Memory has seized stinging
Thoughts do not beat on the hands
You’re going and I’m seeing
You off to the alien lands
You are the constant migrant
Looking for good luck
You came just to say that you went
And you fly again.
Summer rain, summer rain
It today has pored so early
Summer rain, summer rain
Will clear my heartache curlie-wurlie
We shall share our grieves with it
By the water-blind pane
Summer rain, summer rain
Whispers it to me his wisdom:
You will come, come again
Come again, to return freedom
Missing one’s time is most frequent of life plays
With two actors at stage.
Night dreams of you will soon vanish
Soon they will perish and, oh!
New dream will lighten and get warmth in my old cold home
When you have love, don’t seek more loving
You’ll realize with time
Now you don’t want to hear my cry and you’re lost for a while.
Summer rain, summer rain
It today has pored so early
Summer rain, summer rain
Will clear my heartache curlie-wurlie
We shall share our grieves with it
By the water-blind pane
Summer rain, summer rain
Whispers it to me his wisdom:
You will come, come again
Come again, to return freedom
Missing one’s time is most frequent of life plays
With two actors at stage.
- quotes about summer
- quotes about rain
- quotes about actors
- quotes about migrants
- quotes about missing
- quotes about wisdom
- quotes about freedom
- quotes about water
- quotes about luck
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
- quotes about Rome
- quotes about language
- quotes about saint
- quotes about mother language
- quotes about fashion
- quotes about Gioconda
- quotes about monsters
- quotes about literature
- quotes about pink
Your cold and poor-spirited love
Was like running water upon my hands...
I did for your love, all that I could....
As an imperfect man that I am...
I offered you just possible things...
Warmth when you were cold,
And consolation when you felt hopeless...
You search for perfection
Which you will never find...
Perfect is the rain that falls
In the spring time...
Perfect are the flowers that grow
in a real garden of love....
Perfect is the smile in a child
Who plays with toys...
Perfection is a man
Who had it all
And now is getting tired and old...
Perfection are the memories
In your heart and mind...
Perfection is something
You shall never find
On me or any other man
Since perfection is just
In your dreams and imagination...
Now perfection becomes
Just like a story untold....
How sad it is
That my love you can no longer have
Neither my hands again hold...
o! Woman, wish you good luck
In your new try...
No more time
Just one more time
So crazy, beat the strain
Too lazy, shake the gray
So, and she willed the rain
So let me be defamed
Your redundancy stains
Tired of infantile claims
Like puppets on a string
Untangle you from me
Time to call the doggies off
Tired of the shadowin
Slide me to the side again
Slapped in the face again
No more time
Just one more time
Your redundancy stains
Tired of infantile claims
Like puppets on a string
Untangle you from me
So crazy, beat the strain
Too lazy, shake the gray
So, and she willed the rain
So let me be defamed
Time to call the doggies off
Tired of the shadowin
Slide me to the side again
Slapped in the face again
One day my plane leaves
Some way my head creeps
Some day my head leads
Some way my head creeps
No more time
Just one more time
Empty room sets the scene
Pick at me slow, pain fiend
Suck me through barbed screen
Anger becomes our queen
Tongue whipping forked black
How long until you crack
Surprised and set back
Lackeys loose talk for fact
Time to call the doggies off ]
Tired of the shadowin ]
Slide me to the side again ] (2x)
Slapped in the face again ]
One day my plane leaves
Some way my head creeps
Some day my head leads
Some way my head creeps
No more time
Just one more time
So crazy feel the hate
Yeah, Ive got years to wait
I know its not too late
Lending clean hands of fate
Rise from the dirt Im in
Hide in anothers skin
Stick black dress doll with pin
Your mouth takes on my grin
So crazy (3x)
You Look Good In My Shirt
When you walked up behind me and covered my eyes
And whispered in my ear, guess who
I rattled off names like I really didnt know
But all along I knew it was you
And, the longer we talked, the more we laughed
And wondered why we didnt last
It had been a long time, but later last night
Baby, we caught up real fast
And maybe its a little too early
To know if this is gonna work
All I know is youre sure looking
Good in my shirt
You look good in my shirt
Well now Im not saying that we solved overnight
Every way that we went wrong
Oh, but what Im seeing Id sure love seeing
Every morning from now on
And maybe its a little too early
To know if this is gonna work
All I know is youre sure looking
Good in my shirt
Aww thats right
Oh you look so fine
And maybe its a little too early
To know if this is gonna work
All I know is youre sure looking
Good in my shirt
And maybe its a little too early
To know if this is gonna work
All I know is youre sure looking
Good in my shirt
You look good in my shirt
You look good in my shirt
Four Songs Of Four Seasons
I. WINTER IN NORTHUMBERLAND
OUTSIDE the garden
The wet skies harden;
The gates are barred on
The summer side:
"Shut out the flower-time,
Sunbeam and shower-time;
Make way for our time,"
Wild winds have cried.
Green once and cheery,
The woods, worn weary,
Sigh as the dreary
Weak sun goes home:
A great wind grapples
The wave, and dapples
The dead green floor of the sea with foam.
Through fell and moorland,
And salt-sea foreland,
Our noisy norland
Resounds and rings;
Waste waves thereunder
Are blown in sunder,
And winds make thunder
With cloudwide wings;
Sea-drift makes dimmer
The beacon's glimmer;
Nor sail nor swimmer
Can try the tides;
And snowdrifts thicken
Where, when leaves quicken,
Under the heather the sundew hides.
Green land and red land,
Moorside and headland,
Are white as dead land,
Are all as one;
Nor honied heather,
Nor bells to gather,
Fair with fair weather
And faithful sun:
Fierce frost has eaten
All flowers that sweeten
The fells rain-beaten;
And winds their foes
Have made the snow's bed
Down in the rose-bed;
Deep in the snow's bed bury the rose.
Bury her deeper
Than any sleeper;
Sweet dreams will keep her
All day, all night;
Though sleep benumb her
And time o'ercome her,
She dreams of summer,
And takes delight,
Dreaming and sleeping
In love's good keeping,
While rain is weeping
And no leaves cling;
Winds will come bringing her
Comfort, and singing her
Stories and songs and good news of the spring.
Draw the white curtain
Close, and be certain
She takes no hurt in
Her soft low bed;
She feels no colder,
And grows not older,
Though snows enfold her
From foot to head;
She turns not chilly
Like weed and lily
In marsh or hilly
Or green soft island
In lakes of highland;
She sleeps awhile, and she is not dead.
For all the hours,
Come sun, come showers,
Are friends of flowers,
And fairies all;
When frost entrapped her,
They came and lapped her
In leaves, and wrapped her
With shroud and pall;
In red leaves wound her,
With dead leaves bound her
Dead brows, and round her
A death-knell rang;
Rang the death-bell for her,
Sang, "is it well for her,
Well, is it well with you, rose?" they sang.
O what and where is
The rose now, fairies,
So shrill the air is,
So wild the sky?
Poor last of roses,
Her worst of woes is
The noise she knows is
The winter's cry;
His hunting hollo
Has scared the swallow;
Fain would she follow
And fain would fly:
But wind unsettles
Her poor last petals;
Had she but wings, and she would not die.
Come, as you love her,
Come close and cover
Her white face over,
And forth again
Ere sunset glances
On foam that dances,
Through lowering lances
Of bright white rain;
And make your playtime
Of winter's daytime,
As if the Maytime
Were here to sing;
As if the snowballs
Were soft like blowballs,
Blown in a mist from the stalk in the spring.
Each reed that grows in
Our stream is frozen,
The fields it flows in
Are hard and black;
Waits wise and wary
Till time shall vary
And thaws come back.
"O sister, water,"
The wind besought her,
"O twin-born daughter
Of spring with me,
Stay with me, play with me,
Take the warm way with me,
Straight for the summer and oversea."
But winds will vary,
And wise and wary
The patient fairy
Of water waits;
All shrunk and wizen,
In iron prison,
Till spring re-risen
Unbar the gates;
Till, as with clamor
Of axe and hammer,
Chained streams that stammer
And struggle in straits
Burst bonds that shiver,
And thaws deliver
The roaring river in stormy spates.
In fierce March weather
White waves break tether,
And whirled together
At either hand,
Like weeds uplifted,
The tree-trunks rifted
In spars are drifted,
Like foam or sand,
Past swamp and sallow
And reed-beds callow,
Through pool and shallow,
To wind and lee,
Till, no more tongue-tied,
Full flood and young tide
Roar down the rapids and storm the sea.
As men's cheeks faded
On shores invaded,
When shorewards waded
The lords of fight;
When churl and craven
Saw hard on haven
The wide-winged raven
At mainmast height;
When monks affrighted
To windward sighted
The birds full-flighted
Of swift sea-kings;
So earth turns paler
When Storm the sailor
Steers in with a roar in the race of his wings.
O strong sea-sailor,
Whose cheek turns paler
For wind or hail or
For fear of thee?
O far sea-farer,
Thy songs are rarer
Than soft songs be.
O fleet-foot stranger,
O north-sea ranger
Through days of danger
And ways of fear,
Blow thy horn here for us,
Blow the sky clear for us,
Send us the song of the sea to hear.
Roll the strong stream of it
Up, till the scream of it
Wake from a dream of it
Children that sleep,
Seamen that fare for them
Forth, with a prayer for them:
Shall not God care for them
Angels not keep?
Spare not the surges
Thy stormy scourges;
Spare us the dirges
Of wives that weep.
Turn back the waves for us:
Dig no fresh graves for us,
Wind, in the manifold gulfs of the deep.
O stout north-easter,
For all thine haste, or
Thy stormy skill,
Yet hadst thou never,
For all endeavour,
Strength to dissever
Or strength to spill,
Save of his giving
Who gave our living,
Whose hands are weaving
What ours fulfil;
Whose feet tread under
The storms and thunder;
Who made our wonder to work his will.
His years and hours,
His world's blind powers,
His stars and flowers,
His nights and days,
Sea-tide and river,
And waves that shiver,
Praise God, the giver
Of tongues to praise.
Winds in their blowing,
And fruits in growing;
Time in its going,
While time shall be;
In death and living,
With one thanksgiving,
Praise him whose hand is the strength of the sea.
II. SPRING IN TUSCANY
ROSE-RED lilies that bloom on the banner;
Rose-cheeked gardens that revel in spring;
Rose-mouthed acacias that laugh as they climb,
Like plumes for a queen's hand fashioned to fan her
With wind more soft than a wild dove's wing,
What do they sing in the spring of their time
If this be the rose that the world hears singing,
Soft in the soft night, loud in the day,
Songs for the fireflies to dance as they hear;
If that be the song of the nightingale, springing
Forth in the form of a rose in May,
What do they say of the way of the year?
What of the way of the world gone Maying,
What of the work of the buds in the bowers,
What of the will of the wind on the wall,
Fluttering the wall-flowers, sighing and playing,
Shrinking again as a bird that cowers,
Thinking of hours when the flowers have to fall?
Out of the throats of the loud birds showering,
Out of the folds where the flag-lilies leap,
Out of the mouths of the roses stirred,
Out of the herbs on the walls reflowering,
Out of the heights where the sheer snows sleep,
Out of the deep and the steep, one word.
One from the lips of the lily-flames leaping,
The glad red lilies that burn in our sight,
The great live lilies for standard and crown;
One from the steeps where the pines stand sleeping,
One from the deep land, one from the height,
One from the light and the might of the town.
The lowlands laugh with delight of the highlands,
Whence May winds feed them with balm and breath
From hills that beheld in the years behind
A shape as of one from the blest souls' islands,
Made fair by a soul too fair for death,
With eyes on the light that should smite them blind.
Vallombrosa remotely remembers,
Perchance, what still to us seems so near
That time not darkens it, change not mars,
The foot that she knew when her leaves were September's,
The face lift up to the star-blind seer,
That saw from his prison arisen his stars.
And Pisa broods on her dead, not mourning,
For love of her loveliness given them in fee;
And Prato gleams with the glad monk's gift
Whose hand was there as the hand of morning;
And Siena, set in the sand's red sea,
Lifts loftier her head than the red sand's drift.
And far to the fair south-westward lightens,
Girdled and sandalled and plumed with flowers,
At sunset over the love-lit lands,
The hill-side's crown where the wild hill brightens,
Saint Fina's town of the Beautiful Towers,
Hailing the sun with a hundred hands.
Land of us all that have loved thee dearliest,
Mother of men that were lords of man,
Whose name in the world's heart work a spell
My last song's light, and the star of mine earliest,
As we turn from thee, sweet, who wast ours for a span,
Fare well we may not who say farewell.
III. SUMMER IN AUVERGNE
THE sundawn fills the land
Full as a feaster's hand
Fills full with bloom of bland
Bright wine his cup;
Flows full to flood that fills
From the arch of air it thrills
Those rust-red iron hills
With morning up.
Dawn, as a panther springs,
With fierce and fire-fledged wings
Leaps on the land that rings
From her bright feet
Through all its lava-black
Cones that cast answer back
And cliffs of footless track
Where thunders meet.
The light speaks wide and loud
From deeps blown clean of cloud
As though day's heart were proud
And heaven's were glad;
The towers brown-striped and grey
Take fire from heaven of day
As though the prayers they pray
Their answers had.
Higher in these high first hours
Wax all the keen church towers,
And higher all hearts of ours
Than the old hills' crown,
Higher than the pillared height
Of that strange cliff-side bright
With basalt towers whose might
Strong time bows down.
And the old fierce ruin there
Of the old wild princes' lair
Whose blood in mine hath share
Gapes gaunt and great
Toward heaven that long ago
Watched all the wan land's woe
Whereon the wind would blow
Of their bleak hate.
Dead are those deeds; but yet
Their memory seems to fret
Lands that might else forget
That old world's brand;
Dead all their sins and days;
Yet in this red clime's rays
Some fiery memory stays
That sears their land.
IV. AUTUMN IN CORNWALL
THE year lies fallen and faded
On cliffs by clouds invaded,
With tongues of storms upbraided,
With wrath of waves bedinned;
And inland, wild with warning,
As in deaf ears or scorning,
The clarion even and morning
Rings of the south-west wind.
The wild bents wane and wither
In blasts whose breath bows hither
Their grey-grown heads and thither,
Unblest of rain or sun;
The pale fierce heavens are crowded
With shapes like dreams beclouded,
As though the old year enshrouded
Lay, long ere life were done.
Full-charged with oldworld wonders,
From dusk Tintagel thunders
A note that smites and sunders
The hard frore fields of air;
A trumpet stormier-sounded
Than once from lists rebounded
When strong men sense-confounded
Fell thick in tourney there.
From scarce a duskier dwelling
Such notes of wail rose welling
Through the outer darkness, telling
In the awful singer's ears
What souls the darkness covers,
What love-lost souls of lovers,
Whose cry still hangs and hovers
In each man's born that hears.
For there by Hector's brother
And yet some thousand other
He that had grief to mother
Passed pale from Dante's sight;
With one fast linked as fearless,
Perchance, there only tearless;
Iseult and Tristram, peerless
And perfect queen and knight.
A shrill-winged sound comes flying
North, as of wild souls crying
The cry of things undying,
That know what life must be;
Or as the old year's heart, stricken
Too sore for hope to quicken
By thoughts like thorns that thicken,
Broke, breaking with the sea.
O POOR, sad hearts that struggle on and wait,
Like shipwrecked sailors on a spar at sea,
Through deepening glooms, if haply, soon or late,
Some day-dawn glimmer of what is to be,
Not knowing Christ, nor gladdened by His Love
And Life indwelling—to you I dedicate
These humble musings, praying that from above,
On you, being faithful found, the light may shine
Of Life incarnate and of Love divine.
Take, then, these thoughts, in loving memory
Of those dead hearts that brought it first to me.
DOWN by the sea, in infinite solitude
And wrapt in darkness, save when gleams of light
Broke from the moon aslant the hurrying clouds
That fled the wind, lay Justin, worn with grief,
And heart-sick with vain searching after God.
He heeded not the cold white foam that crept
In silence round his feet, nor the tall sedge
That sighed like lonely forest round his head;
His heart was weary of this weight of being,
Weary of all the mystery of life,
Weary of all the littleness of men,
And the dark riddle that he could not solve—
Why men should be, why pain and sin and death,
And where were hid the lineaments of God.
No voice was near. Behind, a lofty cape,
Whose iron face was scarred by many a storm,
Loomed threatening in the dark, and cleft the main,
And laid its giant hand upon the deep.
One grizzled oak tree crowned it, and the surf
Broke ever at its base, with ceaseless voice
Powerless to mar its silent majesty.
Sweet was the loneliness to Justin, sweet
Perturbèd nature, as in harmony
With the dark thoughts that beat upon his soul.
Nor speechless long he lay. The tide of grief,
O'erflowing the narrow limits of the mind,
Broke from him, and in burning word he cried:
"O God, if God there be in this foul chase!
O Fate, if Fate it be that drives us thus!
O Chance, if it be Thou that mouldeth all!
Stern Power, whate'er Thy name, that sit'st sublime
Above creation, throned creation's Lord,
With feet upon the spheres, whose flaming arms
Scatter new worlds form age to age, to roll
Thro' the dim cycles of all time, to bloom
Into warm life—what iron law impels,
Or wanton cruelty in the eternal deep
Of mind supreme, Thee to send sin and death
To prey thus on the creatures of Thine hands,
Until the while skulls crumble back to earth
From whence they sprung? O Chance! O Fate! O God!
My soul is broken with the clang of worlds;
The universe is discord all to me,
I see dark planets roll o'er human graves;
I feel them quivering with the cries of souls.
I know no more. O Power, whose face is veiled
From man in Thine own greatness,—Thou, whom I
Thro' weary years have sought, but sought in vain,
In every shadow upon every hill,
In the sweet features of a child, or on
The illimitable sea, in heat, in cold,
And in the rain that clothes the earth with buds,
And in the breath of things invisible,
Till, worn and helpless, now I long for death,—
Let me before I die hear some still voice
(If such indeed there be), some undertone
That, flowing from eternity thro' all
The jarring voices that now rend the soul,
Shall blend them into one long harmony:
So let me hearing die, and dying rest."
He ceased, and, sweet as after day of storm
Flows the still sea at even—the winds and waves
Asleep in purple mists—a silence crept
Over the worlds and flooded Justin's soul;
And in the silence Justin heard a voice,
And the warm throbbing of a human heart.
And thro' the darkness moved the form of Christ,
White-robed, with crown of thorns and those sad eyes
That saw His Mother weep beside the cross.
Then form innumerable throats uprose
One glorious music, one great hymn of praise
From all creation, th' universal sounds
Of tireless nature,—thunders of the sea
On clouded crags where arctic winds at night
Tear at its foaming lips, a land of ice
And spectral suns; the deep-toned mountains, too,
All shadow-clad in forests, send their voice
From caverns subterranean, where the newts
And blind-worms fear no day; the lion's roar
On viewless waste; the thundering cataract,
And huge leviathan. Nor only these,
But from the laughing groves and vine-clad hills
And valleys come sweet sounds—the notes of birds,
The hum of insects, when the meridian sun
Drives the glad reapers to their noonday meal,
By leaf-arched brook; and lowings from the fold,
In cooler evening, when the maidens ply
Their daily task; the children's innocent mirth,
And angels' songs, cloud-wafted from the deep
Of heaven's blue; and, fainter still, the sounds
Of far-off worlds and the orbed universe.
But that which ran thro' all, and linked them all
In one long harmony—that undertone
Which made them music—was the voice of Christ
And the soft beating of His human heart.
A calm light stole on Justin, and a peace,
Unknown before, unutterable, deep
Within the spirit's depths—a new-born sense
As if his heart had eyes, and every eye
Saw God thro' all in His own loveliness.
The vision passed, and slowly Justin rose,
Unwilling quickly to disturb the peace
Which his strange dream had poured into his soul,
And the last accents of the voice that yet
Throbbed in his heart and kindled all his love.
There was a stillness and a hush o'er nature,
The sweet expectancy of early dawn
That waits its king; the wind had fall'n, the sea
And shore spoke but in whispers; only birds
Felt not the universal awe, but from their nests,
Dew-sprinkled, woke with songs the sleeping woods,
Through which, a faded beauty, peered the moon.
Then, turning, Justin suddenly beheld
A man of years, with long dark robes and hair
Whiter than sea-foam in the moonlight seen,
Strewn on black rocks, who, seeing Justin rise,
Moved nearer to him, saying, "O my son!
For son thou art in this new faith whereto
I call thee, seeing thou wilt be born again
By water and the washing of thy soul
Form its vain creeds, me hath the Father sent
(In His great mercy loving thee and all)
To be a witness to thee of thy dream,
To solve the mysteries thou couldst not solve
By thine own searching, and to lead thee now
To that dear Voice thou heard'st, and lay thine head
Upon the Heart that filled thy soul with peace."
So by the sea, among the frowning rocks,
They sat in converse, while the aged priest
Led Justin's spirit onward thro' the gloom
Of vain philosophies, as one who guides
An alpine traveller up some dizzy height,
Where opening views expand at every step
Thro' lessening mist, till Justin gazed at last
Upon a manger rude, and, sleeping, lain therein,
He saw the features of the Son of God.
"My Father," then cried Justin, "now my heart
Reads the bright message of my dream. I see
How vain and futile all philosophies,
But this the last which burns into my soul
With fire of love so wondrous; yet I see
How even they, with weak and tremulous hand,
Point toward the Christ and lead men up to Him.
I now descry His footsteps in dead years,
He guiding me unconscious, knowing Him not.
When first my limbs, full-grown in sinewy youth,
Felt the strong life within, my spirit glad
Moved like broad day enshrined in cloudless skies;
No care I knew, no sorrow grieved my heart,
But all was joy—a throbbing, flowing joy.
I wandered thro' the forests and the wilds,
On mountain height, above the birth of storms;
I heard unmoved the thunder at my feet,
And tottering crags that filled abysmal depths
With shattered pinnacles, and voices dread
That made earth tremble to its central fire;
I heard the lion's roar, but felt no fear:
The many-fingered forests clapped their hands,
They breathed my life, the lions were free as I,—
I felt all nature and myself were one;
Birds, beasts, and insects, breathing flowers and trees,
And charmèd life linked us in brotherhood.
I watched the rising sun from day to day
Surprise the world with glories ever new.
No clouds obscured; the rosy hands of dawn
But lifted us to realms of joyousness
And deepening light. No thought of setting day
Saddened my heart, and in the silent eve
I saw the new sun, like a golden seed,
Hid in the crimson bosom of the old,
Full of fresh life and hope and songs of birds,
To wake the morn. The fish and I were friends;
Their silvery shinings could no swifter pierce
The lucid depths and shallows than could I;
They were my brothers, too, for thy had life,
And life meant joy, and joy was brotherhood.
My comrades laughed, and called me, ‘ocean's king,'
‘Neptune, the ocean's king.' ‘Not so,' said I;
‘Call me not king, but rather friend of all!'
Thus passed the years, till one day in a wood,
As I lay dreaming by a moss-edged pool,
Whose twinkling eyes were laughing at the trees
That laughed in golden glories overhead,
While burnished beetles, green and amber-hued,
Skimmed o'er its waves, I heard a strange wild note,
Above the notes of birds, so beautiful,
It thrilled my soul, and made my pulses glow
With warmer life. The leaves were pushed aside,
And, stepping thro' the shadows, came a youth,
God-like in motion, tall and supple-limbed,
Drenched with the dappled sunlight, and begirt
With skin of leopard clasped about the waist
With silver. Pendant from his neck there hung
A shell, such as Apollo found at dawn,
Sea-voiced and singing to the plaintive wind,
Careless who heard. This, when he held and struck
With skilful hand, gave forth divinest sounds,
Softer than the low humming of the bees,
And sweeter than the trill of nightingale;
Or, stern and powerful, as his mood would change,
Like the loud voice that fills the midnight trees
And runs before the chariot of the storm,
Startling all nature, crying, ‘Lo! he comes,
The Storm-God comes!' or, shrill as winter winds
That wail at evening round the woodman's hut,
When close-drawn lattice and the blazing hearth
And meal well earned make glad the hearts within
Of children and of sire. ‘O youth!' I cried,
Gaining my speech at last, ‘fain would I know
The art that can so charm the sense,—not birds
Or aught on earth so beautiful. Could I
But follow thee in all thy wanderings,
But hear thee play and drink my spirit's fill
Of those wild melodies, how would not joy
Grow more intense! After such wakening life
Were poor indeed, the common lot of beasts
And flowers; but man I see is higher,
(Tho' till this hour content). These strains have roused
Immortal sense within of something great;
Unutterable longings chafe the soul,
Dreams of the gods, and voices of dead years.
The liquid strains so thrilled me with their power
That, with expanded consciousness, I saw
The birth of empires, heard the rolling spheres,
Masts snapped at sea, and, in strange concourse blent,
The din of cities, cries of wasted hearts,
Marshalling of steeds, ravings of fevered men;
While, over all the moaning of a sea,
And faint, a voice growing stronger, ‘Is this all?'
If Music has such power, She, and not life,
Must be man's good. Oh, let me follow Thee,
Her worshipper, for She can satisfy.'
Then, with a smile like sunlight on his face,
He sang this song in answer, carelessly—
‘O Soul, glad Soul, what wert thou without song?
Morns never smiling, wilds without a tree,
A waste of voiceless twilight wide and long,
Dark rivers dying in eternal sea,
O Soul, sad Soul, that wert thou without song.
‘O Soul, sad Soul, the rivers have to die,
Morn grows to eve, trees wither by the way,
Clouds hide the sun and tears fall from the sky;
But Music lives though earth should melt away.
Oh! joy, glad Soul, she will not let thee die.'
"He scarce had ceased when such a pain convulsed
His features as the agony that comes
At death, and with one ringing cry he shook
An adder from his foot, then wildly fled,
With face distorted, blanched with deadly fear,
Eyes glaring madly, thro' the tangled glade,
Like some chased stag that hears the hounds behind,
Nor recks what lies before. I followed fast,
But swift as wind he fled. A river deep
And rapid flowed hard by, whose rocky sides,
Upheaved by some convulsion, frowning stood
To guard its narrow channel. There a cliff
Stretched half across the stream, and at its foot
The hurrying waters curled in many a fold
Of creamy white. Him, on the rocks I found
There lying, prostrate, racked with anguish sore,
And cold with coming death; his foaming lips
Were bloodless, and his limbs, all stained and torn,
Writhed helplessly. I brought green moss and placed
For pillow 'neath his head; I laved his brow
And face and clotted hair; but all in vain
I strove, for ever a wild look would come
In his dark eyes, and shade of ghastly fear.
Colder he grew, and silent, till at length
I thought him dead, and wondered, pitying him,
And his fair form so helpless on the sand,
As some white statue fallen from its niche,
Broken irreparably. A sudden thought
Flashed on my mind. The shell—the shell was there,
Still round his neck. If I could strike some sounds
Of that new power that had so swayed my soul,
What might not chance! For music should indeed,
If god of men, be master over death,
And light up fire within the chilling breast.
I seized the shell and struck it: one low sound
Broke from it, dying among the cliffs and roar
Of current, soft as a child's moan in dreams.
But, ere I touched again, with a wild laugh
That made the forests ring and scared the owls
From their day-sleep, and drove them hooting out
In blinding sunlight, suddenly he sprang,
Clutched with mad hands the shell, and, crushing it,
Flung the white fragments in the waves below.
He saw them sink, then crying aloud, ‘'Tis vain!
'Tis vain; the shadow comes!' he fell back dead.
O death-cry in the roaring of the waves,
O death-cry in the stillness of the rocks,
O death-cry in the laughing of the trees!
The shadow passing by had fallen on me,
Never to rise. So thought I then. I broke
Into loud weeping thus that life should end,
In pain and loathsomeness, the fairest flower
Of nature dying unfruitful. Stygian dark
And horrors of the shades passed over me,
Cries of the Furies and the torrents roar
Rang in my ears, and voices out of hell
Re-echoed, ‘Vain! 'tis vain; the shadow comes!'
I hid the dead with moss, then turned and fled,
I cared not whither, so that I might fly
From the dark thoughts that drove me night and day,
And sights of death that haunted me. All changed
The glorious world! and rapine, lust, and death
Glared in each face, and blasted all but wilds
Where man was not. Then, Father, came the thought
That in that higher nature might be peace
Which music roused, but could not satisfy;
So sought I wisdom and the secret, dread,
Of life and death, nor knew I where to find.
I journeyed to the blazing East, and there,
In blinding simooms and a sun that scorched
League upon league of sand, I stood before
The stony monster that primeval hands,
Fraught with mad longings, shaped with giant tools
From mountain-side. O passionless cold lips!
O smile of scorn! O glance of burning hate!
I placed my lips against its stony mouth,
On fire to hear, tho' hearing were to die,
The secret of the Sphinx. I heard the birth
And death of empires, heard the rolling spheres,
Masts snapped at sea, and, in strange concourse blent,
The din of cities, cries of wasted hearts,
Marshalling of steeds, ravings of fevered men,
While over all the moaning of a sea,
And faint a voice, growing stronger, ‘This is all.'
And this was all; and so I journeyed home,
Heart-sick, and with dark thoughts that gnawed my soul
As fire eats out a tree, when thunder-clouds
Darken the woods, and lightning blasts the stems,
With fruit half-ripe. The unexpressed desire
For something further than the furthest star,
For something deeper than the lowest deep,
For something behind all, thro' all, in all,
Drove me to fathom all philosophy.
Thus long time sought I God, not knowing, in fire,
In cold, in light, and, mole-like, closed my eyes,
And groped thro' nature, while the truth I sought
Was at my door, His hand upon my latch,
And I too blind to see, for the dark shade
Of things material hung upon my sight.
Oh, Father, I was fearful lest the truth
Should grind my soul to powder if I found.
For what was I but man? and God, the God
Of this great universe, what should He care
For one worn heart among a myriad stars?
If I should find—what should I find, indeed,
But some great power my senses could not grasp,
A part of some vast whole I could not see,
And I no more to Him than breathing clay?
What link between the Maker and the made?
For men can draw no nourishment from stones
And things in nature save thro' beasts and flowers,
Which link the two; and so, methought, if God
Should be the God I deem Him, how can He,
The hidden Force that blindly moves the world,
Soothe the fierce hunger in the soul of man
That craves for love? What sympathy between
The finite and the infinite? Life itself
Grew hard to breathe beneath eternal clouds;
No sun, no goal, to cheer it. But I see
In this dear Christ the answer of my soul;
The pledge of God's great love; the link that binds
The Godhead and the manhood into one;
The undertone that makes one harmony
Of our existence, giving life and peace
And love for men where once a fruitless search
Thro' the blind forces of the universe
In weary years shut out the light of day,
And dried the fount of love within the soul."
He ceased, and answered lovingly the Sage:
"Son, I perceive that now thy soul hath found
The peace it sought, and in the rifted Side
A hiding-place and shelter form the blast.
Now I perceive the Spirit, as at first,
Moves on the troubled waters of thy mind,
And from dark chaos bringeth light and peace.
And now in this still hour, when every day
On the dim altar lies the Son of God,
That offering of which the prophet spake,*
And feeds His children with their daily bread,
Let us speak on of those high themes that lift
The soul from out the trammels of this life
Up to the throne of God; and so, perchance,
As on that country road at eventide,
The risen One shall come with gentle voice
And set our hearts on fire."†
Thus they conversed,
Unconscious of aught else in trance divine.
And, as a mist rising from vale and hill
Discloses fields, and further off the dawn
On the broad sea, until there rolls unveiled
The long full glory of the landscape, thus,
As Justin sat, clearer his vision grew
Of this new faith, until he saw the Christ
Come towards him thro' the mists of dying creeds
That once had shrouded Him. And thus they spake;
And Justin learned how suffering here and sin
Resisted were but powers to try the soul,
And forge it out more strong for this hard life,
More bright for that hereafter, and that Christ,
Informing all the soul with His great love,
Can purge the thoughts and bend the stubborn will.
For other creeds but touch the edge of being,
But this new life breathes life into our life;
For Christ hath trod our path before, and conquered all,
In the cold desert and upon the cross,
With bleeding hands and feet.
Then, kneeling down
Upon the cold, hard rocks, with lifted face
Turned to the glimmering east, he cried, "O God!
Lord of innumerable worlds which move,
Zone upon zone, thro' that thick night which hangs
About Thy feet for ever—Thou, whose voice
From the dead earth can frame the souls of men,
The lips that murmur praises, and the eyes
That kindle into love—O Thou, from whom
In the blind past flowed forth the light and power
That make creation circle round Thy throne
Thro' all the ages—Thou, to whom alone
Time's self is dead, and death is but new life
That flows unseen thro' this great universe,
Reframing all and springing in new forms
More worthy Thee—O Thou, in whom unite
The past, the present, and the future—Thou,
The centre of all time, the great I AM,
Heart of eternity, —in Thee I find,
O God, my God, the resting-place I sought,
In Thee I find the answer of my quest,
In Thee the satisfaction of my soul.
I thank Thee Thou hast led me like a child
To these sweet streams for which my soul hath longed
Thro' the dim past. And now I see anew
How all creation, like some pyramid,
Built on a waste of ages as the sands
Of a great desert, doth on every side,
Step upon step, lead upward to Thy throne.
Inscrutable Thy ways, O God, and yet
Thro' the thick clouds that hide Thy face there comes
A beam of light, the offspring of Thy love;
For in my dreams I heard a human voice,
And the warm beating of a human heart
Throbbing thro' nature; and I saw far off
In the dim void the suffering face of Christ.
O Christ in God! O God in Christ! O God!
Pledge of the Father's love, O Fount of light!
Thine was the voice that stilled my fearful heart,
Thine was the heart that filled my soul with peace.
O Christ, the centre of humanity!
O God, the heart of this great universe!
O Christ in God! Thou linkest all to Thee
By Thy torn side and bleeding hands and feet.
How can we fear, tho' long and loud the storm,
If thro' the darkness comes a human voice?
How can we tremble, when our head is laid
Upon that breast where beasts a human heart?
O Man in God, that bringest God to men!
O God in Man, that liftest man to God!
Effulgence of the essence which, divine,
Without Thee incommunicable were;
Strong Light to light all mysteries, and Thou,
The perfect rest I sought through weary years
On trackless wastes! Behold, in faith and love,
O God, my God, I come, I come to Thee."
He ceased, and, slowly rising from his knees,
He saw the priest afar with tearful eyes,
And arms outstretched in thankfulness, and said,
"I would be born again in this new faith,
My Father, by the washing of my soul
Form its dark stains, for I am but a babe,
And would learn life anew." So, silent, moved
They to the shore, absorbed in thoughts too deep
For earthly speech, and silence fell awhile
Upon the earth in reverence to its God,
And sky and ocean seemed to wait in awe.
There, by the long white ripples on the shore,
The priest stooped down in that still hour, and took
A handful form the waves, the eternal sea,
That, like the love of God, flows over all,
Or height or depth, and levels all, and thus
Baptized he Justin in the Triune Name,
And on his forehead made the holy sign;
And, as the water fell on him, the sun
Rose in full glory, and the sky grew bright,
And angels sang far off, for day had dawned
Upon the ocean and in Justin's soul.
Then spake the priest, "My son, in this calm sea
I read thy life, all stillness now and peace,
In the sweet morning 'neath the new-born day.
But see, the wind now breaks it into waves,
Which, rising form their sleep, each tipped with light,
Make that long golden pathway to the sun.
So shall it be with thee. Thy soul now yearns
To rest for ever at the feet of Christ;
But suffering, pain, and toil shall sweep across
Its stillness, and the strife of noisy tongues,
And persecution, cold, and nakedness
Shall break its surface; but each pain shall be
Bright with the love of Christ, and all thy life
Shall be a path to lead men up to Him."
So the priest parted, blessing him, and Justin
Rose from his knees and moved among all men,
And reasoned with them of the love of God
And his dear Christ, and led men up to Him
From false philosophies, until at last
His life set in the crimson of his blood,
And rose in splendour near the throne of God.
Soccer in the evening;
Soccer in the morning;
Soccer in spring and fall.
Soccer in the raining;
Soccer in the snowing;
Soccer in winter and summer.
Soccer in between my feet,
where I walk;
Soccer in my heart and mind,
how I live;
Soccer my love and life.
Soccer I wake up and play;
Soccer I hold it to sleep;
Soccer my work and rest.
Soccer I sing a new song;
Soccer I dance the magic steps;
Soccer my tears and joy.
Soccer my Mom buys it for me to play;
Soccer my Dad brings me to the game;
Soccer my dear Love watches me to score.
Soccer I dribble and shoot;
Soccer I pass and fall;
Soccer my glory and downfall.
Soccer I strike to attack;
Soccer I tackle to defend;
Soccer my struggle and survival.
Soccer I receive the flags and the whistles;
Soccer I get the yellow and red card;
Soccer my moves and stop.
Soccer I meet my friends;
Soccer I make my enemies;
Soccer my conflict and peace.
Soccer I play and watch;
Soccer I watch but cannot play;
Soccer my dream and reality.
Soccer I learn the rights;
Soccer I confess the fouls;
Soccer my black and white.
Soccer my endless thought;
Soccer my very last breathe;
Soccer my dating and being.
Soccer, I …
Soccer! Soccer! Soccer!
Love! Life! and Game!
Life is to pursue your Goal!
Dream a big Goal!
Work hard for your Goal!
Chase passionate for your Goal!
Focus to shoot your Goal!
Play to finish your Goal!
Never ever give up your Goal!
And this is your life Goal!
In the end you will scream, 'Goaaal! '.
(by Laijon Liu 2007.05.25)
Passion Song (Style 2)
Soccer my love;
Soccer my passion;
Soccer my living breath and processing thought.
Without her I do not know
What is love and life?
With her my soul gravitates.
Soccer I give her my awakening touch;
Soccer I receive her irresistible call;
Soccer my magical ball.
Without her my tear, beer, and despair;
What's the purpose of life that plays not?
With her my buddies, friends, and kindly world.
Soccer my morning and my dawn;
Soccer my evening and my dusk;
Soccer my seasons of circling being.
Without her my world is in dark;
When is time to watch my sunrise ball?
With her my sunshine, moonlite, and eternal stars.
Soccer my beginning of journey;
Soccer my pasture where I rest;
Soccer my coming and going.
Without her I do not know
How and where I walk in life?
With her everywhither and everywhere I play.
Soccer I come;
Soccer I will go;
Soccer on earth we live!
On earth peoples become fans;
Care not wars, care not crimes;
Carry our flags, songs, and drums;
Everyone is dancing, chanting, harmonizing;
Restarted our true engine of human life.
On the pitch of our beautiful globe;
Care not politics, care not separatisms;
Carry our joys, passions, and oneness;
Everyone is coming, watching, and sharing;
Rebuilt our perfect sphere in one wholly piece.
On the screens of common household;
Care not victory nor defeat, honor or shame;
Carry our beer, tears, hopes; a great memory;
Everywhere we walk, meet, and argue…
Rekindled our souls in her beginning and ending.
Soccer we play and live,
On the street, beach, and green pasture;
Care not hatred of past, injury of nightmares;
Carry our sweat, spirit, and a virtuous living goal;
Every moment of our game in life
Refines our goodly being thru true love of beautiful game.
S. O. C. C. E. R.
A Red Card in the Game!
A sudden stop of our play,
A bloody card and a cursed sign for us
To walk off our living pitch,
Whether winning or losing,
Artistical expression or violent acts,
Joys, tears, confusion, or frustration,
All must cease!
But our game goes on,
Our players play on,
And fans cheer on,
Coz life must go on.
Yeah, we must walk on!
Soccer is the game, hey, hey, hey;
Beauty is her name, hey, hey, hey;
Playing is the way, hey, hey, hey;
Let her shine n ray, hey, hey, hey.
I kindly roll; roll it with my sole
To left and right; my soul, my soul;
I gently spin; spin it with my toe
As it may flow; my ode, my ode;
I softly knock; knock with my heel
In Achilles' mole; my show, my show;
I carefully stroke; stroke it through
Their wicked loophole, my hole, my hole;
I swiftly shoot; shoot it for my home
To my sweet home; my goal, my goal;
I earnestly pray: to play with my all
My ball is my all; my all, my all.
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
Stick on your dives, quit your faking,
Throw your moves without acting;
Shut your yelling and start kicking,
Too much talking, let's working;
Stop dribbling and start passing,
Time's not waiting, stop longing;
Shun the world that they're joking,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
I always take ball for a walk,
Show my love dance Rumba;
I let your dogs do the talk,
Juggle it with my driving Jive;
I am here to earn my stock,
Shaking with it in Samba;
I let you chase me and stalk,
Getting down low in Hip Hop.
Take it to a long walk to show off.
I'm a bit short, but still a big shock.
You can wag your finger and talk.
As long as I've got my ball,
My all, my all, my all
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
Hey, Get off my stage,
You bad dogs in rage;
Coz the Hyena outta cage,
My k9 cut you in siege.
I've paid full to wage
A revolt on my page;
To stop your sinful rampage
And welcome a new age.
Take it to a long walk to make people talk.
The board is green, my feet are chalk,
Let my single footnote be taught,
As long as I've got my ball,
My all, my all, my all
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
Can't you see I'm in flame;
I'm here for a good game;
Work hard for my common name;
Not to make it into a frame;
You can keep all the fame;
But I play for a higher aim,
Even I end up walk in lame
Or go down in shame, no blame.
Take it to a long walk to the splashing wave.
Rise above all shouts of your dead cave,
Let your noise be my rhymed stave.
As long as I've got my ball,
My all, my all, my all
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
When my game meets rain,
My dream is into the drain;
When my faith is on the string,
My gut hurts your brain;
The Cup is for me to drink,
Coz God Is always in reign;
And I always live to train,
So all fields are fair terrain.
Take it to a long walk to test my backbone.
Even tonight you throw your stone;
Let it be my wellstone or milestone;
As long as I've got my Cornerstone;
My all, my all, my all
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
I can hold my peace;
I can play with ease.
Gals love me as cheese;
All faults are gonna cease.
Coz I've got a real piece
To make all race in peace,
And you think it's fleece,
But I believe it's Grace.
Take it to a long walk to where my heart goes.
Even time decides to join my foes;
Let my Wind come with His blows;
As long as I've got my ball;
My all, my all, my all
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
Stick on your dives, quit your faking,
Throw your moves without acting;
Shut your yelling and start kicking,
Too much talking, let's working;
Stop dribbling and start passing,
Time's not waiting, stop longing;
Shun the world that they're joking,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be coming and start watching,
The superstar is in the making.
You all be standing, and start singing,
The superstar is in the making.
Journey is in curiosity;
We play in creativity;
Winning is a possibility;
Love provides ability;
Faith is in charity;
All is in the Almighty
Soccer is the game, hey, hey, hey;
Beauty is her name, hey, hey, hey;
Playing is the way, hey, hey, hey;
Let her shine n ray, hey, hey, hey.
They say soloists are selfish and proud,
But I think they have guts and courage;
After watching some bad politician news
I felt that all of us were used for amuse,
So I somehow had the image of soloists,
who have balls and ball and skill to solo
against all the things they disagree with.
I don't think this is about soccer, if not
Then 'One Man Against the World! '
He or She can be Hero or Villain, or both.
I Dream a Greatest Living Show (Revised 20090402)
- The Start Is Play -
On green earth in the dark universe,
What is the greatest living show?
There people find their true home,
and in sweetest dream they roam.
