featly for the mead,
With Maugrabee [11] and Mamaluke,
His way amid his Delis took, [12]
To witness many an active deed
With sabre keen, or blunt jerreed.
The Kislar only and his Moors
Watch well the Haram's massy doors.

IX.

His head was leant upon his hand,
His eye look'd o'er the dark blue water
That swiftly glides and gently swells
Between the winding Dardanelles;
But yet he saw nor sea nor strand,
Nor even his Pacha's turban'd band
Mix in the game of mimic slaughter,
Careering cleave the folded felt [13]
With sabre stroke right sharply dealt;
Nor mark'd the javelin-darting crowd,
Nor heard their Ollahs wild and loud [14] —
He thought but of old Giaffir's daughter!

X.

No word from Selim's bosom broke;
One sigh Zuleika's thought bespoke:
Still gazed he through the lattice grate,
Pale, mute, and mournfully sedate.
To him Zuleika's eye was turn'd,
But little from his aspect learn'd;
Equal her grief, yet not the same:
Her heart confess'd a gentler flame:
But yet that heart, alarm'd, or weak,
She knew not why, forbade to speak.
Yet speak she must — but when essay?
"How strange he thus should turn away!
Not thus we e'er before have met;
Not thus shall be our parting yet."
Thrice paced she slowly through the room,
And watched his eyeit still was fix'd:
She snatch'd the urn wherein was mix'd
The Persian Atar-gúl's perfume, [15]
And sprinkled all its odours o'er
The pictured roof and marble floor: [16]
The drops, that through his glittering vest
The playful girl's appeal address'd,
Unheeded o'er his bosom flew,
As if that breast were marble too.
"What sullen yet? it must not be —
Oh! gentle Selim, this from thee!"
She saw in curious order set
The fairest flowers of Eastern land —
"He loved them once; may touch them yet
If offer'd by Zuleika's hand."
The childish thought was hardly breathed
Before the Rose was pluck'd and wreathed;
The next fond moment saw her seat
Her fairy form at Selim's feet:
"This rose to calm my brother's cares
A message from the Bulbul bears; [17]
It says to-night he will prolong
For Selim's ear his sweetest song;
And though his note is somewhat sad,
He'll try for once a strain more glad,
With some faint hope his alter'd lay
May sing these gloomy thoughts away.

XI.

"What! not receive my foolish flower?
Nay then I am indeed unblest:
On me can thus thy forehead lower?
And know'st thou not who loves thee best?
Oh, Selim dear! oh, more than dearest!
Say is it me thou hat'st or fearest?
Come, lay thy head upon my breast,
And I will kiss thee into rest,
Since words of mine, and songs must fail
Ev'n from my fabled nightingale.
I knew our sire at times was stern,
But this from thee had yet to learn:
Too well I know he loves thee not;
But is Zuleika's love forgot?
Ah! deem I right? the Pacha's plan —
This kinsman Bey of Carasman
Perhaps may prove some foe of thine:
If so, I swear by Mecca's shrine,
If shrines that ne'er approach allow
To woman's step admit her vow,
Without thy free consent, command,
The Sultan should not have my hand!
Think'st though that I could bear to part
With thee, and learn to halve my heart?
Ah! were I sever'd from thy side,
Where were thy friend — and who my guide?
Years have not seen, Time shall not see
The hour that tears my soul from thee:
Even Azrael, [18] from his deadly quiver
When flies that shaft, and fly it must,
That parts all else, shall doom for ever
Our hearts to undivided dust!"

XII.

He lived — he breathed — he moved — he felt;
He raised the maid from where she knelt;
His trance was gone — his keen eye shone
With thoughts that long in darkness dwelt;
With thoughts that burn — in rays that melt.
As the streams late conceal'd
By the fringe of its willows,
When it rushes reveal'd
In the light of its billows;
As the bolt bursts on high
From the black cloud that bound it,
Flash'd the soul of that eye
Through the long lashes round it.
A war-horse at the trumpet's sound,
A lion roused by heedless hound,
A tyrant waked to sudden strife
By graze of ill-directed knife,
Starts not to more convulsive life
Than he, who heard that vow, display'd,
And all, before repress'd, betray'd:

"Now thou art mine, for ever mine,
With life to keep, and scarce with life resign;
Now thou art mine, that sacred oath,
Though sworn by one, hath bound us both.
Yes, fondly, wisely hast thou done;
That vow hath saved more heads than one:
But blench not thou — thy simplest tress
Claims more from me than tenderness;
I would not wrong the slenderest hair
That clusters round thy forehead fair,
For all the treasures buried far
Within the caves of Istakar. [19]
This morning clouds upon me lower'd,
Reproaches on my head were shower'd,
And Giaffir almost call'd me coward!
Now I have motive to be brave;
The son of his neglected slave —
Nay, start not, 'twas the term he gave —
May shew, though little apt to vaunt,
A heart his words nor deeds can daunt.
His son, indeed! — yet, thanks to thee,
Perchance I am, at least shall be!
But let our plighted secret vow
Be only known to us as now.
I know the wretch who dares demand
From Giaffir thy reluctant hand;
More ill-got wealth, a meaner soul
Holds not a Musselim's control: [20]
Was he not bred in Egripo? [21]
A viler race let Israel show!
But let that pass — to none be told
Our oath; the rest let time unfold.
To me and mine leave Osman Bey;
I've partisans for peril's day:
Think not I am what I appear;
I've arms, and friends, and vengeance near."

XIII.

"Think not thou art what thou appearest!
My Selim, thou art sadly changed:
This morn I saw thee gentlest, dearest:
But now thou'rt from thyself estranged.
My love thou surely knew'st before,
It ne'er was less, nor can be more.
To see thee, hear thee, near thee stay,
And hate the night, I know not why,
Save that we meet not but by day;
With thee to live, with thee to die,
I dare not to my hope deny:
Thy cheek, thine eyes, thy lips to kiss,
Like this — and this — no more than this;
For, Allah! Sure thy lips are flame:
What fever in thy veins is flushing?
My own have nearly caught the same,
At least I feel my cheek too blushing.
To soothe thy sickness, watch thy health,
Partake, but never waste thy wealth,
Or stand with smiles unmurmuring by,
And lighten half thy poverty;
Do all but close thy dying eye,
For that I could not live to try;
To these alone my thoughts aspire:
More can I do? or thou require?
But, Selim, thou must answer why
We need so much of mystery?
The cause I cannot dream nor tell,
But be it, since thou say'st 'tis well;
Yet what thou mean'st by 'arms' and 'friends,'
Beyond my weaker sense extends.
I mean that Giaffir should have heard
The very vow I plighted thee;
His wrath would not revoke my word:
But surely he would leave me free.
Can this fond wish seem strange in me,
To be what I have ever been?
What other hath Zuleika seen
From simple childhood's earliest hour?
What other can she seek to see
Than thee, companion of her bower,
The partner of her infancy?
These cherish'd thoughts with life begun,
Say, why must I no more avow?
What change is wrought to make me shun
The truth; my pride, and thine till now?
To meet the gaze of stranger's eyes
Our law, our creed, our God denies,
Nor shall one wandering thought of mine
At such, our Prophet's will, repine:
No! happier made by that decree!
He left me all in leaving thee.
Deep were my anguish, thus compell'd
To wed with one I ne'er beheld:
This wherefore should I not reveal?
Why wilt thou urge me to conceal!
I know the Pacha's haughty mood
To thee hath never boded good:
And he so often storms at naught,
Allah! forbid that e'er he ought!
And why I know not, but within
My heart concealment weighs like sin.
If then such secresy be crime,
And such it feels while lurking here,
Oh, Selim! tell me yet in time,
Nor leave me thus to thoughts of fear.
Ah! yonder see the Tchocadar, [22]
My father leaves the mimic war:
I tremble now to meet his eye
Say, Selim, canst thou tell me why?"

XIV.

"Zuleika — to thy tower's retreat
Betake thee — Giaffir I can greet:
And now with him I fain must prate
Of firmans, imposts, levies, state.
There's fearful news from Danube's banks,
Our Vizier nobly thins his ranks,
For which the Giaour may give him thanks!
Our sultan hath a shorter way
Such costly triumph to repay.
But, mark me, when the twilight drum
Hath warn'd the troops to food and sleep,
Unto thy cell will Selim come:
Then softly from the Haram creep
Where we may wander by the deep:
Our garden-battlements are steep;
Nor these will rash intruder climb
To list our words, or stint our time;
And if he doth, I want not steel
Which some have felt, and more may feel.
Then shalt thou learn of Selim more
Than thou hast heard or thought before:
Trust me, Zuleika — fear not me!
Thou know'st I hold a Haram key."

"Fear thee, my Selim! ne'er till now
Did word like this — "
"Delay not thou;
I keep the key — and Haroun's guard
Have some, and hope of more reward.
Tonight, Zuleika, thou shalt hear
My tale, my purpose, and my fear:
I am not, love! what I appear."

_

CANTO THE SECOND.

I.

The winds are high on Helle's wave,
As on that night of stormy water,
When Love, who sent, forgot to save
The young, the beautiful, the brave,
The lonely hope of Sestos' daughter.
Oh! when alone along the sky
Her turret-torch was blazing high,
Though rising gale, and breaking foam,
And shrieking sea-birds warn'd him home;
And clouds aloft and tides below,
With signs and sounds, forbade to go,
He could not see, he would not hear,
Or sound or sign foreboding fear;
His eye but saw the light of love,
The only star it hail'd above;
His ear but rang with Hero's song,
"Ye waves, divide not lovers long!" —
That tale is old, but love anew
May nerve young hearts to prove as true.

II.

The winds are high, and Helle's tide
Rolls darkly heaving to the main;
And Night's descending shadows hide
That field with blood bedew'd in vain,
The desert of old Priam's pride;
The tombs, sole relics of his reign,
Allsave immortal dreams that could beguile
The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle!

III.

Oh! yet — for there my steps have been!
These feet have press'd the sacred shore,
These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne —
Minstrel! with thee to muse, to mourn,
To trace again those fields of yore,
Believing every hillock green
Contains no fabled hero's ashes,
And that around the undoubted scene
Thine own "broad Hellespont" still dashes, [23]
Be long my lot! and cold were he
Who there could gaze denying thee!

IV.

The night hath closed on Helle's stream,
Nor yet hath risen on Ida's hill
That moon, which shoon on his high theme:
No warrior chides her peaceful beam,
But conscious shepherds bless it still.
Their flocks are grazing on the mound
Of him who felt the Dardan's arrow;
That mighty heap of gather'd ground
Which Ammon's son ran proudly round, [24]
By nations raised, by monarchs crown'd,
Is now a lone and nameless barrow!
Within — thy dwelling-place how narrow?
Without — can only strangers breathe
The name of him that was beneath:
Dust long outlasts the storied stone;
But Thou — thy very dust is gone!

V.

Late, late to-night will Dian cheer
The swain, and chase the boatman's fear;
Till then — no beacon on the cliff
May shape the course of struggling skiff;
The scatter'd lights that skirt the bay,
All, one by one, have died away;
The only lamp of this lone hour
Is glimmering in Zuleika's tower.
Yes! there is light in that lone chamber,
And o'er her silken Ottoman
Are thrown the fragrant beads of amber,
O'er which her fairy fingers ran; [25]
Near these, with emerald rays beset,
(How could she thus that gem forget?)
Her mother's sainted amulet, [26]
Whereon engraved the Koorsee text,
Could smooth this life, and win the next;
And by her Comboloio lies [27]
A Koran of illumined dyes;
And many a bright emblazon'd rhyme
By Persian scribes redeem'd from time;
And o'er those scrolls, not oft so mute,
Reclines her now neglected lute;
And round her lamp of fretted gold
Bloom flowers in urns of China's mould;
The richest work of Iran's loom,
And Sheeraz' tribute of perfume;
All that can eye or sense delight
Are gather'd in that gorgeous room:
But yet it hath an air of gloom.
She, of this Peri cell the sprite,
What doth she hence, and on so rude a night?

VI.

Wrapt in the darkest sable vest,
Which none save noblest Moslems wear,
To guard from winds of heaven the breast
As heaven itself to Selim dear,
With cautious steps the thicket threading,
And starting oft, as through the glade
The gust its hollow moanings made;
Till on the smoother pathway treading,
More free her timid bosom beat,
The maid pursued her silent guide;
And though her terror urged retreat,
How could she quit her Selim's side?
How teach her tender lips to chide?

VII.

They reach'd at length a grotto, hewn
By nature, but enlarged by art,
Where oft her lute she wont to tune,
And oft her Koran conn'd apart:
And oft in youthful reverie
She dream'd what Paradise might be;
Where woman's parted soul shall go
Her Prophet had disdain'd to show;
But Selim's mansion was secure,
Nor deem'd she, could he long endure
His bower in other worlds of bliss,
Without her, most beloved in this!
Oh! who so dear with him could dwell?
What Houri soothe him half so well?

VIII.

Since last she visited the spot
Some change seem'd wrought within the grot;
It might be only that the night
Disguised things seen by better light:
That brazen lamp but dimly threw
A ray of no celestial hue:
But in a nook within the cell
Her eye on stranger objects fell.
There arms were piled, not such as wield
The turban'd Delis in the field;
But brands of foreign blade and hilt,
And one was red — perchance with guilt!
Ah! how without can blood be spilt?
A cup too on the board was set
That did not seem to hold sherbet.
What may this mean? she turn'd to see
Her Selim — "Oh! can this be he?"

IX.

His robe of pride was thrown aside,
His brow no high-crown'd turban bore
But in its stead a shawl of red,
Wreathed lightly round, his temples wore:
That dagger, on whose hilt the gem
Were worthy of a diadem,
No longer glitter'd at his waist,
Where pistols unadorn'd were braced;
And from his belt a sabre swung,
And from his shoulder loosely hung
The cloak of white, the thin capote
That decks the wandering Candiote:
Beneath — his golden plated vest
Clung like a cuirass to his breast
The greaves below his knee that wound
With silvery scales were sheathed and bound.
But were it not that high command
Spake in his eye, and tone, and hand,
All that a careless eye could see
In him was some young Galiongée. [28]

X.

"I said I was not what I seem'd;
And now thou see'st my words were true:
I have a tale thou hast not dream'd,
If sooth — its truth must others rue.
My story now 'twere vain to hide,
I must not see thee Osman's bride:
But had not thine own lips declared
How much of that young heart I shared,
I could not, must not, yet have shown
The darker secret of my own.
In this I speak not now of love;
That, let time, truth, and peril prove:
But first — oh! never wed another —
Zuleika! I am not thy brother!"

XI.

"Oh! not my brother! — yet unsay —
God! am I left alone on earth
To mourn — I dare not curse the day
That saw my solitary birth?
Oh! thou wilt love me now no more!
My sinking heart foreboded ill;
But know me all I was before,
Thy sister — friend — Zuleika still.
Thou ledd'st me hear perchance to kill;
If thou hast cause for vengeance see
My breast is offer'd — take thy fill!
Far better with the dead to be
Than live thus nothing now to thee;
Perhaps far worse, for now I know
Why Giaffir always seem'd thy foe;
And I, alas! am Giaffir's child,
Form whom thou wert contemn'd, reviled.
If not thy sister — wouldst thou save
My life, oh! bid me be thy slave!"

XII.

"My slave, Zuleika! — nay, I'm thine;
But, gentle love, this transport calm,
Thy lot shall yet be link'd with mine;
I swear it by our Prophet's shrine,
And be that thought thy sorrow's balm.
So may the Koran verse display'd [29]
Upon its steel direct my blade,
In danger's hour to guard us both,
As I preserve that awful oath!
The name in which thy heart hath prided
Must change; but, my Zuleika, know,
That tie is widen'd, not divided,
Although thy Sire's my deadliest foe.
My father was to Giaffir all
That Selim late was deem'd to thee;
That brother wrought a brother's fall,
But spared, at least, my infancy;
And lull'd me with a vain deceit
That yet a like return may meet.
He rear'd me, not with tender help,
But like the nephew of a Cain; [30]
He watch'd me like a lion's whelp,
That gnaws and yet may break his chain.
My father's blood in every vein
Is boiling; but for thy dear sake
No present vengeance will I take;
Though here I must no more remain.
But first, beloved Zuleika! hear
How Giaffir wrought this deed of fear.

XIII.

"How first their strife to rancour grew,
If love or envy made them foes,
It matters little if I knew;
In fiery spirits, slights, though few
And thoughtless, will disturb repose.
In war Abdallah's arm was strong,
Remember'd yet in Bosniac song,
And Paswan's rebel hordes attest [31]
How little love they bore such guest:
His death is all I need relate,
The stern effect of Giaffir's hate;
And how my birth disclosed to me,
Whate'er beside it makes, hath made me free.

XIV.

"When Paswan, after years of strife,
At last for power, but first for life,
In Widdin's walls too proudly sate,
Our Pachas rallied round the state;
Nor last nor least in high command,
Each brother led a separate band;
They gave their horse-tails to the wind, [32]
And mustering in Sophia's plain
Their tents were pitch'd, their posts assign'd;
To one, alas! assign'd in vain!
What need of words? the deadly bowl,
By Giaffir's order drugg'd and given,
With venom subtle as his soul,
Dismiss'd Abdallah's hence to heaven.
Reclined and feverish in the bath,
He, when the hunter's sport was up,
But little deem'd a brother's wrath
To quench his thirst had such a cup:
The bowl a bribed attendant bore;
He drank one draught, and nor needed more! [33]
If thou my tale, Zuleika, doubt,
Call Haroun — he can tell it out.

XV.

"The deed once done, and Paswan's feud
In part suppress'd, though ne'er subdued,
Abdallah's Pachalic was gain'd: —
Thou know'st not what in our Divan
Can wealth procure for worse than man —
Abdallah's honours were obtain'd
By him a brother's murder stain'd;
'Tis true, the purchase nearly drain'd
His ill got treasure, soon replaced.
Wouldst question whence? Survey the waste,
And ask the squalid peasant how
His gains repay his broiling brow! —
Why me the stern usurper spared,
Why thus with me the palace shared,
I know not. Shame, regret, remorse,
And little fear from infant's force;
Besides, adoption of a son
Of him whom Heaven accorded none,
Or some unknown cabal, caprice,
Preserved me thus; but not in peace;
He cannot curb his haughty mood,
Nor I forgive a father's blood!

XVI.

"Within thy father's house are foes;
Not all who break his bread are true:
To these should I my birth disclose,
His days, his very hours, were few:
They only want a heart to lead,
A hand to point them to the deed.
But Haroun only knows — or knew —
This tale, whose close is almost nigh:
He in Abdallah's palace grew,
And held that post in his Serai
Which holds he here — he saw him die:
But what could single slavery do?
Avenge his lord? alas! too late;
Or save his son from such a fate?
He chose the last, and when elate
With foes subdued, or friends betray'd,
Proud Giaffir in high triumph sate,
He led me helpless to his gate,
And not in vain it seems essay'd
To save the life for which he pray'd.
The knowledge of my birth secured
From all and each, but most from me;
Thus Giaffir's safety was insured.
Removed he too from Roumelie
To this our Asiatic side,
Far from our seat by Danube's tide,
With none but Haroun, who retains
Such knowledge — and that Nubian feels
A tyrant's secrets are but chains,
From which the captive gladly steals,
And this and more to me reveals:
Such still to guilt just Allah sends —
Slaves, tools, accomplices — no friends!

XVII.

"All this, Zuleika, harshly sounds;
But harsher still my tale must be:
Howe'er my tongue thy softness wounds,
Yet I must prove all truth to thee.
I saw thee start this garb to see,
Yet is it one I oft have worn,
And long must wear: this Galiongée,
To whom thy plighted vow is sworn,
Is leader of those pirate hordes,
Whose laws and lives are on their swords;
To hear whose desolating tale
Would make thy waning cheek more pale:
Those arms thou see'st my band have brought,
The hands that wield are not remote;
This cup too for the rugged knaves
Is fill'd — once quaff'd, they ne'er repine:
Our Prophet might forgive the slaves;
They're only infidels in wine!

XVIII.

"What could I be? Proscribed at home,
And taunted to a wish to roam;
And listless left — for Giaffir's fear
Denied the courser and the spear —
Though oft — oh, Mohammed! how oft! —
In full Divan the despot scoff'd,
As if my weak unwilling hand
Refused the bridle or the brand:
He ever went to war alone,
And pent me here untried — unknown;
To Haroun's care with women left,
By hope unblest, of fame bereft.
While thou — whose softness long endear'd,
Though it unmann'd me, still had cheer'd —
To Brusa's walls for safety sent,
Awaited'st there the field's event.
Haroun, who saw my spirit pining
Beneath inaction's sluggish yoke,
His captive, though with dread, resigning,
My thraldom for a season broke,
On promise to return before
The day when Giaffir's charge was o'er.
'Tis vain — my tongue can not impart
My almost drunkenness of heart,
When first this liberated eye
Survey'd Earth, Ocean, Sun and Sky,
As if my spirit pierced them through,
And all their inmost wonders knew!
One word alone can paint to thee
That more than feeling — I was Free!
Ev'n for thy presence ceased to pine;
The World — nay — Heaven itself was mine!

XIX.

"The shallop of a trusty Moor
Convey'd me from this idle shore;
I long'd to see the isles that gem
Old Ocean's purple diadem:
I sought by turns, and saw them all: [34]
But when and where I join'd the crew,
With whom I'm pledged to rise or fall,
When all that we design to do
Is done, 'twill then be time more meet
To tell thee, when the tale's complete.

XX.

"'Tis true, they are a lawless brood,
But rough in form, nor mild in mood;
With them hath found — may find — a place:
But open speech, and ready hand,
Obedience to their chief's command;
A soul for every enterprise,
That never sees with terror's eyes;
Friendship for each, and faith to all,
And vengeance vow'd for those who fall,
Have made them fitting instruments
For more than ev'n my own intents.
And some — and I have studied all
Distinguish'd from the vulgar rank,
But chiefly to my council call
The wisdom of the cautious Frank —
And some to higher thoughts aspire,
The last of Lambro's patriots there [35]
Anticipated freedom share;
And oft around the cavern fire
On visionary schemes debate,
To snatch the Rayahs from their fate. [36]
So let them ease their hearts with prate
Of equal rights, which man ne'er knew;
I have a love of freedom too.
Ay! let me like the ocean-Patriarch roam, [37]
Or only known on land the Tartar's home! [38]
My tent on shore, my galley on the sea,
Are more than cities and Serais to me:
Borne by my steed, or wafted by my sail,
Across the desert, or before the gale,
Bound where thou wilt, my barb! or glide, my prow!
But be the star that guides the wanderer, Thou!
Thou, my Zuleika! share and bless my bark;
The Dove of peace and promise to mine ark!
Or, since that hope denied in worlds of strife,
Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life!
The evening beam that smiles the cloud away,
And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray!
Blest — as the Muezzin's strain from Mecca's wall
To pilgrims pure and prostrate at his call;
Soft — as the melody of youthful days,
That steals the trembling tear of speechless praise;
Dear — as his native song to exile's ears,
Shall sound each tone thy long-loved voice endears.
For thee in those bright isles is built a bower
Blooming as Aden in its earliest hour. [39]
A thousand swords, with Selim's heart and hand,
Wait — wave — defend — destroy — at thy command!
Girt by my band, Zuleika at my side,
The spoil of nations shall bedeck my bride.
The Haram's languid years of listless ease
Are well resign'd for cares — for joys like these:
Not blind to fate, I see, where'er I rove,
Unnumber'd perils — but one only love!
Yet well my toils shall that fond beast repay,
Though fortune frown or falser friends betray.
How dear the dream in darkest hours of ill,
Should all be changed, to find thee faithful still!
Be but thy soul, like Selim's, firmly shown;
To thee be Selim's tender as thine own;
To soothe each sorrow, share in each delight,
Blend every thought, do all — but disunite!
Once free, 'tis mine our horde again to guide;
Friends to each other, foes to aught beside:
Yet there we follow but the bent assign'd
By fatal Nature to man's warring kind:
Mark! where his carnage and his conquests cease!
He makes a solitude, and calls itpeace!
I like the rest must use my skill or strength,
But ask no land beyond my sabre's length:
Power sways but by division — her resource
The blest alternative of fraud or force!
Ours be the last; in time deceit may come
When cities cage us in a social home:
There ev'n thy soul might err — how oft the heart
Corruption shakes which peril could not part!
And woman, more than man, when death or woe,
Or even disgrace, would lay her lover low,
Sunk in the lap of luxury will shame —
Away suspicion! — not Zuleika's name!
But life is hazard at the best; and here
No more remains to win, and much to fear:
Yes, fear! — the doubt, the dread of losing thee,
By Osman's power, and Giaffir's stern decree.
That dread shall vanish with the favouring gale,
Which Love to-night hath promised to my sail:
No danger daunts the pair his smile hath blest,
Their steps till roving, but their hearts at rest.
With thee all toils are sweet, each clime hath charms;
Earth — sea alike — our world within our arms!
Ay — let the loud winds whistle o'er the deck,
So that those arms cling closer round my neck:
The deepest murmur of this lip shall be
No sigh for safety, but a prayer for thee!
The war of elements no fears impart
To Love, whose deadliest bane is human Art:
There lie the only rocks our course can check;
Here moments menace — there are years of wreck!
But hence ye thoughts that rise in Horror's shape!
This hour bestows, or ever bars escape.
Few words remain of mine my tale to close:
Of thine but one to waft us from our foes;
Yea — foes — to me will Giaffir's hate decline?
And is not Osman, who would part us, thine?

XXI.

"His head and faith from doubt and death
Return'd in time my guard to save;
Few heard, none told, that o'er the wave
From isle to isle I roved the while:
And since, though parted from my band
Too seldom now I leave the land,
No deed they've done, nor deed shall do,
Ere I have heard and doom'd it too:
I form the plan, decree the spoil,
'Tis fit I oftener share the toil.
But now too long I've held thine ear;
Time presses, floats my bark, and here
We leave behind but hate and fear.
To-morrow Osman with his train
Arrives — to-night must break thy chain:
And wouldst thou save that haughty Bey,
Perchance, his life who gave the thine,
With me this hour away — away!
But yet, though thou art plighted mine,
Wouldst thou recall thy willing vow,
Appall'd by truth imparted now,
Here rest I — not to see thee wed:
But be that peril on my head!"

XXII.

Zuleika, mute and motionless,
Stood like that statue of distress,
When, her last hope for ever gone,
The mother harden'd into stone;
All in the maid that eye could see
Was but a younger Niobè.
But ere her lip, or even her eye,
Essay'd to speak, or look reply,
Beneath the garden's wicket porch
Far flash'd on high a blazing torch!
Another — and another — and another —
"Oh! — no more — yet now my more than brother!"
Far, wide, through every thicket spread,
The fearful lights are gleaming red;
Nor these alone — for each right hand
Is ready with a sheathless brand.
They part, pursue, return, and wheel
With searching flambeau, shining steel;
And last of all, his sabre waving,
Stern Giaffir in his fury raving:
And now almost they touch the cave —
Oh! must that grot be Selim's grave?

XXIII.

Dauntless he stood — "'Tis come — soon past —
One kiss, Zuleika — 'tis my last:
But yet my band not far from shore
May hear this signal, see the flash;
Yet now too few — the attempt were rash:
No matter — yet one effort more."
Forth to the cavern mouth he stept;
His pistol's echo rang on high,
Zuleika started not nor wept,
Despair benumb'd her breast and eye! —
"They hear me not, or if they ply
Their oars, 'tis but to see me die;
That sound hath drawn my foes more nigh.
Then forth my father's scimitar,
Thou ne'er hast seen less equal war!
Farewell, Zuleika! — Sweet! retire:
Yet stay within — here linger safe,
At thee his rage will only chafe.
Stir not — lest even to thee perchance
Some erring blade or ball should glance.
Fear'st though for him? — may I expire
If in this strife I seek thy sire!
No — though by him that poison pour'd:
No — though again he call me coward!
But tamely shall I meet their steel?
No — as each crest save his may feel!"

XXIV.

One bound he made, and gain'd the sand:
Already at his feet hath sunk
The foremost of the prying band,
A gasping head, a quivering trunk:
Another falls — but round him close
A swarming circle of his foes;
From right to left his path he cleft,
And almost met the meeting wave:
His boat appears — not five oars' length —
His comrades strain with desperate strength —
Oh! are they yet in time to save?
His feet the foremost breakers lave;
His band are plunging in the bay,
Their sabres glitter through the spray;
We — wild — unwearied to the strand
They struggle — now they touch the land!
They come — 'tis but to add to slaughter —
His heart's best blood is on the water!

XXV.

Escaped from shot, unharm'd by steel,
Or scarcely grazed its force to feel,
Had Selim won, betray'd, beset,
To where the strand and billows met:
There as his last step left the land,
And the last death-blow dealt his hand —
Ah! wherefore did he turn to look
For her his eye but sought in vain?
That pause, that fatal gaze he took,
Hath doom'd his death, or fix'd his chain.
Sad proof, in peril and in pain,
How late will Lover's hope remain!
His back was to the dashing spray;
Behind, but close, his comrades lay
When, at the instant, hiss'd the ball —
"So may the foes of Giaffir fall!"
Whose voice is heard? whose carbine rang?
Whose bullet through the night-air sang,
Too nearly, deadly aim'd to err?
'Tis thine — Abdallah's Murderer!
The father slowly rued thy hate,
The son hath found a quicker fate:
Fast from his breast the blood is bubbling,
The whiteness of the sea-foam troubling —
If aught his lips essay'd to groan,
The rushing billows choked the tone!

XXVI.

Morn slowly rolls the clouds away;
Few trophies of the fight are there:
The shouts that shook the midnight-bay
Are silent; but some signs of fray
That strand of strife may bear,
And fragments of each shiver'd brand;
Steps stamp'd; and dash'd into the sand
The print of many a struggling hand
May there be mark'd; nor far remote
A broken torch, an oarless boat;
And tangled on the weeds that heap
The beach where shelving to the deep
There lies a white capote!
'Tis rent in twain — one dark-red stain
The wave yet ripples o'er in vain:
But where is he who wore?
Ye! who would o'er his relics weep,
Go, seek them where the surges sweep
Their burthen round Sigæum's steep,
And cast on Lemnos' shore:
The sea-birds shriek above the prey,
O'er which their hungry beaks delay,
As shaken on his restless pillow,
His head heaves with the heaving billow;
That hand, whose motion is not life,
Yet feebly seems to menace strife,
Flung by the tossing tide on high,
Then levell'd with the wave —
What recks it, though that corse shall lie
Within a living grave?
The bird that tears that prostrate form
Hath only robb'd the meaner worm:
The only heart, the only eye
Had bled or wept to see him die,
Had seen those scatter'd limbs composed,
And mourn'd above his turban-stone, [40]
That heart hath burst — that eye was closed —
Yea — closed before his own!

XXVII.

By Helle's stream there is a voice of wail!
And woman's eye is wet — man's cheek is pale:
Zuleika! last of Giaffir's race,
Thy destined lord is come too late:
He sees not — ne'er shall see — thy face!
Can he not hear
The loud Wul-wulleh warn his distant ear? [41]
Thy handmaids weeping at the gate,
The Koran-chanters of the hymn of fate,
The silent slaves with folded arms that wait,
Sighs in the hall, and shrieks upon the gale,
Tell him thy tale!
Thou didst not view thy Selim fall!
That fearful moment when he left the cave
Thy heart grew chill:
He was thy hope — thy joy — thy love — thine all
And that last thought on him thou couldst not save
Sufficed to kill;

Burst forth in one wild cry — and all was still.
Peace to thy broken heart, and virgin grave!
Ah! happy! but of life to lose the worst!
That grief — though deep — though fatal — was thy first!
Thrice happy! ne'er to feel nor fear the force
Of absence, shame, pride, hate, revenge, remorse!
And, oh! that pang where more than madness lies!
The worm that will not sleep — and never dies;
Thought of the gloomy day and ghastly night,
That dreads the darkness, and yet loathes the light,
That winds around, and tears the quivering heart!
Ah! wherefore not consume itand depart!
Woe to thee, rash and unrelenting chief!
Vainly thou heap'st the dust upon thy head,
Vainly the sackcloth o'er thy limbs doth spread;
By that same hand Abdallah — Selim — bled.
Now let it tear thy beard in idle grief:
Thy pride of heart, thy bride for Osman's bed,
Thy Daughter's dead!
Hope of thine age, thy twilight's lonely beam,
The star hath set that shone on Helle's stream.
What quench'd its ray? — the blood that thou hast shed!
Hark! to the hurried question of Despair:
"Where is my child?" — an Echo answers — "Where?" [42]

XVIII.

