The old man and his wife
The old man and his wife,
Lived at the end of the old street,
At the intersection of colour and life,
The intersection where smile and laughter would meet.
Theirs was the most lovely couplet,
And oldest indeed the street had ever know,
But their love was as new as the water droplet,
Seen at the dawn….on grass fully grown.
Often…..he would fight with her,
So that she`d get angry with him,
So that he`d get to pamper her,
And then she`d blush and smile back at him….
Everything went on fine until,
That day………when everything changed,
The day his wife went motionless and still….
The day when…….it just rained…..
From then the old man was on his own,
Trying to get in terms with the loss…
Of the most beloved…..for long he`d know,
His life had now gone for a toss….
With red and water….filled eyes…..
He keeps looking here and there,
He keeps searching for his wife…..
In vain….he finds her no where...
What……..will now suffice? ?
For the loss of his true love knot?
He keeps…..missing his wife…
His wife…..whom he loved a lot….
The slot of silence……now he has brought….
Endlessly he stands…..and weeps at her grave…
And also the next plot he has bought….
For besides her…he wishes to be laid…
- quotes about elders
- quotes about rain
- quotes about missing
- quotes about life
- quotes about water
- quotes about love
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about grass
- quotes about colors
One Fine Day
Shes standing by the waterside, shes waiting for her man
On the evening wind, she hears the whistle blow
Its coming from the factory, she hears it every day
Her soft cheeks flush, hes on his way
Theyre going where the sun is shining
Theyre going for that silver lining
Theyre gonna work and make it pay
And she say mmm, well, one fine day
Spread those wings, fly away
Now I dont lie, no, cold wind and rain
Gonna sail away one fine day
Now hope, it springs eternally
At least thats what they say
Boy, it gets hard to feel that way
When he sees his little darling hide
The tear with a smile
He say come here baby, now dont you cry
- quotes about wind
- quotes about paying
- quotes about boys
- quotes about flying
- quotes about time
- quotes about childhood
- quotes about work
- quotes about Sun
I'm A Mover
(Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers)
[Originally by Free]
I was born by the river, just like this river
I've been moving ever since
Ain't got nobody to call my own
You know I've been moving since the day I was born
Life is a game just made for fun
You know I don't love nobody, I don't love no one
Yes, I'm a mover, baby
Following the footsteps; One fine day
when I asked the wise man which was the way
he said: "Follow your heart and look for yourself
and come back and tell me what you have learned"
Yes, I'm a mover, baby
Went back and told him, I found me a wife
Eleven children and a real good life
Told him of love and there's a happy home
But I need to return to that long winding road
Yes, I'm a mover, baby
Gotta move on down
One Fine Day
(music: marillion lyrics: john helmer)
When we were young we used to say
Things would be different
One fine day
The walls would crumble
Nations sing as one
We live in hope, cause so far
It hasnt come
Listenin to the pouring rain
Waiting for the world to change
Beginning to wonder if well wait in vain
For one fine day
Oh, how years change the things for which we strive
A better world.. or just a quiet life
What seemed so simple
Is still so far away
Dont hold you breath waitin
For one fine day
Listenin to the pouring rain
Waiting for the world to change
Beginning to wonder if well wait in vain
For one fine day
Life is strange
It can seem youre high and dry
You find theres nothing in this world you recognise
Did we fall asleep babe?
Dreaming that dream babe?
Listenin to the pouring rain...
Did we fall asleep babe?
Dreaming that dream babe?
One Fine Day
One fine day
Youll look at me
And you will know our love was
Meant to be
One fine day
Youre gonna want me for your girl
The arms I long for
Will open wide
And youll be proud to have me
Right by your side
One fine day
Youre gonna want me for your girl
One fine day...
I Lived Most Of My Life In Delusion
I LIVED MOST OF MY LIFE IN DELUSION
I lived most of my life in delusion-
I dreamed I was writing great masterpieces-
Every life moment was hoarded
For the sacred work.
I am old now
The manuscripts are piled up
No one wants them;
I apparently was wrong about my life and work
I lived in delusion-
Now I have all the time in the world to do nothing in-
These lines too can go to the pile.
A Fine Day For A Parade
Mrs. carver says shes sorry
She knows enough not to worry
But what does she know about crime?
Believes the town is sinking
The price of forward thinking
You stay up all night half the time
Racking your mind
Alone in the night
While all your neighbors sleep tight
Years ago she lost her daughter
Off to a sacred order
Where they got stoned and worked the earth
Clears up her head with bourbon
Cause beer is so suburban
And declasse for what its worth
She drinks it down down down
For all the old old days
Shes thinking of it now
Its nice to get away
But what a fine day for a parade
She stays up mending curtains
Until her fingers hurt, and
You can get so bored of it all
No one can say for certain
Shell never safely know when
An asteroid will kill us all
She drinks it down down down
For all the old old days
Shes thinking of it now
Its nice to get away
But what a fine day for a parade
One Fine Day
One fine day now,
My babys coming back home to me.
One fine day now,
Well be as happy as happy can be.
Well I saw my baby comin up across the hill
Well Im a hootin and a hollerin cause I love her still
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
One fine day now,
My babys arms will hold me tight.
One fine day now,
I know our loves gonna be all right.
Well I saw my baby comin up across the hill
Well Im a hootin and a hollerin cause I love her still
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
Whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
One fine day now,
My babys coming back home to me.
One fine day now,
Well be as happy as happy can be.
Well I saw my baby comin up across the hill
Well Im a hootin and a hollerin cause I love her still
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
Whoa yeah, one fine day
I said whoa yeah, one fine day
There is something in the water and,
I want to find it out;
There is something in your eyes and,
I want to check it out;
For the tide of your sweet love is now seen around!
And, whatever goes up will surely come down one day.
Liberate me with your love oh my sweet Amelie! !
For we have to keep on fighting for our own dreams;
Because we are all under the sun,
But with pleasant and glad tidings to share with each other!
EVEN thus. I pause to write it out at length,
The letter of the Lady Waldemar.–
'I prayed your cousin Leigh to take you this,
He says he'll do it. After years of love,
Or what is called so,–when a woman frets
And fools upon one string of a man's name,
And fingers it for ever till it breaks,–
He may perhaps do for her such thing,
And she accept it without detriment
Although she should not love him any more
And I, who do not love him, nor love you,
Nor you, Aurora,–choose you shall repent
Your most ungracious letter, and confess,
Constrained by his convictions, (he's convinced)
You've wronged me foully. Are you made so ill,
You woman–to impute such ill to me?
We both had mothers,–lay in their bosom once.
Why, after all, I thank you, Aurora Leigh,
For proving to myself that there are things
I would not do, . . not for my life . . nor him . .
Though something I have somewhat overdone,–
For instance, when I went to see the gods
One morning, on Olympus, with a step
That shook the thunder in a certain cloud,
Committing myself vilely. Could I think,
The Muse I pulled my heart out from my breast
To soften, had herself a sort of heart,
And loved my mortal? He, at least, loved her;
I heard him say so; 'twas my recompence,
When, watching at his bedside fourteen days,
He broke out ever like a flame at whiles
Between the heats of fever . . . 'Is it thou?
'Breathe closer, sweetest mouth!' and when at last
The fever gone, the wasted face extinct
As if it irked him much to know me there,
He said, Twas kind, 'twas good, 'twas womanly,'
(And fifty praises to excuse one love)
'But was the picture safe he had ventured for?'
And then, half wandering . . 'I have loved her well,
Although she could not love me.'–'Say instead,'
I answered, 'that she loves you.'–'Twas my turn
To rave: (I would have married him so changed,
Although the world had jeered me properly
For taking up with Cupid at his worst,
The silver quiver worn off on his hair.)
'No, no,' he murmured, 'no, she loves me not;
'Aurora Leigh does better: bring her book
'And read it softly, Lady Waldemar,
'Until I thank your friendship more for that,
'Than even for harder service.' So I read
Your book, Aurora, for an hour, that day:
I kept its pauses, marked its emphasis;
My voice, empaled upon rhyme's golden hooks,
Not once would writhe, nor quiver, nor revolt;
I read on calmly,–calmly shut it up,
Observing, 'There's some merit in the book.
'And yet the merit in't is thrown away
'As chances still with women, if we write
'Or write not: we want string to tie our flowers,
'So drop them as we walk, which serves to show
'The way we went. Good morning, Mister Leigh;
'You'll find another reader the next time.
'A woman who does better than to love,
'I hate; she will do nothing very well:
'Male poets are preferable, tiring less
'And teaching more.' I triumphed o'er you both,
And left him.
' When I saw him afterward,
I had read your shameful letter, and my heart.
He came with health recovered, strong though pale
Lord Howe and he, a courteous pair of friends,
To say what men dare say to women, when
Their debtors. But I stopped them with a word;
And proved I had never trodden such a road,
To carry so much dirt upon my shoe.
Then, putting into it something of disdain,
I asked forsooth his pardon, and my own,
For having done no better than to love,
And that, not wisely,–though 'twas long ago,
And though 'twas altered perfectly since then.
I told him, as I tell you now, Miss Leigh,
And proved I took some trouble for his sake
(Because I know he did not love the girl)
To spoil my hands with working in the stream
Of that poor bubbling nature,–till she went,
Consigned to one I trusted, my own maid,
Who once had lived full five months in my house,
(Dressed hair superbly) with lavish purse
To carry to Australia where she had left
A husband, said she. If the creature lied,
The mission failed, we all do fail and lie
More or less–and I'm sorry–which is all
Expected from us when we fail the most,
And go to church to own it. What I meant,
Was just the best for him, and me, and her . .
Best even for Marian!–I am sorry for't,
And very sorry. Yet my creature said
She saw her stop to speak in Oxford Street
To one . . no matter! I had sooner cut
My hand off (though 'twere kissed the hour before,
And promised a pearl troth-ring for the next)
Than crush her silly head with so much wrong.
Poor child! I would have mended it with gold,
Until it gleamed like St. Sophia's dome
When all the faithful troop to morning prayer:
But he, he nipped the bud of such a thought
With that cold Leigh look which I fancied once,
And broke in, 'Henceforth she was called his wife.
'His wife required no succour: he was bound
'To Florence, to resume this broken bond:
'Enough so. Both were happy, he and Howe,
'To acquit me of the heaviest charge of all–'
–At which I shut my tongue against my fly
And struck him; 'Would he carry,–he was just,–
'A letter from me to Aurora Leigh,
'And ratify from his authentic mouth
'My answer to her accusation?'–'Yes,
'If such a letter were prepared in time.'
–He's just, your cousin,–ay, abhorrently.
He'd wash his hands in blood, to keep them clean.
And so, cold, courteous, a mere gentleman,
He bowed, we parted.
'Parted. Face no more,
Voice no more, love no more! wiped wholly out,
Like some ill scholar's scrawl from heart and slate,–
Ay, spit on and so wiped out utterly
By some coarse scholar! I have been too coarse,
Too human. Have we business, in our rank,
With blood i' the veins? I will have henceforth none;
Not even keep the colour at my lip.
A rose is pink and pretty without blood;
Why not a woman? When we've played in vain
The game, to adore,–we have resources still,
And can play on at leisure, being adored:
Here's Smith already swearing at my feet
That I'm the typic She. Away with Smith!–
Smith smacks of Leigh,–and henceforth, I'll admit
No socialist within three crinolines,
To live and have his being. But for you,
Though insolent your letter and absurd,
And though I hate you frankly,–take my Smith!
For when you have seen this famous marriage tied,
A most unspotted Erle to a noble Leigh,
(His love astray on one he should not love)
Howbeit–beware, you should not want his love,
You'll want some comfort. So I leave you Smith;
Take Smith!–he talks Leigh's subjects, somewhat worse;
Adopts a thought of Leigh's, and dwindles it;
Goes leagues beyond, to be no inch behind;
Will mind you of him, as a shoe-string may,
Of a man: and women, when they are made like you,
Grow tender to a shoe-string, foot-print even,
Adore averted shoulders in a glass,
And memories of what, present once, was loathed.
And yet, you loathed not Romney,–though you've played
At 'fox and goose' about him with your soul:
Pass over fox, you rub out fox,–ignore
A feeling, you eradicate it,–the act's
'I wish you joy, Miss Leigh.
You've made a happy marriage for your friend;
And all the honour, well-assorted love,
Derives from you who love him, whom he loves!
You need not wish me joy to think of it,
I have so much. Observe, Aurora Leigh,
Your droop of eyelid is the same as his,
And, but for you, I might have won his love,
And, to you, I have shown my naked heart,–
For which three things I hate, hate, hate you. Hush,
Suppose a fourth!–I cannot choose but think
That, with him, I were virtuouser than you
Without him: so I hate you from this gulph
And hollow of my soul, which opens out
To what, except for you, had been my heaven,
And is instead, a place to curse by! LOVE.'
An active kind of curse. I stood there cursed–
Confounded. I had seized and caught the sense
Of the letter with its twenty stinging snakes,
In a moment's sweep of eyesight, and I stood
Dazed.–'Ah! not married,'
'You mistake,' he said;
'I'm married. Is not Marian Erle my wife?
As God sees things, I have a wife and child;
And I, as I'm a man who honours God,
Am here to claim my child and wife.'
I felt it hard to breathe, much less to speak.
Nor word of mine was needed. Some one else
Was there for answering. 'Romney,' she began,
'My great good angel, Romney.'
Then at first,
I knew that Marian Erle was beautiful.
She stood there, still and pallid as a saint,
Dilated, like a saint in ecstasy,
As if the floating moonshine interposed
Betwixt her foot and the earth, and raised her up
To float upon it. 'I had left my child,
Who sleeps,' she said, 'and, having drawn this way,
I heard you speaking, . . friend!–Confirm me now.
You take this Marian, such as wicked men
Have made her, for your honourable wife?'
The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic voice.
He stretched his arms out toward the thrilling voice,
As if to draw it on to his embrace.
–'I take her as God made her, and as men
Must fail to unmake her, as my honoured wife.'
She never raised her eyes, nor took a step,
But stood there in her place, and spoke again.
–'You take this Marian's child, which is her shame
In sight of men and women, for your child,
Of whom you will not ever feel ashamed?'
The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic voice.
He stepped on toward it, still with outstretched arms,
As if to quench upon his breast that voice.
–'May God so father me, as I do him
And so forsake me as I let him feel
He's orphaned haply. Here I take the child
To share my cup, to slumber on my knee,
To play his loudest gambol at my foot,
To hold my finger in the public ways,
Till none shall need inquire, 'Whose child is this,'
The gesture saying so tenderly, 'My own.
She stood a moment silent in her place;
Then, turning toward me, very slow and cold–
–'And you,–what say you?–will you blame me much,
If, careful for that outcast child of mine
I catch this hand that's stretched to me and him
Nor dare to leave him friendless in the world
Where men have stoned me? Have I not the right
To take so mere an aftermath from life,
Else found so wholly bare? Or is it wrong
To let your cousin, for a generous bent,
Put out his ungloved fingers among briars
To set a tumbling bird's-nest somewhat straight?
You will not tell him, though we're innocent
We are not harmless? . . and that both our harms
Will stick to his good smooth noble life like burrs,
Never to drop off though you shake the cloak?
You've been my friend: you will not now be his?
You've known him, that he's worthy of a friend;
And you're his cousin, lady, after all,
And therefore more than free to take his part,
Explaining, since the nest is surely spoilt,
And Marian what you know her,–though a wife,
The world would hardly understand her case
Of being just hurt and honest; while for him,
'Twould ever twit him with his bastard child
And married Harlot. Speak, while yet there's time:
You would not stand and let a good man's dog
Turn round and rend him, because his, and reared
Of a generous breed,–and will you let his act,
Because it's generous? Speak. I'm bound to you,
And I'll be bound by only you, in this.'
The thrilling, solemn voice, so passionless,
Sustained, yet low, without a rise or fall,
As one who had authority to speak,
And not as Marian.
I looked up to feel
If God stood near me and beheld his heaven
As blue as Aaron's priestly robe appeared
To Aaron when he took it off to die.
And then I spoke–'Accept the gift, I say,
My sister Marian, and be satisfied.
The hand that gives has still a soul behind
Which will not let it quail for having given,
Though foolish worldlings talk they know not what,
Of what they know not. Romney's strong enough
For this: do you be strong to know he's strong:
He stands on Right's side; never flinch for him,
As if he stood on the other. You'll be bound
By me? I am a woman of repute;
No fly-blow gossip ever specked my life;
My name is clean and open as this hand,
Whose glove there's not a man dares blab about
As if he had touched it freely:–here's my hand
To clasp your hand, my Marian, owned as pure!
As pure,–I'm a woman and a Leigh!–
And, as I'm both, I'll witness to the world
That Romney Leigh is honoured in his choice,
Who chooses Marian for his honoured wife.'
Her broad wild woodland eyes shot out a light;
Her smile was wonderful for rapture. 'Thanks,
My great Aurora.' Forward then she sprang,
And dropping her impassioned spaniel head
With all its brown abandonment of curls
On Romney's feet, we heard the kisses drawn
Through sobs upon the foot, upon the ground–
'O Romney! O my angel! O unchanged,
Though, since we've parted, I have passed the grave!
But Death itself could only better thee, ,
Not change thee!–Thee I do not thank at all:
I but thank God who made thee what thou art,
So wholly godlike.'
When he tried in vain
To raise her to his embrace, escaping thence
As any leaping fawn from a huntsman's grasp,
She bounded off and 'lighted beyond reach,
Before him with a staglike majesty
Of soft, serene defiance,–as she knew
He could not touch her, so was tolerant
He had cared to try. She stood there with her great
Drowned eyes, and dripping cheeks, and strange sweet smile
That lived through all, as if one held a light
Across a waste of waters,–shook her head
To keep some thoughts down deeper in her soul,–
Then, white and tranquil as a summer-cloud
Which, having rained itself to a tardy peace,
Stands still in heaven as if it ruled the day,
Spoke out again–'Although, my generous friend,
Since last we met and parted, you're unchanged,
And, having promised faith to Marian Erle,
Maintain it, as she were not changed at all;
And though that's worthy, though that's full of balm
To any conscious spirit of a girl
Who once has loved you as I loved you once,–
Yet still it will not make her . . if she's dead,
And gone away where none can give or take
In marriage,–able to revive, return
And wed you,–will, it Romney? Here's the point;
O friend, we'll see it plainer: you and I
Must never, never, never join hands so.
Nay, let me say it,–for I said it first
To God, and placed it, rounded to an oath,
Far, far above the moon there, at His feet,
As surely as I wept just now at yours,–
We never, never, never join hands so.
And now, be patient with me; do not think
I'm speaking from a false humility.
The truth is, I am grown so proud with grief,
And He has said so often through his nights
And through his mornings, 'Weep a little still,
'Thou foolish Marian, because women must,
'But do not blush at all except for sin,'–
That I, who felt myself unworthy once
Of virtuous Romney and his high-born race,
Have come to learn, . . a woman poor or rich,
Despised or honoured, is a human soul;
And what her soul is,–that, she is herself,
Although she should be spit upon of men,
As is the pavement of the churches here,
Still good enough to pray in. And, being chaste
And honest, and inclined to do the right,
And love the truth, and live my life out green
And smooth beneath his steps, I should not fear
To make him, thus, a less uneasy time
Than many a happier woman. Very proud
You see me. Pardon, that I set a trap
To hear a confirmation in your voice . .
Both yours and yours. It is so good to know
'Twas really God who said the same before:
For thus it is in heaven, that first God speaks,
And then his angels. Oh, it does me good,
It wipes me clean and sweet from devil's dirt,
That Romney Leigh should think me worthy still
Of being his true and honourable wife!
Henceforth I need not say, on leaving earth,
I had no glory in it. For the rest,
The reason's ready (master, angel, friend,
Be patient with me) wherefore you and I
Can never, never, never join hands so.
I know you'll not be angry like a man
(For you are none) when I shall tell the truth,–
Which is, I do not love you, Romney Leigh,
I do not love you. Ah well! catch my hands,
Miss Leigh, and burn into my eyes with yours,–
I swear I do not love him. Did I once?
'Tis said that women have been bruised to death,
And yet, if once they loved, that love of theirs
Could never be drained out with all their blood:
I've heard such things and pondered. Did I indeed
Love once? or did I only worship? Yes,
Perhaps, O friend, I set you up so high
Above all actual good or hope of good,
Or fear of evil, all that could be mine,
I haply set you above love itself,
And out of reach of these poor woman's arms,
Angelic Romney. What was in my thought?
To be your slave, your help, your toy, your tool.
To be your love . . I never thought of that.
To give you love . . still less. I gave you love?
I think I did not give you anything;
I was but only yours,–upon my knees,
All yours, in soul and body, in head and heart,–
A creature you had taken from the ground,
Still crumbling through your fingers to your feet
To join the dust she came from. Did I love,
Or did I worship? judge, Aurora Leigh!
But, if indeed I loved, 'twas long ago,–
So long! before the sun and moon were made,
Before the hells were open,–ah, before
I heard my child cry in the desert night,
And knew he had no father. It may be,
I'm not as strong as other women are,
Who, torn and crushed, are not undone from love.
It may be, I am colder than the dead,
Who, being dead, love always. But for me
Once killed, . . this ghost of Marian loves no more,
No more . . except the child! . . no more at all.
I told your cousin, sir, that I was dead;
And now, she thinks I'll get up from my grave,
And wear my chin-cloth for a wedding-veil,
And glide along the churchyard like a bride,
While all the dead keep whispering through the withes,
'You would be better in your place with us,
'You pitiful corruption!' At the thought,
The damps break out on me like leprosy,
Although I'm clean. Ay, clean as Marian Erle:
As Marian Leigh, I know, I were not clean:
I have not so much life that I should love,
. . Except the child. Ah God! I could not bear
To see my darling on a good man's knees,
And know by such a look, or such a sigh,
Or such a silence, that he thought sometimes,
'This child was fathered by some cursed wretch' . .
For, Romney,–angels are less tender-wise
Than God and mothers: even you would think
What we think never. He is ours, the child;
And we would sooner vex a soul in heaven
By coupling with it the dead body's thought,
It left behind it in a last month's grave,
Than, in my child, see other than . . my child.
We only, never call him fatherless
Who has God and his mother. O my babe,
My pretty, pretty blossom, an ill-wind
Once blew upon my breast! can any think
I'd have another,–one called happier,
A fathered child, with father's love and race
That's worn as bold and open as a smile,
To vex my darling when he's asked his name
And has no answer? What! a happier child
Than mine, my best,–who laughed so loud to-night
He could not sleep for pastime? Nay, I swear
By life and love, that, if I lived like some,
And loved like . . some . . ay, loved you, Romney Leigh,
As some love (eyes that have wept so much, see clear),
I've room for no more children in my arms;
My kisses are all melted on one mouth;
I would not push my darling to a stool
To dandle babies. Here's a hand, shall keep
For ever clean without a marriage-ring,
To tend my boy, until he cease to need
One steadying finger of it, and desert
(Not miss) his mother's lap, to sit with men.
And when I miss him (not he me) I'll come
And say, 'Now give me some of Romney's work,
To help your outcast orphans of the world,
And comfort grief with grief.' For you, meantime,
Most noble Romney, wed a noble wife,
And open on each other your great souls,–
I need not farther bless you. If I dared
But strain and touch her in her upper sphere,
And say, 'Come down to Romney–pay my debt!
I should be joyful with the stream of joy
Sent through me. But the moon is in my face . .
I dare not,–though I guess the name he loves;
I'm learned with my studies of old days,
Remembering how he crushed his under-lip
When some one came and spoke, or did not come.
Aurora, I could touch her with my hand,
And fly, because I dare not.'
She was gone.
He smiled so sternly that I spoke in haste.
'Forgive her–she sees clearly for herself:
Her instinct's holy.'
'I forgive?' he said,
'I only marvel how she sees so sure,
While others' . . there he paused,–then hoarse, abrupt,–
'Aurora, you forgive us, her and me?
For her, the thing she sees, poor loyal child,
If once corrected by the thing I know,
Had been unspoken; since she loves you well,
Has leave to love you:–while for me, alas,
If once or twice I let my heart escape
This night, . . remember, where hearts slip and fall
They break beside: we're parting,–parting,–ah,
You do not love, that you should surely know
What that word means. Forgive, be tolerant;
It had not been, but that I felt myself
So safe in impuissance and despair,
I could not hurt you though I tossed my arms
And sighed my soul out. The most utter wretch
Will choose his postures when he comes to die,
However in the presence of a queen:
And you'll forgive me some unseemly spasms
Which meant no more than dying. Do you think
I had ever come here in my perfect mind,
Unless I had come here, in my settled mind,
Bound Marian's, bound to keep the bond, and give
My name, my house, my hand, the things I could,
To Marian! For even I could give as much;
Even I, affronting her exalted soul
By a supposition that she wanted these,
Could act the husband's coat and hat set up
To creak i' the wind and drive the world-crows off
From pecking in her garden. Straw can fill
A hole to keep out vermin. Now, at last,
I own heaven's angels round her life suffice
To fight the rats of our society,
Without this Romney: I can see it at last;
And here is ended my pretension which
The most pretended. Over-proud of course,
Even so!–but not so stupid . . blind . . that I,
Whom thus the great Taskmaster of the world
Has set to meditate mistaken work,
My dreary face against a dim blank wall
Throughout man's natural lifetime,–could pretend
Or wish . . O love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you!–but I swear by all yourself,
And all you might have been to me these years,
If that June-morning had not failed my hope,–
I'm not so bestial, to regret that day
This night,–this night, which still to you is fair;
Nay, not so blind, Aurora. I attest
Those stars above us, which I cannot see . . . '
'You cannot.' . .
' That if Heaven itself should stoop,
Remit the lots, and give me another chance,
I'd say, 'No other!'–I'd record my blank.
Aurora never should be wife of mine.'
'Not see the stars?'
Tis worse still, not to see
To find your hand, although we're parting, dear.
A moment let me hold it, ere we part:
And understand my last words–these at last!
I would not have you thinking, when I'm gone,
That Romney dared to hanker for your love,
In thought or vision, if attainable,
(Which certainly for me it never was)
And wish to use it for a dog to-day,
To help the blind man stumbling. God forbid!
And now I know he held you in his palm,
And kept you open-eyed to all my faults,
To save you at last from such a dreary end.
Believe me, dear, that if I had known, like Him,
What loss was coming on me, I had done
As well in this as He has.–Farewell, you,
Who are still my light,–farewell! How late it is:
I know that, now: you've been too patient, sweet.
I will but blow my whistle toward the lane,
And some one comes . . the same who brought me here.
Get in–Good night.'
'A moment. Heavenly Christ!
A moment. Speak once, Romney. 'Tis not true.
I hold your hands, I look into your face–
You see me?'
'No more than the blessed stars.
Be blessed too, Aurora. Ah, my sweet,
You tremble. Tender-hearted! Do you mind
Of yore, dear, how you used to cheat old John,
And let the mice out slyly from his traps,
Until he marvelled at the soul in mice
Which took the cheese and left the snare? The same
Dear soft heart always! 'Twas for this I grieved
Howe's letter never reached you. Ah, you had heard
Of illness,–not the issue . . not the extent:
My life long sick with tossings up and down;
The sudden revulsion in the blazing house,–
The strain and struggle both of body and soul,
Which left fire running in my veins, for blood:
Scarce lacked that thunderbolt of the falling beam,
Which nicked me on the forehead as I passed
The gallery door with a burden. Say heaven's bolt,
Not William Erle's; not Marian's father's; tramp
And poacher, whom I found for what he was,
And, eager for her sake to rescue him,
Forth swept from the open highway of the world,
Road-dust and all,–till, like a woodland boar
Most naturally unwilling to be tamed,
He notched me with his tooth. But not a word
To Marian! and I do not think, besides,
He turned the tilting of the beam my way,–
And if he laughed, as many swear, poor wretch,
Nor he nor I supposed the hurt so deep.
We'll hope his next laugh may be merrier,
In a better cause.'
' Ah, my friend,
You'll learn to say it in a cheerful voice.
I, too, at first desponded. To be blind,
Turned out of nature, mulcted as a man,
Refused the daily largesse of the sun
To humble creatures! When the fever's heat
Dropped from me, as the flame did from my house,
And left me ruined like it, stripped of all
The hues and shapes of aspectable life,
A mere bare blind stone in the blaze of day,
A man, upon the outside of the earth,
As dark as ten feet under, in the grave,–
Why that seemed hard.'
'A tear! you weep,
Divine Aurora? tears upon my hand!
I've seen you weeping for a mouse, a bird,–
But, weep for me, Aurora? Yes, there's hope.
Not hope of sight,–I could be learned, dear,
And tell you in what Greek and Latin name
The visual nerve is withered to the root,
Though the outer eyes appear indifferent,
Unspotted in their crystals. But there's hope.
The spirit, from behind this dethroned sense,
Sees, waits in patience till the walls break up
From which the bas-relief and fresco have dropt.
There's hope. The man here, once so arrogant
And restless, so ambitious, for his part,
Of dealing with statistically packed
Disorders, (from a pattern on his nail,)
And packing such things quite another way,–
Is now contented. From his personal loss
He has come to hope for others when they lose,
And wear a gladder faith in what we gain . .
Through bitter experience, compensation sweet,
Like that tear, sweetest. I am quiet now,–
As tender surely for the suffering world,
But quiet,–sitting at the wall to learn,
Content, henceforth, to do the thing I can:
For, though as powerless, said I, as a stone,
A stone can still give shelter to a worm,
And it is worth while being a stone for that:
There's hope, Aurora.'
' Is there hope for me?
For me?–and is there room beneath the stone
For such a worm?–And if I came and said . .
What all this weeping scarce will let me say,
And yet what women cannot say at all,
But weeping bitterly . . (the pride keeps up,
Until the heart breaks under it) . . I love,–
I love you, Romney' . . .
'Silence!' he exclaimed,
'A woman's pity sometimes makes her mad.
A man's distraction must not cheat his soul
To take advantage of it. Yet, 'tis hard–
'But I love you, sir:
And when a woman says she loves a man,
The man must hear her, though he love her not.
Which . . hush! . . he has leave to answer in his turn;
She will not surely blame him. As for me,
You call it pity,–think I'm generous?
'Twere somewhat easier, for a woman proud,
As I am, and I'm very vilely proud,
To let it pass as such, and press on you
Love born of pity,–seeing that excellent loves
Are born so, often, nor the quicklier die,–
And this would set me higher by the head
Than now I stand. No matter: let the truth
Stand high: Aurora must be humble: no,
My love's not pity merely. Obviously
I'm not a generous woman, never was.
Or else, of old, I had not looked so near
To weights and measures, grudging you the power
To give, as first I scorned your power to judge
For me, Aurora: I would have no gifts
Forsooth, but God's,–and I would use them, too,
According to my pleasure and my choice,
As He and I were equals,–you, below,
Excluded from that level of interchange
Admitting benefaction. You were wrong
In much? you said so. I was wrong in most.
Oh, most! You only thought to rescue men
By half-means, half-way, seeing half their wants,
While thinking nothing of your personal gain.
But I who saw the human nature broad,
At both sides, comprehending, too, the soul's,
And all the high necessities of Art,
Betrayed the thing I saw, and wronged my own life
For which I pleaded. Passioned to exalt
The artist's instinct in me at the cost
Of putting down the woman's–I forgot
No perfect artist is developed here
From any imperfect woman. Flower from root,
And spiritual from natural, grade by grade
In all our life. A handful of the earth
To make God's image! the despised poor earth,
The healthy odorous earth,–I missed, with it,
The divine Breath that blows the nostrils out
To ineffable inflatus: ay, the breath
Which love is. Art is much, but love is more.
