Poetry On The Chin
You gouged my mind's eye,
Tantalised all inner thought,
Shocked from unknown angles;
Sold me, told me cold,
Shouldered any harbouring
Of empty morals.
You spun me round; undressed -
Pestered me with background riddle -
Piffle came to gleaning meaning.
And you stripped out prejudice - for none
Must exist in poetry,
Lest you close up an open mind
And f**k up as reader;
Lest your heart is not a bleeder -
It has to be - let it flush out
Upon your sleeve.
You lay apart my thinking brain
And let in the literary pickings of a
Great poetic phallus.
Yes, poetry can be callous.
Copyright © Mark Raymond Slaughter 2010
poetry poetry poetry
poetry poetry poetry
poetry poetry poetry poetry poetry poetry
poetry poetry poetry poetry poetry poetry
poetry poetry poetry
Alas she no longer bears her heart upon my sleeve.
Alas she no longer bears her heart upon my sleeve.
Alas the leaves of summer no longer weave the melodies
Of yesteryear. I remember a time, a place far beyond the
Horizon, a wonder world of waterfalls.
Now, lost in an underworld of catacombs
I find myself searching for the ghost of memories fading, calling.
A thousands dreams of ether bore children forth from wine.
A single word from Rumour casts a shiver down the vine.
Spreads word as pestilence upon the mother of all
A mother that was once mine, beyond the skies of winter herald.
Beyond the emblem of the moon wallowing upon the blanket
Shallow in the sky.
Awake it's morning, a new day is dawning,
I feel like smoking away the blues.
The sky outside it's blue today
Bluer in a deeper shade
All it is I can do is fade
Claiming that I love you
All it is and nothing more
Dreamers washed out on the shore
Confused as to what their waiting for
Nothing seems as it was anymore.
Dressed in dreams a thousand colours
Fade into the blue
Dressed in silk ripped at the seams
Still it looks good on you
The sky outside is melting fast
All we can do is hope it will last
Dreamers lost upon the grass
Fading slow, Fading fast
A thousand shades within the grass
An eternity in leaps and bounds
Unfounded visions of a future surreal
Peel away the veils of colours fusing
See beyond the spectrum, Beyond the light
Bright in majesty, noble in stature,
Shimmering in rapture, Shadowed paparazzi there set to capture
His soul, set to turn the wheel on a noble soul
All it is that makes us whole they'd see thrown out to the hounds.
As gods of our domains we lay as the dogs of our own destruction
All it is that lay in a name the construction of a soul unwinding by the instant.
Unwinding in the present only to find time descending into the past,
Here complacent in confusion, wild eyes settle placid in calms
Here I lay in the palms of your hands. Take me. We’ll walk this land
- quotes about blue
- quotes about dogs
- quotes about colors
- quotes about water
- quotes about sky
- quotes about time
- quotes about grass
- quotes about tobacco
- quotes about past
From Mount Gerizzim
esides what I said of the Four Last Things,
And of the weal and woe that from them springs;
An after-word still runneth in my mind,
Which I shall here expose unto that wind
That may it blow into that very hand
That needs it. Also that it may be scann'd
With greatest soberness, shall be my prayer,
As well as diligence and godly care;
So to present it unto public view,
That only truth and peace may thence ensue.
My talk shall be of that amazing love
Of God we read of; which, that it may prove,
By its engaging arguments to save
Thee, I shall lay out that poor help I have
Thee to entice; that thou wouldst dearly fall
In love with thy salvation, and with all
That doth thereto concur, that thou mayst be
As blessed as the Blessed can make thee,
Not only here but in the world to come,
In bliss, which, I pray God, may be thy home.
But first, I would advise thee to bethink
Thyself, how sin hath laid thee at the brink
Of hell, where thou art lulled fast asleep
In Satan's arms, who also will thee keep
As senseless and secure as e'er he may,
Lest thou shouldst wake, and see't, and run away
Unto that Jesus, whom the Father sent
Into the world, for this cause and intent,
That such as thou, from such a thrall as this
Might'st be released, and made heir of bliss.
Now that thou may'st awake, the danger fly,
And so escape the death that others die,
Come, let me set my trumpet to thine ear,
Be willing all my message for to hear:
'Tis for thy life, O do it not refuse;
Wo unto them good counsel do abuse.
Thou art at present in that very case,
Which argues thou art destitute of grace:
For he that lies where sin hath laid him, lies
Under the curse, graceless, and so he dies
In body and in soul, within that range,
If God his heart in mercy doth not change
Before he goes the way of all the earth,
Before he lose his spirit and his breath.
Repentance there is none within the grave,
Nor Christ, nor grace, nor mercies for to save
Thee from the vengeance due unto thy sin,
If now thou dost not truly close with him.
Thou art like him that sleepeth in the sea
On broken boards, which, without guide or stay,
Are driven whither winds and water will;
While greedy beasts do wait to have their fill
By feeding on his carcass, when he shall
Turn overboard, and without mercy fall
Into the jaws of such as make a prey
Of those whom justice drowneth in the sea.
Thou art like him that snoring still doth lie
Upon the bed of vain security,
Whilst all about him into burning flame
By fire is turned; yea, and while the frame
And building where he lies consuming is,
And while himself these burnings cannot miss.
Thou art like one that hangeth by a thread
Over the mouth of hell, as one half-dead;
And O, how soon this thread may broken be,
Or cut by death, is yet unknown to thee!
But sure it is, if all the weight of sin,
And all that Satan, too, hath doing been,
Or yet can do, can break this crazy thread,
'Twill not be long before, among the dead,
Thou tumble do, as linked fast in chains,
With them to wait in fear for future pains.
What shall I say? Wilt thou not yet awake?
Nor yet of thy poor soul some pity take?
Among the lions it hood-winked lies;
O, that the Lord would open once thine eyes
That thou might'st see it, then I dare say thou,
As half-bereft of wits, wouldst cry out, How
Shall I escape? Lord help, O! help with speed,
Reach down thy hand from heav'n, for help I need,
To save me from the lions, for I fear
This soul of mine they will in pieces tear.
Come, then, and let us both expostulate
The case betwixt us, till we animate
And kindle in our hearts that burning love
To Christ, to grace, to life, that we may move
Swifter than eagles to this blessed prey;
Then shall it be well with us in that day
The trump shall sound, the dead made rise, and stand,
Then to receive, for breach of God's command,
Such thunder-claps as these, Depart from me
Into hell-fire, you that the wicked be,
Prepared for the devil, and for those
That with him and his angels rather chose
To live in filthy sin and wickedness,
Whose fruit is everlasting bitterness.
We both are yet on this side of the grave,
We also gospel-privileges have;
The word, and time to pray; God give us hearts,
That, like the wise man, we may act our parts,
To get the pearl of price; then we shall be
Like godly Mary, Peter, Paul, and we
Like Jacob, too, the blessing shall obtain;
While Esau rides a-hunting for the gain
Of worldly pelf, which will him not avail
When death or judgment shall him sore assail.
Now, to encourage us for to begin,
Let us believe the kingdom we may win,
And be possess'd thereof, if we the way
Shall hit into, and then let nothing stay
Or hinder us; the crown is at the end,
Let's run and strive, and fly, and let's contend
With greatest courage it for to obtain;
'Tis life, and peace, and everlasting gain.
The gate of life, the new and living way,
The promise holdeth open all the day,
Which thou by Jacob's ladder must ascend,
Where angels always wait, and do attend
As ministers, to minister for those
That do with God, and Christ, and glory close.
If guilt of sin still lieth at our door,
Us to discourage, let us set before
Our eyes a bleeding Jesus, who did die
The death, and let's believe the reason why
He did it, was that we might ever be
From death and sin, from hell and wrath set free.
Yea, let's remember for that very end
It was his blessed Father did him send;
That he the law of God might here fulfil,
That so the mystery of his blessed will
Might be revealed in the blessedness
Of those that fly to Christ for righteousness.
Now let us argue with ourselves, then, thus
That Jesus Christ our Lord came to save us,
By bearing of our sins upon his back,
By hanging on the cross as on a rack,
While justice cut him off on every side,
While smiles Divine themselves from him did hide,
While earth did quake, and rocks in pieces rent,
And while the sun, as veiled, did lament
To see the innocent and harmless die
So sore a death, so full of misery.
Yea, let us turn again, and say, All this
He did and suffered for love of his.
He brought in everlasting righteousness,
That he might cover all our nakedness;
He wept and wash'd his face with brinish tears
That we might saved be from hellish fears;
Blood was his sweat, too, in his agony,
That we might live in joyful ecstasy;
He apprehended was and led away,
That grace to us-ward never might decay.
With swords, and bills, and outrage in the night,
That to the peace of heav'n we might have right.
Condemned he was between two thieves to die,
That we might ever in his bosom lie;
Scourged with whips his precious body were,
That we lashes of conscience might not fear;
His head was crowned with thorns, that we might be
Crowned with glory and felicity;
He hanged was upon a cursed tree,
That we delivered from death might be;
His Father from him hides his smiles and face,
That we might have them in the heavenly place;
He cry'd, My God, why hast forsaken me?
That we forsaken of him might not be.
Into his side was thrust a bloody spear,
That we the sting of death might never fear;
He went into the grave after all this,
That we might up to heav'n go, and have bliss.
Yea, rise again he did out of the earth,
And shook off from him all the chains of death;
Then at his chariot wheels he captive led
His foes, and trod upon the serpent's head;
Riding in triumph to his Father's throne,
There to possess the kingdom as his own.
What say'st thou, wilt not yet unto him come?
His arms are open, in his heart is room
To lay thee; be not then discouraged,
Although thy sins be many, great, and red;
Unto thee righteousness he will impute,
And with the kisses of his mouth salute
Thy drooping soul, and will it so uphold,
As that thy shaking conscience shall be bold
To come to mercy's seat with great access,
There to expostulate with that justice
That burns like fiery flames against all those
That do not with this blessed Jesus close;
Which unto thee will do no harm, but good,
Because thou hast reliance on that blood
That justice saith hath given him content,
For all that do unfeignedly repent
Their ill-spent life, and roll upon free grace,
That they within that bosom might have place,
That open is to such, where they shall lie
In ease, and gladness, and felicity,
World without end, according to that state
I have, nay, better than I, can relate.
If thou shalt still object, thou yet art vile,
And hast a heart that will not reconcile
Unto the holy law, but will rebel,
Hark yet to what I shall thee farther tell.
Two things are yet behind that help thee will,
If God should put into thy mind that skill,
So to improve them as becometh those
That would with mercy and forgiveness close.
First, then, let this sink down into thy heart,
That Christ is not a Saviour in part,
But every way so fully he is made
That all of those that underneath his shade
And wing would sit, and shroud their weary soul,
That even Moses dare it not control,
But justify it, approve of 't, and conclude
No man nor angel must himself intrude
With such doctrine that may oppose the same,
On pain of blaspheming that holy name,
Which God himself hath given unto men,
To stay, to trust, to lean themselves on, when
They feel themselves assaulted, and made fear
Their sin will not let them in life appear.
For as God made him perfect righteousness,
That he his love might to the height express,
And us present complete before the throne;
Sanctification, too, of his own
He hath prepared, in which do we stand,
Complete in holiness, at his right hand.
Now this sanctification is not
That holiness which is in us, but that
Which in the person of this Jesus is,
And can inherently be only his.
But is imputed to us for our good.
As is his active righteousness and blood;
Which is the cause, though we infirm are found,
That mercy and forgiveness doth abound
To us-ward, and that why we are not shent
And empty, and away rebuked sent,
Because that all we do imperfect is.
Bless God, then, for this holiness of his,
And learn to look by faith on that alone,
When thou seest thou hast nothing of thine own;
Yea, when thy heart most willing is to do
What God by his good word doth call thee to;
And when thou find'st most holiness within,
And greatest power over every sin,
Yet then to Jesus look, and thou shalt see
In him sanctification for thee,
Far more complete than all that thou canst find
In the most upright heart and willing mind,
That ever man or angels did possess,
When most filled with inherent righteousness.
Besides, if thou forgettest here to live,
And Satan get thee once into his sieve,
He will so hide thy wheat, and show thy brun
That thou wilt quickly cry, I am undone.
Alas, thy goodliest attainments here,
Though like the fairest blossoms they appear,
How quickly will they lour and decay,
And be as if they all were fled away,
When once the east-wind of temptations beat
Upon thee, with their dry and blasting heat!
Rich men will not account their treasure lies
In crack'd groats and four-pence half-pennies,
But in those bags they have within their chests,
In staple goods, which shall within their breasts
Have place accordingly, because they see
Their substance lieth here. But if that be
But shaken, then they quickly fear, and cry,
Alas, 'tis not this small and odd money,
We carry in our pockets for to spend,
Will make us rich, or much will stand our friend.
If famine or if want do us assail,
How quickly will these little pieces fail!
If thou be wise, consider what I say
And look for all in Christ, where no decay
Is like to be; then though thy present frame
Be much in up-and-down, yet he the same
Abideth, yea, and still at God's right hand,
As thy most perfect holiness will stand.
It is, I say, not like to that in thee,
Now high, then low, now out, then in, but he
Most perfect is, when thou art at the worst
The same, the very same; I said at first,
This helpeth much when thou art buffeted,
And when thy graces lie in thee as dead;
Then to believe they are all perfect still
In Christ thy head, who hath that blessed skill,
Yet to present thee by what is in him
Unto his Father, one that hath no sin.
Yea, this will fill thy mouth with argument
Against the tempter, when he shall present
Before thee all thy weakness, and shall hide
From thee thy graces, that thou mayst abide
Under the fretting fumes of unbelief,
Which never yielded Christian man relief.
Nor help thyself thou mayst against him thus:
O Satan, though my heart indeed be worse
Than 'twas a while ago, yet I perceive
Thou shalt me not of happiness bereave,
Nor yet of holiness; for by the Word
I find that Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord,
Is made sanctification for me
In his own person, where all graces be,
As water in the fountain; and that I,
By means of that, have yet a sanctity,
Both personal and perfect every way;
And that is Christ himself, as Paul doth say.
Now, though my crazy pitcher oft doth leak,
By means of which my graces are so weak,
And so much spent, that one I cannot find
Able to stay or help my feeble mind;
Yet then I look to Jesus, and see all
In him that wanting is in me, and shall
Again take courage, and believe he will
Present me upright in his person, till
He humble me for all my foolishness,
And then again fill me with holiness.
Now, if thou lovest inward sanctity,
As all the saints do most unfeignedly,
Then add, to what I have already said,
Faith in the promise; and be not afraid
To urge it often at the throne of grace,
And to expect it in its time and place.
Then he that true is, and that cannot lie,
Will give it unto thee, that thou thereby
Mayst serve with faith, with fear, in truth and love,
That God that did at first thy spirit move
To ask it to his praise, that he might be
Thy God, and that he might delight in thee.
If I should here particulars relate,
Methinks it could not but much animate
Thy heart, though very listless to inquire
How thou mayst that enjoy, which all desire
That love themselves and future happiness;
But O, I cannot fully it express:
The promise is so open and so free,
In all respects, to those that humble be,
That want they cannot what for them is good;
But there 'tis, and confirmed is with blood,
A certain sign, all those enjoy it may,
That see they want it, and sincerely pray
To God the Father, in that Jesus' name
Who bled on purpose to confirm the same.
- quotes about justice
- quotes about divine
- quotes about death
- quotes about happiness
- quotes about art
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about receiving
- quotes about blood
- quotes about corruption
(a. bell / v. clarke)
Whats that word again?
Of my head again.
Charmed Im sure again.
I wish for thought.
Oh, wise men indeed,
Are fools who believe.
Her heart on my sleeve,
Is laughing at me.
Best left unsaid;
Theres no truth in whats said.
Looks like rain again.
Looks could kill again.
Half past two again.
And how time flies.
Oh, wise men indeed,
Are fools who believe.
Her heart on my sleeve,
Is laughing at me.
Best left unsaid;
Theres no truth in whats said.
In my pawn again.
Fingers burn again.
To the floor again.
How real is real?
Oh, wise men indeed,
Are fools who believe.
My heart on my sleeve,
Is laughing at me.
Best left unsaid
Theres no truth in whats said.
Oh, wise men indeed,
Are fools who believe.
My heart on my sleeve,
Is laughing at me.
Best left unsaid
Theres no truth in whats said.
Let go into the mystery
Let yourself go
Youve got to open up your heart
Thats all I know
Trust what I say and do what youre told
Baby, and all your dirt will turn
Let go into the mystery
Let yourself go
And when you open up your heart
You get everything you need
Baby theres a way and a mystic road
Youve got to have some faith
To carry on
Youve got to open up your heart
To the sun
You know hes looking out for you
cause hes the one
Let go into the mystery
Let yourself go
There is no other place to be
Baby this I know
Youve got to dance and sing
And be alive in the mystery
And be joyous and give thanks
And let yourself go
I saw the light of ancient greece
Towards the one
I saw us standing within reach
Of the sun
Let go into the mystery of life
Let go into the mystery
Let go into the mystery
Let yourself go
Youve got to open up your arms
To the sun
You know youve got so many charms
Its just begun
Trust what I say and do
What youre told
And surely all your dirt will turn into gold
The school I went to was the best
In Coimbatore town, in those days;
It gave me knowledge and life’s zest,
And made me wholesome, in much ways!
The school was built by Father Pat,
Near Puliakulam road grandly;
In Standard five, I firstly sat,
And loved my school very dearly!
My principal, Father Lawrence
Was strict with students, yet loved them;
My heart was full of reverence,
As every teacher was a gem!
With dedication, teachers taught;
All students got very good marks;
The mischief-makers were soon caught-
Although some were like giant sharks!
Each Monday morn, we wore a tie;
The Indian flag was hoisted then;
We sang the National Anthem high,
And marched to music like big men!
We had our drills, once in a way;
In evenings, we played some games;
And once a year, it was Sports-day!
Some naughty students used nick-names!
But in the class, we were perfect;
We had a desk each to keep books;
Our teachers told every defect;
The naughty ones were caught by looks!
My school-days were the best in life;
We learnt our lessons all by heart;
We never knew the world or strife;
The day arrived then to depart!
Copyright by Dr John Celes 3-14-2007
Fondly dedicated to all my school-mates
At CGMHSS, CBE
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire
'I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew!
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers'~Shakespeare
'Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
There are as mad, abandon'd critics too,'~Pope.
Still must I hear? -- shall hoarse Fitzgerald bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall,
And I not sing, lest, haply, Scotch reviews
Should dub me scribbler, and denounce my muse?
Prepare for rhyme -- I'll publish, right or wrong:
Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.
O nature's noblest gift -- my grey goose-quill!
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will,
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen,
That mighty instrument of little men!
The pen! foredoom'd to aid the mental throes
Of brains that labour, big with verse or prose,
Though nymphs forsake, and critics may deride,
The lover's solace, and the author's pride.
What wits, what poets dost thou daily raise!
How frequent is thy use, how small thy praise!
Condemn'd at length to be forgotten quite,
With all the pages which 'twas thine to write.
But thou, at least, mine own especial pen!
Once laid aside, but now assumed again,
Our task complete, like Hamet's shall be free;
Though spurn'd by others, yet beloved by me:
Then let us soar today, no common theme,
No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream
Inspires -- our path, though full of thorns, is plain;
Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.
When Vice triumphant holds her sov'reign sway,
Obey'd by all who nought beside obey;
When Folly, frequent harbinger of crime,
Bedecks her cap with bells of every clime;
When knaves and fools combined o'er all prevail,
And weigh their justice in a golden scale;
E'en then the boldest start from public sneers,
Afraid of shame, unknown to other fears,
More darkly sin, by satire kept in awe,
And shrink from ridicule, though not from law.
Such is the force of wit! but not belong
To me the arrows of satiric song;
The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.
Still there are follies, e'en for me to chase,
And yield at least amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame;
The cry is up, and scribblers are my game.
Speed, Pegasus! -- ye strains of great and small,
Ode, epic, elegy, have at you all!
I too can scrawl, and once upon a time
I pour'd along the town a flood of rhyme,
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
I printed -- older children do the same.
'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print;
A book's a book, although there's nothing in't.
Not that a title's sounding charm can save
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave:
This Lambe must own, since his patrician name
Fail'd to preserve the spurious farce from shame.
No matter, George continues still to write,
Though now the name is veil'd from public sight.
Moved by the great example, I pursue
The self-same road, but make my own review:
Not seek great Jeffrey's, yet, like him, will be
Self-constituted judge of poesy.
A man must serve his time to every trade
Save censure -- critics all are ready made.
Take hackney'd jokes from Miller, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote;
A mind well skill'd to find or forge a fault;
A turn for punning, call it Attic salt;
To Jeffrey go, be silent and discreet,
His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet:
Fear not to lie, 'twill seem a sharper hit;
Shrink not from blasphemy, 'twill pass for wit;
Care not for feeling -- pass you proper jest,
And stand a critic, hated yet carress'd.
And shall we own such judgment? no -- as soon
Seek roses in December -- ice in June;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff;
Believe a woman or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that's false, before
You trust in critics, who themselves are sore;
Or yield one single thought to be misled
By Jeffrey's heart, or Lambe's Boeotian head.
To these young tyrants, by themselves misplaced,
Combined usurpers on the throne of taste;
To these, when authors bend in humble awe,
And hail their voice as truth, their word as law --
While these are censors, 't would be sin to spare;
While such are critics, why should I forebear?
But yet, so near all modern worthies run,
'Tis doubtful whom to seek, or whom to shun:
Nor know we when to spare, or where to strike,
Our bards and censors are so much alike.
Then should you ask me, why I venture o'er
The path which Pope and Gifford trod before;
If not yet sicken'd, you can still proceed;
Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read.
'But hold!' exclaims a friend, 'here's come neglect:
This -- that -- and t'other line seem incorrect.'
What then? the self-same blunder Pope has got,
And careless Dryden -- 'Ay, but Pye has not:' --
Indeed! -- 'tis granted, faith! -- but what care I?
Better to err with Pope, than shine with Pye.
Time was, ere yet in these degenerate days
Ignoble themes obtain'd mistaken praise,
When sense and wit with poesy allied,
No fabl'd graces, flourish'd side by side;
From the same fount their inspiration drew,
And, rear'd by taste, bloom'd fairer as they grew.
Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure strain
Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain;
A polish'd nation's praise aspir'd to claim,
And rais'd the people's, as the poet's fame.
Like him great Dryden pour'd the tide of song,
In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong.
Then Congreve's scenes could cheer, or Otway's melt--
For nature then an English audience felt.
But why these names, or greater still, retrace,
When all to feebler bards resign their place?
Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast,
When taste and reason with those times are past.
Now look around, and turn each trifling page,
Survey the precious works that please the age;
This truth at least let satire's self allow,
No dearth of bards can be complain'd of now.
The loaded press beneath her labour groans,
And printers' devils shake their weary bones;
While Southey's epics cram the creaking shelves,
And Little's lyrics shine in hot-press'd twelves.
Thus saith the Preacher: 'Nought beneath the sun
Is new'; yet still from change to change we run:
What varied wonders tempt us as they pass!
The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism and gas,
In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,
Till the swoll'n bubble bursts -- and all is air!
Nor less new schools of Poetry arise,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize:
O'er taste awhile these pseudo-bards prevail;
Each country book-club bows the knee to Baal,
And, hurling lawful genius from the throne,
Erects a shrine and idol of its own;
Some leaden calf -- but whom it matters not,
From soaring Southey down to grovelling Stott.
Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,
For notice eager, pass in long review:
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race;
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
And tales of terror jostle on the road;
Immeasurable measures move along;
For simpering folly loves a varied song,
To strange mysterious dullness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.
Thus Lays of Minstrels -- may they be the last!--
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast.
While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
That dames may listen to the sound at nights;
And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner's brood,
Decoy young border-nobles through the wood,
And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;
While highborn ladies in their magic cell,
Forbidding knights to read who cannot spell,
Despatch a courier to a wizard's grave,
And fight with honest men to shield a knave.
Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,
The golden-crested haughty Marmion,
Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,
Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,
The gibbet or the field prepar'd to grace;
A mighty mixture of the great and base.
And think'st thou, Scott! by vain conceit perchance,
On public taste to foist thy stale romance,
Though Murray with his Miller may combine
To yield thy muse just half-a-crown per line?
No! when the sons of song descend to trade,
Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.
Let such forego the poet's sacred name,
Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame:
Still for stern Mammon may they toil in vain!
And sadly gaze on gold they cannot gain!
Such be their meed, such still the just reward
Of prostituted muse and hireling bard!
For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
And bid a long 'good night to Marmion.'
These are the themes that claim our plaudits now;
These are the bards to whom the muse must bow;
While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot,
Resign their hallow'd bays to Walter Scott.
The time has been, when yet the muse was young,
When Homer swept the lyre, and Maro sung,
An epic scarce ten centuries could claim,
While awe-struck nations hail'd the magic name;
The work of each immortal bard appears
The single wonder of a thousand years.
Empires have moulder'd from the face of earth,
Tongues have expir'd with those who gave them birth,
Without the glory such a strain can give,
As even in ruin bids the language live.
Not so with us, though minor bards, content
On one great work a life of labour spent:
With eagle pinion soaring to the skies,
Behold the ballad-monger Southey rise!
To him let Camoëns, Milton, Tasso yield,
Whose annual strains, like armies, take the field.
First in the ranks see Joan of Arc advance,
The scourge of England and the boast of France!
Though burnt by wicked Bedford for a witch,
Behold her statue plac'd in glory's niche;
Her fetters burst, and just releas'd from prison,
A virgin phoenix from her ashes risen.
Next see tremendous Thalaba come on,
Arabia's monstrous, wild and wondrous son:
Dom Daniel's dread destroyer, who o'erthrew
More mad magicians than the world e'er knew.
Immortal hero! all thy foes o'ercome,
For ever reign -- the rival of Tom Thumb!
Since startled metre fled before thy face,
Well wert thou doom'd the last of all thy race!
Well might triumphant genii bear thee hence,
Illustrious conqueror of common sense!
Now, last and greatest, Madoc spreads his sails,
Cacique in Mexico, and prince in Wales;
Tells us strange tales, as other travellers do,
More old than Mandeville's, and not so true.
Oh Southey! Southey! cease thy varied song!
A bard may chant too often and too long:
As thou art strong in verse, in mercy, spare!
A fourth, alas! were more than we could bear.
But if, in spite of all the world can say,
Thou still wilt verseward plod thy weary way;
If still in Berkley ballads most uncivil,
Thou wilt devote old women to the devil,
The babe unborn thy dread intent may rue:
'God help thee,' Southey, and thy readers too.
Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
That mild apostate from poetic rule,
The simple Wordsworth, framer of a lay
As soft as evening in his favourite May,
Who warns his friend 'to shake off toil and trouble,
And quit his books, for fear of growing double';
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose;
Convincing all, by demonstration plain,
Poetic souls delight in prose insane;
And Christmas stories tortur'd into rhyme
Contain the essence of the true sublime.
Thus, when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of 'an idiot boy';
A moon-struck, silly lad, who lost his way,
And, like his bard, confounded night with day;
So close on each pathetic part he dwells,
And each adventure so sublimely tells,
That all who view the 'idiot in his glory'
Conceive the bard the hero of the story.
Shall gentle Coleridge pass unnotic'd here,
To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear?
Though themes of innocence amuse him best,
Yet still obscurity's a welcome guest.
If Inspiration should her aid refuse
To him who takes a pixey for a muse,
Yet none in lofty numbers can surpass
The bard who soars to elegize an ass.
So well the subject suits his noble mind,
He brays the laureat of the long-ear'd kind.
Oh! wonder-working Lewis! monk, or bard,
Who fain wouldst make Parnassus a churchyard!
Lo! wreaths of yew, not laurel, bind thy brow,
Thy muse a sprite, Apollo's sexton thou!
Whether on ancient tombs thou tak'st thy stand,
By gibb'ring spectres hail'd, thy kindred band;
Or tracest chaste descriptions on thy page,
To please the females of our modest age;
All hail, M.P.! from whose infernal brain
Thin-sheeted phantoms glide, a grisly train;
At whose command 'grim women' throng in crowds,
And kings of fire, of water, and of clouds,
With 'small gray men,' 'wild yagers,' and what not,
To crown with honour thee and Walter Scott;
Again all hail! if tales like thine may please,
St. Luke alone can vanquish the disease;
Even Satan's self with thee might dread to dwell,
And in thy skull discern a deeper hell.
Who in soft guise, surrounded by a choir
Of virgins melting, not to Vesta's fire
With sparkling eyes, and cheek by passion flush'd,
Strikes his wild lyre, whilst listening dames are hush'd?
'Tis Little! young Catullus of his day,
As sweet, but as immoral, in his lay!
Grieved to condemn, the muse must still be just,
Nor spare melodious advocates of lust.
Pure is the flame which o'er her altar burns;
From grosser incense with disgust she turns;
Yet kind to youth, this expiation o'er,
She bids thee 'mend thy line and sin no more.'
For thee, translator of the tinsel song,
To whom such glittering ornaments belong,
Hiberian Strangford! with thine eyes of blue,
And boasted locks of red or auburn hue,
Whose plaintive strain each love-sick miss admires,
And o'er harmonious fustian half expires,
Learn, if thou canst, to yield thine author's sense,
Nor vend thy sonnets on a false pretence.
Think'st thou to gain thy verse a higher place,
By dressing Camoëns in suit of lace?
Mend, Strangford! mend thy morals and thy taste;
Be warm, but pure; be amorous, but be chaste;
Cease to deceive,: thy pilfer'd harp restore,
Nor teach the Lusian bard to copy Moore.
Behold! -- ye tarts! -- one moment spare the text --
Hayley's last work, and worst -- until his next;
Whether he spin poor couplets into plays,
Or damn the dead with purgatorial praise,
His style in youth or age is still the same,
For ever feeble and for ever tame.
Triumphant first see 'Temper's Triumphs' shine!
At least I'm sure they triumph'd over mine.
Of 'Music's Triumphs' all who read may swear
That luckless music never triumph'd there.
Moravians, arise! bestow some meet reward
On dull devotion -- Lo! the Sabbath bard,
Sepulchral Grahame, pours his notes sublime
In mangled prose, nor e'en aspires to rhyme;
Breaks into blank the Gospel of St. Luke,
And boldly pilfers from the Pentateuch;
And, undisturb'd by conscientious qualms,
Perverts the Prophets, and purloins the Psalms.
Hail, Sympathy! thy soft idea brings
A thousand visions of a thousand things,
And shows, still whimpering through three-score of years,
The maudlin prince of mournful sonneteers.
Art thou not their prince, harmonious Bowles!
Thou first, great oracle of tender souls?
Whether thou sing'st with equal ease, and grief,
The fall of empires, or a yellow leaf:
Whether thy muse most lamentably tells
What merry sounds proceed from Oxford bells,
Or, still in bells delighting, finds a friend
In every chime that jingled from Ostend:
Ah! how much juster were thy muse's hap
If to thy bells thou wouldst but add a cap!
Delightful Bowles! still blessing and still blest,
All love thy strain, but children like it best.
'Tis thine, with gentle Little's moral song,
To soothe the mania of the amorous throng!
With thee our nursery damsels shed their tears,
Ere miss as yet completes her infant years:
But in her teens thy winning powers are vain;
She quits poor Bowles for Little's purer strain.
Now to soft themes thou scornest to confine
The lofty numbers of a harp like thine:
'Awake a louder and a loftier strain,'
Such as none heard before, or will again!
Where all Discoveries jumbled from the flood,
Since first the leaky ark reposed in mud,
By more or less, are sung in every book,
From Captain Noah down to Captain Cook.
Nor this alone; but, pausing on the road,
The bard sighs forth a gentle episode;
And gravely tells -- attend, each beauteous miss! --
When first Madeira trembled to a kiss.
Bowles! in thy memory let this precept dwell,
Stick to thy sonnets, man! -- at least they sell.
But if some new-born whim, or larger bribe,
Prompt thy crude brain, and claim thee for a scribe;
If chance some bard, though once by dunces fear'd,
Now, prone in dust, can only be revered;
If Pope, whose fame and genius, from the first,
Have foil'd the best of critics, needs the worst,
Do thou essay: each fault, each falling scan;
The first of poets was, alas! but man.
Rake from each ancient dunghill every pearl,
Consult Lord Fanny, and confide in Curll;
Let all the scandals of a former age
Perch on thy pen, and flutter o'er thy page;
Affect a candour which thou canst not feel,
Clothe envy in the garb of honest zeal;
Write, as if St. John's soul could still inspire,
And do from hate what Mallet did for hire.
Oh! hadst thou lived in that congenial time,
To rave with Dennis, and with Ralph to rhyme;
Throng'd with the rest around his living head,
Not raised thy hoof against the lion dead;
A meet reward had crown'd thy glorious gains,
And link'd thee to the Dunciad for thy pains.
Another epic! Who inflicts again
More books of blank upon the sons of men?
Boeotian Cottle, rich Browtowa's boast,
Imports old stories from the Cambrian coast,
And sends his goods to market -- all alive!
Lines forty thousand, cantos twenty-five!
Fresh fish from Helicon! who'll buy, who'll buy?
The precious bargain's cheap -- in faith, not I.
Your turtle-feeder's verse must needs be flat,
Though Bristol bloat them with the verdant fat;
If Commerce fills the purse, she clogs the brain
And Amos Cottle strikes the lyre in vain.
In him an author's luckless lot behold,
Condemn'd to make the books which once he sold.
Oh, Amos Cottle! -- Pheobus! what a name
To fill the speaking trump of future fame! --
Oh, Amos Cottle! for a moment think
What meagre profits spring from pen and ink!
When thus devoted to poetic dreams,
Who will peruse thy prostituted reams?
Oh! pen perverted! paper misapplied!
Had Cottle still adorn'd the counter's side,
Bent o'er the desk, or, born to useful toils,
Been taught to make the paper which he soils,
Plough'd, delved, or plied the oar with lusty limb,
He had not sung of Wales, nor I of him.
As Sisyphus against the infernal steep
Rolls the huge rock whose motions ne'er may sleep,
So up thy hill, ambrosial Richmond, heaves
Dull Maurice all his granite weight of leaves:
Smooth, solid monuments of mental pain!
The petrifactions of a plodding brain,
That, ere they reach the top, fall lumbering back again.
With broken lyre, and cheek serenely pale,
Lo! sad Alcæus wanders down the vale;
Though fair they rose, and might have bloom'd at last,
His hopes have perish'd by the northern blast:
Nipp'd in the bud by Caledonian gales,
His blossoms wither as the blast prevails!
O'er his lost works let classic Sheffield weep;
May no rude hand disturb their early sleep!
Yet say! why should the bard at once resign
His claim to favour from the sacred Nine?
For ever startled by the mingled howl
Of northern wolves, that still in darkness prowl;
A coward brood, which mangle as they prey,
By hellish instinct, all that cross their way;
Aged or young, the living or the dead,
No mercy find -- these harpies must be fed.
Why do the injured unresisting yield
The calm possession of their native field?
Why tamely thus before their fangs retreat,
Nor hunt the blood-hounds back to Arthur's Seat?
Health to immortal Jeffrey! once, in name,
England could boast a judge almost the same;
In soul so like, so merciful, yet just,
Some think that Satan has resign'd his trust,
And given the spirit to the world again,
To sentence letters,as he sentenced men.
With hand less mighty, but with heart as black,
With voice as willing to decree the rack;
Bred in the courts betimes, though all that law
As yet hath taught him is to find a flaw;
Since well instructed in the patriot school
To rail at party, though a party tool,
Who knows, if chance his patrons should restore
Back to the sway they forfeited before,
His scribbling toils some recompense may meet,
And raise this Daniel to the judgment-seat?
Let Jeffreys' shade indulge the pious hope,
And greeting thus, present him with a rope:
'Heir to my virtues! man of equal mind!
Skill'd to condemn as to traduce mankind,
This cord receive, for thee reserved with care,
To wield in judgment, and at length to wear.'
Health to great Jeffrey! Heaven preserve his life,
To flourish on the fertile shores of Fife,
And guard it sacred in its future wars,
Since authors sometimes seek the field of Mars!
Can none remember that eventful day,
That ever-glorious, almost fatal fray,
When Little's leadless pistol met his eye,
And Bow-street myrmidons stood laughing by?
Oh, day disastrous! on her firm-set rock,
Dunedin's castle felt a secret shock;
Dark roll'd the sympathetic waves of Forth,
Low groan'd the startled whirlwinds of the north;
Tweed ruffled half his waves to form a tear,
The other half pursued its calm career;
Arthur's steep summit nodded to its base,
The surly Tolbooth scarcely kept her place.
The Tolbooth felt -- for marble sometimes can,
On such occasions feel as much as man --
The Tolbooth felt defrauded of his charms,
If Jeffrey died, except within her arms:
Nay last, not least on that portentious morn,
The sixteenth story, where himself was born,
His patrimonial garret, fell to the ground,
And pale Edina shudder'd at the sound:
Strew'd were the streets around with milk-white reams,
Flow'd all the Canongate with inky streams;
This of candour seem'd the sable dew,
That of his valour show'd the bloodless hue;
And all with justice deem'd the two combined
The mingled emblems of his mighty mind.
But Caledonia's goddess hover'd o'er
The field and saved him from the wrath of Moore;
From either pistol snatch'd the vengeful lead,
And straight restored it to her favourite's head:
That head, with greater than magnetic power,
Caught it, as Danaë caught the golden shower,
And, though the thickening dross will scarce refine,
Augments its ore, and is itself a mine.
'My son,' she cried, 'ne'er thirst for gore again,
Resign the pistol and resume the pen;
O'er politics and poesy preside,
Boast of thy country, and Britannia's guide!
For as long as Albion's heedless sons submit,
Or Scottish taste decides on English wit,
So long shall last thine unmolested reign,
Nor any dare to take thy name in vain.
Behold, a chosen band shall aid thy plan,
And own thee chieftain of the critic clan.
First in the oat-fed phalanx shall be seen
The travell'd thane, Athenian Aberdeen.
Herbert shall wield Thor's hammer, and sometimes,
In graditude, thou'lt praise his rugged rhymes.
Smug Sidney too thy bitter page shall seek,
And classic Hallam, much renown'd for Greek;
Scott must perchance his name and influence lend,
And paltry Pillans shall traduce his friend!
While gay Thalia's luckless votary, Lambe,
Damn'd like the devil, devil-like will damn.
Known be thy name, unbounded be thy sway!
Thy Holland's banquets shall each toil repay;
While grateful Britain yields the praise she owes
To Holland's hirelings and to learning's foes.
Yet mark one caution ere thy next Review
Spread its light wings of saffron and of blue,
Beware lest blundering Brougham destroy the sale,
Turn beef to bannocks, cauliflowers to kail.'
Thus having said, the kilted goddess kiss'd
Her son, and vanish'd in a Scottish mist
Then prosper, Jeffrey! pertest of the train
Whom Scotland pampers with her fiery grain!
Whatever blessing waits a genuine Scot,
In double portion swells thy glorious lot;
For thee Edina culls her evening sweets,
And showers their odours on thy candid sheets,
Whose hue and fragrance to thy work adhere --
This scents its pages, and that gilds its rear.
Lo! blushing Itch, coy nymph, enamour'd grown,
Forsakes the rest, and cleaves to thee alone;
And, too unjust to other Pictish men,
Enjoys thy person, and inspires thy pen!
Illustrious Holland! hard would be this lot,
His hirelings mention'd, and himself forgot!
Holland, with Henry Petty at his back,
The whipper-in and huntsman of the pack.
Blest be the banquets spread at Holland House,
Where Scotchmen feed, and critics may carouse!
Long, long beneath that hospitable roof
Shall Grub-street dine, while duns are kept aloof.
See honest Hallam lay aside his fork,
Resume his pen, review his Lordship's work,
And, grateful for the dainties on his plate,
Declare his landlord can at least translate!
Dunedin! view thy children with delight,
They write for food -- and feed because they write:
And lest, when heated with unusual grape,
Some glowing thoughts should to the press escape,
And tinge with red the female reader's cheek,
My lady skims the cream of each critique;
Breathes o'er the page her purity of soul,
Reforms each error, and refines the whole.
Now to the Drama turn -- Oh! motley sight!
What precious scenes the wondering eyes invite!
Puns, and a prince within a barrel pent,
And Dibdin's nonsense yield complete content.
Though now, thank Heaven! the Rosciomania's o'er,
And full-grown actors are endured once more:
Yet what avail their vain attempts to please,
While British critics suffer scenes like these;
While Reynolds vents his 'dammes!' 'poohs!' and 'zounds!'
And common-place and common sense confounds?
While Kenney's 'World' -- ah! where is Kenney's wit? --
Tires the sad gallery, lulls the listless pit;
And Beaumont's pilfer'd Caratach affords
A tragedy complete in all but words?
Who but must mourn, while these are all the rage,
The degradation of our vaunted stage!
Heavens! is all sense of shame and talent gone?
Have we no living bard of merit? -- none!
Awake, George Colman! Cumberland, awake!
Ring the alarum bell! let folly quake!
Oh Sheridan! if aught can move they pen,
Let Comedy assume her throne again;
Abjure the mummery of German schools;
Leave new Pizarros to translating fools;
Give, as thy last memorial to the age,
One classic drama, and reform the stage.
Gods! o'er those boards shall Folly rear her head
Where Garrick trod and Siddons lives to tread?
On those shall Farce display Buffoon'ry's mask,
And Hook conceal his heroes in a cask?
Shall sapient managers new scenes produce
From Cherry, Skeffington, and Mother Goose?
While Shakespeare, Otway, Massinger, forgot,
On stalls must moulder, or in closets rot?
Lo! with what pomp the daily prints proclaim
The rival candidates for Attic fame!
In grim array though Lewis' spectres rise,
Still Skeffington and Goose divide the prize.