Within the place of thousand tombs
That shine beneath, while dark above
The sad but living cypress glooms,
And withers not, though branch and leaf
Are stamp'd with an eternal grief,
Like early unrequited Love,
One spot exists, which ever blooms,
Ev'n in that deadly grove —
A single rose is shedding there
Its lonely lustre, meek and pale:
It looks as planted by Despair —
So white — so faint — the slightest gale
Might whirl the leaves on high;
And yet, though storms and blight assail,
And hands more rude than wintry sky
May wring it from the stem — in vain —
To-morrow sees it bloom again!
The stalk some spirit gently rears,
And waters with celestial tears;
For well may maids of Helle deem
That this can be no earthly flower,
Which mocks the tempest's withering hour,
And buds unshelter'd by a bower;
Nor droops, though spring refuse her shower,
Nor woos the summer beam:
To it the livelong night there sings
A bird unseen — but not remote:
Invisible his airy wings,
But soft as harp that Houri strings
His long entrancing note!
It were the Bulbul; but his throat,
Though mournful, pours not such a strain:
For they who listen cannot leave
The spot, but linger there and grieve,
As if they loved in vain!
And yet so sweet the tears they shed,
'Tis sorrow so unmix'd with dread,
They scarce can bear the morn to break
That melancholy spell,
And longer yet would weep and wake,
He sings so wild and well!
But when the day-blush bursts from high
Expires that magic melody.
And some have been who could believe,
(So fondly youthful dreams deceive,
Yet harsh be they that blame,)
That note so piercing and profound
Will shape and syllable its sound
Into Zuleika's name. [43]
'Tis from her cypress' summit heard,
That melts in air the liquid word;
'Tis from her lowly virgin earth
That white rose takes its tender birth.
There late was laid a marble stone;
Eve saw it placed — the Morrow gone!
It was no mortal arm that bore
That deep fixed pillar to the shore;
For there, as Helle's legends tell,
Next morn 'twas found where Selim fell;
Lash'd by the tumbling tide, whose wave
Denied his bones a holier grave:
And there by night, reclined, 'tis said,
Is seen a ghastly turban'd head:
And hence extended by the billow,
'Tis named the "Pirate-phantom's pillow!"
Where first it lay that mourning flower
Hath flourish'd; flourisheth this hour,
Alone and dewy, coldly pure and pale;
As weeping Beauty's cheek at Sorrow's tale.

(1) "Gúl," the rose.

(2) "Souls made of fire, and children of the Sun,
With whom revenge is virtue." — YOUNG'S "REVENGE."

(3) Mejnoun and Leila, the Romeo and Juliet of the East. Sadi, the moral set of Persia.

(4) "Tambour," Turkish drum, which sounds at sunrise, none, and twilight.

(5) The Turks abhor the Arabs (who return the compliment a hundred-fold) even more than they hate the Christians.

(6) This expression has met with objections. I will not refer to "Him who hath not Music in his soul," but merely request the reader to recollect, for ten seconds, the features of the woman whom he believes to be the most beautiful; and if he then does not comprehend fully what is feebly expressed in the above line, I shall be sorry for us both. For an eloquent passage in the latest work of the first female writer of this, perhaps of any age, on the analogy (and the immediate comparison excited by that analogy) between "painting and music," see vol. iii. cap. 10, "De L'Allemagne." And is not this connexion still stronger with the original than the copy? with the colouring of Nature than of Art? After all, this is rather to be felt than described; still, I think there are some who will understand it, at least they would have done had they beheld the countenance whose speaking harmony suggested the idea; for this passage is not drawn from imagination but memory, that mirror which Affliction dashes to the earth, and looking down upon the fragments, only beholds the reflection multiplied.

(7) Carasman Oglou, or Kara Osman Oglou, is the principle landholder in Turkey; he governs Magnesia. Those who, by a kind of feudal tenure, possess land on condition of service, are called Timariots; they serve as Spahis, according to the extent of territory, and bring a certain number into the field, generally cavalry.

(8) When a Pacha is sufficiently strong to resist, the single messenger, who is always the first bearer of the order for his death, is strangled instead, and sometimes five or six, one after the other, on the same errand, by command of the refractory patient; if, on the contrary, he is weak or loyal, he bows, kisses the Sultan's respectable signature, and is bowstrung with great complacency. In 1810, several of "these presents" were exhibited in the niche of the Seraglio gate: among others, the head of the Pacha of Bagdad, a brave young man, cut off by treachery, after a desperate resistance.

(9) Clapping of the hands calls the servants. The Turks hate a superfluous expenditure of voice, and they have no bells.

(10) "Chibouque," the Turkish pipe, of which the amber mouth-piece, and sometimes the ball which contains the leaf, is adorned with precious stones, if in possession of the wealthier orders.

(11) "Maugrabee," Moorish mercenaries.

(12) "Delis," bravoes who form the forlorn-hope of the cavalry, and always begin the action.

(13) A twisted fold of felt is used for scimitar practice by the Turks, and few but Mussulman arms can cut through it at a single stroke: sometimes a tough turban is used for the same purpose. The jerreed is a game of blunt javelins, animated and graceful.

(14) "Ollahs," Alla il Allah, the "Leilles," as the Spanish poets call them; the sound is Ollah; a cry of which the Turks, for a silent people, are somewhat profuse, particularly during the jerreed, or in the chase, but mostly in battle. Their animation in the field, and gravity in the chamber, with their pipes and comboloios, form an amusing contrast.

(15) "Atar-gúl," ottar of roses. The Persian is the finest.

(16) The ceiling and wainscots, or rather walls, of the Mussulman apartments are generally painted, in great houses, with one eternal and highly-coloured view of Constantinople, wherein the principle feature is a noble contempt of perspective; below, arms, scimitars, &c., are generally fancifully and not inelegantly disposed.

(17) It has been much doubted whether the notes of this "Lover of the rose are sad or merry; and Mr Fox's remarks on the subject have provoked some learned controversy as to the opinions of the ancients on the subject. I dare not venture a conjecture on the point, though a little inclined to the "errare [m?]alleum," &c., if Mr Fox was mistaken.

[Transcriber's note: the print impression I am working from is poor and in places not entirely intelligible.]

(18) "Azrael," the angel of death.

(19) The treasures of the Pre-Adamite Sultans. See D'Herbelot, article Istakar.

(20) "Musselim," a governor, the next in rank after a Pacha; a Waywode is the third; and then come the Agas.

(21) "Egripo" — the Negropont. According to the proverb, the Turks of Egrip, the Jews of Salonica, and the Greeks of Athens are the worst of their respective races.

(22) "Tchocadar," one of the attendants who precedes a man of authority.

(23) The wrangling about this epithet, "the broad Hellespont," or the "boundless Hellespont," whether it means one or the other, or what it means at all, has been beyond all possibility of detail. I have even heard it disputed on the spot; and not foreseeing a speedy conclusion to the controversy, amused myself by swimming across it in the meantime, and probably may again, before the point is settled. Indeed, the question as to the truth of "the tale of Troy divine" still continues, much of it resting upon the word {'ápeiros} [in Greek]: probably Homer had the same notion of distance that a coquette has of time, and when he talks of the boundless, means half a mile; as the latter, by a like figure, when she says eternal attachment, simply specifies three weeks.

(24) Before his Persian invasion, and crowned the altar with laurel, &c. He was afterwards imitated by Caracalla in his race. It is believed that the last also poisoned a friend, named Festus, for the sake of new Patroclan games. I have seen the sheep feeding on the tombs of Æsietes and Antilochos: the first is in the center of the plain.

(25) When rubbed, the amber is susceptible of a perfume, which is slight but not disagreeable.

(26) The belief in amulets engraved on gems, or enclosed in gold boxes, containing scraps from the Koran, worn round the neck, wrist, or arm, is still universal in the East. The Koorsee (throne) verse in the second chapter of the Koran describes the attributes of the Most High, and is engraved in this manner, and worn by the pious, as the most esteemed and sublime of all sentences.

(27) "Comboloio," a Turkish rosary. The MSS., particularly those of the Persians, are richly adorned and illuminated. The Greek females are kept in utter ignorance; but many of the Turkish girls are highly accomplished, though not actually qualified for a Christian coterie. Perhaps some of our own "blues" might not be the worse for bleaching.

(28) "Galiongée," or Galiongi, a sailor, that is, a Turkish sailor; the Greeks navigate, the Turks work the guns. Their dress is picturesque; and I have seen the Capitan Pacha more than once wearing it as a kind of incog. Their legs, however, are generally naked. The buskins described in the text as sheathed behind with silver are those of an Arnaut robber, who was my host (he had quitted the profession) at his Pyrgo, near Gastouni in the Morea; they were plated in scales one over the other, like the back of an armadillo.

(29) The characters on all Turkish scimitars contain sometimes the name of the place of their manufacture, but more generally a text from the Koran, in letters of gold. Amongst those in my possession is one with a blade of singular construction; it is very broad, and the edge notched into serpentine curves like the ripple of water, or the wavering of flame. I asked the Armenian who sold it what possible use such a figure could add: he said, in Italian, that he did not know; but the Mussulmans had an idea that those of this form gave a severer wound; and liked it because it was "piu feroce." I did not much admire the reason, but bought it for its peculiarity.

(30) It is to be observed, that every allusion to anything or personage in the Old Testament, such as the Ark, or Cain, is equally the privilege of Mussulman and Jew: indeed, the former profess to be much better acquainted with the lives, true and fabulous, of the patriarchs, than is warranted by our own sacred writ; and not content with Adam, they have a biography of Pre-Adamites. Solomon is the monarch of all necromancy, and Moses a prophet inferior only to Christ and Mohammed. Zuleika is the Persian name of Potiphar's wife; and her amour with Joseph constitutes one of the finest poems in their language. It is, therefore, no violation of costume to put the names of Cain, or Noah, into the mouth of a Moslem.

(31) Paswan Oglou, the rebel of Widdin; who, for the last years of his life, set the whole power of the Porte at defiance.

(32) "Horse-tail," the standard of a Pacha.

(33) Giaffir, Pacha of Argyro Castro, or Scutari, I am not sure which, was actually taken off by the Albanian Ali, in the manner described in the text. Ali Pacha, while I was in the country, married the daughter of his victim, some years after the event had taken place at a bath in Sophia, or Adrianople. The poison was mixed in

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

Share

Tamar

I
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.

The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
shipwrecked horseman
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
grew daylight
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
Far seaward
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,
His mother, who was dead. He thought 'If I had a month or two
of life yet
I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm finished,
mother, mother,
I'm sorry.' After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst
until the sundown
Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing
him up the cliff.

His sister Tamar
Nursed him in the big westward bedroom
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. 'O Tamar
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar,
It would be better for me to be a cripple,
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey,
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar.
We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea,
And up in the hills and watch the spring come home.'

Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing,
There is little more to say for it when you've said
Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December
Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar
Was with him, and his mind ran on her name,
But she was saying, 'We laugh at poor Aunt Stella
With her spirit
visitors: Lee, something told her truth.
Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone
Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night,
I went to the room, she told me
She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach
By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb.'
'I was up Tassajara way,' he answered,
'Far from the sea.' 'We were glad when you rode home
Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen,
She said she watched the stars flying over you
In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look
Out of her window southward, where I saw
The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead
With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,'
She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.'
'Tamar, Tamar,
Winter is over, visions are over and vanished,
The fields are winking full of poppies,
In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises.'

The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring
from the south; Lee Cauldwell
Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers;
he was miserably lonely and vacant,
He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor
And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farmwork,
rain would come and hinder?
He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind,
and felt the ocean pounding granite.
His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the
eastern chamber; when the storm
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose
and made a light, and lighted
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him,
he had seen too many; he dressed
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard
on one side Stella Moreland,
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny
Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind
and mostly sleepless; in the other
Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare
Within the house answered to storm without.
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside
With her dear brother, who said 'Here's where I fell,
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff,
You can see blood still on the boulders.' Where he vanished to
She could not tell, nor why she was crying 'Lee. No.
No dearest brother, dearest brother no.' But she cried vainly,
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves,
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her,
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.
'When it rains it will be quieter,' Tamar thought. She slept
again, all night not a drop fell.
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up
the sky from the overhanging
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed
at last and ran down on the sea.

II
Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter
pasture up in the hills.
A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty
of canyon wildflowers, water
Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, blackoaks
smoldering with foliage
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood
glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills,
their horns to the wind,
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland
over Wildcat Canyon,
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point Lobos
Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar.
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, 'Listen, Bill Andrews,
We've had gay times together and ridden at night.
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister.
Better keep off the place.' 'I will,' said the other,
'When Tamar tells me to.' 'You think my bones
Aren't mended yet, better keep off.' Lee Cauldwell
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell,
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered:
'I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll
be riding
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time.'
'No, I've had all I want, I'm staying
At home now, evenings.' 'Don't do it; better dance your pony
down the cliffs again than close
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn
out, but I remember
Hell's in the box.' Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of
thought was hidden awhile in words,
An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a
candle. A space, and he was saying,
'Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there,
and you'll be going headforemost
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I
mayn't be living
To see you home or hear you're killed.' Lee, smiling at him,
'A soldier's what I won't be, father.' That night
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator
Duelling with a German above a battle
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror.
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling,
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.

III
They two had unbridled the horses
And tied them with long halters near the thicket
Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east
Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit
On the right and looked across the sea.
The steep path down, 'What are we for?' said Tamar wearily,
'to want and want and not dare know it.'
'Because I dropped the faded irises,' Lee answered, 'you're unhappy.
They were all withered, Tamar.
We have grown up in the same house.' 'The withered house
Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No
wonder if we go mad, no wonder.'
They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, 'Sweet, green and cool,
After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee?
Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my
brother. And then
I will stand guard for you.' The murmur and splash of water
made his fever fierier; something
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see
the round arm and clear throat
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking
'O we are beasts, a beast, what am I for?
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on
the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous?
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and
avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister.
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken.'
Meanwhile Tamar
Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water
Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples,
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow.
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar
Thought, 'If I saw a snake in the water he would come now
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears
Me I believe.' Was it the wild rock coast
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar,
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident,
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural,
Though all other license were; and surely her face
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. 'Tamar?'
He answered, and she answered, 'Nothing. A snake in the water
Frightened me.' And again she called his name.
'What is it, Tamar?' 'Nothing. It is cold in the water.
Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head.
Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company.
I won't look till you're in.' He came, trembling.
He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not
Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars
Of the old wound on his leg. 'Come, Lee, I'm freezing.
Come, I won't look.' He saw the clear-skinned shoulders
And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body
In the watery floor under the cave of foliage,
And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes
Under the auburn hair, streamed. 'Lee.
We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself;
If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee
When we were children.' 'Tamar, what is it, what is it?'
'Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think
Another thing.' She slipped face down and lay
In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward
Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders
Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms
Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm
Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire,
So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back
By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy.
The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay
pale and quiet
And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her
and was ashamed to.
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth
stone, the blue eyes were half open,
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love.
One of her arms crushed both her breasts,
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the
roots of die soft grass. 'Tamar,'
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered,
'We have it, we have it. Now I know.
It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again.' He said,
'What shall I do? Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, shivering.
'It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself
again. O brother, brother,
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn.
I love you, I chose my teacher.
Mine, it was my doing.' She flung herself upon him, cold white
and smooth, with sobbing kisses.
'I am so cold, dearest, dearest.' The horses at the canyon mouth
tugged at their halters,
Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight
They came to the old house.

IV
When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind,
then Stella Moreland
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the
dark egged on her dreams to vision,
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This
was the vaporous portion
She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken loneliness,
little loved, nursing an idiot,
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks.
(O torture of needled branches
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind
or the southwind or the northwest.
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on
patrol, alternate giants
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but
here at Lobos the winds are torturers,
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old
woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the
northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant,
Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier
presences in her visions.) Tamar
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among
the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes,
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids,
played back the girl's blown candle
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and
it made them, saw her. 'Ah, Helen,'
Cried out the entranced lips, 'We thought you were tired of the
wind, we thought you never came now.
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show
him your beauty, call him with kisses.
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but
he is your lover and your brother.'
'I am not Helen,' she said, 'what Helen, what Helen?' 'Who
was not the wife but the sister of her man,
Mine was his wife.' 'My mother?' 'And now he is an old hulk
battered ashore. Show him your beauty,
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the
cave. What if the beard is slimy
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you
dead women.' But Tamar clutching
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the
old woman groaned but would not waken,
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot
striped it, then with a scream
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed.
Tamar found place for the candle
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken
a second answer
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone.
But the idiot waked and chuckled,
Waved both hands at the candle saying, 'My little star, my little
star, come little star.'
And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was
bending
Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal
Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder
The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father
Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth
Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries,
And he said, 'What is it, Tamar?' 'She was screaming in a
dream,
I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron.
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?'
'Helen? Helen?' he answered slowly and Tamar
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble.
'It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women.'
Old Jinny clapped her hands, 'Little star, little star,
Twinkle all night!' and the stiff form on the bed began to speak,
In a changed voice and from another mode of being
And spirit of thought: 'I cannot think that you have forgotten.
I was walking on the far side of the moon,
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot.
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted
Too near our blood,
And to tangle the interbranching net of generations
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me
And now he is old forgets mine.' 'You are that Helen,'
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from,
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, 'What Helen? This
man's . . .
Sister, this body was saying?' 'By as much more
As you are of your brother.' 'Why,' laughed Tamar trembling,
'Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we
Nothing but children.' Then the old man: 'Lies, lies, lies.
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died.
Your mother and this old woman always hated her,
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature
To die of it, Lily and Stella.' 'It makes me nothing,
My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires,'
Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said,
'Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella,
The voices in her have no minds.' 'Poor little Tamar,'
Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern,
'Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead
Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves
I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited
Was laid to catch you when the world began,
Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait.
But you are the luckier, no one came home to me
To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory,
And that can be endured.' The room was quiet a moment,
And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot
Jinny Cauldwell
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she
was twelve years old her mind's cage
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening
cloth when lamps are lighted,
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but
caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood,
She in her crumpled voice: 'I'd rather play with Helen, go away
Stella. Stella pinches me,
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters.' 'Jinny,
Jinny,'
Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earthquake,
'do you remember, Jinny?'
'Jinny don't like the old man,' she answered, 'give me the star,
give me my star,'
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, 'why have
they taken my little star?
Helen would give it to Jinny.' Then Stella waking from the
trance sighed and arose to quiet her
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, 'You were screaming
in your sleep.' 'I had great visions.
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have
the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny.
Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep
now.' Old Cauldwell tottering
Went to his room; then Tamar said, 'You were talking about
his sister Helen, my aunt Helen,
You never told me about her.' 'She has been dead for forty
years, what should we tell you about her?
Now little Jinny, pretty sister,' And laying her hands upon the
mattress of the bed
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song.
Tamar stood vainly waiting
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not
sleep went to her room and heard it
Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lullabies;
not quiet till daylight.

V
O swiftness of the swallow and strength
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons,
Beauty of the blue heron that flies
Opposite the color of evening
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle,
beauty of the fountains of the sun
1 pray you enter a little chamber,
I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets,
I have made idols for God to enter
And tiny cells to hold your honey.
I have given you a dotard and an idiot,
An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with incest,
O blower of music through the crooked bugles,
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels,
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps,
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols
To enter and possess.
Tamar, finding no hope,
Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead
And found half-scornful pity and found her sin
Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame
And secrecy in silence, and her lover
Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night
In serviceable safety. They learned, these two,
Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint
Of vague and possible wreck every transgression
Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue
Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene
To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women
Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning,
How could she color such love with perplexed fear?
Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner
Feeling the plant of unescapable fate
Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water
To compass love might enter again to escape
Love's fruit; 'But O, but O,' she thought, 'not to die now.
It is less than half a year
Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls
My lover has known
She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless,
How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin
Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water.
A love sterile and sacred as the stars.
I will tell my lover, he will make me safe,
He will find means . . .
Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman
. . . Unhappy. Miserable,' she sobbed, 'miserable,
The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot
Better to breathe.'
When Lee was not by her side
She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far origin
Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below.
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor
Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream,
unrelative in emotion
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent
layer that seemed all night continuous,
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions
gathered on that house
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering
strange waters), brown-skinned families
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea,
they kindled fires by knobs of granite
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of,
not only around Point Lobos
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock;
Tamar saw the huddled bodies
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was
throbbing music meant for daylight
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing;
then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers,
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
and hearing the universal music
Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English-speakers
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
among them Tamar saw her mother
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and
the universal music
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father
from that flood and saved him,
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful
and white, not fallen to ruin
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him
enter the door, when he had entered
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river
to the sea and to Point Lobos.
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter
surface layer but seeming senseless.
The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said 'because the
moon is lost.' Tamar looked up
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and
the people in the moon would perish
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded
in the face came saying
'Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you.'
Wakening, Tamar thought about him
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was
another man came through her dream,
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee
having ridden to Mill Creek
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass,
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony,
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes,
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing)
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river
And all the air was rich with ripening apples.
She would not go to the house; she did not find
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours,
And on the Carmel bridge above the water
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen,
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves,
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought.
'Tamar,' he said, 'I've been to see you.' 'You hadn't
For a long time.' 'I had some trouble with Lee,
I thought you didn't want me.' While they talked
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable?
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . .
'I didn't want you, you thought?' 'Lee said so.' 'You might
have waited
Till Tamar said so.' 'Well,' he answered, 'I've been,
And neither of you was home but now I've met you.'
Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes;
Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders,
And sitting the horse well 'O I can do it, I can do it,
Help me, God,' murmured Tamar in her mind,
'How else what else can I do?' and said, 'Luck, isn't it?
What did you want to see me about?' 'I wanted . . .
Because I ... like you, Tamar.' 'Why should I be careful,'
She thought, 'if I frighten him off what does it matter,
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Let's go down
Into the willow,' she said, 'we needn't be seen
Talking and someone tell him and make trouble
Here on the bridge.' They went to the hidden bank
Under the deep green willows, colored water
Stagnated on its moss up to the stems,
Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle
As quietly as the long unwhitening wave
Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses,
'I have been lonely,' she said. 'Not for me, Tamar.'
'You think not? Will, now that all's over
And likely we'll not see each other again
Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . .'
'What, Tamar?' 'There've been moments . . . hours then . .
When anything you might have asked me for
Would have been given, I'd have done anything
You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will.
I'm telling you this so that you may remember me
As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet
So many others.' 'But now' he meant to ask,
'Now it's too late, Tamar?' and hadn't courage,
And Tamar thought 'Must I go farther and say more?
Let him despise me as I despise myself.
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Now?' she said.
'Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will,
you have grown
Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer;
And carefuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child.
Would I be with you here in the green thicket
If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will,
I'd think it was no harm.' She had laid her hand
On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing,
And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind,
'He is only a little boy but if he turns pale
I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color.
If he reddens I’ve lost and it's no matter.' He did not move
And seemed not to change color and Tamar said,
'Now I must go. Lee will be home soon.
How soft the ground is in the willow shadow.
I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me
Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed
To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me.
Good-bye.' But when she turned he caught her by the arm,
She sickened inward, thinking, 'Now it has come.
I have called and called it and I can't endure it.
Ah. A dumb beast.' But he had found words now and said,
'How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden
The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have
Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar,
You can't go now, you can't.' She unresisting
Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair
And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her
To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow.
He laid her there and kneeling by her: 'You said you trusted me.
You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well
I would cut my hands off not to harm you.' But she,
Driven by the inward spark of life and dreading
Its premature maturity, could not rest
On harmless love, there were no hands to help
In the innocence of love, and like a vision
Came to her the memory of that other lover
And how he had fallen a farther depth
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far
From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off
His kisses and stood up weeping and cried
'It's no use, why will you love me till I cry?
Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't
Sour the three years he has before he dies.'
'I'll wait for you,' said the boy, 'wait years, Tamar.' Then Tamar
Hiding her face against his throat
So that he felt the tears whispered, 'But I ...'
She sobbed, 'Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . .
When I made my soul naked for you
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame
I was ashamed to uncover.' She pressed her mouth
Between the muscles of his breast: 'I want you and want you.
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man.
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away
And I've . . . earned it.' 'Tamar, I swear by God
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you
With all my life.' 'This is our marriage,' Tamar answered.
'But God would have been good to me to have killed me
Before I told you.' The boy feeling her body
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him
That moment; when he awakened she was lying
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass,
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. 'O Tamar,'
Murmured the boy, 'I love you, I love you. What shall I do?
Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, thinking
'That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least,' and
said, 'There is nothing to do, nothing.
It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too
was to blame a little.
But I didn't mean . . . this.' 'I know,' he said, 'it was my
fault, I would kill myself, Tamar,
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar.' 'Loved? You have hurt
me and broken me, the house is broken
And any thief can enter it.' 'O Tamar!' 'You have broken
our crystal innocence, we can never
Look at each other freely again.' 'What can I do, Tamar?'
'Nothing. I don't know. Nothing.
Never come to the farm to see me.' 'Where can I see you,
Tamar?' 'Lee is always watching me,
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll
put a lamp in my window,
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up
by the cypress. I must go home,
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than
I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul,
I am your tame bird now.'

VI
This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white
vapors
Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills;
daily the insufferable sun
Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transparent
ways of the air drained gray
The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed.
The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with
hateful sunlight, waiting rain.
Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty-hooded
summer had fed
Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned
foul, the rock-flowers faded,
And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season.
Walking beside the house-wall
Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the
cypress bark, where Andrews
Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire
by water
Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with
fire, so her self-hatred
Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world
growing hateful, both her lovers
Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all.
The heat of the season
Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose
rock, they call them thousand-leggers,
They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking underfoot
with a bad odor, and dropped
Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous.
Also the sweet and female sea
Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormorant's
wing-claps half a mile off shore;
The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain
in October or November
Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the
female fury abiding
In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost-seer.
'Listen to me, Aunt Stella.
I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella,
will you help me?' That old woman
Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for
her talent. 'Dear Tamar, I will help you.
We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and painful
for me.' 'I am in the darkness
Already, a fiery darkness.' 'The good spirits will guide you,
it is easy for you; for me, death.
Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them.' 'Death's no bad
thing,' she answered, 'each hour of the day
Has more teeth.' 'Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits
will help you and teach you.' 'Aunt Stella,
To-night, to-night?' 'I groan when I go down to death, your
father and brother will come and spoil it.'
'In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea.' 'Well,
in the evening.' 'If they talk to us
I'll buy you black silk and white lace.'

In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old
Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle.
Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny
among the rubble granite
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else
would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the
darkness. 'Here,' said Tamar, 'I made you
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie
beside you, Aunt Stella,
I’ll lay the rug over you both.' They lay on the odorous kelp,
Tamar squatted beside them,
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the
west between the cliff-butts
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening.
The sea and the three women
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret
of her taut nerves,
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but
both were voiceless. Tamar
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop,
for it seemed to her a wandering power
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible
pressed itself for entrance
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced
backward and lay panting, the assault
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard
her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under
the cliff seemed full of persons
With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's
and her trail in the long water.
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, 'Que quieres
pobrecita?' and Tamar, 'Morir,'
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said,
'Es porque no entiendo,
Anything but ingles.' To which he answered, 'Ah pobrecita,'
and was silent. And Tamar
Cried, 'I will talk to that Helen.' But instead another male throat
spoke out of the woman's
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing
voice, yet not to her own:
'An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their
Gods and the tall Gods came walking
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance
and he will sing, and his Gods
Come walking.' Tamar answered, crying, 'I will not, I will
not, tell him to go away and let me
Talk to that Helen.' But old Stella after a silence: 'He says No,
no, the pregnant women
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's
ghosts nor will they endure another
Unless they are pleased.' And Tamar said, 'I cannot dance,
drive him away,' but while she said it
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the
fastenings of her garments.
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the
male voice chanted
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her
beauty
Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores
Watch moonrises as white as hers
When the half-moon about midnight
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven:
So Tamar weeping
Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness,
And danced on the naked shore
Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks,
Danced with slow steps and streaming hair,
Dark and slender
Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly
Dancing and weeping . . .
It seemed to her that all her body
Was touched and troubled with polluting presences
Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers
She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin,
Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead
tribe
Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping,
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed,
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness,
Kindling with lust and wilder
Coarseness of insolent gestures,
The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men
Or Gods walking the tide-marks,
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening,
Agape to be entered, as the earth
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn
valleys
At the end of summer
Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain,
So her body gone mad
Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had
bruised them,
And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line.
Darkness
Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella
Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and parroted
to herself, there was none but the idiot
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along
the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows,
swaggering along the tide-marks
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that
fallen flower; for fear or feebleness
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium
of this infamy. Only
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back
bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice
she had cried for. 'I am your Helen.
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and
milder ceremonies to summon me.
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us
to wait on the maniac living
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power.'
And Tamar murmured, 'I had nothing,
Desire nor power.' And Helen, 'Humbler than you were. She
has been humbled, my little Tamar.
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and
half a dozen savages,
Dead, and dressed up for Gods.' 'I have endured it,' she answered.
Then the sweet disdainful voice
In the throat of the old woman: 'As for me, I chose rather to
die.' 'How can I kill
A dead woman,' said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips,
but the other listened to thought
And answered, 'O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But,
Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling.
I have heard the wiser flights
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our
Father above the star-fire,
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.'
Tamar, kneeling, drew the
thickness of her draggled hair
Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and
like a snake lifting its head
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, 'It
will live, and my father's
Bitch be proved a liar.' And the voice answered, and the tone
of the voice smiled, 'Her words
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were
many of us to watch the dance you danced there,
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff; your mother, who
used to hate me, was among us, Tamar.
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the
same. We two shared one? You, Tamar,
Are shared by many.' And Tamar: 'This is your help, I dug
down to you secret dead people
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more?
How it feels when the last liquid morsel
Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that burrows
up through the eye-socket, or thrill
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking
dead. That you have no shame
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs
were wet with dead beasts' drippings
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I
cannot touch you I tell you
There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire,
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and
burning for clothing. It is God
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in,
where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer,
A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it,
And pointed bones are at the doors
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things,
nothing would ever clean them
But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river.' 'You
danced, Tamar,' replied
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, 'and
now your song is like your dance,
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you,
Before you came down by the sea to dance,
That lit a candle in your closet and laid
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching.
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap,
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar,
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch
Anything in that house.' 'If you know everything,'
Cried Tamar, 'tell me where to go.
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen.
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours,
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison.
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I,
Betrayed by life and death.' Like rain breaking a storm
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight
And little noises of the rising tide
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence
And dignity of the world. She was white stone,
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away
Whatever is rounded and approachable
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal,
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel,
Saying, 'Have you anything more inside you
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices?
You can do better than my father's by-play
And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people
Have died surely. T have so passed nature
That God himself, who's dead or all these devils
Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you
Last season thunder and not scare me.' Old Stella
Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her
Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling
Began to mimic a storm, 'whoo-whoo' for wind
And 'boom-boom-boom' for thunder. Other voices
Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly
The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets
Sleepy cormorants cried at it. 'Why, now He speaks
Another way than out of the fat throat,'
Cried Tamar, and prayed, 'O strong and clean and terrible
Spirit and not father punish the hateful house.
Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast
Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers
And into the woods and into the stable, show them,
These liars, that you are alive.' Across her voice
The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it,
And shouts above the cliff. 'Look, Jinny, look,'
Cried Tamar, 'the sky'd be red soon, come and we'll dress
And watch the bonfire.' Yet she glanced no thought
At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering
The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove
Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile
The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan,
And in the sudden quietness, 'Tamar,' she said
In the known voice of Helen so many years
Dead, 'though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I
Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied
Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh
Before your mother gave the clay to my lover
To mould you a vessel to hold them.' Tamar, winding
Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh
Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, 'Why then
Do you trouble whom you don't hate?' 'Because we hunger
And hunger for life,' she answered. 'Did I come uncalled?
You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded
And passionate life than any other creature.
How could I ever leave you while the life lasts?
God pity us both, a cataract life
Dashing itself to pieces in an instant.
You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you.
I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us.
Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting
The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon,
While the second death
Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end.'
But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily
Decking old Jinny for the festival fire,
And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook
Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain
Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror
Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously,
'Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?' and thinking,
'She hears when Jinny whimpers,' twistingly pinched
Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella
Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes
No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in
Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now
Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves
And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming
Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls
That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella
Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her,
Not personal like the other, and shook her body
And shook her hands: 'It was no good to do too soon, your
fire's out, you'd been patient for me
It might have saved two fires.' But Tamar: 'Stella.
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella.
O pain, pain, help me.' And the voice: 'She is mine while I
use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain.' And
Tamar, 'What are you, what are you, mocking me?
More dirt and another dead man? O,' she moaned, pressing her
flanks with both her hands, and bending
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered,
'Not a voice from carrion.
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and
waters, if you had waited for me
You'd be the luckier.' 'What shall I give you?' Tamar cried,
'I have given away'
Pain stopped her, and then
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor
saw nothing. A little later
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking.

Tamar's mind and suffering
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor
in her own room; but she was lying
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his
fall, in the big westward bedroom.
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who
nursed her, and in the other
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old
Stella. After the ache of awakening
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house,
she lay thinking with vacant wonder
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the
leaves of a tree
Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea-cliff
and carried up to be laid
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with
ghosts before they found him, a gang
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body,
piercing him? 'Stella,' she whispered,
'Have I been sick long?' 'There, sweetheart, lie still; three or
four days.' 'Has Lee been in to see me?'
'Indeed he has, hours every day.' 'He'll come, then,' and she
closed her eyes and seemed to sleep.
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said,
'Come, Lee.' But her old father
Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar
had closed her eyes. In a little
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by
the bed. 'Why don't you speak,
Lee?' And he said, 'What can I say except I love you, sister?'
'Why do you call me sister,
Not Tamar?' And he answered, 'I love you, Tamar.' Then old
Aunt Stella said, 'See, she's much better.
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss
her, Lee, and let her rest.'
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow,
meaning to kiss the forehead.
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while
Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to
untwine the arms that yoked his neck,
The old man, rising: 'I opened the Book last night thinking
about the sorrows of this house,
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie
with her, nevertheless the damsel
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to
save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy.' 'David,
David,
Will you be gone and let her rest now,' cried old Stella, 'do
you mean to kill her with a bible?'
'Woman,' he answered, 'has God anything to do with you?
She will not die, the Book
Opened and said it.' Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow
and said, 'Go, go. To-morrow
Say all you please; what does it matter?' And the old man said,
'Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us.'
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it,
but went out ahead of his father.
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the
stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid,
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel
spring in her throat but weakness
And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, 'What
does he mean to do? Go away?
Kill himself, Stella?' Stella answered, 'Nothing, nothing, they
talk, it's to keep David quiet.
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you,
little Tamar, smile and be sleepy,
Scold them to-morrow.' 'Shut the sun out of my eyes then,'
Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they
needed to let in one beam
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About
the hour of sundown
Tamar was dreaming trivially an axman chopping down a tree
and field-mice scampering
Out of the roots when suddenly like a shift of wind the dream
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming
out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of
the war in France,
Carrying torches. When they passed Mal Paso Creek the columns
Veered, one of the riders said, 'Here it began,' but another
answered, 'No. Before the granite
Was bedded to build the world on.' So they formed and galloped
north again, hurrying squadrons,
And Tamar thought, 'When they come to the Carmel River
then it will happen. They have passed Mal Paso.'