When sinful wars poke all the holes,
but their game points a better road;
to their sorrow days and lost hope,
they still can sing a rhymed prose.
From the presence to ancient old,
I swear we never lose our true goal;
Even the night rains strike with cold,
But dawn gonna come in color of rose.
Coz I see petal fly and sticker snow,
from my screen to the front rows.
There the stars fall in heavenly glow
to sing an intro for my heroes’ show.
'No more sorrows' they sing, 'behold.
the world gonna become one big hood.'
The camera flash for their perfect pose,
And their peaceful hand heals broken soul.
The whistle of commander for ref to blow,
it’s made for games and not for gun smoke.
My hot babes and my sweet maids
I cannot refrain myself not to gaze.
For their pure face and glamour shape
Shine ten thousand splendors to amaze.
They are the sunshine of my days,
And night rose of my secret space,
Brings me blue sky and good odors,
that the world is not a shitty place.
They stretch their beautiful feet,
Swing their shining sharpen cleats,
so all the cockroaches on my screen
are swept away, off the wicked games.
They work hard on the green pitch,
and always play under fair light,
even dive and foul in an honest name:
The chasing of their dream is true fame.
And peace filled their graceful heart;
Perfect shorts wrapped their sexy butt.
As butterflies they dance here n there,
Like doves they circle a ring of light.
They come in kicking and screaming,
playing with guts n breaking the balls,
composing all the greatest dramas that
even Shakespeare never saw!
Greek heroes of the present day
surely broke Achilles' feeble heel.
Odysseus always had strong arms,
But hey! Look at his weak legs.
Homer sold his Helen’s fair look,
but I do lust for Divas on the stand.
Sun Zi wrote Art of War, for war? !
Oh, No! I believe it is just for game.
And game wheels in movement of life,
as sprinting river clashing waves to the ocean.
People climb high to reach the peak,
but water streams low as art of my poem.
Generations in current from past to future,
Rolling and waving, pushing and pulling,
As songs and dance shift in tones and steps,
All kinds of fashions, old n new, switching trends,
But our passion for it forever runs.
Days and nights I stare at my TV screen,
Hope all channels show any team’s news.
According to result I drink beer or tears;
but if any rats or flies or cockroach wins,
I’d spit and blow a tooting fart: “what a damn scheme! ”
Yeah, I should quit those; coz gals hate them.
But my fields are invaded by the true aliens,
who show me their phony cards and tell me to play or not.
And the damn cockroaches sharing my meal
Before my lifetime potato feast is over;
Freaking flies soaring high in the ceiling
and dropp their filthy eggs all over my bed;
And vicious rats sharpening their teeth,
Chewing my precious peanuts as concerto;
And I look toward my dream field and know:
Before the night is over, my heroes gonna win.
Even though the flies set up the fireworks
To make the skies to illume as a short day;
The cockroaches consume all the markets,
Marching in with an overwhelmed number;
The rats of the world drain my only oil jar,
And they dare to kill anyone without blinking an eye;
But I know their works are dust and smoke,
Once my players step in the field, then all dirt are dispersed.
So all my players are my heroes and stars
And defending my crappy poetry space-
Where Beauty shines and Hope glows
There my dream rows and heart goes
As the ball rolls that my desire flows
There the gods feed me their shows
In the company of the musical odes;
They chase n woo and fighting my foes!
Their gentle touch n clever play,
and buildup ways make me daze.
Their teasing moves never delay,
Tricked the world into fancy gate.
One and Two they call it Wall Play,
Bring out woohs n aahs in any day.
They patiently wait, as time won’t pay,
but I can’t hold n yell “Come on! Ain’t got all day! ”
Yeah, what a game! It’s never a shame.
90 minutes length; never 2 minutes fame.
Guys strive for competition;
Gals always require communication,
but I say, 'Forget about connection,
Just shoot to the goal with passion.
If anyone asks for an explanation,
just tell that we were caught by emotion and lost in sensation.'
Players stand and start in formation,
their thoughts of plans are deep as ocean,
And cleansed by their rousing sweat lotion
to push our earth to a perfect spinning motion.
What an inspiration to the world in depression,
when all of us stumble in confusion n frustration,
and struggle to get out of the freaking desperation,
there they deliver our satisfaction -another resurrection.
And I know resurrection is after death,
and death is after life, and life begins by birth.
Confucius said: “Why one asks about death,
when he does not grasp the meaning of life? ”
And Jesus said: “If anyone wants to gain life,
then he must die first, to receive his true life.”
But why I mention this topic in my paragraph,
maybe I just wanna show I know something, or add on more words.
But let me offer another way for explaining:
The ending of game is after its beginning,
And the game must end for a new starting,
And in it, whatever we are experiencing
Is just eternal struggling in a flashing;
And in the end, nothing remains its glowing,
Nor greatest ranking, nor highest scoring,
If there are really anything, then I'd say playing, drinking n snoring.
But wait, in the game what a suffering for playing!
Physical, I called it aching, like a nail pulling;
Spiritual, I called it battling, like a bad dating.
But these two are always coming with smiling.
And we can do nothing but to skip and running.
When the physical pain comes with knocking,
the spiritual wound is wrapped and covered,
once our body healed, then spiritual torment revealed.
Pills for cold, surgery for bone fracture,
but what’s the treatment for missing shots?
Chocolate for girls, sorry notes for wife,
But how can we run away from our Own Goal?
Fill up the cups, drink up the whole bottle,
But before we awake, sorrow returns with a stick.
When the body melts, shatters into dust,
our spirit lingers, roams solo as a cursed ghost.
Yeah, no one is sadder than a lonely soul;
as a solo player tries to fit in the team,
plays an unfamiliar game thru an unusual frame:
Communications for a single connection;
Negotiations to deal individual obsession;
and cut-throat competition for a short possession.
One must surf against all the mighty waves,
to find himself and others thru endlessly searching, forever downloading and acceptable uploading.
Struggling life as striving game in a flash,
for single second glory, forever to catch.
So let’s drive it with ease and hush,
and bring no more harms or headless rush.
If it really hurts and our regretful thoughts gush,
then drink beer, shed tear, and kiss our dear.
Even night seems forever, but love never over;
Even we can’t abide together, let’s share before it’s all over.
And my heroes learn from their young age,
that practice makes all things perfect.
When they try to help family cooking,
Mom yells at them: “You need practice! ”
When they miss their easy shots on pitch,
Coach roars at them: “Go Home Practice! ”
When their wife teased them in the morning,
they knew they must work hard in the backyard, kitchen and bathroom.
So their nightly works in a fragrant smell
Breezes kindly in morning winds to miles,
sweetest perfume sweat- irresistible cologne-
70 bucks draws their girl fans to heaven.
Their winning cleats never washed,
Pass down good luck to generations with odor.
So let the ref blow his unfair whistle,
Coz my heroes must dance shirtless for yellow and red cards.
Their game is not only pure physical,
But it also requires some brain, or any;
Most time my heroes use their foot,
And sometimes they also throw their head,
But when their game is on the line,
That time burns to injury count,
And the goal must be achieved,
They will use anything, like their godly hand, vicious elbow and provocative saliva to get things done.
Yeah, the game is a life feast from start to end,
and in it they gather and depart by chance,
thru the taste of sour, sweet, bitter, and hot,
as four season dream they roam to awake.
Sunset and sunrise, moon wanes and wax;
our heroes come and go, rise and fall,
while our passion sings up and shouts out:
The goal of life is a forever chase, and never give-up shot.
This game of war thru peace they exchange,
As life and death exemplified by start and end.
Losing requires tear n beer, nor life, nor blood;
Winning of cup is celebrated in showering wine.
Clubs rearrange all countries and towns,
Nation against nation compete in fair plays,
only the purest concept reigns over all:
Virtuous Way, changing seasons, cultures, wits, and common laws.
No more boundaries and worldly craps,
As what we have submitted for our love:
Options of colors, race and fair looks,
Age for fit, wage for security,
Weights, heights, interests, and habits,
Certificates to speak for minds and wits;
But I long for thy cherry lips and beauty’s rose,
And my size n length to reach thy depth n width,
And my ultimate strength to fulfill thy enduring faith,
If not, then thy merciful forgiveness is my living grace.
And this is moment of my truth -my real bullshits.
My true heroes on green pitch they play;
as injurious insect in the world they beguile.
That they rip off all the crappy covers,
as the bold band of Robin Hood robs the rich for gold,
as the intoxicated outlaw of marsh fighting corruptions,
as the cowboy Jesse James rides riotously in Wild West.
And I raise up my two hands and praise their work:
May their deception in the game never ends.
Oh, deception! How could I forget about!
Wise act as April’s fool; lions speak as meek;
Vultures soar as eagles; and wolves dress as sheep;
Able does not show, giving is to receive;
Enemy is never far, and friends are never close.
Seduce their greed, rob those in chaos,
Avoid the strong, scratch the wrath,
Praise the humbles, and labor the rested,
Separate the close, strike the incautious,
and break into the house of rash head.
But let me stop plagiarizing Sun Zi’s.
Yeah, my heroes are the players that know themselves,
and before their game starts they learn their enemies.
Seasons pass, nights and days, they will never lose.
They launch in a common form and score with surprise.
Ooh, their surprises! Limitless as heavens and earth,
ceaselessly flushes as rolling river and spring water.
Their splashing waves beating the stony shores,
Chunk by chunk the rock are tossed and metal floats.
On the pitch they strike with thunder blow.
Their golden shoes are the cloudy Zeus’ bow,
Aim every wicked hole, and shoot a deadly stroke.
As hawk they soar, as tiger they stalk, as lion they roar,
in sec of flash the old foxes are trapped and choke.
My heroes wax their bow with strength,
Shoot off their silvering arrows in trice,
and beat down their enemies as a giant rock that rolls.
Their great strategy lies in a fluid form,
Changes its infinite shape as time flows;
Swift as high winds that blows, sweeping clouds;
Calm as night forest that grows, unmoving oceans;
Wild as autumn fire that razes, brimstone storms;
Firm as Himalayas that stands, everlasting tall!
They are my monkey king holds a magic staff,
smashes nine heavens and stirs four seas.
People say: “Warriors are born for war,
and they are never made for good date.”
But they are more than heroes and players;
they are lover and mate, and perfect fit.
Coz on our dear mother earth they strive
fearlessly for love, barefoot they pursue;
shamelessly for truth, strip off all their cloth,
Drunk with dreams, and intoxicated for hope.
When their magical sphere rolls and bounces,
Strangers in the world become old time intimate.
One by one and step by step in rhyme and tone,
The world rises to awake, to listen and to echo:
One and two and three, we hold our hand and sing;
Four and five and six, we lean together and dance;
Seven, eight and nine, heaven rains and earth swings;
Ten, eleven and twelve, world melts and spirit joins;
Thirteen, fourteen and sixteen, ah- time stops.
Oh my dreamer! Wake up! Wake up!
Call back your roaming spirit to return,
to the mortal shell of this mirage world.
We don’t call the game, not one, or any.
In chain we are dragged into the coliseum,
we bleed for the worldly gods to drink wine,
we howl bitter tear for ‘the angels’ to sip beer,
we are heroes in our dream, but wake to be slave.
For we rise to end, flourish to decline.
Life goes to death, surviving to end.
Oh love! Topic of two in spirit and mind;
But a single dropp of joy ripples lifetime griefs.
Cupid toys his bow, affection surges and ebbs.
Death preaches his faith, a license to kill,
so we all battle for someone else’ belief,
and offer our tear, blood, and blind faith.
Yeah, world's image clouds and entices,
as the fortune road never in our grasp.
The unseeing stars shiver in deep heavens,
I can see the soaring flies, marching roaches,
hear the symphony of rats, harmonizing;
But I know after dark night, rosy dawn,
after rain storms, then rainbows,
And toward the green field I smile and look.
Winter passes and spring comes quickly,
Sun smiles kindly and rain caresses softly,
Wind blows loving seeds everywhere swiftly,
Willow shade our streets and swing tenderly.
All flowers are blossoming courageously,
spreading their gorgeous petals widely,
and showing off their sweet pistil wildly.
There butterflies offering love dance freely,
Honey bees singing and flying, working n playing joyfully.
Come, my love. Let’s row to the pleasure field,
there we will visit the dream of red chamber,
All the beauties express themselves thru poetry,
As my heroic players en pointed in swan lake;
Their peaceful feet spread blessed good news
To all the children of the green mother earth.
And let’s loose our shoes to play, and be lost;
Coz the pasture of our true heart is holy,
and there we shall stay forever happily.
I will hold your hand, and together we'll fly; and we not gonna touch the blue sky, nor pluck the golden moon, nor stir the star oceans. But we will leap off the high cliff, and free fall, and sink deep into the darkness of downlow, to the mystery of eternity, of the still water, there the Spirit floats, since the beginning of the big bang.
Then, we shall hear the song of birds, wonder the glamour of rainbows, smell the fragrant earth, kiss the flavor roses, taste the sweetest honey dew, pick all the juicy fruit, close our eyes to roam, and plunge into the beauty of Eden – that’s love! And be reborn to a new life.
- The End Is Peace -
Silver light spilled on the green pasture,
Young bucks striving to become heroes.
Thousands thundering songs and drums,
Such wild night suits men’s whole life.
How Lovely Her Classical Old Face
How lovely her classical old face,
The complete sphere of two colors,
That knit the union of black n white,
Serves the game of amity and peace,
Thru her magic bounce and troll,
Never stops till her world spins,
Angels chant and God smiles.
Let’s Get On the Green Pitch
Let’s get on the green pitch
Be our own devils or gods
No more waiting weeps
And no more sideline talks
Let’s get on the grassy field
Before the dews dropp off
There we shed our sweat
And there we taste our tear
Let’s get on the cradle bed
Before the world wakes us
There we swing in our dream
And there we look up to stars
Let’s get on with our ball
Before this magic stops
There we chase and fall
There our love never short
Let’s get on and get on
Till that whistle shouts
No more games or dreams
No more breath and no more
(20090413/ Poem for our Chinatown Soccer Club in New York City,
To Coach Gerhard and all playmates and teammates: -)
It Always Be a Soccer Game
We must conquer it! Mate!
This world of name and fame
Let our life be a fun game
In the days of sunshine or rain
We must not shrink away
From our fear of fault or defeat
Let our time worth in second
Thru all the chance we’ve made
We must never be tamed
By any result or fate
Let our work be forever
In the moment of every take
We must learn to play
For victory, or to lose
Coz whatever our triumph is
It always be a soccer game.
(20091201/After watching Barcelona vs Real Marid)
The Unknown Eros. Book I.
Saint Valentine’s Day
Well dost thou, Love, thy solemn Feast to hold
In vestal February;
Not rather choosing out some rosy day
From the rich coronet of the coming May,
When all things meet to marry!
O, quick, prævernal Power
That signall'st punctual through the sleepy mould
The Snowdrop's time to flower,
Fair as the rash oath of virginity
Which is first-love's first cry;
O, Baby Spring,
That flutter'st sudden 'neath the breast of Earth
A month before the birth;
Whence is the peaceful poignancy,
The joy contrite,
Sadder than sorrow, sweeter than delight,
That burthens now the breath of everything,
Though each one sighs as if to each alone
The cherish'd pang were known?
At dusk of dawn, on his dark spray apart,
With it the Blackbird breaks the young Day's heart;
In evening's hush
About it talks the heavenly-minded Thrush;
The hill with like remorse
Smiles to the Sun's smile in his westering course;
The fisher's drooping skiff
In yonder sheltering bay;
The choughs that call about the shining cliff;
The children, noisy in the setting ray;
Own the sweet season, each thing as it may;
Thoughts of strange kindness and forgotten peace
In me increase;
And tears arise
Within my happy, happy Mistress' eyes,
And, lo, her lips, averted from my kiss,
Ask from Love's bounty, ah, much more than bliss!
Is't the sequester'd and exceeding sweet
Of dear Desire electing his defeat?
Is't the waked Earth now to yon purpling cope
Uttering first-love's first cry,
Vainly renouncing, with a Seraph's sigh,
Love's natural hope?
Fair-meaning Earth, foredoom'd to perjury!
Behold, all amorous May,
With roses heap'd upon her laughing brows,
Avoids thee of thy vows!
Were it for thee, with her warm bosom near,
To abide the sharpness of the Seraph's sphere?
Forget thy foolish words;
Go to her summons gay,
Thy heart with dead, wing'd Innocencies fill'd,
Ev'n as a nest with birds
After the old ones by the hawk are kill'd.
Well dost thou, Love, to celebrate
The noon of thy soft ecstasy,
Or e'er it be too late,
Or e'er the Snowdrop die!
Wind And Wave
The wedded light and heat,
Winnowing the witless space,
Without a let,
What are they till they beat
Against the sleepy sod, and there beget
Perchance the violet!
Is the One found,
Amongst a wilderness of as happy grace,
To make Heaven's bound;
So that in Her
All which it hath of sensitively good
Is sought and understood
After the narrow mode the mighty Heavens prefer?
She, as a little breeze
Following still Night,
Ripples the spirit's cold, deep seas
But, in a while,
The immeasurable smile
Is broke by fresher airs to flashes blent
With darkling discontent;
And all the subtle zephyr hurries gay,
And all the heaving ocean heaves one way,
T'ward the void sky-line and an unguess'd weal;
Until the vanward billows feel
The agitating shallows, and divine the goal,
And to foam roll,
And spread and stray
And traverse wildly, like delighted hands,
The fair and fleckless sands;
And so the whole
Unfathomable and immense
Triumphing tide comes at the last to reach
And burst in wind-kiss'd splendours on the deaf'ning beach,
Where forms of children in first innocence
Laugh and fling pebbles on the rainbow'd crest
Of its untired unrest.
I, singularly moved
To love the lovely that are not beloved,
Of all the Seasons, most
Love Winter, and to trace
The sense of the Trophonian pallor on her face.
It is not death, but plenitude of peace;
And the dim cloud that does the world enfold
Hath less the characters of dark and cold
Than warmth and light asleep,
And correspondent breathing seems to keep
With the infant harvest, breathing soft below
Its eider coverlet of snow.
Nor is in field or garden anything
But, duly look'd into, contains serene
The substance of things hoped for, in the Spring,
And evidence of Summer not yet seen.
On every chance-mild day
That visits the moist shaw,
The honeysuckle, 'sdaining to be crost
In urgence of sweet life by sleet or frost,
'Voids the time's law
With still increase
Of leaflet new, and little, wandering spray;
Often, in sheltering brakes,
As one from rest disturb'd in the first hour,
Primrose or violet bewilder'd wakes,
And deems 'tis time to flower;
Though not a whisper of her voice he hear,
The buried bulb does know
The signals of the year,
And hails far Summer with his lifted spear.
The gorse-field dark, by sudden, gold caprice,
Turns, here and there, into a Jason's fleece;
Lilies, that soon in Autumn slipp'd their gowns of green,
And vanish'd into earth,
And came again, ere Autumn died, to birth,
Stand full-array'd, amidst the wavering shower,
And perfect for the Summer, less the flower;
In nook of pale or crevice of crude bark,
Thou canst not miss,
If close thou spy, to mark
The ghostly chrysalis,
That, if thou touch it, stirs in its dream dark;
And the flush'd Robin, in the evenings hoar,
Does of Love's Day, as if he saw it, sing;
But sweeter yet than dream or song of Summer or Spring
Are Winter's sometime smiles, that seem to well
From infancy ineffable;
Her wandering, languorous gaze,
So unfamiliar, so without amaze,
On the elemental, chill adversity,
The uncomprehended rudeness; and her sigh
And solemn, gathering tear,
And look of exile from some great repose, the sphere
Of ether, moved by ether only, or
By something still more tranquil.
Of infinite Heaven the rays,
Piercing some eyelet in our cavern black,
Ended their viewless track
On thee to smite
Solely, as on a diamond stalactite,
And in mid-darkness lit a rainbow's blaze,
Wherein the absolute Reason, Power, and Love,
That erst could move
Mainly in me but toil and weariness,
Renounced their deadening might,
Renounced their undistinguishable stress
Of withering white,
And did with gladdest hues my spirit caress,
Nothing of Heaven in thee showing infinite,
Save the delight.
The Day After To-Morrow
Perchance she droops within the hollow gulf
Which the great wave of coming pleasure draws,
Not guessing the glad cause!
Ye Clouds that on your endless journey go,
Ye Winds that westward flow,
Thou heaving Sea
That heav'st 'twixt her and me,
Tell her I come;
Then only sigh your pleasure, and be dumb;
For the sweet secret of our either self
Tell her I come,
And let her heart be still'd.
One day's controlled hope, and then one more,
And on the third our lives shall be fulfill'd!
Yet all has been before:
Palm placed in palm, twin smiles, and words astray.
What other should we say?
But shall I not, with ne'er a sign, perceive,
Whilst her sweet hands I hold,
The myriad threads and meshes manifold
Which Love shall round her weave:
The pulse in that vein making alien pause
And varying beats from this;
Down each long finger felt, a differing strand
Of silvery welcome bland;
And in her breezy palm
And silken wrist,
Beneath the touch of my like numerous bliss
A diverse and distinguishable calm?
What should we say!
It all has been before;
And yet our lives shall now be first fulfill'd,
And into their summ'd sweetness fall distill'd
One sweet drop more;
One sweet drop more, in absolute increase
Of unrelapsing peace.
O, heaving Sea,
That heav'st as if for bliss of her and me,
And separatest not dear heart from heart,
Though each 'gainst other beats too far apart,
For yet awhile
Let it not seem that I behold her smile.
O, weary Love, O, folded to her breast,
Love in each moment years and years of rest,
Be calm, as being not.
Ye oceans of intolerable delight,
The blazing photosphere of central Night,
Be ye forgot.
Terror, thou swarthy Groom of Bride-bliss coy,
Let me not see thee toy.
O, Death, too tardy with thy hope intense
Of kisses close beyond conceit of sense;
O, Life, too liberal, while to take her hand
Is more of hope than heart can understand;
Perturb my golden patience not with joy,
Nor, through a wish, profane
The peace that should pertain
To him who does by her attraction move.
Has all not been before?
One day's controlled hope, and one again,
And then the third, and ye shall have the rein,
O Life, Death, Terror, Love!
But soon let your unrestful rapture cease,
Ye flaming Ethers thin,
Condensing till the abiding sweetness win
One sweet drop more;
One sweet drop more in the measureless increase
Of honied peace.
Darling, with hearts conjoin'd in such a peace
That Hope, so not to cease,
Must still gaze back,
And count, along our love's most happy track,
The landmarks of like inconceiv'd increase,
Promise me this:
If thou alone should'st win
God's perfect bliss,
And I, beguiled by gracious-seeming sin,
Say, loving too much thee,
Love's last goal miss,
And any vows may then have memory,
Never, by grief for what I bear or lack,
To mar thy joyance of heav'n's jubilee.
Promise me this;
For else I should be hurl'd,
Beyond just doom
And by thy deed, to Death's interior gloom,
From the mild borders of the banish'd world
Wherein they dwell
Who builded not unalterable fate
On pride, fraud, envy, cruel lust, or hate;
Yet loved too laxly sweetness and heart's ease,
And strove the creature more than God to please.
For such as these
Loss without measure, sadness without end!
Yet not for this do thou disheaven'd be
With thinking upon me.
Though black, when scann'd from heaven's surpassing bright,
This might mean light,
Foil'd with the dim days of mortality.
For God is everywhere.
Go down to deepest Hell, and He is there,
And, as a true but quite estranged Friend,
He works, 'gainst gnashing teeth of devilish ire,
With love deep hidden lest it be blasphemed,
If possible, to blend
Ease with the pangs of its inveterate fire;
Yea, in the worst
And from His Face most wilfully accurst
Of souls in vain redeem'd,
He does with potions of oblivion kill
Remorse of the lost Love that helps them still.
Apart from these,
Near the sky-borders of that banish'd world,
Wander pale spirits among willow'd leas,
Lost beyond measure, sadden'd without end,
But since, while erring most, retaining yet
Some ineffectual fervour of regret,
Retaining still such weal
As spurned Lovers feel,
Preferring far to all the world's delight
Their loss so infinite,
Or Poets, when they mark
In the clouds dun
A loitering flush of the long sunken sun,
And turn away with tears into the dark.
Know, Dear, these are not mine
But Wisdom's words, confirmed by divine
Doctors and Saints, though fitly seldom heard
Save in their own prepense-occulted word,
Lest fools be fool'd the further by false hope,
And wrest sweet knowledge to their own decline;
And (to approve I speak within my scope)
The Mistress of that dateless exile gray
Is named in surpliced Schools Tristitia.
But, O, my Darling, look in thy heart and see
How unto me,
Secured of my prime care, thy happy state,
In the most unclean cell
Of sordid Hell,
And worried by the most ingenious hate,
It never could be anything but well,
Nor from my soul, full of thy sanctity,
Such pleasure die
As the poor harlot's, in whose body stirs
The innocent life that is and is not hers:
Unless, alas, this fount of my relief
By thy unheavenly grief
So, with a consecrating kiss
And hearts made one in past all previous peace,
And on one hope reposed,
Promise me this!
There, where the sun shines first
Against our room,
She train'd the gold Azalea, whose perfume
She, Spring-like, from her breathing grace dispersed.
Last night the delicate crests of saffron bloom,
For this their dainty likeness watch'd and nurst,
Were just at point to burst.
At dawn I dream'd, O God, that she was dead,
And groan'd aloud upon my wretched bed,
And waked, ah, God, and did not waken her,
But lay, with eyes still closed,
Perfectly bless'd in the delicious sphere
By which I knew so well that she was near,
My heart to speechless thankfulness composed.
Till 'gan to stir
A dizzy somewhat in my troubled head—
It was the azalea's breath, and she was dead!
The warm night had the lingering buds disclosed,
And I had fall'n asleep with to my breast
A chance-found letter press'd
In which she said,
‘So, till to-morrow eve, my Own, adieu!
Parting's well-paid with soon again to meet,
Soon in your arms to feel so small and sweet,
Sweet to myself that am so sweet to you!’
It was not like your great and gracious ways!
Do you, that have nought other to lament,
Never, my Love, repent
Of how, that July afternoon,
With sudden, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten'd eye,
Upon your journey of so many days,
Without a single kiss, or a good-bye?
I knew, indeed, that you were parting soon;
And so we sate, within the low sun's rays,
You whispering to me, for your voice was weak,
Your harrowing praise.
Well, it was well,
To hear you such things speak,
And I could tell
What made your eyes a growing gloom of love,
As a warm South-wind sombres a March grove.
And it was like your great and gracious ways
To turn your talk on daily things, my Dear,
Lifting the luminous, pathetic lash
To let the laughter flash,
Whilst I drew near,
Because you spoke so low that I could scarcely hear.
But all at once to leave me at the last,
More at the wonder than the loss aghast,
With huddled, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten'd eye,
And go your journey of all days
With not one kiss, or a good-bye,
And the only loveless look the look with which you pass'd:
'Twas all unlike your great and gracious ways.
Is this the portent of the day nigh past,
And of a restless grave
O'er which the eternal sadness gathers fast;
Or but the heaped wave
Of some chance, wandering tide,
Such as that world of awe
Whose circuit, listening to a foreign law,
Conjunctures ours at unguess'd dates and wide,
Does in the Spirit's tremulous ocean draw,
To pass unfateful on, and so subside?
Thee, whom ev'n more than Heaven loved I have,
And yet have not been true
Even to thee,
I, dreaming, night by night, seek now to see,
And, in a mortal sorrow, still pursue
Thro' sordid streets and lanes
And houses brown and bare
And many a haggard stair
Ochrous with ancient stains,
And infamous doors, opening on hapless rooms,
In whose unhaunted glooms
Dead pauper generations, witless of the sun,
Their course have run;
And ofttimes my pursuit
Is check'd of its dear fruit
By things brimful of hate, my kith and kin,
Furious that I should keep
Their forfeit power to weep,
And mock, with living fear, their mournful malice thin.
But ever, at the last, my way I win
To where, with perfectly sad patience, nurst
By sorry comfort of assured worst,
Ingrain'd in fretted cheek and lips that pine,
On pallet poor
Thou lyest, stricken sick,
Beyond love's cure,
By all the world's neglect, but chiefly mine.
Then sweetness, sweeter than my tongue can tell,
Does in my bosom well,
And tears come free and quick
And more and more abound
For piteous passion keen at having found,
After exceeding ill, a little good;
A little good
Which, for the while,
Fleets with the current sorrow of the blood,
Though no good here has heart enough to smile.
My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,
I struck him, and dismiss'd
With hard words and unkiss'd,
His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray'd
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood,
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
‘I will be sorry for their childishness.’
The stony rock of death's insensibility
Well'd yet awhile with honey of thy love
And then was dry;
Nor could thy picture, nor thine empty glove,
Nor all thy kind, long letters, nor the band
Which really spann'd
Thy body chaste and warm,
Upon the stony rock their wearied charm.
At last, then, thou wast dead.
Yet would I not despair,
But wrought my daily task, and daily said
Many and many a fond, unfeeling prayer,
To keep my vows of faith to thee from harm.
‘For 'tis,’ I said, ‘all one,
The wilful faith, which has no joy or pain,
As if 'twere none.’
Then look'd I miserably round
If aught of duteous love were left undone,
And nothing found.
But, kneeling in a Church, one Easter-Day,
It came to me to say:
‘Though there is no intelligible rest,
In Earth or Heaven,
For me, but on her breast,
I yield her up, again to have her given,
Or not, as, Lord, Thou wilt, and that for aye.’
And the same night, in slumber lying,
I, who had dream'd of thee as sad and sick and dying,
And only so, nightly for all one year,
Did thee, my own most Dear,
In gay, celestial beauty nothing coy,
And felt thy soft caress
With heretofore unknown reality of joy.
But, in our mortal air,
None thrives for long upon the happiest dream,
And fresh despair
Bade me seek round afresh for some extreme
Of unconceiv'd, interior sacrifice
Whereof the smoke might rise
To God, and 'mind Him that one pray'd below.
In agony, I cried:
‘My Lord, if Thy strange will be this,
That I should crucify my heart,
Because my love has also been my pride,
I do submit, if I saw how, to bliss
Wherein She has no part.’
And I was heard,
And taken at my own remorseless word.
O, my most Dear,
Was't treason, as I fear?
'Twere that, and worse, to plead thy veiled mind,
Kissing thy babes, and murmuring in mine ear,
‘Thou canst not be
Faithful to God, and faithless unto me!’
Ah, prophet kind!
I heard, all dumb and blind
With tears of protest; and I cannot see
But faith was broken. Yet, as I have said,
My heart was dead,
Dead of devotion and tired memory,
When a strange grace of thee
In a fair stranger, as I take it, bred
To her some tender heed,
Of purpose therewith blent,
And pure of faith, I think, to thee; yet such
That the pale reflex of an alien love,
So vaguely, sadly shown,
Did her heart touch
All that, till then, had woo'd her for its own.
And so the fear, which is love's chilly dawn,
Flush'd faintly upon lids that droop'd like thine,
And made me weak,
By thy delusive likeness doubly drawn,
And Nature's long suspended breath of flame
Persuading soft, and whispering Duty's name,
Awhile to smile and speak
With this thy Sister sweet, and therefore mine;
Thy Sister sweet,
Who bade the wheels to stir
Of sensitive delight in the poor brain,
Dead of devotion and tired memory,
So that I lived again,
And, strange to aver,
With no relapse into the void inane,
But (treason was't?) for thee and also her.
Magna Est Veritas
Here, in this little Bay,
Full of tumultuous life and great repose,
Where, twice a day,
The purposeless, glad ocean comes and goes,
Under high cliffs, and far from the huge town,
I sit me down.
For want of me the world's course will not fail:
When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great, and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.
In the year of the great crime,
When the false English Nobles and their Jew,
By God demented, slew
The Trust they stood twice pledged to keep from wrong,
One said, Take up thy Song,
That breathes the mild and almost mythic time
Of England's prime!
But I, Ah, me,
The freedom of the few
That, in our free Land, were indeed the free,
Can song renew?
Ill singing 'tis with blotting prison-bars,
How high soe'er, betwixt us and the stars;
Ill singing 'tis when there are none to hear;
And days are near
When England shall forget
The fading glow which, for a little while,
Illumes her yet,
The lovely smile
That grows so faint and wan,
Her people shouting in her dying ear,
Are not two daws worth two of any swan!
Ye outlaw'd Best, who yet are bright
With the sunken light,
Whose common style
Is Virtue at her gracious ease,
The flower of olden sanctities,
Ye haply trust, by love's benignant guile,
To lure the dark and selfish brood
To their own hated good;
Ye haply dream
Your lives shall still their charmful sway sustain,
Unstifled by the fever'd steam
That rises from the plain.
Know, 'twas the force of function high,
In corporate exercise, and public awe
Of Nature's, Heaven's, and England's Law
That Best, though mix'd with Bad, should reign,
Which kept you in your sky!
But, when the sordid Trader caught
The loose-held sceptre from your hands distraught,
And soon, to the Mechanic vain,
Sold the proud toy for nought,
Your charm was broke, your task was sped,
Your beauty, with your honour, dead,
And though you still are dreaming sweet
Of being even now not less
Than Gods and Goddesses, ye shall not long so cheat
Your hearts of their due heaviness.
Go, get you for your evil watching shriven!
Leave to your lawful Master's itching hands
Your unking'd lands,
But keep, at least, the dignity
Of deigning not, for his smooth use, to be,
Voteless, the voted delegates
Of his strange interests, loves and hates.
In sackcloth, or in private strife
With private ill, ye may please Heaven,
And soothe the coming pangs of sinking life;
And prayer perchance may win
A term to God's indignant mood
And the orgies of the multitude,
Which now begin;
But do not hope to wave the silken rag
Of your unsanction'd flag,
And so to guide
The great ship, helmless on the swelling tide
Of that presumptuous Sea,
Unlit by sun or moon, yet inly bright
With lights innumerable that give no light,
Flames of corrupted will and scorn of right,
Rejoicing to be free.
And, now, because the dark comes on apace
When none can work for fear,
And Liberty in every Land lies slain,
And the two Tyrannies unchallenged reign,
And heavy prophecies, suspended long
At supplication of the righteous few,
And so discredited, to fulfilment throng,
Restrain'd no more by faithful prayer or tear,
And the dread baptism of blood seems near
That brings to the humbled Earth the Time of Grace,
Breathless be song,
And let Christ's own look through
The darkness, suddenly increased,
To the gray secret lingering in the East.
‘If I Were Dead’
‘If I were dead, you'd sometimes say, Poor Child!’
The dear lips quiver'd as they spake,
And the tears brake
From eyes which, not to grieve me, brightly smiled.
Poor Child, poor Child!
I seem to hear your laugh, your talk, your song.
It is not true that Love will do no wrong.
And did you think, when you so cried and smiled,
How I, in lonely nights, should lie awake,
And of those words your full avengers make?
Poor Child, poor Child!
And now, unless it be
That sweet amends thrice told are come to thee,
O God, have Thou no mercy upon me!
O England, how hast thou forgot,
In dullard care for undisturb'd increase
Of gold, which profits not,
The gain which once thou knew'st was for thy peace!
Honour is peace, the peace which does accord
Alone with God's glad word:
‘My peace I send you, and I send a sword.’
O England, how hast thou forgot,
How fear'st the things which make for joy, not fear,
Hard days? 'Tis what the pamper'd seek to buy
With their most willing gold in weary lands.
Loss and pain risk'd? What sport but understands
These for incitements! Suddenly to die,
With conscience a blurr'd scroll?
The sunshine dreaming upon Salmon's height
Is not so sweet and white
As the most heretofore sin-spotted soul
That darts to its delight
Straight from the absolution of a faithful fight.
Myriads of homes unloosen'd of home's bond,
And fill'd with helpless babes and harmless women fond?
Let those whose pleasant chance
Took them, like me, among the German towns,
After the war that pluck'd the fangs from France,
With me pronounce
Whether the frequent black, which then array'd
Child, wife, and maid,
Did most to magnify the sombreness of grief,
Or add the beauty of a staid relief
And freshening foil
To cheerful-hearted Honour's ready smile!
Beneath the heroic sun
Is there then none
Whose sinewy wings by choice do fly
In the fine mountain-air of public obloquy,
To tell the sleepy mongers of false ease
That war's the ordained way of all alive,
And therein with goodwill to dare and thrive
Is profit and heart's peace?
But in his heart the fool now saith:
‘The thoughts of Heaven were past all finding out,
Indeed, if it should rain
Intolerable woes upon our Land again,
After so long a drought!’
‘Will a kind Providence our vessel whelm,
With such a pious Pilot at the helm?’
‘Or let the throats be cut of pretty sheep
That care for nought but pasture rich and deep?’
‘Were 't Evangelical of God to deal so foul a blow
At people who hate Turks and Papists so?’
‘What, make or keep
A tax for ship and gun,
When 'tis full three to one
Yon bully but intends
To beat our friends?’
‘Let's put aside
Our costly pride.
Our appetite's not gone
Because we've learn'd to doff
Our caps, where we were used to keep them on.’
‘If times get worse,
We've money in our purse,
And Patriots that know how, let who will scoff,
To buy our perils off.
Yea, blessed in our midst
Art thou who lately didst,
The old bargain of the Saxon with the Dane.’
Thus in his heart the fool now saith;
And, lo, our trusted leaders trust fool's luck,
Which, like the whale's 'mazed chine,
When they thereon were mulling of their wine,
Will some day duck.
Remnant of Honour, brooding in the dark
Over your bitter cark,
Staring, as Rispah stared, astonied seven days,
Upon the corpses of so many sons,
Who loved her once,
Dead in the dim and lion-haunted ways,
Who could have dreamt
That times should come like these!
Prophets, indeed, taught lies when we were young,
And people loved to have it so;
For they teach well who teach their scholars' tongue!
But that the foolish both should gaze,
With feeble, fascinated face,
Upon the wan crest of the coming woe,
The billow of earthquake underneath the seas,
And sit at ease,
Or stand agape,
Without so much as stepping back to 'scape,
Mumbling, ‘Perchance we perish if we stay:
'Tis certain wear of shoes to stir away!’
Who could have dreamt
That times should come like these!
Remnant of Honour, tongue-tied with contempt,
Consider; you are strong yet, if you please.
A hundred just men up, and arm'd but with a frown,
May hoot a hundred thousand false loons down,
Or drive them any way like geese.
But to sit silent now is to suborn
The common villainy you scorn.
In the dark hour
When phrases are in power,
And nought's to choose between
The thing which is not and which is not seen,
One fool, with lusty lungs,
Does what a hundred wise, who hate and hold their tongues,
Shall ne'er undo.
In such an hour,
When eager hands are fetter'd and too few,
And hearts alone have leave to bleed,
Speak; for a good word then is a good deed.
With all my will, but much against my heart,
We two now part.
My Very Dear,
Our solace is, the sad road lies so clear.
It needs no art,
With faint, averted feet
And many a tear,
In our opposed paths to persevere.
Go thou to East, I West.
We will not say
There's any hope, it is so far away.
But, O, my Best,
When the one darling of our widowhead,
The nursling Grief,
And no dews blur our eyes
To see the peach-bloom come in evening skies,
Perchance we may,
Where now this night is day,
And even through faith of still averted feet,
Making full circle of our banishment,
The bitter journey to the bourne so sweet
Seasoning the termless feast of our content
With tears of recognition never dry.
Ye Wise, by whom Heav'n rules!
Your kingly hands suit not the hangman's tools.
When God has doom'd a glorious Past to die,
Are there no knaves and fools?
For ages yet to come your kind shall count for nought.
Smoke of the strife of other Powers
And tongues inscrutable with fury fraught
'Wilder the sky,
Till the far good which none can guess be wrought.
Since tears are vain, here let us rest and laugh,
But not too loudly; for the brave time's come,
When Best may not blaspheme the Bigger Half,
And freedom for our sort means freedom to be dumb.
Lo, how the dross and draff
Jeer up at us, and shout,
‘The Day is ours, the Night is theirs!’
And urge their rout
Where the wild dawn of rising Tartarus flares.
Yon strives their Leader, lusting to be seen.
His leprosy's so perfect that men call him clean!
Listen the long, sincere, and liberal bray
Of the earnest Puller at another's hay
'Gainst aught that dares to tug the other way,
Quite void of fears
With all that noise of ruin round his ears!
Yonder the people cast their caps o'erhead,
And swear the threaten'd doom is ne'er to dread
That's come, though not yet past.
All front the horror and are none aghast;
Brag of their full-blown rights and liberties,
Nor once surmise
When each man gets his due the Nation dies;
Nay, still shout ‘Progress!’ as if seven plagues
Should take the laggard who would stretch his legs.
Forward! glad rush of Gergesenian swine;
You've gain'd the hill-top, but there's yet the brine.
Forward! to meet the welcome of the waves
That mount to 'whelm the freedom which enslaves.
Forward! bad corpses turn into good dung,
To feed strange futures beautiful and young.
Forward! God speed ye down the damn'd decline,
And grant ye the Fool's true good, in abject ruin's gulf
As the Wise see him so to see himself!
Ah, Land once mine,
That seem'd to me too sweetly wise,
Too sternly fair for aught that dies,
Past is thy proud and pleasant state,
That recent date
When, strong and single, in thy sovereign heart,
The thrones of thinking, hearing, sight,
The cunning hand, the knotted thew
Of lesser powers that heave and hew,
And each the smallest beneficial part,
And merest pore of breathing, beat,
Full and complete,
The great pulse of thy generous might,
Equal in inequality,
That soul of joy in low and high;
When not a churl but felt the Giant's heat,
Albeit he simply call'd it his,
Flush in his common labour with delight,
And not a village-Maiden's kiss
But was for this
And not a sorrow but did lightlier sigh,
And for its private self less greet,
The whilst that other so majestic self stood by!
Integrity so vast could well afford
To wear in working many a stain,
To pillory the cobbler vain
And license madness in a lord.
On that were all men well agreed;
And, if they did a thing,
Their strength was with them in their deed,
And from amongst them came the shout of a king!
But, once let traitor coward meet,
Not Heaven itself can keep its feet.
Come knave who said to dastard, ‘Lo,
‘The Deluge!’ which but needed ‘No!’
For all the Atlantic's threatening roar,
If men would bravely understand,
Is softly check'd for evermore
By a firm bar of sand.
But, dastard listening knave, who said,
‘'Twere juster were the Giant dead,
That so yon bawlers may not miss
To vote their own pot-belly'd bliss,’
All that is past!
We saw the slaying, and were not aghast.
But ne'er a sun, on village Groom and Bride,
Albeit they guess not how it is,
At Easter or at Whitsuntide,
But shines less gay for this!
The Two Deserts
Not greatly moved with awe am I
To learn that we may spy
Five thousand firmaments beyond our own.
The best that's known
Of the heavenly bodies does them credit small.
View'd close, the Moon's fair ball
Is of ill objects worst,
A corpse in Night's highway, naked, fire-scarr'd, accurst;
And now they tell
That the Sun is plainly seen to boil and burst
Too horribly for hell.
So, judging from these two,
As we must do,
The Universe, outside our living Earth,
Was all conceiv'd in the Creator's mirth,
Forecasting at the time Man's spirit deep,
To make dirt cheap.
Put by the Telescope!
Better without it man may see,
Stretch'd awful in the hush'd midnight,
The ghost of his eternity.
