Your words tangle my thoughts,
Winding them together so tight,
Yet giving me the strength,
To imagine possibilities,
Possibilities my mind refuses,
To even spend two seconds of my time thinking of,
You entwine me into your web of hope,
Confused yet hopeful,
For the destiny awaiting me through this fog.
A fog cast only by you.
See How Bright the Stars?
I'm going to sweep you up in my arms,
With a thrust unknown to you.
Overpowering all of your objections,
With a gushing love I have that's true!
Hang on tight...
Don't let go.
The wind is breezy!
Don't look down...
Or you will want to return!
I wish to take you to another place.
Where I know the smile you suppress...
Will shine upon your face!
You deserve to be uplifted to heights,
To experience all that you are...
Without fears of being correct or right!
Hang on tight...
See how bright the stars?
To me, this poem is saying:
'Let me take you
From where you are,
To uncover all possibilities
That can be manifested.
Let go! Trust and believe! '
Wind-Clouds And Star-Drifts
FROM THE YOUNG ASTRONOMER'S POEM
ANOTHER clouded night; the stars are hid,
The orb that waits my search is hid with them.
Patience! Why grudge an hour, a month, a year,
To plant my ladder and to gain the round
That leads my footsteps to the heaven of fame,
Where waits the wreath my sleepless midnights won?
Not the stained laurel such as heroes wear
That withers when some stronger conqueror's heel
Treads down their shrivelling trophies in the dust;
But the fair garland whose undying green
Not time can change, nor wrath of gods or men!
With quickened heart-beats I shall hear tongues
That speak my praise; but better far the sense
That in the unshaped ages, buried deep
In the dark mines of unaccomplished time
Yet to be stamped with morning's royal die
And coined in golden days,--in those dim years
I shall be reckoned with the undying dead,
My name emblazoned on the fiery arch,
Unfading till the stars themselves shall fade.
Then, as they call the roll of shining worlds,
Sages of race unborn in accents new
Shall count me with the Olympian ones of old,
Whose glories kindle through the midnight sky
Here glows the God of Battles; this recalls
The Lord of Ocean, and yon far-off sphere
The Sire of Him who gave his ancient name
To the dim planet with the wondrous rings;
Here flames the Queen of Beauty's silver lamp,
And there the moon-girt orb of mighty Jove;
But this, unseen through all earth's ions past,
A youth who watched beneath the western star
Sought in the darkness, found, and shewed to men;
Linked with his name thenceforth and evermore
So shall that name be syllabled anew
In all the tongues of all the tribes of men:
I that have been through immemorial years
Dust in the dust of my forgotten time
Shall live in accents shaped of blood-warm breath,
Yea, rise in mortal semblance, newly born
In shining stone, in undecaying bronze,
And stand on high, and look serenely down
On the new race that calls the earth its own.
Is this a cloud, that, blown athwart my soul,
Wears a false seeming of the pearly stain
Where worlds beyond the world their mingling rays
Blend in soft white,--a cloud that, born of earth,
Would cheat the soul that looks for light from heaven?
Must every coral-insect leave his sign
On each poor grain he lent to build the reef,
As Babel's builders stamped their sunburnt clay,
Or deem his patient service all in vain?
What if another sit beneath the shade
Of the broad elm I planted by the way,--
What if another heed the beacon light
I set upon the rock that wrecked my keel,--
Have I not done my task and served my kind?
Nay, rather act thy part, unnamed, unknown,
And let Fame blow her trumpet through the world
With noisy wind to swell a fool's renown,
Joined with some truth he stumbled blindly o'er,
Or coupled with some single shining deed
That in the great account of all his days
Will stand alone upon the bankrupt sheet
His pitying angel shows the clerk of Heaven.
The noblest service comes from nameless hands,
And the best servant does his work unseen.
Who found the seeds of fire and made them shoot,
Fed by his breath, in buds and flowers of flame?
Who forged in roaring flames the ponderous stone,
And shaped the moulded metal to his need?
Who gave the dragging car its rolling wheel,
And tamed the steed that whirls its circling round?
All these have left their work and not their names,--
Why should I murmur at a fate like theirs?
This is the heavenly light; the pearly stain
Was but a wind-cloud drifting o'er the stars!
BRIEF glimpses of the bright celestial spheres,
False lights, false shadows, vague, uncertain gleams,
Pale vaporous mists, wan streaks of lurid flame,
The climbing of the upward-sailing cloud,
The sinking of the downward-falling star,--
All these are pictures of the changing moods
Borne through the midnight stillness of my soul.
Here am I, bound upon this pillared rock,
Prey to the vulture of a vast desire
That feeds upon my life. I burst my bands
And steal a moment's freedom from the beak,
The clinging talons and the shadowing plumes;
Then comes the false enchantress, with her song;
'Thou wouldst not lay thy forehead in the dust
Like the base herd that feeds and breeds and dies
Lo, the fair garlands that I weave for thee,
Unchanging as the belt Orion wears,
Bright as the jewels of the seven-starred Crown,
The spangled stream of Berenice's hair!'
And so she twines the fetters with the flowers
Around my yielding limbs, and the fierce bird
Stoops to his quarry,--then to feed his rage
Of ravening hunger I must drain my blood
And let the dew-drenched, poison-breeding night
Steal all the freshness from my fading cheek,
And leave its shadows round my caverned eyes.
All for a line in some unheeded scroll;
All for a stone that tells to gaping clowns,
'Here lies a restless wretch beneath a clod
Where squats the jealous nightmare men call
I marvel not at him who scorns his kind
And thinks not sadly of the time foretold
When the old hulk we tread shall be a wreck,
A slag, a cinder drifting through the sky
Without its crew of fools! We live too long,
And even so are not content to die,
But load the mould that covers up our bones
With stones that stand like beggars by the road
And show death's grievous wound and ask for tears;
Write our great books to teach men who we are,
Sing our fine songs that tell in artful phrase
The secrets of our lives, and plead and pray
For alms of memory with the after time,
Those few swift seasons while the earth shall wear
Its leafy summers, ere its core grows cold
And the moist life of all that breathes shall die;
Or as the new-born seer, perchance more wise,
Would have us deem, before its growing mass,
Pelted with star-dust, stoned with meteor-balls,
Heats like a hammered anvil, till at last
Man and his works and all that stirred itself
Of its own motion, in the fiery glow
Turns to a flaming vapor, and our orb
Shines a new sun for earths that shall be born.
I am as old as Egypt to myself,
Brother to them that squared the pyramids
By the same stars I watch. I read the page
Where every letter is a glittering world,
With them who looked from Shinar's clay-built towers,
Ere yet the wanderer of the Midland sea
Had missed the fallen sister of the seven.
I dwell in spaces vague, remote, unknown,
Save to the silent few, who, leaving earth,
Quit all communion with their living time.
I lose myself in that ethereal void,
Till I have tired my wings and long to fill
My breast with denser air, to stand, to walk
With eyes not raised above my fellow-men.
Sick of my unwalled, solitary realm,
I ask to change the myriad lifeless worlds
I visit as mine own for one poor patch
Of this dull spheroid and a little breath
To shape in word or deed to serve my kind.
Was ever giant's dungeon dug so deep,
Was ever tyrant's fetter forged so strong,
Was e'er such deadly poison in the draught
The false wife mingles for the trusting fool,
As he whose willing victim is himself,
Digs, forges, mingles, for his captive soul?
THE snows that glittered on the disk of Mars
Have melted, and the planet's fiery orb
Rolls in the crimson summer of its year;
But what to me the summer or the snow
Of worlds that throb with life in forms unknown,
If life indeed be theirs; I heed not these.
My heart is simply human; all my care
For them whose dust is fashioned like mine own;
These ache with cold and hunger, live in pain,
And shake with fear of worlds more full of woe;
There may be others worthier of my love,
But such I know not save through these I know.
There are two veils of language, hid beneath
Whose sheltering folds, we dare to be ourselves;
And not that other self which nods and smiles
And babbles in our name; the one is Prayer,
Lending its licensed freedom to the tongue
That tells our sorrows and our sins to Heaven;
The other, Verse, that throws its spangled web
Around our naked speech and makes it bold.
I, whose best prayer is silence; sitting dumb
In the great temple where I nightly serve
Him who is throned in light, have dared to claim
The poet's franchise, though I may not hope
To wear his garland; hear me while I tell
My story in such form as poets use,
But breathed in fitful whispers, as the wind
Sighs and then slumbers, wakes and sighs again.
Thou Vision, floating in the breathless air
Between me and the fairest of the stars,
I tell my lonely thoughts as unto thee.
Look not for marvels of the scholar's pen
In my rude measure; I can only show
A slender-margined, unillumined page,
And trust its meaning to the flattering eye
That reads it in the gracious light of love.
Ah, wouldst thou clothe thyself in breathing shape
And nestle at my side, my voice should lend
Whate'er my verse may lack of tender rhythm
To make thee listen.
I have stood entranced
When, with her fingers wandering o'er the keys,
The white enchantress with the golden hair
Breathed all her soul through some unvalued rhyme;
Some flower of song that long had lost its bloom;
Lo! its dead summer kindled as she sang!
The sweet contralto, like the ringdove's coo,
Thrilled it with brooding, fond, caressing tones,
And the pale minstrel's passion lived again,
Tearful and trembling as a dewy rose
The wind has shaken till it fills the air
With light and fragrance. Such the wondrous charm
A song can borrow when the bosom throbs
That lends it breath.
So from the poet's lips
His verse sounds doubly sweet, for none like him
Feels every cadence of its wave-like flow;
He lives the passion over, while he reads,
That shook him as he sang his lofty strain,
And pours his life through each resounding line,
As ocean, when the stormy winds are hushed,
Still rolls and thunders through his billowy caves.
MASTER AND SCHOLAR
LET me retrace the record of the years
That made me what I am. A man most wise,
But overworn with toil and bent with age,
Sought me to be his scholar,-me, run wild
From books and teachers,-kindled in my soul
The love of knowledge; led me to his tower,
Showed me the wonders of the midnight realm
His hollow sceptre ruled, or seemed to rule,
Taught me the mighty secrets of the spheres,
Trained me to find the glimmering specks of light
Beyond the unaided sense, and on my chart
To string them one by one, in order due,
As on a rosary a saint his beads.
I was his only scholar; I became
The echo to his thought; whate'er he knew
Was mine for asking; so from year to year
W e wrought together, till there came a time
When I, the learner, was the master half
Of the twinned being in the dome-crowned tower.
Minds roll in paths like planets; they revolve,
This in a larger, that a narrower ring,
But round they come at last to that same phase,
That selfsame light and shade they showed before.
I learned his annual and his monthly tale,
His weekly axiom and his daily phrase,
I felt them coming in the laden air,
And watched them laboring up to vocal breath,
Even as the first-born at his father's board
Knows ere he speaks the too familiar jest
Is on its way, by some mysterious sign
Forewarned, the click before the striking bell.
He shrivelled as I spread my growing leaves,
Till trust and reverence changed to pitying care;
He lived for me in what he once had been,
But I for him, a shadow, a defence,
The guardian of his fame, his guide, his staff,
Leaned on so long he fell if left alone.
I was his eye, his ear, his cunning hand,
Love was my spur and longing after fame,
But his the goading thorn of sleepless age
That sees its shortening span, its lengthening shades,
That clutches what it may with eager grasp,
And drops at last with empty, outstretched hands.
All this he dreamed not. He would sit him down
Thinking to work his problems as of old,
And find the star he thought so plain a blur,
The columned figures labyrinthine wilds
Without my comment, blind and senseless scrawls
That vexed him with their riddles; he would strive
And struggle for a while, and then his eye
Would lose its light, and over all his mind
The cold gray mist would settle; and erelong
The darkness fell, and I was left alone.
ALONE! no climber of an Alpine cliff,
No Arctic venturer on the waveless sea,
Feels the dread stillness round him as it chills
The heart of him who leaves the slumbering earth
To watch the silent worlds that crowd the sky.
Alone! And as the shepherd leaves his flock
To feed upon the hillside, he meanwhile
Finds converse in the warblings of the pipe
Himself has fashioned for his vacant hour,
So have I grown companion to myself,
And to the wandering spirits of the air
That smile and whisper round us in our dreams.
Thus have I learned to search if I may know
The whence and why of all beneath the stars
And all beyond them, and to weigh my life
As in a balance,--poising good and ill
Against each other,--asking of the Power
That flung me forth among the whirling worlds,
If I am heir to any inborn right,
Or only as an atom of the dust
That every wind may blow where'er it will.
I AM not humble; I was shown my place,
Clad in such robes as Nature had at hand;
Took what she gave, not chose; I know no shame,
No fear for being simply what I am.
I am not proud, I hold my every breath
At Nature's mercy. I am as a babe
Borne in a giant's arms, he knows not where;
Each several heart-beat, counted like the coin
A miser reckons, is a special gift
As from an unseen hand; if that withhold
Its bounty for a moment, I am left
A clod upon the earth to which I fall.
Something I find in me that well might claim
The love of beings in a sphere above
This doubtful twilight world of right and wrong;
Something that shows me of the self-same clay
That creeps or swims or flies in humblest form.
Had I been asked, before I left my bed
Of shapeless dust, what clothing I would wear,
I would have said, More angel and less worm;
But for their sake who are even such as I,
Of the same mingled blood, I would not choose
To hate that meaner portion of myself
Which makes me brother to the least of men.
I dare not be a coward with my lips
Who dare to question all things in my soul;
Some men may find their wisdom on their knees,
Some prone and grovelling in the dust like slaves;
Let the meek glowworm glisten in the dew;
I ask to lift my taper to the sky
As they who hold their lamps above their heads,
Trusting the larger currents up aloft,
Rather than crossing eddies round their breast,
Threatening with every puff the flickering blaze.
My life shall be a challenge, not a truce!
This is my homage to the mightier powers,
To ask my boldest question, undismayed
By muttered threats that some hysteric sense
Of wrong or insult will convulse the throne
Where wisdom reigns supreme; and if I err,
They all must err who have to feel their way
As bats that fly at noon; for what are we
But creatures of the night, dragged forth by day,
Who needs must stumble, and with stammering steps
Spell out their paths in syllables of pain?
Thou wilt not hold in scorn the child who dares
Look up to Thee, the Father,--dares to ask
More than thy wisdom answers. From thy hand
The worlds were cast; yet every leaflet claims
From that same hand its little shining sphere
Of star-lit dew; thine image, the great sun,
Girt with his mantle of tempestuous flame,
Glares in mid-heaven; but to his noon-tide blaze
The slender violet lifts its lidless eye,
And from his splendor steals its fairest hue,
Its sweetest perfume from his scorching fire.
FROM my lone turret as I look around
O'er the green meadows to the ring of blue,
From slope, from summit, and from half-hid vale
The sky is stabbed with dagger-pointed spires,
Their gilded symbols whirling in the wind,
Their brazen tongues proclaiming to the world,
'Here truth is sold, the only genuine ware;
See that it has our trade-mark! You will buy
Poison instead of food across the way,
The lies of -----' this or that, each several name
The standard's blazon and the battle-cry
Of some true-gospel faction, and again
The token of the Beast to all beside.
And grouped round each I see a huddling crowd
Alike in all things save the words they use;
In love, in longing, hate and fear the same.
Whom do we trust and serve? We speak of one
And bow to many; Athens still would find
The shrines of all she worshipped safe within
Our tall barbarian temples, and the thrones
That crowned Olympus mighty as of old.
The god of music rules the Sabbath choir;
The lyric muse must leave the sacred nine
To help us please the dilettante's ear;
Plutus limps homeward with us, as we leave
The portals of the temple where we knelt
And listened while the god of eloquence
(Hermes of ancient days, but now disguised
In sable vestments) with that other god
Somnus, the son of Erebus and Nox,
Fights in unequal contest for our souls;
The dreadful sovereign of the under world
Still shakes his sceptre at us, and we hear
The baying of the triple-throated hound;
Eros is young as ever, and as fair
The lovely Goddess born of ocean's foam.
These be thy gods, O Israel! Who is he,
The one ye name and tell us that ye serve,
Whom ye would call me from my lonely tower
To worship with the many-headed throng?
Is it the God that walked in Eden's grove
In the cool hour to seek our guilty sire?
The God who dealt with Abraham as the sons
Of that old patriarch deal with other men?
The jealous God of Moses, one who feels
An image as an insult, and is wroth
With him who made it and his child unborn?
The God who plagued his people for the sin
Of their adulterous king, beloved of him,--
The same who offers to a chosen few
The right to praise him in eternal song
While a vast shrieking world of endless woe
Blends its dread chorus with their rapturous hymn?
Is this the God ye mean, or is it he
Who heeds the sparrow's fall, whose loving heart
Is as the pitying father's to his child,
Whose lesson to his children is 'Forgive,'
Whose plea for all, 'They know not what they do'?
I CLAIM the right of knowing whom I serve,
Else is my service idle; He that asks
My homage asks it from a reasoning soul.
To crawl is not to worship; we have learned
A drill of eyelids, bended neck and knee,
Hanging our prayers on hinges, till we ape
The flexures of the many-jointed worm.
Asia has taught her Allahs and salaams
To the world's children,-we have grown to men!
We who have rolled the sphere beneath our feet
To find a virgin forest, as we lay
The beams of our rude temple, first of all
Must frame its doorway high enough for man
To pass unstooping; knowing as we do
That He who shaped us last of living forms
Has long enough been served by creeping things,
Reptiles that left their footprints in the sand
Of old sea-margins that have turned to stone,
And men who learned their ritual; we demand
To know Him first, then trust Him and then love
When we have found Him worthy of our love,
Tried by our own poor hearts and not before;
He must be truer than the truest friend,
He must be tenderer than a woman's love,
A father better than the best of sires;
Kinder than she who bore us, though we sin
Oftener than did the brother we are told
We--poor ill-tempered mortals--must forgive,
Though seven times sinning threescore times and
This is the new world's gospel: Be ye men!
Try well the legends of the children's time;
Ye are the chosen people, God has led
Your steps across the desert of the deep
As now across the desert of the shore;
Mountains are cleft before you as the sea
Before the wandering tribe of Israel's sons;
Still onward rolls the thunderous caravan,
Its coming printed on the western sky,
A cloud by day, by night a pillared flame;
Your prophets are a hundred unto one
Of them of old who cried, 'Thus saith the Lord;'
They told of cities that should fall in heaps,
But yours of mightier cities that shall rise
Where yet the lonely fishers spread their nets,
Where hides the fox and hoots the midnight owl;
The tree of knowledge in your garden grows
Not single, but at every humble door;
Its branches lend you their immortal food,
That fills you with the sense of what ye are,
No servants of an altar hewed and carved
From senseless stone by craft of human hands,
Rabbi, or dervish, brahmin, bishop, bonze,
But masters of the charm with which they work
To keep your hands from that forbidden tree!
Ye that have tasted that divinest fruit,
Look on this world of yours with opened eyes!
Y e are as gods! Nay, makers of your gods,--
Each day ye break an image in your shrine
And plant a fairer image where it stood
Where is the Moloch of your fathers' creed,
Whose fires of torment burned for span--long babes?
Fit object for a tender mother's love!
Why not? It was a bargain duly made
For these same infants through the surety's act
Intrusted with their all for earth and heaven,
By Him who chose their guardian, knowing well
His fitness for the task,--this, even this,
Was the true doctrine only yesterday
As thoughts are reckoned,--and to--day you hear
In words that sound as if from human tongues
Those monstrous, uncouth horrors of the past
That blot the blue of heaven and shame the earth
As would the saurians of the age of slime,
Awaking from their stony sepulchres
And wallowing hateful in the eye of day!
WHAT am I but the creature Thou hast made?
What have I save the blessings Thou hast lent?
What hope I but thy mercy and thy love?
Who but myself shall cloud my soul with fear?
Whose hand protect me from myself but thine?
I claim the rights of weakness, I, the babe,
Call on my sire to shield me from the ills
That still beset my path, not trying me
With snares beyond my wisdom or my strength,
He knowing I shall use them to my harm,
And find a tenfold misery in the sense
That in my childlike folly I have sprung
The trap upon myself as vermin use,
Drawn by the cunning bait to certain doom.
Who wrought the wondrous charm that leads us on
To sweet perdition, but the selfsame power
That set the fearful engine to destroy
His wretched offspring (as the Rabbis tell),
And hid its yawning jaws and treacherous springs
In such a show of innocent sweet flowers
It lured the sinless angels and they fell?
Ah! He who prayed the prayer of all mankind
Summed in those few brief words the mightiest plea
For erring souls before the courts of heaven,--
_Save us from being tempted_,--lest we fall!
If we are only as the potter's clay
Made to be fashioned as the artist wills,
And broken into shards if we offend
The eye of Him who made us, it is well;
Such love as the insensate lump of clay
That spins upon the swift-revolving wheel
Bears to the hand that shapes its growing form,--
Such love, no more, will be our hearts' return
To the great Master-workman for his care,--
Or would be, save that this, our breathing clay,
Is intertwined with fine innumerous threads
That make it conscious in its framer's hand;
And this He must remember who has filled
These vessels with the deadly draught of life,--
Life, that means death to all it claims. Our love
Must kindle in the ray that streams from heaven,
A faint reflection of the light divine;
The sun must warm the earth before the rose
Can show her inmost heart-leaves to the sun.
He yields some fraction of the Maker's right
Who gives the quivering nerve its sense of pain;
Is there not something in the pleading eye
Of the poor brute that suffers, which arraigns
The law that bids it suffer? Has it not
A claim for some remembrance in the book
That fills its pages with the idle words
Spoken of men? Or is it only clay,
Bleeding and aching in the potter's hand,
Yet all his own to treat it as He will
And when He will to cast it at his feet,
Shattered, dishonored, lost forevermore?
My dog loves me, but could he look beyond
His earthly master, would his love extend
To Him who--Hush! I will not doubt that He
Is better than our fears, and will not wrong
The least, the meanest of created things!
He would not trust me with the smallest orb
That circles through the sky; He would not give
A meteor to my guidance; would not leave
The coloring of a cloudlet to my hand;
He locks my beating heart beneath its bars
And keeps the key himself; He measures out
The draughts of vital breath that warm my blood,
Winds up the springs of instinct which uncoil,
Each in its season; ties me to my home,
My race, my time, my nation, and my creed
So closely that if I but slip my wrist
Out of the band that cuts it to the bone,
Men say, 'He hath a devil;' He has lent
All that I hold in trust, as unto one
By reason of his weakness and his years
Not fit to hold the smallest shred in fee
Of those most common things he calls his own,--
And yet--my Rabbi tells me--He has left
The care of that to which a million worlds
Filled with unconscious life were less than naught,
Has left that mighty universe, the Soul,
To the weak guidance of our baby hands,
Let the foul fiends have access at their will,
Taking the shape of angels, to our hearts,--
Our hearts already poisoned through and through
With the fierce virus of ancestral sin;
Turned us adrift with our immortal charge,
To wreck ourselves in gulfs of endless woe.
If what my Rabbi tells me is the truth
Why did the choir of angels sing for joy?
Heaven must be compassed in a narrow space,
And offer more than room enough for all
That pass its portals; but the under-world,
The godless realm, the place where demons forge
Their fiery darts and adamantine chains,
Must swarm with ghosts that for a little while
Had worn the garb of flesh, and being heirs
Of all the dulness of their stolid sires,
And all the erring instincts of their tribe,
Nature's own teaching, rudiments of 'sin,'
Fell headlong in the snare that could not fail
To trap the wretched creatures shaped of clay
And cursed with sense enough to lose their souls!
Brother, thy heart is troubled at my word;
Sister, I see the cloud is on thy brow.
He will not blame me, He who sends not peace,
But sends a sword, and bids us strike amain
At Error's gilded crest, where in the van
Of earth's great army, mingling with the best
And bravest of its leaders, shouting loud
The battle-cries that yesterday have led
The host of Truth to victory, but to-day
Are watchwords of the laggard and the slave,
He leads his dazzled cohorts. God has made
This world a strife of atoms and of spheres;
With every breath I sigh myself away
And take my tribute from the wandering wind
To fan the flame of life's consuming fire;
So, while my thought has life, it needs must burn,
And, burning, set the stubble-fields ablaze,
Where all the harvest long ago was reaped
And safely garnered in the ancient barns.
But still the gleaners, groping for their food,
Go blindly feeling through the close-shorn straw,
While the young reapers flash, their glittering steel
Where later suns have ripened nobler grain!
THE time is racked with birth-pangs; every hour
Brings forth some gasping truth, and truth newborn
Looks a misshapen and untimely growth,
The terror of the household and its shame,
A monster coiling in its nurse's lap
That some would strangle, some would only starve;
But still it breathes, and passed from hand to hand,
And suckled at a hundred half-clad breasts,
Comes slowly to its stature and its form,
Calms the rough ridges of its dragon-scales,
Changes to shining locks its snaky hair,
And moves transfigured into angel guise,
Welcomed by all that cursed its hour of birth,
And folded in the same encircling arms
That cast it like a serpent from their hold!
If thou wouldst live in honor, die in peace,
Have the fine words the marble-workers learn
To carve so well, upon thy funeral-stone,
And earn a fair obituary, dressed
In all the many-colored robes of praise,
Be deafer than the adder to the cry
Of that same foundling truth, until it grows
To seemly favor, and at length has won
The smiles of hard-mouthed men and light-lipped dames;
Then snatch it from its meagre nurse's breast,
Fold it in silk and give it food from gold;
So shalt thou share its glory when at last
It drops its mortal vesture, and, revealed
In all the splendor of its heavenly form,
Spreads on the startled air its mighty wings!
Alas! how much that seemed immortal truth
That heroes fought for, martyrs died to save,
Reveals its earth-born lineage, growing old
And limping in its march, its wings unplumed,
Its heavenly semblance faded like a dream!
Here in this painted casket, just unsealed,
Lies what was once a breathing shape like thine,
Once loved as thou art loved; there beamed the eyes
That looked on Memphis in its hour of pride,
That saw the walls of hundred-gated Thebes,
And all the mirrored glories of the Nile.
See how they toiled that all-consuming time
Might leave the frame immortal in its tomb;
Filled it with fragrant balms and odorous gums
That still diffuse their sweetness through the air,
And wound and wound with patient fold on fold
The flaxen bands thy hand has rudely torn!
Perchance thou yet canst see the faded stain
Of the sad mourner's tear.
BUT what is this?
The sacred beetle, bound upon the breast
Of the blind heathen! Snatch the curious prize,
Give it a place among thy treasured spoils,
Fossil and relic,--corals, encrinites,
The fly in amber and the fish in stone,
The twisted circlet of Etruscan gold,
Medal, intaglio, poniard, poison-ring,--
Place for the Memphian beetle with thine hoard!
AM longer than thy creed has blest the world
This toy, thus ravished from thy brother's breast,
Was to the heart of Mizraim as divine,
As holy, as the symbol that we lay
On the still bosom of our white-robed dead,
And raise above their dust that all may know
Here sleeps an heir of glory. Loving friends,
With tears of trembling faith and choking sobs,
And prayers to those who judge of mortal deeds,
Wrapped this poor image in the cerement's fold
That Isis and Osiris, friends of man,
Might know their own and claim the ransomed soul.
An idol? Man was born to worship such!
An idol is an image of his thought;
Sometimes he carves it out of gleaming stone,
And sometimes moulds it out of glittering gold,
Or rounds it in a mighty frescoed dome,
Or lifts it heavenward in a lofty spire,
Or shapes it in a cunning frame of words,
Or pays his priest to make it day by day;
For sense must have its god as well as soul;
A new-born Dian calls for silver shrines,
And Egypt's holiest symbol is our own,
The sign we worship as did they of old
When Isis and Osiris ruled the world.
Let us be true to our most subtle selves,
We long to have our idols like the rest.
Think! when the men of Israel had their God
Encamped among them, talking with their chief,
Leading them in the pillar of the cloud
And watching o'er them in the shaft of fire,
They still must have an image; still they longed
For somewhat of substantial, solid form
Whereon to hang their garlands, and to fix
Their wandering thoughts and gain a stronger hold
For their uncertain faith, not yet assured
If those same meteors of the day and night
Were not mere exhalations of the soil.
Are we less earthly than the chosen race?
Are we more neighbors of the living God
Than they who gathered manna every morn,
Reaping where none had sown, and heard the voice
Of him who met the Highest in the mount,
And brought them tables, graven with His hand?
Yet these must have their idol, brought their gold,
That star-browed Apis might be god again;
Yea, from their ears the women brake the rings
That lent such splendors to the gypsy brown
Of sunburnt cheeks,--what more could woman do
To show her pious zeal? They went astray,
But nature led them as it leads us all.
We too, who mock at Israel's golden calf
And scoff at Egypt's sacred scarabee,
Would have our amulets to clasp and kiss,
And flood with rapturous tears, and bear with us
To be our dear companions in the dust;
Such magic works an image in our souls.
Man is an embryo; see at twenty years
His bones, the columns that uphold his frame
Not yet cemented, shaft and capital,
Mere fragments of the temple incomplete.
At twoscore, threescore, is he then full grown?
Nay, still a child, and as the little maids
Dress and undress their puppets, so he tries
To dress a lifeless creed, as if it lived,
And change its raiment when the world cries shame!
We smile to see our little ones at play
So grave, so thoughtful, with maternal care
Nursing the wisps of rags they call their babes;--
Does He not smile who sees us with the toys
We call by sacred names, and idly feign
To be what we have called them? He is still
The Father of this helpless nursery-brood,
Whose second childhood joins so close its first,
That in the crowding, hurrying years between
We scarce have trained our senses to their task
Before the gathering mist has dimmed our eyes,
And with our hollowed palm we help our ear,
And trace with trembling hand our wrinkled names,
And then begin to tell our stories o'er,
And see--not hear--the whispering lips that say,
'You know? Your father knew him.--This is he,
Tottering and leaning on the hireling's arm,'--
And so, at length, disrobed of all that clad
The simple life we share with weed and worm,
Go to our cradles, naked as we came.
WHAT if a soul redeemed, a spirit that loved
While yet on earth and was beloved in turn,
And still remembered every look and tone
Of that dear earthly sister who was left
Among the unwise virgins at the gate,--
Itself admitted with the bridegroom's train,--
What if this spirit redeemed, amid the host
Of chanting angels, in some transient lull
Of the eternal anthem, heard the cry
Of its lost darling, whom in evil hour
Some wilder pulse of nature led astray
And left an outcast in a world of fire,
Condemned to be the sport of cruel fiends,
Sleepless, unpitying, masters of the skill
To wring the maddest ecstasies of pain
From worn-out souls that only ask to die,--
Would it not long to leave the bliss of heaven,--
Bearing a little water in its hand
To moisten those poor lips that plead in vain
With Him we call our Father? Or is all
So changed in such as taste celestial joy
They hear unmoved the endless wail of woe;
The daughter in the same dear tones that hushed
Her cradle slumbers; she who once had held
A babe upon her bosom from its voice
Hoarse with its cry of anguish, yet the same?
No! not in ages when the Dreadful Bird
Stamped his huge footprints, and the Fearful Beast
Strode with the flesh about those fossil bones
We build to mimic life with pygmy hands,--
Not in those earliest days when men ran wild
And gashed each other with their knives of stone,
When their low foreheads bulged in ridgy brows
And their flat hands were callous in the palm
With walking in the fashion of their sires,
Grope as they might to find a cruel god
To work their will on such as human wrath
Had wrought its worst to torture, and had left
With rage unsated, white and stark and cold,
Could hate have shaped a demon more malign
Than him the dead men mummied in their creed
And taught their trembling children to adore!
Made in his image! Sweet and gracious souls
Dear to my heart by nature's fondest names,
Is not your memory still the precious mould
That lends its form to Him who hears my prayer?
Thus only I behold Him, like to them,
Long-suffering, gentle, ever slow to wrath,
If wrath it be that only wounds to heal,
Ready to meet the wanderer ere he reach
The door he seeks, forgetful of his sin,
Longing to clasp him in a father's arms,
And seal his pardon with a pitying tear!
Four gospels tell their story to mankind,
And none so full of soft, caressing words
That bring the Maid of Bethlehem and her Babe
Before our tear-dimmed eyes, as his who learned
In the meek service of his gracious art
The tones which, like the medicinal balms
That calm the sufferer's anguish, soothe our souls.
Oh that the loving woman, she who sat
So long a listener at her Master's feet,
Had left us Mary's Gospel,--all she heard
Too sweet, too subtle for the ear of man!
Mark how the tender-hearted mothers read
The messages of love between the lines
Of the same page that loads the bitter tongue
Of him who deals in terror as his trade
With threatening words of wrath that scorch like flame
They tell of angels whispering round the bed
Of the sweet infant smiling in its dream,
Of lambs enfolded in the Shepherd's arms,
Of Him who blessed the children; of the land
Where crystal rivers feed unfading flowers,
Of cities golden-paved with streets of pearl,
Of the white robes the winged creatures wear,
The crowns and harps from whose melodious strings
One long, sweet anthem flows forevermore!
We too had human mothers, even as Thou,
Whom we have learned to worship as remote
From mortal kindred, wast a cradled babe.
The milk of woman filled our branching veins,
She lulled us with her tender nursery-song,
And folded round us her untiring arms,
While the first unremembered twilight yeas
Shaped us to conscious being; still we feel
Her pulses in our own,--too faintly feel;
Would that the heart of woman warmed our creeds!
Not from the sad-eyed hermit's lonely cell,
Not from the conclave where the holy men
Glare on each other, as with angry eyes
They battle for God's glory and their own,
Till, sick of wordy strife, a show of hands
Fixes the faith of ages yet unborn,--
Ah, not from these the listening soul can hear
The Father's voice that speaks itself divine!
Love must be still our Master; till we learn
What he can teach us of a woman's heart,
We know not His whose love embraces all.
The Unknown Eros
‘Many speak wisely, some inerrably:
Witness the beast who talk'd that should have bray'd,
And Caiaphas that said
Expedient 'twas for all that One should die;
But what avails
When Love's right accent from their wisdom fails,
And the Truth-criers know not what they cry!
Say, wherefore thou,
As under bondage of some bitter vow,
Warblest no word,
When all the rest are shouting to be heard?
Why leave the fervid running just when Fame
'Gan whispering of thy name
Amongst the hard-pleased Judges of the Course?
Parch'd is thy crystal-flowing source?
Pierce, then, with thought's steel probe, the trodden ground,
Till passion's buried floods be found;
Intend thine eye
Into the dim and undiscover'd sky
Whose lustres are the pulsings of the heart,
And promptly, as thy trade is, watch to chart
The lonely suns, the mystic hazes and throng'd sparkles bright
That, named and number'd right
In sweet, transpicuous words, shall glow alway
With Love's three-stranded ray,
Red wrath, compassion golden, lazuline delight.’
Thus in reproof of my despondency,
My Mentor; and thus I:
O, season strange for song!
And yet some timely power persuades my lips.
Is't England's parting soul that nerves my tongue,
As other Kingdoms, nearing their eclipse,
Have, in their latest bards, uplifted strong
The voice that was their voice in earlier days?
Is it her sudden, loud and piercing cry,
The note which those that seem too weak to sigh
Will sometimes utter just before they die?
Lo, weary of the greatness of her ways,
There lies my Land, with hasty pulse and hard,
Her ancient beauty marr'd,
And, in her cold and aimless roving sight,
Horror of light;
Sole vigour left in her last lethargy,
Save when, at bidding of some dreadful breath,
The rising death
Rolls up with force;
And then the furiously gibbering corse
Shakes, panglessly convuls'd, and sightless stares,
Whilst one Physician pours in rousing wines,
And one declares
That nothing ails it but the pains of growth.
My last look loth
Is taken; and I turn, with the relief
Of knowing that my life-long hope and grief
Are surely vain,
To that unshapen time to come, when She,
A dim, heroic Nation long since dead,
The foulness of her agony forgot,
Shall all benignly shed
Through ages vast
The ghostly grace of her transfigured past
Over the present, harass'd and forlorn,
Of nations yet unborn;
And this shall be the lot
Of those who, in the bird-voice and the blast
Of her omniloquent tongue,
Have truly sung
Or greatly said,
To shew as one
With those who have best done,
And be as rays,
Thro' the still altering world, around her changeless head.
Therefore no 'plaint be mine
Of listeners none,
No hope of render'd use or proud reward,
In hasty times and hard;
But chants as of a lonely thrush's throat
At latest eve,
That does in each calm note
Both joy and grieve;
Notes few and strong and fine,
Gilt with sweet day's decline,
And sad with promise of a different sun.
'Mid the loud concert harsh
Of this fog-folded marsh,
To me, else dumb,
Uranian Clearness, come!
Give me to breathe in peace and in surprise
The light-thrill'd ether of your rarest skies,
Till inmost absolution start
The welling in the grateful eyes,
The heaving in the heart.
Winnow with sighs
And wash away
With tears the dust and stain of clay,
Till all the Song be Thine, as beautiful as Morn,
Bedeck'd with shining clouds of scorn;
And Thou, Inspirer, deign to brood
O'er the delighted words, and call them Very Good.
This grant, Clear Spirit; and grant that I remain
Content to ask unlikely gifts in vain.
The Iliad: Book 18
Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
fleet runner Antilochus, who had been sent as messenger, reached
Achilles, and found him sitting by his tall ships and boding that
which was indeed too surely true. "Alas," said he to himself in the
heaviness of his heart, "why are the Achaeans again scouring the plain
and flocking towards the ships? Heaven grant the gods be not now
bringing that sorrow upon me of which my mother Thetis spoke, saying
that while I was yet alive the bravest of the Myrmidons should fall
before the Trojans, and see the light of the sun no longer. I fear the
brave son of Menoetius has fallen through his own daring and yet I
bade him return to the ships as soon as he had driven back those
that were bringing fire against them, and not join battle with
As he was thus pondering, the son of Nestor came up to him and
told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. "Alas," he cried,
"son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that
they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen, and a fight is raging about
his naked body- for Hector holds his armour."
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled
both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head,
disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his
shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at
full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom
Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief,
beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow.
Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands
as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his
own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him
as she was sitting in the depths of the sea by the old man her father,
whereon she screamed, and all the goddesses daughters of Nereus that
dwelt at the bottom of the sea, came gathering round her. There were
Glauce, Thalia and Cymodoce, Nesaia, Speo, thoe and dark-eyed Halie,
Cymothoe, Actaea and Limnorea, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe and Agave,
Doto and Proto, Pherusa and Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphinome and
Callianeira, Doris, Panope, and the famous sea-nymph Galatea,
Nemertes, Apseudes and Callianassa. There were also Clymene, Ianeira
and Ianassa, Maera, Oreithuia and Amatheia of the lovely locks, with
other Nereids who dwell in the depths of the sea. The crystal cave was
filled with their multitude and they all beat their breasts while
Thetis led them in their lament.
"Listen," she cried, "sisters, daughters of Nereus, that you may
hear the burden of my sorrows. Alas, woe is me, woe in that I have
borne the most glorious of offspring. I bore him fair and strong, hero
among heroes, and he shot up as a sapling; I tended him as a plant
in a goodly garden, and sent him with his ships to Ilius to fight
the Trojans, but never shall I welcome him back to the house of
Peleus. So long as he lives to look upon the light of the sun he is in
heaviness, and though I go to him I cannot help him. Nevertheless I
will go, that I may see my dear son and learn what sorrow has befallen
him though he is still holding aloof from battle."
She left the cave as she spoke, while the others followed weeping
after, and the waves opened a path before them. When they reached
the rich plain of Troy, they came up out of the sea in a long line
on to the sands, at the place where the ships of the Myrmidons were
drawn up in close order round the tents of Achilles. His mother went
up to him as he lay groaning; she laid her hand upon his head and
spoke piteously, saying, "My son, why are you thus weeping? What
sorrow has now befallen you? Tell me; hide it not from me. Surely Jove
has granted you the prayer you made him, when you lifted up your hands
and besought him that the Achaeans might all of them be pent up at
their ships, and rue it bitterly in that you were no longer with
Achilles groaned and answered, "Mother, Olympian Jove has indeed
vouchsafed me the fulfilment of my prayer, but what boots it to me,
seeing that my dear comrade Patroclus has fallen- he whom I valued
more than all others, and loved as dearly as my own life? I have
lost him; aye, and Hector when he had killed him stripped the wondrous
armour, so glorious to behold, which the gods gave to Peleus when they
laid you in the couch of a mortal man. Would that you were still
dwelling among the immortal sea-nymphs, and that Peleus had taken to
himself some mortal bride. For now you shall have grief infinite by
reason of the death of that son whom you can never welcome home-
nay, I will not live nor go about among mankind unless Hector fall
by my spear, and thus pay me for having slain Patroclus son of
Thetis wept and answered, "Then, my son, is your end near at hand-
for your own death awaits you full soon after that of Hector."
Then said Achilles in his great grief, "I would die here and now, in
that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and
in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him. What is there
for me? Return to my own land I shall not, and I have brought no
saving neither to Patroclus nor to my other comrades of whom so many
have been slain by mighty Hector; I stay here by my ships a bootless
burden upon the earth, I, who in fight have no peer among the
Achaeans, though in council there are better than I. Therefore, perish
strife both from among gods and men, and anger, wherein even a
righteous man will harden his heart- which rises up in the soul of a
man like smoke, and the taste thereof is sweeter than drops of
honey. Even so has Agamemnon angered me. And yet- so be it, for it
is over; I will force my soul into subjection as I needs must; I
will go; I will pursue Hector who has slain him whom I loved so
dearly, and will then abide my doom when it may please Jove and the
other gods to send it. Even Hercules, the best beloved of Jove- even
he could not escape the hand of death, but fate and Juno's fierce
anger laid him low, as I too shall lie when I am dead if a like doom
awaits me. Till then I will win fame, and will bid Trojan and
Dardanian women wring tears from their tender cheeks with both their
hands in the grievousness of their great sorrow; thus shall they
know that he who has held aloof so long will hold aloof no longer.
Hold me not back, therefore, in the love you bear me, for you shall
not move me."
Then silver-footed Thetis answered, "My son, what you have said is
true. It is well to save your comrades from destruction, but your
armour is in the hands of the Trojans; Hector bears it in triumph upon
his own shoulders. Full well I know that his vaunt shall not be
lasting, for his end is close at hand; go not, however, into the press
of battle till you see me return hither; to-morrow at break of day I
shall be here, and will bring you goodly armour from King Vulcan."
On this she left her brave son, and as she turned away she said to
the sea-nymphs her sisters, "Dive into the bosom of the sea and go
to the house of the old sea-god my father. Tell him everything; as for
me, I will go to the cunning workman Vulcan on high Olympus, and ask
him to provide my son with a suit of splendid armour."
When she had so said, they dived forthwith beneath the waves,
while silver-footed Thetis went her way that she might bring the
armour for her son.
Thus, then, did her feet bear the goddess to Olympus, and
meanwhile the Achaeans were flying with loud cries before murderous
Hector till they reached the ships and the Hellespont, and they
could not draw the body of Mars's servant Patroclus out of reach of
the weapons that were showered upon him, for Hector son of Priam
with his host and horsemen had again caught up to him like the flame
of a fiery furnace; thrice did brave Hector seize him by the feet,
striving with might and main to draw him away and calling loudly on
the Trojans, and thrice did the two Ajaxes, clothed in valour as
with a garment, beat him from off the body; but all undaunted he would
now charge into the thick of the fight, and now again he would stand
still and cry aloud, but he would give no ground. As upland
shepherds that cannot chase some famished lion from a carcase, even so
could not the two Ajaxes scare Hector son of Priam from the body of
And now he would even have dragged it off and have won
imperishable glory, had not Iris fleet as the wind, winged her way
as messenger from Olympus to the son of Peleus and bidden him arm. She
came secretly without the knowledge of Jove and of the other gods, for
Juno sent her, and when she had got close to him she said, "Up, son of
Peleus, mightiest of all mankind; rescue Patroclus about whom this
fearful fight is now raging by the ships. Men are killing one another,
the Danaans in defence of the dead body, while the Trojans are
trying to hale it away, and take it to wind Ilius: Hector is the
most furious of them all; he is for cutting the head from the body and
fixing it on the stakes of the wall. Up, then, and bide here no
longer; shrink from the thought that Patroclus may become meat for the
dogs of Troy. Shame on you, should his body suffer any kind of
And Achilles said, "Iris, which of the gods was it that sent you
Iris answered, "It was Juno the royal spouse of Jove, but the son of
Saturn does not know of my coming, nor yet does any other of the
immortals who dwell on the snowy summits of Olympus."
Then fleet Achilles answered her saying, "How can I go up into the
battle? They have my armour. My mother forbade me to arm till I should
see her come, for she promised to bring me goodly armour from
Vulcan; I know no man whose arms I can put on, save only the shield of
Ajax son of Telamon, and he surely must be fighting in the front
rank and wielding his spear about the body of dead Patroclus."
Iris said, 'We know that your armour has been taken, but go as you
are; go to the deep trench and show yourelf before the Trojans, that
they may fear you and cease fighting. Thus will the fainting sons of
the Achaeans gain some brief breathing-time, which in battle may
Iris left him when she had so spoken. But Achilles dear to Jove
arose, and Minerva flung her tasselled aegis round his strong
shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which
she kindled a glow of gleaming fire. As the smoke that goes up into
heaven from some city that is being beleaguered on an island far out
at sea- all day long do men sally from the city and fight their
hardest, and at the going down of the sun the line of beacon-fires
blazes forth, flaring high for those that dwell near them to behold,
if so be that they may come with their ships and succour them- even so
did the light flare from the head of Achilles, as he stood by the
trench, going beyond the wall- but he aid not join the Achaeans for he
heeded the charge which his mother laid upon him.
There did he stand and shout aloud. Minerva also raised her voice
from afar, and spread terror unspeakable among the Trojans. Ringing as
the note of a trumpet that sounds alarm then the foe is at the gates
of a city, even so brazen was the voice of the son of Aeacus, and when
the Trojans heard its clarion tones they were dismayed; the horses
turned back with their chariots for they boded mischief, and their
drivers were awe-struck by the steady flame which the grey-eyed
goddess had kindled above the head of the great son of Peleus.
Thrice did Achilles raise his loud cry as he stood by the trench,
and thrice were the Trojans and their brave allies thrown into
confusion; whereon twelve of their noblest champions fell beneath
the wheels of their chariots and perished by their own spears. The
Achaeans to their great joy then drew Patroclus out of reach of the
weapons, and laid him on a litter: his comrades stood mourning round
him, and among them fleet Achilles who wept bitterly as he saw his
true comrade lying dead upon his bier. He had sent him out with horses
and chariots into battle, but his return he was not to welcome.
Then Juno sent the busy sun, loth though he was, into the waters
of Oceanus; so he set, and the Achaeans had rest from the tug and
turmoil of war.