Meanwhile
Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the
keels, a passion blows its bulkless
Navies of vision? High up in the hills
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds,
stood in his cabin doorway
Rolling a cigarette a half-hour after sundown, and he felt puffs
from the south
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the
year was turning at last, and shortly
There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred
yards to westward, where a point of the hill
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw
Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening
Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house roof
breaking up through the blackness
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The
evening darkened. Southwestward
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mal
Paso. Suddenly a nebular company
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of
a car sweeping the road,
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light,
hurrying northward,
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted
twelve or thirteen companies
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the
headlong ridge like level ground,
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, helmeted,
cantering the headlong ridge
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the
early war, they must be Germans.

Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying,
'Dear sister Helen, kiss me
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your
clothes off and you kissed him
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss
me.' Tamar lay rigid,
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that
under the shell of imbecility
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were
waking flashes, and more often
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of
clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food
for passion listened to her,
And heard: 'Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd
rather I didn't. Darling Helen,
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with
you if he wanted to.
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you.' All
she said after was so mumbled
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and
old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it
seemed to Tamar
A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands
And join itself with a fluid power
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny?
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor,
And floated to the place he had brought it from
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed,
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches,
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling,
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone
Saying 'Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile
Into the horse-corral.' Then Tamar thought
'The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my
hatred,
Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it.
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow

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

Share

The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 10

THE GATES of heav’n unfold: Jove summons all
The gods to council in the common hall.
Sublimely seated, he surveys from far
The fields, the camp, the fortune of the war,
And all th’ inferior world. From first to last, 5
The sov’reign senate in degrees are plac’d.
Then thus th’ almighty sire began: “Ye gods,
Natives or denizens of blest abodes,
From whence these murmurs, and this change of mind,
This backward fate from what was first design’d? 10
Why this protracted war, when my commands
Pronounc’d a peace, and gave the Latian lands?
What fear or hope on either part divides
Our heav’ns, and arms our powers on diff’rent sides?
A lawful time of war at length will come, 15
(Nor need your haste anticipate the doom),
When Carthage shall contend the world with Rome,
Shall force the rigid rocks and Alpine chains,
And, like a flood, come pouring on the plains.
Then is your time for faction and debate, 20
For partial favor, and permitted hate.
Let now your immature dissension cease;
Sit quiet, and compose your souls to peace.”
Thus Jupiter in few unfolds the charge;
But lovely Venus thus replies at large: 25
“O pow’r immense, eternal energy,
(For to what else protection can we fly?)
Seest thou the proud Rutulians, how they dare
In fields, unpunish’d, and insult my care?
How lofty Turnus vaunts amidst his train, 30
In shining arms, triumphant on the plain?
Ev’n in their lines and trenches they contend,
And scarce their walls the Trojan troops defend:
The town is fill’d with slaughter, and o’erfloats,
With a red deluge, their increasing moats. 35
Æneas, ignorant, and far from thence,
Has left a camp expos’d, without defense.
This endless outrage shall they still sustain?
Shall Troy renew’d be forc’d and fir’d again?
A second siege my banish’d issue fears, 40
And a new Diomede in arms appears.
One more audacious mortal will be found;
And I, thy daughter, wait another wound.
Yet, if with fates averse, without thy leave,
The Latian lands my progeny receive, 45
Bear they the pains of violated law,
And thy protection from their aid withdraw.
But, if the gods their sure success foretell;
If those of heav’n consent with those of hell,
To promise Italy; who dare debate 50
The pow’r of Jove, or fix another fate?
What should I tell of tempests on the main,
Of Æolus usurping Neptune’s reign?
Of Iris sent, with Bacchanalian heat
T’ inspire the matrons, and destroy the fleet? 55
Now Juno to the Stygian sky descends,
Solicits hell for aid, and arms the fiends.
That new example wanted yet above:
An act that well became the wife of Jove!
Alecto, rais’d by her, with rage inflames 60
The peaceful bosoms of the Latian dames.
Imperial sway no more exalts my mind;
(Such hopes I had indeed, while Heav’n was kind
Now let my happier foes possess my place,
Whom Jove prefers before the Trojan race; 65
And conquer they, whom you with conquest grace.
Since you can spare, from all your wide command,
No spot of earth, no hospitable land,
Which may my wand’ring fugitives receive;
(Since haughty Juno will not give you leave 70
Then, father, (if I still may use that name,)
By ruin’d Troy, yet smoking from the flame,
I beg you, let Ascanius, by my care,
Be freed from danger, and dismiss’d the war:
Inglorious let him live, without a crown. 75
The father may be cast on coasts unknown,
Struggling with fate; but let me save the son.
Mine is Cythera, mine the Cyprian tow’rs:
In those recesses, and those sacred bow’rs,
Obscurely let him rest; his right resign 80
To promis’d empire, and his Julian line.
Then Carthage may th’ Ausonian towns destroy,
Nor fear the race of a rejected boy.
What profits it my son to scape the fire,
Arm’d with his gods, and loaded with his sire; 85
To pass the perils of the seas and wind;
Evade the Greeks, and leave the war behind;
To reach th’ Italian shores; if, after all,
Our second Pergamus is doom’d to fall?
Much better had he curb’d his high desires, 90
And hover’d o’er his ill-extinguish’d fires.
To Simois’ banks the fugitives restore,
And give them back to war, and all the woes before.”
Deep indignation swell’d Saturnia’s heart:
And must I own,” she said, “my secret smart— 95
What with more decence were in silence kept,
And, but for this unjust reproach, had slept?
Did god or man your fav’rite son advise,
With war unhop’d the Latians to surprise?
By fate, you boast, and by the gods’ decree, 100
He left his native land for Italy!
Confess the truth; by mad Cassandra, more
Than Heav’n inspir’d, he sought a foreign shore!
Did I persuade to trust his second Troy
To the raw conduct of a beardless boy, 105
With walls unfinish’d, which himself forsakes,
And thro’ the waves a wand’ring voyage takes?
When have I urg’d him meanly to demand
The Tuscan aid, and arm a quiet land?
Did I or Iris give this mad advice, 110
Or made the fool himself the fatal choice?
You think it hard, the Latians should destroy
With swords your Trojans, and with fires your Troy!
Hard and unjust indeed, for men to draw
Their native air, nor take a foreign law! 115
That Turnus is permitted still to live,
To whom his birth a god and goddess give!
But yet ’t is just and lawful for your line
To drive their fields, and force with fraud to join;
Realms, not your own, among your clans divide, 120
And from the bridegroom tear the promis’d bride;
Petition, while you public arms prepare;
Pretend a peace, and yet provoke a war!
’T was giv’n to you, your darling son to shroud,
To draw the dastard from the fighting crowd, 125
And, for a man, obtend an empty cloud.
From flaming fleets you turn’d the fire away,
And chang’d the ships to daughters of the sea.
But ’t is my crime—the Queen of Heav’n offends,
If she presume to save her suff’ring friends! 130
Your son, not knowing what his foes decree,
You say, is absent: absent let him be.
Yours is Cythera, yours the Cyprian tow’rs,
The soft recesses, and the sacred bow’rs.
Why do you then these needless arms prepare, 135
And thus provoke a people prone to war?
Did I with fire the Trojan town deface,
Or hinder from return your exil’d race?
Was I the cause of mischief, or the man
Whose lawless lust the fatal war began? 140
Think on whose faith th’ adult’rous youth relied;
Who promis’d, who procur’d, the Spartan bride?
When all th’ united states of Greece combin’d,
To purge the world of the perfidious kind,
Then was your time to fear the Trojan fate: 145
Your quarrels and complaints are now too late.”
Thus Juno. Murmurs rise, with mix’d applause,
Just as they favor or dislike the cause.
So winds, when yet unfledg’d in woods they lie,
In whispers first their tender voices try, 150
Then issue on the main with bellowing rage,
And storms to trembling mariners presage.
Then thus to both replied th’ imperial god,
Who shakes heav’n’s axles with his awful nod.
(When he begins, the silent senate stand 155
With rev’rence, list’ning to the dread command:
The clouds dispel; the winds their breath restrain;
And the hush’d waves lie flatted on the main.)
“Celestials, your attentive ears incline!
Since,” said the god, “the Trojans must not join 160
In wish’d alliance with the Latian line;
Since endless jarrings and immortal hate
Tend but to discompose our happy state;
The war henceforward be resign’d to fate:
Each to his proper fortune stand or fall; 165
Equal and unconcern’d I look on all.
Rutulians, Trojans, are the same to me;
And both shall draw the lots their fates decree.
Let these assault, if Fortune be their friend;
And, if she favors those, let those defend: 170
The Fates will find their way.” The Thund’rer said,
And shook the sacred honors of his head,
Attesting Styx, th’ inviolable flood,
And the black regions of his brother god.
Trembled the poles of heav’n, and earth confess’d the nod. 175
This end the sessions had: the senate rise,
And to his palace wait their sov’reign thro’ the skies.
Meantime, intent upon their siege, the foes
Within their walls the Trojan host inclose:
They wound, they kill, they watch at ev’ry gate; 180
Renew the fires, and urge their happy fate.
Th’ Æneans wish in vain their wanted chief,
Hopeless of flight, more hopeless of relief.
Thin on the tow’rs they stand; and ev’n those few
A feeble, fainting, and dejected crew. 185
Yet in the face of danger some there stood:
The two bold brothers of Sarpedon’s blood,
Asius and Acmon; both th’ Assaraci;
Young Haemon, and tho’ young, resolv’d to die.
With these were Clarus and Thymoetes join’d; 190
Tibris and Castor, both of Lycian kind.
From Acmon’s hands a rolling stone there came,
So large, it half deserv’d a mountain’s name:
Strong-sinew’d was the youth, and big of bone;
His brother Mnestheus could not more have done, 195
Or the great father of th’ intrepid son.
Some firebrands throw, some flights of arrows send;
And some with darts, and some with stones defend.
Amid the press appears the beauteous boy,
The care of Venus, and the hope of Troy. 200
His lovely face unarm’d, his head was bare;
In ringlets o’er his shoulders hung his hair.
His forehead circled with a diadem;
Distinguish’d from the crowd, he shines a gem,
Enchas’d in gold, or polish’d iv’ry set, 205
Amidst the meaner foil of sable jet.
Nor Ismarus was wanting to the war,
Directing pointed arrows from afar,
And death with poison arm’d—in Lydia born,
Where plenteous harvests the fat fields adorn; 210
Where proud Pactolus floats the fruitful lands,
And leaves a rich manure of golden sands.
There Capys, author of the Capuan name,
And there was Mnestheus too, increas’d in fame,
Since Turnus from the camp he cast with shame. 215
Thus mortal war was wag’d on either side.
Meantime the hero cuts the nightly tide:
For, anxious, from Evander when he went,
He sought the Tyrrhene camp, and Tarchon’s tent;
Expos’d the cause of coming to the chief; 220
His name and country told, and ask’d relief;
Propos’d the terms; his own small strength declar’d;
What vengeance proud Mezentius had prepar’d:
What Turnus, bold and violent, design’d;
Then shew’d the slipp’ry state of humankind, 225
And fickle fortune; warn’d him to beware,
And to his wholesome counsel added pray’r.
Tarchon, without delay, the treaty signs,
And to the Trojan troops the Tuscan joins.
They soon set sail; nor now the fates withstand; 230
Their forces trusted with a foreign hand.
Æneas leads; upon his stern appear
Two lions carv’d, which rising Ida bear
Ida, to wand’ring Trojans ever dear.
Under their grateful shade Æneas sate, 235
Revolving war’s events, and various fate.
His left young Pallas kept, fix’d to his side,
And oft of winds enquir’d, and of the tide;
Oft of the stars, and of their wat’ry way;
And what he suffer’d both by land and sea. 240
Now, sacred sisters, open all your spring!
The Tuscan leaders, and their army sing,
Which follow’d great Æneas to the war:
Their arms, their numbers, and their names declare.
A thousand youths brave Massicus obey, 245
Borne in the Tiger thro’ the foaming sea;
From Asium brought, and Cosa, by his care:
For arms, light quivers, bows and shafts, they bear.
Fierce Abas next: his men bright armor wore;
His stern Apollo’s golden statue bore. 250
Six hundred Populonia sent along,
All skill’d in martial exercise, and strong.
Three hundred more for battle Ilva joins,
An isle renown’d for steel, and unexhausted mines.
Asylas on his prow the third appears, 255
Who heav’n interprets, and the wand’ring stars;
From offer’d entrails prodigies expounds,
And peals of thunder, with presaging sounds.
A thousand spears in warlike order stand,
Sent by the Pisans under his command. 260
Fair Astur follows in the wat’ry field,
Proud of his manag’d horse and painted shield.
Gravisca, noisome from the neighb’ring fen,
And his own Cære, sent three hundred men;
With those which Minio’s fields and Pyrgi gave, 265
All bred in arms, unanimous, and brave.
Thou, Muse, the name of Cinyras renew,
And brave Cupavo follow’d but by few;
Whose helm confess’d the lineage of the man,
And bore, with wings display’d, a silver swan. 270
Love was the fault of his fam’d ancestry,
Whose forms and fortunes in his ensigns fly.
For Cycnus lov’d unhappy Phæton,
And sung his loss in poplar groves, alone,
Beneath the sister shades, to soothe his grief. 275
Heav’n heard his song, and hasten’d his relief,
And chang’d to snowy plumes his hoary hair,
And wing’d his flight, to chant aloft in air.
His son Cupavo brush’d the briny flood:
Upon his stern a brawny Centaur stood, 280
Who heav’d a rock, and, threat’ning still to throw,
With lifted hands alarm’d the seas below:
They seem’d to fear the formidable sight,
And roll’d their billows on, to speed his flight.
Ocnus was next, who led his native train 285
Of hardy warriors thro’ the wat’ry plain:
The son of Manto by the Tuscan stream,
From whence the Mantuan town derives the name—
An ancient city, but of mix’d descent:
Three sev’ral tribes compose the government; 290
Four towns are under each; but all obey
The Mantuan laws, and own the Tuscan sway.
Hate to Mezentius arm’d five hundred more,
Whom Mincius from his sire Benacus bore:
Mincius, with wreaths of reeds his forehead cover’d o’er. 295
These grave Auletes leads: a hundred sweep
With stretching oars at once the glassy deep.
Him and his martial train the Triton bears;
High on his poop the sea-green god appears:
Frowning he seems his crooked shell to sound, 300
And at the blast the billows dance around.
A hairy man above the waist he shows;
A porpoise tail beneath his belly grows;
And ends a fish: his breast the waves divides,
And froth and foam augment the murm’ring tides. 305
Full thirty ships transport the chosen train
For Troy’s relief, and scour the briny main.
Now was the world forsaken by the sun,
And Phœbe half her nightly race had run.
The careful chief, who never clos’d his eyes, 310
Himself the rudder holds, the sails supplies.
A choir of Nereids meet him on the flood,
Once his own galleys, hewn from Ida’s wood;
But now, as many nymphs, the sea they sweep,
As rode, before, tall vessels on the deep. 315
They know him from afar; and in a ring
Inclose the ship that bore the Trojan king.
Cymodoce, whose voice excell’d the rest,
Above the waves advanc’d her snowy breast;
Her right hand stops the stern; her left divides 320
The curling ocean, and corrects the tides.
She spoke for all the choir, and thus began
With pleasing words to warn th’ unknowing man:
“Sleeps our lov’d lord? O goddess-born, awake!
Spread ev’ry sail, pursue your wat’ry track, 325
And haste your course. Your navy once were we,
From Ida’s height descending to the sea;
Till Turnus, as at anchor fix’d we stood,
Presum’d to violate our holy wood.
Then, loos’d from shore, we fled his fires profane 330
(Unwillingly we broke our master’s chain),
And since have sought you thro’ the Tuscan main.
The mighty Mother chang’d our forms to these,
And gave us life immortal in the seas.
But young Ascanius, in his camp distress’d, 335
By your insulting foes is hardly press’d.
Th’ Arcadian horsemen, and Etrurian host,
Advance in order on the Latian coast:
To cut their way the Daunian chief designs,
Before their troops can reach the Trojan lines. 340
Thou, when the rosy morn restores the light,
First arm thy soldiers for th’ ensuing fight:
Thyself the fated sword of Vulcan wield,
And bear aloft th’ impenetrable shield.
To-morrow’s sun, unless my skill be vain, 345
Shall see huge heaps of foes in battle slain.”
Parting, she spoke; and with immortal force
Push’d on the vessel in her wat’ry course;
For well she knew the way. Impell’d behind,
The ship flew forward, and outstripp’d the wind. 350
The rest make up. Unknowing of the cause,
The chief admires their speed, and happy omens draws.
Then thus he pray’d, and fix’d on heav’n his eyes:
“Hear thou, great Mother of the deities.
With turrets crown’d! (on Ida’s holy hill 355
Fierce tigers, rein’d and curb’d, obey thy will.)
Firm thy own omens; lead us on to fight;
And let thy Phrygians conquer in thy right.”
He said no more. And now renewing day
Had chas’d the shadows of the night away. 360
He charg’d the soldiers, with preventing care,
Their flags to follow, and their arms prepare;
Warn’d of th’ ensuing fight, and bade ’em hope the war.
Now, from his lofty poop, he view’d below
His camp incompass’d, and th’ inclosing foe. 365
His blazing shield, imbrac’d, he held on high;
The camp receive the sign, and with loud shouts reply.
Hope arms their courage: from their tow’rs they throw
Their darts with double force, and drive the foe.
Thus, at the signal giv’n, the cranes arise 370
Before the stormy south, and blacken all the skies.
King Turnus wonder’d at the fight renew’d,
Till, looking back, the Trojan fleet he view’d,
The seas with swelling canvas cover’d o’er,
And the swift ships descending on the shore. 375
The Latians saw from far, with dazzled eyes,
The radiant crest that seem’d in flames to rise,
And dart diffusive fires around the field,
And the keen glitt’ring of the golden shield.
Thus threat’ning comets, when by night they rise, 380
Shoot sanguine streams, and sadden all the skies:
So Sirius, flashing forth sinister lights,
Pale humankind with plagues and with dry famine frights.
Yet Turnus with undaunted mind is bent
To man the shores, and hinder their descent, 385
And thus awakes the courage of his friends:
“What you so long have wish’d, kind Fortune sends;
In ardent arms to meet th’ invading foe:
You find, and find him at advantage now.
Yours is the day: you need but only dare; 390
Your swords will make you masters of the war.
Your sires, your sons, your houses, and your lands,
And dearest wifes, are all within your hands.
Be mindful of the race from whence you came,
And emulate in arms your fathers’ fame. 395
Now take the time, while stagg’ring yet they stand
With feet unfirm, and prepossess the strand:
Fortune befriends the bold.” Nor more he said,
But balanc’d whom to leave, and whom to lead;
Then these elects, the landing to prevent; 400
And those he leaves, to keep the city pent.
Meantime the Trojan sends his troops ashore:
Some are by boats expos’d, by bridges more.
With lab’ring oars they bear along the strand,
Where the tide languishes, and leap aland. 405
Tarchon observes the coast with careful eyes,
And, where no ford he finds, no water fries,
Nor billows with unequal murmurs roar,
But smoothly slide along, and swell the shore,
That course he steer’d, and thus he gave command: 410
Here ply your oars, and at all hazard land:
Force on the vessel, that her keel may wound
This hated soil, and furrow hostile ground.
Let me securely land—I ask no more;
Then sink my ships, or shatter on the shore.” 415
This fiery speech inflames his fearful friends:
They tug at ev’ry oar, and ev’ry stretcher bends;
They run their ships aground; the vessels knock,
(Thus forc’d ashore,) and tremble with the shock.
Tarchon’s alone was lost, that stranded stood, 420
Stuck on a bank, and beaten by the flood:
She breaks her back; the loosen’d sides give way,
And plunge the Tuscan soldiers in the sea.
Their broken oars and floating planks withstand
Their passage, while they labor to the land, 425
And ebbing tides bear back upon th’ uncertain sand.
Now Turnus leads his troops without delay,
Advancing to the margin of the sea.
The trumpets sound: Æneas first assail’d
The clowns new-rais’d and raw, and soon prevail’d. 430
Great Theron fell, an omen of the fight;
Great Theron, large of limbs, of giant height.
He first in open field defied the prince:
But armor scal’d with gold was no defense
Against the fated sword, which open’d wide 435
His plated shield, and pierc’d his naked side.
Next, Lichas fell, who, not like others born,
Was from his wretched mother ripp’d and torn;
Sacred, O Phœbus, from his birth to thee;
For his beginning life from biting steel was free. 440
Not far from him was Gyas laid along,
Of monstrous bulk; with Cisseus fierce and strong:
Vain bulk and strength! for, when the chief assail’d,
Nor valor nor Herculean arms avail’d,
Nor their fam’d father, wont in war to go 445
With great Alcides, while he toil’d below.
The noisy Pharos next receiv’d his death:
Æneas writh’d his dart, and stopp’d his bawling breath.
Then wretched Cydon had receiv’d his doom,
Who courted Clytius in his beardless bloom, 450
And sought with lust obscene polluted joys:
The Trojan sword had cur’d his love of boys,
Had not his sev’n bold brethren stopp’d the course
Of the fierce champions, with united force.
Sev’n darts were thrown at once; and some rebound 455
From his bright shield, some on his helmet sound:
The rest had reach’d him; but his mother’s care
Prevented those, and turn’d aside in air.
The prince then call’d Achates, to supply
The spears that knew the way to victory— 460
“Those fatal weapons, which, inur’d to blood,
In Grecian bodies under Ilium stood:
Not one of those my hand shall toss in vain
Against our foes, on this contended plain.”
He said; then seiz’d a mighty spear, and threw; 465
Which, wing’d with fate, thro’ Mæon’s buckler flew,
Pierc’d all the brazen plates, and reach’d his heart:
He stagger’d with intolerable smart.
Alcanor saw; and reach’d, but reach’d in vain,
His helping hand, his brother to sustain. 470
A second spear, which kept the former course,
From the same hand, and sent with equal force,
His right arm pierc’d, and holding on, bereft
His use of both, and pinion’d down his left.
Then Numitor from his dead brother drew 475
Th’ ill-omen’d spear, and at the Trojan threw:
Preventing fate directs the lance awry,
Which, glancing, only mark’d Achates’ thigh.
In pride of youth the Sabine Clausus came,
And, from afar, at Dryops took his aim. 480
The spear flew hissing thro’ the middle space,
And pierc’d his throat, directed at his face;
It stopp’d at once the passage of his wind,
And the free soul to flitting air resign’d:
His forehead was the first that struck the ground; 485
Lifeblood and life rush’d mingled thro’ the wound.
He slew three brothers of the Borean race,
And three, whom Ismarus, their native place,
Had sent to war, but all the sons of Thrace.
Halesus, next, the bold Aurunci leads: 490
The son of Neptune to his aid succeeds,
Conspicuous on his horse. On either hand,
These fight to keep, and those to win, the land.
With mutual blood th’ Ausonian soil is dyed,
While on its borders each their claim decide. 495
As wintry winds, contending in the sky,
With equal force of lungs their titles try:
They rage, they roar; the doubtful rack of heav’n
Stands without motion, and the tide undriv’n:
Each bent to conquer, neither side to yield, 500
They long suspend the fortune of the field.
Both armies thus perform what courage can;
Foot set to foot, and mingled man to man.
But, in another part, th’ Arcadian horse
With ill success ingage the Latin force: 505
For, where th’ impetuous torrent, rushing down,
Huge craggy stones and rooted trees had thrown,
They left their coursers, and, unus’d to fight
On foot, were scatter’d in a shameful flight.
Pallas, who with disdain and grief had view’d 510
His foes pursuing, and his friends pursued,
Us’d threat’nings mix’d with pray’rs, his last resource,
With these to move their minds, with those to fire their force.
“Which way, companions? whether would you run?
By you yourselves, and mighty battles won, 515
By my great sire, by his establish’d name,
And early promise of my future fame;
By my youth, emulous of equal right
To share his honors—shun ignoble flight!
Trust not your feet: your hands must hew your way 520
Thro’ yon black body, and that thick array:
’T is thro’ that forward path that we must come;
There lies our way, and that our passage home.
Nor pow’rs above, nor destinies below
Oppress our arms: with equal strength we go, 525
With mortal hands to meet a mortal foe.
See on what foot we stand: a scanty shore,
The sea behind, our enemies before;
No passage left, unless we swim the main;
Or, forcing these, the Trojan trenches gain.” 530
This said, he strode with eager haste along,
And bore amidst the thickest of the throng.
Lagus, the first he met, with fate to foe,
Had heav’d a stone of mighty weight, to throw:
Stooping, the spear descended on his chine, 535
Just where the bone distinguished either loin:
It stuck so fast, so deeply buried lay,
That scarce the victor forc’d the steel away.
Hisbon came on: but, while he mov’d too slow
To wish’d revenge, the prince prevents his blow; 540
For, warding his at once, at once he press’d,
And plung’d the fatal weapon in his breast.
Then lewd Anchemolus he laid in dust,
Who stain’d his stepdam’s bed with impious lust.
And, after him, the Daucian twins were slain, 545
Laris and Thymbrus, on the Latian plain;
So wondrous like in feature, shape, and size,
As caus’d an error in their parents’ eyes
Grateful mistake! but soon the sword decides
The nice distinction, and their fate divides: 550
For Thymbrus’ head was lopp’d; and Laris’ hand,
Dismember’d, sought its owner on the strand:
The trembling fingers yet the fauchion strain,
And threaten still th’ intended stroke in vain.
Now, to renew the charge, th’ Arcadians came: 555
Sight of such acts, and sense of honest shame,
And grief, with anger mix’d, their minds inflame.
Then, with a casual blow was Rhoeteus slain,
Who chanc’d, as Pallas threw, to cross the plain:
The flying spear was after Ilus sent; 560
But Rhoeteus happen’d on a death unmeant:
From Teuthras and from Tyres while he fled,
The lance, athwart his body, laid him dead:
Roll’d from his chariot with a mortal wound,
And intercepted fate, he spurn’d the ground. 565
As when, in summer, welcome winds arise,
The watchful shepherd to the forest flies,
And fires the midmost plants; contagion spreads,
And catching flames infect the neighb’ring heads;
Around the forest flies the furious blast, 570
And all the leafy nation sinks at last,
And Vulcan rides in triumph o’er the waste;
The pastor, pleas’d with his dire victory,
Beholds the satiate flames in sheets ascend the sky:
So Pallas’ troops their scatter’d strength unite, 575
And, pouring on their foes, their prince delight.
Halesus came, fierce with desire of blood;
But first collected in his arms he stood:
Advancing then, he plied the spear so well,
Ladon, Demodocus, and Pheres fell. 580
Around his head he toss’d his glitt’ring brand,
And from Strymonius hew’d his better hand,
Held up to guard his throat; then hurl’d a stoneAt Thoas’ ample front, and pierc’d the bone:
It struck beneath the space of either eye;
And blood, and mingled brains, together fly. 585
Deep skill’d in future fates, Halesus’ sire
Did with the youth to lonely groves retire:
But, when the father’s mortal race was run,
Dire destiny laid hold upon the son,
And haul’d him to the war, to find, beneath 590
Th’ Evandrian spear, a memorable death.
Pallas th’ encounter seeks, but, ere he throws,
To Tuscan Tiber thus address’d his vows:
“O sacred stream, direct my flying dart,
And give to pass the proud Halesus’ heart! 595
His arms and spoils thy holy oak shall bear.”
Pleas’d with the bribe, the god receiv’d his pray’r:
For, while his shield protects a friend distress’d,
The dart came driving on, and pierc’d his breast.
But Lausus, no small portion of the war, 600
Permits not panic fear to reign too far,
Caus’d by the death of so renown’d a knight;
But by his own example cheers the fight.
Fierce Abas first he slew; Abas, the stay
Of Trojan hopes, and hind’rance of the day. 605
The Phrygian troops escap’d the Greeks in vain:
They, and their mix’d allies, now load the plain.
To the rude shock of war both armies came;
Their leaders equal, and their strength the same.
The rear so press’d the front, they could not wield 610
Their angry weapons, to dispute the field.
Here Pallas urges on, and Lausus there:
Of equal youth and beauty both appear,
But both by fate forbid to breathe their native air.
Their congress in the field great Jove withstands: 615
Both doom’d to fall, but fall by greater hands.
Meantime Juturna warns the Daunian chief
Of Lausus’ danger, urging swift relief.
With his driv’n chariot he divides the crowd,
And, making to his friends, thus calls aloud: 620
“Let none presume his needless aid to join;
Retire, and clear the field; the fight is mine:
To this right hand is Pallas only due;
O were his father here, my just revenge to view!”
From the forbidden space his men retir’d. 625
Pallas their awe, and his stern words, admir’d;
Survey’d him o’er and o’er with wond’ring sight,
Struck with his haughty mien, and tow’ring height.
Then to the king: “Your empty vaunts forbear;
Success I hope, and fate I cannot fear; 630
Alive or dead, I shall deserve a name;
Jove is impartial, and to both the same.”
He said, and to the void advanc’d his pace:
Pale horror sate on each Arcadian face.
Then Turnus, from his chariot leaping light, 635
Address’d himself on foot to single fight.
And, as a lion—when he spies from far
A bull that seems to meditate the war,
Bending his neck, and spurning back the sand—
Runs roaring downward from his hilly stand: 640
Imagine eager Turnus not more slow,
To rush from high on his unequal foe.
Young Pallas, when he saw the chief advance
Within due distance of his flying lance,
Prepares to charge him first, resolv’d to try 645
If fortune would his want of force supply;
And thus to Heav’n and Hercules address’d:
“Alcides, once on earth Evander’s guest,
His son adjures you by those holy rites,
That hospitable board, those genial nights; 650
Assist my great attempt to gain this prize,
And let proud Turnus view, with dying eyes,
His ravish’d spoils.” ’T was heard, the vain request;
Alcides mourn’d, and stifled sighs within his breast.
Then Jove, to soothe his sorrow, thus began: 655
“Short bounds of life are set to mortal man.
’T is virtue’s work alone to stretch the narrow span.
So many sons of gods, in bloody fight,
Around the walls of Troy, have lost the light:
My own Sarpedon fell beneath his foe; 660
Nor I, his mighty sire, could ward the blow.
Ev’n Turnus shortly shall resign his breath,
And stands already on the verge of death.”
This said, the god permits the fatal fight,
But from the Latian fields averts his sight. 665
Now with full force his spear young Pallas threw,
And, having thrown, his shining fauchion drew
The steel just graz’d along the shoulder joint,
And mark’d it slightly with the glancing point,
Fierce Turnus first to nearer distance drew, 670
And pois’d his pointed spear, before he threw:
Then, as the winged weapon whizz’d along,
“See now,” said he, “whose arm is better strung.”
The spear kept on the fatal course, unstay’d
By plates of ir’n, which o’er the shield were laid: 675
Thro’ folded brass and tough bull hides it pass’d,
His corslet pierc’d, and reach’d his heart at last.
In vain the youth tugs at the broken wood;
The soul comes issuing with the vital blood:
He falls; his arms upon his body sound; 680
And with his bloody teeth he bites the ground.
Turnus bestrode the corpse: “Arcadians, hear,”
Said he; “my message to your master bear:
Such as the sire deserv’d, the son I send;
It costs him dear to be the Phrygians’ friend. 685
The lifeless body, tell him, I bestow,
Unask’d, to rest his wand’ring ghost below.”
He said, and trampled down with all the force
Of his left foot, and spurn’d the wretched corse;
Then snatch’d the shining belt, with gold inlaid; 690
The belt Eurytion’s artful hands had made,
Where fifty fatal brides, express’d to sight,
All in the compass of one mournful night,
Depriv’d their bridegrooms of returning light.
In an ill hour insulting Turnus tore 695
Those golden spoils, and in a worse he wore.
O mortals, blind in fate, who never know
To bear high fortune, or endure the low!
The time shall come, when Turnus, but in vain,
Shall wish untouch’d the trophies of the slain; 700
Shall wish the fatal belt were far away,
And curse the dire remembrance of the day.
The sad Arcadians, from th’ unhappy field,
Bear back the breathless body on a shield.
O grace and grief of war! at once restor’d, 705
With praises, to thy sire, at once deplor’d!
One day first sent thee to the fighting field,
Beheld whole heaps of foes in battle kill’d;
One day beheld thee dead, and borne upon thy shield.
This dismal news, not from uncertain fame, 710
But sad spectators, to the hero came:
His friends upon the brink of ruin stand,
Unless reliev’d by his victorious hand.
He whirls his sword around, without delay,
And hews thro’ adverse foes an ample way, 715
To find fierce Turnus, of his conquest proud:
Evander, Pallas, all that friendship ow’d
To large deserts, are present to his eyes;
His plighted hand, and hospitable ties.
Four sons of Sulmo, four whom Ufens bred, 720
He took in fight, and living victims led,
To please the ghost of Pallas, and expire,
In sacrifice, before his fun’ral fire.
At Magus next he threw: he stoop’d below
The flying spear, and shunn’d the promis’d blow; 725
Then, creeping, clasp’d the hero’s knees, and pray’d:
“By young Iulus, by thy father’s shade,
O spare my life, and send me back to see
My longing sire, and tender progeny!
A lofty house I have, and wealth untold, 730
In silver ingots, and in bars of gold:
All these, and sums besides, which see no day,
The ransom of this one poor life shall pay.
If I survive, will Troy the less prevail?
A single soul’s too light to turn the scale.” 735
He said. The hero sternly thus replied:
“Thy bars and ingots, and the sums beside,
Leave for thy children’s lot. Thy Turnus broke
All rules of war by one relentless stroke,
When Pallas fell: so deems, nor deems alone 740
My father’s shadow, but my living son.”
Thus having said, of kind remorse bereft,
He seiz’d his helm, and dragg’d him with his left;
Then with his right hand, while his neck he wreath’d,
Up to the hilts his shining fauchion sheath’d. 745
Apollo’s priest, Emonides, was near;
His holy fillets on his front appear;
Glitt’ring in arms, he shone amidst the crowd;
Much of his god, more of his purple, proud.
Him the fierce Trojan follow’d thro’ the field: 750
The holy coward fell; and, forc’d to yield,
The prince stood o’er the priest, and, at one blow,
Sent him an off’ring to the shades below.
His arms Seresthus on his shoulders bears,
Design’d a trophy to the God of Wars. 755
Vulcanian Cæculus renews the fight,
And Umbro, born upon the mountains’ height.
The champion cheers his troops t’ encounter those,
And seeks revenge himself on other foes.
At Anxur’s shield he drove; and, at the blow, 760
Both shield and arm to ground together go.
Anxur had boasted much of magic charms,
And thought he wore impenetrable arms,
So made by mutter’d spells; and, from the spheres,
Had life secur’d, in vain, for length of years. 765
Then Tarquitus the field in triumph trod;
A nymph his mother, and his sire a god.
Exulting in bright arms, he braves the prince:
With his protended lance he makes defense;
Bears back his feeble foe; then, pressing on, 770
Arrests his better hand, and drags him down;
Stands o’er the prostrate wretch, and, as he lay,
Vain tales inventing, and prepar’d to pray,
Mows off his head: the trunk a moment stood,
Then sunk, and roll’d along the sand in blood. 775
The vengeful victor thus upbraids the slain:
“Lie there, proud man, unpitied, on the plain;
Lie there, inglorious, and without a tomb,
Far from thy mother and thy native home,
Expos’d to savage beasts, and birds of prey, 780
Or thrown for food to monsters of the sea.”
On Lycas and Antæus next he ran,
Two chiefs of Turnus, and who led his van.
They fled for fear; with these, he chas’d along
Camers the yellow-lock’d, and Numa strong; 785
Both great in arms, and both were fair and young.
Camers was son to Volscens lately slain,
In wealth surpassing all the Latian train,
And in Amycla fix’d his silent easy reign.
And, as Ægæon, when with heav’n he strove, 790
Stood opposite in arms to mighty Jove;
Mov’d all his hundred hands, provok’d the war,
Defied the forky lightning from afar;
At fifty mouths his flaming breath expires,
And flash for flash returns, and fires for fires; 795
In his right hand as many swords he wields,
And takes the thunder on as many shields:
With strength like his, the Trojan hero stood;
And soon the fields with falling corps were strow’d,
When once his fauchion found the taste of blood. 800
With fury scarce to be conceiv’d, he flew
Against Niphæus, whom four coursers drew.
They, when they see the fiery chief advance,
And pushing at their chests his pointed lance,
Wheel’d with so swift a motion, mad with fear, 805
They threw their master headlong from the chair.
They stare, they start, nor stop their course, before
They bear the bounding chariot to the shore.
Now Lucagus and Liger scour the plains,
With two white steeds; but Liger holds the reins, 810
And Lucagus the lofty seat maintains:
Bold brethren both. The former wav’d in air
His flaming sword: Æneas couch’d his spear,
Unus’d to threats, and more unus’d to fear.
Then Liger thus: “Thy confidence is vain 815
To scape from hence, as from the Trojan plain:
Nor these the steeds which Diomede bestrode,
Nor this the chariot where Achilles rode;
Nor Venus’ veil is here, near Neptune’s shield;
Thy fatal hour is come, and this the field.” 820
Thus Liger vainly vaunts: the Trojan peer
Return’d his answer with his flying spear.
As Lucagus, to lash his horses, bends,
Prone to the wheels, and his left foot protends,
Prepar’d for fight; the fatal dart arrives, 825
And thro’ the borders of his buckler drives;
Pass’d thro’ and pierc’d his groin: the deadly wound,
Cast from his chariot, roll’d him on the ground.
Whom thus the chief upbraids with scornful spite:
“Blame not the slowness of your steeds in flight; 830
Vain shadows did not force their swift retreat;
But you yourself forsake your empty seat.”
He said, and seiz’d at once the loosen’d rein;
For Liger lay already on the plain,
By the same shock: then, stretching out his hands, 835
The recreant thus his wretched life demands:
“Now, by thyself, O more than mortal man!
By her and him from whom thy breath began,
Who form’d thee thus divine, I beg thee, spare
This forfeit life, and hear thy suppliant’s pray’r.” 840
Thus much he spoke, and more he would have said;
But the stern hero turn’d aside his head,
And cut him short: “I hear another man;
You talk’d not thus before the fight began.
Now take your turn; and, as a brother should, 845
Attend your brother to the Stygian flood.”
Then thro’ his breast his fatal sword he sent,
And the soul issued at the gaping vent.
As storms the skies, and torrents tear the ground,
Thus rag’d the prince, and scatter’d deaths around. 850
At length Ascanius and the Trojan train
Broke from the camp, so long besieg’d in vain.
Meantime the King of Gods and Mortal Man
Held conference with his queen, and thus began:
My sister goddess, and well-pleasing wife, 855
Still think you Venus’ aid supports the strife—
Sustains her Trojans—or themselves, alone,
With inborn valor force their fortune on?
How fierce in fight, with courage undecay’d!
Judge if such warriors want immortal aid.” 860
To whom the goddess with the charming eyes,
Soft in her tone, submissively replies:
“Why, O my sov’reign lord, whose frown I fear,
And cannot, unconcern’d, your anger bear;
Why urge you thus my grief? when, if I still 865
(As once I was) were mistress of your will,
From your almighty pow’r your pleasing wife
Might gain the grace of length’ning Turnus’ life,
Securely snatch him from the fatal fight,
And give him to his aged father’s sight. 870
Now let him perish, since you hold it good,
And glut the Trojans with his pious blood.
Yet from our lineage he derives his name,
And, in the fourth degree, from god Pilumnus came;
Yet he devoutly pays you rites divine, 875
And offers daily incense at your shrine.”
Then shortly thus the sov’reign god replied:
“Since in my pow’r and goodness you confide,
If for a little space, a lengthen’d span,
You beg reprieve for this expiring man, 880
I grant you leave to take your Turnus hence
From instant fate, and can so far dispense.
But, if some secret meaning lies beneath,
To save the short-liv’d youth from destin’d death,
Or if a farther thought you entertain, 885
To change the fates; you feed your hopes in vain.”
To whom the goddess thus, with weeping eyes:
And what if that request, your tongue denies,
Your heart should grant; and not a short reprieve,
But length of certain life, to Turnus give? 890
Now speedy death attends the guiltless youth,
If my presaging soul divines with truth;
Which, O! I wish, might err thro’ causeless fears,
And you (for you have pow’r) prolong his years!”
Thus having said, involv’d in clouds, she flies, 895
And drives a storm before her thro’ the skies.
Swift she descends, alighting on the plain,
Where the fierce foes a dubious fight maintain.
Of air condens’d a specter soon she made;
And, what Æneas was, such seem’d the shade. 900
Adorn’d with Dardan arms, the phantom bore
His head aloft; a plumy crest he wore;
This hand appear’d a shining sword to wield,
And that sustain’d an imitated shield.
With manly mien he stalk’d along the ground, 905
Nor wanted voice belied, nor vaunting sound.
(Thus haunting ghosts appear to waking sight,
Or dreadful visions in our dreams by night.)
The specter seems the Daunian chief to dare,
And flourishes his empty sword in air. 910
At this, advancing, Turnus hurl’d his spear:
The phantom wheel’d, and seem’d to fly for fear.
Deluded Turnus thought the Trojan fled,
And with vain hopes his haughty fancy fed.
“Whether, O coward?” (thus he calls aloud, 915
Nor found he spoke to wind, and chas’d a cloud,)
“Why thus forsake your bride! Receive from me
The fated land you sought so long by sea.”
He said, and, brandishing at once his blade,
With eager pace pursued the flying shade. 920
By chance a ship was fasten’d to the shore,
Which from old Clusium King Osinius bore:
The plank was ready laid for safe ascent;
For shelter there the trembling shadow bent,
And skipp’t and skulk’d, and under hatches went. 925
Exulting Turnus, with regardless haste,
Ascends the plank, and to the galley pass’d.
Scarce had he reach’d the prow: Saturnia’s hand
The haulsers cuts, and shoots the ship from land.
With wind in poop, the vessel plows the sea, 930
And measures back with speed her former way.
Meantime Æneas seeks his absent foe,
And sends his slaughter’d troops to shades below.
The guileful phantom now forsook the shroud,
And flew sublime, and vanish’d in a cloud. 935
Too late young Turnus the delusion found,
Far on the sea, still making from the ground.
Then, thankless for a life redeem’d by shame,
With sense of honor stung, and forfeit fame,
Fearful besides of what in fight had pass’d, 940
His hands and haggard eyes to heav’n he cast;
“O Jove!” he cried, “for what offense have I
Deserv’d to bear this endless infamy?
Whence am I forc’d, and whether am I borne?
How, and with what reproach, shall I return? 945
Shall ever I behold the Latian plain,
Or see Laurentum’s lofty tow’rs again?
What will they say of their deserting chief?
The war was mine: I fly from their relief;
I led to slaughter, and in slaughter leave; 950
And ev’n from hence their dying groans receive.
Here, overmatch’d in fight, in heaps they lie;
There, scatter’d o’er the fields, ignobly fly.
Gape wide, O earth, and draw me down alive!
Or, O ye pitying winds, a wretch relieve! 955
On sands or shelves the splitting vessel drive;
Or set me shipwrack’d on some desart shore,
Where no Rutulian eyes may see me more,
Unknown to friends, or foes, or conscious Fame,
Lest she should follow, and my flight proclaim.” 960
Thus Turnus rav’d, and various fates revolv’d:
The choice was doubtful, but the death resolv’d.
And now the sword, and now the sea took place,
That to revenge, and this to purge disgrace.
Sometimes he thought to swim the stormy main, 965
By stretch of arms the distant shore to gain.
Thrice he the sword assay’d, and thrice the flood;
But Juno, mov’d with pity, both withstood.
And thrice repress’d his rage; strong gales supplied,
And push’d the vessel o’er the swelling tide. 970
At length she lands him on his native shores,
And to his father’s longing arms restores.
Meantime, by Jove’s impulse, Mezentius arm’d,
Succeeding Turnus, with his ardor warm’d
His fainting friends, reproach’d their shameful flight, 975
Repell’d the victors, and renew’d the fight.
Against their king the Tuscan troops conspire;
Such is their hate, and such their fierce desire
Of wish’d revenge: on him, and him alone,
All hands employ’d, and all their darts are thrown. 980
He, like a solid rock by seas inclos’d,
To raging winds and roaring waves oppos’d,
From his proud summit looking down, disdains
Their empty menace, and unmov’d remains.
Beneath his feet fell haughty Hebrus dead, 985
Then Latagus, and Palmus as he fled.
At Latagus a weighty stone he flung:
His face was flatted, and his helmet rung.
But Palmus from behind receives his wound;
Hamstring’d he falls, and grovels on the ground: 990
His crest and armor, from his body torn,
Thy shoulders, Lausus, and thy head adorn.
Evas and Mimas, both of Troy, he slew.
Mimas his birth from fair Theano drew,
Born on that fatal night, when, big with fire, 995
The queen produc’d young Paris to his sire:
But Paris in the Phrygian fields was slain,
Unthinking Mimas on the Latian plain.
And, as a savage boar, on mountains bred,
With forest mast and fatt’ning marshes fed, 1000
When once he sees himself in toils inclos’d,
By huntsmen and their eager hounds appos’d—
He whets his tusks, and turns, and dares the war;
Th’ invaders dart their jav’lins from afar:
All keep aloof, and safely shout around; 1005
But none presumes to give a nearer wound:
He frets and froths, erects his bristled hide,
And shakes a grove of lances from his side:
Not otherwise the troops, with hate inspir’d,
And just revenge against the tyrant fir’d, 1010
Their darts with clamor at a distance drive,
And only keep the languish’d war alive.
From Coritus came Acron to the fight,
Who left his spouse betroth’d, and unconsummate night.
Mezentius sees him thro’ the squadrons ride, 1015
Proud of the purple favors of his bride.
Then, as a hungry lion, who beholds
A gamesome goat, who frisks about the folds,
Or beamy stag, that grazes on the plain—
He runs, he roars, he shakes his rising mane, 1020
He grins, and opens wide his greedy jaws;
The prey lies panting underneath his paws:
He fills his famish’d maw; his mouth runs o’er
With unchew’d morsels, while he churns the gore:
So proud Mezentius rushes on his foes, 1025
And first unhappy Acron overthrows:
Stretch’d at his length, he spurns the swarthy ground;
The lance, besmear’d with blood, lies broken in the wound.
Then with disdain the haughty victor view’d
Orodes flying, nor the wretch pursued, 1030
Nor thought the dastard’s back deserv’d a wound,
But, running, gain’d th’ advantage of the ground:
Then turning short, he met him face to face,
To give his victory the better grace.
Orodes falls, in equal fight oppress’d: 1035
Mezentius fix’d his foot upon his breast,
And rested lance; and thus aloud he cries:
“Lo! here the champion of my rebels lies!”
The fields around with Io Pæan! ring;
And peals of shouts applaud the conqu’ring king. 1040
At this the vanquish’d, with his dying breath,
Thus faintly spoke, and prophesied in death:
“Nor thou, proud man, unpunish’d shalt remain:
Like death attends thee on this fatal plain.”
Then, sourly smiling, thus the king replied: 1045
“For what belongs to me, let Jove provide;
But die thou first, whatever chance ensue.”
He said, and from the wound the weapon drew.
A hov’ring mist came swimming o’er his sight,
And seal’d his eyes in everlasting night. 1050
By Cædicus, Alcathous was slain;
Sacrator laid Hydaspes on the plain;
Orses the strong to greater strength must yield;
He, with Parthenius, were by Rapo kill’d.
Then brave Messapus Ericetes slew, 1055
Who from Lycaon’s blood his lineage drew.
But from his headstrong horse his fate he found,
Who threw his master, as he made a bound:
The chief, alighting, stuck him to the ground;
Then Clonius, hand to hand, on foot assails: 1060
The Trojan sinks, and Neptune’s son prevails.
Agis the Lycian, stepping forth with pride,
To single fight the boldest foe defied;
Whom Tuscan Valerus by force o’ercame,
And not belied his mighty father’s fame. 1065
Salius to death the great Antronius sent:
But the same fate the victor underwent,
Slain by Nealces’ hand, well-skill’d to throw
The flying dart, and draw the far-deceiving bow.
Thus equal deaths are dealt with equal chance; 1070
By turns they quit their ground, by turns advance:
Victors and vanquish’d, in the various field,
Nor wholly overcome, nor wholly yield.
The gods from heav’n survey the fatal strife,
And mourn the miseries of human life. 1075
Above the rest, two goddesses appear
Concern’d for each: here Venus, Juno there.
Amidst the crowd, infernal Ate shakes
Her scourge aloft, and crest of hissing snakes.
Once more the proud Mezentius, with disdain, 1080
Brandish’d his spear, and rush’d into the plain,
Where tow’ring in the midmost rank she stood,
Like tall Orion stalking o’er the flood.
(When with his brawny breast he cuts the waves,
His shoulders scarce the topmost billow laves), 1085
Or like a mountain ash, whose roots are spread,
Deep fix’d in earth; in clouds he hides his head.
The Trojan prince beheld him from afar,
And dauntless undertook the doubtful war.
Collected in his strength, and like a rock, 1090
Pois’d on his base, Mezentius stood the shock.
He stood, and, measuring first with careful eyes
The space his spear could reach, aloud he cries:
My strong right hand, and sword, assist my stroke!
(Those only gods Mezentius will invoke.) 1095
His armor, from the Trojan pirate torn,
By my triumphant Lausus shall be worn.”
He said; and with his utmost force he threw
The massy spear, which, hissing as it flew,
Reach’d the celestial shield, that stopp’d the course; 1100
But, glancing thence, the yet unbroken force
Took a new bent obliquely, and betwixt
The side and bowels fam’d Anthores fix’d.
Anthores had from Argos travel’d far,
Alcides’ friend, and brother of the war; 1105
Till, tir’d with toils, fair Italy he chose,
And in Evander’s palace sought repose.
Now, falling by another’s wound, his eyes
He cast to heav’n, on Argos thinks, and dies.
The pious Trojan then his jav’lin sent; 1110
The shield gave way; thro’ treble plates it went
Of solid brass, of linen trebly roll’d,
And three bull hides which round the buckler fold.
All these it pass’d, resistless in the course,
Transpierc’d his thigh, and spent its dying force. 1115
The gaping wound gush’d out a crimson flood.
The Trojan, glad with sight of hostile blood,
His faunchion drew, to closer fight address’d,
And with new force his fainting foe oppress’d.
His father’s peril Lausus view’d with grief; 1120
He sigh’d, he wept, he ran to his relief.
And here, heroic youth, ’t is here I must
To thy immortal memory be just,
And sing an act so noble and so new,
Posterity will scarce believe ’t is true. 1125
Pain’d with his wound, and useless for the fight,
The father sought to save himself by flight:
Incumber’d, slow he dragg’d the spear along,
Which pierc’d his thigh, and in his buckler hung.
The pious youth, resolv’d on death, below 1130
The lifted sword springs forth to face the foe;
Protects his parent, and prevents the blow.
Shouts of applause ran ringing thro’ the field,
To see the son the vanquish’d father shield.
All, fir’d with gen’rous indignation, strive, 1135
And with a storm of darts to distance drive
The Trojan chief, who, held at bay from far,
On his Vulcanian orb sustain’d the war.
As, when thick hail comes rattling in the wind,
The plowman, passenger, and lab’ring hind 1140
For shelter to the neighb’ring covert fly,
Or hous’d, or safe in hollow caverns lie;
But, that o’erblown, when heav’n above ’em smiles,
Return to travel, and renew their toils:
Æneas thus, o’erwhelmed on ev’ry side, 1145
The storm of darts, undaunted, did abide;
And thus to Lausus loud with friendly threat’ning cried:
“Why wilt thou rush to certain death, and rage
In rash attempts, beyond thy tender age,
Betray’d by pious love?” Nor, thus forborne, 1150
The youth desists, but with insulting scorn
Provokes the ling’ring prince, whose patience, tir’d,
Gave place; and all his breast with fury fir’d.
For now the Fates prepar’d their sharpen’d shears;
And lifted high the flaming sword appears, 1155
Which, full descending with a frightful sway,
Thro’ shield and corslet forc’d th’ impetuous way,
And buried deep in his fair bosom lay.
The purple streams thro’ the thin armor strove,
And drench’d th’ imbroider’d coat his mother wove; 1160
And life at length forsook his heaving heart,
Loth from so sweet a mansion to depart.
But when, with blood and paleness all o’erspread,
The pious prince beheld young Lausus dead,
He griev’d; he wept; the sight an image brought 1165
Of his own filial love, a sadly pleasing thought:
Then stretch’d his hand to hold him up, and said:
“Poor hapless youth! what praises can be paid
To love so great, to such transcendent store
Of early worth, and sure presage of more? 1170
Accept whate’er Æneas can afford;
Untouch’d thy arms, untaken be thy sword;
And all that pleas’d thee living, still remain
Inviolate, and sacred to the slain.
Thy body on thy parents I bestow, 1175
To rest thy soul, at least, if shadows know,
Or have a sense of human things below.
There to thy fellow ghosts with glory tell:
“’T was by the great Æneas’ hand I fell.’”
With this, his distant friends he beckons near, 1180
Provokes their duty, and prevents their fear:
Himself assists to lift him from the ground,
With clotted locks, and blood that well’d from out the wound.
Meantime, his father, now no father, stood,
And wash’d his wounds by Tiber’s yellow flood: 1185
Oppress’d with anguish, panting, and o’erspent,
His fainting limbs against an oak he leant.
A bough his brazen helmet did sustain;
His heavier arms lay scatter’d on the plain:
A chosen train of youth around him stand; 1190
His drooping head was rested on his hand:
His grisly beard his pensive bosom sought;
And all on Lausus ran his restless thought.
Careful, concern’d his danger to prevent,
He much enquir’d, and many a message sent 1195
To warn him from the field—alas! in vain!
Behold, his mournful followers bear him slain!
O’er his broad shield still gush’d the yawning wound,
And drew a bloody trail along the ground.
Far off he heard their cries, far off divin’d 1200
The dire event, with a foreboding mind.
With dust he sprinkled first his hoary head;
Then both his lifted hands to heav’n he spread;
Last, the dear corpse embracing, thus he said:
“What joys, alas! could this frail being give, 1205
That I have been so covetous to live?
To see my son, and such a son, resign
His life, a ransom for preserving mine!
And am I then preserv’d, and art thou lost?
How much too dear has that redemption cost! 1210
’T is now my bitter banishment I feel:
This is a wound too deep for time to heal.
My guilt thy growing virtues did defame;
My blackness blotted thy unblemish’d name.
Chas’d from a throne, abandon’d, and exil’d 1215
For foul misdeeds, were punishments too mild:
I ow’d my people these, and, from their hate,
With less resentment could have borne my fate.
And yet I live, and yet sustain the sight
Of hated men, and of more hated light: 1220
But will not long.” With that he rais’d from ground
His fainting limbs, that stagger’d with his wound;
Yet, with a mind resolv’d, and unappall’d
With pains or perils, for his courser call’d;
Well-mouth’d, well-manag’d, whom himself did dress 1225
With daily care, and mounted with success;
His aid in arms, his ornament in peace.
Soothing his courage with a gentle stroke,
The steed seem’d sensible, while thus he spoke:
“O Rhoebus, we have liv’d too long for me— 1230
If life and long were terms that could agree!
This day thou either shalt bring back the head
And bloody trophies of the Trojan dead;
This day thou either shalt revenge my woe,
For murther’d Lausus, on his cruel foe; 1235
Or, if inexorable fate deny
Our conquest, with thy conquer’d master die:
For, after such a lord, I rest secure,
Thou wilt no foreign reins, or Trojan load endure.”
He said; and straight th’ officious courser kneels, 1240
To take his wonted weight. His hands he fills
With pointed jav’lins; on his head he lac’d
His glitt’ring helm, which terribly was grac’d
With waving horsehair, nodding from afar;
Then spurr’d his thund’ring steed amidst the war. 1245
Love, anguish, wrath, and grief, to madness wrought,
Despair, and secret shame, and conscious thought
Of inborn worth, his lab’ring soul oppress’d,
Roll’d in his eyes, and rag’d within his b