And sure great Skeffington must claim our praise,
For skirtless coats and skeletons of plays
Renown'd alike; whose genius ne'er confines
Her flight to garnish Greenwood's gay designs;
Nor sleeps with 'Sleeping Beauties,' but anon
In five facetious acts comes thundering on,
While poor John Bull, bewilder'd with the scene
Stares, wondering what the devil it can mean;
But as some hands applaud, a venal few!
Rather than sleep, why John applauds it too.
Such are we now. Ah! wherefore should we turn
To what our fathers were, unless to mourn?
Degenerate Britons! are ye dead to shame,
Or, kind to dullness, do you fear to blame?
Well may the nobles of our present race
Watch each distortion of a Naldi's face;
Well may they smile on Italy's buffoons,
And worship Catalani's pantaloons,
Since their own drama yields no fairer trace
Of wit than puns, of humour than grimace.
Then let Ausonia, skill'd in every art
To soften manners, but corrupt the heart,
Pour her exotic follies o'er the town,
To sanction Vice, and hunt Decorum down:
Let wedded strumpets languish o'er Deshayes,
And bless the promise which his form displays;
While Grayton bounds before th' enraptured looks
Of hoary marquises and stripling dukes;
Let high-born lechers eye the lively Présle
Twirl her light limbs, that spurn the needless veil;
Let Angiolini bare her breast of snow,
Wave the white arm, and point the pliant toe;
Collini trill her love-inspiring song,
Strain her fair neck, and charm the listening throng!
Whet not your scythe, suppressers of our vice!
Reforming saints! too delicately nice!
By whose decrees, our sinful souls to save,
No Sunday tankards foam, no barber's shave;
And beer undrawn, and beards unmown, display
You holy reverence for the Sabbath-day.
Or hail at once the patron and the pile
Of vice and folly, Greville and Argyle!
Where yon proud palace, Fashion's hallow'd fane,
Spreads wide her portals for the motley train,
Behold the new Petronius of the day,
Our arbiter of pleasure and of play!
There the hired eunuch, the Hesperian choir,
The melting lute, the soft lascivious lyre,
The song from Italy, the step from France,
The midnight orgy, and the mazy dance,
The smile of beauty, and the flush of wine,
For fops, fools, gamesters, knaves, and lords combine:
Each to his humour -- Comus all allows;
Champaign, dice, music or your neighbour's spouse.
Talk not to us, ye starving sons of trade!
Of piteous ruin, which ourselves have made;
In plenty's sunshine Fortune's minions bask,
Nor think of poverty, except 'en masque,'
When for the night some lately titled ass
Appears the beggar which his grandsire was.
The curtain dropp'd, the gay burletta o'er,
The audience take their turn upon the floor;
Now round the room the circling dow'gers sweep,
Now in loose waltz the thin-clad daughters leap;
The first in lengthen'd line majestic swim,
The last display the free unfetter'd limb!
Those for Hibernia's lusty sons repair
With art the charms which nature could not spare;
These after husbands wing their eager flight,
Nor leave much mystery for the nuptial night.
Oh! blest retreats of infamy and ease,
Where, all forgotten but the power to please,
Each maid may give a loose to genial thought,
Each swain may teach new systems, or be taught:
There the blithe youngster, just return's from Spain,
Cuts the light pack, or calls the rattling main;
The jovial caster's set, and seven's the nick,
Or -- done! -- a thousand on the coming trick!
If, mad with loss, existence 'gins to tire,
And all your hope or wish is to expire,
Here's Powell's pistol ready for your life,
And, kinder still, two Pagets for your wife;
Fit consummation of an earthly race
Begun in folly, ended in disgrace;
While none but menials o'er the bed of death,
Wash thy red wounds, or watch thy wavering breath;
Traduced by liars, and forgot by all,
The mangled victim of a drunken brawl,
To live, like Clodius, and like Falkland fall.
Truth! rouse some genuine bard, and guide his hand
To drive this pestilence from out the land.
E'en I -- least thinking of a thoughtless throng,
Just skill'd to know the right and choose the wrong,
Freed at that age when reason's shield is lost,
To fight my course through passion's countless host,
Whom every path of pleasure's flowery way
Has lured in turn, and all have led astray --
E'en I must raise my voice, e'en I must feel
Such scenes, such men, destroy the public weal:
Although some kind, censorious friend will say,
'What art thou better, meddling fool, than they?'
And every brother rake will smile to see
That miracle, a moralist in me.
No matter -- when some bard in virtue strong,
Gifford perchance, shall raise the chastening song,
Then sleep my pen for ever! and my voice
Be only heard to hail him, and rejoice;
Rejoice, and yield my feeble praise, though I
May feel the lash that Virtue must apply.
As for the smaller fry, who swarm in shoals,
From silly Hafiz up to simple Bowles,
Why should we call them from their dark abode,
In broad St. Giles's or in Tottenham-road?
Or (since some men of fashion nobly dare
To scrawl in verse) from Bond-street or the Square?
If things of ton their harmless lays indict,
Most wisely doom'd to shun the public sight,
What harm? in spite of every critic elf,
Sir T. may read his stanzas to himself;
Miles Andrews still his strength in couplets try,
And life in prologues, though his dramas die:
Lords too are bards, such things at times befall,
And 'tis some praise in peers to write at all.
Yet, did or taste or reason sway the times
Ah! who would take their titles with their rhymes?
Roscommon! Sheffield! with your spirits fled,
No future laurels deck a noble head;
No muse will cheer, with renovating smile
The paralytic puling of Carlisle.
The puny schoolboy and his early lay
Men pardon, if his follies pass away;
But who forgives the senior's ceaseless verse,
Whose hairs grow hoary as his rhymes grow worse?
What heterogeneous honours deck the peer!
Lord, rhymester, petit-maître, and pamphleteer!
So dull in youth, so drivelling in his age,
His scenes alone had damn'd our stage;
But managers for once cried, 'Hold, enough!'
Nor drugg'd their audience with the tragic stuff.
Yet at their judgment let his lordship laugh,
And case his volumes in congenial calf;
Yes! doff that covering, where morocco shines,
And hang a calf-skin on those recreant lines.
With you, ye Druids! rich in native lead,
Who daily scribble for your daily bread;
With you I war not: Gifford's heavy hand
Has crush'd, without remorse, your numerous band.
On 'all the talents' vent your venal spleen;
Want is your plea, let pity be your screen.
Let monodies on Fox regale your crew,
And Melville's Mantle prove a blanket too!
One common Lethe waits each hapless bard,
And, peace be with you! 'tis your best reward.
Such damning fame as Dunciads only give
Could bid your lines beyond a morning live;
But now at once your fleeting labours close,
With names of greater note in blest repose,
Far be 't from me unkindly to upbraid,
The lovely Rosa's prose in masquerade,
Whose strains, the faithful echoes of her mind,
Leave wondering comprehension far behind.
Though Crusca's bards no more our journals fill,
Some stragglers skirmish round the columns still;
Last of the howling host which once was Bell's,
Matilda snivels yet, and Hafix yells;
And Merry's metaphors appear anew,
Chain'd to the signature of O. P. Q.
When some brisk youth, the tenant of a stall,
Employs a pen less pointed than his awl,
Leaves his snug shop, forsakes his store of shoes,
St. Crispin quits, and cobbles for the muse,
Heavens! how the vulgar stare! how crowds applaud!
How ladies read, and literati laud!
If chance some wicked wag should pass his jest,
'Tis sheer ill-nature -- don't the world know best?
Genius must guide when wits admire the rhyme,
And Capel Lofft declares 'tis quite sublime.
Hear, then, ye happy sons of needless trade!
Swains! quit the plough, resign the useless spade!
Lo! Burns and Bloomfield, nay, a greater far,
Gifford was born beneath an adverse star,
Forsook the labours of a servile state,
Stemm'd the rude storm, and triumph'd over fate:
Then why no more? if Phoebus smiled on you,
Bloomfield! why not on brother Nathan too?
Him too the mania, not the muse, has seized;
Not inspiration, but a mind diseased:
And now no boor can seek his last abode,
No common be enclosed without an ode.
Oh! since increased refinement deigns to smile
On Britain's sons, and bless our genial isle,
Let poesy go forth, pervade the whole,
Alike the rustic, and mechanic soul!
Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong,
Compose at once a slipper and a song;
So shall the fair your handiwork peruse,
Your sonnets sure shall please -- perhaps your shoes.
May Moorland weavers boast Pindaric skill,
And tailors' lays be longer than their bill!
While punctual beaux reward the grateful notes,
And pay for poems -- when they pay for coats.
To the famed throng now paid the tribute due,
Neglected genius! let me turn to you,
Come forth, oh Campbell give thy talents scope;
Who dares aspire if thou must cease to hope?
And thou, melodious Rogers! rise at last,
Recall the pleasing memory of the past;
Arise! let blest remembrance still inspire,
And strike to wonted tones thy hallow'd lyre;
Restore Apollo to his vacant throne,
Assert thy country's honour and thine own.
What! must deserted Poesy still weep
Where her last hopes with pious Cowper sleep?
Unless, perchance, from his cold bier she turns,
To deck the turf that wraps her minstrel, Burns!
No! though contempt hath mark'd the spurious brood,
The race who rhyme from folly, or for food,
Yet still some genuine sons 'tis hers to boast,
Who, least affecting, still affect the most:
Feel as they write, and write but as they feel --
Bear witness Gifford, Sotheby, Macneil.
'Why slumbers Gifford?' once was ask'd in vain;
Why slumbers Gifford? let us ask again.
Are there no follies for his pen to purge?
Are there no fools whose backs demand the scourge?
Are there no sins for satire's bard to greet?
Stalks not gigantic Vice in very street?
Shall peers or princes tread pollution's path,
And 'scape alike the law's and muse's wrath?
Nor blaze with guilty glare through future time,
Eternal beacons of consummate crime?
Arouse thee, Gifford! be thy promise claim'd,
Make bad men better, or at least ashamed.
Unhappy White! while life was in its spring,
And thy young muse just waved her joyous wing,
The spoiler swept that soaring lyre away,
Which else had sounded an immortal lay.
Oh! what a noble heart was here undone,
When Science' self destroy'd her favourite son!
Yes, she too much indulged thy fond pursuit,
She sow'd the seeds, but death has reap'd the fruit.
'Twas thine own genius gave the final blow,
And help'd to plant the wound that laid thee low:
So the struck eagle, stretch'd upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View'd his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing'd the shaft that quiver'd in his heart;
Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel
He nursed the pinion which impell'd the steel;
While the same plumage that had warm'd his nest
Drank the last life-drop of his bleeding breast.
There be who say, in these enlighten'd days,
That splendid lies are all the poet's praise;
That strain'd invention, ever on the wing,
Alone impels the modern bard to sing:
'Tis true, that all who rhyme -- nay, all who write,
Shrink from that fatal word to genius -- trite;
Yet Truth sometimes will lend her noblest fires,
And decorate the verse herself inspires:
This fact in Virtue's name let Crabbe attest;
Though nature's sternest painter, yet the best.
And here let Shee and Genius find a place,
Whose pen and pencil yield an equal grace;
To guide whose hand the sister arts combine,
And trace the poet's or the painter's line;
Whose magic touch can bid the canvas glow,
Or pour the easy rhyme's harmonious flow;
While honours, doubly merited, attend
The poet's rival, but the painter's friend.
Blest is the man who dares approach the bower
Where dwelt the muses at their natal hour;
Whose steps have press'd, whose eye has mark'd afar,
The clime that nursed the sons of song and war,
The scenes which glory still must hover o'er,
Her place of birth, her own Achaian shore.
But doubly blest is he whose heart expands
With hallow'd feelings for those classic lands;
Who rends the veil of ages long gone by,
And views their remnants with a poet's eye!
Wright! 'twas thy happy lot at once to view
Those shores of glory, and to sing them too;
And sure no common muse inspired thy pen
To hail the land of gods and godlike men.
And you, associate bards! who snatch'd to light
Those gems too long withheld from modern sight;
Whose mingling taste combined to cull the wreath
Where Attic flowers Aonion odours breathe,
And all their renovated fragrance flung
To grace the beauties of your native tongue;
Now let those minds that nobly could transfuse
The glorious spirit of the Grecian muse,
Though soft the echo, scorn a borrow'd tone:
Resign Achaia's lyre, and strike your own.
Let these, or such as these with just applause,
Restore the muse's violated laws;
But not in flimsy Darwin's pompous chime,
That mighty master of unmeaning rhyme,
Whose gilded cymbals, more adorn'd than clear,
The eye delighted, but fatigued the ear;
In show the simple lyre could once surpass,
But now, worn down, appear in native brass;
While all his train of hovering sylphs around
Evaporate in similes and sound:
Him let them shun, with him let tinsel die:
False glare attracts, but more offends the eye.
Yet let them not to vulgar Wordsworth stoop,
The meanest object of the lowly group,
Whose verse, of all but childish prattle void,
Seems blessed harmony to Lamb and Lloyd:
Let them -- but hold, my muse, nor dare to teach
A strain far, far beyond thy humble reach:
The native genius with their being given
Will point the path, and peal their notes to heaven.
And thou, too, Scott! resign to minstrels rude
The wilder slogan of a border feud:
Let others spin their meagre lines for hire;
Enough for genius, if itself inspire!
Let Southey sing, although his teeming muse,
Prolific every spring, be too profuse;
Let simple Wordsworth chime his childish verse,
And brother Coleridge lull the babe at nurse;
Let spectre-mongering Lewis aim, at most,
To rouse the galleries, or to raise a ghost;
Let Moore still sigh; let Strangford steal from Moore,
And swear that Comoëns sang such notes of yore;
Let Hayley hobble on, Montgomery rave,
And godly Grahame chant a stupid stave:
Let sonneteering Bowles his strains refine,
And whine and whimper to the fourteenth line;
Let Stott, Carlisle, Matilda, and the rest
Of Grub Street, and of Grosvenor Place the best,
Scrawl on, till death release us from the strain,
Or Common Sense assert her rights again.
But thou, with powers that mock the aid of praise,
Shouldst leave to humbler bards ignoble lays:
Thy country's voice, the voice of all the nine,
Demand a hallow'd harp -- that harp is thine.
Say! will not Caledonia's annals yield
The glorious record of some nobler field,
Than the wild foray of a plundering clan,
Whose proudest deeds disgrace the name of man?
Or Marmion's acts of darkness, fitter food
For Sherwood's outlaw tales of Robin Hood?
Scotland! still proudly claim thy native bard,
And be thy praise his first, his best reward!
Yet not with thee alone his name should live,
But own the vast renown a world can give:
Be known, perchance, when Albion is no more,
And tell the tale of what she was before;
To future times her faded fame recall,
And save her glory, though his country fall.
Yet what avails the sanguine poet's hope,
To conquer ages, and with time to cope?
New eras spread their wings, new nations rise,
And other victors fill the applauding skies;
A few brief generations fleet along,
Whose sons forget the poet and his song:
E'en now, what once-loved minstrels scarce may claim
The transient mention of a dubious name!
When fame's loud trump hath blown it noblest blast,
Though long the sound, the echo sleeps at last;
And glory, like the phoenix midst her fires,
Exhales her odours, blazes, and expires.
Shall hoary Granta call her sable sons,
Expert in science, more expert at puns?
Shall these approach the muse? ah, no! she flies,
Even from the tempting ore of Seaton's prize:
Though printers condescend the press to soil
With rhyme by Hoare, the epic blank by Hoyle:
Not him whose page, if still upheld by whist,
Requires no sacred theme to bid us list.
Ye! who in Granta's honours would surpass,
Must mount her Pegasus, a full-grown ass;
A foal well worthy of her ancient dam,
Whose Helicon is duller than her Cam.
There Clarke, still striving piteously 'to please',
Forgetting doggerel leads not to degrees,
A would-be satirist, a hired buffoon,
A monthly scribbler of some low lampoon,
Condemn'd to drudge, the meanest of the mean,
And furbish falsehoods for a magazine,
Devotes to scandal his congenial mind;
Himself a living libel on mankind.
Oh! dark asylum of a Vandal race!
At once the boast of learning, and disgrace!
So lost to Phoebus, that nor Hodgson's verse
Can make thee better, nor poor Hewson's worse.
But where fair Isis rolls her purer wave,
The partial muse delighted loves to lave;
On her green banks a greener wreath she wove,
To crown the bards that haunt her classic grove:
Where Richards wakes a genuine poet's fires,
And modern Britons glory in their sires.
For me, who, thus unask'd, have dared to tell
My country what her sons should know too well,
Zeal for her honour bade me here engage
The host of idiots that infest her age;
No just applause her honour'd name shall lose,
As first in freedom, dearest to the muse.
Oh! would thy bards but emulate thy fame,
And rise more worthy, Albion, of thy name!
What Athens was in science, Rome in power,
What Tyre appear'd in her meridian hour,
'Tis thine at once, fair Albion! to have been --
Earth's chief dictatress, ocean's lovely queen:
But Rome decay'd, and Athens strew'd the plain,
And Tyre's proud piers lie shattered in the main;
Like these, thy strength may sink, in ruin hurl'd,
And Britain fall, the bulwark of the world.
But let me cease, and dread Cassandra's fate,
With warning ever scoff'd at, till too late;
To themes less lofty still my lay confine
And urge thy bards to gain a name like thine.
Then, hapless Britain! be thy rulers blest,
The senate's oracles, the people's jest!
Still hear thy motley orators dispense
The flowers of rhetoric, though not of sense,
While Canning's colleagues hate him for his wit,
And old dame Portland fills the place of Pitt.
Yet, once again, adieu! ere this the sail
That wafts me hence is shivering in the gale;
And Afric's coast and Calpe's adverse height,
And Stamboul's minarets must greet my sight:
Thence shall I stray through beauty's native clime,
Where Kaff is clad in rocks, and crown'd with snows sublime.
But should I back return, no tempting press
Shall drag my journal from the desk's recess;
Let coxcombs, printing as they come from far,
Snatch his own wreath of ridicule from Carr;
Let Aberdeen and Elgin still pursue
The shade of fame through regions of virtù;
Waste useless thousands on their Phidian freaks,
Misshapen monuments and maim'd antiques;
And make their grand saloons a general mart
For all the mutilated blocks of art;
Of Dardan tours let dilettanti tell,
I leave topography to rapid Gell;
And, quite content, no more shall interpose
To stun the public ear -- at least with prose.
Thus far I've held my undisturb'd career,
Prepared for rancour, steel'd 'gainst selfish fear;
This thing of rhyme I ne'er disdain'd to own -
Though not obtrusive, yet not quite unknown:
My voice was heard again, though not so loud,
My page, though nameless, never disavow'd;
And now at once I tear the veil away: --
Cheer on the pack! the quarry stands at bay,
Unscared by all the din of Melbourne House,
By Lambe's resentment, or by Holland's spouse,
By Jeffrey's harmless pistol, Hallam's rage,
Edina's brawny sons and brimstone page.
Our men in buckram shall have blows enough,
And feel they too are 'penetrable stuff':
And though I hope not hence unscathed to go,
Who conquers me shall find a stubborn foe.
The time hath been, when no harsh sound would fall
From lips that now may seem imbued with gall;
Nor fools nor follies tempt me to despise
The meanest thing that crawl'd beneath my eyes;
But now, so callous grown, so changed since youth,
I've learn'd to think, and sternly speak the truth;
Learn'd to deride the critic's starch decree,
And break him on the wheel he meant for me;
To spurn the rod a scribbler bids me kiss,
Nor care if courts and crowds applaud or hiss:
Nay more, though all my rival rhymesters frown,
I too can hunt a poetaster down;
And, arm'd in proof, the gauntlet cast at once
To Scotch marauder, and to southern dunce.
Thus much I've dared; if my incondite lay
Hath wrong'd these righteous times, let others say;
This, let the world, which knows not how to spare,
Yet rarely blames unjustly, now declare.
The Lady Of La Garaye - Part IV
SILENT old gateway! whose two columns stand
Like simple monuments on either hand;
No trellised iron-work, with pleasant view
Of trim-set flowery gardens shining through;
No bolts to bar unasked intruders out;
No well-oiled hinge whose sound, like one low note
Of music, tells the listening hearts that yearn,
Expectant of dear footsteps, where to turn;
No ponderous bell whose loud vociferous tone
Into the rose-decked lodge hath echoing gone,
Bringing the porter forth with brief delay,
To spread those iron wings that check the way;
Nothing but ivy-leaves, and crumbling stone;
Silent old gateway,--even thy life is gone!
But ere those columns, lost in ivvied shade,
Black on the midnight sky their forms portrayed;
And ere thy gate, by damp weeds overtopped,
Swayed from its rusty fastenings and then dropped,--
When it stood portal to a living home,
And saw the living faces go and come,
What various minds, and in what various moods,
Crossed the fair paths of these sweet solitudes!
Old gateway, thou hast witnessed times of mirth,
When light the hunter's gallop beat the earth;
When thy quick wakened echo could but know
Laughter and happy voices, and the flow
Of jocund spirits, when the pleasant sight
Of broidered dresses (careless youth's delight,)
Trooped by at sunny morn, and back at falling night.
And thou hast witnessed triumph,--when the Bride
Passed through,--the stately Bridegroom at her side;
The village maidens scattering many a flower,
Bright as the bloom of living beauty's dower,
With cheers and shouts that bid the soft tears rise
Of joy exultant, in her downcast eyes.
And thou hadst gloom, when,--fallen from beauty's state,--
Her mournful litter rustled through the gate,
And the wind waved its branches as she past,--
And the dishevelled curls around her cast,
Rose on that breeze and kissed, before they fell,
The iron scroll-work with a wild farewell!
And thou hast heard sad dirges chanted low,
And sobbings loud from those who saw with woe
The feet borne forward by a funeral train,
Which homeward never might return again,
Nor in the silence of the frozen nights
Reclaim that dwelling and its lost delights;
But lowly lie, however wild love's yearning,
The dust that clothed them, unto dust returning.
Through thee, how often hath been borne away
Man's share of dual life--the senseless clay!
Through thee how oft hath hastened, glad and bold,
God's share--the eager spirit in that mould;
But neither life nor death hath left a trace
On the strange silence of that vacant place.
Not vacant in the day of which I write!
Then rose thy pillared columns fair and white;
Then floated out the odorous pleasant scent
Of cultured shrubs and flowers together blent,
And o'er the trim-kept gravel's tawny hue
Warm fell the shadows and the brightness too.
Count Claud is at the gate, but not alone:
Who is his friend?
They pass, and both are gone.
Gone, by the bright warm path, to those sad halls
Where now his slackened step in sadness falls;
Sadness of every day and all day long,
Spite of the summer glow and wild bird's song.
Who is that slow-paced Priest to whom he bows
Courteous precedence, as he sighing shows
The oriel window where his Gertrude dwells,
And all her mournful story briefly tells?
Who is that friend whose hand with gentle clasp
Answers his own young agonizing grasp,
And looks upon his burst of passionate tears
With calmer grieving of maturer years?
Oh! well round that friend's footsteps might be breathed
The blessing which the Italian poet wreathed
Into a garland gay of graceful words,
As full of music as a lute's low chords;
'Blessed be the year, the time, the day, the hour,'
When He passed through those gates, whose gentle power
Lifted with ministrant zeal the leaden grief,
Probed the soul's festering wounds and brought relief,
And taught the sore vexed spirits where to find
Balm that could heal, and thoughts that cheered the mind.
Prior of Benedictines, did thy prayers
Bring down a blessing on them unawares,
While yet their faces were to thee unknown,
And thou wert kneeling in thy cell alone,
Where thy meek litanies went up to Heaven,
That ALL who suffered might have comfort given,
And thy heart yearned for all thy fellow-men,
Smitten with sorrows far beyond thy ken?
He sits by Gertrude's couch, and patient listens
To her wild grieving voice;--his dark eye glistens
With tearful sympathy for that young wife,
Telling the torture of her broken life;
And when he answers her she seems to know
The peace of resting by a river's flow.
Tender his words, and eloquently wise;
Mild the pure fervour of his watchful eyes;
Meek with serenity of constant prayer
The luminous forehead, high and broad and bare;
The thin mouth, though not passionless, yet still;
With a sweet calm that speaks an angel's will,
Resolving service to his God's behest,
And ever musing how to serve Him best.
Not old, nor young; with manhood's gentlest grace;
Pale to transparency the pensive face,
Pale not with sickness, but with studious thought,
The body tasked, the fine mind overwrought;
With something faint and fragile in the whole,
As though 'twere but a lamp to hold a soul.
Such was the friend who came to La Garaye,
And Claud and Gertrude lived to bless the day!
There is a love that hath not lover's wooing,
Love's wild caprices, nor love's hot pursuing;
But yet a clinging and persistent love,
Tenderly binding, most unapt to rove;
As full of fervent and adoring dreams,
As the more gross and earthlier passion seems,
But far more single-hearted; from its birth,
With humblest notions of unequal worth!
Guided and guidable; with thankful trust;
Timid, lest all complaint should be unjust;
Circling,--a lesser orb,--around its star
With tributary love, that dare not war.
Such is the love which aged men inspire;
Priests, whose pure hearts are full of sacred fire;
And friends of dear friends dead,--whom trembling we admire.
A touch of mystery lights the rising morn
Of love for those who lived ere we were born;
Whose eyes the eyes of ancestors have seen;
Whose voice hath answered voices that have been;
Whose words show wisdom gleaned in days gone by,
As glory flushes from a sunset sky.
Our judgment leans upon them, feeling weak;
Our hearts lift yearning towards them as they speak,
And silently we listen, lest we lose
Some teaching truth, and benefits refuse.
With such a love did Gertrude learn to greet
The gentle Prior; whose slow-pacing feet
Each day of her sad life made welcome sound
Across the bright path of her garden ground.
And ere the golden summer past away,
And leaves were yellowing with a pale decay;
Ere, drenched by sweeping storms of autumn rain,
In turbulent billows lay the beaten grain;
Ere Breton orchards, ripening, turned to red
All the green freshness which the spring-time shed,
Mocking the glory which the sunset fills
With stripes of crimson o'er the painted hills,--
Her thoughts submitted to his thoughts' control,
As 'twere an elder brother of her soul.
Well she remembered how that soul was stirred,
By the rebuking of his gentle word,
When in her faltering tones complaint was given,
'What had I done; to earn such fate from Heaven?'
'Oh, Lady! here thou liest, with all that wealth
Or love can do to cheer thee back to health;
With books that woo the fancies of thy brain,
To happier thoughts than brooding over pain;
With light, with flowers, with freshness, and with food,
Dainty and chosen, fit for sickly mood:
With easy couches for thy languid frame,
Bringing real rest, and not the empty name;
And silent nights, and soothed and comforted days;
And Nature's beauty spread before thy gaze:--
'What have the Poor done, who instead of these
Suffer in foulest rags each dire disease,
Creep on the earth, and lean against the stones,
When some disjointing torture racks their bones;
And groan and grope throughout the wearying night,
Denied the rich man's easy luxury,--light?
What has the Babe done,--who, with tender eyes,
Blinks at the world a little while, and dies;
Having first stretched, in wild convulsive leaps,
His fragile limbs, which ceaseless suffering keeps
In ceaseless motion, till the hour when death
Clenches his little heart, and stops his breath?
What has the Idiot done, whose half-formed soul
Scarce knows the seasons as they onward roll;
Who flees with gibbering cries, and bleeding feet,
From idle boys who pelt him in the street!
What have the fair girls done, whose early bloom
Wasting like flowers that pierce some creviced tomb,
Plants that have only known a settled shade,
Lives that for others' uses have been made,--
Toil on from morn to night, from night to morn,
For those chance pets of Fate, the wealthy born;
Bound not to murmur, and bound not to sin,
However bitter be the bread they win?
What hath the Slandered done, who vainly strives
To set his life among untarnished lives?
Whose bitter cry for justice only fills
The myriad echoes lost among life's hills;
Who hears for evermore the self-same lie
Clank clog-like at his heel when he would try
To climb above the loathly creeping things
Whose venom poisons, and whose fury stings,
And so slides back; for ever doomed to hear
The old witch, Malice, hiss with serpent leer
The old hard falsehood to the old bad end,
Helped, it may be, by some traducing friend,
Or one rocked with him on one mother's breast,--
Learned in the art of where to smite him best.
'What we must suffer, proves not what was done:
So taught the God of Heaven's anointed Son,
Touching the blind man's eyes amid a crowd
Of ignorant seething hearts who cried aloud
The blind, or else his parents, had offended;
That was Man's preaching; God that preaching mended.
But whatsoe'er we suffer, being still
Fixed and appointed by the heavenly will,
Behoves us bear with patience as we may
The Potter's moulding of our helpless clay.
Much, Lady, hath He taken, but He leaves
What outweighs all for which thy spirit grieves;
No greater gift lies even in God's control
Than the large love that fills a human soul.
If taking that, He left thee all the rest,
Would not vain anguish wring thy pining breast?
If, taking all, that dear love yet remains,
Hath it not balm for all thy bitter pains?
'Oh, Lady! there are lonely deaths that make
The heart that thinks upon them burn and ache;
And such I witnessed on the purple shore
Where scorched Vesuvius rears his summit hoar,
And Joan's gaunt palace, with its skull-like eyes,
And barbarous and cruel memories,
For ever sees the blue wave lap its feet,
And the white glancing of the fishers' fleet.
The death of the FORSAKEN! lone he lies,
His sultry noon, fretted by slow black flies,
That settle on pale cheek and quivering brow
With a soft torment. The increasing glow
Brings the full shock of day; the hot air grows
Impure alike from action and repose;
Bruised fruit, and faded flowers, and dung and dust,
The rich man's stew-pan, and the beggar's crust,
Poison the faint lips opening hot and dry,
Loathing the plague they breathe with gasping sigh,
The thick oppression of its stifling heat,
The busy murmur of the swarming street,
The roll of chariots and the rush of feet;
With the tormenting music's nasal twang
Distorting melodies his loved ones sang!
'Then comes a change--not silence, but less sound,
Less echo of hard footsteps on the ground,
Less rolling thunder of vociferous words,
As though the clang struck out in crashing chords
Fell into single notes, that promise rest
To the wild fever of the labouring breast.
'Last cometh on the night--the hot, bad night,
With less of all--of heat, of dust, of light;
And leaves him watching, with a helpless stare,--
The theme of no one's hope and no one's care!
The cresset lamp, that stands so grim and tall,
Widens and wavers on the upper wall;
And calming down from day's perpetual storm
His thoughts' dark chaos takes some certain form,
And he begins to pine for joys long lost,
Or hopes unrealized;--till bruised and tost
He sends his soul vain journeys through the gloom
For radiant eyes that should have wept his doom.
Then clasps his hands in prayer, and for a time,
Gives aspirations unto things sublime:
But sinking to some speck of sorrow found,
Some point which, like a little festering wound,
Holds all his share of pain,--he gazes round,
Seeking some vanished form, some hand whose touch
Would almost cure him; and he yearns so much,
That passionate painful sobs his breathing choke,
And the thin bubble of his dream hath broke!
'So, still again; and all alone again;
Not even a vision present with his pain.
The hot real round him; the forsaken bed;
The tumbled pillow, and the restless head.
The drink so near his couch, and yet too far
For feeble hands to reach; the cold fine star
That glitters through the unblinded window-pane,
And with slow gliding leaves it blank again;
Till morning flushing through the world once more,
Brings the dull likeness of the day before,--
The first vague freshness of new wings unfurled,
As though Hope lighted, somewhere, in the world;
The heat of noon; the fading down of light;
The glimmering evening, and the restless night.
And then again the morning; and the noon;
The evening and the morning;--till a boon
Of double weakness sinks him, and he knows
One or two other days shall end his woes:
One or two mournful evenings, glimmering grey,
One or two hopeless risings of new day.
One or two noons too weak to brush off flies,
One or two nights of flickering feeble sighs,
One or two shivering breaks of helpless tears,
One or two yearnings for forgotten years,--
And then the end of all, then the great change,
When the freed soul, let loose at length to range,
Leaves the imprisoning and imprisoned clay,
And soars far out of reach of sorrow and decay!'
Then Claud, who watched the faint and pitying flush
Tint her transparent cheek; with sudden gush
Of manly ardour, spoke of soldier deaths;
Of scattered slain who lay on cold bleak heaths:
Of prisoners pining for their native land
After the battle's vain and desperate stand;
Brave hearts in dungeons,--rusting like their swords;
And wounded men,--midst whom the rifling hordes
Of spoil-desiring searchers crept and smote,--
Who vainly heard the rallying bugle's note,
Or the quick march of their companions pass;
Sunk, dumb and dying, on the trampled grass.
Then also, the meek anxious Prior told
Of war's worst horrors,--when in freezing cold,
Or in the torrid heat, men lay and groaned,
With none to hear or heed them when they moaned;
Or, with half-help,--borne in a comrade's arms
To where, all huddled up in feverish swarms,
The dying numbers mocked the scanty skill
Of wearied surgeons,--crowding, crowding still,
With different small degrees of lingering breath,
Asking for instant aid, or choked in death.
Order, and cleanliness, and thought, and care,
The hush of quiet, or the sound of prayer,
These things were not:--nor, from the exhausted store,
Medicines and balms, to help the troubling sore;
Nor soft cool lint, like dew on parched-up ground,
Clothing the weary, burning, festering wound;
Nor delicate linen; nor fresh cooling drinks
To woo the fever-cracking lip which shrinks
Even from such solace; nor the presence blest
Of holy women watching broken rest,
And gliding past them through the wakeful night,
Like her whose Shadow made the soldier's light.
And as the three discoursed of things like these,
Sweet Gertrude felt her mind grow ill at ease.
The words of Claud,--that God took what was given
To teach their hearts to turn from earth to heaven;
The Prior's words, of tender mild appeal,
Teaching her how for others' woes to feel;
Weighed on her heart; till all the past life seemed
Thankless and thoughtless: and the lady dreamed
Of succour to the helpless, and of deeds
Pious and merciful, whose beauty breeds
Good deeds in others, copying what is done,
And ending all by earnest thought begun.
Nor idly dreamed. Where once the shifting throng
Of merry playmates met, with dance and song,--
Long rows of simple beds the place proclaim
A Hospital, in all things but the name.
In that same castle where the lavish feast
Lay spread, that fatal night, for many a guest,
The sickly poor are fed! Beneath that porch
Where Claud shed tears that seemed the lids to scorch,
Seeing her broken beauty carried by
Like a crushed flower that now has but to die,
The self-same Claud now stands and helps to guide
Some ragged wretch to rest and warmth inside.
But most to those, the hopeless ones, on whom
Early or late her own sad spoken doom,
Hath been pronounced; the Incurables; she spends
Her lavish pity, and their couch attends.
Her home is made their home; her wealth their dole;
Her busy courtyard hears no more the roll
Of gilded vehicles, or pawing steeds,
But feeble steps of those whose bitter needs
Are their sole passport. Through that gateway press
All varying forms of sickness and distress,
And many a poor worn face that hath not smiled
For years,--and many a feebled crippled child,--
Blesses the tall white portal where they stand,
And the dear Lady of the liberal hand.
Not in a day such happy change was brought;
Not in a day the works of mercy wrought:
But in God's gradual time. As Winter's chain
Melts from the earth and leaves it green again:
As the fresh bud a crimsoning beauty shows
From the black briars of a last year's rose:
So the full season of her love matures,
And her one illness breeds a thousand cures.
Her soft eyes looking into other eyes,
Bleared, and defaced to blinding cavities,
Weary not in their task; nor turn away
With a sick loathing from their glimmering ray.
Her small white comforting hand,--no longer hid
In pearl-embroidered gauntlet,--lifts the lid
Outworn with labour in the bitter fields,
And with a tender skill some healing yields;
Bathes the swoln redness,--shades unwelcome light;--
And into morning turns their threatening night.
And Claud, her eager Claud, with fervent heart,
Earnest in all things, nobly does his part;
His high intelligence hath mastered much
That baffled science: with a surgeon's touch
He treats,--himself,--the hurts from many a wound,
And, by deep study, novel cures hath found.
But good and frank and simple he remains,
Though a King's notice lauds successful pains;
And, echoing through his grateful country, fame
Sends to far nations noble Garaye's name.
Oh! loved and reverenced long that name shall be,
Though, crumbled on the soil of Brittany,
No stone, at last, of that pale Ruin shows
Where stood the gateway of his joys and woes.
For, in the Breton town, the good deeds done
Yield a fresh harvest still, from sire to son:
Still thrives the noble Hospital that gave
Shelter to those whom none from pain could save;
Still to the schools the ancient chiming clock
Calls the poor yeanlings of a simple flock:
Still the calm Refuge for the fallen and lost
(Whom love a blight and not a blessing crost,)
Sends out a voice to woo the grieving breast,--
Come unto me, ye weary, and find rest!
And still the gentle nurses,--vowed to give
Their aid to all who suffer and yet live,--
Go forth in show-white cap and sable gown,
Tending the sick and hungry in the town,
And show dim pictures on their quiet walls
Of those who dwelt in Garaye's ruined halls!
Guilt and Sorrow
A traveller on the skirt of Sarum's Plain
Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare;
Stooping his gait, but not as if to gain
Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air
Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with care
Both of the time to come, and time long fled:
Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair;
A coat he wore of military red
But faded, and stuck o'er with many a patch and shred.
While thus he journeyed, step by step led on,
He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
That welcome in such house for him was none.
No board inscribed the needy to allure
Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
And desolate, "Here you will find a friend!"
The pendent grapes glittered above the door;--
On he must pace, perchance 'till night descend,
Where'er the dreary roads their bare white lines extend.
The gathering clouds grow red with stormy fire,
In streaks diverging wide and mounting high;
That inn he long had passed; the distant spire,
Which oft as he looked back had fixed his eye,
Was lost, though still he looked, in the blank sky.
Perplexed and comfortless he gazed around,
And scarce could any trace of man descry,
Save cornfields stretched and stretching without bound;
But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be found.
No tree was there, no meadow's pleasant green,
No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear;
Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen,
But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer.
Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near;
And so he sent a feeble shout--in vain;
No voice made answer, he could only hear
Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain,
Or whistling thro' thin grass along the unfurrowed plain.
Long had he fancied each successive slope
Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn
And rest; but now along heaven's darkening cope
The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne.
Thus warned he sought some shepherd's spreading thorn
Or hovel from the storm to shield his head,
But sought in vain; for now, all wild, forlorn,
And vacant, a huge waste around him spread;
The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only bed.
And be it so--for to the chill night shower
And the sharp wind his head he oft hath bared;
A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
Hath told; for, landing after labour hard,
Full long endured in hope of just reward,
He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.
For years the work of carnage did not cease,
And death's dire aspect daily he surveyed,
Death's minister; then came his glad release,
And hope returned, and pleasure fondly made
Her dwelling in his dreams. By Fancy's aid
The happy husband flies, his arms to throw
Round his wife's neck; the prize of victory laid
In her full lap, he sees such sweet tears flow
As if thenceforth nor pain nor trouble she could know.
Vain hope! for frand took all that he had earned.
The lion roars and gluts his tawny brood
Even in the desert's heart; but he, returned,
Bears not to those he loves their needful food.
His home approaching, but in such a mood
That from his sight his children might have run.
He met a traveller, robbed him, shed his blood;
And when the miserable work was done
He fled, a vagrant since, the murderer's fate to shun.
From that day forth no place to him could be
So lonely, but that thence might come a pang
Brought from without to inward misery.
Now, as he plodded on, with sullen clang
A sound of chains along the desert rang;
He looked, and saw upon a gibbet high
A human body that in irons swang,
Uplifted by the tempest whirling by;
And, hovering, round it often did a raven fly.
It was a spectacle which none might view,
In spot so savage, but with shuddering pain;
Nor only did for him at once renew
All he had feared from man, but roused a train
Of the mind's phantoms, horrible as vain.
The stones, as if to cover him from day,
Rolled at his back along the living plain;
He fell, and without sense or motion lay;
But, when the trance was gone, feebly pursued his way.
As one whose brain habitual phrensy fires
Owes to the fit in which his soul hath tossed
Profounder quiet, when the fit retires,
Even so the dire phantasma which had crossed
His sense, in sudden vacancy quite lost,
Left his mind still as a deep evening stream.
Nor, if accosted now, in thought engrossed,
Moody, or inly troubled, would he seem
To traveller who might talk of any casual theme.
Hurtle the clouds in deeper darkness piled,
Gone is the raven timely rest to seek;
He seemed the only creature in the wild
On whom the elements their rage might wreak;
Save that the bustard, of those regions bleak
Shy tenant, seeing by the uncertain light
A man there wandering, gave a mournful shriek,
And half upon the ground, with strange affright,
Forced hard against the wind a thick unwieldy flight.
All, all was cheerless to the horizon's bound;
The weary eye--which, wheresoe'er it strays,
Marks nothing but the red sun's setting round,
Or on the earth strange lines, in former days
Left by gigantic arms--at length surveys
What seems an antique castle spreading wide;
Hoary and naked are its walls, and raise
Their brow sublime: in shelter there to bide
He turned, while rain poured down smoking on every side.
Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep
Thy secrets, thou that lov'st to stand and hear
The Plain resounding to the whirlwind's sweep,
Inmate of lonesome Nature's endless year;
Even if thou saw'st the giant wicker rear
For sacrifice its throngs of living men,
Before thy face did ever wretch appear,
Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain
Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now would gain.
Within that fabric of mysterious form,
Winds met in conflict, each by turns supreme;
And, from the perilous ground dislodged, through storm
And rain he wildered on, no moon to stream
From gulf of parting clouds one friendly beam,
Nor any friendly sound his footsteps led;
Once did the lightning's faint disastrous gleam
Disclose a naked guide-post's double head,
Sight which tho' lost at once a gleam of pleasure shed.