Now the Trojans when they had come out of the fight, unyoked their
horses and gathered in assembly before preparing their supper. They
kept their feet, nor would any dare to sit down, for fear had fallen
upon them all because Achilles had shown himself after having held
aloof so long from battle. Polydamas son of Panthous was first to
speak, a man of judgement, who alone among them could look both before
and after. He was comrade to Hector, and they had been born upon the
same night; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed
"Look to it well, my friends; I would urge you to go back now to
your city and not wait here by the ships till morning, for we are
far from our walls. So long as this man was at enmity with Agamemnon
the Achaeans were easier to deal with, and I would have gladly
camped by the ships in the hope of taking them; but now I go in
great fear of the fleet son of Peleus; he is so daring that he will
never bide here on the plain whereon the Trojans and Achaeans fight
with equal valour, but he will try to storm our city and carry off our
women. Do then as I say, and let us retreat. For this is what will
happen. The darkness of night will for a time stay the son of
Peleus, but if he find us here in the morning when he sallies forth in
full armour, we shall have knowledge of him in good earnest. Glad
indeed will he be who can escape and get back to Ilius, and many a
Trojan will become meat for dogs and vultures may I never live to hear
it. If we do as I say, little though we may like it, we shall have
strength in counsel during the night, and the great gates with the
doors that close them will protect the city. At dawn we can arm and
take our stand on the walls; he will then rue it if he sallies from
the ships to fight us. He will go back when he has given his horses
their fill of being driven all whithers under our walls, and will be
in no mind to try and force his way into the city. Neither will he
ever sack it, dogs shall devour him ere he do so."
Hector looked fiercely at him and answered, "Polydamas, your words
are not to my liking in that you bid us go back and be pent within the
city. Have you not had enough of being cooped up behind walls? In
the old-days the city of Priam was famous the whole world over for its
wealth of gold and bronze, but our treasures are wasted out of our
houses, and much goods have been sold away to Phrygia and fair Meonia,
for the hand of Jove has been laid heavily upon us. Now, therefore,
that the son of scheming Saturn has vouchsafed me to win glory here
and to hem the Achaeans in at their ships, prate no more in this
fool's wise among the people. You will have no man with you; it
shall not be; do all of you as I now say;- take your suppers in your
companies throughout the host, and keep your watches and be wakeful
every man of you. If any Trojan is uneasy about his possessions, let
him gather them and give them out among the people. Better let
these, rather than the Achaeans, have them. At daybreak we will arm
and fight about the ships; granted that Achilles has again come
forward to defend them, let it be as he will, but it shall go hard
with him. I shall not shun him, but will fight him, to fall or
conquer. The god of war deals out like measure to all, and the
slayer may yet be slain."
Thus spoke Hector; and the Trojans, fools that they were, shouted in
applause, for Pallas Minerva had robbed them of their understanding.
They gave ear to Hector with his evil counsel, but the wise words of
Polydamas no man would heed. They took their supper throughout the
host, and meanwhile through the whole night the Achaeans mourned
Patroclus, and the son of Peleus led them in their lament. He laid his
murderous hands upon the breast of his comrade, groaning again and
again as a bearded lion when a man who was chasing deer has robbed him
of his young in some dense forest; when the lion comes back he is
furious, and searches dingle and dell to track the hunter if he can
find him, for he is mad with rage- even so with many a sigh did
Achilles speak among the Myrmidons saying, "Alas! vain were the
words with which I cheered the hero Menoetius in his own house; I said
that I would bring his brave son back again to Opoeis after he had
sacked Ilius and taken his share of the spoils- but Jove does not give
all men their heart's desire. The same soil shall be reddened here
at Troy by the blood of us both, for I too shall never be welcomed
home by the old knight Peleus, nor by my mother Thetis, but even in
this place shall the earth cover me. Nevertheless, O Patroclus, now
that I am left behind you, I will not bury you, till I have brought
hither the head and armour of mighty Hector who has slain you.
Twelve noble sons of Trojans will I behead before your bier to
avenge you; till I have done so you shall lie as you are by the ships,
and fair women of Troy and Dardanus, whom we have taken with spear and
strength of arm when we sacked men's goodly cities, shall weep over
you both night and day."
Then Achilles told his men to set a large tripod upon the fire
that they might wash the clotted gore from off Patroclus. Thereon they
set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear fire: they threw
sticks on to it to make it blaze, and the water became hot as the
flame played about the belly of the tripod. When the water in the
cauldron was boiling they washed the body, anointed it with oil, and
closed its wounds with ointment that had been kept nine years. Then
they laid it on a bier and covered it with a linen cloth from head
to foot, and over this they laid a fair white robe. Thus all night
long did the Myrmidons gather round Achilles to mourn Patroclus.
Then Jove said to Juno his sister-wife, "So, Queen Juno, you have
gained your end, and have roused fleet Achilles. One would think
that the Achaeans were of your own flesh and blood."
And Juno answered, "Dread son of Saturn, why should you say this
thing? May not a man though he be only mortal and knows less than we
do, do what he can for another person? And shall not I- foremost of
all goddesses both by descent and as wife to you who reign in
heaven- devise evil for the Trojans if I am angry with them?"
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Thetis came to the house of
Vulcan, imperishable, star-bespangled, fairest of the abodes in
heaven, a house of bronze wrought by the lame god's own hands. She
found him busy with his bellows, sweating and hard at work, for he was
making twenty tripods that were to stand by the wall of his house, and
he set wheels of gold under them all that they might go of their own
selves to the assemblies of the gods, and come back again- marvels
indeed to see. They were finished all but the ears of cunning
workmanship which yet remained to be fixed to them: these he was now
fixing, and he was hammering at the rivets. While he was thus at
work silver-footed Thetis came to the house. Charis, of graceful
head-dress, wife to the far-famed lame god, came towards her as soon
as she saw her, and took her hand in her own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis, honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Come inside and let me set refreshment before you."
The goddess led the way as she spoke, and bade Thetis sit on a
richly decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under her feet. Then she called Vulcan and said, "Vulcan, come here,
Thetis wants you"; and the far-famed lame god answered, "Then it is
indeed an august and honoured goddess who has come here; she it was
that took care of me when I was suffering from the heavy fall which
I had through my cruel mother's anger- for she would have got rid of
me because I was lame. It would have gone hardly with me had not
Eurynome, daughter of the ever-encircling waters of Oceanus, and
Thetis, taken me to their bosom. Nine years did I stay with them,
and many beautiful works in bronze, brooches, spiral armlets, cups,
and chains, did I make for them in their cave, with the roaring waters
of Oceanus foaming as they rushed ever past it; and no one knew,
neither of gods nor men, save only Thetis and Eurynome who took care
of me. If, then, Thetis has come to my house I must make her due
requital for having saved me; entertain her, therefore, with all
hospitality, while I put by my bellows and all my tools."
On this the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his thin legs
plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and
gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he took a sponge and
washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and brawny neck; he donned
his shirt, grasped his strong staff, and limped towards the door.
There were golden handmaids also who worked for him, and were like
real young women, with sense and reason, voice also and strength,
and all the learning of the immortals; these busied themselves as
the king bade them, while he drew near to Thetis, seated her upon a
goodly seat, and took her hand in his own, saying, "Why have you
come to our house, Thetis honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Say what you want, and I will do it for you at once if
I can, and if it can be done at all."
Thetis wept and answered, "Vulcan, is there another goddess in
Olympus whom the son of Saturn has been pleased to try with so much
affliction as he has me? Me alone of the marine goddesses did he
make subject to a mortal husband, Peleus son of Aeacus, and sorely
against my will did I submit to the embraces of one who was but
mortal, and who now stays at home worn out with age. Neither is this
all. Heaven vouchsafed me a son, hero among heroes, and he shot up
as a sapling. I tended him as a plant in a goodly garden and sent
him with his ships to Ilius to fight the Trojans, but never shall I
welcome him back to the house of Peleus. So long as he lives to look
upon the light of the sun, he is in heaviness, and though I go to
him I cannot help him; King Agamemnon has made him give up the
maiden whom the sons of the Achaeans had awarded him, and he wastes
with sorrow for her sake. Then the Trojans hemmed the Achaeans in at
their ships' sterns and would not let them come forth; the elders,
therefore, of the Argives besought Achilles and offered him great
treasure, whereon he refused to bring deliverance to them himself, but
put his own armour on Patroclus and sent him into the fight with
much people after him. All day long they fought by the Scaean gates
and would have taken the city there and then, had not Apollo
vouchsafed glory to Hector and slain the valiant son of Menoetius
after he had done the Trojans much evil. Therefore I am suppliant at
your knees if haply you may be pleased to provide my son, whose end is
near at hand, with helmet and shield, with goodly greaves fitted
with ancle-clasps, and with a breastplate, for he lost his own when
his true comrade fell at the hands of the Trojans, and he now lies
stretched on earth in the bitterness of his soul."
And Vulcan answered, "Take heart, and be no more disquieted about
this matter; would that I could hide him from death's sight when his
hour is come, so surely as I can find him armour that shall amaze
the eyes of all who behold it."
When he had so said he left her and went to his bellows, turning
them towards the fire and bidding them do their office. Twenty bellows
blew upon the melting-pots, and they blew blasts of every kind, some
fierce to help him when he had need of them, and others less strong as
Vulcan willed it in the course of his work. He threw tough copper into
the fire, and tin, with silver and gold; he set his great anvil on its
block, and with one hand grasped his mighty hammer while he took the
tongs in the other.
First he shaped the shield so great and strong, adorning it all over
and binding it round with a gleaming circuit in three layers; and
the baldric was made of silver. He made the shield in five
thicknesses, and with many a wonder did his cunning hand enrich it.
He wrought the earth, the heavens, and the sea; the moon also at her
full and the untiring sun, with all the signs that glorify the face of
heaven- the Pleiads, the Hyads, huge Orion, and the Bear, which men
also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing.
Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of
men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were
going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by
torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the
youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood
each at her house door to see them.
Meanwhile the people were gathered in assembly, for there was a
quarrel, and two men were wrangling about the blood-money for a man
who had been killed, the one saying before the people that he had paid
damages in full, and the other that he had not been paid. Each was
trying to make his own case good, and the people took sides, each
man backing the side that he had taken; but the heralds kept them
back, and the elders sate on their seats of stone in a solemn
circle, holding the staves which the heralds had put into their hands.
Then they rose and each in his turn gave judgement, and there were two
talents laid down, to be given to him whose judgement should be deemed
About the other city there lay encamped two hosts in gleaming
armour, and they were divided whether to sack it, or to spare it and
accept the half of what it contained. But the men of the city would
not yet consent, and armed themselves for a surprise; their wives
and little children kept guard upon the walls, and with them were
the men who were past fighting through age; but the others sallied
forth with Mars and Pallas Minerva at their head- both of them wrought
in gold and clad in golden raiment, great and fair with their armour
as befitting gods, while they that followed were smaller. When they
reached the place where they would lay their ambush, it was on a
riverbed to which live stock of all kinds would come from far and near
to water; here, then, they lay concealed, clad in full armour. Some
way off them there were two scouts who were on the look-out for the
coming of sheep or cattle, which presently came, followed by two
shepherds who were playing on their pipes, and had not so much as a
thought of danger. When those who were in ambush saw this, they cut
off the flocks and herds and killed the shepherds. Meanwhile the
besiegers, when they heard much noise among the cattle as they sat
in council, sprang to their horses, and made with all speed towards
them; when they reached them they set battle in array by the banks
of the river, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod spears at one
another. With them were Strife and Riot, and fell Fate who was
dragging three men after her, one with a fresh wound, and the other
unwounded, while the third was dead, and she was dragging him along by
his heel: and her robe was bedrabbled in men's blood. They went in and
out with one another and fought as though they were living people
haling away one another's dead.
He wrought also a fair fallow field, large and thrice ploughed
already. Many men were working at the plough within it, turning
their oxen to and fro, furrow after furrow. Each time that they turned
on reaching the headland a man would come up to them and give them a
cup of wine, and they would go back to their furrows looking forward
to the time when they should again reach the headland. The part that
they had ploughed was dark behind them, so that the field, though it
was of gold, still looked as if it were being ploughed- very curious
He wrought also a field of harvest corn, and the reapers were
reaping with sharp sickles in their hands. Swathe after swathe fell to
the ground in a straight line behind them, and the binders bound
them in bands of twisted straw. There were three binders, and behind
them there were boys who gathered the cut corn in armfuls and kept
on bringing them to be bound: among them all the owner of the land
stood by in silence and was glad. The servants were getting a meal
ready under an oak, for they had sacrificed a great ox, and were
busy cutting him up, while the women were making a porridge of much
white barley for the labourers' dinner.
He wrought also a vineyard, golden and fair to see, and the vines
were loaded with grapes. The bunches overhead were black, but the
vines were trained on poles of silver. He ran a ditch of dark metal
all round it, and fenced it with a fence of tin; there was only one
path to it, and by this the vintagers went when they would gather
the vintage. Youths and maidens all blithe and full of glee, carried
the luscious fruit in plaited baskets; and with them there went a
boy who made sweet music with his lyre, and sang the Linus-song with
his clear boyish voice.
He wrought also a herd of homed cattle. He made the cows of gold and
tin, and they lowed as they came full speed out of the yards to go and
feed among the waving reeds that grow by the banks of the river. Along
with the cattle there went four shepherds, all of them in gold, and
their nine fleet dogs went with them. Two terrible lions had
fastened on a bellowing bull that was with the foremost cows, and
bellow as he might they haled him, while the dogs and men gave
chase: the lions tore through the bull's thick hide and were gorging
on his blood and bowels, but the herdsmen were afraid to do
anything, and only hounded on their dogs; the dogs dared not fasten on
the lions but stood by barking and keeping out of harm's way.
The god wrought also a pasture in a fair mountain dell, and large
flock of sheep, with a homestead and huts, and sheltered sheepfolds.
Furthermore he wrought a green, like that which Daedalus once made
in Cnossus for lovely Ariadne. Hereon there danced youths and
maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another's
wrists. The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well
woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with
garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold that hung by
silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with
merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and
making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes
they would go all in line with one another, and much people was
gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to
them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in
the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.
All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream
of the river Oceanus.
Then when he had fashioned the shield so great and strong, he made a
breastplate also that shone brighter than fire. He made helmet,
close fitting to the brow, and richly worked, with a golden plume
overhanging it; and he made greaves also of beaten tin.
Lastly, when the famed lame god had made all the armour, he took
it and set it before the mother of Achilles; whereon she darted like a
falcon from the snowy summits of Olympus and bore away the gleaming
armour from the house of Vulcan.
The Golden Legend: II. A Farm In The Odenwald
A garden; morning;_ PRINCE HENRY _seated, with a
book_. ELSIE, _at a distance, gathering flowers._
_Prince Henry (reading)._ One morning, all alone,
Out of his convent of gray stone,
Into the forest older, darker, grayer,
His lips moving as if in prayer,
His head sunken upon his breast
As in a dream of rest,
Walked the Monk Felix. All about
The broad, sweet sunshine lay without,
Filling the summer air;
And within the woodlands as he trod,
The twilight was like the Truce of God
With worldly woe and care;
Under him lay the golden moss;
And above him the boughs of hemlock-tree
Waved, and made the sign of the cross,
And whispered their Benedicites;
And from the ground
Rose an odor sweet and fragrant
Of the wild flowers and the vagrant
Vines that wandered,
Seeking the sunshine, round and round.
These he heeded not, but pondered
On the volume in his hand,
A volume of Saint Augustine;
Wherein he read of the unseen
Splendors of God's great town
In the unknown land,
And, with his eyes cast down
In humility, he said:
'I believe, O God,
What herein I have read,
But alas! I do not understand!'
And lo! he heard
The sudden singing of a bird,
A snow-white bird, that from a cloud
And among the branches brown
So sweet, and clear, and loud,
It seemed a thousand harp strings ringing.
And the Monk Felix closed his book,
And long, long,
With rapturous look,
He listened to the song,
And hardly breathed or stirred,
Until he saw, as in a vision,
The land Elysian,
And in the heavenly city heard
Fall on the golden flagging of the street.
And he would fain
Have caught the wondrous bird,
But strove in vain;
For it flew away, away,
Far over hill and dell,
And instead of its sweet singing
He heard the convent bell
Suddenly in the silence ringing
For the service of noonday.
And he retraced
His pathway homeward sadly and in haste.
In the convent there was a change!
He looked for each well known face,
But the faces were new and strange;
New figures sat in the oaken stalls,
New voices chaunted in the choir,
Yet the place was the same place,
The same dusky walls
Of cold, gray stone,
The same cloisters and belfry and spire.
A stranger and alone
Among that brotherhood
The Monk Felix stood
'Forty years,' said a Friar.
'Have I been Prior
Of this convent in the wood,
But for that space
Never have I beheld thy face!'
The heart of the Monk Felix fell:
And he answered with submissive tone,
'This morning, after the hour of Prime,
I left my cell,
And wandered forth alone,
Listening all the time
To the melodious singing
Of a beautiful white bird,
Until I heard
The bells of the convent ringing
Noon from their noisy towers,
It was as if I dreamed;
For what to me had seemed
Moments only, had been hours!'
'Years!' said a voice close by.
It was an aged monk who spoke,
From a bench of oak
Fastened against the wall;--
He was the oldest monk of all.
For a whole century
Had he been there,
Serving God in prayer,
The meekest and humblest of his creatures.
He remembered well the features
Of Felix, and he said,
Speaking distinct and slow:
'One hundred years ago,
When I was a novice in this place,
There was here a monk, full of God's grace,
Who bore the name
Of Felix, and this man must be the same.'
They brought forth to the light of day
A volume old and brown,
A huge tome, bound
With brass and wild-boar's hide,
Therein were written down
The names of all who had died
In the convent, since it was edified.
And there they found,
Just as the old monk said,
That on a certain day and date,
One hundred years before,
Had gone forth from the convent gate
The Monk Felix, and never more
Had entered that sacred door.
He had been counted among the dead!
And they knew, at last,
That, such had been the power
Of that celestial and immortal song,
A hundred years had passed,
And had not seemed so long
As a single hour!
(ELSIE _comes in with flowers._)
_Elsie._ Here are flowers for you,
But they are not all for you.
Some of them are for the Virgin
And for Saint Cecilia.
_Prince Henry._ As thou standest there,
Thou seemest to me like the angel
That brought the immortal roses
To Saint Cecilia's bridal chamber.
_Elsie._ But these will fade.
_Prince Henry._ Themselves will fade,
But not their memory,
And memory has the power
To re-create them from the dust.
They remind me, too,
Of martyred Dorothea,
Who from celestial gardens sent
Flowers as her witnesses
To him who scoffed and doubted.
_Elsie._ Do you know the story
Of Christ and the Sultan's daughter?
That is the prettiest legend of them all.
_Prince Henry._ Then tell it to me.
But first come hither.
Lay the flowers down beside me.
And put both thy hands in mine.
Now tell me the story.
_Elsie._ Early in the morning
The Sultan's daughter
Walked in her father's garden,
Gathering the bright flowers,
All full of dew.
_Prince Henry._ Just as thou hast been doing
This morning, dearest Elsie.
_Elsie._ And as she gathered them,
She wondered more and more
Who was the Master of the Flowers,
And made them grow
Out of the cold, dark earth.
'In my heart,' she said,
'I love him; and for him
Would leave my father's palace,
To labor in his garden.'
_Prince Henry._ Dear, innocent child!
How sweetly thou recallest
The long-forgotten legend,
That in my early childhood
My mother told me!
Upon my brain
It reappears once more,
As a birth-mark on the forehead
When a hand suddenly
Is laid upon it, and removed!
_Elsie._ And at midnight,
As she lay upon her bed,
She heard a voice
Call to her from the garden,
And, looking forth from her window,
She saw a beautiful youth
Standing among the flowers.
It was the Lord Jesus;
And she went down to him,
And opened the door for him;
And he said to her, 'O maiden!
Thou hast thought of me with love,
And for thy sake
Out of my Father's kingdom
Have I come hither:
I am the Master of the Flowers.
My garden is in Paradise,
And if thou wilt go with me,
Thy bridal garland
Shall be of bright red flowers.'
And then he took from his finger
A golden ring,
And asked the Sultan's daughter
If she would be his bride.
And when she answered him with love,
His wounds began to bleed,
And she said to him,
'O Love! how red thy heart is,
And thy hands are full of roses,'
'For thy sake,' answered he,
'For thy sake is my heart so red,
For thee I bring these roses.
I gathered them at the cross
Whereon I died for thee!
Come, for my Father calls.
Thou art my elected bride!'
And the Sultan's daughter
Followed him to his Father's garden.
_Prince Henry._ Wouldst thou have done so, Elsie?
_Elsie._ Yes, very gladly.
_Prince Henry._ Then the Celestial Bridegroom
Will come for thee also.
Upon thy forehead he will place,
Not his crown of thorns,
But a crown of roses.
In thy bridal chamber,
Like Saint Cecilia,
Thou shall hear sweet music,
And breathe the fragrance
Of flowers immortal!
Go now and place these flowers
Before her picture.
* * * * *
A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE.
* * * * *
_Twilight._ URSULA _spinning._ GOTTLIEB _asleep in his
_Ursula._ Darker and darker! Hardly a glimmer
Of light comes in at the window-pane;
Or is it my eyes are growing dimmer?
I cannot disentangle this skein,
Nor wind it rightly upon the reel.
_Gottlieb (starting)_. The stopping of thy wheel
Has wakened me out of a pleasant dream.
I thought I was sitting beside a stream,
And heard the grinding of a mill,
When suddenly the wheels stood still,
And a voice cried 'Elsie' in my ear!
It startled me, it seemed so near.
_Ursula._ I was calling her: I want a light.
I cannot see to spin my flax.
Bring the lamp, Elsie. Dost thou hear?
_Elsie (within)._ In a moment!
_Gottlieb._ Where are Bertha and Max?
_Ursula._ They are sitting with Elsie at the door.
She is telling them stories of the wood,
And the Wolf, and Little Red Ridinghood.
_Gottlieb_. And where is the Prince?
_Ursula_. In his room overhead;
I heard him walking across the floor,
As he always does, with a heavy tread.
(ELSIE _comes in with a lamp_. MAX _and_ BERTHA _follow her;
and they all sing the Evening Song on the lighting of the lamps_.)
O gladsome light
Of the Father Immortal,
And of the celestial
Sacred and blessed
Jesus, our Saviour!
Now to the sunset
Again hast thou brought us;
And, seeing the evening
Twilight, we bless thee,
Praise thee, adore thee!
Son, the Life-giver!
Spirit, the Comforter!
Worthy at all times
Of worship and wonder!
_Prince Henry (at the door)_. Amen!
_Ursula_. Who was it said Amen?
_Elsie_. It was the Prince: he stood at the door,
And listened a moment, as we chaunted
The evening song. He is gone again.
I have often seen him there before.
_Ursula_. Poor Prince!
_Gottlieb_. I thought the house was haunted!
Poor Prince, alas! and yet as mild
And patient as the gentlest child!
_Max._ I love him because he is so good,
And makes me such fine bows and arrows,
To shoot at the robins and the sparrows,
And the red squirrels in the wood!
_Bertha._ I love him, too!
_Gottlieb._ Ah, yes! we all
Love him, from the bottom of our hearts;
He gave us the farm, the house, and the grange,
He gave us the horses and the carts,
And the great oxen in the stall,
The vineyard, and the forest range!
We have nothing to give him but our love!
_Bertha._ Did he give us the beautiful stork above
On the chimney-top, with its large, round nest?
_Gottlieb._ No, not the stork; by God in heaven,
As a blessing, the dear, white stork was given;
But the Prince has given us all the rest.
God bless him, and make him well again.
_Elsie._ Would I could do something for his sake,
Something to cure his sorrow and pain!
_Gottlieb._ That no one can; neither thou nor I,
Nor any one else.
_Elsie._ And must he die?
_Ursula._ Yes; if the dear God does not take
Pity upon him, in his distress,
And work a miracle!
_Gottlieb._ Or unless
Some maiden, of her own accord,
Offers her life for that of her lord,
And is willing to die in his stead.
_Elsie._ I will!
_Ursula._ Prithee, thou foolish child, be still!
Thou shouldst not say what thou dost not mean!
_Elsie._ I mean it truly!
_Max._ O father! this morning,
Down by the mill, in the ravine,
Hans killed a wolf, the very same
That in the night to the sheepfold came,
And ate up my lamb, that was left outside.
_Gottlieb._ I am glad he is dead. It will be a warning
To the wolves in the forest, far and wide.
_Max._ And I am going to have his hide!
_Bertha._ I wonder if this is the wolf that ate
Little Red Ridinghood!
_Ursula._ O, no!
That wolf was killed a long while ago.
Come, children, it is growing late.
_Max._ Ah, how I wish I were a man,
As stout as Hans is, and as strong!
I would do nothing else, the whole day long,
But just kill wolves.
_Gottlieb._ Then go to bed,
And grow as fast as a little boy can.
Bertha is half asleep already.
See how she nods her heavy head,
And her sleepy feet are so unsteady
She will hardly be able to creep upstairs.
_Ursula._ Good-night, my children. Here's the light.
And do not forget to say your prayers
Before you sleep.
_Max and Bertha._ Good-night!
(_They go out with_ ELSIE.)
_Ursula, (spinning)._ She is a strange and wayward child,
That Elsie of ours. She looks so old,
And thoughts and fancies weird and wild
Seem of late to have taken hold
Of her heart, that was once so docile and mild!
_Gottlieb._ She is like all girls.
_Ursula._ Ah no, forsooth!
Unlike all I have ever seen.
For she has visions and strange dreams,
And in all her words and ways, she seems
Much older than she is in truth.
Who would think her but fourteen?
And there has been of late such a change!
My heart is heavy with fear and doubt
That she may not live till the year is out.
She is so strange,--so strange,--so strange!
_Gottlieb._ I am not troubled with any such fear!
She will live and thrive for many a year.
* * * * *
* * * * *
_Night._ ELSIE _praying._
_Elsie._ My Redeemer and my Lord,
I beseech thee, I entreat thee,
Guide me in each act and word,
That hereafter I may meet thee,
Watching, waiting, hoping, yearning,
With my lamp well trimmed and burning!
With these bleeding
Wounds upon thy hands and side,
For all who have lived and erred
Thou hast suffered, thou hast died,
Scourged, and mocked, and crucified,
And in the grave hast thou been buried!
If my feeble prayer can reach thee,
O my Saviour, I beseech thee,
Even as thou hast died for me,
Let me follow where thou leadest,
Let me, bleeding as thou bleedest,
Die, if dying I may give
Life to one who asks to live,
And more nearly,
Dying thus, resemble thee!
* * * * *
THE CHAMBER OF GOTTLIEB AND URSULA.
* * * * *
_Midnight._ ELSIE _standing by their bedside, weeping._
_Gottlieb._ The wind is roaring; the rushing rain
Is loud upon roof and window-pane,
As if the Wild Huntsman of Rodenstein,
Boding evil to me and mine,
Were abroad to-night with his ghostly train!
In the brief lulls of the tempest wild,
The dogs howl in the yard; and hark!
Some one is sobbing in the dark,
Here in the chamber!
_Elsie._ It is I.
_Ursula._ Elsie! what ails thee, my poor child?
_Elsie._ I am disturbed and much distressed,
In thinking our dear Prince must die,
I cannot close mine eyes, nor rest.
_Gottlieb._ What wouldst thou? In the Power Divine
His healing lies, not in our own;
It is in the hand of God alone.
_Elsie._ Nay, he has put it into mine,
And into my heart!
_Gottlieb._ Thy words are wild!
_Ursula._ What dost thou mean? my child! my child!
_Elsie._ That for our dear Prince Henry's sake
I will myself the offering make,
And give my life to purchase his.
_Ursula_ Am I still dreaming, or awake?
Thou speakest carelessly of death,
And yet thou knowest not what it is.
_Elsie._ 'T is the cessation of our breath.
Silent and motionless we lie;
And no one knoweth more than this.
I saw our little Gertrude die,
She left off breathing, and no more
I smoothed the pillow beneath her head.
She was more beautiful than before.
Like violets faded were her eyes;
By this we knew that she was dead.
Through the open window looked the skies
Into the chamber where she lay,
And the wind was like the sound of wings,
As if angels came to bear her away.
Ah! when I saw and felt these things,
I found it difficult to stay;
I longed to die, as she had died,
And go forth with her, side by side.
The Saints are dead, the Martyrs dead,
And Mary, and our Lord, and I
Would follow in humility
The way by them illumined!
_Ursula._ My child! my child! thou must not die!
_Elsie_ Why should I live? Do I not know
The life of woman is full of woe?
Toiling on and on and on,
With breaking heart, and tearful eyes,
And silent lips, and in the soul
The secret longings that arise,
Which this world never satisfies!
Some more, some less, but of the whole
Not one quite happy, no, not one!
_Ursula._ It is the malediction of Eve!
_Elsie._ In place of it, let me receive
The benediction of Mary, then.
_Gottlieb._ Ah, woe is me! Ah, woe is me!
Most wretched am I among men!
_Ursula._ Alas! that I should live to see
Thy death, beloved, and to stand
Above thy grave! Ah, woe the day!
_Elsie._ Thou wilt not see it. I shall lie
Beneath the flowers of another land,
For at Salerno, far away
Over the mountains, over the sea,
It is appointed me to die!
And it will seem no more to thee
Than if at the village on market-day
I should a little longer stay
Than I am used.
_Ursula._ Even as thou sayest!
And how my heart beats, when thou stayest!
I cannot rest until my sight
Is satisfied with seeing thee.
What, then, if thou wert dead?
_Gottlieb_ Ah me!
Of our old eyes thou art the light!
The joy of our old hearts art thou!
And wilt thou die?
_Ursula._ Not now! not now!
_Elsie_ Christ died for me, and shall not I
Be willing for my Prince to die?
You both are silent; you cannot speak.
This said I, at our Saviour's feast,
After confession, to the priest,
And even he made no reply.
Does he not warn us all to seek
The happier, better land on high,
Where flowers immortal never wither,
And could he forbid me to go thither?
_Gottlieb._ In God's own time, my heart's delight!
When he shall call thee, not before!
_Elsie._ I heard him call. When Christ ascended
Triumphantly, from star to star,
He left the gates of heaven ajar.
I had a vision in the night,
And saw him standing at the door
Of his Father's mansion, vast and splendid,
And beckoning to me from afar.
I cannot stay!
_Gottlieb._ She speaks almost
As if it were the Holy Ghost
Spake through her lips, and in her stead!
What if this were of God?
_Ursula._ Ah, then
Gainsay it dare we not.
Elsie! the words that thou hast said
Are strange and new for us to hear,
And fill our hearts with doubt and fear.
Whether it be a dark temptation
Of the Evil One, or God's inspiration,
We in our blindness cannot say.
We must think upon it, and pray;
For evil and good in both resembles.
If it be of God, his will be done!
May he guard us from the Evil One!
How hot thy hand is! how it trembles!
Go to thy bed, and try to sleep.
_Ursula._ Kiss me. Good-night; and do not weep!
(ELSIE _goes out._)
Ah, what an awful thing is this!
I almost shuddered at her kiss.
As if a ghost had touched my cheek,
I am so childish and so weak!
As soon as I see the earliest gray
Of morning glimmer in the east,
I will go over to the priest,
And hear what the good man has to say!
* * * * *
A VILLAGE CHURCH.
* * * * *
_A woman kneeling at the confessional.
The Parish Priest (from within)_. Go, sin no
more! Thy penance o'er,
A new and better life begin!
God maketh thee forever free
From the dominion of thy sin!
Go, sin no more! He will restore
The peace that filled thy heart before,
And pardon thine iniquity!
(_The woman goes out. The Priest comes forth, and
walks slowly up and down the church_.)
O blessed Lord! how much I need
Thy light to guide me on my way!
So many hands, that, without heed,
Still touch thy wounds, and make them bleed!
So many feet, that, day by day,
Still wander from thy fold astray!
Unless thou fill me with thy light,
I cannot lead thy flock aright;
Nor, without thy support, can bear
The burden of so great a care,
But am myself a castaway!
The day is drawing to its close;
And what good deeds, since first it rose,
Have I presented, Lord, to thee,
As offerings of my ministry?
What wrong repressed, what right maintained
What struggle passed, what victory gained,
What good attempted and attained?
Feeble, at best, is my endeavor!
I see, but cannot reach, the height
That lies forever in the light,
And yet forever and forever,
When seeming just within my grasp,
I feel my feeble hands unclasp,
And sink discouraged into night!
For thine own purpose, thou hast sent
The strife and the discouragement!
Why stayest thou, Prince of Hoheneck?
Why keep me pacing to and fro
Amid these aisles of sacred gloom,
Counting my footsteps as I go,
And marking with each step a tomb?
Why should the world for thee make room,
And wait thy leisure and thy beck?
Thou comest in the hope to hear
Some word of comfort and of cheer.
What can I say? I cannot give
The counsel to do this and live;
But rather, firmly to deny
The tempter, though his power is strong,
And, inaccessible to wrong,
Still like a martyr live and die!
The evening air grows dusk and brown;
I must go forth into the town,
To visit beds of pain and death,
Of restless limbs, and quivering breath,
And sorrowing hearts, and patient eyes
That see, through tears, the sun go down,
But never more shall see it rise.
The poor in body and estate,
The sick and the disconsolate.
Must not on man's convenience wait.
(_Goes out. Enter_ LUCIFER, _as a Priest_. LUCIFER,
_with a genuflexion, mocking_.)
This is the Black Pater-noster.
God was my foster,
He fostered me
Under the book of the Palm-tree!
St. Michael was my dame.
He was born at Bethlehem,
He was made of flesh and blood.
God send me my right food,
My right food, and shelter too,
That I may to yon kirk go,
To read upon yon sweet book
Which the mighty God of heaven shook.
Open, open, hell's gates!
Shut, shut, heaven's gates!
All the devils in the air
The stronger be, that hear the Black Prayer!
(_Looking round the church_.)
What a darksome and dismal place!
I wonder that any man has the face
To call such a hole the House of the Lord,
And the Gate of Heaven,--yet such is the word.
Ceiling, and walls, and windows old,
Covered with cobwebs, blackened with mould;
Dust on the pulpit, dust on the stairs,
Dust on the benches, and stalls, and chairs!
The pulpit, from which such ponderous sermons
Have fallen down on the brains of the Germans,
With about as much real edification
As if a great Bible, bound in lead,
Had fallen, and struck them on the head;
And I ought to remember that sensation!
Here stands the holy water stoup!
Holy-water it may be to many,
But to me, the veriest Liquor Gehennae!
It smells like a filthy fast day soup!
Near it stands the box for the poor;
With its iron padlock, safe and sure,
I and the priest of the parish know
Whither all these charities go;
Therefore, to keep up the institution,
I will add my little contribution!
(_He puts in money._)
Underneath this mouldering tomb,
With statue of stone, and scutcheon of brass,
Slumbers a great lord of the village.
All his life was riot and pillage,
But at length, to escape the threatened doom
Of the everlasting, penal fire,
He died in the dress of a mendicant friar,
And bartered his wealth for a daily mass.
But all that afterward came to pass,
And whether he finds it dull or pleasant,
Is kept a secret for the present,
At his own particular desire.
And here, in a corner of the wall,
Shadowy, silent, apart from all,
With its awful portal open wide,
And its latticed windows on either side,
And its step well worn by the bended knees
Of one or two pious centuries,
Stands the village confessional!
Within it, as an honored guest,
I will sit me down awhile and rest!
(_Seats himself in the confessional_.)
Here sits the priest, and faint and low,
Like the sighing of an evening breeze,
Comes through these painted lattices
The ceaseless sound of human woe,
Here, while her bosom aches and throbs
With deep and agonizing sobs,
That half are passion, half contrition,
The luckless daughter of perdition
Slowly confesses her secret shame!
The time, the place, the lover's name!
Here the grim murderer, with a groan,
From his bruised conscience rolls the stone,
Thinking that thus he can atone
For ravages of sword and flame!
Indeed, I marvel, and marvel greatly,
How a priest can sit here so sedately,
Reading, the whole year out and in,
Naught but the catalogue of sin,
And still keep any faith whatever
In human virtue! Never! never!
I cannot repeat a thousandth part
Of the horrors and crimes and sins and woes
That arise, when with palpitating throes
The graveyard in the human heart
Gives up its dead, at the voice of the priest,
As if he were an archangel, at least.
It makes a peculiar atmosphere,
This odor of earthly passions and crimes,
Such as I like to breathe, at times,
And such as often brings me here
In the hottest and most pestilential season.
To-day, I come for another reason;
To foster and ripen an evil thought
In a heart that is almost to madness wrought,
And to make a murderer out of a prince,
A sleight of hand I learned long since!
He comes In the twilight he will not see
the difference between his priest and me!
In the same net was the mother caught!
(_Prince Henry entering and kneeling at the confessional._)
Remorseful, penitent, and lowly,
I come to crave, O Father holy,
Thy benediction on my head.
_Lucifer_. The benediction shall be said
After confession, not before!
'T is a God speed to the parting guest,
Who stands already at the door,
Sandalled with holiness, and dressed
In garments pure from earthly stain.
Meanwhile, hast thou searched well thy breast?
Does the same madness fill thy brain?
Or have thy passion and unrest
Vanished forever from thy mind?
_Prince Henry_. By the same madness still made blind,
By the same passion still possessed,
I come again to the house of prayer,
A man afflicted and distressed!
As in a cloudy atmosphere,
Through unseen sluices of the air,
A sudden and impetuous wind
Strikes the great forest white with fear,
And every branch, and bough, and spray
Points all its quivering leaves one way,
And meadows of grass, and fields of grain,
And the clouds above, and the slanting rain,
And smoke from chimneys of the town,
Yield themselves to it, and bow down,
So does this dreadful purpose press
Onward, with irresistible stress,
And all my thoughts and faculties,
Struck level by the strength of this,
From their true inclination turn,
And all stream forward to Salem!
_Lucifer_. Alas! we are but eddies of dust,
Uplifted by the blast, and whirled
Along the highway of the world
A moment only, then to fall
Back to a common level all,
At the subsiding of the gust!
_Prince Henry_. O holy Father! pardon in me
The oscillation of a mind
Unsteadfast, and that cannot find
Its centre of rest and harmony!
For evermore before mine eyes
This ghastly phantom flits and flies,
And as a madman through a crowd,
With frantic gestures and wild cries,
It hurries onward, and aloud
Repeats its awful prophecies!
Weakness is wretchedness! To be strong
Is to be happy! I am weak,
And cannot find the good I seek,
Because I feel and fear the wrong!
_Lucifer_. Be not alarmed! The Church is kind--
And in her mercy and her meekness
She meets half-way her children's weakness,
Writes their transgressions in the dust!
Though in the Decalogue we find
The mandate written, 'Thou shalt not kill!'
Yet there are cases when we must.
In war, for instance, or from scathe
To guard and keep the one true Faith!
We must look at the Decalogue in the light
Of an ancient statute, that was meant
For a mild and general application,
To be understood with the reservation,
That, in certain instances, the Right
Must yield to the Expedient!
Thou art a Prince. If thou shouldst die,
What hearts and hopes would prostrate he!
What noble deeds, what fair renown,
Into the grave with thee go down!
What acts of valor and courtesy
Remain undone, and die with thee!
Thou art the last of all thy race!
With thee a noble name expires,
And vanishes from the earth's face
The glorious memory of thy sires!
She is a peasant. In her veins
Flows common and plebeian blood;
It is such as daily and hourly stains
The dust and the turf of battle plains,
By vassals shed, in a crimson flood,
Without reserve, and without reward,
At the slightest summons of their lord!
But thine is precious, the fore-appointed
Blood of kings, of God's anointed!
Moreover, what has the world in store
For one like her, but tears and toil?
Daughter of sorrow, serf of the soil,
A peasant's child and a peasant's wife,
And her soul within her sick and sore
With the roughness and barrenness of life!
I marvel not at the heart's recoil
From a fate like this, in one so tender,
Nor at its eagerness to surrender
All the wretchedness, want, and woe
That await it in this world below,
For the unutterable splendor
Of the world of rest beyond the skies.
So the Church sanctions the sacrifice:
Therefore inhale this healing balm,
And breathe this fresh life into thine;
Accept the comfort and the calm
She offers, as a gift divine,
Let her fall down and anoint thy feet
With the ointment costly and most sweet
Of her young blood, and thou shall live.
_Prince Henry._ And will the righteous Heaven forgive?
No action, whether foul or fair,
Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere
A record, written by fingers ghostly,
As a blessing or a curse, and mostly
In the greater weakness or greater strength
Of the acts which follow it, till at length
The wrongs of ages are redressed,
And the justice of God made manifest!
_Lucifer_ In ancient records it is stated
That, whenever an evil deed is done,
Another devil is created
To scourge and torment the offending one!
But evil is only good perverted,
And Lucifer, the Bearer of Light,
But an angel fallen and deserted,
Thrust from his Father's house with a curse
Into the black and endless night.
_Prince Henry._ If justice rules the universe,
From the good actions of good men
Angels of light should be begotten,
And thus the balance restored again.
_Lucifer._ Yes; if the world were not so rotten,
And so given over to the Devil!
_Prince Henry._ But this deed, is it good or evil?
Have I thine absolution free
To do it, and without restriction?
_Lucifer._ Ay; and from whatsoever sin
Lieth around it and within,
From all crimes in which it may involve thee,
I now release thee and absolve thee!
_Prince Henry._ Give me thy holy benediction.
_Lucifer._ (_stretching forth his hand and muttering_),
_The Angel_ (_with the aeolian harp_). Take heed! take heed!
Noble art thou in thy birth,
By the good and the great of earth
Hast thou been taught!
Be noble in every thought
And in every deed!
Let not the illusion of thy senses
Betray thee to deadly offences.
Be strong! be good! be pure!
The right only shall endure,
All things else are but false pretences!
I entreat thee, I implore,
Listen no more
To the suggestions of an evil spirit,
That even now is there,
Making the foul seem fair,
And selfishness itself a virtue and a merit!
* * * * *
A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE.
* * * * *
_Gottlieb_. It is decided! For many days,
And nights as many, we have had
A nameless terror in our breast,
Making us timid, and afraid
Of God, and his mysterious ways!
We have been sorrowful and sad;
Much have we suffered, much have prayed
That he would lead us as is best,
And show us what his will required.
It is decided; and we give
Our child, O Prince, that you may live!
_Ursula_. It is of God. He has inspired
This purpose in her; and through pain,
Out of a world of sin and woe,
He takes her to himself again.
The mother's heart resists no longer;
With the Angel of the Lord in vain
It wrestled, for he was the stronger.
_Gottlieb_. As Abraham offered long ago
His son unto the Lord, and even
The Everlasting Father in heaven
Gave his, as a lamb unto the slaughter,
So do I offer up my daughter!
(URSULA _hides her face_.)
_Elsie_. My life is little,
Only a cup of water,
But pure and limpid.
Take it, O my Prince!
Let it refresh you,
Let it restore you.
It is given willingly,
It is given freely;
May God bless the gift!
_Prince Henry._ And the giver!
_Prince Henry._ I accept it!
_Gottlieb._ Where are the children?
_Ursula._ They are already asleep.
_Gottlieb._ What if they were dead?
* * * * *
IN THE GARDEN.
* * * * *
_Elsie._ I have one thing to ask of you.
_Prince Henry._ What is it?
It is already granted.
_Elsie._ Promise me,
When we are gone from here, and on our way
Are journeying to Salerno, you will not,
By word or deed, endeavor to dissuade me
And turn me from my purpose, but remember
That as a pilgrim to the Holy City
Walks unmolested, and with thoughts of pardon
Occupied wholly, so would I approach
The gates of Heaven, in this great jubilee,
With my petition, putting off from me
All thoughts of earth, as shoes from off my feet.
Promise me this.
_Prince Henry._ Thy words fall from thy lips
Like roses from the lips of Angelo: and angels
Might stoop to pick them up!
_Elsie._ Will you not promise?
_Prince Henry._ If ever we depart upon this journey,
So long to one or both of us, I promise.
_Elsie._ Shall we not go, then? Have you lifted me
Into the air, only to hurl me back
Wounded upon the ground? and offered me
The waters of eternal life, to bid me
Drink the polluted puddles of this world?
_Prince Henry._ O Elsie! what a lesson thou dost teach me!
The life which is, and that which is to come,
Suspended hang in such nice equipoise
A breath disturbs the balance; and that scale
In which we throw our hearts preponderates,
And the other, like an empty one, flies up,
And is accounted vanity and air!
To me the thought of death is terrible,
Having such hold on life. To thee it is not
So much even as the lifting of a latch;
Only a step into the open air
Out of a tent already luminous
With light that shines through its transparent walls!
O pure in heart! from thy sweet dust shall grow
Lilies, upon whose petals will be written
'Ave Maria' in characters of gold!
Orlando Furioso Canto 22
Atlantes' magic towers Astolpho wight
Destroys, and frees his thralls from prison-cell.
Bradamant finds Rogero, who in fight
O'erthrows four barons from the warlike sell,
When on their way to save an errant knight
Doomed to devouring fire: the four who fell
For impious Pinnabel maintained the strife,
Whom, after, Bradamant deprives of life.
Ye courteous dames, and to your lovers dear,
You that are with one single love content;
Though, 'mid so many and many, it is clear
Right few of you are of such constant bent;
Be not displeased at what I said whilere,
When I so bitterly Gabrina shent,
Nor if I yet expend some other verse
In censure of the beldam's mind perverse.
Such was she; and I hide not what is true;
So was enjoined me for a task by one
Whose will is law; therefore is honour due
To constant heart throughout my story done.
He who betrayed his master to the Jew
For thirty pence, nor Peter wronged, nor John,
Nor less renowned is Hypermnestra's fame,
For her so many wicked sisters' shame.
For one I dare to censure in my lays,
For so the story wills which I recite,
On the other hand, a hundred will I praise,
And make their virtue dim the sun's fair light;
But turning to the various pile I raise,
(Gramercy! dear to many) of the knight
Of Scotland I was telling, who hard-by
Had heard, as was rehearsed, a piercing cry.
He entered, 'twixt two hills, a narrow way,
From whence was heard the cry; nor far had hied,
Ere to a vale he came shut out from day,
Where he before him a dead knight espied.
Who I shall tell; but first I must away
From France, in the Levant to wander wide,
Till I the paladin Astolpho find,
Who westward had his course from thence inclined.
I in the cruel city left the peer,
Whence, with the formidable bugle's roar,
He had chased the unfaithful people in their fear,
And has preserved himself from peril sore;
And with the sound had made his comrades rear
Then sail, and fly with noted scorn that shore.
Now following him, I say, the warrior took
The Armenian road, and so that land forsook.
He, after some few days, in Natoly
Finds himself, and towards Brusa goes his ways;
Hence wending, on the hither side o' the sea,
Makes Thrace; through Hungary by the Danube lays
His course, and as his horse had wings to flee,
Traverses in less time than twenty days
Both the Moravian and Bohemian line;
Threaded Franconia next, and crost the Rhine.
To Aix-la-Chapelle thence, through Arden's wood,
Came and embarked upon the Flemish strand.
To sea, with southern breeze his vessel stood;
And, so the favouring wind her canvas fanned,
That he, at little distance, Albion viewed
By noon, and disembarked upon her land.
He backed his horse, and so the rowels plied,
In London he arrived by even-tide.
Here, learning afterwards that Otho old
Has lain for many months in Paris-town,
And that anew nigh every baron bold
Has after his renowned example done,
He straightway does for France his sails unfold,
And to the mouth of Thames again is gone.
Whence issuing forth, with all his canvas spread,
For Calais he directs the galley's head.
A breeze which, from the starboard blowing light,
Had tempted forth Astolpho's bark to sea,
By little and by little, waxed in might,
And so at last obtains the mastery,
The pilot is constrained to veer outright,
Lest by the billows swampt his frigate be,
And he, departing from his first design,
Keeps the bark straight before the cresting brine.