Give me the nobler glass that swells to the eye
The things which near us lie,
Till Science rapturously hails,
In the minutest water-drop,
A torment of innumerable tails.
These at the least do live.
But rather give
A mind not much to pry
Beyond our royal-fair estate
Betwixt these deserts blank of small and great.
Wonder and beauty our own courtiers are,
Pressing to catch our gaze,
And out of obvious ways
Ne'er wandering far.
Crest And Gulf
Much woe that man befalls
Who does not run when sent, nor come when Heaven calls;
But whether he serve God, or his own whim,
Not matters, in the end, to any one but him;
And he as soon
Shall map the other side of the Moon,
As trace what his own deed,
In the next chop of the chance gale, shall breed.
This he may know:
His good or evil seed
Is like to grow,
For its first harvest, quite to contraries:
The father wise
Has still the hare-brain'd brood;
'Gainst evil, ill example better works than good;
The poet, fanning his mild flight
At a most keen and arduous height,
Unveils the tender heavens to horny human eyes
Amidst ingenious blasphemies.
Wouldst raise the poor, in Capuan luxury sunk?
The Nation lives but whilst its Lords are drunk!
Or spread Heav'n's partial gifts o'er all, like dew?
The Many's weedy growth withers the gracious Few!
Strange opposites, from those, again, shall rise.
Join, then, if thee it please, the bitter jest
Of mankind's progress; all its spectral race
Mere impotence of rest,
The heaving vain of life which cannot cease from self,
Crest altering still to gulf
And gulf to crest
In endless chace,
That leaves the tossing water anchor'd in its place!
Ah, well does he who does but stand aside,
Sans hope or fear,
And marks the crest and gulf in station sink and rear,
And prophesies 'gainst trust in such a tide:
For he sometimes is prophet, heavenly taught,
Whose message is that he sees only nought.
Nathless, discern'd may be,
By listeners at the doors of destiny,
The fly-wheel swift and still
Of God's incessant will,
Mighty to keep in bound, tho' powerless to quell,
The amorous and vehement drift of man's herd to hell.
Ah, yes; we tell the good and evil trees
By fruits: But how tell these?
Who does not know
That good and ill
Are done in secret still,
And that which shews is verily but show!
How high of heart is one, and one how sweet of mood:
But not all height is holiness,
Nor every sweetness good;
And grace will sometimes lurk where who could guess?
The Critic of his kind,
Dealing to each his share,
With easy humour, hard to bear,
May not impossibly have in him shrined,
As in a gossamer globe or thickly padded pod,
Some small seed dear to God.
Haply yon wretch, so famous for his falls,
Got them beneath the Devil-defended walls
Of some high Virtue he had vow'd to win;
And that which you and I
Call his besetting sin
Is but the fume of his peculiar fire
Of inmost contrary desire,
And means wild willingness for her to die,
Dash'd with despondence of her favour sweet;
He fiercer fighting, in his worst defeat,
Than I or you,
That only courteous greet
Where he does hotly woo,
Did ever fight, in our best victory.
Another is mistook
Through his deceitful likeness to his look!
Let be, let be:
Why should I clear myself, why answer thou for me?
That shaft of slander shot
Miss'd only the right blot.
I see the shame
They cannot see:
'Tis very just they blame
The thing that's not.
‘Faint Yet Pursuing’
Heroic Good, target for which the young
Dream in their dreams that every bow is strung,
And, missing, sigh
Unfruitful, or as disbelievers die,
Thee having miss'd, I will not so revolt,
But lowlier shoot my bolt,
And lowlier still, if still I may not reach,
And my proud stomach teach
That less than highest is good, and may be high.
An even walk in life's uneven way,
Though to have dreamt of flight and not to fly
Be strange and sad,
Is not a boon that's given to all who pray.
If this I had
I'd envy none!
Nay, trod I straight for one
Year, month or week,
Should Heaven withdraw, and Satan me amerce
Of power and joy, still would I seek
Another victory with a like reverse;
Because the good of victory does not die,
As dies the failure's curse,
And what we have to gain
Is, not one battle, but a weary life's campaign.
Yet meaner lot being sent
Should more than me content;
Yea, if I lie
Among vile shards, though born for silver wings,
In the strong flight and feathers gold
Of whatsoever heavenward mounts and sings
I must by admiration so comply
That there I should my own delight behold.
Yea, though I sin each day times seven,
And dare not lift the fearfullest eyes to Heaven,
Thanks must I give
Because that seven times are not eight or nine,
And that my darkness is all mine,
And that I live
Within this oak-shade one more minute even,
Hearing the winds their Maker magnify.
Victory In Defeat
Ah, God, alas,
How soon it came to pass
The sweetness melted from thy barbed hook
Which I so simply took;
And I lay bleeding on the bitter land,
Afraid to stir against thy least command,
But losing all my pleasant life-blood, whence
Force should have been heart's frailty to withstand.
Life is not life at all without delight,
Nor has it any might;
And better than the insentient heart and brain
Is sharpest pain;
And better for the moment seems it to rebel,
If the great Master, from his lifted seat,
Ne'er whispers to the wearied servant ‘Well!’
Yet what returns of love did I endure,
When to be pardon'd seem'd almost more sweet
Than aye to have been pure!
But day still faded to disastrous night,
And thicker darkness changed to feebler light,
Until forgiveness, without stint renew'd,
Was now no more with loving tears imbued,
Vowing no more offence.
Not less to thine Unfaithful didst thou cry,
‘Come back, poor Child; be all as 'twas before.
‘No, no; I will not promise any more!
Yet, when I feel my hour is come to die,
And so I am secured of continence,
Then may I say, though haply then in vain,
'My only, only Love, O, take me back again!'’
Thereafter didst thou smite
So hard that, for a space,
Uplifted seem'd Heav'n's everlasting door,
And I indeed the darling of thy grace.
But, in some dozen changes of the moon,
A bitter mockery seem'd thy bitter boon.
The broken pinion was no longer sore.
Again, indeed, I woke
Under so dread a stroke
That all the strength it left within my heart
Was just to ache and turn, and then to turn and ache,
And some weak sign of war unceasingly to make.
And here I lie,
With no one near to mark,
Thrusting Hell's phantoms feebly in the dark,
And still at point more utterly to die.
O God, how long!
Put forth indeed thy powerful right hand,
While time is yet,
Or never shall I see the blissful land!
Thus I: then God, in pleasant speech and strong,
(Which soon I shall forget):
‘The man who, though his fights be all defeats,
Enters at last
The heavenly Jerusalem's rejoicing streets
With glory more, and more triumphant rites
Than always-conquering Joshua's, when his blast
The frighted walls of Jericho down cast;
And, lo, the glad surprise
Of peace beyond surmise,
More than in common Saints, for ever in his eyes.
Since succour to the feeblest of the wise
Is charge of nobler weight
Than the security
Of many and many a foolish soul's estate,
This I affirm,
Though fools will fools more confidently be:
Whom God does once with heart to heart befriend,
He does so till the end:
And having planted life's miraculous germ,
One sweet pulsation of responsive love,
He sets him sheer above,
Not sin and bitter shame
And wreck of fame,
But Hell's insidious and more black attempt,
The envy, malice, and pride,
Which men who share so easily condone
That few ev'n list such ills as these to hide.
From these unalterably exempt,
Through the remember'd grace
Of that divine embrace,
Of his sad errors none,
Though gross to blame,
Shall cast him lower than the cleansing flame,
Nor make him quite depart
From the small flock named ‘after God's own heart,’
And to themselves unknown.
Nor can he quail
In faith, nor flush nor pale
When all the other idiot people spell
How this or that new Prophet's word belies
Their last high oracle;
But constantly his soul
Points to its pole
Ev'n as the needle points, and knows not why;
And, under the ever-changing clouds of doubt,
When others cry,
‘The stars, if stars there were,
Are quench'd and out!’
To him, uplooking t'ward the hills for aid,
Appear, at need display'd,
Gaps in the low-hung gloom, and, bright in air,
Orion or the Bear.
In strenuous hope I wrought,
And hope seem'd still betray'd;
Lastly I said,
‘I have labour'd through the Night, nor yet
Have taken aught;
But at Thy word I will again cast forth the net!’
And, lo, I caught
(Oh, quite unlike and quite beyond my thought,)
Not the quick, shining harvest of the Sea,
For food, my wish,
Then, hiding even in me,
As hid was Simon's coin within the fish,
Thou sigh'd'st, with joy, ‘Be dumb,
Or speak but of forgotten things to far-off times to come.’
The Landgrave Hermann held a gathering
Of minstrels, minnesingers, troubadours,
At Wartburg in his palace, and the knight,
Sir Tannhauser of France, the greatest bard,
Inspired with heavenly visions, and endowed
With apprehension and rare utterance
Of noble music, fared in thoughtful wise
Across the Horsel meadows. Full of light,
And large repose, the peaceful valley lay,
In the late splendor of the afternoon,
And level sunbeams lit the serious face
Of the young knight, who journeyed to the west,
Towards the precipitous and rugged cliffs,
Scarred, grim, and torn with savage rifts and chasms,
That in the distance loomed as soft and fair
And purple as their shadows on the grass.
The tinkling chimes ran out athwart the air,
Proclaiming sunset, ushering evening in,
Although the sky yet glowed with yellow light.
The ploughboy, ere he led his cattle home,
In the near meadow, reverently knelt,
And doffed his cap, and duly crossed his breast,
Whispering his 'Ave Mary,' as he heard
The pealing vesper-bell. But still the knight,
Unmindful of the sacred hour announced,
Disdainful or unconscious, held his course.
'Would that I also, like yon stupid wight,
Could kneel and hail the Virgin and believe!'
He murmured bitterly beneath his breath.
'Were I a pagan, riding to contend
For the Olympic wreath, O with what zeal,
What fire of inspiration, would I sing
The praises of the gods! How may my lyre
Glorify these whose very life I doubt?
The world is governed by one cruel God,
Who brings a sword, not peace. A pallid Christ,
Unnatural, perfect, and a virgin cold,
They give us for a heaven of living gods,
Beautiful, loving, whose mere names were song;
A creed of suffering and despair, walled in
On every side by brazen boundaries,
That limit the soul's vision and her hope
To a red hell or and unpeopled heaven.
Yea, I am lost already,-even now
Am doomed to flaming torture for my thoughts.
O gods! O gods! where shall my soul find peace?'
He raised his wan face to the faded skies,
Now shadowing into twilight; no response
Came from their sunless heights; no miracle,
As in the ancient days of answering gods.
With a long, shuddering sigh he glanced to earth,
Finding himself among the Horsel cliffs.
Gray, sullen, gaunt, they towered on either side;
Scant shrubs sucked meagre life between the rifts
Of their huge crags, and made small darker spots
Upon their wrinkled sides; the jaded horse
Stumbled upon loose, rattling, fallen stones,
Amidst the gathering dusk, and blindly fared
Through the weird, perilous pass. As darkness waxed,
And an oppressive mystery enwrapped
The roadstead and the rocks, Sir Tannhauser
Fancied he saw upon the mountain-side
The fluttering of white raiment. With a sense
Of wild joy and horror, he gave pause,
For his sagacious horse that reeked of sweat,
Trembling in every limb, confirmed his thought,
That nothing human scaled that haunted cliff.
The white thing seemed descending,-now a cloud
It looked, and now a rag of drifted mist,
Torn in the jagged gorge precipitous,
And now an apparition clad in white,
Shapely and real,-then he lost it quite,
Gazing on nothing with blank, foolish face.
As with wide eyes he stood, he was aware
Of a strange splendor at his very side,
A presence and a majesty so great,
That ere he saw, he felt it was divine.
He turned, and, leaping from his horse, fell prone,
In speechless adoration, on the earth,
Before the matchless goddess, who appeared
With no less freshness of immortal youth
Than when first risen from foam of Paphian seas.
He heard delicious strains of melody,
Such as his highest muse had ne'er attained,
Float in the air, while in the distance rang,
Harsh and discordant, jarring with those tones,
The gallop of his frightened horse's hoofs,
Clattering in sudden freedom down the pass.
A voice that made all music dissonance
Then thrilled through heart and flesh of that prone knight,
Triumphantly: 'The gods need but appear,
And their usurped thrones are theirs again!'
Then tenderly: 'Sweet knight, I pray thee, rise;
Worship me not, for I desire thy love.
Look on me, follow me, for I am fain
Of thy fair, human face.' He rose and looked,
Stirred by that heavenly flattery to the soul.
Her hair, unbraided and unfilleted,
Rained in a glittering shower to the ground,
And cast forth lustre. Round her zone was clasped
The scintillant cestus, stiff with flaming gold,
Thicker with restless gems than heaven with stars.
She might have flung the enchanted wonder forth;
Her eyes, her slightest gesture would suffice
To bind all men in blissful slavery.
She sprang upon the mountain's dangerous side,
With feet that left their print in flowers divine,-
Flushed amaryllis and blue hyacinth,
Impurpled amaranth and asphodel,
Dewy with nectar, and exhaling scents
Richer than all the roses of mid-June.
The knight sped after her, with wild eyes fixed
Upon her brightness, as she lightly leapt
From crag to crag, with flying auburn hair,
Like a gold cloud, that lured him ever on,
Higher and higher up the haunted cliff.
At last amidst a grove of pines she paused,
Until he reached her, breathing hard with haste,
Delight, and wonder. Then upon his hand
She placed her own, and all his blood at once
Tingled and hotly rushed to brow and cheek,
At the supreme caress; but the mere touch
Infused fresh life, and when she looked at him
With gracious tenderness, he felt himself
Strong suddenly to bear the blinding light
Of those great eyes. 'Dear knight,' she murmured low,
'For love of me, wilt thou accord this boon,-
To grace my weary home in banishment?'
His hungry eyes gave answer ere he spoke,
In tones abrupt that startled his own ears
With their strange harshness; but with thanks profuse
She guided him, still holding his cold hand
In her warm, dainty palm, unto a cave,
Whence a rare glory issued, and a smell
Of spice and roses, frankincense and balm.
They entering stood within a marble hall,
With straight, slim pillars, at whose farther end
The goddess led him to a spiral flight
Of stairs, descending always 'midst black gloom
Into the very bowels of the earth.
Down these, with fearful swiftness, they made way,
The knight's feet touching not the solid stair,
But sliding down as in a vexing dream,
Blind, feeling but that hand divine that still
Empowered him to walk on empty air.
Then he was dazzled by a sudden blaze,
In vast palace filled with reveling folk.
Cunningly pictured on the ivory walls
Were rolling hills, cool lakes, and boscage green,
And all the summer landscape's various pomp.
The precious canopy aloft was carved
In semblance of the pleached forest trees,
Enameled with the liveliest green, wherethrough
A light pierced, more resplendent than the day.
O'er the pale, polished jasper of the floor
Of burnished metal, fretted and embossed
With all the marvelous story of her birth
Painted in prodigal splendor of rich tincts,
And carved by heavenly artists,-crystal seas,
And long-haired Nereids in their pearly shells,
And all the wonder of her lucent limbs
Sphered in a vermeil mist. Upon the throne
She took her seat, the knight beside her still,
Singing on couches of fresh asphodel,
And the dance ceased, and the flushed revelers came
In glittering phalanx to adore their queen.
Beautiful girls, with shining delicate heads,
Crested with living jewels, fanned the air
With flickering wings from naked shoulders soft.
Then with preluding low, a thousand harps,
And citherns, and strange nameless instruments,
Sent through the fragrant air sweet symphonies,
And the winged dancers waved in mazy rounds,
With changing lustres like a summer sea.
Fair boys, with charming yellow hair crisp-curled,
And frail, effeminate beauty, the knight saw,
But of strong, stalwart men like him were none.
He gazed thereon bewitched, until the hand
Of Venus, erst withdrawn, now fell again
Upon his own, and roused him from his trance.
He looked on her, and as he looked, a cloud
Auroral, flaming as at sunrising,
Arose from nothing, floating over them
In luminous folds, like that vermilion mist
Penciled upon the throne, and as it waxed
In density and brightness, all the throng
Of festal dancers, less and less distinct,
Grew like pale spirits in a vague, dim dream,
And vanished altogether; and these twain,
Shut from the world in that ambrosial cloud,
Now with a glory inconceivable,
Vivid and conflagrant, looked each on each.
All hours came laden with their own delights
In that enchanted place, wherein Time
Knew no divisions harsh of night and day,
But light was always, and desire of sleep
Was satisfied at once with slumber soft,
Desire of food with magical repast,
By unseen hands on golden tables spread.
But these the knight accepted like a god,
All less was lost in that excess of joy,
The crowning marvel of her love for him,
Assuring him of his divinity.
Meanwhile remembrance of the earth appeared
Like the vague trouble of a transient dream,-
The doubt, the scruples, the remorse for thoughts
Beyond his own control, the constant thirst
For something fairer than his life, more real
Than airy revelations of his Muse.
Here was his soul's desire satisfied.
All nobler passions died; his lyre he flung
Recklessly forth, with vows to dedicate
His being to herself. She knew and seized
The moment of her mastery, and conveyed
The lyre beyond his sight and memory.
With blandishment divine she changed for him,
Each hour, her mood; a very woman now,
Fantastic, voluble, affectionate,
And jealous of the vague, unbodied air,
Exacting, penitent, and pacified,
All in a breath. And often she appeared
Majestic with celestial wrath, with eyes
That shot forth fire, and a heavy brow,
Portentous as the lowering front of heaven,
When the reverberant, sullen thunder rolls
Among the echoing clouds. Thus she denounced
Her ancient, fickle worshippers, who left
Her altars desecrate, her fires unfed,
Her name forgotten. 'But I reign, I reign!'
She would shrill forth, triumphant; 'yea, I reign.
Men name me not, but worship me unnamed,
Beauty and Love within their heart of hearts;
Not with bent knees and empty breath of words,
But with devoted sacrifice of lives.'
Then melting in a moment, she would weep
Ambrosial tears, pathetic, full of guile,
Accusing her own base ingratitude,
In craving worship, when she had his heart,
Her priceless knight, her peerless paladin,
Her Tannhauser; then, with an artful glance
Of lovely helplessness, entreated him
Not to desert her, like the faithless world,
For these unbeautiful and barbarous gods,
Or she would never cease her prayers to Jove,
Until he took from her the heavy curse
Of immortality. With closer vows,
The knight then sealed his worship and forswore
All other aims and deeds to serve her cause.
Thus passed unnoted seven barren years
Of reckless passion and voluptuous sloth,
Undignified by any lofty thought
In his degraded mind, that sometime was
Endowed with noble capability.
From revelry to revelry he passed,
Craving more pungent pleasure momently,
And new intoxications, and each hour
The siren goddess answered his desires.
Once when she left him with a weary sense
Of utter lassitude, he sat alone,
And, raising listless eyes, he saw himself
In a great burnished mirror, wrought about
With cunning imagery of twisted vines.
He scarcely knew those sunken, red-rimmed eyes,
For his who in the flush of manhood rode
Among the cliffs, and followed up the crags
The flying temptress; and there fell on him
A horror of her beauty, a disgust
For his degenerate and corrupted life,
With irresistible, intense desire,
To feel the breath of heaven on his face.
Then as Fate willed, who rules above the gods,
He saw, within the glass, behind him glide
The form of Venus. Certain of her power,
She had laid by, in fond security,
The enchanted cestus, and Sir Tannhauser,
With surfeited regard, beheld her now,
No fairer than the women of the earth,
Whom with serenity and health he left,
Duped by a lovely witch. Before he moved,
She knew her destiny; and when he turned,
He seemed to drop a mask, disclosing thus
An alien face, and eyes with vision true,
That for long time with glamour had been blind.
Hiding the hideous rage within her breast,
With girlish simpleness of folded hands,
Auroral blushes, and sweet, shamefast mien,
She spoke: 'Behold, my love, I have cast forth
All magic, blandishments and sorcery,
For I have dreamed a dream so terrible,
That I awoke to find my pillow stained
With tears as of real woe. I thought my belt,
By Vulcan wrought with matchless skill and power,
Was the sole bond between us; this being doffed,
I seemed to thee an old, unlovely crone,
Wrinkled by every year that I have seen.
Thou turnedst from me with a brutal sneer,
So that I woke with weeping. Then I rose,
And drew the glittering girdle from my zone,
Jealous thereof, yet full of fears, and said,
'If it be this he loves, then let him go!
I have no solace as a mortal hath,
No hope of change or death to comfort me
Through all eternity; yet he is free,
Though I could hold him fast with heavy chains,
Bound in perpetual imprisonment.'
Tell me my vision was a baseless dream;
See, I am kneeling, and kiss thy hands,-
In pity, look on me, before thy word
Condemns me to immortal misery!'
As she looked down, the infernal influence
Worked on his soul again; for she was fair
Beyond imagination, and her brow
Seemed luminous with high self-sacrifice.
He bent and kissed her head, warm, shining, soft,
With its close-curling gold, and love revived.
But ere he spoke, he heard the distant sound
Of one sweet, smitten lyre, and a gleam
Of violent anger flashed across the face
Upraised to his in feigned simplicity
And singleness of purpose. Then he sprang,
Well-nigh a god himself, with sudden strength
to vanquish and resist, beyond her reach,
Crying, 'My old Muse calls me, and I hear!
Thy fateful vision is no baseless dream;
I will be gone from this accursed hall!'
Then she, too, rose, dilating over him,
And sullen clouds veiled all her rosy limbs,
Unto her girdle, and her head appeared
Refulgent, and her voice rang wrathfully:
'Have I cajoled and flattered thee till now,
To lose thee thus! How wilt thou make escape?
ONCE BEING MINE THOU ART FOREVER MINE:
Yea, not my love, but my poor slave and fool.'
But he, with both hands pressed upon his eyes,
Against that blinding lustre, heeded not
Her thundered words, and cried in sharp despair,
'Help me, O Virgin Mary! and thereat,
The very bases of the hall gave way,
The roof was rived, the goddess disappeared,
And Tannhauser stood free upon the cliff,
Amidst the morning sunshine and fresh air.
Around him were the tumbled blocks and crags,
Huge ridges and sharp juts of flinty peaks,
Black caves, and masses of the grim, bald rock.
The ethereal, unfathomable sky,
Hung over him, the valley lay beneath,
Dotted with yellow hayricks, that exhaled
Sweet, healthy odors to the mountain-top.
He breathed intoxicate the infinite air,
And plucked the heather blossoms where they blew,
Reckless with light and dew, in crannies green,
And scarcely saw their darling bells for tears.
No sounds of labor reached him from the farms
And hamlets trim, nor from the furrowed glebe;
But a serene and sabbath stillness reigned,
Till broken by the faint, melodious chimes
Of the small village church that called to prayer.
He hurried down the rugged, scarped cliff,
And swung himself from shelving granite slopes
To narrow foot-holds, near wide-throated chasms,
Tearing against the sharp stones his bleeding hands,
With long hair flying from his dripping brow,
Uncovered head, and white, exalted face.
No memory had he of his smooth ascent,
No thought of fear upon those dreadful hills;
He only heard the bell, inviting him
To satisfy the craving of his heart,
For worship 'midst his fellow men. He reached
The beaten, dusty road, and passed thereon
The pious peasants faring towards the church,
And scarce refrained from greeting them like friends
Dearly beloved, after long absence met.
How more than fair the sunburnt wenches looked,
In their rough, homespun gowns and coifs demure,
After the beauty of bare, rosy limbs,
And odorous, loose hair! He noted not
Suspicious glances on his garb uncouth,
His air extravagant and face distraught,
With bursts of laughter from the red-cheeked boys,
And prudent crossings of the women's breasts.
He passed the flowering close about the church,
And trod the well worn-path, with throbbing heart,
The little heather-bell between his lips,
And his eyes fastened on the good green grass.
Thus entered he the sanctuary, lit
With frequent tapers, and with sunbeams stained
Through painted glass. How pure and innocent
The waiting congregation seemed to him,
Kneeling, or seated with calm brows upraised!
With faltering strength, he cowered down alone,
And held sincere communion with the Lord,
For one brief moment, in a sudden gush
Of blessed tears. The minister of God
Rose to invoke a blessing on his flock,
And then began the service,-not in words
To raise the lowly, and to heal the sick,
But an alien tongue, with phrases formed,
And meaningless observances. The knight,
Unmoved, yet thirsting for the simple word
That might have moved him, held his bitter thoughts,
But when in his own speech a new priest spake,
Looked up with hope revived, and heard the text:
'Go, preach the Gospel unto all the world.
He that believes and is baptized, is saved.
He that believeth not, is damned in hell!'
He sat with neck thrust forth and staring eyes;
The crowded congregation disappeared;
He felt alone in some black sea of hell,
While a great light smote one exalted face,
Vivid already with prophetic fire,
Whose fatal mouth now thundered forth his doom.
He longed in that void circle to cry out,
With one clear shriek, but sense and voice seemed bound,
And his parched tongue clave useless to his mouth.
As the last words resounded through the church,
And once again the pastor blessed his flock,
Who, serious and subdued, passed slowly down
The arrow aisle, none noted, near the wall,
A fallen man with face upon his knees,
A heap of huddled garments and loose hair,
Unconscious 'mid the rustling, murmurous stir,
'Midst light and rural smell of grass and flowers,
Let in athwart the doorway. One lone priest,
Darkening the altar lights, moved noiselessly,
Now with the yellow glow upon his face,
Now a black shadow gliding farther on,
Amidst the smooth, slim pillars of hewn ash.
But from the vacant aisles he heard at once
A hollow sigh, heaved from a depth profound.
Upholding his last light above his head,
And peering eagerly amidst the stalls,
He cried, 'Be blest who cometh in God's name.'
Then the gaunt form of Tannhauser arose.
'Father, I am a sinner, and I seek
Forgiveness and help, by whatso means
I can regain the joy of peace with God.'
'The Lord hath mercy on the penitent.
'Although thy sins be scarlet,' He hath said,
'Will I not make them white as wool?' Confess,
And I will shrive you.' Thus the good priest moved
Towards the remorseful knight and pressed his hand.
But shrinking down, he drew his fingers back
From the kind palm, and kissed the friar's feet.
'Thy pure hand is anointed, and can heal.
The cool, calm pressure brings back sanity,
And what serene, past joys! yet touch me not,
My contact is pollution,-hear, O hear,
While I disburden my charged soul.' He lay,
Casting about for words and strength to speak.
'O father, is there help for such a one,'
In tones of deep abasement he began,
'Who hath rebelled against the laws of God,
With pride no less presumptuous than his
Who lost thereby his rank in heaven?' 'My son,
There is atonement for all sins,-or slight
Or difficult, proportioned to the crime.
Though this may be the staining of thy hands
With blood of kinsmen or of fellow-men.'
'My hands are white,-my crime hath found no name,
This side of hell; yet though my heart-strings snap
To live it over, let me make the attempt.
I was a knight and bard, with such a gift
Of revelation that no hour of life
Lacked beauty and adornment, in myself
The seat and centre of all happiness.
What inspiration could my lofty Muse
Draw from those common and familiar themes,
Painted upon the windows and the walls
Of every church,-the mother and her child,
The miracle and mystery of the birth,
The death, the resurrection? Fool and blind!
That saw not symbols of eternal truth
In that grand tragedy and victory,
Significant and infinite as life.
What tortures did my skeptic soul endure,
At war against herself and all mankind!
The restless nights of feverish sleeplessness,
With balancing of reasons nicely weighed;
The dawn that brought no hope nor energy,
The blasphemous arraignment of the Lord,
Taxing His glorious divinity
With all the grief and folly of the world.
Then came relapses into abject fear,
And hollow prayer and praise from craven heart.
Before a sculptured Venus I would kneel,
Crown her with flowers, worship her, and cry,
'O large and noble type of our ideal,
At least my heart and prayer return to thee,
Amidst a faithless world of proselytes.
Madonna Mary, with her virgin lips,
And eyes that look perpetual reproach,
Insults and is a blasphemy on youth.
Is she to claim the worship of a man
Hot with the first rich flush of ripened life?'
Realities, like phantoms, glided by,
Unnoted 'midst the torment and delights
Of my conflicting spirit, and I doffed
the modest Christian weeds of charity
And fit humility, and steeled myself
In pagan panoply of stoicism
And self-sufficing pride. Yet constantly
I gained men's charmed attention and applause,
With the wild strains I smote from out my lyre,
To me the native language of my soul,
To them attractive and miraculous,
As all things whose solution and whose source
Remain a mystery. Then came suddenly
The summons to attend the gathering
Of minstrels at the Landgrave Hermann's court.
Resolved to publish there my pagan creed
In harmonies so high and beautiful
That all the world would share my zeal and faith,
I journeyed towards the haunted Horsel cliffs.
O God! how may I tell you how SHE came,
The temptress of a hundred centuries,
Yet fresh as April? She bewitched my sense,
Poisoned my judgment with sweet flatteries,
And for I may not guess how many years
Held me a captive in degrading bonds.
There is no sin of lust so lewd and foul,
Which I learned not in that alluring hell,
Until this morn, I snapped the ignoble tie,
By calling on the Mother of our Lord.
O for the power to stand again erect,
And look men in the eyes! What penitence,
What scourging of the flesh, what rigid fasts,
What terrible privations may suffice
To cleanse me in the sight of God and man?'
Ill-omened silence followed his appeal.
Patient and motionless he lay awhile,
Then sprang unto his feet with sudden force,
Confronting in his breathless vehemence,
With palpitating heart, the timid priest.
'Answer me, as you hope for a response,
One day, at the great judgment seat yourself.'
'I cannot answer,' said the timid priest,
'I have not understood.' 'Just God! is this
The curse Thou layest upon me? I outstrip
The sympathy and brotherhood of men,
So far removed is my experience
From their clean innocence. Inspire me,
Prompt me to words that bring me near to them!
Father,' in gentler accents he resumed,
'Thank Heaven at your every orison
That sin like mine you cannot apprehend.
More than the truth perchance I have confessed,
But I have sinned, and darkly,-this is true;
And I have suffered, and am suffering now.
Is there no help in your great Christian creed
Of liberal charity, for such a one?'
'My son,' the priest replied, 'your speech distraught
Hath quite bewildered me. I fain would hope
That Christ's large charity can reach your sin,
But I know naught. I cannot but believe
That the enchantress who first tempted you
Must be the Evil one,-your early doubt
Was the possession of your soul by him.
Travel across the mountain to the town,
The first cathedral town upon the road
That leads to Rome,-a sage and reverend priest,
The Bishop Adrian, bides there. Say you have come
From his leal servant, Friar Lodovick;
He hath vast lore and great authority,
And may absolve you freely of your sin.'
Over the rolling hills, through summer fields,
By noisy villages and lonely lanes,
Through glowing days, when all the landscape stretched
Shimmering in the heat, a pilgrim fared
Towards the cathedral town. Sir Tannhauser
Had donned the mournful sackcloth, girt his loins
With a coarse rope that ate into his flesh,
Muffled a cowl about his shaven head,
Hung a great leaden cross around his neck;
And bearing in his hands a knotty staff,
With swollen, sandaled feet he held his course.
He snatched scant rest at twilight or at dawn,
When his forced travel was least difficult.
But most he journeyed when the sky, o'ercast,
Uprolled its threatening clouds of dusky blue,
And angry thunder grumbled through the hills,
And earth grew dark at noonday, till the flash
Of the thin lightning through the wide sky leapt.
And tumbling showers scoured along the plain.
Then folk who saw the pilgrim penitent,
Drenched, weird, and hastening as as to some strange doom,
Swore that the wandering Jew had crossed their land,
And the Lord Christ had sent the deadly bolt
Harmless upon his cursed, immortal head.
At length the hill-side city's spires and roofs,
With all its western windows smitten red
By a rich sunset, and with massive towers
Of its cathedral overtopping all,
greeted his sight. Some weary paces more,
And as the twilight deepened in the streets,
He stood within the minster. How serene,
In sculptured calm of centuries, it seemed!
How cool and spacious all the dim-lit aisles,
Still hazy with fumes of frankincense!
The vesper had been said, yet here and there
A wrinkled beldam, or mourner veiled,
Or burly burgher on the cold floor knelt,
And still the organist, with wandering hands,
Drew from the keys mysterious melodies,
And filled the church with flying waifs of song,
That with ethereal beauty moved the soul
To a more tender prayer and gentler faith
Than choral anthems and the solemn mass.
A thousand memories, sweet to bitterness,
Rushed on the knight and filled his eyes with tears;
Youth's blamelessness and faith forever lost,
The love of his neglected lyre, his art,
Revived by these aerial harmonies.
He was unworthy now to touch the strings,
Too base to stir men's soul to ecstasy
And high resolves, as in the days agone;
And yet, with all his spirit's earnestness,
He yearned to feel the lyre between his hands,
To utter all the trouble of his life
Unto the Muse who understands and helps.
Outworn with travel, soothed to drowsiness
By dying music and sweet-scented air,
His limbs relaxed, and sleep possessed his frame.
Auroral light the eastern oriels touched,
When with delicious sense of rest he woke,
Amidst the cast and silent empty aisles.
'God's peace hath fallen upon me in this place;
This is my Bethel; here I feel again
A holy calm, if not of innocence,
Yet purest after that, the calm serene
Of expiation and forgiveness.'
He spake, and passed with staff and wallet forth
Through the tall portal to the open square,
And turning, paused to look upon the pile.
The northern front against the crystal sky
Loomed dark and heavy, full of sombre shade,
With each projecting buttress, carven cross,
Gable and mullion, tipped with laughing light
By the slant sunbeams of the risen morn.
The noisy swallows wheeled above their nests,
Builded in hidden nooks about the porch.
No human life was stirring in the square,
Save now and then a rumbling market-team,
Fresh from the fields and farms without the town.
He knelt upon the broad cathedral steps,
And kissed the moistened stone, while overhead
The circling swallows sang, and all around
The mighty city lay asleep and still.
To stranger's ears must yet again be made
The terrible confession; yet again
A deathly chill, with something worse than fear,
Seized the knight's heart, who knew his every word
Widened the gulf between his kind and him.
The Bishop sat with pomp of mitred head,
In pride of proven virtue, hearkening to all
With cold, official apathy, nor made
A sign of pity nor encouragement.
The friar understood the pilgrim's grief,
The language of his eyes; his speech alone
Was alien to these kind, untutored ears.
But this was truly to be misconstrued,
To tear each palpitating word alive
From out the depths of his remorseful soul,
And have it weighed with the precision cool
And the nice logic of a reasoning mind.
This spiritual Father judged his crime
As the mad mischief of a reckless boy,
That call for strict, immediate punishment.
But Tannhauser, who felt himself a man,
Though base, yet fallen through passions and rare gifts
Of an exuberant nature rankly rich,
And knew his weary head was growing gray
With a life's terrible experience,
Found his old sense of proper worth revive;
But modestly he ended: 'Yet I felt,
O holy Father, in the church, this morn,
A strange security, a peace serene,
As though e'en yet the Lord regarded me
With merciful compassion; yea, as though
Even so vile a worm as I might work
Mine own salvation, through repentant prayers.'
'Presumptuous man, it is no easy task
To expiate such sin; a space of prayer
That deprecates the anger of the Lord,
A pilgrimage through pleasant summer lands,
May not atone for years of impious lust;
Thy heart hath lied to thee in offering hope.'
'Is there no hope on earth?' the pilgrim sighed.
'None through thy penance,' said the saintly man.
'Yet there may be through mediation, help.
There is a man who by a blameless life
Hath won the right to intercede with God.
No sins of his own flesh hath he to purge,-
The Cardinal Filippo,-he abides,
Within the Holy City. Seek him out;
This is my only counsel,-through thyself
Can be no help and no forgiveness.'
How different from the buoyant joy of morn
Was this discouraged sense of lassitude,
The Bishop's words were ringing in his ears,
Measured and pitiless, and blent with these,
The memory of the goddess' last wild cry,-
'ONCE BEING MINE, THOU ART FOREVER MINE.'
Was it the truth, despite his penitence,
And the dedication of his thought to God,
That still some portion of himself was hers,
Some lust survived, some criminal regret,
For her corrupted love? He searched his heart:
All was remorse, religious and sincere,
And yet her dreadful curse still haunted him;
For all men shunned him, and denied him help,
Knowing at once in looking on his face,
Ploughed with deep lines and prematurely old,
That he had struggled with some deadly fiend,
And that he was no longer kin to them.
Just past the outskirts of the town, he stopped,
To strengthen will and courage to proceed.
The storm had broken o'er the sultry streets,
But now the lessening clouds were flying east,
And though the gentle shower still wet his face,
The west was cloudless while the sun went down,
And the bright seven-colored arch stood forth,
Against the opposite dull gray. There was
A beauty in the mingled storm and peace,
Beyond clear sunshine, as the vast, green fields
Basked in soft light, though glistening yet with rain.
The roar of all the town was now a buzz
Less than the insects' drowsy murmuring
That whirred their gauzy wings around his head.
The breeze that follows on the sunsetting
Was blowing whiffs of bruised and dripping grass
Into the heated city. But he stood,
Disconsolate with thoughts of fate and sin,
Still wrestling with his soul to win it back
From her who claimed it to eternity.
Then on the delicate air there came to him
The intonation of the minster bells,
Chiming the vespers, musical and faint.
He knew not what of dear and beautiful
There was in those familiar peals, that spake
Of his first boyhood and his innocence,
Leading him back, with gracious influence,
To pleasant thoughts and tender memories,
And last, recalling the fair hour of hope
He passed that morning in the church. Again,
The glad assurance of God's boundless love
Filled all his being, and he rose serene,
And journeyed forward with a calm content.
Southward he wended, and the landscape took
A warmer tone, the sky a richer light.
The gardens of the graceful, festooned with hops,
With their slight tendrils binding pole to pole,
Gave place to orchards and the trellised grape,
The hedges were enwreathed with trailing vines,
With clustering, shapely bunches, 'midst the growth
Of tangled greenery. The elm and ash
Less frequent grew than cactus, cypresses,
And golden-fruited or large-blossomed trees.
The far hills took the hue of the dove's breast,
Veiled in gray mist of olive groves. No more
He passed dark, moated strongholds of grim knights,
But terraces with marble-paven steps,
With fountains leaping in the sunny air,
And hanging gardens full of sumptuous bloom.
Then cloisters guarded by their dead gray walls,
Where now and then a golden globe of fruit
Or full-flushed flower peered out upon the road,
Nodding against the stone, and where he heard
Sometimes the voices of the chanting monks,
Sometimes the laugh of children at their play,
Amidst the quaint, old gardens. But these sights
Were in the suburbs of the wealthy towns.
For many a day through wildernesses rank,
Or marshy, feverous meadow-lands he fared,
The fierce sun smiting his close-muffled head;
Or 'midst the Alpine gorges faced the storm,
That drave adown the gullies melted snow
And clattering boulders from the mountain-tops.
At times, between the mountains and the sea
Fair prospects opened, with the boundless stretch
Of restless, tideless water by his side,
And their long wash upon the yellow sand.
Beneath this generous sky the country-folk
Could lead a freer life,-the fat, green fields
Offered rich pasturage, athwart the air
Rang tinkling cow-bells and the shepherds' pipes.
The knight met many a strolling troubadour,
Bearing his cithern, flute, or dulcimer;
And oft beneath some castle's balcony,
At night, he heard their mellow voices rise,
Blent with stringed instruments or tambourines,
Chanting some lay as natural as a bird's.
Then Nature stole with healthy influence
Into his thoughts; his love of beauty woke,
His Muse inspired dreams as in the past.
But after this came crueler remorse,
And he would tighten round his loins the rope,
And lie for hours beside some wayside cross,
And feel himself unworthy to enjoy
The splendid gift and privilege of life.
Then forth he hurried, spurred by his desire
To reach the City of the Seven Hills,
And gain his absolution. Some leagues more
Would bring him to the vast Campagna land,
When by a roadside well he paused to rest.
'T was noon, and reapers in the field hard by
Lay neath the trees upon the sun-scorched grass.
But from their midst one came towards the well,
Not trudging like a man forespent with toil,
But frisking like a child at holiday,
With light steps. The pilgrim watched him come,
And found him scarcely older than a child,
A large-mouthed earthen pitcher in his hand,
And a guitar upon his shoulder slung.
A wide straw hat threw all his face in shade,
But doffing this, to catch whatever breeze
Might stir among the branches, he disclosed
A charming head of rippled, auburn hair,
A frank, fair face, as lovely as a girls,
With great, soft eyes, as mild and grave as kine's.
Above his head he slipped the instrument,
And laid it with his hat upon the turf,
Lowered his pitcher down the well-head cool,
And drew it dripping upward, ere he saw
The watchful pilgrim, craving (as he thought)
The precious draught. 'Your pardon, holy sir,
Drink first,' he cried, 'before I take the jar
Unto my father in the reaping-field.'
Touched by the cordial kindness of the lad,
The pilgrim answered,-'Thanks, my thirst is quenched
From mine own palm.' The stranger deftly poised
The brimming pitcher on his head, and turned
Back to the reaping-folk, while Tannhauser
Looked after him across the sunny fields,
Clasping each hand about his waist to bear
The balanced pitcher; then, down glancing, found
The lad's guitar near by, and fell at once
To striking its tuned string with wandering hands,
And pensive eyes filled full of tender dreams.
'Yea, holy sir, it is a worthless thing,
And yet I love it, for I make it speak.'
The boy again stood by him and dispelled
His train of fantasies half sweet, half sad.
'That was not in my thought,' the knight replied.
'Its worth is more than rubies; whoso hath
The art to make this speak is raised thereby
Above all loneliness or grief or fear.'
More to himself than to the lad he spake,
Who, understanding not, stood doubtfully
At a loss for answer; but the knight went on:
'How came it in your hands, and who hath tuned
your voice to follow it.' 'I am unskilled,
Good father, but my mother smote its strings
To music rare.' Diverted from one theme,
Pleased with the winsome candor of the boy,
The knight encouraged him to confidence;
Then his own gift of minstrelsy revealed,
And told bright tales of his first wanderings,
When in lords' castles and kings' palaces
Men still made place for him, for in his land
The gift was rare and valued at its worth,
And brought great victory and sounding fame.
Thus, in retracing all his pleasant youth,
His suffering passed as though it had not been.
Wide-eyed and open-mouthed the boy gave ear,
His fair face flushing with the sudden thoughts
That went and came,-then, as the pilgrim ceased,
Drew breath and spake: 'And where now is your lyre?'
The knight with both hands hid his changed, white face,
Crying aloud, 'Lost! lost! forever lost!'
Then, gathering strength, he bared his face again
Unto the frightened, wondering boy, and rose
With hasty fear. 'Ah, child, you bring me back
Unwitting to remembrance of my grief,
For which I donned eternal garb of woe;
And yet I owe you thanks for one sweet hour
Of healthy human intercourse and peace.
'T is not for me to tarry by the way.
Farewell!' The impetuous, remorseful boy,
Seeing sharp pain on that kind countenance,
Fell at his feet and cried, 'Forgive my words,
Witless but innocent, and leave me not
Without a blessing.' Moved unutterably,
The pilgrim kissed with trembling lips his head,
And muttered, 'At this moment would to God
That I were worthy!' Then waved wasted hands
Over the youth in act of blessing him,
But faltered, 'Cleanse me through his innocence,
O heavenly Father!' and with quickening steps
Hastened away upon the road to Rome.
The noon was past, the reapers drew broad swaths
With scythes sun-smitten 'midst the ripened crop.
Thin shadows of the afternoon slept soft
On the green meadows as the knight passed forth.