No swinging sign-board creaked from cottage elm
To stay his steps with faintness overcome;
'Twas dark and void as ocean's watery realm
Roaring with storms beneath night's starless gloom;
No gipsy cowered o'er fire of furze or broom;
No labourer watched his red kiln glaring bright,
Nor taper glimmered dim from sick man's room;
Along the waste no line of mournful light
From lamp of lonely toll-gate streamed athwart the night.
At length, though hid in clouds, the moon arose;
The downs were visible--and now revealed
A structure stands, which two bare slopes enclose.
It was a spot, where, ancient vows fulfilled,
Kind pious hands did to the Virgin build
A lonely Spital, the belated swain
From the night terrors of that waste to shield:
But there no human being could remain,
And now the walls are named the "Dead House" of the plain.
Though he had little cause to love the abode
Of man, or covet sight of mortal face,
Yet when faint beams of light that ruin showed,
How glad he was at length to find some trace
Of human shelter in that dreary place.
Till to his flock the early shepherd goes,
Here shall much-needed sleep his frame embrace.
In a dry nook where fern the floor bestrows
He lays his stiffened limbs,--his eyes begin to close;
When hearing a deep sigh, that seemed to come
From one who mourned in sleep, he raised his head,
And saw a woman in the naked room
Outstretched, and turning on a restless bed:
The moon a wan dead light around her shed.
He waked her--spake in tone that would not fail,
He hoped, to calm her mind; but ill he sped,
For of that ruin she had heard a tale
Which now with freezing thoughts did all her powers assail;
Had heard of one who, forced from storms to shroud,
Felt the loose walls of this decayed Retreat
Rock to incessant neighings shrill and loud,
While his horse pawed the floor with furious heat;
Till on a stone, that sparkled to his feet,
Struck, and still struck again, the troubled horse:
The man half raised the stone with pain and sweat,
Half raised, for well his arm might lose its force
Disclosing the grim head of a late murdered corse.
Such tale of this lone mansion she had learned
And, when that shape, with eyes in sleep half drowned,
By the moon's sullen lamp she first discerned,
Cold stony horror all her senses bound.
Her he addressed in words of cheering sound;
Recovering heart, like answer did she make;
And well it was that, of the corse there found,
In converse that ensued she nothing spake;
She knew not what dire pangs in him such tale could wake.
But soon his voice and words of kind intent
Banished that dismal thought; and now the wind
In fainter howlings told its 'rage' was spent:
Meanwhile discourse ensued of various kind,
Which by degrees a confidence of mind
And mutual interest failed not to create.
And, to a natural sympathy resigned,
In that forsaken building where they sate
The Woman thus retraced her own untoward fate.
"By Derwent's side my father dwelt--a man
Of virtuous life, by pious parents bred;
And I believe that, soon as I began
To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
And afterwards, by my good father taught,
I read, and loved the books in which I read;
For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.
"A little croft we owned--a plot of corn,
A garden stored with peas, and mint, and thyme,
And flowers for posies, oft on Sunday morn
Plucked while the church bells rang their earliest chime.
Can I forget our freaks at shearing time!
My hen's rich nest through long grass scarce espied;
The cowslip-gathering in June's dewy prime;
The swans that with white chests upreared in pride
Rushing and racing came to meet me at the water-side.
"The staff I well remember which upbore
The bending body of my active sire;
His seat beneath the honied sycamore
Where the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;
When market-morning came, the neat attire
With which, though bent on haste, myself I decked;
Our watchful house-dog, that would tease and tire
The stranger till its barking-fit I checked;
The red-breast, known for years, which at my casement pecked.
"The suns of twenty summers danced along,--
Too little marked how fast they rolled away:
But, through severe mischance and cruel wrong,
My father's substance fell into decay:
We toiled and struggled, hoping for a day
When Fortune might put on a kinder look;
But vain were wishes, efforts vain as they;
He from his old hereditary nook
Must part; the summons came;--our final leave we took.
"It was indeed a miserable hour
When, from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,
Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
That on his marriage day sweet music made!
Tilt then, he hoped his bones might there be laid
Close by my mother in their native bowers:
Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed;--
I could not pray:--through tears that fell in showers
Glimmered our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!
"There was a Youth whom I had loved so long,
That when I loved him not I cannot say:
'Mid the green mountains many a thoughtless song
We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May;
When we began to tire of childish play,
We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
And I in truth did love him like a brother,
For never could I hope to meet with such another.
"Two years were passed since to a distant town
He had repaired to ply a gainful trade:
What tears of bitter grief, till then unknown!
What tender vows, our last sad kiss delayed!
To him we turned:--we had no other aid:
Like one revived, upon his neck I wept;
And her whom he had loved in joy, he said,
He well could love in grief; his faith he kept;
And in a quiet home once more my father slept.
"We lived in peace and comfort; and were blest
With daily bread, by constant toil supplied.
Three lovely babes had lain upon my breast;
And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
And knew not why. My happy father died,
When threatened war reduced the children's meal:
Thrice happy! that for him the grave could hide
The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
And tears that flowed for ills which patience might not heal.
"'Twas a hard change; an evil time was come;
We had no hope, and no relief could gain:
But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum
Beat round to clear the streets of want and pain.
My husband's arms now only served to strain
Me and his children hungering in his view;
In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
To join those miserable men he flew,
And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.
"There were we long neglected, and we bore
Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weighed;
Green fields before us, and our native shore,
We breathed a pestilential air, that made
Ravage for which no knell was heard. We prayed
For our departure; wished and wished--nor knew,
'Mid that long sickness and those hopes delayed,
That happier days we never more must view.
The parting signal streamed--at last the land withdrew.
"But the calm summer season now was past.
On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
Ran mountains high before the howling blast,
And many perished in the whirlwind's sweep.
We gazed with terror on their gloomy sleep,
Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
That we the mercy of the waves should rue:
We reached the western world, a poor devoted crew.
"The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would unman the firmest heart to hear.
All perished--all in one remorseless year,
Husband and children! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored."
Here paused she of all present thought forlorn,
Nor voice nor sound, that moment's pain expressed,
Yet Nature, with excess of grief o'erborne,
From her full eyes their watery load released.
He too was mute; and, ere her weeping ceased,
He rose, and to the ruin's portal went,
And saw the dawn opening the silvery east
With rays of promise, north and southward sent;
And soon with crimson fire kindled the firmament.
"O come," he cried, "come, after weary night
Of such rough storm, this happy change to view."
So forth she came, and eastward looked; the sight
Over her brow like dawn of gladness threw;
Upon her cheek, to which its youthful hue
Seemed to return, dried the last lingering tear,
And from her grateful heart a fresh one drew:
The whilst her comrade to her pensive cheer
Tempered fit words of hope; and the lark warbled near.
They looked and saw a lengthening road, and wain
That rang down a bare slope not far remote:
The barrows glistered bright with drops of rain,
Whistled the waggoner with merry note,
The cock far off sounded his clarion throat;
But town, or farm, or hamlet, none they viewed,
Only were told there stood a lonely cot
A long mile thence. While thither they pursued
Their way, the Woman thus her mournful tale renewed.
"Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
Is now, by beams of dawning light imprest,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main;
The very ocean hath its hour of rest.
I too forgot the heavings of my breast.
How quiet 'round me ship and ocean were!
As quiet all within me. I was blest,
And looked, and fed upon the silent air
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.
"Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps,
And groans that rage of racking famine spoke;
The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps,
The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke,
The shriek that from the distant battle broke,
The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host
Driven by the bomb's incessant thunderstroke
To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish tossed,
Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!
"Some mighty gulf of separation past,
I seemed transported to another world;
A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurled,
And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home
And from all hope I was for ever hurled.
For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.
"And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
That I, at last, a resting-place had found;
'Here will I dwell,' said I, 'my whole life long,
Roaming the illimitable waters round;
Here will I live, of all but heaven disowned,
And end my days upon the peaceful flood.'--
To break my dream the vessel reached its bound;
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.
"No help I sought; in sorrow turned adrift,
Was hopeless, as if cast on some bare rock;
Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
Nor raised my hand at any door to knock.
I lay where, with his drowsy mates, the cock
From the cross-timber of an out-house hung:
Dismally tolled, that night, the city clock!
At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
Nor to the beggar's language could I fit my tongue.
"So passed a second day; and, when the third
Was come, I tried in vain the crowd's resort.
--In deep despair, by frightful wishes stirred,
Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort;
There, pains which nature could no more support,
With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;
And, after many interruptions short
Of hideous sense, I sank, nor step could crawl:
Unsought for was the help that did my life recall.
"Borne to a hospital, I lay with brain
Drowsy and weak, and shattered memory;
I heard my neighbours in their beds complain
Of many things which never troubled me--
Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,
Of looks where common kindness had no part,
Of service done with cold formality,
Fretting the fever round the languid heart,
And groans which, as they said, might make a dead man start.
"These things just served to stir the slumbering sense,
Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
With strength did memory return; and, thence
Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
The lanes I sought, and, as the sun retired,
Came where beneath the trees a faggot blazed,
The travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
And gave me food--and rest, more welcome, more desired.
"Rough potters seemed they, trading soberly
With panniered asses driven from door to door;
But life of happier sort set forth to me,
And other joys my fancy to allure--
The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
In barn uplighted; and companions boon,
Well met from far with revelry secure
Among the forest glades, while jocund June
Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.
"But ill they suited me--those journeys dark
O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch!
To charm the surly house-dog's faithful bark,
Or hang on tip-toe at the lifted latch.
The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill:
Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.
"What could I do, unaided and unblest?
My father! gone was every friend of thine:
And kindred of dead husband are at best
Small help; and, after marriage such as mine,
With little kindness would to me incline.
Nor was I then for toil or service fit;
My deep-drawn sighs no effort could confine;
In open air forgetful would I sit
Whole hours, with idle arms in moping sorrow knit.
"The roads I paced, I loitered through the fields;
Contentedly, yet sometimes self-accused.
Trusted my life to what chance bounty yields,
Now coldly given, now utterly refused.
The ground I for my bed have often used:
But what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth,
Is that I have my inner self abused,
Foregone the home delight of constant truth,
And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.
"Through tears the rising sun I oft have viewed,
Through tears have seen him towards that world descend
Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
Three years a wanderer now my course I bend--
Oh! tell me whither--for no earthly friend
Have I."--She ceased, and weeping turned away;
As if because her tale was at an end,
She wept; because she had no more to say
Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.
True sympathy the Sailor's looks expressed,
His looks--for pondering he was mute the while.
Of social Order's care for wretchedness,
Of Time's sure help to calm and reconcile,
Joy's second spring and Hope's long-treasured smile,
'Twas not for 'him' to speak--a man so tried,
Yet, to relieve her heart, in friendly style
Proverbial words of comfort he applied,
And not in vain, while they went pacing side by side.
Ere long, from heaps of turf, before their sight,
Together smoking in the sun's slant beam,
Rise various wreaths that into one unite
Which high and higher mounts with silver gleam:
Fair spectacle,---but instantly a scream
Thence bursting shrill did all remark prevent;
They paused, and heard a hoarser voice blaspheme,
And female cries. Their course they thither bent,
And met a man who foamed with anger vehement,
A woman stood with quivering lips and pale,
And, pointing to a little child that lay
Stretched on the ground, began a piteous tale;
How in a simple freak of thoughtless play
He had provoked his father, who straightway,
As if each blow were deadlier than the last,
Struck the poor innocent. Pallid with dismay
The Soldier's Widow heard and stood aghast;
And stern looks on the man her grey-haired Comrade cast.
His voice with indignation rising high
Such further deed in manhood's name forbade;
The peasant, wild in passion, made reply
With bitter insult and revilings sad;
Asked him in scorn what business there he had;
What kind of plunder he was hunting now;
The gallows would one day of him be glad;--
Though inward anguish damped the Sailor's brow,
Yet calm he seemed as thoughts so poignant would allow.
Softly he stroked the child, who lay outstretched
With face to earth; and, as the boy turned round
His battered head, a groan the Sailor fetched
As if he saw--there and upon that ground--
Strange repetition of the deadly wound
He had himself inflicted. Through his brain
At once the griding iron passage found;
Deluge of tender thoughts then rushed amain,
Nor could his sunken eyes the starting tear restrain.
Within himself he said--What hearts have we!
The blessing this a father gives his child!
Yet happy thou, poor boy! compared with me,
Suffering not doing ill--fate far more mild.
The stranger's looks and tears of wrath beguiled
The father, and relenting thoughts awoke;
He kissed his son--so all was reconciled.
Then, with a voice which inward trouble broke
Ere to his lips it came, the Sailor them bespoke.
"Bad is the world, and hard is the world's law
Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
Much need have ye that time more closely draw
The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
And that among so few there still be peace:
Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
Your pains shall ever with your years increase?"--
While from his heart the appropriate lesson flows,
A correspondent calm stole gently o'er his woes.
Forthwith the pair passed on; and down they look
Into a narrow valley's pleasant scene
Where wreaths of vapour tracked a winding brook,
That babbled on through groves and meadows green;
A low-roofed house peeped out the trees between;
The dripping groves resound with cheerful lays,
And melancholy lowings intervene
Of scattered herds, that in the meadow graze,
Some amid lingering shade, some touched by the sun's rays.
They saw and heard, and, winding with the road,
Down a thick wood, they dropt into the vale;
Comfort, by prouder mansions unbestowed,
Their wearied frames, she hoped, would soon regale.
Erelong they reached that cottage in the dale:
It was a rustic inn;--the board was spread,
The milk-maid followed with her brimming pail,
And lustily the master carved the bread,
Kindly the housewife pressed, and they in comfort fed.
Their breakfast done, the pair, though loth, must part;
Wanderers whose course no longer now agrees.
She rose and bade farewell! and, while her heart
Struggled with tears nor could its sorrow ease,
She left him there; for, clustering round his knees,
With his oak-staff the cottage children played;
And soon she reached a spot o'erhung with trees
And banks of ragged earth; beneath the shade
Across the pebbly road a little runnel strayed.
A cart and horse beside the rivulet stood;
Chequering the canvas roof the sunbeams shone.
She saw the carman bend to scoop the flood
As the wain fronted her,--wherein lay one,
A pale-faced Woman, in disease far gone.
The carman wet her lips as well behoved;
Bed under her lean body there was none,
Though even to die near one she most had loved
She could not of herself those wasted limbs have moved.
The Soldier's Widow learned with honest pain
And homefelt force of sympathy sincere,
Why thus that worn-out wretch must there sustain
The jolting road and morning air severe.
The wain pursued its way; and following near
In pure compassion she her steps retraced
Far as the cottage. "A sad sight is here,"
She cried aloud; and forth ran out in haste
The friends whom she had left but a few minutes past.
While to the door with eager speed they ran,
From her bare straw the Woman half upraised
Her bony visage--gaunt and deadly wan;
No pity asking, on the group she gazed
With a dim eye, distracted and amazed;
Then sank upon her straw with feeble moan.
Fervently cried the housewife--"God be praised,
I have a house that I can call my own;
Nor shall she perish there, untended and alone!"
So in they bear her to the chimney seat,
And busily, though yet with fear, untie
Her garments, and, to warm her icy feet
And chafe her temples, careful hands apply.
Nature reviving, with a deep-drawn sigh
She strove, and not in vain, her head to rear;
Then said--"I thank you all; if I must die,
The God in heaven my prayers for you will hear;
Till now I did not think my end had been so near.
"Barred every comfort labour could procure,
Suffering what no endurance could assuage,
I was compelled to seek my father's door,
Though loth to be a burthen on his age.
But sickness stopped me in an early stage
Of my sad journey; and within the wain
They placed me--there to end life's pilgrimage,
Unless beneath your roof I may remain;
For I shall never see my father's door again.
"My life, Heaven knows, hath long been burthensome;
But, if I have not meekly suffered, meek
May my end be! Soon will this voice be dumb:
Should child of mine e'er wander hither, speak
Of me, say that the worm is on my cheek.--
Torn from our hut, that stood beside the sea
Near Portland lighthouse in a lonesome creek,
My husband served in sad captivity
On shipboard, bound till peace or death should set him free.
"A sailor's wife I knew a widow's cares,
Yet two sweet little ones partook my bed;
Hope cheered my dreams, and to my daily prayers
Our heavenly Father granted each day's bread;
Till one was found by stroke of violence dead,
Whose body near our cottage chanced to lie;
A dire suspicion drove us from our shed;
In vain to find a friendly face we try,
Nor could we live together those poor boys and I;
"For evil tongues made oath how on that day
My husband lurked about the neighbourhood;
Now he had fled, and whither none could say,
And 'he' had done the deed in the dark wood--
Near his own home!--but he was mild and good;
Never on earth was gentler creature seen;
He'd not have robbed the raven of its food.
My husband's lovingkindness stood between
Me and all worldly harms and wrongs however keen."
Alas! the thing she told with labouring breath
The Sailor knew too well. That wickedness
His hand had wrought; and when, in the hour of death,
He saw his Wife's lips move his name to bless
With her last words, unable to suppress
His anguish, with his heart he ceased to strive;
And, weeping loud in this extreme distress,
He cried--"Do pity me! That thou shouldst live
I neither ask nor wish--forgive me, but forgive!"
To tell the change that Voice within her wrought
Nature by sign or sound made no essay;
A sudden joy surprised expiring thought,
And every mortal pang dissolved away.
Borne gently to a bed, in death she lay;
Yet still while over her the husband bent,
A look was in her face which seemed to say,
"Be blest; by sight of thee from heaven was sent
Peace to my parting soul, the fulness of content."
'She' slept in peace,--his pulses throbbed and stopped,
Breathless he gazed upon her face,--then took
Her hand in his, and raised it, but both dropped,
When on his own he cast a rueful look.
His ears were never silent; sleep forsook
His burning eyelids stretched and stiff as lead;
All night from time to time under him shook
The floor as he lay shuddering on his bed;
And oft he groaned aloud, "O God, that I were dead!"
The Soldier's Widow lingered in the cot,
And, when he rose, he thanked her pious care
Through which his Wife, to that kind shelter brought,
Died in his arms; and with those thanks a prayer
He breathed for her, and for that merciful pair.
The corse interred, not one hour heremained
Beneath their roof, but to the open air
A burthen, now with fortitude sustained,
He bore within a breast where dreadful quiet reigned.
Confirmed of purpose, fearlessly prepared
For act and suffering, to the city straight
He journeyed, and forthwith his crime declared:
"And from your doom," he added, "now I wait,
Nor let it linger long, the murderer's fate."
Not ineffectual was that piteous claim:
"O welcome sentence which will end though late,"
He said, "the pangs that to my conscience came
Out of that deed. My trust, Saviour! is in thy name!"
His fate was pitied. Him in iron case
(Reader, forgive the intolerable thought)
They hung not:--no one on 'his' form or face
Could gaze, as on a show by idlers sought;
No kindred sufferer, to his death-place brought
By lawless curiosity or chance,
When into storm the evening sky is wrought,
Upon his swinging corse an eye can glance,
And drop, as he once dropped, in miserable trance.
A Sicilian Idyll
(First Scene) Damon
I thank thee, no;
Already have I drunk a bowl of wine . . .
Nay, nay, why wouldst thou rise?
There rolls thy ball of worsted! Sit thee down;
Come, sit thee down, Cydilla,
And let me fetch thy ball, rewind the wool,
And tell thee all that happened yesterday.
Thanks, Damon; now, by Zeus, thou art so brisk,
It shames me that to stoop should try my bones.
We both are old,
And if we may have peaceful days are blessed;
Few hours of bouyancy will come to break
The sure withdrawal from us of life's flood.
True, true, youth looks a great way off! To think
It wonce was age did lie quite out of sight!
Not many days have been so beautiful
As yesterday, Cydilla; yet one was;
And I with thee broke tranced on its fine spell;
Thou dost remember? Yes? but not with tears,
Ah, not with tears, Cydilla, pray, oh, pray!
Pardon me, Damon,
'Tis many years since thou hast touched thereon;
And something stirs about thee -
Such air of eagerness as was thine when
I was more foolish than in my life, I hope
To ever have been at another time.
Pooh! foolish? - thou wast then so very wise
That, often having seen thee foolish since,
Wonder has made me faint that thou shouldst err.
Nay, then I erred, dear Damon; and remorse
Was not so slow to find me as thou deemst.
There, mop those dear wet eyes, or thou'lt ne'er hear
What it was filled my heart yesterday.
Tell, Damon; since I well know that regrets
Hang like dull gossips round another's ear.
First, thou must know that oftentimes I rise, -
Not heeding or not finding sleep, of watching
Afraid no longer to be prodigal, -
And gaze upon the beauty of the night.
Quiet hours, while dawn absorbs the waning stars,
Are like cold water sipped between our cups
Washing the jaded palate till it taste
The wine again. Ere the sun rose, I sat
Within my garden porch; my lamp was left
Burning beside my bed, though it would be
Broad day before I should return upstairs.
I let it burn, willing to waste some oil
Rather than to disturb my tranquil mood;
But, as the Fates determined, it was seen. -
Suddenly, running round the dovecote, came
A young man naked, breathless, through the dawn,
Florid with haste and wine; it was Hipparchus.
Yes, there he stood before me panting, rubbing
His heated flesh which felt the cold at once.
When he had breath enough, he begged me straight
To put the lamp out; and himself and done it
Ere I was on the stair.
Flung all along my bed, his gasping shook it
When I at length could sit down by his side:
'What cause, young sir, brings you here in this plight
At such an hour?' He shuddered, sighed and rolled
My blanket round him; then came a gush of words:
'The first of causes, Damon, namely Love,
Eldest and least resigned and most unblushing
Of all the turbulent impulsive gods.
A quarter of an hour scarce has flown
Since lovely arms clung round me, and my head
Asleep lay nested in a woman's hair;
My cheek still bears print of its ample coils.'
Athwart its burning flush he drew my fingers
And their tips felt it might be as he said.
'Oh I have had a night, a night, a night!
Had Paris so much bliss?
And oh! was Helen's kiss
To be compared with those I tasted?
Which but for me had all been wasted
On a bald man, a fat man, a gross man, a beast
To scare the best guest from the very best feast!'
Cydilla need not hear half that he said,
For he was mad awhile.
But having given rein to hot caprice,
And satyr jest, and the distempered male,
At length, I heard his story.
At sun-down certain miles without the town
He'd chanced upon a light-wheeled litter-car,
And in it there stood one
Yet more a woman than her garb was rich,
With more of youth and health than elegance.
'The mules,' he said, 'were beauties: she was one,
And cried directions to the neighbour field:
'O catch that big bough! Fool, not that, the next!
Clumsy, you've let it go! O stop it swaying,
The eggs will jolt out!' From the road,' said he,
'I could not see who thus was rated; so
Sprang up beside her and beheld her husband,
Lover or keeper, what you like to call him; -
A middle-aged stout man upon whose shoulders
Kneeled up a scraggy mule-boy slave, who was
The fool that could not reach a thrush's nest
Which they, while plucking almond, had revealed.
Before she knew who it could be, I said,
'Why yes, he is a fool, but we, fair friend,
Were we not foolish waiting for such fools?
Let us be off!' I stooped, took, shook the reins
With one hand, while the other clasped her waist.
'Ah, who?' she turned; I smiled like amorous Zeus;
A certain vagueness clouded her wild eyes
As though she saw a swan, a bull, a shower
Of hurried flames, and felt divinely pleased.
I cracked the whip and we were jolted down;
A kiss was snatched getting the ribbons straight;
We hardly heard them first begin to bawl,
So great our expedition towards the town:
We flew. I pulled up at an inn, then bid them
Stable my mules and chariot and prepare
A meal for Dives; meanwhile we would stroll
Down to the market. Took her arm in mine,
And, out of sight, hurried her through cross-lanes,
Bade her choose, now at a fruit, now pastry booth.
Until we gained my lodging she spoke little
But often laughed, tittering from time to time,
'O Bacchus, what a prank! - Just think of Cymon,
So stout as he is, at least five miles to walk
Without a carriage! - well you take things coolly' -
Or such appreciation nice of gifts
I need not boast of, since I had them gratis,
When my stiff door creaked open grudgingly
Her face first fell; the room looked bare enough.
Still we brought with us food and cakes; I owned
A little cellar of delicious wine;
An unasked neighbour's garden furnished flowers;
Jests helped me nimbly, I surpassed myself;
So we were friends and, having laughed, we drank,
Ate, sang, danced, grew wild. Soon both had one
Desire, effort, goal,
One bed, one sleep, one dream . . .
O Damon, Damon, both had one alarm,
When woken by the door forced rudely open,
Lit from the stair, bedazzled, glowered at, hated!
She clung to me; her master, husband, uncle
(I know not which or what he was) stood there;
It crossed my mind he might have been her father.
Naked, unarmed, I rose, and did assume
What dignity is not derived from clothes,
Bid them to quit my room, my private dwelling.
It was no use, for that gross beast was rich;
Had his been neither legal right nor moral,
My natural right was nought, for his she was
In eyes of those bribed catchpolls. Brute revenge
Seethed in his pimpled face: 'To gaol with him!'
He shouted huskily. I wrapped some clothes
About my shuddering bed-fellow, a sheet
Flung round myself; ere she was led away,
Had whispered to her 'Shriek, faint on the stair!'
Then I was seized by two dog officers.
That girl was worth her keep, for, going down,
She suddenly writhed, gasped, and had a fit.
My chance occurred, and I whipped through the casement;
All they could do was catch away the sheet;
I dropped a dozen feet into a bush,
Soon found my heels and plied them; here I am.'
A strange tale, Damon, this to tell to me
And introduce as thou at first began.
Thy life, Cydilla, has at all times been
A ceremony: this young man's
Discovered by free impulse, not couched in forms
Worn and made smooth by prudent folk long dead.
I love Hipparchus for his wave-like brightness;
He wastes himself, but till his flash is gone
I shall be ever glad to hear him laugh:
Nor could one make a Spartan of him even
Were one the Spartan with a will to do it.
Yet had there been no more than what is told,
Thou wouldst not now be lending ear to me.
Hearing such things, I think of my poor son,
Which makes me far too sad to smile at folly.
There, let me tell thee all just as it happened,
And of thy son I shall be speaking soon.
Delphis! Alas, are his companions still
No better than such ne'er-do-wells? I thought
His life was sager now, though he has killed
My hopes of seeing him a councillor.
How thou art quick to lay claim to a sorrow!
Should I have come so eagerly to thee
If all there was to tell thee were such poor news?
Forgive me; well know I there is no end
To Damon's kindness; my poor boy has proved it;
Could but his father so have understood him!
Let lie the sad contents of vanished years;
Why with complaints reproach the helpless dead?
Thy husband ne'er will cross thy hopes again.
Come, think of what a sky made yesterday
The worthy dream of thrice divine Apollo!
Hipparchus' plan was, we should take the road
(As, when such mornings tempt me, is my wont)
And cross the hills, along the coast, toward Mylae.
He in disguise, a younger handier Chloe,
Would lead my mule; must brown his face and arms:
And thereon straight to wake her he was gone.
Their voices from her cabin crossed the yard;
He swears those parts of her are still well made
Which she keeps too well hidden when about; -
And she, no little pleased, that interlards,
Between her exclamations at his figure,
Reproof of gallantries half-laughed at hers.
Anon she titters as he dons her dress
Doubtless with pantomime -
Head-carriage and hip-swagger.
A wench, more conscious of her sex than grace,
He then rejoined me, changed beyond belief,
Roguish as vintage makes them; bustling helps
Or hinders Chloe harness to the mule; -
In fine bewitching both her age and mine.
The life that in such fellows runs to waste
Is like a gust that pulls about spring trees
And spoils your hope of fruit, while it delights
The sense with bloom and odour scattered, mingled
With salt spume savours from a crested offing.
The sun was not long up when we set forth
And, coming to the deeply shadowed gate,
Found catchpolls lurked there, true to his surmise.
Them he, his beard disguised like face-ache, sauced;
(Too gaily for that bandaged cheek, thought I);
But they, whose business was to think,
Were quite contented, let the hussy pass,
Returned her kisses blown back down the road,
And crowned the mirth of their outwitter's heart.
As the steep road wound clear above the town,
Fewer became those little comedies
To which encounteres roused him: till, at last,
He scarcely knew we passed some vine-dressers:
And I could see the sun's heat, lack of sleep,
And his late orgy would defeat his powers.
So, where the road grows level and must soon
Descend, I bade him climb into the car;
On which the mule went slower still and slower.
This creature, who, upon occasions, shows
Taste very like her master's left the highway
And took a grass-grown wheel-track that led down
Zigzag athwart the broad curved banks of lawn
Coating a valley between rounded hills
Which faced the sea abruptly in huge crags.
Each slope grew steeper till I left my seat
And led the mule; for now Hipparchus' snore
Tuned with the crooning waves heard from below.
We passed two narrow belts of wood and then
The sea, that first showed blue above their tops,
Was spread before us chequered with white waves
Breaking beneath on boulders which choked up
The narrowed issue seawards of the glen.
The steep path would no more admit of wheels:
I took the beast and tethered her to graze
Within the shade of a stunt ilex clump, -
Returned to find a vacant car; Hipparchus,
Uneasy on my tilting down the shafts,
And heated with strange clothes, had roused himself
And lay asleep upon his late disguise,
Naked 'neath the cool eaves of one huge rock
That stood alone, much higher up than those
Over, and through, and under which, the waves
Made music or forced milk-white floods of foam.
There I reclined, while vision, sound and scent
Won on my willing soul like sleep on joy,
Till all accustomed thoughts were far away
As from a happy child the cares of men.
The hour was sacred to those earlier gods
Who are not active, but divinely wait
The consummation of their first great deeds,
Unfolding still and blessing hours serene.
Presently I was gazing on a boy,
(Though whence he came my mind had not perceived).
Twelve or thirteen he seemed, with clinging feet
Poised on a boulder, and against the sea
Set off. His wide-brimmed hat of straw was arched
Over his massed black and abundant curls
By orange ribbon tied beneath his chin;
Around his arms and shoulders his sole dress,
A cloak, was all bunched up. He leapt, and lighted
Upon the boulder just beneath; there swayed,
And perked his head like an inquisitive bird,
As gravely happy; of all unconscious save
His body's aptness for its then employment;
His eyes intent on shells in some clear pool
Or choosing where he next will plant his feet.
Again he leaps, his curls against his hat
Bounce up behind. The daintiest thing alive,
He rocks awhile, turned from me towards the sea;
Unseen I might devour him with my eyes.
At last he stood upon a ledge each wave
Spread with a sheet of foam four inches deep;
From minute to minute, while it bathed his feet,
He gazing at them saw them disappear
And reappear all shining and refreshed;
Then raised his head, beheld the ocean stretched
Alive before him its magnitude.
None but a child could have been so absorbed
As to escape its spell till then, none else
Could so have voiced glad wonder in a song: -
'All the waves of the sea are there!
In at my eyes they crush.
Till my head holds as fair a sea:
Though I shut my eyes, they are there!
Nay towards my lids they rush,
Mad to burst forth from me
Back to the open air! -
To follow them my heart needs,
O white-maned steeds, to ride you;
To the western isles astride you
'Damon!' said a voice quite close to me
And looking up . . . as might have stood Apollo
In one vase garment such as shepherds wear
And leaning on such tall staff stood . . . Thou guessest,
Whose majesty as vainly was disguised
As must have been Apollo's minding sheep.
Delphis! I know, dear Damon, it was Delphis!
Healthy life in the country having chased
His haggard looks; his speech is not wild now,
Nor wicked with exceptions to things honest:
Thy face a kindlier way than speech tells this.
Yes, dear Cydilla, he was altogether
What mountaineers might dream of for a king.
But tell me, is he tutor to that boy?
He is an elder brother to the lad.
Nay, nay, hide nothing, speak the worst at once.
I meant no hint of ill;
A god in love with young Amyntas might
Look as he did; fathers alone feel like him:
Could I convey his calm and happy speech
Thy last suspicion would be laid to rest.
Damon, see, my glad tears have drowned all fear;
Think'st thou he may come back and win renown,
And fill his father's place?
Not as his father filled it,
But with an inward spirit correspondent
To that contained and high imposing mien
Which made his father honoured before men
Of greater wisdom, more integrity.
And loved before men of more kindliness!
O Damon, far too happy am I now
To grace thy naughtiness by showing pain.
My Delphis 'owns the brains and presence too
That makes a Pericles!' . . . (the words are thine)
Had he but the will; and has he now?
Good Damon, tell me quick?
He dreams not of the court, and city life
Is what he rails at.
Well, if he now be wise and sober-souled
And loved for goodness, I can rest content.
My brain lights up to see thee happy! wait,
It may be I can give some notion how
Our poet spoke:
'Damon, the best of life is in thine eyes -
Worship of promise-laden beauty. Seems he not
The god of this fair scene?
Those waves claim such a master as that boy;
And these green slopes have waited till his feet
Should wander them, to prove they were not spread
In wantonness. What were this flower's prayer
Had it a voice? The place behind his ear
Would brim its cup with bliss and overbrim;
O, to be worn and fade beside his cheek!' -
'In love and happy, Delphis; and the boy?' -
'Loves and is happy' -
'You hale from?' -
We have been out two days and crossed this ridge,
West of Mount Mycon's head. I serve his father,
A farmer well-to-do and full of sense,
Who owns a grass-farm cleared among the pines
North-west the cone, where even at noon in summer,
The slope it falls on lengthens a tree's shade.
To play the lyre and write and dance
I teach this lad; in all their country toil
Join, nor ask better fare than cheese, black bread,
Butter or curds, and milk, nor better bed
Than litter of dried fern or lentisk yields,
Such as they all sleep soundly on and dream,
(If e'er they dream) of places where it grew, -
Where they have gathered mushrooms, eaten berries,
Or found the sheep they lost, or killed a fox,
Or snared the kestrel, or so played their pipes
Some maid showed pleasure, sighed, nay even wept.
There to be poet need involve no strain,
For though enough of coarseness, dung, - nay, nay,
And suffering, too, be mingled with the life,
'Tis wedded to such an air,
Such water and sound health!
What else might jar or fret chimes in attuned
Like satyr's cloven hoof or lorn nymph's grief
In a choice ode. Though lust, disease and death,
As everywhere, are cruel tyrants, yet
They all wear flowers, and each sings a song
Such as the hilly echo loves to learn.'
'At last then even Delphis knows content?'
'Damon, not so:
This life has brought me health but not content.
That boy, whose shouts ring round us while he flings
Intent each sone toward yon shining object
Afloat inshore . . . I eat my heart to think
How all which makes him worthy of more love
Must train his ear to catch the siren croon
That never else had reached his upland home!
And he who failed in proof, how should he arm
Another against perils? Ah, false hope,
And credulous enjoyment! How should I,
Life's fool, while wakening ready wit in him,
Teach how to shun applause, and those bright eyes
Of women who pour in the lap of spring
Their whole year's substance? They can offer
To fill the day much fuller than I could,
And yet teach night surpass it. Can my means
Prevent the ruin of the thing I cherish?
What cares Zeus for him? Fate despises love.
Why, lads more exquisite, brimming with promise,
A thousand times have been lost for the lack
Of just the help a watchful god might give;
But which the best of fathers, best of mothers,
Of friends, of lovers cannot quite supply.
Powers, who swathe man's virtue up in weakness,
Then plunge his delicate mind in hot desire,
Preparing pleasure first and after shame
To bandage round his eyes, - these gods are not
The friends of men.'
The Delphis of old days before me stood,
Passionate, stormy, teeming with black thought,
His back turned on that sparkling summer sea,
His back turned on his love; and wilder words
And less coherent thought poured from him now.
Hipparchus waking took stock of the scene.
I watched him wend down, rubbing sleepy lids,
To where the boy was busy throwing stones.
He joined the work, but even his stronger arm
And heavier flints he hurled would not suffice
To drive that floating object nearer shore:
And, ere the rebel Delphis had expressed
Enough of anger and contempt for gods,
(Who, he asserted, were the dreams of men),
I saw the stone-throwers both take the water
And swimming easily attain their end.
The way they held their noses proved the thing
A tunny, belly floating upward, dead;
Both towed it till the current caught and swept it
Out far from that sweet cove; they laughing watched:
Then, suddenly, Amyntas screamed and Delphis
Turned to see him sink
Locked in Hipparchus' arms.
The god Apollo never
Burst through a cloud with more ease than thy son
Poured from his homespun garb
The rapid glory of his naked limbs,
And like a streak of lightning reached the waves: -
Wherein his thwarted speed appeared more awful
As, brought within the scope of comprehension,
Its progress and its purpose could be gauged.
Spluttering Amyntas rose, Hipparchus near him
Who cried 'Why coy of kisses, lovely lad?
I ne'er would harm thee; art thou not ashamed
To treat thy conquest thus?'
He shouted partly to drown the sea's noise, chiefly
The nearing Dephis to disarm.
His voice lost its asurance while he spoke,
And, as he finished, quick to escape he turned;
Thy son's eyes and that steady coming on,
As he might see them over ruffled crests,
Far better helped him swim
Than ever in his life he swam before.
Delphis passed by Amyntas;
Hipparchus was o'er taken,
Cuffed, ducked and shaken;
In vain he clung about his angry foe;
Held under he perforce let go:
I, fearing for his life, set up a whoop
To bring cause and effect to thy son's mind,
And in dire rage's room his sense returned.
He towed Hipparchus back like one he'd saved
From drowning, laid him out upon that ledge
Where late Amyntas stood, where now he kneeled
Shivering, alarmed and mute.
Delphis next set the drowned man's mouth to drain;
We worked his arms, for I had joined them; soon
His breathing recommenced; we laid him higher
On sun-warmed turf to come back to himself;
Then we climbed to the cart without a word.
The sun had dried their limbs; they, putting on
Their clothes, sat down; at length, I asked the lad
What made him keen to pelt a stinking fish.
Blushing, he said, 'I wondered what it was.
But that man, when he came to help, declared
'Twould prove a dead sea-nymph, and we might see,
By swimming out, how finely she was made.
I did not half believe, yet when we found
That foul stale fish, it made us laugh.' He smiled
And watched Hipparchus spit and cough and groan.
I moved to the car and unpacked bread and meat,
A cheese, some fruit, a skin of wine, two bowls.
Amyntas was all joy to see such things;
Ran off and pulled acanthus for our plates;
Chattering, he helped me set all forth, - was keen
To choose rock basin where the wine might cool;
Approved, was full as happy as I to praise:
And most he pleased me, when he set a place
For poor Hipparchus. Thus our eager work,
While Delphis, in his thoughts retired, sat frowning,
Grew like a home-conspiracy to trap
The one who bears the brunt of outside cares
Into the glow of cheerfulness that bathes
The children and the mother, - happy not
To forsee winter, short-commons or long debts,
Since they are busied for the present meal, -
Too young, too weak, too kind, to peer ahead,
Or probe the dark horizon bleak with storms.
Oh! I have sometimes thought there is a god
Who helps with lucky accidents when folk
Join with the little ones to chase such gloom.
That chance withch left Hipparchus with no clothers,
Surely divinity was ambushed in it?
When he must put on Chloe's, Amyntas rocked
With laughter, and Hipparchus, quick to use
A favourable gust, pretends confusion
Such as a farmer's daughter red-faced shows
If in the dance her dress has come unpinned.
She suddenly grow grave; yet, seeing there
Friends only, stoops behind a sister-skirt.
Then, having set to rights the small mishap,
Holding her screener's elbows, round her shoulder
Peeps, to bob back meeting a young man's eye.
All, grateful for such laughs, give Hermes thanks.
And even Delphis at Hipparchus smiled
When, from behind me, he peeped bashful forth;
Laughing because he was or was not like
Some wench . . .
Why, Delphis, in the name of Zeus
How come you here?
Cydilla What can have happened, Delphis?
Be brief for pity!
Delphis Nothing, mother, nothing
That has not happened time on time before
To thee, to Damon, when the life ye thought
With pride and pleasure yours, has proved a dream.
They strike down on us from the top of heaven,
Bear us up in their talons, up and up,
Drop us: we fall, are crippled, maimed for life.
'Our dreams'? nay, we are theirs for sport, for prey,
And life is the King Eagle,
The strongest, highest, flyer, from whose clutch
The fall is fatal always.
Cydilla Delphis, Delphis,
Good Damon had been making me so happy
By telling . . .
How he watched me near the zenith?
Three years back
That dream pounced on me and began to soar;
Having been sick, my heart had found new lies;
The only thoughts I then had ears for were
Healthy, virtuous, sweet;
A counry setting was the sole could take me
Three hears back.
Damon might have guessed
From such a dizzy height
What fall was coming.
Ah my boy, my boy!
Sit down, be patient, let us hear and aid, -
Has aught befallen Amyntas?
Would he were dead!
Would that I had been brute enough to slay him. -
Great Zeus, Hipparchus had so turned his head.
His every smile and word
As we sat by our fire, stung my fool's heart. -
'How we laughed to see him curtsey,
Fidget strings about his waist, -
Giggle, his beard caught in the chlamys' hem
Drawing it tight about his neck, just like
Our Baucis.' Could not sleep
For thinking of the life they lead in towns;
He said so: when, at last,
He sighed from dreamland, thoughts
I had been day-long brooding
Broke into vision.
A child, a girl,
Beautiful, nay more than others beautiful,
Not meant for marriage, not for one man meant,
You know what she will be;
At six years old or seven her life is round her;
A company, all ages, old men, young men,
Whose vices she must prey on.
And the bent crone she will be is there too,
Patting her head and chuckling prophecies. -
O cherry lips, O wild bird eyes,
O gay invulnerable setter-at-nought
Of will, of virtue -
Thou art as constant a cause as is the sea,
As is the sun, as are the winds, as night,
Of opportunities not only but events; -
The unalterable past
Is full of thy contrivance,
Goddess of ruin!
No girl; nay, nay,
Amyntas is young,
Has beauty and health - and yet
In his sleep I have seen him smile
And known that his dream was vile;
Those eyes which brimmed over with glee
Till my life flowed as fresh as the sea -
Those eyes, gloved each in a warm live lid,
May be glad that their visions are hid.