O Art, my Art, thou'rt much, but Love is more!
Art symbolises heaven, but Love is God
And makes heaven. I, Aurora, fell from mine:
I would not be a woman like the rest,
A simple woman who believes in love,
And owns the right of love because she loves,
And, hearing she's beloved, is satisfied
With what contents God: I must analyse,
Confront, and question; just as if a fly
Refused to warm itself in any sun
Till such was in leone: I must fret
Forsooth, because the month was only May;
Be faithless of the kind of proffered love,
And captious, lest it miss my dignity,
And scornful, that my lover sought a wife
To use . . to use! O Romney, O my love,
I am changed since then, changed wholly,–for indeed,
If now you'd stoop so low to take my love,
And use it roughly, without stint or spare,
As men use common things with more behind,
(And, in this, ever would be more behind)
To any mean and ordinary end,–
The joy would set me like a star, in heaven,
So high up, I should shine because of height
And not of virtue. Yet in one respect,
Just one, beloved, I am in no wise changed:
I love you, loved you . . loved you first and last,
And love you on for ever. Now I know
I loved you always, Romney. She who died
Knew that, and said so; Lady Waldemar
Knows that; . . and Marian: I had known the same
Except that I was prouder than I knew,
And not so honest. Ay, and as I live,
I should have died so, crushing in my hand
This rose of love, the wasp inside and all,–
Ignoring ever to my soul and you
Both rose and pain,–except for this great loss,
This great despair,–to stand before your face
And know I cannot win a look of yours.
You think, perhaps, I am not changed from pride,
And that I chiefly bear to say such words
Because you cannot shame me with your eyes?
O calm, grand eyes, extinguished in a storm,
Blown out like lights o'er melancholy seas,
Though shrieked for by the shipwrecked,–O my Dark,
My Cloud,–to go before me every day
While I go ever toward the wilderness,–
I would that you could see me bare to the soul!–
If this be pity, 'tis so for myself,
And not for Romney; he can stand alone;
A man like him is never overcome:
No woman like me, counts him pitiable
While saints applaud him. He mistook the world:
But I mistook my own heart,–and that slip
Was fatal. Romney,–will you leave me here?
So wrong, so proud, so weak, so unconsoled,
So mere a woman!–and I love you so,–
I love you, Romney.'
Could I see his face,
I wept so? Did I drop against his breast,
Or did his arms constrain me? Were my cheeks
Hot, overflooded, with my tears, or his?
And which of our two large explosive hearts
So shook me? That, I know not. There were words
That broke in utterance . . melted, in the fire;
Embrace, that was convulsion, . . then a kiss . .
As long and silent as the ecstatic night,–
And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, which meant beyond
Whatever could be told by word or kiss.
But what he said . . I have written day by day,
With somewhat even writing. Did I think
That such a passionate rain would intercept
And dash this last page? What he said, indeed,
I fain would write it down here like the rest
To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears,
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read at night
When weary, or at morning when afraid,
And lean my heaviest oath on when I swear
That when all's done, all tried, all counted here,
All great arts, and all good philosophies,–
This love just puts its hand out in a dream
And straight outreaches all things.
What he said,
I fain would write. But if an angel spoke
In thunder, should we, haply, know much more
Than that it thundered? If a cloud came down
And wrapt us wholly, could we draw its shape,
As if on the outside, and not overcome?
And so he spake. His breath against my face
Confused his words, yet made them more intense,–
As when the sudden finger of the wind
Will wipe a row of single city-lamps
To a pure white line of flame, more luminous
Because of obliteration; more intense
The intimate presence carrying in itself
Complete communication, as with souls
Who, having put the body off, perceive
Through simply being. Thus, 'twas granted me
To know he loved me to the depth and height
Of such large natures, ever competent
With grand horizons by the land or sea,
To love's grand sunrise. Small spheres hold small fires:
But he loved largely, as a man can love
Who, baffled in his love, dares live his life,
Accept the ends which God loves, for his own,
And life a constant aspect.
From the day
I had brought to England my poor searching face,
(An orphan even of my father's grave)
He had loved me, watched me, watched his soul in mine,
Which in me grew and heightened into love.
For he, a boy still, had been told the tale
Of how a fairy bride from Italy,
With smells of oleanders in her hair,
Was coming through the vines to touch his hand;
Whereat the blood of boyhood on the palm
Made sudden heats. And when at last I came,
And lived before him, lived, and rarely smiled,
He smiled and loved me for the thing I was,
As every child will love the year's first flower,
(Not certainly the fairest of the year,
But, in which, the complete year seems to blow)
The poor sad snowdrop,–growing between drifts,
Mysterious medium 'twixt the plant and frost,
So faint with winter while so quick with spring,
So doubtful if to thaw itself away
With that snow near it. Not that Romney Leigh
Had loved me coldly. If I thought so once,
It was as if I had held my hand in fire
And shook for cold. But now I understood
For ever, that the very fire and heat
Of troubling passion in him, burned him clear,
And shaped to dubious order, word and act.
That, just because he loved me over all,
All wealth, all lands, all social privilege,
To which chance made him unexpected heir,–
And, just because on all these lesser gifts,
Constrained by conscience and the sense of wrong
He had stamped with steady hand God's arrow-mark
Of dedication to the human need,
He thought it should be so too, with his love;
He, passionately loving, would bring down
His love, his life, his best, (because the best,)
His bride of dreams, who walked so still and high
Through flowery poems as through meadow-grass
The dust of golden lilies on her feet,
That she should walk beside him on the rooks
In all that clang and hewing out of men,
And help the work of help which was his life,
And prove he kept back nothing,–not his soul.
And when I failed him,–for I failed him, I–
And when it seemed he had missed my love,–he thought,
'Aurora makes room for a working-noon;'
And so, self-girded with torn strips of hope,
Took up his life, as if it were for death,
(Just capable of one heroic aim,)
And threw it in the thickest of the world,–
At which men laughed as if he had drowned a dog:
Nor wonder,–since Aurora failed him first!
The morning and the evening made his day.
But oh, the night! oh, bitter-sweet! oh, sweet!
O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy
Of darkness! O great mystery of love,–
In which absorbed, loss, anguish, treason's self
Enlarges rapture,–as a pebble dropt
In some full wine-cup, over-brims the wine!
While we two sate together, leaned that night
So close, my very garments crept and thrilled
With strange electric life; and both my cheeks
Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair
In which his breath was; while the golden moon
Was hung before our faces as the badge
Of some sublime inherited despair,
Since ever to be seen by only one,–
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh,
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a smile,–
'Thank God, who made me blind, to make me see!
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of souls,
Which rul'st for evermore both day and night!
I am happy.'
I clung closer to his breast,
As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe;
And, in that hurtle of united souls,
The mystic motions which in common moods
Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us,
And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin,
And all the starry turbulence of worlds
Swing round us in their audient circles, till
If that same golden moon were overhead
Or if beneath our feet, we did not know.
And then calm, equal, smooth with weights of joy,
His voice rose, as some chief musician's song
Amid the old Jewish temple's Selah-pause,
And bade me mark how we two met at last
Upon this moon-bathed promontory of earth,
To give up much on each side, then, take all.
'Beloved,' it sang, ' we must be here to work;
And men who work, can only work for men,
And, not to work in vain, must comprehend
Humanity, and, so work humanly,
And raise men's bodies still by raising souls,
As God did, first.'
'But stand upon the earth,'
I said, 'to raise them,–(this is human too;
There's nothing high which has not first been low;
My humbleness, said One, has made me great!)
As God did, last.'
'And work all silently,
And simply,' he returned, 'as God does all;
Distort our nature never, for our work,
Nor count our right hands stronger for being hoofs.
The man most man, with tenderest human hands,
Works best for men,–as God in Nazareth.'
He paused upon the word, and then resumed;
'Fewer programmes; we who have no prescience.
Fewer systems; we who are held and do not hold.
Less mapping out of masses, to be saved,
By nations or by sexes. Fourier's void,
And Comte is dwarfed,–and Cabet, puerile.
Subsists no law of life outside of life;
No perfect manners, without Christian souls:
The Christ himself had been no Lawgiver,
Unless He had given the life, too, with the law.'
I echoed thoughtfully–'The man, most man,
Works best for men: and, if most man indeed,
He gets his manhood plainest from his soul:
While, obviously, this stringent soul itself
Obeys our old rules of development;
The Spirit ever witnessing in ours,
And Love, the soul of soul, within the soul,
Evolving it sublimely. First, God's love.'
'And next,' he smiled, 'the love of wedded souls,
Which still presents that mystery's counterpart.
Sweet shadow-rose, upon the water of life,
Of such a mystic substance, Sharon gave
A name to! human, vital, fructuous rose,
Whose calyx holds the multitude of leaves.–
Loves filial, loves fraternal, neighbour-loves,
And civic, . . all fair petals, all good scents,
All reddened, sweetened from one central Heart!'
'Alas,' I cried, 'it was not long ago,
You swore this very social rose smelt ill.'
'Alas,' he answered, 'is it a rose at all?
The filial's thankless, the fraternal's hard,
The rest is lost. I do but stand and think,
Across dim waters of a troubled life
The Flower of Heaven so vainly overhangs,–
What perfect counterpart would be in sight,
If tanks were clearer. Let us clean the tubes,
And wait for rains. O poet, O my love,
Since I was too ambitious in my deed,
And thought to distance all men in success,
Till God came on me, marked the place, and said
'III-doer, henceforth keep within this line,
'Attempting less than others,'–and I stand
And work among Christ's little ones, content,–
Come thou, my compensation, my dear sight,
My morning-star, my morning! rise and shine,
And touch my hills with radiance not their own
Shine out for two, Aurora, and fulfil
My falling-short that must be! work for two,
As I, though thus restrained, for two, shall love!
Gaze on, with inscient vision toward the sun,
And, from his visceral heat, pluck out the roots
Of light beyond him. Art's a service,–mark:
A silver key is given to thy clasp,
And thou shalt stand unwearied, night and day,
And fix it in the hard, slow-turning wards,
And open, so, that intermediate door
Betwixt the different planes of sensuous form
And form insensuous, that inferior men
May learn to feel on still through thee to those,
And bless thy ministration. The world waits
For help. Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work,
And both, commended, for the sake of each,
By all true workers and true lovers, born.
Now press the clarion on thy woman's lip
(Love's holy kiss shall still keep consecrate)
And breathe the fine keen breath along the brass,
And blow all class-walls level as Jericho's
Past Jordan; crying from the top of souls,
To souls, that they assemble on earth's flats
To get them to some purer eminence
Than any hitherto beheld for clouds!
What height we know not,–but the way we know,
And how by mounting aye, we must attain,
And so climb on. It is the hour for souls;
That bodies, leavened by the will and love,
Be lightened to redemption. The world's old;
But the old world waits the hour to be renewed:
Toward which, new hearts in individual growth
Must quicken, and increase to multitude
In new dynasties of the race of men,–
Developed whence, shall grow spontaneously
New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom, new societies
Excluding falsehood. HE shall make all new.'
My Romney!–Lifting up my hand in his,
As wheeled by Seeing spirits toward the east,
He turned instinctively,–where, faint and fair,
Along the tingling desert of the sky,
Beyond the circle of the conscious hills,
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass
The first foundations of that new, near Day
Which should be builded out of heaven, to God
He stood a moment with erected brows,
In silence, as a creature might, who gazed:
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majestic eyes
Upon the thought of perfect noon. And when
I saw his soul saw,–'Jasper first,' I said,
'And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order, . . last, an amethyst.'
The Iliad: Book 5
Then Pallas Minerva put valour into the heart of Diomed, son of
Tydeus, that he might excel all the other Argives, and cover himself
with glory. She made a stream of fire flare from his shield and helmet
like the star that shines most brilliantly in summer after its bath in
the waters of Oceanus- even such a fire did she kindle upon his head
and shoulders as she bade him speed into the thickest hurly-burly of
Now there was a certain rich and honourable man among the Trojans,
priest of Vulcan, and his name was Dares. He had two sons, Phegeus and
Idaeus, both of them skilled in all the arts of war. These two came
forward from the main body of Trojans, and set upon Diomed, he being
on foot, while they fought from their chariot. When they were close up
to one another, Phegeus took aim first, but his spear went over
Diomed's left shoulder without hitting him. Diomed then threw, and his
spear sped not in vain, for it hit Phegeus on the breast near the
nipple, and he fell from his chariot. Idaeus did not dare to
bestride his brother's body, but sprang from the chariot and took to
flight, or he would have shared his brother's fate; whereon Vulcan
saved him by wrapping him in a cloud of darkness, that his old
father might not be utterly overwhelmed with grief; but the son of
Tydeus drove off with the horses, and bade his followers take them
to the ships. The Trojans were scared when they saw the two sons of
Dares, one of them in fright and the other lying dead by his
chariot. Minerva, therefore, took Mars by the hand and said, "Mars,
Mars, bane of men, bloodstained stormer of cities, may we not now
leave the Trojans and Achaeans to fight it out, and see to which of
the two Jove will vouchsafe the victory? Let us go away, and thus
avoid his anger."
So saying, she drew Mars out of the battle, and set him down upon
the steep banks of the Scamander. Upon this the Danaans drove the
Trojans back, and each one of their chieftains killed his man. First
King Agamemnon flung mighty Odius, captain of the Halizoni, from his
chariot. The spear of Agamemnon caught him on the broad of his back,
just as he was turning in flight; it struck him between the
shoulders and went right through his chest, and his armour rang
rattling round him as he fell heavily to the ground.
Then Idomeneus killed Phaesus, son of Borus the Meonian, who had
come from Varne. Mighty Idomeneus speared him on the right shoulder as
he was mounting his chariot, and the darkness of death enshrouded
him as he fell heavily from the car.
The squires of Idomeneus spoiled him of his armour, while
Menelaus, son of Atreus, killed Scamandrius the son of Strophius, a
mighty huntsman and keen lover of the chase. Diana herself had
taught him how to kill every kind of wild creature that is bred in
mountain forests, but neither she nor his famed skill in archery could
now save him, for the spear of Menelaus struck him in the back as he
was flying; it struck him between the shoulders and went right through
his chest, so that he fell headlong and his armour rang rattling round
Meriones then killed Phereclus the son of Tecton, who was the son of
Hermon, a man whose hand was skilled in all manner of cunning
workmanship, for Pallas Minerva had dearly loved him. He it was that
made the ships for Alexandrus, which were the beginning of all
mischief, and brought evil alike both on the Trojans and on Alexandrus
himself; for he heeded not the decrees of heaven. Meriones overtook
him as he was flying, and struck him on the right buttock. The point
of the spear went through the bone into the bladder, and death came
upon him as he cried aloud and fell forward on his knees.
Meges, moreover, slew Pedaeus, son of Antenor, who, though he was
a bastard, had been brought up by Theano as one of her own children,
for the love she bore her husband. The son of Phyleus got close up
to him and drove a spear into the nape of his neck: it went under
his tongue all among his teeth, so he bit the cold bronze, and fell
dead in the dust.
And Eurypylus, son of Euaemon, killed Hypsenor, the son of noble
Dolopion, who had been made priest of the river Scamander, and was
honoured among the people as though he were a god. Eurypylus gave
him chase as he was flying before him, smote him with his sword upon
the arm, and lopped his strong hand from off it. The bloody hand
fell to the ground, and the shades of death, with fate that no man can
withstand, came over his eyes.
Thus furiously did the battle rage between them. As for the son of
Tydeus, you could not say whether he was more among the Achaeans or
the Trojans. He rushed across the plain like a winter torrent that has
burst its barrier in full flood; no dykes, no walls of fruitful
vineyards can embank it when it is swollen with rain from heaven,
but in a moment it comes tearing onward, and lays many a field waste
that many a strong man hand has reclaimed- even so were the dense
phalanxes of the Trojans driven in rout by the son of Tydeus, and many
though they were, they dared not abide his onslaught.
Now when the son of Lycaon saw him scouring the plain and driving
the Trojans pell-mell before him, he aimed an arrow and hit the
front part of his cuirass near the shoulder: the arrow went right
through the metal and pierced the flesh, so that the cuirass was
covered with blood. On this the son of Lycaon shouted in triumph,
"Knights Trojans, come on; the bravest of the Achaeans is wounded, and
he will not hold out much longer if King Apollo was indeed with me
when I sped from Lycia hither."
Thus did he vaunt; but his arrow had not killed Diomed, who withdrew
and made for the chariot and horses of Sthenelus, the son of Capaneus.
"Dear son of Capaneus," said he, "come down from your chariot, and
draw the arrow out of my shoulder."
Sthenelus sprang from his chariot, and drew the arrow from the
wound, whereon the blood came spouting out through the hole that had
been made in his shirt. Then Diomed prayed, saying, "Hear me, daughter
of aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, if ever you loved my father well
and stood by him in the thick of a fight, do the like now by me; grant
me to come within a spear's throw of that man and kill him. He has
been too quick for me and has wounded me; and now he is boasting
that I shall not see the light of the sun much longer."
Thus he prayed, and Pallas Minerva heard him; she made his limbs
supple and quickened his hands and his feet. Then she went up close to
him and said, "Fear not, Diomed, to do battle with the Trojans, for
I have set in your heart the spirit of your knightly father Tydeus.
Moreover, I have withdrawn the veil from your eyes, that you know gods
and men apart. If, then, any other god comes here and offers you
battle, do not fight him; but should Jove's daughter Venus come,
strike her with your spear and wound her."
When she had said this Minerva went away, and the son of Tydeus
again took his place among the foremost fighters, three times more
fierce even than he had been before. He was like a lion that some
mountain shepherd has wounded, but not killed, as he is springing over
the wall of a sheep-yard to attack the sheep. The shepherd has
roused the brute to fury but cannot defend his flock, so he takes
shelter under cover of the buildings, while the sheep,
panic-stricken on being deserted, are smothered in heaps one on top of
the other, and the angry lion leaps out over the sheep-yard wall. Even
thus did Diomed go furiously about among the Trojans.
He killed Astynous, and shepherd of his people, the one with a
thrust of his spear, which struck him above the nipple, the other with
a sword- cut on the collar-bone, that severed his shoulder from his
neck and back. He let both of them lie, and went in pursuit of Abas
and Polyidus, sons of the old reader of dreams Eurydamas: they never
came back for him to read them any more dreams, for mighty Diomed made
an end of them. He then gave chase to Xanthus and Thoon, the two
sons of Phaenops, both of them very dear to him, for he was now worn
out with age, and begat no more sons to inherit his possessions. But
Diomed took both their lives and left their father sorrowing bitterly,
for he nevermore saw them come home from battle alive, and his kinsmen
divided his wealth among themselves.
Then he came upon two sons of Priam, Echemmon and Chromius, as
they were both in one chariot. He sprang upon them as a lion fastens
on the neck of some cow or heifer when the herd is feeding in a
coppice. For all their vain struggles he flung them both from their
chariot and stripped the armour from their bodies. Then he gave
their horses to his comrades to take them back to the ships.
When Aeneas saw him thus making havoc among the ranks, he went
through the fight amid the rain of spears to see if he could find
Pandarus. When he had found the brave son of Lycaon he said,
"Pandarus, where is now your bow, your winged arrows, and your
renown as an archer, in respect of which no man here can rival you nor
is there any in Lycia that can beat you? Lift then your hands to
Jove and send an arrow at this fellow who is going so masterfully
about, and has done such deadly work among the Trojans. He has
killed many a brave man- unless indeed he is some god who is angry
with the Trojans about their sacrifices, and and has set his hand
against them in his displeasure."
And the son of Lycaon answered, "Aeneas, I take him for none other
than the son of Tydeus. I know him by his shield, the visor of his
helmet, and by his horses. It is possible that he may be a god, but if
he is the man I say he is, he is not making all this havoc without
heaven's help, but has some god by his side who is shrouded in a cloud
of darkness, and who turned my arrow aside when it had hit him. I have
taken aim at him already and hit him on the right shoulder; my arrow
went through the breastpiece of his cuirass; and I made sure I
should send him hurrying to the world below, but it seems that I
have not killed him. There must be a god who is angry with me.
Moreover I have neither horse nor chariot. In my father's stables
there are eleven excellent chariots, fresh from the builder, quite
new, with cloths spread over them; and by each of them there stand a
pair of horses, champing barley and rye; my old father Lycaon urged me
again and again when I was at home and on the point of starting, to
take chariots and horses with me that I might lead the Trojans in
battle, but I would not listen to him; it would have been much
better if I had done so, but I was thinking about the horses, which
had been used to eat their fill, and I was afraid that in such a great
gathering of men they might be ill-fed, so I left them at home and
came on foot to Ilius armed only with my bow and arrows. These it
seems, are of no use, for I have already hit two chieftains, the
sons of Atreus and of Tydeus, and though I drew blood surely enough, I
have only made them still more furious. I did ill to take my bow
down from its peg on the day I led my band of Trojans to Ilius in
Hector's service, and if ever I get home again to set eyes on my
native place, my wife, and the greatness of my house, may some one cut
my head off then and there if I do not break the bow and set it on a
hot fire- such pranks as it plays me."
Aeneas answered, "Say no more. Things will not mend till we two go
against this man with chariot and horses and bring him to a trial of
arms. Mount my chariot, and note how cleverly the horses of Tros can
speed hither and thither over the plain in pursuit or flight. If
Jove again vouchsafes glory to the son of Tydeus they will carry us
safely back to the city. Take hold, then, of the whip and reins
while I stand upon the car to fight, or else do you wait this man's
onset while I look after the horses."
"Aeneas." replied the son of Lycaon, "take the reins and drive; if
we have to fly before the son of Tydeus the horses will go better
for their own driver. If they miss the sound of your voice when they
expect it they may be frightened, and refuse to take us out of the
fight. The son of Tydeus will then kill both of us and take the
horses. Therefore drive them yourself and I will be ready for him with
They then mounted the chariot and drove full-speed towards the son
of Tydeus. Sthenelus, son of Capaneus, saw them coming and said to
Diomed, "Diomed, son of Tydeus, man after my own heart, I see two
heroes speeding towards you, both of them men of might the one a
skilful archer, Pandarus son of Lycaon, the other, Aeneas, whose
sire is Anchises, while his mother is Venus. Mount the chariot and let
us retreat. Do not, I pray you, press so furiously forward, or you may
Diomed looked angrily at him and answered: "Talk not of flight,
for I shall not listen to you: I am of a race that knows neither
flight nor fear, and my limbs are as yet unwearied. I am in no mind to
mount, but will go against them even as I am; Pallas Minerva bids me
be afraid of no man, and even though one of them escape, their
steeds shall not take both back again. I say further, and lay my
saying to your heart- if Minerva sees fit to vouchsafe me the glory of
killing both, stay your horses here and make the reins fast to the rim
of the chariot; then be sure you spring Aeneas' horses and drive
them from the Trojan to the Achaean ranks. They are of the stock
that great Jove gave to Tros in payment for his son Ganymede, and
are the finest that live and move under the sun. King Anchises stole
the blood by putting his mares to them without Laomedon's knowledge,
and they bore him six foals. Four are still in his stables, but he
gave the other two to Aeneas. We shall win great glory if we can
Thus did they converse, but the other two had now driven close up to
them, and the son of Lycaon spoke first. "Great and mighty son,"
said he, "of noble Tydeus, my arrow failed to lay you low, so I will
now try with my spear."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it from him. It struck
the shield of the son of Tydeus; the bronze point pierced it and
passed on till it reached the breastplate. Thereon the son of Lycaon
shouted out and said, "You are hit clean through the belly; you will
not stand out for long, and the glory of the fight is mine."
But Diomed all undismayed made answer, "You have missed, not hit,
and before you two see the end of this matter one or other of you
shall glut tough-shielded Mars with his blood."
With this he hurled his spear, and Minerva guided it on to
Pandarus's nose near the eye. It went crashing in among his white
teeth; the bronze point cut through the root of his to tongue,
coming out under his chin, and his glistening armour rang rattling
round him as he fell heavily to the ground. The horses started aside
for fear, and he was reft of life and strength.
Aeneas sprang from his chariot armed with shield and spear,
fearing lest the Achaeans should carry off the body. He bestrode it as
a lion in the pride of strength, with shield and on spear before him
and a cry of battle on his lips resolute to kill the first that should
dare face him. But the son of Tydeus caught up a mighty stone, so huge
and great that as men now are it would take two to lift it;
nevertheless he bore it aloft with ease unaided, and with this he
struck Aeneas on the groin where the hip turns in the joint that is
called the "cup-bone." The stone crushed this joint, and broke both
the sinews, while its jagged edges tore away all the flesh. The hero
fell on his knees, and propped himself with his hand resting on the
ground till the darkness of night fell upon his eyes. And now
Aeneas, king of men, would have perished then and there, had not his
mother, Jove's daughter Venus, who had conceived him by Anchises
when he was herding cattle, been quick to mark, and thrown her two
white arms about the body of her dear son. She protected him by
covering him with a fold of her own fair garment, lest some Danaan
should drive a spear into his breast and kill him.
Thus, then, did she bear her dear son out of the fight. But the
son of Capaneus was not unmindful of the orders that Diomed had
given him. He made his own horses fast, away from the hurly-burly,
by binding the reins to the rim of the chariot. Then he sprang upon
Aeneas's horses and drove them from the Trojan to the Achaean ranks.
When he had so done he gave them over to his chosen comrade
Deipylus, whom he valued above all others as the one who was most
like-minded with himself, to take them on to the ships. He then
remounted his own chariot, seized the reins, and drove with all
speed in search of the son of Tydeus.
Now the son of Tydeus was in pursuit of the Cyprian goddess, spear
in hand, for he knew her to be feeble and not one of those goddesses
that can lord it among men in battle like Minerva or Enyo the waster
of cities, and when at last after a long chase he caught her up, he
flew at her and thrust his spear into the flesh of her delicate
hand. The point tore through the ambrosial robe which the Graces had
woven for her, and pierced the skin between her wrist and the palm
of her hand, so that the immortal blood, or ichor, that flows in the
veins of the blessed gods, came pouring from the wound; for the gods
do not eat bread nor drink wine, hence they have no blood such as
ours, and are immortal. Venus screamed aloud, and let her son fall,
but Phoebus Apollo caught him in his arms, and hid him in a cloud of
darkness, lest some Danaan should drive a spear into his breast and
kill him; and Diomed shouted out as he left her, "Daughter of Jove,
leave war and battle alone, can you not be contented with beguiling
silly women? If you meddle with fighting you will get what will make
you shudder at the very name of war."
The goddess went dazed and discomfited away, and Iris, fleet as
the wind, drew her from the throng, in pain and with her fair skin all
besmirched. She found fierce Mars waiting on the left of the battle,
with his spear and his two fleet steeds resting on a cloud; whereon
she fell on her knees before her brother and implored him to let her
have his horses. "Dear brother," she cried, "save me, and give me your
horses to take me to Olympus where the gods dwell. I am badly
wounded by a mortal, the son of Tydeus, who would now fight even
with father Jove."
Thus she spoke, and Mars gave her his gold-bedizened steeds. She
mounted the chariot sick and sorry at heart, while Iris sat beside her
and took the reins in her hand. She lashed her horses on and they flew
forward nothing loth, till in a trice they were at high Olympus, where
the gods have their dwelling. There she stayed them, unloosed them
from the chariot, and gave them their ambrosial forage; but Venus
flung herself on to the lap of her mother Dione, who threw her arms
about her and caressed her, saying, "Which of the heavenly beings
has been treating you in this way, as though you had been doing
something wrong in the face of day?"
And laughter-loving Venus answered, "Proud Diomed, the son of
Tydeus, wounded me because I was bearing my dear son Aeneas, whom I
love best of all mankind, out of the fight. The war is no longer one
between Trojans and Achaeans, for the Danaans have now taken to
fighting with the immortals."
"Bear it, my child," replied Dione, "and make the best of it. We
dwellers in Olympus have to put up with much at the hands of men,
and we lay much suffering on one another. Mars had to suffer when Otus
and Ephialtes, children of Aloeus, bound him in cruel bonds, so that
he lay thirteen months imprisoned in a vessel of bronze. Mars would
have then perished had not fair Eeriboea, stepmother to the sons of
Aloeus, told Mercury, who stole him away when he was already well-nigh
worn out by the severity of his bondage. Juno, again, suffered when
the mighty son of Amphitryon wounded her on the right breast with a
three-barbed arrow, and nothing could assuage her pain. So, also,
did huge Hades, when this same man, the son of aegis-bearing Jove, hit
him with an arrow even at the gates of hell, and hurt him badly.
Thereon Hades went to the house of Jove on great Olympus, angry and
full of pain; and the arrow in his brawny shoulder caused him great
anguish till Paeeon healed him by spreading soothing herbs on the
wound, for Hades was not of mortal mould. Daring, head-strong,
evildoer who recked not of his sin in shooting the gods that dwell
in Olympus. And now Minerva has egged this son of Tydeus on against
yourself, fool that he is for not reflecting that no man who fights
with gods will live long or hear his children prattling about his
knees when he returns from battle. Let, then, the son of Tydeus see
that he does not have to fight with one who is stronger than you
are. Then shall his brave wife Aegialeia, daughter of Adrestus,
rouse her whole house from sleep, wailing for the loss of her wedded
lord, Diomed the bravest of the Achaeans."
So saying, she wiped the ichor from the wrist of her daughter with
both hands, whereon the pain left her, and her hand was healed. But
Minerva and Juno, who were looking on, began to taunt Jove with
their mocking talk, and Minerva was first to speak. "Father Jove,"
said she, "do not be angry with me, but I think the Cyprian must
have been persuading some one of the Achaean women to go with the
Trojans of whom she is so very fond, and while caressing one or
other of them she must have torn her delicate hand with the gold pin
of the woman's brooch."
The sire of gods and men smiled, and called golden Venus to his
side. "My child," said he, "it has not been given you to be a warrior.
Attend, henceforth, to your own delightful matrimonial duties, and
leave all this fighting to Mars and to Minerva."
Thus did they converse. But Diomed sprang upon Aeneas, though he
knew him to be in the very arms of Apollo. Not one whit did he fear
the mighty god, so set was he on killing Aeneas and stripping him of
his armour. Thrice did he spring forward with might and main to slay
him, and thrice did Apollo beat back his gleaming shield. When he
was coming on for the fourth time, as though he were a god, Apollo
shouted to him with an awful voice and said, "Take heed, son of
Tydeus, and draw off; think not to match yourself against gods, for
men that walk the earth cannot hold their own with the immortals."