He trudged amidst the sea of poisonous flowers
On the Campagna's undulating plain,
With Rome, the many-steepled, many-towered,
Before him regnant on her throne of hills.
A thick blue cloud of haze o'erhung the town,
But the fast-sinking sun struck fiery light
From shining crosses, roofs, and flashing domes.
Across his path an arching bridge of stone
Was raised above a shrunken yellow stream,
Hurrying with the light on every wave
Towards the great town and outward to the sea.
Upon the bridge's crest he paused, and leaned
Against the barrier, throwing back his cowl,
And gazed upon the dull, unlovely flood
That was the Tiber. Quaggy banks lay bare,
Muddy and miry, glittering in the sun,
And myriad insects hovered o'er the reeds,
Whose lithe, moist tips by listless airs were stirred.
When the low sun had dropped behind the hills,
He found himself within the streets of Rome,
Walking as in a sleep, where naught seemed real.
The chattering hubbub of the market-place
Was over now; but voices smote his ear
Of garrulous citizens who jostled past.
Loud cries, gay laughter, snatches of sweet song,
The tinkling fountains set in gardens cool
About the pillared palaces, and blent
With trickling of the conduits in the squares,
The noisy teams within the narrow streets,-
All these the stranger heard and did not hear,
While ringing bells pealed out above the town,
And calm gray twilight skies stretched over it.
Wide open stood the doors of every church,
And through the porches pressed a streaming throng.
Vague wonderment perplexed him, at the sight
Of broken columns raised to Jupiter
Beside the cross, immense cathedrals reared
Upon a dead faith's ruins; all the whirl
And eager bustle of the living town
Filling the storied streets, whose very stones
Were solemn monuments, and spake of death.
Although he wrestled with himself, the thought
Of that poor, past religion smote his heart
With a huge pity and deep sympathy,
Beyond the fervor which the Church inspired.
Where was the noble race who ruled the world,
Moulded of purest elements, and stuffed
With sternest virtues, every man a king,
Wearing the purple native in his heart?
These lounging beggars, stealthy monks and priests,
And womanish patricians filled their place.
Thus Tannhauser, still half an infidel,
Pagan through mind and Christian through the heart,
Fared thoughtfully with wandering, aimless steps,
Till in the dying glimmer of the day
He raised his eyes and found himself alone
Amid the ruined arches, broken shafts,
And huge arena of the Coliseum.
He did not see it as it was, dim-lit
By something less than day and more than night,
With wan reflections of the rising moon
Rather divined than seen on ivied walls,
And crumbled battlements, and topless columns-
But by the light of all the ancient days,
Ringed with keen eager faces, living eyes,
Fixed on the circus with a savage joy,
Where brandished swords flashed white, and human blood
Streamed o'er the thirsty dust, and Death was king.
He started, shuddering, and drew breath to see
The foul pit choked with weeds and tumbled stones,
The cross raised midmost, and the peaceful moon
Shining o'er all; and fell upon his knees,
Restored to faith in one wise, loving God.
Day followed day, and still he bode in Rome,
Waiting his audience with the Cardinal,
And from the gates, on pretext frivolous,
Passed daily forth,-his Eminency slept,-
Again, his Eminency was fatigued
By tedious sessions of the Papal court,
And thus the patient pilgrim was referred
Unto a later hour. At last the page
Bore him a missive with Filippo's seal,
That in his name commended Tannhauser
Unto the Pope. The worn, discouraged knight
Read the brief scroll, then sadly forth again,
Along the bosky alleys of the park,
Passed to the glare and noise of summer streets.
'Good God!' he muttered, 'Thou hast ears for all,
And sendest help and comfort; yet these men,
Thy saintly ministers, must deck themselves
With arrogance, and from their large delight
In all the beauty of the beauteous earth,
And peace of indolent, untempted souls,
Deny the hungry outcast a bare word.'
Yet even as he nourished bitter thoughts,
He felt a depth of clear serenity,
Unruffled in his heart beneath it all.
No outward object now had farther power
To wound him there, for the brooding o'er those deeps
Of vast contrition was boundless hope.
Yet not to leave a human chance untried,
He sought the absolution of the Pope.
In a great hall with airy galleries,
Thronged with high dignitaries of the Church,
He took his seat amidst the humblest friars.
Through open windows came sweet garden smells,
Bright morning light, and twittered song of birds.
Around the hall flashed gold and sunlit gems,
And splendid wealth of color,-white-stoled priests,
And scarlet cardinals, and bishops clad
In violet vestments,-while beneath the shade
Of the high gallery huddled dusky shapes,
With faded, travel-tattered, sombre smocks,
And shaven heads, and girdles of coarse hemp;
Some, pilgrims penitent like Tannhauser;
Some, devotees to kiss the sacred feet.
The brassy blare of trumpets smote the air,
Shrill pipes and horns with swelling clamor came,
And through the doorway's wide-stretched tapestries
Passed the Pope's trumpeters and mace-bearers,
His vergers bearing slender silver wands,
Then mitred bishops, red-clad cardinals,
The stalwart Papal Guard with halberds raised,
And then, with white head crowned with gold ingemmed,
The vicar of the lowly Galilean,
Holding his pastoral rod of smooth-hewn wood,
With censer swung before and peacock fans
Waved constantly by pages, either side.
Attended thus, they bore him to his throne,
And priests and laymen fell upon their knees.
Then, after pause of brief and silent prayer,
The pilgrims singly through the hall defiled,
To kiss the borders of the papal skirts,
Smiting their foreheads on the paven stone;
Some silent, abject, some accusing them
Of venial sins in accents of remorse,
Craving his grace, and passing pardoned forth.
Sir Tannhauser came last, no need for him
To cry 'Peccavi,' and crook suppliant knees.
His gray head rather crushed than bowed, his face
Livid and wasted, his deep thoughtful eyes,
His tall gaunt form in those unseemly weeds,
Spake more than eloquence. His hollow voice
Brake silence, saying, 'I am Tannhauser.
For seven years I lived apart from men,
Within the Venusberg.' A horror seized
The assembled folk; some turbulently rose;
Some clamored, 'From the presence cast him forth!'
But the knight never ceased his steady gaze
Upon the Pope. At last,-'I have not spoken
To be condemned,' he said, 'by such as these.
Thou, spiritual Father, answer me.
Look thou upon me with the eyes of Christ.
Can I through expiation gain my shrift,
And work mine own redemption?' 'Insolent man!'
Thundered the outraged Pope, 'is this the tone
Wherewith thou dost parade thy loathsome sin?
Down on thy knees, and wallow on the earth!
Nay, rather go! there is no ray of hope,
No gleam, through cycles of eternity,
For the redemption of a soul like thine.
Yea, sooner shall my pastoral rod branch forth
In leaf and blossom, and green shoots of spring,
Than Christ will pardon thee.' And as he spoke,
He struck the rod upon the floor with force
That gave it entrance 'twixt two loosened tiles,
So that it stood, fast-rooted and alone.
The knight saw naught, he only heard his judge
Ring forth his curses, and the court cry out
'Anathema!' and loud, and blent therewith,
Derisive laughter in the very hall,
And a wild voice that thrilled through flesh and heart:
'ONCE BEING MINE, THOU ART FOREVER MINE!'
Half-mad he clasped both hands upon his brow,
Amidst the storm of voices, till they died,
And all was silence, save the reckless song
Of a young bird upon a twig without.
Then a defiant, ghastly face he raised,
And shrieked, ''T is false! I am no longer thine!'
And through the windows open to the park,
Rushed forth, beyond the sight and sound of men.
By church nor palace paused he, till he passed
All squares and streets, and crossed the bridge of stone,
And stood alone amidst the broad expanse
Of the Campagna, twinkling in the heat.
He knelt upon a knoll of turf, and snapped
The cord that held the cross about his neck,
And far from him the leaden burden flung.
'O God! I thank Thee, that my faith in Thee
Subsists at last, through all discouragements.
Between us must no type nor symbol stand,
No mediator, were he more divine
Than the incarnate Christ. All forms, all priests,
I part aside, and hold communion free
Beneath the empty sky of noon, with naught
Between my nothingness and thy high heavens-
Spirit with spirit. O, have mercy, God!
Cleanse me from lust and bitterness and pride,
Have mercy in accordance with my faith.'
Long time he lay upon the scorching grass,
With his face buried in the tangled weeds.
Ah! who can tell the struggles of his soul
Against its demons in that sacred hour,
The solitude, the anguish, the remorse?
When shadows long and thin lay on the ground,
Shivering with fever, helpless he arose,
But with a face divine, ineffable,
Such as we dream the face of Israel,
When the Lord's wrestling angel, at gray dawn,
Blessed him, and disappeared.
Upon the marsh,
All night, he wandered, striving to emerge
From the wild, pathless plain,-now limitless
And colorless beneath the risen moon;
Outstretching like a sea, with landmarks none,
Save broken aqueducts and parapets,
And ruined columns glinting 'neath the moon.
His dress was dank and clinging with the dew;
A thousand insects fluttered o'er his head,
With buzz and drone; unseen cicadas chirped
Among the long, rank grass, and far and near
The fire-flies flickered through the summer air.
Vague thoughts and gleams prophetic filled his brain.
'Ah, fool!' he mused, 'to look for help from men.
Had they the will to aid, they lack the power.
In mine own flesh and soul the sin had birth,
Through mine own anguish it must be atoned.
Our saviours are not saints and ministers,
But tear-strung women, children soft of heart,
Or fellow-sufferers, who, by some chance word,
Some glance of comfort, save us from despair.
These I have found, thank heaven! to strengthen trust
In mine own kind, when all the world grew dark.
Make me not proud in spirit, O my God!
Yea, in thy sight I am one mass of sin,
One black and foul corruption, yet I know
My frailty is exceeded by thy love.
Neither is this the slender straw of hope,
Whereto I, drowning, cling, but firm belief,
That fills my inmost soul with vast content.
As surely as the hollow faiths of old
Shriveled to dust before one ray of Truth,
So will these modern temples pass away,
Piled upon rotten doctrines, baseless forms,
And man will look in his own breast for help,
Yea, search for comfort his own inward reins,
Revere himself, and find the God within.
Patience and patience!' Through the sleepless night
He held such thoughts; at times before his eyes
Flashed glimpses of the Church that was to be,
Sublimely simple in the light serene
Of future ages; then the vision changed
To the Pope's hall, thronged with high priests, who hurled
Their curses on him. Staggering, he awoke
Unto the truth, and found himself alone,
Beneath the awful stars. When dawn's first chill
Crept though the shivering grass and heavy leaves,
Giddy and overcome, he fell and slept
Upon the dripping weeds, nor dreamed nor stirred,
Until the wide plain basked in noon's broad light.
He dragged his weary frame some paces more,
Unto a solitary herdsman's hut,
Which, in the vagueness of the moonlit night,
Was touched with lines of beauty, till it grew
Fair as the ruined works of ancient art,
Now squat and hideous with its wattled roof,
Decaying timbers, and loose door wide oped,
Half-fallen from the hinge. A drowsy man,
Bearded and burnt, in shepherd habit lay,
Stretched on the floor, slow-munching, half asleep,
His frugal fare; for thus, at blaze of noon,
The shepherds sought a shelter from the sun,
Leaving their vigilant dogs beside their flock.
The knight craved drink and bread, and with respect
For pilgrim weeds, the Roman herdsman stirred
His lazy length, and shared with him his meal.
Refreshed and calm, Sir Tannhauser passed forth,
Yearning with morbid fancy once again
To see the kind face of the minstrel boy
He met beside the well. At set of sun
He reached the place; the reaping-folk were gone,
The day's toil over, yet he took his seat.
A milking-girl with laden buckets full,
Came slowly from the pasture, paused and drank.
From a near cottage ran a ragged boy,
And filled his wooden pail, and to his home
Returned across the fields. A herdsman came,
And drank and gave his dog to drink, and passed,
Greeting the holy man who sat there still,
Awaiting. But his feeble pulse beat high
When he descried at last a youthful form,
Crossing the field, a pitcher on his head,
Advancing towards the well. Yea, this was he,
The same grave eyes, and open, girlish face.
But he saw not, amidst the landscape brown,
The knight's brown figure, who, to win his ear,
Asked the lad's name. 'My name is Salvator,
To serve you, sir,' he carelessly replied,
With eyes and hands intent upon his jar,
Brimming and bubbling. Then he cast one glance
Upon his questioner, and left the well,
Crying with keen and sudden sympathy,
'Good Father, pardon me, I knew you not.
Ah! you have travelled overmuch: your feet
Are grimed with mud and wet, your face is changed,
Your hands are dry with fever.' But the knight:
'Nay, as I look on thee, I think the Lord
Wills not that I should suffer any more.'
'Then you have suffered much,' sighed Salvator,
With wondering pity. 'You must come with me;
My father knows of you, I told him all.
A knight and minstrel who cast by his lyre,
His health and fame, to give himself to God,-
Yours is a life indeed to be desired!
If you will lie with us this night, our home
Will verily be blessed.' By kindness crushed,
Wandering in sense and words, the broken knight
Resisted naught, and let himself be led
To the boy's home. The outcast and accursed
Was welcomed now by kindly human hands;
Once more his blighted spirit was revived
By contact with refreshing innocence.
There, when the morning broke upon the world,
The humble hosts no longer knew their guest.
His fleshly weeds of sin forever doffed,
Tannhauser lay and smiled, for in the night
The angel came who brings eternal peace.
Far into Wartburg, through all Italy,
In every town the Pope sent messengers,
Riding in furious haste; among them, one
Who bore a branch of dry wood burst in bloom;
The pastoral rod had borne green shoots of spring,
And leaf and blossom. God is merciful.
The Four Seasons : Summer
From brightening fields of ether fair disclosed,
Child of the Sun, refulgent Summer comes,
In pride of youth, and felt through Nature's depth:
He comes attended by the sultry Hours,
And ever fanning breezes, on his way;
While, from his ardent look, the turning Spring
Averts her blushful face; and earth, and skies,
All-smiling, to his hot dominion leaves.
Hence, let me haste into the mid-wood shade,
Where scarce a sunbeam wanders through the gloom;
And on the dark-green grass, beside the brink
Of haunted stream, that by the roots of oak
Rolls o'er the rocky channel, lie at large,
And sing the glories of the circling year.
Come, Inspiration! from thy hermit-seat,
By mortal seldom found: may Fancy dare,
From thy fix'd serious eye, and raptured glance
Shot on surrounding Heaven, to steal one look
Creative of the Poet, every power
Exalting to an ecstasy of soul.
And thou, my youthful Muse's early friend,
In whom the human graces all unite:
Pure light of mind, and tenderness of heart;
Genius, and wisdom; the gay social sense,
By decency chastised; goodness and wit,
In seldom-meeting harmony combined;
Unblemish'd honour, and an active zeal
For Britain's glory, liberty, and Man:
O Dodington! attend my rural song,
Stoop to my theme, inspirit every line,
And teach me to deserve thy just applause.
With what an awful world-revolving power
Were first the unwieldy planets launch'd along
The illimitable void! thus to remain,
Amid the flux of many thousand years,
That oft has swept the toiling race of men,
And all their labour'd monuments away,
Firm, unremitting, matchless, in their course;
To the kind-temper'd change of night and day,
And of the seasons ever stealing round,
Minutely faithful: such the All-perfect hand!
That poised, impels, and rules the steady whole.
When now no more the alternate Twins are fired,
And Cancer reddens with the solar blaze,
Short is the doubtful empire of the night;
And soon, observant of approaching day,
The meek'd-eyed Morn appears, mother of dews,
At first faint-gleaming in the dappled east:
Till far o'er ether spreads the widening glow;
And, from before the lustre of her face,
White break the clouds away. With quicken'd step,
Brown Night retires: young Day pours in apace,
And opens all the lawny prospect wide.
The dripping rock, the mountain's misty top
Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn.
Blue, through the dusk, the smoking currents shine;
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps, awkward: while along the forest-glade
The wild deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. Music awakes
The native voice of undissembled joy;
And thick around the woodland hymns arise.
Roused by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with Peace he dwells;
And from the crowded fold, in order, drives
His flock, to taste the verdure of the morn.
Falsely luxurious! will not Man awake;
And, springing from the bed of sloth, enjoy
The cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,
To meditation due and sacred song?
For is there ought in sleep can charm the wise?
To lie in dead oblivion, losing half
The fleeting moments of too short a life;
Total extinction of the enlightened soul!
Or else to feverish vanity alive,
Wilder'd, and tossing through distemper'd dreams?
Who would in such a gloomy state remain
Longer than Nature craves; when every Muse
And every blooming pleasure wait without,
To bless the wildly-devious morning-walk?
But yonder comes the powerful King of Day,
Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud,
The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow
Illumed with fluid gold, his near approach
Betoken glad. Lo! now, apparent all,
Aslant the dew-bright earth, and colour'd air,
He looks in boundless majesty abroad;
And sheds the shining day, that burnish'd plays
On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering streams,
High gleaming from afar. Prime cheerer, Light!
Of all material beings first, and best!
Efflux divine! Nature's resplendent robe!
Without whose vesting beauty all were wrapt
In unessential gloom; and thou, O Sun!
Soul of surrounding worlds! in whom best seen
Shines out thy Maker! may I sing of thee?
'Tis by thy secret, strong, attractive force,
As with a chain indissoluble bound,
Thy system rolls entire: from the far bourne
Of utmost Saturn, wheeling wide his round
Of thirty years, to Mercury, whose disk
Can scarce be caught by philosophic eye,
Lost in the near effulgence of thy blaze.
Informer of the planetary train!
Without whose quickening glance their cumbrous orbs
Were brute unlovely mass, inert and dead,
And not, as now, the green abodes of life!
How many forms of being wait on thee!
Inhaling spirit; from the unfetter'd mind,
By thee sublimed, down to the daily race,
The mixing myriads of thy setting beam.
The vegetable world is also thine,
Parent of Seasons! who the pomp precede
That waits thy throne, as through thy vast domain,
Annual, along the bright ecliptic road,
In world-rejoicing state, it moves sublime.
Meantime the expecting nations, circled gay
With all the various tribes of foodful earth,
Implore thy bounty, or send grateful up
A common hymn: while, round thy beaming car,
High-seen, the Seasons lead, in sprightly dance
Harmonious knit, the rosy-finger'd Hours,
The Zephyrs floating loose, the timely Rains,
Of bloom ethereal the light-footed Dews,
And softened into joy the surly Storms.
These, in successive turn, with lavish hand,
Shower every beauty, every fragrance shower,
Herbs, flowers, and fruits; and, kindling at thy touch,
From land to land is flush'd the vernal year.
Nor to the surface of enliven'd earth,
Graceful with hills and dales, and leafy woods,
Her liberal tresses, is thy force confined:
But, to the bowel'd cavern darting deep,
The mineral kinds confess thy mighty power.
Effulgent, hence the veiny marble shines;
Hence Labour draws his tools; hence burnish'd War
Gleams on the day; the nobler works of Peace
Hence bless mankind, and generous Commerce binds
The round of nations in a golden chain.
The unfruitful rock itself, impregn'd by thee,
In dark retirement forms the lucid stone.
The lively diamond drinks thy purest rays,
Collected light, compact; that, polish'd bright,
And all its native lustre let abroad,
Dares, as it sparkles on the fair-one's breast,
With vain ambition emulate her eyes.
At thee the ruby lights its deepening glow,
And with a waving radiance inward flames.
From thee the sapphire, solid ether, takes
Its hue cerulean; and, of evening tinct,
The purple-streaming amethyst is thine.
With thy own smile the yellow topaz burns.
Nor deeper verdure dyes the robe of Spring,
When first she gives it to the southern gale,
Than the green emerald shows. But, all combined,
Thick through the whitening opal play thy beams;
Or, flying several from its surface, form
A trembling variance of revolving hues,
As the site varies in the gazer's hand.
The very dead creation, from thy touch,
Assumes a mimic life. By thee refined,
In brighter mazes the relucent stream
Plays o'er the mead. The precipice abrupt,
Projecting horror on the blacken'd flood,
Softens at thy return. The desert joys,
Wildly, through all his melancholy bounds.
Rude ruins glitter; and the briny deep,
Seen from some pointed promontory's top,
Far to the blue horizon's utmost verge,
Restless, reflects a floating gleam. But this,
And all the much-transported Muse can sing,
Are to thy beauty, dignity, and use,
Unequal far; great delegated source
Of light, and life, and grace, and joy below!
How shall I then attempt to sing of Him!
Who, Light Himself, in uncreated light
Invested deep, dwells awfully retired
From mortal eye, or angel's purer ken;
Whose single smile has, from the first of time,
Fill'd, overflowing, all those lamps of Heaven,
That beam for ever through the boundless sky:
But, should he hide his face, the astonish'd sun,
And all the extinguish'd stars, would loosening reel
Wide from their spheres, and Chaos come again.
And yet was every faltering tongue of Man,
Almighty Father! silent in thy praise;
Thy Works themselves would raise a general voice,
E'en in the depth of solitary woods
By human foot untrod; proclaim thy power,
And to the quire celestial Thee resound,
The eternal cause, support, and end of all!
To me be Nature's volume broad display'd;
And to peruse its all instructing page,
Or, haply catching inspiration thence,
Some easy passage, raptured, to translate,
My sole delight; as through the falling glooms
Pensive I stray, or with the rising dawn
On Fancy's eagle-wing excursive soar.
Now, flaming up the heavens, the potent sun
Melts into limpid air the high-raised clouds,
And morning fogs, that hover'd round the hills
In party-colour'd bands; till wide unveil'd
The face of Nature shines, from where earth seems,
Far-stretch'd around, to meet the bending sphere.
Half in a blush of clustering roses lost,
Dew-dropping Coolness to the shade retires;
There, on the verdant turf, or flowery bed,
By gelid founts and careless rills to muse;
While tyrant Heat, dispreading through the sky,
With rapid sway, his burning influence darts
On man, and beast, and herb, and tepid stream.
Who can unpitying see the flowery race,
Shed by the morn, their new-flush'd bloom resign,
Before the parching beam? so fade the fair,
When fevers revel through their azure veins.
But one the lofty follower of the sun,
Sad when he sets, shuts up her yellow leaves,
Drooping all night; and, when he warm returns,
Points her enamour'd bosom to his ray.
Home, from his morning task, the swain retreats;
His flock before him stepping to the fold:
While the full-udder'd mother lows around
The cheerful cottage, then expecting food,
The food of innocence and health! the daw,
The rook, and magpie, to the grey-grown oaks
That the calm village in their verdant arms,
Sheltering, embrace, direct their lazy flight;
Where on the mingling boughs they sit embower'd,
All the hot noon, till cooler hours arise.
Faint, underneath, the household fowls convene;
And, in a corner of the buzzing shade,
The house-dog, with the vacant greyhound, lies,
Out-stretch'd, and sleepy. In his slumbers one
Attacks the nightly thief, and one exults
O'er hill and dale; till, waken'd by the wasp,
They starting snap. Nor shall the Muse disdain
To let the little noisy summer race
Live in her lay, and flutter through her song:
Not mean though simple; to the sun ally'd,
From him they draw their animating fire.
Waked by his warmer ray, the reptile young
Come wing'd abroad; by the light air upborne,
Lighter, and full of soul. From every chink
And secret corner, where they slept away
The wintry storms; or rising from their tombs,
To higher life; by myriads, forth at once,
Swarming they pour; of all the varied hues
Their beauty-beaming parent can disclose.
Ten thousand forms, ten thousand different tribes,
People the blaze. To sunny waters some
By fatal instinct fly; where on the pool
They, sportive, wheel: or, sailing down the stream,
Are snatch'd immediate by the quick-eyed trout,
Or darting salmon. Through the green-wood glade
Some love to stray; there lodged, amused, and fed,
In the fresh leaf. Luxurious, others make
The meads their choice, and visit every flower,
And every latent herb: for the sweet task,
To propagate their kinds, and where to wrap,
In what soft beds, their young yet undisclosed,
Employs their tender care. Some to the house,
The fold, and dairy, hungry bend their flight;
Sip round the pail, or taste the curdling cheese;
Oft, inadvertent, from the milky stream
They meet their fate; or, weltering in the bowl,
With powerless wings around them wrapt, expire.
But chief to heedless flies the window proves
A constant death; where, gloomily retired,
The villain spider lives, cunning, and fierce,
Mixture abhorr'd! amid a mangled heap
Of carcasses, in eager watch he sits,
O'erlooking all his waving snares around.
Near the dire cell the dreadless wanderer oft
Passes, as oft the russian shows his front;
The prey at last ensnared, he dreadful darts,
With rapid glide, along the leaning line;
And, fixing in the wretch his cruel fangs,
Strikes backward grimly pleased; the fluttering wing
And shriller sound declare extreme distress,
And ask the helping hospitable hand.
Resounds the living surface of the ground:
Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum,
To him who muses through the woods at noon;
Or drowsy shepherd, as he lies reclined,
With half-shut eyes, beneath the floating shade
Of willows grey, close crowding o'er the brook.
Gradual, from these what numerous kinds descend,
Evading e'en the microscopic eye?
Full Nature swarms with life; one wondrous mass
Of animals, or atoms organized,
Waiting the vital breath, when parent Heaven
Shall bid his spirit blow. The hoary fen,
In putrid steams, emits the living cloud
Of pestilence. Through subterranean cells,
Where searching sunbeams scarce can find a way,
Earth animated heaves. The flowery leaf
Wants not its soft inhabitants. Secure,
Within its winding citadel, the stone
Holds multitudes. But chief the forest boughs,
That dance unnumber'd to the playful breeze,
The downy orchard, and the melting pulp
Of mellow fruit, the nameless nations feed
Of evanescent insects. Where the pool
Stands mantled o'er with green, invisible,
Amid the floating verdure millions stray.
Each liquid too, whether it pierces, soothes,
Inflames, refreshes, or exalts the taste,
With various forms abounds. Nor is the stream
Of purest crystal, nor the lucid air,
Though one transparent vacancy it seems,
Void of their unseen people. These, conceal'd
By the kind art of forming Heaven, escape
The grosser eye of man: for, if the worlds
In worlds inclosed should on his senses burst,
From cates ambrosial, and the nectar'd bowl,
He would abhorrent turn; and in dead night,
When silence sleeps o'er all, be stunn'd with noise.
Let no presuming impious railer tax
Creative Wisdom, as if ought was form'd
In vain, or not for admirable ends.
Shall little haughty Ignorance pronounce
His works unwise, of which the smallest part
Exceeds the narrow vision of her mind?
As if upon a full proportion'd dome,
On swelling columns heaved, the pride of art!
A critic fly, whose feeble ray scarce spreads
An inch around, with blind presumption bold,
Should dare to tax the structure of the whole.
And lives the man, whose universal eye
Has swept at once the unbounded scheme of things;
Mark'd their dependance so, and firm accord,
As with unfaltering accent to conclude
That this availeth nought? Has any seen
The mighty chain of beings, lessening down
From Infinite Perfection to the brink
Of dreary nothing, desolate abyss!
From which astonish'd thought, recoiling, turns?
Till then alone let zealous praise ascend,
And hymns of holy wonder, to that Power,
Whose wisdom shines as lovely on our minds,
As on our smiling eyes his servant-sun.
Thick in yon stream of light, a thousand ways,
Upward, and downward, thwarting, and convolved,
The quivering nations sport; till, tempest-wing'd,
Fierce Winter sweeps them from the face of day.
E'en so luxurious men, unheeding, pass
An idle summer life in fortune's shine,
A season's glitter! thus they flutter on
From toy to toy, from vanity to vice;
Till, blown away by death, oblivion comes
Behind, and strikes them from the book of life.
Now swarms the village o'er the jovial mead:
The rustic youth, brown with meridian toil,
Healthful and strong; full as the summer-rose
Blown by prevailing suns, the ruddy maid,
Half naked, swelling on the sight, and all
Her kindled graces burning o'er her cheek.
E'en stooping age is here; and infant hands
Trail the long rake, or, with the fragrant load
O'ercharged, amid the kind oppression roll.
Wide flies the tedded grain; all in a row
Advancing broad, or wheeling round the field,
They spread the breathing harvest to the sun,
That throws refreshful round a rural smell:
Or, as they rake the green-appearing ground,
And drive the dusky wave along the mead,
The russet hay-cock rises thick behind,
In order gay. While heard from dale to dale,
Waking the breeze, resounds the blended voice
Of happy labour, love, and social glee.
Or rushing thence, in one diffusive band,
They drive the troubled flocks, by many a dog
Compell'd, to where the mazy-running brook
Forms a deep pool; this bank abrupt and high,
And that fair-spreading in a pebbled shore.
Urged to the giddy brink, much is the toil,
The clamour much, of men, and boys, and dogs,
Ere the soft fearful people to the flood
Commit their woolly sides. And oft the swain,
On some impatient seizing, hurls them in:
Embolden'd then, nor hesitating more,
Fast, fast, they plunge amid the flashing wave,
And panting labour to the farthest shore.
Repeated this, till deep the well-wash'd fleece
Has drunk the flood, and from his lively haunt,
The trout is banish'd by the sordid stream;
Heavy, and dripping, to the breezy brow
Slow more the harmless race: where, as they spread
Their swelling treasures to the sunny ray,
Inly disturb'd, and wondering what this wild
Outrageous tumult means, their loud complaints
The country fill; and, toss'd from rock to rock,
Incessant bleatings run around the hills.
At last, of snowy white, the gather'd flocks
Are in the wattled pen innumerous press'd,
Head above head: and ranged in lusty rows
The shepherds sit, and whet the sounding shears.
The housewife waits to roll her fleecy stores,
With all her gay-drest maids attending round.
One, chief, in gracious dignity enthroned,
Shines o'er the rest, the pastoral queen, and rays
Her smiles, sweet-beaming, on her shepherd-king;
While the glad circle round them yield their souls
To festive mirth, and wit that knows no gall.
Meantime, their joyous task goes on apace:
Some mingling stir the melted tar, and some,
Deep on the new-shorn vagrant's heaving side,
To stamp the master's cypher ready stand;
Others the unwilling wether drag along;
And, glorying in his might, the sturdy boy
Holds by the twisted horns the indignant ram.
Behold where bound, and of its robe bereft,
By needy man, that all-depending lord,
How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies!
What softness in its melancholy face,
What dumb complaining innocence appears!
Fear not, ye gentle tribes, 'tis not the knife
Of horrid slaughter that is o'er you waved;
No, 'tis the tender swain's well-guided shears,
Who having now, to pay his annual care,
Borrow'd your fleece, to you a cumbrous load,
Will send you bounding to your hills again.
A simple scene! yet hence Britannia sees
Her solid grandeur rise: hence she commands
The exalted stores of every brighter clime,
The treasures of the Sun without his rage:
Hence, fervent all, with culture, toil, and arts,
Wide glows her land: her dreadful thunder hence
Rides o'er the waves sublime, and now, e'en now,
Impending hangs o'er Gallia's humbled coast;
Hence rules the circling deep, and awes the world.
'Tis raging noon; and, vertical, the sun
Darts on the head direct his forceful rays.
O'er heaven and earth, far as the ranging eye
Can sweep, a dazzling deluge reigns; and all
From pole to pole is undistinguish'd blaze.
In vain the sight, dejected, to the ground
Stoops for relief; thence hot-ascending steams
And keen reflection pain. Deep to the root
Of vegetation parch'd, the cleaving fields
And slippery lawn an arid hue disclose,
Blast Fancy's bloom, and wither e'en the soul.
Echo no more returns the cheerful sound
Of sharpening scythe: the mower sinking heaps
O'er him the humid hay, with flowers perfumed;
And scarce a chirping grasshopper is heard
Through the dumb mead. Distressful Nature pants.
The very streams look languid from afar;
Or, through the unshelter'd glade, impatient, seem
To hurl into the covert of the grove.
All-conquering Heat, oh intermit thy wrath!
And on my throbbing temples potent thus
Beam not so fierce! incessant still you flow,
And still another fervent flood succeeds,
Pour'd on the head profuse. In vain I sigh,
And restless turn, and look around for night;
Night is far off; and hotter hours approach.
Thrice happy he! who on the sunless side
Of a romantic mountain, forest-crown'd,
Beneath the whole collected shade reclines:
Or in the gelid caverns, woodbine-wrought,
And fresh bedew'd with ever-spouting streams,
Sits coolly calm; while all the world without,
Unsatisfied, and sick, tosses in noon.
Emblem instructive of the virtuous man,
Who keeps his temper'd mind serene and pure,
And every passion aptly harmonized,
Amid a jarring world with vice inflamed.
Welcome, ye shades! ye bowery thickets, hail!
Ye lofty pines! ye venerable oaks!
Ye ashes wild, resounding o'er the steep!
Delicious is your shelter to the soul,
As to the hunted hart the sallying spring,
Or stream full-flowing, that his swelling sides
Laves, as he floats along the herbaged brink.
Cool, through the nerves, your pleasing comfort glides;
The heart beats glad; the fresh-expanded eye
And ear resume their watch; the sinews knit;
And life shoots swift through all the lighten'd limbs.
Around the adjoining brook, that purls along
The vocal grove, now fretting o'er a rock,
Now scarcely moving through a reedy pool,
Now starting to a sudden stream, and now
Gently diffused into a limpid plain;
A various group the herds and flocks compose,
Rural confusion! on the grassy bank
Some ruminating lie; while others stand
Half in the flood, and often bending sip
The circling surface. In the middle droops
The strong laborious ox, of honest front,
Which incomposed he shakes; and from his sides
The troublous insects lashes with his tail,
Returning still. Amid his subjects safe,
Slumbers the monarch-swain; his careless arm
Thrown round his head, on downy moss sustain'd;
Here laid his scrip, with wholesome viands fill'd;
There, listening every noise, his watchful dog.
Light fly his slumbers, if perchance a flight
Of angry gad-flies fasten on the herd;
That startling scatters from the shallow brook,
In search of lavish stream. Tossing the foam,
They scorn the keeper's voice, and scour the plain,
Through all the bright severity of noon;
While, from their labouring breasts, a hollow moan
Proceeding, runs low-bellowing round the hills.
Oft in this season too the horse, provoked,
While his big sinews full of spirits swell,
Trembling with vigour, in the heat of blood,
Springs the high fence; and, o'er the field effused,
Darts on the gloomy flood, with steadfast eye,
And heart estranged to fear: his nervous chest,
Luxuriant, and erect, the seat of strength!
Bears down the opposing stream: quenchless his thirst;
He takes the river at redoubled draughts;
And with wide nostrils, snorting, skims the wave.
Still let me pierce into the midnight depth
Of yonder grove, of wildest largest growth:
That, forming high in air a woodland quire,
Nods o'er the mount beneath. At every step,
Solemn and slow, the shadows blacker fall,
And all is awful listening gloom around.
These are the haunts of Meditation, these
The scenes where ancient bards the inspiring breath,
Ecstatic, felt; and, from this world retired,
Conversed with angels, and immortal forms,
On gracious errands bent: to save the fall
Of virtue struggling on the brink of vice;
In waking whispers, and repeated dreams,
To hint pure thought, and warn the favour'd soul
For future trials fated to prepare;
To prompt the poet, who devoted gives
His muse to better themes; to soothe the pangs
Of dying worth, and from the patriot's breast
(Backward to mingle in detested war,
But foremost when engaged) to turn the death;
And numberless such offices of love,
Daily, and nightly, zealous to perform.
Shook sudden from the bosom of the sky,
A thousand shapes or glide athwart the dusk,
Or stalk majestic on. Deep-roused, I feel
A sacred terror, a severe delight,
Creep through my mortal frame; and thus, me-thinks,
A voice than human more, the abstracted ear
Of fancy strikes:—“Be not of us afraid,
Poor kindred man! thy fellow-creatures, we
From the same Parent-Power our beings drew,
The same our Lord, and laws, and great pursuit.
Once some of us, like thee, through stormy life,
Toil'd, tempest-beaten, ere we could attain
This holy calm, this harmony of mind,
Where purity and peace immingle charms.
Then fear not us; but with responsive song,
Amid these dim recesses, undisturb'd
By noisy folly and discordant vice,
Of Nature sing with us, and Nature's God.
Here frequent, at the visionary hour,
When musing midnight reigns or silent noon,
Angelic harps are in full concert heard,
And voices chanting from the wood-crown'd hill,
The deepening dale, or inmost sylvan glade:
A privilege bestow'd by us, alone,
On Contemplation, or the hallow'd ear
Of poet, swelling to seraphic strain.”
And art thou, Stanley, of that sacred band?
Alas, for us too soon! though raised above
The reach of human pain, above the flight
Of human joy; yet, with a mingled ray
Of sadly pleased remembrance, must thou feel
A mother's love, a mother's tender woe:
Who seeks thee still, in many a former scene;
Seeks thy fair form, thy lovely beaming eyes,
Thy pleasing converse, by gay lively sense
Inspired: where moral wisdom mildly shone,
Without the toil of art; and virtue glow'd,
In all her smiles, without forbidding pride.
But, O thou best of parents! wipe thy tears;
Or rather to Parental Nature pay
The tears of grateful joy, who for a while
Lent thee this younger self, this opening bloom
Of thy enlighten'd mind and gentle worth.
Believe the Muse: the wintry blast of death
Kills not the buds of virtue; no, they spread,
Beneath the heavenly beam of brighter suns,
Through endless ages, into higher powers.
Thus up the mount, in airy vision wrapt,
I stray, regardless whither; till the sound
Of a near fall of water every sense
Wakes from the charm of thought: swift-shrinking back,
I check my steps, and view the broken scene.
Smooth to the shelving brink a copious flood
Rolls fair, and placid; where collected all,
In one impetuous torrent, down the steep
It thundering shoots, and shakes the country round.
At first, an azure sheet, it rushes broad;
Then whitening by degrees, as prone it falls,
And from the loud-resounding rocks below
Dash'd in a cloud of foam, it sends aloft
A hoary mist, and forms a ceaseless shower.
Nor can the tortured wave here find repose:
But, raging still amid the shaggy rocks,
Now flashes o'er the scatter'd fragments, now
Aslant the hollow channel rapid darts;
And falling fast from gradual slope to slope,
With wild infracted course, and lessen'd roar,
It gains a safer bed, and steals, at last,
Along the mazes of the quiet vale.
Invited from the cliff, to whose dark brow
He clings, the steep-ascending eagle soars,
With upward pinions through the flood of day;
And, giving full his bosom to the blaze,
Gains on the sun; while all the tuneful race,
Smit by afflictive noon, disorder'd droop,
Deep in the thicket; or, from bower to bower
Responsive, force an interrupted strain.
The stock-dove only through the forest cooes,
Mournfully hoarse; oft ceasing from his plaint,
Short interval of weary woe! again
The sad idea of his murder'd mate,
Struck from his side by savage fowler's guile,
Across his fancy comes; and then resounds
A louder song of sorrow through the grove.
Beside the dewy border let me sit,
All in the freshness of the humid air:
There in that hollow'd rock, grotesque and wild,
An ample chair moss-lined, and over head
By flowering umbrage shaded; where the bee
Strays diligent, and with the extracted balm
Of fragrant woodbine loads his little thigh.
Now, while I taste the sweetness of the shade,
While Nature lies around deep-lull'd in noon,
Now come, bold Fancy, spread a daring flight,
And view the wonders of the torrid zone:
Climes unrelenting! with whose rage compared,
Yon blaze is feeble, and yon skies are cool.
See, how at once the bright effulgent sun,
Rising direct, swift chases from the sky
The short-lived twilight; and with ardent blaze
Looks gaily fierce through all the dazzling air:
He mounts his throne; but kind before him sends,
Issuing from out the portals of the morn,
The general breeze, to mitigate his fire,
And breathe refreshment on a fainting world.
Great are the scenes, with dreadful beauty crown'd
And barbarous wealth, that see, each circling year,
Returning suns and double seasons pass:
Rocks rich in gems, and mountains big with mines,
That on the high equator ridgy rise,
Whence many a bursting stream auriferous plays:
Majestic woods, of every vigorous green,
Stage above stage, high waving o'er the hills;
Or to the far horizon wide diffused,
A boundless deep immensity of shade.
Here lofty trees, to ancient song unknown,
The noble sons of potent heat and floods
Prone-rushing from the clouds, rear high to Heaven
Their thorny stems, and broad around them throw
Meridian gloom. Here, in eternal prime,
Unnumber'd fruits of keen delicious taste
And vital spirit, drink amid the cliffs,
And burning sands that bank the shrubby vales,
Redoubled day, yet in their rugged coats
A friendly juice to cool its rage contain.
Bear me, Pomona! to thy citron groves;
To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
Beneath the spreading tamarind that shakes,
Fann'd by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit.
Deep in the night the massy locust sheds,
Quench my hot limbs; or lead me through the maze,
Embowering endless, of the Indian fig;
Or thrown at gayer ease, on some fair brow,
Let me behold, by breezy murmurs cool'd,
Broad o'er my head the verdant cedar wave,
And high palmetos lift their graceful shade.
Or stretch'd amid these orchards of the sun,
Give me to drain the cocoa's milky bowl,
And from the palm to draw its freshening wine!
More bounteous far than all the frantic juice
Which Bacchus pours. Nor, on its slender twigs
Low-bending, be the full pomegranate scorn'd;
Nor, creeping through the woods, the gelid race
Of berries. Oft in humble station dwells
Unboastful worth, above fastidious pomp.
Witness, thou best Anana, thou the pride
Of vegetable life, beyond whate'er
The poets imaged in the golden age:
Quick let me strip thee of thy tufty coat,
Spread thy ambrosial stores, and feast with Jove!
From these the prospect varies. Plains immense
Lie stretch'd below, interminable meads,
And vast savannahs, where the wandering eye,
Unfix'd, is in a verdant ocean lost.
Another Flora there, of bolder hues,
And richer sweets, beyond our garden's pride,
Plays o'er the fields, and showers with sudden hand
Exuberant spring: for oft these valleys shift
Their green embroider'd robe to fiery brown,
And swift to green again, as scorching suns,
Or streaming dews and torrent rains, prevail.
Along these lonely regions, where, retired
From little scenes of art, great Nature dwells
In awful solitude, and nought is seen
But the wild herds that own no master's stall,
Prodigious rivers roll their fattening seas:
On whose luxuriant herbage, half-conceal'd,
Like a fallen cedar, far diffused his train,
Cased in green scales, the crocodile extends.
The flood disparts: behold! in plaited mail
Behemoth rears his head. Glanced from his side,
The darted steel in idle shivers flies:
He fearless walks the plain, or seeks the hills;
Where, as he crops his varied fare, the herds,
In widening circle round, forget their food,
And at the harmless stranger wondering gaze.
Peaceful, beneath primeval trees, that cast
Their ample shade o'er Niger's yellow stream,
And where the Ganges rolls his sacred wave;
Or mid the central depth of blackening woods,
High raised in solemn theatre around,
Leans the huge elephant: wisest of brutes!
O truly wise, with gentle might endow'd,
Though powerful, not destructive! here he sees
Revolving ages sweep the changeful earth,
And empires rise and fall; regardless he
Of what the never-resting race of men
Project: thrice happy! could he 'scape their guile,
Who mine, from cruel avarice, his steps;
Or with his towery grandeur swell their state,
The pride of kings! or else his strength pervert,
And bid him rage amid the mortal fray,
Astonish'd at the madness of mankind.