I taught myself to rhyme; the trick will cling.
Ah, Damon, day-lit vision is more dread
Than those which suddenly replace the dark!
When the dawn filtered through our tent of boughs
I saw him closely wrapped in his grey cloak,
His head upon a pile of caked thin leaves
Whose life had dried up full two years ago.
Their flakes shook in the breath from those moist lips;
The vow his kiss would seal must prove, I knew
As friable as that pale ashen fritter;
It had more body than reason dare expect
From that so beautiful creature's best intent.
He waking found me no more there; and wanders
Through Ætna's woods to-day
Calling at times, or questioning charcoal burners,
Till he shall strike a road shall lead him home;
Yet all his life must be spent as he spends
This day in whistling, wondering, singing, chatting,
In the great wood, vacant and amiable.
Can it be possible that thou desertest
Thy love, thy ward, the work of three long years,
Because chance, on an April holiday
Has filled this boy's talk with another man,
And wonder at another way of life?
Worse than a woman's is such jealousy;
The lad must live!
Live, live, to be sure, he must live!
I have lived, am a fool for my pains!
And yet, and yet,
This heart has ached to play the god for him: -
Mine eyes for his had sifted visible things;
Speech had been filtered ere it reached his ear;
Not in the world should he have lived, but breathed
Humanity's distilled quintessences;
The indiscriminate multitude sorted should yield him
Acquaintance and friend discerned, chosen by me: -
By me, who failed, wrecked, my youth's prime, and dragged
More wonderful than his gifts in the mire!
Yet if experience could not teach and save
Others from ignorance, why, towns would be
Ruins, and civil men like outlaws thieve,
Stab, riot, ere two generations passed.
Where is the Athens that Pericles loved?
Where are the youths that were Socrates' friends?
There was a town where all learnt
What the wisest taught!
Why had crude Sparta such treasonous force?
Could Philip of Macedon
Breed a true Greek of his son?
What honour to conquer a world
Where Alcibiades had failed,
Lead half-drilled highland hordes
Whose lust would inherit the wise?
There is nothing art's industry shaped
But their idleness praising it mocked.
Thus Fate re-assumed her command
And laughed at experienced law.
What ails man to love with such pains?
Why toil to create in the mind
Of those who shall close in his grave
The best that he is and has hoped?
The longer permission he has,
The nobler the structure so raised,
The greater its downfall. Fools, fools,
Where is a town such as Pericles ruled?
Where youths to replace those whom Socrates loved?
Wise Damon, thou art silent; - Mother, thou
Hast only arms to cling about they son. -
Who can descry the purpose of a god
With eyes wide-open? shut them, every fool
Can conjure up a world arriving somewhere,
Resulting in what he may call perfection.
Evil must soon or late succeed to good.
There well may once have been a golden age:
Why should we treat it as a poet's tale?
Yet, in those hills that hung o'er Arcady,
Some roving inebriate Daimon
Begat him fair children
On nymphs of the vineyard,
On nymphs of the rock: -
And in the heart of the forest
Lay bound in white arms,
In action creative a father
Without a thought for his child: -
A purposeless god,
The forbear of men
To corrupt, ape, inherit and spoil
That fine race before hand with doom!
No, Damon, what's an answer worth to one
Whose mind has been flung open?
Only last night,
The gates of my spirit gave entrace
Unto the great light;
And I saw how virtue seduceth,
Not ended today or tomorrow
Like the passion for love,
Like the passion for life -
But perennial pain
And age-long effort.
Dead deeds are the teeth that shine
In the mouth that repeateth praise,
That spurs men to do high things
Since their fathers did higher before -
To give more than they hope to receive,
To slave and to die in a secular cause!
The mouth that smiles over-praise
Eats out the heart of each fool
To feed the great dream of a race.
Yet wearied peoples each in turn awake
From virtue, as a man from his brief love,
And, roughtly shaken, face the useless truth;
No answer to brute fact has e'er been found.
Slaves of your slaves, caged in your furnished rooms,
Ushered to meals when reft of appetite -
Though hungry, bound to wait a stated hour -
Your dearest contemplation broken off
By the appointed summons to your bath;
Racked with more thought for those whom you may flog
Than for those dear; obsessed by your possessions
With a dull round of stale anxieties; -
Soon maintenance grows the extreme reach of hope
For those held in respect, as in a vice,
By citizens of whom they are the pick.
Of men the least bond is the roving seaman
Who hires himself to merchantman or pirate
For single voyages, stays where he may please,
Lives his purse empty in a dozen ports,
And ne'er obeys the ghost of what once was!
His laugh chimes readily; his kiss, no symbol
Of aught to come, but cordial, eager, hot,
Leaves his tomorrow free. With him for comrade
Each day shall be enough, and what is good
Enjoyed, and what is evil borne or cursed.
I go, because I will not have a friend
Lay claim upon my leisure this day week.
I will be melted by each smile that takes me;
What though a hundred lips should meet with mine!
A vagabond I shall be as the moon is.
The sun, the waves, the winds, all birds, all beasts,
Are ever on the move, and take what comes;
They are not parasites like plants and men
Rooted in that which fed them yesterday.
Not even Memory shall follow Delphis,
For I will yield to all impulse save hers,
Therein alone subject to prescient rigour;
Lest she should lure me back among the dying -
Pilfer the present for the beggar past.
Free minds must bargain with each greedy moment
And seize the most that lies to hand at once.
Ye are too old to understand my words;
I yet have youth enough, and can escape
From that which sucks each individual man
Into the common dream.
Stay, Delphis, hear what Damon has to say!
He is mad!
Mad - yes - mad as cruelty!
. . . . . .
Poor, poor Cydilla! was it then to this
That all my tale was prologue?
Think of Amyntas, think of that poor boy,
Bereaved as we are both bereaved! Come, come,
Find him, and say that Love himself has sent us
To offer our poor service in his stead.
Good Damon, help me find my wool; my eyes
Are blind with tears; then I will come at once!
We must be doing something, for I feel
We both shall drown our hearts with time to spare.
The Undying One - Canto II
'YEARS pass'd away in grief--and I,
For her dear sake whose heart could feel no more,
The sweetness and the witchery of love,
Which round my spirit such deep charm had wove:
And the dim twilight, and the noonday sky,
The fountain's music, the rich brilliancy
Of Nature in her summer--all became
To me a joyless world--an empty name--
And the heart's beating, and the flush'd fond thought
Of human sympathy, no longer brought
The glow of joy to this o'er-wearied breast,
Where hope like some tired pilgrim sank to rest.
The forms of beauty which my pathway cross'd
Seem'd but dim visions of my loved and lost,
Floating before me to arouse in vain
Deep yearnings, for what might not come again,
Tears without aim or end, and lonely sighs,
To which earth's echoes only gave replies.
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
And I departed--once again to be
Roaming the desert earth and trackless sea:
Amongst men; but not with them: still alone
Mid crowds, unnamed--unnoticed--and unknown.
I wander'd on--and the loud shout went forth
Of Liberty, from all the peopled world,
Like a dark watch-word breathing south and north
Where'er the green turf grew, or billow curl'd;
And when I heard it, something human stirr'd
Within my miserable breast, and lo!
With the wild struggling of a captive bird;
My strong soul burst its heavy chain of woe.
I rose and battled with the great and brave,
Dared the dark fight upon the stormy wave.--
From the swarth climes, where sunshine loves to rest,
To the green islands of the chilly west,
Where'er a voice was raised in Freedom's name,
There sure and swift my eager footstep came.
And bright dreams fired my soul--How sweet will be
To me the hour of burning victory!
When the oppressor ceaseth to oppress,
And this sad name the tortured nations bless:
When tyranny beneath my sword shall bend,
And the freed earth shall turn and own me for her friend!
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
Where Rome's proud eagle, which is now a name,
Spread forth its wings of glory to the sky;
And young warm hearts, that dreamt of deathless fame,
Woke from that dream to gaze around and die:
Where the pale crescent gleam'd athwart the cloud
Of men array'd to perish in their pride;
And the harsh note of war rang wild and loud
To urge the course of that impetuous tide:
Where Spain's dark banner o'er the castle walls
Heavily floats upon the mournful breeze--
And firmly sad the measured footstep falls
Of him who dreams of home in scenes like these:
Where steep'd in bitter tears and guiltless blood,
The lily flag of France droops sadly down:
Where England's lion o'er the heaving flood
Boastfully flutters in its proud renown:
Ev'n where her sister island dimly rears
(Though all the freshness from its hue be gone)
Her verdant standard from a land of tears,
While there are winds in heaven to waft it on:--
'Neath these, and many more than these, my arm
Hath wielded desperately the avenging steel--
And half exulting in the awful charm
Which hung upon my life--forgot to feel!
'I fought and conquer'd--and when all was done
How fared misfortune's persecuted son?
The dim days pass'd away and left me lone;
The tyrant and the slave alike were gone.
The indignant eyes that flash'd their wrath afar--
The swords that glitter'd through the cloudy war--
The swelling courage of the manly breast--
The iron hand whose strength the weak oppress'd--
The shouting voices in the deadly fray--
The jest and song that made ev'n camps seem gay--
The sounds--the forms--the feelings which had made
Those scenes in which my feet so long had stray'd--
Where and what are they now? a bitter dream
Lit by a meteor-like delusive gleam.
Freedom! thou art indeed a dream! a bright
And beautiful--a vision of pure light,
Pour'd on our earth-clad spirits from above--
Where all are equals, and where all is love:
But yet no less a dream. Where is the land
Which for the ploughshare hath exchanged the brand,
And been at peace for ever? Is there not
A war with all things in our changeful lot?
A war with Heaven, a war with our own souls,
Where stormily the sea of passion rolls--
Wrecking each better feeling, which doth strain
For liberty--and wrings our hearts to pain?
The war of fallen spirits with their sin,
The terrible war which rageth deep within--
Lo! there the cause of all the strife below
Which makes God's world a wilderness of woe.
Ye dream, and dream, and dream from day to day,
And bleed, and fight, and struggle, and decay;
And with high-sounding mockeries beguile
Natures that sink, and sicken all the while.
Whither are the old kings and conquerors gone?
Where are the empires lost--the empires won?
Look--from the classic lands whose fallen pride
Is fain to summon strangers to their side--
Where with weak wail they call themselves oppress'd,
Who, if unchain'd, would still be slaves at best--
To far across the dim and lonely sea
Where the thrice-conquer'd styles herself 'the free:'
How many generations now are past
Since the first war-cry rose, and when will be the last?
Yet is there freedom in a distant clime,
Where freedom dwelleth to the end of time;
And peace, and joy, and ignorance of fear,
And happiness--but oh! not here! not here!
Not in this world of darkness and of graves,
Where the strong govern, and the weak are slaves.
Thou, whose full heart would dream of liberty,
Go out beneath the solitary sky
In its blue depth of midnight--stand and gaze
While the stars pour on thee their gentle rays;
And image, if thou canst, unto thy soul
A little part of the most wondrous whole
Of all that lies beyond--there no dark strife
Destroys the creatures of the God of Life;
There no ambition to be made more great
Turns the pure love of brothers into hate.
Each hath his place assign'd him like the stars
Up in the silent sky, where nothing wars.
''Twas on a battle plain,--here in thine own
Sweet land of sunshine, that I paused to mark
The heaps of slaughter'd heroes now o'erthrown,
Whose helpless corpses lay all stripp'd and stark.
'Twas in the time when Moorish blood first mix'd
With haughty Spain's; and on her spotless name
The dint and brand of slavery affix'd;
And blood was spilt to reap eternal shame.
The useless struggle ended on that day,
And round about Grenada's walls there lay
Many and many a brave young bosom, gored
By the rude spear or deeply thrusting sword.
And silence was upon that fatal field
Save when, to nature's anguish forced to yield,
Some fallen soldier heaved a broken sigh
For his far home, and turn'd him round to die:
Or when the wailing voice of woman told
That her long weary search was not in vain,
And she had found the bosom, stiff and cold,
Where her soft clustering curls had often lain.
'Twas one of these that burst upon my ear
While watching on that field: the wind-harp's tone
Was not more mournful, nor more sweetly clear,
Than was the sound of that sad woman's moan.
Through the dim moonlight I beheld a form--
Her dark brow clouded with grief's passionate storm,
And on her breast an infant calmly slept
Which she would pause to gaze on; and again,
With bitterness renew'd, she loudly wept,
And call'd on its dead father--but in vain!
'My early and my only love, why silent dost thou lie,
When heavy grief is in my heart, and tear-drops in mine eye;
I call thee, but thou answerest not, all lonely though I be:
Wilt thou not burst the bonds of sleep, and rise to comfort me?
' Oh! wake thee--wake thee from thy rest upon the tented field:
This faithful breast shall be at once thy pillow and thy shield;
If thou hast doubted of its truth and constancy before,
Oh! wake thee now, and it will strive to love thee even more.
'If ever we have parted, and I wept thee not as now,
If ever I have seen thee come, and worn a cloudy brow,
If ever harsh and careless words have caused thee pain and woe,
Then sleep, in silence sleep, and I--will bow my head and go.
' But if, through all the vanish'd years whose shadowy joys are gone,
Through all the changing scenes of life, I thought of thee alone;
If I have mourn'd for thee when far, and worshipp'd thee when near,
Then wake thee up, my early love, this weary heart to cheer!
'Awake! thy baby-boy is here, upon whose soft cheek lie
No tears of grief, save those which fall from his sad mother's eye;
How, lingering, didst thou gaze on him when we were forced to part--
Rise up, for he is here again, and press him to thy heart!
' In vain, in vain--I dream of thee and joyous life in vain;
Thou never more shalt rise in strength from off the bloody plain;
Thou never more shalt clasp thy boy, nor hold me to thy breast:
Thou hast left us lonely on the earth, and thou art gone to rest.
'Awake thee, my forsaken boy!--awake, my babe, and weep;
Art thou less wretched that thy brow no trace of woe can keep?
Oh! would through life that thou mightst taste no cup but that of joy,
And I, as now, might weep for both--my boy!--my orphan boy!'
'She paused and raised her dark wild eyes, where bright
In the blue heavens broke the dawning light--
But what to her was day or sunshine now,
All vainly beaming on that pallid brow?
She only felt that never more with him,
In the deep cloudless noon, or moonlight dim,
Her weary feet might wander--that his voice
Should never bid her beating heart rejoice--
That where there had been sunniness and bliss,
Silence and shadows and deep loneliness
Must be her portion--that all days to come
Would rise upon a widow'd heart and home.--
She only felt, while weeping on that spot,
That bright and waking world contain'd him not!
She rose as if to go--yet once again
Turn'd back in tears to gaze upon the slain;
And raised her voice of wail, whose tone might ne'er
Awake an echo in that slumbering ear:--
'We shall meet no more on the sunny hill,
Where the lonely wild flower springs and dies;
We shall meet no more by the murmuring rill,
Where the blue cool waters idly rise.
The sunshine and flowers all bright remain
In their lonely beauty, as of yore;
But to me 'twill never be bright again--
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!
'We shall meet no more in the lighted halls,
Amid happy faces and gay young hearts ;
I may listen in vain as each footstep falls,
I may watch in vain as each form departs!
There are laughing voices, but thy young tone
Its cheerful greeting hath ceased to pour;
Thy form from the dancing train is gone--
We shall meet no more! we shall meet no more!'
'Such was the scene where first I saw and loved
Xarifa.--She was beautiful, but not
By that alone my wither'd heart was moved;
But that long days, unwept though unforgot,
Arose before me, freshly to oppress,
And wring my secret soul to bitterness.
Her sorrow was as mine, and every word
She utter'd in her agony did seem
As if a spirit voice I dimly heard
Speaking of Edith in a weary dream.
And so it was--our tearful hearts did cling
And twine together ev'n in sorrowing;
And we became as one--her orphan boy.
Lisp'd the word 'Father' as his dark eyes gazed,
With their expressive glance of timid joy,
Into my face, half pleased and half amazed.
And we did dwell together, calmly fond
With our own love, and not a wish beyond.
'Well, we were happy; and I vainly thought
That happiness so calm might last--but no!
Suns rose, and set, and rose; years came and pass'd,
And brought with them my lot--the lot of woe.
And the boy grew in beauty and in strength,
Rousing my soul to love him more and more--
Till I gazed on that graceful form at length
With a proud worship--and while musing o'er
The happy future, half forgot that fate
Had doom'd me ever to be desolate--
That all I loved had but a life as frail
As the young flower that wooes the summer gale;
And that the hour must come, when they would flee
To that far land of peace where was no place for me!
And ev'n before that hour, upon my home
Dark shadows fell from weary day to day;
And where there had been sunniness, was gloom--
And that boy's mother changed and pined away.
In her unquiet eye from year to year
Rose the expression of a restless fear,
And lines, which time had yet forborne to trace,
Were writ by care upon her fading face.
There would she sit, and steal a fearful glance,
Or fix those Moorish eyes as in a trance
Upon my form; and love dwelt still within
That pure fond heart which suffer'd for no sin.
And she would strive my sorrow to beguile,
And start, and wipe away her tears, and smile,
If, gazing in her waking dream, she caught
My eye, and read therein the master thought.
But never through those years did word or sign
Ask for the secret which was wholly mine.
She faded silently as doth the rose,
Which but in death reveals the secret smart,
And faintly smiling, to the last bestows
A balmy perfume from its withering heart.
How often, when I gazed on her, there came
The earnest wish that trembled through my frame,
To rise--to clasp her to my'swelling breast,
To faulter forth my tale, and be at rest!
When others, whom the laws of Heaven had tied,
Wander'd through this world's sunshine side by side;
Each beaming face bright as their brows above,
With perfect confidence and mutual love--
When I have seen some young heart's feeling rise
And glisten forth from glad and loving eyes;
Or heard the murmur'd words fond lips have spoken
Of faith unchanged and firm, and vows unbroken--
How I have strain'd my clasp'd and quivering hands,
And stretch'd them to the heavens as if in prayer;
Yearning to bow to Nature's strong commands,
And cloud another's life with my despair!
But when I thought of Edith--of that hour
When suddenly, and like a storm-scathed flower
She sank and perish'd, whose dear brightness seem'd
More beautiful than aught my heart had dream'd--
I shrank within myself, and silently
Met the sad glances of her anxious eye.
'Oh Sympathy!--how little do they know,
Who to a fellow heart confide their woe,
Who raise their tearful gaze to see again
Reflected back those drops of summer rain--
How weighs the lid which dares not show its tear,
But weeps in silence, agony, and fear;
And, dying for a glance, must yet disown
The sacred balm of hearts, and writhe alone!
To stifle grief till none but God can see,
Longing the while to say, 'Come, weep with me:
Weep! for the flowers have faded from my path,
The rays of light have left my darken'd sky:
Weep! for thy tear is all the wanderer hath,
Whose lone despair would bid him groan--and die:'
Thus--thus to shrink from every outstretch'd hand,
To strive in secret, and alone to stand;
Or, when obliged to mingle with the crowd,
Curb the pain'd lip which quiveringly obeys--
Gapes wide with sudden laughter, vainly loud,
Or writhes a faint slow smile to meet their gaze--
This--this is hell! The soul which dares not show
The barbed sorrow which is rankling there,
Gives way at length beneath its weight of woe,
Withers unseen, and darkens to despair!
'One eve at spring-tide's close we took our way,
When eve's last beams in soften'd glory fell,
Lighting her faded form with sadden'd ray,
And the sweet spot where we so loved to dwell.
Faintly and droopingly she sat her down
By the blue waters of the Guadalquivir;
With darkness on her brow, but yet no frown,
Like the deep shadow on that silent river.
She sat her down, I say, with face upturn'd
To the dim sky, which daylight was forsaking,
And in her eyes a light unearthly burn'd--
The light which spirits give whose chains are breaking!
And, as she gazed, her low and tremulous voice
In murmuring sweetness did address the earth,
With mournful rapture, which makes none rejoice;
And gladness, which to sorrow doth give birth.
'The spring! I love the spring! for it hath flowers,
And gaily plumaged birds, and sapphire skies,
And sleeping sunshine, and soft cooling showers,
And shadowy woods where weary daylight dies.
And it hath dancing waters, where the sun,
With an enamour'd look at the light waves,
Doth lull himself to rest when day is done,
And sinks away behind their rocky caves.
'I love the spring, for it hath many things
In earth and air that mind reel of old days;
Voices and laughter and light murmurings
Borne on the breeze that through the foliage plays;
And sounds that are not words, of human joy
From the deep bosom of the shelter'd wood;
Woods dimm'd by distance, where, half pleased, half coy,
The maiden chides her broken solitude.
'The spring of youth!--how like to nature's spring,
When its light pleasures all have pass'd away,
Are the dim memories which that word can bring,
Wringing the heart that feels its own decay!
The half forgotten charm of many a scene
Coming confusedly athwart the brain;
The wandering where our former steps have been
With forms that may not wander there again;--
'Murmurings and voices where some single tone
Thrills for a moment, and forgets to sound;
Yearnings for all that now is past and gone,
And vain tears sinking in the mossy ground:--
Oh! this is all, and more than all, which stays
To mock us with the sunshine of past years;
And those spring shadows on our autumn days
Cast their dim gloom, and turn our smiles to tears!
'She paused--and on the river bent her glance,
As if she loved to see the waters dance,
And dash their silver sparkles on the shore
In mockery of Ocean's giant roar.
And a half smile lit up that pallid brow,
As, casting flowers upon the silent stream,
She watch'd the frail sweet blossoms glide and go
Like human pleasures in a blissful dream.
And then, with playful force she gently flung
Small shining pebbles from the river's brink,
And o'er the eddying waters sadly hung,
Pleased, and yet sorrowful, to see them sink.
'And thus,' she said, 'doth human love forget
Its idols--some sweet blessings float away,
Follow'd by one long look of vain regret,
As they are slowly hastening to decay;
And some, with sullen plunge, do mock our sight,
And suddenly go down into the tomb,
Startling the beating heart, whose fond delight
Chills into tears at that unlook'd-for doom.
And there remains no trace of them, save such
As the soft ripple leaves upon the wave;
Or a forgotten flower, whose dewy touch
Reminds us some are withering in the grave!
When all is over, and she is but dust
Whose heart so long hath held thy form enshrined;
When I go hence, as soon I feel I must,
Oh! let my memory, Isbal, haunt thy mind.
Not for myself--oh! not for me be given
Vain thoughts of vain regret; though that were sweet;
But for the sake of that all-blissful Heaven,
Where, if thou willest it, we yet may meet.
When in thy daily musing thou dost bring
Those scenes to mind, in which I had a share;
When in thy nightly watch thy heart doth wring
With thought of me--oh! murmur forth a prayer!
A prayer for me--for thee--for all who live
Together, yet asunder in one home--
Who their soul's gloomy secret dare not give,
Lest it should blacken all their years to come.
Yes, Isbal, yes; to thee I owe the shade
That prematurely darkens on my brow;
And never had my lips a murmur made--
But--but that--see! the vision haunts me now!'
She pointed on the river's surface, where
Our forms were pictured seated side by side;
I gazed on them, and her's was very fair;
And mine--was as thou seest it now, my bride.
But her's, though fair, was fading--wan and pale
The brow whose marble met the parting day.
Time o'er her form had thrown his misty veil,
And all her ebon curls were streak'd with grey:
But mine was youthful--yes! such youth as glows
In the young tree by lightning scathed and blasted--
That, joyless, waves its black and leafless boughs,
On which spring showers and summer warmth are wasted.
The lines upon my brow were those of age;
The hollow cheek might speak of time or woe;
But all the rest was as in life's first stage--
The tangled curls without one touch of snow.
Oh! wherefore do I thus describe old times?
Am I not here--the same accursed thing,
Stamp'd with the brand of darkness for my crimes--
Never to die--but ever withering?
'Yes-yes--it is of her that I would tell.
She turn'd, as from my lips a murmur fell,
Half curse, half groan--and with a gentle look
Of angel love and pity thus she spoke:--
'Isbal, forgive me, if a bitter thought
This first, last time hath to thy heart been brought
By her who loved thee, ev'n in doubt and dread,
Better than ought, save him--the early dead!
Forgive me! for I would not pass from earth
With one dark thought, which may have had its birth
Unknown to thee; nor leave thee till I've said--
(Chide not these tears, which weakness makes me shed)--
Till I have said--and truth is on my tongue--
How fervently my heart to thine hath clung:
How I have shrunk, yet sought thy dear caress;
How I have feared--but never loved thee less:
How I have smiled for thee,--with thee, unbid,
While quivering tears rose 'neath the swelling lid--
And still kept silence when I would have spoken
For fear that seal'd-up fountain should be broken.
How I have--Isbal--Isbal--when I'm gone,
And thou hast nothing left to smile upon;
Remember--'tis a weak, a foolish prayer--
But do remember how I tried to bear
That worst of human pangs, a breaking heart,
And never let thee know how deep the smart!
Remember, that I never sought to know
The secret source of thy mysterious woe;
Nor ask'd why 'midst all changing things--unmoved
Thou--thou--(I tremble--heed it not, beloved!)--
Unmoved thou hast remained--Oh, Isbal, pray;
For dark the fear that clouds my parting day.
And though the word be vain--the time be pass'd,
Remember--I have loved thee to the last!'
She ceased, and strove my hand in hers to keep:
She wept not then--she was too weak to weep--
But with a faint fond gaze, half awe, half love,
Like an embodied prayer,--she look'd above.
And I--I would have told her then--that tale
The dream of which had turn'd her soft cheek pale,
And sent her to her grave--but she refused.
'Isbal, thy confidence is not abused:
If thou art sinful, let me know it not;
If thou hast sorrow'd, let it be forgot:
The past is nothing now, and I would die
Without one thought which may not soar on high.'
And she did droop and die, and pass away,
Leaving her memory, and that youthful son
Who sorrow'd for a while and then was gay,
And spoke in smiles of that lamented one.
Happy! for him the present bore no sting,
The past no agonies:--the future rose,
Bright as the colours of an angel's wing
Too far from earth to darken with its woes.
And he was form'd to love the haunts of men,
And to be fervently beloved again;
Firm, but yet gentle--fearless, but not bold--
Gay with the young, and tender to the old;
Scorning the heart where dark distrust was shown,
Because no treachery ever stain'd his own;
Ardent in love, but yet no-ways inclined
To sue wherever beauty sate enshrined:--
Such was my orphan care, and I became
Proud of Abdallah's father's blessed name.
Glad were the youths in whom fond friends could spy
Abdallah's graceful mien and daring eye:
Fondly the aged hail'd their favourite boy
With faultering words of mingled praise and joy:
Nor less the fair and fairy ones adored
The eloquent of tongue, and swift of sword.
And, from the many beautiful, he chose
One that might share in peace his evening's close;
There might be others fairer--but she was
So young--so meek--so feminine--applause,
And pride, and admiration, and the wild
Half worship which we pay earth's erring child--
All the tumultuous brain and bosom's stir
Sank into tenderness a sight of her.
You could not gaze on her, nor wish to shield
That shrinking form and gentle head from harm.
No borrow'd art could light or lustre yield,
But every bright addition spoil'd a charm.
'Their bridal day--their bridal day--it is
A day to be remember'd, deep within
The gloomy caves where dwells the foe of bliss,
And sends his fiends to tempt man on to sin.
The hall was bright with many-colour'd lamps;
The air was peopled with soft happy sounds;
And, careless of the dewy midnight damps,
Young feet were twinkling in the moonlit grounds:
The purple wine was mantling in the cup,
And flashing its rich hue upon their brows,
Who bent with eager lips to quaff it up,
And add their laughter to the loud carouse:
The merry jest--the superstitious tale--
The random question, and the tart reply,
Rang on in murmurings confused--till pale
The moonlight waned, and left the dawning sky.
The light dance ceased--by lips as sweet as thine
The word of fond farewell was slowly said;
Many departed--many sank supine,
With folded arms beneath each heavy head.
But still, with every lingering tardy guest
The brimming wine-cup circled as before:
And still went round the oft-repeated jest,
Which with impatient glance the bridegroom bore.
There was a traveller, who chanced to be
Invited with this joyous company;
And he was telling of the wondrous sights--
The popular sports--the strange and wild delights
Which in far countries he had heard and seen;
And once in Italy, where he had been,
How in great ruin'd Rome he heard a strange
Wild horrible tale of one who, for a crime
Too deadly to relate, might never change,
But live undying to the end of time:
One who had wander'd sadly up and down
Through every sunny land and peopled town,
With Cain's dark sign deep branded on his brow--
A haggard thing of guilt, and want, and woe!--
Breathings that seem'd like sobs, so loud they came
And chokingly from out my trembling frame,
Fill'd up the awful pause which came at length,
As if to give his words more horrid strength.
And every eye turn'd wonderingly and wild
Upon my face, while shudderingly I smiled,
And said, 'It is a fearful tale indeed;
But one that scare needs daunt ye, since ye are
From the dark fiend whom Heaven such fate decreed,
And Rome's imperial ruins, distant far.'
More had I said, nor heeded their reply,
But that Abdallah met my glance, and rose;--
And on his face I fix'd my wandering eye,
Which glared, and glared, and glared, and would not close.
And o'er his eager brow there shot a gleam,
As if but now remembering some dark dream.
And his lips parted--but he did not speak;
And his hand rose, but languidly and weak
Sank down again; while still we gazing stood
Into each other's eyes, as if for food.
I tried to laugh, but hollow in my throat
The gurgling murmur died; and once again
That young arm rose, and on the table smote,
And the slow words came audibly and plain:
While on all sides they fled and left us there,
Guilt, fear, and anguish, battling with despair.
'Arise, accursed! and go forth in peace!
No hand shall harm thee, and no tongue insult;
But 'neath this roof thy unblest voice must cease;
And thy dark sin must meet its dark result.'
I trembled, but obey'd not; from his face
My eyes withdrew, and sank upon the ground
While standing rooted, helpless, in my place,
I utter'd some half inarticulate sound--
Terms that I scarce remember--all, save one,
Utter'd with agony--it was, 'My son.'
And well I can recall the look, ev'n now,
Of scorn angelic on his lip and brow;
The cold defiance of his alter'd eye;
The tone that bade me wander forth and die:
Like the bright cherub to his home in hell
Dooming the first who sinn'd--the first who fell.
'Thy son! I thank kind heaven, whate'er my lot,
That word is false; my father thou art not!
My father!--back unto thy place of crime,
Dark fiend, who slew my mother ere her time!
Darest thou remind me by the awful sound,
How a mock link to thee that angel bound?
Well can I now explain her gentle look
Of mingled terror, anguish, and rebuke,
As 'neath thy blasting look, from day to day,
Sick of the joyless world, she pined away.
Breathe not the words, she loved thee: true, she loved:
In that her virtue, not thine own, is proved.
She loved, because the purity within
Her gentle heart was ignorance of sin.
Praise be to Heaven, she died! I little thought
Such words should to my secret soul be taught;
But I would howl them to the assembled world:
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee hurl'd
From out the haunts of men with fear and hate,
Like a wan leper from the city's gate!
Praise be to Heaven, she died! nor saw thee stand
With shrinking quivering form, and nerveless hand--
The cowardice of guilt within thy heart,
And shaking thee--all devil as thou art!
Go!--The poor leper, scarr'd, and pale, and wan,
And driven groaning from his fellow man;
Trailing his loathsome languid limbs afar,
And gazing back where all his loved ones are--
The loved, who love him not: oh! he is free
From ill or sadness, when compared with thee.
Though all forsake him as he helpless lies,
And, straining his dim eyes, doth wonder where
Are those who should watch o'er him as he dies,
Cool his hot mouth, and soften his despair:
Though in the dust with agony he rolls--
His is the body's plague, and thine, and thine--the soul's!'
'Bitter the truth, and bitterly I spoke,
When from my lip the first deep murmur broke;
And then to that young heart I made appeal--
That heart which seem'd for all but me to feel:
Till like a torrent my pent words found way,
And thus I raved:--
''Happy the cottager! for he hath sons
And blue-eyed daughters made for love and mirth;
And many a child whose chasing footstep runs
Around the precincts of his humble hearth.
Borne on the breeze their light-toned laughter comes,
Making glad music in the parents' ear;
And their bright faces light their humble homes,
Brows all unshaded yet by guilt or fear!
And if at length one rosy head bows low,
And prayers are vain from death's dark power to save,
The lessen'd circle meet in mingled woe
To weep together o'er that gentle grave:
And, gazing through their misty tears, they see
(Like the blue opening through the stormy cloud)
Faces where grief was never meant to be,
And eyes whose joy doth mock the sable shroud.
The one link sever'd from that broken chain
Is lost, and they must cling to what is left;
Back to their many loves they turn again,
And half forget of what they were bereft.
But I--I had but thee! I had but thee!
And thou wert precious to my weary heart:
For thee I bow'd the head and bent the knee--
For thee I toil'd till the strong vein would start.
And thou didst pay me then with many a smile,
And broken words by joy-touch'd lips breathed forth;
And many a little playful infant wile--
Dear to my soul--to others little worth.
The lip that now hath quiver'd forth its curse,
The shuddering hand that bade my form obey--
The trembling limbs that shrink as if from worse
Than death could threaten to his human prey--
All--all have clung to me, with each fond sign:
The tottering feeble step hath sought my aid:
And oft have gently nestled, close to mine,
The clustering curls of that indignant head!
I am but human, though the tale be true
Which curses me with life, while life may last;
And the long future which doth mock my view,
But makes me cling more closely to the past.
Leave me not!--leave me not!--whate'er I be,
Thou surely shouldst not judge me, nor forsake;
If not by ties of nature bound to thee,
Sure there are other ties man may not break.
Leave me not!--leave me not! I am not changed,
Though thou but now hast heard my tale of sin:
I still can love thee, boy, as when we ranged,
Hand link'd in hand, those pleasant bowers within:
I know that other men will gaze and scoff
As the lone desolate one doth journey on;
I know that human things will cast me off--
But thou!--forsake me not--my son!--my son!'
'He shook--the deep sob labour'd in his breast--
Then sprang to me with a convulsive cry;
And, as my head sank on that place of rest,
Mingled with mine hot tears of agony.
And she, his fairy bride--she did not shrink,
But clung to me, as if she wish'd to prove,
When sorrow's cup is brimming to the brink,
How weak is woman's fear to woman's love!
Oh! nought of self is in their gentle hearts.
The things we tempt--and trample when they fall,
Danger and death--the dread that sin imparts,
Sadden, but shake not--they will love through all.
And we return'd, we three, unto our home--
The home that had been ours in peace so long,
And sunshine seem'd upon our hearts to come,
As that young bride pour'd forth her evening song.
'The morning dawn'd, and glad I wander'd out
Where the young flowers hung clustering about:
And a rich wreath I wove for her who slept,
Where nature's pearly drops still freshly wept.
That dark blue morning brighten'd into day--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
I sought them in the little shady grove,
Where their young lips first learn'd to breathe of love;
I sought them by the fountain's playful stream,
Where they were wont of happiness to dream;
I call'd them out to breathe the open day--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
That heart beat thick--I enter'd where the couch
Bedeck'd with flowers had woo'd their fond approach;
I gazed around--no sign of life was there;
My voice unanswer'd died upon the air;
The yet unfaded flowers were blooming gay--
But none came forth--oh! where, my heart, were they?
Where were they?--ay, where were they? once again
I sought them, though I felt the search was vain--
Through every well-known path and sunny spot
I sought those truants--but I found them not;
And when at length the weary day was done,
I sat me down, and knew I was alone.
Oh! had a sob, a sound, but broke my sleep--
Had I but been allow'd to rise and weep--
Convulsively to strain them, ere they went,
To my chill'd breast; to give my anguish vent;
Methought I could have borne it; but to rise
And glad me in the fresh and waking skies--
To greet the sun with joyfulness,--to wait,
Expecting them, and yet be desolate;
To twine those flowers, and see them fade away,
Frail as the hopes that sicken'd with the day;
To groan and listen, and to groan again,
While Echo only answer'd to my pain;
To start from feverish dreams, and breathe unheard
Loud words of welcome to that vision'd pair;
To listen in my sleep some singing bird,
And wake and find it was not Zara there;
To stretch my eager arms those forms to bind,
And with redoubled bitterness to find
The shadowy vision gone I loved to trace,
And darkness where had beam'd each youthful face:--
This was my lot--and this I learnt to bear,
And cursed the human links which bound me still to care.
The Troubadour. Canto 2
THE first, the very first; oh! none
Can feel again as they have done;
In love, in war, in pride, in all
The planets of life's coronal,
However beautiful or bright,--
What can be like their first sweet light?
When will the youth feel as he felt,
When first at beauty's feet he knelt?
As if her least smile could confer
A kingdom on its worshipper;
Or ever care, or ever fear
Had cross'd love's morning hemisphere.
And the young bard, the first time praise
Sheds its spring sunlight o'er his lays,
Though loftier laurel, higher name,
May crown the minstrel's noontide fame,
They will not bring the deep content
Of his lure's first encouragement.
And where the glory that will yield
The flush and glow of his first field
To the young chief? Will RAYMOND ever
Feel as he now is feeling?--Never.
The sun wept down or ere they gain'd
The glen where the chief band remain'd.
It was a lone and secret shade,
As nature form'd an ambuscade
For the bird's nest and the deer's lair,
Though now less quiet guests were there.
On one side like a fortress stood
A mingled pine and chesnut wood;
Autumn was falling, but the pine
Seem'd as it mock'd all change; no sign
Of season on its leaf was seen,
The same dark gloom of changeless green.
But like the gorgeous Persian bands
'Mid the stern race of northern lands,
The chesnut boughs were bright with all
That gilds and mocks the autumn's fall.
Like stragglers from an army's rear
Gradual they grew, near and less near,
Till ample space was left to raise,
Amid the trees, the watch-fire's blaze;
And there, wrapt in their cloaks around,
The soldiers scatter'd o'er the ground.
One was more crowded than the rest,
And to that one was RAYMOND prest;--
There sat the chief: kind greetings came
At the first sound of RAYMOND'S name.
'Am I not proud that this should be,
Thy first field to be fought with me:
Years since thy father's sword and mine
Together dimm'd their maiden shine.
We were sworn brothers; when he fell
'Twas mine to hear his last farewell:
And how revenged I need not say,
Though few were left to tell that day.--
Thy brow is his, and thou wilt wield
A sword like his in battle-field.
Let the day break, and thou shalt ride
Another RAYMOND by my side;
And thou shalt win and I confer,
To-morrow, knightly brand and spur.'
With thoughts of pride, and thoughts of grief,
Sat RAYMOND by that stranger chief,
So proud to hear his father's fame,
So sad to hear that father's name,
And then to think that he had known
That father by his name alone;
And aye his heart within him burn'd
When his eye to DE VALENCE turn'd,
Mark'd his high step, his warlike mien,--
'And such my father would have been!'
A few words of years past away,
A few words of the coming day,
They parted, not that night for sleep;
RAYMOND had thoughts that well might keep
Rest from his pillow,--memory, hope,
In youth's horizon had full scope
To blend and part each varied line
Of cloud and clear, of shade and shine.
--He rose and wander'd round, the light
Of the full moon fell o'er each height;
Leaving the wood behind in shade,
O'er rock, and glen, and rill it play'd.
He follow'd a small stream whose tide
Was bank'd by lilies on each side,
And there, as if secure of rest,
A swan had built her lonely nest;
And spread out was each lifted wing,
Like snow or silver glittering.
Wild flowers grew around the dale,
Sweet children of the sun and gale;
From every crag the wild vine fell,
To all else inaccessible;
And where a dark rock rose behind,
Their shelter from the northern wind,
Grew myrtles with their fragrant leaves,
Veil'd with the web the gossamer weaves,
So pearly fair, so light, so frail,
Like beauty's self more than her veil.--
And first to gaze upon the scene,
Quiet as there had never been
Heavier step than village maid
With flowers for her nuptial braid,
Or louder sound than hermit's prayer,
To crush its grass or load its air.
Then to look on the armed train,
The watch-fire on the wooded plain,
And think how with the morrow's dawn,
Would banner wave, and blade be drawn;
How clash of steel, and trumpet's swell,
Would wake the echoes of each dell.
--And thus it ever is with life,
Peace sleeps upon the breast of Strife,
But to be waken'd from its rest,
Till comes that sleep the last and best.
And RAYMOND paused at last, and laid
Himself beneath a chesnut's shade,
A little way apart from all,
That he might catch the waterfall,
Whose current swept like music round,--
When suddenly another sound
Came on the ear; it was a tone,
Rather a murmur than a song,
As he who breathed deem'd all unknown
The words, thoughts, echo bore along.
Parting the boughs which hung between,
Close, thick, as if a tapestried screen,
RAYMOND caught sight of a white plume
Waving o'er brow and cheek of bloom;
And yet the song was sad and low,
As if the chords it waked were woe.
SONG OF THE YOUNG KNIGHT.
YOUR scarf is bound upon my breast,
Your colours dance upon my crest,--
They have been soil'd by dust and rain,
And they must wear a darker stain.
I mark'd thy tears as fast they fell,
I saw but heard not thy farewell,
I gave my steed the spur and rein,--
I dared not look on thee again.
My cheek is pale, but not with fears,
And I have dash'd aside my tears;
This woman's softness of my breast
Will vanish when my spear's in rest.
I know that farewell was our last,
That life and love from me are past;
For I have heard the fated sign
That speaks the downfall of our line.
I slept the soldier's tired sleep;
But yet I heard the music sweep,
Dim, faint, as when I stood beside
The bed whereon my father died.
Farewell, sweet love! never again
Will thine ear listen to the strain
With which so oft at midnight's hour
I've waked the silence of thy bower.
Farewell! I would not tears should stain
Thy fair cheek with their burning rain:
Tears, sweet! would an ill offering be
To one whose death was worthy thee.