The son of Tydeus then gave way for a little space, to avoid the
anger of the god, while Apollo took Aeneas out of the crowd and set
him in sacred Pergamus, where his temple stood. There, within the
mighty sanctuary, Latona and Diana healed him and made him glorious to
behold, while Apollo of the silver bow fashioned a wraith in the
likeness of Aeneas, and armed as he was. Round this the Trojans and
Achaeans hacked at the bucklers about one another's breasts, hewing
each other's round shields and light hide-covered targets. Then
Phoebus Apollo said to Mars, "Mars, Mars, bane of men, blood-stained
stormer of cities, can you not go to this man, the son of Tydeus,
who would now fight even with father Jove, and draw him out of the
battle? He first went up to the Cyprian and wounded her in the hand
near her wrist, and afterwards sprang upon me too, as though he were a
He then took his seat on the top of Pergamus, while murderous Mars
went about among the ranks of the Trojans, cheering them on, in the
likeness of fleet Acamas chief of the Thracians. "Sons of Priam," said
he, "how long will you let your people be thus slaughtered by the
Achaeans? Would you wait till they are at the walls of Troy? Aeneas
the son of Anchises has fallen, he whom we held in as high honour as
Hector himself. Help me, then, to rescue our brave comrade from the
stress of the fight."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Then
Sarpedon rebuked Hector very sternly. "Hector," said he, "where is
your prowess now? You used to say that though you had neither people
nor allies you could hold the town alone with your brothers and
brothers-in-law. I see not one of them here; they cower as hounds
before a lion; it is we, your allies, who bear the brunt of the
battle. I have come from afar, even from Lycia and the banks of the
river Xanthus, where I have left my wife, my infant son, and much
wealth to tempt whoever is needy; nevertheless, I head my Lycian
soldiers and stand my ground against any who would fight me though I
have nothing here for the Achaeans to plunder, while you look on,
without even bidding your men stand firm in defence of their wives.
See that you fall not into the hands of your foes as men caught in the
meshes of a net, and they sack your fair city forthwith. Keep this
before your mind night and day, and beseech the captains of your
allies to hold on without flinching, and thus put away their
reproaches from you."
So spoke Sarpedon, and Hector smarted under his words. He sprang
from his chariot clad in his suit of armour, and went about among
the host brandishing his two spears, exhorting the men to fight and
raising the terrible cry of battle. Then they rallied and again
faced the Achaeans, but the Argives stood compact and firm, and were
not driven back. As the breezes sport with the chaff upon some
goodly threshing-floor, when men are winnowing- while yellow Ceres
blows with the wind to sift the chaff from the grain, and the chaff-
heaps grow whiter and whiter- even so did the Achaeans whiten in the
dust which the horses' hoofs raised to the firmament of heaven, as
their drivers turned them back to battle, and they bore down with
might upon the foe. Fierce Mars, to help the Trojans, covered them
in a veil of darkness, and went about everywhere among them,
inasmuch as Phoebus Apollo had told him that when he saw Pallas,
Minerva leave the fray he was to put courage into the hearts of the
Trojans- for it was she who was helping the Danaans. Then Apollo
sent Aeneas forth from his rich sanctuary, and filled his heart with
valour, whereon he took his place among his comrades, who were
overjoyed at seeing him alive, sound, and of a good courage; but
they could not ask him how it had all happened, for they were too busy
with the turmoil raised by Mars and by Strife, who raged insatiably in
The two Ajaxes, Ulysses and Diomed, cheered the Danaans on, fearless
of the fury and onset of the Trojans. They stood as still as clouds
which the son of Saturn has spread upon the mountain tops when there
is no air and fierce Boreas sleeps with the other boisterous winds
whose shrill blasts scatter the clouds in all directions- even so
did the Danaans stand firm and unflinching against the Trojans. The
son of Atreus went about among them and exhorted them. "My friends,"
said he, "quit yourselves like brave men, and shun dishonour in one
another's eyes amid the stress of battle. They that shun dishonour
more often live than get killed, but they that fly save neither life
As he spoke he hurled his spear and hit one of those who were in the
front rank, the comrade of Aeneas, Deicoon son of Pergasus, whom the
Trojans held in no less honour than the sons of Priam, for he was ever
quick to place himself among the foremost. The spear of King Agamemnon
struck his shield and went right through it, for the shield stayed
it not. It drove through his belt into the lower part of his belly,
and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the
Then Aeneas killed two champions of the Danaans, Crethon and
Orsilochus. Their father was a rich man who lived in the strong city
of Phere and was descended from the river Alpheus, whose broad
stream flows through the land of the Pylians. The river begat
Orsilochus, who ruled over much people and was father to Diocles,
who in his turn begat twin sons, Crethon and Orsilochus, well
skilled in all the arts of war. These, when they grew up, went to
Ilius with the Argive fleet in the cause of Menelaus and Agamemnon
sons of Atreus, and there they both of them fell. As two lions whom
their dam has reared in the depths of some mountain forest to
plunder homesteads and carry off sheep and cattle till they get killed
by the hand of man, so were these two vanquished by Aeneas, and fell
like high pine-trees to the ground.
Brave Menelaus pitied them in their fall, and made his way to the
front, clad in gleaming bronze and brandishing his spear, for Mars
egged him on to do so with intent that he should be killed by
Aeneas; but Antilochus the son of Nestor saw him and sprang forward,
fearing that the king might come to harm and thus bring all their
labour to nothing; when, therefore Aeneas and Menelaus were setting
their hands and spears against one another eager to do battle,
Antilochus placed himself by the side of Menelaus. Aeneas, bold though
he was, drew back on seeing the two heroes side by side in front of
him, so they drew the bodies of Crethon and Orsilochus to the ranks of
the Achaeans and committed the two poor fellows into the hands of
their comrades. They then turned back and fought in the front ranks.
They killed Pylaemenes peer of Mars, leader of the Paphlagonian
warriors. Menelaus struck him on the collar-bone as he was standing on
his chariot, while Antilochus hit his charioteer and squire Mydon, the
son of Atymnius, who was turning his horses in flight. He hit him with
a stone upon the elbow, and the reins, enriched with white ivory, fell
from his hands into the dust. Antilochus rushed towards him and struck
him on the temples with his sword, whereon he fell head first from the
chariot to the ground. There he stood for a while with his head and
shoulders buried deep in the dust- for he had fallen on sandy soil
till his horses kicked him and laid him flat on the ground, as
Antilochus lashed them and drove them off to the host of the Achaeans.
But Hector marked them from across the ranks, and with a loud cry
rushed towards them, followed by the strong battalions of the Trojans.
Mars and dread Enyo led them on, she fraught with ruthless turmoil
of battle, while Mars wielded a monstrous spear, and went about, now
in front of Hector and now behind him.
Diomed shook with passion as he saw them. As a man crossing a wide
plain is dismayed to find himself on the brink of some great river
rolling swiftly to the sea- he sees its boiling waters and starts back
in fear- even so did the son of Tydeus give ground. Then he said to
his men, "My friends, how can we wonder that Hector wields the spear
so well? Some god is ever by his side to protect him, and now Mars
is with him in the likeness of mortal man. Keep your faces therefore
towards the Trojans, but give ground backwards, for we dare not
fight with gods."
As he spoke the Trojans drew close up, and Hector killed two men,
both in one chariot, Menesthes and Anchialus, heroes well versed in
war. Ajax son of Telamon pitied them in their fall; he came close up
and hurled his spear, hitting Amphius the son of Selagus, a man of
great wealth who lived in Paesus and owned much corn-growing land, but
his lot had led him to come to the aid of Priam and his sons. Ajax
struck him in the belt; the spear pierced the lower part of his belly,
and he fell heavily to the ground. Then Ajax ran towards him to
strip him of his armour, but the Trojans rained spears upon him,
many of which fell upon his shield. He planted his heel upon the
body and drew out his spear, but the darts pressed so heavily upon him
that he could not strip the goodly armour from his shoulders. The
Trojan chieftains, moreover, many and valiant, came about him with
their spears, so that he dared not stay; great, brave and valiant
though he was, they drove him from them and he was beaten back.
Thus, then, did the battle rage between them. Presently the strong
hand of fate impelled Tlepolemus, the son of Hercules, a man both
brave and of great stature, to fight Sarpedon; so the two, son and
grandson of great Jove, drew near to one another, and Tlepolemus spoke
first. "Sarpedon," said he, "councillor of the Lycians, why should you
come skulking here you who are a man of peace? They lie who call you
son of aegis-bearing Jove, for you are little like those who were of
old his children. Far other was Hercules, my own brave and
lion-hearted father, who came here for the horses of Laomedon, and
though he had six ships only, and few men to follow him, sacked the
city of Ilius and made a wilderness of her highways. You are a coward,
and your people are falling from you. For all your strength, and all
your coming from Lycia, you will be no help to the Trojans but will
pass the gates of Hades vanquished by my hand."
And Sarpedon, captain of the Lycians, answered, "Tlepolemus, your
father overthrew Ilius by reason of Laomedon's folly in refusing
payment to one who had served him well. He would not give your
father the horses which he had come so far to fetch. As for
yourself, you shall meet death by my spear. You shall yield glory to
myself, and your soul to Hades of the noble steeds."
Thus spoke Sarpedon, and Tlepolemus upraised his spear. They threw
at the same moment, and Sarpedon struck his foe in the middle of his
throat; the spear went right through, and the darkness of death fell
upon his eyes. Tlepolemus's spear struck Sarpedon on the left thigh
with such force that it tore through the flesh and grazed the bone,
but his father as yet warded off destruction from him.
His comrades bore Sarpedon out of the fight, in great pain by the
weight of the spear that was dragging from his wound. They were in
such haste and stress as they bore him that no one thought of
drawing the spear from his thigh so as to let him walk uprightly.
Meanwhile the Achaeans carried off the body of Tlepolemus, whereon
Ulysses was moved to pity, and panted for the fray as he beheld
them. He doubted whether to pursue the son of Jove, or to make
slaughter of the Lycian rank and file; it was not decreed, however,
that he should slay the son of Jove; Minerva, therefore, turned him
against the main body of the Lycians. He killed Coeranus, Alastor,
Chromius, Alcandrus, Halius, Noemon, and Prytanis, and would have
slain yet more, had not great Hector marked him, and sped to the front
of the fight clad in his suit of mail, filling the Danaans with
terror. Sarpedon was glad when he saw him coming, and besought him,
saying, "Son of Priam, let me not he here to fall into the hands of
the Danaans. Help me, and since I may not return home to gladden the
hearts of my wife and of my infant son, let me die within the walls of
Hector made him no answer, but rushed onward to fall at once upon
the Achaeans and. kill many among them. His comrades then bore
Sarpedon away and laid him beneath Jove's spreading oak tree. Pelagon,
his friend and comrade drew the spear out of his thigh, but Sarpedon
fainted and a mist came over his eyes. Presently he came to himself
again, for the breath of the north wind as it played upon him gave him
new life, and brought him out of the deep swoon into which he had
Meanwhile the Argives were neither driven towards their ships by
Mars and Hector, nor yet did they attack them; when they knew that
Mars was with the Trojans they retreated, but kept their faces still
turned towards the foe. Who, then, was first and who last to be
slain by Mars and Hector? They were valiant Teuthras, and Orestes
the renowned charioteer, Trechus the Aetolian warrior, Oenomaus,
Helenus the son of Oenops, and Oresbius of the gleaming girdle, who
was possessed of great wealth, and dwelt by the Cephisian lake with
the other Boeotians who lived near him, owners of a fertile country.
Now when the goddess Juno saw the Argives thus falling, she said
to Minerva, "Alas, daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, the
promise we made Menelaus that he should not return till he had
sacked the city of Ilius will be of none effect if we let Mars rage
thus furiously. Let us go into the fray at once."
Minerva did not gainsay her. Thereon the august goddess, daughter of
great Saturn, began to harness her gold-bedizened steeds. Hebe with
all speed fitted on the eight-spoked wheels of bronze that were on
either side of the iron axle-tree. The felloes of the wheels were of
gold, imperishable, and over these there was a tire of bronze,
wondrous to behold. The naves of the wheels were silver, turning round
the axle upon either side. The car itself was made with plaited
bands of gold and silver, and it had a double top-rail running all
round it. From the body of the car there went a pole of silver, on
to the end of which she bound the golden yoke, with the bands of
gold that were to go under the necks of the horses Then Juno put her
steeds under the yoke, eager for battle and the war-cry.
Meanwhile Minerva flung her richly embroidered vesture, made with
her own hands, on to her father's threshold, and donned the shirt of
Jove, arming herself for battle. She threw her tasselled aegis
about. her shoulders, wreathed round with Rout as with a fringe, and
on it were Strife, and Strength, and Panic whose blood runs cold;
moreover there was the head of the dread monster Gorgon,, grim and
awful to behold, portent of aegis-bearing Jove. On her head she set
her helmet of gold, with four plumes, and coming to a peak both in
front and behind- decked with the emblems of a hundred cities; then
she stepped into her flaming chariot and grasped the spear, so stout
and sturdy and strong, with which she quells the ranks of heroes who
have displeased her. Juno lashed the horses on, and the gates of
heaven bellowed as they flew open of their own accord -gates over
which the flours preside, in whose hands are Heaven and Olympus,
either to open the dense cloud that hides them, or to close it.
Through these the goddesses drove their obedient steeds, and found the
son of Saturn sitting all alone on the topmost ridges of Olympus.
There Juno stayed her horses, and spoke to Jove the son of Saturn,
lord of all. "Father Jove," said she, "are you not angry with Mars for
these high doings? how great and goodly a host of the Achaeans he
has destroyed to my great grief, and without either right or reason,
while the Cyprian and Apollo are enjoying it all at their ease and
setting this unrighteous madman on to do further mischief. I hope,
Father Jove, that you will not be angry if I hit Mars hard, and
chase him out of the battle."
And Jove answered, "Set Minerva on to him, for she punishes him more
often than any one else does."
Juno did as he had said. She lashed her horses, and they flew
forward nothing loth midway betwixt earth and sky. As far as a man can
see when he looks out upon the sea from some high beacon, so far can
the loud-neighing horses of the gods spring at a single bound. When
they reached Troy and the place where its two flowing streams Simois
and Scamander meet, there Juno stayed them and took them from the
chariot. She hid them in a thick cloud, and Simois made ambrosia
spring up for them to eat; the two goddesses then went on, flying like
turtledoves in their eagerness to help the Argives. When they came
to the part where the bravest and most in number were gathered about
mighty Diomed, fighting like lions or wild boars of great strength and
endurance, there Juno stood still and raised a shout like that of
brazen-voiced Stentor, whose cry was as loud as that of fifty men
together. "Argives," she cried; "shame on cowardly creatures, brave in
semblance only; as long as Achilles was fighting, fi his spear was
so deadly that the Trojans dared not show themselves outside the
Dardanian gates, but now they sally far from the city and fight even
at your ships."
With these words she put heart and soul into them all, while Minerva
sprang to the side of the son of Tydeus, whom she found near his
chariot and horses, cooling the wound that Pandarus had given him. For
the sweat caused by the hand that bore the weight of his shield
irritated the hurt: his arm was weary with pain, and he was lifting up
the strap to wipe away the blood. The goddess laid her hand on the
yoke of his horses and said, "The son of Tydeus is not such another as
his father. Tydeus was a little man, but he could fight, and rushed
madly into the fray even when I told him not to do so. When he went
all unattended as envoy to the city of Thebes among the Cadmeans, I
bade him feast in their houses and be at peace; but with that high
spirit which was ever present with him, he challenged the youth of the
Cadmeans, and at once beat them in all that he attempted, so
mightily did I help him. I stand by you too to protect you, and I
bid you be instant in fighting the Trojans; but either you are tired
out, or you are afraid and out of heart, and in that case I say that
you are no true son of Tydeus the son of Oeneus."
Diomed answered, "I know you, goddess, daughter of aegis-bearing
Jove, and will hide nothing from you. I am not afraid nor out of
heart, nor is there any slackness in me. I am only following your
own instructions; you told me not to fight any of the blessed gods;
but if Jove's daughter Venus came into battle I was to wound her
with my spear. Therefore I am retreating, and bidding the other
Argives gather in this place, for I know that Mars is now lording it
in the field."
"Diomed, son of Tydeus," replied Minerva, "man after my own heart,
fear neither Mars nor any other of the immortals, for I will
befriend you. Nay, drive straight at Mars, and smite him in close
combat; fear not this raging madman, villain incarnate, first on one
side and then on the other. But now he was holding talk with Juno
and myself, saying he would help the Argives and attack the Trojans;
nevertheless he is with the Trojans, and has forgotten the Argives."
With this she caught hold of Sthenelus and lifted him off the
chariot on to the ground. In a second he was on the ground,
whereupon the goddess mounted the car and placed herself by the side
of Diomed. The oaken axle groaned aloud under the burden of the
awful goddess and the hero; Pallas Minerva took the whip and reins,
and drove straight at Mars. He was in the act of stripping huge
Periphas, son of Ochesius and bravest of the Aetolians. Bloody Mars
was stripping him of his armour, and Minerva donned the helmet of
Hades, that he might not see her; when, therefore, he saw Diomed, he
made straight for him and let Periphas lie where he had fallen. As
soon as they were at close quarters he let fly with his bronze spear
over the reins and yoke, thinking to take Diomed's life, but Minerva
caught the spear in her hand and made it fly harmlessly over the
chariot. Diomed then threw, and Pallas Minerva drove the spear into
the pit of Mars's stomach where his under-girdle went round him. There
Diomed wounded him, tearing his fair flesh and then drawing his
spear out again. Mars roared as loudly as nine or ten thousand men
in the thick of a fight, and the Achaeans and Trojans were struck with
panic, so terrible was the cry he raised.
As a dark cloud in the sky when it comes on to blow after heat, even
so did Diomed son of Tydeus see Mars ascend into the broad heavens.
With all speed he reached high Olympus, home of the gods, and in great
pain sat down beside Jove the son of Saturn. He showed Jove the
immortal blood that was flowing from his wound, and spoke piteously,
saying, "Father Jove, are you not angered by such doings? We gods
are continually suffering in the most cruel manner at one another's
hands while helping mortals; and we all owe you a grudge for having
begotten that mad termagant of a daughter, who is always committing
outrage of some kind. We other gods must all do as you bid us, but her
you neither scold nor punish; you encourage her because the
pestilent creature is your daughter. See how she has been inciting
proud Diomed to vent his rage on the immortal gods. First he went up
to the Cyprian and wounded her in the hand near her wrist, and then he
sprang upon me too as though he were a god. Had I not run for it I
must either have lain there for long enough in torments among the
ghastly corpes, or have been eaten alive with spears till I had no
more strength left in me."
Jove looked angrily at him and said, "Do not come whining here,
Sir Facing-bothways. I hate you worst of all the gods in Olympus,
for you are ever fighting and making mischief. You have the
intolerable and stubborn spirit of your mother Juno: it is all I can
do to manage her, and it is her doing that you are now in this plight:
still, I cannot let you remain longer in such great pain; you are my
own off-spring, and it was by me that your mother conceived you; if,
however, you had been the son of any other god, you are so destructive
that by this time you should have been lying lower than the Titans."
He then bade Paeeon heal him, whereon Paeeon spread pain-killing
herbs upon his wound and cured him, for he was not of mortal mould. As
the juice of the fig-tree curdles milk, and thickens it in a moment
though it is liquid, even so instantly did Paeeon cure fierce Mars.
Then Hebe washed him, and clothed him in goodly raiment, and he took
his seat by his father Jove all glorious to behold.
But Juno of Argos and Minerva of Alalcomene, now that they had put a
stop to the murderous doings of Mars, went back again to the house
The Iliad: Book 16
Thus did they fight about the ship of Protesilaus. Then Patroclus
drew near to Achilles with tears welling from his eyes, as from some
spring whose crystal stream falls over the ledges of a high precipice.
When Achilles saw him thus weeping he was sorry for him and said,
"Why, Patroclus, do you stand there weeping like some silly child that
comes running to her mother, and begs to be taken up and carried-
she catches hold of her mother's dress to stay her though she is in
a hurry, and looks tearfully up until her mother carries her- even
such tears, Patroclus, are you now shedding. Have you anything to
say to the Myrmidons or to myself? or have you had news from Phthia
which you alone know? They tell me Menoetius son of Actor is still
alive, as also Peleus son of Aeacus, among the Myrmidons- men whose
loss we two should bitterly deplore; or are you grieving about the
Argives and the way in which they are being killed at the ships, throu
their own high-handed doings? Do not hide anything from me but tell me
that both of us may know about it."
Then, O knight Patroclus, with a deep sigh you answered,
"Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the Achaeans, do not be
angry, but I weep for the disaster that has now befallen the
Argives. All those who have been their champions so far are lying at
the ships, wounded by sword or spear. Brave Diomed son of Tydeus has
been hit with a spear, while famed Ulysses and Agamemnon have received
sword-wounds; Eurypylus again has been struck with an arrow in the
thigh; skilled apothecaries are attending to these heroes, and healing
them of their wounds; are you still, O Achilles, so inexorable? May it
never be my lot to nurse such a passion as you have done, to the
baning of your own good name. Who in future story will speak well of
you unless you now save the Argives from ruin? You know no pity;
knight Peleus was not your father nor Thetis your mother, but the grey
sea bore you and the sheer cliffs begot you, so cruel and
remorseless are you. If however you are kept back through knowledge of
some oracle, or if your mother Thetis has told you something from
the mouth of Jove, at least send me and the Myrmidons with me, if I
may bring deliverance to the Danaans. Let me moreover wear your
armour; the Trojans may thus mistake me for you and quit the field, so
that the hard-pressed sons of the Achaeans may have breathing time-
which while they are fighting may hardly be. We who are fresh might
soon drive tired men back from our ships and tents to their own city."
He knew not what he was asking, nor that he was suing for his own
destruction. Achilles was deeply moved and answered, "What, noble
Patroclus, are you saying? I know no prophesyings which I am
heeding, nor has my mother told me anything from the mouth of Jove,
but I am cut to the very heart that one of my own rank should dare
to rob me because he is more powerful than I am. This, after all
that I have gone through, is more than I can endure. The girl whom the
sons of the Achaeans chose for me, whom I won as the fruit of my spear
on having sacked a city- her has King Agamemnon taken from me as
though I were some common vagrant. Still, let bygones be bygones: no
man may keep his anger for ever; I said I would not relent till battle
and the cry of war had reached my own ships; nevertheless, now gird my
armour about your shoulders, and lead the Myrmidons to battle, for the
dark cloud of Trojans has burst furiously over our fleet; the
Argives are driven back on to the beach, cooped within a narrow space,
and the whole people of Troy has taken heart to sally out against
them, because they see not the visor of my helmet gleaming near
them. Had they seen this, there would not have been a creek nor grip
that had not been filled with their dead as they fled back again.
And so it would have been, if only King Agamemnon had dealt fairly
by me. As it is the Trojans have beset our host. Diomed son of
Tydeus no longer wields his spear to defend the Danaans, neither
have I heard the voice of the son of Atreus coming from his hated
head, whereas that of murderous Hector rings in my cars as he gives
orders to the Trojans, who triumph over the Achaeans and fill the
whole plain with their cry of battle. But even so, Patroclus, fall
upon them and save the fleet, lest the Trojans fire it and prevent
us from being able to return. Do, however, as I now bid you, that
you may win me great honour from all the Danaans, and that they may
restore the girl to me again and give me rich gifts into the
bargain. When you have driven the Trojans from the ships, come back
again. Though Juno's thundering husband should put triumph within your
reach, do not fight the Trojans further in my absence, or you will rob
me of glory that should be mine. And do not for lust of battle go on
killing the Trojans nor lead the Achaeans on to Ilius, lest one of the
ever-living gods from Olympus attack you- for Phoebus Apollo loves
them well: return when you have freed the ships from peril, and let
others wage war upon the plain. Would, by father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo, that not a single man of all the Trojans might be left
alive, nor yet of the Argives, but that we two might be alone left
to tear aside the mantle that veils the brow of Troy."
Thus did they converse. But Ajax could no longer hold his ground for
the shower of darts that rained upon him; the will of Jove and the
javelins of the Trojans were too much for him; the helmet that gleamed
about his temples rang with the continuous clatter of the missiles
that kept pouring on to it and on to the cheek-pieces that protected
his face. Moreover his left shoulder was tired with having held his
shield so long, yet for all this, let fly at him as they would, they
could not make him give ground. He could hardly draw his breath, the
sweat rained from every pore of his body, he had not a moment's
respite, and on all sides he was beset by danger upon danger.
And now, tell me, O Muses that hold your mansions on Olympus, how
fire was thrown upon the ships of the Achaeans. Hector came close up
and let drive with his great sword at the ashen spear of Ajax. He
cut it clean in two just behind where the point was fastened on to the
shaft of the spear. Ajax, therefore, had now nothing but a headless
spear, while the bronze point flew some way off and came ringing
down on to the ground. Ajax knew the hand of heaven in this, and was
dismayed at seeing that Jove had now left him utterly defenceless
and was willing victory for the Trojans. Therefore he drew back, and
the Trojans flung fire upon the ship which was at once wrapped in
The fire was now flaring about the ship's stern, whereon Achilles
smote his two thighs and said to Patroclus, "Up, noble knight, for I
see the glare of hostile fire at our fleet; up, lest they destroy
our ships, and there be no way by which we may retreat. Gird on your
armour at once while I call our people together."
As he spoke Patroclus put on his armour. First he greaved his legs
with greaves of good make, and fitted with ancle-clasps of silver;
after this he donned the cuirass of the son of Aeacus, richly inlaid
and studded. He hung his silver-studded sword of bronze about his
shoulders, and then his mighty shield. On his comely head he set his
helmet, well wrought, with a crest of horse-hair that nodded
menacingly above it. He grasped two redoubtable spears that suited his
hands, but he did not take the spear of noble Achilles, so stout and
strong, for none other of the Achaeans could wield it, though Achilles
could do so easily. This was the ashen spear from Mount Pelion,
which Chiron had cut upon a mountain top and had given to Peleus,
wherewith to deal out death among heroes. He bade Automedon yoke his
horses with all speed, for he was the man whom he held in honour
next after Achilles, and on whose support in battle he could rely most
firmly. Automedon therefore yoked the fleet horses Xanthus and Balius,
steeds that could fly like the wind: these were they whom the harpy
Podarge bore to the west wind, as she was grazing in a meadow by the
waters of the river Oceanus. In the side traces he set the noble horse
Pedasus, whom Achilles had brought away with him when he sacked the
city of Eetion, and who, mortal steed though he was, could take his
place along with those that were immortal.
Meanwhile Achilles went about everywhere among the tents, and bade
his Myrmidons put on their armour. Even as fierce ravening wolves that
are feasting upon a homed stag which they have killed upon the
mountains, and their jaws are red with blood- they go in a pack to lap
water from the clear spring with their long thin tongues; and they
reek of blood and slaughter; they know not what fear is, for it is
hunger drives them- even so did the leaders and counsellors of the
Myrmidons gather round the good squire of the fleet descendant of
Aeacus, and among them stood Achilles himself cheering on both men and
Fifty ships had noble Achilles brought to Troy, and in each there
was a crew of fifty oarsmen. Over these he set five captains whom he
could trust, while he was himself commander over them all.
Menesthius of the gleaming corslet, son to the river Spercheius that
streams from heaven, was captain of the first company. Fair Polydora
daughter of Peleus bore him to ever-flowing Spercheius- a woman
mated with a god- but he was called son of Borus son of Perieres, with
whom his mother was living as his wedded wife, and who gave great
wealth to gain her. The second company was led by noble Eudorus, son
to an unwedded woman. Polymele, daughter of Phylas the graceful
dancer, bore him; the mighty slayer of Argos was enamoured of her as
he saw her among the singing women at a dance held in honour of
Diana the rushing huntress of the golden arrows; he therefore-
Mercury, giver of all good- went with her into an upper chamber, and
lay with her in secret, whereon she bore him a noble son Eudorus,
singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. When Ilithuia goddess
of the pains of child-birth brought him to the light of day, and he
saw the face of the sun, mighty Echecles son of Actor took the
mother to wife, and gave great wealth to gain her, but her father
Phylas brought the child up, and took care of him, doting as fondly
upon him as though he were his own son. The third company was led by
Pisander son of Maemalus, the finest spearman among all the
Myrmidons next to Achilles' own comrade Patroclus. The old knight
Phoenix was captain of the fourth company, and Alcimedon, noble son of
Laerceus of the fifth.
When Achilles had chosen his men and had stationed them all with
their captains, he charged them straitly saying, "Myrmidons,
remember your threats against the Trojans while you were at the
ships in the time of my anger, and you were all complaining of me.
'Cruel son of Peleus,' you would say, 'your mother must have suckled
you on gall, so ruthless are you. You keep us here at the ships
against our will; if you are so relentless it were better we went home
over the sea.' Often have you gathered and thus chided with me. The
hour is now come for those high feats of arms that you have so long
been pining for, therefore keep high hearts each one of you to do
battle with the Trojans."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
serried their companies yet more closely when they heard the of
their king. As the stones which a builder sets in the wall of some
high house which is to give shelter from the winds- even so closely
were the helmets and bossed shields set against one another. Shield
pressed on shield, helm on helm, and man on man; so close were they
that the horse-hair plumes on the gleaming ridges of their helmets
touched each other as they bent their heads.
In front of them all two men put on their armour- Patroclus and
Automedon- two men, with but one mind to lead the Myrmidons. Then
Achilles went inside his tent and opened the lid of the strong chest
which silver-footed Thetis had given him to take on board ship, and
which she had filled with shirts, cloaks to keep out the cold, and
good thick rugs. In this chest he had a cup of rare workmanship,
from which no man but himself might drink, nor would he make
offering from it to any other god save only to father Jove. He took
the cup from the chest and cleansed it with sulphur; this done he
rinsed it clean water, and after he had washed his hands he drew wine.
Then he stood in the middle of the court and prayed, looking towards
heaven, and making his drink-offering of wine; nor was he unseen of
Jove whose joy is in thunder. "King Jove," he cried, "lord of
Dodona, god of the Pelasgi, who dwellest afar, you who hold wintry
Dodona in your sway, where your prophets the Selli dwell around you
with their feet unwashed and their couches made upon the ground- if
you heard me when I prayed to you aforetime, and did me honour while
you sent disaster on the Achaeans, vouchsafe me now the fulfilment
of yet this further prayer. I shall stay here where my ships are
lying, but I shall send my comrade into battle at the head of many
Myrmidons. Grant, O all-seeing Jove, that victory may go with him; put
your courage into his heart that Hector may learn whether my squire is
man enough to fight alone, or whether his might is only then so
indomitable when I myself enter the turmoil of war. Afterwards when he
has chased the fight and the cry of battle from the ships, grant
that he may return unharmed, with his armour and his comrades,
fighters in close combat."
Thus did he pray, and all-counselling Jove heard his prayer. Part of
it he did indeed vouchsafe him- but not the whole. He granted that
Patroclus should thrust back war and battle from the ships, but
refused to let him come safely out of the fight.
When he had made his drink-offering and had thus prayed, Achilles
went inside his tent and put back the cup into his chest.
Then he again came out, for he still loved to look upon the fierce
fight that raged between the Trojans and Achaeans.
Meanwhile the armed band that was about Patroclus marched on till
they sprang high in hope upon the Trojans. They came swarming out like
wasps whose nests are by the roadside, and whom silly children love to
tease, whereon any one who happens to be passing may get stung- or
again, if a wayfarer going along the road vexes them by accident,
every wasp will come flying out in a fury to defend his little ones-
even with such rage and courage did the Myrmidons swarm from their
ships, and their cry of battle rose heavenwards. Patroclus called
out to his men at the top of his voice, "Myrmidons, followers of
Achilles son of Peleus, be men my friends, fight with might and with
main, that we may win glory for the son of Peleus, who is far the
foremost man at the ships of the Argives- he, and his close fighting
followers. The son of Atreus King Agamemnon will thus learn his
folly in showing no respect to the bravest of the Achaeans."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
fell in a body upon the Trojans. The ships rang again with the cry
which the Achaeans raised, and when the Trojans saw the brave son of
Menoetius and his squire all gleaming in their armour, they were
daunted and their battalions were thrown into confusion, for they
thought the fleet son of Peleus must now have put aside his anger, and
have been reconciled to Agamemnon; every one, therefore, looked
round about to see whither he might fly for safety.