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

Share

Thurso’s Landing

I
The coast-road was being straightened and repaired again,
A group of men labored at the steep curve
Where it falls from the north to Mill Creek. They scattered and hid
Behind cut banks, except one blond young man
Who stooped over the rock and strolled away smiling
As if he shared a secret joke with the dynamite;
It waited until he had passed back of a boulder,
Then split its rock cage; a yellowish torrent
Of fragments rose up the air and the echoes bumped
From mountain to mountain. The men returned slowly
And took up their dropped tools, while a banner of dust
Waved over the gorge on the northwest wind, very high
Above the heads of the forest.
Some distance west of the road,
On the promontory above the triangle
Of glittering ocean that fills the gorge-mouth,
A woman and a lame man from the farm below
Had been watching, and turned to go down the hill. The young
woman looked back,
Widening her violet eyes under the shade of her hand. 'I think
they'll blast again in a minute.'
And the man: 'I wish they'd let the poor old road be. I don't
like improvements.' 'Why not?' 'They bring in the world;
We're well without it.' His lameness gave him some look of age
but he was young too; tall and thin-faced,
With a high wavering nose. 'Isn't he amusing,' she said, 'that
boy Rick Armstrong, the dynamite man,
How slowly he walks away after he lights the fuse. He loves to
show off. Reave likes him, too,'
She added; and they clambered down the path in the rock-face,
little dark specks
Between the great headland rock and the bright blue sea.

II
The road-workers had made their camp
North of this headland, where the sea-cliff was broken down and
sloped to a cove. The violet-eyed woman's husband,
Reave Thurso, rode down the slope to the camp in the gorgeous
autumn sundown, his hired man Johnny Luna
Riding behind him. The road-men had just quit work and four
or five were bathing in the purple surf-edge,
The others talked by the tents; blue smoke fragrant with food
and oak-wood drifted from the cabin stove-pipe
And slowly went fainting up the vast hill.
Thurso drew rein by
a group of men at a tent door
And frowned at them without speaking, square-shouldered and
heavy-jawed, too heavy with strength for so young a man,
He chose one of the men with his eyes. 'You're Danny Woodruff,
aren't you, that drives the tractor?' Who smiled
And answered 'Maybe. What then?' 'Why, nothing, except you
broke my fence and you've got to fix it.' 'You don't say,'
He said laughing. 'Did somebody break your fence? Well, that's
too bad.' 'My man here saw you do it.
He warned you out of the field.' 'Oh, was I warned?' He turned
to Luna: 'What did I say to you, cowboy?'
'You say, you say,' Luna's dark face flushed black, 'you say
'Go to hell.'
' Woodruff gravely, to Thurso:
'That's what I say.' The farmer had a whip in his hand, a hotter
man might have struck, but he carefully
Hung it on the saddle-horn by the thong at the butt, dismounted,
and said, 'You'll fix it though.' He was somewhat
Short-coupled, but so broad in the chest and throat, and obviously
all oak, that Woodruff recoiled a step,
Saying 'If you've got a claim for damages, take it to the county.'
'I'm taking it nearer hand.
You'll fix the fence.' Woodruffs companions
Began to come in between, and one said 'Wait for him
Until he fixes it, your cows will be down the road.'
Thurso shook his head slightly and bored forward
Toward his one object; who felt the persecuting
Pale eyes under dark brows dazzle resistance.
He was glad the bathers came up the shore, to ask
What the dispute was, their presence released his mind
A moment from the obstinate eyes. The blithe young firer
Of dynamite blasts, Rick Armstrong, came in foremost,
Naked and very beautiful, all his blond body
Gleaming from the sea; he'd been one or two evenings
A guest at the farmhouse, and now took Thurso's part
So gracefully that the tractor-driver, already
Unnerved by that leaden doggedness, was glad to yield.
He'd mend the fence in the morning: Oh, sure, he wanted
To do the right thing: but Thurso's manner
Had put him off.
The group dissolved apart, having made for
a moment its unconscious beauty
In the vast landscape above the ocean in the colored evening;
the naked bodies of the young bathers
Polished with light, against the brown and blue denim core of
the rest; and the ponies, one brown, one piebald,
Compacted into the group, the Spanish-Indian horseman dark
bronze above them, under broad red
Heavens leaning to the lonely mountain.

III
In the moonlight two hours before Sunday dawn
Rick Armstrong went on foot over the hill
Toward the farmhouse in the deep gorge, where it was dark,
And he smelled the stream. Thurso had invited him
To go deer-hunting with them, seeing lights in the house
He hurried down, not to make his friends wait.
He passed under a lonely noise in the sky
And wondered at it, and remembered the great cable
That spanned the gorge from the hill, with a rusted iron skip
Hanging from it like a stuck black moon; relics,
With other engines on the headland, of ancient lime-kilns
High up the canyon, from which they shot the lime
To the promontory along the airy cable-way
To be shipped by sea. The works had failed; the iron skip
Stuck on its rusted pulleys would never move again
Until it fell, but to make a desolate creaking
In the mountain east-wind that poured down the gorge
Every clear night. He looked for it and could not find it
Against the white sky, but stumbled over a root
And hurried down to the house.
There were layered smells of
horses and leather
About the porch; the door stood half open, in the yellow slot
Of lamplight appeared two faces, Johnny Luna's dark hollow
Egyptian profile and Helen Thurso's
Very white beyond, her wide-parted violet eyes looked black
and her lips moved. Her husband's wide chest
Eclipsed the doorway. 'Here you are. I was afraid you wouldn't
wake up. Come in,' Thurso said,
'Coffee and bacon, it will be long to lunch.' A fourth in the
room was the lame man, Reave Thurso's brother,
Who said at parting, 'Take care of Helen, won't you, Reave,
Don't tire her out.' He was not of the party but had risen to see
them off. She answered from the porch, laughing,
The light from the door gilding her cheek, 'I'll not be the tired
one, Mark, by evening. Pity the others.'
'Let the men do the shooting, Helen, spare yourself. Killing's
against your nature, it would hurt with unhappy thought
Some later time.' 'Ah,' she answered, 'not so gentle as you
think. Good-bye, brother.'
They mounted the drooping horses and rode up canyon
Between black trees, under that lonely creaking in the sky, and
turned southward
Along the coast-road to enter a darker canyon.
The horses jerked at the bridle-hands,
Nosing out a way for the stammering hooves
Along the rocks of a ribbed creek-bed; thence a path upward
To the height of a ridge; in that clear the red moonset
Appeared between murky hills, like a burning ship
On the world's verge.
Thurso and Luna stealthily dismounted.
They stole two ways down the starry-glimmering slope like
assassins, above the black fur of forest, and vanished
In the shifty gray. The two others remained, Armstrong looked
wistfully
Toward his companion through the high reddish gloom, and
saw the swell of her breast and droop of her throat
Darkling against the low moon-scarred west. She whispered and
said, 'The poor thing may drive up hill toward us:
And I'll not fire, do you want to trade rifles with me? The old
one that Reave has lent you is little use.'
He answered, 'I guess one gun's as good as another, you can't
see the bead, you can't see the notch.' 'Oh: well.
The light will grow.' They were silent a time, sitting and holding
the horses, the red moon on the sea-line
Suddenly foundered; still the east had nothing.
'We'd better take ourselves
Out of the sky, and tie up the horses.' She began to move, down
the way lately climbed, the cowboy's
Pony trailing behind her, Armstrong led Reave's. He saw her
white shirt below him gleam in the starlight
Like bare shoulders above the shadow. They unbridled the horses
and tethered them to buckthorn bushes, and went back
Into the sky; but lay close against the ridge to be hidden, for a
cloud whitened. Orion and Sirius
Stood southward in the mid heaven, and Armstrong said,
'They're strange at dawn, see, they're not autumn stars,
They belong to last March.' 'Maybe next March,' she answered
Without looking. 'Tell me how you've charmed Reave
To make him love you? He never has cared for a friend before,
Cold and lonely by nature. He seems to love you.'
'Why: nothing. If he lacks friends perhaps it's only
Because this country has been too vacant for him
To make choices from.' 'No,' she answered, 'he's cold,
And all alone in himself. Well. His goodness is strength.
He's never set his mind on anything yet
But got it with a strong hand. His brother, you met this morning,
Is very different, a weak man of course,
But kindly and full of pity toward every creature, but really at heart
As cold as Reave. I never loved hunting, and he's
Persuaded me to hate it. Let him persuade
Reave if he could!' Armstrong said, 'Why did you come then?'
'Ah? To watch things be killed.'

They heard the wind
Flustering below, and felt the sallow increase of clearness
On grass-blades, and the girl's face, and the far sea,
A light of visions, faint and a virgin. One rifle-shot
Snapped the still dawn; Armstrong cradled his gun
But nothing came up the hill. The cloud-line eastward
Suddenly flushed with rose-color flame, and standing
Rays of transparent purple shadow appeared
Behind the fired fleece. Helen Thurso sighed and stood up,
'Let's see if we can't lead one of the horses down,
Now light has come, to bring up the corpse.' 'The . . . for
what?'
'The meat,' she said impatiently, 'the killed thing. It's a hard
climb.'
'You think they got it?' 'Couldn't fail; but other years
They've taken two in that trap.' Nearly straight down,
At the edge of the wood, in the pool of blue shade in the cleft
hill,
The two men were seen, one burdened, like mites in a bowl; and
Helen with a kind of triumph: 'Look down there:
What size Reave Thurso is really: one of those little dirty black
ants that come to dead things could carry him
With the deer added.'