RAYMOND thought on that song next day
When bleeding that young warrior lay,
While his hand, in its death-pang, prest
A bright curl to his wounded breast.
AND waning stars, and brightening sky,
And on the clouds a crimson dye,
And fresher breeze, and opening flowers,
Tell the approach of morning hours.
Oh, how can breath, and light, and bloom,
Herald a day of death and doom!
With knightly pennons, which were spread
Like mirror's for the morning's red,
Gather the ranks, while shout and horn
Are o'er the distant mountains borne.
'Twas a fair sight, that arm'd array
Winding through the deep vale their way,
Helmet and breast-plate gleaming in gold,
Banners waving their crimson fold,
Like clouds of the day-break: hark to the peal
Of the war-cry, answer'd by clanging steel!
The young chief strokes his courser's neck,
The ire himself had provoked to check,
Impatient for that battle plain
He may reach but never leave again;
And with flashing eye and sudden start,
He hears the trumpet's stately tone,
Like the echo of his beating heart,
And meant to rouse his ear alone.
And by his side the warrior grey,
With hair as white as the plumes that play
Over his head, yet spurs he as proud,
As keen as the youngest knight of the crowd:
And glad and glorious on they ride
In strength and beauty, power and pride.
And such the morning, but let day
Close on that gallant fair array,
The moon will see another sight
Than that which met the dawning light.--
Look on that field,--'tis the battle field!
Look on what harvest victory will yield!
There the steed and his rider o'erthrown,
Crouch together, their warfare is done:
The bolt is undrawn, the bow is unbent,
And the archer lies like his arrow spent.
Deep is the banner of crimson dyed,
But not with the red of its morning pride;
Torn and trampled with soil and stain,
When will it float on the breeze again;--
And over the ghastly plain are spread,
Pillow'd together, the dying and dead.
There lay one with an unclosed eye
Set in bright, cold vacancy,
While on its fix'd gaze the moonbeam shone,
Light mocking the eye whose light was gone;
And by his side another lay,
The life-blood ebbing fast away,
But calm his cheek and calm his eye,
As if leant on his mother's bosom to die.
Too weak to move, he feebly eyed
A wolf and a vulture close to his side,
Watching and waiting, himself the prey,
While each one kept the other away.
Little of this the young warrior deems
When, with heart and head all hopes and dreams,
He hastes for the battle:--The trumpet's call
Waken'd RAYMOND the first of all;
His the first step that to stirrup sprung,
His the first banner upwards flung;
And brow and cheek with his spirit glow'd,
When first at DE VALENCE'S side he rode.
The quiet glen is left behind,
The dark wood lost in the blue sky;
When other sounds come on the wind,
And other pennons float on high.
With snow-white plumes and glancing crest,
And standard raised, and spear in rest,
On a small river's farther banks
Wait their approach Sir HERBERT'S ranks.--
One silent gaze, as if each band
Could slaughter both with eye and hand.
Then peals the war-cry! then the dash
Amid the waters! and the crash
Of spears,--the falchion's iron ring,--
The arrow hissing from the string,
Tell they have met. Thus from the height
The torrent rushes in its might.
With the lightning's speed, the thunder's peal,
Flashes the lance, and strikes the steel.
Many a steed to the earth is borne,
Many a banner trampled and torn;
Or ever its brand could strike a blow,
Many a gallant arm lies low;--
Many a scarf, many a crest,
Float with the leaves on the river's breast;
And strange it is to see how around
Buds and flowers strew the ground,
For the banks were cover'd with wild rose trees,
Oh! what should they do amid scenes like these.
In the blue stream, as it hovered o'er,
A hawk was mirror'd, and before
Its wings could reach yon pine, which stands
A bow-shot off from the struggling bands,
The stain of death was on the flood,
And the red waters roll'd dark with blood.--
RAYMOND'S spear was the first that flew,
He the first who dash'd the deep river through;
His step the first on the hostile strand,
And the first that fell was borne down by his hand.
The fight is ended:--the same sun
Has seen the battle lost and won;
The field is cover'd with dying and dead,
With the valiant who stood, and the coward who fled.
And a gallant salute the trumpets sound,
As the warriors gather from victory around.
On a hill that skirted the purple flood,
With his peers around, DE VALENCE stood,
And with bended knee, and forehead bare,
Save its cloud of raven hair,
And beautiful as some wild star
Come in its glory and light from afar,
With his dark eyes flashing stern and bright,
And his cheek o'erflooded with crimson light,
And the foeman's banner over his head,
His first field's trophy proudly spread,
Knelt RAYMOND down his boon to name,--
The knightly spurs he so well might claim:
And a softness stole to DE VALENCE'S eyes,
As he bade the new-made knight arise.--
From his own belt he took the brand,
And gave it into RAYMOND'S hand,
And said it might a memory yield
Of his father's friend, and his own first field.
Pleasant through the darkening night
Shines from Clarin's towers the light.
Home from the battle the warriors ride,
In the soldiers' triumph, and soldiers' pride:
The drawbridge is lower'd, and in they pour,
Like the sudden rush of a summer shower,
While the red torch-light bursts through the gloom,
Over banner and breast-plate, helm and plume.
Sudden a flood of lustre play'd
Over a lofty ballustrade,
Music and perfume swept the air,
Messengers sweet for the spring to prepare;
And like a sunny vision sent
For worship and astonishment,
Aside a radiant ladye flung
The veil that o'er her beauty hung.
With stately grace to those below,
She bent her gem encircled brow,
And bade them welcome in the name
Of her they saved, the castle's dame,
Who had not let another pay
Thanks, greeting to their brave array,--
But she had vow'd the battle night
To fasting, prayer, and holy rite.
On the air the last tones of the music die,
The odour passes away like a sigh,
The torches flash a parting gleam,
And she vanishes as she came, like a dream.
But many an eye dwelt on the shade,
Till fancy again her form display'd,
And still again seem'd many an ear
The softness of her voice to hear.
And many a heart had a vision that night,
Which future years never banish'd quite.
And sign and sound of festival
Are ringing through that castle hall;
Tapers, whose flame send a perfumed cloud,
Flash their light o'er a gorgeous crowd;
With a thousand colours the tapestry falls
Over the carved and gilded walls,
And, between, the polish'd oak pannels hear,
Like dark mirrors, the image of each one there.
At one end the piled up hearth is spread
With sparkling embers of glowing red:
Above the branching antlers have place,
Sign of many a hard won chase;
And beneath, in many a polish'd line,
The arms of the hunter and warrior shine;
And around the fire, like a laurell'd arch,
Raised for some victor's triumphal march,
The wood is fretted with tracery fair,
And green boughs and flowers are waving there.
Lamps, like faery planets shine,
O'er massive cups of the genial wine,
And shed a ray more soft and fair
Than the broad red gleam of the torch's glare;
And, flitting like a rainbow, plays
In beautiful and changing rays,
When from the pictured windows fall
The colour'd shadows o'er the hall;
As every pane some bright hue lent
To vary the lighted element.
The ladye of the festive board
Was ward to the castle's absent lord;
The Ladye ADELINE ,--the same
Bright vision that with their greeting came
Maidens four stood behind her chair,
Each one was young, and each one fair;
Yet they were but as the stars at night
When the mood shines forth in her fullness of light
On the knot of her wreathed hair was set
A blood-red ruby coronet;
But among the midnight cloud of curls
That hung o'er her brow were eastern pearls,
As if to tell their wealth of snow,
How white her forehead could look below.
Around her floated a veil of white,
Like the silvery rack round the star of twilight;
And down to the ground her mantle's fold
Spread its length of purple and gold;
And sparkling gems were around her arm,
That shone like marble, only warm,
With the blue veins wandering tide,
And the hand with its crimson blush inside.
A zone of precious stones embraced
The graceful circle of her waist,
Sparkling as if they were proud
Of the clasp to them allow'd.
But yet there was 'mid this excess
Of soft and dazzling loveliness,
A something in the eye, and hand,
And forehead, speaking of command:
An eye whose dark flash seem'd allied
To even more than beauty's pride,--
A hand as only used to wave
Its sign to worshipper and slave,--
A forehead, but that was too fair
To read of aught but beauty there!
And RAYMOND had the place of pride,
The place so envied by her side,--
The victor's seat,--and overhead
The banner he had won was spread.
His health was pledged!--he only heard
The murmur of one silver word;
The pageant seem'd to fade away,
Vanish'd the board and glad array,
The gorgeous hall around grew dim,
There shone one only light for him,
That radiant form, whose brightness fell
In power upon him like a spell,
Laid in its strength by Love to reign
Despotic over heart and brain.
Silent he stood amid the mirth,
Oh, love is timid in its birth!
Watching her lightest look or stir,
As he but look'd and breathed with her.
Gay words were passing, but he leant
In silence; yet, one quick glance sent,--
His secret is no more his own,
When has woman her power not known?
The feast broke up:--that midnight shade
Heard many a gentle serenade
Beneath the ladye's lattice. One
Breathed after all the rest were gone.
SLEEP , ladye! for the moonlit hour,
Like peace, is shining on thy bower;
It is so late, the nightingale
Has ended even his love tale.
Sleep, ladye! 'neath thy turret grows,
Cover'd with flowers, one pale white rose;
I envy its sweet sighs, they steep
The perfumed airs that lull thy sleep.
Perchance, around thy chamber floats
The music of my lone lute notes,--
Oh, may they on thine eyelids fall,
And make thy slumbers musical!
Sleep, ladye! to thy rest be given
The gleamings of thy native heaven,
And thoughts of early paradise,
The treasures of thy sleeping eyes.
I NEED not say whose was the song
The sighing night winds bore along.
RAYMOND had left the maiden's side
As one too dizzy with the tide
To breast the stream, or strive, or shrink,
Enough for him to feel, not think;
Enough for him the dim sweet fear,
The twilight of the heart, or ere
Awakening hope has named the name
Of love, or blown its spark to flame.
Restlessness, but as the winds range
From leaf to leaf, from flower to flower;
Changefulness, but as rainbows change,
From colour'd sky to sunlit hour.
Ay, well indeed may minstrel sing,--
What have the heart and year like spring?
Her vow was done: the castle dame
Next day to join the revellers came;
And never had a dame more gay
O'er hall or festival held sway.
And youthful knight, and ladye fair,
And juggler quaint, and minstrel rare,
And mirth, and crowds, and music, all
Of pleasure gather'd at her call.
And RAYMOND moved as in a dream
Of song and odour, bloom and beam,
As he dwelt in a magic bower,
Charm'd from all by fairy power.
--And ADELINE rode out that morn,
With hunting train, and hawk, and horn;
And broider'd rein, and curb of gold,
And housings with their purple fold
Decked the white steed o'er which she leant
Graceful as a young cypress, bent
By the first summer wind: she wore
A cap the heron plume waved o'er,
And round her wrist a golden band,
Which held the falcon on her hand.
The bird's full eye, so clear, so bright,
Match'd not her own's dark flashing light.
And RAYMOND , as he watch'd the dyes
Of her cheek rich with exercise,
Could almost deem her beauty's power
Was now in its most potent hour;
But when at night he saw her glance
The gayest of the meteor dance,
The jewels in her braided hair,
Her neck, her arms of ivory bare,
The silver veil, the broider'd vest,--
Look'd she not then her loveliest?
Ah, every change of beauty's face
And beauty's shape has its own grace!
That night his heart throbb'd when her hand
Met his touch in the saraband:
That night her smile first bade love live
On the sweet life that hope can give.--
Beautiful, but thrice wayward, wild,
Capricious as a petted child,
She was all chance, all change; but now
A smile is on her radiant brow,--
A moment and that smile is fled,
Coldness and scorn are there instead.
Ended the dance, and ADELINE
Flung herself, like an eastern queen,
Upon the cushions which were laid
Amid a niche of that gay hall,
Hid from the lamps; around it play'd
The softness of the moonlight fall.
And there the gorgeous shapes past by
But like a distant pageantry,
In which you have yourself no share,
For all its pride, and pomp, and care.
She pass'd her hand across the chords
Of a lute near, and with soft words
Answer'd; then said, 'no, thou shalt sing
Some legend of the fair and brave.'
To RAYMOND'S hand the lute she gave,
Whose very soul within him burn'd
When her dark eye on his was turn'd:
One moment's pause, it slept not long,--
His spirit pour'd itself in song.
THE lady sits in her lone bower,
With cheek wan as the white rose flower
That blooms beside, 'tis pale and wet
As that rose with its dew pearls set.
Her cheek burns with a redder dye,
Flashes light from her tearful eye;
She has heard pinions beat the air,
She sees her white dove floating there;
And well she knows its faithful wing,
The treasure of her heart will bring;
And takes the gentle bird its stand
Accustom'd on the maiden's hand,
With glancing eye and throbbing breast,
As if rejoicing in its rest.
She read the scroll,--'dear love, to-night
By the lake, all is there for flight
What time the moon is down;--oh, then
My own life shall we meet again!'
One upward look of thankfulness,
One pause of joy, one fond caress
Of her soft lips, as to reward
The messenger of EGINHARD.
That night in her proud father's hall
She shone the fairest one of all;
For like the cloud of evening came
Over her cheek the sudden flame,
And varying as each moment brought
Some hasty change of secret thought;
As if its colour would confess
The conscious heart's inmost recess.
And the clear depths of her dark eye
Were bright with troubled brilliancy,
Yet the lids droop'd as with the tear
Which might oppress but not appear.
And flatteries, and smile and sigh
Loaded the air as she past by.
It sparkled, but her jewell'd vest
Was crost above a troubled breast:
Her curls, with all their sunny glow,
Were braided o'er an aching brow:
But well she knew how many sought
To gaze upon her secret thought;--
And Love is proud,--she might not brook
That other's on her heart should look.
But there she sate, cold, pale, and high,
Beneath her purple canopy;
And there was many a mutter'd word,
And one low whisper'd name was heard,--
The name of EGINHARD ,--that name
Like some forbidden secret came.
The theme went, that he dared to love
One like a star his state above;
Here to the princess turn'd each eye,--
And it was said, he did not sigh
With love that pales the pining cheek,
And leaves the slighted heart to break.
And then a varying tale was told,
How a page had betray'd for gold;
But all was rumour light and vain,
That all might hear, but none explain.
Like one that seeks a festival,
Early the princess left the hall;
Yet said she, sleep dwelt on her eyes,
That she was worn with revelries.
And hastily her maidens' care
Unbinds the jewels from her hair.
Odours are round her chamber strown,
And ELENORE is left alone.
With throbbing heart, whose pulses beat
Louder than fall her ivory feet,
She rises from her couch of down;
And, hurriedly, a robe is thrown
Around her form, and her own hand
Lets down her tresses golden band.
Another moment she has shred
Those graceful tresses from her head.
There stands a plate of polish'd steel,
She folds her cloak as to conceal
Her strange attire, for she is drest
As a young page in dark green vest.
Softly she steps the balustrade,
Where myrtle, rose, and hyacinth made
A passage to the garden shade.
It was a lovely summer night,
The air was incense-fill'd, the light
Was dim and tremulous, a gleam,
When a star, mirror'd on the stream,
Sent a ray round just to reveal
How gales from flower to flower steal.
'It was on such a night as this,
When even a single breath is bliss,
Such a soft air, such a mild heaven,
My vows to EGINHARD were given.'
Sigh'd ELENORE , 'Oh, might it be
A hope, a happy augury!'
She reach'd the lake,--a blush, a smile,
Contended on her face the while;
And safely in a little cove,
Shelter'd by willow trees above,
An ambuscade from all secured,
Her lover's little boat lay moor'd.--
One greeting word, with muffled oar,
And silent lip, they left that shore.
It was most like a phantom dream
To see that boat flit o'er the stream,
So still, that but yet less and less
It grew, it had seem'd motionless.
And then the silent lake, the trees
Visible only when the breeze
Aside the shadowy branches threw,
And let one single star shine through,
While the faint glimmer scarcely gave
To view the wanderers of the wave.
The breeze has borne the clouds away
That veil'd the blushes of young day;
The lark has sung his morning song;--
Surely the princess slumbers long.
And now it is the accustom'd hour
Her royal father seeks her bower,
When her soft voice and gentle lute,
The snowfall of her fairy foot,
The flowers she has cull'd, with dew
Yet moist upon each rainbow hue;
The fruits with bloom upon their cheek,
Fresh as the morning's first sun streak;
Each, all conspired to wile away
The weariness of royal sway.
But she is gone: there hangs her lute,
And there it may hang lone and mute:
The flowers may fade, for who is there
To triumph now if they are fair:
There are her gems,--oh, let them twine
An offering round some sainted shrine!
For she who wore them may not wear
Again those jewels in her hair.
At first the monarch's rage was wild;
But soon the image of his child,
In tenderness rose on his heart,
How could he bear from it to part?
And anger turn'd to grief: in vain
Ambition had destroy'd the chain
With which love had bound happiness.
In vain remorse, in vain redress,--
Fruitless all search. And years past o'er,
No tidings came of ELENORE,
Although the king would have laid down
His golden sceptre, purple crown,
His pomp, his power, but to have prest
His child one moment to his breast.
And where was ELENORE ? her home
Was now beneath the forest dome;--
A hundred knights had watch'd her hall,
Her guards were now the pine trees tall:
For harps waked with the minstrel tale,
Sang to her sleep the nightingale:
For silver vases, where were blent
Rich perfumes from Arabia sent,
Were odours when the wild thyme flower
Wafted its sweets on gale and shower:
For carpets of the purple loom
The violets spread their cloud of bloom,
Starr'd with primroses; and around
Boughs like green tapestry swept the ground.
--And there they dwelt apart from all
That gilds and mocks ambition's thrall;
Apart from cities, crowds, and care,
Hopes that deceive, and toils that wear;
For they had made themselves a world
Like that or ever man was hurl'd
From his sweet Eden, to begin
His bitter course of grief and sin.--
And they were happy; EGINHARD
Had won the prize for which he dared
Dungeon and death; but what is there
That the young lover will not dare?
And she, though nurtured as a flower,
The favourite bud of a spring bower,
Daughter of palaces, yet made
Her dwelling place in the green shade;
Happy, as she remember'd not
Her royal in her peasant lot,--
With gentle cares, and smiling eyes
As love could feel no sacrifice.
Happy her ivory brow to lave
Without a mirror but the wave,
As one whose sweetness could dispense
With all save its own excellence;--
A fair but gentle creature, meant
For heart, and hearth, and home content.
It was at night the chase was over,
And ELENORE sat by her lover,--
Her lover still, though years had fled
Since their first word of love was said,--
When one sought, at that darksome hour,
The refuge of their lonely bower,
A hunter, who, amid the shade,
Had from his own companions stray'd.
And ELENORE gazed on his face,
And knew her father! In the chase
Often the royal mourner sought
A refuge from his one sad thought.
He knew her not,--the lowly mien,
The simple garb of forest green,
The darken'd brow, which told the spoil
The sun stole from her daily toil,
The cheek where woodland health had shed
The freshness of its morning red,--
All was so changed. She spread the board,
Her hand the sparkling wine cup pour'd;
And then around the hearth they drew,
And cheerfully the woodfire threw
Its light around.--Bent o'er her wheel
Scarcely dared ELENORE to steal
A look, half tenderness, half fear,
Yet seem'd he as he loved to hear
Her voice, as if it had a tone
Breathing of days and feelings gone.
'Ah! surely,' thought she, 'Heaven has sent
My father here, as that it meant,
Our years of absence ended now!'
She gazed upon his soften'd brow;
And the next moment, all revealing,
ELENORE at his feet is kneeling!--
Need I relate that, reconciled,
The father bless'd his truant child.
WHERE is the heart that has not bow'd
A slave, eternal Love, to thee:
Look on the cold, the gay, the proud,
And is there one among them free?
The cold, the proud,--oh! Love has turn'd
The marble till with fire it burn'd;
The gay, the young,--alas that they
Should ever bend beneath thy sway!
Look on the cheek the rose might own,
The smile around like sunshine thrown;
The rose, the smile, alike are thine,
To fade and darken at thy shrine.
And what must love be in a heart
All passion's fiery depths concealing,
Which has in its minutest part
More than another's whole of feeling.
And RAYMOND'S heart; love's morning sun
On fitter altar never shone;
Loving with all the snow-white truth,
That is found but in early youth;
Freshness of feeling as of flower,
That lives not more than spring's first hour;
And loving with that wild devotion,
That deep and passionate emotion,
With which the minstrel soul is thrown
On all that it would make its own.
And RAYMOND loved; the veriest slave
That e'er his life to passion gave:
Upon his ear no murmur came
That seem'd not echoing her name;
The lightest colour on her cheek
Was lovelier than the morning break.
He gazed upon her as he took
His sense of being from her look:--
Sometimes it was idolatry,
Like homage to some lovely star,
Whose beauty though for hope too high,
He yet might worship from afar.
At other times his heart would swell
With tenderness unutterable:
He would have borne her to an isle
Where May and June had left their smile;
And there, heard but by the lone gale,
He would have whisper'd his love tale;
And without change, or cloud, or care,
Have kept his bosom's treasure there.
And then, with all a lover's pride,
He thought it shame such gem to hide:
And imaged he a courtly scene
Of which she was the jewell'd queen,--
The one on whom each glance was bent,
The beauty of the tournament,
The magnet of the festival,
The grace, the joy, the life of all,--
But she, alas for her false smile!
ADELINE loved him not the while.
And is it thus that woman's heart
Can trifle with its dearest part,
Its own pure sympathies?--can fling
The poison'd arrow from the string
In utter heartlessness around,
And mock, or think not of the wound?
And thus can woman barter all
That makes and gilds her gentle thrall,--
The blush which should be like the one
White violets hide from the sun,--
The soft, low sighs, like those which breathe
In secret from a twilight wreath,--
The smile like a bright lamp, whose shine
Is vow'd but only to one shrine;
All these sweet spells,--and can they be
Weapons of reckless vanity?
And woman, in whose gentle heart
From all save its sweet self apart,
Love should dwell with that purity
Which but in woman's love can be:
A sacred fire, whose flame was given
To shed on earth the light of heaven,--
That she can fling her wealth aside
In carelessness, or sport, or pride!
It was not form'd for length of bliss,
A dream so fond, so false as this;
Enough for ADELINE to win
The heart she had no pleasure in,--
Enough that bright eyes turn'd in vain
On him who bow'd beneath her chain:--
Then came the careless word and look,
All the fond soul so ill can brook,
The jealous doubt, the burning pain,
That rack the lover's heart and brain;
The fear that will not own it fear,
The hope that cannot disappear;
Faith clinging to its visions past,
And trust confiding to the last.
And thus it is: ay, let Love throw
Aside his arrows and his bow;
But let him not with one spell part,
The veil that binds his eyes and heart.
Woe for Love when his eyes shall be
Open'd upon reality!
One day a neighbouring baron gave
A revel to the fair and brave,--
And knights upon their gallant steeds,
And ladies on their palfreys gray,
All shining in their gayest weeds,
Held for the festival their way.
A wanderer on far distant shores,
That baron, had brought richest stores
To his own hall, and much of rare
And foreign luxury was there:
Pages, with colour'd feathers, fann'd
The odours of Arabia's land;
The carpets strewn around each room
Were all of Persia's purple loom;
And dark slaves waited on his guests,
Each habited in Moorish vests,
With turbann'd brows, and bands of gold
Around their arms and ancles roll'd.
And gazed the guests o'er many a hoard,
Like Sinbad's, from his travel stored.
They look'd upon the net work dome,
Where found the stranger birds a home,
With rainbow wings and gleaming eyes,
Seen only beneath Indian skies.
At length they stood around the ring,
Where stalk'd, unchain'd, the forest king,
With eyes of fire and mane erect,
As if by human power uncheck'd.
Full ill had RAYMOND'S spirit borne
The wayward mood, the careless scorn,
With which his mistress had that day
Trifled his happiness away.--
His very soul within him burn'd,
When, as in chance, her dark eye turn'd
On him, she spoke in reckless glee,--
''Is there a knight who, for love of me,
Into the court below will spring,
And bear from the lion the glove I fling?'
A shriek!--a pause,--then loud acclaim
Rose to the skies with RAYMOND'S name.
Oh, worthy of a lady's love!
RAYMOND has borne away the glove.
He laid the prize at the maiden's feet,
Then turn'd from the smile he dared not meet:
A moment more he is on the steed,
The spur has urged to its utmost speed,
As that he could fly from himself, and all
The misery of his spirit's thrall.
The horse sank down, and RAYMOND then
Started to see the foaming rein,
The drops that hung on the courser's hide,
And the rowel's red trace on its panting side;
And deep shame mingled with remorse,
As he brought the cool stream to his fallen horse.
The spot where he paused was a little nook,
Like a secret page in nature's book,--
Around were steeps where the wild vine
Hung, wreathed in many a serpentine,
Wearing each the colour'd sign
Of the autumn's pale decline.
Like a lake in the midst was spread
A grassy sweep of softest green,
Smooth, flower-dropt, as no human tread
Upon its growth had ever been.
Limes rose around, but lost each leaf,
Like hopes luxuriant but brief;
And by their side the sycamore
Grew prouder of its scarlet store:
The air was of that cold clear light
That heralds in an autumn night,--
The amber west had just a surge
Of crimson on its utmost verge;
And on the east were piled up banks
Where darkness gather'd with her ranks
Of clouds, and in the midst a zone
Of white with transient brightness shone
From the young moon, who scarcely yet
Had donn'd her lighted coronet.
With look turn'd to the closing day,
As he watch'd every hue decay,
Sat RAYMOND ; and a passer by
Had envied him his reverie;--
But nearer look had scann'd his brow,
And started at its fiery glow,
As if the temples' burning swell
Had made their pulses visible.
Too glazed, too fix'd, his large eyes shone
To see aught that they gazed upon.
Not his the paleness that may streak
The lover's or the minstrel's cheek,
As it had its wan colour caught
From moods of melancholy thought;
'Twas that cold, dark, unearthly shade,
But for a corpse's death look made;
Speaking that desperateness of pain,
As one more pang, and the rack'd brain
Would turn to madness; one more grief,
And the swoln heart breaks for relief.
Oh, misery! to see the tomb
Close over all our world of bloom;
To look our last in the dear eyes
Which made our light of paradise;
To know that silent is the tone
Whose tenderness was all our own;
To kiss the cheek which once had burn'd
At the least glance, and find it turn'd
To marble; and then think of all
Of hope, that memory can recall.
Yes, misery! but even here
There is a somewhat left to cheer,
A gentle treasuring of sweet things
Remembrance gathers from the past,
The pride of faithfulness, which clings
To love kept sacred to the last.
And even if another's love
Has touch'd the heart to us above
The treasures of the east, yet still
There is a solace for the ill.
Those who have known love's utmost spell
Can feel for those who love as well;
Can half forget their own distress,
To share the loved one's happiness.
Oh, but to know our heart has been,
Like the toy of an Indian queen,
Torn, trampled, without thought or care,--
Where is despair like this despair!--
ll night beneath an oak he lay,
Till nature blush'd bright into day;
When, at a trumpet's sudden sound,
Started his courser from the ground:
And his loud neigh waked RAYMOND'S dream,
And, gazing round, he saw the gleam
Of arms upon a neighbouring height,
Where helm and cuirass stream'd in light.
As RAYMOND rose from his unrest
He knew DE VALENCE'S falcon crest;
And the red cross that shone like a glory afar,
Told the warrior was vow'd to the holy war.
Ay, this,' thought RAYMOND , 'is the strife
To make my sacrifice of life;
What is it now to me that fame
Shall brighten over RAYMOND'S name;
There is no gentle heart to bound,
No cheek to mantle at the sound:
Lady's favour no more I wear,--
My heart, my helm--oh! what are there?
A blighted hope, a wither'd rose.
Surely this warfare is for those
Who only of the victory crave
A holy but a nameless grave.'
Short greeting past; DE VALENCE read
All that the pale lip left unsaid;
On the wan brow, in the dimm'd eye,
The whole of youth's despondency,
Which at the first shock it has known
Deems its whole world of hope o'erthrown.
And it was fix'd, that at Marseilles,
Where the fleet waited favouring gales,
RAYMOND should join the warrior train,
Leagued 'gainst the infidels of Spain.
They parted:--Over RAYMOND'S thought
Came sadness mingled too with shame;
When suddenly his memory brought
The long forgotten EVA'S name.
Oh! Love is like the mountain tide,
Sweeping away all things beside,
Till not another trace appears
But its own joys, and griefs, and fears.
He took her cross, he took her chain
From the heart where they still had lain;
And that heart felt as if its fate
Had sudden grown less desolate,
In thus remembering love that still
Would share and sooth in good and ill.
He spurr'd his steed; but the night fall
Had darken'd ere he reach'd the hall;
And gladly chief and vassal train
Welcomed the youthful knight again.
And many praised his stately tread,
His face with darker manhood spread;
But of those crowding round him now,
Who mark'd the paleness of his brow,
But one, who paused till they were past,
Who look'd the first but spoke the last:
Her welcome in its timid fear
Fell almost cold on RAYMOND'S ear;
A single look,--he felt he gazed
Upon a gentle child no more,
The blush that like the lightning blazed,
The cheek then paler than before,
A something of staid maiden grace,
A cloud of thought upon her face;
She who had been, in RAYMOND'S sight,
A plaything, fancy, and delight,--
Was changed: the depth of her blue eye
Spoke to him now of sympathy,
And seem'd her melancholy tone
A very echo of his own;
And that pale forehead, surely care
Has graved an early lesson there.
They roved through many a garden scene,
Where other, happier days had been;
And soon had RAYMOND told his all
Of hopes, like stars but bright to fall;
Of feelings blighted, changed, and driven
Like exiles from their native heaven;
And of an aimless sword, a lute
Whose chords were now uncharm'd and mute.
But EVA'S tender blandishing
Was as the April rays, that fling
A rainbow till the thickest rain
Melts into blue and light again.
There is a feeling in the heart
Of woman which can have no part
In man; a self devotedness,
As victims round their idols press,
And asking nothing, but to show
How far their zeal and faith can go.
Pure as the snow the summer sun
Never at noon hath look'd upon,--
Deep as is the diamond wave,
Hidden in the desart cave,--
Changeless as the greenest leaves
Of the wreath the cypress weaves,--
Hopeless often when most fond,
Without hope or fear beyond
Its own pale fidelity,--
And this woman's love can be!
And RAYMOND although not again
Dreaming of passion's burning chain,
Yet felt that life had still dear things
To which the lingering spirit clings.
More dear, more lovely EVA shone
In thinking of that faithless one;
And read he not upon the cheek
All that the lip might never speak,
All the heart cherish'd yet conceal'd,
Scarce even to itself reveal'd.
And RAYMOND , though with heart so torn
By anger, agony, and scorn,
Might ill bear even with love's name,
Yet felt the maiden's hidden flame
Come like the day-star in the east,
When every other light has ceased;
Sent from the bosom of the night
To harbinger the morning light.
Again they parted: she to brood
O'er dreaming hopes in solitude,
And every pitying saint to pray
For RAYMOND on the battle day.
And he no longer deem'd the field
But death to all his hopes could yield.
To other, softer dreams allied,
He thought upon the warrior's pride.
But as he pass'd the castle gate
He left so wholly desolate,
His throbbing pulse, his burning brain,
The sudden grasp upon the rein,
The breast and lip that gasp'd for air,
Told Love's shaft was still rankling there.
That night, borne o'er the bounding seas,
The vessel swept before the breeze,
Loaded the air, the war-cry's swell,
Woe to the Moorish infidel;
And raising their rich hymn, a band
Of priests were kneeling on the strand,
To bless the parting ship, and song
Came from the maidens ranged along
The sea wall, and who incense gave,
And flowers, like offerings to the wave
That bore the holy and the brave.
And RAYMOND felt his spirit rise,
And burn'd his cheek, and flash'd his eyes
With something of their ancient light,
While plume and pennon met his sight;
While o'er the deep swept the war-cry,
And peal'd the trumpet's voice on high,
While the ship rode the waves as she
Were mistress of their destiny.
And muster'd on the deck the band,
Till died the last shout from the strand;
But when the martial pomp was o'er,
And, like the future, dim the shore
On the horizon hung, again
Closed RAYMOND'S memory, like a chain
The spirit struggles with in vain.
The sky with its delicious blue,
The stars like visions wandering through:
Surely, if Fate had treasured there
Her rolls of life, they must be fair;
The mysteries their glories hide
Must be but of life's brightest side;
It cannot be that Fate would write
Her dark decrees in lines of light.
And RAYMOND mused upon the hour
When, comrade of the star and flower,
He watch'd beside his lady's bower;
He number'd every hope and dream,
Like blooms that threw upon life's stream
Colours of beauty, and then thought
On knowledge, all too dearly bought;
Feelings lit up in waste to burn,
Hopes that seem but shadows fair,
All that the heart so soon must learn,
All that it finds so hard to bear.
The young moon's vestal lamp that hour
Seem'd pale as that it pined for love;
No marvel such a night had power,
So calm below, so fair above,
To wake the spirit's finest chords
Till minstrel thoughts found minstrel words.
THE LAST SONG.
IT is the latest song of mine
That ever breathes thy name,
False idol of a dream-raised shrine,
Thy very thought is shame,--
Shame that I could my sprit bow
To one so very false as thou.
I had past years where the green wood
Makes twilight of the noon,
And I had watch'd the silver flood
Kiss'd by the rising moon;
And gazed upon the clear midnight
In all its luxury of light.
And, thrown where the blue violets dwell,
I would pass hours away,
Musing o'er some old chronicle
Fill'd with a wild love lay;
Till beauty seem'd to me a thing
Made for all nature's worshipping.
saw thee, and the air grew bright
In thy clear eyes' sunshine;
I oft had dream'd of shapes of light,
But not of shape like thine.
My heart bow'd down,--I worshipp'd thee,
A woman and a deity.
I may not say how thy first look
Turn'd my whole soul to flame,
I read it as a glorious book
Fill'd with high deeds of fame;
I felt a hero's spirit rise,
Unknown till lighted at thine eyes.
False look, false hope, and falsest love!
All meteors sent to me
To show how they the heart could move,
And how deceiving be:
They left me, darken'd, crush'd, alone,
My bosom's household gods o'erthrown.
The world itself was changed, and all
That I had loved before
Seem'd as if gone beyond recall,
And I could hope no more;
The sear of fire, the dint of steel,
Are easier than Love's wounds to heal.
But this is past, and I can cope
With what I'd fain forget;
I have a sweet, a gentle hope
That lingers with me yet,--
A hope too fair, too pure to be
Named in the words that speak of thee.
Henceforth within the last recess
Of my heart shall remain
Thy name in all its bitterness,
But never named again;
The only memory of that heart
Will be to think how false thou art.
And yet I fain would name thy name,
My heart's now gentle queen,
E'en as they burn the perfumed flame
Where the plague spot has been;
Methinks that it will cleanse away
The ills that on my spirit prey.
Sweet EVA ! the last time I gazed
Upon thy deep blue eyes,
The cheek whereon my look had raised
A blush's crimson dyes,
I marvell'd, love, this heart of mine
Had worshipp'd at another shrine.
I will think of thee when the star,
That lit our own fair river,
Shines in the blue sky from afar,
As beautiful as ever;
That twilight star, sweet love, shall be
A sign and seal with thee and me!
'TWAS summer eve; the changeful beams still play'd
On the fir-bark and through the beechen shade;
Still with soft crimson glow'd each floating cloud;
Still the stream glitter'd where the willow bow'd;
Still the pale moon sate silent and alone,
Nor yet the stars had rallied round her throne;
Those diamond courtiers, who, while yet the West
Wears the red shield above his dying breast,
Dare not assume the loss they all desire,
Nor pay their homage to the fainter fire,
But wait in trembling till the Sun's fair light
Fading, shall leave them free to welcome Night!
So when some Chief, whose name through realms afar
Was still the watchword of succesful war,
Met by the fatal hour which waits for all,
Is, on the field he rallied, forced to fall,
The conquerors pause to watch his parting breath,
Awed by the terrors of that mighty death;
Nor dare the meed of victory to claim,
Nor lift the standard to a meaner name,
Till every spark of soul hath ebb'd away,
And leaves what was a hero, common clay.
Oh! Twilight! Spirit that dost render birth
To dim enchantments; melting Heaven with Earth,
Leaving on craggy hills and rumning streams
A softness like the atmosphere of dreams;
Thy hour to all is welcome! Faint and sweet
Thy light falls round the peasant's homeward feet,
Who, slow returning from his task of toil,
Sees the low sunset gild the cultured soil,
And, tho' such radliance round him brightly glows,
Marks the small spark his cottage window throws.
Still as his heart forestals his weary pace,
Fondly he dreams of each familiar face,
Recalls the treasures of his narrow life,
His rosy children, and his sunburnt wife,
To whom his coming is the chief event
Of simple days in cheerful labour spent.
The rich man's chariot hath gone whirling past,
And those poor cottagers have only cast
One careless glance on all that show of pride,
Then to their tasks turn'd quietly aside;
But him they wait for, him they welcome home,
Fond sentinels look forth to see him come;
The fagot sent for when the fire grew dim,
The frugal meal prepared, are all for him;
For him the watching of that sturdy boy,
For him those smiles of tenderness and joy,
For him,--who plods his sauntering way along,
Whistling the fragment of some village song!
Dear art thou to the lover, thou sweet light,
Fair fleeting sister of the mournful night!
As in impatient hope he stands apart,
Companion'd only by his beating heart,
And with an eager fancy oft beholds
The vision of a white robe's fluttering folds
Flit through the grove, and gain the open mead,
True to the hour by loving hearts agreed!
At length she comes. The evening's holy grace
Mellows the glory of her radiant face;
The curtain of that daylight faint and pale
Hangs round her like the shrouding of a veil;
As, turning with a bashful timid thought,
From the dear welcome she herself hath sought,
Her shadowy profile drawn against the sky
Cheats, while it charms, his fond adoring eye.
Oh! dear to him, to all, since first the flowers
Of happy Eden's consecrated bowers
Heard the low breeze along the branches play,
And God's voice bless the cool hour of the day.
For though that glorious Paradise be lost,
Though earth by blighting storms be roughly cross'd,
Though the long curse demands the tax of sin,
And the day's sorrows with the day begin,
That hour, once sacred to God's presence, still
Keeps itself calmer from the touch of ill,
The holiest hour of earth. Then toil doth cease--
Then from the yoke the oxen find release
Then man rests pausing from his many cares,
And the world teems with children's sunset prayers!
Then innocent things seek out their natural rest,
The babe sinks slumbering on its mother's breast;
The birds beneath their leafy covering creep,
Yea, even the flowers fold up their buds in sleep;
And angels, floating by, on radiant wings,
Hear the low sounds the breeze of evening brings,
Catch the sweet incense as it floats along,
The infant's prayer, the mother's cradle-song,
And bear the holy gifts to worlds afar,
As thigs too sacred for this fallen star.
At such an hour, on such a summer night,
Silent and calm in its transparent light,
A widow'd parent watch'd her slumbering child,
On whose young face the sixteenth summer smiled.
Fair was the face she watch'd! Nor less, because
Beauty's perfection seem'd to make a pause,
And wait, on that smooth brow, some further touch,
Some spell from Time,--the great magician,--such
As calls the closed bud out of hidden gloom,
And bids it wake to glory, light, and bloom.
Girlish as yet, but with the gentle grace
Of a young fawn in its low resting-place,
Her folded limbs were lying: from her hand
A group of wild-flowers,--Nature's brightest band,
Of all that laugh along the Summer fields,
Of all the sunny hedge-row freely yields,
Of all that in the wild-wood darkly hide,
Or on the thyme-bank wave in breezy pride,--
Show'd, that the weariness which closed in sleep
So tranquil, child-like, innocent, and deep,
Nor festal gaiety, nor toilsome hours,
Had brought; but, like a flower among the flowers,
She had been wandering 'neath the Summer sky,
Youth on her lip and gladness in her eye,
Twisting the wild rose from its native thorn,
And the blue scabious from the sunny corn;
Smiling and singing like a spirit fair
That walk'd the world, but had no dwelling there.
And still (as though their faintly-scented breath
Preserv'd a meek fidelity in death)
Each late imprison'd blossom fondly lingers
Within the touch of her unconscious fingers,
Though, languidly unclasp'd, that hand no more
Guards its possession of the rifled store.
So wearily she lay; so sweetly slept;
So by her side fond watch the mother kept;
And, as above her gentle child she bent,
So like they seem'd in form and lineament,
You might have deem'd her face its shadow gave
To the clear mirror of a fountain's wave;
Only in this they differ'd; that, while one
Was warm and radiant as the Summer sun,
The other's smile had more a moonlight play,
For many tears had wept its glow away;
Yet was she fair; of loveliness so true,
That time, which faded, never could subdue:
And though the sleeper, like a half-blown rose,
Show'd bright as angels in her soft repose,
Though bluer veins ran through each snowy lid,
Curtaining sweet eyes, by long dark lashes hid--
Eyes that as yet had never learnt to weep,
But woke up smiling, like a child's, from sleep;
Though fainter lines were pencill'd on the brow,
Which cast soft shadow on the orbs below;
Though deeper colour flush'd her youthful cheek,
In its smooth curve more joyous and less meek,
And fuller seem'd the small and crimson mouth,
With teeth like those that glitter in the South,--
She had but youth's superior brightness, such
As the skill'd painter gives with flattering touch
When he would picture every lingering grace
Which once shone brighter in some copied face;
And it was compliment, whene'er she smiled,
To say, 'Thou'rt like thy mother, my fair child!'
Sweet is the image of the brooding dove!--
Holy as Heaven a mother's tender love!