Patroclus first aimed a spear into the middle of the press where men
were packed most closely, by the stern of the ship of Protesilaus.
He hit Pyraechmes who had led his Paeonian horsemen from the Amydon
and the broad waters of the river Axius; the spear struck him on the
right shoulder, and with a groan he fell backwards in the dust; on
this his men were thrown into confusion, for by killing their
leader, who was the finest soldier among them, Patroclus struck
panic into them all. He thus drove them from the ship and quenched the
fire that was then blazing- leaving the half-burnt ship to lie where
it was. The Trojans were now driven back with a shout that rent the
skies, while the Danaans poured after them from their ships,
shouting also without ceasing. As when Jove, gatherer of the
thunder-cloud, spreads a dense canopy on the top of some lofty
mountain, and all the peaks, the jutting headlands, and forest
glades show out in the great light that flashes from the bursting
heavens, even so when the Danaans had now driven back the fire from
their ships, they took breath for a little while; but the fury of
the fight was not yet over, for the Trojans were not driven back in
utter rout, but still gave battle, and were ousted from their ground
only by sheer fighting.
The fight then became more scattered, and the chieftains killed
one another when and how they could. The valiant son of Menoetius
first drove his spear into the thigh of Areilycus just as he was
turning round; the point went clean through, and broke the bone so
that he fell forward. Meanwhile Menelaus struck Thoas in the chest,
where it was exposed near the rim of his shield, and he fell dead. The
son of Phyleus saw Amphiclus about to attack him, and ere he could
do so took aim at the upper part of his thigh, where the muscles are
thicker than in any other part; the spear tore through all the
sinews of the leg, and his eyes were closed in darkness. Of the sons
of Nestor one, Antilochus, speared Atymnius, driving the point of
the spear through his throat, and down he fell. Maris then sprang on
Antilochus in hand-to-hand fight to avenge his brother, and bestrode
the body spear in hand; but valiant Thrasymedes was too quick for him,
and in a moment had struck him in the shoulder ere he could deal his
blow; his aim was true, and the spear severed all the muscles at the
root of his arm, and tore them right down to the bone, so he fell
heavily to the ground and his eyes were closed in darkness. Thus did
these two noble comrades of Sarpedon go down to Erebus slain by the
two sons of Nestor; they were the warrior sons of Amisodorus, who
had reared the invincible Chimaera, to the bane of many. Ajax son of
Oileus sprang on Cleobulus and took him alive as he was entangled in
the crush; but he killed him then and there by a sword-blow on the
neck. The sword reeked with his blood, while dark death and the strong
hand of fate gripped him and closed his eyes.
Peneleos and Lycon now met in close fight, for they had missed
each other with their spears. They had both thrown without effect,
so now they drew their swords. Lycon struck the plumed crest of
Peneleos' helmet but his sword broke at the hilt, while Peneleos smote
Lycon on the neck under the ear. The blade sank so deep that the
head was held on by nothing but the skin, and there was no more life
left in him. Meriones gave chase to Acamas on foot and caught him up
just as he was about to mount his chariot; he drove a spear through
his right shoulder so that he fell headlong from the car, and his eyes
were closed in darkness. Idomeneus speared Erymas in the mouth; the
bronze point of the spear went clean through it beneath the brain,
crashing in among the white bones and smashing them up. His teeth were
all of them knocked out and the blood came gushing in a stream from
both his eyes; it also came gurgling up from his mouth and nostrils,
and the darkness of death enfolded him round about.
Thus did these chieftains of the Danaans each of them kill his
man. As ravening wolves seize on kids or lambs, fastening on them when
they are alone on the hillsides and have strayed from the main flock
through the carelessness of the shepherd- and when the wolves see this
they pounce upon them at once because they cannot defend themselves-
even so did the Danaans now fall on the Trojans, who fled with
ill-omened cries in their panic and had no more fight left in them.
Meanwhile great Ajax kept on trying to drive a spear into Hector,
but Hector was so skilful that he held his broad shoulders well
under cover of his ox-hide shield, ever on the look-out for the
whizzing of the arrows and the heavy thud of the spears. He well
knew that the fortunes of the day had changed, but still stood his
ground and tried to protect his comrades.
As when a cloud goes up into heaven from Olympus, rising out of a
clear sky when Jove is brewing a gale- even with such panic stricken
rout did the Trojans now fly, and there was no order in their going.
Hector's fleet horses bore him and his armour out of the fight, and he
left the Trojan host penned in by the deep trench against their
will. Many a yoke of horses snapped the pole of their chariots in
the trench and left their master's car behind them. Patroclus gave
chase, calling impetuously on the Danaans and full of fury against the
Trojans, who, being now no longer in a body, filled all the ways
with their cries of panic and rout; the air was darkened with the
clouds of dust they raised, and the horses strained every nerve in
their flight from the tents and ships towards the city.
Patroclus kept on heading his horses wherever he saw most men flying
in confusion, cheering on his men the while. Chariots were being
smashed in all directions, and many a man came tumbling down from
his own car to fall beneath the wheels of that of Patroclus, whose
immortal steeds, given by the gods to Peleus, sprang over the trench
at a bound as they sped onward. He was intent on trying to get near
Hector, for he had set his heart on spearing him, but Hector's
horses were now hurrying him away. As the whole dark earth bows before
some tempest on an autumn day when Jove rains his hardest to punish
men for giving crooked judgement in their courts, and arriving justice
therefrom without heed to the decrees of heaven- all the rivers run
full and the torrents tear many a new channel as they roar headlong
from the mountains to the dark sea, and it fares ill with the works of
men- even such was the stress and strain of the Trojan horses in their
Patroclus now cut off the battalions that were nearest to him and
drove them back to the ships. They were doing their best to reach
the city, but he would not Yet them, and bore down on them between the
river and the ships and wall. Many a fallen comrade did he then
avenge. First he hit Pronous with a spear on the chest where it was
exposed near the rim of his shield, and he fell heavily to the ground.
Next he sprang on Thestor son of Enops, who was sitting all huddled up
in his chariot, for he had lost his head and the reins had been torn
out of his hands. Patroclus went up to him and drove a spear into
his right jaw; he thus hooked him by the teeth and the spear pulled
him over the rim of his car, as one who sits at the end of some
jutting rock and draws a strong fish out of the sea with a hook and
a line- even so with his spear did he pull Thestor all gaping from his
chariot; he then threw him down on his face and he died while falling.
On this, as Erylaus was on to attack him, he struck him full on the
head with a stone, and his brains were all battered inside his helmet,
whereon he fell headlong to the ground and the pangs of death took
hold upon him. Then he laid low, one after the other, Erymas,
Amphoterus, Epaltes, Tlepolemus, Echius son of Damastor, Pyris,
lpheus, Euippus and Polymelus son of Argeas.
Now when Sarpedon saw his comrades, men who wore ungirdled tunics,
being overcome by Patroclus son of Menoetius, he rebuked the Lycians
saying. "Shame on you, where are you flying to? Show your mettle; I
will myself meet this man in fight and learn who it is that is so
masterful; he has done us much hurt, and has stretched many a brave
man upon the ground."
He sprang from his chariot as he spoke, and Patroclus, when he saw
this, leaped on to the ground also. The two then rushed at one another
with loud cries like eagle-beaked crook-taloned vultures that scream
and tear at one another in some high mountain fastness.
The son of scheming Saturn looked down upon them in pity and said to
Juno who was his wife and sister, "Alas, that it should be the lot
of Sarpedon whom I love so dearly to perish by the hand of
Patroclus. I am in two minds whether to catch him up out of the
fight and set him down safe and sound in the fertile land of Lycia, or
to let him now fall by the hand of the son of Menoetius."
And Juno answered, "Most dread son of Saturn, what is this that
you are saying? Would you snatch a mortal man, whose doom has long
been fated, out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we shall not
all of us be of your mind. I say further, and lay my saying to your
heart, that if you send Sarpedon safely to his own home, some other of
the gods will be also wanting to escort his son out of battle, for
there are many sons of gods fighting round the city of Troy, and you
will make every one jealous. If, however, you are fond of him and pity
him, let him indeed fall by the hand of Patroclus, but as soon as
the life is gone out of him, send Death and sweet Sleep to bear him
off the field and take him to the broad lands of Lycia, where his
brothers and his kinsmen will bury him with mound and pillar, in due
honour to the dead."
The sire of gods and men assented, but he shed a rain of blood
upon the earth in honour of his son whom Patroclus was about to kill
on the rich plain of Troy far from his home.
When they were now come close to one another Patroclus struck
Thrasydemus, the brave squire of Sarpedon, in the lower part of the
belly, and killed him. Sarpedon then aimed a spear at Patroclus and
missed him, but he struck the horse Pedasus in the right shoulder, and
it screamed aloud as it lay, groaning in the dust until the life
went out of it. The other two horses began to plunge; the pole of
the chariot cracked and they got entangled in the reins through the
fall of the horse that was yoked along with them; but Automedon knew
what to do; without the loss of a moment he drew the keen blade that
hung by his sturdy thigh and cut the third horse adrift; whereon the
other two righted themselves, and pulling hard at the reins again went
together into battle.
Sarpedon now took a second aim at Patroclus, and again missed him,
the point of the spear passed over his left shoulder without hitting
him. Patroclus then aimed in his turn, and the spear sped not from his
hand in vain, for he hit Sarpedon just where the midriff surrounds the
ever-beating heart. He fell like some oak or silver poplar or tall
pine to which woodmen have laid their axes upon the mountains to
make timber for ship-building- even so did he lie stretched at full
length in front of his chariot and horses, moaning and clutching at
the blood-stained dust. As when a lion springs with a bound upon a
herd of cattle and fastens on a great black bull which dies
bellowing in its clutches- even so did the leader of the Lycian
warriors struggle in death as he fell by the hand of Patroclus. He
called on his trusty comrade and said, "Glaucus, my brother, hero
among heroes, put forth all your strength, fight with might and
main, now if ever quit yourself like a valiant soldier. First go about
among the Lycian captains and bid them fight for Sarpedon; then
yourself also do battle to save my armour from being taken. My name
will haunt you henceforth and for ever if the Achaeans rob me of my
armour now that I have fallen at their ships. Do your very utmost
and call all my people together."
Death closed his eyes as he spoke. Patroclus planted his heel on his
breast and drew the spear from his body, whereon his senses came out
along with it, and he drew out both spear-point and Sarpedon's soul at
the same time. Hard by the Myrmidons held his snorting steeds, who
were wild with panic at finding themselves deserted by their lords.
Glaucus was overcome with grief when he heard what Sarpedon said,
for he could not help him. He had to support his arm with his other
hand, being in great pain through the wound which Teucer's arrow had
given him when Teucer was defending the wall as he, Glaucus, was
assailing it. Therefore he prayed to far-darting Apollo saying,
"Hear me O king from your seat, may be in the rich land of Lycia, or
may be in Troy, for in all places you can hear the prayer of one who
is in distress, as I now am. I have a grievous wound; my hand is
aching with pain, there is no staunching the blood, and my whole arm
drags by reason of my hurt, so that I cannot grasp my sword nor go
among my foes and fight them, thou our prince, Jove's son Sarpedon, is
slain. Jove defended not his son, do you, therefore, O king, heal me
of my wound, ease my pain and grant me strength both to cheer on the
Lycians and to fight along with them round the body of him who has
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He eased his pain,
staunched the black blood from the wound, and gave him new strength.
Glaucus perceived this, and was thankful that the mighty god had
answered his prayer; forthwith, therefore, he went among the Lycian
captains, and bade them come to fight about the body of Sarpedon. From
these he strode on among the Trojans to Polydamas son of Panthous
and Agenor; he then went in search of Aeneas and Hector, and when he
had found them he said, "Hector, you have utterly forgotten your
allies, who languish here for your sake far from friends and home
while you do nothing to support them. Sarpedon leader of the Lycian
warriors has fallen- he who was at once the right and might of
Lycia; Mars has laid him low by the spear of Patroclus. Stand by
him, my friends, and suffer not the Myrmidons to strip him of his
armour, nor to treat his body with contumely in revenge for all the
Danaans whom we have speared at the ships."
As he spoke the Trojans were plunged in extreme and ungovernable
grief; for Sarpedon, alien though he was, had been one of the main
stays of their city, both as having much people with him, and
himself the foremost among them all. Led by Hector, who was infuriated
by the fall of Sarpedon, they made instantly for the Danaans with
all their might, while the undaunted spirit of Patroclus son of
Menoetius cheered on the Achaeans. First he spoke to the two Ajaxes,
men who needed no bidding. "Ajaxes," said he, "may it now please you
to show youselves the men you have always been, or even better-
Sarpedon is fallen- he who was first to overleap the wall of the
Achaeans; let us take the body and outrage it; let us strip the armour
from his shoulders, and kill his comrades if they try to rescue his
He spoke to men who of themselves were full eager; both sides,
therefore, the Trojans and Lycians on the one hand, and the
Myrmidons and Achaeans on the other, strengthened their battalions,
and fought desperately about the body of Sarpedon, shouting fiercely
the while. Mighty was the din of their armour as they came together,
and Jove shed a thick darkness over the fight, to increase the of
the battle over the body of his son.
At first the Trojans made some headway against the Achaeans, for one
of the best men among the Myrmidons was killed, Epeigeus, son of noble
Agacles who had erewhile been king in the good city of Budeum; but
presently, having killed a valiant kinsman of his own, he took
refuge with Peleus and Thetis, who sent him to Ilius the land of noble
steeds to fight the Trojans under Achilles. Hector now struck him on
the head with a stone just as he had caught hold of the body, and
his brains inside his helmet were all battered in, so that he fell
face foremost upon the body of Sarpedon, and there died. Patroclus was
enraged by the death of his comrade, and sped through the front
ranks as swiftly as a hawk that swoops down on a flock of daws or
starlings. Even so swiftly, O noble knight Patroclus, did you make
straight for the Lycians and Trojans to avenge your comrade. Forthwith
he struck Sthenelaus the son of Ithaemenes on the neck with a stone,
and broke the tendons that join it to the head and spine. On this
Hector and the front rank of his men gave ground. As far as a man
can throw a javelin when competing for some prize, or even in
battle- so far did the Trojans now retreat before the Achaeans.
Glaucus, captain of the Lycians, was the first to rally them, by
killing Bathycles son of Chalcon who lived in Hellas and was the
richest man among the Myrmidons. Glaucus turned round suddenly, just
as Bathycles who was pursuing him was about to lay hold of him, and
drove his spear right into the middle of his chest, whereon he fell
heavily to the ground, and the fall of so good a man filled the
Achaeans with dismay, while the Trojans were exultant, and came up
in a body round the corpse. Nevertheless the Achaeans, mindful of
their prowess, bore straight down upon them.
Meriones then killed a helmed warrior of the Trojans, Laogonus son
of Onetor, who was priest of Jove of Mt. Ida, and was honoured by
the people as though he were a god. Meriones struck him under the
jaw and ear, so that life went out of him and the darkness of death
laid hold upon him. Aeneas then aimed a spear at Meriones, hoping to
hit him under the shield as he was advancing, but Meriones saw it
coming and stooped forward to avoid it, whereon the spear flew past
him and the point stuck in the ground, while the butt-end went on
quivering till Mars robbed it of its force. The spear, therefore, sped
from Aeneas's hand in vain and fell quivering to the ground. Aeneas
was angry and said, "Meriones, you are a good dancer, but if I had hit
you my spear would soon have made an end of you."
And Meriones answered, "Aeneas, for all your bravery, you will not
be able to make an end of every one who comes against you. You are
only a mortal like myself, and if I were to hit you in the middle of
your shield with my spear, however strong and self-confident you may
be, I should soon vanquish you, and you would yield your life to Hades
of the noble steeds."
On this the son of Menoetius rebuked him and said, "Meriones, hero
though you be, you should not speak thus; taunting speeches, my good
friend, will not make the Trojans draw away from the dead body; some
of them must go under ground first; blows for battle, and words for
council; fight, therefore, and say nothing."
He led the way as he spoke and the hero went forward with him. As
the sound of woodcutters in some forest glade upon the mountains-
and the thud of their axes is heard afar- even such a din now rose
from earth-clash of bronze armour and of good ox-hide shields, as
men smote each other with their swords and spears pointed at both
ends. A man had need of good eyesight now to know Sarpedon, so covered
was he from head to foot with spears and blood and dust. Men swarmed
about the body, as flies that buzz round the full milk-pails in spring
when they are brimming with milk- even so did they gather round
Sarpedon; nor did Jove turn his keen eyes away for one moment from the
fight, but kept looking at it all the time, for he was settling how
best to kill Patroclus, and considering whether Hector should be
allowed to end him now in the fight round the body of Sarpedon, and
strip him of his armour, or whether he should let him give yet further
trouble to the Trojans. In the end, he deemed it best that the brave
squire of Achilles son of Peleus should drive Hector and the Trojans
back towards the city and take the lives of many. First, therefore, he
made Hector turn fainthearted, whereon he mounted his chariot and
fled, bidding the other Trojans fly also, for he saw that the scales
of Jove had turned against him. Neither would the brave Lycians
stand firm; they were dismayed when they saw their king lying struck
to the heart amid a heap of corpses- for when the son of Saturn made
the fight wax hot many had fallen above him. The Achaeans, therefore
stripped the gleaming armour from his shoulders and the brave son of
Menoetius gave it to his men to take to the ships. Then Jove lord of
the storm-cloud said to Apollo, "Dear Phoebus, go, I pray you, and
take Sarpedon out of range of the weapons; cleanse the black blood
from off him, and then bear him a long way off where you may wash
him in the river, anoint him with ambrosia, and clothe him in immortal
raiment; this done, commit him to the arms of the two fleet
messengers, Death, and Sleep, who will carry him straightway to the
rich land of Lycia, where his brothers and kinsmen will inter him, and
will raise both mound and pillar to his memory, in due honour to the
Thus he spoke. Apollo obeyed his father's saying, and came down from
the heights of Ida into the thick of the fight; forthwith he took
Sarpedon out of range of the weapons, and then bore him a long way
off, where he washed him in the river, anointed him with ambrosia
and clothed him in immortal raiment; this done, he committed him to
the arms of the two fleet messengers, Death, and Sleep, who
presently set him down in the rich land of Lycia.
Meanwhile Patroclus, with many a shout to his horses and to
Automedon, pursued the Trojans and Lycians in the pride and
foolishness of his heart. Had he but obeyed the bidding of the son
of Peleus, he would have, escaped death and have been scatheless;
but the counsels of Jove pass man's understanding; he will put even
a brave man to flight and snatch victory from his grasp, or again he
will set him on to fight, as he now did when he put a high spirit into
the heart of Patroclus.
Who then first, and who last, was slain by you, O Patroclus, when
the gods had now called you to meet your doom? First Adrestus,
Autonous, Echeclus, Perimus the son of Megas, Epistor and
Melanippus; after these he killed Elasus, Mulius, and Pylartes.
These he slew, but the rest saved themselves by flight.
The sons of the Achaeans would now have taken Troy by the hands of
Patroclus, for his spear flew in all directions, had not Phoebus
Apollo taken his stand upon the wall to defeat his purpose and to
aid the Trojans. Thrice did Patroclus charge at an angle of the high
wall, and thrice did Apollo beat him back, striking his shield with
his own immortal hands. When Patroclus was coming on like a god for
yet a fourth time, Apollo shouted to him with an awful voice and said,
"Draw back, noble Patroclus, it is not your lot to sack the city of
the Trojan chieftains, nor yet will it be that of Achilles who is a
far better man than you are." On hearing this, Patroclus withdrew to
some distance and avoided the anger of Apollo.
Meanwhile Hector was waiting with his horses inside the Scaean
gates, in doubt whether to drive out again and go on fighting, or to
call the army inside the gates. As he was thus doubting Phoebus Apollo
drew near him in the likeness of a young and lusty warrior Asius,
who was Hector's uncle, being own brother to Hecuba, and son of
Dymas who lived in Phrygia by the waters of the river Sangarius; in
his likeness Jove's son Apollo now spoke to Hector saying, "Hector,
why have you left off fighting? It is ill done of you. If I were as
much better a man than you, as I am worse, you should soon rue your
slackness. Drive straight towards Patroclus, if so be that Apollo
may grant you a triumph over him, and you may rull him."
With this the god went back into the hurly-burly, and Hector bade
Cebriones drive again into the fight. Apollo passed in among them, and
struck panic into the Argives, while he gave triumph to Hector and the
Trojans. Hector let the other Danaans alone and killed no man, but
drove straight at Patroclus. Patroclus then sprang from his chariot to
the ground, with a spear in his left hand, and in his right a jagged
stone as large as his hand could hold. He stood still and threw it,
nor did it go far without hitting some one; the cast was not in
vain, for the stone struck Cebriones, Hector's charioteer, a bastard
son of Priam, as he held the reins in his hands. The stone hit him
on the forehead and drove his brows into his head for the bone was
smashed, and his eyes fell to the ground at his feet. He dropped
dead from his chariot as though he were diving, and there was no
more life left in him. Over him did you then vaunt, O knight
Patroclus, saying, "Bless my heart, how active he is, and how well
he dives. If we had been at sea this fellow would have dived from
the ship's side and brought up as many oysters as the whole crew could
stomach, even in rough water, for he has dived beautifully off his
chariot on to the ground. It seems, then, that there are divers also
among the Trojans."
As he spoke he flung himself on Cebriones with the spring, as it
were, of a lion that while attacking a stockyard is himself struck
in the chest, and his courage is his own bane- even so furiously, O
Patroclus, did you then spring upon Cebriones. Hector sprang also from
his chariot to the ground. The pair then fought over the body of
Cebriones. As two lions fight fiercely on some high mountain over
the body of a stag that they have killed, even so did these two mighty
warriors, Patroclus son of Menoetius and brave Hector, hack and hew at
one another over the corpse of Cebriones. Hector would not let him
go when he had once got him by the head, while Patroclus kept fast
hold of his feet, and a fierce fight raged between the other Danaans
and Trojans. As the east and south wind buffet one another when they
beat upon some dense forest on the mountains- there is beech and ash
and spreading cornel; the to of the trees roar as they beat on one
another, and one can hear the boughs cracking and breaking- even so
did the Trojans and Achaeans spring upon one another and lay about
each other, and neither side would give way. Many a pointed spear fell
to ground and many a winged arrow sped from its bow-string about the
body of Cebriones; many a great stone, moreover, beat on many a shield
as they fought around his body, but there he lay in the whirling
clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless of his driving now.
So long as the sun was still high in mid-heaven the weapons of
either side were alike deadly, and the people fell; but when he went
down towards the time when men loose their oxen, the Achaeans proved
to be beyond all forecast stronger, so that they drew Cebriones out of
range of the darts and tumult of the Trojans, and stripped the
armour from his shoulders. Then Patroclus sprang like Mars with fierce
intent and a terrific shout upon the Trojans, and thrice did he kill
nine men; but as he was coming on like a god for a time, then, O
Patroclus, was the hour of your end approaching, for Phoebus fought
you in fell earnest. Patroclus did not see him as he moved about in
the crush, for he was enshrouded in thick darkness, and the god struck
him from behind on his back and his broad shoulders with the flat of
his hand, so that his eyes turned dizzy. Phoebus Apollo beat the
helmet from off his head, and it rolled rattling off under the horses'
feet, where its horse-hair plumes were all begrimed with dust and
blood. Never indeed had that helmet fared so before, for it had served
to protect the head and comely forehead of the godlike hero
Achilles. Now, however, Zeus delivered it over to be worn by Hector.
Nevertheless the end of Hector also was near. The bronze-shod spear,
so great and so strong, was broken in the hand of Patroclus, while his
shield that covered him from head to foot fell to the ground as did
also the band that held it, and Apollo undid the fastenings of his
On this his mind became clouded; his limbs failed him, and he
stood as one dazed; whereon Euphorbus son of Panthous a Dardanian, the
best spearman of his time, as also the finest horseman and fleetest
runner, came behind him and struck him in the back with a spear,
midway between the shoulders. This man as soon as ever he had come
up with his chariot had dismounted twenty men, so proficient was he in
all the arts of war- he it was, O knight Patroclus, that first drove a
weapon into you, but he did not quite overpower you. Euphorbus then
ran back into the crowd, after drawing his ashen spear out of the
wound; he would not stand firm and wait for Patroclus, unarmed
though he now was, to attack him; but Patroclus unnerved, alike by the
blow the god had given him and by the spear-wound, drew back under
cover of his men in fear for his life. Hector on this, seeing him to
be wounded and giving ground, forced his way through the ranks, and
when close up with him struck him in the lower part of the belly
with a spear, driving the bronze point right through it, so that he
fell heavily to the ground to the great of the Achaeans. As when a
lion has fought some fierce wild-boar and worsted him- the two fight
furiously upon the mountains over some little fountain at which they
would both drink, and the lion has beaten the boar till he can
hardly breathe- even so did Hector son of Priam take the life of the
brave son of Menoetius who had killed so many, striking him from close
at hand, and vaunting over him the while. "Patroclus," said he, "you
deemed that you should sack our city, rob our Trojan women of their
freedom, and carry them off in your ships to your own country. Fool;
Hector and his fleet horses were ever straining their utmost to defend
them. I am foremost of all the Trojan warriors to stave the day of
bondage from off them; as for you, vultures shall devour you here.
Poor wretch, Achilles with all his bravery availed you nothing; and
yet I ween when you left him he charged you straitly saying, 'Come not
back to the ships, knight Patroclus, till you have rent the
bloodstained shirt of murderous Hector about his body. Thus I ween did
he charge you, and your fool's heart answered him 'yea' within you."
Then, as the life ebbed out of you, you answered, O knight
Patroclus: "Hector, vaunt as you will, for Jove the son of Saturn
and Apollo have vouchsafed you victory; it is they who have vanquished
me so easily, and they who have stripped the armour from my shoulders;
had twenty such men as you attacked me, all of them would have
fallen before my spear. Fate and the son of Leto have overpowered
me, and among mortal men Euphorbus; you are yourself third only in the
killing of me. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart, you too
shall live but for a little season; death and the day of your doom are
close upon you, and they will lay you low by the hand of Achilles
son of Aeacus."
When he had thus spoken his eyes were closed in death, his soul left
his body and flitted down to the house of Hades, mourning its sad fate
and bidding farewell to the youth and vigor of its manhood. Dead
though he was, Hector still spoke to him saying, "Patroclus, why
should you thus foretell my doom? Who knows but Achilles, son of
lovely Thetis, may be smitten by my spear and die before me?"
As he spoke he drew the bronze spear from the wound, planting his
foot upon the body, which he thrust off and let lie on its back. He
then went spear in hand after Automedon, squire of the fleet
descendant of Aeacus, for he longed to lay him low, but the immortal
steeds which the gods had given as a rich gift to Peleus bore him
swiftly from the field.
Paradise Lost: Book 09
No more of talk where God or Angel guest
With Man, as with his friend, familiar us'd,
To sit indulgent, and with him partake
Rural repast; permitting him the while
Venial discourse unblam'd. I now must change
Those notes to tragick; foul distrust, and breach
Disloyal on the part of Man, revolt,
And disobedience: on the part of Heaven
Now alienated, distance and distaste,
Anger and just rebuke, and judgement given,
That brought into this world a world of woe,
Sin and her shadow Death, and Misery
Death's harbinger: Sad talk!yet argument
Not less but more heroick than the wrath
Of stern Achilles on his foe pursued
Thrice fugitive about Troy wall; or rage
Of Turnus for Lavinia disespous'd;
Or Neptune's ire, or Juno's, that so long
Perplexed the Greek, and Cytherea's son:
If answerable style I can obtain
Of my celestial patroness, who deigns
Her nightly visitation unimplor'd,
And dictates to me slumbering; or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated verse:
Since first this subject for heroick song
Pleas'd me long choosing, and beginning late;
Not sedulous by nature to indite
Wars, hitherto the only argument
Heroick deem'd chief mastery to dissect
With long and tedious havock fabled knights
In battles feign'd; the better fortitude
Of patience and heroick martyrdom
Unsung; or to describe races and games,
Or tilting furniture, imblazon'd shields,
Impresses quaint, caparisons and steeds,
Bases and tinsel trappings, gorgeous knights
At joust and tournament; then marshall'd feast
Serv'd up in hall with sewers and seneshals;
The skill of artifice or office mean,
Not that which justly gives heroick name
To person, or to poem. Me, of these
Nor skill'd nor studious, higher argument
Remains; sufficient of itself to raise
That name, unless an age too late, or cold
Climate, or years, damp my intended wing
Depress'd; and much they may, if all be mine,
Not hers, who brings it nightly to my ear.
The sun was sunk, and after him the star
Of Hesperus, whose office is to bring
Twilight upon the earth, short arbiter
"twixt day and night, and now from end to end
Night's hemisphere had veil'd the horizon round:
When satan, who late fled before the threats
Of Gabriel out of Eden, now improv'd
In meditated fraud and malice, bent
On Man's destruction, maugre what might hap
Of heavier on himself, fearless returned
From compassing the earth; cautious of day,
Since Uriel, regent of the sun, descried
His entrance, and foreworned the Cherubim
That kept their watch; thence full of anguish driven,
The space of seven continued nights he rode
With darkness; thrice the equinoctial line
He circled; four times crossed the car of night
From pole to pole, traversing each colure;
On the eighth returned; and, on the coast averse
From entrance or Cherubick watch, by stealth
Found unsuspected way. There was a place,
Now not, though sin, not time, first wrought the change,
Where Tigris, at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gulf shot under ground, till part
Rose up a fountain by the tree of life:
In with the river sunk, and with it rose
Satan, involved in rising mist; then sought
Where to lie hid; sea he had searched, and land,
From Eden over Pontus and the pool
Maeotis, up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as far antarctick; and in length,
West from Orontes to the ocean barred
At Darien ; thence to the land where flows
Ganges and Indus: Thus the orb he roamed
With narrow search; and with inspection deep
Considered every creature, which of all
Most opportune might serve his wiles; and found
The Serpent subtlest beast of all the field.
Him after long debate, irresolute
Of thoughts revolved, his final sentence chose
Fit vessel, fittest imp of fraud, in whom
To enter, and his dark suggestions hide
From sharpest sight: for, in the wily snake
Whatever sleights, none would suspicious mark,
As from his wit and native subtlety
Proceeding; which, in other beasts observed,
Doubt might beget of diabolick power
Active within, beyond the sense of brute.
Thus he resolved, but first from inward grief
His bursting passion into plaints thus poured.
More justly, seat worthier of Gods, as built
With second thoughts, reforming what was old!
O Earth, how like to Heaven, if not preferred
For what God, after better, worse would build?
Terrestrial Heaven, danced round by other Heavens
That shine, yet bear their bright officious lamps,
Light above light, for thee alone, as seems,
In thee concentring all their precious beams
Of sacred influence! As God in Heaven
Is center, yet extends to all; so thou,
Centring, receivest from all those orbs: in thee,
Not in themselves, all their known virtue appears
Productive in herb, plant, and nobler birth
Of creatures animate with gradual life
Of growth, sense, reason, all summed up in Man.
With what delight could I have walked thee round,
If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange
Of hill, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains,
Now land, now sea and shores with forest crowned,
Rocks, dens, and caves! But I in none of these
Find place or refuge; and the more I see
Pleasures about me, so much more I feel
Torment within me, as from the hateful siege
Of contraries: all good to me becomes
Bane, and in Heaven much worse would be my state.