Now to the right, now to the other hand,
Sped by the tempest, through the foaming main,
The vessel ran; she took the happy land
At last nigh Rouen; and forthwith, in chain
And plate Astolpho cased, and girt with brand,
Bade put the saddle upon Rabicane;
Departed thence, and (what availed him more
Than thousands armed) with him his bugle bore;
And traversing a forest, at the feet
Of a fair hill, arrived beside a font,
What time the sheep foregoes his grassy meat,
Penned in the cabin or the hollow mount;
And, overcome by feverish thirst and heat,
Lifted the weighty morion from his front;
Tethered his courser in the thickest wood,
And, with intent to drink, approached the flood.
His lips he had not wetted in its bed
Before a youthful rustic, ambushed near,
Sprang from a copse, backed Rabican, and fled
With the good courser of the cavalier.
Astolpho hears the noise and lifts his head,
And, when he sees his mighty loss so clear,
Satiate, although he had not drunk, upstarts,
And after the young churl in fury darts.
That robber did not let the courser strain
At speed, or he had from the warrior shot;
But loosening now and tightening now the rein,
Fled at a gallop or a steady trot.
From the deep forest issued forth the twain,
After long round, and reached in fine the spot
Where so many illustrious lords were shent:
Worse prisoners they than if in prison pent!
On Rabican, who with the wind might race,
The villain sped, within the enchanter's won.
Impeded by his shield and iron case,
Parforce Astolpho far behind him run;
Yet there arrives as well, but every trace
Of what the warrior had pursued is gone.
He neither Rabican nor thief can meet,
And vainly rolls his eyes and plies his feet.
He plies his feet, and searches still in vain
Throughout the house, hall, bower, or galleried rows:
Yet labours evermore, with fruitless pain
And care, to find the treacherous churl; nor knows
Where he can have secreted Rabicane,
Who every other animal outgoes:
And vainly searches all day the dome about,
Above, below, within it, and without.
He, wearied and confused with wandering wide,
Perceived the place was by enchantment wrought,
And of the book he carried at his side,
By Logistilla given in India, thought;
Bestowed, should new enchantment him betide,
That needful succour might therein be sought.
He to the index turns, and quickly sees
What pages show the proper remedies.
I' the book, of that enchanted house at large
Was written, and in this was taught the way
To foil the enchanter, and to set at large
The different prisoners, subject to his sway.
Of these illusions and these frauds in charge,
A spirit pent beneath the threshold lay;
And the stone raised which kept him fast below,
With him the palace into smoke would go.
Astolpho with desire to bring to end
An enterprise so passing fair, delays
No more, but to the task his force does bend,
And prove how much the heavy marble weighs.
As old Atlantes sees the knight intend
To bring to scorn his art and evil ways,
Suspicious of the ill which may ensue,
He moves to assail him with enchantments new.
He, with his spells and shapes of devilish kind,
Makes the duke different from his wont appear;
To one a giant, and to one a hind,
To other an ill-visaged cavalier;
Each, in the form which in the thicket blind
The false enchanter wore, beholds the peer.
So that they all, with purpose to have back
What the magician took, the duke attack.
The Child, Gradasso, Iroldo, Bradamant,
Prasildo, Brandimart, and many more,
All, cheated by this new illusion, pant
To slay the English baron, angered sore;
But he abased their pride and haughty vaunt,
Who straight bethought him of the horn be bore.
But for the succour of its echo dread,
They, without fail, had laid Astolpho dead.
But he no sooner has the bugle wound
And poured a horrid larum, than in guise
Of pigeons at the musquet's scaring sound,
The troop of cavaliers affrighted flies.
No less the necromancer starts astound,
No less he from his den in panic hies;
Troubled and pale, and hurrying evermore
Till out of hearing of the horrid roar
The warder fled; with him his prisoned train,
And many steeds as well are fled and gone;
(These more than rope is needed to restrain)
Who after their astounded masters run,
Scared by the sound; nor cat nor mouse remain,
Who seem to hear in it, 'Lay on, lay on.'
Rabican with the rest had broke his bands,
But that he fell into Astolpho's hands.
He, having chased the enchanter Moor away,
Upraised the heavy threshold from the ground;
Beneath which, figures and more matters lay,
That I omit; desirous to confound
The spell which did the magic dome upstay,
The duke made havock of whate'er he found,
As him the book he carried taught to do:
And into mist and smoke all past from view.
There he found fastened by a golden chain
Rogero's famous courser, him I say
Given by the wizard, that to the domain
Of false Alcina him he might convey:
On which, equipt with Logistilla's rein,
To France Rogero had retraced his way,
And had from Ind to England rounded all
The right-hand side of the terrestrial ball.
I know not if you recollect how tied
To a tree Rogero left his rein, the day
Galaphron's naked daughter from his side
Vanished, and him did with that scorn appay.
The courser, to his wonder who espied,
Returned to him whom he was used to obey;
Beneath the old enchanter's care to dwell,
And stayed with him till broken was the spell.
At nought Astolpho could more joyous be
Than this; of all things fortunate the best:
In that the hippogryph so happily
Offered himself; that he might scower the rest,
(As much he coveted) of land and sea,
And in few days the ample world invest.
Him well he knew, how fit for his behoof;
For of his feats he had elsewhere made proof.
Him he that day in India proved, when sped
He was by sage Melissa, from the reign
Of that ill woman who him, sore bested,
Had changed from man to myrtle on the plain;
Had marked and noted how his giddy head
Was formed by Logistilla to the rein;
And saw how well instructed by her care
Rogero was, to guide him every where.
Minded to take the hippogryph, he flung
The saddle on him, which lay near, and bitted
The steed, by choosing, all the reins among,
This part or that, until his mouth was fitted:
For in that place were many bridles hung,
Belonging to the coursers which flitted.
And now alone, intent upon his flight,
The thought of Rabicane detained the knight.
Good cause he had to love that Rabicane,
For better horse was not to run with lance,
And him had he from the remotest reign
Of India ridden even into France:
After much thought, he to some friend would fain
Present him, rather than so, left to chance,
Abandon there the courser, as a prey,
To the first stranger who should pass that way.
He stood upon the watch if he could view
Some hunter in the forest, or some hind,
To whom he might commit the charge, and who
Might to some city lead the horse behind.
He waited all that day and till the new
Had dawned, when, while the twilight yet was blind,
He thought he saw, as he expecting stood,
A cavalier approaching through the wood.
But it behoves that, ere the rest I say,
I Bradamant and good Rogero find.
After the horn had ceased, and, far away,
The beauteous pair had left the dome behind,
Rogero looked, and knew what till that day
He had seen not, by Atlantes rendered blind.
Atlantes had effected by his power,
They should not know each other till that hour.
Rogero looks on Bradamant, and she
Looks on Rogero in profound surprise
That for so many days that witchery
Had so obscurred her altered mind and eyes.
Rejoiced, Rogero clasps his lady free,
Crimsoning with deeper than the rose's dyes,
And his fair love's first blossoms, while he clips
The gentle damsel, gathers from her lips.
A thousand times they their embrace renew,
And closely each is by the other prest;
While so delighted are those lovers two,
Their joys are ill contained within their breast.
Deluded by enchantments, much they rue
That while they were within the wizard's rest,
They should not e'er have one another known,
And have so many happy days foregone.
The gentle Bradamant, who was i' the vein
To grant whatever prudent virgin might,
To solace her desiring lover's pain,
So that her honour should receive no slight;
- If the last fruits he of her love would gain,
Nor find her ever stubborn, bade the knight,
Her of Duke Aymon through fair mean demand;
But be baptized before he claimed her hand.
Rogero good, who not alone to be
A Christian for the love of her were fain,
As his good sire had been, and anciently
His grandsire and his whole illustrious strain,
But for her pleasure would immediately
Resign whatever did of life remain,
Says, 'I not only, if 'tis thy desire,
Will be baptized by water, but by fire.'
Then on his way to be baptized he hied,
That he might next espouse the martial may,
With Bradamant; who served him as a guide
To Vallombrosa's fane, an abbey gray,
Rich, fair, nor less religious, and beside,
Courteous to whosoever passed that way;
And they encountered, issuing from the chase,
A woman, with a passing woful face.
Rogero, as still courteous, still humane
To all, but woman most, when he discerned
Her dainty visage furrowed by a rain
Of lovely tears, sore pitied her, and burned
With the desire to know her grievous pain;
And having to the mournful lady turned,
Besought her, after fair salute, to show
What cause had made her eyes thus overflow.
And she, uplifting their moist rays and bright,
Most kindly to the inquiring Child replied;
And of the cause of her unhappy plight,
Him, since he sought it, fully satisfied.
'Thou hast to understand, O gentle knight,
My visage is so bathed with tears,' she cried,
'In pity to a youth condemned to die
This very day, within a town hard by.
'Loving a gentle lady and a gay,
The daughter of Marsilius, king of Spain,
And feigning, veiled in feminine array,
The modest roll of eye and girlish strain,
With her each night the amorous stripling lay,
Nor any had suspicion of the twain:
But nought so hidden is, but searching eye
In the long run the secret will espy.
'One first perceived it, and then spoke with two,
Those two with more, till to the king 'twas said;
Of whom but yesterday a follower true
Gave order to surprise the pair in bed,
And in the citadel the prisoners new,
To separate dungeons in that fortress led;
Nor think I that enough of day remains
To save the lover from his cruel pains.
'I fled, not to behold such cruelty,
For they alive the wretched youth will burn;
Nor think I aught could more afflicting be
Than such fair stripling's torment to discern,
Or that hereafter thing can pleasure me
So much, but that it will to trouble turn,
If memory retrace the cruel flame
Which preyed upon his fair and dainty frame.'
Touched deeply, Bradamant his danger hears,
In heart sore troubled at the story shown;
As anxious for the lover, it appears,
As if he were a brother of her own:
Nor certes wholly causeless are her fears,
As in an after verse will be made known,
Then, to Rogero: 'Him to keep from harms,
Meseems we worthily should turn our arms.'
And to that melancholy damsel said:
'Place us but once within the walls, and I,
So that the youth be not already dead,
Will be your warrant that he shall not die.'
Rogero, who the kindly bosom read
Of Bradamant, still full of piety,
Felt himself but all over with desire
To snatch the unhappy stripling from the fire.
And to the maid, whose troubled face apears
Bathed with a briny flood, 'Why wait we? - need
Is here of speedy succour, not of tears.
Do you but where the youth is prisoned lead;
Him from a thousand swords, a thousand spears,
We vow to save; so it be done with speed.
But haste you, lest too tardy be our aid,
And he be burnt, which succour is delayed.'
The haughty semblance and the lofty say
Of these, who with such wondrous daring glowed,
That hope, which long had ceased to be her stay,
Again upon the grieving dame bestowed:
But, for she less the distance of the way
Dreaded, than interruption of the road,
Lest they, through this, should take that path in vain,
The damsel stood suspended and in pain.
Then said: 'If to the place our journey lay
By the highroad, which is both straight and plain,
That we in time might reach it, I should say,
Before the fire was lit; but we must strain
By path so foul and crooked, that a day
To reach the city would suffice with pain;
And when, alas! we thither shall have sped,
I fear that we shall find the stripling dead.'
'And wherefore take we not the way most near?'
Rogero answers; and the dame replies,
'Because fast by where we our course should steer,
A castle of the Count of Poictiers lies:
Where Pinnabel for dame and cavalier
Did, three days past, a shameful law devise;
Than whom more worthless living wight is none,
The Count Anselmo d'Altaripa's son.
'No cavalier or lady by that rest
Without some noted scorn and injury goes;
Both of their coursers here are dispossest,
And knight his arms and dame her gown foregoes.
No better cavaliers lay lance in rest,
Nor have for years in France against their foes,
Than four, who for Sir Pinnabel have plight
Their promise to maintain the castle's right.
'Whence first arose the usage, which began
But three days since, you now, sir knight, shall hear;
And shall the cause, if right or evil, scan,
Which moved the banded cavaliers to swear.
So ill a lady has the Castellan,
So wayward, that she is without a peer:
Who, on a day, as with the count she went,
I know not whither, by a knight was shent.
'This knight, as flouted by that bonnibel,
For carrying on his croup an ancient dame,
Encountered with her champion Pinnabel,
Of overweening pride and little fame:
Him he o'erturned, made alight as well,
And put her to the proof, if sound or lame;
- Left her on foot, and had that woman old
In the dismounted damsel's garment stoled.
'She, who remained on foot, in fell despite,
Greedy of vengeance, and athirst for ill,
Leagued with the faithless Pinnabel, a wight
All evil prompt to further and fulfil,
Says she shall never rest by day nor night,
Nor ever know a happy hour, until
A thousand knights and dames are dispossest
Of courser, and of armour, and of vest.
'Four puissant knights arrived that very day
It happened, at a place of his, and who
Had all of them from regions far away
Come lately to those parts: so many true
And valiant warriors, skilled in martial play,
Our age has seen not. These the goodly crew:
Guido the savage, but a stripling yet,
Gryphon, and Aquilant, and Sansonet!
'Them at the fortilage, of which I told,
Sir Pinnabel received with semblance fair,
Next seized the ensuing night the warriors bold
In bed, nor loosed, till he had made them swear
That (he such period fixt) they in his hold
Should be his faithful champions for a year
And month; and of his horse and arms deprive
Whatever cavalier should there arrive.
'And any damsel whom the stranger bore
With him, dismount, and strip her of her vest.
So, thus surprised, the warlike prisoners swore;
So were constrained to observe the cruel hest,
Though grieved and troubled: nor against the four,
It seems, can any joust, but vails his crest.
Knight infinite have come, but one and all,
Afoot and without arms have left that Hall.
'Their order is, who from the castle hies,
The first by lot, shall meet the foe alone,
But if he find a champion of such guise
As keeps the sell, while he himself is thrown,
The rest must undertake the enterprise,
Even to the death, against that single one,
Ranged in a band. If such each single knight,
Imagine the assembled warriors' might!
'Nor stands it with our haste, which all delay,
All let forbids, that you beside that tower
Be forced to stop and mingle in the fray:
For grant that you be conquerors in the stower,
(And as your presence warrants well, you may,)
'Tis not a thing concluded in an hour.
And if all day he wait our succour, I
Much fear the stripling in the fire will die.'
'Regard we not this hindrance of our quest,'
Rogero cried, 'But do we what we may!
Let HIM who rules the heavens ordain the rest,
Or Fortune, if he leave it in her sway;
To you shall by this joust be manifest
If we can aid the youth; for whom to-day
They on a ground so causeless and so slight,
As you to us rehearsed, the fire will light.'
Rogero ceased; and in the nearest way
The damsel put the pair without reply:
Nor these beyond three miles had fared, when they
Reached bridge and gate, the place of forfeitry,
Of horse and arms and feminine array,
With peril sore of life. On turret high,
Upon first sight of them, a sentinel
Beat twice upon the castle's larum-bell.
And lo, in eager hurry from the gate
An elder trotting on hackney made!
And he approaching cried, 'Await, await!
- Hola! halt, sirs, for here a fine is paid:
And I to you the usage shall relate,
If this has not to you before been said.'
And to the three forthwith began to tell
The use established there by Pinnabel.
He next proceeds, as he had wont before
To counsel other errant cavalier.
'Unrobe the lady,' (said the elder hoar,)
'My sons, and leave your steeds and martial geer;
Nor put yourselves in peril, and with four
Such matchless champions hazard the career.
Clothes, arms, and coursers every where are rife;
But not to be repaired is loss of life.'
' - No more!' (Rogero said) 'No more! for I
Am well informed of all, and hither speed
With the intention, here by proof to try
If, what my heart has vouched, I am in deed.
For sign or threat I yield not panoply,
If nought beside I hear, nor vest nor steed.
And this my comrade, I as surely know,
These for mere words as little will forego.
'But let me face to face, by Heaven, espy
Those who would take my horse and arms away;
For we have yet beyond that hill to hie,
And little time can here afford to stay.'
'Behold the man,' that ancient made reply,
'Clear of the bridge!' - Nor did in this missay;
For thence a warrior pricked, who, powdered o'er
With snowy flowers, a crimson surcoat wore.
Bradamant for long time with earnest prayer,
For courtesy the good Rogero prest,
To let her from his sell the warrior bear,
Who with white flowers had purfled o'er his vest.
But moved him not; and to Rogero's share
Must leave, and do herself, what liked him best.
He willed the whole emprize his own should be,
And Bradamant should stand apart to see.
The Child demanded of that elder, who
Was he that from the gate first took his way,
And he, ' 'Tis Sansonet; of crimson hue,
I know his surcoat, with white flowers gay.'
Without a word exchanged, the warlike two
Divide the ground, and short is the delay.
For they against each other, levelling low
Their spears, and hurrying sore their coursers, go.
This while had issued from the fortress near,
With many footmen girt, Sir Pinnabel,
All ready to despoil the cavalier,
Who in the warlike joust should void is sell.
At one another spurred in bold career
The knights, with their huge lances rested well.
Up to the points nigh equal was each stick,
Of stubborn native oak, and two palms thick.
Sansonet, of such staves, above five pair
Had made them sever from the living stock,
In neighboring wood, and bade his followers bear
Two of them hither, destined for that shock:
Such truncheons to withstand, well needed-were
A shield and cuirass of the diamond rock.
One he had made them give his foe, and one
He kept himself, the present course to run.
With these which might the solid anvil bore,
(So well their ends were pointed) there and here,
Each aiming at the shield his foeman wore,
The puissant warriors shocked in mid career.
That of Rogero, wrought with magic lore,
By fiends, had little from the stroke to fear:
I of the buckler speak Atlantes made,
Of whose rare virtues I whilere have said.
I have already said, the enchanted light
Strikes with such force on the beholder's eyes,
That, at the shield's discovery, every wight
Is blinded, or on earth half lifeless lies.
Wherefore, well mantled with a veil, the knight
Keeps it, unless some passing need surprise:
Impassive is the shield as well believed,
Since it no damage in the shock received.
The other by less skilful artist wrought,
Did not so well that weightless blow abide,
But, as if smit by thunder, in a thought,
Gave way before the steel, and opened wide;
Gave way before the griding steel, which sought
The arm beneath, by this ill fortified:
So that Sir Sansonet was smote, and reeled,
In his departure, unhorsed upon the field.
And this was the first comrade of the train
That of the tower maintained the usage fell,
Who there had failed another's spoil to gain,
And voided in the joust his knightly sell.
Who laughs, as well will sometimes have to plain,
And find that Fortune will by fits rebel.
Anew the warder on his larum beats,
And to the other knights the sign repeats.
This while Sir Pinnabello had drawn near
To Bradamant, and prayed that she would shew
What warrior had his knight in the career
Smith with such prowess. That the guerdon due
To his ill deeds might wait the cavalier,
God's justice that ill-doer thither drew
On the same courser, which before the Cheat
From Bradamant had taken by deceit.
'Twas now exactly the eighth month was ended,
Since, if you recollect, upon his way,
The faithless Maganzese, with whom she wended,
Cast into Merlin's tomb the martial may;
When her a bough, which fell with her, defended
From death, or her good Fortune, rather say;
And Pinnabel bore off her courser brave,
Deeming the damsel buried in the cave.
The courser, and, through him, the cavalier,
Bradamant knew to be the wicked Count,
And, having heard him, and perused him near,
With more attentive eye and front to front -
'This is the man,' (the damsel said) ' 'tis clear,
Who erst designed me outrage and affront.
Lo! him the traitor's sin doth hither speed,
Of all his treasons to receive the meed.'
To threaten him with vengeance, and to lay
Hands on her sword and charge him now, was done
All in a thought; but first she barred the way
By which he might his fortilage have won.
To earth himself like fox, in his dismay,
Sir Pinnabel has every hope foregone.
He screaming loud, nor ever making head
Against the damsel, through the forest fled.
Pale and dismayed his spurs the caitiff plied
Whose last hope of escape in flight was found;
While with her ready sword, Dordona's pride
Was at his flank, and prest him in his round,
Hunting him close and ever fast beside:
Loud is the uproar, and the woods resound.
Nothing of this is at the castle kenned,
For only to Rogero all attend.
The other three, who from the fortress came,
This while had issued forth upon their way,
And brought with them the ill-accustomed dame,
Who made wayfarers that ill use obey.
In all (who rather than prolong with blame
Their life, would choose to perish in the fray),
The kindling visage burns, and heart is woe,
That to assail one man so many go.
The cruel courtezan by whom was made,
And by whose hest maintained, that evil rite,
Reminds the warriors that they are arrayed
By oath and pact, to avenge her in the fight.
'If with this lance alone thy foes are laid
On earth, why should I band with other knight?'
(Guido the savage said) 'and, if I lie,
Off with my head, for I consent to die.'
So Aquilant, so Gryphon. For the twain
Singly against a single foe would run;
And rather would be taken, rather slain,
Than he should be assailed by more than one.
To them exclaimed the woman: 'Why in vain
Waste you so many words, where fruit is none?
I brought you here that champion's arms to take,
Not other laws and other pacts to make.
'You should have offered, when in prison-cell,
This your excuse; which now too late is made.
'Tis yours the law's observance to compel,
And not with lying tongue your oath evade.'
' - Behold! the arms; behold, with a new sell
And cloth, the goodly steed!' Rogero said,
'Behold with these, as well, the damsel's vest!
If these you covet, why your course arrest?'
She of the castle presses on this side,
On that Rogero rates, and calls them on;
Till they parforce, t'wards him, together hied:
But red with shame, are to the encounter gone.
Foremost appeared 'mid those three knights of pride,
Of Burgundy's good marquis either son.
But Guido, who was borne on heavier steed,
Came at some interval, with tardier speed.
With the same lance with which he overbore
Sir Sansonet, Rogero came to fight;
Well-covered with the shield which heretofore
Atlantes used on Pyrenean height;
I say the enchanted buckler, which, too sore
For human sufferance, dazed the astonished sight:
To which Rogero, as a last resource,
In the most pressing peril had recourse.
Although three times alone the Child was fain
(And, certes sore bested) this to display;
Twice when he from the wanton Fairy's reign
Was to that soberer region on his way!
Last, when the unsated Orc upon the main,
By this astounded, 'mid the sea-foam lay;
Which would have fed upon the naked maid,
So cruel to the Child who brought her aid.
Save these three times, he has preserved the shield
Beneath its veil, but covered in such wise
That it may quickly be to sight revealed,
If he in need of its good succour lies.
With this, as said before, he came a-field
As boldly, as if those three enemies,
Who were arrayed before him, had appeared
Yet less than little children to be feared.
Rogero shocked the valiant Gryphon, where
The border of the buckler joined the sight,
Who seemed as he would fall, now here, now there,
And, from his courser far, last fell outright.
He at the shield had aimed, but smote not fair
The mark; and (for Rogero's orb was bright
And smooth) the hissing weapon slipt, and wrought
Other effect than was in Gryphon's thought.
It rent and tore the veil which served to hide
The lightning's fearful and enchanted rays;
Which, without blinded eyes, can none abide
Upright, nor refuge is for them who gaze.
Aquilant, who was at his brother's side,
Tore off the rest, and made the buckler blaze:
The splendour struck the valiant brothers blind,
And Guido in their rear, who spurred behind.
These here, or there, to earth astonished reel;
Nor eyes alone are dazzled by the light,
But every sense astounds the flaming steel.
Unconscious of the issue of the fight,
Rogero turned his horse, and, in the wheel,
Handled his sword, so good to thrust and smite;
And none descried his fury to oppose;
For in the charge dismounted were his foes.
The knights, together with the footmen all,
And women, who had from the castle hied,
Nor less the coursers panting with their fall,
As if about to die, the warrior spied.
He wondered first, and next perceived the pall
Of silk was handing down on the left side;
I say the pall, in which he used to lap
His shield, the evil cause of that mishap.
He quickly turns, and, turning, rolls his eyes,
In hopes to view his well-loved martial maid;
And thitherward, without delay, he hies
Where, when the joust began, the damsel stayed.
Not finding her, it is the Child's surmise
That she is gone to bear the stripling aid;
Fearing he may be burnt, while they their journey
So long delay, retarded by that tourney.
He saw the damsel, stretched among the rest
Who him had thither guided: as she lay,
He took and placed her, yet with sleep opprest,
Before him, and, sore troubled, rode away.
He with a mantle, which above her vest
She wore, concealed the enchanted buckler's ray:
And to the maid restored, when 'twas concealed,
Her senses, which were ravished by the shield.
Away Rogero posted with the dame,
And did not date his crimsoned visage raise;
Since every one, it seemed to him, might blame
With right that victory, worthy little praise.
'By what amends can I of such a shame
(The blushing warrior said) the stain eraze?
For 'twill be bruited, all my deeds by sleight
Of magic have been done, and not by might.'
As, thinking thus, he journeyed on his way,
Rogero stumbled upon what he sought;
For, in the middle of the track, there lay
A well, within the ground profoundly wrought:
Whither the thirsty herd, at noon of day,
Repaired, their paunches with green forage fraught.
Rogero said, ' 'Tis now, must I provide,
I shame from thee, O shield, no more abide.
'Thee will I keep no more, and this shall be
Even the last shame which so on me is thrown:'
The Child, so ending his self-colloquy,
Dismounting, takes a large and heavy stone;
Which to the shield he ties, and bodily
Both to the bottom of the well are gone.
'Lie buried there for ever, from all eyes,
And with thee hidden be my shame!' he cries.
Filled to the brim with water was the well;
Heavy the stone, and heavy was the shield;
Nor stopt they till they to the bottom fell,
By the light, liquid element concealed.
Fame was not slow the noble act to swell,
But, wandering wide, the deed in brief revealed,
And voicing it abroad, with trumpet-sound,
Told France and Spain and all the countries round.
When that so strange adventure to the rest
Of the wide world, from mouth to mouth was blown,
Knights out of number undertook the quest,
From neighbouring parts and distant; but unknown
To all remained the forest which possessed
The spring wherein the virtuous shield was thrown:
For she who told the action, would not say
Where was the well, nor in what land it lay.
Upon Rogero's parting thence, where fell
The four good champions of that evil law,
Made by the castle's lord Sir Pinnabel,
By him discomfited like men of straw,
- The shield withdrawn - he had removed as well
The light, which quelled their sight and minds who saw;
And those, who, like dead men, on earth had lain,
Had risen, full of wonderment, again.
Nor any thing throughout that livelong day
They 'mid themselves but that strange case relate;
And how it was in that disastrous fray
Each by the horrid light was quelled, debate.
While these, discoursing, of the adventure say,
Tidings are brought of Pinnabello's fate.
That Pinnabel is dead the warriors hear,
But learn not who had slain the cavalier.
Bradamant in close pass, this while, had staid
The faithless Pinnabel, and sorely prest;
And many times had buried half her blade
Within bleeding flanks and heaving breast.
When of his crimes the forfeit had been paid
By him, the infected country's curse and pest,
She from the conscious forest turned away
With that good steed the thief had made his prey.
She would return where she had left the knight,
But never could make out the road anew;
And now by valley, now by mountain-height,
Wandered well-nigh the ample country through.
Yet could she never (such her fortune's spite)
Find out the way to join Rogero true.
Him in another canto I attend
Who loves the tale, to hear my story's end.
Samson Agonistes (excerpts)
[Samson's Opening Speech]
A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade,
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me,
Where I a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw
The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of Heav'n fresh-blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
This day a solemn feast the people hold
To Dagon, their sea-idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease;
Ease to the body some, none to the mind
From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm
Of hornets arm'd, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
O wherefore was my birth from Heaven foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an off'ring burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting
His godlike presence, and from some great act
Of benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding order'd and prescrib'd
As of a person separate to God,
Design'd for great exploits; if I must die
Betray'd, captiv'd, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze;
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this Heav'n-gifted strength? O glorious strength
Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke.
Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt
Divine prediction; what if all foretold
Had been fulfill'd but through mine own default,
Whom have I to complain of but myself?
Who this high gift of strength committed to me,
In what part lodg'd, how easily bereft me,
Under the seal of silence could not keep,
But weakly to a woman must reveal it
O'ercome with importunity and tears.
O impotence of mind, in body strong!
But what is strength without a double share
Of wisdom? vast, unwieldy, burdensome,
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall
By weakest subtleties, not made to rule,
But to subserve where wisdom bears command.
God, when he gave me strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.
But peace, I must not quarrel with the will
Of highest dispensation, which herein
Haply had ends above my reach to know:
Suffices that to me strength is my bane,
And proves the source of all my miseries;
So many, and so huge, that each apart
Would ask a life to wail, but chief of all,
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eas'd,
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me:
They creep, yet see, I, dark in light, expos'd
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse
Without all hope of day!
O first created Beam, and thou great Word,
"Let there be light, and light was over all,"
Why am I thus bereav'd thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part, why was the sight
To such a tender ball as th' eye confin'd?
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd,
And not as feeling through all parts diffus'd,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exil'd from light,
As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave;
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs;
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps to insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more.
[Chorus, Manoah, Samson]
Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be who think not God at all:
If any be, they walk obscure;
For of such doctrine never was there school,
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor but himself.
Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
As to his own edicts found contradicting,
Then give the reins to wand'ring thought,
Regardless of his glory's diminution;
Till by their own perplexities involv'd
They ravel more, still less resolv'd,
But never find self-satisfying solution.
As if they would confine th' interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Who made our laws to bind us, not himself,
And hath full right to exempt
Whom so it pleases him by choice
From national obstriction, without taint
Of sin, or legal debt;
For with his own laws he can best dispense.
He would not else, who never wanted means,
Nor in respect of the enemy just cause
To set his people free,
Have prompted this heroic Nazarite,
Against his vow of strictest purity,
To seek in marriage that fallacious bride,
Down, Reason, then; at least vain reasonings down;
Though Reason here aver
That moral verdit quits her of unclean:
Unchaste was subsequent, her stain, not his.
But see, here comes thy reverend sire,
With careful step, locks white as down,
Old Manoa: advise
Forthwith how thou ought'st to receive him.
Ay me, another inward grief awak'd,
With mention of that name renews th' assault.
Brethren and men of Dan, for such ye seem,
Though in this uncouth place; if old respect,
As I suppose, towards your once gloried friend,
My son, now captive, hither hath inform'd
Your younger feet, while mine cast back with age
Came lagging after; say if he be here.
As signal now in low dejected state,
As erst in highest, behold him where he lies.
O miserable change! is this the man,
That invincible Samson, far renown'd,
The dread of Israel's foes, who with a strength
Equivalent to angels' walk'd their streets,
None offering fight; who single combatant
Duell'd their armies rank'd in proud array,
Himself an army, now unequal match
To save himself against a coward arm'd
At one spear's length. O ever failing trust
In mortal strength! and oh, what not in man
Deceivable and vain! Nay what thing good
Pray'd for, but often proves our woe, our bane?
I pray'd for children, and thought barrenness
In wedlock a reproach; I gain'd a son,
And such a son as all men hail'd me happy;
Who would be now a father in my stead?
O wherefore did God grant me my request,
And as a blessing with such pomp adorn'd?
Why are his gifts desirable, to tempt
Our earnest prayers, then giv'n with solemn hand
As graces, draw a scorpion's tail behind?
For this did the Angel twice descend? for this
Ordain'd thy nurture holy, as of a plant;
Select, and sacred, glorious for a while,
The miracle of men: then in an hour
Ensnar'd, assaulted, overcome, led bound,
Thy foes' derision, captive, poor, and blind,
Into a dungeon thrust, to work with slaves?
Alas! methinks whom God hath chosen once
To worthiest deeds, if he through frailty err
He should not so o'erwhelm, and as a thrall
Subject him to so foul indignities,
Be it but for honour's sake of former deeds.
[Chorus, Manoh, Samson, Dalilah]
His pardon I implore; but as for life,
To what end should I seek it? when in strength
All mortals I excell'd, and great in hopes
With youthful courage and magnanimous thoughts
Of birth from Heav'n foretold and high exploits,
Full of divine instinct, after some proof
Of acts indeed heroic, far beyond
The sons of Anak, famous now and blaz'd,
Fearless of danger, like a petty god
I walk'd about, admir'd of all, and dreaded
On hostile ground, none daring my affront.
Then swoll'n with pride into the snare I fell
Of fair fallacious looks, venereal trains,
Softn'd with pleasure and voluptuous life;
At length to lay my head and hallow'd pledge
Of all my strength in the lascivious lap
Of a deceitful concubine who shore me
Like a tame wether, all my precious fleece,
Then turn'd me out ridiculous, despoil'd,
Shav'n, and disarm'd among my enemies.
Desire of wine and all delicious drinks,
Which many a famous warrior overturns,
Thou couldst repress, nor did the dancing ruby
Sparkling out-pour'd, the flavour, or the smell,
Or taste that cheers the heart of gods and men,
Allure thee from the cool crystalline stream.
Wherever fountain or fresh current flow'd
Against the eastern ray, translucent, pure,
With touch ætherial of Heav'n's fiery rod
I drank, from the clear milky juice allaying
Thirst, and refresh'd; nor envied them the grape
Whose heads that turbulent liquor fills with fumes.
O madness, to think use of strongest wines
And strongest drinks our chief support of health,
When God with these forbidd'n made choice to rear
His mighty champion, strong above compare,
Whose drink was only from the liquid brook.
But what avail'd this temperance, not complete
Against another object more enticing?
What boots it at one gate to make defence,
And at another to let in the foe,
Effeminately vanquish'd? by which means,
Now blind, disheartn'd, sham'd, dishonour'd, quell'd,
To what can I be useful, wherein serve
My nation, and the work from Heav'n impos'd,
But to sit idle on the household hearth,
A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object, these redundant locks
Robustious to no purpose clust'ring down,
Vain monument of strength; till length of years
And sedentary numbness craze my limbs
To a contemptible old age obscure?
Here rather let me drudge and earn my bread,
Till vermin or the draff of servile food
Consume me, and oft-invocated death
Hast'n the welcome end of all my pains.
Wilt thou then serve the Philistines with that gift
Which was expressly giv'n thee to annoy them?
Better at home lie bed-rid, not only idle,
Inglorious, unemploy'd, with age out-worn.
But God, who caus'd a fountain at thy prayer
From the dry ground to spring, thy thirst to allay
After the brunt of battle, can as easy
Cause light again within thy eyes to spring,
Wherewith to serve him better than thou hast;
And I persuade me so; why else this strength
Miraculous yet remaining in those locks?
His might continues in thee not for naught,
Nor shall his wondrous gifts be frustrate thus.
All otherwise to me my thoughts portend,
That these dark orbs no more shall treat with light,
Nor th' other light of life continue long,
But yield to double darkness nigh at hand:
So much I feel my genial spirits droop,
My hopes all flat; Nature within me seems
In all her functions weary of herself;
My race of glory run, and race of shame,
And I shall shortly be with them that rest.
Believe not these suggestions which proceed
From anguish of the mind and humours black,
That mingle with thy fancy. I however
Must not omit a father's timely care
To prosecute the means of thy deliverance
By ransom or how else: meanwhile be calm,
And healing words from these thy friends admit.
O that torment should not be confin'd
To the body's wounds and sores,
With maladies innumerable
In heart, head, breast, and reins;
But must secret passage find
To th' inmost mind,
There exercise all his fierce accidents,
And on her purest spirits prey,
As on entrails, joints, and limbs,
With answerable pains, but more intense,
Though void of corporal sense.
My griefs not only pain me
As a ling'ring disease,
But finding no redress, ferment and rage,
Nor less than wounds immedicable
Rankle, and fester, and gangrene,
To black mortification.
Thoughts, my tormentors, arm'd with deadly stings
Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts,
Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise
Dire inflammation which no cooling herb
Or med'cinal liquor can assuage,
Nor breath of vernal air from snowy Alp.
Sleep hath forsook and giv'n me o'er
To death's benumbing opium as my only cure;
Thence faintings, swoonings of despair,
And sense of Heav'n's desertion.
I was his nursling once and choice delight,
His destin'd from the womb,
Promis'd by heavenly message twice descending.
Under his special eye
Abstemious I grew up and thriv'd amain;
He led me on to mightiest deeds
Above the nerve of mortal arm
Against the uncircumcis'd, our enemies;
But now hath cast me off as never known,
And to those cruel enemies,
Whom I by his appointment had provok'd,
Left me all helpless with th' irreparable loss
Of sight, reserv'd alive to be repeated
The subject of their cruelty, or scorn.
Nor am I in the list of them that hope;
Hopeless are all my evils, all remediless;
This one prayer yet remains, might I be heard,
No long petition, speedy death,
The close of all my miseries, and the balm.
Many are the sayings of the wise
In ancient and in modern books enroll'd,
Extolling patience as the truest fortitude;
And to the bearing well of all calamities,
All chances incident to man's frail life
With studied argument, and much persuasion sought,
Lenient of grief and anxious thought;
But with th' afflicted in his pangs their sound
Little prevails, or rather seems a tune
Harsh, and of dissonant mood from his complaint,
Unless he feel within
Some source of consolation from above;
Secret refreshings, that repair his strength,
And fainting spirits uphold.
God of our Fathers, what is man!
That thou towards him with hand so various,
Or might I say contrarious,
Temper'st thy providence through his short course:
Not evenly, as thou rul'st
The Angelic orders and inferior creatures mute,
Irrational and brute.
Nor do I name of men the common rout,
That wand'ring loose about
Grow up and perish, as the summer fly,
Heads without name no more remember'd;
But such as thou has solemnly elected,
With gifts and graces eminently adorn'd
To some great work, thy glory,
And people's safety, which in part they effect:
Yet toward these thus dignifi'd, thou oft
Amidst their highth of noon,
Changest thy countenance, and thy hand with no regard
Of highest favours past
From thee on them, or them to thee of service.
Nor only dost degrade them, or remit
To life obscur'd, which were a fair dismission,
But throw'st them lower than thou didst exalt them high,
Unseemly falls in human eye,
Too grievous for the trespass or omission,
Oft leav'st them to the hostile sword
Of heathen and profane, their carcasses
To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captiv'd:
Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,
And condemnation of the ingrateful multitude.
If these they scape, perhaps in poverty
With sickness and disease thou bow'st them down,
Painful diseases and deform'd,
In crude old age;
Though not disordinate, yet causeless suff'ring
The punishment of dissolute days: in fine,
Just or unjust, alike seem miserable,
For oft alike both come to evil end.
So deal not with this once thy glorious champion,
The image of thy strength, and mighty minister.
What do I beg? how hast thou dealt already?
Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end.
But who is this, what thing of sea or land?
Female of sex it seems,
That so bedeck'd, ornate, and gay,
Comes this way sailing
Like a stately ship
Of Tarsus, bound for th' isles
Of Javan or Gadire
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails fill'd, and streamers waving,
Courted by all the winds that hold them play,
An amber scent of odorous perfume
Her harbinger, a damsel train behind;
Some rich Philistian matron she may seem,
And now at nearer view, no other certain
Than Dalila thy wife.
My wife! my traitress! let her not come near me.
Yet on she moves, now stands and eyes thee fix'd,
About t' have spoke, but now, with head declin'd
Like a fair flower surcharg'd with dew, she weeps,
And words address'd seem into tears dissolv'd,
Wetting the borders of her silk'n veil;
But now again she makes address to speak.
With doubtful feet and wavering resolution
I came, still dreading thy displeasure, Samson,
Which to have merited, without excuse,
I cannot but acknowledge; yet if tears
May expiate (though the fact more evil drew
In the perverse event than I foresaw)
My penance hath not slack'n'd, though my pardon
No way assur'd. But conjugal affection
Prevailing over fear, and timorous doubt
Hath led me on desirous to behold
Once more thy face, and know of thy estate.
If aught in my ability may serve
To light'n what thou suffer'st, and appease
Thy mind with what amends is in my power,
Though late, yet in some part to recompense
My rash but more unfortunate misdeed.
Out, out hyena! these are thy wonted arts,
And arts of every woman false like thee,
To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray,
Then as repentant to submit, beseech,
And reconcilement move with feign'd remorse,
Confess, and promise wonders in her change,
Not truly penitent, but chief to try
Her husband, how far urg'd his patience bears,
His virtue or weakness which way to assail:
Then with more cautious and instructed skill
Again transgresses, and again submits;
That wisest and best men, full oft beguil'd,
With goodness principl'd not to reject
The penitent, but ever to forgive,
Are drawn to wear out miserable days,
Entangl'd with a pois'nous bosom-snake,
If not by quick destruction soon cut off
As I by thee, to ages an example.
[Chorus, Harapha, Samson]
Look now for no enchanting voice, nor fear
The bait of honied words; a rougher tongue
Draws hitherward, I know him by his stride,
The giant Harapha of Gath, his look
Haughty as is his pile high-built and proud.
Comes he in peace? What wind hath blown him hither
I less conjecture than when first I saw
The sumptuous Dalila floating this way:
His habit carries peace, his brow defiance.
Or peace or not, alike to me he comes.
His fraught we soon shall know, he now arrives.
I come not Samson, to condole thy chance,
As these perhaps, yet wish it had not been,
Though for no friendly intent. I am of Gath;
Men call me Harapha, of stock renown'd
As Og, or Anak, and the Emims old
That Kiriathaim held: thou knowst me now
If thou at all art known. Much I have heard
Of thy prodigious might and feats perform'd
Incredible to me, in this displeas'd,
That I was never present on the place
Of those encounters, where we might have tri'd
Each other's force in camp or listed field;
And now am come to see of whom such noise
Hath walk'd about, and each limb to survey,
If thy appearance answer loud report.
The way to know were not to see but taste.
Dost thou already single me; I thought
Gyves and the mill had tam'd thee? O that fortune
Had brought me to the field where thou art fam'd
To have wrought such wonders with an ass's jaw;
I should have forc'd thee soon wish other arms,
Or left thy carcase where the ass lay thrown:
So had the glory of prowess been recover'd
To Palestine, won by a Philistine
From the unforeskinn'd race, of whom thou bear'st
The highest name for valiant acts; that honour
Certain to have won by mortal duel from thee,
I lose, prevented by thy eyes put out.
Boast not of what thou would'st have done, but do
What then thou would'st, thou seest it in thy hand.
To combat with a blind man I disdain,
And thou hast need much washing to be touch'd.
Such usage as your honourable lords
Afford me, assassinated and betray'd,
Who durst not with their whole united powers
In fight withstand me single and unarm'd,
Nor in the house with chamber ambushes
Close-banded durst attack me, no not sleeping,
Till they had hir'd a woman with their gold,
Breaking her marriage faith to circumvent me.
Therefore without feign'd shifts let be assign'd
Some narrow place enclos'd, where sight may give thee,
Or rather flight, no great advantage on me;
Then put on all thy gorgeous arms, thy helmet
And brigandine of brass, thy broad habergeon,
Vant-brass and greaves, and gauntlet, add thy spear,
A weaver's beam, and seven-times-folded shield:
I only with an oak'n staff will meet thee,
And raise such outcries on thy clatter'd iron,
Which long shall not withhold me from thy head,
That in a little time, while breath remains thee,
Thou oft shalt wish thyself at Gath to boast
Again in safety what thou would'st have done
To Samson, but shalt never see Gath more.
Thou durst not thus disparage glorious arms
Which greatest heroes have in battle worn,
Their ornament and safety, had not spells
And black enchantments, some magician's art
Arm'd thee or charm'd thee strong, which thou from Heaven
Feign'dst at thy birth was giv'n thee in thy hair,
Where strength can least abide, though all thy hairs
Were bristles rang'd like those that ridge the back
Of chaf'd wild boars, or ruffl'd porcupines.
I know no spells, use no forbidden arts;
My trust is in the living God who gave me
At my nativity this strength, diffus'd
No less through all my sinews, joints and bones,
Than thine, while I preserv'd these locks unshorn,
The pledge of my unviolated vow.
For proof hereof, if Dagon be thy god,
Go to his temple, invocate his aid
With solemnest devotion, spread before him
How highly it concerns his glory now
To frustrate and dissolve these magic spells,
Which I to be the power of Israel's God
Avow, and challenge Dagon to the test,
Offering to combat thee his champion bold,
With th' utmost of his godhead seconded:
Then thou shalt see, or rather to thy sorrow
Soon feel, whose God is strongest, thine or mine.
Presume not on thy God, whate'er he be,
Thee he regards not, owns not, hath cut off
Quite from his people, and delivered up
Into thy enemies' hand, permitted them
To put out both thine eyes, and fetter'd send thee
Into the common prison, there to grind
Among the slaves and asses thy comrades,
As good for nothing else, no better service
With those thy boist'rous locks, no worthy match
For valour to assail, nor by the sword
Of noble warrior, so to stain his honour,
But by the barber's razor best subdu'd.
All these indignities, for such they are
From thine, these evils I deserve and more,
Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me
Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon
Whose ear is ever open; and his eye
Gracious to re-admit the suppliant;
In confidence whereof I once again
Defy thee to the trial of mortal fight,
By combat to decide whose god is God,
Thine or whom I with Israel's sons adore.
Fair honour that thou dost thy God, in trusting
He will accept thee to defend his cause,
A murtherer, a revolter, and a robber.
Tongue-doughty giant, how dost thou prove me
Is not thy nation subject to our lords?
Their magistrates confess'd it, when they took thee
As a league-breaker and deliver'd bound
Into our hands: for had'st thou not committed
Notorious murder on those thirty men
At Askalon, who never did thee harm,
Then like a robber stripp'dst them of their robes?
The Philistines, when thou hadst broke the league,
Went up with armed powers thee only seeking,
To others did no violence nor spoil.
Among the daughters of the Philistines
I chose a wife, which argu'd me no foe;
And in your city held my nuptial feast:
But your ill-meaning politician lords,
Under pretence of bridal friends and guests,
Appointed to await me thirty spies,
Who threat'ning cruel death, constrain'd the bride
To wring from me and tell to them my secret,
That solv'd the riddle which I had propos'd.
When I perceiv'd all set on enmity,
As on my enemies, wherever chanc'd,
I us'd hostility, and took their spoil
To pay my underminers in their coin.
My nation was subjected to your lords?
It was the force of conquest; force with force
Is well ejected when the conquer'd can.
But I a private person, whom my country
As a league-breaker gave up bound, presum'd
Single rebellion and did hostile acts.
I was no private but a person rais'd
With strength sufficient and command from Heav'n
To free my country; if their servile minds
Me their deliverer sent would not receive,
But to their masters gave me up for nought,
Th' unworthier they; whence to this day they serve.
I was to do my part from Heav'n assign'd,
And had perform'd it if my known offence
Had not disabl'd me, not all your force:
These shifts refuted, answer thy appellant,
Though by his blindness maim'd for high attempts,
Who now defies thee thrice to single fight,
As a petty enterprise of small enforce.
With thee, a man condemn'd, a slave enroll'd,
Due by the law to capital punishment?
To fight with thee no man of arms will deign.
Cam'st thou for this, vain boaster, to survey me,
To descant on my strength, and give thy verdit?
Come nearer, part not hence so slight inform'd;
But take good heed my hand survey not thee.
O Baal-zebub! can my ears unus'd
Hear these dishonours, and not render death?
No man withholds thee, nothing from thy hand
Fear I incurable; bring up thy van,
My heels are fetter'd, but my fist is free.
This insolence other kind of answer fits.
Go baffl'd coward, lest I run upon thee,
Though in these chains, bulk without spirit vast,
And with one buffet lay thy structure low,
Or swing thee in the air, then dash thee down
To the hazard of thy brains and shatter'd sides.
By Astaroth, ere long thou shalt lament
These braveries, in irons loaden on thee.
His giantship is gone somewhat crestfall'n,
Stalking with less unconsci'nable strides,
And lower looks, but in a sultry chafe.