Wide o'er the winding umbrage of the floods,
Like vivid blossoms glowing from afar,
Thick swarm the brighter birds. For Nature's hand,
That with a sportive vanity has deck'd
The plumy nations, there her gayest hues
Profusely pours. But, if she bids them shine,
Array'd in all the beauteous beams of day,
Yet frugal still, she humbles them in song.
Nor envy we the gaudy robes they lent
Proud Montezuma's realm, whose legions cast
A boundless radiance waving on the sun,
While Philomel is ours; while in our shades,
Through the soft silence of the listening night,
The sober-suited songstress trills her lay.
But come, my Muse, the desert-barrier burst,
A wild expanse of lifeless sand and sky:
And, swifter than the toiling caravan,
Shoot o'er the vale of Sennar; ardent climb
The Nubian mountains, and the secret bounds
Of jealous Abyssinia boldly pierce.
Thou art no ruffian, who beneath the mask
Of social commerce comest to rob their wealth;
No holy fury thou, blaspheming Heaven,
With consecrated steel to stab their peace,
And through the land, yet red from civil wounds,
To spread the purple tyranny of Rome.
Thou, like the harmless bee, mayst freely range,
From mead to mead bright with exalted flowers,
From jasmine grove to grove mayst wander gay,
Through palmy shades and aromatic woods,
That grace the plains, invest the peopled hills,
And up the more than Alpine mountains wave.
There on the breezy summit, spreading fair,
For many a league; or on stupendous rocks,
That from the sun-redoubling valley lift,
Cool to the middle air, their lawny tops;
Where palaces, and fanes, and villas rise;
And gardens smile around, and cultured fields;
And fountains gush; and careless herds and flocks
Securely stray; a world within itself,
Disdaining all assault: there let me draw
Ethereal soul, there drink reviving gales,
Profusely breathing from the spicy groves,
And vales of fragrance; there at distance hear
The roaring floods, and cataracts, that sweep
From disembowel'd earth the virgin gold;
And o'er the varied landscape, restless, rove,
Fervent with life of every fairer kind:
A land of wonders! which the sun still eyes
With ray direct, as of the lovely realm
Enamour'd, and delighting there to dwell.
How changed the scene! in blazing height of noon,
The sun, oppress'd, is plunged in thickest gloom.
Still horror reigns, a dreary twilight round,
Of struggling night and day malignant mix'd.
For to the hot equator crowding fast,
Where, highly rarefied, the yielding air
Admits their stream, incessant vapours roll,
Amazing clouds on clouds continual heap'd;
Or whirl'd tempestuous by the gusty wind,
Or silent borne along, heavy, and slow,
With the big stores of steaming oceans charged.
Meantime, amid these upper seas, condensed
Around the cold aërial mountain's brow,
And by conflicting winds together dash'd,
The thunder holds his black tremendous throne;
From cloud to cloud the rending lightnings rage;
Till, in the furious elemental war
Dissolved, the whole precipitated mass
Unbroken floods and solid torrents pours.
The treasures these, hid from the bounded search
Of ancient knowledge; whence, with annual pomp,
Rich king of floods! o'erflows the swelling Nile.
From his two springs, in Gojam's sunny realm,
Pure-welling out, he through the lucid lake
Of fair Dambea rolls his infant stream.
There, by the naiads nursed, he sports away
His playful youth, amid the fragant isles,
That with unfading verdure smile around.
Ambitious, thence the manly river breaks;
And gathering many a flood, and copious fed
With all the mellow'd treasures of the sky,
Winds in progressive majesty along:
Through splendid kingdoms now devolves his maze,
Now wanders wild o'er solitary tracts
Of life-deserted sand; till, glad to quit
The joyless desert, down the Nubian rocks
From thundering steep to steep, he pours his urn,
And Egypt joys beneath the spreading wave.
His brother Niger too, and all the floods
In which the full-form'd maids of Afric lave
Their jetty limbs; and all that from the tract
Of woody mountains stretch'd through gorgeous
Fall on Cor'mandel's coast, or Malabar;
From Menam's orient stream, that nightly shines
With insect-lamps, to where Aurora sheds
On Indus' smiling banks the rosy shower:
All, at this bounteous season, ope their urns,
And pour untoiling harvest o'er the land.
Nor less thy world, Columbus, drinks, refresh'd,
The lavish moisture of the melting year.
Wide o'er his isles, the branching Oronoque
Rolls a brown deluge; and the native drives
To dwell aloft on life-sufficing trees,
At once his dome, his robe, his food, and arms.
Swell'd by a thousand streams, impetuous hurl'd
From all the roaring Andes, huge decends
The mighty Orellana. Scarce the Muse
Dares stretch her wing o'er this enormous mass
Of rushing water; scarce she dares attempt
The sea-like Plata; to whose dread expanse,
Continuous depth, and wondrous length of course,
Our floods are rills. With unabated force,
In silent dignity they sweep along,
And traverse realms unknown, and blooming wilds,
And fruitful deserts, worlds of solitude,
Where the sun smiles and seasons teem in vain,
Unseen and unenjoy'd. Forsaking these,
O'er peopled plains they fair-diffusive flow,
And many a nation feed, and circle safe,
In their soft bosom, many a happy isle;
The seat of blameless Pan, yet undisturb'd
By christian crimes and Europe's cruel sons.
Thus pouring on they proudly seek the deep,
Whose vanquish'd tide recoiling from the shock,
Yields to the liquid weight of half the globe;
And Ocean trembles for his green domain.
But what avails this wondrous waste of wealth?
This gay profusion of luxurious bliss?
This pomp of Nature? what their balmy meads,
Their powerful herbs, and Ceres void of pain?
By vagrant birds dispersed and wafting winds,
What their unplanted fruits? what the cool draughts,
The ambrosial food, rich gums, and spicy health,
Their forests yield? their toiling insects what?
Their silky pride, and vegetable robes?
Ah! what avail their fatal treasures, hid
Deep in the bowels of the pitying earth,
Golconda's gems, and sad Potosi's mines;
Where dwelt the gentlest children of the sun?
What all that Afric's golden rivers roll,
Her odorous woods, and shining ivory stores?
Ill-fated race! the softening arts of Peace,
Whate'er the humanizing Muses teach;
The godlike wisdom of the temper'd breast;
Progressive truth, the patient force of thought;
Investigation calm, whose silent powers
Command the world; the light that leads to Heaven;
Kind equal rule, the goverment of laws,
And all-protecting Freedom, which alone
Sustains the name and dignity of man:
These are not theirs. The parent sun himself
Seems o'er this world of slaves to tyrannize;
And, with oppressive ray, the roseate bloom
Of beauty blasting, gives the gloomy hue,
And feature gross: or worse, to ruthless deeds,
Mad jealousy, blind rage, and fell revenge,
Their fervid spirit fires. Love dwells not there,
The soft regards, the tenderness of life,
The heart-shed tear, the ineffable delight
Of sweet humanity: these court the beam
Of milder climes; in selfish fierce desire,
And the wild fury of voluptuous sense,
There lost. The very brute-creation there
This rage partakes, and burns with horrid fire.
Lo! the green serpent, from his dark abode,
Which even Imagination fears to tread,
At noon forth-issuing, gathers up his train
In orbs immense, then, darting out anew,
Seeks the refreshing fount; by which diffused,
He throws his folds: and while, with threatening tongue
And deathful jaws erect, the monster curls
His flaming crest, all other thirst appall'd,
Or shivering flies or check'd at distance stands,
Nor dares approach. But still more direful he,
The small close-lurking minister of fate,
Whose high-concocted venom through the veins
A rapid lightning darts, arresting swift
The vital current. Form'd to humble man,
This child of vengeful Nature! there, sublimed
To fearless lust of blood, the savage race
Roam, licensed by the shading hour of guilt,
And foul misdeed, when the pure day has shut
His sacred eye. The tiger darting fierce
Impetuous on the prey his glance has doom'd:
The lively shining leopard, speckled o'er
With many a spot, the beauty of the waste;
And, scorning all the taming arts of man,
The keen hyena, fellest of the fell.
These, rushing from the inhospitable woods
Of Mauritania, or the tufted isles,
That verdant rise amid the Libyan wild,
Innumerous glare around their shaggy king,
Majestic, stalking o'er the printed sand;
And, with imperious and repeated roars,
Demand their fated food. The fearful flocks
Crowd near the guardian swain; the nobler herds,
Where round their lordly bull, in rural ease
They ruminating lie, with horror hear
The coming rage. The awaken'd village starts;
And to her fluttering breast the mother strains
Her thoughtless infant. From the pyrate's den,
Or stern Morocco's tyrant fang escaped,
The wretch half wishes for his bonds again:
While, uproar all, the wilderness resounds,
From Atlas eastward to the frighted Nile.
Unhappy he! who from the first of joys,
Society, cut off, is left alone
Amid this world of death. Day after day,
Sad on the jutting eminence he sits,
And views the main that ever toils below;
Still fondly forming in the farthest verge,
Where the round ether mixes with the wave,
Ships, dim-discover'd dropping from the clouds;
At evening, to the setting sun he turns
A mournful eye, and down his dying heart
Sinks helpless; while the wonted roar is up,
And hiss continual through the tedious night.
Yet here, e'en here, into these black abodes
Of monsters, unappall'd, from stooping Rome,
And guilty Cæsar, Liberty retired,
Her Cato following through Numidian wilds:
Disdainful of Campania's gentle plains,
And all the green delights Ausonia pours;
When for them she must bend the servile knee,
And fawning take the splendid robber's boon.
Nor stop the terrors of these regions here.
Commission'd demons oft, angels of wrath,
Let loose the raging elements. Breathed hot
From all the boundless furnace of the sky,
And the wide glittering waste of burning sand,
A suffocating wind the pilgrim smites
With instant death. Patient of thirst and toil,
Son of the desert! e'en the camel feels,
Shot through his wither'd heart, the fiery blast.
Or from the black-red ether, bursting broad,
Sallies the sudden whirlwind. Straight the sands,
Commoved around, in gathering eddies play:
Nearer and nearer still they darkening come;
Till, with the general all-involving storm
Swept up, the whole continuous wilds arise;
And by their noonday fount dejected thrown,
Or sunk at night in sad disastrous sleep,
Beneath descending hills, the caravan
Is buried deep. In Cairo's crowded streets
The impatient merchant, wondering, waits in vain,
And Mecca saddens at the long delay.
But chief at sea, whose every flexile wave
Obeys the blast, the aërial tumult swells.
In the dread ocean, undulating wide,
Beneath the radiant line that girts the globe,
The circling Typhon, whirl'd from point to point,
Exhausting all the rage of all the sky,
And dire Ecnephia reign. Amid the heavens,
Falsely serene, deep in a cloudy speck
Compress'd, the mighty tempest brooding dwells:
Of no regard, save to the skilful eye,
Fiery and foul, the small prognostic hangs
Aloft, or on the promontory's brow
Musters its force. A faint deceitful calm,
A fluttering gale, the demon sends before,
To tempt the spreading sail. Then down at once,
Precipitant, descends a mingled mass
Of roaring winds, and flame, and rushing floods.
In wild amazement fix'd the sailor stands.
Art is too slow: by rapid fate oppress'd,
His broad-winged vessel drinks the whelming tide,
Hid in the bosom of the black abyss.
With such mad seas the daring Gama fought,
For many a day, and many a dreadful night,
Incessant, labouring round the stormy Cape;
By bold ambition led, and bolder thirst
Of gold. For then from ancient gloom emerged
The rising world of trade: the Genius, then,
Of navigation, that, in hopeless sloth,
Had slumber'd on the vast Atlantic deep,
For idle ages, starting, heard at last
The Lusitanian Prince; who, Heaven-inspired,
To love of useful glory roused mankind,
And in unbounded commerce mix'd the world.
Increasing still the terrors of these storms,
His jaws horrific arm'd with threefold fate,
Here dwells the direful shark. Lured by the scent
Of steaming crowds, of rank disease, and death,
Behold! he rushing cuts the briny flood,
Swift as the gale can bear the ship along;
And, from the partners of that cruel trade,
Which spoils unhappy Guinea of her sons,
Demands his share of prey; demands themselves.
The stormy fates descend: one death involves
Tyrants and slaves; when straight, their mangled limbs
Crashing at once, he dyes the purple seas
With gore, and riots in the vengeful meal.
When o'er this world, by equinoctial rains
Flooded immense, looks out the joyless sun,
And draws the copious stream: from swampy fens,
Where putrefaction into life ferments,
And breathes destructive myriads; or from woods,
Impenetrable shades, recesses foul,
In vapours rank and blue corruption wrapt,
Whose gloomy horrors yet no desperate foot
Has ever dared to pierce; then, wasteful, forth
Walks the dire Power of pestilent disease.
A thousand hideous fiends her course attend,
Sick Nature blasting, and to heartless woe,
And feeble desolation, casting down
The towering hopes and all the pride of Man.
Such as, of late, at Carthagena quench'd
The British fire. You, gallant Vernon, saw
The miserable scene; you, pitying, saw
To infant-weakness sunk the warrior's arm;
Saw the deep-racking pang, the ghastly form,
The lip pale quivering, and the beamless eye
No more with ardour bright: you heard the groans
Of agonizing ships, from shore to shore;
Heard, nightly plunged amid the sullen waves,
The frequent corse; while on each other fix'd,
In sad presage, the blank assistants seem'd,
Silent, to ask, whom Fate would next demand.
What need I mention those inclement skies,
Where, frequent o'er the sickening city, Plague,
The fiercest child of Nemesis divine,
Descends? From Ethiopia's poison'd woods,
From stifled Cairo's filth, and fetid fields
With locust-armies putrefying heap'd,
This great destroyer sprung. Her awful rage
The brutes escape: Man is her destined prey,
Intemperate Man! and, o'er his guilty domes,
She draws a close incumbent cloud of death;
Uninterrupted by the living winds,
Forbid to blow a wholesome breeze; and stain'd
With many a mixture by the sun, suffused,
Of angry aspect. Princely wisdom, then,
Dejects his watchful eye; and from the hand
Of feeble justice, ineffectual, drop
The sword and balance: mute the voice of joy,
And hush'd the clamour of the busy world.
Empty the streets, with uncouth verdure clad;
Into the worst of deserts sudden turn'd
The cheerful haunt of men: unless escaped
From the doom'd house, where matchless horror reigns,
Shut up by barbarous fear, the smitten wretch,
With frenzy wild, breaks loose; and, loud to Heaven
Screaming, the dreadful policy arraigns,
Inhuman, and unwise. The sullen door,
Yet uninfected, on its cautious hinge
Fearing to turn, abhors society:
Dependants, friends, relations, Love himself,
Savaged by woe, forget the tender tie,
The sweet engagement of the feeling heart.
But vain their selfish care: the circling sky,
The wide enlivening air is full of fate;
And, struck by turns, in solitary pangs
They fall, unblest, untended, and unmourn'd.
Thus o'er the prostrate city black Despair
Extends her raven wing: while, to complete
The scene of desolation, stretch'd around,
The grim guards stand, denying all retreat,
And give the flying wretch a better death.
Much yet remains unsung: the rage intense
Of brazen-vaulted skies, of iron fields,
Where drought and famine starve the blasted year:
Fired by the torch of noon to tenfold rage,
The infuriate hill that shoots the pillar'd flame;
And, roused within the subterranean world,
The expanding earthquake, that resistless shakes
Aspiring cities from their solid base,
And buries mountains in the flaming gulf.
But 'tis enough; return, my vagrant Muse:
A nearer scene of horror calls thee home.
Behold, slow-settling o'er the lurid grove
Unusual darkness broods; and growing gains
The full possession of the sky, surcharged
With wrathful vapour, from the secret beds,
Where sleep the mineral generations, drawn.
Thence nitre, sulphur, and the fiery spume
Of fat bitumen, steaming on the day,
With various-tinctured trains of latent flame,
Pollute the sky, and in yon baleful cloud,
A reddening gloom, a magazine of fate,
Ferment; till, by the touch ethereal roused,
The dash of clouds, or irritating war
Of fighting winds, while all is calm below,
They furious spring. A boding silence reigns,
Dread through the dun expanse; save the dull sound
That from the mountain, previous to the storm,
Rolls o'er the muttering earth, disturbs the flood,
And shakes the forest-leaf without a breath.
Prone, to the lowest vale, the aërial tribes
Descend: the tempest-loving raven scarce
Dares wing the dubious dusk. In rueful gaze
The cattle stand, and on the scowling heavens
Cast a deploring eye; by man forsook,
Who to the crowded cottage hies him fast,
Or seeks the shelter of the downward cave.
'Tis listening fear, and dumb amazement all:
When to the startled eye the sudden glance
Appears far south, eruptive through the cloud;
And following slower, in explosion vast,
The Thunder raises his tremendous voice.
At first, heard solemn o'er the verge of Heaven,
The tempest growls; but as it nearer comes,
And rolls its awful burden on the wind,
The lightnings flash a larger curve, and more
The noise astounds: till over head a sheet
Of livid flame discloses wide; then shuts,
And opens wider; shuts and opens still
Expansive, wrapping ether in a blaze.
Follows the loosen'd aggravated roar,
Enlarging, deepening, mingling; peal on peal
Crush'd horrible, convulsing heaven and earth.
Down comes a deluge of sonorous hail,
Or prone-descending rain. Wide-rent, the clouds
Pour a whole flood; and yet, its flame unquench'd,
The unconquerable lightning struggles through,
Ragged and fierce, or in red whirling balls,
And fires the mountains with redoubled rage.
Black from the stroke, above, the smouldring pine
Stands a sad shatter'd trunk; and, stretch'd below,
A lifeless group the blasted cattle lie:
Here the soft flocks, with that same harmless look
They wore alive, and ruminating still
In fancy's eye; and there the frowning bull,
And ox half-raised. Struck on the castled cliff,
The venerable tower and spiry fane
Resign their aged pride. The gloomy woods
Start at the flash, and from their deep recess,
Wide-flaming out, their trembling inmates shake.
Amid Carnarvon's mountains rages loud
The repercussive roar: with mighty crush,
Into the flashing deep, from the rude rocks
Of Penmanmaur heap'd hideous to the sky,
Tumble the smitten cliffs; and Snowden's peak,
Dissolving, instant yields his wintry load.
Far seen, the heights of heathy Cheviot blaze,
And Thulè bellows through her utmost isles.
Guilt hears appall'd, with deeply troubled thought.
And yet not always on the guilty head
Descends the fated flash. Young Celadon
And his Amelia were a matchless pair;
With equal virtue form'd, and equal grace,
The same, distinguish'd by their sex alone:
Hers the mild lustre of the blooming morn,
And his the radiance of the risen day.
They lov'd: but such the guileless passion was,
As in the dawn of time inform'd the heart
Of innocence and undissembling truth.
'Twas friendship, heighten'd by the mutual wish;
The enchanting hope, and sympathetic glow,
Beam'd from the mutual eye. Devoting all
To love, each was to each a dearer self;
Supremely happy in the awaken'd power
Of giving joy. Alone, amid the shades,
Still in harmonious intercourse they lived
The rural day, and talk'd the flowing heart,
Or sigh'd and look'd unutterable things.
So pass'd their life, a clear united stream,
By care unruffled; till, in evil hour,
The tempest caught them on the tender walk,
Heedless how far and where its mazes stray'd,
While, with each other blest, creative love
Still bade eternal Eden smile around.
Presaging instant fate, her bosom heaved
Unwonted sighs, and stealing oft a look
Of the big gloom, on Celadon her eye
Fell tearful, wetting her disorder'd cheek.
In vain assuring love, and confidence
In Heaven, repress'd her fear; it grew, and shook
Her frame near dissolution. He perceived
The unequal conflict, and as angels look
On dying saints, his eyes compassion shed,
With love illumined high. “Fear not,” he said,
“Sweet innocence! thou stranger to offence,
And inward storm! He, who yon skies involves
In frowns of darkness, ever smiles on thee
With kind regard. O'er thee the secret shaft
That wastes at midnight, or the undreaded hour
Of noon, flies harmless: and that very voice,
Which thunders terror through the guilty heart,
With tongues of seraphs whispers peace to thine.
'Tis safety to be near thee sure, and thus
To clasp perfection!” From his void embrace,
(Mysterious Heaven!) that moment, to the ground,
A blacken'd corse, was struck the beauteous maid.
But who can paint the lover, as he stood,
Pierced by severe amazement, hating life,
Speechless, and fix'd in all the death of woe!
So, faint resemblance! on the marble tomb,
The well-dissembled mourner stooping stands,
For ever silent and for ever sad.
As from the face of Heaven the shatter'd clouds
Tumultuous rove, the interminable sky
Sublimer swells, and o'er the world expands
A purer azure. Through the lighten'd air
A higher lustre and a clearer calm,
Diffusive, tremble; while, as if in sign
Of danger past, a glittering robe of joy,
Set off abundant by the yellow ray,
Invests the fields; and nature smiles revived.
'Tis beauty all, and grateful song around,
Join'd to the low of kine, and numerous bleat
Of flocks thick-nibbling through the clover'd vale.
And shall the hymn be marr'd by thankless Man,
Most-favour'd! who with voice articulate
Should lead the chorus of this lower world;
Shall he, so soon forgetful of the Hand
That hush'd the thunder, and serenes the sky,
Extinguish'd feel that spark the tempest waked,
That sense of powers exceeding far his own,
Ere yet his feeble heart has lost its fears?
Cheer'd by the milder beam, the sprightly youth
Speeds to the well-known pool, whose crystal depth
A sandy bottom shows. Awhile he stands
Gazing the inverted landscape, half afraid
To meditate the blue profound below;
Then plunges headlong down the circling flood.
His ebon tresses, and his rosy cheek
Instant emerge; and through the obedient wave,
At each short breathing by his lip repell'd,
With arms and legs according well, he makes,
As humour leads, an easy-winding path;
While, from his polish'd sides, a dewy light
Effuses on the pleased spectators round.
This is the purest exercise of health,
The kind refresher of the summer-heats;
Nor when cold Winter keens the brightening flood,
Would I weak-shivering linger on the brink.
Thus life redoubles, and is oft preserved,
By the bold swimmer, in the swift elapse
Of accident disastrous. Hence the limbs
Knit into force; and the same Roman arm,
That rose victorious o'er the conquer'd earth,
First learn'd, while tender, to subdue the wave.
Even from the body's purity the mind
Receives a secret sympathetic aid.
Close in the covert of a hazel copse,
Where, winded into pleasing solitudes,
Runs out the rambling dale, young Damon sat,
Pensive, and pierced with love's delightful pangs.
There to the stream that down the distant rocks
Hoarse-murmuring fell, and plaintive breeze that play'd
Among the bending willows, falsely he
Of Musidora's cruelty complain'd.
She felt his flame; but deep within her breast
In bashful coyness, or in maiden pride,
The soft return conceal'd; save when it stole
In sidelong glances from her downcast eye,
Or from her swelling soul in stifled sighs.
Touch'd by the scene, no stranger to his vows,
He framed a melting lay, to try her heart;
And, if an infant passion struggled there,
To call that passion forth. Thrice happy swain!
A lucky chance, that oft decides the fate
Of mighty monarchs, then decided thine.
For lo! conducted by the laughing Loves,
This cool retreat his Musidora sought:
Warm in her cheek the sultry season glow'd;
And, robed in loose array, she came to bathe
Her fervent limbs in the refreshing stream.
What shall he do? In sweet confusion lost,
And dubious flutterings, he a while remain'd:
A pure ingenuous elegance of soul,
A delicate refinement, known to few,
Perplex'd his breast, and urged him to retire:
But love forbade. Ye prudes in virtue, say,
Say, ye severest, what would you have done?
Meantime, this fairer nymph than ever blest
Arcadian stream, with timid eye around
The banks surveying, stripp'd her beauteous limbs,
To taste the lucid coolness of the flood.
Ah then! not Paris on the piny top
Of Ida panted stronger, when aside
The rival-goddesses the veil divine
Cast unconfined, and gave him all their charms,
Than, Damon, thou; as from the snowy leg,
And slender foot, the inverted silk she drew;
As the soft touch dissolved the virgin zone:
And, through the parting robe, the alternate breast,
With youth wild-throbbing, on thy lawless gaze
In full luxuriance rose. But, desperate youth,
How durst thou risk the soul-distracting view,
As from her naked limbs of glowing white,
Harmonious swell'd by Nature's finest hand,
In folds loose floating fell the fainter lawn;
And fair exposed she stood, shrunk from herself,
With fancy blushing, at the doubtful breeze
Alarm'd, and starting like the fearful fawn?
Then to the flood she rush'd; the parted flood
Its lovely guest with closing waves received;
And every beauty
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.
The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,
His mother, who was dead. He thought 'If I had a month or two
of life yet
I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm finished,
I'm sorry.' After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst
until the sundown
Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing
him up the cliff.
His sister Tamar
Nursed him in the big westward bedroom
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. 'O Tamar
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar,
It would be better for me to be a cripple,
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey,
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar.
We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea,
And up in the hills and watch the spring come home.'
Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing,
There is little more to say for it when you've said
Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December
Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar
Was with him, and his mind ran on her name,
But she was saying, 'We laugh at poor Aunt Stella
With her spirit
visitors: Lee, something told her truth.
Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone
Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night,
I went to the room, she told me
She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach
By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb.'
'I was up Tassajara way,' he answered,
'Far from the sea.' 'We were glad when you rode home
Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen,
She said she watched the stars flying over you
In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look
Out of her window southward, where I saw
The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead
With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,'
She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.'
Winter is over, visions are over and vanished,
The fields are winking full of poppies,
In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises.'
The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring
from the south; Lee Cauldwell
Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers;
he was miserably lonely and vacant,
He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor
And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farmwork,
rain would come and hinder?
He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind,
and felt the ocean pounding granite.
His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the
eastern chamber; when the storm
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose
and made a light, and lighted
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him,
he had seen too many; he dressed
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard
on one side Stella Moreland,
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny
Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind
and mostly sleepless; in the other
Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare
Within the house answered to storm without.
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside
With her dear brother, who said 'Here's where I fell,
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff,
You can see blood still on the boulders.' Where he vanished to
She could not tell, nor why she was crying 'Lee. No.
No dearest brother, dearest brother no.' But she cried vainly,
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves,
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her,
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
'When it rains it will be quieter,' Tamar thought. She slept
again, all night not a drop fell.
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up
the sky from the overhanging
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed
at last and ran down on the sea.
Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter
pasture up in the hills.
A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty
of canyon wildflowers, water
Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, blackoaks
smoldering with foliage
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood
glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills,
their horns to the wind,
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland
over Wildcat Canyon,
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point Lobos
Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar.
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, 'Listen, Bill Andrews,
We've had gay times together and ridden at night.
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister.
Better keep off the place.' 'I will,' said the other,
'When Tamar tells me to.' 'You think my bones
Aren't mended yet, better keep off.' Lee Cauldwell
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell,
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered:
'I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time.'
'No, I've had all I want, I'm staying
At home now, evenings.' 'Don't do it; better dance your pony
down the cliffs again than close
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn
out, but I remember
Hell's in the box.' Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of
thought was hidden awhile in words,
An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a
candle. A space, and he was saying,
'Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there,
and you'll be going headforemost
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I
mayn't be living
To see you home or hear you're killed.' Lee, smiling at him,
'A soldier's what I won't be, father.' That night
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator
Duelling with a German above a battle
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror.
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling,
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
They two had unbridled the horses
And tied them with long halters near the thicket
Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east
Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit
On the right and looked across the sea.
The steep path down, 'What are we for?' said Tamar wearily,
'to want and want and not dare know it.'
'Because I dropped the faded irises,' Lee answered, 'you're unhappy.
They were all withered, Tamar.
We have grown up in the same house.' 'The withered house
Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No
wonder if we go mad, no wonder.'
They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, 'Sweet, green and cool,
After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee?
Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my
brother. And then
I will stand guard for you.' The murmur and splash of water
made his fever fierier; something
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see
the round arm and clear throat
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking
'O we are beasts, a beast, what am I for?
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on
the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous?
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and
avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister.
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken.'
Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water
Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples,
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow.
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar
Thought, 'If I saw a snake in the water he would come now
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears
Me I believe.' Was it the wild rock coast
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar,
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident,
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural,
Though all other license were; and surely her face
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. 'Tamar?'
He answered, and she answered, 'Nothing. A snake in the water
Frightened me.' And again she called his name.
'What is it, Tamar?' 'Nothing. It is cold in the water.
Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head.
Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company.
I won't look till you're in.' He came, trembling.
He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not
Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars
Of the old wound on his leg. 'Come, Lee, I'm freezing.
Come, I won't look.' He saw the clear-skinned shoulders
And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body
In the watery floor under the cave of foliage,
And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes
Under the auburn hair, streamed. 'Lee.
We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself;
If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee
When we were children.' 'Tamar, what is it, what is it?'
'Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think
Another thing.' She slipped face down and lay
In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward
Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders
Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms
Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm
Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire,
So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back
By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy.
The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay
pale and quiet
And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her
and was ashamed to.
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth
stone, the blue eyes were half open,
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love.
One of her arms crushed both her breasts,
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the
roots of die soft grass. 'Tamar,'
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered,
'We have it, we have it. Now I know.
It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again.' He said,
'What shall I do? Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, shivering.
'It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself
again. O brother, brother,
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn.
I love you, I chose my teacher.
Mine, it was my doing.' She flung herself upon him, cold white
and smooth, with sobbing kisses.
'I am so cold, dearest, dearest.' The horses at the canyon mouth
tugged at their halters,
Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight
They came to the old house.
When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind,
then Stella Moreland
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the
dark egged on her dreams to vision,
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This
was the vaporous portion
She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken loneliness,
little loved, nursing an idiot,
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks.
(O torture of needled branches
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind
or the southwind or the northwest.
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on
patrol, alternate giants
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but
here at Lobos the winds are torturers,
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old
woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the
northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant,
Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier
presences in her visions.) Tamar
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among
the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes,
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids,
played back the girl's blown candle
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and
it made them, saw her. 'Ah, Helen,'
Cried out the entranced lips, 'We thought you were tired of the
wind, we thought you never came now.
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show
him your beauty, call him with kisses.
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but
he is your lover and your brother.'
'I am not Helen,' she said, 'what Helen, what Helen?' 'Who
was not the wife but the sister of her man,
Mine was his wife.' 'My mother?' 'And now he is an old hulk
battered ashore. Show him your beauty,
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the
cave. What if the beard is slimy
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you
dead women.' But Tamar clutching
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the
old woman groaned but would not waken,
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot
striped it, then with a scream
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed.
Tamar found place for the candle
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken
a second answer
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone.
But the idiot waked and chuckled,
Waved both hands at the candle saying, 'My little star, my little
star, come little star.'
And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was
Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal
Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder
The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father
Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth
Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries,
And he said, 'What is it, Tamar?' 'She was screaming in a
I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron.
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?'
'Helen? Helen?' he answered slowly and Tamar
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble.
'It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women.'
Old Jinny clapped her hands, 'Little star, little star,
Twinkle all night!' and the stiff form on the bed began to speak,
In a changed voice and from another mode of being
And spirit of thought: 'I cannot think that you have forgotten.
I was walking on the far side of the moon,
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot.
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted
Too near our blood,
And to tangle the interbranching net of generations
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me
And now he is old forgets mine.' 'You are that Helen,'
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from,
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, 'What Helen? This
man's . . .
Sister, this body was saying?' 'By as much more
As you are of your brother.' 'Why,' laughed Tamar trembling,
'Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we
Nothing but children.' Then the old man: 'Lies, lies, lies.
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died.
Your mother and this old woman always hated her,
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature
To die of it, Lily and Stella.' 'It makes me nothing,
My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires,'
Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said,
'Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella,
The voices in her have no minds.' 'Poor little Tamar,'
Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern,
'Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead
Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves
I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited
Was laid to catch you when the world began,
Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait.
But you are the luckier, no one came home to me
To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory,
And that can be endured.' The room was quiet a moment,
And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she
was twelve years old her mind's cage
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening
cloth when lamps are lighted,
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but
caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood,
She in her crumpled voice: 'I'd rather play with Helen, go away
Stella. Stella pinches me,
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters.' 'Jinny,
Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earthquake,
'do you remember, Jinny?'
'Jinny don't like the old man,' she answered, 'give me the star,
give me my star,'
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, 'why have
they taken my little star?
Helen would give it to Jinny.' Then Stella waking from the
trance sighed and arose to quiet her
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, 'You were screaming
in your sleep.' 'I had great visions.
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have
the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny.
Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep
now.' Old Cauldwell tottering
Went to his room; then Tamar said, 'You were talking about
his sister Helen, my aunt Helen,
You never told me about her.' 'She has been dead for forty
years, what should we tell you about her?
Now little Jinny, pretty sister,' And laying her hands upon the
mattress of the bed
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song.
Tamar stood vainly waiting
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not
sleep went to her room and heard it
Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lullabies;
not quiet till daylight.
O swiftness of the swallow and strength
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons,
Beauty of the blue heron that flies
Opposite the color of evening
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle,
beauty of the fountains of the sun
1 pray you enter a little chamber,
I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets,
I have made idols for God to enter
And tiny cells to hold your honey.
I have given you a dotard and an idiot,
An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with incest,
O blower of music through the crooked bugles,
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels,
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps,
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols
To enter and possess.
Tamar, finding no hope,
Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead
And found half-scornful pity and found her sin
Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame
And secrecy in silence, and her lover
Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night
In serviceable safety. They learned, these two,
Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint
Of vague and possible wreck every transgression
Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue
Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene
To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women
Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning,
How could she color such love with perplexed fear?
Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner
Feeling the plant of unescapable fate
Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water
To compass love might enter again to escape
Love's fruit; 'But O, but O,' she thought, 'not to die now.
It is less than half a year
Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls
My lover has known
She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless,
How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin
Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water.
A love sterile and sacred as the stars.
I will tell my lover, he will make me safe,
He will find means . . .
Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman
. . . Unhappy. Miserable,' she sobbed, 'miserable,
The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot
Better to breathe.'
When Lee was not by her side
She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far origin
Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below.
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor
Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream,
unrelative in emotion
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent
layer that seemed all night continuous,
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions
gathered on that house
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering
strange waters), brown-skinned families
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea,
they kindled fires by knobs of granite
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of,
not only around Point Lobos
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock;
Tamar saw the huddled bodies
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was
throbbing music meant for daylight
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing;
then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers,
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
and hearing the universal music
Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English-speakers
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
among them Tamar saw her mother
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and
the universal music
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father
from that flood and saved him,
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful
and white, not fallen to ruin
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him
enter the door, when he had entered
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river
to the sea and to Point Lobos.
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter
surface layer but seeming senseless.
The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said 'because the
moon is lost.' Tamar looked up
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and
the people in the moon would perish
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded
in the face came saying
'Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you.'
Wakening, Tamar thought about him
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was
another man came through her dream,
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee
having ridden to Mill Creek
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass,
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony,
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes,
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing)
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river
And all the air was rich with ripening apples.
She would not go to the house; she did not find
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours,
And on the Carmel bridge above the water
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen,
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves,
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought.
'Tamar,' he said, 'I've been to see you.' 'You hadn't
For a long time.' 'I had some trouble with Lee,
I thought you didn't want me.' While they talked
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable?
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . .
'I didn't want you, you thought?' 'Lee said so.' 'You might
Till Tamar said so.' 'Well,' he answered, 'I've been,
And neither of you was home but now I've met you.'
Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes;
Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders,
And sitting the horse well 'O I can do it, I can do it,
Help me, God,' murmured Tamar in her mind,
'How else what else can I do?' and said, 'Luck, isn't it?
What did you want to see me about?' 'I wanted . . .
Because I ... like you, Tamar.' 'Why should I be careful,'
She thought, 'if I frighten him off what does it matter,
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Let's go down
Into the willow,' she said, 'we needn't be seen
Talking and someone tell him and make trouble
Here on the bridge.' They went to the hidden bank
Under the deep green willows, colored water
Stagnated on its moss up to the stems,
Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle
As quietly as the long unwhitening wave
Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses,
'I have been lonely,' she said. 'Not for me, Tamar.'
'You think not? Will, now that all's over
And likely we'll not see each other again
Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . .'
'What, Tamar?' 'There've been moments . . . hours then . .
When anything you might have asked me for
Would have been given, I'd have done anything
You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will.
I'm telling you this so that you may remember me
As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet
So many others.' 'But now' he meant to ask,
'Now it's too late, Tamar?' and hadn't courage,
And Tamar thought 'Must I go farther and say more?
Let him despise me as I despise myself.
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Now?' she said.
'Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will,
you have grown
Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer;
And carefuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child.
Would I be with you here in the green thicket
If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will,
I'd think it was no harm.' She had laid her hand
On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing,
And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind,
'He is only a little boy but if he turns pale
I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color.
If he reddens I’ve lost and it's no matter.' He did not move
And seemed not to change color and Tamar said,
'Now I must go. Lee will be home soon.
How soft the ground is in the willow shadow.
I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me
Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed
To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me.
Good-bye.' But when she turned he caught her by the arm,
She sickened inward, thinking, 'Now it has come.
I have called and called it and I can't endure it.
Ah. A dumb beast.' But he had found words now and said,
'How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden
The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have
Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar,
You can't go now, you can't.' She unresisting
Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair
And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her
To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow.
He laid her there and kneeling by her: 'You said you trusted me.
You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well
I would cut my hands off not to harm you.' But she,
Driven by the inward spark of life and dreading
Its premature maturity, could not rest
On harmless love, there were no hands to help
In the innocence of love, and like a vision
Came to her the memory of that other lover
And how he had fallen a farther depth
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far
From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off
His kisses and stood up weeping and cried
'It's no use, why will you love me till I cry?
Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't
Sour the three years he has before he dies.'
'I'll wait for you,' said the boy, 'wait years, Tamar.' Then Tamar
Hiding her face against his throat
So that he felt the tears whispered, 'But I ...'
She sobbed, 'Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . .
When I made my soul naked for you
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame
I was ashamed to uncover.' She pressed her mouth
Between the muscles of his breast: 'I want you and want you.
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man.
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away
And I've . . . earned it.' 'Tamar, I swear by God
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you
With all my life.' 'This is our marriage,' Tamar answered.
'But God would have been good to me to have killed me
Before I told you.' The boy feeling her body
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him
That moment; when he awakened she was lying
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass,
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. 'O Tamar,'
Murmured the boy, 'I love you, I love you. What shall I do?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, thinking
'That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least,' and
said, 'There is nothing to do, nothing.
It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too
was to blame a little.
But I didn't mean . . . this.' 'I know,' he said, 'it was my
fault, I would kill myself, Tamar,
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar.' 'Loved? You have hurt
me and broken me, the house is broken
And any thief can enter it.' 'O Tamar!' 'You have broken
our crystal innocence, we can never
Look at each other freely again.' 'What can I do, Tamar?'
'Nothing. I don't know. Nothing.
Never come to the farm to see me.' 'Where can I see you,
Tamar?' 'Lee is always watching me,
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll
put a lamp in my window,
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up
by the cypress. I must go home,
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than
I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul,
I am your tame bird now.'
This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white
Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills;
daily the insufferable sun
Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transparent
ways of the air drained gray
The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed.
The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with
hateful sunlight, waiting rain.
Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty-hooded
summer had fed
Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned
foul, the rock-flowers faded,
And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season.
Walking beside the house-wall
Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the
cypress bark, where Andrews
Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire
Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with
fire, so her self-hatred
Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world
growing hateful, both her lovers
Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all.
The heat of the season
Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose
rock, they call them thousand-leggers,
They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking underfoot
with a bad odor, and dropped
Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous.
Also the sweet and female sea
Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormorant's
wing-claps half a mile off shore;
The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain
in October or November
Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the
female fury abiding
In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost-seer.
'Listen to me, Aunt Stella.
I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella,
will you help me?' That old woman
Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for
her talent. 'Dear Tamar, I will help you.
We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and painful
for me.' 'I am in the darkness
Already, a fiery darkness.' 'The good spirits will guide you,
it is easy for you; for me, death.
Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them.' 'Death's no bad
thing,' she answered, 'each hour of the day
Has more teeth.' 'Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits
will help you and teach you.' 'Aunt Stella,
To-night, to-night?' 'I groan when I go down to death, your
father and brother will come and spoil it.'
'In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea.' 'Well,
in the evening.' 'If they talk to us
I'll buy you black silk and white lace.'
In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old
Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle.
Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny
among the rubble granite
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else
would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the
darkness. 'Here,' said Tamar, 'I made you
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie
beside you, Aunt Stella,
I’ll lay the rug over you both.' They lay on the odorous kelp,
Tamar squatted beside them,
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the
west between the cliff-butts
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening.
The sea and the three women
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret
of her taut nerves,
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but
both were voiceless. Tamar
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop,
for it seemed to her a wandering power
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible
pressed itself for entrance
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced
backward and lay panting, the assault
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard
her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under
the cliff seemed full of persons
With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's
and her trail in the long water.
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, 'Que quieres
pobrecita?' and Tamar, 'Morir,'
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said,
'Es porque no entiendo,
Anything but ingles.' To which he answered, 'Ah pobrecita,'
and was silent. And Tamar
Cried, 'I will talk to that Helen.' But instead another male throat
spoke out of the woman's
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing
voice, yet not to her own:
'An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their
Gods and the tall Gods came walking
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance
and he will sing, and his Gods
Come walking.' Tamar answered, crying, 'I will not, I will
not, tell him to go away and let me
Talk to that Helen.' But old Stella after a silence: 'He says No,
no, the pregnant women
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's
ghosts nor will they endure another
Unless they are pleased.' And Tamar said, 'I cannot dance,
drive him away,' but while she said it
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the
fastenings of her garments.
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the
male voice chanted
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her
Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores
Watch moonrises as white as hers
When the half-moon about midnight
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven:
So Tamar weeping
Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness,
And danced on the naked shore
Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks,
Danced with slow steps and streaming hair,
Dark and slender
Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly
Dancing and weeping . . .
It seemed to her that all her body
Was touched and troubled with polluting presences
Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers
She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin,
Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead
Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping,
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed,
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness,
Kindling with lust and wilder
Coarseness of insolent gestures,
The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men
Or Gods walking the tide-marks,
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening,
Agape to be entered, as the earth
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn
At the end of summer
Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain,
So her body gone mad
Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had
And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line.
Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella
Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and parroted
to herself, there was none but the idiot
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along
the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows,
swaggering along the tide-marks
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that
fallen flower; for fear or feebleness
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium
of this infamy. Only
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back
bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice
she had cried for. 'I am your Helen.
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and
milder ceremonies to summon me.
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us
to wait on the maniac living
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power.'
And Tamar murmured, 'I had nothing,
Desire nor power.' And Helen, 'Humbler than you were. She
has been humbled, my little Tamar.
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and
half a dozen savages,
Dead, and dressed up for Gods.' 'I have endured it,' she answered.
Then the sweet disdainful voice
In the throat of the old woman: 'As for me, I chose rather to
die.' 'How can I kill
A dead woman,' said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips,
but the other listened to thought
And answered, 'O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But,
Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling.
I have heard the wiser flights
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our
Father above the star-fire,
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.'
Tamar, kneeling, drew the
thickness of her draggled hair
Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and
like a snake lifting its head
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, 'It
will live, and my father's
Bitch be proved a liar.' And the voice answered, and the tone
of the voice smiled, 'Her words
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were
many of us to watch the dance you danced there,
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff; your mother, who
used to hate me, was among us, Tamar.