But neither here seek I, no nor in Heaven
To dwell, unless by mastering Heaven's Supreme;
Nor hope to be myself less miserable
By what I seek, but others to make such
As I, though thereby worse to me redound:
For only in destroying I find ease
To my relentless thoughts; and, him destroyed,
Or won to what may work his utter loss,
For whom all this was made, all this will soon
Follow, as to him linked in weal or woe;
In woe then; that destruction wide may range:
To me shall be the glory sole among
The infernal Powers, in one day to have marred
What he, Almighty styled, six nights and days
Continued making; and who knows how long
Before had been contriving? though perhaps
Not longer than since I, in one night, freed
From servitude inglorious well nigh half
The angelick name, and thinner left the throng
Of his adorers: He, to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers thus impaired,
Whether such virtue spent of old now failed
More Angels to create, if they at least
Are his created, or, to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature formed of earth, and him endow,
Exalted from so base original,
With heavenly spoils, our spoils: What he decreed,
He effected; Man he made, and for him built
Magnificent this world, and earth his seat,
Him lord pronounced; and, O indignity!
Subjected to his service angel-wings,
And flaming ministers to watch and tend
Their earthly charge: Of these the vigilance
I dread; and, to elude, thus wrapt in mist
Of midnight vapour glide obscure, and pry
In every bush and brake, where hap may find
The serpent sleeping; in whose mazy folds
To hide me, and the dark intent I bring.
O foul descent! that I, who erst contended
With Gods to sit the highest, am now constrained
Into a beast; and, mixed with bestial slime,
This essence to incarnate and imbrute,
That to the highth of Deity aspired!
But what will not ambition and revenge
Descend to? Who aspires, must down as low
As high he soared; obnoxious, first or last,
To basest things. Revenge, at first though sweet,
Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils:
Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed,
Since higher I fall short, on him who next
Provokes my envy, this new favourite
Of Heaven, this man of clay, son of despite,
Whom, us the more to spite, his Maker raised
From dust: Spite then with spite is best repaid.
So saying, through each thicket dank or dry,
Like a black mist low-creeping, he held on
His midnight-search, where soonest he might find
The serpent; him fast-sleeping soon he found
In labyrinth of many a round self-rolled,
His head the midst, well stored with subtile wiles:
Not yet in horrid shade or dismal den,
Nor nocent yet; but, on the grassy herb,
Fearless unfeared he slept: in at his mouth
The Devil entered; and his brutal sense,
In heart or head, possessing, soon inspired
With act intelligential; but his sleep
Disturbed not, waiting close the approach of morn.
Now, when as sacred light began to dawn
In Eden on the humid flowers, that breathed
Their morning incense, when all things, that breathe,
From the Earth's great altar send up silent praise
To the Creator, and his nostrils fill
With grateful smell, forth came the human pair,
And joined their vocal worship to the quire
Of creatures wanting voice; that done, partake
The season prime for sweetest scents and airs:
Then commune, how that day they best may ply
Their growing work: for much their work out-grew
The hands' dispatch of two gardening so wide,
And Eve first to her husband thus began.
Adam, well may we labour still to dress
This garden, still to tend plant, herb, and flower,
Our pleasant task enjoined; but, till more hands
Aid us, the work under our labour grows,
Luxurious by restraint; what we by day
Lop overgrown, or prune, or prop, or bind,
One night or two with wanton growth derides
Tending to wild. Thou therefore now advise,
Or bear what to my mind first thoughts present:
Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind
The woodbine round this arbour, or direct
The clasping ivy where to climb; while I,
In yonder spring of roses intermixed
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon:
For, while so near each other thus all day
Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on; which intermits
Our day's work, brought to little, though begun
Early, and the hour of supper comes unearned?
To whom mild answer Adam thus returned.
Sole Eve, associate sole, to me beyond
Compare above all living creatures dear!
Well hast thou motioned, well thy thoughts employed,
How we might best fulfil the work which here
God hath assigned us; nor of me shalt pass
Unpraised: for nothing lovelier can be found
In woman, than to study houshold good,
And good works in her husband to promote.
Yet not so strictly hath our Lord imposed
Labour, as to debar us when we need
Refreshment, whether food, or talk between,
Food of the mind, or this sweet intercourse
Of looks and smiles; for smiles from reason flow,
To brute denied, and are of love the food;
Love, not the lowest end of human life.
For not to irksome toil, but to delight,
He made us, and delight to reason joined.
These paths and bowers doubt not but our joint hands
Will keep from wilderness with ease, as wide
As we need walk, till younger hands ere long
Assist us; But, if much converse perhaps
Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield:
For solitude sometimes is best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
Befall thee severed from me; for thou knowest
What hath been warned us, what malicious foe
Envying our happiness, and of his own
Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame
By sly assault; and somewhere nigh at hand
Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find
His wish and best advantage, us asunder;
Hopeless to circumvent us joined, where each
To other speedy aid might lend at need:
Whether his first design be to withdraw
Our fealty from God, or to disturb
Conjugal love, than which perhaps no bliss
Enjoyed by us excites his envy more;
Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
That gave thee being, still shades thee, and protects.
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.
To whom the virgin majesty of Eve,
As one who loves, and some unkindness meets,
With sweet austere composure thus replied.
Offspring of Heaven and Earth, and all Earth's Lord!
That such an enemy we have, who seeks
Our ruin, both by thee informed I learn,
And from the parting Angel over-heard,
As in a shady nook I stood behind,
Just then returned at shut of evening flowers.
But, that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt
To God or thee, because we have a foe
May tempt it, I expected not to hear.
His violence thou fearest not, being such
As we, not capable of death or pain,
Can either not receive, or can repel.
His fraud is then thy fear; which plain infers
Thy equal fear, that my firm faith and love
Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced;
Thoughts, which how found they harbour in thy breast,
Adam, mis-thought of her to thee so dear?
To whom with healing words Adam replied.
Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve!
For such thou art; from sin and blame entire:
Not diffident of thee do I dissuade
Thy absence from my sight, but to avoid
The attempt itself, intended by our foe.
For he who tempts, though in vain, at least asperses
The tempted with dishonour foul; supposed
Not incorruptible of faith, not proof
Against temptation: Thou thyself with scorn
And anger wouldst resent the offered wrong,
Though ineffectual found: misdeem not then,
If such affront I labour to avert
From thee alone, which on us both at once
The enemy, though bold, will hardly dare;
Or daring, first on me the assault shall light.
Nor thou his malice and false guile contemn;
Subtle he needs must be, who could seduce
Angels; nor think superfluous other's aid.
I, from the influence of thy looks, receive
Access in every virtue; in thy sight
More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were
Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on,
Shame to be overcome or over-reached,
Would utmost vigour raise, and raised unite.
Why shouldst not thou like sense within thee feel
When I am present, and thy trial choose
With me, best witness of thy virtue tried?
So spake domestick Adam in his care
And matrimonial love; but Eve, who thought
Less attributed to her faith sincere,
Thus her reply with accent sweet renewed.
If this be our condition, thus to dwell
In narrow circuit straitened by a foe,
Subtle or violent, we not endued
Single with like defence, wherever met;
How are we happy, still in fear of harm?
But harm precedes not sin: only our foe,
Tempting, affronts us with his foul esteem
Of our integrity: his foul esteem
Sticks no dishonour on our front, but turns
Foul on himself; then wherefore shunned or feared
By us? who rather double honour gain
From his surmise proved false; find peace within,
Favour from Heaven, our witness, from the event.
And what is faith, love, virtue, unassayed
Alone, without exteriour help sustained?
Let us not then suspect our happy state
Left so imperfect by the Maker wise,
As not secure to single or combined.
Frail is our happiness, if this be so,
And Eden were no Eden, thus exposed.
To whom thus Adam fervently replied.
O Woman, best are all things as the will
Of God ordained them: His creating hand
Nothing imperfect or deficient left
Of all that he created, much less Man,
Or aught that might his happy state secure,
Secure from outward force; within himself
The danger lies, yet lies within his power:
Against his will he can receive no harm.
But God left free the will; for what obeys
Reason, is free; and Reason he made right,
But bid her well be ware, and still erect;
Lest, by some fair-appearing good surprised,
She dictate false; and mis-inform the will
To do what God expressly hath forbid.
Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins,
That I should mind thee oft; and mind thou me.
Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve;
Since Reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the foe suborned,
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warned.
Seek not temptation then, which to avoid
Were better, and most likely if from me
Thou sever not: Trial will come unsought.
Wouldst thou approve thy constancy, approve
First thy obedience; the other who can know,
Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?
But, if thou think, trial unsought may find
Us both securer than thus warned thou seemest,
Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more;
Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue; summon all!
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.
So spake the patriarch of mankind; but Eve
Persisted; yet submiss, though last, replied.
With thy permission then, and thus forewarned
Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words
Touched only; that our trial, when least sought,
May find us both perhaps far less prepared,
The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.
Thus saying, from her husband's hand her hand
Soft she withdrew; and, like a Wood-Nymph light,
Oread or Dryad, or of Delia's train,
Betook her to the groves; but Delia's self
In gait surpassed, and Goddess-like deport,
Though not as she with bow and quiver armed,
But with such gardening tools as Art yet rude,
Guiltless of fire, had formed, or Angels brought.
To Pales, or Pomona, thus adorned,
Likest she seemed, Pomona when she fled
Vertumnus, or to Ceres in her prime,
Yet virgin of Proserpina from Jove.
Her long with ardent look his eye pursued
Delighted, but desiring more her stay.
Oft he to her his charge of quick return
Repeated; she to him as oft engaged
To be returned by noon amid the bower,
And all things in best order to invite
Noontide repast, or afternoon's repose.
O much deceived, much failing, hapless Eve,
Of thy presumed return! event perverse!
Thou never from that hour in Paradise
Foundst either sweet repast, or sound repose;
Such ambush, hid among sweet flowers and shades,
Waited with hellish rancour imminent
To intercept thy way, or send thee back
Despoiled of innocence, of faith, of bliss!
For now, and since first break of dawn, the Fiend,
Mere serpent in appearance, forth was come;
And on his quest, where likeliest he might find
The only two of mankind, but in them
The whole included race, his purposed prey.
In bower and field he sought, where any tuft
Of grove or garden-plot more pleasant lay,
Their tendance, or plantation for delight;
By fountain or by shady rivulet
He sought them both, but wished his hap might find
Eve separate; he wished, but not with hope
Of what so seldom chanced; when to his wish,
Beyond his hope, Eve separate he spies,
Veiled in a cloud of fragrance, where she stood,
Half spied, so thick the roses blushing round
About her glowed, oft stooping to support
Each flower of slender stalk, whose head, though gay
Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,
Hung drooping unsustained; them she upstays
Gently with myrtle band, mindless the while
Herself, though fairest unsupported flower,
From her best prop so far, and storm so nigh.
Nearer he drew, and many a walk traversed
Of stateliest covert, cedar, pine, or palm;
Then voluble and bold, now hid, now seen,
Among thick-woven arborets, and flowers
Imbordered on each bank, the hand of Eve:
Spot more delicious than those gardens feigned
Or of revived Adonis, or renowned
Alcinous, host of old Laertes' son;
Or that, not mystick, where the sapient king
Held dalliance with his fair Egyptian spouse.
Much he the place admired, the person more.
As one who long in populous city pent,
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Forth issuing on a summer's morn, to breathe
Among the pleasant villages and farms
Adjoined, from each thing met conceives delight;
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine,
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound;
If chance, with nymph-like step, fair virgin pass,
What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more;
She most, and in her look sums all delight:
Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold
This flowery plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus early, thus alone: Her heavenly form
Angelick, but more soft, and feminine,
Her graceful innocence, her every air
Of gesture, or least action, overawed
His malice, and with rapine sweet bereaved
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought:
That space the Evil-one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remained
Stupidly good; of enmity disarmed,
Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge:
But the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure, not for him ordained: then soon
Fierce hate he recollects, and all his thoughts
Of mischief, gratulating, thus excites.
Thoughts, whither have ye led me! with what sweet
Compulsion thus transported, to forget
What hither brought us! hate, not love;nor hope
Of Paradise for Hell, hope here to taste
Of pleasure; but all pleasure to destroy,
Save what is in destroying; other joy
To me is lost. Then, let me not let pass
Occasion which now smiles; behold alone
The woman, opportune to all attempts,
Her husband, for I view far round, not nigh,
Whose higher intellectual more I shun,
And strength, of courage haughty, and of limb
Heroick built, though of terrestrial mould;
Foe not informidable! exempt from wound,
I not; so much hath Hell debased, and pain
Enfeebled me, to what I was in Heaven.
She fair, divinely fair, fit love for Gods!
Not terrible, though terrour be in love
And beauty, not approached by stronger hate,
Hate stronger, under show of love well feigned;
The way which to her ruin now I tend.
So spake the enemy of mankind, enclosed
In serpent, inmate bad! and toward Eve
Addressed his way: not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since; but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape
And lovely; never since of serpent-kind
Lovelier, not those that in Illyria changed,
Hermione and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus; nor to which transformed
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline, was seen;
He with Olympias; this with her who bore
Scipio, the highth of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but feared
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a ship, by skilful steersmen wrought
Nigh river's mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail:
So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curled many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her eye; she, busied, heard the sound
Of rusling leaves, but minded not, as used
To such disport before her through the field,
From every beast; more duteous at her call,
Than at Circean call the herd disguised.
He, bolder now, uncalled before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bowed
His turret crest, and sleek enamelled neck,
Fawning; and licked the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turned at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad
Of her attention gained, with serpent-tongue
Organick, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began.
Wonder not, sovran Mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole wonder! much less arm
Thy looks, the Heaven of mildness, with disdain,
Displeased that I approach thee thus, and gaze
Insatiate; I thus single;nor have feared
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retired.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker fair,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy celestial beauty adore
With ravishment beheld! there best beheld,
Where universally admired; but here
In this enclosure wild, these beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discern
Half what in thee is fair, one man except,
Who sees thee? and what is one? who should be seen
A Goddess among Gods, adored and served
By Angels numberless, thy daily train.
So glozed the Tempter, and his proem tuned:
Into the heart of Eve his words made way,
Though at the voice much marvelling; at length,
Not unamazed, she thus in answer spake.
What may this mean? language of man pronounced
By tongue of brute, and human sense expressed?
The first, at least, of these I thought denied
To beasts; whom God, on their creation-day,
Created mute to all articulate sound:
The latter I demur; for in their looks
Much reason, and in their actions, oft appears.
Thee, Serpent, subtlest beast of all the field
I knew, but not with human voice endued;
Redouble then this miracle, and say,
How camest thou speakable of mute, and how
To me so friendly grown above the rest
Of brutal kind, that daily are in sight?
Say, for such wonder claims attention due.
To whom the guileful Tempter thus replied.
Empress of this fair world, resplendent Eve!
Easy to me it is to tell thee all
What thou commandest; and right thou shouldst be obeyed:
I was at first as other beasts that graze
The trodden herb, of abject thoughts and low,
As was my food; nor aught but food discerned
Or sex, and apprehended nothing high:
Till, on a day roving the field, I chanced
A goodly tree far distant to behold
Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,
Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at even,
Unsucked of lamb or kid, that tend their play.
To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolved
Not to defer; hunger and thirst at once,
Powerful persuaders, quickened at the scent
Of that alluring fruit, urged me so keen.
About the mossy trunk I wound me soon;
For, high from ground, the branches would require
Thy utmost reach or Adam's: Round the tree
All other beasts that saw, with like desire
Longing and envying stood, but could not reach.
Amid the tree now got, where plenty hung
Tempting so nigh, to pluck and eat my fill
I spared not; for, such pleasure till that hour,
At feed or fountain, never had I found.
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Strange alteration in me, to degree
Of reason in my inward powers; and speech
Wanted not long; though to this shape retained.
Thenceforth to speculations high or deep
I turned my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Considered all things visible in Heaven,
Or Earth, or Middle; all things fair and good:
But all that fair and good in thy divine
Semblance, and in thy beauty's heavenly ray,
United I beheld; no fair to thine
Equivalent or second! which compelled
Me thus, though importune perhaps, to come
And gaze, and worship thee of right declared
Sovran of creatures, universal Dame!
So talked the spirited sly Snake; and Eve,
Yet more amazed, unwary thus replied.
Serpent, thy overpraising leaves in doubt
The virtue of that fruit, in thee first proved:
But say, where grows the tree? from hence how far?
For many are the trees of God that grow
In Paradise, and various, yet unknown
To us; in such abundance lies our choice,
As leaves a greater store of fruit untouched,
Still hanging incorruptible, till men
Grow up to their provision, and more hands
Help to disburden Nature of her birth.
To whom the wily Adder, blithe and glad.
Empress, the way is ready, and not long;
Beyond a row of myrtles, on a flat,
Fast by a fountain, one small thicket past
Of blowing myrrh and balm: if thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon
Lead then, said Eve. He, leading, swiftly rolled
In tangles, and made intricate seem straight,
To mischief swift. Hope elevates, and joy
Brightens his crest; as when a wandering fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Condenses, and the cold environs round,
Kindled through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil Spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Misleads the amazed night-wanderer from his way
To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool;
There swallowed up and lost, from succour far.
So glistered the dire Snake, and into fraud
Led Eve, our credulous mother, to the tree
Of prohibition, root of all our woe;
Which when she saw, thus to her guide she spake.
Serpent, we might have spared our coming hither,
Fruitless to me, though fruit be here to excess,
The credit of whose virtue rest with thee;
Wonderous indeed, if cause of such effects.
But of this tree we may not taste nor touch;
God so commanded, and left that command
Sole daughter of his voice; the rest, we live
Law to ourselves; our reason is our law.
To whom the Tempter guilefully replied.
Indeed! hath God then said that of the fruit
Of all these garden-trees ye shall not eat,
Yet Lords declared of all in earth or air$?
To whom thus Eve, yet sinless. Of the fruit
Of each tree in the garden we may eat;
But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst
The garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
She scarce had said, though brief, when now more bold
The Tempter, but with show of zeal and love
To Man, and indignation at his wrong,
New part puts on; and, as to passion moved,
Fluctuates disturbed, yet comely and in act
Raised, as of some great matter to begin.
As when of old some orator renowned,
In Athens or free Rome, where eloquence
Flourished, since mute! to some great cause addressed,
Stood in himself collected; while each part,
Motion, each act, won audience ere the tongue;
Sometimes in highth began, as no delay
Of preface brooking, through his zeal of right:
So standing, moving, or to highth up grown,
The Tempter, all impassioned, thus began.
O sacred, wise, and wisdom-giving Plant,
Mother of science! now I feel thy power
Within me clear; not only to discern
Things in their causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest agents, deemed however wise.
Queen of this universe! do not believe
Those rigid threats of death: ye shall not die:
How should you? by the fruit? it gives you life
To knowledge; by the threatener? look on me,
Me, who have touched and tasted; yet both live,
And life more perfect have attained than Fate
Meant me, by venturing higher than my lot.
Shall that be shut to Man, which to the Beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty trespass? and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing death be,
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of good and evil;
Of good, how just? of evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
Not just, not God; not feared then, nor obeyed:
Your fear itself of death removes the fear.
Why then was this forbid? Why, but to awe;
Why, but to keep ye low and ignorant,
His worshippers? He knows that in the day
Ye eat thereof, your eyes that seem so clear,
Yet are but dim, shall perfectly be then
Opened and cleared, and ye shall be as Gods,
Knowing both good and evil, as they know.
That ye shall be as Gods, since I as Man,
Internal Man, is but proportion meet;
I, of brute, human; ye, of human, Gods.
So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off
Human, to put on Gods; death to be wished,
Though threatened, which no worse than this can bring.
And what are Gods, that Man may not become
As they, participating God-like food?
The Gods are first, and that advantage use
On our belief, that all from them proceeds:
I question it; for this fair earth I see,
Warmed by the sun, producing every kind;
Them, nothing: if they all things, who enclosed
Knowledge of good and evil in this tree,
That whoso eats thereof, forthwith attains
Wisdom without their leave? and wherein lies
The offence, that Man should thus attain to know?
What can your knowledge hurt him, or this tree
Impart against his will, if all be his?
Or is it envy? and can envy dwell
In heavenly breasts? These, these, and many more
Causes import your need of this fair fruit.
Goddess humane, reach then, and freely taste!
He ended; and his words, replete with guile,
Into her heart too easy entrance won:
Fixed on the fruit she gazed, which to behold
Might tempt alone; and in her ears the sound
Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned
With reason, to her seeming, and with truth:
Mean while the hour of noon drew on, and waked
An eager appetite, raised by the smell
So savoury of that fruit, which with desire,
Inclinable now grown to touch or taste,
Solicited her longing eye; yet first
Pausing a while, thus to herself she mused.
Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired;
Whose taste, too long forborn, at first assay
Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise:
Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,
Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree
Of knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil;
Forbids us then to taste! but his forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want:
For good unknown sure is not had; or, had
And yet unknown, is as not had at all.
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise?
Such prohibitions bind not. But, if death
Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
Our inward freedom? In the day we eat
Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die!
How dies the Serpent? he hath eaten and lives,
And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
Irrational till then. For us alone
Was death invented? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?
For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather, what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: What hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat!
Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost. Back to the thicket slunk
The guilty Serpent; and well might;for Eve,
Intent now wholly on her taste, nought else
Regarded; such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; not was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death: Satiate at length,
And hightened as with wine, jocund and boon,
Thus to herself she pleasingly began.
O sovran, virtuous, precious of all trees
In Paradise! of operation blest
To sapience, hitherto obscured, infamed.
And thy fair fruit let hang, as to no end
Created; but henceforth my early care,
Not without song, each morning, and due praise,
Shall tend thee, and the fertile burden ease
Of thy full branches offered free to all;
Till, dieted by thee, I grow mature
In knowledge, as the Gods, who all things know;
Though others envy what they cannot give:
For, had the gift been theirs, it had not here
Thus grown. Experience, next, to thee I owe,
Best guide; not following thee, I had remained
In ignorance; thou openest wisdom's way,
And givest access, though secret she retire.
And I perhaps am secret: Heaven is high,
High, and remote to see from thence distinct
Each thing on Earth; and other care perhaps
May have diverted from continual watch
Our great Forbidder, safe with all his spies
About him. But to Adam in what sort
Shall I appear? shall I to him make known
As yet my change, and give him to partake
Full happiness with me, or rather not,
But keeps the odds of knowledge in my power
Without copartner? so to add what wants
In female sex, the more to draw his love,
And render me more equal; and perhaps,
A thing not undesirable, sometime
Superiour; for, inferiour, who is free
This may be well: But what if God have seen,
And death ensue? then I shall be no more!
And Adam, wedded to another Eve,
Shall live with her enjoying, I extinct;
A death to think! Confirmed then I resolve,
Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe:
So dear I love him, that with him all deaths
I could endure, without him live no life.
So saying, from the tree her step she turned;
But first low reverence done, as to the Power
That dwelt within, whose presence had infused
Into the plant sciential sap, derived
From nectar, drink of Gods. Adam the while,
Waiting desirous her return, had wove
Of choicest flowers a garland, to adorn
Her tresses, and her rural labours crown;
As reapers oft are wont their harvest-queen.
Great joy he promised to his thoughts, and new
Solace in her return, so long delayed:
Yet oft his heart, divine of something ill,
Misgave him; he the faltering measure felt;
And forth to meet her went, the way she took
That morn when first they parted: by the tree
Of knowledge he must pass; there he her met,
Scarce from the tree returning; in her hand
A bough of fairest fruit, that downy smiled,
New gathered, and ambrosial smell diffused.
To him she hasted; in her face excuse
Came prologue, and apology too prompt;
Which, with bland words at will, she thus addressed.
Hast thou not wondered, Adam, at my stay?
Thee I have missed, and thought it long, deprived
Thy presence; agony of love till now
Not felt, nor shall be twice; for never more
Mean I to try, what rash untried I sought,
The pain of absence from thy sight. But strange
Hath been the cause, and wonderful to hear:
This tree is not, as we are told, a tree
Of danger tasted, nor to evil unknown
Opening the way, but of divine effect
To open eyes, and make them Gods who taste;
And hath been tasted such: The serpent wise,
Or not restrained as we, or not obeying,
Hath eaten of the fruit; and is become,
Not dead, as we are threatened, but thenceforth
Endued with human voice and human sense,
Reasoning to admiration; and with me
Persuasively hath so prevailed, that I
Have also tasted, and have also found
The effects to correspond; opener mine eyes,
Dim erst, dilated spirits, ampler heart,
And growing up to Godhead; which for thee
Chiefly I sought, without thee can despise.
For bliss, as thou hast part, to me is bliss;
Tedious, unshared with thee, and odious soon.
Thou therefore also taste, that equal lot
May join us, equal joy, as equal love;
Lest, thou not tasting, different degree
Disjoin us, and I then too late renounce
Deity for thee, when Fate will not permit.
Thus Eve with countenance blithe her story told;
But in her cheek distemper flushing glowed.
On the other side Adam, soon as he heard
The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed,
Astonied stood and blank, while horrour chill
Ran through his veins, and all his joints relaxed;
From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve
Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed:
Speechless he stood and pale, till thus at length
First to himself he inward silence broke.
O fairest of Creation, last and best
Of all God's works, Creature in whom excelled
Whatever can to sight or thought be formed,
Holy, divine, good, amiable, or sweet!
How art thou lost! how on a sudden lost,
Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote!
Rather, how hast thou yielded to transgress
The strict forbiddance, how to violate
The sacred fruit forbidden! Some cursed fraud
Of enemy hath beguiled thee, yet unknown,
And me with thee hath ruined; for with thee
Certain my resolution is to die:
How can I live without thee! how forego
Thy sweet converse, and love so dearly joined,
To live again in these wild woods forlorn!
Should God create another Eve, and I
Another rib afford, yet loss of thee
Would never from my heart: no, no!I feel
The link of Nature draw me: flesh of flesh,
Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy state
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.
So having said, as one from sad dismay
Recomforted, and after thoughts disturbed
Submitting to what seemed remediless,
Thus in calm mood his words to Eve he turned.
Bold deed thou hast presumed, adventurous Eve,
And peril great provoked, who thus hast dared,
Had it been only coveting to eye
That sacred fruit, sacred to abstinence,
Much more to taste it under ban to touch.
But past who can recall, or done undo?
Not God Omnipotent, nor Fate; yet so
Perhaps thou shalt not die, perhaps the fact
Is not so heinous now, foretasted fruit,
Profaned first by the serpent, by him first
Made common, and unhallowed, ere our taste;
Nor yet on him found deadly; yet he lives;
Lives, as thou saidst, and gains to live, as Man,
Higher degree of life; inducement strong
To us, as likely tasting to attain
Proportional ascent; which cannot be
But to be Gods, or Angels, demi-Gods.
Nor can I think that God, Creator wise,
Though threatening, will in earnest so destroy
Us his prime creatures, dignified so high,
Set over all his works; which in our fall,
For us created, needs with us must fail,
Dependant made; so God shall uncreate,
Be frustrate, do, undo, and labour lose;
Not well conceived of God, who, though his power
Creation could repeat, yet would be loth
Us to abolish, lest the Adversary
Triumph, and say; "Fickle their state whom God
"Most favours; who can please him long? Me first
"He ruined, now Mankind; whom will he next?"
Matter of scorn, not to be given the Foe.
However I with thee have fixed my lot,
Certain to undergo like doom: If death
Consort with thee, death is to me as life;
So forcible within my heart I feel
The bond of Nature draw me to my own;
My own in thee, for what thou art is mine;
Our state cannot be severed; we are one,
One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself.
So Adam; and thus Eve to him replied.
O glorious trial of exceeding love,
Illustrious evidence, example high!
Engaging me to emulate; but, short
Of thy perfection, how shall I attain,
Adam, from whose dear side I boast me sprung,
And gladly of our union hear thee speak,
One heart, one soul in both; whereof good proof
This day affords, declaring thee resolved,
Rather than death, or aught than death more dread,
Shall separate us, linked in love so dear,
To undergo with me one guilt, one crime,
If any be, of tasting this fair fruit;
Whose virtue for of good still good proceeds,
Direct, or by occasion, hath presented
This happy trial of thy love, which else
So eminently never had been known?
Were it I thought death menaced would ensue
This my attempt, I would sustain alone
The worst, and not persuade thee, rather die
Deserted, than oblige thee with a fact
Pernicious to thy peace; chiefly assured
Remarkably so late of thy so true,
So faithful, love unequalled: but I feel
Far otherwise the event; not death, but life
Augmented, opened eyes, new hopes, new joys,
Taste so divine, that what of sweet before
Hath touched my sense, flat seems to this, and harsh.
On my experience, Adam, freely taste,
And fear of death deliver to the winds.
So saying, she embraced him, and for joy
Tenderly wept; much won, that he his love
Had so ennobled, as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.
In recompence for such compliance bad
Such recompence best merits from the bough
She gave him of that fair enticing fruit
With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat,
Against his better knowledge; not deceived,
But fondly overcome with female charm.
Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs; and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky loured; and, muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin
Original: while Adam took no thought,
Eating his fill; nor Eve to iterate
Her former trespass feared, the more to sooth
Him with her loved society; that now,
As with new wine intoxicated both,
They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel
Divinity within them breeding wings,
Wherewith to scorn the earth: But that false fruit
Far other operation first displayed,
Carnal desire inflaming; he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes; she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn:
Till Adam thus 'gan Eve to dalliance move.
Eve, now I see thou art exact of taste,
And elegant, of sapience no small part;
Since to each meaning savour we apply,
And palate call judicious; I the praise
Yield thee, so well this day thou hast purveyed.
Much pleasure we have lost, while we abstained
From this delightful fruit, nor known till now
True relish, tasting; if such pleasure be
In things to us forbidden, it might be wished,
For this one tree had been forbidden ten.
But come, so well refreshed, now let us play,
As meet is, after such delicious fare;
For never did thy beauty, since the day
I saw thee first and wedded thee, adorned
With all perfections, so inflame my sense
With ardour to enjoy thee, fairer now
Than ever; bounty of this virtuous tree!
So said he, and forbore not glance or toy
Of amorous intent; well understood
Of Eve, whose eye darted contagious fire.
Her hand he seised; and to a shady bank,
Thick over-head with verdant roof imbowered,
He led her nothing loth; flowers were the couch,
Pansies, and violets, and asphodel,
And hyacinth; Earth's freshest softest lap.
There they their fill of love and love's disport
Took largely, of their mutual guilt the seal,
The solace of their sin; till dewy sleep
Oppressed them, wearied with their amorous play,
Soon as the force of that fallacious fruit,
That with exhilarating vapour bland
About their spirits had played, and inmost powers
Made err, was now exhaled; and grosser sleep,
Bred of unkindly fumes, with conscious dreams
Incumbered, now had left them; up they rose
As from unrest; and, each the other viewing,
Soon found their eyes how opened, and their minds
How darkened; innocence, that as a veil
Had shadowed them from knowing ill, was gone;
Just confidence, and native righteousness,
And honour, from about them, naked left
To guilty Shame; he covered, but his robe
Uncovered more. So rose the Danite strong,
Herculean Samson, from the harlot-lap
Of Philistean Dalilah, and waked
Shorn of his strength. They destitute and bare
Of all their virtue: Silent, and in face
Confounded, long they sat, as strucken mute:
Till Adam, though not less than Eve abashed,
At length gave utterance to these words constrained.