I dread him not, nor all his giant-brood,
Though fame divulge him father of five sons
All of gigantic size, Goliah chief.
He will directly to the lords, I fear,
And with malicious counsel stir them up
Some way or other yet further to afflict thee.
He must allege some cause, and offer'd fight
Will not dare mention, lest a question rise
Whether he durst accept the offer or not,
And that he durst not plain enough appear'd.
Much more affliction than already felt
They cannot well impose, nor I sustain;
If they intend advantage of my labours,
The work of many hands, which earns my keeping
With no small profit daily to my owners.
But come what will, my deadliest foe will prove
My speediest friend, by death to rid me hence,
The worst that he can give, to me the best.
Yet so it may fall out, because their end
Is hate, not help to me, it may with mine
Draw their own ruin who attempt the deed.
Oh how comely it is and how reviving
To the spirits of just men long oppress'd,
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might
To quell the mighty of the Earth, th' oppressor,
The brute and boist'rous force of violent men,
Hardy and industrious to support
Tyrannic power, but raging to pursue
The righteous and all such as honour truth;
He all their ammunition
And feats of war defeats
With plain heroic magnitude of mind
And celestial vigour arm'd;
Their armouries and magazines contemns,
Renders them useless, while
With winged expedition
Swift as the lightning glance he executes
His errand on the wicked, who surpris'd
Lose their defence distracted and amaz'd.
But patience is more oft the exercise
Of saints, the trial of their fortitude,
Making them each his own deliverer,
And victor over all
That tyranny or fortune can inflict.
Either of these is in thy lot,
Samson, with might endu'd
Above the sons of men; but sight bereav'd
May chance to number thee with those
Whom patience finally must crown.
This idol's day hath been to thee no day of rest,
Labouring thy mind
More than the working day thy hands;
And yet perhaps more trouble is behind,
For I descry this way
Some other tending; in his hand
A sceptre or quaint staff he bears,
Comes on amain, speed in his look.
By his habit I discern him now
A public officer, and now at hand.
His message will be short and voluble.
Ebrews, the pris'ner Samson here I seek.
His manacles remark him, there he sits.
Samson, to thee our lords thus bid me say;
This day to Dagon is a solemn feast,
With sacrifices, triumph, pomp, and games;
Thy strength they know surpassing human rate,
And now some public proof thereof require
To honour this great feast, and great assembly;
Rise therefore with all speed and come along,
Where I will see thee heart'n'd and fresh clad
To appear as fits before th' illustrious lords.
Thou knowst I am an Ebrew, therefore tell them,
Our law forbids at their religious rites
My presence; for that cause I cannot come.
This answer, be assur'd, will not content them.
Have they not sword-players, and ev'ry sort
Of gymnic artists, wrestlers, riders, runners,
Jugglers and dancers, antics, mummers, mimics,
But they must pick me out with shackles tir'd,
And over-labour'd at their public mill,
To make them sport with blind activity?
Do they not seek occasion of new quarrels
On my refusal to distress me more,
Or make a game of my calamities?
Return the way thou cam'st; I will not come.
Regard thyself, this will offend them highly.
Myself? my conscience and internal peace.
Can they think me so broken, so debas'd
With corporal servitude, that my mind ever
Will condescend to such absurd commands?
Although their drudge, to be their fool or jester,
And in my midst of sorrow and heart-grief
To shew them feats, and play before their god
The worst of all indignities, yet on me
Join'd with extreme contempt? I will not come.
My message was impos'd on me with speed,
Brooks no delay: is this thy resolution?
So take it with what speed thy message needs.
I am sorry what this stoutness will produce.
Perhaps thou shalt have cause to sorrow indeed.
Consider, Samson; matters now are strain'd
Up to the highth, whether to hold or break;
He's gone, and who knows how he may report
Thy words by adding fuel to the flame?
Expect another message more imperious,
More lordly thund'ring than thou well wilt bear.
Shall I abuse this consecrated gift
Of strength, again returning with my hair
After my great transgression, so requite
Favour renew'd, and add a greater sin
By prostituting holy things to idols;
A Nazarite in place abominable
Vaunting my strength in honour to their Dagon?
Besides, how vile, contemptible, ridiculous,
What act more execrably unclean, profane?
Yet with this strength thou serv'st the Philistines,
Idolatrous, uncircumcis'd, unclean.
Not in their idol worship, but by labour
Honest and lawful to deserve my food
Of those who have me in their civil power.
Where the heart joins not, outward acts defile not.
Where outward force constrains, the sentence holds;
But who constrains me to the temple of Dagon,
Not dragging? the Philistian lords command.
Commands are no constraints. If I obey them,
I do it freely; venturing to displease
God for the fear of man, and man prefer,
Set God behind: which in his jealousy
Shall never, unrepented, find forgiveness.
Yet that he may dispense with me or thee
Present in temples at idolatrous rites
For some important cause, thou needst not doubt.
How thou wilt here come off surmounts my reach.
Be of good courage, I begin to feel
Some rousing motions in me which dispose
To something extraordinary my thoughts.
I with this messenger will go along,
Nothing to do, be sure, that may dishonour
Our law, or stain my vow of Nazarite.
If there be aught of presage in the mind,
This day will be remarkable in my life
By some great act, or of my days the last.
In time thou hast resolv'd, the man returns.
Samson, this second message from our lords
To thee I am bid say. Art thou our slave,
Our captive, at the public mill our drudge,
And dar'st thou at our sending and command
Dispute thy coming? come without delay;
Or we shall find such engines to assail
And hamper thee, as thou shalt come of force,
Though thou wert firmlier fast'nd than a rock.
I could be well content to try their art,
Which to no few of them would prove pernicious;
Yet knowing their advantages too many,
Because they shall not trail me through their streets
Like a wild beast, I am content to go.
Masters' commands come with a power resistless
To such as owe them absolute subjection;
And for a life who will not change his purpose?
(So mutable are all the ways of men)
Yet this be sure, in nothing to comply
Scandalous or forbidden in our law.
I praise thy resolution, doff these links:
By this compiance thou wilt win the lords
To favour, and perhaps to set thee free.
Brethren farewell, your company along
I will not wish, lest it perhaps offend them
To see me girt with friends; and how the sight
Of me as of a common enemy,
So dreaded once, may now exasperate them
I know not. Lords are lordliest in their wine;
And the well-feasted priest then soonest fir'd
With zeal, if aught religion seem concern'd:
No less the people on their holy-days
Impetuous, insolent, unquenchable;
Happ'n what may, of me expect to hear
Nothing dishonourable, impure, unworthy
Our God, our law, my nation, or myself;
The last of me or no I cannot warrant.
[Messenger, Manoah, Chorus]
Occasions drew me early to this city,
And as the gates I enter'd with sun-rise,
The morning trumpets festival proclaim'd
Through each high street: little I had dispatch'd
When all abroad was rumour'd that this day
Samson should be brought forth to shew the people
Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games;
I sorrow'd at his captive state, but minded
Not to be absent at that spectacle.
The building was a spacious theatre
Half round on two main pillars vaulted high,
With seats where all the lords and each degree
Of sort, might sit in order to behold,
The other side was op'n, where the throng
On banks and scaffolds under sky might stand;
I among these aloof obscurely stood.
The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice
Had fill'd their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine,
When to their sports they turn'd. Immediately
Was Samson as a public servant brought,
In their state livery clad; before him pipes
And timbrels, on each side went armed guards,
Both horse and foot before him and behind,
Archers, and slingers, cataphracts and spears.
At sight of him the people with a shout
Rifted the air clamouring their god with praise,
Who had made their dreadful enemy their thrall.
He patient but undaunted, where they led him
Came to the place, and what was set before him
Which without help of eye, might be assay'd,
To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still perform'd
All with incredible, stupendous force,
None daring to appear antagonist.
At length for intermission sake they led him
Between the pillars; he his guide requested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tir'd to let him lean a while
With both his arms on those two massy pillars
That to the arched roof gave main support.
He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson
Felt in his arms, with head a while inclin'd,
And eyes fast fix'd he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd.
At last with head erect thus cried aloud,
"Hitherto, Lords, what your commands impos'd
I have perform'd, as reason was, obeying,
Not without wonder or delight beheld.
Now of my own accord such other trial
I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater,
As with amaze shall strike all who behold."
This utter'd, straining all his nerves he bow'd,
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro;
He tugg'd, he shook, till down they came and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder
Upon the heads of all who sate beneath,
Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests,
Their choice nobility and flower, not only
Of this but each Philistian city round,
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson with these immix'd, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only scap'd who stood without.
O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious!
Living or dying thou hast fulfill'd
The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now ly'st victorious
Among thy slain self-kill'd,
Not willingly, but tangl'd in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd
Thee with thy slaughter'd foes in number more
Than all thy life had slain before.
While their hearts were jocund and sublime,
Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorg'd of bulls and goats,
Chaunting their idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread who dwells
In Silo his bright sanctuary:
Among them he a spirit of phrenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urg'd them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They only set on sport and play
Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.
So fond are mortal men
Fall'n into wrath divine,
As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.
But he, though blind of sight,
Despis'd and thought extinguish'd quite,
With inward eyes illuminated
His fiery virtue rous'd
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an ev'ning dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts,
And nests in order rang'd
Of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue giv'n for lost,
Depress'd, and overthrown, as seem'd,
Like that self-begott'n bird
In the Arabian woods embost,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teem'd,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deem'd,
And though her body die, her fame survives,
A secular bird, ages of lives.
Come, come, no time for lamentation now,
Nor much more cause: Samson hath quit himself
Like Samson, and heroicly hath finish'd
A life heroic, on his enemies
Fully reveng'd; hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentation to the sons of Caphtor
Through all Philistian bounds; to Israel
Honour hath left, and freedom, let but them
Find courage to lay hold on this occasion;
To himself and father's house eternal fame;
And which is best and happiest yet, all this
With God not parted from him, as was fear'd,
But favouring and assisting to the end.
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Let us go find the body where it lies
Soak'd in his enemies' blood, and from the stream
With layers pure and cleansing herbs wash off
The clotted gore. I with what speed the while
(Gaza is not in plight to say us nay)
Will send for all my kindred, all my friends
To fetch him hence and solemnly attend
With silent obsequy and funeral train
Home to his father's house. There will I build him
A monument, and plant it round with shade
Of laurel ever green, and branching palm,
With all his trophies hung, and acts enroll'd
In copious legend, or sweet lyric song.
Thither shall all the valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valour, and adventures high;
The virgins also shall on feastful days
Visit his tomb with flowers, only bewailing
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice,
From whence captivity and loss of eyes.
All is best, though we oft doubt,
What th' unsearchable dispose
Of Highest Wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontrollable intent.
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismist,
And calm of mind, all passion spent.
The Child Of The Islands - Winter
ERE the Night cometh! On how many graves
Rests, at this hour, their first cold winter's snow!
Wild o'er the earth the sleety tempest raves;
Silent, our Lost Ones slumber on below;
Never to share again the genial glow
Of Christmas gladness round the circled hearth;
Never returning festivals to know,
Or holidays that mark some loved one's birth,
Or children's joyous songs, and loud delighted mirth.
The frozen tombs are sheeted with one pall,--
One shroud for every churchyard, crisp and bright,--
One foldless mantle, softly covering all
With its unwrinkled width of spotless white.
There, through the grey dim day and starlit night,
It rests, on rich and poor, and young and old,--
Veiling dear eyes,--whose warm homne-cheering light
Our pining hearts can never more behold,--
With an unlifting veil,--that falleth blank and cold.
The Spring shall melt that snow,--but kindly eyes
Return not with the Sun's returning powers,--
Nor to the clay-cold cheek, that buried lies,
The living blooms that flush perennial flowers,--
Nor, with the song-birds, vocal in the bowers,
The sweet familiar tones! In silence drear
We pass our days,--and oft in midnight hours
Call madly on their names who cannot hear,--
Names graven on the tombs of the departed year!
There lies the tender Mother, in whose heart
So many claimed an interest and a share!
Humbly and piously she did her part
In every task of love and household care:
And mournfully, with sad abstracted air,
The Father-Widower, on his Christmas Eve,
Strokes down his youngest child's long silken hair,
And, as the gathering sobs his bosom heave,
Goes from that orphaned group, unseen to weep and grieve.
Feeling his loneliness the more this day
Because SHE kept it with such gentle joy,
Scarce can he brook to see his children play,
Remembering how her love it did employ
To choose each glittering gift and welcome toy:
His little timid girl, so slight of limb,--
His fearless, glorious, merry-hearted boy,--
They coax him to their sports,--nor know how dim
The Christmas taper's light must burn henceforth for him!
Ah! when these two are wrapt in peaceful sleep,
His worn eyes on the sinking embers set,
A Vigil to her Memory shall keep!
Her bridal blush when first his love she met,--
Her dying words of meek and fond regret,--
Her tearful thanks for all his kindness past,--
These shall return to him,--while linger yet
The last days of the year,--that year the last
Upon whose circling hours her sunny smile was cast!
Life's Dial now shows blank, for want of HER:
There shall be holiday and festival,
But each his mourning heart shall only stir
With repetitions of her funeral:
Quenched is the happy light that used to fall
On common things, and bid them lustre borrow:
No more the daily air grows musical,
Echoing her soft good night and glad good morrow,
Under the snow she lies,--and he must grieve down sorrow!
And learn how Death can hallow trivial things;
How the eyes fill with melancholy tears
When some chance voice a common ballad sings
The Loved sang too, in well-remembered years,--
How strangely blank the beaten track appears
Which led them to the threshold of our door,--
And how old books some pencilled word endears;
Faint tracery, where our dreaming hearts explore
Their vanished thoughts whose souls commune with us no more!
Under the snow she lies! And there lies too
The young fair blossom, neither Wife nor Bride;
Whose Child-like beauty no man yet might woo,
Dwelling in shadow by her parent's side
Like a fresh rosebud, which the green leaves hide.
Calm as the light that fades along the West,
When not a ripple stirs the azure tide,
She sank to Death: and Heaven knows which is best,
The Matron's task fulfilled, or Virgin's spotless rest.
A quiet rest it is: though o'er that form
We wept, because our human love was weak!
Our Dove's white wings are folded from the storm,--
Tears cannot stain those eyelids pure and meek,--
And pale for ever is the marble cheek
Where, in her life, the shy quick-gushing blood
Was wont with roseate eloquence to speak;
Ebbing and flowing with each varying mood
Of her young timid heart, so innocently good!
And, near her, sleeps the old grey-headed Sire,
Whose faded eyes, in dying prayer uplifted,
Taught them the TRUTH who saw him thus expire,
(Although not eloquent or greatly gifted)
Because they saw the winnowing fan that sifted
Chaff from the grain, disturbed not his high Trust:
In the dark storm, Hope's anchor never drifted,
The dread funereal sentence, 'Dust to Dust,'
No terror held for him who slumbers with the Just.
There, too, is laid the son of many vows;
The stately heir--the treasure of his home:
His early death hath saddened noble brows,
Yet to grieved hearts doth consolation come:
Where shall they find, though through the world they roam,
A star as perfect, and as radiant clear?
Like Ormonde's Ossory, in his early doom,
The throb of triumph checks the rising tear;
No living son can be their dead Son's proud compeer.
HE was not called to leave temptations hollow,
And orgies wild, and bacchanalian nights:
Where vice led on, his spirit scorned to follow:
His soul, self-exiled from all low delights,
Mastered the strength of sensual appetites:
Great plans, good thoughts, alone had power to move him,
Holy Ambition, such as Heaven requites:
His heart, (as they best know who used to love him,)
Was young, and warm, but pure, as the white snow above him.
He sleeps! And she, his young betrothèd bride,
Sleeps too,--her beauty hid in winding-sheet.
The blind tears, freely shed for both, are dried;
And round their silent graves the mourner's feet
Have ceased to echo: but their souls shall meet
In the far world, where no sad burial chime
Knells for departed life; but, endless sweet,
In purity, and love, and joy sublime,
Eternal Hope survives all past decays of Time.
And there, rests One, whom none on earth remember
Except that heart whose fond life fed its own!
The cherished babe, who, through this bleak December,
Far from the Mother's bosom, lieth lone,
Where the cold North-wind makes its wintry moan.
A flower, whose beauty cannot be renewed;
A bird, whose song beyond the cloud is gone;
A child, whose empty cradle is bedewed
By bitter-falling tears in hours of solitude!
Ah! how can Death untwist the cord of Love,
Which bid those parted lives together cling?
Prest to the bosom of that brooding Dove,
Into those infant eyes would softly spring
A sense of happiness and cherishing:
The tender lips knew no completed word,--
The small feet could not run for tottering,--
But a glad silent smile the red mouth stirred,
And murmurs of delight whene'er her name was heard!
Oh! Darling, since all life for death is moulded,
And every cradled head some tomb must fill,--
A little sooner only hast thou folded
Thy helpless hands, that struggled and are still:
A little sooner thy Creator's will
Hath called thee to the Life that shall endure;
And, in that Heaven his gathered saints shall fill,
Hath 'made thy calling and election sure.'
His work in thee being done, was thy death premature?
Baptised,--and so from sin innate reclaimed,--
Pure from impure,--Redemption's forfeit paid,--
Too young to be for wilful errors blamed,--
Thy Angel, little Child so lowly laid,
For ever looketh upward, undismayed!
No earthly trespass, clouding Heaven's clear light,
Casts the Great Glory into dreadful shade:
We weep for thee by day,--we weep by night,--
Whilst thou beholdest GOD with glad enraptured sight!
Whom call we prematurely summoned? All
In whom some gleams of quivering sense remain:
Leaves not quite rotted yellow to their fall,
Flowers not yet withered dry in every vein:
All who depart ere stress of mortal pain
Makes that which crushes pain a blessed boon:
The extremest verge of life we would attain,--
And come he morning, evening, night, or noon,
Death, which must come to all, still comes to all too soon.
For either,--being young,--a bitter strife
Divides the parent's heart 'twixt woe and wonder,
Or, being set and planted in mid-life,
So many earthward roots are torn asunder,
The stroke falls blasting like the shock of thunder!
Or, being old, and good, and fit to die,
The greater is their loss who sheltered under
That tree's wide-spreading branches! Still we sigh,
And, craving back our Dead, lament them where they lie!
Yet there, the pangs of mortal grief are o'er!
Pictures and lockets worn in Love's wild fever,
Rest on unthrobbing hearts: ears hear no more
Harsh words, which uttered once must haunt for ever,
Despite forgiving wish, and sad endeavour:--
Maniacs, whom fellow-creatures feared and bound,
Learn the dread fastening of their chain to sever;
Those bloodshot eyes, that glared so wildly round,
Sealed in eternal calm, and closed in holy ground.
Peace comes to those, who, restless and forlorn,
Wasting in doubt's cold torment, day by day,
Watched alienated eyes for fond return
Of Love's warm light for ever passed away.
Ah, fools! no second morn's renewing ray
Gilds the blank Present, like the happy Past;
Madly ye built, 'mid ruin and decay,--
Striving Hope's anchor in the sand to cast,
And, drifting with the storm, made shipwreck at the last!
There your Philosophers and Poets dwell:
Your great Inventors,--men of giant mind;
The hearts that rose with such a mighty swell,
How little earth sufficeth now to bind!
Heroes and Patriots, Rulers of their kind,
Ambitious Statesmen, flatterers of the Throne,
All, in this lowly rest, their level find:
The weakness of their mortal strength laid down
Beneath the mouldering leaves of Glory's laurelled crown.
And high above them, on the cypress bough,
The little winter robin, all day long,
Slanting his bright eye at the dazzling snow,
Sings with a loud voice and a cheerful song:
While round about, in many a clustering throng,
The tufted snowdrop lifts its gentle head,
And bird and flower, in language mute yet strong,
Reprove our wailing for the happy dead,
And, by their joy, condemn the selfish tears we shed.
For Snowdrops are the harbingers of Spring,--
A sort of link between dumb life and light,--
Freshness preserved amid all withering,--
Bloom in the midst of grey and frosty blight,--
Pale Stars that gladden Nature's dreary night!
And well the Robin may companion be,
Whose breast of glowing red, like embers bright,
Carries a kindling spark from tree to tree,
Lighting the solemn yew where darkness else would be.
The Rose is lovely fair, and rich in scent,
The Lily, stately as a cloistered nun,
The Violet, with its sweet head downward bent,
The Polyanthus, in the noon-day sun,
And Blue-bell swinging where the brooklets run:
But all these grow in summer hours of mirth;
Only the Snowdrop cometh forth alone,
Peering above the cold and niggard earth,
Then bending down to watch the soil that gave it birth.
Seeming to say,--'Behold, your DEAD lie here,
'Beneath the heavy mould whose burial sound
'Smote with such horror on your shrinking ear
'When the dark coffin sank beneath the ground:
'Yet therefrom spring these flowers that quiver round,
'Their frail bells trembling o'er the damp cold sod.
'Fear not, nor doubt--your lost ones shall be found;
'For they, like us, shall burst the valley clod,
'And, in white spotless robes, rise up to light and God!'
Oh! nothing cheerless dwelleth by the tomb,
And nothing cheerless in the wintry sky;
They are asleep whose bed is in that gloom;
They are at rest who in that prison lie,
And have no craving for their liberty!
They hear no storm; the clear frost chills them not,
When the still solemn stars shine out on high;
The dreamless slumber of the grave shall blot
All record of dull pain and suffering from their lot!
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who, hand to hand,
Bravely, but vainly, massacre withstood,
In the dark passes of the INDIAN land,
Where thoughts of unforgotten horror brood!
Whose cry for mercy, in despairing mood,
Rose in a language foreign to their foes,
Groaning and choking in a sea of blood,
No prayer--no hymn to soothe their last repose,
No calm and friendly hands their stiffening eyes to close!
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who trembling bore
Their shuddering limbs along; and pace by pace
Saw in that white sheet plashed with human gore
The dread familiar look of some brave face,--
Distorted,--ghastly,--with a lingering trace
Of life and sorrow in its pleading glance,--
A dying dream of parted Love's embrace,--
A hope of succour, brought by desperate chance,--
Or wild unconscious stare of Death's delirious trance.
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who left behind
Brothers and husbands, foully, fiercely slain:
Who, led by traitors, wandered on, half blind
With bitter tears of sorrow, shed in vain,
Crossing the steep ascent, or dreary plain;
Mothers of helpless children,--delicate wives,
Who brought forth wailing infants, born in pain,
Amid a crowded wreck of human lives,
And scenes that chill the soul, though vital strength survives.
Theirs was the Dreadful Snow,--who never laid
Their Dead to rest with service and with psalm:
Their bones left bleaching in the alien shade
Of mountains crested with the Indian Palm.
Oh! English village graves, how sweet and calm
Shines on your native earth the setting sun!
Yet GLORY gave their wounds a healing balm--
Glory,--like that thy youthful trophies won
In thy first 'prime of life,'-- victorious Wellington!
'In thy life's prime,'--ere yet the fading grey
Had blanched the tresses of thy gallant head:
Or from thy step Time's gradual faint decay
Stole the proud bearing of a Soldier's tread!
Gone are the troops thy voice to battle led,--
Thy conquering hand shall wield the sword no more,--
The foes and comrades of thy youth are dead,--
By Elba's rock and lone St. Helen's shore
No prisoned Emperor hears the boundless ocean roar.
But, though its battle-strength be out of date,
The eager gesture of that warrior hand,--
Raised in the warmth of brief and blunt debate
In the hushed Senate of thy native land,--
Hath something in it of the old command;
The voice retains a certain power to thrill
Which cheered to Victory many a gallant band:
In thy keen sense, and proud unconquered will,
Though thy Life's Prime be past, men own their Leader still!
Plodding his way along the winter path,
Behold, a different lot hard fortune shews:
A blind old veteran in the tempest's wrath,
Around whose feet no fabled laurel grows.
Long hath he dwelt in an enforced repose;
And, when the tales of glorious deeds are heard,
His sightless countenance with pleasure glows,--
His brave old heart is for a moment stirred,--
Then, sad he shrinks away, muttering some mournful word.
For ever idle in this work-day world--
For ever lonely in the moving throng--
Like a seared leaf by eddying breezes whirled,
Hither and thither vaguely borne along:
No guide to steer his course, if right or wrong,
Save the dumb immemorial friend of man,
Who, by some instinct delicate and strong,
From those impassive glances learns to scan
Some wish to move or rest,--some vestige of a plan:
The wildbird's carol in the pleasant woods
Is all he knows of Spring! The rich perfume
Of flowers, with all their various scented buds,
Tells him to welcome Summer's heavy bloom:
And by the wearied gleaners trooping home,--
The heavy tread of many gathering feet,--
And by the laden Waggon-loads that come
Brushing the narrow hedge with burden sweet,--
He guesses Harvest in, and Autumn's store complete.
But in God's Temple the great lamp is out;
And he must worship glory in the Dark!
Till Death, in midnight mystery, hath brought
The veiled Soul's re-illuminating spark,--
The pillar of the CLOUD enfolds the ark!
And, like a man that prayeth underground
In Bethlehem's rocky shrine, he can but mark
The lingering hours by circumstance and sound,
And break with gentle hymns the solemn silence round.
Yet still Life's Better Light shines out above!
And in that village church where first he learned
To bear his cheerless doom for Heaven's dear love,
He sits, with wistful face for ever turned
To hear of those who Heavenly pity earned:
Blind Bartimeus, and him desolate
Who for Bethesda's waters vainly yearned:
And inly sighs, condemned so long to wait,
Baffled and helpless still, beyond the Temple gate!
And can the Blind man miss the Summer sun?
This wintry sheet of wide unbroken white
His sealed blank eyes undazzled rest upon;
Yet round him hangs all day a twofold night,
He felt the warmth, who never saw the light!
He loved to sit beside the cottage door
When blossoms of the gorse were golden bright,
And hear glad children's shouts come o'er the moor,
And bask away his time in happy dreams of yore.
The Sunbeam slanting down on bench or bank
Was, unto him, a sweet consoling friend;
Such as our mournful hearts incline to thank,
But that such thanks affection's depth offend.
All vanished pictures it had power to send
That greeted his keen eyesight, long ago!
Gay plumèd troops defiling without end,--
And glancing bayonets and martial show,--
And hands he used to grasp,--and looks he used to know.
Yea, sometimes, back again to earlier life,
Even to his childish days, his thoughts would steal;
And hear, in lieu of arms and clashing strife,
The low hum of his Mother's spinning wheel,--
And on his withered cheek her lips could feel
As when she kissed its boyish sunburnt bloom:
And fancy little acts of love and zeal,
By which she now would soothe his bitter doom:
But she is dead,--and he,--alone in all his gloom!
Oh! by the beauty of a Summer day,--
The glorious blue that on the fountain lies,--
The tender quivering of the fresh green spray,--
The softness of the night when stars arise;
By the clear gladness of your children's eyes,--
And the familiar sweetness of that face
Most welcome to you underneath the skies,--
Pity that fellow-creature's mournful case
Whom Darkness follows still, where'er his dwelling-place!
'PITY THE BLIND!' How oft, in dolent tone,
That cry is heard along the peopled street,
While the Brute-Guide with patient care leads on
The tardy groping of his Master's feet!
But little dream we, as those steps we meet,
We too are blind, though clear the visual ray
That gives us leave familiar looks to greet,
Smiling and pausing on our onward way:
We too are blind,--and dark the paths wherein we stray.
Yea, blind! and adder-deaf,--and idiot-dull,--
To many a sight and sound that cries aloud.
Is there no moral blindness of the Soul?
Is he less shut from light, who, through the crowd
Threads his blank way, among the poor and proud,--
The foul and fair,--all forms to him the same,--
Than they whose hearts have never yet avowed
Perception of the universal claim
Wrapped in that common phrase, a 'fellow-creature's' name.
Christmas is smiling at the Rich man's door,--
Its joyolus holiday his home endears:
Christmas is frowning on the thin-clad Poor,
With looks of cold distress and frozen tears:
How plain the duty of the time appears!
But Selfishness is Blindness of the Heart;
And, having eyes, we see not; having ears,
We hear not warnings, which should make us start,
While God's good angels watch the acting of our part.
Now, slowly trudging through the crispèd snow,
Under the wintry arch of Heaven's clear dome,
Joy's cadenced music set to tones of woe,
Beneath the windows of the rich man's home
Street-Singers, with their Christmas Carols, roam.
Ah! who shall recognise that sound again,
Nor think of him, who hallowed years to come,
When the past Christmas taught his fervent pen
A 'CAROL' of dear love and brotherhood 'twixt men!
To what good actions that small book gave birth,
God only knows, who sends the wingèd seed
To its appointed resting-place on earth!
What timely help in hours of sorest need,--
What gentle lifting of the bruisèd reed,--
What kind compassion shewn to young and old,--
Proved the true learning of its simple creed,--
We know not,--but we know good thoughts, well told,
Strike root in many a heart, and bear a hundred-fold!
Oh, lovely lesson! art thou hard to learn?
Is it indeed so difficult to share
The school-boy hoard our efforts did not earn?
Shall we still grudge life's luck, to lives of care,
And dream that what we spend on these, we spare?
ALMS being the exception, SELF the rule,
Still shall we give our guinea here and there
('Annual') to church, and hospital, and school,
And lavish hundreds more, on pleasures which befool.
Take but the aggregate of several sums
Allotted for the privilege to stay,
Watching some dancer's feet, who onward comes
Light as a bird upon a bending spray:
When,--oh! thou custom-governed Conscience,--say,
Did niggard Charity at once bestow
What careless Pleasure squanders every day?
When did the tale of real and squalid woe
Awake within thy breast such sympathetic glow?
Prosaic Questioner, thy words beguile
No listener's ear: SHE curtsies, gazing round:
Who would not spend a fortune on her smile!
How curved the stately form prepared to bound
With footfall echoing to the music's sound,
In the Cachucha's proud triumphant pace !
What soft temptation in her look is found
When the gay Tarantalla's wilder grace
Wakes all th' impassioned glow that lights her Southern face!
And now, a peasant girl, abashed she stands:
How pretty and how timid are her eyes:
How gracefully she clasps her small fair hands,
How acts her part of shy and sweet surprise:
How earnest is her love without disguise:
How piteously, when from that dream awaking,
She finds him false on whom her faith relies,
All the arch mirth those features fair forsaking,
She hides her face and sobs as though her heart were breaking!
A Sylphide now, among her bowers of roses,
Or, by lone reeds, a Lake's enamoured fairy,
Her lovely limbs to slumber she composes,
Or flies aloft, with gestures soft and airy:
Still on her guard when seeming most unwary,
Scarce seen, before the small feet twinkle past,
Haunting, and yet of love's caresses chary,
Her maddened lover follows vainly fast,--
While still the perfect step seems that she danced the last!
Poor Child of Pleasure! thou art young and fair,
And youth and beauty are enchanting things:
But hie thee home, bewitching Bayadère,
Strip off thy glittering armlets, pearls, and rings,
Thy peasant boddice, and thy Sylphide wings:
Grow old and starve: require true Christian aid:
And learn, when real distress thy bosom wrings,
For whom was all that costly outlay made:
For SELF, and not for thee, the golden ore was paid!
For the quick beating of the jaded heart,
When sated Pleasure woke beneath thy gaze,
And heaved a languid sigh, alone, apart,
Half for thy beauty, half for 'other days:'
For the trained skill thy pliant form displays,
Pleasing the eye and casting o'er the mind
A spell which, Circé-like, thy power could raise,
A drunkenness of Soul and Sense combined,
Where Fancy's filmy Veil gross Passion's form refined.
For these, while thou hadst beauty, youth, and health,
Thou supple-limbed and nimble-stepping slave
Of two cold masters, Luxury and Wealth,
The wages of thy task they duly gave,
Thy food was choice, and thy apparel brave:
Appeal not now to vanished days of joy
For arguments to succour and to save,--
Proud Self indulgence hath a newer toy,
And younger slaves have skill, and these thy Lords employ.
And thou, first flatterer of her early prime,
Ere praises grew familiar as the light,
And the young feet flew round in measured time
Amid a storm of clapping every night;
Thou, at whose glance the smile grew really bright
That decked her lips for tutored mirth before,--
Wilt THOU deny her and forget her quite?
Thy idol, for whose sake the lavish store
In prodigal caprice thy hand was wont to pour?
Yea, wherefore not? for SELF, and not for her,
Those sums were paid, her facile love to win:
Thy heart's cold ashes vainly would she stir,
The light is quenched she looked so lovely in!
Eke out the measure of thy fault, and sin
'First with her, then against her,' cast her off,
Though on thy words her faith she learned to pin:
The WORLD at her, and not at thee, shall scoff,--
Yea, lowlier than before, its servile cap shall doff.
And since these poor forsaken ones are apt
With ignorant directness to perceive
Only the fact that gentle links are snapt,
Love's perjured nonsense taught them to believe
Would last for ever: since to mourn and grieve
Over these broken vows is to grow wild:
It may be she will come, some winter eve,
And, weeping like a broken-hearted child,
Reproach thee for the days when she was thus beguiled.
Then,--in thy spacious library,--where dwell
Philosophers, Historians, and Sages,
Full of deep lore which thou hast studied well;
And classic Poets, whose melodious pages
Are shut, like birds, in lacquered trellis cages,--
Let thy more educated mind explain
By all experience of recorded ages,
How commonplace is this her frantic pain,
And how such things have been, and must be yet again!
If the ONE BOOK should strike those foreign eyes,
And thy professed Religion she would scan,--
Learning its shallow influence to despise;
Argue thy falsehood on a skilful plan,
Protestant, and protesting gentleman!
Prove all the folly, all the fault, her own;
Let her crouch humbly 'neath misfortune's ban;
She hath unlovely, undelightful grown,
That sin no words absolve: for that no tears atone!
But Prudery,--with averted angry glance,--
Bars pleading, and proclaims the sentence just;
Life's gambler having lost her desperate chance,
Now let the Scorned One grovel in the dust!
Now let the Wanton share the Beggar's crust!
Yet every wretch destroyed by Passion's lure,
Had a First Love,--Lost Hope,--and Broken Trust:
And Heaven shall judge whose thoughts and lives are pure,
Not always theirs worst sin, who worldly scorn endure.
The Worthlessness of those we might relieve
Is chill Denial's favourite pretence:
The proneness of the needy to deceive
By many a stale and counterfeit pretence,--
Their vice,--their folly,--their improvidence.
There's not a ragged beggar that we meet,
Tuning his voice to whining eloquence,
And shuffling towards us with half-naked feet
As some rich equipage comes rolling down the street,--
But we prepare that Sinner to condemn,
And speak a curse, where we were called to bless:
From a corrupted root,--a withered stem;
'Tis gross hypocrisy, and not distress,
Or want brought on by loathsome drunkenness,
Seen in the wandering of his bloodshot eye
Glazed stupid with habitual excess:
Even children raise a simulated cry,--
Worthless we deem them all,--and worthless pass them by.
Nor without reason is the spirit grieved,
And wrath aroused for Truth and Justice' sake:
The tales by which vile Cunning hath deceived,
On calculated chances planned to make
Frozen Compassion's sealed-up fountains wake;
The affectation of distorted pains;
The stealthy dram which trembling fingers take
To send the chill blood coursing through the veins
From a worn heart which scarce its vital heat retains;--
Craving of gifts to pawn, exchange, or sell;--
These are the baser errors of the Poor!
What thine are, Almsgiver, thou best canst tell,
And how thy spirit its temptations bore,
Giving thee now a right to bar the door
Against thy fellow-trespasser: his brow
Hath lost, perchance, the innocence of yore:
The wrestling sin that forced his Soul to bow,
He hath not bravely met and overborne: hast THOU?
Oh, different temptations lurk for all!
The Rich have idleness and luxury,
The Poor are tempted onward to their fall
By the oppression of their Poverty:
Hard is the struggle--deep the agony
When from the demon watch that lies in wait
The soul with shuddering terror strives to flee,
And idleness--or want--or love--or hate--
Lure us to various crimes, for one condemning fate!
Didst THOU, when sleety blasts at midnight howled,
And wretches, clad in Misery's tattered guise,
Like starving wolves, it may be, thieved and prowled;
Never lie dreaming,--shut from winter skies,--
While the warm shadow of remembered eyes,
Like a hot sun-glow, all thy frame opprest;
And love-sick and unhallowed phantasies
Born of a lawless hope, assailed thy breast,
And robbed God's solemn night, of Prayer and tranquil rest.
When the great Sunrise, shining from above
With an impelling and awakening ray,
Found thee so listless in thy sinful love,
Thy flushing cheek could only turn away
From the clear light of that distasteful day,
And, leaning on thy languid hand, invite
Darkness again, that fading dreams might stay,--
Was God's fair Noon not robbed of Duty's Right,
Even as the holy rest was cheated from his night?
Whom thou dost injure,--thou that dost not strike,--
What thou dost covet,--thou that dost not steal,--
HE knows, who made Temptations so unlike,
But SIN the same: to HIM all hearts reveal
The Proteus-like disguises which conceal
That restless Spirit which doth so beguile
And easily beset us: all we feel
Of good or bad,--He knows,--and all the vile
Degrading earthly stains which secret thought defile.
HIS eye detects the stealthy murderer's arm
Uplifted in the hour of midnight gloom:
HE sees, through blushes delicately warm,
Feigned Innocence her forfeit throne resume,
And marks the canker underneath the bloom:
But oft the sentence erring man decreed,
Finds before HIM reversal of its doom:
HE judgeth all our sorrow--all our need--
And pitying bends to hear the sorely tempted plead.
What if by HIM more sternly shall be judged
Crimes to which no necessity impelled,
Than theirs, to whom our human justice grudged
Compassion for the weeping we beheld?
What if the savage blow that madly felled
The object of fierce rage, be lighter deemed
Than cruelty where life-blood never welled,
But where the hope was quenched that faintly gleamed,
And the heart drained of tears which still unpitied streamed?
What if the village brawl, the drunken bout,
The Sabbath-breaking of the skittle-ground,
Shall all be sins foregone and blotted out,
And in their stead worse Sabbath-breaking found
In that which stands not chid for brawling sound;
The silent printed libel; which invests
A strip of paper with the power to wound,--
Where some fair name like dew on nightshade rests,
In a coarse gathered heap of foul indecent jests?
How, if the ignorant clown less vile appears,
Than educated stabbers in the dark,
Who joyed in matron grief, and girlish tears,
And lit in happy homes that quenchless spark
The bitterness of DOUBT: who bid the ark
Float over troubled waters for all time;
And those who once sang joyous as the lark
Bow down in silence; tarnished for no crime;
Stung by a trailing snake, and spotted with its slime?
Oh! learnèd, clothed, and cultivated minds,
To whom the laws their purpose have declared,
Sit ye in judgment but on labouring hinds?
Yea, for the poor your censure is not spared!
Yet shall the faults they made, the crimes they dared,
The errors which ye found so hard to pass,
Seem as the faults of children, when compared
With the corruption of a different class,
When God calls angels forth from this world's buried mass.
Weigh, weigh and balance nicely as you will
The poor man's errors with the poor man's need:
The fiat of the Just One liveth still,
And Human laws, though blindly men may read,
The law of Heaven can never supersede.
By the cold light of Wisdom's complex rules
Vainly we study hard a different creed,--
'Do AS YE WOULD BE DONE BY' mocks the schools,
And mars the shallow craft of worldly-witted fools.
A careless Giver is the poor man's curse!
Think not, by this, absolved of alms to stand;
The niggard heart of indolence does worse,
Stinting both trouble and the liberal hand.
Obey the voice of a divine command;
'Remember Mercy!' haply thou shalt save
If only one, of all that mournful band,
From gaol, or workhouse, or an early grave!
Hear, thou,--and Heaven shall hear thy voice for mercy crave.
Yea, hear the voice that for compassion calls:
Prove him unworthy ere he be denied:
Lest, through thy coldness, dismal workhouse walls
Blankly enclose him round on every side,
And from his eyes God's outward glory hide.
There, like a creature pent in wooden shed,
He in a bitter darkness shall abide,
Duly though sparely clothed, and scantly fed,
But pining for the paths his feet were wont to tread.
There shall his soul, of Nature's sweetness reft,
Robbed of the light that came in angel-gleams
And on the mind such blessed influence left,--
Be filled with dark defying prison-dreams.
Cruel the world's enforced relieving seems,
Preserving life, but not what made life fair;
Stagnant and shut from all life's running streams,
His heart sinks down from feverish restless care,
Into the weary blank of brutalised Despair!
Where is the gorse-flower on the golden moor?
Where the red poppy laughing in the corn?
Where the tall lily at the cottage door,--
The briar-rose dancing in the breezy morn,--
The yellow buttercups of sunshine born,--
The daisies spangling all the village green,--
The showering blossoms of the scented thorn,--
The cowslips that enwreathed the May-day Queen?
What hath he done, that these shall never more be seen?
Oh, flowers! oh, dumb companions on lone hills,--
In meadow walks, and lovely loitering lanes,--
Whose memory brings fresh air and bubbling rills
Amid Life's suffocating fever-pains;
For Rich and Poor your equal joy remains!
Decrepid age and childhood's careless mirth
Alike shall own the power your spell retains:
Midst all the fading changes of the earth
Your smiles, at least, live on,--immortal in their birth.
Who, when some inward anger fiercely burned,--
Hath trod the fresh green carpet where ye lie,
Your soft peace-making faces upward turned,
With a dumb worship to the solemn sky,--
Nor felt his wrath in shame and sorrow die?
Old voices calling to his haunted heart
From grassy meadows known in infancy,
Playfields whose memory bids a teardrop start,
Scenes from a former life whose sunshine dwells apart.
When there had been no quarrels--and no deaths--
No vacant places in our early home:
When blossoms, with their various scented breaths,
Were all the pure hearts knew of beauty's bloom,
Where earthlier passion yet had found no room:
When, from low copse, or sunny upland lawn,
We shouted loud for joy, that steps might come
Bounding and springing, agile as the fawn,--
And 'Sleep came with the dew,' and gladness with the dawn.
Oh! Flowers, oh! gentle never-failing friends,
Which from the world's beginning still have smiled
To cheer Life's pilgrim as he onward wends,--
Seems not your soothing influence, meek and mild,
Like comfort spoken by a little child,
Who, in some desperate sorrow, though he knows
Nothing of all Life's grieving, dark and wild,
An innocent compassion fondly shews,
And fain would win us back from fever to repose?
For morbid folly let my song be chid,--
Incur the cynic's proudly withering sneer,--
But these are feelings (unexprest) which bid
The poor man hold his cottage freedom dear;
The matin lark hath thrilled his gladdened ear,
With its exulting and triumphant song;
The nightingale's sweet notes he loved to hear,
In the dim twilight, when the labouring throng
All weary from their work, in silence trudged along.
The glowing Claudes,--the Poussins,--which your eyes
Behold and value,--treasure as you may,--
His pictures were the sights you do not prize--
The leaf turned yellow by the autumn ray,
The woodbine wreath that swung across his way,
The sudden openings in the hazel-wood:--
He knew no history of Rome's decay,
But, where grey tombstones in the churchyard stood,
He spelt out all the Past on which his mind could brood.
Some humble love-scene of his village lot,
Or some obscure Tradition, could invest
Field, copse, and stile,--or lone and shadowy spot,--
With all the Poetry his heart confest:
The old companions that he loved the best
Met not in crowds at Fashion's busy call:
But loud their merriment, and gay the jest,
At statute fair and homely festival:
And now, life's path is dark, for he hath lost them all!
Therefore deal gently with his destiny,
Which, rightly looked on, differs from your own,
Less in the points of feeling, than degree:
Contrast the great and generous pity shewn,--
The bounteous alms some inquest-hour makes known,--
Bestowed by those whose means of self-support
Are so precarious,--with the pittance thrown
From niggard hands, which only spend for sport,
Scattering vain largesse down in Pleasure's idle court.
Contrast the rich man, with his ready wealth
Feeing a skilled Physician's hand to ease
The pang that robs him of that blessing Health,
With the poor man's lone hour of fell disease;
The wretched ague-fits that burn and freeze,
He understands not; but his aching head
Is conscious that the wasting arm he sees
Grown daily thinner, earns his children's bread,
And that they pine and starve around his helpless bed.
Contrast that terror of the chastening rod
Which those to whom so much was giv'n, must feel,
With the one anxious hope of meeting God!
Of finding all the bliss, the glory real,--
The Mercy that their sorrows past shall heal,--
The Eternal rest,--the happy equal share,--
All that was promised by the Preacher's zeal,
When weekly pausing in a life of care,
Poor voices joined the rich in thanksgiving and prayer.
The stamp of imperfection rests on all
Our human intellects have power to plan;
'Tis Heaven's own mark, fire-branded at the fall,
When we sank lower than we first began,
And the Bad Angel stained the heart of man:
The Good our nature struggles to achieve
Becomes, not what we would, but what we can:--
Ah! shall we therefore idly, vainly grieve,
Or coldly turn away, reluctant to relieve?
Even now a Radiant Angel goeth forth,
A spirit that hath healing on his wings,--
And flieth East and West and North and South
To do the bidding of the King of Kings:
Stirring men's hearts to compass better things,
And teaching BROTHERHOOD as that sweet source
Which holdeth in itself all blessed springs;
And shewing how to guide its silver course,
When it shall flood the world with deep exulting force.
And some shall be too indolent to teach,--
And some too proud of other men to learn,--
And some shall clothe their thoughts in mystic speech,
So that we scarce their meaning may discern;
But all shall feel their hearts within them burn,
(Even those by whom the Holy is denied)
And in their worldly path shall pause and turn,
Because a Presence walketh by their side,
Not of their earthlier mould, but pure and glorified:
And some shall blindly overshoot the mark,
Which others, feeble-handed, fail to hit,
And some, like that lone Dove who left the ark,
With restless and o'erwearied wing to flit
Over a world by lurid storm-gleams lit,--
Shall seek firm landing for a deed of worth,
And see the water-floods still cover it:--
For 'there are many languages on Earth,
But only one in Heaven,' where all good plans have birth.
Faint not, oh Spirit, in dejected mood
Thinking how much is planned, how little done:
Revolt not, Heart, though still misunderstood,
For Gratitude, of all things 'neath the sun,
Is easiest lost,--and insecurest, won:
Doubt not, clear mind, that workest out the Right
For the right's sake: the thin thread must be spun,
And Patience weave it, ere that sign of might,
Truth's Banner, wave aloft, full flashing to the light.
Saw ye the blacksmith with a struggling frown
Hammer the sparkle-drifting iron straight,--
Saw ye the comely anchor, holding down
The storm-tried vessel with its shapely weight?
Saw ye the bent tools, old and out of date,
The crucibles, and fragments of pale ore,--
Saw ye the lovely coronet of state
Which in the festal hour a monarch wore,
The sceptre and the orb which in her hand she bore?
Saw ye the trudging labourer with his spade
Plant the small seedling in the rugged ground,--
Saw ye the forest-trees within whose shade
The wildest blasts of winter wander round,
While the strong branches toss and mock the sound?
Saw ye the honey which the bee had hived,
By starving men in desert wandering found;
And how the soul gained hope, the worn limbs thrived,
Upon the gathered store by insect skill contrived?
Lo! out of Chaos was the world first called,
And Order out of blank Disorder came.
The feebly-toiling heart that shrinks appalled,
In Dangers weak, in Difficulties tame,
Hath lost the spark of that creative flame
Dimly permitted still on earth to burn,
Working out slowly Order's perfect frame:
Distributed to those whose souls can learn,
As labourers under God, His task-work to discern.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! Thou art one by birth
In whom the weak ones see a human guide:
A Lily in the garden of their earth,
That toilest not, but yet art well supplied
With costly luxuries and robes of pride.