They drove a horse down the headlong
pitch; the sun came up like a man shouting
While they climbed back, then Helen halted for breath. Thurso
tightened the lashings under the saddle,
That held his booty on the pony's back, and said to Armstrong,
'That tree that stands alone on the spur,
It looks like a match: its trunk's twenty feet through. The biggest
redwoods left on the coast are there,
The lumbermen couldn't reach them.'
Johnny Luna, when they
reached the ridge,
Was sent home leading his horse, with the buck mounted. The
others rode east, the two men ahead, and Helen
Regarding their heads and shoulders against the sharp sky or
the sides of hills; they left the redwood canyons
And rode a long while among interminable gray ranges bushed
on the north with oak and lupin;
Farther they wandered among flayed bison-shaped hills, and rode
at noon under sparse bull-pines,
And so returned, having seen no life at all
Except high up the sun the black vultures,
Some hawks hunting the gorges, and a far coyote.
In the afternoon, nearing toward home, it was Helen
Who saw five deer strung on a ridge. 'Oh. Look.
So I've betrayed them,' she said bitterly. Reave said to Armstrong,
'Your shot: the buck to the north,' and while he spoke fired, but
the other
Had raised his cheek from the rifle-stock to look
At Helen angrily laughing, her face brilliant
In the hard sunlight, with lakes of deep shade
Under the brows and the chin; when he looked back
The ridge was cleared. 'Why didn't you let him have it?
You'd such an easy shot,' Thurso said,
'Against the cloud, mine was among the bushes,
I saw him fall and roll over.' 'Be very happy,'
Helen said. 'He was hard hit, for he ran down hill.
That makes you shine.'
They labored across the gorge
And climbed up to the ridge. A spongy scarlet thing
Was found at the foot of a green oak-bush and Helen
Came and saw it. 'He was hit in the lung,' Reave said,
'Coughed up a froth of blood and ran down hill.
I have to get him.' 'It looks like a red toadstool:
Red scum on rotten wood. Does it make you sick?
Not a bit: it makes you happy.' 'Why do you come hunting, Helen,
If you hate hunting? Keep still at least. As for being happy:
Look where I have to go down.' He showed her the foamy spots
of blood, on the earth and the small leaves,
Going down a steep thicket that seemed impassable. She answered,
'Let the poor thing die in peace.' 'It would seem a pity,'
He answered, 'to let him suffer; besides the waste.' Armstrong
looked down and said, 'He'll be in the creek-bed.
I'll go down there and work up the gulch, if you go down here.'
'You'd never find him without the blood-trail,'
Reave answered. Then Helen suddenly went back and touched
the foam of blood on the ground, dipping four fingers,
And returned and said, 'I was afraid to do it, so I did it. Now
I'm no better than you. Don't go down.
Please, Reave. Let's hurry and go home. I'm tired.' Reave said
to Armstrong, 'That would be best, if you'd take her home.
It's only a mile and a half, help her with the horses, won't you?
Take mine too. I'll hang the buck in a tree
Near where I find him, and come fetch him to-morrow.' 'If you
want,' Armstrong said. Helen clenched
Her blood-tipped fingers and felt them stick to the palm. 'All
right. I'll do
What you've chosen,' she said with smoothed lips. 'Mark wins,
he said I'd be tired. But he was wrong,'
Opening her hand, regarding the red-lined nails,
'To think me all milk and kindness.' Thurso went down
The thicket; and Helen: 'Nothing could turn him back.
He's never set his mind on anything yet
But snuffled like a bloodhound to the bitter end.' They heard
the branches
Breaking below, and returned by the open slope
To the horses across the creek.
They rode softly
Down the canyon; Helen said, 'I'm not tired.
Do you ever think about death? I've seen you play with it,
Strolling away while the fuse fizzed in the rock.'
'Hell no, that was all settled when they made the hills.'
'Did you notice how high he held his bright head
And the branched horns, keen with happiness?
Nothing told him
That all would break in a moment and the blood choke his throat.
I hope that poor stag
Had many loves in his life.' He looked curiously,
A little moved, at her face; too pale, like a white flame
That has form but no brilliance in the light of day;
The wide violet eyes hollowed with points of craving darkness
Under the long dark lashes; and the charcoal mark
Across her slightly hollowed cheek, where a twig had crossed it
When they rode the burnt hillside. He said: 'I ought
ToVe gone with Reave, it doesn't seem fair to let him
Sweat alone in that jungle.' 'He enjoys toil.
You don't know him yet. Give him a blood-trail to follow,
That's all he wants for Christmas. What he's got's nothing to him,
His game's the getting. But slow, slow: be hours yet.
From here we can choose ways, and though it's a good deal longer,
There's daylight left, we'll go by the head of the hill: up there
you can see the whole coast
And a thousand hills. Look,' she said laughing,
'What the crooked bushes have done,' showing her light shirt
Torn at the breast, and a long red scratch
Under the bright smooth breast. He felt in his mind
A moving dizziness, and shifted his body backward
From the saddle-horn.

A curl of sea-cloud stood on the head of the hill
Like a wave breaking against the wind; but when they reached
it, windows of clearness in it were passing
From the northwest, through which the mountain sea-wall looked
abrupt as dreams, from Lobos like a hand on the sea
To the offshore giant at Point Sur southward. Straight down
through the coursing mists like a crack in the mountain sea-root,
Mill Creek Canyon, like a crack in the naked root of a dead pine
when the bark peels off. The bottom
Of the fissure was black with redwood, and lower
Green with alders; between the black and the green the painted
roof of the farmhouse, like a dropped seed,
Thurso's house, like a grain of corn in the crack of a plank, where
the hens can't reach it.

Cloud steered between;
Helen Thurso said 'What if the rut is a rock canyon,
Look how Fm stuck in a rut: do I have to live there?
And Reave's old mother's like a white-headed hawk.
Your job here's nearly finished, where will you go?'
'I haven't thought: all places are like each other:
Maybe Nevada in the spring.
There's work all over.' 'I,' she said, trembling; 'it seems cold
up here.
I hate the sea-fog. Now let's look east.' They had tied
The horses to the highest bushes on the north slope,
And walked on the open dome of the hill, they crossed it
And the east was clear; the beautiful desolate inhuman range
beyond range of summits all seen at once,
Dry bright and quiet and their huge blue shadows. Helen said
faintly,
'He's down there somewhere. It's that deer's blood.
It made me drunk, it was too red I thought.
Life is so tiny little, and if it shoots
Into the darkness without ever once flashing?'
They turned back to the dome-top under the cloud.
'You're tired, Helen.' 'I'll not let the days of my life
Hang like a string of naughts between two nothings.
Wear a necklace of round zeros for pearls;
I'm not made that way. Think what you please. Shall we go down
now?'
'The cloud has come all around us,' he answered, seeing the distilled
drops of the cloud like seed-pearls
Hung in her hair and on the dark lashes. He turned to go down
to the horses, she said 'I have seen dawn with you,
The red moonset and white dawn,
And starlight on the mountain, and noon on burnt hills where
there was no shadow but a vulture's, and that stag's blood:
I've lived with you
A long day like a lifetime, at last I've drawn something
In the string of blanks.' She lifted her face against his shoulder
and said 'Good-bye.' He said 'I'm Reave's friend,'
And kissed her good-bye seeing she desired it, her breasts burrowed
against him and friendship forgot his mind,
With such brief wooing they stirred the deep wells of pleasure.

She lay but half quieted, still hotly longing,
Her eyes morbidly shuttered like the sleep of fever showed
threads of the white and faint arcs of the crystalline
Violet irises, barred across by the strong dark lashes; the night
of the lids covered the pupils,
Behind them, and under the thick brown hair and under the
cunning sutures of the hollow bone the nerve-cells
With locking fibrils made their own world and light, the multitude
of small rayed animals of one descent.
That make one mind, imagined a mountain
Higher than the scope of nature, predominant over all these edges
of the earth, on its head a sacrifice
Half naked, all flaming, her hair blown like a fire through the
level skies; for she had to believe this passion
Not the wild heat of nature, but the superstitiously worshipped
spirit of love, that is thought to burn
All its acts righteous.
While Helen adorned the deed with the
dream it needed, her lover meanwhile
Explored with hands and eyes the moulded smoothness through
the open clothing, reviving his spent desire
Until they were joined in longer-lasting delight; her nerve-cells
intermitted their human dream;
The happy automatism of life, inhuman as the sucking heart of
the whirlwind, usurped the whole person,
Aping pain, crying out and writhing like torture.

They rose and
went down to the horses;
The light had changed in the sea-cloud, the sun must be near
setting. When they were halfway down the mountain
The whole cloud began to glow with color like a huge rose, a
forest of transparent pale crimson petals
Blowing all about them; slowly the glory
Flared up the slope and faded in the high air.

IV
They rode
through pale twilight
And whispered at the farmhouse door inarticulate leave-takings.
Helen went in; Armstrong unsaddled the horses
Ahd walked heavily up canyon and crossed the hill.
Helen said, 'Reave went after a wounded deer
And sent me home. He hasn't come home yet?'
Reave's mother said 'We've not seen him,' steadily watching her
Across the lamplight with eyes like an old hawk's,
Red-brown and indomitable, and tired. But if she was hawk-like
As Helen fancied, it was not in the snatching look
But the alienation and tamelessness and sullied splendor
Of a crippled hawk in a cage. She was worn at fifty
To thin old age; the attritions of time and toil and arthritis
That wear old women to likeness had whetted this one
To difference, as if they had bitten on a bronze hawk
Under the eroded flesh.
Helen avoided her eyes
And said to the other in the room, 'Ah, Mark, you guessed right.
I'm tired to death, must creep up to bed now.' The old woman:
'So you came home alone? That young Armstrong
Stayed with Reave.' Helen faltered an instant and said,
'No, for Reave sent him with me, wishing his horse
To be taken home. Mr. Armstrong stopped
By the corral, he was unsaddling the horses I think,
But I was too tired to help him. My rifle, Mark,
Is clean: I minded your words.'

An hour later the heavy tread
of a man was heard on the steps
And the fall of a fleshy bulk by the door, crossed by the click of
hooves or antlers, and Reave came in,
His shirt blood-stained on the breast and shoulders. 'I got him,'
he said. 'It seemed for awhile I'd be out all night.
By luck I found him, at twilight in a buckeye bush. Where's
Helen, gone to bed?' 'She seemed flurried with thoughts,'
His mother answered, and going to the door that led to the
kitchen she called, 'Olvidia,'
Bring in the supper.' 'Well, yes,' Reave said. 'I must first hang
up the carcass and wash my hands.' 'Olvidia,'
His mother called to the kitchen, 'will you tell Johnny: is Johnny
there? Tell him to fetch the meat
From the door-step and hang it up with the other.' Mark said,
'How far, Reave, did you carry it?' 'Two miles or so.
Rough country at first; I held it in front of me to butt the brush
with.' 'Why, what does it weigh?' 'Oh,' he said, 'a young
buck.
About Helen's weight.' 'You are strong,' his mother said, 'that's
good: but a fool.' 'Well, mother, I might have hung it
In a tree and gone up with a horse to-morrow; I shouldered it
to save time.'

Mark, enviously:
'You've seen many green canyons and the clouds on a hundred
hills.
My mind has better mountains than these in it,
And bloodless ones.' The dark Spanish-Indian woman
Olvidia took Reave's empty plate and the dish,
And Mrs. Thurso said, 'Reave, you've big arms,
And ribs like a rain-barrel, what do they amount to
If the mind inside is a baby? Our white-face bull's
Bigger and wiser.' 'What have I done?' 'I'll never say
Your young Helen's worth keeping, but while you have her
Don't turn her out to pasture on the mountain
With the yellow-haired young man. Those heavy blue eyes
Came home all enriched.' Reave laughed and Mark said bitterly,
'Mother, that's mean.
You know her too well for that. Helen is as clear as the crystal
sky, don't breathe on her.' 'You,' she answered fondly.
Reave smiled, 'I trust Rick Armstrong as I do my own hand.'
'It shames my time of life,'
She answered, 'to have milky-new sons. What has he done for you
To be your angel?' 'Why,' he said, 'I like him.' 'That's generous,
And rare in you. How old is he?' 'My age. Twenty-four.'
'Oh, that's a better reason to trust him.' 'Hm?' 'You're the
same age.'
'That's no reason.' 'No,' she answered.

V
Toward noon the next day
Helen was ironing linen by the kitchen stove,
A gun-shot was heard quite near the house, she dropped the iron
And ran outdoors and met Mark. 'What was that shot?' 'Don't
go up there, Helen.' 'Why not, why not,' she stammered,
'Why not,' the flush of the stove-heat graying on her cheek.
'Reave has put poor old Bones out of pain.' 'Oh, that!'
Laughing and trembling, 'Your funeral face. I thought something
had happened to someone. Let the old dog sleep.'
She went up hill to the screen of seawind-stunted laurel and oak,
where Reave was already spading
Dust into the gape of a small grave. 'You've done for poor old
Bones, have you? You knew I loved him,
So you took him off.' 'A pity you came just now, Helen. He
died in a moment. If we'd used this mercy
Two or three months ago we'd have saved pain.' She answered,
quivering with anger, 'You do it on the sly
And call it mercy. Ah, killing's your pleasure, your secret vice.'
'I'll wish you sunnier pleasures: and a little
Sense in your head: he was made of miseries: you've seen him plead
To be helped, and wonder at us when the pain stayed.
I've helped him now.' 'Will you do as much for yourself
When life dirties and darkens? Your father did.'
'No, I will not,' he said, shovelling the dust.
'What's that said for? For spite?' 'No, Reave.
I was wondering. For I think it's reasonable.
When the flower and fruit are gone, nothing but sour rind,
Why suck the shell? I think your father was right.'
'Drop a little silence on him,' Reave answered.
'We may help out the beasts, but a man mustn't be beaten.
That was a little too easy, to pop himself off because he went broke.
I was ten years old, I tried not to despise the soft stuff
That ran away to the dark from a touch of trouble:
Because the lime-kilns failed and the lumber mill
Ran out of redwood.
My mother took up his ruins and made a farm;
She wouldn't run away, to death or charity. Mark and I helped.
We lost most of the land but we saved enough.'
'Think of one man owning so many canyons:
Sovranes, Granite,' she counted on her fingers, 'Garapatas, Palo
Colorado,
Rocky Creek, and this Mill Creek.' 'Oh, that was nothing, the
land was worth nothing
In those days, only for lime and redwood.' She answered,
'You needn't despise him, Reave. My dad never owned anything.
While I worked in a laundry and while I crated fruit
He ate my wages and lived as long as he could
And died crying.' 'We're proud of our fathers, hm?
Well, he was sick a long time,' Reave said, patting
The back of the spade on the filled grave; 'but courage might live
While the lungs rot. I think it might. You never
Saw him again, did you?' 'How saw him?' 'We used to see mine
Often in the evenings.' 'What do you mean, Reave?'
'Why: in the evenings.
Coming back to stare at his unfinished things.
Mother still often sees him.' Helen's face brightening
With happy interest, 'Oh where?' she said. 'On the paths;
Looking up at that thing, with his mouth open.'
Reave waved his hand toward the great brown iron skip
Hanging on its cable in the canyon sky,
That used to carry the lime from the hill, but now
Stuck on dead pulleys in the sky. 'It ought to be taken down
Before it falls. I’ll do it when we've done the plowing.'
Helen said, 'Does he ever speak?' 'Too ashamed of himself.
I spoke to him once:
I was carrying firewood into the house, my arms were full. He
worked a smile on his face and pointed
At the trolley up there.' 'Do you really believe,' she said, 'that
your father's ghost?' 'Certainly not. Some stain
Stagnates here in the hollow canyon air, or sticks in our minds.
How could too weak to live
Show after it died?' 'I knew,' she answered, blanching again
with capricious anger, 'you'd no mercy in you,
But only sudden judgment for any weak thing;
And neither loving nor passionate; dull, cold and scornful. I used
to keep a gay heart in my worst days
And laugh a little: how can I live
Where nothing except poor Mark is even half human, you like
a stone, hard and joyless, dark inside,
And your mother like an old hawk, and even dirty Olvidia and
Johnny Luna, dark and hollow
As the hearts of jugs. The dog here in the ground Oh but how
carefully you scrape the blood-lake
Had loving brown eyes: so you killed him: he was sometimes
joyful: it wouldn't do. You killed him for that.' He answered,
Staring, 'Were you born a fool? What's the matter, Helen?'
'If I had to stay here
I'd turn stone too: cold and dark: I'd give a dollar
For a mirror now, and show you that square face of yours
Taken to pieces with amazement: you never guessed
Helen's a shrew. Oh, what do you want her for?
Let her go.' She left him; and when he came in at noon
Spoke meekly, she seemed to have wept.

VI
In the evening, in
Helen's presence,
Reave's mother said, 'Did that sand-haired young man
Find you, Reave, when he came this afternoon?
He didn't come to the house.' 'Who?' 'That road-worker,
Arnfield.' 'Rick Armstrong?' 'Most likely: the one I warned you
Not to pasture your heifer with.' 'He was here?' 'No,
Not here. I saw him come down the hill, and Helen
Went out to meet him.' Mark Thurso looked up
From the book he'd been reading, and watched his mother
As a pigeon on a rock watches a falcon quartering
The field beyond the next fence; but Helen suddenly:
'Now listen, Mark. I'm to be framed, ah?
I think so. I never liked her.' The old woman said,
'Did you say something?' 'Not yet,' she answered. Reave made
a mocking
Noise in his throat and said, 'Let them alone.
No peace between women.
This morning I sent Luna over the hill
With one of the bucks we killed, no doubt my friend came over
At quitting-time to say thank-you: why he didn't find me's
Less clear, but watch the women build it between them
To a big darkness.' 'Not I,' Helen said,
And dipped her needle two or three careful stitches
In the cloth she was mending, then looked up suddenly
To see who watched her. 'If I'd seen him,' she said, 'I'd have
spoken to him.
I am not sick with jealousy of your new friend. But he was
probably not here; the old eyes that make
A dead man's phantom can imagine a live one's.' The old woman:
'When you saw him you ran to meet him; I sent Olvidia
To see if the speckled hen had stolen a nest in the willows. She
walked down there, what she saw amazed her.
I've not allowed her to tell me though she bubbles with it. Your
business, Reave: ask her. Not mine: I'm only
The slow man's mother.' Helen stood up, trembling a little and
smiling, she held the needle and the spool
And folded the cloth, saying 'Your mother, Reave,
Loves you well: too well: you and I honor her for that. She has
hated me from the day she heard of me,
But that was jealousy, the shadow that shows love's real: nothing
to resent. But now you seem very friendly
With that young man too: she can't bear to yield you again, it
cracks the string of her mind. No one can fancy
What she's plotted with the kitchen woman . . .' Mark Thurso
said with lips that suddenly whitened: '7 met Armstrong.
I told him you'd ridden up the high pasture, for so I believed.
He asked me to thank you warmly
For the buck you sent: I forgot to tell you. I was with him while
he was here, and when he went back I hobbled
Some ways up hill.' The old woman moved her lips but said
nothing; but Reave: 'Here: what's the matter,
Brother? You were with me constantly all afternoon.' 'But an
hour,' Mark said. 'Hm? Five minutes.' Then Helen,
Looking from the one to the other: 'If I am hated, I think I am
loved too. I'd something to say . . .
Oh: yes: will you promise, Reave, promise Olvidia
You'll give her, for telling the perfect truth, whatever your
mother has promised her for telling lies: then I'm safe.
Call her and ask her.' He answered, 'She'll sleep in hell first.
Here's enough stories
Without hers in the egg-basket. Do you think it was Armstrong
you saw, mother? I trust Rick Armstrong
From the bright point to the handle.' Helen said, 'Ah, Mark,
You'd never imagine I'd be satisfied with that.
I have to be satisfied with that.' 'Why not?' Reave said.
And she: 'If it was nothing worse than killing to fear
I'd confess. All kinds of lies. I fear you so much
I'd confess ... all kinds of lies ... to get it over with,'
She said, making a clicking noise in her throat
Like one who has drunk too much and hiccoughs, 'only
To get it over with: only, I haven't done anything.
This terror, Mark, has no reason,
Reave never struck nor threatened me, yet well I know
That while I've lived here I've always been sick with fear
As that woman is with jealousy. Deep in me, a black lake
His eyes drill to, it spurts. Sometime he'll drill to my heart
And that's the nut of courage hidden in the lake.
Then we'll see. I don't mean anything bad, you know: I'm very
innocent,
And wish to think high, like Mark. Olvidia of course is a hollow
liar. May I go now? I'm trembling-tired:
If you'll allow me to go up to bed? But indeed I dare not
While you sit judging.' She looked at Mark and slightly
Reached both her hands toward him, smiled and went out.
But in the little dark hallway under the stair,
When she hastened through it in the sudden darkness,
The door being neither open nor shut passed edgewise
Between her two groping hands, her cheek and brow
Struck hard on the edge.

Her moan was heard in the room of
lamplight;
Where they had been sitting silent while she went out,
An4 when she had gone Mark Thurso had said, 'Mother:
You've done an infamous thing.' 'They might play Jack and queen
All they please,' she answered, 'but not my son
For the fool card in the deck,' the shock of struck wood was heard,
And Helen's hushed groan: Mark, dragging his lameness, reeled
Swiftly across the room saying 'What has she done?'
He groped in the passage and spoke tenderly, then Reave
Went and brought Helen to the lamplight; a little blood
Ran through her left eye to her lips from the cut eyebrow.
The implacable old woman said 'She's not hurt.
Will you make a fuss?' Helen said, 'The wood of your house
Is like your mother, Reave, hits in the dark.
This will wash off.' She went to the kitchen and met
Olvidia who'd been listening against the door,
Then Helen, moaning 'I'm ringed with my enemies,' turned
To flee, and turned back. 'I will take it now. My husband, Olvidia,
Is ready to kill me, you see. I have been kind to you
Two or three times. Have you seen any unusual
Or wicked meeting to-day?' The Indian woman,
Dreading Reave's anger and seeing the blood, but hardly
Understanding the words, blanked her dark face
And wagged her head. 'Don't know. What you mean, wicked?
I better keep out of this.' 'A dish of water, Olvidia.
Be near me, Mark. Reave: will you ask her now?'
He said 'Wash and be quiet.' Helen said, 'Oh Olvidia,
Someone has made him angry at you and me.
Look in my eyes. Tell no bad stories . . . lies, that is ...
Did you see anything when you looked for eggs
In the willows along the creek?' Olvidia folded
Her lips together and stepped backward, then Helen
Sighed, dabbling her cheek with water. 'It hurts. I think
It will turn black.' Reave suddenly shouted 'Answer.'
Olvidia, retreating farther: 'What you want of me?
I find no eggs.' Mark said, 'Come, Helen, Oh come. I've watched
innocence tormented
And can no more. Go up and sleep if you can, I'll speak for you,
to-morrow all this black cloud of wrong
Will be melted quite away in the morning.' Reave said, 'Don't
fawn on her, you make me mad. Women will do it.
But why praise 'em for it?' Helen, meekly: 'I am very tired and
helpless and driven to the edge. Think kindly of me,
Mark, I believe I shall be much hated. Your mother . . .
This is all. Light me a candle.' At the foot of the stair
She closed the door, and silently tip-toed through
The passage and the other room to the door of the house,
There pinched the wick, and praying for no wind
To make a stir in the house, carefully opened
The outer door and latched it behind her.

She traversed the hill,
And at the road-men's camp, plucking at the fly
Of a lit tent, thought momently it was curious
She stood among so many unrestrained men
Without fear, yet feared Reave. 'I must see Rick Armstrong
This moment: which tent?' They laid their hands of cards
Carefully face down on the packing-box.
'Why, ma'am, I can't say exactly,' but she had run off
To another lamp of shining canvas and found him.
'Let me stand into the light.' She showed her cut brow
A little bleeding again with hurry in the dark,
And the purpling bruise. 'What Reave did. Your friend Reave.
His mother spied and told on us. What will you do?'
'By God!' 'Oh,' she said, 'that's no good.
How could you keep me here? Borrow a car,
There are cars here.' He said 'I'll take care of you.' She
shuddered,
Beating her fists together, breathed long and said:
'If you choose to stand here and talk among the men listening
It is not my fault. I say if you and these men could stop him when
he comes
You can'tto-night, to-night, in an hour nothing can stop him:
he'd call the sheriff to-morrow and have me
Like a stolen cow, nothing but ridiculous, a mark for children to
hoot at, crying in my hair, probably
Led on a rope. Don't you know him? I do. Oh my lover
Take me to the worst hut at the world's end and kill me there,
but take me from here before Reave comes.
I'd go so gladly. And how could you bear to face him, he thought
you his faithful friend, for shame even?
Oh hurry, hurry!'

VII
In the desert at the foot of sun-rotted hills
A row of wooden cabins flanks a gaunt building
Squatted on marbly terraces of its own excrement,
Digested rock from which the metal has been sucked,
Drying in the rage of the sun. Reave Thurso stopped
At the first cabin, a woman came out and pointed;
He went to the farthest cabin, knocked, and went in.
'Well, Helen. You found a real sunny place.' Opening the door
She'd been a violet-eyed girl, a little slatternly
But rich with life; she stood back from the door
Sallow, with pinched nostrils and dwindled eyes,
As if she had lost a fountain of blood, and faintly
Whispering 'I knew you.' Reave looked about him like one
Attentively learning the place, and Helen said
'I never hoped that you wouldn't come at last,
It seemed a kind of blood-trail for you to follow.
And then I knew you were tardy and cold of course and at last
You'd come at last, you never give up anything,
How did you track us at last?' 'Oh,' he laughed, 'Time and I.
He's at work?' 'Yes.' 'If you wanted to hide
You'd have got him to change his name.' 'I begged him to,' she
answered,
Suddenly weeping, 'so many times.' 'Don't cry, don't cry.
You know that I'll never hurt you. Mark loves you too, he's been
very lonely. He wanted me to let you go,
But that was nonsense. He's been sick since you went away. Do
you remember the rose-bush you made me buy
That time in Salinas? Mark's watered it for you, sick or well,
Every day, limping around the house with a pail of water spilling
on his poor ankle-joint,
He'll be glad to see you again. Well, pack your things.' She gathered
Her blanked face to some show of life. 'Look around at this
country. Oh Reave. Reave. Look. I let him
Take me here at last. And he hasn't been always perfectly kind:
but since I’ve been living with him I love him . . .
My heart would break if I tried to tell you how much. I'm not
ashamed. There was something in me that didn't
Know about love until I was living with him. I kissed him, when
he went back to work this noon.
I didn't know you were corning; forgot you were coming sometime.
See how it is. No: I understand:
You won't take me.' He, astonished: 'Not take you? After hunting
you a whole year? You dream too much, Helen.
It makes you lovely in a way, but it clouds your mind. You must
distinguish. All this misfortune of yours
Probably . . .' 'Oh God,' she said, shuddering,
'Will you preach too? First listen to me: I tell you all the other
joys I’ve ever known in my life
Were dust to this . . . misfortune; the desert sun out there is a
crow's wing against the brightness of this . . .
Misfortune: Oh I didn't mean, dear,
To make you angry.' She was suddenly kneeling to him and
pressed her face
On his hard thigh: 'I know Pve been wicked, Reave.
You must leave me in the dirt for a bad woman: the women here
See the marks of it, look sidelings at me.
I'll still believe you used to love me a little,
But now of course
You wouldn't want for a wife ... a handkerchief
You lost and another man picked me up and
Wiped his mouth. Oh there may have been many
Other men. In a year: you can't tell.
Your mother is strong and always rightly despised me.
She'd spit on me if she saw me now. So now
You'll simply cast me off; you're strong, like your mother,
And when you see that a thing's perfectly worthless
You can pick it out of your thoughts. Don't forgive me. I only
Pray you to hate me. Say 'She's no good. To hell with her!
That's the mercy I pray you for.' He said hastily, 'Get up,
This is no theater. I intend to take you back, Helen,
I never was very angry at you, remembering
That a. woman's more like a child, besides you were muddled
With imaginations and foolish reading. So we'll shut this bad year
In a box of silence and drown it out of our minds.' She stood
away from him toward the farther wall
With a sharp white face, like a knife-blade worn thin and hollow
with too much whetting, and said, turning her face
Toward the window, 'How do I know that he can compel me?
He can torment us, but there's no law
To give me to him. You can't take me against my will. No: I
won't go. Do you think you're God,
And we have to do what you want?' He said, 'You'll go all
right.' She, laughing, 'At last you've struck something
Stiffer than you. Reave, that stubborn will
Is not strength but disease, I've always known it, like the slow
limy sickness
You hear about, that turns a man's flesh to bone,
The willing muscles and fibers little by little
Grow hard and helpless, at last you can't dent them, nothing will move,
He lands in a tent beside the circus, with a painting of him
Over the door and people pay ten cents
To see the petrified man: that's your stubbornness,
Your mind sets and can't change, you don't go on
Because you want to but because you have to, I pity you,
But here you're stopped.' Suddenly she trembled and shrank
little again. '7f you could take me
I'd stab you in bed sleeping.' 'You know,' he answered,
'You're talking foolishness. I have to see Armstrong before we go,
When he quits work, I guess there's a couple of hours, but you'd
best get ready.' 'Why must you see ... Rick?'
Reave made no answer, Helen covertly watched him, slowly the
metal temper failed from her face.
'I'll go,' she said faintly, 'and tell him.' 'You'll stay here.' 'Reave?
Reave. You said you weren't angry.' 'Not at you. If I'd anyone
To help me, I'd send you off first. Walked around like a man,
Was a male bitch . . .' 'I led him, I called him, I did it.
It's all mine.' 'What?' 'The blame, the blame, the blame,
I planned it, all mine, I did it, Reave.' A white speck glittered
At the commissure of his lips, he licked his lips
As if he were thirsty and said difficultly, 'I've had a
Year to think about it: have to have relief, you're
Let off, keep still.' She felt his eyes
Craftily avoiding hers, and something monstrous in him moulding
the mass of his body to a coarsened
More apelike form, that a moment appeared and then was
cramped back to human: her image-making mind beheld
Her lover go under the hammers of this coarse power, his face
running thick blood turn up at last
Like a drowning man's, before he went down the darkness, all his
gay bravery crushed made horrible submission:
With any warning or whatever weapons he'd be like a bird in a
dog's mouth, Reave had all the strength,
Would fight foul, with all means and no mercy: 'Oh, Oh, take
me with you
If you want me, but now. Before he comes.
How could I look at him again if I'm going to leave him? You
understand
That's too much to ask me, to stand between you
Like a cow between the brown bull and the white one.
In spite of all I'm not so ... shameless as ...
You think.' He made a questioning noise, 'Hm?' and she thinking
He'd failed to hear: 'I'll go and live with you
If you'll take me now. I can't face Rick, not wait for Rick,'
She said, weaving and parting the fingers
Of her two supplicant hands. She essayed more words,
But only the lips and no voice made them, then again
Breath filled the words, 'I've done wickedly, I'm sorry.
I will obey you now.' His eyes were hidden
While he considered, all at once he said joyfully
'Pack then.' 'Me, not my things: there's nothing.' 'Then come.'
She followed him; suddenly in the doorway she dropped
And kissed the threshold.
Thurso watched and said nothing;
She got up and walked at his side in the hot white dust by the
row of small cabins,
The wood of their doors and walls was worn to the look of seadrift
by the desert sand-scour. Suddenly Helen
Laughed like the bitter crying of a killdeer when someone walks
near the nest, 'My God, Reave, have you come for me
In the old wreck of a farm-truck, will it still run?' 'What else?
We haven't got rich, we haven't bought cars
While I've been away from home hunting you.' 'The pigs and
I,' she cried shrilly. Reave nodded, and went to the door
Of the last cabin, and said to the woman to whom he had spoken
before: 'I'm taking my wife home.
This woman's my wife. When Armstrong comes, tell that bastard
We're going west. He's got a car.' Helen cried, 'Oh, cheat, cheat,
Will you tole him after you?' He said heavily. 'What do you mean?
Come on,' and so holding her wrist that the bones ached
Drew her to the car. She had yielded and was subject to him,
She could imagine no recourse, her mind palsied
Like the wrist-clenched hand.

VIII
After twenty miles he turned
The carbureter-connection, slyly regarding
His seat-mate, she fogged with misery observed nothing.
The engine went lame, 'What's the matter?' he said, turning
The carbureter-connection; the engine stalled.
He lifted the hood and made the motions of helplessness,
Looking up sometimes at Helen, who sat in the dust on the high
seat on the folded blanket,
Her face in her hands. 'We're stuck here,' Thurso said. 'Well,
we have water.' She dropped her hands from her face
And stared at the road ahead; then she began to see the desert
about them, the unending incandescent
Plain of white dust, stippled with exact placing of small gray
plants, each tuft a painfully measured
Far distance from every other and so apparently forever, all
wavering under the rage of the sun,
A perfect arena for the man's cruelty; but now she was helpless.
Still Armstrong failed to come; Helen awoke again
From blind misery, and watched Reave's nerves
Growing brittle while the sun sailed west. He babbled childlike
About cattle and pastures, things unreal, unimaginable,
In the white anguish here; his hands quivered,
And the sun sank.

In the night Helen revived
Enough to make action appear possible again.
She crept stealthily away in the starry darkness
Thinking Reave slept; when he spoke she tried to run,
Her thighs and calves were like hollow water, he followed
And brought her back through the vast unnatural pallor of the night,
Rough-handed, but only saying 'You're too restless.' She writhed
her hands together like bitter flames and lay down
On the spread blanket. After while she lay face upward. Those
foam-bubbles on the stale water of night
Were floating stars, what did it matter, which of two men?
Yesterday the one had been lovely and the other
Came in like ugly death, but difference had died. Rick Armstrong
must have made some ridiculous plan
For heading them off or else he'd have come. Perhaps he thought
she went willingly. Why not? 'I go with you willingly,'
She said aloud, 'dear, do you hear me? I've shot my load of
feeling, there's nothing left in the world
Worth thinking twice. We'll crawl home to our hole.'
He answered, 'I can't believe he's a coward: he'll come in the
morning.' 'I dread death
More than your mother's eyes,' she answered. 'I'm the coward
or I'd kill myself. Dear, I fear death
More than I hate this dishwater broth of life. A bowlful a day, O
God! Do the stars look
Like lonely and pretty sparkles when you look up?
They look to me like bubbles of grease on cold
Dishwater.' He said, 'Sleep, you’ll feel better.' He heard her
sighing
And twisting her body on the sand while the night waned.
He got up and stood beside her and said anxiously,
'I was to blame too, Helen. Part of the blame
Is mine, Helen. I didn't show enough love,
Nor do often enough
What women want. Maybe it made your life
Seem empty. It seems ... it seems to me it wouldn't be decent
To do it just now: but I'll remember and be
Better when we get home.' She said, 'O God! Fool, fool,
A spoonful a night. Your mother was lying to you.
She knows better.'