O Eve, in evil hour thou didst give ear
To that false worm, of whomsoever taught
To counterfeit Man's voice; true in our fall,
False in our promised rising; since our eyes
Opened we find indeed, and find we know
Both good and evil; good lost, and evil got;
Bad fruit of knowledge, if this be to know;
Which leaves us naked thus, of honour void,
Of innocence, of faith, of purity,
Our wonted ornaments now soiled and stained,
And in our faces evident the signs
Of foul concupiscence; whence evil store;
Even shame, the last of evils; of the first
Be sure then.--How shall I behold the face
Henceforth of God or Angel, erst with joy
And rapture so oft beheld? Those heavenly shapes
Will dazzle now this earthly with their blaze
Insufferably bright. O! might I here
In solitude live savage; in some glade
Obscured, where highest woods, impenetrable
To star or sun-light, spread their umbrage broad
And brown as evening: Cover me, ye Pines!
Ye Cedars, with innumerable boughs
Hide me, where I may never see them more!--
But let us now, as in bad plight, devise
What best may for the present serve to hide
The parts of each from other, that seem most
To shame obnoxious, and unseemliest seen;
Some tree, whose broad smooth leaves together sewed,
And girded on our loins, may cover round
Those middle parts; that this new comer, Shame,
There sit not, and reproach us as unclean.
So counselled he, and both together went
Into the thickest wood; there soon they chose
The fig-tree; not that kind for fruit renowned,
But such as at this day, to Indians known,
In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a pillared shade
High over-arched, and echoing walks between:
There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
At loop-holes cut through thickest shade: Those leaves
They gathered, broad as Amazonian targe;
And, with what skill they had, together sewed,
To gird their waist; vain covering, if to hide
Their guilt and dreaded shame! O, how unlike
To that first naked glory! Such of late
Columbus found the American, so girt
With feathered cincture; naked else, and wild
Among the trees on isles and woody shores.
Thus fenced, and, as they thought, their shame in part
Covered, but not at rest or ease of mind,
They sat them down to weep; nor only tears
Rained at their eyes, but high winds worse within
Began to rise, high passions, anger, hate,
Mistrust, suspicion, discord; and shook sore
Their inward state of mind, calm region once
And full of peace, now tost and turbulent:
For Understanding ruled not, and the Will
Heard not her lore; both in subjection now
To sensual Appetite, who from beneath
Usurping over sovran Reason claimed
Superiour sway: From thus distempered breast,
Adam, estranged in look and altered style,
Speech intermitted thus to Eve renewed.
Would thou hadst hearkened to my words, and staid
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange
Desire of wandering, this unhappy morn,
I know not whence possessed thee; we had then
Remained still happy; not, as now, despoiled
Of all our good; shamed, naked, miserable!
Let none henceforth seek needless cause to approve
The faith they owe; when earnestly they seek
Such proof, conclude, they then begin to fail.
To whom, soon moved with touch of blame, thus Eve.
What words have passed thy lips, Adam severe!
Imputest thou that to my default, or will
Of wandering, as thou callest it, which who knows
But might as ill have happened thou being by,
Or to thyself perhaps? Hadst thou been there,
Or here the attempt, thou couldst not have discerned
Fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake;
No ground of enmity between us known,
Why he should mean me ill, or seek to harm.
Was I to have never parted from thy side?
As good have grown there still a lifeless rib.
Being as I am, why didst not thou, the head,
Command me absolutely not to go,
Going into such danger, as thou saidst?
Too facile then, thou didst not much gainsay;
Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss.
Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent,
Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me.
To whom, then first incensed, Adam replied.
Is this the love, is this the recompence
Of mine to thee, ingrateful Eve! expressed
Immutable, when thou wert lost, not I;
Who might have lived, and joyed immortal bliss,
Yet willingly chose rather death with thee?
And am I now upbraided as the cause
Of thy transgressing? Not enough severe,
It seems, in thy restraint: What could I more
I warned thee, I admonished thee, foretold
The danger, and the lurking enemy
That lay in wait; beyond this, had been force;
And force upon free will hath here no place.
But confidence then bore thee on; secure
Either to meet no danger, or to find
Matter of glorious trial; and perhaps
I also erred, in overmuch admiring
What seemed in thee so perfect, that I thought
No evil durst attempt thee; but I rue
The errour now, which is become my crime,
And thou the accuser. Thus it shall befall
Him, who, to worth in women overtrusting,
Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook;
And, left to herself, if evil thence ensue,
She first his weak indulgence will accuse.
Thus they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning;
And of their vain contest appeared no end.
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
I am just seventeen years and five months old,
And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
'T is writ so in the church's register,
Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
At length, so many names for one poor child,
—Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
Also 't is writ that I was married there
Four years ago: and they will add, I hope,
When they insert my death, a word or two,—
Omitting all about the mode of death,—
This, in its place, this which one cares to know,
That I had been a mother of a son
Exactly two weeks. It will be through grace
O' the Curate, not through any claim I have;
Because the boy was born at, so baptized
Close to, the Villa, in the proper church:
A pretty church, I say no word against,
Yet stranger-like,—while this Lorenzo seems
My own particular place, I always say.
I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high
As the bed here, what the marble lion meant,
With half his body rushing from the wall,
Eating the figure of a prostrate man—
(To the right, it is, of entry by the door)
An ominous sign to one baptized like me,
Married, and to be buried there, I hope.
And they should add, to have my life complete,
He is a boy and Gaetan by name—
Gaetano, for a reason,—if the friar
Don Celestine will ask this grace for me
Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was
Baptized me: he remembers my whole life
As I do his grey hair.
All these few things
I know are true,—will you remember them?
Because time flies. The surgeon cared for me,
To count my wounds,—twenty-two dagger-wounds,
Five deadly, but I do not suffer much—
Or too much pain,—and am to die to-night.
Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
—Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—
The country-woman, used to nursing babes,
Said "Why take on so? where is the great loss?
"These next three weeks he will but sleep and feed,
"Only begin to smile at the month's end;
"He would not know you, if you kept him here,
"Sooner than that; so, spend three merry weeks
"Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout,
"And then I bring him back to be your own,
"And both of you may steal to—we know where!"
The month—there wants of it two weeks this day!
Still, I half fancied when I heard the knock
At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove she—
Come to say "Since he smiles before the time,
"Why should I cheat you out of one good hour?
"Back I have brought him; speak to him and judge!"
Now I shall never see him; what is worse,
When he grows up and gets to be my age,
He will seem hardly more than a great boy;
And if he asks "What was my mother like?"
People may answer "Like girls of seventeen"—
And how can he but think of this and that,
Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush
When he regards them as such boys may do?
Therefore I wish someone will please to say
I looked already old though I was young;
Do I not … say, if you are by to speak …
Look nearer twenty? No more like, at least,
Girls who look arch or redden when boys laugh,
Than the poor Virgin that I used to know
At our street-corner in a lonely niche,—
The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke off,—
Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the more:
She, not the gay ones, always got my rose.
How happy those are who know how to write!
Such could write what their son should read in time,
Had they a whole day to live out like me.
Also my name is not a common name,
"Pompilia," and may help to keep apart
A little the thing I am from what girls are.
But then how far away, how hard to find
Will anything about me have become,
Even if the boy bethink himself and ask!
No father that he ever knew at all,
Nor ever had—no, never had, I say!
That is the truth,—nor any mother left,
Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
Fit for such memory as might assist:
As good to as no family, no name,
Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers,
Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems
They must not be my parents any more.
That is why something put it in my head
To call the boy "Gaetano"—no old name
For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky
And took a new saint to begin anew.
One who has only been made saint—how long?
Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps,
To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
Tired out by this time,—see my own five saints!
On second thoughts, I hope he will regard
The history of me as what someone dreamed,
And get to disbelieve it at the last:
Since to myself it dwindles fast to that,
Sheer dreaming and impossibility,—
Just in four days too! All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman's in the world.
The reason must be, 't was by step and step
It got to grow so terrible and strange.
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarised with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
"Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,
"How comes that arm of yours about a wolf?
"And the soft length,—lies in and out your feet
"And laps you round the knee,—a snake it is!"
And so on.
Well, and they are right enough,
By the torch they hold up now: for first, observe,
I never had a father,—no, nor yet
A mother: my own boy can say at least
"I had a mother whom I kept two weeks!"
Not I, who little used to doubt … I doubt
Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?
They loved me always as I love my babe
(—Nearly so, that is—quite so could not be—)
Did for me all I meant to do for him,
Till one surprising day, three years ago,
They both declared, at Rome, before some judge
In some Court where the people flocked to hear,
That really I had never been their child,
Was a mere castaway, the careless crime
Of an unknown man, the crime and care too much
Of a woman known too well,—little to these,
Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and blood:
What then to Pietro and Violante, both
No more my relatives than you or you?
Nothing to them! You know what they declared.
So with my husband,—just such a surprise,
Such a mistake, in that relationship!
Everyone says that husbands love their wives,
Guard them and guide them, give them happiness;
'T is duty, law, pleasure, religion: well,
You see how much of this comes true in mine!
People indeed would fain have somehow proved
He was no husband: but he did not hear,
Or would not wait, and so has killed us all.
Then there is … only let me name one more!
There is the friend,—men will not ask about,
But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to,
And think my lover, most surprise of all!
Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest—love,
And love me! Well, yet people think he did.
I am married, he has taken priestly vows,
They know that, and yet go on, say, the same,
"Yes, how he loves you!" "That was love"—they say,
When anything is answered that they ask:
Or else "No wonder you love him"—they say.
Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely blame—
As if we neither of us lacked excuse,
And anyhow are punished to the full,
And downright love atones for everything!
Nay, I heard read out in the public Court
Before the judge, in presence of my friends,
Letters't was said the priest had sent to me,
And other letters sent him by myself,
We being lovers!
Listen what this is like!
When I was a mere child, my mother … that's
Violante, you must let me call her so
Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the word …
She brought a neighbour's child of my own age
To play with me of rainy afternoons;
And, since there hung a tapestry on the wall,
We two agreed to find each other out
Among the figures. "Tisbe, that is you,
"With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in hand,
"Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf
"Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back:
"Call off your hound and leave the stag alone!"
"—And there are you, Pompilia, such green leaves
"Flourishing out of your five finger-ends,
"And all the rest of you so brown and rough:
"Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?"
You know the figures never were ourselves
Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all my life,—
As well what was, as what, like this, was not,—
Looks old, fantastic and impossible:
I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
—Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
Something began for once that would not end,
Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
For evermore, eternally quite mine.
Well, so he is,—but yet they bore him off,
The third day, lest my husband should lay traps
And catch him, and by means of him catch me.
Since they have saved him so, it was well done:
Yet thence comes such confusion of what was
With what will be,—that late seems long ago,
And, what years should bring round, already come,
Till even he withdraws into a dream
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great,
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors me,
Frowns with the others "Poor imprudent child!
"Why did you venture out of the safe street?
"Why go so far from help to that lone house?
"Why open at the whisper and the knock?"
Six days ago when it was New Year's-day,
We bent above the fire and talked of him,
What he should do when he was grown and great.
Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm
I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair
And fireside,—laughed, as I lay safe at last,
"Pompilia's march from bed to board is made,
"Pompilia back again and with a babe,
"Shall one day lend his arm and help her walk!"
Then we all wished each other more New Years.
Pietro began to scheme—"Our cause is gained;
"The law is stronger than a wicked man:
"Let him henceforth go his way, leave us ours!
"We will avoid the city, tempt no more
"The greedy ones by feasting and parade,—
"Live at the other villa, we know where,
"Still farther off, and we can watch the babe
"Grow fast in the good air; and wood is cheap
"And wine sincere outside the city gate.
"I still have two or three old friends will grope
"Their way along the mere half-mile of road,
"With staff and lantern on a moonless night
"When one needs talk: they'll find me, never fear,
"And I'll find them a flask of the old sort yet!"
Violante said "You chatter like a crow:
"Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and shall to bed:
"Do not too much the first day,—somewhat more
"To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape
"And hood and coat! I have spun wool enough."
Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!
And, next day, about noon, out Pietro went—
He was so happy and would talk so much,
Until Violante pushed and laughed him forth
Sight-seeing in the cold,—"So much to see
"I' the churches! Swathe your throat three times!" she cried,
"And, above all, beware the slippery ways,
"And bring us all the news by supper-time!"
He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and hat,
Powdered so thick with snow it made us laugh,
Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the hearth,
And bade Violante treat us to a flask,
Because he had obeyed her faithfully,
Gone sight-see through the seven, and found no church
To his mind like San Giovanni—"There's the fold,
"And all the sheep together, big as cats!
"And such a shepherd, half the size of life,
"Starts up and hears the angel"—when, at the door,
A tap: we started up: you know the rest.
Pietro at least had done no harm, I know;
Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes
Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred—
Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherwise?—
In telling that first falsehood, buying me
From my poor faulty mother at a price,
To pass off upon Pietro as his child.
If one should take my babe, give him a name,
Say he was not Gaetano and my own,
But that some other woman made his mouth
And hands and feet,—how very false were that!
No good could come of that; and all harm did.
Yet if a stranger were to represent
"Needs must you either give your babe to me
"And let me call him mine for evermore,
"Or let your husband get him"—ah, my God,
That were a trial I refuse to face!
Well, just so here: it proved wrong but seemed right
To poor Violante—for there lay, she said,
My poor real dying mother in her rags,
Who put me from her with the life and all,
Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once,
To die the easier by what price I fetched—
Also (I hope) because I should be spared
Sorrow and sin,—why may not that have helped?
My father,—he was no one, any one,—
The worse, the likelier,—call him—he who came,
Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way,
And left no trace to track by; there remained
Nothing but me, the unnecessary life,
To catch up or let fall,—and yet a thing
She could make happy, be made happy with,
This poor Violante,—who would frown thereat?
Well, God, you see! God plants us where we grow.
It is not that because a bud is born
At a wild briar's end, full i' the wild beast's way,
We ought to pluck and put it out of reach
On the oak-tree top,—say "There the bud belongs!"
She thought, moreover, real lies were lies told
For harm's sake; whereas this had good at heart,
Good for my mother, good for me, and good
For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,
And needed one to make his life of use,
Receive his house and land when he should die.
Wrong, wrong and always wrong! how plainly wrong:
For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults do,
All the same at her heart: this falsehood hatched,
She could not let it go nor keep it fast.
She told me so,—the first time I was found
Locked in her arms once more after the pain,
When the nuns let me leave them and go home,
And both of us cried all the cares away,—
This it was set her on to make amends,
This brought about the marriage—simply this!
Do let me speak for her you blame so much!
When Paul, my husband's brother, found me out,
Heard there was wealth for who should marry me,
So, came and made a speech to ask my hand
For Guido,—she, instead of piercing straight
Through the pretence to the ignoble truth,
Fancied she saw God's very finger point,
Designate just the time for planting me
(The wild-briar slip she plucked to love and wear)
In soil where I could strike real root, and grow,
And get to be the thing I called myself:
For, wife and husband are one flesh, God says,
And I, whose parents seemed such and were none,
Should in a husband have a husband now,
Find nothing, this time, but was what it seemed,
—All truth and no confusion any more.
I know she meant all good to me, all pain
To herself,—since how could it be aught but pain,
To give me up, so, from her very breast,
The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all those years,
She had got used to feel for and find fixed?
She meant well: has it been so ill i' the main?
That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge
Of what has been the ill or well of life,
The day that one is dying,—sorrows change
Into not altogether sorrow-like;
I do see strangeness but scarce misery,
Now it is over, and no danger more.
My child is safe; there seems not so much pain.
It comes, most like, that I am just absolved,
Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed fair,—
One cannot both have and not have, you know,—
Being right now, I am happy and colour things.
Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all
Softened and bettered: so with other sights:
To me at least was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
For past is past.
There was a fancy came,
When somewhere, in the journey with my friend,
We stepped into a hovel to get food;
And there began a yelp here, a bark there,—
Misunderstanding creatures that were wroth
And vexed themselves and us till we retired.
The hovel is life: no matter what dogs bit
Or cats scratched in the hovel I break from,
All outside is lone field, moon and such peace—
Flowing in, filling up as with a sea
Whereon comes Someone, walks fast on the white,
Jesus Christ's self, Don Celestine declares,
To meet me and calm all things back again.
Beside, up to my marriage, thirteen years
Were, each day, happy as the day was long:
This may have made the change too terrible.
I know that when Violante told me first
The cavalier—she meant to bring next morn,
Whom I must also let take, kiss my hand—
Would be at San Lorenzo the same eve
And marry me,—which over, we should go
Home both of us without him as before,
And, till she bade speak, I must hold my tongue,
Such being the correct way with girl-brides,
From whom one word would make a father blush,—
I know, I say, that when she told me this,
—Well, I no more saw sense in what she said
Than a lamb does in people clipping wool;
Only lay down and let myself be clipped.
And when next day the cavalier who came—
(Tisbe had told me that the slim young man
With wings at head, and wings at feet, and sword
Threatening a monster, in our tapestry,
Would eat a girl else,—was a cavalier)
When he proved Guido Franceschini,—old
And nothing like so tall as I myself
Hook-nosed and yellow in a bush of beard,
Much like a thing I saw on a boy's wrist,
He called an owl and used for catching birds,—
And when he took my hand and made a smile—
Why, the uncomfortableness of it all
Seemed hardly more important in the case
Than,—when one gives you, say, a coin to spend,—
Its newness or its oldness; if the piece
Weigh properly and buy you what you wish,
No matter whether you get grime or glare!
Men take the coin, return you grapes and figs.
Here, marriage was the coin, a dirty piece
Would purchase me the praise of those I loved:
About what else should I concern myself?
So, hardly knowing what a husband meant,
I supposed this or any man would serve,
No whit the worse for being so uncouth:
For I was ill once and a doctor came
With a great ugly hat, no plume thereto,
Black jerkin and black buckles and black sword,
And white sharp beard over the ruff in front,
And oh so lean, so sour-faced and austere!—
Who felt my pulse, made me put out my tongue,
Then oped a phial, dripped a drop or two
Of a black bitter something,—I was cured!
What mattered the fierce beard or the grim face?
It was the physic beautified the man,
Master Malpichi,—never met his match
In Rome, they said,—so ugly all the same!
However, I was hurried through a storm,
Next dark eve of December's deadest day—
How it rained!—through our street and the Lion's-mouth
And the bit of Corso,—cloaked round, covered close,
I was like something strange or contraband,—
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
My mother keeping hold of me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend,
But one with mischief-making mouth and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And then
I heard the heavy church-door lock out help
Behind us: for the customary warmth,
Two tapers shivered on the altar. "Quick—
"Lose no time!" cried the priest. And straightway down
From … what's behind the altar where he hid—
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all,
Stepped Guido, caught my hand, and there was I
O' the chancel, and the priest had opened book,
Read here and there, made me say that and this,
And after, told me I was now a wife,
Honoured indeed, since Christ thus weds the Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped aside and talked apart,
And I, silent and scared, got down again
And joined my mother who was weeping now.
Nobody seemed to mind us any more,
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had stopped,
All things looked better. At out own house-door,
Violante whispered "No one syllable
"To Pietro! Girl-brides never breathe a word!"
"—Well treated to a wetting, draggle-tails!"
Laughed Pietro as he opened—"Very near
"You made me brave the gutter's roaring sea
"To carry off from roost old dove and young,
"Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite!
"What do these priests mean, praying folk to death
"On stormy afternoons, with Christmas close
"To wash our sins off nor require the rain?"
Violante gave my hand a timely squeeze,
Madonna saved me from immodest speech,
I kissed him and was quiet, being a bride.
When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido—"Nor the Church sees Christ" thought I:
"Nothing is changed however, wine is wine
"And water only water in our house.
"Nor did I see that ugly doctor since
"That cure of the illness: just as I was cured,
"I am married,—neither scarecrow will return."
Three weeks, I chuckled—"How would Giulia stare,
"And Tecla smile and Tisbe laugh outright,
"Were it not impudent for brides to talk!"—
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-frame alone i' the chamber,—loud
Voices, two, three together, sobbings too,
And my name, "Guido," "Paolo," flung like stones
From each to the other! In I ran to see.
There stood the very Guido and the priest
With sly face,—formal but nowise afraid,—
While Pietro seemed all red and angry, scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words;
And this it was that made my mother sob,
As he reproached her—"You have murdered us,
"Me and yourself and this our child beside!"
Then Guido interposed "Murdered or not,
"Be it enough your child is now my wife!
"I claim and come to take her." Paul put in,
"Consider—kinsman, dare I term you so?—
"What is the good of your sagacity
"Except to counsel in a strait like this?
"I guarantee the parties man and wife
"Whether you like or loathe it, bless or ban.
"May spilt milk be put back within the bowl—
"The done thing, undone? You, it is, we look
"For counsel to, you fitliest will advise!
"Since milk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble good,
"Better we down on knees and scrub the floor,
"Than sigh, 'the waste would make a syllabub!'
"Help us so turn disaster to account,
"So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
"The bride with favour from the very first,
"Not begin marriage an embittered man!"
He smiled,—the game so wholly in his hands!
While fast and faster sobbed Violante—"Ay,
"All of us murdered, past averting now!
"O my sin, O my secret!" and such like.
Then I began to half surmise the truth;
Something had happened, low, mean, underhand,
False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed:
I was the chattel that had caused a crime.
I stood mute,—those who tangled must untie
The embroilment. Pietro cried "Withdraw, my child!
"She is not helpful to the sacrifice
"At this stage,—do you want the victim by
"While you discuss the value of her blood?
"For her sake, I consent to hear you talk:
"Go, child, and pray God help the innocent!
I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough,
But movement on her mouth for make-believe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down by her side and hear.
"You are too young and cannot understand,
"Nor did your father understand at first.
"I wished to benefit all three of us,
"And when he failed to take my meaning,—why,
"I tried to have my way at unaware—
"Obtained him the advantage he refused.
"As if I put before him wholesome food
"Instead of broken victual,—he finds change
"I' the viands, never cares to reason why,
"But falls to blaming me, would fling the plate
"From window, scandalize the neighbourhood,
"Even while he smacks his lips,—men's way, my child!
"But either you have prayed him unperverse
"Or I have talked him back into his wits:
"And Paolo was a help in time of need,—
"Guido, not much—my child, the way of men!
"A priest is more a woman than a man,
"And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short,
"Yes, he was wrong, your father sees and says;
"My scheme was worth attempting: and bears fruit,
"Gives you a husband and a noble name,
"A palace and no end of pleasant things.
"What do you care about a handsome youth?
"They are so volatile, and tease their wives!
"This is the kind of man to keep the house.
"We lose no daughter,—gain a son, that's all:
"For 't is arranged we never separate,
"Nor miss, in our grey time of life, the tints
"Of you that colour eve to match with morn.
"In good or ill, we share and share alike,
"And cast our lots into a common lap,
"And all three die together as we lived!
"Only, at Arezzo,—that's a Tuscan town,
"Not so large as this noisy Rome, no doubt,
"But older far and finer much, say folk,—
"In a great palace where you will be queen,
"Know the Archbishop and the Governor,
"And we see homage done you ere we die.
"Therefore, be good and pardon!"—"Pardon what?
"You know things, I am very ignorant:
"All is right if you only will not cry!"
And so an end! Because a blank begins
From when, at the word, she kissed me hard and hot,
And took me back to where my father leaned
Opposite Guido—who stood eyeing him,
As eyes the butcher the cast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles more,—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at whiles
With the pen-point as to punish triumph there,—
And said "Count Guido, take your lawful wife
"Until death part you!"
All since is one blank,
Over and ended; a terrific dream.
It is the good of dreams—so soon they go!
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, you may—
Cry "The dread thing will never from my thoughts!"
Still, a few daylight doses of plain life,
Cock-crow and sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkling, to be milked;
And when you rub your eyes awake and wide,
Where is the harm o' the horror? Gone! So here.
I know I wake,—but from what? Blank, I say!
This is the note of evil: for good lasts.
Even when Don Celestine bade "Search and find!
"For your soul's sake, remember what is past,
"The better to forgive it,"—all in vain!
What was fast getting indistinct before,
Vanished outright. By special grace perhaps,
Between that first calm and this last, four years
Vanish,—one quarter of my life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only—thence I hang,
And there I live,—the rest is death or dream,
All but those points of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once in the Square
O' the Spaniards, opposite the Spanish House:
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gave the creature room enough:
When she was settled there he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest,
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to God,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and save me—hand
Which proved to be my friend's hand: and,—blest bliss,—
That fancy which began so faint at first,
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my dark,
Which I perceive was promise of my child,
The light his unborn face sent long before,—
God's way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now of those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged "But remember more!
"Other men's faults may help me find your own.
"I need the cruelty exposed, explained,
"Or how can I advise you to forgive?"
He thought I could not properly forgive
Unless I ceased forgetting,—which is true:
For, bringing back reluctantly to mind
My husband's treatment of me,—by a light
That's later than my life-time, I review
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And have but little to forgive at last.
For now,—be fair and say,—is it not true
He was ill-used and cheated of his hope
To get enriched by marriage? Marriage gave
Me and no money, broke the compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietro and Violante to declare
They would not give me: so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself aggrieved,
Became unkind with me to punish them.
They said 't was he began deception first,
Nor, in one point whereto he pledged himself,
Kept promise: what of that, suppose it were?
Echoes die off, scarcely reverberate
For ever,—why should ill keep echoing ill,
And never let our ears have done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the violent way
To thwart him,—he must needs retaliate,—wrong,
Wrong, and all wrong,—better say, all blind!
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery: for his wife
Was bound in some sort to help somehow there.
It seems as if I might have interposed,
Blunted the edge of their resentment so,
Since he vexed me because they first vexed him;
"I will entreat them to desist, submit,
"Give him the money and be poor in peace,—
"Certainly not go tell the world: perhaps
"He will grow quiet with his gains."
Something to this effect and you do well!
But then you have to see first: I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy ways,
The indirect, the unapproved of God:
You cannot find their author's end and aim,
Not even to substitute your good for bad,
Your straight for the irregular; you stand
Stupefied, profitless, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind, anger him just twice
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, "You are a coquette,
"A lure-owl posturing to attract birds,
"You look love-lures at theatre and church,
"In walk, at window!"—that, I knew, was false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To drive me by such charge,—how could I know?
So, unaware, I only made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk,
Window, church, theatre, for good and all,
As if he had been in earnest: that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though I could read no word of,—he should cease
Writing,—nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease from so much as even pass the street
Whereon our house looked,—in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Guido's true intent;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoughtless man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more,
Till both of us were taken in a crime.
He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,
Simulate folly: but,—wrong or right, the wish,—
I failed to apprehend its drift. How plain
It follows,—if I fell into such fault,
He also may have overreached the mark,
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I' the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque intrigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselves,
Be other man and woman than we were!
Think it out, you who have the time! for me,—
I cannot say less; more I will not say.
Leave it to God to cover and undo!
Only, my dulness should not prove too much!
—Not prove that in a certain other point
Wherein my husband blamed me,—and you blame,
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head,—
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak!
Must I speak? I am blamed that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favour come.
That is true: I was firm, withstood, refused …
—Women as you are, how can I find the words?
I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul:
Till, when I sought help, the Archbishop smiled,
Inquiring into privacies of life,
—Said I was blameable—(he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed,—as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction "Since your husband bids,
"Swallow the burning coal he proffers you!"
But I did wrong, and he gave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Archbishop,—that, I know!—
Now I have got to die and see things clear.
Remember I was barely twelve years old—
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life still
Even at Arezzo, when I woke and found
First … but I need not think of that again—
Over and ended! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake,
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
"We have been man and wife six months almost:
"How long is this your comedy to last?
"Go this night to my chamber, not your own!"
At which word, I did rush—most true the charge—
And gain the Archbishop's house—he stands for God—
And fall upon my knees and clasp his feet,
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest:
"Place me within a convent," I implored—
"Let me henceforward lead the virgin life
"You praise in Her you bid me imitate!"
What did he answer? "Folly of ignorance!
"Know, daughter, circumstances make or mar
"Virginity,—'t is virtue or 't is vice.
"That which was glory in the Mother of God
"Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
"Created to be mother of mankind.
"Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
"'Be fruitful, multiply, replenish earth'—
"Pouted 'But I choose rather to remain
"'Single'—why, she had spared herself forthwith
"Further probation by the apple and snake,
"Been pushed straight out of Paradise! For see—
"If motherhood be qualified impure,
"I catch you making God command Eve sin!
"—A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
"I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued "'T was in your covenant!"
No! There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
"Because of our souls' yearning that we meet
"And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and mine
"Wear and impress, and make their visible selves,
"—All which means, for the love of you and me,
"Let us become one flesh, being one soul!"
He only stipulated for the wealth;
Honest so far. But when he spoke as plain—
Dreadfully honest also—"Since our souls
"Stand each from each, a whole world's width between,
"Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
"And rend and leave just fit for hell to burn!"—
Why, in God's name, for Guido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine,—I say,
I did resist; would I had overcome!
My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile;
—It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the world,
As though 't were nature frowning—"Here is Spring,
"The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall,
"The earth requires that warmth reach everywhere:
"What, must your patch of snow be saved forsooth
"Because you rather fancy snow than flowers?"
Something in this style he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
"This explains why you call your husband harsh,
"Harsh to you, harsh to whom you love. God's Bread!
"The poor Count has to manage a mere child
"Whose parents leave untaught the simplest things
"Their duty was and privilege to teach,—
"Good wives' instruction, gossips' lore: they laugh
"And leave the Count the task,—or leave it me!"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
"I am not ignorant,—know what I say,
"Declaring this is sought for hate, not love.
"Sir, you may hear things like almighty God.
"I tell you that my housemate, yes—the priest
"My husband's brother, Canon Girolamo—
"Has taught me what depraved and misnamed love
"Means, and what outward signs denote the sin,
"For he solicits me and says he loves,
"The idle young priest with nought else to do.
"My husband sees this, knows this, and lets be.
"Is it your counsel I bear this beside?"
"—More scandal, and against a priest this time!
"What, 't is the Canon now?"—less snappishly—
"Rise up, my child, for such a child you are,
"The rod were too advanced a punishment!
"Let's try the honeyed cake. A parable!
"'Without a parable spake He not to them.'
"There was a ripe round long black toothsome fruit,
"Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May:
"And, to the tree, said … either the spirit o' the fig,
"Or, if we bring in men, the gardener,
"Archbishop of the orchard—had I time
"To try o' the two which fits in best: indeed
"It might be the Creator's self, but then
"The tree should bear an apple, I suppose,—
"Well, anyhow, one with authority said
"'Ripe fig, burst skin, regale the fig-pecker—
"'The bird whereof thou art a perquisite!'
"'Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif fig,
"'I much prefer to keep my pulp myself:
"'He may go breakfastless and dinnerless,
"'Supperless of one crimson seed, for me!'
"So, back she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
"He flew off, left her,—did the natural lord,—
"And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
"Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck:
"Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite!
"The moral,—fools elude their proper lot,
"Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
"Therefore go home, embrace your husband quick!
"Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
"He will the sooner back to book again."
So, home I did go; so, the worst befell:
So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,
And hardly that, and certainly no more.
For, miserable consequence to me,
My husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,
His brother's boldness grew effrontery soon,
And my last stay and comfort in myself
Was forced from me: henceforth I looked to God
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the world.
God's glimmer, that came through the ruin-top,
Was witness why all lights were quenched inside:
Henceforth I asked God counsel, not mankind.