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the
same. We two shared one? You, Tamar,
Are shared by many.' And Tamar: 'This is your help, I dug
down to you secret dead people
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more?
How it feels when the last liquid morsel
Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that burrows
up through the eye-socket, or thrill
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking
dead. That you have no shame
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs
were wet with dead beasts' drippings
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I
cannot touch you I tell you
There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire,
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and
burning for clothing. It is God
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in,
where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer,
A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it,
And pointed bones are at the doors
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things,
nothing would ever clean them
But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river.' 'You
danced, Tamar,' replied
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, 'and
now your song is like your dance,
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you,
Before you came down by the sea to dance,
That lit a candle in your closet and laid
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching.
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap,
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar,
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch
Anything in that house.' 'If you know everything,'
Cried Tamar, 'tell me where to go.
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen.
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours,
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison.
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I,
Betrayed by life and death.' Like rain breaking a storm
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight
And little noises of the rising tide
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence
And dignity of the world. She was white stone,
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away
Whatever is rounded and approachable
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal,
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel,
Saying, 'Have you anything more inside you
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices?
You can do better than my father's by-play
And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people
Have died surely. T have so passed nature
That God himself, who's dead or all these devils
Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you
Last season thunder and not scare me.' Old Stella
Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her
Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling
Began to mimic a storm, 'whoo-whoo' for wind
And 'boom-boom-boom' for thunder. Other voices
Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly
The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets
Sleepy cormorants cried at it. 'Why, now He speaks
Another way than out of the fat throat,'
Cried Tamar, and prayed, 'O strong and clean and terrible
Spirit and not father punish the hateful house.
Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast
Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers
And into the woods and into the stable, show them,
These liars, that you are alive.' Across her voice
The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it,
And shouts above the cliff. 'Look, Jinny, look,'
Cried Tamar, 'the sky'd be red soon, come and we'll dress
And watch the bonfire.' Yet she glanced no thought
At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering
The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove
Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile
The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan,
And in the sudden quietness, 'Tamar,' she said
In the known voice of Helen so many years
Dead, 'though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I
Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied
Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh
Before your mother gave the clay to my lover
To mould you a vessel to hold them.' Tamar, winding
Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh
Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, 'Why then
Do you trouble whom you don't hate?' 'Because we hunger
And hunger for life,' she answered. 'Did I come uncalled?
You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded
And passionate life than any other creature.
How could I ever leave you while the life lasts?
God pity us both, a cataract life
Dashing itself to pieces in an instant.
You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you.
I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us.
Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting
The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon,
While the second death
Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end.'
But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily
Decking old Jinny for the festival fire,
And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook
Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain
Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror
Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously,
'Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?' and thinking,
'She hears when Jinny whimpers,' twistingly pinched
Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella
Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes
No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in
Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now
Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves
And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming
Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls
That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella
Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her,
Not personal like the other, and shook her body
And shook her hands: 'It was no good to do too soon, your
fire's out, you'd been patient for me
It might have saved two fires.' But Tamar: 'Stella.
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella.
O pain, pain, help me.' And the voice: 'She is mine while I
use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain.' And
Tamar, 'What are you, what are you, mocking me?
More dirt and another dead man? O,' she moaned, pressing her
flanks with both her hands, and bending
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered,
'Not a voice from carrion.
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and
waters, if you had waited for me
You'd be the luckier.' 'What shall I give you?' Tamar cried,
'I have given away'
Pain stopped her, and then
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor
saw nothing. A little later
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking.
Tamar's mind and suffering
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor
in her own room; but she was lying
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his
fall, in the big westward bedroom.
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who
nursed her, and in the other
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old
Stella. After the ache of awakening
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house,
she lay thinking with vacant wonder
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the
leaves of a tree
Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea-cliff
and carried up to be laid
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with
ghosts before they found him, a gang
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body,
piercing him? 'Stella,' she whispered,
'Have I been sick long?' 'There, sweetheart, lie still; three or
four days.' 'Has Lee been in to see me?'
'Indeed he has, hours every day.' 'He'll come, then,' and she
closed her eyes and seemed to sleep.
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said,
'Come, Lee.' But her old father
Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar
had closed her eyes. In a little
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by
the bed. 'Why don't you speak,
Lee?' And he said, 'What can I say except I love you, sister?'
'Why do you call me sister,
Not Tamar?' And he answered, 'I love you, Tamar.' Then old
Aunt Stella said, 'See, she's much better.
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss
her, Lee, and let her rest.'
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow,
meaning to kiss the forehead.
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while
Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to
untwine the arms that yoked his neck,
The old man, rising: 'I opened the Book last night thinking
about the sorrows of this house,
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie
with her, nevertheless the damsel
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to
save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy.' 'David,
Will you be gone and let her rest now,' cried old Stella, 'do
you mean to kill her with a bible?'
'Woman,' he answered, 'has God anything to do with you?
She will not die, the Book
Opened and said it.' Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow
and said, 'Go, go. To-morrow
Say all you please; what does it matter?' And the old man said,
'Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us.'
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it,
but went out ahead of his father.
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the
stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid,
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel
spring in her throat but weakness
And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, 'What
does he mean to do? Go away?
Kill himself, Stella?' Stella answered, 'Nothing, nothing, they
talk, it's to keep David quiet.
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you,
little Tamar, smile and be sleepy,
Scold them to-morrow.' 'Shut the sun out of my eyes then,'
Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they
needed to let in one beam
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About
the hour of sundown
Tamar was dreaming trivially an axman chopping down a tree
and field-mice scampering
Out of the roots when suddenly like a shift of wind the dream
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming
out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of
the war in France,
Carrying torches. When they passed Mal Paso Creek the columns
Veered, one of the riders said, 'Here it began,' but another
answered, 'No. Before the granite
Was bedded to build the world on.' So they formed and galloped
north again, hurrying squadrons,
And Tamar thought, 'When they come to the Carmel River
then it will happen. They have passed Mal Paso.'
Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the
keels, a passion blows its bulkless
Navies of vision? High up in the hills
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds,
stood in his cabin doorway
Rolling a cigarette a half-hour after sundown, and he felt puffs
from the south
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the
year was turning at last, and shortly
There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred
yards to westward, where a point of the hill
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw
Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening
Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house roof
breaking up through the blackness
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The
evening darkened. Southwestward
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mal
Paso. Suddenly a nebular company
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of
a car sweeping the road,
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light,
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted
twelve or thirteen companies
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the
headlong ridge like level ground,
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, helmeted,
cantering the headlong ridge
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the
early war, they must be Germans.
Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying,
'Dear sister Helen, kiss me
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your
clothes off and you kissed him
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss
me.' Tamar lay rigid,
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that
under the shell of imbecility
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were
waking flashes, and more often
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of
clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food
for passion listened to her,
And heard: 'Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd
rather I didn't. Darling Helen,
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with
you if he wanted to.
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you.' All
she said after was so mumbled
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and
old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it
seemed to Tamar
A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands
And join itself with a fluid power
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny?
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor,
And floated to the place he had brought it from
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed,
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches,
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling,
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone
Saying 'Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile
Into the horse-corral.' Then Tamar thought
'The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my
Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it.
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow
Canto the Fourth
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!
She looks a sea Cybele, fresh from ocean,
Rising with her tiara of proud towers
At airy distance, with majestic motion,
A ruler of the waters and their powers:
And such she was; her daughters had their dowers
From spoils of nations, and the exhaustless East
Poured in her lap all gems in sparkling showers.
In purple was she robed, and of her feast
Monarchs partook, and deemed their dignity increased.
In Venice, Tasso’s echoes are no more,
And silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear:
Those days are gone - but beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade - but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!
But unto us she hath a spell beyond
Her name in story, and her long array
Of mighty shadows, whose dim forms despond
Above the dogeless city’s vanished sway;
Ours is a trophy which will not decay
With the Rialto; Shylock and the Moor,
And Pierre, cannot be swept or worn away -
The keystones of the arch! though all were o’er,
For us repeopled were the solitary shore.
The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence: that which Fate
Prohibits to dull life, in this our state
Of mortal bondage, by these spirits supplied,
First exiles, then replaces what we hate;
Watering the heart whose early flowers have died,
And with a fresher growth replenishing the void.
Such is the refuge of our youth and age,
The first from Hope, the last from Vacancy;
And this worn feeling peoples many a page,
And, may be, that which grows beneath mine eye:
Yet there are things whose strong reality
Outshines our fairy-land; in shape and hues
More beautiful than our fantastic sky,
And the strange constellations which the Muse
O’er her wild universe is skilful to diffuse:
I saw or dreamed of such, - but let them go -
They came like truth, and disappeared like dreams;
And whatsoe’er they were - are now but so;
I could replace them if I would: still teems
My mind with many a form which aptly seems
Such as I sought for, and at moments found;
Let these too go - for waking reason deems
Such overweening phantasies unsound,
And other voices speak, and other sights surround.
I’ve taught me other tongues, and in strange eyes
Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
Which is itself, no changes bring surprise;
Nor is it harsh to make, nor hard to find
A country with - ay, or without mankind;
Yet was I born where men are proud to be,
Not without cause; and should I leave behind
The inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea,
Perhaps I loved it well: and should I lay
My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
My spirit shall resume it - if we may
Unbodied choose a sanctuary. I twine
My hopes of being remembered in my line
With my land’s language: if too fond and far
These aspirations in their scope incline, -
If my fame should be, as my fortunes are,
Of hasty growth and blight, and dull Oblivion bar.
My name from out the temple where the dead
Are honoured by the nations - let it be -
And light the laurels on a loftier head!
And be the Spartan’s epitaph on me -
‘Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.’
Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree
I planted, - they have torn me, and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
The spouseless Adriatic mourns her lord;
And, annual marriage now no more renewed,
The Bucentaur lies rotting unrestored,
Neglected garment of her widowhood!
St. Mark yet sees his lion where he stood
Stand, but in mockery of his withered power,
Over the proud place where an Emperor sued,
And monarchs gazed and envied in the hour
When Venice was a queen with an unequalled dower.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns -
An Emperor tramples where an Emperor knelt;
Kingdoms are shrunk to provinces, and chains
Clank over sceptred cities; nations melt
From power’s high pinnacle, when they have felt
The sunshine for a while, and downward go
Like lauwine loosened from the mountain’s belt:
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!
The octogenarian chief, Byzantium’s conquering foe.
Before St. Mark still glow his steeds of brass,
Their gilded collars glittering in the sun;
But is not Doria’s menace come to pass?
Are they not bridled? - Venice, lost and won,
Her thirteen hundred years of freedom done,
Sinks, like a seaweed, into whence she rose!
Better be whelmed beneath the waves, and shun,
Even in Destruction’s depth, her foreign foes,
From whom submission wrings an infamous repose.
In youth she was all glory, - a new Tyre, -
Her very byword sprung from victory,
The ‘Planter of the Lion,’ which through fire
And blood she bore o’er subject earth and sea;
Though making many slaves, herself still free
And Europe’s bulwark ’gainst the Ottomite:
Witness Troy’s rival, Candia! Vouch it, ye
Immortal waves that saw Lepanto’s fight!
For ye are names no time nor tyranny can blight.
Statues of glass - all shivered - the long file
Of her dead doges are declined to dust;
But where they dwelt, the vast and sumptuous pile
Bespeaks the pageant of their splendid trust;
Their sceptre broken, and their sword in rust,
Have yielded to the stranger: empty halls,
Thin streets, and foreign aspects, such as must
Too oft remind her who and what enthrals,
Have flung a desolate cloud o’er Venice’ lovely walls.
When Athens’ armies fell at Syracuse,
And fettered thousands bore the yoke of war,
Redemption rose up in the Attic Muse,
Her voice their only ransom from afar:
See! as they chant the tragic hymn, the car
Of the o’ermastered victor stops, the reins
Fall from his hands - his idle scimitar
Starts from its belt - he rends his captive’s chains,
And bids him thank the bard for freedom and his strains.
Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine,
Were all thy proud historic deeds forgot,
Thy choral memory of the bard divine,
Thy love of Tasso, should have cut the knot
Which ties thee to thy tyrants; and thy lot
Is shameful to the nations, - most of all,
Albion! to thee: the Ocean Queen should not
Abandon Ocean’s children; in the fall
Of Venice think of thine, despite thy watery wall.
I loved her from my boyhood: she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakspeare’s art,
Had stamped her image in me, and e’en so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part,
Perchance e’en dearer in her day of woe,
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show.
I can repeople with the past - and of
The present there is still for eye and thought,
And meditation chastened down, enough;
And more, it may be, than I hoped or sought;
And of the happiest moments which were wrought
Within the web of my existence, some
From thee, fair Venice! have their colours caught:
There are some feelings Time cannot benumb,
Nor torture shake, or mine would now be cold and dumb.
But from their nature will the tannen grow
Loftiest on loftiest and least sheltered rocks,
Rooted in barrenness, where nought below
Of soil supports them ’gainst the Alpine shocks
Of eddying storms; yet springs the trunk, and mocks
The howling tempest, till its height and frame
Are worthy of the mountains from whose blocks
Of bleak, grey granite, into life it came,
And grew a giant tree; - the mind may grow the same.
Existence may be borne, and the deep root
Of life and sufferance make its firm abode
In bare and desolate bosoms: mute
The camel labours with the heaviest load,
And the wolf dies in silence. Not bestowed
In vain should such examples be; if they,
Things of ignoble or of savage mood,
Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay
May temper it to bear, - it is but for a day.
All suffering doth destroy, or is destroyed,
Even by the sufferer; and, in each event,
Ends: - Some, with hope replenished and rebuoyed,
Return to whence they came - with like intent,
And weave their web again; some, bowed and bent,
Wax grey and ghastly, withering ere their time,
And perish with the reed on which they leant;
Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime,
According as their souls were formed to sink or climb.
But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion’s sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound -
A tone of music - summer’s eve - or spring -
A flower - the wind - the ocean - which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,
But feel the shock renewed, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesigned,
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind, -
The cold - the changed - perchance the dead - anew,
The mourned, the loved, the lost - too many! - yet how few!
But my soul wanders; I demand it back
To meditate amongst decay, and stand
A ruin amidst ruins; there to track
Fall’n states and buried greatness, o’er a land
Which was the mightiest in its old command,
And is the loveliest, and must ever be
The master-mould of Nature’s heavenly hand,
Wherein were cast the heroic and the free,
The beautiful, the brave - the lords of earth and sea.
The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome!
And even since, and now, fair Italy!
Thou art the garden of the world, the home
Of all Art yields, and Nature can decree;
Even in thy desert, what is like to thee?
Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste
More rich than other climes’ fertility;
Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced
With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
The moon is up, and yet it is not night -
Sunset divides the sky with her - a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli’s mountains; Heaven is free
From clouds, but of all colours seems to be -
Melted to one vast Iris of the West,
Where the day joins the past eternity;
While, on the other hand, meek Dian’s crest
Floats through the azure air - an island of the blest!
A single star is at her side, and reigns
With her o’er half the lovely heaven; but still
Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains
Rolled o’er the peak of the far Rhætian hill,
As Day and Night contending were, until
Nature reclaimed her order: - gently flows
The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil
The odorous purple of a new-born rose,
Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within it glows,
Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
Comes down upon the waters; all its hues,
From the rich sunset to the rising star,
Their magical variety diffuse:
And now they change; a paler shadow strews
Its mantle o’er the mountains; parting day
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till - ’tis gone - and all is grey.
There is a tomb in Arqua; - reared in air,
Pillared in their sarcophagus, repose
The bones of Laura’s lover: here repair
Many familiar with his well-sung woes,
The pilgrims of his genius. He arose
To raise a language, and his land reclaim
From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes:
Watering the tree which bears his lady’s name
With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame.
They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died;
The mountain-village where his latter days
Went down the vale of years; and ’tis their pride -
An honest pride - and let it be their praise,
To offer to the passing stranger’s gaze
His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain
And venerably simple, such as raise
A feeling more accordant with his strain,
Than if a pyramid formed his monumental fane.
And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt
Is one of that complexion which seems made
For those who their mortality have felt,
And sought a refuge from their hopes decayed
In the deep umbrage of a green hill’s shade,
Which shows a distant prospect far away
Of busy cities, now in vain displayed,
For they can lure no further; and the ray
Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday.
Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers
And shining in the brawling brook, where-by,
Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours
With a calm languor, which, though to the eye
Idlesse it seem, hath its morality,
If from society we learn to live,
’Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
No hollow aid; alone - man with his God must strive:
Or, it may be, with demons, who impair
The strength of better thoughts, and seek their prey
In melancholy bosoms, such as were
Of moody texture from their earliest day,
And loved to dwell in darkness and dismay,
Deeming themselves predestined to a doom
Which is not of the pangs that pass away;
Making the sun like blood, the earth a tomb,
The tomb a hell, and hell itself a murkier gloom.
Ferrara! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
There seems as ’twere a curse upon the seat’s
Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
Of Este, which for many an age made good
Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore
Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
Of petty power impelled, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante’s brow alone had worn before.
And Tasso is their glory and their shame.
Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell!
And see how dearly earned Torquato’s fame,
And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell.
The miserable despot could not quell
The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend
With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
Where he had plunged it. Glory without end
Scattered the clouds away - and on that name attend
The tears and praises of all time, while thine
Would rot in its oblivion - in the sink
Of worthless dust, which from thy boasted line
Is shaken into nothing; but the link
Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn -
Alfonso! how thy ducal pageants shrink
From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad’st to mourn:
Thou! formed to eat, and be despised, and die,
Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
Hadst a more splendid trough, and wider sty:
He! with a glory round his furrowed brow,
Which emanated then, and dazzles now
In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
No strain which shamed his country’s creaking lyre,
That whetstone of the teeth - monotony in wire!
Peace to Torquato’s injured shade! ’twas his
In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
Aimed with their poisoned arrows - but to miss.
Oh, victor unsurpassed in modern song!
Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
The tide of generations shall roll on,
And not the whole combined and countless throng
Compose a mind like thine? Though all in one
Condensed their scattered rays, they would not form a sun.
Great as thou art, yet paralleled by those
Thy countrymen, before thee born to shine,
The bards of Hell and Chivalry: first rose
The Tuscan father’s comedy divine;
Then, not unequal to the Florentine,
The Southern Scott, the minstrel who called forth
A new creation with his magic line,
And, like the Ariosto of the North,
Sang ladye-love and war, romance and knightly worth.
The lightning rent from Ariosto’s bust
The iron crown of laurel’s mimicked leaves;
Nor was the ominous element unjust,
For the true laurel-wreath which Glory weaves
Is of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves,
And the false semblance but disgraced his brow;
Yet still, if fondly Superstition grieves,
Know that the lightning sanctifies below
Whate’er it strikes; - yon head is doubly sacred now.
Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;
Then mightst thou more appal; or, less desired,
Be homely and be peaceful, undeplored
For thy destructive charms; then, still untired,
Would not be seen the armèd torrents poured
Down the deep Alps; nor would the hostile horde
Of many-nationed spoilers from the Po
Quaff blood and water; nor the stranger’s sword
Be thy sad weapon of defence, and so,
Victor or vanquished, thou the slave of friend or foe.
Wandering in youth, I traced the path of him,
The Roman friend of Rome’s least mortal mind,
The friend of Tully: as my bark did skim
The bright blue waters with a fanning wind,
Came Megara before me, and behind
Ægina lay, Piræus on the right,
And Corinth on the left; I lay reclined
Along the prow, and saw all these unite
In ruin, even as he had seen the desolate sight;
For time hath not rebuilt them, but upreared
Barbaric dwellings on their shattered site,
Which only make more mourned and more endeared
The few last rays of their far-scattered light,
And the crushed relics of their vanished might.
The Roman saw these tombs in his own age,
These sepulchres of cities, which excite
Sad wonder, and his yet surviving page
The moral lesson bears, drawn from such pilgrimage.
That page is now before me, and on mine
His country’s ruin added to the mass
Of perished states he mourned in their decline,
And I in desolation: all that was
Of then destruction is; and now, alas!
Rome - Rome imperial, bows her to the storm,
In the same dust and blackness, and we pass
The skeleton of her Titanic form,
Wrecks of another world, whose ashes still are warm.
Yet, Italy! through every other land
Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
Mother of Arts! as once of Arms; thy hand
Was then our Guardian, and is still our guide;
Parent of our religion! whom the wide
Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
Europe, repentant of her parricide,
Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.
But Arno wins us to the fair white walls,
Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps
A softer feeling for her fairy halls.
Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps
Her corn, and wine, and oil, and Plenty leaps
To laughing life, with her redundant horn.
Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps,
Was modern Luxury of Commerce born,
And buried Learning rose, redeemed to a new morn.
There, too, the goddess loves in stone, and fills
The air around with beauty; we inhale
The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils
Part of its immortality; the veil
Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale
We stand, and in that form and face behold
What Mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;
And to the fond idolaters of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould:
We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there - for ever there -
Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.
Away! - there need no words, nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where Pedantry gulls Folly - we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast, confirm the Dardan Shepherd’s prize.
Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise?
Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,
In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies
Before thee thy own vanquished Lord of War?
And gazing in thy face as toward a star,
Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,
Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are
With lava kisses melting while they burn,
Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!
Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love,
Their full divinity inadequate
That feeling to express, or to improve,
The gods become as mortals, and man’s fate
Has moments like their brightest! but the weight
Of earth recoils upon us; - let it go!
We can recall such visions, and create
From what has been, or might be, things which grow,
Into thy statue’s form, and look like gods below.
I leave to learnèd fingers, and wise hands,
The artist and his ape, to teach and tell
How well his connoisseurship understands
The graceful bend, and the voluptuous swell:
Let these describe the undescribable:
I would not their vile breath should crisp the stream
Wherein that image shall for ever dwell;
The unruffled mirror of the loveliest dream
That ever left the sky on the deep soul to beam.
In Santa Croce’s holy precincts lie
Ashes which make it holier, dust which is
E’en in itself an immortality,
Though there were nothing save the past, and this
The particle of those sublimities
Which have relapsed to chaos: - here repose
Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,
The starry Galileo, with his woes;
Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.
These are four minds, which, like the elements,
Might furnish forth creation: - Italy!
Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents
Of thine imperial garment, shall deny,
And hath denied, to every other sky,
Spirits which soar from ruin: - thy decay
Is still impregnate with divinity,
Which gilds it with revivifying ray;
Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day.
But where repose the all Etruscan three -
Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they,
The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he
Of the Hundred Tales of love - where did they lay
Their bones, distinguished from our common clay
In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,
And have their country’s marbles nought to say?
Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?
Did they not to her breast their filial earth entrust?
Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;
Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,
Proscribed the bard whose name for evermore
Their children’s children would in vain adore
With the remorse of ages; and the crown
Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore,
Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,
His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled - not thine own.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
His dust, - and lies it not her great among,
With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed
O’er him who formed the Tuscan’s siren tongue?
That music in itself, whose sounds are song,
The poetry of speech? No; - even his tomb
Uptorn, must bear the hyæna bigots’ wrong,
No more amidst the meaner dead find room,
Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom?
And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;
Yet for this want more noted, as of yore
The Cæsar’s pageant, shorn of Brutus’ bust,
Did but of Rome’s best son remind her more:
Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,
Fortress of falling empire! honoured sleeps
The immortal exile; - Arqua, too, her store
Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,
While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps.
What is her pyramid of precious stones?
Of porphyry, jasper, agate, and all hues
Of gem and marble, to encrust the bones
Of merchant-dukes? the momentary dews
Which, sparkling to the twilight stars, infuse
Freshness in the green turf that wraps the dead,
Whose names are mausoleums of the Muse,
Are gently prest with far more reverent tread
Than ever paced the slab which paves the princely head.
There be more things to greet the heart and eyes
In Arno’s dome of Art’s most princely shrine,
Where Sculpture with her rainbow sister vies;
There be more marvels yet - but not for mine;
For I have been accustomed to entwine
My thoughts with Nature rather in the fields
Than Art in galleries: though a work divine
Calls for my spirit’s homage, yet it yields
Less than it feels, because the weapon which it wields
Is of another temper, and I roam
By Thrasimene’s lake, in the defiles
Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home;
For there the Carthaginian’s warlike wiles
Come back before me, as his skill beguiles
The host between the mountains and the shore,
Where Courage falls in her despairing files,
And torrents, swoll’n to rivers with their gore,
Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scattered o’er,
Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;
And such the storm of battle on this day,
And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds
To all save carnage, that, beneath the fray,
An earthquake reeled unheededly away!
None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,
And yawning forth a grave for those who lay
Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;
Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet.
The Earth to them was as a rolling bark
Which bore them to Eternity; they saw
The Ocean round, but had no time to mark
The motions of their vessel: Nature’s law,
In them suspended, recked not of the awe
Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds
Plunge in the clouds for refuge, and withdraw
From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds
Stumble o’er heaving plains, and man’s dread hath no words.
Far other scene is Thrasimene now;
Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain
Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough;
Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain
Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta’en -
A little rill of scanty stream and bed -
A name of blood from that day’s sanguine rain;
And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turned the unwilling waters red.
But thou, Clitumnus! in thy sweetest wave
Of the most living crystal that was e’er
The haunt of river nymph, to gaze and lave
Her limbs where nothing hid them, thou dost rear
Thy grassy banks whereon the milk-white steer
Grazes; the purest god of gentle waters!
And most serene of aspect, and most clear:
Surely that stream was unprofaned by slaughters,
A mirror and a bath for Beauty’s youngest daughters!
And on thy happy shore a temple still,
Of small and delicate proportion, keeps,
Upon a mild declivity of hill,
Its memory of thee; beneath it sweeps
Thy current’s calmness; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps;
While, chance, some scattered water-lily sails
Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.
Pass not unblest the genius of the place!
If through the air a zephyr more serene
Win to the brow, ’tis his; and if ye trace
Along his margin a more eloquent green,
If on the heart the freshness of the scene
Sprinkle its coolness, and from the dry dust
Of weary life a moment lave it clean
With Nature’s baptism, - ’tis to him ye must
Pay orisons for this suspension of disgust.
The roar of waters! - from the headlong height
Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters! rapid as the light
The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss;
The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,
And boil in endless torture; while the sweat
Of their great agony, wrung out from this
Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet
That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set,
And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald. How profound
The gulf! and how the giant element
From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,
Crushing the cliffs, which, downward worn and rent
With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent
To the broad column which rolls on, and shows
More like the fountain of an infant sea
Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes
Of a new world, than only thus to be
Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly,
With many windings through the vale: - Look back!
Lo! where it comes like an eternity,
As if to sweep down all things in its track,
Charming the eye with dread, - a matchless cataract,
Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,
From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,
An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,
Like Hope upon a deathbed, and, unworn
Its steady dyes, while all around is torn
By the distracted waters, bears serene
Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:
Resembling, mid the torture of the scene,
Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.
Once more upon the woody Apennine,
The infant Alps, which - had I not before
Gazed on their mightier parents, where the pine
Sits on more shaggy summits, and where roar
The thundering lauwine - might be worshipped more;
But I have seen the soaring Jungfrau rear
Her never-trodden snow, and seen the hoar
Glaciers of bleak Mont Blanc both far and near,
And in Chimari heard the thunder-hills of fear,
The Acroceraunian mountains of old name;
And on Parnassus seen the eagles fly
Like spirits of the spot, as ’twere for fame,
For still they soared unutterably high:
I’ve looked on Ida with a Trojan’s eye;
Athos, Olympus, Ætna, Atlas, made
These hills seem things of lesser dignity,
All, save the lone Soracte’s height displayed,
Not now in snow, which asks the lyric Roman’s aid
For our remembrance, and from out the plain
Heaves like a long-swept wave about to break,
And on the curl hangs pausing: not in vain
May he who will his recollections rake,
And quote in classic raptures, and awake
The hills with Latian echoes; I abhorred
Too much, to conquer for the poet’s sake,
The drilled dull lesson, forced down word by word
In my repugnant youth, with pleasure to record
Aught that recalls the daily drug which turned
My sickening memory; and, though Time hath taught
My mind to meditate what then it learned,
Yet such the fixed inveteracy wrought
By the impatience of my early thought,
That, with the freshness wearing out before
My mind could relish what it might have sought,
If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel, thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse,
Although no deeper moralist rehearse
Our little life, nor bard prescribe his art,
Nor livelier satirist the conscience pierce,
Awakening without wounding the touched heart,
Yet fare thee well - upon Soracte’s ridge we part.
O Rome! my country! city of the soul!
The orphans of the heart must turn to thee,
Lone mother of dead empires! and control
In their shut breasts their petty misery.
What are our woes and sufferance? Come and see
The cypress, hear the owl, and plod your way
O’er steps of broken thrones and temples, Ye!
Whose agonies are evils of a day -
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay.
The Niobe of nations! there she stands,
Childless and crownless, in her voiceless woe;
An empty urn within her withered hands,
Whose holy dust was scattered long ago;
The Scipios’ tomb contains no ashes now;
The very sepulchres lie tenantless
Of their heroic dwellers: dost thou flow,
Old Tiber! through a marble wilderness?
Rise, with thy yellow waves, and mantle her distress!
The Goth, the Christian, Time, War, Flood, and Fire,
Have dwelt upon the seven-hilled city’s pride:
She saw her glories star by star expire,
And up the steep barbarian monarchs ride,
Where the car climbed the Capitol; far and wide
Temple and tower went down, nor left a site; -
Chaos of ruins! who shall trace the void,
O’er the dim fragments cast a lunar light,
And say, ‘Here was, or is,’ where all is doubly night?
The double night of ages, and of her,
Night’s daughter, Ignorance, hath wrapt, and wrap
All round us; we but feel our way to err:
The ocean hath its chart, the stars their map;
And knowledge spreads them on her ample lap;
But Rome is as the desert, where we steer
Stumbling o’er recollections: now we clap
Our hands, and cry, ‘Eureka!’ it is clear -
When but some false mirage of ruin rises near.
Alas, the lofty city! and alas
The trebly hundred triumphs! and the day
When Brutus made the dagger’s edge surpass
The conqueror’s sword in bearing fame away!
Alas for Tully’s voice, and Virgil’s lay,
And Livy’s pictured page! But these shall be
Her resurrection; all beside - decay.
Alas for Earth, for never shall we see
That brightness in her eye she bore when Rome was free!
O thou, whose chariot rolled on Fortune’s wheel,
Triumphant Sylla! Thou, who didst subdue
Thy country’s foes ere thou wouldst pause to feel
The wrath of thy own wrongs, or reap the due
Of hoarded vengeance till thine eagles flew
O’er prostrate Asia; - thou, who with thy frown
Annihilated senates - Roman, too,
With all thy vices, for thou didst lay down
With an atoning smile a more than earthly crown -
The dictatorial wreath, - couldst thou divine
To what would one day dwindle that which made
Thee more than mortal? and that so supine
By aught than Romans Rome should thus be laid?
She who was named eternal, and arrayed
Her warriors but to conquer - she who veiled
Earth with her haughty shadow, and displayed
Until the o’er-canopied horizon failed,
Her rushing wings - Oh! she who was almighty hailed!
Sylla was first of victors; but our own,
The sagest of usurpers, Cromwell! - he
Too swept off senates while he hewed the throne
Down to a block - immortal rebel! See
What crimes it costs to be a moment free
And famous through all ages! But beneath
His fate the moral lurks of destiny;
His day of double victory and death
Beheld him win two realms, and, happier, yield his breath.
The third of the same moon whose former course
Had all but crowned him, on the self-same day
Deposed him gently from his throne of force,
And laid him with the earth’s preceding clay.
And showed not Fortune thus how fame and sway,
And all we deem delightful, and consume
Our souls to compass through each arduous way,
Are in her eyes less happy than the tomb?
Were they but so in man’s, how different were his doom!
And thou, dread statue! yet existent in
The austerest form of naked majesty,
Thou who beheldest, mid the assassins’ din,
At thy bathed base the bloody Cæsar lie,
Folding his robe in dying dignity,
An offering to thine altar from the queen
Of gods and men, great Nemesis! did he die,
And thou, too, perish, Pompey? have ye been
Victors of countless kings, or puppets of a scene?
And thou, the thunder-stricken nurse of Rome!
She-wolf! whose brazen-imaged dugs impart
The milk of conquest yet within the dome
Where, as a monument of antique art,
Thou standest: - Mother of the mighty heart,
Which the great founder sucked from thy wild teat,
Scorched by the Roman Jove’s ethereal dart,
And thy limbs blacked with lightning - dost thou yet
Guard thine immortal cubs, nor thy fond charge forget?
Thou dost; - but all thy foster-babes are dead -
The men of iron; and the world hath reared
Cities from out their sepulchres: men bled
In imitation of the things they feared,
And fought and conquered, and the same course steered,
At apish distance; but as yet none have,
Nor could, the same supremacy have neared,
Save one vain man, who is not in the grave,
But, vanquished by himself, to his own slaves a slave,
The fool of false dominion - and a kind
Of bastard Cæsar, following him of old
With steps unequal; for the Roman’s mind
Was modelled in a less terrestrial mould,
With passions fiercer, yet a judgment cold,
And an immortal instinct which redeemed
The frailties of a heart so soft, yet bold.
Alcides with the distaff now he seemed
At Cleopatra’s feet, and now himself he beamed.
And came, and saw, and conquered. But the man
Who would have tamed his eagles down to flee,
Like a trained falcon, in the Gallic van,
Which he, in sooth, long led to victory,
With a deaf heart which never seemed to be
A listener to itself, was strangely framed;
With but one weakest weakness - vanity:
Coquettish in ambition, still he aimed
At what? Can he avouch, or answer what he claimed?
And would be all or nothing - nor could wait
For the sure grave to level him; few years
Had fixed him with the Cæsars in his fate,
On whom we tread: For this the conqueror rears
The arch of triumph! and for this the tears
And blood of earth flow on as they have flowed,
An universal deluge, which appears
Without an ark for wretched man’s abode,
And ebbs but to reflow! - Renew thy rainbow, God!
What from this barren being do we reap?
Our senses narrow, and our reason frail,
Life short, and truth a gem which loves the deep,
And all things weighed in custom’s falsest scale;
Opinion an omnipotence, whose veil
Mantles the earth with darkness, until right
And wrong are accidents, and men grow pale
Lest their own judgments should become too bright,
And their free thoughts be crimes, and earth have too much light.
And thus they plod in sluggish misery,
Rotting from sire to son, and age to age,
Proud of their trampled nature, and so die,
Bequeathing their hereditary rage
To the new race of inborn slaves, who wage
War for their chains, and rather than be free,
Bleed gladiator-like, and still engage
Within the same arena where they see
Their fellows fall before, like leaves of the same tree.
I speak not of men’s creeds - they rest between
Man and his Maker - but of things allowed,
Averred, and known, - and daily, hourly seen -
The yoke that is upon us doubly bowed,
And the intent of tyranny avowed,
The edict of Earth’s rulers, who are grown
The apes of him who humbled once the proud,
And shook them from their slumbers on the throne;
Too glorious, were this all his mighty arm had done.
Can tyrants but by tyrants conquered be,
And Freedom find no champion and no child
Such as Columbia saw arise when she
Sprung forth a Pallas, armed and undefiled?
Or must such minds be nourished in the wild,
Deep in the unpruned forest, midst the roar
Of cataracts, where nursing nature smiled
On infant Washington? Has Earth no more
Such seeds within her breast, or Europe no such shore?
But France got drunk with blood to vomit crime,
And fatal have her Saturnalia been
To Freedom’s cause, in every age and clime;
Because the deadly days which we have seen,
And vile Ambition, that built up between
Man and his hopes an adamantine wall,
And the base pageant last upon the scene,
Are grown the pretext for the eternal thrall
Which nips Life’s tree, and dooms man’s worst - his second fall.
Yet, Freedom! yet thy banner, torn, but flying,
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind;
Thy trumpet-voice, though broken now and dying,
The loudest still the tempest leaves behind;
Thy tree hath lost its blossoms, and the rind,
Chopped by the axe, looks rough and little worth,
But the sap lasts, - and still the seed we find
Sown deep, even in the bosom of the North;
So shall a better spring less bitter fruit bring forth.
There is a stern round tower of other days,
Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
Such as an army’s baffled strength delays,
Standing with half its battlements alone,
And with two thousand years of ivy grown,
The garland of eternity, where wave
The green leaves over all by time o’erthrown:
What was this tower of strength? within its cave
What treasure lay so locked, so hid? - A woman’s grave.
But who was she, the lady of the dead,
Tombed in a palace? Was she chaste and fair?
Worthy a king’s - or more - a Roman’s bed?
What race of chiefs and heroes did she bear?
What daughter of her beauties was the heir?
How lived - how loved - how died she? Was she not
So honoured - and conspicuously there,
Where meaner relics must not dare to rot,
Placed to commemorate a more than mortal lot?
Was she as those who love their lords, or they
Who love the lords of others? such have been
Even in the olden time, Rome’s annals say.
Was she a matron of Cornelia’s mien,
Or the light air of Egypt’s graceful queen,
Profuse of joy; or ’gainst it did she war,
Inveterate in virtue? Did she lean
To the soft side of the heart, or wisely bar
Love from amongst her griefs? - for such the affections are.
Perchance she died in youth: it may be, bowed
With woes far heavier than the ponderous tomb
That weighed upon her gentle dust, a cloud
Might gather o’er her beauty, and a gloom
In her dark eye, prophetic of the doom
Heaven gives its favourites - early death; yet shed
A sunset charm around her, and illume
With hectic light, the Hesperus of the dead,
Of her consuming cheek the autumnal leaf-like red.
Perchance she died in age - surviving all,
Charms, kindred, children - with the silver grey
On her long tresses, which might yet recall,
It may be, still a something of the day
When they were braided, and her proud array
And lovely form were envied, praised, and eyed
By Rome - But whither would Conjecture stray?
Thus much alone we know - Metella died,
The wealthiest Roman’s wife: Behold his love or pride!
I know not why - but standing thus by thee
It seems as if I had thine inmate known,
Thou Tomb! and other days come back on me
With recollected music, though the tone
Is changed and solemn, like the cloudy groan
Of dying thunder on the distant wind;
Yet could I seat me by this ivied stone
Till I had bodied forth the heated mind,
Forms from the floating wreck which ruin leaves behind;
And from the planks, far shattered o’er the rocks,
Built me a little bark of hope, once more
To battle with the ocean and the shocks
Of the loud breakers, and the ceaseless roar
Which rushes on the solitary shore
Where all lies foundered that was ever dear:
But could I gather from the wave-worn store
Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?
There woos no home, nor hope, nor life, save what is here.
Then let the winds howl on! their harmony
Shall henceforth be my music, and the night
The sound shall temper with the owlet’s cry,
As I now hear them, in the fading light
Dim o’er the bird of darkness’ native site,
Answer each other on the Palatine,
With their large eyes, all glistening grey and bright,
And sailing pinions. - Upon such a shrine
What are our petty griefs? - let me not number mine.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and massed together, hillocks heaped
On what were chambers, arch crushed, column strown
In fragments, choked-up vaults, and frescoes steeped
In subterranean damps, where the owl peeped,
Deeming it midnight: - Temples, baths, or halls?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reaped
From her research hath been, that these are walls -
Behold the Imperial Mount! ’tis thus the mighty falls.
There is the moral of all human tales:
’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory - when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page, - ’tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amassed
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask - Away with words! draw near,
Admire, exult - despise - laugh, weep - for here
There is such matter for all feeling: - Man!
Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and tear,
Ages and realms are crowded in this span,
This mountain, whose obliterated plan
The pyramid of empires pinnacled,
Of Glory’s gewgaws shining in the van
Till the sun’s rays with added flame were filled!
Where are its golden roofs? where those who dared to build?
Tully was not so eloquent as thou,
Thou nameless column with the buried base!
What are the laurels of the Cæsar’s brow?
Crown me with ivy from his dwelling-place.
Whose arch or pillar meets me in the face,
Titus or Trajan’s? No; ’tis that of Time:
Triumph, arch, pillar, all he doth displace,
Scoffing; and apostolic statues climb
To crush the imperial urn, whose ashes slept sublime,
Buried in air, the deep blue sky of Rome,
And looking to the stars; they had contained
A spirit which with these would find a home,
The last of those who o’er the whole earth reigned,
The Roman globe, for after none sustained
But yielded back his conquests: - he was more
Than a mere Alexander, and unstained
With household blood and wine, serenely wore
His sovereign virtues - still we Trajan’s name adore.
Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
Where Rome embraced her heroes? where the steep
Tarpeian - fittest goal of Treason’s race,
The promontory whence the traitor’s leap
Cured all ambition? Did the Conquerors heap
Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
A thousand years of silenced factions sleep -
The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
And still the eloquent air breathes - burns with Cicero!
The field of freedom, faction, fame, and blood:
Here a proud people’s passions were exhaled,
From the first hour of empire in the bud
To that when further worlds to conquer failed;
But long before had Freedom’s face been veiled,
And Anarchy assumed her attributes:
Till every lawless soldier who assailed
Trod on the trembling Senate’s slavish mutes,
Or raised the venal voice of baser prostitutes.
Then turn we to our latest tribune’s name,
From her ten thousand tyrants turn to thee,
Redeemer of dark centuries of shame -
The friend of Petrarch - hope of Italy -
Rienzi! last of Romans! While the tree
Of freedom’s withered trunk puts forth a leaf,
Even for thy tomb a garland let it be -
The forum’s champion, and the people’s chief -
Her new-born Numa thou, with reign, alas! too brief.
Egeria! sweet creation of some heart
Which found no mortal resting-place so fair
As thine ideal breast; whate’er thou art
Or wert, - a young Aurora of the air,
The nympholepsy of some fond despair;
Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,
Who found a more than common votary there
Too much adoring; whatsoe’er thy birth,
Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green wild margin now no more erase
Art’s works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base
Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o’er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy creep,
Fantastically tangled; the green hills
Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass
The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills
Of summer birds sing welcome as ye pass;
Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,
Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes
Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;
The sweetness of the violet’s deep blue eyes,
Kissed by the breath of heaven, seems coloured by its skies.
Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,
Egeria! thy all heavenly bosom beating
For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
The purple Midnight veiled that mystic meeting
With her most starry canopy, and seating
Thyself by thine adorer, what befell?
This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting
Of an enamoured Goddess, and the cell
Haunted by holy Love - the earliest oracle!
And didst thou not, thy breast to his replying,
Blend a celestial with a human heart;
And Love, which dies as it was born, in sighing,
Share with immortal transports? could thine art
Make them indeed immortal, and impart
The purity of heaven to earthly joys,
Expel the venom and not blunt the dart -
The dull satiety which all destroys -
And root from out the soul the deadly weed which cloys?
Alas! our young affections run to waste,
Or water but the desert: whence arise
But weeds of dark luxuriance, tares of haste,
Rank at the core, though tempting to the eyes,
Flowers whose wild odours breathe but agonies,
And trees whose gums are poison; such the plants
Which spring beneath her steps as Passion flies
O’er the world’s wilderness, and vainly pants
For some celestial fruit forbidden to our wants.
O Love! no habitant of earth thou art -
An unseen seraph, we believe in thee, -
A faith whose martyrs are the broken heart,
But never yet hath seen, nor e’er shall see,
The naked eye, thy form, as it should be;
The mind hath made thee, as it peopled heaven,
Even with its own desiring phantasy,
And to a thought such shape and image given,
As haunts the unquenched soul - parched - wearied - wrung - and riven.