In the morning
Thurso waited two hours from sunrise;
They had nothing to eat; Helen endured her headache, and the
shameless sun
Blared from the east. Reave greased the joints of the truck.
When one of those long gray desert lizards that run
With heads raised highly, scudded through the white sand,
He flung the wrench suddenly and broke its back
And said 'He won't come then. My God, Helen,
Was he tired of you? He won't come.' She watched her husband
Pick up the wrench and batter that broken life,
Still lifting up its head at him, into the sand. He saw the yellow
Grains of fat in the red flesh and said,
'Come here, Helen. Yellow you see, yellow you see.
Your friend makes us all vile.' She understood
That 'yellow' meant cowardly, and that this was Armstrong
Battered to a cake of blood.

IX
They drove west
Through the white land; the heat and the light increased,
At length around a ridge of ancient black lava
Appeared a place of dust where food could be bought, but Helen
Would eat nothing. In the evening they came
293
THURSO'S LANDING
Among fantastic Joshua-trees to a neat
Framed square of cabins at the foot of a mountain
Like a skeleton; seeing Helen so white and sick,
And the motor misfiring, Reave chose to lodge at this camp.
He'd tinker the engine while there was daylight. He found the timer
Choked up with drift of the desert; having washed it with gasoline
and heard the cylinders
Roar cheerfully again, he returned to Helen.

She was not in the cabin,
But sat with chance companions on a painted bench under the
boughs of one of those reptilian trees
Near the camp entrance; no longer white and morose, her face
was flushed, her eyes sparkling with darkness
In the purple evening that washed the mountain. Before he came
she was saying, 'My husband just doesn't care
What anyone thinks: he said, all right, if I wanted to see the
desert, but he wouldn't take either one
Of our new cars to be spoiled, he'd drive the old farmtruck . . .'
Seeing Reave approaching, greased black to the elbows, 'Oh, Oh,
What's he been doing? Oh: it's black, I think? Dear, I felt better
When the sun went down.' He, staring at her companions:
'That's good.' 'They call it desert fever,' she stammered.
'The heat's the cause.' She stood up, giggling and swaying.
'Was nearly exhausted, they gave me a little medicine.
Nice people.' 'What did you give her?' 'She begged for a tablespoonful,'
the old woman answered, 'Texas corn-whiskey.
Are you going west?' Helen said gravely, 'A spoonful a night:
O God!' 'She's eaten nothing,' Reave said,
'Since yesterday. Come and lie down, Helen.' She obeyed, walking
unsteadily beside him, with terrified eyes.
'Dear, please don't touch me, your hands are terrible,' she said.
'They think you killed him.'
He made her lie down on the bed while he washed himself.
She wept and said, 'I always make friends easily.
I used to be full of joy. Now my wishes
Or your own soul will destroy you when you get home.
I'd give my life to save you.' He groaned angrily,
But she was unable to be silent and said:
'I think you're even worse hurt than I am. Were you ever on a ship?
This place is like a ship, everything smells
In spite of neatness, and I am desert-sick.
Oh, Reave, I never dreamed that you'd be deep-wounded.
Forgive me dear.' He violently: 'Lick your own sores.
The man was my friend and that degrades me: but you’ve
Slept with him. You couldn't help but have learned him
In a year's familiar life and I've been thinking
That whores you, because no woman can love a coward,
And still you stayed . . .' 'For his money, for his money you know,'
She answered through chattering teeth, 'and the fine house
You found me in among the rich gardens, the jewels and furs,
Necklaces of pearls like round zeroes, all these hangings of gold
That make me heavy . . .' 'Ah,' he said, 'be quiet.' He went
out, and returning after a time with a tray of food
Lighted the lamp and cut meat in small bites and forced her to
eat. 'Dear,' she mourned, 'I can't swallow
Though I chew and chew. The rocking of the ship and the hot
smell close up my throat. Oh be patient with me.
When we land I'll feel better,' her deep-colored eyes moving in
sickly rhythm to the roll of the ship,
He said 'You're in the desert: an auto-camp by the road. Wake
up and eat.' She sat up on the bed
And looked anxiously about the bleak lamplight, then took the tray
And obeyed his will. 'I thought you were my dad.
Once we travelled on a boat from the south
To San Francisco. I expect I saw from the deck the Mill Creek
mountains and never
Guessed,' she said, shuddering. While she ate she began to fear
That people who were going to die dreamed of a ship
The night before. The truck would be overturned
And crush her body in the sand like that lizard's,
A tire would have burst.
Against the black horror of death
All living miseries looked sweet; in a moment of aimless
Wild anguish she was unable not to cry out, and said:
'Ah, Ah, what have you done, tearing me from him? I love him,
you know.
Maybe he's cowardly or maybe he's only tired of me, but if he's
yellow to the bones, if he's yellower than gold,
I love him, you know.
If I were crushed in the sand like that lizard you killed, to a cake
of blood why not? for I think you'll
Do it sometime the sun would dry me and my dust would blow
to his feet: if I were dead in the desert
And he drowned in the middle ocean toward Asia, yet something
and something from us would climb like white
Fires up the sky and twine high shining wings in the hollow sky:
while you in your grave lie stuck
Like a stone in a ditch.' He, frowning: 'Have you finished?'
He took the tray and said, 'Have you had enough?'
'Never enough. Dear, give me back to him. I can't think yet
That you understand,' she said slyly and trembling.
'Don't you care, that he and I have made love together
In the mountains and in the city and in the desert,
And once at a Navajo shepherd's camp in the desert in a storm of
lightnings
Playing through the cracks of the shed: can you wink and
swallow
All that?' 'I can't help it. You've played the beast.
But you are my goods and you'll be guarded, your filthy time
Has closed. Now keep still.'
She was silent and restless for a good while.
He said, 'You'll be sleeping soon, and you need sleep.
I'll go outside while you get ready for bed.'
'Let me speak, just a little,' she said humbly.
'Please, Reave, won't you leave me here in the morning, I'll
manage somehow.
You're too strong for us, but, dear, be merciful.
I think you don't greatly want me: what you love really
Is something to track down: your mountains are full of deer:
Oh, hunt some bleeding doe. I truly love you.
I always thought of you as a dear, dear friend
When even we were hiding from you.' He was astonished
To see her undress while she was speaking to him,
She seemed to regard him as a mere object, a keeper,
But nothing human. 'And Rick Armstrong,' she said,
'I can't be sure that I love him: dear, I don't know
That I'll go back to him; but I must have freedom, I must have
freedom
If only to die in, it comes too late . . .'
She turned her back and slipped off the undergarment
And glided into the bed. She was beautiful still,
The smooth fluted back and lovely long tapering legs not
changed,
Nor the supple motions; nor that recklessness
Of what Thurso called modesty was any change;
She never tried to conceal her body from him
Since they were married, but always thoughtless and natural;
And nestled her head in the pillow when she lay down
With little nods, the tender way he remembered:
So that a wave of compassionate love
Dissolved his heart: he thought, 'Dearest, I've done
Brutally: I'll not keep you against your will.
But you must promise to write to me for help
When you leave that cur.' He made the words in his mind
And began to say: 'Dearest . . .' but nothing further
Had meaning in it, mere jargon of mutterings, the mouth's refusal
Of the mind's surrender; and his mind flung up a memory
Of that poor dead man, his father, with the sad beaten face
When the lime-kilns failed: that man yielded and was beaten,
A man mustn't be beaten. But Helen hearing
The 'dearest,' and the changed voice, wishfully
Lifted her head, and the great violet eyes
Sucked at Reave's face. 'No,' he said. He blew out the lamp,
Resolved to make this night a new marriage night
And undo their separation. She bitterly submitted;
'I can bear this: it doesn't matter: I'll never tell him.
I feel the ship sailing to a bad place. Reave, I'm so tired
That I shall die. If my wrist were broken
You wouldn't take my hand and arm in your hands
And wriggle the bones for pleasure? You're doing that
With a worse wound.' Her mind had many layers;
The vocal one was busy with anguish, and others
Finding a satisfaction in martyrdom
Enjoyed its outcry; the mass of her mind
Remained apparently quite neutral, under a familiar
Embrace without sting, without savor, without significance,
Except that this breast was hairier.

X
They drove through the two
deserts and arrived home. Helen went in
With whetted nerves for the war with Reave's mother, resolving
Not to be humble at least; but instead of the sharp old woman a
little creature
With yellow hair and pleated excess of clothing stood up in the
room; and blushed and whitened, anxiously
Gazing, clasping thin hands together. Reave said, 'It's Hester
Clark.' And to Hester Clark: 'Tell Olvidia
To count two more for supper; my wife and I have come home.'
She answered, 'Oh yes,' fleeing. Then Helen:
'What's this little thing? Why does it wear my dress?' 'She's
only hemmed it over,' he said, 'at the edges.
Have it again if you want, I had to find something for her.' His
mother was heard on the stair, and entering
Looked hard at Helen and went and kissed Reave. Who said, 'I
shall stay at home now, mother: Helen's come home.'
'Yes. How do you do.' Her red-brown eyes brushed Helen's
body from the neck to the ankles, 'I'll have them heat
Bathwater.' Helen trembled and said, 'How kind. There are
showers in all the camps: if you mean anything else:
Reave seems content.' 'Very well. He's easily of course contented.
He picks up things by the road: one of them
I've allowed to live here: to speak honestly
In hope to keep his mind off another woman: but that cramps
and can't change.' 'If I knew what I want!'
Helen cried suddenly. 'The girl is a servant here,' Reave said.
'I hate the spitefulness of women. The housework
Needed help when you were not here.' Then Helen: 'She's quite
sick I think: she'll have to clear out I think.
Yet something in me felt kindly toward that little wax face
In my old clothes. I came home against my will. Why isn't Mark
here?' The far door opened for Olvidia,
Unable to imagine any pretext for entrance, but unable to bridle
her need
Of coming, to stare and smile from flat black eyes. Behind her
Johnny Luna was seen peering, but dared not enter.
Then Helen wondered, where was that thin little thing?
Crying somewhere? And Reave's mother said: 'Now you'll cut down
The old cable, as you promised, Reave. We're tired of seeing it.
You'll have time now.' He answered, 'Where's Mark, mother?
Helen just asked you.' 'I heard her.
Sitting under a bush on the

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

Share

Fragments from 'Genius Lost

Prelude
I SEE the boy-bard neath life’s morning skies,
While hope’s bright cohorts guess not of defeat,
And ardour lightens from his earnest eyes,
And faith’s cherubic wings around his being beat.

Loudly the echo of his soul repeats
Those deathless strains that witched the world of old;
While to the deeds, his high heart proudly beats,
Of names within them, treasured like heroic gold.

To love he lights the ode of vocal fire,
And yearns in song o’er freedom’s sacred throes,
Or pours a pious incense from his lyre,
Wherever o’er the grave a martyre-glory glows.

Or as he wanders waking dreams arise,
And paint new Edens on the future’s scroll,
While on the wings of rapture he outflies
The faltering mood that warns in his prophetic soul.

All doubt away!” he cries in trustful mood;
“From Time’s unknown the perfect yet shall rise;
And this full heart attests how much of God
Might dwell with man beneath these purple-clouded skies!”

Thus holiest shapes inhabit his desire,
And love’s dream-turtles sing along his way;
Thus faith keeps mounting, like a skylark, higher,
As hope engoldens more the morning of his day.

But ah! Too high that harp-like heart is strung,
To bear the jar of this harsh world’s estate;
And ’tis betrayed by that too fervent tongue
How burns the fire within, that bodes a wayward fate.

Soon on the morning’s wings shall fancy flee,
And world-damps quench love’s spiritual flame,
And his wild powers, now as the wild waves free,
Be reef-bound by low wants and beaten down by shame.


Now mark him in the city’s weltering crowd
Haggard and pale; and yet, in his distress,
How quick to scorn the vile—defy the pround—
Grim, cold, and distant now—then seized with recklessness.
Yet oft what agony his pride assails,
When life’s first morning faith to thought appears
Lost in the shadowy past, and nought avails
Her calling to the lost—then blood is in his tears.

Henceforth must his sole comrade be despair,
Sole wanderer by his side in ways forlorn;
And as a root-wrenched vine no more may bear,
No more by this dry wood shall fruit be borne.

No more! And every care of life, in woe
And desperation, to the wind is hurled!
He thanks dull wondering pity with a blow,
And leaps, though into hell, out of the cruel world.


First Love
I, even when a child,
Had fondly brooded, with a glowing cheek
And asking heart, with lips apart, and breath
Hushed to such silence as the matron dove
Preserves while warming into life her young,
Over the secretely-disclosing hope
Of finding in the fulness of my youth
Some sweet, congenial one to love, to call
My own. And one has been whose soul
Felt to its depth the influence of mine,
Albeit between us the sweet name of Love
Passed never, to bring blooming to the check
Those rosy shames that burn it on the heart—
Symbol of heaven, sole synonym of God!—
Yet not the less a sympathy that heard,
Through many a whisper, Love’s sweet spirit-self,
Low breathing in the silence of our souls,
Knit us together with a still consent.

And she was beautiful in outward shape,
As lovely in her mind. Such eyes she had
As burn in the far depths of passionate thought,
While yet the visionary heart of youth
Is lonely in its hope! Cherries were ne’er
More ruby-rich, more delicately full,
Than were her lips; and, when her young heart would,
A smile, ineffably enchanting, played
The unwitting conqueress there.

Her light, round form
Had grace in every impulse, motions fair
As her life’s purity; her being all
Was as harmonious to the mind, as are
Most perfect strains of purest tones prolonged,
To music-loving ears.

But full of dole
Her mortal fate to me! Ere sixteen springs
Had bloomed about her being, a most fell
And secret malady did feel amid
The roses of her cheeks, her lips—but still,
Felon-like, shunned the lustre of her eyes,
That more replendent grew. And so, before
Those glowing orbs had turned their starry light
Upon one human face with other troth
Than a meek daughter or fond sister yields;
Ere her white arms and heaving bosom held
A nestling other than the weary head
Of sickness or a stranger babe, the grass
That whistled dry in the autumnal wind,
Was billowing round her grave.

And yet I live
Within a world that knoweth her no more.

. . . . .
’Tis well when misery’s harassed son
For shelter to the grave doth go,
As to his mountain-hold may run
The hunted roe.
Yet when, beneath benignant skies,
The angle Grace herself appears
But Deaths born bride, the stoniest eyes
Might break in tears.


Chorus of the Hours
Ah! That Death
Should ever, like a drear, untimely night,
Descent upon the loved, in Love’s despite!
Ah! That a little breath
Expiring from the world, should leave each scene,
Where its warm influence before hath been,
So empty to the heart in its despair
Of all but misery—misery everywhere!


Thus in the morning of my life have I
No happiness rooted in the earth, to hold
My spirit to the actual. All my hopes
Are blown away by adverse chilling winds,
Blown sheer away, out of the world, to seek
Such solace as may be derived from far
And lonely flights of faith. Yet even these
Only divert, not satisfy, my soul;
Still, when her wings refuse them, wearied out
By so wild-will’d an aeronaut as I,
Having no nearer comfort, even as now,
Their foregone influence do I meditate,
Tracing them upward in their heavenward track.
As through an ocean of uprolling mist
Amid the morning Alps, a morning bird
Keeps soaring, trustful of the risen sun—
Who then is turning all the mountain tops
To diamond islets washed by waves of gold,
That shatter as they surge—keeps soaring, till
It shoots at length into the cloudless light,
And gleams a bird of fire; so faith upmounts
Through the earth’s misty tribulations, up
Into the clear of the eternal world,
Unfainting, fervent, till, with happy wings
Outspreading full amid the rays of God
It glories, gleaming like the Alpine bird.
But wearying in her flight, even faith returns,
As does the bird—returns into the mist
That shutteth down all less adventurous life,
But stronger for the mighty vision left
And for the heavenly warmth upon her wings.


Once,—did I only stand in thought beside
The grave of one who had for freedom died,
Or on some spot made holy by the vow
Of tuneful love, though of an ancient day,—
My very life would thrill—and am I now
Journeying away
From that fraternal interest which cast
Around me then the feeling of the past?
I know not; but my heart no more will leap
Even to the trump of some Homeric lay:
Bad progress is it, if from that I keep
Journeying away!


Misery
As the moaning wild waves ever
Fret around some lonely isle,
There are griefs that no endeavour
Stilleth even for a while,
Beating at my heart for ever,
Beating at it now,
Beating at my heart—and aching
Upward to my brow.

Like the wild clouds flying over
High above all human reach,
There are joys that I their lover
Cannot even scale in speech;
Flying o’er my head for ever
Flying o’er it now;
Flying o’er my headand shading
With despair my brow.


Chorus of the Hours
Alas! The veriest human clod
Is happier than he,
On whom the majesty,
And the mystery
Of thought, had fallen like the fire of God!
Ah! Those by nature gifted to pursue
The beautiful and true
Have chiefly in dishonour trod
The regions they redeemed—as even yet they do!

And where are they, to gods upgrown,
Shall drive this darksome doom?
Ye suffering sons of Genius, you
Must dissipate the gloom
That clouds you even as of old
In its mist so deadly cold!
With your own injuries, let stern thought
Of the most desolate deathless of those
Who with the power of darkness fought,
(Each in his age, whereon his spirit rose,
As rises some peculiar star of night
To burn eternally apart,)
Yea, let stern thought of those
Now nerve you to re-urge the lengthened fight;
And for those others,
Your future brothers,
Now follow victory with unflinching heart!


Looking Beyond
Yes, it is well, in this our cold grim earth
To steal an hour for meditation free;
To die in body, and with all the mind
Thus freed, to bridge with might beams of thought
The depth of the Eternal. Even on me
Such mood sometimes descends, the precious gift
Of pitying Urania, then I fly,
Even as a stork mid evening’s purple clouds
In mid-Elysiums—Paradises fair
Perhaps in stars consummated, whereon
The once earth-treading votaries of Truth
In soul reside, until a period when
Knowledge, advancing them from height to height,
And Love, grown perfect, shall have nurtured forth
Angelic wings for heaven.

But by these
I mean not such as with sour faces boast;
Blind moles of fear, who deem thy honour God
By offering up on outraged human hearts,
As upon blood-stained altars, every gay
And happy feeling, every rose wish
That sweetens human souls: and who, convened
In their dull tabernacles, all at once
Behowl the Diety as dogs the moon,
Or deprecate his wrath with grovelling rites,
And boisterous groans, that from stentorian lungs
Are grunted, swine-like, forth! Oh no! For such
The paradise of fools full wide extends
Her dismal gates!

I speak not thus in scorn;
Scorn is not sweet to me; but when the rights
Of man are trampled on; when villains sit
In the high places of the land, and sport
With what the just hold sacred; when mere wealth
Can win its Nestor’s favour, and the sleek
Regard even of its saints, and when religion
Itself is ever in a bad extreme—
A bloated pomp of mystery and show,
Or a most crude and coarse perversity,
Vile as a beggar’s raiment—then the scorn
Of indignation, then the brave disgust
Of righteous shame and honest hate, put forth
In tones like God’s own thunder burst aboard,
Are things the thin-souled scoundrel never feels.

Enough. The good I deem leave vain disputes
On things that are, and must be from their kind,
Mainly unknown, and still with faithful heed
Have care of those God gave them light to see
Strewn round their daily being: and of such
Rightfully choosing, and to fitting ends
Well shaping all, upbuild with honest hands
A true and simple life; and in the jars
Of national factions they alway, despite
Of frowning kings and banning priests afford
Their aid to freedom.


Yet will there come a day, though not to me,
When excellence of being shall be sought
Not only thus in vision, but within
The actual round of this diurnal world,—
A day whose light shall chase the clouds that veil
Upon the mountain tops of old repute
The imaginary gods of wrongful power,
And pierce thence downward to the vales of toil,
Healing and blessing all men—the great day
Of knowledge. Then the accident of birth—
That empty imposition! Or the claim
Of wealth—that earthly and most gnomish cheat!
Shall neither arrogate to any, proud
Distinctions as of right, nor qualify
Any by its sole influence for power
Over his fellows, but all men shall stand
Proudly beneath the fair wide roof of heaven,
As God-created equals, each the sire
Of his own worth, and the joint sanctioner
Of all political pertainment, all
Moral and social honour.
Yea, for such
Is Freedom’s charter traced upon the heart
Of our humanity, whene’er ’tis rid
Of the foul scroff of vice, and on the brain
Built godlike, when disclouded by God’s light
Of a too old distemper’s fatal rout,
Of boastful hell-suggested superstitions
And customs born of Error. And let none
Despair of such an advent; for, as when
Some solemn wood’s familiar cadences,
Deepening and deepening all around, portend
The salutary storm, even so the wide
Pervading instinct of a sure revolt
Against the ancient tyrannies of the earth
Roams on before it in the living stress
Of knowledge, omening the unborn change
By harshening still to the fine ear of thought
The daily jar of customary wrongs.

And let none fear that earthly power, or aught
Less than Omnipotence, can still or stay
The solemn prelude that for ever thus
Keeps deepening round and onward in the front
Of that great victory over wrong, which time
Shall witness—wrong and its abettors, all
Whom lust of sway unsanctioned by the truth
Shall to the last disnature; for the spirit
It first evokes—a mighty will to think—
Doth thenceforth charge it with oracular tones
That may not be mistaken.

Yea, great thoughts
With great thoughts coalescing through the world,
Into the future of all progress pour
Sun-prophecies, there quickening what were else
Nascent too long.

Chorus of the Hours
O why is not this beauteous earth
The Eden men imagine—the fair seat
Of fruitful peace, pure love, and sunny mirth?
And why are its prime souls, though so complete
In apprehension of a Godlike state,
The subjects ever of fraternal hate—
Oppressing or oppressed,
That so the portion is of all, deceit
And fear, and anger, sorrow, and unrest?

Theres not one bright enduring thing
In this great round of nature that appears—
No shining stars, no river murmuring,
No morn-crowned hill, no golden evening scene,
That hath not glimmered and distorted been
Through the dim mist of tears—
Tears not as blood from some wrung human brain,
Throbbing and aching with unpitied pain!

There is not one green mound, existent long
In any region, nor old wayside stone,
On which some weary child of social wrong
Hath sat not—there, alone,
To bite his pallid lip and heave the unheeded groan!

And such hath been the state of man
Since first the race’s recreancy began;
And thus his piety is scared away
From earth, its proper home,
To seek vague heavens above the source of day;
Or out beyond the gorgeous gloom
Wherewith dusk evening curtains up the west;
There flying, like the psalmist’s dove, to rest
In sinless gardens of perpetual bloom
And islands of the blest.


Ah! My heart
Is like a core of fire within my breast,
And by this agony is all my mind
Shaken away from its tenacious hold
Of time and sensuous things. Now come, thou meek
Religious trust, that sometime to my soul
Fliest friendly, like a heaven-descended dove,
With wings that whisper of the peace of God!
Come, and assure it now, that all thus seen
Of evil, by the patience of the One
Almighty Master of the Universe,
Is but allowed, to dash our vain repose
On Time’s foundations, and all mad belief
In human consequence; that, finally,
Amid the death of expectations fond,—
Discoveries diurnal that the pomps
And pleasures of the world are but bright mists
Concealing, mid its heights of pomp and shame,
Its depths of degradation,—that all weal,
Beauty, and peace, even in their permanence,
Are but the florid riches of a soil
That crusts the cone of some yet masked volcano,
Whose darling fires but wait the dread command:
“Up, to the work appointed! ”—we at length,
Even thus admonished, thus in hope and heart
Subdued and chastened, might be so constrained
To look between the thunder-bearing clouds
That darken over this mysterious ball s
Blind face, for surer, better things beyond
Its flying scenes of doubtful good, commixed
With evident evil: yea, conclude at last
That wereso in the universe of God
Our better home may be, it is not here;
Then here why build we?


O! Then, farewell,
Fancy and Hope, twin angels of the past!
Thee, Fancy, chiefly of my younger life
The spiritual spouse, farewell! With all
Thy pictured equipage: the shapes sublime
Of universal liberty and right,
Dethroning tyrants and investing worth
Alone with power and honour; and with these
Fair visions that come shining to the heart
Like evening stars from a serener air
Of generosity, in rapture high
At rival excellence; of charity
Living in secret for her own sweet sake;
Of mercy lifting up a fallen foe;
Of pity yearning o’er the child of shame;
Unselfish love, and resolute friendship—all,
Even to common trust—farewell! These lights
May never burn in the grey dome of time
or constellate for me the world again!
No more! No, never more.


The Cemetery
Here, only here
In the dark dwellings of this silent city
Is rest for the world-weary. Slander here,
Disease and poverty, forego their victim;
The fox of envy and the wolf of scorn
Snarl not within these gates. The enemy
Who comes to triumph o’er the powerless bones
That once he feared, still hates—even as he comes,
By the dismaying silence smitten, stops,
Listening for some far reproachful voice
Heard only through the mystery of his soul,
And, shuddering, asks forgiveness. Slept I here,
And should an enemy so plead, and might
My injured spirit, hovering over, hear—
The boon were granted. O that here, even now,
The sense were frozen to forgetfulness
That I, upon this populous star of God,
This earth that I was born to, and have loved,
Am utterly uncared-for and alone!


Whither?
Alas! These thoughts are storming all my soul
With madness—yea, the madness of despair!
And though my reason lifting up its strength
As desperately confronts them, just as well
Might the poor castaway, who helpless stands
On some bleak rock in the mid ocean, preach
Obedience to the breakers surging round
That perilous point, as I (in this wild gloom)
Strive to o’ercome them—And why should I strive?
No, rather let them howl like midnight wolves
Within my failing brain, and gnaw and tug
At my sick heart, their bitter food, for they
Will help me to my one desire—death.


Be his rest who sleeps below,
Done to death by toil and woe,
Sound and sweet.
So much in fortune did he lack,
So little meet
Of kindness, as with bleeding feet
He journeyed life’s most barren track,
That only hate in its deceit,
Not love, not pity, would entreat
To have him back.
But he sleeps well where many a bloom
That might not grace his living home
Pranks the raised sod:
Tokening, perhaps, that one who here
Missed the world’s smile, hath met elsewhere
The smile of God.