Thy word shall lead full many a wavering soul,
Behoves thee therefore hold thyself allied
With the Mind-Workers, that thy good control
May serve HIS world whose light shines out from pole to pole.
So, when Life's Winter closes on thy toil,
And the great pause of Death's chill silence comes,--
When seeds of good lie buried in the soil,
And labourers rest within their narrow homes,--
When dormant Consciousness no longer roams
In awe-struck fancy towards that distant land
Where no snow falleth, and no ocean foams,
But waits the trumpet in the Angel's hand,--
THOU may'st be one of those who join Heaven's shining band.
Orlando Furioso Canto 20
Guido and his from that foul haunt retire,
While all Astolpho chases with his horn,
Who to all quarters of the town sets fire,
Then roving singly round the world is borne.
Marphisa, for Gabrina's cause, in ire
Puts upon young Zerbino scathe and scorn,
And makes him guardian of Gabrina fell,
From whom he first learns news of Isabel.
Great fears the women of antiquity
In arms and hallowed arts as well have done,
And of their worthy works the memory
And lustre through this ample world has shone.
Praised is Camilla, with Harpalice,
For the fair course which they in battle run.
Corinna and Sappho, famous for their lore,
Shine two illustrious light, to set no more.
Women have reached the pinnacle of glory,
In every art by them professed, well seen;
And whosoever turns the leaf of story,
Finds record of them, neither dim nor mean.
The evil influence will be transitory,
If long deprived of such the world had been;
And envious men, and those that never knew
Their worth, have haply hid their honours due.
To me it plainly seems, in this our age
Of women such is the celebrity,
That it may furnish matter to the page,
Whence this dispersed to future years shall be;
And you, ye evil tongues which foully rage,
Be tied to your eternal infamy,
And women's praises so resplendent show,
They shall, by much, Marphisa's worth outgo.
To her returning yet again; the dame
To him who showed to her such courteous lore,
Refused not to disclose her martial name,
Since he agreed to tell the style be bore.
She quickly satisfied the warrior's claim;
To learn his title she desired so sore.
'I am Marphisa,' the virago cried:
All else was known, as bruited far and wide.
The other, since 'twas his to speak, begun
With longer preamble: 'Amid your train,
Sirs, it is my belief that there is none
But has heard mention of my race and strain.
Not Pontus, Aethiopia, Ind alone,
With all their neighbouring realms, but France and Spain
Wot well of Clermont, from whose loins the knight
Issued who killed Almontes bold in fight,
'And Chiareillo and Mambrino slew,
And sacked the realm whose royal crown they wore.
Come of this blood, where Danube's waters, through
Eight horns or ten to meet the Euxine pour,
Me to the far-renowned Duke Aymon, who
Thither a stranger roved, my mother bore.
And 'tis a twelvemonth now since her, in quest
Of my French kin, I left with grief opprest.
'But reached not France, for southern tempest's spite
Impelled me hither; lodged in royal bower
Ten months or more; for - miserable wight! -
I reckon every day and every hour.
Guido the Savage I by name am hight,
Ill known and scarcely proved in warlike stower.
Here Argilon of Meliboea I
Slew with ten warriors in his company.
'Conqueror as well in other field confessed,
Ten ladies are the partners of my bed:
Selected at my choice, who are the best
And fairest damsels in this kingdom bred:
These I command, as well as all the rest,
Who of their female band have made me head;
And so would make another who in fight,
Like me, ten opposites to death would smite.'
Sir Guido is besought of them to say
Why there appear so few of the male race,
And to declare if women there bear sway
O'er men, as men o'er them in other place.
He: 'Since my fortune has been here to stay,
I oftentimes have heard relate the case;
And now (according to the story told)
Will, since it pleases you, the cause unfold.
'When, after twenty years, the Grecian host
Returned from Troy (ten years hostility
The town endured, ten weary years were tost
The Greeks, detained by adverse winds at sea),
They found their women had, for comforts lost,
And pangs of absence, learned a remedy;
And, that they might not freeze alone in bed,
Chosen young lovers in their husbands' stead.
'With others' children filled the Grecian crew
Their houses found, and by consent was past
A pardon to their women; for they knew
How ill they could endure so long a fast.
But the adulterous issue, as their due,
To seek their fortunes on the world were cast:
Because the husbands would not suffer more
The striplings should be nourished from their store.
'Some are exposed, and others underhand
Their kindly mothers shelter and maintain:
While the adults, in many a various band,
Some here, some there dispersed, their living gain.
Arms are the trade of some, by some are scanned
Letters and arts; another tills the plain:
One serves in court, by other guided go
The herd as pleases her who rules below.
'A boy departed with they youthful peers,
Who was of cruel Clytemnestra born;
Like lily fresh (he numbered eighteen years)
Or blooming rose, new-gathered from the thorn.
He having armed a bark, his pinnace steers
In search of plunder, o'er the billows borne.
With him a hundred other youths engage,
Picked from all Greece, and of their leader's age.
'The Cretans, who had banished in that day
Idomeneus the tyrant of their land,
And their new state to strengthen and upstay,
Were gathering arms and levying martial band,
Phalantus' service by their goodly pay
Purchased (so hight the youth who sought that strand),
And all those others that his fortune run,
Who the Dictaean city garrison.
'Amid the hundred cities of old Crete,
Was the Dictaean the most rich and bright;
Of fair and amorous dames the joyous seat,
Joyous with festive sports from morn to night:
And (as her townsmen aye were wont to greet
The stranger) with such hospitable rite
They welcomed these, it little lacked but they
Granted them o'er their households sovereign sway.
'Youthful and passing fair were all the crew,
The flower of Greece, who bold Phalantus led;
So that with those fair ladies at first view,
Stealing their hearts, full well the striplings sped.
Since, fair in deed as show, they good and true
Lovers evinced themselves and bold in bed.
And in few days to them so grateful proved,
Above all dearest things they were beloved.
'After the war was ended on accord,
For which were hired Phalantus and his train,
And pay withdrawn, nor longer by the sword
Was aught which the adventurous youth can gain,
And they, for this, anew would go aboard,
The unhappy Cretan women more complain,
And fuller tears on this occasion shed,
That if their fathers lay before them dead.
'Long time and sorely all the striplings bold
Were, each apart, by them implored to stay:
Who since the fleeting youths they cannot hold,
Leave brother, sire, and son, with these to stray,
Of jewels and of weighty sums of gold
Spoiling their households ere they wend their way,
For so well was the plot concealed, no wight
Throughout all Crete was privy to their flight.
'So happy was the hour, so fair the wind,
When young Phalantus chose his time to flee,
They many miles had left the isle behind,
Ere Crete lamented her calamity.
Next, uninhabited by human kind,
This shore received them wandering o'er the sea.
'Twas here they settled, with the plunder reft,
And better weighed the issue of their theft.
'With amorous pleasures teemed this place of rest,
For ten days, to that roving company:
But, as oft happens that in youthful breast
Abundance brings with it satiety,
To quit their women, with one wish possest,
The band resolved to win their liberty;
For never burden does so sore oppress
As woman, when her love breeds weariness.
'They, who are covetous of spoil and gain,
And ill-bested withal in stipend, know
That better means are wanted to maintain
So many paramours, than shaft and bow;
And leaving thus alone the wretched train,
Thence, with their riches charged the adventurers go
For Puglia's pleasant land: there founded near
The sea, Tarentum's city, as I hear.
'The women when they find themselves betrayed
Of lovers by whose faith they set most store,
For many days remain so sore dismayed,
That they seem lifeless statues on the shore.
But seeing lamentations nothing aid,
And fruitless are the many tears they pour,
Begin to meditate, amid their pains,
What remedy for such an ill remains.
'Some laying their opinions now before
The others, deem that to return to Crete
Is in their sad estate the wiser lore,
Throwing themselves at sire and husband's feet,
Than in those wilds, and on that desert shore,
To pine of want. Another troop repeat,
They should esteem it were a worthier notion
To cast themselves into the neighbouring ocean;
'And lighter ill, if they as harlots went
About the world, - beggars or slaves to be,
Than offer up themselves for punishment,
Well merited by their iniquity.
Such and like schemes the unhappy dames present,
Each harder than the other. Finally,
One Orontea amid these upstood,
Who drew her origin from Minos' blood.
'Youngest and fairest of the crew betrayed
She was, and wariest, and who least had erred,
Who to Phalantus' arms had come a maid,
And left for him her father: she in word,
As well as in a kindling face, displayed
How much with generous wrath her heart was stirred;
Then, reprobating all advised before,
Spake; and adopted saw her better lore.
'She would not leave the land they were upon,
Whose soil was fruitful, and whose air was sane,
Throughout which many limpid rivers ran,
Shaded with woods, and for the most part plain;
With creek and port, where stranger bark could shun
Foul wind or storm, which vexed the neighbouring main,
That might from Afric or from Egypt bring
Victual or other necessary thing.
'For vengeance (she opined) they there should stay
Upon man's sex, which had so sore offended.
She willed each bark and crew which to that bay
For shelter from the angry tempest wended,
They should, without remorse, burn, sack, and slay,
Nor mercy be to any one extended.
Such was the lady's motion, such the course
Adopted; and the statute put in force.
'The women, when they see the changing heaven
Turbid with tempest, hurry to the strand,
With savage Orontea, by whom given
Was the fell law, the ruler of the land;
And of all barks into their haven driven
Make havoc dread with fire and murderous brand,
Leaving no man alive, who may diffuse
Upon this side or that the dismal news.
' 'Twas thus with the male sex at enmity,
Some years the lonely women lived forlorn:
Then found that hurtful to themselves would be
The scheme, save changed; for if from them were born
None to perpetuate their empery,
The idle law would soon be held in scorn,
And fail together with the fruitful reign,
Which they had hoped eternal should remain.
'So that some deal its rigour they allay,
And in four years, of all who made repair
Thither, by chance conducted to this bay,
Chose out ten vigorous cavaliers and fair;
That for endurance in the amorous play
Against those hundred dames good champions were:
A hundred they; and, of the chosen men,
A husband was assigned to every ten.
'Ere this, too feeble to abide the test,
Many a one on scaffold lost his head.
Now these ten warriors so approved the best,
Were made partakers of their rule and bed;
First swearing at the sovereign ladies' hest,
That they, if others to that port are led,
No mercy shall to any one afford,
But one and all will put them to the sword.
'To swell, and next to child, and thence to fear
The women turned to teeming wives began
Lest they in time so many males should bear
As might invade the sovereignty they plan,
And that the government they hold so dear
Might finally from them revert to man.
And so, while these are children yet, take measure,
They never shall rebel against their pleasure.
'That the male sex may not usurp the sway,
It is enacted by the statute fell,
Each mother should one boy preserve, and slay
The others, or abroad exchange or sell.
For this, they these to various parts convey,
And to the bearers of the children tell,
To truck the girls for boys in foreign lands,
Or not, at least, return with empty hands.
'Nor by the women one preserved would be,
If they without them could the race maintain.
Such all their mercy, all the clemency
The law accords for theirs, not others' gain.
The dames all others sentence equally;
And temper but in this their statute's pain,
That, not as was their former practice, they
All in their rage promiscuously slay.
'Did ten or twenty persons, or yet more,
Arrive, they were imprisoned and put by;
And every day one only from the store
Of victims was brought out by lot to die,
In fane by Orontea built, before
An altar raised to Vengeance; and to ply
As headsman, and dispatched the unhappy men,
One was by lot selected from the ten.
'To that foul murderous shore by chance did fare,
After long years elapsed, a youthful wight,
Whose fathers sprung from good Alcides were,
And he, of proof in arms, Elbanio hight;
There was he seized, of peril scarce aware,
As unsuspecting such a foul despite:
And, closely guarded, into prison flung,
Kept for like cruel use the rest among.
'Adorned with every fair accomplishment,
Of pleasing face and manners was the peer,
And of a speech so sweet and eloquent,
Him the deaf adder might have stopt to hear;
So that of him to Alexandria went
Tidings as of a precious thing and rare.
She was the daughter of that matron bold,
Queen Orontea, that yet lived, though old.
'Yet Orontea lived, while of that shore
The other settlers all were dead and gone;
And now ten times as many such or more
Had into strength and greater credit grown.
Nor for ten forges, often closed, in store
Have the ill-furnished band more files than one;
And the ten champions have as well the care
To welcome shrewdly all who thither fare.
'Young Alexandria, who the blooming peer
Burned to behold so praised on every part,
The special pleasure him to see and hear,
Won from her mother; and, about to part
From him, discovers that the cavalier
Remains the master of her tortured heart;
Finds herself bound, and that 'tis vain to stir,
- A captive made by her own prisoner.
' `I pity,' (said Elbanio) 'lady fair,
Was in this cruel region known, as through
All other countries near or distant, where
The wandering sun sheds light and colouring hue,
I by your beauty's kindly charms should dare
(Which make each gentle spirit bound to you)
To beg my life; which always, at your will,
Should I be ready for your love to spill.
' `But since deprived of all humanity
Are human bosoms in this cruel land,
I shall not now request my life of thee,
(For fruitless would, I know, be the demand)
But, whether a good knight or bad I be,
Ask but like such to die with arms in hand,
And not as one condemned to penal pain;
Or like brute beast in sacrifice be slain.'
'The gentle maid, her eye bedimmed with tear,
In pity for the hapless youth, replied:
`Though this land be more cruel and severe
Than any other country, far and wide,
Each woman is not a Medaea here
As thou wouldst make her; and, if all beside
Were of such evil kind, in me alone
Should an exception to the rest be known.
' `And though I, like so many here, of yore
Was full of evil deeds and cruelty,
I can well say, I never had before
A fitting subject for my clemency.
But fiercer were I than a tiger, more
Hard were my heart than diamonds, if in me
All hardness did not vanish and give place
Before your courage, gentleness, and grace.
' `Ah! were the cruel statute less severe
Against the stranger to these shores conveyed!
So should I not esteem my death too dear
A ransom for thy worthier life were paid.
But none is here so great, sir cavalier,
Nor of such puissance as to lend thee aid;
And what thou askest, though a scanty grace,
Were difficult to compass in this place.
' `And yet will I endeavour to obtain
For thee, before thou perish, this content;
Though much, I fear, 'twill but augment thy pain.
And thee protracted death but more torment.'
`So I the ten encounter,' (said again
Elbanio), `I at heart, am confident
Myself to save, and enemies to slay;
Though made of iron were the whole array.'
'To this the youthful Alexandria nought
Made answer, saving with a piteous sigh;
And from the conference a bosom brought,
Gored with deep wounds, beyond all remedy.
To Orontea she repaired, and wrought
On her to will the stripling should not die,
Should he display such courage and such skill
As with his single hand the ten to kill.
'Queen Orontea straightway bade unite
Her council, and bespoke the assembled band:
`It still behoves us place the prowest wight
Whom we can find, to guard our ports and strand.
And, to discover whom to take or slight,
'Tis fitting that we prove the warrior's hand;
Lest, to our loss, the election made be wrong,
And we enthrone the weak and slay the strong.
' `I deem it fit, if you the counsel shown
Deem fit as well, in future to ordain,
That each upon our coast by Fortune thrown,
Before he in the temple shall be slain,
Shall have the choice, instead of this, alone
Battle against ten others to maintain;
And if he conquer, shall the port defend
With other comrades, pardoned to that end.
' `I say this, since to strive against our ten,
It seems, that one imprisoned here will dare:
Who, if he stands against so many men,
By Heaven, deserves that we should hear his prayer;
But if he rashly boasts himself, again
As worthily due the punishment should bear.'
Here Orontea ceased; on the other side,
To her the oldest of the dames replied.
' `The leading cause, for which to entertain
This intercourse with men we first agreed,
Was not because we, to defend this reign,
Of their assistance stood in any need;
For we have skill and courage to maintain
This of ourselves, and force, withal, to speed.
Would that we could in all as well avail
Without their succour, nor succession fail!
' `But since this may not be, we some have made
(These few) partakers of our company;
That, ten to one, we be not overlaid;
Nor they possess them of the sovereignty.
Not that we for protection need their aid,
But simply to increase and multiply.
Than be their powers to this sole fear addressed,
And be they sluggards, idle for the rest.
' `To keep among us such a puissant wight
Our first design would render wholly vain.
If one can singly slay ten men in fight,
How many women can he not restrain?
If our ten champions had possessed such might,
They the first day would have usurped the reign.
To arm a hand more powerful than your own
Is an ill method to maintain the throne.
' `Reflect withal, that if your prisoner speed
So that he kill ten champions in the fray,
A hundred women's cry, whose lords will bleed
Beneath his falchion, shall your ears dismay.
Let him not 'scape by such a murderous deed;
But, if he would, propound some other way.
- Yet if he of those ten supply the place,
And please a hundred women, grant him grace.'
'This was severe Artemia's sentiment,
(So was she named) and had her counsel weighed,
Elbanio to the temple had been sent,
To perish by the sacrificial blade.
But Orontea, willing to content
Her daughter, to the matron answer made;
And urged so many reasons, and so wrought,
The yielding senate granted what she ought.
'Elbanio's beauty (for so fair to view
Never was any cavalier beside)
So strongly works upon the youthful crew,
Which in that council sit the state to guide,
That the opinion of the older few
That like Artemia think, is set aside;
And little lacks but that the assembled race
Absolve Elbanio by especial grace.
'To pardon him in fine the dames agreed:
But, after slaying his half-score, and when
He in the next assault as well should speech,
Not with a hundred women, but with ten;
And, furnished to his wish with arms and steed,
Next day he was released from dungeon-den,
And singly with ten warriors matched in plain,
Who by his arm successively were slain.
'He to new proof was put the following night,
Against ten damsels naked and alone;
When so successful was the stripling's might,
He took the 'say of all the troop, and won
Such grace with Orontea, that the knight
Was by the dame adopted for her son;
And from her Alexandria had to wife,
With those whom he had proved in amorous strife.
'And him she left with Alexandria, heir
To this famed city, which from her was hight,
So he and all who his successors were,
Should guard the law which willed, whatever wight,
Conducted hither by his cruel star,
Upon this miserable land did light,
Should have his choice to perish by the knife,
Or singly with ten foes contend to strife.
'And if he should dispatch the men by day,
At night should prove him with the female crew;
And if so fortunate that in this play
He proved again the conqueror, he, as due,
The female band, as prince and guide, should sway,
And his ten consorts at his choice renew:
And reign with them, till other should arrive
Of stouter hand, and him of life deprive.
'They for two thousand years nigh past away
This usage have maintained, and yet maintain
The impious rite; and rarely passes day
But stranger wight is slaughtered in the fane.
If he, Elbanio-like, ten foes assay,
(And such sometimes is found) he oft is slain
In the first charge: nor, in a thousand, one
The other feat, of which I spake, has done,
'Yet some there are have done it, though so few,
They may be numbered on the fingers; one
Of the victorious cavaliers, but who
Reigned with his ten short time, was Argilon:
For, smote by me, whom ill wind hither blew,
The knight to his eternal rest is gone.
Would I with him that day had filled a grave,
Rather than in such scorn survive a slave!
'For amorous pleasures, laughter, game, and play,
Which evermore delight the youthful breast;
The gem, the purple garment, rich array,
And in his city place before the rest.
Little, by Heaven, the wretched man appay
Who of his liberty is dispossest:
And not to have the power to leave this shore
To me seems shameful servitude and sore.
'To know I wear away life's glorious spring
In such effeminate and slothful leisure
Is to my troubled heart a constant sting,
And takes away the taste of every pleasure.
Fame bears my kindred's praise on outstretched wing,
Even to the skies; and haply equal measure
I of the glories of my blood might share
If I united with my brethren were.
'Methinks my fate does such injurious deed
By me, condemned to servitude so base,
As he who turns to grass the generous steed
To run amid the herd of meaner race,
Because unfit for war or worthier meed,
Through blemish, or disease of sight or pace.
Nor hoping but by death, alas! to fly
So vile a service, I desire to die.'
Here Guido ceased to address the martial peers,
And cursed withal the day, in high disdain,
That he achieved o'er dames and cavaliers
The double victory which bestowed that reign.
Astolpho hides his name, and silent hears,
Until to him by many a sign is plain
That this Sir Guido is, as he had said,
The issue of his kinsman Aymon's bed.
Then cried: 'The English duke, Astolpho, I
Thy cousin am,' and clipt him round the waist,
And in a kindly act of courtesy,
Not without weeping, kist him and embraced.
Then, 'Kinsman dear, thy birth to certify
No better sign thy mother could have placed
About thy neck. Enough! that sword of thine,
And courage, vouch thee of our valiant line.'
Guido, who gladly would in other place
So near a kin have welcomed, in dismay
Beholds him here and with a mournful face;
Knowing, if he himself survives the fray,
Astolpho will be doomed to slavery base,
His fate deferred but till the following day;
And he shall perish, if the duke is free:
So that one's good the other's ill shall be.
He grieves, as well, the other cavaliers
Should through his means for ever captive be;
Nor, that he should, if slain, those martial peers
Deliver by his death from slavery.
Since if Marphisa from one quicksand clears
The troop, yet these from other fails to free,
She will have won the victory in vain;
For they will be enslaved, and she be slain.
On the other hand, the stripling's age, in May
Of youth, with courtesy and valour fraught,
Upon the maid and comrades with such sway,
Touching their breasts with love and pity, wrought
That they of freedom, for which he must pay
The forfeit of his life, nigh loathed the thought;
And if Marphisa him perforce must kill,
She is resolved as well herself to spill.
'Join thou with us,' she to Sir Guido cried,
'And we from hence will sally.' - 'From within
These walls to sally' - Guido on his side
Answered, 'Ne'er hope: With me you lose or win.'
'- I fear not, I,' the martial maid replied,
'To execute whatever I begin;
Nor know what can securer path afford
Than that which I shall open with my sword.
'Such proof of thy fair prowess have I made,
With thee I every enterprise would dare.
To-morrow when about the palisade
The crowds assembled in the circus are,
Let us on every side the mob invade,
Whether they fly or for defence prepare;
Then give the town to fire, and on their bed
Of earth to wolf and vulture leave the dead.'
He: 'Ready shalt thou find me in the strife
To follow thee or perish at thy side:
But let us hope not to escape with life.
Enough, is vengeance somedeal satisfied
Ere death; for oft ten thousand, maid and wife,
I in the place have witnessed; and, outside,
As many castle, wall and port, defend.
Nor know I certain way from hence to wend.'
'And were there more (Marphisa made reply)
Than Xerxes led, our squadrons to oppose,
More than those rebel spirits from the sky
Cast out to dwell amid perpetual woes,
All in one day should by this weapon die,
Wert thou with me, at least, not with my foes.'
To her again, 'No project but must fail,
(Sir Guido said) I know, save this avail.'
'This only us can save, should it succeed;
This, which but now remembered I shall teach.
To dames alone our laws the right concede
To sally, or set foot upon the beach,
And hence to one of mine in this our need
Must I commit myself, and aid beseech;
Whose love for me, by perfect friendship tied,
Has oft by better proof than this been tried.
'No less than me would she desire that I
Should 'scape from slavery, so she went with me;
And that, without her rival's company,
She of my lot should sole partaker be.
She bark or pinnace, in the harbour nigh,
Shall bid, while yet 'tis dark, prepare for sea;
Which shall await your sailors, rigged and yare
For sailing, when they thither shall repair.
'Behind me, in a solid band comprest,
Ye merchants, mariners and warriors, who,
Driven to this city, have set up your rest
Beneath this roof (for which my thanks are due)
- You have to force your way with stedfast breast,
If adversaries interrupt our crew.
'Tis thus I hope, by succour of the sword,
To clear a passage through the cruel horde.'
'Do as thou wilt,' Marphisa made reply,
'I of escape am confident withal:
And likelier 'twere that by my hand should die
The martial race, encompassed by this wall,
Than any one should ever see me fly,
Or guess by other sign that fears appall.
I would my passage force in open day,
And shameful in my sight were other way.
'I wot if I were for a woman known,
Honour and place from women I might claim,
Here gladly entertained, and classed as one
Haply among their chiefs of highest fame:
But privilege or favour will I none
Unshared by those with whom I hither came.
Too base it were, did I depart or free
Remain, to leave the rest in slavery.'
These speeches by Marphisa made, and more,
Showed that what only had restrained her arm
Was the respect she to the safety bore
Of the companions whom her wrath might harm;
By this alone withheld form taking sore
And signal vengeance on the female swarm.
And hence she left in Guido's care to shape
What seemed the fittest means for their escape.
Sir Guido speaks that night with Alery
(So the most faithful of his wives was hight)
Nor needs long prayer to make the dame agree,
Disposed already to obey the knight.
She takes a ship and arms the bark for sea,
Stowed with her richest chattels for their flight;
Feigning design, as soon as dawn ensues,
To sail with her companions on a cruise.
She into Guido's palace had before
Bid sword and spear and shield and cuirass bear;
With the intent to furnish from this store,
Merchants and sailors that half naked were.
Some watch, and some repose upon the floor,
And rest and guard among each other share;
Oft marking, still with harness on their backs,
If ruddy yet with light the orient wax.
Not yet from earth's hard visage has the sun
Lifted her veil of dim and dingy dye;
Scarcely Lycaon's child, her furrow done,
Has turned about her ploughshare in the sky;
When to the theatre the women run
Who would the fearful battle's end espy,
As swarming bees upon their threshold cluster,
Who bent on change of realm in springtide muster.
With warlike trumpet, drum, and sound of horn,
The people make the land and welkin roar;
Summoning thus their chieftain to return,
And end of unfinished warfare. Covered o'er
With arms stand Aquilant and Gryphon stern,
And the redoubted duke from England's shore.
Marphisa, Dudo, Sansonet, and all
The knights or footmen harboured in that hall.
Hence to descend towards the sea or port
The way across the place of combat lies;
Nor was there other passage, long or short.
Sir Guido so to his companions cries:
And having ceased his comrades to exhort,
To do their best set forth in silent wise,
And in the place appeared, amid the throng,
Head of a squad above a hundred strong.
Toward the other gate Sir Guido went,
Hurrying his band, but, gathered far and nigh
The mighty multitude, for aye intent
To smite, and clad in arms, when they descry
The comrades whom he leads, perceive his bent,
And truly deem he is about to fly.
All in a thought betake them to their bows,
And at the portal part the knight oppose.
Sir Guido and the cavaliers who go
Beneath that champion's guidance, and before
The others bold Marphisa, were not slow
To strike, and laboured hard to force the door.
But such a storm of darts from ready bow,
Dealing on all sides death or wounding sore,
Was rained in fury on the troop forlorn,
They feared at last to encounter skaith and scorn.
Of proof the corslet was each warrior wore,
Who without this would have had worse to fear:
Sansonnet's horse was slain, and that which bore
Marphisa: to himself the English peer
Exclaimed, 'Why wait I longer? As if more
My horn could ever succour me than here.
Since the sword steads not, I will make assay
If with my bugle I can clear the way.'
As he was customed in extremity,
He to his mouth applied the bugle's round;
The wide world seemed to tremble, earth and sky,
As he in air discharged the horrid sound.
Such terror smote the dames, that bent to fly,
When in their ears the deafening horn was wound,
Not only they the gate unguarded left,
But from the circus reeled, of wit bereft.
As family, awaked in sudden wise,
Leaps from the windows and from lofty height,
Periling life and limb, when in surprise
They see, now near, the fire's encircling light,
Which had, while slumber sealed their heavy eyes,
By little and by little waxed at night:
Reckless of life, thus each, impelled by dread,
At sound of that appalling bugle fled.
Above, below, and here and there, the rout
Rise in confusion and attempt to fly.
At once, above a thousand swarm about
Each entrance, to each other's lett, and lie
In heaps: from window these, or stage without,
Leap headlong; in the press these smothered die.
Broken is many an arm, and many a head;
And one lies crippled, and another dead.
Amid the mighty ruin which ensued,
Cries pierce the very heavens on every part.
Where'er the sound is heard, the multitude,
In panic at the deafening echo, start.
When you are told that without hardihood
Appear the rabble, and of feeble heart,
This need not more your marvel; for by nature
The hare is evermore a timid creature.
But of Marphisa what will be your thought,
And Guido late so furious? - of the two
Young sons of Olivier, that lately wrought
Such deeds in honour of their lineage? who
Lately a hundred thousand held as nought,
And now, deprived of courage, basely flew,
As ring-doves flutter and as coneys fly,
Who hear some mighty noise resounding nigh.
For so to friend as stranger, noxious are
The powers that in the enchanted horn reside.
Sansonet, Guido, follow, with the pair
Or brethren bold, Marphisa terrified.
Nor flying, can they to such distance fare,
But that their ears are dinned. On every side
Astolpho, on his foaming courser borne,
Lends louder breath to his enchanted horn.
One sought the sea, and one the mountain-top,
One fled the hide herself in forest hoar;
And this, who turned not once nor made a stop,
Not for ten days her headlong flight forbore:
These from the bridge in that dread moment drop,
Never to climb the river's margin more.
So temple, house and square and street were drained,
That nigh unpeopled the wide town remained.
Marphisa, Guido, and the brethren two,
With Sansonetto, pale and trembling, hie
Towards the sea, and behind these the crew
Of frighted mariners and merchants fly;
And 'twixt the forts, in bark, prepared with view
To their escape, discover Alery;
Who in sore haste receives the warriors pale,
And bids them ply their oars and make all sail.
The duke within and out the town had bear
From the surrounding hills to the sea-side,
And of its people emptied every street.
All fly before the deafening sound, and hide:
Many in panic, seeking a retreat,
Lurk, in some place obscure and filthy stied;
Many, not knowing whither to repair,
Plunge in the neighbouring sea, and perish there.
The duke arrives, seeking the friendly band,
Whom he had hoped to find upon the quay;
He turns and gazes round the desert strand,
And none is there - directs along the bay
His eyes, and now, far distant from the land,
Beholds the parting frigate under way.
So that the paladin, for his escape -
The vessel gone - must other project shape.
Let him depart! nor let it trouble you
That he so long a road must beat alone;
Where, never without fear, man journeys through
Wild paynim countries: danger is there none,
But what he with his bugle may eschew,
Whose dread effect the English duke has shown;
And let his late companions be our care,
Who trembling to the beach had made repair.
They from that cruel and ensanguined ground
To seaward, under all their canvas, bore;
And having gained such offing, that the sound
Of that alarming horn was heard no more,
Unwonted shame inflicted such a wound,
That all a face of burning crimson wore.
One dares not eye the other, and they stand
With downcast looks, a mute and mournful band.
Fixed on his course, the pilot passes by
Cyprus and Rhodes, and ploughs the Aegean sea:
Beholds a hundred islands from him fly,
And Malea's fearful headland; fanned by free
And constant wind, sees vanish from the eye
The Greek Morea; rounding Sicily,
Into the Tuscan sea his frigate veers,
And, coasting Italy's fair region, steers:
Last rises Luna, where his family
Is waiting his return, the patron hoar
Gives thanks to God at having passed the sea
Without more harm, and makes the well-known shore.
Here, offering passage to their company,
They find a master, ready to unmoor
For France, and that same day his pinnace climb;
Thence wafted to Marseilles in little time.
There was not Bradamant, who used to sway
The land, and had that city in her care,
And who (if present there) to make some stay
Would have compelled them by her courteous prayer.
They disembarked; and that same hour away
Did bold Marphisa at a venture fare;
Bidding adieu to salvage Guido's wife,
And to the four, her comrades in the strife:
Saying she deems unfitting for a knight
To fare in like great fellowship; that so
The starlings and the doves in flock unite,
And every beast who fears - the stag and doe;
But hawk and eagle, that in other's might
Put not their trust, for ever singly go;
And lion, bear, and tyger, roam alone,
Who fear no prowess greater than their own.
But none with her opine, and, in the lack
Of a companion, singly must she fare,
So then, alone and friendless, she a track
Uncouth pursues, and through a wooded lair.
Gryphon the white and Aquilant the black
Take road more beaten with the other pair;
And on the following day a castle see,
Within which they are harboured courteously.
Courteously I, in outward show, would say;
For soon the contrary was made appear.
Since he, the castellain, who with display
Of kindness sheltered them and courteous cheer,
The night ensuing took them as they lay
Couched in their beds, secure and void of fear.
Nor from the snare would he his prisoners loose,
Till they had sworn to observe an evil use.
But I will first pursue the martial maid,
Ere more of these, fair sir, I shall proclaim.
Beyond the Durence, Rhone, and Saone she strayed,
And to the foot of sunny mountain came;
And there approaching in black gown arrayed,
Beside a torrent, saw an ancient dame;
Who with long journey weak, and wearied sore,
Appeared, but pined by melancholy more.
This was the beldam who had wont to ply
Serving the robbers in the caverned mount;
Whither stern Justice sent (that they might die
By that good paladin) Anglante's count.
The aged harridan, for cause which I
To you shall in another place recount,
Now many days by path obscure had flown,
Still fearing lest her visage should be known.
The semblance now of foreign cavalier
She in Marphisa saw, in arms and vest;
And hence she flies not her, though wont to fear,
(As being natives of that land) the rest;
- Nay, with security and open cheer,
Stops at the ford the damsel to arrest:
Stops at the ford - where that old beldam meets
Marphisa, and with fair encounter greets.
And next implored the maid, she of her grace
Would bear her on the croupe to the other shore.
Marphisa, who was come of gentle race,
The hag with her across the torrent bore;
And is content to bear, till she can place
In a securer road the beldam hoar,
Clear of a spacious marish: as its end
They see a cavalier towards them wend.
In shining armour and in fair array,
The warrior rode on saddle richly wrought
Towards the river, and upon his way
With him a single squire and damsel brought.
Of passing beauty was the lady gay,
But little pleasing was her semblance haught;
All overblown with insolence and pride,
Worthy the cavalier who was her guide.
He of Maganza was a count, who bore
The lady with him (Pinabello hight):
The same who Bradamant, some months before,
Had plunged into a hollow cave in spite.
Those many sobs, those burning sighs and sore,
Those tears which had nigh quenched the warrior's sight, -
All for the damsel were, now at his side;
And then by that false necromancer stied.
But when the magic tower upon the hill
Was razed, the dwelling of Atlantes hoar,
And every one was free to rove at will,
Through Bradamant's good deed and virtuous lore,
The damsel, who had been compliant still
With the desires of Pinabel before,
Rejoined him, and now journeying in a round
With him, from castle was to castle bound.
As wanton and ill-customed, when she spies
Marphisa's aged charge approaching near,
She cannot rein her saucy tongue, but plies
Here, in her petulance, with laugh and jeer.
Marphisa haught, unwont in any wise
Outrage from whatsoever part to hear,
Makes answer to the dame, in angry tone,
That handsomer than her she deems the crone.
And that she this would prove upon her knight
With pact that she might strip the bonnibell
Of gown and palfrey, if, o'erthrown in fight,
Her champion from his goodly courser fell.
- In silence to have overpast the slight
Would have been sin and shame in Pinabel,
Who for short answer seized his shield and spear,
And wheeled, and drove at her in fierce career.
Marphisa grasped a mighty lance, and thrust,
Encountering him, at Pinabello's eyes;
And stretched him so astounded in the dust,
That motionless an hour the warrior lies.
Marphisa, now victorious in the just,
Gave orders to strip off the glorious guise
And ornaments wherewith the maid was drest,
And with the spoils her ancient crone invest;
And willed that she should don the youthful weed,
Bedizened at the haughty damsel's cost;
And took away as well the goodly steed
Which her had thither borne, and - bent to post
On her old track - with her the hag will speed,
Who seems most hideous when adorned the most.
Three days the tedious road the couple beat,
Without adventure needful to repeat.
On the fourth day they met a cavalier,
Who came in fury galloping alone.
If you the stranger's name desire to hear,
I tell you 'twas Zerbino, a king's son,
Of beauty and of worth example rare,
Now grieved and angered, as unvenged of one,
Who a great act of courtesy, which fain
The warrior would have done, had rendered vain.
Vainly the young Zerbino, through the glade,
Had chased that man of his, who this despite
Had done him, who himself so well conveyed
Away and took such 'vantage in his flight,
So hid by wood and mist, which overlaid
The horizon and bedimmed the morning-light,
That he escaped Zerbino's grasp, and lay
Concealed until his wrath was past away.
Zerbino laughed parforce, when he descried
That beldam's face, though he was full of rage;
For too ill-sorted seemed her vest of pride
With her foul visage, more deformed by age;
And to the proud Marphisa, at her side
The prince, exclaimed, 'Sir warrior, you are sage,
In having chosen damsel of a sort,
Whom none, I ween, will grudge you should escort.'
Older than Sibyl seemed the beldam hoar,
(As far as from her wrinkles one might guess),
And in the youthful ornaments she wore,
Looked like an ape which men in mockery dress;
And now appears more foul, as angered sore,
While rage and wrath her kindled eyes express.
For none can do a woman worse despite
Than to proclaim her old and foul to sight.
To have sport of him - as she had - an air
Of wrath the maid assumed upon her part,
And to the prince, 'By Heaven, more passing fair
Is this my lady than thou courteous art,'
Exclaimed in answer; 'though I am aware
What thou hast uttered comes not from thy heart.
Thou wilt not own her beauty; a device
Put on to masque thy sovereign cowardice.
'And of what stamp would be that cavalier
Who found such fair and youthful dame alone,
Without protection, in the forest drear,
Nor sought to make the lovely weft his own?'
- 'So well she sorts with thee,' replied the peer,
' `Twere ill that she were claimed by any one:
Nor I of her would thee in any wise
Deprive; God rest thee merry with thy prize!
'But would thou prove what is my chivalry,
On other ground I to thy wish incline;
Yet deem me not of such perversity
As to tilt with thee for this prize of thine.
Or fair or foul, let her remain thy fee;
I would not, I, such amity disjoin.
Well are ye paired, and safely would I swear
That thou as valiant art as she is fair.'
To him Marphisa, 'Thou in thy despite
Shalt try to bear from me the dame away.
I will not suffer that so fair a sight
Thou shouldst behold, nor seek to gain the prey.'
To her the prince, 'I know not wherefore wight
Should suffer pain and peril in affray,
Striving for victory, where, for his pains,
The victor losses, and the vanquished gains.'
'If this condition please not, other course
Which ill thou canst refuse, I offer thee,'
(Marphisa cried): 'If thou shalt me unhorse
In this our tourney, she remains with me:
But if I win, I give her thee parforce.
Then prove we now who shall without her be.
Premised, if loser, thou shalt be her guide,
Wherever it may please the dame to ride.'
'And be it so,' Zerbino cried, and wheeled
Swiftly his foaming courser for the shock,
And rising in his stirrups scowered the field,
Firm in his seat, and smote, with levelled stock,
For surer aim, the damsel in mid-shield;
But she sate stedfast as a metal rock,
And at the warrior's morion thrust so well,
She clean out-bore him senseless from the sell.
Much grieved the prince, to whom in other fray
The like misfortune had not chanced before,
Who had unhorsed some thousands in his day:
Now shamed, he thought for ever. Troubled sore,
And mute long space upon the ground he lay,
And, when 'twas recollected, grieved the more,
That he had promised, and that he was bound,
To accompany the hag where'er she wound.
Turning about to him the victoress cried,
Laughing, 'This lady I to thee present,
And the more beauty is in her descried,
The more that she is thine I am content,
Now in my place her champion and her guide.
But do not thou thy plighted faith repent,
So that thou fail, as promised, to attend
The dame, wherever she may please to wend.'
Without awaiting answer, to career
She spurred her horse, and vanished in the wood.
Zerbino, deeming her a cavalier,
Cried to the crone, 'By whom am I subdued?'
And, knowing 'twould be poison to his ear,
And that it would inflame his angered blood,
She in reply, 'It was a damsel's blow
Which from thy lofty saddle laid thee low.
'She, for her matchless force, deservedly
Usurps from cavalier the sword and lance;
And even from the east is come to try
Her strength against the paladins of France.'
Not only was his cheek of crimson dye,
Such shame Zerbino felt as his mischance,
Little was wanting (so his blushes spread)
But all the arms he wore had glowed as red.
He mounts, and blames himself in angry wise,
In that he had no better kept his seat.
Within herself the beldam laughs, and tries
The Scottish warrior more to sting and heat.
To him for promised convoy she applies;
And he, who knows that there is no retreat,
Stands like tired courser, who in pensive fit,
Hangs down his ears, controlled by spur and bit.
And, sighing deeply, cries, in his despair,
'Fell Fortune, with what change dost thou repay
My loss! she who was fairest of the fair,
Who should be mine, by thee is snatched away!
And thinkest thou the evil to repair
With her whom thou hast given to me this day?
Rather than make like ill exchange, less cross
It were to undergo a total loss.
'Her, who for virtue and for beauteous form
Was never equalled, nor will ever be,
Thou on the rocks hast wrecked, in wintry storm,
As food for fowls and fishes of the sea;
And her who should have fed the earth-bred worm
Preserved beyond her date, some ten or score
Of years, to harass and torment me more.'
So spake Zerbino, and like grief displaid,
In his despairing words and woful mien,
For such an odious acquisition made,
As he had suffered when he lost his queen.
The aged woman now, from what he said,
Though she before Zerbino had not seen,
Perceived 'twas him of whom, in the thieves' hold,
Isabel of Gallicia erst had told.
If you remember what was said before,
This was the hag who 'scaped out of the cave,
Where Isabella, who had wounded sore
Zerbino's heart, was long detained a slave;
Who oft had told how she her native shore
Had left, and, launching upon ocean's wave
Her frigate, had been wrecked by wind and swell
Upon the rocky shallows near Rochelle.
And she to her Zerbino's goodly cheer
And gentle features had pourtrayed so well,
That the hag hearing him, and now more near,
Letter her eyes upon his visage dwell,
Discerned it was the youth for whom, whilere,
Had grieved at heart the prisoned Isabel;
Whose loss she in the cavern more deplored,
Than being captive to the murderous horde.
The beldam, hearing what in rage and grief
Zerbino vents, perceives the youth to be
Deceived, and cheated by the false belief
That Isabel had perished in the sea;
And though she might have given the prince relief,
Knowing the truth, in her perversity
What would have made him joyful she concealed,
And only what would cause him grief revealed.
'Hear, you that are so proud,' (the hag pursues)
'And flout me with such insolence and scorn,
You would entreat me fair to have the news
I know of her whose timeless death you mourn;
But to be strangled would I rather choose,
And be into a thousand pieces torn.
Whereas if you had made me kinder cheer,
Haply from me the secret might you hear.'
As the dog's rage is quickly overblown,
Who flies the approaching robber to arrest,
If the thief proffer piece of bread or bone,
Of offer other lure which likes him best;
As readily Zerbino to the crone
Humbled himself, and burned to know the rest;
Who, in the hints of the old woman, read
That she had news of her he mourned as dead.
And with more winning mien to her applied,
And her did supplicate, entreat, conjure,
By men and gods, the truth no more to hide,
Did she benign or evil lot endure.
The hard and pertinacious crone replied,
'Nought shalt thou hear, thy comfort to assure.
Isabel has not yielded up her breath,
But lives a life she would exchange for death.
'She, since thou heardest of her destiny,
Within few days, has fallen into the power
Of more than twenty. If restored to thee,
Think now, if thou hast hope to crop her flower.'
- 'Curst hag, how well thou shapest thy history,
Yet knowest it is false! Her virgin dower
Secure from brutal wrong, would none invade,
Though in the power of twenty were the maid.'
Questioning of the maid, he when and where
She saw her, vainly asked the beldam hoar,
Who, ever restive to Zerbino's prayer,
To what she had rehearsed would add no more.
The prince in the beginning spoke her fair,
And next to cut her throat in fury swore.
But prayers and menaces alike were weak;
Nor could he make the hideous beldam speak.
At length Zerbino to his tongue gave rest,
Since speaking to the woman booted nought;
Scarcely his heart found room within his breast,
Such dread suspicion had her story wrought.
He to find Isabella was so pressed,
Her in the midst of fire he would have sought;
But could not hurry more than was allowed
By her his convoy, since he so had vowed.
They hence, by strange and solitary way,
Rove, as the beldam does her will betoken,
Nor climbing, nor descending hill, survey
Each other's face, nor any word is spoken.
But when the sun upon the middle day
Had turned his back, their silence first was broken
By cavalier encountered in their way:
What followed the ensuing strain will say.
A Fable For Critics
Phoebus, sitting one day in a laurel-tree's shade,
Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was made,
For the god being one day too warm in his wooing,
She took to the tree to escape his pursuing;
Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk,
And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a trunk;
And, though 'twas a step into which he had driven her,
He somehow or other had never forgiven her;
Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic,
And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over
By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her.
'My case is like Dido's,' he sometimes remarked;
'When I last saw my love, she was fairly embarked
In a laurel, as _she_ thought-but (ah, how Fate mocks!)
She has found it by this time a very bad box;
Let hunters from me take this saw when they need it,-
You're not always sure of your game when you've treed it.
Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress!
What romance would be left?-who can flatter or kiss trees?
And, for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue
With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,-
Not to say that the thought would forever intrude
That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood?
Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves,
To see those loved graces all taking their leaves;
Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now,
As they left me forever, each making its bough!
If her tongue _had_ a tang sometimes more than was right,
Her new bark is worse than ten times her old bite.'
Now, Daphne-before she was happily treeified-
Over all other blossoms the lily had deified,
And when she expected the god on a visit
('Twas before he had made his intentions explicit),
Some buds she arranged with a vast deal of care,
To look as if artlessly twined in her hair,
Where they seemed, as he said, when he paid his addresses,
Like the day breaking through, the long night of her tresses;
So whenever he wished to be quite irresistible,
Like a man with eight trumps in his hand at a whist-table
(I feared me at first that the rhyme was untwistable,
Though I might have lugged in an allusion to Cristabel),-
He would take up a lily, and gloomily look in it,
As I shall at the--, when they cut up my book in it.
Well, here, after all the bad rhyme I've been spinning,
I've got back at last to my story's beginning:
Sitting there, as I say, in the shade of his mistress,
As dull as a volume of old Chester mysteries,
Or as those puzzling specimens which, in old histories,
We read of his verses-the Oracles, namely,-
(I wonder the Greeks should have swallowed them tamely,
For one might bet safely whatever he has to risk,
They were laid at his door by some ancient Miss Asterisk,
And so dull that the men who retailed them out-doors
Got the ill name of augurs, because they were bores,-)
First, he mused what the animal substance or herb is
Would induce a mustache, for you know he's _imberbis;_
Then he shuddered to think how his youthful position
Was assailed by the age of his son the physician;
At some poems he glanced, had been sent to him lately,
And the metre and sentiment puzzled him greatly;
'Mehercle! I'd make such proceeding felonious,-
Have they all of them slept in the cave of Trophonius?
Look well to your seat, 'tis like taking an airing
On a corduroy road, and that out of repairing;
It leads one, 'tis true, through the primitive forest,
Grand natural features, but then one has no rest;
You just catch a glimpse of some ravishing distance,
When a jolt puts the whole of it out of existence,-
Why not use their ears, if they happen to have any?'
-Here the laurel leaves murmured the name of poor Daphne.
'Oh, weep with me, Daphne,' he sighed, 'for you know it's
A terrible thing to be pestered with poets!
But, alas, she is dumb, and the proverb holds good,
She never will cry till she's out of the wood!