The love of many prayers and many tears,
Which changes not with dim declining years,--
The only love which on this teeming earth
Asks no return from Passion's wayward birth;
The only love that, with a touch divine,
Displaces from the heart's most secret shrine
The idol SELF. Oh! prized beneath thy due
When life's untried affections all are new,--
Love, from whose calmer hope and holier rest
(Like a fledged bird, impatient of the nest)
The human heart, rebellious, springs to seek
Delights more vehement, in ties more weak;
How strange to us appears, in after-life,
That term of mingled carelessness and strife,
When guardianship so gentle gall'd our pride,
When it was holiday to leave thy side,
When, with dull ignorance that would not learn,
We lost those hours that never can return--
Hours, whose most sweet communion Nature meant
Should be in confidence and kindness spent,
That we (hereafter mourning) might believe
In human faith, though all around deceive;
Might weigh against the sad and startling crowd
Of ills which wound the weak and chill the proud,
Of woes 'neath which (despite of stubborn will,
Philosophy's vain boast, and erring skill)
The strong heart downward like a willow bends,
Failure of love,--and treachery of friends,--
Our recollections of the undefiled,
The sainted tie, of parent and of child!
Oh! happy days! Oh years that glided by,
Scarce chronicled by one poor passing sigh!
When the dark storm sweeps past us, and the soul
Struggles with fainting strength to reach the goal;
When the false baits that lured us only cloy,
What would we give to grasp your vanish'd joy!
From the cold quicksands of Life's treacherous shore
The backward light our anxious eyes explore,
Measure the miles our wandering feet have come,
Sinking heart-weary, far away from home,
Recall the voice that whisper'd love and peace,
The smile that bid our early sorrows cease,
And long to bow our grieving heads, and weep
Low on the gentle breast that lull'd us first to sleep!
Ah! bless'd are they for whom 'mid all their pains
That faithful and unalter'd love remains;
Who, Life wreck'd round them,--hunted from their rest,--
And, by all else forsaken or distress'd,--
Claim, in one heart, their sanctuary and shrine--
As I, my Mother, claim'd my place in thine!
Oft, since that hour, in sadness I retrace
My childhood's vision of thy calm sweet face;
Oft see thy form, its mournful beauty shrouded
In thy black weeds, and coif of widow's woe;
Thy dark expressive eyes all dim and clouded
By that deep wretchedness the lonely know:
Stifling thy grief, to hear some weary task
Conn'd by unwilling lips, with listless air,
Hoarding thy means, lest future need might ask
More than the widow's pittance then could spare.
Hidden, forgotten by the great and gay,
Enduring sorrow, not by fits and starts,
But the long, self-denial, day by day,
Alone amidst thy brood of careless hearts!
Striving to guide, to teach, or to restrain
The young rebellious spirits crowding round,
Who saw not, kuew not, felt not for thy pain,
And could not comfort--yet had power to wound!
Ah! how my selfish heart, which since hath grown
Familiar with deep trials of its own,
With riper judgment looking to the past,
Regrets the careless days that flew so fast,
Stamps with remorse each wasted hour of time,
And darkens every folly into crime!
Warriors and statesmen have their meed of praise,
And what they do or suffer men record;
But the long sacrifice of woman's days
Passes without a thought--without a word;
And many a holy struggle for the sake
Of duties sttenily, faithfully fulfill'd,--
For which the anxious mind must watch and wake,
And the strong feelings of the heart be still'd--
Goes by unheeded as the summer wind,
And leaves no memory and no trace behind!
Yet, it may be, more lofty courage dwells
In one meek heart which braves an adverse fate,
Than his, whose ardent soul indignant swells
Warm'd by the fight, or cheer'd through high debate:
The Soldier dies surrounded;--could he live
Alone to suffer, and alone to strive?
Answer, ye graves, whose suicidal gloom
Shows deeper horror than a common tomb!
Who sleep within? The men who would evade
An unseen lot of which they felt afraid.
Embarrassment of means, which work'd annoy,--
A past remorse,--a future blank of joy,--
The sinful rashness of a blind despair,--
These were the strokes which sent your victims there.
In many a village churchyard's simple grave,
Where all unmark'd the cypress-branches wave;
In many a vault where Death could only claim
The brief inscription of a woman's name;
Of different ranks, and different degrees,
From daily labour to a life of ease,
(From the rich wife who through the weary day
Wept in her jewels, grief's unceasing prey,
To the poor soul who trudged o'er marsh and moor,
And with her baby begg'd from door to door,--)
Lie hearts, which, ere they found that last release,
Had lost all memory of the blessing 'Peace;'
Hearts, whose long struggle through unpitied years
None saw but Him who marks the mourner's tears;
The obscurely noble! who evaded not
The woe which He had will'd should be their lot,
But nerved themselves to bear!
Of such art thou,
My Mother! With thy calm and holy brow,
And high devoted heart, which suffer'd still
Unmurmuring, through each degree of ill.
And, because Fate hath will'd that mine should be
A Poet's soul (at least in my degree),--
And that my verse would faintly shadow forth
What I have seen of pure unselfish worth,--
Therefore I speak of Thee; that those who read
That trust in woman, which is still my creed,
Thy early-widow'd image may recall
And greet thy nature as the type of all!
Enough! With eyes of fond unwearied love
The Mother of my story watch'd above
Her sleeping child; and, as she views the grace
And blushing beauty of that girlish face,
Her thoughts roam back through change of time and tide,
Since first Heaven sent the blessing by her side.
In that sweet vision she again receives
The snow-white cradle, where that tiny head
Lay, like a small bud folded in its leaves,
Foster'd with dew by tears of fondness shed;
Each infantine event, each dangerous hour
Which pass'd with threatening o'er its fragile form,
Her hope, her anguish, as the tender flower
Bloom'd to the sun, or sicken'd in the storm,
In memory's magic mirror glide along,
And scarce she notes the different scene around,
And scarce her lips refrain the cradle-song
Which sooth'd that infant with its lulling sound!
But the dream changes; quiet years roll on;
That dawn of frail existence fleets away,
And she beholds beneath the summer sun
A blessed sight; a little child at play.
The soft light falls upon its golden hair,
And shows a brow intelligently mild;
No more a cipher in this world of care,
Love cheers and chides that happy conscious child.
No more unheeding of her watchful love,
Pride to excel, its docile spirit stirs;
Regret and hope its tiny bosom move,
And looks of fondness brightly answer hers;
O'er the green meadow, and the broomy hill,
In restless joy it bounds and darts along;
Or through the breath of evening, low and still,
Carols with mirthful voice its welcome song.
Again the vision changes; from her view
The CHILD'S dear love and antic mirth are gone;
But, in their stead, with cheek of rose-leaf hue,
And fair slight form, and low and silvery tone,
Rises the sweetest spirit Thought can call
From memory's distant worlds--the fairy GIRL;
Whose heart her childish pleasures still enthrall,
Whose unbound hair still floats in careless curl,
But in whose blue and meekly lifted eyes,
And in whose shy, though sweet and cordial smile,
And in whose changeful blushes, dimly rise
Shadows and lights that were not seen erewhile:
Shadows and lights that speak of woman's love,
Of all that makes or mars her fate below;
Mysterious prophecies, which Time must prove
More bright in glory, or more dark with woe!
And that soft vision also wanders by
Melting in fond and innocent smiles away,
Till the loved REAL meets the watchful eye
Of her who thus recall'd a former day;
The gentle daughter, for whose precious sake
Her widow'd heart had struggled with its pain.
And still through lonely grief refused to break,
Because that tie to Earth did yet remain.
Now, as she fondly gazed, a few meek tears
Stole down her cheek; for she that sliunber'd there,
The beautiful, the loved of many years.
A bride betroth'd must leave her fostering care;
Woo'd in another's home apart to dwell.--
Oh! might that other love but half as well!
As if the mournful wish had touch'd her heart,
The slumbering maiden woke, with sudden start;
Turn'd, with a dazzled and intense surprise,
On that fond face her bright, bewilder'd eyes;
Gazed round on each familiar object near,
As though she doubted yet if sense was clear;
Cover'd her brow and sigh'd, as though to wake
Had power some spell of happy thought to break;
Then murmur'd, in a low and earnest tone,
'Oh! is that blessed dream for ever gone?'
Strange is the power of dreams! Who hath not felt,
When in the morning light such visions melt,
How the veil'd soul, though struggling to be free,
Ruled by that deep, unfathom'd mystery,
Wakes, haunted by the thoughts of good or ill,
Whose shadowy influence pursues us still?
Sometimes remorse doth weigh our spirits down;
Some crime committed earns Heaven's angriest frown;
Some awful sin, in which the tempted heart
Hath scarce, perhaps, forborne its waking part,
Brings dreams of judgment; loud the thunders roll,
The heavens shrink blacken'd like a flaming scroll;
We faint, we die, beneath the avenging rod,
And vainly hide from our offended God.
For oh! though Fancy change our mortal lot,
And rule our slumbers, CONSCIENCE sleepeth not;
What strange sad dial, by its own true light,
Points to our thoughts, how dark soe'er the night,
Still by our pillow watchful guard it keeps,
And bids the sinner tremble while he sleeps.
Sometimes, with fearful dangers doom'd to cope,
'Reft of each wild and visionary hope,
Stabb'd with a thousand wounds, we struggle still,
The hand that tortures, powerless to kill.
Sometimes 'mid ocean storms, in fearful strife,
We stem the wave, and shrieking, gasp for life,
While crowding round us, faces rise and gleam,
Some known and loved, some, pictures of our dream;
High on the buoyant waters wildly toss'd--
Low in its foaming caverns darkly lost--
Those flitting forms the dangerous hour partake,
Cling to our aid, or suffer for our sake.
Conscious of present life, the slumbering soul
Still floats us onward, as the billows roll,
Till, snatch'd from death, we seem to touch the strand,
Rise on the shoreward wave, and dash to land!
Alone we come: the forms whose wild array
Gleam'd round us while we struggled, fade away,--
We know not, reck not, who the danger shared,
But, vaguely dreaming, feel that we are spared.
Sometimes a grief, of fond affection born,
Gnaws at our heart, and bids us weep till morn;
Some anguish, copied from our waking fears,
Wakes the eternal fount of human tears,
Sends us to watch some vision'd bed of death,
Hold the faint hand, and catch the parting breath,
Where those we prized the most, and loved the best,
Seem darkly sinking to the grave's long rest;
Lo! in our arms they fade, they faint, they die,
Before our eyes the funeral train sweeps by;
We hear the orphan's sob--the widow's wail--
O'er our dim senses woeful thoughts prevail,
Till, with a burst of grief, the spell we break,
And, weeping for th' imagined loss, awake.
Ah me! from dreams like these aroused at length,
How leaps the spirit to its former strength!
What memories crowd the newly conscious brain,
What gleams of rapture, and what starts of pain!
Till from the soul the heavy mists stand clear,
All wanes and fades that seem'd so darkly drear,
The sun's fair rays those shades of death destroy,
And passionate thankfuess and tears of joy
Swell at our hearts, as, gazing on his beam,
We start, and cry aloud, 'Thank Heaven, 'twas but a dream!'
But there are visions of a fairer kind,
Thoughts fondly cherish'd by the slumbering mind,
Which, when they vanish from the waking brain,
We close our eyes, and long to dream again.
Their dim voice calls to our forsaken side
Those who betray'd us, seeming true and tried;
Those whom the fast receding waves of time
Have floated from us; those who in the prime
And glory of our young life's eagle flight
Shone round like rays, encircling us with light,
And gave the bright similitude of truth
To fair illusions--vanish'd with our youth.
They bring again the tryst of early love,
(That passionate hope, all other hopes above!)
Bid the pale hair, long shrouded in the grave,
Round the young head in floating ringlets wave,
And fill the air with echoes. Gentle words,
Low laughter, and the sing of sweet birds,
Come round us then; and drooping of light boughs,
Whose shadow could not cool our burning brows,
And lilac-blossoms, scenting the warm air,
And long laburnums, fragile, bright, and fair;
And murmuring breezes through the green leaves straying,
And rippling waters in the sunshine playing,
All that around our slumbering sense can fling
The glory of some half-forgotten spring!
They bring again the fond approving gaze
Of old true friends, who mingled love with praise;
When Fame (that cold bright guiding-star below)
Took from affection's light a borrow'd glow,--
And, strong in all the might of earnest thought,
Through the long studious night untired we wrought,
That others might the morning hour beguile,
With the fond triumph of their wondering smile.
What though those dear approving smiles be gone,
What though we strive neglected and alone,
What though no voice now mourns our hope's alloy,
Nor in the hour of triumph gives us joy?
In dreams the days return when this was not,
When strong affection sooth'd our toilsome lot:
Cheer'd, loved, admonish'd, lauded, we aspire,
And the sick soul regains its former fire.
Beneath the influence of this fond spell,
Happy, contented, bless'd, we seem to dwell;
Sweet faces shine with love's own tender ray,
Which frown, or coldly turn from us, by day;
The lonely orphan hears a parent's voice;
Sad childless mothers once again rejoice;
The poor deserted seems a happy bride;
And the long parted wander side by side.
Ah, vain deceit! Awaking with a start,
Sick grow the beatings of the troubled heart;
Silence, like some dark mantle, drops around,
Quenching th' imagined voice's welcome sound;
Again the soul repeats its old farewells,
Again recalls sad hours and funeral knells;
Again, as daylight opens on their view,
The orplan shrieks, the mother mourns anew;
Till clear we feel, as fades the morning star,
How left, how lonely, how oppres'd we are!
And other dreams exist, more vague and bright
Than MEMORY ever brought to cheer the night;--
Most to the young and happy do they come,
To those who know no shelter but of home;
To those of whom the inspired writer spoke,
When from his lips the words prophetic broke,
Which (conscious of the strong and credulous spell
Experience only in the heart can quell)
Promised the nearer glimpse of perfect truth
Not to cold wisdom, but to fervent youth;
Each, in their measure, caught its fitful gleams,--
The young saw visions, and the old dream'd dreams.
The young! Oh! what should wandering fancy bring
In life's first spring-time but the thoughts of spring?
Worlds without winter, blooming amaranth bowers,
Garlands of brightness wreath'd from changeless flowers;
Where shapes like angels wander to and fro,
Unwing,'d, but glorious, in the noontide glow,
Which steeps the hills, the dales, the earth, the sea,
In one soft flood of golden majesty.
In this world,--so create,--no sighs nor tears,--
No sadness brought with lapse of varying years,
No cold betrayal of the trusting heart,--
No knitting up of love fore-doom'd to part,--
No pain, deformity, nor pale disease,--
No wars,--no tyranny,--no fears that freeze
The rapid current of the restless blood,--
Nor effort scorn'd,--nor act misunderstood,--
No dark remorse for ever-haunting sin,--
But all at peace without--at rest within;
And hopes which gild Thought's wildest waking hours,
Scatter'd around us carelessly as flowers.
Oh! Paradise, in vain dilist thou depart;
Thine image still is stamp'd on every heart!
Though mourning man in vain may seek to trace
The site of that which was his dwelling-place,
Though the four glittering rivers now divide
No realms of beauty with their rolling tide,
Each several life yet opens with the view
Of that unblighted world where Adam drew
The breath of being: in each several mind,
However cramp'd, and fetter'd, and confined,
The innate power of beauty folded lies,
And, like a bud beneath the summer skies,
Blooms out in youth through many a radiant day,
Though in life's winter frost it dies away.
From such a vision, bright with all the fame
Her youth, her innocence, her hope, could frame,
The maiden woke: and, when her shadowy gaze
Had lost the dazzled look of wild amaze
Turn'd on her mother when she first awoke,
Thus to her questioning glanee she answering spoke:--
'Methought, oh! gentle Mother, by thy side
I dwelt no more as now, but through a wide
And sweet world wander'd; nor even then alone;
For ever in that dream's soft light stood one,--
I know not who,--yet most familiar seem'd
The fond companionship of which I dream'd!
A Brother's love, is but a name to me;
A Father's, brighten'd not my infancy;
To me, in childhood's years, no stranger's face
Took, from long habit, friendship's holy grace;
My life hath still been lone, and needed not,
Heaven knows, more perfect love than was my lot
In thy dear heart: how dream'd I then, sweet Mother,
Of any love but thine, who knew no other?
'We seem'd, this shadow and myself, to be
Together by the blue and boundless sea:
No settled home was present to my thought--
No other form my clouded fancy brought;
This one Familiar Presence still beguiled
My every thought, and look'd on me and smiled.
Fair stretch'd in beauty lay the glittering strand,
With low green copses sloping from the land;
And tangled underwood, and sunny fern,
And flowers whose humble names none cared to learn,
Smail starry wild flowers, white and gold and blue,
With leaves turn'd crimson by th' autumnal hue,
Bask'd in the fervour of the noontide glow,
Whose hot rays pierced the thirsty roots below.
The floating nautilus rose clear and pale,
As though a spirit trimm'd its fairy sail,
White and transparent; and beyond it gleam'd
Such light as never yet on Ocean beam'd:
And pink-lipp'd shells, and many-colour'd weeds,
And long brown bulbous things likc jasper beads,
And glistening pearls in beauty faint and fair,
And all things strange, and wonderful, and rare,
Whose true existence travellers make known,
Seem'd scatter'd there, and easily my own.
And then we wove our ciphers in the sands,
All fondly intertwined by loving hands;
And laugh'd to see the rustling snow-white spray
Creep o'er the names, and wash their trace away.
And the storm came not, though the white foam curl'd
In lines of brightness far along the coast;
Though many a ship, with swelling sails unfurl'd,
From the mid-sea to sheltering haven cross'd;
Though the wild billows heaved, and rose, and broke,
One o'er the other with a restless sound,
And the deep spirit of the wind awoke,
Ruffling in wrath each glassy verdant mound;
While onward roll'd that army of huge waves,
Until the foremost, with exulting roar,
Rose, proudly crested, o'er his brother slaves,
And dash'd triumphant on the groaning shore!
For then the Moon rose up, Night's mournful Queen,
'Walking with white feet o'er the troubled Sea,'
And all grew still again, as she had been
Heaven's messenger to bring Tranquillity;
Till, pale and tender, on the glistening main
She sank and smiled like one who loves in vain.
And still we linger'd by that shadowy strand,
Happy, yet full of thought, hand link'd in hand;
The hush'd waves rippling softly at our feet,
The night-breeze freshening o'er the Summer's heat;
With our hearts beating, and our gazing eyes
Fix'd on the star-light of those deep blue skies,
Blessing 'the year, the hour, the place, the time;'
While sounded, faint and far, some turret's midnight chime.
'It pass'd, that vision of the Ocean's might!
I know not how, for in my slumbering mind
There was no movement, all was shifting light,
Through which we floated with the wandering wind;
And, still together, in a different scene,
We look'd on England's woodland, fresh and green.
'No perfume of the cultured rose was there,
Wooing the senses with its garden smell,--
Nor snow-white lily,--call'd so proudly fir,
Though by the poor man's cot she loves to dwell,
Nor finds his little garden scant of room
To bid her stately buds in beauty bloom;--
Nor jasmin, with her pale stars shining through
The myrtle darkness of her leaf's green hue,--
Nor heliotrope, whose grey and heavy wreath
Mimics the orchard blossoms' fruity breath,--
Nor clustering dahlia, with its scentless flowers
Cheating the heart through autumn's faded hours,--
Nor bright chrysanthimum, whose train'd array
Still makes the rich man's winter path look gay,
And bows its hardy head when wild winds blow,
To free its petals from the fallen snow;--
Nor yet carnation;'--
(Thou, beloved of all
The plants that thrive at Art or Nature's call,
By one who greets thee with a weary sigh
As the dear friend of happy days gone by;
By one who names thee last, but loves thee first,
Of all the flowers a garden ever nursed;
The mute remembrancer and gentle token
Of links which heavy hands have roughly broken,
Welcomed through many a Summer with the same
Unalter'd gladness as when first ye came,
And welcomed still, though--as in later years
We often welcome pleasant things--with tears!)
I wander! In the Dream these had no place,--
Nor Sorrow:--all was Nature's freshest grace.
'There, wild geranium, with its woolly stem
And aromatic breath, perfumed the glade;
And fairy speedwell, like some sapphire gem,
Lighted with purple sparks the hedge-row's shade;
And woodbine, with her tinted calyxes,
And dog-rose, glistening with the dews of morn,
And tangled wreaths of tufted clematis,
Whose blossoms pale the careless eye may scorn,
(As green and light her fairy mantles fiLll
To hide the rough hedge or the crumbling wall,)
But in whose breast the laden wild-bees dive
For the best riches of their teeming hive:
'There, sprang the sunny cricket; there, was spread
The fragile silver of the spider's thread,
Stretching from blade to blade of emerald grass,
Unbroken, till some human footstep pass;
There, by the rippling stream that murmur'd on,
Now seen, now hidden--half in light, half Sun--
The darting dragon-fly, with sudden gleam,
Shot, as it went, a gold and purple beam;
And the fish leap'd within the deeper pool,
And the green trees stretch'd out their branches cool,
Where many a bird hush'd in her peopled nest
The unfledged darlings of her feather'd breast,
Listening her mate's clear song, in that sweet grove
Where all around breathed happiness and love!
'And while we talk'd the summer hours flew fast,
As hours may fly, with those whose love is young;
Who fear no future, and who know no past,
Dating existence from the hope that sprung
Up in their hearts with such a sudden light,
That all beyond shows dark and blank as night.
'Until methought we trod a wide flat heath,
Where yew and cypress darkly seem'd to wave
O'er countless tombs, so beautiful, that death
Seem'd here to make a garden of the grave!
All that is holy, tender, full of grace,
Was sculptured on the monuments around,
And many a line the musing eye could trace,
Which spoke unto the heart without a sound.
There lay the warrior and the son of song,
And there--in silence till the judgment-day--
The orator, whose all-persuading tongue
Had moved the nations with resistless sway:
There slept pale men whom science taught to climb
Restlessly upward all their labouring youth;
Who left, half conquer'd, secrets which in time
Burst on mankind in ripe and glorious truth.
He that had gazed upon the steadfast stars,
And could foretel the dark eclipse's birth,
And when red comets in their blazing cars
Should sweep above the awed and troubled earth:--
He that had sped brave vessels o'er the seas,
Which swiftly bring the wanderer to his home,
Uncanvass'd ships, which move without a breeze,
Their bright wheels dashing through the ocean foam:--
All, who in this life's bounded brief career
Had shone amongst, or served their fellow-men,
And left a name embalm'd in glory here,
Lay calmly buried on that magic plain.
And he who wander'd with me in my dream,
Told me their histories as we onward went,
Till the grave shone with such a hallow'd beam,
Such pleasure with their memory seem'd blent,
That, when we look'd to heaven, our upward eyes
With no funereal sadness mock'd the skies!
'Then, change of scene, and time, and place once more;
And by a Gothic window, richly bright,
Whose stain'd armorial hoarings on the floor
Flung the quaint tracery of their colour'd light,
We sate together: his most noble head
Bent o'er the storied tome of other days,
And still he commented on all we read,
And taught me what to love, and what to praise.
Then Spenser made the summer-day seem brief,
Or Milton sounded with a loftier song,
Then Cowper charm'd, with lays of gentle grief,
Or rough old Dryden roll'd the hour along.
Or, in his varied beauty dearer still,
Sweet Shakspeare changed the world around at will;
And we forgot the sunshine of that room
To sit with Jacquez in the forest gloom;
To look abroad with Juliet's anxious eye
For her boy-lover 'neath the moonlight sky;
Stand with Macbeth upon the haunted heath,
Or weep for gentle Desdemona's death;
Watch, on bright Cydnus' wave, the glittering sheen
And silken sails of Egypt's wanton Queen;
Or roam with Ariel through that island strange
Where spirits, and not men, were wont to range,
Still struggling on through brake, and bush, and hollow,
Hearing that sweet voice calling--'Follow! follow!'
'Nor were there wanting lays of other lands,
For these were all familiar in his hands:
And Dante's dream of horror work'd its spell,--
And Petrarch's sadness on our bosoms fell,--
And prison'd Tasso's--he, the coldly-loved,
The madly-loving! he, so deeply proved
By many a year of darkness, like the grave,
For her who dared not plead, or would not save,
For her who thought the poet's suit brought shame,
Whose passion hath immortalized her name!
And Egmont, with his noble heart betray'd,--
And Carlos, haunted by a murder'd shade,--
And Faust's strange legend, sweet and wondrous wild,
Stole many a tear:--Creation's loveliest child!
Guileless, ensnared, and tempted Margaret,
Who could peruse thy fate with eyes unwet?
'Then, through the lands we read of, far away,
The vision led me all a summer's day:
And we look'd round on southern Italy,
Where her dark head the graceful cypress rears
In arrowy straightness and soft majesty,
And the sun's face a mellower glory wears;
Bringing, where'er his warm light richly shines,
Sweet odours from the gum-distilling pines;
And casting o'er white palaces a glow,
Like morning's hue on mountain-peaks of snow.
'Those palaces! how fair their columns rose!
Their courts, cool fountains, and wide porticos!
And ballustraded roofs, whose very form
Told what an unknown stranger was the storm!
In one of these we dwelt: its painted walls
A master's hand had been employ'd to trace;
Its long cool range of shadowy marble halls
Was fill'd with statues of most living grace;
While on its ceilings roll'd the fiery car
Of the bright day-god, chasing night afar,--
Or Jove's young favourite, toward Olympus' height
Soar'd with the Eagle's dark majestic flight,--
Or fair Apollo's harp seem'd freshly strung,
All heaven group'd round him, listening while he sung.
'So, in the garden's plann'd and planted bound
All wore the aspect of enchanted ground;
Thick orange-groves, close arching over head,
Shelter'd the paths our footsteps loved to tread;
Or ilex-trees shut out, with shadow sweet,
Th' oppressive splendour of the noontide heat.
Through the bright vista, at each varying turn,
Gleam'd the white statue, or the graceful urn;
And, paved with many a curved and twisted line
Of fair Mosaic's strange and quaint design,
Terrace on terrace rose, with steep so slight,
That scarce the pausing eye inquired the height,
Till stretch'd beneath in far perspective lay
The glittering city and the deep blue bay!
Then as we turn'd again to groves and bowers,
(Rich with the perfume of a thousand flowers,)
The sultry day was cheated of its force
By the sweet winding of some streamlet's course:
From sculptured arch, and ornamented walls,
Rippled a thousand tiny waterfalls,
While here and there an open basin gave
Rest to the eye and freshness to the wave;
Here, high above the imprison'd waters, stood
Some imaged Naïad, guardian of the flood;
There, in a cool and grotto-like repose,
The sea-born goddess from her shell arose;
Or river-god his fertile urn display'd,
Gushing at distance through the lone arcade,--
Or Triton, lifting his wild conch on high,
Spouted the silver tribute to the sky,--
Or, lovelier still, (because to Nature true,
Even in the thought creative genius drew,)
Some statue-nymph, her bath of beauty o'er,
Stood gently bending by the rocky shore,
And, like Bologna's sweet and graceful dream,
From her moist hair wrung out the living stream.
'Bright was the spot! and still we linger'd on
Unwearied, till the summer-day was done;
Till He, who, when the morning dew was wet,
In glory rose--in equal glory set.
Fair sank his light, unclouded to the last,
And o'er that land its glow of beauty cast;
And the sweet breath of evening air went forth
To cool the bosom of the fainting earth;
To bid the pale-leaved olives lightly wave
Upon their seaward slope (whose waters lave
With listless gentleness the golden strand,
And scarcely leave, and scarce return to land);
Or with its wings of freshness, wandering round,
Visit the heights with many a villa crown'd,
Where the still pine and cypress, side by side,
Look from their distant hills on Ocean's tide.
'The cypress and the pine! Ah, still I see
These thy green children, lovely Italy!
Nature's dear favourites, allow'd to wear
Their summer hue throughout the circling year!
And oft, when wandering out at even-time
To watch the sunsets of a colder clime,
As the dim landscape fades and grows more faint,
Fancy's sweet power a different scene shall paint;
Enrich with deeper tints the colours given
To the pale beauty of our English heaven,--
Bid purple mountains rise among the clouds,
Or deem their mass some marble palace shrouds,--
Trace on the red horizon's level line,
In outlines dark, the high majestic pine,--
And hear, amid the groups of English trees,
His sister cypress murmuring to the breeze!
'Never again shall evening, sweet and still,
Gleam upon river, mountain, rock, or hill,--
Never again shall fresh and budding spring,
Or brighter summer, hue of beauty bring,
In this, the clime where 'tis my lot to dwell,
But shall recall, as by a magic spell,
Thy scenes, dear land of poetry and song!
Bid thy fair statues on my memory throng;
Thy glorious pictures gleam upon my sight
Like fleeting shadows o'er the summer light;
And send my haunted heart to dwell once more,
Glad and entranced by thy delightful shore--
Thy shore, where rolls that blue and tideless sea,
Bright as thyself, thou radiant Italy!
'And there (where Beauty's spirit sure had birth,
Though she hath wander'd since upon the earth,
And scatter'd, as she pass'd, some sparks of thought,
Such as of old her sons of genius wrought,
To show what strength the immortal soul can wield
E'en here, in this its dark and narrow field,
And fill us with a fond inquiring thirst
To see that land which claim'd her triumphs first)
Music was brought--with soft impressive power--
To fill with varying joy the varying hour.
We welcomed it; for welcome still to all
It comes, in cottage, court, or lordly hall;
And in the long bright summer evenings, oft
We sate and listened to some measure soft
From many instruments; or, faint and lone,
(Touch'd by his gentle hand, or by my own,)
The little lute its chorded notes would send
Tender and clear; and with our voices blend
Cadence so true, that, when the breeze swept by,
One mingled echo floated on its sigh!
'And still as day by day we saw depart,
I was the living idol of his heart:
How to make joy a portion of the air
That breathed around me, seem'd his only care.
For me the harp was strung, the page was turn'd;
For me the morning rose, the sunset burn'd;
For me the Spring put on her verdant suit;
For me the Summer flower, the Autumn fruit;
The very world seem'd mine, so mighty strove
For my contentment, that enduring love.
'I see him still, dear mother! Still I hear
That voice so deeply soft, so strangely clear;
Still in the air wild wandering echoes float,
And bring my dream's sweet music note for note!
Oh! shall those sounds no more my fancy bless,
Which fill my heart, and on my memory press?
Shall I no more those sunset clouds behold,
Floating like bright transparent thrones of gold?
The skies, the seas, the hills of glorious blue;
The glades and groves, with glories shining through;
The bands of red and purple, richly seen
Athwart the sky of pale, faint, gem-like green;
When the breeze slept, the earth lay hush'd and still,
When the low sun sank slanting from the hill,
And slow and amber-tinged the moon uprose,
To watch his farewell hour in glory close?
Is all that radiance past--gone by for ever--
And must there in its stead for ever be
The grey, sad sky, the cold and clouded river,
And dismal dwellings by the wintry sea?
E'er half a summer, altering day by day,
In fickle brightness, here, hath pass'd away!
And was that form (whose love might still sustain)
Nought but a vapour of the dreaming brain?--
Would I had slept for ever!'
Sad she sigh'd;
To whom the mournful mother thus replied:--
'Upbraid not Heaven, whose wisdom thus would rule
A world whose changes are the soul's best school:
All dream like thee, and 'tis for Mercy's sake
That those who dream the wildest, soonest wake;
All deem Perfection's system would be found
In giving earthly sense no stint or bound;
All look for happiness beneath the sun,
And each expects what God hath given to none.
'In what an idle luxury of joy
Would thy spoil'd heart its useless hours employ!
In what a selfish loneliness of light
Wouldst thou exist, read we thy dream aright!
How hath thy sleeping spirit broke the chain
Which knits thy human lot to other's pain,
And made this world of peopled millions seem
For thee and for the lover of thy dream!
'Think not my heart with cold indifference heard
The various feelings which in thine have stirr'd,
Or that its sad and weary currents know
Faint sympathy, except for human woe:
Well have the dormant echoes of my breast
Answer'd the joys thy gentle voice express'd;
Conjured a vision of the stately mate
With whom the flattering vision link'd thy fate;
And follow'd thee through grove and woodland wild,
Where so much natural beauty round thee smiled.
'What man so worldly-wise, or chill'd by age,
Who, bending o'er the faint descriptive page,
Recals not such a scene in some falr nook--
(Whereon his eyes, perchance, no more shall look
Some hawthorn copse, some gnarl'd majestic tree,
The favourite play-place of his infancy?
Who has not felt for Cowper's sweet lament,
When twelve years' course their cruel change had sent;
When his fell'd poplars gave no further shade,
And low on earth the blackbird's nest was laid;
When in a desert sunshine, bare and blank,
Lay the green field and river's mossy bank;
And melody of bird or branch no more
Rose with the breeze that swept along the shore?
'Few are the hearts, (nor theirs of kindliest frame,)
On whom fair Nature holds not such a claim;
And oft, in after-life, some simple thing--
A bank of primroses in early Spring--
The tender scent which hidden violets yield--
The sight of cowslips in a meadow-field--
Or young laburnum's pendant yellow chain--
May bring the favourite play-place back again!
Our youthful mates are gone; some dead, some changed,
With whom that pleasant spot was gladly ranged;
Ourselves, perhaps, more alter'd e'en than they--
But there still blooms the blossom-showering May;
There still along the hedge-row's verdant line
The linnet sings, the thorny brambles twine;
Still in the copse a troop of merry elves
Shout--the gay image of our former selves;
And still, with sparkling eyes and eager hands,
Some rosy urchin high on tiptoe stands,
And plucks the ripest berries from the bough--
Which tempts a different generation now!
'What though no real beauty haunt that spot,
By graver minds beheld and noticed not?
Can we forget that once to our young eyes
It wore the aspect of a Paradise?
No; still around its hallow'd precinct lives
The fond mysterious charm that memory gives;
The man recals the feelings of the boy,
And clothes the meanest flower with freshness and with joy.
'Nor think by older hearts forgotten quite
Love's whisper'd words; youth's sweet and strange delight!
They live--though after-memories fade away;
They live--to cheer life's slow declining day;
Haunting the widow by her lonely hearth,
As, meekly smiling at her childrcn's mirth,
She spreads her fair thin hands towards the fire,
To seek the warmth their slacken'd veins require:
Or gladdening her to whom Heaven's mercy spares
Her old companion with his silver hairs;
And while he dozes--changed, and dull, and weak--
And his hush'd grandchild signs, but dares not speak,--
Bidding her watch, with many a tender smile,
The wither'd form which slumbers all the while.
'Yes! sweet the voice of those we loved! the tone
Which cheers our memory as we sit alone,
And will not leave us; the o'er-mastering force,
Whose under-current's strange and hidden course
Bids some chance word, by colder hearts forgot,
Return--and still return--yet weary not
The ear which wooes its sameness! How, when Death
Hath stopp'd with ruthless hand some precious breath,
The memory of the voice he hath destroy'd
Lives in our souls, as in an aching void!
How, through the varying fate of after-years,
When stifled sorrow weeps but casual tears,
If some stray tone seem like the voice we knew,
The heart leaps up with answer faint and true!
Greeting again that sweet, long-vanish'd sound,
As, in earth's nooks of ever-haunted ground,
Strange accident, or man's capricious will,
Wakes the lone echoes, and they answer still!
'Oh! what a shallow fable cheats the age,
When the lost lover, on the motley stage,
Wrapp'd from his mistress in some quaint disguise,
Deceives her ear, because he cheats her eyes!
Rather, if all could fade which charm'd us first,--
If, by some magic stroke, some plague-spot cursed,
All outward semblance left the form beloved
A wreck unrecognised, and half disproved,
At the dear sound of that familiar voice
Her waken'd heart should tremble and rejoice,
Leap to its faith at once,--and spurn the doubt
Which, on such showing, barr'd his welcome out!
'And if even words are sweet, what, what is song,
When lips we love, the melody prolong?
How thrills the soul, and vibrates to that lay,
Swells with the glorious sound, or dies away!
How, to the cadence of the simplest words
That ever hung upon the wild harp's chords,
The breathless heart lies listening; as it felt
All life within it on that music dwelt,
And hush'd the beating pulse's rapid power
By its own will, for that enchanted hour!
'Ay! then to those who love the science well,
Music becomes a passion and a spell!
Music, the tender child of rudest times,
The gentle native of all lands and climes;
Who hymns alike man's cradle and his grave,
Lulls the low cot, or peals along the nave;
Cheers the poor peasant, who his native hills
With wild Tyrolean echoes sweetly fills;
Inspires the Indian's low monotonous chant,
Weaves skilful melodies for Luxury's haunt;
And still, through all these changes, lives the same,
Spirit without a home, without a name,
Coming, where all is discord, strife, and sin,
To prove some innate harmony within
Our listening souls; and lull the heaving breast
With the dim vision of an unknown rest!
'But, dearest child, though many a joy be given
By the pure bounty of all-pitying Heaven,--
Though sweet emotions in our hearts have birth,
As flowers are spangled on the lap of earth,--
Though, with the flag of Hope and Triumph hung
High o'er our heads, we start when life is young,
And onward cheer'd, by sense, and sight, and sound,
Like a launch'd bark, we enter with a bound;
Yet must the dark cloud lour, the tempest fall,
And the same chance of shipwreck waits for all.
Happy are they who leave the harbouring land
Not for a summer voyage, hand in hand,
Pleasure's light slaves; but with an earnest eye
Exploring all the future of their sky;
That so, when Life's career at length is past,
To the right haven they may steer at last,
And safe from hidden rock, or open gale,
Lay by the oar, and furl the slacken'd sail,--
To anchor deeply on that tranquil shore
Where vexing storms can never reach them more!
'Wouldst thou be singled out by partial Heaven
The ONE to whom a cloudless lot is given?
Look round the world, and see what fate is there,
Which justice can pronounce exempt from care:
Though bright they bloom to empty outward show,
There lurks in each some canker-worm of woe;
Still by some thorn the onward step is cross'd,
Nor least repining those who're envied most:
The poor have struggling, toil, and wounded pride,
Which seeks, and seeks in vain, its rags to hide;
The rich, cold jealousies, intrigues, and strife,
And heart-sick discontent which poisons life;
The loved are parted by the hand of Death,
The hated live to curse each other's breath:
The wealthy noble mourns the want of heirs;
While, each the object of incessant prayers,
Gay, hardy sons, around the widow's board,
With careless smiles devour her scanty hoard;
And hear no sorrow in her stifled sigh,
And see no terror in her anxious eye,--
While she in fancy antedates the time
When, scatter'd far and wide in many a clime,
These heirs to nothing but their Father's name
Must earn their bread, and struggle hard for fame;
To sultry India sends her fair-hair'd boy--
Sees the dead desk another's youth employ--
And parts with one to sail the uncertain main,
Never perhaps on earth to meet again!
'Nor ev'n does Love, whose fresh and radiant beam
Gave added brightness to thy wandering dream,
Preserve from bitter touch of ills unknown,
But rather brings strange sorrows of its own.
Various the ways in which our souls are tried;
Love often fails where most our faith relied;
Some wayward heart may win, without a thought,
That which thine own by sacrifice had bought;
May carelessly aside the treasure cast,
And yet be madly worshipp'd to the last;
Whilst thou, forsaken, grieving, left to pine,
Vainly may'st claim his plighted faith as thine;
Vainly his idol's charms with thine compare,
And know thyself as young, as bright, as fair;
Vainly in jealous pangs consume thy day,
And waste the sleepless night in tears away;
Vainly with forced indulgence strive to smile
In the cold world, heart-broken all the while,
Or from its glittering and unquiet crowd,
Thy brain on fire, thy spirit crush'd and bow'd,
Creep home unnoticed, there to weep alone,
Mock'd by a claim which gives thee not thine own,
Which leaves thee bound through all thy blighted youth
To him whose perjured soul hath broke its truth;
While the just world, beholding thee bereft,
Scorns--not his sin--but thee, for being left!
'Ah! never to the Sensualist appeal,
Nor deem his frozen bosom aught can feel.
Affection, root of all fond memories,
Which bids what once hath charm'd for ever please
He knows not: all thy beauty could inspire
Was but a sentiment of low desire:
If from thy check the roses hue be gone,
How should love stay which loved for that alone?
Or, if thy youthful face be still as bright
As when it first entranced his eager sight,
Thou art the same; there is thy fault, thy crime,
Which fades the charms yet spared by rapid Time.
Talk to him of the happy days gone by,
Conceal'd aversion chills his shrinking eye:
While in thine agony thou still dost rave,
Impatient wishes doom thee to the grave;
And if his cold and selfish thought had power
T' accelerate the fatal final hour,
The silent murder were already done,
And thy white tomb would glitter in the sun.
What wouldst thou hold by? What is it to him
That for his sake thy weeping eyes are dim?
His pall'd and wearied senses rove apart,
And for his heart--thou never hadst his heart.
'True, there is better love, whose balance just
Mingles Soul's instinct with our grosser dust,
And leaves affection, strengthening day by day,
Firm to assault, impervious to decay.
To such, a star of hope thy love shall be
Whose stedfast light he still desires to see;
And age shall vainly mar thy beauty's grace,
Or wantons plot to steal into thy place,
Or wild Temptation, from her hidden bowers,
Fling o'er his path her bright but poisonous flowers,--
Dearer to him than all who thus beguile,
Thy faded face, and thy familiar smile;
Thy glance, which still hath welcomed him for years
Now bright with gladness, and now dim with tears!
And if (for we are weak) division come
On wings of discord to that happy home,
Soon is the painful hour of anger past,
Too sharp, too strange an agony to last;
And, like some river's bright abundant tide
Which art or accident hath forced aside,
The well-springs of affection, gushing o'er,
Back to their natural channels flow once more.
'Ah! sad it is when one thus link'd departs!
When Death, that mighty severer of true hearts,
Sweeps through the halls so lately loud in mirth,
And leaves pale Sorrow weeping by the hearth!
Bitter it is to wander there alone,
To fill the vacant place, the empty chair,
With a dear vision of the loved one gone,
And start to see it vaguely melt in air!