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation; - where,
Where are the forms the sculptor’s soul hath seized?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues which we dare
Conceive in boyhood and pursue as men,
The unreached Paradise of our despair,
Which o’er-informs the pencil and the pen,
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again.
Who loves, raves - ’tis youth’s frenzy - but the cure
Is bitterer still; as charm by charm unwinds
Which robed our idols, and we see too sure
Nor worth nor beauty dwells from out the mind’s
Ideal shape of such; yet still it binds
The fatal spell, and still it draws us on,
Reaping the whirlwind from the oft-sown winds;
The stubborn heart, its alchemy begun,
Seems ever near the prize - wealthiest when most undone.
We wither from our youth, we gasp away -
Sick - sick; unfound the boon, unslaked the thirst,
Though to the last, in verge of our decay,
Some phantom lures, such as we sought at first -
But all too late, - so are we doubly curst.
Love, fame, ambition, avarice - ’tis the same -
Each idle, and all ill, and none the worst -
For all are meteors with a different name,
And death the sable smoke where vanishes the flame.
Few - none - find what they love or could have loved:
Though accident, blind contact, and the strong
Necessity of loving, have removed
Antipathies - but to recur, ere long,
Envenomed with irrevocable wrong;
And Circumstance, that unspiritual god
And miscreator, makes and helps along
Our coming evils with a crutch-like rod,
Whose touch turns hope to dust - the dust we all have trod.
Our life is a false nature - ’tis not in
The harmony of things, - this hard decree,
This uneradicable taint of sin,
This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree,
Whose root is earth, whose leaves and branches be
The skies which rain their plagues on men like dew -
Disease, death, bondage, all the woes we see -
And worse, the woes we see not - which throb through
The immedicable soul, with heart-aches ever new.
Yet let us ponder boldly - ’tis a base
Abandonment of reason to resign
Our right of thought - our last and only place
Of refuge; this, at least, shall still be mine:
Though from our birth the faculty divine
Is chained and tortured - cabined, cribbed, confined,
And bred in darkness, lest the truth should shine
Too brightly on the unpreparèd mind,
The beam pours in, for time and skill will couch the blind.
Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As ’twere its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here, to illume
This long explored but still exhaustless mine
Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o’er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which Time hath bent,
A spirit’s feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruined battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.
O Time! the beautifier of the dead,
Adorner of the ruin, comforter
And only healer when the heart hath bled -
Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
The test of truth, love, - sole philosopher,
For all beside are sophists, from thy thrift,
Which never loses though it doth defer -
Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift:
Amidst this wreck, where thou hast made a shrine
And temple more divinely desolate,
Among thy mightier offerings here are mine,
Ruins of years - though few, yet full of fate:
If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
Hear me not; but if calmly I have borne
Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
Which shall not whelm me, let me not have worn
This iron in my soul in vain - shall they not mourn?
And thou, who never yet of human wrong
Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis!
Here, where the ancients paid thee homage long -
Thou, who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
And round Orestes bade them howl and hiss
For that unnatural retribution - just,
Had it but been from hands less near - in this
Thy former realm, I call thee from the dust!
Dost thou not hear my heart? - Awake! thou shalt, and must.
It is not that I may not have incurred
For my ancestral faults or mine the wound
I bleed withal, and had it been conferred
With a just weapon, it had flowed unbound.
But now my blood shall not sink in the ground;
To thee I do devote it - thou shalt take
The vengeance, which shall yet be sought and found,
Which if I have not taken for the sake -
But let that pass - I sleep, but thou shalt yet awake.
And if my voice break forth, ’tis not that now
I shrink from what is suffered: let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind’s convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes; a far hour shall wreak
The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse!
That curse shall be forgiveness. - Have I not -
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it, Heaven! -
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven,
Hopes sapped, name blighted, Life’s life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,
Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.
From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy
Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.
But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain,
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire:
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
The seal is set. - Now welcome, thou dread Power
Nameless, yet thus omnipotent, which here
Walk’st in the shadow of the midnight hour
With a deep awe, yet all distinct from fear:
Thy haunts are ever where the dead walls rear
Their ivy mantles, and the solemn scene
Derives from thee a sense so deep and clear
That we become a part of what has been,
And grow unto the spot, all-seeing but unseen.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmured pity, or loud-roared applause,
As man was slaughtered by his fellow-man.
And wherefore slaughtered? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody circus’ genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure. - Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms - on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand - his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low -
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him: he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not - his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother - he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday -
All this rushed with his blood - Shall he expire,
And unavenged? - Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!
But here, where murder breathed her bloody steam;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roared or murmured like a mountain-stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;
Here, where the Roman million’s blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
My voice sounds much - and fall the stars’ faint rays
On the arena void - seats crushed, walls bowed,
And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.
A ruin - yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been reared;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appeared.
Hath it indeed been plundered, or but cleared?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric’s form is neared:
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all, years, man, have reft away.
But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air,
The garland-forest, which the grey walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar’s head;
When the light shines serene, but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:
Heroes have trod this spot - ’tis on their dust ye tread.
‘While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls - the World.’ From our own land
Thus spake the pilgrims o’er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and these three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unaltered all;
Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,
The World, the same wide den - of thieves, or what ye will.
Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime -
Shrine of all saints and temple of all gods,
From Jove to Jesus - spared and blest by time;
Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods
Arch, empire, each thing round thee, and man plods
His way through thorns to ashes - glorious dome!
Shalt thou not last? - Time’s scythe and tyrants’ rods
Shiver upon thee - sanctuary and home
Of art and piety - Pantheon! - pride of Rome!
Relic of nobler days, and noblest arts!
Despoiled yet perfect, with thy circle spreads
A holiness appealing to all hearts -
To art a model; and to him who treads
Rome for the sake of ages, Glory sheds
Her light through thy sole aperture; to those
Who worship, here are altars for their beads;
And they who feel for genius may repose
Their eyes on honoured forms, whose busts around them close.
There is a dungeon, in whose dim drear light
What do I gaze on? Nothing: Look again!
Two forms are slowly shadowed on my sight -
Two insulated phantoms of the brain:
It is not so: I see them full and plain -
An old man, and a female young and fair,
Fresh as a nursing mother, in whose vein
The blood is nectar: - but what doth she there,
With her unmantled neck, and bosom white and bare?
Full swells the deep pure fountain of young life,
Where on the heart and from the heart we took
Our first and sweetest nurture, when the wife,
Blest into mother, in the innocent look,
Or even the piping cry of lips that brook
No pain and small suspense, a joy perceives
Man knows not, when from out its cradled nook
She sees her little bud put forth its leaves -
What may the fruit be yet? - I know not - Cain was Eve’s.
But here youth offers to old age the food,
The milk of his own gift: - it is her sire
To whom she renders back the debt of blood
Born with her birth. No; he shall not expire
While in those warm and lovely veins the fire
Of health and holy feeling can provide
Great Nature’s Nile, whose deep stream rises higher
Than Egypt’s river: - from that gentle side
Drink, drink and live, old man! heaven’s realm holds no such tide.
The starry fable of the milky way
Has not thy story’s purity; it is
A constellation of a sweeter ray,
And sacred Nature triumphs more in this
Reverse of her decree, than in the abyss
Where sparkle distant worlds: - Oh, holiest nurse!
No drop of that clear stream its way shall miss
To thy sire’s heart, replenishing its source
With life, as our freed souls rejoin the universe.
Turn to the mole which Hadrian reared on high,
Imperial mimic of old Egypt’s piles,
Colossal copyist of deformity,
Whose travelled phantasy from the far Nile’s
Enormous model, doomed the artist’s toils
To build for giants, and for his vain earth,
His shrunken ashes, raise this dome: How smiles
The gazer’s eye with philosophic mirth,
To view the huge design which sprung from such a birth!
But lo! the dome - the vast and wondrous dome,
To which Diana’s marvel was a cell -
Christ’s mighty shrine above his martyr’s tomb!
I have beheld the Ephesian’s miracle -
Its columns strew the wilderness, and dwell
The hyæna and the jackal in their shade;
I have beheld Sophia’s bright roofs swell
Their glittering mass i’ the sun, and have surveyed
Its sanctuary the while the usurping Moslem prayed;
But thou, of temples old, or altars new,
Standest alone - with nothing like to thee -
Worthiest of God, the holy and the true,
Since Zion’s desolation, when that he
Forsook his former city, what could be,
Of earthly structures, in his honour piled,
Of a sublimer aspect? Majesty,
Power, Glory, Strength, and Beauty, all are aisled
In this eternal ark of worship undefiled.
Enter: its grandeur overwhelms thee not;
And why? it is not lessened; but thy mind,
Expanded by the genius of the spot,
Has grown colossal, and can only find
A fit abode wherein appear enshrined
Thy hopes of immortality; and thou
Shalt one day, if found worthy, so defined,
See thy God face to face, as thou dost now
His Holy of Holies, nor be blasted by his brow.
Thou movest - but increasing with th’ advance,
Like climbing some great Alp, which still doth rise,
Deceived by its gigantic elegance;
Vastness which grows - but grows to harmonise -
All musical in its immensities;
Rich marbles - richer painting - shrines where flame
The lamps of gold - and haughty dome which vies
In air with Earth’s chief structures, though their frame
Sits on the firm-set ground - and this the clouds must claim.
Thou seest not all; but piecemeal thou must break
To separate contemplation, the great whole;
And as the ocean many bays will make,
That ask the eye - so here condense thy soul
To more immediate objects, and control
Thy thoughts until thy mind hath got by heart
Its eloquent proportions, and unroll
In mighty graduations, part by part,
The glory which at once upon thee did not dart.
Not by its fault - but thine: Our outward sense
Is but of gradual grasp - and as it is
That what we have of feeling most intense
Outstrips our faint expression; e’en so this
Outshining and o’erwhelming edifice
Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great
Defies at first our nature’s littleness,
Till, growing with its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.
Then pause and be enlightened; there is more
In such a survey than the sating gaze
Of wonder pleased, or awe which would adore
The worship of the place, or the mere praise
Of art and its great masters, who could raise
What former time, nor skill, nor thought could plan;
The fountain of sublimity displays
Its depth, and thence may draw the mind of man
Its golden sands, and learn what great conceptions can.
Or, turning to the Vatican, go see
Laocoön’s torture dignifying pain -
A father’s love and mortal’s agony
With an immortal’s patience blending: - Vain
The struggle; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon’s grasp,
The old man’s clench; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links, - the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.
Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light -
The Sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot - the arrow bright
With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.
But in his delicate form - a dream of Love,
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Longed for a deathless lover from above,
And maddened in that vision - are expressed
All that ideal beauty ever blessed
The mind within its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest -
A ray of immortality - and stood
Starlike, around, until they gathered to a god?
And if it be Prometheus stole from heaven
The fire which we endure, it was repaid
By him to whom the energy was given
Which this poetic marble hath arrayed
With an eternal glory - which, if made
By human hands, is not of human thought
And Time himself hath hallowed it, nor laid
One ringlet in the dust - nor hath it caught
A tinge of years, but breathes the flame with which ’twas wrought.
But where is he, the pilgrim of my song,
The being who upheld it through the past?
Methinks he cometh late and tarries long.
He is no more - these breathings are his last;
His wanderings done, his visions ebbing fast,
And he himself as nothing: - if he was
Aught but a phantasy, and could be classed
With forms which live and suffer - let that pass -
His shadow fades away into Destruction’s mass,
Which gathers shadow, substance, life, and all
That we inherit in its mortal shroud,
And spreads the dim and universal pall
Thro’ which all things grow phantoms; and the cloud
Between us sinks and all which ever glowed,
Till Glory’s self is twilight, and displays
A melancholy halo scarce allowed
To hover on the verge of darkness; rays
Sadder than saddest night, for they distract the gaze,
And send us prying into the abyss,
To gather what we shall be when the frame
Shall be resolved to something less than this
Its wretched essence; and to dream of fame,
And wipe the dust from off the idle name
We never more shall hear, - but never more,
Oh, happier thought! can we be made the same:
It is enough, in sooth, that once we bore
These fardels of the heart - the heart whose sweat was gore.
Hark! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
A long, low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound;
Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground.
The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
Seems royal still, though with her head discrowned,
And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.
Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou?
Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
Some less majestic, less beloved head?
In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
The mother of a moment, o’er thy boy,
Death hushed that pang for ever: with thee fled
The present happiness and promised joy
Which filled the imperial isles so full it seemed to cloy.
Peasants bring forth in safety. - Can it be,
O thou that wert so happy, so adored!
Those who weep not for kings shall weep for thee,
And Freedom’s heart, grown heavy, cease to hoard
Her many griefs for One; for she had poured
Her orisons for thee, and o’er thy head
Beheld her Iris. - Thou, too, lonely lord,
And desolate consort - vainly wert thou wed!
The husband of a year! the father of the dead!
Of sackcloth was thy wedding garment made:
Thy bridal’s fruit is ashes; in the dust
The fair-haired Daughter of the Isles is laid,
The love of millions! How we did entrust
Futurity to her! and, though it must
Darken above our bones, yet fondly deemed
Our children should obey her child, and blessed
Her and her hoped-for seed, whose promise seemed
Like star to shepherd’s eyes; ’twas but a meteor beamed.
Woe unto us, not her; for she sleeps well:
The fickle reek of popular breath, the tongue
Of hollow counsel, the false oracle,
Which from the birth of monarchy hath rung
Its knell in princely ears, till the o’erstrung
Nations have armed in madness, the strange fate
Which tumbles mightiest sovereigns, and hath flung
Against their blind omnipotence a weight
Within the opposing scale, which crushes soon or late, -
These might have been her destiny; but no,
Our hearts deny it: and so young, so fair,
Good without effort, great without a foe;
But now a bride and mother - and now there!
How many ties did that stern moment tear!
From thy Sire’s to his humblest subject’s breast
Is linked the electric chain of that despair,
Whose shock was as an earthquake’s, and oppressed
The land which loved thee so, that none could love thee best.
Lo, Nemi! navelled in the woody hills
So far, that the uprooting wind which tears
The oak from his foundation, and which spills
The ocean o’er its boundary, and bears
Its foam against the skies, reluctant spares
The oval mirror of thy glassy lake;
And, calm as cherished hate, its surface wears
A deep cold settled aspect nought can shake,
All coiled into itself and round, as sleeps the snake.
And near Albano’s scarce divided waves
Shine from a sister valley; - and afar
The Tiber winds, and the broad ocean laves
The Latian coast where sprung the Epic war,
‘Arms and the Man,’ whose reascending star
Rose o’er an empire, - but beneath thy right
Tully reposed from Rome; - and where yon bar
Of girdling mountains intercepts the sight,
The Sabine farm was tilled, the weary bard’s delight.
But I forget. - My pilgrim’s shrine is won,
And he and I must part, - so let it be, -
His task and mine alike are nearly done;
Yet once more let us look upon the sea:
The midland ocean breaks on him and me,
And from the Alban mount we now behold
Our friend of youth, that ocean, which when we
Beheld it last by Calpe’s rock unfold
Those waves, we followed on till the dark Euxine rolled
Upon the blue Symplegades: long years -
Long, though not very many - since have done
Their work on both; some suffering and some tears
Have left us nearly where we had begun:
Yet not in vain our mortal race hath run,
We have had our reward - and it is here;
That we can yet feel gladdened by the sun,
And reap from earth, sea, joy almost as dear
As if there were no man to trouble what is clear.
Oh! that the Desert were my dwelling-place,
With one fair Spirit for my minister,
That I might all forget the human race,
And, hating no one, love but only her!
Ye Elements! - in whose ennobling stir
I feel myself exalted - can ye not
Accord me such a being? Do I err
In deeming such inhabit many a spot?
Though with them to converse can rarely be our lot.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean - roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin - his control
Stops with the shore; - upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.
His steps are not upon thy paths, - thy fields
Are not a spoil for him, - thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth: - there let him lay.
The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals.
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war;
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee -
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters washed them power while they were free
And many a tyrant since: their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou,
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play -
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow -
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed - in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; - boundless, endless, and sublime -
The image of Eternity - the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee: thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers - they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror - ’twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane - as I do here.
My task is done - my song hath ceased - my theme
Has died into an echo; it is fit
The spell should break of this protracted dream.
The torch shall be extinguished which hath lit
My midnight lamp - and what is writ, is writ -
Would it were worthier! but I am not now
That which I have been - and my visions flit
Less palpably before me - and the glow
Which in my spirit dwelt is fluttering, faint, and low.
Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been -
A sound which makes us linger; yet, farewell!
Ye, who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
Which is his last, if in your memories dwell
A thought which once was his, if on ye swell
A single recollection, not in vain
He wore his sandal-shoon and scallop shell;
Farewell! with him alone may rest the pain,
If such there were - with you, the moral of his strain.
The summer fair
they turned us to friends
grade a glad list us
more of a cold night
summer missed us
than dates soon illicit
the memory in the brain
basil that fits, turn in sleep
more summer will
about a ferris
day broke and rose us
brandy and color
spirit this light dense
showers the cumbersome
sedate a moon in show
treats shine as mirrors
slowly turning to the white of snow
fall blends the seed shells
slang tickets buy the seashore
the team of fresh peanuts
covering the ground
in fits like rain
a day that is easy
using the ground as a blanket
rest our easy summer
The Leaves Sluicing The Rain Down The Back Of My Neck
The leaves sluicing the rain down the back of my neck
to put out my candle of serpent-fire
like an orchid in an abandoned house well,
lightning in its tears, thunder in the hollow
of its telescope when the white runaway horse
pounds its hoof upon it at four in the morning,
the muscled embodiment of moonlight made flesh,
the stars running to peer through their windows
to see what's making that sound.
The sodden path down to the lake, rife with duff,
an Orphic descent whose picture-music
owes nothing to death, and the moss-pated skulls
of the prophetic rocks along the way, every precarious step,
the assessment of an omnipresent danger
that could kick the stool from out under your noose,
though you were foolishly hoping it might be
an Egyptian ankh, granting you long life
in an underworld where anything that's violet
is the toxic shadow of an inconsolable grief
that laments that it had ever met the sun eye to eye,
and try how it might, can't make a way of life
out of suicide. But I didn't come here to grease
the hinges on hell like the wings of rusty birds
or desecrate the place with my omnipresence.
Once I realized the realm of the dead
is no realm at all that can be distinguished from the living,
I've returned to this underground river from time to time
where the roots try to take hold of my skull like the moon
as if it were their last chance at blossoming,
and my bones are scattered along the banks
like socket wrenches from a dead mechanic's tool box
or a coffin that's finally run out of things to fix.
This is where I come to return my harp of water
to a watershed of indistinguishable wavelengths
in homage to the source that handed it on to me,
a voice of my own, and there's a bridge I stand on
no one's burnt down yet, just a fallen log really,
but to me an overarching oxymoron that lets me stand
on both sides of the mindstream at once
to pay homage to a death I long to be worthy of
like a teacher my life is obligated to surpass
to fully honour her undisciplined transcendence.
Like water. A carrying away into a carrying away.
We couldn't tell time if we weren't all dying.
Eternity just a sundial that never closed its eyelids.
The wounded serpent of the waterclock bleeding out
like a human heart to remind us what hour it is,
what windfalls and harvests of the season of our soul
to leave in the begging bowls we place
at the eastern doors of our autumnal burial huts,
hoping we'll see each other again, once are bones are dust,
like Canada geese returning in the early spring.
Some bring silver swords minted of moonlight
thrusting through the parting clouds
and lay them down on the water gently
like children they once cherished abandoned for life
as the greatest gift their hands had ever grasped.
I lay down this gift of a clear voice
that no fear or desire's ever broken in like a wishbone
pimped out like tinfoil to the glamour of temptation.
Whatever storms raged in the crowns of its oracular branches,
this tree never injured any bird that ever sang in it.
I never hung my lyre like a dreamcatcher over the bed,
or used it to seduce butterflies into a spider-web,
dolphins into a bay of fishing-nets, nor yet
let its strings go slack like the pentatonic spinal cords
of a guitar that's lost its nerve in the dark corners of life.
Nor did I ever refuse to sing what the dead asked me to
anymore than I did the living. Nor let the medium
intrude upon the message in such a way
the import of the song couldn't exceed
the wingspan of the bird that released it
into the vastness of its interstellar longing.
Here the dead whisper their secrets to the waters
like coy sylphs of the wind flirting with waves,
and here where dissolution walks in the same shoes
as regeneration, and one step east is one step west
and though there's a coming and though there's a going
birth and death don't know anything about this,
and Prussian blue the wet wind that's been crying
about the sturm and drang of things to the broken pines
whose excruciations have become part of their character,
as if the haloes of the rain rippled through their heartwood
like the echoes of old engagement rings
from wide-eyed springs that have lasted for light years.
Death isn't the derelict of life's glory.
Just as peace isn't the end of passage.
Mid-summer squanders as many flowers
on the capricious rivers of life as it does
the funeral bells of the fallen water birds.
And maybe that's all these words are,
wild iris and daylilies lifting their skirts
above the flowing like troupes of gypsy fires
that like dancing to the flutes of their own desires
as they burn on the pyres of their floral reflections.
Who knows this late in the day, but maybe
I'm just trying to approach my own death
like an unopened gate to a garden
the way I did as a novice to love
when I couldn't tell a larkspur from a hollyhock
nor what sign the star sapphire of the borage
wanted to be planted under like the Pleiades?
Anyway it pans out is ok with me, though.
I like it here where the waterlilies reset their sails
like redemption out of their own salvage
and after a long, grey day of funereal rain,
the clouds begin to clear around nightfall
and my eyes are seeded with the stars
of unnamed constellations of New England asters
that don't conform to any known starmaps
I can follow genetically back like a fuse of dna
to the Big Bang of my first flowering into life.
And maybe I'm a mutant in the ancestry of death
that has always been the subliminal motif
of a symphonic life that wasn't immune
to the picture-music of the celestial spheres
but I can't help noticing how the bones of the muskrat
and the skeletal remains of the heron's stilts
toppled by the stealthy fluke of a fox
all resonate like musical instruments
laid down in tribute on the roots of the trees
and on the sides of the paths that broke like melodies
on the ears of the dead who could taste them
like the tears of the moon on their silver tongues.
In this realm of radiant starmud in a state
of reanimating life out of its own detritus and decay,
I can hear their ghosts returning to life
like native atmospheres
returning to the songs of the lunar night birds
that don't abuse their solitude with a sense of loss
without sweetening the music
with the ripeness of their silence
just before the grande finale
of their next windfall of transcendent whole notes.
Autumn Swings Its Bell
Autumn swings its bell like an eyelid over my heart
and in the penumbral umbrellas that bloom
in a garden of eclipses and sundials,
I discuss you with an enlightened ghost
and an ignorant shadow
that have learned to see star to star
in this echoless abyss of silence and solitude.
Within, where the winds scrawl
their spray bombs on the wall,
delighted with their literary delinquency,
I realize what's beginning to look like
the mouthless howl of an ancient agony,
the collapsed bridge
of that which was separated
from the moon's reflection,
an ache deep in the ores of the earth
before it learned to speak of trees and rivers,
before its longing invested the dead branch
with a fugue of nightbirds
trying to write themselves like a dream
into the black candle of the darkness
with a feather of fire.
My heart is hollow, and empty,
a drunk in an oildrum,
and love seems nothing more
than a harvest of eyelashes
and all my works are seeds on the moon.
A kite crash lands in the powerlines.
A phoenix rises from its dearth of ashes.
I want to go deeper into myself,
I don't want to hover like smoke
over my sidereal cremations,
or atomize the particulars
of how time bends like the arms
of my galactic alarm clocks,
or if I deserve to be this lonely,
a lighthouse that went on shining underwater
after the last flood carried me out to sea.
You make things happen in me,
thinking of you, your lapidary tides,
blue species of emotion
are born, evolve, and die
for reasons unknown
in the space between two thoughts;
and there are crazy black spiders in the wine
that tempt me to swallow them
to know how things are connected,
and always an electric dawn
to dazzle the event with black holes
and blind, astronomical photographers.
I feel the tenderness of time and distance from you,
fountains that no one drinks from,
and space all the jewels and palaces of water
that no one owns or lives in
because they are reserved for your progress alone
through these wounded labyrinths of me
following the stars I've laced
in the wake of living your way free of the maze
that will prove to be
the foundation of another kind of temple,
the cornerstone of a vastly more intimate space
than the eclipse that encloses you now
in the bleeding flames of an endangered poppy.
I wish I were wise, I wish
I were young and becoming,
I wish I could engender a planet
out of this cosmic debris
I spew like a supernova across the night,
the exhalation of my spirit from the lamp I go by,
the arraying of the world in every breath.
I wish I were good and always cooling
on a farmhouse windowsill;
I wish I was not so tormented
by the torn skies that hang from the broken window
I hurled my heart through like a stone with a message.
I wish my enlightenment
didn't knock on every door of delusion
hoping to find no one home.
I place the cool kiss of a nocturnal snail on your skin,
and I look at the words and I wonder
if you'll wake with a silver smear on your breast
like the path of the moon on water
and know it was me
or feel the tremor of a forbidden ecstasy in your sleep
I burn a church to the ground like a ram
to honour the altar of your talent,
the passion, pulse, and fire-voice of your poetry
and the midnight shadows of your blue rose
shedding its eyelids like petals, skin and sky.
My words are metal birds, rocks
wishing for wings
so that this avalanche of mountain thunder
might once take flight in the dusk
toward the valley where you wander like a stream
turning over lost echoes
like the links of a chain with a key,
zeroes looping arms with the past
to bind one moment of the infinite
to the wonder of a passion that lasts.
My eyes are heavier
for having seen the light,
saturated with everything they've witnessed,
honey, ink, and blood,
and every tear is a sea closer to the moon,
and every lyrical efflorescence of the dream
is punctured by thorns,
and even the lies of the most subtle mirrors
have grown obvious
as the beast within is saddened
by its cultivated charm,
knowing what hour it is.
Understand me well
in this rogue season of awareness;
where lightning freezes in the flower-realms
and breaks like branches of ice,
where even black is too garish for clarity,
and sometimes even the sea
loses its nerve,
gaping into its own depths,
an asylum of lightless shapeshifters
for a likeness of itself
that isn't perfectly preserved,
the locket-heart of the last fish on the moon,
a Martian meteor in Antarctica,
this gravel walk of asteroids
through the gates and the gardens
of the whole planet I am in every piece,
though I do not glow like fool's gold
in the pan of the night,
and my throne has crumbled like hard bread,
and love seems to die at the first affirmation
like a bird against a late night windowpane,
this goblet of darkness
that stains the lips with an indelible silence;
though I have been deconstructed
by the suspicious sphericity
of my most cherished symmetries,
toppled like a tower of blood and water,
a shattered river
condemned to the beginning of spring,
a continent sunk in the depths of the mirror
barring this handful of nuggets and islands,
I am still immutable diamond
that learned its flowing from the stars,
and what I write to you
is not a thread of light
that holds the kite of your heart
up to the lightning like a key
to prove that your blood is a good conductor,
not the severed fishing line necklace of eyes
scattered like beads and dice
across the usual geometries
and impoverished granaries of the floor,
not the afterbirth of a morphological wine
that left you burnt orchards
as the fruits of the fire that promised
a feast of pears and cherries,
not the disembodied jewels of a ghost
weeping in the doorway of its skull in the night,
but the threshold and theme,
though for the moment you disdain the stairwells
in the hovels and mansions of love,
embittered by the lonely rose of space and matter
that pours the shining out the backdoor
like the lees of harvest stars
in the corner of the eye of an irisless bell
waking you up mutely
from a dream of falling in a morgue,
but the threshold and theme,
the story-line, the mythogem and motif,
the oceanic pulse and spume
of sidereal ferocities and urgent follies
robed like the king of shells
in the bruised purple of symbols
I take like the pulse of a lightning-rod
rooted like blood in me
to know as constantly as space
that I draw my life from you
like a shadow in a garden of blue fire
that courses through the dried creek beds
of these hourglass deserts
like the mystic tents
of a caravan of rain on the moon.
Wells, goblets, bells, or roses,
or thorns gnawing through chains and lifelines
to let the heart drift
like an empty boat from its moorings,
whatever season you assume
like the changing wardrobes
and unassailable affinities of a life
you must improvise as you go along,
I will always be with you
like shadows and leaves
and footprints and stars,
as I am now your next breath
whatever the scarves of fire
that grace your ghost-dance
with the black ribbons of an abysmal freedom
that feels like the halls of an abandoned prison.
I will liberate the key
like a hanged man
from the noose that adorns your neck,
and raise myself like a bell to your lips
and have you drink
the light and stars and flowers again
from the urn, the crown,
the hive of the heart
that sends its eyes out into a far field like bees
on the perfume trail of a summer constellation
to sweeten the light around you
with honey that burns for an emergent queen to find it.
Things Might Be Drifting Away
Things might be drifting away
like an empty lifeboat
with nothing left to save
but the memory of moonlight
on the rush of a wave of the heart
that rose and fell
like a bell of insight on the night watch
that said all's well all's well for the night.
And so it was for a while.
Time might seem
that it's overstaying its welcome
and you've become the estranged guest
of a bad dream
in your own bed
in the thirteenth house of the zodiac
where the dispossessed
shack up with the misbegotten
and the ghosts of everything you've forgotten
don't give you any rest
until all that you've cursed
out of anger and need
has been immensely forgiven and blessed.
And perhaps it appears
you've been the rogue star
of a sign in long exile
far away from now
and that might account
for your misplaced trust in mirrors
and your lack of confidence in star maps.
Happiness just happens
like good luck and grace
and the creative inspiration
to rejoice in your time and place here
as if the purpose of your voice
were always to praise
even on the darkest of days
when the only thing
that shone in your eyes
weren't the stars you kept
locked away in your tears
like the face paint of clowns
or the crown jewels of the Pleiades
but a bitter farce of black holes
in the veils of the mirage
that eclipsed your enlightenment
with a starless night
it's impossible to get beyond.
And so it may well be
for those who've been
as far gone for as long you have.
But even the blind are shining
though they can't see it
and the deaf are still singing
though they can't hear it
and the dead are still living
though they can't feel it.
And those who have given up seeking
still find what they were looking for
like a loveletter with a return address
and an open door that recognizes them
like the prodigal threshold
of a homeless human
about to cross one more
like the last step of a long journey
that lost its way back in all directions
like the radiance of a star in space and time
that never took its eye off the past.
We cherish the flowers of summer that bloom last
more poignantly than those of the spring
because we feel our own hour of farewell
in the progress of their passing.
The sadness of an earthly excellence
fulfilled and surpassed
we see in the shedding of the aster's petals
and in the lowering of the wild rose's eyelids
and in the lengthening of the black walnut's shadows
that move like cool water
across the dry grass of a late afternoon
signs of the same night approaching us.
And we know it will be dusk soon.
We'll look up at the blue moon in late October
and whether the silos are full or empty
wonder if every harvest
wears the same death mask we do
with the smile of a scythe on its face
or if the goddess of the grain
bears true witness to
the perennial innocence of death
in the way she enhances
the white spectre of the first frost
to shock the garden down to its roots
with the same koan she uses
to enlighten the dew on the stargrass.
And you might dread the coming excruciations
of the scarecrow immolated on the pyre
of its own substance
like the short straw of flesh
that once sustained it
lost in a draw with death.
And come to scorn your heart like an urn
filled with ashes in the aftermath
of the same fire that once filled it
so full of desire to bloom
it could no more contain itself
than a seed can keep a secret from the spring.
You could see it that way.
And who among those clinging
like a blue atmosphere
to this homeless grain of dust
in the vastness of these sidereal immensities
within and without
that animate us like starmud
to join in this dance of life and death
like a legacy of shining
that can't be washed out of our eyes
though tears have fallen for lightyears
on the root fires of what we've loved and lost.
Who among these
could say you were wrong?
Because no river's flowing
the wrong way to the sea
in this reunion of arrivals and departures
at the stations of our afterlives
on this wheel of birth and death.
We're all going to make it back
to where we came from
one way or another.
Some like rain.
Some like ice.
Some like snow.
Some like the lingering ghost
of morning mist on the lake
that's gone before noon
and some like water on the moon.
The flowing of the river
summoned by the sea
to the source of its coming and going
is the calling of life everywhere
to transcend itself
by passing into the unknown
like the available dimension of a future
that's no further beyond us
than the past is
in the light of distant stars.
The sword doesn't wound itself.
Fire doesn't burn itself.
Water doesn't drown in itself.
And life doesn't bleed out of itself
like the dream of a fortune-telling poppy
or a water clock that's run itself to ground.
The eye isn't the seeing.
The ear isn't the hearing.
The tongue isn't the tasting.
The skin isn't the touching.
The voice isn't the saying.
The brain isn't the thinking.
The heart isn't the feeling
anymore than life
is the carrying in
and death is the bearing out.
The darkness isn't a lack of light
and the light isn't the absence of night.
Death is unborn.
Life is unperishing.
Formless in a world of forms.
Two wavelengths of the same awareness.
You say you can see night gathering
under the door you're afraid to answer
long before anyone knocks
and though you dream by your own light
you don't know who's casting the shadows.
Is sorrow any younger in the heart of a child
than it is in the memory of an old man?
Joy any less vivid in the eyes of an old woman
attending to the flowers in her garden
than it is in a girl having tea with her dolls?
Is this day not as new to the widow
as it is to the newly-wed?
Experience is the capstone and dunce-cap
of the sum of destructions
that made us who we are today.
And in life it's the brilliance of our failures
that throws more light on the dark matter
of the issue before us
than all the star power
of the blazing successes
that blind us to our own shining.
You step out of a backlit doorway
into the dark
and slowly the darkness grows
the eyes you need to see the stars.
And maybe death is like that.
Nothing to look at but black
until we blow the candle out
that's been misleading us all the way.
Maybe that's why the jaws of skulls
are always caught gaping at something
that's more than they can say.
But look at the expressions on their faces.
Maybe their eyes
are too overwhelmed by what they're seeing
to want to get in the way.
You could see it like that.
You could see it through the eyes of the rain.
You can taste it on the tongue of a candle flame.
You can read it from right to left
in the Kufic script of the wind.
You can hear it in what the stars are whispering
through the keyholes in the pyramids.
You can feel it all around you
like bubbles of skin and air.
Like empty rooms with atmosphere.
As many ways and roads and rivers as there are
that flow into it down the world mountain
back to the sea
back to the same undifferentiated watershed
of these myriads of mystic specificity
and who could number them all
as many as the stars
or all the grains of sand
of all the deserts and beaches on earth
as many as the dead of every kind who've come and gone
all that blood mind passion dream and imagination
all those tears all that despair lucidity and apprehension
love and familial affection
all that waste and hatred and emotional sewage
dissolved wholly back into the sea
like a watercolour left out in the rain
like a name written on water
by a poet who died young
in a foreign language far away from home
just as birth arrays the universe before us
and says make of it what you can
so death approaches no less a peer of life
than we are in our relationship with all things
and offers us
the same great creative opportunity life does.
The hidden night bird alights
on either alike
and folding its wings
like gates and books
and the eyelids of those who dream
at the beginning and end
of a long dark radiant journey,
When The Rain Is On The Roof
Lord, I am poor, and know not how to speak,
But since Thou art so great,
Thou needest not that I should speak to Thee well.
All angels speak unto Thee well.
Lord, Thou hast all things: what Thou wilt is Thine.
More gold and silver than the sun and moon;
All flocks and herds, all fish in every sea;
Mountains and valleys, cities and all farms;
Cots and all men, harvests and years of fruit.
Is any king arrayed like Thee, who wearest
A new robe every morning? Who is crowned
As Thou, who settest heaven upon thy head?
But as for me-
For me, if he be dead, I have but Thee!
Therefore, because Thou art my sole possession,
I will not fear to speak to Thee who art mine,
For who doth dread his own?
Lord, I am very sorrowful. I know
That Thou delightest to do well; to wipe
Tears from all eyes; to bind the broken-hearted;
To comfort them that mourn; to give to them
Beauty for ashes, and to garb with joy
The naked soul of grief. And what so good
But Thou that wilt canst do it? Which of all
Thy works is less in wonder and in praise
Than this poor heart's desire? Give me, oh Lord,
My heart's desire! Wilt Thou refuse my prayer
Who givest when no man asketh? How great things,
How unbesought, how difficult, how strange,
Thou dost in daily pleasure! Who is like Thee,
Oh Lord of Life and Death? The year is dead;
It smouldered in its smoke to the white ash
Of winter: but Thou breathest and the fire
Is kindled, and Thy summer bounty burns.
This is a marvel to me. Day is buried;
And where they laid him in the west I see
The mounded mountains. Yet shall he come back;
Not like a ghost that rises from his grave.
But in the east the palace gates will ope,
And he comes forth out of the feast, and I
Behold him and the glory after him,
Like to a messaged angel with wide arms
Of rapture, all the honour in his eyes,
And blushing with the King. In the dark hours
Thou hast been busy with him: for he went
Down westward, and he cometh from the east,
Not as toil-stained from travel, tho' his course
And journey in the secrets of the night
Be far as earth and heaven. This is a sum
Too hard for me, oh Lord; I cannot do it.
But Thou hast set it, and I know with Thee
There is an answer. Man also, oh Lord,
Is clear and whole before Thee. Well I know
That the strong skein and tangle of our life
Thou holdest by the end. The mother dieth-
The mother dieth ere her time, and like
A jewel in the cinders of a fire,
The child endures. Also, the son is slain,
And she who bore him shrieks not while the steel
Doth hack her sometime vitals, and transfix
The heart she throbbed with. How shall these things be?
Likewise, oh Lord, man that is born of woman,
Who built him of her tenderness, and gave
Her sighs to breathe him, and for all his bones-
Poor trembler!-hath no wherewithal more stern
Than bowels of her pity, cometh forth
Like a young lion from his den. Ere yet
His teeth be fangled he hath greed of blood,
And gambols for the slaughter: and being grown,
Sudden, with terrible mane and mouthing thunder,
Like a thing native to the wilderness
He stretches toward the desert; while his dam,
As a poor dog that nursed the king of beasts,
Strains at her sordid chain, and, with set ear,
Hath yet a little longer, in the roar
And backward echo of his windy flight,
Him, seen no more. This also is too hard-
Too hard for me, oh Lord! I cannot judge it.
Also the armies of him are as dust.
A little while the storm and the great rain
Beat him, and he abideth in his place,
But the suns scorch on him, and all his sap
And strength, whereby he held against the ground,
Is spent; as in the unwatched pot on the fire,
When that which should have been the children's blood
Scarce paints the hollow iron. Then Thou callest
Thy wind. He passeth like the stowre and dust
Of roads in summer. A brief while it casts
A shadow, and beneath the passing cloud
Things not to pass do follow to the hedge,
Swift heaviness runs under with a show,
And draws a train, and what was white is dark;
But at the hedge it falleth on the fields-
It falleth on the greenness of the grass;
The grass between its verdure takes it in,
And no man heedeth. Surely, oh Lord God,
If he has gone down from me, if my child
Nowhere in any lands that see the sun
Maketh the sunshine pleasant, if the earth
Hath smoothed o'er him as waters o'er a stone,
Yet is he further from Thee than the day
After its setting? Shalt Thou not, oh Lord,
Be busy with him in the under dark,
And give him journey thro' the secret night,
As far as earth and heaven? Aye, tho' Thou slay me
Yet will I trust in Thee, and in his flesh
Shall he see God! But, Lord, tho' I am sure
That Thou canst raise the dead, oh what has he
To do with death? Our days of pilgrimage
Are three-score years and ten; why should he die?
Lord, this is grievous, that the heathen rage,
And because they imagined a vain thing,
That Thou shouldst send the just man that feared Thee,
To smite it from their hands. Lord, who are they,
That this my suckling lamb is their burnt-offering?
That with my staff, oh Lord, their fire is kindled,
My ploughshare Thou dost beat into Thy sword,
The blood Thou givest them to drink is mine?
Let it be far from Thee to do to mine
What if I did it to mine own, Thy curse
Avengeth. Do I take the children's bread
And give it to the dogs? Do I rebuke
So widely that the aimless lash comes down
On innocent and guilty? Do I lift
The hand of goodness by the elbowed arm
And break it on the evil? Not so. Not so.
Lord what advantageth it to be God
If Thou do less than I?
Have mercy on me!
Deal not with me according to mine anger!
Thou knowest if I lift my voice against Thee,
'Tis but as he who in his fierce despair
Dasheth his head against the dungeon-stone,
Sure that but one can suffer. Yet, oh Lord,
If Thou hast heard-if my loud passion reached
Thine awful ear-and yet, I think, oh Father,
I did not rage, but my most little anger
Borne in the strong arms of my mighty love
Seemed of the other's stature-oh, good Lord,
Bear witness now against me. Let me see
And taste that Thou art good. Thou who art slow
To wrath, oh pause upon my quick offence,
And show me mortal! Thou whose strength is made
Perfect in weakness, ah, be strong in me,
For I am weak indeed! How weak, oh Lord,
Thou knowest who hast seen the unlifted sin
Lie on the guilty tongue that strove in vain
To speak it. Call my madness from the tombs!
Let the dumb fiend confess Thee! If I sinned
In silence, if I looked the fool i' the face
And answered to his heart, 'There is no God,'
Now in mine hour stretch forth Thy hand, oh Lord,
And let me be ashamed. As when in sleep
I dream, and in the horror of my dream
Fall to the empty place below the world
Where no man is: no light, no life, no help,
No hope! And all the marrow in my bones
Leaps in me, and I rend the night with fear!
And he who lieth near me thro' the dark
Stretcheth an unseen hand, and all is well.
Tho' Thou shouldst give me all my heart's desire,
What is it in Thine eyes? Give me, oh God,
My heart's desire! my heart's desire, oh God!
As a young bird doth bend before its mother,
Bendeth and crieth to its feeding mother,
So bend I for that good thing before Thee.
It trembleth on the rock with many cries,
It bendeth with its breast upon the rock,
And worships in the hunger of its heart.
I tremble on the rock with many cries,
I bend my beating breast against the rock,
And worship in the hunger of my heart.
Give me that good thing ere I die, my God!
Give me that very good thing! Thou standest, Lord,
By all things, as one standeth after harvest
By the threshed corn, and, when the crowding fowl
Beseech him, being a man and seeing as men,
Hath pity on their cry, respecting not
The great and little barley, but at will
Dipping one hand into the golden store
Straweth alike; nevertheless to them
Whose eyes are near their meat and do esteem
By conscience of their bellies, grain and grain
Is stint or riches. Let it, oh my God,
Be far from Thee to measure out Thy gifts
Smaller and larger, or to say to me
Who am so poor and lean with the long fast
Of such a dreary dearth-to me whose joy
Is not as Thine-whose human heart is nearer
To its own good than Thou who art in heaven-
'Not this but this:' to me who if I took
All that these arms could compass, all pressed down
And running over that this heart could hold,
All that in dreams I covet when the soul
Sees not the further bound of what it craves,
Might filch my mortal infinite from Thine
And leave Thee nothing less. Give me, oh Lord,
My heart's desire! It profiteth Thee nought
Being withheld; being given, where is that aught
It doth not profit me? Wilt Thou deny
That which to Thee is nothing, but to me
All things? Not so. Not so. If I were God
And Thou--Have mercy on me! oh Lord! Lord!