What wouldn't I give if I never had known of her?
'Twere a kind of relief had I something to groan over:
If I had but some letters of hers, now, to toss over,
I might turn for the nonce a Byronic philosopher,
And bewitch all the flats by bemoaning the loss of her.
One needs something tangible, though, to begin on,-
A loom, as it were, for the fancy to spin on;
What boots all your grist? it can never be ground
Till a breeze makes the arms of the windmill go round;
(Or, if 'tis a water-mill, alter the metaphor,
And say it won't stir, save the wheel be well wet afore,
Or lug in some stuff about water 'so dreamily,'-
It is not a metaphor, though, 'tis a simile):
A lily, perhaps, would set _my_ mill a-going,
For just at this season, I think, they are blowing.
Here, somebody, fetch one; not very far hence
They're in bloom by the score, 'tis but climbing a fence;
There's a poet hard by, who does nothing but fill his
Whole garden, from one end to t'other, with lilies;
A very good plan, were it not for satiety,
One longs for a weed here and there, for variety;
Though a weed is no more than a flower in disguise,
Which is seen through at once, if love give a man eyes.'
Now there happened to be among Phoebus's followers,
A gentleman, one of the omnivorous swallowers,
Who bolt every book that comes out of the press,
Without the least question of larger or less,
Whose stomachs are strong at the expense of their head,-
For reading new books is like eating new bread,
One can bear it at first, but by gradual steps he
Is brought to death's door of a mental dyspepsy.
On a previous stage of existence, our Hero
Had ridden outside, with the glass below zero;
He had been, 'tis a fact you may safely rely on,
Of a very old stock a most eminent scion,-
A stock all fresh quacks their fierce boluses ply on,
Who stretch the new boots Earth's unwilling to try on,
Whom humbugs of all shapes and sorts keep their eye on,
Whose hair's in the mortar of every new Zion,
Who, when whistles are dear, go directly and buy one,
Who think slavery a crime that we must not say fie on,
Who hunt, if they e'er hunt at all, with the lion
(Though they hunt lions also, whenever they spy one),
Who contrive to make every good fortune a wry one,
And at last choose the hard bed of honor to die on,
Whose pedigree, traced to earth's earliest years,
Is longer than anything else but their ears,-
In short, he was sent into life with the wrong key,
He unlocked the door, and stept forth a poor donkey.
Though kicked and abused by his bipedal betters
Yet he filled no mean place in the kingdom of letters;
Far happier than many a literary hack,
He bore only paper-mill rags on his back
(For It makes a vast difference which side the mill
One expends on the paper his labor and skill):
So, when his soul waited a new transmigration,
And Destiny balanced 'twixt this and that station,
Not having much time to expend upon bothers,
Remembering he'd had some connection with authors,
And considering his four legs had grown paralytic,-
She set him on two, and he came forth a critic.
Through his babyhood no kind of pleasure he took
In any amusement but tearing a book;
For him there was no intermediate stage
From babyhood up to straight-laced middle age;
There were years when he didn't wear coat-tails behind,
But a boy he could never be rightly defined;
like the Irish Good Folk, though in length scarce a span,
From the womb he came gravely, a little old man;
While other boys' trousers demanded the toil
Of the motherly fingers on all kinds of soil,
Red, yellow, brown, black, clayey, gravelly, loamy,
He sat in the corner and read Viri Romae.
He never was known to unbend or to revel once
In base, marbles, hockey, or kick up the devil once;
He was just one of those who excite the benevolence
Of your old prigs who sound the soul's depths with a ledger,
And are on the lookout for some young men to 'edger-
cate,' as they call it, who won't be too costly,
And who'll afterward take to the ministry mostly;
Who always wear spectacles, always look bilious,
Always keep on good terms with each _mater-familias_
Throughout the whole parish, and manage to rear
Ten boys like themselves, on four hundred a year:
Who, fulfilling in turn the same fearful conditions,
Either preach through their noses, or go upon missions.
In this way our Hero got safely to college,
Where he bolted alike both his commons and knowledge;
A reading-machine, always wound up and going,
He mastered whatever was not worth the knowing,
Appeared in a gown, with black waistcoat of satin,
To spout such a Gothic oration in Latin
That Tully could never have made out a word in it
(Though himself was the model the author preferred in it),
And grasping the parchment which gave him in fee
All the mystic and-so-forths contained in A.B.,
He was launched (life is always compared to a sea)
With just enough learning, and skill for the using it,
To prove he'd a brain, by forever confusing it.
So worthy St. Benedict, piously burning
With the holiest zeal against secular learning,
_Nesciensque scienter_, as writers express it,
_Indoctusque sapienter a Roma recessit_.
'Twould be endless to tell you the things that he knew,
Each a separate fact, undeniably true,
But with him or each other they'd nothing to do;
No power of combining, arranging, discerning,
Digested the masses he learned into learning;
There was one thing in life he had practical knowledge for
(And this, you will think, he need scarce go to college for),-
Not a deed would he do, nor a word would he utter,
Till he'd weighed its relations to plain bread and butter.
When he left Alma Mater, he practised his wits
In compiling the journals' historical bits,-
Of shops broken open, men falling in fits,
Great fortunes in England bequeathed to poor printers,
And cold spells, the coldest for many past winters,-
Then, rising by industry, knack, and address,
Got notices up for an unbiased press,
With a mind so well poised, it seemed equally made for
Applause or abuse, just which chanced to be paid for:
From this point his progress was rapid and sure,
To the post of a regular heavy reviewer.
And here I must say he wrote excellent articles
On Hebraical points, or the force of Greek particles;
They filled up the space nothing else was prepared for,
And nobody read that which nobody cared for;
If any old book reached a fiftieth edition,
He could fill forty pages with safe erudition:
He could gauge the old books by the old set of rules,
And his very old nothings pleased very old fools;
But give him a new book, fresh out of the heart,
And you put him at sea without compass or chart,-
His blunders aspired to the rank of an art;
For his lore was engraft, something foreign that grew in him,
Exhausting the sap of the native and true in him,
So that when a man came with a soul that was new in him,
Carving new forms of truth out of Nature's old granite,
New and old at their birth, like Le Verrier's planet,
Which, to get a true judgment, themselves must create
In the soul of their critic the measure and weight,
Being rather themselves a fresh standard of grace,
To compute their own judge, and assign him his place,
Our reviewer would crawl all about it and round it,
And, reporting each circumstance just as he found it,
Without the least malice,-his record would be
Profoundly aesthetic as that of a flea,
Which, supping on Wordsworth, should print for our sakes,
Recollections of nights with the Bard of the Lakes,
Or, lodged by an Arab guide, ventured to render a
Comprehensive account of the ruins at Denderah.
As I said, he was never precisely unkind.
The defect in his brain was just absence of mind;
If he boasted, 'twas simply that he was self-made,
A position which I, for one, never gainsaid,
My respect for my Maker supposing a skill
In his works which our Hero would answer but ill;
And I trust that the mould which he used may be cracked, or he,
Made bold by success, may enlarge his phylactery,
And set up a kind of a man-manufactory,-
An event which I shudder to think about, seeing
That Man is a moral, accountable being.
He meant well enough, but was still in the way,
As dunces still are, let them be where they may;
Indeed, they appear to come into existence
To impede other folks with their awkward assistance;
If you set up a dunce on the very North pole
All alone with himself, I believe, on my soul,
He'd manage to get betwixt somebody's shins,
And pitch him down bodily, all in his sins,
To the grave polar bears sitting round on the ice,
All shortening their grace, to be in for a slice;
Or, if he found nobody else there to pother,
Why, one of his legs would just trip up the other,
For there's nothing we read of in torture's inventions,
Like a well-meaning dunce, with the best of intentions.
A terrible fellow to meet in society,
Not the toast that he buttered was ever so dry at tea;
There he'd sit at the table and stir in his sugar,
Crouching close for a spring, all the while, like a cougar;
Be sure of your facts, of your measures and weights,
Of your time,-he's as fond as an Arab of dates;
You'll be telling, perhaps, in your comical way,
Of something you've seen in the course of the day;
And, just as you're tapering out the conclusion,
You venture an ill-fated classic allusion,-
The girls have all got their laughs ready, when, whack!
The cougar comes down on your thunderstruck back!
You had left out a comma,-your Greek's put in joint,
And pointed at cost of your story's whole point.
In the course of the evening, you find chance for certain
Soft speeches to Anne, in the shade of the curtain:
You tell her your heart can be likened to _one_ flower,
'And that, O most charming of women, 's the sunflower,
Which turns'-here a clear nasal voice, to your terror,
From outside the curtain, says, 'That's all an error.'
As for him, he's-no matter, he never grew tender,
Sitting after a ball, with his feet on the fender,
Shaping somebody's sweet features out of cigar smoke
(Though he'd willingly grant you that such doings are smoke):
All women he damns with _mutabile semper_,
And if ever he felt something like love's distemper,
'Twas tow'rds a young lady who spoke ancient Mexican,
And assisted her father in making a lexicon;
Though I recollect hearing him get quite ferocious
About Mary Clausum, the mistress of Grotius,
Or something of that sort,-but, no more to bore ye
With character-painting, I'll turn to my story.
Now, Apollo, who finds it convenient sometimes
To get his court clear of the makers of rhymes,
The _genus_, I think it is called, _irritabile_,
Every one of whom thinks himself treated most shabbily,
And nurses a-what is it?-_immedicabile_,
Which keeps him at boiling-point, hot for a quarrel,
As bitter as wormwood, and sourer than sorrel,
If any poor devil but look at a laurel;-
Apollo, I say, being sick of their rioting
(Though he sometimes acknowledged their verse had a quieting
Effect after dinner, and seemed to suggest a
Retreat to the shrine of a tranquil siesta),
Kept our Hero at hand, who, by means of a bray,
Which he gave to the life, drove the rabble away;
And if that wouldn't do, he was sure to succeed,
If he took his review out and offered to read;
Or, failing in plans of this milder description,
He would ask for their aid to get up a subscription,
Considering that authorship wasn't a rich craft,
To print the 'American drama of Witchcraft.'
'Stay, I'll read you a scene,'-but he hardly began,
Ere Apollo shrieked 'Help!' and the authors all ran:
And once, when these purgatives acted with less spirit,
And the desperate case asked a remedy desperate,
He drew from his pocket a foolscap epistle
As calmly as if 'twere a nine-barrelled pistol,
And threatened them all with the judgment to come,
Of 'A wandering Star's first impressions of Rome.'
'Stop! stop!' with their hands o'er their ears, screamed the Muses,
'He may go off and murder himself, if he chooses,
'Twas a means self-defence only sanctioned his trying,
'Tis mere massacre now that the enemy's flying;
If he's forced to 't again, and we happen to be there,
Give us each a large handkerchief soaked in strong ether.'
I called this a 'Fable for Critics;' you think it's
More like a display of my rhythmical trinkets;
My plot, like an icicle's slender and slippery,
Every moment more slender, and likely to slip awry,
And the reader unwilling _in loco desipere_
Is free to jump over as much of my frippery
As he fancies, and, if he's a provident skipper, he
May have like Odysseus control of the gales,
And get safe to port, ere his patience quite fails;
Moreover, although 'tis a slender return
For your toil and expense, yet my paper will burn,
And, if you have manfully struggled thus far with me,
You may e'en twist me up, and just light your cigar with me:
If too angry for that, you can tear me in pieces,
And my _membra disjecta_ consign to the breezes,
A fate like great Ratzau's, whom one of those bores,
Who beflead with bad verses poor Louis Quatorze,
Describes (the first verse somehow ends with _victoire_),
As _dispersant partout et ses membres et sa gloire;_
Or, if I were over-desirous of earning
A repute among noodles for classical learning,
I could pick you a score of allusions, i-wis,
As new as the jests of _Didaskalos tis;_
Better still, I could make out a good solid list
From authors recondite who do not exist,-
But that would be naughty: at least, I could twist
Something out of Absyrtus, or turn your inquiries
After Milton's prose metaphor, drawn from Osiris;
But, as Cicero says he won't say this or that
(A fetch, I must say, most transparent and flat),
After saying whate'er he could possibly think of,-
I simply will state that I pause on the brink of
A mire, ankle-deep, of deliberate confusion,
Made up of old jumbles of classic allusion:
So, when you were thinking yourselves to be pitied,
Just conceive how much harder your teeth you'd have gritted,
An 'twere not for the dulness I've kindly omitted.
I'd apologize here for my many digressions.
Were it not that I'm certain to trip into fresh ones
('Tis so hard to escape if you get in their mesh once):
Just reflect, if you please, how 'tis said by Horatius,
That Maeonides nods now and then, and, my gracious!
It certainly does look a little bit ominous
When he gets under way with _ton d'apameibomenos_.
(Here a something occurs which I'll just clap a rhyme to,
And say it myself, ere a Zoilus have time to,-
Any author a nap like Van Winkle's may take,
If he only contrive to keep readers awake,
But he'll very soon find himself laid on the shelf,
If _they_ fall a-nodding when he nods himself.)
Once for all, to return, and to stay, will I, nill I-
When Phoebus expressed his desire for a lily,
Our Hero, whose homoeopathic sagacity
With an ocean of zeal mixed his dropp of capacity,
Set off for the garden as fast as the wind
(Or, to take a comparison more to my mind,
As a sound politician leaves conscience behind).
And leaped the low fence, as a party hack jumps
O'er his principles, when something else turns up trumps.
He was gone a long time, and Apollo, meanwhile,
Went over some sonnets of his with a file,
For, of all compositions, he thought that the sonnet
Best repaid all the toil you expended upon it;
It should reach with one impulse the end of its course,
And for one final blow collect all of its force;
Not a verse should be salient, but each one should tend
With a wave-like up-gathering to break at the end;
So, condensing the strength here, there smoothing a wry kink,
He was killing the time, when up walked Mr. D--,
At a few steps behind him, a small man in glasses
Went dodging about, muttering, 'Murderers! asses!'
From out of his pocket a paper he'd take,
With a proud look of martyrdom tied to its stake,
And, reading a squib at himself, he'd say, 'Here I see
'Gainst American letters a bloody conspiracy,
They are all by my personal enemies written;
I must post an anonymous letter to Britain,
And show that this gall is the merest suggestion
Of spite at my zeal on the Copyright question,
For, on this side the water, 'tis prudent to pull
O'er the eyes of the public their national wool,
By accusing of slavish respect to John Bull
All American authors who have more or less
Of that anti-American humbug-success,
While in private we're always embracing the knees
Of some twopenny editor over the seas,
And licking his critical shoes, for you know 'tis
The whole aim of our lives to get one English notice;
My American puffs I would willingly burn all
(They're all from one source, monthly, weekly, diurnal)
To get but a kick from a transmarine journal!'
So, culling the gibes of each critical scorner
As if they were plums, and himself were Jack Horner,
He came cautiously on, peeping round every corner,
And into each hole where a weasel might pass in,
Expecting the knife of some critic assassin,
Who stabs to the heart with a caricature.
Not so bad as those daubs of the Sun, to be sure,
Yet done with a dagger-o'-type, whose vile portraits
Disperse all one's good and condense all one's poor traits.
Apollo looked up, hearing footsteps approaching,
And slipped out of sight the new rhymes he was broaching,-
'Good day, Mr. D--, I'm happy to meet
With a scholar so ripe, and a critic so neat,
Who through Grub Street the soul of a gentleman carries;
What news from that suburb of London and Paris
Which latterly makes such shrill claims to monopolize
The credit of being the New World's metropolis?'
'Why, nothing of consequence, save this attack
On my friend there, behind, by some pitiful hack,
Who thinks every national author a poor one,
That isn't a copy of something that's foreign,
And assaults the American Dick-'
Nay, 'tis clear
That your Damon there's fond of a flea in his ear,
And, if no one else furnished them gratis, on tick
He would buy some himself, just to hear the old click;
Why, I honestly think, if some fool in Japan
Should turn up his nose at the 'Poems on Man,'
(Which contain many verses as fine, by the bye,
As any that lately came under my eye,)
Your friend there by some inward instinct would know it,
Would get it translated, reprinted, and show it;
As a man might take off a high stock to exhibit
The autograph round his own neck of the gibbet;
Nor would let it rest so, but fire column after column,
Signed Cato, or Brutus, or something as solemn,
By way of displaying his critical crosses,
And tweaking that poor transatlantic proboscis,
His broadsides resulting (this last there's no doubt of)
In successively sinking the craft they're fired out of.
Now nobody knows when an author is hit,
If he have not a public hysterical fit;
Let him only keep close in his snug garret's dim ether,
And nobody'd think of his foes-or of him either;
If an author have any least fibre of worth in him,
Abuse would but tickle the organ of mirth in him;
All the critics on earth cannot crush with their ban
One word that's in tune with the nature of man.'
'Well, perhaps so; meanwhile I have brought you a book,
Into which if you'll just have the goodness to look,
You may feel so delighted (when once you are through it)
As to deem it not unworth your while to review it,
And I think I can promise your thoughts, if you do,
A place in the next Democratic Review.'
'The most thankless of gods you must surely have thought me,
For this is the forty-fourth copy you've brought me;
I have given them away, or at least I have tried,
But I've forty-two left, standing all side by side
(The man who accepted that one copy died),-
From one end of a shelf to the other they reach,
'With the author's respects' neatly written in each.
The publisher, sure, will proclaim a Te Deum,
When he hears of that order the British Museum
Has sent for one set of what books were first printed
In America, little or big,-for 'tis hinted
That this is the first truly tangible hope he
Has ever had raised for the sale of a copy.
I've thought very often 'twould be a good thing
In all public collections of books, if a wing
Were set off by itself, like the seas from the dry lands,
Marked _Literature suited to desolate islands_,
And filled with such books as could never be read
Save by readers of proofs, forced to do it for bread,-
Such books as one's wrecked on in small country taverns,
Such as hermits might mortify over in caverns,
Such as Satan, if printing had then been invented,
As the climax of woe, would to Job have presented.
Such as Crusoe might dip in, although there are few so
Outrageously cornered by fate as poor Crusoe;
And since the philanthropists just now are banging
And gibbeting all who're in favor of hanging
(Though Cheever has proved that the Bible and Altar
Were let down from Heaven at the end of a halter.
And that vital religion would dull and grow callous,
Unrefreshed, now and then, with a sniff of the gallows),-
And folks are beginning to think it looks odd,
To choke a poor scamp for the glory of God;
And that He who esteems the Virginia reel
A bait to draw saints from their spiritual weal,
And regards the quadrille as a far greater knavery
Than crushing his African children with slavery,-
Since all who take part in a waltz or cotillon
Are mounted for hell on the Devil's own pillion,
Who, as every true orthodox Christian well knows,
Approaches the heart through the door of the toes,-
That He, I was saying, whose judgments are stored
For such as take steps in despite of his word,
Should look with delight on the agonized prancing
Of a wretch who has not the least ground for his dancing,
While the State, standing by, sings a verse from the Psalter
About offering to God on his favorite halter,
And, when the legs droop from their twitching divergence,
Sells the clothes to a Jew, and the corpse to the surgeons;-
Now, instead of all this, I think I can direct you all
To a criminal code both humane and effectual;-
I propose to shut up every doer of wrong
With these desperate books, for such term, short or long,
As, by statute in such cases made and provided,
Shall be by your wise legislators decided:
Thus: Let murderers be shut, to grow wiser and cooler,
At hard labor for life on the works of Miss--;
Petty thieves, kept from flagranter crimes by their fears,
Shall peruse Yankee Doodle a blank term of years,-
That American Punch, like the English, no doubt,-
Just the sugar and lemons and spirit left out.
'But stay, here comes Tityrus Griswold, and leads on
The flocks whom he first plucks alive, and then feeds on,-
A loud-cackling swarm, in whose leathers warm drest,
He goes for as perfect a-swan as the rest.
'There comes Emerson first, whose rich words, every one,
Are like gold nails in temples to hang trophies on,
Whose prose is grand verse, while his verse, the Lord knows,
Is some of it pr-- No, 'tis not even prose;
I'm speaking of metres; some poems have welled
From those rare depths of soul that have ne'er been excelled;
They're not epics, but that doesn't matter a pin,
In creating, the only hard thing's to begin;
A grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak;
If you've once found the way, you've achieved the grand stroke;
In the worst of his poems are mines of rich matter,
But thrown in a heap with a crash and a clatter;
Now it is not one thing nor another alone
Makes a poem, but rather the general tone,
The something pervading, uniting the whole,
The before unconceived, unconceivable soul,
So that just in removing this trifle or that, you
Take away, as it were, a chief limb of the statue;
Roots, wood, bark, and leaves singly perfect may be,
But, clapt hodge-podge together, they don't make a tree.
'But, to come back to Emerson (whom, by the way,
I believe we left waiting),-his is, we may say,
A Greek head on right Yankee shoulders, whose range
Has Olympus for one pole, for t'other the Exchange;
He seems, to my thinking (although I'm afraid
The comparison must, long ere this, have been made),
A Plotinus-Montaigne, where the Egyptian's gold mist
And the Gascon's shrewd wit cheek-by-jowl coexist;
All admire, and yet scarcely six converts he's got
To I don't (nor they either) exactly know what;
For though he builds glorious temples, 'tis odd
He leaves never a doorway to get in a god.
'Tis refreshing to old-fashioned people like me
To meet such a primitive Pagan as he,
In whose mind all creation is duly respected
As parts of himself-just a little projected;
And who's willing to worship the stars and the sun,
A convert to-nothing but Emerson.
So perfect a balance there is in his head,
That he talks of things sometimes as if they were dead;
Life, nature, love, God, and affairs of that sort,
He looks at as merely ideas; in short,
As if they were fossils stuck round in a cabinet,
Of such vast extent that our earth's a mere dab in it;
Composed just as he is inclined to conjecture her,
Namely, one part pure earth, ninety-nine parts pure lecturer;
You are filled with delight at his clear demonstration,
Each figure, word, gesture, just fits the occasion,
With the quiet precision of science he'll sort 'em,
But you can't help suspecting the whole a _post mortem_.
'There are persons, mole-blind to the soul's make and style,
Who insist on a likeness 'twixt him and Carlyle;
To compare him with Plato would be vastly fairer,
Carlyle's the more burly, but E. is the rarer;
He sees fewer objects, but clearlier, truelier,
If C.'s as original, E.'s more peculiar;
That he's more of a man you might say of the one,
Of the other he's more of an Emerson;
C.'s the Titan, as shaggy of mind as of limb,-
E. the clear-eyed Olympian, rapid and slim;
The one's two thirds Norseman, the other half Greek,
Where the one's most abounding, the other's to seek;
C.'s generals require to be seen in the mass,-
E.'s specialties gain if enlarged by the glass;
C. gives nature and God his own fits of the blues,
And rims common-sense things with mystical hues,-
E. sits in a mystery calm and intense,
And looks coolly around him with sharp common-sense;
C. shows you how every-day matters unite
With the dim transdiurnal recesses of night,-
While E., in a plain, preternatural way,
Makes mysteries matters of mere every day;
C. draws all his characters quite _a la_ Fuseli,-
Not sketching their bundles of muscles and thews illy,
He paints with a brush so untamed and profuse,
They seem nothing but bundles of muscles and thews;
E. is rather like Flaxman, lines strait and severe,
And a colorless outline, but full, round, and clear;-
To the men he thinks worthy he frankly accords
The design of a white marble statue in words.
C. labors to get at the centre, and then
Take a reckoning from there of his actions and men;
E. calmly assumes the said centre as granted,
And, given himself, has whatever is wanted.
'He has imitators in scores, who omit
No part of the man but his wisdom and wit,-
Who go carefully o'er the sky-blue of his brain,
And when he has skimmed it once, skim it again;
If at all they resemble him, you may be sure it is
Because their shoals mirror his mists and obscurities,
As a mud-puddle seems deep as heaven for a minute,
While a cloud that floats o'er is reflected within it.
'There comes--, for instance; to see him's rare sport,
Tread in Emerson's tracks with legs painfully short;
How he jumps, how he strains, and gets red in the face.
To keep step with the mystagogue's natural pace!
He follows as close as a stick to a rocket,
His fingers exploring the prophet's each pocket.
Fie, for shame, brother bard; with good fruit of your own,
Can't you let Neighbor Emerson's orchards alone?
Besides, 'tis no use, you'll not find e'en a core,-
-- has picked up all the windfalls before.
They might strip every tree, and E. never would catch 'em,
His Hesperides have no rude dragon to watch 'em;
When they send him a dishful, and ask him to try 'em,
He never suspects how the sly rogues came by 'em;
He wonders why 'tis there are none such his trees on,
And thinks 'em the best he has tasted this season.
'Yonder, calm as a cloud, Alcott stalks in a dream,
And fancies himself in thy groves, Academe,
With the Parthenon nigh, and the olive-trees o'er him,
And never a fact to perplex him or bore him,
With a snug room at Plato's when night comes, to walk to,
And people from morning till midnight to talk to,
And from midnight till morning, nor snore in their listening;-
So he muses, his face with the joy of it glistening,
For his highest conceit of a happiest state is
Where they'd live upon acorns, and hear him talk gratis;
And indeed, I believe, no man ever talked better,-
Each sentence hangs perfectly poised to a letter;
He seems piling words, but there's royal dust hid
In the heart of each sky-piercing pyramid.
While he talks he is great, but goes out like a taper,
If you shut him up closely with pen, ink, and paper;
Yet his fingers itch for 'em from morning till night,
And he thinks he does wrong if he don't always write;
In this, as in all things, a lamb among men,
He goes to sure death when he goes to his pen.
'Close behind him is Brownson, his mouth very full
With attempting to gulp a Gregorian bull;
Who contrives, spite of that, to pour out as he goes
A stream of transparent and forcible prose;
He shifts quite about, then proceeds to expound
That 'tis merely the earth, not himself, that turns round,
And wishes it clearly impressed on your mind
That the weathercock rules and not follows the wind;
Proving first, then as deftly confuting each side,
With no doctrine pleased that's not somewhere denied,
He lays the denier away on the shelf,
And then-down beside him lies gravely himself.
He's the Salt River boatman, who always stands willing
To convey friend or foe without charging a shilling,
And so fond of the trip that, when leisure's to spare,
He'll row himself up, if he can't get a fare.
The worst of it is, that his logic's so strong,
That of two sides he commonly chooses the wrong;
If there is only one, why, he'll split it in two,
And first pummel this half, then that, black and blue.
That white's white needs no proof, but it takes a deep fellow
To prove it jet-black, and that jet-black is yellow.
He offers the true faith to drink in a sieve,-
When it reaches your lips there's naught left to believe
But a few silly-(syllo-, I mean,)-gisms that squat 'em
Like tadpoles, o'erjoyed with the mud at the bottom.
'There is Willis, all _natty_ and jaunty and gay,
Who says his best things in so foppish a way,
With conceits and pet phrases so thickly o'erlaying 'em,
That one hardly knows whether to thank him for saying 'em;
Over-ornament ruins both poem and prose,
Just conceive of a Muse with a ring in her nose!
His prose had a natural grace of its own,
And enough of it, too, if he'd let it alone;
But he twitches and jerks so, one fairly gets tired,
And is forced to forgive where one might have admired;
Yet whenever it slips away free and unlaced,
It runs like a stream with a musical waste,
And gurgles along with the liquidest sweep;-
'Tis not deep as a river, but who'd have it deep?
In a country where scarcely a village is found
That has not its author sublime and profound,
For some one to be slightly shallow's a duty,
And Willis's shallowness makes half his beauty.
His prose winds along with a blithe, gurgling error,
And reflects all of Heaven it can see in its mirror:
'Tis a narrowish strip, but it is not an artifice;
'Tis the true out-of-doors with its genuine hearty phiz;
It is Nature herself, and there's something in that,
Since most brains reflect but the crown of a hat.
Few volumes I know to read under a tree,
More truly delightful than his A l'Abri,
With the shadows of leaves flowing over your book,
Like ripple-shades netting the bed of a brook;
With June coming softly your shoulder to look over,
Breezes waiting to turn every leaf of your book over,
And Nature to criticise still as you read,-
The page that bears that is a rare one indeed.
'He's so innate a cockney, that had he been born
Where plain bare-skin's the only full-dress that is worn,
He'd have given his own such an air that you'd say
'T had been made by a tailor to lounge in Broadway.
His nature's a glass of champagne with the foam on 't,
As tender as Fletcher, as witty as Beaumont;
So his best things are done in the flush of the moment;
If he wait, all is spoiled; he may stir it and shake it,
But, the fixed air once gone, he can never re-make it.
He might be a marvel of easy delightfulness,
If he would not sometimes leave the _r_ out of sprightfulness;
And he ought to let Scripture alone-'tis self-slaughter,
For nobody likes inspiration-and-water.
He'd have been just the fellow to sup at the Mermaid,
Cracking jokes at rare Ben, with an eye to the barmaid,
His wit running up as Canary ran down,-
The topmost bright bubble on the wave of The Town.
'Here comes Parker, the Orson of parsons, a man
Whom the Church undertook to put under her ban
(The Church of Socinus, I mean),-his opinions
Being So-(ultra)-cinian, they shocked the Socinians:
They believed-faith, I'm puzzled-I think I may call
Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
Or something of that sort; I know they all went
For a general union of total dissent:
He went a step farther; without cough or hem,
He frankly avowed he believed not in them;
And, before he could be jumbled up or prevented,
From their orthodox kind of dissent he dissented.
There was heresy here, you perceive, for the right
Of privately judging means simply that light
Has been granted to _me_, for deciding on _you;_
And in happier times, before Atheism grew,
The deed contained clauses for cooking you too:
Now at Xerxes and Knut we all laugh, yet our foot
With the same wave is wet that mocked Xerxes and Knut,
And we all entertain a secure private notion,
That our _Thus far!_ will have a great weight with the ocean,
'Twas so with our liberal Christians: they bore
With sincerest conviction their chairs to the shore;
They brandished their worn theological birches,
Bade natural progress keep out of the Churches,
And expected the lines they had drawn to prevail
With the fast-rising tide to keep out of their pale;
They had formerly dammed the Pontifical See,
And the same thing, they thought, would do nicely for P.;
But he turned up his nose at their mumming and shamming,
And cared (shall I say?) not a d-- for their damming;
So they first read him out of their church, and next minute
Turned round and declared he had never been in it.
But the ban was too small or the man was too big,
For he recks not their bells, books, and candles a fig
(He scarce looks like a man who would _stay_ treated shabbily,
Sophroniscus' son's head o'er the features of Rabelais):-
He bangs and bethwacks them,-their backs he salutes
With the whole tree of knowledge torn up by the roots;
His sermons with satire are plenteously verjuiced,
And he talks in one breath of Confutzee, Cass, Zerduscht,
Jack Robinson, Peter the Hermit, Strap, Dathan,
Cush, Pitt (not the bottomless, _that_ he's no faith in),
Pan, Pillicock, Shakespeare, Paul, Toots, Monsieur Tonson,
Aldebaran, Alcander, Ben Khorat, Ben Jonson,
Thoth, Richter, Joe Smith, Father Paul, Judah Monis,
Musaeus, Muretus, _hem_,-[Greek: m] Scorpionis,
Maccabee, Maccaboy, Mac-Mac-ah! Machiavelli,
Condorcet, Count d'Orsay, Conder, Say, Ganganelli,
Orion, O'Connell, the Chevalier D'O,
(See the Memoirs of Sully,) [Greek: to pan], the great toe
Of the statue of Jupiter, now made to pass
For that of Jew Peter by good Romish brass,
(You may add for yourselves, for I find it a bore,
All the names you have ever, or not, heard before,
And when you've done that-why, invent a few more).
His hearers can't tell you on Sunday beforehand,
If in that day's discourse they'll be Bibled or Koraned,
For he's seized the idea (by his martyrdom fired)
That all men (not orthodox) _may be_ inspired;
Yet though wisdom profane with his creed he may weave in,
He makes it quite clear what he _doesn't_ believe in,
While some, who decry him, think all Kingdom Come
Is a sort of a, kind of a, species of Hum,
Of which, as it were, so to speak, not a crumb
Would be left, if we didn't keep carefully mum,
And, to make a clean breast, that 'tis perfectly plain
That _all_ kinds of wisdom are somewhat profane;
Now P.'s creed than this may be lighter or darker,
But in one thing, 'tis clear, he has faith, namely-Parker;
And this is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher,
There's a background of god to each hard-working feature,
Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
In the blast of a life that has struggled in earnest:
There he stands, looking more like a ploughman than priest,
If not dreadfully awkward, not graceful at least,
His gestures all downright and same, if you will,
As of brown-fisted Hobnail in hoeing a drill;
But his periods fall on you, stroke after stroke,
Like the blows of a lumberer felling an oak,
You forget the man wholly, you're thankful to meet
With a preacher who smacks of the field and the street,
And to hear, you're not over-particular whence,
Almost Taylor's profusion, quite Latimer's sense.
'There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that never is ignified,
Save when by reflection 'tis kindled o' nights
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation
(There's no doubt that he stands in supreme iceolation),
Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on,-
He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on:
Unqualified merits, I'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,
Like being stirred up with the very North Pole.
'He is very nice reading in summer, but _inter
Nos_, we don't want _extra_ freezing in winter;
Take him up in the depth of July, my advice is,
When you feel an Egyptian devotion to ices.
But, deduct all you can, there's enough that's right good in him,
He has a true soul for field, river, and wood in him;
And his heart, in the midst of brick walls, or where'er it is,
Glows, softens, and thrills with the tenderest charities-
To you mortals that delve in this trade-ridden planet?
No, to old Berkshire's hills, with their limestone and granite.
If you're one who _in loco_ (add _foco_ here) _desipis_,
You will get out of his outermost heart (as I guess) a piece;
But you'd get deeper down if you came as a precipice,
And would break the last seal of its inwardest fountain,
If you only could palm yourself off for a mountain.
Mr. Quivis, or somebody quite as discerning,
Some scholar who's hourly expecting his learning,
Calls B. the American Wordsworth; but Wordsworth
May be rated at more than your whole tuneful herd's worth.
No, don't be absurd, he's an excellent Bryant;
But, my friends, you'll endanger the life of your client,
By attempting to stretch him up into a giant;
If you choose to compare him, I think there are two per-
-sons fit for a parallel-Thomson and Cowper;
I don't mean exactly,-there's something of each,
There's T.'s love of nature, C.'s penchant to preach;
Just mix up their minds so that C.'s spice of craziness
Shall balance and neutralize T.'s turn for laziness,
And it gives you a brain cool, quite frictionless, quiet,
Whose internal police nips the buds of all riot,-
A brain like a permanent strait-jacket put on
The heart that strives vainly to burst off a button,-
A brain which, without being slow or mechanic,
Does more than a larger less drilled, more volcanic;
He's a Cowper condensed, with no craziness bitten,
And the advantage that Wordsworth before him had written.
'But, my dear little bardlings, don't prick up your ears
Nor suppose I would rank you and Bryant as peers;
If I call him an iceberg, I don't mean to say
There is nothing in that which is grand in its way;
He is almost the one of your poets that knows
How much grace, strength, and dignity lie in Repose;
If he sometimes fall short, he is too wise to mar
His thought's modest fulness by going too far;
'T would be well if your authors should all make a trial
Of what virtue there is in severe self-denial,
And measure their writings by Hesiod's staff,
Which teaches that all has less value than half.
'There is Whittier, whose swelling and vehement heart
Strains the strait-breasted drab of the Quaker apart,
And reveals the live Man, still supreme and erect,
Underneath the bemummying wrappers of sect;
There was ne'er a man born who had more of the swing
Of the true lyric bard and all that kind of thing;
And his failures arise (though he seem not to know it)
From the very same cause that has made him a poet,-
A fervor of mind which knows no separation
'Twixt simple excitement and pure inspiration,
As my Pythoness erst sometimes erred from not knowing
If 'twere I or mere wind through her tripod was blowing;
Let his mind once get head in its favorite direction
And the torrent of verse bursts the dams of reflection,
While, borne with the rush of the metre along,
The poet may chance to go right or go wrong,
Content with the whirl and delirium of song;
Then his grammar's not always correct, nor his rhymes,
And he's prone to repeat his own lyrics sometimes,
Not his best, though, for those are struck off at white-heats
When the heart in his breast like a trip-hammer beats,
And can ne'er be repeated again any more
Than they could have been carefully plotted before:
Like old what's-his-name there at the battle of Hastings
(Who, however, gave more than mere rhythmical bastings),
Our Quaker leads off metaphorical fights
For reform and whatever they call human rights,
Both singing and striking in front of the war,
And hitting his foes with the mallet of Thor;
_Anne haec_, one exclaims, on beholding his knocks,
_Vestis filii tui_, O leather-clad Fox?
Can that be thy son, in the battle's mid din,
Preaching brotherly love and then driving it in
To the brain of the tough old Goliath of sin,
With the smoothest of pebbles from Castaly's spring
Impressed on his hard moral sense with a sling?
'All honor and praise to the right-hearted bard
Who was true to The Voice when such service was hard,
Who himself was so free he dared sing for the slave
When to look but a protest in silence was brave;
All honor and praise to the women and men
Who spoke out for the dumb and the down-trodden then!
It needs not to name them, already for each
I see History preparing the statue and niche;
They were harsh, but shall _you_ be so shocked at hard words
Who have beaten your pruning-hooks up into swords,
Whose rewards and hurrahs men are surer to gain
By the reaping of men and of women than grain?
Why should _you_ stand aghast at their fierce wordy war, if
You scalp one another for Bank or for Tariff?
Your calling them cut-throats and knaves all day long
Doesn't prove that the use of hard language is wrong;
While the World's heart beats quicker to think of such men
As signed Tyranny's doom with a bloody steel-pen,
While on Fourth-of-Julys beardless orators fright one
With hints at Harmodius and Aristogeiton,
You need not look shy at your sisters and brothers
Who stab with sharp words for the freedom of others;-
No, a wreath, twine a wreath for the loyal and true
Who, for sake of the many, dared stand with the few,
Not of blood-spattered laurel for enemies braved,
But of broad, peaceful oak-leaves for citizens saved!
'Here comes Dana, abstractedly loitering along,
Involved in a paulo-post-future of song,
Who'll be going to write what'll never be written
Till the Muse, ere he think of it, gives him the mitten,-
Who is so well aware of how things should be done,
That his own works displease him before they're begun,-
Who so well all that makes up good poetry knows,
That the best of his poems is written in prose;
All saddled and bridled stood Pegasus waiting,
He was booted and spurred, but he loitered debating;
In a very grave question his soul was immersed,-
Which foot in the stirrup he ought to put first:
And, while this point and that he judicially dwelt on,
He, somehow or other, had written Paul Felton,
Whose beauties or faults, whichsoever you see there,
You'll allow only genius could hit upon either.
That he once was the Idle Man none will deplore,
But I fear he will never be anything more;
The ocean of song heaves and glitters before him,
The depth and the vastness and longing sweep o'er him.
He knows every breaker and shoal on the chart,
He has the Coast Pilot and so on by heart,
Yet he spends his whole life, like the man in the fable,
In learning to swim on his library table.
'There swaggers John Neal, who has wasted in Maine
The sinews and cords of his pugilist brain,
Who might have been poet, but that, in its stead, he
Preferred to believe that he was so already;
Too hasty to wait till Art's ripe fruit should drop,
He must pelt down an unripe and colicky crop;
Who took to the law, and had this sterling plea for it,
It required him to quarrel, and paid him a fee for it;
A man who's made less than he might have, because
He always has thought himself more than he was,-
Who, with very good natural gifts as a bard,
Broke the strings of his lyre out by striking too hard,
And cracked half the notes of a truly fine voice,
Because song drew less instant attention than noise.
Ah, men do not know how much strength is in poise,
That he goes the farthest who goes far enough,
And that all beyond that is just bother and stuff.
No vain man matures, he makes too much new wood;
His blooms are too thick for the fruit to be good;
'Tis the modest man ripens, 'tis he that achieves,
Just what's needed of sunshine and shade he receives;
Grapes, to mellow, require the cool dark of their leaves;
Neal wants balance; he throws his mind always too far,
Whisking out flocks of comets, but never a star;
He has so much muscle, and loves so to show it,
That he strips himself naked to prove he's a poet,
And, to show he could leap Art's wide ditch, if he tried,
Jumps clean o'er it, and into the hedge t'other side.
He has strength, but there's nothing about him in keeping;
One gets surelier onward by walking than leaping;
He has used his own sinews himself to distress,
And had done vastly more had he done vastly less;
In letters, too soon is as bad as too late;
Could he only have waited he might have been great;
But he plumped into Helicon up to the waist,
And muddied the stream ere he took his first taste.
'There is Hawthorne, with genius so shrinking and rare
That you hardly at first see the strength that is there;
A frame so robust, with a nature so sweet,
So earnest, so graceful, so lithe and so fleet,
Is worth a descent from Olympus to meet;
'Tis as if a rough oak that for ages had stood,
With his gnarled bony branches like ribs of the wood,
Should bloom, after cycles of struggle and scathe,
With a single anemone trembly and rathe;
His strength is so tender, his wildness so meek,
That a suitable parallel sets one to seek,-
He's a John Bunyan Fouque, a Puritan Tieck;
When Nature was shaping him, clay was not granted
For making so full-sized a man as she wanted,
So, to fill out her model, a little she spared
From some finer-grained stuff for a woman prepared,
And she could not have hit a more excellent plan
For making him fully and perfectly man.
The success of her scheme gave her so much delight,
That she tried it again, shortly after, in Dwight;
Only, while she was kneading and shaping the clay,
She sang to her work in her sweet childish way,
And found, when she'd put the last touch to his soul,
That the music had somehow got mixed with the whole.
'Here's Cooper, who's written six volumes to show
He's as good as a lord: well, let's grant that he's so;
If a person prefer that description of praise,
Why, a coronet's certainly cheaper than bays;
But he need take no pains to convince us he's not
(As his enemies say) the American Scott.
Choose any twelve men, and let C. read aloud
That one of his novels of which he's most proud,
And I'd lay any bet that, without ever quitting
Their box, they'd be all, to a man, for acquitting.
He has drawn you one character, though, that is new,
One wildflower he's plucked that is wet with the dew
Of this fresh Western world, and, the thing not to mince,
He has done naught but copy it ill ever since;
His Indians, with proper respect be it said,
Are just Natty Bumppo, daubed over with red,
And his very Long Toms are the same useful Nat,
Rigged up in duck pants and a sou'wester hat
(Though once in a Coffin, a good chance was found
To have slipped the old fellow away underground).
All his other men-figures are clothes upon sticks,
The _derniere chemise_ of a man in a fix
(As a captain besieged, when his garrison's small,
Sets up caps upon poles to be seen o'er the wall):
And the women he draws from one model don't vary.
All sappy as maples and flat as a prairie.
When a character's wanted, he goes to the task
As a cooper would do in composing a cask;
He picks out the staves, of their qualities heedful,
Just hoops them together as tight as is needful,
And, if the best fortune should crown the attempt, he
Has made at the most something wooden and empty.
'Don't suppose I would underrate Cooper's abilities;
If I thought you'd do that, I should feel very ill at ease;
The men who have given to _one_ character life
And objective existence are not very rife;
You may number them all, both prose-writers and singers,
Without overrunning the bounds of your fingers,
And Natty won't go to oblivion quicker
Than Adams the parson or Primrose the vicar.
'There is one thing in Cooper I like, too, and that is
That on manners he lectures his countrymen gratis;
Not precisely so either, because, for a rarity,
He is paid for his tickets in unpopularity.
Now he may overcharge his American pictures,
But you'll grant there's a good deal of truth in his strictures;
And I honor the man who is willing to sink
Half his present repute for the freedom to think,
And, when he has thought, be his cause strong or weak,
Will risk t'other half for the freedom to speak,
Caring naught for what vengeance the mob has in store,
Let that mob be the upper ten thousand or lower.
'There are truths you Americans need to be told,
And it never'll refute them to swagger and scold;
John Bull, looking o'er the Atlantic, in choler
At your aptness for trade, says you worship the dollar;
But to scorn such eye-dollar-try's what very few do,
And John goes to that church as often as you do,
No matter what John says, don't try to outcrow him,
'Tis enough to go quietly on and outgrow him;
Like most fathers, Bull hates to see Number One
Displacing himself in the mind of his son,
And detests the same faults in himself he'd neglected
When he sees them again in his child's glass reflected;
To love one another you're too like by half;
If he is a bull, you're a pretty stout calf,
And tear your own pasture for naught but to show
What a nice pair of horns you're beginning to grow.
'There are one or two things I should just like to hint,
For you don't often get the truth told you in print;
The most of you (this is what strikes all beholders)
Have a mental and physical stoop in the shoulders;
Though you ought to be free as the winds and the waves,
You've the gait and the manners of runaway slaves;
Though you brag of your New World, you don't half believe in it;
And as much of the Old as is possible weave in it;
Your goddess of freedom, a tight, buxom girl,
With lips like a cherry and teeth like a pearl,
With eyes bold as Here's, and hair floating free,
And full of the sun as the spray of the sea,
Who can sing at a husking or romp at a shearing,
Who can trip through the forests alone without fearing,
Who can drive home the cows with a song through the grass,
Keeps glancing aside into Europe's cracked glass.
Hides her red hands in gloves, pinches up her lithe waist,
And makes herself wretched with transmarine taste;
She loses her fresh country charm when she takes
Any mirror except her own rivers and lakes.
'You steal Englishmen's books and think Englishmen's thought,
With their salt on her tail your wild eagle is caught;
Your literature suits its each whisper and motion
To what will be thought of it over the ocean;
The cast clothes of Europe your statesmanship tries
And mumbles again the old blarneys and lies;-
Forget Europe wholly, your veins throb with blood,
To which the dull current in hers is but mud:
Let her sneer, let her say your experiment fails,
In her voice there's a tremble e'en now while she rails,
And your shore will soon be in the nature of things
Covered thick with gilt drift-wood of castaway kings,
Where alone, as it were in a Longfellow's Waif,
Her fugitive pieces will find themselves safe.
O my friends, thank your god, if you have one, that he
'Twixt the Old World and you set the gulf of a sea;
Be strong-backed, brown-handed, upright as your pines,
By the scale of a hemisphere shape your designs,
Be true to yourselves and this new nineteenth age,
As a statue by Powers, or a picture by Page,
Plough, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, make all over new,
To your own New-World instincts contrive to be true,
Keep your ears open wide to the Future's first call,
Be whatever you will, but yourselves first of all,
Stand fronting the dawn on Toil's heaven-scaling peaks,
And become my new race of more practical Greeks.-
Hem! your likeness at present, I shudder to tell o't,
Is that you have your slaves, and the Greek had his helot.'
Here a gentleman present, who had in his attic
More pepper than brains, shrieked, 'The man's a fanatic,
I'm a capital tailor with warm tar and feathers,
And will make him a suit that'll serve in all weathers;
But we'll argue the point first, I'm willing to reason 't,
Palaver before condemnation's but decent:
So, through my humble person, Humanity begs
Of the friends of true freedom a loan of bad eggs.'
But Apollo let one such a look of his show forth
As when [Greek: aeie nukti eoikios], and so forth,
And the gentleman somehow slunk out of the way,
But, as he was going, gained courage to say,-
'At slavery in the abstract my whole soul rebels,
I am as strongly opposed to 't as any one else.'
'Ay, no doubt, but whenever I've happened to meet
With a wrong or a crime, it is always concrete,'
Answered Phoebus severely; then turning to us,
'The mistake of such fellows as just made the fuss
Is only in taking a great busy nation
For a part of their pitiful cotton-plantation.-
But there comes Miranda, Zeus! where shall I flee to?