So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said—"No care to save appearance here!
"How cynic,—when, how wanton, were enough!"
—Adding, it all came of my mother's life—
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years,
At mercy of the hateful: every beast
O' the field was wont to break that fountain-fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now they cry "Out on her, who, plashy pool,
"Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
"To the daughter-stream where Guido dipt and drank!"
Well, since she had to bear this brand—let me!
The rather do I understand her now,
From my experience of what hate calls love,—
Much love might be in what their love called hate.
If she sold … what they call, sold … me her child—
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least might try be good and pure,
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she.
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of you,
When I mistrust who speaks even well of them?
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm,
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most,
Have meant to do most good—and feed your child
From bramble-bush, whom not one orchard-tree
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit fall?
This it was for you sacrificed your babe?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, loving it as you,
If … but that never could be asked of me!
There, enough! I have my support again,
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is,
Will be mine only. Him, by death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care,—
But not to any parent in the world,—
So to be safe: why is it we repine?
What guardianship were safer could we choose?
All human plans and projects come to nought:
My life, and what I know of other lives,
Prove that: no plan nor project! God shall care!
And now you are not tired? How patient then
All of you,—Oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am sure!
Four days ago, when I was sound and well
And like to live, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled "And what of him,
"Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown hides?
"There, there!—your lover, do we dream he was?
"A priest too—never were such naughtiness!
"Still, he thinks many a long think, never fear,
"After the shy pale lady,—lay so light
"For a moment in his arms, the lucky one!"
And so on: wherefore should I blame you much?
So we are made, such difference in minds,
Such difference too in eyes that see the minds!
That man, you misinterpret and misprise—
The glory of his nature, I had thought,
Shot itself out in white light, blazed the truth
Through every atom of his act with me:
Yet where I point you, through the crystal shrine,
Purity in quintessence, one dew-drop,
You all descry a spider in the midst.
One says "The head of it is plain to see,"
And one, "They are the feet by which I judge,"
All say, "Those films were spun by nothing else."
Then, I must lay my babe away with God,
Nor think of him again, for gratitude.
Yes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In one attempt more to disperse the stain,
The mist from other breath fond mouths have made,
About a lustrous and pellucid soul:
So that, when I am gone but sorrow stays,
And people need assurance in their doubt
If God yet have a servant, man a friend,
The weak a saviour and the vile a foe,—
Let him be present, by the name invoked,
Strength comes already with the utterance!
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow: for he lives and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me!
I had been miserable three drear years
In that dread palace and lay passive now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell: I was at a public play,
In the last days of Carnival last March,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know well.
My husband put me where I sat, in front;
Then crouched down, breathed cold through me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow,—none in front could see,—
I, it was, faced the stranger-throng beneath,
The crowd with upturned faces, eyes one stare,
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage,
Whereon two lovers sang and interchanged
"True life is only love, love only bliss:
"I love thee—thee I love!" then they embraced.
I looked thence to the ceiling and the walls,—
Over the crowd, those voices and those eyes,—
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words,—
Set me down there, a happy child again
Sure that to-morrow would be festa-day,
Hearing my parents praise past festas more,
And seeing they were old if I was young,
Yet wondering why they still would end discourse
With "We must soon go, you abide your time,
"And,—might we haply see the proper friend
"Throw his arm over you and make you safe!"
Sudden I saw him; into my lap there fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream
And brought me from the air and laid me low,
As ruined as the soaring bee that's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
By the dust-handful. There the comfits lay:
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Caponsacchi, looking up in turn.
Ere I could reason out why, I felt sure,
Whoever flung them, his was not the hand,—
Up rose the round face and good-natured grin
Of one who, in effect, had played the prank,
From covert close beside the earnest face,—
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband's cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave,
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.
There is a psalm Don Celestine recites,
"Had I a dove's wings, how I fain would flee!"
The psalm runs not "I hope, I pray for wings,"—
Not "If wings fall from heaven, I fix them fast,"—
Simply "How good it were to fly and rest,
"Have hope now, and one day expect content!
"How well to do what I shall never do!"
So I said "Had there been a man like that,
"To lift me with his strength out of all strife
"Into the calm, how I could fly and rest!
"I have a keeper in the garden here
"Whose sole employment is to strike me low
"If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
"Life means with me successful feigning death,
"Lying stone-like, eluding notice so,
"Forgoing here the turf and there the sky.
"Suppose that man had been instead of this!"
Presently Conti laughed into my ear,
—Had tripped up to the raised place where I sat—
"Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard!
"Because you must be hurt, to look austere
"As Caponsacchi yonder, my tall friend
"A-gazing now. Ah, Guido, you so close?
"Keep on your knees, do! Beg her to forgive!
"My cornet battered like a cannon-ball.
"Good-bye, I'm gone!"—nor waited the reply.
That night at supper, out my husband broke,
"Why was that throwing, that buffoonery?
"Do you think I am your dupe? What man would dare
"Throw comfits in a stranger lady's lap?
"'T was knowledge of you bred such insolence
"In Caponsacchi; he dared shoot the bolt,
"Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
"How could you see him this once and no more,
"When he is always haunting hereabout
"At the street-corner or the palace-side,
"Publishing my shame and your impudence?
"You are a wanton,—I a dupe, you think?
"O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick?"
Whereat he drew his sword and feigned a thrust.
All this, now,—being not so strange to me,
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear,—I bore, this time,
More quietly than woman should perhaps;
Repeated the mere truth and held my tongue.
Then he said, "Since you play the ignorant,
"I shall instruct you. This amour,—commenced
"Or finished or midway in act, all's one,—
"'T is the town-talk; so my revenge shall be.
"Does he presume because he is a priest?
"I warn him that the sword I wear shall pink
"His lily-scented cassock through and through,
"Next time I catch him underneath your eaves!"
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after all, not kept his promise. All
I said was "Let God save the innocent!
"Moreover death is far from a bad fate.
"I shall go pray for you and me, not him;
"And then I look to sleep, come death or, worse,
"Life." So, I slept.
There may have elapsed a week,
When Margherita,—called my waiting-maid,
Whom it is said my husband found too fair—
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Good cause for jealousy cures jealous fools,
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears,—
She said, "A week is gone; you comb your hair,
"Then go mope in a corner, cheek on palm,
"Till night comes round again,—so, waste a week
"As if your husband menaced you in sport.
"Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks?
"Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
"Who made and sang the rhymes about me once!
"For why? They sent him to the wars next day.
"Nor poisoned he the foreigner, my friend
"Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast,—
"The swarth skins of our city in dispute:
"For, though he paid me proper compliment,
"The Count well knew he was besotted with
"Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
"(As all the town knew save my foreigner)
"He found and wedded presently,—'Why need
"'Better revenge?'—the Count asked. But what's here?
"A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed,
"Yet must be dealt with! If the Count took fire
"For the poor pastime of a minute,—me—
"What were the conflagration for yourself,
"Countess and lady-wife and all the rest?
"The priest will perish; you will grieve too late:
"So shall the city-ladies' handsomest
"Frankest and liberalest gentleman
"Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
"Hanging's too good for. Is there no escape?
"Were it not simple Christian charity
"To warn the priest be on his guard,—save him
"Assured death, save yourself from causing it?
"I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
"A ring to show for token! Mum's the word!"
I answered "If you were, as styled, my maid,
"I would command you: as you are, you say,
"My husband's intimate,—assist his wife
"Who can do nothing but entreat 'Be still!'
"Even if you speak truth and a crime is planned,
"Leave help to God as I am forced to do!
"There is no other help, or we should craze,
"Seeing such evil with no human cure.
"Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist,
"Can make an angry violent heart subside.
"Why should we venture teach Him governance?
"Never address me on this subject more!"
Next night she said "But I went, all the same,
"—Ay, saw your Caponsacchi in his house,
"And come back stuffed with news I must outpour.
"I told him 'Sir, my mistress is a stone:
"'Why should you harm her for no good you get?
"'For you do harm her—prowl about our place
"'With the Count never distant half the street,
"'Lurking at every corner, would you look!
"T is certain she has witched you with a spell.
"'Are there not other beauties at your beck?
"'We all know, Donna This and Monna That
"'Die for a glance of yours, yet here you gaze!
"'Go make them grateful, leave the stone its cold!'
"And he—oh, he turned first white and then red,
"And then—'To her behest I bow myself,
"'Whom I love with my body and my soul:
"'Only a word i' the bowing! See, I write
"'One little word, no harm to see or hear!
"'Then, fear no further!' This is what he wrote.
"I know you cannot read,—therefore, let me!
"'My idol!'" …
But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. "Why, join the rest
"Who harm me? Have I ever done you wrong?
"People have told me 't is you wrong myself:
"Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
"Or else forgive it,—yet you turn my foe!
"The others hunt me and you throw a noose!"
She muttered "Have your wilful way!" I slept.
Whereupon … no, I leave my husband out
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most,
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace,
If I drowned,
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned eyes,
And found their first sight was a star! I turned—
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively,—"The imposthume at such head,
"One touch, one lancet-puncture would relieve,—
"And still no glance the good physician's way
"Who rids you of the torment in a trice!
"Still he writes letters you refuse to hear.
"He may prevent your husband, kill himself,
"So desperate and all fordone is he!
"Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day!
"A sonnet from Mirtillo. 'Peerless fair …'
"All poetry is difficult to read,
"—The sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
"Leave to contrive you an escape from hell,
"And for that purpose asks an interview.
"I can write, I can grant it in your name,
"Or, what is better, lead you to his house.
"Your husband dashes you against the stones;
"This man would place each fragment in a shrine:
"You hate him, love your husband!"
"It is not true I love my husband,—no,
"Nor hate this man. I listen while you speak,
"—Assured that what you say is false, the same:
"Much as when once, to me a little child,
"A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
"A crowd of boys and idlers at his heels,
"Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my head
"In his two hands, 'Here's she will let me speak!
"'You little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
"'I am the Pope, am Sextus, now the Sixth;
"'And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
"'Is Lucifer disguised in human flesh!
"'The angels, met in conclave, crowned me!'—thus
"He gibbered and I listened; but I knew
"All was delusion, ere folk interposed
"'Unfasten him, the maniac!' Thus I know
"All your report of Caponsacchi false,
"Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much
"By that adventure at the spectacle,
"The face I fronted that one first, last time:
"He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
"Therefore while you profess to show him me,
"I ever see his own face. Get you gone!"
"—That will I, nor once open mouth again,—
"No, by Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost!
"On your head be the damage, so adieu!"
And so more days, more deeds I must forget,
Till … what a strange thing now is to declare!
Since I say anything, say all if true!
And how my life seems lengthened as to serve!
It may be idle or inopportune,
But, true?—why, what was all I said but truth,
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in through a lie?
Now—I am speaking truth to the Truth's self:
God will lend credit to my words this time.
It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak,—who had gone to bed
In the old way my wont those last three years,
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night,
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle by Margherita, "Soon enough
"Gaieties end, now Easter's past: a week,
"And the Archbishop gets him back to Rome,—
"Everyone leaves the town for Rome, this Spring,—
"Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope,
"Resigns himself and follows with the flock."
I heard this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
"And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
"At Rome, to introduce the company,
"And bear him from our picture where he fights
"Satan,—expect to have that dragon loose
"And never a defender!"—my sole thought
Being still, as night came, "Done, another day!
"How good to sleep and so get nearer death!"—
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced the sleep
With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
Light in me, light without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let fall
From heaven to earth,—a sudden drawbridge lay,
Along which marched a myriad merry motes,
Mocking the flies that crossed them and recrossed
In rival dance, companions new-born too.
On the house-eaves, a dripping shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull grey lattice-square,
As first one, then another bird leapt by,
And light was off, and lo was back again,
Always with one voice,—where are two such joys?—
The blessed building-sparrow! I stepped forth,
Stood on the terrace,—o'er the roofs, such sky!
My heart sang, "I too am to go away,
"I too have something I must care about,
"Carry away with me to Rome, to Rome!
"The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and wool,
"And nowhere else i' the world; what fly breaks rank,
"Falls out of the procession that befits,
"From window here to window there, with all
"The world to choose,—so well he knows his course?
"I have my purpose and my motive too,
"My march to Rome, like any bird or fly!
"Had I been dead! How right to be alive!
"Last night I almost prayed for leave to die,
"Wished Guido all his pleasure with the sword
"Or the poison,—poison, sword, was but a trick,
"Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest!
"My life is charmed, will last till I reach Rome!
"Yesterday, but for the sin,—ah, nameless be
"The deed I could have dared against myself!
"Now—see if I will touch an unripe fruit,
"And risk the health I want to have and use!
"Not to live, now, would be the wickedness,—
"For life means to make haste and go to Rome
"And leave Arezzo, leave all woes at once!"
Now, understand here, by no means mistake!
Long ago had I tried to leave that house
When it seemed such procedure would stop sin;
And still failed more the more I tried—at first
The Archbishop, as I told you,—next, our lord
The Governor,—indeed I found my way,
I went to the great palace where he rules,
Though I knew well 't was he who,—when I gave
A jewel or two, themselves had given me,
Back to my parents,—since they wanted bread,
They who had never let me want a nosegay,—he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly theirs,
Though all the while my husband's most of all!
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Governor, as I say,—scarce opened lip
When—the cold cruel snicker close behind—
Guido was on my trace, already there,
Exchanging nod and wink for shrug and smile,
And I—pushed back to him and, for my pains
Paid with … but why remember what is past?
I sought out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sin which came
Of their sin,—that fact could not be repressed,—
The frightfulness of my despair in God:
And, feeling, through the grate, his horror shake,
Implored him, "Write for me who cannot write,
"Apprise my parents, make them rescue me!
"You bid me be courageous and trust God:
"Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and write
"'Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
"'And now declare you have no part in me,
"'This is some riddle I want wit to solve,
"'Since you must love me with no difference.
"'Even suppose you altered,—there's your hate,
"'To ask for: hate of you two dearest ones
"'I shall find liker love than love found here,
"'If husbands love their wives. Take me away
"'And hate me as you do the gnats and fleas,
"'Even the scorpions! How I shall rejoice!'
"Write that and save me!" And he promised—wrote
Or did not write; things never changed at all:
He was not like the Augustinian here!
Last, in a desperation I appealed
To friends, whoever wished me better days,
To Guillichini, that's of kin,—"What, I—
"Travel to Rome with you? A flying gout
"Bids me deny my heart and mind my leg!"
Then I tried Conti, used to brave—laugh back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence: "You—
"Who well know what you cannot save me from,—
"Carry me off! What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave—"Above my strength!
"Guido has claws that scratch, shows feline teeth;
"A formidabler foe than I dare fret:
"Give me a dog to deal with, twice the size!
"Of course I am a priest and Canon too,
"But . . by the bye . . though both, not quite so bold
"As he, my fellow-Canon, brother-priest,
"The personage in such ill odour here
"Because of the reports—pure birth o' the brain!
"Our Caponsacchi, he's your true Saint George
"To slay the monster, set the Princess free,
"And have the whole High-Altar to himself:
'I always think so when I see that piece
"I' the Pieve, that's his church and mine, you know:
"Though you drop eyes at mention of his name!"
That name had got to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
Like any by-word, broken bit of song
Born with a meaning, changed by mouth and mouth
That mix it in a sneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means nought but ugliness
And perhaps shame.
—All this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the name,—
Not the man, but the name of him, thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace,—why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
"I name his name, and there you start and wince
"As criminal from the red tongs' touch!"—yet now,
Now, as I stood letting morn bathe me bright,
Choosing which butterfly should bear my news,—
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue,—
The Margherita, I detested so,
In she came—"The fine day, the good Spring time!
"What, up and out at window? That is best.
"No thought of Caponsacchi?—who stood there
"All night on one leg, like the sentry crane,
"Under the pelting of your water-spout—
"Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
"Our city, bury his dead hope at Rome.
"Ay, go to looking-glass and make you fine,
"While he may die ere touch one least loose hair
"You drag at with the comb in such a rage!"
I turned—"Tell Caponsacchi he may come!"
"Tell him to come? Ah, but, for charity,
"A truce to fooling! Come? What,—come this eve?
"Peter and Paul! But I see through the trick!
"Yes, come, and take a flower-pot on his head,
"Flung from your terrace! No joke, sincere truth?"
How plainly I perceived hell flash and fade
O' the face of her,—the doubt that first paled joy,
Then, final reassurance I indeed
Was caught now, never to be free again!
What did I care?—who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsehair-springe.
"But—do you know that I have bade him come,
"And in your own name? I presumed so much,
"Knowing the thing you needed in your heart.
"But somehow—what had I to show in proof?
"He would not come: half-promised, that was all,
"And wrote the letters you refused to read.
"What is the message that shall move him now?"
"After the Ave Maria, at first dark,
"I will be standing on the terrace, say!"
"I would I had a good long lock of hair
"Should prove I was not lying! Never mind!"
Off she went—"May he not refuse, that's all—
"Fearing a trick!"
I answered, "He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To God the strong, God the beneficent,
God ever mindful in all strife and strait,
Who, for our own good, makes the need extreme,
Till at the last He puts forth might and saves.
An old rhyme came into my head and rang
Of how a virgin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued,
In a cave's heart; until a thunderstone,
Wrapped in a flame, revealed the couch and prey
And they laughed—"Thanks to lightning, ours at last!"
And she cried "Wrath of God, assert His love!
"Servant of God, thou fire, befriend His child!"
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its flash,
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the ground,
So did the souls within them die away,
As o'er the prostrate bodies, sworded, safe,
She walked forth to the solitudes and Christ:
So should I grasp the lightning and be saved!
And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star,
Until at an intense throe of the dusk,
I started up, was pushed, I dare to say,
Out on the terrace, leaned and looked at last
Where the deliverer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I first descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine once more.
So was that minute twice vouchsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To save me yet a second time: no change
Here, though all else changed in the changing world!
I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,
In some such sense as this, whatever the phrase.
"Friend, foolish words were borne from you to me;
"Your soul behind them is the pure strong wind,
"Not dust and feathers which its breath may bear:
"These to the witless seem the wind itself,
"Since proving thus the first of it they feel.
"If by mischance you blew offence my way,
"The straws are dropt, the wind desists no whit,
"And how such strays were caught up in the street
"And took a motion from you, why inquire?
"I speak to the strong soul, no weak disguise.
"If it be truth,—why should I doubt it truth?—
"You serve God specially, as priests are bound,
"And care about me, stranger as I am,
"So far as wish my good,—that miracle
"I take to intimate He wills you serve
"By saving me,—what else can He direct?
"Here is the service. Since a long while now,
"I am in course of being put to death:
"While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
"The head and bade, in heart, my husband strike.
"Now I imperil something more, it seems,
"Something that's truelier me than this myself,
"Something I trust in God and you to save.
"You go to Rome, they tell me: take me there,
"Put me back with my people!"
The first word I heard ever from his lips,
All himself in it,—an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' the soul that then broke silence—"I am yours."
So did the star rise, soon to lead my step,
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Above the House o' the Babe,—my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus made me know him,
That had his right of life and claim on mine,
And would not let me die till he was born,
But pricked me at the heart to save us both,
Saying "Have you the will? Leave God the way!"
And the way was Caponsacchi—"mine," thank God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.
No pause i' the leading and the light! I know,
Next night there was a cloud came, and not he:
But I prayed through the darkness till it broke
And let him shine. The second night, he came.
"The plan is rash; the project desperate:
"In such a flight needs must I risk your life,
"Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
"Ground for your husband's rancour and revenge"—
So he began again, with the same face.
I felt that, the same loyalty—one star
Turning now red that was so white before—
One service apprehended newly: just
A word of mine and there the white was back!
"No, friend, for you will take me! 'T is yourself
"Risk all, not I,—who let you, for I trust
"In the compensating great God: enough!
"I know you: when is it that you will come?"
"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do: how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.
That night my husband bade
"—You, whom I loathe, beware you break my sleep
"This whole night! Couch beside me like the corpse
"I would you were!" The rest you know, I think—
How I found Caponsacchi and escaped.
And this man, men call sinner? Jesus Christ!
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself mad'st once,
"He hath a devil"—say he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi! Shield and show—unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure,—if ink-spot, from vile pens
Scribbling a charge against him—(I was glad
Then, for the first time, that I could not write)—
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze!
'T is otherwise: let men take, sift my thoughts
—Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!"
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world,—a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should—shall peradventure—be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see,
—Not this man sees,—who from his soul, re-writes
The obliterated charter,—love and strength
Mending what's marred. "So kneels a votarist,
"Weeds some poor waste traditionary plot
"Where shrine once was, where temple yet may be,
"Purging the place but worshipping the while,
"By faith and not by sight, sight clearest so,—
"Such way the saints work,"—says Don Celestine.
But I, not privileged to see a saint
Of old when such walked earth with crown and palm,
If I call "saint" what saints call something else—
The saints must bear with me, impute the fault
To a soul i' the bud, so starved by ignorance,
Stinted of warmth, it will not blow this year
Nor recognize the orb which Spring-flowers know.
But if meanwhile some insect with a heart
Worth floods of lazy music, spendthrift joy—
Some fire-fly renounced Spring for my dwarfed cup,
Crept close to me, brought lustre for the dark,
Comfort against the cold,—what though excess
Of comfort should miscall the creature—sun?
What did the sun to hinder while harsh hands
Petal by petal, crude and colourless,
Tore me? This one heart gave me all the Spring!
Is all told? There's the journey: and where's time
To tell you how that heart burst out in shine?
Yet certain points do press on me too hard.
Each place must have a name, though I forget:
How strange it was—there where the plain begins
And the small river mitigates its flow—
When eve was fading fast, and my soul sank,
And he divined what surge of bitterness,
In overtaking me, would float me back
Whence I was carried by the striding day—
So,—"This grey place was famous once," said he—
And he began that legend of the place
As if in answer to the unspoken fear,
And told me all about a brave man dead,
Which lifted me and let my soul go on!
How did he know too,—at that town's approach
By the rock-side,—that in coming near the signs
Of life, the house-roofs and the church and tower,
I saw the old boundary and wall o' the world
Rise plain as ever round me, hard and cold,
As if the broken circlet joined again,
Tightened itself about me with no break,—
As if the town would turn Arezzo's self,—
The husband there,—the friends my enemies,
All ranged against me, not an avenue
To try, but would be blocked and drive me back
On him,—this other, … oh the heart in that!
Did not he find, bring, put into my arms
A new-born babe?—and I saw faces beam
Of the young mother proud to teach me joy,
And gossips round expecting my surprise
At the sudden hole through earth that lets in heaven.
I could believe himself by his strong will
Had woven around me what I thought the world
We went along in, every circumstance,
Towns, flowers and faces, all things helped so well!
For, through the journey, was it natural
Such comfort should arise from first to last?
As I look back, all is one milky way;
Still bettered more, the more remembered, so
Do new stars bud while I but search for old,
And fill all gaps i' the glory, and grow him—
Him I now see make the shine everywhere.
Even at the last when the bewildered flesh,
The cloud of weariness about my soul
Clogging too heavily, sucked down all sense,—
Still its last voice was, "He will watch and care;
"Let the strength go, I am content: he stays!"
I doubt not he did stay and care for all—
From that sick minute when the head swam round,
And the eyes looked their last and died on him,
As in his arms he caught me, and, you say,
Carried me in, that tragical red eve,
And laid me where I next returned to life
In the other red of morning, two red plates
That crushed together, crushed the time between,
And are since then a solid fire to me,—
When in, my dreadful husband and the world
Broke,—and I saw him, master, by hell's right,
And saw my angel helplessly held back
By guards that helped the malice—the lamb prone,
The serpent towering and triumphant—then
Came all the strength back in a sudden swell,
I did for once see right, do right, give tongue
The adequate protest: for a worm must turn
If it would have its wrong observed by God.
I did spring up, attempt to thrust aside
That ice-block 'twixt the sun and me, lay low
The neutralizer of all good and truth.
If I sinned so,—never obey voice more
O' the Just and Terrible, who bids us—"Bear!"
Not—"Stand by, bear to see my angels bear!"
I am clear it was on impulse to serve God
Not save myself,—no—nor my child unborn!
Had I else waited patiently till now?—
Who saw my old kind parents, silly-sooth
And too much trustful, for their worst of faults,
Cheated, brow-beaten, stripped and starved, cast out
Into the kennel: I remonstrated,
Then sank to silence, for,—their woes at end,
Themselves gone,—only I was left to plague.
If only I was threatened and belied,
What matter? I could bear it and did bear;
It was a comfort, still one lot for all:
They were not persecuted for my sake
And I, estranged, the single happy one.
But when at last, all by myself I stood
Obeying the clear voice which bade me rise,
Not for my own sake but my babe unborn,
And take the angel's hand was sent to help—
And found the old adversary athwart the path—
Not my hand simply struck from the angel's, but
The very angel's self made foul i' the face
By the fiend who struck there,—that I would not bear,
That only I resisted! So, my first
And last resistance was invincible.
Prayers move God; threats, and nothing else, move men!
I must have prayed a man as he were God
When I implored the Governor to right
My parents' wrongs: the answer was a smile.
The Archbishop,—did I clasp his feet enough,
Hide my face hotly on them, while I told
More than I dared make my own mother know?
The profit was—compassion and a jest.
This time, the foolish prayers were done with, right
Used might, and solemnized the sport at once.
All was against the combat: vantage, mine?
The runaway avowed, the accomplice-wife,
In company with the plan-contriving priest?
Yet, shame thus rank and patent, I struck, bare,
At foe from head to foot in magic mail,
And off it withered, cobweb-armoury
Against the lightning! 'T was truth singed the lies
And saved me, not the vain sword nor weak speech!
You see, I will not have the service fail!
I say, the angel saved me: I am safe!
Others may want and wish, I wish nor want
One point o' the circle plainer, where I stand
Traced round about with white to front the world.
What of the calumny I came across,
What o' the way to the end?—the end crowns all.
The judges judged aright i' the main, gave me
The uttermost of my heart's desire, a truce
From torture and Arezzo, balm for hurt,
With the quiet nuns,—God recompense the good!
Who said and sang away the ugly past.
And, when my final fortune was revealed,
What safety while, amid my parents' arms,
My babe was given me! Yes, he saved my babe:
It would not have peeped forth, the bird-like thing,
Through that Arezzo noise and trouble: back
Had it returned nor ever let me see!
But the sweet peace cured all, and let me live
And give my bird the life among the leaves
God meant him! Weeks and months of quietude,
I could lie in such peace and learn so much—
Begin the task, I see how needful now,
Of understanding somewhat of my past,—
Know life a little, I should leave so soon.
Therefore, because this man restored my soul,
All has been right; I have gained my gain, enjoyed
As well as suffered,—nay, got foretaste too
Of better life beginning where this ends—
All through the breathing-while allowed me thus,
Which let good premonitions reach my soul
Unthwarted, and benignant influence flow
And interpenetrate and change my heart,
Uncrossed by what was wicked,—nay, unkind.
For, as the weakness of my time drew nigh,
Nobody did me one disservice more,
Spoke coldly or looked strangely, broke the love
I lay in the arms of, till my boy was born,
Born all in love, with nought to spoil the bliss
A whole long fortnight: in a life like mine
A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
All women are not mothers of a boy,
Though they live twice the length of my whole life,
And, as they fancy, happily all the same.
There I lay, then, all my great fortnight long,
As if it would continue, broaden out
Happily more and more, and lead to heaven:
Christmas before me,—was not that a chance?
I never realized God's birth before—
How He grew likest God in being born.
This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
Lying a little on my breast like hers.
So all went on till, just four days ago—
The night and the tap.
Oh it shall be success
To the whole of our poor family! My friends
… Nay, father and mother,—give me back my word!
They have been rudely stripped of life, disgraced
Like children who must needs go clothed too fine,
Carry the garb of Carnival in Lent.
If they too much affected frippery,
They have been punished and submit themselves,
Say no word: all is over, they see God
Who will not be extreme to mark their fault
Or He had granted respite: they are safe.
For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I—pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends,—none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage-bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow.
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,—
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,—
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me,—somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,—
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul
But for the unresisting body.—thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to him—thanks and farewell!
Even for my babe, my boy, there's safety thence—
From the sudden death of me, I mean: we poor
Weak souls, how we endeavour to be strong!
I was already using up my life,—
This portion, now, should do him such a good,
This other go to keep off such an ill!
The great life; see, a breath and it is gone!
So is detached, so left all by itself
The little life, the fact which means so much.
Shall not God stoop the kindlier to His work,
His marvel of creation, foot would crush,
Now that the hand He trusted to receive
And hold it, lets the treasure fall perforce?
The better; He shall have in orphanage
His own way all the clearlier: if my babe
Outlived the hour—and he has lived two weeks—
It is through God who knows I am not by.
Who is it makes the soft gold hair turn black,
And sets the tongue, might lie so long at rest,
Trying to talk? Let us leave God alone!
Why should I doubt He will explain in time
What I feel now, but fail to find the words?
My babe nor was, nor is, nor yet shall be
Count Guido Franceschini's child at all—
Only his mother's, born of love not hate!
So shall I have my rights in after-time.
It seems absurd, impossible to-day;
So seems so much else, not explained but known!
Ah! Friends, I thank and bless you every one!
No more now: I withdraw from earth and man
To my own soul, compose myself for God.
Well, and there is more! Yes, my end of breath
Shall bear away my soul in being true!
He is still here, not outside with the world,
Here, here, I have him in his rightful place!
'T is now, when I am most upon the move,
I feel for what I verily find—again
The face, again the eyes, again, through all,
The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! Otherwise
Here alone would be failure, loss to me—
How much more loss to him, with life debarred
From giving life, love locked from love's display,
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier-saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!
Love will be helpful to me more and more
I' the coming course, the new path I must tread—
My weak hand in thy strong hand, strong for that!
Tell him that if I seem without him now,
That's the world's insight! Oh, he understands!
He is at Civita—do I once doubt
The world again is holding us apart?
He had been here, displayed in my behalf
The broad brow that reverberates the truth,
And flashed the word God gave him, back to man!
I know where the free soul is flown! My fate
Will have been hard for even him to bear:
Let it confirm him in the trust of God,
Showing how holily he dared the deed!
And, for the rest,—say, from the deed, no touch
Of harm came, but all good, all happiness,
Not one faint fleck of failure! Why explain?
What I see, oh, he sees and how much more!
Tell him,—I know not wherefore the true word
Should fade and fall unuttered at the last—
It was the name of him I sprang to meet
When came the knock, the summons and the end.
"My great heart, my strong hand are back again!"
I would have sprung to these, beckoning across
Murder and hell gigantic and distinct
O' the threshold, posted to exclude me heaven:
He is ordained to call and I to come!
Do not the dead wear flowers when dressed for God?
Say,—I am all in flowers from head to foot!
Say,—not one flower of all he said and did,
Might seem to flit unnoticed, fade unknown,
But dropped a seed, has grown a balsam-tree
Whereof the blossoming perfumes the place
At this supreme of moments! He is a priest;
He cannot marry therefore, which is right:
I think he would not marry if he could.
Marriage on earth seems such a counterfeit,
Mere imitation of the inimitable:
In heaven we have the real and true and sure.
'T is there they neither marry nor are given
In marriage but are as the angels: right,
Oh how right that is, how like Jesus Christ
To say that! Marriage-making for the earth,
With gold so much,—birth, power, repute so much,
Or beauty, youth so much, in lack of these!