Lord, I am weeping. As Thou wilt, oh Lord,
Do with him as Thou wilt; but oh, my God,
Let him come back to die! Let not the fowls
O' the air defile the body of my child,
My own fair child that when he was a babe
I lift up in my arms and gave to Thee!
Let not his garment, Lord, be vilely parted,
Nor the fine linen which these hands have spun
Fall to the stranger's lot! Shall the wild bird
-That would have pilfered of the ox-this year
Disdain the pens and stalls? Shall her blind young,
That on the fleck and moult of brutish beasts
Had been too happy, sleep in cloth of gold
Whereof each thread is to this beating heart
As a peculiar darling? Lo, the flies
Hum o'er him! Lo, a feather from the crow
Falls in his parted lips! Lo, his dead eyes
See not the raven! Lo, the worm, the worm
Creeps from his festering horse! My God! my God!
Oh Lord, Thou doest well. I am content.
If Thou have need of him he shall not stay.
But as one calleth to a servant, saying
'At such a time be with me,' so, oh Lord,
Call him to Thee! Oh bid him not in haste
Straight whence he standeth. Let him lay aside
The soilèd tools of labour. Let him wash
His hands of blood. Let him array himself
Meet for his Lord, pure from the sweat and fume
Of corporal travail! Lord, if he must die,
Let him die here. Oh take him where Thou gavest!
And even as once I held him in my womb
Till all things were fulfilled, and he came forth,
So, oh Lord, let me hold him in my grave
Till the time come, and Thou, who settest when
The hinds shall calve, ordain a better birth;
And as I looked and saw my son, and wept
For joy, I look again and see my son,
And weep again for joy of him and Thee!
The Shepherds Calendar - March
March month of 'many weathers' wildly comes
In hail and snow and rain and threatning hums
And floods: while often at his cottage door
The shepherd stands to hear the distant roar
Loosd from the rushing mills and river locks
Wi thundering sound and over powering shocks
And headlong hurry thro the meadow brigs
Brushing the leaning sallows fingering twigs
In feathery foam and eddy hissing chase
Rolling a storm oertaken travellers pace
From bank to bank along the meadow leas
Spreading and shining like to little seas
While in the pale sunlight a watery brood
Of swopping white birds flock about the flood
Yet winter seems half weary of its toil
And round the ploughman on the elting soil
Will thread a minutes sunshine wild and warm
Thro the raggd places of the swimming storm
And oft the shepherd in his path will spye
The little daisey in the wet grass lye
That to the peeping sun enlivens gay
Like Labour smiling on an holiday
And where the stunt bank fronts the southern sky
By lanes or brooks where sunbeams love to lye
A cowslip peep will open faintly coy
Soon seen and gatherd by a wandering boy
A tale of spring around the distant haze
Seems muttering pleasures wi the lengthening days
Morn wakens mottld oft wi may day stains
And shower drops hang the grassy sprouting plains
And on the naked thorns of brassy hue
Drip glistning like a summer dream of dew
While from the hill side freshing forest drops
As one might walk upon their thickening tops
And buds wi young hopes promise seemly swells
Where woodman that in wild seclusion dwells
Wi chopping toil the coming spring decieves
Of many dancing shadows flowers and leaves
And in his pathway down the mossy wood
Crushes wi hasty feet full many a bud
Of early primrose yet if timely spied
Shelterd some old half rotten stump beside
The sight will cheer his solitery hour
And urge his feet to stride and save the flower
Muffld in baffles leathern coat and gloves
The hedger toils oft scaring rustling doves
From out the hedgrows who in hunger browze
The chockolate berrys on the ivy boughs
And flocking field fares speckld like the thrush
Picking the red awe from the sweeing bush
That come and go on winters chilling wing
And seem to share no sympathy wi spring
The stooping ditcher in the water stands
Letting the furrowd lakes from off the lands
Or splashing cleans the pasture brooks of mud
Where many a wild weed freshens into bud
And sprouting from the bottom purply green
The water cresses neath the wave is seen
Which the old woman gladly drags to land
Wi reaching long rake in her tottering hand
The ploughman mawls along the doughy sloughs
And often stop their songs to clean their ploughs
From teazing twitch that in the spongy soil
Clings round the colter terryfying toil
The sower striding oer his dirty way
Sinks anckle deep in pudgy sloughs and clay
And oer his heavy hopper stoutly leans
Strewing wi swinging arms the pattering beans
Which soon as aprils milder weather gleams
Will shoot up green between the furroed seams
The driving boy glad when his steps can trace
The swelling edding as a resting place
Slings from his clotted shoes the dirt around
And feign woud rest him on the solid ground
And sings when he can meet the parting green
Of rushy balks that bend the lands between
While close behind em struts the nauntling crow
And daws whose heads seem powderd oer wi snow
To seek the worms-and rooks a noisey guest
That on the wind rockd elms prepares her nest
On the fresh furrow often drops to pull
The twitching roots and gathering sticks and wool
Neath trees whose dead twigs litter to the wind
And gaps where stray sheep left their coats behind
While ground larks on a sweeing clump of rushes
Or on the top twigs of the oddling bushes
Chirp their 'cree creeing' note that sounds of spring
And sky larks meet the sun wi flittering wing
Soon as the morning opes its brightning eye
Large clouds of sturnels blacken thro the sky
From oizer holts about the rushy fen
And reedshaw borders by the river Nen
And wild geese regiments now agen repair
To the wet bosom of broad marshes there
In marching coloms and attention all
Listning and following their ringleaders call
The shepherd boy that hastens now and then
From hail and snow beneath his sheltering den
Of flags or file leavd sedges tyd in sheaves
Or stubble shocks oft as his eye percieves
Sun threads struck out wi momentery smiles
Wi fancy thoughts his lonliness beguiles
Thinking the struggling winter hourly bye
As down the edges of the distant sky
The hailstorm sweeps-and while he stops to strip
The stooping hedgbriar of its lingering hip
He hears the wild geese gabble oer his head
And pleasd wi fancys in his musings bred
He marks the figurd forms in which they flye
And pausing follows wi a wandering eye
Likening their curious march in curves or rows
To every letter which his memory knows
While far above the solitary crane
Swings lonly to unfrozen dykes again
Cranking a jarring mellancholy cry
Thro the wild journey of the cheerless sky
Full oft at early seasons mild and fair
March bids farewell wi garlands in her hair
Of hazzel tassles woodbines hairy sprout
And sloe and wild plumb blossoms peeping out
In thickset knotts of flowers preparing gay
For aprils reign a mockery of may
That soon will glisten on the earnest eye
Like snow white cloaths hung in the sun to drye
The old dame often stills her burring wheel
When the bright sun will thro the window steal
And gleam upon her face and dancing fall
In diamond shadows on the picturd wall
While the white butterflye as in amaze
Will settle on the glossy glass to gaze
And oddling bee oft patting passing bye
As if they care to tell her spring was nigh
And smiling glad to see such things once more
Up she will get and potter to the door
And look upon the trees beneath the eves
Sweet briar and ladslove swelling into leaves
And damsin trees thick notting into bloom
And goosberry blossoms on the bushes come
And stooping down oft views her garden beds
To see the spring flowers pricking out their heads
And from her apron strings she'll often pull
Her sissars out an early bunch to cull
For flower pots on the window board to stand
Where the old hour glass spins its thread of sand
And maids will often mark wi laughing eye
In elder where they hang their cloaths to drye
The sharp eyd robin hop from grain to grain
Singing its little summer notes again
As a sweet pledge of Spring the little lambs
Bleat in the varied weather round their dams
Or hugh molehill or roman mound behind
Like spots of snow lye shelterd from the wind
While the old yoes bold wi paternal cares
Looses their fears and every danger dares
Who if the shepherds dog but turns his eye
And stops behind a moment passing bye
Will stamp draw back and then their threats repeat
Urging defiance wi their stamping feet
And stung wi cares hopes cannot recconsile
They stamp and follow till he leaps a stile
Or skulking from their threats betakes to flight
And wi the master lessens out of sight
Clowns mark the threatning rage of march pass bye
And clouds wear thin and ragged in the sky
While wi less sudden and more lasting smiles
The growing sun their hopes of spring beguiles
Who often at its end remark wi pride
Days lengthen in their visits a 'cocks stride'
Dames clean their candlesticks and set them bye
Glad of the makeshift light that eves supply
The boy returning home at night from toil
Down lane and close oer footbrig gate and style1
Oft trembles into fear and stands to hark
The waking fox renew his short gruff bark
While badgers eccho their dread evening shrieks
And to his thrilling thoughts in terror speaks
And shepherds that wi in their hulks remain
Night after night upon the chilly plain
To watch the dropping lambs that at all hours
Come in the quaking blast like early flowers
Demanding all the shepherds care who find
Warm hedge side spots and take them from the wind
And round their necks in wary caution tyes
Long shreds of rags in red or purple dyes
Thats meant in danger as a safty spell
Like the old yoe that wears a tinkling bell
The sneaking foxes from his thefts to fright
That often seizes the young lambs at night
These when they in their nightly watchings hear
The badgers shrieks can hardly stifle fear
They list the noise from woodlands dark recess
Like helpless shrieking woman in distress
And oft as such fears fancying mystery
Believes the dismal yelling sounds to be
For superstition hath its thousand tales
To people all his midnight woods and vales
And the dread spot from whence the dismal noise
Mars the night musings of their dark employs
Owns its sad tale to realize their fear
At which their hearts in boyhood achd to hear
A maid at night by treacherous love decoyd
Was in that shrieking wood years past destroyd
She went twas said to meet the waiting swain
And home and friends ne'er saw her face again
Mid brakes and thorns that crowded round the dell
And matting weeds that had no tongues to tell
He murderd her alone at dead midnight
While the pale moon threw round her sickly light
And loud shrieks left the thickets slumbers deep
That only scard the little birds from sleep
When the pale murderers terror frowning eye
Told its dread errand that the maid shoud dye
Mid thick black thorns her secret grave was made
And there ere night the murderd girl was laid
When no one saw the deed but god and he
And moonlight sparkling thro the sleeping tree
Around-the red breast might at morning steel
There for the worm to meet his morning meal
In fresh turnd moulds that first beheld the sun
Nor knew the deed that dismal night had done
Such is the tale that superstition gives
And in her midnight memory ever lives
That makes the boy run by wi wild affright
And shepherds startle on their rounds at night
Now love teazd maidens from their droning wheel
At the red hour of sunset sliving steals
From scolding dames to meet their swains agen
Tho water checks their visits oer the plain
They slive where no one sees some wall behind
Or orchard apple trees that stops the wind
To talk about springs pleasures hoveing nigh
And happy rambles when the roads get dry
The insect world now sunbeams higher climb
Oft dream of spring and wake before their time
Blue flyes from straw stacks crawling scarce alive
And bees peep out on slabs before the hive
Stroaking their little legs across their wings
And venturing short flight where the snow drop hings
Its silver bell-and winter aconite
Wi buttercup like flowers that shut at night
And green leaf frilling round their cups of gold
Like tender maiden muffld from the cold
They sip and find their honey dreams are vain
And feebly hasten to their hives again
And butterflys by eager hopes undone
Glad as a child come out to greet the sun
Lost neath the shadow of a sudden shower
Nor left to see tomorrows april flower .
He Kept Saying To Himself
He kept saying to himself
it’s not that hard to know the truth.
The truth is what you see
when there’s no one else there
to witness you witnessing it.
When your nakedness lets you be you
without worrying too much
about who that is.
He kept saying to himself
the truth is the infinite elaboration
of an archetypal fractal.
Keep it simple and austere.
The truth is a subatomic shapeshifter.
When you look at it it acts like a particle.
Turn away and it’s a wavelength beyond comprehension.
The swords of the cannoneer cattails
banged on him like a shield in passing
as he covered his eyes
to bull his way through the underbrush
heaving his mud-caked legs
over the hurtles of the fallen birches.
What animal ever moved
with as much clamour and damage as this
as it nosed it way along the soft lake shore at dusk?
He kept saying to himself
since when has the silence
ever needed anyone to speak up on its behalf?
What idiot spreads a starmap out on a table
to show space where it’s located
or tell time what hour it is
though neither of them have asked?
He kept saying to himself
like a swamp that reeks of enlightenment
now watch where you step
as he monkeyed himself up
a jawbone of grey rocks
to a thin pate of yellow grass
that looked as if someone
had bleached their hair too much.
He kept saying to himself
as he lay upon his side on the ground
and watched the wavelets on the lake making jewellery
and spotted the two great blue herons
on the far shore
standing like gatekeepers
among the dishevelled palisade
of dead trees with its stakes all askew
like an abandoned Iroquois village
that was content to forget what it knew of pain in silence;
he kept saying to himself
because his thoughts were as inter-reflective
as sky and water
nothing needs to be here
none of this
not the herons the lake or me
and yet here we are large as life
each facilitating the other’s interdependent origination
whether we like it understand it embrace it or not
everyone’s the matrix of everyone else.
The waters of life have made a waterclock of the womb
and the day we stop being born
is just a short bridge of water away
from the next bucket of being
that pulls us like a rabbit
out of the top hat of a wishing well.
His eyes tweaked by the occasional glimpse
of the silver eyelash of a star
in the blue-green sheen of the peacock air
breaking through the Persian silks of the sky
as the sun goes down with Venus in its wake
he kept saying to himself
it’s all picture-music without meaning
you can hear in your blood
with your eyes
at your fingertips
on the nape of your neck
like the breath of a friend
or the breathless scent of an enemy
who’s finally caught up with you
like loveletters and death threats from the past
that forgot what they were going to say
when they were given a chance to speak.
He kept saying to himself
as he watched the aerial ballet of swallows and bats
swooping down low over the water
through the starclusters of frenzied gnats in ecstasy
over their fifteen minutes of fame in the after light of the sun
bleeding out on the horizon
what could it add to their bliss
if everyone of them were to have a star named after them?
He lingered in the ruthless beauty
of the spontaneous inconsequence of all this
and felt even less employed than they
as a witness who wasn’t called upon
to provide an alibi
for his awareness of the creative liberties
and impersonal risks life takes with itself
like an isolated imagination
with no more motive or purpose
than the wind when it plays
with the waves and the leaves
and taunts the the autumn willows
to dropp their veils
like rotten curtains
blowing ghosts out the windows
of an abandoned one room schoolhouse.
Nothing to learn.
Nothing to teach.
Nothing to conceal or reveal.
No paradigms of spontaneity
out of reach of the mind
that grasps at them
like air and light and water
he kept saying to himself
as he felt the darkness
alert his eyes to a deeper vigilance
opportunistically alive in the woods
watching the anomaly of his presence here
from deep within
like a snapping turtle looking up at waterbirds
like a pair of wire-cutters
sticking out of a tool box
at a no trespassing sign in peril
of taking its purple passage too literally
to heed its own warning to dropp everything
and take to the air
before it’s pulled down under
like Cygnus into the starmud of the cosmic Id.
Here self-reflection comes to die
like a third eye in a graveyard of mirrors
that can no longer recognize their own seeing
in whatever appears before them
as the unlikely similitude of a sentient being.
He kept telling himself
you can’t raise a phoenix out of a sumac
when its flightfeathers are falling all around you
like Icarus out of the sun
and expect to find your way out of here
by asking a fire pit of ashes and smoke
how far to the next manger
with a star overhead
before it gets too dark to see where you’re going.
He rose to his feet
as if they had somewhere else to go
and followed a deer path up
through a thicket of excruciating hawthorn
that raked his skin like the needles of old record players
screeching across all 78 rpms of the celestial spheres
trying to torture the truth out of him
like petty inquisitors who had all the right answers
to a man who had forfeited his soul
for the courage to ask all the wrong questions
as he kept saying to himself
as if he were standing in front of a mirror
and not by the shore of a lake
if you take the dark glass away from your eye
everything will become clear as night.
If you take the dark glass away from your eye
everything will become clear as night.
He saw the Summer Triangle capsizing in the west
and the Pleiades like a profusion of insights
at the tail end of Perseus
holding the Medusa’s severed head
up to the mobs of enlightened ghouls
gawking in in a bliss of bloodlust
to discover that the light
was no less heartless than the dark
when it comes to blooding its abstractions.
He walked through constellations of spiderwebs
the sun had moved out of
like a jewel out of the house of a dreamcatcher
so far beyond repair
it forgot timing was as important as content
and expired like an out of date calendar
with nothing left to celebrate.
And he kept saying to himself
nothing lasts forever
not even time
and there are holes in the nets
the Circlet of the Western Fish could swim through
like hanged men who fell through a noose
as easily as threading their blood
through the eye of a needle.
No more rites of passage.
No more luminous renewals.
No more transits of nadir and zenith
in chains forged from unlucky horseshoes
or the triumphal wreaths of olive emperors.
The feast of life a mere table of contents
after a long prelude of taboos
that weren’t worth the menus they were written on
once the real dragons were sedated in zoos.
The trespassers not up to their own temptations
and even the great desecrators and idol slayers
indifferent to their salvation through sin
just so many snakes sewn into a bag
and drowned in the river with Rasputin.
And rarer still that atrocity
that can trouble a child’s dreams
who lullabies a voodoo doll to sleep in her arms at night
because today’s passive victim
is tomorrow’s active participant.
He heard the chronic lapping of bare-footed waves
stubbing their toes on the rocks below
when they tried to walk across the lake without a lifeboat
and went down with all hands aboard
and he kept saying to himself
when the wind dies down
only horses and slaves are drowned in the doldrums
and the rest are left to endure their grim continuance
watching their sails wither like waterlilies at anchor
moored to the docks of an empty-handed port
like a return voyage that never left home.
And he kept on saying to himself
be a good explorer and mount
a northwest expedition through death.
Grind your way out of here if you must
like the visionary glacier that once
gouged out the eye-sockets of these lakes
as if they were milling starwheat on stone.
And let the tears you’ve shed
to absolve yourself of yourself
he kept on saying to himself
over the course of a lifetime thaw and gather here
so that the crow the beaver the muskrat
the shrew the mole the bear the deer the bush wolf
the pike the trout and the small-mouthed bass
can drink from their own reflections
as they appear and disappear in your eyes.
And let the Algonquian women beat the wild rice
into their laps and the prows of their birch bark canoes
under a full moon that buffs their stealth with laughter
ride low in the water with the bounty of life.
As he pulled his foot out of the cleft of a root
and regained his balance
by putting all his weight on the other
like a heron when it’s spear fishing on the moon
he kept on saying to himself
you don’t have to go as far as the stars
to discover the origin of everything
when fireflies are a lot closer to home
and their light is infinitely more intimate.
A fish jumps at the stars
as he makes a path of least resistance
through the junipers and basswood trees
and the lake dilates with ripples
like a mind at peace with itself.
Dark energy accelerates his eyes
at the same velocity as the expanding universe
and looking into the starless voids ahead
he keeps saying to himself
one more insight one more insight
one insight more
like Venus in the dawn
and everything will break into light
like gold pouring out of dark ore
like life sprouting out of a dead stump
like a nightbird with a wounded song
falling like a feather of feeling
out of the immensities it encompasses
within its wingspan
as if that alone were enough
to tip the scales of life and death in its favour.
He steps into a clearing like a red-tailed hawk
into the eye of a storm
where some unknown local
had planted a secret garden years ago
that had gone on growing without them
far off the gravel road where the cars
growled by like bears
and no one could see it
and he keeps on saying to himself
if I’m not meant to be here
even in this happenstantial kind of way
for whom did these flowers bloom
and these rocks flint knapped from the Canadian Shield
be gathered here like Stonehenge
so that time could sacrifice its virginity
to the spring equinox
and the last of the wild geese high overhead
returning the souls of the dead
like water to its watershed
and the swallows and Monarch butterflies
who paused here to add their inflections to the palette
know what hour it is?
A billion pine needles
from as many lost compasses and clocks
softens the ground he walks on
and pungently greens the air
with the fragrance of thick dolorous tears
running down the bark of old love affairs
that never stopped bleeding out.
And there the New England asters
who batted their violet eyelashes
at the stars all summer long
to catch their attention
hags of the last frost that killed them
like the cold shoulder of a disinterested universe.
And he keeps saying to himself
like a mantra under the duff of his heart
it doesn’t matter whose ghost
was meant to be summoned to this stranger’s garden
like the memory of some cherished intimacy
long past the point of no return
slipped under the door
that’s hinged like the earth is to the sun
to our exits and entrances
like a parting note of farewell
as profoundly poignant as autumn in passing;
all that matters is that someone anyone
however lost or overwhelmed by despair
however helpless or alone
however far from the nearest fire
makes their way through the dark
to a moonlit clearing in the woods
just to sit by a secret garden of their own
and watching their breath
like a wraith on the cold night air
answer it like a prayer
that went off into the unknown
like a thread of smoke from a dying candle
without appealing to the stars for anything.
Just to sit there without saying anything
no razor to your wrist
no prophet in your belly
no spiritual lost and founds
looking for the lost innocence
of their missing children
no serpent fire
burning up the ladders of your spine
until you’re frantic with the crazy wisdom
of realizing how much you can’t
and you’re looking for water on the moon
to quench your fever for life
no rejections or rendezvous
with fire-sprites or witchy manitous
no reason to be here
no reason you’re not
the silence not expecting a response
and the sound of life on the nightshift
while everyone else sleeps
and only a solitary watchman
to shine the occasional light
through the windows of their dreams
where what is and what appears to be
is reflected on both sides of the same translucency.
No muse to inspire an elegy to an unknown human
as if the earth itself weren’t enough of a headstone
to lay your head down upon
and listen to the deep underground voices of the dead
rooted in a garden that outgrew its sorrows
like the blood of a wild rose
left untempted in the wilderness
transcends its thorns with the beauty of a wound
that only a human exalted
by the spearhead of the same event
that humbles him to death
could suffer and celebrate in the same breath.
No mixed passions of starmud
that slip like Indian paintbrush and chicory
out of the palms of our hands
when the painter falls asleep
and the landscape finishes itself.
Just this small gesture of a shrine
this tiny enclosure of the heart
to some foregone human divinity
that once made it shine
like enamel buttercups
and scarlet columbine
tinkling in the spring rain
like wind chimes above the moss.
The ululations of a delinquent loon
couldn’t make the night feel
any more lonely than it already was
as he kept saying to himself
real not real
life is art.
Art is life.
The reality of delusion is art.
The delusion of reality is life.
There are toys in the wrack
of the worst catastrophes of life
and serial killers in the toy boxes of art.
You make it up like trout lilies and loosestrife
as you flow along with your own mindstream
like a leaf on the theme of your heart
whether you’re falling
into billions of individual degrees of separation
and the strong rope you were trying to climb up to heaven
frays on the edge of the world
into a million weak threads
of monadic drops of lonely water
working out the lyrics to go with the music
like wild irises in a secret garden that’s gone to seed.
Or you’re weeping like a chandelier
whose candles have gone out in a palace of light.
Or you’re the free-spirited genius of rain
the dispirited wizard of a starless night
or the nymph phase of a waterlily on the moon that died young
as the man said of the things
he just couldn’t keep to himself.
The mind is an artist.
Able to paint the worlds.
As someone here once saw something
that inspired them to paint
this prolifically sad human heartscape
like a bouquet of local wildflowers
and when they were done
and their eyes had gone with the light
from their vision of life
where a black sun always shines at midnight
and sets at dawn
left this palette of complementary emotions
like the fire pit of a phoenix
that’s flown south for the winter
with the spirit of the autumn leaves
that leaves us alone in a place like this
to add a few touches of our own.
Less blue in our longing for death.
More moon in the auras of life
and over there where
the ruby-throated hummingbirds
added their highlights like whole notes
to the picture-music of the wild grapevines
a deeper more loving delirium of stars
like the royal jewels of the underworld
inspired by the darkest muses
that ever shone a light
into the depths of the night in the eyes
of this most human of mysteries
burning in the crowns of the disrobed trees.
Book First [Introduction-Childhood and School Time]
OH there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
A visitant that while it fans my cheek
Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented sojourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way. I breathe again!
Trances of thought and mountings of the mind
Come fast upon me: it is shaken off,
That burthen of my own unnatural self,
The heavy weight of many a weary day
Not mine, and such as were not made for me.
Long months of peace (if such bold word accord
With any promises of human life),
Long months of ease and undisturbed delight
Are mine in prospect; whither shall I turn,
By road or pathway, or through trackless field,
Up hill or down, or shall some floating thing
Upon the river point me out my course?
Dear Liberty! Yet what would it avail
But for a gift that consecrates the joy?
For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
With quickening virtue, but is now become
A tempest, a redundant energy,
Vexing its own creation. Thanks to both,
And their congenial powers, that, while they join
In breaking up a long-continued frost,
Bring with them vernal promises, the hope
Of active days urged on by flying hours,--
Days of sweet leisure, taxed with patient thought
Abstruse, nor wanting punctual service high,
Matins and vespers of harmonious verse!
Thus far, O Friend! did I, not used to make
A present joy the matter of a song,
Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains
That would not be forgotten, and are here
Recorded: to the open fields I told
A prophecy: poetic numbers came
Spontaneously to clothe in priestly robe
A renovated spirit singled out,
Such hope was mine, for holy services.
My own voice cheered me, and, far more, the mind's
Internal echo of the imperfect sound;
To both I listened, drawing from them both
A cheerful confidence in things to come.
Content and not unwilling now to give
A respite to this passion, I paced on
With brisk and eager steps; and came, at length,
To a green shady place, where down I sate
Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice
And settling into gentler happiness.
'Twas autumn, and a clear and placid day,
With warmth, as much as needed, from a sun
Two hours declined towards the west; a day
With silver clouds, and sunshine on the grass,
And in the sheltered and the sheltering grove
A perfect stillness. Many were the thoughts
Encouraged and dismissed, till choice was made
Of a known Vale, whither my feet should turn,
Nor rest till they had reached the very door
Of the one cottage which methought I saw.
No picture of mere memory ever looked
So fair; and while upon the fancied scene
I gazed with growing love, a higher power
Than Fancy gave assurance of some work
Of glory there forthwith to be begun,
Perhaps too there performed. Thus long I mused,
Nor e'er lost sight of what I mused upon,
Save when, amid the stately grove of oaks,
Now here, now there, an acorn, from its cup
Dislodged, through sere leaves rustled, or at once
To the bare earth dropped with a startling sound.
From that soft couch I rose not, till the sun
Had almost touched the horizon; casting then
A backward glance upon the curling cloud
Of city smoke, by distance ruralised;
Keen as a Truant or a Fugitive,
But as a Pilgrim resolute, I took,
Even with the chance equipment of that hour,
The road that pointed toward the chosen Vale.
It was a splendid evening, and my soul
Once more made trial of her strength, nor lacked
Aeolian visitations; but the harp
Was soon defrauded, and the banded host
Of harmony dispersed in straggling sounds,
And lastly utter silence! 'Be it so;
Why think of anything but present good?'
So, like a home-bound labourer, I pursued
My way beneath the mellowing sun, that shed
Mild influence; nor left in me one wish
Again to bend the Sabbath of that time
To a servile yoke. What need of many words?
A pleasant loitering journey, through three days
Continued, brought me to my hermitage.
I spare to tell of what ensued, the life
In common things--the endless store of things,
Rare, or at least so seeming, every day
Found all about me in one neighbourhood--
The self-congratulation, and, from morn
To night, unbroken cheerfulness serene.
But speedily an earnest longing rose
To brace myself to some determined aim,
Reading or thinking; either to lay up
New stores, or rescue from decay the old
By timely interference: and therewith
Came hopes still higher, that with outward life
I might endue some airy phantasies
That had been floating loose about for years,
And to such beings temperately deal forth
The many feelings that oppressed my heart.
That hope hath been discouraged; welcome light
Dawns from the east, but dawns to disappear
And mock me with a sky that ripens not
Into a steady morning: if my mind,
Remembering the bold promise of the past,
Would gladly grapple with some noble theme,
Vain is her wish; where'er she turns she finds
Impediments from day to day renewed.
And now it would content me to yield up
Those lofty hopes awhile, for present gifts
Of humbler industry. But, oh, dear Friend!
The Poet, gentle creature as he is,
Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times;
His fits when he is neither sick nor well,
Though no distress be near him but his own
Unmanageable thoughts: his mind, best pleased
While she as duteous as the mother dove
Sits brooding, lives not always to that end,
But like the innocent bird, hath goadings on
That drive her as in trouble through the groves;
With me is now such passion, to be blamed
No otherwise than as it lasts too long.
When, as becomes a man who would prepare
For such an arduous work, I through myself
Make rigorous inquisition, the report
Is often cheering; for I neither seem
To lack that first great gift, the vital soul,
Nor general Truths, which are themselves a sort
Of Elements and Agents, Under-powers,
Subordinate helpers of the living mind:
Nor am I naked of external things,
Forms, images, nor numerous other aids
Of less regard, though won perhaps with toil
And needful to build up a Poet's praise.
Time, place, and manners do I seek, and these
Are found in plenteous store, but nowhere such
As may be singled out with steady choice;
No little band of yet remembered names
Whom I, in perfect confidence, might hope
To summon back from lonesome banishment,
And make them dwellers in the hearts of men
Now living, or to live in future years.
Sometimes the ambitious Power of choice, mistaking
Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea,
Will settle on some British theme, some old
Romantic tale by Milton left unsung;
More often turning to some gentle place
Within the groves of Chivalry, I pipe
To shepherd swains, or seated harp in hand,
Amid reposing knights by a river side
Or fountain, listen to the grave reports
Of dire enchantments faced and overcome
By the strong mind, and tales of warlike feats,
Where spear encountered spear, and sword with sword
Fought, as if conscious of the blazonry
That the shield bore, so glorious was the strife;
Whence inspiration for a song that winds
Through ever-changing scenes of votive quest
Wrongs to redress, harmonious tribute paid
To patient courage and unblemished truth,
To firm devotion, zeal unquenchable,
And Christian meekness hallowing faithful loves.
Sometimes, more sternly moved, I would relate
How vanquished Mithridates northward passed,
And, hidden in the cloud of years, became
Odin, the Father of a race by whom
Perished the Roman Empire: how the friends
And followers of Sertorius, out of Spain
Flying, found shelter in the Fortunate Isles,
And left their usages, their arts and laws,
To disappear by a slow gradual death,
To dwindle and to perish one by one,
Starved in those narrow bounds: but not the soul
Of Liberty, which fifteen hundred years
Survived, and, when the European came
With skill and power that might not be withstood,
Did, like a pestilence, maintain its hold
And wasted down by glorious death that race
Of natural heroes: or I would record
How, in tyrannic times, some high-souled man,
Unnamed among the chronicles of kings,
Suffered in silence for Truth's sake: or tell,
How that one Frenchman, through continued force
Of meditation on the inhuman deeds
Of those who conquered first the Indian Isles,
Went single in his ministry across
The Ocean; not to comfort the oppressed,
But, like a thirsty wind, to roam about
Withering the Oppressor: how Gustavus sought
Help at his need in Dalecarlia's mines:
How Wallace fought for Scotland; left the name
Of Wallace to be found, like a wild flower,
All over his dear Country; left the deeds
Of Wallace, like a family of Ghosts,
To people the steep rocks and river banks,
Her natural sanctuaries, with a local soul
Of independence and stern liberty.
Sometimes it suits me better to invent
A tale from my own heart, more near akin
To my own passions and habitual thoughts;
Some variegated story, in the main
Lofty, but the unsubstantial structure melts
Before the very sun that brightens it,
Mist into air dissolving! Then a wish,
My last and favourite aspiration, mounts
With yearning toward some philosophic song
Of Truth that cherishes our daily life;
With meditations passionate from deep
Recesses in man's heart, immortal verse
Thoughtfully fitted to the Orphean lyre;
But from this awful burthen I full soon
Take refuge and beguile myself with trust
That mellower years will bring a riper mind
And clearer insight. Thus my days are past
In contradiction; with no skill to part
Vague longing, haply bred by want of power,
From paramount impulse not to be withstood,
A timorous capacity, from prudence,
From circumspection, infinite delay.
Humility and modest awe, themselves
Betray me, serving often for a cloak
To a more subtle selfishness; that now
Locks every function up in blank reserve,
Now dupes me, trusting to an anxious eye
That with intrusive restlessness beats off
Simplicity and self-presented truth.
Ah! better far than this, to stray about
Voluptuously through fields and rural walks,
And ask no record of the hours, resigned
To vacant musing, unreproved neglect
Of all things, and deliberate holiday.
Far better never to have heard the name
Of zeal and just ambition, than to live
Baffled and plagued by a mind that every hour
Turns recreant to her task; takes heart again,
Then feels immediately some hollow thought
Hang like an interdict upon her hopes.
This is my lot; for either still I find
Some imperfection in the chosen theme,
Or see of absolute accomplishment
Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself,
That I recoil and droop, and seek repose
In listlessness from vain perplexity,
Unprofitably travelling toward the grave,
Like a false steward who hath much received
And renders nothing back.
Was it for this
That one, the fairest of all rivers, loved
To blend his murmurs with my nurse's song,
And, from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flowed along my dreams? For this, didst thou,
O Derwent! winding among grassy holms
Where I was looking on, a babe in arms,
Make ceaseless music that composed my thoughts
To more than infant softness, giving me
Amid the fretful dwellings of mankind
A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.
When he had left the mountains and received
On his smooth breast the shadow of those towers
That yet survive, a shattered monument
Of feudal sway, the bright blue river passed
Along the margin of our terrace walk;
A tempting playmate whom we dearly loved.
Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,
In a small mill-race severed from his stream,
Made one long bathing of a summer's day;
Basked in the sun, and plunged and basked again
Alternate, all a summer's day, or scoured
The sandy fields, leaping through flowery groves
Of yellow ragwort; or, when rock and hill,
The woods, and distant Skiddaw's lofty height,
Were bronzed with deepest radiance, stood alone
Beneath the sky, as if I had been born
On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut
Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport
A naked savage, in the thunder shower.
Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Fostered alike by beauty and by fear:
Much favoured in my birth-place, and no less
In that beloved Vale to which erelong
We were transplanted;--there were we let loose
For sports of wider range. Ere I had told
Ten birth-days, when among the mountain slopes
Frost, and the breath of frosty wind, had snapped
The last autumnal crocus, 'twas my joy
With store of springes o'er my shoulder hung
To range the open heights where woodcocks run
Along the smooth green turf. Through half the night,
Scudding away from snare to snare, I plied
That anxious visitation;--moon and stars
Were shining o'er my head. I was alone,
And seemed to be a trouble to the peace
That dwelt among them. Sometimes it befell
In these night wanderings, that a strong desire
O'erpowered my better reason, and the bird
Which was the captive of another's toil
Became my prey; and when the deed was done
I heard among the solitary hills
Low breathings coming after me, and sounds
Of undistinguishable motion, steps
Almost as silent as the turf they trod.
Nor less, when spring had warmed the cultured Vale,
Moved we as plunderers where the mother-bird
Had in high places built her lodge; though mean
Our object and inglorious, yet the end
Was not ignoble. Oh! when I have hung
Above the raven's nest, by knots of grass
And half-inch fissures in the slippery rock
But ill sustained, and almost (so it seemed)
Suspended by the blast that blew amain,
Shouldering the naked crag, oh, at that time
While on the perilous ridge I hung alone,
With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
Blow through my ear! the sky seemed not a sky
Of earth--and with what motion moved the clouds!
Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
Thanks to the means which Nature deigned to employ;
Whether her fearless visitings, or those
That came with soft alarm, like hurtless light
Opening the peaceful clouds; or she would use
Severer interventions, ministry
More palpable, as best might suit her aim.
One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,--
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.
Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul that art the eternity of thought
That givest to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion, not in vain
By day or star-light thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;
Not with the mean and vulgar works of man,
But with high objects, with enduring things--
With life and nature--purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying, by such discipline,
Both pain and fear, until we recognise
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart.
Nor was this fellowship vouchsafed to me
With stinted kindness. In November days,
When vapours rolling down the valley made
A lonely scene more lonesome, among woods,
At noon and 'mid the calm of summer nights,
When, by the margin of the trembling lake,
Beneath the gloomy hills homeward I went
In solitude, such intercourse was mine;
Mine was it in the fields both day and night,
And by the waters, all the summer long.
And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and visible for many a mile
The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom,
I heeded not their summons: happy time
It was indeed for all of us--for me
It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud
The village clock tolled six,--I wheeled about,
Proud and exulting like an untired horse
That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,
We hissed along the polished ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures,--the resounding horn,
The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle; with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud;
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideway, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star
That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining back upon my heels,
Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me--even as if the earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round!
Behind me did they stretch in solemn train,
Feebler and feebler, and I stood and watched
Till all was tranquil as a dreamless sleep.
Ye Presences of Nature in the sky
And on the earth! Ye Visions of the hills!
And Souls of lonely places! can I think
A vulgar hope was yours when ye employed
Such ministry, when ye, through many a year
Haunting me thus among my boyish sports,
On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills,
Impressed, upon all forms, the characters
Of danger or desire; and thus did make
The surface of the universal earth,
With triumph and delight, with hope and fear,
Work like a sea?
Not uselessly employed,
Might I pursue this theme through every change
Of exercise and play, to which the year
Did summon us in his delightful round.
We were a noisy crew; the sun in heaven
Beheld not vales more beautiful than ours;
Nor saw a band in happiness and joy
Richer, or worthier of the ground they trod.
I could record with no reluctant voice
The woods of autumn, and their hazel bowers
With milk-white clusters hung; the rod and line,
True symbol of hope's foolishness, whose strong
And unreproved enchantment led us on
By rocks and pools shut out from every star,
All the green summer, to forlorn cascades
Among the windings hid of mountain brooks.
--Unfading recollections! at this hour
The heart is almost mine with which I felt,
From some hill-top on sunny afternoons,
The paper kite high among fleecy clouds
Pull at her rein like an impetuous courser;
Or, from the meadows sent on gusty days,
Beheld her breast the wind, then suddenly
Dashed headlong, and rejected by the storm.
Ye lowly cottages wherein we dwelt,
A ministration of your own was yours;
Can I forget you, being as you were
So beautiful among the pleasant fields
In which ye stood? or can I here forget
The plain and seemly countenance with which
Ye dealt out your plain comforts? Yet had ye
Delights and exultations of your own.
Eager and never weary we pursued
Our home-amusements by the warm peat-fire
At evening, when with pencil, and smooth slate
In square divisions parcelled out and all
With crosses and with cyphers scribbled o'er,
We schemed and puzzled, head opposed to head
In strife too humble to be named in verse:
Or round the naked table, snow-white deal,
Cherry or maple, sate in close array,
And to the combat, Loo or Whist, led on
A thick-ribbed army; not, as in the world,
Neglected and ungratefully thrown by
Even for the very service they had wrought,
But husbanded through many a long campaign.
Uncouth assemblage was it, where no few
Had changed their functions: some, plebeian cards
Which Fate, beyond the promise of their birth,
Had dignified, and called to represent
The persons of departed potentates.
Oh, with what echoes on the board they fell!
Ironic diamonds,--clubs, hearts, diamonds, spades,
A congregation piteously akin!
Cheap matter offered they to boyish wit,
Those sooty knaves, precipitated down
With scoffs and taunts, like Vulcan out of heaven:
The paramount ace, a moon in her eclipse,
Queens gleaming through their splendour's last decay,
And monarchs surly at the wrongs sustained
By royal visages. Meanwhile abroad
Incessant rain was falling, or the frost
Raged bitterly, with keen and silent tooth;
And, interrupting oft that eager game,
From under Esthwaite's splitting fields of ice
The pent-up air, struggling to free itself,
Gave out to meadow grounds and hills a loud
Protracted yelling, like the noise of wolves
Howling in troops along the Bothnic Main.
Nor, sedulous as I have been to trace
How Nature by extrinsic passion first
Peopled the mind with forms sublime or fair,
And made me love them, may I here omit
How other pleasures have been mine, and joys
Of subtler origin; how I have felt,
Not seldom even in that tempestuous time,
Those hallowed and pure motions of the sense
Which seem, in their simplicity, to own
An intellectual charm; that calm delight
Which, if I err not, surely must belong
To those first-born affinities that fit
Our new existence to existing things,
And, in our dawn of being, constitute
The bond of union between life and joy.
Yes, I remember when the changeful earth,
And twice five summers on my mind had stamped
The faces of the moving year, even then
I held unconscious intercourse with beauty
Old as creation, drinking in a pure
Organic pleasure from the silver wreaths
Of curling mist, or from the level plain
Of waters coloured by impending clouds.
The sands of Westmoreland, the creeks and bays
Of Cumbria's rocky limits, they can tell
How, when the Sea threw off his evening shade,
And to the shepherd's hut on distant hills
Sent welcome notice of the rising moon,
How I have stood, to fancies such as these
A stranger, linking with the spectacle
No conscious memory of a kindred sight,
And bringing with me no peculiar sense
Of quietness or peace; yet have I stood,
Even while mine eye hath moved o'er many a league
Of shining water, gathering as it seemed,
Through every hair-breadth in that field of light,
New pleasure like a bee among the flowers.
Thus oft amid those fits of vulgar joy
Which, through all seasons, on a child's pursuits
Are prompt attendants, 'mid that giddy bliss
Which, like a tempest, works along the blood
And is forgotten; even then I felt
Gleams like the flashing of a shield;--the earth
And common face of Nature spake to me
Rememberable things; sometimes, 'tis true,
By chance collisions and quaint accidents
(Like those ill-sorted unions, work supposed
Of evil-minded fairies), yet not vain
Nor profitless, if haply they impressed
Collateral objects and appearances,
Albeit lifeless then, and doomed to sleep
Until maturer seasons called them forth
To impregnate and to elevate the mind.
--And if the vulgar joy by its own weight
Wearied itself out of the memory,
The scenes which were a witness of that joy
Remained in their substantial lineaments
Depicted on the brain, and to the eye
Were visible, a daily sight; and thus
By the impressive discipline of fear,
By pleasure and repeated happiness,
So frequently repeated, and by force
Of obscure feelings representative
Of things forgotten, these same scenes so bright,
So beautiful, so majestic in themselves,
Though yet the day was distant, did become
Habitually dear, and all their forms
And changeful colours by invisible links
Were fastened to the affections.
My story early--not misled, I trust,
By an infirmity of love for days
Disowned by memory--ere the breath of spring
Planting my snowdrops among winter snows:
Nor will it seem to thee, O Friend! so prompt
In sympathy, that I have lengthened out
With fond and feeble tongue a tedious tale.
Meanwhile, my hope has been, that I might fetch
Invigorating thoughts from former years;
Might fix the wavering balance of my mind,
And haply meet reproaches too, whose power
May spur me on, in manhood now mature
To honourable toil. Yet should these hopes
Prove vain, and thus should neither I be taught
To understand myself, nor thou to know
With better knowledge how the heart was framed
Of him thou lovest; need I dread from thee
Harsh judgments, if the song be loth to quit
Those recollected hours that have the charm
Of visionary things, those lovely forms
And sweet sensations that throw back our life,
And almost make remotest infancy
A visible scene, on which the sun is shining?
One end at least hath been attained; my mind
Hath been revived, and if this genial mood
Desert me not, forthwith shall be brought down
Through later years the story of my life.
The road lies plain before me;--'tis a theme
Single and of determined bounds; and hence
I choose it rather at this time, than work
Of ampler or more varied argument,
Where I might be discomfited and lost:
And certain hopes are with me, that to thee
This labour will be welcome, honoured Friend!