Bitter to find all joy that once hath been
Double its value when 'tis pass'd away,--
To feel the blow which Time should make less keen
Increase its burden each successive day,--
To need good counsel, and to miss the voice,
The ever trusted, and the ever true,
Whose tones were wont to cheer our faltering choice,
And show what holy Virtue bade us do,--
To bear deep wrong, and bow the widow'd head
In helpless anguish, no one to defend;
Or worse,--in lieu of him, the kindly dead,
Claim faint assistance from some lukewarm friend,--
Yet scarce perceive the extent of all our loss
Till the fresh tomb be green with gathering moss--
Till many a morn have met our sadden'd eyes
With none to say 'Good morrow;'--many an eve
Sent its red glory through the tranquil skies,
Each bringing with it deeper cause to grieve!
'This is a destiny which may be thine--
The common grief: God will'd it should be mine:
Short was the course our happy love had run,
And hard it was to say 'Thy will be done!'
'Yet those whom man, not God, hath parted, know
A heavier pang, a more enduring woe;
No softening memory mingles with their tears,
Still the wound rankles on through dreary years,
Still the heart feels, in bitterest hours of blame,
It dares not curse the long-familiar name;
Still, vainly free, through many a cheerless day,
From weaker ties turns helplessly away,
Sick for the smiles that bless'd its home of yore,
The natural joys of life that come no more;
And, all bewildered by the abyss, whose gloom
Dark and impassable as is the tomb,
Lies stretch'd between the future and the past,--
Sinks into deep and cold despair at last.
'Heaven give thee poverty, disease, or death,
Each varied ill that waits on human breath,
Rather than bid thee linger out thy life
In the long toil of such unnatural strife.
To wander through the world unreconciled,
Heart weary as a spirit-broken child,
And think it were an hour of bliss like heaven
If thou could'st die--forgiving and forgiven,--
Or with a feverish hope, of anguish born,
(Nerving thy mind to feel indigant scorn
Of all the cruel foes who 'twixt ye stand,
Holding thy heartstrngs with a reckless hand,)
Steal to his presence, now unseen so long,
And claim his mercy who hath dealt the wrong!
Into the aching depths of thy poor heart
Dive, as it were, even to the roots of pain,
And wrench up thoughts that tear thy soul apart,
And burn like fire through thy bewilder'd brain.
Clothe them in passionate words of wild appeal
To teach thy fellow-creature how to feel,--
Pray, weep, exhaust thyself in maddening tears,--
Recal the hopes, the influences of years,--
Kneel, dash thyself upon the senseless ground,
Writhe as the worm writhes with dividing wound,--
Invoke the heaven that knows thy sorrow's truth,
By all the softening memories of youth--
By every hope that cheer'd thine earlier day--
By every tear that washes wrath away--
By every old remembrance long gone by--
By every pang that makes thee yearn to die;
And learn at length how deep and stern a blow
Near hands can strike, and yet no pity show!
'Oh! weak to suffer, savage to inflict,
Is man's commingling nature; hear him now
Some transient trial of his life depict,
Hear him in holy rites a suppliant bow;
See him shrink back from sickness and from pain,
And in his sorrow to his God complain;
'Remit my trespass, spare my sin,' he cries,
'All-merciful, Almighty, and All-wise;
Quench this affliction's bitter whelming tide,
Draw out thy barbed arrow from my side:'--
--And rises from that mockery of prayer
To hale some brother-debtor to despair!
'May this be spared thee! Yet be sure, my child,
(Howe'er that dream thy fancy hath beguiled,)
Some sorrow lurks to cloud thy future fate;
Thy share of tears,--come early or come late,--
Must still be shed; and 'twere as vain a thing
To ask of Nature one perpetual spring
As to evade those sad autumnal hours,
Or deem thy path of life should bloom, all flowers.'
She ceased: and that fair maiden heard the truth
With the fond passionate despair of youth,
Which, new to suffering, gives its sorrow vent
In outward signs and bursts of wild lament:--
'If this be so, then, mother, let me die
Ere yet the glow hath faded from my sky!
Let me die young; before the holy trust
In human kindness crumbles into dust;
Before I suffer what I have not earn'd,
Or see by treachery my truth return'd;
Before the love I live for, fades away;
Before the hopes I cherish'd most, decay;
The Ballad Of The Brand
'Twas up in a land long famed for gold, where women were far and rare,
Tellus, the smith, had taken to wife a maiden amazingly fair;
Tellus, the brawny worker in iron, hairy and heavy of hand,
Saw her and loved her and bore her away from the tribe of a Southern land;
Deeming her worthy to queen his home and mother him little ones,
That the name of Tellus, the master smith, might live in his stalwart sons.
Now there was little of law in the land, and evil doings were rife,
And every man who joyed in his home guarded the fame of his wife;
For there were those of the silver tongue and the honeyed art to beguile,
Who would cozen the heart from a woman's breast and damn her soul with a smile.
And there were women too quick to heed a look or a whispered word,
And once in a while a man was slain, and the ire of the King was stirred;
So far and wide he proclaimed his wrath, and this was the law he willed:
"That whosoever killeth a man, even shall he be killed."
Now Tellus, the smith, he trusted his wife; his heart was empty of fear.
High on the hill was the gleam of their hearth, a beacon of love and cheer.
High on the hill they builded their bower, where the broom and the bracken meet;
Under a grave of oaks it was, hushed and drowsily sweet.
Here he enshrined her, his dearest saint, his idol, the light of his eye;
Her kisses rested upon his lips as brushes a butterfly.
The weight of her arms around his neck was light as the thistle down;
And sweetly she studied to win his smile, and gently she mocked his frown.
And when at the close of the dusty day his clangorous toil was done,
She hastened to meet him down the way all lit by the amber sun.
Their dove-cot gleamed in the golden light, a temple of stainless love;
Like the hanging cup of a big blue flower was the topaz sky above.
The roses and lilies yearned to her, as swift through their throng she pressed;
A little white, fragile, fluttering thing that lay like a child on his breast.
Then the heart of Tellus, the smith, was proud, and sang for the joy of life,
And there in the bronzing summertide he thanked the gods for his wife.
Now there was one called Philo, a scribe, a man of exquisite grace,
Carved like the god Apollo in limb, fair as Adonis in face;
Eager and winning in manner, full of such radiant charm,
Womenkind fought for his favor and loved to their uttermost harm.
Such was his craft and his knowledge, such was his skill at the game,
Never was woman could flout him, so be he plotted her shame.
And so he drank deep of pleasure, and then it fell on a day
He gazed on the wife of Tellus and marked her out for his prey.
Tellus, the smith, was merry, and the time of the year it was June,
So he said to his stalwart helpers: "Shut down the forge at noon.
Go ye and joy in the sunshine, rest in the coolth of the grove,
Drift on the dreamy river, every man with his love."
Then to himself: "Oh, Beloved, sweet will be your surprise;
To-day will we sport like children, laugh in each other's eyes;
Weave gay garlands of poppies, crown each other with flowers,
Pull plump carp from the lilies, rifle the ferny bowers.
To-day with feasting and gladness the wine of Cyprus will flow;
To-day is the day we were wedded only a twelvemonth ago."
The larks trilled high in the heavens; his heart was lyric with joy;
He plucked a posy of lilies; he sped like a love-sick boy.
He stole up the velvety pathway--his cottage was sunsteeped and still;
Vines honeysuckled the window; softly he peeped o'er the sill.
The lilies dropped from his fingers; devils were choking his breath;
Rigid with horror, he stiffened; ghastly his face was as death.
Like a nun whose faith in the Virgin is met with a prurient jibe,
He shrank--'twas the wife of his bosom in the arms of Philo, the scribe.
Tellus went back to his smithy; he reeled like a drunken man;
His heart was riven with anguish; his brain was brooding a plan.
Straight to his anvil he hurried; started his furnace aglow;
Heated his iron and shaped it with savage and masterful blow.
Sparks showered over and round him; swiftly under his hand
There at last it was finished--a hideous and infamous Brand.
That night the wife of his bosom, the light of joy in her eyes,
Kissed him with words of rapture; but he knew that her words were lies.
Never was she so beguiling, never so merry of speech
(For passion ripens a woman as the sunshine ripens a peach).
He clenched his teeth into silence; he yielded up to her lure,
Though he knew that her breasts were heaving from the fire of her paramour.
"To-morrow," he said, "to-morrow"--he wove her hair in a strand,
Twisted it round his fingers and smiled as he thought of the Brand.
The morrow was come, and Tellus swiftly stole up the hill.
Butterflies drowsed in the noon-heat; coverts were sunsteeped and still.
Softly he padded the pathway unto the porch, and within
Heard he the low laugh of dalliance, heard he the rapture of sin.
Knew he her eyes were mystic with light that no man should see,
No man kindle and joy in, no man on earth save he.
And never for him would it kindle. The bloodlust surged in his brain;
Through the senseless stone could he see them, wanton and warily fain.
Horrible! Heaven he sought for, gained it and gloried and fell--
Oh, it was sudden--headlong into the nethermost hell. . . .
Was this he, Tellus, this marble? Tellus . . . not dreaming a dream?
Ah! sharp-edged as a javelin, was that a woman's scream?
Was it a door that shattered, shell-like, under his blow?
Was it his saint, that strumpet, dishevelled and cowering low?
Was it her lover, that wild thing, that twisted and gouged and tore?
Was it a man he was crushing, whose head he beat on the floor?
Laughing the while at its weakness, till sudden he stayed his hand--
Through the red ring of his madness flamed the thought of the Brand.
Then bound he the naked Philo with thongs that cut in the flesh,
And the wife of his bosom, fear-frantic, he gagged with a silken mesh,
Choking her screams into silence; bound her down by the hair;
Dragged her lover unto her under her frenzied stare.
In the heat of the hearth-fire embers he heated the hideous Brand;
Twisting her fingers open, he forced its haft in her hand.
He pressed it downward and downward; she felt the living flesh sear;
She saw the throe of her lover; she heard the scream of his fear.
Once, twice and thrice he forced her, heedless of prayer and shriek--
Once on the forehead of Philo, twice in the soft of his cheek.
Then (for the thing was finished) he said to the woman: "See
How you have branded your lover! Now will I let him go free."
He severed the thongs that bound him, laughing: "Revenge is sweet",
And Philo, sobbing in anguish, feebly rose to his feet.
The man who was fair as Apollo, god-like in woman's sight,
Hideous now as a satyr, fled to the pity of night.
Then came they before the Judgment Seat, and thus spoke the Lord of the Land:
"He who seeketh his neighbor's wife shall suffer the doom of the Brand.
Brutish and bold on his brow be it stamped, deep in his cheek let it sear,
That every man may look on his shame, and shudder and sicken and fear.
He shall hear their mock in the market-place, their fleering jibe at the feast;
He shall seek the caves and the shroud of night, and the fellowship of the beast.
Outcast forever from homes of men, far and far shall he roam.
Such be the doom, sadder than death, of him who shameth a home."
Muse A Maze Sings Dreams through Sleep's Haze 1965
Warp and weft, bereft of self-references, dream dance double helix above, beneath and around the sum of understanding, st[r]anding both apart from and a part of the spiral hole swirling, curling and whirling through the whole into and out of itself. A state_mental line, desperate to [t]race light, as if its existence depended upon its speed seed, soars arching, starching star I Ching through sliding parallel word worlds, trying to reach, underscore, underline and define itself. Is everything relativity maze one [m]asks laughingly, muse intent upon making an intact exit from channelled dream tunnel.
Muse maze amusing seems to spring
from creativity that night
brings into fractal firework focus fling.
Here flames, there names, door to delight
perception tunes, reads runes, insight
cues into clues, amazing bells ring,
distinguished details recondite
subconsciously, persist despite
approaching daylight blanketing
precise recall of everything.
Swift spinning wheel revolves within,
revel keyed to rainbow bright,
now wing weft warps, now weaves from sight,
enters, leaves as senses spin.
What is end when things begin
from finish, swing new day from night,
wind sings chains free, both slack and tight,
yet what is joy without chagrin?
What is sense, what static din?
Some wavelengths ultraviolet light
funnel, infra-red some, - sight
depends more on expected whim
than on the rods and cones within
retinal lining - photons' rite
when redefined as ‘wrong' or ‘right',
synaptic leaps reject rein tight
upon emotions sybilline.
Cyclone eye churns Yang and Yin
while wings gain height wild winds unite,
tension rises, satellite
impressions signal ‘hurry…kin'.
Dream maze replays what yesterday
dissolves in fluids that today
fleet flow to meet tomorrow, greet
completion leaving soul replete
ignoring bias fools always
There are no dreams that go astray,
there is no duty one must pay,
where spontaneity on call
can conquer limits one and all,
stricture structures, though some say
One hand may weave wor[l]d web as fine
as silken spider's, line by line,
two minds net-knit together may
surpass [l]one hand when interplay
is woken by unspoken sign
As Milky Way's spun stars combine
in silver necklace, gems divine,
maze words through haze may overlay
poetic inspiration's play
to lay foundations, redesign
Dream runes may not be mystery
when future cleaves to history,
uncanny man can, vision clear,
retool pooled choice, voice ever dear,
fears disappear, may Ms. Terri
Dream satchel deep sound mind supplies,
who stimulation and surprise
awaits when gifts are shared around,
naught grounded, naught impounded found
as ransom - superficial sighs
Where inklings roam from tome hope's home
spans land to land, and foam to foam,
for spirits deep unlock block's keep -
restraining order - thence to leap
converting into polychrome
Dreams hyphonate what still may come
with what stays still, forever dumb,
retain the reins of destiny
so reign's refrain's sustained, stays free.
There is no hardfast rule of thumb
Some inspirations answer prayer,
some aspirations bubble air,
most memories dissolve at dawn
though some persist, won't be foresworn.
If ‘Anything' is ‘Everywhere'
convert maze magic pantomime
into enlightenment to climb
from phantom mime's ring wraiths project
path forwards never interject
or replay former paradigm
Dream steed mount, Pegasus is seen
to set the scene for unforseen
adventures which advance to chance
no sharp indentures, - circumstance
highlights freewill, none pastures green
Thus dreams bring close what far away
appears to others, interplay
between right brain and left may link
cause and effect beyond the brink
of far horizons with a fey
Kaleidoscopes, flash inklings meshed,
flush out subconscious strings, refreshed
sundry subsurface spells sun dries,
upon awakening flushed fun flies
from maze as blaze day's lies frames fresh
staccato signals sends, must fuss,
circadian cycle keys as morn
makes light of night, dreams' flight, sheets warm, -
with drapes withdrawn, dawn's stimulus
Romantic sings life's violin
which time-tunes runes to candlelight
as spirit moth finds wings for flight
beyond beyond to ponder, win
new which from old unfolds, gold tin
transforms as thought, deed, reunite.
Prismatic spirit earns insight, -
rebirth on Earth which knows no sin.
Cupid's arrows javelin
enchantment meant to expedite
attachment which through thick and thin
encouraged is by Aphrodite
who web casts while forecasting him
and her stay playful, - wayward bite
love, urchin, leaves on cheek and chin,
rewards self-righteous with their plight.
Oppositions melt then twin -
Spring springs from Winter, day from night, -
as symbiotic parasite
[r]evolves around a second skin
dissolves again to re-begin
to redivide as surface tight
an oscillation patterned quite,
wizard which might make Merlin.
Theme's variations, schemes akin,
vibrate, surge, splurge, converge, invite,
emerge to soar as karmic kite
flies options fresh, meets challenge in
produces rendering airtight,
immune from falsehood, empty [w]rite,
spins masculine from feminine.
Wings breast test air where streams within
streams conscious dream unconscious write -
how best to tint, imprint, excite,
wheels pyrotechnic paladin
pinpoints - firefly infinite -
fractal patterns which recite
Whirlpool waves through thick and thin
can colour Chance, once left, to right
all former spectrum oversight,
advance as if from trampoline
they sprung to string joy's mandolin
combining hues which spring from white,
effervescence tints spotlight,
blends gold, bold orange, - out and in
turquoise, yellow, pink, begin
an iridescent dance delight
inspired by sapphire, chrysolite,
red ruby, purple tourmaline,
all save its own achromatin
as alpha-actin appetite
sustaining rhythm's forward flight
taps into its adrenalin.
All stems from nothing, down turns up,
gain's drained from spill to fill life's cup.
Yarn's thread is sped, spun patchwork quilt
where wings of light sprung free from guilt.
Icarus imagination satellites in irregular orbit, at times emitting, at times sitting, at times receiving, and ever dovetailing stimuli into experience as inklings rise before pride precede downfall ride, posing and reposing circular questions on, in and through its internal Daedelus universe multi-modal matrix grid. Sleeper seeks to avoid awakening from amazing maze dream hibernation. Haze fills and fulfills brain pane void, taking time out for its own sake. Chronological water shed logical as split seconds' thought impressions unrestfully whir, jest quest, and question facts. Fantasy stream steams until awakening.
From dreams into reality
Reeled frames unpeel hopes' filmy foam,
Open imagination, roam
More, more than most may ever see.
Fast flicker fades apparently,
Or maybe finds a second home
Urging inner honeycomb -
Neuronal mind mass - subtly
To rediscover harmony
As drops pull out all stops to free
Insight bright of starry dome
Newborn, untorn, in polychrome
From here until eternity.
Dreams' rainbow bridges sea to sea.
REal dress rehearsal thus provide,
(24 February 2010)
The Heart Of The Bruce
It was upon an April morn,
While yet the frost lay hoar,
We heard Lord James's bugle-horn
Sound by the rocky shore.
Then down we went, a hundred knights,
All in our dark array,
And flung our armour in the ships
That rode within the bay.
We spoke not as the shore grew less,
But gazed in silence back,
Where the long billows swept away
The foam behind our track.
And aye the purple hues decay'd
Upon the fading hill,
And but one heart in all that ship
Was tranquil, cold, and still.
The good Lord Douglas walk'd the deck,
And oh, his brow was wan!
Unlike the flush it used to wear
When in the battle van.-
'Come hither, come hither, my trusty knight,
Sir Simon of the Lee;
There is a freit lies near my soul
I fain would tell to thee.
'Thou know'st the words King Robert spoke
Upon his dying day,
How he bade me take his noble heart
And carry it far away;
'And lay it in the holy soil
Where once the Saviour trod,
Since he might not bear the blessed Cross,
Nor strike one blow for God.
'Last night as in my bed I lay,
I dream'd a dreary dream:-
Methought I saw a Pilgrim stand
In the moonlight's quivering beam.
'His robe was of the azure dye,
Snow-white his scatter'd hairs,
And even such a cross he bore
As good Saint Andrew bears.
''Why go you forth, Lord James,' he said,
'With spear and belted brand?
Why do you take its dearest pledge
From this our Scottish land?
''The sultry breeze of Galilee
Creeps through its groves of palm,
The olives on the Holy Mount
Stand glittering in the calm.
''But 'tis not there that Scotland's heart
Shall rest by God's decree,
Till the great angel calls the dead
To rise from earth and sea!
''Lord James of Douglas, mark my rede!
That heart shall pass once more
In fiery fight against the foe,
As it was wont of yore.
''And it shall pass beneath the Cross,
And save King Robert's vow,
But other hands shall bear it back,
Not, James of Douglas, thou!'
'Now, by thy knightly faith, I pray,
Sir Simon of the Lee-
For truer friend had never man
Than thou hast been to me-
'If ne'er upon the Holy Land
'Tis mine in life to tread,
Bear thou to Scotland's kindly earth
The relics of her dead.'
The tear was in Sir Simon's eye
As he wrung the warrior's hand-
'Betide me weal, betide me woe,
I'll hold by thy command.
'But if in battle front, Lord James,
'Tis ours once more to ride,
No force of man, nor craft of fiend,
Shall cleave me from thy side!'
And aye we sail'd, and aye we sail'd,
Across the weary sea,
Until one morn the coast of Spain
Rose grimly on our lee.
And as we rounded to the port,
Beneath the watch-tower's wall,
We heard the clash of the atabals,
And the trumpet's wavering call.
'Why sounds yon Eastern music here
So wantonly and long,
And whose the crowd of armèd men
That round yon standard throng?'
'The Moors have come from Africa
To spoil and waste and slay,
And King Alonzo of Castile
Must fight with them to-day.'
'Now shame it were,' cried good Lord James,
'Shall never be said of me,
That I and mine have turn'd aside,
From the Cross in jeopardie!
'Have down, have down, my merry men all-
Have down unto the plain;
We'll let the Scottish lion loose
Within the fields of Spain!'
'Now welcome to me, noble lord,
Thou and thy stalwart power;
Dear is the sight of a Christian knight
Who comes in such an hour!
'Is it for bond or faith ye come,
Or yet for golden fee?
Or bring ye France's lilies here,
Or the flower of Burgundie?'
'God greet thee well, thou valiant King,
Thee and thy belted peers-
Sir James of Douglas am I called,
And these are Scottish spears.
'We do not fight for bond or plight,
Not yet for golden fee;
But for the sake of our blessed Lord,
Who died upon the tree.
'We bring our great King Robert's heart
Across the weltering wave,
To lay it in the holy soil
Hard by the Saviour's grave.
'True pilgrims we, by land or sea,
Where danger bars the way;
And therefore are we here, Lord King,
To ride with thee this day!'
The King has bent his stately head,
And the tears were in his eyne-
'God's blessing on thee, noble knight,
For this brave thought of thine!
'I know thy name full well, Lord James,
And honour'd may I be,
That those who fought beside the Bruce
Should fight this day for me!
'Take thou the leading of the van,
And charge the Moors amain;
There is not such a lance as thine
In all the host of Spain!'
The Douglas turned towards us then,
O but his glance was high!-
'There is not one of all my men
But is as bold as I.
'There is not one of all my knights
But bears as true a spear-
Then onwards! Scottish gentlemen,
And think-King Robert's here!'
The trumpets blew, the cross-bolts flew,
The arrows flashed like flame,
As spur in side, and spear in rest,
Against the foe we came.
And many a bearded Saracen
Went down, both horse and man;
For through their ranks we rode like corn,
So furiously we ran!
But in behind our path they closed,
Though fain to let us through,
For they were forty thousand men,
And we were wondrous few.
We might not see a lance's length,
So dense was their array,
But the long fell sweep of the Scottish blade
Still held them hard at bay.
'Make in! make in!' Lord Douglas cried,
'Make in, my brethren dear!
Sir William of Saint Clair is down;
We may not leave him here!'
But thicker, thicker, grew the swarm,
And sharper shot the rain,
And the horses reared amid the press,
But they would not charge again.
'Now Jesu help thee,' said Lord James,
'Thou kind and true St Clair!
An' if I may not bring thee off,
I'll die beside thee there!'
Then in his stirrups up he stood,
So lionlike and bold,
And held the precious heart aloft
All in its case of gold.
He flung it from him, far ahead,
And never spake he more,
But-'Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart,
As thou wert wont of yore!'
The roar of fight rose fiercer yet,
And heavier still the stour,
Till the spears of Spain came shivering in,
And swept away the Moor.
'Now praised be God, the day is won!
They fly o'er flood and fell-
Why dost thou draw the rein so hard,
Good knight, that fought so well?'
'Oh, ride ye on, Lord King!' he said,
'And leave the dead to me,
For I must keep the dreariest watch
That ever I shall dree!
'There lies, beside his master's heart,
The Douglas, stark and grim;
And woe is me I should be here,
Not side by side with him!
'The world grows cold, my arm is old,
And thin my lyart hair,
And all that I loved best on earth
Is stretch'd before me there.
'O Bothwell banks! that bloom so bright,
Beneath the sun of May,
The heaviest cloud that ever blew
Is bound for you this day.
'And, Scotland, thou may'st veil thy head
In sorrow and in pain;
The sorest stroke upon thy brow
Hath fallen this day in Spain!
'We'll bear them back unto our ship,
We'll bear them o'er the sea,
And lay them in the hallowed earth,
Within our own countrie.
'And be thou strong of heart, Lord King,
For this I tell thee sure,
The sod that drank the Douglas' blood
Shall never bear the Moor!'
The King he lighted from his horse,
He flung his brand away,
And took the Douglas by the hand,
So stately as he lay.
'God give thee rest, thou valiant soul,
That fought so well for Spain;
I'd rather half my land were gone,
So thou wert here again!'
We bore the good Lord James away,
And the priceless heart he bore,
And heavily we steer'd our ship
Towards the Scottish shore.
No welcome greeted our return,
Nor clang of martial tread,
But all were dumb and hushed as death
Before the mighty dead.
We laid our chief in Douglas Kirk,
The heart in fair Melrose;
And woeful men were we that day-
God grant their souls repose!
They wrong'd not us, nor sought 'gainst us to wage
The bitter battle. On their God they cried
For succour, deeming justice to abide
In heaven, if banish'd from earth's vicinage.
And when they rose with a gall'd lion's rage,
We, on the captor's, keeper's, tamer's side,
We, with the alien tyranny allied,
We bade them back to their Egyptian cage.
Scarce knew they who we were! A wind of blight
From the mysterious far north-west we came.
Our greatness now their veriest babes have learn'd,
Where, in wild desert homes, by day, by night,
Thousands that weep their warriors unreturn'd,
O England, O my country, curse thy name!
'Of British arms, another victory!'
Triumphant words, through all the land's length sped.
Triumphant words, but, being interpreted,
Words of ill sound, woful as words can be.
Another carnage by the drear Red Sea--
Another efflux of a sea more red!
Another bruising of the hapless head
Of a wrong'd people yearning to be free.
Another blot on her great name, who stands
Confounded, left intolerably alone
With the dilating spectre of her own
Dark sin, uprisen from yonder spectral sands:
Penitent more than to herself is known;
England, appall'd by her own crimson hands.
The English Dead
Give honour to our heroes fall'n, how ill
Soe'er the cause that bade them forth to die.
Honour to him, the untimely struck, whom high
In place, more high in hope, 'twas fate's harsh will
With tedious pain unsplendidly to kill.
Honour to him, doom'd splendidly to die,
Child of the city whose foster-child am I,
Who, hotly leading up the ensanguin'd hill
His charging thousand, fell without a word--
Fell, but shall fall not from our memory.
Also for them let honour's voice be heard
Who nameless sleep, while dull time covereth
With no illustrious shade of laurel tree,
But with the poppy alone, their deeds and death.
Idle although our homage be and vain,
Who loudly through the door of silence press
And vie in zeal to crown death's nakedness,
Not therefore shall melodious lips refrain
Thy praises, gentlest warrior without stain,
Denied the happy garland of success,
Foil'd by dark fate, but glorious none the less,
Greatest of losers, on the lone peak slain
Of Alp-like virtue. Not to-day, and not
To-morrow, shall thy spirit's splendour be
Oblivion's victim; but when God shall find
All human grandeur among men forgot,
Then only shall the world, grown old and blind,
Cease, in her dotage, to remember Thee.
Arab, Egyptian, English--by the sword
Cloven, or pierced with spears, or bullet-mown--
In equal fate they sleep: their dust is grown
A portion of the fiery sands abhorred.
And thou, what hast thou, hero, for reward,
Thou, England's glory and her shame? O'erthrown
Thou liest, unburied, or with grave unknown
As his to whom on Nebo's height the Lord
Showed all the land of Gilead, unto Dan;
Judah sea-fringed; Manasseh and Ephraim;
And Jericho palmy, to where Zoar lay;
And in a valley of Moab buried him,
Over against Beth-Peor, but no man
Knows of his sepulchre unto this day.
The True Patriotism
The ever-lustrous name of patriot
To no man be denied because he saw
Where in his country's wholeness lay the flaw,
Where, on her whiteness, the unseemly blot.
England! thy loyal sons condemn thee.--What!
Shall we be meek who from thine own breasts draw
Our fierceness? Not ev'n _thou_ shalt overawe
Us thy proud children nowise basely got.
Be this the measure of our loyalty--
To feel thee noble and weep thy lapse the more.
This truth by thy true servants is confess'd--
Thy sins, who love thee most, do most deplore.
Know thou thy faithful! Best they honour thee
Who honour in thee only what is best.
Dark is thy trespass, deep be thy remorse,
O England! Fittingly thine own feet bleed,
Submissive to the purblind guides that lead
Thy weary steps along this rugged course.
Yet ... when I glance abroad, and track the source
More selfish far, of other nations' deed,
And mark their tortuous craft, their jealous greed,
Their serpent-wisdom or mere soulless force,
Homeward returns my vagrant fealty,
Crying, 'O England, shouldst thou one day fall,
Shatter'd in ruins by some Titan foe,
Justice were thenceforth weaker throughout all
The world, and Truth less passionately free,
And God the poorer for thine overthrow.'
The Political Luminary
A skilful leech, so long as we were whole:
Who scann'd the nation's every outward part,
But ah! misheard the beating of its heart.
Sire of huge sorrows, yet erect of soul.
Swift rider with calamity for goal,
Who, overtasking his equestrian art,
Unstall'd a steed full willing for the start,
But wondrous hard to curb or to control.
Sometimes we thought he led the people forth:
Anon he seemed to follow where they flew;
Lord of the golden tongue and smiting eyes;
Great out of season, and untimely wise:
A man whose virtue, genius, grandeur, worth
Wrought deadlier ill than ages can undo.
I marvel that this land, whereof I claim
The glory of sonship--for it _was_ erewhile
A glory to be sprung of Britain's isle,
Though now it well-nigh more resembles shame--
I marvel that this land with heart so tame
Can brook the northern insolence and guile.
But most it angers me, to think how vile
Art thou, how base, from whom the insult came,
Unwieldly laggard, many an age behind
Thy sister Powers, in brain and conscience both;
In recognition of man's widening mind
And flexile adaptation to its growth:
Brute bulk, that bearest on thy back, half loth,
One wretched man, most pitied of mankind.
I cannot boast myself cosmopolite;
I own to 'insularity,' although
'Tis fall'n from fashion, as full well I know.
For somehow, being a plain and simple wight,
I am skin-deep a child of the new light,
But chiefly am mere Englishman below,
Of island-fostering; and can hate a foe,
And trust my kin before the Muscovite.
Whom shall I trust if not my kin? And whom
Account so near in natural bonds as these
Born of my mother England's mighty womb,
Nursed on my mother England's mighty knees,
And lull'd as I was lull'd in glory and gloom
With cradle-song of her protecting seas?
Our Eastern Treasure
In cobwebb'd corners dusty and dim I hear
A thin voice pipingly revived of late,
Which saith our India is a cumbrous weight,
An idle decoration, bought too dear.
The wiser world contemns not gorgeous gear;
Just pride is no mean factor in a State;
The sense of greatness keeps a nation great;
And mighty they who mighty can appear.
It may be that if hands of greed could steal
From England's grasp the envied orient prize,
This tide of gold would flood her still as now:
But were she the same England, made to feel
A brightness gone from out those starry eyes,
A splendour from that constellated brow?
So we must palter, falter, cringe, and shrink,
And when the bully threatens, crouch or fly.--
There are who tell me with a shuddering eye
That war's red cup is Satan's chosen drink.
Who shall gainsay them? Verily I do think
War is as hateful almost, and well-nigh
As ghastly, as this terrible Peace whereby
We halt for ever on the crater's brink
And feed the wind with phrases, while we know
There gapes at hand the infernal precipice
O'er which a gossamer bridge of words we throw,
Yet cannot choose but hear from the abyss
The sulphurous gloom's unfathomable hiss
And simmering lava's subterranean flow.
(_W ritten during apparent imminence of war_)
In a false dream I saw the Foe prevail.
The war was ended; the last smoke had rolled
Away: and we, erewhile the strong and bold,
Stood broken, humbled, withered, weak and pale,
And moan'd, 'Our greatness is become a tale
To tell our children's babes when we are old.
They shall put by their playthings to be told
How England once, before the years of bale,
Throned above trembling, puissant, grandiose, calm,
Held Asia's richest jewel in her palm;
And with unnumbered isles barbaric, she
The broad hem of her glistering robe impearl'd;
Then, when she wound her arms about the world,
And had for vassal the obsequious sea.'
Last Word: To The Colonies
Brothers beyond the Atlantic's loud expanse;
And you that rear the innumerable fleece
Far southward 'mid the ocean named of peace;
Britons that past the Indian wave advance
Our name and spirit and world-predominance;
And you our kin that reap the earth's increase
Where crawls that long-backed mountain till it cease
Crown'd with the headland of bright esperance:--
Remote compatriots wheresoe'er ye dwell,
By your prompt voices ringing clear and true
We know that with our England all is well:
Young is she yet, her world-task but begun!
By you we know her safe, and know by you
Her veins are million but her heart is one.
Uncle Ned’s Tale: An Old Dragoon's Story
I OFTEN, musing, wander back to days long since gone by,
And far-off scenes and long-lost forms arise to fancy's eye.
A group familiar now I see, who all but one are fled,—
My mother, sister Jane, myself, and dear old Uncle Ned.
I'll tell you how I see them now. First, mother in her chair
Sits knitting by the parlor fire, with anxious matron air;
My sister Jane, just nine years old, is seated at her feet,
With look demure, as if she, too, were thinking how to meet
The butcher's or the baker's bill,—though not a thought has she
Of aught beside her girlish toys; and next to her I see
Myself, a sturdy lad of twelve,—neglectful of the book
That open lies upon my knee,—my fixed admiring look
At Uncle Ned, upon the left, whose upright, martial mien,
Whose empty sleeve and gray mustache, proclaim what he has been.
My mother I had always loved; my father then was dead;
But 'twas more than love—'twas worship—I felt for Uncle Ned.
Such tales he had of battle-fields,—the victory and the rout,
The ringing cheer, the dying shriek, the loud exulting shout!
And how, forgetting age and wounds, his eye would kindle bright,
When telling of some desperate ride or close and deadly fight!
But oft I noticed, in the midst of some wild martial tale,
To which I lent attentive ear, my mother's cheek grow pale;
She sighed to see my kindled look, and feared I might be led
To follow in the wayward steps of poor old Uncle Ned.
But with all the wondrous tales he told, 'twas strange I never heard
Of his last fight, for of that day he never spoke a word.
And yet 'twas there he lost his arm, and once he e'en confessed
'Twas there he won the glittering cross he wore upon his breast.
It hung the center of a group of Glory's emblems fair,
And royal hands, he told me once, had placed the bauble there.
Each day that passed I hungered more to hear about that fight,
And oftentimes I prayed in vain. At length, one winter's night,—
The very night I speak of now,—with more than usual care
I filled his pipe, then took my stand beside my uncle's chair:
I fixed my eyes upon the Cross,—he saw my youthful plan;
And, smiling, laid the pipe aside and thus the tale began:
'Well, boy, it was in summer time, and just at morning's light
We heard the 'Boot and Saddle!' sound: the foe was then in sight,
Just winding round a distant hill and opening on the plain.
Each trooper looked with careful eye to girth and curb and rein.
We snatched a hasty breakfast,—we were old campaigners then:
That morn, of all our splendid corps, we'd scarce one hundred men;
But they were soldiers, tried and true, who'd rather die than yield:
The rest were scattered far and wide o'er many a hard fought field.
Our trumpet now rang sharply out, and at a swinging pace
We left the bivouac behind; and soon the eye could trace
The columns moving o'er the plain. Oh! ' twas a stirring sight
To see two mighty armies there preparing for the fight:
To watch the heavy masses, as, with practiced, steady wheel,
They opened out in slender lines of brightly flashing steel.
Our place was on the farther flank, behind some rising ground,
That hid the stirring scene from view; but soon a booming sound
Proclaimed the opening of the fight. Then war's loud thunder rolled,
And hurtling shells and whistling balls their deadly message told.
We hoped to have a gallant day; our hearts were all aglow;
We longed for one wild, sweeping charge, to chase the flying foe.
Our troopers marked the hours glide by, but still no orders came:
They clutched their swords, and muttered words 'twere better not to name.
For hours the loud artillery roared,—the sun was at its height,—
Still there we lay behind that hill, shut out from all the fight!
We heard the maddened charging yells, the ringing British cheers,
And all the din of glorious war kept sounding in our ears.
Our hearts with fierce impatience throbbed, we cursed the very hill
That hid the sight: the evening fell, and we were idle still.
The horses, too, were almost wild, and told with angry snort
And blazing eye their fierce desire to join the savage sport.
When lower still the sun had sunk, and with it all our hope,
A horseman, soiled with smoke and sweat, came dashing down the slope.
He bore the wished-for orders. ' At last!' our Colonel cried;
And as he read the brief dispatch his glance was filled with pride.
Then he who bore the orders, in a low, emphatic tone,
The stern, expressive sentence spoke,—'He said it must be done!'
'It shall be done!' our Colonel cried. 'Men, look to strap and girth,
We've work to do this day will prove what every man is worth;
Ay, work, my lads, will make amends for all our long delay,—
The General says on us depends the fortune of the day!'
'No order needed we to mount,—each man was in his place,
And stern and dangerous was the look on every veteran face.
We trotted sharply up the hill, and halted on the brow,
And then that glorious field appeared. Oh! lad, I see it now!
But little time had we to spare for idle gazing then:
Beneath us, in the valley, stood a dark-clad mass of men:
It cut the British line in two. Our Colonel shouted, 'There!
Behold your work! Our orders are to charge and break that square!'
Each trooper drew a heavy breath, then gathered up his reins,
And pressed the helmet o'er his brow; the horses tossed their manes
In protest fierce against the curb, and spurned the springy heath,
Impatient for the trumpet's sound to bid them rush to death.
'Well, boy, that moment seemed an hour: at last we heard the words,—
'Dragoons! I know you'll follow me. Ride steady, men! Draw swords!'
The trumpet sounded: off we dashed, at first with steady pace,
But growing swifter as we went. Oh! 'twas a gallant race!
Three-fourths the ground was left behind: the loud and thrilling 'Charge!'
Rang out; but, fairly frantic now, we needed not to urge
With voice or rein our gallant steeds, or touch their foaming flanks.
They seemed to fly. Now straight in front appeared the kneeling ranks.
Above them waved a standard broad: we saw their rifles raised,—
A moment more, with awful crash, the deadly volley blazed.
The bullets whistled through our ranks, and many a trooper fell;
But we were left. What cared we then! but onward rushing still!
Again the crash roared fiercely out; but on! still madly on!
We heard the shrieks of dying men, but recked not who was gone.
We gored the horses' foaming flanks, and on through smoke and glare
We wildly dashed, with clenched teeth. We had no thought, no care!
Then came a sudden, sweeping rush. Again with savage heel
I struck my horse: with awful bound he rose right o'er their steel!
'Well, boy, I cannot tell you how that dreadful leap was made,
But there I rode, inside the square, and grasped a reeking blade.
I cared not that I was alone, my eyes seemed filled with blood:
I never thought a man could feel in such a murderous mood.
I parried not, nor guarded thrusts; I felt not pain or wound,
But madly spurred the frantic horse, and swept my sword around.
I tried to reach the standard sheet; but there at last was foiled.
The gallant horse was jaded now, and from the steel recoiled.
They saw his fright, and pressed him then: his terror made him rear,
And falling back he crushed their ranks, and broke their guarded square!
My comrades saw the gap 'he made, and soon came dashing in;
They raised me up,—I felt no hurt, but mingled in the din.
I'd seen some fearful work before, but never was engaged
In such a wild and savage fight as now around me raged.
The foe had ceased their firing, and now plied the deadly steel:
Though all our men were wounded then, no pain they seemed to feel.
No groans escaped from those who fell, but horrid oaths instead,
And scowling looks of hate were on the features of the dead.
The fight was round the standard: though outnumbered ten to one,
We held our ground,—ay, more than that,—we still kept pushing on.
Our men now made a desperate rush to take the flag by storm.
I seized the pole, a blow came down and crushed my outstretched arm.
I felt a sudden thrill of pain, but that soon passed away;
And, with a devilish thirst for blood, again I joined the fray.
At last we rallied all our strength, and charged o'er heaps of slain:
Some fought to death; some wavered,—then fled across the plain.
'Well, boy, the rest is all confused: there was a fearful rout;
I saw our troopers chase the foe, and heard their maddened shout.
Then came a blank: my senses reeled, I know not how I fell;
I seemed to grapple with a foe, but that I cannot tell.
My mind was gone: when it came back I saw the moon on high;
Around me all was still as death. I gazed up 'at the sky,
And watched the glimmering stars above,—so quiet did they seem,—
And all that dreadful field appeared like some wild, fearful dream.
But memory soon came back again, and cleared my wandering brain,
And then from every joint and limb shot fiery darts of pain.
My throat was parched, the burning thirst increased with every breath;
I made no effort to arise, but wished and prayed for death.
My bridle arm was broken, and lay throbbing on the sward,
But something still my right hand grasped: I thought it was my sword.
I raised my hand to cast it off,—no reeking blade was there;
Then life and strength returned,—I held the Standard of the Square!
With bounding heart I gained my feet. Oh! then I wished to live,
'Twas strange the strength and love of life that standard seemed to give!
I gazed around: far down the vale I saw a camp-fire's glow.
With wandering step I ran that way,—I recked not friend or foe.
Though stumbling now o'er heaps of dead, now o'er a stiffened horse,
I heeded not, but watched the light, and held my onward course.
Bat soon that flash of strength had failed, and checked my feverish speed;
Again my throat was all ablaze, my wounds began to bleed.
I knew that if I fell again, my chance of life was gone,
So, leaning on the standard-pole, I still kept struggling on.
At length I neared the camp-fire: there were scarlet jackets round,
And swords and brazen helmets lay strewn upon the ground.
Some distance off, in order ranged, stood men,—about a score:
O God! 'twas all that now remained of my old gallant corps!
The muster-roll was being called: to every well-known name
I heard the solemn answer,—' Dead!' At length my own turn came.
I paused to hear,—a comrade answer, ' Dead! I saw him fall!'
I could not move another step, I tried in vain to call.
My life was flowing fast, and all around was gathering haze,
And o'er the heather tops I watched my comrades' cheerful blaze.