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

Share
George Chapman

Hero And Leander. The Third Sestiad

New light gives new directions, fortunes new,
To fashion our endeavours that ensue.
More harsh, at least more hard, more grave and high
Our subject runs, and our stern Muse must fly.
Love's edge is taken off, and that light flame,
Those thoughts, joys, longings, that before became
High unexperienc'd blood, and maids' sharp plights,
Must now grow staid, and censure the delights,
That, being enjoy'd, ask judgment; now we praise,
As having parted: evenings crown the days.
And now, ye wanton Loves, and young Desires,
Pied Vanity, the mint of strange attires,
Ye lisping Flatteries, and obsequious Glances,
Relentful Musics, and attractive Dances,
And you detested Charms constraining love!
Shun love's stoln sports by that these lovers prove.
By this, the sovereign of heaven's golden fires,
And young Leander, lord of his desires,
Together from their lovers' arms arose:
Leander into Hellespontus throws
His Hero-handled body, whose delight
Made him disdain each other epithite.
And as amidst th' enamour'd waves he swims,
The god of gold of purpose gilt his limbs,
That, this word _gilt_ including double sense,
The double guilt of his incontinence
Might be express'd, that had no stay t' employ
The treasure which the love-god let him joy
In his dear Hero, with such sacred thrift
As had beseem'd so sanctified a gift;
But, like a greedy vulgar prodigal,
Would on the stock dispend, and rudely fall,
Before his time, to that unblessed blessing
Which, for lust's plague, doth perish with possessing:
Joy graven in sense, like snow in water, wasts:
Without preserve of virtue, nothing lasts.
What man is he, that with a wealthy eye
Enjoys a beauty richer than the sky,
Through whose white skin, softer than soundest sleep,
With damask eyes the ruby blood doth peep,
And runs in branches through her azure veins,
Whose mixture and first fire his love attains;
Whose both hands limit both love's deities,
And sweeten human thoughts like Paradise;
Whose disposition silken is and kind,
Directed with an earth-exempted mind;--
Who thinks not heaven with such a love is given?
And who, like earth, would spend that dower of heaven,
With rank desire to joy it all at first?
What simply kills our hunger, quencheth thirst,
Clothes but our nakedness, and makes us live,
Praise doth not any of her favours give:
But what doth plentifully minister
Beauteous apparel and delicious cheer,
So order'd that it still excites desire,
And still gives pleasure freeness to aspire,
The palm of Bounty ever moist preserving;
To Love's sweet life this is the courtly carving.
Thus Time and all-states-ordering Ceremony
Had banish'd all offence: Time's golden thigh
Upholds the flowery body of the earth
In sacred harmony, and every birth
Of men and actions makes legitimate;
Being us'd aright, the use of time is fate.
Yet did the gentle flood transfer once more
This prize of love home to his father's shore;
Where he unlades himself on that false wealth
That makes few rich,--treasures compos'd by stealth;
And to his sister, kind Hermione
(Who on the shore kneel'd, praying to the sea
For his return), he all love's goods did show,
In Hero seis'd for him, in him for Hero.
His most kind sister all his secrets knew,
And to her, singing, like a shower, he flew,
Sprinkling the earth, that to their tombs took in
Streams dead for love, to leave his ivory shin,
Which yet a snowy foam did leave above,
As soul to the dead water that did love;
And from hence did the first white roses spring
(For love is sweet and fair in everything),
And all the sweeten'd shore, as he did go,
Was crown'd with odorous roses, white as snow.
Love-blest Leander was with love so fill'd,
That love to all that touch'd him he instill'd;
And as the colours of all things we see,
To our sight's powers communicated be,
So to all objects that in compass came
Of any sense he had, his senses' flame
Flow'd from his parts with force so virtual,
It fir'd with sense things mere insensual.
Now, with warm baths and odours comforted,
When he lay down, he kindly kiss'd his bed,
As consecrating it to Hero's right,
And vow'd thereafter, that whatever sight
Put him in mind of Hero or her bliss,
Should be her altar to prefer a kiss.
Then laid he forth his late-enriched arms,
In whose white circle Love writ all his charms,
And made his characters sweet Hero's limbs,
When on his breast's warm sea she sideling swims;
And as those arms, held up in circle, met,
He said, 'See, sister, Hero's carquenet!
Which she had rather wear about her neck,
Than all the jewels that do Juno deck.'
But, as he shook with passionate desire
To put in flame his other secret fire,
A music so divine did pierce his ear,
As never yet his ravish'd sense did hear;
When suddenly a light of twenty hues
Brake through the roof, and, like the rainbow, views,
Amaz'd Leander: in whose beams came down
The goddess Ceremony, with a crown
Of all the stars; and Heaven with her descended:
Her flaming hair to her bright feet extended,
By which hung all the bench of deities;
And in a chain, compact of ears and eyes,
She led Religion: all her body was
Clear and transparent as the purest glass,
For she was all presented to the sense:
Devotion, Order, State, and Reverence,
Her shadows were; Society, Memory;
All which her sight made live, her absence die.
A rich disparent pentacle she wears,
Drawn full of circles and strange characters.
Her face was changeable to every eye;
One way look'd ill, another graciously;
Which while men view'd, they cheerful were and holy,
But looking off, vicious and melancholy.
The snaky paths to each observed law
Did Policy in her broad bosom draw.
One hand a mathematic crystal sways,
Which, gathering in one line a thousand rays
From her bright eyes, Confusion burns to death,
And all estates of men distinguisheth:
By it Morality and Comeliness
Themselves in all their sightly figures dress.
Her other hand a laurel rod applies,
To beat back Barbarism and Avarice,
That follow'd, eating earth and excrement
And human limbs; and would make proud ascent
To seats of gods, were Ceremony slain.
The Hours and Graces bore her glorious train;
And all the sweets of our society
Were spher'd and treasur'd in her bounteous eye.
Thus she appear'd, and sharply did reprove
Leander's bluntness in his violent love;
Told him how poor was substance without rites,
Like bills unsign'd; desires without delights;
Like meats unseason'd; like rank corn that grows
On cottages, that none or reaps or sows;
Not being with civil forms confirm'd and bounded,
For human dignities and comforts founded;
But loose and secret all their glories hide;
Fear fills the chamber, Darkness decks the bride.
She vanish'd, leaving pierc'd Leander's heart
With sense of his unceremonious part,
In which, with plain neglect of nuptial rites,
He close and flatly fell to his delights:
And instantly he vow'd to celebrate
All rites pertaining to his married state.
So up he gets, and to his father goes,
To whose glad ears he doth his vows disclose.
The nuptials are resolv'd with utmost power;
And he at night would swim to Hero's tower,
From whence he meant to Sestos' forked bay
To bring her covertly, where ships must stay,
Sent by his father, throughly rigg'd and mann'd,
To waft her safely to Abydos' strand.
There leave we him; and with fresh wing pursue
Astonish'd Hero, whose most wished view
I thus long have foreborne, because I left her
So out of countenance, and her spirits bereft her:
To look on one abash'd is impudence,
When of slight faults he hath too deep a sense.
Her blushing het her chamber; she look'd out,
And all the air she purpled round about;
And after it a foul black day befell,
Which ever since a red morn doth foretell,
And still renews our woes for Hero's woe;
And foul it prov'd because it figur'd so
The next night's horror; which prepare to hear;
I fail, if it profane your daintiest ear.
Then, ho, most strangely-intellectual fire,
That, proper to my soul, hast power t' inspire
Her burning faculties, and with the wings
Of thy unsphered flame visit'st the springs
Of spirits immortal! Now (as swift as Time
Doth follow Motion) find th' eternal clime
Of his free soul, whose living subject stood
Up to the chin in the Pierian flood,
And drunk to me half this Musaean story,
Inscribing it to deathless memory:
Confer with it, and make my pledge as deep,
That neither's draught be consecrate to sleep;
Tell it how much his late desires I tender
(If yet it know not), and to light surrender
My soul's dark offspring, willing it should die
To loves, to passions, and society.
Sweet Hero, left upon her bed alone,
Her maidenhead, her vows, Leander gone,
And nothing with her but a violent crew
Of new-come thoughts, that yet she never knew,
Even to herself a stranger, was much like
Th' Iberian city that War's hand did strike
By English force in princely Essex' guide,
When Peace assur'd her towers had fortified,
And golden-finger'd India had bestow'd
Such wealth on her, that strength and empire flow'd
Into her turrets, and her virgin waist
The wealthy girdle of the sea embraced;
Till our Leander, that made Mars his Cupid,
For soft love-suits, with iron thunders chid;
Swum to her towers, dissolv'd her virgin zone;
Led in his power, and made Confusion
Run through her streets amaz'd, that she suppos'd
She had not been in her own walls enclos'd,
But rapt by wonder to some foreign state,
Seeing all her issue so disconsolate,
And all her peaceful mansions possess'd
With war's just spoil, and many a foreign guest
From every corner driving an enjoyer,
Supplying it with power of a destroyer.
So far'd fair Hero in th' expugned fort
Of her chaste bosom; and of every sort
Strange thoughts possess'd her, ransacking her breast
For that that was not there, her wonted rest.
She was a mother straight, and bore with pain
Thoughts that spake straight, and wish'd their mother slain;
She hates their lives, and they their own and hers:
Such strife still grows where sin the race prefers:
Love is a golden bubble, full of dreams,
That waking breaks, and fills us with extremes.
She mus'd how she could look upon her sire,
And not shew that without, that was intire;
For as a glass is an inanimate eye,
And outward forms embraceth inwardly,
So is the eye an animate glass, that shows
In-forms without us; and as Phoebus throws
His beams abroad, though he in clouds be clos'd,
Still glancing by them till he find oppos'd
A loose and rorid vapour that is fit
T' event his searching beams, and useth it
To form a tender twenty-colour'd eye,
Cast in a circle round about the sky;
So when our fiery soul, our body's star,
(That ever is in motion circular,)
Conceives a form, in seeking to display it
Through all our cloudy parts, it doth convey it
Forth at the eye, as the most pregnant place,
And that reflects it round about the face.
And this event, uncourtly Hero thought,
Her inward guilt would in her looks have wrought;
For yet the world's stale cunning she resisted,
To bear foul thoughts, yet forge what looks she listed,
And held it for a very silly sleight,
To make a perfect metal counterfeit,
Glad to disclaim herself, proud of an art
That makes the face a pandar to the heart.
Those be the painted moons, whose lights profane
Beauty's true Heaven, at full still in their wane;
Those be the lapwing-faces that still cry,
'Here 'tis!' when that they vow is nothing nigh:
Base fools! when every moorish fool can teach
That which men think the height of human reach.
But custom, that the apoplexy is
Of bed-rid nature and lives led amiss,
And takes away all feeling of offence,
Yet braz'd not Hero's brow with impudence;
And this she thought most hard to bring to pass,
To seem in countenance other than she was,
As if she had two souls, one for the face,
One for the heart, and that they shifted place
As either list to utter or conceal
What they conceiv'd, or as one soul did deal
With both affairs at once, keeps and ejects
Both at an instant contrary effects;
Retention and ejection in her powers
Being acts alike; for this one vice of ours,
That forms the thought, and sways the countenance,
Rules both our motion and our utterance.
These and more grave conceits toil'd Hero's spirits;
For, though the light of her discoursive wits
Perhaps might find some little hole to pass
Through all these worldly cinctures, yet, alas!
There was a heavenly flame encompass'd her,--
Her goddess, in whose fane she did prefer
Her virgin vows, from whose impulsive sight
She knew the black shield of the darkest night
Could not defend her, nor wit's subtlest art:
This was the point pierc'd Hero to the heart;
Who, heavy to the death, with a deep sigh,
And hand that languished, took a robe was nigh,
Exceeding large, and of black cypres made,
In which she sate, hid from the day in shade,
Even over head and face, down to her feet;
Her left hand made it at her bosom meet,
Her right hand lean'd on her heart-bowing knee,
Wrapp'd in unshapeful folds, 'twas death to see;
Her knee stay'd that, and that her falling face;
Each limb help'd other to put on disgrace:
No form was seen, where form held all her sight;
But like an embryon that saw never light,
Or like a scorched statue made a coal
With three-wing'd lightning, or a wretched soul
Muffled with endless darkness, she did sit:
The night had never such a heavy spirit.
Yet might a penetrating eye well see
How fast her clear tears melted on her knee
Through her black veil, and turn'd as black as it,
Mourning to be her tears. Then wrought her wit
With her broke vow, her goddess' wrath, her fame,--
All tools that enginous despair could frame:
Which made her strew the floor with her torn hair,
And spread her mantle piece-meal in the air.
Like Jove's son's club, strong passion struck her down,
And with a piteous shriek enforc'd her swoun:
Her shriek made with another shriek ascend
The frighted matron that on her did tend;
And as with her own cry her sense was slain,
So with the other it was called again.
She rose, and to her bed made forced way,
And laid her down even where Leander lay;
And all this while the red sea of her blood
Ebb'd with Leander: but now turn'd the flood,
And all her fleet of spirits came swelling in,
With child of sail, and did hot fight begin
With those severe conceits she too much marked:
And here Leander's beauties were embarked.
He came in swimming, painted all with joys,
Such as might sweeten hell: his thought destroys
All her destroying thoughts; she thought she felt
His heart in hers, with her contentions melt,
And chide her soul that it could so much err,
To check the true joys he deserved in her.
Her fresh-heat blood cast figures in her eyes,
And she suppos'd she saw in Neptune's skies
How her star wander'd, wash'd in smarting brine,
For her love's sake, that with immortal wine
Should be embath'd, and swim in more heart's-ease
Than there was water in the Sestian seas.
Then said her Cupid-prompted spirit, 'Shall I
Sing moans to such delightsome harmony?
Shall slick-tongu'd Fame, patch'd up with voices rude,
The drunken bastard of the multitude
(Begot when father Judgment is away,
And, gossip-like, says because others say,
Takes news as if it were too hot to eat,
And spits it slavering forth for dog-fees meat),
Make me, for forging a fantastic vow,
Presume to bear what makes grave matrons bow?
Good vows are never broken with good deeds,
For then good deeds were bad: vows are but seeds,
And good deeds fruits; even those good deeds that grow
From other stocks than from th' observed vow.
That is a good deed that prevents a bad:
Had I not yielded, slain myself I had.
Hero Leander is, Leander Hero;
Such virtue love hath to make one of two.
If, then, Leander did my maidenhead git,
Leander being myself, I still retain it:
We break chaste vows when we live loosely ever,
But bound as we are, we live loosely never:
Two constant lovers being join'd in one,
Yielding to one another, yield to none.
We know not how to vow till love unblind us,
And vows made ignorantly never bind us.
Too true it is, that, when 'tis gone, men hate
The joy as vain they took in love's estate:
But that's since they have lost the heavenly light
Should show them way to judge of all things right.
When life is gone, death must implant his terror:
As death is foe to life, so love to error.
Before we love, how range we through this sphere,
Searching the sundry fancies hunted here:
Now with desire of wealth transported quite
Beyond our free humanity's delight;
Now with ambition climbing falling towers,
Whose hope to scale, our fear to fall devours;
Now rapt with pastimes, pomp, all joys impure:
In things without us no delight is sure.
But love, with all joys crowned, within doth sit:
O goddess, pity love, and pardon it!'
Thus spake she weeping: but her goddess' ear
Burn'd with too stern a heat, and would not hear.
Ay me! hath heaven's strait fingers no more graces
For such as Hero than for homeliest faces?
Yet she hoped well, and in her sweet conceit
Weighing her arguments, she thought them weight,
And that the logic of Leander's beauty,
And them together, would bring proofs of duty;
And if her soul, that was a skilful glance
Of heaven's great essence, found such imperance
In her love's beauties, she had confidence
Jove loved him too, and pardoned her offence:
Beauty in heaven and earth this grace doth win,
It supples rigour, and it lessens sin.
Thus, her sharp wit, her love, her secrecy,
Trooping together, made her wonder why
She should not leave her bed, and to the temple;
Her health said she must live; her sex, dissemble.
She viewed Leander's place, and wished he were
Turned to his place, so his place were Leander.
'Ay me,' said she, 'that love's sweet life and sense
Should do it harm! my love had not gone hence
Had he been like his place: O blessed place,
Image of constancy! Thus my love's grace
Parts nowhere, but it leaves something behind
Worth observation: he renowns his kind:
His motion is, like heaven's, orbicular,
For where he once is, he is ever there.
This place was mine; Leander, now 'tis thine;
Thou being myself, then it is double mine,
Mine, and Leander's mine, Leander's mine.
O, see what wealth it yields me, nay, yields him!
For I am in it, he for me doth swim.
Rich, fruitful love, that, doubling self estates,
Elixir-like contracts, though separates!
Dear place, I kiss thee, and do welcome thee,
As from Leander ever sent to me.'

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

Share

Laus Veneris

Asleep or waking is it? for her neck,
Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck
Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out;
Soft, and stung softly — fairer for a fleck.


But though my lips shut sucking on the place,
There is no vein at work upon her face;
Her eyelids are so peaceable, no doubt
Deep sleep has warmed her blood through all its ways.


Lo, this is she that was the world's delight;
The old grey years were parcels of her might;
The strewings of the ways wherein she trod
Were the twain seasons of the day and night.


Lo, she was thus when her clear limbs enticed
All lips that now grow sad with kissing Christ,
Stained with blood fallen from the feet of God,
The feet and hands whereat our souls were priced.


Alas, Lord, surely thou art great and fair.
But lo her wonderfully woven hair!
And thou didst heal us with thy piteous kiss;
But see now, Lord; her mouth is lovelier.


She is right fair; what hath she done to thee?
Nay, fair Lord Christ, lift up thine eyes and see;
Had now thy mother such a lip — like this?
Thou knowest how sweet a thing it is to me.


Inside the Horsel here the air is hot;
Right little peace one hath for it, God wot;
The scented dusty daylight burns the air,
And my heart chokes me till I hear it not.


Behold, my Venus, my soul's body, lies
With my love laid upon her garment-wise,
Feeling my love in all her limbs and hair
And shed between her eyelids through her eyes.


She holds my heart in her sweet open hands
Hanging asleep; hard by her head there stands,
Crowned with gilt thorns and clothed with flesh like fire,
Love, wan as foam blown up the salt burnt sands —


Hot as the brackish waifs of yellow spume
That shift and steam — loose clots of arid fume
From the sea's panting mouth of dry desire;
There stands he, like one labouring at a loom.


The warp holds fast across; and every thread
That makes the woof up has dry specks of red;
Always the shuttle cleaves clean through, and he
Weaves with the hair of many a ruined head.


Love is not glad nor sorry, as I deem;
Labouring he dreams, and labours in the dream,
Till when the spool is finished, lo I see
His web, reeled off, curls and goes out like steam.


Night falls like fire; the heavy lights run low,
And as they drop, my blood and body so
Shake as the flame shakes, full of days and hours
That sleep not neither weep they as they go.


Ah yet would God this flesh of mine might be
Where air might wash and long leaves cover me,
Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers,
Or where the wind's feet shine along the sea.


Ah yet would God that stems and roots were bred
Out of my weary body and my head,
That sleep were sealed upon me with a seal,
And I were as the least of all his dead.


Would God my blood were dew to feed the grass,
Mine ears made deaf and mine eyes blind as glass,
My body broken as a turning wheel,
And my mouth stricken ere it saith Alas!


Ah God, that love were as a flower or flame,
That life were as the naming of a name,
That death were not more pitiful than desire,
That these things were not one thing and the same!


Behold now, surely somewhere there is death:
For each man hath some space of years, he saith,
A little space of time ere time expire,
A little day, a little way of breath.


And lo, between the sundawn and the sun,
His day's work and his night's work are undone;
And lo, between the nightfall and the light,
He is not, and none knoweth of such an one.


Ah God, that I were as all souls that be,
As any herb or leaf of any tree,
As men that toil through hours of labouring night,
As bones of men under the deep sharp sea.


Outside it must be winter among men;
For at the gold bars of the gates again
I heard all night and all the hours of it
The wind's wet wings and fingers drip with rain.


Knights gather, riding sharp for cold; I know
The ways and woods are strangled with the snow;
And with short song the maidens spin and sit
Until Christ's birthnight, lily-like, arow.


The scent and shadow shed about me make
The very soul in all my senses ache;
The hot hard night is fed upon my breath,
And sleep beholds me from afar awake.


Alas, but surely where the hills grow deep,
Or where the wild ways of the sea are steep,
Or in strange places somewhere there is death,
And on death's face the scattered hair of sleep.


There lover-like with lips and limbs that meet
They lie, they pluck sweet fruit of life and eat;
But me the hot and hungry days devour,
And in my mouth no fruit of theirs is sweet.


No fruit of theirs, but fruit of my desire,
For her love's sake whose lips through mine respire;
Her eyelids on her eyes like flower on flower,
Mine eyelids on mine eyes like fire on fire.


So lie we, not as sleep that lies by death,
With heavy kisses and with happy breath;
Not as man lies by woman, when the bride
Laughs low for love's sake and the words he saith.


For she lies, laughing low with love; she lies
And turns his kisses on her lips to sighs,
To sighing sound of lips unsatisfied,
And the sweet tears are tender with her eyes.


Ah, not as they, but as the souls that were
Slain in the old time, having found her fair;
Who, sleeping with her lips upon their eyes,
Heard sudden serpents hiss across her hair.


Their blood runs round the roots of time like rain:
She casts them forth and gathers them again;
With nerve and bone she weaves and multiplies
Exceeding pleasure out of extreme pain.


Her little chambers drip with flower-like red,
Her girdles, and the chaplets of her head,
Her armlets and her anklets; with her feet
She tramples all that winepress of the dead.


Her gateways smoke with fume of flowers and fires,
With loves burnt out and unassuaged desires;
Between her lips the steam of them is sweet,
The languor in her ears of many lyres.


Her beds are full of perfume and sad sound,
Her doors are made with music, and barred round
With sighing and with laughter and with tears,
With tears whereby strong souls of men are bound.


There is the knight Adonis that was slain;
With flesh and blood she chains him for a chain;
The body and the spirit in her ears
Cry, for her lips divide him vein by vein.


Yea, all she slayeth; yea, every man save me;
Me, love, thy lover that must cleave to thee
Till the ending of the days and ways of earth,
The shaking of the sources of the sea.


Me, most forsaken of all souls that fell;
Me, satiated with things insatiable;
Me, for whose sake the extreme hell makes mirth,
Yea, laughter kindles at the heart of hell.


Alas thy beauty! for thy mouth's sweet sake
My soul is bitter to me, my limbs quake
As water, as the flesh of men that weep,
As their heart's vein whose heart goes nigh to break.


Ah God, that sleep with flower-sweet finger-tips
Would crush the fruit of death upon my lips;
Ah God, that death would tread the grapes of sleep
And wring their juice upon me as it drips.


There is no change of cheer for many days,
But change of chimes high up in the air, that sways
Rung by the running fingers of the wind;
And singing sorrows heard on hidden ways.


Day smiteth day in twain, night sundereth night,
And on mine eyes the dark sits as the light;
Yea, Lord, thou knowest I know not, having sinned,
If heaven be clean or unclean in thy sight.


Yea, as if earth were sprinkled over me,
Such chafed harsh earth as chokes a sandy sea,
Each pore doth yearn, and the dried blood thereof
Gasps by sick fits, my heart swims heavily,


There is a feverish famine in my veins;
Below her bosom, where a crushed grape stains
The white and blue, there my lips caught and clove
An hour since, and what mark of me remains?


I dare not always touch her, lest the kiss
Leave my lips charred. Yea, Lord, a little bliss,
Brief bitter bliss, one hath for a great sin;
Nathless thou knowest how sweet a thing it is.


Sin, is it sin whereby men's souls are thrust
Into the pit? yet had I a good trust
To save my soul before it slipped therein,
Trod under by the fire-shod feet of lust.


For if mine eyes fail and my soul takes breath,
I look between the iron sides of death
Into sad hell where all sweet love hath end,
All but the pain that never finisheth.


There are the naked faces of great kings,
The singing folk with all their lute-playings;
There when one cometh he shall have to friend
The grave that covets and the worm that clings.


There sit the knights that were so great of hand,
The ladies that were queens of fair green land,
Grown grey and black now, brought unto the dust,
Soiled, without raiment, clad about with sand.


There is one end for all of them; they sit
Naked and sad, they drink the dregs of it,
Trodden as grapes in the wine-press of lust,
Trampled and trodden by the fiery feet.


I see the marvellous mouth whereby there fell
Cities and people whom the gods loved well,
Yet for her sake on them the fire gat hold,
And for their sakes on her the fire of hell.


And softer than the Egyptian lote-leaf is,
The queen whose face was worth the world to kiss,
Wearing at breast a suckling snake of gold;
And large pale lips of strong Semiramis,


Curled like a tiger's that curl back to feed;
Red only where the last kiss made them bleed;
Her hair most thick with many a carven gem,
Deep in the mane, great-chested, like a steed.


Yea, with red sin the faces of them shine;
But in all these there was no sin like mine;
No, not in all the strange great sins of them
That made the wine-press froth and foam with wine.


For I was of Christ's choosing, I God's knight,
No blinkard heathen stumbling for scant light;
I can well see, for all the dusty days
Gone past, the clean great time of goodly fight.


I smell the breathing battle sharp with blows,
With shriek of shafts and snapping short of bows;
The fair pure sword smites out in subtle ways,
Sounds and long lights are shed between the rows


Of beautiful mailed men; the edged light slips,
Most like a snake that takes short breath and dips
Sharp from the beautifully bending head,
With all its gracious body lithe as lips


That curl in touching you; right in this wise
My sword doth, seeming fire in mine own eyes,
Leaving all colours in them brown and red
And flecked with death; then the keen breaths like sighs,


The caught-up choked dry laughters following them,
When all the fighting face is grown a flame
For pleasure, and the pulse that stuns the ears,
And the heart's gladness of the goodly game.


Let me think yet a little; I do know
These things were sweet, but sweet such years ago,
Their savour is all turned now into tears;
Yea, ten years since, where the blue ripples blow,


The blue curled eddies of the blowing Rhine,
I felt the sharp wind shaking grass and vine
Touch my blood too, and sting me with delight
Through all this waste and weary body of mine


That never feels clear air; right gladly then
I rode alone, a great way off my men,
And heard the chiming bridle smite and smite,
And gave each rhyme thereof some rhyme again,


Till my song shifted to that iron one;
Seeing there rode up between me and the sun
Some certain of my foe's men, for his three
White wolves across their painted coats did run.


The first red-bearded, with square cheeks — alack,
I made my knave's blood turn his beard to black;
The slaying of him was a joy to see:
Perchance too, when at night he came not back,


Some woman fell a-weeping, whom this thief
Would beat when he had drunken; yet small grief
Hath any for the ridding of such knaves;
Yea, if one wept, I doubt her teen was brief.


This bitter love is sorrow in all lands,
Draining of eyelids, wringing of drenched hands,
Sighing of hearts and filling up of graves;
A sign across the head of the world he stands,


An one that hath a plague-mark on his brows;
Dust and spilt blood do track him to his house
Down under earth; sweet smells of lip and cheek,
Like a sweet snake's breath made more poisonous


With chewing of some perfumed deadly grass,
Are shed all round his passage if he pass,
And their quenched savour leaves the whole soul weak,
Sick with keen guessing whence the perfume was.


As one who hidden in deep sedge and reeds
Smells the rare scent made where a panther feeds,
And tracking ever slotwise the warm smell
Is snapped upon by the sweet mouth and bleeds,


His head far down the hot sweet throat of her —
So one tracks love, whose breath is deadlier,
And lo, one springe and you are fast in hell,
Fast as the gin's grip of a wayfarer.


I think now, as the heavy hours decease
One after one, and bitter thoughts increase
One upon one, of all sweet finished things;
The breaking of the battle; the long peace


Wherein we sat clothed softly, each man's hair
Crowned with green leaves beneath white hoods of vair;
The sounds of sharp spears at great tourneyings,
And noise of singing in the late sweet air.


I sang of love too, knowing nought thereof;
'Sweeter,' I said, 'the little laugh of love
Than tears out of the eyes of Magdalen,
Or any fallen feather of the Dove.


'The broken little laugh that spoils a kiss,
The ache of purple pulses, and the bliss
Of blinded eyelids that expand again —
Love draws them open with those lips of his,


'Lips that cling hard till the kissed face has grown
Of one same fire and colour with their own;
Then ere one sleep, appeased with sacrifice,
Where his lips wounded, there his lips atone.'


I sang these things long since and knew them not;
'Lo, here is love, or there is love, God wot,
This man and that finds favour in his eyes,'
I said, 'but I, what guerdon have I got?


'The dust of praise that is blown everywhere
In all men's faces with the common air;
The bay-leaf that wants chafing to be sweet
Before they wind it in a singer's hair.'


So that one dawn I rode forth sorrowing;
I had no hope but of some evil thing,
And so rode slowly past the windy wheat
And past the vineyard and the water-spring,


Up to the Horsel. A great elder-tree
Held back its heaps of flowers to let me see
The ripe tall grass, and one that walked therein,
Naked, with hair shed over to the knee.


She walked between the blossom and the grass;
I knew the beauty of her, what she was,
The beauty of her body and her sin,
And in my flesh the sin of hers, alas!


Alas! for sorrow is all the end of this.
O sad kissed mouth, how sorrowful it is!
O breast whereat some suckling sorrow clings,
Red with the bitter blossom of a kiss!


Ah, with blind lips I felt for you, and found
About my neck your hands and hair enwound,
The hands that stifle and the hair that stings,
I felt them fasten sharply without sound.


Yea, for my sin I had great store of bliss:
Rise up, make answer for me, let thy kiss
Seal my lips hard from speaking of my sin,
Lest one go mad to hear how sweet it is.


Yet I waxed faint with fume of barren bowers,
And murmuring of the heavy-headed hours;
And let the dove's beak fret and peck within
My lips in vain, and Love shed fruitless flowers.


So that God looked upon me when your hands
Were hot about me; yea, God brake my bands
To save my soul alive, and I came forth
Like a man blind and naked in strange lands


That hears men laugh and weep, and knows not whence
Nor wherefore, but is broken in his sense;
Howbeit I met folk riding from the north
Towards Rome, to purge them of their souls' offence,


And rode with them, and spake to none; the day
Stunned me like lights upon some wizard way,
And ate like fire mine eyes and mine eyesight;
So rode I, hearing all these chant and pray,


And marvelled; till before us rose and fell
White cursed hills, like outer skirts of hell
Seen where men's eyes look through the day to night,
Like a jagged shell's lips, harsh, untunable,


Blown in between by devils' wrangling breath;
Nathless we won well past that hell and death,
Down to the sweet land where all airs are good,
Even unto Rome where God's grace tarrieth.


Then came each man and worshipped at his knees
Who in the Lord God's likeness bears the keys
To bind or loose, and called on Christ's shed blood,
And so the sweet-souled father gave him ease.


But when I came I fell down at his feet,
Saying, 'Father, though the Lord's blood be right sweet,
The spot it takes not off the panther's skin,
Nor shall an Ethiop's stain be bleached with it.


'Lo, I have sinned and have spat out at God,
Wherefore his hand is heavier and his rod
More sharp because of mine exceeding sin,
And all his raiment redder than bright blood


'Before mine eyes; yea, for my sake I wot
The heat of hell is waxen seven times hot
Through my great sin.' Then spake he some sweet word,
Giving me cheer; which thing availed me not;


Yea, scarce I wist if such indeed were said;
For when I ceased — lo, as one newly dead
Who hears a great cry out of hell, I heard
The crying of his voice across my head.


'Until this dry shred staff, that hath no whit
Of leaf nor bark, bear blossom and smell sweet,
Seek thou not any mercy in God's sight,
For so long shalt thou be cast out from it.'


Yea, what if dried-up stems wax red and green,
Shall that thing be which is not nor has been?
Yea, what if sapless bark wax green and white,
Shall any good fruit grow upon my sin?


Nay, though sweet fruit were plucked of a dry tree,
And though men drew sweet waters of the sea,
There should not grow sweet leaves on this dead stem,
This waste wan body and shaken soul of me.


Yea, though God search it warily enough,
There is not one sound thing in all thereof;
Though he search all my veins through, searching them
He shall find nothing whole therein but love.


For I came home right heavy, with small cheer,
And lo my love, mine own soul's heart, more dear
Than mine own soul, more beautiful than God,
Who hath my being between the hands of her —


Fair still, but fair for no man saving me,
As when she came out of the naked sea
Making the foam as fire whereon she trod,
And as the inner flower of fire was she.


Yea, she laid hold upon me, and her mouth
Clove unto mine as soul to body doth,
And, laughing, made her lips luxurious;
Her hair had smells of all the sunburnt south,


Strange spice and flower, strange savour of crushed fruit,
And perfume the swart kings tread underfoot
For pleasure when their minds wax amorous,
Charred frankincense and grated sandal-root.


And I forgot fear and all weary things,
All ended prayers and perished thanksgivings,
Feeling her face with all her eager hair
Cleave to me, clinging as a fire that clings


To the body and to the raiment, burning them;
As after death I know that such-like flame
Shall cleave to me for ever; yea, what care,
Albeit I burn then, having felt the same?


Ah love, there is no better life than this;
To have known love, how bitter a thing it is,
And afterward be cast out of God's sight;
Yea, these that know not, shall they have such bliss


High up in barren heaven before his face
As we twain in the heavy-hearted place,
Remembering love and all the dead delight,
And all that time was sweet with for a space?


For till the thunder in the trumpet be,
Soul may divide from body, but not we
One from another; I hold thee with my hand,
I let mine eyes have all their will of thee,


I seal myself upon thee with my might,
Abiding alway out of all men's sight
Until God loosen over sea and land
The thunder of the trumpets of the night.

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

Share

The Ghetto

I

Cool, inaccessible air
Is floating in velvety blackness shot with steel-blue lights,
But no breath stirs the heat
Leaning its ponderous bulk upon the Ghetto
And most on Hester street…

The heat…
Nosing in the body's overflow,
Like a beast pressing its great steaming belly close,
Covering all avenues of air…

The heat in Hester street,
Heaped like a dray
With the garbage of the world.

Bodies dangle from the fire escapes
Or sprawl over the stoops…
Upturned faces glimmer pallidly -
Herring-yellow faces, spotted as with a mold,
And moist faces of girls
Like dank white lilies,
And infants' faces with open parched mouths that suck at the air
as at empty teats.

Young women pass in groups,
Converging to the forums and meeting halls,
Surging indomitable, slow
Through the gross underbrush of heat.
Their heads are uncovered to the stars,
And they call to the young men and to one another
With a free camaraderie.
Only their eyes are ancient and alone…

The street crawls undulant,
Like a river addled
With its hot tide of flesh
That ever thickens.
Heavy surges of flesh
Break over the pavements,
Clavering like a surf -
Flesh of this abiding
Brood of those ancient mothers who saw the dawn break over Egypt…
And turned their cakes upon the dry hot stones
And went on
Till the gold of the Egyptians fell down off their arms…
Fasting and athirst…
And yet on

Did they vision - with those eyes darkly clear,
That looked the sun in the face and were not blinded -
Across the centuries
The march of their enduring flesh?
Did they hear -
Under the molten silence
Of the desert like a stopped wheel -
(And the scorpions tick-ticking on the sand…
The infinite procession of those feet?

II

I room at Sodos' - in the little green room that was Bennie's -
With Sadie
And her old father and her mother,
Who is not so old and wears her own hair.

Old Sodos no longer makes saddles.
He has forgotten how.
He has forgotten most things - even Bennie who stays away
and sends wine on holidays -
And he does not like Sadie's mother
Who hides God's candles,
Nor Sadie
Whose young pagan breath puts out the light -
That should burn always,
Like Aaron's before the Lord.

Time spins like a crazy dial in his brain,
And night by night
I see the love-gesture of his arm
In its green-greasy coat-sleeve
Circling the Book,
And the candles gleaming starkly
On the blotched-paper whiteness of his face,
Like a miswritten psalm…
Night by night
I hear his lifted praise,
Like a broken whinnying
Before the Lord's shut gate.

Sadie dresses in black.
She has black-wet hair full of cold lights
And a fine-drawn face, too white.
All day the power machines
Drone in her ears…
All day the fine dust flies
Till throats are parched and itch
And the heat - like a kept corpse -
Fouls to the last corner.

Then - when needles move more slowly on the cloth
And sweaty fingers slacken
And hair falls in damp wisps over the eyes -
Sped by some power within,
Sadie quivers like a rod…
A thin black piston flying,
One with her machine.

She - who stabs the piece-work with her bitter eye
And bids the girls: 'Slow down -
You'll have him cutting us again!'
She - fiery static atom,
Held in place by the fierce pressure all about -
Speeds up the driven wheels
And biting steel - that twice
Has nipped her to the bone.

Nights, she reads
Those books that have most unset thought,
New-poured and malleable,
To which her thought
Leaps fusing at white heat,
Or spits her fire out in some dim manger of a hall,
Or at a protest meeting on the Square,
Her lit eyes kindling the mob…
Or dances madly at a festival.
Each dawn finds her a little whiter,
Though up and keyed to the long day,
Alert, yet weary… like a bird
That all night long has beat about a light.

The Gentile lover, that she charms and shrews,
Is one more pebble in the pack
For Sadie's mother,
Who greets him with her narrowed eyes
That hold some welcome back.
'What's to be done?' she'll say,
'When Sadie wants she takes…
Better than Bennie with his Christian woman…
A man is not so like,
If they should fight,
To call her Jew…'

Yet when she lies in bed
And the soft babble of their talk comes to her
And the silences…
I know she never sleeps
Till the keen draught blowing up the empty hall
Edges through her transom
And she hears his foot on the first stairs.

Sarah and Anna live on the floor above.
Sarah is swarthy and ill-dressed.
Life for her has no ritual.
She would break an ideal like an egg for the winged thing at the core.
Her mind is hard and brilliant and cutting like an acetylene torch.
If any impurities drift there, they must be burnt up as in a clear flame.
It is droll that she should work in a pants factory.
- Yet where else… tousled and collar awry at her olive throat.
Besides her hands are unkempt.
With English… and everything… there is so little time.
She reads without bias -
Doubting clamorously -
Psychology, plays, science, philosophies -
Those giant flowers that have bloomed and withered, scattering their seed…
- And out of this young forcing soil what growth may come -
what amazing blossomings.

Anna is different.
One is always aware of Anna, and the young men turn their heads
to look at her.
She has the appeal of a folk-song
And her cheap clothes are always in rhythm.
When the strike was on she gave half her pay.
She would give anything - save the praise that is hers
And the love of her lyric body.

But Sarah's desire covets nothing apart.
She would share all things…
Even her lover.

III

The sturdy Ghetto children
March by the parade,
Waving their toy flags,
Prancing to the bugles -
Lusty, unafraid…
Shaking little fire sticks
At the night -
The old blinking night -
Swerving out of the way,
Wrapped in her darkness like a shawl.

But a small girl
Cowers apart.
Her braided head,
Shiny as a black-bird's
In the gleam of the torch-light,
Is poised as for flight.
Her eyes have the glow
Of darkened lights.

She stammers in Yiddish,
But I do not understand,
And there flits across her face
A shadow
As of a drawn blind.
I give her an orange,
Large and golden,
And she looks at it blankly.
I take her little cold hand and try to draw her to me,
But she is stiff…
Like a doll…

Suddenly she darts through the crowd
Like a little white panic
Blown along the night -
Away from the terror of oncoming feet…
And drums rattling like curses in red roaring mouths…
And torches spluttering silver fire
And lights that nose out hiding-places…
To the night -
Squatting like a hunchback
Under the curved stoop -
The old mammy-night
That has outlived beauty and knows the ways of fear -
The night - wide-opening crooked and comforting arms,
Hiding her as in a voluminous skirt.

The sturdy Ghetto children
March by the parade,
Waving their toy flags,
Prancing to the bugles,
Lusty, unafraid.
But I see a white frock
And eyes like hooded lights
Out of the shadow of pogroms
Watching… watching…

IV

Calicoes and furs,
Pocket-books and scarfs,
Razor strops and knives
(Patterns in check…

Olive hands and russet head,
Pickles red and coppery,
Green pickles, brown pickles,
(Patterns in tapestry…

Coral beads, blue beads,
Beads of pearl and amber,
Gewgaws, beauty pins -
Bijoutry for chits -
Darting rays of violet,
Amethyst and jade…
All the colors out to play,
Jumbled iridescently…
(Patterns in stained glass
Shivered into bits!)