She has such a penchant for bothering me too!
She always keeps asking if I don't observe a
Particular likeness 'twixt her and Minerva;
She tells me my efforts in verse are quite clever;-
She's been travelling now, and will be worse than ever;
One would think, though, a sharp-sighted noter she'd be
Of all that's worth mentioning over the sea,
For a woman must surely see well, if she try,
The whole of whose
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 10
THE GATES of heav’n unfold: Jove summons all
The gods to council in the common hall.
Sublimely seated, he surveys from far
The fields, the camp, the fortune of the war,
And all th’ inferior world. From first to last, 5
The sov’reign senate in degrees are plac’d.
Then thus th’ almighty sire began: “Ye gods,
Natives or denizens of blest abodes,
From whence these murmurs, and this change of mind,
This backward fate from what was first design’d? 10
Why this protracted war, when my commands
Pronounc’d a peace, and gave the Latian lands?
What fear or hope on either part divides
Our heav’ns, and arms our powers on diff’rent sides?
A lawful time of war at length will come, 15
(Nor need your haste anticipate the doom),
When Carthage shall contend the world with Rome,
Shall force the rigid rocks and Alpine chains,
And, like a flood, come pouring on the plains.
Then is your time for faction and debate, 20
For partial favor, and permitted hate.
Let now your immature dissension cease;
Sit quiet, and compose your souls to peace.”
Thus Jupiter in few unfolds the charge;
But lovely Venus thus replies at large: 25
“O pow’r immense, eternal energy,
(For to what else protection can we fly?)
Seest thou the proud Rutulians, how they dare
In fields, unpunish’d, and insult my care?
How lofty Turnus vaunts amidst his train, 30
In shining arms, triumphant on the plain?
Ev’n in their lines and trenches they contend,
And scarce their walls the Trojan troops defend:
The town is fill’d with slaughter, and o’erfloats,
With a red deluge, their increasing moats. 35
Æneas, ignorant, and far from thence,
Has left a camp expos’d, without defense.
This endless outrage shall they still sustain?
Shall Troy renew’d be forc’d and fir’d again?
A second siege my banish’d issue fears, 40
And a new Diomede in arms appears.
One more audacious mortal will be found;
And I, thy daughter, wait another wound.
Yet, if with fates averse, without thy leave,
The Latian lands my progeny receive, 45
Bear they the pains of violated law,
And thy protection from their aid withdraw.
But, if the gods their sure success foretell;
If those of heav’n consent with those of hell,
To promise Italy; who dare debate 50
The pow’r of Jove, or fix another fate?
What should I tell of tempests on the main,
Of Æolus usurping Neptune’s reign?
Of Iris sent, with Bacchanalian heat
T’ inspire the matrons, and destroy the fleet? 55
Now Juno to the Stygian sky descends,
Solicits hell for aid, and arms the fiends.
That new example wanted yet above:
An act that well became the wife of Jove!
Alecto, rais’d by her, with rage inflames 60
The peaceful bosoms of the Latian dames.
Imperial sway no more exalts my mind;
(Such hopes I had indeed, while Heav’n was kind
Now let my happier foes possess my place,
Whom Jove prefers before the Trojan race; 65
And conquer they, whom you with conquest grace.
Since you can spare, from all your wide command,
No spot of earth, no hospitable land,
Which may my wand’ring fugitives receive;
(Since haughty Juno will not give you leave 70
Then, father, (if I still may use that name,)
By ruin’d Troy, yet smoking from the flame,
I beg you, let Ascanius, by my care,
Be freed from danger, and dismiss’d the war:
Inglorious let him live, without a crown. 75
The father may be cast on coasts unknown,
Struggling with fate; but let me save the son.
Mine is Cythera, mine the Cyprian tow’rs:
In those recesses, and those sacred bow’rs,
Obscurely let him rest; his right resign 80
To promis’d empire, and his Julian line.
Then Carthage may th’ Ausonian towns destroy,
Nor fear the race of a rejected boy.
What profits it my son to scape the fire,
Arm’d with his gods, and loaded with his sire; 85
To pass the perils of the seas and wind;
Evade the Greeks, and leave the war behind;
To reach th’ Italian shores; if, after all,
Our second Pergamus is doom’d to fall?
Much better had he curb’d his high desires, 90
And hover’d o’er his ill-extinguish’d fires.
To Simois’ banks the fugitives restore,
And give them back to war, and all the woes before.”
Deep indignation swell’d Saturnia’s heart:
“And must I own,” she said, “my secret smart— 95
What with more decence were in silence kept,
And, but for this unjust reproach, had slept?
Did god or man your fav’rite son advise,
With war unhop’d the Latians to surprise?
By fate, you boast, and by the gods’ decree, 100
He left his native land for Italy!
Confess the truth; by mad Cassandra, more
Than Heav’n inspir’d, he sought a foreign shore!
Did I persuade to trust his second Troy
To the raw conduct of a beardless boy, 105
With walls unfinish’d, which himself forsakes,
And thro’ the waves a wand’ring voyage takes?
When have I urg’d him meanly to demand
The Tuscan aid, and arm a quiet land?
Did I or Iris give this mad advice, 110
Or made the fool himself the fatal choice?
You think it hard, the Latians should destroy
With swords your Trojans, and with fires your Troy!
Hard and unjust indeed, for men to draw
Their native air, nor take a foreign law! 115
That Turnus is permitted still to live,
To whom his birth a god and goddess give!
But yet ’t is just and lawful for your line
To drive their fields, and force with fraud to join;
Realms, not your own, among your clans divide, 120
And from the bridegroom tear the promis’d bride;
Petition, while you public arms prepare;
Pretend a peace, and yet provoke a war!
’T was giv’n to you, your darling son to shroud,
To draw the dastard from the fighting crowd, 125
And, for a man, obtend an empty cloud.
From flaming fleets you turn’d the fire away,
And chang’d the ships to daughters of the sea.
But ’t is my crime—the Queen of Heav’n offends,
If she presume to save her suff’ring friends! 130
Your son, not knowing what his foes decree,
You say, is absent: absent let him be.
Yours is Cythera, yours the Cyprian tow’rs,
The soft recesses, and the sacred bow’rs.
Why do you then these needless arms prepare, 135
And thus provoke a people prone to war?
Did I with fire the Trojan town deface,
Or hinder from return your exil’d race?
Was I the cause of mischief, or the man
Whose lawless lust the fatal war began? 140
Think on whose faith th’ adult’rous youth relied;
Who promis’d, who procur’d, the Spartan bride?
When all th’ united states of Greece combin’d,
To purge the world of the perfidious kind,
Then was your time to fear the Trojan fate: 145
Your quarrels and complaints are now too late.”
Thus Juno. Murmurs rise, with mix’d applause,
Just as they favor or dislike the cause.
So winds, when yet unfledg’d in woods they lie,
In whispers first their tender voices try, 150
Then issue on the main with bellowing rage,
And storms to trembling mariners presage.
Then thus to both replied th’ imperial god,
Who shakes heav’n’s axles with his awful nod.
(When he begins, the silent senate stand 155
With rev’rence, list’ning to the dread command:
The clouds dispel; the winds their breath restrain;
And the hush’d waves lie flatted on the main.)
“Celestials, your attentive ears incline!
Since,” said the god, “the Trojans must not join 160
In wish’d alliance with the Latian line;
Since endless jarrings and immortal hate
Tend but to discompose our happy state;
The war henceforward be resign’d to fate:
Each to his proper fortune stand or fall; 165
Equal and unconcern’d I look on all.
Rutulians, Trojans, are the same to me;
And both shall draw the lots their fates decree.
Let these assault, if Fortune be their friend;
And, if she favors those, let those defend: 170
The Fates will find their way.” The Thund’rer said,
And shook the sacred honors of his head,
Attesting Styx, th’ inviolable flood,
And the black regions of his brother god.
Trembled the poles of heav’n, and earth confess’d the nod. 175
This end the sessions had: the senate rise,
And to his palace wait their sov’reign thro’ the skies.
Meantime, intent upon their siege, the foes
Within their walls the Trojan host inclose:
They wound, they kill, they watch at ev’ry gate; 180
Renew the fires, and urge their happy fate.
Th’ Æneans wish in vain their wanted chief,
Hopeless of flight, more hopeless of relief.
Thin on the tow’rs they stand; and ev’n those few
A feeble, fainting, and dejected crew. 185
Yet in the face of danger some there stood:
The two bold brothers of Sarpedon’s blood,
Asius and Acmon; both th’ Assaraci;
Young Haemon, and tho’ young, resolv’d to die.
With these were Clarus and Thymoetes join’d; 190
Tibris and Castor, both of Lycian kind.
From Acmon’s hands a rolling stone there came,
So large, it half deserv’d a mountain’s name:
Strong-sinew’d was the youth, and big of bone;
His brother Mnestheus could not more have done, 195
Or the great father of th’ intrepid son.
Some firebrands throw, some flights of arrows send;
And some with darts, and some with stones defend.
Amid the press appears the beauteous boy,
The care of Venus, and the hope of Troy. 200
His lovely face unarm’d, his head was bare;
In ringlets o’er his shoulders hung his hair.
His forehead circled with a diadem;
Distinguish’d from the crowd, he shines a gem,
Enchas’d in gold, or polish’d iv’ry set, 205
Amidst the meaner foil of sable jet.
Nor Ismarus was wanting to the war,
Directing pointed arrows from afar,
And death with poison arm’d—in Lydia born,
Where plenteous harvests the fat fields adorn; 210
Where proud Pactolus floats the fruitful lands,
And leaves a rich manure of golden sands.
There Capys, author of the Capuan name,
And there was Mnestheus too, increas’d in fame,
Since Turnus from the camp he cast with shame. 215
Thus mortal war was wag’d on either side.
Meantime the hero cuts the nightly tide:
For, anxious, from Evander when he went,
He sought the Tyrrhene camp, and Tarchon’s tent;
Expos’d the cause of coming to the chief; 220
His name and country told, and ask’d relief;
Propos’d the terms; his own small strength declar’d;
What vengeance proud Mezentius had prepar’d:
What Turnus, bold and violent, design’d;
Then shew’d the slipp’ry state of humankind, 225
And fickle fortune; warn’d him to beware,
And to his wholesome counsel added pray’r.
Tarchon, without delay, the treaty signs,
And to the Trojan troops the Tuscan joins.
They soon set sail; nor now the fates withstand; 230
Their forces trusted with a foreign hand.
Æneas leads; upon his stern appear
Two lions carv’d, which rising Ida bear—
Ida, to wand’ring Trojans ever dear.
Under their grateful shade Æneas sate, 235
Revolving war’s events, and various fate.
His left young Pallas kept, fix’d to his side,
And oft of winds enquir’d, and of the tide;
Oft of the stars, and of their wat’ry way;
And what he suffer’d both by land and sea. 240
Now, sacred sisters, open all your spring!
The Tuscan leaders, and their army sing,
Which follow’d great Æneas to the war:
Their arms, their numbers, and their names declare.
A thousand youths brave Massicus obey, 245
Borne in the Tiger thro’ the foaming sea;
From Asium brought, and Cosa, by his care:
For arms, light quivers, bows and shafts, they bear.
Fierce Abas next: his men bright armor wore;
His stern Apollo’s golden statue bore. 250
Six hundred Populonia sent along,
All skill’d in martial exercise, and strong.
Three hundred more for battle Ilva joins,
An isle renown’d for steel, and unexhausted mines.
Asylas on his prow the third appears, 255
Who heav’n interprets, and the wand’ring stars;
From offer’d entrails prodigies expounds,
And peals of thunder, with presaging sounds.
A thousand spears in warlike order stand,
Sent by the Pisans under his command. 260
Fair Astur follows in the wat’ry field,
Proud of his manag’d horse and painted shield.
Gravisca, noisome from the neighb’ring fen,
And his own Cære, sent three hundred men;
With those which Minio’s fields and Pyrgi gave, 265
All bred in arms, unanimous, and brave.
Thou, Muse, the name of Cinyras renew,
And brave Cupavo follow’d but by few;
Whose helm confess’d the lineage of the man,
And bore, with wings display’d, a silver swan. 270
Love was the fault of his fam’d ancestry,
Whose forms and fortunes in his ensigns fly.
For Cycnus lov’d unhappy Phæton,
And sung his loss in poplar groves, alone,
Beneath the sister shades, to soothe his grief. 275
Heav’n heard his song, and hasten’d his relief,
And chang’d to snowy plumes his hoary hair,
And wing’d his flight, to chant aloft in air.
His son Cupavo brush’d the briny flood:
Upon his stern a brawny Centaur stood, 280
Who heav’d a rock, and, threat’ning still to throw,
With lifted hands alarm’d the seas below:
They seem’d to fear the formidable sight,
And roll’d their billows on, to speed his flight.
Ocnus was next, who led his native train 285
Of hardy warriors thro’ the wat’ry plain:
The son of Manto by the Tuscan stream,
From whence the Mantuan town derives the name—
An ancient city, but of mix’d descent:
Three sev’ral tribes compose the government; 290
Four towns are under each; but all obey
The Mantuan laws, and own the Tuscan sway.
Hate to Mezentius arm’d five hundred more,
Whom Mincius from his sire Benacus bore:
Mincius, with wreaths of reeds his forehead cover’d o’er. 295
These grave Auletes leads: a hundred sweep
With stretching oars at once the glassy deep.
Him and his martial train the Triton bears;
High on his poop the sea-green god appears:
Frowning he seems his crooked shell to sound, 300
And at the blast the billows dance around.
A hairy man above the waist he shows;
A porpoise tail beneath his belly grows;
And ends a fish: his breast the waves divides,
And froth and foam augment the murm’ring tides. 305
Full thirty ships transport the chosen train
For Troy’s relief, and scour the briny main.
Now was the world forsaken by the sun,
And Phœbe half her nightly race had run.
The careful chief, who never clos’d his eyes, 310
Himself the rudder holds, the sails supplies.
A choir of Nereids meet him on the flood,
Once his own galleys, hewn from Ida’s wood;
But now, as many nymphs, the sea they sweep,
As rode, before, tall vessels on the deep. 315
They know him from afar; and in a ring
Inclose the ship that bore the Trojan king.
Cymodoce, whose voice excell’d the rest,
Above the waves advanc’d her snowy breast;
Her right hand stops the stern; her left divides 320
The curling ocean, and corrects the tides.
She spoke for all the choir, and thus began
With pleasing words to warn th’ unknowing man:
“Sleeps our lov’d lord? O goddess-born, awake!
Spread ev’ry sail, pursue your wat’ry track, 325
And haste your course. Your navy once were we,
From Ida’s height descending to the sea;
Till Turnus, as at anchor fix’d we stood,
Presum’d to violate our holy wood.
Then, loos’d from shore, we fled his fires profane 330
(Unwillingly we broke our master’s chain),
And since have sought you thro’ the Tuscan main.
The mighty Mother chang’d our forms to these,
And gave us life immortal in the seas.
But young Ascanius, in his camp distress’d, 335
By your insulting foes is hardly press’d.
Th’ Arcadian horsemen, and Etrurian host,
Advance in order on the Latian coast:
To cut their way the Daunian chief designs,
Before their troops can reach the Trojan lines. 340
Thou, when the rosy morn restores the light,
First arm thy soldiers for th’ ensuing fight:
Thyself the fated sword of Vulcan wield,
And bear aloft th’ impenetrable shield.
To-morrow’s sun, unless my skill be vain, 345
Shall see huge heaps of foes in battle slain.”
Parting, she spoke; and with immortal force
Push’d on the vessel in her wat’ry course;
For well she knew the way. Impell’d behind,
The ship flew forward, and outstripp’d the wind. 350
The rest make up. Unknowing of the cause,
The chief admires their speed, and happy omens draws.
Then thus he pray’d, and fix’d on heav’n his eyes:
“Hear thou, great Mother of the deities.
With turrets crown’d! (on Ida’s holy hill 355
Fierce tigers, rein’d and curb’d, obey thy will.)
Firm thy own omens; lead us on to fight;
And let thy Phrygians conquer in thy right.”
He said no more. And now renewing day
Had chas’d the shadows of the night away. 360
He charg’d the soldiers, with preventing care,
Their flags to follow, and their arms prepare;
Warn’d of th’ ensuing fight, and bade ’em hope the war.
Now, from his lofty poop, he view’d below
His camp incompass’d, and th’ inclosing foe. 365
His blazing shield, imbrac’d, he held on high;
The camp receive the sign, and with loud shouts reply.
Hope arms their courage: from their tow’rs they throw
Their darts with double force, and drive the foe.
Thus, at the signal giv’n, the cranes arise 370
Before the stormy south, and blacken all the skies.
King Turnus wonder’d at the fight renew’d,
Till, looking back, the Trojan fleet he view’d,
The seas with swelling canvas cover’d o’er,
And the swift ships descending on the shore. 375
The Latians saw from far, with dazzled eyes,
The radiant crest that seem’d in flames to rise,
And dart diffusive fires around the field,
And the keen glitt’ring of the golden shield.
Thus threat’ning comets, when by night they rise, 380
Shoot sanguine streams, and sadden all the skies:
So Sirius, flashing forth sinister lights,
Pale humankind with plagues and with dry famine frights.
Yet Turnus with undaunted mind is bent
To man the shores, and hinder their descent, 385
And thus awakes the courage of his friends:
“What you so long have wish’d, kind Fortune sends;
In ardent arms to meet th’ invading foe:
You find, and find him at advantage now.
Yours is the day: you need but only dare; 390
Your swords will make you masters of the war.
Your sires, your sons, your houses, and your lands,
And dearest wifes, are all within your hands.
Be mindful of the race from whence you came,
And emulate in arms your fathers’ fame. 395
Now take the time, while stagg’ring yet they stand
With feet unfirm, and prepossess the strand:
Fortune befriends the bold.” Nor more he said,
But balanc’d whom to leave, and whom to lead;
Then these elects, the landing to prevent; 400
And those he leaves, to keep the city pent.
Meantime the Trojan sends his troops ashore:
Some are by boats expos’d, by bridges more.
With lab’ring oars they bear along the strand,
Where the tide languishes, and leap aland. 405
Tarchon observes the coast with careful eyes,
And, where no ford he finds, no water fries,
Nor billows with unequal murmurs roar,
But smoothly slide along, and swell the shore,
That course he steer’d, and thus he gave command: 410
‘Here ply your oars, and at all hazard land:
Force on the vessel, that her keel may wound
This hated soil, and furrow hostile ground.
Let me securely land—I ask no more;
Then sink my ships, or shatter on the shore.” 415
This fiery speech inflames his fearful friends:
They tug at ev’ry oar, and ev’ry stretcher bends;
They run their ships aground; the vessels knock,
(Thus forc’d ashore,) and tremble with the shock.
Tarchon’s alone was lost, that stranded stood, 420
Stuck on a bank, and beaten by the flood:
She breaks her back; the loosen’d sides give way,
And plunge the Tuscan soldiers in the sea.
Their broken oars and floating planks withstand
Their passage, while they labor to the land, 425
And ebbing tides bear back upon th’ uncertain sand.
Now Turnus leads his troops without delay,
Advancing to the margin of the sea.
The trumpets sound: Æneas first assail’d
The clowns new-rais’d and raw, and soon prevail’d. 430
Great Theron fell, an omen of the fight;
Great Theron, large of limbs, of giant height.
He first in open field defied the prince:
But armor scal’d with gold was no defense
Against the fated sword, which open’d wide 435
His plated shield, and pierc’d his naked side.
Next, Lichas fell, who, not like others born,
Was from his wretched mother ripp’d and torn;
Sacred, O Phœbus, from his birth to thee;
For his beginning life from biting steel was free. 440
Not far from him was Gyas laid along,
Of monstrous bulk; with Cisseus fierce and strong:
Vain bulk and strength! for, when the chief assail’d,
Nor valor nor Herculean arms avail’d,
Nor their fam’d father, wont in war to go 445
With great Alcides, while he toil’d below.
The noisy Pharos next receiv’d his death:
Æneas writh’d his dart, and stopp’d his bawling breath.
Then wretched Cydon had receiv’d his doom,
Who courted Clytius in his beardless bloom, 450
And sought with lust obscene polluted joys:
The Trojan sword had cur’d his love of boys,
Had not his sev’n bold brethren stopp’d the course
Of the fierce champions, with united force.
Sev’n darts were thrown at once; and some rebound 455
From his bright shield, some on his helmet sound:
The rest had reach’d him; but his mother’s care
Prevented those, and turn’d aside in air.
The prince then call’d Achates, to supply
The spears that knew the way to victory— 460
“Those fatal weapons, which, inur’d to blood,
In Grecian bodies under Ilium stood:
Not one of those my hand shall toss in vain
Against our foes, on this contended plain.”
He said; then seiz’d a mighty spear, and threw; 465
Which, wing’d with fate, thro’ Mæon’s buckler flew,
Pierc’d all the brazen plates, and reach’d his heart:
He stagger’d with intolerable smart.
Alcanor saw; and reach’d, but reach’d in vain,
His helping hand, his brother to sustain. 470
A second spear, which kept the former course,
From the same hand, and sent with equal force,
His right arm pierc’d, and holding on, bereft
His use of both, and pinion’d down his left.
Then Numitor from his dead brother drew 475
Th’ ill-omen’d spear, and at the Trojan threw:
Preventing fate directs the lance awry,
Which, glancing, only mark’d Achates’ thigh.
In pride of youth the Sabine Clausus came,
And, from afar, at Dryops took his aim. 480
The spear flew hissing thro’ the middle space,
And pierc’d his throat, directed at his face;
It stopp’d at once the passage of his wind,
And the free soul to flitting air resign’d:
His forehead was the first that struck the ground; 485
Lifeblood and life rush’d mingled thro’ the wound.
He slew three brothers of the Borean race,
And three, whom Ismarus, their native place,
Had sent to war, but all the sons of Thrace.
Halesus, next, the bold Aurunci leads: 490
The son of Neptune to his aid succeeds,
Conspicuous on his horse. On either hand,
These fight to keep, and those to win, the land.
With mutual blood th’ Ausonian soil is dyed,
While on its borders each their claim decide. 495
As wintry winds, contending in the sky,
With equal force of lungs their titles try:
They rage, they roar; the doubtful rack of heav’n
Stands without motion, and the tide undriv’n:
Each bent to conquer, neither side to yield, 500
They long suspend the fortune of the field.
Both armies thus perform what courage can;
Foot set to foot, and mingled man to man.
But, in another part, th’ Arcadian horse
With ill success ingage the Latin force: 505
For, where th’ impetuous torrent, rushing down,
Huge craggy stones and rooted trees had thrown,
They left their coursers, and, unus’d to fight
On foot, were scatter’d in a shameful flight.
Pallas, who with disdain and grief had view’d 510
His foes pursuing, and his friends pursued,
Us’d threat’nings mix’d with pray’rs, his last resource,
With these to move their minds, with those to fire their force.
“Which way, companions? whether would you run?
By you yourselves, and mighty battles won, 515
By my great sire, by his establish’d name,
And early promise of my future fame;
By my youth, emulous of equal right
To share his honors—shun ignoble flight!
Trust not your feet: your hands must hew your way 520
Thro’ yon black body, and that thick array:
’T is thro’ that forward path that we must come;
There lies our way, and that our passage home.
Nor pow’rs above, nor destinies below
Oppress our arms: with equal strength we go, 525
With mortal hands to meet a mortal foe.
See on what foot we stand: a scanty shore,
The sea behind, our enemies before;
No passage left, unless we swim the main;
Or, forcing these, the Trojan trenches gain.” 530
This said, he strode with eager haste along,
And bore amidst the thickest of the throng.
Lagus, the first he met, with fate to foe,
Had heav’d a stone of mighty weight, to throw:
Stooping, the spear descended on his chine, 535
Just where the bone distinguished either loin:
It stuck so fast, so deeply buried lay,
That scarce the victor forc’d the steel away.
Hisbon came on: but, while he mov’d too slow
To wish’d revenge, the prince prevents his blow; 540
For, warding his at once, at once he press’d,
And plung’d the fatal weapon in his breast.
Then lewd Anchemolus he laid in dust,
Who stain’d his stepdam’s bed with impious lust.
And, after him, the Daucian twins were slain, 545
Laris and Thymbrus, on the Latian plain;
So wondrous like in feature, shape, and size,
As caus’d an error in their parents’ eyes—
Grateful mistake! but soon the sword decides
The nice distinction, and their fate divides: 550
For Thymbrus’ head was lopp’d; and Laris’ hand,
Dismember’d, sought its owner on the strand:
The trembling fingers yet the fauchion strain,
And threaten still th’ intended stroke in vain.
Now, to renew the charge, th’ Arcadians came: 555
Sight of such acts, and sense of honest shame,
And grief, with anger mix’d, their minds inflame.
Then, with a casual blow was Rhoeteus slain,
Who chanc’d, as Pallas threw, to cross the plain:
The flying spear was after Ilus sent; 560
But Rhoeteus happen’d on a death unmeant:
From Teuthras and from Tyres while he fled,
The lance, athwart his body, laid him dead:
Roll’d from his chariot with a mortal wound,
And intercepted fate, he spurn’d the ground. 565
As when, in summer, welcome winds arise,
The watchful shepherd to the forest flies,
And fires the midmost plants; contagion spreads,
And catching flames infect the neighb’ring heads;
Around the forest flies the furious blast, 570
And all the leafy nation sinks at last,
And Vulcan rides in triumph o’er the waste;
The pastor, pleas’d with his dire victory,
Beholds the satiate flames in sheets ascend the sky:
So Pallas’ troops their scatter’d strength unite, 575
And, pouring on their foes, their prince delight.
Halesus came, fierce with desire of blood;
But first collected in his arms he stood:
Advancing then, he plied the spear so well,
Ladon, Demodocus, and Pheres fell. 580
Around his head he toss’d his glitt’ring brand,
And from Strymonius hew’d his better hand,
Held up to guard his throat; then hurl’d a stoneAt Thoas’ ample front, and pierc’d the bone:
It struck beneath the space of either eye;
And blood, and mingled brains, together fly. 585
Deep skill’d in future fates, Halesus’ sire
Did with the youth to lonely groves retire:
But, when the father’s mortal race was run,
Dire destiny laid hold upon the son,
And haul’d him to the war, to find, beneath 590
Th’ Evandrian spear, a memorable death.
Pallas th’ encounter seeks, but, ere he throws,
To Tuscan Tiber thus address’d his vows:
“O sacred stream, direct my flying dart,
And give to pass the proud Halesus’ heart! 595
His arms and spoils thy holy oak shall bear.”
Pleas’d with the bribe, the god receiv’d his pray’r:
For, while his shield protects a friend distress’d,
The dart came driving on, and pierc’d his breast.
But Lausus, no small portion of the war, 600
Permits not panic fear to reign too far,
Caus’d by the death of so renown’d a knight;
But by his own example cheers the fight.
Fierce Abas first he slew; Abas, the stay
Of Trojan hopes, and hind’rance of the day. 605
The Phrygian troops escap’d the Greeks in vain:
They, and their mix’d allies, now load the plain.
To the rude shock of war both armies came;
Their leaders equal, and their strength the same.
The rear so press’d the front, they could not wield 610
Their angry weapons, to dispute the field.
Here Pallas urges on, and Lausus there:
Of equal youth and beauty both appear,
But both by fate forbid to breathe their native air.
Their congress in the field great Jove withstands: 615
Both doom’d to fall, but fall by greater hands.
Meantime Juturna warns the Daunian chief
Of Lausus’ danger, urging swift relief.
With his driv’n chariot he divides the crowd,
And, making to his friends, thus calls aloud: 620
“Let none presume his needless aid to join;
Retire, and clear the field; the fight is mine:
To this right hand is Pallas only due;
O were his father here, my just revenge to view!”
From the forbidden space his men retir’d. 625
Pallas their awe, and his stern words, admir’d;
Survey’d him o’er and o’er with wond’ring sight,
Struck with his haughty mien, and tow’ring height.
Then to the king: “Your empty vaunts forbear;
Success I hope, and fate I cannot fear; 630
Alive or dead, I shall deserve a name;
Jove is impartial, and to both the same.”
He said, and to the void advanc’d his pace:
Pale horror sate on each Arcadian face.
Then Turnus, from his chariot leaping light, 635
Address’d himself on foot to single fight.
And, as a lion—when he spies from far
A bull that seems to meditate the war,
Bending his neck, and spurning back the sand—
Runs roaring downward from his hilly stand: 640
Imagine eager Turnus not more slow,
To rush from high on his unequal foe.
Young Pallas, when he saw the chief advance
Within due distance of his flying lance,
Prepares to charge him first, resolv’d to try 645
If fortune would his want of force supply;
And thus to Heav’n and Hercules address’d:
“Alcides, once on earth Evander’s guest,
His son adjures you by those holy rites,
That hospitable board, those genial nights; 650
Assist my great attempt to gain this prize,
And let proud Turnus view, with dying eyes,
His ravish’d spoils.” ’T was heard, the vain request;
Alcides mourn’d, and stifled sighs within his breast.
Then Jove, to soothe his sorrow, thus began: 655
“Short bounds of life are set to mortal man.
’T is virtue’s work alone to stretch the narrow span.
So many sons of gods, in bloody fight,
Around the walls of Troy, have lost the light:
My own Sarpedon fell beneath his foe; 660
Nor I, his mighty sire, could ward the blow.
Ev’n Turnus shortly shall resign his breath,
And stands already on the verge of death.”
This said, the god permits the fatal fight,
But from the Latian fields averts his sight. 665
Now with full force his spear young Pallas threw,
And, having thrown, his shining fauchion drew
The steel just graz’d along the shoulder joint,
And mark’d it slightly with the glancing point,
Fierce Turnus first to nearer distance drew, 670
And pois’d his pointed spear, before he threw:
Then, as the winged weapon whizz’d along,
“See now,” said he, “whose arm is better strung.”
The spear kept on the fatal course, unstay’d
By plates of ir’n, which o’er the shield were laid: 675
Thro’ folded brass and tough bull hides it pass’d,
His corslet pierc’d, and reach’d his heart at last.
In vain the youth tugs at the broken wood;
The soul comes issuing with the vital blood:
He falls; his arms upon his body sound; 680
And with his bloody teeth he bites the ground.
Turnus bestrode the corpse: “Arcadians, hear,”
Said he; “my message to your master bear:
Such as the sire deserv’d, the son I send;
It costs him dear to be the Phrygians’ friend. 685
The lifeless body, tell him, I bestow,
Unask’d, to rest his wand’ring ghost below.”
He said, and trampled down with all the force
Of his left foot, and spurn’d the wretched corse;
Then snatch’d the shining belt, with gold inlaid; 690
The belt Eurytion’s artful hands had made,
Where fifty fatal brides, express’d to sight,
All in the compass of one mournful night,
Depriv’d their bridegrooms of returning light.
In an ill hour insulting Turnus tore 695
Those golden spoils, and in a worse he wore.
O mortals, blind in fate, who never know
To bear high fortune, or endure the low!
The time shall come, when Turnus, but in vain,
Shall wish untouch’d the trophies of the slain; 700
Shall wish the fatal belt were far away,
And curse the dire remembrance of the day.
The sad Arcadians, from th’ unhappy field,
Bear back the breathless body on a shield.
O grace and grief of war! at once restor’d, 705
With praises, to thy sire, at once deplor’d!
One day first sent thee to the fighting field,
Beheld whole heaps of foes in battle kill’d;
One day beheld thee dead, and borne upon thy shield.
This dismal news, not from uncertain fame, 710
But sad spectators, to the hero came:
His friends upon the brink of ruin stand,
Unless reliev’d by his victorious hand.
He whirls his sword around, without delay,
And hews thro’ adverse foes an ample way, 715
To find fierce Turnus, of his conquest proud:
Evander, Pallas, all that friendship ow’d
To large deserts, are present to his eyes;
His plighted hand, and hospitable ties.
Four sons of Sulmo, four whom Ufens bred, 720
He took in fight, and living victims led,
To please the ghost of Pallas, and expire,
In sacrifice, before his fun’ral fire.
At Magus next he threw: he stoop’d below
The flying spear, and shunn’d the promis’d blow; 725
Then, creeping, clasp’d the hero’s knees, and pray’d:
“By young Iulus, by thy father’s shade,
O spare my life, and send me back to see
My longing sire, and tender progeny!
A lofty house I have, and wealth untold, 730
In silver ingots, and in bars of gold:
All these, and sums besides, which see no day,
The ransom of this one poor life shall pay.
If I survive, will Troy the less prevail?
A single soul’s too light to turn the scale.” 735
He said. The hero sternly thus replied:
“Thy bars and ingots, and the sums beside,
Leave for thy children’s lot. Thy Turnus broke
All rules of war by one relentless stroke,
When Pallas fell: so deems, nor deems alone 740
My father’s shadow, but my living son.”
Thus having said, of kind remorse bereft,
He seiz’d his helm, and dragg’d him with his left;
Then with his right hand, while his neck he wreath’d,
Up to the hilts his shining fauchion sheath’d. 745
Apollo’s priest, Emonides, was near;
His holy fillets on his front appear;
Glitt’ring in arms, he shone amidst the crowd;
Much of his god, more of his purple, proud.
Him the fierce Trojan follow’d thro’ the field: 750
The holy coward fell; and, forc’d to yield,
The prince stood o’er the priest, and, at one blow,
Sent him an off’ring to the shades below.
His arms Seresthus on his shoulders bears,
Design’d a trophy to the God of Wars. 755
Vulcanian Cæculus renews the fight,
And Umbro, born upon the mountains’ height.
The champion cheers his troops t’ encounter those,
And seeks revenge himself on other foes.
At Anxur’s shield he drove; and, at the blow, 760
Both shield and arm to ground together go.
Anxur had boasted much of magic charms,
And thought he wore impenetrable arms,
So made by mutter’d spells; and, from the spheres,
Had life secur’d, in vain, for length of years. 765
Then Tarquitus the field in triumph trod;
A nymph his mother, and his sire a god.
Exulting in bright arms, he braves the prince:
With his protended lance he makes defense;
Bears back his feeble foe; then, pressing on, 770
Arrests his better hand, and drags him down;
Stands o’er the prostrate wretch, and, as he lay,
Vain tales inventing, and prepar’d to pray,
Mows off his head: the trunk a moment stood,
Then sunk, and roll’d along the sand in blood. 775
The vengeful victor thus upbraids the slain:
“Lie there, proud man, unpitied, on the plain;
Lie there, inglorious, and without a tomb,
Far from thy mother and thy native home,
Expos’d to savage beasts, and birds of prey, 780
Or thrown for food to monsters of the sea.”
On Lycas and Antæus next he ran,
Two chiefs of Turnus, and who led his van.
They fled for fear; with these, he chas’d along
Camers the yellow-lock’d, and Numa strong; 785
Both great in arms, and both were fair and young.
Camers was son to Volscens lately slain,
In wealth surpassing all the Latian train,
And in Amycla fix’d his silent easy reign.
And, as Ægæon, when with heav’n he strove, 790
Stood opposite in arms to mighty Jove;
Mov’d all his hundred hands, provok’d the war,
Defied the forky lightning from afar;
At fifty mouths his flaming breath expires,
And flash for flash returns, and fires for fires; 795
In his right hand as many swords he wields,
And takes the thunder on as many shields:
With strength like his, the Trojan hero stood;
And soon the fields with falling corps were strow’d,
When once his fauchion found the taste of blood. 800
With fury scarce to be conceiv’d, he flew
Against Niphæus, whom four coursers drew.
They, when they see the fiery chief advance,
And pushing at their chests his pointed lance,
Wheel’d with so swift a motion, mad with fear, 805
They threw their master headlong from the chair.
They stare, they start, nor stop their course, before
They bear the bounding chariot to the shore.
Now Lucagus and Liger scour the plains,
With two white steeds; but Liger holds the reins, 810
And Lucagus the lofty seat maintains:
Bold brethren both. The former wav’d in air
His flaming sword: Æneas couch’d his spear,
Unus’d to threats, and more unus’d to fear.
Then Liger thus: “Thy confidence is vain 815
To scape from hence, as from the Trojan plain:
Nor these the steeds which Diomede bestrode,
Nor this the chariot where Achilles rode;
Nor Venus’ veil is here, near Neptune’s shield;
Thy fatal hour is come, and this the field.” 820
Thus Liger vainly vaunts: the Trojan peer
Return’d his answer with his flying spear.
As Lucagus, to lash his horses, bends,
Prone to the wheels, and his left foot protends,
Prepar’d for fight; the fatal dart arrives, 825
And thro’ the borders of his buckler drives;
Pass’d thro’ and pierc’d his groin: the deadly wound,
Cast from his chariot, roll’d him on the ground.
Whom thus the chief upbraids with scornful spite:
“Blame not the slowness of your steeds in flight; 830
Vain shadows did not force their swift retreat;
But you yourself forsake your empty seat.”
He said, and seiz’d at once the loosen’d rein;
For Liger lay already on the plain,
By the same shock: then, stretching out his hands, 835
The recreant thus his wretched life demands:
“Now, by thyself, O more than mortal man!
By her and him from whom thy breath began,
Who form’d thee thus divine, I beg thee, spare
This forfeit life, and hear thy suppliant’s pray’r.” 840
Thus much he spoke, and more he would have said;
But the stern hero turn’d aside his head,
And cut him short: “I hear another man;
You talk’d not thus before the fight began.
Now take your turn; and, as a brother should, 845
Attend your brother to the Stygian flood.”
Then thro’ his breast his fatal sword he sent,
And the soul issued at the gaping vent.
As storms the skies, and torrents tear the ground,
Thus rag’d the prince, and scatter’d deaths around. 850
At length Ascanius and the Trojan train
Broke from the camp, so long besieg’d in vain.
Meantime the King of Gods and Mortal Man
Held conference with his queen, and thus began:
“My sister goddess, and well-pleasing wife, 855
Still think you Venus’ aid supports the strife—
Sustains her Trojans—or themselves, alone,
With inborn valor force their fortune on?
How fierce in fight, with courage undecay’d!
Judge if such warriors want immortal aid.” 860
To whom the goddess with the charming eyes,
Soft in her tone, submissively replies:
“Why, O my sov’reign lord, whose frown I fear,
And cannot, unconcern’d, your anger bear;
Why urge you thus my grief? when, if I still 865
(As once I was) were mistress of your will,
From your almighty pow’r your pleasing wife
Might gain the grace of length’ning Turnus’ life,
Securely snatch him from the fatal fight,
And give him to his aged father’s sight. 870
Now let him perish, since you hold it good,
And glut the Trojans with his pious blood.
Yet from our lineage he derives his name,
And, in the fourth degree, from god Pilumnus came;
Yet he devoutly pays you rites divine, 875
And offers daily incense at your shrine.”
Then shortly thus the sov’reign god replied:
“Since in my pow’r and goodness you confide,
If for a little space, a lengthen’d span,
You beg reprieve for this expiring man, 880
I grant you leave to take your Turnus hence
From instant fate, and can so far dispense.
But, if some secret meaning lies beneath,
To save the short-liv’d youth from destin’d death,
Or if a farther thought you entertain, 885
To change the fates; you feed your hopes in vain.”
To whom the goddess thus, with weeping eyes:
“And what if that request, your tongue denies,
Your heart should grant; and not a short reprieve,
But length of certain life, to Turnus give? 890
Now speedy death attends the guiltless youth,
If my presaging soul divines with truth;
Which, O! I wish, might err thro’ causeless fears,
And you (for you have pow’r) prolong his years!”
Thus having said, involv’d in clouds, she flies, 895
And drives a storm before her thro’ the skies.
Swift she descends, alighting on the plain,
Where the fierce foes a dubious fight maintain.
Of air condens’d a specter soon she made;
And, what Æneas was, such seem’d the shade. 900
Adorn’d with Dardan arms, the phantom bore
His head aloft; a plumy crest he wore;
This hand appear’d a shining sword to wield,
And that sustain’d an imitated shield.
With manly mien he stalk’d along the ground, 905
Nor wanted voice belied, nor vaunting sound.
(Thus haunting ghosts appear to waking sight,
Or dreadful visions in our dreams by night.)
The specter seems the Daunian chief to dare,
And flourishes his empty sword in air. 910
At this, advancing, Turnus hurl’d his spear:
The phantom wheel’d, and seem’d to fly for fear.
Deluded Turnus thought the Trojan fled,
And with vain hopes his haughty fancy fed.
“Whether, O coward?” (thus he calls aloud, 915
Nor found he spoke to wind, and chas’d a cloud,)
“Why thus forsake your bride! Receive from me
The fated land you sought so long by sea.”
He said, and, brandishing at once his blade,
With eager pace pursued the flying shade. 920
By chance a ship was fasten’d to the shore,
Which from old Clusium King Osinius bore:
The plank was ready laid for safe ascent;
For shelter there the trembling shadow bent,
And skipp’t and skulk’d, and under hatches went. 925
Exulting Turnus, with regardless haste,
Ascends the plank, and to the galley pass’d.
Scarce had he reach’d the prow: Saturnia’s hand
The haulsers cuts, and shoots the ship from land.
With wind in poop, the vessel plows the sea, 930
And measures back with speed her former way.
Meantime Æneas seeks his absent foe,
And sends his slaughter’d troops to shades below.
The guileful phantom now forsook the shroud,
And flew sublime, and vanish’d in a cloud. 935
Too late young Turnus the delusion found,
Far on the sea, still making from the ground.
Then, thankless for a life redeem’d by shame,
With sense of honor stung, and forfeit fame,
Fearful besides of what in fight had pass’d, 940
His hands and haggard eyes to heav’n he cast;
“O Jove!” he cried, “for what offense have I
Deserv’d to bear this endless infamy?
Whence am I forc’d, and whether am I borne?
How, and with what reproach, shall I return? 945
Shall ever I behold the Latian plain,
Or see Laurentum’s lofty tow’rs again?
What will they say of their deserting chief?
The war was mine: I fly from their relief;
I led to slaughter, and in slaughter leave; 950
And ev’n from hence their dying groans receive.
Here, overmatch’d in fight, in heaps they lie;
There, scatter’d o’er the fields, ignobly fly.
Gape wide, O earth, and draw me down alive!
Or, O ye pitying winds, a wretch relieve! 955
On sands or shelves the splitting vessel drive;
Or set me shipwrack’d on some desart shore,
Where no Rutulian eyes may see me more,
Unknown to friends, or foes, or conscious Fame,
Lest she should follow, and my flight proclaim.” 960
Thus Turnus rav’d, and various fates revolv’d:
The choice was doubtful, but the death resolv’d.
And now the sword, and now the sea took place,
That to revenge, and this to purge disgrace.
Sometimes he thought to swim the stormy main, 965
By stretch of arms the distant shore to gain.
Thrice he the sword assay’d, and thrice the flood;
But Juno, mov’d with pity, both withstood.
And thrice repress’d his rage; strong gales supplied,
And push’d the vessel o’er the swelling tide. 970
At length she lands him on his native shores,
And to his father’s longing arms restores.
Meantime, by Jove’s impulse, Mezentius arm’d,
Succeeding Turnus, with his ardor warm’d
His fainting friends, reproach’d their shameful flight, 975
Repell’d the victors, and renew’d the fight.
Against their king the Tuscan troops conspire;
Such is their hate, and such their fierce desire
Of wish’d revenge: on him, and him alone,
All hands employ’d, and all their darts are thrown. 980
He, like a solid rock by seas inclos’d,
To raging winds and roaring waves oppos’d,
From his proud summit looking down, disdains
Their empty menace, and unmov’d remains.
Beneath his feet fell haughty Hebrus dead, 985
Then Latagus, and Palmus as he fled.
At Latagus a weighty stone he flung:
His face was flatted, and his helmet rung.
But Palmus from behind receives his wound;
Hamstring’d he falls, and grovels on the ground: 990
His crest and armor, from his body torn,
Thy shoulders, Lausus, and thy head adorn.
Evas and Mimas, both of Troy, he slew.
Mimas his birth from fair Theano drew,
Born on that fatal night, when, big with fire, 995
The queen produc’d young Paris to his sire:
But Paris in the Phrygian fields was slain,
Unthinking Mimas on the Latian plain.
And, as a savage boar, on mountains bred,
With forest mast and fatt’ning marshes fed, 1000
When once he sees himself in toils inclos’d,
By huntsmen and their eager hounds appos’d—
He whets his tusks, and turns, and dares the war;
Th’ invaders dart their jav’lins from afar:
All keep aloof, and safely shout around; 1005
But none presumes to give a nearer wound:
He frets and froths, erects his bristled hide,
And shakes a grove of lances from his side:
Not otherwise the troops, with hate inspir’d,
And just revenge against the tyrant fir’d, 1010
Their darts with clamor at a distance drive,
And only keep the languish’d war alive.
From Coritus came Acron to the fight,
Who left his spouse betroth’d, and unconsummate night.
Mezentius sees him thro’ the squadrons ride, 1015
Proud of the purple favors of his bride.
Then, as a hungry lion, who beholds
A gamesome goat, who frisks about the folds,
Or beamy stag, that grazes on the plain—
He runs, he roars, he shakes his rising mane, 1020
He grins, and opens wide his greedy jaws;
The prey lies panting underneath his paws:
He fills his famish’d maw; his mouth runs o’er
With unchew’d morsels, while he churns the gore:
So proud Mezentius rushes on his foes, 1025
And first unhappy Acron overthrows:
Stretch’d at his length, he spurns the swarthy ground;
The lance, besmear’d with blood, lies broken in the wound.
Then with disdain the haughty victor view’d
Orodes flying, nor the wretch pursued, 1030
Nor thought the dastard’s back deserv’d a wound,
But, running, gain’d th’ advantage of the ground:
Then turning short, he met him face to face,
To give his victory the better grace.
Orodes falls, in equal fight oppress’d: 1035
Mezentius fix’d his foot upon his breast,
And rested lance; and thus aloud he cries:
“Lo! here the champion of my rebels lies!”
The fields around with Io Pæan! ring;
And peals of shouts applaud the conqu’ring king. 1040
At this the vanquish’d, with his dying breath,
Thus faintly spoke, and prophesied in death:
“Nor thou, proud man, unpunish’d shalt remain:
Like death attends thee on this fatal plain.”
Then, sourly smiling, thus the king replied: 1045
“For what belongs to me, let Jove provide;
But die thou first, whatever chance ensue.”
He said, and from the wound the weapon drew.
A hov’ring mist came swimming o’er his sight,
And seal’d his eyes in everlasting night. 1050
By Cædicus, Alcathous was slain;
Sacrator laid Hydaspes on the plain;
Orses the strong to greater strength must yield;
He, with Parthenius, were by Rapo kill’d.
Then brave Messapus Ericetes slew, 1055
Who from Lycaon’s blood his lineage drew.
But from his headstrong horse his fate he found,
Who threw his master, as he made a bound:
The chief, alighting, stuck him to the ground;
Then Clonius, hand to hand, on foot assails: 1060
The Trojan sinks, and Neptune’s son prevails.
Agis the Lycian, stepping forth with pride,
To single fight the boldest foe defied;
Whom Tuscan Valerus by force o’ercame,
And not belied his mighty father’s fame. 1065
Salius to death the great Antronius sent:
But the same fate the victor underwent,
Slain by Nealces’ hand, well-skill’d to throw
The flying dart, and draw the far-deceiving bow.