I thought such anguish as I felt was more than man could bear.
O God! it was an awful thing to die with help so near!
And death was stealing o'er me: with the strength of wild despair
I raised the standard o'er my head, and waved it through the air.
Then all grew dim: the fire, the men, all vanished from my sight,
My senses reeled; I know no more of that eventful night.
'Twas weeks before my mind came back: I knew not where I lay,
But kindly hands were round me, and old comrades came each day.
They told me how the waving flag that night had caught their eye,
And how they found me bleeding there, and thought that I must die ;
They brought me all the cheering news,—the war was at an end.
No wonder 'twas, with all their care, I soon began to mend.
The General came to see me, too, with all his brilliant train,
But what he said, or how I felt, to tell you now 'twere vain.
Enough, I soon grew strong again: the wished-for route had come,
And all the gallant veteran troops set out with cheers for home.
We soon arrived; and then, my lad, 'twould thrill your heart to hear
How England welcomed home her sons with many a ringing cheer.
But tush! what boots it now to speak of what was said or done?
The victory was dearly bought, our bravest hearts were gone.
Ere long the King reviewed us. Ah! that memory is sweet!
They made me bear the foreign flag, and lay it at his feet.
I parted from my brave old corps: ' twere matter, lad, for tears,
To leave the kind old comrades I had ridden with for years.
I was no longer fit for war, my wanderings had to cease.
There, boy, I' ve told you all my tales. Now let me smoke in peace.'
How vivid grows the picture now! how bright each scene appears!
I trace each loved and long-lost face with eyes bedimmed in tears.
How plain I hear thee, Uncle Ned, and see thy musing look,
Comparing all thy glory to the curling wreaths of smoke!
A truer, braver soldier ne'er for king and country bled.
His wanderings are forever o'er. God rest thee, Uncle Ned!
Lamia. Part II
Love in a hut, with water and a crust,
Is—Love, forgive us!—cinders, ashes, dust;
Love in a palace is perhaps at last
More grievous torment than a hermit’s fast:—
That is a doubtful tale from faery land,
Hard for the non-elect to understand.
Had Lycius liv’d to hand his story down,
He might have given the moral a fresh frown,
Or clench’d it quite: but too short was their bliss
To breed distrust and hate, that make the soft voice hiss.
Besides, there, nightly, with terrific glare,
Love, jealous grown of so complete a pair,
Hover’d and buzz’d his wings, with fearful roar,
Above the lintel of their chamber door,
And down the passage cast a glow upon the floor.
For all this came a ruin: side by side
They were enthroned, in the even tide,
Upon a couch, near to a curtaining
Whose airy texture, from a golden string,
Floated into the room, and let appear
Unveil’d the summer heaven, blue and clear,
Betwixt two marble shafts:—there they reposed,
Where use had made it sweet, with eyelids closed,
Saving a tythe which love still open kept,
That they might see each other while they almost slept;
When from the slope side of a suburb hill,
Deafening the swallow’s twitter, came a thrill
Of trumpets—Lycius started—the sounds fled,
But left a thought, a buzzing in his head.
For the first time, since first he harbour’d in
That purple-lined palace of sweet sin,
His spirit pass’d beyond its golden bourn
Into the noisy world almost forsworn.
The lady, ever watchful, penetrant,
Saw this with pain, so arguing a want
Of something more, more than her empery
Of joys; and she began to moan and sigh
Because he mused beyond her, knowing well
That but a moment’s thought is passion’s passing bell.
“Why do you sigh, fair creature?” whisper’d he:
“Why do you think?” return’d she tenderly:
“You have deserted me;—where am I now?
“Not in your heart while care weighs on your brow:
“No, no, you have dismiss’d me; and I go
“From your breast houseless: ay, it must be so.”
He answer’d, bending to her open eyes,
Where he was mirror’d small in paradise,
“My silver planet, both of eve and morn!
“Why will you plead yourself so sad forlorn,
“While I am striving how to fill my heart
“With deeper crimson, and a double smart?
“How to entangle, trammel up and snare
“Your soul in mine, and labyrinth you there
“Like the hid scent in an unbudded rose?
“Ay, a sweet kiss—you see your mighty woes.
“My thoughts! shall I unveil them? Listen then!
“What mortal hath a prize, that other men
“May be confounded and abash’d withal,
“But lets it sometimes pace abroad majestical,
“And triumph, as in thee I should rejoice
“Amid the hoarse alarm of Corinth’s voice.
“Let my foes choke, and my friends shout afar,
“While through the thronged streets your bridal car
“Wheels round its dazzling spokes.”—The lady’s cheek
Trembled; she nothing said, but, pale and meek,
Arose and knelt before him, wept a rain
Of sorrows at his words; at last with pain
Beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung,
To change his purpose. He thereat was stung,
Perverse, with stronger fancy to reclaim
Her wild and timid nature to his aim:
Besides, for all his love, in self despite,
Against his better self, he took delight
Luxurious in her sorrows, soft and new.
His passion, cruel grown, took on a hue
Fierce and sanguineous as ’twas possible
In one whose brow had no dark veins to swell.
Fine was the mitigated fury, like
Apollo’s presence when in act to strike
The serpent—Ha, the serpent! certes, she
Was none. She burnt, she lov’d the tyranny,
And, all subdued, consented to the hour
When to the bridal he should lead his paramour.
Whispering in midnight silence, said the youth,
“Sure some sweet name thou hast, though, by my truth,
“I have not ask’d it, ever thinking thee
“Not mortal, but of heavenly progeny,
“As still I do. Hast any mortal name,
“Fit appellation for this dazzling frame?
“Or friends or kinsfolk on the citied earth,
“To share our marriage feast and nuptial mirth?”
“I have no friends,” said Lamia, “no, not one;
“My presence in wide Corinth hardly known:
“My parents’ bones are in their dusty urns
“Sepulchred, where no kindled incense burns,
“Seeing all their luckless race are dead, save me,
“And I neglect the holy rite for thee.
“Even as you list invite your many guests;
“But if, as now it seems, your vision rests
“With any pleasure on me, do not bid
“Old Apollonius—from him keep me hid.”
Lycius, perplex’d at words so blind and blank,
Made close inquiry; from whose touch she shrank,
Feigning a sleep; and he to the dull shade
Of deep sleep in a moment was betray’d.
It was the custom then to bring away
The bride from home at blushing shut of day,
Veil’d, in a chariot, heralded along
By strewn flowers, torches, and a marriage song,
With other pageants: but this fair unknown
Had not a friend. So being left alone,
(Lycius was gone to summon all his kin)
And knowing surely she could never win
His foolish heart from its mad pompousness,
She set herself, high-thoughted, how to dress
The misery in fit magnificence.
She did so, but ’tis doubtful how and whence
Came, and who were her subtle servitors.
About the halls, and to and from the doors,
There was a noise of wings, till in short space
The glowing banquet-room shone with wide-arched grace.
A haunting music, sole perhaps and lone
Supportress of the faery-roof, made moan
Throughout, as fearful the whole charm might fade.
Fresh carved cedar, mimicking a glade
Of palm and plantain, met from either side,
High in the midst, in honour of the bride:
Two palms and then two plantains, and so on,
From either side their stems branch’d one to one
All down the aisled place; and beneath all
There ran a stream of lamps straight on from wall to wall.
So canopied, lay an untasted feast
Teeming with odours. Lamia, regal drest,
Silently paced about, and as she went,
In pale contented sort of discontent,
Mission’d her viewless servants to enrich
The fretted splendour of each nook and niche.
Between the tree-stems, marbled plain at first,
Came jasper pannels; then, anon, there burst
Forth creeping imagery of slighter trees,
And with the larger wove in small intricacies.
Approving all, she faded at self-will,
And shut the chamber up, close, hush’d and still,
Complete and ready for the revels rude,
When dreadful guests would come to spoil her solitude.
The day appear’d, and all the gossip rout.
O senseless Lycius! Madman! wherefore flout
The silent-blessing fate, warm cloister’d hours,
And show to common eyes these secret bowers?
The herd approach’d; each guest, with busy brain,
Arriving at the portal, gaz’d amain,
And enter’d marveling: for they knew the street,
Remember’d it from childhood all complete
Without a gap, yet ne’er before had seen
That royal porch, that high-built fair demesne;
So in they hurried all, maz’d, curious and keen:
Save one, who look’d thereon with eye severe,
And with calm-planted steps walk’d in austere;
’Twas Apollonius: something too he laugh’d,
As though some knotty problem, that had daft
His patient thought, had now begun to thaw,
And solve and melt:—’twas just as he foresaw.
He met within the murmurous vestibule
His young disciple. “’Tis no common rule,
“Lycius,” said he, “for uninvited guest
“To force himself upon you, and infest
“With an unbidden presence the bright throng
“Of younger friends; yet must I do this wrong,
“And you forgive me.” Lycius blush’d, and led
The old man through the inner doors broad-spread;
With reconciling words and courteous mien
Turning into sweet milk the sophist’s spleen.
Of wealthy lustre was the banquet-room,
Fill’d with pervading brilliance and perfume:
Before each lucid pannel fuming stood
A censer fed with myrrh and spiced wood,
Each by a sacred tripod held aloft,
Whose slender feet wide-swerv’d upon the soft
Wool-woofed carpets: fifty wreaths of smoke
From fifty censers their light voyage took
To the high roof, still mimick’d as they rose
Along the mirror’d walls by twin-clouds odorous.
Twelve sphered tables, by silk seats insphered,
High as the level of a man’s breast rear’d
On libbard’s paws, upheld the heavy gold
Of cups and goblets, and the store thrice told
Of Ceres’ horn, and, in huge vessels, wine
Came from the gloomy tun with merry shine.
Thus loaded with a feast the tables stood,
Each shrining in the midst the image of a God.
When in an antichamber every guest
Had felt the cold full sponge to pleasure press’d,
By minist’ring slaves, upon his hands and feet,
And fragrant oils with ceremony meet
Pour’d on his hair, they all mov’d to the feast
In white robes, and themselves in order placed
Around the silken couches, wondering
Whence all this mighty cost and blaze of wealth could spring.
Soft went the music the soft air along,
While fluent Greek a vowel’d undersong
Kept up among the guests discoursing low
At first, for scarcely was the wine at flow;
But when the happy vintage touch’d their brains,
Louder they talk, and louder come the strains
Of powerful instruments:—the gorgeous dyes,
The space, the splendour of the draperies,
The roof of awful richness, nectarous cheer,
Beautiful slaves, and Lamia’s self, appear,
Now, when the wine has done its rosy deed,
And every soul from human trammels freed,
No more so strange; for merry wine, sweet wine,
Will make Elysian shades not too fair, too divine.
Soon was God Bacchus at meridian height;
Flush’d were their cheeks, and bright eyes double bright:
Garlands of every green, and every scent
From vales deflower’d, or forest-trees branch rent,
In baskets of bright osier’d gold were brought
High as the handles heap’d, to suit the thought
Of every guest; that each, as he did please,
Might fancy-fit his brows, silk-pillow’d at his ease.
What wreath for Lamia? What for Lycius?
What for the sage, old Apollonius?
Upon her aching forehead be there hung
The leaves of willow and of adder’s tongue;
And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him
The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim
Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage,
Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.
By her glad Lycius sitting, in chief place,
Scarce saw in all the room another face,
Till, checking his love trance, a cup he took
Full brimm’d, and opposite sent forth a look
’Cross the broad table, to beseech a glance
From his old teacher’s wrinkled countenance,
And pledge him. The bald-head philosopher
Had fix’d his eye, without a twinkle or stir
Full on the alarmed beauty of the bride,
Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride.
Lycius then press’d her hand, with devout touch,
As pale it lay upon the rosy couch:
’Twas icy, and the cold ran through his veins;
Then sudden it grew hot, and all the pains
Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart.
“Lamia, what means this? Wherefore dost thou start?
“Know’st thou that man?” Poor Lamia answer’d not.
He gaz’d into her eyes, and not a jot
Own’d they the lovelorn piteous appeal:
More, more he gaz’d: his human senses reel:
Some hungry spell that loveliness absorbs;
There was no recognition in those orbs.
“Lamia!” he cried—and no soft-toned reply.
The many heard, and the loud revelry
Grew hush; the stately music no more breathes;
The myrtle sicken’d in a thousand wreaths.
By faint degrees, voice, lute, and pleasure ceased;
A deadly silence step by step increased,
Until it seem’d a horrid presence there,
And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
“Lamia!” he shriek’d; and nothing but the shriek
With its sad echo did the silence break.
“Begone, foul dream!” he cried, gazing again
In the bride’s face, where now no azure vein
Wander’d on fair-spaced temples; no soft bloom
Misted the cheek; no passion to illume
The deep-recessed vision:—all was blight;
Lamia, no longer fair, there sat a deadly white.
“Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man!
“Turn them aside, wretch! or the righteous ban
“Of all the Gods, whose dreadful images
“Here represent their shadowy presences,
“May pierce them on the sudden with the thorn
“Of painful blindness; leaving thee forlorn,
“In trembling dotage to the feeblest fright
“Of conscience, for their long offended might,
“For all thine impious proud-heart sophistries,
“Unlawful magic, and enticing lies.
“Corinthians! look upon that gray-beard wretch!
“Mark how, possess’d, his lashless eyelids stretch
“Around his demon eyes! Corinthians, see!
“My sweet bride withers at their potency.”
“Fool!” said the sophist, in an under-tone
Gruff with contempt; which a death-nighing moan
From Lycius answer’d, as heart-struck and lost,
He sank supine beside the aching ghost.
“Fool! Fool!” repeated he, while his eyes still
Relented not, nor mov’d; “from every ill
“Of life have I preserv’d thee to this day,
“And shall I see thee made a serpent’s prey?
Then Lamia breath’d death breath; the sophist’s eye,
Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging: she, as well
As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
Motion’d him to be silent; vainly so,
He look’d and look’d again a level--No!
“A Serpent!” echoed he; no sooner said,
Than with a frightful scream she vanished:
And Lycius’ arms were empty of delight,
As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
On the high couch he lay!—his friends came round--
Supported him—no pulse, or breath they found,
And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound.
The Mass Of Christ
DOWN in the woodlands, where the streamlet runs,
Close to the breezy river, by the dells
Of ferns and flowers that shun the summer suns
But gather round the lizard-haunted wells,
And listen to the birds' sweet syllables —
Down in the woodlands, lying in the shade,
Among the rushes green that shook and gleamed,
I, I whose songs were of my heart's blood made,
Found weary rest from wretchedness, it seemed,
And fell asleep, and as I slept, I dreamed.
I dreamed I stood beside a pillar vast
Close to a little open door behind,
Whence the small light there was stole in aghast,
And for a space this troubled all my mind,
To lose the sunlight and the sky and the wind.
For I could know, I felt, how all before,
Though high and wonderful and to be praised,
In heart and soul and mind oppressed me sore.
Nevertheless, I turned, and my face raised,
And on that pageant and its glory gazed.
The pillars, vast as this whereby I stood,
Hedged all the place about and towered up high,
Up, and were lost within a billowy cloud
Of slow blue-wreathing smoke that fragrantly
Rose from below. And a great chaunt and cry
Of multitudinous voices, with sweet notes,
Mingled of music solemn, glad, serene,
Swayed all the air and gave its echoes throats.
And priests and singers various, with proud mien,
Filled all the choir — a strange and wondrous scene.
And men and women and children, in all hues
Of colour and fresh raiment, filled the nave;
And yet it seemed, this vast place did refuse
Room for the mighty army that did crave,
And only to the vanguard harbourage gave.
And, as I gazed and watched them while they knelt
(Their prayers I watched with the incense disappear),
And could not know my thoughts of it, I felt
A touch upon mine arm, and in mine ear
Some words, and turned my face to see and hear.
There was a man beside me. In that light,
Tho' dim, remote, and shadowy, I could see
His face swarthy yet pale, and eyes like night,
With a strange, far sadness, looking at me.
It seemed as if the buffets of some sea
Had beaten on him as he faced it long.
The salty foam, the spittle of its wrath
Had blurred the bruises of its fingers strong,
Striking him pitilessly from out its path,
Yet had he braved it as the willow hath.
He turned his look from me and where we stood,
His far strange look of sadness, and it seemed
This temple vast, this prayerful multitude,
These priests and singers celebrant who streamed
In gorgeous ranks towards the fane that gleamed,
Were to him as some vision is, untrue,
Tho' true we take it, undeceived the while,
But, since it was unknown to him all through,
And hid some meaning (it might be of guile),
He turned once more, and spake in gentle style.
'Nay, this,' he said, 'is not the Temple, nor
The children of Israel these, whom less sufficed
Of chaunt and ritual. They whom we abhor,
The Phoenicians, to their gods have sacrificed!'
I said, 'Nay, sir, this is the Mass of Christ.'
'The Mass of Christ?' he murmured. And I said
'This is the day on which He came below,
And this is Rome, and far up overhead
Soars the great dome that bids the wide world know
St. Peter still rules o'er his Church below!'
'The Christ?' he said, 'and Peter, who are they?'
I answered, 'Jesus was he in the days long past,
And Peter was his chief disciple.' 'Nay,'
He answered, 'for of these the lot was cast
On poverty.' I said, 'That is all past!'
Then as I might, as for some stranger great
(Who saw all things under an unknown sun),
I told him of these things both soon and late,
Then, when I paused and turned, lo! he was gone,
Had left me, and I saw him passing on.
On, up the aisle, he passed, his long black hair
Upon his brown and common coat; his head
Raised, and his mien such aspect fixed did wear
As one may have whose spirit long is sped
(Though he still lives) among the mighty dead.
He paused not, neither swerved not, till he came
Unto the fane and steps. Nor there he learned
Awe, but went on, till rose a shrill acclaim,
And the High Priest from the great altar turned,
And raised the golden sign that blazed and burned.
And a slow horror grew upon us all —
On priests and people, and on us who gazed —
As that Great King, alive beneath the pall,
Heard his own death-service that moaned and praised
So all we were fearful, expectant, dazed.
Then unknown murmurs round the High Priest rose
Of men in doubt; and all the multitude
Swayed, as one seized in a keen travail's throes,
Where, on the last steps of the altar stood,
The Man — the altar steps all red like blood.
The singing ceased; the air grew clear and dead,
Save for the organ tones that sobbed and sighed.
In a hushed voice the High Priest gazing, said,
'Who are you?' and the Man straightway replied,
'I, I am Jesus whom they crucified!'
His voice was low yet every ear there heard,
And every eye was fixed upon him fast;
And, when he spake, the people all shuddered,
As a great corn-field at the south wind's blast,
And the Man paused, but spake again at last:
'I am the Galilean. I was born
Of Joseph and of Mary in Nazareth.
But God, our Father, left me not forlorn,
But breathèd in my soul his sacred breath,
That I should be his prophet, and fear not death.
'I taught the Kingdom of Heaven; the poor, the oppressed
I loved. The rich, the priests, did hear my cry
Of hate and retribution that lashed their rest.
Wherefore they caught and took and scourged me. I
Was crucified with the thieves on Calvary!'
At that it seemed the very stones did quake,
And a great rumour grew and filled the place;
The pillars, the roof, the dome above did shake,
And a fierce cry and arms surged up apace,
Like to a storm-cloud round that dark pale face.
And yet once more he spake, and we did hear:
'Who are you? What is this you do?' he said.
'I was the Christ. Who is this here
You worship?' From that silence of the dead,
'Tear him in pieces,' cried a voice and fled.
Howls, yells, and execrations, blazing eyes,
And threatening arms — it was unloosened hell!
And in the midst, seized, dragged along with cries
Of hate exultant, still I saw him well,
His strange sad face; then sickened, swooned, and fell!
* The Emperor Charles V., mightiest of mediaeval kings, had the weird
fancy to assist at a representation of his own death service.
Slowly from out that trance did I arouse;
Slowly, with pain, and all was weary and still,
Even as a dreamer dreams some sweet carouse,
And faints at touch of breath and lips that thrill,
And yet awakes and yet is dreaming still.
So I. And when my tired eyes look, mine ears,
Echoing those late noises, listen, and
I seek to know what 'fore me now appears,
For long I cannot know nor understand,
But lie as some wrecked sailor on the strand.
Then bit by bit I knew it — how I lay
On the hard stones, crouched by a pillar tall:
The wind blew bleak and raw; the skies were grey;
Up broad stone steps folk passed into the wall,
Both men and women: there was no sun at all.
I moved, I rose, I came close to, and saw;
And then I knew the place wherein I was;
Here in the city high, the ravening maw
Of all men's toil and kindly Nature's laws,
I stood, and felt the dreary winter's flaws.
And by me rose that lampless edifice
Of England's soul shrunk to a skeleton,
Whose dingy cross the grimy air doth pierce —
London, that hell of wastefulness and stone,
The piled bones of the sufferers dead and gone!
And, when I knew all this, and thought of it,
And thought of all the hateful hours and dread
That smirched my youth here, struck, and stabbed, and lit
The plundered shrine of trust and love that fled,
And left my soul stripped, bleeding worse than dead,
Wrath grew in me. For all around I knew
The accursèd city worked on all the same,
For all the toiling sufferers. The idle few,
The vermin foul that from this dung-heap came,
Made of our agony their feast and game.
And when, with hands clenched tight, with eyes of fire,
Sombre and desperate, I moved on apace,
Within my soul brooded a dark desire;
I reached the stream of those who sought this place,
And turned with them and saw a sudden face.
I knew it, as it was there, meeting mine —
I knew it with its strange sad gaze, the eyes
Night-like. Yet on it now no more did shine,
As 'twere that inner light of victories,
Won from the fiend that lives by the god that dies.
But very weary, as my waking was,
But stunned, it seemed, and as if cowed at last,
Were look and bearing of him: I felt the cause
Even as I looked. My wrath and thought were passed
I came and took his arm and held it fast.
And, as some fever-struck delirious man,
In some still pausing of his anguish-throes,
Forgetful of it all, how it began,
Rises from off his bed and dons his clothes,
And seeks (his footsteps seek) some place he knows;
And there he wanders voiceless, like a ghost,
His weariness confusing him, until
Worn-out, he helplessly perceives he's lost:
So was he here, this man, stricken and still —
Day, place, folk, all incomprehensible!
My hold aroused him. We looked face in face,
And in a little I could watch the wonder,
'Where he had seen me,' in his great eyes, chase
The torpor and oblivion asunder.
Close by there was a porch, I drew him under.
There, after pause, I asked, 'What do you here?'
He said: 'I came, I think, to seek and see
Something which I much long for and yet fear.
I have passed over many a land and sea
I never knew: my Father guided me.
'I think,' he said, 'that I am come to find
Here, in this cold dark place, what in that blue
And sunny south but wounded all my mind.
But I am weary and cannot see things true,
There is a cloud around me. And with you?'
'Come, then,' I said, 'come then, if you must know
What that great saint hath done for us, who is
The second builder of your Church below.
Paul, that was Saul, the Prince of Charities!
He saw you once. Now see him once — in this!'
We went out side by side into the stream
Of folk that passed on upwards thro' the wall
(There was a gateway there), and in the beam
Of the dull light we stood and pillars tall,
And I said 'Look,' and he looked at it all.
Somewhat it was as he had seen before,
Yet darker, gloomier, though some hues were gay.
For all these people had, it seemed, full store
Of quiet ease, and loved the leisured day;
They sang of joy, but little joy had they.
It was the function of the rich, of those
To whom contentment springs from booty's fill,
Gorged to a dull, religious, rank repose.
He raised his voice. He spake the words, 'I will!'
There came a sound from some about, 'Be still!'
Heedless, as one begrimed with blood and smoke,
The leader of a charge shattered in rout,
Strips off his tatters and bids the ranks re-yoke,
And leads them back to carry the redoubt,
So was he, strong once more, and resolute.
But, as he moved into the aisle, there rose
Men round him, grim and quiet, and a hand
Firmly upon each arm and wrist did close,
And held him like an engine at command.
He cried: 'Loose me! You do not understand!'
'Loose me,' he cried, 'I, Jesus, come to tell——'
No answer made they, but without a word
Moved him away. Their office they knew well
With the impious outcasts who the good disturb
In their worship of their Queen and of their Lord.
'Twas finished ere we heard him. At the door
They thrust him out, and I, who followed him,
Knowing that he could enter it no more,
Led him away, his faltering steps, his slim
Frail form within mine arm; his eyes were dim.
Out and away from this I gently guided
Through wretched streets I knew. (Is not my blood
Upon their stones?). A few poor sots derided,
But we passed on unheeding, as we could,
Till by a little door we paused and stood.
We entered. 'Twas a chamber bare and small,
With chairs and benches and a table. There
Some six or seven men sat: I knew them all.
I said, 'Food, food and drink!' Some did repair
At once, without a word, to bring their fare.
He sat down by the table listless. But
When bread was brought him, water, and red wine,
Slowly his white waste hand he stretched, and put
On to the bread and brake it; a divine
Smile touched his lips, and on his brow did shine.
They gathered round him with strange quiet glances,
These soldiers of the army Night hath tried,
One spake the question of their countenances —
'Who are you?' Then he whisperingly replied,
'I, I am Jesus, whom they crucified!'
At that a murmur rang among them all.
There was one man so white he seemed as dead,
Save for his eyes, and when he heard them call:
'Christ, it is Christ,' he bent to him his head,
And the thin bitter lips hissed as they said:
'The name of Christ has been the sovereign curse,
The opium drug that kept us slaves to wrong.
Fooled with a dream, we bowed to worse and worse;
‘In heaven,’ we said, ‘He will confound the strong.’
O hateful treason that has tricked too long!
'Had we poor down-trod millions never dreamed
Your dream of that hereafter for our woe,
Had the great powers that rule, no Father seemed,
But Law relentless, long and long ago
We had risen and said, ‘We will not suffer so.’
'O Christ, O you who found the drug of heaven,
To keep consoled an earth that grew to hell,
That else to cleanse and cure its sores had striven,
We curse that name!' A fierce hard silence fell,
And Jesus whispered, 'Oh, and I as well!'
He raised his face! See, on the Calvary hill,
Submissive with such pride, betrayed and taken,
Transfixed and crucified, the prey of ill,
Of a cup less bitter had he there partaken,
He then by God, as now by Man, forsaken!
'Vain, was it vain, all vain?' had mocked him then;
Now the triumphant gibe of hell had said,
'Not vain! a curse, a speechless curse to men!'
His great eyes gazed on it. He bowed his head,
Without a word, and shuddered. He was dead!
And when I saw this, with a low hoarse cry
I caught him to mine arms and to my breast,
And put my lips to his that breathed one sigh,
And kissed his eyes, and by his name addressed
My Friend, my Master, him whom I loved best.
'Jesus,' I whispered, 'Jesus, Jesus, speak!'
For it did seem that speech from him must break;
But suddenly I knew he would not speak,
Never, never again! My heart did shake:
My stricken brain burst; I shrieked and leaped awake.
Down in the woodlands, where the streamlet runs,
Close to the breezy river, by the dells,
Of ferns and flowers that shun the summer suns
But gather round the lizard-haunted wells,
And listen to the birds' sweet syllables —
Down in the woodlands, lying in the shade,
Among the rushes green that shook and gleamed,
I woke and lay, and of my dream dreams made,
Wondering if indeed I had but dreamed,
Or dreamed but now, so real that dream had seemed.
Then up above I saw the turquoise sky,
And, past the blowy tree-tops swung aloft,
Two pigeons dared the breeze ecstatically,
And happy frogs, couched in the verdure soft,
Piped to each other dreamily and oft.
And, as I looked across the flowery woods,
Across the grasses, sun and shade bedight,
Under the leaves' melodious interludes,
Flowing one way, the blessèd birds' delight,
I saw her come, my love, clothed on with light!
Flowers she had, and in her hair and hands,
Singing and stooping, gathering them with words,
Whose music is past all speech understands,
But God is glad thereof, as of his birds;
I watched her, listening, till I heard the words
Leap from her lips of a bold battle-song,
The clarion clear that silences the strife.
She marched exultantly to it along,
No more a joyous girl, a sacred wife,
But a soldier of the Cause that's more than life!
O well I knew the song that she was singing,
But now she gave her music to my rhyme,
Her rapturous music thro' the wild woods ringing,
Asserting Truth and Trust, arraigning Crime,
And bidding Justice 'bring the better time!'
O Love, sing on, sing on, O girt with light,
Shatter the silence of the hopeless hours;
O mock with song triumphant all the night,
O girl, O wife, O crowned with fruits and flowers,
Till day and dawn and victory are ours!
The Lay of the Last Minstrel: Canto II.
If thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruin'd central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,
Then go-but go alone the while-
Then view St. David's ruin'd pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!
Short halt did Deloraine make there;
Little reck'd he of the scene so fair;
With dagger's hilt, on the wicket strong,
He struck full loud, and struck full long.
The porter hurried to the gate-
'Who knocks so loud, and knocks so late?'
'From Branksome I,' the warrior cried;
And straight the wicket open'd wide:
For Branksome's Chiefs had in battle stood,
To fence the rights of fair Melrose;
And lands and livings, many a rood,
Had gifted the shrine for their souls' repose.
Bold Deloraine his errand said;
The porter bent his humble head;
With torch in hand, and feet unshod,
And noiseless step, the path he trod,
The arched cloister, far and wide,
Rang to the warrior's clanking stride,
Till, stooping low his lofty crest,
He enter'd the cell of the ancient priest,
And lifted his barred aventayle,
To hail the Monk of St Mary's aisle.
'The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by me,
Says, that the fated hour is come,
And that to-night I shall watch with thee,
To win the treasure of the tomb.'
From sackcloth couch the Monk arose,
With toil his stiffen'd limbs he rear'd;
A hundred years had flung their snows
On his thin locks and floating beard.
And strangely on the Knight look'd he,
And his blue eyes gleam'd wild and wide;
'And, darest thou, Warrior! seek to see
What heaven and hell alike would hide?
My breast, in belt of iron pent,
With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn;
For threescore years, in penance spent,
My knees those flinty stones have worn:
Yet all too little to atone
For knowing what should ne'er be known.
Would'st thou thy very future year
In ceaseless prayer and penance drie,
Yet wait thy latter end with fear-
Then, daring Warrior, follow me!-
'Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one;
For mass or prayer can I rarely tarry,
Save to patter an Ave Mary,
When I ride on a Border foray.
Other prayer can I none;
So speed me my errand, and let me be gone.'-
Again on the Knight look'd the Churchman old,
And again he sighed heavily;
For he had himself been a warrior bold,
And fought in Spain and Italy.
And he thought on the days that were long since by,
When his limbs were strong, and his courage was high:-
Now, slow and faint, he led the way,
Where, cloister'd round, the garden lay;
The pillar'd arches were over their head,
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.
Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,
Glisten'd with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret, glisten'd there,
But was carved in the cloister-arches as fair.
The monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen in fair Castille,
The youth in glittering squadrons start;
Sudden the flying jennet wheel,
And hurl the unexpected dart.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.
By a steel-clenched postern door,
They enter'd now the chancel tall;
The darken'd roof rose high aloof
On pillars lofty and light and small;
The key-stone, that lock'd each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-geuille,
The corbells were carved grotesque and grim;
And the pillars, with cluster'd shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourish'd around,
Seem'd bundles of lances which garlands had bound.
Full many a scutcheon and banner riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screenëd altar's pale;
And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn,
O gallant Chief of Otterburne!
And thine, dark Knight of Liddesdale!
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!
The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;
Thou wouldst have thought some fairy's hand
'Twixt poplars straight the ozier wand,
In many a freakish know, had twined;
Then framed a spell, when the work was done,
And changed the willow-wreaths to stone.
The silver light, so pale and faint,
Shew'd many a prophet, and many a saint,
Whose image on the glass was dyed;
Full in the midst, his Cross of Red
Triumphant Michael brandished,
And trampled the Apostate's pride.
The moon-beam kiss'd the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.
They sate them down on a marble stone,
(A Scottish monarch slept below);
Thus spoke the Monk, in solemn tone:-
'I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim coutries have I trod,
And fought beneath the Cross of God:
Now, strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
'In these far climes it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott,
A wizard, of such dreaded fame,
Than when, in Salmanca's cave,
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame!
Some of his skill he taught to me;
And Warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone:
But to speak them were a deadly sin;
And for having but thought them my heart within,
A treble penance must be done.
'When Michael lay on his dying bed,
His conscience was awakened:
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed;
I was in Spain when the morning rose,
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid;
They would rend they Abbay's massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.
'I swore to bury his Mighty Book,
That never mortal might therein look;
And never to tell where it was hid,
Save at his Chief of Branksome's need:
And when that need was past and o'er,
Again the volume to restore.
I buried him on St. Michael's night,
When the bell toll'd one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead,
When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patron's cross might over him wave,
And scare the fiends from the Wizard's grave.
'It was a night of woe and dread,
When Michael in the tomb I laid!
Strange sounds along the chancel pass'd,
The banners waved without a blast;'-
-Still spoke the Monk, when the bell toll'd one!-
I tell you, that a braver man
Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
Against a foe ne'er spurr'd a steed;
Yet somewhat was he chill'd with dread,
And his hair did bristle upon his head.
'Lo, Warrior! now, the Cross of Red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wondrous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night:
That lamp shall burn unquenchably,
Until the eternal doom shall be.'-
Slowly moved the Monk to the broad flagstone,
Which the bloody Cross was traced upon:
He pointed to a secret nook;
An iron bar the Warrior took;
And the Monk made a sign with his wither'd hand,
The grave's huge portal to expand.
With beating heart to the task he went;
His sinewy frame o'er the grave-stone bent;
With bar of iron heaved amain,
Till the toil-drops fell from his brows, like rain.
It was by dint of passing strength,
That he moved the massy stone at length.
I would you had been there, to see
How the light broke forth so gloriously,
Stream'd upward to the chancel roof,
And through the galleries far aloof!
No earthly flame blazed e'er so bright:
It shone like haaven's own blessed light,
And, issuing from the tomb,
Show'd th Monk's cowl, and visage pale,
Danced on the dark-brow'd Warrior's mail,
And kiss'd his waving plume.
Before their eyes the Wizard lay,
As if he had not been dead a day.
His hoary beard in silver roll'd,
He seem'd some seventy winters old;
A palmer's amice wrapp'd him round,
With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,
Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea;
His left hand held his Book of Might;
A silver cross was in his right;
The lamp was placed beside his knee;
High and majestic was his look,
At which the fellest fiends had shook,
And all unruffled was his face:
They trusted his soul had gotten grace.
Often had William of Deloraine
Rode through the battle's bloody plain,
And trampled down the warriors slain,
And neither known remorse nor awe;
Yet now remorse and awe he own'd;
His breath came thick, his head swam round,
When this strange scene of death he saw,
Bewilder'd and unnerved he stood,
And the priest pray'd fervently and loud:
With eyes averted prayed he;
He might not endure the sight to see,
Of the man he had loved so brotherly.
And when the priest his death-prayer had pray'd,
Thus unto Deloraine he said:-
'Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
Or, Warrior, we may dearly rue;
For those, thou may'st not look upon,
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!'-
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the Mighty Book,
With iron clasp'd, and with iron bound:
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frown'd;
But the glare of the sepulchral light,
Perchance, had dazzled the warrior's sight.
When the huge stone sunk o'er the tomb,
The night return'd in double gloom;
For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few;
And, as the Knight and Priest withdrew,
With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
They hardly might the postern gain.
'Tis said, as through the aisles they pass'd,
They heard strange noises on the blast:
And through the cloister-galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the cancel wall,
Loud sobs, and laughter louder, ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man;
As if the fiends kept holiday,
Because these spells were brought to day.
I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
'Now, hie thee hence,' the Father said,
'And when we are on death-bed laid,
O may our dear Ladye, and sweet St. John,
Forgive our souls for the deed we have done!'
The Monk return'd him to his cell,
And many a prayer and penance sped;
When the convent met at the noontide bell-
The Monk of St. Mary's aisle was dead!
Before the cross was the body laid,
With hands clasp'd fast, as if still he pray'd.
The Knight breathed free in the morning wind,
And strove his hardihood to find:
He was glad when he pass'd the tombstones grey,
Which girdle round the fair Abbaye;
For the mistic Book, to his bosom prest,
Felt like a load upon his breast;
And his joints, with nerves of iron twined,
Shook, like the aspen leaves in wind.
Full fain was he when the dawn of day
Began to brighten Cheviot grey;
He joy'd to see the cheerful light,
And he said Ave Mary, as well he might.
The sun had brighten'd Cheviot grey,
The sun had brighten'd the Carter's side;
And soon beneath the rising day
Smiled Branksome Towers and Teviot's tide.
The wild birds told their warbling tale,
And waken'd every flower that blows;
And peeped forth the violet pale,
And spread her breast the mountain rose.
And lovelier than the rose so red,
Yet paler than the violet pale,
She early left her sleepless bed,
The fairest maid of Teviotdale.
Why does fair Margarent so early awake?
And don her kirtle so hastilie;
And the silken knots, which in hurry she would make,
Why tremble her slender fingers to tie;
Why does she stop, and look often around,
As she glides down the secret stair;
And why does she pat the shaggy bloodhound,
As he rouses him up from his lair;
And, though she passes the postern alone,
Why is not the watchman's bugle blown?
The ladye steps in doubt and dread,
Lest her watchful mother hear her tread;
The lady caresses the rough blood-hound,
Lest his voice should waken the castle round,
The watchman's bugle is not blown,
For he was her foster-father's son;
And she glides through the greenwood at dawn of light
To meet Baron Henry her own true knight.
The Knight and ladye fair are met,
And under the hawthorn's boughs are set.
A fairer pair were never seen
To meet beneath the hawthorn green.
He was stately, and young, and tall;
Dreaded in battle, and loved in hall:
And she, when love, scarce told, scarce hid,
Lent to her cheek a livelier red;
When the half sigh her swelling breast
Against the silken ribbon prest;
When her blue eyes their secret told,
Though shaded by her locks of gold-
Where whould you find the peerless fair,
With Margarent of Branksome might compare!
And now, fair dames, methinks I see
You listen to my minstrelsy;
Your waving locks ye backward throw,
And sidelong bend your necks of snow;
Ye ween to hear a melting tale,
Of two true lovers in a dale;
And how the Knight, with tender fire,
To paint his faithful passion strove;
Swore he might at her feet expire,
But never, never, cease to love;
And how she blush'd, and how she sigh'd.
And, half consenting, half denied,
And said that she would die a maid;-
Yet, might the bloody feud be stay'd,
Henry of Cranstoun, and only he,
Margaret of Branksome's choice should be.
Alas! fair dames, you hopes are vain!
My harp has lost the enchanting strain;
Its lightness would my age reprove;
My hairs are grey, my limbs are old,
My heart is dead, my veins are cold:
I may not, must not, sing of love.
Beneath an oak, moss'd o'er by eld,
The Baron's Dwarf his courser held,
And held his crested helm and spear:
That Dwarf was scarce an earthly man,
If the tales were true that of him ran
Through all the Border far and near.
'Twas said, when the Baron a-hunting rode,
Through Reedsdale's glens, but rarely trod,
He heard a voice cry, 'Lost! lost! lost!'
And, like a tennis-ball by racket toss'd,
A leap, of thirty feet and three,
Made from the gorse this elfin shape,
Distorted like some dwarfish ape,
And lighted at Lord Cranstoun's knee.
'Tis said that five good miles he rade,
To rid him of his company;
But where he rode one mile, the Dwarf ran four,
And the Dwarf was first at the castle door.
Use lessens marvel, it is said:
This elvish Dwarf with the Baron staid;
Little he ate, and less he spoke,
Nor mingled with the menial flock:
And oft apart his arms he toss'd,
And often mutter'd 'Lost! lost! lost!'
He was waspish, arch, and litherlie,
But well Lord Carnstoun served he:
And he of his service was full fain;
For once he had been ta'en, or slain,
An it had not been for his ministry.
All between Home and Hermitage,
Talk'd of Lord Cranstoun's Goblin-Page.
For the Baron went on Pilgrimage,
And took with him this elvish Page,
To Mary's Chapel of the Lowes;
For there beside our Ladye's lake,
An offering he had sworn to make,
And he would pay his vows.
But the Ladye of Branksome gather'd a band
Of the best that would ride at her command:
The trysting place was Newark Lee.
Wat of Harden came thither amain,
And thither came John of Thirlestane,
And thither came William of Deloraine;
They were three hundred spears and three.
Through Douglas-burn, up Yarrow strem,
Their horses prance, their lances gleam.
They came to St. Mary's lake ere day;
But the chapel was void, and the Baron away.
They burn'd the chapel for very rage,
And cursed Lord Cranstoun's Goblin-Page.
And now, in Branksome's good green wood,
As under the aged oak he stood,
The Baron's courser pricks his ears,
As if a distant noise he hears.
The Dwarf waves his long lean arm on high,
And signs to the lovers to part and fly;
No time was then to vow or sigh.
Fair Margaret through the hazel grove,
Flew like the startled cushat-dove:
The Dwarf the stirrup held and rein;
Vaulted the Knight on his steed amain,
And, pondering deep that morning's scene,
Rode eastward through the hawthorns green.
While thus he pour'd the lengthen'd tale
The Minstrel's voice began to fail:
Full slyly smiled the observant page,
And gave the wither'd hand of age
A goblet crown'd with mighty wine,
The blood of Velez' scorched vine.
He raised the silver cup on high,
And, while the big drop fill'd his eye
Pray'd God to bless the Duchess long,
And all who cheer'd a son of song.
The attending maidens smiled to see
How long, how deep, how zealously
The precious juice the Minstrel quaff'd;
And he, embolden'd by the draught,
Look'd gaily back to them, and laugh'd.
The cordial nectar of the bowl
Swell'd his old veins, and cheer'd his soul;
A lighter, livelier prelude ran,
Ere thus his tale again began.