Nooses of gay ribbon
Tugging at one's sleeve,
Dainty little garters
Hanging out their sign…
Here a pout of frilly things -
There a sonsy feather…
(White beards, black beards
Like knots in the weave…

And ah, the little babies -
Shiny black-eyed babies -
(Half a million pink toes
Wriggling altogether.)
Baskets full of babies
Like grapes on a vine.

Mothers waddling in and out,
Making all things right -
Picking up the slipped threads
In Grand street at night -
Grand street like a great bazaar,
Crowded like a float,
Bulging like a crazy quilt
Stretched on a line.

But nearer seen
This litter of the East
Takes on a garbled majesty.

The herded stalls
In dissolute array…
The glitter and the jumbled finery
And strangely juxtaposed
Cans, paper, rags
And colors decomposing,
Faded like old hair,
With flashes of barbaric hues
And eyes of mystery…
Flung
Like an ancient tapestry of motley weave
Upon the open wall of this new land.

Here, a tawny-headed girl…
Lemons in a greenish broth
And a huge earthen bowl
By a bronzed merchant
With a tall black lamb's wool cap upon his head
He has no glance for her.
His thrifty eyes
Bend - glittering, intent
Their hoarded looks
Upon his merchandise,
As though it were some splendid cloth
Or sumptuous raiment
Stitched in gold and red…

He seldom talks
Save of the goods he spreads -
The meager cotton with its dismal flower -
But with his skinny hands
That hover like two hawks
Above some luscious meat,
He fingers lovingly each calico,
As though it were a gorgeous shawl,
Or costly vesture
Wrought in silken thread,
Or strange bright carpet
Made for sandaled feet…

Here an old grey scholar stands.
His brooding eyes -
That hold long vistas without end
Of caravans and trees and roads,
And cities dwindling in remembrance -
Bend mostly on his tapes and thread.

What if they tweak his beard -
These raw young seed of Israel
Who have no backward vision in their eyes -
And mock him as he sways
Above the sunken arches of his feet -
They find no peg to hang their taunts upon.
His soul is like a rock
That bears a front worn smooth
By the coarse friction of the sea,
And, unperturbed, he keeps his bitter peace.

What if a rigid arm and stuffed blue shape,
Backed by a nickel star
Does prod him on,
Taking his proud patience for humility…
All gutters are as one
To that old race that has been thrust
From off the curbstones of the world…
And he smiles with the pale irony
Of one who holds
The wisdom of the Talmud stored away
In his mind's lavender.

But this young trader,
Born to trade as to a caul,
Peddles the notions of the hour.
The gestures of the craft are his
And all the lore
As when to hold, withdraw, persuade, advance…
And be it gum or flags,
Or clean-all or the newest thing in tags,
Demand goes to him as the bee to flower.
And he - appraising
All who come and go
With his amazing
Slight-of-mind and glance
And nimble thought
And nature balanced like the scales at nought -
Looks Westward where the trade-lights glow,
And sees his vision rise -
A tape-ruled vision,
Circumscribed in stone -
Some fifty stories to the skies.

V

As I sit in my little fifth-floor room -
Bare,
Save for bed and chair,
And coppery stains
Left by seeping rains
On the low ceiling
And green plaster walls,
Where when night falls
Golden lady-bugs
Come out of their holes,
And roaches, sepia-brown, consort…
I hear bells pealing
Out of the gray church at Rutgers street,
Holding its high-flung cross above the Ghetto,
And, one floor down across the court,
The parrot screaming:
Vorwärts… Vorwärts…

The parrot frowsy-white,
Everlastingly swinging
On its iron bar.

A little old woman,
With a wig of smooth black hair
Gummed about her shrunken brows,
Comes sometimes on the fire escape.
An old stooped mother,
The left shoulder low
With that uneven droopiness that women know
Who have suckled many young…
Yet I have seen no other than the parrot there.

I watch her mornings as she shakes her rugs
Feebly, with futile reach
And fingers without clutch.
Her thews are slack
And curved the ruined back
And flesh empurpled like old meat,
Yet each conspires
To feed those guttering fires
With which her eyes are quick.

On Friday nights
Her candles signal
Infinite fine rays
To other windows,
Coupling other lights,
Linking the tenements
Like an endless prayer.

She seems less lonely than the bird
That day by day about the dismal house
Screams out his frenzied word…
That night by night -
If a dog yelps
Or a cat yawls
Or a sick child whines,
Or a door screaks on its hinges,
Or a man and woman fight -
Sends his cry above the huddled roofs:
Vorwärts… Vorwärts…

VI

In this dingy cafe
The old men sit muffled in woollens.
Everything is faded, shabby, colorless, old…
The chairs, loose-jointed,
Creaking like old bones -
The tables, the waiters, the walls,
Whose mottled plaster
Blends in one tone with the old flesh.

Young life and young thought are alike barred,
And no unheralded noises jolt old nerves,
And old wheezy breaths
Pass around old thoughts, dry as snuff,
And there is no divergence and no friction
Because life is flattened and ground as by many mills.

And it is here the Committee -
Sweet-breathed and smooth of skin
And supple of spine and knee,
With shining unpouched eyes
And the blood, high-powered,
Leaping in flexible arteries -
The insolent, young, enthusiastic, undiscriminating Committee,
Who would placard tombstones
And scatter leaflets even in graves,
Comes trampling with sacrilegious feet!

The old men turn stiffly,
Mumbling to each other.
They are gentle and torpid and busy with eating.
But one lifts a face of clayish pallor,
There is a dull fury in his eyes, like little rusty grates.
He rises slowly,
Trembling in his many swathings like an awakened mummy,
Ridiculous yet terrible.
- And the Committee flings him a waste glance,
Dropping a leaflet by his plate.

A lone fire flickers in the dusty eyes.
The lips chant inaudibly.
The warped shrunken body straightens like a tree.
And he curses…
With uplifted arms and perished fingers,
Claw-like, clutching…
So centuries ago
The old men cursed Acosta,
When they, prophetic, heard upon their sepulchres
Those feet that may not halt nor turn aside for ancient things.

VII

Here in this room, bare like a barn,
Egos gesture one to the other -
Naked, unformed, unwinged
Egos out of the shell,
Examining, searching, devouring -
Avid alike for the flower or the dung…
(Having no dainty antennae for the touch and withdrawal -
Only the open maw…

Egos cawing,
Expanding in the mean egg…
Little squat tailors with unkempt faces,
Pale as lard,
Fur-makers, factory-hands, shop-workers,
News-boys with battling eyes
And bodies yet vibrant with the momentum of long runs,
Here and there a woman…

Words, words, words,
Pattering like hail,
Like hail falling without aim…
Egos rampant,
Screaming each other down.
One motions perpetually,
Waving arms like overgrowths.
He has burning eyes and a cough
And a thin voice piping
Like a flute among trombones.

One, red-bearded, rearing
A welter of maimed face bashed in from some old wound,
Garbles Max Stirner.
His words knock each other like little wooden blocks.
No one heeds him,
And a lank boy with hair over his eyes
Pounds upon the table.
- He is chairman.

Egos yet in the primer,
Hearing world-voices
Chanting grand arias…
Majors resonant,
Stunning with sound…
Baffling minors
Half-heard like rain on pools…
Majestic discordances
Greater than harmonies…
- Gleaning out of it all
Passion, bewilderment, pain…

Egos yearning with the world-old want in their eyes -
Hurt hot eyes that do not sleep enough…
Striving with infinite effort,
Frustrate yet ever pursuing
The great white Liberty,
Trailing her dissolving glory over each hard-won barricade -
Only to fade anew…

Egos crying out of unkempt deeps
And waving their dreams like flags -
Multi-colored dreams,
Winged and glorious…

A gas jet throws a stunted flame,
Vaguely illumining the groping faces.
And through the uncurtained window
Falls the waste light of stars,
As cold as wise men's eyes
Indifferent great stars,
Fortuitously glancing
At the secret meeting in this shut-in room,
Bare as a manger.

VIII

Lights go out
And the stark trunks of the factories
Melt into the drawn darkness,
Sheathing like a seamless garment.

And mothers take home their babies,
Waxen and delicately curled,
Like little potted flowers closed under the stars.

Lights go out
And the young men shut their eyes,
But life turns in them…

Life in the cramped ova
Tearing and rending asunder its living cells…
Wars, arts, discoveries, rebellions, travails, immolations,
cataclysms, hates…
Pent in the shut flesh.
And the young men twist on their beds in languor and dizziness
unsupportable…
Their eyes - heavy and dimmed
With dust of long oblivions in the gray pulp behind -
Staring as through a choked glass.
And they gaze at the moon - throwing off a faint heat -
The moon, blond and burning, creeping to their cots
Softly, as on naked feet…
Lolling on the coverlet… like a woman offering her white body.

Nude glory of the moon!
That leaps like an athlete on the bosoms of the young girls stripped
of their linens;
Stroking their breasts that are smooth and cool as mother-of-pearl
Till the nipples tingle and burn as though little lips plucked at them.
They shudder and grow faint.
And their ears are filled as with a delirious rhapsody,
That Life, like a drunken player,
Strikes out of their clear white bodies
As out of ivory keys.

Lights go out
And the great lovers linger in little groups, still passionately debating,
Or one may walk in silence, listening only to the still summons of Life -
Life making the great Demand…
Calling its new Christs…
Till tears come, blurring the stars
That grow tender and comforting like the eyes of comrades;
And the moon rolls behind the Battery
Like a word molten out of the mouth of God.

Lights go out
And colors rush together,
Fusing and floating away…
Pale worn gold like the settings of old jewels…
Mauves, exquisite, tremulous, and luminous purples
And burning spires in aureoles of light
Like shimmering auras.

They are covering up the pushcarts…
Now all have gone save an old man with mirrors -
Little oval mirrors like tiny pools.
He shuffles up a darkened street
And the moon burnishes his mirrors till they shine like phosphorus…
The moon like a skull,
Staring out of eyeless sockets at the old men trundling home the pushcarts.

IX

A sallow dawn is in the sky
As I enter my little green room.
Sadie's light is still burning…
Without, the frail moon
Worn to a silvery tissue,
Throws a faint glamour on the roofs,
And down the shadowy spires
Lights tip-toe out
Softly as when lovers close street doors.

Out of the Battery
A little wind
Stirs idly - as an arm
Trails over a boat's side in dalliance -
Rippling the smooth dead surface of the heat,
And Hester street,
Like a forlorn woman over-born
By many babies at her teats,
Turns on her trampled bed to meet the day.

LIFE!
Startling, vigorous life,
That squirms under my touch,
And baffles me when I try to examine it,
Or hurls me back without apology.
Leaving my ego ruffled and preening itself.

Life,
Articulate, shrill,
Screaming in provocative assertion,
Or out of the black and clotted gutters,
Piping in silvery thin
Sweet staccato
Of children's laughter,

Or clinging over the pushcarts
Like a litter of tiny bells
Or the jingle of silver coins,
Perpetually changing hands,
Or like the Jordan somberly
Swirling in tumultuous uncharted tides,
Surface-calm.

Electric currents of life,
Throwing off thoughts like sparks,
Glittering, disappearing,
Making unknown circuits,
Or out of spent particles stirring
Feeble contortions in old faiths
Passing before the new.

Long nights argued away
In meeting halls
Back of interminable stairways -
In Roumanian wine-shops
And little Russian tea-rooms…

Feet echoing through deserted streets
In the soft darkness before dawn…
Brows aching, throbbing, burning -
Life leaping in the shaken flesh
Like flame at an asbestos curtain.

Life -
Pent, overflowing
Stoops and façades,
Jostling, pushing, contriving,
Seething as in a great vat…

Bartering, changing, extorting,
Dreaming, debating, aspiring,
Astounding, indestructible
Life of the Ghetto…

Strong flux of life,
Like a bitter wine
Out of the bloody stills of the world…
Out of the Passion eternal.

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

Share
John Keats

Isabella; Or, The Pot Of Basil: A Story From Boccaccio

I.
Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love's eye!
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
They could not sit at meals but feel how well
It soothed each to be the other by;
They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
But to each other dream, and nightly weep.

II.
With every morn their love grew tenderer,
With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
And his continual voice was pleasanter
To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.

III.
He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
Before the door had given her to his eyes;
And from her chamber-window he would catch
Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
And constant as her vespers would he watch,
Because her face was turn'd to the same skies;
And with sick longing all the night outwear,
To hear her morning-step upon the stair.

IV.
A whole long month of May in this sad plight
Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
'To morrow will I bow to my delight,
'To-morrow will I ask my lady's boon.'-
'O may I never see another night,
'Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love's tune.'-
So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
Honeyless days and days did he let pass;

V.
Until sweet Isabella's untouch'd cheek
Fell sick within the rose's just domain,
Fell thin as a young mother's, who doth seek
By every lull to cool her infant's pain:
'How ill she is,' said he, 'I may not speak,
'And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
'If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
'And at the least 'twill startle off her cares.'

VI.
So said he one fair morning, and all day
His heart beat awfully against his side;
And to his heart he inwardly did pray
For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
Stifled his voice, and puls'd resolve away-
Fever'd his high conceit of such a bride,
Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!

VII.
So once more he had wak'd and anguished
A dreary night of love and misery,
If Isabel's quick eye had not been wed
To every symbol on his forehead high;
She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
And straight all flush'd; so, lisped tenderly,
'Lorenzo!'-here she ceas'd her timid quest,
But in her tone and look he read the rest.

VIII.
'O Isabella, I can half perceive
'That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
'If thou didst ever any thing believe,
'Believe how I love thee, believe how near
'My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
'Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
'Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
'Another night, and not my passion shrive.

IX.
'Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
'Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
'And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
'In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.'
So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.

X.
Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,
Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
Only to meet again more close, and share
The inward fragrance of each other's heart.
She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart;
He with light steps went up a western hill,
And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill.

XI.
All close they met again, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
Ah! better had it been for ever so,
Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.

XII.
Were they unhappy then?-It cannot be-
Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
Too much of pity after they are dead,
Too many doleful stories do we see,
Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
Except in such a page where Theseus' spouse
Over the pathless waves towards him bows.

XIII.
But, for the general award of love,
The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
And Isabella's was a great distress,
Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
Was not embalm'd, this truth is not the less-
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.

XIV.
With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
In torched mines and noisy factories,
And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt
In blood from stinging whip;-with hollow eyes
Many all day in dazzling river stood,
To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.

XV.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
And went all naked to the hungry shark;
For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death
The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.

XVI.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears?-
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?-
Why were they proud? Because red-lin'd accounts
Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?-
Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?

XVII.
Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies,
The hawks of ship-mast forests-the untired
And pannier'd mules for ducats and old lies-
Quick cat's-paws on the generous stray-away,-
Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.

XVIII.
How was it these same ledger-men could spy
Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
How could they find out in Lorenzo's eye
A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt's pest
Into their vision covetous and sly!
How could these money-bags see east and west?-
Yet so they did-and every dealer fair
Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.

XIX.
O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune,
For venturing syllables that ill beseem
The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.

XX.
Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
There is no other crime, no mad assail
To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
But it is done-succeed the verse or fail-
To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.

XXI.
These brethren having found by many signs
What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
And how she lov'd him too, each unconfines
His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
That he, the servant of their trade designs,
Should in their sister's love be blithe and glad,
When 'twas their plan to coax her by degrees
To some high noble and his olive-trees.

XXII.
And many a jealous conference had they,
And many times they bit their lips alone,
Before they fix'd upon a surest way
To make the youngster for his crime atone;
And at the last, these men of cruel clay
Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
For they resolved in some forest dim
To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.

XXIII.
So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
Into the sun-rise, o'er the balustrade
Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
'You seem there in the quiet of content,
'Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
'Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
'Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.

XXIV.
'To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
'To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
'Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
'His dewy rosary on the eglantine.'
Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
Bow'd a fair greeting to these serpents' whine;
And went in haste, to get in readiness,
With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman's dress.

XXV.
And as he to the court-yard pass'd along,
Each third step did he pause, and listen'd oft
If he could hear his lady's matin-song,
Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
And as he thus over his passion hung,
He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
When, looking up, he saw her features bright
Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.

XXVI.
'Love, Isabel!' said he, 'I was in pain
'Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
'Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
'I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
'Of a poor three hours' absence? but we'll gain
'Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
'Good bye! I'll soon be back.'-'Good bye!' said she:-
And as he went she chanted merrily.

XXVII.
So the two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
Gurgles through straiten'd banks, and still doth fan
Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
The brothers' faces in the ford did seem,
Lorenzo's flush with love.-They pass'd the water
Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.

XXVIII.
There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
There in that forest did his great love cease;
Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
It aches in loneliness-is ill at peace
As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
They dipp'd their swords in the water, and did tease
Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
Each richer by his being a murderer.

XXIX.
They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
Lorenzo had ta'en ship for foreign lands,
Because of some great urgency and need
In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow's weed,
And 'scape at once from Hope's accursed bands;
To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
And the next day will be a day of sorrow.

XXX.
She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
Sorely she wept until the night came on,
And then, instead of love, O misery!
She brooded o'er the luxury alone:
His image in the dusk she seem'd to see,
And to the silence made a gentle moan,
Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
And on her couch low murmuring, 'Where? O where?'

XXXI.
But Selfishness, Love's cousin, held not long
Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
Upon the time with feverish unrest-
Not long-for soon into her heart a throng
Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
And sorrow for her love in travels rude.

XXXII.
In the mid days of autumn, on their eves
The breath of Winter comes from far away,
And the sick west continually bereaves
Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
Of death among the bushes and the leaves,
To make all bare before he dares to stray
From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
By gradual decay from beauty fell,

XXXIII.
Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
She ask'd her brothers, with an eye all pale,
Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom's vale;
And every night in dreams they groan'd aloud,
To see their sister in her snowy shroud.

XXXIV.
And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
Which saves a sick man from the feather'd pall
For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.

XXXV.
It was a vision.-In the drowsy gloom,
The dull of midnight, at her couch's foot
Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
Had marr'd his glossy hair which once could shoot
Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
Had made a miry channel for his tears.

XXXVI.
Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
To speak as when on earth it was awake,
And Isabella on its music hung:
Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
As in a palsied Druid's harp unstrung;
And through it moan'd a ghostly under-song,
Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.

XXXVII.
Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
From the poor girl by magic of their light,
The while it did unthread the horrid woof
Of the late darken'd time,-the murderous spite
Of pride and avarice,-the dark pine roof
In the forest,-and the sodden turfed dell,
Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.

XXXVIII.
Saying moreover, 'Isabel, my sweet!
'Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
'And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
'Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
'Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
'Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
'Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
'And it shall comfort me within the tomb.

XXXIX.
'I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
'Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling
'Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
'While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
'And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
'And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
'Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
'And thou art distant in Humanity.

XL.
'I know what was, I feel full well what is,
'And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
'Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
'That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
'A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
'To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
'Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
'A greater love through all my essence steal.'

XLI.
The Spirit mourn'd 'Adieu!'-dissolv'd, and left
The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
It made sad Isabella's eyelids ache,
And in the dawn she started up awake;

XLII.
'Ha! ha!' said she, 'I knew not this hard life,
'I thought the worst was simple misery;
'I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
'Portion'd us-happy days, or else to die;
'But there is crime-a brother's bloody knife!
'Sweet Spirit, thou hast school'd my infancy:
'I'll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
'And greet thee morn and even in the skies.'

XLIII.
When the full morning came, she had devised
How she might secret to the forest hie;
How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
And sing to it one latest lullaby;
How her short absence might be unsurmised,
While she the inmost of the dream would try.
Resolv'd, she took with her an aged nurse,
And went into that dismal forest-hearse.

XLIV.
See, as they creep along the river side,
How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
And, after looking round the champaign wide,
Shows her a knife.-'What feverous hectic flame
'Burns in thee, child?-What good can thee betide,
'That thou should'st smile again?'-The evening came,
And they had found Lorenzo's earthy bed;
The flint was there, the berries at his head.

XLV.
Who hath not loiter'd in a green church-yard,
And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
To see skull, coffin'd bones, and funeral stole;
Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr'd,
And filling it once more with human soul?
Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.

XLVI.
She gaz'd into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
Upon the murderous spot she seem'd to grow,
Like to a native lily of the dell:
Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
To dig more fervently than misers can.

XLVII.
Soon she turn'd up a soiled glove, whereon
Her silk had play'd in purple phantasies,
She kiss'd it with a lip more chill than stone,
And put it in her bosom, where it dries
And freezes utterly unto the bone
Those dainties made to still an infant's cries:
Then 'gan she work again; nor stay'd her care,
But to throw back at times her veiling hair.

XLVIII.
That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
Until her heart felt pity to the core
At sight of such a dismal labouring,
And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore;
At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
And Isabella did not stamp and rave.

XLIX.
Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
O for the gentleness of old Romance,
The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!
Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
To speak:-O turn thee to the very tale,
And taste the music of that vision pale.

L.
With duller steel than the Persèan sword
They cut away no formless monster's head,
But one, whose gentleness did well accord
With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
If Love impersonate was ever dead,
Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.
'Twas love; cold,-dead indeed, but not dethroned.

LI.
In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then the prize was all for Isabel:
She calm'd its wild hair with a golden comb,
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell
Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
She drench'd away:-and still she comb'd, and kept
Sighing all day-and still she kiss'd, and wept.

LII.
Then in a silken scarf,-sweet with the dews
Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
Through the cold serpent pipe refreshfully,-
She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose
A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.

LIII.
And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.

LIV.
And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

LV.
O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!
Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.

LVI.
Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
And touch the strings into a mystery;
Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
For simple Isabel is soon to be
Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.

LVII.
O leave the palm to wither by itself;
Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour!-
It may not be-those Baalites of pelf,
Her brethren, noted the continual shower
From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
By one mark'd out to be a Noble's bride.

LVIII.
And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much
Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,
And why it flourish'd, as by magic touch;
Greatly they wonder'd what the thing might mean:
They could not surely give belief, that such
A very nothing would have power to wean
Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
And even remembrance of her love's delay.

LIX.
Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift
This hidden whim; and long they watch'd in vain;
For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.

LX.
Yet they contriv'd to steal the Basil-pot,
And to examine it in secret place:
The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
And yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:
The guerdon of their murder they had got,
And so left Florence in a moment's space,
Never to turn again.-Away they went,
With blood upon their heads, to banishment.

LXI.
O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
From isles Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!
Spirits of grief, sing not your 'Well-a-way!'
For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
Now they have ta'en away her Basil sweet.

LXII.
Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,
Asking for her lost Basil amorously:
And with melodious chuckle in the strings
Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
After the Pilgrim in his wanderings,
To ask him where her Basil was; and why
'Twas hid from her: 'For cruel 'tis,' said she,
'To steal my Basil-pot away from me.'

LXIII.
And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born
From mouth to mouth through all the country pass'd:
Still is the burthen sung-'O cruelty,
'To steal my Basil-pot away from me!'

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

Share
John Keats

Isabella or The Pot of Basil

I.
Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love's eye!
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
They could not sit at meals but feel how well
It soothed each to be the other by;
They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
But to each other dream, and nightly weep.

II.
With every morn their love grew tenderer,
With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
And his continual voice was pleasanter
To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.

III.
He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
Before the door had given her to his eyes;
And from her chamber-window he would catch
Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
And constant as her vespers would he watch,
Because her face was turn'd to the same skies;
And with sick longing all the night outwear,
To hear her morning-step upon the stair.

IV.
A whole long month of May in this sad plight
Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
"To morrow will I bow to my delight,
"To-morrow will I ask my lady's boon."--
"O may I never see another night,
"Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love's tune."--
So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
Honeyless days and days did he let pass;

V.
Until sweet Isabella's untouch'd cheek
Fell sick within the rose's just domain,
Fell thin as a young mother's, who doth seek
By every lull to cool her infant's pain:
"How ill she is," said he, "I may not speak,
"And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
"If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
"And at the least 'twill startle off her cares."

VI.
So said he one fair morning, and all day
His heart beat awfully against his side;
And to his heart he inwardly did pray
For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
Stifled his voice, and puls'd resolve away--
Fever'd his high conceit of such a bride,
Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!

VII.
So once more he had wak'd and anguished
A dreary night of love and misery,
If Isabel's quick eye had not been wed
To every symbol on his forehead high;
She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
And straight all flush'd; so, lisped tenderly,
"Lorenzo!"--here she ceas'd her timid quest,
But in her tone and look he read the rest.

VIII.
"O Isabella, I can half perceive
"That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
"If thou didst ever any thing believe,
"Believe how I love thee, believe how near
"My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
"Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
"Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
"Another night, and not my passion shrive.

IX.
"Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
"Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
"And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
"In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time."
So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.

X.
Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,
Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
Only to meet again more close, and share
The inward fragrance of each other's heart.
She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart;
He with light steps went up a western hill,
And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill.

XI.
All close they met again, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
Ah! better had it been for ever so,
Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.

XII.
Were they unhappy then?--It cannot be--
Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
Too much of pity after they are dead,
Too many doleful stories do we see,
Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
Except in such a page where Theseus' spouse
Over the pathless waves towards him bows.

XIII.
But, for the general award of love,
The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
And Isabella's was a great distress,
Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
Was not embalm'd, this truth is not the less--
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.

XIV.
With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
In torched mines and noisy factories,
And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt
In blood from stinging whip;--with hollow eyes
Many all day in dazzling river stood,
To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.

XV.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
And went all naked to the hungry shark;
For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death
The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.

XVI.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears?--
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?--
Why were they proud? Because red-lin'd accounts
Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?--
Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?

XVII.
Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies,
The hawks of ship-mast forests--the untired
And pannier'd mules for ducats and old lies--
Quick cat's-paws on the generous stray-away,--
Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.

XVIII.
How was it these same ledger-men could spy
Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
How could they find out in Lorenzo's eye
A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt's pest
Into their vision covetous and sly!
How could these money-bags see east and west?--
Yet so they did--and every dealer fair
Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.

XIX.
O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune,
For venturing syllables that ill beseem
The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.

XX.
Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
There is no other crime, no mad assail
To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
But it is done--succeed the verse or fail--
To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.

XXI.
These brethren having found by many signs
What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
And how she lov'd him too, each unconfines
His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
That he, the servant of their trade designs,
Should in their sister's love be blithe and glad,
When 'twas their plan to coax her by degrees
To some high noble and his olive-trees.

XXII.
And many a jealous conference had they,
And many times they bit their lips alone,
Before they fix'd upon a surest way
To make the youngster for his crime atone;
And at the last, these men of cruel clay
Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
For they resolved in some forest dim
To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.

XXIII.
So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
Into the sun-rise, o'er the balustrade
Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
"You seem there in the quiet of content,
"Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
"Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
"Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.

XXIV.
"To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
"To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
"Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
"His dewy rosary on the eglantine."
Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
Bow'd a fair greeting to these serpents' whine;
And went in haste, to get in readiness,
With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman's dress.

XXV.
And as he to the court-yard pass'd along,
Each third step did he pause, and listen'd oft
If he could hear his lady's matin-song,
Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
And as he thus over his passion hung,
He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
When, looking up, he saw her features bright
Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.

XXVI.
"Love, Isabel!" said he, "I was in pain
"Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
"Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
"I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
"Of a poor three hours' absence? but we'll gain
"Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
"Good bye! I'll soon be back."--"Good bye!" said she:--
And as he went she chanted merrily.

XXVII.
So the two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
Gurgles through straiten'd banks, and still doth fan
Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
The brothers' faces in the ford did seem,
Lorenzo's flush with love.--They pass'd the water
Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.

XXVIII.
There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
There in that forest did his great love cease;
Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
It aches in loneliness--is ill at peace
As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
They dipp'd their swords in the water, and did tease
Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
Each richer by his being a murderer.

XXIX.
They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
Lorenzo had ta'en ship for foreign lands,
Because of some great urgency and need
In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow's weed,
And 'scape at once from Hope's accursed bands;
To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
And the next day will be a day of sorrow.

XXX.
She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
Sorely she wept until the night came on,
And then, instead of love, O misery!
She brooded o'er the luxury alone:
His image in the dusk she seem'd to see,
And to the silence made a gentle moan,
Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
And on her couch low murmuring, "Where? O where?"

XXXI.
But Selfishness, Love's cousin, held not long
Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
Upon the time with feverish unrest--
Not long--for soon into her heart a throng
Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
And sorrow for her love in travels rude.

XXXII.
In the mid days of autumn, on their eves
The breath of Winter comes from far away,
And the sick west continually bereaves
Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
Of death among the bushes and the leaves,
To make all bare before he dares to stray
From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
By gradual decay from beauty fell,

XXXIII.
Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
She ask'd her brothers, with an eye all pale,
Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom's vale;
And every night in dreams they groan'd aloud,
To see their sister in her snowy shroud.

XXXIV.
And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
Which saves a sick man from the feather'd pall
For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.

XXXV.
It was a vision.--In the drowsy gloom,
The dull of midnight, at her couch's foot
Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
Had marr'd his glossy hair which once could shoot
Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
Had made a miry channel for his tears.

XXXVI.
Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
To speak as when on earth it was awake,
And Isabella on its music hung:
Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
As in a palsied Druid's harp unstrung;
And through it moan'd a ghostly under-song,
Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.

XXXVII.
Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
From the poor girl by magic of their light,
The while it did unthread the horrid woof
Of the late darken'd time,--the murderous spite
Of pride and avarice,--the dark pine roof
In the forest,--and the sodden turfed dell,
Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.

XXXVIII.
Saying moreover, "Isabel, my sweet!
"Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
"And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
"Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
"Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
"Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
"Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
"And it shall comfort me within the tomb.

XXXIX.
"I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
"Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling
"Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
"While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
"And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
"And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
"Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
"And thou art distant in Humanity.

XL.
"I know what was, I feel full well what is,
"And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
"Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
"That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
"A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
"To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
"Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
"A greater love through all my essence steal."

XLI.
The Spirit mourn'd "Adieu!"--dissolv'd, and left
The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
It made sad Isabella's eyelids ache,
And in the dawn she started up awake;

XLII.
"Ha! ha!" said she, "I knew not this hard life,
"I thought the worst was simple misery;
"I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
"Portion'd us--happy days, or else to die;
"But there is crime--a brother's bloody knife!
"Sweet Spirit, thou hast school'd my infancy:
"I'll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
"And greet thee morn and even in the skies."

XLIII.
When the full morning came, she had devised
How she might secret to the forest hie;
How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
And sing to it one latest lullaby;
How her short absence might be unsurmised,
While she the inmost of the dream would try.
Resolv'd, she took with her an aged nurse,
And went into that dismal forest-hearse.

XLIV.
See, as they creep along the river side,
How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
And, after looking round the champaign wide,
Shows her a knife.--"What feverous hectic flame
"Burns in thee, child?--What good can thee betide,
"That thou should'st smile again?"--The evening came,
And they had found Lorenzo's earthy bed;
The flint was there, the berries at his head.

XLV.
Who hath not loiter'd in a green church-yard,
And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
To see skull, coffin'd bones, and funeral stole;
Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr'd,
And filling it once more with human soul?
Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.

XLVI.
She gaz'd into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
Upon the murderous spot she seem'd to grow,
Like to a native lily of the dell:
Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
To dig more fervently than misers can.

XLVII.
Soon she turn'd up a soiled glove, whereon
Her silk had play'd in purple phantasies,
She kiss'd it with a lip more chill than stone,
And put it in her bosom, where it dries
And freezes utterly unto the bone
Those dainties made to still an infant's cries:
Then 'gan she work again; nor stay'd her care,
But to throw back at times her veiling hair.

XLVIII.
That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
Until her heart felt pity to the core
At sight of such a dismal labouring,
And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore;
At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
And Isabella did not stamp and rave.

XLIX.
Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
O for the gentleness of old Romance,
The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!
Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
To speak:--O turn thee to the very tale,
And taste the music of that vision pale.

L.
With duller steel than the Persèan sword
They cut away no formless monster's head,
But one, whose gentleness did well accord
With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
If Love impersonate was ever dead,
Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.
'Twas love; cold,--dead indeed, but not dethroned.

LI.
In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then the prize was all for Isabel:
She calm'd its wild hair with a golden comb,
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell
Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
She drench'd away:--and still she comb'd, and kept
Sighing all day--and still she kiss'd, and wept.

LII.
Then in a silken scarf,--sweet with the dews
Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
Through the cold serpent pipe refreshfully,--
She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose
A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.

LIII.
And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.

LIV.
And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

LV.
O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us--O sigh!
Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.

LVI.
Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
And touch the strings into a mystery;
Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
For simple Isabel is soon to be
Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.

LVII.
O leave the palm to wither by itself;
Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour!--
It may not be--those Baalites of pelf,
Her brethren, noted the continual shower
From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
By one mark'd out to be a Noble's bride.

LVIII.
And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much
Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,
And why it flourish'd, as by magic touch;
Greatly they wonder'd what the thing might mean:
They could not surely give belief, that such
A very nothing would have power to wean
Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
And even remembrance of her love's delay.

LIX.
Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift
This hidden whim; and long they watch'd in vain;
For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.

LX.
Yet they contriv'd to steal the Basil-pot,
And to examine it in secret place:
The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
And yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:
The guerdon of their murder they had got,
And so left Florence in a moment's space,
Never to turn again.--Away they went,
With blood upon their heads, to banishment.

LXI.
O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
From isles Lethean, sigh to us--O sigh!
Spirits of grief, sing not your "Well-a-way!"
For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
Now they have ta'en away her Basil sweet.

LXII.
Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,
Asking for her lost Basil amorously:
And with melodious chuckle in the strings
Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
After the Pilgrim in his wanderings,
To ask him where her Basil was; and why
'Twas hid from her: "For cruel 'tis," said she,
"To steal my Basil-pot away from me."

LXIII.
And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born
From mouth to mouth through all the country pass'd:
Still is the burthen sung--"O cruelty,
"To steal my Basil-pot away from me!"

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

Share
 

Search


Recent searches | Top searches