Be as the angels rather, who, apart,
Know themselves into one, are found at length
Married, but marry never, no, nor give
In marriage; they are man and wife at once
When the true time is: here we have to wait
Not so long neither! Could we by a wish
Have what we will and get the future now,
Would we wish aught done undone in the past?
So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
God stooping shows sufficient of His light
For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise.
The Man Who Gifted Me Nothing, But A Patronym
The Son of a monster, and a very proud Mother:
I have lived a very humble life, and would wish for no other,
But if I had one regret it would be my blind allegiance
To a man that did not deserve the same-the balance
Of my life since that fateful Christmas day,
Has been filled with bitter confusion-I pray
That I will one day stop blaming myself for what he did
By never cowering from it, the way he hid
From his demons and ghosts, presenting a narrow view
To a Son who loved him, yet who never knew.
Had I known then what I know now,
I would have rid myself of the disdain I show now
For all I know he was, in spite of outward appearance.
I carry shame for my continued adherence
To the image of the man I thought I knew:
An idyllic image of a Father, which got me through
And past all of the hate I thought I had for him-
The man who gifted me nothing, but a patronym.
-Maurice Harris,5 June 2012
Rich Man, Poor Man
When God looked down from Heaven's Throne to Job upon the Earth,
God saw Job's faith had fully grown and that this man had worth...
God told the Devil of this man, so righteous and so pure.
God said, 'He does the best he can, almost without a flaw...'
The Devil fumed and then replied, 'You made him rich, that's why!
How many times has that man sighed? He has no cause to cry! '
Then God let Satan smite Job's land and suffer for a while
And death was very near to hand... and poor Job lost his smile...
The Lord received Job's faithful praise, despite the tragic loss!
Job proved he loved the Lord always! That made the Devil cross!
'What say you now? ' the Lord remarked! But Satan argued still...
For he was livid, he was narked, 'What if I make him ill? '
So God agreed, 'But spare his life! ' So Satan went below
And Job fell ill, such that his wife saw skin boils start to grow...
'Why praise the Lord? Reject His love! ' But Job dismissed each word.
'I trust the Lord who dwells above! Rejection's quite absurd! '
Alas, poor Job conferred with friends, who said that he had sinned...
But Job had faith that never ends! Though he no longer grinned!
Through gritted teeth, he set them straight, 'Of what sin am I blamed?
Of every sin I've learned to hate! I sit here unashamed! '
Then God spoke loud and God spoke clear, of everything He'd made,
Both sun and moon, things far and near, so truth could be displayed.
A structured world to live upon, from valleys to snowflakes!
If rainbow-coloured lights are shone, then, oh, what joy, each makes!
Poor Job, he suffered all he could, yet now he'd seen God's face,
By faith, he'd done the things he should, yet Job was saved by grace!
By faith, not works, lest any boast, no matter, rich or poor...
In Christ, receive the Holy Ghost... You'll never want for more...
Denis Martindale, copyright, May 2011.
Troubles & Man 's Spirit And Soul
Mankind is born from a woman's womb
With a short life that's full of trouble.
Faith is our refuge in times of grief
For without it our troubles double.
Have mercy upon me; most have cried
Who feel pain from loss and sorrow.
Persecution, suffering, job loss and death
Come to all today or tomorrow.
There's a time to worry, fight and forgive
A time for crying, laughter and dance.
A time to remember our troubles past
A Time for love, song and romance.
In every household, dilemmas occur
Which challenge our resolve each day.
We face what we can, then look to God
As our friends and family pray.
MAN'S SPIRIT AND SOUL
The spirit of man will sustain his infirmities
And if he obeys God's law he will retain his soul.
The flesh of man shall return to the earth as it was
But for a spiritual life afterwards, is man's goal.
With his soul, man humbly prays to God in the night
And with his spirit he seeks Him by the light of day.
It's true that man may be taken by sickness or hate
Though only evil deeds can lead his soul astray.
The spirit of man is thus the candle of the Lord
Whose kingdom does not receive that which is flesh or blood.
The Lord shall preserve man's soul from all which is wicked
As He once destroyed the evil of earth with his flood.
The soul of man may be willing, but his flesh is week
As outward he must perish; inward he can renew.
It all depends on the road he chooses to follow
And the dreams in his heart he prefers to pursue.
GOD'S POET TOM ZART
The Lord can close doors no man can open
And open doors no man can close.
It's up to us to prove our heavenly worth
By our lifetime example of the path we chose.
Tom's 465 Poems Are Free To Share!
By God's Poet
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On The Web!
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A Man Young And Old
THOUGH nurtured like the sailing moon
In beauty's murderous brood,
She walked awhile and blushed awhile
And on my pathway stood
Until I thought her body bore
A heart of flesh and blood.
But since I laid a hand thereon
And found a heart of stone
I have attempted many things
And not a thing is done,
For every hand is lunatic
That travels on the moon.
She smiled and that transfigured me
And left me but a lout,
Maundering here, and maundering there,
Emptier of thought
Than the heavenly circuit of its stars
When the moon sails out.
Like the moon her kindness is,
If kindness I may call
What has no comprehension in't,
But is the same for all
As though my sorrow were a scene
Upon a painted wall.
So like a bit of stone I lie
Under a broken tree.
I could recover if I shrieked
My heart's agony
To passing bird, but I am dumb
From human dignity.
A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
The Death of the Hare
I have pointed out the yelling pack,
The hare leap to the wood,
And when I pass a compliment
Rejoice as lover should
At the drooping of an eye,
At the mantling of the blood.
Then' suddenly my heart is wrung
By her distracted air
And I remember wildness lost
And after, swept from there,
Am set down standing in the wood
At the death of the hare.
The Empty Cup
A crazy man that found a cup,
When all but dead of thirst,
Hardly dared to wet his mouth
That another mouthful
And his beating heart would burst.
October last I found it too
But found it dry as bone,
And for that reason am I crazed
And my sleep is gone.
We should be hidden from their eyes,
Being but holy shows
And bodies broken like a thorn
Whereon the bleak north blows,
To think of buried Hector
And that none living knows.
The women take so little stock
In what I do or say
They'd sooner leave their cosseting
To hear a jackass bray;
My arms are like the twisted thorn
And yet there beauty lay;
The first of all the tribe lay there
And did such pleasure take --
She who had brought great Hector down
And put all Troy to wreck --
That she cried into this ear,
'Strike me if I shriek.'
The Friends of his Youth
Laughter not time destroyed my voice
And put that crack in it,
And when the moon's pot-bellied
I get a laughing fit,
For that old Madge comes down the lane,
A stone upon her breast,
And a cloak wrapped about the stone,
And she can get no rest
With singing hush and hush-a-bye;
She that has been wild
And barren as a breaking wave
Thinks that the stone's a child.
And Peter that had great affairs
And was a pushing man
Shrieks, 'I am King of the Peacocks,'
And perches on a stone;
And then I laugh till tears run down
And the heart thumps at my side,
Remembering that her shriek was love
And that he shrieks from pride.
Summer and Spring
We sat under an old thorn-tree
And talked away the night,
Told all that had been said or done
Since first we saw the light,
And when we talked of growing up
Knew that we'd halved a soul
And fell the one in t'other's arms
That we might make it whole;
Then peter had a murdering look,
For it seemed that he and she
Had spoken of their childish days
Under that very tree.
O what a bursting out there was,
And what a blossoming,
When we had all the summer-time
And she had all the spring!
The Secrets of the Old
I have old women's sectets now
That had those of the young;
Madge tells me what I dared not think
When my blood was strong,
And what had drowned a lover once
Sounds like an old song.
Though Margery is stricken dumb
If thrown in Madge's way,
We three make up a solitude;
For none alive to-day
Can know the stories that we know
Or say the things we say:
How such a man pleased women most
Of all that are gone,
How such a pair loved many years
And such a pair but one,
Stories of the bed of straw
Or the bed of down.
O bid me mount and sail up there
Amid the cloudy wrack,
For peg and Meg and Paris' love
That had so straight a back,
Are gone away, and some that stay
Have changed their silk for sack.
Were I but there and none to hear
I'd have a peacock cry,
For that is natural to a man
That lives in memory,
Being all alone I'd nurse a stone
And sing it lullaby.
From 'Oedipus at Colonus'
Endure what life God gives and ask no longer span;
Cease to remember the delights of youth, travel-wearied aged man;
Delight becomes death-longing if all longing else be vain.
Even from that delight memory treasures so,
Death, despair, division of families, all entanglements of mankind grow,
As that old wandering beggar and these God-hated children know.
In the long echoing street the laughing dancers throng,
The bride is catried to the bridegroom's chamber
through torchlight and tumultuous song;
I celebrate the silent kiss that ends short life or long.
Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have
looked into the eye of day;
The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away.
The Child Of The Islands - Conclusion
MY lay is ended! closed the circling year,
From Spring's first dawn to Winter's darkling night;
The moan of sorrow, and the sigh of fear,
The ringing chords of triumph and delight
Have died away,--oh, child of beauty bright,--
And all unconscious of my song art thou:
With large blue eyes of Majesty and might,
And red full lips, and fair capacious brow,
No Leader of the World,--but Life's Beginner, now!
Oh, tender human blossom, thou art fair,
With such a beauty as the eye perceives
Watching a bud of promise rich and rare
In the home-shadow of surrounding leaves.
THOUGHT, the great Dream-bringer, who joys and grieves
Over the visions of her own creating,
Resting by Thee, a sigh of pleasure heaves;
The fever of her rapid flight abating
Amid the golden hopes around thy cradle waiting.
Thou--thou, at least, art happy! For thy sake
Heaven speaks reversal of the doom of pain,
Set on our Nature when the Demon-Snake
Hissed the first lie, a woman's ear to gain,
And Eden was lamented for in vain!
THOU art not meant, like other men, to thirst
For benefits no effort can attain:
To struggle on, by Hope's deceiving nurst,
And linger still the last, where thou wouldst fain be first.
The royal canopy above thy head
Shall charm away the griefs that others know:--
Oh! mocking dream! Thy feet Life's path must tread:
The Just God made not Happiness to grow
Out of condition: fair the field-flowers blow,
Fair as the richer flowers of garden ground;
And far more equally are joy and woe
Divided,--than they dream, who, gazing round,
See but that narrow plot, their own life's selfish bound.
True,--in thy Childhood's Spring thou shalt not taste
The bitter toil of factory or mine:
Nor the Strong Summer of thy manhood waste
In labour vain, and want that bids thee pine:
The mellow Autumn of thy calm decline--
The sheltered Winter of thy happy Age--
Shall see home-faces still around thee shine--
No Workhouse threatening, where the heart's sick rage
Mopes like a prisoned bird within a cheerless cage.
True, that, instead of all this weary grief,
This cutting off what joy our life affords,
This endless pining for denied relief,
All Luxury shall hail thee! music's chords
Shall woo thee,--and sweet utterance of words
In Minstrel singing: Painting shall beguile
Thine eye with mimic battles, dark with swords,--
Green sylvan landscapes,--beauty's imaged smile,--
And books thy leisure hours from worldly cares shall wile.
There ends the sum of thy Life's holiday!
WANT shall not enter near thee,--PLEASURE shall:
But Pomp hath wailed when Poverty looked gay,
And SORROW claims an equal tax from all:
Tears have been known from Royal eyes to fall
When harvest-trudging clowns went singing by:
Sobs have woke echoes in the gilded hall:
And, by that pledge of thine Equality,
Men hail thee BROTHER still, though thou art set so high.
DEATH, too, who heeds not poorer men's regret,
Neither is subject to the will of Kings;
All Thrones, all Empires of the Earth are set
Under the vaulted shadow of his wings:
He blights our Summers, chills our fairest springs,
Nips the fresh bloom of some uncertain flower,
Yea, where the fragile tendril closest clings,
There doth his gaunt hand pluck, with sudden power,
Leaving green burial-mounds, where stood Affection's bower.
Where is young Orleans? that fair Prince of France,
Who 'scaped a thousand threatening destinies
Only to perish by a vulgar chance?
Lost is the light of the most lovely eyes
That ever imaged back the summer skies!
Widowed the hapless Wife, who seeks to train
Childhood's frail thread of broken memories,
So that her Orphan may at least retain
The haunting shadow of a Father's face,--in vain!
Oh! Summer flowers, which happy children cull,
How were ye stained that year by bitter weeping,
When he, the stately and the beautiful,
Wrapped in his dismal shroud lay coldly sleeping!
The warm breeze through the rustling woods went creeping,
The birds with gladdening notes sang overhead:
The peasant groups went laughing to their reaping,
But, in the gorgeous Palace, rose instead,
Sobs,--and lamenting Hymns,--and Masses for the Dead!
Where, too, is She, the loved and lately wived,
The fair-haired Daughter of an Emperor,
Born in the time of roses, and who lived
A rose's life; one Spring, one Summer more,
Dating from Girlhood's blushing days of yore,--
Fading in Autumn,--lost in Winter's gloom,--
And with the opening year beheld no more?
She and her babe lie buried in the tomb,
The green bud on the stem,--both withered in the bloom!
Then, RUSSIA wept! Then, bowing to the dust
That brow whereon proud Majesty and Grace
Are chiselled as in some ideal bust,--
All vain appeared his power, his realm's wide space,
And the high blood of his imperial race!
He sank,--a grieving man,--a helpless Sire,--
Who could not call back to a pale sweet face
By might of rule, or Love's intense desire,
The light that quivering sank, in darkness to expire.
Where is the angel sent as Belgium's heir?
Renewing hopes so linked with bitter fears,
When our own Charlotte perished young and fair,--
The former love of long departed years!
That little One is gone from earth's cold tears
To smile in Heaven's clear sunshine with the Blest,
And in his stead another bud appears.
But when his gentle head was laid to rest,
Came there not boding dreams to sting his Father's breast?
Of Claremont? of that dark December night,
When, pale with weary vigils vainly kept,--
Crushed by the destiny that looked so bright,--
Dark-browed and beautiful, he stood and wept
By one who heard him not, but dumbly slept!
By one who loved him so, that evermore
Her young heart with a fervent welcome leapt
To greet his presence! But those pangs are o'er,
And Heaven in mercy keeps more smiling days in store.
God hath built up a bridge 'twixt man and man,
Which mortal strength can never overthrow;
Over the world it stretches its dark span,--
The keystone of that mighty arch is WOE!
Joy's rainbow glories visit earth, and go,
Melting away to Heaven's far-distant land;
But Grief's foundations have been fixed below:
PLEASURE divides us:--the Divine command
Hath made of SORROW'S links a firm connecting band.
In the clear morning, when I rose from sleep,
And left my threshold for the fresh'ning breeze,
There I beheld a grieving woman weep;
The shadow of a child was on her knees,
The worn heir of her many miseries:
'Save him!' was written in her suppliant glance:
But I was weaker than its fell disease,
And ere towards noon the Dial could advance
Death indeed saved her babe from Life's most desperate chance.
The sunset of that day,--in splendid halls--
Mourning a little child of Ducal race
(How fair the picture Memory recalls!)
I saw the sweetest and the palest face
That ever wore the stamp of Beauty's grace,
Bowed like a white rose beat by storms and rain,
And on her countenance my eyes could trace,
And on her soft cheek, marked with tearful stain,
That she had prayed through many a midnight watch in vain.
In both those different homes the babe was dead:
Life's early morning closed in sudden night:
In both, the bitter tears were freely shed,
Lips pressed on lids for ever closed from light,
And prayers sobbed forth to God the Infinite.
From both, the little one was borne away
And buried in the earth with solemn rite.
One, in a mound where no stone marked the clay,
One, in a vaulted tomb, with funeral array.
It was the last distinction of their lot!
The same dull earth received their mortal mould:
The same high consecration marked the spot
A Christian burying-place, for young and old:
The same clear stars shone out all calmly cold
When on those graves the sunset hour grew dim:
And the same God in glory they behold,--
For Life's diverging roads all lead to Him
Who sits enthroned in light among the Cherubim!
None could revoke the weeping Beggar's loss,--
None could restore that lovely Lady's child,--
Else untold sums had been accounted dross
To buy, for one, the life that moved and smiled:
Else had my heart, by false regret beguiled,
Recalled the other from his blest abode:
One only power was left by Mercy mild,
Leave to give alms,--which gladly I bestowed
Where the lone tears had fall'n, half freezing while they flowed.
Beautiful Royal Child, that art to me
Only the sculptured image of a thought:
A type of this world's rank and luxury
Through whom the Poet's lesson may be taught:
The deeds which are by this world's mercy wrought,
Lie in the compass of a narrow bound;
Our Life's ability,--which is as nought,--
Our Life's duration,--which is but a sound,--
And then an echo, heard still faintly lingering round!
The sound being sweet, the echo follows it;
And noble deeds should hallow noble names:
The very Ancestry that points a right
To all the old hereditary claims,
With a true moral worldly triumph tames.
What vanity Earth's riches to amass,--
What folly to incur its thousand shames,--
When bubble generations rise and pass,
So swiftly, by the sand in Time's returning glass!
Pilgrims that journey for a certain time--
Weak Birds of Passage crossing stormy seas
To reach a better and a brighter clime--
We find our parallels and types in these!
Meanwhile since Death, and Sorrow, and Disease,
Bid helpless hearts a barren pity feel;
Why, to the POOR, should checked compassion freeze?
BROTHERS, be gentle to that ONE appeal,--
WANT is the only woe God gives you power to heal!
The Poor Of The Borough. Letter XX: Ellen Orford
'No charms she now can boast,'--'tis true,
But other charmers wither too:
'And she is old,'--the fact I know,
And old will other heroines grow;
But not like them has she been laid,
In ruin'd castle sore dismay'd;
Where naughty man and ghostly spright
Fill'd her pure mind with awe and dread,
Stalk'd round the room, put out the light,
And shook the curtains round her bed.
No cruel uncle kept her land,
No tyrant father forced her hand;
She had no vixen virgin-aunt,
Without whose aid she could not eat,
And yet who poison'd all her meat,
With gibe and sneer and taunt.
Yet of the heroine she'd a share, -
She saved a lover from despair,
And granted all his wish in spite
Of what she knew and felt was right:
But, heroine then no more,
She own'd the fault, and wept and pray'd
And humbly took the parish aid,
And dwelt among the poor.
OBSERVE yon tenement, apart and small,
Where the wet pebbles shine upon the wall;
Where the low benches lean beside the door,
And the red paling bounds the space before;
Where thrift and lavender, and lad's-love bloom, -
That humble dwelling is the widow's home;
There live a pair, for various fortunes known,
But the blind EUen will relate her own; -
Yet ere we hear the story she can tell,
On prouder sorrows let us briefly dwell.
I've often marvell'd, when, by night, by day,
I've mark'd the manners moving in my way,
And heard the language and beheld the lives
Of lass and lover, goddesses and wives,
That books, which promise much of life to give,
Should show so little how we truly live.
To me, it seems, their females and their men
Are but the creatures of the author's pen;
Nay, creatures borrow'd and again convey'd
From book to book--the shadows of a shade:
Life, if they'd search, would show them many a
The ruin sudden, and the misery strange!
With more of grievous, base, and dreadful things,
Than novelists relate or poet sings:
But they, who ought to look the world around,
Spy out a single spot in fairy-ground;
Where all, in turn, ideal forms behold,
And plots are laid and histories are told.
Time have I lent--I would their debt were less -
To flow'ry pages of sublime distress;
And to the heroine's soul-distracting fears
I early gave my sixpences and tears:
Oft have I travell'd in these tender tales,
To Darnley-Cottages and Maple-Vales,
And watch'd the fair-one from the first-born sigh,
When Henry pass'd and gazed in passing by;
Till I beheld them pacing in the park
Close by a coppice where 'twas cold and dark;
When such affection with such fate appear'd,
Want and a father to be shunn'd and fear'd,
Without employment, prospect, cot, or cash;
That I have judged th' heroic souls were rash.
Now shifts the scene,--the fair in tower
In all things suffers but in change of mind;
Now woo'd by greatness to a bed of state,
Now deeply threaten'd with a dungeon's grate;
Till, suffering much, and being tried enough,
She shines, triumphant maid!--temptation-proof.
Then was I led to vengeful monks, who mix
With nymphs and swains, and play unpriestly tricks;
Then view'd banditti who in forest wide,
And cavern vast, indignant virgins hide;
Who, hemm'd with bands of sturdiest rogues about,
Find some strange succour, and come virgins out.
I've watch'd a wint'ry night on castle-walls,
I've stalk'd by moonlight through deserted halls,
And when the weary world was sunk to rest,
I've had such sights as may not be express'd.
Lo! that chateau, the western tower decay'd,
The peasants shun it,--they are all afraid;
For there was done a deed!--could walls reveal,
Or timbers tell it, how the heart would feel!
Most horrid was it: --for, behold, the floor
Has stain of blood, and will be clean no more:
Hark to the winds! which through the wide saloon
And the long passage send a dismal tune, -
Music that ghosts delight in; and now heed
Yon beauteous nymph, who must unmask the deed;
See! with majestic sweep she swims alone,
Through rooms, all dreary, guided by a groan:
Though windows rattle, and though tap'stries shake,
And the feet falter every step they take,
'Mid moans and gibing sprights she silent goes,
To find a something, which will soon expose
The villanies and wiles of her determined foes:
And, having thus adventured, thus endured,
Fame, wealth, and lover, are for life secured.
Much have I fear'd, but am no more afraid,
When some chaste beauty, by some wretch betray'd,
Is drawn away with such distracted speed,
That she anticipates a dreadful deed:
Not so do I--Let solid walls impound
The captive fair, and dig a moat around;
Let there be brazen locks and bars of steel,
And keepers cruel, such as never feel;
With not a single note the purse supply,
And when she begs, let men and maids deny;
Be windows those from which she dares not fall,
And help so distant, 'tis in vain to call;
Still means of freedom will some power devise,
And from the baffled ruffian snatch his prize.
To Northern Wales, in some sequester'd spot,
I've follow'd fair Louisa to her cot:
Where, then a wretched and deserted bride,
The injur'd fair-one wished from man to hide;
Till by her fond repenting Belville found,
By some kind chance--the straying of a hound,
He at her feet craved mercy, nor in vain,
For the relenting dove flew back again.
There's something rapturous in distress, or oh!
Could Clementina bear her lot of woe?
Or what she underwent could maiden undergoe?
The day was fix'd; for so the lover sigh'd,
So knelt and craved, he couldn't be denied;
When, tale most dreadful! every hope adieu, -
For the fond lover is the brother too:
All other griefs abate; this monstrous grief
Has no remission, comfort, or relief;
Four ample volumes, through each page disclose, -
Good Heaven protect us! only woes on woes;
Till some strange means afford a sudden view
Of some vile plot, and every woe adieu!
Now, should we grant these beauties all endure
Severest pangs, they've still the speediest cure;
Before one charm be withered from the face,
Except the bloom, which shall again have place,
In wedlock ends each wish, in triumph all disgrace;
And life to come, we fairly may suppose,
One light, bright contrast to these wild dark woes.
These let us leave, and at her sorrows look,
Too often seen, but seldom in a book;
Let her who felt, relate them;--on her chair
The heroine sits--in former years, the fair,
Now aged and poor; but Ellen Orford knows
That we should humbly take what Heaven bestows.
'My father died--again my mother wed,
And found the comforts of her life were fled;
Her angry husband, vex'd through half his years
By loss and troubles, filled her soul with fears:
Their children many, and 'twas my poor place
To nurse and wait on all the infant-race;
Labour and hunger were indeed my part,
And should have strengthen'd an erroneous heart.
'Sore was the grief to see him angry come,
And teased with business, make distress at home;
The father's fury and the children's cries
I soon could bear, but not my mother's sighs;
For she look'd back on comforts, and would say,
'I wrong'd thee, Ellen,' and then turn away:
Thus, for my age's good, my youth was tried,
And this my fortune till my mother died.
'So, amid sorrow much and little cheer -
A common case--I pass'd my twentieth year;
For these are frequent evils; thousands share
An equal grief--the like domestic care.
'Then in my days of bloom, of health, and youth,
One, much above me, vow'd his love and truth:
We often met, he dreading to be seen,
And much I question'd what such dread might mean;
Yet I believed him true; my simple heart
And undirected reason took his part.
'Can he who loves me, whom I love, deceive?
Can I such wrong of one so kind believe,
Who lives but in my smile, who trembles when I
'He dared not marry, but we met to prove
What sad encroachments and deceits has love:
Weak that I was, when he, rebuked, withdrew,
I let him see that I was wretched too;
When less my caution, I had still the pain
Of his or mine own weakness to complain.
'Happy the lovers class'd alike in life,
Or happier yet the rich endowing wife;
But most aggrieved the fond believing maid.
Of her rich lover tenderly afraid:
You judge th' event; for grievous was my fate,
Painful to feel, and shameful to relate:
Ah! sad it was my burthen to sustain,
When the least misery was the dread of pain;
When I have grieving told him my disgrace,
And plainly mark'd indifference in his face.
'Hard! with these fears and terrors to behold
The cause of all, the faithless lover, cold;
Impatient grown at every wish denied,
And barely civil, soothed and gratified;
Peevish when urged to think of vows so strong,
And angry when I spake of crime and wrong.
All this I felt, and still the sorrow grew,
Because I felt that I deserved it too,
And begg'd my infant stranger to forgive
The mother's shame, which in herself must live.
When known that shame, I, soon expell'd from home,
With a frail sister shared a hovel's gloom;
There barely fed--(what could I more request?)
My infant slumberer sleeping at my breast,
I from my window saw his blooming bride,
And my seducer smiling at her side;
Hope lived till then; I sank upon the floor,
And grief and thought and feeling were no more:
Although revived, I judged that life would close,
And went to rest, to wonder that I rose:
My dreams were dismal,--wheresoe'er I stray'd,
I seem'd ashamed, alarm'd, despised, betray'd;
Always in grief, in guilt, disgraced, forlorn,
Mourning that one so weak, so vile, was born;
The earth a desert, tumult in the sea,
The birds affrighten'd fled from tree to tree,
Obscured the setting sun, and every thing like me.
But Heav'n had mercy, and my need at length
Urged me to labour, and renew'd my strength.
I strove for patience as a sinner must,
Yet felt th' opinion of the world unjust:
There was my lover, in his joy esteem'd,
And I, in my distress, as guilty deemed;
Yet sure, not all the guilt and shame belong
To her who feels and suffers for the wrong:
The cheat at play may use the wealth he's won,
But is not honour'd for the mischief done;
The cheat in love may use each villain art,
And boast the deed that breaks the victim's heart.
'Four years were past; I might again have found
Some erring wish, but for another wound:
Lovely my daughter grew, her face was fair,
But no expression ever brighten'd there;
I doubted long, and vainly strove to make
Some certain meaning of the words she spake;
But meaning there was none, and I survey'd
With dread the beauties of my idiot-maid.
Still I submitted;--Oh! 'tis meet and fit
In all we feel to make the heart submit;
Gloomy and calm my days, but I had then,
It seem'd, attractions for the eyes of men:
The sober master of a decent trade
O'erlook'd my errors, and his offer made;
Reason assented: --true, my heart denied,
'But thou,' I said,'shalt be no more my guide.'
'When wed, our toil and trouble, pains and care,
Of means to live procured us humble share;
Five were our sons,--and we, though careful, found
Our hopes declining as the year came round:
For I perceived, yet would not soon perceive,
My husband stealing from my view to grieve:
Silent he grew, and when he spoke he sigh'd,
And surly look'd, and peevishly replied:
Pensive by nature, he had gone of late
To those who preach'd of destiny and fate,
Of things foredoom'd, and of election-grace,
And how in vain we strive to run our race;
That all by works and moral worth we gain
Is to perceive our care and labour vain;
That still the more we pay, our debts the more
That he who feels not the mysterious call,
Lies bound in sin, still grov'ling from the fall.
My husband felt not: --our persuasion, prayer,
And our best reason, darken'd his despair;
His very nature changed; he now reviled
My former conduct,--he reproach'd my child:
He talked of bastard slips, and cursed his bed,
And from our kindness to concealment fled;
For ever to some evil change inclined,
To every gloomy thought he lent his mind,
Nor rest would give to us, nor rest himself could
His son suspended saw him, long bereft
Of life, nor prospect of revival left.
'With him died all our prospects, and once more
I shared th' allotments of the parish poor;
They took my children too, and this I know
Was just and lawful, but I felt the blow:
My idiot-maid and one unhealthy boy
Were left, a mother's misery and her joy.
'Three sons I follow'd to the grave, and one -
Oh! can I speak of that unhappy son?
Would all the memory of that time were fled,
And all those horrors, with my child, were dead!
Before the world seduced him, what a grace
And smile of gladness shone upon his face!
Then, he had knowledge; finely would he write;
Study to him was pleasure and delight;
Great was his courage, and but few could stand
Against the sleight and vigour of his hand;
The maidens loved him;--when he came to die,
No, not the coldest could suppress a sigh:
Here I must cease--how can I say, my child
Was by the bad of either sex beguiled?
Worst of the bad--they taught him that the laws
Made wrong and right; there was no other cause,
That all religion was the trade of priests,
And men, when dead, must perish like the beasts: -
And he, so lively and so gay, before -
Ah; spare a mother--I can tell no more.
'Int'rest was made that they should not destroy
The comely form of my deluded boy -
But pardon came not; damp the place and deep
Where he was kept, as they'd a tiger keep;
For he, unhappy! had before them all
Vow'd he'd escape, whatever might befall.
He'd means of dress, and dress'd beyond his means,
And so to see him in such dismal scenes,
I cannot speak it--cannot bear to tell
Of that sad hour--I heard the passing bell!
'Slowly they went; he smiled, and look'd so
Yet sure he shudder'd when he saw the cart,
And gave a look--until my dying day,
That look will never from my mind away:
Oft as I sit, and ever in my dreams,
I see that look, and they have heard my screams.
'Now let me speak no more--yet all declared
That one so young, in pity, should be spared.
And one so manly;--on his graceful neck,
That chains of jewels may be proud to deck,
To a small mole a mother's lips have press'd -
And there the cord--my breath is sore oppress'd.
'I now can speak again: --my elder boy
Was that year drown'd,--a seaman in a hoy:
He left a numerous race; of these would some
In their young troubles to my cottage come,
And these I taught--an humble teacher I -
Upon their heavenly Parent to rely.
'Alas! I needed such reliance more:
My idiot-girl, so simply gay before,
Now wept in pain: some wretch had found a time,
Depraved and wicked, for that coward crime;
I had indeed my doubt, but I suppress'd
The thought that day and night disturb'd my rest;
She and that sick-pale brother--but why strive
To keep the terrors of that time alive?
'The hour arrived, the new, th' undreaded pain,
That came with violence, and yet came in vain.
I saw her die: her brother too is dead;
Nor own'd such crime--what is it that I dread?
'The parish aid withdrawn, I look'd around,
And in my school a bless'd subsistence found -
My winter-calm of life: to be of use
Would pleasant thoughts and heavenly hopes produce;
I loved them all; it soothed me to presage
The various trials of their riper age,
Then dwell on mine, and bless the Power who gave
Pains to correct us, and remorse to save.
'Yes! these were days of peace, but they are
A trial came, I will believe, a last;
I lost my sight, and my employment gone,
Useless I live, but to the day live on;
Those eyes which long the light of heaven enjoy'd,
Were not by pain, by agony destroy'd:
My senses fail not all; I speak, I pray;
By night my rest, my food I take by day;
And, as my mind looks cheerful to my end,
I love mankind, and call my GOD my friend.'