Thus equal deaths are dealt with equal chance; 1070
By turns they quit their ground, by turns advance:
Victors and vanquish’d, in the various field,
Nor wholly overcome, nor wholly yield.
The gods from heav’n survey the fatal strife,
And mourn the miseries of human life. 1075
Above the rest, two goddesses appear
Concern’d for each: here Venus, Juno there.
Amidst the crowd, infernal Ate shakes
Her scourge aloft, and crest of hissing snakes.
Once more the proud Mezentius, with disdain, 1080
Brandish’d his spear, and rush’d into the plain,
Where tow’ring in the midmost rank she stood,
Like tall Orion stalking o’er the flood.
(When with his brawny breast he cuts the waves,
His shoulders scarce the topmost billow laves), 1085
Or like a mountain ash, whose roots are spread,
Deep fix’d in earth; in clouds he hides his head.
The Trojan prince beheld him from afar,
And dauntless undertook the doubtful war.
Collected in his strength, and like a rock, 1090
Pois’d on his base, Mezentius stood the shock.
He stood, and, measuring first with careful eyes
The space his spear could reach, aloud he cries:
“My strong right hand, and sword, assist my stroke!
(Those only gods Mezentius will invoke.) 1095
His armor, from the Trojan pirate torn,
By my triumphant Lausus shall be worn.”
He said; and with his utmost force he threw
The massy spear, which, hissing as it flew,
Reach’d the celestial shield, that stopp’d the course; 1100
But, glancing thence, the yet unbroken force
Took a new bent obliquely, and betwixt
The side and bowels fam’d Anthores fix’d.
Anthores had from Argos travel’d far,
Alcides’ friend, and brother of the war; 1105
Till, tir’d with toils, fair Italy he chose,
And in Evander’s palace sought repose.
Now, falling by another’s wound, his eyes
He cast to heav’n, on Argos thinks, and dies.
The pious Trojan then his jav’lin sent; 1110
The shield gave way; thro’ treble plates it went
Of solid brass, of linen trebly roll’d,
And three bull hides which round the buckler fold.
All these it pass’d, resistless in the course,
Transpierc’d his thigh, and spent its dying force. 1115
The gaping wound gush’d out a crimson flood.
The Trojan, glad with sight of hostile blood,
His faunchion drew, to closer fight address’d,
And with new force his fainting foe oppress’d.
His father’s peril Lausus view’d with grief; 1120
He sigh’d, he wept, he ran to his relief.
And here, heroic youth, ’t is here I must
To thy immortal memory be just,
And sing an act so noble and so new,
Posterity will scarce believe ’t is true. 1125
Pain’d with his wound, and useless for the fight,
The father sought to save himself by flight:
Incumber’d, slow he dragg’d the spear along,
Which pierc’d his thigh, and in his buckler hung.
The pious youth, resolv’d on death, below 1130
The lifted sword springs forth to face the foe;
Protects his parent, and prevents the blow.
Shouts of applause ran ringing thro’ the field,
To see the son the vanquish’d father shield.
All, fir’d with gen’rous indignation, strive, 1135
And with a storm of darts to distance drive
The Trojan chief, who, held at bay from far,
On his Vulcanian orb sustain’d the war.
As, when thick hail comes rattling in the wind,
The plowman, passenger, and lab’ring hind 1140
For shelter to the neighb’ring covert fly,
Or hous’d, or safe in hollow caverns lie;
But, that o’erblown, when heav’n above ’em smiles,
Return to travel, and renew their toils:
Æneas thus, o’erwhelmed on ev’ry side, 1145
The storm of darts, undaunted, did abide;
And thus to Lausus loud with friendly threat’ning cried:
“Why wilt thou rush to certain death, and rage
In rash attempts, beyond thy tender age,
Betray’d by pious love?” Nor, thus forborne, 1150
The youth desists, but with insulting scorn
Provokes the ling’ring prince, whose patience, tir’d,
Gave place; and all his breast with fury fir’d.
For now the Fates prepar’d their sharpen’d shears;
And lifted high the flaming sword appears, 1155
Which, full descending with a frightful sway,
Thro’ shield and corslet forc’d th’ impetuous way,
And buried deep in his fair bosom lay.
The purple streams thro’ the thin armor strove,
And drench’d th’ imbroider’d coat his mother wove; 1160
And life at length forsook his heaving heart,
Loth from so sweet a mansion to depart.
But when, with blood and paleness all o’erspread,
The pious prince beheld young Lausus dead,
He griev’d; he wept; the sight an image brought 1165
Of his own filial love, a sadly pleasing thought:
Then stretch’d his hand to hold him up, and said:
“Poor hapless youth! what praises can be paid
To love so great, to such transcendent store
Of early worth, and sure presage of more? 1170
Accept whate’er Æneas can afford;
Untouch’d thy arms, untaken be thy sword;
And all that pleas’d thee living, still remain
Inviolate, and sacred to the slain.
Thy body on thy parents I bestow, 1175
To rest thy soul, at least, if shadows know,
Or have a sense of human things below.
There to thy fellow ghosts with glory tell:
“’T was by the great Æneas’ hand I fell.’”
With this, his distant friends he beckons near, 1180
Provokes their duty, and prevents their fear:
Himself assists to lift him from the ground,
With clotted locks, and blood that well’d from out the wound.
Meantime, his father, now no father, stood,
And wash’d his wounds by Tiber’s yellow flood: 1185
Oppress’d with anguish, panting, and o’erspent,
His fainting limbs against an oak he leant.
A bough his brazen helmet did sustain;
His heavier arms lay scatter’d on the plain:
A chosen train of youth around him stand; 1190
His drooping head was rested on his hand:
His grisly beard his pensive bosom sought;
And all on Lausus ran his restless thought.
Careful, concern’d his danger to prevent,
He much enquir’d, and many a message sent 1195
To warn him from the field—alas! in vain!
Behold, his mournful followers bear him slain!
O’er his broad shield still gush’d the yawning wound,
And drew a bloody trail along the ground.
Far off he heard their cries, far off divin’d 1200
The dire event, with a foreboding mind.
With dust he sprinkled first his hoary head;
Then both his lifted hands to heav’n he spread;
Last, the dear corpse embracing, thus he said:
“What joys, alas! could this frail being give, 1205
That I have been so covetous to live?
To see my son, and such a son, resign
His life, a ransom for preserving mine!
And am I then preserv’d, and art thou lost?
How much too dear has that redemption cost! 1210
’T is now my bitter banishment I feel:
This is a wound too deep for time to heal.
My guilt thy growing virtues did defame;
My blackness blotted thy unblemish’d name.
Chas’d from a throne, abandon’d, and exil’d 1215
For foul misdeeds, were punishments too mild:
I ow’d my people these, and, from their hate,
With less resentment could have borne my fate.
And yet I live, and yet sustain the sight
Of hated men, and of more hated light: 1220
But will not long.” With that he rais’d from ground
His fainting limbs, that stagger’d with his wound;
Yet, with a mind resolv’d, and unappall’d
With pains or perils, for his courser call’d;
Well-mouth’d, well-manag’d, whom himself did dress 1225
With daily care, and mounted with success;
His aid in arms, his ornament in peace.
Soothing his courage with a gentle stroke,
The steed seem’d sensible, while thus he spoke:
“O Rhoebus, we have liv’d too long for me— 1230
If life and long were terms that could agree!
This day thou either shalt bring back the head
And bloody trophies of the Trojan dead;
This day thou either shalt revenge my woe,
For murther’d Lausus, on his cruel foe; 1235
Or, if inexorable fate deny
Our conquest, with thy conquer’d master die:
For, after such a lord, I rest secure,
Thou wilt no foreign reins, or Trojan load endure.”
He said; and straight th’ officious courser kneels, 1240
To take his wonted weight. His hands he fills
With pointed jav’lins; on his head he lac’d
His glitt’ring helm, which terribly was grac’d
With waving horsehair, nodding from afar;
Then spurr’d his thund’ring steed amidst the war. 1245
Love, anguish, wrath, and grief, to madness wrought,
Despair, and secret shame, and conscious thought
Of inborn worth, his lab’ring soul oppress’d,
Roll’d in his eyes, and rag’d within his b
Putting Them Together
I got some words in a notebook
and a beat in my head, but i just can't put them together
This beat in my head keep playing and playing
and it's not getting any better.
I got some love in my heart and somebody to love
and I can't put them together
The person I love does not know
and it's not getting any better.
I got the words to say and the mouth to say it
but I can't put them together
I don't know how to say I love you so I
will just say it in a letter.
Let 'Em Slip. Let 'Em Go. Your Woes
Keep what you value treasured.
That which is kept,
And known to you unmeasured.
To protect with your best.
Don't ever let your credits,
Dip to emotional depths.
With a debiting that upsets.
Let this flow of woe go!
Let 'Em Slip. Let 'Em Go. Your Woes
Don't revisit the taking of risks.
Let this flow of woe go!
What to you is the benefit.
Let this flow of woe go!
Heal from a wound and be done with it.
Let this flow of woe go.
Let 'Em Slip. Let 'Em Go. Your Woes
Keep what you value treasured.
That which is kept,
And known to you unmeasured,
To protect with your best.
Don't ever let your credits,
Dip to emotional depths.
With a debiting that upsets.
Let this flow of woe go!
Let 'Em Slip. Let 'Em Go. Your Woes
Put all your interest in happiness.
Let your flow of woe go!
Don't be picked to begin a fit.
Let your flow of woe go.
Don't get involved with people like this.
Let your flow of woe go.
Unloosen your hold.
Let 'Em Slip. Let 'Em Go. Your Woes
Don't revisit the taking of risks.
Let this flow of woe go!
What to you is the benefit.
Let this flow of woe go!
Heal from a wound and be done with it.
Let this flow of woe go.
Let them slip. Let them go. Your woes.
Let 'em slip. Let 'em go. Your woes.
What made you think about that, don’t ruin your life
You need to focus on the things always changing
Banished to the back of my mind,
Best philosophy I’ve heard in my life
Those words are part
Of a book I’ve never read
A song I’ve never sung
A dream I’ve never dreamed
Part of a cloud I’ve never been to
Sailin’ on cloud nine
And I wish, I wish it was mine
There’s a girl
Miss Original Girl
She turns gray into silver
I don’t know why you can hate her
She doesn’t realize what it must be like to be me
Take her away from the best things that I am dreaming
But I guess those words are part
Of a book I’ve never read
A song I’ve never sung
A dream I’ve never dreamed
Part of that cloud I’ve never been to
Sailin’ on cloud nine
And I wish, I wish it was mine
I wish it was forever mine
The best day on my lips tastes like candy
When you taste it it’s a whole different story
People don’t live like this, they
Don’t all sound the same
No one’s ever worried about my hiding, where I might be
And I’m wishing
Still dreaming but
I have hoped, I have failed
I have dreamed, I have fallen
I have wished, I have retreated
I have tried, I have collided
I have done it, I have succeeded
But I still know through this fog
I know those words are part
Of a book I’ve never read
Never even looked at
A song I’ve never sung for you
A dream I’ve never dreamed
At least in this lifetime
Part of that same cloud I’ve never been to
Ever in my life
Now I’m sailin’ on cloud nine
And I think back to the time
When I wished, I wished, I dreamed that it was mine
And now it is forever mine
King Bibler's Army
It was ten years ago when the belle of the village
Gave here her hand to the young millionaire,
Every toungue (even those of the bells in the steeple)
Saying "Joy to the Heav'n-blest pair!"
She was sweet as the rosebud that blooms in the valley;
He was manly, and noble, and brave.
Tell me, where are they now?
In the sad-eyed procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.
Hark! hark! a pageant passes
(tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp):
I hear the tread of moving masses
(tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp)
O Heaven save our young men --
'tis King Bibler's Army,
Marching down, down, down to the grave.
At the head of the boat are the dashing lieutenants
Who entice young recruits into line;
Arm in arm, three abreast, they keep step with the music,
Bearing goblets of blood red wine.
In the rear, by and by, we shall see them together,
As they stagger along on the pave,
With their wives and their children, a rag-robed procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.
From the front to the rear is the rule of promotion
In the army King Bibler commands;
And the pension is pov'rty, disease and dishonor,
With a forfeit of home and lands.
So the friend that was treated to cordials and juleps,
Will be treated at last like a slave,
As he fags at the end of the chaingang procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.
Would you fill up the ranks? let your town send its quota:
Seventy thousand recruits must be found,
For the gravediggers reckon they bury that number
Every year in the cold, cold ground.
Yet the rest hobble on, and the colors they carry,
Though in tatters, triumphantly wave,
For they vanquish themselves in this madman's procession,
Marching, down, down, down to the grave.
A Place With No Name
“They tell me you are wicked and I believe them…”
— Carl Sandburg, “Chicago”
This is place with no name,
an imagined ideal, nostalgia
wearing bib overalls, chewing
grass stems, herding cattle,
shearing creamy black-faced
lambs. We carry buckets full
of myths and great expectations.
She hungers for the flavor of buffalo, longs for fresh bones, cougar tracks, wolf dens, the scorch of rapid flames escorting one season into the next, total exchange of life for life, of death for hope.
This is neither fairytale nor ancient pastoral, neither romanticism nor barefoot babes—It is Kinsella’s antipastoral in America.
It is coyotes and coydogs lurking behind walls of fiery thistle, luring pups through horseweeds to razor sharp traps with whimpers and pledges of friendship.
I have seen the earth swallow her own children.
I have seen the sun drink until there was nothing left for the land, until the sunflowers hung their heads in shame and wept dry black tears.
I hear nightly incantations of this place, it howls sober songs—I hear the hollow sounds of owls that warn, the cry of cold winds that begin and end every year—
The indifferent frogs chorus through lightening and spring snow—they think only of their children.
I feel her opening up to swallow again—she baits the trap with illusions of splendor, with promises she will not keep—her hunger never satisfied.
She is my grandmother, my mother, your mother, our sister, the apparition from whom we can hide no better than the prince of Denmark. She speaks in a strange language. We lean in to listen—the bait.
This place still has no name.
The nostalgia rusts.
No one wears overalls anymore.
You must know what the owl means.
The old children throw their weapons to the surface in the wake of silver blades, in the bed of that ash which still remains, in the bed where life meets itself—the old women break their dishes against her surface.
The new children cast themselves into her arms—momentarily quench her thirst with tears—they wait for her to yawn.
Cattle are raised in muddy lots. Pigs never see the grass, never the sun, just grated floors and the pretentious hands that mock her grace.
I have seen the red of factories flow through creeks into ponds and wells. I have seen them celebrate their victories and she will not call out to them—she rejects their bitterness. They are sleeping pills, bad drugs.
I see a dead thing on the road. I know the ringed tail, the hoofed leg, the long snout, the white-gray fur, the domestication gone wrong. The vulture is grateful for our mistakes.
The indifferent frogs sing.
Still. The grass has cancer.
We only think of lambs on Easter.
These buckets are getting too heavy.
I cannot tell a lie.
I killed the tree, used it for books that I bought and never read, used it for walls I take for granted, for heat I could have lived without.
I ate the pig, fed the cattle to my children—we used their bodies for shoes, hats, manufactured food for feral cats and roaming hounds.
I leaned in to hear her faint voice whisper. I tried to kiss her, pulled away when she drew me near, stretched toward her again to hear a family secret.
I fed the vultures a skunk, a raccoon, an armadillo, and two cats that I threw into her long weeds.
I chew her poisonous stems, flirt with her cancer, taunt and dare it, engage it in a war where there can be no victor but her, in a battle I expect to win.
We carry buckets full of
myths and great expectations.
An imagined ideal, nostalgia
wearing bib overalls, chewing
grass stems, herding cattle,
shearing creamy black-faced lambs.
This is place with no name.
Caprice [Bad Poetry]
I bet you want to spit me
that's miss duckie.
I hate sundays
hypocrites all over the places
I prefer mondays,
just too freaky for my liking.
could have killed Mogana
but that would end the drama
he smelled like fish
Taban said it.
Man to man
Othello beat Iago
who started the trouble.
I wanna beat Paris too
take Chidinma to moon
yes, she's Shakespeare's sister too,
she's my first
who's my first?
a preacher's daughter
Becky can burn in hell
yes, you heard me well
burn in hell.
I miss you miss
beautyful miss of my dreams
you steal my dreams
will you marry me?
he did not love me
he did the did and went to sleep
life's so difficult, we could barly feed.
she did not murder me
I love you mum
you are my all.
Yes, Tricia, Sandra or Felicia
who are you?
where are you?
clear that fog I can't see you
you love me?
sorry I don't love you
I love Chidinma,
you're a gold digger
yes, a coal miner
I'm a gold mine.
Wish I could make her mine,
but I'm scared
her dad may object
will they trust me?
her mum may disagree
but my love is so real
at least she knows my feelin.
thou lecherous goat-god,
Echo did scorn thy love,
cut out that reed for thy syrix
her sisters may bring her back.
I'm on my way to America
please don't love me Franscisca
I may not return back
find another in Africa.
Prometheus, dear Prometheus
where art thy fire?
light up thy heavenly flame on my skull
flame on enlightenment
we need sophistication in government.
I don't smile
you know why?
I don't want to start a fight
Angels may come from sky
devils may say he's tight
boulders and mountains may shed a tear.
fled past granny
she's cookin in kitchen,
politicians with empty promises
we must estrange them from students
else we condemn them to mediocrity.
good job Man U
beat Liverpool in a pool
take a second look,
don't be fooled
Aluu will blodgeon you,
they're a bunch of fools
lo, that's not cool,
I call them poo.
I love her
I'll never tell her I do
else I upset her father
I'm not that rude,
I must find my root,
my mother love me too
dad screamed with excitement
I bought a car
yes it's for mum
she deserves more.
My last name Benjamin,
never liked politics,
makes me sick.
I want to be rich;
help the sick
I'm never greedy.
Why why why
why is it
I love poetry?
it gives me entry
into my world of uncertainty
and gives me voice to say what I see
this is what I see
I see you want to change me;
you wanna change the world,
should we spare the rod?
What is love?
love is God,
God is love,
make a change in your self
I'll make a change in my self.
I love you
do you love me too?
you're my brother;
let's come together
who can cut us asunder?
let's see them try
together we'll fight
together we'll die
with Christ we'll rise.
Christ has given us home
he has a throne
we're not alone.
pawns go first
I'm not a pawn
not above the law.
you are a bard,
We know you're not bad
play us a song,
let's bring back Euridice,
Odysseus and Penelope
Pluto and Persephone
they're just too greedy
let's depopulate Tartarus
enthrone him in Olympus.
rant like parrots:
where art thy offerings
forget their sufferings
I mean the ones who are hungry,
let's fly in jets,
lo, they're sick in the head
hope they don't fret
when they burn in hell.
fought like hell
thou deceptive horse
outwit them without a rue
they don't have a clue
Neptune shall devour laocoon,
and his two sons too.
thou lesser Ajax
Athena is a betrayer,
Aphrodite a panderer.
you are welcome to my wedding
restrain thy golden apples
let's avert the trouble
Aphrodite is stupid?
Paris is crazy,
give him no judgement
else he ruins our government.
Nietzsche shouted it
Taban took it up,
I take it in,
Love is dead
God is love
who killed love?
you have killed God
Church has buried him,
but I brought him back
now he lives in my heart
love lives in my heart
let's revive God,
as we revive love.
I love my God
I love my neighbour
you are my all,
there would be no world.
this is not end of my thoughts.
New Year's Eve
The other night I had a dream, most clear
And comforting, complete
In every line, a crystal sphere,
And full of intimate and secret cheer.
Therefore I will repeat
That vision, dearest heart, to you,
As of a thing not feigned, but very true,
Yes, true as ever in my life befell;
And you, perhaps, can tell
Whether my dream was really sad or sweet.
The shadows flecked the elm-embowered street
I knew so well, long, long ago;
And on the pillared porch where Marguerite
Had sat with me, the moonlight lay like snow.
But she, my comrade and my friend of youth,
Most gaily wise,
Most innocently loved, --
She of the blue-grey eyes
That ever smiled and ever spoke the truth, --
From that familiar dwelling, where she moved
Like mirth incarnate in the years before,
Had gone into the hidden house of Death.
I thought the garden wore
White mourning for her blessed innocence,
And the syringa's breath
Came from the corner by the fence,
Where she had made her rustic seat,
With fragrance passionate, intense,
As if it breathed a sigh for Marguerite.
My heart was heavy with a sense
Of something good forever gone. I sought
Vainly for some consoling thought,
Some comfortable word that I could say
To the sad father, whom I visited again
For the first time since she had gone away.
The bell rang shrill and lonely, -- then
The door was opened, and I sent my name
To him, -- but ah! 't was Marguerite who came!
There in the dear old dusky room she stood
Beneath the lamp, just as she used to stand,
In tender mocking mood.
"You did not ask for me," she said,
"And so I will not let you take my hand;
"But I must hear what secret talk you planned
"With father. Come, my friend, be good,
"And tell me your affairs of state:
"Why you have stayed away and made me wait
"So long. Sit down beside me here, --
"And, do you know, it seemed a year
"Since we have talked together, -- why so late?"
Amazed, incredulous, confused with joy
I hardly dared to show,
And stammering like a boy,
I took the place she showed me at her side;
And then the talk flowed on with brimming tide
Through the still night,
While she with influence light
Controlled it, as the moon the flood.
She knew where I had been, what I had done,
What work was planned, and what begun;
My troubles, failures, fears she understood,
And touched them with a heart so kind,
That every care was melted from my mind,
And every hope grew bright,
And life seemed moving on to happy ends.
(Ah, what self-beggared fool was he
That said a woman cannot be
The very best of friends?)
Then there were memories of old times,
Recalled with many a gentle jest;
And at the last she brought the book of rhymes
We made together, trying to translate
The Songs of Heine (hers were always best).
"Now come," she said,
"To-night we will collaborate
"Again; I'll put you to the test.
"Here's one I never found the way to do, --
"The simplest are the hardest ones, you know, --
"I give this song to you."
And then she read:
Mein kind, wir waren Kinder,
Zei Kinder, jung und froh.
* * * * * * * * * *
But all the while a silent question stirred
Within me, though I dared not speak the word:
"Is it herself, and is she truly here,
"And was I dreaming when I heard
"That she was dead last year?
"Or was it true, and is she but a shade
"Who brings a fleeting joy to eye and ear,
"Cold though so kind, and will she gently fade
"When her sweet ghostly part is played
"And the light-curtain falls at dawn of day?"
But while my heart was troubled by this fear
So deeply that I could not speak it out,
Lest all my happiness should disappear,
I thought me of a cunning way
To hide the question and dissolve the doubt.
"Will you not give me now your hand,
"Dear Marguerite," I asked, "to touch and hold,
"That by this token I may understand
"You are the same true friend you were of old?"
She answered with a smile so bright and calm
It seemed as if I saw new stars arise
In the deep heaven of her eyes;
And smiling so, she laid her palm
In mine. Dear God, it was not cold
But warm with vital heat!
"You live!" I cried, "you live, dear Marguerite!"
Then I awoke; but strangely comforted,
Although I knew again that she was dead.
Yes, there's the dream! And was it sweet or sad?
Dear mistress of my waking and my sleep,
Present reward of all my heart's desire,
Watching with me beside the winter fire,
Interpret now this vision that I had.
But while you read the meaning, let me keep
The touch of you: for the Old Year with storm
Is passing through the midnight, and doth shake
The corners of the house, -- man oh! my heart would break
Unless both dreaming and awake
My hand could feel your hand was warm, warm, warm!
The Triumph of Love
Sun-blazed, over Romsley, a livid rain-scarp.
Whose lives are hidden in God? Whose?
Who can now tell what was taken, or where,
or how, or whether it was received:
how ditched, divested, clamped, sifted, over-
laid, raked over, grassed over, spread around,
rotted down with leafmould, accepted
as civic concrete, reinforceable
tipped into Danube, Rhine, Vistula, dredged up
with the Baltic and the Pontic sludge:
committed in absentia to solemn elevation,
Trauermusik, musique funèbre, funeral
music, for male and female
voices ringingly a cappella,
made for double string choirs, congregated brass,
choice performers on baroque trumpets hefting,
like glassblowers, inventions
of supreme order?
As to bad faith, Malebranche might argue
it rests with inattention. Stupidity
is not admissible. However, the status
of apprehension remains at issue.
Some qualities are best
left unrecognized. Needless to say,
unrecognized is not
unacknowledged. Unnamed is not nameless.
If the gospel is heard, all else follows:
the scattering, the diaspora,
the shtetlach, ash pits, pits of indigo dye.
Penitence can be spoken of, it is said,
but is itself beyond words;
even broken speech presumes. Those Christian Jews
of the first Church, huddled sabbath-survivors,
keepers of the word; silent, inside twenty years,
doubly outcast: even so I would remember—
the scattering, the diaspora.
We do not know the saints.
His mercy is greater even than his wisdom.
If the gospel is heard, all else follows.
We shall rise again, clutching our wounds.
Even now, I tell myself, there is a language
to which I might speak and which
would rightly hear me;
responding with eloquence; in its turn,
negotiating sense without insult
given or injury taken.
Familiar to those who already know it
elsewhere as justice,
it is met also in the form of silence.
Rancorous, narcissistic old sod—what
makes him go on? We thought, hoped rather,
he might be dead. Too bad. So how
much more does he have of injury time?
For wordly, read worldly; for in equity, inequity;
for religious read religiose; for distinction
detestation. Take accessible to mean
acceptable, accommodating, openly servile.
Is that right, Missis, or is that right? I don’t
care what I say, do I?
For iconic priesthood, read worldly pique and ambition.
Change insightfully caring to pruriently intrusive.
Delete chastened and humbled. Insert humiliated.
Interpret slain in the spirit as browbeaten to exhaustion.
For hardness of heart read costly dislike of cant.
Excuse me—excuse me—I did not
say the pain is lifting. I said the pain is in
the lifting. No—please—forget it.
This is quite dreadful—he’s become obsessed.
There you go, there you go—narrow it down to obsession!
Whatever may be meant by moral landscape,
it is for me increasingly a terrain
seen in cross-section: igneous, sedimentary,
conglomerate, metamorphic rock-
strata, in which particular grace,
individual love, decency, endurance,
are traceable across the faults.
Admittedly at times this moral landscape
to my exasperated ear emits
archaic burrings like a small, high-fenced
electricity sub-station of uncertain age
in a field corner where the flies
gather and old horses shake their sides.
Christ has risen yet again to their
ritual supplication. It seems weird
that the comedy never self-destructs.
Actually it is strengthened—if
attenuation is strength. (Donne
said as much of gold. Come back,
Donne, I forgive you; and lovely Herbert.)
But what strange guild is this
that practises daily
synchronized genuflection and takes pride
in hazing my Jewish wife? If Christ
be not risen, Christians are petty
cast out of the law. Worse things
have befallen Israel. But since he is
risen, he is risen even for these
high-handed underlings of self-
worship: who, as by obedience,
proclaim him risen indeed.
Instruct me further in your travail,
blind interpreter. Suppose I cannot
unearth what it was they buried: research
is not anamnesis. Nor is this a primer
of innocence exactly. Did the centurion
see nothing irregular before the abnormal
light seared his eyeballs? Why do I
take as my gift a wounded and wounding
introspection? The rule is clear enough: last
alleluias forte, followed by indifferent
coffee and fellowship.
What choice do you have? These are false questions.
Fear is your absolute, yet in each feature
infinitely variable, Manichean beyond dispute,
for you alone, the skeletal maple, a loose wire
tapping the wind.
Active virtue: that which shall contain
its own passion in the public weal—
do you follow?—or can you at least
take the drift of the thing? The struggle
for a noble vernacular: this
did not end with Petrarch. But where is it?
Where has it got us? Does it stop, in our case,
with Dryden, or, perhaps,
Milton’s political sonnets?—the cherished stock
hacked into ransom and ruin; the voices
of distinction, far back, indistinct.
Still, I’m convinced that shaping,
voicing, are types of civic action. Or, slightly
to refashion this, that Wordsworth’s two
Prefaces stand with his great tract
on the Convention of Cintra, witnessing
to the praesidium in the sacred name
of things betrayed. Intrinsic value
I am somewhat less sure of. It seems
implicate with active virtue but I cannot
say how, precisely. Partaking of both
fact and recognition, it must be, therefore,
in effect, at once agent and predicate:
imponderables brought home
to the brute mass and detail of the world;
there, by some, to be pondered.
Ignorant, assured, there comes to us a voice—
Unchallengeable—of the foundations,
distinct authority devoted
to indistinction. With what proximity
to justice stands the record of mischance,
heroic hit-or-miss, the air
so full of flak and tracer, legend says,
you pray to live unnoticed. Mr Ives
took Emersonian self-reliance the whole
way on that. Melville, half-immolated,
rebuilt the pyre. Hoist, some time later,
stumbled on dharma. What can I say?—
At worst and best a blind ennoblement,
flood-water, hunched, shouldering at the weir,
the hatred that is in the nature of love.
By default, as it so happens, here we have
good and bad angels caught burning
themselves characteristic antiphons;
and here the true and the false
already deep into their hollow debate.
Is that all? No, add spinners of fine
calumny, confectioners of sugared
malice; add those who find sincerity
in heartless weeping. Add the pained,
painful clowns, brinksmen of perdition.
Sidney: best realizer and arguer
of music, that ‘divine
striker upon the senses’, steady my
music to your Augustinian grace-notes,
with your high craft of fret. I am glad
to have learned how it goes
with you and with Italianate-
Hebraic Milton: your voices pitched exactly—
somewhere—between Laus Deo and defiance.
And yes—bugger you, MacSikker et al.,—I do
mourn and resent your desolation of learning:
Scientia that enabled, if it did not secure,
forms of understanding, far from despicable,
and furthest now, as they are most despised.
By understanding I understand diligence
and attention, appropriately understood
as actuated self-knowledge, a daily acknowledgement
of what is owed the dead.
As with the Gospels, which it is allowed to resemble,
in Measure for Measure moral uplift
is not the issue. Scrupulosity, diffidence,
shrill spirituality, conviction, free expression,
come off as poorly as deceit or lust.
The ethical motiv is—so we may hazard—
opportunism, redemptive and redeemed;
case-hardened on case-law, casuistry’s
own redemption; the general temper
a caustic equity.
So what is faith if it is not
inescapable endurance? Unrevisited, the ferns
are breast-high, head-high, the days
lustrous, with their hinterlands of thunder.
Light is this instant, far-seeing
into itself, its own
signature on things that recognize
am an old man, a child, the horizon
is Traherne’s country.
To go so far with the elaborately-
vested Angel of Naked Truth:
and where are we, finally? Don’t
say that—we are nowhere
finally. And nowhere are you—
nowhere are you—any more—more
cryptic than a schoolyard truce. Cry
Kings, Cross, or Crosses, cry Pax,
cry Pax, but to be healed. But to be
healed, and die!
Obnoxious means, far back within itself,
easily wounded. But vulnerable, proud
anger is, I find, a related self
of covetousness. I came late
to seeing that. Actually, I had to be
shown it. What I saw was rough, and still
pains me. Perhaps it should pain me more.
Pride is our crux: be angry, but not proud
where that means vainglorious. Take Leopardi’s
words or—to be accurate—BV’s English
cast of them: when he found Tasso’s poor
scratch of a memorial barely showing
among the cold slabs of defunct pomp. It
seemed a sad and angry consolation.
So—Croker, MacSikker, O’Shem—I ask you:
what are poems for? They are to console us
with their own gift, which is like perfect pitch.
Let us commit that to our dust. What
ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad
and angry consolation. What is
the poem? What figures? Say,
a sad and angry consolation. That’s
beautiful. Once more? A sad and angry
Obstinate old man—senex
sapiens, it is not. Is he still
writing? What is he writing now? He
has just written: I find it hard
to forgive myself. We are immortal. Where
Sun-blazed, over Romsley, the livid rain-scarp.
Gioconda And Si-Ya-U
to the memory of my friend SI-YA-U,
whose head was cut off in Shanghai
And in the space
vacated by the fugitive
a copy has been placed.
The poet inscribing
the present treatise
knows more than a little
about the fate
of the real Gioconda.
She fell in love
with a seductive
Gioconda ran off
after her lover;
Gioconda was burned
in a Chinese city.
I, Nazim Hikmet,
on this matter,
thumbing my nose at friend and foe
five times a day,
I can prove it;
if I can't,
I'll be ruined and banished
forever from the realm of poesy.
Excerpts from Gioconda's Diary
15 March 1924: Paris, Louvre Museum
At last I am bored with the Louvre Museum.
You can get fed up with boredom very fast.
I am fed up with my boredom.
And from the devastation inside me
I drew this lesson;
a museum is fine,
to be a museum piece is terrible!
In this palace that imprisons the past
I am placed under such a heavy sentence
that as the paint on my face cracks out of boredom
I'm forced to keep grinning without letting up.
I am the Gioconda from Florence
whose smile is more famous than Florence.
I am bored with the Louvre Museum.
And since you get sick soon enough
of conversing with the past,
from now on
to keep a diary.
Writing of today may be of some help
in forgetting yesterday...
However, the Louvre is a strange place.
Here you might find
Alexander the Great's
Longines watch complete with chronometer,
not a single sheet of clean notebook paper
or a pencil worth a piaster.
Damn your Louvre, your Paris.
I'll write these entries
on the back of my canvas.
when I picked a pen from the pocket
of a nearsighted American
sticking his red nose into my skirts
--his hair stinking of wine--
I started my memoirs.
I'm writing on my back
the sorrow of having a famous smile...
18 March: Night
The Louvre has fallen asleep.
In the dark, the armless Venus
looks like a veteran of the Great War.
The gold helmet of a knight gleams
as the light from the night watchman's lantern
strikes a dark picture.
in the Louvre
my days are all the same
like the six sides of a wood cube.
My head is full of sharp smells
like the shelf of a medicine cabinet.
I admire those Flemish painters:
is it easy to give the air of a naked goddess
to the plump ladies
of milk and sausage merchants?
even if you wear silk panties,
cow + silk panties = cow.
was left open.
The naked Flemish goddesses caught cold.
turning their bare
mountain-like pink behinds to the public,
they coughed and sneezed...
I caught cold, too.
So as not to look silly smiling with a cold,
I tried to hide my sniffles
from the visitors.
Today I saw a Chinese:
he was nothing like those Chinese with their topknots.
he gazed at me!
I'm well aware
the favor of Chinese
who work ivory like silk
is not to be taken lightly...
I caught the name of the Chinese who comes every day:
Today we spoke
in the language of eyes.
He works as a weaver days
and studies nights.
Now it's a long time since the night
came on like a pack of black-shirted Fascists.
The cry of a man out of work
who jumped into the Seine
rose from the dark water.
And ah! you on whose fist-size head
mountain-like winds descend,
at this very minute you're probably busy
building towers of thick, leather-bound books
to get answers to the questions you asked of the stars.
And when your eyes find in the lines what they desire,
when your eyes tire,
rest your tired head
like a black-and-yellow Japanese chrysanthemum
on the books..
I've begun to forget
the names of those Renaissance masters.
I want to see
the black bird-and-flower
that slant-eyed Chinese painters
from their long thin bamboo brushes.
NEWS FROM THE PARIS WIRELESS
Voices race through the air
like the fiery greyhounds.
The wireless in the Eiffel Tower calls out:
"I, TOO, am Oriental -- this voice is for me.
My ears are receivers, too.
I, too, must listen to Eiffel."
News from China
News from China
News from China:
The dragon that came down from the Kaf mountains
has spread his wings
across the golden skies of the Chinese homeland.
in this business it's not only the British lord's
like the thick neck
of a plucked hen
that will be cut
beard of Confucius!
FROM GIOCONDA'S DIARY
Today my Chinese
looked my straight
in the eye
"Those who crush our rice fields
with the caterpillar treads of their tanks
and who swagger through our cities
like emperors of hell,
are they of YOUR race,
the race of him who CREATED you?"
I almost raised my hand
and cried "No!"
Tonight at the blare of an American trumpet
--the horn of a 12-horsepower Ford--
I awoke from a dream,
and what I glimpsed for an instant
What I'd seen was a still blue lake.
In this lake the slant-eyed light of my life
had wrapped his fingers around the neck of a gilded fish.
I tried to reach him,
my boat a Chinese teacup
and my sail
the embroidered silk
of a Japanese
NEWS FROM THE PARIS WIRELESS
The radio station signs off.
fill Paris with red voices
and red colors...
FROM GIOCONDA'S DIARY
Today my Chinese failed to show up.
Still no sign of him...
are like the waiting room
of a station:
to the tracks...
Sculptors of Greece,
painters of Seljuk china,
weavers of fiery rugs in Persia,
chanters of hymns to dromedaries in deserts,
dancer whose body undulates like a breeze,
craftsman who cuts thirty-six facets from a one-carat stone,
who have five talents on your five fingers,
Call out and announce to both friends and foe:
because he made too much noise in Paris,
because he smashed in the window
of the Mandarin ambassador,
has been thrown out
My lover from China has gone back to China...
And now I'd like to know
who's Romeo and Juliet!
If he isn't Juliet in pants
and I'm not Romeo in skirts...
Ah, if I could cry--
if only I could cry...
when I caught a glimpse of myself
in the mirror of some mother's daughter
touching up the paint
on her bloody mouth
in front of me,
the tin crown of my fame shattered on my head.
While the desire to cry writhes inside me
I smile demurely;
like a stuffed pig's head
my ugly face grins on...
Leonardo da Vinci,
may your bones
become the brush of a Cubist painter
for grabbing me by the throat -- your hands dripping with paint --
and sticking in my mouth like a gold-plated tooth
this cursed smile...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
Ah, friends, Gioconda is in a bad way...
Take it from me,
if she didn't have hopes
of getting word from afar,
she'd steal a guard's pistol,
and aiming to give the color of death
to her lips' cursed smile,
she'd empty it into her canvas breast...
FROM GIOCONDA'S DIARY
O that Leonardo da Vinci's brush
had conceived me
under the gilded sun of China!
That the painted mountain behind me
had been a sugar-loaf Chinese mountain,
that the pink-white color of my long face
that my eyes were almond-shaped!
And if only my smile
could show what I feel in my heart!
Then in the arms of him who is far away
I could have roamed through China...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
I had a heart-to-heart talk with Gioconda today.
The hours flew by
one after another
like the pages of a spell-binding book.
And the decision we reached
will cut like a knife
Tomorrow night you'll see us carry it out...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
The clock of Notre Dame
Who knows at this very moment
which drunk is killing his wife?
Who know at this very moment
is haunting the halls
of a castle?
Who knows at this very moment
the most unsurmountable wall?
Who knows at this very moment...
I know very well that in every novel
this is the darkest hour.
strikes fear into the heart of every reader...
But what could I do?
When my monoplane landed
on the roof of the Louvre,
the clock of Notre Dame
And, strangely enough, I wasn't afraid
as I patted the aluminum rump of my plane
and stepped down on the roof...
Uncoiling the fifty-fathom-long rope wound around my waist,
I lowered it outside Gioconda's window
like a vertical bridge between heaven and hell.
I blew my shrill whistle three times.
And I got an immediate response
to those three shrill whistles.
Gioconda threw open her window.
This poor farmer's daughter
done up as the Virgin Mary
chucked her gilded frame
and, grabbing hold of the rope, pulled herself up...
SI-YA-U, my friend,
you were truly lucky to fall
to a lion-hearted woman like her...
FROM GIOCONDA'S DIARY
This thing called an airplane
is a winged iron horse.
Below us is Paris
with its Eiffel Tower--
a sharp-nosed, pock-marked, moon-like face.
Like an arrow of fire
The heavens rise overhead,
the sky is like a meadow full of flowers.
I must have dozed off --
I opened my eyes.
Dawn's moment of glory.
The sky a calm ocean,
our plane a ship.
I call this smooth sailing, smooth as butter.
Behind us a wake of smoke floats.
Our eyes survey blue vacancies
full of glittering discs...
Below us the earth looks
like a Jaffa orange
turning gold in the sun...
By what magic have I
climbed off the ground
hundreds of minarets high,
and yet to gaze down at the earth
my mouth still waters...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
Now our plane swims
within the hot winds
swarming over Africa.
Seen from above,
Africa looks like a huge violin.
they're playing Tchaikovsky on a cello
on the angry dark island
And waiving his long hairy arms,
a gorilla is sobbing...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
We're crossing the Indian Ocean.
We're drinking in the air
like a heavy, faint-smelling syrup.
An keeping our eyes on the yellow beacon of Singapore
-- leaving Australia on the right,
Madagascar on the left --
and putting our faith in the fuel in the tank,
we're heading for the China Sea...
From the journal of a deckhand named John aboard a
British vessel in the China Sea
a typhoon blows up out of the blue.
what a hurricane!
Mounted on the back of yellow devil, the Mother of God
whirls around and around, churning up the air.
And as luck would have it,
I've got the watch on the foretop.
The huge ship under me
looks about this big!
The wind is roaring
The mast quivers like a strung bow.(*)
*[What business do you have being way up there?
Christ, man, what do you think you are-a stork?
Oops, now we're shooting sky-high --
my head splits the clouds.
Oops, now we're sinking to the bottom --
my fingers comb the ocean floor.
We're learning to the left, we're leaning to the right --
that is, we're leaning larboard and starboard.
My God, we just sank!
Oh no! This time we're sure to go under!
leap over my head
like Bengal tigers.
leads me on
like a coffee-colored Javanese whore.
This is no joke -- this is the China Sea... (*)
*[The deckhand has every right to be afraid.
The rage of the China Sea is not to be taken lightly.
Okay, let's keep it short.
A rectangular piece of canvas dropped from the air
into the crows nest.
was some kind of woman!
It struck me this madame who came from the sky
would never understand
our seamen's talk and ways.
I got right down and kissed her hand,
and making like a poet, I cried:
"O you canvas woman who fell from the sky!
Tell me, which goddess should I compare you to?
Why did you descend here? What is your large purpose?"
from a 550-horsepower plane.
My name is Gioconda,
I come from Florence.
I must get to Shanghai
as soon as possible."
FROM GIOCONDA'S DIARY
The wind died down,
the sea calmed down.
The ship makes strides toward Shanghai.
The sailors dream,
rocking in their sailcloth hammocks.
A song of the Indian Ocean plays
on their thick fleshy lips:
"The fire of the Indochina sun
warms the blood
like Malacca wine.
They lure sailors to gilded stars,
those Indochina nights,
those Indochina nights.
Slant-eyed yellow Bornese cabin boys
knifed in Sigapore bars
paint the iron-belted barrels blood-red.
Those Indochina nights, those Indochina nights.
A ship plunges on
Those Indochina nights...
As the moon swims in the heavens
like the corpse of a blue-eyed sailor
Bombay watches, leaning on its elbow...
The fire of the Indochina sun
warms the blood
lie Malacca wine.
They lure sailors to gilded stars,
those Indochina nights,
those Indochina nights..."
THE CITY OF SHANGHAI
Shanghai is a big port,
an excellent port,
It's ships are taller than
horned mandarin mansions.
What a strange place, this Shanghai...
In the blue river boats
with straw sails float.
In the straw-sailed boats
naked coolies sort rice,
raving of rice...
What a strange place, this Shanghai...
Shanghai is a big port,
The whites' ships are tall,
the yellows' boats are small.
Shanghai is pregnant with a red-headed child.
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
when the ship entered the harbor
Gioconda's foot kissed the land.
Shanghai the soup, she the ladle,
she searched high and low for her SI-YA-U.
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
"Chinese work! Japanese work!
Only two people make this --
a man and a woman.
Chinese work! Japanese work!
Just look at the art
in this latest work of LI-LI-FU."
Screaming at the tip of his voice,
the Chinese magician
His shriveled yellow spider of a hand
tossed long thin knives into the air:
Tracing lightning-like circles in the air,
his knives flew up in a steady stream.
she kept looking,
she'd still be looking
but, like a large-colored Chinese lantern,
the crowd swayed and became confused:
"Stand back! Gang way!
Chiang Kai-shek's executioner
is hunting down a new head.
Stand back! Make way!"
One in front and one close behind,
two Chinese shot around the corner.
The one in front ran toward Gioconda.
The one racing toward her, it was him, it was him -- yes, him!
A dull hollow stadium sound surrounded them.
And in the cruel English language
stained red with the blood
of yellow Asia
the crown yelled:
"He's catching up,
he's catching up,
Just three steps away from Gioconda's arms
Chiang Kai-shek's executioner caught up.
Thud of cut flesh and bone.
Like a yellow sun drenched in blood
rolled at her feet...
And this on a death day
Gioconda of Florence lost in Shanghai
her smile more famous than Florence.
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
A Chinese bamboo frame.
In the frame is a painting.
Under the painting, a name:
In the frame is a painting:
the eyes of the painting are burning, burning.
In the frame is painting:
the painting in the frame comes alive, alive.
the painting jumped out of the frame
as if from a window;
her feet hit the ground.
And just as I shouted her name
she stood up straight before me:
the giant woman of a colossal struggle.
She walked ahead.
I trailed behind.
From the blazing red Tibetan sun
to the China Sea
we went and came,
we came and went.
sneak out under the cover of darkness
through the gates of a city in enemy hands;
I saw her
in a skirmish of drawn bayonets
strangle a British officer;
I saw her
at the head of a blue stream swimming with stars
wash the lice from her dirty shirt...
Huffling and puffling, a wood-burning engine
dragged behind it
forty red cars seating forty people each.
The cars passed one by one.
In the last car I saw her
a frayed lambskin hat on her head,
boots on her feet,
a leather jacket on her back...
FROM THE AUTHOR'S NOTEBOOK
Ah, my patient reader!
Now we find ourselves in the French
military court in Shanghai.
four generals, fourteen colonels,
and an armed black Congolese regiment.
The attorney for the defense:
an overly razed
--that is, overly artistic--
The scene is set.
The defense attorney presents his case:
that stands in your presence as the accused
is the most accomplished daughter of a great artist.
my mind is on fire...
twice this masterpiece...
Gentlemen, uniformed gentlemen..."
stop sputtering like a jammed machine gun!
read the verdict."
The bailiff reads the verdict:
"The laws of France
have been violated in China
by the above-named Gioconda, daughter of one Leonardo.
we sentence the accused
And tomorrow night at moonrise,
a Senegalese regiment
will execute said decision
of this military court..."
Shanghai is a big port.
The whites have tall ships,
the yellows' boats are small.
A thick whistle.
A thin Chinese scream.
A ship steaming into the harbor
capsized a straw-sailed boat...
Blow, wind, blow...
"All right, the lighter.
Burn, Gioconda, burn..."
A silhouette advances,
They lit the lighter
and set Gioconda on fire.
The flames painted Gioconda red.
She laughed with a smile that came from her heart.
Gioconda burned laughing...
Art, Shmart, Masterpiece, Shmasterpiece, And So On,
And So Forth,
"HERE ENDS MY TALE'S CONTENDING,
THE REST IS LIES UNENDING..."
Nazim Hikmet - 1929
Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk 1993
GIOCONDA AND SI-YA-U: Si-Ya-U, Hsiao San (b. 1896), Chinese
revolutionary and man of letters. Hikmet met him in Moscow in 1922
and believed he had been executed in the bloody 1927 crackdown on
Shanghai radicals after returning to China via Paris in 1924, when the
Mona Lisa did in fact disappear from the Louvre. The two friends were
reunited in Vienna in 1951 and traveled to Peking together in 1952.
Translated into Chinese, this poem was later burned-along with Hsiao's
works- in the Cultural Revolution.